Friday, August 24, 2007

The departed intangible inanimate.

Lack of interest: No hits, no comments, no...nothing.
Lack of time: I've got four separate course preps this semester, plus a dissertation to write.

The only logical thing to do is to shutter the blog again. And so I am. If I'm misreading things, and someone is just terribly interested in the remaining Visible Vote '08 commentary, I'll be glad to send it to you privately.

Au revoir.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Visible Vote '08: Senator John Edwards

John Edwards mentioned his recent visit to the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, and his concern for the homeless teens he met there—teens who’d been thrown into the streets to fend for themselves by parents who hate themselves too much to love a gay child. I’m sure that at least a few people saw this as a cynical ploy on the part of Mr. Edwards. I definitely gave him the benefit of the doubt here, though—far too many U.S. Americans fail to make full emotional contact with the horrific truth that thousands of children are homeless simply because they’ve told their parents that they are gay. It’s a situation that warrants mentioning at every opportunity. And cynical ploy or no, I think that Edwards really was concerned for what he saw in Los Angeles; only a sociopath could see such a thing and not feel outrage. An additional plus for Edwards is his wife Elizabeth, who has been an amazingly strong supporter of LGBT equality. So at least in my eyes, Edwards was relatively well-positioned going into the question-and-answer portion of the forum. And it was at that point that he just kinda lost me…

Senator Edwards on how his religious beliefs affect his views on gay marriage:

Yes, Mr. Edwards, I believe you when you say that you wouldn’t impose your faith on the American people. My question is this: How can you continue to be a part of a faith tradition that believes that God loves some people less? How can you believe in that God? Some of tonight’s commentators seem to think that Edwards denied that his religion is the reason for his opposition to gay marriage. I didn’t hear that. And frankly, the thought of religions opposing marriage, or even having the audacity to comment on who a person falls in love with, is disgusting to me. Still, I don’t dislike John Edwards. I’m just sick of people who tiptoe around their stance on my civil and human rights. Hell, I’m tired of the necessity of other people talking about whether I should HAVE rights. If you don’t think that I should have full rights as an American and a human, tell me why. I want to hear logic. I’ll probably still want to tell you you’re a moron, but don’t patronize me with waffling political speak.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Visible Vote '08: Senator Barack Obama.

Senator Obama on homophobia in the African American community:

I believe that Barack Obama understands injustice, and I believe that his personal conviction is that it must be eradicated. Still, I’m just kinda tired of people who mince lightly along when their strides ought to be registering on seismographs. I’m glad that Mr. Obama brings up the issue of homophobia in the African American community when he gets the chance to and I really do appreciate the fact that he links it to the issue of social justice in general, but I still really want him to put the message forth more forcefully. If an African American pastor of an African American church preaches bigotry, she or he should be called to task--and not indirectly either. Soft and fuzzy metaphors shouldn’t stand in for the blunt truth when the issue is hate.

Am I, a white male, presuming to tell Mr. Obama how he should speak to African Americans on this issue? Well...yes. I am. When oppressed minorities participate in the oppression of others, excusing it as the product of ignorance is unacceptable. When Mr. Obama talks to African Americans about these issues, he should remind them of the powerful opportunity they have to stand up for justice for ALL human beings. But he should also ask why such a large number of African American churchgoers are content to see hatred flowing like rivers of tainted blood from their pulpits. He should ask why so many participate in discrimination against their fellow citizens, and why so many more ignore it. He should ask why so many work so hard to perpetuate the injustices that their forebears fought against.

I’d spend some time here discussing the fact that many gay men need to examine these exact same issues, but I’m not interested in qualifying my criticism of African American bigots. Gay or straight, black or white, poor or rich, hatred needs to be exposed for what it is, and responding by pointing fingers in other directions changes exactly nothing. Take another look at your history, African American bigots. Re-learn your lessons. And fix what’s broken. You’ve ceded the moral high ground, and it’s time for you to reclaim it.

Senator Obama on gay marriage and the church's role in determining civil rights:

Obama (and later, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton) skirted around the real reason he’s against gay marriage. I understand the candidates' belief that expressing support for equal marriage opportunities makes them less electable; they may well be correct about that as long as they feel they should apologize for standing up for what's right and just. But why not attack the fundamental illogic of the whole issue? The truth is this: None of people who are fighting against equal marriage rights are self-proclaimed bigots or hatemongers. Yet refusing to apply the term “marriage” to the long-term unions of LGBT folks directly implies and bolsters the idea that there’s something fundamentally wrong with people who are not straight. And that…well, that’s bullshit. And so yeah: I have a problem with "leaders" who refuse to call same-sex marriages by their proper name. I, too, sing America; I, too, have a dream. The same exact dream that Mr. Hughes and Dr. King had. And separate-but-equal civil unions sure as hell aren't any more a part of that dream than segregated schools and whites-only water fountains. We can do better. And so can Edwards, Clinton, and Obama.

The Visible Vote '08: A Presidential Forum.

Two nights ago, I watched The Visible Vote '08: A Presidential Forum streamed live on Logo Online. The forum was a chance for presidential candidates to speak about their stance on LGBT issues like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the ever-popular “gay marriage." You can watch individual clips or the entire forum here. In the entries that follow, I’ll give my thoughts on each of the candidates appearing at the forum.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rise Against: "Ready to Fall."

Crushingly kick-ass hardcore. They're politically aware, smart, and--yes--fairly radical. I love these guys. And this video? Some disturbing stuff here, especially if you care about how we treat animals and our planet. Nothing new, but the message bears repeating. Maybe one day it'll sink in. You've been warned.

I highly recommend clicking "menu" in the video frame while it's active and watching the video for "Give It All" as well if you like what you hear and see in "Ready To Fall." The albums are Siren Song of the Counter Culture and The Sufferer and the Witness, respectively.


hold on slow down
again from the top now and tell me everything
I know I’ve been gone for
what seems like forever
but I’m here now waiting
to convince you that I’m not
a ghost or a stranger
but closer than you think
she said “just go on to what you
pretend is your life but
please don’t die on me”

wings won’t take me
heights don’t faze me
so take a step
but don’t look down, take a step

now I’m standing on the rooftop ready to fall (ready to fall)
I think I’m at the edge now but I could be wrong
I’m standing on the rooftop ready to fall

perpetual motion the image wont focus
a blur is all that’s seen
but here in this moment like the eye of the storm
it all came clear to me
I found a shoulder to lean on
an infallible reason to live all by itself
I took one last look from the heights that I once loved
and then I ran like hell

wings won’t take me
heights don’t faze me
so take a step
but don’t look down take a step

now I’m standing on the rooftop ready to fall (ready to fall)
I think I’m at the edge now but I could be wrong
I’m standing on the rooftop ready to fall

I count the times that I’ve been sorry (I know I know)
now my compassion slowly drowns (I know I know)
if there’s a time these walls could guard you (I know I know)
then let that time be right now

now I’m standing on the rooftop
now I’m standing on the rooftop ready to fall (ready to fall)
I’m standing on the rooftop ready to fall
I think I’m at the edge now but I could be wrong
I’m standing on the rooftop ready to fall
now I’m standing on the rooftop(ready to fall)
now I’m standing on the rooftop(ready to fall)
now I’m standing on the rooftop(ready to fall)
now I’m standing on the rooftop(ready to fall)
now I’m standing on the rooftop ready to fall

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Once again, with feeling and coherence.

When it comes to anti-bigotry manifestos, I'm always on the lookout for that rare combination of fire and eloquence. This guy nails it, I think:
I know that critics of homosexuality do not consider themselves to be hateful. They would say they "love the sinner but hate the sin." If the shoe were on the other foot, however, and someone were attacking their families, trying to take their children away, and constantly working to pass legislation to deprive them of basic civil rights, at some point they would understand that "homophobia" is too mild a word for such harassment. "Hatred" is the only proper term.

I was raised in Dallas, Texas and had classmates who were in the Klan. I remember that they did not consider themselves to be attacking other people. They perceived themselves to be defenders of Christian America. Their "religion" consisted of an unrelenting attack on people who were black, Jewish or homosexual. If anyone challenged these views, these Klan members considered themselves under attack and believed that their right to free exercise of religion was being threatened. In other words, they felt that harassing other people was a protected expression of their own religious faith.

In the Gospel, biblical literalists and judgmental people were the negative example in many of the stories. The point of those stories was to teach us the hypocrisy of judgmental religion. When a woman was caught in adultery, the Biblical literalists lined up to protect family values. They pointed out that the Bible literally says that adulterers are to be stoned. If Jesus took the Bible seriously, they claimed, he would have to participate in the mandated biblical punishment of an adulteress.

Instead of following scripture, Jesus tells the woman to get her life together and tells everyone else to drop their stones of judgment. The only way to take this story seriously is to conclude that real Christians don't use the bible to condemn other people.

The full essay can be found here. Thank you, Rev. Rigby.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Flogging Molly: "Drunken Lullabies."

As some of you know, Flogging Molly is one of my all-time favorite bands. Sadly, not many people know much about them; most have never even heard of them. The same goes for two other favorite bands of mine: Dropkick Murphys and the The Pogues. When I contemplated starting this blog, I thought it might be fun to post a video or audio clip of a band I really like once in a while; I'm posting the first such clip today. "Drunken Lullabies" is one of those character-story videos that doesn't have a whole lot to do with the song's lyric (which is classic Flogging Molly). But it's good stuff anyway. "Drunken Lullabies" is from Flogging Molly's album of the same name.


Must it take a life for hateful eyes
To glisten once again
Five hundred years like Gelignite
Have blown us all to hell
What savior rests while on his cross we die
Forgotten freedom burns
Has the Shepard led his lambs astray
to the bigot and the gun

Must it take a life for hateful eyes
To glisten once again
Cause we find ourselves in the same old mess
Singin' drunken lullabies

I watch and stare as Rosin`s eyes
Turn a darker shade of red
And the bullet with this sniper lie
In their bloody gutless cell
Must we starve on crumbs from long ago
Through these bars of men made steel
Is it a great or little thing we fought
Knelt the conscience blessed to kill

Must it take a life for hateful eyes
To glisten once again
Cause we find ourselves in the same old mess
Singin' drunken lullabies

Ah, but maybe it`s the way you were taught
Or maybe it`s the way we fought
But a smile never grins without tears to begin
For each kiss is a cry we all lost
Though there is nothing left to gain
But for the banshee that stole the grave
Cause we find ourselves in the same old mess
Singin' drunken lullabies

I sit in and dwell on faces past
Like memories seem to fade
No colour left but black and white
And soon will all turn grey
But may these shadows rise to walk again
With lessons truly learnt
When the blossom flowers in each our hearts
Shall beat a new found flame

Must it take a life for hateful eyes
To glisten once again
Cause we find ourselves in the same old mess
Singin' drunken lullabies
Cause we find ourselves in the same old mess
Singin' drunken lullabies
Singin' drunken lullabies

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A new semester at LSU.

The beginning of a new semester is always hectic--lots of paperwork to feed the bureaucracy, lots of planning for my own academic endeavors, lots of preparation for teaching. Still, I'm done with coursework as of last fall, and I haven't yet begun to prepare for the general exams I'll be taking in a few weeks.
For right now, all I have to do at LSU is teach--something I love to do. Not only do I like teaching for all the conventional reasons, but also because it's an escape for me. When I'm doing my thing in the classroom, everything else fades into the background. I'm there, I'm focused on interacting with my students, and I'm concentrating on what my students need and what I need to do to deliver it. As those of you who've been in the classroom as a teacher know well, this often involves a lot of backtracking and sidetracking, frequent changes of plans, and quick thinking. Today, in my second Performance of Literature class, this process led me to do something I'd practically vowed not to do in the classroom.
From a pedagogical point of view, I never saw the value in revealing my sexual orientation to my students. If it doesn't create a "teachable moment," my thinking went, there's no reason to bring it into the class. Aside from that, I believe that in most of life's circumstances, a person's orientation is of negligible importance. In this case, however, I found a different reason to come out to my students--an incidental one.
I was introducing the concept of blending performance with literature to the class. As an example, I pulled Frost's "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening" out of the air. For reference (and because I've always loved the poem):

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
I talked about the most common analytical interpretation of the poem--that it provides a metaphor for the contemplation of suicide. Then I discussed my personal interpretive preference for the poem--a literal reading built around what I think are simple, beautiful images of passing near a quiet, snowy forest at night, and the fleeting sense of Taoist solitude that I find in Frost's words. I encouraged the class to contemplate how these two interpretations might alter an individual's performance of the poem.
Several students got hung up on how one might go about performing an interpretation like the second one without using sign language or playing charades with the audience. I told them that the core of such a performance would need to be grounded in personal memory and experience. "Like....what?" one student asked, frowning.
Now, hypotheticals aren't my style. I tend to prepare extensively and then provide lecture examples on the fly, and I've grown accustomed to responding to questions that way. The first thought that came to my mind as I groped for examples of what I might use to create the physical aspects of a performance of "Woods" was...the stand of trees behind Bob's house in Massachusetts.
The dell from Bob's house in wintertime.
Behind Bob's house, there's a dell filled with beautiful trees. You can see it from his kitchen window, and I once told Bob that I would love to be there in the winter to see the snow falling through the branches. Some months later, in the winter when I was back home in Baton Rouge, Bob aimed his web cam at the dell so that I could see the snow fall. I played George Winston's
December album while I watched the snow at my computer. I've still never seen snow like that in person, and I can only imagine the sound and the feeling of being in such a place with the snow. Maybe it's better in my imagination than it would be in reality, but that's beside the point--the image in my mind fits perfectly with the grandeur, melancholy, seclusion, passivity, and engagement I feel in Frost's poem.
Deer browsing in the dell behind Bob's house.
I wanted to tell my students all this, to use it as a concrete example of a personal experience that I might use as a starting point for developing a performance. The example came to me as a narrative, and it never occurred to me to present it in any other fashion. After a quick inner debate, I mentally slapped myself on the wrist for hesitating and told the class the story. Beginning with "My ex-fiance Bob has a stand of trees just beyond his backyard...." I went on to tell them about looking at the trees while making jambalaya for our supper, and about how Bob aimed his web cam at the trees in winter for me. I talked about the significance of this memory, and about why I link it to the images in "Woods". And then, of course, I went on with the lesson. (Side note: Putting "ex-" in front of anything referencing Bob still bugs me, but I can't seem to find an accurate and workable solution to this vexation.)
Afterward I wondered what, if anything, my class thought about this whole episode. I've become accustomed to surprise and even shock as reactions when I come out, so it felt strange to do it in a situation in which the listeners might feel constrained to limit their responses.
To be honest, I'm not even sure why this feels important enough to write about. And yet, I'm fairly sure that it is important. I'm also fairly sure that now that I've done it once, I'll want to do it again--pedagogical theory be damned. I don't know why that is, either. But for right now, I'm content to just let it be.