Friday Flotsam: Psych Days, Recreation, ‘The Living Shadow’, and an Interesting Fact

1. One thing I would recommend to any fellow sufferers from depression or related problems is not to be ashamed to occasionally take off ‘psych days’ to try to recoup yourself, especially if your job is a source of strain and unhappiness (which, I may be cynical, but I think most jobs these days are). It’s completely fine, if it feels like your heart is building to a boiling point, to take what’s essentially a sick day to try to rest and give yourself a chance to recover. If you’re anything like me (and I know I am), your brain might kick a little at this, wondering if you’re wasting your PTO or suggesting that you’re being lazy and weak for not toughing it out. Ignore it.

That said, if you do take such a day, don’t spend in vegging out. That’ll only make you feel worse. Do something useful with your time (you know, the opposite of what you do at work); clean the house, run errands that you’ve been putting off, take some time to assess where you are and where you’re trying to get to. Make it a day to relieve some of your stress by taking care of some of the stuff that’s been nagging at you.

2. Something that a lot of us really need to get straight is that recreation is not the same thing as inactivity. We need relaxation and such, of course, but vegging out on the couch or spending a few hours playing Minecraft doesn’t usually leave us feeling rested and ‘recreated’. Instead, it may only serve to make things worse by making us feel that we’ve wasted our time with nothing to show for it.

Recreation ought to be something that leaves you feeling satisfied and content after you’ve done it, like your precious time was a fair price to pay for the experience. This can mean that it’s something that doesn’t immediately appeal to you when you’re tired or depressed. But the important point is that, once you’ve done it, you know you won’t feel so tired and depressed anymore.

Actual recreation is liable to be something more along the lines of going for a walk, or getting some writing done, or playing an instrument, or even doing the dishes than mindlessly cruising the interwebs or playing a video game.

3. As I say, the ‘do nothing’ brand of relaxation has its place as well, but it achieves a different effect and so has a different use. The use of that sort of thing is when you’ve already had a full and reasonably successful day, when you’re tired and content with how you’ve spent your time up until now. Then the ‘do nothing / amuse yourself’ recreation gives your brain a chance to cool down and disconnect from the day’s work. Sort of like desert.

Trying to recreate or recover from depression with vegging out is like trying to fuel up for a workout on cake and ice cream. That sort of relaxation is for afterwards.

4. A couple of very good pieces from Caroline Furlong‘s newsletter this week on the diverging archetypes of the Shadow and Batman (with a surprise guest appearance by the Punisher to complete the triangle), then proceeding on to an examining of American mythology. Read and consider subscribing!

5. As noted earlier this week, I read the first ‘Shadow’ novel, The Living Shadow, introducing the character, his methods, and his network of agents, most notably perpetual dude in distress, Harry Vincent. It’s rollicking good pulpy fun, with a convoluted plot involving jewel thieves, murder, and a sinister Chinatown tea shop (the Chinatown element was apparently worked in because the cover came out before the book and showed a sinister Chinaman). Only thing it’s missing is a beautiful damsel and / or femme fatale. Instead, we’re stuck with Harry.

Okay, Harry’s not that bad; he’s a classic ‘pathetic Watson to make the real hero look good’ type, only in this case the emphasis on action and danger requires him to be the one at risk rather than the Shadow (incidentally, Watson himself wasn’t really a very noteworthy example of this: he was an astute and capable hero in his own right. Poirot’s friend Captain Hastings is closer to the ideal Watson figure). Vincent does contribute to the investigation and ferrets out useful info, even if he does get himself imperiled seemingly every other time he turns around.

That, and I would say that a lot of the expositional dialogue is of the “as you know” school: There are a number of times where the characters helpfully review their personal histories, motivations, and how they are acquainted for the benefit of anyone who might be listening. E.g. “You know every cop and crook in the city, Spotter.” “Yeah, that’s why they call me Spotter.” Or the Shadow helpfully writes out his conclusions so that anyone who happens to be reading about his adventures can read them without seeing into his mind.

It’s not really a problem, but it is pretty amusing.

In any case, the book’s a cracking good time, not to mention being fascinating as a major founding document of American mythology. Recommended!

(Available for free download here).

6. There are some facts that everyone knows, but which no one notices or considers the implications of until they’re pointed out. I came across one such fact this week. Or rather, two related facts: the first is that there were no slave uprisings during the American Civil War. At least, not as far as I know, and honestly I think if there were we wouldn’t have to ask about them; they’d be national holidays by now. There was Nat Turner’s rebellion in the 1830s, of course, but three decades later, with most of the white male population of the South absent at the front, nothing of the kind occurred.

Related to this is simply the fact that the slave owning population of the south apparently felt safe leaving their wives, children, and aged parents at the mercy of their slaves.

Again, this is really a remarkable fact when you think about it. Can you imagine the damage to the Confederate war effort that a slave revolt in 1863 would have caused? It wouldn’t even have to be a major one; if only a handful of slaves rose up and commenced a slaughter of their masters’ families, a goodly chunk of the Southern Army would have dissolved as men rushed home to see that nothing like that happened on their estates.

Granted, slaves might not be expected to think that way, but even so, especially as the war wound down, you would think to see some kind of movement among the slave population to damage the southern cause. But apart from some fleeing to the Union lines, we didn’t.

I don’t really know quite what to make of this fact, except that it’s a very interesting one.

7. And a slightly less significant fact to end on:

A power strip is the revolutionary blending of aerobics and pornography. Work it off as you take it off!

3 thoughts on “Friday Flotsam: Psych Days, Recreation, ‘The Living Shadow’, and an Interesting Fact

  1. 1) If you have earned leave, then you deserve to enjoy it at your leisure. I’m lucky enough to have a flexible schedule and a supervisor who approves just about any length of leave on just about any notice.

    5) Harry Vincent (sigh). I was going to type up a short defense of Harry Vincent being not THAT much more of a sap loser than, say, the Continental Op…but then I remembered that in the novel I read THIS MORNING he got slugged and captured (and shoved into Davy Jones’ Locker) within about five paragraphs of his introduction. I mean….
    Are you perchance planning on reading any more of The Shadow pulps?

    Liked by 2 people

      • 😀
        Yeah, it’s a daunting number, for a fact. There does exist a *complete* volume of reviews some obliging dude did of each and every Shadow novel, including the unfinished manuscripts, TV serials, and 90s movie….the darned thing is as big as a college textbook and weighs over three pounds. (It’s The Shadow in Review by John Olson).

        Liked by 1 person

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