Monday, December 27, 2010

Working through something ...


First of all, I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas, and if you don't celebrate Christmas, that you had an amazing day off. :)

A couple of days ago on Facebook, a friend of mine posted the following 80's video of a song called "Do They Know It's Christmas" from "Band-Aid."

For those of you who are too young to remember, Band-Aid was basically the UK version of "We Are The World."  A bunch of pop musicians coming together to sing a song, the proceeds of which benefited the hungry in Africa.  I've always been a fan of the song, and, honestly, I'm a bit of a sucker for stuff like this.

One of the commenters to my friend's posting said that she hated this song, and called it the "absolute height of pompous idiocy."  I don't think I was prepared for such vitriol, and responded back, "Pompous idiocy? A bunch of very famous British musicians getting together to do something about hunger in Africa is pompous and idiotic? Wow, maybe I need to rethink my world view."

Her response:
Well, yes, it is. "There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time.." ??Gee, could that be because they're in a tropical monsoon climate? Yes, all people who live in tropical climates must be so terribly bad off. "Do they know it's Chri...stmas time at all?" Gee, if Bob had done his homework he'd know that over 60% of Ethiopians are Christian. I'm pretty sure they know it's Christmas. The bulk of the other 40% is made up of Muslims so they probably know it's Christmas but don't give a shit. The sad fact is, much of the aid raised to help those who were in such need probably got siphoned off into the corrupt government and never got to those who it was meant to help. I'm all for helping if people need help but the lyrics to this song were pompous, arrogant and presumptious and the money raised did little to nothing to help those who needed it. Twenty plus years on and there are still people starving in Africa and going without much needed medical care and basic supplies and why is that? Look to their governments for starters and how their corrupt mindset has trickled down to the people. My sister in law just spent two years in Malawi working for VSO. The stories she told about the Malawi people were enough to curl one's hair. African nations have lots of problems, but putting out silly songs and then handing the money to a corrupt government doesn't strike me as helping anyone.
Now, this strikes me as the tiniest bit racist, and although she points to nothing but suppositions and hearsay to support her arguments, I'll work with the supposition that she's correct, and most of the money didn't get to the people it was intended for.

First of all, does nobody understand symbolism anymore?  Of course there's no snow in Africa at Christmastime.  Hell, there's no snow in most parts of Southern California either, but that doesn't mean I don't understand that the targeted audience for this song is not the African countries, but the European and North American areas of the world, and that the lyrics will resonate with the target audience.  In this song, not having snow is a symbol for not having enough food or worldy comforts to have a joyous Christmas.  A faulty symbol?  Sure.  However, if one is trying to get people to contribute to a cause, one is going to need to use symbols that those people have experience with.  Yes, it's true, a good portion of people in Africa don't celebrate Christmas, but that doesn't mean the idea of sharing with neighbors, either world-wide or city-wide doesn't exist in their world view, and that doesn't suddenly make the poor people less hungry.

Secondly, making the assumption that almost all of the money got siphoned off by corrupt governments as a matter of course is a bit cynical at the least.  Especially since she points to no actual facts, just prejudicial assumptions, and a few stories of her sister-in-law who was apparently in Malawi.  Malawi, which is just one African country, and that same sister-in-law couldn't have experienced the entire or even a large part of the country given the short period of time she spent there.  So, her anecdotal stories, taken as truth for an entire continent are suspect.

But let's put the prejudice issue aside, shall we?  The issue I'm trying to work through is this, "Isn't the fact that all these people got together to do something about a problem worth anything?"  Even if they didn't do it in the most efficient manner?  Even if mistakes were made and perhaps, as the responder suggested, there were some christian- and european-centric points of view utilized?  Does this effort deserve that type of vitriol and negativity?

My conclusion is no, it does not.  Yes, we should be more sensitive to other cultures and religions.  Yes, sometimes the best of intentions don't solve a problem.  But does that mean we shouldn't try?  No, it does not.  Was one video expected to solve all the starvation issues in Africa?  I doubt anybody was so clueless as to expect such an outcome.  Poverty in Africa (and around the world) is an ongoing problem, and will always be an issue, given how survival and economics work.  However, I'm convinced that even though poverty and hunger are always going to be a problem, we should still reach out to make the world a better place, and I honestly think that's what "Band-Aid" tried to do, and my hat is off to them for it, even 20 years later.

These musicians and song-writers may not have been as successful in accomplishing what they wanted to accomplish, especially in the above-responders' view, but dammit, they did something, and if we're still playing this video 20 years later and thinking about the issues they sing about, then perhaps they did a whole lot of good, above and beyond whatever amount of people they helped to feed in the 80's.

Perhaps it's the holidays, but I'm so tired of the rampant cynicism in the world, especially toward art.  Can we please applaud the efforts of people to make the world a better place rather than trying to tear people down about it, and maybe we'll be able to make those efforts more effective, rather than just do our best to stop all efforts in their tracks.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm getting a tattoo ...

Heya, folks,

I went yesterday to see a tattoo artist about getting another tattoo.  This one will be a tribal tattoo on my upper right leg and right buttock (or ass cheek as I like to call it), and will include a symbol for the Sun to represent the masculine side of myself and Spirit.

I have a tattoo around my left bicep.  I got it when I got divorced.  As I like to say, she got the house and I got a tattoo.  For ten years I've been enjoying the feeling of individuality and beauty that I think it lends to my body.  Nobody else has this exact tattoo, as I modified another design to include the pagan symbol for the moon, which represents the femininity of the Goddess and that which I carry inside me.

I've always wanted to be physically beautiful.  I'm not.  I don't scare small children, mind you, but I'm not a George Clooney, or Hugh Jackman or Cary Grant.  Let's just say that as I get older, the wisdom gets greater, but so do the wrinkles.  I've never had the drive and the physical stamina to spend hours and hours at the gym, as my interests tend to run toward the artistic and intellectual.  This, combined with the genes and eating habits I inherited from my family, tend to make it difficult to keep trim and in good shape.  However, with just the tattoo I have, I feel a bit better about my body and what it communicates to people, and if I feel better, I function better, and don't come off as such a loser to folks I meet in the street.  So, I think that this new unapologetic addition to my body will help me inside and out.

Why now?  Well, I directed Medea this past year, and said that if I got through it, and it came out well, I'd get myself a tattoo.  Well, I did get through it, and it did come out very well, so I'm putting aside some of the money from my annual holiday bonus (albeit a bit guiltily, as I should be putting every penny in the bank for medical stuff), and I'm getting my tattoo.  The interesting thing is that since it will cover my thigh and ass, most people won't be able to see a good portion of the tattoo.  I have to admit that there is something dark and sexy about decorating a part of my body that only a sexual partner or the guys in the gym shower are going to see.  Mind you, I don't take showers at the gym, and really have not been much of a participant in the dating scene for a long time.  This should add a bit of spice to my sex drive, and this could be a really good thing for me.  Not to mention, it could also get me more motivated to get into a regular exercise regime.

Although it's going to take a while to finish the tatto (at least two to three sessions), I'm very excited about it.

Plus, the tattoo artist is gay, adorable and there seems to be a really gentle and humorous soul behind his artistic eyes.  Win, win, win!!


Monday, December 20, 2010

My last stage show ended yesterday (for a while) ...

Good morning,

Yesterday, I performed my last show as Scrooge in an adaptation of Dickens A Christmas Carol.  It was a fascinating show.  The director's idea was that Scrooge was dealing with his repressed homosexuality, and that he was in love with Jacob Marley.  Apparently I inspired the director to tell that story.  I certainly don't repress my homosexuality, but I did a cabaret at the beginning of the year to celebrate my 42nd birthday and the 20th anniversary of my HIV diagnosis.  I told lots of personal stories, sang some songs and had some fun.  Rene (the director) thought that although it was very funny and well-done, it was on the bitter side, and apparently that's not his experience of me.  So, that's kinda cool (although I'm more bitter on the inside than one would think). It's nice to inspire somebody else in their art, especially before one is dead.  hahahaha.

In my personal journey, this was quite a step forward.  I really thought I did some great work, and pushed over some emotional blocks in my acting.  I also learned that I can do full-out truthful emotional performances pretty much every night.  I have always been worried about that, and until this show, hadn't done too well at it.  It was always a bit hit or miss.  Except for a couple of performances, I pretty much hit my mark every night (and rehearsals too).  So, yay me!

I'll be glad to tuck some of my personal emotions back into the private side of my heart for a while though.  All that crying got to be a bit of a burden, and letting the sadness in your soul out for the light of day to witness it can be scary.

Now, onward to the next part of the "Year of Creative Healing."


Friday, December 17, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole ...


"Down the Rabbit Hole" is what I wanted to call this blog, but since Blogger says it's unavailable, I decided "The Year of Creative Healing" would be the most appropriate title.

It's halfway through December, 2010, and in the next month or two, I'm going to start treatment for Hepatitus C.  The treatment should last about 6-9 months.  The doctors tell me that it's going to feel like I have the flu and one doctor likened it to being on chemo ... for 9 months.  There is a new medication that is being released by the FDA to use in conjunction with Ribavarin and Pegylated Interferon, and it should raise my chances of being "cured" of the Hep C.  What throws a wrench into the works is that I'm also HIV+.  It could all be for naught.

I've actually been on two of these medications about 10 years ago in the clinical study held at USC for Pegylated Interferon.  It was difficult, and I found myself weak in both body, mind and emotional life.  I eventually had to leave the study because it was so hard, and I couldn't do everything I had going on in my life while on it.  This time, I know what to expect, and I am planning my life accordingly.  The possibility of permanently getting rid of one half of a serious physical problem is a real temptation, and it's kinda now or never.

I've had Hep C for at least 15 years, if not longer, and my liver enzymes have been elevated for a very long time.  So much so that every time my doctor sees my blood test results, she runs around the room in a panic, and I have to get yet another ultra-sound.  It's time to get this condition under control so I don't die from liver failure like my friend, Rae, and to make sure my poor doctor doesn't have an epileptic fit.

I've basically taken a year off of everything in my life, except my day job.  I'm a legal secretary by day, and an actor and stage director for the rest of the time, so I am used to doing many things in addition to my job.  Just working a day job is sort of like doing nothing to me.

It occurred to me that just because I can't commit to projects that involve other people during the next year, it doesn't mean I can't still be creative and put the year to good use.  Things like writing, quilting, gentle hiking, exercising, photography, museums, poetry, and the loss of the 40 extra pounds I've been carrying around are all things that I could use to keep the creative juices flowing.  I'm also interested in getting a fresh perspective about life and the world.  I have this sense that there is Divinity in the simple, the fragile, and the ephemeral and I'd like to spend some time in the search for those things.

Hence this blog.  This is a way for me to keep track of the journey.  Not only the boring medical facts and things that happen to me daily, but a way for me to keep track of the creative side of things as well.  A place to post some poetry, photos, essays and any revelations that might occur to me along the way.

My hope is to come out on the other end of this journey with more strength, serenity, courage and compassion than when I started.

As an actor at the RSC said when they were getting close to opening a production of Richard III, "it's time to be brave."