Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On the Brighter Side....

You know, over the years I have come down kind of hard on my stepmother (cat lady and food hoarder, anorexic, and a sadist), but I do have to give her credit for something she did right. Now, as a child I hated this because it caused my brother and me to be "different from all the other kids in school" in yet one more way, but as an adult, I see the benefits.

She forbade my brother and me to watch television. It started off as the occasional punishment or grounding: no tv for a week, no tv for a month, etc, whenever we did something to anger her (like, getting a "B" on my report card). But finally--maybe when I was around 8 or 9--we did something to piss her off, like arguing over what to watch one Saturday morning--and she just said, "That's it. No tv until you both can act old enough to deserve it."

Well, that sounds like something any parent at the end of her rope might say, but I am being serious when I say that, after this incident, I did not watch any television until I turned 15. I'm sure my brother was horrified, forced to have to listen to his beloved sports on AM radio only. For me, it wasn't really that horrible because I liked to read anyway, but the punishment did make it tough to find things to talk about with kids at school. Conversations on the school bus in the morning centered around what the Six Million Dollar Man did or what had happened on Dark Shadows or Columbo or whatever show was popular at the time. These kids' lives were largely television, and I was clueless. Twelve year-olds aren't exactly into sitting around talking with you about books they haven't read, and so the word "nerd" got attached to me as well. Just one more reason for kids to bully me.

So, poor me. I hated my sucky childhood. But as an adult, I'm grateful for this one thing. I grew up getting lost in the world of books, of learning about people from the well-drawn characters in whose heads you lived for days. I would finish a book and miss the company. But the consequence of getting mentally involved in the nature of others is that people are rarely stereotypes or cartoonish to me; everybody is a complex individual full of contradictions and who will sometimes do things that make no sense, because they struggle with those contradictions. I suppose if you watch a sit-com or drama across numerous seasons, you can see characters develop and unfold, but never as much as they do in a book. I can recall once answering a therapist that my major role models as a child were characters I admired in  books.

And, books don't always have happy endings. Though on television series, characters frequently lose temporarily in a drama for one evening's viewing, they're off and on to something else in the next episode. Comedies never really have bad endings, unless a character dies. But in books--ah, books are much more like real life. Conflicts, tragedies, cruelties, can go on for years. Characters "buck up" or "endure." Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and the good guy doesn't always win. And unlike the villains in tv shows, the villains in books usually have something redeeming about them. There is something about them that makes them the way they are, and though we may come to despise their behaviors, we may discover it's impossible to completely despise them. We learn to understand; we learn to forgive.

Probably the biggest reason I'm now glad I didn't watch tv as a child is this: I didn't grow up watching commercials. (Or even some tv shows, for that matter; the content is so shallow: the show itself is just a big commercial.) Because they're young, adolescents can be woefully shallow--it's how they are. (Not all are, of course.) But to a child with breasts just developing and hormones raging like crazy, adolescence is a confusing enough time as it is. And when commercials say over and over again, "Be thin. Be sexy. Be innocent. Be a virgin. Don't be a virgin. You're nothing if you don't look like this impossibly-thin-flawless model with huge boobs who is dressed in high fashion and covered in makeup"--well, kids get way too taken in by the whole idea of fashion and style and what's upper class and what's lower class and who is "in" and who is not and who is popular and who is scorned. I didn't have that underscored by watching television; I was exposed to books in which characters were valued for their intelligence, or for their kindness, or for their good acts. So, I didn't care about prom. I didn't care about Senior Dress-Up Day. I didn't care about who was pretty or who was ugly or who was dating whom. I didn't care about things like clothes: once I was away from home and in foster care, free of the polyester pants from K-Mart, I just settled for jeans and a t-shirt, safe from reproach but also simple.

And I have pretty much stayed this way as an adult. Because I didn't grow up with television, I've never been caught in the consumerism trap. And it is a trap. Advertisers themselves have admitted, for instance, that in order to sell products, one of their prime goals is to make women feel bad about themselves. Think about that. If women actually felt good about themselves just the way they are, there would be a much smaller market for half the crap sold to women nowadays, including expensive procedures like facelifts and Botox. To this day I have a simple wardrobe: khaki pants, some jeans, some black pants, and an assortment of tshirts and polo shirts and a few "dressier" blouses. I own four pairs of shoes and some flip-flops. I just never got on the consumerism train, and I think it's because I lived my childhood largely free from television.

Of course, over the years I haven't been able to avoid mass media and marketing--it's everywhere; you can't even sit down on the toilet in a public restroom anymore without having to look at a wall of ads sometimes-- but at least I wasn't raised with it. So aside from kids picking on me for wearing ugly cheap clothes and for being a nerd and for just being "weird," I have grown up a free woman. I'm not at the mercy of trends; I am who I am, I wear what's comfortable; and I feel good in my own skin. It's turned out to be not such a bad thing to be "different" and "weird."

So, Lois, I do thank you for this. I'm not sure you did it intentionally, but there's always a silver lining in every dark cloud. And perhaps that's the bigger message here: find something good, make something good out of the hand you're played.  Even four deuces will beat three Queens.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I Have a Confession to Make

Guess what. I'm an introvert. Interacting with people exhausts me. Actually, many folks know this about me, but just in case you don't--I have social anxiety disorder. You'll often see this with extreme introverts. We come off as supremely shy. Others might call it a lack of confidence. Still others might call it really, really bad stage fright. The truth, though, is this: we have a phobia about being judged unfairly.

Now, phobias are irrational, and I know my anxiety is irrational, but no amount of self-talk can make a phobia go away. I could engage in extreme cognitive-behaviorial therapy (example, a person afraid of flying forces himself to fly an airplane), but not too many, me included, can handle the extreme anxiety (and the expense) that comes from facing a phobia head on. It's not unlike jumping off a cliff to cure yourself of a fear of heights. Psychiatrists find it easier to talk about the things in your life that may have led to your phobia, and then they give you medication to correct the chemical imbalance in your brain that impacts your phobia. I take three: Cymbalta, Ativan, and Propranolol. They all do different things. The Cymbalta eases my generalized anxiety, and it stays in my system around the clock. The Ativan (like a mild valium) I take a half hour before class (when I teach, up there in front of a room, with all those pairs of eyes staring at me), and it burns off in 4 hours. The propranolol I also take a half hour before class. It's a beta blocker. The Ativan keeps me from the mental anguish I tend to put myself through, and the beta blocker blocks the physical adrenaline response (so I don't sweat or shake or stammer). These also lose their effect after 4 hours. These medications have enabled me to continue my life as a normal person. People never know I have an anxiety disorder unless I tell them. And usually they're quite surprised.

A phobia can be a debilitating thing, and it's a genuine disability. Phobias that aren't treated also wind up leading to worse problems; for example, unchecked social phobia or panic disorder can lead to agoraphobia, in which a person is afraid to even leave their own house. So I'm glad my anxiety disorder is under control. But I'm still an introvert, and when I'm done teaching for the day, I usually have to de-stress a bit when I get home (I used to drink. That is no longer an option. Lately I paint or I play guitar or I read or meditate).

So here's how I am in reality: in face-to-face contact, if I know you really well and I'm comfortable with you and feel reasonably sure you won't judge me unfairly, I act like I truly am. I yap, I reveal my thoughts, I banter, I don't feel crushed when you disagree with me (I don't take it personally or as an insult). But if I don't know you, I am quite reserved. I'll be pleasant and make small chit-chat, but I won't be showing you my soul. I certainly won't do anything to invite confrontation. And I will probably leave the party early, because I'm an introvert: chit-chat is boring and interacting with people is exhausting. It's just how I am.

But then there's Facebook. Facebook is a different ball of wax altogether. On Facebook, I chatter on and off all day, freely posting tidbits I find funny, often criticizing political candidates, often engaging in conversations about issues, and sometimes, well..... sometimes, people fight. I've taken posts down before when the dialogue turned ugly (that has only happened a couple of times). And sometimes I swear I invite argument because I genuinely am interested in hearing how the opposing side views the situation. I may not end up being convinced, but at least then I can see where they're coming from. I am pretty damned gregarious on Facebook (and on this blog). What's the difference? I don't know. I guess there's enough distance between me and the people on the other end that my phobia doesn't rear its ugly head. Many are people I don't even know; they're people I simply play Facebook games with. And they're not really looking directly at me: they're looking at my WORDS. Even though I use my real name on Facebook, there is still an element of anonymity to it. So, I yabber away quite comfortably. What you see is what you get. I seem like a real extrovert. To some, I am funny; I'm a smart ass; I'm obnoxious; I'm witty; I'm snarky; I'm opinionated; I'm smart; I'm a bully; I'm intimidating; I'm a total asshole. I think it all depends on the person actually reading the WORDS. Their response is THEIRS. It has nothing to do with me.

Why I can't translate that over into my real life I couldn't say. Thus is the total irrationality of phobias.

But I do think there's an element of caring about another's judgment of me that is a piece of the puzzle. With my students, for example, I do care very much that they like me or at least respect me and that I'm being effective as a teacher. (With friends, that's not a worry: I know they already do, or at least would give me a fair hearing if our wires got crossed.) And that's where the "judged unfairly" part comes in, the part the psychiatrist who diagnosed me zeroed in on. My childhood was a series of unfortunate events I had no control over, and many of those things I was judged for (and judged unfairly, in my little child's mind). My mother killed herself; my father was cheating on her; some of the neighbors and members of our church judged our family harshly for that. Then my dad married my stepmother, who had her own psychological issues and was impossible to please (you know the type: I'd bring home all As and one B and be punished for the B. She could find fault in everything, even in little drawings I made to try to please her. Once she told me a drawing of mine was "a waste of good crayons.") We were also poor, so my brother and I wore unfashionable polyester pants from K-Mart and we weren't allowed to wear fresh clothing every day--I had to wear the same pants and same blouse several days in a row before I was allowed to put on fresh clothing. Naturally I became the target of bullies and "mean girls" at school. Even a friend once put a sticker on my back that said "You smell." I was mortified. And so on. I guess the criticism just piled up over the years, and I became afraid of everything. At least, that's what it felt like. I always felt like whatever I did, it would be wrong.

I was afraid to call Mass Transit for a bus schedule. I was afraid the operator would think I was stupid for having to ask. When I got my first car, I was afraid to pump gas. I was afraid the other people out there pumping theirs would think I was doing it wrong. You get the idea.

Then I turned 18, and there was alcohol. You can imagine the blessing it was. I could have a drink or two and then my fears would dissolve. I could speak my mind and not be afraid of what people thought. Under the influence, I didn't care what people thought. But I couldn't stay buzzed around the clock. (Though in later life, as I became more addicted to alcohol, I certainly made a good effort to do that.)

I came to be diagnosed because one day, I was approaching class and was suddenly hit with the worst panic attack I'd ever had. There was no particular reason this happened on that day; I was prepared for class and it was the middle of the semester, so I'd taught this group numerous times. But there it was, out of the blue. I couldn't catch my breath; I was perspiring; I felt like a big foot was pressing down on my chest. "I can't, I can't, I can't," kept running through my head. I went into class and told them I wasn't feeling well so class was canceled.

Teaching is my livelihood. I needed help. I was a graduate student at San Francisco State at the time, so I availed myself of the college's health center, and, after meeting with a psychologist for a few sessions, he sent me to the school's psychiatrist, who made the diagnosis fairly easily. They warned me about alcohol at the time since they could see I was abusing it, but that advice went in one ear and out the other. I was put on Paxil, which did nothing to help, so then I was switched to Ativan and Propranolol. That worked. Later on the Cymbalta was added to take off the edge over the course of the day and to even out my emotions.

I did have to sink more deeply into alcoholism before giving that up. The funny thing about alcohol is that, even though it served me many years as a social lubricant, once I crossed the line into consuming too much, that substance turned on me. Alcohol itself--particularly alcohol withdrawal--causes anxiety. So do the resulting blood sugar crashes. I can remember some truly awful hangovers where I would lie balled up in a fetal position in bed, under the covers, just wishing for death.

So, now, I'm finally alcohol-free, interacting with friends on Facebook, dealing with my social anxiety disorder in a healthier way, and pouring out my heart here. It's all good. But in some ways, I think I'm just now learning as an adult what extroverted people learn when they are young. I can speak my mind without being obnoxious about it. I can be forthright without taking off someone's head. And I need to become better aware of what my buttons are so that when someone inadvertently pushes one, I don't whip out the Word-Scythe and slash them down to size. Sometimes sarcasm isn't becoming, and it's not nice to make someone else look like an idiot.

If I have hurt you or offended you, I apologize. I'm still growing. I'm not actually an asshole; sometimes I'm just a child.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

For Anyone Who Didn't Know....

Only 3% of their patient care actually goes to abortion services. And, according to federal law, Planned Parenthood cannot use government funds on abortion procedures. Don't believe me? Read the Hyde Amendment. That rider is routinely attached to health care funding whenever funding is appropriated. So, if Planned Parenthood gets defunded, all that would accomplish is hurting poor people who are in need of cancer screenings, contraception, and STD testing.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Third Eye Blind: "How's It Gonna Be"

I wonder How it's going to be
When you don't know me
How's it going to be
When you're sure I'm not there
How's it going to be
When there's no one there to talk to, between you and me
'Cause I don't care.
How's it going to be?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Meeting of the Minds

You know, I've been a little despondent lately because the Republican primaries are depressing me. I guess since there's some improvement on the economic front (Dow's in good shape, unemployment is a little better and manufacturing jobs are up, though much remains to be done), the talking points lately have been social ones. Hence, anti-gay, anti-women (arguments over birth control and abortion, battles that had been fought and won) rhetoric is back in the headlines, along with crazy accusations about the current President not being authentically Christian--as if the very fact that there are evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, fundamentalists, etc, didn't prove right off the bat that the Christian Church has ever been anything but divided.

But on the way to work this morning, I remembered rehab a couple years ago, which made me remember that really, the nonsense that politicians spew really doesn't represent the views of the average American. I know a good many long-time Republicans who really do wish the GOP would shut up about social issues already; unless they are diehard religious (dare I say fanatics?) themselves, they really don't care about gay marriage and they actually do support a woman's access to birth control and want women to maintain their right to choose a safe, legal abortion if she deems it necessary. Most Republicans I know actually do want the government out of our private lives. Many are long-time fiscal conservatives who just want to see the government get spending under control. Consequently, they are every bit as mad at George W. Bush for his out-of-control spending (tax cuts we couldn't afford; two wars we couldn't afford; a prescription drug benefit we couldn't afford) for which we are now paying the price. They're also mad at the bailouts (one implemented by Bush, a second round implemented by Obama).

Anybody with eyes to see knows full well that Romney and Obama are essentially the same on fiscal policy, with the exception that Romney would keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. That's not flying with the base. The fact that Romney is a Mormon is not flying with the evangelical part of the base. Therein lies Romney's problem.

They don't like Gingrich because of "been there, did that." Gingrich did not make things better as Speaker of the House; his ethic violations hound him; he's widely perceived as a narcissist and despite his Pauline-like conversion to Catholicism, nobody likes the way he treated his first and second wives. They got sick; they stopped being pretty; he ditched them and traded up.

That leaves Santorum--who is plugging his social issues, with which (as stated above) many in the base largely disagree.

(Ron Paul is seen by the GOP as "too libertarian, too out there, and unelectable"--they will never give him the nomination and he will have to run as an Independent or as a Libertarian Party candidate if he wants to run.)

But, back to rehab. When I was in rehab, about halfway through my stay there, because people were constantly coming in and out of there, I got shifted to a new room when another patient left. I'd be sharing the room with a woman who was a staunch Catholic Republican. We initially eyed each other a little suspiciously, because on paper, we should've hated each other. I'm a gay Democrat.

We got along famously. We had some good heart-to-hearts and we shared the same wacky sense of humor. (Every time she came back to the room after smoking a cig outside at the smoking area, she'd greet me with her Hannibal Lechter impression: "Hellooooo, Clarice.") After living together for two weeks, we decided we should run for political office together because we found that we had much more in common than we had different. We found that after we both talked about something for a while, there was never a time we couldn't come up with a compromise that satisfied both of us. We found we could respect each other's views while granting each other the right to human dignity.

Politicians can do the same; I think the talking points they come up with are largely phoney. They just say things to make us hate the other side in an attempt to get us to support their entire agenda, even if we disagree with parts of it.

It is time for politicians to knock it off, to negotiate with each other in good faith, and to listen to the will of the people.

My rehab roommate didn't do so well once she got out and went home. Within a few weeks, she was back on the bottle and landed in the hospital, requiring surgery for esophageal varices. I know she was also battling cirrhosis. I tried calling her a couple times, but she never returned the calls. It's hard for a person who's fallen off the wagon to talk to someone who hasn't--so, I do understand. I hope she's okay. But one thing's for sure. If two drunks on different ends of the political poles can find common ground, so can the people we elect to represent us.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thought for the Day

Intimacy is possible only when people tell each other the truth. Anything withheld creates distance. It's possible to live a life in a web of lies without ever uttering a falsehood. Some of the biggest lies are lies of omission.

If the Shoe Were on the Other Foot ...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Because Sex Is a Moral Issue

And who is better qualified to have an opinion than these gals?

Excuse Me, But Didn't We Fight This Battle Already?

I don't think the Republican Party is going to score many points with women over its recent attempts to remove two basic freedoms from women: the right to contraception and the right to choose an abortion, ie, the right for her to have some control over her own body and biology.

For an excellent analysis of the REAL reason some men are freaking out about women having access to birth control: read this.

For those who suffer from the wrong impression that somehow the Catholic Church is being forced to pay for women's contraception against its religious doctrines: educate yourself and read this.

For the men in those states passing "personhood" laws, effectively making abortion illegal in all circumstances, even if the mother is, say, a 12 year-old girl raped by her uncle or even if the pregnancy would result in the mother's death: Shut up. Your opinion has no validity whatsoever in my book since you are biologically incapable of getting pregnant in the first place. (Alternately, since turnabout is fair play, accept my own personal solution to abortion: cut off your balls. After all, women don't get pregnant by themselves, no matter how much some men still insist on saying things like, "She got herself pregnant.")

How extraordinary that, in 2012, we have to dust off these old slogans from the 1980s.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Post Valentine's Day

Dear Neighbors Who Live Below Us:

I'm so glad you had a nice Valentine's Day. We had a nice Valentine's Day ourselves. Chelle got me a beautiful photograph of Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes, signed by jockey Ron Turcotte--you know, that classic shot where he peeks back to see that they're ahead by some 31 lengths or so. And, I made her favorite meal: Pacific Rim pork tenderloin with roasted baby red potatoes and fresh green beans. Dessert was chocolate-dipped strawberries. I also went with a mushy card theme this year instead of the usual humorous Valentine's Day card because I wanted something more heartfelt.

So, I'm all for Valentine's Day. It's a good day for couples to remind each other how much they truly care. Let's face it: sometimes that message can get lost in our day-to-day lives. In fact, the longer we've stayed together, the more I've realized that really, every day should be like Valentine's Day. Every day both persons should try to do at least ONE thing to remind the other "Hey, I love you; you're safe; I'm not going anywhere; I value you; I value us together."

I'm glad you two down below spent at least yesterday reaffirming your bond.

But really. Yesterday was a Tuesday. Didn't you two have to be at work this morning? Now, the first time y'all had sex, I just put in my earphones and finished a movie I'd been watching on Netflix because, you know--your wife is a little loud, and I don't really need to hear her responding to each of your lusty thrusts. In fact, I feel like I'm being forced into eavesdropping, which honestly makes me feel like I'm a little bit of a pervert. (I must say, though, this is the first time I've ever heard you two having sex, and you've lived down there for at least six months now.)

But the second time (or at least the second time I could hear), at 10:30pm, was a little much because, you know--I was almost asleep and then came her high-pitched wailing again. Now I was wide awake again. Alas, my laptop was put away, Chelle was already asleep, and the lights were out, so I had no choice but to lie there and listen to ... well, your grunts and that high-pitched wailing again. I wondered idly if she's ever sung opera. I also had to experience the whole "oh my god I'm a pervert I have to listen to this it sounds like he's killing her" stuff again. It also sounded like you'd changed places in the house and were trying out a different room. Now I am all for variety, so please don't get me wrong.

I do have a kind suggestion, though: maybe you could spread your sexual activity out a little bit and do it more frequently and slightly earlier in the evening instead of trying to pack a year's worth into one single night of the year. I think your wife might be walking a little funny today. Or be adventurous, and try a ballgag or something. Oh, the places you might go!

Thank you. Now where is my coffee cup? I'm hoping there's a pot still on in the break room....

Your Upstairs Neighbor

Sunday, February 12, 2012

RIP Whitney Houston

Nobody, but nobody, has ever topped this performance of the National Anthem.

I was saddened to hear last night of the death of Whitney Houston at the very young age of 48. From all outward appearances, it seems to point to her drowning in the bathtub in a hotel room in Beverly Hills. Prescription medications were found in the room, but no illegal drugs (but if there had been, her "people" could very well have removed them from the scene prior to EMTs and the police arriving). We won't know for sure what was in her system until there's a toxicology report.

But I think, given her history of drug addiction and trips into and out of rehabs, and rumors that last year she had a cocaine habit for which she spent upwards of $6000/week to support, and another trip to rehab this past May, no one is really stunned by the news. This morning, TMZ reports that Xanax and alcohol are likely the culprits. Together the two are a lethal combination, and stories of addicts/alcoholics passing out in bathtubs or hot tubs and then drowning are sadly all too common.

Addiction and alcoholism had ravaged this awesome vocal talent, rendering her voice raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high and low notes that used to leave us jaw-dropped. I can't tell you how many people I've heard over the years cursing Bobby Brown for "ruining" her. Or others shaking their heads and blaming her descent into addiction as "a series of poor choices." Or making fun of her "crack is whack" statement, even though I'm pretty sure she meant it when she said it.

Yes, it's poor choices that get us addicted, and yes, addicts have a way of finding each other. But once you are addicted, trust me, it'll take no act of will to shake loose of it. In my experience, the only things that really work--in the long term--are a profound spiritual change and the grace of God.

Addiction is a living hell I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

I pray that in death, Whitney finds peace, comfort, solace, and release from the nightmare that had engulfed her. And wherever she is, I hope she's singing.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Amy Steinberg: "Exactly"

At first I was afraid this would be hokey, but it isn't. Actually she reminds me a bit of Ani Difranco. Hat tip to my Canuck pal Teresa.

Grr! Gah! Ack! Ptooey!

These pretty much sum it up. Night sweats, morning sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, absent-mindedness....and yet Aunt Flo still visits me regularly (though rarely as scheduled anymore, when my body used to be like clockwork). Step away before I start shooting, and hide all sharp objects. Even the cats aren't safe today.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Georgia Guidestones

Way out in the middle of Bumf*ck, Georgia, is the "American Stonehenge."

Except that these aren't Neolithic monuments (and it's actually Elbert County, Georgia). They're pretty new, having gone up in my lifetime (1980). We even know a little about who had them constructed and erected: a fellow who called himself "R.C. Christian," representing the financier, visited Elberton Granite Finishing Company with the specs for their making. If you want to hear a more thorough story, including interviews with the granite company, check out the Season One episode about the Georgia Guidestones in Brad Meltzer's series Decoded. More information is also here.

There are plenty of clues that lead many to speculate the Guidestones were erected by the Rosicrucians. For one, "R. C. Christian" could be a pseudonym for the Rosicrucian Christian Rosenkreuz (Or RC=Rose Cross) who founded the first official Rosicrucian order in Germany in the early 1600s. Then, from an overhead view looking down at the guidestones, the stones form a rose cross. The five slabs of the monument are astronomically aligned and there are other features, such as a horizontal slot indicating the annual travel of the sun, a hole in the capstone marking noontime throughout the year, and so on, which hearkens back to ancient Egypt and elements of the pyramids--and, of course, the Rosicrucians trace their teaching lineage back to the ancient Egyptian mystery schools. In short, it is basically a very cool monument, clearly having been carefully designed, with no small output of cash being made to have them created and erected just so.

Alas, the Guidestones have upset quite a few people. They've been vandalized on several occasions (now the Georgia state police have cameras on them as a preventative measure) and people are forever threatening to blow them up.


Well, the Guidestones contain what you might think of as "10 Commandments for Humanity" on them. They're pretty rational and non-threatening if you ask most people. These are carved on the stones in eight different languages (English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian), and here is what they say:

- Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
- Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
- Unite humanity with a living new language.
- Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
- Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
- Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
- Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
- Balance personal rights with social duties.
- Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
- Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

Nothing scary here, but the first one that says maintain the population at 500,000,000 is the thing that is freaking some people out. They think it means that whoever erected the stones wants to murder more than three-fourths of the present world population. They claim the stones are the dictates of the New World Order, some sort of global elite that intends to take over the world and make the remaining survivors of their purge their slaves. Who are these global elite? These people have no idea, except for vague accusations about the Illuminati, the Freemasons, members of Skull & Bones, the Bilderburgs, and basically any group that claims to hold "secret teachings." The Rosicrucians fit nicely into their paranoid scheme, and all I can say to that (as a Rosicrucian student myself) is that you'll have to trust me: we don't have any plans to kill even one person, much less most of the human family. We are a spiritual, peaceful people.

And look at the first statement again: It emphasizes the need to balance the human population with nature. Combine that with the last statement ("Be not a cancer on the earth--leave room for nature--REPEAT Leave room for nature"), and the intent is pretty clear. Don't overpopulate the planet and take over. We share the planet with other living things. Coexist. It's not all about YOU.

Now, I can't say the Georgia Guidestones are actually Rosicrucian in origin (anybody can show up at a stone company and claim to be R.C. Christian; and it could just as easily mean "Really Cool Christian"), though I can't deny it's Rosicrucian, either. I honestly think it doesn't matter, beyond what a stone identifying tablet near the Guidestones say: "Sponsors: A small group of Americans who seek The Age of Reason." But I can tell you what I think the Georgia Guidestones are.

They are a set of guidelines (hint: the tablet also reads: "Let these be guidelines to an Age of Reason") being offered to future humanity if the globe undergoes another cataclysm of some kind. Could be an asteroid hit. Could be a supervolcano. Could be a nuclear war. Could be climate change. Could be scorching sun flares. Could be a shift in the earth's magnetic poles. Could be a series of massive earthquakes, or any combination of any of the above. Many of the world's mythologies tell the story of a massive flood that once wiped out virtually all of humanity, and the geological record is bearing this story out. If it happened once, it could happen again. (Did this mythological big flood happen at the end of the last Ice Age, some 15,000 years ago? We now know that human beings were roaming the planet then.)

In any case, say there is a catastrophe of some kind that wipes many of us off the face of the earth. Bumf*ck, Georgia, is a good place to erect stones that may survive the event. It's not near the ocean; it's not in an earthquake zone; it's not anyplace anyone would aim a nuclear warhead. So say some humans survive and start repopulating the globe. Then the words on the Guidestones are nothing but wisdom. Hey, look, it's saying, the earth has limited resources and space if humankind is to survive on the planet without destroying it. Don't be a bunch of breeding fools and clog and choke the planet to death. Be stewards of nature; don't compete with it. 500,000,000 is a somewhat arbitrary number; it could perhaps be a little larger--we don't know. If the cataclysm is another inundation, there may actually be less land mass than there is now. The point is to repopulate the globe in a rational, responsible manner this time around (alongside the other advice given about justice and truth and tempered reason).

Of course, the New World Order conspiracy theorists will pooh-pooh all of this and think I'm just a blissfully (and maddeningly) ignorant wacko. They'd rather just blow the Guidestones up, though honestly, I do have to wonder this: if some group of global elites wants to destroy most of us, why on earth would they announce that to the world ahead of time in such an obvious way? You'd think they'd want to keep that information close to their chests. But, whatever. People believe what they want to believe. And New World Order conspiracy theorists seem to really want to believe somebody is out to get them.

But let me point this out. Who are the ones making the threats and talking about committing actual violence and vandalism? They are.

Decide for yourself about the meaning of the Georgia Guidestones. Personally, I think they were erected by someone who loves humankind and wants to see us not just survive, but thrive, as a species on this planet, Mother Earth. Why start over from scratch, from a place of ignorance, if we can learn from mistakes we've already made?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Just Practicing: "Wish You Were Here"

My friends and I have been having a discussion about figuring out what key is best for my voice. Now, I am no singer, but the truth is, if you're going to play around with the guitar, you kind of have to sing along most of the time, or nobody will know what you're playing. Singing a little higher is what feels natural to me, but virtually everybody tells me that I sound more natural when I sing in the lower ranges. So, here, towards the first part, I let myself go a little higher, and towards the end, I let myself go a little lower. Which do you think sounds better?

Um, be nice. I've had a few friends tell me "neither--shut the hell up!" LOL

Haters Are Not Invited Here

Finally, this cold is on its way out the door and I'm starting to feel well again. (Just in time to have blood drawn tomorrow morning for another lipid panel. My last one was six months ago, and we want to see if I've had any success bringing my cholesterol down. If not, I may have to go on medication--gak! I have been much better about limiting carbohydrates, but it may not be enough. The irony is that my cholesterol was just fine when I was drinking like a fish. Alcohol actually does have the health benefit of raising your "good" cholesterol. Still, I suppose I'd rather have cholesterol problems than liver problems, so pick your poison, huh?)

Anyway, to the issue at hand. I was telling a former student yesterday (she dropped by my office to say hi and sit and chat a bit) that one of the oddest "insults" ever hurled at me was an accusation that I was just another "liberal elitist." I have to say that it didn't hurt my feelings, largely because it was clear the guy was calling me what, to him, was the biggest insult he could muster. (It's like people who spit the word "Dyke!" at me. I kind of want to say, "Yes, and I love that about myself!") But it was still an odd insult because I'm not quite sure what "liberal elite" is really supposed to mean. I get the sense that to him "elite" means somebody who thinks they're better than everybody else, but that's hardly an accurate description of me, the recovering alcoholic who has admitted to more past mistakes and stupid decisions than I can count. The fact alone keeps me humble. (Well, mostly. I guess I can be as stubborn and arrogant as the next guy, too, but I wouldn't say I'm more so than anybody else.)

See, in my book, "elite" means highbrow, of a social status higher than others, out of touch with the problems of everyday people, your basic aristocratic snob. Growing up in a broken home, and then in foster homes, and then putting myself through college, and now living on a community college teacher's salary, solidly does not put me in with the aristocracy. So I'm not sure what he meant. I suppose I could ask the other members of my union, unless they're all "elites" too, despite fighting every day for the rights of working people.

But I'm kidding. Actually this all comes up for me because of something that happened to Ellen DeGeneres lately. She's been named a spokesperson for JC Penney, and a group of conservative women (A Million Moms or whatnot) decided to try to get Penney to fire her because she's gay. Haters gotta hate, as they say. In true Cee-Lo Green fashion, JC Penney said, "F*ck You." So, good for JC Penney. And good for Ellen. If you missed what she had to say about it on her show, watch the video below.

The moral of the story is: Bullies don't like it when you don't back down. So, be yourself. Don't back down. They'll depart and look for an easier target.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

In honor of today's match-up between the Giants and the Patriots, I bring you Bill Maher.

Bill Maher - Irritable Bowl Syndrome from Fraser Davidson on Vimeo.

It's a point worth making. Very few in America want to see us become socialists; all we want is to temper the excesses and abuses of capitalism--level the playing field a little, give everybody a chance to succeed. Like, how the NFL does it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Amy Stroup: "Hold onto Hope Love"

This is the first I've heard of this artist. Guess I've been hiding under a rock since her music has been featured on "One Tree Hill," "Brothers and Sisters," "Pretty Little Liars," and where I heard her just this evening, "The Vampire Diaries." I immediately fell in love with her song "With Wings."

More here.

Cough! Hack! Hack!

Kidding! (Although it would be true if I gave it a try nowadays, since I no longer have any tolerance to alcohol...) I have been under the weather this week, fighting off a cold that my Dear Spouse shared with me. It's one of those colds where you feel like crap at the very beginning but seem barely sick; and then as you feel better, you actually sound worse. Yesterday, my class was simply discussing a reading instead of my delivering a straight lecture, but after 45 minutes, my voice was giving out. When I cough, it sounds like the lower portion of my lungs are coming up. Talk about a death rattle! But, I don't really feel that bad.

Mostly I just feel tired.

So I'm sorry for the lack of posts this week. Between school, painting a portrait of her dog for a friend, and being sick, blogging and guitar practice have fallen by the wayside this week. But, I'm still here.