Some of my fondest memories as a kid involved TV. The earliest show I can remember watching was Welcome Back, Kotter, I was probably 4 years old, maybe 5. I thought the sweathogs were the coolest and not so secretly hoped they would see me through the TV and recognize how cool I was and ask me to join the show. Like I said, I was 4. I next recall watching Creature Features, hosted by Count Gore de Vol when I lived in Washington DC and later by Dr. Paul Bearer when my family moved to Florida. I vividly remember scanning through the paperback TV Guide and highlighting or circling or otherwise marking the shows I wanted to watch and then making sure everyone in the family knew I had an appointment with the TV at those set times and nothing else could be scheduled because I desperately needed to watch Creature From The Black Lagoon, All Monsters Attack, Black Sunday, Them!, Forbidden Planet or whatever else these goolish curators had chosen for me that weekend. I would sit cross legged on the floor eyes glued to the TV and pretend I understood the jokes being made at each commercial break and try to figure out if these different monsters were all part of one giant story. I loved every second of them, and couldn’t wait to see what the next weeks showings would be.
I think about those movies often and revisit them from time to time. I think about how those helped refine my tastes and shape what I look for and enjoy in movies. I love good horror movies, would I love them as much if I hadn’t grown up with these proto-scary movies? I also think about how in many ways I was a captive audience. We only had a few channels and my choices were very limited so I picked the best option I could find and fell in love with it. And I learned the benefit of hunting for things, as I scanned those TV Guides trying to find anything that sounded interesting and marking it to make sure I didn’t miss it. But if I’d had other options would I have just passed these over? It’s hard to say.
I think a lot about this in context to viewing options today. My son watches TV too, he’s soon to be 7yo so pretty much right in the ballpark of when I was rabidly devouring these old monster flicks, but instead of having local television stations trying to fill their schedules with whatever broadcast licenses they could get for cheap, he’s got netflix and youtube and endless streaming and on demand options. He’s never had to sit through a commercial break, never had to choose between a soap opera, a game show and a b/w movie about a vampire. He watches an episode of Digimon and Netflix offers him every other episode ever made of that show, and then recommend 10 other shows just like it. I of course combat this by watching other things with him when I can, but left to his own devices his curators are algorithms not personalities. Some script is picking things for him rather than someone thinking about what might be complementary. Not trying to kick the algorithms off my lawn or anything, just noting the difference, and wondering how that will play out later in life. For him, and the rest of his generation.
I spent the final days of 2016 feeling like I’d gotten kicked in the balls. I’m sure many of you can relate to that feeling, though my pain wasn’t just mental and emotional, but also physical. Two days after we were visited by the man in red and white bearing gifts, I visited a man in white bearing scissors. Yes, I got a vasectomy. If you just cringed feel free to stop reading, but I found a few friends stories of their experience helpful and useful so I thought I’d start the new year off completely oversharing and maybe helping out some others who had questions.
First and foremost, the thing that made it much more of a real option for me was learning about the new No Scalpel method. I say new though it was developed in 1974, first used in the US in 1988, and has been very widely adopted as the method of choice by urologists since the early 2000’s. The old way required making incisions and stitching them up, and came with 2-3 weeks of recovery time. This way uses super pointy tweezers to poke a hole a stretch it, then release it and it closes up on it’s own immediately, reducing recovery to a few days. That sounded much better to me.
Given the modernness of this technique I was still surprised how hard it was in Los Angeles to find a doctor using it. I called many and they were all “yeah, we know there’s a new better way but we still like slicing you open.” I found the San Fernando Valley Urology Associates who were all about it and booked my appointment there. It’s about an hour from my house but that seemed worth it.
California requires you to go in for a consultation no more than 30 days prior to the procedure where the doctor explains the technique, results, and potential side effects. As well as makes sure it’s OK with your significant other. I had to sign off on countless forms saying that yes, my wife knew and approved of my actions. A quick physical exam and then I could book my appointment for the actual event. My insurance covered both visits with a $70 co-pay, so the entire thing cost me $140, plus $10 for the prescription meds.
You are required to shave your junk before the surgery. I was advised by some friends who will remain nameless that shaving was a bad idea because it would cause things to be itchy right when they were painful and sore and healing and a better option was to book a full waxing a day or two before your appointment. That sounded scary. I tried to get some friends to join me and no one was having it. I researched and all the seemingly respectable waxing salons near me primarily catered to the ladies and offered only limited services for dudes. Which means no downstairs action. In fact the only waxing salons I could find that would dehair the ol’ twig and berries were dead in the middle of the super gay part of town, and had websites that were mere pixels away from being gay porn. Huge beards, giant muscles, oiled and waxed male bodies. I’m secure enough in my sexuality that I can pretty much role with anything and not sweat it, I’m just pointing that out because it was amusing. What I couldn’t roll with was the $120 price tag that went with it.
I said fuck that and opted for the $5 disposable razor option.
To be fair I googled around a lot and found some junk shaving tutorials and bought proper moisturizing pre and post shaving stuff and learned the proper techniques. Interesting note, while there’s tutorials on YouTube for every damn other skill you can think of it’s a bit light in this department. PornHub on the other hand has in depth how to videos. You can find them yourself, because that’s really half the fun of it.
Because I’m already delighting you with one winning visual after another, I’ll just mention that the razors I ordered didn’t show up in time and I had to borrow one of Tara’s pink flowery lady razors. So you know, sit with that one for a minute.
Day of the operation I was prescribed instructed to take a Xanex an hour before to loosen and calm everything up and down. And bring someone to drive me home after. The whole thing took 10 minutes, maybe and was almost entirely painless. I got a tiny shot on either side of my balls which felt like the expected pinch, and then the only other thing I felt was really vague tugging or pulling sensations. A simple band-aid as the bandages and I was sent on my way. I got some slightly stronger than Tylenol pain meds which the Dr said people usually don’t even need for more than a day or two. I used them them for a day or two.
Day of I was out of commission. Instructed to put icepacks on my bits to reduce swelling, and advised by friends to instead use bags of frozen peas which are better at form fitting the area you want to cover, and to get several bags so you can hot-swap them out and always have a few in the freezer ready to go. This was good advise and I’ recommend it to anyone considering the same. The procedure was Tuesday and I was told to stay off my feet for a few days. I expected to be much more mobile by Friday. I was feeling really good Thursday and went out for some errands and dinner, but Friday morning felt that was probably pushing it and went back to bed. Today, Sunday, I’ve been pretty up and around and walked around the neighborhood without much issue at all. There’s still some swelling, but very considerably better than just a few days ago.
My friends who have had the scalpel version told me they were down for 2+ weeks, so I think this is pretty good. I didn’t really have any issue with the aforementioned post shaving itching issue, though I imagine if I’d had stitches that might have been a different story and the waxing might have made much more sense. I was pretty nervous going into it, but the story telling from previously snipped friends really helped calm me down and it was much easier than I expected it to be. And Tara and Rips have been waiting on me hand and foot, so that’s a plus too. They’ve been excellent nurses.
Hopefully this has been useful or at least somewhat interesting for some of you. If not, you are crazy for reading it.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve started to write this and then given up and deleted everything I’ve written. I try to write something and then feel like I need to preface it with something else so that people don’t jump to conclusions and then feel like I’m second guessing myself and so on and it ends in a select all and a delete. So I decided to just tell some stories instead which may explain how I’m feeling better than if I just tried to write about that.
I’m vegan. Many of you know that and know that I’ve been vegan for approaching 25 years now. More than half my life. In my ideal world it would be illegal to kill animals for food, but I’m very capable of knowing the difference between my ideal world and the real world, and the difference between the two. I’m able to understand that just because I want something really badly doesn’t mean it magically happens. I decided a while ago – after years of taking the opposite approach – that it was more productive to lead by example and answer people’s questions when they took notice and asked, than to attack them and try and force them to change. That’s just me.
Additionally, I like to talk to people who have differing opinions than I do. I find people who always agree with me boring and like to discuss the merits of my positions with people who aren’t convinced. I like to be able to sharpen my take on things on be persuaded otherwise. I count many people with drastically different world views in my circle of close friends and I appreciate that they put up with my hassling them about how wrong I think they are. And they do the same. I find myself agreeing and disagreeing frequently with my friends on the right and the left.
I don’t fit well into any category, which I think helps me with perspective. I try to look at issues on their own and not based on which politician supports and decries them. I know this isn’t a common position, but it works for me.
I have friends who were die hard Hillary supporters and friends who were die hard Trump supporters. I was neither. In the early days of the primaries I was backing Bernie pretty strongly. I said several times during that time that I didn’t believe Hillary could could beat Trump and I really didn’t want Trump to win. Once Hillary got the nomination my position remained the same. I didn’t want Trump to win, but I didn’t think Hillary could beat him. I could write many long winded think pieces and hot takes on why I felt that way but it’s kind of moot at this point so I won’t waste anyones time. I’m in a few private slack teams and private email lists. Some of these are very political. Some of these didn’t take kindly to someone not jumping on the party line. I’m not, nor have I ever been a registered Democrat so party lines mean nothing to me. I vote for who I want to based on their own merits. So while Democrats were expected to all get behind Hillary, I maintained that hopes and dreams aside, that while I didn’t want him to win, I didn’t believe she could beat him. In some of these groups I was called a Trump shill. In some of these groups I was called a Bernie Bro and a misogynist. So I left those groups.
My friends backing Hillary ranged from being completely sure she would win, to being completely sure she would win in a landslide.
My friends backing Trump ranged from being completely sure he would win, to being completely sure he would win in a landslide.
I knew both of these groups couldn’t be right.
Again, I’m weird so I recognized that what I wanted to believe and the outcome I wanted might not have been the same thing as what realistically might happen. This was not a welcome opinion.
The echo chamber was in full effect. All these people were only listening to people who agreed with them, and who were saying things they wanted to believe. Most of these people wanted nothing to do with anyone saying anything other than that their candidate was going to slay it.
Then the election happened.
My friends who were backing Hillary are largely in shock. They keep saying things like “How did this happen?” and “How could we have been so wrong?” Someone who called me a Trump shill for saying Hillary couldn’t beat Trump asked me with a straight face “How could anyone have seen this coming?”
Tonight there was a protest in Los Angeles, condemning the pick of Steve Bannon as Sr Advisor to the president. I think Breitbart News is very good at stirring people into a frenzy and very bad at reporting the news. I think picking the guy who runs that for a position equal to Chief of Staff is dangerous. I wanted to go and take photos, my wife Tara wanted to go and hold up a sign. Ripley, my 6 year old son also wanted a sign but I’m not a fan of indoctrinating children to anything, and didn’t want to write up a political sign that him carrying around would suggest he was making the statement. I told him what the protest was about, and asked him what he wanted on his sign. I told him he could put anything that he wanted. He wanted a happy sign that would make other people happy too, so he decided his sign should say “I Love Cats.” I thought it was great. On the other side he decided the sign should say “It’s past my bedtime” because the protest was at night and he would be tired and this would show people that even though he was tired and it was late he was there with them. I loved this sentiment. We drew up the signs and headed out.
Tara and Ripley joined some friends of ours on one side of the crowd and I walked around taking photos. The mood of the evening was largely positive, people were protesting something they were upset about but the crowd working together. There were the expected “Ban Bannon” and “No KKK” signs, as well as some more original and light hearted ones including one older lady with a sign that read “I’ve been protesting this same fascist shit for 50 years!” and someone with a trans flag and a sign saying “This isn’t the kind of dick I wanted.” Anytime I was near my family people were taking photos of my son and his sign, with many people telling him they loved it and it was the best sign there, which made him smile big.
He got in on the chanting, memorizing the rhymes. He waved his sign for people and smiled when they took his photo. This was his first protest and he told me he really enjoyed it. He said he loved seeing all the people together, hoping for the same thing.
By 8:30 it was in fact well past his bedtime and we decided to leave. Tara and Rips started to move to the edge of the crowd and I was behind them. As I turned to leave two younger women tapped me on the shoulder. I only spoke with them for a moment but I’d guess they were late 20’s-ish.
“Hi, can we talk to you for a moment about your son’s sign?”
“It’s very cute, but we are concerned that if someone sees it and takes a photo it will misrepresent the feeling of this event.”
“Lots of people have taken photos of it all night, everyone has been enjoying it”
“That’s the problem, it’s sending the wrong message – I Love Cats? This isn’t about cats”
“He’s 6, that’s what he wanted on his sign. I’m not going to put my politics on a sign and make him carry it.”
“He doesn’t support immigrants rights?”
“There are lots of kids here with political signs”
“Sure, that their parents wrote for them”
“But what will people think if they see this sign”
“I don’t really care”
“YOU DON’T CARE?”
“Are you really upset that a 6 year old isn’t protesting correctly?”
“You wouldn’t be saying that if you weren’t a white man, maybe you should meet an immigrant and find out how they feel, you are mocking the serious people here… Racist!”
I turned around and to walk away and one of them punched me in the back of the head.
I kept walking, they shouted something but I wasn’t listening anymore.
In the 5 minute walk back to our car, at least 10 more people said “Love that sign!!”
As some of you know, my wife is an immigrant.
I’m going to sleep now, disappointed.
The sun will rise tomorrow.
(A version of this was sent out to my mailing list last night. It’s the first thing I’ve sent out since the election. Feel free to subscribe if you want. All photos by me, I’ll probably post more on instagram as well.)
The other day I was hanging out in a local coffee shop with Rips (my 5yo son for anyone who doesn’t know) when Madonna’s “Like a prayer” came on the sound system, he started dancing in his seat and said he really liked the song. I’ve been trying to take note of what music he reacts to and encourage it when I can. Since I bought him a record player for his birthday, I pinged my friend who has a record shop near by and told him I needed to get that record. He only had “Like a virgin” in stock, but tracked down “Like a prayer” for me in a few days. I bought “Like a virgin” too just for the hell of it. When I got home and gave them a listen I remembered one of the formative moments of my childhood that I’d long since forgotten. I suppose everyone has a point growing up when they realize their parents/family aren’t flawless, and maybe they are actively misleading them. Unintentionally Madonna tipped me off to that.
Mid 80’s, early MTV days. Madonna was everywhere. My very Catholic family was not impressed and took every opportunity to tell me how horrid she was. Unsolicited. She was a blasphemer. She was mocking *our* faith by calling herself Madonna and wearing a crucifix. She was probably a Satanist. Definitely a slut. A hussy. She was certainly trying to corrupt innocent minds. Etc. etc. As a kid, hearing this from authority figures I assumed it must be true. But it had a contrary impact on me, rather than scare me away which was the intended motivation, it made me curious. Who was this lady who would make such a public attack on a group of people. Why would she do that? What was her story?
Once I started digging into it a different story came out, of course it’s much easier to find now, but I learned then that she wasn’t using the name “Madonna” as a slam against Catholics, but rather that was her actual name given to her by her very Catholic parents – it’s on her birth certificate. And her music, her art, was influenced by the imagery she’d grown up around. Like almost every other artist I’d learned about. An anti-climatic end to a story that had been so built up. I have to say, it was a little disappointing. (Luckily I soon found Slayer) But that got me thinking – if nothing my family had told me about Madonna was actually true, what else had they told me wasn’t based entirely in fact? And why would they tell me something like that?
Either they were purposefully trying to deceive me, or more likely someone had told this to them and they’d just accepted it as truth. Or maybe no one told them and that was just their gut reaction having been conditioned to react certain ways to certain things and assumed they had it all figured out – also a very real possibility. Maybe they were so insecure about their own beliefs that they had to proactively attack anything that they felt challenged them in the slightest bit. All options – but regardless, none of those options were reassuring. All of them lead to the inevitable truth that I could no longer accept anything they told me as the truth. I guess that stuck with me more than I realized. Thanks Madonna.
Subconsciously I’ve incorporated that lesson into my own parenting efforts, when my son asks me a question I make sure to answer honestly or if I don’t know, I tell him that I don’t know. Sometimes we look up the answers together. When I talk to him about my opinions I make it clear that people have different opinions and feelings about things, that this is what I think but he’s welcome to think about it and decide what he wants to think. I know I’m setting myself up for him eventually making decisions I don’t agree with, but he’s his own person and that’s his right. And him having his own opinions is far more appealing to me than him someday coming to the conclusion that I’ve been lying to him.
Last month I saw some of Adam Lister‘s work on Tumblr and immediately showed it to Tara. We’ve been buying artwork for our son Ripley for a while and had talked about getting him somethings personal/significant each year for his birthday so that later on in life he’ll have this collection of pieces that we got for him. We had the idea of commissioning Adam to do a scene from Alien’s of Ripley (the character) in the power loader, We named Ripley (our son) after Ripley (the Alien killing character) and thought this would be fantastic. I contacted Adam and he was psyched to do it, and the result is everything we hoped it would be. Rips turns 4 next month, no one spoil this surprise gift for him, OK?!
Ripley’s first day of pre-school is tomorrow. I think this is a big milestone as far as growing up goes.
My oldest memories date back to being in pre-school. My oldest real memories anyway, of actually doing things. I have flashes of images or of someone saying something, or being somewhere that might be older than that, but I actually remember doing things when I was in preschool. I remember an art class making bowls and self portrait figures out of clay. Apparently there was some kurfuffle because I sculpted myself naked and hadn’t skimped on the twig and berries. I think my mom actually still has those things in a box some where. Speaking of twigs, I remember playing outside of a classroom in a tent/igloo thing that someone had fashioned out of sticks and leaves. I remember climbing through these damp leaves in what I probably thought was a magnificent fort but was probably just a pile of yard scraps filled with worms and begging my father to come join me inside and him standing outside of it wanting nothing to do with it. He might have even been annoyed as he was probably there to pick me up and I was having too much fun playing to consent to leaving.
I remember the smell of the kiln in that art studio, I remember the main hall/theater where we’d go for music classes and the piano there that our teacher would play and sing songs to us. I remember the slope of the hillside behind the building and how much of an adventure it seemed to me at the time to go down the side of the building that didn’t have the nice path way. I remember being really happy there.
I remember even more from the following year – I went to the same school for pre-k and kindergarten but the classes were on opposite sides of the campus. Ha. Campus. It was a collection of converted bars with a little courtyard in the middle. Opposite sides of the property. That makes more sense. Very little kids on one side, slightly older kids on the other with lots of play time in the middle with everyone. I wrote about an experience I had with one of the even older kids a while ago and I’m realizing now that Ripley is only a year or so away from being the same age as I was when that was all happening.
I say that because until now I’ve had no idea what if anything he’ll remember. I figured it’s all kind of a blur. Will he remember living in Singapore or Paris? Probably not. Will he remember last December in Vienna? Maybe? But I know that over the next year some of the stuff is going to seriously stick – in detail – and he’ll take it with him the rest of his life. I think about that and I think about what I can do to make sure that he is as happy as I remember being and that he only has awesome memories burned into that permanent storage.
I don’t want him to remember me ever being annoyed with him.
Yesterday my (almost) 3 year old broke his leg and had a full leg cast put on. This is a kid who has been potty trained for barely 2 months, and now has to rely on us to help him even roll over in bed. We didn’t know how he would handle it.
You know how he spent the day today? Taking one lick of the lollipop he got from the Doctors office every few hours because “he didn’t want it to go away too fast.” Figuring out how to pull himself on his chest and get around the house. Figuring out how to stand up on his one good leg so he can pull himself up onto the couch. Hugging the dog that knocked him over yesterday. Telling his parents that he loved them. Saying that his cast looked cool. Playing with his trains on the floor. Being excited that he gets to use the big toilet since he can’t bend his leg to use the small one anymore. Going on with his life as if nothing was any different.
You how how he didn’t spend the day today? Complaining. Moping. Feeling sorry for himself. Being angry. Lashing out. Using this as an excuse why he cant do something. Asking “what if?” or even thinking about why.
I watched this with incredible fascination. This huge wrench just got thrown into his life and he couldn’t care less. He hasn’t let it impact him in the slightest bit. He knows what he has on his plate right now and is using that to his advantage, not wasting his time worrying about what could be there or why he doesn’t have something else. He’s just going full steam ahead, just like he was yesterday.
Since the second Ripley was born I’ve been terrified of the day we have to rush him to the emergency room. And I know full well it’s a “when” not an “if” – kinda goes hand in hand with having kids, right? You spend 18 years trying to not to let them kill themselves by doing something stupid. So I guess I should be relieved that it ended up happening this way.
This afternoon after we’d just spent an hour walking along the LA River, Ripley and Tara were playing outside with the soccer ball and Sidney (the dog) ran over and somehow bumped into Rips or something – Not really sure what happened but Ripley fell down and we all heard a large “crack” – I was inside in the kitchen and I even heard it. Rips screamed like he’s never screamed before. Which in itself is odd because the kid usually bounces off walls without a hitch. He didn’t shake it off right away and said he couldn’t move it. We knew something was up. Tara carried him into the house and propped him up on the couch and assessed the situation. He couldn’t stand on it. It hurt to touch. He could wiggle his toes, but a bump was starting to show on his shin. I was pretty sure it was broken.
I called the insurance to ask if we needed to do anything special. We have “got hit by a bus” insurance which will basically prevent us from going bankrupt in a catastrophe but doesn’t cover dick in the mean time, so I was already anticipating massive bills. They lived up the cliché and basically told us that since we didn’t have a professional to tell us it was an emergency we were going to get fucked if we went to the emergency room. They suggested that we A) make an appointment with an in-network doctor to get a professional opinion or B) Stop by a local pharmacy to see if the pharmacist on duty could recommend something. I pointed out again that my two year old likely had a broken leg, and asked if any of the things they just suggested made any sense at all. They just reiterated that they didn’t encourage emergency room visits without a doctor recommendation. God bless America!
In the past decade I’ve spent many years living in Tokyo and Los Angeles, and have recently relocated to Vancouver. I’ve run hackerspaces and blog networks, an art gallery, a design firm and a record label. I’m one of the co-founders of the environmental non-profit Safecast, a Shuttleworth Fellow and have been an Associate Professor at Keio University. I take photos and make noisy ambient music under the name Delay 5000 (D5K).