Michael Crawford's latest treatise is another enlightened glimpse into the world of mental illness. Although the work is entitled as a 'Clinical Presentation', Crawford bravely eschews the tired academic tradition of cross-referencing and empirical research in general, unashamedly presenting instead a compellingly rich personal account. Drawing on his experience as a Software Engineer and Chino-wearer, he provides a qualitatively-dense explanation of what stalking is and why it's not his fault.
'Bonita: Long-distance Love Does Work' (chapter two) guides the reader along the rocky terrain of long-distance relationships, and offers advice on projects to occupy the mind. It seems that the keenly anticipated media player - OggFrog - is the child of precisely the kind of adversity which has moulded Crawford's existence;
"Drag and drop was Bonita's main complaint about iTunes. It doesn't have file open dialogs. She said: 'Michael, this application doesn't have file open dialogs. Do you think you could write a replacement for me?' I knew there and then that I had a calling, and that Bonita and I would walk along the path together, on a journey of mutual discovery."
How did this peace frog come to be? Crawford explains passionately how OggFrog brought he and Bonita closer, and as an aside offers this anecdote that scholars will be pleased to learn..
"I was contemplating my employment situation, gazing through the late in my hands. Then, something caught my eye. I focussed on the coffee swirls, and it was at that moment I realised a solution was presenting itself before my very eyes. I discerned the silhouette of a two-dimensional frog, which was smiling back at me with a reassuring confidence that everything would be alright. I looked away, wanting this to be real, and as I stared at iTunes on Bonita's laptop, I heard the frog say 'Rippit!' The rest was history, Real Soon Now."
Throughout the book he taps into a substantive body of previous work to illustrate the power of faith and unimportance of timekeeping, but the theme never moves away from Schizoaffective Disorder as he exposes before all the harsh existence sufferers of the disorder bear.
"I am an enchinoed Schizoaffective male. This means, in my case, my Schizoaffective Disorder is partially manifested as an inability to assimilate ideas beyond 1991. Hence, I belong to a special group of people whom are said to be 'enchinoed'. We enjoy practical, free-flowing trouserware of a certain era but this sometimes comes at the expense of full membership within society. Only yesterday, some youths hummed the signature tune 'Axel F' from the movie 'Beverly Hills Cop', whilst they were sat behind me on the bus. I cite this as but a minor example of the injustices we face."
'Song To The Siren' (chapter twenty-three) is a work of virtuosity, framing his world in the language of Greek mythology to provide a captivating insight into male menopausal response. Crawford offers an irrefutable argument that middle-aged men everywhere should strive for the unobtainable, and advances the idea that 'someone who is as damaged as you are is better for you' with semantic aplomb.
"She laughed when I jived to 'Simply Irresistible' by Robert Palmer in the waiting room. She told me that I wasn't a bad dancer for my age."
Once more, Schizoaffective Disorder is referenced extensively, enhancing the value of this masterpiece, and it is a hallmark of Crawford's rigour that he never lets the topic stray from himself. With a characteristic insightfulness, Crawford identifies counter-cultural forces within his psyche that result in non-conformant behaviour.
He presents a frank and unrepentant exploration of these forces using the OggFrog project as an example in 'The Cathedral Within The Bazaar' (chapter thirty-six), offering a rejection of traditional Open-Source Software (OSS) doctrine and conventional software engineering ideas to present what superficially seem to the reader to be two distinctly stigmatised notions;
- That software should exist within the OSS sphere and still be close-sourced in its infancy;
- That it is OK to re-implement widely used libraries if this means that the work is all your own.
"It is an issue of deep personal concern to me. I fought long and hard with the elders at The Tao before I was eventually excommunicated. They wanted me to do things their way, even when it was sometimes obvious my way would be better. They wanted to tie me into their libraries, their design philosophy. My work was to be for only one system, their system. It was a beautiful system - to be sure - but I felt I should have a wider audience. It wasn't merely a matter of good user interfaces - there was something rotten at its heart. When The Tao elected to enslave music, for financial gain, I knew I would have to leave. I challenged my peers in many debates."
He goes into great allegorical detail, painting a picture of a rebel championing the rights of the common man. This all serves to reinforce the myriad counter-arguments in favour of stalking developed throughout the book, suggesting that 'harassment' (and the wider trait of non-conformity) is a problem of relativity between social norms rather than something that is clearly and objectively identifiable as 'bad'. The following excerpt builds upon this, and also provides an interesting picture of Crawford's past.
'Brother Jeremiah, I posit that digital music should not be encumbered by these bestial bits of control, but instead that it should be the very oxygen which our systems should breathe freely. For is not each note the child of Ogg Himself?'
'Brother Michael you blaspheme greatly. Why do you insist on speaking of this 'Ogg' ? And these 'bits of control' you reject are not the ill you maintain they are. The Elders have explained themselves time and again to you; the income that the companies receive and that by which they may pay the artists, whom make the music and whom need money to live so they might practice their art, require a mechanism to prohibit the mass duplication of their works as monetised by the culture within which we integrate .. And why do you refuse to wear the proper clothing? Those Chino trousers have no place here.'
'A pox on thine eyes Brother Jeremiah, for know you that I am an enchinoed Schizoaffective male and your prejudice towards my trouser garment is of the basest discrimination. I wear them because they suit my needs, and they differ from your needs and their needs. Air is permitted to flow freely; the tight black denim prescribed by the leader is cruel upon my circulation, and the polo necks commit a similar disrespect upon my neck.'
'Daddy' (chapter forty-one) forms the crux of his thesis: Protective stalking. By comparing and contrasting his feelings of paternity towards Cricket (his deceased feline), and his same fatherly instincts towards his patients, Crawford promotes his positive intervention philosophy with a forthright sense of clarity.
"'You need me more than you know', I explained to her. I could tell by her expression that she was overwhelmed by emotion, and I required no words of her to understand her unspeakable gratitude. I was to see the look of mute thankfulness many times over the course of my professional relationship with her, as we would bump into each other in unisex water stalls and other such locations."
'The Burden of Responsibility' (chapter sixty-four) provides an enigmatic coda to his personal account, and I will leave you with this final quote:
"I have wrestled long and hard with the import of my situation. And I will say only this: It would hurt them more than it would hurt me. They need it, to believe in it. It offers them hope, and it is with hope that I say that when history judges me, it should nod and say 'Yes, but he did it for them.'"
It's with a deep regret that I cannot hope to cover the book as completely as it deserves, and I award this book the full five lates out of a possible five. Essential coffee-shop reading.