Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Cruelty of Suicide

Twenty-three years ago, today, my best friend at the time, Jim, died from suicide.  In some ways, his death was understandable.  He was HIV+, his lover had died the year before from AIDS, and due to medical malpractice, Jim was in constant pain.  It might have been possible to ease his pain, had he been able to hang on for just a year or so more, because that's when a flood of new treatments for HIV and his spinal injury were released.  He had no way of knowing that, of course, and like almost all gay men in the late 80s/early 90s, he had watched multitudes of his friends get sick and die from the disease.  This could do nothing but tear at his soul, after all, what does it do you to go on living, if all your friends are dead?

Jim was one of the most eclectic people I've ever known.  He was interested in nearly everything, and had an in-depth knowledge of subjects to the point where he'd tell you something, and you'd find it hard to believe that he could know such a thing.  Later on, you'd find out that Jim was right.  And his sense of humor was vicious.  If he found a weak spot, something you were irrationally sensitive about, he'd "work" that nerve to the point where you just about to freak out, then back off the subject, only to later, some times after days, weeks, or months, come back right to that point, and needle you again.

Jim was one of the most talented musicians I've ever met.  Not only could he play a number of instruments, but he composed a number of works, and had the broadest taste in music of anyone I've ever encountered.  If you named a genre, not only did he have recordings of that genre, but he had music by obscure individuals who influenced the big names in that particular genre.  If he hadn't heard it, it probably wasn't worth listening to.

He was also obsessed with the number twenty-three, for reasons too complicated to go into here. As well as coincidences.  Tonight, I stumble across a band, whom I've never heard of before, but who's style Jim would have completely enjoyed.  When I heard it, I immediately wished Jim was still around so I could share it with him.  I won't claim to be the kind of friend who remembers the date when someone died, but I don't have any trouble figuring out when Jim passed.  He died on the same day, at the exact same time, as one of his favorite musicians: Frank Zappa.  When I heard the music, thought of Jim, I remembered that it was the beginning of December when he left us, so I checked to see when Zappa died.  Turns out that it was twenty-three years ago today.

The only person who could truly appreciate the confluence of events leading me to write this blog post is Jim.  And he's no longer here.  I don't blame Jim for his suicide.  Being in constant physical pain, and never knowing if the next phone you get is going to be someone telling you that a friend has died from the same disease you have, and that has taken so many of your friends, is more than enough to push someone to kill themselves.  But I just wish, for a moment, that there was a way to let Jim know what happened to me tonight, so I could hear his maniacal laughter one last time, telling me that he'd found a way to fuck with me that I never could have suspected.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

With the Election of Trump, We Need Science More Than Ever. Here's How You Can Help

In addition to undermining the progress made by women, the LGBT community, and others, we can expect a Trump Administration to  cut funding for the sciences.  Whether it's because President-Elect Trump doesn't care about science (as many close to him claim), or because Republicans think that it's not something the government has a right to be involved in, or because they don't believe in things like global warming, the sciences are going to be needing our support as well.

Once you've made a donation to someone like Planned Parenthood (in Mike Pence's name, of course), spare a little for the sciences as well.  Here's a list of science related organizations you can donate to, or consider donating to a local science museum, as they'll no doubt be needing the funds as well.

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AKA the AAAS)  The AAAS seeks to "advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people."

The Planetary Society  The Planetary Society sponsors projects that will seed innovative space technologies, nurtures creative young minds, and is a vital advocate for our future in space.

The Union of Concerned Scientists

Archaeological Institute of America  The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) promotes archaeological inquiry and public understanding of the material record of the human past to foster an appreciation of diverse cultures and our shared humanity.  The AIA supports archaeologists, their research and its dissemination, and the ethical practice of archaeology.  The AIA educates people of all ages about the significance of archaeological discovery and advocates the preservation of the world's archaeological heritage. 

There are also scientists who've turned to crowdfunding to pay for their work. Experiment is one site where you can donate to support scientists working on the next breakthrough.  Here's a journal article on how scientists can begin crowdfunding their research.  There is a hunger for science out there in the general public for science, and we need to make sure that it keeps getting fed.