Tuesday, August 8, 2017

the city of the dawn

In a previous post about Whittier, Alaska, I mentioned that I have a soft spot for unusual places. One of these places happens to be a lifelong source of fascination to me.

Back in the sixties, 1968 to be exact, a group of 5,000 like minded individuals broke ground on a social experiment that still continues today. With the support of 124 nations, they created a community in Puducherry, India that seems like it might be a cult -- except for one thing that is essential cults everywhere -- they have no leader.

Auroville (also known as The City of the Dawn) was at one time the magical brainchild of the late Sri Aurobindo and his counterpart the late Mirra Alfassa. During Sri Aurobindo's life, he established an ashram that surrounded his practice of integral yoga. Mirra Alfassa (also known as The Mother) took the ashram one step further by buying up land to create a functional city of total acceptance.

As state on their website,  there goal was simple; 
“The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity – in diversity. Today Auroville is recognised as the first and only internationally endorsed ongoing experiment in human unity and transformation of consciousness, also concerned with - and practically researching into - sustainable living and the future cultural, environmental, social and spiritual needs of mankind.”
Auroville is a bizarre place, with structures that remind me of the city models used in Logan's Run or Star Wars. There at dome houses, curling layouts, and geodesic structures with weird plotting that rejects the usual grid structured city.

Within Auroville, there are citizens from all over the world that come from all walks of life -- regardless, of religion, culture, language, profession, race, or age.

There seems to be mysterious application process to be accepted as a permanent resident in Auroville. This involves many interviews, a two year period where you live and work (for free) in Auroville, other process I'm not entirely sure I understand, then you donate money in exchange for housing (or the ability to sustainably build housing).

Technically, there is no money or government in Auroville. The donation in exchange for something called an Aurocard is supposed to resolve exchanges within the city. However, not many follow this rule and still ask for cash donation exchanges or bartering. And even though there is "no government" there are many councils and groups of people jumbled together to make decisions or for fill tasks. 

The largest blight on the life of Auroville is the crime that bleeds in from outside villages into Auroville. The city has to contend with people from places like Kuilapalayam harassing woman or even attacking. But, lets face it much of India is dangerous and stricken with poverty. Most of the peace obsessed denizens (and visitors) are easy targets for the maligned.

Besides the fact that Auroville seems to be a unique mix of maverick spiritualists and solar powered retreats, they also are trying to do something more. That "more" is valuing acceptance and "progressive harmony". Is it radical? Yes. But, I can respect anything that is based on a creed like this;
  1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But, to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the divine consciousness.
  2. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
  3. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
  4. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

i am a cat

Everybody knows this about me and the other day I found a terrible book of "poems" written from the perspective of a cat. It vaguely reminded me of Sad Cat Diary by zefrank1.

The book is called I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano. Here are two poems from the book that amused me.


Nudge nudge nudge 
Nudge nudge nudge nudge nudge nudge
Your glass just shattered on the floor

Elegy for a toy I broke 

You no longer jingle
You no longer roll
You no longer do anything
Since I had to see what made you work

I can´t deal with all this guilt
I can´t express my deep, deep grief
I can´t believe what a cheap piece of crap you were
Seriously, I hardly touched you before you broke

Monday, July 17, 2017

my mom is a hoarder or the purge

Ages ago (in the time of AOL and floppy discs), I stumbled upon a webpage dedicated to a young Englishman's plight with his mother's hoarding problem. This was also before THE show dedicated to the worst of the hoarding community. So, that webpage was my first exposure to the truth that my mother was a hoarder.

Luckily for me, she is manageable. Her problem is that she buys thrift store trinkets much faster than she (meaning my father) can donate them back to the thrift store. My parent's tiny two bedroom apartment has become more of a museum of needlepoint pillows, brass owls, glass paperweights, and flame-less candles.

The "junk lady" from the movie Labyrinth is an accurate representation of my mother and me.
Photo Courtesy:  capablecivilian.com

Unfortunately, this has given me a complex. I find myself cringing when I have more than two of anything. I find myself questioning the amount of cups I have or if the amount of towels I have are acceptable. There are even digital examples of my need to remove the clutter, where I delete anything I deem unnecessary from social media.

I call it, "the purge". 

Recently, I realized that this might actually be a positive compulsion. That this "complex" is actually...dare I say; a healthy habit. As the old adage goes, "a clean home is a clear mind". 

That is what spring cleaning is all about right?

So I have two systems to accomplish what is "needed" that I will share with you:

Phase I

Ask yourself five simple questions when wondering if you should keep a particular item:

  1. Can I function with out this item?
  2. What is the worst situation that would come of being without this item?
  3. Is it more useful to someone else?
  4. When was the last time I used this item?
  5. Does it cultivate my deepest happiness in some way?

Phase II

This is a quick list of things to remove or organize per room:

Living Room
Before organizing shelves and drawers I throw out or replace:

  1. Kick-knacks that are making a surface unusable
  2. Paper items not limited to; books, magazines, newspapers, letters, manuals, etc.
  3. Games, cds, dvds, or blu-rays
  4. Unused toys (for both pets, kids, or grown-ups)
  5. Unused electronics
  6. Unused pens or lighters
  7. Unused pillows or throws
  8. Old candles or air freshener
  9. Old decor or curtains
  10. Broken, torn or incomplete items

Before organizing shelves and drawers I throw out or replace:

  1. Expired items in the fridge, freezer, or cabinets
  2. Old or near-empty bottles
  3. Unused or extra utensils
  4. Unused containers, jars, or plastic-ware
  5. Unused books or menus
  6. Unused or rusting cookware
  7. Unused cups or mugs
  8. Unused cleaning items or pet items
  9. Unused electronics
  10. Take out or paper items

Before organizing shelves and drawers I throw out or replace:

  1. Old or near-empty bottles
  2. Old makeup or polish
  3. Old brushes
  4. Old candles or air freshener
  5. Old decor or curtains
  6. Old towels or mats
  7. Expired or sample-sized items
  8. Unused electronics

Before organizing shelves and drawers I throw out or replace:
  1. Old candles or air freshener
  2. Old decor, pillows, or curtains
  3. Old towels, sheets, or bedding
  4. Old socks or underwear
  5. Old shirts or pants
  6. Stained items
  7. Clothes that do not fit
  8. Clothes you never wear
  9. Scarves, purses, jewelry, or shoes
  10. Items without pairs like socks or gloves
  11. Hangers
  12. Unused electronics
  13. Broken, torn or incomplete items
Office or Creative Space
Before organizing shelves and drawers I throw out or replace:

  1. Kick-knacks that are making a surface unusable
  2. Paper items not limited to; books, magazines, newspapers, letters, manuals, wrapping paper, folders, business cards etc.
  3. Games, cds, dvds, or blu-rays
  4. Old cords or ink cartridges
  5. Old candles or air freshener
  6. Old decor or curtains
  7. Old photos or documents
  8. Old vouchers or coupons
  9. Old pens, pencils, markers or art supplies
  10. Old or unused fabric or notions
  11. Unused electronics
  12. Broken, torn or incomplete items

Online or Digital

  1. Unsubscribe from email sites
  2. Delete and organize emails
  3. Sort and name folders
  4. Sort and update personal contact or email lists
  5. Sort and delete old documents
  6. Sort and delete old games
  7. Sort and delete old music
  8. Sort and delete old images
  9. Organize images by year or subject
  10. Empty browser and spam folders
  11. Remove any large files like movies or project files

Purse or Personal
  1. Paper items not limited to; business cards, tickets, coupons, napkins, notes, lanyards etc.
  2. Hair items not limited to; bobby pins, rubber bands, etc.
  3. Jewelery
  4. Cosmetic items
  5. Change
  6. Eyewear
  7. Perfume or cologne
  8. Unused items
  9. Broken or incomplete items

Friday, July 7, 2017

kinderwhore, candy darling, nancy spungen, and courtney love

Candy Darling Dancing
Photo Courtesy: Pictures of Beautiful Darling Documentary via youtube.com
What if I told you that the picture above was not of Courtney Love but of Candy Darling, a transgender actress from the sixties? Would you believe me? Well, I hope you do because that is Candy Darling dancing in a VERY Courtney Love fashion.

Who was Candy Darling you ask? She was one of Andy Warhol's Superstars, like Edie Sedgwick. Candy spent a lot of time in Warhol's company both socially and at the Warhol's infamous Factory. The song Take a Walk on the Wild side by Lou Reed was partially written about Candy. The Smiths cover art for Sheila Take a Bow was an image of Candy's face. The song Candy Says by The Velvet Underground was written about her and how she felt betrayed by the gender she was born with.

She was in fact before her time and taken from this world too soon (in 1974).

Candy Darling Wearing a Baby Doll Dress
Photo Courtesy: brandxmovie.com

I like to tell people that it was Candy Darling that invented the "kinderwhore" style of fashion popularized by Courtney Love. In the sixties short dresses were already the modern style. However, Candy wanted to have a more classy and sometimes innocently girly look than what was popular with  her peers. Unfortunately (or fortunately), Candy was quiet tall giving her dresses the almost doll-like look that is synonymous with kinderwhore.

I also like to take it one step further and postulate that Courtney Love modeled a lot of her early persona after Candy Darling (and Nancy Spungen but I will get to that in a minute). In the following images you can see pictures of Candy wearing a heart shaped locket

Left: Candy Darling in Dressing Room
Right: Candy Darling with Tennessee Williams
Photos Courtesy: pinterest.com and pinterest.com

The icon of a heart was also used predominantly by Courtney Love in much of her early years. I always felt like this was another nod to Candy Darling's look. (Yes, I am aware of the connection of hearts to her surname and Nirvana's Heart Shaped Box.)

Left: Courtney Love and Hole
Middle: Courtney Love with Heart Dress
Right: Courtney Love Editoral with Heart Locket
Photos Courtesy: pinterest.com, pinterest.com, and prettypassionsfinefashions.blogspot.com

What is interesting is that Nancy Spungen also wore a heart shaped locket seen in these photos.
Left: Iggy Pop, Nancy Spungen (back), and Cyrinda Foxe
Middle: Nancy Spungen
Right: Sable Starr and Nancy Spungen
Nancy Spunge was dubbed, "Nauseating Nancy" by the press. She was famous for being Sid Vicious's (from the Sex Pistols) other half. She was also a prostitute and a drug dealer -- and not shy about it. Nancy was known for being blunt, loud, and out of control. Yet, somehow Sid and Nancy were in love. Unfortunately, their romance came to a tragic end.

On October 12, 1978, Nancy was found dead under sink with a stab wound in her hotel. Sid was arrested for her murder. The case never went to court because he soon thereafter overdosed and died.
I can't help seeing Sid and Nancy's demented love story, far too similar to that of Courtney Love's and Kurt Cobain's (from Nirvana). Obviously, they did not have the same narrative or ending. Courtney Love is still alive and kicking. However, their lives had similar chaos and acts of self destructive behavior to Sid and Nancy.

Courtney Love's own love-story ended in gruesome death of Kurt Cobain. But before that, the comparison of her image to the image of Nancy Spungen was lost on no one. Kurt Cobain himself said, "She looked like Nancy Spungen [when he first met Courtney] and I probably could have fucked her that night." And when Courtney Love auditioned for a part in the movie Sid and Nancy she exclaimed, "I am Nancy!"

I find that I have to agree. 

In fact, I have always seen the public image of Courtney Love (in the nineties at least) as a weird mashup of Candy Darling and Nancy Spungen. It is as if she idolized these two characters and formed a temporary identity around them. Leaving her core identity untouched. Maybe it is just a coincidence. Maybe not. I just can't help think that Courtney Love took what she needed and came out the other side.

I'll leave you with these two quotes from Courtney Love and let you decide.

"Drag queens taught me how to be a rock star." - Courtney Love
"Nancy was stupid." - Courtney Love

Monday, June 19, 2017

a darker shade of magic

There are two types of books that I always find a little confusing; time travel books and multiple dimension books. It may have something to do with how these types of books are written, but I always find them hard to follow. Which is sad, because I am fascinated by both time travel and multiple dimensions. 

Recently, I read a book that fell into the multiple dimension category and absolutely loved it.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is unique in so many ways. 

The dimensional aspect of the story is well explained and although it permeates the book, it does not over take everything with complex explanations. These color coded parallel dimensions simply exist and Kell (the main character) is one of the few that can transverse between them.

Kell is an interesting character. Quietly flawed. Quirky. Likeable. Although, he does fall into the one-of-the-few-people-able-to-do-a-thing-archetype, I didn't feel that he was written to be overly special. There was a sort of underlining humility to him. Plus, I felt comfortably detached from him. Because of that voyeuristic detachment, I wasn't super invested in his character. It caused me to be much more invested in everything else.

What do I mean by everything else? There is so much else to talk about, from the detailed descriptions of coat pockets; to the caste of outsiders that are not outsiders at all. Although, the world building is subtle, Schwab defines enough to allow the readers imagination to run wild with possibilities. You taste the darkness of one parallel world and you wonder what is magically possible in another. 

The characters are inclusive. Rhy (Kell's brother) is a sort of poly pansexual that may or may not be a bit frustrated with the day to day struggles. Lila (the cross-dressing-street-thief-pseudo-pirate-love interest) is skilled, obnoxious, and suitably reckless. The bond that forms between her and Kell reflects the simple affection that can come from extreme circumstances. This is not an all out romance, of slow burning sexy bits, don't read it if that is what you are looking for. Holland (Kell's counterpart gone awry) is twisted and lost in all the right ways. You find yourself wanting him to find is way out of his stoic little tragedy. The Dane twins (the bad guys) are truly sadistic and good stories always have legitimate monsters pushing that plot along.

The plot was simple and I appreciated that the plot line's catalyst (the threat of dark magic) came together to create something surprisingly unique. Even more unique than Kell being a sort of diplomat between dimensions.

The reason that this book was a total win (for me) was that everything felt nuanced -- not spelled out in excruciating detail. It was like watching parts of a dream, instead of being totally immersed in a dream. That somehow set it a part for me and I think that same feeling could put others off to the story. However, I loved it. Five. Stars.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

selfies and werewolves

I'm not a fan of selfie culture. I find it strange and narcissistic.

Even before there was the camera, people felt the urge to have artists create images in their likeness. The wealthy had artists create portraits in watercolor, oil, and even frescoes. Often these artists would paint more expensive clothes or even change history by adding false imagery at the request of their patron. In the time of antiquity, people had statues and mosaics made to display their likeness. So, this practice is not a new habit of ours.

Oddly, there is one painting that always comes to my mind when thinking of humanity's constant need to create these kinds of displays. The painting I'm talking about was of a man who suffered with hypertrichosis named Pedro Gonzalez (Petrus Gonsalvus).

Petrus Gonsalvus
Photo Courtsey: wikipedia.com

The story of  Pedro Gonzalez, is a strange one. Pedro Gonzalez was born in 1556 in the Canary islands (a group of islands off the coast of Spain). At birth, he was a source of local curiosity and soon drew the attention of  the aristocracy.

During the 16th century, all kinds of people were seen as oddities were traded between powerful or wealthy families. So, Pedro was taken from his home and given as a gift to King Henri II.

King Henri II decided to give Pedro a Latin name (Petrus Gonsalvus) and ordered Pedro to receive an education. The King did this as a sort of entertainment; he wanted to watch the "savage" fail. Fortunately for Pedro, his education was a success.

Pedro became fluent in multiple languages. He mastered the art of the nobleman's etiquette. He even became essential for receiving foreign dignitaries and ambassadors, gaining favoritism from the King.

When King Henri II died his wife, Catherine de Medici, took power as regent. She decided that Pedro should be married in hopes of producing more "wild children" like himself. Catherine became a matchmaker and found a woman (ironically also named Catherine) for him to marry. This new Catherine was a French woman, rumored to be a great beauty.

Petrus and Catherine Gonsalvus
Photo Courtesy: davonnajuroe.com
Petrus and Catherine met for the first time on their wedding day and though it might not have been love at first sight, Catherine gave him many children (seven in total and four of their children inherited their father's hypertrichosis).

In 1581, he and his family were sent on a never ending tour of the courts. Where many paintings and studies were done on him and his children. This fascination escalated and soon they settled under the ownership of Duke Ranuccio Farnese, who tragically sent away Pedro's affected children as gifts.

Petrus's Daughter Antonietta Gonsalvus
Photos Courtesy: wikiart.org and journals.openedition.org

I don't know why I connect this strange story of Petrus and his family to the current selfie culture, but I do. Somehow, I think we have become voyeurs in each others lives. The more bizarre or unique the narrative,  the more interested we become. 

We all buy into the freak-show or spectacle of life. I wonder how healthy that is? And I wonder who are the Petrus's of today?

Friday, June 2, 2017

low latent inhibition

In a previous post, I talked briefly about my low latent inhibition or LLI. To anyone that has never heard of this, it makes me sound like a pervert. I promise you low latent inhibition has nothing to do with how frisky I may or may not be when I get drunk. (Note: My frisky levels do not change when drunk vs. sober.)

LLI is actually what I like to consider a mental trait. It is the term used to label a particular way of processing information.

Most people process information in a latent way. They come in contact with their environment and they are able to simplify the information they are receiving before storing it. For instance, a latent thinker (neurotypical) experiences a crowded diner in a easy to process way. Their brain, without conscious effort, is simplifying their experience so they can choose what to focus on.

Someone with LLI does not have this simplification in their experience. They notice more sounds, more movements, more colors, more textures, etc. -- at all times. This does not necessarily mean that they are aware of EVERYTHING, it simply means that they are experiencing more of the present environment than the average latent thinker.

One of the problems with LLI is that it can be difficult to live with. The people with LLI that have lower IQ's might also struggle with Asperger's, Autism, or other spectrum issues and the people with LLI that have past physical or emotional abuses might have mental illnesses like Bipolar or even Schizophrenia. The reason for this, is that a stifled LLI brain cannot cope with the constant barrage of information.

I am part of the lucky few that do not suffer from these mental health issues. At worst, I have minimal anxiety. Although, I am definitely a walking billboard for eccentricity. The truth is, anyone with LLI knows that processing information the, "LLI way" causes totally unique challenges outside of what a neurotypical would face.

I compiled a list of LLI pros and cons. (I mostly copied and pasted from; samantics.net and lowlatentinhibition.org. But, I have added some of my own.)

  • You notice more, hear more, smell more and feel more through tactile contact. Without any conscious effort, your mind is in possession of a broader intake of information.
  • Upon encountering any form of stimulus (that interests you), your mind automatically dismantles and explores its components.
  • You usually see through the lies and the deceptions that people use in everyday life. If you’ve watched the show Lie to Me, they would call you a “natural”.
  • When learning, you can often make instantaneous changes. Adaptation is easy.
  • Self-correction is easy because the underlying principle is more evident. Clearer.
  • You make connections and associations between seemingly unrelated material.
  • Comprehension is typically easy. You notice the non-verbal background information and this often provides a more comprehensive picture than what is being spoken.
  • There are exponential leaps of insight taking place all the time, with the background reasoning intact. Wave-upon-wave of permutations, options, variables and choices.
  • Creativity is a given. You see alternatives.
  • You notice things that other people miss
  • Leaps of logic are common. Instead of progressing A,B,C,D and onward, you skip from A to N to Z, accurately.
  • There is no talking voice in your head. No ‘chattering monkey’. The volume and complexity of the information at times drowns out conscious thought entirely.
  • You see the world more thoroughly.
  • Learning is not limited to defined periods of academic study. The assimilation of information is constant, ongoing and never static. There are no lulls or pauses. Everything offers a lesson.
  • Within the maelstrom of information there exists a place of calm and quietude. The eye of the storm. No verbalization exists. No internal narrative. Just presence. No sense of self to intrude of interrupt.
  • You may find that you are often able to answer questions before they have actually been asked, because it always feels like you’re a step ahead in terms of where conversations are going.
  • When preparing for a situation you often find yourself going over as many possible scenarios as possible and try to prepare for the possibility of each of them occurring.
  • You have an incredibly strong intuition. Your instincts are hardly ever wrong and it may feel as though you can predict a lot of things before they happen. This doesn’t mean you can see into the future or read minds, but rather that you are able to use more stimuli to piece together logical conclusions that make it seem to those around you as though you can actually see into the future. You’re actually able to see things that they don’t because your brain is processing stimuli that their brains are not, and that stimuli to them, doesn’t exist.
  • Why is always being asked internally or subconsciously. You even might find yourself asking why you are asking why.
  • Everything seems a little "meta" to you.

  • Education is awkward. Schools are not set-up to cater with this condition. The way in which things are approached by schools seems piecemeal and incomplete.
  • Listening to other people talking/thinking aloud can be infuriating. They are at point A when you have reached point N or Z already.
  • It is difficult to write/type/speak quickly enough to articulate ideas and the breadth of the permutations involved. Verbalizing what takes place in your mind is impossible. Words render only a fraction of the entirety.
  • You can go off on tangents very easily which can often confuse other people around you.
  • You can very easily forget your train of thought due to many other trains of thought all spanning off the original thought. This means that you’ll spend a lot of time trying to remember what it was you were just thinking and then frantically tracing back your order of thoughts until you manage to get to the source.
  • Tact is necessary since people lie constantly.
  • LLI makes driving a car difficult. Your brain notices countless dangers and variables, and you become overwhelmed and nervous. You are either a terrible driver, or an incredibly good one.
  • Hyper-vigilance can lead to anxiety, and sometimes OCD-like tendencies.
  • Illusions are not very effective. You see through things without wanting to. Conventions and traditions have no significance.
  • You do not value what other people value, and often feel truly unique/alone.
  • Filtering out the variables and honing your options to something workable can be very difficult. Every solution potentially harbors new problems, new variables and new concerns.
  • People may find you to be a little odd, unorthodox or a little intense.
  • You have a habit of saying things that do not fit the accepted norm of behavior. You often choose to disregard conventions because they serve no constructive purpose.
  • Background noise can be a major problem. Especially if you are sick or tired.
  • Your perception of time is either slowed down or sped up.
  • You might have problems with interrupting people due to impatience or not being able to gauge the pauses in conversation.
  • You may have been misdiagnosed with a form of autism or with ADHD/ADD, or professionals may not have actually been able to tell you what exactly is ‘different’ about you.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

fidget spinners

Why? That is my first question. I am having a hard time understanding this fad. To be fair, I have a hard time understanding most fads. 

It is a glorified ball bearing cased with plastic and centrifugal force. That's it.
Photo Courtsey : jlaswilson
My second question is this. Does a fidget spinner really a good idea for anxiety, ADD, ADHD, etc?

This seems like a temporary fix and perhaps counterproductive. I understand the need to maintain motion to keep focus or to keep anxiety at bay. However, I feel like the fidget spinner is too visual and distracts from the psychological benefits. Not to mention, it distracts every other person around.

If you need something like this for your "health" then either find useful ways to fidget or meditate. Otherwise, you simply enjoy the damn thing. At that point, having a fidget spinner is more about dopamine and pleasure.

I don't receive either from a spinner so, I'll pass. 'Cause I am a cranky hater of fun.

Update June, 12th 2017:

This spinner fad is only getting worse. I am starting to see "fidget spinner" everything, from spinner buttplugs to nail spinner manicures.

I'll refrain from sharing an image of the buttplug, but here are some other spinner themed items.

The aforementioned nail spinner manicure.

Photo Courtsey : Jonathan Sawyer @ highsnobiety

Fidget spinner cookies
 There are even fidget spinner nipple tassles


WHY PEOPLE!? This spinner crap is getting out of control.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

the ethical choice

I tried to find all vegan and ethical sourced products to prove that we can live a much better way than we imagine.

Friday, May 5, 2017

23 New Words For Emotions That We All Feel, But Can’t Explain (Repost)

In earlier post, I mentioned that I get the feeling of fremdscham. The following list was shared by Justin Gammill from iheartintellegence. It has similar words from a few languages that encompass very specific feelings, most I've felt myself.

(n) The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own

(n) The ambiguous intensity of Looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable

(n) The subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place.

(n) The bittersweetness of having arrived in the future, seeing how things turn out, but not being able to tell your past self.

(n) The strange wistfulness of used bookshops.

(n) The unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat.

(n) The eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that is usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet.

(n) The inexplicable urge to push people away, even close friends who you really like.

(n) A hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head.

(n) the amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm.

(n) The frustration of photographic something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist.

(n) A conversation in which everyone is talking, but nobody is listening

(n) A sadness that you’ll never be able to know how history will turn out.

(n) A state of exhaustion inspired by acts of senseless violence.

The desire to be struck by disaster – to survive a plane crash, or to lose everything in a fire.

(n) The tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it.

(n) Frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone.

(n) The feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness.

Nodus Tollens:
(n) The realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore.

(n) The frustration of being stuck in just one body, that inhabits only one place at a time.

(n) The desire to care less about things.

(n) Weariness with the same old issues that you’ve always had – the same boring flaws and anxieties that you’ve been gnawing on for years.

(n) The awareness of the smallness of your perspective.

Friday, April 28, 2017

the devil in the white city

One night (during a particularly long Netflix binge) I decided to watch H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer. This is a documentary about Herman Webster Mudgett who went on a secretive killing spree under his alias, Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. The entire time I watched this documentary, I was riveted. I had never heard of Holmes before. Which was travesty since I was grew in the Chicagoland area and posited myself as an authority on local bizarre histories.

So when I happened onto the book The Devil in the White City, I picked it up right away. And boy am I glad I did!

Photo Courtesy: brockpress.com
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is really two narratives happening at the same time. Written in a style that feels authentic for the timeline. At moments his embellishments can feel contrived and stretched. However, much of what he has written was extracted, not just from news reports but from diaries and journals.

One narrative follows the inner workings and details that surrounding the 1893 World's Fair (The White City). The other follows the killings that were happening simultaneously less than five miles away in H.H. Holmes's "Murder Castle".

This book is somewhere in-between nonfiction and great story telling. A weaving of joyous haunting that seems to encapsulate all the "shock and awe"of the time. But, I think that this is both a blessing and a curse. A reader who likes their history "cut and dry" might not like the peppering of fiction. Whereas. the reader that isn't into history might feel a put off by all the insertions and fun-facts. 

For me, this is what made the book. The mashing of characters (Buffalo Bill, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Thomas Edison and others) and flavors of the past (the Gilded age's steel and steam with a touch of electricity).  I LOVED it! 

If I had to (and I do for the purposes of writing this blog), I would pick one excerpt from the book that somehow encapsulates it was written. It shows the underlining juxtaposition that Larson was seemingly going for when writing his two narratives. It connects the White City on the edge of Lake Michigan and the ambiance of thematic death.
“Beneath the stars the lake lay dark and sombre," Stead wrote, "but on its shores gleamed and glowed in golden radiance the ivory city, beautiful as a poet's dream, silent as a city of the dead.”  
― Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
If you liked that quote, then I do believe you'll like the book. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

9 steps to happiness

We all want to be happy right? That's a thing we strive for, search for, binge eat for, go to comedy shows for, take long naps for, etc. I suppose that is why self-help and inspirational quotes are so popular. And yet, I often see a problem with this. We are share a recipe for happiness that is incomplete. Then we turn around and ask, "Why aren't you happy already? I gave you tips bro!"

Let's examine the following image.
Photo Courtesy: redfairyproject
This list is beneficial. I can't argue with that. But, it's not that easy if you struggle with something on this list. Therefor, I have decided to share some helpful ways to do each thing.

1.) Stop Complaining
Complaining is something we all do and often it is a way for us to address what we feel. A person might go home and complain to a loved one after a bad day of work. This practice can in some ways actually rewire your brain to be negative.
Now, I am not saying that a person should never vent. That is a form of repression and will (in most cases) turn a person into a pressure cooker. I am saying that if something bothers you there are many things to do about it to make complaining obsolete. Such as, turning a complaint into a conversation about solutions. Also, for every negative concept think of a positive concept for that same thing. Even re-framing a chore into something fun can help. You don't like doing dishes? Start giving those dishes a bubble bath including the rubber ducky. 
2.) Do Not Limit Your Beliefs
Just because you believe something doesn't mean it's true. The crazy cat-lady down the street can think all her cats are shapeshifters-from-space-destined-to-save-the-world, but is that true?  
A good way to understand this is the diagram below. Belief must intersect truth to be useful to us. Otherwise, our beliefs are open to criticism, harassment, bullying, insecurity, ignorance, etc. Ultimately, this can hurt our happiness.
Photo Courtesy: basicgrowth.com
Now, this might seem like I am telling you to limit your beliefs. I am not. I'm telling you that you should always be open to thinking critically of belief in general. 
A good way of doing this is as follows:

First, challenge the truth of the belief
Second, look for dependable proof. 
This does not mean looking towards your own information vacuums for answers or accosting others when they, do not have "dependable proof". This means being a person that allows themselves the openness to look at ANY belief without bias and review it from a place of truth. 
Remember, sometimes belief comes from a "personal truth" or experience. This is outside the researchable field. Perhaps the crazy cat-lady has went on a number of intergalactic space missions with her cat friends and there is no way to prove her wrong. You don't know for sure that she hasn't. You can only use dependable proof to show how improbable it is. 
Understanding this can make your more tolerant of others beliefs and challenge your own beliefs. This allows you to explore the world outside of your limitations and generally live in a happier, more accepting place.
3.) Stop Blaming Others
Blame is full of bitterness and resentment. Often, it is the direct reflection of what a person doesn’t like about themselves. It can also leave a person with a feeling of guilt later. Regardless if they are the person giving or receiving the blame. 
I believe blame is lazy. It means that a person is upset about something, but doesn’t want to make changes.

So, stop blaming and make those changes. True, that blame might be well placed. That coworker might have eaten your work snacks, yet again! My advice is to make a change that solves that problem. Buy a toy-safe to store your snacks in. Buy extra snacks for the thief. Change your snacks to something only you can love! Mmmmmm chocolate covered pickles, yum. Problem solved!
Photo Courtesy: delish.com
4.) Do Not Practice Negative Self-talk
If you aren’t blaming others, then you certainly shouldn’t be doing that do yourself. There is a difference between self reflection and punching yourself in the soul. 
My first advice is to give that asshole-you a name. That may sound stupid and like a stepping stone to multiple personalities, but it’s not. My asshole-me is named Marge. Usually when she is being negative (or mean) I put a stop to it by addressing her. It might sound something like this, “Can it Marge! You are such a buzz kill!”

If that doesn’t work, I like to imagine what my best friend would say about the situation. This is only useful if you truly have a bestfriend and not a best-frenemy. When that is not working, I literally contact the people who care for me to get a realistic frame of reference. 
If all else fails, know this -- There is no such thing as perfection. So stop trying to reach it, go for what makes you happy instead.
5.) Stop Dwelling on the Past
My mother is a chronic past dweller. The kind that is still bringing up things that happened forty years ago. Yes, it's true those things shaped her but they aren't her or her current life. 
It's easy to say, "Stop thinking about it." But when the past is either substantially better or horrifyingly worse than the now, it is really difficult to get out of the past-dwelling pattern.
One of the first ways that can help is seeking out the closure to the past. This does not mean looking for answers or outcomes that aren't there. This is simply finding ways to close that chapter. This can be done through letter writing, talking it out, or even a representational ceremony. If you can't find the elusive feeling of closure that means you will have to find other ways to address the past.
This can be done by finding new adventures, trying to make your now better than the then, and/or celebrating your past by making new chapters to it. 
Often all of this will not help past dwellers, especially if it involves pain or repetitive thinking. In that case designate not only a time but a space to address the past. Its better in these cases to use a neutral party or a therapist as a sounding board. This can help you see that you are much more important than the past.
Or as the Buddhist would say, "The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly."
6.) Be Less Resistant to Change
I believe strongly that most change happens slowly. It happens in a way that we don't even notice. It's the fast change we are unprepared for. This is the kind of change we fear.
Interestingly, the resistance to change can be mapped in almost the same way we look the five stages of grief. A person who resists change often goes through; denial. anger, confusion, depression, and crisis.
Photo Courtesy: torbenrick.eu

It is when we accept change that we can grow, find new confidence, and nurture happiness.
To accept change a person must understand that it is inevitable. Life is like the waves of the ocean, constantly moving. It is easier to move with those waves then to resist them. Embrace your change and flow with it. Talk about it. Build on it. Make it your own.
Do you have move into a smaller place? Make it your own by getting into the Minimalist living lifestyle. Did everything change at your work? Make it your own by pretending you got a new job and what you knew about your work came from a former position. Did your favorite product discontinued? Make it your own by having a personal, "try it out" party. Gather all the things you never tried and see what becomes your new favorite.
7.) You Do Not Need to Impress Others
Anytime I talk about the need to impress, I talk about unicorns. Yup, you heard me. Unicorns. You'll see how it all comes together, I swear. 
First, I must point out that most people don't care enough to be impressed. It's true. These people are so stuck in the center of their own world that they wouldn't notice if a unicorn ran by them. How can you expect to impress them if they can't even notice that?
Next, there are the bullies in your life. These people can be coworkers, friends, family members, etc. Even if you are a unicorn and they won't care. They will always see you as imperfect and not as special as all the other unicorns. 
Note: You simply CANNOT impress a bully. So don't try. 
Then, there are the people that love you. They already see you as a unicorn. A perfect magical unicorn. These people are in a constant state of being impressed by you. You don't even have to do anything. You can just be standing there and they are like, "OH MY GOD!!!!!! SO IMPRESSIVE!"
Photo Courtesy: pinterest.com
This is why the only person who you need to impress is yourself. When you accomplish that, if someone else is impressed, it's a bonus.
8.) You Do Not Need to Always be Right
This is not just for those of us who are notoriously stubborn (me) or opinionated (also, me). This is also for those of us who want to “help” or “correct misconception” without invitation. I like to call this, “help-rape”. That is not to undermine the meaning of rape itself, it is to put more emphasis on how damaging and unhealthy help-rape is. Not only does help-rape undermine your own happiness, but it also hurts the happiness of those around you.

We’ve all overheard conversations that make us cringe. Where we want to turn around and correct the misguided fool speaking. We’ve all had a disagreements turn into a full blown, the world is ending fight. In both these scenarios there is an old adage that fits here, “Choose your battles wisely”.

The need to be right comes down to two things: choices and control.

The first choice comes when we find ourselves offended or angry. This is the moment where we can foster true happiness. By consciously making a different choice to be accepting, understanding, and patient. During this step, the simple action of not taking things personally and allowing others to have faults is mind-blowing. Cracking jokes, expressing opinions without needing to win and choosing to say nothing at all can all be part of the process.

The second choice comes when we find ourselves unable to resist controlling others. That is when we rip the dishes out of a family member's hand and tell them they are loading the dishwasher wrong. Slow down control freak, what is the worst that will happen? Your dishes will chip. Will you remember that chipped dish in thirty years? Is it that important? Was there a better way of approaching that?

Allowing yourself to ask these types of questions before you go into “help-rape-rage” is surprisingly useful. You’ll find that needing to chime in and losing your patience with others isn’t as consuming as it once was.

She says as she writes a blog, giving unwarranted advice.
9.) You Do Not Need Approval
You just don't. 
Why should you stop looking for approval? It causes a person to worry about what others think, it cause a person to fear any outside criticism, and it causes person to hold themselves back in life. That is no bueno.
How do you get away from this? Become self aware. Stop looking outside of yourself and look within. Acceptance you for you. Be kind. Think about what you say. Allow your truth to shine. Show the things you are most afraid of. If they react poorly, realize this means a form of incompatibility. It does NOT reflect poorly on you. Unless letting your freak-flag-fly means doing something illegal. Don't do anything illegal! Otherwise be you and be happy!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

whittier, alaska

I find unusual places interesting. Not, exotic places...but, unusual places. (Although, exotic places intrigue me on a different level.) Whittier, Alaska is one of these unusual non-exotic places that hold my interest.

Whittier is known for being the Alaskan town where almost everyone lives in the same building. A condominium tower built in World War II, that also houses; the local government offices, a clinic, the post office, a church, a laundromat and a grocery store. The town is accessible by boat in the summer, but in the winter the only way into Whittier is the tunnel.

This tunnel is about a two mile stretch that is one way for both trains and cars. It shifts direction every half hour and closes at night for security reasons. Most residence don't even bother leaving through the tunnel to make the trip to Anchorage, which is about an hour and a half away.

This self contained small-town-in-a-box is a place where people can wander in the halls in their PJs, grab some bread from the store, and socialize without having to leave.

I find the idea refreshing and have contemplated a move to Whittier more than a handful of times.

Monday, March 20, 2017

a little cure

Awe look at little pink pants Smith! (For that is what I am calling him from this point forth.) Adorable.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

throwback thursday (the rave edition)

I was a raver in the mid to late nineties. It was following the last edge of the "club kid" years that died with Angel, made famous by the movie Party Monster.

Ravers, were party kids. Not club kids. Not a ravers per se because we saw that as a "bubblegum term" from the European discotheques playing early trance. We were just party kids.

For me, this ranged from the black-out warehouse parties in Detroit, to house loft parties on Belmont and Clark in Chicago. It was a rich time and I was in the right place.

I remember standing in Route 66, a roller rink on the southside of Chicago. I watched as a variant of party goers flooded in and out of a hall while techno pumped into our souls. My thought was, “This is special. This important. Remember this. Remember the feeling. Remember what it is to be part of this".

The scene at the time was easy to get lost in. Between the number of events, (sometimes, two each night on; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday -- not counting after hours meetups), the masses of party goers, and the unfortunately drug usage (which I never used at a rave), it was hard to keep track of anyone. We didn't have digital social networks to track us. Plus, people like me made blending into the background the an art form. Although, I did throw parties and made flyers.

Flyers I made for the Wonderland Parties.

And for 99% of the people I knew, I kept my little rave hobby to myself. It was just plain easier that way. Because let's face it, party kids were some crazy people. I once saw a promoter break into a warehouse and pull a sawed-off shotgun out of his pants. This was because someone wasn't, “respecting the guestlist”.

I still have a care bear duffel bag (that I rescued from a thrift store) that has a small collection of my most prized party-going possessions.

Inside is a binder covered in stickers that were either traded, or given to me, some tapes that are probably not playable, and some other bits.

Within the binder, I have the flyers I started collecting after that fated night at Route 66.

I wish I could show pictures of me from my misspent youth. However, I avoided the camera like the plague. Note: In a previous post proves this point by the fact that I have a single picture from my prom.

There are so many stories and claims-to-fame I have that would probably astound some. Like, that time a member of Daft Punk tried to show me his record at Daft Punk’s first release tour. I swatted him away because he interrupted my dancing. Typical.

Anyhoo, here is a YouTube video from that time. It is as accurate as it could be for a Chicago "rave" at the time. Although, the media like to portray ravers much more drug dependent than we were. It was not 75%. I would say, more like 50%.

Thank you, Chicago. A part of me will always be that little party kid, who went for the music, the experience, and NOT the drugs.