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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

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Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hobbling the most basic right in a democracy

A friend sent me the NY Times editorial, below.

I remember the look of shock on Flame-Haired Angel's face when I suggested to her that, in the US, one party likes it when fewer people vote.

In general -- and I'll try and put this as clinically as I can, so as to be less vulnerable to the criticism that I'm a liberal hack, even though a few grains of truth reside therein -- Republicans gain an advantage if voter turn-out is low. The reason is simple: people who want to protect what they have do so actively, whereas people who feel disenfranchised by 'the system' behave on the assumption that there's no point participating in a system that disenfranchises them. So, organic voter turnout is generally higher among conservative constituencies, and generally lower among low-income and minority constituencies. This isn't theory or philosophy; it's based on the actual US voting stats. And, since low-income and minority voters tend to vote Democratic, the Republicans would prefer they stayed home.

So while, in principal, we all think voting is both a civic duty and a celebration of our democratic freedom and self-determination, there's a strategic advantage to the Republicans if voter turnout is low.

Flame-Haired Angel's jaw dropped at this because her jaw is Australian. In Australia, they do something that Americans would consider anathema: they force the entire eligible population to vote, and fine anyone who doesn't. In all honesty, the system rubs me the wrong way -- what with the whole American "personal choice" thing tattooed on my conscience -- but you have to admit that it translates into policy the belief that voting is not just every citizen's right , but also every citizen's duty.

What the editorial below laments is not the fact of the voter statistics, but a trend in conservative legislation: trying to force low voter turnout by law. For those who claim to cherish democracy, it is, quite simply, shameful.

Whether it's more or less shameful than more covert Republican attempts to achieve the same ends -- as reported in an earlier piece in the same newspaper and under the same title in 2004 -- is a question I don't believe needs an answer. Why choose?

Block the Vote

In a country that spends so much time extolling the glories of democracy, it's amazing how many elected officials go out of their way to discourage voting. States are adopting rules that make it hard, and financially perilous, for nonpartisan groups to register new voters. They have adopted new rules for maintaining voter rolls that are likely to throw off many eligible voters, and they are imposing unnecessarily tough ID requirements.

Florida recently reached a new low when it actually bullied the League of Women Voters into stopping its voter registration efforts in the state. The Legislature did this by adopting a law that seems intended to scare away anyone who wants to run a voter registration drive. Since registration drives are particularly important for bringing poor people, minority groups and less educated voters into the process, the law appears to be designed to keep such people from voting.

It imposes fines of $250 for every voter registration form that a group files more than 10 days after it is collected, and $5,000 for every form that is not submitted — even if it is because of events beyond anyone's control, like a hurricane. The Florida League of Women Voters, which is suing to block the new rules, has decided it cannot afford to keep registering new voters in the state as it has done for 67 years. If a volunteer lost just 16 forms in a flood, or handed in a stack of forms a day late, the group's entire annual budget could be put at risk.

In Washington, a new law prevents people from voting if the secretary of state fails to match the information on their registration form with government databases. There are many reasons that names, Social Security numbers and other data may not match, including typing mistakes. The state is supposed to contact people whose data does not match, but the process is too tilted against voters.

Congress is considering a terrible voter ID requirement as part of the immigration reform bill. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, introduced an amendment to require all voters to present a federally mandated photo ID. Even people who have been voting for years would need to get a new ID to vote in 2008. Millions of people without drivers' licenses, including many elderly people and city residents, might fail to do so, and be ineligible to vote. The amendment has been blocked so far, but voting-rights advocates worry that it could reappear.

These three techniques — discouraging registration drives, purging eligible voters and imposing unreasonable ID requirements — keep showing up. Colorado recently imposed criminal penalties on volunteers who slip up in registration drives. Georgia, one of several states to adopt harsh new voter ID laws, had its law struck down by a federal court.

Protecting the integrity of voting is important, but many of these rules seem motivated by a partisan desire to suppress the vote, and particular kinds of voters, rather than to make sure that those who are entitled to vote — and only those who are entitled — do so. The right to vote is fundamental, and Congress and state legislatures should not pass laws that put an unnecessary burden on it. If they do, courts should strike them down.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hot Doggin' in Space with Flame

Today is my birthday. As a friend of mine wrote to me, it’s the last birthday of the first half of my life. Another way of looking at it: the last milestone of youth, marking that one might only hang on to pre-middle age for one more year.

It’s also a Tuesday. A school day. A corporate day. A non-party day and a non-party night.

It might be a pretty sober situation, but it isn’t for two reasons.

First, anyone who casts even a cursory glance at my life would know that the celebrate:mourn ratio is tipped wildly in my favor. And that’s regardless of the day. Counting my blessings doesn’t begin to cover it. If I spent every day celebrating, I might be giving my blessings their appropriate nod. So, if today is a bit quiet in terms of naked tequila shots and such, well, that’s no indication. I’m so lucky, every day is a little bit of ecstasy. And the days that don’t feel like that, well, that’s fine, but it’s really only lack of appropriate perspective that could ever allow me to feel sorry for myself. And I know it.

Lest you conclude that all of these pretty words are simply justification for not having a party, I should perhaps give a glimpse of last Friday and reason number two.

As I jump onto the slippery slide that will convey me, tumbling, away from the palace of youth, my Flame-Haired Angel made sure we visited that palace, physically, one more time. Turned out to be more of a castle, actually.

I played hooky from work and Flame-Haired Angel took me to Disneyland.

Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Mad Hatter's Tea Cups , Peter Pan, Haunted House, giant anthropomorphized animals in funny outfits, and princesses mobbed by four-year-old autograph hounds. And hot dogs. Foot-long hot dogs.

It was fantastic. It was celebratory. It was exhaustingly wonderful.

I hadn’t been to Disneyland since living in California when I was very young, and Flame-Haired Angel had never had a Disney experience outside a cinema. So, EuroDisney returned me to happy memories from childhood, and gave “the happiest place on earth” to an Australian girl who’d never even dreamed of going.

We had the perfect Disney day. Few long lines, and one of the only exceptions was our penultimate ride of the day. We stubbornly held out for over an hour to fulfill Flame-Haired Angel’s desire to climb aboard Dumbo and soar in the sky on a magical elephant. The name is appropriate. It’s the dumbest ride in the park. But, for her, it was worth the wait.

And for me, well, I got to celebrate my birthday by flying with an Angel.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Dare you not to grin.

Dare you.

Click the picture to take the challenge.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Red and Black

Fascinating web art. Click on the pic.

The London Theatre Scene

From Slate, here is a great series of articles about the London theatre scene. When I posted, a month or so ago, about seeing Jeremy Irons on stage in London, I got an unusually large response. This article is a lot longer, and a hell of a lot more knowledgeable. There's a lot here, touching both history and the current scene, but if you're a closet theatre junkie, it's great stuff.

Dad? Um, I broke the Death Star


A response to Christyranny

Last week, I blogged about dominion theology Christians. (The original post is here.)

Writing to me off the blog, an old friend of mine responded. Having asked him if I might post his comment, here it is:
I didn’t want to post on your blog because, as a white non-American Jew with democratic tendencies, you have to be careful what you say in this country. Also when you read what I write below you might not be so happy.

I have often wondered on the Jesus question you raised.

I’m often amazed at how the Christian ministry has sold out to the republican party almost totally because of abortion and the fact that two gay guys getting married can apparently affect the success of my marriage. I used to think it was stupid Americans who bought into this crap but it's amazing how many bright people in our area fall for it. Meanwhile we have gone from a strong stable economy to a banana republic where the debt will carry forward for years to come. It has reached the stage where you can't even make jokes about it at kids' soccer games because people take this lunatic administration seriously.

And what's with the right wing commentors like Rush and Bill O'Reilly? One bullied his housekeeper to buy drugs for him and has been married 5 times (query whether the marriages that failed were caused by 2 gay guys 5 miles away or the fact that he is a creep), and the other was stupid enough to get taped hitting on one of his staff and talking about rubbing humous on her body. I can't believe these people are so stupid they don’t see what’s going on, which leads to the conclusion they are deliberately misleading people for whatever reason.

I think you and I have an advantage because we have lived in other places in the world, but sometimes I really worry about what this country will be like for my kids. A purpose of a government should be to provide for people who can't provide for themselves, for whatever reason. It's sad if this country is reaching the stage where the people who can afford it don’t see that looking after others is just the right thing to do

I wish the USA had the English/Australian parliamentary system where the leader has to go through a hostile question and answer period rather than just hiding in the White House

A depressing blast but you started it (although rightly so).

Then, perhaps to lighten the tone, he closed a later e-mail in the exchange with this:

Personally I keep hoping for Jesus to return. I want to see what happens when he tries to get into one of those stupid clubs that doesn’t let Jews in. Infact Jesus could do a pretty good rif about coming back and still being Jewish.

Of course, it's lovely to hear from old friends, and even better if they have views sympathetic to my own. But isn't the most remarkable thing about his response the opening couple of lines? "...you have to be careful what you say in this country." He was concerned about being read -- and not just mis-read -- but he was also concerned that I might not want to bear any ensuing brunt of retaliation against his views.

I could make a joke here about the remoteness of anyone outside a circle of, oh, about twelve people ever reading anything posted on this blog. But that would belittle the extraordinary event of someone in America being afraid of possible repurcussions for speaking his mind.

I wonder how the patriotic, freedom-loving Republicans who have sealed a political solidarity pact with the Christian right-wing feel about this kind of encroaching tyranny.


Lordi. Mama.

This is Lordi.

This is my mama (and my step-dad).

Lordi just won the Eurovision song contest.

My mama just returned home after visiting Flame-Haired Angel and me here, in Paris.

Lordi dress up as monsters and play hard rock. They cite KISS as an influence. (Um, duh.)

In 1976, my mama took me to a KISS concert: the Philadelphia Spectrum, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Over tour. I was eight. It was a birthday present, and it blew my mind: the noise, the crowd, the smoke, the platform boots, the makeup, the confetti canon, Gene Simmons’ tongue. Today, thirty years later, that my mom took her eight-year-old to a KISS concert is what blows my mind.

For some years after 1976, my mom would tell the story of the concert. “When the world ends,” she’d say to her suburban friends, “I’ll know before you do, because I already know what it sounds like.”

Thanks, Mom.

As for Lordi, it doesn’t take an old kiss fan to love a band with an album called The Arockalypse. Play it in vivid monstereo.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Yoga with the Superfriends

I’ve been thinking of taking up yoga.

I should be more physically active, but I love being at home with Flame-Haired Angel, and I’m neither the team sports type, nor the lone runner type. Sure, the roller-blading does good things for my buns, but the most I do that is once a week and, keeping it real, it don’t usually happen that often.

So, yoga, right? Good French-apartment exercise requiring very little equipment.

Looking for more information, I googled up some yoga stuff.


That’s right! You know you've always wanted to be initiated into the world of Ashtanga yoga as practiced by your favorite superhero action figures. So get ready for some serious superhero Ashtanga demonstration butt-kickin'!

And don't miss the meditative action-figure dialog that accompanies each pose.

Like this, from the Utthita Parsvakonasana pose:

Heavy Duty: "Om shanti? What the fuck is that?"

Spirit Iron-Knife: "Om is the sound of the universe, from which all other sounds are formed. Shanti means 'peace'."

Heavy Duty: "How in hell do you know that?"

Spirit Iron-Knife: "I'm a mystical motherfucker."

Heavy Duty: "Daaamn."

Or this inspiring chatter as some of our more familiar action figure friends strike the Utthita Trikonasana pose under the watchful eye of guest teacher Marge Simpson:

Marge: Hulk, do you need me to explain the pose again?

Incredible Hulk: Hulk too masculine for yoga!

Marge: Oh, don't be silly. Look at Batman, he's very masculine. And Red Power Ranger, you wouldn't call him feminine, would you?

Hulk: Yes, Hulk would! Red Power Ranger covered in Spandex! Red Power Ranger very, very gay!

Power Ranger: I'm not gay, I'm just from the eighties!

Hulk: Everyone in eighties gay!

Batman: Hell, I was gay in the eighties.

And I thought, "Damn! If yoga’s good enough for Power Ranger, it’s good enough for me."


Monday, May 22, 2006

John McCain: Hate the Policies, Love the Man. Reverse and repeat.

There is a great piece on John McCain's political talents currenly in Slate.

If, like me, you think McCain is likely to be the next president of the United States, it's quite an interesting take on the calculus of his appeal.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Middle Mother’s Day Naked

While Mother’s Day may have been last weekend, in the US, it’s next weekend in France. But since my mom is in Paris this weekend, we split the difference and celebrated last night.

When I asked my mom what she wanted for a Mother’s Day gift, she asked me to take her to the Crazy Horse.

“Mom, do you know what the Crazy Horse is?”


“There’s a lot of naked women.”


Flame-Haired Angel and I had been before. It’s one of two famous Paris cabaret show-clubs we’ve been to, the other being the Lido. The Lido is all sequins and dazzle and engineering marvels masquerading as feathered head-pieces. And tits, of course. A stage full of dancing tits.

When Flame-Haired Angel’s parents visited us, a year and a half ago, we took them to the Lido. Personally, it left me with a good idea of what the show would have looked like on the Love Boat, but in the hands of a gay director with a bigger stage. And a penchant for breasts as scenic adornment.

Despite the boggling quantity, however, you get the impression at the Lido that tits are granted about the same stature as sequins and feathered head-pieces: just part of the spectacle. Not something you’d see walking down the street, but also not as remarkable as the ice-skating rink that rises from below the stage, or the jet plane that descends from the ceiling to discharge the lead for the next musical number. While statuesque, bare-breasted dancers would struggle to be un-erotic – and these women really are major-league stunning – at the Lido they become simply part of the aesthetic backdrop. The dancing tits are key to the spectacle, but they are not the spectacle. There’s a whole lot else.

Even so, the effect on Flame-Haired Angel’s suburban Australian parents was profound. With a full stage, her dad hadn’t seen that many tits in his life. His Champagne glass hovered, hand frozen half way between table and lips, stuck in the moment the first line of chorus girls crossed the stage, straight through ‘til intermission.

But if the Lido is Playboy – like the apocryphal article readers, you can leave claiming you loved the show and hardly noticed the skin – the Crazy Horse is Penthouse. At the Crazy Horse, the naked women aren’t scenery. They’re the show.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s a great show. It’s gorgeous. Not strip club at all. Not even close. But it’s very, very sexy. And there’s almost nothing but naked women. Excepting two interstitial magicians, it’s just twelve scenes of blatant eroticism one after the other.

This was what my mom wanted for Mother’s Day.

I’m not sure what it says about my relationship with my mom that, to celebrate her maternal love and sacrifice, I took her – with her husband and my wife – to watch naked foreign women dance. I say we do it again, next year, and call it a tradition.

(One thing I do know is that it says good things about my love affair with Flame-Haired Angel that, both times we’ve been to the Crazy Horse, we’ve spent the entire show oohing and aahing and comparing notes on which dancers we found sexiest and why.)

At dinner, afterwards, still celebrating Mother’s Day, the conversations move from a T&A postmortem to the subject of motherhood. “Shit,” my mom said at one point, “how could you survive it without drugs and booze?”

After childhood, what more could you ask of a mom than such total candidness: the unabashed living of her life in full view of her children.

Happy Mother’s Day.

* * *

All the photos are from the Crazy Horse. It says a lot about Paris, I think, and a lot about the show, that the audience is very evenly mixed, women and men, and spans a range of ages limited more by the ticket price than anything else.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Gay Commie Terrorist-sympathizer Says "Get out of Iraq"

Did you hear the one about the unpatriotic Gay Commie 3-star General who was a terrorist sympathizer?

During “the war on terror” the right wing has been free to do almost whatever it wants without much political push-back. And when I say “whatever it wants”, I mean to say wage pre-emptive war, torture people, suspend Americans’ freedoms, violate the Constitution, and so on. It’s a long list.

They have had the political equivalent of a kryptonite-proof shield to protect them from criticism. Like all great deflectors, it is simple and sturdy: call any critic soft on terror, an appeaser, unpatriotic, unsupportive of our troops. This is a short trip, perhaps, for folks who undermine the patriotism of decorated war heroes – Ed Murtha, John Kerry, Max Cleland, even John McCain – but even as a cheap defense, it's been an effective one.

So, let’s all step back and have a look at the latest critic of the United States’ Iraq policy. Not only is he saying that we shouldn’t have gone in, he’s saying we shouldn’t stay. That, in fact, we should leave. Now.

Even John Kerry believes that now we’re there, we need to stay the course. So, you’d have to be pretty far left to oppose the Bush Administration more extremely than Kerry, eh? You’d have to be pretty unsupportive of our troops. You’d have to be an appeaser. A cut-and-run coward.

Meet Lieutenant General – that’s three stars – William G Odom (Ret).

One of them Generals who’s been out to get Rumsfeld? Actually, no.

Odom was head of the National Security Agency under notorious liberal President Ronald Reagan.

(Then again, Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court, too. So, clearly, he couldn’t be trusted with HR decisions.)

Odom makes his punchline clear in the very title of his piece recently published in the journal Foreign Policy: “Cut and Run? You Bet.

But his policy conclusion is much less interesting than his argument for it. It’s more than well worth reading.

So, when a Reagan-appointed 3-star General who knows more about national security than the rest of us ever will says we should get out of Iraq, and that we're fighting the war on terror in a counter-productive way, what should be our reaction?

I say we dig up something that proves he's pro-choice and anti-Jesus.


(Just as a geeky aside, could his prose style be any more no-bullshit military? Talk about cutting through the crap!)


Friday, May 19, 2006

So, I got *that* going for me

Damn, but the Internet still just thrills me with its flagrantly serendipitous juicyness. Click on the picture to appreciate why, just now, I am so grateful.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Women can read you like a book, Witnessing Christyranny, and the return of Flame

From The Economist, an article on how women can just tell, by looking at a guy, whether or not he likes kids. This, somehow, both makes complete sense and is, at the very same time, a little creepy.

Then, there's the unqualifiedly creepy rise of "dominion theology" Christians.

When I read things like the latter article, I get more than a little heartsick. If these folks love America so much, what is the part of the Founders' intent they don't get?

I suppose many of them would simply wipe that line of reasoning off the table by saying that they love America, but they love Jesus more.

At which point I would be drowned out as I asked if this was the same Jesus who hated centralized power and preached freedom from tyranny.

Then there's the picture of my Flame-Haired Angel, which is here mostly just because, after reading that article on rabidly political Christians, I feel like turning in the one direction that never fails to inspire my joy. That, and she comes home tomorrow, after we've been apart for three weeks. So, uh, I might not be posting anything tomorrow night. Ayuh.

Flame on!


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A beloved underworld gothic rabbit meridian

I normally don't link to stuff in the New York Times because of their use-by date policy: after short while of being free, articles go into the for-pay archives.

But if you're a reader of contemporary fiction, I highly recommend getting through this article before it goes the way of sour milk.

Did someone say reading list? I love the whole list-making thing. Lists remind me that I could be doing things that, in a moment of focused attention, I decided I really wanted to do.

And, while I'm at it, is there ever a bad reason to post a gratuitous picture of Toni Morrison?


Monday, May 15, 2006

My drug habit, my clandestine whore

I arrived bleary at work, this morning, after an ill-spent night. With photoshop.

You may think the Internet is infinite. You don't know the depths of endlessness, the definition of obsessive codependency, until you have drunk of photoshop like fizzy punch at a high-school dance.

Occasionally it pays dividends. This, for example, is worth it, to me.

Is it offensive that a post titled "my clandestine whore" shows a picture of a dear old friend?

Yeah. That's probably offensive.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Judging a friendship by a book's cover

Only today did it finally occur to me that I’ve been right in the middle of my friend Patrick’s publishing career. I can’t claim to have inspired his material. His two books, so far, are Appropriating Blackness and Black Queer Studies. Maybe being black and gay is in my future, but the chronology is out of whack to have given Patrick any material.

For past influence, I can only claim to have had something to do with the books’ cover photos. One’s a no-brainer: I took it.

There's the cover, at right, and here's the link to the original.

My hand in the other jacket photo is more indirect. It’s a photo of a gospel choir, with Patrick soloing in a sea of white faces. I wasn’t singing, and I didn’t take the picture. And though it’s Flame-Haired Angel’s choir, she wasn’t singing that day, either. We were distracted. We were getting married.

It was a five-star wedding, and the book has a five-star rating on Amazon. So, maybe FHA and I can claim some of that.

I haven’t seen Patrick in way too long – since the wedding, in fact – but we’ve been friends for almost twenty years. So it was a buzz to just bump into his author link on Amazon today, while looking for another Johnson. I clicked on his link to see if maybe he had a new book out. When the thumbnails appeared on screen, it was the first time it occurred to me that our friendship was right there, on his book jackets.


Star Trek Cribs: The Director's Cut

A banner YouTube day, yesterday. Click on the pic.

Too much Dervala ever enough?

Two lovely recent pieces from Dervala:

You Go, Girl


Easter in Ottawa


Chilly seems an odd word for cold

Every Paris spring Sunday raises a pointed question about whether there's any roller-blading in my immediate future. It's just chilly enough that each time the sun pops out I think yes, and when it hides again, I reckon no. But roller-blading without Flame-Haired Angel never tastes as good as with, and she's still in London.



Saturday, May 13, 2006

Easier with zero points of reference

Mom and I were getting ready to go out, last night, and she was telling me how proud she was that she'd successfully navigated her way around the Paris metro all day.

"But, Mom, you circumnavigated the planet on a small sailboat."

"Yeah, but getting around is way easier on the open ocean. I mean, you don't really have to know where you're going, as long as you point in the right direction and avoid obstacles."


Thursday, May 11, 2006

2BR, 1 bath, with nice view and old codger

Tonight, my native Parisian neighbor came by to explain what it all means that our apartments are being sold off, one by one, by the company that owns the building.

Nerdliciously, I found the details fascinating, but that could be because he's an ex-engineer consultant, so we like totally speak the same language. Except he does it in French, mostly.

One titbit stood out. If you're renting an apartment, and you're over 70, French law protects you from pretty much every eventuality should the apartment be sold. You won't get kicked out, your rent won't go up, and the new owner has to maintain the apartment in the condition in which they bought it.

Implication: apartments that have geriatric tennants go at a steep discount.

Other implication: geriatric renters don't end up on the streets.

There's a whole lot about French politics that sucks ass, but protecting octogenarians from real estate speculators seems a groovy government mission to me.

Oh, and HOLY CRAP is our apartment selling for a fortune! If I'd known it was worth this much I might not have peed on the parquet floor so often. I mean, it's more convenient than walking down the hall to the john, but I might've had a little more respect.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A bit hard not to notice...

...(thanks to Jon Stewart) that George Bush said exactly the same thing when he nominated the new CIA director that he said when he nominated the last CIA director. Apparently Porter Goss wasn't the right man at the right time for a very long time.

And the whole Rumsfeld thing is just embarrassing.

But my mom's in town. And that's happy.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Random walk down Paris streets

A couple of weekends ago, when Flame-Haired Angel was across the water, I got disgusted with my sedentary rut and took a long, random walk. One thing that makes walking in Paris so pleasurable is the casual giddiness that results from being smacked in the face with aesthetic serendipity as though it were the usual thing when one walks through a city. Of course, in Paris, it is the usual thing.

I pulled my camera out a handful of times, just to snap things that came into view as I rounded this or that corner. In most cities one can seek out beauty, but I know of no other city in which views like this sit casually around so many corners, like old ladies in ball gowns casually chatting on park benches.