Deep Thoughts

I May Have Asperger’s

I may have Asperger’s syndrome – or at least that’s the rumor I’ve heard, well it was suggested at one one time. I figured it probably wasn’t totally outside the realm of fiction, so I decided to check it out. A time for self-exploration and reflection. I did some online video research and checked out videos of folks with Asperger’s and the like and a Wikipedia entry on the subject.


With Asperger’s people are considered to be smart, getting all focused and researching something to death like memorizing all the planes the British and Germans flew during World War II or rock formation history, or some other topic than a number of other people in the world probably don’t care about at all. I can identify with such freakishness, it makes perfect sense to me.


A person with Asperger’s is supposedly not interested in social communication, or doesn’t know they’re supposed to be, or just don’t find an essential value in it. The social skills need to be learned, like they’re not programmed in from the start in your brain (and why should they be? Are they essential in the hunter gatherer sense of the world?). So, you then have to take more time to learn the fine details of social interaction if you have the syndrome. Again, I fit into this characterization in many ways.

But Why?


I like learning about stuff, in particular about stuff that’s useful for something – or maybe not. Maybe it will be useful but I just want to know just because. Like, say we take indy movie making for example. I watched Vincent LaForet on CreativeLive talk about film tools and movie making. I get intrigued so I go out, research different camera systems, lighting methods with LED, cost-effective steady cam systems, sliders, follow-focus devices, camera rigs, I acquire a sort of deep body of knowledge on a subject. And then what? Maybe I do nothing, but maybe I go and shoot something. Why? Because I feel compelled to tell a story, to say something. Plus I know that video-based story telling is how we’ll be communicating in the post-Facebook world, so why not get a head start? I have the need to communicate and to express ideas to people outside of my head, in the real world. I think that if I had Asperger’s, I would just learn all about every camera sensor in every camera, and that would be it. I like learning about random things because I want to have the background and use this knowledge later on. There’s a deep difference between acquiring and utilizing knowledge and technology. I like to acquire so I can use, not acquire so that I know. So, maybe I don’t have Asperger’s.


Why Not?


I did the same thing with still photography. I learned a lot on the internet from reading Strobist and watching Photoshop and shooting tutorials by Joey Lawrence, but then I used that info to bring up the production value of my photo shoots and post-processing art. So now I create portraits that are more like paintings. Since still photography isn’t enough, I’m adding film to the mix (because once I thought it would be good to learn about).


Another example, I’m learning about HTML5 and augmented reality right now. There are people who think that code is poetry and they can read Python like any other language, and that it’s one of the most beautiful things in the world. That’s fine, but while a I appreciate and respect that view, I don’t share it on an intimate level. I naturally prefer poetry in words, not hash tags. I love learning about web coding, but not because I find it intuitively beautiful (well, no, I do on some level), but rather because I can use it to create cross-platform applications for iPhone and Android devices, using APIs to call in data and use it all in a mobile application that communicates an idea (like photography or film or painting).

Probably Not


I just like to acquire tools to do interesting things. The technology barrier to entry has been brought down so low in subjects like music, physics, motion tracking, game design, film, writing, data analysis, etc. that everyone with a crappy computer (or a decent tablet) and a camera or whatever can do an insane amount of creating in life for very low financial investments. We’re just limited by time and attention spans. In the end I’m just interested in too many things, how can you not be? Today is filled with an unimaginable assortment of possibilities, I find it abnormal when people don’t have the drive to explore life and experiment with all the amazing technologies we have to play with on our computer screens, iPhones, cameras, 3D printers, cheap paints, Arduinos, sensor networks, big data sets, and composite snowboards (to name a very, very, few).


So, do I have Asperger’s? I’m leaning towards no, but I guess I have a bit of the necessary ingredients. Now clearly, self-diagnosis doesn’t work for everyone (except for Freud), and an impartial review might be in order. However, I dated a psychiatrist for half a year once, and I now that I think about she probably would have diagnosed me if I was. If you think I have Asperger’s, feel free to drop me a line.

The Shaman’s Trance

Ken's Nightmare IPart II: The Shaman’s Trance


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After making preliminary plans to re-write the internet, a few of us from the Amazing Amazee Booster Party headed into the heart of Zurich to find the Digital Shaman at Kanzlei. We paid the cover charge and moved through the place pack with bodies. The DJ was spinning and we made out way to the front of the dance floor.


Culled into the Shaman’s Trance, secure in his embrace the dance waves encircle the mind. This was the final cap to the night, a long set of music and body movement. The mind moving in and out of step with hard reality, and every part of the brain and body gets tuned in to the music. These places are best to leave at the apex, before the DJ starts the chill-out music and the lights come on. But we had no intention of leaving before the music stopped, and danced until the end. At 04:01 “Give Me Love” started playing, and I knew the night was closing. It’s a sad way to end the shadow games and await the morning sun, the DJ had no initiative and played something easy to end on – A downer. I like to dance out of a place, my emotions intimately connected with the rhythms. The lights turned on and we headed outside.


“Das Music spielt in Mein Kopf!” I yelled back at the bastard who had killed the beats. My fists raised in mock protest. Indeed, the music is always drumming in my head. The Doors gets mixed into Beethoven, and I don’t need an iPod. I just listen to some stuff in the morning, and remix the rest of the day in my head. Then I head out to clubs once in a while get fully engulfed by the energy. The night ended and the morning began on a train back to Winterthur around 5am.


This end wasn’t too different to the next Thursday when I headed out to Zurich to celebrate a birthday. We started at PurPur, a restaurant and nightclub near Stadelhofen. That night started out in a similar fashion. The mind confused, I decided to walk confidently into the night, wait for the beast to take on a fantastic form and then embrace the monsters and creatures which you meet along the way. Strangers are friendly faces in the shadows, and nothing is quite so comfortable as when you face the situation with the right eyes and attitude. The problem is that Zurich was dead that Thursday night. This isn’t Berlin where you can easily stay out all night, every night and walk out of a club into the sunshine. We left PurPur at midnight, and the place was nearly as empty as my apartment, just cleaner, fewer clothes on the floor. But if you try hard enough, even on a dead Thursday in Zurich you’ll find what you were looking for.


We stepped into Amber, right across from the Zurich Hauptbanhof. Amber is an over-priced place, but there was no cover-charge and a DJ was spinning – so the costs all balanced out, plus there was no other option without paying to get inside Hive or Kaufleuten. Amber was loosely filled up with bankers and foreigners (like us). The scene was basically a bunch of highly successful business guys standing around a few women that couldn’t be bought, but pretended like a price was listed next them on the bar. To characterize the ambiance in a single scene, one banker chick with a low-cut breast-popping, almost fully unbuttoned shirt was getting eye fucked by five guys at a time. A few other bank managers half-danced near the bar – trying to look hip and trendy. They stopped moving every five seconds to see if they could catch the eyes of one of the few women in the place – to see if anyone was looking at them. It was a sad and irrelevant scene. Irrelevant because we had come for the beats, and headed directly to the dance floor by the DJ.


For this Amber was perfect. Cool music, slightly deserted, little smoke in the air and room to dance. I easily lost myself in the music and started my interpretive dance moves. The floor was comfortably covered in broken glass, and large chunks got embedded in my Doc Martens, which made sliding around the dance stage effortless. There was a small group of Vikings on the floor as well, two tall guys with blonde hair wear white T-shirts and jeans, and one short female in a black skirt. They were the only other people interested in just enjoying the night and being touched by the music. I channeled Jim Morrison and started doing an Eagle Sun Dance. Arms outstretched in the sky, slowly circling the Earth below, you fall into that sacred trance and feel only the music. The body becomes the receptacle for the soul – and as the DJ turns it to a high-frequency sea of waves, which tunes in perfectly to those of the brain and showers down around your being – the mind-body connection becomes totally complete.


Carpe Noct mon ami…

The End

The concept of killing my blog has been rolling around inside my head as of late.

If nothing is changed and nothing else mattered, then what was the point.

In general, there should be points to things, motivations, reasons – and without such constructs there’s only madness and chaos.

I killed by blog but have had another thought.

It will be rebuilt, stronger, faster, more focused, perhaps with a purpose, something like Steve Austin.

In truth, the old purpose was as a replacement for journal writing, and to explore the possibilities of the internet.  I did all of that and more or less it seemed to work.  But it was conceived of and executed as a chaotic experiment, at some point, you have to stop and wonder why?

The thing is – blogs can quickly turn into addictive and foul contraptions of humanity.  When you have one of these things they can take up a large amount of time and deflect attention from things in life that are far more important.

And therefore, this thing as it is now is coming to an end. What comes next is unclear, but if you’re looking for new free content to wrap you head around, check out my side project KlugMat - a portal and soon to be vault of smart materials and biomedical technology information.

Top Five to Do While You Live

1) Hit Rock Bottom

When all is gone to shit and there’s nothing good left in your life – there’s nowhere to go but up.  Hitting Bottom generally results from a combination of the notions that your life is pointless, that you’re unloved, your career plans have all failed, your significant other has left you or your favorite dog-cat-goldfish has died.  It could be worse.  Often Hitting Rock Bottom can be looked back upon as a marker in life, that point when you refused to continue taking things as they were presented and decided to find your own way.  Like many of the great experiences in life, you can’t "try" to hit the lowest of the low points, you have wait until your life gets so bad that there’s nothing else to call it.  It’s not the act of hitting bottom that means anything, it’s how you crawl out of the muck that’s important.

2) Go Nowhere, Do Nothing

I did this in Europe for a month and it was fantastic.  The premise is simple, clear your schedule and take off somewhere.  It’s hard to do nothing and go nowhere in the same location that you live your normal life.  I opted to take the night train to Vienna and then jumped around Eastern European cities until making it through Germany to Berlin and eventually back to Zurich before catching a flight to Detroit.  I only visited one museum and traveled with a backpack full of film and cameras, just one change of pants and a few shirts.  I had no purpose, just a universal train ticket that allowed free travel on any train in Germany, Austria, Poland, Czech, and Slovakia.  I traveled where and when I wanted, walked around photographing and writing in my journal with visits to a few friends here and there.  The experience can never be duplicated and I wouldn’t want to try – but once you’ve done it there will be no regrets.

3) Accomplish a Feat

Ulysses was the first to make these popular.  In this context, a feat can be anything that you didn’t previously know how to do.  Make a website, paint a picture, build a house, bake a cake, write a book, make soap, build a bike, run for public office, teach a class, whatever you’re interested in.  My feats have mainly included mountains.  In reality one of my first and most important feats was driving from Michigan to Colorado during Dec. 2002 to climb up Mt. Elbert.  It was only my second mountaineering experience. For a long term resident of sea-level Michigan, the climb was a crazy amount of physical exhaustion and an adrenaline hit like no other escaping the avalanche that was released during the descent to my base-camp at about 8:30pm on New Year’s Eve.   The point is that it should be new to you and a challenge.  Otherwise it’ll just be another day doing another job.

4) Confront Our Legacy

If you Go Nowhere and Do Nothing in Europe be sure to check out Krakow.  It’s a beautiful city with quiet streets, cheap beer, and awesome pierogi.  Sometimes we know via books and stories about the horrors humanity has perpetrated and think that we understand it.

Words don’t mean anything if there’s no connection to something tangible.  That’s the way we humans are most of the time.  If we don’t form a mental imagery connection to the words, then they might not really mean anything tangible.




You don’t know what tall is till you climb a mountain and the tern vast is just another adjective until you walk through the gates at Birkenau and look at the train tracks stretching out into forever.




Most of the place is gone and burned.  The razor wire fence is still standing and it stretches into the horizon.  If Auschwitz is an example of simplicity then Birkenau is a testament to vastness.  You walk the razor-wire corridors and break down and cry and you don’t know why.





At the end of the train tracks is the crematorium.  There’s a monument to the victims.  Read any basic history book and you’ll get the feeling that the Holocaust was the story of Nazi Germany exterminating the Jewish people of Europe.  If this is what you take away, you’re missing the point. 

"Never Again."  Is what we say.

"Never again" will the industrial machine of humanity seek to exterminate our brothers and sisters and neighbors like was done at Auschwitz.

We say this and we remember and we miss the point.  This is our history.  It’s not a collective failure to be laid on the heads of German History.  It’s not a deep wound to be eternally nurtured by the current generation of Jewish peoples.

It’s our history.  What’s our present?  What’s our future?

5) Become Vulnerable and Find Love

Few things in life are harder than letting go of inhibitions and fears and the emotional wall you’ve built to protect your tenderness.  I can’t imagine how one person could fall in love without letting down their guard fully and completely.  And I can’t imagine what a drab exercise in boredom my life would be like without love.

If you allow yourself to be vulnerable then love will creep into your life.  Love for a person, a painting, a piece of cake, a movie, the sunrise, the sunset, the beach, a song, a cat, a dog, your unborn children, a stranger, a sister, a brother, your parents, your in-laws, and everything else in between.

It’s the strongest power that exists and with it we have the ability to define our legacy and to save us from ourselves.

Drugs and Brain Hugs – a Recollection of Sobriety

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.


(Hunter S. Thompson)


It’s still interesting to look back on my life are realize that far too many of my role models were drug fiends. Jim Morrison and Hunter S. Thompson – two rather influential figures in my development, both with historical personas fully ripped to the hilt on psychedelics. As were Pink Floyd and Jefferson Airplane. Howard Hughes was addicted to his meds and his need to succeed. There’s a Richard Feynmen and an Ursula K. Le Guin thrown in here and there for balance, and a Lynn Hill opposite a Mia Hamm, but the big influences were famously portrayed as drug freaks.

I’ve often wondered why I never got into the drug culture – that mythical component of society we hear about, are at times fascinated by and sometimes want to imitate. Would Pulp Fiction be half as cool if John Travolta was on a sugar high instead of pumping heroine into his body.

Oh, lord, set me free of my worldly senses and drop my mind down a rabbit hole that I’ll never want to crawl out of.

The thing is, although there’s some sort of dangerous allure, like wanting to take up smoking cigarettes – rage against societal conventions, it just seems like too much work to really get into drugs. Even the dead-head culture, those hippy souls born twenty years too late that wear their colorful drags and talk in aluff tones, the ones you see at the University of Michigan head shops and trip over at any number of open air concerts – that look isn’t by accident. It takes thought and determination to appear that spaced out.

I’ve seen some of the drug scene – you have to go to parties and know people to buy drugs from, and then there’s the paraphernalia investment.

Accessories like three foot Joker bongs don’t come cheap, and what kind of gutter college kid degenerate wants to toke from a plastic pipe? Yes you "can" fashion a pipe from an empty tube of M&M-mini’s (or an apple), but why go to the trouble? If you’re going to take a hit, you want to do it in style – and I’ve seen the prices of those colorful handmade glass smoking accessories. The thought of dropping $50 on a piece of glass to smoke from just doesn’t compute.

Probably the allure is so docile in my brain because I do more or less act like I’m "on" something from day to day. Nothing serious, it just looks like I’m on a mild tranquilizer most of the time. The thing is, I’m just naturally mello, probably due to low blood pressure and a weak heart.

Maybe my body is too sensitive, if you’ve never gotten into drugs in the first place, then a cup of Star Bucks still gives your heart a stiff kick and one beer makes the head swim like a nymph in Bacchus’s cup of ale. So what’s to be gained from escalation?

"Dude, I’m taking drugs to expand my mind."

"Oh, really?"


I’ve actually heard a searching-for-purpose prelaw student drop this line before. If that’s the argument, wouldn’t you want to be expanding your mind on a continual basis? If it’s really to gain some new perspective, wouldn’t it be better to have that ability all the time, not just after you pop a pill? If you rely on a drug to do all the work – you’ll never have any hope of reaching Nirvana, just brief windows of enlightenment that close before you can crawl your lethargic mind through the opening.

I suppose you have to get into the habit of taking drugs. I tried this with cigarettes. I was stressed out doing a Master’s in Materials Science and thought I’d take up smoking to bevel the edges of my twisted head – but I’d never finish my pack of American Spirits and the cigarettes never really fit that well between my lips.

I also smoked cigars for a time – and never inhaled again after nearly vomiting my brains out one fine afternoon while sunning myself on the outdoor patio.

All of this doesn’t really make sense, my parents both smoked for over thirty years and both my sister and I grew up in a smoking environment. Most kids I know in such a situation grow up puffing with their parents, or hiding it when they go home for Thanksgiving. Is this undesire to get my head twisted around a drug addiction just my quiet way of rebelling against my parent’s cigarette habits?

I hear it’s more colorful to get twisted in this world, but my mind has too many turns as it is. I pity the fool who need a hit to see the light – and the equally uninspired pious minion who never even considered the option.


"My attorney had never been able to accept the notion—often espoused by former drug abusers—that you can get a lot higher without drugs than with them. And neither have I for that matter."


-Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Movie Script


Toy Vault

In his keynote talk at the 2006 EMPA PhD Symposium, 1991 Nobel Chemistry winner Richard Ernst said that if you want your children to grow up with a creative mind, then they should grow up in an old house full of rooms to explore filled with things to discover. It’s cool that my parents still live in the house that I grew up in. Cool because when I come to visit, as I did over Thanksgiving 2006. I can walk the paths I used to follow and explore perspective, the contrast between where I was and where I am. Part of the reason that I am as I am is due to the toys I grew up with. Just as most of my clothes came from second hand stores, probably 90% of my toys were procured from the half-off bins and church rummage sales. This meant that I had at least three times as many toys as anyone else I knew. And while I had a plethora of the standard Legos, I also had a lot of G.I. Joes, Star Wars, as well as random things most Michigan kids had never heard of, like Playmobil.

Toys large


My walk down contrast lane lead to me photographing various toys, still sitting on shelves in my room and haunting the shadows of the basement.

Star Wars et. alMask close up


 First, I should say that while much spunk is made about violence in toys and on TV, it’s a sad pathetic short-cut in thinking to say that these things directly lead to violent children. Because by all accounts, if you really look at what I grew up with, I should, by that logic, be some sort of CIA mercenary. While the thought did cross my mind once or twice, I must have just gotten it all out of my system playing with "toys" like a belt of dummy .50 caliber machine gun ammunition.


50 Cal toy

Star Wars toys just look cool, you can replay every scene from the movies and make up storylines that include G.I. Joe. Or you can mix the Star Wars miniatures with the Vietnam era plastic warriors that are driving a WWII era German truck.

Micro imaginations


And who didn’t want plastic army guys to fight miniature wooly mammoths while getting accosted by Muscle Men?
Plastic universe

My room is an interesting place, because it’s present form was set up after college. The alcohol influence is apprent, and fits quite well with the childhood day dreams. She Ra was always hot, and standing in front of an empty Jim Beam bottle she just drives Hawk Eye (from Mash) crazy. Probably the reason he was laying back in the Beam shot glass.

She Ra and Sesame Street


I don’t know the connection between Superman and Papa Smurf, but Ernie seemed to be inciting a confrontation between the Japanese super hero dudes and their tiny monster.

Superman and Papa Smurf


For some reason the Flash was sitting in a shot glass and my teddy bear was chilling beside a tank that used to be commanded by my 1967 vintage 12 inch G.I. Joe.

The FlashTeddy and Tank


In the end the Rancor hooked up with Barbie, she was turned on by the soft side of the beast inside.

Rancor and Barbie


Two of my most influential virutal role models were also represented, the cool headed badass Yoda sits atop a copy of Hell’s Angels, written by the eternal Gonzo demon, Huter S. Thompson.
Yoda a-la Thompson

Toys Star Wars Barbie Rancor

Quotes

I like to live my life in quotes. Tiny bits of inspiration and demise that ingrain in my brain and refuse to leave no matter the medicine. A woman’s look, a jagged teacher’s scowl, unintended slivers of approval and rejection weave their way through your spider web and form the silk fabric called your life. How to handle the bleak vastness of it all?

Come as you are.

Taken out of context, out of the original environment, placed into a new sphere, movie quotes, lyrics, bits of spoken words, they inspire no matter the journey. Part of getting through life is just figuring out ways to keep your inspiration burning hot and to maintain that lust for continued existence. That clique, that over done plot line, that thing that gets me up in the morning.

The Gods envy us.

How does watching Natalie Portman blow up Parliament with a train load of explosives in V for Vendetta make the challenge of my PhD easier to handle? She’s fighting political oppression in a 1984-Orwellian future London and I’m sitting in a present day office enjoying a well paid PhD job and depressed with screwing things up.

But somehow it works.

Somehow watching her beaten down by V and reborn without fear makes the fool stress and confusion abate.

Abstraction, take an element of one thing, and transpose it onto another. Like tracing an image of the Earth on to the shadow of the Moon.

Where’s your will to be weird?

Take Edward Norton’s character from Fight Club and transpose it onto my situation. Replace a boring insurance job with the mundane details of a research project. Take out the influence of loveless fathers, replace with indifferent teachers, and use mountaineering instead of bare knuckle boxing.

Instead of physically challenging myself with destructive acts like bare knuckle boxing I climb mountains and balance on rock ridges.

All the elements are there to form a transition from the mundane to confident researcher, morphed into weekend mountaineering warrior. For some reason, things just click.

Does this mean you should take all the elements from your favorite movie and mold your life around them? Ah, no…that’s like stalking the person you think you’re connected to, the one who doesn’t love you back. That’s like falling for Mary, she only makes you feel good about yourself, but it’s not love that you feel, it’s just an unhealthy obsession.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

Find those elements of inspiration that work and extract what you need to make your journey through life easier to bear and figure out.

Then the mountains and the work and the broken flowers don’t seem so fatal and maybe the vastness of your life becomes digestible.

Decisions

Much spunk is made about decisions. To survive you have to get involved and make choices in life. Maybe you stay up at night wondering if you should make one or not, because, of course, you have to make one or two eventually. After all, they make the world go wrong. You make one and then wonder if it was right or not.

All those factors, those variables to consider, what if the camera cost too much? This bike doesn’t have shocks, but it does have the disc brakes. Should I run the fatigue test with a median strain of 0.10% or 0.20%? And maybe I’ll buy a mountain bike later, which would make the shock variable moot. Hey, let’s go find Osama, no wait, ok…invade Iraq.

There’s right and wrong – good and evil in the world. We’re taught this from birth, and it’s the basis for many beliefs and books. But when are choices really black and white? How do you know if it was the right decision? You think you know, but do you really?

If something goes wrong it generally just means you did something that your boss didn’t agree with. You know for sure it was the wrong course of action because your ears are physically being assaulted by his voice. Or maybe it’s more subtle, the wife throws something in your direction or the guy walks off in a huff.

But what does it mean if something is right? Well, no one yells at you or says that you screwed up. They’re silent because there’s nothing to complain about. You still get a paycheck and everything goes on, da doom, da doom doom doom.

In most situations you can’t understand and anticipate all of the factors that will eventually establish the criteria for that lonely little decision being the Right choice. But if things start to go wrong, just change the game, rewrite the future history – and make some new decisions.

Break the original decision up into manageable pieces. The path from black to white has a maximum of 256 shades of Grey (if you’re looking at a computer screen) and you can lean very far in either direction without being totally black or blown-out bleached white. If things start to wrong, just make some new decisions and swing back to the correct course.

Above all, don’t be afraid to fail. When you get the fear of failure inside you start to hesitate and second guess yourself. With the exception of those universal moral truths, the only real failure is letting fear cripple your ability to choose between Pepsi and Coke.

But the only thing on my mind at the moment – the decision, the question to be answered, you know the conflict: should I try to solo the Fusshorn (and possibly the Aletschhorn as well) over the weekend or safely stay home in Zurich?

If there’s no post by next Friday, we’ll be able to convincingly say – in hindsight, that it was a poor course of action to follow.

Red tie on yellow