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Thursday, January 17, 2013

The worst of us.

Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R- KS) writes on his page that:
"The Second Amendment is non-negotiable. The right to bear arms is a right, despite President Obama's disdain for the Second Amendment and the Constitution's limits on his power. Congress must stand firm for the entirety of the Constitution – even if, but particularly so, when President Obama seeks to ignore his obligation to 'preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.' Taking away the rights and abilities of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves is yet another display of the Obama Administration's consolidation of power."

Rick Perry, governor of the once (and hopefully future) Republic of Texas, claims that “Specifically ( . . . ) instead of enacting tougher gun control legislation, Americans should simply pray for protections.” (

Bryan Fischer, an executive with the American Family Association, says “God did not protect the victims of one of the deadliest school shootings in American history because children and teachers were not allowed to pray for protection in the classroom.” (

I sit here, aghast. Once again, members of my species have managed to completely embarrass me. Not by miscalculations of logic, ethics, or knowledge, but by gross misrepresentations of all three.

First of all . . . the second amendment is negotiable. It’s an amendment, which means that it was a renegotiation of that holiest of documents, the United States Constitution. It’s very existence says that “the United States Constitution was either wrong or incomplete.” Let me see, how can I back this up? Hmmm.  Oh yes, it’s the second amendment . . . out of a total of twenty-seven. So (follow me here, congressman), that means that the United States government, on twenty-seven different occasions, decided that the original document that our country is based on needed augmentation. So they—get this—negotiated. Not only is the second amendment negotiable (such is the crux of the nature behind the idea of (here’s yet another vocabulary word to write down) democracy), but so is every other law on the books.

You’re a congressman. You are supposed to have at least a basic knowledge of the laws and machinations of the government of the United States. Hell, to be a teacher in New York State I had to take a government civics class. I can recommend a good one if you’re interested.

“Pray for protections.” Okay, I was raised catholic, and without going into a whole list of reasons why I decided to separate myself from the earthbound catholic system (maybe later, stay tuned), I find it hard to understand how anyone can simply shovel off a poop pile of canned rhetoric, faith-based or not, in the face of the recent tragedies our nation has suffered. Basically Perry echoes the third of the clowns on today’s rant-barbecue, Mr. Fischer, when Fischer condemned the victims of Newtown for not being of the Christian faith. Let me rephrase: this sad, pathetic, narrow-minded, xenophobic, bigoted son of a bitch claims that twenty children and six adults were sacrificed because the community did not actively embrace the prayer rituals endorsed by Mr. Fischer.

I find it impossible to see the logic here. First of all, that prayer works. Ask any parent whose child has died in a hospital from some disease. Ask any war victim whose home or village was napalmed. Ask anyone who has truly needed divine interference and was left without relief.

Regardless of that . . . It is said the Lord helps those who help themselves. There’s a lot of wisdom in the Bible. I do not follow it to the letter, nor do I use it as a life-guide. I take what I find to be useful and beneficial. So (according to the Bible), should God be moved to assist, he first looks to see who truly deserves it. Help is best given to those who deserve it, those who truly desire betterment and are working towards it. My question is this: where in said document does it define what “helping themselves” is? Is it working three jobs to get oneself through medical school or feed three daughters? Or can deservance of divine assistance be simply because one lives ecologically frugally and sustainably? One can argue that caring for the living being that allows us all to live is worthy of beneficence.

On a more basic level, is it not truly Christian to offer help to anyone who needs it, regardless of who they may be? I seem to remember a “That which you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me” kinda thing going on that book somewhere.

It seems that we are beset by a cabal of forked-tongued snake oil salesmen who have discovered the Bottle Imp, and that imp manifests itself in a system of mass media that allows such horrific drivel to filter out to the scared, the simple, the willfully ignorant; to those who, without exercising their capacity for logical, critical thought, readily kneel before a flag, a reverend of dubious origin, or a purveyor of obvious hatred and fear.

Maybe those who need the help are the ones who allow these despicable hypocrites to proliferate.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity; the pandemic of the future

“Multiple Chemical Sensitivity; in broad terms it means an unusually severe sensitivity or allergy-like reaction to many different kinds of pollutants including solvents, VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds), perfumes, petrol, diesel, smoke, "chemicals" in general and often encompasses problems with regard to pollen, house dust mites, and pet fur & dander.
Multiple chemical sensitivity, unlike true allergies - where the underlying mechanisms of the problem are relatively well understood widely accepted, is generally regarded as "idiopathic" - meaning that it has no known mechanism of causation & it's processes are not fully understood.”

The patient was trapped; the double hip replacement surgery had left him nearly immobile. Physical therapy was getting him out of bed and walking him by ever-increasing steps up and down the hospital hall. Percosets managed the pain. Replacing a hip joint has become commonplace, done three to four times a day by a surgeon some hundred days a year. That part of the process is streamlined and nearly seamless. And it takes a while to regain full mobility, or very simply the ability to move oneself out of  a dangerous situation.

And one variable was the nurse who walked into the patient’s room reeking of scent. Immediately the patient’s throat closed up, the eyelids began to swell, breathing became asthmatic; labored and strained. His voice was gone, only the barest croak escaped his lips. A migraine began pounding in his head.

And the nurse had no idea that she caused it; she’d never heard of this condition. She had no idea that her choice to douse herself in chemical perfume might have any effect on those near her. She’d probably never been exposed to the subject of allergic reactions in her training. Stunning lapse in subject coverage, eh?

Symptoms of MCS may include: headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, congestion, itching, sneezing, sore throat, chest pain, changes in heart rhythm, breathing problems, muscle pain or stiffness, skin rash, diarrhea, bloating, gas, confusion, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and mood changes. The onset of symptoms is immediate; the body senses a foreign toxin and begins to mount an offensive against it. Symptoms strike in the blink of an eye.

Some researchers are of the opinion that Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is due to immune system damage or malfunction, which could give rise to a sensitivity to all sorts of triggers rather than a specific reaction to one toxicant.

If you think about it, it makes sense; just think of the many possible toxins we are exposed to on a wide-ranging regular basis. Here are just a few; I’m sure you can think of more.
House paints
Air fresheners
Scented candles
Hair spray
Cleaning products
Laundry products
Nail polish and remover
(Basically anything that has a fruity, musky or artificial scent to it.)
Oh, and yes, that most evil of all evils: Cigarette smoke

That list doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what has access to our lungs and circulatory systems. I remember saying to an friend way back when that I loved the smell of photographic fixer, also known as sodium thiosulfate. He remarked that by the time my brain had registered this reaction, the sodium thiosulfate had already penetrated into my blood system, lungs, and body cells.

But MCS is not a universally recognized syndrome; some governmental agencies, such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology don’t buy into MCS, saying that the connection between the patient’s symptoms and environmental exposures are unproven; at best speculative and there is little evidence of disease. The American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs says that MCS is not a legitimate, recognized clinical syndrome.

It appears that the most common victims of MCS are women between 25 and 50 and military personnel. This makes sense because women are far more likely to introduce potential toxins into their bodies through the use of makeup and cologne. Every time a woman rubs in foundation, uses eye liner or some other chemical-based product, she introduces various and sundry chemicals into her body via the pores. Military personnel, especial Gulf War vets, are in danger of exposure to various anti-personnel chemical weapons. The Dept. of Defense does not comment on this, but their record on previous situations of soldier-poisoning (look up Fred Wilcox’s excellent books on the use of dioxin, Agent Orange) is deplorable.

It stands to reason that since the human body is designed to fight off toxins, that constant, unceasing exposure to everyday contaminants will eventually cause most humans to experience symptoms related to toxin rejection, that after a while, human bodies collectively will say “No more,” and begin to react more and more severely to the chemical attack they experience.

And yet, whether the AMA says MCS is for real or not (it is; anyone who has seen the effects will testify to this), it still seems elementary . . . basic . . . a no-brainer that in a hospital situation, introducing any kind of possibly toxic or allergenic substance to a ward of patients should be prohibited. Wearing scent is not a right; it is a practice that affects others around you.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Think. Speak. Discover.

We all do this thing in different ways, and I suppose in some parallel universe it’s all good. I’m into rehearsals now for “Fault Lines,” my latest play (details below) and I had a question, well, two questions from a cast member. One was a legit question about the nature and validity of the character. The actor wanted/needed an explanation in order to go ahead and play the character. Second question (which came after the first issue) was: Was it okay to ask for elucidation? Or was it solely the actor’s job to find whatever there was to be discovered? What was on the page. Was it her job to construct a way to play it when she couldn’t find a clear explanation? Was it played straight or farcically?

I responded that yes, it was fine, nay, encouraged her to ask me questions. This is a first production, and part of my system is to work out whatever kinks might be in the play through getting the damn thing up on stage to see if it works or not. The actors and director will (hopefully) point out things I may have missed, or phrase things in a way that lets me see ways to improve or fix a script. What matters, and what ONLY matters, is the play itself.

Her point, though, which caught me up, was: is she allowed to question at all?

And I thought, Cripes. There must be places where it is frowned upon to approach the playwright with critical questions about their work.  And then I thought: I hope I never work in one of those places.

(Which is a moot point; the only places I’m working right now are of my own design. But that’s neither there nor here.)

But really? Having done Shakespeare a few times, I’m well aware that actors frequently ask about a character’s purpose, mode of expression, point of existing, desires, needs, wants, tactics. And that’s flippin’ Shakespeare! Arguably the best playwright EVER. 

Some actors believe (are taught) that when you say yes to doing a part, you accept it whole. I’ve heard this from vastly experienced, unbelievably talented actors, names you’d recognize unless you’ve been living in a box. And every time it jabs me; who the hell swallows anything whole? No questions? Okay, yeah, there are those who just follow and obey. But no right to question? Sod that puppy for a game of soldiers.

It’s not a question of showing respect for the playwright. 97.46% of my experiences as a director or playwright were effulgent with respect from my colleagues. Part of respect is when an actor or director can come to you with a question that’s bothering them. “Maybe it’s me, but…it’s probably me, but…”

Theatre is collaborative. That means we work together to produce a play, help someone remember lines, discuss motivation, paint a set. And yes, write the damn script. Could be it’s just me that relies on outside help, but I believe in road testing, workshopping, taking advantage of every opportunity to improve the work. And there’s no better way to discover the things in your play that could be improved that to have a smart, dedicated, thinking actor or director in your corner.

And yes, the promised details:

“Fault Lines” by George Sapio
Venue: Fall Creek Studios, 1201 N. Tioga St., Ithaca 14850
(adjacent to the former Fall Creek Pictures complex)
Friday, March 15 @ 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 16 @ 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 17 @ 3:00 p.m.
Friday, March 22 @ 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 23 @ 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 24 @ 3:00 p.m.With: Holly Adams, Lauren Boehm, Brett Bossard, Maura Stephens The show is directed by Camilla Schade Stage manager: AJ Sage
Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 students and seniors, and available through the Ticket Center (171 The Commons. Monday - Thursday, 11 AM - 7 PM; Friday & Saturday, 11 AM - 7:30 PM. 607.273.4497) With: Holly Adams, Lauren Boehm, Brett Bossard, Maura Stephens The show is directed by Camilla Schade Stage manager: AJ Sage Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 students and seniors, and available through the Ticket Center (171 The Commons. Monday - Thursday, 11 AM - 7 PM; Friday & Saturday, 11 AM - 7:30 PM. 607.273.4497) Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 students and seniors, and available through the Ticket Center (171 The Commons. Monday - Thursday, 11 AM - 7 PM; Friday & Saturday, 11 AM - 7:30 PM. 607.273.4497)

Performance dates: