23 July, 2012

It can happen to anyone

Last Friday at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie, a man dressed up as The Joker shot and killed at least a dozen people in the audience and injured perhaps 40 more. The similarities between this and other shootings, including the Columbine Massacre, the VA Tech tragedy and the troubled rampages that led to five dead in Seattle earlier this year and even the saga of the Unabomer are not lost on me, but I am still troubled because I don't know how these people are different than the rest of us. However, I realise that there is a difference and that somewhere along the line, these people snapped and thought that killing was ok. There are conflicting stories, but among the mentioned shooters, all of them were known outcasts. All of them had trouble communicating and/or were teased by others. The Unabomer decided to leave society but felt hounded by civilisation. Cho-Seung Hui felt tormented by his classmates. I don't know the story of The Joker, Mr. Holmes, but would not be surprised if his story were not somewhat similar. All of them had easy access to bomb making equipment and knowledge and rifles and/or artillery and all of them were more or less in good standing and so could easily access any of these things. These men, aside from The Unabomer were also quite young. Most of the mass shootings tend to be of men(not women), under 30, usually under 25. Their stories are all different but there are enough similarities to show a few red flags. The easy accessibility of guns raises a flag. Inadequate mental illness treatment and prevention is another flag that is also often raised. Glamourized violence in the media, to which the Colmbine killers, Mr. Holmes and Cho Seung Hui all seemed enamored with are all often blamed. And perhaps all of these things ARE to blame, in some form or another. I do not know. The thing that concerns me is what makes a person decide that killing, no, massacring ten or more people is OK. What makes someone lose touch with humanity and to themselves to that degree? That problem, and not the one of untreated depression, violence in the media or gun laws are what concerns me, although sometimes I wonder if they aren't all related, if they are all just part of a bigger picture, a picture of decay and alienation in the United States. But I digress. I want to make a point of asking the question of what makes a person lose the ability to empathise with others to emphasize that a) mental illness cannot be blamed for such faults and b) to show that the problems in these people and society in large are ALL of our problems. I grew up depressed, socially alienated, unable to fit in with the normal work world throughout my twenties and yet I never came close to the level of callousness of these men. I don't write this to illustrate MY superiority, but because I believe mental illness and stress are not the only things at play here. These men were terribly wounded, terribly alienated. Think how much it would take for you to completely lose your humanity. It can happen to anyone. Daily hatred from others, combined with systematic drugging and suppression, compounded by years of mind warping TV and film. Perhaps there were other factors. A lack of supportive family or friends. A sense of meaning or belonging. Our gun laws make it easier for these men to buy guns, but it's our society that makes them killers. Anyone who disagrees is in denial of their true nature and the possibility within all of us to become terrible monsters. It can happen to anyone.

20 July, 2012

How long has it been?

I re-started this blog when I was inspired by Andrea Rouda's daily(or sometimes hourly) short blogs about her life and various topics of interest. I kept it up for a while, but then life took over and I found other things to do and more corners of the internet to explore and more sleep to procure and more places to ride my bike to.

So why am I back? I am not here on an empty promise that I will write daily posts or even weekly posts. I just have some things on my mind and this place seems as good as any to serve as kind of a confessional. Modern life sure is weird, huh?

Since being back from Guate, I do feel like I am seeing my own life a little bit clearer. Like too many people my age, I am somewhat directionless, and despite being smart have been consistently underemployed or unemployed for a long time. It used to be easy for me to blame that on "not wanting to play with the system" or "lack of motivation" or even "depression" or "being a slacker". The truth is, "lack of focus", "codependency" and "lack of connection" probably best describe it.

Warning: this blog is going to be insanely anally instrospective

It is really hard to describe what leads someone to volunteering for a trail building non-profit, a community ecology surveying non-profit, a mental health non-profit all while volunteering at farms and being homeless and living in a tent, listening to your neighbors drunk or high. It's hard to describe what a lifetime of being suicidal is like. And it's hard to describe exactly what directionless and aimless feels like. Sometimes it feels like indulgence in this, the richest nation in the world.

I became homeless because I had given up caring. I was working a job doing dishwashing and felt that was the best that I could do. I felt I had nothing to look forward to in the job. It was tiring and I wasn't making enough money to save. My coworkers were nice, but they all spoke Chinese which made the work even more alienating feeling. It's not that it was hard, again, but I had little motivation or direction and little idea of what I could really be doing differently. So I gave up and became homeless.

From there, I stayed at the job for a few months before embarking on a long travel. I was homeless on the Columbia River, working at different farms across Washington and Oregon. I spent a lot of time on my art work and eventually, after travelling to the east coast, landed in a shelter on the west coast. I spent a lot of time on my art work while busying myself in coffee shops. Like most homeless shelters I had been to, I stayed quiet and didn't interact much, lest I would get into trouble. I just hung out at the library and Starbucks, drawing and reading books and being bored out of my mind.

During this time, I had a few odd illustration jobs, I got to stay at an artist retreat center and I took some peer counseling classes. I stayed there six months before finding some affordable rent.

Although I hated staying at libraries and coffee shops, it did keep me busy and between that and the Y and the shelter, I was never alone. Having a roof over my head, I was very lonely and the time alone did not go so well. I looked for jobs, finding a lot of volunteer work but having difficulty with social relations made job interviews total messes. I volunteered at a farm and did a permaculture certificate as well as took some more art classes. Steady work eluded me.

During this time I was depressed. I had a long form suicide plan in my head- my way of dealing with extreme suicidality was to make the plan really convoluted so that it would take years or at least months to complete. Every time I walked over bridges, there was a strong urge to jump. That time I was driving a car- how easy it would be to just ramp it up to 100 and go straight into that cliff. Alcohol, meth, crack, pills- how painless that would be. The thoughts were always there.

After coming back to Guate, amazed by the beauty but still crushed by the dull rag of depression and a crushing aimlessness, a complete lack of feeling of worth, my efforts redoubled and I did find some illustration work. Many of my interviews for park jobs failed and many I was not qualified for.

I have a dream right now of biking across country and finally finishing my climb to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. It's insane because I know I should figure out my work situation here first, but working as I did before did not work. The cycle of killing oneself to simply live for the next paycheck doesn't make much sense to me. I suppose in some ways that is very self-centered, but I've always been kind of an alienated person due to things in my past.

But I'm beginning to see how self destructive that all is and how it keeps me from doing any work I want to do, instead feeling like I have to be a martyr, taking shit jobs and volunteering while homeless. In some ways I am afraid of success because people scare me and I feel like no matter what I do people will be disappointed. And suicide is the ultimate disappointment.

But I still think of Mt. Katahdin. The only problem is, unless I win the lottery, I will still have to come back and find a way to live after that. And even if I do win the lottery, well, I'll still have life to deal with.

12 July, 2012

Mindfulness

There is research that shows that people with addiction problems and OCD often focus more on a "story structure" more than an "experiental structure" in their brains. A story structure is more or less a way of ordering, making sense of the world with facts and stories, whereas an experiental structure is one of being in the world, just letting the experiences wash through and be experienced without being labeled. Both are probably necessary, but something goes haywire for one reason or another with various mental woes. The exciting news is that no matter what your upbringing, you can change this. I'm probably one of the more skeptical to believe that this is true, but if it is true, it is very good and very exciting news. The most exciting part of this news, to me, is that it shows science and cold hard facts and meditative, religious practices are meeting and finding common ground. Studying mindfulness is not exactly new, but the focus toward more holistic, experiental and even spiritual practices and therapies is a direction psychiatry has been headed for a while and I think it's promising. And I think it might open the way for other ways of looking at the brain such as ecopsychiatry(looking at a person and relationship to and place in environment), transpersonal psychiatry(looking at the aspects "beyond personal"), more thoughtfully looking at the cause of mental illness (maybe they do have a role in our society and are not broken), more holistically looking at nutrition and wellness as well as looking to the past including psychedelics to see what we can learn. It's beautiful today and I feel hopeful that we will figure this out, that there will be more thoughtful, thorough approaches. I have hope, although to tell the truth, I know we have a very long way to come, because I believe successfully treating mental illness means a complete overhaul of our current mindset and society.

17 June, 2012

THE G.O.D. Project



It was something that should not be.

But there it was, the fleshy creature breathed and pulsed with life before him on the lab table. The smell of vinegar, stale coffee and cigarettes hung in the air. But now there was a hint of something else.

Something … organic.

“I've created life,” the scientist whispered to himself, barely believing it.

Brushing aside cookie wrappers and taking a sip of coffee, the young man jerked opened up his notebook and nervously jotted down his formulas- which up to this point had failed.

“There, there, “ he whispered to his creation, although he wasn't sure why. “Be still,” he said quietly.

It squirmed and cried much like he had heard babies are wont to do.

He looked back at family pictures on the wall, half imagining, half daydreaming.

“She had always wanted a girl,”the man said wistfully as he looked at the picture of his late wife. He smiled faintly and then nervously returned the girl to her crib, his pen to his notebook.

“Her name is Amélie,” the scientist wrote in the notebook, then set the girl back into the crib and closed the cold steel door before stepping outside.

He lit his cigarette and took a breath, breathing out the sharp smoke. He sighed, staring out at the city, wondering what he was going to do.

“They're going to want to run all manner of tests on her. Control her,” he whispered to himself.

The scientist returns inside after a few minutes and grabs a cup of coffee on the way to the lab. As he heads to where Amélie is, his jacket begins to vibrate. He doesn't want to answer his phone, but knows he must.

“Hello, Andre,” the Scientist says.

“Hello, I understand you've made some progress. When were you going to call us, Max?”, Andre asks on the video screen.

Max smiles, trying to think quickly. “She's not a real person,” he says. “Don't worry about it.”

“All the more reason you shouldn't have any concerns over our monitoring of the project, “ the man on the other side said.

Max smiled nervously.

“You've made a very big step, haven't you?” Andre said

“Creating life is no different than creating any other thing. I've just taken the next logical step that previous scientists had not,”Max said.

“You've become a God,” Andre said, not able to suppress a smile.

Max simply nodded, trying to remain polite and unassuming.

“We are in the Northern Lands, the Presidents are working out our foreign relations,” Andre said.

“So it will be a while until you can come?” Max said. “First day next week,” Andre said, “I'll set it up with the President and the Commanders. In the meantime, I'll send something good your way. You need to celebrate your achievement. We live in a great Empire.”

“That's not necessary,”Max said, “I have sufficient food and a good lab.”

“Nonsense, Have fun! Be thankful! Get drunk! Go party! Go fuck somebody for once!“ Andre replied with a laugh and hung up.

Not two minutes later a loud whirring noise flew over the lab and Max found a plastic envelope under the door. Inside was an electronic transfer notice for ten million dollars.

He was impressed, but he was distracted by the little girl in the crib. He looked at her bright blue eyes that looked so much like hers. Then he picked her up.

He could take the ten million dollars and run away. They would find another scientist and he had done his work. He could live in Panama and smoke weed and drink rum and coke.

But he knew he could never do it with her. With Amelie. And looking into her blue eyes, he knew that wasn't an option.

He sat, holding the baby's hand as she cried, wishing his wife were there to help him out. He knew all the proper ways to hold a baby, all the proper ways to reinforce and communicate. He knew that this child was nothing more than a combination of stem cells, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and some other trace minerals. He knew exactly how she came to be. But he was scared to death of her at the same time.

He hooked the baby up to some machines to check her vitals. Her heartbeat was very strong. Her blood tested very healthy. He smiled down at her and gave her a premixed synthetic milk formula- the best he could do at the time being.

Then he closed the door and walked outside to stare at the night city sky, filled with neon lights, helicopters and a million strange scents. He held a syringe in his hand, filled with a strong sedative.

From outside he could still hear her crying. He didn't know what to do.

He could already tell Amélie was going to be a feisty one, the way she stared so intently and he was thinking about what would happen when Andre came by and tried to take her away.

“They would probably give her something much stronger, “ Max told himself. But as he looked down at his hand, he knew it was a bad idea and so he stood outside, smoking cigarette after cigarette as the sounds of sirens and young kids having fun on a Saturday night filled the city air.

Then he came back inside and held her until she fell asleep.

14 June, 2012

It's not me, it's You

It's not me, it's You

Tuesday is “Meeting Day”. I'm still unemployed, and every morning, I sift through e-mails and phone calls about potential job prospects that haven't amounted to spit. After waking up, stiff from eating the wrong foods and staying up late, I pour my cereal and drink my cowboy coffee, half asleep, half waiting while still hoping for a different life to come in through my door than the one I wound up with, the one everything I'm doing is leading me further into.

At 8 in the morning my neighbor bangs on my door. She drank too much and needs some aspirin. I smile, obligingly and go to retrieve the pills for her, enduring her narcissistic rants and vague complaints about the system and her life in general.

Like everyone else that lives here, I know “the system” sucks, but the last thing I want to do is talk about it endlessly while watching TV, drinking beer and eating shit. She invites me to watch TV with her, I lie and tell her I'm too busy.

I tell myself to be patient, but she isn't getting the feeling that I want her to leave. I concoct a job interview and tell her I'm not interested in dating- “it's not you, it's me”. The fourth time I've told her this.

I throw my dishes into the dishwasher without washing them and look over my calendar. It's blank except for a few words that were printed there. It's one of those annoying inspirational calendars.

It reads: “I wish you a difficult life. An easy life brings no satisfaction.”

Half of me wants to believe this, knowing that the best things I've ever had in life were hard won, but half of me doesn't know what I'm fighting for anymore. Half of me just wants to stick an ice pick in the face of the fucker who made this calendar. But then again, I'm too fucking tired to care.

After running and going to the support group that I've been going to for the last eight months, it's back to looking for work. Craigslist. Indeed. Monster. The Wanted Ads. The Employment Boards. Cold Calling. I do it all. It's just there hasn't been too much luck lately and so I sit in Starbucks and wait, interrupted only by intermittent diarrhea.

Some days, when the sun shines just right and after I've drunk too much coffee and depleted my cache of job prospects, I take some time to write. I reminisce about the time a long time ago when I used to dream that one day, everything would make sense. But after I can't count how many rejection letters, I know it won't amount to spit. I'm chasing a dream that doesn't exist anymore and yet life keeps going on.

I leave Starbucks in mid thought. On the long walk home, I smoke a j. I'm feeling relaxed and not worrying too much when I spot my old friend Brian who has taken my ambivalence a step further and now sleeps in his van, permanently.

I share the last few puffs of my j with him. We sit and laugh about what life has brought us, saddened by the seemingly inevitable decay of society into a shitty dictatorship, replete with pollution and bad TV.

I tell him drinking is bad for his health. He laughs hysterically. I can't help but laugh, too. I buy him a beer and walk the rest of the way home.

Arriving back in my apartment, I scan the calendar. It's only February. There are ten more months to this year. Most likely forty or more years to my life unless I commit suicide.

There's a light flashing on my answering machine. I listen to the message. It's a garden store calling in for an interview. Not my first choice, but I'm not as excited as I know I should be.

I sigh in self pity and look at my board of pictures. Family. Friends. Dreams. Things that should matter. I tell myself: One day at a time and laugh at the hilarity of saying an “A.A.” slogan while high.

I have no idea what I'm doing.

09 June, 2012

June is LGBT pride and awareness month

Just a reminder. =)
Love your fellow humans no matter their sexual and gender orientation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots

05 June, 2012

. . .

This hole I am in now
is like so many others
that others have made.
This hole I dug from the Earth
and sometimes I don't care that
I made my own grave.

I resurrect every morning.
I fight disocciation
Seige apathy
and fight the good fight.
As I look for work
trying to pull out of this suffocation.

I hold tight
that's when my heart stutters

fears take over
and all too often
they win
laying waste as i sit in, shuttered

The voices
tell me "die"
I hear them, and I,

knowing
to die would ease some pain
and heighten others.

Remaining trapped.
But
I'm
No prisoner.
No Kafka.
Not lost because I exit only in the wind
Nobody
Nowhere
Shell of fear and paranoia
Echo of escapist depression,
disocciative fantasy
a fantasy that is no longer my heroin(e)

Retroactively Gay

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/05/green-lantern-going-gay-to-help-boost-stagnant-comic-book-business.html

I assume everybody is aware that we now have a very prominent gay superhero. Green Lantern. He's not Superman or Spider-man or even Magneto or the Hulk, but he is a very major character in the DC's convoluted pantheon.

Whether or not the decision to retroactively make the first, original Green Lantern gay (he used to have a family and be married to a woman) is something we may never really know, and whether or not this was done to just boost sales and interest in superhero comics is up to debate. What we do know is that we have an out of the closet, gay superhero, which is fine. I think the bigger question is- why should it matter?

Of course LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi, trans) pride and LGBT rights are a very important issue. The fact that somewhere around 10% of our population can't even get married is insane and makes no sense to me. The fact that bible-thumping Christians often tout the homophobic sections of the bible and seem to forget the parts about love and acceptance and the "first throwing of stones" thing is beyond sophomoric. The LGBT community deserves the same rights as all of us.

Why are we still here and why don't we have more bisexual, asexual, trans and two-spirited superheroes?
And why can't all these superheroes come together, forget their differences and focus on the things that are tearing this world apart, as we speak? And why can't we?

31 May, 2012

Liquor, Liquor everywhere

Tomorrow, grocery stores in Washington will be carrying hard liquor. I guess it's not all that unusual in the USA, but growing up in Western Maryland, where one could only buy beer and wine in liquor stores, I still haven't grown accustomed to seeing beer in the refrigerators at 7-11's and I can't help but wonder what the effects of such easy availability to buy hard liquor will be.

It seems really fucked up to me that we are arguing about gay marriage and stalling about the health care bills, yet here we are at 2012, more or less endorsing behavior that is unhealthy.

For most of us that do not struggle with alcohol, this is no big deal. It just means going to the grocery instead of the liquor store for that rum they need to make pina coladas. For the hardcore alcoholic, though, it could be the difference between sobriety and temptation.

The grocery stores can choose whether or not to sell hard liquor at their stores and many of them have chosen to since it is likely to be quite profitable. I happily believe it is their right to do as they choose, although I will be quite happy to not visit them.

Banning Super Size Drinks and Plastic Bags

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9302292/New-York-plans-to-ban-super-sized-fizzy-drinks.html

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/fa14cfdb991c4b459cb538c3642deb42/US--Plastic-Bag-Ban/

I linked the above two stories together, one talking about how NY plans to ban oversized sugary drinks and one talking about the plastic ban in LA because while they both reflect good ideas and things that could have beneficial social effects, I think they are both questionable, overreaching policies.

There was a video my friend Charlie Slavin made a few years back about Seattle becoming a green fascist state. It was a satire but raised a good point- although the changes proposed in the video were good (things like forcing one to compost, ride the bus), forcing them on people is a very dangerous thing and ultimately turns the state into kind of a nanny or big brother.

Our nanny state regulates and controls all sorts of things. Some of those things make sense to me- toxins that affect everybody, building codes, while other things make less sense and are not so much black and white as grey.

One of the strongest areas that are regulated(in addition to ridiculous regulations on marriage and homelessness) are drugs. Some people seem to do fine with having a drink every now and then, while for others, alcohol is a dangerous thing. My therapist tells me not to smoke, while I know that for me and for many who smoke that it alleviates their depression. At the same time my therapist sometimes recommends I use legal drugs like Haldol and I decline. I am not bringing up these points to suggest drug use is either good or bad or that having no restrictions would be good, but ultimately to point out how gray all of this is and how questionable it is having some outside authority determine your fate. Be it for drugs, for plastic bags or for junk food.

Our environment is crumbling, their are toxins of all sorts in our rivers and lakes. Our seafood is unsafe to eat. We are growing fatter and more mentally ill by the year. I worry about the immaturity of my fellows as well as the violence being caused by increased pressure in the modern world.

But how do we fix all of this? By regulating everything?

From my own point of view, I think it makes sense to regulate the right things- the things that effect everybody- such as pesticides, car pollution, industrial waste and we leave the government out of it as much as possible. Part of that will require a shift as it will require much more civic involvement or personal responsibility or the government will run us over. I guess I'm not as much of a socialist as I once thought.

27 May, 2012

Personal notes

These are notes that are meant just for me...

I've been back from Guatemala for a few months and have not wanted to adjust, in a lot of ways.
The first few weeks back, especially were a cruel culture shock. Everyone here seemed so unfriendly, just straight up ignoring you if you said hello. The damp cold weather didn't help.
I've been feeling very depressed, especially since I've been having more trouble than usual finding the motivation to get up and go with nothing to motivate except the dim possibility of shitty work.
Since I dropped out of college, I knew that I would never fit in with the "normal world". I forced myself to go back, but was miserable, though I had my art and dreams of moving to an eco-village, I really didn't connect a lot with the work world or anything.
I moved out to Washington.
I've been trying to understand the past so I can understand the future. I realise this is entirely self-absorbed.
But I'm just trying to find a way to fit into a world that I never fit into.
Sad thing is, I've always been a loser, but at least I haven't been a quitter.
I feel less inclined than ever to get a menial job. The last one I had I dropped so I could travel the road and be homeless for a stretch and work at farms.
I'm having trouble communicating.
It seems, but maybe its just me that people are becoming actors in their lives more than ever- wearing clothes to dress a part rather than being it. I see this in the fashion trends- the rehashing of the old, in steampunk and in Lady Gaga.
It seems the Hollywood ideal has infected us and we're more interested in the surface than in the connections. Maybe this is just what I see, I don't know. I feel so disconnected from the fake it and smile attitude. I want something real.
I want to connect. I want to do something meaningful.
I think I'm realising more and more, due to my past, even though I don't like many aspects of this culture. I'm still trapped by it. I grew up wanting to be an animator, having no family life.
I think we're all going to need help getting out of this.
I'm a little bit more hopeful, but still very sad.
It's not going to be easy.
I don't feel it's meaningless.
But this is like starting off with dust.

26 May, 2012

My Favorites List and the absurd things one can deduce about me from them

So I did a psych test a while back and it was ridiculous how patriarchal, antisocial and reductive the test results were. MMPI, fuck you.

Here is a satire-

Favo(u)rite Colo(u)r(s)
Cornflower Blue
Magenta
Yellow

Subject likes bright, "feminine" colours and is no doubt insane.

Favo(u)rite Movie(s)
Princess Mononoke
The New World
Tekkonkinkreet
Wizard of Oz
Ghost Dog

Subject likes "romantic", "environmental" films. Subject is unattached to neurotypical "subjects". No doubt insane.

Favo(u)rite Book(s)
Kafka on the Shore
Metamorphosis
Demian
Bone
The Lorax

Subject is detached from reality, as evidenced by tendency to "magic realism" and unfinished/speculative types of works. No doubt he is insane.


Favo(u)rite Music(s)
Counting Crows
Dave Matthews
Blues Traveler

Subject no doubt likes to listen to Morrisey as well, while cutting arms.


Favo(u)rite Place(s)
Appalachian Trail, (Virginia, Georgia)
Atitlan, Guatemala

Subject lives in fictional world, his favorite places represent ones out of step with the real world.

Favo(u)rite People(s)
Donna Williams
Henry Darger
Franz Kafka

Subject idolizes those out of step with the real world and those who do not fit in and some who were not famous during their lifetime. Subject obviously has no interest in real world values such as money and gold chains and bling.


Favo(u)rite Day(s)
Tuesday

25 May, 2012

One Day at a Time

Saturday was the opening at the gallery. I was up early and mostly awake. Tired but tried to eat a decent breakfast of cereal and bananas. Worked all day hanging stuff up. Day of nervous conversations. Was able to escape for a few hours to walk around mid-day. Seemed surreal, lot of anxiety. The opening went well. I talked to people. I think someone else was in my body that night. Went home, very tired, but optimisitc. Soon crashed.

Sunday we were busy at the park. Removing Ivy. Blackberry. I oversaw some college kids in the morning and was a little annoyed because they didn't really want to work and I didn't really want to push them. In the afternoon, I oversaw a church group. One lady talked about how she went over to other countries to save people. Came home, tired, others in house watching TV, went to room, to work on book, tired, took shower and slept.

Monday we had yoga. We ran. We went to the art store and saw all kinds of cool stuff that we could do. It was pretty neat but at the same time, realised I probably wouldn't make good use of it. Bought a $2 sketchbook and some bottles for airbrush. Went to therapist in Capitol Hill. He seems to think I'm an exile. I can relate to him. I'm glad he doesn't push drugs too much, but was surprised it came up. Told him cannabis and haldol are all the same to me or something to the like. Had eventful day. Worked on book a little. Got distracted.

Tuesday had trouble getting up. Worked on illustration project. Finally got out to run. Did nothing useful the rest of the day or the next day except eat too many M&M's and unable to concentrate or work. Depressed. Want to smoke or die. Did neither which is accomplishment but did not sleep well .

Thursday we were up rather early. Got out late. Bought art supplies. Worked on art brush stuff. Looked for work. Long walk from Preston to Isaquah. Worked on illustration project late. Planted potatoes in garden.

Friday. Sunnier. More awake. Rode bike. Still want to smoke or just live in oblivion. Sunny which makes me even more depressed. Realise there is nothing. Went to volunteer at park today. Worked more on book cover/illustration project.

23 May, 2012

Good morning, sweet prince

"Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. "

from Hamlet

20 May, 2012

Walking to Starbucks, just to walk somewhere, just to put one foot in front of the other, just to enjoy the sunshine. All noises coming at me. Where am I? In my head it seems so quiet on one side and so loud on the other. I see someone. Say hello. Say hello. Say hello. I say hello, then avert my eyes. Fuck, fuckity fuck fuck damn. Now what? I keep walking. I'm so alone. One foot in front of the other. Realisation: I am weak. I will fail on my own.

Walking to Starbucks, just to walk somewhere, just to put one foot in front of the other, just to enjoy the sunshine. All noises coming at me. Where am I? In my head it seems so quiet on one side and so loud on the other. I see someone. Say hello. Say hello. Say hello. I say hello, then avert my eyes. Fuck, fuckity fuck fuck damn. Now what? I keep walking. I'm so alone. One foot in front of the other. Realisation: I am weak. I will fail on my own.

What I Thought I Knew when I Knew Nothing at All

When I knew nothing I thought
I knew it all
Where I'd be, Who I'd see
when I was older and tall

I never thought I'd see
anything of what I've seen
Although I always suspected I'd
drop out  'ventually

I thought I knew everything
but I knew nothing at all
Jobless and Lifeless
My life hit a wall

As I became everything
I had despised
my hopes only memories
my past turned to lies



My form fallen fat
My love turned and faded
My strength turned to nothing
My soul 'maciated

As I did not care
As I drunk and toked
As I sat and stared
as I grasped onto smoke

as
I watched Buddha die
as
I watched Jesus lie
as
I watched the lost find
there was no "me" inside

I thought I could do everything
everything all alone
but death only visited
visited me in my home

I wanted to be
be what I could not forget
I wanted to see
but I lived in regret

But only one hope
lived as memories resounded

the truth - alone, I knew nothing
a profound life was unbounded

And so I began
old but still not yet wise
perhaps I'll become older yet
 and
one day
a fool in disguise

Welcome to Africa

I was yesterday sitting somewhere in Africa while a show went on and my body sat at 3231 Creatives. The chairs appeared in the gallery as did the people and the chairs. It was a very incredible thing. I was there and yet I was not.

I slept like a log interrupted by injections of caffeine and heroin although only blood and sugar pulsed through my veins, or so I imagined. I still don't know. I was happy to meet everyone. This is a fact. But I wasn't there, meeting them. Not really. Although I looked like a human, I was not. If only the other people knew.

I'm not really here.

In the morning, the rain began again. There were grey clouds in the sky and I didn't want to wake up because I was afraid the hope that I had begun to feel would become real. I also was afraid I would go back and be stuck in Africa forever and that I would never be able to escape.

I wanted to sleep like a log in Africa and dream while my art was displayed in an Art Gallery and I was reminded of the old times, of the old dreams, hearing whispers of old memories when things like having an art show, doing an animation seemed possible and I didn't have to escape, mentally to Africa.

And I wanted to escape it all. All of these imagined things.

I'm still not sure it is ok.

So...

I rode my bike to the foothills, cursing and laughing at the weather, at my stomach, at the two hours of sleep, at the broken brakes, and I rode up to a small state park where I would oversee two groups that day. The first a group of college students. I took them to their plot and we start working. I point out things. I'm too quiet. I hate being an outspoken leader and volunteer overseer yet feel compelled to do so at the same time. I don't want to push them. That's  not my place. I'm here to just help. They sit around for three hours looking bored and pull a it of ivy. I eat something that I can't remember. There are conversations. Were they real? Was I in Africa or perhaps somewhere else? I'm reminded of my mom in a conversation with another man and talk about a movie she liked, only realising later how weird and non-sequitir that must have seemed. Bees. Free coupons.

I ride my bike home. Tired. My brain is still in a cave or Africa. I wish the rest of me were at home.

18 May, 2012

Mental Health Month: Madness and Creativity

There is a connection between genius and madness that is often touted by those with mental diagnoses as well as those in Hollywood(who probably have mental diagnoses as well). I've seen lists of famous artists, poets and writers, all with substance abuse, mood and anxiety related diagnoses (some of them who were not even alive to be diagnosed). 

I don't doubt that a lot of people with genius have mental health issues. Schizophrenic traits (disorganized thinking, hyperawareness and hyperreflexivity, intense introversion) are strongly associated both with hallucinations and increased creativity as certain areas of the brain simply do not "turn off". In bipolar mania, the euphoric states of manic exuberance and decreased need for sleep have been linked to more than a few creative binges.

Here are a few lists I've found that detail some of the proposed inclusions for these lists, which almost always include Vincent Van Gogh and Mozart. While I don't doubt that many of these people had and have severe problems, I think there are also problems with taking this form of thinking too far.

The first problem is that it assumes that a talent- such as writing or music is something that is inborn- it forgoes the amount of training needed to be a really great artist. Second is it highlights only those artists with mental illness- not the millions who do not have mental diagnoses and not the billions with mental diagnoses who are working in your typical jobs. Third and lastly, I  believe it overly focuses on famous artists as if they are a superior form of human. As an artist, I say "fuck that".

So... is there a point I am trying to make? Is there a connection? Perhaps. Perhaps not always, though. Some of the most creative, intelligent people I know have diagnoses, and some of the most boring people I know have diagnoses as well. From what I've seen, those diagnosed with mental disorders are just as varied and normal and weird as the rest of us.

15 May, 2012

Before you diagnose yourself with depression. . .


American Psycho

I can relate to this movie much more than I'd like to admit. In American Psycho (based off the book of the same name), we're treated to a cold, impersonal Wallstreet world where the only things that seem to matter are how good you look and how cool you are.

It's easy to call Patrick Bateman crazy. He is, after all murdering people. But the character is deeply tragic, also. He is so cut off and alienated and as far as I can tell he really just wants nothing more than to belong, but it's something that has made him completely insane.


Even though the movie takes place in the crazy Wallstreet world of the 80's, it's a world that still exists today. And I know the movie is exagerrated- it's a satire, isn't it? But I can't help seeing part of myself in this world. Not exactly the murdering part, but lines like this:


"There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman; some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me: only an entity, something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable... I simply am not there. "

I sometimes feel as if living in this world, I have lost my humanity as well, growing up having more of a relationship with Donald Duck than with my mother. It's a little scary and a lot sad.

14 May, 2012

THE GOD PROJECT: Chapter Five

CHAPTER FIVE
From the Presidents library: “The Magic of Science”



There once was a man named Fool.


Fool lived in this world in the same way as any animal. Without care and without thought. He was happy but far from wise. Fool likely would have lived his life happily in his village, having children, playing games and coming home drunk on weekends.


But this particular year was difficult. The rains were sporadic and the winds blew hot from the south, killing all of the crops.


Fool asked his wife what to do.


“Just work,” she said, “the Gods will care for us.” Not feeling satisfied with the answer, Fool asked his elders what to do.


“Don't do anything, “ the elders said, “if you are worried that some may die, perhaps it is the will of nature.”


Not satisfied with that answer either, Fool left the village and promised to return with food.


Fool wandered for days until he had reached the limits of his homeland. He met others on the road who only laughed at him and called him “naive”.


Fool asked the animals for food, but they did not help him. He prayed to the sky for rain, but it did not answer. He walked until he came to the sea. But then he had nowhere else to go.


Feeling pity for Fool, a man who lived by the sea took Fool to his island, showed Fool the fruit and fish that was there and then went on his way.


Fool ate and ate until he was sick, and then he cursed God for making him sick. From then on he vowed to not eat so much and to test the food he did eat to avoid sickness.


From then on he vowed not to pray to God but to ask other people for help.


In this way, Fool began to use his mind.


After talking to many people, Fool learned how to make a boat. And after observing the sky, Fool learned how to read the stars in the sky. He stopped talking to Gods and reading dreams completely.


After many months, he returned to the village, well fed, while his neighbors and family were starving. He brought fruit and seeds and maps and more.


The people, seeing this wonderful things thanked the Gods and knelt to pray. Seeing this, Fool was furious.


“Do not thank the Gods! “ he yelled, “If you want to thank someone, thank ME! I picked this fruit and I plucked these seeds!”


The people were astonished, but then they bowed before Fool, and they renamed him Sage.


A few did not believe that he had made the maps or collected all of the fruit himself. To these people he showed them his gift of fire, which amazed and scared the people. In this way, a fool became a sage and a superstitious village became a scientific one.


In this way, they left the old gods behind to become Gods themselves.

Money vs. Self Respect


So I wrote a novella and it's still in the heavy editing phase so I had to think for a moment when I saw this ad on craigslist this morning.

The ad promises a quick one time pay-off of about 200 bucks for a novel or novella. If it's legit (this is craigslist, after all) it's more money than I probably will ever make on the book.

But then again, 200 bucks is not a lot of money for hundreds of hours of torture (anyone who tells you writing novels is fun must be lying) and I wonder if 200 bucks is enough money to buy my self-respect and all rights to a very personal book. If it were 20,000 dollars or 2 million, I'd probably still be thinking about it, but 200 bucks?

That's not enough money to buy my self-respect. But then again, should any amount of money be enough to buy that?

13 May, 2012

the "Company"

There is a methodology to smiling. A methodology, even to walking. To presenting. Or so it is believed in the "Company", which is, of course the only place worth working in the city. When meeting day comes around, everyone is prepared, because everyone is reading the same memos and doing the same "Company" exercises and going to the same pre-meeting pep rallies. Everyone is laughing, smiling, sharing their favorite aphorisms and confidence that "Everything will be OK".

"Everything will be OK" is one of the most popular "Company" aphorisms.

Before the meeting starts, the music ramps up.Men and women walk into the room. Single file. Find their seats. Many smiling stupidly and humming to the music.

The Minister walks up to the front with authority and the cheering crescendoes and then dies down. After the introductory pledge and announcements, the meeting covers the approved topics. Those who are approved for the agenda are allowed to speak and anyone is allowed onto the agenda, although to tell the truth not many people know exactly what the procedure is. It seems most meetings go over the budget, talk about "hot button topics" and cover little new ground.

For Rob, the meetings are a blur of noise, gaiety, hubris and diversion. Usually he doesn't really hear what is being said, or, if he does, he doesn't quite see how it relates to him.

Rob has been working for years as an artist as a chef in the kitchen. It's not quite what he wants to do , even though that is where his "interest" and "aptitude" tests place him and even though Rob is told by his supervisors that if he takes initiative, he can make the job whatever he wants to. The problem is, he's not quite sure what that is and he doesn't have any ideas from where he's at. He just knows he's vaguely unhappy.

Let me tell you before we go any further that the "Company", at least from the outside is seen as the perfect place to work. Effortlessly spotless with happy employees that are always ready to give or receive advice. Still, everyone who visited The "Company" felt there was something "off" about the place. Sure, the employees received ample benefits- everything from free healthcare to free ballroom dancing and cooking classes, workers were encouraged to follow their passions- artists could decorate the menu or work in the garden, social butterflies could organize parties, greet people and isolationists had rooms and rooms of arcades and libraries.

But everyone who visited said the same thing "something is off about that place".

Rob has a beautiful house and a beautiful girlfriend, although he does not like either of them very much. His girlfriend enjoys dancing and drinking while Rob prefers reading and swimming. He has tried approaching the "Public Relations"desk to try to change his personal life and his dissatisfaction but finds that when he does, he is at a loss. You see, in the "Company" there is no way to explain "different interests", because there are only appropriate and inappropriate interests and no way to say "I'd rather be single", because it is not seen as healthy. So if he wants to keep his job, he has to keep his girlfriend.

And so he continues to stay with her, often forgetting that her name is Emily. Often dreaming of Rosalyn, who works with him in the restaurant only to wake up to find Emily has left for work and if he doesn't leave soon, he'll miss his shift.

Well one day, when he is in the middle of chopping an onion, a task Rob abhors, he brushes past Rosalyn. This is something that happens perhaps a dozen times a day, but this time she notices him and gives him an irked look.

"He was LOOKING at me!" Rosalyn complains. Rob tries to go back to work, but soon enough the whole situation has become unavoidable.

And soon enough, he is sitting in the middle of a "sexual harassment" office and fending off accusation he didn't even think were possible. He thought he saw Rosalyn wink at him, but he thought he must be imagining that. But when the two of them leave for the day- he without a job, most likely, she tells him "it's only for my own security, no hard feelings."

So, needless to say, the dreams of Rosalyn stopped, but there was nothing to replace them with so Rob didn't really have any dreams. For a while he just did what he did during the day, as expected and at night he slept and remembered nothing.

When it became apparent that Rosalyn was going to take him for everything he had and that there was no way he could be an upstanding member of the "Company", Rob decided to leave. The thing is, nobody ever left the company.

Rob left in the night. He took the train north and just kept riding. He eventually found himself at the ocean, where he proceeded to become very drunk from some very cheap rum and fall asleep behind a brush pile in a vacant looking part of the town.

He wandered around this town for a few days and found it interesting and a little bit relaxing not to have any "job" to go to. When he was bored, he went to the next town. He ate all sorts of strange food, did all sorts of interesting drugs and one night when he was oddly self-confident he even found and had sex with a hooker.

But Rob was bored.

He knew there was a life out there without the "Company", but he didn't know what it was. Everyone he met told him he had two choices- either rejoin the company, beg forgiveness, or continue on the path he's on- the path of drugs and homelessness and madness.

But Rob didn't want to return. He watched the "Company" as it continued to expand and people let it, sure that it would make their lives better, impotent when it came and yet did not make their lives better. As the years went by, Rob moved from town to town, living in shacks and doing what little work there was to do for the meager crumbs he could find.

There were two types of malcontents Rob ran across. Those who said this was just the “way of things” and then they smiled at the "natural progression" and that one should just make the most of what life they have. Then there were those who hated the "Company" viciously said it was Cultural Warfare. These people were often the same many call "crazy".

Rob one day finds an abandoned shack and stays there for five years as the "Company" reaches its zenith. Wars still continue, violence still continues, life gets more and more predictable as the "Company" begins to decay because there is no room left for expansion.

Well one day Rob sees all this and he is still living off of the scraps that he can find and at night he is still not dreaming and he still has the same half-dead look on his face.

Well one day Rob stops humming. He didn't realize he was humming, but all this time he had been humming the song that had been taught to him since his birth, the song of the "Company". And then that night, Rob dreams again.

It's a completely new dream.

He tries explaining it to the people in the "Company", but noone understands it. There simply aren't words for it or a way to say it that they will accept and understand.

No one believes him when he says he has seen a "world outside of the company, a world too beautiful for words."

But they will believe him when they start to dream a new dream, when the "Company" is no longer.

12 May, 2012

Things I learned today

  1. I can bike all the way to Snoqualmie, but need to drink more water or I might get heatstroke
  2. The roots of a lot of plants look like little babies. Or maybe I paid too much attention during Harry Potter
  3. Nutella is really really gross  when used in place of peanutbutter
  4. One can watch the first and last episodes of a TV show and it actually makes it more interesting. Except for Lost. I give up on that one- it's too confusing, yet too tedious to watch every episode.
  5. I really need to move somewhere further away from the city and somewhere where it's at least a little sunnier because eight months of rain is difficult.
  6. Yoga is really good for stretching out the lower back muscles
  7. I have no idea what I'm doing

10 May, 2012

I hope it will be interesting

I'm trying to write at least one post a day, which I'm finding challenging when all of the obvious topics are dealt with. However 'tis where it gets more interesting and where one can begin to define their own ideas and themselves as an individual.

Take writing comics - the first 20 or 30 strips are not all that difficult. A joke about dogs. A joke about cats. You can make a list of the ordinary ones. It all is pretty obvious. But what happens when you run out of jokes? Or in life what happens when you've graduated college, bought your house with the white picket fence or published your book? What happens when the act of living and creating becomes more about the act itself and less about any predetermined goal?

I'd say that is where it gets interesting.

In the arts, there is something called "movements". I am not sure I completely understand this. There is the "abstract" movement, the "surreal" movement and a lot of others. I don't remember them all as I find it all a bit boring and is probably part of the reason I failed art history. The first person that explored "abstract" or whatever was probably having a lot of fun. Questioning why he was doing what he was doing, exploring new ways of expression. Somewhere along the lines the exploration stopped and people just followed the rulebook of other "abstract" artists and forgot all about the experience.

I think this is a shame and it's something I don't want to lose. But it's very difficult. Take paragraphs, for example. We are very used to writing in paragraphs
and
sentences-+!!
A N D USING g9rrrrammmmar and coooorrrreckT spelink
    for intended purposes:;--<
so
i could use grammar in
NEW ways
but at some^&^&*
point, to tell the
truth,,,,,,,,
 I would probably

no

I would definitely get very bored with that. And I don't want to label myself, but I've never been too interested in the "abstract" and experimenting with form and with things that are completely abstract.

I don't want to box myself in, either. The journey is the destination. Who knows what tomorrow's posts, poems and recipes will bring. I hope it will be interesting.

09 May, 2012

8 May

So there I was, on the 535 bus to Bothell, writing some notes in my notebook about the bread I needed to pick up at the grocery and a little bit about an overheard conversation that I thought would make a good story idea. I looked out the front window, trying to figure out some street names and noticed the beautiful light green leaves of spring among falling flowers. I was on my way to meet a man for a potential illustration job.

Arriving nearly an hour early at the meeting place, I walked around the neighborhood, which was vacant except for a few men working on an electrical project on the side of the road. I came back to the coffee shop and ordered a small coffee, not because I liked coffee, but because I needed to wake up and I didn't want to pay $4 for something fancy. The young man and woman at the counter were very friendly- almost excessively so in a way that makes me a little uncomfortable and wondering if there isn't something wrong with my face. But I thanked them, nevertheless, took my coffee, loaded it with creamer, 3 or 4 sugars and milk. At this point, it is at least (to me) barely tolerable.

For the next thirty minutes I sat with my coffee, drinking and drawing in my sketchbook the flowers that sat in a tin cup on the table as I waited for my new client to come in. It was a strange thirty minutes as I noticed everyone that came in, but at the same time didn't want to appear that I was watching everyone that came in. I also didn't have a newspaper to cover the bottom half of my face.

My client eventually came in and we got to talking about the project. For sake of confidentiality I can't say too much, but the conversation eventually turned to Permaculture and Sweat Lodges and Finding Your True Self, all of this stuff I seem to want to capitalize. We hit it off well, I'd say and I agreed to send back some sketches for the project (of which I can't go into too many details).

As I waited for the bus home I was hit with a wall of fatigue. I did a few sketches on the way home and was happy to have pretty decent waiting times for the buses. I was(and am) quite happy to have the work, although it is with so much other temporary/freelance work only good for a limited time.

And so I started worrying about all manner of other things.

Chili


It seems all of the recipes that I use regularly are pretty simple. They might have started out complicated but along the way they've been simplified to the point of only what is necessary.

Take the chili recipe.
An onion (Cooked in oil for 5-10 minutes)
A red pepper (Added to the onion)
A clove of garlic (Added at same time as pepper, cooked for 5-10 minutes)
A can of tomato paste (This is when you start mixing stuff in a bigger bowl)
A can of V8
A can of beans (Or if you're feeling adventurous, your own soaked/cooked beans)
I add some spices and call it chili, more or less
I've also been known to add cilantro in addition to the chili, cumin, salt, pepper, paprika
Or some sour cream or cheese for a creamier texture.

I don't know if the chili is that good. It is terribly simple.
I think it probably came from learning to cook for myself for so many years.

Next up in the Cooking Series: The horrors of mixing soy sauce with honey and ketchup to make a really strange broccoli oriental dish.

08 May, 2012

Mental Health Month: Drugs

A recent article in the Boston Globe states "The drug's(antidepressants) effectiveness inspired an elegant theory, known as the chemical hypothesis: Sadness is simply a lack of chemical happiness. The little blue pills cheer us up because they give the brain what it has been missing.There's only one problem with this theory of depression: it's almost certainly wrong, or at the very least woefully incomplete. "

The article talks about the possibility of Prozac and similar drugs being neuroprotective agents. But cocaine, amphetamine and to a lesser extent cannabis are also neuroprotective and neuroregenerative. Given that antidepressants are now closely linked with dependence, long term brain changes and tardive dysphoria, the line between "safe" medications and "unsafe" street drugs seems blurrier than ever.

It is also, I find, very hypocritical to put someone in treatment or insist they stop their cannabis, their alcohol, even their coffee usage while at the same time insisting they take powerful antidepressants or antipsychotics.

I've known successful businessmen who used cocaine everyday to no ill effect, and others totally annhilated by seemingly safe prescription psychotropics. I've seen the ravaging effects of a few drinks on good friends, while others seem to be able to drink and suffer no ill effects.

Our society has such black and white thinking about drugs. A drug is either addictive and should be avoided or a drug is a miracle. The murky area in-between makes many uncomfortable. That area where drugs can be helpful, but also addictive and there is no clear line between a street drug and a prescription is tricky territory. Add to that the fact that amphetamines are still routinely used as anitdepressants and serotonergic antidepressants often have dopaminergic and norepinephrinergic effects, making them eerily similar to cocaine makes things even more complicated.

But more than that,  the fact that we are looking at primarily biological and behavioral aspects of depression says more about us than about those suffering. Very often it is assumed, with depression and similar ailments that the problem lies with the person who is suffering, not in society. It also assumes that having such a temperament is really a disease as well.

It is certainly unwanted and I certainly understand why some choose to medicate away their pain. But personally, I see no difference between smoking a joint, having a drink or popping a Prozac.

believe

One day Paul and Maureen Deen
they birthed and raised a baby girl
although the system destroyed their dreams
they believed in her and in the world
Though as polite formalities
insanity, hypocrisy
and lies they spread like a disease
the two held fast and they "believed"
From June to May, hot instant jive
and endless days from nine to five
and fear spread all around their lives
they knew that everything's not fine
The war caused pain
Corporate Control more strain
and as ice caps melted
it was clear
their home sweet home
oh how it's changed
Regaining trust and power in
the places that they all lived in
the three saw faces they did not know
neighbors, friends, they made a show
An antithesis to greed, to power
Allowing local force to flower
And growing food and mending clothes
they relearned something they had known
And as they grew up old and grey
one day they finally left their cage
of nine to five and then they breathed
'twas all because they did believe...

07 May, 2012

Mental Health Month: Magic Bullets

"I wish that I could feel so free and wise
As to satisfy the justice that I crave
The sun will set again, the sun will rise
In the darkness I will have to try to be brave"
-"You Lost Me There", Blues Traveler

Oh, how glorious it would be if they found a new Prozac that actually worked or if a philosopher found that one philosophy that everyone else had forgotten. Oh, how we could then quickly fix everything and everyone would be happy forever without ever having to suffer again.


We all, intuitively know(I think) that our problems aren't going to be fixed by simply taking a pill, converting our religion, changing our diet or finding a guru. No doubt the things that need changing are not always clear, but to think that if you just think happy thoughts you will be happy denies the importance of depression, to think if you just eat better food ignores the importance of place and social relations and to think that drugs will fix your problems ignores the problems that these quick fixes often create.

Magazine covers proclaim the great new food or diet cure-all, exploiting our wish to be happy. Those who call themselves gurus, in particular are very good at exploiting human desires and although some of them have some good things to say, in general, I think we all need to be skeptical of any one solution to a problem.

It is tempting to want these quick fixes and I think sometimes we need them. But I implore everyone to explore and figure out what works for them and to be brutally honest and know that there is hope. There has to be.

Take it Easy

I have a recipe for yoghurt, below. It's very simple and saves money.

  • 1 quart of milk(soy milk, coconut milk and almond milk can be used, although I've found some milks work better than others)
  • 2-3 tbspn. yoghurt from a previous batch

Heat up the yoghurt and milk mixture to no more than 105 F in a small sauce pan and keep it at this temp for 5 minutes.
Transfer to another container that can be kept at this temperature for 6-8 hours. I use mason jars and set it on a heating pad. Some people use the tops of ovens or "yoghurt makers".

Although it takes a few minutes, I save quite a bit of money and plastic yoghurt tubs and am able to make vegan yoghurt quite easily(soy and coconut yoghurt are hard to find). At first when I told a friend I was making yoghurt he laughed, because he said "you have more energy than I do".

I am notoriously lazy and like to sleep half of the day if possible. I definitely don't have much energy. But I find myself making similar statements when feeling overwhelmed by some of the changes that I would like to make. Growing food, learning new languages, self publishing and creating books and artwork looks incredibly daunting. I still find myself using the same excuses everyone else does: "I can't do it", "Those people have more energy than I do", "I'm a failure, a loser". And yet I made my own yoghurt (which goes along with my awesome chili-lavender-cardamom granola)

You gotta start somewhere.

06 May, 2012

Get Up, Stand Up (Bruce Levine)

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Yesterday, I found an online collection of zines and small press comics, including a few of my own. I shuddered when I looked at the date of the original comics- 1998, made when I was in high school, which means I have been doing this for fifteen years and am not yet rich and famous.

The dream of many an artist, actor and musician is that their work will be found and they will become rich and famous. This dream usually includes a luxurious easy life where the artist can do whatever he likes in a tropical or super lush mountainous setting, surrounded by beautiful people and perhaps working an hour or three a day on art when he is so moved. The art that is made is then magically transported to a place where it can change the world. The reality is that there are a lot of middlemen in there, sixteen hour days and probably a lot of compromises.

Throughout elementary and middle and high school, most of my real education was spent outside of the classroom. When I wasn't reading or playing with my dog out in the fields, I was drawing and watching cartoons. I think I had this dream of being an animator and unrealistic expectations of being something like Disney. I still shudder at the arrogance of an early college essay I wrote about the importance and possibility of new literary avenues for comics.

I was on the path of pursuing a serious "Illustration" degree, but dropped out of UMBC(University of Maryland, Baltimore County) when I more or less imploded from stress and depression. There were comics I had in local comics shops and a weird comic I had in the college paper that nobody except me understood. In the following years, I would go to small press conventions, comics shops, meet some of my favorite comics artists like Jeff Smith, Dave Sim, Frank Miller (these guys are like Brad Pitt or George Clooney in the comics world) but like many of my fellow small press comics fellows, I never became "rich and famous".

I am not sure I would want that fame and money, because I wasn't prepared to either work for a large syndicate or large animation or comic company(both were possibilites at a time) and I wasn't happy with the business/merchandise heavy angle of many comics. I also realised that a lot of art that I saw as popular wasn't really making as much money as I thought. For every one Jeff Smith or Brad Pitt, you have a hundred other people that are still flipping burgers.

There's a quote (unattributable) that goes "God doesn't give you the people you want, he gives you the people you need", and I think this extends to life in general. Yes, life isn't fair. And I definitely wanted that quick fix of fame like a shot of heroin in my vein but I'm not sure it would have helped. Even if I had made it, there would still be a hundred who didn't. And to tell the truth, I'm not sure I had or even now have anything useful to say. I've had a very interesting life living in the real world and wouldn't have traded that for anything, even though it hasn't been what I'd expected. Or wanted.

But maybe it's what I needed.

03 May, 2012

Missing the childhood days of folded zines

I miss the childhood days of being able to fold a paper a few times and make a "zine", a short book or a flip book with leftover computer paper. I've sent "why?" to the printer once again to see if I can get the colors and proportions all right and super "professional". I'll keep you all updated.

In the meantime, there are some other projects I'm working on: a book of short stories(most of which were written during my time in Guatemala) as well as the upcoming Art show in Everett (and possibly one in Bellevue). Summer is fast approaching and with it, outdoor work and hiking and gardening.

A break from Mental Health Month

Mental Health Month: Nutrition, Wellness and Mental Health

It shouldn't come as any surprise that the Standard American Diet(S.A.D. for short) contributes to depression and anxiety. It has a disproportionate amount of quickly absorbed sugars and fats which put anyone eating such junk on a rollercoaster of sugar highs and diabetic lows. It is also no surprise that the lack of physical activity and disturbed sleep schedule in many of our lives also leads to emotional stress, sugar imbalances and poor thought processes.

What's controversial is exactly what the perfect diet, or exactly what the perfect supplementation, sleep or exercise regime is. There seem to be all sorts of theories, from raw veganism to the mediterranean, blood type, atkins on the diet front. For supplementation there are the herbs, the omega 6 oils, the amino acids and B vitamins. For sleep and exercise there are usually pretty straightforward recommendations- 8 hours for sleep and thirty minutes of physical activity a day, but even there, some people disagree.

One of the more interesting thing to come of the Western obsession with diet and organic foods is a condition labelled "orthorexia". Orthorexia is the obsessive attention to detail about diet, usually done for health reasons. While being concerned with what you eat is, I feel a good sign, being obsessed with food to the point that you blame all of your problems on this one aspect of your life is unhealthy and unrealistic. While I feel that diet and sleep, along with exercise are some of the most important bases for good mental health, social relations, family dynamics, work, play and a whole mess of other things must also be considered. We are what we eat, but we're also what we do.

I routinely get at least nine or ten hours of sleep and if I go for too long with five or less hours a night I start to hallucinate. The tricky thing with severe mental stress is that it often sends the body into a negative downward spiral of worsening sleep schedules, diet and social relations. I know that there were times when I was severely depressed and would eat frozen vegetables, not bothering to cook them, because I was too lethargic, along with uncooked rice or cereal. Drugs can sometimes break this cycle, but sleep medications, cannabis, alcohol, antipsychotics all have long term damaging effects and I would not recommend this route to anyone.

What would I recommend? A diet with a lot of fresh fruit and veggies, organic and local if possible with a good multivitamin, a good amount of sleep and an hour or exercise a day, too. But really, whatever works for you. Everyone seems to vary on the way their bodies metabolize sugar and the amount of sleep they need, but I think the above are some general good places to start(that everyone already knows). If you want to read up a bit more on supplements and things like that, I suggest checking out my friend Gianna's blog here. Thank you and good luck.

02 May, 2012

Mental Health Month: Depression and Oppression

Given our rapidly deteriorating national psyche in the United States as displayed by increasing alienation, decreasing civic involvement, increases in mental health problems and addictions and decreasing connection to a rapidly deteriorating natural world, it's easy to blame the problem on schools, institutions, hollywood and even a government that is broken. Indeed, there is a lot of evidence that much of depression comes from being alienated, feeling powerless and abject poverty. Add to that the sad truth that our government and the people in power would much rather die and take a lot of us with it than to really change.

Sorry if that makes you depressed. I know it makes me depressed quite often. And hopeless. Spending twelve years in a public school learning to live in fear does that to a person.

But in the same way that alcoholics can't expect corrupt parents to fix their problems, we can't expect corrupt systems, Governments and Institutions to fix ours. It's a long road, something that starts with rebuilding self-esteem (without verging into narcissistic self love) and empowerment in our own communities and our worlds.

I am the all powerful writer of this article, yet I don't really have any concrete answers. A few books that have helped me in this process are How to Find Morale, Energy and Community in a World Gone Crazy and some of the ideas in the Icarus Project (which strangely enough overlap with some other punk, permaculture philosophies).


Mental Health Month: Coffee and Chocolate: The Phantom Menaces

Coffee and Chocolate are often underwhelmingly downplayed for their strong psychoactive effects. Coffee contains caffeine and chocolate contains large amounts of theobromine, both of which are strong psychoactive stimulants of the xanthine family. Caffeine is shorter lived and in general stronger and theobromine is generally milder and longer lasting.

Both have potential health benefits and health risks. This study, for example shows the benefit of caffeine with cognition. This talks about the potential cardiac benefits of chocolate, and this one about the potential weight loss benefits.Both of them are also widely used in the modern world. It is estimated 90% of United States Citizens use caffeine or coffee on a regular basis.

Ok. We all know this stuff or at least are somewhat aware of it. And I'm not here to say the addiction to caffeine or chocolate is anything like an addiction to meth. And if you're using coffee on a regular basis, or having a bit of chocolate, your body is probably immune to many of its' strong stimulant and laxative effects.

But  there are still dangers. Take this on the links between caffeine and anxiety- or caffeine and psychosis. Or this on the effects of caffeine blood constriction. What about this one that links chocolate and depression.

It's just something to think about. Something to consider, especially if you are dealing with stress the effects even so called benign substances have on your body. It's up to you what you put in your body. I'm not going to say "Just say no", because that's unrealistic, Still I would advise "Just know" what you're doing and be aware.

01 May, 2012

May is National Mental Health Month

May is National Mental Health Month.

But instead of "busting stigma" (which is sometimes used by drug companies to get more people to take and accept their drugs), I wanted to expand on some ideas that aren't always in the public eye. Articles about the complexities of mental health.

Originally, I had the audacious notion of posting something every day.

The breadth of content could certainly support it:
Nutrition, Wellness and Mental Health
Religion, Spirituality and Guru Psychopaths
Drugs, Cannabis and Prescriptions
Coffee and Anxiety: The Phantom Menace
Intelligence, Genius and Madness
Jobs that attract Mental Illness
Mental Illness and Culture(East vs. West, Bulimia, Hikkimori)
Pop Psychology, the newest fad Quick Fix
It's all in your mind, Culture is not to blame: Depression, Institutionalisation and Oppression
How to stop worrying and love being mentally ill(Mental Diversity, The Icarus Project, Peer Support)
PTSD
Dystopian Futures and Utopian Visions

But in the end, one a day seemed a little daunting. However, I do plan to expand on some of the ideas above and hopefully a few others in the month of May. Please let me know if there is anythng I am missing out on.

29 April, 2012

The Real Guatemala?


The Real Guatemala?

Bright Colors, Stark Poverty
McDonalds, Walmarts, Tiendas, Taquerias
Street Food, Diarrhea
Strong Coffee, Beans and Tortillas

Gringos, Latinos, Indigeneous, Garifuna
Spanish, English
Kaqchikel and Mam

Starving children begging for their lives
Stray Dogs, Chickens and Pigs in the streets
Church music playing until midnight then starting again at 5
Shady businessmen selling weed
Others friendly, helping with directions, despite their poverty, afflictions

Bananas, Mangos, Corn and Coffee in the Mountains
Crisp air at 5 AM as the sunrises
Yoga, Tea, The Chocolate Shaman

A new president is elected
An Indigineous Man tells me "He's not OUR president"
I visit Tikal, Copan, Mayan Past
They say "History is in the Present"

Beautiful Beaches, Aggressive mosquitoes
Hola, Buenos Dias, Mucho Gusto, amigo

Confusion
Pollution

I don't know if this is the real Guatemala.
But It is Beautiful


Ruin is the Road to Transformation

Falling along with the leaves in November
Crashing headlong in the bushes when we're high on the throttle
Darkness surrounding, tryin not to remember
Struggling to be strong, holding onto our smiles
as we blaze along the back roads, broken

The brambles burn into our eyes Dust blows in the wind, Chemicals from the gutters
Everything in shambles as we roll from high to high
As we're reborn again, the light blinding the shuttered
And we struggle to hold onto pasts that are token

Our shattered hearts hearken, alighting in sensitivity
Searching hidden deep wells for hope, for reconnection
Fearing the darkness and our broken connectivity
Changing alignment as we rise from the wreckage
Knowing Ruin is the Road to Transformation
Pain is the Path to Our Salvation

25 April, 2012

"Art"



I cautiously call movies, comics and modern pop music art. After a long day of practicing driving, running errands, looking for jobs and volunteering, I thought I'd sit down and watch a movie- I didn't want something too heavy so I picked "Tintin" and was promptly bored out of my skull.

Maybe it is the fact that I have written movie scripts myself, read perhaps hundreds of novels and "how to" books and in the process grown tired of stale, formulaic movies. Or maybe it's the fact that Hollywood and most commercial art are not things that, really say much of anything.

There was a time in my youth when I devoured Disney movies, Batman comics and cartoons of every kind. I dreamt of being a cartoonist or comic artist, but somewhere along the line I moved from Batman and Donald Duck to Bob Crumb and Cerebus.  
Editors Note: For those not in the know, Cerebus is kind of like Howard the Duck meets Duck Soup, Bob Crumb's work is psychedelic inspired insanity.

 I don't think there is anything intrinsically better about a Bob Crumb comic. Or, for that matter, a Kubrick movie. To tell you the truth, I wish I could just switch my mind off and enjoy things sometimes. There are certain innocent movies I have enjoyed, but more and more they don't come from Hollywood. And perhaps that makes me a bit of  a snob.

But looking at the upcoming movie slate, I am more and more depressed. Avengers. Spiderman. 2 or 3 other superhero movies, all of which follow pretty much the same script. A few more sequels of stale Dreamworks animations. I don't pay much attention any more, but when I do, I feel so out of touch.

But then I realize- Hollywood makes these movies because we support them. And from time to time, something interesting does come along. Something that doesn't require a trip up to the art house theaters.

And it's my job to support them and to return this turd "Tintin" promptly to the Redbox so they don't charge me for another night!

The Observer

In business suits, in college jeans
they live and I observe their dreams

Recovering from drug addled pasts
seizing the day, forgetting lapse

Round here as there as everywhere
Chasing love, fleeing despair

Repeating history's mistakes
Life is life, it's never changed

Can't Say Goodbye

Across the waves the signal is clear
The call to action is heard resounding
as we continue to dream, of things once near
The President speaks, with satisfaction

Focused and intent, he is and strong
driving hell bent, we is, all night long
Blazing well intentioned, abating the fright
I hold hope near my heart on this cold summer night

Near my heart in my hand is my cell
in which I left a message intentioned so well
Now Lost forever I'm sure as I laugh through the night
Laughing because I'm too scared by my fright

By the bomb that was dropped by my friend who had died
as they rushed aimlessly in their lives just as I
the last thought that I thunk before lead filled my veins
was this all can't be real, 'fore I turned red with rage

And noone could drive faster than this lie

I left her a message, but now I can't say goodbye
but it's just her not me, and others died too
But now that she ain't here I don't know what to do

An excuse or a lie as I drink and I drive
by myself as I lie and I hear our old Prez
Whisper Let's Start a War
Let's Kill them Again

And so the War it begins
and I can't say goodbye
and I can't make amends
to my now dead best friend

20 April, 2012

Earth Day



"Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world, and in here is the dream" Jake Sully , Avatar.

When I came back from Guatemala, I had a difficult time adjusting. In some ways, my trip was an escape. An escape from the muddled aimlessness my life had taken on. I worked part time at a farm and an ecological center, away from the concerns of the real world. Away from the cities and modern life, speaking Spanish and Kaqchikel. Despite the very real violence that I knew was happening there, and despite the poverty, I felt something there that I very seldom felt in the USA. Compassion.

Despite the wonders of modern life, the cell phones with email, bananas that come all year round, electric heat, modern life depresses me. Those small moments when I get out into nature, have real experiences, that is the real world.This world of commitments, of money, this world where I pollute and live and destroy, this world where I have endless chores, lists and commitments and where friends die of cancer and alcohol, that's not the real world.

Yet here I am. Here all of us are. In some ways I feel like Hollywood and movies distort reality, make us search after this elusive Neverland that could never exist. Make us participate in a story of riches that does not feed us. Maybe it gives us a feeling of entitlement. Makes us hope for a hero, a Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Batman, Superman or Woody Allen to save us.

One that never comes.

Like many others, I recycle. I compost. I have a small garden. But I still consume electricity and though sometimes I like to go to protests, sometimes I feel like it is all pointless. I feel weak. Confused. I watch more and more friends leave me, I watch the world change from a distance. I apply to another job for a freelance artist or at a nursery or even Target, hoping to find a way out.

When I was in Guatemala, at first, I was overwhelmed, then I became very sad. I was very sad because I saw the poverty and the vast income disparities as an extension of how we live here. I saw how we were responsible and how we were living off of the poverty of others. I wanted to help, but at the same time, I didn't know how.

One of my friends at the farm had the habit of giving the poor children of the village coins and bread, which only led them to beg more and more. I also saw the small villages with well-meaning churches and evangelicals who, despite their well meaning had taken away much of the villages autonomy. I also saw, in the strange light that can only be seen in another country the racism that is inherent in much of the modern world, in Guatemala, it was the Latinos who were rich and many of the Indigenous who were poor. The systems that were set up made it almost impossible to change that, despite well intentions. I came back to the USA full of love for the people, the culture, but also full of confusion, despair.

This coming weekend is Earth Day and I feel hopeful, but I want to be realistic, too. I think we've passed that point of no return. This record setting March cements it for me, although I have no scientific proof. The world is going to heat up no matter what we do, and it's going to take a long time to heal, possibly a few hundred years. Planting trees is a nice gesture, but it isn't what we need.

The Occupy Movement, the hope with the newest election, the growing awareness of environmental issues shows me that people care. But we don't need more guilt or shame or fear. We need acceptance. We need to stop blaming ourselves and start living in the dream.

To start living in the real world. I don't know exactly how, but I think in the beginning, things are not always clear, but we need to start living.

Like Jake Sully in Avatar, every single one of us.

Happy Earth Day!

17 April, 2012

Life is Messy

The DSM-V is arriving in 2013. The current DSM(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) in use is version IV, Text Revision. It is the manual used for diagnosing and describing mental illness and it's not extremely useful in my opinion. It is useful for billing insurance companies, and may help some to understand themselves better, but it's also true that it makes many feel helpless and many dehumanized.

Mental Illnesses are one of those things that are very tricky. "Depression" or "Anxiety" are terms that are in such general use and are such a common experience that almost everybody can recall feeling depressed or anxious at some point or another in his life. But it's also true that for some people, anxiety, depression, psychoses and other extreme mental states take over their lives.

The reasons for Mental Illness are many. It's not as simple as diabetes type 2 where a bad diet has caused or exacerbated underlying predispositions and despite what many say it's not as simple as diet and lack of exercise, although that plays a part. There are many misunderstandings and assumptions about mental illness out there, many of which psychiatry and the drug industry are only furthering such as the idea that these conditions are primarily chemical imbalances and of a physical nature, and many which society tends to further as well, thus adding to the confusion.

As far as I can tell, my mental state is influenced by the following things: my genetics, my past (including stressors, traumas, behavioral tendencies), toxins in the environment, my social ability, my income, my social connections, toxins in my diet, the level of stress in my current life, the amount of power I feel I have over current situations, my coping mechanisms and any drugs in my system. This is a pretty long list and if I think about it some, I am sure I could come up with some more things to add to that list. As you could guess, this kind of thing is very specific to a certain person and his or her environment, upbringing and means.

Using drugs in my experience is a very tricky thing. Especially since drug use coincides with mental illness quite a lot, using drugs is very cognitively confusing. Unless you have extreme schizotypy, it is difficult to recommend the anti-psychotics because of their extreme side effects which include feeling like your brain is in a plastic bag, heart palpatations, rolling of the tongue and sleeping sixteen hours a day. Antidepressants on the other hand have a nasty habit of not working while making it impossible to ejaculate. That said, cannabis, heroin and meth, while may alleviate some pain have quite a few of their own problems. And while all drugs have their dangers, sometimes the benefits of short term drug use outweigh any negatives (such as dying by vicious, violent suicide).

In the end, the path to take is up to you. I still think we're a long way from a sane way of treating the mentally ill, partly because we don't live in a sane society and partly because we don't have a sane psychological system(ie one that doesn't try to classify and patronize its patients) although the peer support movement is very promising. It is a tricky road, because mental illness is not something that is just caused by personal choices but by genetics, social status, past traumas and things that are difficult, even for someone not overwhelmed with anxiety to address.

The other part of mental illness, spirituality is something that I have not touched on much in this little blog post. I think spirituality is one of the most important factors in recovery from mental illness, because at a certain point our mind is out of our control, and we need to trust in the wisdom of others, and our deeper self to heal.

In the end, I wish you all the best of luck, even though life is messy.


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