29 March 2011

Farley Granger RIP

Farley Granger (1925 - 2011). I don't have a story about Granger (pictured). Once, about 20 years ago, I wrote him asking for an interview and he never replied. I followed up with a birthday card, and he still never replied. So, no story. However, his death did cause a bit of a story:

Farley Granger was a big fag. He admits it in his autobiography "Include Me Out." Interestingly, the Associated Press story that ran in the online version of The Arizona Republic conveniently does not mention this fact. However, when consulting the original AP version, you can read seven additional lines all about his same-sex affairs and relationships. So, why did the AZ Republic censor this part of the story? Well, you could say it was cut for length, but any good editor knows you cut from the bottom, not the middle. I am not saying there are any good editors at the Republic, but just for the sake of argument...

In the interest of full disclosure, I was once in the employ of the company that owned The Arizona Republic at that time (they have since sold out -- and I mean that in both senses of the phrase).

You can read the censored version here.

You can read the full AP article here. (The missing text starts after paragraph 10.)

27 March 2011

Waiter! There's Amino Acid in my Soup

Back in the 1970s I first encountered the results of an unusual experiment conducted in 1953 by an American chemist named Stanley Miller. In it, he combined certain gasses that scientists thought were probably in the atmosphere on the earth prior to the beginning of life. He added an electric spark to simulate lightning and left the mixture to stew. After a while, the mixture started turning into a brown goo. He tested it and found five amino acids: the building blocks of proteins. This was a pretty astounding result and fueled research into how life on the earth could have come to be.

After Miller's death in 2007, scientists found a box of samples from this early experiment and others that Miller conducted along the same lines. They decided to retest the samples with more modern and sensitive equipment. Where Miller's original sample contained five amino acids, a follow-up experiment contained twenty-three -- further illustrating how life could have evolved on the earth.

Other experiments in the ensuing decades, including testing on meteorites, have shown similar results: amino acids could have formed on planetary bodies other than the earth.

You can read more about these amazing new findings here.

19 March 2011

Post-Idealism Let Down

There is a television show called "Glee." It's really popular. I've seen a few episodes and I don't like it.

It's strange that I don't like it as my years in high school were very much like "Glee." I was in the boys and group choirs (often a featured soloist) and in theater (worked on about 20 shows dancing, acting and singing on stage and working back stage). Despite all the problems during those years (being smart, being gay, being a loner and being picked on by most of the other kids) I loved high school -- and being part of the performing arts was a big reason why.

So, why don't I like "Glee"? Good question.

Matt watches "Glee" all the time. Occasionally I sit with him and watch -- especially if there is a cute guy on. Last night I watched part of the episode where the clubs went to the regional finals -- and I finally realized why I don't like "Glee": its idealism.

Don't get me wrong: I am not some cranky old man who hates perky kids and all their idealism. No. In fact, I was once one of those perky kids filled with idealism that life was great and I was going to be great, too. My idealism led me to drop out of college and move to California to continue with theatre, to get into the big time, to be a famous actor and make something of myself.

While a cold splash of reality changed that, it did not dampen my idealism. I returned to writing and made quite a success of it for many years, thank you. But during those years, without realizing it, my idealism was slowly replaced with reality: The need to earn money -- sometimes doing work I loved; many times, not. The need to set aside what I wanted in order to be supportive of someone I love. The need to accept that things will not always go the way I want them to.

My life is different than I imagined it would be in my idealistic "Glee" years; but I am not complaining. I have a great life, a wonderful spouse, wonderful friends. I am not doing the job I want full time -- print journalism having been one of the first casualties of the internet world; but I have a day job that pays me a lot of money and comes with super benefits that somewhat ease the sting of my idealistic disappointment.

I loved the idealism of my youth, even if that meant more disappointment with the reality of adulthood. In my youth, the idealism that formed in my own brain set the bar rather higher than I would end up achieving; but the idealism on "Glee" sets it higher than any human can achieve.

In the idealistic world of "Glee" the dorky gay boy gets the hot boyfriend. The nerdy boy in a wheelchair lands the hot cheerleader as a girlfriend. The very overweight girl is doggedly pursued by a hot football guy. But there are disappointments: One girl cannot land the quarterback for a boyfriend because she has so much talent that she is destined for Broadway and a life better than settling down and having his kids.

Do I wish life could be like "Glee"? Hell, yeh; but it's not. Here is the reality: young boys and girls who "come out" as gay in high school experience an empowering moment that all too often leads to bullying and physical abuse from their peers. Overweight girls are picked on for being "fat." Hot football guys experience a few years of adulation that changes with the crushing realization that, after high school, they have no marketable skills. There are still cliques that exclude peers because of their clothing, their income levels, their personal preferences. This is the reality that exists everywhere, not just in high school.

While I fully support idealism, I feel sorry for any young person who watches "Glee" and thinks that's what life is really like. It is not fair to show them a life that does not and cannot exist.

16 March 2011

Poor Doggie!

Like everyone else, Matt and I have been riveted by the coverage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last Friday. It is all so horrible to watch, but the thing that really got me was the footage of the poor dog (pictured) standing guard over another, obviously injured dog. I saw it this a.m. and thought about it all day.

To my great relief, both dogs have been rescued and are receiving care. You can read more about it and see the original video coverage here.

12 March 2011


A few years ago I started having occasional near-fainting spells. Trying to find the cause I went to a general doctor, a pulmonologist, and two cardiologists.

As part of the investigation process, my recent cardiologist suggested I have an angiogram -- where dye is injected into the blood stream and x-rays are taken of the arteries surrounding the heart. This is usually done when a person has some symptoms of heart disease -- like pain in the chest, or trouble breathing. My doctor thought a recent stress test showed some blockage and hoped the angiogram would find it.

I had my angiogram yesterday. It was a fascinating, if painful, experience. It showed that I have no blockage in any of my arteries; they are all open and totally clear. This is a relief; but it adds to the frustration that we have still not found the cause of my near-faints.

A couple weeks before the angiogram I observed an interesting irony: I am a few years away from the age my father was when he was diagnosed with really bad heart disease -- so bad they could not operate on his heart. They gave him medication to seriously thin his blood. It worked pretty well, considering how he lived another 15 years. Of course, for most of his life, my father smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish and never ate very healthily; so heart disease was not much of a surprise. I have never smoked, used alcohol or any illegal drugs and usually always ate pretty healthily -- and made major changes to my diet in 2002 to lose some weight and make sure I stayed healthy.

I don't know where this puts me when compared with the rest of the population; but I am relieved to be nearing 52 years of age with no blocked arteries, normal blood pressure (without drugs) and a basically healthy body (aside from allergies, back problems, and the usual aches and pains of getting older).

As for my near fainting spells: we think it has to do with my blood pressure plummeting after eating. Blood pressure usually goes down after eating, but mine goes down way too much. So, we're isolating the problem, but don't yet know the cause. Any ideas?

06 March 2011

Two Down, One to Go

Back in 2007, I wrote this blog entry about the three things I wanted to see happen in my lifetime:

1: humans on Mars

2: life discovered on another planet

3: proof that neanderthals have descendants living on our planet right now.

Last year came evidence that one of the three has happened: proof that neanderthals walk among us.

This year seems to bring the second item: evidence that life exists on another planet. In this case, what appear to be fossils of microorganisms have been discovered in meteorites that have landed on earth. While meteorites are not planets, they are often bits of planets that have been blown into space by some kind of explosion or impact.

If these early results prove true, it would be both a major find and one that is not at all remarkable. Major, because it would finally prove what most people have thought all along: that there has to be life elsewhere in the universe. But the results would also provide a "duh!" moment because the odds of life elsewhere are just too monumentally large in favor. Of course, these microorganisms most likely could not have built spacecraft and come to visit earth. That would need multi-celled animals that have evolved intelligence; but that is also likely given the number of habitable worlds in the galaxy and universe.

Now, if we could just get people off their butts and onward toward Mars, the last item on my list might finally come to pass!