Monday, June 09, 2008

Trials and tribulations in blood donation

B.B. The Blood Drop

When my friend Dan and I were 17, he expressed a great interest in donating blood. Dan and I made frequent trips into the city (we lived an hour out of downtown Melbourne) but this one time, Dan expressed that he had done a bunch of research and planned to give blood this day. I admired his decision and we planned to head over to the blood bank on Collins Street after doing our usual round of record stores. As the day wore on, Dan got antsy to get to the blood bank. We headed down there, only to find after the arduous walk to the arse end of town that the bank closed at some stupid hour like 3 or 4pm. Whatever the case, we had missed it. We left and Dan was very cranky about not being about to donate blood. Gosh, I couldn't believe he wanted to give blood so badly! What a sweetheart, even if he wore stupid silky goth shirts and red lipstick that he was too embarrassed to buy on his own. It was nice to see he was as dedicated to this little cause as he was to his fussing about his goth appearance with clothes and cosmetics.

Some goth kids, much like Dan's crew at the time.

Not long after, while I was not with him, he told me he had made another attempt to donate blood, this time arriving during business hours only to be told that as he was under 18, he required written consent from his parents. Foiled again!

Finally, on a third trip, Dan made it there, during business hours, with the parental slip. It was finally going to happen. The person tending to him pricked his finger for a mere sample, but Dan fainted. After they roused him, he was put in a wheelchair and given a donut. No blood was given and it seemed as though he could not handle it as he shared my belonephobia (fear of needles) so blood donation was quite out of the question altogether.

Poor Dan. After all his gallant efforts, he simply couldn't go through with the procedure. After this incident, while attending a stage version of Trainspotting, Dan fainted in his seat as one of the actors described in detail the injecting of a needle. Holy crap! He was worse than me!

So Dan and I are now 30 and over the years since his fateful trip to the blood bank, I have told the story many times, always with a swell in my heart for his good intentions.

In that time, my own fear of needles has increased. It already existed at that time, but I think it has only gotten worse. I've required a few blood samples and shots in that time, and all have resulted in hyperventilating, and on one occasion, crying. If I am told I need a blood test I ask it be done immediately as the anticipation for it makes me crazy. When I was in year 8, my friend who was two years older got a tetanus shot at school. I feared this shot for two whole years, so by the time I was in year 10 and everyone my age was getting the shot, I dodged the co-ordinated who hunted me down for my permission slip (which I had not given to my parents) and on the day of the needle I stayed behind in the graphics room with the daft Mr. C who was too clueless to question why I was the only one not going for the needle. I wish I was as smart as Kristen who wisely got her slip signed, but then crossed out the needle part and only got the oral sabin against polio. I was willing to risk polio to not have that needle.

Dan's donation attempt always inspired me, but I knew I just couldn't do it. I then set about encouraging others who do not fear needles to donate blood. I felt that in doing so, I was doing my bit. I had been nagging at my sister for some time, since she actually stares at the whole injecting process with much delight, to go and donate blood. She was keen, and after a few years of urging, she finally got around to it and I believe she has now done so twice. I was once at a party and got talking to my friend's mum who is a blood bank nurse. I told her my whole scheme of encouraging others since I was too fearful myself and asked her what she thought. To my delight she was 100% behind my plan and told me how frustrating it is dealing with people like me who freak out and that's it's more trouble than it's worth. She also looked at my veins and deemed them crappy and hard to find, further supporting my reasons not to personally give blood. Once I got this vindication from the blood bank nurse, I proceeded about my business of badgering others.

This could be yours if The Prick is Right!

I've not really badgered too many, mainly my sister, so I urge you now, if you are not afraid of needles, please give blood! From what I just read on Wikipedia, blood banks struggle to keep a three day supply for day to day blood transfusions. If you can go in there, suck it up and give blood without a fuss, please do it!

In the USA, head to The American Red Cross site, or in Australia, the Australian Red Cross. Anywhere else, just bloody Google it yourself.

Back to Dan, as I said, I've been telling his sad story for 13 years now. Dan and his girlfriend were visiting Gregg and I in LA a couple of months ago and I thought it only right to fill Geri in on one of my favourite Dan stories. I got through the whole thing as I have told you after which point Dan added a footnote to the story which I never knew about my former goth friend,

"You know, the only reason I was doing it was because I thought it would make me pale."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Kenny G: The devil is smooth

A few weeks ago, I was assaulted*. Aurally that is. As I stepped into the restaurant, the attack was immediate. I had the opportunity to walk right out, but instead I stayed only to be aurally abused for the next 20-25 minutes. An entire Kenny G album was playing at Vegan House on this particular day. I ate fast and left a little of my meal so I could get out of there sooner as I really couldn't stand it. I almost asked them to turn it off. While you would think a vegan restaurant in the hip Los Angeles neighbourhood of Silverlake would cater to their clientele, the folks at Vegan House seem only concerned with providing delicious vegan food, aware only that people in this area are more likely to eat this food, but otherwise know nothing else about them, or the rest of mankind in general. I am always amazed at any public broadcasts of Kenny G's music as I thought the widespread disgust for this sound, while appreciated by some (including the woman who bore me), was a universally known joke.

Kenny G seems like such an easy target, it seems almost silly to mention it. It's so "goes without saying" that saying it seems futile to discuss it further. It is because the disgust for Kenny has become so autonomous that I feel I must really flesh out the problem as to why this music is more widely loathed than loved, no matter how many plebeians claim to be fans.

In case you needed a new reason to loathe him, here's this...

Admittedly, music and taste are subjective and with so many millions of G albums sold, he must be appealing to someone on some level. But I feel that among fans there is a "goes without saying" sensuality about his music that doesn't really "go" at all. Instead, I find it "sensual" in the same way as having one's overweight, large reddened-nosed boss come up from behind and put that music on while he does something "beautiful" to you. Only you don't want it. It's fucking gross and wrong. Yep, I think it's beautiful in the way molestation is beautiful to the molester. Hearing it makes me feel molested.

That's how I feel when I hear Kenny G. Violated. This feeling which I get when I hear even a few seconds of his music is what leads me to write this. In hearing it, I can understand why someone with a poor understanding of good music could be wooed into thinking it's "beautiful" but it seems like a complete perversion of the word. To me, it's as beautiful as when Aussies have "curry night" and make some bastardised version of a curry with apples and raisins and a few specks of curry powder and think they are eating a great curry (I'm from a curry family. I know what a curry is supposed to be). Or when someone from a small town in the midwest goes "oriental" and wears a tacky kimono for a bath robe that they bought at the local craft store. It's taking a great thing and ruining it and not realising what's been done. People who don't know any better or don't have a real taste for better things will be appeased, even moved by these things. But when you do now better, you can see how fucking wrong they are. It is for this reason that I think the horrors of Kenny G go beyond a matter of taste and is actually, without question, simply BAD.

Here he goes, butchering more beloved songs. I can never forgive him for what he did to "Over The Rainbow". What a cunt.

Again, I'm aware that taste in music is subjective, but I feel that it is safe to say that Kenny's music is out and out bad. It's a fact. Am I an asshole? Possibly.

Here is an interview I did with multi instrumentalist, Bär McKinnon of Umläut, more commonly known for his fabulous sax playing with Mr. Bungle. I thought it wise to get a real sax player's views on this controversial issue.

Hello Bär, and thank you for giving us your time and insight on this important and delicate subject.

How do you feel when you hear Kenny G?

When I hear Kenny G my first thought/feeling is..Do these people around me actually LIKE this ..? Also, car-sick.

Do you feel Kenny G has given the saxophone a bad name?

Yes. Kenny G has given the soprano sax a bad name to a certain extent. (And don't dare have the same hair or fashion sense as him, for God's sake!) But only if the player is playing something Kenny G-ish. There are successful offenders of taste on probably every instrument, though. It has more to do with how he plays and his choice of notes that make him an easy target. His technique is arguably pretty good. Pretty, ..pretty, good.

Do you think Kenny G has led to bands shying away from using the saxophone due to the bad reputation he's given it?

I think he's definitely carved out a certain niche that all players can easily identify/avoid. Sax isn't the first instrument a cool band might want to add to their line-up, I reckon. The Rapture seem to get away with it. So did David Bowie. People like K.G. have made me use my sax less and hopefully with more interesting/worthy results.

How different do you think the saxophone would be perceived if Kenny G had not existed?

It wouldn't be so easily caught out as a potentially dorky instrument.

Have you ever started to play something and stopped yourself feeling it was "too Kenny G"?

Yes, I'd say I was guilty of that. It's easy to spot, and as such, should be easy to avoid. Having said that, I think cheesy, "sexy" sax playing in small doses can be ok and possibly even ironic in a good way.

Would you say you were a sax maniac?

Is this a pun..? I guess I am since I've invested so much time in it up to this point. I can't give up now, ya know?

Thanks you for your insight, and may I say you have never produced anything with your saxophone that has made me cringe.

I found out this is based on golfing skill, not musical.

*I hope this doesn't create a "boy who cried wolf" scenario for me. I swear if I ever declare assault again without immediate follow up to the actual nature of the situation, then I really was assaulted.