"The family. We were a strange little band
of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste,
coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money,
locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to
heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying
to figure out the common thread that bound us all together."
"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it
a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are,
you need one."
Tuesday May 26th, 2009
The cursor is just blinking on the screen and it won't stop. It just sits there blinking, as if it expects me to do something. I just sit here staring at it. I don't care whether it blinks or whether it doesn't blink. It doesn't matter. It really just doesn't matter.
I'll let you in on a secret. That note to self, the one I typed into that cutsie little stickie pad utility that comes with the widget bar of Windows Vista, says, "Remember, don't kill yourself." I wrote that Friday knowing on some deep level I'd need it for Tuesday. It's now Tuesday and that note can go to hell.
The cursor blinks.
I've wondered a lot these past ten years, what does it mean to be honest, to have integrity, to show devotion, to be loyal, to give of oneself so that another might benefit. And I have wondered if it even matters. Honesty is about as attractive as pig manure; a painted facade in the image of another's dream house works much better. Integrity is like the invisible man, only noticed when it slaps you on the ass. Devotion is like fiber for regularity, but who wants regularly when we can eat candy bars, lots of candy bars! Uhmmy-yummy! Sugar!!! And in this culture where we've all become consumers, even those of us who claim not to be, those who give, give, give are nothing more than an outlet store where we can score three pairs of Levi's for the price of one. Three cheers of hurrah for a great buy!
I have wondered, these past few months, what it means to have worth. I don't know. But I can tell you what it is to feel worthless.
I won't be writing anymore. Not for awhile anyway. There's no point. No more journals. No more videos. No more attempts at giving my life some colour with a stupid stuffed monkey puppet like some velvety soft sewing together of artificial hope. No more Temple, maybe. La fin. I don't care anymore. As of this afternoon I will have spent my last pocket full of hope. The vending machine will probably eat it. The 1-800 service number posted on the side of the machine will be busy. I'll slip my hands into my empty pockets and I'll think to myself just how that would not have been possible if my pockets were full and I'll feel some superficial satisfaction in this little tid-bit of enlightened bullshit.
The cup is broken.
The cursor is still blinking at me.
And it won't stop.
Monday May 25th, 2009
I want someone to say, "I adore you." I can't imagine it, but I want it. I want to be held warmly in someone's arms and hear those words and know the truth of them wrapping every syllable like a present that can always be opened and reopened again and again. I want to be adored. I want to be adored.
What I am is tired. It's 10:53pm on Monday May 25th, 2009, Memorial day, and while it "should" have been an enjoyable chance to get away from work, enjoy some truly amazing weather, I have instead spent the weekend struggling with unimaginably dark emotions, some as black and stark as the black of this page. There are so many reasons, losses, choices, mistakes, all piled on top of my heart like an up-side-down pyramid made of iron bricks...and yet in a time distant-past I built the skill set to overcome, to take these kinds of things in stride, to continue living without focusing too much on those things I cannot control. And yet no skill I have seems to be able to meet this challenge with the strength I believed I had. I get up in the morning, stumble into the shower, tell myself good, good, keep it good, then I garden, then I write, then I vaccume and I sweep and do the dishes and oh, that reminds me, gotta change the laundry over, brb...
Maybe it's a mistake to share so much about me. By doing so, by being so open, am I endangering my future? Am I possibly lowering the possibility of a life long relationship with my dear and future wife? Am I shooting all potential friendships in the foot before they've had a chance to blossom? Am I giving future employers a reason to question my stability? To my credit I have continued to work and perform the "essential functions" of life while experiencing emotions that would have had most people seeking immediate medical attention, if not a short visit to the funny farm. Somehow I survive. Somehow I'm still standing. Somehow.
I've continued to transfer my old psychiatric notes into electronic form. Reading them is definitely an experience. Reading through one gets a picture of the "machine" that defines much of the psychiatric community. It's almost disturbing how many of the pages are focused entirely on prescriptions. Raise this. Lower that. His "affect" is more positive so the Rectoblomiphistablahblah is working.
It is a most enlightening, and in some ways disturbing, read.
If you do choose to read it I ask you to be aware that...well, while I'd initially asked my parents for therapy I'd specifically asked for "family therapy", because I felt strongly that the problems weren't mine, per say, but shared within the family group. But no, my dad didn't want to do that, he refused to believe he had an anger management problem (he communicated this via staunch avoidance or more ironically, yelling and screaming), so I was the only one to go to therapy and as a result I largely felt I'd been labeled, thrown into the machine, and rejected. I was officially the black sheep of the family, the thing nobody talked about, the thing everyone avoided. Can you imagine what that's like, being in a room full of people, everyone knowing you're seeing a shrink, everyone aware that you're on Lithium, but nobody says it, they just smiled that uncomfortably tight smile people do when they think you've got something they might catch, they say, "Hi, how are you?, then immediately begin to follow their predetermined escape route around you even though you started to answer their question.
Poor little black sheep. Bah, bah, bah.
I wasn't terribly cooperative with the process. Sure, I wanted to feel better but I was frustrated to be in the presence of adults who refused to discuss the possibility that I might be depressed largely as a result of people like my dad screaming at me from time to time, telling me things like I was worthless and I needed to get a life. And so I learned, quite quickly, that while I respected this counselor I couldn't safely share those kinds of things with him without immediately being stigmatized and labelled. Also, I was extremely shy at the time and the whole idea of sitting down and opening up with him was...difficult at best. I often spent large portions of the meetings sitting in silence, looking at the floor, looking at the clock, looking at him expecting him to fill the uncomfortable silence...but he just sat there looking at me, waiting for me to set the tone (it was my hour, after all). Last but not least, after loosing my freedom, after ending up in a "nut house" for a week as a result of my mother's justified but incorrectly timed parania that I might take my own life...well, I didn't exactly tell him things like I was routinely cutting myself, hoping to hit that magical artery that would pump, pump, pump the life force out of my body, or that I'd sometimes down a hand-full of Tylanol PM in hopes of going to sleep and never waking up again. No, I never told him because I didn't want to loose my freedom and end up in an artificial environment where...strangly, one of the happiest times in my life was the children's psych ward at Providence Hospital in Portland, Oregon. I'd instantly made a group of five or six kids, all with problems, all with difficulties, all sharing them openly, and all accepting each other completely and without judgement. Forgetting the drugs and therapies and chat sessions, all of which were a waste of time and money, the connection I had with the "inmates" was a wonderful bond I have carried to the present day. Great wonderful people who accepted me just the way I am, people who understand completely what I was going throuh, and who, like me, were being shoved through an inneffective machine of drugs and psychoanalysis, ink blots, and the like.
There are sections that bring up old memories. Some are interesting. Others quite difficult. Memories that were lost in the sands of time. The sci fi convention I went to with a friend I adored, a friend who I'd had a psychic vision about, one that came true later at the convention, and though I've never ever admitted this to anyone, a friend I eventually and unexpectely made wild love to in the back of my Volvo stationwagon. And then she left and wow, what a blow, a loss like I'd never experienced up until that time, and I would have done anything to keep her close, yet I'm glad I didn't...the love I had was, well, part of it was sincere, I'm sure, but part was teenage infatuation and the need to fill a deep hole in my life, to have someone close that would make me feel accepted, someone who would say they admired me, someone who would help define me.
And so I'm going to book end this entry by saying this: I still want to be admired but I do not need to be admired to exist, to move forward, to be me. While you are free to think otherwise, if you truly examined the day in and day out activities in my life you'd see a person who, while struggling and experiencing a deep sense of loss and sadness, chronic pain, and the like, I'm someone who knows himself through and through, who believes in truth, who values learning, who seeks out self betterment, and gives every ounce of love and friendship and warmth to those he chooses to reach out to. Most of all, someone who doesn't give up though he's honestly begun to ask a question most people never do, "Are all lives worth living?" followed by, "Is mine?"
I don't know, but I'm alive so I'm going to run with that. And I want to be adored and while I'm not perfect I'm unique, with intense and passionate qualities that are rare in this world. I am worth being adored. And some day, maybe soon, soon, though probably in a galaxy far, far away, I will be.
P.S. And maybe it would be a better world if everyone had someone that adored them.
P.P.S. Damn. I hate it when I sit down with a very definite idea about what i want to write about then end up wandering all about like a crazed lunatic. Shit! I gotta get back to writing practice as a daily ritual, and not just on here. Sorry folks, amazing as it seems sometimes I need my privacy too! He He! :)
Saturday May 23rd, 2009
This old laptop is heavy. Picking it up causes a moment of suspended confusion as I realize this isn't the new, sleeker Thinkpad. Only a half inch thicker, it feels like a brick on my lap. Heavy. Like the day.
There are no clouds in the sky. The temperature is somewhere in the 90's. Some would see this as adequate reason to celebrate. On with the light clothes. Out for a walk to the coffee shop with a friend. Life is celebrated in the presence of another. This is good.
And yet on this weekend associated with get togethers, barbecues, and social connections, I find myself forced into mindful meditation. There is the road. There is the sidewalk. There are shadows on the sidewalk and I will be cooler in them. Trees cause the shadows, beautiful green trees dancing in the light wind. And there is my lawn, mowed not so long ago, and the few weeds. Will I take care of them? I don't answer: it's back to meditation. The key goes in the lock and always turns the same way. A cat is by the door calling for more food, more attention. There's the laptop sitting, top closed, the sun shining through the window on it. I put everything on the kitchen table. My wallet. My phone...why do I even carry it anymore, nobody ever...and then there's a banana, fully brown, ready for bread. Will I make bread? Back to meditation again.
I woke up this morning at 7:45 to the alarm. I didn't feel well, not well in the way I told my doctor about recently, the kind of not well one experiences from the ups and downs of Oxycontin. "Keep it next to your bed," she'd suggested, "take it before you get up." I'd already thought of that but truth is I sleep like I rock. But I tried this morning, I really tried. I got up. I took my handful of medicines, one for stomach, one for pain, and one for muscle spasms, then I got in the shower. Maybe I'll feel better when I get out, I thought to myself, and make it to the wedding.
"Why was I going to this wedding anyway?" I thought to myself. I barely knew the person. And yet I've never felt that mattered before. Wasn't it enough to go, be present, and demonstrate my support to another human being on a day of celebration? There was a day that would have been enough to get me out of bed but today, this morning, I found myself questioning. What was the point? Would he even notice? And what about me? What about after the wedding? How would I feel as I got back in the car and headed home, back to an empty house with nothing but empty furniture and four cats to keep me company? Would I be doing as I have so many times in the past, made a decision thinking only about others and little of how it might later effect me?
I have never before been in the position where the possibility of a wedding would leave me feeling empty, unwanted, vulnerable.
I'm having a similar difficulty reading the book The Shack. Everyone seems to love it and from everything I've heard about it, including an interview with the author on NPR, it's my kind of book. And I did enjoy the first ten pages or so, especially when it became clear the author, or the character at least, is from the same area I live, driving along the same roads, visiting the same places, Multnomah Falls, the Gorge, Joseph, Oregon, and the camp grounds I have considered my temporarily home one weekend out of every year for the past three years. The sense of connection I felt was indescribably palpable as well as the sense of loss as he camped there with his children, holding them, telling them stories, and tucking them in. Me? I do not know this experience. My memories are of sitting at the camp fire alone, thinking to myself, "I will make the most of this," but inside feeling empty, like I do today, but doing everything I can to set those feelings aside and enjoying what I do have. "Enjoy your steak," I said to myself that night as I turned it in the dark with a fork. "Enjoy your soup," I say to myself today as I sit on the couch with another Star Trek movie on the big screen.
I spent half of the day laying in bed in my shorts watching one classic Trek episode after another. Do you know what that means? There will be a test on Tuesday. I wrote a note on my computer; it says the same thing a similar note I wrote on the downstairs white board said a week or two back. A note to self. The most important note to self, in fact. Do you know what it said? There will, of course, be a test on Tuesday.
Friday May 22nd, 2009I've got some good news and I've got some bad news. How about we do the bad news first, get it out of the way, sound good?
The Bad News:
I woke up this morning feeling sick to the stomach. I haven't felt this way for a number of weeks, largely due to a positive change in diet, so I didn't immediately recognize it for what it was. Took my shower, dried off, got dressed, and drove part way to work before realizing there was no way I could set at my desk for seven or eight hours, not feeling the way I did. So I turned around, pulled back into the driveway, and locked the parking break into place, then sat there for a moment listening to someone calling into the OPB program Think Out Loud, before going inside. My stomach, still sour, was most likely toiling over something I'd eaten last night. Can garlic go bad? I don't know. Whatever the case what I'd eaten hadn't sat well with me. Two bowel movements later I felt much more like myself.
I will keep an even closer eye on my diet than I have been.
The Good News:
Sometimes blessings aren't exactly where we'd expect them to be and had I not stayed home today I wouldn't have had this exceptionally exciting experience. Allow me to tell my tail (pen intended).
Working from home provides me the choice of working in any number of locations. I might work on the computer in my bedroom, something I choose if I want the luxury of two monitors. Or I might choose to sit by the downstairs window, as I am now, with a gorgeous view of roses in bloom. Last but not least I can work on the downstairs couch either via the computer hooked to the big screen TV or, as I did today, have some movie playing on that while the laptop is flipped open where it belongs: on ones lap. (To be quite candid since I have a laptop and WiFi I can work anywhere in or outside my house as long as I am within a thousand or so feet of the house.) Today I chose the couch.
The house was a bit on the chilly side so I wrapped the Tinkerbell comforter around my legs, propped my legs up on a stool, and set the laptop in a comfortable writing position. The film for the morning was King Corn, a documentary about how most modern day food is a byproduct of cheap corn and high fructose corn syrup (a highly informative film and something everyone should watch). Half way through the film I heard a loud ruccus, a slamming sound behind the entertainment center. Realizing one of the cats was back there playing in the octopus of wires coming out of the amplifier I screamed, Get the fuck out! but, as per usual, was ignored. Comfortably wrapped and not wanting to move I decided to ignore itbut I couldn't ignore what happened next.
The smallest of my cats, Monkey, a beautiful black boy kitty with a crooked tail which has been that way since birth, jumped out from behind the entertainment center with something in his mouth. He growled intensely as he dropped the thing to the floor and my only thought was he was acting mighty peculiar, at least he was having a good time with one of the many cat toys strewn around the house. It was then that the toy let out a terrified squeak which immediately lured the other four cats to Monkey's side. This toy, we all noticed at once, not only squeaked, but was madly trying to get away! But Monkey would not have it. He pounced on the mouse, snatched it up in his mouth, and looked around greedily for a route towards privacy where he could enjoy this fun treat alone, but the other cats wanted in too. What was this wonderful thing he had found? Why was it making noises? Why did it move? And why did it smell soooo good?
Now if you've ever seen one you'd know that a good mouser never wants to kill his prey, not immediately anyway. Play is the name of the game and while true, though it lacks any level of compassion whatsoever, every mouser I've ever known instinctively wants to play with the mouse until it has...how do I put this politely...kicked the living shit out of it...after which points the little guy is dinner (or brunch, as would have been the case today).
Monkey had three things going against him, though. First, he was surrounded by three other curious felines asking, Is it my turn? Second, he didn't exactly have a lot of experience with mice and third and just as importantly, he didn't see to realize they were surrounded by a room teaming with places for the little guy to hide. So Monkey, hoping to bat the mouse around a bit more, drops it and realizing the seriousness of its predicament the mouse ran straight under the foot stool my legs were on and into the comforter. Up I jumped thinking with some humor, Wow! You're not a fucking elephant, Aslynn! and the cats went crazy trying to find the thing.
But it was gone.
Yes, we all tried to find it but the little guy was quick. I moved the couch, pulled out the pillows, shook out the comforter, but to no avail. The mouse had successfully escaped.
So today is the day of the Monkey. Three cheers to my cat!!! He is, as of today, a bonefied mouser! I didn't know if any of these city cats had it in them but Monkey, he remembers his roots. Today I am a proud, proud father. And I know, based on experience, that where this is one mouse, there is half a dozen more. They'll be back, Monkey, and you'll be ready.
On a completely unrelated note, the past few nights I've been transfering a handful of documents to electronic form. They've been stored in my filing cabinet for a little over ten years now; I've only read over them twice before. What are they, you ask? They are every psychiatric note written by the counselor I was seeing when I was seventeen. Why am I taking the time to type them up, you ask? Simple: to share them with you.
Why would I do something as seemigly ludirous, rediculous, and socially suicidal as that?
I do so because I want to be understood. I do so because I want to be understood for who I am, not for who or what people, in their minds, pretend me to be. I do so because I am not afraid of judgment, for any judgment made without understanding and compassion is without substance. I do so because I want to push aside the unnecessary social masks we wear and replace them with something better: our beautiful, fragile but infinitely strong selves. And truth be known I don't do it just for me but others out there as well. I want to give those who struggle courage by seeing my own. I want to let those who are struggling know that they are not alone. I want everyone to begin seeing a bigger picture of how we're all connected to each other, and while many of the things I went through were the result of my own childish perceptions, many of them were also the result of the way others treated me (none of us are free from blame).
An a side note while reading my progress reports I couldn't help but notice something he wrote on June 5th, 1991: ...although I could not convince him that he should use a helmet if he did. Under this were some light pencil marks, in my hand. They read, Boy, dude, get over those childhood fears. Long story short, when he was a kid he had seen another child bust his skull open when falling off a bike. A terrible thing to experience, for sure, but it always bothered me that here he was, a psychiatrist with a PhD, and not once did he ever seem to take responsibility for one of his strongest flash bulb memories, an experience that lead him to constantly pester me about wearing a helmet (I could have just as easily used the word nag here; the main point I want to make is that he wouldn't simply respect my choice not to wear one and would push the subject anytime anything remotely similar came up--I should also note here my dad was cheap and there wasn't a chance in hell that he'd buy me one--though to be quite frank so few people wore them back then that it was a completely dorky thing to do and I had enough going against me already!). This slight hypocrisy bothered me. On the one hand hypocrisy of any sort simply rubs me wrong; it's always been a pet peeve of mine. On the other it reminded me of my father who, having much more knowledge of psychology than your average person, seemed to entirely ignore this knowledge in his day to day life. So while my comment towards him might seem harsh I do ask you to consider that I never did nor would have said any such thing to his face thus dismissing the suffering and fear he experienced in the matter.
I've compiled about a third of the notes so far and published them to an area of the Reflections page called Psych Files (or Psyche Notes, I don't remember which). They can be found at the very bottom of the page with the big-ass picture of Mister Monkey holding his new camcorder. So be a voyeur, be a a loving friend, be a curious stranger, be whatever it is you wish to be, whatever the case these pages from so very long ago are there now for you to view, ponder, examine, and enjoy. Or not. The choice, ultimately is yours, as is the choice I make to share them now.
Thursday May 21st, 2009What comes up must come down. A hot stove burns the unwary finger. An empty box set upon the ground will immediately be filled with the nearest cat. These are some of the truisms we learn growing up.
Our minds are pattern matching machines. In the best of all worlds the patterns it detects in the external environment, just nanometers outside the confines of our skin, are internalized, interpreted, then stored in a fashion that will allow us to better interact with this awesome universe that we've been set in for one reason or another.
The most obvious examples of when our brains, these magnificent machines that sit upon our shoulders, make erroneous assumptions are categorized as stereotypes. The word stereotypes, when consciously considered by most, denotes ignorance and hardly anyone will admit (even to themselves) that they hold deep rooted stereotype but the truth, like it or not, is that we all do.
Take for instance one of the most obvious: racism.
Racism, for those of us who don't have a racist cell in our bodies, is such a bizarre concept. We look at it and it makes no sense. We spend time with every colour of person and just see them as people, as enjoyable and annoying as anyone else; their colour just doesn't compute into the picture. So we view the racist with a mix of confusion and contempt. At the same time it's quite obvious where their racism stems, we've heard the stories, about how when they were eight they were molested by an old trusted friend from church who just happened to be Hispanic, how their father lost their job which was immediately deported to India, how they just grew up in an environment surrounded by people who hated those damn niggers. There's always a story behind the racism and always fear or ignorance behind the personal stories, stories we don't share, so we can look on unencumbered by the shoes they walk in and judgeand while there is accuracy to much of our judgment, we sometimes go too far.
I have come to believe that we should allow all people to have whatever beliefs they want, no matter how ridiculous, ignorant, or hate-filled we might personally believe them to be; it is only at the point where their beliefs translate into actions that negatively effect us that we can ethically and morally put a stop to those actions. I think, for instance, most of us can agree there's nothing we can say to change the mind of a life-long racist so any energy to that end is wasteful (if not frustrating). And even if there was a possibility, what would be the point of pushing and pushing and pushing? If our views are as right as we believe them to be then their views will change as a function of experience; unfortunately this means they need to be immersed in a large number of social situations enabling them to interact with a wide variety of races, something that is not terribly likely as we all tend to stay within our flock, so to speak. So if a neo-Nazi marches in the street espousing their views, well, who cares? I have no emotional reaction because I believe in the innate right of all beings to think for themselves; my thought and feeling, if any, is what a bunch of ignorant dim-wits and I might go watch, if for entertainment value only. But what if you're a black man standing on the side walk just watching with a similar sense of dumbfounded fascination and one of the younger neo-Nazi's, noticing that you're looking at him the wrong way walks up to you and slaps you in the face? Then and only then is it morally right, in my view, to tranform from a passive observer into someone actively preventing negative behavior that has an immediate negative impact upon your life. Simple enough. For shits and giggles let's take that one step further. Suppose you're standing a few feet from the black man and watch as he gets slapped. What then? Do you have a morally obligation to step in? Is it your responsibility to defend him? While it's clear that a physical boundary has been crossed, that another human being has been assaulted, is it in any way my right to tell him how to handle it? That would be presumptuous, at best, and though I agree that most people would be offended at being slapped, it's not our place to decide how to respond. If you disagree consider this. He has a number of choices. He could meet like energy with like energy (which will obviously cause the situation to snowball); he could walk away; or, if he's a truly enlightened soul, he will simply tell the thick headed youth that his behavior is unacceptable and that he won't tolerate that kind of behavior. Suppose he chooses the last but isn't respected, that is, the neo-Nazi responds by ignoring his boundary and this time punching him. Do you step in? No. Why? First, how to handle the situation is still his choice, second, he's not in a situation where he's clearly overpowered, unable to protect himself, or unconscious--I believe the latter to clearly be one time it's okay to step in and take control of the situation. However, at the point he's been hit maybe he's realized that his best defense is to get the support of the crowd, so he shouts out, Who hear thinks that was wrong? Who will stand by me against this injustice?! That, in my view, is the correct, right, and moral place to step in.
But I digress.
In psychology stereotypes are viewed as neither positive or negative, they're viewed as necessary constructs of the human brain. We could not function without stereotypes, we simply couldn't. The universe is too complex, too big, too awesome for beings with tiny-tiny brains to understand everything completely. Our brains function according to a principle similar to water flowing down a mountain, taking the path of least resistance. The racist cannot possibly meet every person in the world, much less a significant portion of them, and so they must rely on the few experiences they have and factor those into their big picture of things. The same is true with all of us.
The psychological view of stereotypes shouldn't confuse you into believing the view is detached. There are also positive ways we stereotype things. What goes up must come down is a good example and is not, as we've seen in the last fifties year, always true, yet the idea is consistently useful in our every day lives. The fact that a stove will burn us if we lean against it and always will allows us to keep our skin unburnt, healthy. The reality that my cats might see an open box as a new out house makes me think twice before leaving on sitting in the middle room for too long.
But what happens when the ball does not come down, when the stove does not hurt, when the cat looks at the box with aversion or fear?
There is an enormous amount of scientific evidence associating bi-polarism in adults with a history of bi-polar family members. The further such a history can be traced back, the more likely an adult is to suffer from this sometimes debilitating condition. Fair enough.
For those of you who know me you know I can't keep my mouth shut, especially when it comes to the nature vs. nurture argument. My view is this: there are definitely examples of our emotions, thoughts, and behavior, being highly influenced or flat out defined by our genes, but since our genes aren't something we can do anything about I believe an individual's focus should be on the nurture side of things: what's occurred to lead me to the place I'm at, what do I want to change about that, and where do I want to go from here? I can't change the fact that I'm of European descent or the fact that my genes have back problems written into them, but I sure as hell can choose to eat a healthier diet, choose when I sleep and wake, and choose which friendships I'll entertain and which ones I need to walk away from.
In terms of bi-polar conditions (I choose condition, a more neutral word than disorder which, imho, is completely unscientific, something that troubles me about the psychological community) bi-polarism is often the result of inconsistent relationships and house hold environments growing up. Sure, if I ask someone who's shares bi-polar tendencies with me if their mother or father was, more likely than not they'll say yes, but if I keep asking questions, questions about their environment growing up, the answers will also be yes. Did your mom sometimes show you enormous love then out of the blue and for no reason act verbally or physically violent towards you? Did you dad have completely inconsistent expectations for you, one day praising you for the A you got on your report card, the next shrugging it off as if it was nothing, one day telling you your only responsibilities after school are doing the dishes and your home work, and the next screaming at you for not washing and waxing his car? Did one of them often show you attention and admiration, taking you out to eat and the mall then get you home, pretend you didn't exist to the point of not even responding to you when you said their name? The questions are always about contradictory behaviors and are focused on one underlying reality: did at least one of your parents make you feel unsafe, unwanted, and in particular, did they create an environment that was so objectively inconsistent that you were sometimes even scared for your very life over the blatant flip-flopping they were prone to doing and how you'd always find yourself trapped in the middle of the storm? Those who suffer bi-polar tendencies will, in my experience, nearly always say yes to such questions.
I believe bi-polarism, at least the form not caused exclusively by nature, is the result of our ability to trust in truisms, when the only stereotype our mind can hold onto, the only foundation we can really believe in, is that the universe is a completely inconsistent place where the only thing we believe we are guaranteed is a constant roller coaster of love followed by hate, acceptance followed by rejection, warmth followed by cold, and so on and so forth. It's an irony, in a way, for a person to believe in something so contradictory, but it is, unfortunately, the difficult day-in, day-out reality for hundreds of millions of people throughout the world.
I am blessed not to struggle with bi-polarism yet I recognize how thin that line is from having a stable upbringing to one that could have lead me to encounter the challenges on a daily basis. Fortunately my parents' rules were very consistent and clear: I knew what actions on my part would lead to a scolding or a spanking and I was able to make the choices to avoid these punishments. And though my dad would at times enter into some pretty extreme verbal tantrums they were predictable; there were signs and patterns one could learn to recognize to predict the outbursts and hopefully, if the situation allowed, remove oneself from the soon to be war zone. Had the rules been inconsistent, if there had been no way for me to predict my father's moods, I think I would have grown up to be much more fearful of the world. I believe I would be bi-polar.
And yet I do struggle with the feeling that the world is backwards and upside down. As an adult who grew up in a relatively stable home environment I do not find myself accepting that this is just how the world is but instead think to myself, This is not how things should/can be.
Specifically I'm referring to the social relationships I've had over the last ten years. I've known, befriended, and dated people from diverse backgrounds. One woman was an alcoholic that thought it a badge of honor to have convinced a judge to allow her home confinement over jail time for a crime she thought nothing for having committed. Another woman came to visit over a weekend and only later was I too learn, from a mutual friend, she was only there because the cops were looking for her. I knew a man who believed that marijuana, video games, and sexual encounters, were the meaning of life and another who's primary focus was on figuring out the every nuance of computers so much so that he was unable to empathize with even the most basic of human emotion, such as the pain another experiences after a break up. I dated a woman who frequently criticized my parenting yet the one and only time I did of theirs it was met with incredible anger, resentment, and finally avoidance. I've known people who haven't gone to college and had no plan to and those that have gotten their masters, I've known those that treat their bodies as repositories of every drug, both legal and illegal, they can get their hands on and others that treat their bodies like a temple. I've know those who are happy watching movies all day and those that would rather be hiking, those that enjoy a good book and love to talk about the details and themes, plot and characters, others that just love to read without afterthought, and those that have never read a novel in their entire adult lives. Black people. White people. Poor people. Well to do people. People with cars. People who would rather bike. Pathological liars and those who value the truth so much that they become upset over something that could be interpreted, but not necessarily is, a lie. I've known those who value integrity and others that value whoever holding the Jack Daniels, those who say thank you and those who believe they're entitled, those who are focused on their looks and those who just want to look decent, those who are vengeful and those who would rather move on.
And I have loved them all within the best of my ability.
I still do.
Patterns. I struggle with patterns. When up becomes down. That is my struggle. Which way do I throw the ball? Do I try? Do throw the ball at all? There is a pattern, I know, an underlying reign I can grab leading the horse to the left, to the right, and yet I cannot seem to find it. I am alone and I cannot for the life of me find it.
What is that pattern? What is common to each that is not how I feel the universe can or should be? What leads me to such loneliness of the heart, spirit, and home, so constantly, so regularly, and seemingly without end? What hopelessness have I stumbled upon in this this genuinely loving, caring, and compassionate soul, this unique and fairly attractive form of flesh and blood? What pattern harks there under the clothing and begs to be understood and overcome? How did this picture come to be the way that it is and what can I do to make a difference?
These questions are with me daily. For you, for now, for another time...
P.S. Be sure to read yesterday's entry which I didn't realize hadn't been published on time!
Wednesday May 20th, 2009
She hangs from the mirro leading towards the innermost regions of my soul. She hands near the window to the universe, which goes in every direction for infinite distance.
Monday May 18th, 2009I'll be the first to admit I don't have all the answers. In fact there are times when I don't feel I have any of the answers, "feel" being the operative word. Today, this afternoon, this evening, is one of those days.
I'm not sure what exactly brings me to such a state. Perhaps it is, in part, the result of having worked on an important (to me) project for the last few weeks, a project I completed late last night. Such things require immense dedication, focus, and specifically with this project: hope. And then it's finished, I wrap it up, tie a bow on top, and am done. I settle back in to my daily routine, a routine which is defined by the eager search to find a healthy, consistent, and natural routine that works for me. This is probably when it sneaks up on me, this sense that I have more questions than answers or more accurately in my case, so much nuance to the questions and the answers that I can end up philosophizing for hours on end, the results being shades of black, white, and everything in between (not to mention colours, sights, sounds, etc.).
In our society there is a perceptual relationship between having answers and financial, personal, and interpersonal success. Me? I'm broke. I am (yet again) in the process of redefining myself. And I have only two people I'd consider friends. From a purely quantitative respect there's no way I have any answers to life and yet is it possible for a person to sit in silence, ponder, consider, reconsider, and as a result capture buckets of truth, buckets of "answers" (besides the obviousness of "42"), then distribute those to the world through paintings, through acting, through photography, through cooking, through writing silly journals and posting them to the internet (hmmm, I wonder what bloody fool is doing that!?!).
I do have things, things I believe in so strongly, that even after considering another point of view, stick to my own. Sure, we all do that from time to time, but these are pretty intense, things I've looked at from every angle, continue to examine, yet find myself always coming to the same answers.
These are some things I hold to be true:
- The universe is Perfect.
- The only thing a woman can do that a man can't is get pregnant and give birth (though science has, if you're in the loop, recently closed this gap).
- The compliment: The only thing I man can't do that a woman can is get pregnant and give birth.
- In any social setting (including you reading this right now) there are always three possibly separate, possibly intersecting, realities: your subjective reality, my subjective reality, and the objective reality.
- Subjective realities don't necessarily reflect the objective reality.
- Unless two people share the same subjective reality at the same time (something that is fairly rare) they must rely on the objective reality to connect with one another on a deeper level.
- We cannot control how other people act, think, or what they believe.
- Trying to is a waste of energy (though one could argue that's what I'm doing now, but as I've said before there's a therapeutic element to my writing, which is the case tonight).
- Interpersonal relations are most joyful and relaxed when we are able to accept people for who they are and be interested in getting to know that person.
- Personal boundaries can be based on any or all of the three realities, however most people (imho) opt to base them on their own subjective reality.
- I have come to believe the only times we can ethically or morally "encourage" others to change is:
- When they've crossed a clearly articulated personal boundary
- When they have specifically asked for our encouragement in a particular area
- When they have made an agreement to accept our direction (for example, an employment situation)
- When it is clear someone intends to physically harm another, an animal, or property
- When I say "make others change" I am referring to their behavior, not another's personality, psyche, or ego.
- It is a crime to take away another human being's ability to choose whether that choice is as big as moving to another state or as small as buying a 400 calorie candy bar.
- Most Americans don't appreciate how fucking rich we are compared to the rest of the world and humans throughout history (me included!).
- It is sexist for women to be favoured over men for jobs, for non-white races to be favoured over whites for jobs. I bring this up because I heard some pundits talking today about how Obama had to choose a woman for the open Supreme Court position and it struck me as highly sexist. Such talk frankly amazes me.
- "Reverse" sexism, "reverse" racism, "reverse" religionism (new word?) is more or less acceptable in this society. For example, I've seen many a film where a Jewish mother throws a fit when their daughter/son dates a non-Jew. The subtext seems to be how judgemental and controlling said mother is. Never have I heard a discussion regarding the underlying racism and "religionism" of such statements, how such behavior is so widely accepted oh my goodness, it frustrates me!
- We learn through pain and making mistakes.
- We learn only when we want to, when we keep an open mind, are willing to change course in the middle of our trip, and can admit to our mistakes, no matter how terrible or how trivial.
- Control of one's emotions and perceptions is one of the most difficult things a person can do.
- Control over one's emotions and perceptions is perhaps one of the most rewarding things a person can do.
- An opinion without facts is a valid subjective reality, but since it does not share space with objective reality it generally won't be accepted by those who are relying on their own subjective realities or their best understanding of the objective reality. In other words, a belief without tangible supportive evidence generally has no substance for anyone but the believer.
- It is possible for groups of people to share subjective realities that are not supported by objective reality.
There's nothing wrong with this.
- Until they try to force it on others.
- The universe is a big fucking place, big enough for everyone to believe whatever the hell they want to.
- Personal suffering is caused by inaccurate views of the objective reality as well as other people's subjective realities.
- It's 5 till midnight and I should get to bed.
- Need to post this first so I don't lay in bed thinking about it.
- I don't always want to sleep alone.
- Cat's done really count.
- Cat's count enough for me to allow them in the room at night.
- It is always best to say goodnight.
Sunday May 17th, 2009
I'm sitting here shaking. No, I'm not in pain. No, I'm not have an anxiety attack. And no, I didn't spend my day ingesting vast quantities of coffee. Why am I shaking you ask with a sincere inability to hold yer darn horses?
I just finished mowing my lawn. It's a small lawn, maybe five feet by thirty feet--but in this case one should have also counted the height: 1 - 2.5 feet. I don't know what got into me. Stress? Depression? Frustration? Curiosity?! You'd be surprised how long I've sometimes let something go simply to see what will end up resulting; it's the scientist in me, I suppose, the crazy scientist that becomes overly focused on something others probably wouldn't even see. Knowledge is such a sexy thing, n'est pas? Oh yeah.
A week or so ago I'd asked a co-worker if I could borrow their lawn mower--no, that wouldn't be a fair retelling: I begged--wait, no, it was somewhere in between. Anyway, he was using it during the week but committed to dropping it off this past Friday morning before heading to McMinneville (but don't quote me on that) to meet up with an old Universibuddy (I'm going to trademark that word, by the way, so you may use it at great length ;-). I woke up around 11am (went to bed at 3am so I wasn't exactly getting any extra sleep), threw on some dirty clothes real quick, and went out front to get the mower in.
As you know the weekends have been pretty tough for me, emotionally speaking; I wake up unexplainably depressed, that kind of depression that goes well past frustration and blues to, WTF? Quality. That said, my first interpretation was the worst: he was just one more person leaving me high and dry. Worse, without a mower I'd either have to 1) weed it the damn thing then go over it with my old fashioned manual push mower (enormous work), 2) hire a contractor (enormous money), or 3) head to Sears and purchase a new one (did I mention I am, as of this weekend, officially broke???). Maybe the next door neighbor wouldn't notice.
As Bones once said, "Hope springs eternal."
Today after arriving home from Central Oregon I relaxed for a few hours taking care of a DVD project then playing a little Indiana Lego Jones on the PS3. Half way through the game I started to feel abysmally depressed, not exactly sure why, a number of things which I won't go into now, I'm sure, so I recognized I needed to do something productive and the lawn came to mind. Oh, the lawn. How I did not want to do the lawn. Maybe tomorrow after work, I thought to myself, it would still be light then! But no, I've played that one on myself any number of times. I'd just have to get my ass out there and do it. If worse came to worse, I'd still feel shitty but at least have a groomed lawn.
It took nearly an hour but I listened to The Splendid Table on NPR, finished the weed eating, raked up the excess grass, then went over everything a few times with the manual mower. Looking much better my body, which isn't used to such physical exertion, started shaking. The message: get this kind of exercise in more often, you need it!
Anyway, that's more or less where I'm at after spending Saturday evening in Prineville. My mom called me Friday night, admittedly on short notice, and asked me to come visit. The reason? Friends from Australia were visiting and would only be there through Sunday. They probably told me a few weeks ago but--but I've had other things on my mind. Poop. So I made a quick, elastic decision, I planned to work Saturday morning (from home), pack, and hit the road by 3pm. Miracle of miracles (if you know me) I was out the door by 2:42.
The weather could not have been more spectacular for my first ride over the mountain with the top of the Jeep Wrangler down. Having already learned my lesson I put on sun tan lotion, turned the egnition, and was on my way. Oh, I cannot even begin to tell you how much I enjoy having a vehicle with a soft top, though I must admit at times it weirds me out looking straight up and seeing the entire sky above me. But what a way to drive! Indeed, I sometimes wonder why all vehicles are convertible. Indeed, I am apt to feel utterly confused when I see others driving along in their convertibles on such a gorgeous day WITH THEIR TOPS UP! What's the point of having one if you don't do anything with it?
Note to self: it may be time to cut my hair. I love having long hair but it doesn't look good half the time and it has a tendancy to become painfully tangled after even fifteen minutes in the wind. Pooh. I so much want straight hair!!!
Back to my parent's friends. The man they'd met while they lived in Australia and whom I'd met when I was visiting at the grumpy youthful age of 15. The woman was his new wife and surprisingly was American.
His wife reminded me of someone I knew. I wasn't expecting it and frankly it was a little unsettling at times. Just wasn't emotionally prepared. And though only marginally relating it brings me into something I've been thinking about writing about all afternoon:
Yes, assholes. We all know one or two and chances are we don't know a few hundred. Today I met my share of assholes out at Multnomah Falls. I was headed West on I-84 and took the exit to the parking lot and indeed, found myself in a proverbial "parking lot", a queue of vehicles twenty long waiting for a spot to open up. I sat there for about ten minutes before seeing the others; they'd already parked; fortunately my mother has a handicapped parking permit. I'd had dinner and lunch with them all so I decided I'd be thoughtful and simply drop my dad off with the rest of them (as he was the only person riding with me). So I pulled to the left of the line and over towards the curb where I called our Aussie mate over and asked him to guide my dad, who is blind, to the sidewalk when some "asshole" behind us started honking his horn and screaming, "Would you fucking move it! We've got a baby! Move it already!! We've got a baby!!!" I was a bit shocked. I'd had to sit in line just like everyone else and while I couldn't say whether or not he was yelling at me specifically it pissed me off that here was obviously a blind man needing help but the guy behind could have cared less: he had a baby. And that's the other thing. So the fuck what? Lots of people have babies. Does that mean they automatically get to be jerks because they've got to change the diapers? Absolutely not. It was their choice to have a child and with that come all the responsibilities and consequences. Frankly I'm still a bit boggled as to why he seemed to think this gave him priority over everyone else. Now suppose for a moment his wife were giving birth. In that case it would have been an emergency and he should have screamed, "Everybody move!! We've got a medical emergency here!!!" I'm sure in this case everyone would have done their best to immediately get out of the way.
So I ignored the asshole, quickly said goodbye to everyone as I wanted to get out of the way, then proceeded to pass to the left of another car just sitting there. The guy got pissed as hell and started cussing. Why? Because he was waiting for a spot FIVE car lengths behind!!! Not only that but there were two other vehicles backing up and three spots open ahead! So here the guy was, parked at the entrance of the parking lot, a line of fifteen cars waiting patiently behind him, and he wasn't doing a goddamn thing to get things moving, yet the moment I slowly pass to the side in order to get out of everyone's way his reaction is to scream, yell, and cuss me out. WTF? I really couldn't believe it. He had at least five possible parking choices, all of them good. Given the line if he were being thoughtful he would have gone to the furthest one up, insuring the line wouldn't get so long people would no longer be able to take the exit off the freeway. And finally, he was doing nothing with his vehicle or his body language or his blinkers to indicate what he may or may not be doing (for all I knew he was sitting there reading the last Tom Clancy novel). But woah, I go to pass legally and with every intent of getting things moving after the guy just sat there for 5 minutes and I'm the bad guy.
You know, there's a part of me that feels incredibly fed up with being the bad guy so often and with so many people, especially when I'm doing everything possible to help and make a positive difference in the world, especially when an objective observation of my behavior would result in such a conclusion. But I digress...
So assholes, I don't quite get it. Sure, it's easy to do, easy to get snippy at both people we know and complete strangers, it's easy to toss verbal hand grenades, it's easy to scream out angry insults, but to what end? Do we get our needs met? It seems to me that we only do in the short term. In the long term we feed a negative monkey on our backs and likewise we put negative karma out into the world; the worst effect can be ruining someone's day, even so much so that they pass the same karma by hurting someone else or themselves. Either way there doesn't seem to be any long term benefit to consciously deciding to be an asshole, like these two guys were to me today.
Assholes used to ruin my whole day but as I've grown older I've learned to let their energy run off like a gentle rain down my skin. Unfortunately, though, I find myself immersed in thought about the incident. Why would someone behave this way? Why would so many react this way? What does this say about our society? What does it say about the future of our world?
It makes me sad.
I suppose I have a strange attitude. I want to treat every human being, friend and foe, with respect, dignity, integrity, and unconditional love. I'm no Jesus Christ but I've come to realize that it's a worthwhile goal. You might argue that it's a) impossible or b) a silly thing to do but a) there's nothing like finding the hope, strength, and focus to disprove what others believe to be impossible and b) many people have lists of things they'd like to do, foods they'd like to eat, or places they'd like to visit before they die, so why's it so weird to have a spiritually-morally based pre-death goal? Sure, I've got some others in my back pack, some of them I've been considering letting go off (a difficult prospect, I assure you) while others are pretty superficial, like traveling across the continent on the back of a motorcycle some day. This spiritual goal, though, is perhaps the most important to me of all those that come to my mind. I want to learn to consistently treat everyone I run into well, no matter who they are, no matter how well I know them, no matter what their relation to me, no matter how they might potentially benefit me, no matter how they treat me. Sounds sorta crazy, I know, but the more I think about it and the more powerful such a capability seems to me. Imagine being able to hear an "asshole" cussing you out while you're driving and just smile back at them without a care in the world but hoping they might be surprised, taken aback, and reconsider their behavior (or just think I'm insane--but that's okay too, I'd just let it roll of me). Imagine being in a friendship or relationship with someone who does something that might have once caused you extreme upset, to react with anger and antagonism, but this time just smile back at them with only one thought in your mind: I care about you, I want to get along with you, and those are the most important things, the things worth focusing on.
So what do you think?
I'm starting to wonder if I've simply lost my mind. This isn't exactly the type of goal anyone I know has. Or maybe some do but they've not told me (or I haven't understood it to be such). I'm also, as you know, struggling with a great many things, on a mental and emotional roller coaster. Perhaps I'm choosing what amounts to a positive foundation to base my life on, one that takes effort on my part, has a positive result, and doesn't shoot me in the foot by adding expectation (of others) into the picture.
So I need to go. I have a few things to do before the night is out and I don't have a lot of time. For example, I need to drive in to the office to work for an hour or two. Not a big deal, I took off early Friday so I could visit with my daughter so I'm just making up for lost time. I just hope I can get home and in bed by a decent time. Need my beauty sleep.
P.S. I forgot what I was going to say...as far as beauty, though, I'll bete tomorrow my face'll be as bright as a strawberry after all the sun I got this morning without sun tan lotion! DOH!!!
Friday May 15th, 2009
I met her at the OPB pledge drive a week ago. She had warm curls that seemed to hug her head like a warm summer breeze and a smile genuine enough to bring comfort to the loneliest day. I asked her if the seat was taken and she said no and I almost felt sleazy, like so many a guy who spouts a seemingly innocent line in order to get that crucial foot in the door. Me? I simply wanted to sit down to eat the lasagna which the studio has so kindly provided.
We asked the normal questions. What do you do for a living? Oh, you're looking for work or will be soon? How do you like spending your free time? Reading? Me too! That's so ironic that you spend hours in Powell's, I have to stay away from the place for just that reason. So where did you grow up? Oh wow, I've never been there. And you moved to Portland? When was that? Do you like it here? Really, me too, I couldn't imagine living anywhere else--well, not for awhile. Oh, and my name's Aslynn, that's Aslynn. Good to meet you too. And oh, by the way, we have some positions open with my company if you're interested, is there some way I can get that to you? E-mail, okay, that works, what's your address?
I met her in front of the 7-11 today while getting something to drink. She was my age or a little older, a straight forward personality, sensuous figure, and a smile of radiant white. She asked me for a light which I provided without a second thought and she fumbled with the Zippo before a moment before succeeding to light her cigarette. She had one at home, she said, but it was out of lighter fluid. It seemed she had a hundred lighters laying around and she was always losing them or people would be taking them; yeah, I know how she felt, I've been there, but there are no more people to steal them. We talked about raising children, how you have to catch them early, kids as young as 13 are selling hard drugs these days and their peers are there to listen. We talked about roommates, how it's never or rarely a good idea for men and women to share a place together, how it's so difficult to find a decent roommate anyway. She said she had a roommate that had the gall to masturbate on the living room couch and I asked, "I'll bet after you confronted him and said it was completely unacceptable he just looked at you with that glazed look and acted as if you were the one with the problem." She agreed. We'd both been there. Refreshing. And so we both committed to quit over the weekend. She was moving, spending her time alone, it would be a good time. Me? Never a good time. Never a good time. "Nice Jeep," she said, "How can you afford it?" and I shrugged, "Good job." Oh, and she was looking for a job too, something good, something steady, so I told her about my company, what little I knew about the few open positions, and said I could send her the web page to the career center if she'd like, "What is your e-mail address?"
He was sitting on the ground leaning against the window of the Plaid Pantry in NE Portland. He was an older black man, looked like he might be homeless, maybe not. He asked me if I had a few dollars to spare. I asked him why and he said to a bus ride home. Sure, sure, wait a minute, I'll go inside and get cash back. I bought a Pepsi and asked the cashier but he said they didn't do cash back there. Weird. Oh well. I searched through my wallet and found a dollar, walked outside and gave it to him. I lit up, one of my last before tomorrow, before secession begins, before I am truly, absolutely, and without illusions alone, and I asked him where he lived. Gresham, he said. Oh, and nice Jeep, really nice Jeep. He said he was 59 going on 60; his birthday was Christmas day. He'd been in jail twice. Why? I asked. He said he'd tried to kill someone. Why? I asked. Because they'd called his mom a bitch. So what do you do? I ask. He mowes lawns to earn his daily bread but didn't have the bus fair today. I offered to take him home after all, I didn't have anything better to do and he was a friendly enough. He declined gracefully and seemed to excude a level of pride, that this was something he needed to do on his own. I crouched down to be closer to his level. We talked about where we'd grown up, he: Mississippi, me: Central Oregon. We talked about our physical struggles, me: my left knee, he: his left foot. He said he was married. I said when you find a good woman you should hold onto her. He agreed, oh, did he ever agree! I got back up and he extended his hand and we exchanged our names over a solid hand shake.
All people are inherently beautiful.
All people's personal stories are beautiful.
All people are worth being listen to.
To truly listen one must be without:
To connect one must be:
To show compassion and understanding one must be willing to:
Go with the flow.
Wednesday May 13th, 2009I'm interested in the terms "good" and "bad". They make me think. They make me ponder. They make me wonder: Why do we view the world in shades of black and white?
There was a time I felt this way. Friend vs. enemy, more exactly. A curse be to them who did not choose me to play on the kick ball team and damnation and brimstone on he who pulled down my shorts in front of the entire gym class and she who mocked my body to her friends in the hall with malignant giggles and cackles!!! The axis of evil shall not go unpunished! What wretched fools to step on the toes of such a demigod, the center of the world, the creator of all that exists, that is right, that is just, that is meaningful! With my last breath I spit upon thee!
Generalizations leads to exaggeration. Exaggeration leads to illusion. Illusion leads to ignorance. Ignorance leads to generalizations.
Maybe they didn't choose me because they overheard me say I didn't like sports and I thought they were a bunch of snobs anyway.
Maybe he pulled my shorts down because he was failing all his classes and was going to get kicked off the wrestling team which he loved so much; envious of my smarts and feeling incapable of raising his grades he choose to take me down a notch instead of raising himself up.
Maybe she was self conscious of her body and her weight and was envious that no matter how much I ate I would always remain a string bean.
Maybe the middle ground, the middle path, is not painted in shades of grey, a mindset that forces us to hang helpless in the air, one hand gripping black, the other hand gripping white. Consider perhaps an alternative, that Truth does not have a colour, that colour would taint it as surely as painting our windows would keep out the light. Are we fools? Why are we so desirous of holding onto dualities that prevent our enlightenment? Is it so hard to believe in a world where the first question would be: why did Army Sergeant John M. Russell do it?
Monday May 11th, 2009
"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying Nothing."
Today is the worst day of my life. I suppose there's nothing special about today, nothing that makes it stand out more than any other day. The pain is about the same. Fatigue level is about the same. Work load's about the same. Loneliness is about the same. Depression is about the same. Being on the receiving end of bad news, about the same. You get the picture.
It's been over thirty five years since that first breath, yet I do not remember a more challenging time for me. I sometimes wonder, examining myself with the utmost sincerity, and ask: is this really true? Or am I a hypochondriac and weakling going out of my way to discover disappointment and upset? There was a day when this was true, so very true, so I can't help but ask myself that question, after all, if the substance of the matter is the result of my own negative mindset then it follows that with the right intention, focus, and practice, I have the power to rectify the dilemma on my own.
An object in motion tends to stay in motion: it didn't hit Newton on the head the way they said it did.
I can't recall the last time I felt joy, much less happiness, much less just a sense of "okay". No, to be fair if I think on it I must admit the last time I felt "okay" was a few weeks back when I visited my friend in Eugene and pushed her son around the driveway while he rode his trike. The last time I felt happy was nearly a month ago when I took my niece to the Oregon Zoo. The last time I felt joy? When someone handed me a stuffed animal when I lay in bed in agonizing pain. What frightens me, why I committed these words to the page, is that I do not remember what it's like to feel okay. What's that like? What's that like? What's that like? What's that like? Please tell me, I have forgotten what that's like. Please, please, please.
And the women come and go. Boop boop-de-boop. Michaelangelo.
This last Saturday I wrote a note to myself on one of many of the whiteboards hanging around my house. I will not share the contents of this memo, a reminder to self which eats at me. And today, while on my way in to work, I wondered at what point a person could consult his or her doctor about Oregon's Death With Dignity act. No, if you will hear me, just listen, I do not share that to say that there was any serious intention on my part as I am, thank the gods, nowhere near such a difficult cross-roads. And yet and yet it has been so long since I have genuinely known that sense that my life is a dignified occupation.
The men didn't try putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, not for real anyway. The rhym sounded too damn good to pass up.
It is 6:45pm. I am writing because for some absurd reason I believe writing to be therapeutic (though I would trade it in a heartbeat for a sense of belonging). I am documenting my experience in hope that it might someday teach others love, the ability to listen non-judgmentally, and understanding (though I'm sure most who see these pages will see me for the weakling I so obviously am). I am sitting at the computer because I'm logged into work and will be for the rest of the evening (though I want to wrap myself up tight in warm blankets too deep). I am telling you who I am and how I feel without limitation or fear because there is no other way to be loved and accepted for who one is (though it would probably be wiser to throw a superficial smile on my face until that unknown if and when I feel "human" again).
And many miles to go before I sleep.
Rice is in the steamer. Another movie is on the television. And then another and another. My front lawn is the tallest it has ever been. I need to buy a lawn mower but I don't have any money. The sun is still out and this is my favourite time of day. I am (usually) free from the burdens of work and there are a few more hours ahead of me, a breath of fresh air entering through the bars. Now is when I am least sad, now is when I am least depressed, now is when I am least lonely, and now is when I am least afraid. And then it begins all over again.
The wheels on the bus go round and round.
The horses and ponies go up and down.
Throw your quarter in the slot, get a prize.
The reigns of false hopes do entice.
Today is the worst day of my life. I suppose there's nothing special about today, nothing that makes it stand out more than any other day. And sometimes that's just how it is, sometimes you just have to pick a time or a day or a job or a home or a lover or a god and you've got to hold on to it, hold onto it tight, and run with it, just run.
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
P.S. The picture I had posted here earlier, which was frankly quite beautiful, has been removed due to the fascist legal "agreement" provided so kindly by Country Financial which prevents anyone from any manipulation of the pictures, i.e. removal of their branding--like anyone's going to fucking print them up with the advertisements and place them on the mantel!!! I'm amazed at what lengths companies will go to get someone's personal information then what little they'll do to give us a product we really want. Free my ass.
Saturday May 9th, 2009Mr. Edgar Joseph Meyer was born on January 13th, 1884. After graduating from Cornell University Mr. Meyer went on to make some important discoveries which helped lead the advancements of the internal combustion engine. In 1912 he was 28 years old, had a wife of over two years, Leila Saks Meyer, and a year old daughter. On April 10th of that year he and his wife boarded the HMS Titanic in Cherbourg, France. Their tickets were first class, it would be a luxurious journey all the way to New York, where they were to attend the funeral of her father, Andrew Sask (founder of the well known Saks department store). As planned the first five days of their trip were absolutely glorious. The boat itself was beautiful, a city on water. There they enjoyed a top notch dinner and afterward he excused himself to the smoking room with the other wheelers and dealers. And then, late into the night of April 14th, a low vibration rumbled through the ship. They had hit an ice burg. In the next two hours panic would ensue. Only a few hours later his dear wife Leila would sit in a life boat watching in horror as the huge liner ripped itself in half before sinking two and a half miles to the bottom of the Atlantic. Her husband, the esteemed Edgar Meyer, was there somewhere among the screams and cries of the dead and dying; there was nothing she could do but watch. It was with a twinge of painful irony that she realized she would be attending not one funeral, but two.
On May 9th, 2009, Aslynn S. Meyers, a 35 year old computer programmer and general eccentric dismounted his Yamaha FJR 1300, stowed his helmet in the left side pannier, and joined a line of several hundred others waiting to see Titanic: Treasure from the Deep, a roving historical display set up in the south east parking lot of the Washington Square Mall in Tigard, Oregon. The sky was clear and the sun direct; fortunately he'd rubbed in suntan lotion and remembered to bring his headphones and MP3 player: the wait turned out to be approximately two hours, give or take thirty minutes, much longer than he'd anticipated. They gave him a piece of paper, a Boarding Pass for the White Star Line. On the back a name: Mr. Edgar Joseph Meyer along with a brief description of his life. He, Aslynn, read it. They, the people running the museum, promised him he'd be able to learn the fate of his passenger near the end of the exhibit.
The entrance to the exhibit was comprised of six or seven wooden crates, arranged as to give the impression of gates. Just outside the trailers stood three space age computer terminals. He scanned the pass then was queried to enter his personal information and it was then he realized the exhibit was not free, that it was engineered to capture the personal information of thousands of unwarry shoppers who, after spending hours in line, would be so impatient, tired, and frustrated, that they would willingly give out their home address, their e-mail address, and phone number. It was free after all. So he, Aslynn, entered his, excepting the phone number which was false, then made a mental note to write a letter of complaint to Country Financial, an institution which he then committed to never in a million years support. The icing on the cake occurred after entering his data. Hanging on the side of the right trailer was a fifteen foot tall picture of the grand staircase that would have been available to first class patrons of the Titanic. He stood in front of the picture and the photographer counted down from three. The picture, he said, would be available for free a few days later over the internet. What he failed to mention was the psychologists who had been paid to design the wait, the data entry, and the free photograph, every little detail created and designed to build cognitive dissonance, a hint of guilt, and a degree of gratitude and thanks for a company that, going through hard times like all financial institutions lately, was willing to provide such a wonderful and free learning service to the community.
The price was paid. The man at the entrance asked him, How many? He said one. It was almost a public addmittal of guilt. No one else there was alone. Hundred and hundreds of people, he'd looked at them all: families, friends, peers, lovers. He was the only one there. It was, for that moment, uncomfortable for him to stand in the heat, the open, to have to admit his status to this absolute stranger in front of everyone. Who was this odd ball in motorcycle gear standing by himself in front of the line? Why didn't he bring someone? Where's his girl friend? His brother? Sister? Mother? Father? Friend? Son? Daughter? Co-worker? Just for that one brief moment he felt like an alien, a stranger in a strange land, as if it were silent all around once "one" had been uttered. And then just as quickly there was noise, people went back to what they were doing, and he was allowed into the air conditioned trailers.
They were connected together in a more or less S shape. On the walls were various posters, each describing in detail some aspect of the ship, those who designed, worked on, or rode her. Every five or so feet was a glass cube sitting on waist high table. In each one or two items that had been salvaged from the Titanic. Tool handles. Cuff links. Paper openers. A leather bag. A small section of the inner hull. Paperwork. In all maybe a few dozen items, none of which separately or combined made the uncomfortably long wait or submission of personal information worth it.
On the ride there he thought of being a single bachelor without solid friendships or a community in Portland that he could rely on. Staying home all the time, he knew, was not healthy, so it was a given that when they needed volunteers for an OPB pledge drive he'd volunteer. When he heard about an event or show, he would go. Additionally, he didn't have a lot of extra money to be throwing about anymore so it was a boon to learn about something free, especially if it were something he could do to help others and gain a sense of meaning at a time at his life he was finding significantly more difficult than anytime in the past. No understatement, I assure you.
On the ride home he thought about what a waste it had been. Sometimes the negative reactions, especially when we're feeling tired, uncomfortable, and even preyed upon, are the most immediate. He would, he thought, have been better served going in the back yard, cleaning, weeding, and then enjoying a cold glass of lemonade. And then he caught himself. "Negativity does not serve me," he said to himself. "Besides, I told myself I was going to make something of my day and I won't do that by setting up unrealistic expectations that can't be guaranteed then throwing an internal tantrum when it doesn't come to fruition. Be positive (jackass)." So he took a long breath then intentionally recognized that he had done something he set out to do and he did get to stand within inches of the non-metaphorical Titanic, something he had dreamed about since second grade. Giving out his personal information was annoying, but he could easily delete the spam and recycle the junk mail. Waiting? Well, it didn't exactly do wonders for the fibromyalsia but it did give him an opportunity to practice patience, especially in a place where there were so many triggers scratching at the scars that ran so deep. It may seem such an odd thing, but that is the kind of man he is, always challenging himself, always looking to grow, and never running from a situation that just requires a little more patience and compassion and faith than he thought he'd need when he woke up that morning.
Finally home he parked the bike, closed the garage door, fed the cats, then walked to a local pizzaria he had not yet tried. Double Pepperoni and a salad, that's what he ordered: $24.95. He carried it home. He enjoyed the smell emanating from the box in his outstretched arms. He soaked in the last of a beautiful, sunny, NW afternoon, and in his mind planned out the evening. Pizza + Transporter 3. Play with cats. Read. And a little ditty about the life and death of Mr. Edgar Joseph Meyer, scientist, capitalist, loving husband, and human being who experienced the last dying breath of the fated HMS Titanic.
Peace be with you.
Friday May 8th, 2009Dear Diary,
Today I will write what is on my mind in no particular order or fashion. However, I will commit to being more thoughtful with my words. As such I have decided, from this day forward, to write all journal entries in Microsoft Word or another similar word processor. The benefits are, of course, a spell and grammar checker, both of which will help insure my writing doesnt look more like the ramblings of a half drunk monkey. I will, however, need to commit myself to more deliberate editing, something Ive neglected as of late.
That said tonight I'll make use of OpenOffice.org Writer, a free Java based word processor care of the Sun Corporation. Having a very similar look and feel as MS Word, I feel at home using it. Indeed, I wish it had been available while I was attending university as I had to save up quite a chunk of pocket change to purchase Word 2.0, an application I must have used faithfully until 2000 when I began working for Supertracks.com. Or perhaps it was when I began at Dynamix. What a strangely irrelevant topic to end my day on, n'est pas?
I would instead review my week but there is not much to say. Besides inviting a co-worker over Wednesday night to watch BSG and go out to the Trek film Thursday I spent most of my time working which largely consisted of scheduling, research, communication, check in's, check out's, and perhaps an hour worth of actual programming. In some ways it was just busy work but much was in preparation for the next two weeks where I'll be implementing a number of enhancements to one of the programs I am entirely responsible for. After work I've largely spent my evenings writing, catching a few NetFlicks documentaries, checking in on work, writing e-mail, chatting with a good friend about photography and such, listening to Coast to Coast AM, and playing with the cats. One might say this is a simple life and one would probably be correct. One might suggest it is sometimes a lonely life and one would also be correct. One might even say it's a boring life devoid of meaning and substance. One might be projecting, in the psychological sense of the word, or misinformed, in the layman's.
This afternoon I left work a little early, just a few minutes before 4pm. Besides the on ramp to 26 and the always cramped area of 217 the traffic was relatively light. The sun was out and it was so glorious I had no choice but to take a few minutes to flip the top of the Jeep back so I could embrace the rays, the wind. No, it was nothing like the freedom of being on the back of a motorcycle where the wind hugs the entire body, but there is a certain freedom not wearing the bulky gear and helmet, of the wind flowing around ones face, tickling ones hair. So the radio on to NPR, then some hip-hop, then some classic rock, then some heavy metal, and so on throughout the spectrum, I cruised to the Oregon Public Broadcasting studios without hurry or concern arriving only to find the parking lot packed.
I drove to the next parking lot, private parking for the AMA (I assumed this was the American Medical Association, but I could easily be wrong), when the thought crossed my mind that I should simply go home, do my bills, then engage in something relaxing, like writing or filming another video blog with the help of Meester Monkey. It was such a strange and uncharacteristic thing for me to consider, especially having already arrived. Maybe it was the unarguable fact that I was in dire need of a restroom, maybe it was that little voice in the pit of my stomach that impells me forward sometimes, but I drove out of the AMA parking lot, crossed the street, argued with a chain of no left signs until finally I returned to the OPB lot where I parked fairly close to the building. In years past I had always assumed this was private parking for employees so I'd go in quickly, ask the front desk, use the restroom, then make my decision: home or phone? But who was I kidding, I knew I was staying, I knew I needed to give a little back, even if it was only a few hours of my time sitting at a computer. Besides, there was free food!
It's now midnight. I've just finished the bills, enjoyed a simple snack, and walked to the local Albertson's to get a new book of stamps. I hope to finish up this entry and create a video blog before snuggling tight between my sheets and enjoying the other side of life. That said, I have decided to skip ahead and write about a few things I made notes on during down time at the pledge drive, though I promise to share more of my experience at the drive soonish rather than laterish.
Woops, got that backwards! I'd like to go back in time a day in a half. It's now Thursday morning. I've suddenly, and for no particular reason that I'm aware of, decided I didn't want to head to the theater alone. I'm not sure why or what got into me. I love going to movies alone. It's something I picked up years ago, when I first moved to Portland, and when a new film came out I had a choice to go alone or not at all, so I started going alone, started realizing there's nothing wrong with going alone, and really began enjoying the simple experience of being in a crowded theater but at the end of the day I was there in my seat all by myself. And you know what? It was okay, fun even. Hard to explain but the essence of it comes down to this: like it or not we're exactly where we're at, one can either fight it or go with it, and in 2000 I began to learn the art of accepting what is. Strange that something so simple is so rare (at least for our species, I'm guessing dogs and cats have this one down!).
So there I was, Thursday morning, and I decided no, I didn't want to go alone. So I sat down to my desk and wrote an elaborate and witty e-mail inviting six or seven of my co-workers hoping that at least one might make it. Sure, I knew it was a little close to be expecting anyone to be changing their plans; indeed, the invitation required that at least one didn't have plans or at least plans that could be changed. I know, I know, should have asked earlier in the week, but I didn't, not exactly sure why but I didn't. The explanation for that one is simple: I've been struggling with plans lately, whether it's planning out the next few weeks of my work schedule or what I'm going to spend my time doing in the evenings. I suppose I'm compensating from a few months ago, where there were so many plans and appointments that my cell phone nearly melted from all the bleeping reminders!
The invitation went out and no one could make it. Not exactly surprising for reasons described above. Then what happened? I lost my spiritual center. I forgot to simply accept the universe as it was and, Go with the flow. I felt disappointed and almost, at least for a few seconds there, like I'd been slugged in the gut. Maybe I'm just sensitive. Maybe I'm just overwhelmed. Or maybe I sometimes loose the clarity of spirit one has when the focus is on the sanctity of me-ness now.
Well, that's it for the night. I know it's not perfect and it's certainly not everything I wanted to say today; there is so much more, always so much more. My soul is dripping at the edges, like a sponge that's too full, and this journal is the sink. No, no, that analogy isn't quite right. My spirit is like a gas trapped in too tight of a container, pushing to get out, desiring to make the things explode. No, no, that anology doesn't do it justice either. How about this one? Quack, quack, QUACK!!!!
And no, I'm not on drugs, though I wonder: Is weirdness terminal?
Thursday May 7th, 2009
I arrived at the theatre half an hour early with tickets in hand. I bought some candy, a tub of buttery popcorn, and a large Sprite, all of which I enjoyed munching on, none of which I finished. Though the theatre was over three fourths full not a single person sat up where I was, in the first four rows of the theatre. It was a strange and almost upsetting reality as I'd spent much of the afternoon feeling extremely depressed, like the Universe was purposely ostrasizing me from any close human contact. My x is (or at least was) one of those people that believed we put out energy into the universe that says, "Bring people to me!" or "I want to be alone", that we are somehow responsible for what we attract into our lives--but I've had so many experiences that contradict it. I wanted people to sit around me. I wanted to feel like I fit in, even in this subtle fashion, but instead I found myself in a statistical improbability, arriving early, sitting down, and not having a single person sit anywhere remotely close to me.
I spent much of the afternoon texting with my x-wife who has, over the last few months, become my most trusted friend. I wanted to connect but I must admit I was having a difficult time and just couldn't figure it out. What was going on? There we were talking, something that is often an oasis of intimate contact in the desert of wake, work, eat, work, sleep, and I just wasn't able to connect. I just felt low. Fortunately--and I must say I rarely say a friend "should" act in one way or the other--but I believe a friend "should" listen and accept us without judgement when we are feeling down, depressed, or even suicidal. Isn't that what friendship, true friendship, is really about?
Intimacy. Acceptance. Support.
She sent some pictures for me to look over again. She's been putting ads out to get models to practice portrait photography on. I must say, I'm impressed with not only her photography but the improvement I've seen just in the last few shoots. I respect that, I really respect it when people are able to examine themselves critically, but non-judgementally, then adjust and learn and evolve to improve a skill. Frankly, this ability is most admirable when it results in the improvement of ones character.
So what was I saying? Oh yeah, the new Star Trek movie.
I have seen every single Star Trek film in the theatre. Some I have liked (ST II: The Wrath of Kahn, ST IV: The Voyage Home), some I loved (ST: Generations, which I saw in the theatre a record three times!), some I disliked (ST III: The Search for Spock, ST: Borg Bash), and some I absolutely hated (ST: Indirection). I've been surprised by all the positive press and acclaim this latest film has had. Could it really be that good? First of all, the writing just keeps getting worse and worse. Second, by replacing the iconic faces and voices of the original cast they were taking on a challenge bigger than they'd ever taken before; there could only be two resuls of that: hard won success or complete, abysmal failure. So I walked in keeping my mind as open as possible. I'd heard they'd changed aspects of the Star Trek cannon so I was prepared for that. I knew these weren't the same actors so there would be a great deal of adaption and reinterpretation. And I knew the film had, in many respects, been designed to appeal to a whole new generation of potential Trekkers (not so much me this time around).
It's late (11:24pm) so I'm not going to write and edit an entire review, but there are a few things I'd like to say while it's still fresh in my mind.
As a fairly perceptive person I couldn't help but notice much of the look and feel of the film was a result of the new Battle Star Galactica. It would be very subtle to most, but I think if you really watch one then the other you'd start to pick some of the things out. For instance, warp speed is now "faster than fuck"; for instance the Enterprise warps from Earth to Vulcan in a matter of minutes and boom, comes out of warp in the middle of a battle zone, something extraordinarily similar to BSG's idea of "jumping". Likewise the music copied many of the same extremes and ironic details found in BSG (something you would notice if you're musically inclined); one obvious example is the fact that space is a pretty quiet place (when it's dramatically important). There was also the sense that the Star Trek universe was a real and dirty place, one we could relate to living in. Examples include Budwiser (ST has finally put advertising gimmicks in their films and Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, is probably rolling in his grave!), Jack Daniels, music from the last fifteen years, and so on and so forth.
Question: Did it work?
In my humble opinion...well, I can't really say. Sometimes it did. Sometimes it didn't. Personally, I believe it tended to work best when it felt realistic, substantial, and likewise "fit". The fact that James Kirk drinks Jack really tickled my funny bone and it was subtle, so yeah it worked (though I'm still disgusted that this is the first example, that I know of at least, of product placement in a Trek film). Others, like the hodge podge design of the interior of the enterprise, which was sometimes pristine and uber-futuristic and at othertimes like the dirty underbelly of some sweat factory. That aspect just didn't flow well or seem realistic.
Overall I was dissapointed with the design of the new Enterprise. One thing BSG did right was to honor the original show it was based on in many ways, including design. Take the old Battlestar Galactica and Compare it to the new one. Notice how the new one is very different but at the same time honors the basic design and intent of the first and more importantly, the new one looks tough enough to take a nuclear blast. The new Enterprise, though, doesn't honor the original intent. Sure, it has the saucer section, a neck, a main hull, and two "wings", but the original had a basic, beautiful design with soft curves and simple angles but the front of the new Enterprise, which is sleek and sexy, doesn't seem to match the back, which is bulbous and symmetrically bizare. And personally I see no reason for this. If their intent was to remake the original but update it for new audiences they should have taken the original design, stuck to it as closely as possible, but updated it to look modern, sexy, and realistic. What they seemed to do, imho, is give the artists free reign to come up with yet another starship design which I just think looks ugly.
Maybe I'm anal in this respect but I think they should have honored the original design more closely and created a ship that was sexy as they did for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Star Trek: Borg Bash.
This bizarre redesign is present in the bridge as well. Frankly, it's visually so damn busy working in the place would give me a headache. Whereas the original bridge was open and was in essense a stage for drama to unfold on the new bridge would be a nightmare for anyone with ADHD. Nearly none of the original design was honored except having a veiwscreen, a central console, and the captain's chair, otherwise the busy-busy bridge looked like it had been designed by the same people who drew Wall-e and designed the iPhone. I'm not sure what they were thinking but if their intent was to make it impossible to examine and fall in love with the design--well, it just can't happen when what's presented is so damn busy. Sorry, it just won't happen.
Perhaps this is just a symptom of our society, one in which everything must be faster, more busy, and where focus, calm, and timing is not valued as much as they once were.
And that brings up rhythm. In comparison to the last few Trek films they really got the rhythm of the film right--mostly. So a great improvement. Does that mean it's a "good" movie worth spending $8 on? Not necessarily. The problem, again, was everything was busy and fast and without time to breath, without slow moments here and there, a good deal of dramatic intensity is lost. This same pattern is showing up in most of the blockbuster movies coming out these days including the latest Indian Jones film, and I predict that people will eventually have an emotional-allergic reaction to the go-go-go-go-go of the modern action film and demand more dynamicism in the rhythm of the films we consume.
I liked that they honored some design aspects. Good: The phasers were the old style, which looks cool. Bad: The phasers looked like they were manufactured by Fisher Price. Good: Uhura had her earpiece. Bad: There was absolutely no redesign of the earpiece, a fact that proved to me that they didn't get the basic ideas of a good redesign, from a visual standpoint at least. Think about it, Uhura's earpiece was a prediction of the future. They didn't have those in the 1960's, but these days we have them and we call them Bluetooth. Why not just walk into an AT&T and buy a modern Bluetooth headset and stick it on her? It would look futuristic, would have honored the original show, and most importantly it would have been a nod to the foresight of the original people who predicted the technology. Good: Many of the uniforms looked reminiscent of the original ones while having an updated and even sexy feel. Bad: This wasn't consistent through the film.
There was a general failure to make these nods throughout the film and numerous chances to do it!
Cool: Over the last 30 or 40 years they've redesigned the transporter effect dozens of times, it's just what they do when a new show or movie is made. Ok, so what, a new transporter effect? That's what my thought usually is. But this time it was completely original and frankly, pretty damn cool.
Good (yet strange): unlike the visuals, which didn't feel consistent, were too busy, etc., a lot of the sound effects were right out of the original show. Subtle, but a nice nod to the original and another reminder that if it aint broke, don't fix it.
Bad: The plot. I had the general plot of the film worked out before I walked in.
Bad: The villian. I seem to recall seeing the same exact one only twenty or forty times in previous films and tv episodes. I'm astounded that millions of dollars can be spent on a film and yet nobody can come up with something better than, "Oh, I have an idea. What if some bad dude tries to kill Kirk and he gets all badass then cleans their chronometers." Wow. I'm just astounded.
Really Bad: I won't give away the ending but the final choice Kirk makes in regard to the villian is 100% anethema to his character and the message of Star Trek as Gene Roddenberry intended it. For those who don't know, while alive Gene Roddenberry helped with the Star Trek films but didn't like any of them (except maybe IV: The Voyage Home). He felt they were too violent and didn't portray the message of an enlightened future where we'd resolved most of our problems like homelessness and war, so were evolving as a species and exploring the galaxy. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, the so called "trinity", were highly moral people each balancing the others out. Their final decision in the film had little to do with morality and justice but was in fact the opposite of these characteristic. Frankly, I might have walked out liking the film if not for this slap in the face to Roddenberries vision, one that went well beyond the violence in films such as The Wrath of Khan, violence which was the result of the need to survive, the fight against a homicidal antagonist. Wow, I really just couldn't believe their attitude at the end. It had nothing to do with Trek and was, in my opinion, the final blow to the franchise which will ostrasize those fans who have loved Trek for all the right reasons (though it may take some time and they may not exactly realize why as such things are often subconsciously driven).
Bad: Back to design. Didn't the last film have a Romulan bad guy in a gigantic evil looking space ship that looked like it could squash the Enterprise like a bug? Is it always necessary to have the baddies be Romulans or Klingons? Must their ships always look all bad ass? Isn't it possible to design a ship that's original?
Good or bad: The bad guys communication reminded me of how teenagers answer phones. "Uh, hello, oh, yeah, whatever." There wasn't much protocal in the conversations, as their generally was in the past, and I thought it was good for Trek to get out of an obvious box it's been stuck in for decades. On the other side it just seemed like the writers weren't taking things too seriously and the general lack of protocal between the Enterprise bridge and the baddie over the main screen lacked good flow and rhythm as a result.
Bad: The Enterprise was built on the ground in Iowa instead of California or Mars or wherever it was supposed to be built. I'm not exactly sure why they needed to do this. To what end? So we can see Kirk ride his motorcycle up to it and decide wow, I'm going to fly that? Me, I'm back to if it aint broke. Kirk was given a challenge and I think, based on his personality, that would have been enough. Also, why not have him scoot on his bike to CA? That would have taken a few days, given the film makers a chance to show him riding through the Rockies, throw on some loud heavy metal on top of that, and show him hugging those corners. Now THAT would have been cool, for bikers and non-bikers alike (but especially to us bikers!).
Good: I like the casting choice for the young Spock. It was perfect.
Bad: He showed too much emotion and spoke a little faster than the original (yes, I'm being anal but he had extensive guidance from Leonard Nemoy durin the filming so...)
Good: At points there were hints of the original music that so perfectly added drama to the original series.
Bad: In general the score was dispassionate and boring. Frankly, besides the rock Kirk had blaring in his father-in-laws stolen Corvette, the score sucked.
Good and Bad: I've never seen a Trek movie with so many lines stolen from other films (most notably ST: II, III, & IV). Fortunately most were used where and when it made sense and added to the drama and characterization. Unfortunately they were used too much and it started to seem like the writers felt like they couldn't stand on their own too feet without constantly stealing the best lines from previous movies.
Good: They brought back Captain Pike! It was awesome to see him in command (for those who don't know he was in only a couple episodes of the original and was captain of the enterprise before Kirk).
Bad: I couldn't believe that when he wanted to go to warp drive he said "Punch it". Now we're stealing lines from Star Wars!!! And I'm sorry, he's no Han Solo.
Good: Plot twists were introduced to logically explain why certain things in this new Star Trek could be different.
Bad: They final message ends up being, "Fuck the old Trek and every incarnation of Trek that followed it, that never happened, we're in a new world now. Goodbye Picard, goodbye Janeway, goodbye and fuck off!" Certainly that may seem an extreme interpretation but think about their moral stance at the end of the film then tell me that energy wasn't in the subconscious minds of the writers and/or producers?
Good: I loved many of the portrayals of the old characters.
Bad: Some of them were just terrible. Uhura seemed nothing like uhura and frankly her romantic relationship--it was just stupid and more important, unnecessary. Personally, I think they just wanted to stir things up and cause contraversy in the Trek community. That's the only reason I see for it as it would have been just as easy to put her in bed with a new character. Yummy but not offensive to those of use who have loved Trek as children. Scotty, well, I love that actor and overall he did a pretty good job but I never got a sense that he was Scotty (besides the voice). Sulu and Checkov--well, they were simple but empty charicatures and McCoy, while having a close relationship with Kirk, had less and less screen time as the movie went on; this broke the general rule that the films/programs are largely about the interrelationship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy whereas this movie evolves towards Spock and Kirk which is reminescent of the Generations films which one could argue were in large part just love stories between Picard and Data (and it gets boring, people!).
Bad: Vulcan's acted like stiff lipped humans with sticks up their asses. I've never understood why they have such a hard time getting Vulcan's right. Sure, maybe they're racist, but they wouldn't demonstrate that in such an emotional and human fashion (by raising the voice, lashing out, etc.). I just think this was a lot of mediocre writing and acting (but it was a good idea, just wished they could have done it better).
Bad: It's not their fault but the original actor that played Sarek, Mark Lenard, died in 1996. Frankly he looked perfect for the role and played a Vulcan better than anyone besides Nimoy, of course. Amazing actor and he really captured that role and made us love him for it. No actor could have really filled his shoes so no fault on the part of the film makers.
Conclusions: It's late so I must conclude this. My personal opinion about the film is that it wasn't really worth $8 but it was better than many of the previous films. In comparison I'd say it's right there in the middle. It's "action packed", it's funny, it's interesting, and at times it's exceptionally fun, but it's also busy, badly timed, boring, and exceptionally insulting (to Roddenberry and those who loved him, in particular). Personally I wonder what Majel Barret, Roddenberry's wife, would have said if she were still alive (she only saw it a year or so back) and I also wonder what Nimoy's honest thoughts are about it as he really took it to heart to use Trek as stage for morality plays (key in point: his direction of The Voyage Home). The action is better than ever, the effects are awesome, and the backstory, especially seeing Kirk's birth, kept me glued...but as the end neared I could help but think, "Okay, this is pretty obvious, bad guy outguns the Enterprise, Enterprise ends up on the verge of total destruction, Kirk gets lucky, blows the bad guys to kingdom come." The only thing I got wrong is I believed he would keep the door open for the baddies to redeem themselves, show them justice, encourage them to grow and live in peace and harmony with humanity--but damn, he ended up acting more like James Bond or the Transporter and his "new" crew happily followed along with happy-stupid grins on their faces. Somehow I don't recall them every finding so much joy in the killing of another being, no matter how seemingly merritted or necessary it might appear.
So skip this film and wait for Netflicks. Worth watching, worth buying if you're a Trekkie, but not worth a few hours at the theatre.
Anyhoo, I'm off to bed (and late at that, darnit!).
P.S. Oh, I wanted to tell you that the Pygmie Forum that I'd set up nearly six months ago...well, if you recall I announced it then it went down and I just haven't had the time, energy, or desire, to get it working again. I know, that doesn't exactly make me look good as a web author mais c'est la vie. Anyway, the forum has been restored and it's ready for your input. This time I've only added a few key areas so please, check it out, write some comments, suggestions, and start conversations with me and other readers of The Temple.
P.P.S. I would really, really appreciate your involvement, even if it's only something you do from time to time. In other words I don't expect absolute dedication, but it would be nice to begin creating an interactive community of those who enjoy visiting The Temple.
P.P.P.S. Thank you!!! I will love you forever!!!!!!! :)
Monday May 4th, 2009I spent the first portion of this afternoon in tears. The superficial and obvious reason for this is that I spent the weekend in Eugene visiting friends and now that I am home again I must get back into the grind of wake, shower, work, work, eat, work, work, work, return home, keep busy, eat, keep busy, sleep, or put another way, it's back to spending most of my time staring at a damn computer console and keeping myself occupied. There are other reasons too, of course, but I don't wish to go into those tonight for personal reasons.
I don't exactly know what came over me. I took a much needed nap, woke up tired and disoriented, sat down at the computer in my bedroom, turned on NPR to listen to the Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaking in downtown Portland, and then it happened. I would say it was his speech, on reconciliation, that set me off but I had already begun crying just moments before he reached the stage. I just had this intense feeling that I didn't want to be alive to have to face the same-old, same-old of my life again. I just wasn't ready. Couldn't someone else do it for me? I have done everything I can to keep busy, to keep connected to those few loving friends in my life, and to reach out to new ones, yet I am still largely alone, both in my joys and my struggles. So I just started crying. And then when the Reverand Tutu began speaking about how the differences between a husband wife are symbolic of the larger problems found in a country fighting against itself, I just started balling. I will probably never know the feeling of having a wife to fight and make up with, at least not one I can start a family with; I won't know what it's like to get in a fight and know that whatever our differences are we'll still be there for each other tomorrow, in a week, in a month, or in a year.
One reason I left was to heal, to see the world in a different way. If I cannot experience these arguably simple human experiences then maybe it's time to move on, give rest to these dreams which have been a part of my heart since I was very young, which now plague me more like nightmares than dreams, maybe it's time to simply enjoy the ambience and joy of those friends who do have families, who have found partners that believe in them and stick with them through thick and thin. Maybe it's time to simply open up to their children, and maybe sometimes be called "uncle", and fit in hugs while I can fit them in. And oh, I cannot tell you just how much each hug means to me. From a child they are so genuine and rich. And in my life they are too rare, far too rare.
No hugs for me today, unless I asked my co-workers for them, of course--oh, we're not going there!
There is another potential reason for my emotional discomfort this afternoon, one which some would call on the nutty side but others, especially those who have had similar experiences, would understand. It all started this morning when I drove into work. I didn't feel quite right. Tired. Unable to stay focused on the road. Got to work and began to feel more and more dizzy, disoriented. An hour or two into work I went to the bathroom and stayed in there for nearly 30 minutes. Not only was I tired and having trouble walking, but I was extremely short of breath. "Oh great," I thought to myself, "Please, don't let this be another visit to the ER." Finally I struggled, one foot in front of the other, back to my desk. I felt slightly better but nowhere near out of the woods. I picked up my cell phone and noticed a text message. It was from my daughter. I responded and after some back and forth learned that she was in the ER. That is another story which I won't tell here, largely because I respect her privacy in the matter and largely because it does not further the story I am trying to tell and that story is simply that I sometimes experience the same feelings and emotions another person is. Normally this is referred to as empathy but sometimes, when it's unexplainably strong and occurs without explicit knowledge of another's condition, it's called psychic empathy. It's not something most believe in much less have heard of, but the same was once true for sympathy pains, something everyone now recognizes as a legitimate condition men experience when their partners are in the process of having a baby. Me? It's not uncommon to know someone's going to call or send me a text or instant message and over the last month, as I've spent more and more time alone, spent more time with myself and my thoughts and my feelings, well, my psychic sense has tuned itself, possibly more highly than it's ever been. On a good day that means knowing when someone's going to get in touch with me, on bad days it means experiencing some kind of psychic handshake with someone I care about then experiencing something similar to what they experiencing, as I did today. And today the results were not so desirable.
So I came home around 2, laid down, took a long nap, woke up, and spent the first hour of my evening crying. It's not exactly what I would have liked to have done with myself but it sure beats the hell out of how I dealt with emotional upheaval in the 90's when ripped blue jeans and Nirvana were in.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
- Robert Frost
Sunday May 3rd, 2009I arrived around seven o'clock after spending the weekend with a friend and her family down in Springfield. No doubt it should not surprise you that I didn't want to leave. Her children and I spent part of the afternoon riding bikes--well, her daughter rode her new BMX and her son rode his tricycle and I pushed him around the driveway which elicited his immediate laughter. What a wonderful thing to cause such a positive and immediate response in another human being! Absolutely that is touch to lose!
I get home, I walk in the house, and the cats, having just recently run out of food, were all over me! Oh the horror. The horror.
The drive was beautiful. Instead of heading back up I-5, which would have been the fastest and most efficient route, I drove up West 99 to Newberg where I took a left and, on another whim, headed towards Yamhill on a country road I've never been on before, then up to Forest Grove and home. Most of the ride was one I was familiar with, the road and the rain, but the excursion to Yamhill was new and refreshing, introducing me to more beautiful rolling hills, farms, and wineries. There was a moment where I almost turned back towards Newberg. I'd never taken the route before. I didn't know if Yamhill was in the right general direction. I didn't have a map and my phone had just died (it's got Google Maps installed on it) and the last thing I wanted to do was burn through two gallons of gas and end up on the Oregon, Coast in the middle of a chilly rain storm. The choice, the chance, was worth the small risk, and I hope to get back out that way on my motorcycle some warm sunny summer day.
I honestly wish I had something creative or telling to write tonight but truth is I'm just a little disappointed that it's already ten o'clock. I would stay up late but I need to get to bed at a decent time, after all, they're not paying me to sleep in until noon. C'est la vie.
As you can see I was able to carry the new antique Singer sewing machine and table. I decided to put it by the back window where I could also use it as a desk for my laptop, a quiet place to sit and write and look out at the sky and the garden. I am not, however, sitting there now as I am watching a documentary on Larry Flint as I write this. While you may not agree with Mr. Flint's occupation (he's the owner of the pornographic magazine Hustler) I think all American's should be enormously grateful for all he's done to fight for our first amendment rights. Anyway, back to the table, it is old, it has a few scraped and bruises, but overall it is enormously beautiful and just the right size. Unfortunately there does appear to be some damage to the wiring, something I hope I can easily rectify over the next several weeks.
Tomorrow is Monday. The grind begins again. I should probably VPN into work here shortly, see if I have any e-mail I need to respond to, any meetings I need to prepare for. I am not looking forward to this coming week. I'm not exactly sure why. Am I simply tired of the same-old, same-old? Do I yearn for something different? I think the truth is something I am not only having difficulty putting my finger on, but also something I feel would be incredibly difficult to describe to you here. It's this vague feeling that I want to be surprised. I want something to happen that is so wonderful, so unexpected, so invigorating, something that falls into the category of "dream come true" oh, perhaps I am being impatient, impractical, and unrealistic. Changes are this week will be as mundane and boring as any other week. Five days in a row I'll roll out of bed wishing I could sleep just one more hour, I'll enjoy the warm of hot water of my naked body while NPR is blasting in the background, I will get dressed then grab my things then get in the Wrangler and drive to work continuing to listen to the news and I will wish for sun so I could take the top down. I will get to work and grab my first cup of coffee, read my e-mail, skim the news, and do my best to but in a full day I can be proud of. At 2pm I'll begin looking at the clock, at 3pm I'll wish time would go by faster, by 4pm I'm not looking at the clock anymore, and at 5 I'll get in the truck, maybe stop at the grocery store, then head home where I'll do the dishes, feed the cats, what a documentary on Netflicks, and find other ways to keep myself busy. At nine I'll begin writing in this journal, at ten I'll take an ambien, by eleven I'll have published the journal, and by midnight I'll be looking for excuses to stay up until 1am. I'll get in bed, I'll listen to Coast to Coast AM, I'll pet the cats, and I'll reflect on the day behind me as well as the day ahead. And then I will fall asleep.
Going out with friends, being invited to a party, chatting on the phone with a friend, well, those just aren't things I expect to enjoy this week, and the lack of expectation is helpful in preventing me from the feeling of disappointment I simply do not need in my life.
(Though in all fairness I should say I have at least one friend who has offered to talk on the phone if I need, but I just don't tend to get the same thing out of talking on the phone as most others do; for me the phone is a device for quickly and efficiently discussing and agreeing to plans; the days of using it to connect with people on a purely personal level are long gone)
Oh, I should mention I will be going out to at least one movie this week. The new Star Trek film comes out on May 7th and I always go out to see the Star Trek films in the theatre. It's been a custom in my life, something I have always done and always enjoyed, even when the movie sucked (and some of them really, really, really suck). I just learned that it will be shown in iMax theatres. Will I go see it there? Perhaps. I once made the mistake of watching Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones in the OMSI Imax and wow, that hurt my neck; not being filmed specifically for such a humungous screen it was necessary to often move ones head quickly from one end of the room immediately to the other, always trying to keep up with the action and oh, what a headache! Also, I didn't exactly like looking up Yoda's nostrils and if there's anything that'll bring out the mistakes in CGI it's blowing the picture up five stories tall. Anyway, it'll be at the iMax so I may see about reserving a ticket for myself assuming that it will be tough on the eyes and the neck. My only question is this: do they have popcorn?
So again, I apologize for not having a creative story to tell you tonight. Check out the video blog, that'll probably be a bit more interesting as my newest monkey, Mister Monkey, is giving his first video blog entry and I assure you he's much better at it than I am!
Take care and goodnight,
P.S. Evil kitty.
Saturday May 2nd, 2009
Forgive me, it's actually 12:45am on Sunday May 3rd, 2009, however I tend to count days using a slight bit of fuzzy logic, more specifically, I track the day according the the waking/sleeping pattern, and since I haven't yet gone to bed yet I'm counting this article against Saturday May 2nd, 2009.
It is late and I am tired so this entry will have no rhymn or reason.
In the last few days I have wondered if, having accepted the probable reality of my life, I should just ask people questions regarding experiences I may not ever have. The reason for asking would not be to make myself feel bad or to increase envy, upset, or imbalance in myself, but to 1) express my sincere personal interest in said experiences and 2) to simply experience joy over the fact that other people have been able to have these experiences. For instance I might ask:
What's it like to give birth?
What's it like to raise a child?
How do you feel about having a partner that come sun or rain will ride the roller coaster with you?
And many more.
In particular I have wondered about the last. I mean, if I lost my job and wasn't able to find another in a reasonable amount of time I would be shit out of luck. I'd probably loose the houes and end up in another apartment, a trailer, or even the street, and like it or not I'd be taking that road on my own. I've wondered because my good friend and highschool sweetheart, who I've come down to Eugene to visit this weekend, has gone through some struggles and occupational changes, both she and her husband, in the last five or so years, yet they always manage to work through it together. There isn't, as near as I can tell, any question about it, they just love each other and they make the decisions they need to make it work. More specifically just recently they've lived in a travel trailer they bought. Not huge but adequate, temporarily at least. Now, after wading through that, they're living in a beautiful duplex in Springfield, Oregon. They've still got the trailer but aren't staying in it anymore. Me? I just couldn't imagine having to make changes like that and have a partner that would just stand by me and figure out how to squeeze a dollar here, another there, and formalize the goals and choices necessary to get from A to B together.
So what's that like?
I wish that were a question far fewer people had to ask.
Hmmm...what other thoughts have I been having the last couple of days?
I had someone recently suggest that I get a room mate and yes, they had someone lined up that they thought I'd be a good match with. I thought briefly about getting one after my previous roomate moved but having had so many questionable experiences with roomate I thought, well, nah. After it became apparent that my x wasn't on the same track as I was as far as getting married and spending our lives together--oh, I haven't really had the time or emotional where-with-all to ask myself if I might consider getting a roomate so it's not terribly surprising that the suggestion was put forth by someone else. I must admit my first reaction was oh no, oh no oh no oh no oh no. But their descriptions of this person were so positive that I started thinking about it. Having extra cash would be nice. Having company would be nice. So the trick was to find a person who could be counted on to pay the bills on time and without throwing a fuss and finding someone who would treat me kindly while also respecting my need for space (oh, and it wouldn't hurt if they weren't hooked on drugs, liked to party, were bringing every stray dog into their bedroom, etc., etc., etc.). So wow, might I potentially find or be introduced to a roomate that would be all those things? So I've opened my mind and heart up to it and it may or may not happen. We'll see.
So as I may have mentioned I came to Eugene for the weekend. Needed to get out of the house. Needed to get away from Portland. Needed to get away. A friend of mine has been encouraging me to get back into photography and I've struggled to but I said okay, I'm going to head down to Eugene with my cameras in tow then spend part of Saturday walking around downtown taking photographs. What happens? It rains cats and dogs. So I haven't been taking any.
I did however go to Borders books with my friends and their son and daughter, to a really yummy mexican restaurant, to the bank, to U-haul, and to a friend of their's home where I helped her tag the wires to her amplifier, DVD and VHS players, so it'll be easy for her to hookup when she moves up to Portland over the coming week. May sound strange but I like being/feeling helpful and indeed I see that not only am I being helpful, but I can make a positive influence in people's lives while at the same time helping out while at the same time connecting with them. That's what a lot of people don't seem to get, that you can actually connect with others while working whether it be helping someone move, working on a garden, or what have you. And sure, maybe this lady thought I was strange to help her out, after all I'd only just met her, but that's the kind of guy I am.
And how many people do you know like that?
And should I feel badly for trying to be helpful and kind to total strangers?
It actually does surprise me that some have been critical of me for this.
Another thing people have been critical of me for: For loving "too" soon. For wanting children at such a "young" age. The latter I only bring up because I learned today that a girl that graduated high school a year before I did, someone I know fairly well--her son is graduating high school in the next few weeks.
God I am getting old and my chances are quickly flying by.
Oh, some good news today. I was at my friend's friend's house sitting and playing with the kids when she asked me if I wanted a table of hers. It was a strange question but I looked at it then she mentioned it was a sewing machine table and indeed had an old sewing machine hidden inside it. Not sure how the question came up but I think I may have mentioned to my friend that I've been contemplating purchasing a cheap sewing machine. What great news, I thought, if I got a machine I'd have a perfect little table for it! So I accepted. Later I went to look at the table more closely and opening it up found a classic old and beautiful black Singer sewing machine hidden inside. Wow, was she kidding? This was a collector's item, a beautiful piece of furniture, there was absolutely no way I'd be getting rid of the machine, whether it worked or not, and frankly, I'd do anything to get the damn thing working again! So it's packed in the back of my Jeep and I look forward to putting it in one of my rooms tomorrow as it'll not only be pleasing to the eye but also prove a nice desk to use my laptop on from time to time.
I'll post a picture soon.
To close tonight's entry I'd like to share some dialog from the Kevin Smith film Dogma:BETHANY
No, not at all. I'm sorry. My ex-husband kind of
fouled up my relationship awareness barometer.
That's the nice way of putting it. I consider it
I was dumped once. More or less.
It's terrible, isn't it? Don't you constantly
question your value - like why was I so easy to
cast aside? Didn't I have merit?
And you wonder if the other party's going to come
to their senses and call you back.
The worst is that I still think like a couple.
After all these years, I still have the 'we'
Mine grew out of what was really a stupid
misunderstanding. A misunderstanding that grew
into a total withdrawal of communication.
Abandonment. And even though it was years ago,
there's not a day that goes by that I don't wonder
what went wrong. And then it hits me - I was
replaced by someone. A lot of someones.
And they always tell you it'll hurt less with
...when actually, it hurts more