Unwinding with the tunes of R.L. Burnside (plus my personal update)

That was R.L. Burnside’s “The Criminal Inside of Me.”  drinking  Came across that song for the first time recently, and it cracks me up. Gotta love the tunes of R.L. Burnside.  bitches

So let’s keep his tunes going in what’s left of this Saturday evening:

What’s the news over in my little sphere? Well, my back’s feeling a lot better, so that’s fantastic. It’s easy to take for granted how much we depend on our backs to do anything and everything until they get hurt, and boy did that shit hurt. But then it just started lessening and now the nerve isn’t even pinched anymore. Kinda miraculous really.  lol  I’m wondering if it wasn’t my old car’s seat that wasn’t causing most of the problem *shrugs*  But thank god that pain moved on. Gotta count our blessings where we find ’em.

Had to rush a pet to the veterinary emergency room yesterday due to heat exhaustion. She’s an indoor/outdoor cat with freedom to come and go as she pleases, and unfortunately we had some very hot days here this past week. I stop over twice a day while her parents are out of the state and happened to find her last evening in the backyard in a bad state and in desperate need of help. Man, it scared the shit out of me. She was disoriented, frothing at the mouth, lethargic. I called her mom, found the pet carrier, and just loaded her in the car and drove her straight on.  Her temperature was 107.5 degrees I believe the vet said, and they hooked her up to IVs immediately. And she’s still there, might bring her home tomorrow. That’s my first time in all these years to deal with a real emergency like that. I’m just grateful to have arrived when I did. An hour or more and she might’ve been in much worse trouble. She was fine in the morning when I visited, was indoors and took her antibiotics just fine, no problems at all, but 8 hours later and it was a whole other story. Sad situation that was. But the vet says she’s doing well now and they’re keeping her for observation. But lord, I feel bad for her parents having to face that vet bill, quoted as being between $1100-$1700 before all is said and done.

On another note, my computer went on the fritz a few days back. It’s been having problems with overheating for a while now, but finally it got bad enough to where I had to take it in to have the pros handle it. But $60 later, it’s back home and functioning once again. Had to rely on my back-up computer for a few days there, which had PCLinuxOS installed from back in 2009, and I never could get the hang of that particular operating system, not being terribly knowledgeable with using Linux. Wound up having to install Windows XP instead, but I went to Linux on that system because XP had proven so unstable on it in the past. I’m very interested in installing Linux Mint xcfe (version 13 or 14) on it, but there’s something wrong with the damned computer to where I couldn’t get Unetbootin to load properly from my external drive so as to install Linux Mint’s ISO. Gonna have to figure that out eventually.

What else is going on over here? Lots of drama in my personal life, but that’s not something worth discussing on here. Might as well admit that much of it’s due to my own damn fault and just leave it at that. We still love each other, but problems arose that I didn’t handle well once upon a time, and that left emotional scars that are very slow to heal for us both. Sad situation. But maybe time will turn things around. I don’t know. One thing I do know is it’s taught me a valuable lesson of what never to do ever again. Shame on me. But it’s not the world’s business.

What else? The new used car is working out nicely, though it does have some grinding when I brake that I hope to have looked into eventually when time permits. Already put close to 800 miles on the car in the nearly 2 weeks I’ve owned it, with a busier week coming up — my vehicles must perform as work mules, that’s their role. ‘Tis people’s vacation season, so I work a great deal in the summer. And I look forward to this car serving me well over the coming years.

Only other thing left to say is I’m living and learning like usual. Making mistakes, yes, but trying to learn from them. Some shit I seem hellbent on learning the hard way rather than vicariously through others, but such is the way life goes sometimes. I’m stubborn and admittedly a free bird in ways.

That’s enough of an update for now.

Scientology Weirdness (Jason Beghe’s interview)

Stumbled across another scientology “documentary” (if it’s to be taken that seriously), and it tripped a thought of Jason Beghe’s interview on his involvement in scientology. Watched it a couple years ago and am now rewatching it tonight.

Scientology looks likes some weird Hollywood-promoted act. It’s a play on religion constructed with new-age, sci-fi, pseudoscientific “logic.” That’s why it takes on psychiatry — that’s its competition.

But then sometimes I wonder if scientology isn’t a clever attempt to demonstrate the absurdity of both religions (the dogma, not the spirituality religions were originally meant to help connect people with) and the fields of psychiatry and psychology when invested with so much power to decide the narrative applied to the entire population despite lacking evidence to support their basic premises.

The main premise being that humans’ psychological states deserve to be classified and treated as if “disorders,” frequently employing the metaphor “mental illness.” Yet who defines what “order” is by comparison? Is “order” simply what people with Ph.D.s and M.D.s say it should be? Is it what suits a functioning society, nevermind that our government is unarguably corrupt and that what we have going on today will prove unsustainable in the long-term? Why should we want to adapt to this unsustainable fantasy that is proving psychologically unhealthy? Because it makes living easier? No it doesn’t, not when so many people are living this deluded and/or depressed, having trouble finding meaning in a life that revolves around a paycheck or a salary and that has us pitted so bitterly against one another, locked in competition, communities and families destroyed in the process. We’re constructing a bizarro world in the U.S., and we feel discontent because so much of our time is preoccupied with bullshit. Welcome to modern times.

But anyway, back to scientology. What if it’s a cleverly orchestrated acting job intended to make a mockery out of both religious cults and pseudoscience? Because even if it’s not intended to suit that purpose, it’s sure doing a fine job. Interviews like that above also demonstrate just how easily people can get caught up in what they want to believe; like Beghe said, once people have invested time, money, and ego, it’s made all that much harder to turn back and critically assess the situation. Folks don’t like feeling like idiots. I don’t either, but I realize I am one.  lol

What interests me, though, is how deeply people are craving new narratives to follow. And I can relate to the yearning. Life is crazy, life is mad, to quote an Enigma song. But L. Ron Hubbard’s narrative proved to be—aside from being full-blown batshit—just another pyramid scheme and ridiculous hoop-jumping contest. But people buy it for reasons similar to why they buy into Evangelical Christianity. They want to belong to a community that appears to be leading the way. They want to direct their energies at something they wish to believe in.

And don’t we all, in one way, shape, or form?

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil – a 2007 talk by Philip G. Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Stanford University:

Zimbardo’s latest book, The Lucifer Effect, attempts to understand how good people do evil deeds. His talk outlines his involvement as expert witness for the defense team of one of the military police officers responsible at Abu Ghraib, and also provides a rich history of psychological research into the kind of behavior transformations evident in Iraq. First, Zimbardo presents a slideshow of Abu Ghraib abominations, including some digital photos that were not widely distributed by the media. Then he digs deep into the archives for a horrifically illustrated tour of experiments that make a persuasive case that certain, predictable situations corrupt people into wielding power in a destructive way.

He describes Stanley Milgram’s 1963 Yale-based research demonstrating that people will behave sadistically when confronted by “an authority in a lab coat.” A vast majority of the subjects delivered what they were told were dangerous electric shocks to a learner in another room, to the point of apparently killing the other person. Researchers skeptical of his results replicated them. This time, professors demanded that students shock real puppies standing on electrified grills. Zimbardo’s own prison experiment turned an ordinary group of young men into power-hungry “guards,” humiliating equally ordinary “prisoners” in the basement of Stanford’s psychology building. The descent into barbarity was so rapid that Zimbardo had to cancel the experiment after a few days.

The recipe for behavior change isn’t complicated. “All evil begins with a big lie,” says Zimbardo, whether it’s a claim to be following the word of God, or the need to stamp out political opposition. A seemingly insignificant step follows, with successive small actions, presented as essential by an apparently just authority figure. The situation presents others complying with the same rules, perhaps protesting, but following along all the same. If the victims are anonymous or dehumanized somehow, all the better. And exiting the situation is extremely difficult.

Abu Ghraib fit this type of situation to a T, says Zimbardo. The guards, never trained for their work helping military interrogators, worked 12-hour shifts, 40 days without a break, in chaotic, filthy conditions, facing 1,000 foreign prisoners, and hostile fire from the neighborhood. They operated in extreme stress, under orders to impose fear on their prisoners. Zimbardo believes the outcome was perfectly predictable, and while never absolving these soldiers of personal responsibility, believes justice won’t be done until “the people who created the situation go on trial as well: George Tenet, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George Bush.”

“Summertime and the living’s easy…”

Music explains so much more than mere words can. Can’t take it too literally, but you mold a song into your own interpretation. Maybe linked to the first time you remember hearing it or maybe you comprehend yourself as similar in a way to the singer or the one sang about.  Doesn’t matter since we can’t see into one another’s minds to view how it takes shapes. We can’t help but perceive a song in our own unique way, and that’s an amazing fact of life.

To me, the part that resonates deeply and has since my late teen years, both in and out of relationships, is:

…  Evil. Come to tell you that she’s evil. Most definitely.

Evil. Ornery, scandalous, and evil. Most definitely.

The tension is getting harder. I’d like to hold her head under water.

Me and my girl, we got a relationship. Mmmhmmm, my girl, we got a relationship. …

… Summertime, and the living’s easy …

Those lyrics have always left me a little sad and disturbed. It’s one interpretation of events, and I won’t claim to know what all was actually going on between Bradley and his wife back then. That’s their business. But we all interpret it as we will at any given point in time. Our understandings of things, hopefully, evolve over time. Personal example time…

But first on to another great tune:

When I decided to marry my (since 2004 ex-)husband, we felt very much in love. We were also very young (18 and 19). Married after dating for 20 months. Ate each other up. Transitioned and transitioned, as to be expected of young people. Both made mistakes, and both had shit working against us throughout that time. Stressful times. We were financially fucked up right out the gate. Then we turned on one another. Got nasty. After 4 years of being together, we split up and never saw one another again. Completely quit talking for years too. Divorced without direct communication (and I paid for it through a paralegal service — cost about $750 — he refused to sign the document drafted because it included debts he personally borrowed from my grandparents, which he wound up never repaying even a cent of — seriously uncool).

I was mad as hell at him for a long time about that and more. Together we drowned in debt and made stupid decisions and basically wound up driving one another nuts like stir-crazy cats. Just screwed that whole thing up. For a long time I talked about him like he was a dick. Until it began creeping into my conscious thoughts more and more how I’d messed up too, and significantly. After several years of silence between us, I reached out to him on facebook (back when I was on there) and got his phone number. Gave him a call and spoke my truth about what I had done, saying nothing about his possible blame. I did this because my own conscience was killing me — we had wronged one another, but I had been responsible for a number of severe wrongs my own self, and I only have control over myself. So that’s where it stemmed from, and he accepted my gesture in the hippyish-sort of way he’d became since we’d separated.

Sometimes it still bugs me a little that he didn’t feel the desire to apologize for his part, but ah well. He did grant me forgiveness and claimed he’d never held a grudge, though I know that isn’t true. He told me of a genuinely good woman he’d dated after me and how his bitterness toward me wound up jeopardizing their relationship. He admitted he mistreated her. My role in that saddened and troubled me.

A year went by before I called him again, this time to report the unfortunate news of my Papa’s passing. They didn’t get along too well, but they had heart for one another, sorta, kinda. So I let him know, and he expressed his condolences. If there’s one thing true it’s that my Papa is an unforgettable character, known best for being a cantankerous asshole.  lol

The point is my ex-husband and I went from love and utter fascination with one another, bonding like orphans over our life experiences, to increasing competitiveness, to outright hostility and aggressive power plays, to disgust and contempt, to silence, and then eventually to accepting the past for what it is and burying the hatchet. And I am forever glad that we did and that I took the opportunity to apologize for the pain that I caused during our short marriage. My conscience definitely did need that, and he was kind in receiving it. I’m sure he wasn’t my fan, but we finally established a sense of peace so as to let it go. That was important. Because then, about a year and a half later, my ex-husband died. I talk about it because I’m still processing it. Papa died in summer of 2011; ex-husband died in fall of 2012. My Papa suffered for a year and a half in pain before dying of cancer; my ex thankfully died very suddenly and likely before pain registered, so say the reports.

And life moves on. On and on it tumbles. Where it stops, nobody knows. Nobody promised us rose gardens apparently.

Is it reasonable to admit that a part of me is slightly envious of my ex-husband having gone out with such suddenness and likely lack of suffering? And prior to his accident, he’d created a new life for himself, working in a bar/restaurant as he always enjoyed, and made a lot of new friends. I’m happy that he had that as his last bit of time in life. But I still hope when I die that I too can go out as suddenly and without months of suffering. It’s all true, so I’m stating it. Why? Because I can and I feel like it.

Life comes with curious ups and downs. Been in a relationship the last 2.5 years that just ended recently. Sad affair. The details of it are our business. Just is what it is.

Hip-deep in Busch Light tonight. Had what seemed like a good idea for a video earlier, but the handycam and I couldn’t seem to cooperate with one another. ‘Tis happens, more often than not.

Bad habits die hard…

What do you believe?

I’ve become distracted. Been in a hell of a mood lately, largely because my back hurts. Lots going on in life right now. Relationship turmoil. Trying to find my next car in a hurry. Busy workweek with crazy hours. A great deal on my mind. And of course, there’s the perpetual gripe about how many assholes exist in society (myself included, sure, to an extent, but damn! Some folks seem like all they want to do is fight and insult others, especially online.).

I’m just tired, more now than usual, but it’s not a new feeling. What the fuck do I believe in? I don’t know. What should I believe in? What is there to really believe in anymore? I believe in my loved ones, which isn’t to say that they’re always 100% honest but that their love helps tie me into the game of life. Without them I don’t know where I’d be. Nowhere good.

Next I believe there’s more to this life than we humans will ever understand. Some shit is just beyond our comprehension. Nothing wrong with that. We experience what we’re able, even if we can’t usually clearly convey our experiences to one another. What’s beyond our comprehension is also necessarily beyond the scope of our languages. I’m fine with all of that and take it as a given, and what that helps serve to do is to create a reminder of our human limitations. Nothing wrong with cutting ourselves back down to size regularly — our tendency is toward arrogance otherwise.

Now, what else do I believe? I believe most folks are both good and bad, not mostly good as so many like to assume. No, I recognize us for the opportunists we are. We are also very often hypocrites, especially now that relative anonymity makes it more difficult to fact-check in a sea of strangers. And we’ll never eradicate our rough and deceptive tendencies, because they serve dual functions — that is unless someday we wind up genetically re-engineered in some “Brave New World”-sort of fashion (long after I’m dead and gone). But back to dual functions, because that’s important. Much as we like to divide everything into black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, virtue and vice, the reality is much more complicated. Welcome to human life — that’s what it’s all about. Shades of gray, some darker or lighter, but all on a gradient.

We very often have a tendency toward cowardice as well, hence why heroism strikes us as so exceptional and commendable.

Men and women do differ, but individuals break down to their own unique combinations of traits, predispositions, environmental influences and experiential input. This need to reduce people down to clumps and groups that we can speak so generally about to where conversations unravel into nonsense — it’s doing nothing for us. Just contributing to all the clattering, making noise, stoking the embers of hostilities in one another.

Look, I’m in a bad mood today and will just spell it out. We’re driving one another fucking crazy. If people are fine with that and still think the benefits outweigh the psychological and social costs associated with maintaining a bullshit status quo, then I’m on the wrong planet or was born in the wrong era. But whatever. When I say people are going to do what they’re going to do, it may come across as defeatist, but it’s true. People don’t want to talk about what’s going on today — they want to blame and point fingers and throw around statistics they’re barely acquainted with just because they appear to bolster their own pre-formed beliefs. Humans are terrific rationalizers, that being one of our species’ specialties.

At this point, what is there left to do but dream? I do my best to pay as low of taxes as I can since this war machine is paid too much already. I speak up at any opportunity to declare bullshit on so much we have going on the U.S. I’ve refrained from having children, lightening the load for myself and others. (Just think, you all dodged a bullet on having to deal with whomever I managed to screw up. You’re welcome.) Been trying to make sense out of my life experiences and come to terms with where I’ve personally been in the wrong, much as I continue to make mistakes, but how can one avoid doing so? New experiences equal new opportunities for mistakes and learning. That’s just how life goes.

And I’ve vocalized my frustration with what movements I have dabbled in and am in the process of trying to share what tidbits life has been teaching me. But what do I know? I’m a malcontent Luddite apparently. Obsolete. It’s not a pleasant thought, but it’s a reality that it seems I must come to grips with and accept.

People want to scream over one another, forever clanging their pots and pans and trying to drown out what they perceive as their opposition. Bunch of noise. What is to come of it other than driving one another nuts? What do we hope to accomplish, if anything? I want to know, but people won’t say other than by tossing out vague terms like “equality” and “egalitarianism” and “humanism.” But what do they want to see? Most, I believe, want to see something similar to what is already in place. And I suppose if that’s their dream, then so be it, but I don’t share it. And I don’t know what else there is to do right now but to focus in more on my own life and matters that are my responsibility or where I have power.

Is it just me, or does the world feel too big?

Back to my cave now.

21st-Century Schizoid Americans

[The video for King Crimson’s 1969 performance of “21st Century Schizoid Man” was removed on youtube, damn it all to Hades.]

Amazing song. It became a favorite almost immediately after stumbling across it on Pandora 2 or 3 years back.

Want to marvel more at the talent that goes into creating a sexy piece of music like that? See this “Premiata Forneria Marconi” cover of it:

Blows the mind. Daaammmn. What artistry, nothing like the techno-pop auto-tuned crap churned out today.

Every once in a blue moon I just like to chill with this song, run it through 2-3 times, let it sink in. This song’s peculiarity grabbed me right away. And then you look at the lyrics, and it’s sobering poetry:

Cat’s foot iron claw
Neuro-surgeons scream for more
At paranoia’s poison door.
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Blood rack barbed wire
Politicians’ funeral pyre
Innocents raped with napalm fire
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Death seed blind man’s greed
Poets’ starving children bleed
Nothing he’s got he really needs
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Right on. I get it. This is one of those songs worth us 21st-century schizoids meditating on from time to time. But maybe that would actually lead to more mindless nihilism (as opposed to conscious and principle-guided nihilism I suppose, having now listened to others’ arguments drawing a distinction).

And maybe what I typically think of when I use the word “nihilist” in an insulting fashion are people who are so deep in apathy that they no longer care what they believe in. They choose not to think that far ahead, or they reassure themselves and others that the future will simply sort itself out. Technology and scientific research are bound to pave the way to universal happiness, don’t ya know? Because they don’t really believe in anything, they turn their attention to everyday life and willingly become consumed by mindless entertainment with little to no educational value at a time when we really need to be paying closer attention to what’s going on around us all.

Because we’ve dropped the reins. Who’s running this show? Still placing faith in the invisible hand of the market? This is not a pure capitalistic economy in the U.S., not by a long shot. And our economy is fusing with our political institutions, or, more accurately, it’s buying out its seats and positions with campaign contributions and lobbyist bribes.

And who do we imagine is responsible for this? It’s not as if it came about through an act of God, if by that we mean the deliberate workings of a supernatural force or being. No, it’s the vast majority of people on earth’s fault — WE THE 99%.

Now, I was born at the beginning of the ’80s, and of course life in the U.S. has been bullshit for a long time before then. It’s been bullshit since WWI. It’s been bullshit since the Civil War. Might’ve been bullshit right out the gate, but who knows? None of us were there. The documents passed down tend to be those of famous and influential people of a given time, not opinion polls collecting data on what average folks had to say about things. Gotta keep it in perspective.

And it’s inquiries like these that are schizoid in their own right.  Ha  High abstract thinking requires a bit of unsanity, to quickly paraphrase the message discussed in a recent video by Professor Anton:

I appreciate the way he thinks, mild in manner and all.

Back to “21st-Century Schizoid Man”…

So, how did we let this happen? How did we let modern life become what it is? Well, one thing humans did is placed a tremendous amount of faith in science and technology to deliver an impressive future we’d enjoy. As noted above, we assumed the market would somehow bring this about (though much scientific research isn’t determined by public input or purchasing power, but rather through political allocations we trust elected officials and appointed persons to carry out responsibly on our behalf — and how has that worked out for us?). Humans tend to choose entertainment over seemingly abstract duties and responsibilities, and plenty are overworked and lack time to devote to taxing inquiries. We’re kept so busy with trying to figure out how to navigate in modern life, and our social lives have become infinitely complicated now that we come into contact with so many varied people on a regular basis.

Every temptation under the sun exists today and can be had for the right price. In a sense, we in the U.S. do live in a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. That chips away from people’s orientation toward commitment, honesty, dignity, practicality, intuition, imagination, thrift, and heart. We’re a bunch of kids in a candy store, and it’s not a secret. Nothing feels truly off-limits. What does dignity even mean today when everything’s for sale, including most of our souls? Can we even grasp which way is up? What might that look like? What fundamentals continue to truly matter in this day and age?

Is this what nihilism means to some people? To be stripped of everything you thought you believed in and then try to reconstruct a narrative that may be more convenient or perhaps tailored according to principles we individually define for ourselves? Sounds nice in theory, but how many of us possess the willpower, fortitude, and well-developed conscience to properly direct our lives in an honestly productive fashion? How many want to do so beyond keeping up appearances? Today’s “sin” seems to lie in not keeping up appearances and thereby setting others at unease.

How much faith do I have in us? Aggregately? Not much. In select individuals? Plenty. In myself? I don’t know. The game has warped me. We humans are not infinitely malleable and our environments play such a major role in molding us; life in today’s concrete jungle and all that spins off from that is creating a specially challenging situation to contend with.