About

This blog was started in 2006 as a way to keep everything categorized while I was travelling through China.  Over the last 10 years, it has gone through its cycles of travel blog, political blog and commentary on parenthood– and I mostly keep doing it so that my children will have a way to hopefully connect with me long after I have gone.  It’s hard to keep track of all the entries about all of the different things, but its all here for you to read and enjoy.

Birth of a Nation

Whenever I come back from a trip abroad, it takes some time to get back into the flow of things. I always notice some things that maybe I would have missed before, but the new perspective of a different country, a different culture always opens me up to reflect a little more on my own culture.  We are an absurd culture of people, torn into hundreds of different beliefs and philosophies and nothing makes that more apparent more than a trip outside of the country.

I was appalled to come back and find “Birth of a Nation” has been remade. You are probably like most American’s who don’t know what the original film, released in 1915, the film gave rise to a resurgence of the KKK, who were glorified in the film as the saviors– the film was used for years afterward as a recruiting agent for the KKK.  The term blackface comes from the film as white actors were used with shoe grease on their face. The film presents black men as not free people, but sexual deviants, hell bent on rape and savagery.

Wait a minute, you might say, this Birth of a Nation is done from the perspective of the African American!  It is so heralded as amazing and well done.

But why in the hell would you try to remake an old racist film instead of making a film with a similar theme and attempting to correct some of the absurd things discussed in the film.  It’s crazy.

Charles Muedede explains it well:

http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2016/08/18/24473464/why-nate-parker-should-never-have-made-the-birth-of-a-nation

 

Our Dumb Country is at it again

What have I brought two wonderful children into?

This weeks news is just going to rip us further apart from one another– much like the presidential election we are all being forced into.  We are all encouraged, if not forced, to take a side– pick one or the other– and we REALLY don’t like either– we tolerate them, they are a part of our story as a nation– even through it’s a story that sounds better as a fable than a reality.  Wait, am I still talking about the Presidential race or am I now talking about the PO-Lice vs the Black Man?

We are again back to the difficult time that we never quite fix– the old issue of race and power.  Last week, another two black males are gunned down — lethal shots that kill both of these people.  Both were carrying, you guessed it, guns.  Because they are black, its automatically a race thing, but the Police Officer who shot the guy in St. Paul was Asian.  He said he fired because he knew the guy had a gun on him– the guy also had a traffic citation sheet with over 2 dozen infractions– but nothing more serious than petty driving citations.  He told the Police he had permit and a gun and the guy shoots him multiple times when he is looking for his wallet.

We all know these stories and we all know how often they happen– and keep happening.  The difference with these two is that they were caught on camera and immediately sent out before a sensor would stop them– the public at large is already laying down the verdict of guilty before the courts even get the paperwork in order– and I am not saying that they are right or wrong, but I am saying that the game is changing significantly.

People keep asking what can do we do… How do we get past this?  What happens next?

There is no good answer– and the macro problem– police trained to use lethal force– race relations between law enforcement– prejudice — these are all things that are so heavily engrained in our American fabric that it seems impossible to think about fixing on a national scale.  We have to start local– in our communities– we have to start going out there and making sure that our leaders aren’t just hearing the need for change from Black Lives Matter or the Police Guild– but that we the people want change– but what kind of change do we want?  How much sweat equity are we all willing to put into it all for the greater good?

I used to be engaged in the race conversation– I used to care a lot more than I have lately because I grew up seeing the racial inequality, I grew up seeing the racism– I grew up seeing people blaming people of other color for their own problems– that blacks got more chances than a white person does.  I went to college and I read and listened to Cornel West and Marabel Manning and Bell Hooks who talked about the deck being stacked against blacks and other people of color — and overtime, I began to forget about all I have learned because I live in a city like Seattle that doesn’t have a black problem that is right in front of your face– its much more subtle, much more of the focus of what you see everyday– but you don’t have to look very hard and you see it all over again.

and the Police.

The Police have their own issues as well– again, Seattle doesn’t have the same issues, but you don’t have to look too hard and you see the same patterns– profiling.  Pulling the same people over and over and over and over again, pulling over older cars because they are usually driven by younger people or people just trying to get to their shitty minimum wage jobs– they get a ticket they can’t pay for, they get their license suspended, they still have to get to work– its a never ending cycle– and once you are in the system, it is very hard to get back out of it.  When I saw that guy in Saint Paul get shot, it reminded me of the last summer I spent in Pullman, driving a beat up old Volvo around town and the cops would pull me over all the time– and once I didn’t pay one ticket– I totally forget to pay one — and they suspended my licenese– so they pulled me over, knowing I had a suspended license.  When I was surprised, the guy just laughed at me and told me I couldn’t drive– so I had to walk home.  When I went back the next day to get the car, they had towed it.  TOWED IT!!! In the goddamn wheatfields.  I got another ticket for car abandonment!  So when we drove to pick it up out of impound, the same cop was waiting for me at the base of the hill I lived on, waiting to see me driving the car home the 2 miles from the tow yard.  Wrote me another ticket!  This time he was nice enough to let me park it in my driveway…. So sometimes it isn’t always the color of your skin — sometimes its just a power thing– sometimes a cop just likes to be a dick– but the game is changing.

Police have become more heavily armed now– they are much more likely to pull a weapon than before I think– I still have yet to see an officer pull his weapon on me, but I expect at some point it will be the norm– and that is not really the America I wanted to raise my sons in– I understand that there are bad people out there, but a gun escalates a situation 1000X– it forces someone to do something and a lot of times that isn’t the best outcome.  I will remain unarmed for the rest of my life– and if a gun takes my life– I hope that a broken judicial system find justice in shooting an unarmed man– it certainly should– and that is part of the sadness of this story– these 2 men that were killed will more than likely not see justice served because they were both carrying — Alton Sterling, killed in Lousiana the day after he purchased the handgun for protection after other guys selling CD’s were recently robbed– Alton Sterling had been tazed TWICE before the officers tackled him and shot him point blank.  It’s just sad.

We can do better– we have the technology, we have the time– we can do better.  Our future depends on us taking the time to make a difference– not just wait for an organization to make things better.

What can we do?

An unfortunate discussion

A routine physical exam turns out with some questions– those questions turn into an MRI to check my pituitary gland.  Did you know that they pituitary gland is in your brain?  Did you know it contains a lot of functionality that your hormones use– ?  I didn’t until they went in and had a look.  That turned out to be perfectly normal… No issues– but while they were in there, they decided to have a poke around and they found a small tumor.  A TUMOR?  What?  Yeah, you are going to need to get that checked out.  He referred me over to Swedish Hospital, Cherry Hill Campus.  I called for three days straight and didn’t get anything– no calls back, nothing.  Then I tried one last time and I got ahold of a “Pam”, a nurse with the IVY CENTER FOR ADVANCED BRAIN TUMOR INSTITUTE.  Not really a name you ever want to hear.  She said she would get my MRI reviewed by a doctor and she would get back to me in a couple days…
“It can go one of two ways– either the doctor will review and suggest you make an appointment or the doctor will want to see you right away.”

She called back three days later– “Yeah, so the doctor wants to see you right away.”

Shocked, she quickly schedules an appointment for the next week– mid-week.  May 18th.  1pm.  The time trickles by like sand in an hourglass.  When we arrive at the IVY CENTER FOR ADVANCED BRAIN TUMOR INSTITUTE, I am one of the youngest people here, but not the only younger person.  The doctor is running at least an hour late.  More waiting.

When we finally do see him, Dr. Cobbs– he is bright, smiling– he wants to get to know me before running through the medical chart.  We talk for a few moments, I tell him my story– no symptoms, we were looking at pituitary issues, we did an MRI– standard and with contrast.  He nods– starts going into pituitary tumors– oh, those aren’t much concern– people have tumors there all the time, yada yada yada…. I gulp.

“I don’t have pituitary tumors– all clear there.”

His look changes from happy to concerned, off base. “Oh.  Well, we should look at your chart then.”

Silence.

More silence.  Scratching of the brow– confusion over the MRI images– there appear to be lots of them.

“Oh yes.  I recall this subject now.  Yes, this is not a Pituatary Tumor.”

In the end, a lot of scientific terms to describe one thing: unknown tumor.  Unknown what kind, what grade— everything… unknown… So many questions, none of them making it out of my mouth.

In the end, we need to schedule a biopsy to extract a small piece of the tumor to send to pathology for review.

The words just keep spinning by– my head is spinning.

Tumor, Tumor, Cancer, Cancer, Fuck, Fuck….

But look, enough agony here…. Today it’s June 22nd and I am still here right now.  I will be here for quite some time if this tumor has anything to do with it— the Pathology report is back and we met with Dr. Graber yesterday, one of only four Neuro-Oncologists in the region.  They have a weekly “Tumor Board” and he was happy to report that my tumor has the lowest score of any of the tumors recently seen– it is considered a very low grade Oligodendroglioma… Still, its a serious issue, but it’s not something that is going to kill me in the short term.  It’s so low grade that at this point, it’s not going to be treated and we will watch it with brain scans until it begins to show some changes.  Then, we will look at a number of very minor options == the expectation is that this could remain dormant for a number of years.  Once it does start to grow, the general life expectancy is about 13-15 years.  Most dogs don’t even live that long.

Life.  Here it is.  Like a ticking time bomb. Time to get living.

Here is a picture:

The white cloudy area on the right side is the tumor area– it is located deep in brain tissue and doesn’t respond to contrast, which means when it has an active bloodstream, its doesn’t light up, which is a very good sign.. More on this later.  Don’t worry.tumor

 

TicketMaster/Live Nation Ticketing and why you should care

1994.  In 1994, Pearl Jam took on Ticketmaster for creating a monopoly in the live music business.  Back then, Pearl Jam tried to baseline ticket “fees” at $1.85 per ticket.  $1.85!  Think about the last time you bought tickets to a concert- how much did it cost?  We bought 4 tickets for the Adele concert in Seattle, the fees were $16.50 per ticket for a “Service Fee”, A facility fee of $4.00 and another order processing fee of $4.00 for a total of $88.25 on 4 tickets!  That means that in a venue like Key Arena, which seats 17,459– Ticketmaster collects $288,073.50 in “Service Fees” alone.

Here’s the crazy part– that isn’t even what I submitted a complaint to the Washington State AG’s office!  No, the fees to me are part of the ticket price– if you want to go see someone, you have to pay the fees, I accept that– although after just listing all of that out, I am not sure I feel the same way anymore…

No, what I am trying to get a movement started on is the level of inconvenience a concert goer has to go through because Ticketmaster and Live Nation have such amazing control over the events that the consumer is the loser.  Here’s why:

General Public Ticket Sales

The old days of going to the venue and standing in line for hours, camping out for tickets– the experience of hunting for a ticket for a show has now moved from the venues to the internet!  Now we can order tickets from the comforts of home, we don’t have to stand in line, we just log into ticketmaster and we get…. Terrible seats.  We have all been there– the day the show goes on sale, we log in right at the very minute the tickets go on sale and BOOM…. No tickets match your search.  Try Again.

You try again.  And again.  And Again.

Or maybe you struck gold — and got tickets… where no one else wants tickets.  But, this is a hot ticket, so you better just buy these tickets because at least then, you know you will be going to the show, right?  Isn’t that all that REALLY MATTERS?  So you buy these kind of shitty seats because you know that if you want that good ticket, you would have to pay double or triple the price somewhere else and these tickets are already over a hundred bucks, right?

But then a couple weeks after they go on sale, you see that Ticketmaster or Live Nation “dropped” some additional tickets– so suddenly people are picking up better seats for the same prices that you bought your kind of shitty seats… But again, you are just glad you got into the venue..

But then it happens again.  And Again.  A dozen times at least between when the tickets went on sale and when the show is.  How could this happen?  Can you return your tickets?  NO.  Ticketmaster/Live Nation policy is very clear that if you bought a ticket, you can’t return it.  To make things easier for you, they have created StubHub, where you can go if you can’t make the show and sell your tickets– the great part about Stubhub is that the market bears the value of the tickets, so if your tickets are worth more than face value, you can sell them on StubHub and the purchase is guaranteed even!  Although I am sure some of you appreciate Ticketmaster and their creating basically their own legal scalper, but how it is legal is still beyond me…

..but that STILL isn’t where my complaint is centered!

My complaint is that Ticketmaster/Live Nation makes a good chunk of tickets available to the venue, to presales for “Premium Tickets”.  I wouldn’t complain if they did this and all of these blocks of tickets had to be sold before the General Public on sale date, but they don’t– which means that all of these “Premium Tickets”, which is essentially tickets being sold as a part of a “Premium Package” are sold at a higher ticket price that the exact same ticket is made available to the General Public.  Not only that, but whoever gets access to these tickets can return any tickets which they don’t sell before the show, hence where all the ticket “drops” come from– brokers dumping tickets they weren’t able to sell by their final sale date– they give them back to Ticketmaster and/or Live Nation and Live Nation drops them without notice.  Now TM/LN will tell you that they do this to cut down on BOTS grabbing the tickets, but BOTS don’t read their email to try to get tickets and crawl the site — BOTS are always trying to purchase tickets– they are constantly crawling and trying to troll for personal information or to buy tickets in premium areas.  This is where I think legally, something could be done — consumers are being mislead– the concept of “General Public Onsale” date leads the consumer to believe that all available tickets are being sold at the same time– but the fact is that TM/LN are hording piles of seats for brokers– so at the very least, the language around “General Public” should be clarified so that consumers aren’t wasting their time trying to get tickets for something when the majority of tickets have been spoken for.

In addition….

(and this is where I think I am going to really get somewhere with my complaint)

TM/LN create false demand for shows by using this method:  If you have a venue with 20k Seats, lets say 5k of those are better than the others.  Lets say another 5k are “General Admission” and the other 10k are in the middle.  25% of the venue is considered “Premium”– The venue gets between 5-10% for their own presales, if the band has a fan club, they get another 10%, Credit Cards get another 5%, so right there you have on the conservative side 20% of the venue with preblocked tickets.. so they cherry pick the tickets, leaving all of the secondary tickets now as the baseline for sale on General Suckers day.  This forces the majority of ticket holders to buy whatever tickets they can get their hands on and it successfully sells out those seats which normally dont sell until the last minute– but that should be illegal… Its similar to price fixing and should be regulated.  This is the source of my issue– no regulation in the ticketing industry and continually the people that get screwed are the consumers.

So that’s why I have a petition, which you should consider signing– we reached over 100 people tonight– so I wanted to lay everything out for everyone.  What are your thoughts?

Here is a copy of the petition:

https://www.change.org/p/live-nation-update-ticketmaster-policies-to-have-less-ticket-drops-after-public-on-sale?recruiter=38775369&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink

Link to the Rolling Stone article is here:

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/pearl-jam-taking-on-ticketmaster-19951228?page=2