Friday, July 24, 2009

Note on how it is

It's almost 10 and I am still working ... editing course descriptions, which is something I can do in my sleep, and often do before I sleep. I loathe sloppiness in prose ... loathe .. and the closer one comes to the humanistic core, the sloppier the prose. So I am growling now from having to correct infantile errors made by humanist scholars who ought to care more about the quality of their words. I rarely have to spend much time on scientific or engineering prose; those folks produce lists of terms that occasionally demand Googling, but not much else. But the humanists seem to think that excesses of froth equal better content. Yech.

I am a week from going live with the course catalog for MRU, the major research university where I clip verbiage for a living.

Worked from home today, as I often do in the period. Instead of lunch, I went into the back yard and yanked great strings of trumpet vine from the bushes. It was the proximate meme for yanking BS from humanist course descriptions ... not to mention other prose obscenities. I could ramble on.

I loathe sloppy prose, and I utterly fail to understand how any educated humanist could sleep with a puddle of such filth on their conscience.

Still, only a week to go.

The dog has developed a hematoma on his ear. Not critical or an emergency ... but why now, my sweet friend? Why now? We have an appointment for a draining and possible sutures on Tuesday ... that would be four days to go-live. I am obsessed at his discomfort ... notwithstanding that he is sound asleep, dog-like, three feet from me.

Better prose on this blog, at least as I see it, shortly ... specifically after August 1. And more photos.

For the moment, one more slurp of bourbon and then sweet, sweet Morpheus.

And wondering ... a life with deadlines ... they torment me. Who would I be without them?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

And that's the way it is.

The CBS retrospective on Walter Cronkite combined the best and the worst. Cronkite as the best, and the worst which is television news today. I wonder if Cronkite cringed as much as the rest of us do when Katie Couric mouths her oily platitudinous reductions.

The best was also the footage, and the worst was the endless narrating of how wonderful he was. Wouldn't a solid hour of nothing but clips be so much more a tribute?

Like all news junkie 50-somethings, I remember Walter Cronkite ... and given that I lived in Canada until the very tail end of his career as anchor to the nation, that's saying something. But I have to admit that the news he covered made more of an impression than he did. That's the way it should be. No Ashley Banfields, no Anderson Coopers, no Keith Olbermanns ... and certainly none of those babbling babboons on Fox ... No. News tells itself; the reporter's genius is in letting it do that.

The man led an amazing life. One of the greats.

This is the time of year when my entire life becomes focused upon the production of the course catalog for the Major Research University where I sharpen red pencils for wages. This year, we are not printing the thing, and the changes we made last year have created a production schedule that is vastly less stressful than every before. But still bloody stressful. So my posts may be a little reserved for another couple of weeks ... notwithstanding that I have a burning desire to answer the uninformed, narrow-minded, historically ignorant and bigoted nonsense of LZ Granderson on CNN. As I watched the Cronkite piece on CBS, I thought of combining the two. If I can get a solid day's work in on the course catalog tomorrow, I may devote a few hours to this pursuit tomorrow evening.

And I want to add, for those of my readers who follow my photography, that I am hanging on my own petard. I upgraded from iPhoto to Aperture in the middle of the busiest work period of my year ... and I can't find anything, my tags don't work, and the photos are like sand in my fingers. Give me a week or two.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just a little note

Just watched the American Idol finale on reprise with my friend of two decades, Tony. What a show! I am a smidge drunk, but surely that does not make me more sentimental than usual. Loved Alison and Cindy. Blown away by Kris and Keith. Poor Rod Stewart ... give it up dude. And blown out of the water by Kris and Adam and Queen. Those Queen guys must have been blown out of their minds by Adam.

It takes guts to sing ... never forget that. Sing!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blogging the All-Star Game

So I worked from home today ... it is that busy time of year in course catalog production ... and I "stiffed the dog" ... that is I did not walk him. So I am free to lay back at 5 p.m. and watch the All-Star Game from St. Louis. Just going to blog a little without a particular purpose and certainly with no intent to be complete.

The President will throw out the first pitch, and they showed him visiting both locker rooms. I may be pissed off at him, but he is certainly a cool dude, unflappable. I think the ball players were genuinely star-struck, and that is saying something.

Now Obama narrates a laudatory video ... the first of all five living presidents. He sure knows how to grab the bully pulpit ... I just want him to use it, to push it, to change the parameters. I had the Sotomayor hearings on today as I worked, and I thought she did well. Just as he does well. But doing well is no longer enough. We have to break sound barriers. Hmmm. They talk about volunteering, and points of light, and doing good. Sure. But not enough. We have to break the rules.

Very touching, still.

So Missouri's own Sheryl Crow sings the National Anthem. I may be a Canadian, but the Star Spangled Banner sends chills through me. One of the great joys of being a sports fan is that you get to hear it sung so often. Here it goes ... WOW ... a capella, there is nothing that makes a great voice more honest than that song. She belted it out, as it should be. I can't stand it when people turn it into a ballad. Her voice was raw-edged but, again, honest.

The fly-over by the stealth bomber was pretty spooky ... sorry I didn't get a pic.

Five Cardinal Hall of Famers ... including Ozzie Smith who has, so far as I know, boycotted the Cards until Tony La Russa no longer manages them. Strange. I think he has to get over it. Not a mention on the show.

Wow! Obama ballsily wears a White Sox jacket, jogs athletically to the mound, and throws a strike to the mound. What a stud.

And now the supremely annoying Buck boy, who openly prefers football to baseball. Yech. I grew to appreciate Tim McCarver a little more in the one year that he worked for the Giants. He does repeat himself ... oy, does he repeat himself? Yes, he does repeat himself, repeatedly. And when he's done, he says it again. Better than the Buck boy.

So let's go NL ... losers since 1996. How can that be? (has a lot to do with the pernicious impact of the DH ... designated hitter ... the most hated rule in pro sports.)

Timmie takes the mound ... yeah ... and Ichiro gets a doink hit with two strikes. Lincecum to Ichiro looks like high school baseball.

Ooops ... hits Jeter ... looking like trouble.

Damn ... double play ball with one out, and Pujols boots it, so there's an earned run.

Now bases loaded, double play ball and Lincecum doesn't cover first properly. Another run, though probably not earned.

Out of it with 2 runs. Jeez. Three botched double plays.

Baseball is so weird ... the AL gets two runs on a bunch of junk, but the NL gets nothing on three very hard-hit balls, two of them "rockets".

Timmie's second inning is 3 up 3 down. The way it should be.

Bottom of the second, 2 out, nobody on, three consecutive hits and an error, and the score is tied. Timmie's out of trouble!! Prince fielder pinch hits for him, so his evening is over ... 1-run ground rule double. 3-2 NL.

Meanwhile, Obama doing a good job as color commentator, guest.

RL, my roommate, just handed me an old-fashioned ... much appreciated. Life is good. Meanwhile, that Ryan Braun is awful cute. I don't get much time for baseball nowadays. Part of that is that I do not have a baseball buddy; more important is that I just don't have the time. A life that is lock-step from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. does not leave a lot of room. Not that the 14 hours is not without its charms ... I love the dog walks, the train trip and the reading. And my job, no matter the stress, is endlessly fascinating and constantly changing. I am an easily bored person, and a static job would slowly kill me. I claim that I could live without the stress, but that has not been proven.

So an unlikely Giant, Jonathan Sanchez, pitched a no-hitter on Friday, and I did not see a single pitch of it. Normally, I try to watch a game on Friday night, but RL and I got talking and drinking and eating, and I had a blog post to squeeze out which I did as I sat at the counter watching him cook.

This ump doesn't like the low pitch ... phooey.

When I arrive din the States in 1981, I had left sports behind ... my childhood loves were hockey and the CFL (Canadian Football League). But I slowly got back into sports via college basketball until a co-worker at the late Omnicomp corrected some bilious errors I presented as fact about baseball. My first game was a Giants playoff game against the Cards in 1987 where Jeffrey Leonard hit a screaming homer down the left field line right past our seats which came courtesy of the mayor's office via several stops. I think it was game 2 because I remember us winning.

It's been a love affair ver since .. .especially with pitching. Yes, it is pitching that turns my crank. Nothing so sweet as a 1-0 complete game.

Bottom of the 4th, and young Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals steps up to pitch, and I have never heard of him. Turns out he has some kind of social anxiety disorder. Filthy slider, low outside, that the ump calls a strike. That's the way it should be ... make 'em swing.

It's getting to be a boring game ... and I can't stand Joe Buck ... and suddenly the obnoxious new habit of singing God Bless America, the most maudlin and uninspiring of the national songs. Why not America the beautiful whose poetry, while hardly a Star Spangled Banner, is moving and its language exquisite. No, the broad masses like unoffensive taste ... God Bless America is the Budweiser of songs.

Speaking of which, I need another beer.

Bottom of the 8th, 4-3 Al now. 2 on, 2 out, 0-2, Joe Nathan pitching to Ryan Howard. Wow. So the NL steals second, and Howard can be walked. Keee-rist ... but strikes out on a checked sing on a ball in the dirt. Ouch.

Nathan used to be a Giant, and we all still curse the day they traded him.

So we go to the bottom of the ninth, AL leading 4-3. It's gonna be Mariano Rivera, and I am one of those Yankee haters. Love New York, hate the Yankees. Go figure. Let's send Rivera into his richly deserved retirement with an old-fashioned spanking.

Oy ... 1 out, ground out to short.

2 out ... called third strike on the outside.

Suddenly the ump calls the low bloody strike, way low ... I guess Mariano gets whatever he wants.

3rd out ... flare fly ball.

The stadium is silent. Everybody is bummed.

Enough for me ... gotta get these pix out of the camera ... and I am totally sick of Joe Buck's voice.

Pics by Arod of his boob tube.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Every morning, after the dog walk but before I put on my tie, I grab a handful of koi pellets, go to the pond in the back yard, and thrust my arm almost to my elbow into the cold water. I let the pellets slowly float free to the surface from between my fingers, but keep enough in my down-turned palm that one or another of the koi find it worth their while to nibble directly from my hand.

Th water is cold, and it has an unmistakable odor. It is one of the most sensual moments of my far too lock-step day. Each day a different memory of water floats into my head as I resist the urge to get my hand out of the frigid wet.

The koi water and the water of my numerous aquaria are the only regular associations with water in my life, and I regret that. When I am feeling stress, I often think of water ... the open ocean at night, great rivers, and, most of all, the endless streams and lakes of northern Canada.

I remember when i was a teenager and a bunch of us were on some sort of camping expedition ... the details are foggy. My friend Peter, with whom I was secretly in love, and I filched a rowboat from some other campers. We paddled around in overgrown waterways. Suddenly, Peter dropped his glasses into a muddy byway. He stripped to his underwear and dove in. When he was gone, I was frozen in lust ... his all but naked body revealed. He surfaced, wet and pale white, gathered his breath, and plunged down again. He never found his glasses, and I have never recovered from that association of wet and the object of my ardent, teenage desires.

I thought of that today when the Washington Post published this photo:

Water is the other medium, other than air, where we vacation but where we do not live. Many are those whose lives are entirely bound into water. But they still live in air.

I hanker for water. My sainted ex, Richard, had a kayaking hobby for some time, and I vicariously kayaked with him. I still treasure the photos he took when surrounded entirely by water in Alaskan fjords.

Water drives history, of course, and it will drive the torments that await us in the next centuries. I have been reading Mesopotamian history, and we know that hydraulics lie underneath the economics that created empire and power and majesty. But, curiously, the Mesopotamians set water to the side of their cosmological views, and worshiped instead air and sky in the "persons" of Enlil and Marduk. Water surrounded and undergirded. But it was never the center.

Last evening, it rained just a little ... enough that I took the cushions off the yard chairs.

The first time I visited Berlin, I sat by the fountain in Kufurstendamm one morning, transfixed simultaneously by the fountain itself and some passing beauty seated on the other side of me. I had no camera, so I have no record. But the fountain took on that extra meaning of unrequited lust. The last time I visited Berlin, I tried to find that moment again. Instead, I found a great fountain.

Water is like that. We trace our passions in it, and it washes them away.

We never touch the same water twice. Though we try.

Top photo by Arod of fountain at the Major Research University where I wet wash for wages; middle photo from the news today; bottom photo from by Arod from Berlin.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Ancients Whisper: Further Notes on Mesopotamian Religion

I have moved on from Mesopotamia to a campy "popular" history of Egypt, Barbara Mertz's Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs. But I did not express to my own satisfaction in my last post the underlying dialectics of ancient Mesopotamian religion. So here goes ...

The fact of the Mesopotamian additive, accumulative, and mechanical listing and doubling approach to imagining the influence of the divine upon everyday life does not mean that there was not a dialectic going on. Mechanical thinking is, I would assert, only a rhetorical means of approaching the expression of the irreducible dialectics of being and living. What that means in the concrete is that the pragmatic side of Mesopotamian religion was not burdened with a supervening transcendence which could obscure its practicality and tolerance as opposed to what came later ... religion as repression and exclusive monomania.

This was the contribution of the ancient Hebrews. I hasten to pre-credential myself ... that is to cover my derrière ... by noting that my speculations on ancient Hebrew religion express nothing of my lifelong love of the Jewish cultural influence on Western society. I have never written about that here, and I will have to do so at some point. But the ancient Hebrews effected a revolution in thought that transformed the ambient pan-cultural and accumulative religious system into a "national," exclusive, and substitutive one. Where any individual or community could choose from a pantheon which divinity they preferred as their intercessor and defender, the Hebrews required allegiance to one god. By that move, they had to create a god who transcended the mechanical relationship between the divine and the real ... in other words, no longer was each event or moment the result of a narrative or an approachable decision maker, but now all reality was transcendentally controlled ex nihilo by one supervening and enveloping totality.

Monotheism ... what a curse. And a fraud ... because the high level notion of the great oneness never quite matches up with the on-the-ground practical need for intercession, exorcism, and help. That ultimately is where Christianity with its Jesus myth and Islam with its countless Sufi and Shia cults came in to "liberate" Hebrew religion from its ethnic cubbyhole and remake it into popular, boundary-less, and transmissible religious systems. The persistence of Hebrew religion among Jews over the millennia as the most pure of monotheisms is one of the most remarkable stories in human history. There's no go-between for the Jews and their god.

But that is not what I want to address right now.

Hebrew religion served as the transmission belt for the worst aspects of Mesopotamian religion ... its at-bottom nihilism, the dialectic of blinding brilliance and dispiriting terror. Its hopeless view of human life as coming from nowhere and ending in nothingness.

As I have been re-reading ancient history, I am simultaneously obsessed with wondering what it was like to live then, and ensnared by the horror that their obsessions with hopelessness and terror infected all of human history ... the venom that Fred Phelps and, today sadly, the SCLC spew against those they revile is the transmogrified religious system of Uruk in the fourth millennium B.C.E.

Transmogrified ... in other words, it is not that Mesopotamian religion was filled with hatred, for it did not seem to be. It was filled with dread. But dread plus monotheism equals hatred.

It's reasonably easy to assign reasons for the small steps in history ... why Prussia beat France in 1870, or why Octavian won at Actium. But it is difficult to understand what the particular impetuses are behind the huge earthquakes. As the aforementioned Barbara Mertz speculates, why did Egypt rapidly move from a millennia-old string of villages splayed down a river to a great, unified kingdom that would last for millennia? And why after 3500 years did Mesopotamian religion go into an occlusion, only to re-emerge with a vengeance in the era of Constantine and conquer the as yet unimagined Western world? Why was faith, the successor to the fatalism of the Mesopotamians, able not just to conquer reason, the concomitant and anointed successor to Greco-Roman religion, but to harness reason to its own purposes? Why was reason not able to crush the last stingy upwelling of the Mesopotamian miasma?

Of course, I pose these things from my own perspective. Plenty are those, blithely ignorant of the Babylonian genesis of the christ myth, who shudder in ecstasy at having that special intercessor ... just as the Mesopotamians shivered as they performed their rituals to whatever intercessor they might choose.

So this is not felicitous prose ... I know it ... but I leave you with this question: what determines which ancient historical dynamics turn out to be unextinguishable? I think that is why I read history.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Ancients Whisper: Mesopotamian Religion

I have been reading the superb Jean Bottéro's Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia (1998; tr from French to English 2001). So these are notes about what I take away from the last couple of months of reading about ancient Mesopotamia, focused on religion; I will stick in a few page references so I can get back to the source when I re-read this down the road.

I want to make five points:

1. Lists

The ancient civilization that we can describe came into view because of scribes and writing and the need to keep track of the accumulation of goods at temples. I do not want to try to describe the flux and reflux of religion and state, or priest and king, and I do not want to make too broad an assertion about the role of religion in the rise of civilization. But writers ... without the scribes, there is no civilization. And they started with lists. Once they made lists, other scribes coped the lists. Whenever Sumerian gave way to Akkadian and became a classical, liturgical language, scribes made translation lists. There were lists of gods, lists of omens, lists of goods.

The listing behavior is evidence of a society whose thinking is mechanical and additive. Indeed, it is easy for us in the modern world to forget that the vast majority of people throughout time have lived in societies which describe their life world in additive, mechanical ways. The careful reader of my scratch-post will recollect that my own academic work concerned the nature of writing in a radically oral society in which a caste of scribes and writers produced writing to be recited to the non-literate and owned by the powerful. The three millennia of Mesopotamia fits precisely in this zone.

So think of that caste of writers. They spent their lives learning the complexities of cuneiform. By the time they became "journeymen" they had copied hundreds of texts and immersed themselves in a long past that was constant, in which change was a terrifying irruption that had no basic impact on how lives were led or how the universe was imagined.

We do not know the lines between scribes and priests. Indeed, we know that there are sundry types of priests, but we are not sure what each type did or how one type related to another. But we do know that the lists upon lists were he closest thing to what we would call scripture, and that the lists were mnemonic devices to remind people how to encounter the divine, how to influence the forces, ow to make the best of what all admitted was a dark and foreboding reality.

Now lists can have more than one element, and this is key. They had lists that gave the Sumerian name followed by the Akkadian name of a god. They had lists that described an event followed by what the event portended. But once you have a list, why not get more lists, and so ...

2. The ancients in the near East favored accumulation over substitution (82). In other words, they liked to add gods, but they never fully discarded a god even if he fell from centrality. An gave way to Enlil who gave way to Marduk. But none of them was banished.

The dialectical frame of mind always sees in the confrontation of elements the immanent possibility of the destruction of one, or both, and the transformation of a counterposed pair into a new, "higher" singularity, itself subject to further contradiction. That is not the way of the ancients. They were compound, not complex, in their explanation of reality. Again, additive ... one explanation did not preclude another. One set of gods did not preclude another. Indeed, for much of time, one king did not preclude another, notwithstanding the periodic impulses to empire.

The additive or accumulating mindset is coincident with the religious notion that the divine world and the material world are roughly parallel if not thereby equivalent. Which leads to ...

3. Doubling the visible world (44). The fundamental conception of the divine among the ancient Mesopotamians was to see in the divine world a parallel structure to the experienced world. Every item or force in the real world had a corresponding and decisive force in the divine world. Nothing happened in the real world without the impetus of the divine world. This is the source, obviously of the accumulating tendency.

We know, of course, that reality is a bitch. And we must assume that, prior to penicillin and modern dentistry, the bitchiness of life was the more acute. So the ancients saw a divine world in which the gods created human beings in order to feed them and so that they did not have to work. This is the source of the elaborate feeding the gods ceremonies of which we have textual evidence. But the ancients didnot feed the gods just because they felt a duty to do so. They fed them because they feared their wrath if they were not fed.

This doubling of the material world was grounded in a conception of the gods as fearful, evoking brilliance and terror (39). If the divine world doubled our own, then what happened in our own world was beyond our direct control. We are the victims of the whims of the gods, alive only to serve them.

Of course, people always want to negotiate with fate, and Bottéro makes a brilliant argument about how exorcism supplanted magic as the primary way in which people approached the gods. In his argument, magic is just a technique intervention. But exorcism relies on the notion that a person by failing to perform a required duty to the gods has sinned, and therefore been punished by some divine flick of the wrist. So if the supplicant can only find the right way to approach the god and mollify and compensate him, then perhaps the god will reverse the punishment. Just as one would approach an angry monarch, or an angry landlord, or an angry judge.

The doubling concept of heaven and earth reflected, then, being trapped in a concept of society and hierarchy. "Reverence, admiration, and self-effacement with respect dominate in the texts." (40) And just as in society one could not deal with everything, so it was in the divine. One had to choose, based upon one's place.

Interlude: allow me to quote a text just for the purpose of tasting how the ancients wrote, albeit the odors faint and elusive.

How long has the river risen and brought the overflowing waters,
so that the dragonflies drift down the river?
The face that could gaze upon the face of the Sun
has never existed ever.
How alike are the sleeping and the dead. (105-6)

Or how about:

I will praise the lord of wisdom, solicitous god,
Furious in the night, growing calm in the day:
Marduk! lord of wisdom, solicitous god,
Furious in the night, growing calm in the day:
Whose anger is like a raging tempest, a desolation,
But whose breeze is sweet as the breath of morn.
In his fury not to be withstood, his rage the deluge,
Merciful in his feelings, his emotions relenting.
The skies cannot sustain the weight of his hand,
His gentle palm rescues the moribund. (190)

Ah, Semitic religion. Then, as now, filled with terror and darkness, where the solicitude of the god is not expected but rejoiced upon should it make its occasional entry.

4. The Personal God. Bottéro argues that Mesopotamian religion was not precisely polytheism, but rather henotheism which "admits the plurality of the gods but is interested in and attached at least hic et nunc, to only one of them" (41).

First of all hic et nunc ... Latin, here and now ... how obnoxious is it that a 2001 translation into English chooses to assume that most of its readership will have enough Latin to know hic et nunc ... now, I am proud that I do, but it is s silly pride given that I am old and one of a tiny minority of folks who plans to take up Latin again when I retire so I can read Catullus and chuckle.

But more to the point, hic et nunc: here and now. Notwithstanding that ancient Mesopotamian civilization lasted longer than the period of time that separates us from Homer ... think about that ... their religion was always focused on the hic et nunc.

Onward ... the personal god ... in a divine world that is a doubled and powerful mirror of the real world, there is a madness of gods. Just as the individual in society has a particular life, so he should have a particular god. I think you see this in India nowadays as well. The individual picks a god who shares, on the other side, roughly his position in the hierarchy. And he goes to that god for help and for mitigation of the problems and miseries of life.

What goes on in the central temples and near royalty are far from the average person. And this accumulating and doubling religion provides him with this answer, a personal god. It is worth noting that we know about this aspect of Mesopotamian religion because of lists of personal names that celebrate the relationship of a given person to a particular god.

But lest we get too euphoric, we have to remember that this religion was gloomy and dark, with no release from fate for the individual. Your personal god, or your relationship with an exorcist priest, might mitigate the miseries of the moment. Butnothing could save you from deth ... that is the lesson of the first great epic, the Epic of Gilgamesh. We are all doomed to die, and thereafter to inhabit a dark world of shadwos with the future or past, not prospects, no activities, no change, no joy.

5. Hell, evil, fate. We have little indication of the exact nature of the cosmology in which our forefathers believed for three millennia. The reason for that is that the scribes did not write treatises on religion or the structure of the universe. They made lists.

But we know that there was a place "under" where the departed went. They did not have a notion of the soul per se. And there does not appear to be a separation between the good and the evil. There does appear to be some sort of hierarchical differentiation ... one cold hardly expect kings to live forever in the "under" with peasants.

But this was a gloomy notion of the end of life. Remember that the gods created human beings so that they could be fed without working. So the reward, such as it was, for a long life spent feeding the gods was a shadowing eternity in this frozen nowhere.

Evil was the result of the gods being angered at the failure of human beings. The Mesopotamians did not have demons per se. But the gods were capable, idiosyncratically, of terrible moods, vengeful actions particularly directed against hose who neglected them. That said, even in the ancient world, there were skeptics who wondered why the pious might get sick while the wicked might get rich.

The brilliance and the terror of the divine. The joys and the fears of life. Parallels.

Photos by Arod of the rather few Mesopotamian relics in local museums. I hope to add the descriptions soon enough.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Sarah and Sonia

Is there no limit to the soulless stupidity of the 'publican extremists? Did you watch the bizarre performance of soon-to-be-ex-governor of Alaska Sarah Palin today? How any rational commentator could actually think that this was a strategy to win the presidency is hard to fathom.

Both right and left like to pander to the masses while actually insulting such intelligence as the public, whatever that may be, actually exhibits. But the public would have to be criminally moronic to believe that today's free association madness merited anything more than a quick trip to the loony bin. The nonsensical, non-syntactic stringing of right-wing cliche, the winks and nods, the bizarre thought structures, the grating syncopations of voice ... well ... at this point, anyone who still credits John McCain with a lick of sense is simply not paying attention.

I am one of those who believe that there is a massive scandal licking at her heels. The fact that she has an eternal diabolic optimism should not hide the fact that she is a liar, a thief, a self-centered bitch ... that's a technical term, folks, and we know what it means. She'd eat her children for breakfast if they weren't so unappetizing.

But then again, perhaps she is marginally brighter, at least in the exercise, than the slobbering 'publican-heel-licking median "pundints" ... the "n" is deliberate ... she knows she has no political future, and she also knows that she can make a pot of money from the cynics at Fox. So why wait. Strike while the bones are still warm.

Levi Johnson is looking better all the time ... check out his shirt-free pics at GQ ... you have to watch the slideshow.

Meanwhile, the professional gasbags of 'publican prevarication have unleashed another wave of immodest, feigned-innocent horror at the Nazi-Stalinist, racist-anti-American Justice-in-waiting Sotomayor. Good lord. The real terror is that she, like many liberals, covers her sharp angles with a crypto-conservatism that eventually becomes a lifestyle. What happens if she and Scalia get buddy-buddy and decide that they have a novel "founders'-intent" theory on homosexuality ... something like the recently floated Obama line that the ban on gay marriage is actually the grant of the unboundaried civil right to marry anyone of the opposite sex that you want to. Her conservatism on crime is of the the infamous type that grants that the law, in its majesty, forbids the theft of bread by rich and poor alike.

She doesn't impress me. Obviously she is better than the other of-color Justice who recently opined that there is no constitutional protection against strip-searching 13-year-olds on less than the grounds of reasonable suspicion. But that is not saying much.

Don't get me wrong; I want her confirmed. But we have to face the fact that the 'publicans are so bereft of civic consciousness let alone intelligence in the face of threats to the Republic that they will suicide-bomb every single step taken by any opponent.

Alas, this is the state of the Republic on the eve of the Glorious Fourth.

On that unhappy note ... on to that Glorious Fourth. In our home, we plan to celebrate the revolution against kings and authoritarianism with seared flesh, unusual ales, and Fish-House Punch.

Photos by Arod ... top photo of a San Francisco sidewalk, and bottom photo of a display from last year's July 4 BBQ chez moi; we won't have those flags this year as my wonderful friend June, who supplied them, is unable to attend.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Love in the Era of Obama - and O Canada!

It's July 1, a big day in my life. It marks the 142nd anniversary of Canada's semi-independence. It is the 16th anniversary of the death of my first lover and not-coincidentally the 16th anniversary of when my now sainted ex and I decided to yoke our fates as one.

So love of country, love of my lost beloved, and love of my extant but now only sainted beloved ... this one is for love.

If gay people have anything to teach, it is that the conquering power of love ennobles and enables. Love makes no sense, but there is no sense in not loving. The loathing of the loathers is our lot ... and there is certainly some satisfaction in the present era when at long last the plurality if not yet the majority understand that we are about loving.

In that sense, I think the liberal glee at the fall of Mark Sanford, fundamentalist governor of South Carolina caught in a mad and unlikely love affair with an Argentine, is rather unseemly. What we ought to be saying is not that he is a hypocrite ... hypocrisy in love, dear friends, is as old as prostitution, that oldest of "vices". No, we ought to be pointing out that inconvenient love is as ancient as humanity. So his wife of 20 years is left in the dust ... you know what, this too is an old story. The man fell in love, and it was all so wrong. But love conquers all.

If only he were not a religious bigot who looks to Bathsheba and David to justify his more unseemly grip on power, then perhaps he might just stand up and say, I understand that love is not something that state or religion should seek to control or undermine. What I found on a dance floor in Argentina is just the same as what two awkward dudes found in each other one night in an old Chevy.

But, alas, he is a religious bigot. And, alas, the liberal bloviators love to hold religious bigots to the hypocrisy of their religious bigotry. I say "no" ... tell him that love is its own justice. Tell him to give unto others the respect for love that he asks be given to him. Ask him to learn from his lesson in love.

We might also ask Obama to learn a little. His speech to the quickly assembled gay Appropriati (think Illuminati who have been handed a little badge of appropriateness) was nothing less than nauseating. In his audience, in the White House, was an officer with 18 years of service who is soon to face an administrative proceeding that will inevitably turf him out of the military to which he has dedicated his life. Because he is gay. And to add insult to injury, he was ordered not to wear his uniform, notwithstanding that he is currently an active officer in good standing, lest someone think it political. Obama's message: trust me and wait. Sure ... should the 266 men and women thrown out of the military under Obama's watch wait. What are they waiting for? Someone needs to tell this s.o.b. that he is the Commander-in-Chief. What is he afraid of?

But this is about love. It is obvious that the love affair between Barack and Michelle has been transformative ... more so, obviously, for Barack than Michelle, it seems to me. I always wonder how it can be that someone who encounters a transformative experience fails to translate that into understanding the impact of transformation on others. In other words, when someone is in love, how can they not acknowledge the love of others. I do not think Barack Obama is President without the influence of Michelle. One iota of that realization should be enough for him to realize that he should acknowledge the love that others feel.

It is harder to imagine a man like Sanford projecting his experience in inconvenient love to others. But we should not eschew him for loving.

So back to July 1. In 1993, my first lover, then my first ex, died on Canada Day in Vancouver of the plague. I spent 10 days with him as he lay dying. Bad Subjects published a reminiscence on his death that I wrote in 1993. He was unconscious when I left and died a few days later. Richard moved in to my apartment on July 1. We called ourselves sidekicks, but that night we got drunk in grief and we decided to be lovers, and that lasted for a decade. So July 1 is the death of my first lover and the anniversary of my third.

My love life does not fit into the convenience of gay marriage. It is not the narrative that goes on billboards. But it is mine and it still fills me with emotion and thrill. The truth is that many love lives do not fit the billboard model. Sanford's doesn't. Obama's does.

The job of the state is to stay out of the bedroom. The job of the state is to facilitate the civil nature of human relationships. Canadians of my generation will remember Justice Minister, later Prime Minister, Trudeau announcing that the state had no business in the bedrooms of the nation. That declaration was part of what led to Trudeaumania and his election as Prime Minister. But here, on Canada Day, it is a lesson that Obama, in love with his wife, still does not grok.

So Happy Birthday Canada. I still love you, Gaetano, and think of you every day. And I still love you, Richard, even though I know how much better we are for being friends and not mates.

Photos by Arod from Gay Day in San Francisco, 2009. All my photos from Gay Day are on Flickr.

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