Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Silence looked me in the face, and I finally heard its voice

Working at a place like Doug's House can get you used to dealing with a lot of shit. Both literally and metaphorically. You see the "dregs" of humanity, societal castaways and the forgotten. People who have been so abused and abandoned, and done plenty of abusing and abandoning themselves, that if you never understood the human survival instinct before, you surely would after being there. Or maybe sometimes it's the opposite, working feverishly against the individual in every action they take. Some people try for years to kill themselves, and in the end, they're the ones that hold on most tightly when it's time to go. Sometimes they're the ones that fight the hardest; whose bodies, even after years, sometimes decades, of abuse and destruction, refuse to give up. Working at a place like Doug's House can quickly teach you what it might take years to discover in books. Nothing replaces experience. I can easily see why people get so burned out in this profession. It's draining, for the most part unappreciative, demanding and just hard to do, physically and emotionally. For the rest of my life, every time I see soft serve ice cream, I'm going to think about cleaning up about a pint and a half of diarrhea out of someone's brief, who not only can't move, but has a prolapsed rectum that's swollen and bleeding. I don't say that to be flippant, I say that because it's true and that was the goal: to make his stool the consistency of ice cream.

It's not as hard as it sounds. You just suck it up and you do it. It has to be done. You get through it. You don't take deep breaths, you wash your hands about a zillion times afterwards. Even if you don't believe in god, you go outside to collect yourself and look up at the stars and thank him that it's not you, and beg that it never will be. You think, "I would just kill myself before it got to that point," but you know it's not true. You wouldn't. You'd hold on because you're not ready to go yet, even though your body is quitting on you, you're literally nothing but a skeleton, and at this point, all you're expelling is years of intestinal sludge.

I never knew that when people are dying, their heart rate increases (usually to about 120 beats a minute), but their breathing slows down drastically (usually to about 6 breaths a minute). That's one way you know that they're going. Sometimes, when they've been paralyzed for years on one whole side of their body, that side of their body begins to move for no reason. It twitches, and they can grasp your hand with their fingers.

R. is 56, and his partner of almost 17 years hasn't left the house since he arrived 8 days ago. He's going, anytime, probably tonight. R.'s father, who is very old and restores stringed instruments for a living and resells them in a little shop, is also there every day. He's a beautiful old man, and sweet as the dickens. He goes home for dinner more often, and usually home to sleep at night, but always comes back. R.'s sister is often there as well; she's not ready to let go yet, and she's gonna have a rough time of it. You know. But it's nice to see someone get so much support, to see someone whose life was so full of love and tenderness and art and fulfillment. Just being in his room with all these people is so intense, and the energy in there is so...not really positive, but it is. It's sincere, it's palpable, it's inspiring. They're the real deal, and no one's going home early.

And you go in the kitchen to get a drink of water, and you can inadvertently start a conversation with another staff member about philosophy, and existentialism, and dying and books and they've been there and their heart is so large and they've lived so much life it makes you wonder how they can just walk around on Earth and act like a normal person.

And sometimes, you can leave a place like Doug's House at night to drive home, and realize how fucking full of love the world can be, and it feels like your heart is going to burst, and you just listen to the Dixie Chicks in your car and cry instead.

The GRE beckons....

...and I'm taking the call.

Yikes.

Send smart thoughts my way.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Needle Exchange


Washington DC is the only city in the country barred from using local tax money to help finance needle exchange programs. Today in the NYT, there's an article about Ron Daniels, an ex-drug user himself who works with an annual budget of $385,000 from private donations running his own needle exchange program in DC. He is also HIV positive, which 1 in 20 people in DC also are, making it the city in the United States with the highest infection rate.

Among men, using infected needles to shoot drugs is the second most common way of contracting HIV, behind sex, and for women, it's the number one method. The infection rate is going up, though, especially for hetersexual black women, who are the fastest growing segment of the population to become infected. Many people attribute this to there still being such a large stigma against homosexuality in the black community, so many black men are still very closeted and in relationships with women, while having sex with men on the side. It's called "being on the down low." There have even been movies made about it.

I don't know that I've ever really given much thought to needle exchange programs, but after working in an AIDS hospice for over a year now, they seem pretty necessary. The majority of the residents we have in there are not middle-aged or young gay men, as one might expect. They're mostly very, very poor black people, usually from the street or direct from prison, and most of them are heterosexual drug users. Some are clean when they come to us, some aren't. A lot of the women have been prostitutes, and there are more women than you'd think. And they're all black. At least ever since I've been there.


Back at the Winnebago, Yvonne Zywusko, a 39-year-old prostitute, climbed on board, shaking in withdrawal from not having used heroin in over a day.

“Look at me,” she said as she dropped two used needles in the bucket. “I wasn’t raised this way. I went to Catholic school. My family had a lot to offer me, and I missed out.”

Reaching out to prostitutes is an especially high priority of Mr. Daniels’s program, since they have great potential to spread H.I.V.

Seeming disgusted with herself, Ms. Zywusko described how she sold her body and slept in stairwells, but she began shaking her head as she added that she was still not ready or able to kick her addiction.

She added that the one line she was trying not to cross is sharing needles. “I got checked in January. It was negative,” she said about her last H.I.V. test. “I’m lucky.”


UPDATE: Texas is the only state in the whole country(!) that doesn't allow needle exhange programs of any kind, despite being the state with the 4th highest drug-related AIDS infection rate. Apparently, just this past week, a Texas House committee, led by chairwoman Dianne White Delisi (R - Temple), killed a bill that would have made it legal. The bill's author was Sen. Bob Deuell, R - Greenville.

As of 2001, there was an underground needle exchange program operating out of an unmarked van. I wonder if they're still around.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bring me your ranter, your fist shaker!

My friend Zen Imbecile has posted a crash course in fair and balanced reporting, inspired by yours truly. She's brilliant. I wish she was a teacher.

Now get out there and engage!

28 Weeks Later



To accuse 28 Weeks Later of being anti-American, as some people seem to have done recently, I think is a total misrepresentation. It's a simplistic, and in my opinion, deliberately cynical interpretation, as if you're desperately trying to see something that isn't there. It's like saying Swingers has a subtextual homosexual agenda because it's about men.

In every way 28 Weeks Later works. It's terrifying, heart-wrenching, and has not so subtle political overtones. If anything, though, it seems to me that the filmmaker's sympathies lie with the Americans. Obviously the metaphor is about American occupation of Middle Eastern countries where we may or may not belong. But the American soldiers are all portrayed as decent people desperately trying to do the right thing in a royally fucked up situation where reality constantly encroaches upon the best laid plans. In fact, the two main heroes of the film are both American soldiers selflessly putting themselves at risk to save the lives of others.

If the film could be read as anti-American in any way, possibly it comes in the form of faceless leadership that gives drastic and irreversible orders to the soldiers to carry out lethal attacks against citizens. But in the context of the film it's impossible for the soldiers to sort the innocent from the guilty and the killing comes with heavy hearts and an attempt to save the innocent in whatever way they can. It's a panic and lose-lose situation where stopping to consider consequences will result in it being too late to save anyone at all.

It's painful and horrifying to watch and perhaps offers a small glimpse into the confusion and existential horror many U.S. soldiers might face around the globe right now. Obviously they're not fighting flesh-eating zombies but that's why it's a metaphor.

Friday, May 25, 2007

What, it's not enough just to damn the homosexuals anymore, now the Christians have decided that even sensitive, or "soft men" are going to hell too??

When you're reading an article about transgender people in a Christian publication and of the paragraphs says, Alluding to Scripture (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), Gagnon quoted Apostle Paul listing persons who will "not inherit the kingdom of God." The list includes the "effeminate" or "soft men," which is essentially the closest thing to transgenderism, Gagnon pointed out., well, you know they're reall grasping at straws at that point. Since when did being sensitive equal Gender Dysphoria? And I love how Christians these days, terrified that they'll be thought of as the homos that they probably are, have turned Jesus into this terrifying, ugly, brute of a monster, when every single piece of evidence in the Bible points otherwise.

Anyway, I think it's interesting that gay panic has now evolved into transgender panic in the ever non-evolving world of Christian wackos (but they do evolve, see!). I certainly take it as a sign of progress, don't you? Now there's someone worse than a gay person!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mister Lonely


I didn't even know Harmony Korine had a new movie coming out until yesterday. I have to say, I'm very excited. Mr. Korine is one of the few filmmakers anymore who really inspires me. Anytime I see one of his films, or hear him interviewed, or read about his films, I always get that once-familiar little itch to go make my own movie. Which I so rarely ever get anymore. Admittedly, Grindhouse did that for me. Anyway, I can't wait to see Mister Lonely.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Just in case that last post didn't quite reveal the hallowed depths of my gayness, then this one surely will.

Yes, lots of people (like me!) have far too much free time on their hands.

When I was in junior high I loved Jem. It seems many people don't remember this little gem (ahem!) about an all female glam band and their evil rivals, the all female Misfits. But I do. It was a spin off from Barbie characters, and it was awesome, and I watched it almost every day on USA. I loved it.

Then one day my devotion was rewarded with this adorable little video some very bored person fashioned out of clips from Jem and what might be the best Le Tigre song ever, "Deceptacon."



And then, upon further time-wasting research, I found this pretty awesome clip of Le Tigre playing on...Conan 'O Brien? He really is the awesomest. And like, twice as tall as Kathleen Hanna.

They said it wouldn't last, we had to prove them wrong.


I'm not one of those people necessarily that bemoans a time when things were different, or better, or more wholesome. I came of age in the 80's, for god's sake, in an age of Madonna, and "Girls on Film," and "I Want Your Sex," club kids and cocaine, the genesis of AIDS. Though I wasn't really cognizant of a lot of that stuff, I'm sure that somewhere along the way it seeped in, if in no other way than through drug and sex abstinence programs at school.

So it seems funny to me that people today are so much touchier about slutty pop stars and celebrities with drug problems. Maybe back then things were just kept under the rug better, and if Madonna had had a cocaine problem, maybe the whole world wouldn't have known about it. Maybe Madonna did have a cocaine problem, and my point is proven. Regardless, on my way to work today, on the Jammin' Oldies station here in Austin (where the use of the adjective "oldies" is used very liberally) I heard the song "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" by Janet Jackson. Surprisingly, it actually held up for me, and despite that I was a little embarrased to be listening to it (even though I was alone in my car), I really enjoyed it, and still remembered every single lyric, despite not having heard it in years and years.

What this has to do with the beginning of the post is that I remember how scandalized I and some of my friends were by the video. Why? Because Janet's wearing some kind of halter-top and frollicking on a beach with two nearly-naked men (though you didn't hear me lodging any complaints about Antonio Sabato, Jr. prancing around in a skimpy white speedo!); it seems downright wholesome today! In restrospect, I guess, it wasn't scandalous, but just unexpected from Janet. This was probably the only light-hearted single off of her Rhythm Nation 1814 record (which I probably listened to twice a day for 2 years), and thus far, her style of buttoned-up tops and having every inch of skin covered, even her hands, had achieved the maximum amount of stuffiness. But she was It for me. She was the Godmother of my personal Holy Trinity: Janet Jackson, Debbie Gibson, and Paula Abdul.



Whatever, I'm not ashamed. And you know the ironic thing about that is to this day, out of those three, the one whose music I still find the most listenable is Debbie Gibson's. Come on, "Only in My Dreams" is a fucking really cute, catchy little song.



Anyway, I guess I knew it was all over when Janet, at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards, while performing "Black Cat," ripped open her shirt to reveal her black bra and big ole luscious boobs in what would be the first of her many wardrobe malfunctions. Then Debbie Gibson grasped desperately at straws by playing a stripper in a video, and, well, I just realized how much Paula Abdul sucked. (And whose music is absolutely, totally 100% unlistenable to me these days.)

I'd already flirted briefly with some hair bands like Poison and Skid Row, but my sugary pop obsession officially ended, I think, in 9th grade when I discovered Disintegration by the Cure, and Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell by Social Distortion. I had new crushes, and this was the music, along with REM and some other crap, that my brother's friends listened to when they spent the night (he was 4 years older than I was) and walked around in their underwear. And gave me boners.

Ah Texas - You gotta love it.

Lubbock lingerie store clerk may have to register as a sex offender.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

88 Percent


That's the number of foster children adopted by gay couples in San Francisco since last July. This week, as San Fran prepares a huge pro-gay adoption blitz (complete with billboards all over the city), apparently the San Francisco Chronicle likes to quote leaders of hate groups, as recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The offending article was printed yesterday morning, and the offending paragraph goes like this:

The campaign, which will include a billboard in the Castro featuring two dads with their teen daughter, is perhaps the first of its kind and sure to be controversial. It comes just two weeks after the evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family began its drive to recruit more Christians as adoptive parents, partly -- the group said -- to keep foster children out of homosexual hands.

Focus on the Family's objection to same-sex parents is grounded in interpretation of biblical scripture and research by Paul Cameron, director of the Family Research Institute in Colorado. Cameron says gays and lesbians are unfit parents, are more likely to molest children of their same sex, switch partners frequently, have shorter life expectancies and cause their children embarrassment and social difficulties.

"Any child that can be adopted into a married-mother-and-father family, that's the gold standard," Cameron said. "An orphanage would be the second choice, and then a single woman."


Well, if all that isn't offensive enough, reporter Ilene Lelchuck fails to mention that Paul Cameron, according toAmericablog: "told the 1985 Conservative Political Action Committee conference that "extermination of homosexuals" might be needed in the next three to four years. He has advocated tattooing AIDS patients in the face, and banishment to a former leper colony for any patient who resisted. He has called for gay bars to be closed and gays to be registered with the government.

He was kicked out of the American Psychological Association, and was publicly rebuked by the Nebraska Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association. And he has been called the leader of a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, America's number one civil rights organization for tracking the klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The Southern Poverty Law Center went so far as to say that "Cameron's 'science' echoes Nazi Germany." And the SPLC tracks actual Nazis, so they have the right to make the comparison.

This is the "expert" quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle. And to make matters worse, not only did the Chronicle quote a known hate group as an expert on civil rights, but they didn't even identify who Cameron really is. Nope. They don't tell their readers anything at all about Cameron, simply that he's an expert on gays molesting children. Do you think it's relevant that the man's "science" has been debunked? Not according to the "journalists" at the Chronicle.


I suspect Ms. Lelchuck will most likely be issuing an apology in the next day or two. This is just incredibly sloppy, lazy reporting. Why quote the man in the first place, unless that's your agenda?

I can't remember every word I might have said.

Today in the NYT, there's an article about the stories we tell ourselves. Or more specifically, it's an article about how the human brain is hardwired to form narratives of life (hence, storytelling goes back as far as man), and the way that people view their own lives (tell their own stories) affects everything from self esteem, to future actions. This inner plotline, pscyhological researchers are saying, should come to play a major factor in the development and theories of personalities and how they develop.

Every American may be working on a screenplay, but we are also continually updating a treatment of our own life — and the way in which we visualize each scene not only shapes how we think about ourselves, but how we behave, new studies find. By better understanding how life stories are built, this work suggests, people may be able to alter their own narrative, in small ways and perhaps large ones.

The study also went on to say that people, even people who have never met each other, but that have similar backgrounds, and have gone through similar events, tell their stories in remarkably similar ways.

It reminded me of the book I'm reading right now, Care of the Soul, by Thomas Moore. I guess it's sort of philosophy, but also psychology, about how our lives are continually evolving stories that we have to learn how to read and interpret, much the same way we read films, or novels. I'm not horribly far into the book yet, but so far he's talked a little about how people subconsciously act out archetypes from mythology, and how the stories in mythology (notably family relationships towards the gods, and having to travel through underworlds for redemption) are active metaphors for our own spiritual journeys through life. He relates it to Jung's theories of archetypes and the collective unconscious of all people. I don't know how much stock I actually put into that stuff, but I really like Jung's way of thinking and I have to give it credit for creativity. Though admittedly, I've tried several times to read some lectures by Jung and can't really make heads or tails of them. But I've studied him not in his own writing, and I'm a big fan of his ideas.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Gay Dallas


Recently, (I can't find any links, so you'll have to take my word for it) the Advocate compiled a list of the top 10 cities for gay men and lesbians in the United States, and Dallas came in in the top 5. I can't remember exactly what ranking it was precisely, but I remember being fairly shocked that it was there. They base the rankings on things like population (of gays), single life, employment, civil rights laws on the books, the general environment towards gays, healthcare, and things like that.

This weekend, I was talking to Mandy and Victor about this, and they were telling me that Dallas was most likely about to elect a gay mayor (in what would be the first city in America to do so), and they already have a gay sheriff, and an openly gay county judge. The largest gay church in the world(!), with 3,500 members, the Cathedral of Hope is located in Dallas, and the gay population there is exploding.

I was perusing Time.com today, and found this article, The Lavender Heart of Texas, about precisely these things, and Dallas' future as the southern, and one of the United States' foremost, gay meccas. It mostly focuses on politics, and the unprecedented grassroots organizing of the gays there. Even the Human Rights Campaign, the federal (and arguably useless) activist group says its fundraiser in Dallas every year brings in more money than in any other city in the U.S. Dallas still has a ways to go to beat in Austin in overall liberalism, but it's catching up, and may even eclipse Austin soon.

The author attributes Dallas' cosmopolitan atmosphere (as opposed to "dowdy Austin") as a major factor bringing in the gays, along with the myriad of employment and social options. One thing I will say about Austin, as much as I love it, is that employment options here are definitely lacking, and an interesting gay social life is nonexistent. I'm not sure what would constitute "interesting," exactly, but from someone (me) who's been involved in as many "gay" activities as I could possibly find in this town, from the film festival, to AIDS work, to political groups, to purely social options, I can say with authority that it's lacking. Austin has a big gay population, but if you're in you're 20's, and want to meet other people in their 20's in an atmosphere that doesn't include places like trashy danceclubs filled with Aberzombies or MySpace, you're pretty much fucked. Which is not to say that there aren't a lot of young, gay people here, because there are, it just seems that the majority of gay men I meet not on the internet are middle-aged and in relationships. Which is great. For them. And they're lovely. But not relationship material. Whether that says more about Austin itself or about the young gay people that live here not being involved in anything, I'm not sure. Which is also not to say that I haven't met many other wonderful gay people my own age. But it was always on the internet. Which is what I've started to find really frustrating.

Perception Makes Perfect


Since Jerry Fartwell's death last week, a number of op-ed pieces and genuine articles have been sounding the death knell for evangelicism in American politics. Or, at the very least, its relevance. I don't think it's hyerbolic to say that America has been held in a death-grip of terror by these fanatics (and I'm including Muslims in that loony bunch, too, because they're no worse than the Christians; the only reasons the Christians aren't flying planes into buildings is just because they don't have to), and Fartwell's death is more than a little symbolic at this point in history.

Yesterday Frank Rich had an editorial in the NYT about this very symbolism, saying Falwell's death "...happened at the precise moment that the Falwell-Robertson brand of religious politics is being given its walking papers by a large chunk of the political party the Christian right once helped to grow. Hours after Mr. Falwell died, Rudy Giuliani, a candidate he explicity rejected, won the Republican debate by acclamation."

Sullivan piles on the commentary by laying claim that James Dobson, America's preemminent Evangelical leader, refuses to endorse either Giuliani or McCain, who, at this point, are pretty much the only Republicans capable of taking the nomination. At least in my opinion. So what will that leave their flock to do? Think for themselves? Not vote? The prospect inherently makes one giddy with glee at what the next election can hold. Which is also to say, I won't underestimate the Evangelicals' power. It's a sign of absolutely sickening cynicism in America when things have even gotten to the point where Evangelicals cannot simply be dismissed out of hand by political candidates anymore. I mean, if Jerry Falwell had ever said that crack-cocaine was a punishment by a just God against black people (like he said AIDS was about gay people), would any politician anywhere in the country have aligned with him? No fucking way! But because he was beating up on the gays, it was okay. The fact that any of these wackos are invited onto talk shows, and given newspaper columns, and taken seriously at all, even by supposedly "liberal" politicians is nauseating. And as Christopher Hitchens so helpfully pointed out in his brilliant Slate column last week, anyone that made half the claims that Fartwell did would have been locked up in a loony bin, were they not rich and with the word "Reverend" in front of their name.

But people are getting fed up, I think, and starting to realize that not only are these people greedy and mean, they're also liars and full of shit. The Mark Foleys and Ted Haggards, and Jack Abramoffs, and Paul Wolfowitzes of the world have seen to that. Not to mention their divinely-inspired leader, George Bush, who has probably done more to discredit Evangelicals than even they could do on their own. Which, actually, is saying a lot. And as much as I think Mary Cheney is a heartless, self-hating Ice Bitch, I have to give her a shout-out for her own hand in bringing about this change. So thanks, Bitch.

This morning, too, the NYT ran an interesting article about the now shifting priorities of the new, "modernist" evangelicals, to things that really matter, like ending AIDS in Africa, and global warming. Naturally abortion will always be a hot issue (that ain't going anywhere), but it was refreshing to read about how so many of these new evangelicals really want to distance themselves from the likes of Falwell, Dobson, and even Bush. They want a return to real Christian values and a focus on issues that Jesus would be concerned about, like poverty and the environment. It ends by even adding that the younger generation, while still conservative, also have gay friends, and view them more as real people, with real lives and values, than their parents ever did. In another generation, gay marriage will really be a moot issue, much how inter-racial marriage became a non-issue in the span of one generation.

It also makes one wonder if maybe this movement is overstated, or if the original, more hateful and hypocritical movement was the one overstated. There are so many other variables when you consider the presidency of Bush, like 9/11 and the war in Iraq. I think a lot of otherwise sensible people voted for Bush the second time based on these two issues and an environment of so much uncertainty and "danger." If 9/11 had never occurred, who knows what would have happened. The war in Iraq most certainly never would have happened (well, maybe not). I definitely think it's too soon to let down our guard and vigilance against the religious fuckers, but the tides do seem to be genuinely turning. I am so curious as to what will happen next year.

UPDATE: In the interest of full disclosure, as some of you may know, back when I had a soul-sucking corporate job and spent all day ensconsed in a cubicle, I listened to a lot of conservative radio. Don't ask me why. It fired me up, it gave me pause, I genuinely wanted to learn how they thought and understand them. Granted, I was listening primarily to Bill 'O Reilly and Dr. Laura, but still. I often found them very interesting, especially Dr. Laura, seeing as how her show wasn't overtly political, but was primarily about psychology. I liked her no-nonsense approach to life and matter of factness, although I think she too greatly discounts the value of emotions in dealing with life. However, I turned her off one day and never listened to her again when she said date rape was a myth, that if a woman is on a date with a man and drinks alcohol, then that woman should expect, and deserves, whatever she gets.

All of which is to say that I wanted to point your way toward a really strange story regarding Dr. Laura's son, who is a US marine. It involves his MySpace page (since removed), and its lurid content, described by an Army official as "repulsive."

The MySpace page, publicly available until Friday when it disappeared from the Internet, included cartoon depictions of rape, murder, torture and child molestation; photographs of soldiers with guns in their mouths; a photograph of a bound and blindfolded detainee captioned "My Sweet Little Habib"; accounts of illicit drug use; and a blog entry headlined by a series of obscenities and racial epithets.
The site is credited to and includes many photographs of Deryk Schlessinger, the 21-year-old son of the talk radio personality known simply as Dr. Laura.


It goes on to give a driect quote from Deryk himself: "Yes . . . F---ING Yes!!!" said one blog entry on the Schlessinger site. "I LOVE MY JOB, it takes everything reckless and deviant and heathenistic and just overall bad about me and hyper focuses these traits into my job of running around this horrid place doing nasty things to people that deserve it . . . and some that don't."

Classy. The article does acknowledge, however, that it could have been a fake site set up to smear Dr. Laura and her son. Who knows. I just thought it was an interesting addendum to this post.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

More Fartwell (sorry!) and the color purple.

In Salon today, they have a satirical editorial by Tinky, the purple TeleTubby remarking on Fartwell's death. One thing Fartwell attributed to Tinky's gayness in that now infamous editorial is that the color purple represents the color of gay pride.

Really? I thought pride was a rainbow, made up of all the primary colors so that we could just co-opt them all along with molesting children that we somehow inexplicably didn't abort while we were smoking crack and having orgies.

Anyhow, that brings me to my next point, which I meant to blog about awhile back, about an interesting trend I've noticed lately at the retail establishment where I toil away my hours. I've been working at the customer service desk a lot lately, and we have a little service where we provide balloons to children. We provide purple and green balloons, emblazoned with our logo. Purple and green, those are the only colors.

What I've been seeing a lot of is little boys wanting purple balloons, and their parents refusing and only letting them have green ones. And when I say I've seen a lot of this, I don't mean once or twice. I mean, I see it at least once every shift or two. I see it enough that I've noticed it.

Usually the little boys cry, or pout, or refuse the green balloon, because they want the purple one, but the parents don't budge. I even saw one little boy completely freak out and sob hysterically because he wanted purple and his father would only let him have green. The father even smiled a bit as he tied the green balloon to the cart and pushed it away, the boy sobbing inside. Whether he was smiling because he was embarassed, or because he was taking delight in breaking the boy's spirit, I'm not sure. But either way, he was not having the purple balloon.

It's very strange. One of my managers was standing up there talking to me when we both witnessed this father and his son, and the manager rolled his eyes and said, "He probably thinks the purple balloon will make him gay."

It's very weird. I always thought purple was a traditionally "masculine" color, symbolizing royalty and strength. When did it become "gay?" I'm so out of touch.

Jumping Ship

Americablog has a really nice and succinct roundup of Republican candidate responses to Fartwell's death.

If any one of these men gets elected President in 2008, I'm done. Seriously, you think I'm kidding? Done. Vancouver was just ranked the Most Livable City in the World by whoever does those kinds of rankings. Toronto is supposed to be nice. Cold, but nice.

I guess I'm still just very shockable. God, how long is it going to be before these prehistoric troglodytes die off? If they all went today it wouldn't be soon enough.

Well, at least we got one down. My only regret is that he died so quickly. It should have been long, protracted, painful, and terrifying. But I'll take what I can get.

See, I knew I couldn't be nice for long.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Falwell

You have no idea how difficult it is for me right now not to say something dreadful, or list all the abominable things he's done and said in the name of Christianity. But since I'm sure that if the God he believes in does exist, he's rotting in hell right now, so far be it from me to rub salt on the man's wounds.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Maybe the best news I've heard in weeks.

Apparently, Lars von Trier is too depressed to make any more movies.

Danish director Lars von Trier has revealed he takes no pleasure in filmmaking, and isn't sure whether he can continue to create movies after a period of depression.

Von Trier, who directed Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark starring the singer Bjork and 2003's Dogville starring Nicole Kidman, says the depression has left him "like a blank sheet of paper," losing focus and initiative.


Maybe he's depressed because he went back and watched his own movies and realized how much he sucks.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Reclaiming Patriotism

I like it. The more I hear from John Edwards, the more I like the idea of him as a viable candidate. I have to say, my enthusiasm for Obama has waned a little (burnout already?), and I think Edwards might really have a decent chance of taking the nomination. It'll be interesting to see what happens. Obviously, it's too early to really speculate strongly. But I get a good feeling about Edwards.

Notes on a Scandal


My definition of a really effective horror/thriller film is one that makes you feel completely out of control, that there is absolutely no clean way to get out of whatever situation you're in, and one that fills you with such dread and anxiety that it's almost unbearable to watch. That's how Notes on a Scandal made me feel. Ultimately, nothing that the characters do in the film (to me) is that bad, but they're bad enough to reap irreversible, and catastrophic results.

One of the first things I ever learned about screenwriting is that nobody thinks they're a bad person. Your villains have to have a real motivation, and be human, and behave in ways that could be rationalized, even if it's by a slightly unstable person; otherwise they're not scary. Nor are they believable. If this movie accomplishes anything in spades, it's casting Judi Dench as one of the most cold-blooded but sympathetic villains you're ever likely to encounter on the screen. Throw in a biting and hilarious wit, and you've got the recipe for a woman so consumed by loneliness and isolation, and desperation, that she'll do anything for a "friend." Except, for some reason, her friends always end up taking out restraining orders on her.

Dench's character in the film is also a lesbian (more or less), which I thinks only works in the film in a non-offensive way because she's an old lady. She belongs to that last generation of gay people, I think, who really did view homosexuality as a life sentence of single-dom and isolation. The fact that her character feels so removed from the world around her (and so attached to her kitty, Portia, that the cat's death is what sends her over the edge), and so absolutely bitterly desperate for a connection with someone is more sympathetic in the old (in general) than in someone young, or even middle-aged.

One stupid mistake by Cate Blanchett's character is what sets off all the action and terror is this superb thriller, and it's a doozy. The film flies by like a great thriller should, keeping me biting my nails the whole time. You're really set up to care about the characters; not a single one of them is one-dimensional, even the teenage boy that is the object of Blanchett's lust. Everyone has justifiable reasons for the things they do in the film, even if the justifications are dubious at best. They're there, and you understand them, and you think, "there but for the grace of God go I." Loneliness and not just the desire, but the consuming need, for a connection with another person are the names of the game. And just like a killer in the midst, you never know when you will be the next to be struck.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I ain't rich, but Lord I'm free

It's so rare that I ever become starstruck about anything these days, but it happened the other day, quite unexpectedly. One of the residents currently occupying the hospice, I'll call him F., is the son of a pretty well-known musician. F. was a model in the 80's, and appeared in several films, and knows a lot of people. (He showed me his portfolio the other day and it was pretty crazy.)

When I went into F.'s room the other night, I noticed a new photo he had on his night table. It was a photograph of a man, taken at a party or something, wearing a cowboy hat. I said, "Is that George Strait?" F. smiled and said it was, and said they were friends, and had known each other since they were 6 or 7 years old. Of course I minorly freaked out, and said, "Do you think he'd come play my next birthday party? I have a really nice backyard." I guess F. took me sort of seriously and said, "Oh, he barely plays out anymore at all these days, since his daughter died."

Admittedly, I know absolutely nothing about George Strait's personal life, or if he's even really from Texas, and I kind of prefer it that way. But of course this picqued my interest. F. said that George had lived in San Marcos for years and years, but he had a teenage daughter that died in a car wreck in 95 or 96, and after that, George and his wife couldn't bear to keep living in the house where they'd raised her, so they sold it and moved to San Antonio. And he mostly stopped touring after that.



...

I really like the house right now. Everyone there really seems to like me. They greet me so warmly whenever I come in, and everytime I leave, they always ask when I'm coming back. Even the one that last week I had to call the cops on (that's a whole other story) and who called me a "fucking spoiled rich kid" told me a few days later that I was his favorite person that worked there. When I was leaving today, he said, "If you stay longer, I'll pay you with my own money." Another resident told me she loved me, and said, "You treat me so fantastic and make me feel better." They're sweet.

In which Our Young Hero learned the true meaning of the personal being the political.

When Andrew Sullivan linked to "The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion" last week, about pro-life women who make exceptions for themselves to have abortions, because only their situations are unique (in their minds), it reminded me of when Bryan called me out on my own hypocrisy several years ago.

I hope he doesn't mind my telling this story, and it probably meant much less to him than to me, but it's stuck pretty indelibly in my mind. We were riding in his car somewhere, when somehow we got to talking about abortion. I made the off-hand comment that you hear from liars and cowards everywhere, that, you know, abortion is fine for other people, and I think it should be legal, but I would never opt for one in my own personal situation. Bryan became visibly agitated and told me that he hated when people said that because (and I'm paraphrasing here; correct me, Bryan, if I'm misquoting you in any way) it implies a judgement, and the idea that there are "certain types of people" who get abortions, and by saying that, you're saying that you're not one of "those types." Furthermore, he told me, the majority of people that came into his clinic to get abortions said that they never thought they would be coming in there. So in other words, almost everybody says they're not the "abortion type." Until they are.

I guess in my feeble little brain at the time, that was a lot to chew on, but it made me confront my own hypocrisy and judgemental nature, and exposed me as a total liar, because of course if I were in a heterosexual relationship, I would keep abortion open as an option. Lucky for me (and perhaps in my defense) one reason why I so ignorantly felt that way is because I've never had to seriously consider that. Because, you know, I don't sleep with girls.

But if I were ever to get a man pregnant, I definitely wouldn't want him to get an abortion.

Friday, May 11, 2007

It's 4:30 am...

Did you know if you look up "innocent straight boys" on Google Images (I don't recommend this if you're at work) a picture of me comes up?

I swear to God.

And the Band Played On


I am officially 4 hours in to my 10-hour shift at hospice (10pm-8am) and technically, I'm supposed to stay awake the entire shift, but I'm not sure I'm gonna make it. I figure if I just crash out on the couch I'll still be accessible, but can get a little shut-eye.

After watching my nightly dose of Jon and Stephen, I raided the Doug's House video/DVD library, which is quite extensive, and settled on a 2 and a half hour movie I figure I should see, but would probably never rent: And the Band Played On. I have to say, it took me about an hour to really get into it, such as it's the type of movie that tries to cover so much material in such a short amount of time, that it kind of comes across as preachy, and having to explain everything to you. So the characters talk very explicitly about the "issues," and what's happening, in ways that humans never talk, particularly when they're all in the midst of something. I find that dialogue is rarely so clinical and straight-forward in real life. But I guess all in all, the filmmakers did a pretty great job of cramming all the exegencies of the first 5 years of the AIDS crisis into such a relatively short amount of time.

Some of the things I took away from the film that I of course already knew, but I guess have never seen offered in such a specifically dramatic light before, was what "gay life" was really like back then, and how terrified the government was of anything even remotely "gay." (It took the Reagan administration 5 years, and over 25,000 deaths, before the Gipper even said the word "AIDS" in public. It was a gay disease; they wouldn't touch it.) It was interesting to see the parallels between AIDS and the Ebola virus (which the Western world was fortunate enough to be spared from), and to see the face of the man (albeit an actor) who researchers think was single-handedly responsible for bringing AIDS to America. It was an airline steward who claimed he'd slept with up to 300 men a year, for the last 10 years! I'd heard this theory before, but thought it was fairly unfounded until this movie. But the book was written in 1987, and the movie made in 1993, so it's possible that this theory no longer holds any water; I'm just not sure.

It was also a little shocking for me to realize how prominent gay bathhouses were to gay culture in San Fransisco, New York, and Los Angeles. There was a near riot in San Fransisco when the Centers for Disease Control had isolated the virus as spreading through sex and in particular at bathhouses, and they suggested that for the good of public health, the bathhouses should all be shut down. Maybe I just come from a generation that takes being "out" and the finding of a healthy, monogamous relationship for granted, but the idea that bathhouses were the primary social venues for gay men in the 70's is so depressing. It's a topic that's been covered in a myriad of novels and films, and we all the know the free-wheeling, post-Stonewall, let's-go-nuts-and-fuck-everything-in-sight attitude is what led to AIDS, but you'd think more gay men could have seen how dangerous this lifestyle was, both physically and spiritually, but again, it's really hard for me to put myself in that position and in that era. (San Fransisco's bathhouses were finally shut down in 1985, and the rest of the country pretty much followed suit right after.)

I also thought it was really interesting how it wsa the AIDS crisis that essentially led to the mainstreaming of gay culture and gay people in general. It seems difficult to imagine what our world would look like today if AIDS had never happened. Would we have eventually gotten to this place where we are anyway, just slower, or would we still all just be sex-crazed zombies going to bathhouses and having orgies every night? I shudder.

The film ended beautifully, with Elton John's "The Last Song" playing over documentary footage of everything AIDS: celebrities, marches, funerals, pickets, parades, news footage, you name it. Of course I totally cried.

Now I think I'm gonna go watch Omen III.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The real irony is that stupid conservatives will probably say he's unAmerican, but to me, he's about as patriotic as it gets.

Miami Herald columnist cheers the ever-rising gas costs.

Barring $4-a-gallon gasoline prices, America will not get serious about reducing toxic emissions that worsen global warming, and will continue to fund corrupt Middle Eastern kingdoms that deny basic civil rights to women and fund Islamic fundamentalist schools, some of which preach violence against innocent ''infidels'' in the name of Allah.

And, closer to home, without $4 a gallon gasoline, Washington will most likely continue filling the pockets of oil-rich tropical autocrats.


...

Granted, the Bush administration will tell you that it is doing a lot to reduce America's oil consumption. In his recent State of the Union address, Bush laid plans to reduce U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent over the next 10 years, among other things by increasing the supply of alternative fuels such as ethanol.

But Bush, a Texas oilman at heart, and the U.S. Congress, not immune to the car lobby, are far too timid in attacking the U.S. foreign oil addiction.

This is insane! I have nothing against you buying a light truck or an SUV if you are a soccer mom with quintuplets, a concert bass player, or a rancher in Montana.

But when I see these ever-growing vehicles driving through Miami -- where I have yet to find a hill, let alone a mountain -- with just one person inside, carrying nothing, I can only conclude that America deserves the foreign oil-rich despots that are causing so much trouble.

As long as America doesn't get serious about reducing oil consumption, petro-dictators will grow stronger, and there will be more of them. So when I see $3.41 gas prices, I say: ''Bravo!'' The sooner we get to $4, the better!


I totally agree. The downside is that this is just one more way the poor people in this country are gonna get screwed before things get better, if they ever do. And I'm including myself in that. As a poor student with a very negligible amount of expendable income, filling up my gas tank for $35 even every two weeks hurts. A lot. So I've been trying to ride my bike more places and reserve my driving primarily for school, or car pool more. But it's hard. My car was in the shop this past week, and you realize how very pedestrian-unfriendly Austin really is when you're carless. It makes me mad.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Some of the things that people have Googled that have somehow led them to this blog. Strangely, it gives me a weird, creepy feeling deep inside....

"innocent straight boys"

what is it called when sheep have poop on their butts

myspace layout "with blood running down"

"their masturbatory habits"

big ole boobies

"bitchiest queens"

i love wine and xanax together

straight boner

"death proof"

someday probably when I'm old and gray

dodgy beef smell

figging

gay figging

figging supplies

natalie maines addicted pain killer

sparrow "dick cheney"

aborting intersexed children

after freezing - lip feels raw - is this normal

if you have been smoking for 10 years, are their any cures

"it's your heart that takes the fall"

when an aries man is stressed

george strait + lump of coal

I love Workout.

No, not working out, Workout! It's a reality show on Bravo (which, for my money, has the market cornered on watchable, compelling, totally worthless reality TV) about a mid-30's trainer who started her own high-end gym in L.A. That's pretty much it.
The show totally wouldn't work if Jackie Warner wasn't such an ambitious, charismatic and interesting character in and of herself. She's a lesbian, and struggles mightily not to let that characterize and define her. Her father was schizophrenic and committed suicide when she was a teenager, and her mother is a wacko religious nutjob who thinks her daughter is going straight to hell, but loves her anyway, and they're always struggling, struggling, struggling.

Jackie's best friend is Jesse, also gay, and a little flamboyant, a trainer in Jackie's gym full of testosterone-fueled men, both gay and straight, and he seems to always be fighting to prove himself to them. To prove his masculinity but not sacrifice who he is. And he's just so sweet, but he's not a hardbody either, and everybody gives him a hard time about being "fat." He shrugs it off and says, "Well, maybe I'm fat in the gay world, but not in the real world."


The show is just about these people struggling, and living their lives amidst this crazy backdrop of celebrity trainers and supermodels. It doesn't overly politicize, or play to sensationalism. They date, they get in fights, they get their hearts broken, they try to branch out and do other things, they get sick of being so "fit," and binge on ice cream. I also like that the show uses a lot of psychology about people obsessing over their bodies and eating disorders (in "SkyLab," a program Jackie started to help overweight clients develop healthy lifestyles, lose weight, and address the real issues behind their weight problems). Plus, everybody on it's really funny.

I don't know. In the middle of the afternoon, when you're bored and napping on the couch, a marathon of this on Bravo is just the ticket to waste the hours. I love it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Rosa Parks of Tolerance.


Stephen Colbert has the scoop on the recent hate-crimes bill.

My 200-point paper on teenage suicide and the use of antidepressants. In case anyone is ineterested in reading it.

Teenage Suicide
The third leading cause of death for adolescents is suicide, behind injury and homicide, respectively, arguably making it something of a crisis (Basco, 2006). When you take into account that death by injury and accidents are fairly rare for teenagers, and that even some of those (such as car crashes), could actually be suicides not labeled as such, the problem becomes even more pressing (Basco, 2006).

Girls would seem to be at especially high risk, as the rates of depression after the onset of puberty is twice as high for girls as for boys (Bonati and Clavenna, 2005). A history of abuse, particularly sexual abuse, has also been shown to increase the risk of suicide (Basco, 2006), and teenagers with conduct disorders combined with mood depressive disorders were at the highest risk (Basco, 2006).
Popular belief hypothesizes that bringing up the subject of suicide with an adolescent whom you suspect is suicidal will “give them ideas” and place the thoughts in their head. But talking to a possibly suicidal adolescent and frankly asking them if they are planning to kill themselves does not, in itself, precipitate suicide; in fact, it has been shown to be an effective tool in fighting suicide. Most suicidal patients simply want someone to pay attention to them and acknowledge their pain, in addition to the fact that acknowledgement can increase social support (Basco, 2006). And if an adult, or even another teenager, suspects someone of being suicidal, chances are the one being suspected has, indeed, already considered it, and the person bringing it up would not be placing any novel ideas in their head.

But how serious is teenage suicide? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2005 in the United States, there were over 30,000 suicides, approximately 2,000 of them occurring in the fifteen to nineteen year-old age group (Basco, 2006). Roughly 90% of that number suffers from a serious mental illness, depression being far and away the most common (Basco, 2006). So what do these figures tell us about teenage suicide? What are the most common factors that precipitate a suicide in an adolescent? Are antidepressants the answer to solving the problem of teenage depression and suicide, or do they exacerbate an already complicated time when cognitive therapy might be more helpful and useful?

For some reason, the rate of teenage suicide increased dramatically in the latter half of the twentieth century (Steinberg, 2005). Many different and varying explanations are given for this dramatic increase, including diminished contact between adolescents and adults, more divorce, more pressure to “grow up” faster, and a more violent society, but none have proven to be satisfactory in explaining this phenomenon (Steinberg, 2005). However, through various systematic studies, 4 distinct risk factors have been identified and isolated as confident predictors of teenage suicide: psychiatric problems such as depression; genetics, or having a history of suicide in the family; external stress, typically social in origin; and severe familial stress or rejection by parents (Steinberg, 2005). A previous suicide attempt is the leading predictor, however, in whether or not a teenager will try to take their life again (Steinberg, 2005).

In the 1990’s, suicide rates in most Western countries declined significantly, and this decline directly correlates with the drastically increased use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) in depressed adolescents (Rey & Dudley, 2005). Since such a large number of adolescent suicides occur in the midst of a severe mood disorder, it will be helpful to look at treatment options and how those options are affecting suicide rates.

Most teenagers who commit suicide don’t do so in a vacuum, contrary to universal belief. Most seek some sort of professional help in the month prior to their taking their life (Gibbons, Hur, Bhaumik, and Mann, 2006), but at the time of death, only approximately 2% of suicides are taking any sort of medication (Gibbons, Hur, Bhaumik, and Mann, 2006). But teenagers must become, and remain, active in their own care to make it effective. A study of 49 adolescents who had committed suicide in Utah showed that 24% had been prescribed antidepressants, but not a single one of them tested positive for SSRI’s in their systems during autopsy (Gibbons, Hur, Bhaumik, and Mann, 2006).

The first SSRI approved in the United States for the treatment of a major depressive disorder (MDD) was fluoxetine, in 1987 (Kratchvil, Vitiello, Walkup, Emslie, Waslick, Weller, Burke, and March, 2006). By 1991, the USFDA was already holding public meetings about the safety of fluoxetine and its possibly contributing to suicidal behavior in adults, but 17 double-blind clinical trials later found no significant difference in the risk of suicide by those taking fluoxetine over a placebo (Kratchvil, Vitiello, Walkup, Emslie, Waslick, Weller, Burke, and March, 2006). Not until 1997 did these same studies begin to start happening on the efficacy of fluoxetine in children and adolescents (ages 7-18 years), but when they did, 56% of the fluoxetine subjects had improved in eight weeks, as opposed to only 33% in the placebo group (Kratchvil, Vitiello, Walkup, Emslie, Waslick, Weller, Burke, and March, 2006). After practice guidelines for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) were changed to recommend SSRI’s as valid therapy for youths, the number of adolescents receiving an antidepressant at the onset of a new depression rose from 5% to more than 37% in 2002 (Kratchvil, Vitiello, Walkup, Emslie, Waslick, Weller, Burke, and March, 2006). Although numerous studies were performed on placebo-controlled trials of drugs like paroxetine, sertraline, and citalopram, and most found little to no differentiation between any SSRI and a placebo, fluoxetine is still the only drug FDA-approved for pediatric use (Kratchvil, Vitiello, Walkup, Emslie, Waslick, Weller, Burke, and March, 2006).

In 2004, an FDA clinical trial showed a relative suicide risk of 2% over a placebo for minors currently taking 10 different antidepressant drugs (Kratochvil, Vitiello, Walkup, Emslie, Waslick, Weller, Burke, and March, 2006). Based on these findings, the FDA took four actions that same year: a “black box” warning on all antidepressants that use in children came with accompanied risk of suicidality; they required a medication guide to accompany all pediatric prescriptions; they proscribed strict guidelines for monitoring of patients on any and all antidepressants; and lastly, they incorporated warning and explanation packaging in every single prescription of an antidepressant that was filled, regardless of the duration of use by the patient (Kratochvil, Vitiello, Walkup, Emslie, Waslick, Weller, Burke, and March, 2006). The reasons for the possibly increased suicidality of teenagers taking antidepressants is unclear, but likely result from a varied and highly complex interactions in both biological and social factors (Rey and Dudley, 2005). SSRI’s often induce extreme side effects in their users, including agitation, irritability, an inability to sit still or concentrate, and insomnia (Rey and Dudley, 2005). Like any other medication, SSRI’s can also trigger manic mood swings with higher suicide risk, and withdrawal can also set off many of these same symptoms (Rey and Dudley, 2005).

In 2005, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health in London, England, released new guidelines stating that antidepressants should be used on adolescents and children suffering from depression only as a last resort, and not at all on sufferers of only mild depression (Mayor, 2005). Furthermore, it declared that once depression had been diagnosed, the patient should immediately be put on a specific psychotherapeutic track, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or family therapy, in conjunction with antidepressants, and that their drug intake should be closely monitored for any signs of negative affects (Mayor, 2005). Fluoxetine was the only drug recommended for use in adolescents and children (Mayor, 2005).

Other factors have since then been found to affect both efficacy of antidepressants, and the rate of suicides in adolescents taking antidepressants. The suicide rate for teenagers on antidepressants (not just SSRI’s, but all antidepressants) is significantly higher than for those teenagers not on medication, but this has more to do with the fact that only much more severe cases of MDD are generally put on medication in the first place, and even then, it’s often too late (Rosack, 2005). Of the 24, 119 adolescents in a recent clinical study marked as having a major depressive episode, 17, 313 of them had no antidepressant filled within six months of their diagnosis (Rosack, 2005), which led the researchers to conclude that if anything, MDD’s are grossly underdiagnosed (Rosack, 2005). Additionally, the suicide rate for teenagers, after going up for 40 years, finally began to hold steady and even drop slightly in the 1990’s, while the prescribing of SSRI’s to depressed teenagers increased significantly in that same time period, rendering the increased risk of suicide argument negligible, at least from an epidemiological standpoint (Basco, 2006).

Suicide is an unpredictable and mysterious climax to often torturous afflictions in all age groups. There are known treatment methods and approaches to the problem, some more useful and valid than others. While antidepressants in general, and SSRI’s in particular, have proven to be an effective treatment method for depression and other major mood disorders, which are the leading causes of suicide, they must be accompanied by a rigorous psychotherapeutic treatments and in-depth scrutiny. The two together (pharmaceuticals and therapy) have shown to be more useful than either alone, especially cognitive therapy (Tonkin and Jureidini, 2005). Teenagers, especially depressed teenagers, can often be hostile, moody, unmotivated, and lack insight, rendering cognitive therapy alone often useless or futile (Rey and Dudley, 2005). With carefully monitored use of fluoxetine (in severe cases), teenager’s moods can often be stabilized enough to get them to actively participate in their own therapy and healing process (Rey and Dudley, 2005).
The use of any medication for MDD’s on teenagers or children remains a controversial idea, especially given how much misinformation, skepticism and uncertainty exist in the professional (psychiatric and medical) world regarding the topic. Ultimately, every decision regarding administering medication should be made on a case-by-case basis, with a careful, ongoing benefit and risk analysis (Rey and Dudley, 2005).
The cost of doing nothing to help alleviate the symptoms of devastatingly isolating mood disorders in adolescents is too great to not be taken very seriously. Just in the last 15 years, major advancements in the study of both psychotherapy and the use of psychotropic medications has yielded tremendous and hopeful results, but not without their setbacks and caveats. The medical and psychological fields must keep striving to provide ever more and effective treatments for an insidious and crushing disorder, not only of the mind, but also of the spirit.








References

Basco, William T. Jr. (2006). Teens at Risk: A Focus on Adolescent Suicide. Presented
at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ 2006 Annual Meeting.
Bonati, M., & Clavenna, A. (2005). The epidemiology of psychotropic drug use in children
and adolescents. International Review of Psychiatry, Vol. 17, pp. 181-188.
Gibbons, R., Hur,K., Bhaumik, D., & Mann, J. J. (2006). The Relationship Between
Antidepressant Prescription Rates and Rate of Adolescent Suicide. The American
Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 163, pp. 1898-1904.
Kratchovil, C., Vitiello, B., Walkup, J., Emslie, G., Waslick, B., Weller, E., Burke, W., March,
J. (2006). Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors in Pediatric Depression: Is the
Balance Between Benefits and Risks Favorable? Journal of Child and Adolescent
Psychopharmacology, Vol. 16, pp. 11-24.
Mayor, S. (2005). Psychological therapy must accompany antidepressants in young people.
BMJ, Vol. 331, pp. 714.
Rey, J. & Dudley, M. (2005). Depressed youth, suicidality and antidepressants. The Medical
Journal of Australia, Vol. 182, pp. 378-379.
Rosack, J. (2005). New Analysis Disputes Antidepressant, Suicide Link. Psychiatric News,
Vol. 40, pp. 1-6.
Steinberg, L. (2005). Adolescence. New York: McGraw Hill.
Tonkin, A., & Jureidini, J. (2005). Wishful thinking: antidepressant drugs in childhood
depression. The British Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 187, pp. 304-305.

Higher education is such a joke. A scam, a racket. Too bad there's so much stock in it.

First off, I get a call from school this morning at 9am, telling me I have a financial hold, and that if I'm going to take my internship class this summer, I owe them $1500 by Monday.

I was under the impression my financial aid was covering this class...?

No. The class is only 3 hours. For financial aid, I have to be enrolled in 4 hours.

Oh. By Monday?

Yes, or we have to have a payment plan worked out by then.

Secondly, grades are in. Well, most of them.

The American Dilemmas paper I worked my ass off on all semester, met with the teacher 3 times about, did everything she told me to do, and of the final product I was actually pretty proud? I got a 74.

So despite having 100's on everything in the class, and getting high B's on the first two submissions of the paper (it was written in three parts; how do I get high B's on the first two, and almost a D on the last one?), I get a B in the class. And barely a B at that.

I just went and laid on my bed and cried for 5 minutes. Apparently my best work is only worth a 74. And I can definitively say it was my best work. I worked really hard on it. I also studied my ass off in my Abnormal Psychology class and only scored a C in there as well, which is also infuriating, because I feel like I really do know the material, it's just not reflected in my grade, because I did so badly on the tests in there. Maybe I'm not cut out for Doctorate work after all. I guess I'll have to give some further thought to that.

I'm feeling so incredibly frustrated today all I want to do is go back to bed and sleep.

UPDATE: Okay, so a 74 is bad, but once again, in my Adolescent Psychology class (like my Child Development class before it, with the same professor), I got a 100% perfect score out of 200(!) on my research paper. I just stood up and danced around my office (which is the breakfast table in my kitchen). Welfare just isn't my strong point I guess. C'est la vie.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Entitlement

I used to think that having grown up with two public school teachers as parents had given me a biased view of what public school and teenagers were all about. My father quit teaching when I was pretty young, and eventually went back to it, but my mom has always taught, and still does. She teaches orchestra, and built a huge, statewide recognized program in Rogers from virtually nothing. But teaching an elective also has its downside, especially when you're dealing with something like music, where egos tend to become oversized and demanding. I'll never forget when I was in 8th grade, seeing my mom sitting in her car in the parking lot of my junior high, sobbing uncontrollably, because she'd just come from a meeting at the high school where she taught, where a group of students, led by their coddling parents, had decided to make my mother's life miserable. She couldn't bear to come inside the classroom in that condition, obviously, and it took her 15 minutes to collect herself enough to do so. This particular group of students, who all had horribly pretentious, overbearing parents, had decided that they had outgrown my mother's musical instruction, that she wasn't giving them the credit they rightfully deserved, that she was treating them unfairly, and that perhaps she was no longer suited for that job, and someone else should step in. I don't recall all the details; my mom tried to hide them from me the best she could since I knew all of these students and their families, and a couple of them went to our church, but from that day forward, my mother has barely been able to conceal her contempt for each of those students and their parents. Even to this day, and that was like, 17 years ago. Because of them, after that year she quit teaching high school and taught only elementary and junior high students. I know that was a really heartbreaking decision for my mom to make. She loved teaching high school, and many of her students went on to major in music in college and have rewarding careers as professional players or teachers, and she loved being there through all those transitions, and she loved many of them personally. But I guess it's sort of how if someone breaks your heart, it's impossible to ever go back to the way things were before, even if you want to. It's over.

So in a sense, those awful kids won: they got a new instructor, though this time it was a man, and they didn't go any easier on him. In their senior year he got leukemia and actually began dying, and they showed absolutely no compassion or support, and the worse he got, the harder they tried to make things on him, because somehow they perceived it as being shortchanged on the education they should be getting.

Over the years since then, though, things haven't gotten much better. My mother eventually moved to a whole new school district in a whole new town to start a whole new program from the ground up, and already in the second year, she was facing many of the same problems, the same egos, and the same overbearing parents, but this time, it was starting in 7th and 8th grade, not 10th or 11th. She's had parents in her office literally screaming at her because little Johnny isn't first chair violin, even though little Johnny doesn't practice and is disruptive in class. She's been called a bitch, told she's a horrible teacher, told she's unsuitable, been threatened, and had parents rip their kids out of her class because she won't acquiese to every demand. This is what education in America has come to.

Being an older student at a private, mostly-white and upper-class university has been interesting for me. Professors confide in me. They see that I'm different, that I work really hard, that I make an effort to work with them, and come to them in humility when I have an issue, instead of in anger and entitlement. Obviously, I'm not the only student like this, but I can only speak from my experience. And a couple of professors there have told me the same stories. So much entitlement. That's the word they always use. Parents who call up screaming at them because their child got a B, or students who throw hissy fits in the professors' office because they failed the class, but didn't bother to show up for half the semester and failed two tests. It seems to be an epidemic, and it's terrifying. These same college kids are no doubt the same kids and parents who give people like my mom such a hard time and suck out what little joy or fulfillment she ever found in teaching.

I never understood the psychology behind any of this. Even as a child it was baffling. These kids will never learn to fail and pick themselves up; they'll never learn emotional coping skills or experience the fulfillment of real success and struggle.

This whole post was inspired by another post I just read about the exact same thing (albeit much shorter) with a link to a jaw-dropping ABC news story about how employers are now even feeling the heat from parents, but shockingly, they're bowing to them! Parents have created a whole generation of crippled adults, which in some ways is better news for those of us who have actually learned to struggle and cope and don't expect handouts: it can only make us that much more appealing in a glutted and overly-competitive job market.

For your blog-viewing pleasure-

I'd like to point you towards Everything is Not Enough, a new blog by my friend Tom. I think you'll like it.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The tourists come and look at us

In a recent post on my friend Mark's blog, he talked about settling in at night with his wife, my other friend Kat, getting their favorite snacks and junk food, and watching their favorite trashy television shows together, and that this is what marriage was all about.

I'm pretty sure he meant that in a good way. Because they're with their favorite people: each other. I found this one little line incredibly sweet and more romantic than a million flowers or rings, and also, to me, what's always defined a great relationship. What I miss the most about living with my "significant other" (boyfriend, partner, lover, whatever you want to call him) is the exact same thing. I miss preparing little meals together, watching dumb TV and falling asleep on the couch. That probably sounds like death to most people, but it's not like this is all that our lives entailed. It was just those...quiet moments that you can share with someone that make relationships so great. Those times when you could easily be alone, and probably be okay with it, but it wouldn't be the same. It wouldn't have that comfort and that peace, and your trashy shows wouldn't be nearly as fun.

But you don't have to be in a romantic relationship with someone to have that. My roommate and I have a fairly regular routine every night of watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report together. Watching these silly shows is often what precipitates many of the conversations we have.

Lately, though, Jon and Stephen have been relegated to second-class citizens by Dylan because it's basketball season, and I've done a lot of watching of Jon and Stephen by myself, and you know what? It's not nearly as fun to watch by yourself. I mean, it's mildly amusing, but it's not as much fun to laugh by yourself, and you can't comment on the jokes they make, or the stories they talk about.

All of which is to say, for Dylan's sake, I hope the Jazz does well, but for my own selfish reasons, I hope they lose soon. I want my Daily Show buddy back.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Blue States Lose

Ah, it must be Friday at Gawker.

This one was too good to pass up.

How much creepier would Eyes Wide Shut have been if the weird sex freaks were wearing ironic t-shirts (can Everclear be ironic?) rather than tuxes and the password was "brah" instead of "fidelio", and instead of sex they just stood around and took pictures of themselves drinking Pabst until they passed out?

I'm feeling really snarky today. It's prolly cuz I'm bored.

Cathy for President?

Once again, the Daily Show shows what's up.

(Psst....It's the "Hillary on the Insider" one you want to watch. Sorry you have to sit through a commercial.)

Good God, it's like a coalition of monkeys. But non-evolved monkeys.

A big part of me hopes that they're all just joking, that this is a big leg-pull of the American people. Or maybe they're pulling their own legs. God help us if even one of these wackos gets within a foot of the White House next year. I have to say, though, that the American people have been suffering so much under this kind of right-wing, dare I say idiotic, thinking for the past 7 years, and they've seen what it yields. I'm fairly certain most of them have had enough.

What if Roe v. Wade was repealed? I think Guiliani's answer is probably by far the worst, most incoherent, and most insincere. That man is a fucking moron.

And evolution? I'm sorry they asked. I like how McCain hesitates before he answers, as if he's thinking about what the correct answer should be.

The last time I saw so many phonies was when I was shopping in the Fashion District in L.A.

Buy, Buy Baby

On Morning Edition this morning, they had a brief interview with Susan Gregory Thomas, author of the new book Buy Buy Baby, about the insidious marketing of consumer products to babies, the day they're born.

Obviously, these products are really directed at parents, exploiting the anxiety every new parent feels about taking care of their babies. Marketers posit that if they can hook a "consumer" from Day 1 and make a life-long customer out of them, they can gross over $200,000 from that consumer in a lifetime. Clearly that all depends on the product and circumstance, but it's a sick business. She went on to talk about how useless "educational" toys are for babies, you know the ones that are supposed to "stimulate" certain areas of the brain? Well, as she so helpfully points out, everyday life is incredibly stimulating for babies already, and what most babies need most each day is time to not be stimulated, to just be still and quiet and process.

Colic has recently been attributed, perhaps, to overstimulation on sensitive babies. Their nervous systems simply get overloaded, and it causes them a great deal of stress and anxiety. That makes me think about how stressed out I get when I walk around in New York City with all that stimulation (I really do find it incredibly overwhelming), and how babies must feel day to day.

Another thing she pointed out that I thought was really interesting, and makes sense, but which I'd never thought about before is that babies, and often even toddlers, get absolutely nothing out of those "educational" TV shows like Barney, or the Teletubbies, or Dora the Explorer, except for character recognition, which is then used against them in advertising. That's why it works so well.

So, in the days before Baby Einstein, and before Barney, and before Thomas the Train, we actually had the real Einstein, and Mozart, and Shakespeare, and Freud, and Kubrick, and Darwin, and Marie Curie. Humans have been getting along just fine for a very long time without educational toys. I hope that if I ever have babies, I can remember that and not let my parental anxiety and guilt dupe me into this crap.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I don't understand how these people can live with themselves with so much hate in their hearts and lies on their lips - in the name of Christianity.

Today on Politico, Matthew Shepard's mom, Judy, has written an eloquent and heartbreaking op-ed piece about a piece of federal hate-crimes legislation that President Bush has already vowed to veto.

On Thursday, Congress is considering a bill that would expand federal aid to law enforcement officials investigating hate crimes that result in serious physical harm and death.

The Senate version of the legislation carries Matthew's name.

Congressional offices all across Washington are being flooded with phone calls opposing the legislation because political organizations on the ultra-right have been lying to their members, and telling them that this legislation would punish religious people for anti-gay speech -- dubbing this a "thought crimes bill."

One group spreading misinformation to its membership -- the so-called Traditional Values Coalition -- has even gone so far as to put a picture of Jesus on a "wanted" poster, implying that religious people who speak out against homosexuality could become the targets of criminal investigations.

Obviously, that's just not true.

The people spreading this type of propaganda are blatantly lying to their members out of fear that the federal government might finally legislatively recognize that gay Americans exist, and need the same rights and protections the rest of us take for granted.

Even worse, the Traditional Values Coalition is misleading and manipulating its members to make these phone calls to Congress, even when they know in their hearts that they are spreading lies.

This type of behavior has nothing to do with real traditional values.


It's not even so much that Bush might veto a hate-crimes bill; honestly, I'm sort of ambivalent about hate crimes carrying harsher penalties than "regualar" crimes, but I need to do more research. What I find so upsetting are the lies and "gay panic" that the conservatives are engaging in, because God forbid, as Mrs. Shepard said, gay people should be treated like everybody else and expect the same rights. This is America, people, not fucking Iran!

In somewhat happier news, all Democrats, one Independent, and two Republicans in the Oregon legislature passed a "domestic partnership" bill that affords gay couples every legal recognition of marriage in that state without actually calling it marriage. Good enough for me. In some ways, I kind of like the idea of doing that better than calling it "gay marriage." The word "marriage" has so many religious connotations, and if the right-wing whackos won't let us call it that, then fine, we'll do it and just call it something else. I don't want to be in their club anyway. What makes it even cooler is that almost 3 years ago, the people of Oregon voted to ban gay marriage in that state by a very narrow margin, but a margin nonetheless. It's nice to see some politicians actually standing up for what's right.

Sen. Frank Morse, R-Corvallis, who supported the bill, said Oregon must find a way to treat all citizens with dignity and respect, regardless of sexual orientation.

"Our task today is to find how big is Oregon's heart," Morse said.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2008, same-sex couples will be able to go to their county courthouse and enter into a legally binding contract that grants them rights and responsibilities. The benefits include nearly all those accorded to married couples under state law, covering the rights to jointly file state taxes, child custody, hospital visitation and inheritance rights, among others.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Easter portraits with my nephew!


Jazz hands.
He loves his uncle.
He's dancing. That Akon song is his favorite song. When I was there, he was constantly singing, "Nobody wannna see us together, but it don't matter now, cause I got you!" I never liked that song before, but now I love it.

And here he is, apparently in some kind of drum line...?


It's weird how they start turning into actual little people.

Thirty, clumsy, and shy

Today I had my last final of the semester, in my Counseling class. Afterwards, I went to lunch with a couple of friends from the class, David and Rebecca. Both of them are also "non-traditional" students like me: David is 33, and Rebecca is a 45-year-old single mother of 3(!) putting her life back together after a disastrous marriage and some intense hardship. I've known her for 2 semesters, but we never really spoke much until the last few weeks, when we totally bonded over the fact that we both want to specialize in sexual minorities and people with "gender issues" (transsexuals, transgenders, intersexed children and their families, etc) in our future therapeutic practices. David is graduating this semester, and is about to head to graduate school in San Francisco in about a month; he's getting a PsyD, also, and I say also because I have definitively decided that's what I want. It's a big commitment, but I've decided it's important to me. Teaching is important to me, and so is the prestige, if you want to know the truth. I'll be a doctor! It's crazy to think about. I won't lie, I want the title.

Anyway, we had a really great talk about grad schools, and our futures, and we all three thought it would be incredible to finish up, get our degrees, and then start our own little practice, with three little offices in one building, with each of our names on the doors. David and I both sort of assume, barring something crazy, that we'll both come back to Austin when we're done, and Rebecca's getting her Master's in Counseling at St. Edwards, because she can't really take off for somewhere far away.

When I got home from work tonight I had two packets from schools: from the Wright Institute in Berkeley, and from Antioch in Keene, New Hampshire. I began flipping through them, looking at course descriptions and faculty, and I started getting a weird panicky feeling.

Like, wow, am I really doing this? Am I really going to take 3 semesters of Statistics? Am I really going to take courses called "Intervention: Cognitive-Behavioral," and "Advanced Psychopathology and Psychodiagnosis," and "Neuropsychological Screening?" I guess I am. Am I really going to have to start sending out applications when I get back from camp in August? I guess I am. Both colleges included applications with the packets they sent me, complete with letters of recommendation forms and invitations to come visit the schools. Within 9 months from now, I'll be flying here and there to go to interviews. It's like finding a new job. With a 5-year minimum commitment. It's scary as hell. Exciting, thrilling, inspiring. But terrifying. Time-wise, moving-wise, money-wise. So much commitment. But on the other hand, I swear to God I can't think of a single thing in the world I'd rather do. It feels so right, I feel so strong and confident about it, I lay awake at night thinking about it like a kid on Christmas Eve.

So luckily, there are only about 40 PsyD programs in the whole country, so finding places I wanted to go and narrowing it down was much easier than trying to wade through all the Master's options. So here are my school choices, and where I will be sending application packets this fall, in no (mostly) particular order (If you're bored of my talking about grad schools, I'm sorry. I know I'm a broken record right now, but it really does constitute the better part of my brain these days, most of the time):

Pacific University, Portland;
the Wright Institute, Berkeley (it's right across the street from Stanford!);
Rutgers, Piscataway, New Jersey (they invented the PsyD degree, back in the 60's);
the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, Boston;
Antioch, in Keene, New Hampshire;
and just for kicks -
George Washington University in D.C.

So wish me luck. I'm totally obsessed.