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The War on Drugs is No Failure

I’ve been so wrong.  For years I’ve been preaching the obvious, that the war on drugs has not reduced drug use, that the war on drugs has been a total failure.  But I misunderstood.

black-inmates

The powers that be don’t give a flying frog about your drug use.  In fact, they like you to be nice and sedated, all the time, and your doctor will probably write you a prescription if you just complain about feeling bad.  The purpose of the war on drugs was not to combat drugs.  That was the cover.  That was the official story.  The war on drugs had and continues to have a completely different purpose – justifying money for bullet proof vests, ever more and larger guns, all the expensive tools of law enforcement, including wages for those enforcing the law, but most of all an excuse to incarcerate those who might want to change the status quo.

What brought me to this cynical realization?  I recently learned that a convicted felon in America loses their voting rights.  And there you have it.  What beautiful simplicity.  Not only has the establishment churned money through lawyers, courts, cops, surveillance, and enforcement. they have shut a huge percentage of the population out of the democratic system.  Simply brilliant.

Felony disenfranchisement is not a simply situation.  It varies from state to state, and sometimes is temporary, sometimes not so temporary. But now the war on drugs makes a bit more sense. It’s been a flaming success.

“In the national elections 2012, all the various state felony disenfranchisement laws added together blocked an estimated 5.85 million felons from voting, up from 1.2 million in 1976. This comprised 2.5% of the potential voters in general; and included 8% of the potential African-American voters. The state with the highest number of disenfranchised voters was Florida, with 1.5 million disenfranchised, including more than a fifth of potential African-American voters.”

And now that the war on drugs has obviously been ineffective in curbing drug use, now that the cover has been blown, a bunch of white guys are poised to make millions doing what put black guys in jail for decades.  If you are a fan of evil, it doesn’t get better than this.

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Okay, Now He’s Gone Too Far

I couldn't stand to put up his picture so here's a blind naked mole rat.

I couldn’t bring myself to put up his picture, so here’s a naked blind mole rat using his voice.

I’d like to get through a day without hearing the name Donald Trump, but that’s obviously going to be impossible until November and possibly beyond for at least another four years.  Perish the thought.  Everybody is writing about the blowhard billionaire populist demagogue, almost all of it disparaging and lately quite terrifying.  Here is an example that really should scare the crap out of all of us.  And here’s another linked from that same article.  Enough has been said. I don’t want to add my voice, but now I must.

When Trump looked into the camera and announced “I am your voice.” that was too much.  No, Mr. Trump.  The last thing you are is my voice.  I see you for what you are, a narcissistic attention sucking megalomaniac who will say anything to get the approval and support of angry frightened people. You may be a voice for some of them, but you sure are not my voice. If anything, you are my worst nightmare.

I’ve lived in China, and I’ve read the history of the Chinese revolution and the rise of Mao Tse-Tung.  You are like his reincarnation on a bad hair day.  I can see what is coming if you take the reins of the most powerful country in the world, a country which you are managing to convince your followers is now weak and ridiculed, one of your biggest lies. Like Mao you are a bully on steroids.  I can imagine an America plastered with your face, and slogans which you will get somebody else to write for you. It’s an America making enemies at home and abroad, so that you have somebody to terrify your followers  with and foment riots against. I can see the purges of enemies, the incarceration of reasonable voices, the rabid howls of the mob screaming your name and denouncing traitors. I think you are capable of doing everything Mao did, and worse.

I am a tall, white man and I am not angry.  I know you lie like a rug. I’m also a Canadian, so I don’t get to vote against you.  But believe me, the whole world is holding its breath and hoping that Americans are the people we think they are – strong, intelligent, educated people who recognize a con man when they see one.   We’re in deep shit if this isn’t true.

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I Had a Thought

 

black lives matter

With Black Lives Matter and the pushback to that campaign, plus the police murders of black men and the murders of police in retaliation, race relations are very much on my mind these days.

And I had a thought.  You know how the colour black is so often used as a negative – black hearted, black mood, blackmail, etc.  Well, I think it’s time we all stopped doing that and I’m going to try.

In China we called the unlicensed taxis that waited outside our gate “black taxis”.  This is not accurate.  Some of them were indeed black.  But really they were unlicensed.  That’s what we should have called them.

Black heated?  Do you really mean evil?  Nasty?

Black mood? Are you talking about depression? Or anger?

Blackmail?  Isn’t that extortion?

Black market?  Do you mean underground market?

Black ball?  Isn’t that simply rejection?

Blackguard?  Do you mean villain?

I think anybody with a descent vocabulary can find ways of describing the world without giving it a colour that is offensive to so many people.  I’m going to start.

Language is important.

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Is this how Alan Turing felt?

Alan_Turing

I have now been chemically castrated.  I assume this was done with the same drugs that were used to chemically castrate Alan Turing as punishment/control for his homosexuality. If not the same drugs, then the same results.  I have been injected with a drug that blocks my testosterone.  I am now sexless.

In my case, the law no longer cares whether I am gay or not.  I have been rendered sexless as the first step in treating my prostate cancer. So, what did Alan Turing experience?  Certainly it’s not something that will lead me to suicide. That would be counter productive indeed, since this hormone therapy is intended to save my life.  Obvious it was the social pressures, the stigma, and the bullying by legal authorities that contributed to Turing’s depression and suicide.  The physical symptoms of being chemically castrated are no big deal.

In fact, I’m having a hard time putting my finger on any physical/emotional symptoms at all.  Maybe I have the occasional hot flash.  Maybe the old fire in the belly for achievement and success has been banked somewhat. My aesthetic appreciation of sexuality seems unaffected.  I still find young women attractive and erect dicks erotic. I don’t think that my appreciation of sensuality has changed.  But there definitely is a difference in functionality.  I’m now like a dog chasing cars.  There’s not much I could do if I catch one.

Mind you, even this is untested theory.  It’s been a while since I caught one.  Who knows what would happen with the right partner and circumstances. As the old saw goes, I used to have to avoid temptation but now temptation avoids me.  Alas.

In the meantime I can experience a fancied connection to one of the great men of science. What is life but a series of experiences.

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Naked People and Egregious Art Vandalism

Last week I revisited the Sistine Chapel

When I was about six years old I was very interested in naked people.  I’m told that many children share this interest.  But in those days, the mid fifties of the last century, porn was not as close as your smart phone. Pictures of naked people were only available in National Geographic Magazine, which seemed to include bare breasted African natives in every issue, and in art.  My mother had a big coffee table book, put out by Life Magazine, entitled “Great Art of the World”.  It included details of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.  And in those pictures I could see at least two naked people, Adam and Eve.  I poured over those pictures.

If you imagine the Sistine Chapel through the eyes of a child, it’s like a horror movie.  You have the mother holding her infant above the rising flood waters, the boatman on the river Styx with his glowing red eyes, and of course Adam and Eve being driven from the garden of Eden.  Strong stuff.  I was fascinated.

The first time I went to Rome, in the mid seventies, I had the good fortune to meet a beautiful art historian.  We had a love affair worthy of a Hollywood movie.  I told her of my fascination with the Sistine Chapel.  Let’s go see it.  But she had seen it many times and wasn’t interested in seeing it again.  She advised me to get to the ticket office early, and don’t spend time in the Vatican museum, but march the kilometers to the chapel without looking left or right, else I would find myself crowded in with other tourists.  So that’s what I did.  I got to the chapel long before anybody else.  I got to lie down on the floor and spend an hour, undisturbed, soaking up the images of that famous ceiling.

Sistine Chapel crowd

This time was quite different.  As before, I arrived well before the opening time at the ticket office.  But by eight in the morning there were already thousands of tourists following the tour guide flags, lining up, waiting to get through the entrance doors.  I paid a premium to allow me to jump the queues, and tried to push my way through the crowds in the hallways preceding the chapel.  But by the time I got there, the space was shoulder to shoulder.  No lying down on the floor this time.  Every few minutes a voice with an strong Italian accent would demand silence and remind everybody that no photos or videos are allowed. Somehow he did not add to the sanctity of the place.

Still, it was worth it.  Unbelievable colours, especially the flesh tones.  Gorgeous.  They left a tiny square in the top corner uncleaned, just so we can see the difference.  And the difference is beyond dramatic.  What I saw on my first visit was like looking at the ceiling through dirty sunglasses in dim light.

Of course I am no longer looking at those stories through the eyes of a seven year old.  Now they seem horrible, and stupid beyond belief.  Especially the whole ark thing.  It has the credibility of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.  So strange that there are people who believe it is an actual historical event that really happened.  Strange world we live in.

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Dodged the Second Bullet

I had a visit with my oncologist last week.  The good news is that my CT scan also came in clear.  So my cancer is confined to my prostate and I’m not likely to die in the immediate future.  Whew.

The bad news is that I should undergo treatment.  My oncologist is recommending a triple treatment approach – hormone therapy, focused radiation therapy, and implanted radioactive seeds (brachytherapy).  For me the most worrisome of these is the hormone therapy, which shuts off my testosterone.

I’ve started on the pills, one a day, and next week I’ll have an injection.  And then that’s it for a sex drive until this thing is over, if my sex drive ever comes back.  Two things to be grateful for: in the old days the hormone therapy involved an orchiectomy, which is the nice not so scary medical term for castration, and there is a possibility that my testosterone level will rise after treatment.    I guess the third thing to be grateful for is that this beats dying.  But just barely.  I’m going to die eventually anyway.  We all do. But, much as I love it, there’s more to my life than sex.  I’m glad I’m going to stick around for a while.

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Dodged the First Bullet

I had my bone scan last week.  They injected radioactive isotopes into my veins, waited a couple of hours, then did a full body scan.  Then I went home to await results.

bonescan images

I’ve had some pain in my left foot for months now.  I complained about it, was sent for an Xray, and the doctor told me it’s arthritis.  But… what if he was wrong.  What if the cancer from my prostate has gone into my bones.  What then?  So of course that took me to Google and this page, where I learned this:

Metastatic prostate cancer without bone metastasis:

  • one-year survival: 87 percent
  • five-year survival: 56 percent

Metastatic prostate cancer with bone metastasis:

  • one-year survival: 47 percent
  • five-year survival: 3 percent

Metastatic prostate cancer with bone metastasis and skeletal involvement:

  • one-year survival: 40 percent
  • five-year survival: less than one percent

Holy shit.  Survival rate less than one percent after five years.  And the cancer can show up anywhere in the bones.  Like in the foot, maybe.  IMA GONNA DIE!!!

I spent the weekend trying to remain calm.  I don’t want to mess around with the early stages of Kubler-Ross – the denial, anger, bargaining bullshit – but to jump straight to acceptance.  We’re all going to die.  If it’s my time, I’d like to see it coming and get ready, mostly by not denying myself that dessert or second shot of scotch. But it’s hard to be complacent when faced with numbers like these.

This morning I phoned my doctor for the results of the bone scan.  His receptionist read them to me, which I supposed she is allowed to do ony if it’s good news.  “No persuasive indication of metastasis.”  Whew.

Now I feel a bit silly for worrying about it.  This prostate cancer thing is an emotional roller-coaster.  I got bummed when I was told they were shutting off my sex drive.  Then I got really bummed by the statistics on life expectancy.  Now I’m almost happy because I’m only going to lose my sex drive.

Whew, I guess.

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Shit Gets Real

I went to see my doctor
He said I’ve got some bad news
You’re gonna be singing them
No fuckin’ fuckin’ cancer blues.

A couple of weeks back my doctor informed me that my PSA level was high.  I had never heard of PSA levels, but was about to get an education.  PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigens, and a high PSA level can be caused by many things, one of which is cancer.  My doctor ordered a second blood test.  The result was an even higher PSA level.  So my doctor ordered a biopsy. That isn’t something I’d do for kicks on a Saturday night, but not too painful.  The doctor and ultrasound technician were wonderfully professional about it.

Prostate-Cancer

Last week I got the results of the biopsy.  Cancer.  High risk cancer.

IMA GONNA DIE!!!

Well, okay, calm down.  Prostate cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer.  I have friends who went through treatment years ago and are doing fine now.  Most people with prostate cancer will die of something else.

I asked the urologist what would happen if I do nothing.  He said I will die, but they can’t say when.  Maybe in a year.  Maybe in five.  And the death gets painful when the cancer goes into the bones or lymph nodes.  Treatment is obviously a good idea.

Treatment?  Well, first they are going to shut down my libido completely.  Reduce my testosterone level to zero.  So that’s it for sex. Whimper.

Then they will send me for radiation treatment – five days a week for seven weeks, in a city two and a half hours away by car.  The treatment only takes fifteen minutes.  Travel time would be five or six hours a day.  Or I could stay at the cancer lodge at forty bucks a night.  Or I can move into my sister’s condo in another city and be closer to treatment but away from the homestead.

Before the treatment starts, they want more tests – a bone scan and an MRI – to see whether the cancer is confined to my prostate.  I’m not sure what it means if it isn’t.  Maybe I’m toast.

Last week the medical imaging department at the hospital injected me with radioactive isotopes.  After a brief delay to let them circulate, they scanned me from head to toe.  I’ll get the results in a couple of days.

Through all this I remain oddly calm. I’m symptom free. And happy. I’m either living in the moment, or I’m in heavy denial.  Every once in a while the reality that my sex life is coming to an end hits me.  Hard.  I have always loved sex.  I’ve never been able to figure out whether I’ve been any good at it, but if appreciation has any value for my partners there should have been some shared pleasure involved.  At least I can’t recall any complaints – aside from one former lover who told me she didn’t like the way I kiss.  That was hard to take.  But I’ve also been told that I’m a lesbian in a man’s body, which I took to be the crowning compliment of my sexual career.

I suppose this is the way Olympic level athletes feel when they realize they are too old to compete.  It’s still possible to enjoy the sport as a bystander and coach. But damn, I’m going to miss it.

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How “Eye in the Sky” should have ended.

“Eye in the Sky” is a close look at modern warfare, fought remotely with drones, hightech cameras that look like birds or beetles, and real time  connectivity to the drone operators in Las Vegas, face recognition technicians in Hawaii, political decision makers in Britain, America, and China, and intelligence agents risking their lives on the ground in territory held by a hostile militia.

eyeinthesky colonel

The plot: There are a couple of terrorists that a British colonel has been tracking for years.  They are bad bad people, responsible for many death.  One is a British citizen and the original mission, overseen by political advisors and lawyers, is to capture her and take her back to Britain for trial.   But capture turns out to be impossible.  They’ve been tracked down to a safe house and it’s a perfect time to eliminate them with a missile strike.  But there’s a problem.  Changing from a capture plan to an assassination requires political approval.

So the movie is really about who will make the decision.   Politicians dither and insist on deferring to higher authorities. After the series of buck passing, approval is given.  A missile strike is authorized.  But then… a  young girl is selling bread just outside the house, and there’s a very good chance she will be killed too.  Collateral damage.  Is that acceptable?  This launches a whole new round of buck passing.  The military feel it is a necessity, and killing the girl would be unfortunate but worth it because of the lives that will be saved if the terrorists are killed.

Then the remote camera sees two young men being fitted with suicide vests.  They are preparing to find a crowded location where they can kill as many innocent people as possible.  If they leave the house there will be no way to stop them.

That does it.  Approval is finally given.  But the young airman who must pull the trigger rebells and demands a new collateral damage assessment. We bounce around the globe to ever higher levels of government while the British Colonel tries to get a decision out of the bureaucrats and policy wonks.  Legal advice is sought.  Rules of engagement are cited.  An agent on the ground, in a very risky spot controlling the remote camera,  tries to buy the girl’s bread and send her home.  He is recognized and barely escapes with his life.

Spoiler alert: It is a very good movie, and I hope you will see it.  So don’t read further unless you have seen the movie, don’t intend to see it, or don’t care.  I’m giving it all away.

Finally, after many delays and objections, much discussion, much buck passing, and a second attempt to get the girl out of the way, the approval is given.  The missile is launched.

eyeinthesky explosion

The terrorists are killed, mission accomplished, but the girl is terribly injured.  Her mother and father flag down a militia patrol jeep.  The soldiers set their machine gun aside to carry the family to the hospital.  Doctors and nurses rush to help. Will the girl live?  Sadly, no.  She dies.  The mother and father collapse in grief over her body.  It’s been gripping.  It’s been good.

And then, after all the great drama, the solid performances, the tension, the plot turns that work, after all this great stuff the movie fails.  It’s in the denouement, after the resolution.  The audience is treated to a number of scenes in which each character in turn expresses shock and remorse, variously guilt and anger, recriminations and rationalizations.  “Don’t EVER tell a soldier that he doesn’t know the cost of war.” And finally we jump the shark into bathos with a flashback of the dead girl playing in her yard.  The message: War is hell and innocent children die and we all feel terrible about it.

And that’s a bullshit message.

So, how should the movie have ended?  There could have been a teenaged boy who is part of the girls extended family, just a background character, maybe her older brother.  Brief scenes show that he’s a moderate, loves his baby sister, wants the girl to be educated, doesn’t like the fanatics who are terrorizing everybody, wants more freedom and fewer restrictions.  After the girl is killed we see this boy being fitted with a suicide vest.  He’s been radicalized.

Instead of a soppy emotional ending, we see that the effort to fight terrorism has created a new terrorist.  Because this is what is happening.  An American military expert said it:  We are creating terrorists faster than we can kill them.

That’s how the movie could have ended.  It could have said something really important about the war on terror.  Such a pity.  It came so close.

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We Need an Alternative to RIP

RIP grave marker

When a beloved entertainer or closer to home friend dies, I’m seeing RIP on all the Facebook posts and I simply can’t write that.  We need an alternative.

RIP stands for Rest in Peace.  But this person is not resting.  This person isn’t doing anything.  Their body has been reduced to ashes, or filled with formaldehyde and left to pollute some cemetery or crypt.  They are just gone.  Suggesting that they should rest in peace seems downright silly.

My partner says she thinks of this as “all their pain and suffering is over now so they have no worries” and this is fine, except they don’t exist any more.  So they have no worries, but no anything else either.  They don’t exist anymore. Reminds me of one of my favourite Phil Ochs songs.

Pretty much sums it all up.  When we’re dead we’re just gone.  Solid gone.

So what is an alternative to RIP.  I’m thinking of something like HBM (He’ll Be Missed) or SBM (She’ll Be Missed) or the gender neutral TBM (They’ll Be Missed) or maybe IFS (I Feel Sad) or GBNF (Gone But Not Forgotten)  I don’t know.  Any of these work better for me than RIP.

Suggestions?

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