I love my country and I respect our flag. I put up my flag for Independence Day and leave it up through Labor Day. I stand for the National Anthem even when I’m just hearing it at home. I help my wife with her “Tools for Troops” nonprofit. I visit the Vietnam Memorial 100% of the time I go to D.C., even though I despise that war. I applaud for returning military when I see them in the airport. I thank every military person I see for their service. I have gone to Arlington National Cemetery for the laying of the wreath at the tomb of the unknowns even when I detested the President who laid it. I read both the Cato Institute’s and the American Constitution Society’s annual Supreme Court case reviews. I love America.

So, you might think I don’t approve of NFL players who kneel during our National anthem. You would be wrong. Here’s why.

The primary thing that makes me so love America is our theoretically unbounded notion of liberty. Unlike China or North Korea we don’t have state controlled media. Unlike Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Afghanistan, and most Muslim countries we don’t have law tied to Religion. Unlike England, we don’t have a state sanctioned church. We have a notion of Liberty that is broader than any other country. Not democracy – LIBERTY.

Unfortunately, the man we have elected President is the anthesis of all my concept of America represents. He will propose firing NFL players who kneel while praising white supremacists as including some good people. He stereotypes Muslims. He wants to stop our free media. He wants to let fundamentalist Christianity drive our laws. He is – in short – the exact opposite of me.

President Trump has the liberty to divide America all he wants. But, we citizens – NFL Players included – have been afforded equal liberty by our constitution. So, even though I revere our country, I love the flag, and I will always stand for the anthem, I revere far more the liberty upon which those things are founded. So, like it or not, I unconditionally support the NFL players, coaches, and owners who exercise their first amendment rights to protest the aspects of our country against which they feel it necessary to fight.

I stand for the first amendment and must thus stand with the NFL.

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All of you know that I’ve kept a really solid sense of humor since I was first diagnosed with a (benign) Trigeminal Schwannoma. I would not have had 6 previous posts with a title this lame if I didn’t. But I have to tell you that I’m not in the joking mood today.

After hitting this little fucker with a big dose of radiation a year and a half ago I expected this annual MRI to show an unchanged to slightly smaller tumor. That is not the case.

It no longer takes more than 2 seconds for me to show you the tumor on an MRI image.Here it is, looking up from the bottom of my skull:

Tumor MRI 1 Aug 17 Zoom

I’m not a radiologist but I certainly know by now that rule number one or two is to look for asymmetry. Not hard to find when you scroll through the studies. I’m good at that after almost 2 years.

You can’t tell much about the size but, if you look back a year, you can see that it looks about as it did before. If it were as before I would be a happy camper. Unfortunately it is slightly larger and I’m more than slightly disappointed. What I love about my doctor is that she doesn’t try to spin things. When I told her I was bummed she said “yeah, I’m disappointed too”. We were both surprised.

Schwann cells are not very radio-sensitive so this kind of tumor does not generally shrink. But it also does not typically grow. We can’t really tell if the tumor has grown or if this is still just post-radiation inflammation. The latter can actually go on for 2 or 3 years. That is rare but then I’m a special kinda guy.  Whatever it is, it’s slightly larger than it was a year ago.

Regardless, since I’ve been transparent about this all along, I just want y’all to know that this is a bummer and I’m having trouble today in keeping my humor up and running.

I’ve often been asked if they can do surgery and just remove it. The answer is that anything is possible but not everything is worth the risk.

First, if they did try to remove it they would almost certainly further damage the nerve. I’d still choose a numb eyeball over a numb face so there’s that.

Second, let me show you a picture I haven’t shared before. Here is an MR Image from the back of my head.

Tumor MRI 2 Aug 17

You can see the tumor on the right side of the image, Down below – all that shit that does not look like brain – that’s the base of my skull. The tumor is sitting in a little part of that area called “Meckel’s Cave”. Among other things that’s a bitch to get to. It’s also right where my carotid artery enters. It would sort of suck to accidentally cut through that.

Now… the easy thing to do is to use a Guillotine. The problem is that reassembly is tough (I told you my sense of humor about this sucks – that’s the best fucking joke I can come up with. Sorry.)

Interestingly, even among Neurosurgeons there are lots of sub-specialties. Apparently there are guys called “Skull base specialists” who have… like….. REALLY steady hands. They know how to operate down there. But that sounds about a million times scarier than having a room full of nice people shooting a linear accelerator at you for a few minutes. So, I’d vote “no” without a hell of a reason.

The good news is that Dr. Kubicky also votes “no”. She says that it’s difficult to believe that, with the dose of radiation I had, the tumor has really grown. She still thinks this is inflammation and wants to just keep watching it unless the symptoms change. For the first 2 years watching it was sort of fun. Now, now so much.

So, to summarize my rambling update: Next MRI is in 3 months. Until then, nothing much to do. I’m sure I’ll get over the bit of melancholia. In the meantime the only consolation is that I again have something to worry about other than politics.

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Man did The Economist nail it on this one!

Moral authority should be a primary Presidential trait. The Economist has rightly called our president out for not having the balls to take a moral stance against evil.

I read this morning that nearly half of the American people believe it is acceptable to use torture if it yields actionable information. I find this utterly abhorrent.

For you 50% I pray that you don't know the definition of torture.

Many or you who fall into this category call yourselves "Christian" and I ask you this: Would Jesus – "Mr. turn the other cheek" – ever condone imposing excruciating, unspeakably horrible, unending pain on another human being? Would Jesus ever say there is a proper time to connect a woman's labia to electric current or to deny sleep to a prisoner between sessions of waterboarding? If you answer "yes" then I suggest you find a way to unbaptize yourself because your view of Jesus is clearly different from Jesus' view of Jesus.

Some of you may not call yourself Christian – or even religious – and I want to speak to you also.

Can you not at least consider a moral code that respects the right to exist of every member of our species? Can you not acknowledge each human as worthy of being left without unspeakable pain? Can you not imagine yourself drowning, being slammed against walls repeatedly, having your genitals mutilated, being kept awake for days on end, being stoned to death, having your fingernails pulled out, and realize that such unspeakable acts inflict pain of which you cannot even conceive – and that a worldview that condones such acts in not even human?!?!

I hate terrorists as much as any American. I love America at least as much as most of you. I even waver in my support – and lack thereof – of the death penalty when I hear of the horrors that we humans can inflict in others. I want those who harm others to be punished. But there is a line beyond which nothing can pass – no moral system, no twisted ethics, no religion, no belief system – and that line is the purposeful infliction of excruciating pain – physical, mental, or emotional.

When half of our country is willing to cross that line then we are perhaps a state no better than the Islamic one called ISIL This can't possibly be the case. The greatest experiment in a society of liberty can't possibly have degraded to the level of one that accepts torture and denies the sacredness of the Geneva Conventions.

If you really believe that torture is acceptable then I beg you to reconsider. We have taken steps backward but surely not so far back as barbarism!!!

As an amateur poet and a big collector of poetry books I must say that I am not typically a fan of books by poets that are not poetry. Poetics is about concision. Novels and essays are generally not. I don’t really view them as requiring comparable skills. 

In at least one case I have been proven very wrong. Patricia Lockwood’s essay “Priestdaddy” is very close to perfect. The book is a masterful integration of the poignancy shown in her “gone viral” poem “Rape Joke”, the irreverent abandon of her Twitter feed, a sense of humor rivaling Jenny Lawson, an honest exploration of family, a childhood of Catholicism, the sexual honesty she is known for, and an utter love of language. This book is a very rare case of perfect balance between prosody and poetics. I applaud her.

The story of Priestdaddy is both very common and insanely unique. It is common because it tells a story that is becoming increasingly common: A married 30-something moving back home with mom and dad. No big deal there. The insane uniqueness comes from the fact that dad is one of the very rarest of Catholic priests: A married one. 

I did not know that it was even possible to be a married Catholic priest. Apparently, one can get the calling anytime and you don’t have to reset you virginity to do it. Also, apparently, you do have to meet certain criteria that can be defined by testing. Step one is that you and the family must be tested to insure you are not insane. Considering the sorry state of child sex abuse in the “one true church” (a topic poignantly covered in the book) it seems they’d be better off giving that test to the celebate virgin applicants, But that is a much bigger topic. In any case, Lockwood’s description of the “test” is absolutely hilarious. 

Daddy was not content as a Lutheran and was – family and all – dirty underwear and all – rags in the sink and all – electric guitar, guns, mysogeny, football, living half-naked in front of the TV, hamburgers and pork rinds, and all – into the holy Catholic priesthood.

Feisty, readheaded, subversively subservient mom is her own piece of work. She cooks huge meals for the seminarians without even flinching when Fr. Lockwood asks why it took so long. She washes piles of her beloved “Priesthubby’s” (I just made that up but I officially herein offer it to you, Trish, if you want the title for a sequel; because it’s a fuckin’ awesome word) dirty underwear. She care’s deeply, perhaps too deeply, about the safety of her children. And… she is as hilariously odd in her own way as daddy is in his. 

I won’t keep going with the character descriptions because I don’t want to spoil too much. Let’s just say that Lockwood’s own post-religion, atheist husband and her “baybay” grunting sister are characterized as wonderfully as dad and mom.

As for Lockwood herself, she portrays her childhood, her sexuality, her ability to drink martinis while seductively showing her belly to vulnerable drunk seminarians, her mastery in turning on her priest-daughter mode at ordaination parties, and her uncanny early love of language with an amazing candor. I hate to again compare her to Jenny Lawson but I really see tha; I genuinely intend that comparison to be a complement. 

Twice, I compared Priestdaddy with the writing of Jenny Lawson. Now I need to state a difference. Patricia Lockwood is unique among poets because she can write an essay this well. But she differs from other essay writers and especially humorists in the clarity, beauty, use of analogy, grammar, vocabulary, and sentence construction, of her writing. I fear that if I give examples, of which there are a multitude, I’ll ruin something for you. But, here are just a couple:

<All my life I have overheard, all my life I have listened to what people will let slip when they think you are part of their we. A we is so powerful. It is the most corrupt and formidable institution on earth. Its hands are full of the crispest and most persuasive currency. Its mouth is full of received, repeating language. The we closes its ranks to protect the space inside it, where the air is different. It does not protect people. It protects its own shape.>

And…

<There has never been a trilogy he didn’t like, and if you don’t understand why, I have three words for you: father, son, and Holy Spirit. Foremost among his favorites is the original Star Wars trilogy, which he fervently believes is about priests in space, and the first three Alien films, which he believes are about how all women are destined to be mothers.>

Those are not even among what I consider the highlights. I won’t give you my favorites because, as I’ve implied, you deserve to laugh and cry and roll your eyes, and vent, and laugh and cry some more all by yourself. I won’t ruin that.

I never would have expected a poet I love to also write one of my favorite bits of prose. But, Patricia Lockwood has done it. Not only should you read this book but you should listen to it too. The Audible Studios production is read by the author and no one can say “BAYBAY”, talk about dirty rags, and tell of showing her erotic stomach to Italian seminarians like the writer herself. 

For the record, I adore this book. 

Also for the record, Ms. Lockwood, your long arms are NOT your only beauty.

I stand with the Coptic Christian community and I encourage them to fight to survive the horror of ISIS which (if I believed in Satan) I’d call Satan incarnate. 

Don’t take the words “turn the other cheek” too seriously. Fight for your community however you need too.  Every human life is sacred but some are more precious than others. (Hint: if you shoot Christians just because they aren’t Muslims then you fall squarely into the NON-precious category and I’d say you are fair game.)

Remember Copts, you have the right to your beliefs so long as they don’t harm others. Let no one take them from you; especially those who embody evil. They hate you and Jesus might tell you not to hate them back. But, it’s okay NOT TO DIE at the hands of zealots. Remember, the proper translation of the commandment is “thou shalt not murder” NOT “thou shalt not kill”. If you are going to die, die defending your humanity. Don’t Die of complacency.

As one of the world’s small remaining community of Jews, I stand with you. You are not alone.