Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Everyone learns faster on fire"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Some Truth About Kids & Parents

“The more boring a child is, the more the parents, when showing off the child, receive adulation for being good parents — because they have a tame child-creature in their house.” ~ Frank Zappa

Friday, October 21, 2011

New Approach Needed In Care For The Mentally Ill

Check out my piece at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

There is a division in thinking among mental health service providers and civil rights activists that has led to stagnation rather than solutions.

We have advocates for civil liberties who have decided that principle should overcome pragmatism when it comes to involuntary committal and treatment of mentally ill individuals. The threat that untreated severely mentally ill individuals pose to themselves and others is viewed as secondary to the principled assertion that all should be able to self determine. This is the position that is endorsed by law and ethical standards in the United States.

On the other hand we have people who believe that severely mentally ill individuals are incapable of self determination while under the influence of their illness, and should be - in the name of their own well being and the well being of others - able to be committed or forced to receive treatment, so that their ability to self determine can be returned to them.

Both of these positions are principled and can be understood from various vantage points. Protecting the rights of those who are least able to advocate for themselves is a hallmark of the human services and liberal movements and should continue to be so. The principle that underlies the current law and popular thinking is admirable; but it has left a vacuum in care for individuals who are unable to self determine under the burden of their mental health issues.

Cincinnati's Drop Inn Center has a safe shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness to stay in, and - hopefully - to receive further appropriate services. A large portion of the population at the safe shelter could be classified as the "most difficult to serve." These are individuals who are experiencing various degrees of behavioral decline as a function of either substance abuse or mental illness. Among this population is a sub-group of individuals whose behavior is such that - for the safety and peace of mind of other residents of this shelter - they must be asked to leave until they have received treatment that would allow them to function passably within the community.

When these individuals are not in the safe shelter, they are roaming the streets. They're sleeping under bridges, on benches, in doorways, or in the jail house, because their behavior has caused them to break a law that has led to their arrest. It is possible for mental health agencies or police to "put a hold" on a person (requiring police to take them to the hospital for observation for up to 72 hours), but treatment cannot be administered without permission. Often these individuals are released to the street for the cycle to begin again, often only stopping when a severe enough crime is committed to warrant sending them to prison for prolonged periods of time.

This is unacceptable, but the solution to this problem need not be a full reversal of important civil rights victories.

What is needed is a forum. That's what I hope to achieve in my city. A forum where all of the players from all of the human services and civil rights organizations sit down and seek to address this unfortunate - and unintended - consequence of progress.

The solution may be something as simple as an extension of the allowed hold time in the psychiatric ward at the local hospital to the creation of more housing options with wrap-around services for those suffering from severe mental illness. Maybe our governing bodies should direct more funds toward our city's safe shelters so that we can adequately staff them with trained psychiatric staff. Maybe a middle ground can be found on the issue of involuntary committal and treatment. These are just a few ideas.

Whatever the solution is, it won't be discovered in silence. Hopefully by mobilizing a base of concerned service providers and advocates, we can start a discussion that will lead to real solutions for the populations we care for, and the communities we live and work in.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hunter S. Thompson Knew Why The Media Doesn't Work

"The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of political journalism in America has its roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between politicians and journalists--in Washington or anywhere else they meet on a day-to-day basis. When professional antagonists become after-hours drinking buddies, they are not likely to turn each other in...especially not for 'minor infractions' of rules that neither side takes seriously; and on the rare occasions when minor infractions suddenly become major, there is panic on both ends." ~ Hunter S. Thompson, p. 194 'The Great Shark Hunt'

That's right. Conflict breeds creation. Sometimes we need to shout and bruise, and get shouted at and bruised. A person without enemies isn't doing anything important.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bad Lip Reading: Mitt Romney

This is the funniest thing I've ever, ever seen.

t/y Andrew Sullivan

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October Soundtrack, part 2

1. Bill Frisell, Keep Your Eyes Open

2. Boccherini, Night Music Of the Streets Of Madrid, Opus 30

3. Bright Eyes, We Are Nowhere & It's Now

4. First Aid Kit, Hard Believer

5. David Bowie, All The Young Dudes

6. OK Go, End Love

7. King Curtis, Memphis Soul Stew

8. R.L. Burnside, Shake'Em On Down

9. Medeski, Martin, and Wood, End Of The World

10. John Zorn, Little Bittern

11. Tom Waits, Come On Up To The House

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The History Of My Love Life, part 1

This was my first girlfriend's favorite song. I was in 3rd grade, and she was in 4th grade. She broke up with me because I told some neighbor kids we were going out. The relationship lasted for about a week in the summertime, and the high point was when we walked down to the 'dead end' (a place on our street where two roads that once connected were divided by a  manufactured hill, some trees, and a big yellow rail) and held hands.

It was later on in the very same summer that this girl and I got into a fist fight on the sidewalk, over something I can't remember. She was tall and lanky, and I was short and pudgy. She ended up on top of me, wailing me as I tried to get back up. My next door neighbor's dad came home from work and yelled at us to cut it out through his car window as he pulled onto our street. She got off me, and I got up, brushed myself off, and said to my neighbor, 'you just saved her a whole lot of trouble'. And he said--with a voice pregnant with sarcasm--'Yeah, it looks like it'.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why I Still Read Lovecraft (In Spite Of His Racism)

I was going through the 'likes' over at Greater Than Lapsed, and came across the following post from a blog called wtfwhiteprivilege:

"Just so we're clear: Lovecraft's racism doesn't make his work null and void. I just won't be reading any of it.
I think about what it would mean to have his work on my bookshelf. I am not a person of color, but my children will be.

What if they were to find that poem? What if they came to me,

“Mama, look at this. Did you know about this?”

I’m not going to lie to them, yes I did know. I disregarded what this man thought about my children for the sake of art. I knowingly read to them from a book by a person who thought they were sub-human. I hurt my children. Do you really think saying,

“Well, the author’s beliefs are separate from his work” is going to undo that hurt? Really?

Didn’t think so."
I am a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft's writing, and I am a white person (in a relationship with a white woman, with whom I have 3 white children). I am also aware of Lovecraft's racism, and have had to think about whether or not it should be cause not to read him. Although I can sympathize with quotation above, I don't think Lovecraft's racism is a deal breaker; not because I support the view that we should separate artists' biography and psychology from their work--I don't--but because I think H.P. Lovecraft's racism was a byproduct of his mental illness, and what we get when we read Lovecraft is a trip through the mind of a mentally ill man. To me, Lovecraft's work is in it's very essence a manifestation of his psychology and biography.  Anyone who has experienced isolation, fear of 'the other' ( I hate that phrase), paranoia, or morbid fears of any kind should recognize what is truly chilling about Lovecraft's work.

I should clarify that I don't find his work appealing in the voyeuristic way some folks find Wesley Willis appealing; I think Lovecraft was a true artist--not a sideshow act to gawk and laugh at. Through his art, he gave expression to his deepest fears and neuroses, and allows us to experience a taste of them when we read his work. I also believe that Lovecraft used art--as many mentally ill people do--as therapy, and what we witness in his writing is a kind of momentary exorcism.

So his racism doesn't bother me; not because I separate it from his work, but because I understand it in the context of his psychology, and his biography. If I ever had to answer the kind of hypothetical question the writer of the above quote imagined their young bi-racial child asking them, I hope this explanation would suffice.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Cinderella Story. Outta Nowhere.

Every Fall I take my kids to Alms Park in Cincinnati to catch leaves as they fall from the trees. The story I used to tell them was that fairies would unhinge the leaves from the trees and ride them down to the ground; if we caught the leaves before they hit the ground, we might also catch a fairy.

Over the years the story part of it has kind of faded away, and we just catch leaves. In this video, we are waiting for the wind to pick up to blow some of them around. Suddenly a leaf comes loose, and an epic race against time and gravity occurs. Not for any real sports fan to miss!

Friday, October 7, 2011

If Hollywood Has Taught Me Anything...

it's that you'll never go broke making white liberals feel good about themselves.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I love this fucking weather. It's impossible for me to talk about how Fall makes me feel without swearing. It's just a great fucking time of year that makes me feel fucking great.

I sat out on the front porch reading one of Henry Rollins's travel journals, drinking coffee, and listening to birds chirp to each other. Every now and then the wind blows, and because the leaves are all dying they get this rattling sound that I like.

The weather could even get a little cooler and still be to my liking. Since I work at the shelter now, my joy in cool weather is a little tinged by the knowledge that cold weather is not as welcome to citizens who have to sleep out on the streets, or do most of their business outside. Knowledge will do that to you; there's an up and down side to everything.

But I'm excited about the weather because it fills me with energy. I think our city is better prepared to deal with the cold weather this year too; we're going to have a cold shelter open every night, rather than just on the coldest nights. This will be a big boon for citizens who have to sleep outside. It will also be a big boon for the human services, because it will give us a chance to engage folks who we otherwise might not have a chance to engage; everyone will--hopefully--be persuaded to sleep in a shelter, so everyone will be in only a few places; this should make it easier for outreach workers to connect with people, and collect their information so they can help them find appropriate services.

I'm also glad during weather like this that i'm not bogged down with too many obligations outside of work and family. It took me 8 years to get my psych. degree, and I was working full time and going to school (mostly) full time the whole time. It's been two years, but I'm still grateful for my downtime. I want to make the best of it, because people weren't kidding me when they warned me my kids would grow up fast. In the short time that I have, I want to help them enjoy themselves and learn as much as possible.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pascal's Wager: Easy To See Through, Hard To Resist

Pretty much everyone openly admits that Pascal's wager is a lame and cynical path to religious faith. It's cynical in that it assumes God would be impressed by such a hollow kind of endorsement, and it's lame because it's so fearful, and requires no real thought to commit to. For a thorough dismantling of this cop-out, check out my friend Bridget McKinney's piece over at Greater Than Lapsed.

Even though it's pretty much dismissed publicly by anyone with even the smallest shred of sophistication, I submit that privately, it's adhered to quite often, and quite fiercely.

Hell is a scary prospect, and so is the thought of transitioning from a religious orientation to a reason-based orientation (this is particularly true for folks who are making their living in the religion business). Because we all realize that pascal's wager is bullshit, we need to trick ourselves into believing we're not subscribing to it when--in reality--we are. This turns out to be something that humans are particularly good at.

If privately we take Pascal's gambit and publicly declare that our faith is genuine, we still need to take measures to ensure that our case for belief appears feasible, or, if not feasible, then at least impenetrable. This is achieved through religious obscurantism, which is a well documented tool of the faithful.

When you hear really smart people saying very opaque things in defense of their faith, it is by design, conscious or subconscious. It allows them to keep their (conscious or subconscious) investment in pascal's wager.

So since we're all a bunch of gamblers when it gets down to it, I'd like to offer an alternative to all of the folks who publicly (and privately) take Pascal's wager. It's called 'Troxell's Wager', and it goes something like this:

If there's a god, and if that god is good, he/she is not going to send you to hell for unbelief. If there is no god and you don't believe, then you spare yourself the misery of trying to make heads and tails out of a bunch of religious bullshit during your life, and you still won't go to hell. So don't believe in god, and save yourself a lot of trouble.

I think this is as good a proposal as Pascal's, maybe even better, because it frees you up on Sundays.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October Soundtrack

I prefer to listen to jazz & folk music in Autumn. Below, I've assembled the same collection of music that I'll be listening to in my car for at least the first week or so of the month (October usually yields a handful of soundtracks).


1. Charles Mingus, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

2. Dvendra Banhart, At the Hop

3.Laura Veirs, Where Gravity Is Dead

4. Miles Davis, Round About Midnight

5. Happy Apple, Very Small Rock (I'm liking Happy Apple a lot these days)

6. Bonnie Prince Billy, For Every Field There's A Mole

7. Django Reinhardt, Charlston

8. The Bad Plus, 1972 Bronze Medalist

9. Frank Turner, If Ever I Stray

10. Alasdair Roberts, So Bored Was I

11. Morrissey, I'm not Sorry

12. Thelonius Monk, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

13. Chico Hamilton, The Dealer

14. Morphine, Cure For Pain