Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Honor of Masturbation (or Why Christine O’Donnell Should Go Fuck Herself)

As many of you know, I am a huge proponent of masturbation.  [If you are a family member, or Christine O’Donnell, you’ll probably want to stop reading this, now.]  My philosophy on self-pleasure is best described by a phrase typically associated with voting: [masturbate] early--and often!  This is a vital activity for all of the usually cited reasons:  it relieves stress, it is educational*, and of course, it feels fantabulous.  Not to mention the fact that manual stimulation can occur with a lover (or to a lover) and no one gets pregnant or sick (protection that doesn’t cost a dime!).

On a semi-related note, this past weekend I attempted to finish Symmetry (again).  I’ve been steadily picking my way through this book for weeks and the process is downright atrocious. To explain, the authors rely heavily on equations to explore the subject of symmetry (as it relates to Emmy Noether’s theorem). Their use of equations would not normally be an issue (I’m not one to shy away from a little math) except for the fact that the authors assume that their readers have some familiarity with the basic symbolic notation involved in physics, and since I’ve never taken a formal physics class in my life, this has proven somewhat problematic for me.

When my eyes begin to glaze over from information overload (and absolutely no one can casually overwhelm the average reader like a Nobel Laureate and theoretical astrophysicist can), my hand begins to drift toward my lady bits. I then take a small break from my reading**.  You see, I have this unusual fetish (if you want to call it that) involving higher education.  My sexualization of academia seems to have taken root as a consequence of my having repeatedly watched the library scene with Lara Flynn Boyle in Threesome (which you can and should watch here) during my formative adolescent years.  As a consequence, it seems that I adore big words, too. I also enjoy big concepts.  There is something terrifically sexy regarding enormously active brains.  Probably the sense of mastery involved (or maybe I am equating intellectual mastery with sexual mastery -- truth be told, these things go hand-in-hand more often than you might presume). 

Regardless, I've still got a good one hundred pages remaining to read, so I'll undoubtedly have a colossally stimulating weekend ahead of me.  

Om shanti,
la Contra Yogini

*Seriously, if you want to be a fantastic lover, masturbate. A lot. Then masturbate with your partner. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from such a seemingly elementary activity.

**Hmm...maybe it isn’t the equations that are the trouble - maybe it is the masturbatory interludes, but I digress.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Boll Weevils

About a month ago, while I was working the evening shift at WBR, I noticed that there were these curious, exquisitely tiny, black bugs happily crawling about in some of our bird seed.  I had never seen these bugs in our seed before, so I brought some to my supervisor for inspection and she reassured me not to worry about them.  She gamely explained that these were merely boll weevils and that they couldn't hurt the birds.  (To be sure, the birds were eating the weevils right along w/ the seed.)

When I heard the words boll weevils, I immediately recalled the below video and exclaimed, "So THOSE are what boll weevils are!"

And now, you all know, too--

Of course, I hummed this pithy wee tune for the rest of the night, completely unable to erradicate it from my head.  You'll probably soon know all about that, as well :)

They're lookin' for a home!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Romancing The Act

Of late, I've been ruminating on the act of suicide.  An Old 97's lyric from Fight Songs astutely describes my mindset:  Thought so much about suicide/Parts of me have already died.

I've slid so precipitously far into major depression that I'm actually showing signs of romanticizing the possibility of death.  To wit, my sister and I were driving around recently when I pointed out a particular location to her and brightly stated, "That was where I almost killed myself once," as though I was calling her attention to a great vacation spot or a beautiful architectural feature.  Naturally, she was disturbed by my casual, quasi-cavalier attitude regarding my near untimely death.  So I reassured her [and now, all of you readers] that I wouldn't actually go through with this act--that I hadn't attempted it before, because I ultimately realized that she and our youngest sister could never comprehend why I would do such a horrible thing.  And, of course, I'd rather not traumatize people (especially innocent, young ones) who care about me.*  

Nevertheless, I think about suicide a lot.  I draw this notion close to my chest the way Linus lovingly cuddles his sky-blue blanket.  The prospect (again, not the act itself - but simply the fantasy) is coldly comforting.  It is as though I am reinforcing my decision to stay on this earth every time I realize what a very real possibility suicide is.  I could do it.  Any day.  Any time.  I could drive off a bridge into the Mississippi.  I could jump off a bluff at Castlewood.  I could hang myself from a tree.  So many possibilities.  Knowing that I could kill myself makes me feel less suffocatingly trapped in the life that I'm living.


I've been trying to pinpoint when precisely my mood grew so very dark.  I've concluded that it must have begun with the MVA in January.  That was the triggering event.  Normal people do not react to a car accident the way that I did.  For me, it was the equivalent of emotional terrorism.  Immediately following the collision, I was a hyperventilating, mucous-soaked mess.  I could barely even speak to the responding officer through my panicky sobs.  I was thrown into a tailspin of financial concern and physical insecurity.  How will I get to my job?  How will I work with this pain?  The ER visit isn't covered by my insurance - will I be sent to collections?  What will that do to my credit?  When will I get a new car?  How will I pay for the down payment and the medical co-pays?  Etc. etc.

Unlike the majority of my friends and associates, I do not have middle (or upper) class parents. I come from a working class background (to put it mildly).  Thus, I have no one who can bail me out of my financial troubles.  This is pretty much a sink or swim situation for me and the MVA brought that disquieting reality to the fore.


My mood seemed to stabilize around springtime.  I continued to be unhappy, but not unhappy enough to actually do anything about it (more likely, I was paralyzed into inaction and apathy by the ongoing depression).  Also, there were plenty of intervening events - out-of-town trips, visiting friends, work at WBR - to distract me from my failing mood.

It seems that everything started getting particularly bad again in the past thirty or so days.  I learned that someone close to me has cancer, a whole host of deeply fucked-up family problems erupted (that I will not address here for legal and privacy reasons), and I experienced even more financial troubles.  In addition, I acutely detest my job. Every morning when I arrive at my office, I feel as though I am decimating yet another precious day of my life, but I get the impression that this is common for many Americans.

Oh, and then there is the loneliness.  When I am utterly forlorn, I tend to isolate myself even further.  I don't want to be accused of being overly pessimistic and I also don't want to pollute anyone else's healthy mindset.  So I just stay away from most people.  I retreat inward.  I ruminate.  I fantasize.

In sum, I need to see a doctor.  This is a chemical thing that I've successfully dealt with before.  I simply need to do something about it, instead of comforting myself with grotesque suicidal ideations.**

Om shanti.

*Moreover, I am now completely atheistic and so I intimately feel that this is my only life to live.  I've nothing to look forward to after death.  Suicide doesn't make sense to me - not at this time anyway (maybe that would change if I were experiencing intractable pain in old age or something of that nature).

**Please, please don't post comments about how selfish you think suicide is.  I find that sort of commentary dismissive and judgmental.  Major depression is not an illness I've chosen for myself.  When one feels this desolate, thoughts of suicide naturally arise.   It does not follow that because I admit to them, I will act on them.  Thank you.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Day In Brief

"Handsome.  Got my leather boots on."

This video saved my day from utter craptitude.  Multiple times.

Love live P.J. Harvey.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

To Dream Amphibial

Last night I had the strangest dream [where everything was exactly how it seemed - sorry, Postal Service stream of consciousness interruption]. I dreamt that, when changing the water in one of my water-bound plants (a cutting that I was attempting to root), I had discovered a multitude of exuberant, tiny tadpoles in my water vase.

Initially, I was very glad to see them, thinking a momma frog must have stopped by overnight and specially chosen my window sill to have her babies. This discovery brought to the fore of my (un)consciousness pleasant, childhood memories of my capturing miniature, spring peeper tadpoles from our backyard creek. (I’ve always been very fond of toads and frogs; because I spent so much time as a child in and out of water myself, I relate to their amphibial nature.)

The dream soon took a fantastic turn. Somehow, I abruptly had a mouth full of tadpoles. It is unclear whether I had absentmindedly taken a drink from the vase of tadpoles*, but once I realized what had happened, I quickly and gingerly tried to spit them all back into the water.  I then anxiously hovered over the vase to see if they had survived the trip to and from my mouth.  The tadpoles seemed to be okay.  Most of them floated at the top for a second (most likely stunned) and then kicked back into action and started swimming quite contentedly with their brethren.

Within moments I felt more tadpoles in my mouth – crammed in between my teeth and gums, in the back of my throat, and under my tongue.  I automatically presumed that I must not have spit them all out before (although, I remember being certain that I had emptied my mouth of tadpoles in the dream - this is not something one easily mistakes: whether one's mouth contains tadpoles or not). At any rate, I again spit my mouth tadpoles into the vase.

At this point, the dream begins to break down; maybe because I was approaching the end of that particular REM cycle or perhaps because I’d forgotten the ending since I awoke (dreams are fleeting, after all). Regardless, I recalled the dream the moment I walked into my shower this morning and felt the water streaming down my body. I’ve since been pondering what this dream could have meant.  If anyone would like to offer up a dream analysis, please feel free to do so.

Om shanti.

*This part of the dream is rather hazy.  However, the depth of my inattentiveness is so profound that I feel this could be a feasible theory.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On the Tail of a Raptor

Not too long ago, trouble swooped into WBR on the tail of a raptor.  As I've previously written, our facility deals strictly with Passeriformes meaning "those who perch" a/k/a the beloved, backyard songbirds.  To a raptor (colloquially known as a bird of prey), our entire facility appears as fresh lobster in a grocery store tank might appear to you:  ripe for the eating.  However, the particular raptor in question was hardly in a position to do any songbird hunting.  For one thing, he was securely confined to a carrier large enough to house a medium-sized dog.  For another, he had suffered some sort of injury - initially suspected to be an issue of toxicity, according to the animal control officer, Newton, who had called ahead to request that we triage the bird.*

Our ER tech, Janey, began her examination by donning thick, leather handling gloves that comically dwarfed her diminutive upper extremities.  Frankly, the bird himself, with his powerful talons and ultra sharp sense of his surroundings (even while injured), didn't appear all that intimidated by her medical trappings.  Indeed, nothing much seemed to be bothering this raptor at all.  For this reason, Newton suspected that the raptor might have eaten or attacked a bird who had been poisoned.  Our raptor seemed to be neurologically inhibited (another classic sign of toxicity) and just a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket.

After finding the gloves far too cumbersome to utilize properly, Janey abandoned them for her customary thick towel.  She dropped the towel quickly over the raptor's head (thus, preventing him from visually tracking her), wrapped it closely around his body (thus, immobilizing him), and then extracted him expertly from his carrier.  Janey proceeded to examine him thoroughly for any visible signs of injury.  Other than his docility (healthy, wild raptors are not usually handled by humans with any level of ease), we could find no other signs or symptoms to account for his strange behavior (after animal control received a call reporting that this raptor had spent several hours perched, essentially unmoving, on a residential porch banister, he had been picked up by them just as easily as Janey had handled him).

Hopeful that the effects of the presumed poison might already be lessening, Janey decided to give the raptor some fluids.  She slowly and carefully inserted a thin, rubber tube down his throat (he was still wrapped in the towel and did not seem to be under any duress) and injected the tube with fluids.  As she was removing the tube, Newton noticed a pink fluid escape from the corner of the bird's beak.  We next spotted several small pink dots on the white towel.  This was just the information we needed:  from there, we were able to conclude that this raptor was experiencing some minor internal bleeding.  Given that he had originally been picked up at a busy intersection, we deduced that he must have been struck by a car.  Janey then administered to him some anti-inflammatory by injection and turned the bird back over to Newton for safe keeping until the local raptor rehab facility opened in the morning.  I later found out that our patient had been successfully admitted to the proper facility with a good prognosis.  


I was delighted to be able to witness this simple procedure involving the raptor.  It felt like a special treat because I far prefer birds of prey to songbirds.  I admire their strength, their intellect, their graceful, yet powerful, flight.  Honestly, it is all I can do to keep my eyes on the road when I drive through the countryside; I am that raptor-crazed.  After we received the call from Newton requesting our services, I was nearly overcome w/ giddy anticipation.  However, as exciting as it was to triage the raptor, we had an even more exciting new admit the following week - but in an entirely different regard.  This charge was exciting with respect to the severity of his injuries.  He was a snow-white, racing pigeon with a pink beak and matching pink feet.  He also had a troublesome, rather large, pink splotch covering his upper chest feathers.  The elderly couple who had brought him in theorized that he might have been hit w/ a BB gun, but they were hopeful for his recovery because they had observed the pigeon eating voraciously while he was under their care.

I was too chicken shit to examine the bird myself, lest I somehow exacerbate its injuries, so I again summoned the help of Janey.  As was her wont, she wrapped the bird in a heavy towel to immobilize him and then began to inspect the area that blood had painted pink.  In no time whatsoever Janey discovered why the bird had been eating so much and so often - he had a gaping hole in his crop. To explain, according to Wikipedia, "in a bird's digestive system, the crop is an expanded, muscular pouch near the throat. It is a part of the digestive tract, essentially an enlarged part of the esophagus."  As you can imagine, it is quite difficult to gain any substantial nourishment when you have your throat torn open.

Oddly enough, despite the traumatic wound, this bird was stable and attempting to eat.  It appeared as though his wound had somehow been cauterized (possibly as a result of fermented bird seed in the wound?), which was beneficial, in that the wound had not been infected, but was problematic, in that we were not sure if necrosis (the premature death of tissue) had set in.  If we were dealing w/ necrosis, then the bird did not have a very good chance of surviving - even if we were able to successfully close the wound.  Janey dutifully attempted to reach the vets that volunteered for our facility when serious cases were involved, but no one was available this late Friday evening before a holiday weekend.

After briefly conferring with me, Janey made the decision to intervene and attempt to glue the wound shut.  She felt that he would not survive the weekend with this open wound and that this was his best chance at viability.  First, Janey gave him some medicine for pain and then went to work cleaning the wound and removing the broken feathers surrounding it.  At that point, we were able to rule out necrosis because the wound began to bleed.  It was viscerally painful for me to watch, but I felt that I owed the bird my full attention.  That if he was going to have to endure this procedure, than we would have to be present with his suffering, too.  He hardly struggled at all during the cleaning, only closing his eyes when Janey plucked a particularly large feather near the wound.  He was utterly silent, too.  In sum, this bird was one of the more stoic patients I'd ever met.
Eventually, we were able to clean the wound and prep the bird for the gluing procedure.  Unfortunately, the tear was quite jagged (ironically reminiscent of a raptor attack), which would make it all the more difficult to properly close.  I applied the glue to the wound myself and then held the bird still as Janey dexterously sealed it.  We checked the wound a couple of more times before leaving WBR for the evening and it remained securely closed.  We were hopeful that he would enjoy a successful recovery.  Sadly, I subsequently learned that the wound had reopened and instead of attempting to reseal it, our director decided to put the bird down.  (She is very conservative about these sorts of procedures and not a proponent of gluing, in general, so we were not surprised at her decision.)  Nevertheless, Janey and I still believe this pigeon would have survived to race again, had our director simply re-glued the wound.


To conclude on a less existential note, typically at this time of year, things begin to slow down at WBR so far as juvenile new intakes are concerned.  With one exception:  baby American Goldfinches.  For some reason, they have a late clutch compared with the rest of the St. Louis area song birds.  If you are curious about our little goldies, check out this video of three different goldfinches at three different stages in their development.  Note, the beeee boop-boop-boop call of the oldest of the three.  Curiously, theirs is a very catchy call and difficult not to imitate.  I'm sure I'll be beee booping up a storm at WBR as these guys get older and another busy baby season draws to a close. 

Om shanti.

*If there are no other alternatives available, most at WBR will not refuse emergency care to a needy patient - songbird or otherwise.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sviatoslav Richter

Richter explained his approach to performance as follows: "The interpreter is really an executant, carrying out the composer's intentions to the letter. He doesn't add anything that isn't already in the work. If he is talented, he allows us to glimpse the truth of the work that is in itself a thing of genius and that is reflected in him. He shouldn't dominate the music, but should dissolve into it." Or, similarly: "I am not a complete idiot but, whether from weakness or laziness, have no talent for thinking. I know only how to reflect: I am a mirror . . . Logic does not exist for me. I float on the waves of art and life and never really know how to distinguish what belongs to the one or the other or what is common to both. Life unfolds for me like a theatre presenting a sequence of somewhat unreal sentiments; while the things of art are real to me and go straight to my heart."  Approach to Performance (Wikipedia entry)
I've listened to both of the below Richter pieces approximately ten times each tonight.  As a result, I'm sure some (myself, namely) might accuse me of obsessive-compulsive behavior.  It is just that the depth of his performance is so astounding.  I can't escape his reflection of these "waves of art."  They elicit a pleasant, tingling, visceral reaction.  Indeed, I seek them with vigor. 

No matter!  I shall return to my music. *end Norma Desmond impression*

In all seriousness, Richter truly does embody Beethoven. It is almost a spectacle to behold (um, belisten?)--

[Sadly, I couldn't locate the second movement on YouTube, but I did find it on Grooveshark.]

Om shanti.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Summertime Rolls

Those who own vehicles equipped with all of the amenities--including air conditioning--can easily roll up their car windows, put on their dark sunglasses, and thus effectively blot out of their consciousness the people sharing the world around them.  As you know, my new car prohibits my traveling about St. Louis in this insular manner.  When homeless and displaced people stand and beg on street corners, I must be fully present with them and their suffering.*  Perhaps as a consequence of this, or as a consequence of my having done some begging myself in my own homeless days, I've begun to give rather generously to these folks.

To wit--there is this older gentleman who works the southern corner of the IS 40/64 exit ramp at Grand Avenue during the afternoon rush hour.  Not too long ago, St. Louis was under a severe heat wave warning (w/ temperatures exceeding 100 degrees) for the better part of a week.  During that time, I took to bringing this unfortunate elderly man cold water bottles from our office fridge, because I could hardly bear to watch him day in and day out sweating profusely in the full sun.  I would wait for him to shuffle past my car, then I would leave the water near his army duffel bag when the traffic light turned green.  Needless to say, I very much enjoyed being his water fairy for that heat wave.

Last week, on the same corner, I emptied my brimming change purse (theoretically my Clayton parking meter change) into a destitute older woman's grateful hands.  I've never seen a bigger grin than the one on her face as her fingers filled and filled with quarters.  After heartily blessing me, she walked on.  I think my witnessing that ginormous grin whetted my appetite for an even more expansive display of gratitude.  (I'm not sure if this makes me a megalomaniac, but it seems quite likely.)

Sunday afternoon, I gave a man who approached me on Ted Drews' parking lot a $10 bill before he could even offer me a complete story of woe.  He was so sincerely grateful for the gift that he promptly wrapped me in an all-consuming, bear hug, then pulled quickly away and self-consciously apologized for his sweatiness; I assured him that I was sweaty, too, and that it was no big deal.  He then smiled warmly at me and asked that God bless me and my family, before kindly smiling at my sister and walking away.

I seem to be hopelessly enamored with the prospect of earning others' good graces and, consequently, I'll freely give nearly anyone what they ask of me.  Over the course of five recent work days, I awakened nearly two hours earlier than I would normally, due to the fact that a friend and co-worker recently totaled her car and desperately needed a ride to work (she opens the office, so we had to arrive promptly).   Please understand that I--a tried and true, insomniatic, night owl--volunteered for less sleep exclusively b/c I wanted to be my friend's beloved heroine.

Similarly, this is how I came to volunteer at Wild Bird Rehab.  When Diane plaintively asked me (with dark circles underlying her big sympathetic eyes), "Do you have time to volunteer?   We really need the help right now,"  I was veritable putty in her hands.  Soon I was faithfully spending my Friday nights (sometimes into the early morning hours) performing hot, filthy, back-breaking work and deriving much pleasure from this humble practice.  I felt good about myself and about how I was spending my free time.  I couldn't fathom abandoning these wild creatures for a single night out at the bar - to do so would leave me cheating myself out of something far more valuable than simple debauchery. 


I wish I were a gifted enough writer to adequately express what it feels like to go on an altruistic giving binge.  The effect is so powerful, so concrete, so immovable that the experience is downright radical.  When I began volunteering at WBR my mood shifted completely.  I think the work actually lifted me out of a clinical depression and there is a good deal of evidence to support this contention.

Specifically, the existential psychology (born out of the philosophical and aesthetic movements of the same name) paradigm suggests that people suffer from mental issues as a consequence of the problems that arise out of the realization that humans endure an essentially meaningless existence.  Hence, in order to cure people of their ills, one must help them to work through these problems of meaning.  For me, volunteering at WBR and doing kind things for the people around me (everyone from strangers to intimates) helps to infuse my life with tangible meaning.

Further, it has been suggested by positive psychologists (although, the concept goes back as far as Greek philosophy) that the highest pleasures in life are those built around giving back to others and one's community.  I am a living example of the effectiveness of this approach and I encourage anyone reading this who suffers from depression arising out of such crises of meaning to emulate me.  Even if you obtain no benefit for yourself, you will be hugely helping others.

Om shanti,
la Contra Yogini

*Although, lowered windows in summer isn't exclusively negative - I'm also fully present to the joy of school children playing, the musicality of sweet bird songs, and the brightly green scent of cut grass.