Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Love Lavender Review, Short

This is my short film in support of Lavender Review and Mary Meriam (editor). Please check out LR at http://lavrev.net/ and support the e-zine so that lovely people like me can continue finding pleasure in it. To directly assist LR, visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1824827058/lavender-june-lavender-december

If you've got the financial goods, please give to Lavender Review and support the arts that are so near and dear to my/our heart/s. And there is something in it for you, too, as well. When you back the Lavender Review, you receive a poetic service in exchange. The service of enchantment. Go for it! You can have a sonnet written for you - by the professional and renowned romantic poet herself (Mary: http://home.earthlink.net/~marymeriam/vita/).  If you can't find a lover who will write one for you, pay to have one written for yourself. Or pay to have one written for someone else. Valentine's Day, that's just a throw away. TODAY is the day - get yourself a triolet (or a critique of one of your own poems - or of one of my poems that you feel is in need of assistance) now. Mary Meriam is someone whose sonnet I would swoon over, I'm quite sure. Time's a wastin'. The deadline for Mary's goal is May 4. She has to reach 2,000 by that time in order to KICKstart the longevity of a lesbian literary/art gem. Lavender Review is free to all - and, as such, provides a great service at preserving a rich lesbian literary tradition. Donations are necessary to grow and maintain the LR. Even the penniless can do her part to keep the love alive!

Thanks, my friends. Now watch me smell the basil and the Lavender.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Horrors of the Natural Born Whistle Blower

This morning, I woke from a dream. The fact that I had a dream at all suggests that I received enough sleep last night, which seems inaccurate given that I stayed up late and got up with the girls to either take them back to bed or tell them to go back to bed numerous time. Oh, and there was that chunk of sleep between 3 and 4 am that I missed because the girls surrounded us (surrounded our bed) in an effort to convince us that they needed to sleep in our bed. Lucky for me, my wife, Sandy, handled that hour of unpleasantness, getting up and doing the tough job, while I commented and cringed on the sidelines (from the fetal position I assumed in the bed, with my head cocked up to make sure I heard every word). At first, Sandy just insisted that the girls go back to their beds. They began crying and not leaving our bedside. I said, "I cannot be the one to handle this, I need you to be instrumental in this," so Sandy woke herself up, took the girls to the bathroom and took them back to bed. While Darah pleaded with Sandy to "have an adult" sleep with her and the two sisters cried anxiously, I comforted myself and tried to calm my own anxiety. What I feel when they are distressed in the night is, perhaps, more than empathy. I feel their little kid anxiety like it was my own. I feel it as my own.  For some reason, it takes me to a place within myself that is anxious and desires comfort. It's torture for me to abstain from comforting them when they express anxiety because I am so much aware of my childhood and adulthood anxiety - and because it is hard for me to deny them what I would not deny myself: relief, warmth and comfort. The problem, though, is that I find myself projecting my own childhood anxiety onto them.

Emotionally, and in my head, I equate their current experience of anxiety with my childhood experiences of anxiety - and the two are probably, in reality, very different. I don't want to damage the girls by increasing the girls' anxiety or creating unhealthy habits by reinforcing extraneous negative behaviors because of the emotional child in me. Asking me to let my kids cry it out is, emotionally to me, like asking me to sit back and watch them be attacked by a rabid pit bull. It's NOT rational. It's emotional. I know that. It's also my reality. There is nothing real there for them to fear - being alone together in a room without us is NOT something that is dangerous or should be fear-inducing. We are not in any kind of eminent danger (that we know of) and we are living in a world in which the odds are for us so, based on these assumptions, we are relatively safe at night. That means the problem is ME, it is created by the irrational fears about being alone that I have. I feel safer when we are all together, but that does not mean it is necessary. I slept in a room alone in high school and I did not feel unsafe. My family was in the house, on most nights. I felt safe in numbers. As a young child, however, I felt very insecure in my environment. I can't remember enough to accurately explain WHY I felt insecure. I think it has something to do with being exposed to images and ideas (mainly images!) that were beyond my childhood stage of comprehension. When children are exposed to images or experiences that they are psychologically incapable of understanding or putting into a realistic, adult context (because of the stage of their brain development), they will likely experience a great deal of anxiety and feelings of powerlessness. They might have information but they lack the tools to process that information and put it into the appropriate context psychologically.

When I was very young, I was exposed to violent and frightening images of violence and gore, mainly in movies. No one protected me from those images. No one CENSORED (!!!) the stimuli I was exposed to and, worse than that, no one explained it to me. No one talked to me about what I saw. I didn't have the tools in myself and I did not have anyone providing me with the tools. I needed someone, first of all, to turn off the television and prevent me from seeing traumatic images that should not be seen by children. And, secondly, I needed someone to talk to me about what I saw: to explain the images, to explain that they weren't real. I remember seeing parts of movies, like "Cape Fear" and "Basic Instinct" and "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" and "Rambo" and "Kindergarten Cop" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Jaws" and "Friday the 13th," that traumatized me deeply. I'm not being dramatic, here. As a kid, I was tormented by the images I saw in those movies. I did not want to see the films, and I would demand that the television be turned off in almost every instance but I was too young to know to look away. In time I learned to look away. I remember seeing a film, I don't know what it was, in which a group of people were at a camp site. One woman fell or was pushed into a fire pit and burned to death while the others ran away frantically and tried to get into a van to get away - in the process one of the women could not get into the van and, then, trying to get in it and not be left behind, she was run over by the van. Of course add in all the screaming and the music. I was horrified. Every time we went to visit my Aunt Sharon's trailer in Sherkeston Shores (Ontario), I would think of that movie while we toasted marshmallows by the fire at night. I was fine camping during the day, but between the bugs and my fear of campfires/camping at night, I was an emotional mess at night. I knew that adults were unhelpful while they were sleeping during the night and I did not trust any adult to make it better since adults were the ones who had exposed me to the images to begin with. I can remember burning up, and tossing and turning all night long in the tiny bunk bed of the trailer - just waaaaitng for morning.

After I saw "Friday the 13th," I would not take a shower without the bathroom door open. This lasted two years, at least. I was a hypervigilant four-five-six-and-seven year old. (And I'm still a hyper-aware adult: hence my ability and desire to wake up at the tiniest sound coming from my daughters' room.) I'm a light sleeper. I haven't slept deeply since the girls were born. Only in the morning, usually when the girls are either in our bed or are up with Sandy, do I sleep soundly. That's probably why I find it difficult to wake up. The worst childhood horror-image trauma that I experienced happened when I was five and was in Florida for Spring Break. Since I was two years old, I would visit Florida - usually without my parents and traveling with my great grandmother to stay at my Grandma Mel's condo for two weeks. When I was five, I traveled with my cousin, Carolyn, who was a few years older than me. I swear, for the weeks that we were there, all she and my cousin, Matthew (just a year older than me), did was watch horror films. They were expected to take care of me and we were all expected to entertain each other. They had a film fest and I had nothing to do but protest and try to distract myself (by hanging out with my great grandmother in the other room). I did a lot of protesting, and Matthew called me names and made fun of me. I ended up seeing more than I should have seen.

If I tried to protest to Grandma Mel, which I am sure I did, she would have said to me, "Stop being such a baby. Your cousins are having fun. Go and have fun with them. Don't be such a tattle-tale." During the two nights that I stayed at Matthew's parents' house, he and Carolyn watched numerous horror films. I walked into and out of the television room and stood in the doorway, with my hands on my hips, resentfully watching what I was unsuccessfully demanding they turn off. One of the images I remember was seeing this little alien creature in the air vent of a school bathroom. He climbed out of it, and killed and ate a schoolgirl who was using the bathroom. Then, later, as I was sitting on the couch by the window, my older cousins played a trick on me (remember: I was five). It was foggy outside. Matthew jumped up and said, "Oh my god, there's a man out there, Jessy. It's Jason. AHHHHH..." or something like that. I turned around and saw what I thought was a man in black in the distance. I ran away, crying. It was Carolyn with a hood or hat on. Heh. Heh. Heh.

There were no adults to tell and no adults who would have cared or understood even if they were there to tell. And I was a big "teller," telling was like a twenty-four hour job for me when I was young. My siblings and cousins can attest to this. Of course it never produced any effect, so I guess I wasn't very good at the job. After that incident, I would not sit on the couch in front of the window and I would not go in the television room with my cousins and I could not sleep at night while the images replayed over and over in my head for months to come. Over time, I learned to avoid the unpleasant stimuli. At sleepovers, I would cover myself up with my sleeping bag and plug my ears, for hours if necessary, in order to avoid seeing images, like the one I saw in "The Postman" in which an elderly woman was suffocated with a plastic bag by the Postman in her living room. I learned to stay out of rooms with scary movies playing in them. I learned to avoid rather than rant and rave to no effect. Even today, as an adult, if I walk into a room in which there is a film on that I don't want to see, I will leave or distract myself with something else. Leaving, I find, is the best solution.

It shouldn't surprise you that I am protective of the images seen by my children. Hypersensitive about it, yes. If we are watching a show and it is followed by some kind of crime show (and as the formula for such shows go: there is usually a gory crime committed at the very beginning of the show), I am quick to grab the remote or command Sandy to change the channel. I don't find it at all entertaining to watch someone fighting for their survival or to watch someone or something torment someone with fear or to watch someone be hacked at (just for the sake of being hacked at). I appreciate thought-provoking, intellectual work and I can handle some stuff: "The Twilight Zone, "Poltergeist" and maybe even "The Shining."  I do not understand the draw toward violence for the sake of violence. I would never want something horrific to happen in real life - not even as a fantasy. A couple of years ago, I watched a documentary on Dennis Rader. I learned how he tied up a whole family in chairs and then suffocated them one by one while the ones who were still alive had to watch and wait to be next. Rader, himself, described how he suffocated the mother early on but that she was still alive after everyone else had died. He went back to her, to suffocate her some more - and she (according to his account) seemed calm and told him she forgave him. Just hearing the details of that was counterproductive. I felt disgusted, depressed, terrified and horrified (for what each family member might have experienced before they were killed). I thought it was one of the worst things I had ever heard in my life, but, no, I have heard of other things that have happened in real life that are just as terrible.

I don't know how other people can learn about and not be affected deeply by such things - and it makes me angry that people entertain such ideas in fantasy, that people find movies that depict such horror entertaining. I may be somewhat of a prude or a puritan, but I just don't get it. I know we all have to move on with living, recognizing the unlikeliness of events like this occurring in (or ending) our own lives. It all sort of stays with me, to some degree. There is the woman who was in a limo accident (cause by a DRUNK driver) with her daughter, and who held her daughter's decapitated head on the side of the highway for an hour after the accident. Then there is the man who accidentally backed his car up over his toddler, killing his own precious child. (And don't get me started on Shanda Sharer's horrific murder...) I saw both of these suffering individuals tell their stories on Oprah. Oprah at least lets the victims tell their real life stories. There is enough horror in reality: THAT is what I believe. (I am, at the same time, all for freedom in art. I just don't "get" the "art" of horror films...but that's just me.)

Oh, horror, where was I. Yes, last night. Last night I felt a strong irrational urge to go and ease my girls' irrational anxiety with my presence - which would have been bad because it would have reinforced the anxiety (and the expression of the anxiety - and the repeated WAKING behaviors). It also would have contributed to their inability to feel like they can cope with their own discomforts and anxiety without my assistance. The goal that Sandy and I share, as their parents, is for them to be informed but not unnecessarily anxious. We want them to be empowered with information, comfort at appropriate times and life skills so that they feel and be competent in the world. Sometimes I am able to provide them with empowerment and sometimes I am not. Last night I was not, and so Sandy stepped in honorably to do her part and help us (the girls and me) learn to cope with some of our emotional discomforts and adjust to a new behavior. We WANT them to stay in their own bed all night on most nights, with the exception of Saturday Night Special - in which they sleep in our room and I tell them "Stories from Mouth" before they fall asleep. We do not have room in our full size bed and we want them to be able to sleep through the night without anxiety in their own bed. We share the same goal, in this regard. Sandy is a better person to take the lead and be the empowerment hero on this issue, since I obviously am NOT the best person to facilitate change here.

I am, however, very good at helping to put complex and scary ideas and images into context for them. I am good at explaining rationally, in a way that they  understand, some of the adult issues they encounter. I am good at protecting them from images they are not equipped to handle. I am good at withholding some of my gut reactions (of horror) in their presence...during the day. At night, I am not so good. I just want to run to them and wrap my arms around them and ease their anxieties with my presence, though I know rationally that I am creating dependency in them that is probably unnecessary and not beneficial. I don't want to project my fears and anxieties onto them. I don't want them to see sleeping alone as an unpleasant experience JUST because I do. I will always keep them close and do my best to protect them, but letting them sleep through the night without my physical assistance is not, in my opinion, what's best for them. I am grateful that last night Sandy was our family hero - that she took charge and handled the situation, even though  it meant that she lost hours of sleep and had to take on the role of enforcer while I winced in the background in order to do it. She is my hero this morning.

This morning. Ahhhh. As much as I love night, morning can be quite a relief. I always get my best sleep in the morning because I am the most relaxed in the morning. This morning, after Sandy saved us and I dreamed of beds of broccoli and the music of life, I thought of what a tattle tale I was and am. I remembered the time that I wrote a letter to my favorite English teacher duo in which I turned my sister in for plagiarizing. I was high and mighty, yes I was, providing them with the details of how she saw my summer reading paper on the screen on the night before the first day of school and, without asking or telling me, turned in a copy of MY paper with HER name on the top of it. I turned her in, I turned in my own sister. I was appalled at her behavior and I saw it through a moralistic lens. I turned her in. Of course no consequence resulted for her, but the act is etched in my memory (and in hers, too, though she laughs about it and doesn't blame me for ratting on her). At the time, I felt like the fact that she stole my paper was an act of utter disloyalty. I did not consider myself disloyal, that's how I saw her. And I reasoned that sisterly loyalty went out the window when she committed the act of stealing my paper and claiming it as her own. We were, for a period after this, Sisters Divided. Not because of this issue, this issue just emphasizes and explains the division.

I have always wondered about and been suspicious of loyalty. Loyalty can make people do atrocious things. It can also be the thing that keeps families together. It can be an ethical and moral act, if loyalty arises out of moral (fair) intentions. Or, loyalty can be the breeding place in which terrible ideas and acts are committed. "The Godfather," anyone? I have seen Italian families, even my own, adopt blind loyalty. Blind loyalty is never good for anyone - and is harmful to society. I have always prided myself on not being blindly loyal to ANYONE. You never know, though, I'm sure I'm blindly loyal about some things. I feel that I am clearly loyal, in the best sense, to the ones I hold nearest and dearest. Sometimes I take the moralistic vision that I posses too far and pursue it for unethical reasons - for the sake of fulfilling my own need for drama, for the sake of feeling righteous, etc. Usually, I am balanced. Thank goodness. Sometimes, though, I have to wonder: am I a Natural Born Whistle Blower?

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Logical Song is a Supertramp of Silencio : "Another One Bites the Dust" (But don't quote me on that, and don't sue me either!)

Another You(?)Tube video down, this time for copyright infringement. This one is irrecoverable, I have no backup copy on any of my currently existing videos. Oh, and when I say down, I mean deleted - gone. Another Wild Woman Song-Dance jigamathing bites the dust. You Tube is shooting down my videos slowly - one by one they fall. It's like Duck Hunt, except it's Jess Hunt. Picture the little Jess Heads being thrown onto the screen and then exploding. If someone handed you the orange plastic gun, would you pop one at 'er? I wonder which of the colorful variety of Jess' will survive as they fly in the air, wings splayed and hysterical, in an unfair sky. Is it really a fair GAME when the DUCK isn't aware that it is about to be hunted? That's not a game at all, that's a massacre. No warning whatsoever. Just take 'em down, clear the field.

God I loathe hunters. They sit, hiding themselves in their cheap camouflage, just waiting for some clueless duck going about her duck business to do what's natural to her - FLY - and then, BOOM, BANG, she's down. For what? For the entertainment of some power hungry human with a gun. Get rid of guns, let humans try to engage in their "sport" with a bow and arrow. At least the playing field will be a little less atrociously unbalanced. Give the ducks a gun and give the humans an arrow and maybe, just maybe, it will be a fair fight. Youtube, like the landowners, set up the game - they know all the rules, they hold all the cards, they invite you to play in a gameworld that they own and know. They sell the land to the hunters. And the hunters never fail - they always come. As for the ducks, they never fail - they always show up, too. The field is very enticing. Peaceful looking. The field looks like freedom. A place to soar. Ah, my little ducklings, you're merely players with a disadvantage. All the world's a stage, you know the bit. When they want you out, Duckie, you're out. Maybe to you it feels like existence. Maybe to you, your life feels like your life - but you're just in THEIR matrix.

The busted video that was at least, in part, MINE/ME/DUCK was titled "Classroom Management: Let's Get Undressed in SCHOOL: Supertramp Logical Song Video." The claimant was Evergreen Social Media Associates. I'm up against The Associates. Actually, I'm not up - I'm down. I'm down and (soon to be) out. Someone with REAL legal knowledge and not just philosophical drivel (I'm saturated in it), please fill me in on the legalities of what I am or am not and should or should not be doing, because I am clueless. If I own a CD of a song that is owned by someone else, and I do my own dance to that song and record myself doing a dance/act/performance to that song - who owns my dance to their song that I played from my CD? They own both their song and my dance because I danced on their song? We can't coexist peacefully? We can't play off of one another? I bought the CD to play and dance to - why does it become a problem to play and dance to the music they sold me when I publicize the act? If I can do it on a side street, why not on Youtube?

I'm getting hives on my right breast over this. If I scratch it and make a video to YOUR song, will you take my scratching to your song away or will you let me scratch away? I guess "they" (Evergreen Media, not Medea!) didn't like what -I- did with their song. I liked my bum shaking play on the classroom. The irony is that the Logical Song by Supertramp is, in content, so much in opposition to the kind of authoritarian classroom management practices that are being utilized by the Social Media Associates that represent the musicians. Supertramp probably wouldn't give two flying (!) ducks/fucks about my ironic dance to their ironic song - and they would totally get the irony of this scenario. Plus, my uncle, Tom Walsh, was a drummer for Supertramp back in the day (yeah, I'll pull out my one connection to Hollywood at this convenient moment...). But the problem is that artists, like Supertramp, somehow get themselves OWNED by record companies. What's it like to be OWNED, recording artists? How does it feel to be OWNED by a label and to know you had to SELL yourself and kinda sorta become a label in order to get your music out there? There is a monopoly on existing, isn't there. If you want to get into the BUSINESS and benefit from it, then you need to work "with" the business. But you don't ever really get to work "with" the business. You get worked by it. And you get owned. And maybe if you're lucky, you get enough freedom to be somewhat authentic.

I think artists like Fiona Apple and the Dixie Chicks have faced this issue - getting pissed when they realized that they sold themselves and that they are "owned." That's how I feel. Owned. By Youtube. By the Powers that Be. By heteronormativity and imperialism in which there are BIG guys and little guys. Guys! In which there is US and THEM. In which there is Youtube and...you. In which there are LABELS/artists and OWNERS. In which there is a DOMINATOR and a SUBJUGATED. Check out Fiona Apple's "Extraordinary Machine:" in it she rebels against the LABEL, the ownership, the censorship. I think it's a powerful album. Brilliant. Fine-tuned anger. Anger with a cause. Anger for Good, Anger for Change. Intellectual empowerment.

The power dynamics of the entertainment industry are way beyond my comprehension. The little that I have glimpsed over the past few months reminds me of a film that my wife watched often at the beginning of our relationship: "Mullholand Drive." When I first watched the film with her, when I was eighteen, I thought it was just about the worst movie I had ever seen (second only to "Very Bad Things" (<--- what I consider cinematic Ipecac) and "Angel Heart" - whose detestability I still stand by...god that movie made me feel sick to my stomach and consumed by a giant hole of black bile. I will not watch it again. My wife liked the images of the fans and elevators - the black and white imagery - throughout the film. She fell asleep while we were watching it together. I could not sleep all night, and I felt physically ill and resentful at her for 1. liking the movie, 2. urging me to watch it, and 3. falling asleep and leaving me to spend the night with pure evil without her. Of course, I was young so you might blame it on that. And my poor Sandy, I punished her so much with my anger and whining over the experience that she has never watched it again. I told her I would be happy to burn the DVD - that's how strongly I felt about it. I bet you're curious now, to go and watch it, but don't blame me if you feel your soul is damaged somehow by virtue of the viewing!!! I remember one of Sandy's selling points: Lisa Bonet. Naked. I didn't even know who Lisa Bonet was. The Cosby Show. Oh God. Why did I have to see the bloody sex scene. Why? Why?)

Okay, deep breath. Back to the bloodbath that is my You Tube channel. Back to the blood bath that is the legal system, that is the entertainment industry, that is humanity. "Mullholand Drive," despite my initial disgust with it, is actually a very clever film about the entertainment industry - Old Hollywood/New Hollywood - Domination. Upon seeing it a third time (a few years ago), I was quite intrigued by it. Silencio! The world of the entertainment industry is a political world of domination and submission. It's an absurdist circus. Mindlessness is preferable. Mindnumbing will work. Minderasure is even better. Can you call that ART? Yes, it is art. Much of it is controlled art, but that's still art. Sometimes something rebellious slips through the cracks (or manages by some twist of fate to not get its body exploded by hunters). That's my hope in continuing to create whatever it is I create: to slip through the cracks and be ALLOWED to remain (to peacefully coexist).

Now, to the legalities, if I own "their" CD, don't I own the right to play their song wherever and however I want to play it? Why can I not just cite the source of my accompaniment and have that be enough? If I read a book, it is legal for me to quote and paraphrase its contents as long as I cite my source, correct? Why can the same not be true of a song used for an art piece on Youtube? Legal ass(istance). I need music for my work, but I cannot write my own - trust me: I tried, and it sucked. I guess I'll begin the next segment of my Youtube existence doing Silent Films...yeah, right. Even when you cannot help but remain in obscurity, the anusfaces will find and destroy you in the name of staking their territory. Isn't it ironic - copyright infringement punishment executed on the bare behind of a video involving the theme of corporal punishment. I think Youtube engages in its fair share of corporal punishment practices - maybe it's just part of the fair uses terms and conditions. Youtube is really the go between between the chastising agent and the chastised.

If I bend over and give Youtube my hairy behind, will Youtube consider it fair and ethical and original to do so? Will Youtube let my bum belong to me or will it make it its own or will it delete it. I'll let someone else use my bum as long as they cite its source. That sounds fair and legal. Shouldn't fair and legal be one and the same? Oh, I'm such an idealist, so help me God. I guess the answer lies in the question. I have no power if I have to ask. When you are doing something experimental, it's hard to know where it will fall, how it will be classified, what will become of it. I guess that's the risk I take. The risk I take is that my whole Youtube account may, one day, be deleted out of nowhere because of some nonsensical rule or legality. In that case, I will have to start from scratch (!). When that happens, remind me about the scratching idea. I'll just use Youtube as my scratching post. Meeeee-ow. Ah, well, "tomorrow is another day" (FROM "GONE WITH THE WIND!!!!")...I'm going to get through this and when it's all over I'll never be hungry agaaaaaain (ENCORE: FROM "GONE WITH THE WIND!!!!")...sue me, sue me, what can ya do me (FROM "GUYS AND DOLLS")...

(FINAL BOW = to be deleted by POWer of court order)

A bit of old wisdom from one of the spinsters living in me: (Quote) Cite yer sources, ye unrelenting sorceress or yer sources will cite yer source for yeh an' ye'll be out er luck whin ya can' fin' yer sources in yer source. (End quote)

For "real" though, I guess I'll take a lesson from this (for future reference, young DUCKSELF): create without a soundtrack or be your own soundtrack. And always CITE YOUR SOURCES as you would always cite your sorceresses.

I apologize ahead of time for how awful my videos will likely sound from now on...

As for Lesley Gore: "You don't own me, I'm not just one of your many toys, You don't own me, don't say I can't go with other boys"

I surrender. Tonight Someone/Something OWNED me. I wasn't careful enough (= life story?) and I got an edumacation. Do I need to cite someone to use that non-word?

The dust, it was bitten. Or was it bit? I guess I really got an edumacation!

Whaaaaatever. I'm spent! The illusion of freedom alludes me. Why can't I just go back to fifth grade, when I was wearing curlers to school, playing the part of Diana Ross in the Supremes for my "research" projects and acting out Angela Lansbury's roles in scenes from obscure films, like "Samson and Delilah," for my homeroom class. Back when I was ignorant and the joy of my life was not an infringement on someone's copyright ownership. Bleh. Meh. Meow.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

I Married an Editor: The How Not Tos and the How Tos are IN DA HOUSE: Editing Advice, How to Write a Bio, How to do things that are Unnatural to You

Ya know what I love doing? I love creating. Poetry. Prose. Performance art.

Ya know what I don't love doing? Editing.

Ya know what I detest doing? Learning the hard way to make sure I have a second party edit my work.

Ya know what I feel ambivalent about doing? Writing a bio for myself.

On the first matter (CREATING), it's exciting and relatively stress free to create. I do it. I do it well. I enjoy doing it.

On the second matter (EDITING), it's not exciting, it involves concentration and a moderate amount of discipline and stress. Discipline and stress. Some people actually thrive under those conditions. I do not. Of course I do it anyway, but I often still miss things.

Which leads me to the third matter (DISCOVERING ERRORS WHEN IT'S TOO LATE): it sucks, it leads me to the same conclusion every time (i.e, HAVE SANDY -my wife- LOOK OVER YOUR WORK BEFORE YOU SEND IT OUT ANYWHERE, PERIOD). I wish I had some sort of alarm attached to my finger that would go off before I click send. The Have Me Edited by Sandy/Someone alarm. Perhaps you have wished for one of these, too? Every writer should have one. Every speaker should probably have one, too, to filter all those Foot in the Mouth moments that find a way of rolling right off the tip of your fecund tongue. Everyone should have a THINK-READ-SEE alarm. Especially haphazard, impulsive creators like me who put things in semi-permanent cyber ink out into space on a daily basis. What I love about having my own blog is that I can edit at any time. I can publish it and then read it and edit it, and read it and edit it, and read it and edit it. It has formed bad habits in me, and I find it hard to turn off the expectation for a re-write and its lax effect. Still, no matter how many times I read my blog entries, I always miss something. That's where my second hand woman comes in: my second pair of eyes.  I call her Sandy. She's my Superhero See-er. I have learned this lesson many times, and I do the same thing over and over. How many times do I have to touch the hot stove before I say, "Gee, I'm tired of burning myself and making a fool of myself. Maybe I should try something ELSE!" Oy vey.

Another mistake I make is leaving it to the editor of the publication to be my second pair of eyes (or second editor). I have adopted these false thoughts and I cannot get rid of them: Editors won't publish anything unless it's perfect because my work is representing them; they will make sure it's perfect; they will send me back the proof for a final reading before they publish my work; they'll take care of everything - it's their job as editors. Yeah, that's right, take alllll the pressure off of my shoulders and leave it to "them." Wow, the voice in my head is a real EINSTEIN sometimes. No, no, no. I am SO wrong when I think this way. If you think this way, too, stop yourself for just a minute her and breathe in and out with me. Now repeat this mantra: My work represents me. I am responsible for the way I represent myself. I am the only one responsible for my work. Feeling more responsible already? You're welcome!

As for me, I don't know if it is because I grew up so privileged and took my sense of autonomy and personal responsibility for granted or what. But I actually think this way. Why would I settle for my own mediocrity when I could easily edit a few more times and put something out that I can feel proud of? I'm lazy. I'm ever-loving lazy. I hate looking back on something I just created BEFORE I put it out there. I prefer to put (it) out and then genuflect - I mean, reflect/review/revise. Why am I driven to let others view all of my humiliating errors (eros?) before I revise? Is it another one of my self-imposed curses or is it some kind of sideways brilliant strategy to build stamina by repeatedly humiliating myself so that over time I feel nothing in the face of my imperfections? I don't think it's that clever or meaningful; I think it's just that old black magic that has me in its spell - that wellspring of wondrous impulsivity that lives within me and expresses itself in my performance art (if it's performance he/art, then perhaps I am just leading with my heart and letting my head go to hell...ouuuuch).

And on the fourth matter (WRITING A BIO), I think it's quite common to feel baffled by The Bio. A short bio can be just as challenging as a long bio. Is the bio intended to tell people WHO YOU ARE or WHAT YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS ARE? That's what stops me up (not so much intestinally, but intellectually). I think this distinction, or lack thereof, is the main barrier that I have faced when trying to write a bio. I don't like having to sum my SELF up in a few lines or even in a paragraph. It always feels unnatural, inaccurate and silly. I'd almost rather just have my name: Jess Mason McFadden. Nothing else needed. Doesn't my name say enough about me? Alright, maybe it doesn't. But what does? I always feel trapped: like whatever I say will not be enough and will be superficial and inaccurate. I guess sometimes you just have to suck it up and be superficial and inaccurate. Thinking for hours, crumpling a lot of pieces of paper into tiny balls and tossing them into the recycling bin is not going to make your summation of yourself any less superficial or inaccurate. I am socially uncomfortable describing WHAT I "DO" let alone WHO I "AM."

I have made the mistake, on many occasions, of starting my bio with: "Jessica Mason McFadden IS...is a mother, is a writer, is a student, is is is. That's the big mistake - trying to use a bio as a place to tell someone WHO I am. I don't know WHO I am, and trying to tell someone else WHO I am (and trying to do so using superficial accomplishments) is pointless. From hereon-out, I plan to try to leave the AMs and the ISs at home. I'll stick with a random and meaningless list of things I do or have done. It just makes it easier on myself and makes me feel a tiny bit better about having to represent myself in a limited simplistic counter intuitive way (instead of in the endless comprehensive way that I prefer - a way that would never and could never be captured in a biography). Remember when Facebook would only allow you to write status updates that began with So-in-so "is"? Yeah, thank God that practice changed. The pressure of having to BE something all the time. Whew. Just kill me now. Jess Mason McFadden is NOT going to BE anything today, thank you very much. She is, however, going to feel a little more confident and a little less ambivalent when writing her bogus bios from now on.

For shits and giggles, but mostly shits, here goes:

Jess Mason McFadden grew up in Western New York. She lives with her wife and daughters in the Midwest. She graduated from Western Illinois University in 2006, where she was granted numerous awards and distinctions and was named Department Scholar of the Department of English. Jess blogs her he/art out, and her poetry has been published in Saltwater Quarterly, Sinister Wisdom, Read these Lips, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Breadcrumb Scabs, and Spinozablue. She recently wrote an article for Gender Focus, and plans to continue her graduate education in Clinical Psychology next Fall.

TA-DA. That was painful. But it went by quicly and now it's over. Please promise me you won't hold me to it. Please promise me you won't care about any of it. Thank you. So be it, friends. Now, let me tell you who I REALLY am...

....
........
.............

Exactly.

Ashley Judd on Body Image: The Gender Focus Conversation

Conversations with Ashley Judd

Take a moment to check out my contribution to the conversation started on Monday (April 9) by Ashley Judd on the objectification of women. This morning, Gender Focus, a Canadian Feminist Blog, published an article I wrote in response to Ashley Judd's "Conversation" piece. If you have a voice and want to use it, please join in this important conversation so that it will receive the attention and have the global impact it warrants. Also, consider supporting Gender Focus by liking their page on Facebook and/or subscribing.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Perception is a Prison of Narcissism and ***I*** am its Prisoner

Some people believe that the past 15 years have witnessed an increase in narcissistic behavior and thinking in Western society. What features of Western society during this span of time (for example, child rearing philosophies, advertising campaigns, sports heroes, book topics, and television) may be contributing to a rise in narcissistic functioning?

I am not convinced that the level of narcissistic thinking and behavior has increased over the past fifteen years in Western society. I don't think narcissism is the issue; I think higher functioning is the issue. Our brains evolve and change depending on the physical and metaphysical landscapes in which they operate. In an agricultural society, it is necessary for the body and brain to focus on physical tasks and on working together with others on physical tasks. Communication, in such a society, would be centered on agriculture and on the exchange of goods and services. In contrast, a global society, in which technology expands and evolves the functioning of our brains and bodies, calls for communication that takes on new forms and is expansive. The expansiveness of communication in modern Western cultures, via the Internet and other cyber forms of communication, affects the development and functioning of our brains. I cannot say how, because I myself do not know (and I also suspect that little is known about  the way in which changes in the brain come to pass - at what pace, to what effect, etc.).

I think the more we move away from a survivalist mentality - having to work together in physical ways in order to survive, the more opportunity (time and space in our psyches and physical bodies) we have to focus on extrasurvivalist issues - such as ourselves. I think we are all narcissistic to some degree - some of us are just more distracted from the preoccupation with ourselves than others. When we find healthy and fulfilling distractions from our natural narcissism, we might positively impact the larger community. When we get stuck in boredom or are without fulfilling distractions and opportunities to serve in our communities, we might stagnate or struggle with feelings of worthlessness or unproductivity. We want to feel that we have special assets as individuals that might benefit the whole community in some kind of service activity. But if we feel that our assets are not wanted or needed in the community, or if we feel like we do not have assets, then we are not likely to serve. Anyone can become caught up in a debilitating pattern of narcissistic thinking, because everyone is narcissistic to some degree. Building a community that encourages acceptance of its members and self-and-community-fulfilling service opportunities is the first step toward maintaining a balance between autonomous self and communal self. The key is balance - too much communal (non-self-focused) self is just as unhealthy as is too much autonomous self.

A community, at its best, is a gathering of individuals who take care of themselves and each other so that everyone within the community mutually benefits from the harmony of its parts - the yin and yang (individual and commune) coming together to build, collaborate and sustain balance. In my own experience, I sometimes feel (perceive myself as being) isolated living in the midwest. In those instances, I feel separate from the community. Is it because I don't fit in or because I am too narcissistic? I don't think it is either. I think it has more to do with finding a place that fits me and in which I fit in within the society. I haven't yet found my place, my niche, in Macomb. But there are other types of communities in which I have found a (my!!!) place - I have a very important roles and places within my extended and immediate families that I value and to/for which I try to make positive and lasting, healthy, contributions. I don't know that I buy into the idea that there is a certain brand of narcissistic behavior that is isolated to the period of the past fifteen years. I think the outlets and expressions and manifestations of the same old narcissism that was always there have simply evolved. Child rearing is a mixed bag. There still exist traditional corporal punishment based philosophies - they are a part of a continuum of philosophies that exist in modern Western culture. I believe and hope society is moving in the direction of love, peace and kindness in its child rearing philosophies, but I have seen evidence to the contrary. We may be out of balance as a society today, but who knows the promise or lie of tomorrow. I think people still value community, in its various forms, and the concept and function of community is evolving just as rapidly as is narcissism.

Capitalism, as an institution, creates a sort of individualist mentality in a society - in it, the good of the individual is put before the good of the whole and the good of the individual is considered key to the good of the whole. Socialism, on the other hand, places the whole before the individual and the good of the whole is considered key to the good of the individual. I think both are misguided attempts at government that create an imbalance between autonomy and community. They represent extremes that hinder both the individual and the whole. A balance between the two approaches and mentalities is a more stabilizing and reliable, as well as a better functioning, goal for human societies. Of course I cannot foresee what lies ahead and what approaches might be even better than "A Fine Balance."

Sunday, April 8, 2012

If I Were to Tell You I'm a Liar, I Would Be Lying: The Abnormal Psychology of the Pathological Truth-Telling Liar

What might be the difference between “normal” and “pathological” lying? How do the various institutions of our society (business, government, academia, science, and religion) view lying, and how might these views affect the prevalence and nature of individual lies? Why do people often admire someone who deceives, a flatterer, an art forger, a jewel thief?

When "normal" is used in relation to lying, I assume there must also be an "abnormal." Normal and pathological are not antithetical, although pathological lying may be abnormal. Pathological lying is, definitionally, compulsive or obsessional lying - when lying is pathologized for medical or criminal purposes linguistically, it is considered lying that occurs in relation to a condition of psychological disturbance. Pathology, to my mind (!), is a method of separating normal from abnormal  (or majority from minority) for medical or clinical purposes. The question Dr. H-R poses assumes that normal lying is not pathological. I tend to see lying as being a very core and common human behavior. I consider myself a highly aware and brutally honest person, and I am aware of how hard it is for me to be honest sometimes about small or large things. I actually think most humans are habitual liars - lying seems to be somewhat of an innate self-protective and self-advantageous behavior and is also reinforced early on in life. It's no wonder that lying is (has been, is, will be) an essential part of the human psyche.

Whether it's predominantly innate or learned; it's an automatic process in humans - and it's difficult to challenge that process, even for the most self-conscious and aware of humans. We cannot go beyond our own perception, no matter how hard we try (damn it). I think people lie for two reasons - to avoid unpleasant consequences and to gain pleasant consequences (to avoid getting what we don't want and to get what we want, from moment to moment). Most people lie out of fear (to avoid unpleasant consequences). I think in certain contexts, culturally and historically, lying is very advantageous to humans and IS required for survival. If I were a Palestinian homosexual woman living TODAY, I would likely live a life of lying and denial in order to SURVIVE. If I were to openly admit my lesbian identity, it is likely that I would have a lot to lose. Mainly, my life. My lying would be the key to my survival. If I were a teacher living in the southern United States sixty or so years ago (or maybe even today) and I fell in love with another female person, especially one of a non-European American ethnicity - lying would very likely be the key to my survival. I would need to lie in order to survive. I would either be forced to lie about my identity as a lesbian - to DENY my self and my desire and my identity, OR I would have to lie about my lifestyle - to HIDE my self, my desire, my identity and my love-relationship in order to survive (and to exist with a sense of security...although to what extent, I cannot say).

Depending on the context, forms of lying and degrees of lying can be negotiated. If I don't want my mother to know that I just spent an hour editing a you tube video instead of doing my homework - I have a choice about whether or not to be honest. I have the ability to weigh the consequences. Obviously I will not lose my life if I tell her the truth about what I was doing. Isn't it interesting that even though my survival is not at stake, I might still choose to lie. If I tell my mother what I was really doing, then she will likely act annoyed, impatient or disappointed. Is that a consequence I can live with? Sure. Is that a consequence I would rather avoid? Of course. If I have the ability to choose how my mother is going to FEEL about me or act in response to me, will I choose to have her feel happy and proud of me or annoyed and disappointed in me? The choice seems clear. That is, until you consider that the happy and proud feelings are false - are created from an untruth. How good will it feel to have my mother be proud of me for doing something I did not do? To me, it would not feel good at all. I would not reap any of the benefits of her happiness or pride because I would know it was based on falseness. So then it just becomes a matter of how unpleasant it is for ME to have my mother be annoyed with and disappointed in me. For me, those are very unpleasant emotions and so I would be tempted to lie. When this actually happened in real life last week, I told her the truth. I said, "No, I haven't done it yet. I was doing other stuff." She acted annoyed but became distracted moments later with the television show she was watching so my anxiety at having her feel negatively about me was alleviated.

Either way, whether I lie to gain or to avoid, I experience the guilt of lying... because I am lying. If I lie to avoid: I only experience the benefit of avoidance of truth, I do not receive the benefit of the lie (the promise of the lie). As a teenage, I wanted to be as honest as possible because I felt terribly guilty whenever I lied. I thought "God" was watching everything I did, and so I thought I always had a witness to every lie I told. I tried my hardest to tell the truth at all times. I confessed the smallest things to my priest during confession and relieved myself of the great pressure of the guilt. I was able to confess in MOST cases during my childhood because in most cases I was doing things that others approved of (or that others did not strongly DISapprove of). It was only in the cases in which I feared deeply the disapproval of others that I withstood painful guilt in order to lie. In those instances, I told myself that I would just pray later to God that he could forgive me. When I stared at photos of Angela Lansbury before bed when I was six years old, I did so privately and with the understanding that others would not be accepting of my desire to stare adoringly at the photos. If anyone noticed my excessive fondness for her or questioned it, I would have turned beet red and either started laughing or getting angry in self-defense. In such instances, I would have lied to protect myself from the humiliation of being discovered to be some kind of weirdo or pervert (or sinner!) or I would have lied in order to maintain the acceptance and love of the people most central to my life, my security and my sense of self.

Now that I am an adult and I can THINK about those moments in which I am tempted to hide and lie, I am able to tell the truth and face the consequences of my behaviors in most instances. Still, even as highly aware and conscious as I am, I am tempted at times to hide and lie. Sometimes trying to be honest can become an anxiety-provoking, consuming and compulsive act itself. Because lying is SO habitual for most people (so HUMAN for most people), NOT-lying can become its own form of self-imposed torture or form of pathology. Maybe lying is not as bad as we think it is. Maybe we should just stop thinking so much about the fact that we lie. Every word that comes out of our mouth (yes, our collective human mouth of bull shit) is a story coming from the brain-mouth of human perception. In a way, every story is a lie (and every word is a lie). If lying is so human and, therefore, SO common; then perhaps pathological lying is only a form of lying that falls along one of the far ends on the continuum of lying. I, personally, fall pretty far along the OTHER end of the continuum of honesty. I fall into the extreme honesty end of the continuum of lying - but no one, as far as I know, has yet labeled my level of honesty as "Pathological Honesty."

How can I judge a pathological liar when I am a pathological truth-teller (and occasional liar)? I think humans are in MAJOR denial of their lying (of the habitual nature of their lying). I guess a normal liar WOULD be almost completely unaware of his lying; whereas a pathological truth-teller (and maybe even a pathological liar) would be much more aware of her lying. I guess I just don't trust what any "normal liar" has to say about lying because a "normal liar" is in major denial of his lying. As such, I think the worlds of business, academia, government, science and religion - as institutions of normalized lying - are simply the products of their parts: amassments, or bodies, of fiction. They are all micro parts of the macro of the fiction of humanity. Views of lying in the major institutions are simply large-scale reflections of the views of lying in the people within those institutions. The institutions have no effect on the prevalence and nature of the lying - they are the products of the lying. If anything, they simply perpetuate and continue the lies that already exist. I am not sure that anyone admirers lying itself. It seems that they admire the contents or forms of the lying - the manner of the lying or the results of the lying. If the manner of lying is unusual, it is attention worthy. If the lying achieves some shocking or astonishing result, it is attention worthy. When people praise a liar, they are praising the finesse or cleverness of the act of lying - not of the act of lying in and of itself. Is there an Art of Lying? I suppose lying can be an art - an art that mocks its subject (lying) or an art that renders its subject more or less attractive than it is (which is both lying and art).

As for me, I might admire the work of the art forger but not the act of forging the art. I might admire the cleverness of the jewel thief but not the act of thievery. I would prefer that the art forger create art for selfish purposes that do not involve stealing and I would prefer that the jewel thief put her cleverness into an endeavor that benefits the common good. As for the flatterer, I will not criticize his lying but that is not to say I will fall for his lies. As a person who knows lying pretty well (i.e., is conscious of the processes of lying within my own mind), flattery might just be the best kind of lie there is...yet I am the least likely to fall for totally false flattery. I tend to want flattery the most from people who are the most incapable of giving others genuine or false flattery - those are just incapable of flattery period. For a person from whom I would sincerely (and not falsely) fall for flattery, I would not care whether or not it was a lie. The cleverness and aptness of the flattery (aptness of the delusion of flattery?) would be pleasure enough for me to look past its inevitable falseness. Sometimes we liars, I mean humans, know it best: we know it's best to let a lie that does no harm go unharmed. Now, I must end this diatribe of lies immediately so I can go pluck my belly button hair. Am I lying? Come on now, would I ever lie to YOU?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Love Today: Finding Love in Anything

Just quickly, since this is the new Facebook (Jessbook?), my sister reminded me of something I did in the past that she remembers vividly. Tonight while we were eating Mighty Taco (it was not mighty, but it involved a goodly glob of sour cream and I consumed my share), she said, "Remember the time you were crying to Snoopers about how lonely you were?" I started to laugh, delightedly, because I love when she remembers idosyncratic things about me that I have forgotten (okay, okay, she wins: she generally has a better memory than I do...but not ALWAYS). I said, "What? I did that? That's so funny." She said, "Yeah. One time I came down the stairs and you were sitting on the kitchen floor holding Snoopers and crying. You were like, 'I'm all alone, Snoopers, you're the only one who loves me.'"

I vaguely remember having one or two bonding moments on the floor with our stinky little makeup-eating beagle, Snoopers, during his lifetime. Both, I believe, involved the themes of crying and loneliness - yes, times of desperation when the smell and grease of beagle on my hands failed to faze me. Rare moments. It's too bad I couldn't have shown Snoopers affection when I was feeling happy. Selfish adolescent. God I hope I'm doing better as an adult. Let this be a reminder and a lesson to myself. Show love to the ones who are yours, the ones who need you, the ones who are there WITH you NOW. And with that, I will bid the threats of unworthiness adieu and go to sleep with love close to my body and love in my heart...the love in proximity, the love of now - the only kind of love there is.

If you are a person out there who is without that kind of love, you probably are not actually without that kind of love. You're probably just focusing on the love that's out of sight and out of reach. What's in your midst right now? Whatever it is, try to take a moment to love it and to be in the presence of love with it. Don't wait until tomorrow, love today.

The Delusion of Life: An Abnormally Normal Psychology

What kinds of reality testing, or behavioral experiments, would you suggest for a client that believed he was Jesus Christ? How might you go about weakening his delusions?

If I were working with a client who believed he was Jesus Christ, I would try to go into it without immediately labeling his state of mind as being delusional. If millions of people believe that there will be a second coming of Christ, then is it all that abnormal for someone to think that they might be it? If the second coming of Christ is viable, then someone's gotta be her/him/it. Consider the first discussion question this week (about insanity): Is it any more or less delusional for a mass of people to believe in Christ than it is for an individual to believe he is the second coming of Christ? I wouldn’t buy it (believe in the claim) but I also would not see the person’s belief/claim to be any more delusional than the belief in God or the belief in an idea (or any other unscientific, unverifiable belief). And I would not find the individual any more or less acceptable because of their unfounded belief than I would an individual who believes in God.

Is it fair or accurate to discriminate between two unprovable suppositions on the basis that one has social affirmation and the other does not? In order to differentiate and evaluate the individual, I would be interested in his beliefs about a WIDE range of other areas of life. If a delusional pattern emerged across all areas, then the delusional quality would be more evident. If I were working with a client who believed in God or who believed he was God but whose beliefs across all or most other areas and subjects were not abnormal or delusional, I would not immediately put the label of delusional on him. Instead, I would try to delve deeper into the contents and origins of his belief in order to understand how it formed and how it functions in his mind and life. I would be interested in knowing what kind of reactions the man gets (if and) when he tells people he is Jesus and how he feels about those reactions.

If his social and emotional life were deteriorating because of the belief, then I would focus on that as reason for using cognitive-behavioral methods to handle the abnormal belief. I would not refute the belief itself, but rather I would focus on ways that he could manage the belief so that it would not have such a negative effect on his social life and mental well-being. Through that approach, the individual might be interested in and willing to try a biochemical treatment option (an antipsychotic medication, for instance, if his beliefs/delusions posed a threat to the safety of others) to deal with the repercussions of the belief because he would not feel I was a threat to him or his belief. By not fearing that I am trying to cure him of his identity, he might be more willing to consider medication and psychotherapy. In the process and with the medication working, his belief (delusion) might subside or he might be able to see his belief in a different way.

I have thought about this kind of subject before, and I feel quite conflicted about it. I have actually met a few people in my life who have either directly stated or insinuated that they believed they were the second coming and/or an important prophet with a message for the people or that they believed I was. I think there might be something (delusional?) about me that draws this sort of thing to me. Dear Lord, what can it be? I played Jesus Christ in my high school musical, “Godspell,” but I never had any delusion that I might be the second coming. I suppose being told you are the second coming of Christ is the greatest form of flattery that any person could receive. I am more than susceptible to flattery, but I take it for what it’s worth: flattery is just flattery – it’s always manipulative, even when it’s sincere. 

Jesus Christ thought he was the Son of God and he was met with contention. How can so many people believe in the existence of the religious and/or historical and/or mythical Jesus Christ as a divine savior and deny another person who claims that he is Jesus Christ (or that he is the “second coming”)? Why is it so implausible given that belief in Jesus # 1 is so common? How can someone believe in one Christ and not another, especially if both proclaim, teach and enact the same values and principles? If I believe in one Christ, how can I deny another? It seems much easier to believe in a Christ that is not a sentient living being than it is to believe in a Christ that is living today. If I recall correctly, one of the stories of Christ suggests that he was a human being who was crucified and resurrected to save mankind from original sin. He was a HUMAN being, and yet his connection to “God” gives him divine status in the minds of religiously and spiritually devout followers today. If there were a second coming, then the second coming would also be human. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone who claims to be Christ being believed or being believable today. But why not? I wonder if the brain scans of the original Jesus Christ would be similar to or different than the brain scans of the Christs of today.

Poem about POW-er with a Chorus and a Bridge

(A poem inspired by Nina Simone's "Sinnerman")

The man had the power
of his motor
and he ran it over
the same patch
of grass forty or fifty
times. The woman
had the power of her
music, and she played it over
eighty or ninety times.
He ran his mower
over cement. She played the music
at its greatest decibel. He ran
his mower in circles
and back and forth, he mowed the streets,
he thought he saw
grass there, he could not leave
the middle of the road,
he did not know
why he could not leave.

Go to the devil, he said
Go to the devil, she said
Run it to the devil, she said
Raise it to the heaven, she said
Go to the devil, he said
Go to the devil, he said
Go to the devil, he said
This is mine, he said
This is mine, he said
Go to yourself, she said
Go to yourself, she said
Go to yourself, she said
This is mine, too, she said
This is mine, too, she said
Power : Power
He fell asleep - POWer
She cried - POWer
He snored - POWer
She sighed - POWer
For his land - POWer
For her right – POWer
POW-er, POW-er:

She ran her radio
on repeat again
and again, again; she filled the space,
she thought she heard life
there, she thought she knew why
she would not leave.
The man got stuck
on the edge of his own
driveway and he did not know
where he was. The woman got stuck on the step
of her parents’ porch
and knew just where
she was, she was waiting for him
to turn it off. He was waiting for her
to turn it down:
he ran out of gas, she ran
out of batteries.

Go to the devil, he said
Go to the devil, she said
Run it to the devil, she said
Raise it to the heaven, she said
Go to the devil, he said
Go to the devil, he said
Go to the devil, he said
This is mine, he said
This is mine, he said
Go to yourself, she said
Go to yourself, she said
Go to yourself, she said
This is mine, too, she said
This is mine, too, she said
Power : Power
He fell asleep - POWer
She cried - POWer
He snored - POWer
She sighed - POWer
For his land - POWer
For her right – POWer
POW-er, POW-er:

He moved the mower
without an engine. She heard the music
without a player. He drove it
home, she sang it loud.
He didn’t know
his machine; she didn’t know
her machine. He cut the grass
down low, she raised the sound
so high: To the earth, To the sky.
Beat ‘em down, Raise ‘em up
Power : Power
He was feeble with age
She was fiery with youth
He was demented
She was touched
He ran it ‘til he ran himself
down to his knees, she raised it up
‘til she raised herself
up through the trees.

(CHORUS)

Go to the devil, he said
Go to the devil, she said
Run it to the devil, she said
Raise it to the heaven, she said
Go to the devil, he said
Go to the devil, he said
Go to the devil, he said
This is mine, he said
This is mine, he said
Go to yourself, she said
Go to yourself, she said
Go to yourself, she said
This is mine, too, she said
This is mine, too, she said
Power : Power
He fell asleep - POWer
She cried - POWer
He snored - POWer
She sighed - POWer
For his land - POWer
For her right – POWer
POW-er, POW-er:

(BRIDGE)

The refusal to leave
The voice against the machine
The birds to her side
The worms at his feet
They can never agree,
They can never leave


(CHORUS)


Go to the devil, he said
Go to the devil, she said
Run it to the devil, she said
Raise it to the heaven, she said
Go to the devil, he said
Go to the devil, he said
Go to the devil, he said
This is mine, he said
This is mine, he said
Go to yourself, she said
Go to yourself, she said
Go to yourself, she said
This is mine, too, she said
This is mine, too, she said
Power : Power
He fell asleep - POWer
She cried - POWer
He snored - POWer
She sighed - POWer
For his land - POWer
For her right – POWer
POW-er, POW-er:

Nietzsche's Onion of Insanity: Where is the Abnormal Psychologist inside it?

The philosopher F. W. Nietzsche said: “Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule.” What behaviors committed by groups might be considered psychotic if an individual were to perform them?

Nietzsche’s sentiment, if reversed, would suggest that in groups, parties, nations and epochs insanity is something rare but in individuals it is the rule. In my mind, human behavior is human behavior – insanity is one human perception and classification of certain types of human behavior. Insanity is as definable and concrete as is the essence of human life. If you think my behavior is insane, then I might think you insane for thinking so. I might even think your decision to not-practice my behavior is insane. If a group behaves one way and an individual behaves in an alternative manner or in opposition to the group, then the group might think the individual is insane and the individual might think the group is insane. The group has the power of its majority to, accurately or falsely, strengthen its claim of sanity; the individual has only the power of her ideas and the intensity of her devotion to her cause to strengthen her claim to sanity. Does it really matter what the behavior is if the group and the individual each believe wholeheartedly in its validity?

All ideas have the ability to be damaging or uplifting to society. Any idea in and of itself is just an idea. What gives an idea power? Consensus and action. The action of an individual is not as POWER-ful as the action of a collective, or mass, of individuals. The greater the POWER driving the idea into action, regardless of the idea, is what renders an idea transforming of (or potentially dangerous to) a society. I don’t know that I agree with Nietzsche’s comment on insanity in individuals versus groups, except in the sense that I think the power of the collective can be dangerous – and the power in and of itself can be a form of insanity and can give greater power to insanity. The individual and the commons are equally as capable of insanity, if insanity exists, but the power of the idea (or the insanity) in the hands of a mass is so much greater.

Nietzsche’s measurement of insanity is simple – one individual = 1 x insanity, 100 individuals = 100 x insanity, 666 666 666 individuals = 666 666 666 x insanity. The insanity of the masses is quantitatively greater than the insanity of the individual – but what about qualitatively. The qualitative dimension of what Nietzsche proposes is much more complicated. A dissection of the individual is a small-scale evaluation of the collective, but often the individual is a small version of the collective. One human is a microcosm of the whole of humanity. In that sense, the individual’s and collective’s insanities or sanities should consist of similar, mirroring content. Qualitatively, it would not seem that the insanity of the individual is any different than the insanity of the collective. Quantitatively, there is a difference. I cannot go beyond this without more information, though I imagine the social and environmental impact of quantitative versus qualitative differences would extend this analysis further. When you look at a mass from far away, its actions make sense and patterns seems fairy easy to draw out and interpret; yet you can only see the whole and not the parts of the whole. Only being able to see the whole provides a certain kind of picture. When you look a little closer, you get another picture – the picture of its parts. When you look even closer, you see another picture. It’s like peeling an onion.

When peeling the onion of insanity, the whole appears one way (like one powerful mass of insanity). The next layer of the onion of insanity looks less powerful but also looks different than the outside layer. With each layer you peel back of the onion of insanity, you learn more about the whole and about the layers that were peeled before – yet you still do not know about what lies in the next (yet unpeeled) layers. Within the onion of insanity are layers (not lawyers!) of insanity, and within the layers of insanity are particles of insanity. Within the particles of insanity are molecules of insanity. You can break it down until you cannot see, feel, know or understand it any longer. You can break it down until you are one with it.

This question posed requires us to look at the collectives as stereotypes. When people in a Sicilian household raise their voices, it might not be considered inappropriate to the people within the household; but outside of the household – perhaps in an English household – the behavior might be considered crude and obscene. Once I walked into a pizza shop in Northampton, Massachusetts and was startled by a man and his elderly mother throwing F-bombs (e.g., “FUCK YOU, MA”) at each other at a volume level that struck me as extreme. I felt uncomfortable and disturbed. The thought that went through my head when I walked in was that the son was some kind of psychopath. I stood in line not sure if he was crazy or if I was crazy – but I wanted to get out of that pizza shop as fast as I could. I kept picturing the guy pulling a gun out and shooting everyone in sight. I looked around to others in line and did not notice any fear on their faces so I decided to challenge myself and get the pizza despite my fear. I am Italian and I have relatives from Sicily (and I may be incorrectly stereotyping here, but I believe the pizza shop was Sicilian). My Sicilian relatives talk loudly, shout, swear in Italian and use incorrect English. I cannot generalize in good conscience and suggest that all people from Sicily are the same as my family members, especially given that the behavior in this restaurant was so disturbing and far outside of my comfort zone. I could judge and say the behavior was insane, but someone outside of my family might say the same about my family.

A woman who poses nude for an art class probably would not be considered abnormal within an art class or art department. A woman who undresses and holds the same pose in front of a grocery store, like Wegmans, would likely be arrested for the same behavior. Context is everything (and nothing). Is the naked woman posing a threat to a given society in the art classroom? How is it different in front of the grocery store? Perhaps the behavior is not different (or any more or less insane/inappropriate) in and of itself, but the way in which it is interpreted and perceived will differ depending on the context. The behaviors of people at a music concert with a pop icon in America might seem normal to those at the concert. If an individual woman were doing all of the things she did at the concert, but alone in a parking lot, it is likely that people might think she was insane. If the woman not-at-the-concert were dancing down the streets, singing to the song in her head or in her earphones, hugging and holding hands with everyone in sight, lying down on the pavement and lifting her lighter in the air –seeming to lack self-consciousness and be in a state of bliss – would you find her to be unacceptable or insane? I wouldn’t, but that’s because I’m insane!