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Archive for August, 2009

Touched with FireThe fiery aspects of thought and feeling that initially compel the artistic voyage—fierce energy, high mood, and quick intelligence; a sense of the visionary and the grand; a restless and feverish temperament—commonly carry with them the capacity for vastly darker moods, grimmer energies, and occasionally, bouts of “madness.”  “Touched with Fire: Manic-depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament,” by Kay Redfield Jamison

I received another in a seemingly endless series of “not for us” letters in the mail yesterday.  One of those impersonal form rejection letters sent out by students and volunteers at literary magazines when they find a free moment to shove an 8 ½’ x 11 guillotine into a number 9 envelope and send it off to me using the stamp that I supplied.  The cut is quick, but it is not painless.

It does however leave me headless for a few days.  Especially when those successive mornings are spent in front of the television watching Nancy (Dis)Grace hawking her novel on Good Morning America and the Today Show.

Is her writing that good?  Is mine that bad?  You be the judge:

He couldn’t just leave the body lying there like that. There was something missing. It was biting at him. He’d tried to go, walking back to his car in the dark twice now, but the nagging in his brain wouldn’t let him leave until she was absolutely perfect.  He looked at her lying there in the moonlight. Her dead body was absolutely stunning. Before, when she had been alive, sitting in the passenger seat of his car, talking and talking about her life and herself and her journey from Anniston, Alabama, to Atlanta to break into acting, he thought his head would blow up like a bomb. She just wouldn’t shut up.”  “The Eleventh Victim,” by Nancy Grace.

It makes me wonder, and I don’t say this lightly, if a world in which Nancy Grace is a published author, a “novelist,” merely because she has “a platform,” is a world worth living in?  This being the same world that offers Levi Johnston movie roles, John and Kate Plus 8 their own TV series, and rewards talentless singers like William Hung with recording contracts.

Now, to cleanse your literary palate and to inspire you, for whatever creative outlet you might have, here are the words of some true artists who died long before they should have.  By their own hands.

A Confederacy of Dunces by J K TooleAs I was wearing the soles of my desert boots down to a mere sliver of crepe rubber on the old flagstone banquettes of the French Quarter in my fevered attempt to wrest a living from an unthinking and uncaring society, I was hailed by a cherished old acquaintance (deviate).  After a few minutes of conversation in which I established most easily my moral superiority over this degenerate, I found myself pondering once more the crises of our times.  My mentality, uncontrollable and wanton as always, whispered to me a scheme so magnificent and daring that I shrank from the very thought of what I was hearing.  “Stop!”  I cried imploringly to my god-like mind.  “This is madness.”  But still I listened to the counsel of my brain.  It was offering me the opportunity to Save the World Through Degeneracy.”  “A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia WoolfFirst, the pulse of colour flooded the bay with blue, and the heart expanded with it and the body swam, only the next instant to be checked and chilled by the prickly blackness on the ruffled waves.  Then, up behind the great black rock, almost every evening spurted irregularly, so that one had to watch for it and it was a delight when it came, a fountain of white water; and then while one waited for that, one watched, on the pale semicircular beach, wave after wave shedding again and again smoothly, a film of mother of pearl.”  “To the Lighthouse,” by Virginia Woolf

Brief Interviews with Hideous MenAnd dreams.  For months there have been dreams like nothing before: moist and busy and distant, full of yielding curves, frantic pistons, warmth and a great falling; and you have awakened through fluttering lids to a rush and a gush and a toe-curling scalp-snapping jolt of feeling from an inside deeper than you knew you had, spasms of a deep sweet hurt, the streetlights through your window blinds cracking into sharp stars against the black bedroom ceiling, and on you a dense white jam that lisps between legs, trickles and sticks, cools on you, hardens and clears until there is nothing but gnarled knots of pale solid animal hair in the morning shower, and in the wet tangle a clean sweet smell you can’t believe comes from anything you made inside you.”  “Forever Overhead,” from “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” by David Foster Wallace.

True genius often finds reality unbearable.  But the likes of Nancy Grace would never consider suicide.  They are too pleased by the sound of their own voice, however shrill.  Too enamored of their own reflection in the mirror, in the toaster, in the window at Bloomingdale’s.  While I don’t wish Ms. Grace any harm (although I can’t stop smiling at the thought of her being the twelfth victim) I do wish she would just go away.  She is not the type to put rocks in her pocket and wade into a lake.  Her ilk just makes the rest of us want to.  So in effect, she is spared, as WE are the twelfth victim.

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indispensable

If there’s more to life than this, I don’t know what it is.”  “The Indispensible Calvin and Hobbes,” by Bill Watterson

My friend, Sarcastic Bastard reminded me today to take life a little less seriously.

So I am putting away all of the books on happiness and bipolar disorder and depression and attention deficit disorder for the weekend and going to the beach.

Bad Mood

I will not think about the pharmaceutical companies or the little pink pills or the tiny blue capsules my doctors are always encouraging me to take.

I will not TRY to be, I will just BE.

I will TRY not to over-think every thing.  (I’m afraid “trying not to” is about all I can promise on that one.)

I will try to enjoy myself without the aid of Ketel One.  (But again, no promises)

Fun

I will not read anything heavy, or depressing, or self-helping, or motivational.  I will read literary stuff that is meant to be entertaining, not enlightening, not thought provoking—ENTERTAINING.

I suggest you do the same.  Life is short, but if you work it right, it’s just long enough.

Calvin & Hobbes 1

My favorite strip of all time

And no, I’m not manic.  I’m just content from spending a few minutes thinking about the good things in my life and for the small pleasures that are unexpected, yet mean so much.  Like Calvin and Hobbes.  Funny AND thought provoking.  The best of both worlds.

Life

Have a nice weekend.  Marco

Nap

P.S.: CALVIN & HOBBES FANS: See more @ Random Thoughts and a Special Gift.

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New York Mag May 25, 2009Back in 1971, when the web was still twenty years off and the smallest computers were the size of delivery vans, before the founders of Google had even managed to get themselves born, the polymath economist Herbert A. Simon wrote maybe the most concise possible description of our modern struggle: What information consumes is rather obvious: It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it. As beneficiaries of the greatest information boom in the history of the world, we are suffering, by Simon’s logic, a correspondingly serious poverty of attention.”  “In Defense of Distraction,” By Sam Anderson (New York magazine, May 25, 2009)

Okay, so I’m a little behind in my reading. But that is exactly what Mr. Anderson’s article is all about.  Distraction.  Throw bipolar disorder and ADD into the mix and you have a mind that can’t stop gorging itself on available information.

That’s also the reason I post less frequently than I would like.  Too much.  Of everything.  The e-mails, the RSS feeds, the Facebook notifications, the Tweets…all keep begging for my attention.

The Internet is basically a Skinner box engineered to tap right into our deepest mechanisms of addiction. As B. F. Skinner’s army of lever-pressing rats and pigeons taught us, the most irresistible reward schedule is not, counterintuitively, the one in which we’re rewarded constantly but something called variable ratio schedule, in which the rewards arrive at random.”

Mr. Anderson’s likening the Internet to a Skinner box was very enlightening.  Part of how we change behavior is by knowing why we engage in that behavior to begin with.  After spending the morning wandering through a couple of bookstores, it occurred to me that I was merely wasting time, not, as I had been deluding myself, doing research.  I am always waiting for that next piece of brilliant, entertaining, thought-provoking information that will lead to an insight, that will lead to a post, that will lead to…what?  Being cured?  Happy?  Successful?  Rich?  Adored?

Is anything every really enough?  I doubt it.  We (most of us) are hardwired to want more.  Sure, there are some people who can happily check-out, spend their “golden years” playing golf in Boca Raton.  But that seems to be less and less the case these days as the world gets smaller and as we discover ideas that twenty years ago would never have made it past the front door of our suburban home.  With more exposure often comes more desire.  If you didn’t know there was such a thing as an iPhone, you wouldn’t want one.  Trouble is, now you not only know about it, you have one, only you’re not satisfied with it because you’ve just found out that the newer version comes with video.

The truly wise mind will harness, rather than abandon, the power of distraction.”

 

I don’t have a problem with being unhappy, dissatisfied.  It’s depression, a totally different animal, that I find unbearable.  I have always thought that wanting more is a good thing, you know, like sharks: if you don’t keep moving forward you die.  And by more, I don’t mean “more,” or bigger, or better, or faster.  I mean like learning to speak French fluently, or being able to play the piano, or hike Mt. Kilimanjaro, or win the Pulitzer, an Oscar, or a Tony.  Not having a Pulitzer doesn’t make me unhappy. It’s not like I need one.  But I can’t exactly be completely happy either if I really want one (am striving for one) but don’t have one yet.

I think the best we should strive for as humans is to be content.  Anything more is foolhardy, anything less a waste of what we do have.

But I did finally drag myself away from the bookstore and into the library where I am now writing this.  Okay, true confession; I didn’t start writing this until after I had perused the new books section for some possible unforeseen gems.  I mean, I did have to pass it on the way to the writing desks.  Hey, change is hard.

As Mr. Anderson’s wife reminds him, “You have all the information you need to do something right now.”

And so do I.

Thanks for allowing me to be one of your distractions.

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Boy InterruptedBipolar depression is definitely more severe than just depression, and that’s why suicide attempts are more common in kids with bipolar depression.” From “Boy Interrupted.”

I had to pause the film “Boy Interrupted” to make a comment, to take a breath. I see much of myself in Evan and yet I also see things from a new perspective. It’s enlightening to watch someone like yourself be dissected and second “guessed.”  But the film does a remarkable job of capturing (from my experience) what it’s like to be bipolar or to live with someone who is. I started blogging about it back in April of this year, not to expose myself à la reality TV, but as a way of thinking about it in an open forum in which a community is built, stigma is removed, and coping skills are shared and learned.

I attended Stanford University’s School of Medicine’s 5th annual Bipolar Education Day and learned that because of the genetic make-up that causes bipolar disorder, it’s unlikely there will be a cure in the foreseeable future. Drugs are not a cure and the “trial and error” method of prescribing pills simply adds more torment and dashed hopes to sufferers. I believe strongly that films like these are necessary. It’s imperative that the sufferer and family and friends comprehend the dynamics. This understanding gives the bipolar person some perspective and a bit more control (at least from my perspective) and it gives the family a frame of reference so that they know how to handle certain situations and don’t take things (like irritable outbursts) too personally.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Also on Huffington Post: “Boy Interrupted: Interview with Filmmaker Dana Perry

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