“What’s the next action?” Don’t give in to despair

A couple of years ago I purchased a book which I at the time believed was going to help me be more productive with my life. I read it front to back even though it took me months. I found it at my local Chapters store here in the west end of Toronto where I live, and the book in question was on sale. Do you think I can remember the name of the book? I’d go look for it, only that would distract me from writing about it. I don’t have ADHD as far as I know, and after the amount of therapy I’ve had, I’m pretty sure some doctor would have steered me to a diagnosis by now.
So I bought the book which, as I recall, was published in 2000. Predictably, the advice it gives on organizing is well in paper/in tray/out tray/filing cabinet mode. Not quite knowing what to do, I bought about $150 worth of office supplies based on a list from the book.
I ended up not using most of it. In fact, it was Christmas holidays, a month or so since I bought the book, by the time I started putting what I had read into action. It ended in a small nervous breakdown. I edited the website for our business with extremely modest success. I played online puzzle games, sudoku, hashi, hitori, picture puzzles…at the time I was a slave to the Conceptis puzzle website. My mind had bottomed out on me. I couldn’t maintain it all, stay on task, prioritize, follow through. I was still writing music but not networking with it. My basic understanding of html and css was taking its toll on the overall look-and-feel of our music school’s website. It was all too much.
I didn’t end up being rushed to a mental institution or any such high drama. I simply spent Christmas holidays two years ago in a sort of neurotic daze. After that, I stumbled through life the best I could, though a question from the book stayed with me and helped guide me through this murky despair.
“What’s the next action?”
I did learn something about how valuable it was to organize your work routine, make sure nothing in the ‘out tray’ makes its way back to the ‘in tray’, and think about what you want to accomplish now, in a week, a month, a year, five years, your life. But this turned out to be one of those books from which I learned a handful of important things and simply forgot about the rest.
I still maintain a loose sense of the passage of time and the direction in which my life is going. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to help me keep things in perspective.
Just Googled “what’s the next action” which led me to David Allen’s website and the forum for Getting Things Done, which is also the name of his book that I bought. Judging by this particular thread, it seems Allen has upgraded his methods somewhat to suit our increasingly electronic lives, as would be expected. I also read some reviews of his latest book Making It All Work, many of which recommend taking a pass on it as it’s a rehash of Getting Things Done. At any rate, GTD has helped me be more organized and on top of things than this executive dysfunction-plagued guy has ever been.

Odometer (via chenilletartar)

I have to say I’m partial to chenilletartar (Nicole Marchesseau)’s work because I know her quite well. Having said that, she’s matched up some great minimal video footage to an electronic piece of mine called Odometer. For optimal ambient effect, I suggest full-screening this one. More of my music can be found at http://soundcloud.com/siamese-connection. btw if you’re in Toronto (the one in Canada) Nov. 20 she’ll be behind the keys improvising at Somewhere There as part of their Festival Of Autumnal Happiness. Admission is $8 and the fest begins at 8:00 pm.

Odometer is an ambient video collaboration between myself (images) and Siamese Connection (music). Siamese Connection (aka Richard Benedict), also runs a WordPress blog, Optimal Character Recognition, which can be found at optimalcharacterrecognition.wordpress.com … Read More

via chenilletartar

From inside a TTC subway car

My daughter and I are returning from her weekly therapist appointment  in downtown Toronto. I’m typing this on my HTC Hero while on the subway. I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of typing with my thumbs, but my “normal” typing speed is decent so it’s not too hard for me. It’s also pretty cool that I can do this underground without Internet access.
In fact, it’s pretty cool that there’s a WordPress app for Android, and that I can post entries from my phone, period.
We’re also bringing home some goodies from a grocer near the doctor’s office. And she’s watching while I type all this.
We’re almost at our stop. Gotta go!

riding the tail end of an Internet meme yet again!

I’ve just uploaded some new tracks from my Siamese Connection project for your listening pleasure. They’re both song-poems that have been stretched to about 30 times their original duration. The program I used to do the stretching is Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch which does a great job of filling out the gaps between samples and, as a result, diffusing consonants into protracted white noise. Vocal inflections are transformed into ecstatic, pungent, glacial swoops. I find the intensity of not knowing quite when I’m arriving at the destination almost unbearable. It brings me back to when I took a train through the Canadian prairies almost 25 years ago, except that when things change, it’s extremely gradual. Perhaps it’s more akin to a long plane trip.
I was googling for advice on compiling PaulStretch in Linux and basically found what I was looking for. It didn’t help, the program still didn’t compile, so I tried the alternate suggestion of downloading and installing the Windows version and running it in Linux under Wine (a Windows emulation environment for Linux and other Unix-type OSes). That worked fine, I got it running and–lo and behold–I could actually run other programs at the same time because PaulStretch isn’t a resource hog i.e. it isn’t some luminescent, drool-inducing panacea that emanated from Steve Jobs’ cranium, it’s a butthead-simple, grey-panelled affair that delivers the goods.
At any rate, the two results I posted–Cosmic Country Blues and She Comes In Light Years–are simple stretches; I just hit the render button, no post-production effects. Now that I’ve played with the toy a little, I have some ideas about how I could use it more creatively…and perhaps what follows won’t be in the vicinity of an hour’s duration, either.
The meme referred to in the title is Justin Bieber’s “U Smile” stretched to 800 times its length, or about 30 minutes. Funny thing, it sounds much better that way! The 20-year-old Tampa, Florida native who goes by the handle Shamantis has over 1,000,000 hits on his humble soundcloud submission. He’s definitely not the first to do this, perhaps just the first to get overnight fame on the Interwebs for it. 9 Beet Stretch, by sound artist Leif Inge, is a digitally stretched recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to a length of 24 hours, and has been available as a stream since 2007 or so.
My aforementioned original compositions (!) are stretches of the song-poem Heart Break Of Love, 60s classic psych-rock band Love‘s classic (sorry for the hyperbole but it’s true!) She Comes In Colors, and some slicing and dicing using the flute/guitar riff from that same song. Happy listening!

And Then the Scales Fell From My Eyes

It happened last Christmas, actually. Really, it did. I discovered a kick-ass website called jesusneverexisted.com. It’s a bit snide, but quite informative, thorough and not overly slick. I realize I still have a lot of research to do if I want to back up what I can reasonably expect to be true, but this is the constant state of things in the real world anyway. Call me a universalist with scientific rationalist leanings.

Just last night I was on Facebook and discovered that my little sister living in Calgary (20 years my junior and I’m in my forties) had joined a Christian apologist group called Acts 17. Checking the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible—what can I say, I’m biased—I found that the New Testament chapter referred to deals with two cities where the apostle Paul preaches, one of whom drives him out of town (the bitter Jews of Thessalonica who then drove him out of Berea) and another who hears him out (the Epicureans and Stoics of Athens). I’m guessing the general thrust of the site’s name is that you either listen and be saved by Jesus or be deaf to the message and ruled by the Prince of Darkness…you know, Satan. And you know where that takes you in the end.

One of the two founders of Acts 17 is Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, who according to their website “is a former devout Muslim who was convinced of the truth of Christianity through apologetics and a spiritual search for God.” Well if he’s so damn convinced of Christianity’s truth, why the hell did I have to type that quote manually instead of the usual copy-paste? And just what is ‘apologetics’? Sounds like some cheap ripoff of Scientology terminology. It’s interesting that this guy’s star is on the rise at the same time Sarah Palin is tweeting to “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” the construction of a temple near Ground Zero in New York City.

While I’m reading the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible online, I check out the “Contradictions” section. Let’s see, the Creation Account. That could be interesting. Genesis 1:25-27 states “And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image…. So God created man in his own image.” Okay, so first God made the animals, then He made man.

Beside that quote in the diagram is another one from Genesis 2:18-19 which states “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” (By the way, I should mention that the copy-paste function works just fine with the SAN website.) So it appears God actually made the animals after man, in order to keep him company. But doesn’t this contradict what was said in Chapter 1?

Not so, says ApologeticsPress.org (thanks SAN for the link provided below the two passages; AP, again with the copy/paste?!). In an entry titled “Did God Create Animals or Man First?”, Eric Lyons, M. Min. states that skeptics “strongly assert that such language by the author of Genesis proves that the Bible is not divinely inspired.” He goes on to say that it’s easy to resolve this “alleged contradiction” by using the pluperfect tense “had formed” instead of the skeptics’ phrasing of choice “formed”.Okay, let’s rephrase the Chapter 2 passage using what Lyons believes is the correct interpretation of the Hebrew verb “yatsar”:

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God (my italics) every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. So after reading in Genesis 1 that God created the beasts of the earth on the fifth day and then created man on the sixth day, Genesis 2 brings us back to when He was creating the beasts and has Him musing that He should bring them to Adam once He’s created him so he doesn’t get lonely. Then He uses one of His great hands like a force field to gently guide the creatures he created to Adam so he can point at each one and say “okay, you two are fish, you two are locusts, you two are serpents, you two are sheep, you two are doves…” etc. until he’s named them all. At any rate, changing “formed” to “had formed” is surfacey at best, largely because the implication remains that the animals were created after Adam. So there’s a pair of male and female elephants in the room that aren’t going away.

A few years ago, when my daughter was seven, my wife decided to read a chapter of the Bible to her every night. It didn’t take long before she stopped. There was all this business of Abraham marrying his half-sister Sarah and then emphasizing the ‘sister’ part while dropping the ‘wife’ part when paying a visit to the Pharoah. Lot’s daughters get him drunk so they can carry on the tribal lineage because God turned his wife into a pillar of salt. You know. It starts when Cain kills off Abel. Up until then it’s a nice story.

Back in the 80s I became a born-again Christian. It happened in the mid-sized conservative town of Waterloo in southern Ontario, Canada. It’s what made sense to me at the time, and that scares me. I felt like there was an explanation for it all. By ‘it’ I mean Discipleship classes from a local group (even then I was asking why you’d need to take a class in it if all you had to do was accept Jesus as your saviour and read your Bible). Or why gay/bi people seemed more intelligent and tolerant—often tolerable—than many in the Christian crowd. Or why nobody in Christendom seemed to have more than one wife anymore (Mormons didn’t count) when the New Testament stated that that was the maximum for priests. Or why I’d sit through an interminable ‘Little Yeshua’ pageant one Christmas season at the local Pentecostal church featuring a woman regaling us to canned music with her interminable Whitney Houston impersonation that modulated further and further upwards to Heaven, all for the baby Jesus. Or why I’d go to that same church on another Sunday and watch the laying on of hands for video equipment being used for a mission in rural Quebec (one camper van crowd preaching to another, it appears), people speaking in tongues and prophesying the abandonment of their church…to be snubbed by everyone who came near me. I’m guessing it was the pink shirt I wore as part of the snazzy 1986-style suit and tie that I chose to wear in 1987, but I was expecting maybe a bit more tolerance.

I could go on and on and probably will if I don’t stop myself here, but the point is: I was naive. Incredibly naive. Laughably naive. I don’t blame myself anymore because now I know I’m on the high end of the autism spectrum—Aspergers if you will—and that it’s taken me more time than many to comprehend and accept what many humans have taken for granted: we don’t have all the answers, and presuming to put your faith in a capital-G God who supposedly does is sheer folly.

I stopped going to church regularly some time in the late 80s, but the harsh hand of judgment that loomed over me when I lost my virginity in 1986 still had a subconscious grip on my amygdala for a long time, probably until last Christmas. About a decade ago I smoked some weed, one of the last times for me as it just made me paranoid by then. We were watching King Of The Hill on TV as the high set in. I don’t even remember what the episode was about except that I thought it was the best I’d ever seen, and if you think that’s scary, hold on. I got so paranoid that I started thinking “you shouldn’t be high on pot. If you died right now, you’d go straight to Hell for disobeying God. You’ve wandered astray, Richard, and you need to turn back to Jesus.” It’s strange to think that I wasn’t at all concerned for the survival of my soul either before toking or after its effects had worn off. The long-term effects of taking the Bible literally, however, were another story entirely.


Guh! Duh! Yes! It’s poop! Glue gun! Poodle!

About a decade ago, a year or two into marriage and fatherhood, something started happening with my brain. I found that if thoughts or feelings started to stress me out, I would get a buzzy sort of feeling in the central right side of my brain; the feeling would abate when I managed to let the stressful thought/feeling go.

Over time, things got to the point where my body would start spasming at these stressful moments; I would slightly shiver or shake to my extremities depending on the intensity. Then came the involuntary spitting out of words. At first, it was caveman-like stuff: guh! duh! buh! Then an attempt at self-reassurance: yes! Followed by unsubtle commentary: it’s poop. Then: glue gun! Then: poodle!

In the early stages of these verbal manifestations, I booked an appointment with a neurologist, who diagnosed that I had a harmless motor tic that was likely a side effect of my Asperger Syndrome. I was now one of the Aspergians who got a side order of Tourette’s-like symptoms for good measure.

Actually it’s not that bad. I was at first worried that I might have a brain tumor, but there’s little if any reason to indulge that worry now. Probably the worst of it is when I go to bed and let all the stress of the day go. I let my body shake for a little while, say good night to my wife and c’est tout. During the day the tics are mostly verbal now, and often join the flow of regular conversation–mostly within my inner circle (lucky guys!). They also tend to abate when I’m physically and mentally active.

So if you’re experiencing anything like this, stay active, eat right, be positive, for God’s sake get good medical help and don’t poodle over it (btw I love good quality beer, have a healthy libido & steer clear of blinkered religious beliefs i.e. I have a life).