Friday, April 29, 2011

Hells, uppercase and lowercase...

I left the comment below on a stranger's blog I came across early this year.  Best as I can recall, this blogger is a conservative Catholic young man living and studying theology in Italy or something to that effect.

He does seem genial and reasonable, but his post “Argument for why Hell must be Eternal” offended me back in February when I stumbled upon it while going through a very turbulent, trying period.

I posted as “Anonymous” and attempted to argue from a very visceral and worldly point-of-view that the claim or threat of there being an everlasting “Hell” in the afterlife was almost laughably irrelevant to people who have struggled mightily with “lowercase hells” while in this realm of existence.

Unfortunately, my tone was a touch belligerent and condescending.

I hope I don't come across as too holier-than-thou here.

* * *

Greetings.  I am back as a guest visiting your provocative religion blog.  Previously I signed myself as “M, female, mid-30s, east coast, USA” on a mini-diatribe or two about “lowercase hells;” not sure if you remember that exchange.  Today I'm surfacing as a fellow blogger (link below).


I decided to look up my original comments / mini-essays written in response to your February Hell-as-eternal post because I have been tested mightily over the past year.  I needed to better understand my earlier positions and arguments on hell and other terrible mysteries.

(Re this past year, I have been through:

January - severe depression, suicidal ideation
February/March - depression, severe mania / schiz symptoms
April - rapid-cycling/mixed-state bipolar states, suicidality, severe depression)

I am trying to return peacefully from the “lowercase” hell of madness (bipolar disorder + schizoaffective disorder).

Over these past months I have been institutionalized multiple times and was even involuntarily committed briefly this time around (for erratic behavior due to schiz-like delusions) in a cold, vaguely forbidding Catholic hospital in Washington, D.C. which I shall not name.

After living through these spirit-heightening euphorias and soul-thrashing phantasmagoric nightmares, I can say without qualification that the assessment that “Hell” must be eternal amounts to a most terrifying thought, particularly for people with certain mental disorders.

Instead I choose the loving and inclusive teachings of people like Pastor Bell:

“Pastor Rob Bell: What if Hell Doesn't Exist?” [link]
Apr. 14, 2011 / Jon Meacham / Time

I know that this belief is at the core heretical to your Church.

However, I have finally found my God, and He is a kind, loving, forgiving personal sort of being of a distinctly Protestant stripe.

He has hinted to me, a lifelong unbeliever and denier (by answering small prayers in wondrously creative and beautiful ways), that the small hells I have experienced here on Earth will not be eternal, even if I ultimately succumb to madness or suicide after all.  (I pray that I do not, and that others I know who suffer such torments find peace and comfort in embracing life, self-knowledge, and a higher power as well.)

It pains me that many theologians doggedly insist (1) that there is a Hell in the afterlife, and (2) that it is everlasting.

I grew up in the state of Maryland where there are many powerful and influential Catholic leaders and institutions and I am grateful that I was not brought up Catholic and contemplating those peculiarly Catholic spectres of Hell.  The Catholic imagination can be a formiddable one.

Life can be torment enough without religion piling on to the suffering.

Sign me,
A rebellious madwoman

P.S. During my mania I had a splendid vision of a beautiful blooming blue cathedral rose window that looked like it came from a Middle-ages illuminated manuscript; while this vision confused me at first (since I then feared and distrusted Catholicism), I now see that it was a sweet intimation of the divine and not necessarily a sign to seek salvation in the Catholic faith specifically.

After all, why wouldn't God reveal His grace to somebody in this way?  Especially since much Catholic art is unparalleled in its power to inspire humankind, especially hapless wildly hallucinating madwomen.

There is another dimension to this vision; it also symbolizes the blue rose of Romantic yearning and seeking:

“The Blue Flower (German: Blaue Blume) is a central symbol of Romanticism. It stands for desire, love, and the metaphysical striving for the infinite and unreachable.”
—from “Blue Flower” (Wikipedia)

Monday, April 25, 2011

To a friend I betrayed...


I'm sorry I betrayed your friendship, which was fragile and strange and real.

For years I wanted to be numb all the time.

Then I read your words and wanted to live again.

And I started living again after all.  It was strange and wonderful.

Then I actually met you.  I confused the dreamy beauty of your words with your lively hazel eyes and strong hands.

I'm sorry for letting that confusion and my old madnesses overtake me; they destroyed a friendship that was becoming good and real.

* * *

Can you help me, old friend?  I'm trapped in the green room again.

The trap doors are worse this time.  They are multiplying dizzyingly.

The visions are chaotic and jagged now, no blooming cathedral windows.

I believe these are just new traps in an old, old room.

You know about traps.  Like that fiendish double iron cross one your dad gave you to solve.

Maybe you were right, maybe it takes all those clever moves to get out of such a trap, not just a few deft shortcuts.

Look, J, I am mad and I speak strangely to avoid certain traps I keep finding myself in.  Maybe you'll understand; you have a fierce intelligence that I've come to admire and envy.

J, I'm trying to numb the pain and kill the drama using all the many techniques I know and exploring new ones.  But the madness is more complex and strange now.

I miss your wisdom and keen imagination.

Forgive me, friend.  Your lessons were not lost on me.  I will not seek you out so much anymore.  I need to know that I have your forgiveness and grace.

I will leave this message up until I get a sign.

Believe me, I want something true and real and spirit-based; not confined by these inferior bonds that betray us.


Postcard from the ledge...

A friend of mine who also experiences what consensus calls schiz-like symptoms is back in the hospital.

I can't write to him anywhere or call him just yet so I might as well post my feelings here in this space:


Did the sad pull of life get to you again?

Or was it the feverish frenzy of those wild madboy visions?

I've wondered about you.  Our madnesses are different.  Mine is no longer light and heat, it has been reduced to fire and smoke now.  Cool dark smoke has started to obscure the warm bright flame again.  I am in danger of growing hard and strange to myself again.

Your madness seemed to be about flash and sound and a deep riotous tunneling magic.  Please let me more about yours; maybe I can help you sort it out.

“They” (the loved ones and the unloving alike) could say that I am romanticizing this mystery.  But let’s try to forgive them; most don’t know what these seductive wondrous thrashing dreams are like.

Were your visions tinged with the divine like mine seemed to be?  This is a difficult dilemma in an age of numbness and unbelieving. I still can’t always figure out which spacetime I am in; the signals are all jammed with cold blue noise and the signs fade too fast now.

Were you seeking something purer and realer than all of this?  I was.  I saw and felt it, and now it is in danger of leaving me again.

Maybe I’ll spring up to Sheppard Pratt to see you.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday promises...

Fleet Foxes
“Helplessness Blues”
[various formats] / Sub Pop / 2011

Have a listen to this sweet little song from the Fleet Foxes.


“I was raised up believing
I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes,
unique in each way you can see

And now after some thinking,
I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery
serving something beyond me

But I don't, I don't know what that will be
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see

What's my name, what's my station, oh, just tell me what I should do
I don't need to be kind to the armies of night that would do such injustice to you
Or bow down and be grateful and say "sure, take all that you see"
To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls and determine my future for me

And I don't, I don't know who to believe
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see

If I know only one thing, it's that everything that I see
Of the world outside is so inconceivable often I barely can speak
Yeah I'm tongue-tied and dizzy and I can't keep it to myself
What good is it to sing helplessness blues, why should I wait for anyone else?

And I know, I know you will keep me on the shelf
I'll come back to you someday soon myself

If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm raw
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
And you would wait tables and soon run the store

Gold hair in the sunlight, my light in the dawn
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
Someday I'll be like the man on the screen”

* * *

This song speaks to me because I am seeking hope, redemption, and direction in life.

As for “snowflakes” and fierce originality:

I was one of those emotionally troubled kids who grew up labeled as “G/T” (“gifted and talented”) in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Throughout my public and private schooling, “gifted” kids -- particularly artistic & expressive ones -- were often encouraged to forge a fierce alloy of individuality within themselves.  From an early age we were exhorted to develop a strong and original sense of identity.  We were pushed hard to cultivate our various talents and métiers in uncompromising and heightened ways.

Those purported “gifts” became ever-heavier burdens to me as I unraveled time and again during my childhood and teen years.  I was a highly unstable youth, struggling to stay together while I joylessly shuttled between an intensely demanding school life and a wildly turbulent home life.

I was also competing with very impressive high-functioning kids from seemingly stable, nurturing homes, relative to mine (and a few others’).  These kids were formiddable rivals.  They were brilliant, intrepid, amazing individuals with ferocious and well-disciplined minds.

On the surface at least, many seemed exceedingly self-assured about the paths that lay ahead.  They also appeared to much more fully experience the sweetness of their youth and didn’t seem to know or understand the sourness of premature defeat and despair.

These winners were better “coached” and prepared to navigate social situations, school, work, and beyond.  They still are today, even as parents and professionals, coaching the next generation of winners.

While I struggled at home, battling with my raging authoritarian parents, at school I grew quietly envious and resentful of those whose “gifts” were more consistently nurtured and sustained (even as I began to academically crash and burn), those beautiful, smart, capable golden boys and girls who unwittingly tormented me in my youth spent in their shadows.

I sometimes imagined what their home lives were like, ultimately concluding that most couldn’t be having the kind of near-nightly knock-down drag-out fights with their dads that I was dealing with.  Most didn’t seem to be struggling with suicidal flirtations and persistent demons of self-hatred.

(An aside:

I couldn’t listen to Nirvana in high school because I knew it would have pushed me over the edge into the abyss.  Cobain came to represent the Pied Piper of Hell to me.)

Yes, I was a Faustian striver, a secret drive-deprivation jockey (sleep, food), but ultimately I had little to show for it.

By eleventh grade my mind was fast unraveling.  I was entering a terrible secret madness, a cycle of nightly manias followed by daily frenzies under a descending fog of numbness.

I tidily binged and purged history on quizzes that tested my wild eidetic memory, consistently scoring 19/20 and 20/20 grades on Mr. Early's textbook quizzes.  Then I'd turn around and vomit fact-fixated incoherence all over the mid-terms.

(I was a teenaged history anorexic and lived to tell.)

* * *

I still remember the pretty kids in the plaid uniforms parading the hallways, buzzing about going to Lollapalooza.

Yes, when it came down to it, many of my peers seemed to be teens for whom rebellion was merely just another adolescent pose to try on, not a soul survival strategy.

Over time I grew more and more arrogant and bitter.  (To this day, I struggle with this defensive posturing, often bristling with irritation and impatience at the apparent smugness of many cool, self-confident professionals around my age.)  I was conceited and defensive about my ever-more-questionable “talents,” vainly clinging to the ones I still believed that I had.  Every day I sought small self-affirming demonstrations of my self worth, shreds of dignity and promise in a life that seemed to be shot through with endless humiliations and hidden torments.

Meanwhile I was growing up in a household where my spirit was being pushed down by angry, miserable, exhausted old tyrants.  (I deeply hated my parents and also came to much more virulently hate myself.  I’m ashamed to say that I transferred some of this loathing to my most domineering teachers and thoughtlessly cruel peers.)

* * *

After multiple psychiatric hospitalizations during my teens and twenties and thirties, I have finally had it at the ripe old age of 33.

I am sick and tired of wanting to escape from my life and self.

I want a détente with God.

I want to be warm and at peace with myself — no longer cold and arrogant and at war with the world.

I want peace and grace and strength so that I will not crack again.

I want to give back to the people who have helped me, the people who have somehow seen through the mess on the outside to find a person with some wisdom and, yes, a few small leftover gifts.

(If for some reason you’ve gotten this far, thank you for reading this little essay.  It was almost as rewarding to write as the few good ones that I remember writing in high school (now forever lost to me).)

Happy Easter.

* * *

"And I don’t, I don't know who to believe
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see"

I misheard the second line as, “I’ll give back to you someday soon you will see.”

I will, though.  I’ll find a way.

I just have to stop taking so much away from you/us first.

Please leave feedback below, friend or foe.  (I miss school and feedback from English teachers.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday evening electronica (((ambient sonicollage)))...

The Orb
“Earth (Gaia)”
The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld / Big Life/Island/Mercury, etc. / 1991

...this track dedicated to...

...any retiring Boomers seeking immortality with resevratrol, antioxidants, dreams of Singularity, etc. (too many ppl to enumerate)... boomer-bust & millennial earth-grounded pagan friends (TH & VC, resp.)...

...gen-x/y tripsters who used to chill out to electronica like this during the '90s->'00s timespace (also a lot of ppl)...

Apropos of the view of things the day after Earth Day.  Based on what’s happening here in the suburbs, looks like we’re still intent on killing Mother Earth around here after all.  The eighties-via-fifties spirit endures around here more than anything.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday morning upper from the ‘decade under the influence’...

“See No Evil”
Marquee Moon / Elektra / 1977

This is a fun song to play while driving in a car with a full-sounding stereo system with good bass response.

Television is one of those bands that has influenced everyone from influential-in-their-own-right early New Wavers of the late ’70s through early ’80s to the back-to-basics garage rock revivalists of the early 2000s.  “See No Evil” is a standout track in part because a lot of the jams on Marquee Moon are mellower and even sort of meditative, such as the title track.  The album is recommended for anybody who digs leaner ’70s rock, alongside seminal semi-subterannean staples like Bowie, Roxy Music, Magazine, Brian Eno, The Modern Lovers, New York Dolls, Big Star, et cetera.

I keep coming back to seventies music whenever I start trying to spiritually ground myself again.  I will definitely be sharing more Third Great Awakening decade music on this here blog.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Early Thursday a.m. rawness...

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
“Mistakes and Regrets”
Madonna / Merge / 1999

[ D R A F T ]

While the modern / alt rock radio format was arguably cratering back then, the smoldering post-grunge music scenes of the late nineties managed to usher in some very solid creative forces like Austin’s …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead.  Trail of Dead and their artistic peers rose above glib subgenre labels like “emo” and delivered thrilling, transcendent rock that has aged well into the current day.  Songs like 1999’s “Mistakes and Regrets” don’t sound out of place here in the early 2010s, where many of us are still feeling lingering doubts, distrust, frustration, and malaise left over from the end of the “False Reset” decade.

A fifties-ish friend who often (rightfully) takes me for a fool commented that my demeanor was zombie-like a few weeks back.  For the record, I am on Lithium Carbonate (900 mg) and Fluphenazine (10 mg).  (The lithium is prescribed to stabilize my undesirable1 moods and the Fluphenazine is indicated to pacify my erratic2 thoughts.)

But then seeking out numbness has been a common thread of the generational experience of a certain subset the Gen X/Y/Millennial crowd.  This anaesthesia and release comes from many bromides; in my personal experience, prescription psychoactive medication has been a big part of cultivating my own numbness, impassiveness, and emotional disconnection.

I have come to know countless people born from about the mid-’60s onward who’ve been taking cocktails of prescription drugs — including things like behavior-taming ADD/ADHD drugs, mood-toning anti-depressants, mind-blunting anti-psychotics, emotion-dampening mood stabilizers and so on — since they were preteens or young adolescents.  Many of us were middle-class and upper-middle-class kids struggling to grow up according to Old Boomer rules of straining for precocious adulthood and responsibility.  We were somewhat sheltered “good kids” who were shuttered away from the same youthful indiscretions that our older siblings or cousins indulged in, the kids who came of age during the reactionary-cum-revolutionary ’70s and early ’80s who got to screw around and get high and experiment more fully with their reckless youthful urgings.

We unwitting Reagan-Youths-turned-Prozactive-Young-Adults had a different sort of deal than them.  A lot of nineties music helped us Rx-doped youths tear holes through the prescriptive drug hazes we were in (and other insensate states of unfeeling and seeming unbeing).  The beautifully raw, sour, damaged music of the nineties helped a few of us actually feel something — anything — again, even if it was just smoldering pain or smarting anger.

Among the various crowds I used to know, I came to sense over time that too many of us were quietly raging over something absent in our young lives — something sweet and natural and real — that we sensed was missing and perhaps not meant for us, something we longed for while we rushed headlong into the Boomer-to-Tomber ruts of our aging authoritarianistic parents, those loving antagonists and smothering protectors.

We sad kids of the nineties often found solace in music.  Listening to certain strains of this music, you hear a blend of older decades of sonic and spiritual influences.  There is even a hint of the sweetness and light of the fifties and the eighties in certain pop confections of that era, particularly at the opening and closing of the nineties, when the zeitgeist was turning.  But much more present in many nineties songs is the passion and fury of the sixties and the spiritual slow-burn of the seventies.

These echoes should come as no surprise.  Many musicians who thrived during the nineties were children way back during the tail-end-sixties fallout and fertile ferment of the early-to-mid-seventies (which was overall a surprisingly creative and reflective decade).  Here are a handful of my favorites:

b. 1965......Black Francis, Björk
b. 1966......Stephin Merritt, Stephen Malkmus
.............Tanya Donnelly, Kristin Hersh
b. 1967......Kurt Cobain, Mark Robinson
.............Billy Corgan
b. 1968......Tricky, Thom Yorke, Kathleen Hanna

It can be argued that this essay3 is folly and vanity and that the last decade of the last millennium was much like any other before it.  After all, the nineties witnessed the evolution and re-emergence of artistic ages and creative spirits seen in earlier decades.  But since I was yet another sad, lost, heartsick youth during much of the nineties, I suppose it comes as no surprise that I often remember the saddest, most heartsick melodies of those times most fondly and dearly during these times of loss and searching.

* * *

Just for reference, here are the lyrics to “Mistakes and Regrets.”


If I could make a list
of my mistakes and regrets,
I'd put your name on top
and every line after it

’cause every inch of hope
becomes a world of shame
I’ve had to walk through
each and every day

And if I screamed ‘you were wrong’
at the top of my lungs,
you would never return
all the faith that I’ve lost

And there is nothing left to say
that has not been said
If I shouted, you wouldn't listen
I don’t think it’d even sink in

If you forget how to feel
reach inside your chest
Is there a heart beating?
Is there just emptiness?

Footnotes to self:
1moods (and states) undesirable among my circles of family and friends
2thoughts that are too erratic when (a) they become too disorganized and disjointed, and (b) I break with consensus reality, no matter how mad that collective reality seems to me and those like me

3a form of expression which few of my friends will probably see, despite all of my sad little invitations; yes, my fairweather friends always reject me at every turn even when I turn to them for the most rudimentary sustenance and answers; I must start walling myself off to them again to protect myself from their cool apathies and their cautious distances; putting myself even in the periphery of their existences will only spur me to find myself alienated and alone and fearing again; I am alone and feel I will always be alone at my core; I must remove myself from lifeless, numb, overcautious people before I go mad once more; I just cannot be like them, I’ve tried it again and again and again and again and I can’t do it anymore; why can’t they let me be myself, mad and happy and (((FINALLY NOT HATING MYSELF FOR NOT BEING LIKE THEM))); the true, worst madness for me is the slow numbing madness of forcing myself to be what I cannot understand and repeatedly seeking out those who I can’t seem to feel the same tenderness for anymore; I cannot trust people anymore; they want me numbed again so I’m like a tired old ragdoll; I am alone and this is all a trap set up for me, their glib reassurances wear thin, they repeat things they read and hear and do not think about all of the crueler possibilities; they do not know this slow death and panic like I/we do; I cannot do this all over again; I must leave here somehow

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Facebook + Geographical Distance == paradoxical near-yet-far social dislocation...

The Facebook Blues Rap

[in couplets and pentameterized for your pleasure]

Hangin’ with all of my old Facebook friends,
Double-checkin’ spellin’ ’fore I hit “Send”
The simulacra of smilin’ faces
and candid snapshots of far-off places
make me long for something real and truer
But lookin’ at your pic makes me bluer
’cause I can’t see you in three dimensions,
Threads of comments so cunningly mentioned
compete for my divided attention
Seein’ you on here is just so wrenchin’
Didn’t know you were so stinkin’ clever
Hope we can be Effbee “friends 4ever”
Even if we never do press the flesh
Just catch me later when you hit “Refresh”

—MM Zorn
(a/k/a “Grandmaster Crash” or just “DJ Lithium”)

Wednesday afternoon synthpop dirge...

The Magnetic Fields
“Either You Don’t Love Me Or I Don’t Love You”
The House of Tomorrow [EP] / Merge / 1999*

(* Originally issued as a 7” (1993) and as a CD (1996) by the Feel Good All Over indie label.)


Lost roads and towns of which nobody’s found the name
All the children drowned and there’s no one around to blame
Lost roads and towns left to wilder in seed and snow
As the sun goes down that’s where I'd like to go

Every time you feel wonderful, baby, I feel bad
Either you don’t love me or I don’t love you, oh yeah
When you remind me of all the good times I feel sad
Either you don’t love me or I don’t love you, oh yeah

You and me in the waiting room of a disused railroad station
Scavenging for a few antiques, we’ll make a fortune just have patience
If we find an old signal box you can write your dissertation.

Every time you feel wonderful, baby, I feel bad
Either you don’t love me or I don’t love you, oh yeah
When you remind me of all the good times I feel sad
Either you don’t love me or I don’t love you, oh yeah

Postscript:  Coincidentally, I’ve been listening to this song while thinking about the impending conclusion of my ten-year marriage and haunting Kensington’s railroad station and antiques district as the sun goes down on West Howard Avenue.  And oddly, a friend of mine called up this afternoon and we talked a bit about his dissertation on rhetoric.

So right now my slice-of-life experiences resemble a tag cloud for a Magnetic Fields song lyric.  Swell.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Fairy Tale: The Ten Year Spell

Once upon a time there were two kids.  The boy was nineteen and the girl was seventeen.

They grew to love each other and began to share their dreams together.  They sometimes talked late into the night, when the warm July darkness enveloped them.  The boy and girl would make each other laugh and forget their teenage awkwardness and isolation.

The boy and girl had one long magical night when they danced and laughed and shared wild stories and forgot about their teen loneliness.  They never forgot this beautiful night, and treasured it for all their days.
Years passed, and the boy and girl grew into adulthood.  The brightness of their dreams had tarnished a little and a slow, quiet fear had crept into their lives.

The girl, now a young woman, suddenly went mad and then came to her senses.  Then, some years later, her mind went into a still darkness.  She emerged into a thick foggy white light.  The woman had to take many cures to banish the madness and darkness, pastel pills of all different hues.  Her body grew heavy and thick with the cures.  Her mind dimmed and she often looked absently around her, forgetting herself.

The boy, now a man, took care of her and loved her just as he had loved her when she was seventeen.
Suddenly they were much older and the world was also suddenly much too old.  The world now seemed to be crashing down as if in the enactment of a bad dream.  Two tall towers fell swiftly as if under a dark spell.

The man and woman looked at each other and decided to run away together and elope.  Time was suddenly moving faster, and a strange fear and uncertainty had crept into the world.  Life suddenly seemed shorter.  The glittering towers of the cities around them shimmered in a strange new fragile light.  Terrible storms swelled up, first crashing debris on the land and then moving across the warm waters.

Many people around them seemed to be under a growing frenzy.  They sought gold and comforts and cocooned themselves with riches and multi-gabled palaces.  The man and woman watched this in wonder, not understanding the meaning of this strange frenzy.
Then one day the man and woman found themselves growing older and colder and stranger to one another.  They lived in a neighborhood called Slumburbia.  The neighborhood had seemed beautiful and placid at first but over time began to turn horrid and grotesque.  Loud klaxons sounded, and a terrible loud careening music often filled the air.  The gutters were filled with filth and discarded mattresses.  The people nearby began killing the beautiful, oldest, most majestic trees, turning them to rotting firewood.  Screaming children ran through the dirty streets, laughing cruelly.

The woman began to turn mad again.  Slowly over time she began to assumed the likeness of an old ogress.  Her dark youthful hair began falling out of her head.  Then her hair began to turn gray and wiry and her eyes turned fire-bright then chalk-dull.

The man was horrified at first, but then came to love her tenderly in her new form.  One day, in her dark madness, the woman breathed in a gaseous poison, seeking darkness and blissful stillness.  She was not overtaken by the gases, and was shocked into a new life and sense.

The man and woman knew that they had to flee Slumburbia before the madness consumed her under its terrible spell.  They roamed the county, looking at beautiful little houses filled with enchantment.  After a time they moved to a new house, a sky blue house surrounded by greenness and tall trees.

The couple was happy for a time.  They dreamed about fixing up the house and having a child.  The woman began to feel younger and less grotesque.

Then a strange thing happened.  Bones began raining down from the sky.  The woman looked up and said, “It can’t be an omen.  There must be an explanation for this odd event.”
But things did not look good.  Time was still racing forward like a swift arrow.  The years were crowding upon the couple.  Their plans were unraveling and they could not seem to have a child.  Everywhere around them in the neighborhood there were beautiful glowing children.  The woman despaired, feeling that she was under a terrible curse.

One showery day in April the woman said, “Husband, I think we are under a spell.  You have been a good husband to me, but this madness and darkness is too powerful for us.  You have loved me and cared for me with tender love and devotion for many long years.  I have also loved you well.  But I have been like a spoilt child, wandering in the darkness and fog.  I have even become a hideous old ogress at times.  And yet you still love me.  But my soul’s sickness makes me love words and songs and pictures and sweet illusions more than life itself.  Husband, let us free ourselves from this marriage promise.  This October we will have been married for ten years.  Liberate yourself from me.  Free yourself, husband, from my dark curse.  Let us break the spell this October.  Ten years of love and devotion is a good long spell.  Let it be enough.”

The man looked at his wife and sighed.  Lately he had been tired and sad and lost and too wanted to be free of this heavy spell.  She smiled at him and they laughed softly together, relieved at this slow realization.  They dreamed of their new liberated lives, freed of the spell.

Later that night she shed lonely tears, weeping for the two happy kids they had been on that warm May evening so long ago, dancing together in the soft darkness.

(To be continued...)

Tuesday electro fix...

Cut Copy
“Need You Now”
[MP3 format] / April 2011 / Modular
(alternately released on
Zonoscope full-length / 2011 / Modular)

MP3 downloads for “Need You Now” can be found at the following sites (as of 2011-04-19):
“Need You Now” [album cut] (Stereogum)
“Need You Now” [album cut] (Twentyseven Views)
“Need You Now” [album cut] (Different Kitchen)
“Need You Now” [Architecture In Helsinki remix] (Modular)
“Need You Now” [Carl Craig remix] (Modular)


Hush, darling, don’t you cry
Hush, darling, don’t you cry
’Cause they’re never gonna reach you
Never gonna reach you

Hush, darling, don’t you cry
Hush, darling, don’t you cry
’Cause they’re never gonna reach you
Never gonna reach you

In the morning, I come down
In the morning, I break down
But you’re never gonna get away
Gonna get away

I know I’m running, baby
But I need you now
Said I know we’re going crazy
But I need you now
I need you now
To find somehow

I know we’re running, baby
But I need you now
I know we’re going crazy
But I need you now
I need you now
To find somehow

There’s a beauty in the waking eye
There’s a memory in the waking eye
But it’s never gonna reach you
Never gonna reach you
In the morning, I come down
In the morning, I break down
But you’re never gonna get away
Gonna get away

Hands touch as you’re falling down
Lips touch as you’re falling down
Run for the last train
Whatever will get you home

I know we’re going crazy
But I need you now
I know we’re running, baby
But I need you now
I need you now
To find somehow

I know we’re going crazy
But I need you now
I know we’re running, baby
But I need you now
I need you now
To find somehow

(But I need you now)
(But I need you now)


Group therapy is getting me down...

I am beginning to hate group therapy again.

Picture being trapped in a smallish room with about ten to twelve adults, all facing each other in a crowded, too-intimate little circle of a supposedly therapeutic nature.  Imagine that they are messy, confused, depressive people with bona fide “Problems.”  Sometimes even “Big Problems,” the kind that require a generous regimen of fat, pastel-colored pills ... or perhaps a few bilateral-hemisphere electroconvulsive therapy sessions ... or even a good lawyer on retainer.

A room where you are coerced to share, share, and share until you are practically telling people what you ate (or drank) for breakfast and what your cat’s favorite toy looks like.

An uncomfortably cozy space where you are nudged to give everybody verbal group hugs about every ten minutes or so.

That, folks, is what my existence at PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program) and now IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) has been like.

And yes, the forced empathy is starting to strain my flaccid showing-empathy muscles.

Remember: We can only be pretend friends in here.

I wish I could somehow tactfully signal to my fellow group therapy inmates: 

Hey look, fellow group therapy hand holders—

I’m a manic-depressive coming down from a “natural” high that felt kind of great, actually.  Not to brag, but it was pretty damn special.  I am not quite ready to “feel your pain” just so intensely right now.  I cannot always come up with constructive and supportive “feedback” of a nature that will help ease you through your difficult time, which seems to know no bounds at the moment.

Perhaps instead you can feel my soft psychic waves of lukewarm supportiveness radiating out toward you in lieu of actual authentic Real Friend empathy.  You see, I do not know you very well, despite your intimate expressions of heartfelt sharing and very shattering displays of vulnerability.  Speaking of which, I really do not have enough of an idea why you are rocking back and forth and crying convulsively like that all of a sudden to offer you truly useful feedback here.

Also, I am on medications that actually suppress my humanness and clog my natural emotional response channels.  This makes me act like a vaguely empathic and life-like android, carefully rearranging my face and body every so often in an artful repertoire of sensitive expressions of support.

But, yes, I still do “care” about your problems.

“Yes, Smother.”

My problem is not with my fellow group therapy sufferers.  It is with these “facilitator” women who run the show at my current program.  Let’s call them “Professional Empathologists.”  They are really killing my fading bipolar buzz with their soft smothering chidings and constant verbal nudgings and fakey-and-flaky ersatz-empathy reflexive-reflecto-deflecto group therapy ego strokings and brain pokings.

Oh, man.  In particular, I am peeved at how these group therapy leader women (who are often vaguely smug All-Natural Earth Women of the My-Body-Is-A-Temple type) jumped all over me yesterday for daring to suggest that the previous medication I was on potentially causes hormonal disruptions that could lead to long-term endocrine complications and even infertility.

I took this medication for something like seven years, which qualifies me as somewhat of an expert on it.  Over those seven years it helped turn me into a depressive, crazed hag.  After being a lean, mean 90-pound weakling for most of my young life, I started rapidly putting on weight.  My uterus alone seemed to double in weight.  There were stretches of being thirty or forty pounds overweight where I felt suicidal almost every month around *that* time (Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder).  My hair fell out in thick clumps in the shower.  Hearing a baby cry was like being stabbed repeatedly in the viscera with a rusty shank.  I also wanted to breed like a jackrabbit, and with very little good reason.

Ahh, sweet memories of youth.

In short, I felt like I was being endocrinally hijacked from the ovaries out.  For somebody who has steadfastly stayed off of oral contraception her entire life, this felt like a betrayal by my doctors, who seemed entirely unaware of these hormonal side effects.  They were also almost totally ignorant about PMDD.  (In fact, many of these psychiatrists spent the first ten minutes of every fifteen-minute session shuffling papers around trying to figure out exactly who I was again and thus also what particular cocktail of drugs I was carrying on about.)

These pill-pushing doctors actually made me miss the old-fashioned frigid Freudians I used to go to.  At least those guys gave you an hour.  Plus they reminded you of dear old Dad (i.e. remote, cold, and vaguely judgemental).

I am so thrilled that I don’t have group therapy today.


If there really is not a “conclusive” link between valproate and endocrine conditions such as PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), then, sadly, I believe that I fall into the unlucky subset of women with noticeable hormonal disruptions on valproate.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday evening mind expansion...

Tame Impala
Innerspeaker / Modular Recordings / 2010


I know where you went but I don’t know how you got there,
I know where you went but I don't know how you got there,
Silver tongue hill where you talk up what I’d play down,
I would speak up but I wouldn't know what to say.

Lucidity, come back to me,
put all five senses back to
where they’re meant to be
Oh it’s hard to tell,
it breaks down,
there is a will,
there is a way

Wondering around like spare time never knew it,
I might suck fizzle or I might just float away

And we’ll go running off tonight, high above,
where we won’t even need to reach the sky,
my love.
Oh there will be a change in the air,
nobody will be anybody else.

Lucidity, come back to me,
put all five sense back to
where they’re meant to be.
Oh where we’ll go, tip toe,
tread boldly right down to the lair

Slackerdom magnified...

Remember the nineties, when slackerdom was a high art?  Back when I was in my early twenties, I would kill time a lot of ways between C.S. and core classes at the University of Maryland at College Park.  Among them, I’d (1) plot the future milestones of my twenties, (2) learn basic guitar chords, and (3) make primitive raw-HTML-based webpages.

Mind you, this was before the social networking “revolution” and the rise of high-definition Web 2.0 “clean” design aesthetics.  This was so long ago that CSS 3 was considered cutting edge.  AOL had just merged with Time-Warner and was still considered a major player as an “Internet service provider.”  I still used Netscape Navigator as my browser of choice.  Napster was still running, straining the bandwidth of college servers everywhere.  Ahhh, the memories.
Yes, I’m an old person now.

Anyways, around the turn of the millennium, I created a primitive set of webpages, called “Meguana’s Lefty Guitar Chords.”  Alas, the Internet Archive (a/k/a the “Wayback Machine”) reveals that only a crappy husk of my erstwhile crappy compendium of backwards chord charts remains on the world-wide web as of April 2011.  Sadly, the Internet Archive has no traces of the southpaw chord chart image files themselves, once so lovingly rendered in beautiful anti-aliased 8-bit format.

The website that hosted my lefty chord homepages,, stopped hosting user webpages during the Dot Bomb Fallout of 2001.  If you remember this era, it was a period of panicky, frenzied internet holdings reorganizations.  Foolishly, I failed to migrate the lefty chord pages during the spring of 2001.  (In my defense, I was probably swamped with C.S. programming projects at the time.)

Of course, if I were to resurrect this chord chart project today, I'd simply use PHP to parse well-formatted ASCII diagrams (or some sort of basic XML chord notation) into dynamically generated PNGs, using some full-featured open-source graphics libraries.

Caveat: If you look at the lefty webpages, you’ll find that the fact-checking is fairly spotty.  In particular, I get the feeling that many of the “lefthanded guitarists” I’ve listed are actually righthanded, ambidextrous, or otherwise “backwards” because somebody just simply digitally reversed a photo of a live performance.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday night indie pop heaven...

The Magnetic Fields
“The Village In The Morning”
Get Lost, Merge (1995)

This song sounds distorted and garbled, like it’s being played from an underwater boombox.  That’s not just the way it sounds in the YouTube clip; it’s also the way it sounds on the album.  The chorus is sublime.


Outside the rain is coming down
Inside it’s warm and dry
You’ll never find a cab uptown
so why not stay the night?
Why don’t you call in sick tomorrow?
Let’s sleep the day away
I’ve got pajamas you can borrow
Let’s take a holiday

You can’t leave the village in the morning
when the radio writes poetry for avenue pi
You get tangled in the wheels of old queen river
and you can’t find the breath to whisper goodbye

Why don’t you stay until the weekend?
It should clear up by then
As your resolve begins to weaken
we’ll become such good friends
And you could stay until the summer
and we can sleep through spring
And I can telephone my drummer
and have her get your things

Why don’t you stay until we’re old
and fall in love with life?
Why don’t you stay until we’re ghosts?
We’ll only seem to die...

Sunday morning moment of bliss...

I love playing this song on quiet, sunny Sunday mornings.  The song features a celesta, a keyboard instrument that sounds like a tinkly metal xylophone.  The mood of the lyrics is wistful and poignant, and even slightly cautious and wary.

The track comes from the wonderful The Velvet Underground & Nico LP, released in 1967.


Sunday morning, praise the dawning
It’s just a restless feeling by my side
Early dawning, Sunday morning
It’s just the wasted years so close behind
Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call
It’s nothing at all

Sunday morning and I’m falling
I’ve got a feeling I don’t want to know
Early dawning, Sunday morning
It’s all the streets you crossed, not so long ago
Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call
It’s nothing at all

Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call
It’s nothing at all

Sunday morning...
Sunday morning...
Sunday morning...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Getting Older...

So we went to an event billed as a “dance party” at Black Cat in D.C.  Normally we go to this club to see indie rock shows, but we thought we'd attempt some dancing here in the fast-waning days of our youth.

Here is how the event was billed on the website:

Saturday Apr 16


New Wave, Pop, 90s, and Other Oddities w/ DJ [name retracted].

$5 Backstage / Doors at 9:30

Tickets available night of show.

So we attended this event with our friend Eric, hoping for a night of eighties New Wave electronic dance numbers (think New Order or Pet Shop Boys) with maybe some nineties Trip-hop (think Portishead or Tricky) thrown in for good measure.  We’d also hoped there would be some oldsters like us (30-somethings) to round the crowd out.

It turns out that we were dead wrong.  Instead the DJ played an entire set of hip-hop, house music, R&B, and disco.  To add to the sense of displacement, the median age of the patrons seemed to be about 24.

We did have fun, though.  By midnight the music was pulsing through the stage and we were ridng on wave after wave of endorphins.  We were moving in rhythm with the crowd, feeling sweet tides of sound wash through our bodies.  (The overpriced Cosmopolitans and Manhattans didn’t hurt either.)  I could almost forget the fact that many of the kids on the dance floor hadn’t even been born when “Billy Jean” (Michael Jackson) or “Groove Is In The Heart” (Deee-Lite) were released.

After a night of cutting the rug to unrecognized hip hop dance anthems alongside youthful Millennials, we decided to call it a night around half past midnight and headed back to the Metro, grateful for our suburban creature comforts of encroaching middle age.

I leave you with this old dance track from New Order’s 1989 Technique album, called “Fine Time.”  If I had been the deejay, the sets would have contained tracks like this one.


You’re much too young
To be a part of me
Too young
To get a hold on me

You’re much too young
You’re much too young
You’re much too young
To mess around with me

You know I’ve met a lot of cool chicks
But I’ve never met a girl with all her own teeth
That’s why I love you babe
That’s why we could be
But you’re too young
Too young

At the end
At the end
At the end
The past doesn’t matter

Repeat (×3)

Sophisticated lady
You know I’ve met a lot of cool chicks
But you've got style
You’ve got class
But most of all
You’ve got love technique.

Saturday indie rock moment...

The Vaselines are a Glaswegian band that was famously beloved by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.  During the 1980s the primary members and songwriters were Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee.

I wholeheartedly recommend the 1992 Sub Pop Records retrospective The Way Of The Vaselines: A Complete History.

This is a catchy song about lust called “Dying For It.”


She said to me, would you like to be,
I got plenty of time, It's gonna take some time.

Ahhhh I'm hanging out.
I'm hanging out baby, I'm hanging out,
Ahhhh I'm hanging out.
I'm hanging out baby, I'm hanging out,
Ahhhh I'm hanging out,
Come on now, come along sing my song.

She said to me, we're gonna lie on the floor,
Cause we don't need to go and can choose some more.

I'm dying for something, oh what will it be,
I'm dying for you to do something to me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday night art punk...

This is a great fast-paced number from Wire’s 1978 classic Chairs Missing.

Oh you should miss her, she says she's my sister
She's never hard to find
She's tender trusting, she's everlasting
Can I change my mind?

Is it too late to change my mind?

Mirror, mirror, icy sister
Love is never blind
She's slowly turning, mouth gently burning
Can I change my mind?

Is it too late to change my mind?

She pisses icy water on poetic mornings
Got to be cruel to be kind
Is this real life, is it for life?
Can I change my mind?

Is it too late to change my mind?
Is it too late to change my mind?
Is it too late to change my mind?
Is it too late to change my mind?

secret vice [a poem]

secret vice

this is becoming
a habit, a secret vice--
cigarettes with gin

here in this small light
we are just afternoon friends,
my hands still unstained

I will break the chain
of blue afternoon shade dreams
like a sudden spell

gin warms my insides
like a tide washing over
those hidden spaces

this concupiscence
once so sweet, now turns bitter
in an empty hour

—MM Zorn

(Each stanza in this poem is a haiku.)

Aspen Hill [a poem]

Back when we were still living in the trenches of slumburbia, we used to visit other neighborhoods as tourists to get as far from the madding crowd as we possibly could.

At the time we lived in southwest Wheaton.  To the south was Kensington, to the east was east Wheaton (including Kemp Mill), to the west was suburban Rockville, and to our north was Aspen Hill.

We spent time in all of these neighborhoods, walking the dogs and fantasizing about escaping from lower slumburbia.  We spent afternoons walking in what seemed to us to be undecayed suburban paradises, quietly marveling at the verdant landscapes and trappings of middle bourgeois comforts.  Then we would return “home” to the noise and pollution and turf wars of Connecticut Avenue Estates.

These days I pass by Aspen Hill almost every day.  Occasionally I drive through the neighborhood, stopping at Aspen Hill Local Park for a stroll or bicycle ride.

Here is a poem I wrote based on my observations of that neighborhood:

Aspen Hill

Here in tidy nestled estates
lives of workaday ritual
and captive charms
unspool in steady rhythms and routines

In front of a spreading carpet of lawn
a pleasure boat is moored
gleaming white and silver,
it promises bay breezes and Sunday sunshine

The carapaces of fiberglass and steel—
black and navy and hunter green,
flecked with shimmering mica—
are trophies of great American motorcraft

At half past three
tall teenagers swagger down
in loose-limbed boredom,
their eyes quickening to surprises

A jet black sports car
wheels around the corner
pulsing in beats and swells
and dark eyes flash cool and predatory

—MM Zorn

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday afternoon dance track...

This eighties song is a guilty pleasure of mine.  This is the 7” version of Blancmange’s “Don’t Tell Me” (London Records, 1984).


I’ll stay with you until the end
I say you’ll let me be your friend
I’ll say you’ll let me in the end
I just want to be your friend.

How can I be sure you’re breaking all the rules
How can I be sure I should be high above
I climbed a mountain reaching for the skies
And all too soon I jump the moon and find I'm losing my mind.

Don’t tell me I'm the howling wind
Don’t tell me you're the wounded star
And don’t tell me I’m the devil’s friend
Don’t tell me
Don’t tell me
I’ve gone too far.

I didn’t hear you as you left my room last night
Don’t turn your back on me
I didn’t hear you as you left the room last night
Please return and set me free.

I climbed a mountain reaching for the skies
And all too soon I jumped the moon and find the sun burns my eyes.

Don’t tell me I'm the howling wind
(Don’t tell me)
Don’t tell me you're the wounded star
(Don’t tell me)
And don’t tell me I’m the devil’s friend
(Don’t tell me)
Don’t tell me
Don’t tell me
I’ve gone too far.

I can’t get a grip on
I can’t get a grip on
I can’t get a grip on you
I can’t get a grip on
Can’t get a grip on.

I say you’ll let me in the end
I say you’ll let me be your friend.
I maybe asked this once before
Don’t you love me any more?

Thursday morning blissout...

Donkey is a somewhat obscure UK band that put out an album of alt-rock experiments back in the nineties called Stroke My Wings Gently (Guided Missile/Wormer Brothers, 1997)  Funnily enough, the liner notes claim that part of the album was “recorded in a cow-shed.”

Whenever I find myself playing it in the car, I often skip to track 10, a delectably blissful shoegaze number called “Kissy Kissy Traction”:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Back to the twentieth century with the Monks...

We just got a re-issue of Black Monk Time by legendary garage rock proto-punksters The Monks.  I highly recommend this release for anybody who likes raw American garage rock.

For those of you unfamiliar with this band, they were basically just a bunch of bored American GIs stationed in Germany during the ’60s who decided to form an experimental and very raucous rock band.  For added absurdity, they actually dressed like monks (see the video below for an example of a live performance).

Die Gebrüder Grimm

As I mentioned in my inaugural post, I had a much-beloved abridged version of Grimms’ Fairy Tales as a child.

I was surprised to learn that Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in the mid-1780s and that their famous collection of fairy tales, Kinder und Hausmärchen, debuted in 1812.  I had supposed that the tales had been collected far earlier, such as during the Middle Ages.

The original Grimms’ stories are known for their brutality and violence, especially compared to modern children’s books.  Many of the original plot twists and story endings have been sanitized by Hollywood over the years.

Translators Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes provided an English version of the tales published in 1912 under the title “Grimm’s Household Tales.”  I highly recommend the Project Gutenberg version, which is based on the Taylor & Edwardes translation.

Here is a fun fact:  Cinderella is known as “Aschenputtel” in the original German tale (translated as “Ashputtel” in the 1912 version).

Here is an illustration from that edition by R. Anning Bell:

Remember when life was enchanted?

(When I was a child I had a beautiful hardbound edition of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.  I pored over it for hours, envisioning stories of enchantment.)

Welcome to the diary of M., a subterranean suburbanite hausfrau.

Here you will find the dusty and dilapidated daydreams of M.  Sometimes there will merely be slice-of-life vignettes based on her quotidian experiences.  In other instances there will be original poems or short stories.  Some of the stories will be modern-day fairy tales.

Feel free to leave comments of approval or rejection.

(I have found that even rejection is useful in life.)