Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lakeview Restaurant

This is our favourite breakfast restaurant in Harrison's Lake. Great food, great service, an amazing waitress who does the work of three like a duracell bunny on speed with the patience and personality of a saint; great view of Harrison Lake and all the people walking dogs on the seawall. Usually I'm on a motorcycle so can park the bike where I can keep an eye on it, the parking being across the street from the restaurant. I've been eating here for years and never once had a bad experience. Amazing considering the bad experiences I can cause.

The Spirituality of Hot Springs

At first sight a truly carnal experience of blissful sensuality, boiling in a sulphur and mineral soup leeched from the earth's core, is equally a spiritual delight. At one with nature as the body returns to the womb, the heart is tenderized as the mind is cleansed. A peacefulness occurs as the concerns of another world evaporate in the steam. Even deep pains are shed as the body turns to ooze. A new person is reconstituted the moment the idea to depart arises. Evolutionary biology takes place in rapid sequence. Out of the primal soup this new creature arises. Commands are sent from the brain to the toes and exquisitely slowly the whole system reboots. Rebirth and born again I stand on land. I look at my neighbours with more love because I know that when I was most vulnerable they did not collectively turn and eat me as dictated by the genes of our species. I too resisted sinking my teeth into the younger tastier morsels poorly protected by their dazed parents and can pride myself on my civilization. It's a combination of physical, emotional and spiritual steps that are taken into and from a hot springs. Each new hotspring is a journey of personal discovery. It's surprisingly socially acceptable given how good it feels.

Harrison Hot Springs is of course one of my favourite such shrines. Mostly because the exquisite and elegant surroundings suitably disguise the vague similiarity this activity has with hippos in an African watering hole. After exposing our basic animal natures, reconstituted, we sit about in the loveliest of lounges and restaurants acting as with such practiced gentility. Passing each other in the upscale gifts shops later we act as if we haven't witnessed each other in the act of orgasm as our bodies ooohed and ahhed or saw the smug looks that only those relieved of constipation might be expected to express. No , back in our proper street attire we are not that person who floated in near naked ecstacy moments before and looked out at the others resisting too much moaning. Indeed I would cry hallelujah hallejulah. In the hot springs the twinkling eyes shout such praise while the body doesn't want to make the effort. Later in passing we have no shame and smile at each other as if we've partaken of a secret society where the virgins were restored and not deflowered. Now this is indeed a kind of spirituality. We've dabbled our toes in hell and come back touched by heaven.

Amelia

For a sad subject this movie is most enjoyable. Historically true, Swank and Greer, as actors are real troopers as they move through this movie which not only documents the life of an extraordinary woman but chronicles the early history of air flight that set the stage for global passenger services. Long distance flying was being established at the time with Amerlia being the first woman to solo the Atlantic after Lindbergh's first male solo flight. The movie exposes the tendency of politics and advertising to use women as window dressing while men actually did the work. Amelia called this 'fraud' and while she compromised at first, her solo flights served to separate herself from this. The movie shows her growth as a pilot. Beautiful cinematography. She was central in the original 99's, an international organization of licensed female fliers which has grown today to over 6000 members. The mystery of her last flight remains murky though the movie true to history helps us understand it better. An amazingly courageous woman.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I''m reading a sort of biography of Persig right now. (Zen and Now, Mark Richardson, Amazon) It's bringing back the memories associated with Persig's life changing writing. He's only written two books, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Leila. Both have had profound impact on my life, causing me to reconsider just how I looked at little things and at society and relationships as a whole.

I'm ashamed of the first time I heard of Zen. It's a reminder of my own arrogance and stupidity. I was in medical school. One of the most beautiful women in the world, a soft spoken, dark haired, girl who sat near me at the front of a class showed me the book and said, "I'm reading, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It's really good. I think you'd like it."

Now I don't know why but I am often taken aback by people who presume to know what I'd like. It's a worse feeling in areas where I assume myself an expert. At the time I was young and presumed myself an expert in 'enlightenment'. Hadn't I sat cross legged for countless hours. Hadn't I studied in theological classes and ashrams for days on end. Hadn't I muttered om for whole days with others, done the prayers of the west and the prayers of the east and had a few spiritual experiences that were by most standards 'out of this world'.

None of all that godly encounter however pierced the pride I had, expecially as a high minded missionary oriented medical student among so many philistine classmates some of who were mere technicians while others saw medicine as a means to the end of financial success. Somehow I thought I was hip, slick and cool to boot. Married to the beauty queen medical student, lauded by department head after department head asking me to join,and publishing papers in prestigious journals. I was a 'star'.

In my own mind, at least. As often I felt thoroughly disgusted with myself, like I knew nothing, would never complete the next stage of advancement, that someone would find out so much of it was sham. I didn't feel smart. I struggled with so many equations. I worried all night over a patients illness and spent hours in libraries and talking to colleagues second guessing my every decision. Yet, I laughed and danced and sang and strutted and looked good on the outside most of the time. I comforted people. I was invincible. I was as often as not praying beside my bed, "Please God help me through this day." What I most wanted was to get off the plant, escape. I was overwhelmed. Getting A's does that. I'd failed and it seemed I'd never again feel safe it wouldn't happen again.

Like that first fight that went on for hours, Bruce and I tearing up the lawn and garden wailing on each other to a draw. Prior to that I'd jump kicked someone in the head and they'd gone down. I punched another in the jaw and they'd been taken away by ambulance. I'd defended friends and girlfriends with fists and feet and words till the day I met Bruce and knew a different type of fear. Usually I didn't win something because I didn't care. Often I 'let" others win. But that day I'd felt I was in a fight to the death and was thankful perhaps that Bruce didn't kill me. After all the punching and kicking we'd hung on each other unable to lift our arms to punch bare knuckled again, bruised and bleeding, we'd fallen to the ground gasping for breath. After that I never fought again without knowing I could lose.

Intellectually it was the same. I knew everyone depended on me. I knew so many looked up to me. I knew that I was admired and envied. There are always those who hate you for being or hate you because you are good but the group liked me. I knew that but I also feared that I'd 'choke'. It was a term we used in sports. The team depending on you at that moment and then at that moment, that very moment the gods of fate laugh and throw a wringer and yes, 'you choke'. The guilt and shame are intolerable. Your team mates don't look you in the eye. You're are failure. You've let them down. But mostly you've reminded them of their own vulnerability. The bully lords it over you then. There's always that loser who gloats then to see you fall. It's all there in the ancient greek writings, hubris. Pride goest before a fall.

"Thank you. I told her. I've read Zen and the Art of Archery by the French Philosopher. I guess this Persig is doing some sort of knock off on that original work. I loved Watt's writings on Zen. Have you read either of them."

"No," she said. Giving me a sad look. She was a pure soul. I think she was Jewish. Like St. Theresa the great mystic of Christianity. Her father was a gentle genius, one of the great researchers of our time. Her eyes were wells of infinite patience. I think she sighed sadly seeing in my response the years I'd need before I'd understand that moment. Today I'd beg forgiveness. Today I'd wish a thousand times over for the graciousness that would have said, "Thank you.(period)"

But I could be thick. As I get older those moments of supreme stupidity seem to leer at me out of the past. Those times when a friend or a stranger reached out to me to be simply human and I responded with inhumanity, unable to let go of the struggle, feeling threatened, misinterpreting, or just being disdainful. All that time when I had no idea of what was the 'right size' and had so little idea of who I was and kept getting bashed and battered by even stupider men who were even more afraid. It really was a rat race and later at the top of some Hamburger Hill of the soul one wondered why you had to lose a bit of self to get to the top of a landfill.

Looking back I see that I somehow needed those titles and the houses and the vehicles, the women, and the money and the accolades. Like Siddhartha on his way to being Buddha. There's no winning in the criticism of wealth if you really want it like Marx and the communists. But if you've had it and found that it all was 'meaningless' like Ecclesiastes. Like Siddhartha and St. Francis or even that whore monger St. Augustine you know you can't get to there from here and have to let go of the baggage to get to the top of Everest. The climber paradoxically drops his oxygen tank to reach the heights. And over and over again I am asked to give up that which I believe I need to know I am truly free, only in the bondage of the Lord.

The ego is a weird thing.

Persig wrote of quality and truth and presence. Years after that first encounter with Zen I picked up Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, humbled by the vicissitudes of normal living. I read it for the first time, regretting I'd not read it when it first came my way. Regretting so much more how I'd not appreciated that young woman's gesture of simple friendship. She was an Angel. I never lifted my eyes above her youthful sexy body and pretty head to see her halo but instead grunting and farting I'd knuckled dragged my way along my path too proud by half.

Zen is about humility and presence. It's Sermon on the Mount. It's about riding a Honda and not a Harley. It's about riding a Harley too. But mostly its' about seeing and listening. It's about time.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Personality Disorder

Personality is seen in psychiatry to be a collection of traits and behaviours that can be traced from adolescence forward. Everyone has "personality traits". DSMIV asks examiners to record what these traits are in Axis II of the diagnosis. Broadly is the person 'odd' or "peculiear' or are they introverted or extroverted.

The traits reflect the internal defences that an individual develops to cope with the desires of the individual child and the introjected demands of adult society. Defences were the 'interpreted" mechanisms of interaction between the super ego and id. Eissenberger describes the history of this development in his thoroughly brilliant classic, "The Discovery of the Unconscious". Later these 'defences' would be more commonly called 'coping strategies" referring to how the individual interacted with the society about them.

Personality and character were terms to described the facets of the individual who 'rough' is 'smoothed' in their relationships to the external demands of the group. A defect was sort of an "unpolished' bit or indeed a coping strategy which worked well enough at a younger age or in a different social milieu but was no longer adaptive.

Personality disorders have much in common with addictions because the disorders themselves can be understood as addiction to an earlier useful 'strategy'. With alcoholism there's 'fun', 'fun and trouble' and 'trouble'. Alcohol and drugs serve to cope with the anxiety the individual feels and serves to 'self soothe'. Similiarly personality disorders reflect persistence of 'self serving ' or even 'self soothing' strategies beyond their 'do not use date'.

Borderline personality disorders act in many ways similar to the adolescent in the first phase of adolescence. Adolescence is that time of leaving home and establishing an adult family. The first phase is usually a partial or complete rejection of the parents and a move to the safety of the same sex age group. Once separated with hopefully at least an uneasy détente with the past the adolescent comfortable in the new group moves on to establish a primary bond with another and moving on to form in the third phase the new nuclear unit.

It's a fact of modern and priviledged societies that childhood can be prolonged. In cultures more involved in survival the length of adolescence is not uncommonly brief, at most a year or two and the rituals of the group clearly delineated the end of childhood and the obligations and responsibilities of adulthood. In the west post modern contemporary society adolescence has extended into the 20's with the extension of education and adults living at home for lack of funds to establish a separate home.

With personality disorders there's a tendency to be somewhat surprised to see what is a normal acceptable behavior developmentally much earlier being pulled out and used in interactions in adulthood. The passive aggressive personality disorder famous for prolonged "pouts" and "chronic depressions" is reminiscient of the "terrible twos" with the child refusing to put poo poo in the potty and treating the whole issue as a kind of 'game' much to the horror of parents.

The dependent personality disorder is the 'clinger' , the child holding onto mommy's skirt and refusing to move further. They glom onto people taking hostages and calling that "love".

The antisocial personality disorder is the school yard bully who as an adult has a quick draw baton or gun if he's blue collar and quick draw lawyer if he's white collar. Wealth and status don't mean there are 'less' personality disorders but in fact wealth and status can increase the very tendency to develop and sustain personality disorders. However in the rich and powerful these are usually called "eccentricities". Only the truly rich and powerful can fully avoid growing up and live of life of childhood with it's narcissistic entitlement and utter disregard for the concerns of others.

Personality disorders are terms that are given to those who encounter the psychiatric system, the social support system, or the courts and the less resources the more likely one is to fall afowl of these societal agencies vested with powers of maintaining the peace.

Personality disorders tend to 'rub' one the wrong way. The borderline personality disorder threatens suicide a tad too easily or perhaps too often. The antisocial personality disorder would rather beat you up as to have a cup of tea. The paranoid personality disorder sees conspiracy in every action of the government, including garbage collection.

The fact is everyone is looking for love and personality disorders are usually people who didn't get it in their families. They may have got it but didn't recognize it but on the inside they look like those obese or anorexic or scarred kids whose hurt shows. Personality disorders are the hidden handicaps like learning disabilities and physical disabilities like deafness. I've told personality disorders that they'd probably have an easier life if they just wore a bandage around their head or wrapped their chest with white linen to indicate to the world that they're 'wounded'.

They're the survivors of the 'war of childhood' in which a child wants attention from their parents much as another child may long for food. Often the parents didn't get what the child seeks so can't give what they haven't got. More commonly the natural disasters and losses like deaths and calamities have disrupted the child raising process.

Paranoia is a life saving trait in a war torn zone and may well be what keeps you alive if your father or mother is an violent alcoholic. The histrionic personality disorders desire for intimacy is coupled with a fear of in depth engagement more commonly because of countless broken promises that result in that superficiality and external warmth coupled with the guarded interior.

The borderline wanting love says come hither, stay away, vacillating in between and so comfortable in being rejected that they more commonly set up a set of 'traps' and 'challenges' for any one who is considered to be let in but of course everyone or most everyone fails these "tests".

The 'coping mechanism' of the personality disorder are like 'guns' and to learn the more adaptive tools of the adult trade one has to put down the 'gun' and learn to wrestle or bargain or trade. It's terrifying to let go of a 'gun' and there's little promise of safety in a handshake or an embrace. At the merest threat one goes for the gun that might even have been tossed away.

So in times of crisis all the 'old' ways surface. And sadly drugs and alcohol make even the best of us look like "personality disorders' because chemical addictions cause a reversible brain damage with higher levels of functioning , the forebrains most human aspects of what theorists like Piaget called the realm of 'abstract thinking' and Maslow described as 'self actualization' slowly eroding giving alcohol and drugs the name, "the great eraser'. They take everything away even character.

No one is immune. It was the arrogance of the men of the age of rationalism who figured if they were captured in the female sex trade and fed heroin and cocaine then put out to work as slave prostitutes by their sociopath pimps that they the men wouldn't do this but women 'succumbed' because they had weak character.

Patton almost lost his generalship when he beat a 'shell shocked' soldier. Later research showed everyone would develop 'shell shock' if they were exposed to 220 days of a war zone necessitating the modern effective rotations. Much of the damage being done by noise and sleep deprivations. Sleep deprivation studies showed that everyone went psychotic eventually.

And the senior crack cocaine researcher in New York said that in his experience that if anyone did crack for 6 months steadily and kept doing it , they'd sell their grandmother for more crack at two years because crack changed the brain drastically.

Sometimes the treating community feels sad for the personality disorders or even those with the more offensive 'eccentricities' because the alcoholics and addicts who abstain from alcohol and drugs and join AA or NA or one of the other therapeutic communities, they have a higher success rate for recovery than those who haven't turned to drugs and alcohol to smooth the interface between themselves and society. Sober, personality disorders are treatable within the community and with therapy individually after the 'first stage' of recovery.

It's one of the amazing facts of work in addiction psychiatry but it's a place where the personality disorders are seen to disappear especially for those who enter into service, get jobs, develop altruism and humor and have gratitude for being able to pay taxes. It's a process of maturity and it begins in the addiction community with saying no to the first drink or drug.

It's harder for a mere personality disorder to 'volunteer' or 'pay taxes' or 'say no to angry outburst or running away, or to join a club. Personality disorders show most when people are in longer term relationships or in longer term jobs or when they have to change and their limitations in adaptation to change show.

The fact remains there is love and it can be found and when the 'guns' are dropped adult love is possible without the drama. Thankfully for all personality disorders are treatable conditions and not uncommonly simply 'burn out' as the individual gets 'tired' of burden of carrying all the 'baggage from the past' and having the same old same old problems always seem to be recurring.

The AA Meeting

"'You have to do something about your rage,'" he told me. We were sitting in his cell. He was doing life. You know I thought when I guy got a sentence for 20 years to life it meant he got out after 20 years. But it doesn't. It's up to the parole board. He killed his wife when he was drunk and her family is there at every parole meeting. He's been sober all those years but the hatred is still eating that family up. And he told me I had to do something about my rage. He was right too. I began looking at myself and saw that I wasn't drinking but I was carrying a whole lot of anger around. There's lust too but at my age that's mostly in my head."

After that some more guys talked about their 'experience, strength and hope. One said, "I came into AA and I had that " pitfuly incomprehensible demoralization the Big Book of AA talks about. I had been before the judge for DUI's and my marriage was taking a beating. I was working. Everyone said what a good worker I was. I was skilled. But they'd tell people, "don't pay him" because they knew I'd just get drunk. When I came in here some of these guys were here and that's over 20 years ago. I wanted what they had. I wanted to be sober and they said I had to wear a pink tuttuu and put a red dot on my head and sell pamphlets down on Main Street I would have because I just didn't know how to stay sober and I wanted too. I was ready to do what the Big Book says, "go to any lenghths." My first sponsor was a soft spoken older man who told me you're going to go to three meetings a week with me, so that leaves you 4 evenings a week you can spend with your wife. The rest of your week you'll be working so you won't have time for drinking. He kept me busy with recovery and that's what I do with the guys I sponsor. "

At the break one of the fellows announced the step meeting the group held early each week. "We're starting on Step One. " he said.

The fellow who spoke next was a young guy and he said, "I was on facebook and found myself looking at all the old pictures of being at the bar and the friends drinking about this time last year. And I'd not been going to meetings. Not like before. I'd just got into other things and forgot what my sponsor always said, "meeting people make it". I had an urge to drink that night and I phoned my sponsor and he said 'Have you been to a meeting this week. " I told him I hadn't and he told me to get to a meeting. So I came here and I'd been thinking I should do the work on the steps. You know the sitting down and talking with guys and doing the pen and paper work that people talk about doing. My sponsor and I have been reading the Big Book together and that got me thinking about doing the steps. So I'm coming here next week because I figure I was meant to hear that you were starting Step One in the Step meeting. And I'm glad I didn't drink. I 'm glad I phoned my sponsor. Ever since I did my moods been getting a lot better and I'm feeling a lot stronger. I want to stay sober. The life I was leading before wasn't' going anywhere but another weekend at the bar."

Another guy shared that he had dual diagnosis,"I'm bipolar. I was in and out of hospital years back even though I was coming to this meeting and staying sober. So I'm here to tell you, you can be completely nuts as an alcoholic and still be sober. When I mixed the two that's when the cops became involved and I got hauled off to the hospital in hand cuffs or at gun point. I'm glad I'm sober today because it's just a whole lot better than when I'm drinking. When I don't go to meetings my thinking gettings really squirrelly. I just gets way out there. Way way out there. Even though I'm seeing a psychiatrists and taking medication. I was so far out there I didn't even know when I started drinking. But I know when I stopped. That's when thing started getting better again. And they're pretty good now so I sure hope I don't drink again.

And I was asked to share and said what I'd learned in AA, "I used to go to a meeting where an old guy, Hal, shared that if you had an 'attitude of gratitude' you couldn't think negative thoughts. Gratitude it like the light because it keeps the darkness out. We're supposed to be 'joyous, happy and free" in recovery and I certainly wasn't that first year. It was a pretty grim year. But then the more grateful I became and the more I prayed the better my life got. I'm glad I'm here today because I'm present for my life. I wasn't really here when I was drinking. But I'm here now and I'm thankful for that."

Some more people shared that night. There was coffee. A new phone list of the members names and phone numbers was passed around. The chairman for that meeting hit the table with the gavel. The meeting came to a close. And we broke up, the chairs being put away so the church basement could be used for something else the next day. By the looks of it they had children down their doing art sometime. Lots of that sort of stuff on the wall. The guys stood about talking. Some about women. Some about work. Some about the weather. It's called the 'meeting after the meeting'. Sometimes we went for coffee.

Tonight it was cold outside. I stopped there to talk to one of my friends. "I'm coming to realize I don't like the person I was before. I don't know who I am but I know I didn't like the guy I was." We're all in transition. Alcohol is a place of being stuck. The growth and change occurred when you let go of the soother and get on with life.

I rode my motorcycle home from the meeting thinking how fortunate we are in some ways. Alcohol is so obvious. Nothing discrete about it. "Like a brick to the head, " one guy had said. There's all those really sick diseases like arrogance and pride, greed and avarice, narcissism, and such. The hidden handicaps. Like the person pointing the finger who never sees that three are pointing back.

"Pluck the timber out of your own eye before you try and take the sliver out of another man's," Jesus said.

I like myself a whole lot better and told the fellow I'd been talking to about C.S. Lewis, the great theologian,'s book, "Surprised by joy." "I feel that these days, joy, and it comes as a surprise really. I feel like I remember feeling when I was 11 or 12 playing baseball in the summer. Standing out in the field in the sun with nothing better to do than wait in case somebody hits a ball over where I was.

Drinking and joy aren't really that compatible. One's counterfeit or enhancement where as the other is the real thing. Life on life's terms. Get real. I didn't know what the slogans meant when I first came in and thought a lot of things I heard were hokey but now I know that important truth "you can't think your way into right action but you can act your way into right thinking."

Thanks.

Outside he said, "It was a good meeting, wasn't it." "Sure was." But then I get something out of every meeting. The good ones are just more. I'm just thankful for meetings. "Meeting people make it." I don't remember hearing that before and it certainly says it succinctly.

Like hearing a few weeks back, "Isolation is the darkroom I develop my negatives in." I liked hearing that. I needed to hear that then. I heard what I needed to hear tonight too. It reminded me of the years I went to jail meetings. There but for the grace of God go I. Thanks be to Grace. Amen.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Surrogates



Another great futuristic movie. We're in the era of the artificial limbs, robots and androids. It is a well written story adaptation of the comic, Surrogates, directed by Jonathan Mostow. The action is terrific. And yet, despite the theme, a very human tale of a man and wife. The man, Bruce Willis, is however FBI. Naturally he's hunting for a cop killer. His partner is Radha Mitchell. But any movie with Bruce Willis is incredible so is it the movie or Bruce Willis or what having Bruce Willis in a movie does to the movie that makes it so unbelievably slick. I really don't know. After a while it seemed every song sung by the Beatles was great. Ravi Shankar doesn't have bad song. Professionalism is about establishing a minimum standard. Bruce Willis is simply iconoclastic. He's the penultimate professional too. Surrogates is the kind of action movie Bruce Willis stars in. It's good entertainment and then some. That doesn't mean I'm going to let Bruce Willis near my computerr or iphone.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Amazon Kindle

Kindle is a e reader for electronic books. Amazon has a great collection of ebooks for kindle format. I just downloaded Handbook of Psychodrama, some Scientific American writings as well as a biography of Persig,writer of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Racing. There are thousands of titles. The iphone screen is even better to read than my old Treo, having more screen since the touch keyboard projects onto the screen or retracts leaving more room for video, pictures and reading. I love the new technology and all the entertaining free aps at the App store. Today I downloaded a free piano and like a little kid with a zylophone was making up tunes with this piano that scrolled a full piano but showed a little more than an octave on the screen. I could easily be distracted by this and computer chess and such but really just wanted to comment on Amazon's wide range of books and how much pleasure the kindle format is giving me. By far the best ebook reading I've had to date.

Pandorum



"This is from the same folk that made Resident Evil," she told me at Rogers Videos. Written by Travis Milloy and directed by Christian Alvert, starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster. I trusted the Rogers girl on science fiction and thrillers given her peircings and tattoos. I'm not sure she'd be as right on if I'd asked her for something to calm the kids. Pandorum was a thriller of a space ship city in space gone bedlam. Horror story, kick ass fights, skinheads gone real bad, mystery and lots of thriller with great twists. I was riveted. I've seen a lot of space movies. This was something different and worth the whole ride. What an ending. Incredible. Loved this movie.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandorum

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Avatar

Avatar



Starwars meets Dances with Wolves and Sigourney Weaver is the Alien. Avatar is a Luddites wetdream. Resurrecting Rousseau's "noble savage" it takes us back to the Chinese storming the Tibetan Monastery. But in this movie, the Indians don't lose and the Dalai Lama doesn't run away.


The Gaia sophism appeals mostly to the arts student and those who find physics and chemistry too trying so regress before their fears of the very technologies that give them Avatar. In contrast, the spirituality of String Theory requires an open mind but not one so open one's brains fall out. We are made in the Image of God, all is God and all is Imagination. See what happens to Grace in this movie.


That said, it's a marvelous fantasy sci fi that at it's best takes us to the Jungian world of lucid dreaming. Jesus said this world isn't the real world but the after or "other" life is. As in Matrix reality and dream are challenged as we are.


The acting is the finest. The sinister administrator of the Alien series is really the best bad guy of all time. I so wanted to hear Joni Mitchell's, "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot," played in the background as he says with the certainty of ignorance, "It's just a tree!".


I certainly don't like that the clean water is going from the earth, logging companies are clear cutting without replanting, the oceans are being over fished and toxic waste is dumped beside playgrounds. It's a movie that gets to the heart of these concerns. But as Bruce Chatwin showed in Songlines the 'sacred' spaces are sometimes bought and sold by chiefs who too often ape the worst of their adversaries with their drunken womanizing and whole new set of predjudices. There seems to be no monopoly or limit on stupidity.


It's not 'sentimentality' or "sentimentalism" that works but rather 'emotional intelligence' or 'intelligent caring".


Despite the clichés it's 3 hours of great entertainment. Wearing my 3d glasses I was a kid again and I'm so thankful for Hollywood not self destructing because only live theatre is really pure and natural. The movie in a sense says the world really did go wrong with the invention of film.




Meanwhile, animal husbandry and killing deer for meat are okay if you say the right words and "grok" it unless of course you're the beast of burden or food.


Nonetheless Heinlein would be pleased and Arthur C. Clarke would think it a great romp. I loved it and I wouldn't miss it for anything. I couldn't get in twice because it was sold out and bought tickets for the evening show during the day just so I could see it. It is a thorough delight.


The cinematography, writing and directing are astonishing as they take you so thoroughly into an alien world that ultimately seems so very well known. Amazing. James Cameron is a genius.


http://www.avatarmovie.com/index.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_(2009_film)

Robbie Burns Dinner

It was another fine night at the Scottish Cultural Centre. This year's Robbie Burns Dinner was most memorable for the children. There were gaggles of them. The young dancers were out in full force and never was the haggis piped in sweeter. The toast to the Haggis was delivered with appropriate flair. Laura gave me her haggis and I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the roast beef dinner with that added special something, called Haggis, but an acronym for Holy, Ascending, God of God, Intestinal, Solution. If only everyone on earth would eat Haggis there would be peace on earth, good will to men and general enlightenment and increased intelligence and beauty in the rest of the world. As the man beside said, there are really only two types of people, those who are Scottish and those who want to be. The man across the table told a joke about an octopus that could play every musical instrument but when offered the bag pipes didn't realize they were a musical instrument but instead thought it was an octopus wearing a fancy night gown. Many men wore kilts and the ladies were dressed most beautifully with amber broaches a plenty. Laura had pressed heather earrings and I had my most marvelous dirk that comes accompanied with a fork and small knife. The scots are a practical lot or the weapon is meant to put fear in the enemies as it suggests that we're ready to eat you if we have to fight you. Ski in doos were the ornate socks knives that were as common tonight as the Sporin's. The Mad Celts played Highland Dances, waltz's, twists, Gay Gordons and the YMCA song. One minute were were doing the jerk to a sixties song, then we were doing the latest line dance from the slums of Glasgow they we were in a circle doing group dances being called, though no one seemed to pay much attention to the directions, as there was confused bumping about with much laughter. It was a wild night of great hilarity. I danced with an elderly lady who remembered me from last year when we'd tripped the light fantastic. The Scottish Cultural Centre has dances Friday nights and we must make a point to get out to them. Apparently some of the people had been given cheat notes for a couple of the numbers where most of the rest of us milled about and laughed a lot. Laura and I jived but there was a young couple who really did cut up the rug with the latest in ball room coupled with youth. The kids were dancing with the grand parents too. It was that sort of really fun dance. On the other hand it may just have been the Haggis.


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Vancouver Motor Cycle Show



The weather was warmer this year. A lot more people rode their bikes to the Vancouver Motor Cycle Show at Tradex in Abbotsford. Richard, Laura and I drove out in my Chevy Impala courtesy car, parking it on the road and walking to the event. I was wearing my Harley HOG vest. Once I was a little ways from the car, no one knew I hadn't come by motorcycle. Richard has a Buell. Laura keeps insisting her short legs suit scooters. At best she liked the enduros. Richard looked good on a Fat Boy. A lot of people there this year and a lot of nice bikes. Trev Deely and Barnes had great Harleys. I sat on the 2010 Electro glide. There is definitely a heaven and in that heaven I'm riding an Electroglyde. Richard liked the new 1200 BMW's. The Ducatis looked the fastest of them. The English bikes were really retro. You couldn't beat the prices or varieties of the Hondas, Yamahas and Kawasakis. I love my Honda 230 enduro. Lots of accessories there as well. The motorcycle societies, Association of Injured MotorcyclIsts, BC Association of Motocyclists, the motorcycle lawyer, Bikers for Jesus, Star Motorcycling Society, Mojo Motorcycle Mag, leathers, 4x4's and even a speed boat. Ironhorse Enterprises had the best gadget, the Ironhorse Caddybag for carrying golf clubs on the back of a motorcycle. I just might get one installed next fall for carrying golf clubs or rifles. The price was about the same as a regular golf bag. While I would have liked to have driven off on a new Harley I left instead with a Tork blue tooth helmut intercom for a passenger or another biker within a quarter mile. That will cut down on the inane shouting into the wind and the return, "I can't hear you". It might be after I've got communication happening I'll want to go back to the quiet inside the helmut but the guy said if that was the case I could use it to listen to the music on my Iphone. Great show and great fun with friends.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Against the Ropes















Meg Ryan's acting is sensational in this boxing story based on the true life of early female boxing manager Kallen. Meg Ryan plays darling, cute, smart and sexy but in this movie she is 'ballsy' and blatantly tough. She portrays amazing depth and breadth of character in the drama of this fight movie. The girls are women and the boys are men. It's a real movie thanks to the writing of Cheryl Edwards and direction of Charles S. Dutton. Omar Epps playing the boxer is a real pro. From street thug to gentleman he's a sensation all his own. Together Meg Ryan, Omar Epps team up with Charles S. Dutton playing the trainer to fight the bad good guy boxing promoter played deviously by Tony Shalhoub. A real feel good movie with some really hard hits.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

George’s 12 year cake!

Who would have a guessed a poet jazz musician could stay sober the sacred 12 years. Archie spoke of "soul brothers". George spoke of "soul food". "I think of what I could have been doing better, how much more I could have been living, like I'm living now." As usual we identified with George. A tear in an eye here, then belly laughter then all out applause. AA. A good place to be. A home away from home. A safe place. George sat down and Randy came forward to take a 21 year cake. It was good night to hear the stories and experience the hope. Thank you.

Synod of Whitby

The Synod of Whitby took place in 664 AD. Ostensibly it was held to decide between the 'tonsure' or haircut of the Celtic monks versus the haircuts of the Roman monks. Also there was a central argument over the dating of Easter, the Irish and Scots having taken their dating from that chosen by St. John, the apostle who "Jesus loved". Rome however had changed it's mind and moved the date of Easter to another Sunday.

However, more deeply this was "the clash of two civilizations. Ireland stood for a small federation of social groups as inept at centralizing as they were biased against it. The English mission stood for the Roman Church, an ecclesiastical empire that needed conformity to function properly." The Irish church was based on "monasticism, asceticism and martyrdom" whereas with the rise of Constantine the Roman church saw 'martyrdom' as a thing of the past. I was also against the Irish rule of the abbott of the countryside monasteries over the bishops, the bishops being connected to the town based political organization of the Roman church. As for asceticisms, the "simplicity of Irish aspirations" , "their simplicity of character" and "their love for nature and their delight in little things of it" were at extreme variance with the "complex web of intellect" of the Roman church and the Canterbury school's showing "priority, dignity and such considerations override often its duty to neighbours." The Irish quite simply were more likely to love their fellow man and have a fondness for them than their counterpart who were more in favour of 'ruling' and establishing appropriate hierarchy of empire.

The Celts had a quality which was offensive to their "serious" English Roman counterparts, and that was their "taste for whimsy" . "In a typical carefree ay they never came to regard Latin with the same awe others did, yet they excelled in that too. …The Irish at the time developed their tongue far more than any other European race and much of their best literature was written in Gaelic." In addition they had an 'adventurousness" that their Roman English counterparts did not approve of. "Their love of the sea took them across it with the same vigour the Vikings had.

Admittedly they had an irritating trait of being 'intolerably self satisfied' and the 'idea of the chosen race was always present."

As to the issue of heresy, the Irish were more influence by Pelagius and John Scotus. Pelagian heresy was a rationalist heresy that questioned the notion of original sin and the divinity of Christ. John Scotus was the Neo Platonist and claimed that Evil was a "privation of God" and did not exist in its own right.

Further at the time there was in the Eastern church the idea that the trinity was to be understood in a mystical way. God the father represented the Old Testament and the rule of fear, with Peter representing the New Testament and the rule of Gospel and St. John representing the Holy Spirit and the rule of Love. The Celtic church claimed it's authority as coming from St. John, love and the teaching of the inner church whereas the Roman church clearly preferred God the Father and God the Son championing Old Testament and St. Peter

Finally, the Irish monks shaved all the top of their heads leaving the hair long at the back whereas the Romans shavedthe top of their heads in a circle which they said emulated the 'crown of Christ."

The quotations are from "The Early Celtic Church" by Brendan Lehane, Continuum, London, 1968. They're attributed to St. Gregory , the pope of Rome's "campaign of expansion and consolidation'.

The Empire must have conformity even in a haircut and a date whereas years later Luther will begin the revolt that divided the church into Protestant Christian and Roman Catholic because of the base corruption and obscenity of the day when the death of a loved one was denied entry into heaven until an adequate bribe was paid to a priest.

Given my ancestry I too love the 'little things' and remember being told that the sixties was really mostly about men refusing to have the short 'military haircuts' of the day. The greatest offence of Jesus was to call God, the father, daddy, and claim that Love was the central message of scripture. The message of the 60's was also Love and Peace. These seem to be the most dangerous ideas of history.

Given the importance of haircuts to history I think it's worth watching the length of hair of men and women at any time.

And at my age I'm grateful to have hair to hold onto. Not surprising it was the White man that taught the Indians about scalping too. One must keep track of the re writing of history if one has any interest in truth. And that's a date I'd like to keep.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Prairie Fever










This is a great western. Well, a great woman's western. Alright, a great western. Kevin Sorbo plays the grief stricken alcoholic ex - sheriff Preston Biggs who gets the job of taking three mentally ill women,(Dominque Swain, Jillian Armenault, Felicia Day) , to Carson City. He does this to pay his bar tab. The women aren't just crazy with prairie fever but each has a remarkable story and make profound transformations on the real and psychological journey. Bigg's not only has to address his alcoholism but come to terms with the influence of Olivia the 4th woman on the journey escaping from her hustler gambler husband, Monty James, played by Lance Henriksen. Olivia stands up to her past and makes herself a new future. All this is happening against a background of ex convicts gunning for the sheriff who put them in jail and men gunning for women. It's a great story. A terrific western. Sorbo who played Hercules and the captain in futuristic Andromeda makes a great cowboy, doing a transition from uncaring burn out to someone he once was. Great psychological drama but just as fine gun slinging scenes with real women and real men. Terrific mules, beautiful horses and wagons and uplifting western family fun. Very creative writing and quite brilliant writing by Berman. Bridgewater and Cass directed it and. I loved it. Thanks.

Monday, January 18, 2010

CSI - The Complete Fifth Season

I am gaga googoo over CSI - the Complete Fifth Season. There's 10 plus seasons and Laurence Fishbourne is now a part of the show. There's a New York and a Miami show. There's a fan club.
I'm a tv idiot. I know I've seen CSI in the past. I watch tv, really. I used to even channel surf, you know, once in a while. I've had a remote for decades. Don't touch my remote.
But it was the second or third season of Friends before I 'really' watched that show and knew I was missing a whole lot of entertainment. Then I binged on Friends buying a couple of complete seasons.
I didn't have to do that with Star Trek or Seinfeld. I think I got them all first time round or on re runs. Maybe when you're trying to watch all the Star Trek and Seinfeld you tend to miss new things like the early CSI's. I know there's this other show called 24. I've watched a few episodes of that too. And yes, I know the Family Guy. There's a lot of television out there and I probably don't watch as much as alot of people. No doubt I watch it more than some.
I'm a movie buff. When I had cable I loved the movie channel. Friday or Saturday nights were often a great time for pizza and the latest DVD from the video store. Now I'm without cable tv and the CBC channel I get is snowy and breaks up.
I joined a mail order video rental and so far have enjoyed the first movies that have come out.
That said, I'm really enjoying CSI, complete season. I think TV on DVD is the next best thing to velcro. Commercials are really disruptive. I appreciate that people need to make money but couldn't they be between shows. For instance couldn't the advertisers just have had Kramer dress like a Nascar driver every episode.
I don't think I ever really appreciated CSI because there's so much happening and often it's subtle with lots of interplay between these great psychological characters and commercials broke it up. Without commercials I'm fascinated by the stories, not just the story of the crime but the people.
And what's great about these 4 or 5 episodes to a dvd is that you don't have to watch tv all night. I watch alot less tv than national averages because I have other things to do....study, read, play guitar, write, work on boats, dance, motorcycle, the whole other thing called life, that's not watching other people live but living myself. So I really like that I can have an 45 minute fix of 'tv' and then go on to something else. Much as I love movies they're a lot longer investment of time and one movie takes an evening. Better to go to the movies if one can.
I remember I got my first vcr with the idea that I could tape shows and watch them when I wanted and fast forward through the commercials. I do admire those who take control of the tv and have it serve them. I did that at one time but didn't keep it up. It was just a hassle to pre program the vcr when exhausted at the end of the day eating alone it was easier just to turn on the boob tube and watch whatever was playing around supper.
Years later I have this CSI complete season and what am I doing, what I set out to do originally. There are other complete seasons and I can see myself picking up another just to have them on hand for when I want to 'watch tv' without the tv 'controlling' me.
700 channels and not a single one worth watching is what I remember thinking sometimes when I sat mindlessly channel surfing. I'd rather play electronic chess on the iphone or scrabble solitaire.
TV is a 'parallel' play activity whereas video games are 'interactive' and a step up in terms of mental processing. Then there are those admirable sorts who watch only the Discovery channel and program their minds by being highly selective about what they watch. We are what we watch.
It was once said you could judge a man by his books but today one can better be judged by the 'quality' of entertainment one partakes in. For now I'll stand by CSI. There's propaganda for sure. But no more or less than Star Trek and Seinfeld. But all of these shows are educational in their own way.
Of course I once knew Gray's anatomy mostly cover to cover and could recite the periodic table and draw the structure of insulin. However if I hadn't watched the scene with George screaming 'shrinkage' I'd not be able to relate so entertainingly with others who appreciate the 'common' culture that tv offers us. Metaphors like the "Borg" and a "Ross"that everyone today seems to know are as much part of the language of today as "lucy in the sky with diamonds" once was.
And I absolutely love Dr. House even though he'd lose his license in a flash in Canada for his brilliance and lack of political correctness. Now the Dr. House complete season would be a treasure. One could learn alot of medicine that way if the terribly true politics displayed in the show didn't make it all seem too much like work. The ER series did that though when I was learning all that stuff. I loved the doctor shows as adjunctive education. Maybe CSI appeals because I know alot of the testing and theory but it's sufficiently different to not be like work. The politics is entertaining considering everyone seems to have the idiots and sweethearts to deal with. Makes one's own world seems more tolerable seeing the universality of the human condition.
Whatever flaws television has it's humanizing. I'll stand by all the tv programming I have experienced over the years.
But the soap commercials and tampon ads, what have they done to my brain? Could somebody do a study on the effects of watching hundreds of ads of comparison testing of laundry soaps by equally stupid people. I could use the proceeds from a class action suit just about now.
CSI, without commercials, rocks!!http://www.cbs.com/primetime/csi/ And much as I like alot of PBS, without the pledge times, of course, but we'd not have CSI or House, or Seinfeld or Star Trek or any of the great tv were it not for the very folk who put up the money. All power too them but I'll take the complete season on DVD thank you. And frankly, I'll probably opt for free tv on the internet rather than take the risk exposing my brain to more commercials. I've seen what repetitive concussions has done to some of the football players. There's got to be a toxicity to repetitive exposure to some of the really stupid commercials.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Laura’s Birthday










Laura turned 17 or some such number that grandmother's use. Birthday's are good excuses to get together with friends for dinner's out and movies. We set out to see Avatar because Kirk and Kirk and Kirk and everyone else raved about it. The only showing available on Saturday night was 10: 30 , the earlier showing sold out by 5 30. So we chose Sherlock Holmes with time for dinner and a walk on Robson.




Two doors over from the Scotia Theatre is this marvelous SalaThai Thai restaurant http://www.salathai.ca/main.htmlon Burrard. We ordered the dinner for two and it felt like we were back at Chris' ,my neighbor in Saipan ,whose girlfriend was Thai. I'd go over and the collection of Thai girls would just love to serve us this great food. The house choices were like that, eating what somebody's mother or the chef figured was a good meal. And it was with spring rolls, soup, prawns, and chicken curry and coconut ice cream disguised by Thai names. Laura said she loved it and regaled me with the tales of the greatest man on earth, her huge human hulk grandson whose 26 lbs and growing. "I nearly threw my back out lifting him at Christmas, he's become so big." (The dad probably uses Harley Davidson supplements for kids....Laura's granddaughter is already a kick ass 4x4 er )


Robson was beautiful at night with the lights. All pretty for the Olympics. Vancouver, a city to be proud of.




Now Sherlock Holmes was a great choice if only for the best dog in movie recently. Beautiful seductress and lovely Victorian near love scenes, major action, great acting and terrific Holmes and Watson, and what intrigue. I was thoroughly captivated, ate a bag of popcorn without knowing it despite being full from dinner. Were it not for the popcorn I would have chewed my fingernails to the bone. This is theatre at it's finest. So much entertainment. I really do think movies are getting better.




Laura loved Holmes and Watson too. Dropping her off at her place I drove my truck home thinking I was born in the wrong time. A carriage with horses has something over even a Ford Ranger Truck. And to be able to carry a sword to duel blackguards and pistols to fire at blackhearts seems superior in some ways than hiring lawyers. They had those too but the choices seemed better in some ways. Though I don't think I'd like to be a peasant. We do much better as peasants today.




I dropped off my laundry on the way out last night and do like clean clothes. The Victorians didn't wash so much and were considered malodorous by the more cleanly Chinese who found the Europeans rather vulgar back then. I loved the period views of Thames and Parliament. I'd love to sail my boat in to that harbor.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cold Vengeance






This a superb Canadian action adventure movie filmed entirely in Victoria BC, starring Christina Cox. Ms Cox is an intimate actress whose many facets light up this gangster arson flick with Josh Barker, Bryan Genesse and Darren Shahlavi. I found myself proud to be Canadian seeing the quality of film produced here. I thoroughly enjoyed the fighting love story romp with gangs and girls and ice skating. Only in Canada. Well done!



http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808469750/info

Rebel Run



This is a First Nations - Harley Davidson biker gang modern day cowboy flick along the line of Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider. I'm not sure a suburban yuppie would enjoy this but despite the mix of off road bikes and hogs in some of the rumble scenes the First Nations trucks were wholly legitimate. The acting of Richard Grieco, Sean Young and Michael Ironside made the movie real. Not Hollywood or Cannes but definitely something for Sturges.

Friday, January 15, 2010

St. Columbanus

"Early Celtic Christianity" by Brendan Lehane, Continuum, London 1968/94http://www.librarything.com/author/lehanebrendan is a somewhat dry history of Christianity as it spread through Ireland, to Scotland and then revitalized European Christianity. It's not nearly as racy as "How the Irish Saved Civilization" by Thomas Cahill, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Cahill but it nonetheless is an enjoyable solid work of scholarship.

I've been reading it over the last months following morning meditations, prayer, reading of psalms and generally the asking of God's direction in a work day normally frought with confusion, conflict and shortages of resources.

Leaving the sanctity of my home , if I travel by truck rather than motorcycle, I listen to the news and hear dissension and chaos, political intrigue and frank barbarism in high places often cloaked by anything but the greed and deceit that seem to underlie much of the morbid machinations.

Meanwhile all day long I see the wounded and literally beg them to give up the killing of themselves, slowly or less so, which serves only those who care nought for humanity.

Now I read of St. Columbanus and enjoy the image of an Irish monk going to decadent France and confronting the French depravity of matriarch Brunhild, killer of her own son, with hard work , honesty and Christian truth. St. Columbanus is described as follows:

"He was forever attacking moral decay in high places, and he wrote his attacks in letters which doubtlessly circulated and spread the resentment of him. A contemporary wrote of him,"He hurled the fire of Christ wheresoever he could, without concerning himself with the blaze he caused."

I was reminded of the great Dutch Christian Existentialist Soren Kierkegaardhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%B8ren_Kierkegaard who routinely berated his contemporary Christians for their deviant ways and was much disliked by the most deviant.

St. Columbanus favoured 'private penance' whereas "public confession and the consequent branding of sinners put far more power in the hands of priests. Where the real message of Christianity had disappeared from view, it thus became a useful weapon in politics and the general gaining of ends."

In this day and age, Dr. Philip Ney, http://www.messengers2.com/ outspoken pro life advocate comes to mind. He holds that the Christian message like the Jewish "L'chaim" (to life) was a celebration of life and that abortion is intrinsically a failure of society to prevent unnecessary pregnancy and to properly care for children. The book, "Aborting America" by Bernard Nathanson http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Nathanson the foremost American abortion advocate who had a change of heart as he witnessed the decline in the value of individual life in America and felt that this was directly related to the mass murder of a generation of what unknown talent and capability.

Dr. Phillip Ney today is arguing with the government secular health authorities that "euthanasia", their 'latest' 'cost saving' 'solution' is amoral. He continues to be persecuted by the politically correct and those Brunhild's of the day who simply won't consider that our leadership might well have gone awry.

There is no vision in the terrified beaurocratic opinion poll leadership of today. They lead like caned rote taught grammar students with none of the genius and creativity of the likes of Kennedy, Reagan and Churchill. Rather than continuing to solve population explosions with ancient Matheus solutions of war, starvation and disease and now the added twists of abortion and euthansia, they could follow the recommendation of american genius Buckminster Fullerhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller for efficient communities. Ideally, they'd spend the billions of dollars now wasted on killing machines on finding new real estate in our solar system or beyond.

Every woman pregnant could have had a life beyond her wildest dreams with wealth and privilege if the money wasted on the never ending "SECURITY FORCES" and "PEACE MISSILES " had been devoted instead to children.

Brunhild killed her children. She had soldiers evict St. Columbanus and the Irish monks from France so that prostitutes could reign and wives be denounced.

I could not help but see parallels in the old testament prophesizing St. Columbanus whose work did so much to elevate Europe and that of modern day Christians like Dr. Ney who by holding true to the vision of life and peace on earth and love that Christ taught would necessarily come in conflict with the Machiavellian forces of evil. Today these are represented by the greed and destructiveness of corporate arms machines (see Lord of War, Nicholas Cage for a 101 primer http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0399295/ and of course tobacco companies and other such individuals and corporations that promote destruction and loss for the greed of a very few.

The older I get and the more I read the Bible and the lives of saints the more I see the same conflicts no matter how much the Neville Chamberlains, Adolf Hitlers and Josef Stalins would have us see differently.

That said, I never feel any closer to the truth , that Cloud of Unknowing,http://www.ccel.org/ccel/anonymous2/cloud.html but definitely much more interested in seeing 'how things turn out'.

In the end Brunhild was 'placed first on a camel in mockery and so exhibited to all her enemies round about ; then she was bound to the tails of wild horses and thus punished wretchedly".

Meanwhile St. Columbanus exiled has set off towards Rome. For me the rest of his story must wait another day as work calls.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Personality Disorder

Psychiatry is a hodge podge collection of venn diagram interconnecting overlapping diagnosis. The DSM Axial diagnostic system was an attempt to look at the various dimensions of a disorder and chart their biological psychological and sociological sources.

Axis I refers to the current and major focus of therapy whereas axis II refers to the personality traits or disorder, axis III any predominantly physical concern, axis IV social or environmental factors and Axis V the global assessment of functioning for the individual based on a scale that shows 100 as exceptionally well, below 50 as failing and lower requiring chronic social and psychological assistance or institutionalization.

Axis II, the personality disorder scale is generally speaking the least competently completed. There are many reasons but mostly 'personality' and 'character' are poorer understood today by average psychiatrists and unfortunately for the diagnostic class there are no pharmaceutical solutions to the treatment of personality. Personality disorders bring to the awareness of all that medications really predominantly manage 'symptons' and personality disorders are decidedly at greater risk for all the symptons of psychiatry but the treatment of choice is medication and psychotherapy not just medication alone.

Increasingly psychiatrists are little trained in psychotherapy, lack psychological mindedness and rely predominantly on medications for their income. There are even those psychiatrists who hold the medication pad like a cross between them and their patients.

Personality is considered to be a play of genetics and environment. The collection of coping skills that an individual leaves adolescence with were considered necessary for the individual to survive their family and early environments. They were adaptive to an extent but become decreasingly 'adaptive' over time till these habits of interaction finally fail to serve the individual in their interaction with society and they end up in the psychiatrists office with some evidence of 'dis-ease'.

Personality disorders don't just appear late in life otherwise a good clinician will consider 'organic personality disorder' which is a 'personality change' secondary to brain injury or other physically disturbing event. Generally speaking personality disorders are a "pattern of dysfunction" which can be seen in adolescence and continuing through adulthood until it culminates in need for treatment.

Usually personality disorders are more identifiable by others than by themselves. Many of the personality disorders "get under the skin" of others because it's obvious that their chronic 'coping' patterns are at the basis of the recurrent failures to achieve their ends.

Personality disorders derive mostly from the work of Dr. Carl Jung, Reich, Adler and others who looked at the complexity of the relationship of individual and society and how culture and individuals interacted.

Dr. Carl Jung made a major contribution by identifying the major division between the introvert and the extrovert. The DSM classifies these two types of personality as Cluster B for extrovert and Cluster C for introvert. Cluster A in the DSM is best described as "odd". They're the true eccentrics, the adult autistics and slightly schizophrenic sorts who muddle along without being really crazy but seem 'off' to most by their peculiar habits.

Cluster B is where the Antisocial Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Histrionic and Borderline Personality disorders are gathered. Much of the research that has helped us understand personality disorders in general has derived from the well funded research that has gone into the study of the Antisocial Personality Disorders.

The key here is 'context' and 'adaptation'. A person with the traits of 'antisocial personality disorder' might well use these positively by joining a police force or military rather than becoming a 'gang' member. Similiarly it's been said that to be a good criminal lawyer you have to have a fair measure of narcissistic personality disorder. The histrionic naturally makes a very good actress but might not be very good as a space shuttle pilot. The borderline is often similiarly described as a 'b' movie actress or actor because of the chaos that permeates their lives. They are the proverbial drama queens who become suicidal over a broken fingernail.

Cluster C personality disorders include the dependent, those who are constantly parasitically attaching themselves to others and abdicating from responsibility but then are dissatisfied by the eventual abuse that comes when the idealizations turn to devaluations. Obsessive compulsive personality disorders fit this category . Naturally if you are an accountant and obsessive compulsive your concern for detail and perfection might benefit your clients. The trouble is that the obsessive can't live with themselves worrying about their mistakes all night long.

The passive aggressive personality disorder is probably the most significant and least diagnosed of the cluster c category despite its commoness as a 'trait'. Indeed one of the ironies of psychiatry is that this field attracts more introverts than extroverts and specifically cluster c passive aggressives are forever 'punishing' extrover patients by 'punatively' labelling them as 'cluster b' personality disorders. Cluster B personality disorder in turn more commonly label cluster c personality disorders as 'those assholes". There's considerable black humor in the field of personality research and when one understands personality traits one can't help but see them in everyone and see why so commonly it's over emphasis or dependence on a 'trait' (coping mechanism) that is creating the 'problem' not so much the situation as the person in the situation will more commonly insist to all and sundry.

Now consider the paranoid. They might make a very good political or theological writer denouncing the evils and threats "out there' while never ever considering their own perceptual biases. The key thing is that this is a stable trait and that these individuals are generally functional but they're on the edge and like all the personality disorders the very characteristics that they have can cause them to 'go over the edge".

Tabloid newspapers make a heyday out of these times in these individuals lives. The histrionic 'flirting' with everyone suddenly is 'raped' and 'she/he' never saw it coming but everyone else would have described that person as a 'train wreck waiting to happen'. The obsessive compulsive one night 'break's' and finds themselves having gone from deep anxiety to chronic depression and now suicidal can't see why their life lead them to the psychiatric hospital yet those around always knew this person was 'wound too tight'.

The personality disorders have benefitted most from group therapies where their interactions with many people can be interpreted back to them. Too often in one to one therapy they simply 'discount' the 'opinion' of the therapist yet in a group it's harder to ignore a dozen others giving the same feedback.

Medications commonly are used symptomatically to help a person be able to hear advise and take in information without so much defensiveness. Anti anxiety medications, antidepressant medications and even anti psychotic medications are commonly the place where therapy begins because in crisis personality disorders are not 'open' to change. Indeed the very coping mechanisms that usually get them into the difficulties in the first place are the ways they hope to get out of the difficulty.

Hence the anxious antisocial personality disorder can't hear the 'recommendations' of the police officer because they're trying to figure out how to 'lie' their way out of this situation or 'fight' their way out. Medications can be used to reduce the anxiety and violence potential and give the person time to 'reflect' on their need to change if they don't want the same thing happening over and over again.

Increasingly the 'medicalization' of psychiatry has resulted in the 'fast food' approach to psychiatric problem solving. Hence, rather than looking at the 'why' the person has been in three relationships in which they've been beaten up or why they can't keep a job or have any long term friends, the medication approach is often solely a 'band aid' with the need for changing 'band aids' frequently or sometimes wrapping the patient up in metaphoric guaze. This is fine for 'crisis' management but the problem is that there is a need for much more.

Politically though, funding, and the approach to disease management is commonly based on addressing the 'crisis' and forgetting about the 'meaning' or the 'long term management' of whatever the 'crisis' was about. Crisis management is 'sexy'. The politicians love this sort of 'stop gap' measure but what is most commonly needed is the kind of thinking that is used in "rehabilitation medicine". Yet there is nothing 'sexy' about 'rehabilitation' or 'chronic care'.

So commonly in the present day system people were personality disorders are the most poorly treated and yet often have the greatest potential.

In the past there was great frustration in treating personality disorders for many because they didn't treat the addictions that commonly are part of the maladaptive coping armamentarium. Today it's recognized that treatment of addictions needs to precede the therapy for the personality disorders because the latter therapies of change are commonly 'anxiety' provoking and "uncovering" and encourage 'new, unknown," behaviours that increase the sense of 'vulnerability" and throw a person back to the addictive 'self soothing' behaviours if these aren't addressed first and in combination with the subsequent treatments, group and individual for the personality disorders.

Borderline personality disorder is commonly now understood to be untreated PTSD until proven otherwise. Anti social personality disorders are commonly understood today to be usually part of a 'context' where the behaviours which don't work in the 'greater society' are the very traits that permit 'survival' in the person's immediate environment. The movie, Clockwork Orange did a marvellous job of addressing the difficulties of treating an anti social individual without also treating the anti social individuals immediate 'group' and 'environment'. Passive aggressive only persist when they are not held accountable etc.

The successes in this field are so often the most gratifying for the therapists. These are usually the 'success stories' we read about where a person 'found themselves' or their 'life turned around'. It's one of the most exciting areas of psychiatry and tragically one that is often so poorly understood.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Johnsvoice

I was driving home last night and heard a remarkable documentary on CBC radio, which I might just add, has a lot of great educated listening material. Chris Atchison is a researcher in Simon Frazer University's sociology and criminology department. http://www.johnsvoice.ca/ He was talking about his research on "John's" men who buy sex and discussing how the findings of his research discreditted the stereotypes of political correctness. He'd given questionaires to some 1000 men who had bought sex from prostitutes and conducted in depth interviews of some 26 of the men. Interestingly his research correlated with other research of prostitutes which showed that in contrast to the dirty swaggering arm dragging neanderthal psychopaths the vast majority of men ,98%, who used the services of sex workers were not violent or abusive but genuinely cared for the women. Indeed, many described relationships and some even married. Mostly there was an atmosphere of sadness and generally both the sex workers and the John's came off sounding marginalized, survivalists, so to speak in a winner take all reality. The john's ranged from tradesmen to lawyers and professionals.

I enjoyed hearing this research because over the years I've talked to dozens of prostitutes at length in my work. Most commonly they've had drug problems and seen the 'john' not as predator but as prey.
The 'pimps' I've treated were for the most part downright predatorial.
The 'john's' I've seen have come to me for treatment of their sex addictions and frankly had no more negative attitude towards the sex workers than an alcoholic might have to a bar tender. They were thankful and disheartened by their 'disease' and didn't demean or discredit the women.
I have treated some who were violent, though very few and those when I worked in a state asylum for dangerously insane.
In contrast I had treated many women who had experienced violence in working as sex workers but the incidence of the violence was more a product of the situation, a street worker getting into a car with unknown stranger. Statistically the risk might be similiar for female or young male hitchhikers. And the former prostitutes themselves would say this saying that they'd done 'hundreds, thousands of tricks before I met that whacko'.
Because Chris Atchison's solid research so resonated with the anecdotal material of my practice I was impressed with his getting beyond the dialect binary code politically correct ideologies and getting at the diversity of the science of people and the human condition, and perhaps shedding some light on this area of darkness.
I know myself in my work with addiction I've so enjoyed seeing the many women who descended to using their bodies sexually to gain their drugs, not having to do that any more, letting go of the shame of that aspect of their disease and moving on out of the darkness into the light of recovery. Indeed I've enjoyed these 'prodigal daughter' stories of recovery as much as I've enjoyed the 'prodigal son' stories of the men who moved into a world of crime and violence extorting money for their drugs and later in recovery, sharing at AA and NA meetings how they 'don't need to do that anymore'. There's hope in these messages.
I think I heard in Chris Atcheson's research that same level of hope for humanity.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chronic Pain

Acute pain is often an indication that something needs immediate attention. However, chronic pain, those pains that have been thoroughly investigated but tend to recur with a variety of triggers, may often have a much more diverse psychosomatic make up.
Once a body has experienced acute pain of injury or disease, a neurological program remains available thereafter for the body to communicate 'dysfunction' more readily along the established pathways.
However this 'dysfunction' may be biological, psychological, sociological or spiritual. Psychosomatic medicine has delineated that men, for instance, subjected to physical abuse such as beatings across the back are most likely later in life to experience more of their anxiety and depression as bodily sensation, such as 'back aches'. Similiarly women sexually abused and vaginally traumatized early in life will be more likely at later times in life to express loneliness as pelvic discomfort.
The rationale for this is that neurologically a number of circuits were originally brought into play for the original acute injury or disease and later these same circuits can be used for the expression of psychological, sociological and spiritual discomfort. The mind is efficient.
To this end chronic pains while requiring an index of suspicion as a site for new physical disease often benefit more from less investigation, certainly less invasive investigation and more actual therapy.
An example is found in the acute back injury which is greeted with the recommendation of days of rest and no work initially but later when recurrence is noted, the recommendations drastically changes to 24 hour rest and then increasing exercise. Increasingly suicidal behaviour, acutely se en as a cry for help and need for massive life preserving intervention, later when it is chronic and recurrent is seen as a behaviour that requires education and redirection rather than responding as if this were the first suicidal episode. Suicide in this instance is a response to 'emotional pain".
Phantom limb pain is real however it may reflect emotional pain such as loss of a loved one or irritation and frustration with the inability to achieve one's goals.
Nothing is ever 'all in your head' but even fractures and amputations are experienced 'in your head'. The brain is the central physical processor and the mind is the overall understanding of all factors at play.
The DSMIV differentiates Pain Disorders into two, one where there is no physical basis noted, and another where a physical basis is noted but there is also a psychological and emotional overlay.
Treatment of chronic pain has advanced lightyears from where it was only 25 years ago. Much work has demonstrated that the degree of the chronic pain is directly associated with depth and quality of sleep. Pain often disrupts sleep and the next day anxiety and sleep loss are experienced as greater pain. So much of modern medicine focusses on addressing sleep in patients with pain disorders. Medications such as trazadone, gabapentin, mirtazepine are used for sleep and pain disorders.
Whereas in the past the tendency was to 'take away the pain' today pain is understood as beneficial and it's removal entirely can lead to serious side effects. Nerve severing studies found that people who'd had this neurological treatment to an arm for instance suddenly were at major risks for serious burns because they couldn't feel pain to react to. To that end today the pain is 'controlled' rather than eliminated.
In the past opiates were the mainstay of pain management. Today they are pre empted by first use of acetomenophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, and ASA's compounds. These are commonly today used in combination rather with three different pills from the different classes preferred over three times the dosage of just one medication. It was found these combinations of medications enhance the pain relief as each works on different sites in reducing pain but more importantly side effects are dramatically lessened as each has very different side effect profiles. ASA causes blood clotting to be reduced with no effect on the liver while Acetominophen causes liver enzymes to increase with no effect on the blood clotting. Therefore using two together one can get twice the pain relief with half the side effects.
Antidepressant medications and atypical major tranquillizers have been used as well more often to modulate pain control. Amitriptylline, a trycyclic antidepresssant has long been the treatment of choice for such conditions as fibromyalgia. Medications like cipralex and cymbalta address the depression commonly associated with pain. It was long ago noticed that combining coffeine with pain medications made them more potent. The antidepressants specifically work like this but for a longer period.
The opiates are for sure still used and yet the recognition was that people who took opiates could enter a pain free dream like state and be at increased risk for hurting themselves because of poorer judgement and lack of pain reception. This was especially true with musculoskeletal injuries. In contrast opiates have been seen as more beneficial in chronic 'organ' pain.
Exercise is central to pain management because commonly pain results in decreased exercise and risk of the consequences of this, obesity, disuse atrophy, and other side effects. Further, exercise is it's own antidepressant and the uplifting benefits help with maintaining and positive outlook which is central to the successful management of chronic pain.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Acute and Chronic Pain

Acute pain is a stranger.

Chronic pain is an old acquaintace:

The dinner companion bore,

Or the irritating insinuating mother in law,

Or the taxman and sheriff rolled all into one.

Acute pain I can deal with.

Chronic pain is a reminder.

It's an old lover that asks questions,

Do you remember when, and where we first met.

Acute pains brings me to religion

Chronic pain erodes my faith.

Acute pain, I want to live, desperately.

Chronic pain, I want to die, finally.

Acute pain is shocking.

Chronic pain is numbing.

Acute pain is something I must deal with.

Chronic pain is something I must ignore.

Acute pain surprises.

Chronic pain blames.

Acute pain I take to the doctor,

Chronic pain, I take to the grave.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

St. Agnes Anglican Church, North Vancouver

I attended St.Agnes Anglican Church (530 E. 12th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7L 2K4 Tel: 604-987-0432 email.agnesnv@telus.net) for the first time. Since spending more weekends in North Vancouver I have wanted to go to an Anglican church here. I picked St. Agnes because it advertised itself as 'inclusive'.

When I was younger I was more into 'exclusivity'. The older I get as a Christian the more of a sinner I realize I am. I even think maybe Jesus wouldn't have remained sinless if he'd had to do 'middle age' and had more time to reflect on his past. What would he think of making enemies of the Pharisees if he had to grow old with the same bastards in power. Crucifixion is a young man's game. Bladder and bowel control issues and drooling, begging, dementia- like whimpering wouldn't make for great gospel literature. All the facial wrinkles on the holy pictures, especially in the too bright halo lights. That's the kind of sinner I am. I thought I was only accountable for my actions, as the philosophers would describe me, a 'consequentialist'. Increasingly I'm even less impressed with my thoughts. Like Groucho Marx I'm suspicious of any club that would have me as a member. So 'inclusivity' is attractive to me. If I have to associate I might well associate with people who want me. Especially, Christians.

I was warmly welcomed at the door by a greeter who looked me in the eye and held my gaze. I felt she wanted to know me. It's a quaint church. Portrays its self as "a Country Church in the City". It definitely had that feel. All round I liked it.

There was this weird bit, though, during the "peace". Everyone walked about and greeted just about everyone. I'm the kind of Anglican who shakes hands with the people I'm forced to be nearest to but I've already figured the people in the next pew are strangers. Yet here was the church commingling en mass. I even got hugged which is very un Anglican but oddly pleasant nonetheless. Otherwise they behaved themselves.

They used the Alternative Service book, modern and relevant, and the Book of Common Praise. Yvonne Gardner's the music director. I liked that we sang a Manitou and birth of Jesus (Twas in the moon of wintertime) song written by Father Brebeff (sp)( c.1500's). The hunters gathered about the baby Jesus dressed in rabbit skin. Fr. Keith's message was from Paul's acceptance of the Gentiles. St. Peter, the Rock, wanted every Christian genitally mutilated like the Jews but Paul said they could share in the blessings without the paranoia inducing infant male trauma experience. I'm sure the good French father in the 1500s' who wrote the "inclusive" song for the First Nation warrior types, was thankful that Paul won that great Christian 'penis debate'. It must have made his job of Evangelism a whole lot easier.

When it was over the rector,Rev. Keith Gilbert, bright, good looking ,tall, white haired "gentle"man, invited me to come back. He was clearly 'sincere'.

Already, during the 'peace', I'd been invited to stay for tea. But I had to get to a meeting in the West End. Andrea was taking her first year of sobriety cake and my friend Bob was giving it to her.