Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Speaking of Cats...

Yes, the kitten in the above picture is glowing a nice bright green. No it's NOT one of ours. The powers that be are working on preventing Feline AIDS and have come up with this as a possible solution - by inserting genetic material from monkeys who are immune to the AIDS virus into the embryos of kittens, they are, hopefully setting up cats who are genetically immune to AIDS. Added into this is a certain gene from jelly fish, which combined with the other, allows them to track whether or not the genetic material took hold, without intrusive testing on the cats. The jelly fish gene is fluorescent under black light - so guess what? 

So are the cats who received the genetic material successfully. It only shows under black light - a regular flash light, for instance, shows nothing out of the ordinary. The kitten in these pictures is really glowing green under black light - this is not photo shopped. 

If this works, they can create a treatment for cats that makes them immune to Feline AIDS, and maybe it will be genetically passed to the next generation. I suspect the glowing green part is not essential to that immunity....
On the other hand, if it breeds dominant in the cats that have already been treated with the test genetics...we may have begun a race of glowing cats! 
And given the way people are reacting to the idea of glow in the dark cats, if they need funding for the project, there appears to be a line of people forming around the block who would leap at one of the glowing kittens! Imagine - all it would take is a black light night light, and our days of tripping over cats in the dark would be over! Here's hoping the concept works successfully for the kitties. Feline AIDS is a horrible thing...of course, the next logical thought is, does it work with people for Human AIDS? And if it does, its a whole new world!!! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Kitten Pictures - They're Growing!

The Kittens have been growing, so I thought it was time to post an update on how they are doing - 

Above is our cat Lugh, surrounded by Lucy's five kittens - from upper left, and around back up to the right: Amergin, Rosie, Dante, Maya, and Audre.


Lugh and Audre,

Amergin and Rosie,

And Dante...

Amergin thinks the mixing bowls are THE place to be. 

He is a serious little fellow, who is mainly concentrating on growing his ears...

And then there is Marmalade's remaining kitten, Hermione. Who may be the most spoiled kitten on the planet.  She certainly has US wrapped around her paw...

...for obvious reasons! Can it get any cuter? 

And the answer is oh, yes she can! 

Hermione and Rascal

Browning, Rosie and Amergin

Amergin, asleep. See what I mean about growing his ears? 

Hermione, under the covers...

...looking as cute as ever! "Teh cloak of ivizibilti, it is not workin..."

Hermione - the more I sleep, the more I grow! 

I have some more pictures, but they haven't been pulled off the camera, yet. These are all from my cell phone. We have a wonderful tribe and we love them very much! Oh, and yes - Firedancer, who fathered all these wonderful little balls of fur, has been to the vet. We will not be having anymore surprise adventures in fatherhood. And Amergin, and Dante are scheduled to go next.

More pictures soon!  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Memoriam....

September 11, 2001

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Way Home

Thursday night was my Cultural Competency class and we watched a second video on racism called "The Way Home". This video was comprised of   64 women organized into eight racially and ethnically defined “Councils.” The eight councils represented Indigenous People, African-American, Arab/Middle Eastern, Asian, European-American, Jewish, Latina, and Multiracial.Though the purpose of the individual council dialogues is to explore the challenges related to living in a white supremacist world, each group uncovers a variety of in-group issues and tensions based on skin color, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. 

The difference in the first and second videos we have watched were profound. In the first video a small mixed group of men, of different ethnic groups, gathered and confronted racism and one another, often times in harsh anger...the dialogue was powerful, combative and taut. In this video, the women's councils were separate and spoke with each other, confronting racism within and without, but not being overtly pitted against each other. The women in each space created sacred space, altars, with candle light and objects from differing cultures, from their pasts, that had deep personal meaning for them.

"The Way Home" video was created by World Trust - Social Impact Through Film and Dialogue, Their mission statement reads as follows... 

"World Trust works to eliminate racial injustice through transformational education. World Trust produces programs and seminars based on our films that open minds and hearts. We offer the skills to perceive and challenge the internal and external system that reinforces racial oppression. We believe that suffering perpetuated by racial and economic divides is, at its core, the result of a disconnect from our collective humanity. This disconnect plays itself out within ourselves, in our relationships with others and in our institutions and structures. We use the powerful combination of film, dialogue and transformative learning to create new understandings. In addition, we work to heal the wounds of racism by building community and cultivating the practices of love-in-action and respect: kindness, non-judgment, compassion, deep listening. World Trust sparks individual learning and links it to a growing collective will that is committed to change."

The class discussion was pretty intense was sort of like a combination of everyone's thoughts about the class before this when we had watched The Color of Fear, and our discussions afterwards then, and now reacting also to "The Way Home" that we had just watched. Last week, one of my class mates had spoken up and said that slavery and those horrible times happened a long time ago, and everyone involved in it back then was dead...none of us had been a part of it. (Anybody want to take a running guess at what race she was? It should be obvious!)

So this week, one of my class mates responded to this, by saying that the effects were still on going, and that she could not look at a photograph of blacks being lynched by a white mob, that it hit her personally. I might note that racially motivated lynching by hanging was still going on in the south in 1965, only 46 years ago. 156 African Americans were lynched in SC between 1882 and 1965, and 1965 was within MY life time, people! My father remembers the one in 1947 in the next county over and has mentioned it to me, briefly. (Lynching of course, still goes on today in various forms, and people are still charged with it today - however, the classic hanging lynch mobs of the post Civil War era are believed to have ended in the 60's.) He also remembers as a small boy seeing the KKK clan members ride out in their cars in the dark. My grandmother was approached by a KKK member and given a card with a number to call should anyone ever "bother her".  Given that she was a federal marshal, who backed down from no one, I think his efforts were a bit wasted...

Of course, what haunts me is the opposite of what haunts my classmate. It is painful for her to see the victimization of her people. My people were slave holders. Literally. My great great grandfather's family were southern slave holders; he fought in the Civil War and road courier for Lee, since he was small and wiry. His best friend when he was growing up was a slave boy his same age and the tale is they were mischief makers and holy terrors around the farm growing up and utterly inseparable - they went to war together into the Confederate army. I have always wondered what the other side of the story was from the slave boy's  perspective, how the slowly dawning gulf of slave and master affected these boys' innocent friendship as they left childhood behind. Did their friendship survive it, or did the institution of slavery destroy them in the end?  I have also seen a photocopy of a  broadside for an escaped slave from my families peoples further back before the Civil War...and this is extremely unsettling. The slave was described as mixed race, with red hair...I come from a family of redheads. The implications are bitterly plain. I hope he made it out.

 On my mother's side of the family, I don't know exactly what the history is but there is lingering custom that is very telling. Whenever my large family of cousins gathered for Christmas at my Aunts farmhouse, the tradition was that the first person who got to the door of the farm house was to call out "Christmas Gift"! That was all, just a fun tradition - until I found out where it came from. Slaves would gather at the back door of the main house where ever this was (not my Aunts farm - it was a modern structure on land they bought later in their lives). Having gathered, the first slave on Christmas morning, when the back door opened, who managed to call out "Christmas Gift!" first, was the recipient of a gift, usually a bottle of whiskey that was then shared among the other slaves. I was stunned and horrified...we were using THIS, as a family tradition??? After my Aunt passed away and the farm sold, while the family has remained close, and still gathers as they can, the custom seems to have fallen by the wayside and perhaps that is for the best!

So...I told these stories to the class this past Thursday night, and it was hard to say it, hard to do it. It was profoundly painful to look my African American classmate in the eye and tell her this about my past. I was crying.
And she told me not to feel guilt, not to take that on myself, but to use what I know to stand against racism. Which I told her I most certainly did take that stand, and have and will always.

It was deeply liberating to say these things out loud and for a good purpose - to bring home to my classmates that racism is not a "thing of the ancient past" but that its history in this culture was far more recent then they think...and that the affects of this continue to haunt us all tragically to this day.  It has always disturbed and unnerved me to these things about my past - finding a purpose to tell about them, that was for the good, to help my classmates think and see things differently some how redeems a small part of bearing this knowledge.

The class will not be all about racism - among our discussion topics are included gender and homophobia, class issues, and feminism and misogyny. But I suspect that race will continue to haunt this class and our groups for awhile to come as we wrestle with what all these things mean to us personally and in our futures as culturally competent therapists. 

A Different View...

We are all use to seeing those gorgeous pictures of Saturn, with its great golden warm color, and vibrant glowing rings and the incredible black shadow of its bulk thrown across those rings.


However, the Cassini Space Probe has taken a picture of Saturn from a different view - "behind" it, with the enormous body of the planet eclipsing the sun. It is a stunningly, profoundly different viewpoint, dark and mysterious...

Cassini Probe picture of Saturn eclipsing the sun...

Color enhancement of the photograph shows something that, yes, you can see in the non-enhanced picture, to  the left and a little down of the thin haze of the outer rings...a small blue sphere which is...

Color enhanced view - Earth is to the left of the planet down from the outer rings...

I did some widgeting (yes, that is a technical term) with the photograph, until I was able to isolate and re-size that area of the photograph that contained Earth...

Earth, seen through the rings of Saturn

How many times have we suddenly seen something from a really different angle of view, and realized that it changed what we knew about something, gave us a new place to stand in the spaces of our lives. How often have we our selves, living on the borderlands, different, our lives eclipsed by our differences, shown someone else by our very being, that different way to see, a new way to think about things?
The Cassini Probe took a journey of 794 million miles to reach Saturn, an incredible distance. It was launched in 1997 and reached orbit around Saturn in 2004, a journey of seven years. I think that the journeys we take in our own hearts as we learn about each other, our diversity, our differences, our similarities, our strengths and our weaknesses are far more infinite, and yield an even greater beauty. May the beauty and power of the universe seen through a different point of view inspire us to always look for the different point of view within.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Color of Fear.

Last night was the first night of one of my two classes this semester - Cultural Competency. The regular teacher was unable to be there, so my adviser took the class on. Usually, when that happens, we get handed the syllabus, pointed to the homework, and booted out the door early. I had mixed emotions - we'd all be less then human if we didn't want to get to go home early to our spouses and our lives. And yet, for me, this class is one I've been looking forward to since I joined the program, so when the teacher announced that we were going to watch a movie and discuss it, I was happy. She then went on to say that it was uncomfortable to watch and to brace ourselves. All right...

What she put on the screen for us was "The Color of Fear", a documentary on racism by Lee Mun Wah and it was absolutely stunning. Filmed in 1994, it documents a group of 8 men plus Lee himself as moderator discussing and confronting racism. There were two Latinos, two African Americans, two Asians, two white European ancestry, and Lee himself, who is Chinese. It was stunning. Filmed 17 years ago, it was frighteningly relevant today, making me wonder have we made any progress at all? Here is the trailer of the documentary...

It is an undeniably tense movie. Its not easy to watch. It seems to enrage white individuals who are furious with the charge of racism and privilege. I wanted to stand up and cheer as I watched it. It was powerful and  painful and honest, and its impossible to watch it and stay neutral.
After we watched it, we discussed it in small groups. One of the women in my group was African American, and she bluntly affirmed the basic truths of the of her earliest memories was of not being allowed to play with another little girl who was of course, white, and when she went to her mom and asked why, her mom had to explain to her, they don't want you to play with her, because you're black. And thats just one of a life time of experiences. She is an intelligent strong woman in her field, she's in graduate school, and every day she says she goes home to her home and her husband and family and feels like "Whew! I can be black, now." The question was put to her by other members of the group, was she possibly just letting that experience from childhood color her perceptions, and she said no, because that wasn't the only time that something like that had was a life time of experience after experience, an over all cultural overlay...I spoke up and said, its the very air you breathe, everyday. She nodded immediately and said, thats it.'s the tragedy.
Segregated, not allowed to play with white children as a child, only feeling free to be herself at home. A life time of old do you think she is?
Even older?
An older woman returning to grad school who remembers the decades of the 50's and the 60's and the racial violence, surely.
She's 25 years old, born in 1986...half my age!
Racism hasn't gone away, or finally become a thing of the past. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream has not been fulfilled, though no one can deny that steps, some of them huge, have been taken.  Instead of ending with the civil rights movement, racism merely took on a more covert character. Instead, its just changed, become more subtle, more pervasive. In someways, more dangerous. The theory of multicultural pluralism seems to wish to honor diversity, but instead, draws lines and divides and above all refuses to acknowledge the past or the fact that what happened in the past still continues in the present, just quietly, subtly.
No white person in America, however clearly they see, however honest they may be, however self aware they have become and fought against racism, totally escapes the deep down taint of white privilege - and yes, I include myself in that statement.
No person of color, regardless of ethnicity, in America, however successful they may be in their careers, their lives, their friendships across the ethnic spectrum, ever totally is free of the deep down fear and scarring of being denied their humanity simply because they are not white. And many, many whites who are totally well meaning, who would deny being racist - who truly believe racism is wrong, don't get it, will deny it, will resist it, will become enraged if confronted with the fact that these things are true.

David, one of the white men in the video, resisted with all his might and heart - in pain, fighting to not admit what he saw and heard before him. David said (and go look at this link, please)  that the block against the black man or people of color is put there by themselves, not by white men. His journey of selfhood and self revelation is painful, and agonizing to watch. His powerful admission to a past that shaped his perceptions is stunning and beautiful to behold. He gets there, in the hardest way, kicking and screaming, to declare himself an ally against racism, that he has been guilty of it, even when he truly thought he was not.
Towards the end he brought up the penalties his white daughters faced entering college due to quotas for people of color - I braced myself for the explosion from the room around him. But each of these men, nodded and agreed with him, supported him, did not deny the validity of his experience, It was amazing, and in doing so, they supported him as fully they expected to be supported.

I sat and watched it,  of course, through my own lens - every person in that room translated it through their own lens, we cannot NOT do so.  And my thoughts were, that I could take every word in this film, and with only minimal changes, fit them perfectly to my experience as a gay/trans identified individual. The heterosexual gender binary is every bit as pervasive as white privilege here in my culture. I am denied my basic existence, my basic humanity, my basic rights. Except in a few places far from where I live in America, I may not marry. There are laws in effect where I live denying me partners benefits. I may not hold hands with my wife in public because of fear. My presence in bathrooms is questioned simply because I do not "look" right - I do not fit the concept of "woman" in the women's restroom, my presence in the men's room is illegal and punishable by arrest. A GLBT individual was murdered for being gay a mile from where my wife worked. Even people who are not in their own minds "homophobic" stumble over the word "wife" with us, struggle with the concept of transgenderism. My teachers constantly talk about the one man we have in our class in the program (its a women's college - women only in the undergraduate program, men are allowed in the graduate programs, but they tend to be few and far between) and ignore the fact that they have a Female to Male transgendered man in their classes - me.  Its in the very air I breathe every day, just as racism is  present every day in the air my classmate breathes.
What can we do? How do we combat this?

I will let Lee Mun Wah speak for all of us in this...

In the end, its personal. When you get to know an individual, listen to them, accept the validity of their personal experience, their lives and perceptions, then stereotypes, misconceptions, myths and power over abuses must fade away in the light of each persons validity and power as a person - real, and whole.

More to come, as I am sure this class will generate much food for thought as the semester goes on.