Category Archives: geek

Joker, Part 1: Mental Illness, Poverty & Loneliness in a Broken System

joker mural
Put on a happy face.

“What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?” Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) will tell you. “What you fucking deserve!” Joker, 2019, dir. Todd Phillips, is the Joker we deserve.

Which is why this film disturbs and terrifies. There is no combustion in a vacuum. If Howard Beale (Peter Finch, Network, 1976, dir. Sydney Lumet) had yelled “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” into the camera, and his viewers at home weren’t already fed up, no one would have run to their window. No one would have joined in the chorus of their neighbors screaming the slogan. And Howard Beale would have simply lost his job.

And Joker would not have earned over a billion at the box office, been nominated for eleven Academy Awards, nor feared by Tipper Gore moms and theater chains if it didn’t have one fat, clown shoe firmly planted in our world. Our world where mass shootings crowd the news, the gap between the rich and those barely holding on increases, the holes in our social safety net widen, the rampant untreated mental illness of our war veterans, crushing poverty, Incells, opiates, and a rate of “deaths of despair” by over-dose or suicide that has lowered our national life expectancy. This nation spiraling towards chaos. This horrifying world on fire.

This tale of a lonely, damaged man soaks in the visual cues and themes of pre-Star Wars American classics from the 70s. When Time Square was a seedy string of peep shows and pawn shops. The ignominious Nixon presidency and ineffectual Carter administration. The end of the Vietnam war with its alienated veterans. Drugs like cocaine and heroin replaced weed and acid, as the Boomer generation’s Flower Power wave broke, and receded back into the primordial ooze.

Boldly shunning slick CGI destruction, clear good versus evil, and countless bloodless deaths of no consequence, Joker is murky, full of questions and consequences. Beginning with exactly one logo: the Warner Bros. logo from 1981, the movie trips up your first expected step into its world. From there we are thrown onto the graffitied and trash filled streets of Gotham (New York) City in 1981. And into the tortured life of Arthur Fleck. But, make no mistake, this is not Taxi Driver except he’s a clown. The references to that film, Network, The French Connection, etc. root us in a known world, while standing alone as a story firmly rooted in our own time. Even the name, Arthur Fleck, seems like a twisted pun on Art Flick.

I was drawn to see the film, and write about it for its gorgeous use of visual story-telling, music, color, and fabulous actors because I am a film student. But also because the film deals with mental illness, loneliness, poverty, abuse, and a society so broken we’re thinking about electing an 80 year old man who promises us everything for nothing. And that is the world I live in.

We first meet Arthur at the rent-a-clown agency where he works. We learn that he lives with the invalid mother (Frances Conroy) he supports. That he tells people he aspires to be a comedian, like I tell people I’m a writer. He visits a therapist at Arkham State Asylum like the horrible places that pass for mental health clinics in my life, takes seven different pills (I take four to five, but one three times a day), and carries a card to show strangers when his brain trauma causes him to break into torturous, uncontrollable laughter no matter what emotion he may be feeling. He has elaborate fantasies/delusions (I’m working on this!), but more than anything, Arthur hopes his life is more than “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (Mac 5. 5. 24-27)

Or, as he writes in the “joke diary” he coyly produces for his therapist to read, “I just hope my death makes more sc cents than my life.” He wants someone to truly see him, and love him for who he truly is. But he may be the loneliest, most over-looked man in the world. The saddest clown ever.

Physically, Arthur is emaciated. His skin looks translucent stretched over his rib cage and bones. His straggly, greasy hair, reaches his shoulders, sometimes looking mousy light brown, others appearing black. His gaunt face is angular, with a long nose, and large, deep set eyes that shift from blue to black that mirror a light within that varies from sparkling, to confused, from enraged betrayal, to murderous fire.

On a personal level, Fleck, painfully shy, awkward, and effeminate (from our Macho Man society’s point of view) likes to dance, visits comedy clubs to take notes, and seems to genuinely enjoy being a clown. His mom calls him “Happy,” and says he was put on earth to make people smile. But we see glimpses of another side of his personality. He slashes at his Mom’s dinner to cut it for her, while patiently engaging in her incessant ramblings and letter writing to Thomas Wayne, the richest man in Gotham. He twinges with resentment when she explains that Wayne, whom she worked for thirty years ago, would be “sickened” if he saw how they were living. He fixates on and stalks his cute, single mom neighbor down the hall (Zazie Beets). And imagines that Murray Franklin (Robert DiNero), his favorite late-night host, picks him out of a crowded audience, and admits that he’d give up his fame and show-biz to have “a son like you.” And there is his ever-present laugh, which he vomits out like there is a wild beast trapped within that slight figure, and it wants out.

In fact, Arthur’s entire life seems to be lived in locked in confined spaces. The camera barely nudges down long rows of lockers at his job, in cramped rooms full of folder files or dusty tchotchkes. The streets he walks are narrowed by ever-growing heaps of trash bags from the city’s garbage crisis. The commuter trains are packed with unhappy humanity. Walls are covered in graffiti. And the long staircase he trudges up nightly on his way home seems longer and steeper each time we see him do it.

When we are close to Arthur, we see him through dirty glass, metal bars, and mesh grates. Or he is shown in close-up, his face taking up only half the screen, as his pained features react to the disembodied voices of characters off-screen. He seems to melt into the sickly green of institutional fluorescents, yellow tinged sunlight through grimy windows, or covered in deep blues and maroon, brick-reds, untidy whites. The colors of his world.

Through this constraining and muddled lens, we watch Arthur’s daily routine. Painting his face, stuffing his hands in his mouth and twisting his face into grotesque grins, crying through his clown makeup while he listens to the bad news on the radio. And all the while that laugh like the howls of a wounded animal. I know that howl. It’s the primal noise you make when you are utterly alone.

Arthur gets beat up a lot. In an early scene, he’s in his clown costume, trying to be seen between the press of people and ever-piling garbage spinning a sign that reads, “EVERYTHING MUST GO!” A group of punks steal his sign, and we learn Arthur can run. Finally following the kids into an alley made narrower by the ever-present black trash bags. He’s jumped. He drops immediately to the ground and assumes the fetal position. No crying out or fighting back as he’s repeatedly kicked, while people pass perpendicularly in the back ground. Just stay still, and wait for it to stop. I recognized this move. This is how I learned to react to abuse. Arthur is a pro.

The colors of his bruises remain with him through the rest of the film slowly turning from blue, to purple, to greenish-yellow. And then a co-worker uses the excuse of Arthur’s beating to push a .38 special and bullets in a brown paper bag on him. He says it’s a “favor,” and Arthur can owe him one. Arthur squeals with nervous laughter at the sight of the thing. And yet, this a turning point for him. One that will both give him the confidence to try to achieve his dreams, yet set him inexorably on the road to the collision of his fantasy world and his reality, and his ultimate transformation.

There is a lot we don’t know about Arthur. We learn that Arthur doesn’t seem to know a whole lot about himself. In fact, we don’t even know if he is The Joker. But this film disturbs because, whatever we have faced in life, most of us can relate to the struggles, loneliness, and fears of Arthur Fleck. That is a rough lens to view anyone through, mainly yourself. And while most of us manage somehow, there are many Arthurs out there, slipping through the cracks. Grasping desperately for something real to hold onto. Hoping against hope that somewhere there is someone who cares.

There is simply too much I want to say about this film for one blog. I hope you’ll stick with me until next time, as we follow Arthur’s journey to Joker.

In the mean time, remember Charlie Chaplin’s injunction:

🎶Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just
Smile🎶

-JL 🤡👈

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Hitler Hates Being Compared to Trump: Top Ten Other Bad Guys to Use Instead of Hitler

People often ask why I keep re-reading William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. While others ask, “What good is a BFA in Film?” Well, here’s all your questions answered. I’ve had this footage from the film Downfall for a bit. I am not attempting to glorify Adolf Hitler. But instead to insist that calling everyone Hitler cheapens the evil this man wrought.

Both monstrous human beings and products of our imagination lie scattered throughout our species’ dodgy history to choose from when insulting Donald Trump, Bill Barr, random folks online, or your parents and Chemistry teachers. I recommend that all my friends take the time to look into my list of ten other really awful folks and characters you may consider using next time you feel that urge to toss a “Yes, mien Fuehrer,” at whoever mildly annoys you. “Heavy words are so lightly thrown.”

  1. Darth Vader: He wanted to rule the Galaxy, but was just a wormy dude in a mask. Death bed confession aside, I find Vader a go to for lawful evil, and imperialist intentions. Although I really sweat that Force Choke power. He is the ultimate embodiment of the man who has accepted his mask (persona) and role as a cog in the machine of evil that he himself has become, in the words of Obi-wan Kenobi, “more machine now than man.” He did kill the Emperor, until JJ Abrams resurrected him because JJ.
  2. JJ Abrams: Unquestionably awesome for his ability to establish both the main characters, themes, and mystery of “The Island” in the two-part “Pilot” of the series Lost. And in The Force Awakens. He has sinned against all Star Trek fans, recasting Kirk as an ne’er do well who somehow gains control of the Starfleet flagship Enterprise, destroying the Id, Ego, Super Ego relationship between Bones, Kirk, and Spock, and forcing Trek fans to accept action and special effects over the Trek brand of intelligent speculative fiction that reflects on modern issues. Good God man! It’s Trek not Star Wars! He is also the man known for complicated alternate timelines, disappointing endings, and Spock shouting “Khaaaaan!”
  3. Julius Caesar: He waged a savage campaign against the people of Gaul. And, while we all love his pithy, intelligent wit, and obvious charisma. He was a mass-murderer who waged illegal wars full of appalling inhumanity. He needed to stay in power to avoid prosecution for his many crimes. Instead he was stabbed by his “friends” at the feet of the statue of his old frenemy, Pompey Magnus.
  4. Brutus: The betrayer! The friend and “son he never had…or did he?” that literally stabbed Julius Caesar in the back. Brutus was looking to protect the rich Senatorial class, not the freedom of the Roman Republic or its citizens. His actions led to a vicious 10 year civil war that ended the Republic and ushered in the age of the Emperors.
  5. Napoleon: Don’t give this Corsican the, uh, short shrift! This former nobody rose through the ranks of the new French Republican Army, and then destroyed the Republic he fought for by naming, and crowning, himself Emperor. His successful quest for a way to preserve food aside, this guy began as a liberator, but ended up a conqueror and died alone on a rock.
  6. Al Capone: This repulsive individual wrote the book on organized crime. He ruled Chicago through terror, while little caring whether the booze he peddled made his desperately dry customers blind or dead. His code of Omerta (Silence), and demands for absolute loyalty from his “soldiers,” complete disregard for human life, money grubbing, and addiction to his own press lead to his ultimate downfall for, wait for it, tax evasion! And every Italian-American since has had to live under the shadow of this creep. Thankfully, he died a slow and horrible death due to syphilis!
  7. Pontius Pilate: Roman governor of Judea, played by David Bowie and Michael Palin equally well. His infamous “washing of his hands” of any involvement in the fate of Jesus of Nazareth, ranks him as the very first Quisling, and epitomizes the “eh, whatever” attitude of those who can’t be bothered to care.
  8. Vidkun Quisling: This Norwegian army officer’s name has become synonymous with “collaborator” and “traitor.” Nominally head of the Norwegian government during WWII, this particular jag-off was a Nazi plant and stooge, who helped jack boot out the legitimate government of Norway, and sold the nation and its people down the river to his Nazi overlords in Germany.
  9. Ahab: The first PTSD sufferer in literature. An undeniably great yet tragic man, who, unlike MacBeth or Oedipus, does not suffer from an inborn flaw, but instead suffers the results of a trauma. This fictional captain commanded the whaling ship Pequod. With a crew comprised of all faiths and races of Earth, he manages to unite the souls in his charge in his deadly personal quest for vengeance against a silent, monolithic beast of the unknown watery realms. Sending all, save one, to their death in his rage against what he perceives as the silence of an uncaring God.
  10. Jaws: The greatest terrorist. Yo. Jaws don’t give a fuck. Pretty young girl, a Chocolate Lab, kid on a raft, your wife’s holiday roast, awesome hung-over Irish actor? Jaws don’t give a fuck. Jaws is senseless evil. He embodies the power of nature and our animal impulses unleashed. He comes from the alien world beneath the water, the monster from the deep. The monster deep within ourselves, who will wreak havoc on human life if left unchecked. It takes Chief Brody — Ego — and Richard Dreyfuss — Super-ego — and the raging Id of Captain Quint to slay the beast and restore order and health to life. Both ancient and eternal, we all fear Jaws because Jaws is the ultimate unknowable. Jaws reminds us that monster within is always just lurking beneath the surface.

So, that’s my list of suggestions of other horribles, deplorables, and monsters to cite instead of Hitler. Let me know what you think of the video and my list! What would your list be? Tell me who or what nightmare fuel you’d add or remove in the comments below. And, remember, humanity has a deep bullpen when it comes to evil, both past and present. Heck, I didn’t even mention Stalin!

*First one to find the Easter Eggs in the video wins.

#neverforget

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You Need to Calm Down: Dear all of US,

It looks awesome. You just need to calm down.

I’ve become a huge T. Swift fan. That’s a lie, obviously. She isn’t from England and/or Ireland. But the fact is that I was on my way to therapy, concerned that the driver was a bit late. When this song came on. It topped the hour of the driver’s station. Suddenly, and to my continued surprise, I found myself listening to the song on the radio. I had an idea that it was Taylor Swift only from reading about her lyrics, and sure ’nuff.

If you live under a rock like me, then enjoy the song and video here.

OK. So obviously this is about a certain Individual, we’ll call him Individual #1. The video added a colorful depiction of all sorts of folks doing their thing and just being happy. And the end has a pro-LGBTQ rights message. It was fun. I hadn’t seen the video before. But I’d seen headlines, the pictures of the dress and knew that there was some controversy over the entire thing.

So. Then my brain shattered as I had a terrific brainstorm in the back of the Uber. Everybody. You need to calm down. I need to calm down. So do you. And your mother. And your cousin Frank. (No offense, Frank. You’re calm.) Even the song and the dress became a big deal between pro and anti-gay and LGBTQ rights groups, and some simply criticized her for cashing in on Pride Month.

Let me tell you something. You need to calm down. It’s a damn pop song. And artists want to make money, LGBTQ or not. I couldn’t rock that dress, but she can. It’s cool. So you need to calm down. But so do I. I just gave several minutes of my life to typing the above sentences.

Enter the need to make more of an effort at being calm and doing your thing, despite the haters. Yes, The Hater in Chief, but also all of them. And quit hating on others and yourself. Just, calm down.

It may seem silly, but I found it cathartic to hear this woman slice into Individual #1 without apologies. And if that upsets you, then you need to calm down.

Wistfully pining for the death of Prime Minister Thatcher in Margaret on the Guillotine, by Morrissey happened. Biggie wrote a song in which he brags about robbing “pregnant bitches.” Um, John Lennon posed naked with his wife in bed. You realize that’s how they get attention right? Courting controversy. Famous people like attention.

Anyhow, this tune is dead basic pop. But its spirit and message is the response to the world and life that I have been searching for. I did anger, and depression, and I’m just over who said what on social media today. Blah, blah, blah. Life has become The Walking Dead, and someone needs to stab it in the brain. It just became too awful, too convoluted, too unbelievable, and just too painful to sit through any longer. It needs to stop.

Or I need to change the channel. I need to calm down. I’m just going to stay chill and focused on me, while you do your thing, and we’ll see how this turns out. It’s like feeding Tribbles. The more you feed a relationship tribble, the worse you’ll look and feel when all that tribble drama comes tumbling down on your head. When I am thinking about the Picard trailer, the more likely I’ll compare relationships to tribbles. See?

We all know the rainbow, glitter, star-studded video — or the rainbow dress — reflects nothing in reality. No one’s experience of life is that simple. If I could just calm down, I wouldn’t still require therapy or medication to help me work through and/on myself. But there is a nifty, gestalt, zen, Bob Newhart about “You need to calm down.”

We’re all like the guy in the joke who beats his head against a wall because it feels so good when he stops. We need to calm down. And, it is a wise-assed swipe at people who don’t help. Because, on top of the horrifying absurdity of life, do we need unhelpful people? They need to calm down or be out of my life.

The magnificent American, Carl Sandburg declared in his epic poem The People, Yes. “Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.” I don’t know if that day will ever arrive, but these days, everyone is enraged and looking for a Casus Belli. And when you look for trouble, or violence, or war you usually find it.

Why go looking in the first place? Do you wear orange to a bar named Tir Na Nog on St. Patrick’s Day? And yet we have actual citizens calling for the deaths of — or actually have killed — other citizens. Over what? You need to calm down. Now. Nobody should die or be hurt or commit suicide because you can’t control yourself. Because you need that much attention. I don’t have it for you anymore.

There are those who will misread everything I wrote above as an attack. Like tile yields in a strategy game, they see the world through lenses of interest. I can’t help that. But I can stop seeing the world through their eyes. Let me show you the world through my eyes! I could worry about what my abusive ex is up to. I could communicate with him. But I’m not gonna. I don’t care. So, you know what? I got 99 problems, but that guy ain’t one. I need to calm down, and he wouldn’t help.

So, yeah, that’s the tale of my Taylor Swift related revelation in the back of an Uber. ” You need to calm down.” We all need to calm down. Down the line. Et al. Every single one of US. Because if we are all miserable in our private or personal lives, we’ll continue to cross new Rubicons on the social front. And the public strife works to make us terrible/miserable human beings. We cannot sustain relationships in this way, nor can we reestablish our nearly broken public trust in government and laws and morals. I promise to calm down if you do. You know, give peace a chance. 😉

✌💚🖖

-J.Lakis

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For Hate’s Sake I Spit at Thee: Moby Dick

The name Moby Dick is a byword itself. So why am I offering up my experience after reading it five times in a row since winter? It has been rough. A rough time. And I’ve been breaking my mind to come up with a response. But I have none. Except that I feel as though if I don’t find a way to express this growing surge in my chest, well there will be some trouble, is all.

This will be the fourth blog post I’ve written or rewritten since I last posted. I haven’t been able to publish one.

So, I am just going to write through this writer’s block by writing about my recent experiences with Moby Dick.  It reminds me of when I read Homer and think: ooooo! This thing everyone has thought was so awesome that it has lasted 3,000 years is really great! Bravo me? I just caught up to basically literate in 800 B effn C and E. There really need be no award for that. You’re simply punished if you don’t. I dunno. Maybe it’s some kink of Greek thing.

First off, there’s Ishmael. Now this guy is easy to like. For one thing, he is a depressed school teacher, who refers to whaling as “his shot and ball.” So basically, “I don’t want to shoot myself, so I’ll go do this crazy thing that’s sure to kill me!” But then his gentlemanly acceptance of Queequeg as his sleeping companion, stating that it’s better to sleep “with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian” makes him seem amiable, worldly and thoughtful. And so he proves.

Then, Ahab. He is great and terrible. This wounded genius and twisted greatness. He uses his skill at leading men to convince a cross-section of the races and religions of the world to madly rush towards death for him. And gentle Starbuck. With neither just enough courage to kill Ahab nor just enough capacity to convince him to stop through love. And, yes, I love Stubb. Who doesn’t love the guy who sees the world coming to an end, and his first thought is to strip buck naked? Ishmael says Stubb would face death as just another order from above his rank to be followed. So, Stubb just follows orders.

Ah. And the way Ishmael explains everything! It’s beautiful. Trying to show off. But I love his meditations from the look outs. I love to follow his mind out ranging over the azure below to where it meets the azure above. It reminds me of being lulled to sleep by the song Breathe before every clock in the world wakes you up for Time. On Dark Side? You get relaxed into a lack of care, before suddenly reality rushes back on you.

Oh, and duh, Jess. But there really are two Ishmaels. One is the younger man in the story, and the narrator says this happened “nevermind how many” years ago. So, finally I realized, Oh! so this is why I can hear Ahab speaking to Starbuck in his quarters.

My other big bangs from my recent reading of Moby Dick are more pop culture. Well, for one, Gregory Peck is Ahab. He just is. I know that’s not a faithful rendition, but it’s John Ford? Houston? I don’t know. Ahab is Ahab is Gregory Peck. In the big stove pipe hat.

And my second pop big bang is Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. I realized that there is a coffin at the end of each. In Moby Dick, it’s QueeQueg’s coffin refitted as the life buoy that saves Ishmael. And in Khan it’s a photon torpedo outfitted as a coffin for Spock shot at the Genesis Planet where life renewed. Apart from Khan quoting Moby Dick the entire film, and having a copy in his bunker.

Oh yeah, and Jaws! Jaws is Moby Dick if Starbuck had lived or won. And the three day chase, the three whale boats, the three barrels. And both are a sequel for one character, so this time it’s personal. I love that movie. It has traumatized me for life though.

Not only am I glad that Ishmael gives us as much whaling information as we need to follow the action, but his  anatomical descriptions, particularly o fthe head. Because the head of this animal is like a monolith. Like THE Monolith from 2001. Unseeing, unfeeling, unstoppable, unknowable, with a jaw full of teeth attached to this monolithic front. It’s terrifying. And it’s white. The whiteness of the whale made a chapter name, why do you think the whale’s head is white?

Ha. I guess sometimes it’s just relaxing and easy to talk about a book because I could go on and on. What have you all been reading?

Comment and Like below! Trim topsails! Up anchor! Ten degrees to leeward laddies! Did I mention this book is both extensively brutal, with homosexual themes?

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It Doesn’t Matter What You Do: The Importance of Farting Around

My man Kilgore.

Depression paralyzes. We all know the story of the Prince of Denmark whose grief did passeth shew, but not enough for him to really do anything about it. Everyone dies in the end. It’s a mess. I don’t want to be like that guy or his dippy girlfriend. Except that I am. I’m wearing a long black cardigan over a Darth Vader shirt and listening to The Smiths. I am drinking tea I made from herbs I grow. But at least I’m doing something.

Putzing around, farting around, puttering, tinkering; I’ve done them all. I have big projects, one involving terracing out a garden on a hill. There is my guitar of course. I’ve been serenading the neighbors as much as weather permits. Breaking in my new Doc Martens. I’ve become quite a hand at making granola bars and veggie burgers on an industrial scale. Watching the tomato and other starts, start. Making and using my own potting soil, thank you.

I suffer from some hypo Depressions. So, I’ve adopted a “just do stuff” code. I mean, some of what I’ve been up to has been intense. I was on steroids for two weeks after I cleared out this one overgrown area behind the house. I had poison oak on my arms. It wasn’t that bad. The steroids helped. But yeah, I don’t care what I do, so long as I do something. Sure, I cleared that area, but I also worked out a lot of aggression!

I can’t sustain whatever overcomes me (sudafed) when I Hulk out on a hill or garden or whatever project. But I can sustain a good putz. Sometimes I do a small thing. Like clean and oil my fisker’s and lose them immediately. Sometimes I make a mental Scarlett O’Hara note: “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” But you know what? Aside from just getting me up an about and not languishing in the depths of despair, I do feel like I get things done. It may not always be a super lot, but doing stuff at any pace is good for me. I get to think “Hey! Look! I did this stuff!” And people are like “Nice stuff doing, Jess!” And I’m like “thanks.”

Putzing around has more benefits now than ever. I mean, did you notice the Constitutional Crisis and other troubling developments in the news? I did. So I just keep doing stuff. Breathing and doing stuff.

The more meaningless the better, really. Butterfly gardens. Blogging. Playing guitar. And now I finally have an idea for a bigger writing project I have in mind. We can talk about that later. But I have been out of writing form for about two years. It’s painful now. So I have to write. In this sense, the putzing lead to further putzing with the world, and now I have a new writing project.

Something else to do. Something to wrest my mind back from the anxiety and depression. And from yeah, That Thing. The Thing that won’t just frakkin go the frak away.

Writing is just a way to fart around, and give my brain a good long, meaningless problem to work out. It’s exactly what I need. Hopefully by the time I’m finished, the weird scary shit will have gone away. Especially the big scary man. ugh.

Nothing seems to matter anymore. And there’s not much we can do but look through our fingers for a time. So why not fart around!? I’m going for more brain activity, and some small rewards to help check my Depression and Anxiety. But I firmly believe we should all fart around. I mean, what else is there to do? Wait for Barr to be stabbed behind the curtain? Just go fart around. That’s an order.

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My Rock God Delusion Therapy

May kill fascists?

Oh you all are missing out! I’m telling you. If you were my neighbors you could enjoy the joyous noise of my totally sweet guitar stylings every evening. And, if you were super lucky, the dulcid tones of my voice echoing up through the valley. It’s so sad. I’m so sorry.

I haven’t had any official complaints yet, but it’s THERAPY. OK? So go ride your ATV around and let the dogs chase you, noisy. You’re missing out. Anyhow. It’s true. I live in a sort of natural amphitheater back here in a hill at the bottom of a big open valley. And I have a kitchen porch that is one floor up. And that is my stage. And on it I am a rock god, and all my neighbors, my adoring fans.

I can’t help it. I’ve experienced difficulties lately. This is how I’m adapting to my new reality since I moved here and, you know, when we fell into the Twilight Zone in November twenty billion years ago in 2016? There were two main offshoots of that. First was that I had no idea what to do. I felt overwhelmed and PISSED. I’m in a new house. Totally inundated. My dog had just died. I did not know what to take care of first. The second became an inability to be articulate. To speak, yes, but mainly to write! And that’s me. My thing. La cosa mia. Writing.

So much flew out of my control, and my world was turned around. I felt powerless. That spiraled into rage, constant anxiety, and abject depression. So, I tried a lot of things. Coloring, gardening, playing Star Wars Battlefront II, vegetarian and vegan cooking, making gardens with a pick axe, but I was also led back to the arts. I painted again. And then I picked up my Dad’s old guitar. And that was it.

I practice guitar whenever I have a moment. I always want to play my guitar. I always want to bring it with me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because music can express what other art forms cannot. A sort of soul-longing. And in general I play The Pogues, Woody Guthrie, other traditional music, and The Smiths. I have the same music as a Spotify playlist that I call Pissed Poor.

This music reflects struggle with a world that doesn’t really like the fact that you exist. Okies, Irishmen, Morrissey. And hard times and a bad place: The Dustbowl, the history of the Irish, Thatcherite England in a post-industrial town. Playing this music helps me engage with feelings that are similar to my own. It’s a way to sympathize and not be alone. Be connected by the feeling in the music.

Music became a new tool to experience and process more complicated emotions and difficulties than I could in words or pictures. Partly this is because it is instant. It appears, exists, then disappears. Like magic. But I credit the emotionally honest state that I achieve when playing with my complete lack of musical knowledge. It is by far my worst “art.” Medium. Whatever. What sort of medium is music anyway? It’s mathematical vibrations in the air.

I don’t get music. But I think that’s why it works for me. I know how to draw. I know how to write. I understand the concepts and practices of those art forms or media. So I can contrive to achieve a feel, but music for me is just raw, how it comes out. Like Shane MacGowan spitting out a song while wrestling with gravity.

It’s not important what I do anymore, so much as that I am doing something besides freak out with rage, depression, or anxiety. And music helps me achieve that. I have a system for my daily routine, but it’s wide about edges. I just need extra time. That’s all. I usually use the rule of three. Whatever you think it’s going to be in time, or money, or whatever, multiply that by three.

Music comes in because I want to squeeze every second of time for practicing. It gives me joy. So I look forward to when I can play. Of course, sometimes I cheat. But I can’t just drop a song I just picked up at prime time like that. Jeez. I have to have time to practice the song before I debut it. But I do that when no one can hear.

So this late Spring season we’ve added some Guthrie and Pogues, but my current musical therapy session is focused on learning “I Know it’s Over” by The Smiths. So my neighbors are no doubt happy about that. Lucky them. I don’t normally play six and a half minute songs. So my fingers get tired. But don’t you worry. I’m getting close to it. You’ll all hear the full performance, sobbing and all, someday, live, on my porch, in my rock god delusion therapy session. Lucky.

Check it out: I’m writing again, about music. Nice trick, huh?

While you’re here: check out the wonderful work done by the people at The National Alliance on Mental Illness and donate.

Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of stuff I like and hate.

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below. I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap the star LIKE button below, & LIKE and Share on Facebook. Follow and share on Twitter.

 


A Rainy Night in Soho: Loneliness & Song

I never made a point to go back and speak about the trauma I suffered at the beginning of this summer. It was a deep betrayal of a bond that kept me propped up emotionally. And I collapsed with it.

As I pointed out in an earlier post (In Which I Sing), I did pick up my Dad’s old guitar and have been practicing.

I suppose I enjoy it because my brain is full of words. Words strung together around an idea. Words to songs. Words to stories. I’ve never been short for words, until I was.

I suppose the answer lay the nature of the betrayal I experienced. That relationship was built on words. My words, mainly. And my words were suddenly turned against me, and worse, didn’t matter. I didn’t matter.

I’ve always been a talker. I have opinions on everything that I’ll back up with reams of words. I don’t even have to understand what I’m saying, or why, so long as the words sound good. That they string along well. They’re unusual or surprising, alliterative and witty.

But I can’t say I’ve ever been the popular type. I am exactly what I seem, the former editor of my high school literary magazine.

But I’ve always had friends. Until I was married, really. By the time I came to leave that relationship, I can’t say I had a friend. No one knew me, and I knew no one. My family and old friends had become strangers to me, and I to them.

One of my joys in piecing my life back together was rediscovering friends. Old friends and new. Renewing bonds and learning to understand what had changed during the gap in my life. Some friends took longer to regain, some I never have. I accept that.

Individual therapy has saved me more than once. In therapy, beyond the formal learning, I am able to practice being me. I was no longer sure who “me” was. I had a memory of me. Me healthy. Me full of confidence. Me the pain in the ass who wants to explain evolution to you. But who is “me” now? I knew I was deeply changed. In some ways irrevocably. But therapy gave me a safe space to explore this new “me.”

I suppose such a bond as that with a therapist becomes like a friendship. Mainly one-sided, but an open, honest, trust-based relationship. I like to wear my nice clothes and put on makeup to see my therapists. Present myself well. I want to impress, to prove I’m learning.

So, it was what I view as a betrayal of that bond by a woman I’d seen for two years as my therapist that sent me quiet.

I live with someone I love very much, who is good and kind to me, and who needs me too. I have family close by. But I don’t drive, and there is no public transportation here. I can’t say that I’d see many more people if my situation were different. But I would get out more. And a betrayal on such a personal level makes me less likely to seek people out.

The most helpful friends I’ve had lately are those like myself. Old and new. Involuntary hermits. Kindreds in mind and spirit.

As I said, I haven’t been writing as much. But music seems to help me channel some of that shattered pain, and the frail shards of happiness I’ve recollected.

Instead of speaking, I’ve become a prodigious doer of stuff. Good stuff. Extreme stuff. Gardening, fixing this old house, etc. I’m actually tough! But it all would be empty without my music. And if I feel nervous or unhappy, there is my music. I need my music. But what I listen to most is the words.

I’ve found a lot of solace in the music of resourcefulness. The kind that people make when times are hard, on what instruments they have. When work, if you can get it, doesn’t necessarily pay, and music is a chance at release. The music of folks who make a great noise at the passing of a loved one because they’ve earned their rest.

I like music about the confusion. About the search. Music to raise the dead. I’ve been working on this song above for some time. There are layers of meaning in it that speak to me of misspent youths, friendships come and gone, and somehow, purges my own demons. This song tells me “It’s OK.” Music to soothe. Music so I don’t feel alone.

I’ll borrow the words of others, until I regain my own.

While you’re here: Please check out the wonderful work done by the people at The National Alliance on Mental Illness and donate.

Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of stuff I like and hate. 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap the star LIKE button below, & LIKE and Share on Facebook! Follow and share on Twitter.


YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT PAIN IS!: The Buffalo Bill-ing of America

Ted Levine’s portrayal of the serial killer Jame Gumb, AKA Buffalo Bill, in The Silence of the Lambs, remains the most chilling portrait of a socio/psychopath in film history. And while the character from Jonathan Demme’s 1991 classic psychological-thriller has more famous lines — Put the fucking lotion in the basket! — his most chilling comes during his mockery of the pain of the young woman he has trapped in his basement. When she takes his dog hostage in an effort to escape, he shouts at the woman at the bottom of the filthy well “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT PAIN IS!”

Jame Gumb

He can’t understand or feel the pain of another, let alone validate it. And this is exactly where we are as a nation. We have all become so wrapped up in our personal axes to grind, whether they be based on gender, race, religion, class, etc, that we cannot see past our own pain, however valid. I’m not discounting the value of spreading awareness while making the case for change in our culture. Exactly the opposite. Call me crazy, #livingwithmentalillness, but I don’t view compassion, awareness, and political equality as a zero sum game.

If The United States holds out one great Promise, it’s that the constant work of making truer that original promise that we are all equal, and entitled to equal rights will bear fruit. I have no idea where the notion that there is a limit to the number and type of human beings with equal rights under the law came from. But I want to blow it up.

The #MeToo movement is as valid as #BlackLivesMatter as #BlueLives as #SupportOurTroops as #TakeaKnee as #LoveisLove as #CatholicChurchMolestation as #SecondAmendment as #GunControl as #NotOneMore. It’s only when these causes separate into little mutually exclusive cliques that we end up shouting down the well at our fellow human beings.

Is there room in this nation to support Colin Kaepernick and #BlackLivesMatter, be a Quaker who does not stand for nor salute any man-made symbol, live with a former Marine, #SupportOurTroops, and just want to celebrate The Eagles Superbowl win (finally!)?

May I support my #SecondAmendment rights, while still believing in common sense #GunReform? Can I suppot #Legalization as well as #RuleofLaw? Can I be #MeToo without incurring the wrath of males? Can males molested by the #CatholicChurch be #MeToo as well? It would make sense.

#Sexism #SexualAssault #EqualPay #ReproductiveRights and other #Feminist issues affect women of color far more than my (admittedly fine) white ass. And desiring to raise awareness about #PTSD #Depression #Anxiety and #LivingwithMentalIllness doesn’t mean I don’t also care about #PrisonReform. These issues can, and should, coexist.

Now, I absolutely do not want to associate myself with the mealy-mouthed #bothsides are to blame, nor enable the Fascist “I don’t do politics” appeasement movement of #Quislings and #Collaborators. I really don’t know how else to demonstrate my liberal cred than by practicing empathy and compassion.

I believe that this nation is big enough for all comers, and that Freedom and Equality have no limit. In fact, the more freedom, the more democracy, the more democracy, the more equality, and the more equality, the more freedom! On a purely pragmatic level, it keeps the creep of fascism at bay. And it’s also truly American and Patriotic. If America is about Freedom, let’s have it! There is enough to go around in a nation this large and diverse.

All I ask is for the practice of the compassion and empathy it takes to recognize and feel another’s pain and want to help. That’s how we humans survive, right? Working together.

I heard something that the Dalai Lama said once. I cannot remember the exact quote, but the gist of it was: When your fear touches the pain of another, you feel hatred and disgust. But when your love touches the pain of another, you find compassion.

If we don’t all embrace that as a rule to live by in the world’s oldest modern democracy, we’re all just Buffalo Bill shouting down the well in our basement at our fellow human beings. Mocking their pain. Bust down the door to your heart. And, like Clarisse Starling, save that suffering person. You never know when your turn in the well will come.

And if you really want your voice heard: VOTE! I don’t care what Russian propaganda you’ve read to the contrary, it’s the only way to gripe that really matters. Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th. Uber is offering free rides to polling places. And it is illegal for your employer to punish you for leaving work to vote.

PS – I know I teased a vlog earlier this week. It’s coming. But, as always seems to be the case anymore, current events outpaced my ability to edit. Especially with my arm still injured.

While you’re here: Please check out the wonderful work done by the people at The National Alliance on Mental Illness and donate.

Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of stuff I like and hate. 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share on Facebook! Follow and share on Twitter.


In Which I Sing: The Pogues

As you may have noticed, I have not been particularly active on this or other written social media. There are good reasons for that, which are for another post. However, I have been finding an outlet in music.

I refurbished my Dad’s old 1964 Guild guitar, and have been reteaching myself to play. I look for songs that say something to me about my life, and just let me work out difficult feelings.

So, I’m taking a bold step in posting a piece of music I’ve been working on for a bit. The name of the song is The Old Main Drag by, The Pogues. So, check out my cover! I can take the criticism — a positive legacy of art school. Singing and the guitar have saved my life this summer. But that doesn’t mean I can’t take a hint.

Let me know what you think in the comments below! Should I post more music? Lemme know!

While you’re here: Please check out the wonderful work done by the people at The National Alliance on Mental Illness and donate.

Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of stuff I like and hate. 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share on Facebook! Follow and share on Twitter.


Antici….: Jessie’s First AMA

tim-curry-rocky-horror1-165937

I see you shiver!

Hello my lovelies! I asked for it, and you gave it to me. So here you are! Answers to the AMA (Ask Me Anything) questions I requested on Facebook and Instagram! Excitement abounds, as we hold our breaths in antici….pation!

Let us begin, shall we?

  • Chad jumps in with a toughie! He asks: “How hard is it to continue to blog? Do you run out of ideas? What percentage of comments about your blog do you find frustrating?”
    • I’m overlooking the three-for here, Chad, because they are interesting questions . To your first point: yes and no. It’s something that I enjoy doing. It makes me happy to toss my brain droppings at an unexpecting world. But it is one of those things that can get easily lost in the shuffle of life. I try to schedule out a day or half-for blogging once a week. And, of course, it limbers me up to work on other writing, as well as helping me schedule that other writing work in. It’s a practice, like Kung Fu or something.
    • Do I run out of ideas? Oh good gracious no! I hold extensive conversations with myself, and sometimes I just have to settle the issue in a blog. Or I can always do an AMA…
    • The comments that frustrate me are the ones that are never posted.
  • Jenny asks: How does she get the black, henna tattoo she gave herself while mildly intoxicated and disturbed by puppies, off her hand?
    • Baking soda? Strong detergent that removes oils, rubbing alchol, mineral spirits? Good luck.
  • Deborah asks: Is there another job or skill, trade, or occupation that you ever considered trying or at least learning besides your writing?
    • Kudos on a good question. I actually didn’t formally study writing in college. So, I suppose the answer is, I have! I took an audit on small business planning and propsal writing at Temple. I trained in ESL and taught in Costa Rica for three years. I also trained to be a paid, written translator, which I did more towards of the end of my time there. I gringofied text to ensure native usage.
    • I also studied film and art, and that came with some unusual uses, and joys. Including: screenwriting, story boarding, classical oil painting, how to coil a cord, wire things, sound edit, sculpt, draw from life, draw the human form. I also took a lot of wonderful humanities courses, such as Shakespeare (history plays and tragedies), Medieval European History (plague! yay!). I even took a class in which I wrote both Jungian and Freudian analyses of fairy tales. That’s how I discovered Joseph Campbell. Yeah, so no regrets there really.
  • Charles asks if I have any advice for aspiring writers. Mos def!
    • Firstly, write. Write some more. Then more. Just, you know, write a lot. Write about your characters, write about the setting, the view point, what you want to say. Write everything about your story. Then forget about that stuff and let it inform your work from the background. And keep a way of recording your thoughts with you at all times. Ideas are slippery.
    • Secondly, STUDY YOUR CRAFT! You may have the bestest idea ever ideaed in the history of ideas, but execution is everything. There are standard guidelines regarding formatting, beats, plot points, etc. Learn these things! Find freedom in the form. Practice writing synopses. If you see a film or read a book, ask yourself: What genre is this from largest concept to smaller? For example: Comedy, Crime, Heist. Base your stories on one or two word ideas, such as “unrequited love.” Constantly challenge your characters, and raise the stakes. Conflict is drama. Try explaining books or movies in two sentences or less. “While facing threat X, hero must deal with Y and Z, , in their struggle to accomplish A, while learning the value of B and C along the way.” This will keep your mind right when you find you get bogged down in details in your work. Fake being a Pro until you are.
  • Lisarae desires to know: Who inspires me the most, living or dead and why.
    • Everything inspires me. Life is. And it doesn’t last. I don’t need to say “Yes!” to it all, but if something bothers me, that is inspiration as much as any joyful example. I make my meaning and justice as I can. I question everything, find what’s interesting, satisfy curiosity, take in what is good for me, reject what is wrong and try be free and young of mind. And when I fall, I just drag along until I can stand again.
    • Mente sana en corpus sanum.
    • Also, I totes made up that answer because I can’t think of just one person. But it doesn’t make it less true. Carl Sagan & Walt Whitman are big influences.
  • Barbara wants to know my shoe size:
    • Six female. Exactly six. And no other size ever. Just how it be.
  • Barbara also was interested on where she could see my answers.
    • Here, darling.
  • Dave demands to know why reality programming is so popular.
    • Money. A little while back the writer’s union striked. The studios realized it was cheaper to just send out small video crews, use non-union talent, and no script. Pay your writers!
  • Seth states that his questions are too niche to garner much reaction.
    • Well, you write broad statements.
  • Jo Ann has a thought experiment: There is a room with a single light fixture in the ceiling, no doors or windows. Turn off the light switch, where did the light go?
    • Oh my god why am I sealed in a windowless and doorless crypt! Is there a bottle of wine down here? And I can’t reach the light, which is on the ceiling.
  • Mark got all deep with: Do the answers meet my expectations?
    • Do I have a choice?
  • Jak came in with: Have you seen “The Witch?”
    • Yup. Loved it.
  • Jezebel wants dirt: And asks if I could marry anyone else, who would it be? (proviso: cannot be Morrissey)
    • I’m not married. I tried it out, and I’m not a fan. The legal and health stuff is important, and I kinda like Quaker weddings, which are legal in the Quaker State. But, yeah, in general not a fan of weddings, and marriage just seems artificial, and harder to get out of than in.
    • And, Stan, obviously.
  • Joe asks: What is the best, Baltimore-based, crime/drama that he should absolutely watch?
    • It begins with a W and ends in IRE. Jerk.
  • Sue wants to know my favorite food.
    • That which I grow myself, of course.
  • Kelly Anne asked a question about event horizons
    • Kelly Anne thinks I’m Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
  • Marilyn wonders what advice I’d give to an eight-year old.
    • Run!
    • Get dirty, turn over rocks, ask questions, question authority and received wisdom, read books, try something that scares you regularly.
  • @sperzeproski Wants to know which is my favorite Star Wars movie, and why?
    • The first one. Star Wars. It’s a revolutionary sci-fi-action, drama film that changed how films would be made forever. The story follows a young farmboy named Luke Skywalker, who dreams of leaving his nowhere planet, until he discovers a message in a second-hand space MacGuffin that contains a desperate plea for help from a beautiful Princess dressed in white. Luke’s search for answers soon leads him on the adventure of a lifetime, as he joins a group of rebels fighting an Evil Empire with the power to destroy planets, and discovers that he can control a powerful Force that can work for good and evil. This film changed the cinematic landscape forever. Gone were the taut, pessimistic dramas of the early seventies, while the film industry embraced an optimistic view of good vs evil. The models, and computer tracking developed by the need to shoot realistic models with complex movement, introduced film to computers.
  • Fruitocrat came up with the winner: Why are you scared [to do an AMA]?
    • Tom Hardy says that he looks both way before he crosses one-way streets because he has no faith in humanity. Personally, I find that revealing personal information can be used against me. And faith in humanity or no, people terrify me.
    • But, to by honest, I had a fun time! Although I had to skip a bunch of questions that assumed I was Google, I enjoyed answering, and evading, everyone’s questions!

So! What do you think of my answers? Should I do this again? And, if you want me to clarify or call BS on my answers, drop a comment below!

While you’re here: Please check out the wonderful work done by the people at The National Alliance on Mental Illness and donate.

Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of stuff I like and hate. 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share on Facebook! Follow and share on Twitter.


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