Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The little girl's "gift." (dream)


These sandals are available at Payless Shoes.


DREAM

I'm about 5 years old. I have a gift that I don't share with many others, because I have a simple, carefree life that I appreciate deeply. I sense that my "gift" is a threat to that simplicity I enjoy. I sense that my gift is dangerous, dark and strange.

Because of this, I feel older than I know I should at my age. I have seen a great deal of violence- more than most will ever experience in their lifetimes. Because of the violence that has been so close to me for so long, and because I've experienced it alone, I know the value of a quiet life. I already know the extent of human pain... it's such a simple thing really... horribly, terribly simple... and I know that this long, deep awareness of pain alienates me from most.

This strange ability I've learned to coexist with, is that I can see different events that happened during different points in time at certain locations if there was once a very, very strong emotion that has been there before. Almost always, the level of emotion which is required, is induced by some sort of violence. I've seen dogs beaten for no reason by their masters, goldfish injured before being flushed down toilets, but most frequently, I've seen murders of other human beings in the distant past.

The murders that are reenacted for me in one place or another are usually in isolated places, or in places like bathrooms- which makes sense. They are places in which I am generally alone, and this aloneness amplifies the fear I share with the past victims of these crimes.

I am with my mother at the house of one of her loose acquaintances. It's summer and I'm wearing one of my favorite "sets" of clothing. The striped mint tee was purchased with matching mint green shorts. My clear jellies sparkle in the summer sun. I run up the stairs to use the bathroom.

There was only one time that I bothered to share my insights to the police. That's the only time a murder was recent enough in order to catch the criminal. A man had beaten his wife's head over the white pedestal sink. I saw something in real life that matched up with the superimposed vision and told my mother. Somehow, she got the police involved and told me I was something of a local hero, but I don't know about such things. I'm five. I only care about what my mother has to say about me.

I'm about to have another vision.

The shower... something gruesome happened in the shower. And for the first time, it was violence toward a child. A kid about my age! Then I step into the shower and look closer. I see the little boy's blood, swirled in circles around several layers plastic curtains. It happened recently. Very recently. The vision is extremely fresh. It isn't distant at all. In fact, I have a hard time telling it apart from reality for a moment.

Then I hear someone calling me from the door. I must have forgotten to shut it. The lady who owns the house is at the door. I strongly suspect that she did it. As time unfurls a little more, and the vision unfurls a little more, I see that it was she who did it. The boy was her step son. He had straight blonde hair and loved cobalt blue. She wrapped him in the plastic shower curtain and went in for his ribs with a long pick because... I think... she didn't want to keep taking care of him. She was too exhausted to keep going.

I step out of the shower. She doesn't suspect me... How the hell could she? She moves out of the doorframe and I shut the door and do my business. I go down the stairs.

Oh, but she doesn't just suspect me... she has gifts of her own! She knows I know what she did!

I start thinking about what that newspaper clipping must have said! She looks at me with a cold focus that makes me feel a deep kind of pity and disgust for her... she's a young woman, but not wealthy enough to have avoided doing hard manual labor like cleaning up after a murder.

It's as though my mother isn't there. She is physically present, but she does not acknowledge the sudden change in this woman's demeanor. This woman is clearly plotting to get rid of me before we can leave.

Somehow, I sense, and she does too, that grown-ups don't truly believe in these gifts. She knows she can get away with this. If grown-ups can benefit from our divinations, they will. But they won't take them seriously when you need them to.

I know there's nothing I can say or do that will divert this woman from trying to stop me. She's tired. She's overworked. She's deeply, deeply unhappy. But there's enough spark left in her to try to continue living the rest of her life in relative peace. She's already killed one kid in order to secure that quiet, and she's not going to have a problem killing me as well.

My mother resumes unloading the car's beach umbrellas, watermelons, etc. into this lady's house. I don't know what to do!

The lady goes into the kitchen. That can't be good. I run out the door, but I just get to a balcony and a driveway. The lady circles around the house with her pick. I can't just leave my mother and I am not going to be able to fight someone two or three times my size.

I begin to devise a plan to get a firetruck to come to her house... but I'll have to either get my mom to give me her cell phone, or run to the kitchen and stay there for a couple minutes without getting dragged away or brazenly stabbed with my mother in the driveway or living room!

All the while, I'm shocked and disappointed at this woman. It's such a stupid thing for her to have gotten into so much trouble for. While I understand how miserable she is, there was no reason for her to kill the little boy in the first place. She could have gotten a divorce! She could have told someone about it! She could have quit her job and taken a rest!

Worse, she had no way of knowing whether or not I was going to attempt to call the police and get her arrested! There's not enough evidence. The police won't believe me! Can't she see that? Can't she see that people don't listen to kids who see things that aren't physically there? I had proof before! There was still blood on the sink! She was very effective at cleaning up after her murder. It isn't the same situation at all!

I keep moving with my mother...

INTERPRETATION

I had a lab report and tons and tons of homework that I was worried about all weekend when I had this dream. It's due tomorrow and I still haven't heard back from my partners. We all have our own "duties," and I'm always worried that the half dozen or more group partners I have in all my classes are dissatisfied with my contributions. My contributions do not seem adequate compared to theirs. They seem more accomplished and knowledgeable than I do with these things.

I get to do the theorizing and connecting the data together (seeing the visions), while they deal more with recording the data, doing the experiment and crunching the numbers (the mother unloading the car). So I feel as though I get to have the fun while they do the work.

This lab is especially worrisome since we didn't finish crunching the numbers by the end of the class. I didn't think it was bothering me to the point that I felt that I knew we were going to get "shanked" in terms of grading for a long time (probably all week), and that I didn't do enough to stop it. I have taken so many classes and I am always worried about that surprise F. The teacher is young, tired, ambitious, and a very, very hard grader, and my partners (my mother and the little boy who was killed...), do not seem as alarmed as I am about this week's report.

In the dream, the two lab partners are combined two times. This is a phrase and concept I have written down several times in the past several lab reports. This is due to the fact that we've been using two resistors in two different circuits for the past three weeks.

The two partners appear once in the person of my mother (helping to take care of me... "carrying the load...." getting us from one point to another in an active, linear fashion- from the beginning of the class to the end of the class). But the two lab partners are also the little boy who was stabbed in the little girl's vision. Both partners leave me with the impression that they are very young. They are both blonde and dress in primary colors- especially cobalt blue. I am apparently worried that due to their relative inexperience with interpersonal power structures, they are going to get "killed" when it comes to grading.

This dream is actually about something ridiculous, given how it's also about child murder! Geez! I guess it's time to take life less seriously.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Strange Nightmares: Death by Orange Juice. (dreams)

Well... I seem to be making everyone's day today! I went to a party and mingled successfully. I purchased flowers and a card for our summer class to sign for our teacher and that went over far better than I'd expected. I also seemed to make a couple of random people on the internet happy. I've been flailing, socially, for the past couple of years so this has been unusual.

But I have secrets... dark secrets, which torment my artistic soul! And they express themselves in nightmares! (I've also been watching Pewdiepie's horror vines and eating over-ripe mangoes just before bed. I need to stop.)



THE BABY SNAKE ESCAPE

This reptile rack by Neodesha is available for purchase on their website.

DREAM #1
I'm in a dark, sterile room.

Bare-bulbed fluorescent lights flicker overhead. This is my home, but it's under construction. It's located in my parents' basement, but they had to smash a lot of walls and do a lot of cleaning in order to create a work space like this for me.

I like the location. I wouldn't have when I was younger, but now it feels secure. Now, I am keenly aware of the shortness of time we have to spend with each other. Regardless of how long childhood seemed and how it seemed as though I'd never get older and achieve a sense of independence... I certainly have. The desperation to appear "mature" is something I've outgrown.

I feel a little overwhelmed by the clutter and ugliness of the room. The room is practical in design, but my disorganization makes the area less practical to work in.

I have a lot of work stations and peg boards with tools hanging on them. I'm using this room to try and earn some extra income while I go to college. I've been breeding reptiles in here and it's been going well, although I haven't tried to sell anything yet.

As I walk around and assess the place, I realize how I'd forgotten that I'd had so much to do down here! I've been so busy elsewhere. I've got repairs to do... animals to feed... and dozens of baby snakes are bursting out of every drawer!

I wasn't organized or time-sensitive enough to put all of my snakes' eggs or the gravid live bearing parents in drawers of an appropriate size. Tiny little snakes can potentially squeeze out of all kinds of air cracks in my rack systems and I'm worried about where they're all going.

I start getting organized by lining up and stacking eight tiny Kritter Keepers.



Tiny snakes are in constant motion all over the room. I try to visually take them all in, but even that's impossible. 

I grab a nearby handful of the neonates, put each into its own individual cage and arrange those cages according to species. 

I look at the neat stacks of Kritter Keepers. I look around at have left to do and I laugh! The futility of it is absurd! Snakes are everywhere! I'm never going to be able to successfully rearrange them!- but I want to at least start putting these wrongs right. 

I start to feel pretty bad about unleashing this on my parents' basement when I know they're giving me this space as a reluctant favor. (They don't like snakes.)

I open up one drawer. At least five baby snakes are in there. Each are as narrow as a third of my finger. A thick layer of jelly-like placenta oozes down to the lower corners as I hold the drawer open. The babies start coming out. I didn't have a place to put them planned out. My cages are all used up. I start thinking of makeshift cages I could make.

I think I have some tupperware around here somewhere...

I grab three of the snakes trying to leave the drawer, so they don't fall onto the concrete- but I don't know where to put them!

I'm entranced by the remaining snakes in the goop... they're definitely alive, but I'm nervous for them. Should I break them out of their filmy placentae?

Now I'm stuck holding the drawer open awkwardly. Some baby snakes are crawling on the tracks that allow the thing to slide in and out. I'm certainly not going to crush them, but I've got snakes in my other hand that are trying to escape. I start thinking about building a large rack system, but I'm just stuck there. I really wish someone would come down here to help me, but that's unlikely. I've got a couple of weird side show attractions down here for people to come look at, but the visitors don't come often enough to help put all these baby snakes away.

INTERPRETATION #1

I've almost finished reading a dream dictionary which suggests that baby pets can symbolize the feeling of having taken on more than one can handle. This dream is reproducing feelings of having been overtaken, but I don't know why I'd be having a dream like this lately. I have nothing but time. I'm so leisurely, I can't stand it much longer.

Maybe this dream was a leftover set of feelings due to the summer class I was taking. Even then though, I didn't feel very pressured.

Maybe I'm so bored, my subconscious figures I could use a little bit of practice for the real-world feelings that are about to come when the fall semester starts. Maybe I feel as though I've got so many little ideas for new projects that I can't handle them all! That is definitely true, and it puts a little bit of joy back into my life, which has been much, much too serious in the past several years.

This dream ties in with another one I had the same night in that there's an appreciation for what older family is doing or has gone through and an awareness of how little time there is in our lives.



DEATH BY ORANGE JUICE

Image by lisasolonynko on Morguefile.com

DREAM #2

There's carnage going on inside my father's mansion; a battle of drawn swords and armor clanks and howls inside his castle walls. I'm about 10 years old.

Someone picks me up and carries me into a nook. I don't feel safe though. All someone has to do is round the corner and we're dead.

My caretaker, a woman I don't know very well, puts up a force field over the nook. It looks as though we're staring out of a window into the night.

There's food here... and water. The temperature is fine. I start to feel safer. Perhaps I even feel a little guilty that there's so much carnage going on outside. My father is participating in it and I'm not helping him.

Then a doctor enters the force field. He looks exactly like Mahatma Gandhi, but that's where the familiarity ends. I don't know him, but he has a professional air to him. He carries a medical bag and is calm, quick and efficient.

He immediately opens up the triage medical kit. He is wearing neutral colors, not necessarily fighting for one side or the other. The soldiers generally wear colorful coats of arms.

He take up some of the orange juice in the plastic jug into his syringe. He grabs my leg- not roughly, but firmly.

"So... he's at it again. So much blood on his hands. So much..." he says.

Is he going to kill me?

I hesitate too long. He injects the juice into a vein in my calf. It takes seconds. He exits the force field. My caretaker hasn't done anything, but holds me still. What's going to happen to me? Did I really just sit here and allow someone to kill me? Did they both conspire to murder me? I am confused and angry!

INTERPRETATION #2

This dream was definitely influenced by watching a Let's Play of "Mad Father," a video game in which a little girl's father is conducting ruthless, cruel experiments on people in their mansion's basement. My father in my dream clearly wasn't my real father- didn't look like him, didn't act like him, didn't have the same house, etc., but I had archetypal role expectations attached to the dream father.

So the dream father partially represents the situation my real father was in (fighting a battle in the dream and fighting a fatal disease in real life) when I had the feelings related to how I felt in the dream (sort of helpless like the child, surrounded by bewildering chaos, and extreme betrayal and suspicion when I was injected with orange juice).

Orange juice. What an ordinary thing to end a person's life.

I've been wondering whether or not the hospital my father was in had a large role in his death. I guess it had to since they're the people our society assigns the role of healer to.

But whether or not those "healers" are actually capable of doing anything about our expectations for them to be able to cure is obviously limited by current technology. In other words, the medical field's abilities are totally separate from our desperately attempting to assign them the responsibility for keeping us alive.

He definitely went to a couple of negligent doctors who gave him some inaccurate diagnoses. My family of origin didn't really say much to me about that until quite a long while afterwards.

After he worsened, apparently my parents received opinions from multiple doctors who agreed that his disease was severe and inoperable, and that we had no choice but to make him as comfortable as possible (which wasn't very. He'd been pain for a long time).

The thing I keep speculating about is whether or not the nurses or doctor gave him so much pain killer that he died. That's a shocking thing to keep thinking about, but I do think about it and don't know who else to say it to. It's certainly not something I have proof of or can investigate. I don't think I'm in a position to fairly accuse, so I'll just tell you, fairly anonymously right here. I don't trust nurses or anyone else just because of their position or just because they've held the same position for a long period of time... in some cases, people become especially untrustworthy because they've held on to the same position for a long period of time.

This dream seems to be putting me in his place, or at least requiring me to feel suspicion about a death that's close to me (my own death, in the dream), and especially in relationship to a medical professional in a chaotic situation. He was distracted- I was distracted. There was just one set of very busy people who seemed to be highly accustomed to it all!

Is there anything I can do about my suspicions? No. Should I? No, I don't think so. For one thing, the hospital had us sign a vaguely-worded document saying that we acknowledged that all they were going to do was to "make him comfortable" and that the doctors weren't going to continue taking measures to treat the disease. I don't see what choice any of us were given. Several doctors said repeatedly that there was nothing more they could do. They told us many times that they weren't going to treat him, because it was impossible for them to.

But if they did have us sign this document, and then almost immediately turn around and give him so many pain killers that he died prematurely- even if it was only a day too soon- I am, of course, very, very angry.

If they knew he was experiencing so much physical turmoil that they had no choice to give him a lethal dose of pain killers, they needed to tell us, clearly and directly, outlining everything in detail. I think it would be monstrous not to, regardless of any amount of professional experience, occupational practice or calm involved.

But I also know that when someone close of us who has been sick for a long time does die, we want to insist that the people we care about aren't going to really be gone- and by extension, that a person we cared about would have lived forever if we had only tried harder to keep them with us. Maybe that instinct is pushing our species toward ever-greater feats in medical science. Maybe one day, we'll have enough technological prowess to prevent us from dying. But that time certainly isn't now.

After multiple medical professionals tell you someone is going to die "any time now," it's best to believe them. I have little to no knowledge about medical science, so it isn't fair for me, a layman, to jump to conclusions, especially not such extreme ones. I don't want to waste my life being angry. But I question what happened there, and I question the wisdom of our society to ask us all to die in hospitals when we get older. I know that at least a couple other of my grandparents/step grandparents died in hospitals as well. I'm sure that if I'm lucky, it will be my fate as well, along with the fate of most of my friends and other family.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I'm playing around with the interwebs! (quick announcement)

Hello, out there!

I've changed a couple things around with my blogging stuff and wanted to link and condense them for you.

Aside from this format right here on Blogger, I thought I'd try out some other things. They could all end up being terrible. I thought I would see which of these ideas work and which don't. Maybe none of them will! I dunno.

YouTube. I've been thinking of doing my ranting out loud instead of typing all the time. Sometimes, I think that reading long bricks of text is too much.

Here's my first video:
"Are you an asshole?"
I have several topics that I would like to ramble about aimlessly- preferably without having to get out of bed before noon. I do not have a computer at the moment and my video-making app does not allow me to edit or go over 5 minutes.

Etsy. I have really been wanting to just goof off and relax with clay and felting and other silly little crafts. So far I have one uroplatus phantasticus in the store. I don't know if I'll put more in there or not.

Zazzle. I've also been wanting to get half-decent at digital painting, but that will require a lot more effort and expense (and therefore procrastination. Heh). I have at least three projects for other people that I need to get serious about, but I also hope to start painting a few of my dreams. If and when I get around to this, the designs will end up in this Zazzle store. In the meantime, I put a pair of very old pencil drawings up.

Instagram. I frequently take pictures of little plants and nature here in California. My phones and computers seem to fry a lot, so I like to have an online account where I can both share and keep them.

Facebook. I have a lot of mixed feelings about social media, but I decided to finally get an official page instead of just an account. So now, people don't have to send a friend request or do that awkward... "Follow" thing in order to get Facebook updates.

Like my page!

I'm trying out a lot of other things that are even less well-prepared to see the light of day. It's especially frustrating to see my own disorganization with the whole Lost Atlantis thing. I've been trying to work up an online character Bible using Weebly, but I'm not sure how that's turning out. I might need to do a physical Bible first. I need to invest a lot more in the drawings and map-making and editing and charting. I'll actually get serious about making a set of of covers suitable for printing once I've finished all six of them. I think I want to wait until I've interlinked them all very carefully before thinking about releasing them. I'll have to interlink the first book better with the other five as well. I'm planning to do the first draft of book four after finals this December. My mind is a blank so far, aside from the most basic outline and elements. I've been rereading Harry Potter to try and get better insights into creating a fun world and trying to figure out Star Trek to get insights into creating enjoyable conflict based on distinct characterization.

And school starts in a couple of days! I really wish that I had read all my textbooks this summer and had studied for the GRE earlier. Pfft.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fairy turtles saving my office building from flooding! (dreams)


Photo by L. Shyamal, animal courtesy Saleem Hameed (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons


DREAM

I'm a worker... underpaid, untrained and a little bitter... who's supposed to prevent a total electrical system collapse in a building used by an organization I'm working for. If I don't figure this out, the consequences will be mine to bear- and mine alone. I'm expected to be able to do this all by myself. I think my bosses and coworkers are expecting miracles from me. Still... I do feel a strong need to prove myself worthy of employment.

I guess.

The real problems is how I don't at all feel invested in this place or these people. They're pleasant, but very superficial. I don't trust them for a second, although I feel bad for admitting my cynicism and bad faith.

Despite my awareness that these are assumptions I'm making and that my feelings could be clouding my judgment, I can't help secretly having a very cool attitude toward this job, and having a self-protective attitude isn't my preference for the things I do or the people I work for.

I know I'm capable of doing the work as well as anyone else at my pay scale. To be honest, I think I'm better qualified than most considering what I'll take for compensation.

While I'm thinking to myself, I'm also going over some of the leads I've been given about how to stop the entire building from flooding and costing the company an untold amount of damage. The company has backed up what information they can in their computer systems and fortunately, that's most of the information they need. But there's still a ton of older paperwork and other older equipment that they want to keep that'll be lost if the water rises more than a foot.

So far, the carpet is just a little soggy in some of the rooms I'm gathering information in. It oozes and squishes under my footsteps.

The more rooms I go into to look for clues, the fewer I find. My options are narrowing.

By chance, I find an office worker in an empty conference room that's starting to flood. I sit in on part of his presentation. Most of it goes over my head. He's willing to give me a little more advice though. He shape shifts into a couple different men with different experiences and perspectives. He has quite a bit of seniority than me and more skills too. I wish he'd take over for me, but he likewise has faith that I'll be able to figure out how to save the 10-20 office floors in time.

These people are absolutely nuts if they think they can depend on me to resolve some sort of freak accident that's never happened before.

But they do! They all do, him included. I thank him and take his lead. One of the scientists who used to work here should have left some sort of explanation for what's going on.

I figure out what office this person used to work in and where that person's stuff was moved to. I manage to dig out some old notes and materials they left behind when they moved on. I have a hunch that a homemade VHS with handwritten labels about "water" and "ocean exploration" and "tidal flooding" is going to have exactly what I need to hear.

I go from room to room looking for a VHS player. I don't think I'm going to find one that works. I try a couple out. One does turn on, and I'm so excited! But I'm even more scared now. If this doesn't give me something that works, I don't have any other ideas and I'm running out of time. This is one of the upper levels. And if this level is beginning to get squishy, I don't know what the lower ones look like by now and I don't have time to check.

I check the brown ribbon under the black plastic covering. The ribbon looks a little crinkled- not a good sign. But I cross my fingers and put the tape into the VCR player, glowing a calm, blank cerulean blue.

I can't tell you how relieved I am to hear that familiar hiss, blasting out my eardrums at VOL 80! I turn it down as I watch those flecks of black and white and gray shimmer.

When the image clears up and the pixelated "PLAY" vanishes from the screen, I see a grainy home video of  an ocean. The tape cuts in and out. I can't quite make out what's being said, but it's hardly out of the ordinary. It's someone rambling. I need that key information to come up and she's not being up front with it. I can hear a voice that sounds like a woman... a strong, in-control woman... it might be narrated by Captain Janeway from Star Trek.

Then I turn around. I see a lumpy, crude, green plastic statue, which has begun to spout water from dozens of pores.

That wasn't there a minute ago...

But this is the problem. It wasn't in the video at all! I'm too late to repair the system. I don't know how I'm supposed to stop this odd statue. If it keeps going, it's going to completely flood the room and there's electronic equipment all over the floors. I'm especially worried for all the extension outlets that are practically glued to the floor by all the gnarled, plastic-coated wiring- stiff with age and layers of greasy dust.

Then a green turtle with bright blue and light pink highlights flies around the corner and onto the statue!

I have such a good feeling about this!

It begins to lap up the water coming out of the statue.

Then another turtle flies up to the statue to drink the statue's gushing tears. Then two more! Then dozens of these green, blue and spotted pink flying turtles- perhaps hundreds! come flying into the room.

I know I don't have to worry about that strange statue's leakage anymore. I forget about my problem and marvel at these beautiful creatures that have come to our rescue. They belong here and so did the statue that feeds them. Everything was just a little... disorganized.

INTERPRETATION

I've been having a lot of problems recently with trying to contain rumors some people are spreading about me at school. I believe that the person spreading the rumors is the same man as the one represented by the statue (a very bold, nasty passive-aggressive with a good online reputation... he's been around a long time too. His being a statue represents these aspects of him well- along with the impression that there are "tears" spurting out from him). But there are several possibilities that I hope to follow up with and sort out in the next few months.

A messy situation was triggered in my first semester at my new school. Someone (probably more than one someone, at least one of which works for my school in the summertime) spread a rumor about me about 2 weeks ago to the scientist I was volunteering for.

It's undeniable from his sudden change in demeanor toward me and by reading between the lines of our communications that it is the exact same rumor that originated in the school's drama department.

Of course the theater students are causing drama. They're certainly not going to be spending their time doing anything productive for society- I've learned that, for sure.

But I think the fairy turtles are sort of like white blood cells... surrounding an impurity and incorporating it into the ordinary processes of the system.

I'm tempted to openly accept my own very harsh, emotionally-driven criticisms of these people... I've even had dreams in which I simply stand there and verbally berate them individually. But that isn't really the truth of who they are or their function in society and the educational system, is it? I'm only going to be able to see where actors and people of their sort fit in to the overall picture of humanity when I'm less angry. Much less angry.

The bitter bite to the first part of my dream's tone comes from my feeling about colleges in general. I dislike the largeness of the college system. I dislike how easy it is to manipulate it around and sneak through formal processes to get one's own way. I don't like being aware of that huge gap and I don't like seeing others use it when I don't always think I should. The feeling of a free-floating mistrust about the organization in the dream echos this.

I dislike how a large college breeds cliques stereotypes. I resent that trapped feeling I get when I have to go from A to B rigidly in a sea of thousands of other people. The dream echos this in the feeling of mistrust I have about the people who work for this place too, and not just the organization itself.

But I do feel that I'm being compensated enough to work with them. The dream is quite accurate in creating circumstances that simulate how I feel about these things in waking life.

The repairs I'm expected to do on the office building seem to represent the diplomacy and charm and patience I need to exude if I'm going to continue working with the college institution- sketchy as it is to me. It isn't horrible. Concessions always have to be made, and I'm about 70% satisfied with this temporary position. 70% isn't bad at all.

Here's what the flooding building with the squishy, floors represents: tension.

The dynamics surrounding the rumor-spreading are complicated. They include many players. But there is a map of human interaction burned into my mind that is as clear as glass. I don't understand how it would be possible for me to misread their emotion and changes of thought and emotion- they wear it so plainly on their sleeves.

I have generally ignored these sorts of people who are into gossip and group think- their obvious misunderstanding, their ignorance and their questionable ethics... probably because I've gotten used to being treated rudely by people here. After a hard day in my new college, I returned to the part of town I used to work in. I was treated with kindness and respect. And I was surprised at how alien the feeling was. One often hears that all one has to do to be treated well is to treat other people well. That is naive. (Although I think it does bear true under ordinary, day-to-day circumstances about 80% of the time.)

I've stepped back so far from physical reality and into my books that I've even found it comical that people I've either never had a conversation with or have known for less than a few months believe that despite their lack of information, they have still grasped enough patterns of the universe to be qualified to tell me who I am. Some weird part of me enjoys watching this.

I have generally just gone about my business, concentrating on my schoolwork since it hasn't been particularly harmful for them to believe whatever they want. But now, it's undeniable that their rumor spreading has begun to damage my ability to function in my new major.

Whoever spread this old rumor to has impaired my ability to try and get one of the three letters of recommendation I need for grad school in a STEM field. So in this case, I would like to try and hold whomever is responsible accountable for the damages they've caused. Now, after working for free for a month, I may have to consider that a burned bridge.

This rumor isn't true, but can't be considered defamation. Why? Because the sweet irony is, that after I left my old college theater department because of people's narcissism (and other personality traits that just annoy me a little, but aren't inherently destructive), and after living with a roommate who plastered pictures of herself from ceiling to floor, and after tolerating absolute insanity and pointless manipulation from the only acting teacher in my hometown... someone has decided that I am a narcissist.

Now I know why I was warned not to move here by  my old customers, my boss and even my dad. I'm developing the same impression of Californians that they had alluded to... impulsive... irrational... shallow... a lack of clearly outlined ethics... rule-breaking... two-faced and over-willing to indulge their own feelings at the expense of others'.

This stream of cluttered, angry thoughts I'm having is represented in the dream by my quest for others' presentations and advice, including seeking out a narration about an old memory- one acquired on a rocky, open ocean.

I'm going from room to room and level to level looking for that one bit of information that's going to solve my problems. In the dream, that bit of information never comes. I think that's how it's going to be in reality too.

Those fairy turtles and that statue- that was reality in the dream, despite how I was looking for something in the technology- something ordinary, easy to understand, and easy to find and trace and plug in and plug out and move. The answer is probably not going to be as simple and direct as I've been hoping for.

The woman who started the rumor fits my new narcissist-catcher bully profile to a tee. This grad student... a white woman of about 30 in a career track and lifestyle emphasizing soft skills who I had to work with... kept making passive aggressive jabs about my being narcissistic within the first two days of having met me. She also mentioned that she was in the process of getting a divorce. (That also fits the narcissist-catcher profile perfectly!)

I have to assume that she has had a lot difficult relationships both in and outside of the drama department. I also assume that she sought quick and easy answers for in trendy self-help books- an especially useful little trick for someone who has spent years in drama dealing with people who spend their entire lives on their own feelings.

I was that person! How embarrassing...

I am sitting in a cafe right now. A foo-foo one. And in this cafe, I saw four white women... pregnant... middle management sorts... all backstabbing all their friends and neighbors and coworkers. All four people who have taken it upon themselves to bring new people into the world in their own image, without consent- even knowing that their children will suffer and die... all four of these white women took turns backstabbing their friends and acquaintances in the manner outlined in my post prior to this one.

They're a thing now. They're an easily stereotyped type of person here, like "bros" or "valley girls." I never knew what a "bro" or a "hipster" or a "bro-hoe" was until I moved here. But I guess some people really like to do and think the same things over and over and over again! There's nothing at all wrong with that... I guess it's expected. But it's something I haven't quite gotten used to yet, even after three years of trying to adapt to Southern California.

So this aspect of my life is like a waking nightmare in which you get everything you want and it isn't at all what you expected. I really, sincerely hoped that the experiences I had with all those crazy people in my former college theater department wouldn't happen to anyone else. I hoped that if I told other people about this narcissism idea that I had never heard anyone in my hometown discussing, that we would start recognizing a need to automate customer service jobs to eliminate people having to act as sitting targets for narcissistic rages and devaluation, that we would avoid manipulative and abusive relationships, and that spreading the narcissism meme would help everyone to arrange their lives in a manner that would reduce their suffering. In my old vision from three years ago, even narcissists would know to self-correct and reevaluate their delusions and grandiosity if the meme spread far enough.

Now, in this fun house mirror I'm living in, I see clear drawbacks! Our social system just doesn't work that way. We can't trust that everyone or even most people are going to accurately digest the models for reality that others discover and hand to them. They won't. They can't. They have other focuses. And that, in and of itself, is perfectly fine.

But God, how disappointing it is.

When idiots get a hold of a good idea... it's like multiplying by zero. Everything involved in the equation just turns into idiocy. I don't like to think of people like that. I'm just pissed that this promising idea I had has become terrible and that my faith in human nature is apparently so misplaced.

It isn't as though I don't understand the temptation to label people you don't understand with witch hunting terminology. Of course the idea of narcissism is a real thing. But sometimes... people will go crazy in different ways and in different degrees. I consider this 30 year old, non-religious, emotionally-oriented white woman who has relationship problems' narcissist-catcher bully accusations and misunderstanding to be a very low level type of crazy that I don't fault her for as someone who is going through relationship problems. I've been that person too. It's like I'm paying out my dues for bad karma. (I don't believe in karma, but I'm exercising my poetic license.)

My apparent enemies' heightened attention to their own emotions still doesn't make it right to try and damage my education and day to day functioning.

In waking life, I've been running around trying to get leads on how to solve this problem. I've been planning on taking action.

Janeway's narration about the open ocean represents an older woman who tried to mediate the problem but didn't quite solve it.

But my dream suggests that I can also sit back and trust that goodness will prevail. This is a cycle in a large system that's simply gone a little out of balance. There are factors I'm not aware of (the flying turtles) that will balance out things that have been in this organization's structure long before I was (the statue and the old equipment). And they're a lot more invested.

All I'm interested in, in both the dream and in real life, is to solve the problem, to do my job, and to prepare for the better offers that will eventually arise (grad school).

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Past Curfew" by Arthur M. Jolly (play script review)


This script is available for sale in physical form only at the time of this writing (the ebook didn't work for me):

Official author website: http://arthurjolly.com


Title: "Past Curfew" 
Author: Arthur M. Jolly
Time and Setting: (Contemproary- first staged in 2010)
Genre: Drama
Length: 43 pages
Naja's debauchery rating: (PG-13) for for language, adult situations and sexual content

This is one of the few playwrights who will allow strangers on the internet to use his monologues for free. He's also one of the few free monologue writers whose work will conform to most schools' requirements for their students' monologues:
  • The monologue is from a play, not a movie, novel, short story, or a monologue book. It is not a stand-alone piece, or your or your friends' writings. 
  • It's been produced on stage. 
  • There are no accents. 
  • It's under five minutes.
  • It's contemporary (written after 1950, although the cut-off dates do vary).
I found and practiced this monologue here from a play called Past Curfew. I bought the script in order to analyze and learn more about the monologue's character, an alcoholic mother rambes about what her life might have been if she hadn't had a baby. It's a great monologue with some really calloused words directed at her daughter. In other words, it's great drama that jumps straight into conflict. An actor can't ever know how well he or she is doing without video taping him or herself, but I have always suspected that I and most others don't do as well with subtle as they do with big (don't practice in the mirror to try and find out either. I'm hoping to write a book about acting one day, and that book is going to recommend against practicing in the mirror).

I came at this monologue from the standpoint that the mother was attempting to get her daughter to show affection for her by having her fill a drink. The daughter seemed not to comply, so I thought it was reasonable to play the mother as having suddenly felt compelled to use her resentment, a venom constantly circulating through her, as something which could be tapped and used to punish her daughter by releasing some of it in a long, steady, painful flow. I approached the mother as someone running so low on emotional, physical and mental resources, that she didn't have the energy to form and uphold a system of ethics that would prevent her from using tactics like that in order to get what she felt she needed in order to keep going another day.

Unfortunately, I enjoyed the monologue a whole lot more than the play. I had different expectations for the character, Sarah, and was really disappointed. None of the aforementioned character development I did for the monologue transferred to the monologue.

This play is about the mother and daughter exclusively, and divides its attention between them equally. I found this 50-50 division distracting. The conflict s mainly due to the struggle for independence that Sarah's teenaged daughter has. Kristie (age 17, relative to Sarah's age 34) openly despises her overbearing, mean-spirited, alcoholic mother. Technically, the play has a third part for a 17 year old boy, but he is definitely a foil for the ladies.

Unfortunately, the mother has a very good sense of humor and the daughter does not. The mother is quick-witted and clever, and the daughter is not. The mother is experienced and is more right more often than her daughter. Kristie's boyfriend, Michael, wants to whisk her away to Hollywood and Sarah seems much too right about her skepticism about his Hollywood idea working out well. I guess this is a realistic portrayal of how this family's dynamics could be, but Sarah is right most of the time and only paranoid or offensive about 30% of the time, so she too often comes across as sensible and caring.

Sarah is not a perfect mother, but she just seems a little uneducated. She seems to care a great deal and the daughter does not. I felt that that was a problem in terms of creating a good sense of equally matched enemies playing spoons. In the monologue, I felt that Sarah was a formidable force against the just and matronly love we have come to expect from parents. The mother seemed to have had the misfortune of being born in a small town cesspool of ideas, so one often has very little choice but to find the mother very interesting and likable and the daughter much less so. You understand both characters, but you just can't like a teenaged girl who calls her own mother a whore and a slut and a bitch and slaps her. To get away with that, the girl has to have a much more interesting or sympathetic personality or she needs to be pushed much, much farther than she was. Although the play addresses cutting, and maybe that's a tie-in with how the daughter is so much less alive than the mother (if we assume that cutting done by teenaged girls is done in order to release an over-abundance of repressed feelings), it still doesn't make for an interesting bit of conflict. Actually, the way Sarah handles it only furthers the imbalance in terms of which character is more obviously the likable, reasonable one whose feelings or opinions should be trusted.

Kristie has her youth going for her in terms of likability and also her good-girl persona, but it isn't enough unless you have just the right bird-like daintiness in the actress playing her. I have a hard time imagining such a thing, but of course, that doesn't mean it would be impossible to pull off.

I never felt that the play acknowledged the daughter's part in the family fights. The daughter never demonstrated much if any care much for her mother, which seems highly unnatural. No matter how much a broken down teen is going to dispassionately renounce his or her family, there's got to be some traces of "before" the attachment was severed, unless the kid just doesn't really attach to people aside from how he or she was raised, and that's certainly not very easy to relate to. If I don't see that mixture of attached and detached particles floating around this kind of character, I just think that the author(s) have been watching too many movies or reading too much fiction without reading  enough self help or psychology books. And even that is pretty bad compared to getting the information directly from talking with and observing real kids who have had a difficult time growing up.

But Kristie literally says she never cared for her mother to her mother's face after very little provocation. I don't believe it, unless the actress is going to read those lines like Kristie is lying and in denial. But I don't know if that's the performance that is expected or not based on the text.

Even after we find that Kristie has to take her mother to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, and even after Sarah slaps her daughter too, I did not feel that Sarah was at all wrong to slap her daughter after the things she said to her. It's wrong for a parent to do that, but I was still also left thinking, "Heh. Good for you. That kid is such a brat! Why haven't you kicked her out of the house and left this hick town? Just go. You go to Hollywood..."

But although Sarah is more sympathetic, she's still definitely not all that sympathetic and engaging. I would have felt as though Sarah was a lot more worthy of my emotional investment if she was the only main character and if we focused on her guilt or her conflict with the exploitative, slimy men in her life. But we definitely get the impression that the daughter is supposed to be the good guy. I never bought it. The mother's raving was always more silly and sad than anything- like that rose cutting scene or that wire hangar scene from Mommy Dearest. Personally, I felt a lot more sorry for the mothers and their problems as they struggled to lavish more attention and trinkets and love on their kids than most of us could ever dream of. A wire hangar through clothes? Are you kidding me? Living in mansions with servants when you could have been born in the middle ages, or a war zone, or my fucking alley... just having to put with your mother's... eccentricity that developed while she was working under pressures and circumstances most of us could never imagine in an era of double standards! And you did nothing but reap all the benefits of her wealth when she never even had to have you at all? The wire hangars negates all of those benefits! You disobeyed your mom and she got mad you? *gasp* No! No one else's mother would ever do that, and if they did, it would clearly be evidence of insanity.

The most startling thing was how this monologue was never actually in the play. I kept looking for it, and when I found it, it was in bits and pieces from several different lines of dialog from a multiple, very different scenes. In the play, a lot of stuff happens between all the scathing words Sarah is saying to her daughter. In the monologue, it's a straight shot of flaming, radioactive venom lobbed at her daughter during a blind alcoholic haze. But in the play, Sarah is just saying those lines of dialog as cold, metered carefully dosed responses to her daughter's much more intense, much less reasonable hate. The monologue was a fun, irrational, lively tirade- great for the stage- but, my little drama queens, you will not get any of that in the play.

But at least the character, Sarah, is still... basically the same in both pieces of writing. She's still humorous, self-degrading and trapped in crusty, out-of-date ways of thinking, buying into a small town's double-standard for men's and women's sexuality. I never once felt like I could blame Sarah for her mistrustful,  overbearing attitude toward her daughter since she seemed like such a product of her environment. She was flawed and made some hurtful mistakes, but at the same time, she was kind of admirable for sticking it out in the town that had hurt her so much, waiting for the moment that she could finally figure out what went wrong. Waiting for that one key thing that would unlock the personal meaning in those experiences.

The one major thing that bothered me about the play was how Sarah never once seemed to rebel against this out-dated belief system, and her daughter never encouraged her to either even though she was younger and had access to more ideas and more criticism of more ideas through school and the internet. Maybe this is a common thing! I grew up in a medium-sized versus a small town. It was really, really different from living here in SoCal. I've only visited small towns. The stories I heard there were phenomenal, but it would take effort to really put myself in that situation on a substantial, gut-level (and I'm getting out of practice with doing it too). But I was under the impression that the play had no awareness whatsoever of this kind of double-standard as a common problem.

I get tired of old ideas really quickly and that's one I thought most people were already aware of and had processed. I get really impatient with people who haven't figured out basics like that, but I think everyone has different levels of tolerance for old and new ideas.

In my opinion, because an old idea is always going to be new to someone, or because people may have been approached with a good idea in an unreasonable manner, or have seen a basic, obvious idea like that one bundled in packages with other ideas that don't make sense, or perhaps because an obvious idea is entangled with unresolved emotional baggage that limits impersonal objectivity, we need to approach social issues like physicists. We need to identify the problem we're solving for, we need to identify the system, the surroundings, and all the forces acting on the bodies in that system, and we need to look for predictable, repeatable formulas that describe recipes for emotional disaster.

I strongly question free will. We feel before we think. Impulses and signals move through our body before conscious awareness of those impulses is possible. We don't often view moral issues or drama as being as predictable as the gears turning in an alarm clock, but I think this is how our emotional lives go. It's unfortunate that we often run wild with our ethics without questioning whether or not ethical behavior is  subjective in the first place. What if we can calculate pain? I guess we connect this idea of rigid moral truth with the fear of the negative effects of religion or any dogma that ends in unexpectedly negative consequences.

I felt that the play believed it was, and rightly so, a universally-held opinion that Sarah was terrible and that Kristie was destined to have wonderful sexual relationships in contrast because she was planning to sleep with boys like Michael that she felt a genuine connection with. I don't think that's how reality works.

A mother is supposed to protect her kids, but Sarah just didn't have the social skills necessary to do it in a respectful way. But I didn't feel that was the point the play was going for.

It wasn't a tragedy. It wasn't a comedy. It was a fairly bland, unpleasant drama with its humor coming from the villain. I know this review is ending on a fairly negative note, but I still definitely recommend the monologue, and so I also have to recommend reading the play in order to know where Sarah is coming from and where she is heading.

The official page for Past Curfewhttp://www.arthurjolly.com/pastcurfew.html


The poster for Past Cerfew's 2010 premiere.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Asian American Plays for a New Generation" (Kindle ebook review)

Click to see this book on Amazon.com!


Title: "Asian American Plays for a New Generation" 
Author(s): Various. Edited by Josephine Lee, Donald Eitel, and Rick Shiomi
Genre: Drama
Length:  336 pages
Naja's MPAA rating: (PG) for adult themes
Setting: 20th-21st century

Most or perhaps all of the plays in this collection were staged in Minnesota. Most seem to take place between 1950-1990, so I'm not sure if a new generation is apt! I'm old for a millennial, but I don't quite remember 1990. When I think back to that time, I have little flashes of crimped hair, Ninja Turtles and arguments among my peers about whether or not "bad" should be used to describe something cool.

Anyway, there's so little on stage to represent Asian cultures in a way that isn't stereotypical, that maybe it is fair to say these plays are for a new generation.

Asian American identity is extremely variable. Because these plays highlight the uniqueness of some of those cultures, it makes the stories worth the read.

Here are the seven plays in this book:

1. Indian Cowboy, Zaraawar Mistry
2. Walleye Kid: The Musical, Kurt Miyashiro (music and lyrics), R.A. Shiomi and Sundraya Kase
3. Happy Valley, Aurore Khoo
4. Asiamnesia, Sun Mee Chomet
5. Sia(b), May Lee-Yang
6. Bahala Na (Let It Go), Clarence Coo
7. Ching Chong Chinaman, Lauren Yee

In particular, I found plays (1) and (6) extremely moving, but here are some of my thoughts about each of them:

1. Indian Cowboy is about a man in India who was adopted by a family who loves him. But he looks different from them and this perception of being different becomes a lifelong challenge. It's hard for him to integrate his perception of himself and the way others treat him into a comfortable sense of identity. He wants to be an actor, and he goes to New York and L.A. to do his best. Casting directors don't think he looks Indian; they aren't sure what he looks like... maybe Greek or Mediterranean. He struggles with identity and with finding work as an actor for years until he starts finding high-paying gigs testing out security at airlines. He tests security by posing as a Saudi Arabian man looking for flight lessons. Needless to say, things get very difficult for our struggling actor when the government decides to be interrogate our main character for these acting gigs that he took. The play is extremely moving and possibly the most well-written of the seven.

2. Walleye Kid: The Musical. This was a musical we can't hear, so that's a little frustrating. Other than that, it's a decent play about Annie, a girl of Korean ethnicity whose adopted American family lives in Minnesota. As she approaches adolescence, she faces some name-calling and other struggles in an all-white community. After her first major incident of inappropriate name-calling relating to race, Annie goes on a journey with a spirit guide to Korea. There, she gets a realistic look at the circumstances that might have surrounded her adoption.

3. Happy Valley. I kept reading this play because it was well-written, but also because wanted the main character to get run over by a car. I kept waiting for something awful to happen to her. That is the unfortunate truth. I tended to enjoy antiheroes when I was a kid, but antiheroes seem to work best in narrated memoirs, biographies, and action/adventure, not so much in this play.

The play is about a niece and uncle who live in Hong Kong at the time just before it got turned over to China. The play's dialog and style has notes of Oscar Wilde and a lot of Britishims. The Uncle is a pleasant fop or a dandy who defies the stereotype a little bit by his being an Asian man born and raised in Hong Kong during that era. The niece, the main character, is a bratty little girl who is never reprimanded for all the truly evil things she says and does. I don't like to use subjective, emotionally-charged words like that to judge people, but for instance: she is constantly verbally abusing the Filipina maid (by far the most likable character), constantly verbally abusing the mainland Chinese woman her uncle marries (you come to like the implied gold-digging woman due to the attacks and insults she constantly has to brave), threatening suicide, cutting off her Uncle's wife's hair while she's asleep, and being completely self-centered in general and totally lacking in any kind of empathy for others for the entire duration of the play. I say this as someone who enjoys characters with a lot of personality, but this play really went too far in creating a character who is very difficult to feel any sympathy for because she has no interest in others' needs, rights, and feelings for the entire stretch of the play. It's realistic since the character is only about 14, but it really grates on my nerves. But this play and its characters made me more aware of how hard the transition must have been for Hong Kong to pass from England to China.

4. Asiamnesia. This play is about Asian film stars in the 20th century. The author makes educated guesses about the things they would talk about if they had a chance to interact with each other. I didn't know about these women before, so it was very interesting to hear about them and wonder what the source material for this play was. This is kind of a play about actors for actors, like Indian Cowboy.

5. Sia(b). I had a hard time understanding this play. It's mainly about trying to educate the audience about the Hmong people today and in the past, and lectures directly at the audience like a lot of other theatrical protest plays. Unfortunately, I turned the last page still without learning as much as I would've liked to. The plot line seemed scattered, and the characters' having the same names made the play even harder for me to follow. It might be easier to follow as a staged play. The author leaves a lot of room for improvisation. It ends on quite a sad note as the main character's father suddenly seems to become the main character. I wanted to know more about him and his struggle to merge into a dramatically different culture.

6. Bahala Na (Let It Go). I read this book in a little cafe and had to hold back my tears in public. Wow! If the first one wasn't the best one, this play has to be it. There are three war stories compacted into it! But war stories tend to have an advantage in terms of getting a high emotional reaction, because war is inherently dramatic. It is the ultimate drama.

7. Ching Chong Chinaman. This is the only straightforward, traditional comedy of the bunch. I think this was supposed to be the cream of the crop, winning awards and what not, but I found it pretty bland. I think too many theaters flavor fluff with a veneer of reckless edginess in an attempt to draw in those shrinking crowds. I'll buy tickets to this kind of popular, but not too popular show too, because I can at least talk about it with a wide variety of friends and also know more of the canon other literature references. It's a risk attending a really new or different performance that might leave you bored or let down and therefore irritated as well as a little bit poorer. It's also easier to get an audience for a good comedy than a poorly done drama by an unknown playwright. But this play only seemed to imitate popular sitcoms and other domestic comedies that have literally been around since ancient Rome. Form your own opinion about this play though,  because it is entertaining.

It's about an Asian-American family that's been in America for about three generations. The characters have never been to their countries of ethnic origin. Their culture is entirely American, and when someone from China comes along, they don't know how to handle him. He defies their stereotypical expectations for him to like Chinese food and be good at math. I found some of this as unamusing and offensive as Christmas Tree from Avenue Q. Don't get me wrong- Avenue Q is great. But each play is using the characters in order to point out the absurdity of these racial stereotypes, and that they aren't always true. Depending on how you go about directing the play, it can seem more like this kind of satire is all about enjoying how funny these racial stereotypes are based on the idea that these stereotypes are true.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

InfoSec Taylor Swift @SwiftOnSecurity (Twitter feed review)



Twitter Handle: @Swiftonsecurity
Genre: Pop Culture, Parody
Naja's Morality Rating: PG for nihilistic tendencies

I've never reviewed a Twitter feed, but because there isn't a major label or company backing the efforts of this Tweeter so I think it counts as an "indie!" *realizes she is on thin ice, but boldly moves forward*

Taylor Swift is a world-famous, Grammy award winning pop star who got her start in country/Western music. You probably knew that, especially after the explosive popularity of "Shake It Off," but I didn't know anything about Taylor Swift until someone introduced me to "Taydolfs!" These memes switch Taylor Swift and Adolf Hitler's quotes and photographs.

Here's a Taydolf Swiftler:



Here's another Taydolf: 


And here is everyone's favorite Taydolf:


Instantly, I was inspired to begin a creative journey involving a manic swapping quotes and publicity shots for Marilyn Monroe and Hitler:



And Donald Trump and Marilyn Monroe:


And then I decided that I need to stop wasting so much time.

The real Taylor Swift has a penchant for (to paraphrase) "reclaiming the media's narrative," according to this interview about some of her motivations for creating "Blank Space." Her most recent music video is "Bad Blood." It features Swift as an agent attempting to recover stolen data that was stolen from her. It's the most radical departure from her typical music video I could find while looking through her work on YouTube:


The pop star has prided herself on staying in touch with her fans in interviews both from her teenaged years and now in her twenties. Is it possible that the real Taylor Swift allowed parody, "Infosec Taylor Swift," a Twitter feed with over 70,000 followers, to influence her artistic choices?

I know that internet tabloids are saying that "Bad Blood" was inspired by something between Swift and Katy Perry and are going back and forth about that, but almost all of the instructors in artistic fields will advice artists to create fiction which blends, blurs and compounds many different influences, using specifics to create mixtures. That seems to be what most creative types do. The Katy Perry thing might have a grain of truth, but it also sounds like tabloids jamming more drama and celebrities into their stories in order to attract more attention for themselves. It's leeching off of others' attention in order to get some for yourself- all sort of like what I'm doing right now. :-D I'm hoping to get back to more indy indies that need feedback later this summer.

Anyway, doing a Google search on "Swift on Security" or "InfoSec Taylor Swift" will get pages full of commentary about this Twitter account. This massive Twitter feed probably wouldn't go unnoticed  by the pop star, especially if it was public commentary about her love life which inspired "Blank Space" and public commentary which inspired other self-poking videos. Apparently, she took some flack for her incorporation of her and her friends' romantic relationships into her songs, and that inspired some pre-show videos which played along with the media commentary.

Some biographers noted that Marlon Brando seemed to start believing all the hyperbolic buzz about himself and that his behavior began to take on the same shape as the caricature-like headlines about him. This is similar to why psychological labels are unproductive and tend to hinder peoples' mental health progress and access to treatment. Fortunately, the creation of a music video is a much more fun and positive transformation of this kind of energy. 

So... there is one guy behind SwiftOnSecurity, typing all the Tweets. He exudes geek in his sense of humor, and his deadpan delivery is hilarious. It's amazing.

Why it's hilarious is disturbing though. Why did I, who didn't know one thing about Taylor Swift, automatically know that a beautiful young woman would never speak like @SwiftOnSecurity? I knew on an instinctive, gut-level, that a successful woman would not speak like this- not like a successful man who is knowledgeable enough about computer science to joke about it so effectively. If this Twitter account were parodying a male pop star, it wouldn't be funny at all. And this Twitter account is so damned funny for the same reason that the Taydolfs and... Mondolfs... or... MonDons... are so funny. It's offensive to realize how funny it is to switch the quotes of beautiful young women with powerful men.

I'm not the only one who has noticed this. This Swift on Security Twitter feed has gotten me and a lot of other people thinking of all kinds of gender issues. It's like watching old comedians dressing up as women. Those were really funny until a growing awareness of injustices towards transgender people came about. Now, those sketches are kind of, "meh," although sometimes they are still funny. There's still timing and contrast and awkwardness to make it funny. But it isn't a guaranteed laugh anymore the way it was- not like the way switching the quotes of successful male and female public figures are a guaranteed laugh. Something like Some Like It Hot will always be funny, but I think that's because Billy Wilder carefully outlined clashing cultures in his films.

There are so many aggressive campaigns about gender inequality issues, like the lack of women in STEM, that it's easy to see how those who view themselves as contrarian to the mainstream often are the mainstream. Mainstream, traditional viewpoints, which we absorb via impressions we get from our early attachments, do not need or want publicity the way that groups with less power do. Groups with less power, but some power, are forced to get out there and aggressively publicize their complaints unless they want themselves and everyone like them to continue getting mowed down infinitely into the future. I believe that many people believe that well-advertised ideas are widely accepted ideas, and that affirmative action plans are therefore reflective of widely accepted beliefs.

Feeds like @SwiftOnSecurity demonstrate on a fundamental, subconscious gut-level, that freedom from conformity to gender norms is not at all a widely accepted thing. There still seems to be a polarization of male and female values in geek culture that is felt by our mass culture, demonstrated by how funny these Taydolfs and InfoSec Swift posts are. Differences in expectations for emotional awareness and differences in expectations for the expression of thought and emotion in the genders is still one of our largest cultural gaps if the laugh factor of these memes is any indication (and maybe it isn't, but humor is so subconscious and connected to what we really think and feel and how we were raised, that it seems like a much better barometer than most things).

This Twitter feed also tweets popular news articles about cyber crime, which is extremely interesting! I inherited a collection of older mystery writing reference books, and I think it would be so much harder to write crime mysteries now. I would think it would involve a great deal of research into computer science.

So I'm a fan of Taylor Swift's now too, I guess! I watched tons of her music videos in order to write this little article and I found almost all of her songs to be sincere, easy to relate to and catchy. *shrug* Hopefully, SwiftOnSecurity can take some of the new imagery from "Bad Blood" and create more great memes like this one, which are, most disturbingly, funny because they're probably true:


Monday, June 1, 2015

Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited (book and YouTube channel review) (the Crazies, part II)


Title: "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited" 
Author: Sam Vaknin
Genre: Self-help
Length: 705 estimated pages

Official YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/samvaknin

I've wanted to review this remarkable book for a long time. The author of this book is a philosopher who said what my generation needed to hear when they needed to hear it. He is a self-proclaimed narcissist and psychopath who has also been evaluated by professionals according to the documentary, I, Psychopath.

I don't put much weight on the opinions of psychiatrists or other mental health professionals anymore. I don't believe that much knowledge in psychology is gained via empirical techniques. I don't believe that the field is firmly grounded in critical thinking or even a genuine concern for others' well being. That's not always the case. I certainly have known many mental health workers who are deeply concerned about the well being of their clients, and generally, mental health professionals have some well thought out insights if they are pure in their motives for counseling others. Nonetheless, I have bumped into about three different mental health professionals who gave me the impression that they were doing what they did for money or in order to build tools for themselves which would allow them to disengage with others' emotions. You can't go around with the world's problems on your shoulders; you'll get crushed. But a balance needs to be struck when it comes to counseling. The temptation is powerful to create models to enshrine one's prejudices in theory. People do it all the time. In fact, it's remarkable how so many people so strongly prefer to turn to models to justify  hatred born out of personal vendettas when things like philosophy and the more mystical aspects of religion have worked for millennia.

Vaknin has taken a very interesting approach to the mental health business by becoming a philosopher and a business man who is strictly hands-off. If you want to make money, write about sociopaths. That has been a trend since the 1950's. Watch the black and white classic, Sunset Boulevard, and see screenwriter Joe Gillis argue that psychopaths "sell like hotcakes." Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited was a book I paid $50 for. The Sociopath Next Door has been on Barnes & Noble's sale counter for possibly over 10 years now- longer than any of the other books I have seen in any of their locations. Mental health is Western-oriented and is not based in skepticism, but faith. It is based not in truth, but in making people feel better- and all for money. Capitalism is always going to encourage psychologists to base their work in trends that make people feel better but aren't necessarily true. I can see more valor in Vaknin's writing these books and making these videos than in someone's attempting to fake interest as a counselor or social worker in mental health institutions. It's a field with a lot of burn-out, so I get it, but still, it doesn't seem right. I left my old career path when it stopped working for me. It's a personal decision, but I think it is the best decision for a lot of people. That was one of my main concerns about continuing to pursue an actual career as a counselor (that and my school's accreditation problems, but of course, I could've just upgraded and gotten more well-respected credentials in the same field if I thought it was right for me).

This is a book that saved me and no doubt countless others from making terrible choices in our attachments with people who seem to be playing by a different rule book than the "do unto others" one most of us were raised with in school. Attempting decode those rules has been an incredibly draining experience for some of us. But this mystery and this struggle to decode, and this fast answer to something that has been so perplexing for so long, is a part of what I see becoming a problem now. In my personal experience, some of these ideas in psychology have gotten too popular, because so people are starting misapply them and don't even question what they're doing or why.

What happens when a really interesting, original idea gets too popular? In tech fields, that usually seems to mean that products become cheaper and easier to access. In artistic fields, that means that corporations will make inexpensive knockoffs of the popular, original work, and artists can't compete after a while. But in the humanities, what often happens when a cool idea gets too popular is that everyone veers off in their own directions with these ideas and lets their imaginations drive them crazy. By "crazy," I mean they start to think and behave irrationally due to their zeal for the new idea. Reality and the imaginary world blur,  and it takes a long time for massive groups of people to get collectively bored enough to move on from these viral ideas.

I'm going to give you one piece of anecdotal evidence for why I believe this narcissism trend has spiraled out of control. Unfortunately, I think I could give you about five more examples, but this one was by far the most dangerous and disturbing one. The other ones were obnoxious, but this one had me thinking about public safety and my own safety, and also, ironically, weighing the importance of my empathy for this person, because the reasons someone would have for violating another's rights and personhood in this specific manner are sad.

I was a patient at an "Urgent Care" clinic here. I needed to have my blood drawn. I felt that I had a good rapport with the receptionist who ended up being the person who also drew my blood. But things took a sharp dive very quickly when I unrolled my long sleeved shirt and presented my arm. I love tattoos. I decided on a personal philosophy about why I like them a long time ago. I have several, including a sleeve. 

The receptionist's eyes became vacant and she began chanting, “It means you have no empathy! It means you have no empathy! It just means you have no empathy!” over and over again as she drew my blood. 

I found this assumption extremely insulting and also found her demeanor very frightening. While she had a needle in my vein, she did a 180 degree mood flip in seconds and was chanting paranoid statements in a soulless, out-of-control manner.

I dislike complaining to or about a business, but after several months, I finally decided that I need to speak up based on the principle of what had happened. This situation should never happen again, to me or to any person like me who has decided that he or she enjoys tattoos. People who do not have unresolved personal issues surrounding the idea of tattoos, should not have to bear the emotional baggage of those who do have unresolved personal issues that can't be handled appropriately and professionally. Although medical professionals are human, no patient should be forced to bear the brunt of that level of baggage while getting medical treatment. 

Ironically, the only reason why I didn't speak up about this sooner is because I had too much empathy for her! She was inaccurately and inappropriately trying to apply popular modern theories about narcissism. I believe I would know if I was a narcissist or not. The ones I've known spoke about it very openly and thought it was the natural growth of being limitlessly attractive, brilliant, destined for fame, etc. I subscribe to the Buddhist belief that the I does not exist, and that belief in the self's superiority, inferiority and equality are all equally conceited. In my opinion, narcissism is an emotion. People have different baseline mixes of emotion, and perhaps the sort of person who plasters pictures of themselves all over their own and other people's walls has developed a destructive habit of indulging that emotion too much.

I can only assume that this woman has viewed herself as the victim of abusive or toxic relationships, and that she has sought counseling or read self-help about it. In that moment, she impulsively decided to abuse both an interesting pop psychology theory, and a patient. Attempting to tell someone how they are or how they should be, contrary to an individual's self-perception, is part of the definition of verbal abuse, according to popular sources like Wikipedia. We need those definitions and those guidelines.

No one put the entire situation into better perspective than my dad did when I told him about the incident. I miss him. He said, “There is no logical correlation between a tattoo and empathy!” My friends and family were all similarly shocked and horrified when I told them what had happened. 

Then, this receptionist began showing up to both of my work places after I left a negative review about the business she worked for on Yelp, even though I had completely preserved her anonymity. I thought it would give her a second chance to clean up her act. She also took it upon herself to begin messaging me through Yelp. My friends and family were similarly horrified at the thought that she might be stalking me in order to pressure me to remove the review. She seemed to have gone to one of my jobs regularly beforehand, according to her Yelp history, but I'd been working at the other one for about 2 years and I had never seen her. She only seemed to have been in town for about 2-3 years also, according to her internet trail. We need to start training more nurses more cheaply so we can get serious about clamping down on poor behavior in those industries. As it is, they can go from place to place every two years or so. I really don't think that getting A's in calculus and chemistry are going to help determine whether or not a nurse is going to do well on the job, and it eliminates a lot of hopefuls who wouldn't misappropriate client information. Nursing programs across the country are consistently impacted.

Anyway, this is only one... one of the alarming examples causing me to think that this theory has gone out of control.

This book has beautifully helped me and so many others to combat very alarming behavior. But aside from its becoming too popular, I have more qualms than I can list with this book. Labeling someone a narcissist the way this book does and encourages others to do, or making other devaluing statements about people which suggest that they are intrinsically defective, is very, very dangerous, socially and emotionally to everyone involved, including the accuser. This is something this book does in a black or white fashion rather than approaching malignant narcissism as a continuum of traits. I have labeled people only out of extreme anger or hatred and after years of evidence pointing in that direction besides. And you know what? I still risk heavy damages coming back onto myself, even after such a long waiting period for some people. I risk being wrong about that person (which is the worst case scenario) and even if I'm right, I risk making myself look like a complete jerk in front of people who don't get what I've seen and been through with that individual. You have to make sure that what you say is grounded in a set of ethics that will ensure your own safety when you are wrong. You don't even have to be wrong; you only have to appear to be wrong in order to damage your own network. Life is a stage and we are all players. We limit our opportunities with other people when we just look wrong, unfortunately. My horoscope said that we are the stars of our own lives, but only bit players in others. It's true. Very few have the time or the interest in investigating the rightness or wrongness of one or another person in a drama, because that would take years.

One of the things that bother me the most in books about personality disorders are the never-ending blame games and character assassinations that aren't based on anything but subjective impressions and a reluctance to admit that one did not have the mental or physical resources to continue interacting with said individual. Character is irrelevant in assigning blame in everyday dramas, because we all have very different personalities and aren't always able to decode the rule books others are playing with, even though those rule books are just as fair as ours and no better or worse. What we need to determine is the cost-benefit of a given interaction. We need to decide if we, or if our organization has the psychic resources to interact with a given individual, and the individual him or herself needs to remain irrelevant in this decision in order to create the most satisfaction for everyone involved. Generally-speaking, that is what I have come to believe.

This book only approaches malignant, or negative narcissism rather than its positive side as well, and it confuses the two pretty regularly. It makes broad generalizations like saying that novelists "are" narcissists, but the thought of labeling J.K. Rowling "a narcissist" shocks and angers me.

So this book goes a little off the deep end with things like that. Also, I just finished reading The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and I also strongly disagree with the consistent use of the original, novelized Sherlock Holmes as an example of a "cerebral narcissist." In addition to how relatively simple fictional characters can't be accurately compared with the complexity of real people, I didn't pick up that vibe... at all in the books. Holmes did not devalue Watson. He didn't attack strangers or engage in any kind of narcissistic leveling. He was generally quite a charming, English gentleman. I think Sherlock in the original novels was unusual- an introvert, an "intellectual" and a bachelor. But I don't think he was at all a psychopath. I think that is a resurfacing of our latent desire to expel anyone who might be different- for any reason.

And again with the money and fame thing, I think shows like Sherlock simply turned popular ideas coined by Vaknin's books and other similar books like The Sociopath Next Door into something trendy that could ride the waves of similarly popular shows like Dexter or American Psycho, altering original personalities, motivations, story lines and historical circumstances in order to be cool and cash in on other artists' historically successful ideas.

I think back to being 7 years old, and I remember how much everyone in the 2nd grade hated one girl who was sort of pale and sickly who left our school to go to a "gifted" school. Some of the other kids said that it was a "better" school for "smart" kids (the assumed implication being that we were "dumber," as though we were on a general gradient of overall worth). We all made assumptions about that girl, who kept almost entirely to herself, that were directly based in our own insecurity and garnered attention for ourselves since it united us and gave us something mysterious and dramatic to participate in and bond over. I had literally never spoken to this girl or interacted with her, but I felt it too. I ended up enjoying her company years later when we were preteens, just before she moved. She was patient and quiet, but incisive and unusual.

I enjoy listening to these 700 pages of self-insights Mr. Vaknin has, but I do think they are self-insights most of the time, which are hit and miss, and that deriving all his knowledge from himself leads to mixing up normal things with narcissism. If the author eats scrambled eggs for breakfast, that doesn't mean that someone who eats scrambled eggs for breakfast is a narcissist.

I look back on that crazy nurse in the Urgent Care clinic I went to, and I think about what I've come to think about how this Southern Californian culture is. I recall that she obviously has collagen in her lips. She looks a little underweight. I judge her to have had a smooth enough life to navigate all the responsibilities of college, and I realize... this carries a certain essence of Orange County. I am directly next door to Orange County. I don't know how she is going to manage in the most tattooed city in the world, but I clearly can see the principle of marking "other" as "unfathomably evil" out of convenience. It does not take up as much energy as thinking about it. So this makes narcissism the new "witch" of our time, which sucks, because there are so many helpful things about the theory which have made me feel better, however irrationally it may or may not be. I look back at those times it has made me feel better and I realize that more often than not, I was unjustified to jump to conclusions about people I disliked. It sucks to realize I was only at a "hunch" level of understanding when I felt like I was at a "conclusion" level.

Anyway, so I think Mr. Vaknin, due to his open acceptance and sharing of his own emotional problems, may sometimes mix feelings we all have into his very excellent insights into the nature of narcissism. Fortunately, Mr. Vaknin generously makes so much of his background transparent, that we can and should infer this automatically. It's almost like we are watching his journey through life, and it is a very interesting one.

Another example of this book getting too popular in a disturbing way, is in an encounter I had with a soccer mom holding a copy of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited and a stroller. We made some pleasant small talk and we were all smiles and lah-dee-dah. But when I said, "I think that is such a great book too! I look at it as a thing of dark poetic beauty from a literary standpoint rather than a book of psychological facts though," she looked at me like I had gotten a step ladder out and slapped Jesus while he was on the cross. The minute I realized how frightened this normal person was of questioning something in print was a moment I realized that we are all in trouble. The minute I realized that this book, linking incredibly destructive traits in people while also holding up "normality" and conformity on a pedestal, was a moment that I realized that an idea that has become too popular will automatically revert into allowing prejudice to flow in socially acceptable ways.

Recently, I was online and mentioned this exact same topic, and a woman with the exact same Keirsey temperament as the nurse and the soccer mom literally copied and pasted excerpts from this book. This is a great book with great ideas, but this woman did it in a strangely small, narrow-minded, dull-witted manner that didn't quite fit the context. The woman just didn't seem to have a clue as to what I was saying, who I was, what I'm about, failed to heed others' complaints about a tendency towards group think and repetitive, obsessive thinking, yet was completely convinced she knew what she was doing. Indeed, she had several aspects to the concept nailed down remarkably well. To have passages memorized and ready to go is amazing. But what it comes down to from my perspective is that she basically wanted her own way of doing things, was willing to mow over everyone else's intellectual freedom in order to get the comforts of the appearance of conformity, and to avoid having to think if copying and pasting thoughts was a possibility. It was all done out of anger, hatred, a need for control, and a lack of facility with psychology under the self-deluded guise of caring. What really annoyed her was the anger minority types were expressing about her own type. instead of considering the best way to address those issues, it was more immediately simple to scapegoat the anger elsewhere, and that seemed the most obvious route to take for her.

Soon after, a man with the same personality cluster talked about how all the relationships he'd been in broke up due to inherently narcissistic or borderline traits in his partners. For about a year, he did not at all reflect on his own part or take any percentage or nuance of blame for the interaction on himself. I have met another man with the exact same personality take the exact same position.

This Keirsey temperament model aside, I see that pattern in a lot of comments from men on YouTube videos and forums on this topic. But Vaknin has a strong opinion about this when he responds to YouTube comments: they need to review the definition of a narcissist in this system of thought he's created and recall that men are far more often diagnosed with NPD than women. And make no mistake- Vaknin is the original popularizer of ideas on this topic. Today, I believe we get most of our ideas about narcissism from him, even if we fail to acknowledge him.

All of this had me thinking about his mother. In a video interview he did with "an empath," he said he felt that his relationship was more distant with his mother than his father. He's written a book about mothers. I skimmed reviews and descriptions, and I noted that he mentioned they were controlling and that they actively drained their children of attention. Controlling. That is a very interesting recurring belief about mothers of narcissists. Why not avoidant, withdrawn, irresponsible, etc.? Those traits could also be non-empathetic. And then I thought of how it didn't make sense to call Sherlock Holmes or novelists like J.R.R. Tolkien narcissists, a priori. And then I thought, what if he has ingested the hatred of his abusive mother so deeply, that he, as an intuitive (my own personal typing of him), has also accidentally ingested and systematized her hatred of those outside of her own temperament, just like the scrambled egg analogy? As a minority, introverted, theorist-type of personality, he may have been subconsciously absorbed her thought processes and tried to win her approval by giving her what she wanted: a system to plug into to justify her hatred and give the appearance of reasonableness. A club to join and thoughts to copy and paste. A group think. We consider and digest the hatred of our abusers and appropriate that information in various ways.

What have we done with this idea about malignant narcissism that has gone so mainstream among the bourgeois, and why is this becoming such a serious problem? Why don't I hear the poor, or racial minorities discussing it here in California? Why has this concept historically been used to attack homosexuals and people belonging to other minority groups instead of using it to analyse the underhanded tactics of those who behave in an unfair manner? Why didn't anyone know about this book and these ideas in my hometown, and why does everyone at Whole Foods in Southern California backstab their friends and neighbors and ex-lovers and family and in-laws with this idea? Why have people taken this interesting model for human behavior and turned it into a simplistic ad hominem attack?

I think that the reason why people in Southern California are so savvy to narcissism these days is because it is such an extreme problem they have to contend with on a daily basis. The number of incidents I've had to tolerate involving extreme narcissism here are more than I care to recount. I joined an internet group of people who are often accused of being arrogant. What was one of the first things they accused me of? Being arrogant! We appropriate the language and the ideas of our abuse into our everyday lives. This is why labeling is a very bad idea. It's exactly the same as name-calling, since language is subject to trends and change, and it sows a seed of unreality into the complexity of our lives. I no longer see any point in using terms like "narcissistic" to described most people since they are subjective value judgments with no basis in reality aside from the contempt and hatred I feel or a reenactment of the past abuses I have endured.

I love the ideas in this book, but they are only ideas! Psychology isn't reality. We can do our best to describe reality, but we always have to make room for the possibility of being wrong. This is because reality is outside of any one person. It would be impossible for any one person to not possibly be wrong. I don't see a lot of people appropriating this narcissism concept in a theoretical manner anymore, but in a concrete, factual manner that is impossible. How can it be factual? No leap in biophysics is going to narrow down that subjective impression going on inside of a person that would allow for objective measurement (or not in my lifetime, I'm guessing). Psychological labeling helps those in the most dire straits, but now I see most of the DSM as a book of insults with only that grain of truth that every stereotype has.

There is a definite framework for how psychology and counseling can work productively for people, and without some basic rules, it turns into reading the bumps on someone's skull in order to predict who they're going to marry. There might be some comfort in that, but what have you really done? Some basic principles I was taught about how counseling others can be productive are:

1. Unconditional positive regard for the client. Find something to like about the client, because there's something about everyone to like.

2. Don't say anything the client cannot yet handle.

3. When the client is able to handle your insights without sustaining any lasting and unproductive damage, gently guide the client with suggestive questions.

4. Don't hold back the truth when your client feels ready for it.

5. Don't label unless insurance companies are involved, and then label to the advantage of the client's finances.

6. Refer when problems are beyond the scope of your knowledge or beyond your ability to function smoothly and with decorum.

7. Maintain boundaries. Don't get attached. Respond but don't react to anything. Allow the client to use you as a substitute for the frustrating people in his or her life without taking anything personally.

8. Break confidentiality only when there is a serious risk of violence toward others.

One of the biggest contentions I have with this book is the consistent sense of hopelessness about our ability to integrate narcissists and psychopaths productively into our society. I question that. The minute we throw up our hands about a problem is a minute we open the doors to ideas like ghosts and vampires and fairies controlling the world with magic. If personality traits die down with age, as has been noted in a lot of literature about personality, then with the extension of our lifespans that is bound to continue as our technology advances, wouldn't there come a day in which even a self-proclaimed psychopath learned how to navigate this world in peace and happiness? I see how intuitive and insightful his videos and essays are, and I think that there may be hope for these individuals and society at large to figure out a way to manage these kinds of problems that are deeply embedded in human nature. We'll never be motivated and therefore successful at solving our problems with crime until we stop viewing others as "other," but as people who need rehabilitation. I read an article about an angel of mercy killing patients in Italian hospitals. No one bothered to stop or report her until dozens had been murdered. Why not? How can we systematically prevent incidences like this from happening in the future? Can we do it on a consistent, systematic level? Will it help if we think these of these people as "us" and not "other," since isolating or destroying "other" hasn't worked for us in any context, historically?

We certainly can't deny that Mr. Vaknin has had a strong, imperfect, but largely positive impact overall in his lifetime. I think that's something we can aspire and relate to. These are problems for our generation to consider very seriously.