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Postings are in chronological order, with the most recent entry at the top.

June 2004

I've been eating these really obnoxious chocolates. They're totally irritating. So why keep eating them? Simple, they taste good. Really good. But that's not the obnoxious bit. The obnoxious bit comes on the reverse side of the little foil wrapper each one is wrapped in. Some marketing wonk thought it'd be, like, keen to print nasty little missives there. It's supposed to be a random act of kindness type sentiment, but I find it to be more of a pointed act of indiscretion. I mean really, who wants to be told to "Go to your special place" by a bit of foil? Do I want to meet that kind of person? No.

"There's no excuse not to dream" one told me.

"What's up with the attitude?" I asked it. "Kinda presumptuous aren't you?" It didn't respond, so I opened another one.

It said, "It's definitely a bubble bath day"

"Don't change the subject!" I said. And opened another.

"Discover yourself", it said.

"Don't pull that new age-y crap on me. I want a new age mind twist, I could go out the front door and practically trip over one if I swung a dead cat." (We've got lots of guru types here abouts.)

"You know what? You look good in red" the next one said.

"I've been told this before, but somehow I never wear anything that color. Well, there's that old shirt I've got, but I... Wait a second, what's this got to do with anything? Flattery may distract me, but I'll get back to the point eventually... If I could just remember where I put the damn thing."

"Send a love letter" the next advised.

"Really? You think I should? It'd probably piss Ume off if I sent one and it wasn't to her. Are you trying to get me in trouble?"

"Sing along with the elevator music" the next one evaded.

"Don't play coy with me. All I need right now is friction with Ume. Trouble-making, presumptuous chocolate packaging, that's what you are. Should be a law, I'm tellin' ya."

"Make your eyes twinkle"

"Oh shut up. Did someone tell you that this kind of spontaneous suggestion thingy was cute? You think it's zen? Uplifting?"

"Don't think about it so much"

"Oh you would say that, wouldn't you? 'Bite me!' How's that for a perky little phrase? Oy, I think I've got a stomach ache... This is all your fault!"

I snatched up the bag with the few pieces that remained, to chuck them back into the pantry. Over the crinkling of the plastic, though I can't be certain, I may have heard a faint snicker...

"Rewiring is possible throughout life." -- John J. Ratey, M.D.

I find this news terribly reassuring. The quote is from John J. Ratey's book, "A User's Guide to the Brain". It relates to the brain's resilience, it's plasticity, it's ability to change - throughout life. It's so cool and amazing that we've got these intricate organs that are capable of that.

The skin is an organ... I never think of the skin as an organ, and yet... it is.

Anyway, Ratey's book is fascinating. I'm just starting it, but I'm hooked. All manner of interesting things going on in the brain...

Left wing radio? You too can listen to Al Franken's radio show by clicking here. It streams live 12-3pm EMT and replays 11pm-2am EMT. I've not yet heard it, but will give it a whirl.

I've been listening to his book on tape, "Lies and the Lying Liers Who Tell Them". He reads it, which is fun, and there are lots of sound clips to add to the piquancy. He gives the right wing press a good smack upside the head. Kind of thing that's been needed for a goodly while.

There are also some responses on his site (see link above) to the stupidity that oozes out of the right wing media.

Note these two stories...

Cheney Won't Back Down on Saddam-Qaeda Links -Aides by Adam Entous (Reuters, 06.16.04): click here

Saudi Hunts for Militants as Qaeda Deadline Looms by Ghaida Ghantous (Reuters, 06.16.04): click here

Seems like Dick Cheney just doesn't get it: 15 of the 9/11 hijackers - Saudi Arabian... Osama Bin Laden - Saudi Arabian... A good deal of Al Queda funding... Saudi Arabian. Maybe someone needs to compile a chart for Cheney, some people understand information better that way.

The Great Escape by Craig Unger (New York Times, 06.01.04): click here

This certainly perked me up!
Retired Top Diplomats, Soldiers Tell Bush to Beat It by Jim Lobe (Inter Press Service, 06.16.04): click here

Iraq War Eroded U.S. Security, Former Diplomats Say by Arshad Mohammed (Inter Press Service, 06.16.04): click here

You can visit the Diplomats for Change website and read their statement - it's short and sweet:

Travesty of Justice by Paul Krugman (New York Times, 06.15.04): click here

We're supposed to be suprised that these people don't feel bound by international laws on torture? They've not felt bound by our own Constitution, why should something like the Geneva Convention give them pause?
Bush team and the limits on torture: Recently disclosed memos justified harsh treatment in principle. by Peter Grier (Christian Science Monitor, 06.10.04): click here

Central and South America in the 1980's - not a sterling time for our nation's foreign policy... Any surprise that so many of the same names that were responsible for the nightmare then, are involved in the mess now?:
An Exquisite Danger: John Negroponte's Record in Honduras Does not Inspire Confidence About His Appointment as US Ambassador to Iraq by Duncan Campbell (Guardian/UK, 06.02.04): click here

For Iraqi women, Abu Ghraib's taint by Annia Ciezadlo (Christian Science Monitor, 05.28.04): click here

Ingraham, O'Reilly and Me by David Corn (The Nation, 06.16.04): click here

Git'em outta there:
Neo-Con Collapse in Washington and Baghdad by Jim Lobe (Inter Press Service, 06.02.04): click here

I had an appointment to see a therapist. One I'd not seen before. One I was interviewing for the distinctive honor of hearing me whine about my life. Lucky therapist.

I'd talked to her briefly on the phone and had had a warning bell go off (phrases like "expressive art therapy" and "Jungian analysis" will do this to me), but hell, sometimes you've just got to have an open mind and check things out. It couldn't be any worse than the meeting I'd had with a therapist last week, who answered my knock on her door, looked at me and said, "Joanne?"

It wasn't a terrible encounter overall, but it wasn't satisfying - I was somehow left with the impression that she might confuse my life's details with one of her other clients' while meeting with one of them and ask something like, "But I thought you said you were a lesbian?"

"No..." the confused client would answer.

"Didn't you say that you were a lesbian last week?" the therapist would ask.

"No, I said that I was thinking of sleeping with a Lebanese guy last week. But then I felt guilty, because Roger is so sweet and I really think we can salvage our marriage. The kids will be graduating from high school soon, we'll have more time together, I really think we can make it work. I've never considered lesbianism... Do you think I should? There's a very sexy woman in my office who's been giving me the eye recently... But she might just be looking at my new bag - I get so many compliments on it. Have I shown it to you? Do you think I might be gay?"

I couldn't bear being party to such a development, and so... I found myself perched on yet another couch/chair thingy, trotting out the details of my recent doings and telling this person what it is that I'm looking for in terms of a working therapy relationship. And then I listened to her response and we talked about things Jungian, dream analysis and she mentioned something I'd never heard of called "Santray work".

"Excuse me," I interrupted. "I'm not familiar with that. What is it?"

"It's really easier to show you than to explain it." She removed a bunch of keys from her pocket and walked over to a closet door. She opened it and motioned me over. In the closet there were several shelves - chock full of figurines, knickknacks, action figure dolls, you name it. She told me that a person would choose several figures, and place them in a SAND TRAY - it's not "Santray work" - it's Sand Tray work. Once the characters were in the tray, a narrative would develop.

"Open mind here, Brulee, open mind!" I counsel myself as I see the portcullis of my mind descending and the large iron doors behind it creaking on their hinges as they slowly work their way shut. Meanwhile, I can't tear my eyes away from the small figurine of the Disney character Doc from "Snow White".

"It's interesting," she says. "A narrative always develops."

"Well duh!" My fully shut mind huffs in exasperation. "That's what people do - we make narratives. We've got awesome narrative making systems called human brains! Give us a funky inkblot and we'll turn it into the novel Moby freakin' Dick, if you give us enough time. You want to charge me hourly to play with dolls in a sand box?!? No freakin' way! Where do I sign up for a degree in that?"

"It's not right for everybody," she says (possibly responding to, I don't know... the skeptical look on my face). "But some of my clients have found it very useful. I used to use it with kids, but it's mostly adults who I use it with now."

I wasn't there for insights into the maturity level of today's American adult population, but maybe I got one. It was bloody expensive.

I clarified my worldview for her - making sure she understood that Jung and sand tray work would not be accepted as viable methods to pry my psyche open. You want information, you work for it the old fashioned way - you gotta talk to me. If I want to play with dolls, I'll visit my niece.

I wish there had been a Freud action figure doll (have you seen those? they're a riot) and a Jung action figure doll on the therapist's shelves. I would have chosen them. Then I'd have Jung kick sand in Freud's eyes (in the sand tray) and say that the collective unconscious made him do it, and Freud would have said, "Your Momma!" And then they'd have got to wrestling and been naked by the end and getting it on. The Freud action figure's clothes are painted on, so I'm not sure how that would have worked out, I'd have to narrate the gory bits... So maybe they'd just shake hands and make up.

And then the therapist would say, "What is it you really would have liked Jung to have said to Freud in the sand tray?"

And the fun would be over and we'd be into the work part and I'd be pissed, because I'd been having fun in the sand box, oops, sand tray and so my responses would be peevish. But that's just me - I'm sure that this method has been helpful for other people...

Have you noticed? I'm having a difficult time escaping a negative judgment here. Which is funny really, when you think on it, because I've found meditation terrifically helpful - totally therapeutic. And there's some what think that's a fairly wacky thing to do. How can something like that be therapeutic? You just sit there - focusing on the breath, observing the mind in all of its spastic glory. But for some reason things happen to you. Big things. Life changing things. And you've just been sitting there. Alone - you and the breath. Over time, and with consistent practice, it changes how you see everything - which is how, I suppose, it's so powerful (having a good teacher doesn't hurt either...). So who am I to scoff at sand trays and such?

A pig-headed New Englander, that's who. And someone who's had a good deal of negative experience with folks who've gotten involved with "alternative" therapies in an effort to "treat" very real and acute problems they're having with mental illnesses. These "therapies" have turned out to be ways to enable (and run from dealing with) their illness rather than effectively addressing the illness.

There's a vast spectrum of wacky mental function (ever get punchy after not getting enough sleep?), you don't have to be full-blown psychotic to get lead down the garden path and find yourself sniffing crystals and chanting mantras in some dead language. Just about everybody has some kind of quirky thing they do that makes no sense to other people, but comforts them. We're complex, sensitive creatures, no? And if you find something that really works for you, that keeps you at a level of functionality that's comfortable, and you're not a danger to yourself or others - hey, go for it, I'd be the last person to get in your way (okay, maybe the second to last person). But I didn't come here to talk about you and your quirky eccentricities, however endearing they may be, I'm here to talk about mine.

Where was I? Oh yeah, climbing out of the sand box. (I had no idea how complicated this was when I got started writing it.) People and our brains, we're, like, so bizarre. There's this complex nature/nurture relationship and life moves on at this ever more rapid pace and parsing things out becomes more and more complex - but the parsing apparatus remains the same - it's the human brain. It works better under some conditions than others. It responds differently depending on what experiences it's been exposed to. And then there's the luck of your genetic draw. And then you find yourself sitting in a therapist's office telling them that you're not quite sure why you screamed at the delivery guy that morning, but you think it may have had something to do with your inability to communicate your feelings in a healthy manner, which might have something to do with having grown up in an emotional (if not actual) war zone, and maybe you'd like to find some other way to communicate with the next asshole that crosses your path that won't cause your eye to twitch and your jaw muscles to freeze up...

I walked passed a kid this afternoon, he looked to be about nine. He was walking by himself. He was outfitted in private school type attire with the requisite book filled backpack weighing down his shoulders. We passed one another in a parking lot. He was talking, doing what seemed to be a running commentary of an event - sounded something like a sports announcer. He paid no notice to me as we passed one another in the lot, just rambled on about whatever it was that he was rambling on about. See? There's more proof, people are odd - even the small ones.

Someone has recommended that I see an Existential psychotherapist... Can't be any worse than the sand tray thing... Could it?

By coincidence (or could it be something more?) there was a terrific show on dream/sleep research on The Connection. Fascinating stuff. Click here to go listen to that - it'll make more sense than I do.

If you're shy about using RealOne Player because of it's aggressive spyware reputation, the newer version is supposedly less toxic. It's also rumored that the BBC version of RealOne Player has been stripped of its toxic components - you can get a copy of it by clicking here.

In the news:

Check this out - their new move against same-sex marriage:
Preventive Governance by Dennis Roddy (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 05.03.04): click here

Giant Mushroom Baffles Experts in Congo (Reuters, 05.27.04): click here

If you're interested in the other articles I've found interesting over the last few weeks, e-mail me (click here to do that) and I'll send you the list (I'm too lazy to post 'em today).

Happy spring!

2004 Déjà vu - May - April - March - Feb. - Jan.

2003 Déjà vu - Dec. - Nov.- Oct. - Sept. - August - July - June - May- April - March - Feb. - Jan.

2002 Déjà vu - Dec. - Nov.- Oct. - Sept. - August - July - June - May - April - March - Feb. - Jan.

2001 Déjà vu - Dec. - Nov. - Oct. - Sept. - August - July - June - Misadventures- April

Compassion Fatigue Entries - 2001

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