4000 Years of Medicine

6 06 2012

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Mike Watt on Life, Death and Art

16 05 2012
Mike Watt – The man in the van with a bass in his hand.  For quite awhile now, Watt has been a lighthouse in the midst of my creative ocean – not steering me to the safety of the shore, but steering me away from it to untapped regions of the unknown where beautiful things can be born if you are brave enough to plant and water the seeds.  I’ve spoken about him in other posts so I won’t beat the same old stories to death here.  Suffice to say, he’s one very creative individual who has a beautiful mind and I’ve considered myself extremely fortunate to be able to interact with him now and again.  The world would benefit from more Mike Watts…I’ll leave it at that and move on to this recent interview with him:
Pic I took from the most recent missingmen 3rd opera tour in Philly
JS: Back in September I came down with a serious infection that took me about 5 months to fight off.  It changed my outlook on a lot of things and really spurred  me to make some long overdue lifestyle changes.  You had your own experience with a seriousness illness back in 2000.  Can you talk a little about that and how that experience spurred change in you?
WATT:  yes, the experience twelve years ago with that illness provided both the inspiration for my second opera and helped make me even more earnest to make as much work as I can with the time I’ve got left.  it was very profound feelings of mortality that shook me to my core. I was only fortytwo and still had so much more I wanted to do.  it was intense for me, big time.
JS:  I’ve come to realize from being sick that I’ve been terrified of pain all of my life and will go to great lengths to avoid it.  What do you think pain teaches us?
WATT:  I was born with bad knees and had much much pain there, surgeries in my twenties.  I think it even helped make me feel more paranoid, waiting for the next “incident” hell and shit like that.  pain can mold us into trippy shapes if we let it dominate us.  it is a tough struggle but seems like a part of the journey.   damn.   probably being born without pain is a challenge also, believe or not.   life is not easy but can be interesting if you put your heart into it.   the physical hells are struggles though, that’s for sure.
JS: We all have our own insecurities and fears.  I often am afraid of opening myself up to strangers in such a public way (as I’ve been doing on this website).  When you have pushed through your own fears in the past what have you found waiting for you on the other side?
WATT:  I got into music to be with my buddy d. boon and he definitely was not so fearful.  this helped me much and I borrowed from him on this, he inspired me to try and be brave but not conceited – he was like that: a very humble man who would try his hardest with expression.  I find when I push some fears away, there’s others waiting so the “fear problem” is never “solved” but rather constantly wrestled.  that’s a trip.
JS:  One of my favorite lyrics from your third opera “hyphenated-man” comes from the song  pinned-to-the-table-man.  “Loss and liberation, forever the connection, forever the question”.  There is so much in that one little sentence.  Can you expand upon the relationship between loss and liberation?  What is the connection and what is the question as you see it?
WATT:  I wrote that in saint petersburg (russia) way after all the other stuff.  in fact I recorded the spiel at my pedro pad when I got back cuz everything had done been done at tony maimone’s studio g in brooklyn already.  the problem was I was “ending” (I say that cuz in theory it’s supposed to be circular and unending) with the “man-shitting-man” part and I realized that folks might take that as the bottom line or some kind of summation/summary of the whole piece.  so what I did was the move the middle (hub) song to the end and instead of having one instrumental as originally planned, I wrote that spiel you refer to and put that part in the middle.  the spiel itself refers to middle years and the idea of reconciliation.  of course not everything can be reconciled and I had to acknowledge that w/a part like that “man-shitting-man” one but in other places, that can happen – even it can be very painful and be a tough lesson to learn.  man treating fellow man inhumanely can’t ever be reconciled in my thinking though, it is huge problem.
angels gate lightouse – April 22, 2008
 Mike Watt 

JS: I’ve really enjoyed your photography over the years.  Some of my favorites like the angels gate lighthouse pics can be found in your new book: mike watt  on and off bass (published by Three Rooms Press).   Have you found any intrinsic similarities between snapping pictures and making music?
WATT:  snapping pictures means trying to capture something you can’t really set up, the way I do it at the crack of dawn on the bicycle or in the kayak.  with composition, you’re more in charge of preparing the situation. there’s more chance involved I think with the pictures and more personal effort with the song stuff.  there are similarities with the idea of refining an expression in a way though, I agree with you there.
JS:  There are also excerpts from your tour diaries as well as some of your poetry in the book.  You have been exploring many different forms of art.  Is there a common thread or underlying drive that spurs you into these seemingly different artistic directions?
WATT:  laurie steelink at track 16 gallery picked the first thirtyfive shots, the three rooms people kat and peter picked the diary entries and the rest of the included images so I think in a way the book is a collaboration.  as for diary writing, I do that on tour to help keep focus and never reread them, so embarrassing to me! that’s the practical side to it.  I guess it is some sort of extension of some of the same stuff in the picture taking and bass plucking too.  I guess the common thread is fucking watt.
JS:  It sometimes appears that for many of us the act of “creating” is encoded into our DNA.  I don’t necessarily mean this in a religious way, but it just seems that we are wired to want to create.  Why do you think human beings find the act of creating, especially art, so important?
Watt:  john coltrane said something about musicians being after a truth and I’m thinking that could apply to the other arts as well.  it’s a search…

JS:  If your vast body of artistic work could only accomplish one thing, what would you want it to be?
Watt: to make folks feel safe to take risks with arts and expression in each of our journeys to find our inside voice and not just flop around in the very shallow pan of marsh, finding ourselves bound up in puppet strings.

~~~~~~~~~

Pic of Watt and me.  I’m over 400 pounds in this pic.  I never posted it before because I have always been ashamed at how out of whack I let my weight get around this time.  Now that I’ve lost some of this weight, it feels a little bit safer.

Mike’s book (it’s awesome, buy yourself a copy) can be purchased here: http://threeroomspress.com/

Mike’s music can be found at itunes, fine music purveyors everywhere and here at his new label: http://clenchedwrench.com/

Info on all things Mike can be found here: http://hootpage.com/

Watt’s podcast of interesting music and ideas here:  http://twfps.com/

(Thanks again Mike!)





There is NO Substitute for Determination

12 03 2012

And so begins week 12 of my plant based lifestyle change.  I’m hesitant to use the term “diet” anymore because diets are something that people try frequently but often don’t have long term success with.  There is a new one every 6 months and the people who develop them cash in.  I’m not saying they won’t work, I’m just saying that they are hard to sustain in the long run.

Although I may modify what I eat a bit here and there in the future, I will continue to eat mostly plant based foods.  There are too many benefits to ever return to the processed garbage I had ben eating in the past.  The increased energy alone has made me a believer.

I lost an additional 3 pounds this week which bring my total weight loss to 53 pounds.  That is a little more than my 7 year old daughter weighs.  When I think about that, it really puts this journey into focus and stuns me at the same time.

People have been asking me “how are you doing it?”.  Unfortunately there is no magic bullet that will bring you long lasting success.  There is no diet, pill, surgery or gym that will work without constant determination.  And frankly, I’ve had little of that up until this point.  I was fortunate enough to get very sick and realize I needed to change.  I knew long before I got sick that my weight was out of control but sometimes a problem seems too big to even know where to start to address it.  That must seem like a copout but that is truly how I felt.  And so getting sick was a huge blessing.  It didn’t feel like it at the time, but isn’t that the way it is with a lot of life’s challenges?  We get past them and see the trials in our rearview mirror and realize they have made us who we are.

For me it was a flick of the switch in my mind.  I just decided one day that I was done with living this way.  And while food was and is one of my biggest joys it was not going to steal away the other parts of my life that I should be enjoying.  I wanted to be active.  I wanted to be able to do things that “normal” sized people could do.  I was never going to go back.  When you get there in your mind, you will know that you have found the very things you need to get you over whatever obstacles you face – willpower and determination.  Once you have found them you will then be well on your way.

Maybe you are not there today and that is okay.  I know what that is like.  Don’t let it stop you from beginning though.  You can start today.  Set a goal to lose one pound.  Just one pound.   Stop eating processed foods.  Incorporate many more plant based foods.  Begin exercising.  You can totally do this. When you get there, go for another pound.  And keep going until you’re getting to where you want to be.  And it is hard, but don’t wait until your body starts to fail you to make the change.  Do it while you can.  Do it now.  I have a long, long way to go.  I have to set mini goals of 5 and 10 pounds otherwise it would seem too great a challenge to face.  Remember anything is possible with enough determination.  When you want something bad enough, you will find a way to get it done.  There is no other substitute for your determination.





Heading in the Right Direction

27 02 2012

And so begins week 10 of a switch to a plant based diet. I lost a pound this week which brings the total to over 47 pounds lost through diet, exercise and sickness. Trying to hit the 50 pounds down mark has proven to be difficult, but I’m making changes to facilitate it so we’ll see what happens. I feel pretty good that this will be the week that I see the plateau crumble and see some serious weight loss start up again. Limiting plant based fats like seeds and nuts and cutting out oils all together while increasing exercise should help to make make the difference.

As someone of an italian heritage, I’ve grown up around olive oil and it is used in an awful lot of meals. I thought for sure that switching away from it would prove difficult but it has not been. I’m using veggie broth to saute with and I am enjoying the natural taste of my veggies now. Very often in the past, asparagus would be covered with a coating of egg, breadcrumbs and cheese or wrapped with bacon or with a glaze of some sort. Don’t misunderstand me, bacon makes everything taste better, but it’s also nice to eat these vegetables and be able to just taste their natural flavors. Over the weekend I used broth to make an asparagus and zucchini wrap with dijon mustard that was amazingly good. I’m using alternatives for salad dressing and enjoying the the results more than I did when I was using oil. I recently heard about a semi-local retailer that is selling 13 year old vinegars that are reportedly so good, nothing else is needed for a fantastic salad dressing. I’ll be eager to check that out at some point. It’s interesting that when you cut out a lot of the processed foods, fats and oils, you feel like your taste for things really begins to more fully develop. I recently had a small portion of macaroni with no sauce or any other topping and it was the most enjoyable pasta that I have eaten in quite a while. A few moths ago, I would of rejected the idea of plain pasta, but now it is an absolute treat.

I thought I’d be upset about not getting further along this week but I’m slowly getting to the point where I feel like weight loss cannot be the only measure of success. “Further along” is relative. I feel good, so good that how I feel must also be factored in. And as long as I’m heading in the right direction with my weight, thats fine by me.





Diet Change and the Changing Senses

13 02 2012

And so begins the eighth week of a plant based lifestyle change in an effort to cut massive weight and reverse some nagging health issues.  Last week I lost an additional 3 pounds which brings the total to 45 pounds lost since sickness and diet switch.  I’d love to lose 5 more by Sunday night and hit the 50 pounds down mark.  It would be a nice round number only 8 weeks in.

There have been so many great benefits of beginning to lose this weight.  My clothes fit so much better and I’m getting close again to moving down another pants size.  These were the type of results I was excited about when the weight started to come off.  The other physical results though have been more surprising.

Yesterday I did this:

Ok, so not quite, but the energy bump is still incredible.  I’m eating no meat and no dairy and yet I feel amazing!  I was speaking to a friend yesterday who has recently made a vegetarian switch and he said that the “afternoon crash” has been a thing of the past since the change in diet.  I have found the same.  It’s nice to not feel like you are crawling through the day.  I’m a big nap person and I do still enjoy a nap on the weekends but I’m down to maybe 1 or 2 a week instead of sleeping every chance I can get as I had been doing in the past.

My sense of taste has changed too,  I can taste food so much more clearly now.  It’s like someone wiped the grime of my tastebuds.  I feel like I’m relearning how fruits and veggies really taste.  I’m not sure of the science behind it but somehow my body’s taste buds have reset themselves.  In the same way, I’m not craving sweets like I used to (except for donuts -that is a weakness that may never be rooted out).  I have on many occasions lately,  found myself craving healthy options like a grilled portobello in the middle of the day.

My sense of smell which was always good has tremendously improved.  Even the air smells crisper.  Recently while walking from the parking lot towards my local grocery store, I could smell the bakery inside making fresh donuts (It’s those damn donuts again!!).  This has never happened in the 8 years I have shopped there.  At the same time, the smell of ground beef browning now makes me feel nauseous.  I don’t think this is all in my mind.  My body is changing in the way it looks and in the way it operates.  This is becoming a great adventure!

Have a great day and:





The Cure for Clogged Pipes

10 02 2012

A friend sent this video my way earlier this week.  It was very eerie watching it because these three things (Ramen Noodles, Gummi Bears and blue Gatorade) were absolute staples in my diet before making the switch to a plant based lifestyle.   This could have absolutely been one of my dinners.   I could eat 2-3 packs of noodles in one large bowl, have a few bags of gummi bears and wash it down with 64oz of Gatorade.  It’s no wonder I ended up getting sick. The body cannot properly run on this.

If nothing else, the study shows how much more difficulty the body has breaking down the processed food.  Now imagine everything we buy at the grocery store.  How much of that is processed?  So many of the foods available in grocery stores are processed in some way.  Companies need to cut their losses and have this stuff stay on the shelf while maintaining its quality until it sells.  And we are fortunate enough to get to pay for it twice – once at the register and then again as our bodies work overtime to digest it.

I sometimes think about the traditional diet that humankind has eaten for thousands of years and then what we have consumed for the last 60.  How vastly different these two diets are.  How cancer, diabetes and heart disease all sprung up as epidemics within the last few generations.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence.  How do our bodies even make sense of these chemicals that we feed them on a nearly daily basis?  When this is the fuel that you put in your tank, you can’t be angry at your body when it refuses to perform the way you would like it to.








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