Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Futures 2009: "Polaris"

This year, I volunteered for at least one community service and I'm doing a lot of work with helping others. I wrote at least one screenplay, maybe a couple. I was able to visit Puerto Rico and Haiti - or, at least, I seized the opportunity if it arose.

I was able to do a full detox at least once. I learned either judo or some martial art form of self-defense. I can (kinda) play my twelve-string guitar. Ideally, I'd like to be on my way with the piano, bass, and maybe the pennywhistle. I have a basic understanding of music theory. I also roughly know ASL, and I've got a much better grip on Japanese and Spanish. I'm better with the French alphabet, and I'd like to be progressing a bit with Arabic if I end up deciding to go with the Peace & Justice Studies group to the Middle East next year.

I'm more than halfway done with my English major and I am close to finishing. I might have about a year more to go. I have at least a thousand dollars in savings and I'm saving up for both a motorcycle and, eventually, Japan.

If love came, I wasn't fooled again. I didn't go searching for it; it only came to me, and in whatever form I took. What was most important was the love I could find in revisiting old friendships...and with any hope, one in particular has ideally and finally arrived at the place I've always wanted it to be. With any further hope (and likely a lot of luck had something to do with it, too) there was at last a place I reached with my father, and most importantly with my mother.

I have come to be comfortable with where I stand about God. My choice to either stay or leave the LDS church was not coercion or performance. I made my choice based on what I want most and what I need most. I didn't come to some kind of all-encompassing, self-righteous enlightenment. I only reached a point where the questions were no longer so pressing, or so urgent. I'm satisfied with what I found, even if I still haven't found what I'm looking for.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Across the Universe"

Words are flying out like
Endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy
Are drifting thorough my open mind
Possessing and caressing me -

Jai guru deva OM*...
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.

Images of broken light which
Dance before me like a million eyes
That call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a
Restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as
They make their way across the universe -

Jai guru deva OM...
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.

Sounds of laughter, shades of life
Are ringing through my open ears
Exciting and inviting me,
Limitless undying love which
Shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on across the universe -

Jai guru deva OM...
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.

--The Beatles (Lennon)

*Sanskrit; can have many meanings but roughly translates to "Victory to God divine","hail to the divine guru", or the phrase commonly invoked by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, "All Glory to Guru Deva." "OM" is a mystical syllable which is (theoretically) the cosmic sound of the universe and used by monks during meditation.

Looking Back On 2008: All You Need Is Love

"Dici che il fiume
Trova la via al mare
E come il fiume
Giungerai a me
Oltre i confini
E le terre assetate
Dici che come il fiume
Come il fiume...
L'amore giungerà
E non so più pregare
E nell'amore non so più sperare
E quell'amore non so più aspettare."*

--"Miss Sarajevo," U2 feat. Luciano Pavarotti

The year began with that broken-hearted melody. It was cold, and I was standing in the middle of the street in front of my house. I didn't know it then, but it was another U2 prophecy for me (the one from 2007 being "Please").

From there, things got a little crazy. Like Shakespeare’s Romeo, I shut myself in and created for myself an artificial night. I approached the first gay crush I’ve ever had, and when I got rejected, I took it a bit too hard. I fell into isolation with nothing but Abbey Road to keep me company.

In a wild act of desperation, I made the choice at last. I was running out of options; either I could continue this beautiful lie I was living, cheating death every day, or I could find out for myself. And in the moment I opened myself up, Erik dropped right of the sky. So I chose him.

The love I found was more than just paradise found, but I didn't know it at the time. It wasn't until after the break-up that I began wondering just what kind of paradise I had found with Erik. And it wasn't until the guy in the military boots came around that I realized that I had never found paradise with him at all. I had been living under the illusion that we both had true love. I had loved Erik more than anything in the world, and there was little proof I had that he did, too. With the same true, authentic love I gave him, anyway. The fact that I needed proof seemed alone to evidence this. We may have been in love, but my love was different from his. And that is why it took much, much longer to die than his.

The pain that followed was some real schooling. And it was at the end, and only then, that I understood what I really found out last summer when I defeated death. What I saw in the water. I realized that there are many kinds of love. And I realized that I had although I had never found a paradise with Erik. I had created one. An artificial day.

And somewhere along the line, I had to settle for that. I had to accept that true paradise is either impossible, or at least very difficult to find. You've got to settle for the hope that you get blessed with. We live in such a dark, dismal and gritty world. It's filled with shit and lies...and it's so long. When a little miracle comes your way, something that can only make you stronger - something that lets you fool yourself into thinking the world is not so bad after all - you've gotta take it. Before it slips away. It's a first-come, first-serve kinda world we are in. When hope comes, you can't ask whether it comes from heaven or hell. You take it, make it your heaven and you run like hell.

I had never known I could love. I had never known that I could ever be loved, either. It's not that finding Erik was finding that love. I only woke it up. But hey, said John Lennon, you've got to hide your love away. And no kinds of love are better than others, said Lou Reed. Between thought and expression, there lies a lifetime.

More than ever before, I realize just how much choice I have. I also know how much I have to leave up to luck. Or God. And as for God, I hope He's not as hard to find as I've made Him out to be for the past ten years. I am embarking on a new adventure this year. I am going to find Him. And if He's not out there and it turns out I wasted my life on the adventure, at least it was good fun half the time. Erik didn't make that worth it. I did. Because now I know, again: I didn't come here to make that choice. I already made it. I'm just here to understand why. I do not have all the answers. I don't want all of them, either.

My future note from last year says some interesting things about going on a mission and not going on a mission. Since one of those came true - and to the letter - I quote it here:

"I'm happy with my choice, and I'm happy with my companion, whom I'm with every day. I make responsible choices about where I go from now on. Those who judge me for my past and my choices are people who I've reluctantly but peacefully cut out of my life. I can honestly say I've never felt so happy...A lot of my important memories are in 2007, but a lot of my best memories are in 2008."

I cannot be the answer. I am only the question.

"You say that the river
Finds the way to the sea
And like the river
You will come to me
Beyond the borders
And the dry lands
You say that like a river,
Like a river,
The love will come
The love...
And I don't know how to pray anymore
And in love, I don't know how to hope anymore
And for that love, I don't know how to wait anymore."

Top Ten Comedic 2008 Stories

From The Progressive:

The Top Ten Comedic News Stories of 2008

By Will Durst, December 30, 2008

Okay. Other stuff might have had a bigger impact on America and the world, such as an African American guy whose middle name is Hussein winning the Presidency of the United States. But so far, Mister Agent of Change is about as funny as over the counter ear drops. Oh, he’s bound to loosen up after a few weeks getting kicked around on Pennsylvania Avenue, but until then, here are the stories from 08 that were most filled with humorosityness.

10. Proposition 8. Organized religion goes out of its way to guarantee that gays will not be burdened with the right to be as miserable as the rest of us.

9. New York Governor and Emperor’s Club member, Elliott Spitzer. Flies a hooker from New York to DC, because as we all know, there aren’t enough hookers in DC. (535 that I can think of offhand.) Gives her 4 grand and puts her up at the Mayflower Hotel. Now, that’s a liberal. A conservative will try to get it for free in an airport men’s room stall. Demonstrating fiscal responsibility.

8. Joe Biden. Has potential to fill gaffe gap being vacated by George Bush. Inserts foot in mouth so often, he should invest in mint- flavored shoelaces.

7. National Political Conventions. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family called for a storm of biblical proportions to disrupt outdoor acceptance speech of Barack Obama on last day of the Democratic Convention. Hurricane Gustav slammed into New Orleans canceling first day of Republican Convention. Proving that either God has a sense of humor or… be extremely careful what you ask for.

6. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Gives a bad name to people with bad names. Something about the Springfield Capitol makes it work like a halfway house in reverse. Economy is so bad, Hair Helmet probably offered free shipping with Barack’s Senate seat.

5. The Primaries. A: Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee raises hand at a New Hampshire Presidential Debate when asked, “Who doesn’t believe in evolution?” In May, he explains he is still campaigning because “at this point, its survival of the fittest.” B: In Philadelphia, Senator Hillary Clinton says, “In this race, I am Rocky Balboa.” Obviously forgetting that in first movie, Rocky loses.. To a black guy.

4. President George W. Bush. Lame duck, but a good ducker. International community furious at Muntadhar al Zaidi. Not for trying to hit the President with his size 10s, but because… A.) his aim was bad, and B.) he wasn’t a centipede.

3. Senator John McCain runs worst campaign ever. That includes New Coke, France in 39 and Cloris Leachman on Dancing with the Stars. Doesn’t know how many houses he has. Should do what I do. Every time I get 4 houses, I trade them in for a hotel.

2. The Economy. When everybody in America knows the name of the Secretary of the Treasury, that’s not good. Line of the year courtesy of an anonymous Wall Street broker: “This is worse than a divorce. I’m worth half what I was… and I’m still married.”

1. Governor Sarah Palin. For those destined to go cold turkey on Bush, she is like a dose of methadone. And she’s sticking around. How you going to keep them down in Juneau after they’ve seen Neiman Marcus*?


*Yeah, according to Newsweek (November 5):

"...Palin's shopping spree at high-end department stores was more extensive than previously reported. While publicly supporting Palin, McCain's top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy. One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family—clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent "tens of thousands" more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as 'Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast,' and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hollis Brown Comes Back to America

"There's seven people dead
On a South Dakota farm..."

--Bob Dylan, "The Ballad of Hollis Brown"

When my aunt and grandmother came to visit from Puerto Rico a couple of months ago, they both lamented on how much Americans ignore the Puerto Ricans. They said that every week in their city and the capital, there were desperate and violent suicides because of how much the U.S. economy had hurt jobs all over the island.

Nick Turse recently wrote an article published in In These Times called "The Body Count on Main Street: The Human Fallout of the Financial Crisis," which covers several similar instances of suicide in the U.S.

"On October 4, 2008, in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles, Karthik Rajaram, beset by financial troubles, shot his wife, mother-in-law, and three sons before turning the gun on himself. In one of his two suicide notes, Rajaram wrote that he was "broke," having incurred massive financial losses in the economic meltdown. "I understand he was unemployed, his dealings in the stock market had taken a disastrous turn for the worse," said Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Michel R. Moore.

The fallout from the current subprime mortgage debacle and the economic one that followed has thrown lives into turmoil across the country. In recent days, the Associated Press, ABC News, and others have begun to address the burgeoning body count, especially suicides attributed to the financial crisis."

The entire article is definitely worth reading (a longer version is linked at the bottom of the page for those interested). Notably, Barbra Ehrenreich wrote a fantastic, revealing article for The Nation about the same issue this last summer called "The Suicide Solution" (it's somewhat briefer than Turse's, but both are worth looking into).

It certainly resonates with Dylan's Depression Era tale of Mr. Hollis Brown, who had to make a choice about mortality of his loved ones in times of financial destitution.

"It's Much Too Early For Games"

Slowly, the room strains to be brighter
As the shadows begin to blacken.
I lie quiet here staring down the blue arch
That the embryonic winter dawn washes on my
Window curtain
It is a makeshift curtain, made from a blanket
With a gigantic sun on it
There is a smiling face on the sun
But I cannot see it right now in the dark
Because there is a globe of the world
Resting in front of it, and the earth’s shadow
Hides his smiling face.
And I can sense her coming to me,
Her breasts are heavy with the sweetest sadness
And her eyes are longing and embrace
Her presence is nuanced by the coldness of her breath
She comes closer, slowly winning me over
But never quite catching me
With palms wet of tears she teases me,
And fingers that own chipped violet polish and a bleeding catchy,
With arms calloused with some goosebumps
Bare feet that are dirty from the backyard
Sweat that is first cold and wet, then only hot
Breath that is weighed deep down with anger
And the scent of sea-salt hangs as a most delicate veil over her eyes.
She comes to me with these precious traps,
Disarming me softly with that tart and bitter song
But I cannot open my mouth
For I have none of these things to give to her
And none of these things to have for myself.

--Sunday, December 28, 2008 at 7:43 am

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rabbits In Your Headlights

"I used to graze in a field,
I used to breathe - I used to be alive
Did chew the grass in the field
Could see and hear the world around me...
Had a virgin skin but now sold in supermarkets...
Used to hear the cars and the birds going by
And the people going by, they were my destiny
They were my reason, my purpose in this field
For their plates, their cold bodies, their car seat covers
My soul for your soles of shoes.
You may like my taste, you may like my warmth
And it may say in the Bible that you can kill me,
But I don’t want to die."

--"Sick Butchers," a song by 80's punk band Flux of Pink Indians

Yesterday, The Guardian reported on a jury at Winchester crown court took thirty-three hours to convict four members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), an extremist group faction of the Animal Liberation Front, an organization of animal rights activists.

Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) have been accused of violating animal rights since the turn of the century (like the 1997 television documentary It's A Dog's Life), and are only one of many animal rights violations being uncovered all over the globe getting wide coverage through YouTube and news media. In 1993, there was news footage from Sungnam, the largest dog market in South Korea - which is illegal due to the sanitation problems (most of the time, the torture and slaughter is right in public) and a violation of trade and animal rights. The cruel treatment of dogs has not shown signs of letting up, especially since earlier this year an English teacher in Daegu City, South Korea, recorded illegal dog torture for a restaurant occuring near his house and put it on YouTube. In 2001, a BUAV undercover investigation recorded footage of disturbing experimentation on marmoset monkeys at Cambridge University. And, of course, many places in Europe have fallen under scrutiny for the unethical slaughter and massacre of dolphins and whales.

So in 2005, a TV crew was allowed inside the already criticized HLS labs and recorded harsh treatment of beagle dogs, monkeys, rates, cats, and other animals. One clip of a doctor beating a beagle dog was in particular what sent made many in the U.K. public outcry HLS, with many responses from the Animal Liberation Front. However, it was SHAC that began to take demands to a more serious level: as the trial of seven SHAC members has commenced for the past three months, according to The Guardian, "the jury heard how employees of firms linked in any way to HLS would be targeted at work and at home. Groups of extremists wearing masks would turn up at night with sirens, fireworks and klaxons. They would daub slogans with paint on the individual's home and car. In some cases families received hoax bombs, and many employees were smeared by false campaigns alleging they were pedophiles. The intimidation included sending used sanitary towels in the post, saying they were contaminated with HIV."

Three of the seven SHAC members pleaded guilty and seven have been convicted. The extremist action doesn't show signs of stopping; yesterday, the SHAC website updated with a list of companies to target, "including those who trade on the New York Stock Exchange Euronext," says The Guardian, "which now lists HLS shares."

"Customers are the main thing keeping HLS in business," the posting reads. "It's simple No Customers = No HLS.

An HLS spokesman said: "Freedom of expression and lawful protest are important rights, but so is the right to conduct vital biomedical research or to support organisations that perform such research without being harassed and threatened."

One has to wonder, though, if the harassment and threat that HLS researchers feel is so different from the harassment they inflict on their animal test subjects, as seen in undercover investigative footage taken in the HLS labs over the years.

Animal rights violations are not limited to big corporations like HLS or McDonald's. A simple YouTube peruse will yield hundreds of videos where someone has either recorded themselves or someone else torturing and abusing animals. It's also a common enough thing happening every day - and one of the biggest examples is "Rabbit Night" for some Boy Scout troops in parts of the country, an activity that might yield fun rabbit skins, lucky rabbit feet keychains, and a tasty dinner...but at what cost?

Ultimately, public and societal perceptions of animal rights may be influenced greatly by efforts to expose animal cruelty. A special emphasis might also be placed NOT on anthromorphizing animals or on extremist (even terrorist) measures - but on showing the uniqueness of animals in this world being not that different from our own as human beings.

Here is a video (among the millions) that is a good exposure to the kind of effort that goes into making your Costco chicken breast and your Thanksgiving turkey:

And lastly, here is an amazing, and hopefully optimistic video of an elephant who can paint. It is a testament to the nature of animals...but what that exactly that could mean is left to you.

Top Ten Ethics Scandals of 2008

From Mother Jones and Citizens For Ethics:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has released its year-end list of the "top" 10 ethics scandals of 2008. Why isn't the recent criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on the list? Well, for one, it's not a Washington-centered problem. But Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, adds that while the Blagojevich case may be the flavor of the week right now, she thinks the scandals on her administration's list will have more of an impact in the long run. Here they are:

1. "Unchecked Congressional Ethics" - Congress needs to have "a high-powered ethics office with subpoena power."

2. "No Guarantee that Bush Administration Records will be Properly Archived" - The ongoing missing White House emails problem.

3. "Speech or Debate Clause" - Lots of politicians who are charged with crimes seek to have their indictments dismissed under the "Speech and Debate" clause of the Constitution, which they claim protects anything in their congressional office from being used against them in court on the grounds that its "legislative material."

4. "The Pay-to-Play Congress"- When campaign donors get earmarks from the politicians who they support.

5. "Enriching Family with Campaign Cash" - CREW has released two reports on this problem, "Family Affair - House" and "Family Affair - Senate." We noted the most recent offender, Charlie Rangel.

6. "Controversial Presidential Pardons" - The president's pardon power is essentially unlimited, and that has CREW worried about what President Bush will do with it before he leaves office. Elizabeth Gettelman wrote about the hypocrisy of commuting Scooter Libby's sentence but ignoring Marion Jones. And Bruce Falconer asked if pardoning "all those involved in the application of what [the Bush] administration called 'enhanced interrogation techniques'" would be wise.

7. "VA Officials Intentionally Misdiagnosing PTSD" - CREW broke a story earlier this year about VA officials being pressed to misdiagnose Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a cost-cutting measure. In September, Bruce Falconer wrote a story for the print magazine about whether the Bush administration had "maxed out the military."

8. "Bailout Oversight" - The government spent $700 billion and all you got was a few bank failures. We've covered the hearings and brought you the latest. Most recently, we looked at the Fannie/Freddie bailout and asked about Treasury's blank check.

9. "Political Calculations Dictate Border Fence Placement" - Ray L. Hunt has land that falls on both sides of the border fence, but CREW says he's getting special treatment because he's a Bush "pioneer." That kind of suction wouldn't be unusual for Hunt: in July, Laura Rozen wrote about how Hunt seems to have almost unlimited access to the White House (and, in this case, to Kurdish oil.)

10. "A Politicized Bush Justice Department" - To prevent the abuse of the courts for political ends, the DOJ was traditionally the least-politicized of all the executive branch departments. That all changed when Bush took office. In 2007, Daniel Schulman was among the first to document how the conservative Federalist society may have influenced personnel decisions at the DOJ. Stephanie Mencimer covered another interesting aspect of this story in May when she examined the Justice Department's reluctance to release documents from the 2002 GOP phone-jamming in New Hampshire. And Stephanie was also there for the most unsurprising moment of the DOJ politicization saga: Karl Rove's failure to show up for a hearing on the subject in July.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

One More Cup of Coffee

I finally made it through finals!

...It felt like going to the bathroom in an outhouse during winter.

My first paper was relatively easy to squeeze out in a few hours, even though it was my theory class and I'd only come up with my topic a week earlier. It was about the Dagara tribe near Ghana, Africa, and how they don't have words for "gay" or "lesbian" in their culture because "gays" and "lesbians" are the tribal "gatekeepers," or spiritual leaders who aren't defined by their sexual identity but by their destined role, which is to be the link between this world and the spirit world. I then drew from Butler and Foucault to talk about how "gay" and "lesbian" roles in the West are societal by-products of language and merely performative words for identities that are dynamic by nature, but words attempt to render them static (here I drew from Nietzsche). Then I talked about how the Dagara need the gatekeepers or the village doesn't survive for another year, and how our society may be doomed to self-destruction as a result of the way “gay” and “lesbian” cultural constructions restrict the LGBT community in our society.

It wasn't too bad, for being eight pages. But my next four were much harder, and that's confusing because I'd had those topics lined up practically all semester.

For my film class, I used my abstract for the upcoming UCUR, NCUR, and PCA conferences (I just found out I got accepted to the Utah conference, though!), which deals with the 2003 Bob Dylan film Masked and Anonymous. I talked about Dylan's performance of the song "Dixie" in the film and interpreted it as blackface, talking how it's a recurring motif throughout the film to show the contrasting relationships between “dreamers” and those who homogenize ideologies into societal conventions, rules and standards. I also talked about how how minstrelsy inauthentic representation that is used to affirm authentic identity.

For my comic book class, I wrote about "The Last Temptation of Superman," which talked about Superman and Christ in messianic roles with relations to Greek agape love and its thematic link to world and personal salvation by looking at Jungian femininity and masculinity in Kazantzakis' crucifixion scene and Supes' Black Mercy hallucination.

For my Ethics of War and Peace class, I looked at the morality of Zapatismo and the Mexican Revolution, showing how the Zapatista movement differs from anarchism and resists neo-liberalism more successfully than most "postmodern" revolutions because the EZLN make strategic use of technological communications to gain international solidarity. I also talked about how liberation in Zapatismo ideology is linked with free agency and societal responsibility, which can get side-swept as factors on an intrastate scale.

For my multi-ethnic literature class, I looked at the novels The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron and The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty. I love both of those books - the Beatty novel is like the story of my life! - and I did something similar to my film class and "The Last Temptation of Superman." I looked at both of them as neo-slave narratives that deconstruct the "Uncle Tom" archetype of the "Black Messiah" and showed how messianism is deconstructed in both novels as a process of minstrelization, where a repetitious recycling of illusory history is used to objectify, control, and marginalize others (in this case, African Americans). I also talked about self-suicide as self-sacrificial redemption in both.

For two weeks, I had to squeeze out roughly forty to fifty pages about all this stuff. Maybe more...I had a couple of response papers tacked on as extras. Plus I had to study for my film class and watched Stagecoach and Rebel Without A Cause. I wasn't too fond of the first, but I LOVED James Dean and I LOVE that movie. I talked about how masculinity is threatened and exposed as latent femininity by looking at the homosocial elements between Dean and the kid Plato. I love that movie; I need to own it.

But what ended up happening is that for the two weeks of finals I went either seven or eight days staying up all night, and at least a couple where I was up until three. Coffee is the only thing that got me through; the morning I turned in my Zapatista paper, my fingers and butt were completely numb and I was running on two cups of coffee and buttered cinnamon toast. It was practically a cup or two a night, plus the intermediary, occasional green tea blended with pomegranate, soy milk, and brown sugar. Oh - and my back bike tire popping definitely didn't help matters at ALL.

By the time I finished up with my paper about Styron and Beatty, I was so out of gas that I really just wrote it all in one go (surviving on nothing but a little bag of sea-salt potato chips), attached it to an email to my professor, mumbled, "Go with God!" and hit the send button. Then I shut off my computer and nearly fell asleep on the table in the library while I was finally letting the cables sleep.

That night, I blew off all the steam and got drunk with my friends/co-workers. In the morning I had a baby hangover. I totally didn't care - after finals, I NEEDED Johnnie Walker. I got to try some red wine for the first time, too. Sylvia's gin is what got me, though (it usually does). Incidentally, I had no idea that egg nog is really for mixing with whiskey. Cassie's bourbon and my Red Label tasted SO good with warm egg nog. We had a lot of fun; Whitney M. played a few of her band's songs. Sylvia and I also tinkered with the guitar (I did what people called a "soulful" acoustic rendition of Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower"). Then we had a miniature snowball fight on the porch outside. Ira and Alfonso made these amazing steak fajitas, too. Later we all hung out on the front porch, and Whitney and I took turns taking drags on a cigarette while we were all freezing and talking about crazy stuff. Gosh...I haven't had that much fun in a long time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Obama Betrays Gays and Lesbians?

By now, Obama has recieved both praise and criticism, as well as every mixed reaction in between, for his selections and agenda. As some quip, his choices and behavior indicates only change from a Bush era to a more Clintonian era, which is only a step in another direction and not necessarily forward.

David Corn, a journalist blogger for Mother Jones, suggests that Obama's agenda, while baffeling to most progressives, might be "a sort of stealth liberalism draped in bipartisan centrism." He advises that "for the moment, the watchword for progressives ought to be a version of an old Reagan trope: hope, but verify…"

But Corn, along with half a dozen left-wingers and progressives, threw hands in the air in frustration when Obama announced that he has selected Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor of Saddleback Church, California, to give the invocation at his presidential inauguration ceremony next month.

While it's presumable that Obama may simply be sending Warren off to his conservative critics with an olive branch, he may have lost some important allies in the process: the gay and lesbian activists and Democrats that helped him establish base during his grassroots campaign to help him get elected.

"Here’s a question," says Corn. "Would Obama consider inviting Jeffress to give an invocation at an official event? I don't believe he would, for that could rightly be considered an insult to Mormons, Muslims, and Hindus. Which brings us back to the original matter: since Warren goes beyond arguing against gay marriage to denigrate gays and lesbians as the moral equivalents of those who engage in incest and pedophilia, it is a slap in the face of gays and lesbians for Obama to award Warren this prime plum."

Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, wrote Obama a letter saying, “Let me get right to the point. Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans. And by inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table."

According to The New York Times, "Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Mr. Obama’s presidential inaugural committee...noted that the benediction, or closing prayers, would be offered by the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, a civil rights icon who has expressed support for gay marriage, and that the Lesbian and Gay Band Association would march in the inaugural parade, the first time such a group would do so."

Nonetheless, some in the LGBT internet community, such as LeBain, stated with cynicism, "Gay and lesbian Democrats have been double crossed again, just like the were double crossed by Clinton twice. When will they learn?"

Only time will tell how far Obama is willing to go, and how much Americans are willing to trust him. But as Corn states, "If strong progressive voices are not included in Obama's wild and woolly free-for-alls at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., they will have little choice but to find outlets on the outside (remember the Internet?) -- and become their own agents of change." Those who depended on Obama for real change may find themselves back to square one. And no amount of compromising from Christian conservatives who profess liberal, progressives views will be able to stand under scrutiny when actions are brought to light. Warren has made biting remarks about the LGBT community (even going so far as to compare homosexuality to pedophilia) while hiding behind a front of "close friends" who are openly gay.

But that doesn't fool gay and lesbian activists. As Corn observes of Warren and his ilk, "They want to keep attention focused on the altar, not acceptance."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Gay Marriages Will Save the Economy!"

Friends at have come together for "Prop. 8 - The Musical." I'm against gay marriage but I hope God has a sense of humor, or I'm going to hell for laughing at this.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Year Ago

Today, I woke up to find that I slept in, and I was nearly half an hour late to work. My boss gave me my final warning - "If you're late again," she said firmly, "you'll no longer be able to work here."

I got my current grade for my Japanese class. There are thirty-six assignments, and my professor only has fourteen recorded. I'm failing.

I missed my multi-ethnic literature class on a day I needed to attend in order to get some information from my professor about my final paper...because I was busy squeezing out a six-page paper for my post-structuralism class.

I got frustrated at work later and snapped at one of my best friends and co-workers.

I took my Ethics of War & Peace test. The four questions I studied the hardest for, I got wrong.

On the way home, I was riding my bike in the dark and got clotheslined by a blackened chain that didn't appear in the road until I was a foot away. As I stumbled about searching for my glasses (they'd gone flying forward), I heard some onlookers laughing at me. I found my glasses - by stepping on them.

I got home to find that my Wendy's Frosty had spilled all over the rest of my dinner in the bag.

Tonight when I climbed into bed, I slowly closed my eyes, and everything about today came crashing down with more pain than any of the petty things I'd endured all day:

...On December 5, 2007, a year ago today, I met Erik for the first time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

O Glittering Consumerism, O Baffling Ignorance

A: On Black Friday, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by shoppers:

Patrick Purcell (Director of Special Projects for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500) said this on Democracy Now!:

"It is not the local police’s job to control the situation. Wal-Mart knows our economy is on the decline, you’re handing out plasma TV’s reduced well below retail. Again, to us, you’re feeding the frenzy of the economic problems we’re having. They had to know there was a situation that could develop like this. And it bothers us even more that their response was, we’re sorry. Nothing more than we’re sorry. Not that we’re going to review procedures from the top down in every one of our stores throughout the country. Not that they’re going to set up a fund to take care of the worker. Their response was, we did the best we could, we’re sorry. And that’s a horrible response."

B: Yesterday, Variety reported that Shia LaBeouf (and an executive producer who's with him right now in the Middle East filming Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) just got the green light from Paramount to star in an adaptation for The Associate, John Grisham's new legal thriller novel.

How new is Grisham’s novel? It won’t be published until January. Grisham’s rep took The Associate to four studio producers, hoping to nab a deal.

His book must be that bad. Grisham’s success has been leaning on the Hollywood Grisham-spaghetti machine for years. Never before has he depended on them preemptively.

C: Old news, but I just found out about this. In March, Oklahoma Senator Sally Kern called American gays and lesbians a more pressing threat than terrorists:

Those who obtained and posted the recording made sure that it was a public meeting and that the recording did not unfairly misconstrue her comments at the event. Although Senator Kern later claimed that the recording took her comments out of context, she has never apologized nor backed down from her claims; in fact, she reiterated her position, specifically the priority of the so-called gay threat, two weeks later in March and much later in October. Kern's statements caused a response from the Muslim community and the gay community...particularly from Ellen Degeneres:

Good ol' Dory - Ellen always makes me laugh. I love the audience, too.