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Cory Doctorow

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

3rd row stage left, one last time

It was Ronnie James Dio day in Los Angeles today, according to one of LA's councilmen. For now, you'll have to take my word for it. One could not wish for a more cloud-free and warm breezed day on which to have a memorial.

The Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills lent the use of its Liberty Hall auditorium for the memorial. As the 1,000 seat capacity was sure to not hold all of the friends, family and fans in attendance, additional seats were set up on the lawn to the north of the Hall. Even with me arriving 90 minutes before the memorial, I really wanted to be outside with the fans.

The presence of the group from Westboro was negligible:

The memorial, thankfully, took place as far from the entrance as possible. Greeting most every visitor was a big outdoor screen.

The attendees were a fairly broad cross-section of people. A few were grade-school or teen-aged. Many were closer to middle age (like me) and a few were Ronnie James' age.

I've never attended something like this in my life. Memorials and funerals, as far as I was concerned, were for family, friends and the occasional co-worker. What could a heavy metal fan like me get from going to something like this?

Honestly, I have been in a funk for the last couple of weeks. All of my usual ways of dealing with bad news had escaped me. Everytime I played a song of his, tears would well up and a lot more emotion than usual got thrown out with my voice as I sang along. In the interest of being there for others and for represent
ing the LGBT fan-base at the memorial, I finally decided yesterday to be there today.

I avoided the lines for a t-shirt. It was not for the sake of saving money; it was more about saving energy so I could sit outside as long as possible during the service. I wound up leaving the outdoor sitting area twice before 2 PM to find a patch of shade under which I could cool myself before returning to the bright beaming sunlight.

The memorial started shortly after 2 PM after an unusual five-song pre-memorial, pre-recorded set, only one of which including Dio's voice. Even then, his was only one of many.

Today's master of ceremonies, naturally, was Eddie Trunk. Even with the stories shared by many of his staff, friends and his son, I managed to stay for the first two hours of the memorial only. I didn't hear or see anything that I would not have guessed based on what I knew about Ronnie James Dio. It was fitting that many of the musicians he worked with in the past were there today to sing and play acoustic version of some of his best known/loved songs.
Nearly all sitting outside with me were also conserving strength and stamina in the first two hours of the memorial, with one notable exception -- the "mysterious" figure on the far left:

Every song was cause to walk as close the the big screen as possible and pose, headbang and flash the "evil eye" sign from all possible positions of the clock (above his head, to the sides, at 10 and 2, etc.).

A few snickers drifted from some who sat nearby me every time he drifted forward. I have to give this guy respect for keeping the hood on with all of the heat and sunlight shining down and getting into the spirit of tribute and celebration which the rest of us were just too sun-stroked to shake up.

I'd like to say the group gathering in front of me in the photo to the left were a bunch of somber mourners awaiting a turn at paying final respects. Sadly, they were swarmed around a poor official who was only trying to dole out commemorative "programs" to everyone. A relatively brief 30 minutes later or so, I was able to walk up to that poor hassled employee and happily be handed a program of my own. Again, nothing all that surprising to be found in the program itself; however, it is certainly another way of commemorating the day.

So, did going to the memorial today change anything? After about 3 1/2 hours in the bright, breezy sun, I pretty much had the melancholy melted out of me. There were promises made to permit those sitting outside to come inside and pay "final respects" to Dio after the memorial was over.

Any leftover remnants of childhood mania over metal were sweated out today. I cannot say that, once recovered from today's dehydration, I'll never again get ramped up over a crazy, fast-beaten, loudly-cranked tune. I can say that, as we all grow older, that the passing of the next heavy metal icon should not come as such a shock to me.

Though I'm quite happy to keep that day as far off in the future as possible.

Outside of the box thinking

From a part of the world where war, drug trade and a confounding political and geographical situation have had to change our country's definition of "winning" for over eight years, there's a story about soldiers making a difference without weapons, hand to hand combat or plans for battle.

Even if the outreach is to two, three or four at a time, it seems some of our female soldiers in Afghanistan are making progress by connecting with women in that country's villages and encouraging them to push past their fear. At the same time, these soldiers are "winning the war", not by destruction or brute force, but by using their (and their translators') words and making connections.

What a wonderful way to change the way we begin to think about war, especially with tomorrow being Memorial Day in our country. It reminded me a little of the story which helped to begin the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and the revolution that's quietly spread around the world in the past 34 years, empowering women in villages through creating connections and promoting basic commerce as a means of lifting people out of desperate poverty.

Peace be with us all this weekend.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Malawi Gay Couple Pardoned, Released From Jail

Well, at least it's one step forward. We can always find a little room in our apartment if they need a place to stay . . and don't mind the 15+ hours flight here. When we complain here about what rights we've lost, we haven't lost the right to find happiness here. I'll pray they fight to hold on to the happiness they have in their home.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, May 17, 2010

A rainbow

The photo on the left was from the tour program I bought at the only show of his I saw. This picture captures the essence of his stage persona. He was 10 feet tall on stage and he gave an amazing performance that nigh.

What I have been remembering the most about Ronnie James Dio in the last couple of days was the way his songs and style reached out to every heavy metal fan who ever felt disenfranchised, left out, not good enough or just plain ignored. As a not-yet-out-of-the-closet fan of Dio's in my teens, the message resonated with me as well, just not quite in the way it did for most of his other fans. So many heavy metal/hard rock singers can trace their singing style back to Dio's. Though my own voice will never have the gruffness and operatic flair, I can easily tap in to the emotions conveyed through his voice. To get a flavor for where his influenced reached in the world of heavy metal, a quick search through You Tube will bring you to songs like these:

"Holy Diver" cover by Killswitch Engage. My favorite cover of the bunch. They made this song their own without washing away the essence of the original.

"Bible Black" by Heaven and Hell:

Thanks to Eddie Trunk for playing "Bible Black" on his Sirius show earlier today. It was recorded just a couple of years ago when Dio was only 65. He never lost the power in his voice -- almost unheard of for a singer of that age.

Finally, my favorite Dio song, which betrays my love of pop music in the guise of rock and roll. I've been singing it at the top of my lungs driving around in the car the last couple of days and cannot get through it with out tearing up. Especially at these lyrics toward the end of the song:

I could have been a dreamer / I could have been a shooting star
I could have been a dreamer / 'Cause dreams are what we are
I could have been a dreamer / I could have been the one to fly
I always could have been a dreamer / 'Cause dreamers never die, no

His physical presence may be gone, but when I listen to the music and close my eyes, I'm suddenly back in time 25 years in Baltimore.

We should all have someone who can take us away with a song and a show bigger than life. Ronnie James Dio did that for me. I cannot express how much that means to me and, I'm sure, to all of his fans.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A day at the Pride Festival

I spent most of the afternoon yesterday at the Long Beach Pride Festival. The experience (and the spending) started before I even got into the Festival after an engaging conversation with a young Greenpeace member. After the colossal, uh, I-can't-say-it-without-swearing, situation in the Gulf of Mexico, a group like Greenpeace is in a position to have a stronger voice in our country's environmental policy. And, thanks to folks like me, a few more bucks in their coffers.

I spent the afternoon being vaccinated, "cracker-jack" tattooed by the FBI, signing petitions and grabbing flyers and postcards from various organizations' booths throughout the Festival. I closed my eyes and took in a drumming performance, danced to a couple of old-school jamz (the only sort I seem to know these days) and even had my palm read. Darn good reader, by the way, as far as checking for changes in my facial expression, pulse in my neck and/or lack of either. I really have to look in to that as a regular gig: 4 goof balls like me every hour paying $5 a piece sounds like pretty solid foundation for a business. And, if I can turn the goof balls into suckers, $10 and $20 per person would be just icing on the cake.

Fortunately, a case of post-nasal drip and a huskier voice than usual this morning and this story, from Malawi in south-eastern Africa, was sobering. If you find yourself struggling in your own relationships, a read of those two men's situation in their own country, where just declaring your love is reason enough for jail without bail, a speedy judgment and, all but likely long-term prison sentence becomes your fate.

And if you think your own struggles are done, this story shows that the freedom of any adult to love another consenting adult is not yet secured.

I'm sobered up and it's time to go back to work.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

This hurt

My apologies for the less-than-ideal video/audio quality in the clip below. However, the words are easy enough to hear.

When talking recently about President Obama's pick for the next Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and Ms. Kagan's stated opinions on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gays and lesbians serving without having to hide their sexual identity, the conversation Senator Inhofe and radio host Bryan Fischer have meanders into an all-too-telling look into the personal feelings the Senator has about gays and lesbians in the military in general:

" .. you have women, men then you'd have a third group to deal with . ."

As a gay man, I'm supposing I'd be a part of the "third group". What in the blazes does the Senator think folks in the "third group" look like? I couldn't help but visualize a couple of new sets of barracks on some base/post/station into which the "third group" would be housed.

Perhaps some of these G.Is are a part of this "third group". What would their special barracks look like, do you suppose, Senator?

(btw, perfectly OK to giggle, guffaw and/or laugh yourself silly. All I saw in the clip below is some bored GIs with time to kill and a need to entertain themselves. Still . . )

" . . you hear the stories all the time . ."

Do you mean stories like this one, Senator? (yeah, I know it's 5 years old. Find a current story that fits the Senator's implication that gay & lesbian soldiers destroy unit cohesion, etc. My bet is you're more likely to find unit cohesion issues stem from other issues)

" . . we're not doing it for the flag or for the country, we're doing it for the guy in the next foxhole . ."

Stifling the urge to giggle at the unintentional double-entendre at the end of this quote, here's a much more clear-headed set of reasons why soldiers do what they do for us every day all over the world. Straight from the source (no pun intended).

Emotions aside, the clip from the radio interview smells like pandering to the conservative base at its worst. I've learned from my little bit of experience in the wide, wide world of politics, though, that it's impossible to set emotion aside from the business of governing. To this end, politicians like Senator Inhofe know this is so just like a reflex and the best of the best in politics can spit out rhetoric reflexively.

Still, this one really cuts through me. I felt like I was grouped in with aliens from outer space, mutants or some other science-fiction imagined third gender. Then, I felt like no matter how committed and honorable I was with my friends, family, co-workers and people I pass on the street, that my ultimate goal in life is nothing but sexual pleasure. I still can't wrap my head around the third quote above. From all I have read, the need to protect, defend and fight along side the soldiers in my unit/platoon, etc., becomes reflexive like breathing or blinking. The former servicemen and women I have worked with and those in my personal life carry that same sensibility with them well after their service to their country has ended.

I cannot imagine how much more strongly a gay or lesbian soldier must feel about this after hearing this mess from Inhofe.

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