Archive for September, 2010

Stop Bullying Gay Teens (Ctd.)

September 30, 2010

Last night, I saw the preview performance of the University of Vermont Theatre production of “Cloud 9”

Bear with me, this relates to the scourge of people tormenting gay teenages, which seems all the rage these days.

“Cloud 9”  is well worth seeing. It’s funny and very provocative.  So do go to it.

 As I watched, I was entertained, but also found myself fuming with anger and frustration.

“Cloud 9” deals with how people suffer as societal expectations are placed on them, by oppressive people, and they can’t be their true selves as a result. It made me think of the rash of suicides recently among gay teenagers who were tormented by bullies. 

 A big part of the reason they killed themselves is they thought they couldn’t be who they really are, and couldn’t bear to live suppressed and rejected that way.

Their tormentors are so blind, stupid and rigid they insist the world be just as they want it to be, and any variation ought to be killed off. Even to the point of killing people who don’t hew to their worldview.  I’m sure some “religious” zealots feel vindicated that gay teenagers are commiting suicide. They must be so proud, until they burn in their own special hell, that is.

I blogged about the subject the other day, but I really need to keep beating this drum.  In the past couple of days,  I’ve read news of a California teen who died several days after trying to hang himself after months of anti-gay bullying.

Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after his roommate secretly videoed, and broadcast a sexual encounter Clementi had.

And there was that awful news about the Rutgers student Tyler Clementi who killed himself after Dharun Ravi,  his creepy, sleazy roommate,  secretly videoed him having a romantic encounter with another guy and broadcast it over the Internet.

We all have a responsibility to make sure LGBT teens are safe and secure.

I contacted Outright Vermont, a great organization which helps LGBT teens, for advice on what average people can do about this.  Executive Director Melissa Murray  sent back a lot of helpful information.

Her suggestions: 

  1. Talk about school with youth that you know. And ask them about their lives at school. Ask about bullying. Ask about harassment. Ask if they feel safe at school. Ask about school climate. Ask how you can help.
  2. Ask youth if they have ever thought about suicide. Asking about suicide shows that you are a source of support and that you care.
  3. Be an activist in your community; tell schools that they need to be doing serious work around ending bullying and harassment. Let them know that you expect consequences for youth who engage in such behavior. Hold schools accountable.
  4. Don’t just reach out to the LGBTQQ youth that you know. Lots of youth are closeted, some youth are perceived to be gay but actually aren’t, and youth that might be responsible for bullying and harassment can all use your help and support. All youth need support for many reasons and bullying and harassment affect everyone.
  5. Interrupt homophobia and transphobic remarks that you hear on the street, in the store, in conversations with friends (i.e “that’s so gay”). Don’t support entertainers that use hate language.
  6. Familiarize yourself with the available resources. The Trevor Project (http://www.thetrevorproject.org/ycare) has a hotline specifically for LGBTQQ youth considering suicide. Outright Vermont (www.outrightvt.org) offers presentations in schools, helps to start and support GSAs in schools across Vermont, and offers social and support programming to reduce isolation and provide peer based support. The Vermont Human Rights Commission (http://hrc.vermont.gov/) can help youth and their parents/guardians hold schools accountable. The It Gets Better Project (http://www.youtube.com/user/itgetsbetterproject) has videos letting youth know that it does get better.

 Murray also had this to say:

“The more that this issue is addressed, the more it becomes a priority. The “average” Vermonter has a lot of power to change the climate for all youth.”

For any LGBTQ kids reading,  here’s one of the many “It Gets Better” videos that you MUST watc. All of it, including the sweet kicker at the end.

Wild Turkey Time

September 29, 2010

The wild turkeys have made their annual pilgramage to my property.

Wild turkeys wander around my driveway Tuesday, Sept. 28. 2010

Every autumn,  a flock of them come, to eat, to cause trouble, to entertain. It’s like a traveling troupe of circus performers.

One of their tricks is to get into a wild cherry tree, and flap around and drop cherries to the ground, while other turkeys fight over them. Hilarious to watch.

When there’s a dusting of snow, they’ll leave hundreds of footprints on my driveway, making it look like some cool mosaic

I bought my house in November of 2007. It was initially uninhabitable, so I spent a month and a half after I purchased it getting it into shape.

While working inside, I looked out at the dead trees looming over the driveway that I had to remove.  Wild grapevine climbed the tree. The turkeys wanted the fruit so they of course hopped up on the dead tree.

Later the turkeys moved into my back yard

Their weight was too much, so the entire thing collapsed in a tangle of dead wood, ribbons of grapevine and squawking turkeys. It was hilarious, until the entire mass started falling toward the house and my truck.

Luckily everything just missed. Imagine explaining that incident and damage to my insurance company  just a month after I bought the house.

But mostly, they come and go for an hour in the morning, seemingly just to say hello.  I welcome the visits.

Here’s a brief, grainy, paparazzi-style  video I took of the turkeys’ visit to my yard yesterday.

Photos: The Autumn Transition

September 29, 2010

Today sure felt like that confused time of year when summer is fading fast and winter is looming.

After the evening rain. Main Street, Burlington, Vermont, Sept. 28, 2010

It was humid, kind of tropical feeling today.

A quick summery downpour punctuated the downtown Burlington evening.

As the skies cleared just past sunset, it stayed warm, but the sky and the wet surroundings took on that ominous, coldly blue light of early winter.

I was in shirtsleeve and comfortable when I took the photos of the wet surroundings and clearing skies Tuesday evening.

Nevertheless,  I wanted to wrap myself up in fleece and down, just to get used to the feeling of hunkering down against winter.

View #2: After an evening shower, Main Street, Burlington, Vermont, Sept. 28, 2010

Stop The Gay Bullying!

September 28, 2010

I must depart from the usual levity in this blog to say I am beyond angry, again, from the news that another teenager was bullied to death in large part because his tormenters thought he was gay.

Asher Brown, 13, killed himself last week after relentless bullying, his parents said. Photo from the family, via the Houston Chronicle.

According to an article I saw in the Houston Chronicle, via the JoeMyGod blog, Asher Brown, 13, put a gun to his head after months and months of torture by his classmates.  The anti-gay bullying against the kid was unrelenting.

Asher’s parents said they complained to the school repeatedly but they did nothing. The school says they have no record of any bullying against Asher, but frankly, I find that hard to believe. As Asher’s mother said, she did not hallucinate making calls to the school, and the comments section in the Chronicle article filled up with people with stories of bullying in that school.

I have to wonder if the school figured if it’s not in writing, and not on videotape, it didn’t happen. I need more details to know for sure whether the school is culpable, but I smell a rat.  If administrators are to blame, I want criminal charges pressed against them.

But the important issue here is that gay kids, or kids who are perceived as gay, are continually being bullied in this nation to the point of suicide. Gay teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts

There’s a lot of blame to go around. Kids bully, that’s a fact. And they need to be punished. Asher’s anguished mom had this to say to them:

 “I hope you’re happy with what you’ve done. I hope you got what you wanted and you’re just real satisfied with yourself.”

 But adults abdicate responsibility.  Some parents make no effort to stop their kids from bullying.  Some adults look the other way. Some school administrators think “good” publicity is more important than the lives, health and safety of their students. Some, but not all “religious” and social conservatives think it’s entirely proper to continually harangue against gay people, thereby setting a tone where some people think tormenting gay kids is fine and dandy.

I’m talking about YOU, Maggie Gallagher, Ann Coulter, Matt Barber, National Organization For Marriage and all the rest.

I had a rough go of it in junior high and part of high school for a variety of reasons. When you’re that age, you think that things will always be the same. Frankly, I didn’t think life was worth living, if the rest of my life was going to be that grim.

I hung in there, but some kids don’t. So bright, creative, promising kids like Asher kill themselves, because tyranny prevailed.

I think about all I would have missed had I been one of those suicides. I’ve got the best partner in the world, a ton of warm, generous, smart and funny friends, an interesting life. If I had a penny for each time I’ve laughed in the past two decades, I’d make Warren Buffett look like a pauper. Clearly, things got better for me, and they do for most kids who have a tough time as teenagers.

There are things you can do to stop these suicides. Last month, a teen who bullies perceived as gay killed himself in Indiana. Dan Savage, the noted gay sex columnist and expert on LGBT issues, said he wished he could have told the kid in Indiana beforehand that it gets better.

So he launched the It Gets Better Channel on YouTube. Savage and his husband, Terry, made a video aimed at vulnerable teenagers describing how their own lives were difficult in high school, but as adults they have a wonderful marriage, a great kid, super careers and a very satisfying life.

Savage encouraged others to make similar videos for the channel and a lot of people have done so. The best way to protect these kids is with a lot of voices, so the It Gets Better Channel is a terrific idea. Consider making your own video and submitting it. .

Most sch0ols have anti-bullying policies in place. Some schools mean business and do a good job at preventing bullying. Other schools have the policies as window dressing, for that “good” public relations I talked about earlier. They don’t enforce the rules.

Parents and other adults must go into their schools –you have that right — and see for yourself what the climate is. If it’s not satisfactory, insist that it change until it does. Don’t be afraid of raising a ruckus. The kid you save might be your own.

Finally, consider donating to or otherwise helping The Trevor Project, which helps gay kids and discourages suicide and encourages positive self images for the youths and their families.

I must close on a positive note. Some schools are doing things right. Watch how Gunn High School in Palo Alto, Calif. responded when the vile Westboro Baptist Church came to town last winter.  The students in this school give me  hope that at least some of  the kids are alright. 

Office Stress Advice

September 28, 2010

We all have bad days at work. Even the best jobs can be challenging.

When it gets nasty on the job, it’s best to take a deep breath, relax and try not to throw things. Obvious advice, I know, but not everybody heeds the warning.

A hilarious case in point comes from the Russian office in the following video, where somebody had a witle tantwum.

You’re also always going to run into a work colleague who’s not exactly your favorite person. You want to tell the world how bad this guy is, but if you do, you both come off looking terrible.

Here’s a funny, but cringe-inducing video that proves my point.

Remembering Junk

September 28, 2010

I’m famous for remembering stuff that is completely useless, yet I can’t remember things I really need to know. Like where my car keys are. Or remembering if my doctor’s appointment is at 9 a.m. Tuesday or 3 p.m. Thursday.

Cast of the Mary Tyler Moore show, helping me turn the world on with her smile...

But boy can I remember the least important stuff in the world. I can sing you the entire theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore show. (“Who can turn the world on with her smile……”)

I know what book Diane on the show Cheers was writing. (“Jocasta’s Conundrum”)

The cast of Cheers

I know what the temperature was in New Bedford, Mass. on Aug. 2, 1975. (107 degrees, a New England record high)

I remember what my Aunt Irene’s favorite grocery store was in the 1960s (South End Food Market in Rutland, Vermont; long since gone out of business.)

I know what the number one hit song was in the autumn of 1971 (“Maggie May” by Rod Stewart)

Rod Stewart belts out "Maggie May"

You get the point. Does anyone know how to rewire one’s brain to remember important things, and, if I have to, discard what I really don’t need?

After all, I’d rather remember the important phone call I have to make at work tomorrow, than the entire lyrics to Melanie’s song, “Brand New Key”

“…..cuz, I got a brand new pair of roller skates, you got a brand new key!”

Party Time

September 27, 2010

Dalusz Zabagaiski, the Polish frog that lives here with us, watched the procession Saturday morning from his perch in the kitchen. Jeff and I had just returned from an early morning run to the grocery store.

Jeff introduces Darlusz to people who came to the party at our house Saturday.

“You guys bring in enough food, you feed army,” he said. “You get fat. You no want that.” And look, you got da booze, so much beer, wine,” he said.

“It’s not all for us. We decided to invite a few people over this afternoon. Time to socialize.

“Dat’s goud. I like meet new people,” Darlusz said.

Joe Bannard Baird greets Darlusz Saturday at my place

A bunch of friends did show up Saturday afternoon, armed with more food, more booze and a chance to have a good time.

Usually, when I do anything that requires planning, there’s some major disaster. But things went as smoothly as an expert military operation.

It seems the disaster was across the street. Two sheriff’s cruisers and an ambulance raced to a house near mine and stayed there a long time. I never did figure out what went on.

Meanwhile, in our house, people oogled the great job Jeff did renovating and decorating the inside of  the place and listened to my grandiose plans for outdoor landscaping. Which should have happened by now, but hasn’t. It will. I promise.

My good friend Shay Totten and son have a chat with Darlusz during a gathering at my house Saturday.

When the landscaping is done, or well on its way, we’ll invite everybody back for a look-see.

I honestly have no weird party stories to offer. Everybody seemed to have a good time, yet everybody behaved. No lampshades on people’s heads. No arguments over the merits of Sarah Palin.  Just a pleasant, laugh-filled Saturday afternoon of talking, eating and drinking.

I’ll HAVE to do this again.

Saturday’s party wound down by early evening.

“Was veddy goud time,” Darlusz said. “You and Jeff, doz friends of yourz, day nice people,” he said.

“They sure are. I’m glad you had a good time.”

“You no da best part. People left da door open and da flies came in,” Darlusz said.  “I no like people food much, so I had da flies as day came in. Yum!!!”

I guess everybody was happy, then.

No Evolution for O’Donnell

September 26, 2010

OK, I’ll weigh in like everybody else on this one.

"Scientist" and U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell

Our Deleware punching bag, Tea Party U.S. Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell continues to thrill. A new videotape surfaced in which she says that evolution is a myth.

She has proof. I can’t believe all of us missed the obvious that she saw. We don’t see monkeys evolving into humans, do we? So evolution doesn’t exist.

Let’s go to the tape:

I think O’Donnell is really missing her calling here. She shouldn’t be a senator. She should be a science teacher.

Now that I see her way of thinking, I’ve got a lot of things figured out.

Among them:

The weather has been getting colder lately as we transition from summer to fall. That means global warming doesn’t exist. It’s getting cooler, not hotter, see?

Just as I was losing my balance yesterday when I tripped over  a rock, I said, “God damn.” Sure enough, I fell over to the ground. Surely God damned me, right? Had I not said it, I would have stayed on my feet, correct?

The world had to be created by God 6,000 years ago, not millions of years ago like scientists said. Have you ever seen a rock that was time stamped 1,000,000 BC? That proves the world is much newer than that.

I can go on and on, but thank goodness O’Donnell is there for us to set us on the correct scientific path.

Hurricane Matthew and Me (Cont’d)

September 25, 2010

Tropical Storm Matthew, my namesake, came ashore in Nicaragua yesterday and is now spinning down over Central America.

It’s going to produce very heavy rain and big flooding. So it continues to be just like me: All wet.

Its remnants might contribute to the formation of a new tropical storm next week, some forecasters are predicting. Also just like me: “Oh, go ahead, you go for it. I’m fine. It’s your turn.”

Cool Vermont Barn Art

September 25, 2010

I stumbled upon the barn pictured in this post the other day while I was near Richmond, Vermont.

The barn’s colorful artwork depicts the northern half of the Green Mountain mountain range. You can see Camels Hump to the right and Jay Peak to the right.

The barn’s owner said a Burlington artist came up a few years ago and asked to do the work. She happily obliged.

A detail of the art on the barn I encountered near Richmond, Vermont recently.