Monday, May 27, 2013

Spring Cleaning Of The Home And Mind-My Strange Emotional Journey Through The Month Of May

                  Looks as if there is a personal confession here at the start of this. For most of my life, its been extremely difficult to keep my room clean. When I was younger it would frustrate my parents and they'd clean it up for me. Or take the old Joy Berry (80's era child educator) approach and just put my things into a trash bag in a closet until I learned how to clean them. Going to go out on a limb here and say this probably happened to a lot of children. Yet cleaning up the mess on my floor still highly frustrates me. I know where I want to put everything around me. But the sheer immensity of it all appears overwhelming. Only on are occasions when I am in the correct mindset can I clean my room properly to see day. And its a difficult one to achieve. This month I faced the difficult task of cleaning out both my room and my psyche. Both are only partially complete at present. But this is going to be about four lessons I learned this month while cleaning out my metaphorical "psychic bedroom". So at the risk of any self indulgence,I can only hope what is said here will inspire. These stories are meant to create perspective,and I'd like to try in little ways to help others will my own lessons learned.

            The first lesson that I learned this month is that art and commerce do not mix. A recent attempt to submit my art for display locally taught me that. Sure its a cliche perhaps. Some people might even see it as an excuse,or artists who make such statements as being "slackers" unwilling to try harder-with more of a desire to inspire than perspire. Nothing in our society could exist without art-whether the most practical of office building or the most beautiful gardens, the same society which desires these things treats those who create them as if they are beggars,thieves or sometimes even criminals. Makes some artists think of themselves as somehow deserved of a completely menial existence. When I think of submitting art for approval,as if one is a competing student waiting to be judged solely for their creative contributions to the world around them,it has the effect of being greatly beyond soul destroying. Any sort of competitive co-existence is antithetical to creative arts. We all saw that in iron curtain countries even more so. First programs cut to meet budget? Art. More appropriate to create art than commerce from it,and find a way to balance it towards making a happy and productive living.

           The second lesson I learned is that their is an enormous functional different between the people of the world and the world itself. So many times I hear people say "the world is so sickening sometimes" or "the world is so wrong" to paraphrase John Lennon. Sometimes these phrases are bandied about to such a degree a lot of people easily neglect the simple truth: even the greatest of activists are not necessarily trying to make the world a better place. Left to its own devices,this world is quite a beautiful and productive place. Nature understands its own checks and balances quite well. When someone is saying they are trying to "save the world",they are rather arrogantly assuming that its humanity's duty alone to make or break the future of the planet Earth. That our socio politics outweighs that of the other thousands of other life forms we share the planet with. So even though I am steadily growing into the mindset of a strongly socially aware individual, it seems more appropriate to refer to these as looking to make the people of the world treat each other and the planet better rather to merely wax megalomaniacal by stating that I am trying to "save the world". Its a big and powerful planet. It bought me to life and it can end it whenever it wants. The physical world will save itself better if humans do not arrogantly damage it in their self centered delirium.

         The third lesson that I learned is that putting the past totally behind you is to deny oneself a future. One of the things that I have been told is that "living in the past",as the saying goes will only make it hard to live in the present and will tie you down like an anchor to a lower sea level you will never have the chance to raise to the surface again. Yet with everyone around me from family,friends,and even those who insist that talking of the past is self indulgent and harmful psychologically are in all honestly awe inspiring in the level in which they easily evoke their own personal past to make sentimentally based (and often opposing) points. The idea seeming to be that its wrong for anyone to think about the past but the person who states it. In the end, the past cannot help but come up. The human mind never seems to perceive time as a straight line. If it did, that which occurred in our past would not effect our future. Human beings need to have their past,present and possibilities of the future available to them at all times as the one reference guide we wouldn't so easily lose on,say a city bus. One that is in our minds and in our hearts.

           That brings me to the fourth and final lesson that I learned. And that is I somehow have to not look down on myself because many people may choose to vilify people like me whether they or I like it or not. I stated this relatively clearly a couple entries ago when I discussed the Time magazine cover story looking far down their nose at people of my age group-people struggling their way through life as so many changes are coming thick and fast. Self confidence is a very easy thing to talk about,to the point where it sometimes becomes an almost annoying buzz word. But the achievement of it for anyone is an extremely taxing process that is the end result of such an enormous set of trails and tribulations that,by the time ones desired confidence level is achieved,it may have the ironic effect of feeling much like a defeat.  It was even told to me recently that there is a school of thought that the more people say,the less they know. So the less communication one has,the less people talk,the more they know. Perhaps not knowing is really the beginning of wisdom. Yet not communicating is the absence of wisdom. So if communicating too much is self centered and narcissistic,how can a society of mute individuals accomplish anything at all?

            The musician Brian Eno once said of Americans,New Yorker's in his specific case,that we were a culture with little sense of honor. That the average person one would meet on the street of this nation is so willing to bear their hearts and emotions to another. And one of the most significant parts of honor is holding back-keeping emotions to one self. I suppose in his specific viewpoint I would be the poster boy for what he was talking about. Honor is about dignity and bravery. And those two conditions simply don't function very well when so many important things are kept private. It has the effect of making someone angry and cynical-even if they don't want to be. The reason I learnt these lessons I talked about this month came from the fact that I almost ended up on an extremely cynical road-something I actively dislike in contemporary culture since the early 1990's.  One has to always be aware of who and what is around them. What is happening. What's being said and what's not being said. One needs to hear it with their own ears if possible,not through the filter of another. And most importantly,being angry about any injustice either sociological or individual is only appropriate if your passionate enough about hope to change the given injustice. Sometimes the littlest things we do bare the best fruits. And that is the ultimate flower of the lessons I have learned.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day Hopes For An Informed Democracy

                  Memorial Day of this year is laying very heavy on my own heart. Its never been a holiday that's been particularly comforting for me. Whenever I go to the store I am asked to donate money to help troops. You go into the grocery store and you see a person pushing a young man in a wheel chair missing more than one limb. People will say he sacrificed to help his country. But you see in his eyes,in his face that he is in great pain. You might also see he regrets it. If he was in the last war,he might've seen a bunker buster bomb scatter pieces of shrapnel about. And after its over,perhaps seen a mother and father...holding pieces of their babies. This is horrible imagery to read isn't it? Well this is what war is. Most who are causalities in war are women and children. While we honor our dead soldiers in America,what of the many that they themselves murdered under orders? Who did nothing? Who have no grave Marker? No body? Do we think of these people?

                If one thinks about war and why people say their willing to die and kill for "god and country" as the saying goes, one might want to think of their behavioral impulses. Many people might have impulses that are not healthy. Addictions are an unhealthy impulse. If an alcoholic stares at a drink too long,their impulses will compel them to drink it-no matter what the results. What of the young man who watched two planes crash into the twin towers in New York on September 11th,2001? The man whose mind was filled with images of "the axis of evil" and Islamic terror organizations? Who had it in his head he wanted to defend his country against these types of people. Frankly if he is no longer alive to comment on that,he'd be among the lucky ones. Despite what we're shown on television,I've personally seen many of the injured soldiers in everyday life. These are tormented men and women,mostly men it seems. With many regrets.

                Its no wonder why people often hunger to fight in wars. One of the most popular and heavily watched television programs in America is the WWE-World Wrestling Entertainment. This is a staged form of entertainment sometimes advertised as a "male soap opera". What does that mean? This is a program that features one man verbally trading venomous insults with another man-usually dressed in some type of fancy costume. Than they will physically fight the other. Sometimes you will see blood seeming to shoot from someone's mouth. There are strobe lights everywhere. People cheering in the audience. From an outsider perspective,I see it as a modern day extension of Roman gladiatorial fights-a popular entertainment manipulating its viewers subliminally for entering the battlefield of war-for having an enemy and hurting them,even killing, if they disagree.

                 The military advertise very heavily during many sporting events,including WWE. There seems to be an assumption that those watching these programs are in a male demographic and likely have a lot of internal aggression. If any man even cheers and is made to feel happy about a competing football player physically attacking another,or a wrestler hurting the man who insulted him, it might have the affect of psychically numbing the viewer to the very idea of fighting and killing. Such a person makes an ideal soldier. They may even obey orders to slaughter without question. Is this some huge conspiracy? Nothing so grandiose it seems. Often enough this seems to be part of the fabric of American existence itself. Because self sacrifice is made to appear so heroic, there remains a strong public perception of anyone who is seriously anti war as an anarchist-an unpatriotic person who feels entitled to freedom itself. That the only way to maintain freedom anywhere is to kill and die for it.

                  Politics,as in life is filled with enormous contradictions. One of America's founding fathers once stated that in an informed democracy its citizens will behave in a responsible fashion. This is also the same man who stated that science is important to the preservation of our republican government, and that it is also essential to its protection against foreign power. In modern society it is largely the republican end of the government that prefers to cause wars. It is populated by men psychically numb to killing and those who will be killed in the wars they start with often equally war mongering leaders of the same foreign governments they oppose. In the end war merely becomes a very high level version of a contact sport: someone is hurt, the other party wants to hurt them back. At the same time none of what I've just said is at all original. Its been repeated again and again and again. Most of them its seen as a concept to laugh at or even pity. So what makes my own say in this age old argument so significant?

                 In the grand scheme of things I could cynically retort that my opinion doesn't make any difference. But so many people say that too. I saw my opinion matters equally as much as everyone else who speak out as I do about fighting and killing. Lately I've been barnstormed by many people,even some family,for having entitled behaviors in regard to my convictions. Truth be known a few times I've slammed my fists against a counter or shouted at the air. Do I feel these warlike aggressive tendencies myself? No. Just anger at the fact these matters are spoken of, but seldom ever seriously addressed in the world at large. While we have our weekend BBQ's and family cookouts this weekend,or even as we put flowers on the graves of loved ones who have passed many might think easily about those who died in war. I would like to hope that it will be more than a select few,including myself,who will be haunted by the fact that war is still perceived as appropriate in modern society as it exists. Its perfectly sane of mind to feel anguish at such ghastly death as exists in war. Any democracy whose people are inherently good deserved to be informed on the truth of war,death and fighting a lot better then they are


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Time And The Generational Continuum

                      Yesterday afternoon I was making a pit stop at the local Wallgreens in town for a brief errand. After this errand was complete I glanced over at the periodicals and noticed the time magazine cover you see above here.  It was quite a bit different than the the other articles about celebrities and other nuggets of naval gazing. Of course the cover story for this article,written by a Joel Stein,is intentionally sensational. When I started reading the actual article while in the store,it's first point was the most obvious. That each and every generation in American history has characterized the one after it in the same way as this was to characterize the millennial generation-according to this article representing those born between 1980 and 2000. This is a vastly different age bracket for this generation than I've heard.  And puts me squarely within it. As I stated in another blog I just wrote, who is ever prepared emotionally to read the cover story on a magazine while shopping and be utterly insulted? So was I concerned with what I read? Absolutely.

                    Mr. Stein started off claiming to have date and statistics to prove that the current 20 something generation,known as the millennial generation are heavily prone to the phenomenon of what he calls narcissistic personality disorder. This would seem to treat the fairly average behavior of adolescents as pathological-in the manner of a disease. It measure the baby boom population,themselves accused by the generation before them of high level narcissism, now of 65 years and older rated far lower on something called the narcissism scale than most people in their early 20's. The article than revealed its true agenda by evoking the age old cliche about entitlement: that in the 1980's especially children told they were "special for being them" ala Mister Rogers Neighborhood would think of themselves as entitled their entire lives. Not only did this officially bring out that its still the extremely right wing organizations that seem to be controlling the media,but also that there's no articulation that people under 30 have much right to be on the planet.

                      Now lets turn the tables and talk about the realities of life for most people between he ages of 20 and 35. For example, at present its extremely difficult for me to write this blog because I'm not exempt from the stresses faced by this generation supposedly afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder. The economy demands people have a career to earn some money,go to collage,etc. On the other hand,finding ways to get both is a long and arduous journey of waiting and rejection notices. While the physical world itself is quite a beautiful place,a person who buys something in a store-such as an electronic item of any sort,cannot seem to find the accessories they may need for it. With all the information and availability in the world,the accessibility of what we need often completely eludes people-especially young people. So the idea that millennial generation people are materially obsessed is absurd. Half the time their basic needs are unavailable to them if they happen to be outside the wealthy 1%. 

                   And if someone of this age group is physically or emotionally disabled? Even more difficulties. All one such person has to do is read the papers in their communities to see that the first programs most local political figures want to cut out of the budget are social services. It is appropriate somehow for the local elementary school football teams to have fresh new uniforms every year. But if your someone who depends on a SNAP card,housing programs or social security you might live just as much in fear of losing everything as a senior citizen would. Its too big a thing for anyone to face. Therefore,as I believe all this chaos has lead people into different forms of denial. The elderly want to blame the young for societies ills,and vice versa. Some people deny it by living with anti depressants,or a level of alcohol and caffeine use bordering on abuse. Add to that the fears that religion implants into society through the media,fear of ecological problems such global warming,even something as trite as fear of wheat gluten and you have an entire generation where inner harmony and enjoyment is a very big luxury.

             So where does all this leave the lazy,entitled narcissists who still live with their parents? Who are more interested in fame and fortune than anything? The question to ask is why will they save us all? It is clear many people see this generation as being very shallow and perhaps stupid. Is that healthy though? If someone of any age perceives that the world has little to no expectations of them due to behavior patterns that are sometimes necessitated ,are such people going to be in any position to improve? The reason I am stating such heavy issues here is because I personally live with them every day. Even though I am in my 30's I am still referred to often as a "kid" who behaves "childishly" by some people. And its apparent I am not alone. This is a society based on social neglect. With all this technology in our hands to bring us closer together,the fact is,people treat each other more horribly than they ever did. Can this negative situation be fixed? Of course it can. And it should be. We just need fewer soul destroyers and criticizers on all ends of the generational continuum.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Armed Forces Day: Violence Will Not Save Us

                      The month of may has two holidays that are military related. The best known is Memorial Day at the end of the month,celebrated primarily to honor deceased service men. The other (and probably somewhat lesser known) occurs today-the third Saturday of the month,to honor American soldiers who are alive and have served their country in a military capacity. I cannot personally think of any social matter,even the state of the economy,that is more controversial and stirs up more heated debate than the idea of war and those who fight it. There is only one thing that I can say is surely true: those people who are convinced war is a solution to domestic "terrorist" problems have likely never been to war before.

                   Now I've never been to war. In fact my personal convictions on the subject would never allow me to at any rate and I take great pride in that. However I've seen the very ugly side of what happens to those who return from war. Many people I knew,including some good friends, were killed in the expansive war in Iraq five or six years ago. Interestingly enough,my own experiences have led me to believe those people who died may have been the lucky ones. There was a next door neighbor we had when I was about 14-15 years old. I'll just call him Doug to protect his privacy. Upon meeting him I thought he was merely developmentally delayed. Downs Syndrome perhaps. That is how he came across. One day his mother,who lived with him told us his story.

                   Doug had been a soldier in the US military during Operation Dessert Storm. She said she didn't want to,and really couldn't go into details about what had happened to Doug. Essentially he had gone in one man,and come back another. She did mention such things as pleasure/pain exercises such as walking on hot coals. Though most importantly it was revealed that,having gone into the service a young man who by societies standards was of average intelligence and ability, he returned in a state that was for all intents and purposes lobotomized. And what I was seeing was a lot more than simply a causality of war. In the years and decades since, I have met more and more people-some of whom are my good friends,in similar states and sharing similar experiences.

                  The Peace Corps poster who see above features a painting of a character named Fluttershy from the animated television series My Little Pony-Friendship Is Magic. In this show,her character represents the element of kindness. She is meek,soft spoken yet vocally assertive. Overall an example of a non militaristic personality. Admirers of the show,known as Bronies and Pegasisters share a motto called "love and tolerate" based on the virtues of the show. I've grown up with two wars in the middle east. Many people returning often with more mental than physical injuries. And many many unable to function in the society they defended as a result. And fiscally it is the people who are asked to assist in their recovery,not the military who placed them in danger. Without waxing politics too heavy,I am firmly of the opinion that if the message of "violence will not save us" is instilled into human beings at a young age, this type of assault on the mental and physical health of all human beings will not have to continue.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bicycles And The Wheels Within The Wheels

               One of the little surprises that came to me during this month was my sudden awareness of Bicycle Month.  Bicycles have always been part of my life in some way. My first was actually a plastic Transformers tricycle I could quite a lot of mileage out of until I got my first formal bicycle. That was a Huffy. Been far too long to remember the model number. But it was white and neon green. The second one I got when I was about 9 years old. was a yellow one that I had until I was about 15. Even if the other bicycles I've had were handed down from other members of my family,they all have one thing in common that my first one did not: the metal pole/brace right between the set and the breaks that all bikes probably have to have now. This led to the point of this article: some of my history with bicycles.

                 Not too long after I was out of training wheels,which took a surprisingly long time considering, a neighbor kid named Danny made a strange suggested to me and our mutual neighbor Rene. We were all the same age. But Rene',much as Danny had much thicker skin than I. Danny was looking for us to run a "bicycle chicken race" of sorts-a thirty foot run from the back of the parking lot to the door of the dumpster room. Rene' tried to talk Danny out of it but he didn't listen to her. As is typical of a six year old cognitively educated American male, I went along with little thought to the consequences of what was going to happen to me. And of course during the race that was when my breaks decided to go out. I crashed into the door of the dumpster house. 

            Without that middle bar under the seat,I fell down into the middle of the bike-the lower end hitting me in the groin. I ended up crawling rather like a pet dog back home with one sock hanging off-while a furious Rene' pursued Danny on her bike as he peddled away fast as he could. Upon a day off from school for what turned out to be a fairly quick recovery Danny,who was a classmate of mine,apologized very sincerely. Since this was extremely atypical of his character,I always had the impression that this had something to do with Rene's pursuit of him. Anyway that was one of the most valuable lessons of life I could possibly learn. NEVER EVER take a dare-especially if the person dealing it out is heckling you to do so.  And it also guided me greatly to what I looked for in my second bicycle.

            Now I seem to remember my second bicycle was a Pioneer if I recall. It was bright yellow of course. But the big deal about it was that it had that middle bar under the seat I've seen on all bicycles since. It was also a 10-speed,with much better break reaction and they were also adjustable as well. I actually ended up going on much longer range bike rides. One I remember was in the early 90's. It was from the family's summer camp to the nearest convenient store Rogers Market,which was roughly 2 1/2-3 miles away. I was very difficult going for me at that age-going up and and down what to me were rather treacherous hills. In fact I never did anything like that again. But it was the beginning of a period of longer duration and therefore far more interesting bike rides in the future. 

              The farthest bike ride I ever took was probably a twelve mile to and back trip from my apartment to Bull Moose Records about four years ago. Sadly a mysterious (seemingly allergy) related condition has kept me from bike riding since 2011. However,when someone can finally figure out what ails me and its dealt with fully I intend to be back out. One of my fantasies has been to take at least one ride on one of the old time bicycles as you see in the above photo. I think it goes with the general appeals of bicycles to me. Unlike motor vehicles they work a human mind does: always in some type of perpetual motion. And as with the mind, the bicycles never quite knows where it will be asked to go as its wheels turn.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day & The Human Way To Honor They Who Gave Birth To Us All

            Different cultures around the world have selected different days of the year in which to specifically celebrate Mother's Day. Whatever back round one comes from,religion,spoken language,sexual orientation or even method of conception every human being on the planet Earth has a mother-somehow,somewhere. For those untold millions worldwide who do not know who their mothers are of course,all my best wishes. I know who my mother is. My father too. Always have. My mother has grown very confident in how she has behaved in regard to motherhood. 

           No child comes with a written guidebook as the old cliche goes.  And motherhood is defined by a series of challenges,checks and balances that sometimes defy the human psyche  Especially me being an only child I feel both my parents had to keep from indulging me too  much-because of the idea bandied about during that generation that only children always developed a selfish streak. Yet one of her most remarkable qualities is her genuine assertion that helping her out with the little everyday things represent the greatest mothers day gift of all. And its genuine,not a phony statement in this case. 
            This particular mothers day however, I did notice something that may have always been there in such a huge degree, but I never noticed it. This year though it knocked me over the head how I couldn't go into any store-small and large without seeing the Mother's Day holiday unashamedly pushed into my face: rather impolitely to my way of thinking. There has been everything from small card kiosks in drug stores to massive displays elsewhere advertising enormous amounts of impulse items. The general message to people is that Mother's Day is mainly about high level consumerism. A day to put oneself out buying expensive flowers and/or dinners out that will simply not last.

             I decided to buy my bother two boxes of flower bulbs as a gift and plant them. They are beautiful perennials and will always be there for years to come. After all,so many people buy perishable cut flowers instead of even the potted ones now readily available this time of year. Yet all the high level commercialism of the holiday made me feel mildly guilty about doing this. Parenthood is something you can't buy, and something you can't sell.  My consolation on this matter is that,when it comes to Mothers Day I am not the only person in history who's experienced these feelings.
            Above this article,the lady who is pictured was named Anna Jarvis-born in Webster,West Virginia in 1864. She founded the modern celebration of Motherhood we honor in America today in 1908-in honor of her own mother of course. In 1872 Julia Ward Howe  had called for women to join in support of disarmament and asked for 2 June 1872, to be established as a "Mother's Day for Peace". Her 1870 "Appeal to womanhood throughout the world" is sometimes referred to as Mother's Day Proclamation. But Howe's day was not for honoring mothers but for organizing pacifist mothers against war. And it didn't stick. 

             Decades later however Jarvis's campaign for a general and non political version of the holiday became nationally recognized. She stopped promoting the holiday herself when President Woodrow Wilson made it an officially recognized holiday. During her final decades, Jarvis actively opposed the over commercialization of the holiday she helped found-the first to dismiss it as a"Hallmark Holiday" and in particular opposing how the holiday was used to enforce capitalist ideals on countries such as Mexico.  By her death in 1948, she was greatly opposed to the commercialism associated with the holiday she helped create.
         I cannot help but think,when I am in stores this time of year seeing all the Mothers Day advertisements of Anne Jarvis-an everyday American living in a time of suffragettes  and voting rights for women,coining a holiday in order to honor all mothers across the nation for their efforts  And it feels like a great disservice to her vision that the side of the holiday that champions the darkest side of capitalism is representative of the modern celebration of the holiday. Mothers Day to me,however really isn't a day to ramble on about changing reflections on the American economic experience. Considering the guns,bombs and other weapons that have resulted in many mothers in New England in the last six months who lost their children in Sandy Hook and than at the Boston Marathon last month.

      And that's not to mention mothers losing children to wars in many areas of the world,I'm gradually beginning to conceive of a Mothers Day For Peace concept as promoted by Julie Ward Howe after the Civil War. As Dr. Helen Caldicott once said,if mothers all over the nation would harness the instinct they have to save the lives of their offspring, than America would perhaps begin to become a more peaceful and less violent nation. So to all people reading this celebrating with their mothers today, think about the love you and your mother have. And think about the inner,and hopefully outer,peace that comes from that. Happy Mothers Day everyone!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mental Health Awareness Month: Taking Good Care Of Our Minds

               During most of my adult life,I've steadily noticed the human environment around me has changed. Much the same as I stated earlier this year regarding people living with autism, it is almost impossible for me to go into a grocery store even without seeing someone either talking to someone who is not there or gasping in terror at a wall display they see as something else. In this day and age, even I am aware there are a number of different and often very effective treatments for schizophrenia. Someone could help these people anywhere,anytime if an emphasis was put on it. And that makes me angry. One of the reasons for this comes from a personal experience I had during adolescence  One which I will rather anonymously share with you-the reader right now to help you understand my position on Mental Health Awareness.

               As with the majority of people I'd heard about mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder once and a great while. But it wasn't any sort of enormously discussed topic. Something that "nice" people weren't supposed to talk about,cruel as that was. Because I had trouble making friends, my family introduced me to this gentleman who was older than me. He shared a love of science fiction concepts,Star Trek in particular with me. He was 24 and I was barely 16. But it didn't matter. He was like a big brother I never had. He was somewhat quiet and reserved,and sometimes that puzzled me. But I admired his few but often rather wise words and ideas. And soon came to think of him as a non intimate type of soul mate.

               All of this changed one night when I received a call whilst visiting him from my family asking me to come home. Apparently while talking to a mutual acquaintance  some terrifying news was revealed to them-and now to me. This man whom I had written with,shared secrets with and opened up to enough to consider my best friend lived with schizophrenia as well as multiple personality disorder. Without any melodrama if someone asked me to pinpoint the moment my heart broke upon hearing that, I actually could. Schizophrenia? Multiple personalities? Weren't these supposed to be rare occurrences that I'd never encounter? And how could this have afflicted such a wonderful human being as my new friend?

              I went to sleep in tears that night. Not feeling sorry for myself. But sadder still that tears were being shed for a mental illness this man couldn't help. I was too afraid to talk to him so my family did while I tearfully visited my grandparents for the weekend. My friend called me up there-trying to explain his embarrassment for not telling me what had happened to him. The most difficult part of this conversation was me telling him how much I looked up to him as an adult friend to a teenager such as myself. How I'd be friends with someone with a mental illness, but not someone who hid important truths from me. As he tried calmly to explain, I didn't realize the societal stigma people living with schizophrenia faced. 

             He was definitely an aloof "guys guy" in the old fashioned sense. So it was doubly hard for him to talk about it openly to another man,especially one so much younger than himself. Further complications ensued when I decided to open up about my homosexuality to him. Oddly enough, that caused even more of a barrier between us than his schizophrenia and multiple personalities,apparently medically controlled the whole time I know him, ever had. In the late 90's a second attempt on my part to reconcile with him failed-with my sexuality again being the issue. Time passed,other friends came and went in my life. And by the time I myself was 24,the same age my friend was when I met him, that change in environment of which I spoke was well underway.

           Though I live myself with an emotional (rather than mental: I personally differentiate the two)  disorder myself that is in no way as severe as schizophrenia,more and more everyday people around me seemed to almost require something close to a psychiatric environment. Schizophrenia,bipolar and borderline personality were becoming a fact of life. And suddenly half of the people I knew had it. A year or so ago I ran into this friend again. I had before. But said nothing. This time I did. And to my surprise, he started to talk. Really talk! He had a wonderful disposition now and was a person who loved to laugh and be joyous. He had come to somehow live with schizophrenia, not live in fear of it. Lets face it. Everyone's sanity is tested heavily today with all the endless social and economic problems the world faces every day. But perhaps the more aware we become of mental illness,and not the hard way as I had to, the more empathy we'd be likely to have towards each other in general.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tablets,Technology And Our Sentimental Temptations

                During the 2011 holiday season, I made my first attempt in getting a tablet-in this case as a gift for under  the tree. This endeavor was an epic fail if ever there was one. The device was a Pandigital R70E200 "7inch eReader, with 2 GB of internal memory. It performed horribly. I took it back to Big Lots where I got it a month too late and at least had a decent gift card there for the trouble that lasted awhile. The entire affair was partly my fault however. At the time the tablet concept was relatively new. And I'd ended up making a purchase without taking any time to research the data. And fact was, at that time anyway was that an Android internet tablet and an eReader were two entirely different things. Times have changed however so,a couple of days ago I decided during my birthday month to try my hand at a tablet again.

                 Since the Kindle Fire HD and Samsung Galaxy tablets are,even on sale,still quite beyond my price bracket I again decided to go with Big Lots. This time I had the better knowledge of contemporary Androids on my side and decided to go for the Polaroid PMID705 Android tablet. This device has the style and look of a Windows 8 tablet and far, far more App options than the Pandigital ever did. Again it is not as  fast reacting as a Kindle,Nook or Galaxy tablet. And I am still as of this writing learning about it. However this article is not going to amount to a commercial for someone else s product: I haven't "gone commercial" as it were.  This story was merely a setup for the actual subject of this particular post. It basically has to do with how some people become angry or fearful of the very tools we use and even that which gives us pleasure.

               One place I hear this in particular is in regard to music. While there is very little debate that television broadcasting is substantially inferior and limited today compared to the way it was even a decade and a half ago,music is one of those places where individual taste is often guided by nostalgia. But likely the one place where this presents the most challenge is technology. You've got to admit that we live in a computer age. There is an internet. And its not a separate world; it IS the world. And its a growing world too. Often growing out of the need for the technology people use to access it. Economic realities also demand that such products be made affordably. So a lot of times form doesn't dictate functionality in such cases.

            Still the sentimentality towards older technology is common. I will give you one example here and, for the sake of privacy will not divulge the identity of the individual of whom I'm speaking. What happened was that said person purchased a Toshiba laptop with Windows XP installed from the defunct Circuit City in 2003. It was set up promptly and was this persons first computer. It worked perfectly for seven or eight years. Then a new modem had to be installed and,eventually a new wireless internet router. The router was too high powered to accommodate the older device. And another USB powered signal booster had to be purchased for the computer to use. 

             While this person eventually purchased a modern Toshiba laptop, they are still talking in terms of somehow adapting their original device to more modern specifications. Even though I've heard many people say that the shell of any laptop can be reused infinitely (baring inevitable circuit failure) with the proper installation of newer motherboards, this could be a potentially difficult and costly prospect. Most of the time it is simply more practical to upgrade. Over the years I have heard this exact same argument,from many different people on many topics of motor vehicles to household appliances. This idea of a "pastime paradise" and the "everything was so much easier and better years ago" are extremely flexible terms-combining undeniable truths with a huge degree of subjectivity.

            Personally I tend to feel that the trouble with the contemporary social environment is that there are far too many people complaining, but very few actually doing a whole lot to change what troubles them. Technology is a perfect example of this. When people purchase a technological tool they want and/or like, and it doesn't meet their needs in some way, they very seldom lodge any type of well rounded assessment/complaint to the manufacturer through either a letter or an email. The future is not yet here to render a verdict on how my second round with Android tablets will go. But I myself learned a great deal for my initial experience, and subsequent fail with the Pandigital tablet so that, if a similar thing were to occur another time I'd be better equipped to physically handle the situation. After all nobodies perfect. And that goes for the machines and tools we made for ourselves as well.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Photography In My Life During A Season Filled With Natural Imagery: Celebrating National Photo Month

                 2013 represents my twentieth year as a photographer. It was something that was mainly self taught. Which is interesting because it exactly coincided with the first year I began a home schooling program with my parents due to lack of interest on the part of the public school system on severe bullying. It was an entirely new way of looking at life. All of a sudden some people I'd known my entire life scratched their heads-thinking my family and I had all somehow lost our minds. My words didn't seem to have much truthful impact anymore. My first camera was a used Pentax K-1000,a 33mm SLR that allowed you to see through the lens what you were photographing. Even though my earliest photographs were of hurried still lives and snow covered trees,the learning experience and my intentions did seem to come true: if people didn't want to see what I had to say,they'd at least see my photographs.

               The first months of spring have always been my favorite times for photography. Mainly because of the abundance of plant life and flowers in bloom, and the color it provides to the atmosphere. With Maine tending to be a very summer oriented state in terms of tourism,a lot of outdoor decorations of photographic interest begin appearing this time of year as well. During my first decade as a photography I had the personal fortune,likely for at least semi-homeschooling oriented reasons, to be included in family vacations to New Hampshire, Quebec City and later Montreal. Along with many visits to Acadia National Park. This gave me a great deal of practice as a photographer as I was growing up. Towards the beginning of the new millennium,though already on my second 35mm camera (a Pentax P30T   model) something new was on the horizon already: digital photography.

              While image quality was excellent in the 35 mm format, it also tended to be an extremely taxing financially. High quality film development was usually overpriced,and if there was a sale stander 3-5 day printing services were seldom guaranteed. By the time I was in my early 20's,photography was looking to be an enormous debt creator in my life. Digital cameras,even with the first one I had,produced fairly low quality images-in the 3-4 megapixel range. And the built of the cameras were usually thin and clunky,not to mention relatively small lenses-hence the low quality results. The first quality digital camera I purchased was the one you see above you: the Olympus E500 8MP digital SLR. It was sold by the now defunct Circuit City with two zoom lenses: a wide angle and a telephoto one. 

              Though many advances have been made in megapixel level and features since I got the camera eight years ago,the arrival of the digital SLR has really allowed me to come into my own as a photographer. Economically its a dream. Its now possible to create above 35mm quality images in the hundreds rather than being limited to between 12 and 36 exposures of film. Also it provides for me to be able to do something I never could with 35 mm film: bracketing-the idea of taking several angles of the same subject to see which works best. I would also have to say that in the last several years in particular that the photography that I've been doing has reached a very significant peak. And even though many people nostalgically reminisce about the "simple,good old days", the newer digital camera technology has really liberated my ability to practice the type of photography I always wanted to yet for a long time wasn't able to.