Posted in psychology, Voices

The Schizoaffected Sense

Hey everyone, I have some exciting news.

I decided since this blog has mostly turned into book reviews and travel tips, I’ve moved my mental health segments into a podcast, aptly named The Schizoaffected Sense. Right now all episodes 1-4 are available for listening at this Spotify link.

If you’d like to give it a listen, we talk about self-care, medication, and being mixed race; if you didn’t know already, my mother is white and my father is black and while that’s not uncommon today, I didn’t get to grow up around a lot of kids like me. I knew two, in fact.

Just two.

I share some deeply personal stories in the episode about medication, so if you’re squeamish or triggered by talk of suicide, consider having some support on standby while you listen.

When you do listen, come on over to my instagram @alilivesagain or come back to this post and comment what you think. The good, the bad, and the ugly: I’m here for all of it.

P.S my recording studio right now is my car, so don’t expect perfect audio. I had to do a lot of mixing just to get it to sound as it does.

Also, my bad drawings prevail! Muahahahaha!

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me, again, on my instagram @ alilivesagain, on twitter @ happyschizobs and on Tok Tok @alisaysno.

Posted in travel

5 Things To Do While Visiting Las Vegas (that doesn’t include gambling).

If you’re someone with sensory issues like me, the thought of Las Vegas is maybe a little overwhelming, scary, or even intimidating; there are a lot of lights, sounds, people, and general sense of insomnia. Let me show you some ways you can enjoy Vegas too, with a little pre-planning, some ear plugs, and a budget.

1. Omega Mart and Area 15

Omega Mart is the second installation of Meow Wolf (don’t ask) and is a neon, glow in the dark, zip-lining, sliding, hidden treasure interact art installment. Tickets are about $45 USD each, but are worth it. There is a story to follow, with clues and information prompted by a “boop” card which is handed to you before you enter.

Warning: Once you enter, you will be confused. And the confusion will be glorious. I can’t write too much about it without giving away the secrets that make the installation beautiful.

Area 15 holds the Omega Mart as well as a few bars, some eateries–or snackeries depending on what you call ice cream and bakery items–as well as a track zip-line station and some more neon art sculptures. There are a few gift shops specific to Meow Wolf and Area 15, but enter at your own risk: prices vary.

Check that out and more here: https://meowwolf.com/visit/las-vegas

2. Rollin’ Smokes BBQ

If you’re looking for a quick, southern inspired meal, this is the place for you. Smothered in their own personal rub, built upon with several spices of deliciousness, you have the opportunity to choose from brisket, burger, rib, sandwich or salad, partnered with mouth watering sides like bacon potato salad, sweet cornbread, collard greens and brisket, and chipotle coleslaw. Their smoked meatloaf was featured on the travel channel, and has mama’s sweet D-licious sauce to tickle your tastebuds. I tried the Waygu Brisket Burger, which melted beautifully in my mouth and tasted fresh and seasoned like a good burger should. My only complaint was: where’s the bbq sauce, man?

You can expect to pay anywhere from $13 USD to $20 USD for a meal, and more if you decide to ty a sampler platter or a rack of ribs.

Want to see their menu? Check it out here:

3. Boulder City

This quaint little town is a great place to stay if you’re looking to avoid the traffic and crowds of Vegas but still want to enjoy what the city has to offer. It’s about 30 minutes outside of the city, depending on how fast you drive, and is about 15 minutes from the Hoover Dam, a very popular picture site, especially if you’re looking to build memories.

For a hotel, we paid about $250 USD for three nights and four days, a whooping 200 less than what we would have paid on the strip, and we got a beautiful view of the mountains. The only con for this is that you have to find parking in Vegas; this can be done relatively easily, as most casino resorts and parking garages are open 24/7jus, however, it’s pushing through the people that’s the hard part. They walk like they’re impervious to vehicles.

Boulder City has all the gas, markets, and ice cream shops you could hope for, perfect for that 107 degree (Fahrenheit) weather.

4. Pinball Hall of Fame

Get your nerd-on here. Pinball machines from the 50’s and onward give you hours of fun. There is no time limit, and when you walk in you simply put some cash in the change machine and use the quarters you receive as money for the machines. Some are vintage, some are new, all are fun.

How much money? As much as you want. Check them out here: http://www.pinballmuseum.org

5. Las Vegas Sign

Come on. If you go to Vegas and skip this picture site, you’ve wasted your time. It’s free, there’s parking, it’s beautiful at night, and it’s proof you visited Sin City. Be prepared to be interrupted by people standing with cameras offering to take your picture and be prepared for crowds also looking to capture that perfect selfie.

It really is the city that never sleeps. And I’m here for it.

What are some of your favorite places in Vegas? Let us know is the comments below.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @ alilivesagain, on Twitter @happyschizobs, and on TikTok @alisaysno

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), psychology, writing

Never Fear Chalk, Only Playground Bullies and Staircases.

I’ve talked on here before about my own manuscript: there’s stalking, there’s jealousy, there’s pain, pleasure, basically every ingredient you need to create a believable but obviously fictional life. There’s also crime, a smidgeon of it (not including the stalking), and so I’ve taken to reading a lot of crime novels lately. I’m halfway through two books in particular and much like Hollow Kingdom, I plan on reviewing them as I read them. So let’s get started with that today.

The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor

Not going to lie, I found this book in Goodwill for $2.99. It was published in 2018, so it’s considered contemporary fiction and the inside jacket revealed there’s a dismembered body of a teenage girl, so there was definitely crime; the book met my two requirements of myself at the moment.

We jump between 2016 and 1986, so far, from a time where our protagonist, Eddie, is a middle-aged adult and back to the time when he was a budding teenager. All of his friends have nicknames and thank God they’re nothing like the ones in Hollow Kingdom. Although they are a bit gimmicky, they’re believable for children: Metal Mickey, Fat Gav, Hoppo and Eddie is called Eddie Munster because his surname is Adams, such as in The Addams Family. Apparently “Eddie Munster was out of The Munsters, but it made sense at the time . . .”

Nicky is another one of their friends, a girl who loves hanging with the boys, and her father is the local Vicar. This only becomes a problem at Fat Gav’s birthday party because Eddie’s mother works at an abortion clinic; at some point an argument erupts and Eddie’s father punches Nicky’s father. A few days later, Eddie’s family receives a pig fetus in the mail; I’m hoping this is set up for some further plot development.

Right off the bat, we get a terrifying incident: a girl is severely injured by a rogue piece of fair equipment and Eddie is right in the thick of it, inches from being impaled. He sees the jacked up face of the girl victim but is urged to help her by a strange man, Mr. Halloran. The two, so far, have a decent relationship, although things did get a little weird when Mr. Halloran saved Eddie from some serious sexual assault from some bullies who seem more like budding rapists. He brought Eddie back to his house and Mr. Halloran has a bunch of paintings of some girls from the town, including the jacked up face girl. I think he’s being set up to be the crazed murderer of the town: he’s a teacher, he’s quiet, he’s got a bunch of paintings of girls, and he’s forming a close connection with a student. Yep. Checks all the boxes for fictional murderers.

In 2016, as a middle-aged adult, Eddie lives with a much younger roommate, a young woman he fancies but will never tell her really because he’s “too old.” Fat Gav owns a pub, and he and Hoppo are angry that Eddie didn’t tell them Metal Mickey was back in town. Metal Mickey, we learn, has returned because he wants to write a book on “the incident” and I’m assuming that means the dismembered girl, although I haven’t gotten that far yet. He says he knows who the real murderer is. Spooky.

What I find annoying so far with Tudor’s writing is the constant cliff hangers at the end of each chapter. I get that it’s meant to keep you reading and is a staple of crime fiction, it just turns me off. I want the story to flow some places and hang other places, kind of like how life does. There’s also nothing special about the writing style; Tudor’s voice is average: not quite bland but not quite unique. I’m interested in the plot line, but that’s the only reason I’m continuing to read it.

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

Having a degree in psychology and living with schizophrenia and going back to school for cognitive science means I know a thing or two about disorders, including the personalities along the Dark Triad, and despite what people think, psychopathy itself is not a mental disorder. It’s a personality TRAIT, alongside Narcissism (which is different from narcissistic personality disorder) and Machiavellianism. So, when I started reading this book and realized it was about serial killers, I was waiting for the diagnosis Antisocial Personality Disorder, and sure enough, as cliche as aways, it came.

D.D. Warren is a detective called to a crime scene of a woman having been skinned (in some places) and killed, a bottle of champagne and a rose left on her nightstand. The detective went back to the crime scene, encountered what I’ve learned so far was the murderer, and got shoved down the stairs, enduring an injury that’s left her shoulder and arm completely useless during its healing process.

Doctor Adeline Day (although she goes by a different last name) is the daughter of infamous serial killer Harry Day and sister of infamous serial killer (and youngest to be tried for murderer in their area) Shana Day. Adeline is a psychiatrist and cannot feel pain due to a rare genetic disorder, but she does understand her sister’s troupe of “blood means love”, something their father taught her. Shana cut people to show them how much she loves them and is diagnosed, by her sister, with antisocial personality disorder.

I would like to point out that while the book mentions it’s quite unconventional for a family member to diagnose another family member, it’s something that wouldn’t happen. I’d also like to point out the majority of people diagnosed with and living with antisocial personality disorder are not serial killers. In fact, they live relatively normal lives. They simply don’t care for your feelings and will manipulate the hell out of you to get what they want. They are driven by their own desire and could care less what you think about that. That being said, aggression and violence come easy for them. It just doesn’t mean they’ll use it to harm people; it’s more like they could and would feel nothing if they did.

I’m tired of mental disorders being the reason for crime. Why can’t Shana just be a serial killer? Why does she need a label? Why does blood need to equal love? That’s more delusional than antisocial.

Adeline has a secret of her own, though. She goes on dates, sleeps with her dates, and cuts little strips of their skin and puts them in jars as keepsakes. I’m on page 209 right now so I don’t yet know the significance, but it better be something good. I swear to God.

So far the book has been mostly dialogue and I mean this. We get a paragraph or two of set up and story and then we get pages of dialogue, which is fine because most of the time it’s written well, but there are instances where I think the character of Adeline is much too “Hollywood psychiatrist” and a lot less “average psychiatrist,” meaning she talks like she was written for low budget movie. She has great explanations for everything and constantly knows what people are thinking without them saying more than a few words. She also talks kind of like a type-writer: old-fashioned and stiff.

That being said, I want to know who the murderer is and if he is conspiring with Shana Day, as some detectives are starting to think. I want to know if Adeline will get caught with her creepy skin obsession and lose her license (hopefully) and I want to know whether detective D.D. Warren’s shoulder will ever get better. I mean, that’s the real plot line here.

Would you guys read either of these books? What’s your chosen genre these days?

Until Next Time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or on Twitter @happyschizobs

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), writing

Surfing in Forever Land

I’m back with a new book.

Where did I go, you ask?

Into the Ocean at the End of the Lane. And I Fear(ed) Nothing. I did come across The Chalk Man, though, and he was an interesting fellow. He asked me a lot of questions, including the ever daunting What Is Life.

If you haven’t guessed already, those are all books I’ve been reading and finishing while I took a little break from writing. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman has been by far the easiest and quickest to finish, so today we’ll be reviewing (with spoilers) that book in its entirety. Next time we’ll be talking a little bit about the crime novel Fear Nothing that I picked up from Thriftbooks.com.

If you still buy your books at full price, I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but cheap books ain’t one.

Okay, enough jokes. Let’s get into it.

The Ocean at The End of the Lane.

Firstly, Neil Gaiman is not an indie author. He is a seasoned, accomplished one, with quite the knack for what we call Magical Realism over here in America. His imagination is impeccable. That’s not to say there aren’t a few things I wish were different in his book.

We start off meeting a man attending a funeral. He decides to re-visit the farm at the end of the lane of his childhood house where he met a girl aptly named Lettie Hempstock, an eleven-year-old mystery. We flash back to his childhood when he first met Lettie, after a man had stolen his father’s Mini Cooper and ended his life in it. The scene too gruesome for a seven year old, our protagonist is granted the opportunity to spend some time with Lettie, Lettie’s mother (Mrs. Hempstock) and Lettie’s grandmother (Old Mrs. Hempstock).

To right a wrong, Lettie takes our protagonist to this Forever land where the sky is orange. She tells him “do not let go of my hand” no matter what happens, or what he sees. They come across this thing made of canvas with “deep holes in the fabric” and Lettie demanded she name herself. Of course this doesn’t happen and through the course of the terrifying conversation, our protagonist lets go of Lettie’s hand.

Oh how the young doom themselves.

When he returns home, there is something burrowed in his foot. With tweezers and warm water, he pulls half of the worm out (only half because it broke off inside of him) and the next thing we know, a new babysitter arrives named Ursula Monkton.

Ursula, as you may have guessed, is not an Ursula at all, in fact, she’s not even human. She’s the worm.

Before I lose you, I promise this book flows way better than I’m making it sound.

Our protagonist knows this is no ordinary babysitter, but she seems to have everyone wrapped around in little finger. His sister loves Ursula, their mother, who took a new job (hence the need for the babysitter) loves Ursula, and their father really, really loves Ursula, and gets caught having some passionate relations with her in his study. Don’t ask me how that works if she’s a worm.

This forces our protagonist to tell Lettie he let go of her hand in the forest. This creates some problems, but nothing the three Hempstocks can’t fix. They have spells and magic and creative thought to get rid of Ursula Monkton.

But Ursula has some magic of her own. She knows how to manipulate, and gets the father to choke and nearly drown his son in the bathtub. Our protagonist runs to Lettie Hempstock’s farm where magic is used to erase that event from reality; when his parents come looking for him, they believe he is just staying the night and brought his toothbrush for him–since he forgot it and all.

The next day, Lettie and our protagonist set off with “dolls’ eyes and heads and hands, [toy] cars with no wheels, and chipped cat’s eye glass marbles” to get rid of Ursula Monkton. We don’t necessarily learn what these toys are for, but it’s implied they are needed for the magic to work. They confront Monkton, who is now unashamed of her form, and highly overconfident; she’s managed to take over our protagonists’ house and turn everyone against him. Monkton levitates throughout their conversation, and she is the canvas monster for sure, but Lettie threatens her with “the varmints.”

They’re “mean, and they’re hard to get rid of. And they’re always hungry.”

Ursula runs.

We learn that Monkton has buried herself within our protagonists’ heart, and his life keeps her alive. She’s using him for energy, I assume, and we get this kind of awkward explanation of: “It is inside him. it is not a tunnel. Not any longer. It does not end. I fastened the path inside him too well when I made it and the last of it is still inside him. No matter. All I need to do to get away from here is to reach into his chest and pul out his beating heart and finish the path and open the door.”

I say awkward because when I read it, I don’t really feel threatened like it’s intended to be. It feels like a little kid explaining what Ursula Monkton wants, instead of Ursula explaining herself. In the midst of all that, there is a flapping, and then a whooshing, and then came The Hunger Birds, quite honestly my favorite characters in this whole book. They are the varmints, The Ones Who Eat (throwback to Hollow Kingdom). They devour the creature that is Ursula Monkton. But then they turn to our protagonist who still carries part of her inside of him.

Lettie creates a boundary, a fairy ring, and makes our protagonist sit in it. Nothing can come in the circle, and he should not leave the circle. She leaves.

The Hunger Birds play all sorts of games with our protagonist, impersonating his sister, his parents, anyone to try and get him out of the circle, but he does not budge because of his loyalty to Lettie and his understanding that he will be ripped apart if he does. In the end, Lettie sacrifices her life to save our protagonist.

There are a lot of good things about this book. The dialogue flows, we get a character we can feel scared for and two characters we get to root for. I only wish it was a little longer. I appreciate the mystery that the Hempstock’s unknown background provides, but the story itself almost feels rushed. I really wanted description and explanation of the world with the orange sky that lived in the back of the Hempstock’s farm, and the little pond that was really an ocean. I wanted to get a sense of these magical people, and that depth just isn’t there.

The book is enjoyable though, and a quick read. It’s something that kept my turning pages fiercely.

Next post we’ll talk about Fear Nothing, a crime novel with a very cliche Antisocial Personality.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), writing

Hollow Kingdom: Final Review

It’s been a long journey from Dennis and S.T.’s house with Big Jim, to Kraai the crow, Migisi the eagle, The One Who Conquers, The Weavers, and The One Who Keeps. The world Kira Jane Buxton creates, at first glance of the back cover, feels magical, grotesque, intriguing. The characters introduced in the first few chapters: Genghis Cat, Winnie the Poodle, and those throughout, like the Humpback whales and a pack of wolves, are filled with personality and never really heard from again. There are so many unsatisfying things about this book, I’m not sure I can fit them in this one post. But I’ll try.

I’ve said before the plot is ingenious: a crow tells the story of how humankind fell. We learn about Aura, the way creatures of the Earth communicate with one another, and we learn how each of them sees humans, from S.T’s fantastical obsession with the resourcefulness of humans (or MoFo’s) to the murder of crow’s less than tasteful view of humans (or Hollows). It’s obvious that Buxton appreciates, loves, and admires animals. It’s a shame she can’t write.

But first, let’s talk about the GOOD things about Hollow Kingdom.

The Good

There are moments Buxton can actually write. The way she describes action–the crows attacking or getting away from danger–is quite realistic. She has a knack for metaphors. Each chapter is riddled with them (we’ll talk about that later), things like “Looking for signs of twisted limbs, hungry vermillion eyes, and neck bones with no rules,” or “Then it flattened its ears to its head and expelled a roar, a roar that tore through the bones of the building . . .” They are great for creating feeling and some are powerful imagery. 

She’s also created a character. I wouldn’t consider S.T likable, but I wouldn’t consider him generic either. He has his own personality, and that personality just happens to harbor extremely cheesy catch phrases and a disturbing sense of loyalty to humanity. He is quite dedicated to first curing humanity and then to keeping Dennis alive and then to carrying out his life as a crow. His big character arc is finally realizing that he is indeed a crow with MoFo mannerisms, not a Mofo in a crow body. What should be a big turning point for S.T. is kind of washed away behind the reason humanity fell. 

Unlike some commenters on Goodreads, I actually enjoyed the toast to nature. The trees, the animals, everything connected and communicating on their own wavelengths (Aura) sounds divine and certainly out of the range of abilities for humans; we’re quite incapable of communicating well, if 2020 has shown us anything. I think where Buxton falls short is the presentation of Aura. 

Which brings us to:

The Bad

Let’s start with how overwritten this book is. The metaphors. They’re great every once in a while, but when every page is riddled with at least ten or fifteen “pendulous trucks” and elephants that “smelled like churned soil and freedom” and an “ancient song of sorrow that the evergreens shook from their leaves” and “calling on the ocean with our breath,” it gets a little tedious. While those are all great descriptions, don’t get me wrong, imagine 304 pages of that, consistently, partnered with lines like “crumble-cheese turd burger” or “yard demolishing fuck trolls” or “pubic badger” or “you could have heard a dust mite queef in there” or “fuck off, you douche flute” or “butt-splosion of information” or “cheese cups, ass clubs” or “scrotum-sanitizing mouth” or any of the other cheesy lines that permeate this book. It reminds me of first-time writer workshop attendees who know that adjectives and metaphors and similes can often carry semi-good writing, so their pieces becomes soggy with figurative language. 

Let’s talk about nictitating membranes, too. I’m fully aware that they are the part of birds that kind of slick across the eyeball in a blinking fashion. I’m also fully aware that Buxton personified a crow who doesn’t really see himself as a crow, so why would he regard his blinking as nictitating membranes licking his eyes or “make [his] nictitating membranes shut out the world momentarily?” Why can’t he just blink? 

We’re also introduced to side characters like Genghis cat, Winnie the Poodle, A fairy Pitta, a polar bear, a spruce tree, an armadillo, a highland cow, a camel, an elephant, a humpback whale and a pack of wolves. We get a conclusion, sort of, on Genghis cat and Winnie the Poodle and the polar bear who is the last bear on the ice. In the beginning of the book it was whimsical, and I looked forward to hearing the view of the world through just a few side characters continuously, but that never happened and they sort of came out of nowhere throughout the book, breaking up the flow of the story. We get short bursts of personalities, but it doesn’t really add much to the plot, other than Genghis cat joining up with the Orangutan(aka The One Who Opens Doors). Winnie the Poodle dying only symbolizes there’s no humans left to help the domestic animals, and we already knew that. 

What happened to the humans, after all? Well, we get some insight on that from Ghubari. He says, and prepare yourself, “it was a virus.” Not like AIDS or Ebola, but “mans creation” from “the internet.” He continues with, “. . . it started with the addiction. Technology was an intangible seductress, a siren calling for ships to meet her jagged rocks. It was a virus that spread through the systems, through the network, chips, watches, phones, tablets. Through eyes, skin, and synapses.” 

So something within the technology seeped into the skin and changed everyone into Cassowaries and giant spiders. 

I’m not kidding. 

Buxton doesn’t refer to The Hideous Ones as Cassowaries, but they’re described as humans who now scream in “the language of a raptor.” They have “hideous skin and jet black holes where there must have been eyes” with “colossal legs propelling them to great heights, and they snapped and shrieked with breaks the color of death.” The weavers have mandibles and eight legs and some weird stuff is going on with them, they silk up other humans and animals and suck them dry, so I’m not sure what kind of computer virus can turn you into a spider, but that’s what we get, folks. The Weavers and The Hideous Ones are the result, according to Ghubari, of humans evolving, their “last-ditch effort at survival.”

To sum it up, S.T says, “addiction to an electronic world caused the downfall of the Mofos. They’d forgotten to connect with each other, to connect with the creatures who missed them and to Nature as She called for them to come home.” 

Preachy, but we get it. 

The Ugly

There’s nothing really ugly about this book, but because I started with “The Good” and “The Bad” it felt wrong not to put “The Ugly.”

Conclusion

I don’t believe any of the reviews on the front of this book. It wasn’t “hilarious” or “exuberant” or “movingly written.” It was “eh.” 

I’ll be reading the sequel simply to bring you guys more Kira Jane Buxton. At the end of Hollow Kingdom, S.T is lead to a human baby in a house, abandoned obviously, and untouched by the technology-spider-cassowary virus. We obviously have to find out together whether there are other babies around the world, whether the human race survives, or whether the animals reclaim the world. I don’t really care which it is, I just have to know one or the other. 

My next full review will be on The Morality Play. I’m almost finished with it. 

What are you all reading this month?

Until Next Time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or on twitter @thephilopsychotic. 

Posted in Book Reviews (updating)

Moral Facts and Your Opinion

Good morning, afternoon, and night to the world. Today we’re talking about why our children don’t think there are moral facts.

What’s your first impression of that sentence? Besides my obvious P.C inclusivity for the entirety of the world (brownie points?), what do you think of the term “moral facts?” This would ultimately require you to believe that there are absolutes: a fact is, after all, absolutely true. So then, is it absolutely true that murder is wrong? Is right and wrong all there is to morality? There are questions you must ponder. Does this make it subjective? We could go through this all morning, afternoon, and night.

But first, let’s start with the essay I read entitled “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts” by Justin P. McBrayer, written back in 2015.

McBayer starts with the definitions of facts and opinions provided by his son’s second grade classroom, which can be easily googled:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

At first glance, this feels, sounds, and looks right. McBayer gives reasons why it’s dead wrong.

Firstly, he says that truth and proof have very different features. For example, it can be true that I am feeling sad, but you can’t prove that; you can’t see inside of my head, and I’m excellent at hiding my feelings. McBayer also says that many things which have been “proved” have turned out false. This is the limitation of our physical experience. He also states that if proof is “required for facts, then facts become person-relative.” This means that if I can prove E=MC^2 as a physicist, and you cannot, that equation becomes fact for me but not for you, a non-physicist.

What’s worse, McBayer says, is that “students are taught that claims are either facts or opinions.” Remember those quizzes back in school, usually life science or something, where they made you sort phrases into facts or opinions? I remember them. I remember getting half of them wrong consistently. Do you?

McBayer asked his son a very simple question to show how mixed up this sort of black and white thinking is: he said, “I believe that George Washington was the first president. Is that fact or opinion?” His son said it’s a fact. McBayer replies, “but I believe it, and you said what someone believes is an opinion.” His son says but it’s true, and McBayer replies, “so it’s both a fact and an opinion?”

So, some things that were classified as an opinion in his son’s homework were:

“Copying homework assignments is wrong.”

“All men are created equal.”

“It is wrong for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol.”

Value claims, the worksheet says, are not facts. McBayer claims this means that public schools teach students there are no moral facts, by way of understanding all value and moral claims call into opinion category. The problem is, in the real world, it’s required of us to “acknowledge the existence of moral facts,” otherwise we could murder and justify not being outraged.

The issue here isn’t what’s being taught really, in my OPINION, but the inconsistencies: either we acknowledge morals or we don’t. Either we teach them or we don’t. Lending mixed signals is what confuses children, and once they get old enough to truly critically think about philosophy, we’ll introduce the big topics.

What do you all think? Are there moral facts? Are there universal truths? What have you learned?

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on instagram @alilivesagain and on twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized

Book Review from The Psych Ward

The following blog post was written on paper with an ink tube of a pen from within a psychiatric hospital.

Knowing I’d be here for at least a week, I decided I’d bring a book. The book I decided to bring was Hollow Kingdom. Do I regret it? Not entirely. I figured without a cell phone or laptop or any real, meaningful connection to the outside world besides a wistful gaze out a barred window, I could finally immerse myself in the world Kira Jane Buxton wished to create.

I still couldn’t do that of course because the world Kira Jane Buxton wished to create didn’t come out in a way that interests me, as least as far as syntax goes. Her lengthy descriptions and seemingly extraneous scenes only slow the progress of the book.

If I read nictitating membrane one more time, I’m going to explode. I know that’s what birds have, but Christ, the phrase itself feels overused.

If you’re wondering, S.T. (affectionately named “Shit Turd”) and Dennis the dog have somehow managed to do a lot a little all at once. They rescued a domestic dog named Cinnamon from a house by attracting some sick MoFos (humans) with an iPhone, throwing it through the window and breaking the glass for Cinnamon to escape. What we learn is that the sick MoFos are desperate for power and we learn this while S.T. rides Ghubari, an eagle. We get a contrived lecture on the greediness of humans and the beauty that resides in transitions and new beginnings.

I physically yawned, but to each his own.

We get some more repetitive type language. For example, “Dark water near the rock pool started to stir–the sea stars were screaming at this point–and an arm, long and rust-red, lifted from its depths and into the air. The elongated arm suctioned itself to a rock and was followed by several more lissome limbs, which danced together to life an enormous bulbous head from the depths.”

I would have rewritten something like: “Sea stars screamed as dark water near the rock pool stirred. A long, rust-red arm pierced the air and suctioned itself to a rock. Several more limbs followed, dragging with them a shiny, bulbous head.”

Simple, but effective. If you want to add some descriptors in there, go ahead, just keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

It’s not all bad. I did laugh when she wrote, “I’m not sure why everyone hates opossums so much; they may look like someone shaved the buttocks of a poodle and taught it to talk through its asshole, but they are generally pretty likable creatures.”

I just didn’t know how to react other than laugh.

And “Seattle spring has more moods than Tiffany S. from Tinder.”

But we continue with the cheesy phrases like “yard demolishing fuck trolls” and “pubic badger” and “crumble-cheese turd burgers.”

That’s just not funny to me. It’s trying too hard is what it is.

So Dennis and S.T. have joined a murder of crows who are helping S.T. accept his truth as a crow and getting help from him to break windows. They plan to start breaking out domestics (pets) when they find 6th crows slaughtered and picked clean to the bone. We learn the sick MoFos have started evolving (for survival reasons) into these gigantic birds that are described like Cassowaries but are likened to raptors. At this point, I don’t know what the hell is going on. All I know is I am 263 pages deep into this book and I’m looking forward to the end because then it will be over.

So far, I’d rate this book a solid 2/5. What saves Buxton is her occasional insertion of beautiful writing. Sometimes her descriptions are flawless. Sometimes her dialogue flows. But for the most part, it’s painfully amateur, or at the very least, painfully cheesy. Will I be reading the sequel?

Of course.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Murderous Writing

I don’t know what kind of writer you are, but I am a writer who enjoys mystery, crime, drama, and just a touch of magic. I like stories that are literary in nature, contain weaving motifs and conflicted characters. I want to search for the meaning and if there is no meaning intended I want the creative ability to create a meaning that is meaningful to me. That’s all I ask.

I’m about 3/4 of the way through a book of short stories called Santa Cruz Noir, noir meaning stories full of crime and moral ambiguity. I’m all for it.

Considering I live in Santa Cruz and it was at one point considered the murder capital of the world, I dove right in.

And still the stories shocked me.

The very first story, entitled Buck Low is about a seemingly comfortable and developed serial killer (I inferred that) who has killed a woman, killed her friend looking for her, and took off up into the Bay. He gave me serial killer vibes because of his nonchalance and easy of killing and travel, as if he’s done that before. It felt like the author intentionally created that vibe.

There are odd stories too, like Mischa and the Seal, about a woman marine biologist graduate student. Seals are her muse, they speak to her (quite literally) and she enjoys staying in hotels, particularly a hotel which overlooks the beach. She meets a fellow ocean lover, James, and while they date, a particular seal she communicates with warns her there’s something strange about James and she needs to “dig into it.”

Longer short story short, James is a seal and otter serial killer.

Mischa kills James with his own arrow contraction that he kills the animals with.

She takes a shower, I think, and then seemingly kills herself by also disappearing into the ocean.

I say these stories shocked me because it’s not often I get to read good published crime stories or novels. A lot of them feel contrived to me, although there’s one story I’m hoping is good that I’d like to read about a serial killer who broke out of prison and is searching for his daughter. Unfortunately, I forgot the name. I used to work at a library and saw tons of books I wanted to read. If anyone knows the book I’m talking about, please put it in the comments below.

If you have any crime book recommendations that aren’t detective mysteries, please put those in the comments below too.

I feel like there’s a community of crime writers that are often rejected from the mainstream publishing scene considering murder and darkness scares people. I personally love writing and reading stories that push the boundaries of what we think is acceptable.

I just wrote a story entitled To Jane. My protagonist murdered another woman because she accused my protagonist of stealing some cheap costume jewelry. I sent it off to a couple small magazines, but I’m anticipating rejection; good writers always anticipate rejection. It makes getting published more surprising and fun.

It’s also a grave mistake to pair mental illness and crime together. The two are not synonymous, in fact they’re very opposite of each other. I aim give evidence to that point with my book.

My main work in progress is centered on crime as well; besides the stalking, there is murder, and I’ve learned that murder is acceptable as long as the actual murder isn’t described; people just need the idea of it to conjure their own sick visions. People also like a little mystery.

What is your favorite genre? What do you write? What do you read? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button, and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or Twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Grocery Shopping Syndrome [in writing] and A Bad Drawing

You never, ever, ever, ever, ever want the meat of your story to take the form of background music. That’s what’s happening in Hollow Kingdom. Reading through a chapter is like taking a stroll through a grocery store for nothing in particular. You browse items on the shelf, you see cashiers ringing up food, but none of it is really appealing to you; maybe you just don’t feel like Lindt Lindor chocolates today and the line is backed up to hell. You spend a few more minutes waiting for something to capture your fancy and when it doesn’t, you walk out.

Kira Jane Buxton has done something quite extraordinary. She’s built a world with immense creative foundation and no structure. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the ideas are beautiful; the execution is mediocre.

S.T and Dennis are still trekking along and why I likened these last few pages to strolling through a grocery store, uninterested, is that I find my focus waning from each sentence. I’ll realize my thoughts have drifted to something even less important than the book: what am I going to eat for dinner tonight? I wonder where the cat is. I have to get up soon.

For reference, it’s 6:44am.

The book just can’t keep my focus, and normally I’m very invested in plot and character development.

It’s something we have to keep in mind while writing our own novels. Not only is brevity a skill to hone, it’s also for the sake of your reader. You can describe brilliant scenes in just a few sentences if you know how. When things stretch beyond their capacity, it just gets weird.

I wouldn’t say Hollow Kingdom is boring, it’s just not captivating. The idea jumps off the bookshelf, but the book itself lands flat on the carpet.

I’m done with the figurative language, I promise.

When I notice parts of my novel that drag, it’s a drag for me too, because that means I have to tweak something that maybe I didn’t want to tweak. To me, it’s fascinating to delve deep into character minds, but to others who don’t know the character in the same way I do, it just becomes overarching and tedious. I also want to also keep in mind that writing a book can bring you very close to fictional people. You squeeze a bit of yourself out into them, and there’s a large possibility that Buxton is quite fond of S.T and his mannerisms and thinks he’s hilarious. I think that’s important to acknowledge, because this book is pretty much her baby. So, I’m not ripping into Buxton to burst her spirit (as if she’s ever going to read THIS) nor am I doing it to burst budding writers’ spirits, I’m doing it because this is the internet and we’re allowed opinions.

It’s truly nothing personal.

I also think reading these types of books are a great way for amateur writers to see what they like, what they don’t like, what to do, and what not to do. Clearly, depending on the publisher, you can get away with extraneous description and rackety rumor, but do you really WANT to?

There are people on Goodreads who find Hollow Kingdom HILARIOUS. And that’s great. I’m not one of those people.

When you or I publish our work, eventually someone is going tell us: “hey. Your book SUCKS.”

And how’s that going to feel?

I imagine it’s going to feel like that time in high school when I read Catcher in the Rye and I thought it was the most entertaining, relatable thing in the world and my friend gave me one of her wild looks and said, “I hate that book, it’s just about a whiny teenager. It’s dumb and boring.”

One day someone will critique our work in similar fashion and we’ll smile about it because we’re published anyway. Then we’ll go home for a couple whiskeys and wonder about our life choices and maybe sing a little Lana Del Rey and drunk-call our agent to ask “am I REALLY a writer, though?”

Were Kira Jane Buxton to beta read for my novel, I’d let her. She can write, after all. There are semblances of her talent brushed throughout Hollow Kingdom. And you know what? She’d probably rip me to shreds in her blog afterward because that’s how things work in 2021. In the wise words of Waka Flocka Flame: “You talkin’ shit like a blogger.”

I mean, is that all we really do, Waka?

Really?

Until next time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @thephilopsychotic

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Happiness 2.0

Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I picked up Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments because I just couldn’t handle Hollow Kingdom at midnight. Not because it’s scary, but because I didn’t feel like raising my blood pressure.

If you click through some of my older posts, you’ll see I’ve talked a lot about happiness. One post entitled Happiness I wrote when I was taking pain pills for my injured back. I noticed the stark difference between my baseline happiness and this new, inorganic happiness. I struggled with accepting that our brain runs on limitations: we get a finite amount of dopamine, endorphins, and other stimulating neurotransmitters, unless we bring in an outside source. In this case, my outside source was Percocet. It pained me to think the contentment I felt was initiated and could never be natural.

So when I came across the essay The Dangers of Happiness by Carl Cedarstrom, I was inclined to absorb every word.

He talks first about Aristole. If you recall from your undergraduate philosophy days, Aristotle insisted happiness came from being a “good person” and that meant living an ethical life, guided by reason and cultivated virtues. The Stoics, Cedarstrom says, decided no matter how daunting life became, no matter the circumstances, people could be happy. Christians took that and 360’d it: pain was more desirable, as it lead to a “divine union in the afterlife.” Happiness, after all, couldn’t ever be met on Earth, only in the Crystal City with God.

Today in the west, where capitalism rules, we are more inclined to pursue that unobtainable happiness within ourselves. Cedarstrom says “to be happy in a time when we price authenticity and narcissism, we need to express our true inner self, get in touch with our deeper feelings, and follow the path set by ourselves. . . we are assumed to find happiness through work and by being productive. We are required to curate our market value, manage ourselves as corporations, and live according to an entrepreneurial ethos.”

This means if you’re unemployed, you’re worthless.

Okay, not worthless. It means you can’t truly be happy. You must never rely on other people for help, you must “struggle for self-improvement” and your fate is in your own hands. ONLY in your hands.

This is why people beat up homeless people.

This is why money, particularly in my county, is shoveled away from community organizations that are set up to help lessen the circumstances that can cause homelessness. This increases drug use and relapses in mental illness which in turn increases homelessness. Do you see the problem, yet?

Cedarstorm says, “If we may all be equally happy, irrespective of our circumstances, then that would equip politicians like Mr. Bush with convenient excuse[s] to stop looking at structural issues like class, social and economic inequality, or poverty.”

What Cedarstorm is getting at is quite disturbing: we’re using this message of the American Dream, of this deluded individualism, to distract ourselves from the actual problems we face in society. This is why people go hungry, it’s why crime rates soar and people think “thoughts and prayers” on twitter means something. We’ve created an illusion of happiness.

That’s not to say we can’t be happy, something Cedarstorm doesn’t get into. It’s true we use our self-righteousness as a way to shun those we think aren’t “trying hard enough”, but there is truth to the message that if we want to get somewhere in this society, we have to push ourselves–not because that’s the formula for happiness, but because that’s the formula society has created. It’s an unfortunate creation; rather than help each other, we trample over each other and call it helping.

When I took Percocet, the happiness was distracting. I didn’t worry, I didn’t think, and I nodded out in class. My notes look like someone with Parkinson’s wrote them. But I was happy.

We’ve basically drugged ourselves.

I’m not bashing people who work hard, and I’m not bashing people who don’t work at all. I’m encouraging us to look at things from a different perspective. I’m personally someone who strives for progression in the self and beyond myself; I don’t consider it progress if I’m not lifting others up while I do it. I’ve been lucky enough to have groups of encouraging people surround me. Were it not for them, I wouldn’t have continued to progress.

My stubbornness helps.

But the point is, this idea that we have to do everything by ourselves is complete and utter bullshit. That thought process is designed to keep those who are already down further down; when we see them as lazy, as not working hard enough, we don’t feel the need to expend our precious energy on helping them. But in reality, who has helped you get to where you are today?

My parents have helped me, even through all the pain we’ve suffered together.

My former coworkers have given me more emotional support than I’ve ever received, and they are the sole reason I’m continuing my education.

My friends.

Professors who ran after me in the rain and pleaded with me to never stop writing, never stop learning. Professors who walked me through a calculus problem step by step because I learn differently. Professors who just inspire.

Random strangers who have smiled at me on the street, who have engaged in conversation not knowing I was feeling terrified, scared, sad.

The nurse at the last hospital I was in who told me my so-called illness is actually a gift.

The doctors who have been patient with me through all my worries.

And so many more. Without them, I wouldn’t be me, and the same goes for you. You haven’t done anything by yourself.

It’s an illusion.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and catch me on instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @thephilopsychotic.