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February 15, 2008

Social Design Issue: My Roommate

Blog Prompt #2

update: Not to be outdone, my former roommate actually managed to assault one of her friends, slashing her in the face so badly that paramedics had to come. She was escorted out of the dorm by two police officers. Will she get kicked out? Dunno, but lord knows the world is fucked when that chick walks the street...

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Ex-Roommate, actually.

Honestly, it was the first thing that came to mind. I’m sure it’s a petty thing to say, but since all but a handful of people are NOT going to be reading this I figure I can say it without the whole world retaliating against me. If you met her I don’t think you would blame me, though. I figure as long as I keep her anonymous and don’t slander her actual name I could potentially be within appropriate moral boundaries.

But after thinking about it for a while I actually do have a point which this blog will eventually elucidate.

Here are some of the things that I hate about my former roommate:

1. She’s stupid.
 subpoint: I once said to her “You need to stop being a heinous bitch to me, okay?? and she replied, verbatim (with a nasty little sneer on her face): “You know you should actually use words that I know the meaning of.? At this point I asked myself earnestly how the fuck did she get into college?? -10 points for CLA.
2. She’s ignorant.
 I was talking to her when she made the comment that her friend had left her phone in some ‘retarded Somali’s cab’. I pointed out to her that mentioning he was Somali was an arbitrary point and the fact that she emphasized it was racist. She looked at me and said something along the lines of “…but all Somalis are dumb as fuck.? Wow. After that point her drug dealer boyfriend started talking about how honestly white people have earned their higher status in the world. That’s why blacks and Asians were our slaves. I told him he was racist. He said that he wasn’t racist; all black people really are douche bags. Yeah he doesn’t go to college.
3. She’s irresponsible.
 She’s dating a drug dealer. He’s Russian and his first name is Igor. That’s kind of racist, too, but I find that it makes for a much more colorful story. No one has been able to beat the line “…my roommate’s dating a Russian drug dealer. Named Igor? yet.
 She’s dating a white supremacist. That’s pretty self explanatory.
 She failed/dropped out of two out of four classes last semester, mostly because she never went to class. She liked to watch ‘The Hills’ a lot. And ‘Gossip Girls’.


4. She’s an alcoholic.
 Nobody gets shit-faced on a Monday night unless they live on Frat Row. She could drink a football player under the table.
5. She’s a sociopath.
 http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Psychopathy
6. She’s white trash.


So I ask myself how someone becomes like this? She’s a wreck. She sort of epitomizes my image of what it is to warrant contempt in this life. Why does a person go to such great lengths to destroy their own potential for success? The way she lives her life is only headed for misery. True misery, the kind that is rife with acrid relationships, abuse, and addiction. This is the kind of person she chooses to be? After living with her for several months I can tell that she has a low self-esteem, no responsible adults in her life (lets just say I’ve met her mom and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree), and a lot of mood issues, probably bipolar. It’s a cocktail for antisocial behavior, the kind of mindset that promotes and enables petty crimes, the kind of person who says there’s a sucker born every minute. I think that in order to make her life worth living before the shit hits the fan she really needs to get help. She could benefit a lot from getting mental health treatment. But also refuses to do so because she doesn’t see a problem.

Misery is one of the greatest motivators of wrong intentions. The same type of thing plagues the lives of a lot of people. There are a lot of people with treatable mental illnesses who fuck up a lot of lives, most of all their own. But what about their children? Their spouses? Depression and bipolar disorder are the culprits behind so much substance abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction. Disruptive behavior. Violence in relationships. Child abuse. Rape. Chronic atrocities, crimes that are committed in the privacy of one’s own home. Untreated mental health disorders contribute to countless other social design issues and I think tends to be compartmentalized as entirely separate from those issues, but really it’s a pretty fucking big deal.

However, one session of therapy can cost well over $100. A visit to the E.R. costs thousands out of pocket. There is an extreme shortage of beds in hospital psych wards, which will turn away more patients than they let in or send them to hospitals hundreds of miles away. Likewise there aren’t nearly enough psychiatrists in Minnesota to meet the demand of people in immediate need. There is intense criticism that antidepressants are severely over prescribed, however one must keep in mind that most of these prescriptions are being filled by general practitioners who are providing immediate help since it takes several months to get in with a psychiatrist in order to get a prescription from him/her.

“The high cost of health care makes treatment out of reach for many people. Those who do not have health insurance — more than 38 million Americans — often avoid treatment entirely, because costs can be staggering.?

So the problem is twofold: there is a stigma of weakness associated with mental illness which prevents people from acknowledging their problems or seeking treatment as well as a shortage of practitioners capable of helping these people in the first place. Plus, if one doesn't have good reliable health insurance there is no way they can afford to seek treatment. This simply proliferates the suffering of lower economic classes.

"Up to 80% of those treated for depression show an improvement in their symptoms generally within four to six weeks of beginning medication, psychotherapy, attending support groups or a combination of these treatments. (National Institute of Health, 1998)
Despite its high treatment success rate, nearly two out of three people suffering with depression do not actively seek nor receive proper treatment. (DBSA, 1996)
An estimated 50% of unsuccessful treatment for depression is due to medical non-compliance. Patients stop taking their medication too soon due to unacceptable side effects, financial factors, fears of addiction and/or short-term improvement of symptoms, leading them to believe that continuing treatment is unnecessary. (DBSA, 1999)"

It seems that mental illness treatment is not considered on par with other more “legitimate? forms of healthcare. It is true that the lines are far more blurred when it comes to diagnosing and treating mental illness, but its effects are not simply personal, they are entirely tangible and arise in many forms that plague the everyday lives of countless others.

All hail web developers

Do you know what a flaming bitch it is to work with movable type?? I find the idea that we should design the layout of our own blogs preposterous after having done so I can say with all conviction that it was more effort than it was worth. HTML and CSS can kiss my lily white ass.


I would highly suggest using this plugin: to aid in the process, without which I could not have done this at all, but be wary I didn't get to my own final product without extensive tweaking.

February 7, 2008

The Tokyo Zoo


I could try to write something impressive. But I'm not an impressive person. Well maybe I am but not in the sense that architects and the many potento-architects (yes, I did make up that term and while I'm spouting crap I might as well mention that I loathe the pretentious air that seems to pervade the profession of architecture. Architects make buildings, not babies, it's not that mind-blowing...) in this class seem to revere. There's a list of men that I'm supposed to know about. I don't know about them. I live right next to the Weisman so I ought to know something about Frank Gehry


...I haven't stepped into that building since I went on a field trip there in fifth grade.

Some people say art is dead. I say art is dead to the poor. The grand struggle to survive leaves little room for aesthetics. To dig ourselves out of the deep miry depths of practicality and give in to our more base and instinctual properties seems at once vain and necessary.


In a Biology lecture I once heard my professor say that if you picked up Tokyo, flipped it over, and shook it an amazing plethora of animals would fall out:


tigers, monkeys, maybe a panda,


a lot of unnaturally huge snakes, chickens, a couple parrots, a reindeer,


possibly some komodo dragons.

The point in mentioning it really is that "nature" has a way of existing in and regardless of the man-made world. What separates man and nature? What makes the city so vital and yet so lifeless? So void of the exciting variety of things eating and progenerating with each other? It's not much. It's an idea. The reality is that man cannot exist outside the realms of nature. All things are natural. You can pile rock upon rock until you build something as ridiculously tall as the Empire State Building, but eventually the stone will crumble and the steel will rust. In the same way we can take some sort of morbid pleasure/levity in the crumbling of buildings in the thralls of nature in Jakarta, Pompeii, Pakistan, New Orleans. The city is an idea more than it is a practical reality. Sewer grate facades that hide the more tangible ebbs and flows of our animalistic nature.

As a facade and an idea that is firmly planted in disreality I see the "city" as stagnant and unwielding; the idea of energy, flow, movement, change and transformation all seem to undermine what I immediately imagine as the city. Things move within the city but the city itself carries with it a great air of permanence, inflexibility.

Andy Goldsworthy reveled in the destruction of his temporary structures. At first I though he was just some weird moron (he is so childlike!) but then I thought to myself: why not? It's not as though the construct of any other piece of art, David or the Parthenon, the Venus di Milo, makes all that much sense either; the most his art lacks in regards to public acknowledgement of his methods is a lack a precedent. It really struck me how he could make something so beautiful and then let it wash away in an afternoon, and his radical acceptance of the impermanence of all things is the point on which I choose to extend my thoughts.

As all things are natural, the city must at some basic level be a complex emulation of nature by man. Plants and animals are indomitable, they are the source of the energy that traverses cities, and so it seems that there is a disjunction between how the city interacts with us and how we want it to. Like nails on a blackboard there is a grating friction between the nature of change, nature itself, and the way we try to interact with our own environment and use its resources. Just as there is a conservation of energy in physics, if you build a monument to the permanancy of a place made to funtion for our specific purposes (i.e. a building) eventually there will be no resources left to build anything else for the new purposes that must arise in conjunction with the nature of change. Just as buildings make up the landscape of a city, so a city embodies the idea of permanancy and stability, which is, to me, grossly out of bounds of the true parameters of reality.

In any case, after we blow ourselves up, I have faith that there will still be animals and plants and things that will grow and adapt and overtake the skeletons of our failed human experiment. It's a bit pretentious of us to think that we have that much authority here on earth. Our cities are not as powerful and influential as we might think. It's an unnerving thought, but it helps me to get through the day without worrying too much about the future of life here on's nice to not have to be responsible for the future of the world. I think I'll just try my best.


"Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." - Benjamin Franklin