What Is QAnon? (Part 1 – A LARP is born)

(Need More Context? – Read Part 0.5 Here)

People asked me “Fiona, what is a LARP?” A LARP is either when a bunch of nerds get together and act out a kickass fantasy in the woods IRL, or it’s when your racist uncle puts on a confederate soldier’s uniform and pinkie swears that he’s only doing this because of his deep and abiding love of history.

However, in both of those cases, you have to put in some effort, just look at the kickass picture below. One of the most infuriating things about Q is just how lazy of a LARP it is.

A picture of a person dressed in fantasy robes, wearing a fencer's mask, and holding a bladed weapon in a field.
This is how you do a LARP right.
Image by Ralf Hüls, Sascha Rathjen – CC-BY-SA 4.0

FBIAnon had fizzled out by 2017, occasionally popping up to do a pointless Q&A where nothing came true. Fun way to pass the time on /pol/, but not really anything more than that. But no worries, on the 28th of October, 2017, a new and improved FBIANon, named Q, came into the world with this bold and totally accurate prediction:

Picture of an archived 4chan post which reads: "Hillary Clinton will be arrested between 7:45 AM - 8:30 AM EST on Monday - the morning on October 30, 2017."
You can totally see why people insist Q is infallible, right?

(For the rest of these posts I’m going to steal an idea from Jan Bobrowicz and deliver Q drop via the medium of Garfield.)

Make the Mark Work For You

Three posts were made on that first day and immediately they hit on the winning formula. Sure, there was the blatantly untrue prediction of Hillary Clinton’s arrest, but they also asked open ended nonsense questions. Ask any conman and they’ll tell you that getting the mark to put work in on your side is the best way to reel them in.

Here’s an example from the third ever ‘Q drop’:

Panel 1: Garfield standing next to a hole in the ground saying 'Where is Huma? Follow Huma'
Panel 2: Garfield standing next to Otie, who has a bone in his mouth in the hole
Panel 3: Otie is shaking his head. Garfield is saying 'What is the military code? Where is AW being held? Why?
Otie thought about listening to Garfield and getting pilled, before realizing he was spouting nonsense. Because even a dumb-shit imaginary dog can avoid radicalization with a little extra thought.

For the record, Huma is Huma Abedin, ex-wife of Anthony Weiner (who is AW), and former Hillary Clinton employee. At the time, Anthony Weiner was in Federal Medical Center, Devens, which according to Wikipedia is: ‘a United States federal prison in Massachusetts for male inmates requiring specialized or long-term medical or mental health care.’ He was there because he’s a white man with money whose lawyers said he had a sex addiction.

I have no idea what military or what code that question is referring to. Neither do you, because Q never provides answers. Not that it matters. You’re actively crafting this story together. What do you want it to mean? Congratulations, you cracked the code! Please enjoy the temporary dopamine boost and sense of achievement.

The worst part is, to write about this, I have to put in work. By doing so it looks as though I accept the premise that the questions were worth answering. Even if I dismiss the questions as nonsense, I have engaged. That’s how they reel you in.

And that’s why this is a game. If I were passively consuming predictions or just reading a Q&A I might get bored, but at this early stage QAnon is a LARP in a meaningful sense because by answering the nebulous open-ended questions you become an active participant and player.

Harassment Gets Baked Into The Crust

Q likes to call their posts ‘crumbs’ or ‘breadcrumbs’, and Q followers like to say they are ‘bakers’. I’m not entirely sure how you bake bread from already existing crumbs but let’s work with what we have.

As we will see in later parts, QAnon acolytes love to harass people. If you thought (as they do) that someone was a cannibalistic pedophile, you’d probably harass them too. This isn’t an offshoot or a case of something ‘getting out of hand’, it’s a core feature of the game.

You notice I didn’t go stalk Huma Abedin in my answers above. I don’t care where she is. I hope she’s happy now she’s not married to a lying pervert who chats up children. Q really cares. Four out of the first ten Q drops say to follow or check in with where she is. Why? Like I said, Q doesn’t provide answers. You decide!

In all panels, Garfield is lying down and a thought bubble is coming from his head. They say:
Panel 1: Where is Huma?
Panel 2: Follow Huma Tomorrow. Human
Panel 3: Where is Huma Today?
This is normal. Everything is fine.

Join me next week for part 2 where we explore early Q narratives, and watch the original creators desperately try and bail from the monster they made.

Reddit – Still Evil

There’s been a lot of weird revisionist history around Reddit recently. The Atlantic wrote a piece praising them for not currently being a hotbed of QAnon conspiracies, completely overlooking the fact that Reddit helped spread it in the first place. In fact, Reddit was so instrumental in the early spread of QAnon that they got a shoutout in a Q drop.

They praise their swift action on /r/Pizzagate, but in the same post remark on how /r/TheGreatAwakening had 70,000 members. If you want to know how bad it got before Reddit deigned to step in, read this incredibly detailed post about just one harassment campaign organised by Q acolytes.

But all that is in the past. There’s been a big push to make the Anti-Evil Operations team more visible. Has that made a difference? Not really.

Reddit – Still Pushing Conspiracies

I wanted to make a new Reddit account recently. I used an email address from a domain that I owned, and knew had no other user accounts (BurnYourFeelings.com)

Going through on-boarding, here were the first suggestions I got.

Image of Reddit page which is recommending communities to new users. The two relevant ones are 'r/conspiracy_commons' and 'r/conspiracytheories'
Why, Reddit? Why do you do this?

I asked someone else I knew to create an account on a domain I had a level of control over. Here’s what came up:

Image of Reddit page which is recommending communities to new users. The two relevant one is 'r/conspiracytheories'
They’re serious about pushing this apparently….

A complete throwaway with a fake email address does produce completely generic results, removing the ‘Just For You’ section entirely, so this has to be personalized somehow. A quick glance at this blog shows you that I’m no stranger to browsing conspiracy boards. UBlockOrigin doesn’t block every cookie. So that’s it. That’s the solution, right? No harm, no foul. Just serving up relevant content.

What Are They Recommending?

Reddit has no way of knowing why I’m browsing conspiracy boards. The algorithm might be watching me, but it isn’t watching that closely. Much like Facebook, Reddit is now creating a tailored road-map to ‘pill’ me.

Here’s a selection of posts from /r/conspiracy_commons the day I signed up (please note that I took my sweet time writing this so this first bunch are old)

A Q/COVID-denalist grifter!

A reddit post with the title 'Fight with us people of the UK!!'
You too can get coaching on…something. Only £20 p/h!

A QAnon/Hollow-Earth true believer!

A Reddit post with the title 'What did Seth MacFarlane mean by this? A character dressed as Steven Spielberg molesting an Asian boy while singing The Goonies theme. It's probably nothing'
Seth MacFarlane likes to make jokes in poor taste. That is the explanation.

Racist memes from user Murder_All_Marxists, who deleted their own account. Reddit was apparently fine with the username.

A Reddit post with the title 'Slavery is still active in Africa'
This isn’t even a conspiracy.

In defense of the folks at /r/conspiracy_commons, today’s selection (15th October) was less actively horrendous, but number five on ‘Hot’ was still QAnon propaganda.

A reddit post with the title 'Evidence against Biden, Obama and Clinton goes Public! Deep State Scrambles as MORE EVIDENCE Revealed!
This is exhausting.

Just to re-emphasize. This is content that Reddit was actively recommending to me as a new user. I can’t find statistics on how many new accounts there are a day, but there are apparently 430 million active users right now. How many people are being recommended similar content??

Why Does It Matter?

If you hang around places like /r/QAnonCasualties you can get a real sense of what happens in the lives of people taken in by these posts. On the day I registered, I came across this incredibly telling and sad post.

A Reddit post with the title 'Does anyone here feel the constant sadness and hollowness once you are not distracted?'
Apparently this post was deleted. I’m not shocked.

There’s a human cost to algorithms. The anti-COVID propaganda seen here has an actual body-count. Democracies are being eroded by QAnon and Deep State content that pushed people into an alternative reality. And on the micro-level, divorce proceedings are being started, people are losing their kids, parents are alienated from their children.

Reddit can do better.

What Is QAnon? (Part 0.5 The Crazy Stage Is Set)

I am not a journalist. If you’re looking for someone with an editor to tell you about QAnon, please look elsewhere. There’s also an excellent Wikipedia article available if you’re looking for neutrality.

I am but a humble website-haver, and people keep asking me what QAnon is so here goes.

Once upon a time, there was an image board called 4Chan. It was full of fucking dorks. Sometimes those fucking dorks got together and did good, like when they declared war on Scientology and brought their horrific abuses into the mainstream. I should know. I was one of those dorks.

We were all 19 once…

But mostly, 4chan existed as a way to get porn and occasionally make edgy jokes about Hitler. (Author note from the hellscape of 2020: Any time someone is making edgy Hitler jokes, they are trying to make you comfortable with nazism. Kick that person)

The actual banner of the 4Chan subreddit today (13th of Oct 2020) because of course it is

It was also a really good way to get memes going. I know 4chan people like to say they make the best memes, but really it’s just that they have a captive audience of NEETs with no social lives so of course their creations are going to propagate effectively.

One of the great things about 4chan is that it has no reputation system. You show up, you can yell all the slurs you like, and then come back tomorrow with a fresh slate. (For more on how that spills out into the wider internet see ‘The Card Says Moops’)

Which means that you, or I, or the person who is living a miserable daily existence with no hope in sight of decent mental healthcare or a loving relationship, can be whoever we want in this wonderful chaotic bubble.

The Alternate Reality Game Begins…

2016 was fun, wasn’t it? There wasn’t a plague back then. People thought Donald Trump couldn’t be president. Boy howdy the egg on their faces. And Pepe was just, all the rage. Donald Trump gave people permission to say what they had been bottling up for so long, and the chan culture of ‘say it and run away’ was spilling over into our living rooms.

Pizzagate, seen as the beginning of the Q movement, had its groundwork laid in the 90s. Larry Nichols, a weird con-man who genuinely looks like one of the Talking Head video guys, had been saying that Hillary Clinton was a witch ever since he was fired by her husband for helping the contras.

Why were your shoulders so big Larry? What was up with that?

Roger Stone, rat-fucker extraordinaire and Larry Nichols fan, knew that Wikileaks were going to release a bunch of emails from the Clinton Campaign. They were, and remain, boring as shit. Seriously, go read them. These people live dull normal lives, and good for them. But you can’t let something like this go to waste!

So how to get this party started? Simple:

  1. Get an obviously fake Twitter account that may as well be called “Jew McJewerson” to make a spurious accusation regarding the contents of said emails
I hate nazis. I hate nazis so much. Fuck you, you fucking dorks

2. Have Alex Jones & Co ramp up their already existing hysteria regarding elite pedophiles. Extra points go to Roger here for getting Alex on the Trump train and thus derailing his entire life.
3. Get people to drop normie-friendly content ‘proving’ this theory on mainstream sites like Reddit and Facebook.

If you’re very bored, spending an afternoon playing Roger Stone’s game isn’t a bad way to waste time as you hurtle towards the sweet release of death. At this point, the chans were already split about whether or not to support Donald Trump unironically. An actual government whistleblower had posted on 4chan before. The precedent was set.

Someone, somewhere, said ‘Fuck it, I’m in’, and a new LARP was born.

Enter FBIAnon

FBIAnon was the proto-Q but their time was short lived. If you want to see all their posts, a patriot has put them together for you. A patriot, by the by, who now believes in Q. But FBIAnon made a few fatal mistakes that you’ll notice Q avoids.

1. They Took Q&As

If you take Q&As then people are going to remember the answer you gave to their question. Instead of a million failed prophecies that could be interpreted however you’d like, you have a direct answer to a direct question. When all of your direct answers are both wrong and can’t be spun into something new, you’ve failed.

2. They Were Way Too Specific

I know ‘Look at the Clinton Foundation’ doesn’t seem like it’s that specific, and you’re right! But it is too specific to carry an entire cult. The gravy train stops when new threads run out and this just created an immediate dead-end.

3. Putin Was Totally In On It

Apparently nobody cared that Russia was using the Podesta emails to influence the election whilst it was happening. This one actually surprised me but go look! FBIAnon is very clear that Putin is involved in leaks and that his aim is to bring down the dastardly Clinton Foundation.

4. It Was The Jews

The above all helped stop FBIAnon gaining prominence, but the full mask-off of anti-Jewish propaganda was the real death knell. To quote:

The goal (of Soros, since I assume that is what you are asking) is to create a global government where all people intermingle and breed and become one people ruled by a radically pure Jewish race. They sincerely believe under their rule all human conflict will cease because there will be no more cause for division. This desire is born out of a fear of the horrors of WWII. The Holocaust is a lie, but the death toll was still massive nonetheless. And many people were brutalized by it.

FBIAnon – Being a nazi piece of shit on 4chan, 2016

You will see, in later parts of this series, that Q’s story isn’t different from that of FBIAnon. The antisemitism fully on display in this prototype was simply buried deeper.

It says something that when Q and Trump supporters are discussing the reliability of FBIAnon, this rarely comes up. The premise of a Jewish cabal trying to take over the world is a given to many of these people.

Join me for part 1 where we talk about Q rising from the ashes of FBIAnon. The LARP continues…

Dear Q Follower

Hello there!

I’m hoping, if you’re reading this, that someone who loves you very much sent you here. You and they may have differences of opinion when it comes to Q. We have a difference of opinion when it comes to Q.

I do, however, believe in you, and I really hope you will stick with me until the end. I’m going to make some assumptions about you before we get into this. I’m going to assume:

  • You’re basically a good person
  • You genuinely, passionately, care about the issues associated with QAnon
  • (Most importantly) You genuinely want to fix the issues brought up by Q

I also want you to know, and I mean this very sincerely, I accept that I might be wrong. Maybe the things that Q says are true! If you want, please feel free to email me, and I’ll do my best to get back to you as soon as possible. I promise to look over what you have to say with an open mind, if you’ll do the same for me here.

I’d like to teach you how to be the best activist you can be. If you’re right, this is very important – but also, you are loved. And this is about finding the right balance between making positive change, and keeping you ‘in the fight’.

Always Remember – Burnout Is Real

It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to achieve, you must remember that societal change is a marathon, not a sprint! I see that Black Lives Matter aren’t very popular in Q circles but you must admit, they’ve been playing the long game, and consistently making demands and small, incremental, changes for the last seven years. They’ve gotten so many people on their side. If you want the mainstream to view Q like they view BLM, or their social movement of choice, you need to be willing to keep going. That’s going to require self-care, love, and relationships outside the Q-bubble. That’s what this post is for.

Figure Out What You Want To Achieve

Maybe you just learned about Q, maybe you’ve been doing this for a while. I want you to ask yourself “What do I want to achieve?” Start small. Avoid depression and hopelessness by setting targets you know you can hit, and work up from there.

It’s tempting when you learn about a new social issue to want change to happen right this second. From my reading, it seems that the peadophile/pedovore cabal has existed for hundreds of years. You are not going to fix this tomorrow. That can be really disheartening, but that’s why you…

Get Dedicated

Do you want to learn more about this? Then set yourself a number of hours you’re going to dedicate to learning a day, or a week. Importantly, do not go over that number. If you decide to binge, that’s where burnout occurs. Whatever updates happen, they’ll still be there when you return to reading. When The Storm actually is upon us, you won’t be able to miss it! So don’t worry about being glued to your screen.

Maybe you’re a meme-maker – how many quality, informative, memes do you think you can make in a day? Do you need feedback from the Q community? Budget for both of those things every day. Don’t go over your time limit. You want to be energized to keep going tomorrow.

At first, it might seem like you’re being less efficient, but I’m asking you to give it a couple of weeks. You’ll be amazed at how much you get done when you have dedicated, focused time. Speaking of time…

Make Time for Other Things In Your Life

When you learn about a new problem, especially one like Q, it can be overwhelming. How are you supposed to enjoy the things you did, now that you know children are suffering?

You have to. A drowning person can’t save anyone, and if you live-and-breathe only QAnon content, you are eventually going to drown. That’s not because you’re weak, that’s because you’re human. People are counting on you, you need to be as emotionally strong as possible.

Maybe you can’t save any children right now, but what about a dog? Animal shelters are always looking for volunteers, and that’s a great way you can make a difference today.

What did you used to do away from the computer? Board games are seeing a renaissance. Hiking is good for you, and nobody will ask you to wear a mask in the woods!

Anything away from the screen is valid. Remember, if/when The Storm comes, you’ll know no matter where you are. There’s no reason not to take regular breaks.

Be Patient With Your Loved Ones

When you believe in something, it’s really tempting to believe those on the “other side” are evil. After all, this is so obvious and so important that anyone who doesn’t believe is obviously against you!

When you start to think that, take a look at Black Lives Matter, or people fighting for more COVID mask laws, or Social Justice Warriors on social media. If you don’t agree with them, some of them call you names, or label you ‘racist’, ‘sexist’, ‘-ist’.

I know that there are lots of people who don’t support those causes who firmly reject those labels and claim to love all people equally. Maybe you’re one of them. I’m asking you to learn from their mistakes. Be patient, and don’t overwhelm your loved ones with info. Find some common ground outside of politics.

I have read lots of Q people say that they worry for their loved ones when The Storm hits. How will they emotionally process the information? How will they deal with the fallout? If this hits home, remember that you’ll need to be there for them. The best way to be there for them in future is to be there for them now.

2020 is a scary time for everyone. Lets get through this together.

#SaveOurChildren – QAnon Comes to London

(This blog post was also published to WT.Social with permission. You can see my interviews with attendees here)

On August 22nd, at 3pm exactly, ~100 people sat by Wellington Arch to participate in a “global guided meditation”. Children all over the world were being kidnapped, murdered, or cannibalized by a nebulous group called ‘the elites’. But more than anything, the organizers claimed, this was a spiritual war.

And so sage was burned, gongs were rung, and the tranquility was only shattered when a man approached the crowd to scream: “Where were you when those peadophiles were grooming all those white kids, huh? You didn’t give a shit then! Shame on you. You didn’t care about those white kids.”

QAnon has officially come to Britain.

Who Are The Believers?

Event Organizers Leading the March (CC-BY-SA 4.0 YesThatFiona)

The crowd seemed to be evenly split into three camps:

The Crunchy Moms
As the march was centered around such an adult and disgusting subject matter, I was surprised to see so many people attending with their kids. Concerned mothers wanting to be on the right side of history made a strong showing. They helped to lead the meditation, which they took extremely seriously, and a few cast some very forceful spells at the end of the day.

Although they claimed that their kids weren’t aware of what was going on around them, it seems doubtful that signs saying ‘Kill All Pedos’ and chants about children being snatched off the street will go completely over their heads.

The Q Converts
There was a strong showing of people pilled from the internet, although none of them could say exactly where they first became aware of Q. These were the people overtly concerned with symbology, frazzledrip, and COVID being a hoax.

People With Issues Around Their Children
There was a subsection of attendees who obviously had issues with their own children. These were the people who wanted to talk about the courts, or the one gentleman who started crying talking about “fighting for my kids”.

What Do They Believe?

QAnon Follower Holds Up A Homemade Sign With Supposed Pedophilic Symbology (CC-BY-SA 4.0 YesThatFiona)

One of the more surprising things I learned was that most attendees did not believe in the infallibility of Q. Q was “one source” of information, but not correct about everything, and nobody said the words “disinformation is necessary”, for which I will be forever thankful.

A good half of the people I spoke to said that they had known about “this” forever. Although both the US and UK had a Satanic Panic in the 80s, the legacy of pedophile hysteria that overtook Britain in the 90s lives on. Add to that history the very real case of Jimmy Savile and the subsequent Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and it’s easy to see how the UK is primed to simply incorporate QAnon conspiracies into the existing ecosystem.

There was absolutely no mention of Hillary Clinton, and Trump was draining the swamp, which was great, but didn’t have a lot to do with us. George Soros and the Rothschild family made their obligatory appearance, but only one person seemed to be aware that they were spouting antisemitic conspiracy theories. When I pointed out to one couple that all the people they were demonizing were Jewish, they were extremely emphatic that they weren’t aware and didn’t care about that.

The entire UK government seemed to be forgotten. The Queen and Lord Rothschild were the actual rulers of Britain, and the UK heads of the pedophile cabal. Strangely enough, there were no UK-centric saviors. In fact, there didn’t seem to be a savior at all. Just one long list of evils perpetuated by a nebulous elite.

How Has Q Changed Them?

The world’s jolliest QAnon follower (CC-BY-SA 4.0 YesThatFiona)

In a crowd of fellow believers, the mood was light and there was a real sense of camaraderie between attendees. However, when asked about their lives outside of this event, and how their new worldview had changed them, they all had only bad things to say.

People couldn’t sleep, people couldn’t talk about anything else, people’s entire worldview had been shattered. There was no mention of losing loved ones, but even these short self-reports give a depressing insight into the world of a QAnon follower.

When asked how they were looking after their mental health, everyone said “I smoke a lot”. The blanket of cigarette smoke covering the crowd spoke to the truth of that claim. The few day drinking attendees also said this was how they dealt with the stress of living in the world Q has convinced them is real.

This all only applied to the new converts. The older crowd who has known this “forever” reported no change in their lives at all since Q emerged.

When Does This End?

Save Our Children Attendees March Passed Westminster Abbey (CC-BY-SA 4.0 YesThatFiona)

The short answer, according to the attendees, is that it doesn’t. One QAnon devotee did cling to the belief that there would be mass arrests with pedophiles being put into gitmo, but to everyone else, this was a forever fight.

There are more walks scheduled throughout the year, including satellite groups like Sovereign Citizens and “doctors” who believe COVID is a hoax. With no end goal, it’s difficult to know where this misplaced rage will go. After I left, the crowd bum-rushed Buckingham Palace to call out Prince Andrew, but should Q turn their attention to less well guarded individuals, perhaps the witch-hunts of the 90s will return. We can only hope there will be less collateral damage.

BLM/QAnon crossover shirt (CC-BY-SA 4.0 YesThatFiona)

Strawberry-Rose Jam Recipe

Photo by Z Richter-Welch

(Editor note: As an experiment, I want to see what happens when you publish one of these without a 500 word essay on ‘what I did last Sunday’. Are you entertained!?)

Recipe by Z Richter Welch

You will need:

For the rosewater –

  • Two handfuls’ worth of petals
  • 2 tablespoons of water

For the jam –

  • A combination of strawberries and rose petals adding up to 1 kg
  • One 25 g packet of Dr Oetker 2:1 Gelfix
  • 500 g of real sugar, or erythritol – up to you!
  • (Optional) The juice of at least 1 lemon

For the containers –

  • Several mason jars
  • 2 to 3 cups of distilled or purified water – and a pot to boil it in
  • A wide funnel
  • A roasting tin or baking sheet
  • Tongs and oven gloves

Make Your Rosewater

This is not enough petals
Photo by YesThatFiona – CC-BY-SA 3.0

Triim away and discard the white or light or yellowish bits at the base of each petal. If you will be busy for a while between picking and prepping the petals, I suggest you leave the flowers in cold water until you’re ready to use the petals. You don’t want wilting.

Take your extra trimmed petals and place them in a pot, take some distilled or purified water (I just used cooled down boiled water), and only just cover the rose petals in that water.

Simmer on low heat for 20 to 30 minutes or so, being careful never to let it boil. The rose petals will lose their color in the process and the water may look a little yellow but if it’s full on green, you’ve boiled them and that’s not good – it’ll taste more green and less rosy.

This is the color you should be aiming for!
Photo by YesThatFiona – CC-BY-SA 3.0

Once 20 minutes or so have passed remove from heat, strain and discard the wilted petals. You can store the rose water in a glass jar and refrigerate. It’ll keep for a few days to two weeks.

Sterilize Your Mason Jars

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Prepare a large pot of boiling water. Wash your jars and their lids in hot, soapy water, rinse well, and then place the jars and lids into the pot of boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes.

IMPORTANT: If you have lids with removable rubber seals only boil them on their own for 2 to 3 minutes and do not oven dry them

Boiling jars….
Photo by YesThatFiona – CC-BY-SA 3.0

Next place these jars and their lids face down in the roasting tin and place in the preheated oven to dry for 15 minutes – use gloves and tongs, as the jars will be super-duper hot; just avoid touching the insides of the jars at all costs.

Create Your Jam

Photo by Z Richter-Welch

Combine your strawberries, petals, sugar or erythritol, and Gelfix in a pot and put on the hob on medium high heat. Add in your lemon juice and rosewater.

Using a wooden spoon, stir this mixture occasionally, mashing it up, until it comes to a boil, at which time you then let it boil for a minimum of 3 minutes as you stir continually.

Put it all Together

When your mason jars are ready, remove them from the oven, turn them right side up, place your funnel on one of the hot jars and start pouring the hot jam mixture in.

Fill as many jars as you need to but don’t over fill them, then cover with lids immediately, sealing them well (use oven gloves!) and turn them upside down. Leave them upside down for 5 minutes. Then right side up, and let cool.

Many recipes note that you are to let them set for 24 to 48 hours, but I think using Dr Oetker makes that step optional. Mine totally set within an hour or two.

 

The Invitation Review: Nerdy Coda

I wanted to put this in the main post but decided it was too ‘liberal arts degree’ for a snarky review so just to be clear:

Milton Isn’t a Shortcut to Profundity

I thought this was my fault for not watching Se7en. But having done my homework, I am astounded that I now get to explain this to a professional writer.

When Milton is quoted in Se7en, Morgan Freeman immediately says where it’s from, and then lays out what we, the audience, can expect having learned this new information.

The point of the Milton quote is to show that John Doe is well-read. It mixes in with the library scenes from earlier and also emphasizes the studiousness of Detective Morgan Freeman, as juxtaposed against Brad Pitt’s impatient refusal to read anything but the cliff notes. You know, the crux that naturally leads to the film’s ending.

“Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.”

Milton but also John Doe in Se7en

The Invitation does things a bit differently. The quote is read, one character asks if it’s from The Bible. Dt. Somerset says “No, no, it’s Milton! It’s from Paradise Lost!” and this thread is never picked up again. A writer looking to build on the original work, rather than rip it off, might take the opportunity to create a “Satan as the hero” motif. Here it appears, is given prominence, and then vanishes. It gives the impression they are trying to be clever and failing.

Similarly, Hemingway is an allusion to the core of Dt. Somerset’s character as established through conversations with numerous other actors, and also a call-back to a specific scene shared with Dt. Mills that this play does not include.

Every actor is obviously giving The Invitation their best shot, and without the context of the movie Se7en, I almost laughed out loud. The raw material does not warrant Hemingway.

The Invitation Review

Rating: ★☆☆☆
Ticket cost: £71
Who this show is for: Die-hard Se7en Fans, mask collectors
Who this show is not for: Fans of interactive theater
Show CW: Graphic drug abuse, all the blood
This review contains spoilers. Trust me, it’s for the best.

I have a confession to make. Until this week, I had not seen the movie Se7en. I still refuse to watch Eyes Wide Shut because Scientology. But I am a giant fan of interactive theatre, so my Facebook feed has shown me this for the last three-four months:

I wish I had gone to see this show

So although I had zero context for ‘Eyes Wide Shut Meets SE7EN’, the trailer paints a great picture! Sex, beautiful outfits, intrigue, running. All that good stuff with an added “immersive dining option”. What could possibly go wrong?

TL;DR – everything.

Immersive Dining Only Works When You’re Immersed

I need to say, straight off the bat, that the food at The Town Hall Hotel’s Corner Room restaurant is amazing. Half of the options on the advert weren’t available but I can’t fault the food in any way. Staff were bemused but friendly, everything was great. If this was a review of the restaurant, 4 stars.

Alas.

We (about twelve guests) were “immersed” in a fully functioning restaurant with actual hotel guests. When Kendall (Lisa Moorish), mistress of ceremonies, waltzed in to say hello, the very normal people ordering dinner next to us would not shut the fuck up with admirable conviction. It was very obvious that “something was up” but they were here to eat dammit, and keeping them away from their food for 45 seconds longer would have been unacceptable.

I still don’t know what Kendall’s opening lines were.

Having not been introduced at all, the masked guests were asked to write down our “deepest, darkest, sexual fantasy” on a card, with our names, and they’d make sure it happened.

Cue twelve very awkward Londoners looking at blank cards and wondering what they can get away with.

Luckily, the gentleman next to me said he was “too old to give a shit” and scribbled something down. My companion wrote a joke, I told him to write something for me. So just in case this is blackmail against bad reviews, mine said “Just Give Me Orders – Fiona”. I didn’t write it, but it seemed fitting.

This goes nowhere and means nothing.

(I have been asked to point out that one sex-card was read out at the beginning of the show. I have no way of knowing if it was from the audience. A throwaway line is still meaningless.)

None of Chekov’s Guns Get Fired

In addition to the weird sex cards, dinner guests were also invited into an amazing scene to write their desires for the evening in a book (again, with your name, if you please.) The courtroom space was transformed beautifully with low lighting, and an imposing masked figure to greet you.

This goes nowhere and means nothing.

Later, a mysterious and obvious bot has a conversation via text with the guests. Some one-to-one interaction with the killer perhaps!?

It goes nowhere. It means nothing. Unless I missed something (a very real and depressing possibility) it isn’t even mentioned again.

I should note that these are the only really interactive parts of the show. The input of the audience is the main point that seems to have zero impact on events unfolding. Which is fine, if this wasn’t advertised as an immersive experience.

Sex Parties Need Sex

To give the Richard Crawford (director and “adapter”) more credit than he is due, Eyes Wide Shut is not, technically, an erotic thriller. But the marketing campaigns for both it and The Invitation lean heavily on implied eroticism.

And to give Emma Kirrage and Kai Spellman the credit they are absolutely due, their dance number was brilliantly performed, and the sexiest thing going.

The rest of the show…not so much. Although a selection of wonderful masks are available to guests at the start, someone still managed to rock up wearing a £3 V for Vendetta mask in jeans and a shirt. And good for him! Unlike the similar Vault’s Production, ‘Red Palace’, there is no dress code beyond ‘wear a mask’. But I defy anyone to pretend they’re at an ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ level soiree when this is sitting across from them.

Picture of a person sitting in a camping chair wearing a V for Vendetta mask. Caption above in red reads 'READY TO SEX' and is surrounded by pink love hearts.

I would also point out that the mask I am wearing here is made of plaster, which makes it about five times more expensive than the one worn by the cool dude who waltzed in.
Totally ready for ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ – (Yes, That Fiona – CC-BY-SA 4.0)

Herd Your Audience

This is the shortest section but I missed four murders because I was getting an espresso martini and peeing. I am genuinely amazed that that was possible.

What Was the Point Again?

The Invitation tried to teach me a few moral lessons before I left. To close out, I will present them here, in as much as I understood any of them.

  • Sex, the main selling point of this show, is bad actually

It’s hollow and empty and leads to nothing good! Our desire to pay a lot of money to be a part of sexy show times was horrifically misjudged. On this, we agree.

  • Diverging from Se7en, where all we see is a guy in a bed, addiction as portrayed with admirable conviction and uncomfortable realism is a sin

There is a ‘coke room’ at some point in the show where I was very tempted to give it a rub on my gums and see what happens because I am that type of degenerate. However, a heroin addict being enabled by the killer gives a very impassioned defense of himself, with dramatically revealed track marks. At the end, people are even commended for giving him spare change before the show.

I understand that his death is supposed to expose the “true evil” of the person we’ve already established is a murderer, which you’d think would be enough. But what sin is realistic addiction supposed to be? Is that even a responsible thing to suggest?

  • Fuck London

The city you live in, which is one of the rare places you can perform a show like this in a renowned venue, is dirty and degenerate!

No argument is given for this so I will just posit that being able to pay £71 to do this does indeed prove that London is shit.

(Coda for Liberal Arts Majors)

Sympathy for the psychotic

CW: Self-harm, suicide, slurs. 

I don’t want to write this. It feels petty. No mental illness is “worse” than any other. I can’t speak to the struggles of OCD or eating disorders. I have never been anhedonic and it sounds like a special layer of hell. One person’s suffering never diminishes another’s. 

But mental health awareness is still overwhelmingly focused on depression and anxiety. If you’re playing the numbers game, it makes sense. 20% of people in the UK are suicidal at some point in their lives. Suicide is the leading cause of death between the ages of 10 and 34, with men being especially at risk.

And in the US, there’s an emphasis on PTSD. Anywhere between 11-20% of veterans suffer from this condition, and as the “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, the base number will just keep growing.

So when “good meaning leftists”™ talk about being allies to the mentally ill, those people are front and centre in their minds. After all, who couldn’t relate? Even if you’ve never been depressed, you know what it is to be sad. Nobody enjoys being sad. And you hate the wars in the middle east, right? So of course you’re going to side with the victims, all of them. 

Throw in some good natured pillorying of Autism Speaks and you’ve hit both the trifecta, and the outer limits of empathy you’re going to get from society. Everything else is too alien, too “other”. 

As someone who has suffered extended bouts of psychosis thanks to bipolar 1, this fact occasionally likes to smack me in the face. So let’s talk about it.

The Nazi

Tristan Morgan is a 52 year old terrorist who (thankfully) failed to set a synagogue on fire. Instead, he lit himself on fire, and the internet thinks this is hilarious.

Morgan has now been indefinitely hospitalized, and is where he belongs. As a society, our primary duty of care and concern lie with his potential victims. (In 2018, antisemitic hate crimes in the UK rose by 16%. Consider donating to a Jewish charity to help)

(This is also the moment to consider how many black and brown men are summarily executed before they could even see a doctor. Our society dictates that only nazis get to be mentally ill. If you’re wondering how deep the societal rot of white supremacism goes, that should help answer your question.)

I am firmly in the “punch nazis” camp, but I don’t think the story of Tristan Morgan is funny at all. I think it’s the culmination of years of failed intervention for a man so mentally ill that he was sectioned immediately upon arrest, and then sentenced to indefinite hospitalization. 

So what I see, with all the ‘laugh’ reacts, is the internet collectively saying “look at what the spastic did now”. And I mentioned that, and offered that as someone who has suffered through psychosis, it hurt and angered me to see the “hilarity”.

Two responses crystallized how far we have to go, and reminded me of just how “welcome” people like me are in safe spaces.

“I don’t see what this has to do with being psychotic.”

From the first line of the Wikipedia entry: ‘Psychosis is an abnormal condition of the mind that results in difficulties determining what is real and what is not.’

I do not know Morgan’s mental health history, so some of this is going to be inference, and some of it is just going to be drawing on my own life.

At the very least, we know he was psychotic during the attempted arson. We also know that, like a huge number of people with mental health problems, he self-medicated with illegal drugs, which made his condition worse. 

This didn’t come out of nowhere. This was a long, long, journey.

If you’re a vulnerable adult, having trouble telling the difference between reality and delusion, and an extremist recruiter gets to you, do you think they’ll be passing up that golden opportunity? Morgan was an enthusiastic nazi. He read the literature, created folk songs, tried to burn down a synagogue. He’s exactly what they need.

I don’t buy that he was an avowed white supremacist by consent, in the same way I wouldn’t buy that the child of nazi parents was racist by consent. 

You can convince a psychotic person of just about anything if you’re smart about it. They’re already not operating on this plane of reality. And they’re not subtle about it:

 “When someone is sliding into a psychotic episode, the people with whom they have contact pretty much know it. “

What Really is a “Psychotic Break with Reality”?, Forbes

The people in his life knew he wasn’t “all there”, and they set him on this road regardless. 

Being Psychotic

Going through psychosis opens a rift between you and the rest of the world, for a number of reasons. First, how do you explain it? The two “greatest” delusions I can remember were that ‘birds had listening devices planted on them’, which is so absurd that it’s now a meme, and “god spoke to me”. 

I asked a few friends, once I started writing this, what they’d do if god spoke to them. Everyone hemmed and hawed. Sane people speak to God every day, some even hear back. But reading their testimonies, what they go through is an ocean away from what I experienced.

I promise every single person reading this that if the God of psychosis spoke to them personally and told them to do something, they would do it. I get why Abraham almost killed his son. I would have.

And there is trauma there. Every time I see the “birds aren’t real” meme memories flood back of hiding by my window in the hospital, terrified, and hoping the sparrows on the branch outside would leave soon so I could go back to…whatever it was I was doing. You can’t explain that. It isn’t “CW:Suicide” it’s “CW:absurdist humour”. There is no escaping it. 

Then there’s the memory loss. I do not remember how I met most of my friends. I have the deep, abiding love that comes with forging a relationship over the years, but I wasn’t present for most of it. Some I know because people regale me with stories but most…I have no idea.

I’m afraid to ask, because the answers often reveal more questions. I recently learned that I first met my Dad’s friend on a trip to America I had no idea I’d taken. Was it fun? Who else did I meet? Was I kind?

My illness stole my life story from me, and half of the time I didn’t even know I was ill. After all, I now know my psychosis comes from what are known as mixed episodes. A manic person doesn’t believe they’re unwell. They’re full of energy and the joy of living!

And it leads you to making crappy decisions. 

You Are a Burden, and That’s (Relatively) OK

I hate being told “you are not a burden”. It’s a patronizing lie. Anyone suffering through an extreme mental health episode is going to destroy some things in their life, and hurt a good few people. Not only that, they probably won’t even realise they’re doing it.

As I said, I don’t remember most of the years I was going through psychosis. There are flashes though. I remember sitting in a pool of my own blood and my partner walking through the door. I don’t remember why I was in my own blood, or what happened after. But I remember being very sad that my favourite towel was gone.

I remember getting out of the hospital and a friend from the states showed up. I had no memory of agreeing to let them stay. Four people cramped into a one bedroom flat soon became untenable, and my friend ended up in a foreign country with nowhere to stay.

I made my parents cry more times than I care to consider. I remember trying to show off my new piano skills to my Dad over the phone and he just…broke. I was sad and confused then, and I’m sad and confused now. I have no idea why that happened, but I know I was the cause. I’m sure he didn’t deserve whatever led to that.

Messages go unread. Emails go unanswered. Excuses get made. The worst bit is, because of the memory loss, I don’t know how many people I hurt. I don’t know how I hurt them. They’re out there though. Just waiting to catch up with me.

If you’re lucky enough to have people in your life who love you, it’s ok. It’s not that they don’t mind, of course they mind. Spend five minutes with someone whose partner is unwell and you’ll get a litany of complaints about something or other.

It’s that this is the Faustian pact we strike with each other in life. You provide people with something positive in their life, and they’re willing to shoulder the bad to keep it. 

A manic or psychotic person who has yet to be well does not know and cannot help themselves. You just have to trust the people in your life. If someone tells you they want you around, and that they love you, listen

If your mental illness is bad enough, if you really are disconnected from reality, you’re at their mercy. I was so lucky with the people around me, they nursed me back to health. 

Tristan Morgan was not so lucky.

“The world would be better off if he were dead.”

This is the gut punch that keeps me up at night – because it came from the “well meaning left”™, and because it’s a reminder of how society will treat me if I relapse in the wrong way.

What are you saying, if you agree with that statement? I can think of a few interpretations.

When someone becomes too mentally ill for society to handle, we should murder them

Forgive me for saying so but that’s a very…nazi-like attitude to take. Any doctor who was seeing Morgan would’ve alerted the police or hospitalized him as a “threat to himself or others.” This interpretation implies that if doctors don’t do their jobs, the sick should be punished. I’ve had some crappy psychiatrists in my time, I’d hate to be executed for it.

I don’t care that this man was unable to tell the difference between reality and delusions. His deluded mind decided to hate (((the Jews))), therefore we should murder him.

This one is more understandable. Fuck nazis, right? But it presupposes that (a) his sick mind and his healthy mind would be in agreement and (b) he was somehow both disconnected from this plane of reality, but together enough to make an informed choice to hate Jewish people. It doesn’t allow the possibility that, upon being nursed back to health, he would look at what he had done in horror.

He had a duty of care to others to look after his own mental health, and he failed in that duty. The price of failure is death. 

And this one is both so much projection on my part that I should set up an IMAX, and the thing that’s been keeping me awake at night ever since my comrade let me know the world would be better if Morgan was dead. 

Because what I read is “if you people fuck this up, the world would be better off if you were dead.”

I do honestly believe that if you strip away all pretense, and shed the lie of “you are not a burden,” this is the closest you will come to a universal truth here. Once you’ve been healed, even for a short while, you do have a duty to others. You’ve come through the other side, been given a second chance at life! 

I don’t think Morgan has ever been well. The court reports made no mention of “his psychiatrist”. Once the NHS knows you’re insane enough to section, they don’t let you out of their grasp easily. But I am well, now, and performing my duty.

So let’s talk about it.

Doing Your Duty – The Life of a Recovering Psychotic

My dream is that one day I can go camping again. I love going to music festivals, and I really love hiking in the woods. But the biggest and most intrusive hurdle on your life is your medication.

Last year I made the risky call to take as little medication as I could get away with. Medication dulls your senses, plays havoc with very basic things like “your ability to spell”, and takes enough of a toll on your body that every 3-6 months you need your heart and organs checked. 

Compulsive eaters have my empathy in as much as some medications make your stomach a yawning pit. Every second of every day, you are hungry. You eat and eat and eat and it’s never enough. (Epileptics may know this as the “depakote munchies”.) 

For 4-8 hours every day, I am dead to the world. Hit me enough times and I’ll wake up, but if the house catches fire while I’m asleep I’m pretty sure I’ll die. It means choosing housemates and lovers carefully. It means never leaving your own house overnight without making sure there’s a lock on the door. The hour before you pass out can kindly be called a “production” as you drunkenly stumble around eating and drinking whatever you can muster.

But fall asleep fast! Or you can spend the next few hours writhing in pain as your muscles cramp up. 

And fall asleep consistently, because otherwise you’ll get sick. There will be no more ‘overnights’ at other people’s parties without notice and you’d better clear the calendar for 3-4 days. Take your medication every 12 hours or suffer the consequences.

And no drinking. I don’t pay much mind to this one (failing at my duty!) because I enjoy drinking and want to have a life. But I asked a doctor at a party once if I should keep drinking or commit to taking my medication that night and I will never forget the look of horror on his face when I told him what I was taking. 

“But you could die!” – well, yeah, I’d rather roll the dice.

Which sounds, frankly, insane, but lots of things in a mentally ill person’s life will sound insane, so you learn to put on a poker face. There is no nice way to tell someone you’re suicidal, and there’s no way to explain that that’s ok, it’s normal, you just need to spend a few days licking your wounds. So mostly, I don’t. If I need medical intervention, I know how to get it. For everyone else, I’m just “under the weather”. 

The same thing goes for hallucinations. I spend an awful lot of my time hearing voices. I know they’re not real, I just also know that that’s distressing to many people. So I keep it to myself.

Every emotion is suspect, but especially happiness, love, and lust. You know, the good ones. The line between excited happiness and mania is thin if you’re not at “peak performance”, which can be entirely outside of your control.

Because I could go on about spending 2-12 hours a month in hospitals on top of having a full time job, or not leaving the house for days because my anxiety is too bad, or struggling to communicate that “perhaps my sentences are hard to follow because, as I already told you, I have disordered thinking, and I’m not just fucking you about”. But the sword of damocles that hangs over your head with the word “relapse” on it has almost nothing to do with how hard you work.

If you get a cold, your body will be tired, and you will be distracted, which means you might miss a symptom when it appears. Seems like a simple thing, but a virus can mean suddenly your mental health hangs in the balance. A death here, a breakup there, a fight with your friend; these are all things that are inevitable. They’re parts of life you cannot prepare for. They’re also what will send you mad. All you can do is build up as solid a foundation as you can muster, and hope. 

I am held to a different standard than those around me, and they don’t even know it. “Good” is not good enough, not if I want to function, not if I want to share my life with others.

And if I fail, or life tips my hand, and I’m not gifted with the love and support I have received thus far, then maybe society would be better if I was dead.

I can’t afford to believe that about myself, and I don’t believe it to be true for Tristan Morgan.