Obsession may be a necessary but not sufficient requirement for success in the arts (and perhaps even elsewhere).
I know quite a few people who later became famous—some a little famous, some more famous. Having known these people in childhood and/or adolescence, I’ve noticed that they all had something in common: obsessive focus on one exclusive interest, and usually that focus began in childhood.
Why am I writing about this now? After seeing the film “La La Land” the other day, I was reading about its writer/director, who was only 30-31 when he made the movie. His extremely youthful age got me to wondering how on earth he could have gotten so far so fast in the movie-making biz. I took in a bunch of articles about him (none of which will be linked here, because I was reading them for fun and didn’t take any notes), all of which indicated that Damien Chazelle (that’s his name) has known since earliest childhood that he wanted to make films.
That’s true despite the fact that Chazelle is smart enough to get into Harvard (his alma mater), and so he must have had a lot of choices. But as he describes it, he knew—practically as a toddler, when he was watching old Disney stuff like “Cinderalla,” the sort of thing just about every kid views—that what he wanted to do with his life was to make films.
That is a highly unusual choice at that age. A lot of teenagers and college students decide they want to make films, but I don’t know of many 5-year-olds see Bambi and think “I want to create something like that.” However, Chazelle was a student of film and film technique from the start, so in a way you could say that by the age of 30 he’d been apprenticing for about 25 years.
In addition, Chazelle met another similarly focused (from early early childhood, that is) young man while at Harvard, composer Justin Hurwitz. And away they went, thinking about the films they’d be creating together, which is exactly what came to pass. I remember reading in some interview or other that Hurwitz was so focused—as a six-year-old—on composing that he’d be up every night for hours doing it, and that his parents had to impose limits on his composing in order for him to get enough sleep even as a young child.
So it’s no accident that the films of Chazelle and Hurwitz (the other film they are known for is “Whiplash”) are about this very thing: focus on a goal in the arts, and the perils and costs of that focus. Although the two have been wildly successful, of course the vast majority of such dreamers are not successful. The musical “A Chorus Line” got that just about right.
Two promising chess-playing siblings [from Iran] have been banned from [national chess] tournaments…after the sister failed to wear a hijab and her brother played an Israeli.
Dorsa and Borna Derakhshani, two of the country’s leading youth chess players, were told they can no longer be part of the national team.
Dorsa, an 18-year-old student in Spain, was banned after she did not wear a head covering during the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival earlier this month.
Her 15-year-old brother, Borna, who still lives in Iran, was told he couldn’t compete after playing a match against Israeli chess player Alexander Husman during the same tournament.
As I said, brave. Here is Dorsa:
The following is apropos of nothing, but she somehow reminds me of pre-Raphaelite paintings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti such as this one:
Posted by neo-neocon at 12:01 pm. Filed under: Iran
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Milo Yiannopoulos has been uniformly excoriated for some remarks he made about sex between older men and teenage boys, in which he indicated that in some cases consent is possible. He’s lost a book deal, a speaking gig at GPAC, and has resigned from Breitbart as a result.
You can find a transcript of his remarks here. Judge for yourself what he said and what he meant, keeping in mind that Yiannopoulos is gay, and that he also claims (and I have no reason to doubt him on this) to have been sexually molested by an older man or men when he was a young teen.
Some have interpreted his remarks as actually advocating cross-generational sex. Such a thing is hardly unheard of (see NAMBLA). But I would instead characterize Yiannapoulos’ remarks as excusing or condoning cross-generational sex under certain circumstances rather than actively advocating it.
Yiannopoulos has claimed that he deplores pedophilia, but that term is defined as the abuse of (and sexual attraction to) children who are not sexually mature, and Yiannopoulos seems to exclude teens (or at least some teens) from that category. In this he shows a failure to appreciate the reason that the law against child abuse includes teens as victims in the crime of sexual abuse, and why physical sexual maturity has little to do with the law of child abuse.
There are several categories of sexual crimes having to do with consent. Rape is probably the first one that comes to mind. Child sexual abuse is certainly another, but it’s for a different reasons than with the rape of an adult: a child by definition cannot give consent. Even a sexually mature teenager cannot give consent to sex, although he/she can say “yes,” and even want sex physically. For teens—especially teenage boys, as most teenage boys can attest—if you stimulate the body, the body can certainly want something, and quite insistently at that. But children, including teens, are at the mercy of powerful adults—and by “powerful” I also mean psychologically powerful—who can manipulate and use them, cajole them and convince them, and therefore exploit them for their own pleasure. And that exploitation can be present even when the child or teen is actually saying “yes.” It can even be present when the child or teen thinks he/she is giving consent.
That’s why sexual contact between two fourteen-year-olds is not defined as child abuse, but sexual contact between a 25-year-old and a 14-year-old is. The key is the power differential combined with the inability of a 14-year-old to give consent.
The law is probably about right, [the age of consent is] probably roughly the right age. I think it’s probably about okay, but there are certainly people who are capable of giving consent at a younger age, I certainly consider myself to be one of them, people who are sexually active younger. I think it particularly happens in the gay world by the way. In many cases actually those relationships with older men…This is one reason I hate the left. This stupid one size fits all policing of culture. (People speak over each other). This sort of arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent, which totally destroys you know understanding that many of us have. The complexities and subtleties and complicated nature of many relationships. You know, people are messy and complex. In the homosexual world particularly. Some of those relationships between younger boys and older men, the sort of coming of age relationships, the relationships in which those older men help those young boys to discover who they are, and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable and sort of a rock where they can’t speak to their parents.
As an abuse survivor, Yiannopoulos thinks he can say that consent can be given in such a case, apparently because he thinks he gave it. But that shows one of the problems with sexual abuse, and it’s not just the problem of an adult exploiting a child sexually. It’s the problem of an adult messing with a child’s mind. Because the relationships Yiannopoulos describes are actually betrayals of the child/teen in the guise of “helping” the child, betrayals that may even feel good to the child/teen in certain circumstances but exploit the child/teen’s psychological, emotional, and physical vulnerability.
In other words, if an adult wants to give a child or teenager “security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable and sort of a rock where they can’t speak to their parents,” then that adult should stay away from them sexually. Be a counselor, be a buddy, be a mentor, be any sort of helper you want. But don’t think you’re helping that child by using him or her sexually. That’s one of the oldest tricks—the oldest excuses—in the book.
I have a fair streak of libertarianism in my nature, but not about this topic.
[NOTE: And I’d prefer that the comments section here not turn into some sort of gay-bashing festival. I deplore sexual abuse of children and teenagers, and there’s plenty of blame to go around about such both in the gay world and in the heterosexual world. I’ve done a lot of reading on the question of whether gay adults are more likely to be child molesters than straight adults (which is of course not the topic of this post, but my guess is that the subject will come up in the comments), and in my opinion the jury is still out on that. If you want to read about the question in depth, I suggest this article for the “yes, they are more likely” side, and this article for the “no, they’re not more likely” side.]
I saw this a while ago in an article at the LA Times by Melissa Batchelor Warnke:
Philosophy 101 introduces us to Kant’s categorical imperative — the first formulation of which is “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”
If that rule were followed by all politicians and judges, the world would be a different and better place. Won’t happen, though.
[NOTE: The Warnke article is summarized by its title “Stop publishing unverified information, you numbskulls. Donald Trump feeds on your rumors.” It’s a defense of old-fashioned journalism, where hit pieces were more carefully sourced lest they return to bite the news outlet and/or reporter.]
Posted by neo-neocon at 3:16 pm. Filed under: Uncategorized
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So, first thing that happened was that Trump made an ambiguous and poorly-worded remark about Sweden’s crime and how it relates to immigration:
…[T]here’s also a problem with Trump that I see in [his statement] “you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.” I understand the explanation. He meant that if you looked at TV the previous night, you could have seen a segment on Tucker Carlson that was about Sweden. That eliminates the confusion caused by his slightly screwy language that had lots of people wondering about something that supposedly had just happened in Sweden.
Trump isn’t just not lawyeresque in his speech (and since most people hate the way lawyers speak, they probably consider that a good thing); he’s often so imprecise and vague that the MSM and opponents can project whatever meaning they want into his statements. Now, this would happen anyway, but why give them so much of a golden opportunity? Why not make them work a little harder, and be less plausible in their misinterpretations?
But that’s not Trump’s way. I see it as a problem, although I’m sure a lot of Trump supporters see it as a plus, and see him as leading his opponents to make stupid statements themselves and having to correct them later. The trouble is that the correction doesn’t always reach all that many people.
So, what happened just a few hours after this particular war of words? Riots in areas of Sweden in which many immigrants live:
The [predominantly immigrant] neighborhood, Rinkeby, was the scene of riots in 2010 and 2013, too. And in most ways, what happened late Monday night was reminiscent of those earlier bouts of anger. Swedish police apparently made an arrest around 8 p.m. near the Rinkeby station. For reasons not yet disclosed by the police, word of the arrest prompted a crowd of youths to gather.
Over four hours, the crowd burned about half a dozen cars, vandalized several shopfronts and threw rocks at police. Police spokesman Lars Bystrom confirmed to Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter newspaper that an officer fired shots with intention to hit a rioter, but did not strike his target.
The issue about which Trump was originally speaking was whether the influx of immigrants in recent years has increased crime in Sweden. The WaPo takes pains to offer a statistic that says no: “The newspaper Dagens Nyheter analyzed crime statistics between October 2015 and January 2016 and came to the conclusion that refugees were responsible for only 1 percent of all incidents.” But as Hot Air points out, that’s somewhat misleading:
Sweden’s overall crime rate is down since 2005 despite having admitted many thousands of migrants and refugees in the years since. Preliminary data for 2015-16 also shows no rise in overall crime, but it did show a rise in assaults and rapes accompanied by a drop in drug crimes and theft. (Sweden hasn’t published crime stats showing an offender’s immigration status for more than a decade.) One Swedish criminologist interviewed by the Times conceded that immigrants are overrepresented among offenders, “particularly in more serious and violent offenses,” but that many victims of crime are immigrants too, which is what you’d expect.
I think that perhaps the most interesting thing in that paragraph is that Sweden stopped compiling statistics on immigrants and crime over ten years ago. This had to have been purposeful. It certainly has had the effect of obscuring the issue and making it even more difficult to say anything intelligent about it. Lumping all crimes together and then seeing if there’s been a general increase or decrease tells you almost nothing about what proportion of crimes are committed by immigrants and what types of crimes are involved.
Posted by neo-neocon at 2:46 pm. Filed under: Immigration, Law, Trump
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The headline in USA today announces “Homeland Security unveils sweeping plan to deport undocumented immigrants.” When I first read that, I assumed that this represented some sort of blueprint for going after “undocumented” (people who arrived here illegally) immigrants all over the US, which would be fulfilling one of the more controversial promises of the Trump campaign.
But instead it seems to be a plan to tighten up border security and to suggest that ICE actually deport more of the people authorities find as they first arrive and are detained. In other words, an end to (or at least a diminution of) “catch and release*”:
The memos require undocumented immigrants caught entering the country to be placed in detention until their cases are resolved, increase the ability of local police to help in immigration enforcement, call for the hiring of 10,000 more immigration agents and allow planning to begin on an expansion of the border wall between the United States and Mexico.
What percentage of Americans have trouble with that? Probably a lot fewer than with some sort of mass roundup and deportation policy. This announcement seems like a case of enforcing immigration laws in a way that makes it clear that if you want to enter this country you should come legally, under our rules. It doesn’t do much about changing the status quo for people who already came here illegally, and it doesn’t touch DACA either.
When you add the directive (as Homeland Security did) that “The memos make undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a crime the highest priority for enforcement operations,” it makes even more sense and is even less controversial. But naturally:
Immigration advocacy groups were crushed…
“These memos lay out a detailed blueprint for the mass deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants in America,” said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice Educational Fund, which advocates on behalf of immigrants. “They fulfill the wish lists of the white nationalist and anti-immigrant movements and bring to life the worst of Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric.”
But Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform says “What (Homeland Security Secretary John) Kelly has done is lay out a broad road map of regaining control of a process that’s spun out of control.”
Seems to me that with immigration we have three main issues. The first is how many legal immigrants we wish to let in and under what rules. Do we want to reform that process? Do we want to expand or to contract that number? How do we vet them, and who vets them?
The second issue is what to do about the illegal immigrants who are already here. And the third is what to do about those newly entering. It seems to me that these new Trump administration directives (and I have only read summaries and skimmed parts of them rather than reading the entire document) deal predominantly with that third issue. In so doing, the policy has a chilling effect on those entering illegally and planning to enter illegally. That chilling effect is almost certainly intentional. In addition, however—and with the assistance of the MSM and immigrant activists—it probably has the effect of striking fear into the hearts of those who are already here illegally.
It seems to me that the aim of the whole thing is indeed to “regain control of a process that’s spun out of control.” It remains to be seen how this will actually play out and be implemented in the real world—and whether further directives will be issued that expand the process and involve a great many of the people who are already here. I am sure, however, that even if all that happens is that deportation numbers increase among those who are newly arrived along the border, the press will treat us to an almost endless series of stories about their pathetic fate at the hands of those heartless ICE employees.
And many of the stories will be sad. But a nation has a right and a duty to make decisions regarding who to let into that country and under what conditions. If the people of the US wanted to let in many millions more immigrants from Latin America a year legally they could, although that would take changing the current laws on legal immigration. It’s about who gets to decide and whether reasonable laws will be enforced reasonably.
[NOTE: * “Catch and release” is the policy under which “many undocumented immigrants are processed by immigration agents, released into the country and ordered to reappear for court hearings.”
Here’s how well it workedin the past:
Historically, due to the lack of resources available to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain people, as well as the lengthy time period between apprehension and being ordered deported, catch-and-release was the de facto policy followed by ICE: those believed to be in violation of immigration status were released and given a date when they were to appear before an immigration judge for their deportation hearing. Knowing that coming to a hearing could lead to them being deported, many of these people simply failed to turn up to their hearings. In July 2005, the National Center for Policy Analysis reported that at some federal immigration courts, 98% of the defendants failed to show up.
Which makes perfect sense. Why would they show up?
The policy was ended by the Bush administration in 2005-6, and reinstated in part in the later years of the Obama administration, although there’s disagreement about to what extent.]
Posted by neo-neocon at 2:17 pm. Filed under: Immigration, Law
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This sounds excellent:
General McMaster is a former commander of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, my old unit. I served in Iraq with a host of guys who’d served under McMaster in the Battle of Tal Afar in 2005, and almost to a man they loved him. I never served under him (I came along for the next deployment), but many of the people I respect the most were with him during one of the Iraq War’s most significant urban battles and came away deeply impressed.
…Indeed, I’d call McMaster the Neil Gorsuch of generals…
With the exception of his loyalty hire of Michael Flynn, Trump’s key generals — James Mattis, John Kelly, and now H.R. McMaster — represent the best of modern military leadership. Their presence in the government is deeply reassuring. It’s now incumbent on President Trump to heed their counsel and give them the level of authority that they have earned.
That’s high praise indeed, particularly considering the source—David French, who’s not exactly been what you’d call a Trump fan.
Posted by neo-neocon at 6:44 pm. Filed under: Uncategorized
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Apparently there’s an eighth continent in the southwest Pacific.
A huge landmass, mostly submerged beneath the ocean, bears all the hallmarks of a continent, according to a new study published by the Geological Society of America. You may have heard of part of it: New Zealand…
The “Zealandia” moniker was coined by geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk in 1995…
Luyendyk argued at the time Zealandia checked three of the four boxes to be considered its own continent. But now geologists say it checks all four: distinctive geology; a finite, defined area; crust thicker than the standard ocean floor; and elevation above the surrounding area. Zealandia apparently has it all.
The experts who penned the study, aptly titled “Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent,” say if Zealandia had been mapped the same way scientists map Venus or Mars with current technology, we would have recognized it as its own continent much earlier.
Posted by neo-neocon at 4:05 pm. Filed under: Science
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Despite the epic amount of Trump derangement syndrome expressed in this article (and the fact that it’s written by none other than Robert Fisk, the British journalist whose last name turned into a verb), Fisk actually has a point [in the following excerpt, I’ve edited out and substituted ellipses for all the Trump-bashing, and just left the parts I’m referring to]:
Eventually, when Donald Trump departs from us…I suspect we shall all feel the same as my landlord when the Lebanese war came to an end. For the really insidious nature of the Trump presidency, I fear, is not going to be the fury he engenders…but the enormous withdrawal symptoms that the world will suffer afterwards.
For Trump, let’s face it, is an addiction. Nothing will ever trump it. We all now need our evening fix – a mad press conference, laws hurled out of court, a square-jawed general brought low by an inane conversation with a Russian spy – just one more shot in the arm till the morning.
It’s much the same point I made back in December of 2015, albeit more briefly and less floridly. In contrast, Fisk goes on and on and on (and on and on and on…) about how batshit crazy Trump is—and how all his confederates are pretending he’s not, which Fisk finds bleakly amusing.
I am in agreement, though, that Trump is a sort of addiction—both for the MSM, his admirers, and his haters, in the US and in Europe and around the globe. Trump has always been a showman, so some of this is purposeful on his part. But not all.
Remember back at the beginning of the wild ride, when the media was considering Trump a joke and a flash in the pan? They still couldn’t stay away from him, because he was great copy. And now? For many on the right, whatever their quarrels with him, it’s satisfying to watch him do the things they’d long dreamed about and thought would never happen: appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court, for example, or tell off the press. Heady stuff.
For the left, it’s a kind of horrified fascination with someone so flamboyantly different, so beyond their wildest dreams in his combination of vulgarity and boldness, so initially improbable and even impossible as a president—a figure of fun and ridicule for them—and yet (at least for now) so firmly and horrifically ensconced in the Oval Office.
Posted by neo-neocon at 3:33 pm. Filed under: Trump
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Today is Presidents’ Day.
Or is it “Presidents Day”? Or even “President’s Day”? You can find all those variations online, although if you parse them they mean very different things.
It was significantly easier before 1971, the year they consolidated Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays (no problem with the possessives there) into one holiday and moved it to the third Monday of February, where it floated around a bit in terms of dates.
I was surprised to learn that (at least, according to this site) it’s still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the feds. You could have fooled me—and the Post Office, whose website, in announcing the fact that post offices are closed today, refers to the holiday as “President’s Day.”
Note the possessive singular. No doubt it’s the nefarious Donald Trump again, giving out orders that it is his day and his alone! One president, now and forever.
It’s the singular, too, for whatever number of people will be gathering together to show how fervently and righteously (lefteously?) un-Trump they are in honor of what they are calling “Not my President’s Day.”
More on the history of the day itself:
By the mid-1980s Washington’s Birthday was known to many Americans as Presidents’ Day. This shift had solidified in the early 2000s, by which time as many as half the 50 states had changed the holiday’s name to Presidents’ Day on their calendars. Some states have even chosen to customize the holiday by adding new figures to the celebration. Arkansas, for instance, celebrates Washington as well as civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates. Alabama, meanwhile, uses Presidents’ Day to commemorate Washington and Thomas Jefferson (who was born in April).
Washington and Lincoln still remain the two most recognized leaders, but Presidents’ Day is now popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all of America’s chief executives. Some lawmakers have objected to this view, arguing that grouping George Washington and Abraham Lincoln together with less successful presidents minimizes their legacies.
Of course, people are now free to celebrate whatever president they wish to honor. How about some of the more obscure ones? Let’s have a big trophy for everyone!
Posted by neo-neocon at 2:34 pm. Filed under: History, Language and grammar
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Anyone seen this movie? It’s up for a gazillion Oscars, and it’s a musical (of all things). So last night I went to see it.
I liked it more than I’d expected to. One of the more astounding things about the film is that its director/writer and composer are both just barely over thirty, and they’ve been pitching this thing for a long long time. They started working on it as roommates at Harvard, one in the film/media department and one in the music department. Now they are wildly successful, which is appropriate because the movie is (in part) about success in the arts.
Two things in the film I found to be excellent are Emma Stone’s incredibly natural and believable acting and Ryan Gosling’s piano playing. He was a musician before and has been since early in life, but he learned jazz piano for the movie in about three months of training, and his skill is now nothing short of impressive. And yes, it’s him doing all the ivory-tickling, as you can tell from the long and uninterrupted takes that showcase it.
Another noteworthy (and unusual) thing in the film is that—unlike the romantic duos in many movies—you actually believe that these two people love each other.
Posted by neo-neocon at 3:37 pm. Filed under: Uncategorized
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Here’s an article about a woman whose complaint was feet that were hot and red:
Melissa Curley Bogner was baffled: Why did her feet feel suddenly hot — in January?
The article goes on to describe her doctors’ befuddlement, their blind-alley treatments for infections and the like, before the patient herself Googled her symptoms and came up with several possibilities, among them erythromelalgia:
Another option was erythromelalgia (EM), a rare and poorly understood disorder; the term literally means “red limb pain.” First described in 1878, the condition is characterized by red, hot and painful extremities, usually the feet and less commonly the hands.
Well, the doctors could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they’d asked me, because that was my leading theory the moment I began to read the article—actually, the moment I saw the photo that illustrated it:
Why? Because I had erythromelalgia for many many many years (at least 15, I’d say), beginning after I hurt my back in 1990. In those days, the internet wasn’t available, and my puzzled doctors (and I went to many, including experts on back injuries) had very little to say to me except that they weren’t familiar with it but in my case it seemed to come from a disturbance in the sympathetic nerves secondary to my back injury. I only discovered the name of the affliction many years later when I Googled the symptoms, just like Melissa Bogner.
There are many possible causes, but often no cause is found at all. I don’t think it’s quite as rare as the article says, but perhaps it is and I’m just sensitized to it and especially aware of it. It’s a strange affliction that can be mild or serious.
For over a decade, erythromelalgia was the bane of my existence (although not the only bane; see this), and I had to modify my life in many ways to deal with its burning pain: different shoes and socks (often sandals), sometimes putting feet in cold water, uncovering my feet at night and having a fan blow on them, avoiding heat in general, not being able to walk for too long, being unable to walk on the beach.
Doctors told me that in my case the temperature regulation in my feet had gotten its thermostat stuck on “on.” I’m not sure whether that’s a good explanation for all erythromelalgia cases, but it certainly seemed to fit mine quite well, and that was the way I came to conceptualize it. At the time, there was no medication that could help. Later they discovered that for some people, drugs that usually treated epileptic seizures could be useful, but when I took them they were only marginally effective for me.
One of the many odd things about EM is that you can see it, and even other people can feel it. When mine was very active, for example, my feet would turn bright bright red, and if a person touched them he/she could almost feel the sizzle with the hand. So no one suggested I was feigning anything; it would have been quite a feat (pun intended) had I been able to do that.
The problem sounds trivial, perhaps. But it was not. In addition to being painful 24/7, it was frightening and limiting. It had started very suddenly one day about six weeks after my initial back injury. I had taken a bath and gotten out of the tub, and I noticed that one of my feet felt odd, sort of numb but sort of painful at the same time. These odd and difficult-to-describe sensations changed over time in an unpredictable manner (they are called paresthesias; I’ve described that aspect of things here in some detail). They have a creepy quality that adds to their awfulness.
An hour passed, and my other foot began to have the same sensations, so that now both were disordered and strange. It felt as though I were walking on scratchy wool socks, or had blisters on the soles of my feet, but my feet were bare and there were no blisters to be seen. I had no idea what was happening, and I was frightened.
Over time it did not go away, but it morphed in unpredictable ways. Some days were better than others, but in general the nights tended to be worse. I had to replace all my shoes and all my socks. The socks now needed to be super-smooth, and even then they felt scratchy. The shoes—well, no shoes were comfortable, but I found one or two that felt less uncomfortable (they tended to be ugly). When I walked on a treadmill (my usual exercise; it was wintertime) within five minutes or so the burning would start, and it would get worse for a while and then usually stabilize enough for me to be able to finish. After my walk I’d shower, soak my feet in cold water, lie in bed with a fan on them, and wait till they cooled down at least somewhat.
This lasted for over ten years.
[NOTE: This is the first part of a 2-part series.]
Posted by neo-neocon at 3:25 pm. Filed under: Health, Me, myself, and I
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