Saturday, January 29, 2005


I have been unable to control my mood for the past week or so.  This has been primarily exemplified by irritability.  To the outside, perhaps it seems like preoccupation or just an "out-of-sorts" type of affect.  There seems to be no cause for this, other than repressed feelings of personal failure.  Internally, however, it is a stew of rage and pain, and my subconscious throws up memories from my past to justify the pain.  When a person has delirium tremens, the body sometimes feels as though ants were crawling on the skin.  This is called formication, a tactile hallucination.  "Ethanol ... acts as an N-methyl D-aspartate receptor antagonist. Withdrawal of ethanol leads to increased activity of these excitatory neural receptors."  ( Dr. William Gossman).  So, the neural receptors, exited by the withdrawal of ethanol from the system become agitated.  The human mind puts a cause to the sensation, which is ants crawling on the skin.  It is an hallucination.  The ants are not really there, and the cause of the hallucination is physiological. 

Phantom limbs are a kind of formication.  A stimulation of the nerve endings in the stump of an amputated limb can lead to the sensation that the limb is still there.

I believe that the same is true of mental disease.  A free floating or unconnected mood disorder can stimulate, as in my case, painful memories that justify the cause of the anger, resentment, fear complex, and lead to excruciating recollections of very painful times in my life, accompanied by the individuals who caused the pain.  Major players in these episodes can be my Graduate School advisor, my Grandmother, my Mother, almost anyone.  The rage that results is piquant, intense and uncomfortable.

I cannot tell which is the cause of the other, however.  Is the rage a result of the depression--i.e., my mind attributes a phantom cause for the depressive pain, or is it the other way around?  My instincts tell me it is the former. 

Oh, and the title of today's entry is the technical term for the compulsive biting of fingernails and cuticles.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Ten Days Ago...

It's been too long since I posted anything here.  To my faithful readers, I'm sorry.  But I've been in an emotional trough for the past ten days.  Last night I moved into a slight manic phase (I dropped my pants for a laugh in critique, how manic is that?) and this morning I'm feeling a bit more stable. 

The Inauguration, our National Day of Shame, cast a black cloud over my mood.  I substitute taught twice while Pam was in Mexico, and I've been trying to organize all the paper in my apartment which is to paper rather like the Augean Stables is to horseshit.  I've been extremely busy and preoccupied and every morning when I come in intending to put something, anything down here, despair pokes up her ugly head and says, "why bother?"  Too often lately, I've paid attention.

So that's my quick update.  The news is bad all around.  There's been a horrific wave of fundamentalist crap washing over the planet and it's depressing.  I simply cannot trust anything our President says or does.  That tone starts at the top and continues to the local level.  I can no longer trust my fellow citizens.  Oh, some I do, the ones maybe who I know by name.

I watched Bent over the weekend, a harrowing film of magnificent artistry.  And I thought to myself, we're as close to reliving those events as we've ever been in my lifetime.  If in this, the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, you wish to see a film about what it was like to undergo that horror, you can't pick a more sobering and wrenching experience than Bent.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Virtual Scatalogia

As a writer, I'm constantly at odds with my politics.  For example, I am for full inclusion and legal recognition of GLBT couples and individuals in society.  Writing about healthy, well-adjusted and happy individuals doesn't make for satisfying fiction however.  It is also true that mental illness is no respector of political correctness.  See the story of the Baylor seminary student sued for allegedly sending obscene e-mails to his former instructors and administrators.  This virtual poison pen behavior (assuming it's true) is the kind of scatologia formerly more common over the phone or in the mail box.  Joyce Carol Oates in her magnificent novel The Mysteries of Winterthurn includes a scene of mailed scatalogia (perpetrated by either the local minister, Reverend Bunting, or his wife).  This kind of passive-aggressive underhanded, anonymous method of expressing anger or lust is maladaptive.  E-mail has simply made it easier.  Including an obscene image as part of the e-mail can be accomplished by only a couple of clicks.  Although I do not wish to give right wing nutballs any more ammunition than they already have, I cannot seem to write gay characters who are well-adjusted.  This is the purpose of fiction: To tell stories.  Novels that are polemical tracts are BORING and untrue.  Thus I write about the maladapted, the anxious, the shame and fear based individuals we've all met in our lives for whom being gay is not all rose petals on freshly laundered sheets--because that is the way things sometimes are, not because I feel that's the way things ought to be.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

More Fall Out from Election 2004

The homophobes are becoming bolder.  And they will get even more so in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision not to review a law prohibiting children from being adopted by gay citizens in Florida.  Already conservative groups are licking their chops and planning to introduce similar legislation in other states around the country.  Clearly, this is another Dred Scot decision by the Supreme Court.  Although it's more like a Dred Scot indecision.  Citizens of one state are treated differently than citizens of another state for no good reason other than animosity.  This forces gay people who wish to be free from statutorily codified hatred and fear to live in certain sections of the country which are "more tolerant."  But this has always been true.  Even if a handful of other states pass laws similar to Florida's, there will always be those states where gay adoption is legal.  What is not so clear, however, is what will happen to a gay couple or gay single parent who has adopted a child, who then moves to a jurisdiction where such adoptions are not lawful?  Will the state step in to remove the child from that home?  That's when the outrage will be really transparent.

Now for the families in Florida which are directly affected by this indecision.  Families are made through love, nurturing and mutual respect.  I had a foster brother for only two years, and he is as much a part of our family as if he had been my brother by birth.  As individuals we are in control of our relationships, not the state.  Do not despair.

Monday, January 10, 2005


Seattle saw a little dusting of snow over the weekend.  We live in a strange region here--there can be significant accumulation just a few miles away from dry pavement.  That's due to mountains and sea in close proximity.  However, I got pictures and it was lovely, if cold.

I made some progress on the novel this weekend.  Revised two scenes and wholly rewrote another.  It's been satisfying.

I have MillenniuM the second season, and I put in the first disk last night, and immediately became anxious and afraid.  So I took it out and watched The Big Easy instead.  The first episode of season 2 begins with Frank's voice talking about asteroids and comets.  He's staring into the dark sky at a comet passing by.  It reminded me too much of comet Hale Bopp's passing about six years ago.  It was a very painful period in my life, my mother had just passed away, and my room mate Thomas was suffering through chemotherapy, and then there was that horrific cult mass suicide in San Diego.  In just a minute and a half, MillenniuM managed to ressurrect all those painful events.  It may be a while before I'm able to watch the rest of it.  I'll try again tonight after writer's group.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

The Maligned Emotion


It is a powerful, almost unmanageable force in our lives and it almost always arises out of a sense of injustice, of unfairness, that the world should be different somehow, a reflection of our sensibilities, not the hard realities of granite, winds and waves, gun smoke and atrocity.  Would the world really be a better place if everyone behaved exactly the way we want them to?  Visions of the afterlife, such as the one purported in Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, come to mind, heaven as a paradise that functions according to rules we set for it.  But would that really be a paradise? 

Last night I went to see The Grudge, playing at the Admiral Theater, a second-run house that plays yesterday's hits after they leave the multiplexes.  I was impressed.  I was also piss in my pants scared.  As a visual feast, The Grudge is a banquet.  The characters are all well developed.  I am made to care about them.  The essential theme of the film is that rage, if powerful enough, if expressed with enough violence, becomes an entity in its own right, and once you notice it, and it notices you, then there's no stopping it.  I believe that with regard to The Grudge, that also means, at a very deep, subconscious level, feminist rage specifically. 

So rage is something we fear.  We fear it in ourselves and in others because it means loss of control.  Behavior becomes hard to predict, and violence is often the result.

But anger, good, pure anger, is misunderstood.  Anger is energy for change.  Change is difficult and painful, and the precursor is anger.  Anger, being an uncomfortable emotion, moves us toward willingness to change.  Our subconscious knows that change is painful and pain is best avoided.  Anger is the emotion that convinces our subconscious that avoidance isn't working, and steps need to be taken. 

Do not fear anger.  Use it.  But don't deliberately cause pain to others for its own sake.

As Flies to Wanton Boys are We to the Gods

End Times?

You don't have to go to Fox News to hear incredibly stupid, utterly self-righteous, blasphemous, arrogant things.  Just tune into "Scarborough Country" on MSNBC.  24 hour news channels are desperate for content.  Thus Joe Scarborough, a former congressman with ex-football star good looks and a pleasant tv personality.  I've caught his program on more than one occasion, and I'm convinced that he's on Karl Rove's e-mail distribution list, since he seems to parrot right-wing talking points with the same jargon as the rest of them.  I've also seen his round-table discussions with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (author of Kosher Sex) and Jennifer Giroux (advocate of The Passion of the Christ).  Last night's program, and I tuned in late, saw Rabbi Shmuley lambaste Giroux for blasphemy and arrogance for apparently suggesting that the Indian Ocean tsunami was a judgment from God to exact penalty for sin. 

As if this wasn't enough of an incredibly superstitious and pagan point of  view (Rabbi Shmuley was correct to call it blasphemous), Joe Scarborough himself questioned whether the tsunami wasn't yet another sign that the end times were upon us.

I'm not a theologian, and I'm a lapsed Lutheran, but my concept of God is not this.  Didn't the Greeks and Romans attribute natural disasters to the whims of fickle gods?  Shakespeare has Lear declare: "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods--they kill us for their sport."  To me it smacks of rank superstition, of self-righteous pharaseeism that equates financial comfort and a lack of personal suffering with God's love.  "God must love me because I have a new BMW, I have a roof over my head, I have enough to eat.  God loves me more than those Californians and Floridians whom he smites with hurricanes and earthquakes.  God must love me more because I sin less."

That is presumptive, arrogant and sinful, in my opinion.  The other question that Scarborough kept asking was "if God is omnipotent, why does he allow suffering in the world?"  This is a question that has stupefied mankind for all of time.  The answer can be found in 1 Kings, 19:

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; butthe LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

God cares about spirituality and souls.  He is not preoccupied with physics, geology or the stresses and forces at work upon the fabric of reality.  The LORD was not in the Earthquake, nor was He in the Wave.  He was in the hearts and minds of souls who perished and those who survived. 

Here endeth the sermon for today.