Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Project 7: Charming Hat

My McCall's 4002 caftan pattern includes a hat, which I've wanted to try for a while, and since there was a little fabric left over from the Princely Caftan, I gave it a whirl last night. It was hard to keep things on an even keel going round the top of the crown! I'll give it to Lingoman next time I go up to Vancouver - at least he can use it to keep his long luxurious hairs out of his face while bouncing about the apartment.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Project 6: Princely Caftan

Another present for Lingoman! I took another step forward in terms of not following the pattern this time. It (McCall's 4002) called for the facing to be on the inside, but I thought it would be better to have it on the outside. I've made this caftan before and even though when following the directions the facing is tacked down in three places on the inside, it still flops out of the neckline and is a general pain.

Off to the fabric store! I bought some nice medium-weight muslin for the body. It's smooth and strong and when you get close to it it shines a little. For the facing I bought a yard and a half of Waterford Irish linen. Jet black and as thick as canvas.

Reversing the facing necessitated having the two halves of the front reversed so that the open seams would still match up between the front and facing, so I had to come up with a way to finish that seam. I considered doing a flat-felled seam down the front, but that would have been off-center (ick). After thinking through other options I settled on making a strip of the black linen and encasing the raw edges.

Since I had gone that far with adding decorative bits, I went just a little further and instead of hemming the sleeves and bottom, I made linen cuffs. It looked pretty darn spiffy at the end!

Lessons Learned

  • I tried and tried to get the thread tension right so that the black and cream threads locked in the middle and weren't visible from either side, but I never got it right. On the inside of the garment the locks with the black thread are right there.

  • Attaching the side-seam pockets went better, but they are still slightly too low. I also somehow got one of the side flat-felled seams the wrong way around.

  • Found the right method of cutting out fabric pieces for me.

Following the advice of Paula Pay-la-Renta, I bought a roll of thick transparent plastic sheeting and laid it down over my paper pattern pieces. I held it flat with a piece of glass (borrowed from one of my end tables) and traced around the pieces with a sharpie. Next I cut the plastic pattern piece out, and punched holes in the plastic where my match-up marks go.

Now I can just spread the fabric out on my project table, lay the plastic pattern piece out and then hold it all flat with my glass fabric weight. I trace the plastic piece with a fabric pencil as I pull the glass away and when I'm done, I have a perfect result. Next I put the fabric on the cutting mat and use my rotary cutter to zip around the lines.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thank Ye Gods and Peeps

Tomorrow it's off to Smallsbo to spend the day with the family. My task this year was to make desert, so being desperate for people's approval and praise, I'm making two. A cranberry pomegranate upside down cake and a trifle. Come to think of it, I really should be baking right now.

Anyway, before I get to it I'm going to make this year's list of things for which I thank the Gods and my beloved peeps.
  • Contract Funding I'm thankful that in January when the Great Budget Scare (GBS) of 2008 hit that I and my team were spared and we've been working all this year.
  • Lingoman He was key to me not losing my mind during the GBS.
  • Lingoman's Mother She offered to help me stay afloat if I lost my contract and needed cash.
  • LCD Seattle and the Viking Getting through the day at the office would be so dreary without them.
  • Music I've gotten some really cool performance opportunities this year and I feel like my performing career is on the way back. Getting started on my solo album has also been exciting and rewarding.
  • Sewing Duh. Like I haven't written enough about that!
  • Seirm I'm very happy that our Gaelic community band and choir is coming back strong and that K has come back and C has joined.
  • Revels I know - I already said Music - but being in Revels this year is something that my soul really, really needed.
  • You I've loved writing these little posts and am very grateful for the time you're taking to read and comment. Makes me feel good.

OK. There's some egg whites that are begging me to whip them into a frenzy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hearts Break Open

In the midst of all the swirling hope and despair of the last couple weeks a poem I wrote the last time I fell for a straight guy kept coming to mind.

I think we're born so our hearts will break
because when hearts break they break open.
We rarely see without that cracking
what we have and what we're lacking.

In other gay-themed blogs I read the subject of marriage equality over the last few years has provoked an array of opinions from Hell yes - nothing else will do! to gays who want to marry are denying their true gayness and trying to be straight. We're a conflicted generation to say the least. The gays in their twenties and early thirties, however, have no such conflicts. They stand united for marriage equality.

Let's let them lead and back them up. They see the issue more clearly than we do.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Project 5: Blue Shirt

I finished this project a week ago on Veterans (Remembrance) Day but all the drama of the election and the subsequent Prop H8 marches and protests have dominated all my thoughts.

So here is the same shirt pattern I've done twice before. It went really smoothly. The seams turned out better and straighter and the collar came out a little nicer too. There was a slip-up, though. When I finished the shirt and put it on I realized that I had put the buttons on the wrong side. If any of my neighbors were awake when I started shrieking with laughter I'm sure they wondered if a mad scientist was living in the building.

I plan on making three more of these shirts, but my paper pattern pieces are getting a little battered at this point. Luckily for me, I have several seamstress gurus to consult. The incomparable Paula Pay-la-Renta told me to make myself pattern pieces out of thick transparent plastic sheeting. There's something so delightfully Kitsap County about making patterns out of visqueen!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thank you, Seattle!

Today's march for equality in Seattle was part of an Internet-coordinated effort across the country and around the world. Supporters of same-sex marriage were out in numbers never before seen. It's going to take me a little while to pull my thoughts together for a longer post, but you can see the photos I took now.

Equality March 11-15-08 Seattle

Update: After due consideration, I've decided that everything that needs to be said about our struggle for equality and the Seattle march specifically has already been written out on various blogs. I'm going to turn my face to the rising sun of hope and move forward.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vikings Rule, Bigots Drool!

The class of students that graduated from North Kitsap High School in 1984 have turned into some fabulous adults. At the 20th reunion I was amazed at how many of us were doctors, news directors, music producers, Scottish harp champions, etc. Through the magic of Facebook I now have a little glimpse into some of their daily lives and share little bits of my own.

When Proposition 8 passed in California last week I was initially devastated. I did a lot of crying and thinking and talking with my closest friends and I'm feeling better about things now. A part of that was seeing how my Facebook friends took up the issue and chimed in with messages of support. Lots of them were from my high school.

It brought to mind an incident during my senior year. I was in a class called Diversified Occupations which was a bit of a misnomer. It really should have been called Life Skills for White Trash. We learned how to file our taxes, balance a checkbook, find an apartment and apply for a job; things that most kids learn from their parents.

One day our teacher Mrs. Morgan brought in a guest speaker whose topic, contrary to custom, wasn't announced in advance. The woman was well dressed and well spoken, but something about her made me uncomfortable. Turns out I wasn't the only one. Within a few minutes danders were up and tempers were flaring. She was there to teach us how to force our opinions on our children. Being children ourselves, we didn't take kindly to the idea. When questioned as to why children shouldn't be encouraged to explore and develop their own critical thinking, she responded "well don't you want to make sure your children don't turn out gay?"

Seriously. She said that. At which point, my classmates and I exploded in anger and asserted that we would love our children regardless of their sexual orientation. Seriously. Eighteen year-olds in Poulsbo Washington in 1984 did that. The woman became flustered and left. It was an amazing moment when I think back on it, though it didn't occur to me at the time.

If anyone who was there in Mrs. Morgan's Diversified Occupations class is reading this, I want to say thanks. You rocked then, and you rock now. Go Vikings!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Project 4: Rustic Caftan

As regular readers will know, I made a Celtified kurta for Lingoman for his birthday which went over pretty well! In fact, as I was packing up that weekend he went into the hall closet (not in the metaphorical sense) and pulled out a length of gorgeous unbleached muslin and said "can you make me a caftan out of this?"

"Sure!" I said. He had used the generous length of fabric (about five yards) to wrap a sari at at least one Pagan festival and warned me that there were a few ahem scorch marks on it.

When I got it home and opened it up I found that in addition to the scorched areas, there were holes spaced along its length as if it had been stabbed twice while folded up. That made fitting the pattern pieces a bit of a challenge! Eventually I had to give up and buy a couple yards of very similar muslin to finish the piece. I can still tell the difference, but I don't think many would notice unless it was pointed out.

I started with my same basic caftan / tunic pattern from McCalls. This time I added side-seam pockets, buttonholes up both sides of the front opening for a lace closure, made an optional belt and used the decorative stitches from my sewing machine.

Lessons learned this time out were:

  1. do your decorative stitching before you start assembling the garment
  2. even if your pattern calls for leaving raw edges on the inside find a way to finish them
  3. make double-extra sure that your pockets are in the right place for your hands

Even with the decorative stitch issues that give the caftan the rustic quality I still think it's really cool. I hope Lingoman agrees!

Not Going to the Chapel

My thoughts and feelings about the election results in California, Arizona and Florida continue to evolve. I'm still mad as hell, although I've resolved firmly not to let my pain turn into racism against African Americans or Latinos who want their equality while trampling on mine. Neither am I going to be filled with bitterness when I think of the Californians who prioritized to improve the living conditions for the livestock they eat while worsening the lives of their neighbors. Nope. Not going to go there.

What I am going to do is resume my self-imposed ban on attending mixed-sex weddings for a year. A woman originally from Scotland contacted me because she wants to say her wedding vows in Gaelic. This is what I wrote back to her:

First of all, congratulations on getting married. Secondly, thank you for your interest in Gaelic and for your ambition to say some of the most powerful words possible in a human life in your ancestral language. I truly hope you succeed and that your wedding day is as special as you hope it will be.

I made a decision this morning however that prevents me from helping you. On November 4th three more of these United States passed amendments to their state constitutions to make sure that people like me will never be treated equally under the law. I won't be attending or accepting work related to weddings in 2009, since I am excluded from that institution.

This one hurts because I would love to help this woman and I honestly applaud her ambition, but there's no progress without sacrifice.

So, no wedding work for me in 2009 and no attending mixed-sex weddings in the US.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope and Change? As long as you're not gay

Yes, I voted for Barack Obama and I sobbed uncontrollably when MSNBC called the election for him. By the time I went to bed at 3:00am however, I was sobbing for a different reason.

As news rolled in that Florida and Arizona had voted to amend their state constitution to ban marriage equality my heart started to sink. Any victory by bigots is a reason to mourn, but then the news from California defied belief. Californians were voting to eliminate an existing right for their fellow citizens. They were voting to undermine the very concept of equal protection under the law.

After a short sleep I went into the office and checked the news while getting settled in. As it turns out, exit polls revealed that seven out of every ten African American voters supported Proposition 8. Nearly six out of ten Latino voters did as well.

So while President-elect Obama talks about healing and humility I feel like I have discovered two new enemies who want me trampled down. I have African American friends whom I love and respect and who I know would stand up for me in a fight. I'm holding on to that tonight while I struggle to let go of hope that I'll live to see equality for gay Americans.

Lucky for me I'm engaged to a Canadian who can actually marry me and I'm sure we'll get around to it someday. Maybe sooner now that I've given up on the USA.

Hope? No, I can't.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Back to the Golden Calf

Well I'll be. The Christian right has drilled so far down into the old testament that they've popped out the bottom.

Cindy Jacobs of the 700 club is calling for a prayer intervention to put the global economy under Yahweh's control (apparently he can't do this for himself) centered on the bull statue on Wall Street in New York.

No kidding. They're praying to a statue of a bovine for wealth. LCD Seattle thinks it would be fun to show up in Moses costumes and rebuke them.

Read more if you can stomach it. Prayer Needed for Global Economies

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What's in it for Mother Nature? Why I think there are gays

I've been pondering this question for a long time, and I think I've developed a reasonable hypothesis.

Assumption: All aspects of human behaviour are the result of evolutionary process, including social conventions, abstract concepts, and social structures. Nature doesn't keep things around unless they are somehow useful in an evolutionary framework.

Hypothesis: Gays (inclusive) are socially advantageous because they supply a small population of adults who are typically unencumbered by the work of child rearing. At times there are sudden increases to the necessary workload of a social group due to environmental pressures. If all adults were encumbered by child rearing then there would be no additional people to deal with these periodic increases to necessary work without sacrificing the well being of children.

During times of normal activity levels, the population of unencumbered adults are freer to pursue optional activities which advance technology, liberal arts, and other fields of endeavour which are not strictly required for survival and species propagation.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Project 3: Kurta Celtique!

I've wanted to write about my current sewing project, but since it's a birthday present for Lingoman, I have had to wait until today! After two times through the same shirt pattern I felt like I was ready for something new. Lingoman has wanted a kurta that was cut and sized for a North American person for a long time, and his birthday was coming up, and he just gave me a sewing machine: all indicators were pointing in the same direction! Get stitching a Sheumais!

Lingoman, Icon Watcher and I made a trip to Little India to buy cloth. I can't tell you why it didn't set off alarm bells in my head when Auntie Store Clerk didn't want to cut us a length in half-yards. Turns out, when you spend a whopping $2 a yard you get what you pay for.

I started out with the McCalls 4002 caftan pattern because it had the right basic elements and construction method for something like a kurta. I shortened it to knee length by folding the front and back pattern pieces half way between tunic and caftan length. For a more finished look, I borrowed a tab collar piece from a different shirt pattern and added it.

And for that authentic Celtic touch, I added sparkly silver Celtic knotwork trim. Hee hee. The fabric was pretty challenging to work with, and I don't plan on buying that materials quite that delicate in the future, but I'm still reasonably happy with the end product.

Update Lingoman loves it. Yay! Memories!

Happy Birthday Honey! Or Reasons I Love Lingoman

In honor of my fiancé's birthday today, I thought I would take a few minutes to write down some of the reasons why I love him so much. So, in no particular order:

  • He cares deeply about issues beyond our daily lives He gets really angry when people are mistreated. It doesn't matter whether or not he knows any of them personally. He cares about the direction human society is going in, even though we don't have any kids. He's keenly interested in minority language revival and all the social justice issues surrounding it. He just cares.

  • He's not scared of the things that scare me I fear adversity. I doubt my own ability to deal with crises in my own life. I'm fearful in new social situations and he helps me with all of those things.

  • My family and friends love him too and he loves them.

  • We share many, but not all interests We can talk about so many things that we are both passionate about, but also share things the other doesn't know and broaden both of our perspectives.

  • He's Canadian which means that we can really get married!

  • He's sexy and a super cuddle bug.

  • He's deeply honest which inspires an abiding trust in me. I know that he would tell me the truth in a crisis. He's already had to more than once.

  • He loves me and that's never happened before. At least not that I could believe.

  • He thinks about his life and changes direction when his inner compass tells him to.

  • He has an inner compass Not everyone does, you know!

  • He's a Gaelic speaker Let's be honest - that should probably be nearer the top of the list! Of course there are the other dozen or so languages, but I'm trying to be concise here.

  • He loves to eat Something we share, much to my cardiologists dismay.

  • We're not threatened by each others religions When we met he self-identified as a Druid, and I as a Wiccan. He's now a Buddhist and I've drifted in a more firmly polytheistic direction. Some people might have tension about that, but we don't

Most importantly, he awakens an ever-deepening love and respect for him in me that is like a campfire, a rose, a waterfall, a sunset and a steaming dish of butter chicken all in one.

I love you, Honey. Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Project 2: Black Shirt

I finished project number two last Thursday. Having been all the way through this pattern on Big Yella made the second time much easier. I can't believe how primitive pattern instructions are. Hand-drawn diagrams? Why not just make a video of each step and include a DVD? At least they could have color photos.

Anyway, now that I've got this shirt pretty much under control I'm going to make a couple more to round out the winter wardrobe. Yay. (yes, I wear short-sleeved shirts all year round)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Automatic Screw-Up Button

After about four hours of intense practice on Friday and Saturday I was able to play Fairy Dance cleanly up to tempo. It had even started to sound good. Then I got the recording equipment set up and spent three and a half hours today trying to re-record it. As soon as I pressed the record button, it was back to square one. I'm sure I'm about to make some great breakthrough with this but it doesn't feel like it. Arrrrgh!

Update: I actually did make a huge breakthrough.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Project 1: Big Yellow Shirt

I just finished my first ever garment! It's a McCall's pattern that was rated "easy" so I shudder to think what a difficult one would entail! There are lots of little problems, but I'm still very happy with it. I might even wear it tomorrow!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Dashing Pink Sergeant

This track presents a new challenge: it's not straight out of a Féis Shiàtail songbook! The previous two tune sets were all pre-packaged with complete instructions by the fine folks at Slighe nan Gaidheal so it was just up to me to bring them to life with plenty of cowbell.

This new tune set is from the Féis Shiàtail 2006 songbook, however it has an issue. The third of the four reels in the group doesn't belong there. It's really a march, and when attempting to play it at reel speed it became an ungainly mess.

So I omitted it. That left me with a different problem: the set was too short! These groups of tunes are carefully crafted to have the right number of measures for the figures in the dance, so I had to find a substitute.

The one I picked was Fairy Dance. It's a great tune, and the name sealed the deal. It also doesn't hurt that my favorite gay fiddler from Cape Breton, Ashley MacIsaac, has an awesomeness-filled recording of it!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Willow the Stripper

Another good recording session last night. This time, a set of four jigs using my first-ever downloaded drum loop collection! GarageBand doesn't include any percussion in 6/8 (apparently not cool enough a time signature for Dear Leader) but I found some good ones.

Fiddling went OK. I'll probably do some clean up later, but it's good enough for the dance class I'm leading on Saturday. Next up: The Dashing Pink Sergeant.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I'm In Stitches!

I know this is über-gay, but I have always wanted a sewing machine. I love making things, and Mom would never let me use hers for fear of my breaking it, and neither would she teach me how to use it properly for fear of my becoming even more gay (I'm guessing on that last one).

So, imagine my joy when LCDSeattle and I walked into Lingoman's apartment last weekend and he had purchased one for my birthday. It's a good one too! A Pfaff Hobby 1142, which will meet all my needs for a really long time, if not permanently. I probably won't start making all my own clothes, but I can't describe how excited I am about making things like ritual wear, casual clothes, Celtic-themed stuff, curtains, etc.

I'm thinking of signing up for a basic sewing class being offered tomorrow evening on my way home. Yeah, I know it will be me and a bunch of middle-aged women but I don't care. Thank you, Love! A childhood dream is going to come true!

More Information

Message In A Bottle

I got this fun idea before I left for my birthday weekend which included a trip to the top of Grouse Mountain with Lingoman and LCDSeattle. I picked up a balsa wood glider and took it up the mountain with me. While having refreshments in one of the restaurants at the top I borrowed a pen from the server and wrote on the underside of the wings:

You are blessed, Honor the Gods

After lunch, the three of us walked down to a spot that overlooked the side of the mountain and I launched the glider, hoping that it would make it down into the populated areas nearby to be found by the person whom the Gods most need help from. Themselves, however, had a different idea. The plane made it a short way away from the lookout point, took a sharp left and landed almost within sight of where we were standing. On some level it was a disappointment, but I trust there was a reason. Maybe a park ranger will find it this week and change the world.

Highest Birthday Ever

My birthday weekend was over-the-top fabulous. Spending three days with one of my best friends and my fiancé in beautiful Vancouver with perfect weather was as good as it sounds. Highlights included a visit to the Richmond Summer Night Market, Saturday afternoon on top of Grouse Mountain and dinner at Mirchi Cuisine of India.

Grouse Mountain was especially important to me in the birthday department. Several times in the past I've marked my birthday by going someplace very high up and very beautiful to encourage myself to take an overview of my life and where it's going. Taking the gondola ride up the side of the mountain was very frightening for me and facing that fear supported by Lingoman and LCDSeattle was really awesome. One of the mountaintop activities on offer was a tandem paraglide back down. All three of us wanted to do it, but didn't think we could afford the multi-hundred dollar fee. We also later learned that we're too ahem heavy. We're going to do it next summer, though! Save up a special fund and lose our non-aerodynamic poundage.

So the take-away lesson for me was that I need to face my fears and put myself in scary situations. I'm not getting any younger, and there are things I want to do. One of the most valuable things I learned from the High Priestess who trained me was that if you need more power than you have, you can get it by doing something that scares you. I'll leave you all to ponder the deeper implications of that, but I can tell you that it is 100% true.

More Information

Friday, September 5, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

For many years, my circle of friends has had the habit of asking what we refer to as The Birthday Questions at birthday parties. They are:

1) What was the best thing that happened to you at ?

2) What was the most difficult thing that happened to you at ?

3) What are your goals for ?

Since I won't be having a birthday party this year, I'm going to answer the questions here on the blog.

1) The best thing that happened while I was 41 was starting to work on my solo CD. I'm enjoying the process, feeling hugely enthusiastic and energetic about it and improving as a musician.

2) The most difficult thing that happened while I was 41 was by a country mile the 10 days I spent under the threat of having my federal contract slashed to the point that I wouldn't be able to support myself. I have spent the last 8 months recovering from that week. I developed central serous retinopathy, heart arythmia, and degraded pulmonary function. My doctors assure me that I can recover from all these conditions, by the way.

This experience, however, has had a couple of positive out comes. My future mother-in-law spontaneously reassured me that if I were in desperate straights that she would help. That offer of help was a game-changing event in our relationship.

I also got super-motivated to pay off my second mortage (the kind you get when you don't have enough for a down payment) which I did last week.

3) While I'm 42 I intend to:

a) lose 42 pounds
b) release my solo CD

Wish me luck, everyone! Thanks in advance for your birthday wishes. If you forget my birthday, however, you are on my list; Watch your backs.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Greek Pagans Defend Their Heritage

So, you might not have heard, but some slimy real estate dude wants to build a gods-awful museum (read: elaborate gift shop) on the fraking Acropolis.

Ellinais, however, isn't going to let that happen without making a fuss. See the story on CNN for full details.

Irish pagans are defending Tara, Greek pagans are defending the Acropolis, and what are North American pagans doing? I shudder to think what the answer to that might be.

More Information

Punch In, Punch Out, Clean Up

Much of the weekend was spent behind the Tweed Curtain, taking counsel with Lingoman's Aged Maternal Fossil (a pseudonym she coined for herself). It was lovely. For the first time she and I acknowledged that our first impressions of each other were dubious, in the context of having firmly changed our minds on the subject. Very nice.

Monday was spent back with my friend GarageBand. I found out how to do a "punch in" on a previously recorded track. In standard Apple fashion, it was easy and elegant.

I cleaned up all the fiddle flubs in Hella Gay Gordons and got a first draft down of a tuneset for Baile Ard, Mo Rún. Both of the tunes in the new set (Hut on Staffin Island and The Clumsy Lover) are copyrighted, so I'll have to do some research on how to deal with that before getting too attached.

I can't believe how much fun I'm having working on this.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hella Gay Gordons

Living in 21st century North America our ears are insanely narrow. If there's a 4/4 drum beat behind something we like it, if not it's weird.

Turns out it works with Scottish dance music as well. Just a couple drum loops and my cheesy fiddle and harp rendition of a set of dance tunes for Gay Gordons sounds all cool.


Update OK. Maybe "cool" was an exaggeration. "More accessible to modern pop-music sensibilities." Yeah, I guess that's closer.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Half Way Back

Well. Almost half way anyway! Recording went well last night. I re-did all the instrumental tracks for Is Truagh Leam ar Scàradh and they came out so well I popped a vocal mic on the line and gave it a shot.

I'm not yet back to my respectable-but-not-amazing vocal chops, but I'm on the way!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vandalism and Prejudice

Among the interesting things that happened last weekend in Vancouver, was the apparent vandalism of my car. The passender-side mirror was busted off and left dangling by its wire.

There's no way to know what the person's motivation was. They might just hate red cars. It was parked on the correct side of the street, with the passenger side toward the curb, so this was done by a pedestrian. None of the other cars on the block were disturbed, just the one with Washington plates.

Over the last seven plus years I've dealt with only a small amount of anti-American prejudice pointed directly at me. I have, however, listened to many hours of it from Lingoman's friends and relations pointed more generally at Americans.

It was such a shock after having been raised with a very positive attitude toward Canada to find out that our 'friends' up North take every opportunity they can to slag us off. I try to warn people who plan to vacation in Vancouver not to expect anything but their money to receive a warm welcome.

I guess being the child of immigrants with relatives in three countries, I have always felt able to separate my opinions governments and people; to acknowledge national stereotypes but not use them to evaluate actual human beings. I find it ironic that the Canadians I frequently hear lumping all Americans together under very ugly names are themselves indulging in stereotyping and prejudice.

It reminds me of 9/11 when a Canadian said to me "Well, that's awful, but America deserves it." I replied, "So, that young married couple who chose between being burned alive and jumping to their deaths holding hands deserved it because they stupidly allowed themselves to be born in America?"

OK. I need to stop writing about this for a while; I'm getting too mad. I've also met lots of Canadians who aren't like that at all.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Destroying the Evidence

After a day of listening to the CD of my disappointing vocal track I've decided to delete the track from Garage Band and destroy the disk. I've learned what I can from it and now I'm just torturing myself.

I know I can do better than that, and I will do in the near future.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Diva Has an Off Night

Setting up and tearing down the recording equipment is getting quicker and easier, but re-building my faded vocal technique isn't quick or easy.

The plan last night was to record the 'final' vocal track on Is Truadh Leam ar Scaradh but unfortunately the pipes weren't cooperating. I was getting progresively more discouraged, so I decided to stop fairly early. Listening to the track this morning in the car, it wasn't terrible, but also wasn't something I would play for someone with pride.

In the WTF category was the fact that there are two places in the melody of the song where it goes up to the D above middle C (not impossibly high for a baritone like me). The first one I nail every single time. The second sounds like someone is jabbing a fork in my thigh. Grrr

Cut back on the smoking, walk around Greenlake more frequently and keep trying.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dance, Cracker! Dance!

Last weekend, while getting ready for my gig as fear an taighe for some nice people's summer ceilidh, I realized that I had no appropriate recorded music for social dances. I thought I had a ready-made solution in the Féis Shiàtail songbook teaching CDs, but quickly realized that they were (for very good reason) limited to just the melody being played by an electronic piano.


Being pretty good at last-minute inspiration, though, I came up with the idea to rip MP3 files from the teaching tracks on the Féis songbooks and import them into Garage Band and then use them as guides. It worked really well! I recorded myself playing the tune sets on the fiddle multiple times (for that forgiving chorus effect) then added harp and bòdhran parts.

Sin agad e! My own self-produced CD of tune sets that I know inside and out designed for the specific versions of the dances that I know and teach. And the name? Dance, Cracker! Dance!

I know; I'm bad.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekend Recording

Boy, it's hard to add a post after the one below. How do I put a chatty, about me one above my announcement of the Grand Plan to unite polytheistic religions in an urban framework?

Oh well. Maybe doing this will inspire me to write another First Restored-themed post afterward.

Anyway, I stayed in Seattle last weekend to do a gig as fear-an-taighe. I decided that since I was going to be here anyway, that I should make some progress on scrach tracks for my solo CD. I really want to get all my creative decisions on solid ground before paying a recording engineer.

It went pretty well! I'm realizing that each track is going to have its own unique issues around sequencing and I just have to jump in and get started in order to figure that out. For example, in a big epic song I would normally want the vocals recorded first so that as accompaniest I could respond to the singers treatment of the melody. But, if I'm the singer, then I need some kind of a reference track to keep myself on pitch. Kind of a chicken-and-egg problem.

So, I got a decent rough-draft of Is Truagh Leam ar Scaradh done. I was hoping to have more than that to show for the weekend, but there was a complicating factor; I spent three hours on Saturday recording dance music for the gig that night. More on that later!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

First Restored Temple of the Gods

What do you think? Snappy, eh? Just to get this out of the way, the 'short' version will be "First Restored" not "FRTG." Acronyms are nasty. The name took a lot of thinking. I want it to be explicit that this is a new chapter in polytheistic religion, not an attempt to recreate a bygone era. However, I also want to be explicit about the fact that it won't be a Wiccan temple, neither Druid nor Dodekatheist. Everyone who honors the multiplicity of divinity is welcome.

So, the general idea is to create a framework which will allow polytheists of many flavors to meet and honor all the old gods with rituals old and new. I'm calling it "Big Tent Polytheism." Unlike many neo-Pagan efforts, I want to start with the building! I was discussing this with my friend x-Father X and after describing the temple of my dreams, he pointed out that I had just described the Pantheon in Rome.

Inside the temple there would be niches in the walls for statues of gods. I think it would be cool to group them together, but some kind of an organizing principle would have to be created.

A crazy dream? Maybe. Even if it doesn't happen in my life time, thinking about it and imagining it makes me happy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Line in the Sand

I think that in the previous post I may have answered the underlying question that has been bugging me for so long. If Abrahamic monotheism is so poisonous, why has it been so successful for so long? I think the answer is the same as the one to the question social workers, families and friends have so long asked about the victims of parental and spousal abuse; why does she (or he) stay with him?

Undermine their self-esteem through the doctrine of original sin and convince them they have no other options through monotheism.

If that's really the answer, then it's time for me to move on from diagnosing the problem to envisioning a future that I would like to live in. Maybe it will never come to pass, but one might as well try.

Now... for a really catchy name....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

No One Will Ever Love You But Me; Yahweh as the abusive parent

Did it ever strike you as strange that the Christian right wing (not to mention Islam) are always flipping out about single parents and gay adoption when they themselves condemn the entire universe to being from a single-parent family for all time?

We know from the Ugarit texts that Yahweh once had a consort and was part of the Caananite pantheon headed by his father, El. Current Abrahamic monotheism, however, makes out that there is no Mrs. God. So, not only did Yahweh ditch his spouse, but he tells us that we never had a mommy. Nice.

So let's look for a second at some of the typical patterns in the relationship between an abusive parent or a spouse and their victim and how they are paralleled in the ways that monotheists want us to see their god.

No one will ever love you but me

Central to the abuser's success in controlling their victim is convincing her or him that she or he has no other options. If she or he were to run away, or divorce that she or he would be alone and helpless and most likely die. Because the victim believes this, he or she follows the logic that accepting the abuse is her or his only option.

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me [to which I can be compared unfavorably]" — Yahweh (paraphrased)

But he's really a good person when he isn't burning me with an iron

Abuse victims who are caught in the cycle of low self-esteem will sometimes defend their abusers because there is a component of caring in the relationship. The abuser wants the victim to continue to accept them, and that is a kind of caring even if a very twisted one. For someone who has been convinced by an abusive parent or spouse that they are unlikely to get love anywhere else, even that poisoned kind of caring is preferable to the utterly bleak landscape that has been painted around them.

Abrahamic apologists (Hi Pete!) will respond with variations on "Well, we can't prove that God isn't there, so we should all worship him just in case he's real.". Which, of course, assumes that the only choices are to worship Yahweh or be an atheist. I hope it's clear, dear readers, how strenuously I disagree with that view.

I'm the only one who really understands him; you don't know what you're talking about


Alexandria Library. Witch burnings. Inquisition. Crusade. Extermination of native peoples around the world. Women subjugated.

If he acts like an abusive parent and the institutions inspired by his stories commit atrocities for centuries without any effective resistance guess what? Yahweh is an abusive god and he belongs in rehab. Asclepius might be able to help, but better not let Brìd anywhere near the guy or he'll wind up getting a Bobbet.

Monday, July 14, 2008

We're All Experiments

One of the subtitles that's been given to the United States is "The Great Experiment." I think that all efforts at organizing society are experiments, and that if we viewed them that way there would be less motivation for armed conflicts.

It seems to me that we mostly view nations as organisms competing for resources and dominance, and I think that is true to a certain extent. (that's my social darwinism peeking out) On a larger scale, though, I think humanity is carrying out multiple concurrent experiments which are intended to answer the question: "What would society be like if it were organized this way?"

If we view nations that way, then it is in everyone's best interest that all the experiments continue uninterrupted until all useful data has been collected. Then we will assess the results and start the next experiment based on what we have learned. After lots and lots of tries, we'll eventually arrive at the conclusion that if society is organized this way, then almost everyone is OK almost all of the time. Check! Done!

The only way an experiment can really fail is if it produces no new data. The Soviet Union, for example, was not a failed experiment in my opinion. We learned that when enough power is concentrated in a central government to erase most economic inequality, that it is too vulnerable to manipulation and corruption. Good to know!!

So, perhaps we can hold these this paradigm in balance against the social darwinist one and reach our ultimate goal in less time with less suffering along the way. What do you all say, shall we try?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

We Made the Seattle Times Pride Coverage!

Whew-hew! Watch this video from the Seattle Times; right at the end there is a show of myself and LCD Seattle judging pride parade participants!

Friday, May 23, 2008

My Gods, I'm Seumas X!

Picked up my new glasses today. Realized I'm the reincarnation of Malcom X. We do have a few attitudes in common; just substitute the word "gay" for the N-word he used. I'm definitely more of a field gay than a house gay. My Gods.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A New Old Era

Yes, this blog is mostly about monotheism's effects on culture, but I am a person as well as a polytheist.

And I broke my glasses last Friday. They were a dozen years old, and getting a bit wonky, so that's not so much of a tragedy, really. I had an eye exam in February after my vision felt different at the end of the Great Budget Crisis of 2008 (trust me, if you don't know what I mean, you don't want to). Turns out my vision had not changed substantially since my last exam ten years ago, so I didn't bother getting new glasses.

But I had to yesterday. Right now my old glasses are taped together and I'm feeling waaaaay too ghetto for my own comfort. So, I'm just going to hide at home this weekend and wait for the call that my new ones are ready. Picking out new frames I decided to go in a new direction.... backwards! I found some frames that look just like my Dad's did. I'm also considering giving up my Caesar haircut and going for a 50s Dad-style one. What have I got to lose at this point?


The hair didn't come out the way I hoped....

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Catholic Priest and a Wiccan Priest Walk Into A Restaurant

Sounds like the start of a mildly funny joke, doesn't it? It's true, though. One evening last week I had a fantastic re-acquaintance dinner with a former Catholic priest I knew over a decade ago when I was a volunteer chaplain at an AIDS hospice in Seattle. To protect his anonymity, I'll call him x-Father X.

Meeting x-Father X was a real turning point for me. It gave me a tremendous sense of validation to be invited to volunteer as a Wiccan chaplain. I guess that the fact that I was raised as a Catholic contributed to buzz I got when a man in a clerical collar asked for my opinion on a ceremony he was planning. x-Father X treated me as an equal, despite the fact that his own priestly training included all kinds of things that were absent from mine. He also helped me understand why smart, educated, reasonable people maintain self-identification with an institution like the Catholic church; it's the people, art, music, buildings, bells, and smells. In my secret, uncompromising heart I know that those are the tricks that the thought system uses to keep its hosts distracted, but I also have compassion for those hosts.

The chaplaincy work turned out to be too much for me to handle in my late 20s, and after a couple years I had to stop. I felt myself slipping further and further away from life. How I got back out of that place with help of a Siberian shaman will be the subject of another post at some point in the future.

Off I went into the Gaelic and Celtic music scene, leaving my life as a public Wiccan behind me. Fast forward over ten years. I'm still deeply involved in Gaelic, but a part of my mind and heart is turning back toward religion and spirituality. I develop this wacky idea that it's having just one god that makes people so easy to manipulate. I start digging into the roots of Islam and Christianity. I start writing this blog. My compassion for Abrahamic religionists is a distant memory.

Then, because the Gods love me and want us to succeed in restoring their worship, the phone rings. It's x-Father X, wondering if I want to represent Wicca in an interfaith dialogue on children's welfare. I decline, since I don't have children and am so completely out of touch with the local Wiccan community that I don't know who to send him to. However, we do set up a dinner appointment to get re-acquainted.

So, over a fantastic chicken Marsala, I remember my compassion, and my admiration for this man who gave up his position in the Catholic Church to keep his integrity. He loves Jesus. He believes there's only one god. He sings for the parish he belongs to. They have a PFLAG chapter that invited him to come and speak. His integrity and clarity makes me ashamed of the pettiness that still clings to my reasoning sometimes.

OK Gods, I get the message. I need to be as evolved as x-Father X. I'll get right on that. Thanks for the guidance.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Are Greeks Closet Polytheists?

I have a dear friend and folk-harp colleague, Patrice Haan, who shared a vacation story with me once at a folk harp weekend that I found very interesting.

How do you describe a goddess? Patrice, in addition to being a very talented harper, singer, and performer, is a woman of striking beauty. I am about 5' 11'' tall, and the top of my head comes up to her chin. I'll let the photo cover the 1,000 words of florid description that I could have written about her, and stick to the things that the photo can't show you. She moves with precision and a reserved grace that makes everyone around her seem a little schlumpy in comparison. No one minds, though, because within minutes of meeting Patrice, they all know that they're in the presence of a great spirit. She elevates you just by being herself.

Υποδοχή στην Ελλάδα! Welcome to Greece! Patrice was vacationing in Greece, and had just arrived in an out-of-the-way village. A man picked her out of the crowd, approached her and knelt before her in reverence, exclaiming "Athene! Athene! We knew you would come back to us! We never stopped worshipping you!" Apparently, he thought that the dark age of horrors Christian Era had passed and the Olympians were coming back to set things right. Anyone could be excused for mistaking Patrice for an avatar of the Goddess of Wisdom, but it went a bit beyond that for this guy. He seemed convinced that her denials were a kind of test of his devotion. For the duration of her visit, he continued to worship her.

Patrice and I have never discussed her own religious leanings explicitly, but I get the strong feeling that she herself wouldn't be opposed to throwing a pinch of incense on the brazier at the altar of Hera. I might be speaking out of turn there; wouldn't be the first time.

More Information
  • Patrice Haan Learn more about The Avatar of Athene and buy her CDs
  • Dodekatheism "a handful of miserable resuscitators of a degenerate dead religion who wish to return to the monstrous dark delusions of the past." — Father Eustathios Kollas
  • Religious freedom in modern Greece Give it a read. Doesn't sound too free to me.
So here's my question: given the choice, would Greeks (some? a bunch? a majority?) return to their native religion? Rebuild the Acropolis? Spark up a few doobies at Delphi and finally get some good advice? There are some folks, notably in Greece itself, who are working to re-establish the worship of their own Gods. The Greek Orthodox Church has noticed, but doesn't seem too threatened just yet. What do you think, Corps of Discovery?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Favorite Rant Ever: Thank you, Matt from Oklahoma!

I got this from a newspaper comment stream. The poster was called Matt from Oklahoma. I don't know if he wrote it, but I'm super happy that I have it, no matter who the author.

You guys make a lot of great points about the radical homosexual agenda of wanting to be equal. It got me thinking of the biggest threat of all, gay marriage. Here are the reasons why we must never allow such an un-American act to be recognized.

First, Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

Second, Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

Third, Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

Fourth, Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn’t changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can’t marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

Fifth, Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears’ 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

Sixth, Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn’t be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren’t full yet, and the world needs more children.

Seventh, Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

Eight, Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That’s why we have only one religion in America.

Ninth, Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That’s why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

And Finally, Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven’t adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

As Above, So Below: King-solidation

Have you ever, in reading Arthurian stories or the like, encountered the term "High King?" Ever wonder why the qualification was necessary? Well, I find the story interesting.

Back in the day, when Nordic people honored Odin and Thor and Freya, and Celts prayed to Lugh and Brìd and their peeps, (the Tuatha Dé Danann) there wasn't just one king in a country. And also, countries weren't quite so firmly defined. Really more like territories; strongly held in the center filtering out to disputed areas on the periphery. By the way, we're really only talking about a few hundred years into the Common Era here - not back in the Bronze Age.

As Europe was gradually infected with converted to Christianity, things began to change. Instead of one king for something like a bioregion in federation with other similarly-powerful monarchs, we start to see a vertical relationship. Bioregional kings start to report to a national (sort-of) high king.

The squeeze is starting to happen.

In the monotheistic cosmology, there is a finite amount of power available, and the more people who are sharing it it, the less powerful each is. Just like Yahweh demanding supremacy among the Semetic gods, we start to see high kings demanding supreme power over their formerly sovereign sub-sovereigns.

Note to Self
I need to get some good citations going for this particular point, since I don't expect anyone to just believe me. I'll get right on that.

Pretty soon after that, none of the local thugs nobility are called kings anymore. They've all been demoted to lower ranks, just like when Yahweh handed the entire Cananite pantheon its collective hat in one swell foop.

So, how did this thirst for absolute power find its way so far West? Is it just a natural step in the evolution of society? Not in my opinion. It's the thick edge of the monotheistic wedge. If your whole cosmology is based around the idea that there's just one sovereign power in the whole universe, which direction to you think society is going to go in? Pluralism? Democracy? Ummm. No.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

As Above, So Below: The Rise of Yahweh

I'd like to take some time to explore what I think are parallels between the emergence and evolution of monotheism from the pre-Mosaic period through the destruction of the second temple and the rise and consolidation of monarchy in medieval Europe. The changes are separated by a good couple thousand years, with that whole Roman period in the middle, but there is a similar shape that has struck me as significant.

E Pluribus Unum Let's take a page from our Christian friends and start off with the Book of Genesis. The first words of the Bible in Hebrew are breshit bara elohim. That word, elohim, is an ancient one and has had plenty of time to accrete irregularities. On the surface, it looks like a plural derived from its root, eloah, meaning "god." So, you might jump ahead and say that elohim means "gods" and not be completely wrong. The verb bara, however, is singular. A superficially plural word being used as a singular sounds to me like a remnant of an older tradition poking its head through, and in fact most Biblical scholars (actual scholars, not religious zealots) think the same. The late Bronze Age texts of Canaanite Ugarit use the word to denote the entire pantheon of the father god, El.

What did that burning bush say again? Next little clue. When Yahweh delivers his commandments to Moses, he orders that the children of Israel shall have "no other gods before me." In Hebrew, the word elohim is used in that sentence for "gods." Hmmm. Pretty clear indication to me that Yahweh is recognizing that people have other gods while asserting his supremacy.

You're All Fired! In a fresh, bold translation of the Book of Psalms by Robert Alter (see link below), we are shown a mythological, poetic vision of the moment at which Yahweh succeeds in vanquishing all the other gods of his pantheon:

God takes his stand in the divine assembly
in the midst of the gods he renders judgement
"How long will you judge dishonestly
and show favor to the wicked?
Do justice to the poor and the orphan.
Vindicate the lowly and the wretched.
Free the poor and the needy
from the hand of the wicked; save them!
They do not know and do not grasp,
in darkness they walk about.
All the Earth's foundations totter.
As for me, I had thought you were gods,
and the sons of the Most High were you all.
Yet indeed like humans you shall die,
and like one of the princes, fall.

More Information

Whoa! Did Yahweh just have a total Donald Trump moment, strip all the other gods of their divinity and make them mortal? Harsh!

In the next segment, I'll go into the ways that feudal Europe paralleled this change in its concept of what a king is.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Democracy and Monotheism: A Match Made in Tartarus

For most of human history, we've been polytheistic, or at least animistic. Many archaeologists believe that monotheism makes its first appearance in Egypt in the 18th dynasty under Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (who changed his name to Akhenaten in deference to his exclusive worship of Aten). Sigmund Freud even argued in his book Moses and Monotheism that the exposure to the cult of Aten was what inspired the worshipers of Yahweh in Mosaic ancient Israel to struggle to elevate their tribal god to the same stature. They were successful at it a bit later, but Akhenaten was not. Egypt reverted to its polytheistic ways and Akhenaten got all of his cartouches chipped off his monuments for his trouble.

Monarchy, in one form or another, is a method of social organization that far predates our emergence into sentience. Any random pack of dogs thrown together will select an alpha dog and proceed about their canine business quite happily. Given that, we can safely assume that as world-organizing concepts go, polytheism and monarchy were the norm for many thousands of years. They probably jostled each others shoulders from time to time, but that was likely about it.

Long about 500 BCE, the lovely city of Athens in Greece came up with a new idea for organizing society called democracy. Athenian democrats (yes, I decided to phrase it that way to poke any Republicans reading this blog) were fairly extreme in their application of the concept. They didn't elect representatives to vote for them, all eligible voters voted on everything! One of my favorite things to point out to patriotic Christian Americans is that their beloved democracy was invented by people who worshipped Zeus, Athena, Apollo, etc. I'm just mean that way.

Anyhoo. While all this was going on in Attica, over in ancient Israel, the followers of Yahweh were doing a pretty fair job of elevating their deity to a supreme position. I suppose I ought to mention that there is extensive documentation of the fact that the pre-Mosaic (and some post) Israelites were polytheistic. That's where most of the exotic-sounding demon names in the Bible come from. Ba'al was the deity of the Yahwist's chief political rivals, so a special place in demonology is reserved for his name.
More Information

So now in a human society that was comfortably used to being organized by polytheism and monarchy, we now have competing models. Polytheism versus monotheism, and monarchy versus democracy.

I smell trouble

Friday, March 28, 2008

And Now, In The Center Ring! Orthodoxy versus Orthopraxis!

Comparative religion has been an interest of mine for a long time, so when my partner explained this basic division of types of religions it seemed completely intuitive to me. What do you know? There's a word for the kind of religion I practice: orthopraxic! We don't really care so much about what you believe, as long as you do the rituals (properly).

I had an experience a few months ago, however, that showed me how non-intuitive the concepts are to some. A discussion broke out in my workplace which was vaguely concerned with changes in language usage. I happened to bring up how disturbing I find it that the words faith and religion are becoming synonymous. Where does that leave religions that are not primarily concerned with belief?

The guys in my office never heard of orthopraxis (not surprising, I hadn't either until recently) and it was such an alien concept to them that they accused me of making it up. Lying. They said I, a devout ENFJ, was lying.
Creepy Sidebar
Adding to my paranoia, the Blogger spell checker apparently doesn't know the word either. It's underlining it as if it doesn't exist. At least Wikipedia is on my side.

Their reaction to the idea that a religion based on action rather than faith was explosive. They shouted over each other; insisting that it couldn't be true. Seriously, it was bizarre. Despite carefully trying to explain the terms orthodoxy and orthopraxis as they are used in cultural anthropology, both of them continued to insist that it was impossible that a religion could exist that was not faith-centered.

In all honesty, part of the reaction could have been to my manner. It never occurred to me that the concept of orthopraxis needed careful presentation. I just stated the facts as I was aware of them. In my opinion, though, the more emotional component arose from a kind of memetic immune response. In simple terms, they flipped out because the orthodoxy meme in their heads perceived an incoming threatening idea and was defending itself.

The scarier thing to me is that I don't think either of them would consider himself religious. That's how deep a hold the monotheism meme has on our collective psyche. It's like we're possessed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What I'm Not Saying About Monotheism

I think I'm going to write about monotheism and its effects on culture often, so it's best if I get a few things out on the table right away. Might prevent some unnecessary angry comments. I should probably link back to this post from each one critical of the effects of monotheism. Yup. Think I'm going to do that. OK.

Things That Are Definitely Not My Opinion:

Monotheists Are All Bad People That would be daft. There are millions of people following any number of monotheistic religions who are good, kind, smart people. I just don't think that their religion made them good. I think in some cases, it helps them stay good despite the battering that life gives all of us.

Nothing Good Has Happened Since The Advent of Abrahamic Monotheism Another daft idea. Lots of good things have happened, and are happening right now. Women voting, the end of state-sanctioned slavery, the invention of the weekend, the birth of Steve Jobs just to name a few. Oh yeah, and the Internet! Yay! None of these things, however, were the doing of Abrahamic monotheism in my opinion.

Every Aspect of Monotheism Is Bad You guessed it; daft. I think that it will take some time, and some conversations with my Corps of Discovery, and some writing, but sorting out what is good about monotheism is a necessary step for my criticisms to be worth considering.

A Law Must Be Passed Banning Monotheism Daft. I believe that society is on an evolutionary path. Human discourse is one of the forces shaping that path. So is biological evolution and every environmental factor you can name. After forty-odd years of kicking around the place, I'm ready to enter the fray officially on the side of polytheism, but I want the universe and the meta process of social evolution to decide if I'm right or wrong - not a legislative body.

I guess that's about it for now. Gotta go make some offerings to my ancestors.

How To Get Over The Ewww! Ick! Response

Ben Browder surprises Michael Shanks with a kiss on the cheekIn a recent post on my friend Michael's blog Pop Culture Institute about Queen Latifah, he made reference to having had a boyfriend with whom he had sex. (gasp!) This, seemingly innocuous fact provoked a "too much information" comment from a regular reader.

It was clear to me that the reader in question didn't mean any harm. I've seen lots of good-natured, supportive comments from that individual on Michael's blog so rather than getting my manly boxers in a bunch, I decided to write a little about the subject of Ewww! Ick! I don't care if you're gay but for Gods sakes, don't talk about it!!! statements by otherwise friendly hetero folks.

First, the straight-forward analysis (pardon the pun)

When you talk about some part of your life, especially a very personal part, and someone else's reaction is visceral disgust, it hurts. It hurts a lot. It can make you feel ashamed of yourself, whether or not your intellect agrees that a shame reaction is reasonable. That's the kind of shame that Gay Pride was invented to heal. That's why we still need our parades. We need a vacation every once in a while from the fear that if we talk about our love lives, even in the most innocuous terms, that we'll get a shame-provoking Ewww! Ick! response.

Now, the shoe-on-the-other-foot analysis (this is where the help getting over it happens)

Gay people, by and large, are raised in hetero households by heteros. Most of us over 35 and a good portion of those younger were taught that gay people are gross, icky, other otherwise unwanted by society many years before we realized we are gay. When that realization did dawn, can you imagine the shock we felt at discovering that we were part of a socially unacceptable group?

Imagination is both the source of the Ewww! Ick! response and the secret to getting over it. Nature is like that: problem and solution tied up in one tidy package.

As we gay people move through our daily lives, we have to listen to, watch on TV, see in movies, ads and countless other sources graphic, explicit descriptions and images of heterosexual erotic activity. Believe me, we have the same Ewww! Ick! response when we see boys and girls rubbing their pink bits together.

What triggers that feeling? Imagination, of course. All people naturally identify to some degree with people they see in the media. That's how entertainment and advertising works; we imagine ourselves in the same situation. If they're doing something we think we would like, we have a positive response; if not, well, then Ewww! Ick!

When I was a young person, seeing hetero erotic activity produced a strong negative response in me. Over time, however, that response started to get weaker, and I could start to relate to the common human experience of love and desire without my imagination putting me into the role role of the guy on screen and getting grossed out.

So, what does it take to get yourself past the response? Exposure and time. With just a little effort, your subconscious will get tired of producing the negative response and learn that you aren't in any danger of being man-loved. At that point, like I did from my side, you'll be able to see two people kissing. Someday you might even be able to say Awww! and really mean it.

And no, I'm not saying that you should rent gay pornography and watch it over and over with a bucket under your chin. There are actually a fair number of decent gay-themed movies out there that you could occasionally choose (maybe one in ten times, just to be fair?) to rent and watch; Brokeback Mountain being the best, of course.

So, how do I know that choosing to not hide from tasteful expressions of same-gender affection will help you get past the Ewww! Ick! response? Partly my own experience, but party because that's what the social conservatives desperately, desperately don't want you to do! Their work to keep neutral or positive images of same-gender affection out of the public eye is calculated to keep the maximum number of otherwise reasonable people locked into the negative response cycle. Don't let them block your advancement as an enlightened human being!

I mentioned viewing gay-themed movies (not pornography - start breathing again). If you have trouble feeling comfortable browsing in the "gay and lesbian" section of your local video store, you can:

  • take your girl friend
  • subscribe to Netflix
  • Wear a Nixon mask
  • Ask a gay friend to go for you

So, there you have it. I know that "too much information" comments for simply putting in print the fact that gay people actually love members of their own gender aren't meant to hurt us, but they do. So stop it, OK?