Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Best Date Ever

Recently I came across a book on how to be your own boyfriend. I didn't buy it, but it gave me an idea.

After work tonight I met myself for a cocktail.

I almost canceled, because by late this afternoon I started to feel that I hated my outfit, but nothing ventured is nothing gained. And you know, I'm really glad I went.

Today was payday, so I went ahead and bought the first round, and then I bought the second round, which I took as an encouraging sign.

Then I went to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner. I have really good taste in wine, which is a relief, because if I'd been a white wine drinker, that would have been a deal breaker. I paid for dinner because, well, to be honest, I was kind of hoping to guilt me into going home with me.

I have to say the dinner conversation was a bit awkward. I had to keep my voice down because I felt like people were staring at me. Why can't people just mind their own business?

After dinner I walked through Chelsea and browsed various boutiques for Christmas ornaments. I like that it didn't freak me out that I'm religious.

So then I asked if maybe...well, you know, I don't know, if I wasn't doing anything, maybe I'd like to come up to my place? As it so happened, I was going my way anyway, so I agreed.

I had a great time. I hadn't really been expecting company, but I very politely didn't mention the laundry on the floor or the sink full of dishes. As for the sex...well, a gentlman doesn't kiss and tell. But, I will say that I seemed to know exactly what I like.

I promised I'd come over tomorrow and help me with the laundry. I hope I'm not moving too fast.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Disordered Objective

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

-- Galatians 3:28

Certain literalists might look at that verse and notice that Paul did not include homosexuals; but neither did he include Chinese people, the disabled, Vikings or Republicans. Parsing this verse to see who is excluded is antithetical to the verse itself: "you are all one in Christ Jesus," without regard to ethnic or national identity, religion, social status or gender.

Pope Benedict XVI seems to disagree, however. In 1992, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he wrote, "Sexual orientation does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc., in respect to non-discrimination." (Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who knows something about racial discrimination, responded, "To make someone suffer penalties because of their sexual orientation is on the same level as making people be penalized for their gender, or race.") On this basis, the Vatican has changed its policy regarding gays in the priesthood.

Make no mistake: it is a change in policy. Conservative defenders of the Pope argue that the Church has long taught that homosexuality is "objectively disordered," but as celibacy is a requirement for priesthood, one's sexual orientation has generally been considered irrelevant. Now, however, celibacy is not enough. In the new document, Instruction Concerning the Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons With Homosexual Tendencies, Rome argues that homosexuals "find a situation that gravely obstructs a right way of relating with men and women."

A gay priest, writing under a pseudonym for Beliefnet, calls this statement "one of the most offensive things I have ever read in any church document about homosexuals. It says to gay men -- and by extension, celibate gay priests who have long been in the ministry -- that they are simply unable to relate to their fellow human beings. After years of dedicated service--after hearing confessions, baptizing infants, preparing people for marriage, sitting by the beds of the sick and dying, and counseling people in trouble--the gay priest is told he doesn't understand people and cannot relate to them."

In purely practical terms, banning even celibate gays from the priesthood is a risky move for Catholics, particularly here in the United States, and it's not clear that congregations understand the math. "If it's part of church doctrine, we'd be better off with 5 percent less priests," Travis Corcoran recently told The New York Times.

But it won't be 5 percent. Indeed, the number of Catholic priests in the U.S. shrank from 59,000 in 1965 to 43,000 today, even as the number of Catholics in the U.S. grew. One analysis predicts a further 45% decline over the next ten years. And by some estimates, 50% of Catholic seminarians are gay. Others predict that banning gays will reverse the trend, as heterosexuals flood back into the seminaries they had shunned.

Catholics shouldn't hold their breath.

To defend this discriminatory purge in the name of addressing the Church's child abuse scandal is to propagate the same kinds of attitudes that brought about the abuse in the first place. Pedophiles abuse children; and, like the general population, the vast majority of people who sexually molest children are heterosexual. That most priest abuse cases involve boys has more to do with population access than sexual orientation.

The ban does not apply to priests who are already ordained and serving; if the Church perceives that homosexual priests, even celibate ones, pose such a threat to children, it does not make sense to grandfather them in. Indeed, Catholics who argue that there is such a thing as a moral absolute are at something of a loss to explain why an ordained gay priest already serving is not in violation of church doctrine but one who might be ordained tomorrow is.

"The only gay men who will enter will be either clueless, closeted, or lying," wrote the gay priest in Beliefnet. "This is a disastrous way to prepare men for healthy life as a priest, and gives rise to the very environment that everyone wanted to avoid: the repressed, fearful seminary where sexuality is a forbidden topic."

The Church's abuse scandal was not just the molestation, but the fact that complaints about priests were ignored and that they were often merely transferred to other parishes where they continued to abuse children. To stop this scandal, the Church should defrock pedophiles, not homosexuals.

Fortunately, there is dissent within the Catholic ranks. "I have no doubt that God does call homosexuals to the priesthood, and they are among the most dedicated and impressive priests I have met,'' Father Timothy Radcliffe, former master of the Dominican order, told the Times.

"I resent the missed opportunity to welcome young men who are gay, but are put off," said an 80-year old Catholic woman in Massachusetts. "We may never know the good priests we have lost from this."

The Vatican, in a bid to uphold destructive traditions of discrimination, is relying upon centuries of secular prejudice to justify a policy, rather than the Gospel. As one gay priest asked, "Where, in the end, is the message of Jesus in this document?"

Monday, November 28, 2005

Time Goes By...So Slowly

WOW is it quiet at work today.

I tried surfing for some new blogs to read by clicking the "next blog" button in the upper right corner, but almost everything I landed on was in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch or Arabic. Either that, or it was "erotic literature," or worse, one of those conservative rant blogs with a ratio of 4 spelling errors per falsehood.

Why is it that pornographers can spell but Republicans can't?

Speaking of porn and spelling, that reminds me...

My first summer out of high school, I had an internship with a repertory theater in Los Angeles that included both performing and crew responsibilities. I ran the follow-spot for The School for Wives, was a stagehand and an understudy for The Foreigner, and played Joe in Oklahoma (the one who buys Curly's gun in the auction).

Among the many valuable lessons I learned that summer, the one that always comes to mind first is not to spoof lines of the dialogue by changing a word or two to make it dirty. At the top of the second act, right before the bidding begins on the hampers, one farmer (or maybe it's a cowman, I can't recall) says, "I'm so hungry, I could eat a fencepost!"

The actor used to go around backstage saying, "I'm so horny I could fuck a fencepost!"

Well, one night we were out onstage and had just finished "The Farmer and the Cowman" (one man likes to ride a plow, the other likes to fuck a cow, but that's no reason why they can't be friends!) and sure enough, my fellow castmate says, "I'm so horny I could f--, uh, eat a fencepost!"

I feel that way right now.

The Problem With Lying

The problem with lying is that sometimes it is irrefutably proven that you have done so.

"I went to Congress with the same intelligence Congress saw -- the same intelligence I had, and they looked at exactly what I looked at, and they made an informed judgment based upon the information that I had."

-- George W. Bush, February 8, 2004

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."

-- George W. Bush, June 17, 2004

"We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization."

-- Dick Cheney, September 14, 2003


Sunday, November 27, 2005

You Know You're Gay When...'re stumbling back to the subway along 14th Street after partaking of the $8 Bud Lite blast at Splash listening to Carol Vaness sing "Come scoglio" on your iPod and hoping the next song will be Alfredo Kraus singing "De miei bollenti spiriti" but you're not disappointed when it turns out to be Madonna's "Bedtime Story."


Me: Okay, so, if it's a flock of sheep and a school of fish, what's six homos walking down 8th Avenue?

Queer: A party.


I had a wonderful Thanksgiving; of course I miss my family back in Oregon, and miss going out to the 100+ year old Victorian farmhouse in the middle of nowhere owned by family friends where we normally celebrate, but among the many, many blessings I'm thankful for this year was spending an amazing holiday with my best friends.

Most memorable moment: describing a certain guest who drove us all crazy, the host (who cooked up an absolutely delicious feast -- many, many thanks for all that work!), remarked, "His personality was excruciating."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Education: We Done it to Ourselfs

There is a crisis looming in America today, one whose effects will be felt sooner than those of global warming and more broadly than terrorism. The present state of the education system in America is poised to topple our nation from the position of global leadership that we have enjoyed for the last century-plus.

The roots of the crisis are countless, and the solutions are complex and controversial. At the heart of the problem lies money. Politicians successfully campaign on reforming education; everyone agrees that something needs to be done. But once elected, they tend to drop the matter because finding the money to actually create effective change requires politicians to commit political suicide: raising taxes.

Fixing education in America is going to require many changes: we need better facilities, better equipment, and better teachers. But most of all, we need a better curriculum.

The corporate influence on American life means that everything is valued according to a result-based analysis; the problem is that we are looking at the wrong results, and we often cheat to get the results we think we want. What we really need is to value education for education's sake; what we've got is a system that emphasizes test scores. To make those test scores more palatable, we drop the bar. To achieve the results we think we want, we teach children what they need to know to pass the test. We should be teaching them how to think.

Pretty much everyone has contributed to the weakening of the national curriculum. Liberals, sensitive to the idea that children are individuals, that each one is different, that each one is special, and that none of them are robots to be held to some inflexible benchmark, have been resistant to testable standards in education. Worried about the psychological implications of a young child getting a poor grade, they've worked to eliminate grades. Now when a student is failing, we politely pretend not to notice.

Social conservatives have undermined education by putting ideology ahead of facts. The consequences cannot be underestimated; millions of Americans now believe the Founding Fathers were devout Christians who wrote the Constitution with a quill pen in one hand and the Bible in the other. They can't even fathom that the Rhode Island colony was founded by a breakaway Christian group known as "Baptists" because they believed in a separation of church and state. They're willing to sacrifice the intellectual integrity of American students by gutting science education on the altar of Biblical literalism. They confuse the meaning of "innocence" with "ignorance": they refuse to believe you can still make the moral choice not to have sex even if you know what sex is, what venereal diseases are and how to avoid them, etc., and so they prefer not to discuss it at all.

Libertarian-types have contributed by valuing education solely in terms of the dent it makes in their income, instead of seeing it as the essential lifeblood of America's future. Childless taxpayers argue they shouldn't pay for someone else's education, heedless of the fact that tomorrow's doctors, engineers and even presidents, all manner of people that they do and will rely on in their daily lives, are sitting in classrooms right now. They value only a curriculum that gives students the barest textbook-based knowledge necessary for a life as a corporate drone. Art, music, physical education and extra-curricular activities serve no apparent purpose other than inflating their tax burden.

If America wants to maintain its global leadership role, we have got to recognize and accept that we are no longer an industrial nation. Manufacturing jobs requiring a vast workforce of semi-literate, minimally skilled employees have been outsourced to cheaper countries. Instead of our hands, we're going to have to rely on our brains. Intelligence has little to do with it; an uneducated genius isn't very useful. More than any other issue facing Americans today, fixing education requires our immediate and full attention. Will we accept that challenge?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I just heard the song "My Humps" by the Black-Eyed Peas for the first time.



Let's hear it for paid time-off, shall we?

I am taking tomorrow off to prepare this year's contribution to Thanksgiving. I am really, really looking forward to a five day weekend.

Come on clock, tick faster.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I Guess I'm a Democrat

Here's a nice joke for your office holiday party or next first date.

100 Channels, Nothing On

Uptown Guy, I've been living in a dial-up world...

So I had cable and high-speed internet installed over the weekend.

*sigh of contentment*

It was faster and easier than I thought; Time Warner said the guy would come between 12 and 4 on Saturday, and that I should expect installation would take about two hours. He came at 1:30 and left shortly after 2:00.

The internet is so greatly improved I can't even believe it. It's just so fast! Click, and there's the new page. No more clicking and then wandering down the hall to pee or taking out the garbage or running to the grocery store in the hope that when I return the page will have loaded.

The last time I had to update iTunes, it took 3 hours to download. On Saturday I clicked and the computer went "bing" and it was done.

To celebrate, I went for the first time to the iTunes Music Store and downloaded a song. Big 'mo that I am, I got "Uptown Girl" by the boyband Westlife, as I have seen the video twice now in bars in New York, and it is positively adorable. No, those aren't pink triangles on their shirts, they're red underpants -- which is even gayer, if you ask me. (The hottie on the far right is out.)

It's nice to finally have television, too. I got a new TV in 2001 to replace the one my subletter dismantled, but there was just no reception at all; I even went to Radio Shack and bought a better antenna, and still got nothing. So I haven't watched TV in four years, vacations, Geek Nights, and dog-sitting gigs aside.

Last night after dinner I settled onto the couch to do some channel surfing. Honestly, there was nothing on of interest to me aside from "Predator Bay" on Animal Planet, which I'd seen twice already. I learned a lot about crocodiles this weekend. I watched the Arabic channel for a while and then went to bed.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Penalty for Early Withdrawal

I am a liberal. When I voted for President last November, I very nearly wrote in Howard Dean's name on the ballot rather than voting for John Kerry. When I vote for Democratic candidates in local elections, I vote for them on the WFP line. In the last state gubernatorial election, I voted Green.

I protested the war on Iraq on numerous occasions and participated in letter-writing and emailing campaigns to my representatives in Congress. I wrote a letter to the editors of The Village Voice chastising a column for implying that there was unanimous support for the war within the Christian community.

I am opposed to withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq or setting an artificial timetable to do so.


Congressional Democrats have once again allowed the Republicans to define the terms of this debate. Apparently there are only two options: stay the course, or cut and run.

But that is as fallacious a choice as the original decision to go to war against Iraq, where Republican hawks bellowed that our options were either full-scale invasion or sit back and do nothing, the result of which, Condi Rice assured us, would be a mushroom cloud over the U.S. Whenever anyone attempted to suggest that there might possibly be a diplomatic solution, the White House would snap, "We tried that."

No, what we tried was to get the U.N. to rubber-stamp our invasion plans based on sketchy evidence that turned out to be completely wrong. That's not diplomacy; diplomacy would have been listening to the concerns and objections of other countries.

The U.N., of course, is the the organization Republicans love to hate but have to love. As one wag put it, we ignored the U.N. in order to enforce the standard that the U.N. cannot be ignored. Without the U.N. resolutions against Iraq, we could never have gone to war.

And so today apparently we find ourselves at a fork in the Mideast Peace roadmap: declare victory and call it a day, or stay the course.

We cannot leave, not now. We made a promise to the Iraqi people. When it turned out that Saddam Hussein had no unconventional weapons and no ties to al Qaeda, let alone 9/11, Bush tried to argue that the basis for invasion had originally been humanitarian concern for the Iraqi people who suffered under the Baathist regime. But if that were the case, then Bush should have campaigned in 2000 promising a war of liberation for Iraq; after all, they were suffering before 9/11. It also didn't align with his pre-war rhetoric about the urgency of the situation, and it didn't align with the post-invasion reality, where instead of being hailed as heroes and greeted with flowers, we faced a homegrown insurgency.

We cannot declare "victory." If anything, that would be a more ignominious defeat than Vietnam. The entire world knows we have not met our objectives there. We made false allegations against a sovereign nation, toppled a government and brought the place to the brink of civil war. A country which, according to the U.S. State Department in 2001, had zero al Qaeda presence, is now a petri dish for terrorist cells.

This is not to ignore the fact that we have a fledgling government that vaguely resembles a democracy over there, and there's a lot of encouragement to be had by the significant voter participation. That for me is the reason we have to stay. This new government is the country's only hope.

Setting a timetable for withdrawal, as Senator Feingold is proposing, is also a bad choice. The insurgency will simply wait us out.

Neither, however, should we stay the course. There is no course. Frankly, if the options are abandoning the Iraqis to their fate or allowing the present White House ideologues to pursue policies based on fantasies rather than the realities on the ground, everyone might be better off if the troops just came home.

Here, then, is the way to fix this mess:
  • Set a schedule for troop reduction based on the achievement of clearly defined goals, instead of arbitrary timetables.
  • Impeach President Bush for exceeding his authority under the U.S. Constitution; only Congress can declare war, and they did not do so. Congress granted the President the power to use force to "disarm" Saddam of unconventional weapons. But there were no weapons, and therefore nothing to disarm and certainly no Constitutional justification for overthrowing a sovereign, if tyrannical, government. (The Plamegate investigation is about to swallow Cheney.)
  • Move Saddam's trial out of Iraq. One of the basic principles of democracy is the right to due process; Saddam is guilty and deserves what's coming to him, but right now Iraq is not stable enough to give him a fair trial. He should be remanded to the International Court; after all, his crimes were not just against Iraqis.
  • Bush should be tried in the International Court as a war criminal; I'm not saying he's guilty, but if they were to find him innocent it would lend him some much needed credibility in his retirement.
  • Authority for security, reconstruction and suppression of the insurgent revolt should be taken up by the U.N. using a truly international peace-keeping force involving as much Arab participation as possible. An honest case can be made that security of the entire region is at stake, and Iraq's neighbors have a profound self-interest in a successful outcome.
  • All corporate reconstruction contracts should be canceled and the bidding process should be opened up internationally. The U.N. should manage these contracts with the highest degree of transparency to demonstrate a commitment to real reform.
  • Reconstruction projects should focus first on infrastructure to make the daily lives of average Iraqis better, in addition to working with the new government to establish healthcare and education systems.
  • The United States should pay the majority share of reconstruction and security costs as a means of reparation. The Bush tax cuts should be repealed; corporations should be subject to a 15% flat tax on profits, there should be a 10% national gas tax, and the estate tax should be adjusted to 5% on amounts over $1 million.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Why You Need Both a Map and the "Antenna"

In a comment on yesterday's post, a regular reader warned against relying on your own intuition or conscience when it comes to moral matters. Criticizing the practice as "moral relativism," he advised sticking to Biblical absolutes.

It is true that the Bible teaches in Proverbs, "Lean not unto thine own understanding." (See this earlier post for my take on this verse.) There is great wisdom -- indeed, ultimate Truth -- contained in the Bible, and familiarity with Scripture is essential for being able to tell the difference between the two competing signals in our mind, as evil frequently succeeds by disguising itself as good. (This is how prejudice works; people justify their hatred, which is evil, by somehow coming to the conclusion that this is what God wants.)

But the Bible's explicit texts cannot be our only resource. For one thing, you can almost always find at least one verse to contradict another, depending on how you interpret them. Which, of course, leads to another problem: a lot of people argue that the Bible says what it says, end of discussion, but the reality is that different people can look at the same verse and see different meanings. And that is not to say that one is wrong, but rather to suggest that ultimate Truth is more complex than some of us would like to believe.

One must also consider the source; in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Satan himself quotes Scripture to tempt Jesus. Scripture, taken out of context and wongly interpreted, can be dangerous and antithetical to God's will.

We must accept, as the noted atheist-gone-theologian C.S. Lewis wrote, that the Bible is not God. This is a shocking statement for many people to read.

I was reminded of this analogy this morning while I was reading an outstanding contribution to the New York Times Op-Ed page about the relationship between science and faith, and how natural disasters tend to bring out the religious crazies. It describes "the specific brand of faith that devalues reason and confers the mantle of infallible, absolute authority upon a leader or a book."

Lewis compared the Bible to a map of the Atlantic Ocean. The map is not the ocean, but it tells us a lot about the ocean, and it was put together by people who had extensive knowledge of the subject. Also, I might add that, as scientific advances are made, the map gets more accurate.

Jesus himself suggested that there are times when it's okay to let your own judgment override the Bible's instructions. According to the Gospel of Luke, the "lawyers and Pharisees" were outraged that Jesus healed a sick man on the Sabbath, since that seemed to constitute "work" and would therefore violate the commandment to "remember the Sabbath, and to keep it holy." Jesus replied, "Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day?"

They could not answer.

We need the map to help us figure out how to get where we're going, but God gave us a conscience and the ability to think for a reason.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Radio God

Last night I went to a private screening of a new documentary, "Mission to Matrimony," put together by a friend and co-worker of mine. It's excellent; look for it as it starts to make the rounds at film festivals.

During the long walk back to the subway through a cold, dark, drizzly lower Manhattan, the thought occurred to me that the spiritual mind is like a radio antenna. This antenna picks up all kinds of signals, and not everyone gets the same range or detects the same frequencies. Surely you know people who can tell exactly what you're thinking at a given moment; sometimes this occurs even with total strangers. Other times, some people just don't pick up on what you're trying to avoid having to say literally. We all know people who are just permanently disconnected from society. We say they "don't get it."

Some of us have the ability to connect with animals or nature at large. All of us, however, are hooked up to the two spiritual extremes. You might think of it like basic cable: not everyone has HBO, but we've all got CNN and Fox News. (Sorry, I'm getting cable on Saturday, it's on my brain.) We all get regular broadcasts from Light and Dark.

There are challenges, however. For example, you wouldn't tune into Darkness and hear heavy metal music followed by a DJ saying, "You're listening to Radio Satan! Coming up next, sounds of women screaming and a live broadcast of a cat being cut in half by a chainsaw, so don't touch that dial!" That would be too obvious.

Likewise, what we might call "Radio God" is not harp music alternating with Bible pleasantries and the latest from Kenny G. In fact, a lot of Radio God is telling us things we probably don't want to hear. God is not "easy listening."

If anything, Darkness would be the "easy listening" station. (Apologies to Burt Bacharach.) Goodness requires focus and dedication; Darkness is suited best to apathy.

It takes concentration and practice to keep tuned in to Radio God; different medium (but appropriate simile!), but Darkness is more like internet pop-ups, always distracting you and trying to get you to focus on something else.

The two "stations" are more alike than you might think. Just as propaganda is often disguised to look like real news, it's often difficult to distinguish between the two messages in your brain; in fact, one of Satan's most effective tools is to deceive you, by taking advantage of your arrogance, into thinking you are being moral when you are really being cruel.

The only way to tell the two apart is to submit your conscience to humility. If it's quick and easy, if you hear your mind telling you things like, "no one will notice" or "everybody does it," you need to adjust the frequency. When you hear yourself think, "This is hard, this might be unpleasant, but it's the right thing," stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

When Christians Attack

Back in the late '90s, FOX television began pioneering "reality tv." During ratings season, clip shows thrown together from amateur and news videos were ubiquitous. Even I succombed to "World's Scariest Police Chases IV" and "When Good Pets Go Bad." (Look for the upcoming "When Homosexuals Queen Out," featuring me with this guy performing the duet "A Boy Like That" on the C train.)

Though most of these shows today have a tenuous relationship to "reality," and despite the fact that we marvel and despair at people's willingness to exploit their frailties and air their dirty laundry for a shot at fame and some cash, they are exceedingly popular. Their influence is such that even fictional shows, such as Battlestar Galactica, are filmed as quasi-documentaries.

Currently zooming its way around the internet is a clip from a recent episode of Fox's Trading Spouses. (Hat tip.)

I have to say this is truly one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen.

I'm sure a lot of people find it hysterical, but honestly for me it's profoundly disturbing. For one thing, the poor woman featured in the clip is clearly insane; skeptics of religion (in particular evangelical Christianity) probably assume that either insanity made her susceptible to the influence of religion, or vice versa, and they probably don't care which because it comforts them to think that religion and insanity are related.

Partly I found myself mad at this woman. She is monstrous; preposterous, overblown and offensive. She practically begs us to mock her pathological sincerity. But in the end, I can only pity her, and hope that she finds the help she so clearly needs.

The larger issue is that this clip now adds a newer, more terrifying dimension to the public perception of Christianity shaped by lunatics like Pat Robertson and George W. Bush, who claimed God told him to invade Iraq. I wonder if God forgot to tell Bush that Iraq no longer had WMD's, or if God was also duped by the CIA.

What's even sadder, though, is not what nonbelievers think Christianity means, but what some Christians apparently think it means. There is nothing in Margaret Perrin's rant that suggests even a passing familiarity with the Gospel. Prefacing your insults with, "In the name of the Lord" doesn't excuse or justify them. One might as well shout, "Go fuck yourself, in Jesus' name!" She seems inordinately terrified of "books on witchcraft" and astrology. Astrology? If I'm not mistaken, the three wise men were led to Bethelehem by reading signs in the heavens; literally, they followed a star.

Margaret's faith is fear-based. She perceives "darkness" everywhere. She's not wrong, of course, but she seems to have zero real comprehension of God's power. As mighty as Darkness is, anyone who really knows and believes in the Lord knows that they have nothing to fear from a book, no matter what's in it. "Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil." I am always amazed that the most publicly zealous believers tend to display no real confidence in their faith.

This pervasive perversion of Christianity, which ignores the Gospels in favor of a literal but out-of-context reading of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Revelation, and promotes the idea of an angry, easily-insulted God waiting to smite you the moment you step out of line, must be denounced as the heresy that it is. This is not Christian doctrine. The damage such beliefs cause can easily be witnessed by watching the Perrin children flinch in terror from their mother.

That's reality.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Let There Be Cable

It is done.

After months of hemming and hawing, I finally called up TimeWarner and placed the order. My cable/RoadRunner package will be installed this Saturday.

I am very indecisive and lazy about a lot of things. At work I'm focused, organized and efficient. At home, I'm a disaster. Seriously. I just couldn't get my butt in gear. Plus, among other phobias, I'm mildly afraid of commitment and I don't like having strangers in my apartment. (And I wonder why I'm single? Oh yeah, I'm also fat.)

So what motivated me? This email from AOL:


Nice, right?

Anyway, I'm all excited. Now I get Jeff Corwin, Jon Stewart and Anderson Cooper all in the privacy of my home.


Oh, dear God.

I happened to weigh myself on the scale in a friend's bathroom over the weekend. (No, I don't own one. That's going to change.)

Yeah, I could use a little more physical activity. I've been slacking on my yoga. But the real problem is my diet. I don't really like to cook, and when I get home I want something fast and easy. I eat frozen pizza way too often. Then I wash it down with beer and ice cream. For breakfast, I usually get a croissant or a muffin from my hot cart guy on Wall and Pearl. On bad-mood days, I augment it with a chocolate donut. That needs to end.

For lunch I often get a turkey sandwich, which isn't so bad, but it's usually accompanied by a small bag of chips. And maybe a cookie. On Fridays I get panini dripping with melted cheese and bacon.

Another huge problem is alcohol. I drink almost every single day. I'm not an alcoholic; at least, I don't think I am. I don't get "drunk" very often. But I have mild-to-irritating anxieties, mostly stemming from my crowd phobia. (And when you live in Manhattan, a crowd phobia is inconvenient.) When I get home from work, I find that having one drink really improves my mood; and if I'm in a social situation, I'm a lot more relaxed and friendly once I've had a drink.

I can do it; I give up alcohol for Lent every year. And I think if I restrict myself to just having a drink or two on Friday nights when I'm with my friends, that should help. But a major behavior shift is in order.

Sorry if this post is horribly boring and self-centered, but I needed to make this commitment to myself public to keep on track. My goal is to lose about 20 pounds. (I'm 6'1, for the record.) I can't propose a timetable right now because the holidays are coming up, and we all know how that goes.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sunday Photo Blogging

Hi. I'm still here. This past week at work was exhausting. There was so much to do and I really didn't have a spare moment. I've been coming home and collapsing, and my brain has had nothing it wanted to contribute to the blogosphere. It still doesn't. Here for your viewing pleasure are some pictures I've taken.

Lionfish, Musée National des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie, Paris

Historical marker in Tingen, Germany

Rialto Bridge, Venice

New Mexico desert, outside Taos

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Takeoff from LaGuardia Airport.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Meaning of Privacy

In the comments section of my last post, I lashed out at a reader in a manner that many of you recognized as uncharacteristic of the general tone of my blog. Not only did I depart from my usual respect for all points of view, my response was, to put it bluntly, vulgar.

I've been thinking about this over the past couple of days. I stand by what I said, and the way I said it. Here's why.

Does the Constitution explicitly enshrine and define a "right to privacy"? No. But many top legal thinkers throughout American history have perceived limits on governmental power to regulate our personal lives, to the extent that a general "right to privacy" is a well-established presumption of law. Such right to privacy ranges from the prohibition against reading mail not addressed to you, restricted access to personnel and medical records, client-attorney privileges and recent acts like anti-spam legislation and the National Do Not Call Registry.

In 2003, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that sexual activity between consenting adults, regardless of gender, cannot be criminalized on the basis of traditional prejudice. The case arose after police in Texas responded to a false report of a domestic disturbance and entered a private residence whereupon they discovered two men engaging in a sexual act that was prohibited by law. The men were arrested.

Much of the national debate on this case centered around the idea that the sexual activity was taking place in the "privacy" of their own home, and seemingly liberal pundits talked about "getting the government out of bedrooms" and respecting "what goes on behind closed doors."

The problem is, I am not gay only when I'm having sex in my bedroom. I am still gay when I'm not having sex. I am gay when I get up and go to work in the morning, I was gay when I went to vote last night, I'm gay when I pay taxes every April, and I'm still gay when I'm sitting through mass in church. But on the basis of sexual activity, I am discriminated against by law.

In the Lawrence ruling, Justice Kennedy wrote, "The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives." I think everyone would agree that our private lives extend outside of the bedroom. I am open about my sexuality, but it's still a private matter. Private does not mean "secret," it means no one else has authority over it.

And so yes, I get angry when people whose civil rights are not and will never be under any threat from this kind of legislation glibly assert that there is "no right to privacy." How lovely it must be, by virtue of genetic coincidence, to have been born into the majority and to live comfortably knowing that you will never have to worry about being a victim of discrimination.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Up, Up and Away!

Supercat to the rescue!

VERY busy day at work today. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Why Roe Matters to Gays

In a high school health class, my teacher asked us to write a researched opinion paper on abortion. I hadn't really given the subject much thought, but eventually I decided that while I thought abortion was most definitely a bad thing, there seemed to be good reasons for keeping it legal.

I failed the assignment. The teacher told me explicitly, "You can't sit on the fence on this issue!" I took the paper to the administration, and they ordered the teacher to give me a passing grade. At 17, however, I already knew I was gay, and I felt awkward discussing the subject of abortion because I knew it wasn't something that was going to be relevant to my life.

Over the years my understanding of the debate has become more nuanced, but my position really hasn't changed, and until recently, I still wondered what business gay people had having an opinion on the subject.

Even though I recognize that a conservative person who opposes abortion is statistically likely to also oppose gay rights, I distanced myself from people and groups who made a habit of assuming that someone opposed to abortion was also anti-gay. After all, I know gay people who are opposed to abortion; furthermore, opposition to abortion is a legitimate ethical stance, whereas opposition to homosexuality is merely prejudice.

However, the Supreme Court nomination process has helped me to understand why this is such a crucial issue for the gay community. Roe v. Wade is not really about abortion; it is about a right to privacy.

Jon Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal, recently explained it this way to the Gay City News: “Roe is the foundation for Lawrence [v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court ruling which overturned all sodomy laws in the U.S.]. The privacy right of what you do with your body that was the foundation of Roe is inextricably linked to Lawrence. If Roe falls, Lawrence could be in jeopardy.”

Roe, in turn, draws on 1965's Griswold v. Connecticut; you might recall that early in the doomed confirmation process of Harriet Miers, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) initially told the press that Ms. Miers had expressed her support for Griswold and believed in a Constitutional right to privacy. Shortly thereafter, however, Specter had to issue a correction that Ms. Miers had expressed no such support and he must have misunderstood.

This is why these rulings matter; the issue of abortion is a red herring. Conservative activists want these rulings overturned not so much because they care about unborn children (though I am not accusing them of insincerity, just ulterior motives), but because they stand in the way of the right wing's plans to legislate their morality for all of us.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Das Wandern

O Wandern, wandern, meine Lust,
O Wandern!
Herr Meister und Frau Meisterin
Lasst mich in Frieden weiterziehn,

Und wandern!

Perhaps the only thing I really truly loved about living in Switzerland was that I could quite literally step out my door and walk into the wilderness. Zürich is small and centralized enough that you don't have to go far at all to find yourself in the middle of nowhere. As I was deeply unhappy and exceptionally poor, wandering through the forests of the Alpine foothills was relaxing, interesting and affordable.

I have a good sense of direction and there are many paths or Wanderwege leading out of Zürich, so I rarely made any plans and seldom relied on a map. I would just see where my feet would take me and then, when I was tired, I would find my way home.

I recall one occasion where I did unfortunately get turned around, and instead of heading for home, I was unknowingly going further away. It was a cold, dim, overcast day (as per usual) and I couldn't rely on the sun for direction until it was too late and the sunset turned the clouds a gentle shade of lavender. I came upon an enormous, unfamiliar lake, and decided it was time to pull out the map, which I consulted in the alpenglow.

I realized I had reached the Greifensee; after hiking for three hours and then thinking I'd turned around and headed an hour toward Zürich, I despaired to realize I was now four hours by foot from home. It was getting dark. Based on the map, I decided to head for the town of Uster on the other side of the lake and then take a train back. It took me another two hours to reach the station. I was exhausted when I finally got home, but it was a great adventure.

It's a pleasure I find difficult to replicate in Manhattan, having traded alpine forests for the urban jungle. New York is one of the best places for walking, sure; but for indulging in a bit of escapism and isolating yourself from distractions to be alone with your thoughts, Sixth Avenue and Houston isn't really ideal. The closest you could come would be Central Park, but even there you're hard pressed to be truly "alone" anywhere for more than a few minutes. I love getting lost, but you can't do that in a city built on a numbered grid; even deep in The Rambles, the soaring skyscrapers permanently orient you.

The Wanderlust, as the Germans would call it, has been nagging at me again. For the last two mornings I've awakened and left earlier than necessary for work, getting off a few stops ahead and walking. Monday I got off at Canal Street and walked east toward the Bowery, then down Water to Wall Street. Today I left even earlier, got off the A train at West 4th, and zigzagged through the West Village, SoHo, Chinatown and the financial district. (For a little perspective, a forty-minute subway ride from my apartment got me to a location that is one hour by foot from my office.)

No, there are no quiet, gurgling streams to come across, and I'm not likely to catch a sudden glimpse of a deer or a heron through the trees, much less crest a hill and find myself gazing at a panoramic mountain view, but New York has an infinite and inspirational beauty all its own.

Ach, Bächlein, liebes Bachlein, du meinst es so gut;
Ach, Bächlein, aber weisst du wie Liebe tut?
Ach unten, da unten, die kühle Ruh!
Ach, Bächlein, liebes Bächlein, so singe nur zu.

*All photos by the author.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


If you're gay and bored and looking for casual conversation or...???..., don't go to your neighborhood bar on "Ladies' Night."

The Trouble with Casey

There are good reasons for liberals to be concerned about the nomination of Samuel Alito to replace O'Connor on the Supreme Court; I recommend Dahlia Lithwick for a crash course on Alito's significant decisions, but this New York Times Op-Ed is an exceptionally objective supplement.

As always, the nominee's position on abortion is going to play a central role in the confirmation process. However, it would be irresponsible -- for both liberals and conservatives -- to conclude that Alito will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade based on his dissent in 1991's Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

"Casey challenged a Pennsylvania law that required a woman to receive extensive information about the fetus and the abortion procedure, to wait 24 hours, to sign a statement of informed consent, and—most controversially—to tell her husband about her intention to have an abortion. A panel of three appeals judges on the Third Circuit upheld all the regulations except for the spousal notification. Alito, who was on the panel, dissented from the part of the ruling that struck down the requirement that women tell their husbands before obtaining an abortion," summarized Emily Bazelon in Slate.

Bazelon claims "Alito's opinion in that case would have limited the right to abortion more severely than Sandra Day O'Connor, whom he will replace if confirmed, has ever been willing to do." That is a categorically incorrect conclusion.

The requirement would not restrict abortion in the slightest. It is essential to note that the husband's consent was not required, merely a notification. (Additionally, there was no requirement for proof of notification aside from the woman's statement that she had complied. If you're asking yourself, "Then what's the point?" you have already discovered the toothlessness of both the law and the dissent.) I disagree with the Supreme Court's eventual ruling that this somehow meets O'Connor's standard of an "undue burden." (There should be a judicial bypass option, however.)

Furthermore, I would argue that the law does not go far enough, restricted as it is to married women. Since a woman must endure the hardship of pregnancy, the final decision ought to be hers. However, does the father have no right whatsoever to know that his partner is carrying his unborn child? Does he have no right to an opportunity to discuss the situation with the mother and attempt to dissuade her if he wishes?

If a father has no right to know that he has impregnated a woman and that she has decided to terminate the pregnancy, then I would also suggest that a father has no responsibility, financial or otherwise, if the woman should unilaterally decide to carry to term a child that the father does not want.

Abortion rights should not include the option to leave fathers out of the discussion. That's not feminism, that's monstrous.