Saturday, September 24, 2011

Whatever, Nevermind

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Nirvana's album that launched the grunge Seattle rock scene nationwide. I was sort of a college freshman when that happened. Sort of because I got relentlessly ill my freshman year which led into depression. I can tell you firsthand that MIT is impossible if you're sleeping 13 hours a day. I took that next fall semester off to get medicated and remotivate myself by working at Taco Bell where I made origami out of the wrappers and used them to decorate the drive thru. My freshman advisor Alice was the best advisor ever and got me a third term as a freshman. So when I returned to school in the fall, I still had her as my advisor, I integrated seamlessly into the next year's cohort, and got a third term on pass/no record to use for sorting myself out.

Which is to say it was also a great time to discover Nirvana's signature music. I have a clear image still of the first time I heard it played directly from a CD. It was one of my few trips to visit a friend at college in MN. She had been my best friend in late elementary school and we kept up but not well. The off term gave me a chance to see her at college - now a senior living off campus in southern MN and still cooler than me. I remember the big entertainment center in the living room that housed her stereo as she showed off her new album.

I don't remember if there was anyone else with us. I don't remember if I even liked it right away or if the memory just stuck because I was hanging with my cool friend, feeling like all that for being in on a new thing for once. My other strong memory is also tied to off campus housing, but it was back out in Boston, rocking out to Smells Like Teen Spirit at an older alum's party. That may also have been the time I learned how random and inane the words if the chorus were. SLTS was definitely a song I liked more before I learned the words - which puts it in large and comfortable company - yet I retain a strong attchment to it even today.

I'm not the only one. I hear the web is filling up with remembrances today. The local station KROQ has at least one Nirvana song on rotation every day, from my observations of their playlist. One has to wonder if they'd still be mythic had Kurt Cobain stuck around - or if even more greatness would have come our way. The eternal question from lives cut short. Since I still feel the music mire than hear it, I suspect the latter. It's a good day to reflect on the awe and mourning inherent in the anniversary of Nevermind. Go now, and listen to some music that moves you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ask, Tell

The repeal of "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" is today! This means that gay/lesbian members of the military can now legally serve their country as a soldier or sailor, airman, guard, or marine. This is a big damn deal.

Almost 20 years ago, DADT was supposed to help service members because it removed the question of sexuality from the intake forms. Despite the fact that recruiters heavily encourage new recruits to lie on the intake forms for various reasons (primarily because (a) they know how bureaucracies work and (b) they need their numbers) a service member can be dishonorably discharged if those lies are brought to light. So DADT meant that new recruits didn't have to lie outright on a signed statement that could be used against them. Progress, right?

Well... kinda. Because people still got kicked out of the US armed services for being gay - and still got dishonorable discharges for being gay rather than something more dignified that allowed their service records to speak for them. It also meant that they didn't get the pension or other similar benefits provided for years of service to others. The witch hunt was still going on, and going on strong.

It's my hope today that the military brass will realize that this big damn deal for society and justice really isn't a big deal for them. Their soldiers will keep fighting and marching and wearing crisp uniforms with short hair. Where it causes dissention in the ranks, the ranks will get over it. Here's hoping the witch hunt stops, today. We all know that people can be discriminated against in subtle ways, and no doubt that will still happen. But here's hoping that not only will it happen less, but without the legal threats hanging over the gay service members, they will have more legal recourse, more allies, and a fighting chance to ride through the drama and focus on business.

Congratulations to all the gay and lesbian service members who can now serve openly. To all their friends and colleagues, please remember to stand proudly with them. We're all on the same side, it turns out.

[For celebratory reading, Suz Brockmann has a short Navy SEAL love story, available by Ebook, "When Tony met Adam" available for your favorite ereader.]