Wednesday, June 22, 2016

it's all in the genes?

Star Trek. The most resonant storytelling vision of the 20th century (or 23rd, if you like).
Who deserves the credit?
It's a childish question really, reflective of an ego-based culture. It should be enough that it exists...and what's more, it's well-established that it was a profoundly collective endeavor. The contributing writers and producers were legion. Add to that a cast who were often strikingly, passionately involved in the creation of their characters.
Yet one name rises above - gene roddenberry. The creator, the great bird of the galaxy. He had final say over all creative matters for the first two seasons. There are voices (well, shatner at least) who offer avowals of his brilliance...the captain said he could always tell when gene's touch finally appeared on a struggling script. Yet there are also voices who say that gene was a middling writer, with conspicuous weaknesses.
So is there possibly a dark horse lurking out there, someone who is as much (or more) responsible for the show's early writing and editing? A person whose untimely death, before the cultural TREK flashpoint that occurred in the 70s, has left his name largely unspoken in the Trek universe?
What about gene coon, a voice says?
Perhaps, at the very least, the two names ought be more oft spoken together? The two genes? Roddencoony? Coonenberry?
How might we even know? Most of those who could say are gone. And many who have spoken, might not have the facts or clarity of perspective to answer truthfully. The little we can do is take a closer look at the evidence we do have. Accepting that both genes had a strong hand in virtually every episode of the first two seasons, what can we further learn from those scripts that bore their individual names?
Of the eighty classic episodes, roddenberry is listed as "story by, written by, or teleplay by" eleven times - and to call them a mixed bag is understatement. Schizophrenic is more like it. He wrote the original pilot "The Cage", and the brilliance is undeniable...thoughtful, compelling science fiction. He contributed the story for "Charlie X" - a fun, albeit middling effort. He contributed the story for "Mudd's Women" - a hoot to be sure, but perhaps due mainly to a stellar guest performance, as the story itself plods a bit. He wrote "The Menagerie", a reuse of "The Cage" with unimpeachable new bits. He wrote the story for "The Return of the Archons", a fine slice of sci fi. He wrote the teleplay for "A Private Little War", which is brisk and tight, with daring social commentary. He wrote "The Omega Glory", which has nice elements, but one or two gaping conceptual flaws. He co-wrote "Bread and Circuses", which has a jarringly bad climax. He wrote the story for "Assignment: Earth", which is a tight delight. He wrote the story and teleplay for "The Savage Curtain", which is top-ten worthy. He wrote the story for "Turnabout Intruder", the worst classic episode ever.
The standouts are lovely, but to have his fingerprints all over two of the three worst TREKs?
And how about mr. coon? He was a prolific freelancer, penning one hundred and nineteen scripts for forty-nine series (which was also the age at which he died). He was a producer on six of those shows. He wrote seven movies. He wrote one TV movie (also with roddenberry), "The Questor Tapes". And on STAR TREK? The prime directive, the klingons, the spock/mccoy banter, and much of the show's pacifism flowed from his pen. He produced thirty-three episodes (but almost certainly had a hand in more). He wrote the teleplay for "Arena", the giddy excitement of which almost makes you forget its superlative social relevance. He wrote the teleplay for "Space Seed", which is far-reaching, breathtaking sci fi. He wrote the teleplay for "A Taste of Armageddon", a seamless offering. He wrote "The Devil in the Dark", which captures the TREK vision more perfectly than any other. He wrote "Errand of Mercy", a grim corker. He wrote the teleplay for "The Apple", which is frightening, tender, and brilliant. He wrote "Metamorphosis", which is both thoughtful and exciting. He wrote the teleplay for "A Piece of the Action", which is just good fun. He wrote "Bread and Circuses" with the other gene...hmm, let's move on. He wrote "Spock's Brain", which at least one reviewer (me) thinks is unjustly maligned. He wrote "Spectre of the Gun", which is rootin'-tootinly dark and dangerous. He wrote "Wink of an Eye", which is merely good. He wrote "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", which is top-tier iconic.
The two genes. As much as one can glean from the overt evidence, it does feel silly to place roddenberry above coon. Compare their five worst...
RODDENBUSTS - "Turnabout Intruder", "Bread and Circuses", "The Omega Glory", "Charlie X", "The Return of the Archons"
COONSWOONS - "Bread and Circuses", "Spock's Brain", "Wink of an Eye", "A Taste of Armageddon", "Metamorphosis"
...and coon looks a bit better. Compare their five best...
RODDENBURSTS - "The Menagerie", "Mudd's Women", "A Private Little War", "Assignment: Earth", "The Savage Curtain"
COONOVERTHEMOON - "Arena", "Space Seed", "The Devil in the Dark", "The Apple", "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"
...and coon looks a lot better. Perhaps more to the point, coon's best actually feel more representative of the TREK vision. Is it possible that roddenberry offered up a skeletal idea, which coon fleshed out into something far greater? The truth of what occurred in those Desilu offices may be lost to time. By some accounts, roddenberry could be manipulative and deceitful. Is it inconceivable that he might have been content to take the lion's share of the credit and rewards, never mind the truth? Glen larson, creator of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY, called gene coon "the spirit and soul of Star Trek".
I stick by my original point that this kind of coffee-table comparison is pointless under most circumstances, and particularly so with the collective effort that was TREK.
But it's fun to bounce it around, isn't it?
Thank you, gene.
Both of you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


One day, i looked at my toenail and something clicked.
No, not my clippers.
When bodily changes happen gradually, as they often do, it can take a long time to consciously notice a change, and even longer to identify it. This awareness-deficit is partly natural, but perhaps aided by a denial response to any threat or weakness of the body. This denial is perhaps more cultural than biological - our lifelong need to commodify and "sell" ourselves may foster blinders when it comes to perceiving self-problems.
As soon as i felt the click, i realized that this had been building in my nail for weeks...heck, months.
I had toenail fungus.
Not just athlete's foot - toenail fungus. Prior to a few years ago, i'd never even had athlete's foot. Which is bad, but can be addressed quickly with a cheap tube of ointment. Once you've had it once (and i suspect hardly anyone gets it only once), if you're like me you react with a bit of outrage and extra vigilance. Anytime i feel any kind of noticeable foot itch, including on the bottom (where athlete's foot hardly ever gains a "toehold" - ha!), i slap on some of that dollar store ointment.
But now...toenail fungus?? Oh, the ignominy. I'd always had such lovely foot hygiene - after showering, i'd scrupulously toweled between the toes, and then waved my feet spread-toed in the air for good measure. But i suppose living in the frozen north, where temperatures or the demands of work had kept my feet encased in shoes more often than not, had done me in.
And now...toenail fungus.
An old person's disease!
Apparently not.
But, but...i'd never even yet had my toes sucked!
It didn't look like i was going to, any time soon.
You probably know what toenail fungus looks like, even if you think you don't. If you've ever seen old feet, you may have noticed yellowy toenails. Bingo - toenail fungus.
And there it was, on the fourth toe of my right foot, a yellowing nail. It was also a bit thicker than normal, and starting to curl in an irregular way. I tried to figure out how this could have happened. In my previous home, which i had left a couple months before, the drain on the shower had been verrrry slow, so that by the time you were done washing, the water was often up to your ankles. My housemates had all been younger than me, but who knows?
Okay, nature boy, how do you handle this? After a few pointless applications, i realized those dollar store athlete's foot tubes clearly tell you they do nothing for toenail fungus. I was vaguely aware that doctors offered some sort of pricey remedy, but i hadn't had insurance in years and was disgusted with the craven, beyond-corrupt american medical establishment, so i researched holistic treatments.
And the journey began.
Vinegar, i read. Mentholated chest rub, i read. Gonna take a year or more, i read. Oy, i said.
I would soon be helped by another move, this time to the sub-tropics, where i knew my feet would be unshod more often than not. I took to sitting in the shade once a day for ten minutes, trying to keep that one toenail isolated in the sunlight. I did a vinegar dunk twice daily, and applied chest rub at night. I'd have this licked in record time.
Yes, i did get rid of the thickness and yellow discoloration in somewhat short order, and yes, i was so good with my hygiene that not once did i ever pass my condition on to anyone else, and also never even gave it to any of my other toes, which are literally touching the besieged fellow.
But lick it in record time? Nooooooo. It soon settled into a deep pink shade, darker than the surrounding nails. I also tried applications of tea tree oil, at the urging of a granola friend. But a month or two later, the treatment disruptions began, as i began getting an infected toe - watery bubbles that formed on the sides and bottom of the toe. I surmised that it was due to the chemical cocktail i was using. I waited a couple weeks for the infection to clear, and started isolating the treatments one at a time. I started with nothing but vinegar, but after a week or two the infection returned. I also tried some clotrimazole betamethasone diproplonate cream a friend gave me (don't judge me too harshly - when months become years you tend to be more willing to grasp at straws). But from that point on, no matter which treatment i tried in isolation, the infection returned. This all took the better part of two years...with that slightly reddish hue always taunting me.
Finally, i threw all the chemicals away. It was just the two of us. Mano-a-fourthtoe.
I took inspiration from a housemate who had the nervous habit of digging under her fingernails, worrying them away so that there was only a half-sized remnant.
My toenail needed to go.
Once the skin underneath was exposed to the sun (and maybe then a little vinegar too), this war would be won.
But how to proceed? For expediency's sake, i considered a full-on assault - smash, rip, or cut the nail away.
My disinclination to pain and blood finally turned me to the "irene plan"...dig under a little each day, and worry that nail away.
Progress was made. Around the time the nail reached half-size, i noticed a different product at the drugstore - an anti-fungal liquid with 25% undecylenic acid. Had i read the small print completely, and noticed that it wasn't meant for toenail fungus, just the stuff that can surround a nail, i probably wouldn't have bought it, even at the relatively cheap price (all this time, i knew that an expensive treatment was available - but i stuck to my anti-american-health-system principles). Had i just put the liquid on my naked, unworried, full-size fungused toenail, it probably would have done nothing.
But...i stand here today with a perfectly clear toe. Coloration normal. I think it was the combination of the acid plus the worrying. With half the nail gone, enough of the flesh underneath could be reached.
And it only took...three years.
I still worry it a little sometimes, and slap on another dose of the acid. Paranoia runs deep.
I sometimes wonder whether any of the stories about people getting rid of the fungus with nothing but vinegar or Vick's and time are true. They might be. I think individual body chemistries and immunological responses are so singular, anything's possible.
Anyway, i'm ready for that toe-sucking now, thank you.
Don't everybody kneel at once.

Monday, June 13, 2016

dear katrina

Dear katrina,
You loved my last note? I'm touched and surprised. The "go away" part of your energy toward me has been so ascendant lately, that i was trying to shape that note as a goodbye. I worked all the sadness and selfishness out of it, and tried to make it a simple message of truth and love, to help you in your need to go.
Let me talk to you as though i don't know anything (which may make these the truest words i've spoken). I'm reminded of a beautiful spirit i once knew, named lakota. We met online, and exchanged our poems for months before we met. Our energy was sweetly romantic, and meeting in person did nothing to change that. Our first night together, we talked for hours, and she invited me to sleep over. We shared one of the most searing sexual experiences of my life. Holding and caressing in timelessness...yet not completely, as i retained the presence of mind to not penetrate her (even though i felt no such reservations from her). I was worried about getting in over my head though, as she was a single mother. I'd always tried to be so respectful of that, and not just out of terms of freedom and creativity, parenthood changes everything. So i was doing what we all do - living inside my head. Sadly, it's a defense mechanism all too necessary in this barbaric world.
The next day, i wrote her a note trying to explain some of that, and asking for us to have no assumptions about where we were going. In my clumsiness, i may have even used the phrase "start over".
I never heard from her again.
I didn't think of her much for a year or two, but since that defense mechanism passed, rarely does a week go by when i don't dream of the beauty i felt holding her...of being in that loving moment again, and holding nothing back. Most of those fantasies end in blissful fertilization.
This society forces us to make horrible choices, ones that create tear after tear in the fabric of our spirit. Did i act foolishly? Yes - in the name of self-preservation. All that i denied myself through my fears - how many thousands of hugs, how many couplings of what could have been the best sex of my life, how many resonances of being accepted and loved...and yet objectively, i acted "rationally"! Would the tears in my spirit be even greater, had i foregone the freedom i've enjoyed in the years since? The freedom to try to understand what it means to live naturally, and all the explorations in writing i've been able to indulge and offer the world? Yet how can i do anything but mourn what i lost? I gave up what should have been a vital part of my life's landscape, because this life forces us into so many "either/or" choices. Particularly when it comes to parenting, you can either be free and alone, or consumed by domestic burdens that leave almost no time for "you". I was a fool, but this world doesn't offer non-foolish options.
When you're young, you don't appreciate how rare it is to feel whooshing openness for another human being. I wish i weren't focusing so much on a romantic example, but our need for physical connection is so damaged by this touch-deprived society, that sex takes on far more importance than it should. It is one of the bizarrest realities imaginable that our culture has found a way to both denigrate and elevate sex out of all proportion.
But as lonely years accrue, and i try to learn to not live in my head, i sometimes make a silent vow to myself that if i ever again feel something so strong and true for a woman who is holding and loving me, i will let go of all fear.
In the moment we met, i heard a whooshing in my head, and i was certain you were one such person.
I'm not telling you to drop all your fears - unless you live in a self-sustaining community where everyone lives to care for all others.
I'm not telling you that it may be a long, long time before you meet someone again who might love you without fear.
No, i guess i am.
And again, this isn't the voice of rationality speaking. Even if you were infertile and polyamorously-inclined, you'd still be a single mother with weighty psychological baggage, whose religiosity marks at least one of your core values as markedly different from mine.
But i know what pure, fearless loving can be. I've come close to it twice in my life. I've spent a lifetime in this twisted, fear-based world, and don't want to die having never been the lover i'm supposed to be.
That's my baggage.
And despite our differences, i sometimes think you might be able to understand me better than i've ever been. You're afraid now, as i've been before.
Do you let someone hold your hand, or push them away?
Whatever happens, in my dreams i will always love you breathtakingly and unafraid.
That, sweet friend, is not nothing.

Friday, June 10, 2016

"Animal Oppression & Human Violence"

(Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict)
-by david a. nibert
A tidal wave of facts, quotes, and references that flesh out the arguments presented in his earlier book, "Animal Rights/Human Rights" (, which describes how humanity's exploitation of other humans is intertwined with our exploitation of other animals. Nibert argues that we'll never solve the first problem without addressing the second...and that without doing both, our time on this planet will soon be done, as corporate capitalism is an infinite escalation of suffering for undervalued humans, and raping of the Earth through pollution and desertification. He looks at how the history of capitalism has walked in lockstep with our "domestication" of other animals (he continues to restructure language to make plain the evils of speciesism - "animals" becoming "other animals", and now "domestication" becoming...). He looks at the rise of pastoralism (the enslaving of other animals for food and wealth), and how grazing requirements have created a neverending war against subsistence farmers, a one-sided war dominated by pastoralists, who kill on horseback. He analyses the rapaciousness of pastoralism ("red gold"), as over-grazing and the ever-expanding need for land have created huge deserts and disappearing rain forests. Depleting oil reserves get all the press, but diminishing water and topsoil will soon make oil problems look like a stubbed toe. Nibert looks at how european imperialism (and recent U.S. "interventions") have culminated in modern "silent" wars on indigenous people who lack the resources to fight back. He lays out capitalism's lack of conscience or long-term awareness, and the staggering power it currently wields to combat any obstacle or protest. He illuminates the ecological endtimes and wars of survival that are coming our way, unless we stop factory farming (and using american Hollywood influence to convince the rest of the world that our "hamburger culture" is neat-o).
The first eight chapters are a bulldozer of documentation - if you already have a good grasp of the problems, you can skip to chapter nine, which exposes the ineffectual, cosmetic nature of the free-range, cage-free movement - such methods only make rich, guilt-ridden consumers feel better about themselves, while deflecting attention away from calls for real systemic change. Meanwhile, the poorer consumers (meaning basically everyone) continue to prop up factory farming, the growth of which hasn't been slowed one bit by this free-range nonsense. Don't be surprised by corporations who embrace cage-free - they get to sell more expensive products to some, while simultaneously selling the illusion that something is being done. And don't kid yourself - even the best-kept free-range animals live lives that would be considered horrific by "human" standards. On top of that, there's of course not enough land to implement free-range as a comprehensive policy - it would take a pasture half the size of the U.S. just to hold our cows. If we want to stop the silent genocides of undervalued peoples, global eco-annihilation, and the holocaust we inflict on trillions of other animals every year, the only immediate solution is (everybody say it together) global veganism, and the end of capitalism.
On a personal level, i owe thanks to david for making me re-think my impulse to discard any wisdom of the past twenty thousand years as barbarically unworthy - the book's opening quote is from a writer who saw this all coming. No, not upton sinclair. Plato.
"Animal Oppression & Human Violence" is one of those rare books that you wish every person in the world could read. It's so airtight and damning, you can't imagine anyone anywhere coming up with a "yes, but..."