It's been almost a week, now, with all members of my immediate family in the house. Myself, my dad, my brother, his wife, and their two kids. Various friends of the family percolate in and out, with a few around almost constantly to help.

My nephews, ages six and four, constitute a herd as they thunder about the house. We're trying to instill some quiet zone rules. My brother and I shamble about, sleeping on no particular schedule, reading, foraging for food, running errands. My dad spends as much time during the day as he can out of the house on errands.

My mom is in bed in the front living room. She is on oxygen, has a Foley catheter and a pulmonary drain in, and is taking liquid lorazepam through an implanted IV port. She's dying. That's why we're all here.

Her cancer is a metastized endometrial cancer, and is 'fully developed' in her heart and lungs. She refused to stop undergoing chemotherapy even at the end; as a result, her hair is mostly gone. Her skull is becoming uncomfortably visible when you look at her head as her body weight drops. She stopped taking food a couple of days ago, and now only intermittently accepts water. She is losing her ability to swallow. She hasn't said anything lucid in a couple of days, but at her most lucid will answer clearly that she is not in pain when asked.

Sometimes, pretty much whenever she wakes, she is extremely agitated, repeating "oh God, oh God, oh God" over and over again as an absent reminder of her distress. When she awakens, whoever is sitting by her bed calls in other members of the family, and we all assure her in quiet voices that we're all OK and tell her that she's at home, in her bed, with her cats, and that she can stop worrying, stop fighting. We're all going to be OK, Mom. You've done your part. You don't owe anybody anything. Do what you need to do.

(Die, in other words.)

When I'm not sitting with her, all I can think about is the sheer amount of crap in my life that is piling up as I sit here in northern Vermont. I haven't been to work in weeks. I moved to New York City less than a week before coming up here; my cats prowl my not yet-fully-unpacked apartment in New York, peeing on my sofa in their outrage according to the cousin who is feeding them. I need to get on with my life. I need to recover what of it I can; by the time I moved, it was a complete shambles, in between eighteen months of mom deteriorating and fighting my father over decisions involving her care, of my own ongoing depression and going broke over the move and carrying the upkeep of two apartments (since I haven't been able to rent out my original one in Boston) I really, really, really need to spend time pulling myself back upright.

But mom is still here. And mom needs us to talk to her, when she can hear; which might be all the time, for all I know. She needs that fractional infinitisemal version of the support she gave me, all my life, growing up.

I haven't cried. I will likely lose it once she's gone, any day now. I have to stay functional; between my father being almost completely irrational and unable to understand that, and my brother being fully occupied with his family, I have to be able to respond at any given moment to ongoing crises.

For example, today, we discovered that the cats have both worms and fleas. All ten of them. My parents' cats. Ten pills. Ten neurotoxic neck lotions to apply. I can't even tell all the little fuckers apart, really.

Doesn't matter. Do what you have to.

One of our friends, who is experienced with terminal hospice care, keeps recommending that we all 'tell mom what we need to tell her.' How can I make her understand that there isn't anything I need to tell her? I told her everything, all the time. There's no great cache of secrets. If she doesn't know how I feel, then we've been doing everything wrong, these years. I do tell her, when I speak to her, that I love her. She has always known this. I tell her that I am okay, and that she needn't feel that she is leaving with the job of me undone. I am lying in that I am not okay, but I am not lying in that there is nothing for her to do, nor would I expect there to be. She has nobly fulfilled her part. What is left is mine to solve.

Her lungs are shutting down as they fill with fluid.

I am not sure. Sometimes I hope, fiercely, that I will be sitting there holding her hand when she draws her last breath.

Sometimes I hope I am not; cowardly, I hope to be asleep, or running an errand, or just...not there.

I've told her everything I can.

I don't want her to suffer.

Ink Runs Dry

In early November the Writers Guild of America went on strike to protest unfair usage of their material by production studios. We are now three months in, the writers have been on strike every since with no signs of the strike coming to an end. This strike has mainly effected television at the current time, as it relies on constant writing to keep series in production. In the mean time most networks have shown some reruns here, some movies there, and put Deal or No Deal on five nights a week.

Most Americans, though annoyed that CSI has run out of new episodes, have probably not been interested enough to find out what the writers are actually striking about, so let us take a look real quick at what the writers are demanding. It basically boils down to two disagreements, one which the writers call the main point of the strike, and the other a long held demand. Let us look at them in reverse order, as understanding the minor demand will help us better understand the major demand.

  • Disagreement Number 2: This one takes a tad bit of history to explain. Back in the early 1980s when "home video" was the big new thing -- remember VHS, anybody? -- the studios requested that the writers take a very small percentage (0.3%) of those sales as their pay for writing a successfully selling movie or TV show -- this comes out to writers making about 4 cents per DVD sold today. The reasons the studios gave for giving the writers (remember, these are the people who's creative talents birthed these TV shows and movies) such a low percentage was that the "home video" market was new and nobody really knew if it would ever be profitable. The writers, though unhappy with the deal, agreed to it with the understanding that the deal would be renegotiated if "home video" proved ever to be a profitable market. Today home video is the majority of the entertainment media market, and the studios have refused to renegotiate the writers' pay in the last twenty-five years. The writers are currently asking for this percentage to be doubled (that would be 8 cents per DVD, or around $8000 after the sale of 100,000 DVDs).

  • Disagreement Number 1: Production studios believe that they have the right to sell TV shows and movies online through pay download sites, such as iTunes, and distribute these creative works through other modern means without paying the writers of these shows and movies their fair share. The writers disagree. The studios are, once again, asking the writers to wait a while before they negotiate a deal to get paid for these sales because it is, once again, an "unproven market." Well, the writers have heard this story before, and they are not putting up with it this time. Not to mention the flawed logic of the studios: As shrewed business men, why are you involved in a market that does not make money? Or, oh wait, are you lying about it being an unprofitable market? The writers believe they should be paid, at the very least, the same tiny percentage (the above mentioned 0.3%) of sales of this media as they receive from home video sales.

That is basically what the writers are demanding. Doesn't seem too serious, does it? Well, the studios are refusing to meet their demands. Screen writers aren't exactly your normal blue-collar working-man strikers, but they are people trying to provide food and housing for their families just like everybody else in this capitalistic rat-race, and they are not asking for anything that would not seem fair to a five year old. It is merely the greed of production studios, trying to snatch up every last penny of their sales to line their gold plated money bags, that is keeping them from making an agreement with the Writers Guild.

"If they gave us everything we had on the table right now, if they gave us everything we wanted—everything—and they then made a deal with the DGA and matched it, which is what they'll do, and then they made a deal with the Screen Actors Guild and tripled it, which is typically what happens…if they did that—if they gave us everything—on a company-by-company basis they would be giving all of us less than each of their CEOs makes in a year. And in some cases, a lot less."
Patric Verrone, Futurama writer and WGAW president

According to Forbes 2007 CEO Compensation report: Disney CEO, Robert Iger, reported compensation of $29.9 million; News Corp (FOX) CEO, Rupert Murdoch, received $29.9 million; CBS CEO, Leslie Moonves, look home $24.8 million. Those are the top production studio CEO earnings, after that there is a swift drop to Viacom's CEO, Philippe Dauman, making a measly $9 million in 2007. These CEOs are padding their pockets instead of paying their workers. This is what the writers' strike is about: corporate greed.

* * *

Honestly, I thought this whole ordeal would blow over in a couple months with the studios doing the only thing they can do: fold to the writers demands. However, it seems like their greed is not going to give in without a struggle. Here is what we as Americans can do, what I am going to do, and what I call on everybody else to do:

  • Stop watching television. It's just reruns and reality-shit anyways. If the studios can't sell ad time, they have no reason to be on the air.
  • Stop buying and renting DVDs. TV shows, movies, all of it. Squeeze the studios, and they will be forced to listen. Bought a DVD in the last few days? Take it back. Subscribe to Netflix or something similar? Cancel your membership and let them know why. (Sure, they aren't really responsible, but we have to be broad here.)
  • Stop going to movies. You'll be left with nothing else to do, I'm sure, but we as the people must stand together, with the workers, in the fight against corporate greed. The people joining together is the only strength of the worker in this country.
  • Spread the word and the love. Get other people to give up TV, movies and DVDs, and (most importantly) alert other people to the workers struggle in the United States and our need to stand together.

If, however, you feel the need to illegally download movies, steal DVDs, sneak into movie theaters, I'm not really sure I can condemn this...

Besides, it's about time we all had a really good reason to go outside and actually live life.


"The sky above the port was the color of television,tuned to a dead channel."

Today I decided that I am going to get the first line of Neuromancer tattooed as a tramp stamp.

I am so excited.

I know a lot of people have been waiting for me to finally get somewhere. It was hard for me. Thanks for all your support.

Some men have jobs. I am one of those men.

I am sitting here with some money which has recently been paid to me for the last month of work that I have done. I have earned that money because I worked for it. The work I did was exactly the kind of work I wanted to do. It is my ideal job: it is a job in which I can set my own working hours and the outcome is a lot of other people finding their jobs easier to do, which is precisely the best kind of job to be doing. I am becoming a smarter person by doing this work; that is essentially what I am being paid to do. I am finally doing something which taxes my brain. More than two and half years after my graduation from university, I am finally sam512: member of the workforce.

In celebration, I am drinking a bottle of blond Belgian beer originating from the Trappist Westvleteren brewery, the greatest brewery in Belgium and possibly the world. This is one of the rarest and greatest beers ever. I bought it in Belgium in August 2007 and have been saving it for a special occasion. Now is that occasion.


Yesterday, I had a bone density scan because I used to have osteoporosis and my osteologist wants to see if I still have it. I never much cared about my bone health, but I figure it's good to maintain it as much as I possibly can without expending too much effort because it seems like one of those things you don't appreciate until it's gone, so I take calcium supplements and Fosamax to reverse my osteoporosis, which itself was caused by steroids I took to combat a preexisting condition I had and still have called ulcerative colitis.

Anyhow, after my mom took me to the bone density scan, we went to Green. It was good. It seemed like they put a little more "cheese" on the pizza than usual.

After Green, my mom dropped me off at my dorm. There was an ASU LGBTQ Spring Welcome at 6, and I was planning on going. I decided I'd take a nap first. Usually I sleep in my underwear, but I was kind of exhausted so I just left all my clothes on and pulled the covers around myself and went to sleep.

I woke up to my alarm at 5:45, but I was really tired. When I'm as tired as I was, I forget how much I want to do whatever it is I want to do and instead can think only of sleep. So I decided to just screw the whole Spring Welcome thing and 1n10 as well and get more sleep.

At 8, I got a phone call from my mom. She asked if I had gone, and I muttered something incoherent. At that point, she figured out based on my response that I had been sleeping and had not gone. She told me to go, and I told her that her idea was ridiculous as the function ended at 8.

She said it didn't end at 8 which is patently ridiculous because it did, in fact, end at 8 and neither of us had any reason to believe otherwise.

I told her I didn't care whether or not it ended at 8, even though I knew it did. I didn't want to go even if it ended at midnight because I was still too damned tired and I wanted sleep.

She started getting hysterical, so I hung up on her. She texted me about 100 times in a row, "I beg you!". Not even kidding.

I called her back and said,

"Mom, what's wrong with this picture? You're freaking out about me missing an event."

She told me that she was convinced I would meet my future husband at that event. She used those two words, I kid you not, "future husband". She was all crying and sobbing and weeping.

I told her she was being ridiculous but I loved her anyways, to go take some horse tranquilizers or something like that because I knew I still had plenty of opportunities to meet nice men ahead of me, I'd talk to her later, goodnight.

She texted me "I beg you!" about 100 more times.

That is my mom for you.

And that is one small part of the meaning of life. Life derives meaning from itself. The meaning of life is the sum of our experiences, nothing more, nothing less.

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