Friday, September 30, 2011


There is a group of spam emails I regularly get. You can label them quickly because of the blue rectangle in the middle of the email. The title in your list of emails says: "Fraud Marketing", then it says, "URGENT: There has been a change to your credit score".

Oh no, you think, now what? When you open it you see this:

In the body of the email it shows this:

Now all of a sudden it says there "MAY" have been changes to your credit score. But that doesn't mean a damn thing. Does it.

Then below that in the blue rectangular area it says: "Your credit score has changed...." HAS changed, not may have, now it says, HAS.

I find it interesting that the email is labeled before you open it as Fraud Marketing. How apt. I can't really divine whether these people are just stupid with software that allows them to pull this kind of bandwidth flooding nonsense, or, if they actually have a sense of humor and irony.

After all, they are fraud marketing, aren't they.

This kind of stuff so annoys me. It's intrusive (to my life), it's abusive (of my time), it's stealing (my bandwidth that a I pay for and even though I pay for all that is available to me, I still need more, so stealing any is too much). I had heard some years ago that businesses were suing people like this for costing their company money for things like time, bandwidth, even networking equipment.

I loved it. I would like to see an international consortium put together that could cross international boundaries and imprison these people, with harsh penalties.

Because basically, they are pirates. And not the cool type. Not the Pirate Party, the high tech oriented group who seem to be sweeping through world governments lately from Sweden, to Germany, to America.

I like how we have to suffer through the FBI warning at the beginning of ever single movie we ever watch on tape or disk or whatever form, warning us not to "Pirate" their intellectual properties. Yet when there is a group or individuals stealing OUR individual and personal intellectual properties (our time, our piece of mind, our bandwidth), NO one does a damn thing about it, or even seems to care.

I think we need SPAM laws, like we have RICO for racketeering.

Why is that?

Spam has grown so big and become so evasive, that it has become a white noise until no one bothers do anything about it other than buy extra unneeded software for our home PCs to take care of most of the spam which shouldn't even be there in the first place. I blame that crap that has come to us in our physical mailboxes all my entire life. We let that get through back then and now, here we are. It was bad enough getting it in our physical mailboxes, but now having added computing capabilities and we really have a problem.

What if we suddenly had no spam on the internet at all? None. Nada, zip, nothing. One has to wonder, just how fast would the internet be. I bet images would hit my screen so fast and hard that I'd get a black eye, a broken nose, or my screen would crack. Look, I'd chance it, okay?

Who benefits from the usage of these people pirating all this bandwidth?

Hmmm... well, one has to ask oneself, who do we pay for all this bandwidth? The Telecomms. The Telecommunications companies, right? And yes, also the companies that sell anti spam software. But the telecomms are really the big ones.

Since back in the days of "Ma Bell" when fears were that she would one day rule the world (See the film, "The President's Analyst"), are we still at her beck and call, and payments? I say "her", but now really, it's more like "their", because of the anti-monopoly laws have lulled us into a false sense of security with our now having all these little "bells" as they used to say. So then, just who owns all of them, now? There's no connection, right? Really?

Haven't you noticed them being eaten up, one by one? I used to work for US West Technologies in the 90s. When I moved here my home phone service was Sprint. Since 2000 here where I live, Sprint got bought by Embarq. They got bought by CenturyTel who changed to CenturyLink, who then recently bought Quest who had previously bought US West. It seems there was another company change or buy out involved in all that, but hey, who can keep it all straight through the years?

There was a book in my University library, probably located online now (and for a fee), where you can look up who owns what. When I was in college I heard about that book, so I started looking up some companies to find who owned what. I was surprised to find that some companies, who I thought were sole entities, if you looked hard enough and kept looking up through owner after owner, or umbrella company, you would find that way back, in the darkness, up at the top, were basically only a few very large super corporations that seemed to own everything. This isn't hyperbole, or conspiracy theory, it's in black and white.


But still, back to being stuck with spam... I can only hope that the people running those scams, at least, have a sense of irony, or humor.

At least then, I somehow wouldn't feel so abused.

Because then at least someone would be getting a laugh out of this misery.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Surviving childhood through chemicals

This story is about how Cannabis (pot, weed, smoke, whatever) saved my life, in High School. I will take you on a weird rambling journey through my childhood up to young adulthood. It's been a strange trip. Miserable in the beginning but it wasn't all bad.

Let me make that clear right off. So stop reading if you're against it alternatives to reality or standard and accepted practices; or feel free to continue on, as it is a kind of entertaining story, either way.

To make this clear I have to go back to my early childhood.

My family, what I consider my family (my mother's family, except for my dad's parents and my half brother by him) are from the east coast. My mother was born in Brooklyn, New York. My father was born in Tacoma.

The main street of our village
My Grandfather traveled the world as a Diesel Engineer. I don't know why, but he got my dad a job in Spain. One that my mom said he didn't really know how to do. But that was my Grandfather, get a job, figure it out later. It got him to the top of his field. Buy my dad liked things very much more one foot in front of the other. Which explains a lot about my own confusion in life, I'm part of both of those jokers. I had a lot of respect for my Grandfather. Some for my Father, but really, I never got to know him.

While we were living there in the south of Franco's Spain in 1958 (that's me in front of my Grandfather's villa after my dad got done with going through the fend), my parents split up after a horrendous argument that entailed my father chasing my mother out of our villa, down the street of the sleepy waterfront village ("Oh look the crazy Americans are at it again!"), and into my Grandfather's villa. My mother said that as my dad was passing through the low swung gates she just burst through, they were still swinging back and forth and hit him in the shins so hard that the pain angered him even further. He grabbed them both and ripped them out of the fence destroying the post and part of the fence that held them.

You can see the damage above. My grandfather had to shut him down in his living room and told my dad that enough was enough. He then had him expelled from Spain. I guess, as he was the one who got him the job and was sponsoring him in the country, he had that power.

After that my father lost touch with me. I saw him a few times but he lost interest before I was out of 2nd grade. So, my family was pretty much only my mother's family. I did see my Father's parents from time to time. I loved them very much (well Grandpa Roy was an old grouch and didn't talk much but Grandma Martha was a brilliantly stereotypical grandmother and baker) and through them I saw my father on rare occasions when he would be polite and that was about it. I felt like I was just another kid in the neighborhood to him.

So I spent some of my summers on the east coast with my mother's family. Finally in the summer just before 12th grade, I got to fly to spend the summer with my (Great) Aunt Marge and her son (let's call him) Jeff (my second cousin) who is younger than me by a few years.

According to his mother, he was a troubled youth for growing up with his parents who would battle each other as husband and wife, sometimes ending up on the floor fighting it out (or so my mother said she had seen). By this time, my Aunt and Uncle had split up.

So, Summer of 1972 I was in New Jersey with my allegedly somewhat rowdy cousin Jeff (my mom's mom's sister's son, welcome to my family, Granma had a lot of siblings). Jeff taught me how to surf in Cape May, New Jersey where they had a "beach" house (in quotes because you couldn't see a beach from there, but it was built on a lot full of sand under the tall grasses).

For the record, I never could see what the problem was about Jeff. Other than having to live with his parents maybe. He just took less crap from people than I would. So I didn't come off as the "problem" he was coming off as, apparently, to his mom. I couldn't figure out what I could do to change them, so I suspect, it ended up that he changed me more than I changed him that summer. And I'd like to think, in a better way.

One day we went to the beach. Cape May is a beautiful place. We hung out, enjoying the beach life. I loved it. God, what a life! We walked along the sidewalk, the Atlantic on our right, the parking strip and street on our left, across the street all the little shops and touristy places.

Suddenly he said he had to talk to someone who was sitting in a parked car, watching the ocean. So I stood there on the sidewalk like an idiot while he got into the car and they shared a cigarette". It was no secret even from his mom that Jeff smoked. Now who, I wondered, shares a cigarette?

Finally he got out. He seemed more relaxed. I said, "Hey, what was that about? What were you doing?"

Now I was the older one, by a few years, but Jeff had been in some trouble and I had been brought over for the summer to try and reign him in. Good luck, if they only knew. The inmates were going to save the patient. Okay, then.

So he was a little leary of being honest having dealt with the police and a therapist that past year or so.

He just said, "Never mind, it's no big deal, you don't want to know." I tried to get him to open up but he wouldn't. He had an embattled mentality from his previous few months and years with his parents and his therapist. There was nothing wrong with him. He just was tired of his parents, as I was mine (but his were worse). I respected Jeff because he didn't want to take crap from anyone, not even his mom.

Days later, he wanted to sell his surfboard and get a better one but there was nowhere local to get a good price. So he talked me into taking his mother's white VW Bug to Atlantic City to sell one of his surfboards. So we opened the sunroof and stuffed his longboard in (medium board really, I was using a longboard that was the length of the beach, I swear).

We got to Atlantic City and drove through downtown with a surfboard sticking out of the roof. We went by the Playboy Club. I thought I was in the big time, we drove by casinos. I was having the time of my life. He didn't get as much money as he wanted but he took it anyway.

On the way back, he said to "Turn here!" and we ended up taking the bug down a dirt road where there was a clearing among the trees, all full of giant potholes half the size of the bug. It had rained the night before and some of the potholes had water in them. We were doing donuts bouncing in and out of the potholes and well, we had a blast.

Then we drove home. Blissful, we went in the house and got comfortable in his room, reading comic books and listening to music. Then his mom starts losing her mind. Something about Mud all over the car, even on the top and how could that happen she wanted to know (she was crazy, not stupid)? She demanded to know where we had gone, what we were doing that was terrible enough to evince such disaster on her nice, clean car?

Innocent, I said, I don't know how that happened. She said, you'd have to do something terrible for it to look like that, the sun is out but you'd have to drive through some pretty big mud puddles. I know what you were doing, you were using my Bug like a dune buggy driving through some pretty big mud puddles."

I said (lying through my teeth, thinking I had a good argument to end this): "But, all we did was drive up to Atlantic City."

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my cousin giving a look like, "Oh great".

Then, she really lost it. I had no idea we shouldn't have hit the freeway and gone up the coast. I figured it was okay, Jeff said it was okay, nothing happened. He motioned for me to follow him outside.

He said, "You should never have mentioned Atlantic City."

"Why didn't you warn me about that?" I said.

"Hell," he said, "you never know what will wind her up anyway. Don't worry about it. Come on, we'll drive up the street to the car wash and hose it down. Once she sees it clean, she'll forget about it. She just wants things to be normal."

So we got in the car and ran down the street to do it yourself car wash with the power wash wand. We dropped some quarters and hosed it down. When we returned, she actually did forget about it pretty quickly. After all, we really didn't do anything to damage it. But I realized at that point, in part at least, why Jeff was in the state he was in.

Other than a few things like that, mostly we hung out, surfed, visited people and generally had a great time in the sun. Toward the end of my stay that summer (really it was one month), my mother shows up (Oh, what a drag!). From clear across the country, back in Tacoma. And Why, I wanted to know?

Now, you have to understand that this was the first time I had ever traveled alone on a plane to anywhere, so having my mother show up was a big let down. But then, she spent most of her time with her Aunt (our Aunt?) and she wasn't really much of a bother. And she said, she would keep our Aunt busy so Jeff and I could have even more time to hang out. Which, we did.

Wildwood NJ

One day, Jeff and I hitchhiked to Wildwood, the next town over, where the boardwalk was. It was like a year around fair there. And, I got in trouble with a cop. I really didn't do a thing illegal though.

We were walking along the boardwalk and two cops drive by in a police jeep. Jeff says, 'That's that fat cop bastard I told you about who was harassing me a while back."

I said, trying to be his buddy, "We should kick his ass!" And I slammed my fist into my hand. Really? It was just a joke, I did it to be over the top and make him laugh, to relieve the tension he was feeling. We were walking away from the cops who were now about 50 feet behind us and heading away. But suddenly, they start to turn the jeep around.

Now, before I flew out to New Jersey, I had mail-ordered what was labeled a "Jaguar Fighting lock blade Knife". I was into mail ordering things. And actually, I had flown into Philidelphia where they normally lived, but then we drove out to Cape May where we were staying at their second house for the summer.

I had been buying mail-order junk from the Johnson Smith Company (typically found on full-page ads in the back of comic books). About half the stuff was pretty cool actually and the other half was hype and junk. I think the Postal Service must have put them out of business for false advertising or something. I had also gotten over the years, the very hot bubble gum, the snapping gum pack, the secret book safe which I had for years and was too cool. And you can actually see the ad for the powder I bought on this page (amazing):

Sprinkle a little of this
almost invisible magic
powder on any soap.
When anyone uses
the soap their hands and
face will turn bloody red.
Have fun! Drives them
crazy! Harmless!
No. 123 30c pkg.
4 pkgs $1.00"

Yeah, drives them crazy all right. I remember my mom looking at me like I was hopeless and my saying those exact words from the ad: "It's harmless...."

I'd been buying stuff from them since about fourth grade when I bought some white powder to put on the soap. The night of the day I received it, I put it on a bar of soap in the kitchen. I've described this situation before: the next morning, getting ready for school, my sister washed her face in the kitchen as I was in the bathroom. Suddenly she started screaming (who washes their face in the kitchen sink in the morning?).

She's screaming bloody murder looking in the mirror just above the kitchen sink. My mom comes running in, I come running in, our little brother comes running in. Then she starts screaming my name, even before I enter the kitchen. See, she figures it out. My sister always was smart. She's yelling: "what did he do? I know he did this!" I looked at her face and actually, I loved my sister a lot and that was really the last thing I wanted to see, or any of my family for that matter, their face looking like a bloody mess. Hands. HANDS! I was only shooting for bloody Hands!

Mom looks at me, my brother looks at me, she's looking at me, it was no secret by this point. They all knew it had to be me. When my mom first saw my sister's face all red, as if she was bleeding profusely, it freaked her out, but my sister immediately said there was nothing wrong, something must have been on the soap.

So there was nothing to do. I 'fessed up and quickly apologized, I felt really bad. I pointed out that I had no idea someone would wash their face in the kitchen sink. So my mom looks at me and realizing what was going on says: "So you thought I would discover it while I was doing the dishes by hand, how funny would that be, Right? So you thought I would think I had cut myself on a knife or something, right? Nice, thanks."

Okay, whatever. Did I say I was in the fourth grade? This was the fourth time we had moved in four years since we moved back from the east coast. I had to find something to entertain myself with. I guess I hadn't thought it out clearly, though. The ad from Johnson Smith Company said it would have fun. I believed them. Cool, high hilarity for my family! But uh, no, evidently the ad was wrong. Well it was right about one thing. It does drive them crazy. They just didn't share their definition of the word, "crazy".

Anyway, back to the cops on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey, August of 1972.

I see the cops turning around and I panic. I panic because I had my knife from Johnson Smith Company with me (yes, you'd think the soap incident would have taught me a thing or two, but alas, no, it never did). And by this time I was sure it was illegal in New Jersey because when I first showed it to Jeff, he had said it was illegal. I was surprised by that but hey, it was just so cool looking.

So, not waiting to see if the cops were turning around to come after us (had I stood there probably nothing would have happened, too), I run into an arcade, like a penny arcade with all the games and stuff, full of people, mostly kids. It was just the closest place to disappear into. I ran into the back and bang, it's a dead-end wall.

I couldn't BELIEVE I was in a stupid dead end. I figured it would be a U shaped arcade inside (but then, they'd probably have figured that out and split up, catching me on the way out). All I know is I turn around and the cops are walking in after me, probably just because I ran from them. I'm thinking fast, what to do?

JUST as they got up to me, the smaller Latino looking cop was first (imagine that, the fat cop was last arriving). By this time, I had the knife out of my pocket and in my hand, palming it. Now, back then I used to wear a leather wrist band, "Peace sign" cut out, about three inches wide. So I deftly slipped it up my sleeve held in place by the wrist band. Now both hands were free. "If only it doesn't slip out now", was all I could think. Which is probably good because I was so concerned about that I didn't have time to be that scared.
Sure enough, the cop turned me around to face the wall, but just then the fat cop gruffly took over, rudely pushing the other cop aside. He shoved me against the back wall (now everyone, including Jeff, is watching), as he was holding a pair of wooden nunchaku in his right hand. Those are the grain and rice threshing farm tools that Okinawan farmers turned into weapons to fight their invading Japanese Samurai with.

Personally, I don't think they are as useful to a cop as a Tonfa, or "Tree Fork", the side handled baton that is so excellent for blocking, punching, all kinds of stuff.

As he is frisking me, he is also covertly punching me around the head, neck and ribs with the chucks. It was quite obvious to me that he knew NO one realized he was hurting me.

Amazingly, they found nothing. I was more stunned about getting away with it than anything else by that time. Then the other cop started talking to me and checking me out. I knew any minute they'd find the knife, and then it would be worse because I couldn't argue ignorance. I mean, if I thought it was legal, why was I hiding it? When I told him I was from Washington State, the completely lost interest in me, but still gave me a hard time. I didn't have any ID on me as I seldom carried any unless I was driving the car. And today we were hitchhiking.

So the cop says, annoyed: "Adult carry ID. Always carry ID with you, otherwise, you could find yourself in jail for no reason sometime, just because you can't prove who you are." And from that day on for the rest of my life, I have carried ID on me. Unless that is, I needed to be anonymous for some reason.

After a while, they walked me back out to the boardwalk. I was humiliated having to walk between two cops through all those people who were staring at me like I was some common criminal. And really, I hadn't done actually done anything.

Once we got outside, Jeff walked up and the cops threw us off the boardwalk and out of town. That is, they told us we were banned. Now Jeff was really pissed, but I grabbed him to shut him up (he was a real firecracker at times) and whispered to him reminding him about the knife, once we were out of earshot. He wanted to do something about what just happened but I drug him away and told him that first we have to ditch the knife, then I'll do whatever he likes about all this.

Now Jeff was more pissed off than I was. This was the second time this cop had ruined his day. And because, as he put it, he liked Wildwood and now he couldn't come back. And he REALLY hadn't done anything. For me, it was just a summer thing. For him, he lived there and it just wasn't right.

So we found a vacant lot and put the knife under a big rock where no one could find it so that I could later retrieve it, or Jeff could, if I didn't make it back before I flew home for the summer. I walked away regretfully, thinking I would probably never see it again. But we never did see it again. When we went back later for it that next week, it was gone.

How anyone found it I have no idea. Jeff thought someone must have seen us hiding it.

Finally we decided that we would complain about this to the police station. And we did. Walked right into the station and told our story. I was brave now that I had no assumed contraband. We were very surprised when the Sergeant in charge sighed and shook his head.

"Yes, we know about him." He said, "He's just a bad cop. We want to do something about him, but no one will put in a complaint against him; people are rightly afraid of him. He is retiring soon, so one way or another he's gone, but not soon enough as he's caused too many citizens problems. I just wish we could get him out of here now. If you would just sign a statement, and promise to testify, then we could do something."

At this point, we were beside ourself with wanting to be upright citizens and testify against the jerk. We told them the other cop was a very nice guy and we didn't want to cause him any grief. But we promised to come back in the morning to fill out the paperwork.

As it was getting late, we hitchhiked home but only got to a crossroads about halfway. Then Jeff decided to leave me and go elsewhere. Oh great, now I'm hitchhiking alone, but he assured me I would be okay. So here I was alone, walking along a road in the diminishing sunlight, in the middle of what appeared to me to be nowhere (although there was a frozen chocolate banana stand at the crossroad, but it was closed).

So I'm hitchhiking along when who shows up? Along comes my mom and Aunt Marge. Oh, great, just what I need. But then again, I was tired of walking and I was hot, so I gratefully got in the car.

On the way home, I told my story (sans, "Jaguar Fighting lock blade knife"), explaining about how a "Pig" had harassed me and how I didn't do anything (trust me, both women knew both kids and neither of them thought either of us were angels). Now I had never called cops "pigs" but hey, he WAS a "Pig". Even his own Sergeant at the station said he was a bad cop, but people were just too afraid to report the fat jerk. Not me, at 16, I was fearless. I would turn in a report. No problem.

Back home, we had a Tacoma City Police Sergeant who lived on the corner of our block and were friends with his family through the late 60s. So, I had a positive idea of cops. I was on a rifle team in 8th grade that was highly thought of by TPD and we shot at their downtown firing range. Later at 19,

I took the police test and rated 350 out of 600 for interviews, I got the best time on their obstacle course for the physical side of things, running up and down a three-story building carrying a 70 pound rug over my shoulder and going in and out of windows, over and under stuff, and would have done better but the woman who was supposed to tell me where to drop the rug (the fake person) just stared at me for like five seconds before she realized I was waiting for her to tell me where to drop it.

As it was, I did the course in 47 seconds; no one else got into the low 50 seconds and the women were all in the 60 second range (sorry ladies, that's the truth). Oh, and I didn't get the job with TPD. They had six positions open and they all went to minorities due to a new equal opportunity minority law, so I ended up joining the Air Force as a Law Enforcement officer instead (and we may all know how that turned out; not bad if you don't know).

So for me to call a Cop, a "Pig" back then (and my mother knew this), meant something. Just about then my Aunt started in, screaming about how I was calling Cops "Pigs" and so on and on. When I said, "But he IS a Pig!" It didn't go over very well. Then when I said that Jeff and I had to go back tomorrow to report him (mostly to support the truth of my report), both my Aunt and Mother said an emphatic, "No!"

So, I would not be going back and that was the end of that. I was crushed. And I didn't go back.

After we got home, my mother pulled me into a room alone. She said that she knew I wasn't calling cops Pigs all the time and that he probably was a bad cop. I agreed that no, I never call cops "Pigs" but the definition certainly fit this guy and by his boss's own statement (more or less). She said she understood that but it really was not a good idea to go back. I argued weakly, but it was settled. Then she tried to change the subject and lighten the mood.

We talked about her being there in NJ in the first place. She knew I was bummed that she was there as it was detracting from my grown up-ed-ness in traveling alone for the first time. But, she said, she really only came out because she had a surprise for me. Rather than fly directly home, we would be flying to Phoenix's SkyHarbor airport to visit my brother for a couple of days.

He was seven years older and had lived there for a while now and I missed him a lot. After we left Cape May and flew off, Mom made me promise I wouldn't drink any alcohol with my older brother, as she knew Jon would want to play "let's party with big brother"; and she was pretty much right about that. Nothing out of hand, but he would have let me drink some beer. I didn't see the issue with that but, I had agreed, I gave my word.

See, when I was very young, I guess I lied a lot. So that when I got to where I was conscious of that kind of thing, no one trusted me. I made it a thing that I would never lie again and I have tried hard all my life not to. The plus end of that, if anyone who never lies, but learns how to make it through life with as little injury as possible, also discovers that telling the truth makes you smarter. You have to think fast and talk your way around things. It's actually better than lying. But not for the generally accepted reasons.

After we got settled into a motel, my brother stopped by that evening to get me. He drove me to the top of a mountain about dusk to show me how big the city was, like 35 miles from one side to the other. He pointed out how different things were there, bigger, and that this (South Mountain Park) was their city park: a mountain. On the way up there he did stop for some beer to drink at the top, but I told him I had promised not to.

He just said, "Okay, it's up to you."

Later, we hit his house in Mesa. He said, "Hey, let's go to the neighbor's house." So we went next door. I met the guy and we sat on the floor around a low table. The neighbor pulled out some weed from a plastic sandwich baggy and proceeded to roll three joints. I mentioned again that I had promised, but as big brothers are wont to do, he pointed out how that was about drinking.

I smiled, he smiled, we all smiled, and I took a hit. Then we smoked all three. This, was my first time smoking pot.

At some point I had to excuse myself. I went into the bathroom. I relieved myself and washed my hands. Then, I stared into the mirror.

Now, I had done things other than pot. I had my first drink at a party in 10th grade at a friends house.

She came over with her husband to get me early one night. I had known her from Civil Air Patrol, then she got married and I became friends with them both. She was a little older cadet. She had been an officer. There was another girl, Lynn, who was her boss. I ran into her after I got out of the Air Force, and was delivering rental TVs. She was just engaged and even more attractive than before.

After we all stopped Search and Rescue activities, I remained friends with the first girl. So that afternoon, she came over with her husband. They had just had a baby recently. It was a Thursday night and summertime and they got me out of the house for the night. They told my mother I was going to babysit her newborn as she and her husband were going to a party. But when we got to their house, some people were there, then a bunch of other people showed up.

I said, "Hey, I thought you were going to a party?" She said, "We are, but it's here. We knew your mom wouldn't let you come, so we just explained it creatively. You'll be here, you'll be safe and you can help watch the baby."

And that night I had my first real drink at a party. It was a "Salty Dog", vodka with grapefruit juice and salt around the rim. I didn't like the salt much. But I got pretty buzzed. Luckily, not drunk and so no hangover.

I had also taken some other things that let you hallucinate (I was told it was powdered psilocybin from mushrooms) through my 10th and 11th grades in High School. But I'd had never smoked pot.
So when I stared into that mirror at my brother's neighbor's house in Mesa, Arizona, I'd expected to hallucinate. It felt like it was about to happen, but nothing really did. However, the tip of my tongue was numb from the THC, or something. I smiled, I realized I felt really good, and that my tongue actually felt pretty good, too.

So I went back out to the living room and sat down. My brother asked, "what took you so long?" And I told him.

I hesitated and then said, "My tongue is happy."

They thought that was the funniest thing they had ever heard and apparently he still does because I've had to hear that story for about forty years now.

The interesting thing about this story is that when I got home, I searched out our friend Curt. My brother told me to do that so that I wouldn't get involved with shady types... or "the Law". Curt was like an older brother to me and we all knew that none of us would ever tell on the other. We were like brothers, "tight". In fact, my brother was, my brother.

So I got Curt and we left his house to a friend of his and he got me a half a "lid" (half ounce) for $5. He left me in the car as he said the guy was paranoid. This was prime lightweight rolling weed, not the premium killer bud of today which would paralyze you nowadays in comparison. I see online some speculation that a "lid" was 3/4 of an ounce, or an ounce and a quarter, which is laughable.

It was an ounce. You bought an ounce you expected an ounce and if you got shortened, you were pissed. A good dealer gave a little over an ounce, but it was all about supply and demand, sometimes you got less and you were happy as there as none, or it was extra good and got less. Or it wasn't so good so they threw in some more. But it was an ounce in Tacoma in the 70s.

I tried to get more from him a few weeks later, but he pointed out that no one only buys a half, so from then on, I had to scrounge up the standard $10, or go in halves with a friend, which I did because it took me a long time to use it all up.

This was during a time when my weekly paycheck in High School, at the local Drive-in Theater, was about $30/week after taxes (and then after car payment, gas and car insurance). This led me to take a spear I had made out of a bamboo pole I got out of the garage from when we got a new shag carpet. As a kid, I used to use the pole for pole vaulting. It never broke.

So I had turned it into a spear with a flat brass arrowhead I found on the floor at Pier One Imports one day. I wound some string on it as you would with a fishing pole and there it was, a cool spear. You can see it in the photo below. This was part of my bedroom in high school; note the very psychedelic posters which I had my first hallucinatory experience within 10th grade at 2AM, but that's another story. The posters were everywhere including the ceiling.

Also, note the 3D chessboard sitting on the chess table I made in 9th-grade woodshop and the aluminum sculpture on the bookcase I did in 10th-grade arts. Partway down on the bamboo spear you can see the large nut I was using as a bowl.

After I got the half a lid from Curt I had to figure out how to smoke it. I found some pipes I got from the Explorer Club I belonged to as a kid but the wood was too soft, pipes for export, not smoking. So I took my spear, cut the end off a mushroom-shaped incense stick burner, and put it on one end. Then took a large nut and wired it to the other end, making it a five-foot-long pipe. I would put it out the window with a lit candle on the window sill, stand back and puff away. Had my mother (or stepfather) known, I can't imagine the trouble I would have been in.

In the end, the important thing about this tale is that although I continued to drink beer and whatever the rest of my friends did, I stopped taking any of the more dangerous stuff I was into and just smoked pot. I had gotten into pills since the end of 9th grade, mostly because of my mother having them around, and mostly "diet pills" or valiums ("mother's little helpers" - The Rolling Stones).

I had taken a hit of diet pill ("speed") the first time in about 9th grade and went over to that friend's house who took me to the party. At that time, they lived across the street from the High School I that would be going to the next year. She offered me lunch but when I turned down the food she knew something was wrong. She finally got it out of me that I had taken a diet pill and wasn't hungry. She got pretty angry with me and said that was WAS going to eat something and that I WAS going to promise never to take any pills like that again. I didn't. Until 10th grade.

My home life wasn't great. It could have been far worse, but I just wanted out of there. My stepfather made life miserable and liked to terrorize me from time to time and it's not a lot of fun always trying to avoid one of your parents, trying NEVER to run into them. Especially when you worked at the same place starting in 10th grade and had to ride to work every night with him. His night job was Asst Manager at the Auto-View Drive-in Theater, while mine was eventually as the Snack Bar Manager, by 11th grade.

Things deteriorated for me somewhat during High School so that by the time I got high with my brother in Arizona, I was rapidly approaching a drug and alcohol-induced accident. So my going home that summer, after getting high on pot for the first time with my brother, and seeking out more of it, actually saved my life. I felt I was probably only months away from a fatal overdose.

But instead, I got more laid back, more relaxed, and I never took pills again unless a Doctor made me.

Which actually worked against me years later when the doctor who birthed me and who had gotten my mother addicted to drugs (long story), also got me addicted. If you asked me which is more dangerous, pot or "legal" drugs, I would have to say, legal prescription drugs and their manufacturers and the doctors, some of whom, even if inadvertently, push these harsh chemicals. I won't bore you about how much more harsh are western medicines or alcohol, in comparison to Cannabis.

I had been having headaches since high school. I had one that put me in the hospital in 12th grade. It was a migraine, now I'm pretty sure about that. It was the worst pain I'd ever felt. I can deal with any pain, I've been doing so all my life. I can use my mind to cancel it out pretty well. Years of training in Karate and tournament fighting in grade school years helped. But, when the pain is seemingly IN your mind, that's a hard one to defeat.

Three neurosurgeons were called in to consult. They conferred with my mother and she told them about our very tense home life. How it had been for years. Their advice? Move out as soon as possible, or figure out how to deal with it. They gave me a prescription for Valiums and sent me home after three days in the hospital.

I had only a few months to graduate, and I did. Then I moved out at seventeen. I got my own apartment. And Life was good.

It felt great to look around and know I owned everything in the apartment, it was all mine. I was responsible for me. I could do what I wanted. It was a little lonely at first, but I adjusted. Still, there was no contention. No anxiety. No dodging parents. The fear was gone, the anger was there but only residual, not current or active. I had made it,

I had survived my childhood.

At my TI's desk when he was out
Now I just wanted to forget about it, to put temporal distance between myself and my childhood. That's when the military showed up in my life again, at about twenty (after my Civil Air Patrol time). The US Air Force used to be one of the best places in the world to get drugs (I hear Navy is good too, maybe better if you think about big ships and all but I suspect there are more dogs going though ships; it's hard to get a dog around a plane).

No customs. No checks when you land. Crew chiefs who "owned" the planes knew the best places to hide things and no one could find them. B-52's and KC-135 tankers were simply too big and numerous to check everything all the time.

So we had some amazing drugs. Or so I was told. After I got out, I got a degree in Psychology. That, was a brilliant move. I got four years of free therapy, the last two at a University level. I partied, but I knew my goal was a degree and the best grades possible, but more important than that, was to learn. I wanted to cram all I could into my mind during those years. And I did.

Eventually, I grew to understand my childhood, my life, my orientation and my way of looking at things.

But in the end, or the beginning (the middle really, I guess), pot saved my life.

Better living through chemicals? Yes, for some of us. For some of us, it means death, for others, life. It has a lot to do with your attitude toward life, your way of dealing with things. My way was that I was going to survive my childhood, no matter what. And that's how I feel about life in general. I'm going to survive. And while I'm surviving, I might as well enjoy what is around me.

It was over a year after getting out of the service that one day I noticed a sunset and found it beautiful. I had once heard Tom Savini say that. Tom is the guy that brought us the great effects in Night of the Living Dead in 1969. After a year in Vietnam photographing everything, bodies, tanks, blown up things, he said a year after he got out, he noticed a sunrise and realized how beautiful it was. And his life changed from them on and he regained his zest for living.

My point in all this long tired story is that different things work for different people. Yes, it is best to get therapy in life when you can, to try and fix yourself the "right" way. But even in doing that, I have seen myself in life where it simply doesn't work. It helps to turn to alternate methods of "healing" either because of lack of proximity to the appropriate help, or whatever.

Sometimes it can even be because of a spouse. I allowed myself to be bullied by my wife at one point in our lives together as she didn't want me to read about ADD, something I now realize was insane. I always believed that more info is better and I allowed her to "scare" me into inaction. And so sometimes, we simply need to do what we can for ourselves.

Maybe it is getting really drunk and allowing a night of "blowing off steam" or the hangover the next morning, to put things in perspective. Perhaps it is getting stoned on pot, cannabis can be a great reliever of pain, either physical or emotional.

But it is up to the individual to do for themselves. Not all chemicals, not all drugs are all bad. Cannabis is a greatly slighted natural substance. There should be no limitations on it, other than standard ones like alcohol (but not, heroin which has nothing to do with it). I've always believed that if it grows naturally, it should be legal. If you have to synthesize it, like heroin, it should be regulated, or possibly, illegal.

I was told in psychology at my University that you have an addiction, a problem when what you are doing adversely affects your family life, your relationship with your friends and your job. Otherwise, it is a past time, a hobby, entertainment. It is no one else's business what you do for the most part, as long as you are not harming others in your pursuits.

By the design of some, religion should be illegal. Some of the things religions do are as offensive to many as what the religions say they are offended by. When you consider churches demonstrating at the funeral of the military who have died in action, but were gay.

That, is harming the family, friends and loved ones of that deceased individual. No one should have the right to do that. Yet, it is illegal to smoke pot and legal to demonstrate, yelling, or holding up signs that say "God hates fags".

Does he? Does he really? Because MY God, would love everyone. Including Bob Marley. Did Jesus drink wine back then? Didn't everyone? Water wasn't so good. Why didn't God talk about weed if it's so good? He didn't talk about antibiotics either and one has to wonder why easy things like that were never mentioned or why God or Jesus didn't give us something useful other than just words. But one would have to think that a God would want us to make use of the things he gave us to use.

And he probably wonders why everyone hates his favorite gift to Humankind, an innocent weed that can be used to produce an unimaginable amount of beneficial things (medical drugs, clothing, rope, paper, burnable oils, and on and on) for those who will open their minds and be thankful.

In the end, I'm not saying that everyone should smoke pot. And right off I'll say, true addiction is bad, avoid it at all costs. But something as benign as cannabis has been made into far too much as a danger.

I'm just saying that for those that do, it shouldn't ruin their lives because of their government who is supposed to protect them. It should be available in the chance that it could alter their lives in a good way. People that ABUSE things, will always abuse things. But many, many people, most people that smoke pot, do not abuse it. But we never hear about that because of the fearful and the fear mongers.

I have known many people who were into prescription drugs, hooked on them by their doctors, who were into other illegal, harder drugs, who, once they discovered Cannabis, quit the other drugs and were happy just lighting up, essentially, saving their lives. It changed their lifestyle, it eliminated their hanging around harder criminal types in order to get their cocaine, or prescription drugs on the street, or being legal through their doctor or doctors, but still hooked on harsh, dangerous drugs (why don't they ever talk about that?).

It turned people around from being hooked on drugs, being criminal, to being good citizens again; self-healed. Even if you claim they are still hooked, isn't it better still, than their taking cocaine, pills, alcohol? Actually, it is. I know people, where their starting to smoke Cannabis, literally saved their lives.

So, lighten up people. Or maybe, just light up. Or not.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Occupation of Wall Street

I had to hear about this from my daughter in Iceland?
As I watch the stream from New York, Susan Sarandon is there :
By time this comes out, she will be long gone but they are streaming now as I write this for eleven days so far.

I was using Skype video to talk with my daughter, as I said, in Iceland. She's leaving for Berlin tomorrow. But she was concerned about what she was seeing on the news and hearing from people where she is. She said that people from New York were leaving Iceland and headed back home because of the "occupation" that is going on. People are living in the park and there is support for them for living there.

I find it interesting that this is the first time I've heard about it. I live near Seattle and all I've heard about on the news lately is about Boeing.

A guy talking to Sarandon just said that it's difficult for them to put their message in one sentence. She said, "I know, that's why you're not on the news."

But she said, you have to find a way.

She has experience of her own for this kind of thing, protesting, getting arrested, etc., and was telling them what they should do, how to go about things, why you may want to get permits for marching.

They said in response they don't want to let the government know what and when they are doing things, but they are marching on the sidewalks and staying legal. That the reason they got in the news a week or so ago in the cops beating them up was that the cops just lost it.

Sarandon was asked by a CNBC reporter if she thinks there are problems with Wall Street. Trying not to laugh, she responded asking if he thought he couldn't ask that of anyone in America and get any other answer than, Yes. But that being said, she didn't think all companies were bad, she just couldn't think of any to hold up as a good example, then gave a smile.

This group also seem to be tied via internet to other groups in other places around the world. It would be nice if we could move past the "Arab Spring" and go further into the "Human Spring".

We live in interesting times.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What is, Attorney Misconduct and what do you do about it when it happens?

What is, Attorney Misconduct and what do you do about it when it happens... to you?

Justice truly is blind sometimes

I know someone, in some town. They have a business. Next to them is a food bank. The food bank sounds like a great thing, but for some reason, the local merchants put up a fight about it coming to that location. At first it sounded like a mean thing to do. But then things became more clear why they were concerned. It seems the food bank is supported by a local Attorney, and this Attorney has a questionable history of dealing with people. This attorney is a multiple property owner. They are apparently doing well enough to own more than their practice as they can support running a food bank.
No one has claimed that the Attorney is in any way making any money off of this project. And that is not here, what is at issue. Next to the food bank is a business. This business has been at that location for many decades. And that, is what is at issue.

The owner recently died and passed the business on to his sons. One of the sons has taken full ownership. His son is working on the business now with him. They have been putting their own money into getting the business up to speed. It seems in the previous owner's end of his life, he let things get a little run down and was having problems coordinating his business and his thoughts.

But now it is all shiney and ready to go. Except for the Attorney, who is setting up a new food bank.

 The business in on the corner and owns the empty lot behind it. And that, is where the whole issue started with the Attorney. The food bank kept putting their garbage on the property of the business next door. What seemed like a nice person, in having a food bank, started immediately to be unreasonable when the business owner asked that they not put their garbage on his property. It seemed like a reasonable request, until the Attorney started being irate and irrational and refusing to follow the law. Who knew that an Attorney, an officer of the court, would be so into breaking laws just to make things easier and cheaper on them. It paints an ugly picture of the individual.

 It got bad. The Attorney was acting irrational and wanted access that wasn't theirs to have, but told their people to go ahead and ignore the wishes of the business and property owner next door. The business owner repeatedly asked that the food bank use their own garbage cans (and put garbage IN the cans) and then keep them on their own property. But this was unreasonable to the Attorney.

So the business owner called the City and had a manager of the local Garbage company come by. He explained the situation and the Manager agreed. In fact, he moved the garbage cans himself to where they should be and told the food bank people what the law was.

 Later, the Attorney found out and was incensed. Then the Attorney filed an injunction for a restraining order against the business owner making wild claims which, when the business owner heard about them, was stunned, as he hadn't done any other things claimed by the Attorney. The Attorney had lied to the court.

And it has since only escalated with the Attorney trying, aparrently, to squash the business owner for contesting their poor manners. It seems others are scared of the Attorney. But this isn't a push over of a business owner. This business was the owner's fathers business for most of his life. This new owner was a construction worker all his life, a hard working man who has his own small farm/garden on his property of several acres in a rural location. His only desire now is to make his father's old business a working concern and maybe pass it on to his son one day.
But the Attorney is repeatedly filing false claims and 911 calls. And it would seem that the Police Officers who show up, know this Attorney quite well and for the most part, they want no part of her either. So, they pressure the business owner. Threatened him with Jail even. And that was wrong. But their hands are tied, because the Attorney is, an Attorney and knows the Law. And isn't afraid to abuse it. That makes the Attorney, dangerous.

I was told many years ago that if you like your freedom, where ever you are, learn the rules because the better you know the rules, the better you know how to abuse them and turn them to your own devices. And this is exactly what the Attorney is doing. Except, this time, they have come up against someone who will not lie down when someone acts crazy or breaks social conventions, or laws. He will fight back.

This is someone who has gone up against the State Government in trying to make clear to them, the laws they are supposed to uphold, and in some cases, have not. More importantly, he is retired. This Attorney is in dire straights and doesn't even know it. But that happens frequently with delusional people.

Someone asked if this Attorney, in how they have been acting, is on drugs, or has gone off their meds. They are pushing their luck. Things have happened like the other day, the owner was on his way in to town. He got a call from his business that the Attorney came into his business with a demand and a worker rightfully said "No."
Then when he got to his business he found out she had called 911 for the Police, again. When they got there she said he had come into her place with a video cam (which her restraining order says he isn't allowed to do, I mean, why would she want anyone to be able to video her so they could prove she is lying?) and said he was yelling and scaring her people and she feared for her life. But the business owners were able to testify to the police that the owner wasn't even there.

This is a horrible situation. What will happen, how it will turn out, is yet unknown. This could end up costing the poor business owner tens of thousands of dollars, all because of a low life Attorney who doesn't like to be questioned or made to follow the laws that make her life harder.

Needless to say, this is a horrible person, possibly a borderline personality, which I strongly think is the case. These are the hardest people to go up against because typically they are intelligent and make you look like you are always that troublemaker. They are professionals at this kind of behavior, to get their own way. They will throw tantrums, be bullies, pressure, cajole, lie, cheat or steal to get their own way. Then turn around and try to look like angels.

I had to work with a woman for five years who was borderline. She made life a nightmare and it always looked like you were the problem. She would go right to HR and complain, claim anything, sexual harassment, minority abuse, ethnic cleansing if it got her what she wanted. Then finally one smart manager gave her a job so she would fail. For years people would clean up the woman's mess. But not this time, not after years of her treating people like crap. Finally, she was fired for incompetence.

But it takes someone with guts to go up against these people. They really need medical, psychological help, but they use the law to fight for their freedom; freedom to abuse those around them. I went through this for years with my mother. We couldn't get her the psychological help she needed because she was just sane enough that no one could claim she needed to be force to get the help she so desperately needed. There are scores of these people who need help but can claim they don't, so they don't get it. They just make everyone else (and themselves if they can be honest about it, but they can't), miserable.

Anyway, the business owner is in a tough situation. But he now has his own Attorney who thinks they can not only beat the Attorney, but get legal fees and $10,000.

Let's hope so, Small business owners have enough grief without well off Attorney's trying to play at charity while damaging the reputation and income of a lawful business owner who himself, has always done what he could for the local community.

Where IS The Equalizer, when you need him?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Is Religion necessary?

What is it about Religion that does us any good? IS it really necessary? Is it, would it be, possible, to achieve it's aims without it?

Aside from the considerations of reward or punishment (Heaven or Hell), just what does it do for Humans? If you are religious, you may not be able to understand this construct. But that is okay. Maybe it's not for you to stand on your own, to be vincible without a need of being fearful or so many things that religions absolve us of. Do we really need that absolution?

The religious side of this argument will typically take a side supporting religion (reasonable in a religion vs no religion argument). However, their argument will always go through a format that includes religion having always existed, or from a basis of God theory. I won't go into this here, as that isn't the point, here. I only bring this up because to argue against what is stated below, pretty much requires taking the point of view of "God is, therefore living with no God is isn't", or some sort of prevarication on that order. But that doesn't fit in this argument, although that has never stopped a deist from using it and typically doing very well with it as no one knows how to argue against it, because you are trapped within the Möbius strip ("loop") of religions argument.

So, moving along....

Belief in an outside force, a "Higher Power" as it were, gives Humans something they can't seem to find anywhere else. But actually, they can. You see, it's really just the easiest, lowest common denominator kind of thing to want and nature has solved that issue for us. It's been around forever it would seem, because it was the easiest, most obvious, and so our evolutionary history was such that it either fell easily into it, or it was designed to fit it. But it allows us to go beyond our own concerns. Naturally. Without need to turn to a superficial extreme.

We are the only creatures as far as we know that can comprehend our own demise or our own death and existence. Either that, or we are the only ones that care about it, or fear it. Perhaps some animals have the same capacity to, but just figure, "Oh, Hell, so what?" Rather than celebrating living life, most people seem to want to pray about living it or to avoid losing it. Belief in an outside force gives us license to exceed our expectations of our capabilities, to go beyond simply caring for our own survival, which is a primal instinct if ever there was one.

Add to that a fear of reprisal if we act wrong, go against strictures, break commandments, and/or, the pleasurable consideration of Just or excessive and eternal rewards after we leave this physical form, and you have the makings of what is supposed to be "amazing" behaviors. Such as heroics. A mother lifting a car to save a child, a husband saving his wife in some "super" Human way, so that it must have been undo-able, a "miracle". I love magic as much as the next guy, but sometimes we can just exceed expectations.

 Many amazing things have been done and explained through religion.

But also many horrific things, I don't really think I need to make a list of them all, but the major ones come to mind easily: The Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, Nazi concentration camps (Nazis weren't Godless Communists, they hated them, much of what they did came out of a Christian based fear and a hatred of Jews, and Blacks), Genocide, torture, Missionaries, Fascism, Neo-Nazis, and... 9/11.

And many smaller ones:  sexual abuse of women and children by religious authorities, Catholic indulgences in the Middle Ages, ritual mutilations, and simply cutting people out of their religion or religious rites for abusing or breaking the rules, or sometimes and not infrequently, for very poor reasons based solely upon the religious authority's emotions or greed at that time. Or sometimes, simply sexually based as in jealousy. Even between God and an unknown object of dislike (think of Salieri in the movie, Amedeus).

Trying to stamp out natural Human functions such as sexuality, one of our most basic functions, in point of fact, what we were designed for, is defective thought, founded in theory, untenable in practice. In denying sexual expression or restrictions of Priests and Nuns from marriage, has lead to enough sexual abuse on it's own to fill a book in its various ways.

But do we need religion to achieve the depravities of Humanity? No, we can figure out how to abuse one another without an organization telling how to do it professionally and at an organizational level, which mechanizes abuse. Nor do we need religion to raise us up to the heights of what we can achieve. Because we have naturally built in, most of what religion gives us anyway. Religion is just the sugar on the crust of Life for many people. But sugar does give people diabetes or hypoglycemia when it is abused, and religion, has quite obviously supplied the same enhancements around the world and throughout history.

Religion simply institutionalizes and attempts to restrict the unrestrictable, those things we find natural, in a sad attempt to guarantee how we act. And that really doesn't work so well, especially when you consider that if you take away the all powerful aspects of it and replace it with logic and compassion, you eliminate much of the bad and enhance much of the good. Where in Christianity, Judaism, Islam (any of the desert religions (as opposed to jungle religions, some of which are worse only in different ways)) we are told that these are the rules and you don't break them. But immediately, if only in your mind, you are lean toward breaking them; albeit it, that feeling is hidden in the darker departments of your personality; yet, it is still there.

In one of the few more rational forms of philosophy, Buddhism for instance doesn't give adherents codified rules such as "you never do" this or that, but rather that you try to "walk the middle way" or try to stay on the "Path of the Middle Way". These are not absolutes but guides. They are also instructed that when you are told something that doesn't make sense, you should use your own mind and think about it and make your own decisions. Which is where the Zen thought came from, "If you see the Buddha on the Path of Life, kill him." Not something you would hear a Christian ever say about Jesus. But strangely, I would have to assume Jesus would understand it, and smile knowingly. Yet, many of his followers would be tempted to become irate or dangerous.

These two things, using critical thought and a lack of supreme "commandments", are of major importance in managing Human behavior. This is why critical thought is a major component of training with Buddhist Monks and should be a major element in all Human education above and beyond the way disciplines through which it is taught.

Often in the education of our children, we completely forget why we teach "reading, writing and arithmetic". It is to of course to teach those important things, but more so, far more so (and understand and let me repeat this), MORE SO, it is to teach critical thinking. We have far too much of a lack of critical thought around the world.

When you add in religion to a lack of critical thought; or worse, add critical thought into a damaged religious orientation, only bad seems to come of it. But if we teach children critical thought, with a good basis in philosophy without religion attached and all the dysfunctional fantasy that comes along with it, I believe we would have a far more stable society, world wide.

Still, its not just critical thought that we need to grow and properly and fully develop. Critical thought leads to creativity, which leads to thinking "outside the box". Yes, one could argue that religion is thinking outside of the box, but the trouble there is that it is not, definitely not, based on fact or critical thought processes. Just the opposite, which is why "faith" is so important. In fact, you have to discipline yourself to believe regardless of what proves to you to be incorrect in the course of things. Discipline is good, but to apply it to not being rational or evolving, is simply dangerous. As we have seen.

So now you have to ask yourself, what good does religion really do for us in the end?

Carpe Diem!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weekend Wise Words

Be Smart! Be Brilliant!

“One of the amusements of idleness is reading without the fatigue of close attention; and the world therefore swarms with writers whose wish is not to be studied, but to be read.” Dr. Johnson

“I alone of English writers have consciously set myself to make music out of what I may call the sound of sense.” Robert Frost

“Writers write to influence their readers, their preachers, their auditors, but always, at bottom, to be more themselves.” Aldous Huxley

“Writers don't write, they read and transcribe.” William S. Burroughs

“Good writers are in the business of leaving signposts saying, Tour my world, see and feel it through my eyes; I am your guide.” Larry King

"Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol. Sure, a writer can get stuck for a while, but when that happens to a real author -- say, a Socrates or a Rodman -- he goes out and gets an "as told to." The alternative is to hire yourself out as an "as heard from," thus taking all the credit. The other trick I use when I have a momentary stoppage is virtually foolproof, and I'm happy to pass it along. Go to an already published novel and find a sentence that you absolutely adore. Copy it down in your manuscript. Usually, that sentence will lead you to another sentence, and pretty soon your own ideas will start to flow. If they don't, copy down the next sentence in the novel. You can safely use up to three sentences of someone else's work -- unless you're friends, then two. The odds of being found out are very slim, and even if you are there's usually no jail time." Steve Martin

“Some people have a way with words....some people....not have way.” ― Steve Martin, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Trauma" in the work place and the Affect of Fascism on Artists

Last week I did a blog about a great little movie called, "The Lives of Others".
Ooookay, Adolf, calm down... Fascists are Fascists
In that film, it described how two Stasi Officers are talking about interrogation techniques. As usual, in a Fascist State, those in control are demonizing those with no control. And one of the most delicate of those groups are those of the Artists. Artists are the soul of a group. I would argue, even more so than those of religious thought or possibly of Philosophical diciplines. Stalin once said: "As comrade Olesha aptly expressed himself, writers are engineers of human souls." That is incorrectly and frequently attributed to "Uncle Joe", The Brute, himself.

In the film, one Stasi Officer tells the other how, when they finished interrogating artists, one of the benefits of their interrogation technique is that the artist never produces his Art again. Chalk one up for the Evil Empire.

What is it that fascists are always so fearful about art? Well, it questions and calls attention to, their actions and orientation, those things that once brought to light, are easily seen as foolish, as simply ridiculous and they rapidly begin to whilt and dissapate.

Along with that, let me say that I have never believed in a thing called a "Writer's Block". It always seemed to me that it was pure laziness of mind, a lack of discipline, a way an amateur can avoid writing, and so on. I have had periods when I didn't write but I never attributed it to Writer's Block.

When this Summer began, I was told at my day job where I support internet technologies, that there was a certain situation about to happen due a lack of funds for infrastructure support. I work at a large Health Insurance Company and current events in Healthcare in the government, as everyone knows, have severly affected companies like this with layoffs, restructuring and grief all around. We have needed something to be done, I've agreed with the need for changes the government has been working on in health insurance and healthcare in general, and I'm glad I work for one of the better health insurance companies. But it's been painful for those people (like myself) in the "trenches".

What I read in that statement about funding was that my Summer was going to be pure Hell and I could easily, later, be seen to blame for much of it if I wasn't careful. And it was. Pure Hell. I didn't realize just how "traumatic" that Summer was going to become. And please note that I use the word "trauma" accurately but it is a far lesser use of the world than I'm sure many people have gone through. It doesn't refer to being in a car accident, a bad relationship (though similar) or torture or war. Alas, it is trauma, nonetheless.

I haven't taken off more than a week of vacation at a time in decades, but this Summer, I did. At the end of August, I felt I had to take off two weeks due to being emotionally drained. My nerves, I've been saying, were "frayed". I was ready to quit my job two or three times.

So I did take the time off and last Monday started back at work again.

Now I had seen the hardest part, the first third of the situation done and completed, before I took that time off. And a few other things have happened so that now that I am back, the pressure from before is mostly gone. Still, of course, I have that feeling that I am doing the same old thing. But my nerves are no longer now frayed, I don't have people hovering over me about those things now and I have had the support of the management staff above me. And that is very important.

But, that is my day job; my job that pays my expenses, my bills, my mortgage. The job that allows me to follow my artistic writing pursuits without question of doing what I want to do. I have this blog to do to see it available on a daily basis. I have an anthology of short stories currently at the publisher, but I've been thinking of rewriting it, having more clarity now on how I would like to change it. I have a screenplay adaptation being actively marketed. I have another original screenplay nearly done and another screenplay in treatment form that I am working on with a Producer in California.

That last screenplay needs to be completed by end of September, at leats the Treatment does in the worst case. The trouble is that I had planned to work on it during my vacation. No, that didn't work, because I was busy trying to unwind and heal up by traveling, visiting, basically wearing myself out so that when I returned to my job, I would feel like it was a longer vacation.

I also had my nineteen year old daughter living with me this summer, saving up money for her trip to Europe for nine  or more months. Last Monday she landed in Iceland to begin her journey and is having a grand time of it. But it took a toll on us both while she was here, her now trying to live her life as an adult, feeling out who she is, and doing some of it around Dad; trying to mesh our somewhat unmeshable lifestyles considering our age and experience differences at this point in her life, isn't the most easy or fun thing to do for any teen. So that was a little stressful but we also had fun and I enjoyed seeing one of my two kids back around the house again for a while. Still, trying to live with your adult children (or as one of them, trying to live with your parent), is... problematic at times.

Once the vacation was over and I was back to work, I tried to start working the script again, and that hadn't worked too well. See, I was still burned out from the Summer's work, then from my vacation (though now more mentally at ease), and from my daughter staying here over the Summer, and then from her leaving (yeah, there's just no pleasing some people), which has left me with a need to readjust to living alone again (my German Shepherd is taking it even harder than I am that one of the kids has yet again, moved out).

I worked on the script a touch here and there, but nothing like I was doing before. I am getting my energy and desire to work on my writings again however. By holding back and not forcing myself, I've had a feeling of "come on, let's go, I wanna writing again", but then holding off and continuing to take it easy and do no work. It left me feeling guilty at times that I wasn't working on it (I profess to being Buddhist now, but I was, rasied Catholic, thus the guilt). But what that did was motivate me, building up the artistic energies.

So that begs the question... do I have "Writer's Block"? That thing I don't believe in? This brings me back to that film I mentioned at the beginning.

In traumatizing artists, in an artist getting traumatized, can you cut off their artistic pursuits? Was I therefore, traumatized by my job over this Summer? Do you cut off their talent, or their desire to pursue them?
I knew I could write (thus, no writer's block) but I also knew, that I should give myself a break and I felt I knew I would know when that break was or should be, over. Basically it was a feeling of, "I just don't want to do this". But I knew when that passed, I could be 100% back into working.

Again, I knew I could write. I just didn't push myself.
Then suddenly today, I felt like something, "clicked", inside me and I knew I would be able to write again and feel cohesive about it, my integrity regained. Finally, I felt I had "healed" enough and could go back to my normal mode of operations.
I want to get to work full speed on my script that I'm working on with my Producer. I also want to work on my original script. I want to work on my anthology of short stories (and that is a lot of work).

That is all a lot of focus, a lot of energy, and requires perserverance. It does me little good if I were to have started, then ended up stopping again for a period of time, probably counted in days. I knew that I needed to heal, to gather my energies, to get up to full speed again so that I could get back into the trenches and get to work; and not stop the work once I started again.

I look at it like a downhill skier.

Even if you're tired, or exhausted, you can start down from the top of the hill. But whether your run will be quality, whether you will be able to make it to the bottom or not, whether you will travel safely, is really the question. It's better to get rested, then be ready to do the run, and go for it, all the way down, and in every way. You're speed and style will be far better in the end, and you will make it to the bottom safely, ready to immediately go back to the top and start all over again.

When writing a novel, a screenplay, or any large piece of work, that's exactly what you need: to fly over the pages, producing quality, and then start again at the beginning and do it over and over until it's perfect.

And I'm getting there....