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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Water Wings Not Optional

A couple of lesbians posted in the M4M room at Craigslist last week. They were looking for a sperm donor so one of them could birth a child. They explained that their previous donor (they already have one child) was no longer available due to medical issues. They didn't want their current child to grow up alone. I replied.

But I doubt they liked what I had to say.

Basically I told them they were bucking the system - that the universe had made them lesbians for a reason - to get their genes out of the gene pool. Which sounds a tad harsh, I know, but biology/nature is, indeed, nothing if not harsh.

You see, at one point, I, too, wanted children. I was willing to ignore my gay self in order to procreate. I wanted to get married (to a woman) and have children. But, despite my best efforts (yes, I had several serious relationships with women), it never came to pass. And, now, I'm so glad that it never did. I fear I would have been a horrible parent. (But not for the reasons the Christian right would have you believe.)

I am now of the opinion that one of the reasons the universe chooses to make people gay is to remove their genes from the gene pool in order to stem the growth of the population. This is not a bad thing - especially not when one looks at the big picture. When I think of the state of the world, this world that is to be the legacy we leave for future generations to deal with, I am SO grateful to be gay and to not have procreated.

I would have been heartbroken to see my offspring inherit this planet.

One would hope that the drivers of all those SUV’s and obnoxious, fuel-guzzling Dodge trucks would share my concern for the earth’s future. But I have a feeling they are the same selfish bastards helping to overpopulate it.

Then, there are the sheer numbers of people pooping out babies without the means to take responsibility for them. Babies born into dysfunction will in turn carry on that family’s dysfunctional traditions. As long as we, as a society, subsidize parents who fail to have the means to support, raise and care for their children, we, the people, are just encouraging these cycles to continue.

Our compassion becomes a means of enabling bad behavior, and worse... the destruction of our planet.

That is why I don’t think lesbian and gay men should contribute to this problem by breeding. Of course I also don’t think our gay tax dollars should go to fund public schools for children we aren’t sending there either. Or to subsidize their food stamps. Or their medical care. If anything - families with children should be taxed MORE -not given a yearly rebate. They should be taxed - not rewarded, not cut more slack (aren’t they slack enough?).

The breeding practices of these irresponsible parents are placing burdens on our society and our ecology - why shouldn’t THEY have to pay for it?

Now, saying that lesbians and gay men should not breed is not the same as saying they should not be parents. Quite the contrary -they make the best parents - especially if they have worked through the whole sexual identity challenge. Adversity and struggle helps develop great problem-solving skills – a necessary skill when raising children.

Adoption is a great option. There are tons of children who would benefit greatly from the loving home a gay/lesbian couple could provide. And if they should opt to adopt, then, like those heterosexuals that choose to breed, they would have to kick into the kiddy-tax kitty.

But the logic behind all this will fall on deaf ears. Those who need to hear this message won’t be able to due to the fact that they have had to turn up the volume on the television set, in order to drown out one of their kids who is screaming uncontrollably, again. Heaven forbid they should miss an episode of Jerry Springer or Cops and actually supervise their brood.

These parents will stubbornly insist on pursuing their own desires in spite of their children (literally), just as gay and lesbians will stubbornly continue to buck mother-nature’s intent (literally).

I believe that every time we ignore the edicts of the universe/nature and put our own desires before the welfare of the world as a whole - we pay for it. We are punished, and we create more problems for ourselves and those with whom we share this planet. The world continues to produce more unwanted, poorly-educated, poorly-supervised children who go on to live less than spectacular lives. These adults go on to produce more toxic gasses which deplete the ozone which hastens global warming. These adults go on to create tons and tons of garbage -and not just the type that ends up as landfill, but also that of a cultural nature that eats into our collective, ever-dulling grey matter. These adults also go on to poop out more children which in turn grow up and do as their parents did -in ever increasing numbers.

Have you ever grown bacteria in a Petri dish? The bacteria’s population size starts out small. However, as it grows larger, it consumes more and more of its environment. Also keep in mind that, even in the early stages of development, the members of that population not only consume their environment, but also end up poisoning it with the waste their consumption creates. This population grows exponentially until such time that its numbers exceed the environmental resources to support said population.

And when it reaches that apex?

It dies.

It all dies.

There is always a price for such stubbornness. For such arrogance. For such selfishness.

Well, kids, in the immortal words of Peter Gabriel? Here comes the flood.

I hope you all brought your water wings.

Friday, August 25, 2006

When is a life unworthy of common decency and compassion?

Disposable music... and now disposable pets?

Disposable pets?

I realize that due to the increased media scrutiny and our ever increasing population that the number of reported incidents of animal abuse seems to be at an all time high. Examples:

A central Florida woman allows 21 horses to live in filth while starving them.

Lancaster, PA – a sick dog is thrown away like so much trash – in a dumpster no less.

In Long Beach, CA – an employee at K-Mart beats a Chihuahua that has wandered into her store. For 20-30 minutes she pursues the dog, beating it with a 20 lb. weight-lifting bar, fracturing one of its front legs. She then places the dog – still alive and breathing (raggedly) into a plastic bag. The dog dies and she is arrested…

In Syracuse a man is arrested after putting his girlfriend’s cat in a pillow case and throwing it from a moving vehicle.

Why here in Minnesota in just the past two months:

Five meerkats from the MN Zoo are put to sleep after one of them bit a 9 year-old girl. The parents refused to allow their daughter to be treated for rabies, so all 5 meerkats had to be put down in order to perform the necessary autopsies to make sure that none had rabies (they didn’t). It seems the girl had to work hard to get her hand inside the meerkats' enclosure. She crawled over a driftwood barrier, climbed up more than 3 feet of artificial rock and reached over 4 feet of Plexiglas to get her arm into the exhibit. Because meerkats stand just a foot tall on their hind legs, she had to dangle her hand very low for an animal to bite her finger. (Hmmm - Where were the parents when their precious child was sticking her hands where they didn't belong? Should they be held liable – for the cost of replacing the meerkats and charged with child neglect? Hmmm.)

A woman finds 14 Chihuahua puppies in a trash bag in a ditch. Ten of the dogs are dead, but four survive. She adopts three of them and her sister adopts the fourth one. (Did anyone bother to dust the trash bag for prints?)

When a man discovers that his prized pit bull has given birth to mix-breed puppies – he immediately kills of all the puppies by breaking their necks. The police are summoned and he is arrested.

Country singer Darryl Worley kills a tame, caged black bear named Cubby with a bow and arrow, after purchasing the animal from its owner for $4,650 for this expressed purpose. He shoots the animal in its cage, and then drags its carcass about in order to concoct a video depicting him killing the animal in the wild. They go so far as to tag the animal and register it with the MN DNR as a wild kill. Worley and the former owner are arrested.

So what’s wrong with these people? Who raised them with such disregard for the lives of animals? What type of punishment should they receive? Who's REALLY at fault? The animals? The humans? God?

I realize there are a number of people who think that animal activists are a bunch of nut cases. When questioned about the killing of the Chihuahua in his store, the manager of the K-Mart store told the person inquiring that there are real issues in the world they should worry about - like people living in poverty and children starving to death. Animal-rights advocates are frequently maligned, thrown into the liberal cesspool along with the tree huggers and PETA members.

It makes it easier to hurl things at them then - like names - like tree hugger and liberal.

So when is a life unworthy of common decency and compassion?
Strangely enough, many of those that are quick to point out the silliness of most animal rights activists are the same people who oppose a woman’s right to abortion. They will quickly point out that the in the bible God clearly gives man dominion over animals – but then the bible, a book written a long, long time ago by – who else – men (self-serving ones from the looks of it), claims a lot of really not-very god-loving things. I frequently ponder just what such people mean when they claim to be Pro-Life. Does that mean all life? The contradictions apparent in such opposing stances are as deep rooted as they are illogical.

On the other hand – the same can’t be said of those who are pro-animal –rights, and pro-choice. Can it?

In order to be fair, yes, we have to take a look at this.

Is such a stance logical? Well, I bet that ninety-nine percent of all animal rights activists believe in the spading and neutering of domestic animals. So obviously they support proactive contraception for animals. I bet they also would love to see shame-free sex education taught in public schools – along with information about contraception for humans. The same cannot be said for those of the Pro-Life persuasion. Perhaps there are some – but not many. I bet the vast majority of Pro-Lifer’s believe that information of a sexual nature should be taught, not by educated instructors, but by the student’s parents – parents like those of that 9 year-old girl who managed, against strenuous odds, to get her hand bitten by those meerkats at the MN Zoo.

Yep – I’m sure parents like that are up to the challenge, all right.

Is it any wonder, in light of such well-thought out stances, that we have children who become adults who then throw a sick dog in a dumpster?

It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where parents were gifted enough to meet all the needs of their children as they grow up. But you see, dysfunction is like a snowball rolling down a mountain – generation after generation – it just grows in size and velocity until one day little Johnny is speeding down the interstate ready to fling his girlfriend’s cat in a pillowcase out the car window. Or the day little Suzy, who is 14 years-old, interrupts dinner to announce that she is pregnant and going to bear the fruit of her 38 year-old crack addicted, meth-producing boyfriend.

Yes, the trials and tribulations and responsibilities of being a parent are just undeniably overwhelming at times. Or so little Suzy will soon discover first hand.

Suddenly contraception doesn’t look like such a bad thing… hmmm?

Just food for thought…

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Disposable Music

There was a time in my life when a song could rule my every waking moment. Music infused my life – each happenstance a musical cue – it was a soundtrack complete with montages, chases, tender moments of realization, and, above all else, the stirrings of love (or lust). The music meant something and the lyrics were potent and important.

This was during a time when the concept of ‘selling-out’ was something no authentic artist would ever consider. The idea of commercializing a song they wrote – had given birth to - was tantamount to the desecration of the holy. True inspiration and revolutionary innovation were made of the mind, blood, body and spirit – not technology. The qualities that made a song resonate across the airwaves for generations were human ones – very human.

But no more.

Now everything is technical. Everything is commercial. Everything is disposable. And, thanks to the practice of sampling – everything old is new again – or so they would like us to believe – but it’s not.

We live in an age of disposable music. Music created in such sheer volume that one song barely has time to register on the cultural horizon before being replaced by something just as marginal, just as meaningless. Music isn’t ‘catchy’ anymore, it’s frequently merely irritating. Yes, it gets under your skin, like ringworm.

When was the integrity of music replaced by commercialization?

It can be traced back to the 70’s. Disco was the first blow to the empire. Not that there weren’t disco songs with integrity – there were tons of R&B-driven, funky grooves to be sure, but at one point the proliferation of disco albums far exceeded the appetites of its audience. I remember seeing discs dedicated to the idea of ‘the disco opera’ incorporating themes like ‘Dracula’ and featuring song titles like ‘Suck, Baby, Suck’. Kitschy now. Anathema then.

The subsequent backlash was huge. Integrity reared its ugly head in the form of a couple of enterprising radio DJ’s who organized the first ‘Disco Sucks’ demonstration whereby a pile of donated disco albums were run over with a steam roller during the halftime of a local baseball game. It was a shot heard round the world. Disco was dead. Integrity was back.

But it didn’t die. It simply changed its name to ‘Dance Music’. And, as with disco, while there is still the occasional undeniable gem (Suzanne Palmer’s ‘Home’ for example), so much of this genre holds about as much cultural significance as Paris Hilton.

The next step in this rampant disregard for the value of music came, not from the artists, but from corporations. During the 80’s we saw the rise of the corporation as svengali, wielding their financial might as a means of controlling artistic expression. Music became product – success a matter of the financial, not the critical.

Clive Davis, once a talent maverick for Columbia records, would now ask that many of the established female vocalists he signed to the Arista label be remolded in order to maximize, not artistry, but selling power. This frequently meant that these women had to turn their backs on their considerable writing talents (Melissa Manchester, Jennifer Warnes) or previous wealth of work (Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick) and submit to the whims and desires of the powers that be in the corporate office in order to obtain financial success. Those that failed to comply and/or flourish were dropped quickly – this being true of men and groups as well. It was - play by our rules or we won’t promote your music. Discord was frequent. So were label changes.

There were exceptions to these rules – chiefly brought about by numerous independent labels – where innovation still ruled the day. Unfortunately these lights of hope were frequently short-lived or extinguished. They either perished due to poor business practices (lack of financing, lack of distribution) or were gobbled up by the major labels in order for the major to glean the artistic glow of the minor. This made way for the age of acquisitions – when even former major players like EMI, Mercury, and Arista would be swallowed whole by conglomerates with faceless names like Universal, Sony, Polygram, and BMG.

But business practices alone would not account for the lack of integrity popular music would succumb to.

The promotion of style over substance created a generation – an MTV generation. Visuals and pyrotechnics substituted for artistry. The gift-wrap became more important than the actual gift.

Technology would also play a part – computers would make it much more affordable and easier to recreate sounds, splice sounds, manipulate sounds. Manipulation of vocal tone, quality and pitch has become an accepted practice. Indeed, now anyone can ‘do it’.

Encouraged by accountants and corporate conglomerated labels – artistry has fallen by the wayside. The concept of ‘selling-out’ is no longer considered such a bad thing. The Beatles catalog, now in the hands of Michael Jackson and those to whom he owes a lot of money, has been licensed to sell cars on television and a ‘Cirque Due So Lame’ touring phenom. Perhaps integrity died on a sidewalk in New York – or perhaps John Lennon would be just like everyone else and go for the gold that buys future security.

The Rolling Stones have begun licensing their music for use in movies and commercials. These are the same artists who once claimed they would rather be dead than be rocking at the age of 40. Hey, Mick? What time is it?

I watch television. I pay close attention to the commercials. If music videos were the great indicators of our cultural mindset in the 1980’s – then commercials are their 2006 equivalent. Goldfrapp is gaining considerable market recognition, thanks to their presence selling some new electronic all-in-one device and promoting the new season of FX’s popular (and admittedly shallow) Nip and Tuck series. Good for them. IPod commercials have broken a number of new acts and created life for songs that otherwise might have fallen through the cracks – sometimes I’m grateful, more often, not.

Yes, way back when… in the sixties – when many a rocker or songwriter mistrusted the establishment and its apparent desire for the commercialization of popular music – these misgivings were much more than mere poses. But alas, everything they once feared has come to pass. Music is now disposable. Little more than background noise to sell product. (For historical reference, please check out the original cover for The Who’s “The Who Sell Out” album). Little more than ring tones. Little more than a vehicle for promotion.

Ahhh, and I remember when we thought elevator music was the ultimate horror when it came to the devaluing of music.

Now where’s that steam roller?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Here comes that oh-oh feeling again...

My accident…

On July 18th I had a mountain bike accident. That evening I lifted weights for an hour. The weather was wonderful so I felt I should take advantage of it. I got my bike ready and set out on a familiar trek – about 5 miles from my home. Near the three-hole golf course there is a gravel/dirt road that leads to numerous bike trails that weave in and out of the woods. I generally avoid the more ambitious trails and stick to the ones I find interesting, but not dangerous. I had been riding for about an hour and a half when I realized that the light was beginning to fade. I had worked that day as well and that, along with the exercise, began to take its toll. I was a little tired.

Straddling my bike, I stood at a fork in the road. To my right was a simple slope of baby grass and black, moist soil; an easy exit to the road that would lead me back to the black top path that would take me home. To my left – a steep hill made of gravel. Its wicked curve and wild unevenness added an extra thrill. In the past I’d carefully gone down this hill, squeezing my breaks gingerly, carefully so as to ease my way safely. Two days before, I had taken this same road full bore and survived. I had been exhilarated by the risk involved and more so when I made it down to the bottom successfully. So I decided to go for it.

I didn’t make it.

I remember missing the groove of the curve and sharply overcompensating to the left – too sharply – the gravel slipped under my tires, and I hit the weeds. Tall grass gone to seed flies past me as I hear a little voice inside my head say… oh-oh.

And then – nothing.

Next thing I remember: I’m walking up a hill with my bike in pitch darkness. It dawns on me that there are people following behind me to my right. I stop short and ask, ‘Where am I?’ A voice from behind says… ‘Just keep walking’. I do. I ask what’s happened. The voice, a bit impatient, says, ‘You’re almost there’.

Later in my hospital bed I realize that at the time, I thought I was in line to go to the afterlife… whatever that might be. I remember moistness on the right side of my face and that I was completely hunched forward, my shoulders felt odd and I could not move my head. I felt the handlebars of my bike for my tee-shirt – yep, it was still there, tied tight.

We reach the top of the slope and I recognize the blacktop path that normally I would take home. There’s a police car. An ambulance pulls up. I say – to no one – that I just want to go home now. Someone takes my bike. I’m led away. Questions. I try answering… I give them a name - the wrong name. I can’t remember phone numbers. They clamp something hard around my neck and lay me down. Again, I request to go home, as I would for the next four hours each time I catch someone’s eye.

I never see my bike again.

The ride in the ambulance. I don’t remember. Much. Into the trauma center. My shorts are cut off me. A whirl of people overhead. X-rays. Pain. Someone tries to remove the brace around my neck – I scream. Pain shooting up over the back of my head. They stop. They slow down. They want to give me morphine. I refuse. I hate that stuff. I ask for a Valium. No one laughs. I keep trying to give them phone numbers. The numbers make no sense. I try to tell them about my dogs who need to be let out – who are alone. I keep asking what day it is. I keep asking what time it is.

I begin to remember… the bike. The gravel. The weeds. Oh, how stupid. Stupid me. What have I done?

Lots of x-rays, a CAT scan, an MIR. Trips on a motorized gurney, trips that eventually make me sick to my stomach. They roll me on my side and I hurl all over the walls. I forgot to eat dinner. What time was it? Phone numbers. No water? A wash clothe to my lips. No water. Maybe surgery. The whirl of people resides. There’s a gun shot victim on the other side of the curtain. They scramble away. Judy stays with me. She cleans my face. Nasty. Dirt. Grass. Judy is nice. Very kind.

I am sent to the fifth floor. Moved, painfully, into a bed. I try not to make too much noise – they keep threatening me with morphine. I need to stay awake, aware. Phone numbers. Someone is missing me.

Tony is on the phone. It is 1:30 in the morning. Flan, my new nurse asks if he should come. I say yes. Tony is there. He has been frantic. Worried. I had been a John Doe for about 5 hours. I ask him NOT to call my family. This is no big deal. The next morning? My family is there… Mom and Dad. My niece. Mom cries. I tell her it’s not that bad. They give me something for pain. It starts with a ‘G’.

Tally: Bad concussion, broken neck (two places), a chip in my skull where the skull meets my spine (and a crack up to the middle of my head), both shoulders hurt, 9 bad ribs, and the right side of the face is total road rash. Lucky I didn’t lose an eye.

Lucky. Lucky, me.

Could have been worse. Not a scratch from the chest down. I am upbeat and try to minimize injuries – I don’t want more pain meds. I want to go home. Three months in a neck brace? What? Why? No more pain meds, please.

I flew off the bike. I landed. I guess. I guess, because I blacked out. I only remember hitting the weeds and feeling the oh-oh. I wasn’t wearing a shirt. I wasn’t wearing my cap. I wasn’t wearing a helmet! Apparently – two other bikers either saw the accident or came upon my prone body. They called 911. I don’t know if I got up and picked up the bike or if they helped me. The ambulance could not drive back to where we were - we had to walk the half-mile of road to meet them. It grew dark fast. By the time we reached the top of the slope where the police and the ambulance it was pitch black and I don’t know if I am going to heaven or hell. Or if there even are such places. I walk slowly in darkness and do what the voices behind me tell me to do.

I was lucky.

I am lucky.

I hate my neck brace. My head feels like it’s being squeezed out of an eggcup. I should be on the cover of National Geographic. The ribs don’t bother me much. No pain meds. I say things that don’t make much sense for a few days. On the fourth day I see my face. On the fifth day… I go home. Tony is very good to me. He was scared. Me too, a little. Tony baby-sits. My parents baby-sit. I get lots of cards. People at work are worried. Everyone is very kind.

My right ear is blocked. I am having some hearing issues. My right shoulder feels dead, numb – temporary nerve damage? I get dizzy easily and list to the left as I walk. Vertigo. Rooms spin. My middle ear. That first week I sleep a lot – not so much now. My back is always in knots. My posture, horrible. My body feels warped. This too shall pass. Please.

I manage to pick-up my summer management class. On the first night at the hospital, when I was told I could not go home, I then tried to broker a deal where I could go to class the next evening – my plan was, that if they let me go to class – I wouldn’t come back to the hospital. I’d go on the lam. That was a no-go, too. But my instructor is very kind. The midterm is delayed for a week. I read when I can. Study. Sleep. I go to the midterm exam. She gives me a few mercy points. I am still having trouble remembering things – words. I hang on and finish the class. My memory is good, although I still talk nonsense now and then.

I am lucky. And lost. But mostly grateful. I go back to the doctors next week. I hope they will let me out of this neck brace. I hate it. But it’s better than the alternative. Yes, I am lucky. Grateful and lucky.

Thank you to everyone who has sent a kind word, a card, taken time to help. I am very grateful. Thank you Mom and Dad.

And most of all… Thank you, Tony.

This too shall pass. Please?