17 December 2014

world wide wednesdays :: have a cigar

whoa. this is a big day. i mean huge. i usually try to skip happily from one area of the world to another in this series and i had just featured another state in the central american region, but after years of waiting for a breakthrough and then getting blindsided by the news this morning [that seems to be a thing with obama; he must be amazing at planning surprise parties], today just had to be dedicated to cuba.

so in the interest of promoting understanding and celebrating this new openness, i offer you the brief, inadequate but well-intentioned world wide wednesdays cuba primer. but first, here's a little cuba-centred trivia question to get your brain activated. can you tell me what american said the following? [answer given at the end of the post.]

I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country's policies during the Batista regime. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.

stand back, c.i.a., i'll handle this

while i can't say that i was surprised by the contents of the recently released "torture report", detailing the various means by which the american central intelligence agency and their military counterparts dragged ultimately useless information from prisoners. if college fraternities can get shut down for hazing, i see absolutely no reason why the central intelligence agency should be able to keep its charter after this fiasco. i've never been a fan of the agency. i think that the world would be a better, safer, more peaceful place if they had never existed. nothing in the "torture report" surprised me, because nothing in it went beyond claims i've already seen documented about c.i.a. activities. it did introduce me to the term "rectal hydration", which is supposedly some sort of medical procedure. what josef mengele did were medical procedures as well.

however, another thing i hate is seeing people screw up a relatively easy job. what i hate even more is seeing them screw up a job that i could have done a lot better. i'm not a supporter of torture through music, but if i had to do it, i could sure as shit come up with a way better playlist than the tight-assed pencil-pushers who were apparently tasked with finding the most disturbing, disquieting, unbearable sounds that humans could create [well, more on that later]. when was the last time any of these people even bought music?

choices included a lot of pop music [christina aguilera, matchbox 20, the beegees], some hip hop [eminem, tupac], a sprinkling of children's music and, of course, some metal. well, rage against the machine and metallica, which don't really count. there was one song by deicide, which i'm guessing was a suggestion made after someone thought to google "most evil music ever". you can see a list of songs used here, with "deicide" misspelled as "decide", just to show how on the ball everyone was. [i'm also going to venture that everyone assumed that all these detainees only ever listened to islamic religious music. because if any of the prisoners happened to have a secret love of hip hop or metal because of its subversive history and imagery, the c.i.a. were basically arranging a prison dance party.]

i should really be charging for this, but for all you government spy-drone bozos out searching the internet for signs of free thought, here is the soundtrack you need to get the next time you think you're going to spook someone with sounds. [and i better not find out you downloaded it illegally you hypocritical dipshits!!!!!]

einstürzende neubauten :: armenia
i'm pretty sure hearing this could convince anyone they were in hell's vestibule.

burl ives :: holly jolly christmas
guaranteed to offend both the beliefs and hearing of islamic extremists. 

diamanda galas :: plague mass trilogy
it's a woman. shrieking and howling. quoting large sections of the old testament. for three albums. [link only goes to part one.]

winterkalte :: sustainability
really, there's a lot of winterkalte that fits the bill; this is just an example. crank it up.

alvin and the chipmunks :: christmas song
high-pitched sounds are abrasive to the human ear.

clock dva :: the sonology of sex
all religion involves some level of sexual repression and religious extremists are extremely repressed. this is just going to crack open all that backed up stuff and let it coming pouring like acid into the brain. [while you're at it, try "the connection machine". sure, it's just chopped up bits of coppola's "the conversation" set to creepy background music, but most prisoners aren't going to know that. hell, most c.i.a. agents aren't going to know it either.]

controlled bleeding :: knees and bones
you could probably start with this and get whatever information you wanted if you play it at loud enough volume right away, but that would spoil your fun.

the owls
who the hell said it had to be music of any sort? that link is to a series of owl calls, some of which are going to be pretty creepy if you here them in the middle of the night in the dark. lots of animals make lots of scary sounds. find them. [find already existing ones, assholes. if you hurt animals to obtain them, i will find you.]

naked city :: demon sanctuary
it might only be forty-two seconds long, but i can pretty much guarantee that you will have their undivided attention when it's over. not only does it have an intense blast of jazz-noise-scronk and the dulcet tones of erstwhile boredoms vocalist yamatsuka eye, but there's even a hint of zorn's jewish heritage sprinkled in. i'm spoiling you people.

frankie yankovic :: beer barrel polka
well, in case you were worried that smattering of judaica would go unnoticed, we might as well bring out the big sonic guns. i can't think of anyone better than weird al's dad to ramp things up a little.

incapacitants :: ministry of foolishness
the whole twenty-odd minutes at maximum volume. mercy is for the weak.

whitehouse :: i'm coming up your ass
practically perfect in every way!

nurse with wound :: dueling banjos
if you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em? trust me, by the end of this, they'll be so confused you'll be lucky if they don't think you're their parents.

in heaven everything is fine
you could also just play the entirety of the eraserhead soundtrack. or make them watch eraserhead.

so there you go, central not-much-intelligence-after-all agency. i've just come up with a list off the top of my head that's about a thousand times more effective than anything you dreamt up and, moreover, i was limited to tracks for which i could find videos. i can do worse. i can do far worse. you don't want to know how much worse i can do. furthermore, i didn't choose shit that sounds like you're flipping the dial during drive-time.

as i said, i think that the entire c.i.a. needs to be shut down. i think its leaders past and present need to stand trial for what they've done- not just the things covered in this latest report, but all the horrible things they've done. and when the government is finished dismantling this monster, perhaps they should hire some people for intelligence work who are actually competent. because if the agency is this bad at doing something as simple as picking out a song list, imagine how bad they are at the difficult stuff.

16 December 2014

mental health mondays :: your holiday primer

most of us have heard that there's a bump in the number of suicides every year, as the good cheer of others makes depressed people sink even further. it's not actually true, but it does sound pretty believable, doesn't it? after all, things are rough enough when you're dealing with mental health issues, let alone when the entire world seems to be trying to force you to smile and be "merry". it's easy to believe that the added pressure and the projected happiness of others is enough to nudge someone over the edge.

but the fact is, even if people aren't throwing themselves off bridges like a bunch of lemmings [also a myth, by the way], the holidays can be a pretty stressful time. for my american readers, that stress started a few weeks ago, with thanksgiving, but for the rest of us, it's just starting to hit fever pitch now. i may not be able to help you with your last minute shopping, but i have come up with a list of tips that might help keep you from losing your cool and contributing to the annual holiday rise in crime, which is real.

  1. drugs are important :: things can get very busy around the holidays. offices have irregular hours. you may have irregular hours. make sure that you stock up early on whatever medicines you need to get you through to the new year. while pharmacists generally frown on renewing prescriptions early, they're more likely to be understanding around this time of year. this is absolutely not the time to reduce, skip or change your medication. if you're in the process of doing one of these things, talk to your doctor about possibly putting that on hold until things normalize. [if you are looking to reduce or stop your medications, you might want to have a look here for some extra tips.]
  2. do as much and as little as you can :: it might be tempting to crawl in bed and hide for a month, but that's not like you to leave you feeling any better. on the other hand, dealing with large numbers of unfamiliar family members and friends and coworkers and... well, being around lots of people might not be advisable either. so pace yourself. let those close to you know your limitations and why you might not want to participate in every holiday activity. if you don't feel comfortable with coworkers, you can politely back out of the office party. if you want to participate, but think you might feel overwhelmed, have an early exit strategy.
  3. sleep it off :: don't think sleep is a mental health issue? it absolutely is. so make sure that you get the rest you need. even if you can't sleep [and that in itself is a problem you should address], make sure you at least take the time to rest in a place that's dark and quiet and where you're not going to be interrupted.
  4. the big d :: you can find more information in this post, but here's the bottom line: there are lots of good reasons to take vitamin d and while the science on its efficacy against seasonal affective disorder might be inconclusive, there's enough evidence that it might help to make it worth a try. the sun is our major source of vitamin d and there's no getting around the fact that we get precious little of it at this time of year. it will likely do you good on some level and it's not going to harm you. 
  5. and while we're talking about natural highs :: consider adding a good quality omega-3 supplement or increasing your intake of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. you can read more about them here. [note :: omega-3 means omega-3, not 6 and not 9. north americans normally get those in more than sufficient quantities already.]
  6. watch the holiday cheer :: lots of people will tell you that you shouldn't touch alcohol or illicit drugs if you're on any kind of psychiatric medication. i am not one of those people. [i do, however, strongly suggest you read  up on any possible interactions before indulging and making an informed decision.] but the fact is that whether you are or aren't on medication, alcohol is a depressant. if you're already feeling depressed, alcohol will only pull you further down.
  7. plan for the last minute :: if you've already completed all your shopping, you have one less thing to stress about. however, if you've somehow managed, like many, many others to leave it until next week, you can still reduce your anxiety and your time fighting the throngs. take a few quiet moments to think of things you've heard people close to you mention that they planned to get, or that they admired when other people got them... you get the idea. then go online and find out where to get them. if you can order them in time, great, but if not, find out what local stores sell what you need. call and confirm they're in stock and find out the best map that will allow you to get everything you need in the fastest, most efficient way possible.
  8. be nontraditional :: sometimes, family traditions that have formed around the holidays are a comfort for people with mental disorders. they provide a sense of calmness and security that can relieve stress. for others... not so much. if there are traditions that your family practices that are unduly stressful for you, talk to them about it in advance. see if there's some change that could be made to the plan [keeping in mind that others have a right to enjoy their holidays too]. it's all well and good to have established traditions, but it's also fun to find new ones. you might also want to have a think about why certain holiday activities are so stressful for you and see if you can link it to other things that cause you stress. even better, talk to your therapist or doctor about it. it's good to avoid causes of stress when you can, but it's even better to be able to stop them from causing stress at all.
i don't pretend that this is a comprehensive list, but i think it's a starting point. the idea that we make ourselves suffer through something that is meant to give us a break from the stresses of the rest of the year and remind us of how lucky we are to have our loved ones in our life is quite sad. and none of us needs anything to make us more sad at this time of year.

sit back, relax, feel the world slow down around you. no lives are at stake. take a few moments to think about what you need and what you can offer. happy holidays need not be an irritating, chipper slogan. it can be a statement of fact.

p.s. :: if you have a friend or family member who is suffering from mental illness, or if you think you might face [well-meaning but possibly infuriating] questions from your loved ones about your own struggles, you might want to look at this handy list of what to say and what not to say to people with mental disorders.

p.p.s. :: à propos of the image above and as an inveterate hater of christmas movies, i do in all seriousness recommend watching grumpy cat's "worst christmas ever".  its total self-awareness makes it charming where it should be corny. for the season, i also recommend "die hard" [i'm a purist and go only for the original, but dom also likes the second one], "blackadder's christmas carol" and the "holy" episode of bottom. i've also been known to watch old religious epics [ceci b. demille is the man] and add audience participation à la "rocky horror picture show", but your enjoyment of this will depend on your own spiritual outlook and your comfort level with going to hell if it turns out you guessed wrong.

14 December 2014

making faces :: coral orange crush

continuing in the challenge of "one shade a week" lipstick, i bring you part two, which actually has two colours included, one of which has a huge subset of shades to its name. interestingly, i've already done features, way back, on both coral and orange, which is kind of interesting since i don't believe that either one is particularly flattering on me. i can find ones that i like, but considering the number of available options, the ones that i can pull off are surprisingly limited.

a while back, mac cosmetics did a limited edition series of lipsticks [most of which have now joined their permanent collection] called "all about orange". there were both coral and orange hues on offer and a decent range too- bright, subtle, yellower, redder, shimmery, matte- and although i really liked some of the shades swatched on my hand, they all looked terrible on my face. i wanted to make them work, but for different reasons, none of them did. i have managed to put together a week's worth of shades that i think i can pull off [to varying degrees], or at least that i like enough that i'm willing to overlook the slight incompatibilities with my skin tone.

it's been stupidly bloody overcast here for what seems like a month and so some of the photos- i'll explain which further on- are not as accurate as i would like. damn you mother nature!


11 December 2014

hell awaits

this happens to me more often than i like to admit. i'm perusing my writing files and come across a title that i don't remember. part of the problem is that i usually name files according to the first word that jumps into my head as i'm working on something, which would be awesome, if i could keep track of the things that my brain is thinking while i'm writing, but i can't even keep track of the things my brain is thinking when i'm doing nothing but thinking. my brain is not a multitasker.

so i opened up a file intriguingly titled "hell". really, i was thinking that it would be very cool if there was actually a portal to hell on my computer that was fiendishly hidden in a folder where i am most likely to open files wondering what they are. i mean, if there was a devil and he thought that up, it would be evidence that he was really wearing his clever pants. but it turns out that file "hell" was actually just a piece of writing that seemed exactly like something i'd do, except that i had no memory of it whatsoever. i mean, the first few lines were clearly like me, but i was staring at it and wondering if i should let dom know it was finally time to check me into a facility.

it's not just that i'd forgotten writing it, or anything about it. it's that when i checked the creation date [i'm really thrilled about that feature normally], i realised it was something i'd written around the end of august. normally, when i find things that i've no memory of, they at least have the decency to have been fermenting on my hard drive for a few years, but this was something that had evidently been done three and a half months ago. and who knows what else i was getting up to in my literary fugue state?

as i read, i realised that it was, in fact, something that was based on a dream of mine. a dream i'd written about here. more shocking yet, i'd written about writing this thing. of course, the downside of this is that i still can't remember writing this thing. that's right. despite the fact that i wrote out some of the inspiration and despite the fact that i wrote about the feelings i had on completing this, i still have no memory whatsoever of doing the writing itself. i know the writing happened. if i stretch my brain, i like to think that i can remember the writing. except what i'm remembering is me sitting at my desk and typing, which is something that happens every day. it's happening now, for instance. i do sort of remember creating the visuals from the "unicorn poop" post.

anyway, i sort of like the way this came out. it's about halfway between a poem and a prose story, which makes me link it to "spook house", which also struck me as some kind of halfsie. so please enjoy my version of hell. at least, i think it's mine. it might actually be a portal to hell that's trying to fool me. one never knows...

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