Disturbed By External Forces, Internalized

August 14, 2014

In youth, a person may be disturbed by external forces.  I don’t care what the force is, other than it is something that produces anxiety as the disturbance.

Anxiety triggers the release of lots of different chemicals in the body. One possible side-effect of some of those chemicals is a sensation in the stomach. I’ll call it queasiness, just to offer a label.

Every time an external force produces anxiety, that same queasiness arises, to some degree. Eventually there arises a link, a learned link or strong association in the youthful brain between the queasiness and anxiety.

The youth becomes an adult, carrying along the association.  But a problem arises.  Queasiness may arise for many reasons other than anxiety.  What, then, if the association between queasiness and anxiety is strong enough that the brain’s amazing circuits search FIRST for anxious thoughts BEFORE evaluating the queasiness?

In this sequence, it is the queasiness that gives rise to the associated anxiety. So perhaps a handful of blueberries taken with a tumbler of orange juice after a glazed old-fashioned donut gave rise to the queasiness, eh?  And the brain has, without notifying the person, found something to be anxious about. Food can wreck the mood, all right.

Of course, food is not the only thing that can give rise to queasiness. But you get the picture. Easy-peasy-queasy-uneasy.  Oh, and we are not forced to indulge the associations we have between body states and mental states. We can weaken or eliminate some of the less-useful links through awareness.



My Brain’s Chemical Stew

August 6, 2014

I have dozens of chemical factories inside me. So do you. All kinds of glands and biological labs pouring their products into my bloodstream.

Irregularly. They drip, squirt, inject, and otherwise secrete their juices into my blood perhaps predictably, perhaps mysteriously, but almost never at some moment we would consider an appointed time. Splash! Have some of THIS!

All of these amazingly complicated and unpredictable splashes put ripples in my brain waves. OK, maybe not ALL, but too many to list. The ripples in my brain waves impact my mood, my self-esteem, priorities, communications, ability to learn, sleep, alertness. All the brain business, all the brain hobbies, and all the brain memories.

Slogging in this chemical rain is my rationality, sincerely trying to keep my life on a road I have envisioned in my rationality. Rationality gets buffeted by the irregular drips, squirts, and secretions. Sometimes it wins, and stays the course. Other times the squirts win and I waste some time trying to walk up the down escalator.

At those times, on those escalators, remembering that despite the chemicals, my attitude is still my own possession.

The Treachery of a Feminine Reflex

July 30, 2014

You’re trying to figure out how to get out of a relationship. They guy is not what you want in life. But you feel stuck, and assertiveness is not your strong point. It really isn’t.

You avoid sex as much as possible, hoping he’ll get a clue. But he won’t budge. And he keeps trying for intimacy, and sex. And once in a while it happens. You try to keep control inside, try to remain aloof. But nope.

There it is, your feminine reflex. DAMN. Your girl guts go with the flow. And he’s persistent. And he knows where the buttons are. And despite your best intentions your feminine reflex eventually sneezes up an orgasm. Damn.

Damn. Double damn. Now his belief is refreshed: you like IT, and with HIM.

Back to square one.

Canon vs. Nikon, Easy to Prove

July 15, 2014

Nikon fan or Canon fan? Good news! About 200 million photos will be uploaded to the Internet today. Tomorrow another 200 million — just like yesterday! Many thousands of those will be from professional photographers or highly skilled amateurs.

That’s enough evidence to prove the practical superiority of one system over another. Proof should be easy, a really simple matter of just gathering up all the easy observations. With not just a few examples, but BILLIONS of examples out there available, the evidence will be indisputable.

That is, of course, if any PRACTICAL difference exists at all.

“But there ARE differences,” shout the many voices of fans on each side. “Lots of differences. Magazines, books, websites, blogs, they all measure differences. That proves there are differences.”

I agree, there are measurable differences. But just because something can be MEASURED does not in any way suggest that it MATTERS in practice. If there were any PRACTICAL difference, the manufacturer(s) who could benefit from those differences would proudly show the mountains of proof that would now be readily available. No such proof is forthcoming.

There is no practical difference in hardware choices. All of the differences from one collection of photos to another is in the photographers who created those collections. Not the hardware. When photographers CHANGE from one brand to another, there is no discernable difference in their images.

I can feel them squirming, those fans, they know in their hearts I’m dead wrong and that there are huge and very important differences. Their marque is superior. OK, but I’m not going to waste one second of my time listening to or reading claims of superiority. Just show me. All the visual evidence is out there, freely available. Show it to me. Easy.

Advice To Aspiring Photographers

June 30, 2014
This from one of my students:
Do you have any advice for someone interested in a career in photography?
Cultivate a personal aesthetic and let it evolve as you grow. The only hope you have of differentiating yourself from any other person with a camera is to share a vision of the world that is clearly, distinctively yours. Therefore, pursue with dangerous outward passion the world’s phenomena that arouse your inward passions. Start now, start small, fail often, but only cry when you hit one out of the park, and cry for happy.
Create images that are painful to share because they reveal as much about you as they reveal about the world.
Put work into the world that you know is the best you are RIGHT NOW even if it isn’t the best you hope to be someday.
Put out work that is YOUR truth.
Never explain your pictures.
Never, ever make excuses, most importantly when you think there is an excuse you need to mention.
Use social media to draw as many eyes as possible to your work, starting today and relentlessly. When you are not making pictures, learn the many ways of deriving income from what you publish on your own on the internet.
Work for no one else in your art and your vision — that way lies certain poverty. 

Walmart Doesn’t Need Me

April 26, 2014

Walmart has 2.2 million employees, most of whom are paid as little as Walmart can get away with paying them. No news here, because this issue has been raised in many venues critical of Walmart.  

Walmart doesn’t need me. They don’t need me to defend them, and they don’t need me to shop there. If I were to shun Walmart I could do so with a clear conscience. But shopping there doesn’t bother my conscience much, either.  

Over any 10-day period, visitors to Walmart outnumber employees 150-to-1. The 10-day visitor count outnumbers the population of the United States of America, 330 MILLION shoppers. Some of them buy groceries, like maybe breakfast cereal.

I buy breakfast cereal there. High fiber, no sugar, no phony preservatives or sweeteners. At Walmart it’s often sold out, or close to sold out, so I’m not alone in buying it.  Safeway price: $4.25, Walmart price: $1.75.  That’s $2.50 in savings. On one of many brands of cereal.

If one-tenth of one percent of Walmart shoppers caught such savings, that would mean they would be able to buy nearly a million pounds of frozen green beans, or frozen peas, or frozen carrots or other frozen veggies along with the cereal. 400 tons of vegetables fills out a LOT of quick, nutritious meals for a lot of children at home.

On the other end, literally, of the shopping spectrum is my elder-care responsibility.  I buy adult diapers. Walmart carries the most effective diapers BY FAR that we have ever bought for my mother-in-law’s care.  Walmart delivers them to our house for free.  And the supply costs $100 per month less than anywhere else.  Every month. For about 72 months now. $7,200 in our ONE HOUSEHOLD, caring for ONE person.

Those who work at Walmart shop there. Those who work at other jobs with really crappy pay shop there. Those who have jobs at Walmart have jobs.  Anyone who has ever looked for a new job knows that it is easier to get a job when you have a job, even a Walmart job.  A Walmart job can be a stepping stone.  

My point?  Well, I’m not sure Walmart is the enemy.  I am quite sure Walmart offers our family some important value in food and elder care. 



Gold Medals, Olympians, and Fat Pierian Farmers

February 28, 2014

The philosopher Alan Watts uses a favorite music metaphor in several of his lectures in which he contrasts the achievement of a goal — or an arrival at a destination — against the pleasure of the effort and the enjoyment of the travel.  “In music,” said Watts, “if arriving at the destination were the goal, the best conductor would be the one who played the fastest.”

And so with Olympic gold medalists.  They, and the many who finished one one-hundredth of a second behind them for no discernible reason on that particular day, have immersed themselves in the joy of excellence day after day for a decade. Perhaps two decades. They have rehearsed every step, every breath, every muscle flex, thousands of times. The adjustments they make over the years of rehearsals may be momentous or microscopic, but are precise. The sheer physical effort of every rehearsal leads to another joy — that of exhilarated hormones (the “runner’s high) and predictable daily exhaustion.

But all the competitors who even made it to the Olympics — the also-rans as well as the medalists — left behind thousands who did not qualify, as hard as they tried.  They did not qualify because some part of the astounding Golden mix of determination, physical gifts, vision, self-esteem, support, initiative, and luck eluded them.

Reasonable people can easily reach out and offer a sincere pat on the back to those who almost made it.  Reasonable people can understand, appreciate, and admire the hard work, determination, physical gifts, vision, self-esteem, support, initiative, and luck these lesser competitors brought to the arena and to the slopes.

But then come the not-so-reasonable among us.  “He made it to the Olympics, why can’t you?” they ask.  But they already know the answer; it’s a lack of character.  But I’m guessing you’ve probably never heard that comment applied to those who tried and failed for the Olympic team.

You’ve heard it plenty, though, and you know where you’ve heard it.  A high-achieving minority person, or perhaps a white person is the subject of the “He made it” assertion.  And the “you” in “…why can’t you?” is a straw-man kid, maybe in a dark skin, living in a difficult neighborhood.

Pointing to a god atop Mount Olympus and demanding of the fat Pierian farmer in the valley below that he get off his plow and run to the top of Mytikas may get you the punch in the face you deserve.  Olympian achievement is not part of the “all men are created equal” equation.

And guess what?  Those who point to the high-achievers and say, “Hey, she made it, why can’t the rest of those folks follow her example!” are not only failing to recognize the wide variation in actual capability and resourcefulness found in real human life, they are also dragging down the Olympians.

The Olympians deserve enormous respect and we must all recognize them for the grand exceptions they are among humans.  Sure, they must certainly serve as examples of the finest we can be, and offer us inspiration.  But, “”Hey, she made it, why can’t the rest of those folks follow her example!” dishonors the Olympian, denies the grand exception she represents among humans and spits vile disrespect toward less-than-highest achievers, and those who follow further behind.

Most follow further behind.  Much further.  Urging the least among us toward higher achievement is a noble goal and can only be accomplished though considered action, meaningful assistance, and reasonable encouragement and demands.  Refusing to recognize the consequences of varied capability and resourcefulness is selfish and mean-spirited. To help and uplift a person who seems never to quite “get it” fully may be a greater act of love — a gold medal act of love — than seeking the autograph of the official gold medal winner.

Casting Call fo…

October 12, 2012

Casting Call for Niles Silent Film


We are filming THIS WEEKEND in Niles! Please come!

We want you all to be movie stars – Please come! (Okay, maybe “star” is too lofty – how about “very much appreciated extra” )
Here’s the deal: there is a silent film being shot in Niles and at the canyon over the next couple weekends. THIS SATURDAY, October 13, we are filming a pivotal, important scene involving a train robbery and need the most costumed extras – if it isn’t done that day, it can not be replicated until March of 2013! So time is of the essence – the time commitment is from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm and a yummy lunch will be provided at work’s end (from The Nile Cafe so you KNOW it will be tasty)

Please show up at the train station in Niles (it is on the other side of Sullivan Underpass) off Mission Blvd. – part of the filming will include a ride on the Niles Canyon Railway, as you’ll be the train’s passengers during the hold-up. All participants will be fed and receive onscreen credit. (Nearly all of our production budget is going toward film and processing, as we’ve elected to replicate 1913 filmmaking techniques, with a hand-cranked camera and real 35mm film.)

And YES talk to your friends, frenemies, neighbors, hammy family members, fellow workers and students. We mainly want adults and older teens but some kids would work. We really want 75 people for this shoot – there will be periods of excitement and periods of “bring a magazine” but it is only a few hours and you will be part of an experience that put Niles on the map a century ago. And people are still talking about it.

Be part of Niles Film Legacy!
In addition to the MANY, MANY extras on Saturday – we need 15 people for townspeople on Sunday, October 14 – the filming schedule would be all day – 8:00 am – to the late afternoon.

Thanks for your consideration.
We hope you can participate in this project.
Rena Kiehn
Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum
The film is a production of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org, and is intended to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Essanay Film Company in Niles, a village within the city of Fremont.

Essanay was the the second studio that Charlie Chaplin worked for in the U.S., and was co-owned by America’s first cowboy star, “Broncho Billy” Anderson. The film depicts a fictional account of Anderson’s 1913 arrival in Niles, and features a train robbery and a western-style shootout. The Niles Canyon Railway is contributing use of one of their steam trains to the project.
Now, for what to wear! We hope that you may just have the perfect outfit in your closet but in case not, we may be able to rustle up some appropriate duds. The best thing to do is to come Wed or Fri between 5:30 – 8:00 pm at the museum. I can show you want we have and also counsel you on what you may have that could work. Or bring any clothes you have and we can assess them for the film. It will be in black and white so there is some leeway on colors of clothes.The costuming style we’re looking for is that of the 1900s or early 1910s. It need not be “western,” and should certainly not be 19th century “western.” The year the film is set in is 1912 but many of the people are not well-to-do so it is very conceivable that they would wear older vintage clothes.

One suggestion I have is to see if any theater group in your area did The Music Man – the play is set in 1912 so the clothing would accurate to the era. Not the musician uniforms, rather the towns peoples’ outfits.

As it is the ladies should wear white gloves and black lace up shoes with cream hose if they are dolled up and day gloves if they are wearing calico or formal farm clothes. If they are dressed for “down on the farm” they do not need gloves.







Why Didn’t They ALWAYS Call It “Cottage Cheese”?

October 9, 2012

Long ago cottage cheese was called by the humble if homely name “curds and whey.” Even now, one sees whey as one of the ingredients in cottage cheese if one reads such container labels.  I think I have determined why the name cottage cheese wasn’t the early choice — bad rhymes.  Yep, bad rhymes.

Would we all have known about Little Miss Muffet if her dish had brimmed with cottage cheese? I think not. The rhyme would have been rather more randy, wouldn’t it have:

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,

Eating her cottage cheese.

Along came a spider that sat down beside her,

And look, she’s so frightened she pees!

Well, that would hardly be a thought fit for youthful minds of the Victorian era.

“What are you DOING? Are you CRAZY?”

September 7, 2012
“What are you DOING? Are you CRAZY?”

“Are you CRAZY? is a rude thought, certainly, and a truly egregious exclamation when blurted out loud.  Similar to “Are you STUPID?

Ever had that thought? Ever blurted it out?

I have that thought occasionally, but I don’t say it aloud. I live with and care for a member of our family who has senile dementia — Alzheimer’s disease.  She has been in a slow decline for several years.

These days she rarely attempts to stand up and walk, and what she attempts ends in a couple of steps along her imagined path.  In some ways that’s a blessing because she can no longer get to the stove.

But she can still offer up surprises — rude surprises, even some dangerous surprises, often messy surprises truly unfit for a rational adult. So I think, “WTF? Are you CRAZY?”  And then immediately hear in my mind the answer to my own question, “Why, yes, actually, I AM crazy in a sense.”

“A kind of worm has gotten into my skull, perhaps through the ear as in a science fiction movie.  The worm has eaten away large chunks of my brain.  In a medical brain scan you could actually SEE the cavities, empty spaces left behind. Spaces where brain and thought and memory and capability once resided.

“But those chunks of brain are gone, digested by the worm.  So, yes, the things I do are the product of a mind riddled with holes, a brain being chewed to pieces.  A crazy person’s mind and brain, hopelessly sliding into this waking, needy, semi-coma.”

“Are you crazy?”  ”Yes.”  Simple.  Surprise and frustration give way to the care needed to put things right again. At least, put them as right as they might have been before the latest little blunder.

Occasionally I see glimmers that she is aware of her straits, the rocky shoals where her brain has foundered. She cries silently, eyes red and overflowing, nose dripping.

She is old, older than I by a generation.  I am old, and so are some of my friends. In a friend I imagine that I see the worm awakening to begin its slow grazing. The friend is less than he was in our youth, less than he was only a year or so ago. He requires patience of the same exact kind as she does, but in much smaller doses.  The worm has only just begun.

Or not. Perhaps I am overly aware of warning signs and I see them where they don’t really exist.  I hope that’s true; hope that I’m wrong, mistaken, exaggerating.

But I know this much: The worm does not enter by the ear as in a science fiction movie. Many of us — perhaps my friend, perhaps me, perhaps you — are born with the worm curled up in our strands of DNA.  And if it is in there, it surely grows, escapes the strands, and migrates to our brains.  If it is in there, it will awaken just as surely as your birth date comes ‘round every year.

And then it never sleeps, even while you do.

Normal vs. Alzheimer’s cross sections:  http://biomechanism.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/alzheimers-brain.jpg

Normal vs. Alzheimer’s brain scans for energy used:  http://www.triumf.ca/sites/default/files/images/Control-MCI-AD.jpg