- Bright portals of the sky,
- Emboss'd with sparkling stars,
- Doors of eternity,
- With diamantine bars,
- Your arras rich uphold,
- Loose all your bolts and springs,
- Ope wide your leaves of gold,
- That in your roofs may come the King of Kings.
- O well-spring of this All!
- Thy Father's image vive;
- Word, that from nought did call
- What is, doth reason, live;
- The soul's eternal food,
- Earth's joy, delight of heaven;
- All truth, love, beauty, good:
- To thee, to thee be praises ever given!
- O glory of the heaven!
- O sole delight of earth!
- To thee all power be given,
- God's uncreated birth!
- Of mankind lover true,
- Indearer of his wrong,
- Who doth the world renew,
- Still be thou our salvation and our song!
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
As you may have heard in the news recently, Seattle Tacoma Airport pitched a hissy by taking down their Christmas Tree decorations because a local Rabbi wanted them to put up and plug in an 8-foot tall menorah. The news rapidly burgeoned onto the national consciousness when conservative pundits siezed on the events as yet another example of secular liberal America's "war on Christmas."
Well, the decorations have now gone up at the state capitol in Olympia. They include BOTH Christmas Trees and a Menorah. Plans for a creche were pointedly scrapped. Scrapping the nativity scene has people howling now and the press is eating it up.
There is no solution to this shite. But what is clear, is that all parties want it their way, and so everyone is going to end up disappointed and annoyed--which is exactly in the spirit of the season--so I guess that's something.
But what I really wanted to blog about was circumcision. I'm offended by being forced to fund circumcisions through my tax dollars to military hospitals and Medicaid. Circumcision is a religious practice, and the government should not be in the business of endorsing one religious practice over another!
Oh, wait. There's a medical benefit. Well--I still don't think that there should be special preference. So, circumcisions for everyone except Jews and Muslims. There--that should do it.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I first heard the term "politically correct" in 1985 in Minneapolis, Minnesota in a conversation with Auntie Carl, an old-school activist from San Francisco. Carl used the term ironically, almost derisively. I knew exactly what it meant the instant I heard it. I knew it to be an attempt by leftist revolutionaries to present a united front. The price was conformity to that thought. If we are to be united, dissent cannot be tolerated-it broadcasts as weakness.
Marginalized groups who wished to show strength through unity, used PC as a tool. Nowadays its meaning has subtly changed and implies conformity and the imposition of taboo for political purposes. It divides rather than unifies. I'm struck by this quote from Peter Hitchens in The Spectator:
- SILLY people, the sort who take nothing seriously except themselves, think that political correctness is a joke. In fact it is about as funny as an abattoir. Those of us who have faced it head on - publishers refusing a book on unashamedly political grounds, microphones switched off in midspeech to please a baying mob, that sort of thing - know better. Political correctness, more accurately termed 'modern liberal orthodoxy', is the fulfilment of George Orwell's most accurate and least noted prophecy, in the Newspeak chapter of Nineteen Eighty-Four, that the best way to stamp out thought is to make it impossible to say or write certain things. Then it becomes impossible to think them and conformity is guaranteed for ever and ever.
Thursday, December 7, 2006
Today I had the fantastic opportunity to join my coworker Rox Ann at the Zion Preparatory Academy's annual fundraiser breakfast. The speaker was the one and only legendary James Earl Jones, who spoke on the topic of culture. He was erudite, funny and absolutely riveting. When he quoted the 23rd Psalm, the air in the room suddenly congealed and we were all transported to another place in our brains, where there is only image and desire and simplicity. He was extraordinary.
Zion is a Christian school with an urban, Afro centric history founded by Bishop Eugene Drayton of the Zion United House of Prayer in Seattle. I have participated in several Zion Prep events, and have always felt extremely comfortable and welcome. In fact, I feel more comfortable at the Zion teacher appreciation dinner than at my own office's Christmas party.
What is notable about the people of Zion is their Christian message. They smile, they're warm, they embrace. They don't judge, condemn and strike out. When Pastor Drayton leads in prayer, I can feel the holy spirit, an element missing in many of the so-called religious discussions I read or hear. It is a good feeling, encompassing; good and right and loving.
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Gads. It's been almost a month since my last post. If anyone is still reading this blog, you have my undying gratitude.
Mary Cheney is expecting! Congratulations to her and her partner Heather and to happy grandparents Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne. All of the news reports on the story mentioned in their headlines "Vice President's gay daughter pregnant" or some variation but always the "gay" before the daughter.
I for one have grown to respect and admire Mary Cheney, who has managed to piss off both Gay Activists and Evangelical Christianists by simply living her life as she sees fit and not answering or apologizing to anyone. The good fun for gays, however, is that this story will enrage evangelical Christianists which is always enjoyable to observe. Principally, that their precious family values party does not tow the line when it comes to gay sons and gay daughters. For Republicans, being anti-Gay means disliking those leather clad bikers and drag queens that ride on floats in the San Francisco Pride Parade. It doesn't include their own sons and daughters. It is a disconnect from reality, but people like Mary Cheney are helping their conservative loved ones see the light, and all they have to do is live--but live openly and fearlessly.
Mel Gibson is back with Apocalypto. It remains to be seen whether this all-Mayan language film will reinvent Mel's famous pathology for victimhood. Let me explain it for you if you just don't quite get it: Mel is an unrecovered drunk. As everyone who's had a brush with AA can tell you, unrecovered drunks see the world as largely against them--if only the world would accede to their wishes, wants, and plans, then the universe would be good and lovely place. Whatever pain they feel is a result of being misunderstood and put-upon. Recovered drunks, on the other hand, understand full well that they bear the responsibility for their own pain. They are the authors of their own misery. Dr. M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, describes it this way. A "character disordered" person is one who sees the world set against them. A "neurotic" person sees himself as wrong in the world. Moving from character disorder to neuroses for the alcoholic, is a step toward wellness and reality.
Mel, seeing himself as pilloried, victimized, crucified, drawn and quartered, remains unrecovered, unhealthy, and unwilling to accept responsibility.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
In AA's 12 Steps, Step 9 states: "Made direct amends to such people [after making a list of those people] except when to do so would injure them or others."
One of the reasons I have departed AA is that AA is made up of laypeople who are not experts at recovery managing the recovery of confused persons who are incredibly emotionally vulnerable. See this story on the CNN website. What part of "except when to do so would injure them or others" did this guy's sponsor not get? How can going to prison help the victim in this case? By her own admission, no apology could ever have amended the horror of the crime that was perpetrated against her. Who does this poor sap leave behind? Children? Spouse? Family? It is unconscionably stupid.
First, the victim states that old wounds were opened by this guy coming forward. This injured her.
Second, the anonymity of the 12-stepper was completely blown! This was alcoholics anonymous--not the catholic church!
Third, it has a negative effect on those who still suffer. Who in their right minds are going to join AA if it means they might have to eventually go to prison?
For all you 12 steppers out there: do not make an amend that injures the person you are making amends to--or others. Others includes YOU. Going to prison for two years is an injury.
Rigorous honesty is a fundamental principle of the program, BUT it only matters between people. The "system" has no soul. If making an amend puts you into conflict with the system, or exposes you to its soulless predation--you must keep your trap shut! If you must, send an anonymous letter. You can make the amend by donating to battered women's shelters, rape counseling lines, marching in take back the night. But you don't expose yourself to criminal charges for Christ's sake.
This guy's sponsor should be sued for malpractice.
Friday, November 3, 2006
I have a pitch for Tom Cruise in Paula Wagner of United Artists:
South Beach Dianetics. A handsome non-gay movie star, on the way to the Scientology HQ in Clearwater, Florida, finds himself stranded in the gay mecca of the Florida coast. Ultimately, he clears himself of all impulses to be not-non-gay through a blend of positive thinking and denial.... And he slims down in the process by not eating any white food.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Once again, what passes for political discourse in this country, as the election date nears, ad-hominem attacks, smears and rancor dominate. I've already made up my mind. This administration has been a complete disaster. They care more about their own power than they do about government. Soundrels through and through--their motives are to line their own pockets and those of their friends and allies. Never in my memory has the power and treasure grab been so cynical and so transparent. However, I'm not sure it would be much different in an administration helmed by Hillary R Clinton or John McCain. It's lovely to think so.
I want to go to sleep and wake up the Wednesday after next Tuesday.
My mood has been extremely labile lately. Thoughts of death recently. This morning I had a second hearing test. My left ear has a hearing deficit, and when such deficits are asymmetrical, it raises the possibility of a tumor in the ear canal. My reaction upon hearing this? Joy.
That's not normal.
I felt better contemplating a plan for the future. Starting tomorrow I'm going to rise one hour earlier (accounting for the hour that we gained when we switched to daylight savings time) and strive to write an hour a day from 7:20 to 8:20. No e-mail, no blogging: fiction. One hour. It's not so much to ask, is it?
But I've been so terribly blocked the past few months. I can't seem to summon the motivation to write in the evenings. So I'm going to try it in the morning, when I'm fresh...
Friday, October 27, 2006
I want to blog about this today because it's on my mind. A question came up in class the other night about stakes--how can stakes raise beyond a life and death situation?
In life, that's true. Survival is the highest stake of all. But in fiction, everything is written in context. Thus life and death stakes are only relevant in context with the theme of the novel. In fiction, life only has relevance in connection with value. In order for the reader to feel the need for a character to survive, the character must express a value, or values. In life, life only has meaning to the extent we possess and express our values. That is also true of fiction, but in fiction it is enhanced. So, the stakes of a character in a life or death situation can only be felt when living or dying will affect a value. It is important for the character to survive in order to write a wrong, correct an injustice, make the world safe for democracy, save another character who's in jeopardy, etc.
Thus, the phrase Torture is Bad is true, it speaks to a personal desire to see the practice end, and a public desire to protect America from being devalued by practicing it. However, it has no relevance to story unless a character who believes that value confronts it. As the stakes deepen, the character undergoes torture, or is forced to perpetrate it. Depending upon how the story turns, and what emotion the author intends his audience to experience, the ending of that story will be either cynical (pessimistic) in which the protagonist becomes what he loathes, or idealistic, in which the protagonist manages to escape his predicament, or ironic, in which the protagonist might unwittingly bring about a resolution that supports what he despises.
Thus, strong character value systems translate into strong personal and public stakes.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
I'm tired of the Foley scandal already. Dennis Hastert was elected to be the third most powerful person in the United States, not a babysitter. He rightly delegated that responsibility to the people in charge. When confronted with perversity, he said "take care of it." The indivdual responsible for this debacle is Mark Foley, none other. And I'm tired of the blatant homophobia on both sides.
Of course it's all politics. But the democrats' reactions sound increasingly strident and hysterical, aimed to separate the GOP from its evangelical base. They'll never vote democrat, as long as the democrats remain intractable on a woman's right to choose. Furthermore, I think they've taken so much abuse from the democrats over the years that even if the party of Jefferson were to repudiate reproductive choice, the evangelical base would still hold them in contempt.
No, the aim of the democrats is not to attract voters to their side, but simply to cause the evangelicals enough grief and dispair that they'll stay home on election day. That's cynical and contemptible. It's Karl Rove lite, and if democrats stoop to such evil, then maybe they'll start to believe, as does the GOP, that the ends do justify the means. At that point, the soul of America will be lost.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Just a week ago the GOP was suffering from the 1-2 punch of Bob Woodward's new book and the Mark Foley Page scandal. Now, in a move apparently calculated to assist the Republicans in November, Kim Jong Il has detonated a nuclear war head. Of course it's foolishness to view everything in the world through the lens of partisan politics. Call me foolish, I guess.
Bob Woodward is a Cliff Note. The Foley scandal has a little more traction because it's salacious and hypocritical on its face. The spin has started: Limbaugh reacted by blaming the page! The little Lolito brought it on himself. There you see the opinion and values of the non-Christianist wing of the Republican party regarding sex. Cherchez la femme inverted. Cherchez la fag? The Christianists are, as to be expected, blaming The Gay. Ecce homo. The Republican party is riddled with hummasexyools and must be purged. Look for a Night of Long Knives in the very near future.
Let this be a lesson to the bluenoses and the ethics professors among us--there is no point to accusing the Republicans of hypocrisy. Like the fact that Macintosh computers are better than Windows-based computers--it simply doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what sells. The Republicans will always have a scapegoat. And they, because of their conservatism, can rest easy on the point of view that the evil you know is far preferable to the evil you don't know. Whereas democrats, as progressives, must sell idealism to the masses. The democrats have a much more difficult task.
Monday, October 9, 2006
A quote from Slate magazine, regarding an article in the New York Times Magazine:
- A recent spike in elephant attacks on humans in Africa and Southeast Asia can be traced to psychological damage from decades of poaching, a cover story suggests. Scientists have long ascribed pachyderm aggression to high testosterone levels and competition over resources. But now psychologists point to "a kind of species-wide trauma" with many of the same symptoms as post-traumatic stress in humans: "abnormal startle response, unpredictable asocial behavior, inattentive mothering and hyperagression." Rehab centers now use "passive control" therapy to heal dysfunctional elephants. "She's as sweet as can be," says the founder of Elephant Sanctuary about one formerly violent animal. "You'd never know that this elephant killed anybody."
Which life has more value--an elephant's or a human being's? Do the math. Human beings outnumber elephants 10,000 to 1. From a simple statistical standpoint, if rarity has value, the elephant's value is far superior to the humans. So here's a lesson to the people: if you're anywhere near an elephant--stay out of its way. Nobody's going to put the animal down for turning your head into jelly. And that's the way it has to be.
There are too many people. Puget Sound is dying. Underwater gardens that used to provide a burgeoning sea life, clams, crabs, vegetation are barren, littered with cell phones and car batteries. When the sea dies, the rest of us will follow. I just hope the Republicans go first. But elephants have a higher value than donkeys.
Friday, October 6, 2006
The last refuge of scoundrels used to be politics, but modern politics is so full of miscreants that they need yet another refuge within their refuge and they've found it: The Betty Ford Clinic. Imagine behavior so beyond the pale that it even gives alcoholics a bad name. Well you don't have to imagine it--it's on the front page. Whether it's Mark Foley or Mel Gibson, blaming demon rum has to be the exact opposite of the acceptance of personal responsibility that conservatives value. But remember, there are conservatives, and there are Republicans--and they are NOT one and the same.
Demoncrats. Repuglicans. Political discourse in this country has never been so depraved and indifferent to the well-being of society. The atavistic thirst for power and control by both political parties has set in motion a pathological rhetoric that sets neighbor against neighbor, husband against wife, son against father.
While I believe that it was Lee Atwater who ushered in this crass, cheap, and populist form of negative colloquy, and Karl Rove who raised it to an art-form, arguably both the Right and Left Wings of the political spectrum in America must agree to truce.
The problem is, it works: for them. The people are held hostage by this faux colloquy which exists by and for politicians. When I was young there were simple rules of good manners: you didn't discuss politics or religion. You also didn't discuss how much money you had, or how much something cost. We've lost something of the innocence of those times, as well as their civility, and I grieve it.
When I read the papers, especially the op-ed pages (to which I am addicted--as they fill me with fear and loathing and this fulfills the addict's crisis mentality) I am struck by the level of vitriol by someone like an Ann Coulter. She responded to the Foley debacle by calling him a Democrat (as everyone knows--he is a Republican). This is skirts hate speech. She said that when republicans get emboiled in a scandal they step down and have the good grace to show their shame. Yes, Foley did say that he accepted responsibility for what he'd done--but they were merely words. He hasn't suffered the consequences of anything just yet. Furthermore, he followed that statement with excuses that weren't excuses: too much drink--prior molestations in his own past--framing himself in the role of victim.
None of this has any substance whatsoever. This is grandstanding. When are we going to really start talking about what really matters? Healthcare. Pollution. Poverty. Reckless, out of control, corporate hegemony? Dismay is high.
Monday, October 2, 2006
Congressman Mark Foley (R-Fla) has been brought low by hubris and his alleged interest, professed via the internet, in a 16 year old penis, in particular the 7.5 inch one belonging to a congressional page from Louisiana.
Schadenfreude: The perverse delight in viewing the misfortunes of others from a distance.
Foley is a Republican and by extension a family values man and a paragon of morality. As everyone knows, Repuglicans have embraced the radical Christian Right and promised to use the awesome power of the government to advance their agenda--especially their desire to limit abortion and gay rights.
Point of Irony No. 1: Until very recently, sexual relations between people of the same gender was illegal in the District of Columbia and in Foley's home state of Florida. Lawrence v. Texas invalidated Florida law making it not technically illegal for Foley to allegedly pursue his 16 year old page. The Supreme Court invalidated sodomy laws over the strenuous objections of Republicans.
Point of Irony No. 2: Very, very recently, between the finding in Lawrence v. Texas and the passage of Adam Walsh's law this year, sexual relations between people of the same gender was legal, even if one of them was 16 years old. But the Republicans this year signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection Statute which essentially raised the minimum for age of consent in the United States to 18 years.
Point of Irony No. 3: Mark Foley stood behind President Bush as Adam Walsh's law was signed (without one of President Bush's famous signing statements that allowed him to ignore it if he so chose.)
Point of Irony No. 4: Even if Foley hasn't technically violated Adam Walsh's law (he didn't have sex with the boy--he merely communicated lewdly about the measurements of his penis by instant message) he may be in violation of a law that he himself helped draft, which criminalizes immoral communication with a minor over the internet.
It doesn't get more Sophoclean than that!
So what are we left with? Here we have Foley--let's assume for the sake of argument, that the allegations are true. He may or may not have broken a law. Is he gay? No. Though Foley is unmarried, being gay is a political statement which Republicans are in large part incapable of--the miniscule exceptions to the rule are theLog Cabin Republicans who boldly defy their party's prejudice and continue to be a presence inside their "big tent" to the consternation of nearly everyone else.
If the allegations are true, Foley is what used to be called a pederast, a middle aged man with an attraction to teenaged boys. This is quite different than an attraction to a prepubescent boy. Although both may be pathological, one is certainly depraved and sick on its face (pedophilia). The other (pederasty) has some room for debate--as is evident from congressional action on Adam Walsh's law earlier referred to. The technical term is Hebephile, though that can mean an adult who is sexually attracted to or molests postpubescent adolescents of either gender. Pederasty, by contrast is only a man/boy issue.
Oh, it is so wonderful to see Republicans stumble and fall. This is the kind of hubris that occurs from unchecked power coupled with religiosity--whether it be a catholic priest, or a member of God's Own Party.
Friday, September 15, 2006
|THE VISION OF CHRIST that thou dost see|
|Is my vision’s greatest enemy.|
--William Blake, The Everlasting Gospel
Pope Benedict 16 has now offended Islam. While yours truly loves nothing more than stirring up a hornet's nest, especially when it comes to sacred cows, of which Islam is FULL, it does seem somewhat ill-advised on "his holiness'" part. Still, the vast majority of Islamic adherents are unwilling to accept any criticism whatsoever, or even enter into a discussion of what their religion means. If someone misstates what they stand for, then it is up to them to educate--rather than condemn and demonize. If their religion really is about love and brotherhood, let them correct misunderstandings, rather than just rant, rave and wail about their bruised sensibilities. I've had it with Muslims and their negligible cultural ability to enter into any kind of meaningful dialog with Western Civilization.
I disagree with 99.99% of what Pope Benedict says and stands for--but he was making a point about spreading religion by the sword. He should not apologize.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Apparently, it wasn't the judge's head Saddam squished vicariously. Apparently the judge is biased toward the defense. "You were not a dictator" he said yesterday to Saddam. Hmm. What happens if they find him "not guilty?" "Freedom" should not be forced on societies that are too immature to appreciate it. Appreciating it in this situation is to understand that Saddam is guilty--he has to be, or there is utterly no rationale to go to war with Iraq is there?
Who didn't make sure that Saddam "shot himself in the head" just prior to being discovered in his spider hole ... ? I don't know what's worse, this Administration's ineptitude with regard to such matters, or the fact that they're so public about it.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
Depression: High. Probably has something to do with the 9/11 anniversary. I wouldn't be surprised. 9/11 devastated me: profound sorrow for those who lost their lives and loved ones. Unquestionable terror when I imagine how I would have felt and reacted were I on one of those planes, or trapped inside one of those buildings. And rage against those responsible for the death and destruction. I don't think I've had very many days since then that I haven't thought about those events.
It makes my own emotional suffering insignificant by comparison.
Friday, September 8, 2006
I'm all undone by a website I made the mistake of reading yesterday. It is the personal "ministry" site of an Ohio general practitioner. He fancies himself a minister, and preaches a extremely fundamentalist message. One can sense the irony at work as one views the doctor's beautiful, aryan family, their seeming good cheer, juxtaposed with the vitriol that spews forth from the text. There's a profound disconnection there. One thing that struck my interest was his letter from and response to Cady, a young person (can't tell if boy or girl) who is proud of daddy for coming out and being true to himself.
In another letter, Doctor Johnson (not to be confused with Samuel Johnson) defends and supports his railing, rebuking tactics with biblical verses. (BTW: This page is a little off--you have to scroll down to read the letter and response.)
"God fearing" to this ministry is literal. This is not the meek, mild Jesus he is selling, but the thundering, righteous Jesus. We are not to find comfort in Jesus' message, but terror. I'm not a Biblical scholar. I've read it, but I don't study it, or memorize passages other than those which have moved me personally. But it seems to me that this minister's focus is at odds with much of what Jesus taught (the beatitudes--Sermon on the Mount, for example). I find a profound disconnection between this minister's depiction of Jesus and the Jesus who said, "let he among you without sin cast the first stone." This fellow believes that it is entirely possible to remove the log in your own eye, and after doing so, you can freely condemn the specks in everyone else's.
And doubly troublesome to me personally, is that something deep inside responds to this guy. I am afraid. I am inspired to look again to God (his view of God--which he justifies as being the true biblical representation), rather than my own view of God (the God of movies and Sunday School). Although this picture of God does not square at all with my experience of God, I find myself falling under its spell. Who among us doesn't have guilt and shame over something--even if it's just free-floating? Is my neurotic personality flaw responding to the message of self-loathing implicit in the fundamentalist world-view?
Is this not classic cult conditioning? Destroying someone's self-image so that it can be replaced with something else? Now that I am in this miasma of revulsion and terror, of horror, how easy it would be to wildly give myself over to someone who can facilitate a cleansing, a rejuvenation, a healing--and then what? Wouldn't I be obliged to seek regular maintenance of that state of being?
Although this minister's tactics may be biblically based, there's a deep psychological coercion at work as well. I can feel it. I think it could be very dangerous--volatile. It's cultish. It feels to me more manipulative than spiritual. I would appreciate a frank discussion of this so feel free to leave responses.
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Sometimes I'm bowled over, thunderstruck and left speechless or sobbing at the end of a particularly artful story. Such was the case of A Passage to India, David Lean's epic masterpiece, based on E.M. Forster's novel. I loved it because the tale, although simple, was very much about something--imperialist racism, the east is east, west is west mentality of Great Britain, British distain for conquered people.
Through the point of view of Dr. Aziz we see the Indian desire to emulate the British, while preserving a sense of pride. He is able to navigate his own stratafied society with ease, which to the British is inscruitable and utterly mysterious. Judy Davis, as Miss Quested, is undeniably brilliant. Is she is a Freudian hysteric, or a legitimate victim? Somewhat ambiguous, though not as ambiguous as the novel, apparently.
The scene wherein she takes the path less traveled, and runs across tantric statues and a tribe of angry monkeys, is magnificent. Magical. One feels strongly the risk, the danger, and how the film makers intensified the stakes at issue.
Age of Innocence is, by contrast, a much more subdued film. Gestures and glances are fraught with ambiguous meaning. On the surface nothing happens. But the mystery of the relationships, the ambivalence of the characters, the unrequited desire--all create a profound subtext. In that sense, the film is literary. Two totally different styles of film making are at work. Both films make the viewer feel something, or know something ineffable--they both have subtextual elements that communicate implicitly. I didn't have an emotional response to Age of Innocence. I rather disliked it. But then it began to gnaw at me.
Both films are brilliantly directed by film makers who know exactly what they're doing. They have the economy of brilliant works of art--nothing is wasted. The difference though, is that Age of Innocence is so subtle that it takes repeated viewings to make sense of it, whereas A Passage to India is operatic in its intensions and unmistakable. Both films have much to offer.
One last note. I find that A Passage to India, with its theme of racism and rape, prefigures the themes in To Kill a Mockingbird and was written 40 years before.
Friday, September 1, 2006
Maybe all pragmatists eventually settle for moderation in all things, especially when it comes to politics. I certainly find that to be true. More and more I find the right wing less fearsome, and the left wing less righteous. I was thinking about that yesterday. Roy M. Cohn--I don't know why he suddenly occupied my thoughts. I was surfing the web, trying to find images of Halston, the designer and famous 70's party-animal. There was a picture of Roy M. Cohn snug between Halston and Steve Rubell at Studio 54. How utterly fabulous is that!
For my readers unaware of who Roy M. Cohn was, he was a special counsel to the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC), the McCarthy Hearings, during which the government purged itself of communists and communist sympathizers, and then moved on to other segments of society, most notably, film and television artists. "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party?" was the question asked. I used to think that was the darkest hour in the history of American democracy. Do I think it went too far? Yes. Was it corrupt? Of course it was. It was the ugliest politics ever to come out of Washington. But we reap the benefits of it to this day. Today we have a graceful society based on integration and assimilation into the ideals of personal freedom and responsibility to the community and nation. We aren't largely troubled by anarchist, subversive groups. We have almost no communists and socialists, and those who do perservere do so at the fringes.
So while the actions of McCarthy and his cronies were doubtless motivated to secure their own political fortunes, they also accomplished something that made America a better place to live.
And they did so at great personal price. Cohn was unable to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality even at the end. Cohn's view of the world was distorted and delusional. Right up to the end he maintained that he had cancer. The lens through which he viewed the world was skewed. Because of that, he destroyed those who opposed him, and used any lie in the furtherance of his own objectives. But he also had an impact on society which has lasted to this day.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Apparently, the DNA profile from the evidence under JonBenet Ramsey's fingernails does not match John Mark Karr. While this seems to be exculpatory in Karr's case, it's still a good thing for the Ramsey family. Clearly Colorado law enforcement is looking at DNA evidence as a means to solving the case. What many, many people may not have known is that all members of the Ramsey family gave DNA samples to the police, and none of them matched the evidence on JonBenet's body. More people may be aware of the Ramsey's exhoneration now because of the media interest in Karr.
Another good thing is that Karr, a self-confessed pedophile and sexual outlaw, will never again be anonymous, and hopefully because of that, will never again be in a position to abuse children.
Monday, August 28, 2006
This weekend watched Sophie's Choice again. I hadn't seen it since it was last in the theaters, 1982 or thereabouts. While I remembered the eponymous scene and it was just as raw and vivid and horrific as I remembered, I didn't believe it. I question whether this could have happened. I've read a great deal about the holocaust, and this scene just doesn't ring true to me anymore. While the behavior of the concentration camp guards was sadistic and cruel in the extreme, what point could offering such a choice have made? The doctor was based on Mengele, and he was a sadistic psychopath, but would he have engaged in any kind of discussion with any prisoner? Would the guards have allowed Sophie to speak to him? The only way the Holocaust could have happened (it seems to me) is for the prisoners to remain faceless, part of an indistinguishable mass. So this is a problem. Sophie's Choice is the crux of the book and the film. Is it realistic? I guess so--realistic enough. It certainly works as a metaphor for the character.
My research reveals that the Germans reassured the new arrivals that all would be well, that they would be reunited with their loved ones soon, right after a routine disinfecting shower.
The evil was banal. That's why it was so effective. For a factual description of the arrival at Auschwitz, I recommend "Man's Search for Meaning" by Dr. Victor Frankl. In it, Dr. Frankl says that there were decent guards, and indecent prisoners, and he was there. He describes Mengele as flicking a finger, or a pointer (I can't quite remember) very disinterested in the humanity of any of the prisoners before him. And the destination was either to the work camp, or to the gas and the ovens, and far more went to the latter than the former.
So what does this mean about fiction? What it tells me is that for an event as powerful as the holocaust, you have to have your facts straight. William Styron and Meryl Streep got away with it because the image was so powerful. But they couldn't get away with it on second thought. And that's a weakness.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Discussion of a bill in the California Assembly devolved into personal attacks and acrimony yesterday. Here's where I stand. I support everyone's right, if they so believe, to disagree with and politically oppose what they consider "a homosexual lifestyle." I do not support a right to discriminate against homosexual persons. It is a fine line, but it is a very clear one. It reminds me of a discussion Tucker Carlson was having with a principal of a middle school in California that I caught one day on tv. Carlson asked the principal whether a student who said to a gay student, "I think what you're doing is sinful" would be protected speech. The principal said yes. I would have said no, that there's a difference between protected speech and harassment and bullying. When someone uses speech to defame or otherwise torment an individual based on their individual characteristics, it's harassment. One is free to opine about the legitimacy of a concept, but criticisms of someone's life choices can be excluded from the first amendment in certain contexts, such as school.
School is a place of rigid standards and rules of behavior. One is not as free in school as out of school. One expects to submit to rules of behavior and conduct when entering a school. School is more like the military than the public square. Certain restrictions to ensure cohesion must and should be expected. Criticisms go both ways, too. Since everyone is sinful, pointing the finger right back would be a natural response to being called a sinner. Everyone loves to spot a hypocrite. I'm sure that there are skeletons in the closets of those assemblymen, or their colleagues. It is to the gay assemblymen's credit that they didn't indulge in such recrimination.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Well, the TV has problems. When I attached the HDMI cable, the TV said, "In power save mode, press key or mouse to resume..." or something like. Also, attaching the component cables (Y,Pr,Pb) had no effect. "No video signal." Apprently there was no magic solution such as tuning to channel 3 and Dell is sending me a replacement. Which means that I have to package up the TV I now have and send it back. Bother.
I really wish that I had a vehicle with more cargo space. I've been looking at the Honda Element, and it really has the best roomy interior of the SUVs on the market, but at $21,500, it might as well be $100,000. I'm stretched to the limit as it is. So, short of a windfall, I'll have to make due with my T-Bird.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
My LCD tv has arrived and it is magnificent. I'm somewhat embarrassed to crow about it since it seems like conspicuous consumption, but I love my movies, and this is an excellent item. Last night I was able to configure the cable and I watched the 2nd half of Sleepy Hollow. I'm anxious to see what the unit does with a film that's lighter in tone.
Slate magazine is excerpting a chapter a day of the illustrated graphic publication (not a graphic novel, as it's factual) 9/11. It is excellent and well worth your time. Click here for a link to the site.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Apparently there's been some vandalism on my condominium mailbox and mail may be interrupted until it's fixed. Crap, crap, crap! Crapo de tutti crapi! This will interrupt my Netflix.
Saw an interesting netflix last night: Immortality, aka The Wisdom of Crocodiles. Jude Law plays a vampire of indeterminate age and origin who drinks love. Because the love is present in the blood, he drinks the blood. But there's also guilt, rage, sorrow, worry and a host of other emotions also present in the blood, which he then quite painfully passes (as though it were a kidney stone) in the form of a crystal.
It is an interesting spin on the vampire mythology, like George Romero's Martin, for example or The Hunger. No black capes or fangs. It's a well-made film, but since it isn't action oriented, one I'm unlikely to see twice.
I've got Brick waiting, and I'm excited about it. A noir thriller set in a high school with high-school aged characters. Too cool for school.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
The more I look at John Mark Karr the more he looks to me like a factually innocent person, troubled by a narcissistic personality disorder, coupled with pathological guilt over his pedophilia. But that's speculation. Were I on a jury, I would be looking at evidence. Of which there exists nothing--except for Karr's e-mails. Hey, if DNA puts him at the crime scene, I'll be convinced. Until that happens, I'll remain a skeptic.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Fox News has reported that today an arrest has been made in the Jon-Benet Ramsey case. I am astounded that I lived to see it. Regretfully, Patsy Ramsey did not. Be that as it may, Patsy is vindicated by these events. The wild speculations that she killed her child by mistake for peeing the bed--what balderdash--those responsible for these rumors will have it on their consciences, if they have consciences, that is. It's doubtful, when you look at the kind of pathological emotionalism that engenders such hateful musing.
Sometimes policework is hard. The Ramseys have shown themselves as individuals of remarkable character, to have been able to withstand the ferocity of the attacks against them. May John and his surviving children find peace of mind in these new developments. And let us all reflect on what justice requires: presumption of innocence.
And let law enforcement everywhere reflect on what should be a tenant of good policework: attention to detail and open minds.
Monday, August 14, 2006
"To change skins, evolve into new cycles, I feel one has to learn to discard. If one changes internally, one should not continue to live with the same objects. They reflect one's mind and psyche of yesterday. I throw away what has no dynamic, living use."
--Anais Nin, novelist and diarist
I'm gearing up for yet another attempt to clear out the dross and effluvium of decades of hoarding, which attach to me and follow in my wake, as though such objects form the parameters of my existence. They don't give me meaning--I give them meaning.
Anything which does not support me, drains me.
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Mel Gibson back in the news after his arrest for drunken driving during which it has been reported that he made misogynistic and anti-Semitic comments. In vino veritas is an old Latin epigram that suggests when one is in one's cups, the mask that we present to the world is stripped away, and our true characters are revealed. While that may be true for normal drinkers, pathological drinkers are different.
As a person familiar with the disease of alcoholism, I know that the disease of alcoholism has a physical, emotional, and spiritual cost. People say and do things contrary to their value system. Alcohol is a spirit--and imbibing it fills one with a spirit other than one's own.
Those of you familiar with my antipathy for Mel's movie, The Passion of the Christ, may wonder if this is a defense of Mel. While I despise most things Mel, he's still a very interesting person. People who allow their psychological problems to influence their public lives--strike that--people who are powerless to prevent their psychological problems from influencing their public lives invariably are.
Be that as it may, Jews were on Mel's mind when he was pulled over in Malibu. He didn't lash out at Native Americans, or Japanese businessmen, or muslims (or elves, dwarves or hobbits). Those who suspect that there is something defective in Mel's character can put their minds at ease. If he's an alcoholic, which he professes to be, character defects are part of the package. While it may be true that alcoholism causes one to act contrary to their value systems, it may also be true that the part of the situation contrary to Mel's values was the driving while drunk and the speaking of his mind, not the substance of what he said.
However, there's also something defective in my character if I can love Wagner who was also a virulent anti-Semite, and hold it against Mel. That indicates a certain schadenfreude on my part that disgusts me.
Tuesday, August 8, 2006
After a few weeks off, flying to Iowa and back, and then down to Portland for the Willamette Writer's Conference, I'm back at work. Yesterday I attended the farewell lunch for my Aussie coworker who is leaving Seattle for So.Cal. where her husband has found a new job. I will miss her terribly. She is cool, amusing and genuine.
Okay, when flying across country, don't connect in Chicago or San Francisco. Minneapolis and Dallas are great. But O'Hare is a nightmare, and San Francisco has three separate terminals which are not connected, so you have to go OUTSIDE, take an elevated train, and pass through another security checkpoint just to make your connecting flight. I arrived with 10 minutes to spare. My luggage didn't make it.
The trip to Iowa was the best in years. I really had a good time. All of my friends have lost weight! Grandma recognized me. It's so painful to visit though. We spent about an hour with her. She kept asking after relatives who have passed on, where they were, had I seen them? I just kept saying that no, I hadn't yet, and that they couldn't make it today. What else can one do? At the end of the visit, Grandma clearly didn't want to be left alone. "What am I going to do?" She said. I gave her a hug and a kiss and left. Sometimes I wonder if it causes more pain to visit than not to. For me, that's true, but I wonder if it causes too much agitation and confusion for Grandma. She has just enough awareness to be miserable, it seems to me. The horror.
I'm going to try to be a better blogger, if only for my Aussie friend, who is apparently a regular reader. So, hats off to you, L.
Monday, July 24, 2006
I am not a liberal. Yet, I've voted for a republican candidate for President only once--Gerald Ford. I was 18. What did I know? I've voted for republicans at the state and local level many times. I like the republican ideals of small central government and fiscal responsibility. Republican executives apparently, do not share those ideals, at least in practice and so I'm generally opposed to them.
But the left makes me bilious when they start lamenting the plight of the poor Palestinians. While I'm not happy to see them suffer, they are in many ways responsible for it themselves. Hamas and Hezbollah are the heirs apparent to the PLO and all of them are terrorist organizations. Israel has fought several wars for survival against its neighbors and has earned the right to exist. Yet these organizations continue to gnaw away at the peace and stability of a sovereign nation.
The Palestinians as a group have made bad choices. Allying with the PLO, allying with Hamas, these are not actions calculated to avoid suffering. Peace is preferable to war, but no matter how the left wing spins it--the result of 30 years of peace talks, appeasement and trying to work out a compromise lead inevitably to 9/11. The iron fist is the only thing that matters to the fundamentalist.
The west has something the middle east does not: Enlightenment. Namely, the enlightenment of the 18th Century, when equality, brotherhood and human rights arose as concepts in the human condition. This happened because society eviscerated the Roman Catholic Church's temporal power. For that we look to Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others and their heirs, the great moral philosophers of the 18th Century who established that man could have a morality independent of the moral code of Moses. That we didn't owe our morality to God, but to ourselves as the measure of all things.
In the middle east, Shiara law (similar to the law books of the old testament, Deuteronomy, Leviticus) operates unchecked by enlightened concepts of human rights and the duties of government. There the mullahs have the kind of temporal power that the clerics of the west can only DREAM of. I believe that religion works best when it is applied to personal conscience and a sense of community. But when it works like a giant club to beat down everything someone is opposed to, then it becomes the tool of evil.
The west has a superior civilization to the Mid-East. I would not trade places for anything. Radical Islam wants me dead. I suspect so does mainstream Islam. But that's fine. I'm here, they're there, I'll live and let live. Fundamentalist Christianity would prefer me dead, too, but the difference is, they're powerless. And that's the way I prefer it.
Friday, June 30, 2006
On Christmas night, 1996, someone murdered a little six-year old girl named Jon-Benet Ramsey in Boulder Colorado.
That person remains at large.
Jon-Benet's mommy, Patsy Ramsey, died earlier this week due to a cancer which had been in remission before the murder, and before the slanderous and viscious media campaign and the wanton incompetence of the Boulder law enforcement and justice system branded her a murderess.
Patsy will be laid to rest next to her daugher in an Atlanta cemetary. I pray they both rest in peace.
The inconceivable torment of being judged and convicted by a sensationalist media is not unique to Patsy Ramsey. Just ask current Seattle resident, the former Lindy Chamberlain, whose infamous treatment at the hands of an out of control media frenzy became the subject of the film A Cry in the Dark. The Chamberlains were camping near Ayers Rock in Australia in 1980 when their 9 week old daughter was abducted by a dingo, a wild dog native to Australia. As rumor and innuendo grew, media speculation about whether the Chamberlains were guilty of infantacide grew proportionately. At last, the Chamberlains were prosecuted and found guilty. It took a number of years for them to vindicate themselves and prove themselves innocent of their daughter's death.
Both Patsy Ramsey and Lindy Chamberlain were convicted by a scurrilous combination of rumor mill and witch hunt. It is a peculiar thing about human society. Every now and then we need a good witch hunt. That is not to say that there haven't been mothers who have killed their children--there certainly have. Susan Smith, Diane Downs and Andrea Yates are the most notorious, but there certainly are many, many more.
But with Ramsey and Chamberlain the facts just didn't add up. It took the cold light of science through dispassionate, unbiased investigation to correct the injustice by a wildly speculative rumor machine. For some reason in these cases, as with others, the rumors were more interesting and entertaining than the facts. Justice demands we treat every accused with the presumption of innocence.
Monday, June 19, 2006
Today I'm ashamed to have been born in Iowa. It is a grand state full of literate, sensitive people. Except for one--US Representative Steven King.
King was instrumental in stripping a House Bill (H.R. 5576) which would have financially benefitted the LAGLC, the largest urban gay resource center in the United States. You can click on this link: LAGLC, to see the people that Steven King, the bigot (not the author, who with one openly gay child, is a good friend to the gay community) is so damned afraid of.
LAGLC provides AIDs assistance and prevention services, mental health services, and employment counseling. Apparently, for representative King the only good gays are those who are either (1) dead, or (2) acutely depressed and chronically unemployed. If this had been a center that provided services to any other class or group of people, King's constituents would have seen the bigotry for precisely what it is.
Reprehensible. I call on all of my Iowa friends and relatives to oppose this mean spirited and dangerous person the next time he is up for reelection.
Wednesday, June 7, 2006
He proudly said.
Well, see his poems on the shelf,
When he came to my shop each day,
So peaked and cold,
I'd sneak one of his books away
And say 'twas sold.
And then by chance he looked below,
And saw a stack
Of his own work,—speechless with woe
He came not back.
I hate to think he took to drink,
And passed away;
I have not heard of him a word
Unto this day.
A man must write to please himself,
Of all it's true;
But happy they who spurning self—
Please people too.
I'm not in the mood to blog, so I shall.
Gurney Halleck (from David Lynch's Dune): "Moods are for cattle and loveplay, not for fighting!" But my mood is marred by running out of my anti-depressant. I've been five days without and I'm in profound withdrawal. I never expected this! I feel completely wired, as though from speed or way too much coffee. I have bizarre flashes like electric shocks, and moments of inexplicable rage. But my neighborhood pharmacist has kindly provided me with three days worth (which is by law all he can provide me with, sans Dr. communication) and I've taken my dose for today and so hopefully things will return to normal soon...
Jared Leto now claims that it was all a joke. He's the joke. What a pathetic attempt at free publicity. What a jerk. He probably is gay, but now nobody will ever care again. Asswipe.
I'm wanting to do some graphic arts. I recently bought this great new artists pen from Rotring. Sounds like a venereal disease, but it's a fine arts manufacturer in Germany. "Rot" auf Deutsch means "red". Ring, I believe, has the same meaning in both languages. So "red ring" which may be a reference to a target? Dunno. Anyway, I have a desire to do some portraiture in ink--stark black and white--with a decidedly gothic bent: I envision portraits of Lizst, Wagner, Poe, Lovecraft and Oates. If/when I accomplish this, I'll post results here, as well as on my Deviant Arts site. (I'm not posting a link because my gallery is currently <empty>.
Here's a little toot of my horn: My novel A Diamond in the Ashes (currently unpublished) made the final round of judging for the Pacific Northwest Writer's Conference Literary Contest. It's a mixed blessing. On the other hand, my novel After the Fire did not. And I consider After the Fire by far the superior work. So I'll be interested to look at the critiques. Perhaps my judgment of my own work is severely flawed.
Maybe I have to stop considering myself a literary artist and just write fantasy and gothic horror and be done with it. Maybe I'm over reaching. Maybe I have to learn how to tell a story first before I try more sophisticated subject matter, tone and style.
Finally, I had a letter published in the Seattle Times (scroll down to the very bottom). It's a funny ha-ha one-liner that they love to publish from time to time. Still, it was a concept that would occur to any fan of Star Wars so I knew that I should submit as soon as I could. And voila! In print.
A little background--Tim Eyman was the personality behind the referendum to vote on (and presumably repeal) the recent gay rights bill passed by the Washington State legislature. He showed up in Olympia Monday dressed as Darth Vader to announce his failure to garner enough signatures to get the referendum on the November ballot.
The thought did occur to me that Eyman may have hijacked the referendum effort from the evangelical Christians who started it in order to impose his own political gravitas and then sabotage the entire effort In which case, gay Washingtonians owe him a debt of gratitude. But since that was too cynical by half, I decided to go for direct ridicule.
And that may be the problem with my fiction--I don't utilize the more accessible meat.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Jared Leto just came out of the closet on AOL. Click here to read the interview. There's also a nice picture of Jared looking smoulderingly sexy ala Charlize Theron in Aeon Flux. Jared's always been a fave of mine. Loved him in the wonderful Requiem for a Dream. Fantastic acting from the whole cast, especially Oscar laureates Ellen Burstyn and Jennifer Connolly. Marlon Wayans gives an excellent dramatic performance. He's usually over the top goofy so this was quite a stretch for him. Maybe not. Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.
Jared has been in so many good films: Fight Club, The Thin Red Line, Girl Interrupted. My personal favorite is Highway, a buddy, on the road, crime thriller costarring studly Jake Gyllenhaal. I'm so happy for Jared. But reading his bio at the IMDB, it must be a little embarrassing in retrospect, being connected to Cameron Diaz (engaged from 2000 to 2002). You know, that says something. It puts Ms. Diaz' sexuality in doubt, and most certainly Justin Timberlake's. Well, we'll just have to see, won't we? Hollywood: the place of plastic dreams.
Friday, May 19, 2006
... for a cup of coffee, that is...
Sorry faithful readers, you know who you are, but I've been lax in my blogging commitment and ambition.
All reasonable people could care less what I put inside my body, but allow me the luxury of telling you that I've spent the past two and a half weeks on a detox program, hence the subject-line of this blog entry.
Originally I was motivated to do this process years ago when I was an actor at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. As an actor I always make friends with the costume department because I know what side my toast is buttered on (though buttered toast is strictly a no-no on this detox program). How far will he go for a joke you may ask yourself? Until the setup creaks and groans like a top-heavy seige engine and the payoff simply negligable. But be that as it may, I had this friend in the costume department. After the shows went into production I saw nothing of her for a couple of weeks--maybe a month. This is only to be expected in the theater. But when I did see her again, several weeks later, what a profound change had occurred! She was lean, tanned, and fit, she seemed solid, centered, and glowing! I said, "What happened to you? You're a babe!"
After frowning a bit and deciding to take it as a compliment, she replied, "I did a detox." My brow furrowing, I said, "What's that?"
And she proceeded to tell me that it was a program of diet, vitamins and exercise that is designed to help the body cleanse itself of vile impurities which we either can't digest, or that we can't sweat out, or poop out. Pardon my Francais.
So, I've had that lurking in the back of my mind for almost 10 years. Then, three weeks ago my Dr. called me to say that my lipids and blood sugars were higher than ever. I was up to 320 pounds, and that I needed to make some drastic changes. I figured that a detox program might be a way to jump-start a new way of living (and eating).
The truth of the matter is, I eat to manage and control my feelings. That is the same reason why I drank, why I smoked, why I do almost anything pleasurable. Not to experience pleasure--but to control it, to control anxiety, frustration, irritability, and a host of other uncomfortable sensations, including BAD MEMORIES.
Sometimes that's bad or stupid or ignorant things I've done to others, sometimes it's the torment others have foisted upon me and the impotent rage I feel as a result.
I have a feeling some of you out there are nodding your heads.... I hope I'm not alone in this. If I am, Baby Jesus (PBUH) help me, because my next stop will have to be a cave in the desert.
So, casting aside all tangents, I've now been without sugar, caffeine, wheat, dairy, red meat, tomatoes (although I cheat on that one), corn for 2.5 weeks. I have until next Wednesday. But today, I don't know why, I have an incredibly POWERFUL CRAVING for a cuppa joe. Ohh, the scalding bitter darkness of it, and the feelings of wellbeing and sensation of pleasure that results. I can feel it on my tongue. I can taste it. I can recall the joy and satisfaction it brings.
On the otherhand, my gut, which as lately begun to sound like the percussion section of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra has fallen quiescent. The blows and gales which emanated from my southern port have becalmed themselves. I can breathe easier. I sweat less. I feel stronger in my joints.
But I lack. I LACK. I've nothing left with which to sublimate my anxiety. So I crave. I shall try to withstand. But what harm would one cup of coffee do? It would deprive me of being able to say I went three weeks without it! These aren't withdrawal symptoms. I had those two weeks ago. These are cravings. And I must perservere because they will pass. I gave up nicotine in 1986. My experience then is similar to what it is now. Cravings pass and sometimes give way to feelings of euphoria.
But right now, it can't happen soon enough!!
Thursday, May 4, 2006
For my Polishing the Character Based Novel III class, I've been reading two books on writing the post-modern way: Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass and Story, by Robert McKee. The Maass book is chock full of inside industry tips and advice, and Maass' primary thrust is tension. Tension through public and personal stakes, through conflict and through both text and subtext. The McKee book speaks eloquently about "forces of antagonism," and states that what separates the mediocre from the brilliant is how far the writer is willing to go in exploring the forces of antagonism in his story.
Both books deconstruct popular works in order to give numerous examples of the principles their authors espouse. I really enjoyed both books but whereas the Maass book made me feel somewhat foolish for even attempting to write a novel (let alone two) McKee's book restored my faith in my own project. That is not to say that the Maass book was bad, on the contrary, it challenged me. The McKee book also challenged me but as I read it in the context of my own project, I was delighted to see how many of his principles I had intuitively employed.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Amendment No. 1 (in part):
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .
But what, may I inquire, is "religion?" Usually in legal matters, Judges favor the common, dictionary meaning of words. According to Dictionary.com, Religion's first definition is:
- Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
- A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
That seems pretty straightforward and comprehensive. Currently though, conservatives are using religion as a means of justifying discriminatory policies. For example, in Boston, the flap over gay adoptions. Religion does not equate with adoption. Every rational person would of course concur that obstructing someone's freedom to worship as their conscience dictates is a bad thing. But adoptions aren't worship.
Likewise, a classroom is not a church. Schools which accept public funds cannot unilaterally discriminate and justify that by freedom of religion. When they unite with the state, then the state calls the shots. One of the tenants of American society is equal access.
I wonder if religion is really compatible with democracy.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
In a remarkable feat of under-reporting, Advocate.com today relates the story of a bill up before the senate that will allow Christian colleges and universities to legally discriminate against homosexuals even if their local jurisdiction has laws which prevent it. What's the name of the bill? Who is opposing it? How likely is it to pass? Will it be able to overcome a constitutional challenge which might be brought against it under Romer v. Evans, the 1992 Supreme Court decision which invalidated Colorado's Proposition 2? In that case Justice Scalia opined that proposition 2 was an attempt to inhibit a sexual morality which the majority of Coloradans disfavored, and was thus constitutional. I don't pretend to understand that reasoning except that in Justice Scalia's view, discriminating against gays is A-okay, as long as a majority feels that way.
Moreover, Advocate.com seems to think that only students will be the ones affected by this bill. Not so. Faculty and staff will presumably be able to be summarily dismissed if the fact of their homosexuality becomes public.
One wonders why, though. Why is it so important for the Christian colleges to exclude gay people from their community? I believe it goes to the practice of shunning.
1 Corinthians 5:11-13: But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you."
For many Christians, especially fundamentalists, homosexuality (even if it is physically unexpressed) is de facto evidence of immorality and wickedness.
The hypocrisy enters the equation when they take a "don't ask/don't tell" approach. You can remain in our community only as long as you remain silent. You can do wicked things as long as you don't speak wickedness. For fundamentalists, homosexuality is irredeemably wicked and must not be tolerated in any way, even to speak of it, much less to speak of it as anything positive. Thus they want the right to shun those with whom they disagree. Shunning is a time honored practice among religious communities. It is a method of exclusion and punishment. Religious groups in the West can't put the wicked to death, but shunning becomes the psychological equivalent. The shunned is symbolically put to death.
Monday, April 10, 2006
There's a cache to the "based on true events" moniker that ad execs slap on the trailers to certain movies. Most recently, Wolf Creek, which is based on two horrific stories out of Australia, the "Back Packer" killer Ivan Milat and the Snowtown bank vault bodies. For one reason or another, the idea that a story actually happened has more gravitas than those stories which writers imagine out of whole cloth. As we all know, truth is stranger than fiction, and if some author had written the central facts of the O.J. Simpson case, for example, or Gianni Versace's murder, such would have been labelled "unbelievable."
Audiences, including readers, are constantly on guard for fraud. If a tv show or movie is so convincing as to make an audience member wonder if it actually happened, this is a reaction that equates with success.
Thus we come to the publishing industry crisis of 2005-2006: memoirs that aren't. James Frey's A Million Little Pieces and JT LeRoy's The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things. In the first instance, the author neglected to give full disclosure of his amplification of certain events from his experience. This kind of tall tale telling or yarn spinning is fine as long as the audience is clued in. But when one purports to have the high seriousness of absolute honesty, then accusations of hypocrisy or worse, downright lying, will attach. These are chickens that come home to roost. And they're so easy to avoid, so the author is at once disingenuous and stupid. Doltish, even. Then there's The Heart is Deceitful... which was marketed as a semi-autobiographical novel. Fair enough, as long as the author, JT LeRoy's experience informed the circumstances in the novel. Since it was about a youngster who grew up in sadistic surroundings and became a male prostitute as JT LeRoy was himself purported to have done, the novel achieved a certain gravitas.
The problem was, JT LeRoy didn't exist. He was the creation of a middle-aged female novelist from Brooklyn. The fraud was further perpetrated by the author, who had her husband and sister pose as LeRoy for publicity purposes. It is one thing to read about teenage and pre-teen sexuality from the point of view of a victim of sexual abuse. It is wholly another to read it from the point of view of a fevered, middle-aged imagination. The readership, confronted with evidence of their own hypocrisy, reacted with outrage.
So, this brings me to my point. Where are the boundaries between fiction, non-fiction, narrative non-fiction and memoir? Impossible to tell as they are obviously subjective and mutable. Full disclosure on the part of creative artists can do much to mitigate public outrage. Readers will forgive you if they disagree with you. But you can't lie.
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
The Judas Goat is a trained animal, who leads the other animals up the ramp to their deaths at the slaughterhouse.
I have a big problem with Judas Iscariot, not the individual, but the way in which he's been portrayed in Christian dogma. Supposedly, Judas committed the most unpardonable sin imaginable when he betrayed Jesus. (I can't remember if it was to Pilate, the Sanhedrin, or Herod). However, unless Jesus was crucified and rose again, His plan of expiating the sin of the world through his own suffering would not have come to pass. So Judas performed a significant role in the salvation of mankind. Yet most Christians are secure in the belief that Judas sits right between Adolf Hitler, Ted Bundy and Lee Harvey Oswald in Hell.
In The Greatest Story Ever Told, which I believe is the best cinematic depiction of the life of Christ--despite its many flaws--the relationship between Jesus and Judas is problematic. Jesus is never explicit with Judas. He allows Judas free will. He knows that something is up with Judas, but as all things serve the Lord (i.e. Himself) then he can fully trust that Judas will take actions that benefit the glory of God even as the result of the most sinful conduct.
When Jesus says "my kingdom is not of this world" perhaps he meant Judas, too. That Judas' struggle was internal: a problem of pride, a problem of misplaced idealism, and a problem of rebellion. Perhaps Judas saw Jesus as a rival, someone who took control of an otherwise egalitarian sect. Or perhaps Judas saw Jesus, in proclaiming his own divinity, as foresaking their earlier principles. Or perhaps Judas saw some of the glory of God in Christ and recoiled from it--as its light exposed the most horrific sinful nature.
But again, if it was God's will that Jesus suffer and die on the cross, is not Judas an agent of that same will?
I used to think so. But not now. We tend to accept that on face value because that's what happened in the story. However, who is to say that if Judas had rejected temptation and in full humility accepted Christ and stayed by his side, Jesus wouldn't have fallen into Roman custody in some other way? All Jerusalem was looking for him. It was really only a matter of time.
Judas was tempted and succumbed. He heaped more sin on top of that by dying in despair by his ownhand. However Jesus said, "Forgive them for they know not what they do." That statement had to include Judas, too. So I'm not sure. I won't presume. And if I find on the Day of Resurrection that Judas' name is written in the Book of Life, then I won't be astonished.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Blue is cool. Blue is hot. Blue is a word which marketers use with ever increasing frequency to describe the next best have-to-have technology. Consider Bluetooth--the state of the art in wireless technology, or BluRay--the newest thing in high-definition video. Now there's Bluetec--the latest, and arguably most important--of the new blue technologies. Bluetec is the brand name for DaimlerChrysler's next generation diesel technology.
Experts are divided on current diesel engines. On the one hand, they get three times as many miles per gallon. On the other hand, they emit eight times the amount of pollutants. So for the environment it's a push, with the advantage slightly in favor of standard gasoline engines. Currently, gas-electric hybrid engineering is the technology of choice for the green-minded consumer.
That's all about to change. One advantage standard gasoline engines have had over diesel is three decades of ever more stringent government standards which have forced automakers to reduce greenhouse emissions. Thus diesel technology is playing catch up. However, the learning curve won't be nearly so long because of all the technological and engineering pioneering on gas engines.
DaimlerChrysler is set to introduce Bluetec to the United States in the Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2007. Mercedes will begin importing the E 320 with a Bluetec engine, with an SUV to follow (I've heard they're going to call it the GL class).
Currently Bluetec promises to deliver 30 percent better fuel efficiency and 20 percent fewer greenhouse gasses through a combination of filtering and a catalytic converter which adds ammonia to the nitrous oxide (I don't begin to understand the chemistry) to make the exhaust more enviornmentally inert.
But I personally like this technology better than hybrid technology because it's more solid state and stands a chance on reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Hybrids still use GAS. Until hydrogen powered vehicles are available, a Bluetec will be the next car I buy. So, I plan to save my money and, unless I lose my job or some other unforseen circumstance, I'll purchase a Bluetec vehicle--either a Cherokee or a Mercedes GL. So in the meantime, I need to re-cathect* with my T-bird.
*Cathexis: investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Evangelical Christians are having a difficult emotional time living in a pluralistic society. 400 of them met in Washington D.C. over the past few days to bemoan secularist opposition. There they regailed themselves with stories of Christian persecution. In fact, one self-loathing Jew called Christians the "Jews" of today--comparing their treatment with that of the Jews in Europe from 1930-1945. The rational response was succinctly stated by the Rev. Robert M. Franklin, a minister in the Church of God in Christ and professor of social ethics at Emory University:
"This is a skirmish over religious pluralism, and the inclination to see it as a war against Christianity strikes me as a spoiled-brat response by Christians who have always enjoyed the privileges of a majority position."
Another conference attendee remonstrated the liberal media: "The media doesn't understand (conservative Christians') inability to compromise on principles." Jeez leweeze Evangelicals, if only you explained your totally intractable point of view, maybe they'd have some sympathy.
So, let me see if I understand the situation here: a conservative Christian president has just appointed two conservative Christian judges to the Supreme Court, and both houses of Congress are lead by Christian conservatives. Wow. Sounds like the concentration camps are right around the corner...
Monday, March 27, 2006
Seattle gunman Kyle Huff spray-painted "now" on sidewalks as he approached the house where he would shortly massacre six innocent people. That has got to be credible evidence of command hallucinations.
My heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones.
As for Mr. Huff...
Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.Job 3:3
Friday, March 24, 2006
I note that my intuition was at least 50% correct yesterday, that slain Tennessee pastor Matthew Winkler's wife will be charged with his murder. Time will tell if her defense will be his molestation of their daughters.
Now on to something completely different. I confess to an anti-Catholic prejudice, or maybe even bigotry. This animus is limited to Catholic theology, which I generally disagree with, and Catholic politics, which I currently universally condemn. I do, however, wholeheartedly believe that Catholicism is a legitimate path to salvation. And, of course, I love, respect and admire all of my Catholic relatives. So, while I love my Catholic bretheren, I hate their politics.
I ran across this Blog the other day and it made me quiver with fury. I don't have time to parse every logical blunder or downright lie therein, but I will indulge myself a few responses. "Under heavy fire from advocates of gay adoption, [the Boston Archdiocese] has acted on principle." So, by demanding that the Archdiocese comply with established law, "advocates of gay adoption" have somehow diminished the religious rights of Catholic Charities? That is a straw man argument. Of course, restricting the right to worship is unconstitutional and unconscionable. But nobody has a "right" to discriminate, and nobody has the "right" to broker adoptions. Religion does not equate with adoption. The state has the obligation to enforce the law. And citizens are obligated to follow them, even those with which they disagree.
Furthermore, Catholic Charities has indeed placed children in gay households in its 103 year history. This wasn't an issue two years ago, or four years ago, or ten years ago. It is only an issue NOW, after Pope Benedict decided that it was "gravely immoral" (and I've tried to find out exactly where this was said, although it's been widely reported, I can't cite it). But my question is, if it was okay three years ago, why must it now suddenly cease? My view: 1. Benedict said so and O'Malley (archbishop of Boston) takes his marching orders from the Vatican, 2. the REASON it must cease is to deflect attention from the ongoing child molestation scandal which has plagued the church for the past ten years. Perhaps the Vatican correctly anticipated that if they took a hard line against gay marriage and adoptions, it would cause an uproar and that uproar would serve to underscore the notion that the church isn't soft on gays. So, it could be nothing more than a PR campaign.
Let me quote here from Blackstone's commentaries on English law (which is the foundation of American law): "But while [catholics] acknowledge a foreign power, superior to the sovereignty of the kingdom, they cannot complain if the laws of that kingdom will not treat them upon the footing of good subjects."
This is, of course, anti-American as well as anti-Catholic, but it illustrates what I consider to be the central theme of anti-Catholic bigotry in the United States (at least historically so). That no matter what, a Catholic will always owe the greater allegiance to his Church than his country, and that his opinions will change in accord with whatever dictate he receives from Rome.
So, while I acknowledge this to be a form of bigotry, it's difficult not to hold such a belief when 1. Benedict says that gay adoption is anathema, and his prelates in the United States discontinue it, even though it has not overly troubled them up until that edict from the Pope.
Fair enough. They're free to make their own rules. But they can't pick and choose which secular laws they wish to obey. That the Boston Catholic Charities chose to discontinue their adoption practice is testiment to their true religious conviction, but also to their religious freedom. They were free to say no.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
The pastor of a church (not sure what denomination) in Tennessee was found shot to death in his parsonage after he didn't show up for services on Wednesday evening. His wife and three daughters are missing. For a picture of the family, click here and then click on one of the thumbnails off to the right side of the page.
I'm sorry but I'm going to have to take a "blame the victim" approach here. I speculate that the minister's wife fired the shots that killed him and it was because she believed him to be molesting his daughters. If so, it's also possible that her belief might be a complete delusion caused by insanity.
It's always interesting when men of the cloth are murdered. In 9 out of every 10 cases I've read, the perpetrators suffer from significant paranoid delusions. My intuition tells me that in this case, the minister's vocation had nothing to do with his murder.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Friday, March 17, 2006
Copyright laws are very straightforward. How they are being interpreted though is a bit more Byzantine. Dan Brown, as is being universally reported, is in court in England on a charge of plagarizing Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Leigh and Baigent. In scholarly works one can lift ideas with proper attribution (such as a footnote or a textual note) so why should it be different with fiction? Copyright, at least in the U.S., protects completed works from being reproduced in whole or in part. Thus, you can't take sections of completed works, characters, settings, plot devices, etc. and use them in another work. In the Dan Brown case, however, Leigh and Baigent are suing based on Brown's use of their speculative theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife, and that after Jesus' death, the Magdalene settled in the south of France and sired a lineage which persists up to this day, and which has been protected by a variety of secret societies, including the Knights Templar and the Priory of Zion.
Though Brown's book recites this theory, he gives full credit to Leigh and Baigent. Furthermore, it forms a small portion of the "completed work." The characters, plot, events, settings and textual conflicts in the novel go far, far beyond Leigh and Baigent's work. The Da Vinci Code stands on its own as a work of fiction. Certainly Dan Brown was cognizant of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, he mentions it in his novel. But ideas, in and of themselves, are not copyrightable. It is within my rights as an author to cite other authors' work for analysis, discussion and/or inspiration. Having read both works, the conclusion I have reached is that Brown's best ideas are his own, that his use of the theories presented in Holy Blood, Holy Grail is innocuous and does not rise to the level of plagarism. Having CITED the work in question it cannot be plagarism in that word's common definition and meaning.
Let's also look at Leigh and Baigent's motives. There have been two other works which have copied far greater portions of Holy Blood, Holy Grail than The Da Vinci Code. One of them is Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. The other is an episode of The Secret Life of Jules Verne. Neither of those two works, to my knowledge, were sued by Mssrs. Leigh and Baigent. It was only Dan Brown, with his 40 million copies world-wide, who attracted the lightning-bolts of their solicitors. Where deep-pockets are concerned, you'll always find blood-suckers.
Come back soon for my analysis of the Larry Cohen/Fox lawsuit over The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it will answer the question why Alan Moore refuses to have his name associated with V for Vendetta. Don't miss it!
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
One of my coworkers was disturbed by yesterday's post. She raised some valid concerns. First, I don't believe that all shoplifting is pathological. It's always antisocial, but there's a big difference between kids testing boundaries and developing their consciences and their sense of morality with what Winona Ryder and Claude Allen are alleged to have done. Such conduct is performed in spite of conscience (if it still exists) in an attempt to destroy it. It's proto-psychopathological, degenerate behavior.
I wonder if strong families help guard against this kind of degeneracy. More responsibility towards others may turn one aside from morbid internalization. Just a thought.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Petty theft, as opposed to treason, which is a high crime performed for the most egregiously venal motive, personal financial gain, is almost always pathological. When Winona Ryder was caught shoplifting, the news organizations trumpeted the headlines all over the world. But have you heard the one about Claude Allen, though? Claude Allen was President Bush's domestic policy advisor. He was a White House intimate, a person who advised the most powerful man on earth. Claude Allen is also an alleged petty criminal, who allegedly swindled Target out of more than $5,000 worth of merchandise.
What makes otherwise successful people resort to this kind of public indecency, this maladaptive and apparently uncontrollable urge to behave in deplorable ways? What makes them flirt with discovery, and the public humiliation and destruction of one's reputation which inevitably follow? Like bulimia, masturbation or self-mutilation, it hides in secret. It's a festering miasma of hidden rage, deep and gangrenous. Like a reservoir of pus it lurks under the surface, growing hotter and more pestilent, until it expresses itself in the only way it can: an eruption of self-destructive conduct.
It is the desire to be caught, to flirt with danger, but also to be caught, to get away with it for a while, but also to be caught, that drives such a deeply disturbed, proto-psychopathic mind. The only difference between such a one and Theodore Robert Bundy is scale.
Monday, March 13, 2006
"Be a sinner and sin on bravely, but have stronger faith and rejoice in Christ, who is the victor of sin, death, and the world. Do not for a moment imagine that this life is the abiding place of justice: sin must be committed. To you it ought to be sufficient that you acknowledge the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, the sin cannot tear you away from him, even though you commit adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders."
An article in today's Slate magazine about swans dying of avian flu have put the issue into the forefront of my mind. Last summer was the first I'd heard of it. I ignored it. My mind justified the ignorance by saying "it's a third-world problem..." So racism helped me keep my head stuck in the sand.
However, recent stories such as the one in Slate, and the stories that the virus has jumped to cats has me pulling up my sandy head and panicking.
The danger for human beings is that we have no natural antibodies for this strain of flu. In Indonesia, there have been 29 confirmed cases of avian flu, of which 22 have proven fatal.
That's a very high percentage of fatality. Likewise, if the flu begins to be passed from person to person, then it will quickly decimate the world's population. Currently, all confirmed cases were contracted from infected birds, though there have been cases where it may have been contracted through proximity to an infected person--though the infection doesn't go beyond that.
So it's still contained. But I see a chained monster ready to be unleashed on a very vulnerable population.
The CDC has the most current information, and from there you can link to the WHO and other government sites that can help you prepare. But, they'll also scare your pants off.
In the meantime, I'm going to stay as far away from birds as I can, particularly ducks, which can carry the virus without dying of it themselves. So, no more walks around Greenlake for the forseeable future.