Thoughts of Death on a Wednesday Morning


skull and hourglass

I’m obsessed with death.

I’ve been that way since I was a little kid.

death guess who

Perhaps it is one of many reasons I’ve chosen the path of the pen…a book is a life that doesn’t die…no serious author doesn’t at least play with the idea of immortality.

When I was 6 years old my grandmother’s sister died. My mother tells a story of talking to me about her death:

“Great-Aunt Mami passed away today, Jack.”
“She’s gone?”
“Where did she go?”
“To…to heaven.” I paused. “Mommy?”
“Yes Jack?”
“What if nothing happens to us after we die?” My mother was taken aback and surprised.
“We..we just don’t know Jack. We just hope that the people we love go to a better place.”

Since I can remember I’ve had the unwavering conviction that death is a dreamless sleep, game over, total blackness. Which is part of the reason why I’ve often been confused and fascinated by religious people…in the beginning I thought it was plain silly that people actually believed in life after death. Now, after years of reading, studying, living, and questioning I’ve come to some conclusions concerning why people can have this belief.

1) Some minds are just set up for it. Just as some people are tall, short, inherently strong, or weak…some minds are susceptible to certain ideas, thought patterns, and illusions. And believing in a higher power and life after death is an excellent survival tool. “God loves me and is watching over me…there is a better place than this hazardous, tragic world,” these ideas give people strength and hope. What is better for finding a mate and having children than unreasonable, unaccountable, unquestionable strength and hope?

I’ve slowly and meticulously read almost all of Victor Hugo and Dostoevsky’s books. They were both extremely religious, but extremely different men. They gave their lives to their writing and opened themselves up in ways few humans have. I learned many things from their novels.

Hugo woman quote doy saraBut concerning their faith…despite being intelligent, expressive, well-read men…it came down to this:
Believe me…trust me…God exists!!! Faith was just a part of who they were. They couldn’t defend their faith beyond: this is how I feel. Nonetheless, I remember thinking while reading their books that if a belief in God could produce/contribute to such powerful, intense, soul-shaking works…are the authors right? Was Jesus actually the son of a higher power because Jean Valjean got up from his deathbed, took down a copper crucifix, and said, ‘He is the great martyr.’ (A surprising, out-of-left-field moment amidst a life-changing scene which had me crying in a diner: “A lower murmur escaped his lips. ‘To die is nothing, but it is terrible not to live.'”)

But then I realized that I was merely worshiping their creative skill. Being able to write a great book has nothing to do with the ultimate, unknowable truths of the universe…it’s a single person mastering a limited perspective and communicating it powerfully and clearly.

2.) Life is suffering. La luche de vida. Because of this fact….reality and our minds are constantly in flux. When we experience conflict in reality…something in our mind has to give/has to cope/has to figure this shit out. I think a belief in God can begin when a susceptible mind interacts or clashes with uncertainty and conflict in the outside world.

This idea was summed up for me in an interview I watched of Stephen Hawking. He was asked about why people believe so strongly in religion. He replied, “People…are…afraid…of…the…dark.” Some people can live in the darkness, some people can’t. In a different interview Stephen Hawking was asked if he ever became angry at his body/ his life because of his Motor Neuron disease and being stuck in a wheelchair. His response: “Who…could…ask…for…more?”

stephen hawking

But regardless of your susceptibility, sometimes I think the level of suffering and uncertainty becomes so much that something has to save you…no matter how irrational that something is.

I’ve also been interested in people who either convert to Christ or convert away from Christ. One of my friends, Sean Ewart (writer), was raised by two pastors in the boonies of northern NY. Yet he somehow became an atheist. While I can’t fathom all of the experiences he had growing up which pushed him in this direction…I do know that he is a questioning, exploring, curious type of individual. Perhaps his inner susceptibility for faith was minimal. Which brings me to my last point…

3.) Community. Humans are highly social animals. The people who orbit our susceptibilities and experiences (suffering) influence how we look at life and death. If you don’t have an independent, questioning tendency inside of you, there’s very little chance for you to rebel against your family and friends.

Growing up, my parents were open, inquisitive, and challenging. They read books and explored. I remember a game my father used to play frequently with my sister and I…he’d point at something like a dog and say, “Look at that cat over there!” My sister and I were laugh and say, “No, dad, that’s not a cat, that’s a dog!” This may seem like an innocuous, childish game, but this kind of environment fosters and develops a person who doesn’t take beliefs for granted. Compare this to Christian families who tell their children that Jesus died for their sins and that this is the only truth.

So what does this all have to do with death?

In reverse fashion, here were my motivations for this post:

On Monday night I had an interesting conversation with a regular (Bill) at the bar. He told me a story of someone dying in his restaurant (Battery Gardens) a few years ago when he was working a catering event for a wedding party. The man who died was 55 and had stomach problems. Bill was going to tell the party (they were upstairs) that there was a bathroom on this floor, but he was too busy. The man with stomach problems began walking towards the staircase. “Excuse me, sir, there’s a bathroom on this-” The man clutched his stomach, leaned forward, and THUMP THUMP THUMP. The man fell down the stairs. Bill ran after him and saw that the man was foaming from the mouth and bleeding from the eyes. Dead. He was the uncle of the bride. Screams. Wailing. The family sued the restaurant. They didn’t win.

I told Bill about an experience I had in India. My father and I were in taxi and the taxi swerved around a form in the middle of the road. I turned around and looked out the window. The form was a dead man, still bleeding. Death in India means much less than death in NYC. Not only was nobody suing anybody else, but nobody was even moving the body out of the road.

India train

The bartender in my restaurant on Monday night interns in an ambulance during the day. For the first time that day he had “pronounced” somebody dead. He arrived at a beautiful apartment in Brooklyn overlooking the river and found a 98 year old woman with one foot out of bed. Her jaw was stiff. She had passed.

On Wednesday morning I woke up with a bloody nose. As I stepped out of bed to find a tissue to shove up my nostril I remembered the 98 year old woman. My mind became flooded with thoughts of my mortality.

I’m not sure how to end this post. I sort of jumped all over the place and I’m not very satisfied with how it turned out. I’ll do a better one tomorrow…

Because I’m still here…alive…

Not dead.

UDSM and the Mentally Handicapped in France


J’ai travaillé sur ce project avec Brant DeBoer et Tanguy Garrel-Jaffrelot.

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The Imp of the Perverse


poe headimp

Yesterday I re-read Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, The Imp of the Perverse,  and was still thinking about it an hour later while masturbating with my own feces.

Self-destructive behavior and self-destructive thoughts are an interesting field of study. In Eddie Poe-Poe’s short story he begins with an essay describing this principle of perverseness: “…an innate and primitive principle of human action, a paradoxical something…a mobile without motive, a motive not motivirt…through its promptings we act, for the reason we should not.”

In other words, we do the thing because a voice in our head tells us not to do the thing. Poe-Poe ends his story with the narrator admitting to the reader that he is a murderer who committed his crime without being suspected or punished. One fine day, whilst the murderer is “sauntering along the streets…murmuring, ‘I am safe – I am safe- yes – if I be not fool enough to make an open confession!’ he is stricken by the Imp of the Perverse and makes an open confession. He ends up condemned in prison wearing fetters.

But throughout this essay and story I couldn’t help but wonder: “Can we ever fathom all of the reasons for our actions? How much should we hold ourselves accountable for knowing the reasons behind what we do? Do we truly understand the “self” behind “self-destructive” behavior?” And concerning the battle going on in our heads “Do this, don’t do that.”…who are we to pick sides?

It’s all very confusing when you go down the rabbit hole…even Poe Poe says, “Nor will this overwhelming tendency to do wrong for the wrong’s sake, admit of analysis, or resolution into ulterior elements.” Yet here he is analyzing the tendency.

What if the narrator of the story had encountered a beautiful, intelligent, convincing Christian woman two months prior to his confession. What if she had preached the merits of confessing your sins. Maybe the narrator forgot about this woman, even though she still managed to alter an aspect of his subconscious. So it wasn’t the imp of the perverse telling him to do the wrong thing, but the angel of Christian morality telling him to do the right thing.

I felt hesitation typing the sentence, “masturbating with my own feces,” but I went along and did it. Similarly, I feel some apprehension and guilt concerning the unhealthy, sleepless lifestyle I’m leading in order to publish stories, continue with blog posts, novel, job, etc….but I’m destroying myself/health because I value a different aspect of myself: clarifying and simplifying my writing voice…working a job that allows me to keep living in NYC…providing my growing audience with posts to read…achieving my goal of supporting myself through writing.

We’re all destroyed in the end. Some of us do things in our lives which cause us to expire faster. From a narrow and limited perspective it may seem like the man swimming with sting rays is engaged in “self-destructive” behavior (Steven Irwin) but perhaps he values adventures with dangerous animals over personal safety. From a narrow and limited perspective is may seem like holding your breath for 17 minutes is “self-destructive” behavior (David Blaine) but perhaps you value testing the limits of endurance or proving skeptics wrong over physical comfort.

What makes all of this problematic and convoluted is the fact that we have desires and often these desires are subconscious or conflicting. Pussy, money, weed, love, comfort, attention, solitude. What do you want? In our fumblings and gropings to get these things we often engage in (what looks like) stupid, self-destructive behavior. We often have a voice in our head which shouts, “Don’t do that! It’s wrong!” but a quiet, subtle, more insinuating voice…with hidden, stronger motives…overrides and we do it.

Edgar Allan Poe was a controversial, combative, raging alcoholic who wrote gruesome, violent stories. I think an insight into his aberrant behavior and “terrible” stories is the last paragraph of The Imp of the Perverse:

“But why shall I say more? To-day I wear these chains, and am here! Tomorrow I shall be fetterless-but where?”

The deep and obsessive understanding that many artists have of the annihilation we all face leads them to act “crazy, self-destructive, wild, hurtful, outrageous, etc. etc.”  Look at me! My paintings! My music! My words! I’m here! I’m here! Quick! Before I’m dead! Then their addictions or wild tendencies find free reign in the knowledge of the encroaching blackness.

My alcoholic grandfather used to watch joggers and say, “Poor bastard doesn’t think he’s gonna die.” This sort of thinking often leads to “I’m gonna do, think, or drink what I want…cause it’s all ashes and dust in the end.”

We shouldn’t give in to nihilism, though. I think the best we can do in order to avoid the imp is figure out what we really want…clarify it, repeat it, work towards it. And until then….you gotta just keep shitting in your hand and jacking off.

Have a nice day.


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An Awkward Lunch with My Brother Which Ended in Mysterious Circumstances


In the beginning of the lunch it was a solemn and excruciatingly proper affair. My brother appeared to have decided that TV shows offered a safe subject of conversation, as not leading to startling personal revelations. His manners seemed to indicate a fine nervous dread that something disagreeable might happen if the atmosphere were not purified by vague predictions and blase criticisms of Westworld and Game of Thrones. “What’s he afraid of?” I thought. “Does he think I’m gonna impulsively beat his ass?” I’ve never been a man of strong personal aversions; my nerves have not been at the mercy of the mystical qualities of my neighbors. But towards my brother I’ve always been irresistibly in opposition. He was a man of forms and phrases; a man full of possible impertinences and treacheries. A wily piece of shit, if you will. Halfway through the sumptuous meal he dropped a steak knife and asked me if I would kindly pick it up. I smiled and said, “Sure, brah.” We locked eyes and he quietly accepted the serrated utensil. Next thing I knew I woke up in a hospital in a cold sweat with five, burly policemen fidgeting around a speeding gurney. As the cobwebs of my unconscious were disintegrating, one of the policemen grabbed my shoulder, which was streaked with ribbons of blood, and screamed, “WHERE IS YOUR BROTHER?! TELL US WHERE HE IS!”




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How bad are all-nighters for you…really?


can I sleep yet?

In the past 6 months I’ve pulled about 30-40 all-nighters. Should I stop?

According to WebMD: “Not sleeping enough and not sleeping well is not OK.”

Around 1/3 of Americans have symptoms of insomnia.

The scientifically documented record for the longest period a human has intentionally gone without sleep not using stimulants of any kind was Randy Gardner, a high school student, who in 1964 stayed awake for 264.4 hours (11 days 24 minutes). He held a press conference on the last day of his record and seemed fine. No long term psychological or physical effects have been observed.

Records for voluntary sleep deprivation are no longer kept by Guinness World Records for fear of the associated health risks.

David Blaine told the public in 2008 that he was going to attempt to break the sleep-deprivation world record, but he never did.

In a subset of cases sleep deprivation can, paradoxically, lead to increased energy and alertness and enhanced mood; it has even been used as a treatment for depression.

Tony Wright, author and consciousness researcher, claimed the world sleep deprivation record in May 2007 with 266 continuous hours of sleeplessness…he used video recording. Interesting enough, he said his intention was to promote his radical theories of human neurological degeneration that were proposed in his self-published book, Left In The Dark. Taylor cites Wright’s theory that sleep deprivation decreases the dominance of the left brain and allows more right brain creativity. This is in line with other researchers who have found that sleep deprivation produces hallucinations and states of altered consciousness.

Some Cons:
-elevates level of cortisol (stress hormone)
-less leptin, more ghrelin (hunger levels increased, carbohydrate craving, become fatter easier)
-negatively affects brains frontal lobes (ability to concentrate…pre-frontal lobe: depression, emotional regulation)
-negatively affects thalamus (ability to recognize others)
-increased risk for diabetes, stroke
-suppresses immune system and impairs fever response

In the 1980s, a University of Chicago researcher named Allan Rechtschaffen conducted a series of sleep-deprivation experiments on rats. After 32 days of total sleep deprivation, all the rats were dead.

One study found that reduced sleep time is a greater mortality risk than smoking, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Sleep disturbance is also one of the leading predictors of institutionalization in the elderly, and severe insomnia triples the mortality risk in elderly men.

Some Pros:
-you get the job done
-sleep tastes more delicious
-you become delirious and feel waves of intense euphoria and silly things seem very, very funny
-you don’t labor in restaurants for the rest of your life
-sunrises look beautiful
-you create art

All nighters aren’t that bad


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http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2009/05/can_you_die_from_lack_of_sleep.htm- Nykamp K, Rosenthal L, Folkerts M, Roehrs T, Guido P, Roth, T; Rosenthal; Folkerts; Roehrs; Guido; Roth (September 1998). “The effects of REM sleep deprivation on the level of sleepiness/alertness”. Sleep 21 (6): 609–614. PMID 9779520.
Jump up to:a b Riemann D, Berger M, Voderholzer U; Berger; Voderholzer (July–August 2001). “Sleep and depression – results from psychobiological studies: an overview”. Biological Psychology57 (1–3): 67–103. doi:10.1016/s0301-0511(01)00090-4.PMID 11454435.

Report: Man Discovers Meaning of Life While Scrolling Through Facebook Newsfeed

McDowell County, West Virginia – A groundbreaking psychological study in the intellectual Mecca of the United States has recently shed light on one of Philosophy’s most puzzling questions. Dr. Chase Sampson, renowned psychologist and 2009 participant in ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire,’ traveled to McDowell County last month with twenty five laptops and a lofty, ambitious goal. He hired thirty five eager and unemployed citizens of McDowell Country to spend eight hours a day scrolling through randomized, Facebook Newsfeeds. Sampson meticulously observed and recorded all of their reactions, everything from growls and cries to laughter and sighs. This past Tuesday Sampson’s work finally paid off. A man by the name of Jesse Beler, a laid off miner, unaccountably stood up from his laptop, burst into tears, then began shouting: “IT’S ALL JUST…JUST…A RIDICULOUS GAME…A SILLY, RIDICULOUS GAME,” then ran out of the abandoned gas station which was being used as a controlled environment for the axiom-shattering experiment. Sampson plans to publish his finding in the prestigious, “Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,” sometime in the next six months. Jesse Beler was not available for comment. He is believed to be somewhere in the wilderness of Northern Canada, half-naked and searching for food.


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The Devil


There’s a regular at my bar who I believe is the devil.

He sells tickets for boat rides to the Statue of Liberty. He lives with his mother who pays the rent.

The devil (let’s call him Danny) is 26 years old. Danny always wears a baseball cap representing his favorite hockey team (The New Jersey Devils). He has manicured facial hair, fake-diamond earrings, and expensive basketball shoes (which he bought with money he stole out of his mother’s room).

After an hour or two of selling tickets in the morning, Danny gets sick and tired of the daily grind and comes to the bar to drink beer. He spends all his money on drinks for himself, on strangers that listen to him talk about himself, and on girls who aren’t interested in himself. He does this 5-6 days a week.

While in the bar Danny likes to play his favorite song on the jukebox. This is it:

Danny knows all the lyrics and likes to dance (sway and snap fingers) and look at people while he says them. I’ve heard this song over 50 times.

Danny says he doesn’t get drunk.

Sometimes, I see Danny standing outside the bar hitting on girls. He always uses the same line. “Hey girl, are you trying to get on the boat?” Believe it or not, I’ve heard numerous girls respond with the same retort, “Is that the best you can do?” Danny invariably mutters under his breath, “Stupid bitch.”

Three, recent experiences with the devil which provoked this post:

1.) A week ago Danny was telling me a story about “some faggot this morning that butted in on a ticket sale I was trying to make.” Danny wanted to beat him up or say something, but decided the faggot would have started shit and that it didn’t really matter.

Ten minutes after telling me this story, I saw Danny walk outside bar. He passed a senile, homeless, insane old man who was sitting on a vent. This old man is a regular in the terminal. It’s obvious that he is out of his mind, decrepit, and on the edge of death. I saw Danny pause next to the old man.
“What did you just say to me?” Danny yelled.
“Are you talkin’ shit to me?”
“Fuck you! Who do you think you are?! I-” Police eventually arrived and led gesticulating Danny away. No physical violence had occurred. Danny returned to the bar. “Yeah,” he said to me. “I told that man what was up. I don’t take shit from nobody.”

2.) Most of the time Danny is friendly, gregarious, and outgoing. He frequently puts his hand on my shoulder and says, “Yo, bro, I got you.” Danny does charitable things like help arrange tables and push in chairs after other people have left. During the Copa soccer games he approached groups of strangers and cheered whenever they were cheering. Despite these acts of altruism and festivity, Danny never leaves a tip.

Two days ago, Danny arrived in the afternoon and apologized to me for not arriving at the bar earlier.
“I had to go the hospital,” he said.
“My brother has this disease…ah…—–disease.” (I can’t remember…I don’t like talking to Danny.)
“What’s that?”
“It’s when you’re real short, like a midget…and can’t understand what people are trying to say…I mean he understands English, but he doesn’t really know how to act with people-
“He can’t read social cues?”
“Yeah yeah, like he’ll be with a group of people who don’t like him, but he won’t know. I have to be like, bro, they don’t like you. And so his body is real weak too, and my mom just found him bleeding in our house, and she called me and was like, you should go to the hospital to see your brother, so I did.”
“That’s good.”
“Yeah, and his medical bills are so much money, bro.”
“I bet.”
“So you think you could buy me, like, two shots of fireball? Cause you the manager and can hook me up?”
“No Danny, I can’t do that.”
“C’mon bro.”

3.) Yesterday, a simple experience occurred which was the catalyst for this post. Danny was intoxicated (to everyone around him, but not to himself) and gorging himself on Wendy’s hamburgers (his daily meal). When I walked by he pulled me aggressively towards his chair. This was unusual for Danny. What was he about to say? His bleary, empty eyes stared vacantly at my forehead. His smelly breath invaded my nostrils. The sparkle of his crucifix necklace twinkled in my eye.
“Yo…yo…yo bro…I gotta tell you something.”
“What’s that, Danny?” He paused for dramatic effect.
“I’m not meant to be a regular person.” A shiver crawled down my spine and rotted in my stomach in a pit of disgust. I didn’t reply and walked away. It was at this moment I thought, No, Danny, you are not meant to be a regular person…

You’re the devil*.

*Two months after this post I discovered that Danny has a daughter. She’s 6 years old.


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For the last decade of my life I’ve averaged a nosebleed once a week. Sometimes I’ll go a month without having one, other times I’ll have them everyday for 1-2 weeks.

cocaine nose bleed

No, I don’t abuse cocaine. Although the last time I sniffed nose candy I remember the morning after…I was on a bike ride and I had one of worst bloody noses of my life. I had to pull over and lean over a creek. I bled steadily for 37 minutes. No more cocaine for J.W. Kash.

Here are some stats:

40% of people never experience a nosebleed during their life. The majority of nosebleeds occur for people ages 0-10 and 50-80.

90% of nosebleeds are anterior (front part) of the nose.

10% of nose bleeds are serious.

The three, major causes are a cold, dry climate (my alma mater was located 20 mins. from Canada…my nosebleed glory days), trauma (I bump into doors and hit my nose a lot), and irritation (I aggressively pick my nose when nobody’s looking).

mayor west

WebMd steps for treatment:

1) Stay calm (and bleed on)
2) Sit up straight
3) Lean your head forward. Tilting your head back will only cause you to swallow blood
4) Pinch your nostrils together with your index finger and thumb for 10 minutes. Have someone time you to make sure you do not release your nostrils earlier.
5) Spit out any blood in your mouth. Swallowing may cause you to vomit. (But it…tastes…so…good.)

vampire cooler

In high school I dated a girl who was scared of blood. During the second date she revealed that in the past she had passed out unconscious upon seeing blood and that she couldn’t handle the sight of it. After the third date we were in my bedroom making out. I felt a nosebleed coming. Oh no. (For those 40% of you who have never experienced this, it’s like a slug is sliding down the back of the bridge of your nose). I start sniffing and leaning my head back.
“J.W., are you alright?”
“Yes. I’m fine. Allergies.” Luckily, it was a mild nosebleed and I was able to prevent a heavy flow through sniffles. But when I looked at my girlfriend I saw little smears of blood on her cheeks and neck. I started kissing the smears and attempting to subtly lick them off. My girlfriend thought I was being tender. I was merely preventing a catastrophe.

blade twilight

WebMD post bleeding suggestions:

-Try to prevent any irritation of the nose, especially sneezing or nose blowing, for 24 hours (I often forget this…hence them occurring repeatedly for 1-2 weeks).
-Ice packs on the bridge of your nose constrict your blood vessels, limits flow.

My favorite nose bleed experience occurred during a one-night stand in college. The girl and I were having rough sex and our heads knocked into each other. My nose started bleeding. I ignored it. Soon, there was blood dripping on her tits and on her face. After a couple of minutes the gore became too much. I was fornicating with a crime scene. It was me who ended up pausing mid-coitus and saying, “I’m…I’m bleeding all over you.”
“Don’t worry. I wanna become a doctor. Blood doesn’t bother me.” The romping continued.

(Thanks to fb, our knowledge concerning what happened to past acquaintances is readily available…now she’s a doctor).

In Japanese anime and manga having a sudden, violent nosebleed means that the bleeding person is sexually aroused. What?

nosebleed giphy

Anime is silly.

But they aren’t the only ones with this naughty notion…in the oral history of the Native American Sioux tribe there are references to women who experience nosebleeds as a result of a lover’s playing of music…implying sexual arousal.


“Play me another song, Jack.”
“I’m gonna make your nose bleed on this one, baby.”

In the Finnish language, “begging for a nosebleed” is an abstract way to describe self-destructive behavior. An example being when you ignore safety procedures and deliberately aggravate a stronger party.

“Why is Jack wearing a gorilla suit and throwing water balloons at passing cars?”
“I’m not sure, but he’s begging for a nosebleed.”

In Filipino slang, to “have a nosebleed” is to have serious difficulty conversing in English with a fluent or native English speaker. It can also refer to anxiety brought on by a stressful event such as a job interview or an examination.

In the Dutch language  “pretending to have a nosebleed” is a phrase that means pretending not to know anything about something, when actually being involved in some way.

“Hey Mr. Dutch Settler! How was colonizing the Americas? Did you get along with the natives?”
“Natives? What natives? We…we just minded our own business…didn’t see any natives.”
“You’re pretending to have a nosebleed, aren’t you Mr. Dutch Settler…”

native comic

To conclude…why does my nose bleed so frequently? Is it because I’m always sexually aroused? Engaging in self-destructive behavior? Anxious for impending examinations? Feigning ignorance of my involvement in questionable situations? Violent nose picking?

My sister is an ER doctor and says the most likely cause is just the structure of my nose. The anterior of my nose likely has large, fragile, weak blood vessel(s). The prominent vessel on my septum is probably faulty. These deformities combined with a thin lining and a dry nose contributes to my bleeding susceptibility. My sister told me that surgery is an option: a doctor will treat my septum with silver nitrate or electric cautery to shrink the vessel and thicken up the nasal lining.

“Want me set up an appointment with an Otolaryngologist?”
“No thanks, hold off. I don’t mind it that much.”

Years have passed since this conversation…

Bleed on.


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Louvre Pyramid Turns 30


Last week I wrote an article for Agence France-Presse, which was published 4 days ago as “From outrage to icon: Paris marks 30 years of Louvre’s pyramid.” Below is the original article, before the editors changed it. 1 minute read:

Thirty years ago the Louvre Pyramid was called a cultural desecration, with journalists and the Parisian public calling for an insurrection against the structure, but today the monument is celebrated as a resounding success.

The initial hate for the Louvre Pyramid has been transformed so completely into iconic admiration that the Parisian street artist, JR, has created his second exhibit involving the pyramid. The exhibit was revealed last Friday and has been subsequently shredded by tourists.

The idea for renovating the Louvre came from the charismatic Jack Lang, who in 1981 wrote President François Mitterrand saying, “It would be a good idea to start recreating the Grand Louvre by allocating all the buildings to museums.” Mitterrand scribbled back in a letter, “Good idea, but it’s difficult to realize good ideas.”

Jack Lang continued to push for a renovation, writing that, “The Napoleon courtyard was a terrible parking lot. The museum was handicapped by the lack of a central entrance.” Mitterrand gave in to the requests and hired the architect, Ieo Ming Pei. Mitterrand had always admired Pei’s work in the United States, which included Pei’s modernist extension to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Dallas City Hall. 

When I.M. Pei’s model of the pyramid was revealed to the French public in 1984, Jack Lang remembers “an explosion of screams.” The journalist André Fermigier called the design “a house of death.” The academician Jean Dutourd wrote that “uncle wants to be the first pharaoh in our history.” And three historians, Antioine Schnapper, Sébastien Loste, and Bruno Foucart published a book of essays entitled, “Mystified Paris. The great illusion of the Great Louvre.”

The criticisms were focused less on the enlargement of the Louvre as about the aesthetics of the contemporary architecture clashing with the Napoleon III setting. I.M. Pei had never worked on a historic building before.
Pei remembers one architectural meeting that was “a terrible session,” where an expert shouted at him, “You are not in Dallas now!” His critics didn’t seem to care that he had won the Prtizker Prize in 1983, the “Nobel of architecture.”

“I received many angry glances in the streets of Paris,” Pei later said, confessing that “after the Louvre I thought no project would be too difficult.”

Pei’s genius was to link the three wings of the world’s most visited museum with vast underground galleries bathed in light from his glass and steel pyramid.

For its current Chairman and CEO Jean-Luc Martinez, the pyramid is a masterpiece that helped turned the museum around. “The Louvre is the only museum in the world whose entrance is a work of art,” he said “and the pyramid has become the symbol of a museum resolutely turned towards the future.”

Pei’s original design was intended for two million annual visitors. Last year 10.2 million people visited the Louvre. This year I.M. Pei is 102 years old, and continues to enjoy the success of his work, which is admired for its beautiful modernity as much as the ancient art it introduces.

The Louvre was not the first museum in Paris to experience hate that was turned to love. The Arche de la Défense, the Centre Pompidou, and the Eiffel Tower all experienced lashing disapproval at the time of their births. In 1887, the Eiffel Tower was attacked by a group of intellectuals (including Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant) who published a letter in the newspaper Le Temps protesting against the building, calling it “Useless…monstrous…and an odious column of sheet metal with bolts.” And like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre would survive the barrage of criticism to become one of the most popular structures in the world and a shining symbol of Paris.

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