Category Archives: On Life

My Experience with Tendonitis

After playing electric and acoustic guitar for years, I took up classical guitar in college. The only problem was having two years of music school left, and now four years of playing requirements to catch up on. I managed to graduate on time anyway, but the result of so much practice wasn’t pretty.

A year later, the tendinitis (also spelled “tendonitis”) silently building in both arms suddenly came to life in August 1996. Within months, I lost my job, all guitar playing, classical composition, typing and the fiction, every career and postgraduate plan, friends, savings, hobbies, pretty much everything. Temporarily crippled and unable to use my arms, I was unemployed for a year, sinking slowly into debt, and only partially able to take care of myself. Having lost the music and fiction were the least of my problems. I lost 2 1/2 years of my life to it.

Six months into it, I bought a dictation program that allowed me to dictate text and control the computer by voice (a foot mouse helped). Restricted in the rest of life but free through the dictation program, I spent all day on the computer learning every kind of program available and working on fiction. I also found a private physical therapist who, with her assistant, began successfully treating the injury and establishing at-home treatment. My HMO, which had been unable to help, refused to pay for a thing.

After a year, I met a photographer in need of a part-time assistant. She was a great employer for the disabled, allowing impromptu breaks when the injury flared and whatever hours I could manage (less than 20 a week). Even this caused acute pain and prevented any other activities…or healing. Working to pay unavoidable bills hurt my arms more, requiring more physical therapy that cost more money, which I had to work still more hours to acquire. It was a bad cycle.

My arms needed rest, which meant never using them again on a job at even a normal activity level, but realistically, how many jobs did that leave? The prospects weren’t good, and watching friends move on with their lives while mine had ground to a halt wasn’t pleasant.

Fortunately, me and the photographer stumbled into the solution when we realized she needed a database to track her photographs. Being somewhat hyper-creative, I jumped in to do it without realizing what I was getting myself into, but the classical training had prepared me for all that disciplined thinking. I did the design work with a regular mouse, which I put on the floor and used with my feet. Any writing of text was done with the dictation program. My physical therapist learned of this and asked me to design one for her, bartering hours worked against free physical therapy appointments. That’s when I realized this was it: the career that didn’t use my arms was programming.

This realization, in May of 1998, led to a programming course and self-study. Things were looking up, too, as my playing improved more and therapy appointments went from weekly to every two weeks, then three over the summer. The constant pain was gone, as was the ease with which a flare up could be caused. In fact, only one consistent pain remained, but the unthinkable cause wasn’t learned until early September 1998: the therapist found an entirely new case of tendinitis in each arm, this time on the inside of both instead of the outside. Incredibly, there were now four cases of tendinitis.

How could this happen? I still used my arms far less than a normal person, but still developed an overuse injury. How? My weakened arms, which came close to atrophying from disuse at one point, could handle so little that even a fraction of normal use was too much and amounted to overuse. And there’s no way to distinguish the forearm pain of an existing case from an approaching one. They’re both forearm pain in the same general area. The very subtle warning signs were masked by the pre-existing case.

Shocked, I realized there was a permanent danger of new injuries, a sobering fact that forced long term adaptations like finally buying the foot mouse, which my finances couldn’t afford but for which my arms could no longer wait. For the second time, the guitar playing disappeared when it hadn’t even fully recovered.

The professional job search started immediately to move away from freelancing, and within six months, I succeeded in March of 1999. I was quite literally saved. Using the foot mouse and dictation program at work, my arms got the rest they needed and started recovering rapidly. By 2000, regular physical therapy appointments ended. The financial situation improved dramatically, making it easy to change the life I’d had over 2 years to think about. Like many who’ve had their life taken from them and get another chance, I was determined to live it better. By May 2001, I was recording instrumentals again, and in early 2002, built a new home studio in which I recorded the debut album.

"Moshkill" Video

My video for “Moshkill” from NOW WEAPONIZED!

As of 2010, I no longer use a special mouse, the dictation program, or do any treatment for my arms.  This means no ice, heat, exercises, or even stretching except once in a while, and my playing time restrictions are pretty small. I’ve also been able to play softball (as a pitcher no less) and started playing drums, albeit lightly! With enough time and rest, anything is possible.

Follow Me

Official Site: http://www.randyellefson.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/randyellefson
Facebook (as guitarist): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Randy-Ellefson-Guitarist
FaceBook (as author): www.facebook.com/RandyEllefsonAuthor
YouTube: www.youtube.com/RandyEllefson

Advertisements

Why Santa Claus is White

This week a reporter said on TV that “Santa Claus is white” and this caused an uproar.  As a white guy, I was initially puzzled how that could be.  In reading about it, I had a few thoughts.

Santa Claus is not a historical figure, but a mythical one that comes from a white culture, namely European (Britain, Germany, to name a few), which was predominantly white, just as African countries were, as a general rule, predominantly black, and Asian cultures predominantly Asian, etc.  It’s only in the relatively recent history that the “melting pot” effect has caused increasing numbers of other races to be in so many societies.

English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying...

English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying Santa Claus. Date approximate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does that mean that a society must change all of its mythical or other figures, and failure to do so is a rejection of those other races, who should feel shame about their race?  I don’t think so.  Why does a child have to see every mythic figure as being the same as themselves or feel bad?  It shows great insecurity not only in the child but perhaps their race in that society, which is indicative of far bigger problems and should be bolstered by more substantive means.  Changing mythical figures to be every race is a bandaid on a bigger wound.

In this article, a black woman named Zirlina Maxwell says “sometimes we have to take a step back and wonder why most of these historical figures are portrayed as white. I think that it’s very, very important for people of color.”  Since Britain settled the United States, we obviously have tons of cultural ideas that originated there.  That’s why Santa is white.  There’s your reason. Her comment shows a lack of historical perspective for an educated adult.  She actually asserts that he’s shown as white “simply because advertisers have portrayed him this way in America”.

Do black people think white Santa is actually racism instead of nothing more than having originated from a culture that was predominantly white?

It seems so.  The article that started all of this says Santa is white because that’s the default for all figures as a part of racism in the U.S. That black author, Aisha Harris, doesn’t understand history either, apparently. While her article is tongue-in-cheek, the I’m-not-worthy-unless-mythical-figures-look-like-me angle is genuine, sad, and the impetus for it.

Both articles say that most black families have black Santa, black Jesus and black angels, etc. The reason appears to be so that black children see these figures as being just like them, which initially appears to make sense for being inclusive.  The alternative is apparently that the black children will question why their skin color is different and feel ashamed and inferior, like Aisha says she did.  Rather than explain (to children who might not understand anyway) the historical context of white depictions (if that context is even understood by the parents, which it is apparently not), parents try to avoid it.

1914 Santa Claus in japan

1914 Santa Claus in japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But they are only postponing the inevitable.  Why inevitable?  Because the US is still dominated by the culture of the majority race that founded it: whites.  This is unlikely to change anytime soon, as such things take time.  And whites will continue to depict Santa as white for the same reason blacks want him black (identity).  In addition, Santa originates from whites, who naturally feel possessive of this depiction.  And resentful of attempts to change it.  Whereas blacks can see white Santa as a rejection of them, whites can see black Santa as an attack on heritage, tradition, and themselves (and their own ideas of him), not to mention political correctness that many despise.

“Get your own mythic figures and leave mine alone,” I hear whites calling out.

When the black children eventually and inevitably see white Santa, they’re apparently upset and confused, having come to expect black Santa just like white people expect white Santa.  Partly for that reason, I’m not sure that the whole “black everything” approach is healthy.  It seems to imply or validate the idea that they are indeed inferior unless a fictional character is the same race.  Why can’t we just be honest and tell them Santa comes from a society that was once mostly white, is more diverse now, and that he loves everyone regardless of race (just like we adults; as long as we’re lying to them about Santa’s existence, we can include that lie, too, right?)?  There’s a conflict-free solution.

Even simpler – Santa’s parents were white.  Do we need more explanation than that?

Why do kids need an explanation at all, for that matter?  Just because they ask a question doesn’t mean they should get an answer.  “Why is Santa Claus white?”  It’s kind of a stupid question.  I mean, did black kids ask why President Bush was white?  Do white kids ask why President Obama is black?  Don’t we validate the whole thing by even giving an answer?  Do kids expect every figure in the world to be their own race?  It seems so.  We validate that by showing them only depictions that match them.  Is that healthy?

If we’re going the “black everything” route, and if white or black parents want their kids to see a different depiction and not even blink, early exposure to those depictions is the only way to resolve this.  Expect resistance from older people, not because they’re racist, but because they’re human, just like your kids – i.e., they’re used to what they’re used to and don’t care much for seeing it different.  Is that “right”?  In this case, yes.  I’m all for being inclusive, but you can’t have both black Santa and white Santa, and if only one wins, it’s the original, and that’s white.

Why can’t you have both?  Verisimilitude.  The willing suspension of disbelief.  Having both rubs it in our face that it’s all fake.  If we’re inconsistent like that, kids will catch on even quicker to the lie that is Santa Claus.  And if we keep going that route, it leads to the ridiculous.  After all, what’s next, black Alice in Wonderland?  Black Peter Pan?  Do we have to have two sets of every book ever written, with the character races switched so no one feels bad (that reminds me of the push in grade school to say no team lost a game in a sport, because they both won for showing up – good grief)?  What about other races?  Are Latinos and Asians ticked off, too?  Where do we draw the line?

Santa Claus is white.  Accept it.

Follow Me

Official Site: http://www.randyellefson.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/randyellefson
Facebook (as guitarist): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Randy-Ellefson-Guitarist
FaceBook (as author): www.facebook.com/RandyEllefsonAuthor
YouTube: www.youtube.com/RandyEllefson

The Culture of Silence – Suicide Prevention

This suicide prevention article from the Associated Press brought the Live Through This project to my attention and I think they’re both a good read for everyone, whether you’re suicidal or not. There’s a lot of misinformation about suicide and this goes a long way to clearing these misunderstandings up.

Silence Kills

One of the most important reasons to read about this is that the stigma people have given suicide causes suicidal people to remain silent, when silence kills. They need help but often won’t seek it for fear of the reaction, which is why you should educate yourself so you don’t knowingly or unknowingly contribute to the culture of silence by spreading ideas that suicidal people hear – and which cause them to keep their mouth shut.

Certain acts should indeed be taboo or forbidden, but nothing should be taboo to discuss. Rape, child molestation, and suicide are just a few of the subjects our culture, and that of the world, have inhibited discussion of, adding a layer of difficulty to what people are going through.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Some Facts About Suicide (from the Live Through This site)

  • A suicide attempt is made every 40 seconds (over 2000 a day)
  • Someone dies from suicide every 15 minutes (nearly 100 a day)
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and increasing
  • 90% of those who die from suicide have a treatable psychiatric condition at the time of their death

Useful Links

Follow Me

Official Site: http://www.randyellefson.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/randyellefson
Facebook (as guitarist): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Randy-Ellefson-Guitarist
FaceBook (as author): www.facebook.com/RandyEllefsonAuthor
YouTube: www.youtube.com/RandyEllefson