Monday, February 28, 2005

BTK: The Oscars

Hollywood threw a party last night.  I didn't attend--even virtually.  I have watched the Oscars almost every year since I can remember.  I've witnessed several of its high and low points, including the streaker behind David Niven, Cher's outrageous headdress that looked sort of like a blow-up of HIV, Sally Field's neurotic acceptance speech.  But the telecast began to lose its charm and grace about ten years ago.  I've watched the program with increasing distress since and last night I simply had to say "no."  I just didn't care.  I cared far more that tenacious Wichita police detectives finally nabbed a credible suspect after 30 years of cat and mouse.  Reports over the newswires this morning have indicated that the suspect has confessed.  Now Wichita can have their own little circus--ala Gary Ridgway (the Green River killer).  Whatever else may happen to him (perhaps he will be murdered in prison to increase the prestige of another inmate, as were Jeff Dahmer and John Geoghan) BTK will not face the death penalty as Kansas had no capital punishment statute when any of his crimes took place. 

So, congratulations to the Wichita police for getting their man and to Hillary Swank, actress from Washington State for getting hers: gold and 18 inches high, though he may be. 

Friday, February 25, 2005

Tried As Adults Part 2

In July I published my opinion on the sad, brutal case of the two Ephrata boys who will be tried as adults for the murder of their playmate.  Today the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the Appeals Court decision, which I believe compounds error upon error.  This is unjust, an expression of narrow judicial interpretation at the very fringe of the sensible warm motion of human experience; so much so that it is barely recognizable as a human response.

That the legislature is mulling over a bill to waive mandatory minimum sentences in cases where defendants are convicted as teens is proof of the anxiety provoked by this case.  If the two boys are factually guilty (which has yet to be proven in a court of law) they need to be punished and rehabilitated.  And although I feel sympathy for them, society--not the victim's family--is responsible for justice, which also includes mercy in extenuating circumstances.  An extenuating circumstance in this case is the extreme youth of the defendants.  Had the Washington State Supreme Court been in Solomon's place, the child in the parable would have been split in two with an axe and each half given to the women who claimed to be his mother.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Too Hard

My good friend Steve tells me I'm too hard on myself.  Maybe he's right.  But I live within my own skin and I know what's going on.  If I don't express those experiences in a way that's convincing to others, then I have a problem.  If you haven't already surmized, this blog is intended to be a glimpse into my inner world.  If that is too narcissistic for your taste, farewell and godspeed.

I hope some of what I write here has a more universal value and appeal.  To that end, I'm excited to report that I found the passage in Man's Search for Meaning that I remember having such a profound impact on me the last time I read the book.  The idea had stuck firmly to my consciousness, but when I had tried to find that passage again, I couldn't.  Rediscovering it though, was exciting. 

"To draw an analogy, a man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into a chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter if the suffering is great or little. Therefore the size of human suffering is absolutely relative."  -Viktor E. Frankl

Only a survivor of a concentration camp who is also a physician and a philospher could make such a statement and present it as an eternal truth.  Frankl is saying that you and I don't have to have experienced the horrors of Auschwitz in order to feel pain, and for that pain to be real, authentic and valid.  It is Buddhist-like in its simplicity and echoes Buddha's noble truth: Life is difficult; and also the transcendant evolution of that realization, that once we accept that life is difficult, it ceases to be so.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Self Diagnosis 1: Borderline Personality Disorder

I seem to be engaged in a constant search for a diagnosis.  John Bradshaw has written that the desire to "know" is itself indicative of the shame-based personality.  Such folks read self-help books, journal, blog, etc., in a quest to gain self-knowledge as a method of relief.  This certainly applies to myself.  Another guru of mine, Dr. M. Scott Peck, has written that the neurotic personality is the one that feels he is wrong in the world, whereas the character-disordered personality feels as though the world is wrong and he is victimized by it.  I fall into the neurotic spectrum.  While I have had one official diagnosis: dysthymia, it doesn't cover all the bases of what I experience.  I found one condition on the internet that certainly covers more ground than "chronic low grade depression." 

Borderline Personality Disorder.  "A person with a borderline personality disorder often experiences a repetitive pattern of disorganization and instability in self-image, mood, behavior and close personal relationships. This can cause significant distress or impairment in friendships and work. A person with this disorder can often be bright and intelligent, and appear warm, friendly and competent. They sometimes can maintain this appearance for a number of years until their defense structure crumbles, usually around a stressful situation like the breakup of a romantic relationship or the death of a parent."  (Richard J. Corelli, M.D. Stanford University).

Symptoms of BPD: "Relationships with others are intense but stormy and unstable with marked shifts of feelings and difficulties in maintaining intimate, close connections. The person may manipulate others and often has difficulty with trusting others. There is also emotional instability with marked and frequent shifts to an empty lonely depression or to irritability and anxiety. There may be unpredictable and impulsive behavior which might include excessive spending, promiscuity, gambling, drug or alcohol abuse, shoplifting, overeating or physically self-damaging actions such as suicide gestures. The person may show inappropriate and intense anger or rage with temper tantrums, constant brooding and resentment, feelings of deprivation, and a loss of control or fear of loss of control over angry feelings. There are also identity disturbances with confusion and uncertainty about self-identity, sexuality, life goals and values, career choices, friendships. There is a deep-seated feeling that one is flawed, defective, damaged or bad in some way, with a tendency to go to extremes in thinking, feeling or behavior. Under extreme stress or in severe cases there can be brief psychotic episodes with loss of contact with reality or bizarre behavior or symptoms. Even in less severe instances, there is often significant disruption of relationships and work performance. The depression which accompanies this disorder can cause much suffering and can lead to serious suicide attempts."  (Richard J. Corelli, M.D. Stanford University)

It's the lability of mood encompassed in this description that applies to me.  The anger and rage I experience, especially around memories of past abuse.  In another post, I wrote about this possibly being the result of formication, and the anger and rage is experienced first, and the subconscious mind puts up pictures in order to justify the emotion.

Certainly the inability to form intimate relationships applies to me.  While I have never (at least consciously) lost contact with reality, I certainly have had shifts in reality so profound as to alter my perceptions as powerfully as say an earthquake does.  While I don't have a tremendously difficult time with self-mutilation, I do have onychophagia, which is form of that condition.

Friday, February 18, 2005


I don't think I'm going to continue with the Polishing program at BCC.  I think I'm going to take next quarter off.  It's just too much--too much anxiety and distress.  I'll take the $375 I save and pay someone to read my manuscript and give feedback.  Critique last night was like Tea with Torquemada: bitter and excruciating.  It enraged me and I couldn't sleep until 2:00 a.m.  I wanted to scream and bite and flame people with incendiary e-mails.  I resisted, however. 

One of the reasons I like to blog is because I enjoy brooding at the keyboard.  When I write fiction I have tried to train myself not to brood too much.  Sometimes I describe incidents and events but don't provide enough clues in the form of character reactions, to convey the emotional impact the events have on the characters.  If you think it's easy, try it sometime.  It's the same problem I had as an actor.  I could feel the emotion, but finding the right gesture, the right movement and action to convey the emotion to the audience was difficult.  A person who lives almost exclusively inside their own head probably can expect to have these problems, because one must live in one's own body.  And one's own body is the only barometer by which we put our characters' lives in context.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

One Thousand Hits!!!

Ta-Daa!  My blog passed the 1000 hit mark today.  I feel like celebrating! 

What do We Want the Police Doing?

Do we really want to give the police the right to go fishing through our trash looking for an excuse to search our homes?

That's what the Spokane judge was wrestling with.  So I'm taking back what I said yesterday about the decision defying common sense.  Afer taking a day to reconsider, the issue doesn't seem as clear.  What the police should have done in the case of the meth lab guy was set up a sting operation.  They took a shortcut to justice and got smacked for it.  Maybe that was appropriate.  Glad I'm not the judge.

Apparently crystal methamphetamine (Tina, crank) has taken over the club scene on the west coast.  I hadn't realized the problem was so huge.  I don't get out to clubs much anymore, so I'm out of the loop.  But yesterday Andrew Sullivan provided a link to this website about crystal meth and its effect on the body and on the body politic.  Extremely interesting.  The situation seems dire.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Justice v. Common Sense

Justice is Blind.  Sometimes Justice is also stupid.  It's stupid when it makes certain leaps of logic that defy-- well-- logic.

This happened yesterday in the Washington State Court of Appeals (Eastern District).  Now justice in the Eastern District of Washington is literally blind--or nearly so.  I do know they require 14 point fonts sizes instead of 12.  Be that as it may, their decision to exclude evidence from a man's garbage because it was an unconstitutional invasion of privacy smacks of true legal idiocy.  This is what happens in strict scrutiny: judges become blind to the forest because of the trees in front of them.  The way to test the argument, in common sense terms, is to phrase a what if question: What if, instead of finding drug paraphernalia in the trash, the detective had found a human cadaver?  Would the outcome of the case be different?  Under this rule of evidence all a serial killer has to do is throw their victims in the trash.  No more driving out to lonely isolated spots.  Rubbish.

In another case, a 12 year old in Missouri has been charged with murdering her 9 year old sister over a hamburger.  Apparently the girl confided this to her social worker while hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for delusions.  Although the original autopsy did not show a cause of death, Medical Examiner Michael Graham said "No other condition reasonably explains her death."  So, independent of any forensic or medical evidence the 9 year old died of anything but natural causes, and based solely on the confession of a mentally ill 12 year old, the State of Missouri is prepared to put her in jail for the rest of her life.  Unbelievable.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Man's Search for Meaning

"We had nothing: except our ridiculous naked lives." -Viktor E. Frankl

Thank you Mr. Johnson for introducing me to Man's Search for Meaning in high school.  Over the nearly three decades since the first time I read this incredible book, I have returned to it from time to time, and it has always yielded fresh insight into human life and to the meaning of suffering.  As Woody Allen has pointed out elsewhere "to love is to suffer."*  But in our relatively affluent, civilized society, most suffering is experienced voluntarily.  There are those moments in life when one must truly suffer, and it cannot be avoided if one is to remain psychologically fit.  One of those moments is the death of someone close: a parent, a child, a lover, a very dear friend.  One must enter into these feelings boldly; feel them, and express them.  One must suffer extravagantly as one grieves.  But when we feel the same way about forgetting to set the VCR, or the fact that we haven't become rich nor famous, such suffering is unnecessary and elective.

* "To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer. To suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy then is to suffer. But suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down."

-Woody Allen, Love and Death

Friday, February 11, 2005

I Might Sell

I may sell my Condo in Seattle and try to buy a house.   For the most part, I just want more space.  I also want more freedom.  And most of all, I don't want a homeowners association telling me what to do--even when I vote for their proposals I hate it because I'm not completely in control of the situation.  There are also other advantages to having a house.  The possibility of having a pet goes up, since I would presumably have a yard for the pet to roam in.  I might get lucky enough to have a basement--which would permit storage, exercise equipment.  And I want a cross-breeze.  My apartment has a western exposure and in the summer time it gets very warm. With no ventilation on the other side of the house things get stuffy very quickly. 

So, I'm taking action.  My realtor is coming in on presidents' day to do a walk through and look over the numbers with me.  If it looks like I can get out from under by at least breaking even, then I'm going to put the unit on the market. 

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Who made up all the rules
We follow them like fools
Believe them to be true
Don't care to think them through

Jem's Song "They" is a smoky mix of ballad and dance, with a theme about life on the outskirts of one's zone of control.  It has a nice, slow tempo but a strong beat.  The best thing about the song is its oddity, the Neapolitan mandolins that accompany the chorus, the strange children's babble that punctuates the bridge between the verses that sounds like equal parts playground chant and X-Files.  With a chorus that repeats several times "I'm sorry, so sorry, I'm sorry, we do this..." this is a song about regrets and guilt.  But it is not about despair or defeat, for an apology is a way to save a relationship and is an expression of hope. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

All Politics are Local

I'm pragmatic, but I'm not a pessimist, therefore I feel the need to append the post I made earlier today.  I believe that local politics have a far greater impact on my life than national politics, that whether or not the Monorail gets built has far more importance than anything George W. Bush does or says, 99% of which is contemptible.  I'm far more in danger from my fellow Americans than I am an Arab terrorist.  Statistically, I mean.  If I'm to be murdered, odds are astronomically against it being by a foreign or domestic terrorist.  Much more likely that such an event would transpire, like poor Nicole DuFresne's death, from a tawdry, mundane, absurd act of violence on a street corner.

Which is to say, don't succumb to despair over the direction of the country.  Live your life.  Be well.  Prosper.  And when the time comes to vote in local elections, do so. 

The Great Divide

The country is showing no signs of healing.  Liberals are still incensed at the very idea of a George W. Bush second term and neo-conservatives are still calling democrats who fail to rubber-stamp his policies treasonous.  The political atmosphere is like the brown cloud over Denver or Los Angeles: poisonous.  And it will not detoxify soon.  There's going to be hell to pay in the senate which still contains some democrats with backbone and republicans of conscience who will oppose the crash and burn this administration is trying to engineer either through intent or incompetence.

I hope that the next election will favor either a pragmatic (Clintonian) democrat or a more mainstream republican.  In fact, I predict that our next president will be John McCain.  Perhaps the country will swing back towards the middle.  However, we may be headed for teeter-totter back and forth wild swings from the far right to center for the forseeable future.  Farewell New Deal.  Farewell.

So it behooves us to resist.  One thing is crystal clear: we cannot depend upon the Supreme Court to protect minority rights any more.  The days of Lawrence v. Texas are over.  It was an anomoly anyway, and Virginia is ignoring the decision.  They have refused to repeal their sodomy laws.  So it's just a matter of time.  Eventually the issue will return to the Supreme Court and they will reverse themselves. 

Meanwhile, fair weather liberals who have the economic means to do so are moving north of the border.  Do they really believe that they need to flee the country?  We live in interesting times.

Monday, February 7, 2005

Log Cabin Republicans Redux

Ever listen to Air America?  Although it's a relief from the constant verbal sewage that is right wing radio, ideas on the extreme left are just as grating and prickly.  Yesterday, when my favorite radio station, C-89.5 FM, which almost always plays dance hits, was playing gospel (which it typically does on Sundays) I tuned in to Air America to hear Janeane Garofalo and company lambaste the Log Cabin Republicans, calling them "self-loathing" Uncle Toms and likening them to Jews in the Third Reich who tried to change the direction of the Nazi party's political aims. 

I must be much more centrist than these people because I really found the sentiments offensive.  Most importantly the Log Cabin Republicans are out of the closet.  I am categorically against any out person being intentionally shamed by anyone else, regardless of where they fall in the political spectrum.  Yet this was what Garofalo and company were doing: intentionally shaming gay people.  Personally, I believe that gay people have the right to be Republicans (although I myself am not).  The Republicans don't mind gay members just so long as they are invisible and mute.  Yet the Log Cabin Republicans remain a constant and vigilant voice, advocating full inclusion and acceptance in the middle of the party that wants nothing more than to deny gay people any and all legal rights and recognition.  I say, bravo to them.  I respect their courage and their willingness to stand up for principle.

But then, I place gay issues ahead of other political concerns.  I used to believe exactly the same way that Garofalo does, but then I grew up.  I became more mature and pragmatic.  I did not abandon my principles, I honed them with rational thought.  What is far more important to me is the rocky state of Social Security under the onus of George W. Bush.  We are told that the system is in danger of bankruptcy.  I don't believe that.  The numbers don't play.  It's said that there are fewer workers paying into the system now than in the past, and that those numbers will continue to shrink.  Yet, the population of the United States DOUBLES every 35 years.  So somewhere in there is a massive disconnect.  Yes, Social Security is expensive, but I've paid into the program all of my working life.  I'm going to be 47 in another few weeks and I am depending upon Social Security aspart of my retirement (although I don't plan on retiring completely, ever).  I think there are a lot of retirees who continue to work and continue to pay into the system.  So there's this fake intergenerational conflict that's touted by opponents on either side of the issue.  I think that's all tommyrot too.  I don't know what the answer to Social Security is, but I don't think we're being told even the basic facts of the matter.

Friday, February 4, 2005

Activist Judgery

A judicial activist has now ruled New York's prohibition on gay marriage unconstitutional.  This is old news in Washington state, where two separate superior court judges have determined exactly the same thing.  That it's New York in this case is much more significant due to its higher population and its 35 electoral college votes.  I love how neo-conservatives paint judges doing their jobs as "activist" when they come out with a ruling with which they disagree.  These are the same "activist" judges who gave George W. Bush the presidency in 2000 when there was a perfectly good remedy already in place in the Constitution.  However, let bygones be bygones.  What worries me about the New York case and the Washington cases is that they play into the hands of the radical right wing.  I fear the backlash--a little of which we experienced in the 2004 election wherein 11 states banned gay marriage at the state constitutional level.  Such legislation is discriminatory and mean spirited.  The proponents of those actions have said, in effect, "we hate you and we hate what you do, and although we can't put you in jail for it as we'd like, we're going to make sure that your relationships are never, ever given the respect they deserve.  So there."

It's infantile. 

But there's going to be more of it before it's over.

In a totally different story, a California student died of water intoxication after drinking from a 5 gallon jug during a fraternity hazing.  They need to put every single one of those students in jail (not forever, but long enough to teach them a good lesson), and they need to disenfranchise the frat from every state school campus in California.