silence is ear-piercing screaming shrieks

Yesterday as I worked on photo editing, I was listening to NPR stories about Adam Toledo and some Deliverance-level jackass who shot up a FedEx facility in Indianapolis. I started crying and held my head in my hands at one point.

“If I were in Chicago, I would join the protests,” I told myself. I’m tired of all this bullshit of black people getting shot and then mass shootings of innocent people in supposedly safe environments taking their lives and freedoms away by force and mental illness.

And I say fuck those people who think destroying public property in retaliation for woman’s babies getting murdered left and right by the people we trust to protect us.

In North Carolina, I leave stuff out in my garage and in my yard. Two days ago, I left bags of mulch, pea rocks, a new mailbox and new mail post by the street for a few hours. “What if someone steals this stuff?” Tina asked.

Continue reading “silence is ear-piercing screaming shrieks”

Use this time as an opportunity to change

Reposting from Kottke:

Olga Khazan, writing for the NY Times in an essay adapted from her book Weird, tells us that if we’re not satisfied with our personalities, we can change them.

After all, the person who emerges from quarantine doesn’t have to be the same old you. Scientists say that people can change their personalities well into adulthood. And what better time for transformation than now, when no one has seen you for a year, and might have forgotten what you were like in the first place?

It was long thought that people just are a certain way, and they’ll remain that way forever. The Greek physician Hippocrates believed that people’s personalities were governed by the amounts of phlegm, blood, black bile and yellow bile that flowed through their bodies.

Modern science, of course, has long since discarded notions of bile and humors. And now, it appears the idea that our personalities are immutable is also not quite true. Researchers have found that adults can change the five traits that make up personality — extroversion, openness to experience, emotional stability, agreeableness and conscientiousness — within just a few months. Much as in Dr. Steffel’s case, the traits are connected, so changing one might lead to changes in another.

Put more succinctly: “Remember that your personality is more like a sand dune than a stone.”

Blame everything on cataclysmic events!

September 11, 2001 wreaked havoc on New York City, Washington, D.C. and my head. Lots of people have stories about where they were and how and when they saw the news. But rarely do people talk about how their lives were changed. Mine changed for the worse.

That date sent me into a tailspin. At the time, I was ending the second year in Chicago. I worked at the Merchandise Mart as a graphic and web designer. That morning on NPR, one of the journalists was explaining an accident in New York City that a plane had run into one of the twin towers. I tiredly shuffled into my living room from my kitchen slash bedroom in my studio apartment to turn on the TV. I turned it on to see smoke rising from one of the towers. As I stood there looking at it, another plane from seemingly nowhere hit the other tower, and I screamed.

I picked up the phone and called my mom. She was watching, too, and one of her first words was, “They are at it again.”

“Who?” I asked.

“The muslims.” As if I should just know that we had a culture war. But at the time, my little 25 year old brain wasn’t familiar with previous attacks by muslims on U.S. soil.

Like a good little robot, I showered, dressed and went to work. On the train standing with my hand above my head holding a bar, no one seemed to know about it. At one point, I bemoaned the planes hitting buildings under my breath. Someone heard me, and I said, “The planes that hit the twin towers in New York City. It’s scary weird.”

They responded, “What?”

“Didn’t you hear the news?”

Anyone within the sound of my voice looked my way. I said, “There were two planes that hit the twin towers in New York City this morning. No one knows why.”

People gasped, but we didn’t have little computers in our pockets back then so everyone had to wait to get to their computers at work to get more info.

The Merchandise Mart in Chicago is a HUGE building and on the front it says, “One World Trade Center.” As the news unfolded that it was a terrorist attack, we evacuated the building.

It rocked my world. I didn’t know how to cope with the idea that our country, where we are free and civilized, where we feel safe and not vulnerable, was now struck with agonizing dread and worry.

I went from an infrequent bar goer to a frequent one. The Shamrock, a little hole in the wall across from the north side of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, became my after work destination almost every night of the week. I picked up pool. I smoked cigarettes. And even after leaving, I would have a couple more beers when I got home. It was, in a way, the worst months of my life.

This week, I had a realization about the pandemic. It wreaked havoc on my head, much like 9/11. I was doing okay at first. But then my best friend’s wife decided early on that she was going to leave him over a stupid argument they had.

It compounded the stress I already felt from the impending threat of dying from a disease we knew very little about. Then we sold our condo in Chicago. Stress upon stress sent me into a drinking binge that seemed to never end. I didn’t drink all day. But I drank every day.

And no matter how much I tried to talk myself out of it, I kept it up like a marathoner. What was I training for other than dying from complications with liver damage?

We bought a scale last October that measures body fat, metabolism, muscle mass, water weight, sperm count and brain activity. It turns out that I had gained weight over the year. I picked up more visceral fat (which is in your tummy and around your organs) and my brain was working at 1%. It was a wakeup call.

Belly fat is often seen as a beer belly. It gets ahold of your internal organs and is very difficult to get rid of.

I also noticed that my resting heart rate was getting higher and higher for longer periods of time. My Fitbit watch measures that.

I started working out with Tina. During the pandemic, we quit our gym membership and Tina subscribed to a body pump website. She bought weights and tried to keep up her routine the best she could. I did the class twice at the gym before the pandemic, so I decided I would try to keep it up. Since last October, I started doing it more frequently and over the course of time, my body fat number has gone down and my muscle mass number is going up.

I still have tons of work to do. I don’t want to quit drinking. But I need to get myself back to a level of moderation that looks more like pre-pandemic Jeremy.

Tina and I are not drinking from Monday to Thursday every week and we’ve started intermittent fasting thanks to a podcast we listened to with David Sinclair, a biologist who specializes in aging. His findings point to the idea that the longer you make your body hungry the more it has a chance to attack the cells that cause cancer, aging, and inflammation.

I discovered during the pandemic that my running injuries were not healing, and I think that I never let my body heal, because it was always trying to process the beer I was guzzling every day after five o’clock (somewhere).

Goodness I’m glad for technology that takes me into the parking lot and kicks my ass. If it weren’t for my watch and my scale, and a desire to perfect my inferiorities and weaknesses, I’d be a miserable fat mess.

I write this out, because it’s words like this that also encourage me. When someone posts that they are working out on social media, I always look at it and think, “I need to work out more.” And then I do.

Or someone posts, “I’m two years sober.” And I think, Shit, I need to slow the fuck down.

Or someone posts, “I’m an idiot.” And I think, “I am, too!”

Thanks to all the idiot drunks working out and sharing about it. You inspire me. I hope I inspire you.

Reigniting love and respect for David Sedaris

In my light reading world (as opposed to heavy reading like science lit), I’ve taken a short break from reading Stephen King to David Sedaris. I read Calypso in February, which is a 2018 release. New to me.

Sedaris fell off my radar probably 10 years ago. I don’t remember which book, but I didn’t find any of it funny or entertaining.

By chance, I was checking what was available now on my iPhone’s library app, Libby, and Calypso was available. “Why not?” I thought. “I used to love the guy as an early 20 year old before I moved to Chicago.

My college mentor, Brian, listened to NPR every morning. I know this, because I lived in his home for a several weeks one summer while I interned at a local weekly newspaper called the Black Mountain News. It was a paid internship and as my mentor was singly focused on his students’ successes, he declared, “I will make damn sure you take this opportunity.”

So I moved in to their guest room with a pullout sofa on the first floor. His two young girls at the time, probably 5 and 3, enjoyed having me there. I was privileged with witnessing their routines: breakfast, playtimes, dance offs to videos that Brian had cobbled together of dance scenes in movies and bedtime routines. He was the film professor, after all, and why wouldn’t he have the dance scene from Pulp Fiction playing before dinner so the girls could sweat a little and he could relax with a cool glass of sweet tea with mint that he plucked from the side of his little white house on a hill.

The bedtime routines were magical. The girls would bathe together in a tub on the second floor. That was followed by a reading from usually a somewhat atypical book for children, then a Bible lesson, questions and answers, and then I would leave, to listen to Brian sing to the girls from the bottom of the stairs.

Continue reading “Reigniting love and respect for David Sedaris”

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

From a reputable source:

BOULDER, CO—In the hours following a violent rampage in Colorado in which a lone attacker killed 10 individuals and injured several others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Monday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said Kansas resident Andrew Thompson, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this individual from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what they really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”


Also, I saw a meme this week. A quote attributed to a guy named Lonnie Phillips of Survivors Empowered. Whether he said it or not, it struck me right in the gut.

“If guns aren’t the problem and people are the problem, why would you ever give the problem guns?”

I drive a car. I need insurance and to maintain a particular set of rules, or either my right is removed or I’m fined. I could kill people every time I’m on the road, and if I did, I’d get my ass handed to me.

What the fuck is wrong with people who don’t impose equal or stricter laws on gun buyers?

The party of pro-life proves time and again that they are not.

Elif Batuman: painting the bars.

“I grew up in a very stressed family with a lot of family stress and secrets, and I found novels to be the only mode of description that was talking about the things that I actually thought were interesting, like what goes on inside a house and what are the relationships between the people there. The novels that I was attracted to were often the ones that described the disenfranchisement of women or the bullshit that women and children had to go through. All the unfairness and all the hypocrisy that people sort of metabolize and assimilate and how there are still these moments of beauty and of interpersonal complexity and richness. Novels made life seem worth living to me, they made life seem beautiful. You know there’s that famous quote that Nabokov said about Lolita, that it was about the first painting ever painted by an animal—it was an ape at the Jardine de Plant—the poor animal painted the bars of its cage. I feel like that’s every novel. Maybe not every novel but all my favorite novels. And what they were doing was saying ‘But look at these bars, aren’t they interesting, aren’t they beautiful. Look how the light falls. This wouldn’t happen if there weren’t bars.’ Anyways, I feel like the novel led me to aestheticize my own imprisonment. Which is sort of natural for a child, because you sort of are in prison as a child. But I preserved that mechanism into my adulthood and well into my early 30s and I didn’t really understand to what extent I was free and to what extent I could use my writing [and] how the novel can be an instrument of freedom as well.” 

I had to read the above twice. Alright, maybe three times. Painting the bars of your own cage? My life will not be the same.

I’ve been reading and re-reading David Sedaris books and it’s amazing how he can gently write about his family’s idiosyncrasies and idiocies while somehow not being offensive, at least to me. But I love the idea that Elif Batuman became free by reading the insider info of novels and letting it free her brain of the prison.

via Laura Olin

Franklin Graham calls on Christians to get vaccine. Chaos ensues.

On Franklin Graham’s Facebook page, he writes:

The internet is full of articles, theories, data, and opinions concerning the COVID-19 vaccines—both positive and negative. There’s a lot out there for you to read. I have been asked my opinion about the vaccine by the media and others. I have even been asked if Jesus were physically walking on earth now, would He be an advocate for vaccines. My answer was that based on the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, I would have to say—yes, I think Jesus Christ would advocate for people using vaccines and medicines to treat suffering and save lives. In this Scripture passage, Jesus told about a man beaten and wounded, lying on the roadside as religious leaders passed by and didn’t help. But a Samaritan, considered a social outcast of the day, becomes the hero of the story when he stops and cares for the injured man—pouring oil and wine, which were the top medicines of the day, on the man’s wounds. We also know that Jesus went from town to town healing “every disease and sickness.” He came to save life—to offer us eternal life. Did Jesus need a vaccine Himself? Of course not. He is God.

So, my own personal opinion is that from what we know, a vaccine can help save lives and prevent suffering. Samaritan’s Purse has operated COVID-19 emergency field hospitals, and we have seen the suffering firsthand. I also have staff and their family members who contracted the virus and spent weeks on a ventilator and months hospitalized as a result—I don’t want anyone to have to go through that. Vaccines have worked for polio, smallpox, measles, the flu and so many other deadly illnesses—why not for this virus? Since there are different vaccines available, my recommendation is that people do their research, talk to their doctor, and pray about it to determine which vaccine, if any, is right for them. My wife and I have both had the vaccine; and at 68 years old, I want to get as many more miles out of these old bones as possible!

Usually when I see these posts, there are friends of mine who turn up liking or loving every one of them. But the comments are as disjointed and angry as any political debate one could imagine; and they’re almost all some form of believers.

One popular comment reads:

When Franklin Graham says Jesus would take a vaccine made with aborted fetal tissue, or one designed to hijack the cell function God himself programmed, ….but Franklin forgot that Jesus literally brought cells and immune systems back from decomposition and never once called on a physician to help him do it.

There are responses from RWNJ site “Newsmax” with fingers pointed at George Soros and there’s this whole debate about the vaccine is gene therapy that has the purpose of changing you into a demonlover or something.

It’s wild supernatural bickering that is a treasure trove of comic scariness.

The challenge when reading this kind of infighting is: where are these people? I know plenty of Christians who aren’t battling the vaccine as a political issue or one steeped in controversy.

I saw this growing up. Science was a sticky point with evangelical teachings. And those seeds planted then are sprung up full on monster trees bearing not fruit, but junk food from its branches.

It’s time to remove politics AND religion from politics.

I say this like anyone gives a shit.

So that’s why there is a rising number of religious “nones” … 🙄

From the Christian Post:

Mixing religion and politics leading to rise of the ‘nones,’ scholars say

The marrying of religion and politics among conservatives to create the well-known and powerful religious right that forms a voting bloc for the Republican Party has led some Americans to abandon their ties to the Christian faith and join the ranks of secularists, scholars argue in a new book. 

The researchers present evidence suggesting that many Americans have an “allergic reaction” to the mixture of religion and conservative politics, and many Democrats have been shown to drop their religious affiliation — if being religious means being Republican.

They contend that as the religious right grows, so does the secular population since the rise of the secular left follows the emergence of the religious right a generation ago. They argue that today, the religious right is the base of the Republican Party, and time will tell if the agenda of the secular left will become equally incorporated into the priorities of the Democratic Party. 

With the religious imagery on display during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the researchers believe even more Americans could drop their religious affiliation.

Read the whole thing.

Religion ain’t going anywhere. And secularism is intertwined in Christian culture. It’s just a matter of time for some to wake up and lave that shit behind.

I a woke

I awoke and saw the sleepers
rows of them lying on lumps of
raised dirt.
Their dreams were shoots
springing through ocular sockets
toward clouds then stars.

I blew a bullhorn.
To wake the the snoozers.
The dreamers.
to disturb nightmares.

The sleepers kept snoring.
No noise stirred them.
They dreamed of
flying, dying, not crying
of teeth falling out.
They dreamed of healed sick,
Of fire falling from the sky,
Of boats full of animals.

Awake, we don’t see
tridents held by red men with horns
and yellow eyes
tails and fire for hands
The sleepers see these men

Awake, we do not see
invisible Herculean men
or women. We do not make phone calls
to the artists who lived
now dreaming in Hamlet’s head,

Awake, we see hands extended,
tears in eyes.
We hear screams for help.
We hear calls from lips.

Awake we love a returned smile.
Awoke we reach into the open hand,
Squeeze torsos to lift the withered body
Onto the bed so the doctor can heal
And the nurse can feel the pulse.

Sleepers dream of magicians
who confuse the snorers
with card tricks and rabbits
from hats.