Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In response to John Berger and Adam Curtis

          In his book “Ways of Seeing”, John Berger asserts that women’s self has been split in two, that a woman is “…almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself.” Today this concept can be seen as short-sighted. He later states that “Glamour cannot exist without personal social envy being a common and widespread emotion.” The majority of people in post-modern society not only watch themselves at all times, they visualize versions of their potential selves and are envious of them.
          In Adam Curtis’ “The Century of the Self” ( , he describes many of the political motivations behind various schools of social thought. The overarching theme is that of powerful men in a post-industrial society doing whatever they can to gain more power, utilizing new psychological techniques as ways to increase revenue and control society. One of the biggest changes in human civilization came in the 1960’s, when the idea first appeared with some authority that with regard to pursuits and happenings of life, “It’s empty and meaningless that it’s empty and meaningless.” Society changed from conformist to non-conformist. This overthrew all the preconceptions held by the world’s capitalist structure, which was built on a society of limited potential needs which, when met, would mean the end of a seller’s ability to offer them their products. As Daniel Yankelovich states in the Part III, “Products have always had an emotional meaning. What was new was individuality, the idea that ‘This product expresses me’… in 1970, [the self actualizing individual] was a small percent of the population, maybe 3-5%. By the 1980’s it was a majority of the population, maybe 80%.” John Berger’s book, “Ways of Seeing” was first published in 1972, before capitalist interests had fully established post-modern techniques. Beforehand, it was feared that supply would outstrip demand. As Yankelovich says, we went from a conception of “…a market of limited needs, and if you filled them they’re filled, to a market of unlimited, ever-changing needs dominated by self-expressiveness: that products and services in an endless variety of ways, and ways that change all the time. And consequently, economies have unlimited horizons.”
          Necessary to this new economy is the concept of glamour, and intrinsic to glamour is the state of being continually accompanied by one’s own image of oneself. For centuries it was almost exclusively women that were subject to this form of manipulation; a society ruled by men had long-established cultural standards which reinforced the need for women to ‘survey themselves continually’ and maintain themselves as objects of value to the men under whose keeping they had been born and led. Post-modern society has taken advantage of this idea and inflicted it on all people regardless of gender in order to increase the power of those who hold it, through revenue and political manipulation.
          Ronald Reagan’s campaign of taking government off the backs of the people, appealing to the self-actualizers and nonconformists led them to believe that by giving him the most powerful position in the world, it gave them power over their own daily lives. This idea is also seen in advertising, which continually proposes a liberated self to the viewer, capitalizing on this newly popular school of thought that one’s individual happiness is what is most essential in life rather than the old protestant view exemplified by buying life insurance, a monthly personal sacrifice made in order to ensure one’s ability to support their family even in death. The new cornerstone to individual happiness was self expression through selective purchasing according to one’s lifestyle. This idea was reinforced by the many entrepreneurs seeking ways to get their products into people’s homes. Their assertion was that by purchasing their product, one was displaying to the world whatever it was that made them special. In order to sustain this form of economy people must be unhappy with their current self, and continually strive to be more.
          The supposed American dream of a stable living, comfortable with your spouse, a couple kids and a dog in a home out in the suburbs, had been uprooted by a constant need for improvement, a never-ending desire for a better way of life. There was no individual architect for this movement, it was continually prodded and shaped by those marketing their goods in order to create an ideal environment for them to make money and gain power. As this new economy created an unlimited set of desires for the consumer, it theoretically had an unlimited potential for growth. However, early in the new century we have started to reach that limit.
          According to Charles Fishman of FastCompany, Walmart has a policy of offering the lowest possible price to the consumer, which has bankrupted many of the companies whose wares it sells, notably Vlasic, whose profits fell as much as 25% after Walmart started selling a gallon jar of their pickles for $3. ( Because people have a limited supply of money to spend, these new corporations are trying every conceivable way to get what little they can regardless of the consequences to those supposedly working for and with them. In the mad grab for power that has been increasingly built up by those seeking power themselves, the list of victims becomes higher and higher as the income gap between the super rich and everyone else has multiplied over the last few decades. The last time the income gap reached this level was in 1928, just before what is considered to be the start of the Great Depression. (
          As we weather through one of the worst recessions in post-industrial history, it is imperative that we root out the cause of this financial crisis and try to compensate for it by restructuring our civilization once again. As we gain greater insight into the methods by which people are influenced, and in order to benefit the majority of people we must handle the responsible use of these methods. We have already spiraled into an endless fight for an intangible betterment of one’s individual status. Perhaps the most important question of the 21st century is, “What must we do to regain a sustainable way of life?”

Monday, May 3, 2010

Letter to myself


You made it through the semester. I know it wasn't easy, but look at what you accomplished! You will likely get A's in your classes, one in a frustrating Humanity and one in an often boring Art History. You wrote a beautiful film script and shot 90% of it, and organized a whole crew of people to help out. You shot three different films for other people and got nothing but compliments, and did wonderful color correction on the work you did last semester with Joe.

Congratulations, really, I mean it. Take a moment to appreciate your accomplishments and yourself before you get lost again in the continuing mess that has been the undercurrent of your situation.

Huh. Well, apologies for any formatting errors on that last post. Blogger won't even let me fix them, it's all buggy. I tried to bring stuff from Word into Blogger so I guess I can always expect issues.

Art History - Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Eduard Manet, Olympia

         Manet’s Olympia, a Realist painting currently housed in the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, provoked angry critique in the Salon of 1865.  The subtlety of the lines in the reclining nude were considered too light, too general, especially in contrast with the extremely dark background. There was a great debate over this painting, and from it arose the impressionists who defended its subtlety. Compared to what came soon after this painting it seems closer to Venetian classicism,  especially in the tradition of the reclining nude, which has a vast history starting with Giorgione and exemplified by his pupil Titian, then followed by many artists such as Rubens and Goya.[i] It seems that Manet wanted to make clear what he was taking from tradition and what he was adding to it.
            Olympia is a Realist painting. Realism, “discarded the formulas of Neoclassicism and the theatrical drama of Romanticism to paint familiar scenes and events as they actually looked.”[ii] In Olympia, a modern young Parisian woman stares directly at the spectator as though she were Manet himself watching his audience react to the then revolutionary ideas he was proposing. It is likely that the young woman was a Parisian whore, which is especially made clear by the black cat at her feet, symbol of infidelity. A maid is giving her flowers from an unknown suitor.  The comparison of a Parisian whore to the mythological grandiosity of traditional reclining nudes such as Giorgione’s sleeping Venus is controversial in itself – critics “advised pregnant women to avoid the picture, and it was re-hung to thwart vandals”[iii] – yet he adds to it a new way of painting, through outlines and patches of color instead of blended smooth and well-defined shapes.  Theophile Gautier of Le Moniteur Universel wrote, “the color of the flesh is dirty, the modeling non-existent. The shadows are indicated by comparatively large smears of blacking.” The artist Jules Claretie wrote,  “What's this yellow-bellied odalisque, this vile model picked up goodness knows where and representing Olympia?” Art historian Anne McCaulay writes, "The paint sat there on the surface of the canvas...It wasn't just the fact that she's a nude and she's a lower class nude, but also the fact that she was painted in...what many people read as almost childish or unskilled fashion," [iv]
            It was not without its support, however. Emile Zola, famed French writer, wrote,
            For you a picture is but an opportunity for analysis. You wanted a nude, and you took Olympia, the first to come along; you wanted bright, luminous patches, and the bouquet provided them; you wanted black patches, and von added a black woman and a black cat. What does all this mean? You hardly know, nor do I. But I know that you succeeded admirably in creating a work of painting, of great painting, and in translating into a special language the verities of light and shade, the realities of persons and things.”[v]

Claude Monet and Pierre Renoir were intrigued by the painting, especially in the way he painted with patches of color rather than refined shading. Manet kept the work with him until his death, at which point Monet organized a fund to purchase it and donated it to the French state.

Cézanne, Mt. St Victoire

            Rarely is an artist more obsessed with a single subject than was Cézanne with Mont Sainte-Victoire. Living in the region, he made some 60 paintings of it, each  reflecting something of his mood and his desire to express the intangible feelings he felt in its presence through impressionistic style. It represented “an inner god that he externalized in this mountain peak--his striving and exaltation and desire for repose.”[vi] These paintings took place during what is sometimes known as his “constructive” period.[vii]
            Cézanne said of his painting style, “…if I start reading too much into things, if I am swept along by a theory today that contradicts yesterday’s, if I think when I am painting, if I interfere, then bang, everything slips away.” He developed many interesting techniques which later influenced many artists, with Pablo Picasso claiming him as “My one and only master . . . Cezanne was like the father of us all”[viii].
            His work can be classified as post-impressionist, with him saying he preferred painting "something solid and durable, like the art of the museums"[ix]. He developed a characteristic of shallow space, wherein the viewer cannot tell the distance between one object and the other.  Many of his forms were simplified to geometric shapes, mere patches of paint applied boldly with a proto-cubist sensibility. To tie them together he was an advocate of the passage, “the blending of overlapping planes into one another”[x

Seurat – Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte

            Georges Seurat spent two years working on his most famous work, Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte. In painstaking pointillism, or divisionism, he depicts an idyllic scene of Parisians relaxing in a park. It is a composite of numerous sketches and studies, first focusing on the park itself and the landscape, and then the people. Seurat was more interested in the shapes of the individuals than he was their personalities. By reducing them to refined shapes with distinct silhouettes he brings a sense of peace to what would otherwise have been a raucous and dynamic scene of dogs playing, boats sailing, children dancing and people moving about.
            On his canvas are three dogs, eight boats and forty-eight people, existing in a perfect harmony. Wendy Beckett writes, “Even if the people in the park are pairs or groups, they still seem alone in their concision of form - alone but not lonely. No figure encroaches on another's space: all coexist in peace.” [xi]  Seurat stated his intention to be to
“make modern people in their essential traits move about as they do on [ancient Greek] friezes and place them on canvases organized by harmonies.” [xii]
            To Seurat, this painting was an attempt to prove his theory that painted dots of pure color, near each other and mixed in the eye rather than on the canvas, would produce a brighter image. He was informed on this theory by the writings of Michel Eugène Chevreul, with what he called “The Law of Simultaneous Contrast”[xiii].  For inspiration on this theory, he looked to the works of Delacroix, Pisarro and Monet, studying their “divided color”, opposing tints that excite the eye.

Claude Monet – Water Lilies

            Monet’s Water Lilies, or Nymphaes, are synonymous with the impressionist movement. It is a vast series of almost 250 paintings, with series being a relatively new concept in which no single painting is more important or telling than the next yet they all work together in harmony. Some are small studies, while others are astonishing in scale, such as his "Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond”, which stands six and a half feet tall by nearly forty two feet wide in total and is comprised of three panels.[xiv] These works are significant in their experimentation with concept, composition and color theory.
            Monet had achieved some wealth and fame by the time he started these paintings. He constructed a garden in Giverny rife with flowers, especially water lilies, and hired six full time gardeners to keep them in shape[xv]. He even built his own Japanese bridge because he felt it would be beautiful in his paintings. This is an interesting development in art because these are not naturally occurring landscapes, which typically glorify religious figures for their creation. These are constructed environments specifically designed for the purpose of being painted, as though they were models being placed by the artist. He called his series Les Grandes Decorations, with the intention of placing them in a large oval room in which the viewer can be completely immersed in his work. [xvi]
            In order to completely immerse the viewer, Monet’s compositions lack much of what is expected in a painting. There is no focal point. The center of the paintings is often negative space, and the visual elements are evenly distributed across the scene.  There is rarely a horizon line, leaving the viewer with just an open expanse of water and lilies. Everything is of equal importance, and rendered with equal care. He experimented with round canvases, as rectangular canvases are more constructed, with defined lines around the edges. Circles are considered more infinite, as though to mimic the roundness of the eye. One might guess that his reason for eventually painting behemoth canvases is so there can be a vantage point from which the viewer cannot see the edges of the painting, removing the problem altogether.
            By removing the subject, the artwork becomes about the treatment. Impressionism is about light, and how it shines through and reflects on objects leaving just an ‘impression’ on the eye of the scene. To bring a rich tone to a subject means mixing seemingly contrary colors on the painting and letting the eyes  do the mixing by themselves. Up close, the water lilies are hard to distinguish among the many splashes of color of which they are composed. However, at a distance, the eye blends the color and is left with an image of great beauty and vibrancy.  

Anxiety, Edvard Munch                                         The Sick Child, Edvard Munch
1896, Lithograph, 42 x 38.7 cm                             1896, Lithograph, 42 x 56.5 cm

Edvard Munch’s Prints

            When Edvard Munch died, he left to the city of Oslo approximately 1100 paintings, 4500 drawings and 18,000 prints.[xvii] He was prolific as a printmaker, but little is known about where he got his start in the process. He moved to Paris in 1896 and submitted his lithograph of Anxiety, printed by famed lithographer Auguste Clot, to be published by the well-known Ambroise Vollard, which gained him much acclaim. This print is notable in that the two colors, which are normally printed separately, were rolled onto one slab and printed all at once. Munch became known for bold choices in printmaking technique. Paul Herrmann once told a story about his process in making prints of The Sick Child.

The lithographic stones with the large head were already lying side by side in rows ready to be printed. Munch arrived, stood in front of the row, closed his eyes, and waved his fingers in the air without looking, ordering 'Print grey, green, blue, brown'. Then he opened his eyes and said to me, 'Let's go and have a schnapps'. And the printer printed until Munch returned and once more without looking ordered 'Yellow, pink, red' and so it went on a couple more times.”[xviii]

With each major painting came lithographic versions, which made them more available to those who were interested in buying his work. There were prints made of The Scream, Madonna and the rest of his series The Frieze of Life, and many more.
            When he left Paris in 1897 he brought with him a small printing press in order to experiment, and also did more official works through Petersen & Waitz in Oslo (then Kristiania). One of his early experiments was with frottage, which is mostly considered to have come from the later Surrealist movement.  It is often practiced today in the form of grave rubbing, in which one takes a crayon and rubs it over a textured surface to get an image wherein the relief is left without color. Sometimes he would take those images and carry them further, drawing on them or layering prints to his liking, such as with his Man’s Head in Woman’s Hair.
            Having his works spread around as much as they were allowed for a broader influence. Gustav Klimt  is known to have encountered Munch’s work  in the 1909 Vienna Kunstschau, and was strongly affected by it. It is likely that he encountered Munch’s work at an earlier time, however, as Munch’s The Kiss, painted in 1897 and later becoming a woodcut, bears a striking resemblance to Klimt’s The Kiss in the way that the two figures appear to merge together into one monolith.

The Kiss, Edvard Munch                                      The Kiss, Gustav Klimt
1898, Woodcut                                                   1908, Oil and gold leaf on canvas 180 cm × 180 cm

Edvard Munch, The Scream

         Munch was known for his expressive, invasive, moody paintings, and there is none more famous than The Scream. It is a seminal work in Expressionist painting, telling of primal fear. It is a part of his Frieze of Life, to which all of his life’s work can be linked. Munch wrote in 1889, “No longer shall interiors be painted with people reading and women knitting. There shall be living people who breathe and feel and suffer and love,”[xix] also stating, “My art is rooted in a single reflection: why am I not as others are? Why was there a curse on my cradle? Why did I come into the world without any choice?” [xx]
            It is often cited in medical circles as depictions of various disorders, frequently being alluded to in psychiatric clinics as an illustration of a panic attack, described as, “a sudden episode of intense fear that develops for no apparent reason and that triggers severe physical reactions. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.”[xxi] In his diary, Munch wrote,

I was walking along a path with two friends — the sun was setting — suddenly the sky turned blood red — I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence — there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city — my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety — and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.[xxii]

In this work, the screaming character represents Munch’s feelings and the two walking further on the bridge are his seemingly indifferent friends. His cathartic scream is the focal point, and the subject of the background is distant and primarily used as a means of expressing isolation and intensity. There are two painted versions, two pastels and one lithograph, and in all of them there are the distant friends and the relatively barren color fields in the background, standing on a bridge overlooking Oslo.
            According to Robert Rosenblum, Munch had seen a Peruvian mummy in a similar pose at the 1889 Trocadero exposition in Paris, which may have served as some inspiration for the particularly ghoulish appearance of the protagonist.[xxiii] The year prior, in 1892, Munch had painted Death in a Sick-Room, which showed a woman gazing at the viewer with an expressionless mask of an ashy hue. This shows an earlier disposition toward ghastly distortion, which is taken to the utmost level in The Scream. Munch’s Anxiety shows a number of figures crowding the viewer, each with that same sort of expressionless, greenish mask.
            Much has been theorized about the color of the sky as described by Munch in his diary, with scientists linking it to the 1883 eruption of  Krakatoa,[xxiv]  though he is known for his expressive use of color and during episodes of intense panic one is prone to delusions of memory that describe one’s surroundings in terms fitting of the intensity of the feeling.
            Today The Scream is instantly recognizable to most people, with reproductions and parodies being commonplace. One can get a The Scream keychain[xxv], with the tagline, “Have your favorite Gothic art figure in your pocket!”, and it has been referenced on television shows such as The Simpsons and cartoons such as Gary Larson’s “Weiner Dog Art”. Even some of the parodies gain a cultish fame: a halloween mask based on The Scream was used in the popular movie franchise Scream. Its success speaks to the insightful expressiveness of the painting itself, touching on a dark place of the human condition to which many can relate, or at least appreciate.

Renoir and Monet, La Grenouillère

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La Grenouillère, 1869. Oil on canvas. 26 1/8 x 32 7/8 in. (66.5 x 81 cm). NM 2425. National museum, Stockholm.[xxvi]

Claude Monet, La Grenouillère, 1869. Oil on canvas. 29 3/8 x 39 1/4 in. (74.6 x 99.7 cm). H. O. Havermeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H.O. Havermeyer, 1929.[xxvii]

            La Grenouillère, “The Froggery”, was a popular restaurant and bathing area in Croissy, France, on the Seine. It was considered a very contemporary subject, and was visited by Emperor Napoleon III and his wife the year Renoir and Monet made these paintings, in 1869.[xxviii]  Monet and Renoir often sat beside each other while painting, which is especially evident in these two works.
            By comparing the two paintings one can see the many differences and similarities between Monet and Renoir’s early work. Renoir chose to make the focus of the painting the people on the platform, each with much detail and character, focusing on the personality. He fills the canvas with the presence of humankind. His brushstroke is heavy with patches of color on the water and trees, but the people are lovingly defined and posed. The sun seems to be behind the artist, made clear by a few shafts of light striking the platform and the woman’s dress, and the way the background across the river glows warmly. The composition seems crowded, with much more shallow space than Monet’s work.
            Monet’s version shows the elegance of the water and the surroundings more than the people. He beautifully renders the water with patches of color, letting nature fill most of the canvas. The water seems more wet and reflective than Renoir’s dry, rough brushstrokes. The focus is still on the people on the platform, but they are very primitive silhouettes compared to Renoir’s details.  The entire scene is in shadow except for the opposite side of the Seine, which brings the same warm radiance as in Renoir’s, but is very loosely rendered with none of the careful shading Renoir paints in the trees across the river. Monet has a much deeper field and a more open, airy composition.
            All the differences seem to show that Renoir was more of the people, and Monet was more of nature, which continued to be their ways through all their lives.

[i] “The Reclining Nude”, Richard Brafford
[ii] ArtLex on Realism, April 2010
[iii] “Manet and his Influence”, 1995 Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington. updated 11/2008
[iv] “Culture Shock” The Shock of the Nude: Manet’s Olympia, Prod. Richard P. Rogers, PBS, 2000
[v] “History of Art: The Impressionism”
[vi] “Mont Sainte-Victoire”, Nicolas Pioch, WebMuseum, Sep 2002
[vii] Lindsay, Jack. “Cézanne; his life and art” United States: New York Graphic Society.
[viii] "Einstein, Picasso" Arthur I. Miller, New York Times, 2001
[ix] “Paul Cezanne”, The Worldwide Art Gallery, 2010
[x] “Art History Definition: Passage”, Beth Gersh-Nesic
[xi] “Sister Wendy's American Masterpieces”, Wendy Beckett, DK ADULT, 2001
[xii] “Seurat and the Making of La Grand Jatte” The Art Institute of Chicago, 2004
[xiii] "The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colours and Their Applications to the Arts." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 02 May. 2010
[xiv] “Claude Monet”, The Museum of Modern Art
[xv] “Understanding Monet’s Impressionism” Goldensight, Inc.
[xvi] “Giverny Grandes Decorations”, Giverny Impression, Ariane Cauderlier
[xvii] “The Museum and The Collection”, Munch Museum, 2010
[xviii] “Edvard Munch as a Graphic Artist” Gerd Woll
[xix]“Munch Museet – Life and work – Biography”, Munch Museet, 2010
[xx] "Symbolism", Michael Gibson, Taschen, 2006
[xxi] Mayo Clinic Staff, . "Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder." (2010): n. pag. Web. 3 May 2010.
[xxii] “Edvard Munch: The Frieze of Life” Edvard Munch, Arne Eggum, Mara-Helen Wood - 1992
[xxiii] Discovery News, September 7, 2004
[xxiv] "The Blood-Red Sky of the Scream". APS News (American Physical Society), Olson, Donald W.; Russell L. Doescher and Marilynn S. Olson, May 2004
[xxv] “The Munch Scream Keychain from Baron Bob”
[xxvi] "La Grenouillere, 1869", Shelley Esaak,
[xxvii] "La Grenouillere, 1869", Shelley Esaak,
[xxviii] “Webmusem: Monet, Claude: Bathing at La Grenouillère”, Webmuseum, 2002

Sunday, May 2, 2010

NA meeting

Today I ran an NA meeting. The meeting that was supposed to happen was canceled because the place it was in was closed down, and there were three of us standing at the door, so I suggested we go to a diner. I happened to have the Basic Text, a book that has all the principles and such in it - it was a gift from a week prior, a very nice person gave it to me seeing I was having all sorts of issues. I've read through a good portion of it so I knew where to look for all the text of the meetings, since there are certain traditions, so we decided to have a meeting there. I started us off with the serenity prayer, and then what is the na program, who is an addict, why we are here, how it works and the twelve traditions. We all shared, and one of us with over 20 years sobriety spoke for a long time, so we decided he was the featured speaker if we were trying to have any format, and then we talked for a while and I had the idea of working the first step, the one I've been stuck on for a year.

"We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable" 
 I read from the basic text what they had to say about it, then we all shared. At that point we had finished our meals (desserts really), so we called it a night and closed with the serenity prayer and the traditional It works if you work it so work it you're worth it chant while holding hands.

There was something magical about it. It brought up a lot. I've been having such a hard time accepting being powerless over something so seemingly stupid as an addiction. I've told myself over and over again that I just need to let go and move on. But how do I help myself let go? Traditionally, it's been by getting wasted and damning the torpedoes. I had no idea how powerful a grip on me drugs had until I was sitting infront of a toilet with the goal of flushing them down, just waiting for a random urge and the willpower to follow through, and it never happened. I held the bottle out over the toilet with my fingers covering the opening, and figured, surely, it's easier to just let go than to hold them in like that. But I struggled instead to make sure they all stayed in the bottle. The rationalizations for keeping them were numerous. I decided to try dumping them out my window instead, as I've had an affinity for that lately, tossing paint-filled bottles and such to see the splatter pattern. I live on the 11th floor. Odds are they'd powder on impact. But I knew up there that I'd be dressed in five seconds and at the sidewalk in ten, looking for what was left. A part of me just died, utterly defeated, and I popped four pills and went to the bar and got completely smashed. And honestly, I had a good time there. It would be easier on me if I could say that I didn't, but I did, I played some pool, met some cool people, and was the gregarious nice person I miss being.

I am powerless over my addiction, that's an absolute fact. Now I question whether my life has become unmanageable. Is it because of my addictions? Or is it because I'm a psychiatrist's nightmare? In the past year I've been officially diagnosed with seven disorders.
The DID is under question as I've only had one notable fugue state. I think the first four diagnoses are symptoms/misdiagnoses of the latter three, but borderline has stayed on my chart for insurance purposes. Personality disorders are Axis II and considered biological instead of having environmental causes which gives them more coverage, for whatever reason. I don't know where bipolar stands, that's a recent diagnosis.

What all that adds up to is, my life is completely unmanageable without medication. I've been self medicating with drugs, but they have that nasty arc to them that prescriptions are better at avoiding. Mood stabilizers don't make you high or low, they make you okay. Some of the drugs I've been on, like trazodone, made me a complete zombie and I hated it - it was like I felt nothing and had serious anhedonia. Drugs remove my inhibitions, which if set up right means I dance my ass off, or I meet a bunch of cool people, or play some great games. And then there's the hangover/crash at the end if I'm not careful, though the high is always followed by a bit of a low no matter what, it's how things balance out.

Now, I can make some huge mistakes while drunk or high. And I can use it to escape from responsibilities like writing that paper due monday that I'm still not working on. It's a lot more volatile than most psyche meds. Klonopin comes the closest, and that's why it tempts me to abuse it.

If I could just flush the pills I won't need the program. Why can't I do it? It would prove so much to me. I really, really don't want to be an addict. Doesn't that desire outweigh the desire to get high?

Apparently not.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I've been thinking about scale lately. It's a popular subject in art and science.

The diameter of the Earth is 41,851,050 feet

The height of the Empire State Building is 1250ft. To span the diameter of the earth it'd take 33,480 empire state buildings. If there was a scale model of the earth at the size of the empire state building, a 6' tall person would be .05mm tall. Turns out that's the exact average size of a grain of sand.

And then I look at this image (click it):

If the empire state building was a scale model of the Sun, the Earth would be about 11 feet tall, and the empire state building would be the size of a grain of sand (.1mm), while a person would be approximately the size of the HIV virus.

If the empire state building was a scale model of VY Canis Majoris, the largest known star, then the Sun would be about the size of a large honeydew melon (7"), the Earth would be the size of a grain of sand (1.5mm), the empire state building would need to stack three times to reach the diameter of a sperm's head, and a person would be about the size of a sucrose molecule.

If the empire state building was a scale model of the Milky Way, VY Canis Majoris would be about the size of a grapefruit (4"), and a person would be one attometer tall.

If the empire state building was a scale model of an attometer, the planck length (the length at which physics breaks) would be .2" tall, and a person would be over a hundred times the height of VY Canis Majoris.

I just want to know exactly how big I am. It's enough to completely smash my brain.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

TV series I watch, and their premieres and finales

Current (season finale date)
     30 Rock (-April 22) (Th)
     Family Guy (May 23) (Sun)
     Lost (-May 23) (T)
     Chuck (-May 24) (Th)
     FlashForward (-May 27) (Th)
     United States of Tara (-June 7) (M)
     V (-June) (T)
     Breaking Bad (Sun)
     Nurse Jackie (M)
     South Park (W)
     Bleach (T)

     Glee (-June 8)

     True Blood
     Lie To Me

     Mad Men


I'm missing some, I'm sure of it. Oh well. This post is for me, so I can remember when to look for these shows. I also want to catch up on Doctor Who and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, check out Justified, see the last couple seasons of Buffy (I stopped halfway in), and, I don't know.. there's too much.

And then there are all the webcomics and podcasts I keep track of..

Mr. Deity
A History of the World in 100 Objects

Wapsi Square
Dominic Deegan
Penny Arcade
Hark! A Vagrant
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
Surviving the World
A Softer World
Octopus Pie
Something Positive

I'm beginning to realize just how much of my time I spend in front of this computer. Yikes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

It has been over a month since I have posted, and each week has been a separate lifetime.

I watched a movie just now, Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

That's a production still, but it captures the color and feeling of the film beautifully. That's the director on the right, Woody Allen, who has a way with film like I could only dream of, an intense capacity for emotionally turbulent and gripping tales of love and life. And in the middle, my favorite actress, Penelope Cruz, who I adore from all her work with Almodovar. On the left, Javier Bardem, who most recognize from No Country for Old Men but he has much more depth than that film shows of him, and in the back Scarlett Johanssen, who plays Cristina. Missing from the photo is Rebecca Hall, who plays Vicky.

As often happens with me, I've lost my capacity to say what I'm feeling. It's a film that makes me want to paint, to express the emotions it brought up in me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cold Nostalgia

I wrote this a couple years ago. Just found it. I kind of like it.



Lily Gist


Snowflakes drift through the air. The world is silent but for the tiny crinkle of each flake landing on the snow-coated ground. ERICA, 9, is making a snow angel. The snow is soft and feathery - perfect for sledding, but terrible for snowballs. 

Erica relaxes and lets the snowflakes caress her eyelids, melting the instant they make contact.


ERICA, 29, sits with her eyes closed in a chair on a busy block by a park in a heavy metropolis. The sunlight drenches her. A cool shadow passes over and she opens her eyes.

A giant humanoid walks by, genetically modified to have a huge and imposing figure. Along his waist on both sides, right below the ribs, are three large gill-like slits. He wears a scarf and winter hat and seems to be in a hurry, as are the dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions, billions of other people in this overdeveloped metropolitan world.



     Erica sighs. She is sitting behind a large table filled with small metal sculptures, all rarely looked at and seen mostly with curiosity followed shortly by dismissal.

     The sun welds her skin to her bones. In the distance is a clocktower with a digital thermometer stating a temperature of 106 degrees. Next to it is a large billboard advertising Apex Algae Cakes. A man with vents in his side, wearing a winter hat, coat and mittens, notices her.

               COLD MAN
          Aren’t you freezing? It’s almost double digits

     Erica raises an eyebrow and looks at him. He notices the lack of vents in her side, raises both eyebrows and apologizes embarrassedly before heading on his way.

     Erica shakes her head and picks up a newspaper. In it is an ad with the text, “Raise your temperature tolerance by another fifty degrees with Apex Regulators!” In smaller text, “All people must be equipped by April 19, under health code 3.192c” Beneath the text is a picture of a happy family all with gill-like slits in their sides, and circles around the slits. To the right of the ad is a daily weather report. All sunny, with highs of 112.

     Over to her right, by a cart and mobile freezer stands RED, a fresh water vendor.

          Feel like getting cold, my finless friend?

          Sure thing, Red! Lemme at it.

     She smiles, hopping up, and struts over to the freezer, grabs a heavy ice block inside and drops it into his fresh water stand.

          I thank you. I do so hate wearing coats. First                     scrape is on the house!

     Erica smiles as he scrapes the ice into a cone. At the bottom of the cone is a thin plastic straw. Erica holds the cone up and takes a sip.


     As she heads back to her sculpture stand, she notices Adam, 39, holding one of them. It’s an iron cast of a woman whose hair is being picked up in the breeze, and little leaves are flying by attached by a thin wave of iron. Adam is only slightly taller than Erica, and is thin with short black hair. Something about the way he carries himself gives him a sense of grace that seems out of place in a man of such humble status.

     She walks up to him suspiciously and is quiet for a moment, but then can’t resist.

          That’s one of my favorites. I made it last year.

Adam looks back at her, a bit sadly. He puts it down.

          No way I can afford it.

          How much have you got?

Adam backs away.

          Far less than it’s worth.

He turns and walks down the block. Erica blushes, and doesn’t notice she has released the straw of her cone, which empties of its fresh water, pattering on the sidewalk. Frustrated, she crumples the cone up and tosses it in the trash with the newspaper.

Adam turns and looks back at her, taking special notice of her lack of regulators. He also is without them. After a moment, he continues on his way.

Erica sits down in a huff. The sun presses into her skin, saturating her pores. She clacks her tongue, thirsty, and checks her purse for money. It’s empty. She glances over at the cone in the trash, and over at the fresh water stand man. She stands, but feels dizzy. The world is dancing, and the ground rushes up to meet her.

Dream sequence in which she’s surrounded by flecks of white light. She plays with the light, letting little spots of it land on her tongue like snow.


Erica awakens in a hospital bed. A nurse smiles at her and presses a button, and a moment later a doctor comes in with a grin.

          Heat stroke, in February! How could you have not 
          gotten your regulators yet?

          I.. ugh, I feel terrible.

          It will pass soon enough, though we will need to                keep you another day for observation. I pulled                some strings and got you your regulators while                you were out.

          Wait, what? I don’t..

She sits up and lifts her blanket to look down. Slits line her sides.
          No! Take them out!

          What do you mean?

Erica grabs the regulators and feels a sharp pain. The nurse and the doctor restrain her.

          Careful! They’re going to be very sensitive for a 
          few days!

          But what if it snows?

          She must be delusional. Anesthetic.

The nurse holds Erica down while the doctor injects her IV with anesthetic. The world blurs and spins into darkness.

She returns to her dream of darkness and white flecks of light, but this time she’s freezing. She shivers and tries to keep warm, and the world around her erupts in flames and searing heat while the icy world compresses into a small sphere to which she has no access. She looks in and realizes with sadness that she no longer can exist in that sort of world.

When she awakens, she’s allowed to get up and leave. They give her a scarf and winter hat. She walks down the street, sadly. Feeling a bit of a chill, she puts on the scarf and hat.

She walks back to her table. RED is down the block, putting on his coat. He notices Erica and grins, taking his coat back off and approaching her.

          Erica! Might you be able to .. oh.

He notices her regulators. She squirms a little, feeling uncomfortable.

          Well. That ought not surprise me. It’s for the   
          best, yes?

          Yeah. I guess. Where’s my stuff?

          Oh, that gentleman that was with you has it.


          He said he was a friend of yours, I can’t recall the name. Yea tall, black hair, was looking at that nice sculpture of autumn wind you –

          That guy? God, Red, I don’t know him! Said he was  
          broke! Did he give an address?
          He did.

He produces a note from his pocket. The name Adam is written at the top, and underneath is his address, 14 Olive St. Apt 14C.

          Thanks. Wish me luck.

          If you are without it, I should wish for his.


She knocks on the door. A moment passes. Adam pulls open the door, leaving the safety chain attached. He seems tired at first, but when he sees Erica he is excited. He closes the door to pull the chain off and opens it wide.

          Erica! Er, I don’t think we were properly –

He notices her regulators. He’s crestfallen.

          ..introduced. I am Adam. It is nice to meet you. Here are your belongings. I believe you’ll find they are all in order.

          Uh .. thanks. I appreciate it, really.

Glancing around his apartment, she sees dozens of scientific diagrams, a few magazines and a number of picture frames turned backwards. It’s an organized mess.

Adam picks up a box of her sculptures. One of them is on the table next to the box: the one of the girl in the autumn wind.

          I really do admire this one. I have a question,  

          I can’t give it away, I can’t afford to, so..

          Did you sculpt it?

          Of course I did.

          That’s all.

He puts it in the box, and hands the box to her. She turns to go.

          You know, they’re going to get you too if you’re   
          not careful.

Adam furrows his brow in confusion.

          Do you know of what you are speaking?

          You’re the first guy without regulators that I’ve seen in three months. Maybe the last guy in the city. Just be careful.

Adam puts a hand on her shoulder and she turns around.

          Did they force you to get them?

          It doesn’t matter.

Adam takes the box from her.

          It does! I never wanted this to happen. It was for extreme situations only!

          What do you mean?

          In order to genetically engineer your body regulators, fusion energy must be harnessed. The more potent the regulator, the more energy is required. Cold fusion is impossible, so all we can do is draw that fusion energy from the sun, which creates more heat than we can handle.

          So ..

          It’s cumulative causation, a feedback loop that feeds into itself. The hotter it gets the more we need to engineer regulators, and the more regulators we create the hotter it gets.

          You know an awful lot about this.

Adam is quiet for a moment.

          With your help, I think we can put a stop to it.

          Uh ..?

          Can I trust you?

          Trust me?

          Apex is doing nothing about their excess heat,  
          they’re deliberately overheating this world for           
          profit. But a filter is actually fairly                

He clears his desk to show her a diagram of a round filter.


          It goes in their exhaust port.

          Well .. what’s kept you from doing it already?

          It’s .. complicated. The materials are hard to  
          get, and I need you to weld it together.

          And then what?

We’ll sneak it in. Erica, if you want to make a real difference, now is the time. They won’t know of it’s presence for months, maybe years, and the temperature will stop rising!

Erica looks at Adam, feeling slightly uncomfortable. She steels herself, and nods.

          Alright. I’m in.



Erica puts a welding mask in place. She has the plans unrolled on her desk, weighted by random bits of metal to keep it flat. Adam stands nearby, watching and handing her equipment. The filter is a metal ring with a crystalline center and an inner ring that forms a spherical cage, over which a metal sphere is locked into place. They seem to be enjoying themselves. Erica shows Adam how to weld a perfect coin roll with her arc welder, and he’s a fast learner. He helps her with the last parts of the filter, with her guiding his hand.

When they are finished they drop the filter down on the plan, a perfect match, and they grin at each other.

          Get some rest, you. Tomorrow night will be tough.

          I’m so excited I don’t think I’ll be able to 
          sleep, but I’ll try! 

          Well.. might you like to spend the night with me?

Erica blushes.

          What? No, er, I mean, ..

          It’s okay. I apologize for my asking.

Adam moves to pick up the filter.


He stops. She rummages through the box next to her.

          Take this. I want you to have it.

She pulls out the sculpture of autumn wind.

          I couldn’t.

          She’s yours already. I couldn’t think of a better  
          person to have her.

Adam takes the sculpture, with a pained smile. He looks at it, and looks at Erica.

          I just couldn’t. You’ve done so much already.     
          Perhaps I will buy it from you some day.

Erica looks a bit hurt.

          Get some rest, tomorrow will be quite a day!

Adam grabs the filter from the table.



Adam drops puts the filter down on the floor in the back of the van, then unrolls a map of the facilities. Adam looks exhausted, like he didn’t sleep at all.

          Okay. You enter here, bring the filter here and  
          it will be obvious what to do with it once you   
          get there.

          Aren’t you coming with me?

          I can’t. Wear this.

He hands her a heavy black hooded coat with holes on the sides for her regulators.

          What do you mean you can’t?

          Put it on.

She slides her arms into the coat and pulls it on.

          Jeez, it’s so hot!

Adam kneels.

          Do you trust me?

          Of course I do, but –

Adam stabs a knife into her side, right into the middle of her regulators. Erica gasps in shock. He pulls out a small, pulsing cluster, slices it open and squeezes, quickly stitches it back up and then stitches her back up. Suddenly, Erica is shivering cold.

          W-what did you do? I’m f-freezing! How?

          I helped develop the original regulators. I just  
          removed the bit that regulates the energy flow.       

Adam jumps out the back of the van with the filter. They’re by the water, which is boiling with heat, and a cliff wall with a giant pipe embedded into it. A large fence with razor wire prevents access to the pipe.

          What will that do to me?

          You’ll be fine. 

          Adam, this is too much, what are we--

          They forced you to get the regulators. It’s been  
          your choice to help get back at them.

He clips the fence and slides through, and Erica follows, tearing her coat a little.

          I’m not getting back at anyone! For God’s sake, I  
          just want to help keep the heat down!

Adam smiles at her.

          Do you remember how to get in there?

          I do.

          Then go, now, I can’t handle this heat. Use this  
          when you’re in the center.

Adam hands her a walkie-talkie.


          Good luck!

Adam rushes away, back to his van.         



Erica gulps and climbs into the vent. Behind her the ocean boils. The walls give off a slight glow, casting a strange shadow on her figure. As she progresses it gets hotter; the walls are brighter and the wind stronger. She turns left and the breeze catches her off guard. She’s sweating. She puts down the filter and puts her foot on it, and pulls off her coat. It flies off down the pipe. She wipes her brow, picks up the filter and the sphere in the middle pops open, exposing a strange device. She looks at it. It’s made of wires and tubes. She bites her lip, puts it back in and decides to keep going. She makes it to the center, where the exhaust pipe leads up into the ceiling, but it’s still way too wide for the filter to fit. She pulls out her walkie-talkie.

          Adam? I’m here, but the filter won’t fit   

The walkie-talkie is melting. She closes her eyes for a moment, then presses tries the walkie-talkie again.

          Adam? Hello?

The air is stiflingly hot. The walls are glowing brightly. Her walkie-talkie makes a distorted clicking sound. Its components are unable to take the heat.

          ..I’m sorry.

Erica winces, looks up the vent above her and throws the filter up in the air. It explodes, the fire engulfing her, seeping into her overloaded regulators.


Adam sits by his TV, watching the news. Newscasters are in a panic.

                    ANCHOR 1
          ...predicting a ten degree drop in the first  
          month, due to particulate saturating...

Click. He changes the channel.

                    ANCHOR 2
          .. panic in the streets, as people try to   
          make sense of ...

                    ANCHOR 3
          Already, tens of thousands line the hospitals 
          seeking to get their regulators removed...


                    ANCHOR 4
          ... seems to have come from within the     
          factory, leading many to question the technology                     being used for ...

Click. Adam gazes somberly at the welding handbook Erica left on his table.

                    ANCHOR 5
          ... video surveillance, it is suspected that Adam   
          Gentile, a key inventor behind the Apex
          Regulators, may be responsible for the blast.

Adam sits up, staring at the television.

He reaches under his chair. In his hand is a small revolver. Adam stares at the tv a moment more.

                    ANCHOR 5
          This footage taken moments after the blast shows  
          a van, registered to Adam Gentile, speeding away   
          from the laboratory’s main ventilation port.   
          According to sources, Adam mailed a letter to    
          Apex earlier today. It read, “Fiat justitia ruat  

Adam spins the cylinder, holds the revolver up to his head and cocks the pin.

The door bursts open. Erica, her skin black, red and blue, crashes into the room. Her clothes are soaking wet and blown to shreds. She stumbles and supports herself with the table. She looks ready to kill him, but collapses instead.

Erica dreams of darkness again; white flecks of light dance around her, like snowflakes. The world is cold, frigid, and she is coated in ice. She moves her arm, and the ice cracks. Flakes of ice break off from her, disintegrating away as the world around her grows warm again.

When she awakens, Adam is sitting beside her, dripping with sweat. Two electric radiators are pointed at Erica, and she is covered in thick blankets.

Barely coherent, Erica opens her eyes to see Adam.

          God, it’s hot in here.


          Adam.. you tried to kill me.

Adam switches off the heaters and opens a window, then sits back down.

          Stay in bed. While you were unconscious
          I removed your regulators, but you nearly froze to death           getting here. I was worried you’d die on me.

          .. You tried to kill me.

Adam is quiet for a moment.

          I had to take that chance.

Erica painfully sits up and forces herself to stand.

          Don’t .. don’t hurt yourself.

          I saw you, with the gun to your head. I’m sorry I

She staggers to the door and leaves.

     FADE TO:

Erica sits at her sculpture stand, wearing summer clothes. Most of the people on the street are wearing scarves and hats. Someone passes out from the cold, and an ambulance picks him up. The temperature is 106 degrees. Gradually, the people change into people wearing summer clothes, and the temperature drops to a nice 78 degrees. Then the temperature drops further, and everyone starts to wear winter clothes again. It starts to snow.

She looks up at the sky and watches the snow.