Tuesday November 30, 10
I was a sensitive child. When I was very young my family visited the Ohio State Fair. I fell in love with pigs right then and there. I made a conscious choice that day to never eat ham again. Later, I gave up red meat for about five years. But as I got older I lost some of this sensitivity. I do eat meat now--even ham occasionally. I am privy to factory farm abuses and environmental consequences. And as a consumer of flesh, I am aware that my demand contributes to the perpetuation of suffering. I no longer believe that killing animals for food is immoral.
However, I have always felt that wearing fur and using animals to entertain us were wrong. No one needs tigers jumping through loops or clothing made from fur in order to survive. (An exception to the latter can be made for Eskimos and other small indigenous peoples who use animal pelts to protect themselves from the elements.)
Did you know that the average lifespan for dolphins in captivity is seven years? And it's not in dog years; they don't live to be 49. They live to be 7. In the wild they live 40-50 years. If they are lucky enough to actually survive to be seven (most die within two years after capture), those at marine parks will eventually go blind from the chlorine in the holding tanks.
I have know these facts forever. I don't recall a time of ignorance.
SeaWorld is evil. It is no better than McDonald's. Both are money grubbing enterprises that exploit animals and market to impressionable children. Talk about wolves wearing sheep's clothing. Substitute lambs here. The message is deceptively sweet: "Hey kids, come visit our establishments. Shamu and Ronald can't wait for you to join in the fun. Just look at the smiles on their happy faces. They want to make you happy too." It's a sugar coated lie--propaganda--pure and simple. I know it and you know it. (Or you do now.) So why do we still peruse these businesses? Denial, greed, apathy? While eating at McDonald's is not the best choice, it is somewhat forgivable. Going to SeaWorld is never acceptable. There is no justification. A rational argument cannot be made in its favor.
Even though my 19 year old son has spent the majority of his life less than an hour's drive from SeaWorld, he has never been there. I boycotted it long before he was born. And I am no activist. I'm just empathetic and informed.
I love documentary film. It appeals to my curiosity and quest for understanding my world and her inhabitants. I have seen hundreds of documentaries. Some are mediocre but many are very good or even brilliant. Effective ones persuade us to accept the message(s) they are selling. Honest ones speak truths. Clever ones inspire. Intelligent ones enlighten. Painful ones motivate us to act.
The Cove does it all. It never insults the viewer with emotional appeals but rather taps into that place responsible for our reasoning abilities. It doesn't hold us hostage to our emotions by bombarding us with shocking, over-the-top images of pain and suffering--Peta style--but rather respects our ability to critically think. This documentary presents the facts clearly. Yes, there is gore. But there is so much more. It is not just an animal rights expose. It goes beyond that by successfully convincing the audience to accept the notion that they should--need to care about the things going on in this film because the future of humanity itself is at stake.
If you haven't seen this documentary, rent it today. You will be surprised by its brilliance.
Monday October 25, 10
Update... I still haven't heard back from the facebook stranger to whom I sent a message regarding my childhood friend Dawn.
Perhaps she has privacy concerns. But then why would she post her real name on a tribute site online? She's giving a mixed message by saying "Hi, Dawn was my best friend... I'm reaching out to her family and friends." But is she really? She herself is in pain yet fails to help a fellow survivor. Maybe she is good on sympathy but bad on empathy.
Sunday October 17, 10
Flowers in the Attic
Dear stranger on facebook,
I hope you don't feel upset by me contacting you. My name is Jehne. I found you through a comment you left on Dawn's online tribute site. Your message was very touching and I decided to take a chance reaching out to you.
Maybe you never heard of me. But I was Dawn's best friend when I lived in Akron. I met her when we were both ten years old. We were inseparable for three years. I had some of my most formative and memorable experiences during that time with Dawn. She has never left my heart.
We parted ways in eight grade--choosing different social groups and interests. A year later I moved to Florida with my family. I did return a few months later with my dad, as he had some business to rap up in Akron. During that trip I saw Dawn for the last time.
Dawn was a beautiful girl; all the boys liked her. And the teachers liked her as well. We were both in advanced placement classes together. I think there was a bit of competition between us to be the teacher's pet. She was much quieter than me and loved to read. I hated reading back then. If we had to do a book report, I would try to get the summary from Dawn so that I wouldn't have to read the book. Her favorite book back then was "Flowers in the Attic." Perhaps it was a foreshadowing of what was to come--to have ones spirit imprisoned and not knowing how to set it free. I have been down that road myself and never thought I would survive and thrive once again. Perhaps after so many years of pain and disappointment, Dawn lost the energy to press on.
Dawn and I shared a love for Pink Floyd's "The Wall." Because she had an older brother, David, who played guitar, she was in the loop to what constituted as good music.
Dawn was picked to play Sandy in our six grade play "Grease." I was so jealous. I got the part as narrator--due to by big mouth that could be heard across the auditorium without a microphone.
Dawn and I were little delinquents back then... mostly engaging in small time stuff like shoplifting, smoking... neither of us got caught in the act; but I know her mom thought we were a lethal combination. My parents kind of shared the same opinion.
Maybe they were right. But I don't have any regrets about that time together. I truly loved her very much.
A little over a year ago, I was curious and decided to do a Google search for her name to see if I could find what she was up to. After searching for a while, I tried my luck with public records e.g. marriage and court. To much dismay I learned that she had been arrested and convicted of heroin possession not long ago. I was shocked at first but not all that surprised. Dawn took a strong liking to partying at a very young age. I thought about contacting her. But I didn't think it was appropriate unless I was willing to get involved. And I wasn't prepared to help anyone as I was desperately trying to heal from the loss of my brother Jeff in 2005--to suicide.
I suspect that Dawn took her life. Am I correct? Tears are flowing down my face as I type. I couldn't find any information online except a minimalist obit. Usually when the cause is left out it is from suicide. Our society still treats suicide as shameful. What it truly is instead is extremely painful for the survivors.
If you could send me a quick note--filling in the blanks, I would be very grateful.
What was Dawn like as an adult? How old is her son Kyle? (I have a nineteen year old son myself.) And how did Diane end up in Nicaragua?
I patiently wait for your reply.
P.S. I am very sorry for your loss.
Friday October 08, 10
Some of us, myself included, feel first and think later--quick reactors. Morrissey is also a member of this distinct group. We QRs are opinionated, passionate, sensitive, and oftentimes lack impulse control. It isn't that we are irrational or ignorant. Often we are highly informed about the subjects we care so deeply about. The key is to try to avoid making black and white statements which inevitably result in our message being lost to the messenger.
Morrissey's 'subspecies' remark is a good example of this. He is being crucified because his comment was/is racist. No one cares why he said it. Point is he said it. Message lost to messenger. He could have avoided this by stating that these specific furriers are a subspecies (subhuman). Instead, he erroneously labeled all Chinese persons to be members of this cruel subspecies. His ad hominem comment fallaciously included the entire population of China rather than the inhumane few. Messenger lost the message from the get go. Racist laced remarks, no matter how well intentioned they are, will fall on deaf ears.
Think about some of the sickest fuckers in history e.g. Nazis! Now imagine if the allies--and other countries--labeled all Germans as cruel, psycho subhumans. It would be factually incorrect as we know that not all Germans embraced Nazi ideology.
That being said, I will add that Germans of World War II were not innocent bystanders. They played a part in this dark course in history and must be held accountable. No action is an active decision to do nothing. It is not a passive thing. It is direct--a fully energized choice to do something called nothing.
So too, the Chinese citizens are not innocent. At the very least, they are responsible for the culture they share. Granted, they don't have the same freedoms we westerners have to speak out against things we find objectionable. Perhaps we do have an obligation to be a voice for them--to put pressure on the Chinese government. But we won't win any hearts or minds if we use racist language. Diplomacy is key.
Morrissey's complaint is justified--minus the racist tint. I have seen this video capturing live dogs being skinned by Chinese furriers. It ranks in the top three visuals that continue to haunt me today--a third trimester abortion and the decapitation of Danny Pearl being the other two. Do I wish I had never viewed these three videos? No, rather, I wish these three videos could never pass for reality. Sadly, these truths are much sicker and horrific than my worst nightmares.
Don't stay silent. Silence is not passive resistance. Silence is active cowardice.
Thursday May 13, 10
I'm reading the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. Although it was first published in 1998, the Kindle edition just became available thus cycling this classic back into circulation.
The basic premise of the book is that violence exists and is inevitable in all societies. Denying this fact is dangerous because we will not be sensitive to the signals alerting us to act--our innate defense system which the author calls intuition. Violence is almost never random or without meaning--at the very least, it does have a cause/purpose for the perpetrator.
Awareness of critical clues will help us to avoid becoming victims.
The warnings are there we just need to pay attention.
Suicide is a very violent act. It is the murder of oneself. So that according to de Becker's theory one can also claim that suicide can be predicted as well. Almost always, suicides sent out signals of intention. Trails will be left behind. The puzzle can be solved in hindsight. But the trick here is to prevent it in the first place.
While this hypothesis of mine simmered gently in my mind, I got to thinking about a young boy named Johnny Menasia who had committed suicide five years ago. He was a troubled kid. I knew this. Once a neighborhood friend of my son's, the relationship was severed when I forbid my son from having further contact with him after they were caught throwing rocks at moving cars. After being caught in the act, my son became a hysterical spokesperson for regret, shame, remorse, and humiliation. Johnny didn't flinch or blink. There were no tears, no apologies--nothing--just a blank, poker face. I was in the presence of a boy without a conscience. Warning bells rang loud and clear.
Johnny was arrested a few months later for vandalizing his middle school. Six months later he hung himself in his bedroom closet.
My intuition told me that he was violent and capable of harming others. It never occurred to me that this violence would ultimately be directed inwards at himself. His suicide may have saved others from death. It may have saved my son. I may have saved my son by removing him from Johnny's inner circle.
Still thinking about Johnny, I did a Google search for him using these key words: Johnny Menasia Cuyahoga Falls Ohio.
One of the top hits was a link to a business called Bio Clean Services that cleans up the aftermath of violent acts. It promises to get the murder/suicide scene sparkly clean. Call me ignorant but I had no idea such an enterprise existed. I can definitely see that a demand exists for such services. However, I assumed that state employees dealt with this nasty nitty gritty.
Bio Clean Services: Crime Scene Cleanup, Biohazard Clean-Up, and Trauma Scene Cleaning Services.
Servicing the states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia and the Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Toledo, and Charleston Areas.
Ohio was the keyword that led me to their website.
Saturday March 13, 10
The Bearableness of Being Light
The Bearableness of Being Light
Backpacks are heavy... especially when they are overloaded with stuff--most of it worthless junk.
Our lives are burdened... especially when they are bogged down with unrewarding obligations and toxic relationships.
For years I have been complaining about the suffocating effects of having too much stuff and too many soul draining parasitic people in our lives. I couldn't really sell the idea to others. Most people feel safe being grounded by things and people. It makes them feel secure. It makes them feel alive. They reason, "If those things are real than I must be real." e.g. empirical evidence... sort of a twist on the looking glass self concept... "My things tell me who I am, what I am worth." The more one has the more valuable one is. Self concept is dependent on accumulation and possession. You are what you have. You are worthless without commitments, obligations, and objects. Isn't this largely the reason we despise the homeless and label drifters as suffering from arrested development? They are stigmatized for refusing to play the game. It is a western ideology... with capitalism at its core--its driving force. It is almost the exact opposite of Buddhist philosophy which claims that the cause of human suffering is due to our attachments to things and people. Permanence, ownership, even the notion of self are illusions. Only by freeing ourselves from these things can we be enlightened e.g. light.
Air is light. To be up in the air is to be above the burden... free from tethering.
I just saw the film Up in the Air. Although George Clooney doesn't do much for me in photo stills, his striking charisma captured on film is infectious. He nailed the character Ryan Bingham. This movie should have won best picture. The Hurt Locker was a great movie. I loved getting an inside look at how a bomb squad operates in wartime. And I am happy that a female took the Oscars for best picture and best director. But The Hurt Locker just didn't move me or stay with me like Up in the Air has.
The backpack speech alone makes Up in the Air a winner. Maybe it appeals to me because I for the most part agree with it's driving philosophy. It is my truth--just stated much more eloquently than I could ever articulate.
What's in your Backpack?(From Up in the Air) Source
How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you're carrying a backpack.
I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life.
Then you start adding larger stuff.
You go bigger.
Now try to walk. It's kinda hard, isn't it?
Now, I'm gonna set that backpack on fire.
In fact let everything burn and imagine waking up tomorrow with nothing.
This is how I start everyday of my life.
You have a new backpack.
And then you move into the people you trust with your most intimate secrets.
Get them into that backpack.
Feel the straps cutting into your shoulders.
Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically for a lifetime.
The slower we move, the faster we die.
Today my backpack is much lighter than it was just two months ago. My nest has been emptied--except for a cat that still needs me and wants to share my company. All others have moved on. David, my son, has been launched--left the rocket pad. He's embarked on a new journey... a new life as an independent young man. My job to prepare him for this time is finished. It is a success. And my marriage has dissolved. It has run its course. It has nothing left to offer... no new growth, rewards, or moments of joy. It died and was close to pulling me into the grave with it. Am I sad? Lonely? Maybe a little. But it was time for them to go. I had to let them leave. I had to let go.
With my lighter backpack I am now better suited to travel to new places. My borders are wider; my step is lighter. It is now my time.
My future is up in the air. But that is okay. That is how I want it.
Tuesday February 09, 10
I'm in a boat
Sink or sail,
Survive, I might,
No god is
I'm just a
Watch my wake,
Into the Horizon I go,
Monday January 04, 10
A few weeks ago, I started having pain in my lower and upper back. It got so bad that I became disabled--unable to use my desktop computer to work on my digital paintings. I was bummed. Ah well, I'd find something else to do. TV anyone? "Not her. No way," you say. "She'd rather clean toilets than park her arse in front of Xanax in a box--mother's little helper--the babysitter for babies and everyone else--the great programmer--the dear leader--God."
I'll admit that I was surprised as well when I exclaimed "Goodbye PC; hello TV Land!"
It started innocently enough, of course, just a few late-night episodes of one of my favorite sitcoms of all-time, Roseanne.
After a few days, I tried using my desktop again. Bam! Ouch! Shit! I realized that making my art was the cause of my back injury. I knew I had no choice but to stay away from the PC until I healed. At least I could still read the news and email on my iPod Touch or laptop. But creating my art was not so fun on my portables.
Back to Roseanne... After watching a few more episodes, I was suddenly cut off from my mind-numbing fix. No more Conners for the next twenty-one hours. Landford was now Korea. Sorry, but M*A*S*H* wasn't gonna do it for me. Withdrawal set-in rather quickly; panic almost took residence. Fortunately I remembered that I had seasons two and four of Roseanne waiting ever so patiently for me on my bookshelf. I have been a terrible owner. They have not been perused since I received them as a gift a few years back. Better late than never, right?
So that time had arrived. Roseanne here I come!
A few days and potato chip bags later, I finished off the two seasons. I wanted more! More!
iPod Touch in hand, I ordered seasons one and four off of Amazon.com. Love that site. My wallet hates it.
Last night... or rather early this morning, I caught the very last episode of the last season (9) of Roseanne on TV Land. Have you seen it? Know which one I'm talking about--the one where Roseanne kills off Dan?
Do you fault me for tearing up? I couldn't help it. I love Dan. He was like family. He was Roseanne's better half (e.g. Landford Speak for spouse.) I'll miss him.
Wait, I should have Dan and the whole Conner clan alive and well on four discs tomorrow.
TV dulls the mind; it's true.
But love hurts.
And back pain hurts.
And well, TV numbs the pain.
And so, while still feeling intoxicated by this massive consumption of mind-altering sitcoms, I feel ballsy enough to propose a toast to the Conners and all the other super, wonderfully charming, virtual families that we invite into our homes each week without asking them for much, and giving even less of ourselves in return.
Saturday November 28, 09
Sadness Weeps Salty Tears
Rivering their bleed
Fallen ones lie
A blanket of
With tiny salt
Sunday November 22, 09
Into a Hellish
She takes her