Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Birth Control Pill for Men

My husband was watching the news yesterday while I was cooking dinner and stopped briefly on HLN, where a female doctor was discussing a new drug that can suppress sperm production in the testes. So far the research has just been done on rats, but it’s the first drug molecule that’s small enough to get through the testes’ protective blood-barrier, so it’s a milestone in the search for a male contraceptive.
The doctor went on to say that in her clinic they do far more tubal ligations than vasectomies, because “guys don’t like anything that messes with those areas.” You can hear someone on the set laugh and clap, which is really unusual. The woman newscaster who took over from the interview commented, “You should see the faces of the men in the studio right now,” making a face like someone grimacing in horror. The implication was all the men were appalled at the thought of choosing to destroy their sperm.
I have wondered for many years: why aren’t men clamoring for a male contraceptive? In these days when paternity can be definitely established via DNA tests, a one-night stand can result in 18 years of child support—your wages garnished by court order. You have a child, but you’re never the father because you never had a relationship with the mother. What a nightmare!
I can’t imagine being a man and putting my life in the hands of a woman, having to trust that she’s not lying to me about using birth control. It appears that the ability to impregnate infuses many men’s image of their sexuality and they can’t imagine separating the two.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

I saw the film “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” on HBO recently. What an amazing film about the power of humans to transcend tragedy, as well as the resilience of nature. The filmmaker, Lucy Walker, was going to make a short film about the Japanese fascination with the cherry blossom, which is evidently a very important part of their culture. Then the tsunami hit, and she integrated the two stories in a fabulously beautiful way.

Some of the Japanese interviewed say the cherry blossom is revered because of its ephemeral nature—it blooms for just a few days and then is gone. They even love it when the petals fall from the trees; among their many names for the blossoms is one for “fallen petals in water.” A man who raises cherry trees, who is descended from a long line of cherry-tree growers, said, “perceiving transience heightens appreciation.” This is the message of the film: life is short and when we think it’s going to go on forever we take things for granted. When we are in touch with the truth that life can be taken from us at any moment, we appreciate every moment. That may sound trite, but this film says it in such a graceful way it feels fresh and powerful.

The film begins with a stunning video of the tsunami coming towards the camera, taken from a hillside above a town, with residents of the town all around exclaiming as they watch the destruction unfold. At first you can’t really see anything happening, the wave is so far away, and then you can’t believe your eyes as it comes towards you and it becomes clear how vast the devastation is. The wave ends up almost reaching the hillside and the sense of panic is communicated through the voices of the people all around; it’s an emotionally gripping experience.

The beauty of Japanese culture comes across in the second half of the film as the cherry blossoms begin to open among the destroyed houses: the reverence across age groups and gender for the beauty of a flower. There’s the sense of a poetic nature that seems to me to be totally missing from American culture, and when I see a depiction of a culture that has it, I really feel the lack.