A Few Answers To Questions You Always Wondered About

November 23, 2016 | 4 Comments » | Topics: Answers, Interesting

What the hell are hipsters?

Hipster culture is a reaction against perceived cultural trends of inauthenticity and superficiality. In a hyper commoditized world where commercial motives permeate every layer of the cultural fabric and advertising and lobbying dollars make everything in mainstream society suspect or of questionable motives, hipster culture has arisen to offer an alternative set of values and attitudes.

Hipster culture is primarily built on two behaviors: the fetishization of authenticity, coupled with a derisive, dismissive and ironic rejection of everything that doesn’t fit within that narrow category.

The hipster concept of “authenticity” is complex but largely based on i) age, where objects or ideas older than a few decades are perceived to be more authentic as they sprang from a culture less corrupted by commercialization, and ii) a spartan kind of utility, where bare-bones items are seen as less commercially exploitative and thus more reliable.

Thus, hipster culture embraces fixed-gear bikes, mechanical typewriters, folk music, drinking from mason jars and vinyl records as they are all perceived to be both old and spartan. It also embraces things like mustaches and vintage clothes (just old), and apple products (just perceived to be of extreme simplicity).

The primary desire for authenticity also manifests more directly. Thus, hipster culture idolizes the true or realincarnation of things which have been commoditized and corrupted by consumer society. This category includes gourmet coffee, gourmet wine, organic food, micro-brewed beer etc.

When it comes to objects or ideas outside of the categories hipster culture embraces, it rejects them fiercely, either with hostility (Windows PCs, watching TV, working in an office and wearing a suit etc.), or by co-opting them under the banner of irony and adopting them as self-consciously “lame” (tri-wolf tee shirts, wearing gaudy fake jewelry etc.)

But as hipster culture has grown in popularity and has itself become more mainstream, the central definitions of these various concepts have shifted from being chiefly substantive (or at least, substantive based on dubious perception) to being chiefly aesthetic. Being seen to be authentic has become more important even within hipster culture than authenticity itself.

The real irony is that hipster culture is now aided and abetted by mainstream culture itself, as products and services are offered that appeal to the aesthetic sense of authenticity while being wholly of the commercial and inauthentic nature that hipster culture sprang up in reaction against. The waters are further muddied by some factions of hipster culture co-opting and subverting aspects of “faux” hipster culture to mock it in by the same method original hipster culture mocked mainstream culture.

To bring this back to the original example of a mason jar with a handle being given away by a microbrewery: originally, drinking from a mason jar was adopted by hipsters because it rejected commercialism by repurposing something that might otherwise be thrown away and because it harked back to some kind of Southern rural idyll that was perceived to be less corrupted by the commercialization of society. But as the substantive reasons for using a mason jar have given way to aesthetic reasons for drinking from a mason jar, those original arguments have become irrelevant. Thus, it’s possible to i) use a mason jar with a handle, which completely perverts the original appeal of spartan utility, and ii) buy a mason jar drinking vessel, which completely perverts the original appeal of repurposing waste and rejecting commercialism.

Or something.



Why are the same people who are so publically against homosexuality, likely to be caught having gay sex?

If you think being gay is a choice, you’re most likely bisexual.

If you think gay sex is a temptation that everyone is just resisting, you’re most likely gay.

Imagine you’re bisexual. Inside your head you know being gay is a choice, because you’re equally attracted to both sexes, and you are making a choice to be straight. So anti-gay bisexual people would naturally project this onto everyone. They think everyone thinks like them, and therefore everyone is bisexual and therefore being gay is a choice.

Same with closeted and in denial gays. They think everyone is just resisting the totally natural urge for gay sex. So they preach hard about resisting the urge, and making the “right choice” because they themselves are constantly fighting the urge…

They don’t realize that straight people don’t have any homosexual urges, and it’s not a fucking choice. So they get all upset that “the gay agenda” is going to turn everyone gay.

(Pictured) North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Steve Wiles campaigned heavily on his anti-gay beliefs and his support of the state’s same sex marriage ban. However, in May 2014, news broke that just over a decade ago, he worked as an openly gay drag queen and drag-show emcee at Club Odyssey, a gay-friendly Winston-Salem lounge. In addition to emcee, Wiles also directed the show, and in prior years was a frequent attendee and performed under the stage name “Miss Mona Sinclair.” Wiles also worked as a promoter for the 2011 Miss Gay America pageant.



What’s it like to take part in an Ayahuasca ceremony?

The first time I heard about Ayahuasca was in a Rolling Stone article and it did not paint a pretty picture: sitting blindfolded in a dark room, puking into buckets, and wearing adult diapers. I suppose in an attempt at journalistic fairness the author talked about both the psychedelic wonders of the experience and also the corridors of hell. I found the article terrifying.

A year or so later a close friend of mine had his own experience with the spirit vine and upon telling me about his beautiful adventures he continually prodded me, “When are you going to drink Ayahuasca?” In my mind, not soon, but now at least I had an invitation. Through my ongoing spiritual journey I learned more about the “Grandmother” and after about two years of education I decided it was time for a visit. I asked my friend if he could help arrange an upcoming session and two months later I found myself in an Ayahuasca healing ceremony with a Peruvian Shaman direct from the Amazon. 

I arrived at the temple about an hour or so before the ceremony was to begin. There were twenty total participants and everyone was setting up little beds – mattress pads, blankets, pillows, personal “power objects” and everyone had a small white bucket for purging into. Another first-timer friend of mind accompanied me for the journey. The group was arranged in a U-shaped circle and with not much room left so my friend and I arranged ourselves at opposite ends of the U with the Shaman between us. Later I discovered that my friend and I were the only two virgin Ayahuascaros of the group. I found it pleasing that the two of us ended up at the opposite anchors of the circle and next to the Shaman. 

The Shaman spoke for about twenty or thirty minutes about what we were embarking upon. He blessed the Ayahuasca, called in the four spirits, and then called us up one by one to receive our dosage. I was the last of the group to get the medicine. I was relatively calm in those final moments but had plenty of anxiety beforehand. I had been preparing for the experience a long time with a special recommended diet of no salt, no dairy, no refined sugar, no red meat or pork, no alcohol, no sex, no drugs of any kind, and also meditation in both the morning and evening. 

I knelt down to receive my brew. Knowing it was my first time the Shaman asked me through a translator, “Do you have experience with other psychedelics?” I said, “Yes.” “Are you sensitive?” I said, “No,” but haltingly. He poured a dark brown gooey liquid from one container into a thimble shot glass like cup – he looked me in the eyes – poured a bit more from a second container – looked me in the eyes – and then poured a bit back into the container. I felt he was sensing some kind of innocence and I trusted his dosing completely. I drank the goo, which tasted like battery acid mixed with echinachia extract. I thanked him and sat down on my mat. 

We sat in silence for about thirty minutes. I was not feeling any effects besides intense anticipation. The sun had now receded and total darkness descended upon the room. I breathed and closed my eyes and after 30 or 40 minutes it began. 

I started to see geometric like patterns. Something was happening. I heard someone purge. It was my friend. “Oh no. Is he okay? Here we go,” I thought. The Shaman began shaking a rattle and singing. The visuals rapidly increased into a multi-colored, fractal, ever changing Tron-like laser light show moving at hyper speed. It was amazing but fast. Soon I felt a buzzing of energy around me that was incredibly strong. I got very hot and uncomfortable. I was sweating profusely and I couldn’t find relief – just too hot. I began to accept the fact that I would likely have to throw up. I was having a hard time with it. I reached in the darkness for my little white bucket and put it between my legs. As the buzzing grew and against the cacophony of the light show I heard a voice – a cheerful little spirit – it said, “Okay, so we’re going to do this and it won’t be that bad and after it’s over with things are just going to be great, are you ready?” I mumbled a weak “Okay.” The voice added, “No don’t think about it too much we’ll just get it over with, ok, here we go…” And then I purged. Considering I had been fasting for the previous twenty-four hours all that came up was the same Ayahuasca battery acid and a little bit of water. It came out in an explosion of colors and a wild burst of energy. I heaved as much as I could, tried to clean myself up, and lay back down in a fetal position with my puke bucket as my new best friend. 

I lay there on my side and entered hyperspace. The Absolute. I immediately felt better. One of the three sitters in the room changed out my bucket. It was so strong. A muscular force that was lifting me into another dimension. I had no idea where we were going next – I just focused on my breathing: long slow breaths in through the nose, out through the mouth. This was my lifeblood. My meditation practice before the journey was invaluable. Being able to continually return to by breath and release thoughts helped steer the balance of my sanity. The more I was able to breath with total purity – without thought or judgment – the more I slipped into ecstatic enlightenment. I could feel little flittering floating elf like creatures buzzing around me and pulling away layers of beauty. 

The music was beautiful and the Shaman was seemingly everywhere. Sometimes I would sing along with his songs to help regulate my breathing. I would hang onto his singing like a life preserver in a stormy ocean. His rhythm was incredible. He would sing a song and then stop for what seemed like long stretches of time when I could forget there was any music before at all. And in the pauses was total silence as we gently rocked in a womb of absolute being. 

I felt we were in a hall or pantheon of cosmic peace and wisdom – an infinite space of pure thoughtless being. All twenty of us were there together, all absolutely in the same space, all breathing together – in and out. It was incredible. A room of souls just hanging out in Timelessness, purring and utterly connected. If someone was in need – in pain or purging – we would breath for him or her and bring the individual back into the space. I realized that we were taking turns breathing for one other – we took turns at many tasks, looking after one another – so we could all do the “work” that needed to be done. I found this to be a poignant model for building community on planet Earth: each of us taking care of one another, taking turns, trading, sharing, not waiting or expecting, pure giving. 

Throughout the ceremony my mind, my ego, was a masterful clever fellow. I saw my mind as a separate sentient being with thirty-one years of experience and it would use unbelievable complex tricks to grab my attention. Anytime I found myself “thinking” and falling down an uncomfortable void of anxiety I would (as in meditation) return to the breath – in and out – and almost instantly the bliss returned, the cosmic knowledge returned: “this is the lesson, this is your being.” The never ending back and forth from our minds to our body, from our ego to our souls, from our thoughts to our breath, is an endless lesson in forgiveness – I was learning how to let go and surrender to what is, to the moment, absent of any punishment or perceived outcome. I felt profound forgiveness. I felt a lifetime of judgment and guilt for all my perceived shortcomings and apparent failures disintegrate in one breath. The simplicity ushered absolute peace. Just one breath and it was gone. 

At one point I felt the voice return and it said, “Do you want to know what enlightenment is?” “Yes,” I replied. I took another slow deep thoughtless breath and understood it in pure manifestation. “There it is, it’s as simple as that” replied the voice, “and it’s with you at every moment.” It’s all inside us – enlightenment is as simple as letting go of your mind – letting go of attachment to yourself, to outcomes, to just letting go to the way things are. But the realization wasn’t a rejection of my ego. Instead it’s about embracing the false duality of our existence with compassion. 

The songs continued. The journey pressed on. Sometimes other people offered music. Much of it was transcendent: antique guitars, chimes, solo voices, flutes, and myself with a drum. 

Throughout the ceremony I sometimes wondered how long it had been or how much longer it would continue but such “thoughts” only brought discomfort and I found them to be yet another trick of the mind. The Shaman came over to me at one point and put his hand on my head and whispered in my ear, “How are you?” “I’m listening to you, I’m here, I’m listening,” I whispered. He blew something around me and under my shirt and I felt as if gold rain was washing away all my fears, all menacing spirits, and I melted into surrender with bottomless gratitude. 

The absence of validation and judgment with the embracing of total surrender and forgiveness for the Self and others (many times being the same thing) was a critical lesson. I felt this was the ticket to the highway of eternity. Forgive myself, let go, and breath – in and out. 



What was it like to live with Robin Williams during the last years of his life?

This is a personal story, sadly tragic and heartbreaking, but by sharing this information with you I know that you can help make a difference in the lives of others.

As you may know, my husband Robin Williams had the little-known but deadly Lewy body disease (LBD). He died from suicide in 2014 at the end of an intense, confusing, and relatively swift persecution at the hand of this disease’s symptoms and pathology. He was not alone in his traumatic experience with this neurologic disease. As you may know, almost 1.5 million nationwide are suffering similarly right now.

Although not alone, his case was extreme. Not until the coroner’s report, 3 months after his death, would I learn that it was diffuse LBD that took him. All 4 of the doctors I met with afterwards and who had reviewed his records indicated his was one of the worst pathologies they had seen. He had about 40% loss of dopamine neurons and almost no neurons were free of Lewy bodies throughout the entire brain and brainstem.

Robin is and will always be a larger-than-life spirit who was inside the body of a normal man with a human brain. He just happened to be that 1 in 6 who is affected by brain disease.

Not only did I lose my husband to LBD, I lost my best friend. Robin and I had in each other a safe harbor of unconditional love that we had both always longed for. For 7 years together, we got to tell each other our greatest hopes and fears without any judgment, just safety. As we said often to one another, we were each other’s anchor and mojo: that magical elixir of feeling grounded and inspired at the same time by each other’s presence.

One of my favorite bedrock things we would do together was review how our days went. Often, this was more than just at the end of the day. It did not matter if we were both working at home, traveling together, or if he was on the road. We would discuss our joys and triumphs, our fears and insecurities, and our concerns. Any obstacles life threw at us individually or as a couple were somehow surmountable because we had each other.

When LBD began sending a firestorm of symptoms our way, this foundation of friendship and love was our armor.

The colors were changing and the air was crisp; it was already late October of 2013 and our second wedding anniversary. Robin had been under his doctors’ care. He had been struggling with symptoms that seemed unrelated: constipation, urinary difficulty, heartburn, sleeplessness and insomnia, and a poor sense of smell—and lots of stress. He also had a slight tremor in his left hand that would come and go. For the time being, that was attributed to a previous shoulder injury.

On this particular weekend, he started having gut discomfort. Having been by my husband’s side for many years already, I knew his normal reactions when it came to fear and anxiety. What would follow was markedly out of character for him. His fear and anxiety skyrocketed to a point that was alarming. I wondered privately, Is my husband a hypochondriac? Not until after Robin left us would I discover that a sudden and prolonged spike in fear and anxiety can be an early indication of LBD.

He was tested for diverticulitis and the results were negative. Like the rest of the symptoms that followed, they seemed to come and go at random times. Some symptoms were more prevalent than others, but these increased in frequency and severity over the next 10 months.

By wintertime, problems with paranoia, delusions and looping, insomnia, memory, and high cortisol levels—just to name a few—were settling in hard. Psychotherapy and other medical help was becoming a constant in trying to manage and solve these seemingly disparate conditions.

I was getting accustomed to the two of us spending more time in reviewing our days. The subjects though were starting to fall predominantly in the category of fear and anxiety. These concerns that used to have a normal range of tenor were beginning to lodge at a high frequency for him. Once the coroner’s report was reviewed, a doctor was able to point out to me that there was a high concentration of Lewy bodies within the amygdala. This likely caused the acute paranoia and out-of-character emotional responses he was having. How I wish he could have known why he was struggling, that it was not a weakness in his heart, spirit, or character.

In early April, Robin had a panic attack. He was in Vancouver, filming Night at the Museum 3. His doctor recommended an antipsychotic medication to help with the anxiety. It seemed to make things better in some ways, but far worse in others. Quickly we searched for something else. Not until after he left us would I discover that antipsychotic medications often make things worse for people with LBD. Also, Robin had a high sensitivity to medications and sometimes his reactions were unpredictable. This is apparently a common theme in people with LBD.

During the filming of the movie, Robin was having trouble remembering even one line for his scenes, while just 3 years prior he had played in a full 5-month season of the Broadway production Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, often doing two shows a day with hundreds of lines—and not one mistake. This loss of memory and inability to control his anxiety was devastating to him.

While I was on a photo shoot at Phoenix Lake, capturing scenes to paint, he called several times. He was very concerned with insecurities he was having about himself and interactions with others. We went over every detail. The fears were unfounded and I could not convince him otherwise. I was powerless in helping him see his own brilliance.

For the first time, my own reasoning had no effect in helping my husband find the light through the tunnels of his fear. I felt his disbelief in the truths I was saying. My heart and my hope were shattered temporarily. We had reached a place we had never been before. My husband was trapped in the twisted architecture of his neurons and no matter what I did I could not pull him out.

In early May, the movie wrapped and he came home from Vancouver—like a 747 airplane coming in with no landing gear. I have since learned that people with LBD who are highly intelligent may appear to be okay for longer initially, but then, it is as though the dam suddenly breaks and they cannot hold it back anymore. In Robin’s case, on top of being a genius, he was a Julliard-trained actor. I will never know the true depth of his suffering, nor just how hard he was fighting. But from where I stood, I saw the bravest man in the world playing the hardest role of his life.

Robin was losing his mind and he was aware of it. Can you imagine the pain he felt as he experienced himself disintegrating? And not from something he would ever know the name of, or understand? Neither he, nor anyone could stop it—no amount of intelligence or love could hold it back.

Powerless and frozen, I stood in the darkness of not knowing what was happening to my husband. Was it a single source, a single terrorist, or was this a combo pack of disease raining down on him?

He kept saying, “I just want to reboot my brain.” Doctor appointments, testing, and psychiatry kept us in perpetual motion. Countless blood tests, urine tests, plus rechecks of cortisol levels and lymph nodes. A brain scan was done, looking for a possible tumor on his pituitary gland, and his cardiologist rechecked his heart. Everything came back negative, except for high cortisol levels. We wanted to be happy about all the negative test results, but Robin and I both had a deep sense that something was terribly wrong.

On May 28th, he was diagnosed with Parkinson disease (PD).

We had an answer. My heart swelled with hope. But somehow I knew Robin was not buying it.

When we were in the neurologist’s office learning exactly what this meant, Robin had a chance to ask some burning questions. He asked, “Do I have Alzheimer’s? Dementia? Am I schizophrenic?” The answers were the best we could have gotten: No, no, and no. There were no indications of these other diseases. It is apparent to me now that he was most likely keeping the depth of his symptoms to himself.

Robin continued doing all the right things—therapy, physical therapy, bike riding, and working out with his trainer. He used all the skills he picked up and had fine-tuned from the Dan Anderson retreat in Minnesota, like deeper 12-step work, meditation, and yoga. We went to see a specialist at Stanford University who taught him self-hypnosis techniques to quell the irrational fears and anxiety. Nothing seemed to alleviate his symptoms for long.

Throughout all of this, Robin was clean and sober, and somehow, we sprinkled those summer months with happiness, joy, and the simple things we loved: meals and birthday celebrations with family and friends, meditating together, massages, and movies, but mostly just holding each other’s hand.

Robin was growing weary. The parkinsonian mask was ever present and his voice was weakened. His left hand tremor was continuous now and he had a slow, shuffling gait. He hated that he could not find the words he wanted in conversations. He would thrash at night and still had terrible insomnia. At times, he would find himself stuck in a frozen stance, unable to move, and frustrated when he came out of it. He was beginning to have trouble with visual and spatial abilities in the way of judging distance and depth. His loss of basic reasoning just added to his growing confusion.

It felt like he was drowning in his symptoms, and I was drowning along with him. Typically the plethora of LBD symptoms appear and disappear at random times—even throughout the course of a day. I experienced my brilliant husband being lucid with clear reasoning 1 minute and then, 5 minutes later, blank, lost in confusion.

Prior history can also complicate a diagnosis. In Robin’s case, he had a history of depression that had not been active for 6 years. So when he showed signs of depression just months before he left, it was interpreted as a satellite issue, maybe connected to PD.

Throughout the course of Robin’s battle, he had experienced nearly all of the 40-plus symptoms of LBD, except for one. He never said he had hallucinations.

A year after he left, in speaking with one of the doctors who reviewed his records, it became evident that most likely he did have hallucinations, but was keeping that to himself.

It was nearing the end of July and we were told Robin would need to have inpatient neurocognitive testing done in order to evaluate the mood disorder aspect of his condition. In the meantime, his medication was switched from Mirapex to Sinemet in an effort to reduce symptoms. We were assured Robin would be feeling better soon, and that his PD was early and mild. We felt hopeful again. What we did not know was that when these diseases “start” (are diagnosed) they have actually been going on for a long time.

By now, our combined sleep deficit was becoming a danger to both of us. We were instructed to sleep apart until we could catch up on our sleep. The goal was to have him begin inpatient testing free of the sleep-deprived state he was in.

As the second weekend in August approached, it seemed his delusional looping was calming down. Maybe the switch in medications was working. We did all the things we love on Saturday day and into the evening, it was perfect—like one long date. By the end of Sunday, I was feeling that he was getting better.

When we retired for sleep, in our customary way, my husband said to me, “Goodnight, my love,” and waited for my familiar reply: “Goodnight, my love.”

His words still echo through my heart today.

Monday, August 11, Robin was gone.