:: Ray's Periodic Rantings ::

Political blurtings, personal notes, musings and more from a Chicago area Mac guy, neon artist, Burner, remarried widower, and now father.
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:: Wednesday, April 28, 2004 ::


I just need to say at this point that I feel I have cleaned up more than my fair share of cat puke in this lifetime.
:: Ray 11:29 PM [+] ::
This is what democracy looks like! Pt II

At 6pm Saturday at Union Station I boarded a bus chartered by Planned Parenthood Chicago and got as comfortable as possible (which is not very) for the overnight trip to DC. After a dinner stop we watched a movie the coach driver had brought along. Ironically it was Dirty Dancing, which features the almost fairytale outcome (infection treated by a willing doctor) of a pre-Roe vs Wade illegal abortion. It stark contrast, Sunday morning on our way into the city we watched an informational video about some much more horrific outcomes of present-day back alley abortions prompted by parental notice laws, including death.

We arrived at RFK Stadium in DC at about 10am local time. There were more buses in that parking lot than I have ever seen in one place, ever, and it was only one of the bus parking locations for the march. The plan was to take the Metro to the mall, but we were told the wait was long, so we walked, about 20 city blocks. As we approached the mall, the view was obscured by trees and buildings until we were right on it. Then suddenly we saw everything. It was completely swarming with people wearing bright colors and holding signs and smiling and hugging. Chatter and laughter and cries of recognition filled the air. Several jumbotrons and speaker towers enabled everyone to see and hear speeches and performances on a stage at one end. Prominent figures in the reproductive rights cause, politicians, and celebrities were among those who spoke. The common theme of all the oration was that, more than just being about the threat to Roe vs Wade presented by the possible reelection of President Bush, the march was about advancing women's access to reproductive health care and contraception, and that the best way to ensure all these things is to register and vote and get the word out about how important it is for everyone who feels strongly about this to do so.

At about noon, the march itself began. In a remarkably calm and ordered manner, throngs slowly made their way toward the Washington monument, and then onto a circuitous route that took us past the White House (at what seemed to me an absurdly cautious distance, especially considering that King George was cowering at Camp David at the time), then up Pennsylvania Ave before returning to the mall. At a couple of turns on the route, one could look ahead or behind along the column of marchers, and this is where it became apparent just how many people were there, because we pretty much filled the entire route with people. I'm no expert at gauging crowd size, but this was a LOT of people. It sure looked like a million to me, and it was certainly far more than 500,000, the lowest of the estimates that I have read.

There were, of course, anti-abortion protesters present, but there were astonishingly few of them. Several hundred, at the most, were scattered along the route of the march. A few had megaphones and amplifiers, but there were so many of us that even unamplified, we simply drowned them out with our chants, and they were unable to dampen the positive spirit that prevailed.

The march ended back at the mall, where the rally continued for some time. It was still going on when we headed back toward the bus after 4pm. My feet were getting pretty sore by then and it was a relief after another 20 blocks to find the bus open and waiting for us. Dinner was a fun social occasion, but afterward I got even less sleep than the night before. By the time we arrived back at Union Station at 8am Monday morning, I was something of a zombie, wishing I could go home and sleep. Instead I went home, took a sorely needed shower, then went to work, where I didn't put in a very productive day. The next time I do something like this, I will schedule a vacation day afterward.

In light of what I saw and heard this weekend, I was planning to rehash my position on abortion and the reasoning behind it here, but to adequately address the issue I would have to write volumes, so instead I will simply state: Abortion is terrible, but women will always get abortions, and women die when those abortions aren't competently performed. I believe that the rights of a grown human being outweigh the rights of an unborn fetus. I believe that forcing a woman to carry a baby to term against her will is a crime worse than rape. I firmly believe and will fight for womens' right to determine their own reproductive destiny. I firmly believe and will fight for womens' access to reproductive health care. I advocate for access to sex education and contraception for all, because I believe that this is the best way to prevent abortions.

To those who would ban abortion I ask: why do you most of you also oppose sex education and access to contraception? Why do so many of you also want to cut welfare benefits for single mothers? Where is the funding for daycare so that single mothers can go to school and get work? Where is the financial and emotional support that would make keeping a baby less of a stigma and a fast track to poverty?

I do call this Ray's Periodic Rantings, after all. Please register now and vote for John Kerry this November.
:: Ray 12:04 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, April 27, 2004 ::
This is what democracy looks like!

As I mentioned, the March for Women's Lives took place this past Sunday in Washington, DC. What I didn't say was that at the last minute, the opportunity presented itself for me to attend, together with a local contingent from Planned Parenthood. Here are a few images of what I saw. I'll write more about it later today.
:: Ray 12:29 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, April 23, 2004 ::

The kids in Madison loved Dr Kilovolt, and he will be gracing many family photo albums there. Unfortunately, I broke part of the suit -- the orange tube -- so I will need to get my butt into the neon shop to replace it before the Gong Show final.

Bucky, the diabetic cat, has gained a bit of weight back, but I still haven't arrived at his ideal dose of insulin. He has his good days. Today was not one of them, like just now when he peed on the rug in the bathroom.

Tonight at 10:30 is the last performance of FemmeTV. 10:30pm, Lakeshore Theater, Broadway & Belmont. If you can attend, I can't highly enough recommend that you do so.

I've been intending to write for some time that I have been immensely enjoying the new liberal talk radio network, Air America. It's really fun listening to folks like Al Franken, Janine Garafolo, and Randi Rhodes disparage George Bush and the Republicans the same way windbags like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly have gone after the democrats for years, except that our side doesn't seem to lie and distort the truth the way they do. What's that you say? The signal is weak or there isn't a station in your area? No problem. They stream the signal via Real Player. I haven't had any difficulty getting a stream yet.

This Sunday is the March for Women's Lives in Washington DC. It's a shame it has had to come to this, but if it inspires a new generation of women to be aware that they cannot take their rights for granted, then it could be a really good thing.

Spring completely busted loose in the yard this week. We had some rain, and a couple of days ago I awoke to find that the tulips had finally opened.

On the downside, this weekend will be time for the annual pulling of the dandelions.
:: Ray 12:58 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, April 15, 2004 ::
Kilovolt appearance

Going to be in Madison, WI this weekend? Swing by the UW Stock Pavilion between 7 and 11pm Saturday evening. Dr Kilovolt will be crashing the Glass and Neon Art Department's biennial Invitational Neon and Light Exhibition. Information on the show at: 608-262-2963
:: Ray 5:31 PM [+] ::
:: Monday, April 12, 2004 ::
Four years

Four years ago today, buzzed with excitement, I drove to Des Plaines to meet a woman I had been talking to for a week and a half. When she opened her door, both our faces lit up with genuine smiles, and something shifted in my life. We never ran out of things to talk about that night, and we practically had to shut ourselves up so we could start kissing. It was the beginning of a blissful year and half that saw us married and settling down together, until her sudden death in December, 2001.

Occasionally I scoff at the notion that people, things, or messages tend to appear in our lives when we need them. Then it happens to me again, and I am forced to admit that my curmudgeonliness is an act. This occured yesterday. I was driving home from a gathering of friends, reflecting about Mary and the past few years, when I heard a program about different religions' theologies regarding the soul and what happens when we die on WBEZ, the local public radio station. The host played conversations she had had with several different clergy and hospital chaplains and even a mortician, that had experience being with people when they died, and preparing bodies after death. She even spoke with an athiest that does not believe in the soul.

Aside from the athiest, everyone professed belief in a soul that leaves the body at the instant of death and lives on, though from there the traditions diverge. I believe in the soul, too, though my take on what happens after we die is that it is beyond our understanding. No one religion is right...but as attempts to provide a spiritual model for us to work from, they are all valid (that is to say the serious ones that aren't manipulative cults, like scientology, which is a scam devised by a cynical author of science fiction stories, but that's another blog entry). Personally, I think that this world is a school of sorts, and that we come back here numerous times to learn, but who really knows?

One Jewish tradition that I had been unaware of, is the unveiling of the headstone, which is done about 11 months after death. When they first bury someone, no headstone is put down. As the 11 month date approaches, a headstone is made and placed, and covered with cloth, to be unveiled in a family gathering at the grave site. I don't recall exactly where Jewish theology says that the soul goes, but it is supposed to take 11 months to get there. The unveiling sort of commemorates the arrival of the soul at its destination, but also serves as a time for the family to reflect that yes, they still love and miss this person, but despite their crushing grief at the time of death, they have survived and gone on, and that this person lives on in part through their remembrance and the person's influence on them.

This really struck me. Though I will always love and miss Mary, and I am sometimes sad about being alone, I am still here, surviving, even thriving in some respects, and living a good life. I have met new people and had new experiences, both directly because of her presence on my life, and indirectly due to the legacy she left behind (part of which being a certain silver RV trailer named Betty). Every once in a while I stall and mope for a while, but sometimes I rally and pull off something like Dr. Kilovolt. It's a beautiful and sunny Monday morning in April, and while I'm not fine (as in F.I.N.E. -- ask me what it means if you haven't heard of it), I am OK.
:: Ray 10:07 AM [+] ::
:: Sunday, April 04, 2004 ::
I am Kilovolt

With an admiring nod to Dr Megavolt, I am Dr Kilovolt. At least, I was on stage last night, for two and a half minutes. To the tune of Party Shaker, a track worthy of a Laugh-in dance sequence, I astonished the audience with a display of technology at its cheesiest. And bad dancing. Hey, I used to do laser shows...I've always been more about puttings lights to music than my own physical motion. In any case, here, for posterity, are a few images from my big stage debut:

Thanks to my friend, Kathleen, for the lens work. The lighting situation wasn't the best, but you get the idea. There is the possibility that some video also exists. If I get ahold of it, I will find some way to make it available.

The big news of the evening is that while I didn't win, I stunned the judges enough not to gong me, and the organizers of the show were so taken by the quintessential gong-showness of my act that they invited me back for the final next month. I am honored, and I am looking forward to making the encore performance. Mark your calendars...Saturday, May 15 will be a late night filled with entertainment of all kinds, including Kilovolt!
:: Ray 2:09 PM [+] ::

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