Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas In Florida

Merry Christmas to All and a Happy New Year too. 

Travel wasn't so bad yesterday.  We were two hours late getting out of O'Hare because our plane from Indianapolis, which was supposed to land and take us then to Florida, developed mechanical problems, and had to be fixed.  After the plane landed two hours late, we then had to wait for American Airlines to find a third flight attendant, which was, blessedly, done rather quickly.  All in all, I was luckier than some who had their flights canceled or their luggage lost.  Currently I'm in rainy, wet southern Florida, sitting in my dad's den, typing this entry while it downpours outside, and thankful that I'm here. 

I hope you all got what you wanted for Christmas.  Since I have no desire, getting what I wanted was irrelevant.  More to the point are the new years' resolutions.  I'd like to finish the novel that I've been slaving away at for two years now, and get it in good enough shape to send out, show around, generally promote with an eye toward publishing.  That's number one.  I'd like to lose an additional 20-30 pounds until my 46 inch waisted slacks hang on me like the 48 inch slacks do now.  And after that, pay off my VISA bill, on which is the charge for the very computer I'm typing on at this moment.  A great machine.  I certainly do not regret that purchase. 

Well, it's time to sign off.  I've got a few days off down here to do nothing and lounge and play golf.  Maybe I'll get some writing done.  I'll check back with you all in a few days.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

It's Gregoire by 10

The eyes of the nation and the world are focused on our fair state situated in the upper left-hand corner of the country as we deal with the closest gubernatorial election in the history of the United States.  Out of 2.8 million votes cast, the Democrat, Christine Gregoire, pulled ahead yesterday by a mere 10 votes. 

But that's not the whole story--the rest of the story comes from the partisan bickering that has droned on and on since the recounts began.  This has consisted primarily of GOP bluster about fraud and calls for Gregoire to concede, even though Rossi's margin of "victory" was less than one percent--well within the margin of error for any count of 2.8 million.  After all, those tactics worked in 2000--when Republicans hectored Gore to concede, calling Democrats who joined with them "statesmen."  Gore caved.  Gregoire has not.  And I believe the rest of the Democrats country wide are getting a little vicarious thrill out of her persistance.  The shock & awe tactics the Republicans used to shame Democrats out of their manual recounts in 2000 no longer work.  Like the hijackings of September 11, 2001, these methods only work against a foe who is complacent and not expecting them.  But the Democrats are awake now and we know how to respond.  So,  bravo Christine Gregoire, keep modeling appropriate response to the rest of the country as the GOP fumes and blusters and sputters with hyperbole.  May you prevail.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Shut Up and Go Away

Just shut up and disappear.  Fade into the background.  Do not trouble us with your presence.  Live like an earthworm, below the surface, where the rest of the world knows you're there in a vague sort of way, but does not have to actually be confronted by the sight of you.

These are the lessons being taught at Trinity Christian Academy.  Since when does speech equal behavior?  This is what has always bothered me about don't ask, don't tell, too.  Somehow, voicing an opinion that being gay is good is tantamount to a "gay act."  Military men and women can be cashiered for no other reason than being linked by association with other gay people--by going to a gay establishment, for example, marching in a pride parade, going to a rally, a picnic, or a kd lang concert.

In the Trinity Christian case, one of their most talented students was essentially "shunned" for no other reason than hosting a website which discussed homosexuality.  How does that equate to "behavior?"  Perhaps we don't know the whole story, perhaps when confronted, the student disclosed that he had actually engaged in sexual behavior of the physical, rather than verbal or written, variety.

The Christian religion in America has a long tradition of shunning those who express their individuality, who do not conform, so this is nothing new. 

What have they done in this case?  They have treated an extraordinary individual in a most deplorable, traumatic way.  They have given a very talented young man a memory of injustice to take with him for the rest of his life. 

Oh, but doesn't it feel so good to judge, and condemn and expell?  Rather than examine my own sins and failings, I can transfer all the bilge I feel towards myself and project it on someone else--especially a youngster who doesn't have the experience or strength to defend himself. 

Monday, December 20, 2004

The "G" Word

The History Channel has compiled a documentary entitled Rwanda: Do Scars Ever Fade?, a retrospective on the genocide that claimed almost a million lives in 1994.  This program is a grim and unflinching look at how the world ignored the systematic slaughter of innocents; how the world, just one generation removed from the horrors of the death camps, forgot the fundamental lesson of the Holocaust and allowed it to happen again. 

Genocide is perpetrated by people.  And in Rwanda, it was neighbor against neighbor.  This documentary follows the story of two men, Ezekiel and Pierre.  Pierre is a Tutsi, and Ezekiel is a Hutu.  They grew up together as neighbors, and knew each other all their lives.  During the genocide, Ezekiel murdered Pierre's brother and helped throw Pierre, bound, into the river to drown.  Pierre's bonds came undone and he survived, but the rest of his family did not. 

Ezekiel has since become a born-again Christian and has repented his crime.  And here's where the story gets very interesting.  Now he wants forgiveness from Pierre.  In a public hearing, Pierre does forgive Ezekiel, but in a heartwrenching confession to the camera, Pierre states that he forgave for reasons other than a softening of his heart, but rather because he could not continue to live in his community if he did not forgive--forgiveness was expected, demanded by the community, and because he still feared Ezekiel. 

Imagine living next to neighbors who had been responsible for murdering your entire family.  An uneasy peace exists now--but it seems volitile, inflammable, a potent mixture of hate awaiting only a spark to bring it roaring back to vivid life.  The omnipresent vigilance against danger one would have to withstand.  It would be the life of prey, of the hunted, the persecuted and the damned. 

Conversely, imagine trying to reintegrate one's humanity with the horrors one perpetrated.  How losing oneself to mob violence is an irrevocable loss--what could possibly atone for it?  How does one live with oneself?  Like Lady Macbeth's damned spot, would the blood on one's hands ever fade?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Seattle Policeman Scrapes Bottom

About a week after the planes hit the two towers, on a Seattle street, an officer tried to stop a suspect fleeing in a Cadillac by hanging onto the door and being dragged several yards before his partner put a bullet into the head of the car's driver.  The inquest found no fault on the part of the policeman who shot the driver.  For a full rundown on the case please see the Seattle Weekly site.

Now, by and large, I'm against the police shooting African-Americans to death.  It happened to a friend of mine in Los Angeles, when a policeman shot him by mistake at a Halloween party, thinking that the gun my friend was holding in his hand was real, rather than a plastic replica. 

However, the case of Officer Neubert suing the shooting victim's mother in civil court reaches new lows of bad behavior by those entrusted to protect society, and gives the Seattle Police Department a bad name.  Under various theories of tort law, when you give permission to someone to drive your car, then your insurance coverage extends to that person.  So far, so good.  However, no insurance policy underwrites intentional acts.  Otherwise, you could set fire to your own home and hope to collect on your fire insurance.  Putting your foot down on an accelerator while a policeman is hanging onto your door is an intentional criminal act, one which would not be covered by your mother's insurance policy.  An injured person also has a duty to mitigate damages.  Mitigation of damages in this case might include something like, oh, I don't know, letting go of the door.  However, the police officer did not let go of the door, he hung on, because it was his intent to apprehend the offender and arrest him.  Thus, hanging on was an intentional act that failed to mitigate damages. 

This case does not belong in any civil court.  If a policeman is injured in the line of duty, it is up to the state to compensate him for his damages, not to seek damages in a civil court.  To allow this case to go forward would be to harm public policy.  We all know that hyperbole is far more frequent in civil matters than it is in criminal ones--just look at Officer Neubert's testimony.  Calling it a hate crime.  For God's sake.

This case should be dismissed in order to preserve the fundamental trust the public has with its police force.  Policemen are routinely required to testify in criminal matters.  If they are allowed to testify with these kinds of hyperbolic flourishes where does it end?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Green Monster

Jealousy.  My most hated feeling.  There's a monster inside of me, one that looks at other people's success and points to it while accusing me of failure, ineptitude and laziness. 

That said, let's congratulate Stephanie Kallos for the success her debut novel has garnered.  It's been chosen by the Today show [at linked site, scroll to bottom] for their book club selection, which guarantees Stephanie a national readership.  This is, for a writer, hitting the big time.  She will be the toast of literary clubs all over the country, and join the rarified ranks of the Name Writers: Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Sebold, Julia Glass.

Stephanie used to be an actor in Seattle, and worked with me on a production of The Comedy of Errors at the Tacoma Actors' Guild many, many years ago.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

So, how's that novel coming?

This past weekend was our firm Christmas party, and many people know that I've been taking writing classes and that I am working on a large project and so I kept getting the question, "so, how's that novel coming?"

It's the literary equivalent of "been doing any acting lately?"  It's meant to be a friendly inquiry, not the inference of abject failure the interrogee takes it for.  This is the nadir of the creative process.  You reach a point where you're absolutely bereft of inspiration--where your characters are willful and rebellious and they simply won't do whatever you tell them to do.  So, you have to write reams of scenes which may never make it between the covers of the book because you have to keep writing or you stop, and to stop means death.  So you try things out.  You have them go here, go there, follow each other, find clues, get hints, etc., all in order to have your critique group say, "Oh!  This is the Scooby-Doo ending!"  At which point you crumple up the pages and take another stab at it. 

The perfect response to these creative questions is, "Oh, the novel?  It's progressing quite nicely, thank you."  Which is the truth, even though it doesn't feel like the truth.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

All Hail Apple and Itunes

Apple computer is revolutionizing the music industry courtesy of Napster.  The Apple Ipod is the most exciting audio device to have appeared on the scene since the Victrola.  Infinitely portable, it holds up to 40 GB of information, whether those be songs, files, or other data, and they communicate with computers, the internet, and your home and car stereos.  The cheaper knockoffs that have proliferated in the market during the past six months--I think I saw my first Ipod commercial with the dancers in silhouette this past summer, maybe this past spring--bear testiment to a market that has not been saturated, and supports, like the portable PC industry, a broad range of specifications that appeal to different kinds of users for a multitude of reasons.  If cost is your sole concern, get something other than an Ipod.  If having the most solid-state, dependable, functional, and versatile device is your cuppa, then you can't do better than the Ipod.  This device will destroy the CD industry.  We're not talking now of the music industry, but the manufacturers of music CDs.  Optical disks have become as cluttering as tapes and videotapes.  And they're far more fragile than first believed.  A unit that keeps an entire library of music CDs in the space taken up by a deck of cards is a boon to all Feng Shui masters and consumers who are tired of scratched disks and broken jewel cases.  Kudos to Apple for creating the most user friendly and exciting portable device on the planet (this year at least).  I'm getting one for myself for Christmas and I can't wait. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Why Gay People should Still Matter to the Democrats

Okay, this is just a work in progress.  I'm not sure exactly what my reasoning is going to be--that's the great thing about a blog--you can put half-baked ideas out for public consumption.  But here it is.  The democrats should not abandon the gay community, as so many, including former President Bill Clinton (long may he live), have suggested.  The biggest reason is that the gay community is an extremely good lightning rod--attracting all kinds of vitrioloc hatred from the ultra right wing. 

We are a country which has shifted past conservative and liberal (which might have been true at one point in the 1970's) to progressive conservative, and ultra-reactionary neo-conservative.  True liberal voices are marginalized to such a degree that they sound as nutty as Al Sharpton.  The right wing likes to play at being a "big tent" and "compassionate" but these words are meaningless and hypocritical.  The culture warriors of the 90's, Bat Puchanan and Jessie Helms proved that the direct, self-righteous approach doesn't energize the base like softer, gentler diatribes "protecting marriage."  When you're "protecting marriage" you're for something, not against something.  This kind of Orwellian logic has permiated right wing talking points on Capital Hill.  Everyone from the President to Rick Santorum to Ralph Reed and Rush Limbaugh are all on the same page.  Obvious hatred and racism doesn't work: so they've disguised it as being something else.

However, they can't control all their people all the time.  Thus, at the local level, the two-barrelled approach to gay hate is alive and well.  That's what makes gays such valuable allies to the democrats.  The ultra-right wing John Birch pounding nut balls can't help themselves.  They go right for the jugular spouting about a "gay agenda to indoctrinate children."  These are talking points that are 10 years old and out of sync with the party at the national level.  Thus they are exposed for the rampant pathologically phobic hatemongers they truly are. 

Friday, December 3, 2004

Anger Management

Anger is a difficult thing for a recovering addict.  The Big Book calls it "the dubious luxury of normal men."  We are encouraged, taught, maniupulated, cajoled and programmed to avoid anger.  However, anger, like breathing, is involuntary and inevitable.  That's because our demands from life are not always met.  We don't keep our minds on the way things are--but concentrate on the way things should be.  Thus our pique when the world forces us to acknowledge that life must be lived on its terms, not the terms we dictate.  That said, it is much more difficult to control anger than it is to control the expression of anger.  Anger will be felt, it's part psyche, part physiological, part neurological.  It is as powerful as love or jealousy.  We don't have an option not to feel angry if we are to encounter the world.  We do have an option of declining to express that anger outwardly towards others. 

Restraint of tongue and pen is one mantra suggested by the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Practicing tolerance and acceptance is another. 

Why am I concentrating on this?  Because I have had two extremely vivid episodes of anger in the past few days.  One I reacted to, the other I tried to forget.  My reactionary response took the form a flame e-mail, which I subsequently tried to ameliorate by writing the recipient back and telling him that it was an expression of affection and to please not be offended.  Surprisingly enough, it worked, although maybe I didn't fool him and he simply declined to get into a pissing match. 

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Debate and Switch

Why can't people change their minds?  Why can't people admit that they were misinformed, that upon further consideration and based on new information, their opinions have altered from their previously held positions?  Why is this seen as indecisiveness rather than as a thoughtful, methodical process of enlightenment?

Strom Thurmond and George Wallace were able to do that--to rise above their racist pasts, admit they were wrong, wrong, wrong about issue of race, and become viable political entities again.  That is regarded as studious and rational.  Maybe only right wingers are permitted that kind of self-examination.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Right Wing Deceit

The right wing learned from 1988.  They know that getting all righteous about social issues does not play well, it energizes the opposition rather than their own base.  Better to couch their extremism in reassuring terms that allows their base to practice hateful political acts while still feeling good about themselves.  Thus while trying to get anti-gay marriage amendments passed in 11 states, supporters denied that the amendments would restrict benefits and rights to gay people, that such amendments were about protecting marriage "only."

That was deception pure and simple.  Republican lawmakers in Michigan want to tear up negotiated contracts with unions that require benefits for gay partners of state employees.  So much for being about the protection of marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution.  These amendments are, and always have been, about denying equal rights to a segment of the population which is largely unpopular in an effort to get that segment to shut up and disappear.  Their spin is hypocritical and mendacious.  The same is true for the Federal Amendment.  We've only seen the tip of the iceberg.  Gay hate is alive and well in USA.