Saturday, February 11, 2012

We all go a little crazy sometimes...

The title of this post is in reference to a quote by Norman Bates from Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). As I write this I'm wondering how many people are going to be offended by the fact that I choose to use the term mental disorder instead of something that they deem more politically correct. Fortunately, I'm not overly concerned. The reason why I chose this particular quote is that over the years people have come to associate mental disorders with the psychopathic murderers presented on the silver screen. While murderers are for the most part psychopaths, to assume that all people suffering from mental disorders are a danger to society is far from the truth. Roughly 20% of the American population suffer from a mental disorder, which is a huge number once you break it down and realize that is 1 in 5 Americans. Despite this, society continues to stigmatize mental disorders.

Although strives have been made over the years, the fact is that the general public is mostly misinformed when it comes to the topic and has false preconceived notions that jade the way in which they view mental disorders. For example, people will often assume that people exaggerate or fake symptoms in order to get attention, that mental disorders are not "true" diseases, that depression is nothing more than laziness, that "will power" alone can overcome mental disorders, or that only "crazy" people see psychologists/psychiatrists. This alienates those who suffer from disorders, which in turn discourages them from seeking help. I say this not as an outsider looking into the topic out of curiosity, but rather as a veteran who is genuinely concerned with the way the public at large continues to chastise those who suffer mental disorders. Throughout my life I have struggled with chronic depression and anxiety, and while I have been lucky enough to have a strong support group behind me, I know others are not so lucky.

There are days when getting out of bed has turned into a task on its own, and I still find myself on the verge of tears for no apparent reason on a regular basis. Writing about it has helped me cope with my disorders, but there are still times when I simply cannot function. For a man-boy in his mid-20s there is little more disheartening than crying for hours on end when there is no logical reason to feel depressed. Nothing I write will ever convey just how alone I have felt at times, even when I was in a room full of my friends. My disorders have affected not just the way I feel about myself but also my interactions with others, the way I write, think, the music I listen to, and how I process things. I say this not to be fatalistic, but rather to emphasize just how strong the impact that mental disorders have on a person is.

I have a feeling that the majority of those who read this article are already well informed on the topic. While this is a good thing, I regret to inform you that I did not write this for you. I wrote this for those out there who know little about mental disorders, in an effort to educate them. The more that we educate others and make them aware of the truths of mental disorders, the greater the chances are that the 13 year old crying himself to sleep right now will encounter someone who will provide him with enough information and guidance to alleviate some of the pain he feels. Someone who will tell him that he is not alone and that help is available. And if you are that 13 year old, then let me be the one to tell you: You are not alone. There is help out there.

I stated earlier that I suffer from chronic depression and anxiety. What I didn't mention was that I am a graduate student who holds a full time position at a university as well as a published author. I have been promoted at every job I have worked at, and I have never been charged or arrested for any crime. My bouts with depression and anxiety have not stopped me from accomplishing what I want to accomplish in life. Moreover, although I firmly believe that medication can help, I also believe that medicine is not the solution for everyone; it certainly isn't for me. I see a psychologist on a regular basis and while I she has offered me medicine, just having someone to talk to is enough for now. But who knows, maybe I'll change my mind down the road. After all, we all go a little crazy sometimes, right?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tolerance Does Not Require Approval/Support

Growing up in a Central American Catholic household, I was taught early on that being gay was wrong. Now, gays themselves were not bad people, but being of a homosexual nature was bad; it was a sin. Luckily I was only a Vatican fearing Catholic until the age of reason, at which point in time I decided that any God that could be viewed as benevolent couldn't possibly hate a human being for something over which they have no control. That would just be ridiculous and petty. As I found out, Ridiculous and Petty are religion's middle names.

With America becoming overly PC (Politically Correct for those of you that have neglected to turn on a television or read a newspaper in the past decade and a half), people are being led to believe that being tolerant of homosexuality means approving and supporting it. That is not the case at all. let me refer you to Webster's definition of tolerance: Toleration is "the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves". That's right, according to Webster's you don't need to approve of something, but merely allow it to occur. I know what you're thinking: "How can I tolerate something I do not approve of?". Well the answer to that is simple: Those who you are being tolerant of do not need your approval. They don't need your help and they don't need your support. They are simply asking you to let them do that they, as grown American adults, have the right to do: Pursue happiness.

Whether it's same-sex or interracial relationships, all that the people involved in such matters are asking is that you respect their right to pursuit of happiness. Nothing more. They're not asking you to march alongside them in a gay pride parade, they're not going to invite you to sailor night at the bar, and despite what you may think, that gay guy in your English class doesn't think you're hot and wants nothing to do with you beyond friendship.

Having said that, no one can force someone else to approve of something. Things just don't work like that. In the same manner that a group does not need someone else's permission to do something, that same group cannot force their beliefs on anyone else. I personally do not find drag shows to be all that entertaining, but I am in no way shape or form bothered by them nor do I think that they are an abomination and should be banned. I merely don't go to them, which by proxy means I don't support drag. I have a friend or two that do this, and although I support them doing what makes them happy, I just don't find it all that appealing. They are good at what they do, but it is not my type of entertainment, and they understand and respect my choice not to go just as I understand and respect their choice to partake in the theatrics of it.

America has made strides over the years in regards to their general attitudes towards what is different. Despite still being hit with the Bible Belt, America recently showed signs of rebellion on the issue of homosexuality when the repeal of DADT finally occurred. Regardless of what people say or how long it may take, progress will be made in the United States. We just have to remember that regardless of what we are told, we don't need to like or agree with something in order to tolerate it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Personalism in the United States

This past Saturday I woke up around noon and found myself running late to my ISTAC (International Students Travel Advisory Council) meeting. Being that I was hungry and pressed for time, I did what any other good college student in my situation would do: I stopped at Taco Bell to grab some food with which to clog my arteries. As I waited in line deciding on whether I wanted to order a Grilled Stuft Burrito or the Triple Heart Attack Box I couldn't help but notice that the guy working the register was extremely cordial. He was a clean-shaven guy around in his early twenties (i.e. my age) whose uniform was impeccable. I can only imagine that if I had been able to see his shoes they would have been shinier than a brand new nickel. Beyond his aesthetics, he carried himself in a very professional manner, speaking eloquently and constantly apologizing to clients for the delay in their service and asking if they needed anything else. This guy went as far as asking the customers whether or not he could get sauce for them, despite the fact that the sauce was right beside the fountain soda machine which they were going inexorably going to use.

Needless to say, I was a little shocked. Good service at a fast food place? At a Taco Bell of all placesl? It just didn't register. Having lived in the United States for well over a decade, I have become unused to good service. This however, served as a reminder that personalism still exists in this world, just not usually inside the United States. I say inside the United States because the only place where I have experienced true personalism when it comes to service is in Latin America. This should come as no surprise, as Latin America despite all of its development over the past two decades remains very much so the poster child for disparity. The rich own everything and the poor own nothing, but the poor lease from the rich. This means that the poor need to hustle as much as they can and earn every cent of that dollar that they are being paid. A perfect example of this is an anecdote told to me by a college professor about his experience on getting a haircut at a barbershop in Mexico. When he got to the barbershop he was greeted and seated immediately and offered not only coffee, but also brandy. Upon the clerk's realization that there was no brandy in stock, the clerk ran out as fast as he could to get a small bottle for the Profe. Needless to say that clerk earned his tip that day. I mention this story not to reinforce the belief that Mexicans love their booze, but to illustrate just how much they are willing to go that extra step.

Now, we could talk about classism in Latin America, the Patron-Peon Syndrome, or how the United States sacrifices service for quality, but the truth is that the United States used to be like Latin America as far as service without sacrificing quality. Once upon a time you could go to a gas station and receive full service along with a smile. You could go to the local diner and upon finishing a delicious meal you would feel compelled rather than obligated to tip your waitress. But gone are the times of full service gas stations. These days you can hardly finish your plate before the waitress is waving the bill in your face or shoving it down your throat. That and they always wait until your mouth is full before they ask you if you need something, that way you can't answer. In trying to become more efficient and more speed oriented, American costumer services have become far less costumer friendly. Instead of role models new employees now have videos that teach them how to perform a job. How much less personable can you get? Costumer service in America is so speed oriented that it has become impersonal and, ironically enough, inefficient.

I am not denouncing corporate America, but rather its approach to costumer service, which I'm sure we can all agree could use improvement. Who knows, maybe I'm overreacting and next time that I go to get my haircut I will be greeted with a smile. Perhaps I should appreciate gems such as that Taco Bell worker rather than criticize his coworkers. But for now, I'd much rather get my haircut in Latin America, where I can enjoy a little brandy in my coffee. That or maybe we can start hiring illegal immigrants to perform costumer service. After all, smiles are the one true universal language.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A drunkenspaniard's Guide to Last Minute Halloween Costumes

There are only 6 days until Halloween and if you are anything like half of my friends, you probably still don't have a costume. Not to worry, because I am here to bail you out. I have compiled a brief list of cheap and easy to make costumes.

Blues Brothers: Suit, sunglasses, and a hat. Make sure you have a partner for this.

Brett Michaels: Just dress like 80s Hair Metal Star meets Hulk Hogan. Oh and make sure all of your girl friends who are dressed like stuck stick by you.

Cheating Husband: Untucked, buttoned wrong button up shirt with lipstick on the collar and unbuckled belt, shoes on wrong feet. That is all.

Chilean Miner: Wear dirty clothes and put on a helmet. If you wanna be hardcore, get a pick. This is topical humor at its best.

Dog: For this one you wanna look like Brett Michaels but trashier. Just go to Ravenna and look around. Mullets, shades, cowboy boots, and a vest are a must.

Mad Scientist: Get a white lab coat (with or without blood stains), rubber gloves, and goggles. Mess up your hair to enhance the look.

Nudist On Strike: Just wear a sign that says nudist on strike,

Redneck: Wear nuthugger jeans, work boots, a camo hat (fishing hook on brim may help)and a confederate flag. Now you can move to Ravenna:

The Strangers: Wear a suit and then get some sort of sack-like bag and make holes for the eyes. If you get creative you can turn this into The Scarecrow from Batman Begins. Oh, make sure you don't talk as that will add to the mystery/creepiness of your costume.

Tool: Get ahold of a blazer or suit jacket and deck it out with the logo from Tool Academy. Wear bandanas (on your head and everywhere else where it might fit), ripped jeans, gel the shit out of your hair, wear sunglasses in the dark, and "ice" if you have it. Conversation topics should involve working out, how tired you are from working out, and how you can't wait until you work out again. Remember, your goal is to look and sound like the guy whose ass you want to kick.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

13 Songs to Haunt By

Well, it's that time of the year again, when little kids make their moms buy them overpriced costumes of the latest superhero to be featured in a summer blockbuster and the Kent crowd tries to outdo one another with drinking feats, costumes, and parties. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Halloween is nearly upon us. Many of you probably decided on a costume months ago, or will do so in the following week or two. If you are anything like me, you will also be watching horror flicks while munching on candy, eating apple or pumpkin pie and washing it all down down with some (hard?) cider. Costumes, candy, food, horror movies... Am I missing anything? If you answered no, you are wrong, and if you answered yes, read on...

Music is perhaps the most neglected aspect of Halloween. When Halloween music is brought up in conversation it usually starts with the
Friday the 13th or Halloween theme and ends with the "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett. This neglects the numerous other songs that are either inspired by Halloween or maybe simply fit the spirit of the holiday. Because of this, I have decided to compile a Halloween playlist, composed of my 13 favorite Halloween-esque songs, listed below: (While the "Monster Mash" is indeed catchy and a good song on its own right, I have decided to exclude it from this list in order to allow for more variety.)

"Dead Can't Testify" by Billy Talent: From their third album (aptly called Billy Talent III), this song is about the Salem witch trials. It is from the point of view of an innocent soul who is accused of being a witch and given the full treatment. The solution? Haunting the perpetrators until they die.

"Enter Sandman" by Metallica: This song is the lullaby the devil never wrote. Hetfield has always had a demonic voice, but ironically, he never sounded more demonic than when he utters "Hush little baby don't say a word...". The children's prayer in the middle of the song manages to take this one over the top.

11. "Nightmare On My Street" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith
: One of the more lighthearted entries in this list, Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith do an awesome job of bringing both Freddy and the Nightmare to the hood. The dialogue manages to stay "fresh" (pun intended) despite the length of the song.The background sound effects and the ending of the song are also priceless.

10. "Bark at the Moon" by Ozzy Osbourne
: Of course I was gonna have a song by the prince of fucking darkness. It just wouldn't be right without him. It's a song about the moon. You do the math.

9. "
Gasoline" by Brand New: From their 2009 album, Daisy, "Gasoline" evokes images of the dark and macabre in human nature. It manages to go from fast to slow in a split second, which adds to its intensity. The fact that Jesse Lacey sounds as though he were on the verge of desperation and madness helps to make this a very sinister song.

8. "Teenagers from Mars" by The Network (Misfits Cover)
: Originally a song by the Misfits, Billy Joe Armstrong's short lived side project manages to breathe new life into this old classic. Alien domination never sounded so fun.

7. "Your Neck" by Alkaline Trio: Anybody who knows me knows that the Trio are my all time favorite band, bar none. Matt Skiba has the ability to infuse his songs with his own brand of witty dark humor while still making them sound refined. Example? "I'll do my very best to keep my feelings off my chest/and out of your neck, and out of your neck...". Matt is a Misfits fan. Who would've thunk it?

6. "Pet Sematary" by The Ramones
: The godfathers of punk make our top 10 list with this 1989 song. Accompanied by a very entertaining video, The Ramones keep it short and sweet: "I don't want to be buried in a pet sematary/I don't want to live my life again". By the way, am I the only one who can totally see Joey Ramone and his crew as zombies?

5. "Night of the Living Dead" by Misfits
: No Halloween song list would be complete without a song by the original Misfits. Although almost half of their catalog is about B-Horror movies, it was hard to pick just one song by them (they actually have 3 on the list). Although I felt tempted to go with the obvious choice, I could not include the Misfits' "Halloween" on the list. Instead, we have a great Misfits song named after a (surprise?) horror movie. Yes, they made the Devil's Lock famous, but it was great songs like this that truly solidified them as the pioneers of horror-punk.

4. "Hell" by Street Light Manifesto (Squirrel Nut Zippers
cover): Why is the cover in my list and not the original version of the song, you ask? Quite simply, because it's my list and I happen to like it better. With that said, I think the trumpets add a nice flair to this version and that, along with a slightly faster pace, puts it over the top for me.

3. 'Thriller" by Michael Jackson
: Did anyone really not think that this song would be somewhere in the list? Not only is it one of the highlights in the best album of all-time, it also took the music videos to a new level. A short movie complete with Vincent Price and a movie within a movie. Who would have known that 20 years later Michael Jackson the zombie would look better than Michael Jackson the man.

2. "A Little Piece of Heaven" by Avenged Sevenfold
: This song is perhaps the best example of an original story in the list. It takes the premise of a man who engages in homicide, engages in necrophilia and cannibalism, and is then subjected to these same things by the spirit of the woman he has killed. Only Ax7 could take this twisted tale and manage to make it catchy.

1. "Halloween" by AFI (Misfits cover)
: I know a lot of you are going to take issue with the fact that I chose a cover over the Misfits original song. Many bands have covered this song (Alkaline Trio among them), but the reason why I chose AFI's version is that AFI brought speed and intensity to an already great song. Danzig's imagery is brought to life by Davey Havok's voice, which carries this song and runs with it, only to later be completely juxtaposed by a slow piano outro. If you can only listen to one Halloween song, make it this one.

...and there you have it, my 13 picks for best Halloween songs. Hope you give a few of 'em a try!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Do It Together

Last night I attended the Do It Together Fest 2010 at The Vineyard in downtown Kent. Originally my friend Eddie had sent me an invite to it via the 'book about a month ago, but I hadn't really thought too much about it until a week ago. I went back and forth about whether or not I should actually attend the event, but (luckily) I finally decided to go. I was not disappointed.

To give you a little background into the DIT Fest, it all started 4 years ago when Matt Scheurmann (American War, The Sidekicks, No Target Audience) and RIchard Wehrenberg (No Target Audience) decided to find a venue and put on a music fest where all of their DIY (Do It Yourself)friends could stop doing things by themselves and could instead DIT (Do it Together). While trying to find a venue, Matt and Ricky came across The Vineyard, a church that agreed to host the event provided that the event helped charity. As a result, the
agreed upon cover charge was a mandatory food donation. These food donations then go to impoverished families from the area, while all the optional cash donations go to the non-local bands. Traditionally he DIT Fest starts on a Thursday and goes until Saturday night, which is when the headlining bands play.

Having had to work Thursday and Friday, and having had to finish homework for my macroeconomics class, i finally showed up at the Vineyard around 9:00 PMish. The first thing that struck me upon entering the place was the set up: A small main stage surrounded by vendors selling arts/crafts and merchandise. reminiscent of the music fests we used to organize and hold at the VFW back when I was in high school. The second thing that caught my attention was the high number of hipsters wearing flannel shirts, skinny jeans, Chuck Taylors, and Sambas inside the room. They had to be well over the legal limit. You had the occasional frat rat who had sneaked in there, one of whom was wearing obnoxious boots and far too much leather. The first band I witnessed was far from spectacular, and as a result Eddie and I headed to Euro Gyro for a beer or two. After being attended by a bitchy bartender who was either PMSing or on vacation from running hell, we headed back to the Vineyard.
As is usual with these kind of shows, they were running an hour and a half late.There was a poetry reading so we stepped outside and chatted with the members of Annabel. My choice of a cardigan and fake Chucks clearly had deceived people into thinking I was a hipster.

Upon hearing a sound check, we all headed back in to watch as Tigers Jaw took the stage. The hipsters were now wearing tanktops. The band played about 6-7 songs, with the two standouts songs being "Spirit Desire" and "B & C". The Sidekicks jumped on stage soon after Tigers Jaw and I got to witness more than enough hipsters convulsing and moshing to last me for a life time. There was also a long haired kid in front of me who was going nuts and was borderline annoying. I left after their amazing performance and returned about an hour later to witness the same annoying kid kill it on stage. Unfortunately, I had to leave shortly after this due to other reasons which I won't bother you with, so I missed Annabel and Delay's performances.

Overall, I had a great time at the DIT Fest, especially because it truly captured what the alt/punk scene is about: good music and good times. The venue may not have been ideal and the sound wasn't always perfect, but you could truly feel the energy in the air, and none of the performers neglected the audience(at least those who didn't get shitfaced right before the show), something that is a requirement for any good concert. A lot of great bands played last night and I expect great things from quite a few of them. This has truly given me the encouragement I needed to start going to more local shows in the near future, so keep an eye out for me at the next show you attend. I will be the dude not wearing skinny jeans.

(This is my first official venture into the blogosphere, so please bear with any tiny nuisances and faux pas I may have committed.)