Friday, August 18, 2017

Dark 'n' Stormy

Two of my favourite things are made in Sweden: Edluar and staplers. One rather accurately melts me into sleep, as per their slogan. The other I discharge at an alarming frequency when I'm freaked out by the fucking state of events. I try not to aim at my eyes, although that may solve several problems.

I want to rant. Instead, I'm going back to my previous post to calm the fuck down. Yes, I'm swearing more and that's OK. It helps me with channeling "happy". As it were, I've been wanting to write a sequel to Happy. I'm calling it Dark 'n' Stormy, like the drink. I treat my drinking repertoire with the utmost respect and this involves a lot of research and patience. High-end rum, as it turns out, is much less expensive than other fermented, distilled and barrel-aged beverages, and finding the right ginger beer adds to the volume of controlled experiments. I'm up to the happy challenge.

Happy, happy. Lucky, lucky. It is with a heavy heart that I wake up every morning, yet I am determined to seek and find daily joy and, "happiness". In my experience, to proceed otherwise is unwise. Some days turn out to be hapless despite my best efforts, that's just how it is. As the trendy saying goes, I have "first-world" problems. Yes I do, but that doesn't make them any less valid or pertinent. To illustrate, let me lay out a less than stellar snapshot from a few months ago.

I was taking the day with a friend to walk around an affluent neighborhood and to enjoy a leisurely lunch. Upon exiting from one of many posh stores, we noticed a man, arms up, head down sideways with eyes closed, leaning upright against the store's highly-polished window. We both came to a startled stop, and my friend asked if I thought whether or not he was okay. I walked up to within inches of the man to look him over. He was deathly still in his unnatural pose, without perceptible breath or odour, and his skin had a waxy glow, like a sanitized "homeless" creation by Madame Tussaud. Suddenly I felt lightheaded, my perception shifted, and I let myself believe that I was witnessing a bizarre form of performance art, and more elaborately, that passersby were being filmed for their reactions. I confidently exclaimed that this was not a real person. Absolutely wretched. I dehumanized a fellow human being. My good friend had better sense and started talking to him, persistently, and after a few minutes, there was slight movement. Patiently, she waited until he responded, within only her earshot. In the distance, we could hear an ambulance approaching.

If I were still a practicing Catholic, this would make for an outstanding confession. As it goes, I delve deep into my psyche and search for understanding. The specter of this event continues to haunt me. An active imagination is one thing, but what can cause such an abrupt rupture with empathy? My anxiety had reached a tipping point, and my thought processes could no longer differentiate between nonsense and reality. Can I blame my new coping mechanism on living in a society struggling with its collective moral compass? Menopause? Too many questions and not enough answers. Forgiveness is for myself to give. My inner light is always on but I must take care and remember to always keep the curtains parted. Sometimes the storm is raging outside, other times it is within.

Please don't ask me if I'm happy or if I've found happiness. Of course I am and I have, every day. Happiness and feeling happy doesn't exist in a vacuum, nor is it a constant, and it is different every day. Dealing in so-called "positive" absolutes is both irrational and dangerous. Is there rhyme or reason for crappy to rhyme with happy? The malady of Great Expectations is only amplified by the booming Happiness Industry, which I dare say, is a detraction from, and formidably antithetical to its purported goal.

Happiness is the great expanse, the universe. It is a life-long exploration. How far you make it is all in your mind.

PS: Jean bought me a box of cereal for the days my mind needs a little help.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Here is the mesmerizing image of a painting by Aboriginal artist Marie Hayes. I fell in love with Aboriginal art during a month-long visit to Australia back in 2004. There is a unique cadence and energy about traditional and neo-traditional Aboriginal art that resonates with my sensibilities, and hopefully I have tickled your curiosity to explore Aboriginal cultural expression.

I have been contemplating this painting since the beginning of time...or perhaps it has only been a couple of months. Visual meditation gives me focus and helps calm my mind. This particular painting palpably pulsates and purrs, plunges and plays, precipitating my connection to the Universe. There are 8 Ps in happppppppiness. This is my happiness. 8 or ∞, a flowing continuum without a beginning nor an end, with surges and contractions, infinite and all-embracing in chaotic harmony.

"I look up at the night sky, and I know that, yes, we are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up—many people feel small, because they’re small and the Universe is big, but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars." - Neil deGrasse Tyson
Here is the short YouTube video.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

I am an immigrant, a daughter of refugees Yes, the heterosexual (although some would argue bisexual) Caucasian female with a privileged and comfortable upbringing and life. I haven't given my immigration story much thought until some recent turn of events in the USA. It's not much of a story, but perhaps unusual in that I emigrated and immigrated far in my life.

Indentured shoe cleaner with sister, Germany, 1973
The first move took me from Germany to Canada when I was just shy of 10 years old. As far as I know, my parents didn't break any laws, but you never know. My family likes to tell stories. In any case, I became a proud naturalized Canadian when I turned 18. At the age of 40, my Canadian husband and I moved to the USA. To this day, he feels rejected by his native country because he could not continue his career as a researcher. Always a hard worker, he obtained permanent residency in the USA for the both of us, based on his own merits.

My two emigrations were planned, legally recognized, and did not involve life-threatening situations. By the time, and in the place I was born, European wars were a near-distant past. My parents and their immediate families were well-settled refugees from Hungary, having fled their country on foot through the borders into Austria during the revolution of 1956, then accepted by Germany as citizens. Some of my other family members were welcomed by the USA, Canada and other European countries.

Suspicious travelers at Munich Airport, 1975
I've heard my parents' and grandparents' stories. I wouldn't be alive today if Germany and other countries hadn't accepted displaced, hungry and traumatized people form active war zones. Assimilation is never easy, even when you outwardly blend in, like me. It gives me great distress to think how much, much worse my experiences would have been if I had been non-Christian and brown.  In Germany, I was teased and bullied about my name and called a foreigner, even though I am a German national. Granted, I dressed funny (see photos above). In Canada, the taunting and insults continued, at least until I learned the languages fluently. But the feeling of being an outsider never really goes away. Now that I live in the USA, I feel I belong to no country. Yes, I am a Canadian citizen, but this too is only on paper. I have no legal political voice.

Immigration can be by choice or by constraint. I own my story, no matter how lighthearted it sounds compared to those of other immigrants, because I am painfully aware that most often it is the only choice. As a refugee, as an immigrant, you are filled with hope of the life that lies ahead. Every human being on this planet "has the right to life, liberty and the security of person" (UN Declaration of Human Rights). As citizens of the world, we are all connected, and have we not a moral obligation to help each other in need? Is that too much to ask for?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

You had me at Grab

This is the last installment of my so-called Election Trilogy. I am exhausted. What can I possible add to the debate, the magnitude of information and opinions that are out there? What hasn’t been said? But that’s beside the point: the goal here is to maintain my chronic affliction of self-torture.

I catch myself distracted more than usual. My well-known ability to focus has been compromised, confusing my logic and sensory perception. Even something as simple as trying to prepare hard-boiled eggs requires a minimum of attention. My first mistake was going upstairs after turning the stove top element to HIGH under a pot containing 5 eggs fully immersed in water (please note that only 4 charred eggs are in the photo, no water). Whatever I was doing in my home office/studio must have been of vital importance, like writing a blog post for example. It was a Sunday afternoon and I remember thinking to myself that one of my neighbours must be barbecuing.  It wasn’t until I heard loud popping sounds that I sprang to my feet. Even in that instance, I had not yet made the connection, not until I was half-way down the stairs. Approaching the kitchen cautiously from around the corner, I could see that the popping sound was accompanied by flying bits of egg. Through stealth approach, the danger of making the 5 o'clock local news was fortunately averted, no one to witness my embarrassment and the hour it took to clean up.

I'm being told to not get "worked-up" about what's going on around me. After all, I am in no imminent danger of being killed by a U.S. drone. Thank you very much. How about scalding hot egg missiles? If death were all I feared...well, you see where I'm getting at: fearing the eventual end of my existence is quite different than facing my current existence in a fractured society of global proportions. That’s right, I am in the fortunate situation of having a lot of choices in life, choices not available to many people around the world, this country included. Simply put, in the future I envision, the choices will be different but available to a greater number of people. If I’m accused of idealism and over-exaggerating the perils of lack of accountability, ignorance, policies and laws shaped by religion, and geopolitical forces jeopardizing such a future, so be it. Look into the mirror of history. It doesn't take that much imagination. I hope I’m wrong.

Bummer, and here I was starting of on a light note.

Being a globally recognized powerful nation comes with responsibilities. Pardon me for getting "worked-up" about the words, ideas and actions of the person who is about to become the leader of this powerful nation. I am being asked to believe that past behavior is neither a predictor nor an indicator of a person's future actions and decisions. This cuts both ways and I get it, Hillary was not an irreproachable candidate. What I’m struggling with however are questions of morality and logic. Logic and logical thinking is supposedly therapeutic, the means to reason, but alas, as I’m belatedly discovering, not universal. As it turns out, I need additional therapy. Let me continue...

Grab them by the pussy”.
Fifty-three percent (53%) of white women who voted in the 2016 U.S. elections, apparently don't mind unsolicited genital fondling, among other things. Please watch out for more sex offenders showing up at the voting lines for the next elections. Flippant remarks indeed, but sadly and in a nutshell, gender solidarity for white women is superseded by racial solidarity. Someone please tell me again the justification and logic behind voting for all-important "real change" that makes you "great again", when it comes with ideas and behavior that don't belong in a progressive and just society. Oh yeah, I know, many people, mostly white men and women, didn't vote for either candidate for moral reasons. Even morality has a hierarchy. If Sophie could make a choice, then so could you.

Pussy has been the conventional name for cat since the 16th century. It gradually evolved from a term of endearment for a woman, something that can be stroked, to becoming slang for a woman's vagina, and finally, by extension, used as a pejorative to label someone as weak and submissive. I am the proud owner of the first paperback edition of Womanwords by Jane Mills from 1989. It's a little dated and written from a white woman's perspective, but still highly informative if you're interested in that sort of thing. Other than referring to cute baby felines, the more socially acceptable reference to a pussy, as in the expression "You're such pussy", doesn't mean you have 9 lives, but rather that you lack courage and strength. You can "Grow some balls", and we're back to genitals. I have heard both these comments across gender lines, and the people who dislike being called a pussy are of course...everybody, so united we stand.
Grab them by the pussy”.
I ask myself why I'm picking on this particular comment coming from a bottomless source of purposefully offensive material. After all, there are so many horrible things happening all over the world. Why write about this seemingly inconsequential comment in the greater scheme of things? First of all, I don't think it's inconsequential. Secondly, because I am free to do so, I have that choice. Thirdly, I have a pussy, unappreciative of uninvited groping. Lastly - if only to put an end to a potentially long list - because this comment was made by the man elected to assume the U.S. presidency in 2017.

Mea culpa. I would argue that every offensive and hateful sentence that has been uttered throughout the U.S. election campaign, through relentless and consistent repetition across all media, was a major contributor to the election outcome. Much like when you're sitting in a garbage dumpster (don't try this), you initially want to gag because of the stench, but after a while, you can't smell anything at all, not even the Brussels sprouts, and that discarded slice of pizza being dragged away by the rat looks mighty appealing. Hungry [for change] and senses numb: as a population, we have been exposed to systematic desensitization.

In conclusion, let me share that I just finished preparing 6 pounds (2.7 kg) of Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving celebrations on November 24 and took it as an opportunity to focus my thoughts so as not cut any of my fingers off. Throughout the task I kept thinking about testicles...Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hard Facts, Soft Lies

I've just popped my second dose of anti-anxiety medication. I am compelled to continue writing, as I attempt to process the enormous quantity of events of 2016 thus far, let alone the prospects following the outcome of the U.S. elections.

Despite the conciliatory, almost Zen-like tone of my previous post, I continue to suffer from generalized nervousness, insomnia and worsening distraction. I believe to be exhibiting signs of post-traumatic stress. The last time this occurred was in September 2001. Loss and grief on an individual level is very different from when you are simultaneously the dead and the grieving - and today, that's my larger societal perspective. Continue reading, I will finish on a positive note, I promise! Then again, I could be lying. 

John Oliver must have read my post from November 11 because on his show yesterday, he admonished my statement, and rightly so, that continued sunrises and the earth spinning does not set a high bar for humanity. If I continue to remain short-sighted in thought (my optic myopia has been corrected with lenses), I can perhaps remain appeased by my shaky belief that the American powerhouse of a system will continue to run efficiently and steadily. The election outcome was supposedly decided by: (1) unhappy, non-college educated white people disillusioned by government; and (2), aging baby boomers living comfortably with Social Security, Medicare and pensions.  People wanted change...and an old rich white guy in power is so very different from the last 240 years. They've effectively gifted their grandchildren with the ravages of climate change, poor education, and encouraged a world view shaped by reality shows streaming on all 3 of their large-screen HDTVs, barefoot and pregnant.

I personally know people who support Trump. They are college-educated. They represent a sub-group and the sample size is small, but that’s all I have available to me, statistically speaking. We have exchanged words on several issues. Please note that I did not say it was an exchange of ideas because remarkably, I was the one with all the questions. Here’s what I’ve gleaned from our conversations:

Heading the list of ideas is the belief that because Trump is a political outsider, he alone can change the system. What needs changing I ask?  Lobbying for one, and I will easily agree with that. Give me more, please. I am told that the criminals who are here illegally (illegal being a euphemism for Mexican) should be weeded out and expelled, and this concern is directly linked to drug trafficking. Seriously, this is number 2 on the list? Can you name 5 cultural groups that speak Spanish? Could drugs be coming in from anywhere else? (Admittedly, I did not ask these last 3 questions) My goal is not to minimize drug-related crime and violence, it's definitely a concern, but statistics are tricky. First of all, the data has to be reliably sourced, and even then there is a margin of error. I took 3 university-level statistics courses, so I consider myself more knowledgeable than average. You just have to take my word for it because it would take you too long to fact-check, and more importantly, it doesn’t show up on Google. When people are shown numbers and statistics, they can tell which number is lower or higher, and occasionally, which leaning is favorable. Maybe they understand percentages; I barely do when they are once-removed. What’s 27% of 65%?  Right. When pushed on issues regarding race, gender and the environment, dismissal is the go-to reaction, which of course is not an answer. I am told that Trump just said those things to win the election. So you’re saying that in order to win the U.S. elections, you must cater to people who don’t care about human rights and the future of their progeny?  From an evolutionary standpoint, that’s a recipe for extinction, but then again, that’s just a theory. How about taking advice from a known white-supremacist?  Again, I am told he’s supposed to be a good guy. Yes, I understand, you mean like my rapist friend here?  End of conversation.

So yeah, the American people just got fucked (pick a hole) by a T-shaped dildo. Let’s hope it's in lowercase. Also, Trump better stay alive and well because his chosen successor is quite possibly even less palatable.

©Andrea Corwin
Where’s the positive in all this you ask? It’s in the cracks. This election was won through the Electoral College system, not the popular vote. What can I say to my American friends? The U.S. Presidency is not impervious to peaceful uprisings and demonstrations. Practice daily acts of defiance and kindness. Get involved. Donate time or money to a cause or organization you believe in. Slowly but surely, the cracks will widen and you won’t realize that your medications have kicked in. Just kidding. Don't close your eyes. Force the light through. Make America Sane Again!