Friday, September 30, 2005

LIA Sues TN: The Victim Strikes Back?

No surprise, Love in Action called on the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian legal defense organization, to help with the "ex-gay" programs current troubles with the state. Instead of admiting they might be doing something inappropriate, they've taken the victim role and are now suing the State of Tennessee.
This is harassment, pure and simple," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Nate Kellum. "There is no legitimate state interest here. There's no health or safety violation, and there's no fire code or overcrowding concern. Love in Action's ministry has nothing to do whatsoever with mental health as defined by law, but the Department of Mental Health wants to regulate it anyway."
I remember when in LIA we talked about the victim roles we often took as gay men. We were encouraged instead to take responsibilities for our actions, even when others wronged us. Christians often feel under fire by the world and as a result, often overlook the areas in which they have hurt others.

Using the victim role helps to garner sympathy, and in this case LIA wants to paint itself as little David with the big Goliath, in the form of the state of Tennessee, harrassing and taunting the Christian non-profit. Armed with legal aid from the ADF as well as the support and connections from the two largest Southern Baptist churches in Tennessee, LIA is not a weak little victim fighting for its life. This is the time for LIA to look at itself honestly and really question what it does and if it really provides the help its leaders promise.

Queer Action Coaltion has the full story and links. LIA also published a statement on their site.

Homo No Mo T-Shirt!

Homo No Mo T-Shirt
Originally uploaded by p2son.
Graphic designer, Tina Encarnacion, has created a series of Homo No Mo Halfway House shirts that are now available through CafePress.

The Homo No Mo Halfway House--It's not just for sissies.

Get yours here.

Loads of Lovely People (Ex-gays leaders too)

Willie Hewe's Comic Art
Originally uploaded by p2son.
I can't keep up with all the great people and amazing conversations. While in Oxford I stayed with Sally, a former math teacher who now does volunteer work to help asylum seekers. Also, dinner with Jimbo and Trevor from GCN consisted of a full English breakfast (vegetarian style) and stimulating conversation that kept me up late into the night thinking.

Yesterday I met Willie Hewes, the comic artist who created Free Z, a comic based on events at LIA this summer. In her home I saw her workspace, original sketches and some upcoming projects. She does the writing, drawing, and even grinds the special ink sticks she uses. These are handcrafted comics--expertly rendered with moving, meaningful stories.

Over dinner (Chinese food) we discussed LIA, Exodus and the religious right. I reminded myself that these groups and the people behind them are not my enemies. Currently they may be opponents, but I believe in these people, and as a Christian, believe that we are family.

I believe the folks at behind Love Won Out, Exodus and LIA mean well. They truly believe they save souls from miserable lives in this world and damnation in the next. Many even feel called to this work and make considerable sacrifices to do it. I believe if they knew the sort of damage they were doing, they would stop and seek to make things right.

Having met the folks at Courage in the UK who made those very changes, I feel more hope than ever for individual leaders in the US "ex-gay" movement.

In the queer community we have to acknowledge that we also have work to do. There is a reason why so many people each year elect to attend an "ex-gay" program. For some the queer community looms over them like a stark wasteland of promiscuity, bad relationships and shallowness. In some ways they are correct in their assessment.

Many of us had to fight our way into a healthy life, and the gay community was not always affirming of the choices we made. Gay people of faith and those who choose to be celibate before being in a committed relationship can find resistance from what seems the dominate gay culture.

We are in the midst of our own culture war (well skirmishes at least) in the gay community. Some queer folks in reaction to the hyper sexuality, the dominate white-male-driven gay media and the anger born out of hurt, are beginning to condemn their own people.

As we point out the faults and dangers of "ex-gay" groups and anti-gay conservative Christian groups, let us also turn a throughfully critical eye on ourselves. In the words of one wise teacher--
You see the sliver in your friend's eye, but you don't see the timber in your own eye. When you take the timber out of your own eye, then you will see well enough to remove the sliver from your friend's eye.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Let Us Prey: Religious Right's "Ex-gay" Agenda

Focus on the Family (FOTF) along with Exodus prey on youth. For instance, they offer the upcoming Love Won Out "ex-gay" road show stopping in Boston on October 29, 2005.

At the conference parents, pastors, teachers and youth workers train on how to fix queer teens. According to FOTF's Melissa Fry,
The largest group of people who come are parents who have a son or daughter living homosexually. The next largest group are pastors and church leaders. And we also have educators and counselors attend, certainly lay people from churches, others from the community. (hat tip to BayWindows)
Then armed with info from the conference, these adults go back to their communities to impose their sexuality on queer and questioning young people.

As I wrote in PlanetOut some months ago,
For years the Religious Right has slandered our community, accusing us of orchestrating a gay agenda that targets America's youth. They have claimed that we recruit and convert young people.

They have been wrong about this for years. As if our community were that organized and in agreement about anything. Many of us queer folks find that it's hard enough to detox from a weekend of cheese fries and cosmos, let alone survive an elaborate process of de-homosexualization.

But now look at who, with evangelical zeal, is targeting young people, and then is attempting to recruit and convert them. With the fundamentalist world view of saving a lost and dying world, "ex-gay" groups have taken upon themselves the mission to transform queer and questioning youth into their own image. Talk about hypocrites. In spite of the mountain of evidence by the American Psychiatric Association and every major medical organization in the world, they engage in unethical practices to make gay kids straight.
Ex-Gay Watch looks at the Funny Word Games but Sinister Agenda of a recent Love Won Out press release.

According to BayWindows,, a group of young activists in Boston will protest the event, which is expected to lure at least 1000 people to learn about the "Ex-gay" Agenda.

The strange thing is that I know Mike Haley, the Exodus board member and FOTF official who runs this "Ex-gay" mind altering event. He's a really nice guy. Friendly, charming, funny and engaging, when I talk with him, he seeks to make what he does as a benign attempt to help a few struggling kids.

The problem is that FOTF, Exodus and even very nice and kind Mike Halely imposes their ideal expectations on young people and then uses both the Bible and Christian "psychology" to back their claims.

The religious and pseudo-psychological punches can be enough to temporarily stun some sincere Christian youth. Then after years of attempting to please parents, church, and God, he or she wakes up and has to build their life over again. It is not surprising that many (but not all) LGBTQ adults who grew up in the church want NOTHING to do with God once they come out.

Messing with kids at their critical age of development will only cause confusion and heartache.
As I concluded in my PlanetOut piece,
...if some misguided, well-meaning, insane queer adult wants to reform himself into a shadow of a heterosexual -- fine, so be it, but let's leave the kids out of this.

Still Sunny in England

oxford alley
Originally uploaded by p2son.
Okay, it's been raining over most of the country, but apparently this little patch of sun is following me around. Let's hope this keeps up.

Yesterday I saw Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle. WOW! Very powerful. At one point, when one of the characters gets freed from a curse that had turned him into a stick figure, I burst into tears. The film says a lot about queer families and how some of us have to work harder than others to create a family for ourselves.

I met with the Oxford Quakers for early morning worship and breakfast (7:30 AM!). I was shocked to see 13 people show up. Off to Bristol now to see Willie Hewes!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Oxfordshire Hike

Oxfordshire field
Originally uploaded by p2son.
The weather has been perfect here. I took this shot Saturday as we hiked around the Vale of the White Horse.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Deepening My Thoughts Over Tea and Lager

oxford starbucks
Originally uploaded by p2son.
I just had delightful time (I’m starting to sound more and more like a British church lady) with Marigold and Geoffrey. She is a member of the Oxford Friends Meeting, a retired Spanish teacher and author. He is a retired Oxford professor (St. Anthony’s) and a Winston Churchill Scholar.

We had a long and rambling talk about politics in the US, Milton’s Samson Agonistes, Pinochet, and James Dodson's Focus on the Family.

I was able to introduce them to the world of blogging and wikipedia. In their sitting room I picked up a wireless signal from one of their neighbors and showed them my blog including a comment by Rob who met Marigold this summer. (Rob she remembers you and sends greetings).

Earlier in the day over a lager I met with Matthew from Way Out. I asked him if the church in the UK does not constitute a large problem for LGBTQ youth, why do they have queer youth support programs like Way Out.

He explained that in the schools most queer youth are taunted, bullied and even attacked from both students and staff. Because of Section 28, a law passed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1988 that said that homosexuality could not be promoted in schools. As a result, for years school administrators did NOTHING to address queer issues. The law was only overturned in 2003.

He went on to state that many queer youth in the UK today still choose to be silent about their sexual orientation and live for years in isolation. Wtih the lonliness and the oppression they feel, a good number of these get out of school as soon as possible instead of pursuing higher education.

Stuck in entry level jobs and with stunted social development, they suffer to establish themselves in the world.

From what he tells me, the schools in the US provide safer spaces for youth with our growinng number of GSAs and some enlightened staff.

Fortunately in the UK organizations like Terence Higgins Trust provide opportunities for youth through weekly youth groups. Some teens, oppressed at school and not yet out at home, wait all week for that two hour meeting when they can be themselves.

Oxford Day Two

Christ Cathedral, Oxford
Originally uploaded by p2son.
Last night I met with the Way Out group, a LGBTQ youth group in Oxford. Matthew, the adult leader of the group, warned me that English youth do not typically ask a lot of questions, so I had to engage them with the material.

That may be true, but once they heard about Exodus and "Let us Prey" (what I call their current agenda to target teens), they asked loads of questions.

Forunately the "ex-gay" movement has never been able to get the same foothold here in the UK as it has in the states. Religion does not sway public opinion and policy as much as it does in the US. Still the number one cause of death among queer youth is suicide and plenty of young people need the support of groups like Way Out.

Today I meet with Matthew at the Jolly Farmers, a gay pub, then tea with Marigold from the Quaker meeting and dinner with Jimbo and Trevor from GCN. Suddenly I have a social life!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Vale of the White Horse

Originally uploaded by p2son.
Great time with the folks from Courage. I have stuff to think about for WEEKS. Yesterday we hiked around the Vale of the White Horse. Really the photo says it all.

I'm in Oxford until Thursday staying with Friends from the Oxford Quaker Centre. Tomorrow I meet up with some folks from GCN then off to Bristol Thursday to meet the expert comics artist and blogger Willie Hewes.

Oh, and here in Oxford, they have a vegetarian pub!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Courageous Souls

At a pub last night in Guildford, I asked Jeremy Marks and his wife Bren how they were able to make the giant move from an "ex-gay" group to a gay-affirming ministry. Marks, who had been by Love in Action's Leadership Program, responded, "We didn't have that much to lose."

Actually he did. As a member of the Exodus Board, he was immediately shut out of the international "ex-gay" group. Branded as a heretic, he had to go it alone. He writes some about the history of Courage, the organization he runs with Bren.

What is so impressive is that Jeremy and Bren thought outside the box. Many evangelical conservative Christians live in fear of believing a "new truth" that will undermine their faith. As John Stott teaches, they "check their brains at the door" of the church in order to submit to the teachings of their pastors.

Another amazing British evangelical who went from "ex-gay" to gay is Roy Clements perhaps one of England's greatest living preachers.(Hat tip to Kennan) He, like Bren and Jeremy, decided that the search for truth will reveal that God does not condemn same-gender love.

Roy Clements interviews Jeremy Marks. Hear the story in Jeremy's own words. My favorite question to Marks: In 15 years, how many homosexuals have you changed?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

What's Next for LIA? Not So Simple

Saskatoon Jail
Originally uploaded by p2son.
Tomorrow is the deadline for LIA to respond to the state of TN allegations that Christian "ex-gay" program runs a mental health facility without a license. Some news reports and blogs mistakenly proclaimed the end to LIA. It is not that simple.

LIA can find ways to skirt the state's requirements and legally proceed with their operations. Being connected to the two largest Southern Baptist Churches in Tennessee, LIA will most likely use the power and privilege of their church connections to get pro bono legal representation and may even turn to elected officials to plead their case.

Forget about the separation of church and state. In a case like this, LIA will use every contact they have to find the loop holes that will keep them in business.

I know lots of people hope for the end of LIA, but it is not that simple. Although they like to portray themselves as oppressed underdog with little power, Christian groups like LIA draw from huge resources through groups like Focus on the Family, the Christian Legal Society and mega churches like Bellevue and Germantown Baptist in the Memphis suburbs.

Sheltered under the church banner, LIA will assert that they do the Lord's work and as a ministry, do not have to follow the same rules as others.

Will LIA react defensively and in their relentless drive to "help" others in spite of the evidence of the harm they cause, seek to exploit soft spots in TN state law? Or will they honestly assess their history and their limitations and humbly make needed changes to their program?

I believe John Smid has some of God in him, and if he stops talking and defending himself long enough, he might hear that still small voice of God showing him a better way.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Religious Hubris of LIA

I spent two years under the care of John Smid and his staff at the Love in Action "ex-gay" program in Memphis, TN. I know they meant well. I know they wanted to help us with our struggles. Although they taught useful lessons about addiction and family dysfunctions, they missed the mark, and in my case caused more harm than good.

When I attended LIA, there were always some participants who suffered from genuine mental illness. Serveral had been diagnosed as clinically depressed. One young man had bipolar disorder. Most of these were are on medications to help them with these conditions.

We went to the program because we believed what our pastors had told us--gay sexual behavior was sinful, unhealthy, dirty. We enrolled in LIA, because unlike most "ex-gay" programs, it proported to provide a clinical, residential setting. Much of the language used by the staff sounded clinical and couched in psychology. In addition to being a Christian program, LIA gave us a therapuetic setting in which to address our issues. Although well intentioned, I found the LIA staff unprepared to provide care for most of the particpants.

Two incidents stand out in my mind.
1. Chet (not his real name) had bipolar disorder, something that did not seem to affect his program or the rest of us until Chet exploded in a fit of uncontrolable rage. Cursing and violently throwing things around the dinning room, Chet had to be restrained. Except none of the staff in the house had been trained to restrain him. Another participant, with some training working in a mental health setting ,wrestled Chet to the ground. When we finally contacted LIA leadership, we were told to call the police who eventally came and took Chet away for a hospital stay. He was later dismissed from the program for medical reasons.

For days after the incident many of us talked among ourselves and in rap sessions about how unsafe we felt, how frightened by the incident and angry that the staff had taken someone into the program who could do harm to himself and us.

2. One day coming home from work (when I was in LIA, we had to work in order to pay the $950 per month fees), I saw Todd's (not his real name either) truck at the head of the driveway instead of its normal spot. After Todd did not turn up for dinner, two of us looked in the cab of his truck to find a suicide note, photos of his family and empty vials of medicine. For the next several hours we searched the nearby fields and woods. Police helicopters flew low overhead shining spot lights. We never found Todd that night.

I could not sleep thinking of him lying on the ground all alone and dying. Miraculously some utility workers found Todd, the next morning--barely alive. After weeks at a mental health facility, he returned to the program and stayed until his graduation.

I provide only two of scores of similar situations that have occured in Love Action since 1996. The LIA staff attempted to create a therapuetic environment based on a 12-step model, but they could not adequately care for and protect their clients.

Had LIA been a licensed mental health facility, the state of TN would have been able to monitor the program and intervene when things got out of hand. Also, LIA would have been required to follow state protocol for housing people with mental illnesses. But with religious hubris, the program leaders and the board pressed on without accountability in spite of obvious dangers.

I do not fault John Smid and the LIA staff for trying to help individuals who came to them for help. Working out of their world view, they believe they provided a great service. But where is the humility? Where is the self-reflection? Where is the owning up to mistakes and misjudgements.

Jeremy Marks, once a close friend of John Smid and a fellow "ex-gay" leader, realized a few years back that his "ex-gay" ministry in the UK did not bring any positive results. No one changed and no one got better, in fact they grew worse. Marks did something courageous, he publically admitted the failures and moved on to a new work that provides support for gay and bisexual Christians.

Soon we will see how John Smid and LIA respond to the state of TN. I hope for humility and honesty from LIA, but from personal experience and from LIA's history in Memphis, TN, I'm afraid we will see arrogance, ignorance and stubborness.

Just a Test

this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Fish & Chips for the Vegan

Well, I'm off to the UK for 10 days of presentations and connections with Quakers, Queers and the Queen (okay, not the Queen). I'm excited about presenting Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House to the group Courage Trust, which used to be "ex-gay" until it's leader, Jeremy Marks, admited that no one changed. They are now a gay Christian support group.

If you get a chance, check out my new site. Thanks to Roy Steele for the design (and the many revisions I forced on him). Also thanks to Tina Encarnacion, Sarah B. Miller, Scott Hobbs, Bob Painter, Jeff Harwood and John Humphries for their input.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The False Image of LIA

John Smid and me-Graduation 1998 (above) & John Smid today (left)

By now many have heard that Tennessee's Department of Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities determined that the "ex-gay" program, Love in Action, is operating two “unlicensed mental health supportive living facilities”. LIA has until Friday, September 23 to respond.

If LIA statements in Eartha Jane Melzer's article are indicative to how the "change" program might respond, we may see LIA change right before our eyes from a clinical mental health compound into a house of praise and worship.
Gerard Wellman, business administrator for Love in Action, and a former Love in Action client, said Sept. 13 that the organization has been in contact with the state but would not comment further.

“As a church, we operate under a different set of rules,” Wellman said.
Curious, and what rules might these be?

What is even more curious is that according to LIA's site only one staff member advertises as a licensed minister--The Rev. John Smid.
But what does that really mean?

When parents with concerns about a child's sexual and spiritual welfare turn to someone with the title of minister, they may do so with certain assumptions. They may assume that a minister...
  • Has been trained for ministry.

  • Attended seminary

  • Took college courses in theology, psychology, and counseling

  • Received a Master of Divinity degree (MDiv)
They may further assume that only after a supervised internship and an intensive review by a church board, that someone can receive the honor and responsibility to serve as an ordained minister.

That's what the majority of ministers in the US do to earn the credibility to lead a congregation and give out spiritual advice.

But John Smid never attended seminary. In fact, the highest degree he holds is a high school diploma. He was handed the title of "Rev." by Germantown Baptist Church.

John Smid, who never took psych 101 or any college-level counseling course, denounces the American Psychiartic Association's professional assessment of homosexuality. Not only has he been running a mental health facility without a license, he has done so without the training.

John Smid, who never attended seminary or even audited an undergraduate Bible class, publically expounds on what the Bible has to say about same-gender loving people and false images.

The Rev. John Smid presents a false image of himself to the world. I can overlook the full head of hair he added to his look a couple of years ago, (apparently to hide a small unsightly scar from surgery), but to claim that LIA is a church or a ministry because the execuitve director received the title of minister (without receiving any of the training) smacks of deception.

In the end, LIA may continue to carry on without a license as they parade as a "ministry". Although they may ultimately be allowed to legally operate behind a flimsy fabricated religious cloth, what they do can never be called ethical.

While in the LIA program, we were expected to confront each other when we suspected a fellow participant of hiding behind a false image. We were told that homosexuals often hid behind masks to cover our true identities. (We even had to shave everyday so that we did not hide behind our facial hair.) The stafff instructed that we used false images to make us look better in the eyes of others. We used these fasle images to cover over our insecurities.

John Smid proudly displays the title of Rev. and refers to himself as a licensed minster in statements to the press, and in so doing deceives people to believe that he and the program he leads are authorities in regards to therapy, mental health and spiritual well-being.

In words I learned during my two years in LIA, I say to John Smid, "I want to challenge about your false image."

Friday, September 16, 2005

Calling all Fomer LIA Participants

Jeff Harwood and Bob Painter, fellow former LIA participants, are pulling together data on all Love in Action participants who attended the Memphis-based program from 1995 to present. They have an impressive list that includes first names of participants, how they left the program and current status (gay/ex-gay/unsubstantiated). About 40% are unsubstantiated. If you attended LIA or know someone who did, please Email me and I will pass the info along to Jeff and Bob. In sharing of the findings, no one's name will be included, and your personal info will remain confidential.

Please include name, dates in the LIA program, how you exited the program, and your current status.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Loving Actions Overthrow Love in Action

If you haven't heard it yet, Love in Action, once considered the Cadilac of "ex-gay" ministries, may very well be forced to shut down this week. B., a dear friend and a very clever lad (who wishes to remain anonymous), has kept on top of the Tennessee state investigation into the LIA program and told me this weekend that there had been movement in the case. Morgan Fox followed up and got the skinny on what is happening. You can read about it here.

Talking yesterday with Morgan about the protests the Queer Action Coalition led this summer, I felt hope and joy. Young people, many of them teens, stood up for what was right and against what was wrong, and as a result of their actions and the actions of bloggers like EJ, the plights of teens and adults in the Love in Action "ex-gay" boot camp became an international news story and LIA became the subject of two state of TN investigations.

At the bottom of each of his regular e-mails, Dr. Arnold Drake, former national president of PFLAG, includes a Margaret Mead quote that always strikes me and comforts me.
"Never doubt that a small group of committed persons can change the world. As a matter of fact, it is the only thing that ever has."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Unclean Bloody Faggots (& Women too!)

This Bible story tells about a woman with an issue of blood. Well that is how the King James Bible delicately words it. What it means is that she has a female problem. In addition to her monthly period, she continues to bleed down there. (Yes, I can say the word, but I don't want to scare anyone away right now.)

She spends 12 years going from doctor to doctor spending all she has and she only grows worse. Not only does she suffer from a physical infirmity, but according to Leviticus 15:19-30 this woman in Jesus' day is considered unclean. She cannot touch anyone or anything without making them unclean. She endures 12 years of misery without intimate relationships, with the stigma of being an untouchable. She has an issue of blood, but worse, she lives in a society that has an issue with blood and with women.

But then she does the unthinkable. She touches Jesus; she presses through the crowd mobbing him, and she reaches him (as illustrated in the Jerome Johnson print above). Her bleeding stops immediately, and Jesus says, "Go, in peace. Your faith has healed you."

This story speaks to me about my own struggles to try to become heterosexual. Like that woman, I live in a society that has a problem with ME--a same-gender loving person. For us queer folks this creates a bigger problem than any of the actual issues we may face (depression, sex addiction, lust, emotional dependency, unresolved childhood abuse).

As a result, I went from place to place, minister to minister, program to program trying to fix my "problem". I believed that if I were no longer attracted to other men, my life would be normal and my problems would go away. But like that woman in the story, I only got worse.

For 17 years, fighting a fake, society-driven problem, I lived distracted from the real issues in my life. The shame and fear I felt from society kept me locked up in a state of suspended animation, a Biblically induced coma. It wasn't until I realized that I was not unclean that I began to address the genuine issues in my life.

Society heaps shame on that woman. Her leaders and peers mark her as "unclean". But her faith heals her. Inside she sees the goodness, the hope, the belief that she is more than just a throwaway.

For many of us who subjected ourselves to the "ex-gay" movement and lived under oppression, we too need to reach in and find the faith to heal ourselves, to affirm ourselves and each other. And in doing so, we can begin to address the real problems plaguing us.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Coming Soon...

Fall Performance Schedule, The announcement of a New Web Site and the launch of a New Fragrance. (Okay, no new fragrance, I just have to take a shower.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Foreign Aid Reaches USA

Yep, the most powerful nation on the planet even needs a little help from friends every now and then.

Since I don't have a TV, I have not seen any of the TV news reports about Katrina and the awful conditions in New Orleans and in the Gulf Coast. My mom, who doesn't normally comment about the news or enjoys speaking on the phone, talked for over 10 minutes about the disaster and her shock that Italy is giving aid to the US for the first time. According to a CNN report at least 94 foreign countries and organizations have offered aid to the US.

The Rueters photo (on the right) appeared in China Daily to show Relief Materials from China Heading to the US.

Hat tip to Minstrel Boy for posting Mexican Army Convoys Bringing Aid to U.S..

In today's Washington Post, Elizabeth Williamson writes,
Matching offers of aid -- from Panamanian bananas to British engineers -- with needs in the devastated region is a laborious process in a disaster whose scope is unheard of in recent U.S. history, especially for a country more accustomed to giving than receiving aid.
Read more Offers of Aid Immediate, but U.S. Approval Delayed for Days

Peter Ford of The Christian Science Monitor writes, "From Sri Lanka to France, emergency relief is sent, but tinged with criticism of US handling of the disaster." Read more here.

Read about The View from Spain at Katrina Rage Blog, (also links to articles and op-ed pieces)

Frankly I am amazed and pleased at the foreign reaction to the disaster. After treating friends and foes like crap, (in regards to the environment, the war of terrorism, immigration, etc), we see an outpouring of support. That we need it reveals our current economic crisis, in part at least. The US government and the Bush Administration must be embarrassed by the need we have, but a little humility won't hurt us at all.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Adsense or Nonsense

I added two little boxes on the bottom of my blog (see bottom of my blog). It's a little experiment. If you see any inappropriate or obnoxious ads, please e-mail me. Check out the ads (apparently I earn money when you click on them--like enough to buy a soy latte once each quarter--whoa! whoa!)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Oh The Places White People Can Go!

It really is amazing the things we white people can get away with. I just saw the movie The Astristocrats, a documentary about an insanely dirty joke that white comedians have been telling each other for years. (Not to be confused with the 1970 Disney cartoon, The Atristocats.)

The Joke: A man walks into a talent agent's office and says to the agent, "I've got a great act, a family act!" He then goes on to explain the act which contains outrageous scenes of incest, beastiality, misogyny and violence with lots of body fluids and feces thrown in. After hearing the details of the act, the agent says, "That's a helluva act! What do they call themselves?"
The punch line, "The Aristocrats."

Now from a comic perspective, I find the joke, (and the movie with scores of white actors, mostly men, telling the joke in scores of ways) to be funny. Disturbing, but funny. Comedy is a strange art.

But nearly everyone in the film talking about this joke, telling the joke, laughing about the joke, is white. (Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rock make brief appearances. Rock states that black comics never had to tell dirty jokes backstage because they were able to tell them from the stage. In the early days, they knew they would never be on TV, so they had nothing to lose.)
At one point in the film two different white comedians tell the joke to their toddlers.

The amazing thing about this film is that it is being celebrated on National Public Radio and shown in neighborhood theaters all over the US. The film is unrated. Not NC-17 or R, just unrated.

Question: If a group of black comics, mostly men, told jokes about having sex with their seven year old daughters, dogs and grandmothers then covering everyone up in vomit and human feces, how would the white media and white society respond?

I never heard a rapper say the things I heard in this movie. But somehow, I guess it is not so bad coming out of a white man's mouth.

Choice Vacation Spot

Originally uploaded by p2son.
After months of traveling, I have two full weeks at home. This is the first time since March that I have been home for more than a week.

This is my vacation spot, and for the first week I am doing NOTHING but watching Buffy, reading Virginia Woolf, looking at porn, taking short walks and catching up with friends I have not seen all summer.

Last night Patrick and I went to Tisane for drinks and dinner.

Patrick, a potter and a surgical nurse, spent his summer in a contemplative space, creating pottery in his home and at Wesleyan Potters, where he is a member. He showed me a batter bowl he designed. Such a pleasing design and beautifully practical.

A lover of music, Patrick played me some Rickie Lee Jones and
Liz Wright.

Today I went to Middletown, CT with Patrick where he fires his pottery. After a tour of the place, I walked to Main Street to my favorite restaurant in Connecticut, It's Only Natural aka ION.

I then met with Karen, a fellow teacher from Watkinson School. Karen is skilled in theater as a director; she also writes theater reviews for the Hartfod Advocate, our local weekly paper.

Karen told me about her nearly month-long trip to Japan as part of a teacher education program. She visited half a dozen cities, stayed in Japanese homes and ate meals that not only tasted wonderful, they looked like works of art.

She had been warned about three questions most US visiters to Japan hear.
1. What is your age? (This is to establish her Chinese zodiac sign)
2. What is your blood type? (It is a common Japanese practice to determine personality traits through blood type)
3. Do you own a gun? (Organizers told her that many Japanese believe that folks from the US all have guns)

Karen is the kind of person I can sit with for hours. Intelligent, insightful, playful, affectionate, wise, knowledgable and passionate. The few conversations we get to have each year keep me fed for months. We can somehow speak and hear each other deeply.

So filled from fun times with Patrick, deep times with Karen, and good food from ION, I return home to hang with Buffy, drink raspberry leaf tea and enjoy my choice vacation spot--home.

Dark Damp Fascism

While reading Virginia Woolf's humorous and insightful gender-bending novel Orlando, I came across a section about dampness that speaks to me about the political climate in the US today.

Woolf's main character, the aristocrat Orlando, lives a couple of hundred years as a man (without aging beyond 30) , then wakes up one day female. (apparently the actor Orlando Bloom was named after Woolf's character.) Orlando proceeds to live life as a woman (with some cross-dressing as a male in order to move more freely in society) and throughout the novel provides us with a satire on English society, writers and gender rules.

Woolf begins chapter five with a description of a great environmental change that came over England at the beginning of the 19th Century. Woolf shrouds the country in clouds. Then comes cold dampness.

Reading this today I thought about how fear, like dampness, soaks into the frabric of a society to bring about the political disease of fascism
...damp now began to make its way into every house--damp, which is the most insidiuous of all enemies, for while the sun can be shut out by blinds, and the frost roasted by a hot fire, damp steals in while we sleep; damp is silent, imperceptible, ubiquitious.
Damp swells the wood, furs the kettle, rusts the iron, rots the stone. So gradual is the process, that it is not until we pick up some chest of drawers, or coal scuttle, and the whole thing drops to pieces in our hands, that we suspect even that the disease is at work.
With the impending fourth anniversary of 911, I wonder about the dark cloud of terrorism, the fear that our leaders have stirred in us and the rot that it insideiously produces.