Saturday, November 05, 2011

Falling for Me Instead of Instead of Falling for Anything

Fear has fascinated me since I was a child. Not just the thrills of a good scare, but the way people allow themselves to become prisoners of their fear. I’ve learned that fear isn’t always obvious, isn’t always easy to address, and even once you flush your fear out into the open it is still difficult to get by. Fear creeps into the hard-to-reach places of your psyche and holds on as it spits irrationalities in your face.

My greatest fear is success. It took me 47 years to figure out why. In the beginning, way back when I had therapy in high school, I thought I had figured it out, and that I could hang my low-self esteem on my grandmother who was always happy to tell me how worthless I was. It was easy because she was a visible target. Not until I read "Falling for Me"- by Anna David

where she discussed her childhood bouts with anger, and how her family (her father in particular) dismissed her anger by making fun of her. As an adult she became a cocaine addict, and has sabotaged most of her relationships. She beat her addictions and struggled from one relationship to the next. Her engaging book details the journey she took to learn to allow her to love herself. It is a good book and well worth your time to read.

In my case I heard my experience echoed by Anna David. Growing up I was never allowed to have all my emotions. It was okay to be happy, but I was never allowed to be angry, and being sad was out of the question. Like Ms. David this is the root of my low self-esteem. Without access to all of my emotions from an early age I never learned to control them, so I ignored them, or I medicated them away. When I get mad I overreact, or I suck all of that anger in and hold it. I’m convinced my weight problem is a physical manifestation of this, and coupled with low self-esteem it is the perfect downward spiral. Anna David talks about how her temper kept men at a distance, and how cocaine allowed her to numb the negative feelings. Being drunk was my escape from myself too.

In Falling for Me Anna talks about not being able to blame her ex-boyfriends for the failures of their relationships, and instead beating herself up for the loss. I spent a lot of time letting people blame me for things that were not my fault. By the time I’d been laid off in 2001 I was used to being the company fuck-up, and in being the company fuck-up I was underpaid without question. So imagine my surprise when my first job as a temp was wiring control panels for Systems Integrated out at the Cal-Am water filtration plant in Carmel Valley. That job was the first time someone told me I could do an important job, and it was the first time I was complemented on my work. My self-esteem had made me a prisoner for so long that I’d just accepted when things went wrong it was my fault. Suddenly I began to look back and question this.

I went back to school in 2007 around the time I stopped drinking. At school I found I could do things, and I discovered that I’m smart. This was a new experience for me. I still don’t know how to cope with it, and every fiber of my id wants to curl up in a ball. In my writing class we had an exercise where I had to write about myself. I started out writing about why I write about monsters, and horror because of the things that had happened to me as a kid. I told my professor that I’d held back because it was kinda painful. He told me never hold back. Later I wrote a poem that was a ballad, and it bothered me. The poem was about a guy who’d been a hero but was condemned for crossing a line. The hero is called upon to save the day one more time, and just as he’s about to catch the bad guy he turns to walk away. The bad guy sets off a nuke, and the hero could care less.

This was the darkest thing I’d ever written. The poem was coming from some hard-to-reach place deep inside of me. In time I realized that I was angry for being used by so many people in my life, and I was angry at myself because my low self-esteem had made it possible. I’d always known there was a problem. I called it Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome were I was always fixing someone’s problems to boost my ego, and I the process keeping from fixing my own problems. This had spread into my love-life as I shied away from normal women to seek out damaged ones. I developed a pattern where I’d put some woman back together emotionally, and then she’d walk out of my life leaving me devastated. Looking back now I realize that I knew they’d all leave and that was fine because I didn’t deserve to be happy anyway. The new wrinkle was that I now realize that most of those women took advantage of me, and that while it was my fault in one way in another way I was victimized just a bit.

Now that I had that revelation in my writing class, and then the enlightenment from Falling for Me I have been able to flush my fear out into the open where I can begin to kill it. I intend to kill it with style too. The first thing I will do is submit a bunch of short stories to publishers. I am a writer now, and I will allow myself to accept this with pride. The other thing I plan to do is follow Anna David’s example and follow guidance from a classic book to improve my life.

In my case this book will be the U.S. Army Ranger Handbook. God help us all.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Guess What? We Were Warned

I thought a lot about what I’d right for the 10th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11/2001. I started a number of pieces that soon turned into rambling. As the day approached the Department of Homeland Security issued warnings of potential attacks in the form a truck-bombs, and the targets could be New York or Washington D.C. Yet due to the vagueness of the warnings the response has been mostly cynicism from most Americans. This finally gave my thoughts focus. Ten years ago in the Spring of 2001 there are warnings that Al Qaeda was planning to strike the U.S. somewhere in the world, and that it was possible that their attack would take place inside of the United States. It was no secret. The warnings were there for those who read the middle and back pages of the newspapers. Few people read the warnings, and fewer took them seriously.

On June 9, 2001, the Associated Press’s Pauline Jelinek wrote an article about how Army bases across the country would tighten security and restrict access. The story cited a “system-wide review of security…started after October’s bombing (2000) in Yemen of the USS Cole…” as a reason for the directive. Then on June 22, 2001 the State Department issued a “World-Wide Caution” alert:
This warning is quoted in its entirety:

Public Announcement
Over the last several months, the U.S.
Government has learned that U.S. citizens and interests abroad may be at
increased risk of a terrorist action from extremist groups. In addition, we have
received unconfirmed information that terrorist actions may be taken against
U.S. military facilities and/or establishments frequented by U.S. military
personnel in Korea and Japan. We are also concerned about information we
received in May 2001 that American citizens may be the target of a terrorist
threat from extremist groups with links to Usama Bin Ladin's Al-Qaida
organization. In the past, such individuals have not distinguished between
official and civilian targets. As always, we take this information seriously.
U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. U.S.
citizens are urged to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate
steps to increase their security awareness to reduce their vulnerability.
Americans should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required
travel, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. In
addition, American citizens are also urged to avoid contact with any suspicious,
unfamiliar objects, and to report the presence of the objects to local
authorities. Vehicles should not be left unattended, if at all possible, and
should be kept locked at all times. U.S. Government personnel overseas have been
advised to take the same precautions. In addition, U.S. Government facilities
have and will continue to temporarily close or suspend public services as
necessary to review their security posture and ensure its adequacy. U.S.
citizens planning to travel abroad should consult the Department of State's
Public Announcements, Travel Warnings, Consular Information Sheets, and regional
travel brochures, all of which are available at the Consular Affairs Internet
web site at We will continue to provide updated
information should it become available. American citizens overseas may contact
the American Citizens Services unit of the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate by
telephone or fax for up-to-date information on security conditions. In addition,
American citizens in need of emergency assistance should telephone the nearest
U.S. Embassy or Consulate before visiting the Embassy or Consulate. Department
of State travel information and publications are available at Internet address: U.S. travelers may hear recorded information by calling
the Department of State in Washington, D.C. at 202-647-5225 from their
touch-tone telephone, or receive information by automated telefax by dialing
202-647-3000 from their fax machine. This Public Announcement supersedes the
Public Announcement - Worldwide Caution of June 22, 2001 to inform U.S. citizens
of unconfirmed threats against U.S. military facilities, personnel and
establishments frequented by U.S. military personnel. This Public Announcement
expires on December 22, 2001.

Yes, there’s nothing in there about hijacking passenger jets then flying them into buildings, but it is clear that the US Government was expecting an attack – somewhere – between June 22, 2001 and December 22, 2001. The holes in the national security machine (re: the CIA & FBI) have been painfully documented elsewhere, and will continue to be exposed as time goes onward. What has been lost in the cloud of dust of the collapse and two reflexive wars is another story from June 23, 2001. The Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC) had a reporter in Kandahar:

“"I met with bin Laden near Kandahar (Afghanistan) over the last few days and his main supporters said in front of him that there will be a big surprise over the next two weeks," the MBC correspondent said.Among the bin Laden supporters quoted were Abu Hafs, considered as bin Laden's right-hand man, and Ayman al-Zawahirit, the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.”

While the two week mark came and went it was common knowledge the US was in Al Qaeda’s crosshairs. At least it was common knowledge to the Arab press, and to people who tracked terror warning. For some reason the threats didn’t resonate with the American public, even though the World Trade Center had already been bombed in 1993, and the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City had been destroyed by a truck-bomb in April, 1995.

The talking heads on the national news desks and those on the cable news ghetto all begin their yearly 9/11 sermons with how naïve and innocent Americans were on the morning of 9/11/2001. This is bullshit. Americans weren’t naïve nor innocent, they were simply ill-informed. The national news media had collectively fallen asleep at the wheel. In the summer before the attacks the news universe was dominated by Congressman Gary Condit and his missing intern, Chandra Levy. There is also the Enron scandal that the media had also failed to detect in advance in spite of their multiple financial experts on staff. Just as they failed to look deeply into the Enron and the “Tech-Bubble” there was little interest in looking into threats from Al Qaeda. ABC’s John Miller seemed to be one of the few to understand Osama bin Laden to be a larger threat. His interviews with bin Laden can be found on ABC’s website, and are worth reviewing even now.

The point is that after the attacks fingers were pointed at the Bush Administration, and the bulk of responsibility rests with their disinterest in the subject of terror threats before 9/11/2001. Fingers need also to be pointed at the news media as well. The Time Magazine that hit the stands after the attacks contained amazingly detailed accounts of Al Qaeda’s movements inside the US, and their planning overseas. The only way this level of detail was possible was because reporters had already been following Al Qaeda independently, and after the attacks they quickly connected their dots. The question needs to be asked: Why was the news media so uninterested in Al Qaeda prior to 9/11/2001? The network and cable news pimps have no problem generating their own stories, and framing them in a way that they can be milked for weeks on end. Why was national security a back-burner issue?

The sad thing is that these questions will never be answered. I read the June 22nd warning in my local news paper, and on that morning when the towers came down I remembered that Al Qaeda had planned a strike on US interests. While I was shocked and horrified I was not surprised. There is much complaint about what has happened to America since the attacks, but the fact is that Americans have surrendered their responsibilities for their own security to the Federal Government. Nothing has been taken away by force. We haven’t lost anything, we handed it over. When the government asks Americans to be vigilant the response is to compare the US to Soviet Russia. If more Americans had been vigilant before 9/11 the attacks could have been headed off, and there would be no need for a Homeland Security. Yet in 2011 the average American can’t be bothered with security matters. For all of the histrionics the fact is that we are just as pathetic as we were on September 10, 2001.

Monday, August 01, 2011

In the Wake of a Beautiful Woman

Beauty is its own reward or something along those lines. Today I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant, and as fate would have it I followed just behind a stunningly beautiful young woman. Instead of watching her I watched everyone else as she entered. There was a buzz as every male head turned to stare at her; say what you want about the speed of the internet, this young lady had it beat. The Latino men working behind the counter all smiled and blushed. The man at the counter was as professional as he could be with a big goofy grin on his face.

Magically the dishwashers appeared from the back to check her out as she stood carefree at the counter. She had the kind of beauty that gave the appearance of weightlessness. Her hair seemed to float, her blouse was fit to her upper body yet not tight, and her pants seemed as if they were painted on. Nothing she wore grabbed at her. The men around her seemed to float as well, as if they’d suddenly lost thirty pounds. I suspect this was the loss of mental weight as whatever thoughts had been running through their heads drifted away like Dandelions on a Spring breeze.

She sat down at a table near the counter as her order was to go. I smiled as many of the men suddenly needed to get up and refill at the salad bar which was nowhere near her. While there may have been vulgar talk about her at one of the tables I certainly didn’t hear it. Yes every guy in the place was lusting after her, but not in an aggressive way. It’s the kind of lust saved for that woman you hope to be stranded with on a Tropical island. The kind of lust where you know you would be the happiest man on earth being the one who woke next to her each morning. This kind of beauty has gravity, the kind of gravity that pulls from the inside out. As she sat there unaware of the stir she had caused the restaurant fell quiet as the men just watched as she scrolled through the messages on her phone.

Her order was ready (in record time) as was mine. We both stood and I paused to allow her distance before I followed her out. I was enjoying the view to be sure. The magic continued outside too. She got into her modest sports sedan and backed out. Usually the traffic here is impossible at lunch. It seemed as if a gap in time-space itself accompanied her as she drove away. Once her car was out of sight the spell was broken, cars lined up making my crossing of the street a chore, and the restaurant became noisy again to the point where I could hear it from the parking lot.

I won’t waste time trying to unravel this mystery. Partly because there are things that can never be known, but mostly because I don’t wish to take the fun out of it all. I’ve seen this happen before over the years with many other women, and it always fascinates me as men change gears to adjust to this angelic presence. It is the involuntary nature of this response is intriguing because it is counter-intuitive. For some types of beauty men become clowns, or jackasses. This kind of beauty causes them to become their better selves. That is the mystery, why can’t we men become our better selves on our own, and wouldn’t this attract this kind of beauty? Is there a fear that we can never measure up? Is being that better man a frightening concept?

Like I said, I’m not going to try to figure this one out, but you never know. If I do I’ll pass the secret along.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Midnight Ride of Paul Freakin’ Revere

There were these guys called The Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety who hired this guy named Paul Revere as an express rider to carry important shit to New York and Philly. On the night of April 18, 1775, this Dr. Joseph Warren guy calls Revere and tells him to haul ass to Lexington, MA, to tell Sam Adams and John Hancock that the British were on their way to bust them. Revere asks how the fuck Warren knows, and Warren tells him that the Red Coats had launched a bunch of small boats as they took the infantry and grenadiers off duty. Then Dr. Warren tells Revere to shut the fuck up and get moving.

His buddies had arranged a signal in the Old North Church where they’d hang one lantern if the Brits came by land and two lanterns if they came by sea. Well the Redcoats were coming both ways but they didn’t have a signal for that. Way to go, assholes. So Revere gets some guys to row him across the Charles River and goes to the home of his buddy, Deacon John Larkin. Most historians will tell you that Revere borrowed Larkin’s horse, but the truth is that Deacon Larkin kept the Batmobile in his stable. I don’t know, somehow it traveled time or whatever, but Larkin found it. Then Larkin briefs Revere on where the British check points are, but Revere tells him that he doesn’t care because he’s driving the fucking Batmobile. So Larkin says “Cool” and Revere does a wicked-hot peel out.

So Revere is doing like 125 down the road, and he’s yelling over the loud speaker “The British are coming, and not in the fun way!” Houses light up as he blows past them. He pulls up in front of the house where Adams and Hancock are staying. They come out and can’t believe what they see.

“Yo Revere! What the fuck is that thing?” Hancock says.

“What the fuck does it look like? It’s the mother fuckin’ Batmobile” Revere says. Then an argument breaks out over who should get the Batmobile from here on out. Revere thinks he should keep it because he needs to haul ass to Concord to warn the militia, but Hancock and Adams insist that they should drive it because they’re more important. Finally Revere agrees to give them the Batmobile for a keg a week of Adam’s wicked beer for the rest of his life. A fair trade? I think so. As this is goin’ on a second rider, William Dawes shows up. Revere gets a horse and rides off with Dawes towards Concord. As they ride down the road they’re joined by a third rider, Dr. Samuel Prescott. However they don’t get too far before they run into a British patrol and get arrested. That’s what happens when you blow off a mission briefing, but I digress.

Dr. Prescott escapes right off the bat by using the old “Your shoe lace is untied” trick, and rides off to Concord. In the confusion Dawes escapes too, but Revere stands there like a fucking dumbass. So the British start questioning him, and Revere tells them everything like a big pussy. The British officer wasn’t buying it so he pulls out his pistol, and puts the muzzle to Revere’s skull. Then for some reason he asks if Revere is the same dude who does the quality metal work and Revere says he is.

“Well Christ, Revere, my wife has all of your stuff. She fucking loves the silver tea set your people made. Look, get back on that horse and go home, I’d hate to have to shoot you.” So Revere gets escorted a few miles back towards Lexington before the Brits screw him by taking his horse. So Revere walks back to Lexington were he finds Adams and Hancock about a mile from where they’d started.

“What the fuck? You two gonads should be in Philly by now” Revere said. He was pissed.

“Hey, give us a break, ass-clown, it’s 1775 so we don’t know how to fucking drive yet” Hancock said.

“Okay, fuck it, I’ll drive. Move over.” Revere said. He got behind the wheel. About four minutes later they were at a house in Woburn four miles away. Now that they were safe, Revere hauled ass back to the Clark house to find out what the fuck was going on. When he gets there two riders show up and tell him that British soldiers are almost there. So Revere runs inside and grabs a trunk full of Hancock’s papers, drags it outside, and puts it into the trunk of the Batmobile. Just as he closes the trunk the British show up. Revere gets into the Batmobile and locks the door. The British soldiers form a skirmish line in front of the car, and the officer orders Revere to surrender. Revere flips them the bird. The troops open fire but the musket balls bounce off the car’s armor plating. Revere gets on the loud speaker and tells the Brits that they can lick his hairy ball sack. The Soldiers fire another volley, and Revere just laughs. Suddenly the car roars to life as Revere floors it in reverse, then he hangs a perfect bootleg turn, and he’s fuckin’ outa there.

I don’t know what happened to the Batmobile after that. One rumor says that the British captured it, and took it back to the Tower of London where it was kept up until 1870 when Queen Victoria crashed it into the palace wall while testing the air bag system. The other says that it was given to George Washington after the war, and on his death he willed it to be kept in the basement of the White House. Supposedly every President has driven the Batmobile at least once. That makes more sense, with great power comes an awesome car.

Ben Franklin said that.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Follow-On Tragedy of the Arizona Shootings

Now that the smoke has cleared from the shootings that occurred a week ago today it is clear that the shooter, Jared Loughner, is saner than the news media, and the many political talking heads of our country. In less than two hours the political voices in the country raced to plant their spin-flags among the corpses. Because the shootings happened in Arizona, and because the primary target was a Democrat the assumption was automatic: The shooter was a Tea Party activist and Sarah Palin was to blame. Almost as soon the right-wing marshaled their forces to defend themselves and point fingers at the left. This all happened before we knew anything about the shooter including his name. Even worse we witnessed respected media personalities fall victim to their own prejudices. Maybe it was fitting that the shootings happened in Arizona because of it is synonymous with the old west, and the media’s reaction was exactly that of an old-west lynch mob. Just like the aftermath of those old-western lynching’s the true culprit went unpunished.

The culprit at the root of this shooting is mental illness. That is what we need to be talking about. Our prisons are full of the mentally ill because we are failing to address this problem. I work in a job where I come into frightening contact with homeless people who are clearly mentally ill, and quite often my life is in danger. I am not trained to deal with the mentally ill, my police department has limited options about what they can do with the mentally ill, and more and more the mentally ill are either being shot by police or killing someone themselves. I don’t pretend to have any answers here, and my frustration is that because the political whores have prostituted this incident away from the actual cause, and instead they have decided to dress it up as their various boogey men.

Shame on them.

Americans hate to talk about mental illness because it is a complex issue that ultimately comes down to how the illness affects each individual. Americans like simple answers and cookie-cutter solutions. Mental Health is the opposite of both those and it … well it drives us crazy. Mental Health is also expensive on almost every level which automatically complicates the subject as the political-media industrial complex knee-jerks into action. Exotic medications, MRIs, CAT Scans, psychiatrists, and psychiatric councilors are all expensive prospects. Then you have mental health advocates who are well meaning, but in the end limiting the help that the mentally ill can receive. Their motivations stem from the 19th and 20th Century abuses of the mentally ill in asylums around the world. These abuses were such that as they came to light Americans demanded change, and most mental institutions were eventually closed down. What happened to their former patients? All dumped onto the streets.

All of this could be the center of discussion in the media today yet it is not. Although by Sunday of last week we knew that Loughner was mentally ill the news media had decided to continue with the angle that “vitriolic political language” was the cause of the shooting. The very people who are tasked with reporting facts (NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN) had instead stooped to innuendo. The idea that political activism had more appeal then having to discuss yet another troubled person with blood on his hands, and one has to question not only the judgment of those news editors they also must question their sanity as well. How is a discussion of gun-sites on Sarah Palin’s campaign website or Rush Limbaugh considered rational in conjunction with what we know about Loughner? It is clear that Loughner had stalked/targeted Representative Gabrielle Giffords but it is not clear he did so because she was a Democrat. As of now it is just as likely that she was targeted because she was accessible, and because she just happened to be the Congress person within range.

Jared Loughner is the first encounter with what will be a big problem in the 21st century. Loughner may have an under –lying mental illness but it has been compounded by Digital Retardation. Loughner didn’t watch TV, nor did he listen to the radio. Instead he was a creature of the internet. In my spare time I moderate a message board that is geared to video gaming and high-tech gadgets and issues. The posters on this board range from 13 years old to 75 years old with the bulk of them being college age. They do not read books on the level that their predecessors twenty years ago did, and this handicap is evident as even the brightest young people lack the ability to grasp complex issues on an adult level. The internet afford young people the ability to never come into contact with adults, and the result is that they either mature more slowly , or never mature beyond a 15 year-old’s mind set. The internet’s anonymity also allows antisocial behavior to go unchecked, so Loughner couldn’t understand why behavior that was acceptable on the internet was not acceptable in a college classroom. His handicap was compounded by the lack of intellectual maturity because he was able to feed his world view easily by frequenting websites where his delusions would be considered normal. The absence of rational adult input can only be guessed at for now but it is likely that is sped Loughner’s downward spiral.

As you can see Loughner represents a convergence of complex issues that require serious discussion. Once again Americans, when confronted with the uncomfortable problem of the mentally ill, have decided to change the subject. I can’t speculate as to why the news media went the way that it did. Unlike the responsible news agencies I can only address the facts as I know them now. When more facts come along I will adjust fire accordingly. Why can’t the news media do this? What I saw on Saturday and Sunday of last week was right out of the Salem Witch Trials. How did paranoia (and that is the only explanation) engulf so many educated and otherwise rational people? It was like watching Medgar Evers putting in a KKK robe. Why was it more important to hang their personal political agenda on Loughner’s act than simply deal with the facts? How did this help anyone? Don’t they realize that they undermine their credibility when they do stuff like that? To underscore the failure of the big media was the fact that a handful of bloggers were ahead of them in obtaining and reporting the facts.

So at the end of the day not only were six people dead but the credibility of the news media died off just a little more too. Yet those who work in the media fail to understand or admit their failures on every level. So instead of making this about the victims they turned it into political circus, and then condemned others in the media for turning this event into a political circus (complete with t-shirts at the memorial – that is another rant for another time). In doing this the nation lost valuable time on a serious discussion that affects our society on multiple levels. Like I said earlier, the real tragedy is that Loughner’s actions and the media response were equally insane.

Yet nobody is calling them on it.