and I quote

august 2011

click for permalink August 27, 2011

blue swirl nails"So, what are you doing this weekend — anything interesting?"

Oh, you know... the usual.

To be fair (to me), I have been working my ass off these last few months, but it still seems completely lame that my plans for the weekend always revolve around very little other than trips to the library, my favorite thrift and used book stores, and making the well-worn circuit of my usual department, grocery and drugstore chains for some minor variation on the same 25 staple products. Sometimes when I'm shopping, I'll find an old shopping list in my backpack from a previous outing and it will be very nearly indistinguishable from the current day's list.

I can't stand to leave the apartment without a shopping list because I know all too well that without one, my mind will invariably go blank right as I'm standing at the intersection of the produce and dairy aisles. My fight or flight response will be triggered, and I will rush through the store stocking up on things we already have, getting all the way home before I realize I forgot the one thing I really needed — usually milk, tonic or brown sugar — for which I had fabricated the rest of the shopping list in the first place before I left it sitting on the table by the front door.

cherry blossom nailsThe only downside to carrying my carefully thought-out little lists on these minor excursions is that I have a very bad habit of sticking them in my back pocket and forgetting about them. It may not sound all that daft on the surface, but this little trick proves infinitely more worthy of self-reproach a few weeks later when I open the lid to the washing machine and discover that an entire load of dark clothes has been coated in a fine, powdered-sugar-like film of liquified paper pulp.

If there's a security camera installed in our laundry room, I like to imagine that my resulting tantrum is observed by our kindly security guard. He looks up from his newspaper and coffee to the animated figure on his closed-circuit monitor and shakes his head in sympathy as he watches her pluck one item after another from the machine, inspecting them, swiping away errant specks with her fingers, then shaking each garment ferociously before hurling it into the dryer, all the while muttering and swearing to herself, which is blatantly obvious even in silent, low-def black and white.

blue swirl nailsIf you don't think you're a creature of habit, try this at home: save all your receipts for an entire year — not just electronics and home appliances and that new cleanser you want to be able to return if it makes you break out or regret spending so much, but everything — from your hairstylist appointments to the pack of gum and weird bottle of juice that caught your eye as you were waiting in line at the gas station. All the take-out food, bulk-bin trail mix and vitamins, alcohol and impulse-purchased magazines, condiments, dish soap, pet food, underwear and socks — everything. Go through them all at the end of the year and group them in piles by store — or by size and color — it doesn't matter. By that time, my point will have been made.

blue swirl nailsI suppose you could approximate the same effect by going through your detailed bank statements for the same period of time; the same six or seven stores every week, the same pre-authorized credits and debits every month that go on running in the background, with or without your observation; and those "unplanned" expenses that, when mapped out over time, could probably be seen to recur with stunning and almost sinister regularity.

Here's a Truth or Dare-esque question that, depending on how you answer, may or may not reveal something interesting about you. Which would freak you out more, if your boss could see a detailed printout of all your banking activities for a full year, or your complete web browsing history for a year? Would the answer be different if it was your parents? Your doctor? The IRS or FBI? How about your ex? Discuss...

So, for some reason I've been thinking about patterns and life cycles lately, which can either be weird and depressing or cause you to lose hours surfing in pursuit of an abstract chain of loosely-connected inspirations, which can potentially stimulate some very creative thoughts. Here's one from the less creative end of the spectrum: a personal fashion timeline for every year ending in a "1" that I've been alive, illustrated by StorTroopers.


Now this is a brilliant idea, in the same genre of visually mapping one's personal history, but it isn't mine. This is the project of a photographer named Irena Werning, and I really want to do it myself (and so begins the quest for the perfect childhood photo, for use in a project that will most likely never be seen by more than ten people... Ahh, you know, if I really thought that way, I'd probably never get out of bed in the morning).

Now and ThenActually, I would love it if everyone I knew did this, especially family members whose relative youth I may or may not have experienced firsthand. Notice that the most striking sets of pictures in Irena's collection are the ones where the similarity between the two pictures is the strongest, despite the difference in years. It so happens that my mother is just such a person (and yes, I know you're reading this!)...

Anyway, this got me thinking about all my old photographs and I started wondering if I could find one picture, taken from the same angle, from every year of my life, which I could crop to the same size and shape and view as a grid — or a slide show — or, heh, plug them all into one of those photo-morphing programs and... and experience an irreparable freak-out as I watch the resulting animation. Maybe not.

Similar thoughts include making a family tree with photographs of every ancestor I can find going back to Mary Dyer (d. 1660), which I had initially figured would be impossible, but I nonetheless found myself lured into several days of online scavenger hunting, only to realize anew that it was, in all seriousness, damned unlikely, if not impossible, even with all the best (though questionably-intended) efforts of online dynasty-mapping mega-sites like (what is their angle, anyway?), not to mention the world's Mormons.

Then my thoughts turned back to the pedantic — a Google earth tour of all the places I've lived from birth until now? Ironic, considering all the places I've lived in between, that those two endpoints would be less than a mile apart. Floorplans of all my past apartments, complete with furniture? On second thought, if I want to relive that, it would be easy enough to find an IKEA catalog from 1995 somwhere online — and I'm pretty sure doesn't offer an "art school furniture" tab, where you can drag and drop individual cinder blocks and unfinished boards to make a bookcase, or use your roommate's 1970s brown and orange zigzag-patterned, crochet blanket to cover the cigarette holes in your student housing-issued sofa.

Cadillac DeVilleFunny story... when I finally came up for air after churning out my StorTrooper Doppelgangers, I showed them to Mr. Pink, just in case he had forgotten what a total nerd I am. He responded by revealing his own recent personal timeline project: collecting pictures of all the cars he's ever owned (including, notably, a 1969 Camaro SuperSport). Although I've never officially learned how to drive and I don't plan on doing so in the foreseeable future, I've still somehow managed to own three cars in my life — although technically one of them was long gone before I was old enough to actually drive it... But, as Kodak memories go, it sure beats the hell out the '82 Honda Civic and '84 Toyota Camry. Don'tcha think?


click for permalink August 18, 2011

SeroquelThe first post I ever read at The Last Psychiatrist (thanks, Google) was titled, portentously, The Most Important Article On Psychiatry You Will Ever Read. I have since emailed it, printed it, quoted it, linked to it and even read it out loud to a few people I didn't trust to read it on their own. A few weeks ago, he asked his minions (and make no mistake, they — okay, "we" — are minions) to list in the comments all the posts they would want to see included if his blog were reincarnated in analog book format. I thought about it for a few days, looked over the archives, getting sucked in for hours reading long-forgotten posts and adding them to the list of favorites that had come to mind immediately. I kept scanning all the new comments as they rolled in, some of them accompanied by deeply heartfelt sentiments, which I seconded wholeheartedly, and most reminded me of still more posts I wanted to include or at least re-read. A few days of this and I wondered if I really needed to add anything at all.

Two months passed before I decided I would accomplish two things at once by simply posting the list here, citing a rare form of "social anxiety disorder" (one that in all likelihood will be bred out of the gene pool within the next two generations). This ailment (untreated, of course) allows me to post personal anecdotes, doctored photos and injudicious, opinionated, misanthropic screeds freely and without hesitation for all the world to read. But for the 15-plus years I've lived and worked online, it has effectively barred me from any form of contributory online community type forums. Commenting included... even at the behest of my favorite blogger, whose seditious eloquence has delighted and enlightened me twice weekly for the last five years. And somewhere in the middle of that last paragraph, I realized how fucking feeble that is, even to me (which is after all my target demographic).

ObeySo, without any further navel-gazing, these are the most important articles by The Last Psychiatrist you will ever read (but only if we can't have them all). You will also find this list in the comments at sans preamble. (Baby steps, for god's sake.)

  1. The Most Important Article On Psychiatry You Will Ever Read
  2. The Ten Biggest Mistakes Psychiatrists Make should be required reading for everyone in, or under the influence of, the profession.
  3. Worse Than The Flu made me laugh until I cried.
  4. "Are there really so many people with such troubles in your country to make such medicine such an important matter?" Made me love him, just a little.
  5. I'm Not The One You Should Be Worried About contains more clues to his "real identity" than probably any other post, and explains convincingly why we shouldn't care (oh, but some people do).

A few more in the "required reading" category (yes, I know. Life under my totalitarian regime would be one endless reading assignment):

  1. The Terrible, Awful Truth about Supplemental Security Income
  2. The Diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder: What Does It Really Mean?
  3. Ramachandran's Mirror

These are just perversely, sublimely perfect and should be experienced, not explained:

  1. The Sopranos Finale Explained
  2. What Hath Google Wrought
  3. "Inflammable Means Flammable? What A Country!"
  4. A Trip You May Have Taken