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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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Does FtB Need Another Cis White Middle Class Male Voice?

FTB logo

I’ve been politely rejected, with encouragement to try again in June. And that’s okay.

I applied to write for Free Thought Blogs, along with many other aspiring bloggers apparently.  It would be a thrill and an honour to be associated with that group.  ‘Twould make me so proud to stand with the likes of PZ and Greta and Digital Cuttlefish. But aside from being reduced to a whimpering pile of humble by the very thought of joining them,  I’m not sure I would recommend me.  One of the things FtB is struggling to achieve is more diversity.  Do they need another privileged cis white male voice?  I think not.

No matter how witty and insightful my perspective on life might be, or how clever my use of language, my opinion about just about anything isn’t worth a pinch of guano in the grand scheme of things.

As a radical atheist feminist mangina SJW, I really belong on Free Thought Blogs.  Except I don’t need to be there, and they don’t need me.  I’m perfectly happy with the readership I have.  I’m not sure I’d be happier with a wider readership, and I can certainly do without the hate mail that all the FtB people seem to attract.  My hate male is… non-existent. Aside from one pathetic old man who wrote in all caps and now seems to have gone away, or perhaps died, I’ve never had any hate mail.

Closest I’ve come to hate mail is being called a hypocrite for declaring that this blog promotes tolerance, while being intolerant of religion.  That’s pretty weak tea compared to what the women endure.

Still, I hope that FtB likes my writing enough to offer me a spot when they open up the roll again in June.  If they do, I’ll have to decide whether that’s actually a good idea.

Oh who am I kidding?  I’d be delighted to join them.

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The Penny Drops

Some years ago I was on a tour in China, sitting beside a Mormon woman from America.  She told me the horrifying story of a young good looking Mormon boy who confessed to a series of murders of young women.  He told the authorities that he had been lead to this by his addiction to pornography, she said.

I expressed some surprise, and explained that Denmark, a country that had legalized pornography had seen a drop in the number of sex crimes in all categories.*  Perhaps it’s possible that one Mormon boy could become a serial killer because of pornography, but it certainly looks more like an exception than the rule.

Bundyquoted

So that was years ago.  Very recently I read an article entitled “Ted Bundy’s Success is a Feminist Issue”.  I’ve never paid much attention to serial killers, and didn’t know a lot about Bundy.  So the article prompted a Google search that brought up the Wikipedia entry in which I find these paragraphs:

########################### begin quote from Wikipedia ################################

On the afternoon before he was executed Bundy granted an interview to James Dobson, a psychologist and founder of the Christian evangelical organization Focus on the Family.[317] He used the opportunity to make new statements about violence in the media and the pornographic “roots” of his crimes. “It happened in stages, gradually,” he said. “My experience with … pornography that deals on a violent level with sexuality, is once you become addicted to it … I would keep looking for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of material. Until you reach a point where the pornography only goes so far … where you begin to wonder if maybe actually doing it would give that which is beyond just reading it or looking at it.”[318] Violence in the media, he said, “particularly sexualized violence,” sent boys “down the road to being Ted Bundys.”[319] The FBI, he suggested, should stake out adult movie houses and follow patrons as they leave.[6] “You are going to kill me,” he said, “and that will protect society from me. But out there are many, many more people who are addicted to pornography, and you are doing nothing about that.”[319]

James_Dobson

Multiple biographers,[320][321][322] researchers,[323] and other observers[324] have concluded that Bundy’s sudden condemnation of pornography was one last manipulative attempt to shift blame by catering to Dobson’s agenda as a longtime anti-pornography advocate, telling him precisely what he wanted to hear.[325] While he asserted in the Dobson interview that detective magazines and other reading material had “corrupted” him and “fueled [his] fantasies … to the point of becoming a serial killer”, in a 1977 letter to Ann Rule he wrote, “Who in the world reads these publications? … I have never purchased such a magazine, and [on only] two or three occasions have I ever picked one up.”[326] He told Michaud and Aynsworth in 1980, and Hagmaier the night before he spoke to Dobson, that pornography played a negligible role in his development as a serial killer.[327] “The problem wasn’t pornography,” wrote Dekle. “The problem was Bundy.”[328]

################################# end quote from Wikipedia ############################

So this is the source of my Mormon bus rider’s information.  A questionable source indeed.  Bundy was not raised a Mormon, and it’s stretch to characterized him as a clean cut Mormon boy.  It seems he was just telling an anti-porn crusader what he wanted to hear.

Reading about Bundy was the intellectual equivalent of swimming in sewage with my mouth open.  I’m left with the thought that the evil that was Ted Bundy continues after his death, spreading misinformation to the gullible anti-sex crusaders and contributing to repressive sexual attitudes.  Fucker.  Although I don’t support the death penalty, I’m sure glad he’s dead.

*turns out I may have been wrong about this, but it was current information at the time.  It now appears that violent sex crimes have in fact increased in countries that have legalized porn.  Whether correlation is causation in this case remains to be settled and is open to debate.  I haven’t taken the time to follow the links offered and investigate the validity of this post.  I’ll get to it.

 

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Consensual Crazy

I spent yesterday afternoon at a jam packed memorial service, held in a very large Catholic church, for a teen who died in a skiing accident.

not the actual funeral

Surrounded as I was by such obvious pain and grief, it was not the time to sound off on my own beliefs or show disrespect for the apparently sincere expressions of utter nonsense. Not the right time to mock. It was disconcerting to hear so much crazy, and so many people who seem unable to understand that time passes and things actually change.

If I were to lose an arm, yet run around insisting that my arm was still there, that I would be reunited with my arm soon, that my arm still existed, healthy and invisible, in another place, people would think me insane. If I were to lose my job, yet insist that the job was still mine and that soon the pay cheques would come my way again, people would recognize that I was in denial. Yet somehow the massive denial that goes with the death of a loved one is an accepted, encouraged, and expected (demanded?) characteristic of human beings.

There was a lot of crazy in my afternoon yesterday. I just hope I never catch it.

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What is it about nose hair?

We need a good evo-psych theory to explain this.  (So that PZ Myers can rightfully scoff at it as a “Just So Story” ) I love head hair.  Long, shiny, or clipped very short, it doesn’t matter.  It’s all sensual.  Beautiful.  Body hair in moderation is also okay, sort of, and what Alan Ginsberg called “fuzzy fucky blondes” are a major turn on.  But nose hair?  Repulsive.  Why?  It’s just hair, and has as much functionality as any other hair we sport, serving as a first line of defence against dangerous dust and asbestos particles.  Yet it turns the stomach.

Hair that we are not accustomed to can have the same effect.  I well remember my first German class at university.  It was lead by a jolly overweight woman who didn’t shave her armpits.  I had a very visceral reaction to those clumps of black hair.  Leg hair on a woman gets the same reaction from most men, but I’m convinced that this is just a cultural thing, like finding a circumcised (read mutilated) penis more attractive than an intact one.  I no longer react to armpit hair or body hair on a woman.  Somehow I seem to have accepted that it as natural, and I prefer natural.  But nose hair is different.

 Sir Tim Hunt doesn't care about his nose hairs.

Sir Tim Hunt doesn’t care about his nose hairs.

Does anybody find nose hair attractive?  Is there a group of nose hair fetishists out there someplace?  Probably, but they are being very quiet about it.

I remember my grandfather showing up at our home when I was a child.  He was nearly blind, and could be forgiven for wearing nose hair walrus tusks that looked to me to be two inches long.  My father took him to our bathroom and trimmed him to a respectable state.  No doubt the day will come when I also lose control of my nasal foliage, but right now I’m embarrassed if so much as a single hair shows itself outside of my nostril, which they all seem to want to do.

In “The Black Knight” there’s a scene in which Martin Lawrence plucks his nose hairs and dances around in pain after each pluck.  It’s supposed to be funny.  I used to cut my nose hairs.  Now I pluck them on the, apparently unsubstantiated, theory that they will be slower to grow back.  The pain is not that bad.

In the first episode of “Six Feet Under” there’s a scene where the ghost of the father, played by Richard Jenkins, is watching his own funeral from a lawn chair at the edge of the cemetery.  The sunlight is sparkling on a nose hair that must extend at least an inch under his his nose.  Either the director and cameraman felt this added to the realism of their show, or they missed it.  My bet is, they missed it.  My bet is there was gnashing of teeth in the screening room that night.

Few people, if any, like nose hairs.  Please tell me why.

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