"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Friday, January 30, 2009


We need them, whether you call them habits or daily routines or whatever. I need them. Spending as much time as I do with my head firmly in the clouds, if my schedule is disrupted I get terribly confused, even anxious. I'm like a cat -- don't disrupt things, or I'll freak.

I just don't want to spend time thinking about things like that. Having to think about them. I have other thoughts I want to be thinking that are much more important, as far as I'm concerned.

I know, I should exert a little discipline and create my own schedule and set of routines -- it shouldn't be that hard.

Well, it is.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


That's my life right now, which is why I haven't been here much this week. New schedule, pesky practical details (for which I have no patience right now, and consequently, no motivation to deal with them), major distractions -- and the news is not something I can really get my teeth into: Obama's making some of the right moves, there are hordes of commentators out there watching every one of them through a microscope, and I have nothing to add to those discussions.

And my head is off in a different place right now. This has been coming for a while -- I think my outrage fund is pretty much tanked, at least for the time being. I'll probably be shifting the focus of this blog, as I've mentioned before. It may move more toward gay issues, maybe more toward art and culture commentary. I doubt that I will leave political commentary completely -- there's always a public idiot to skewer -- and gods know the culture warriors are still making a lot of noise (but I get tired of refuting the same "arguments" again and again), so I'm sure I'll be weighing in on some of those things.

This week the problem is time -- how much and when. Bear with me. I'm not leaving.

(I do intend to come back to the "relationships between men" commentary that I started last weekend. Let me know what you think.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Marriage Note

Andrew Sullivan has a very good comment on how including gay couples will affect civil marriage -- it won't:

Think of the diversity of lived experience that now exists within this civil institution in America. . . . Are people really saying that a lesbian couple of several decades or a newly married couple like me and Aaron fall outside the cultural range of these experiences? Civil marriage is already so broad in its inclusion of social types and practices that including gay couples will make virtually no difference at all. And this is the genius of civil marriage: it's a unifying, not balkanizing, civic institution. To argue that including gay couples destroys the institution is absurd.

He's absolutely right, of course, and it's a stance that I've taken all along: including same-sex couples in marriage isn't going to change anything -- except a 5,000-year-old "definition" that Pat Robertson made up twenty years ago.

Sullivan links to this post by scott H. Payne that I think gets to the core of the issue (finally! I'm happy to see someone recognizing the dualistic nature of this struggle):

Of course, the struggle for marriage equality isn’t an either or affair: it is a struggle for both legal and social equality in the respect afforded same-sex couples. By my lights, Freddie gives the cultural challenges short shrift by focusing exclusively on the legal battles. Certainly I would argue that the first step in achieving some kind of all-around equality lies in securing legal equality of same-sex marriages, but I can’t imagine that anyone who has experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation would suggest that being recognized in law will eradicate the day-to-day symptoms of inequality they encounter.

Payne's post is part of a series at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen that looks interesting. There's a couple of navigation links at the end of the post, starting with Freddie DeBoer's "Same-Sex Marriage and Nomenclature" and going on to E. D. Kain's "Western Civilization and Same-Sex Marriage". I'll try to follow up on these later.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reviews in Brief: Welcome to the Jungle by Jim Butcher and Ardian Syaf

A little bit of something sort of new: moving from manga to graphic novels again here, with a new work by Jim Butcher that marks his entry into comics. Welcome to the Jungle is a prequel of sorts to The Dresden Files, his series on the adventures of Harry Dresden, Chicago's only wizard for hire.

It looks open and shut: a murder outside the ape house at Lincoln Park Zoo, a blood trail leading back to the gorilla's enclosure, the victim the son-in-law of an alderman: the gorilla did it. Karrin Murphy, head of CPD's Special Investigations Unit -- the "spook squad" -- wonders why the gorilla only cleaned up part of the evidence and locked itself back in its cage. Needless to say, the gorilla didn't do it -- it's much worse than that.

Ardian Syaf's graphics are pretty damned good -- I like them, which is not the usual case for me with Western comics: the frames are lean enough, and he takes enough liberties with frame-follows-frame page layouts that I never lost interest, and he manages a clear narrative flow throughout. The colors, by Digikore Studios, are clear and rich, and just as sophisticated as the drawings. Character designs are good, although everyone seems to spend a lot of time frowning.

The story seemed a bit thin, but I'm used to the novels in the series; come to think of it, there's a fair amount of description in the stories, and after all, a picture is worth. . . . So, maybe I'll just not worry about that too much.

One plus: the cover gallery at the end, with alternate covers by Chris McGrath -- I'd love to see McGrath do a series. (The cover illustrated is by McGrath, as it happens. I'll see if I can dig up a sample of Syaf's art on this one.) In fact, I'm going to be on the lookout for examples of his work: his covers are very realistic but also kind of dream-scapes. Very nice.

Del Rey did this one.

Here's Syaf's cover for the first of the series.

Friday Gay Blogging: Men With Men

This really is Friday's column -- yesterday was a bad day for writing. (Actually, it was a pretty good day for writing, just a bad day for focus.)

I'm fed up with commenting on the news, frankly, and I've found something more interesting to comment on under the heading of "gay issues." I'm feeling my way through this one, so comments and observations are very welcome. It may very well run into several installments, because it strikes me that it's a huge topic. This facet is specifically about relationships between men, and it comes from a couple of yaoi manga that I've read recently. The first is Satoru Ishihara's Kimi Shiruya -- Dost Thou Know?, which I reviewed here a couple of weeks ago, and which has a more substantial review coming up at Green Man Review on February 8. The core issue from that for this column is something I investigated a bit in an essay I wrote on the book (which may itself get published here, one day), in which I said:

This book is built on metaphors, both the central image of kendo, and others that essentially structure the various chapters. The courtship here is cast as a duel: both Katsuomi and Tsurugi are fiercely competitive young men, heavily invested in the sport, and each sees the other as his chief rival, in spite of their immediate attraction to each other.

This in itself has more than one layer. On the one hand, Ishihara has based the central metaphor, kendo, on one of the most important characteristics of relationships between men: whether you ascribe it to nature or nurture or some combination of the two, men are competitors -- for many men, perhaps most, that's a central part of their identities as men, whether we agree with it or not -- which makes a romantic involvement edgy, at best. It's that phenomenon, more than anything else, that explains Tsurugi's motivations, his resistance to "surrender," not surrender to Katsuomi, particularly -- his attraction to Katsuomi is as strong as Katsuomi's to him, that much is obvious early on -- but surrender to the idea that there must be a loser here: he, like Katsuomi, is trying to take control of the situation, not to change the outcome as such -- he doesn't want that at all -- but to hold onto his dignity. (Ishihara has stepped right out of the standard seme/uke pairing here; while that stereotypical role-playing may have some basis in Japanese gay culture -- and I don't profess to know -- the relationship developing between Katsuomi and Tsurugi is, I think, more immediately comprehensible to Westerners.)

Some observations: I tend to think that there is a strong biological component to men's aggressiveness: testosterone keeps you on the edge. Anyone who's ever had any sort of therapy involving either periodic shots of testosterone or drugs to mediate the action of testosterone knows this very well. That much, at least, is iinnate, and to a large extent it's historically been reinforced by the demands of "masculinity." I think, as gay men have become more visible in society and there are now male role models for younger gays, the old idea of "masculine" and "feminine" partners -- exemplified by the seme/uke pairings so common in yaoi -- are going by the wayside: as we learn to function in relationships in which both partners are facing the same emotional strictures and the same expectations, we learning new meanings to use to support those relationships. (I should also point out here that Kimi Shiruya is one of the very few yaoi that I can think of at this point that actually shows a relationship between men and not a heterosexual relationship transposed to two male partners -- the basis of the seme/uke pairing, and a cliche at this point in the real world. (I hope.) That's an important disctinction to keep in mind. Others that come to mind, for those interested, are Ellie Mamahara's Alley of First Love, Momoko Tenzen's Paradise on the Hill, and Isaku Natsume's Dash!, all of which are comedies, although in none of these are the participants seemingly as conscious of what they are doing as in Kimi Shiruya. They all also transpose the competition into a form of egalitarianism, at least in the emotional context -- and that, after all, is what's underneath this point of view.)

It's also instructive that the central conflict between the two characters is cast in terms of "surrender" -- something that is absolutely not allowed for men.

That works naturally into the idealism of the sport -- and I mean that in its most literal sense. The ideals of sport in general are, aside from the benefits to health of physical activity, the main reason given for teaching competitive sports in schools: teamwork, sportsmanship, dignity in defeat and magnanimity in victory. Add in the warrior's code, with its emphasis on ideals we no longer encounter on a daily basis -- honor, integrity, mercy, purity of purpose, the kind of self-respect that must be earned -- and you begin to get a very good idea of where both Katsuomi and Tsurugi are coming from. It's this idealism that sparks the relationship between Masaomi and Saya, as well: after being shamed by his older brother for leaving Saya to the mercy of the bullies among the older students, Masaomi realizes that Saya understands the honor of the swordsman -- there are things he won't do, even to defend himself -- and out of respect for that and for his own honor, he must step in.

That's one possibility for us: I think we can respect each other as men based on an ideal of masculinity that has as its basis those positive aspects of competition. And, at this stage of the game, if you don't respect each other, you don't have much of a relationship -- and there's another statement of an egalitarian basis for male/male relationships.

I can't stress enough the role that I see the Ideal playing in this work. It is, indeed, almost platonic. (And keep in mind, these are young men, and the young are still idealistic.) Underlying the surface action is a pure form of the story: on the one hand, there is no compromise on either side, the situation is yes/no, surrender/conquest. That is what Katsuomi is consciously reaching for. On the other hand, as it develops it transmutes itself: after all, no one in his right mind wants that kind of relationship with another human being if you're going to call it "love." As Masaomi observes, they're reaching for something new, something, as it turns out, "beyond gender, beyond viewpoints," beyond that win-or-lose dichotomy: as it grows, they grow into it.

I think we've made a lot of progress in this regard, but, like Tsurugi and Katsuomi, we're feeling our way forward.

In that intersection of the ideal and what stands beyond it -- the competitiveness and the ideals of the warrior and the reality of learning to love -- lies the tension that supports the story and that provides the foundation for the relationship and the characters of the two men. Katsuomi is a "stampeding boar warrior," all power and speed, direct and unstoppable. He has the courage to lay all his cards on the table (as he does in one scene, when he tells Tsurugi "I've shown you everything I've got.") and the patience to wait for as long as it takes. Tsurugi is the wind, all grace and finesse, elusive but more than able to come back with a telling strike. And he has the will to play this game his way. Katsuomi may be the irresistible force, but Tsurugi is not an immovable object: in their final, climactic battle, Katsuomi screams at him to "stop dancing around -- stand and hold your ground." It doesn't only apply to the physical contest. (Tsurugi calls him a "log-splitter" and goes for the opening Katsuomi has left.)

Looking at this passage again, and thinking about the characterizations in the book, it's apparent that Tsurugi is cast in a traditionally "feminine" role here -- at least, on the surface. The key phrase, I think, is "the will to play the game his way." That's something that I can't see as reflective of a particular gender role -- there are as many strong-willed women in the world as there are strong-willed men (hell, I was raised by one). There is also the fact, which I think I mention in the GMR review, but not specifically here, that these characteristics as stated are incomplete: Katsuomi does reveal a deep patience, while equally, Tsurugi shows a degree of stubbornness that's really almost admirable.

One thing that struck me about the portrayals in Kimi Shiruya: as the relationship develops and the boys become more comfortable with each other, they become playful. Maybe that's another aspect of that competitiveness that forms the core of the story: the last two chapters (which give their collective title to the book) are filled with scenes that demonstrate the degree to which Tsurugi and Katsuomi have become a couple in everything but the surface manifestation, and they play together, whether it's something as understated as sitting on the deck quoting children's books at each other, Katsuomi joking about how being assigned to share a room with Tsurugi is asking too much (he won't be able to restrain himself is the subtext), or Tsurugi setting up those room assignments to begin with.

Of course, there have always been male couples that fit into this framework. I think the importance of this is that we're now at a point where it is a norm, although that certainly wasn't the case. I think the real importance is, as I noted above, that here is a model not tied to heterosexual expectations.

I may come back to this -- it's gotten too big for my brain to encompass this morning -- both to comment further on the competitive aspect of male relationships and to examine some other types.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Landing on Your Feet

FGB may happen today, it may not happen until tomorrow. The gay news is pretty much wait and see right now -- as is everything else, although there are comforting signs.

And there's also the fact that my life is subject to unforeseen shifts in emphasis. Meh.

So, later. I just don't want to worry about it right this minute.

Secretary Clinton

For some reason, this got to me:

The huge sigh of relief in this country is not only outside the Beltway, obviously.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Marriage Note: Maine

Some thoughts on this article:

Opponent Bob Emrich, head of the Maine Marriage Alliance, said he wants to keep the focus on marriage. The alliance would like the Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage altogether, though Emrich said Monday the group did not find a legislative sponsor by Friday's deadline. (Emphasis added)

In other words, word is getting around that supporting equality wins elections -- not even the Republicans want to touch a constitutional amendment limiting a fundamental right.

And this:

Fossel said he doesn't support changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, nor would he support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

But he does think couples, whether married or not, deserve equal treatment.

"Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good," he said. "I want to see some progress here."

Fossel is set to introduce civil unions legislation. OK -- we know that civil unions are not the answer -- take a look at New Jersey.

And let's rethink that final comment: let's try "Sometimes the good is the enemy of the perfect." "Perfect" may not be attainable in all things, but does that mean we should stop trying?

This Sort of Says It All

The President's family:

Doug Mills/The New York Times
Three generations of Barack Obama’s family celebrate.

And this says more:

“Our family is new in terms of the White House, but I don’t think it’s new in terms of the country,” Maya Soetoro-Ng, the president’s younger half-sister, said last week. “I don’t think the White House has always reflected the textures and flavors of this country.”


He said it. He actually said it. From Hannah Rosin at Slate:

This is the word that stood out for me in Obama's list of values yesterday: "hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism." The rest have echoes in traditional and more safe political dialogue. But curiosity has a different sort of resonance. Curiosity is what led his mother on the many of what must have seemed like reckless adventures, that eventually created the motley family he has today. For a post-PC age, curiosity is a much better word than tolerance with its implications of holding your nose. Curiosity always has two shades of meaning—great interest or careful attention to detail on one side and danger on the other. From the red flag of Eve to Curious George, Western culture has often stressed the latter definition. Now Obama reclaims it as a noble character trait, which is how I've always taught it to my kids.

For me, it's the sine qua non of humanity: most of our traditional "differences" from the apes and other "lower" animals have been shown to be differences of degree, not kind -- langauge, tool-using, the like. And I guess curiosity is the same, but we have much greater potential for exploiting it.

And lack of curiosity is, most like, the one quality above all others that I have no patience with. It's the seed of willful ignorance, which I detest -- how on earth can you not want to know things?

I simply don't want to deal with people like that, because we have nothing in common.

And coming off a world-view in which curiosity is not even on the radar -- OK, I feel better.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More Good News

Hilzoy has a post with a couple of really nice items. First, from WaPo:

"In one of its first actions, the Obama administration instructed military prosecutors late Tuesday to seek a 120-day suspension of legal proceedings involving detainees at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- a clear break with the approach of the outgoing Bush administration.

And this may be even better -- from Jack Balkin:

Some of you may have noticed that Marty Lederman has not been blogging recently at Balkinization. The reason is that he has been working on the Department of Justice Transition team. As of today, the commencement of the Obama Administration, he begins work as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel. (...)

The reason I say that the news about Lederman may be even better -- well, hilzoy sums it up nicely:

One other point about this appointment: at various points during the Presidential campaigns, I recall people arguing that whatever Obama might say about Bush's expansions of executive power, if he became President he would probably find those powers pretty convenient, and would want to hold onto them. In that light, it's worth noting that Marty Lederman is the co-author of a set of two articles (1, 2) that considers, in exhaustive (!) detail, the main conceptual foundation of the argument that the President has the right to set aside laws passed by Congress when conducting a war, and (basically) finds it to be baseless. The other co-author, David Barron, has also been appointed to a position in the Obama administration's Office of Legal Counsel.

In other words: the people who have been appointed to two of the most senior positions in the OLC, which (basically) tells the Executive branch what is legal and what is not, have explicitly and publicly rejected some of the Bush administration's central arguments in support of its expansive view of executive power. It's hard for me to see how they could reverse themselves on that score with a straight face, or why Obama would have appointed them if he had the slightest intention of adopting the Bush administration's views on this topic.

I'm feeling much better, thank you.

I Like This

John Quincy Adams, according to his own letters, placed his hand on a constitutional law volume rather than a Bible to indicate where his fealty lay.

I think every president should do that.

Via Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

A Good Sign

I'm starting to feel encouraged. This bit of news was nice to wake up to:

President Obama has wasted no time handling the Bush administration's unfinished business.

White House officials tell CNN Obama Chief Staff of Staff Rahm Emanuel sent a memo Tuesday to all agencies and departments of the federal government. The memo halts further consideration of pending regulations throughout the government until a legal and policy review can be conducted by the Obama administration.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's Not Even Blogger's Fault

Due to the confluence of burn-out, same-old-same-old, and an Internet connection gone wonky, blogging will be spotty until I get something fixed. First I have to figure out what needs to be fixed, though.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reviews in Brief: Ayano Yamane's Ikoku Irokoi Romantan (Anime)

Ikoku Irokoi Romantan is the anime adapted from Ayano Yamane's A Foreign Love Affair. It's a two-part series and differs from the manga in a couple of respects.

The story in the anime is somewhat compressed, concerning itself solely with the first meeting of Ranmaru and Al aboard the Costa Altista on Ranmaru's wedding day, and going on to Al's rescue of Ranmaru on the road to Rome, and the rescue aboard the cruise ship when Ranmaru is abducted. Some -- perhaps most -- of the transitional scenes and background have been cut, such as Ranmaru's meeting with his eventual kidnappers on the road to Rome, and there are additional scenes at the beginning of Kaoru and Ranmaru on shipboard, including a nice scene of Al's first sight of Ranmaru which helps set up the romance.

If you're familiar with the manga and love Yamane's drawing, you're going to be a bit disappointed in the graphics on this one. It's just not as appealing as Yamane's original, especially the character renderings, which fall back into a "standard" manga portraiture. Nor are they as sensuous as the original drawings: faces, in particular, seem heavy-featured and not as expressive.

On the upside, the story's much clearer, and the ending is much neater. Ranmaru's motivations, in particular, benefit greatly by a few periods of introspection and the further development that's provided in the anime: I was never quite convinced that he was a willing participant in the manga version, especially since Al is such a masterful seme, but here it seems a lot more plausible. Characterizations of the major characters are more fully developed -- we get a lot more basis for Al's attraction to Ranmaru, Kaoru is also allowed to become a more human character -- she's not just a self-absorbed shrew -- and Ranmaru seems the be a little more on the ball, but only a little: Yamane's ukes tend to be a bit slow on the uptake. The casting is creditable, but not particularly remarkable, although Kentarou Itou as Ranmaru is quite apt.

It's a nice hour or so spent viewing. The first half is pure romantic comedy in the vein of a 1950's Doris Day/Rock Hudson romance -- even the soundtrack fits right in to that mold. The adventure in the second episode -- the kidnapping and rescue -- are for some reason not quite so gripping -- it's just a little too relaxed. The sex scenes are fairly graphic, but nowhere near as explicit as the manga.

It's a 2007 release from Prime Time.

Director: Hajime Ohtani
Storyboard: Hajime Ohtani
Original creator: Ayano Yamane
Character Design: Shuhei Tamura
Background Art: Nobuyuki Shiogama
Color design: Chiharu Tanaka


Junichi Suwabe as Alberto Valentiano
Kentarou Itou as Ranmaru Ōmi
Ryotaro Okiayu as Ryūji Gondō
Tomoko Kawakami as Kaoru Ōmi (OVA 1)
Yuki Kaida as Kaoru Ōmi (OVA 2)
Hiromi Sugino as Ōmi's Father
Kazuyoshi Hayashi as Ōmi Member 2
Ken Narita as Al's Colleague
Naoki Kinoshita as Ōmi Member 1
Shounosuke Horikoshi as Foreigner 1
Yasuhiro as Foreigner 2

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Subsidized Rape and Pillage

I don't often comment on stories like this -- under this administration, this sort of thing is just business as usual -- and they shouldn't need comment. This is just confirmation of what we knew:

Most of America's largest publicly traded corporations -- including several that are receiving billions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers to finance their recovery -- have set up offshore operations that could help them avoid paying U.S. taxes on their profits, a government study released yesterday found.

American International Group, Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley are among the companies that are getting bailed out by U.S. taxpayers while having subsidiaries in locations where they can avoid paying U.S. taxes, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Of the 100 largest public companies, 83 do business in tax-haven hotspots like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, where they can move their income into tax-free accounts.

Of course it makes good business sense -- remember, the only god is the bottom line -- but it also points up one of the major reasons I think that business is basically amoral and needs to be watched closely: this is the sort of thing that Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth favor. And if there was ever a walking talking example of the moral poverty of libertarianism, it's Grover Norquist.

Of course, there's also the fact that if you or I did this, we'd wind up in jail.

"Looking Forward"

Speaking of jail, check out this column by Paul Krugman:

Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. It’s not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation’s security. The fact is that the Bush administration’s abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.

There's looking forward, and there's making sure it doesn't happen again. You can't do that unless you hold accountable those who did it.

What is so hard to understand about that?

(Oh, wait -- if we try to hold the Bushies accountable, Ann Coulter might say mean things. This is different exactly how?)

Friday, January 16, 2009


I've discovered anime online. Hog heaven.

You'll be getting some Reviews in Brief -- look for them.

Friday Gay Blogging

On a Friday, no less!

Andrew Sullivan takes this as evidence that we're living in a post-gay world:

Queerty just thinks they're funny:

These are hysterical. And Sullivan is absolutely right.

Marriage note:

Well -- they're doing something right, at least. Via Pam's House Blend:

The California-based Yes! On Equality campaign launched a 2010 ballot initiative today (the "California Marriage Equality Act") with the aim of ensuring equal access to marriage for all Californians in accordance with the California State Constitution.

Despite the passage of Proposition 8 in November, 2008 – which effectively banned gay marriage in California and outlawed an estmated 18,000 same-sex marriages – a diverse and growing number of Californians have confidence and hope that marriage equality can and should be recognized.

The proposed law reads as follows: “Section 7.5 of Article I of the California Constitution shall be repealed, stricken, and removed as such: Sec. 7.5 Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California”.

This should have been done already, but it's symptomatic that they didn't think they could lose.

And it looks this time as though there's some good support work in place. Marriage Equality USA has come out with a report (via Queerty) that highlights some of the real effects of Prop 8:

"LGBTI people experience increased verbal abuse, homophobia, physical harm and other discrimination associated with or resulting from the Prop 8 campaign;

Children of same-sex couples express fear due to direct exposure to homophobia and hate and concerns that the passage of Prop 8 means they could be taken from their families and targeted for further violence;

LGBTI youth and their supporters experience increased bullying at schools as Prop 8’s passage fosters a supportive environment for homophobic acts of physical and emotional violence;

Straight allies experience the impact of homophobia firsthand and express shock and fear for their LGBTI family members and friends and the danger they may experience if they were perceived as gay or an ally;

Families are torn apart as relatives divide on Prop 8; and

Communities are destroyed from the aftermath of abusive behavior towards them during local street demonstrations, neighborhood divisions, and the impact of “knowing your neighbor” voted against your family."

The point is, don't stop -- keep shoving it right in their faces and make them deal with what they've done, because it was what they decided to do.

I know, I'm not being very conciliatory about this, but frankly, after the kind of campaigns that have been waged against us, and that continue, with all the lies, distortions, fear-mongering and other hate techniques, I'm not inclined to be nice about it (not that I ever was, particularly, but I'm a plain-spoken sort of person).

But at least I give you dessert -- this morning, from Queerty:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Words of Encouragement

Thanks to reader PietB:

Oh, I'm not going to disappear. I'm just a little tired, and my life is starting to move in other directions -- or back to some old directions.

I explained to my editor at GMR recently that my brain is doing much better at reading images right now than at reading words, which happens with me from time to time: those seem to be, with some sort of kinesthetic release added in (dance, or, believe it or not, ceramics), my default positions. They take turns taking precedence.

And I'd rather make art, when it comes right down to it.

Or at least write about it.

(Speaking of which, you might want to keep up with Booklag, where I do most of my writing about writing -- and making. And do keep an eye on Green Man Review -- I generally have something there that interested me enough to write about it.)

This By You Is Change?

It's no secret that I think the national gay leadership has gotten much too cozy with the establishment. This applies particularly to their tendency to give Obama a pass on just about everything. Jim Burroway has interesting commentary on that, from a former Clinton staffer:

I was one of the 12 first-ever openly gay White House staff members to take up work the day following President Clinton’s inauguration. His respect for gay Americans was evident even when setbacks and disappointments slowed the change agenda, and he certainly did not deliberately nor unnecessarily scheme to sell out gay Americans on his first day in office to score points with opponents. Ordinary gay Americans will need to hold this new Administration to the tenets of its campaign and to the idealism of its Inaugural language — and to a fundamental expectation for respect. The Warren invitation remains a disgrace and a blemish on day one of the new Administration. Shame on Obama.

Aside from the sheer stupidity of giving that kind of forum to a man who is not going to support you no matter what, to think that the last-minute addition of an "equivalent" from our side -- and don't try to tell me that the inclusion of Gene Robinson was planned early on (if so, why keep it such a secret until now?), the idea that Obama is cold-blooded enough to sacrifice the interests of a major constituency in the pursuit of a fool's errand leads me to wonder just what we can expect on things that really do make a difference to a lot of people in this country? (I'm not really surprised at the "cold-blooded" part. I think you can figure that out.)

As for the national leadership -- well, it's because of this kind of vision that the Log Cabin Republicans are broke. Joe Salmonese and the rest should be all over Obama's ass, but then, they've been following the curve -- and not even the right curve -- for a couple of decades now.

There's a map

It shows where donations in support of Prop 8 came from -- specific locations, like homes and businesses. The reaction in some quarters, like the reaction to making such donations part of the public record, is interesting. One of Andrew Sullivan's readers writes:

I can only conclude that the practical intent of this map is to publicly shame and intimidate those who supported the amendment.

If my 26 employees, some of which are in civil unions (which were marriages), saw my name on this, how would they feel? What would they think of me? How would this impact our relationship? The really crappy thing is that I may not even know that I was listed or they looked. It would just begin one day with glares, stares, and tension. It would begin to create a hostile environment. Perhaps some folks may quit working for or with me. Perhaps someone may say something or perhaps not. What if I just opposed SSM but, in every other way, was progressive and supportive of gay rights in my public and personal life. Viewers of this map won't know that. All they know is that I gave $50.00 bucks and if I was foolish enough to list my business then all the better to make me a target. There is no call for conversation, dialogue, discussion, debate. Just an implied threat: support stuff like this and have your name posted in the town square for all to see.

This is all about publicly shaming, through the posting of names, folks who supported objectionable public policy.

Well, yes. That's exactly the point. Social shaming is one of the oldest methods societies have developed for maintaining cohesion in social ideals: those who violate the norms are held up to public ridicule. Think about the stocks in medieval and early Europe. Granted, that's rather old-fashioned, and we have better methods now: we do skits on SNL -- or we blog about them.

Sullivan's rejoinder is almost on point:

You can only shame people if they feel ashamed. And, frankly, if you have chosen to strip civil rights from some of your employees, why should you be able to protect yourself from the consequences?

As he notes in a prior post on this subject:

If Prop 8 supporters truly feel that barring equality for gay couples is vital for saving civilization, shouldn't they be proud of their financial support? Why don't they actually have posters advertizing their support for discriminating against gay people - as a matter of pride?

I'm with him on this one: if your gay employees begin to dislike and distrust you because you're against treating them like human beings, that's your problem. Maybe you should do some serious thinking.

After all, if you can't take the consequences of your beliefs, maybe you have the wrong beliefs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sarah Palin

Is not interesting. Why the hell is she still all over the blogosphere?

Day and Night

Whatever you may think of Al Sharpton, you have to listen seriously when he's taking on the churches about civil rights:

"It amazes me," he said, "when I looked at California and saw churches that had nothing to say about police brutality, nothing to say when a young black boy was shot while he was wearing police handcuffs, nothing to say when they overturned affirmative action, nothing to say when people were being [relegated] into poverty, yet they were organizing and mobilizing to stop consenting adults from choosing their life partners."

Ready for some compare and contrast?

Obama then (1996):

Obama's answer to the 1996 Outlines question was very clear: "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages." There was no use of "civil unions," no compromise whatsoever.

Obama now (2004):

Tracy Baim: Do you have a position on marriage vs. civil unions?

Barack Obama: I am a fierce supporter of domestic- partnership and civil-union laws. I am not a supporter of gay marriage as it has been thrown about, primarily just as a strategic issue.

So now our relationships are just a strategic issues? As Pam Spaulding points out, it's all about the polls and what political cover you can find.

Do you wonder why I'm "wait and see" on this man?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


You've probably noticed that posting here has not only gotten a little sporadic, but has moved away from the "daily outrage" realm. It's not that I'm sitting here thinking that, now that Obama is about to take office, everything will be fine. I don't think that, at all.

You've probably also noticed that I've been focusing on gay issues more lately. Chalk it up to the fact that the knuckle-dragging right is trying to prove that each is more anti-gay than the last (see this post at Think Progress -- and this one from The Hill [please make Blackwell head of the RNC -- I mean, stupid is the way to go, folks! Trust me on this]), and Obama is trying to cater to them. (Yes, I know he's got a loaded "hommaseksual agenda" -- I'll believe it when he starts lobbying Congress to get the bills passed.)

Basically, I'm exhausted. I need time to regroup and refocus. I'm not going to stop posting, but I probably won't be posting as much, and I'll be posting on a wider range of topics (most likely).

Of course, if there's something you'd like to hear me sound off on, do let me know.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Making Him Deliver

A post by dday at Hullabaloo and one from John Aravosis at AmericaBlog, which together point out one thing I've been saying, even if I didn't say it outright: Obama now has to be pushed to deliver.

From Aravosis:

Yesterday, the Obama transition team chose to include a question about DADT in their weekly online Q&A with incoming White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. In that Q&A, Gibbs reads a question from Thaddeus in Lansing, Michigan. Thaddeus asks:
"Is the new administration going to get rid of the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy?"

Gibbs answers:
"Thaddeus, you don't hear a politician give a one-word answer much, but it's 'Yes.'"

Why is this significant? Because they affirmatively chose to include that question in this week's Q&A - it didn't just come up by chance.

The next question, of course, is "When?"

Having said that, at some point words aren't enough. I sincerely hope the Obama team is preparing to actually lift the ban, and preparing for just how they're going to do it while avoiding the calamity that befell Clinton. They also need to figure out when they're going to do it.

We'll see.

But the lesson is clear: the man needs heat applied to make a commitment and to deliver on it.

Popular Culture

Is an amazingly rich thing right now. You may think that this is always true, but I remember a time when it wasn't the case: popular culture has been, at various periods, pretty barren by comparison. (I'm remembering my childhood, when America slept the sleep of the shallow and untroubled.)

And the Internet has just made it more so.

I like that.

Reviews in Brief: David Petersen's Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

Another graphic novel, this one directed to my attention by a review at, of all places, Green Man Review.

It's the autumn of 1152, and the Mouse Guard is slowly becoming aware that trouble is brewing. Since overthrowing the rule of a weasel warlord, the Guard has patrolled the forest routes between mouse towns, making sure that traders and farmers are able to travel safely. A trader has gone missing, and three of the Guard are dispatched to find him. They find his grain cart and, after defeating and disemboweling a snake lurking in the vicinity, the merchant, but they also find evidence of a plot to overthrow the Guard and subject the mice once again to a tyranny.

This one is a delight. Yes, the Guards are mice, and they look like mice, with little pink feet and beady little eyes -- no disneyfication here. The story is absorbing, with terrific actions sequences and wonderful, moody forest scenes. The remarkable thing about this is that you quite readily believe it all: it's that well done.

The drawings are just great. As you might expect, given the physiognomy of mice, you don't get a lot from facial expressions, but Petersen brings it across with body language, which is terrific. He's also done a unified color scheme, with most scenes in warm tones, umbers and siennas, golds and coppers, with just the right touches of gray and blue. He's done some things with the formal aspects of layouts that are a lot of fun and very pleasing, quite often mirroring the layouts on two-page spreads to set up a nice rhythm.

This one really is a gem -- I included it my GMR "Best of 2008" list, so you know I was impressed. It's well-conceived, beautifully executed, and refreshingly original.

From Villard Books.

You can view Chapter 1 at Amazon.com. Petersen has also set up a Mouse Guard website.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

FGB, Saturday: My First Marriage Post of 2009, Cont.

Andrew Sullian has a short comment on this piece by Daniel Larison. His argument, as Larison's, is pretty much centered on the idea of a "conservative case" for same-sex marriage, as espoused by Sullivan and Friedersdorf, which I've already noted is pretty much irrelevant in any real discussion -- if your arguments have to conform to an ideology, then you are, almost automatically, not looking at the whole picture. Looking at Larison's piece, I don't see that he's actually made any points:

When endorsing a change, particularly one this radical, a conservative would need to show not only that it does not do harm to the institution in question but also that it actually reinforces and reinvigorates the institution. Whether or not “gay marriage” harms the institution of marriage, it certainly does not strengthen it. It is therefore undesirable because it is unnecessary to the preservation of the relevant institution, and so the appropriate conservative view is to leave well enough alone.

Two points: same-sex marriage can quite arguably be said to strengthen the institution of marriage, Larison's flat assertion notwithstanding, (and you know how much we value argument by assertion around here) because it brings a new group into the institution: gays then have an investment in making it work -- and considering the statistics so far (granted, thin, and we're just getting to the point where they're having any real meaning), doing a better job of it. And then, of course, there's the divorce question, which everyone agrees is a much worse threat to the institution, but no one wants to touch -- including Larison. In the case of such as Rick Warren, glowingly cited by Mona Charen in this regard, fighting divorce is not going to make you any money; "God Hates Fags" does. The excuse is that the subject is same-sex marriage, but frankly, if you're going to cast it as a threat when there are much bigger and more immediate threats to hand, I suspect you're just playing politics, no matter how you want to dress it up.

As for the "radical" charge, this is pretty much standard theo-con scare words. It's actually sort of interesting, given that the far right Christianist movement is arguably the most radical phenomenon in American politics of the last generation or more. I smell a bit of projection here.

Here, Larison reveals himself as seriously out of touch:

If allowing that change means, as Andrew puts it, “accepting gay love and commitment as indistinguishable in moral worth and social status as straight love,” it is not going to happen for a very long time, if it ever will, because I think it is fair to say that opponents of “gay marriage” do not accept the two as indistinguishable and see no reason why they should.

New generations grow up and take over, and attitudes change. It's going to happen, and much sooner than Larison can envision in his wildest nightmares. Nor do I think we have to wait for the next generation: the idea is finally gaining currency that we are talking about a fundamental right, marriage, as opposed to a "made-up" right, same-sex marriage and that you have to have a much more solid and rational reason than "tradition" to withhold it from someone. There's a legal aspect to this that those opposed to same-sex marriage don't want to deal with because such discussions betray their lack of understanding and sympathy with the rule of law as something separate and dominant over the whim of the people.

There's also the fact that opposition to gay marriage can -- and does -- come from bases other than seeing same-sex relationships as "deviant." It looks very much as though Larison is conflating those motivations as, perhaps, a reflection of his own bias -- see below his remarks on "normal."

Approval of gay marriage is still a minority position, but to translate those who don't approve into "opponents" is stretching a point: the active opponents are few and quite vocal -- and well-funded -- and don't seem to worry much about factual accuracy. We've seen the tactics, and most people, I think, find them repellent when made aware of them. "Not approving" is pretty much a passive state, and subject to change, particularly when accurate information starts getting spread around.

He goes on:

If that is what “gay marriage” requires, I see even less reason why conservatives should accept it. Indeed, that statement helps explain the reason why “gay marriage” is so strenuously opposed while there is no movement trying to overturn Lawrence: there is a vast difference between permitting something and being compelled to accept it as indistinguishable from the norm.

We've been redefining "the norm" throughout human history and undoubtedly before. It's another case of sliding definitions: "normal" is not a point, it is a range, as any psychologist or statistician will tell you. And people are starting to accept that same-sex relationships do fall within that range. "Normal" in reality encompasses a lot more than Larison's artificial limitations.

The fundamental flaws that I see in Larison's arguments stem from the fact that his assumptions aren't necessarily valid. There is a wide range of opinion on the definition of marriage itself, which the anti-gay right refuses to acknowledge. The "one man, one woman" formula doesn't really speak in any substantive way to what marriage actually is -- we've found better conceptualizations of that in court opinions than in anything coming from so-called "conservatives." The procreation argument is equally lacking: marriage certainly isn't a requirement for begetting children, although a stable family reinforced by the legal and social recognition of marriage still seems the best way to raise them. (Conflating concepts again, aren't we?) And the weight of the evidence is that it makes no difference whether the family is headed by a man and a woman, two men, or two women. (Although there are some slight indications that two women do the best job.)

Sorry to be bitchy, but all I see here is whining based on a mythical majority based on a minority that makes a lot of noise and has a lot of money.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Gay Blogging: My First Marriage Post of 2009, Cont.

Probably Part I of some.

To start off, I've updated my post on Mona Charen's piece. Now we can go on to Joe Carter's piece, which is, at least in part, a response to this post by Sullivan. Carter starts off with a bang:

[T]here is no conservative case to be made for gay marriage. Gay marriage is one of the most radical changes to a social institution in the history of the world. Whether that is good or bad is debatable. What it is not, by any meaningful definition of the term, is conservative.

To be brutally honest, I don't care whether there is a conservative case for same-sex marriage or not. This is one of those areas in which ideology is only getting in the way of clear thinking. (If you think I'm overstating my case, take another look at Mona Charen's embarrassing effort.) I also dispute that gay marriage is one of the most radical changes to a social institution in the history of the world. I suppose, if you really want it to be that way, you can say so, but that doesn't necessarily make it so. I think taking marriage out of the realm of contracts and basing it on love is equally radical, if not more so, as is taking the decision to marry out of the realm of the wider family and making it purely individual.

Carter goes on, responding to this post by Conor Friedersdorf (Friedersdorf, by the way, does a much more detailed take-down of Charen than I did -- read them in tandem):

Conor writes:
1) The compelling reason to redefine marriage is to extend its benefits to gays and lesbians, not to "suit their feelings."

“Suiting their feelings” is precisely the reason that gay activists push for marriage rather than civil unions. If it was solely about benefits, then civil unions would be adequate. But as Andrew Sullivan wrote when rejecting my proposal for civil unions, “Carter’s proposal is actually designed to render gay relationships invisible and asexual. They are neither. It is designed to entrench the inferiority of the commitment of a gay person to his or her spouse in the law. It codifies inequality.”

Extending the exact same benefits is not “codifying inequality.” But for Sullivan, et al., it is not about benefits but about forcing the acceptance of gay sex as “normal” and equal to heterosexual sex. This is an absurd reason and nothing the government should be involved in.

We're dodging the chief benefit of marriage here, which is not something the government can provide and is also implicit in the word itself: the social recognition and weight of the married state. I think you'll find that's something "conservatives" don't want to address because they have no argument here. Creter's reductivist comments fits in with the religious conservatives' mechanistic view of human relationships -- except their own, of course.

Carter is also betraying his own anti-gay bias here with his comments about "forcing" acceptance of gay sex. I bet there's no "conservative" argument in favor of civil rights guarantees for gays, either. Any takers? (And do notice how once again he reduces our relationships to sex.)

You can tell that Carter is desperate here -- he quotes David Blankenhorn, and then he goes on to quote David Benkof, neither of whom has said anything intgelligible on the subject at all. (I dealt with Blankehorn's arguments here, and Benkof here -- Benkof made the mistake of commenting; it's quite entertaining.)

Carter's arguments are pretty much nonexistent. He's shocked! shocked! (along with Blankenhorn) to discover that a large number of gays don't particularly value monogamy.

I belabor this point because so many people who claim to be familiar with this debate seem shocked to find that for many (if not most) gay men “monogamy” doesn’t me sexual fidelity. David Blanekenhorn, a liberal Democrat and gay rights supporter who came around to opposing same-sex marriage, was shocked to find this out for himself:
When I had lunch with Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry in 2003, I casually used the word “monogamous” in describing what I viewed as an important norm of marriage. Evan asked, “Do you mean monogamous, or exclusive?” I had no idea what he was asking me, and I must have looked puzzled, so he explained: Monogamous means that you are committed to one person. Exclusive means that you have sex only with that one person. The two are not intrinsically connected. A couple could be monogamous but not exclusive; it all depends on how they privately define the relationship. The Future of Marriage, p. 149.

Since we’re in the process of redefining long recognized terms, let’s add “monogamy” to the list. Once same-sex marriage is legitimized we will also be legitimizing the idea that sexual fidelity is not necessary, or even expected, in a marital relationship.

Two points: why should exclusivity be an integral part of this mix, other than it has been in this mythical "definition" that conservatives keep referring to? And second, please tell me, in your most authoritative tone of voice, that heterosexuals all practice sexual exclusivity in their marriages. Please. I'm waiting. Yes, we have another non-issue here.

(Personal disclosure: I favor exclusivity. That's just the way I am -- if I love someone enough to shack up with him, as annoying as living with another person can be, I'm at the point where I can only quote Paul Newman: "Why go out looking for hamburger when I have steak at home?" I think this has a great deal to do with the way people see sex in general, and particularly in a relationship: I suppose you can get bored with the same old partner, but that just means to me that you're no longer really engaging with your partner. Sex is not the central pillar of marriage, at least in my mind, although it's an important part of reinforcing and deepening the emotional bonds in a love relationship. Duh. As for the rest of it, granted, I have very high standards at this point, which is probably a major reason I'm still single -- the one man who met those standards is straight -- sadly. The degree of engagement and communication there was incredible.)

Gaah! Sorry -- I get so tired of hacking my way through the same drivel over and over again -- I may just stop writing about marriage completely.

OK -- let's have a little fun with this:

What non-arbitrary principle would you set? If the concept that marriage is between a man and a woman is too exclusionary what test could you provide that would pass muster?
Again, this weird notion that if you favor gay marriage you simply must favor incest too — does the anti-gay marriage lobby really want to argue that the only problem with incest is that it isn’t traditional marriage?

The idea is not that you must favor incest, but that you no longer have a non-arbitrary reason to exclude adults who are related from entering into marriage. Indeed, you even strengthen the case for it in some instances. For example, opposite-sex incest carries many health-related concerns (most notably, birth defects) that allow it to be justifiably prohibited. But the same reasoning cannot be used to restrict same-sex incest. If two brothers decide to enter into a lifelong commitment, the arguments in favor of gay marriage make it clear that they should have the right to do so. What would be your reasons for excluding them from the benefits of marriage?

"Non-arbitrary" -- another qualifier introduced without examination. Let's just assume for the sake of the argument that arguments against SSM are arbitrary --because they are. If you don't believe me, check out the opinion of the California Supreme Court in In re: Some Marriages. It's as I noted in my comments on Charen's piece: cultures set the boundaries wherever they damned well please, and "arbitrary" and "non-arbitrary" aren't relevant at all -- they are all, looking at it one way, arbitrary; looking at it from the standpoint of cultural ideals, of course, the opposite is true, but I suspect that we'd rather call that "functional."

And, just to be a bitch, why shouldn't two brothers who love each other and want to spend their lives together get married? Works for me. (Both Carter and Bankenhorn would, I'm sure, be even more shocked to learn that a small but persistent thread in yaoi is two brothers who fall in love -- of course, they're not usually really "brothers" in that mechanistic, genetic sense so favored by the right, but given the way that the whole phenomenon of exogamy works, they might as well be.)

Carter's summation, which is just as specious as the rest of his post:

Here’s a prediction: once gay marriage is firmly established law, and enshrined in our legal principles, the same legal arguments used to rationalize gay marriage will be used to expand the definition to incestuous, polygamous, and any other type of relationship. In essence, once gay marriage is codified into law, the anti-marriage activists will have achieved their goal of delegitimizing and deinstutionalizing marriage. Once marriage is no longer about love or sexual exclusivity or raising children — when it is no longer about anything other than a set of “rights” — then it will no longer be an institution worth preserving.

As I've noted, this has no bearing on anything, aside from being pure bullshit: if society is against polygamy, it's not going to be legalized; neither will incestuous marriages. The conflation of anti-marriage activists with pro-SSM activists is even more ridiculous, but I suppose it's convenient if you have no substance to rely on.

I'm going to take a break -- Sullivan has also referred to a post by Daniel Larison on this subject, but I have to come back to that. I do want to leave you with this, though:

A reader at Andrew Sullivan lays it out very plainly. Read that post, because it's pretty much unquotable -- here's a taste:

Historically, marriage has never been solely about procreation; it was about extending kinship ties and the concomitant financial security of an extended family. That's why in the west, in-laws once played such a significant role in selecting mates and in rearing the Ringjustinsullivangetty children. In the 1700-1800s, when the idea of marriage become associated primarily with the couple, the nuclear family grew in importance, & the industrial revolution changed the role of the extended family in financial security, the nature of marriage changed significantly. Once we stopped being an agrarian society, large families went from being an economic plus to a minus, which is a major reason the push to develop effective birth control became so important.

These bottom-up changes in the definition of marriage far surpass anything proposed by gays seeking equal access to the institution. And that is why the only way to strengthen the older form of marriage so prized by social conservatives would require repealing no-fault divorce laws (not something that likely to happen, insofar as conservative men seem to enjoy their trophy second & third wives as much as liberals do), repealing all opportunities for women to earn wages independently of their husbands, outlawing any corporate policies that allow or encourage people to move away from their parents' homes, etc. Those kinds of explicit social, legal, and economic changes are just not going to happen.

And this, in place of our usual dessert. For me, personally, this song has a lot to do with what marriage is about.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Another Writing Day

Credit Earthlink and some problems I've been having with DSL lately -- instead of getting online, I sat down and started catching up on writing.*

That seems the way to go today. Now I'm going to try to read something without pictures. Wish me luck.

* An extensive commentary on Satoru Ishihara's Kimi Shiruya. It's a means of clearing my head so I can go on to the next one, and it's a book with a lot more to it than you might suspect. That one's for GMR and will be up either on January 25 or two weeks after that.

I may try to get back to that last round of "arguments" against same-sex marriage -- maybe today, more likely tomorrow, as this week's FGB entry, although I was also thinking about that somewhat bizarre post on manga and marking from Alas, A Blog. The more I think about it, the less substance it has.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Via Andrew Sullivan, Partick Ruffini has a prescription:

The GOP's number one priority politically is to set into motion a series of events that will make Obama look more ineffective, partisan, and unpopular than he is today. Playing hard-to-get on the stimulus is one way to do it. And we need to set the stage for a unified and effective Republican opposition that will actually fight from top to bottom.

If you read the full column, Ruffini's solution to the melt-down of the economy is "tax cuts." Sound familiar? That's his sole solution -- oh, the economy's going to recover anyway in a couple of years. (Based on what?) Somehow, the need for government intervention vanished after we decided to hand the banks a trillion dollars, no strings.

I honestly can't think of a single policy recommendation from the Republican side other than "tax cuts." And now that they've lost the White House, all they can do is oppose anything that's actually going to help the people who are footing the bill. I mean, your main objective in a time of economic disaster is to make the other party look bad?

And of course, Harry Reid will let them get away with it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Markers, Manga and Me

Well, it's not really about me. There's an interesting post and discussion going on over at Alas, A Blog about "marked" and "unmarked" characters with manga as the primary example. Go visit. (Yes, I've left a couple of comments there -- you probably won't be surprised that I'm not buying it.)

(I'm using this image because a) it's my fave rave of the month, and 2) it's about how people "read" character representations as Asian or Caucasian, with a fair amount of political baggage attached (I think, anyway), and these are two of the least Asian-appearing characters in one of the most Japanese contexts I can think of.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

My First Marriage Series for 2009 (Updated)

Skipping through Andrew Sullivan's blog -- a little catch-up after a week-end off -- and ran across a post that let a bunch of "conservative" commentators out from under their collective rock (I'll come back to Sullivan's post and the post by Joe Carter that he's responding to).

After digging through several layers, I decided to start with this post by Mona Charen in, of course, the National Review, the home of the mediocre right. It's full of the usual arguments, with an added layer of mendacity, and not much in the way of rigor -- not to mention the overt disdain for gays in general and especially those who are working for equal civil rights. The first example happens fairly early on:

But wait, Barack Obama opposed gay marriage, didn’t he? He stated explicitly during the campaign that he believed marriage to be the union “between one man and one woman.” His supporters clearly assumed he was being disingenuous. Based on Obama’s other beliefs, the atmospherics of the campaign, and their own hopes, they dismissed his opposition to gay marriage.

Let's give this one a bit of reality check: Barack Obama stated unequivocally that he believes, as Charen notes, that marriage is between a man and a woman. He also stated, equally unequivocally, that he opposed Proposition 8. He has also stated that he favors repeal of at least part of the federal DOMA and will formulate rules that recognize as "marriage" whatever the various states recognize, and also bring civil unions and domestic partnerships into full legal equality with marriage on the federal level.

You can, if you really want to, translate this into "opposition to same-sex marriage" -- if you leave out half the facts. I think a much more accurate take on Obama's position is that, while he personally believes the word "marriage" should be reserved for heterosexuals, he doesn't think his personal religious beliefs should be enshrined in the law. Which is more than you can say for Mona Charen.

What particularly outraged gay rights activists was a comment Warren made in a TV interview when he compared two homosexuals getting married to a brother marrying a sister or an adult marrying a child. Those were not the most felicitous comparisons and probably unnecessarily hurt the feelings of gays and lesbians.

And yet, the point Warren was making was a valid one. Once you abandon the traditional definition of marriage to suit the feelings on an interest group, by what principle do you stop redefining marriage?

First, the comment about Warren's point being valid: what exactly was his point? Not, I think, anything about traditional marriage, as Charen claims. It as a bald attempt to once again place gays and their relationships with criminals and pathologies -- no more, no less. Charen's obviously in sympathy with that attitude.

And we're back to the "traditional definition" argument. The problem with this one, which I have certainly referred to in the past but may not have explicitly stated, is that no one is prepared to tell you what this "traditional definition" is, except that it's about heterosexuals. No one's offering -- at least, no one opposed to same-sex marriage -- a definition that even attempts to describe what marriage is. That seems to get consigned to those on the left, who have quite a bit to say about social recognition, acceptance into the community, assumption of a particular social role, giving families solid social and legal support, and the other consequences of marriage, none of which anti-gay conservatives want to bring up because it blows the hell out of their so-called "arguments" against extending a fundamental right to all citizens: far from wanting us to be accepted as members of the community, they want us to disapper. Consequently, until someone offers a definition of "traditional marriage" that is something more substantial than a formula for a 50% divorce rate, Charen's argument goes right into the dustbin with all the others. (And please note that she seems all too ready to rely on your basic slippery slope as justification for her non-definition of marriage.)

To call Charen's piece shallow and self-serving is to be extraordinarily charitable. Get this paragraph:

But consider the name that many gay activists have adopted. You no longer see gay and lesbian alone. Instead, the new terminology is LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Lesbians and gays say that without gay marriage, they cannot fully express themselves as they really are. But what about bisexuals? I ask this not to poke fun or to hurt anyone’s feelings, but in all seriousness. How does gay marriage help a bisexual? I assume that if you are bisexual, you believe that you need to have sexual relationships with both men and women. If you are a bisexual man married to a woman, don’t you need to break the marriage bond to express your bisexuality? If you choose to express just the homosexual side of your bisexuality, then aren’t you gay? Likewise, if you choose to express only the heterosexual side, how are you a bisexual? Why is bisexuality not a recipe for infidelity? As for transgender people who believe that they are “assigned” to the wrong sex, their sexuality seems a deeply complicated matter. According to Wikipedia, the term “transgender,” which is always evolving, today encompasses “many overlapping categories — these include cross-dresser (CD); transvestite (TV); androgynes; genderqueer; people who live cross-gender; drag kings; and drag queens; and, frequently, transsexual (TS).” We are now in the realm of a multitude of sexual deviances.

WTF? This is nothing more than a collection of the most bizarre imaginings of someone who is a) obviously obsessed by other people's sex lives, and b) afraid of everyone who's not exactly like her. Just as an example, she either doesn't understand bisexuality as an orientation or is deliberately misrepresenting it -- yes, bisexuals are attracted to people of both sexes, but they don't establish important relationships with one of each at the same time. (This is very revealing, by the way, of the absolutely mechanistic stance taken by the anti-marriage brigade to issues of emotional involvement, love, and relationships: we're all little machines, in their book, put on earth to make more of us, although Charen at least leaves the procreation rationale alone.) By the same token, if a bisexual is married to a woman and meets a man he falls in love with, he'll most likely do what anyone else would do in that situation -- divorce his wife, if the circumstances seem to warrant it. You can demolish everything else in this paragraph by the same means. Just how stupid does this woman think her readers are? (Scary thought -- maybe she's right.)

here's her summation, after the requisite forays into ever more outlandish scenarios and what-ifs that have less and less to do with reality:

Where do you draw a line? Once traditional marriage — supported by centuries of civilization and the major Western religions — is undermined in the name of love, there is no logical or principled reason to forbid polygamy, polyandry, or even incest. Gay activists recoil from incest. But on what grounds exactly? Suppose, after we formalize gay marriage, two 25-year-old sterile (to remove the health of offspring argument) twins wish to marry? Let’s suppose they are loving and committed. What is the objection? That it offends custom and tradition? That it offends God? Isn’t that just bigotry?

The point is, of course, that you draw the line wherever it seems reasonable: that's a cultural decision, and cultures, in case Charen hasn't noticed, change. (Of course, since she bills herself as a conservative, it's probably an idea that she hates to think about.) There is a growing sentiment in this country, as there has been in other countries, that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is no longer reasonable, particularly in light of our stated commitment to equal rights for all. (And the idea that traditional marriage is being undermined in the name of love is just too funny for words -- and a perfect illustration of the intellectual resources Charen brings to the discussion.)

"Traditional marriage" arguments posed by the likes of Charen pretend that there has been one definition of marriage throughout this legendary "5,000 years" when the only common factor -- and that within the Judaeo-Christian tradition, if there can indeed be said to be such a thing (and I've heard objections to that terminology from both sides of that divide) -- is heterosexual supremacy. The debate is about where to draw that line, with the anti-SSM forces spearheaded by religious conservatives who don't believe in the American system to begin with: if you really believed in America, you wouldn't be trying to put your religion on the law books, now would you? And if you were really Christian, you wouldn't be lying about it to do it, either.

That pretty much does it for Charen and her apologia for nonsense. As I mentioned, I had to dig down through layers to get to this one -- This is the column that Joe Carter called excellent and persuasive, so you can imagine the degree of intellectual rigor we're dealing with here. Charen's post is merely another rehash of the old arguments that the right has been using since 1993 in Hawai'i, and they have no more validity now than they did then. "Excellent and persuasive"? Snicker.

I'll come back to Carter's post later.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

That's All, Folks!

For today, at least (gotcha!).

I don't even want to look at the news today -- I'm firmly in writing/drawing mode, and that's what I'm going to do.

Tomorrow, when I return to the real world.

Reviews in Brief: Satoru Ishihara's Kimi Shiruya: Dost Thou Know?, and some other comments

I'm starting to get a handle on the work of Satoru Ishihara, I think: her stories tend to be edgy, sometimes almost chaotic, with abrupt shifts in scene and mood, and she'll drop little bombs along the way that bring the story into focus. After reading God of Dogs I was hot to get my hands on other works. Regrettably, Charisma, the forerunner to God of Dogs, has not been licensed in English (wailing and gnashing of teeth here), but I did get hold of a copy of Kimi Shiruya: Dost Thou Know?

We have two sets of brothers in this one, all dedicated competitors in kendo, the Japanese art of the sword: Katsuomi Hanamori and his younger brother Masaomi, and Tsurugi Yaegashi and his younger brother, Saya. The Yaegashi family has just moved into the area; Katauomi and Tsurugi attend different schools, Masaomi and Saya attend the same junior high, and they attend two dojos: Katsuomi and Saya, and Tsurugi and Masaomi. Starting off as competitors, Katsuomi and Tsurugi each realize that the other is not such a bad guy. The focus is on the growing romance between Katsuomi and Tsurugi, wihch is spiky, edgy, and, as they say, fraught: they are, after all, rivals. The relationship between the two younger brothers takes a slightly different course and is pretty much sub rosa until the end of the book, which is when Ishihara also does a number on the reader with the main story.

It's going to come as no surprise to learn that I like Ishihara's work, and while Kimi Shiruya is not what I expected, that's no problem at all, at all. The story line is episodic, and as I noted above, there are abrupt shifts in mood, but one begins to see the consistencies in character that drive the story forward. Katsuomi, in particular, is the spine of this one: he's characterized as a "stampeding boar warrior," all strength and speed, opposed to Tsurugi's subtlety and finesse, but there's a lot more to him than that. And these are rough men, especially Katsuomi, all hormones and ferocity.

Ishihara notes in her afterword that this one took three years to complete, and you can see the shift in her graphic style. It's not a major thing, by any means, but the graphics in the last section are much closer to God of Dogs than those in the beginning. They are, however, strong and definite throughout, and her action sequences are superb.

One more observation: it's worth keeping in mind that Ishihara is layering text and subtext here, and disguising motivations as metaphor, particularly in the case of Tsurugi. The text is also suggestive, when it's not downright blatant: yes, these are athletes, but this is also yaoi, so when Tsurugi says to Katsuomi that he's looking forward to crossing swords with him, using real blades, there are a couple categories of innuendo there. I have to add that this one, even without a sex scene -- which would be a distraction rather than a completion of any sort -- is about the most truly erotic yaoi I've read.

It's a winner, as I suspected it would be. Now if someone will just get it together and start translating Charisma!

From Digital Manga Publishing.


This one brings into focus some more or less inchoate thoughts I've been having about manga, particularly yaoi, and about reading/listening/viewing -- i.e., participating as "audience" -- in general.

Take it as a given that in the experience of any work of art (or any experience at all, I guess), there are two sides: there's what the artist put in, and there's what you, the audience, put in. As a reviewer I'm very aware of this, and I've had to think long and hard about how it actually works. There's always a certain element of subjectivity involved, wihch means that my reactions will not be precisely the same as others', but there's enough common ground that I can comment and figure that most people will get it, even if they don't agree.

As a prime example, take my mention of eroticism in relation to Kimi Shiruya. "Eroticism" as a phenomenon is fiendishly difficult to pin down -- to me, it's a matter of what's not said, what's not shown, but what's implied, and it's much more a matter of structuring relationships than it is about sex -- given that sex is one of the fundamental driving forces in the universe. (It would be sort of like saying that space opera is about gravity -- well, sure, but. . . .) Ishihara works a great deal by implication in this one -- the whole book is built on implication stemming from one kiss not quite halfway through. At least, that's what I'm seeing, and in this instance, I think I'm right: others might miss it, if they're not paying attention, but then, I've gotten used to paying attention. I recall on first reading thinking "Something's going on here" and was delighted by the ending -- it's a twist, a surprise in a lot of ways, but the surprise is not in what happens but in how it happens and how it's revealed.

One of my delights in manga is the sophistication of the visual components. Remember: I was trained (quite exhaustively) as a visual artist and performer. I am achingly aware of the visual aspect of just about anything. (One reason I think I'm still in Chicago, in spite of the disgusting winters, is that in this city, anywhere you look there is a picture, from peaceful pastorales in the parks to that dizzying, insane geometry of downtown. I love just looking at my city, because it's beautiful.) Western comics have too often been concerned with visuals as illustration and not as a co-equal participant in the text. There are examples of other attitudes -- I recently picked up a copy of David Petersen's Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, which is wonderful, and even though he's not as adventurous in page design as most mangaka doing shoujo, he does some wonderful things. In shoujo, page layouts become fluid, intuitive, leaving behind the frame-follows-frame design usual in shounen and Western comics and moving the narrative into a new space, so to speak. (I have noticed, though, that the mangaka will anchor the flow every couple of pages with a more regular layout.)

One concept that just verbalized itself in my head that I realize has probably been key in my appreciation of manga is simply the idea of evocation. This was something that was obviously cooking back there in my mind after reading a comment on a LiveJournal page that the fight sequences in Kimi Shiruya were often confusing. The concept is "evocation," and it's central to Japanese art, as I learned when studying butoh: the point is not to portray the event, but to evoke an image of the event. I think that contributes greatly to the subtlety of Kimi Shiruya, and a lot of other manga. (And in the case of Kimi Shiruya, that's where the eroticism rests.) In the case of those fight scenes, you don't have to be able to read them in detail, you just have to know that there is a fight and sense the action and exertion of the participants. (Think about attending a sporting event yourself: how much of the action do you actually see?)

Of course, for me the appeal of yaoi is simply that it's boy-on-boy romances, of which there is too little in this world. I can enjoy them, no matter the level of quality, I think because I've trained myself to just take them for what they are. It gives me an advantage, I think -- I'm easily amused. (On the other hand, having just thought about the normal reaction when I confess to being passionately fond of Nickelback, sometimes it gives me an entree into something that others aren't picking up on -- expertise can be terribly confining if you're not careful.) It's when I run into something of the caliber and depth of Kimi Shiruya or Momoko Tenzen's Seven or Ellie Mamahara's Alley of First Love (and yes, comedy can be much more profound and engaging than you would at first) or Modoru Motoni's Dog Style, vol. 1 and vol. 2 that I have to stop and think about everything else I've read: it all gets re-ranked, which is an ongoing process intimately tied to my education in the genre, which I see as open-ended. (Much like my education in everything else.) Will I find something eventually that blows those works out of the water? It's entirely possible. I'm looking forward to it -- not without some trepidation.

So, enough of pretty much random thoughts for a Sunday morning. I think I'm going to cross-post this, at least the homily, at Booklag, and see if any of my manga buddies over there pick up on it.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Writing Day

Not including blog posts, I'm afraid.

Maybe later. Maybe not.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Friday Gay Blogging: Backlash Edition

But I'm talking about our backlash.

It's a sad fact that the courts are still the only guardians of civil rights for minorities, even if they're not as reliable on that score as they used to be. However, as long as that's the case, we have to rely on them.

You already know that California AG Jerry Brown has asked the state Supreme Court to overturn Prop 8. It's spreading:

From Joe.My.God, the Arkansas adoption ban is under fire:

In the lawsuit filed today, the ACLU argues that Act 1 violates the federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. Participating in the case are 29 adults and children from over a dozen different families, including a grandmother who lives with her same-sex partner of nine years and is the only relative able and willing to adopt her grandchild who is now in Arkansas state care, several married heterosexual couples who have relatives or friends disqualified by Act 1 who they want to adopt their children if they die, and a heterosexual woman who wants to be a foster or adoptive parent but can’t because she lives with her partner of five years. The complaint was filed this morning in Pulaski County Circuit Court.


Also in the courts, as you probably have heard, Florida courts have now struck down the gay adoption ban (the only one in the country specifically targeting prospective adoptive parents because they are gay):

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman said the 31-year-old law violates equal protection rights for the children and their prospective gay parents, rejecting the state's arguments that there is "a supposed dark cloud hovering over homes of homosexuals and their children."

She noted that gay people are allowed to be foster parents in Florida. "There is no rational basis to prohibit gay parents from adopting," she wrote in a 53-page ruling.

This is the second judge to void the ban; the first case was not appealed, but now, the Florida Supreme Court will hear an appeal by the state. It will be interesting to see if the court relies on evidence or prejudice.

And on the real backlash front, from Nancy Goldstein at HuffPo, a dissenting voice on Milk that reminds us what "backlash" truly is:

Harvey Milk deserved a better film than this.

Director Gus Van Sant's hagiography remains true to the facts of its subject's life while backing away from invoking the full-on, living color injustice, violence, passion, nerve, and sheer scruffy grassroots rage that fueled Milk and the emerging post-Stonewall Gay liberation movement. . . .

Bitch, I've seen queers more fired up when Bed Bath & Beyond runs out of sale items. Where's the passion?

Was Van Sant afraid that audiences wouldn't be sympathetic if 70s-era gay activists were people who suffered, swore, fought back, and fucked like they meant it? If the street kids actually looked like dirty, starving, broke-ass teen hustlers?

Gay history -- unedited -- is ugly, angry, and violent. It's police dragging us out of cellar bars and down to the station to gang fuck the femmes and face-rape the butches, queens, and trannies. It's military witch hunts; suicides and "experimental therapies," from lobotomies and electro-shock to Christian boot camps. It's Stonewall, where we showered raiding police with bottles, locked them in the bar, and set it afire. It's ACT UP and chaining ourselves to pharmaceutical companies' fences to protest AIDS drugs price gouging.

We're being too "civilized" again. By now, you know my thoughts on that syndrome, but it's nice to see Goldstein taking it and running with it.

Dessert today from Capricho, with thanks to Made in Brazil: