Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I'm flummoxed by one thing: Must we reduce, or can we somehow...

So, okay, okay.  The world is a complicated place.  Really, really complicated.  Even small segments of the world are, if not complicated, so rich in information, that it seems impossible for us, mere humans, mere alcoholics, mere addicts, to possibly grasp a sliver of reality in full--that is, a full data set for drastically reduced parameters on reality that still measures two things in relation to themselves.  I know, there are models, okay.  Models.  But models are not truth.  The best they allow us to do is to take guesses at possible outcomes.  And they don't tell us about multiple overlapping reasons for one observed instance.

A very recent for instance seen on my walk to the subway.  One person is balanced on a tightrope/sheet that is itself fastened to two relatively distant poles, making his dramatic walk between the poles somewhat alluring.  Why does he do it?  He likely does it to practice.  Okay, but what about an end goal?  Well, he does it, you'd say, to practice for a certain performance.  Okay, so he wants to be able to perform adequately on the tightrope on a certain date, or a succession of dates.  What's his incentive?  What about money?  Yes, partly.  But money is not always the best incentive.  Not as good, as, say, social stature.  That is, money is good: yes, we can trade it for food and lots of other things. But, as the Beatles know, Money Can't Buy You Love.

Except.  Well, maybe it can, in an indirect way.  If combined with enough uniqueness and stature.

Okay, so the dude was balancing himself and walking the tightrope partially for money, right, and then, maybe, to gain a bit of stature.  Also, the path to do that was through a relatively unique activity.  Who does that, right?  At the same time.

At the same time, he was doing it in a community full of unique acts.  Lots of people, all around him, were engaged in a motley blend of unique acts.  What was the common theme?

Well.  Maybe it was that they all belong to a community identified by uniqueness, and they were simply signaling their adherence to community norms.

No, you're right, none of these possibilities exclude the others.  So which one is most right?  Can you tell me?  Because I think if we find the answer to this question, we'll also find an answer to why we drink.

The question is: can we come up with a full-fledged non-negotiable detailed account of this man's behavior that represents the most true possible description, taking it for granted that we have overlapping temporal constraints and that we can zoom in and out of specificity regarding his acts.  Please.  If you have an idea, please tell me.  I want to know.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

High Status People: Internal Monologue

Why is it that high-status people are so often weak willed and convinced of their own failures internally?  Especially when, externally, they are obviously head and shoulders above many others?  Is it that their will to succeed is only substantially bolstered by fear of failure?  If so, why do they fear failure so much?  Is failure somehow equated with death/death risks (which animates most people if they sincerely believe the risk)?  Are they afraid to give themselves credit because they are worried they'd slack off and lose their status that way?  Or--and this is what I'm scared of--are high status people simply signaling to themselves (and a few select others, like me!) that they are unaware of their status completely, and thus need to take the cues of others around them?  (And because they are surrounded by similarly statused people, they only see themselves in relative fashion).... do they simply not have enough information?  Or are they willingly blind to the feedback they have available because they need outside affirmation of some sort?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Getting Somewhere. Fantasy. Desire.

Very simple message for the evening/morning/cup of tea time.  Desiring something is the best way to know something, i.e. the purest way, for once we know something, it is never as pure.  It can never be that thing we imaged.  It can never join the recesses of our minds and outlast our expectations.  And it can always, always, let us down once we get used to the idea that we had it all along.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ten of My Faults in NPO (No Particular Order)

For the sake of [partial] catharsis, a partial list of my faults:

1) Double standards

2) Moody as hell

3) Insecure

4) Sloppy

5) Inconsistent

6) Petty

7) Boring

8) Introverted

9) Excessive

10) Needlessly Dramatic

11) Critical

Trying Not to Drink Isn't Easy - Don't underestimate it

In 2009 I made it six months without drinking.  In early september, to the day after six months, I decided to have one drink.  Then I decided, even BEFORE having the one drink, that I'd have to have two drinks.   Only two drinks would make breaking my non-drinking spell worth it.  If I wanted to have a drink, that is, a drink would mean having two drinks.  Besides, since I'm heavier than most people, two drinks is really like one drink anyway.  And so I did it.  And then I watched a  movie, and thought nothing of it.  After about two weeks, it became easy to indulge in a drink, or two, or four, on a weeknight, and on the weekends, if we went to a social event, I could easily have four drinks, or more, depending on who needed to drive (if we drove). By New Year's eve, I was totally smashed on a regular basis, and could drink enough, while talking to myself rationally about drinking, to black out.  If you've ever blacked out, you know how startling it is--and worrisome, but you learn, if you want to keep drinking, to pack that experience up and put it in your pocket to think about later.  Right.  So by mid-april, I felt like shit about myself again, wasn't happy in my job, and failed an important test I should have passed.  Yep, felt like spring.  That was april 2010, too, which, basically feels like yesterday right now.  And then in May friends came from out of town, and the year before I skipped out on drinking endeavors with them (though these friends certainly understood) and I made sure to catch up.  I went to work the next day hung over and dragging.  I swore that I should stop drinking for a little while again, after all, it was a year since I stopped the first time (March 2009)... and then June 25 came.  I went out, but was early.  So, I ordered the same beer I had the time with my out of town friends.  It was over-sized and foamy and german and delicious and I ordered a second even before my friends came to join me.  By the time they came I was already completely under water.  Didn't stop me from partaking for half the night.  The next day I called into work sick, and decided, half way through a stunned and aching hangover, that I should stop drinking for a good long time, like a year.  By the way, I get severe, massive, slow-moving, churn your guts out type hangovers that don't stop for about 20 hours.  Yeah, well, hopefully I won't ever get one again.  Let's keep on keepin on everyone, no matter how much it hurts right now.  All the pleasure had to balance out some time anyway.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On Being Happy [and Faking Orgasm] and Tempo and Boredom

I'm convinced that many of us have learned that happiness is not internal, but really how we show our internal state to others, such that, if we can manifest objective interactions that profess happy indicators, we can convince ourselves that we are indeed internally sated.  Unfortunately, it is highly depressing for me to witness such interactions and know, through intuition or just plain experience at witnessing these patterned behaviors (with the utmost hope that they do not exist), that they exist and are manifestly evident.

I know it is a struggle to find one's place, one's self, or one's center, and to operate from a consistent base so as to maintain integrity.  I also know that most of us are even indirectly desperate not to be alone.

Which brings me to another nodule: happiness need not be experienced at break neck speed.  Perhaps it is due to age and insecurity, or maybe it is simple a trajectory we follow as we age, but young adults seem to act out happiness in an almost aggressive manner while older adults seem to know that happiness is more associated with something more substantial, less manic.  I'm obviously not fully sure on this point, myself.

I've Been Sober a Year. Today.

Well, I feel like I'm just at the beginning folks. Lots of thoughts and emotions, many of which don't make it to these pages.  I'm not self-congratulatory.  I don't even feel like I've accomplished that much.  I do feel that being sober is the right move for me, and I'll stay sober indefinitely.  I don't want to waste any more money or time on alcohol.  The hardest part is simultaneously over and just beginning.  I'll continue to post here, though it will be fragmentary (as always).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Let's Stop Drinking Together: Hear this, impossible paradox.

When we decide to stop drinking, we have to do it together.  Let's not forget that drinking has, often, become a proxy for being with other people, for being social, for being, in short, healthy.  If we're out there, we're not reclusive.  If we're not reclusive, we're okay.  If we're okay, we can keep going forward, secure in our footing.  I've become aware that a lot of you are drying to stop drinking, and that, even though I'm often flagrantly off topic, at least some of what I've said by way of not drinking might have been a bit helpful at times.  I don't ordain myself helpful, of course.  But I do want to have the courage to face tomorrow fully cognizant and, knowing that I can never be even remotely aware of everything, still have the courage to face the amorphous "it" that is, at least at times, unbearable.

So to stop drinking, we have to have tremendous courage and be very very serious.

And yet.

To stop drinking, we must not take the unbearable world too seriously, all the time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What is Racism Anyway?

So, I used to think I had a really clear idea of what racism was.  Now, I'm not as sure.  I mean, my previous idea was "big" and a lot of the mechanics of how racism worked happened in a way that was not quite explicit.  In other words, the individual-actor model, whereby a single person makes a choice to exclude something or someone from something else solely or predominantly because of a physical characteristic not highly correlated with meritorious variables. . . . whoa!  What I mean to say is: malicious decisions based on race or color or ethnicity, largely.  And that's not all.  There was also a systematic or institutionalized nature to this racism too. Now, how did that work?  Well, it was more of the impact of all of the small collective decisions of all of those smaller people, and what's more, it was also, and this was the most important part, how all of those decisions kept on going even without being explicitly racial in nature.  So, in other words, it should be testable if we have the right data.  And there are studies that link race with decreased loan approval, for instance, keeping all other factors consistent.  I'm not going to go back to sources now, but can if you insist.

Okay, so hold that in your head for a minute, and consider that there are also people who have a desire, albeit slight, to live not in homogenized neighborhoods, but around people that are mostly like them. That's not quite racism.  More like a preference, right?

So, where do we call racism, racism? If we can prove that race mattes statistically but can't pinpoint a bad actor, is there still racism?

Working Out/Exercise/Manic Intensity, Pushing Oneself

Not all "addictions" are necessarily bad.  Think about an exercise addiction--one is compulsive about exercising.  You've heard of marathon runners, but there are also "Ultra" marathon runners, who do, for instance, a hundred mile run, overnight!  They must be receiving lots of positive feedback that goes beyond a) transformation of body image and b) comes from within, because I believe there must be a threshold, maybe 10 mile runs, three times a week, wherein we'll hit peak body image.  Maybe I'm wrong, and I underestimate the continuum (and extremes) of body image, and the lengths people will go to achieve a certain perceived stature.  Still, consider that some people exercise far and away more than they must to achieve the body image that they desire.  The reason must be simple discipline: they like to push themselves; they like to see how far they can get; they like to know they can get up and do something that's relatively unique.  I think these are all commendable characteristics.  I do have a cynical viewpoint about this that I'm not expressing.  Mostly, that cynical side is sitting on the couch, eating chips, or telling me something about being productive in other "more" meaningful ways, but, that's interesting: who creates meaning for us?  Why must it follow a certain framework of utility?  Why can't it exist for a moment (or a run) and that's it?


I think we've got far too much stuff.  This becomes immediately evident every time I want to move my stuff. We probably have it all because:

1) We're too lazy to get rid of it once we accumulate it

2) We overestimate how much long and medium range utility it will give us when we acquire it

3) We're stubborn about (2)

4) We're simply not aware of the accumulation of stuff because it happens incrementally

5) Even after natural disaster type situations, we go back to a sort of balance of stuff that is bloated (like when all of my stuff fit into one car load because of a fire)--

6) We compare ourselves to other people and act as accordingly

7) We think our stuff will save us from something. It will not.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Flip Out!

Slipped into the gutter today, and found a pleasant stay. The slime isn't so bad when it doesn't move around you, and the air down there was cool.  No, I didn't drink.  I did let go of the need to be nervous though.  I don't think it was doing anything for me, the anxiety.  I mean, one can only worry so much about so many things before a) the worry detracts from otherwise productive energy, b) the worry provides erroneous reasons for events or c) the worry does nothing.  In my case, well, it was mostly (b) and (c).  I can't worry anymore.  I mean, I'm sure that I can, if forced, or if I must.  Generally though, it is not productive and it gives me all sorts of false positives; so many so that I can't even walk around without freaking out.  I'm not a glass vase.  I'm not so perfect as to be that delicate, or to worry about it.  Something clicked.  Nobody is that aware of me so that I have to be that perfect.  I just stopped talking to please.  I want to get things done, not flatter people.  Hopefully I can minimize the latter and still do the former.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What does drinking get you?

The main role in your own stardom.  And, a fall from grace.  The trick is this: when you'll tell yourself you can't possibly fall, you'll do it from the bottom of a well.

There's enough complexity: Death and Being Single

There's enough complexity in life to absorb us all, so that we don't think about death.  And we don't think about patterns, that is, too much.  I admit I've been a little obsessed with sort of easy structural patterns to human behavior, mostly biological as of late.  It has been hard for me to see past the core instincts that I think a lot of us have whether we like it or not, and that is, mostly, an urge to impress the opposite sex while showing oneself off as selective. I know that our society tells single women past the age of 30 that there's something wrong with them because they are single. Maybe it doesn't happen at the club, or in the board room, but it does over breakfast tea with grandma, and with the gentle nudging from family members.  I mean, there's enough pressure on everyone already, right?  And yet, women are forced to sort of mature quicker because they face their own biology earlier in life.  I heard this reason the other day, and it stuck.  Women must face that they are aging, and that their aging marks them in some identifiable way, and that, mostly, if they want to start a family, they will have to do so before, oh, let's say, late 30s.

Men, conversely, don't have to face this fact so much.  They don't have to say to themselves that they're getting old.  I haven't seen men wearing uncomfortable but "stylish" shoes either.  They can realize, late into their 40s, that they've been living a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle, and then, assuming they have requisite money or looks, pick up a young 30s single woman, and start then, in their 40s.

No doubt, it feels shitty to be alone, or, rather, to be lonely when you don't want to be alone.  Being alone on its own can be refreshing and almost psychedelic.  Still, something gives me pause lately about being alone in a way that isn't about physicality.  It is about seeing patterns of life, and realizing that, perhaps, there simply is nothing more.  They are beautiful, and heart-wrenching, and I want so desperately to be thickly involved in them, fully ensconced, like some forbidden spring lake in an early spring heat wave-to be refreshed by sheer immersion.  I haven't been able to get that, though, ever, and it makes me want to isolate.  Isolate and what?  Find comfort that cannot be found.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hiding One's Non-Drinking

I'll always remember a new boss I had once, who quickly became the scourge of all of my colleagues.  It probably wasn't just the bow tie he liked to wear.  When he first arrived we had a little office holiday party, to which he promptly responded that he'd come, of course, but that he "didn't drink." This was odd.  Everyone looked puzzled.  And as young fashionably liberal outgoing anti-poverty type people we were, this was indeed appalling.  He wasn't one of us.

Yes, I'm dramatizing a single variable among many, and there were many, but so much of our social world is (get ready for a tautological statement) about who we can appeal to regarding similarly held positions, attitudes, and norms.  So, not drinking as a sign of one's identity automatically breaks ranks with others.   I guess it depends on who we want to socialize with. 

 I feel less awkward lately myself, and more comfortable with myself generally (even though I'm more aware of my limitations and lack of knowledge), though I'm still susceptible to fits of anxiety at times, especially if I've had a cup of coffee (yeah, even though I love coffee). Still, interactions are strange things, in a way.  We take it for granted that people say what they think, and, I think (pun intended), most times, people say what they think.  Except that there's a few layers going on that probably aren't realized coherently on the surface level of verbalization.  People seek certain associations, and follow certain patterns, irrespective of their specific belief systems, irrespective of their thoughts and words.  Or, the words are an outgrowth of certain undeniably human traits that none of us are exempt from. So, when we say we don't drink, we cut ourselves off from certain people--and it isn't just the extreme lush out there that will shudder--because most people do drink, and think it is normal to do so... the trick is to say it nonchalantly so that the statement isn't seen as highly bound up with personal identity--though, watch it, most people will try to get you to drink at some point, and they might do so aggressively, so this strategy has some risk associated with it. 

 Eventually you've gotta come up with a narrative for why you're not drinking.  

I guess what I'm really struggling with here is this: I don't think it is a good idea to tell unfamiliar people that you've got a problem with alcohol and that's why you stopped drinking.  Maybe I should just be open with it, and let them think what they think.  Maybe I don't want to be excluded from their group.  Maybe I already am excluded, though, and I have nothing to lose.  Still, my mind ticks off this rationale: I stopped drinking so that drinking wasn't a big part of my life. I don't want not-drinking to be an obsessive caterwaul of paranoia, either.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Okay, the past matters! Alcoholics and Group Status

Some time ago I posted that the past didn't matter. I was wrong.  It does matter, and is far less idyllic than a rosy./implicit picture that we're a good mixture of those things which we were exposed to, the experiences and people we've known and know, and how the world has generally treated us, with a strong focus on our parent's behavior.   Indeed, the past is a constellation of miscellaneous treatment and our emotional response, combined with the stories we've told ourselves about that past to find solace, and, always, consonance with our own self-perception.  Of course, like always, self-perception is highly skewed toward the groups we do or don't belong to, or perceive ourselves as belonging to, and the group of alcoholics is no different in this sense, nor the strive for idiosyncratic zeal and individual rigor, all in an attempt to "truly" be group members, and not fakers.   All of this is pasted over with an ethos of acceptability, or egalitarianism, as if we don't judge each other, when we do, and harshly. Group status protects us from the judgment of other groups and judgment is part of group coherence: we feel contempt for outsiders and connected to insiders.  As an added layer, it is probable that our alcoholism has affected us uniquely in that it brought us both insider and outsider status to coveted groups, and at times, in one evening!  Damnit it feels cool to be unique and to belong.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Courage and Time

Maybe it is harder for addicts to have courage, but this will be an encouraging (and short) post: courage means being able to take actions on faith, I think.  No, not religious faith, not quite.  It doubles with time, because it involves the ability to work hard without having all the answers, with the [faith] that we'll be able to get more answers (or at least better question) the more we work.  That takes time, see.  Very simple.  I know, I know, maybe this is all baloney.  Consider this, though: our natural state, if we give in to it, is very lazy, and wants to do the least work possible for the most pleasure.  The way to live--the reason we have standards and morals--is to push against our natural states in a consistent and managable way.  So, it isn't comfortable.  It takes courage to be uncomfortable, and to hold on and not let go of that discomfort, and it takes some time and effort for that discomfort to dissipate.  And the, redux, it takes more effort, because it is after accomplishment that we're most likely to slip.  Okay, so maybe if you scroll down and listen to Dot Allison "Courage and Time" you'll get in a more full way than I can say it.  Or maybe the tune is rolling around in my head (notice how metaphorical that is?)....

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Being Busy is High Status -- Internal Dizziness Bias

The busier we are, the more we have to do, the more complex and layered priorities that pull at our time must be.  Therefore, when we say that we're busy to other people, even when it is simply our preference not to engage in a certain way with that person or group of people, we're really, in essence, trying to signal to them that we maintain a certain status. I.e. that we have high demands on our time and they haven't really met a price point to satisfy us supplying them. The trick is that we do this even when we're not busy at all, and, further, that we often do so convinced of our own high octane schedules.

Dot Allison Singeth

I've been listening to a live version of this song for so long; much faster, peppier. Then I found this version, mellifluous, thick, slower. Turns out it is the original. Funny how that works.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Jakob ran his sinewy fingers through the knotted unwashed mat that was his hair and scalp.  He wasn’t sore so much as obliterated by sleep as he lay on the maligned couch of his living room, the fire ticked down into a pile of luke-warm grey ash long ago.  When sleep finally overtook him, at nearly daybreak, it came hard, just like everything else in his life.  The misshapen room appeared flat as he scanned the remnants of his life around him, until Roofus, with her almost deep bright orange coat of heavy fur, warmed him by licking his face with the liquid muscle of her tongue, eager for affection. It was just after eleven in the morning, and a dense grey light filled the house around him—the snow fall softened and filtered the early winter through the sheer window curtains he hadn’t had the gumption to yet take down. 
He was stretched out, his jeans a pile crumpled fabric up next to him.  He couldn’t sleep in the bed anymore, though he hadn’t done anything to get rid of the things in the bedroom, including the mattress itself.  There were too many memories there.  Every time he moved one item, he found himself inexpressibly sad and immobile for days. His face would deflate even more so than usual, and his shoulders would roll, and he’d have trouble—actually have to make an effort—to breathe. Eventually he stopped trying to deal with the room, and more often than not, left the door closed. It was better that way.  When he cried, it was in intense and short bursts, and felt, somehow, both incredibly relieving and hopeless.  Crying was fresh pain, a new wound to remind himself of the old, and when the tears did dry up, however painful they were at the time they sprouted, his sense of loss blossomed because his connection to her was gone.  In a way, he felt that the tears allowed him some hope, some fresh emotion.  The reality was closer to a scar, now, not even a scab to pick at.  He was stuck.  Solitary. So.  So he walked.
          He was sure a yogurt container or two he’d left there sprouted into a field of moss and, if he were to open the door longer than to wrestle out some clothing or a hat, he’d be suffocated by a green blob of mildew so advanced that it mutated through various evolutionary stages into various subdivisions and platoons that would pour down his throat and pop out through his skin to take him over, to make him a giant chia-man or maybe, maybe, he just felt guilty.  He’d pushed for the surgery because, without it, they’d given her under a year to live.  At the time, he was scared. She was scared too, naturally.  She actually had to face her own death in an immediate way.  They sat in the waiting room clutching each other, sweating from pure nerves, and there were no answers, then.  Now, he was minus a wife, and there would never be a response to any of his calls, no matter how naturally he picked up the phone to share minute-level news with her.  He was always forced to put it down with a shrug, and let his eyes roam against the walls, order a slice of pizza, a cup of coffee, another newspaper, start a fire, finish a fire, clean.  There was no recourse; there was no way to break it.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Wrong Way To Think About Alcoholism: Paradoxical Fra La La ing.

I stumbled onto an alcoholicism-focused blog yesterday, as I tend to do at times, and an entire post--and I mean like a thousand word post here--was focused on how being an addict is a such a strong personality trait that it supersedes all others, and, indeed, results in high levels of delusional thinking, misdirected anger, and of course, heavy-duty substance abuse, almost irrespective of cost/consequences.

And I'll tell you this: I couldn't help but find myself repulsed.  Utterly repulsed.  Isn't it the hope of us addicts that living a sober life can change our fundamental condition, I thought--and the thought was one of those half-aggressive, half-speedy type thoughts that made my eye-lid twitch and heart stutter.  I mean,  the basic, old-school game revealed itself in all its glory: can we change ourselves, or, like, are we stuck?

My argument, and my post from yesterday (just scroll down a few inches), is really like this: we're stuck, but not for one carte blanche reason (We're/I'm [an] Addict(s))--no, no, no.  We are people.  People.  We've got a limbic system, an dinosaur era pleasure/reward/response sub-brain brain, AND we've got a smart ass rational reasoning neo-cortex.  Get it? I mean grey matter: have a look, from wikipedia:

  I.e.  Life is about base urges, that--let's not joke about this--drive a lot of what we do, and, Simultaneously, about the stories we tell to justify/demonize, and otherwise acquire, to make sense of, the feedback and instincts given to us from the lesser/baser emotional urges and from a more detached rational perspective.  In essence, we've got a bit of a feedback loop.  When it draws down really tight, and we can't separate out pleasure--and we justify all of our pleasure seeking, and we cannot control ourselves, and we do it in a patterned way--then we're addicts. We can't help ourselves.  We justify all our basic urges, and our brains are more susceptible to pleasure (we get more pleasure from booze, for instance), than other mere mortals.  We are powerful!  We love our drugs and booze!  And that's why it is so bad for us, because it is, we think, so delicious and wonderful and powerful.

But there's more!  The other part is this: Fairness.   We all buy it.  Why?  Well, the principal of fairness is the glue that keeps groups together.  It binds us collectively.  It makes us feel that certain things are "right" and others are not.  I'll say this, very quickly, as I'm out of time again.  Group status--both showing that we are inside of certain groups and outside of others--is important enough that I think half of the "fall" into alcoholism for a lot of folks happens at a point in their lives when they are striving desperately to figure out which group to get involved with--i.e. to figure out where they stand in the world.  Alcohol allows us to "show" who we "really" are to potential group members that we might associate with, more freely.  Kind of funny, right?  But you know about friendships, right?  I mean, they're like relationships--you show an idealized version of yourself for as long as you can (and let's face it, this is most paramount as we/you/I tell ourselves that we're being hyper organically politically correct and fully who.we.are--sounds like bullshit feels--slippery), until something happens.  Stress. A fight.  Something.  And then, either you become friends, closer, or you don't.....

The point is only this: we want to believe that we can change.  That we are fluid.  That we can become famous, and rich.  It is, paradoxically, those very thoughts of change that allow us to become initiated into certain groups over others, and to, you guessed it, justify our current behaviors as warranted.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why is it so hard to stop drinking? Signaling Group ID

There are a lot of reasons.  I've discussed a fair amount.  A good third of the reason to drink involves genetic predisposition.  Another third, I'd say, has to do with chemical dependence.  A last third, though, has to do with signaling group identity, and, importantly, allegiance.  Whether I like it or not, all of my consumption patterns are predicated on how I view myself, and who I align myself with--and many of those overt observable decisions have to do with my own wishes to show potential acquaintances and friend that I share or do not share their viewpoints and that I can therefore be trusted to cooperate or support, generally, were we to engage in a reciprocating relationship. A lot of our behavior can be seen from this model. 

Anyway, I am out of time, but, for the moment, consider those things you take as endogenous to your identity or personality.  Who you are.  Now, I'm not saying that alcohol represents one of these traits--we rarely think of ourselves in strictly, discretely alcohol-related categories.  Instead, certain drinking behaviors correlate to other traits that can be viewed positively, and idiosyncratically, when, in reality, they are very basic urges to show group identity while maintaining distinctiveness.  I'll try to figure out all of these associations and map them. But not right now.

The Weather Channel has figured out that it must survive

Particularly of late, I'd say, they have focused in on catastrophic events to drive visitors/viewers--heat wave today.  They've fashioned their main website into a kind of youtube of terror: "The storm zone" and "Extreme weather" etc.  To be fair, extreme weather does exist and does, by definition, threaten us... but their coverage, I think, has changed.  I could be wrong.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Top 1% vs. The Rest

So, this graph comes from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and highlights the historical gap between income of the top 1% and the bottom 90:

So, tell me: There we were in 1982-83 or so.  What happened?  Lots of theories out there.  What accounts for the most change?

Slicing Through the Night on my Bike

So, instead of taking the boring 15 year old rust bucket of a car to the grocery store just now, I took my bicycle.  It is hard to explain just how slicing through the night on a newly fixed almost completely silent bicycle changes your mind into a mish-mash of euphoria that's part ninja, part tour-de-francer, part completely outsider, but it does.  See, on a bike, you immediately realize how pointless motorized vechicles are, both in individual size and in total numbers.  I mean, cars are just absolutely everywhere, and they are dangerous when you're on a bike, too, so you pay attention to them.  A lot.  The most dangerous is when they want to make a right turn.    The point is only that cycling seems a really natural way to push oneself through ever thickening air as compared to a car, and on average--of course, cars are nice when it rains, and when you've got a lot of stuff to haul.  But I'm certainly faster, intra-city anyway, on my bike, and I made it to Trader Joes in just over 10 minutes--a typical 20-25 minute ride in the car.  So, there's efficiency.  But there's something else.  Riding, last night anyway, changed my mental state.  And this change doesn't occur--simply does.not.occur.-- when I run or walk or do other physical activities.  There's something about the speed and fluidity of the bike that makes me actually feel graceful.  I'm really tall.  So running is strange for me.  In the saddle, all of my height gets transferred into perfect counter-balanced thrust.  Around a turn, slight up-hill, an explosion of speed, 30 mile per hour straigh-away, around a bus.  Bang, pot-hole jars you awake out of your dream, but what a nice slick dream it is--definitely the feeling of doing a drug and wondering why life can't be like that all the time.  I still wonder, but I know the difference.  I've fallen, after all.  And I've been hit, too, with a door--which caused me to fall as well.  Not pretty.  Still, the elegance of the bike is not something  I've ever really found an equivalent to, and even then, I make excuses not to get on it.  I mean, shit, here we are in June.  I should have been on that thing for 2 or 3 months.  There's a simple feeling on the saddle: of being home.  Totally wonderfully home.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Being Weak-

I've been pretty weak in my life.  I don't want to use my past to justify continual weakness in my character.  I don't mean that I'm going to buy a Pontiac Trans Am:

Or that I'm going to find a can of steroids and start to race my life away in needless pissing contests.  But.  I won't shy away from awkward moments--i.e. I won't pull my punches on "being who I am" because I think that someone will disagree, or that it might produce a result that isn't totally smooth and overflowing with rosy confluence.  I mean, that just isn't life.  Most people value honesty anyway, and I can only let others go first for so long before I have a little snag of bitterness with my passivity.

I don't want to live life making excuses.  That's why I got sober in the first place.  I can't let my sobriety be used as a justification for taking the easy road in other situations.  Period.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Can't seem to slow my mind down and focus..

I'm kind of jumping from one thing to another today.  I think it is a saturday thing.  Went for a run to try to break it.  Didn't really do the trick.  At copious amounts of chocolate.  Talked to an old friend.  Played chess on-line and against my computer.  Ate more food.  Listened to a lot of Neil Young.  Picked up my guitar for the first time in months and felt, like I did on my bike yesterday bringing it into the shop, incredibly rusty and out of shape.  So many things to work on, and so little focus to just work on them one by one, at least right now.  Of course, tomorrow night, around six or so, just when I'll have to prepare for the week, I'll fall into a zen like state of perfect concentration.  Should probably just unplug the internet from my life completely.  I'm not sure it adds anything. 

I'm reading three or four books at once.  Not always a good idea.  One is

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

Another is
 Look at the Harlequins!

 A third is now:

Shakey: Neil Young's Biography

 And of course, why not:

All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, Book 1)

What else could I start?  Well, the Pinker is verbose.  Sorry.  It has moments of sheer brilliance, which I expected, but it needs to be cut down a bit.  There's just a lot of duplicate ideas for no apparent reason.  I liked the Blank Slate and even The Language Instinct, much better.  

Nabakov.  Brilliant writer, especially when he's getting fractured and kind of losing his mind while he's writing it all out, because you, as the reader, can emphathize with him and, when he's on point, sort of lose your mind in the safe space between the pages.  Unfortunately, he's only really on point for about two chapters here.  The rest is kind of egomanacial.  Sort of the point, too, yeah, but still.  I'm a chapter away from finishing, and can't seem to do it.  Neil Young biography is very good, and completely unedited.  Like getting a cargo ship full of neil young anecdotes.  For the true fans only, and even then, heavy handed.  Okay, Cormac, listen: I'm sorry, but I can barely read this stuff without holding back a lot of doubt.  Perhaps I'll age into it.  Perhaps not.  I know I should, but that reason is no longer enough.

So, I'm in the process of trying to kill off these books while, simultaneously, getting totally bored with them all.  I don't generally read more than one book at a time.  It just isn't the way I work.  I like to really rip into a book and let it become who I am for a month or so.  I'm extremely malleable in that way, which is why reading usually provides me a great release.  Not lately.  Not lately, I say.  Today is June 4, 2011.  Hard to believe how fast time moves under our feet.  I wish I believed in God.  I wished I believed in high level order.  Platonic ideals.  I wish I could have tremendous thick textured faith.  I wish.  Today lasts forever.  And then, it doesn't.  Welcome.

Moja babcia i papa i wujek-grala w szachy-

Older Men and Younger Women

Now, this phenomenon could be read two ways:

1) Older men provide a bit of stability and maturity that younger men simply--on average--do not.

2) Older men have enough status and are established enough to make themselves more attractive to younger women, and some would prefer to date women half their age.

I'm not sure these are mutually exclusive.  Partial "blame" probably falls on both.  I don't think it is quite clear cut, but I do think a 50 year old woman dating a 26 year old man, for instance, would draw much more "What the fuck?" type attention than the other way around, and there's gotta be a reason for it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Settle In/Down

So, being sober for the better part of a year, I feel that I'm just at the beginning of settling in to my life, you know, being comfortable with who. i. am.  Whatever that actually means analytically (because there's a significant part of my mind that jumps up and down and wrestles itself into a frothy frenzy when it hears non-discrete items and can try to break them into constituent parts BECAUSE, the brain says, it must be obvious that if we break down everything into small little bits, then, we'll live a greater life, be a greater person, know stuff that other people don't know).  See, part of this whole settling thing is learning to relax.  And I'm a kid again learning to walk, except that, as an adult, I know what it means not to walk, and I want to walk, now.  It isn't learning because I am in a development stage of physical prowess... it is learning because I can "get" what I need to get conceptually, but cannot simply will myself into existing in the sphere that I can plainly see, or, rather, that I can understand exists outside of myself.

Sounds pretty esoteric, huh?  Well, pull up a seat to the fire, and feel how it warms your face and hands, and how the meat sizzles in the orange tinted embers, and listen as your compatriots laugh when marshmallow flows down their cheeks; all the while cold air lingers behind you, hovering in off of the creek, makes you feel bright near the flame, alive, flickering, even, and you smile, and you eat, and pass me a pork wiener, and steam me in a facebook feed and send my image out to the moon, and kill all the bugs with an electronic neon blue bug zapper that was proudly picked up from home depot in a fit of self-improvement (bug free living, get it!), and let your feet stink, and find a way into a nook of sleep for a time before the next branch thins out and fades, because we'll be riding that train together, us strangers, into and out of whatever it is that we need to find, and we won't always be able to share it with a knowing look, or a satisfied smile, and we won't always be able to sit still, either, except that, when we can huddle by the fire on a cold night in the late spring on the cusp of a cabin, and taste a little bit of the most localized morsel, we can forget about all of the big stuff that plagues us and just sit, and settle, and sit some more.

Lookout for Hope

I wanted to write a post about having hope.  About how it takes courage to have an informed hope.  Then I felt a bit like a politician. Eventually, to justify hope, and movement forward, either there's a bit of faith that rests on some premise or principle, or, simply, individual short term choices keep us from losing our lives (there would be more pain and effort associated with giving up than with going forward)--or, it is just too ambiguous to decide, and there are enough unknowns that we cannot forecast possible future pleasure as compared to possible future pain.

 Anyway, there's a lot of redeeming things about not drinking. I don't think that's in question. While I recognize that many sober people can stay blinded by their own beliefs (and seek only information that they are comfortable with), I do think that drinking--for someone naturally predisposed to abuse/lack of control--aids in one's ability to deny reality.  Which is to say that we can all deny reality all we want, if we're really stubborn about it, but drinking makes that denial much, much, easier.  And when it is easier to deny negative reality, we can become emotionally involved with that process, mostly before we are even aware that it has a hold on us. Anyway, I'm always struggling with altering states of awareness about the self: like do you "really" know what you're doing when you justify an act that will hurt someone (or yourself)--to wit, I've played coy in the past because I only wanted the benefits of my risks.  We all do this, all the time, to get what we want.  Basic question: why do we want what it is we want when frame reality in a way the excises certain previously known aspects?

Why not make fully informed decisions?

The answer is somewhere between: We can't help ourselves.  We do self-destructive stuff, AND, we're really smart about telling stories that flatter our own previous actions.

The problem is, when you get fucking sober, and you've been sober for over 11 months, you can see that most of these stories are false and that the self-destructive impulses will bring almost immediately unwanted consequences.  A further problem is that sober alcoholics are still self-aggrandizing bastards, who will seek out ways to distinguish themselves--which is probably why most of them know exactly how long they've been sober.  The justification is that, if they didn't keep track of it everyday, then they would fall back into the abyss of drinking.  The less flattering reality is that it provides an ego boost, too.  It is something to hold on to.  We want some slivers, some tendrils, of hope, no matter what we say otherwise, and we're always on the lookout for a box to stand on.  

The middle ground is this: there's nothing special or new going on.  What is going on has been going on.  We must accept life as paradoxically boring and vapid and inspiring and full of rich textured meaning.  It is a basic fact that we must make mistakes.  And they'll still hurt, even knowing that.  And when there is no more pain, there is nothing else, ether--we are tethered to our bodies--and we are tethered to more than that.  We are tethered to our minds, and they purposefully lie to us, for our own sake.  We can't escape, though.   There's no escape.  That fact is what makes life, in some core way, what it is.  Our only escape is to deny some parts of reality most of the time we experience that reality, and accept that we always live in a partial world, cleaved and fragmented, and that we do it on-purpose, because we have to keep living in that world.