March 27, 2007

Running with Scissors

"Running with Scissors" is an amazing, crazy film about an amazing young man named Augusten Burroughs, who grows up surrounded by crazy people in crazy circumstances.

Augusten is played with great directness and sincerity by Joseph Cross.

As a young teen, we see Augusten survive the apathy of an alcoholic, absentee father and the delusions of his self-absorbed, implosive (and possibly manic-depressive?) mother, a struggling and frustrated writer.

As an adult, Burroughs turned his heart breaking and witty observations into a novel and then a feature film. In the film, Annette Benning is mesmerizing and somewhat haunting as Augusten's mother, Deirdre. I watched with a mixture of shock and sympathy as she started out as an egocentric, frustrated writer, certain that the publishing world would soon discover her artistic genius, to a defiant and fragile single parent who jettisons Augusten, adopting him out to the quack psychiatrist who has her on a bathroom cupboard full of prescription drugs.

I felt Augusten's love and sympathy for her, as well as his fear and uncertainty - the trap of loving someone who's erratic moods and unpredictable circumstances continually affects your life.

Augusten says it all when he tells himself that he wished that his life had structure and rules, "because without that, every day is a surprise".

Profile of Augusten Burroughs - Washington Post

March 25, 2007

Palm Sketch: Granville Island Cafe

Seen at the Blue Parrot Cafe, Graville Island, Vancouver, BC.

Seen at the Blue Parrot Cafe, Graville Island, Vancouver, BC.

This sketch was done on a Palm Treo PDA.

March 10, 2007

Does music connect us through Time?

What is it worth that I know a song that my parents or grandparents knew?

Whether or not there's any real purpose or reward in such a moment of sentimentality, I still have it. It is little bit of obsessive curiousity that my heart and mind goes into whenever a piece of music or drama arouses old memories. Some tune or other blows a little air across a few old embers, bringing out fresh feelings, and it's always a little bit of surprise just how much they resonate like new each time, just for a moment.

Miles Davis plays "Autumn Leaves", and as I listen to his bop-jazz rendition, I hear someone's voice in my head, saying "That was your Grandmother's favourite song". "Sam", my mother's mother, liked music but I doubt that bop jazz played by a heroin-addicted jazz musician would have been Sam's cup of tea. I think she'd have been into Benny Goodman or The Mills Brothers.

Music and drama can underscore moments, they can draw people together. People usually sing when they're happy. Driving to Safeway one weekend a long time ago, my Dad and I sang along to "Dream" by the Everly Brothers. On their 13th anniversary, my Mum and Dad sang "You are my Sunshine" while Mum played the ukelele. My sister and I still remember that song. She sang it to her daughters, and my wife and I have sung it together too.

I can remember the theme song to "The Avengers" or "Are You Being Served?" - two TV shows that my Mum's father liked to watch on PBS. We all watched those together as a family. Without Poppy's influence - maybe his wish to have a family around him - perhaps we wouldn't have had that family time. Dad was too proud, and often a bit of a loner. He didn't tend to draw people around him that way. Living like that makes those moments of connections all the more rare and beloved.

It's like I need something to connect myself to these people - to have something, anything in common with them. I want to have a sense of connection with this family. "We all like music" or "we all sang that song together" - something like that.

Today, I get the same feelings when I hear those songs - like a time capsule has been opened in my mind, and there they all are inside, sitting and waiting for me to join them.

Thinking about Addiction and Personal Suffering

I've been thinking about addiction today. On March 8th, it was the 12th anniversary of my Mother's death. She is the biggest example of addiction that I've had in my life.

Through my Mum, I saw some of the results of addiction:
  • the selfishness,
  • the loss of interest in or sympathy for family or friends,
  • the guilt, denial and defensiveness,
  • the aftermath from the loss and betrayal of self.
If there are behaviours or contributing factors common in addiction, I can only guess at them. I am a layman, with just my own experiences with family to refer to.

I suppose I must include things like gambling, internet use, and anything else that people might do to extremes, which could hurt themselves or those around them. It does sound from my tone that I'm hesitant to acknowledge these vices as addictions - maybe that's my own ignorance at work. Perhaps compulsions is a more accurate term.

I do believe that substance addiction doesn't start or develop in a vacuum - there are always other people involved, encouraging or enabling the process. Each family member or friend who is involved in the addict's life may have to ask themselves what they can do to help.

Underneath it all, in each of us, is the issue of personal angst and suffering.

Buddhists see suffering as a fact of life, and encourage people to first accept it, and then to develop personal and practical methods to transform and transcend it. Words like enlightenment and nirvana tend to seem too fantastic for some people, but basically, Buddha was teaching inner understanding as a basis for happier living. His form of self-help therapy was first laid down in India over 2500 years ago.

Some people blame society for their addiction (my friends got me into it, drugs and booze are all around me - I thought it was normal /okay /expected of me). At the end of the day, we each must take some measure of personal responsibility for our health, both physical and mental, and for how our life and our behaviour affects those around us.

All the same, everyone has a time when they need to ask someone for help. We're all connected, so helping someone else is like helping yourself.