The Beast Nicotine

I have smoked cigarettes too long, far too long considering the history of heart disease in my family. During the past several years I have “quit” several times, going several months sometimes without a cigarette but then something would set me off and I would start again. However, for the past 16 months, I have been pretty good at managing my cigarettes, keeping myself to maybe 5-7 per week or, often, less. Lately, I have been making more and more excuses to allow me to smoke and the talons of addiction are beginning grip tighter and tighter.

It stops the day after tomorrow.

The funny thing is, that while the beast nicotine is certainly addictive and makes my neurons happy, my recurring problem is not the physical addiction–or at least it doesn’t feel like a physical craving when I stop. Last week in Hawaii I did not smoke at all, and experienced only a minor twinge or two of desire. No, there is something in my psychology that clings to the dependence, the very stance of smoking. Is it the death drive, my self destructive urges getting the better of me? An oral fixation? Have I internalized the media bullshit about smoking being cool (a good cinematographer can make the act of smoking look so damn mysterious, sexy and sensual and who doesn’t want to be mysterious, sexy and sensual even when the reality is smelling bad, stained teeth, coughing, wheezing, emphysema, strokes, heart disease–none of which are particularly sexy)? I wrote a line in a song once about smoking till my chest hurt so I could ignore the pain in my heart. Do I come back to cigarettes as a way to shield myself or as an excuse for self-pity or to simply spit in the eye of fate and death, riding the thin edge of chemical dependency in order to scorn my own mortality?

Or is it that most insidious of human elements: sheer habit? The grooves in my brain are simply used to desiring a cigarette when I am stressed, scared, unsure, angry, etc., and I haven’t taken the time to un-groove–or re-groove–my brain patterns with alternative tracks. Newton’s First Law of Motion applies, it seems, just as equally to the human mind as it does to objects in space.

Regardless of the reasons, I need to make a commitment to myself and the people I love to stop smoking. So I am stating here that I will not have a cigarette for at least 6 months starting March 31, 2007, no matter the circumstances of my life.

Wow, the fear that coursed through my body and brain as I typed that was palpable. My brain started throwing up all sorts of scenarios and instances that would allow it to make excuses and get a nic hit if life got tough. A pretty clear sign of addiction; a pretty clear sign that the longer I wait to do this, the harder it will be to skip out of the groove and go on to the next song (for all you youngsters out there, that’s a reference to the behavior of records, you know – vinyl, lps, those round large disks that work through analog propagation of sound and not digital).

Why the six months instead of saying “I quit?” Because the six month mark is a definite goal, something that I can hold myself to with the promise that if I want a cigarette then, I will allow it – but by then, I will be considerably past the nicotine withdrawal statement and cigarettes will taste horrible to me–it only seems to take about 4 to 6 weeks for cigarettes to go back to tasting terrible. On Sept. 30 I will then make a further commitment to go another six months without a hit of the nic. Or not, but if I don’t make that commitment, if I do smoke again at that point, it will be out of sheer perversity and not out of addiction.

And I’ll take perversion over addiction any day.


Some Minor Adjustments

I have taken a bunch of the Hawaii pics off the site because they were slowing everything down too much. I will set up a separate page instead of putting them in an entry. Heck, maybe I’ll even set up a Flicker account. Between that issue and my ill-informed tinkering, I’ve temporarily gone back to my previous theme for a day or two.

The header pic is by Jo Cose and you can check out more of his images at his Photo Blog.

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Can’t sleep

I must still be on HI time because it ls 2:12 and I’m wide awake. The cat is sleeping peacefully next to me as I post this from bed using my old Toshiba e755 pda. It’s not the most efficient way to blog, but kinda cool nonetheless.

This afternoon I put on a shirt that I had in HI and, even though it had been washed the night before I left to return to NY, I can still smell the ocean and the Hawaiian air. I’m still not entirely sure how I didn’t manage to convince myself to simply stay there!!

So, I had planned on going to bed by 10:30 and getting up at 6:15 to go to the gym before work. That’s about 3 hours and 45 min. away. I’m going to give it a shot, but knowing myself , and how tired I will be, I’d say the odds of my making it are about 4:1 against.

Well, I guess I should try to get to sleep. Hope your night has been more restful.

Hawaii – First Days

We arrived in Honolulu at around 7 pm, after 10 hours of flight time. Hungry and very tired. Picked up the car at Enterprise–a Saturn Ion–and then headed over to the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani hotel. Once settled we looked at the room service menu and decided NOT to pay $17 for a sandwich, and so headed out to find decent, relatively inexpensive dinner. Waikiki is busy and I am very glad we are not staying there more than one night. Tourists and loud and crowded. Some very silly street performers, a gorilla dancing around, those statue people spray painted and holding still, musicians, etc. We ended up going to a restaurant in a food court and both got fish sandwiches and a local ale. The sandwiches were good, but the fish was a little dry and the ale was decent.

Then we were definitely ready for bed!!

In the morning we got up around 7 and lazed about for a bit, leaving the hotel at 8:30 with a plan to drive over the mountains to the east side of the island and then up Rt. 83 as it followed the coast.

Oahu Detail

We got a little bit turned around when leaving the hotel and weren’t able to find the diner we originally planned to eat breakfast at, but ended up at a Kenny’s restaurant where we had crab & shrimp omelets. We then headed north on Highway 1 then east on Highway 3, going through the mountains and over to the east coast. The drive was lovely, but I only stopped for a couple of photos that didn’t come out very well:

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These pics don’t do the drive justice, and although it rained several times, the sun would always come back out and the sky and the ocean would be a brilliant blue. One of the highlights of the day, however, was the food. I had been told that we must stop at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. For $12 you get a plate of 12 shrimp and two scoops of rice. The shrimp was amazing. We had the shrimp scampi and the garlic in it would have slayed a whole flock of vampires. I also couldn’t help trying their garlic hot dog, which is made in the same water as the shrimp are cooked. Very very yummy!

We then headed back toward Honolulu to get our Aloha Airlines flight to Kauai. This is the view from our lanai:

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I hope to catch up with our activities sometime tomorrow, but for now, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pics of the trip so far:

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Flying on a Jet Plane . . .

Flight Thoughts (3/15/07)

We are currently flying over the Pacific Ocean–though this will, of course, be posted when we get to the hotel–I’m listening to Blow Up Hollywood’s album fake with my relatively new earphones, a pair of Ultimate Ears super .fi 3 Studio’s. I had previously stayed away from the “in ear” style, preferring larger headphones with noise reduction, but after reading a bit about the Ultimate Ear line, and finding that the convenience of a small and portable set of headphones would work better for daily commuting, I decided to get their cheapest model. I have to say that I was, and still am impressed, with just how much outside noise these suckers block. Making a seal in your ear is weird and it takes a while to get over feeling like your head is stuffed up, but I have never had my iPod turned down so low. Because they block out so much noise, a low volume goes a long way. The sound quality is good, not as rich or full as a full sized headphone set to be sure, but a damn sight better than generic earbuds or the $20 cheap, portable headphones. I would love to someday be able to afford the custom made models. If size and portability are important to you and you can get over the plugged up feeling of having these seal off your ears, I totally recommend them.

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So we’ve been flying for almost 7 hours at this point. Current altitude is 34000 feet and speed is 524 mph. I’ve spent most of the trip listening to music (Son Volt’s new album, The Search, Red House Painter’s Old Ramon, Sigur Ros’ Takk, in addition to the already mentioned fake) and reading a really amazing book called Ink: The Book of All Hours, which is a sequel to Vellum: The Book of All Hours, which I meant to blog about when I read it several months ago, but never got around to it. I hope to put together some of my thoughts on both of them when I finish Ink, but briefly: if you need a linear plot, these are not the books for you. however, if don’t mind parallel universes and stories, the same characters in different iterations; if you like sharply poetic, jagged prose and a multiplicity of classical, pop culture, literary, music, nanotech or physics related references; if you want to read something that forces you to really engage the narrative and in some sense, help put it all together, then you will definitely like these books.

The food service was, of course, pretty bad and I’m starting to get hungry again. We didn’t bring any of our own food, mostly because J’s bag was pretty full and I wanted to stay with a pretty small shoulder bag that only had room for my computer, journal, a book, headphones, ipod, gum, and space for me to stash my keys and wallet. I’m hoping they serve a snack soon.

J’s battery is running down on her iBook, so I’ll finish this up. More to come soon.

 

 

Aloha

LtL & JS are heading off today for a long-ass flight, but a decidedly worth-it destination: Hawaii. Stay tuned for blogs from a tropical paradise and pictures of MORE CHICKENS.

For a preview, you can see some pics from last year here, here, here & here.

Boycotting Starbucks

I have chosen to boycott Starbucks. Why you ask? Not for any social or political reasons, but for aesthetic reasons.

Let me explain:

Several weeks ago, I was in the Starbucks at the corner of 56th & 7th and I was waiting for my medium mocha with an extra shot of espresso and no whipped cream (which is the English translation of a “Tripled Grande No-Whip Mocha” in Starbuckese, a language I refused to use), because I don’t like their coffee. Starbucks makes crappy coffee–for the most part over roasted and burnt. Here’s the thing, they should be able to make a decent cup of coffee, seeing as that is their stated raison d’etre. But they don’t. Ok, bad coffee I can deal with, but as I stood there, waiting for a 19 year old barista who wouldn’t know his arabica from his robusta, I realized that I was surrounded by people who were ordering “triple caramel lattes” and “tall cinnamon mocha swirl” or what ever else silly, sugar-laden, dessert-y drinks served that have very, very little to do with coffee.

It was embarrassing: a bunch of grown men & women ordering liquid dessert for breakfast. I felt dirty. So I made a vow, then and there, never to be a Starbucks whore, never again to offer myself up to the corporate–at least this particular corporation–trough and drink deep the muddy waters of crappy coffee, never to suck at the teat of that crazed looking woman from the log (I mean, doesn’t she just look like she is ready to eat your soul?), never again, never again!

As Neitzsche said:

“everything ugly weakens and afflicts man. It recalls decay, danger, impotence; he actually suffers a loss of energy in its presence . . . Whenever man feels in any way depressed, he senses the proximity of something ‘ugly’ (Twilight of the Idols, 90).

Maybe that “loss of energy” is why we keep sucking down the caffeine and sugar? Starbucks is, ultimately and aesthetically an “ugly” choice for coffee consumption and I for one will continue to say “no” to their product.

A big, fat, triple venti “no” latte with vanilla syrup and whipped cream.

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New Wilco Album

I’m listening to the stream of Wilco’s new album “Blue Sky Blue.” The album will be released May 15, but they are streaming the whole album for a 12 hour period today. I would have written about this earlier, but didn’t find out about until yesterday. You still have a few hours to listen if you are on the East Coast.

On first listen, “Sky Blue Sky” is much more accessible than “A Ghost Is Born”, but doesn’t have quite the impact of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”–then again, few records do. “Shake it Off” is a nice little rocker of a song that starts slow and light but builds into a solid beat and fun guitar work. “Sky Blue Sky” is laid back, somber with out being sullen and speaks of a dying town and how survival “is good enough for now.” Overall, this a a very chill album, relaxed and even simple. Wilco and Tweedy don’t seem like they have anything to prove on this album – and while that may disappoint some fans who want every Wilco album to match the haunting lyricism and orchestration of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco seems content to write for the present instead of being stuck in the past.

Definitely on the list upcoming cd purchases.

In related news, Son Volt just released their new album, “The Search”. It seems that there is a deluxe version only available on iTunes that includes 8 extra tracks. Now, usually, I don’t buy music from iTunes–in part because of the DRM and in part because I prefer having the sound quality of the cd–but I’m tempted here to forego my usual stance and get the 22 tracks for only 16.99. I mean, it does seem that Son Volt (or at least their record company) want to encourage the iTunes sales. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It penalizes those of use who normally buy our media as artifacts.

Just listened to “The Picture” and “Circadian Rhythm” off of Son Volt’s website and have to say that I like what I hear. Jay Farrar’s vocals sometimes have a tendency to get lost in the music and here they seem to be supported by the music, given a focus that I think “Okemah And The Melody Of Riot” sometimes lost. Ok, I’m buying it now.

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A Potentially Good House Bill

Ars Technica reports on some new changes to the Freedom of Information Act that could actually provide more transparency in the government.

In the case of denied FOIA requests, the bill would create an ombudsman’s office in an attempt to avoid litigation. When a denied request results in a lawsuit, HR 1309 would streamline the attorney’s fee recovery process when a court overrules a federal agency’s denial. Also, the Office of Special Counsel would gain the authority to take disciplinary action against officials who groundlessly deny requests.

Lastly, two measures that would improve access to government information are included in the bill. Government records held by private contractors would become subject to FOIA requests, a notable change to current law. Also, a broader selection of journalists would be eligible for reduced fees. In addition to considering the requester’s affiliation with print, broadcast, or Internet media, the agency would also consider the requester’s “stated intent… to distribute information to a reasonably broad audience.”

Follow this link for the full story.

Then maybe let your congressperson known that you support the bill.

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Paving Paradise: Shutting Down Internet Radio

The US Copyright Board has become a puppet for the RIAA and are on course to dismantling independent internet radio. If you listen to any internet radio, please check out the following links:

Save Our Intenet Radio

Kurt Hanson’s Radio and Internet Newsletter

I had given up on radio for years, but then discovered Radio Paradise and Soma FM (among a few others) and rediscovered the joys of good radio programming, hearing a wide range of music and being exposed new musice. I could make all sorts of intellectual arguments about the Copyright Board’s decision, I could talk about how I have bought music because I have heard it through internet radio, but most of all, I would be really sad to see my favorite radio stations go away because of a boneheaded decision that benefits nobody but the RIAA.

Check out the links if you can, maybe sign the petition and drop an email to your congresspeople if you can. Thanks.