Thursday, August 30, 2007


So, Senator Craig is claiming entrapment.

Let me get this "straight." A self-proclaimed heterosexual defender of family values was duped into flirting with a male cop in an airport restroom?


Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Jiminy God.

“I should not have pled guilty,” says Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig, of the revelation that he was charged in Minnesota for lewd conduct. “They were misconstruing my actions.”

And what were those actions? After security at the Minneapolis airport received complaints that a man was loitering in the restroom, a plainclothes police officer was dispatched to investigate. Senator Craig moved into the empty stall next to the police officer when it was vacated, then blocked it with his bag to obscure the view inside. He peered through the cracks in the stall, tapped his foot, and repeatedly waved his hand under the partition to get the police officer’s attention.

Senator Craig claims he was stooping down to pick up a piece of paper, which I guess must have been flying around – he was trying to stomp on it with his foot or catch it as it was flying up into the next stall and he blocked the door so it wouldn’t fly out the front. Sure, that’s plausible.

It’s almost as likely as Florida State Representative Bob Allen’s explanation for why he was busted for the same thing last month: he thought he was about to be mugged by the African-American undercover cop, so he offered $20 and a blowjob.

As a gay man who has been harassed in restrooms and locker rooms, I have seen exactly this behavior: the foot-tapping and the reaching under the partition to indicate interest. The policeman certainly has grounds to suspect this is what Craig was after; if the Senator wasn’t pursuing a restroom quickie, he certainly had a spectacular misfortune in coincidentally mimicking the internationally-recognized tea-house tap dance.

Part of me feels pity for the senator, another victim of cultural attitudes that require repression and denial instead of allowing people to live their lives plainly and honestly; it drives them to dangerous furtive encounters in bathrooms and rest stops. But my sympathy is tempered by rage over his hypocrisy: here is yet another closeted conservative politician who has scored political points by demonizing gay people. He panders to folks who think there’s something wrong with me by claiming I’m a corrupting, destabilizing force in American culture. Well, buddy, this tax-paying, church-going registered voter isn’t running around on his wife having anonymous sex in airports. Senator, heal thyself.

When confronted earlier this year with recorded testimony that he’d engaged in gay sex in Washington, D.C.’s train station (such allegations have been dogging him for forty years), Craig responded, "The gay movement, we know it for what it is. It's now aggressive and it's liberal and it's naming people to try to put them in compromising, difficult situations." Then he exclaimed, “Jiminy God!”

If the senator insists on pursuing anonymous, adulterous, meaningless sexual trysts as a hobby, he should find a better place to do it. It’s called the internet. In the meantime, he could stop projecting his own character flaws onto millions of law-abiding gay and lesbian people in order to exploit them for political gain. And let me pee in peace.

Why Gonzales Resigned When He Did

Both Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales resigned while Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were on vacation. Coincidence? I think not!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sick Vick

After entering his guilty plea on federal charges relating to his illegal dogfighting operation today, Michael Vick apologized for his “immature acts.”

While he conceded that “dogfighting is a terrible thing” and took responsibility for his actions, I hardly think “immature” is the proper adjective, and his decision to characterize his crimes in this way causes me to wonder whether he really comprehends the nature of his actions.

Let’s review: Vick raised dogs and bred them to be aggressive; common tactics used to induce this behavior include starvation and a regular regimen of physical abuse. Vick and his friends enjoyed watching these dogs tear each other apart with their powerful jaws. Fights can last for hours; the losers usually die from loss of blood from a torn throat or virtual disembowelment and the victors hardly escape unscathed. Wounded survivors are not given veterinary care or allowed to “retire”; instead, in their weakened condition, they are simply recycled into the fray until eventually their number is up.

Some dogs, apparently, despite living in abusive care, just don’t display “sufficient” aptitude for the sport: they’re too docile. In Vick’s mind, a gentle dog was a worthless dog. Did he surrender them to a shelter or try to find or provide a loving home for these creatures he deemed too passive? No, he executed them (Vick concedes the death of “at least six”) using such methods as drowning, electrocution or slamming the dogs against the ground.

What a fate awaited these innocent creatures: rip each other to pieces to entertain their human masters or be killed in a heinous, painful manner.

To say someone is “immature” means that they are old enough to have outgrown behaviors we generally attribute to younger, less sophisticated people. But dogfighting isn’t childish or unsophisticated; it isn’t something one “outgrows.”

Fart jokes are immature. Torturing and killing animals for profit and pleasure is sick.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday Photo Blogging: Cats!

Oh, the profundity! When all else fails, post cat pictures.

Rocky has always liked using Starbuck as a pillow.

Get it?

Here's Rocky watching Joan Crawford's last film, the hilariously catastrophic Trog. (Sorry about the crap on the floor; I'm rather desperately in need of a file cabinet.)

Here they are playing tug-of-war with their new favorite toy, Mr. Shoelace. This was pretty funny...I need to learn how to use the video function on my digital camera.

I swear this next photo wasn't staged. The other day I couldn't find Starbuck. I looked everywhere. I had just gotten home from the grocery store, and I started to panic that she had slipped out the door when I wasn't looking. She wasn't in any of her usual places. I was in the kitchen and I called out, "Starbuck?" and then I heard her distinct high-pitched squeak coming from the counter. I turned and she poked her head out of my eco-friendly grocery bag as if to say, "Peek-a-boo!" (She's always had a thing for bags.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Portland is so friendly!

Last night as I was hopping between bars downtown, a car pulled up along side of me and a woman leaned out the window and yelled, "YOU LOOK REALLY GOOD IN THOSE JEANS!!!" (My New York friends know which jeans she's talking about, too.)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Scenes from a Temp Job

The senior admin and I were straightening up the reception area that I am happily surrendering next week, going through the drawer and chucking dead pens. “What the heck is this?” she asked, holding up a small device made of clear plastic, about five inches long.

“It’s a clam clip dispenser,” I said, turning it over and reading the label that said “clam clip dispenser.”

“Well, I guess we’d better hold onto that, in case I need my clam clipped.”

(*awkward silence*)

• * * * *

I was in a stall in the men’s room, erm, minding my own business, when a guy came in and said, “Hey, how goes it today?”

Surprised, embarrassed and unsure how to address this question I just said, “Oh…fine?”

When I came out, he said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else.”

I nodded and said, sadly, “Yes. Me, too.”

• * * *

A suited-up guy (I’m going to guess…salesman!) walked in this morning and said, “Hi, I’m here for my appointment with Mr. ______________.”

“Oh, he’s in Suite _________, around the front of the building,” I said.

The man looked slightly deflated, and I swear, some of his highlights faded almost imperceptibly as he asked, “Is it far?”

“About 100 yards,” I shrugged. Then he went and got in his car and drove to the other side of the parking lot.

• * * * * *

Rocky and Starbuck have been pestering me to start their own blog for them, but I’m not sure I really have time. Their concept would be a political column, Rocky voicing a populist, mainstream view while Starbuck holds down an ultra-leftist anti-corporate, feminist, unite-the-workers activist pose, with a barely suppressed politicrush on Kucinich. They want to call it Liberal Pussies.

• * * * *

A woman at the office was recommending the national tour of Spamalot, which is presently in town. “It’s hilarious!” she declared. “They spoof the gays, the Christians, everybody!”

• * * * *

To: You
From: Andy
Subject: Greetings from the Other Side

Hi there,

Sorry for the mass email, and sorry that I have not been in touch for so long. I’ve just been so busy! But I wanted to take an opportunity to let you know that I died.


Seriously…I was reading The New York Times and at the bottom of an article was an advertisement for a service that sends out an email to notify people of your death.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hitchens Lays an Egg

I confess to a bias against Christopher Hitchens. In his latest column for Slate, "God is Still Dead," he summarizes and reviews Mark Lilla's forthcoming book, The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West, with what seems to be general approval, aside from a modest chastisement that Lilla does not give atheists enough credit for the progress they have made in the world. This endorsement was enough to negate any interest I might have had in the book.

Later this afternoon, however, as I was surreptitiously reading The New York Times online (behold the power of sizing your Explorer window to make it look like part of the spreadsheet you're "working" on), I came across an article entitled "The Politics of God," and after a few sentences, I thought to myself, "Wow, this is really interesting, who wrote this?" Answer: Mark Lilla, summarizing his own book. Once again, in the service of his own bizarre agenda, Christopher Hitchens had, as he does with my own faith, selectively reduced someone else's point of view to something unrecognizable.

As is the case with fundamentalists of either stripe, Hitchens ignores (or is blind to) anything that runs counter to his essential argument. In this case, he leaves out that Lilla's ultimate conclusion is that Hitchens' prescription for saving the world -- education and modernization, particularly for the middle east, so that no one is so incredibly stupid as to believe in God anymore -- won't work.

Principally, Lilla compares and contrasts arguments about the nature and role of religion in society and government from Hobbes and Rousseau; like Hitchens, Hobbes saw religion as detrimental superstition, the myths to which man flees when anxieties and unknowns overwhelm him, and the systems through which the powerful and skillful manipulate the dull and trusting. (You won't hear me argue that there's no truth to that.) It is through Hobbes that western democracy derived the notion of a "wall of separation" between church and state: the only way to circumvent the effects of messianism is to insist upon a secular government.

Rousseau, on the other hand, acknowledged -- and Hitchens does, too, though he does so with distinct lament -- that human beings are theotropic, or naturally inclined toward faith. (Here enter questions about religion as a product of evolution, which, to my mind, argue in favor of an Intelligent Designer.) "While Hobbes beat the drums of ignorance and fear," writes Lilla, "Rousseau sang the praises of conscience, of charity, of fellow feeling, of virtue, of pious wonder in the face of God’s creation. Human beings, he thought, have a natural goodness they express in their religion." (And right now I am feeling very angry that the brief overview of philosophy that I was given in school was tied to economics -- the only way they could have disinterested me more was to put an algebra equation in the middle of it.)

What Lilla chronicles, then, in western history from the middle ages to the present, is the way in which these competing ideas cycle to keep each other in balance: that we, as a culture, have a benevolent tendency to attempt to enforce higher ideas through governance which leads inexorably to perverted, and failed, totalitarianism. For a classic example, compare Marx's intent with the Soviet Union.

What he also notes -- and this is the coup de grace for Hitchens, though like the chicken he is he keeps running after his argument has been cut off -- is that scientific modernization does not, in fact, weaken religious belief. If history is any guide, what happens is that the human tendency toward faith is so strong that inevitably a movement will begin and eventually dominate, one that accommodates the new reality. A side effect, however, is that "liberal theology" -- a distinctly 19th century Protestant movement which Hitchens attempts to claim is merely a polite term for "liberation theology," a distinctly Catholic 20th century movement -- gave rise to Zionism and American Christian Fundamentalism; i.e., attempts to harmonize traditional beliefs with modern reality simultaneously created a new countermovement seeking "authenticity" rather than accommodation. Then Lilla points our heads in the direction of the Middle East.

Essentially, Lilla argues that western democracy, and the relative end it brought to centuries of bloody Christian internecine warfare is less the product of the technical and intellectual modernization of the 18th century than it is of a unique set of historical circumstances in which a culture collectively decided the best way to control the excesses of religious totalitarianism was to have a secular, pluralist representative government. We don't have a secular democracy because people stopped believing in God, but rather because people's understanding of God at the time made a secular democracy a virtuous ideal. In conclusion, Lilla strongly cautions us that we can't educate Islam out of its present crisis, again because the human tendency toward faith is so strong that rather than taking new, conflicting, contradictory information as evidence that there is no God, we incorporate it into a deeper, renewed belief.

Says Lilla: "The dynamics of political theology seem to dictate that when liberalizing reformers try to conform to the present, they inspire a countervailing and far more passionate longing for redemption in the messianic future. That is what happened in Weimar Germany and is happening again in contemporary Islam." (I think one can also strongly make a case for the American South and Midwest.)

So what can we do about the threat of radical Islam, according to Lilla? Not much. "What happens on the opposite shore will not be up to us. We have little reason to expect societies in the grip of a powerful political theology to follow our unusual path, which was opened up by a unique crisis within Christian civilization. This does not mean that those societies necessarily lack the wherewithal to create a decent and workable political order; it does mean that they will have to find the theological resources within their own traditions to make it happen."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday Photo Blogging: Coasting to Disaster

Last week I found myself jonesing for an adventure. Realizing that I had not yet made it out to the Coast since my arrival in Oregon in April, I thought that sounded like a good day-trip. On a whim I Googled “Yachats low tide August 12 2007” and it turned out that Sunday was actually going to be the lowest tide of the year, so the state was going to have naturalists posted at the tidepools at Cape Perpetua to show folks around and answer questions about the critters. Being a huge dork, I thought that sounded like fun.

Of course, low tide was from 8-10 a.m., and Yachats is three and a half hours away, so I was up and out before dawn, which had me on one of my favorite drives – OR 34 from Corvallis to Waldport – just as the sun was coming up and the morning fog was starting to lift. Fantastic.

It wasn’t the best weather one could have hoped for on the Oregon Coast in August, but it was fun poking around the tidepools.

The pools are in the cracks and crevices of a massive lava flow, and the rocks are actually pretty difficult to walk on because they are extremely sharp and craggy, and of course the farther out you go, the more encrusted they are with barnacles, anemones and mussels. You don’t have to go very far before there’s no bare rock left, and I waffled about going further because I didn’t want to smush anything, but I saw the naturalists were just standing on the mussel beds. Those shells are amazingly strong – you can walk right over the top of them, and not only do they not pry loose, they don’t crack or crunch under the weight of an adult!

In this pool you can see some of Oregon’s ubiquitous green anemones (occasionally you see some pink or purple ones) and some purple urchins crawling around.

There were tons of ochre sea stars, mostly purple with a few red and orange ones. Oregon also has a few sunflower stars, but I didn’t see any. There was this one guy with six arms, though.

It’s a pretty harsh environment, but it seems to suit these guys just fine.

After a couple hours out on the rocks, I hiked for about a mile back into the old-growth forest on the other side of US 101 to see this 400 year old, 195-foot tall Sitka Spruce. (It used to be 230 feet tall, but a storm snapped off the top a couple decades ago.) The trunk at the base is 15 feet in circumference.

Since I still had some laundry and other domestic tasks to accomplish before the weekend’s end, I decided to head back with the goal of arriving home in the late afternoon. I had a quick bite to eat in Newport, but then found myself in a nightmarish traffic jam of vacationers heading back to town. It took two hours to go the 23 miles from Newport to Lincoln City, where I turned east to head to Portland.

Having spent the last couple of hours rarely getting above 5 mph, I looked at the open expanse of OR-18 with a sigh of relief and stepped on the gas.

KERRRRRRRRGGGXXXXUGUSSFFGGSSSKKKKXXHHH! went my engine, as the RPM needle spiked into the red and my poor old Mercury labored to get above 30. I put on the blinkers and pulled over to the shoulder, and immediately smoke and steam started pouring out from under the hood, and a thick, dark, bubbly, stinky goo boiled out from the engine and spilled onto the asphalt. “Hmm, that isn’t good,” I said, aloud to no one.

Fortunately I was still in an area with cellphone service, so I was able to reach my parents. The car actually belongs to them (once I get, you know, a *job*, I will investigate the possibility of getting my own), and the AAA account is in their name, which means one of them is supposed to be with the car in order to get it towed, but my mother sweetly cajoled them into rescuing me. That process took about half an hour, and then AAA called me to say a driver would pick me up in 30-45 minutes. Precisely at the 45 minute mark, my phone rang again: it was the driver saying he’d just gotten a page and would be to me in...30-45 minutes. Sigh. Altogether I was only by the side of the road for two hours, which wasn’t so bad, I guess. I passed the time by imagining what my tow-truck driver would look like and indulging in fantasies of falling in love and spending the rest of my life living on the Oregon Coast with my hot, hunky tow-truck driving husband.

It was not to be.

Exploring Oregon’s pristine tidepools? Priceless. Having your car towed to Beaverton? $280.

We abandoned the car at the mechanic’s front door, who just had it in a couple weeks ago for a tune-up. My stepfather spoke to him and reported back to me that, quote, “The problem is with the tranny.” I refrained from commenting.

A week later, the car is still there and we have yet to hear a diagnosis, prognosis, or estimate. My stepfather has been driving me to and from work every day this week, and I remain exceedingly grateful that I found an apartment across the street from a grocery store. My mother is pondering trading it in, so every night before I go to bed I close my eyes, rub my temples and try to establish subliminal mind-contact while I chant, “Prius, Prius, Prius…

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Judge for Yourself

I had to include two photos so you could see both the "front" and the "back," since the miniature plastic pumpkins were on one side and the plastic, unripe raspberries (mottled yellow, green and red) were on the other.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Perfect[ly Hideous] Gift

Things at my temp job are a little better. I had a tactful talk with my supervisor and managed to politely convey that the problem is that I don't have enough work to fill my day. Er...that has been remedied. It's not particularly interesting, but it keeps me busy. I don't even know why some of it is coming my way (I'm doing budget reconciliation for a different office -- literally, a building in a different city -- shouldn't someone there be fixing their own budget? Or, at least someone in the finance department? Why is the temp receptionist in an office park 20 miles away doing budget reconciliation?) but at least it fills my time. And at least I know my efforts are appreciated.

When I came back from lunch today, there were flowers on my desk with a note that said, "To Andy, thank you for all you do, [my supervisors]."

I would have been touched, except...well, how to put this? It was the butt-ugliest flower arrangement I had ever seen.

Picture this: a small copper bucket filled with dandelions, pink carnations, orange silk oak leaves, miniature plastic pumpkins, plastic yellow raspberries, bracken fern and cedar fronds. I've never previously beheld a flower arrangement that contained a mix of fake fruit and tree leaves with live evergreens and honest-to-God weeds. In a bucket. With carnations.

Having stared at the thing for a couple of hours this afternoon, pondering my options, I realized I had no course other than to feign graciousness and thank them for the gift, calling upon every Stanislavskian technique I could recall to summon sincere gratitude. So at the end of the day, as they were heading out the door, I said, as best I could, "Hey, thank you so much for the flowers." (Note, I did not add the standard, "they are lovely.")

"Isn't that the fucking ugliest thing you've ever seen?" said one of them.

I nearly cried, I was so relieved.

It turns out they had gone to a nearby conference center to tour the facilities as a possible location for an upcoming meeting, which included a lunch to sample the catering, and at the end they were invited to take the centerpiece home with them. "Let's give it to Andy!" they decided.

Now that I know we all hate it, I love it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Monday, August 13, 2007

Kool Kitty

I meant to get the photos from this weekend edited and selected for publication on the blog, along with the thrilling tale, but...well, I just had too much to do today. Hopefully a picture of Rocky will suffice for the moment.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Q: What do you get when you cross starfish with a tow truck and cat poo in a Ziploc bag?

A: My weekend. Details and photos to come soon.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I Recant

Maybe Hal Lindsey is on to something.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On Reading the Bible "Literally"

Here is a quote from the August 5th edition of The Hal Lindsey Report on how to reconcile the fantastic, image-laden language of the book of Revelation with end-times theology that says we are on the brink of Armageddon:

"How could a man of the 1st century AD, who has never seen a machine, describe the technical marvels of the 21st century? With his experience and language limited to the materials and objects of the 1st century, how would he describe a helicopter or an intercontinental ballistic missile with multiple nuclear warheads? This is how he described what he saw: And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. Now, that’s a pretty good description of an attack helicopter."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Blog Alert

Gentle Readers, I have been put on notice by the benevolent overlords at my fabulous temp job that even so much as glancing at such risque websites as CNN or The New York Times is an express violation of their internet usage policy. So, I am afraid that over the next few weeks, until my replacement is able to take over for me and my joyful, spiritually rewarding time there will be but a fond, fond memory, my exposure to any form of intellectual stimulation that might inspire a blogpost of any quality at all will be severely limited. I apologize in advance for any inadvertent dry spells or utter mundanity.

Yours truly,

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Bible on Gay Marriage

In recent years, American moderates and progressives have banded together to reclaim Christianity’s public image from the religious right. Infuriated and embarrassed by the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson and George W. Bush, a grass-roots campaign has emerged to shift the focus away from narrow views of sexual morality and broaden the conversation to include poverty, climate change, civil rights and foreign policy issues like Darfur and the wars in the middle east.

In his 2005 runaway best-seller, God’s Politics, evangelical minister Jim Wallis successfully demonstrated that if Christians were to determine priorities based on how frequently a subject is mentioned in the Bible, aiding and defending the poor and the oppressed, those to whom Jesus refers as “the least among us,” is the clear winner. Unfortunately, some progressives have adopted this strategy to claim that the pet passions of the religious right – abortion and homosexuality – aren’t even mentioned in the Bible. This disingenuous and Biblically illiterate argument will only serve to undermine the worthy agendas they hope to advance.

Bob Edgar, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (an interdenominational Protestant organization encompassing 45 million American Christians) and a former six-term Congressman, writes in the opening pages of his book Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right, “The Bible mentions…homosexuality only twice, and poverty or peace more than two-thousand times.” Last week, in an appearance on The Colbert Report to promote her new book, Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said that the Bible never mentions gay marriage.

Edgar’s right about the Biblical emphasis on poverty, but as a Methodist minister he ought to have known that at a bare minimum, the Bible expressly mentions homosexuality in four places: Leviticus 18 and 20, Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6. (Depending on translation, you can also make a case for Genesis 19.) And what to make of Kennedy Townsend’s cheap point? The Bible never mentions kiddie porn, either. So what?

The Bible doesn’t discuss gay marriage because, in its cultural context, it was literally unthinkable. Biblical writers did not conceive of a biological basis for sexual orientation, which is widely accepted today. They didn’t believe that there was such a thing as a “gay person,” only a straight person who had exchanged “natural” for “unnatural” behaviors purely for the thrill of perverse sexual gratification.

It never would have occurred to Paul or the authors of Leviticus that two people of the same gender could actually fall in love and want to make a committed life together, even perhaps raising children and taking vows of fidelity before God, just as they couldn't have known that the earth rotates around the sun. Many Christian advocates for full inclusion of LGBT people now cite the infamous Romans 1 passage as justification for homosexuality, in light of the vast body of scientific evidence indicating a genetic or otherwise biological basis for sexual orientation. If homosexuality is indeed natural, as the evidence seems to indicate, then one possible reading of Paul’s words is that it is a sin to act contrary to your nature.

Comparatively, homosexuality may not be mentioned very much in the Bible; but to frame the issue as merely incidental and even trivial is to close your eyes to the reality of the church today. Yes, it would be nice if we could all unite around poverty, but the truth is that issues of sexuality are literally tearing our churches apart. This is a serious argument that deserves sophisticated, honest treatment as a path toward understanding and reconciliation, not a blithe dismissal. If our charge has been that the religious right has only been selectively reading scripture, we can’t respond in kind. We must be honest about what the Bible says, and engage those arguments with the integrity they require.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Quote for the Day

"You can't cite your enemy's delusional hopes as a basis for a rational strategy."

- Kung Fu Monkey, on the theory of Crazification