Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Song

I've been trying to
show you over and

Friday, January 30, 2009


One of the things I enjoyed the most about viewing German-language cinema is that the characters looked so, well, commonplace. There is, I might add, nothing wrong with that. How refreshing to not be bombarded with standards of beauty which are as unhealthy as they are completely unrealistic. I really wish that media told young women, in particular, that it's okay to be average. There are other subtle differences, too.

Allow me to illustrate.

Example #1


United States

Example #2


United States

Example #3


United States

Example #4


United States

*Okay, maybe it's not all different.

Still, superficiality and stale formula have got to go.

I Woke Up with This Song in My Head

With our economy spiraling further downward into recession and no guarantee that anything in the pipeline will provide immediate relief, we are all in wait-in-see mode. Have surveyed the news this morning, I find nothing particularly worthy of my opinion, since the most fascinating news is in factoid form and it's difficult to comment on minutia. Citizens, citizen journalists, and journalists alike have no clue where we're headed and have only wagered the most rudimentary of guesses.

My dreams are frequently punctuated with music, kind of like a soundtrack to a bizarre independent movie. Having had my fill of dire news reports the day before, my memory banks decided that appropriate the closing credits should be "Saviour Machine" by David Bowie.

President Joe once had a dream
The world held his hand, gave their pledge
So he told them his scheme for a Saviour Machine

They called it the Prayer, its answer was law
Its logic stopped war, gave them food
How they adored till it cried in its boredom

'Please don't believe in me, please disagree with me
Life is too easy, a plague seems quite feasible now
or maybe a war, or I may kill you all

Don't let me stay, don't let me stay
My logic says burn so send me away
Your minds are too green, I despise all I've seen
You can't stake your lives on a Saviour Machine

I need you flying, and I'll show that dying
Is living beyond reason, sacred dimension of time
I perceive every sign, I can steal every mind

Don't let me stay, don't let me stay
My logic says burn so send me away
Your minds are too green, I despise all I've seen
You can't stake your lives on a Saviour Machine

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Questions of a Thousand Years

Everyone is discussing the merits and shortcomings of the latest economic stimulus package and me, well, color me ambivalent. The predictable voices from the right (Socialism! Socialism! Socialism!) and left (not one dime for thieving corporate fat cats!) obscure the bill's true impact. What many are calling pork-barrel pet projects are in fact reform measures which fund previously unfunded mandates or patch holes in established programs. Waste also exists, this is true, but it appears to me that at least on Capitol Hill you can't have good without some degree of graft. Regrettably, some will use their billions in relief funds to put a down payment on a new Lear jet, but I'm not sure how any of us can stop that.

Nevertheless, the stimulus bill passed last September made a major impact in my life. It established parity between Medicaid and Medicare. As a Medicaid recipient (read: too poor for decent health insurance), I had to jump through countless hoops just to get my prescriptions filled. I also had to deal with the indignity of being denied dental care, thus having to pay out of pocket even to get my teeth cleaned. I was furthermore denied coverage to visit a psychologist. Medicaid is a federally mandated, but state run program, meaning that poorer states routinely have to cut corners to avoid draining the budget. It also means that while the government insists there be Medicaid in each of the fifty states, each state also makes up its own convoluted rules.

This disparity creates such absurdities which state that dental care and therapy are only available for those under the age of twenty-one. The lesson in this, I suppose, is that children and teens can have adequate dental care and stable emotional health, but that adults cannot. This is one more argument for why we need single-payer universal (and yes, socialized) health care. I know how much conservatives keep the Tenth Amendment close to their hearts, but I have to tell you that state's rights are only as effective as the states themselves. All powers not delegated to the Federal Government are the domain of the states, but what if the states themselves can't run their own affairs effectively? Then what? The reality is that the states with stronger economies and endless resources have much more to offer their poorer residents. The states without the benefit of wealth suffer mightily. I favor a more centralized government to protect citizens from the kind of yahoo provincialism which so often keeps the less fortunate abused by base incompetence the likes of which is rooted in ignorance.

As for me, thanks to the September stimulus package, I can return to therapy and not have to pay for basic dentistry out of pocket. If this be socialism, I'm not sure there's any way we can escape it. Marx famously predicted that Communism's arrival was a fait accompli, but that no one could truly foresee the precise moment of its arrival. To me that's always seemed reflective of the biblical passage which states that the arrival of the Messiah will occur eventually, but that no living person knows the date or time. None of us truly knows where we're headed but I'm glad that something is being done, rather than nothing at all.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Memory of the Late John Updike

One of my most favorite poems, which is just as true now as it was when it was written in the 1950's.

Ex-Basketball Player
by John Updike

Pearl Avenue runs past the high-school lot,
Bends with the trolley tracks, and stops, cut off
Before it has a chance to go two blocks,
At Colonel McComsky Plaza. Berth’s Garage
Is on the corner facing west, and there,
Most days, you'll find Flick Webb, who helps Berth out.

Flick stands tall among the idiot pumps—
Five on a side, the old bubble-head style,
Their rubber elbows hanging loose and low.
One’s nostrils are two S’s, and his eyes
An E and O. And one is squat, without
A head at all—more of a football type.

Once Flick played for the high-school team, the Wizards.
He was good: in fact, the best. In ’46
He bucketed three hundred ninety points,
A county record still. The ball loved Flick.
I saw him rack up thirty-eight or forty
In one home game. His hands were like wild birds.

He never learned a trade, he just sells gas,
Checks oil, and changes flats. Once in a while,
As a gag, he dribbles an inner tube,
But most of us remember anyway.
His hands are fine and nervous on the lug wrench.
It makes no difference to the lug wrench, though.

Off work, he hangs around Mae’s Luncheonette.
Grease-gray and kind of coiled, he plays pinball,
Smokes those thin cigars, nurses lemon phosphates.
Flick seldom says a word to Mae, just nods
Beyond her face toward bright applauding tiers
Of Necco Wafers, Nibs, and Juju Beads.

A Few Cinematic Recommendations

Since Friday, I've been attending Film-Neu, a German-language film festival. I have been deeply impressed as to how uniformly excellent each of the screened movies has been. Several of them represent their country's official selection in competition for the upcoming Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Ordinarily I would have never gotten the chance to see any of these in a cinema, which makes me even more grateful to see them screened before my very eyes.

American cinema is so obsessed with spectacle and profit that it could never make films this quirky and unusual. What they lack in funding they make up for in quality. Some think that money alone makes a movie, but I've always found that the reverse is true. Paradoxically, it seems that the greater the budget, the more the end result is cheapened. And having said that, I recommend each of these.

1. Jerichow

A German soldier, recently dishonorably discharged from service in Afghanistan (and as a result completely broke) lucks into a job simply by being in the right place at the right time. His employer, an unstable alcoholic, has recently has his driver's license suspended for frequent DUIs. A Turk by birth, the man owns a variety of Chinese food restaurants across the area and thus due to the nature of the business needs to be shuttled back and forth by car to check inventory and collect proceeds from each store. His wife, a beautiful, but troubled woman, ends up falling for the sullen newcomer. Their clandestine relationship intensifies to the point that plans are made to kill the husband, make the crime look like an accident, and then collect the insurance money. However, unforeseen complications arise.

2. Football Underground

A documentary lamenting the ridiculously restrictive extremes of Iran's repressive government. A German women's soccer team expresses a desire to play a game with the Iranian women's national team, which nonsensically practices for competition but never actually plays a game against an opponent. Organizers of the event run up against unexplained and completely needless delays, problems getting visas, massive problems locating sponsorship, and other frustrating roadblocks like even attaining an adequate site for the match to be held. Eventually the game is played, but a scheduled rematch is canceled at the last minute because the Ahmadinejad regime mysteriously forbids the Iranian women's team to play again.

3. Revanche

A middle-aged, low-level hood carries on a relationship with a beautiful, young Ukranian prostitute. He works to maintain the facilities at a brothel, performing a variety of odd jobs for the head pimp. Unsurprisingly, he works at the same brothel as does his girlfriend, where it is implied that they both met. One day, tired of seeing his girlfriend abused by sadistic clients he concocts an impulsive scheme to rob a bank, whereby the both of them will live off the proceeds and not have to work. The robbery goes off without a hitch until the very end. In the process of making his getaway--the girl seated in the front passenger side next to him--the duo happen across a cop. Unsuccessful in detaining the suspect, the police officer attempts to shoot out the tires of the rapidly accelerating car, intending to apprehending them both. Unfortunately he aims too high, missing the market altogther, and kills the girl with a stray bullet.

As part of the plan, the criminal ditches the car and heads for his grandfather's farm, intent on hiding out there, where his whereabouts and true identity will be completely unknown to the police. By sheer coincidence, the farm happens to be not very far away to the residence of the accidental murderer--- the cop, as well as his wife. It seems that the couple have been trying desperately to have a child, but as we find out later, apparently something is wrong with him, not her. The criminal's grandfather attends the same church as the cop's wife, so in an desire to be kind and charitable, the wife has taken to routinely shuttle the old man back and forth to run errands or to attend service on Sunday morning. While on the farm, she happens across the criminal, who has committed himself to performing grueling manual farm labor as penitence for his sins. Ignorant of his identity and equally ignorant of the connection between he and her husband, she makes a pass at him, hoping he'll come by her house later that night to consummate her desire (and more importantly, ensure her pregnancy).

From that point onward, things grow curiouser and curiouser.

4. Der Freund (The Friend)

A beautiful, but troubled young singer-songwriter attracts the attention of a shy, socially awkward college student. After hearing her perform at a trendy venue, he makes painfully self-conscious overtures to get to know her as she walks off stage between sets and orders a drink. At first, she blows him off. Later, however, he encounters her by chance at a random bar. This time she is more receptive to his presence, and asks him point-blank if he would like to pretend to be her boyfriend. Stunned, the boy asks why. "Just because," she says, and provides a vague response that leaves him even more confused.

Five days later she commits suicide. It appears that her rationale in asking him to play this role was to deflect worry from her family, who realize full well that she has a history of emotional problems, and constantly worry for her health. Ignorant of all of this and particularly ingnorant of what she has done, he calls her cell phone number a few days later, and her sister picks up instead. The sister quickly passes the phone over to her mother who asks him if he is, in fact, the deceased girl's boyfriend--a figure which she had recently talked about but never elaborated much upon. Fulfilling his obligation to the deceased girl, he answers in the affirmative. The mother then asks the boy if he will help the family prepare for the funeral arrangements.

In the process of this draining endeavor, the boy finds out more about the recently departed girl and her occasionally dysfunctional family dynamics then he would have even dreamed.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Treatment Update

The MAOI had to be stopped temporarily on Friday because an absent-minded nurse mistakenly gave me the wrong medication Thursday night. Though they were probably acting too cautiously (and I told them so), the doctors wanted me to wait a full 72 hours to make sure that the MAOI wouldn't have an adverse reaction with the drug I had been given by accident. Now enough time has passed and my regular medication schedule can resume. By Friday, I anticipate that I will be feeling much better.

This weekend I've been contemplating why I and others have this affliction. I often wonder if there is some kind of biological, primordial basis for bipolar. Often I grapple with the idea that if we have a loving God (as I believe we do) then why would He allow illness in humanity. As a genetic disorder, and as a brain disorder, bipolar is a very complex malady which is not easily understood. Likely it involves the interplay of several genes working simultaneously with each other. My illness enriches my productivity and creativity at times, but during a depressed state it renders my muse silent and my output nonexistent. I would stamp it out if I could, but I know it has formed me into the person that I am today.

Sometimes I wish bipolar could be eliminated altogether in lieu of a cure. A society which advances eugenics would have all manic-depressives either surgically sterilized to prevent passing down the illness to subsequent generations, or in extreme case like Nazi Germany, simply euthanized. Until we understand it better, the risk factors involved in wholesale liquidation of manic depression are many since that might change humanity, from a genetic view, much for the worse. Everyone's working for a cure, but even cures tread a precarious ethical ground, since no one is sure how much science, with its strict black-and-white focus, can take into account the wide spectrum of expression that is inherent to bipolar illness. In short, bipolar is here to stay, and even though I'm on medicine I know to expect the soaring highs and the devestating lows, the mood swings, and the occasional bouts where I toe the line between sanity and insanity.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Quote of the Week

Money is always there, but the pockets change. It is not in the same pockets after a change, and that is all there is to say about money.- Gertrude Stein

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Video

"Lord Only Knows" is my favorite album track off of Beck's 1996 offering Odelay. Little did we know at the time that alternative music was almost dead, the music video as a entity was nearly extinct, and that MTV was about to be transformed into a 24 hour long reality TV show.

There's nothing dead
left to kill

Throwing your two-bit cares
down the drain.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Say What?!?!

I know Barack and Michelle are not shy about showing their affection for each other, but this takes the cake.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Latest Treatment Update

Last night my Seroquel dosage was increased to 500 mg. For some reason, with time the sedative effect of Seroquel begins to subside, necessitating an ever-increasing dose. I just don't want to be like a man I met in a group therapy session who had the same issue I did and got up to taking 3000 mg of Seroquel a day. To be taken off of it, he had to be hospitalized for a minimum of a month. I suppose most of my fear stems from the fact that I know now that I am utterly unable to sleep at all without some kind of sedative. With enough problems on my plate already, it is not a comforting notion to add "insominac" onto all the other ailments with which I struggle.

Today is the first day I have taken Parnate, the MAOI inhibitor. I am looking forward to the positive effects of it because I've been in a low-grade depression now for a couple weeks. This has washed over onto this blog and made me quite a misanthrope and a sourpuss. If state of minds like these were infrequent then I'd be more tolerant of them, but bipolar is an illness with constant ebbs and flows. Recovery is a process, not a destination. Medication can control the flare ups somewhat, but at this point all they do is cap off the peaks and valleys--the highest highes and the lowest lows. I might have a ceiling for how far up I can go or a floor preventing me from falling ever downward and I'm glad I have these things, but I beg to ask for more.

My dose of Parnate will begin slowly. 10 mg today, then another 10 mg in three to five days. Within two to two-and-a-half weeks I'll be on 40 mg, which is the target dosage. I've taken my first dose today and I'm already starting to feel more hopeful. This is likely a result of the placebo effect, because nothing would work this quickly. It'll be seven to fourteen days before the dose I'm on reaches maximum efficacy, but I'll try not to second-guess a good mood.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Quick Link for The Day After

Seven Reasons for Healthy Skepticism from The Politico.

A Semi-New Feature

When we speak about high expectations married to Superman comparisons in the context of Presidents, this old Saturday Night Live sketch comes to mind.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

I am, of course, writing this before the pomp and circumstance begins. Invocations, speakers, processions, and tradition aside, I'm mostly hoping for a good Inaugural Address. Most are completely forgettable, full of optimistic platitudes and warm fuzzies, signifying absolutely nothing. Some have a memorable line or two, but date quickly and are soon forgotten. A few have been outright disasters. Only two have been universally hailed as superb----Lincoln's second and FDR's first.

I remember faking an illness and staying home from school to watch Bill Clinton's first Inauguration in 1993. The formalities and rituals of the ceremony were interesting, but the speech itself was largely a bore. This time around, I admit that one of the reasons I became a Obama supporter so quickly is that I have always admired those with substantial oratory skill; prior to his rise I had come to believe that in this sad day and age effective rhetoric was quickly growing extinct. One hopes that Obama will inspire a new generation of politicians and public speakers to aim for brilliance and deft speech-craft.

I have only one concern. President Obama has set the bar exceptionally high and is continuing to invite the Lincoln comparison. The instant he opens his mouth we'll half expect every word to be liquid gold, on par with his victory speech in Iowa or his speech on race in Philadelphia. I fear a letdown and will temper my expectations accordingly, though Obama has certainly risen to the challenge exceptionally well in times past. Like everyone else, I'll just wait and watch.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Quote of the Week, If Not the Year

One seldom discovers a true believer that is worth knowing.- H.L. Mencken

Another MLK Day

On this, another holiday dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. and by proxy the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, I find myself surprisingly numb. How nice it would be to be a starry-eyed liberal. How nice it would be to greet the likes of battered women, urban poverty, and social injustice with a mild-mannered grin. If the personal stories of yet another oppressed minority or disenfranchised citizen moved me to tears I might qualify as the kind of position-paper, true believer. Truth be told I've known heartache and grief a thousand times over, both in my own life and in the lives of others and one more reminder of the tragedy life sometimes has to offer is just that---a reminder.

I wish I could rejoice in today's holiday, but while I should see progress, all I see is perversion. I've seen too many good people killed, too many good intentions come to naught, too many worthy plans scuttled by disinterest and sheer sloth, and too much energy channeled for lost causes in the wrong directions. Though we have elected the first Black President, we have not eliminated many societal ills, the least of which is racism. Though we commemorate today as a triumph of applied social justice, I can't help musing upon the backlash which occurred in the aftermath of King's assassination. This city, and many other cities, bears the scars of the numerous spontaneous riots which sprung up as news of his death became known. Whole city blocks have yet to be repaired and by the absence of the businesses which once operated there, still register the effects of mob violence.

Yesterday, a visitor to meeting, an activist in her own right, listened at length to my words but ended by saying: Enjoy this event. So seldom do we ever get things like this to celebrate. She was, of course, referring to the Inauguration. She may be right, but in the two months since Obama was elected I have gone from exuberant celebration to sober contemplation. Much needs to be accomplished. After tomorrow, every decision he makes will be parsed, analyzed, and methodically picked apart by the blogosphere and the media. This proverbial death by a thousand cuts is what gets to me the most. No President is immune from this kind of conduct, but forgive me if I might wish to prolong the honeymoon a bit longer.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Meme for Liberality

As always, I am against the practice of tagging, so them that wants to do this is more than welcome to partake. In other words, I'll do rules 1-3 and respectfully decline to do 4-6.

The Rules
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.


1. I ate raw seaweed once in fourth grade because the teacher brought some back from a recent trip to Japan and offered it to her students. Apparently it didn't sit well with my stomach, because I promptly vomited profusely all over my shoes.

2. I have an exceptionally low tolerance for stupid people talking loudly on public transportation. I also have a related low tolerance for stupid people who talk loudly on their cell phones in public places.

3. One of my biggest pet peeves is unreliable people and/or people who make lots of empty promises and then never bother following up with them. I think the Catholic Church needs to make a Patron Saint of Empty Promises. I'd buy that icon.

4. I have read the book The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath at least seventy-five times, if not more. I can almost quote an entire chapter by memory.

5. I absolutely hate getting places late, so as a result I arrive nearly thirty minutes early everywhere I have to be.

6. I got my first gray hair when I was twenty-five.

Walls and Bridges

Though I am certainly glad to see Barack Obama take the Oath of Office and begin his term as President, I can't say I feel the same about the ceremony itself. Security for the Inauguration has been, in my opinion, excessively restrictive and needlessly obsessive. Much of it is due to a lack of advance preparation--had the local police and Homeland Security given the DC area a long time to prepare well ahead of time, then there wouldn't have been as many problems afoot. As it stands, the grand plan has been doled out, piece-meal, bit by bit over the past month. Each day brings a new wrinkle or modification of what came before, which has lead to confusion bordering on anarchy.

And in contemplating this, I was reminded of the Robert Frost poem "Mending-Wall".

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'

I began to think about the nature of walls. For example, there are walls separating Israel from the Palestinians. Some propose that we build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants. Then there are the metaphorical and literal walls we build between ourselves for whatever reason or other. I'm sure one could expand the discussion to incorporate any number of historical allusions or personal anecdotes about the nature of walls, fences, or boundaries.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall.

We build boundaries between ourselves for the sake of self-preservation, but God or fate or nature manages to tear away at them, necessitating we mend the walls of our own construction on a constant basis. In the end, why do we persist?

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

In a fresh attempt by the mainstream media to try to understand the rural Southern voter, The Washington Post has fashioned another expose of the mentality of its residents. Having lived in the general vicinity most of my life, it is plain to me that there's a certain futility in even seeking to understand from whence they form their opinions. To wit, the rural voter of the South ceased to have an open mind long ago. The last time their points of view existed in anything resembling a malleable state occurred during the Great Depression when the entire region was quite literally teetering on the brink of famine, and as a result of the sweeping reforms of the New Deal the region gave overwhelming support to Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the full length of his substantial time in office.

Rural Arkansas resident Wayne Loewer is quoted in the piece as saying that, in his mind, the reason Obama has yet to appoint a southerner to a major post in his Administration is itself a retaliatory gesture, since most of the region voted against him. This is the kind of myopic, ignorant, persecution complex many rural residents of the region adhere to, since I can think of at least two examples to disprove this off the top of my head. For one, Robert Gates, the incoming White House Press Secretary is a proud product of the state of Alabama and has the accent to prove it. Artur Davis, Representative of Alabama's seventh congressional district was considered for an Obama administration position but rejected at the last minute. I'm sure there are many others. The reason most Obama supporters are from other parts of the country is because few significant liberal or centrist Democrats are from the state. The few Democrats who do get elected in the region are either a) African-American or b) so Conservative that that might as well be Republicans.

As a brief history lesson---Abraham Lincoln agreed to put Andrew Johnson as the second on the ticket in his 1864 re-election campaign because Johnson was a southerner, albeit the only major politician from the state of Tennessee who refused to align himself with the Confederacy and as such stayed resolutely loyal to the Union. One-hundred-fifty years later, centrist and liberal Democrats are still lacking in the states that seceded from the Union. In 2008, some posed the theory that the recent Presidential cycle was a realigning election, but this kind of pronouncement can only be made from hindsight. And, as this article underscores, realigning in certain areas of the country does not necessarily mean realigning in other parts of the country. Though there were cracks in the Solid South (i.e. North Carolina and Virginia), one doesn't know for sure whether this was a result of Obama's charisma and organizational strength or a marker of larger trends yet to come. Get back to me in two to four years.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Poem for the Occasion

With the Inauguration five days away, I thought I might add a word or two of caution.


Barack Obama
will not stem the

growth of
Walmart SuperCenters.

Barack Obama
will not abolish

Top 40 radio
as we know it.

Barack Obama
will not build
a co-op within

walking distance
of every residence.

Barack Obama
will not force

everyone to drive
a Prius.

Barack Obama
will not send out

a coupon for
one free vegan smoothie
to every American

made, of course,
out of actual vegans

(and only free range ones
at that).

Barack Obama
will not build bike lanes

or sustainable eco-friendly
hiking trails
in remote parts of Montana.

Barack Obama
will not pass important legislation

in thirty minutes or less
or your order's free.

Barack Obama
will not show up at your


protest rally
that accomplishes
absolutely nothing.

Barack Obama
cares nothing for
trendy Thai restaurants

or overpriced soap.

Barack Obama
appreciates your interest

but makes a point of
friending anyone on Facebook

so don't feel special.

Barack Obama
is not Santa Claus
Jesus Christ

and Moses wrapped
into one.

Anecdotal Evidence

On my way back from a poetry reading, I was walking through a rough part of town to catch my train. Focused completely on reaching my destination I was unexpectedly startled by a explosive string of angry profanity too vile even for ten o'clock at night. The object of this barrage was a small black boy who stood by the window, immobilized by the shock, his head bent, acting as if behavior of this kind was frequent. I saw only the child and one other adult, perhaps the mother. The voice appeared to be male, but from my vantage point I could not see him.

The screaming was so loud that it traveled to the sidewalk outside where I was walking. Regrettably, the ghettos are home to so many stories like these. The only thing particularly novel about them is their frequency. They find their way into news reports, the verse of street poets, and rap lyrics. Child abuse is a well documented phenomenon, as is the kind of rage that creates a never-ending cycle of violence and hostility. And friends, even though we have elected the first black President, this is one problem Barack Obama can't fix by himself.

The poetry reading, held in a predominately African-American part of town was an extension of this kind of behavior. The ghetto blues that Curtis Mayfield sang about pops up in nearly everyone's pieces---but in lamenting the sorry state of affairs, few people provide much of a solution. For every serious moment there are fifteen that resort to bawdiness or graphic sexuality for the sake of humor and shock value. Entertainment appears to have a higher value than craft, talent, or style. Sometimes I wish I could tell them that the world isn't a huge joke. Perhaps this is a kind of coping mechanism---their lives are full of tragedies, so why dwell on them? Yet, this kind of response is commonplace everywhere these days---the entertainment generation thrives on the cheap laughs and cheap visceral responses. Depth is still lacking.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Poetry Day

I'm going to be quite busy during the day, but I did want to post something, so please pardon the poem.


reluctant bohemian
with emily post mother

new england
palmer method

puts herself last

points out details

the world is always
full of something to
put into the sink.


she squints
she squirms

her face belies
no thoughts
the perfect mirror

seeking in others
what she denies
in herself.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Treatment Update

Big changes afoot.

Parnate will be introduced not next Friday, but the Friday after. This is a precautionary measure to ensure that I won't have a serious hypertensive crisis. All MAOIs demand that one adhere to strict dietary restrictions and the doctors wish to avoid even the slightest possibility I'll have a reaction. I'm curious to see if I will lose substantial amounts of weight like I did last time I was on the medication. I dropped fifty pounds in a matter of two or three months. Weight fluctuations are common with bipolar, of course, and so accordingly I make a point to keep pants of three separate waist sizes just in case.

I'll be on 40 mg, which is a pretty substantial dose. If I don't respond to 40 mg I will be increased to 60 mg. The good thing about Parnate, however, is that the positive effects are evident in around a week---at most two. In addition, my Seroquel dosage is being gradually increased to 600 mg, which is a very hefty amount. Right now I've been fighting the sedation, and will continue to have to fight for the next few weeks as my body adjusts to it.

At the moment, I am waiting for the brain scan/genetic profile people to get here. Up until now, they've been extremely flaky and unreliable. I hope this changes soon.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Really Dirty Money

Now, here's an interesting story.

Nearly 80 to 90 percent of one-dollar bills circulating in large cities register trace amounts of Cocaine.

Though this might not qualify as a morality tale or cautionary fable to warn the population of some massive coke-fueled epidemic, what it does show is that money is dirty. Hopefully no one gets the wise idea to lick or chew on one-dollar-bills to get some kind of contact high. That would be a waste of time and a waste of money. And you might want to wash your hands more thoroughly, just to make sure.

In the meantime, enjoy the music.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Inauguration Reality

The rest of the country, fed by news reports, is anxiously awaiting the Twentieth. Here in DC, we're awaiting the Inauguration too, though the truth is that what we have to look forward to is a logistical nightmare. In short, the arrival of a huge wave of sightseers to see the swearing in and Inaugural Address is being greeted in many corners with resignation more than celebration. If one did nothing but read the headlines, one might have a totally different conception of how things are really going to transpire that day. Allow me to explain---certainly some people have taken the liberty of renting their houses and apartments out to out-of-town Inauguration visitors, but the practice is not as widespread, nor as lucrative as you might think.

If I may, pardon as I do a little more debunking. At first we were told to expect four million people for the Inauguration ceremonies. Then they backed off of that initial estimate. Historic occasion or not, the magnitude of the event can't outstrip the simple realities. Many from out of town don't realize that the actual city of Washington, DC, proper is relatively small in area and quite densely packed. At most, 500,000 people could even fit into the immediate area surrounding where the ceremony is to be held, each standing upright, crammed elbow-to-elbow on the Mall stretching from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. To wit, only people who were fortunate enough to get tickets from their Congressperson or Senator will really be able to see anything. Those who are packed in like sardines from the Reflecting Pool backwards, in my opinion, might as well not even be there. It is my understanding that there will be Jumbo tron television screens positioned every so often to compensate for that deficiency, but if that's the best one can do, I'd rather stay at home at watch it inside, where it will certainly be warmer and more comfortable.

The thought of two million people who don't understand the layout of the city, to say nothing of the mass transit system makes me cringe. This is why I'm going to make a point to avoid the general downtown area for at least three days.

Aside from the businesses who will profit from the influx of two million extra visitors, average residents will find their routines disturbed and many large thoroughfares cordoned off to automobile traffic. Many have been grumbling that, as a result of the roadblocks, it will be damn near impossible to be able to drive to the event. In an effort to keep the President-Elect safe and to closely monitor incoming and outgoing traffic, the only way to enter the District is by way of Maryland. All routes into DC via Virginia have been closed. This means that those who do wish to travel in via car are going to have slow going---traffic snarls, long lines, and checkpoints to pass through. This is to say nothing of parking, which will be a major problem in and of itself.

T-Minus nine days and counting. Everyone's holding their breath---half expecting a nightmare.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday Video


What's your name?

(Is it any wonder
I reject you first?)

Friday, January 09, 2009


Two of my regular readers requested I post the poem I read live earlier in the week. Here it is in its entirety.


latches on to her
latest significant other

quotes verbatim an
exaggerated litany of
his greatest hits minus

of course

the tragic missteps

her role as spokesperson for
a private P.R. campaign

unprepared for
heavy scrutiny
aiming for
easy ego-stroking

flattery famously conceals
desire for legacy absorption

parallel parasites
blind to their hosts


In news regarding treatment, on Monday I will begin the first round of genetic studies, brain scans, and neuro-psych testing. My medication regimen will be modified greatly too over the next couple months. The doctors may introduce Neurontin and an anti-depressant on top of what I am already taking. The anti-depressant prescribed will be either Cymbalta or a MAOI inhibitor like Parnate or Nardil. Having been on a MAOI inhibitor before, I recognize the dietary restrictions it requires and would modify my diet accordingly.

The concern I have with the introduction of an anti-depressant is that in times past they have thrown me into a manic state. The doctor assures me, however, that with lithium (the only true mood stabilizer) I have only a very slight risk of becoming manic. What they are seeking to treat now is my anxiety disorder and by proxy, the mild state of depression I have been struggling with for the past several weeks.

I'm not feeling much up to confronting political issues or larger social ills while I'm in the process of recovery. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

So Very True

The Dying Arts

Poetry is a dying art. Perhaps art as a whole is dying because we are living in a fragmented world where no one seems to want to devote the time to improving their hand at the discipline. Like all disciplines, art requires focus, drive, and vision. When no one bothers to emphasize the importance or the beauty of art, then it withers. Our single-minded focus on banal entertainment in all of its thousands of varieties have made us slothful and uninformed. Our aspirations have shifted from noble to narcissistic and we are all the worse for it.

Last night I participated in a poetry reading here in town, which might as well have been named Amateur Hour. There were hints of promise in some of these poems, but they seemed to believe that the act of jocular performance itself was more important than the delivery or, god forbid, the words behind them. Most badly called for restraint and revision. Moreover, their uniform mediocrity showed them to be completely beholden to a mind-numbingly small number of influences rendering them in bad imitation of already poor art. In the process, original voice was often nowhere to be found. Good art absorbs influences from everywhere, because only then does one truly see the immense potential of what can be achieved. Good art speaks for itself and begs the question rather than provides an simple answer.

This could be a reflection of a larger problem. In this country we have long been reluctant to subsidize and fund the arts. I recall the controversial measures pushed by the GOP in the 1990's that, if passed, would have entirely cut off funding for the National Humanities for the Arts. In comparison, other countries, by contrast, have gladly footed the bill---knowing that the building blocks of progress and civilization cannot be measured purely in terms of profit, loss, gain, and expenditure. Many people seem to think that cultural advancement really means that every town should have a Target shopping center. Many people have never been told why art matters, both on a conscious and a psychic level---and they were certainly never taught in school to understand why abstract concepts are of such vital importance to everyone.

I'm not sure whether art is completely dying out or merely evolving into another form. What I must say, however, is that I'm not sure I like the new direction it's heading.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Up The Mountain

Two blessed days of sleep later, I feel a million times better. As soon as community meeting concludes, I will head back out into DC and visit one of the few remaining museums and historical houses I have not seen. Tonight I will brave my anxieties and read my poetry in front of a hopefully understanding audience at a trendy restaurant downtown. Likely I will post about my experiences here tomorrow.

Though I am improved, I'm still not filled with the concentration or focus to set forth a decent post, so I'll conclude. Enjoy the bizarre Lou Reed interview.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Ours is not a rational illness.

These words were spoken by a fellow patient in conversation the other day. They could not be truer. Trying to superimpose rationality and logic upon an illness which is seemingly bereft of both is a pointless exercise. This is to say that reason would work, provided enough details of the nature of my condition were known, but few concrete answers exist. Each new round of research unlocks a few mysteries, but Sphinx-like, more often than not the conclusions drawn are themselves a new set of riddles and questions.

As with life, I am easing back into blogging. It will take several days to get back to feeling like my old self again. Though I did thankfully sleep quite a bit last night, I'm still adjusting to the transition. Psychiatry is an inexact science, at best, and while there was a substantial adjustment period getting off of the medications, now there will be a corresponding extreme adjustment period getting back on them. Ten hours sleep goes a tremendous way, though, I have to say.

When the brain scans, genetic profiles, and lab work begin, I'll be sure to post the results.

Monday, January 05, 2009


It appears that I won't be able to participate in any medication trials while I'm up here. The parameters are too rigid. Yesterday, I talked about the possibility to being switched to another medication trial, that of Riluzole. Today at rounds the team I and discussed this in detail. To wit, the doctors are hesitant to involve me in the Riluzole profile for two reasons.

a) Doing so would require me to be taken off of Lithium, which as a mood regulator is the only reason I didn't get psychotic, manic, or severely depressed all of last week when I was severely sleep deprived. Furthermore, lithium was difficult to adjust to taking in the first place, and getting back on it after the profile was finished would be an additional hassle.

b) The Riluzole study is 50% active and 50% placebo. This means that one hardly gets any kind of sustained relief from the trial medication, since there's a 1 in 2 chance at all times that one could be receiving only placebo and not an active agent. To sleep, I'd be administered Ativan, which is a benzo I have abused before and one which like every other benzo I've taken that I would quickly develop a tolerance to, rendering the net result negligible and forcing me to have to go through withdrawal symptoms to get completely off of it later.

There are no easy answers when you have a chronic health condition.

I'll be up here for another two months, at minimum. There are other options: genetic profiles, brain scans, and assorted other tests. I intend to pursue these to the fullest. It does bums me out considerably that I won't be able to explore new medication options while I'm up here, but I'll be completely honest---none of the trials in which I was to participate seemed to promise much for me. Depression and mania are underlying issues to my severe generalized anxiety disorder, which has rendered me unable to sustain lasting employment or function in the outside world for more than fleeting periods of time.

Treatment Update

I had to discontinue participation in the ketamine protocol. After laying awake for most of the night yet again, I was on the verge of a panic attack. I requested medication for sleep, which allowed me to get five almost rested hours instead of the almost nothing I was certain to get without having taken anything. In short, I can't stand a sustained period of absolutely no sleep. I'm not sure anyone could. This makes me sad because I wanted to see what information could be gleamed from the trial, but there's no point torturing myself.

At rounds this morning the treatment team and I will discuss future options. The conclusions drawn from the meeting will be posted here shortly. There may be another protocol to shift to that is available in pill form and has a sedative effect. Otherwise, I feel disappointed that the first protocol didn't work out, but there's no point in beating myself up about it. Fifty percent of all research subjects simply can't tolerate the reduction in medication and the side effects that come from it. I am hardly alone in this.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Descending Slightly

The lack of sleep did make me crabbier than usual. Suzi Riot, I owe you an apology. I got some sleep last night and I hope the trend continues. Six days of no sleep will make anyone crazy---that's why it's a torture technique.

Quite honestly, I'm not used to it when I'm ambushed by someone trying to humiliate me and I wasn't exactly in the right frame of mind to be utterly blindsided. I really don't want to talk about it any longer. All it does is keep me upset and right now trying to stay calm is my primary motive. As of right now, I think I'm going to be okay. Tomorrow is rounds with all the doctors and the combined staff, then I have two days of neuro-psych testing. Hopefully this week will be nothing like last week.

PENolan, I think I may not need to flee the coop quite so soon. It looks as thought the worst has passed. It will be fun to visit someday, though. :-)

Re-Evalution Time

This has, to put it lightly, been one of the worst weeks of my life. I'm going to try to see if I can get any sleep at all tonight and then make a final decision on Monday.

I've come to the conclusion that I simply may not able to be tolerate total washout (removal of all medications) and be unable to complete the first protocol. Have no fear. There is another trial in which I can participate---it'd be taking a medication by pill form for eight weeks. Half the time will be placebo and half the time will be active agent. I mean to do this after the first protocol for which I was scheduled, meaning my time here will probably be reduced by two months if I determine that I simply can't go through the ketamine trial.

Thanks to all who have expressed concern.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Saturday Video

The Raincoats, "In Love".

I'm too tired to write an extended biography, so please let the song itself suffice.

Feeling Panicked

Another night with less than two hour's sleep. I feel panicked and raw. Taking a sleep aid would invalidate the protocol and delay it, or worse yet, send me back home without having accomplished much of anything.

I just don't feel sleepy. That's the problem. Or if I do feel tired, I don't feel sedated enough to have any sustained period of sleep. When the doctor gets here, I'm going to talk to her.

Friday, January 02, 2009

What I Have Learned

Some people will simply not listen. What gets me about certain activists is that they're so consumed with finding example after example of the Evils of Patriarchy/Racism/Oppression/Insert Social Disease that they will mistake allies for enemies. This is the true problem with anyone who chooses to keep such a narrow focus on an all-consuming crusade---in their zealousness to delight in finding and rooting out one more example of "the problem", they completely fail to really listen, build consensus, and find the solution. Imagine what we could accomplish if we came to the table with our minds open and our fangs not bared. Imagine if we sought to really resolve social issues---believing that things could really change and that we were not locked into some vast existential crisis with no resolution point ever.

Same old situation. After a while this sort of never-ending stalemate built from mutual distrust and fruitless paranoia gets tedious. So it is that I almost didn't want to respond to this same thing again because it's the same damn thing, over and over and over and over again. But I will say yet again---if one really listens, there's no telling what good can be accomplished.

Something to Look Forward To

Slowly Working My Way Back

Thanks to all those who have been patient. Every night I get a little more sleep. At this point I am nine days away from the first infusion, at which point sleep will become easier and medication trial will have officially begun. Last night I thought for sure I was going to have to give the whole thing up if I had another sleepless night and spent at least an hour in my bed sobbing. Fortunately, I did mercifully drift off shortly after that.

I miss not blogging at length every day and I miss not exercising thoroughly as well. I'm going to try for the latter later this morning and see if I have enough strength to do it. Don't worry. Soon I'll be back to my regular self.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Ordeal Continues

A bit more sleep last night, but not much more.

In the spirit of New Year's, I leave you with this video.