mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Chalk up another activity that I never expected to accomplish: gardening at midnight.

harvest pumpkins, cayenne peppers, and spaghetti squashIt is currently just barely above freezing here in Minneapolis, with frost warnings for early this morning. I wanted to get some things indoors before any freezing weather had a chance to turn them into mush as the plants unfroze. I went outdoors with a flashlight to make my way through the vine patches.  I brought in all of the pumpkins, all of the cayenne peppers (that were red and ready), and a few of the spaghetti squash. That cat doesn't know quite what to think of all the new smells that are clearly inedible (to a cat's nose).

Why wait until midnight to harvest them?

I was already at the Gaylaxicon 2016 sci-fi convention today (here in Minneapolis this year) before I realized that frost was forecast. I spent much of the day and evening enjoying the panel discussions. It was a trip down memory lane during the 9:30pm discussion about online gaming.  They had 2 panelists who worked on Everquest 1, which I played heavily when it first came online back in 1999.  I even helped create a gay guild there, which was an exciting thing to do back in those days because it seemed so rare.

I left the hotel before the next panel that was scheduled to start at 11pm. Yes, it's a busy day and night on their convention schedule. Overall, though, it's a nice, non-stressful convention.  I'll be back for more activities on Saturday and Sunday too.

I left early to come home tonight and get this harvest indoors. I especially want the pumpkins to survive in good condition to Halloween. Our local "block leader" is hoping to organize some kids on our block for a jack-o-lantern carving activity, and I intend to donate pumpkins to the cause. I just want to keep one for myself to use at my house. The rest are intended as donations for neighbors.

I used the central air/heating in my house this morning for the first time in many months.  I wanted to be sure it was ready for cold weather.  It worked fine, so I'll be turning it on again before I head to bed now.


mellowtigger: (Pride)
I came out at work this morning to the whole tri-state chapter where I work.  It was no small feat, since it was even my normal day off.

They were having their monthly staff meeting, but it was pre-empted this time by a planned discussion of recent emotional news.  Since our last staff meeting, there was the mass shooting in Florida, we had another black man die by police last week in our Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, then there was the sniper in Texas shooting at police, the Bahamas issued a travel advisory to their citizens that warns about travel to the USA and police ruthlessness there.  And finally... 4 blocks north of me on Friday morning, 2 children were shot and 1 killed in just another daily shooting here in the #WarzoneInMinneapolis where I live.

So... we were sharing our thoughts at work on these emotional events.

I came to work on my day off because I was expecting to help give a presentation on our move to Skype For Business as a communication tool.  Instead... I shared the story that I was one of those people for whom the police are not always and automatically "the good guys".  I explained that I am gay, and I am just old enough to remember when the police would come into a small-town Texas gay bar for no good reason.  The music would shut off, the house lights would come up, and silence would permeate the air.  Then several cops would walk into the bar, walk around the entire place, with not a sound uttered by anyone... until they walked back out and life would resume in the bar.

I never really hide it, but I am now officially "out".

I mentioned that the police on campus at Texas A&M University once successfully changed how they are perceived.  They simply separated the car ticketing staff (gave them different uniforms too) from the other police staff, and suddenly detectives on campus were able to get cooperation as they sought public help in solving thefts and other crimes.  There was so much built up hostility to police prior (because of rampant parking fines) that the community wouldn't cooperate for any issue.  The police learned a better way to manage themselves, then the community cooperated.

I also mentioned that I live in one of the dangerous parts of the USA, and I've been woken up at night by gun shots, including death threats issued at the neighbors outside my bedroom window.

I'm still not sure what to do about the violence here and elsewhere throughout the USA, but I feel reassured that other people are committed to the idea of de-escalation rather than the spiral of threats and violence.

For once, I don't worry about any retaliation at work because of coming out.

Know that change is possible.  I've seen it happen before.  We can make it happen again.
mellowtigger: (all i have)
Peace For Paris by Jean Jullien #PeaceForParisIt's probably a disservice to the songwriters to connect their nice song with recent events in Paris, but my mind has already done it.

By now, you've probably heard that DAESH has accepted responsibility for the mass murders in Paris. You might not know that the Arabic name "al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham" was previously shortened to names likes ISIS and ISIL. We should be calling this group by the abbreviation now given to it by French officials, DAESH. This new name can be construed to also mean things like "to trample down and crush” or “a bigot who imposes his view on others.” It seems appropriate, so let's call them DAESH.

Paris, France, and the empathetic world obviously need a moment to collect their thoughts. People worldwide are probably doing the same thing that I did: contacting people they know in France to confirm they are alright. I've mentioned before that I once dated a foreigner. I didn't mention that he was French. I confirmed last night that he is unharmed and not in Paris.

After that immediate confirmation, there will probably be a lot of reassuring hugs passed around social circles. And that's where we get to this song that I mentioned.
Something happens when I hold her
She keeps my heart from getting older
When the days get short and the nights get a little bit colder
We hold each other
We hold each other
We hold each other, mmm

Something happens when I hold him
He keeps my heart from getting broken
When the days get short and the nights get a little bit frozen
We hold each other
We hold each other
We hold each other, mmm

People judged us they couldn't see the connection
When I look at you, it's like I'm looking back at my reflection
I don't see nothing different, our pigments they coincide
We hold each other so tight they couldn't break us if they tried
My eyes are those of the blind, I see no color or size
I feel the love in your touch and I trust what's inside your mind
A little reassurance, a little comfort... it's probably a good thing now for the many who were affected directly or indirectly by the attack in Paris.

Of course, this song was special in its own right, because the straight and gay performers each kept their pronouns correct in their lyrics. That bravery is rare. They demonstrated a recognition of their common experience and humanity, which lends itself to thoughts of this weekend's aftermath.

It is also a sentiment likely to continue annoying bigots worldwide, especially the likes of those who committed these recent atrocities. I must admit to feeling some smug and unhelpful satisfaction in the apoplexy that loving compassion can provoke in some hateful minds. How broken and injured someone already must be for them to experience additional pain in others' loving compassion.

So... hold each other, and find what relief that you can. The world wants to help, if only we knew concrete actions that we could take.  Meanwhile, I'll continue singing along... "When the days get short and the nights get a little bit frozen, we hold each other."

mellowtigger: (we can do it)
Today, the big news is that the Supreme Court of the USA has ruled that all states must allow and recognize same-sex marriage.

The truth in history is often very nuanced, requiring long explanation to convey information accurately. Occasionally, however, something meaningful and whole can be captured in an image, allowing the details of metaphors to unfold in the mind like a well written haiku. Sometimes pictures are better than words.

changing of flags from confederate to rainbowchanging of flags from confederate to rainbowUncle Sam changes flag from confederate to rainbow
changing of flags from confederate to rainbow

Justice kissing LibertyLiberty kissing Justice
Bert and Ernie watching television supreme court
Dukes of Hazzard car with rainbow flag

Not to get all wordy now and defeat my earlier point, but there are two things worth noting about today's court ruling.  First, all of the women (plus two men) decided for the government to enforce equal treatment under the law for its citizens, and the naysayers were all men.  Second, one of the naysayers is himself now in an interracial marriage that was once illegal.  Curiosities to ponder.

supreme court justices on marriage equality ruling

People everywhere are celebrating, everyone is sharing the news, media sites are flooding with images and stories, and even YouTube itself has something to say with a collection of videos plus their brief commentary.  I was intending to skip the Pride festival this weekend.  I am reconsidering my decision, however, after today's good-mood news.  #LoveWins  #LoveIsLove
mellowtigger: (Pride)
Today is the 27th annual National Coming Out Day. It's a worthy holiday to celebrate because it encourages acts of bravery that have ultimately changed society in the USA. Gay people will always be a minority of the population, yet a majority of Americans now support marriage equality.

lesbians marry after 72 years togetherI've never liked the phrase "legalizing gay marriage", because it makes it sound like marriage was something that never happened previously. It did. I've attended ceremonies over the years that were non-traditional and not recognized by the government.

Consider these 90-year-old women pictured on the right. They finally got legally married after living together for 72 years. Gay marriage isn't something new. Gay social bonds have existed all along. Unlike their straight counterparts, however, they came with zero government benefits, leaving each partner susceptible to the whims of their doctors, family, and neighbors during any time of trouble.

It's important that government recognizes these social bonds. It's government (not church) that lets you see your sick partner at the hospital. It's government (not church) that lets you continue living in the house after your partner dies. It's government (not church) that lets both adults care for their children.

Minneapolis I35-W bridge with rainbow pride colorsWhen Minnesota got marriage equality last year, Minneapolis lit up the Interstate 35-W bridge in rainbow colors to celebrate the governor signing the law. Minnesota became the first state to defeat an existing anti-marriage state amendment.

A few months later, the marriages began.

And the sun failed to darken.

And the institution of marriage failed to crumble.

The world keeps on turning as it did before, in spite of all the protest against equality.

public sentiment same-sex marriageIt's easy to forget amidst the celebration and especially amidst the growing "common-ness" of marriage equality that it was a struggle to reach this point. It's easy to forget that equality has not reached all states within the nation. It's easy to forget that, in some places, opposition is still so fiercely engaged that a mother will petition the nation's supreme court to keep her dead son's estate in her own hands instead of his partner's, after the hospital also denied the partner access while her son died after a car accident.

Marriage provides social benefits granted by the government, not the church. And government should treat its citizens equally. Benefits provided to some should be available to all... or they should be withheld from all.  No other arrangement offers equal treatment under the law.  I'm not the type to socialize easily, so I expect never to marry.  I am glad, though, to live in a state that exercises its authority with fairness and compassion in mind.

We got here through small acts of bravery accumulated over the years, so as Harvey Milk implored in 1978 (paraphrased).... Come out, come out, wherever you are!  It's scary, but it makes a difference for future generations.  Let new generations focus their energy on new challenges in life, not these tired old manufactured divisions of bygone years.  From a position of equality, we all have more time to deal with issues of substance that we can discuss together... like the safety of the water we drink.
mellowtigger: (people not profits)
Rich CongressmenI was at Taco Bell this week when an old, short, skinny, white woman took my order. Afterwards, she spoke to an elderly couple after me, and she told them, "I just had pneumonia... again. With my diabetes."

I wish the media could make better progress in dispelling the myth of America's minimum-wage workers as teenagers slumming until they get a "real" job. These service jobs are what's available. They are real, but they do not pay well. I pondered this elderly woman, and I felt some sort of slow-burning anger that "Amurrika!" keeps sinking lower.

You already know how I feel about it. I argued two years ago about how bad things are for everyday Americans and how fixing income inequality (either raising minimum wage or taxing high incomes) has already been shown to improve outcomes for everyone across the spectrum.

We can't fix this problem, though, because our society still operates as if it believes trickle-down economics is a real effect. It isn't. Any child who's played the game Monopoly would know better. What happens when you play the game properly and all the money gathers on one side of the board? The game ends; that's what happens. The only way to continue playing is to redistribute that money in a perpetual pattern of excess and poverty.  When an economy functions in a way that money flows only one direction and never back around again, then only one outcome is possible.

But this is real life, not a game. Income inequality has consequences only hinted at by Monopoly. Most Americans (80% for crying out loud!) live on the edge of economic disaster. I was there last year: broke, without easy access to health care, without a vehicle, yet still employed. I'm doing much better now only because of a new job.

Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream. Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.CBS News

It's even worse in the GLBT community, consistent with my unofficial observations at the few public events I still attend.  Too many people are too poor to "go out", it seems.

“As poverty rates for nearly all population increased during the recession, lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans remained more likely to be poor than heterosexual people. Gender, race, education and geography all influence poverty rates among LGBT population, and children of same-sex couples are particularly vulnerable to poverty,” according to a June 2013 report from the Williams Institute, a UCLA think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy. - Washington Blade

Something has to change.  It really, really has to change.  I'm doing better financially now at this single moment than... well, possibly any time of my life.  My uncommon good fortune hasn't done anything to improve my impression of the U.S. economy's disarray.  We can go find Taco Bell Lady to have a nice chat, if you're still doubting the existence of this new America.

pride 2013

Jun. 29th, 2013 09:02 pm
mellowtigger: (Pride)
canoeThere were significant political victories to celebrate this year, so I went out to Twin Cities Pride today. It's the 3rd largest celebration in the USA, estimated at 400,000 visitors over the whole weekend. It's said to be the largest non-gated pride event, meaning that visitors come and go as they please, since there is no admissions gate (or the likely attendance ticket fee that goes with it). Frankly, it's too large for me. I skip Sunday altogether, so I always miss the hours-long parade. I always think they should just move it out to the state fairgrounds, but then everyone would miss out on nice opportunities like canoeing.

rabbitsI've attended many pride celebrations in Texas, and I was active in political student groups too. People who knew me back around 1989 might remember my fondness for pet rabbits. I even took one with me on a road trip from College Station to Dallas for a student group meeting one year. So it should be no surprise that my favorite part of Pride this year was the rabbits.

The large map is divided into different areas, one of which includes the various pet-focused groups of the Twin Cities. My employer was represented there too. I also visited the table for a houserabbit association this year, and I enjoyed looking at their pet bunnies. Also good were the two natives who were running around the busy lakeshore foraging for food.

doom, doom I tell youThe religious section is always a large area. It's usually located on the southwestern corner near the church that usually flies rainbow colors during the weekend celebration. A great many church groups are always there to publicize their welcoming philosophy. This year also had hecklers standing nearby. Not as much "fun" as the Westboro group, but entertaining nevertheless.

Brits Pub rainbow flagAs I left, I noticed while waiting at the bus stop that local businesses were also courting GLBT patrons. Here is a photo I took of Brit's Pub flying a rainbow flag among the others on display.

Still, though, after the day's adventure, I kept thinking more about Kevin and his llamas than about recent political victories. Sure, we've collectively focused on marriage equality, and we're winning that legal argument, but there are other immediate concerns demanding attention. Besides the frequent violence, the bullying, the kids kicked out onto the streets, there is also the matter of employment discrimination. That's where Kevin's situation shines as an example needing redress. He lives in Kentucky, where it's still perfectly legitimate to fire someone for being gay, and he was so fired.

I've faced discrimination on the job too, although my experiences were all back in Texas. I've had my work hours cut from 40 to 15 immediately after my supervisor found out I was gay. I've had a high management figure refuse to shake my hand upon our introduction. I've lost a job while a meddling coworker (who bullied international students too) complained about my involvement with the campus gay student group (and her having to authorize my requests for mainframe computer resources for the group). So I have some sympathy for Kevin's situation.

Vigilance is necessary.  Keep pressing for equality, keep demanding non-discrimination.  What's appropriate for you to do will vary with your own comfort level.  Me, I donated $20 to Kevin and his llamas when I got home from Pride today.  It's not a lasting solution, I know, but maybe it will help keep the animals in their familiar territory so their caretaker has the time he needs to arrange for new income.

There are plenty of other worthwhile causes to donate your attention, your time, or your money. Decide something, though, because both your actions and your inactions help to shape the future that we all must share.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
I've had plenty to complain about lately, but I guess it's time for a little good news.

Minnesota marriage equalityFirst, Minnesota is officially changing its laws today to recognize gay marriages. Our state governor signs the legislation into law today. It's a good change brought to us through the hard work of many gay people coming out of the closet and even more straight people who listened to the pleas of gay couples who wanted their government to grant them the same benefits as other couples. The Saint Paul mayor even renamed the "Wabasha Street Freedom Bridge" to the "Wabasha Street Freedom To Marry Bridge" for the week, and pride flags line the bridge.  They're expecting a huge celebration in Saint Paul tonight.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of straight allies like Chris Kluwe.  It matters who speaks because it changes who will listen. It shouldn't matter, but it does. Ideas should be sufficient on their own merits, but they aren't. America abolished slavery because the free fought to share their rights. America allowed women to vote because the voting men agreed to share their privilege. America is slowly granting homosexuals equal protection under the law because heterosexuals are voting to share their benefits.

Second, T'Reese is doing much better. The veterinarian found no evidence of problems in the stool sample. Apparently old cats are prone to constipation, and it happens to cause great pain for T'Reese when that happens. I'm adding wet cat food to her diet to help avoid this problem in the future.

Third, I'm back to using a cane for mobility rather than crutches. I can even walk very slowly around my bedroom without the cane. I'm still prone to painful muscle cramps when I use my left leg, and I get electric shocks down the length of my leg, and my left knee hurts a lot when I put too much weight on it. Progress is progress, though. I'll take it.

Fourth, I estimate that I can have all of my medical bills paid off by the end of this year. It depends entirely, though, on not having any car problems in 2013. That condition seems unlikely, though, since I spend almost $1500/year on car repairs. It's been pretty consistent over the last decade. Car repairs are the big unnecessary drain on my finances. I wish I could live and work someplace where I could ditch the car altogether. I think I'll have to move to a larger metropolitan area, though, to succeed at that kind of lifestyle change.

Anyway... celebrate the good news while it's happening, right?

There's a local paper rolled up in a rubber band.
One more sad story's one more than I can stand.
Just once how I'd like to see the headline say,
"Not much to print today, can't find nothin' bad to say" because

Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town.
Nobody OD'ed, nobody burned a single buildin' down.
Nobody fired a shot in anger. Nobody had to die in vain.
We sure could use a little good news today...

How I want to hear the anchor man talk about a county fair;
And how we cleaned up the air, how everybody learned to care.
Whoa, tell me,

Nobody was assassinated in the whole Third World today;
And in the streets of Ireland, all the children had to do was play;
And everybody loves everybody in the good old USA.
We sure could use a little good news today.

So today's theme song is this country music chart topper by Anne Murray from 1983: A Little Good News.
mellowtigger: (AIDS)
It's been over 15 years since I last saw the AIDS Quilt. It's showing in Minneapolis this weekend, as part of today's World AIDS Day observance. It's housed in the same building where you find Wilde Roast Cafe along the Mississippi River. The quilt was brought here with the help of several organizations, including Minnesota AIDS Project.


They have more panels here than I expected. The quilt is too big (at 48,000 panels) for anyone to see the whole thing any more. It won't even fit on the national mall at Washington D.C. any more. So groups show a select few panels of the quilt instead.

With tightly limited space, this exhibition showed the panels hung up vertically. This format helps make more panels available for viewing, which is good. I think, though, that it's less effective at conveying the emotional weight of the quilt. Laid out on the ground like a death shroud, the viewer looks down to their feet at the strewn memories of lost lives. Hung up, though, the same panels seem more like "arts-and-crafts" on museum display. It also matters, I think, that the calendar dates on display are receding into the past instead of being fresh in the daily memory.

The selection on display here is very good. There are panels for drag queens and sports fans, hemophiliacs and newborn babies, and famous and unknown unlike.



I ran a search at the AIDS Quilt online, but I didn't find Carl Collier's name listed there.  I doubt that his family would have made a panel for him.  I don't remember us talking about me making a panel for him, but I'm pretty sure he would have been uninterested.  I can imagine him saying, "I'd rather people spent their time finding a cure, instead."  Sprinkled with an expletive or two, of course.  :)
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Congratulations to American Hindus for winning your first Hindu representative to the U.S. Congress last week. I'm sure that achievement will make the "festival of lights" even more enjoyable when it begins on Tuesday. For Americans not yet aware of it, Diwali in the United States has recently developed an interesting history, including a holiday greeting from President Obama in 2010.

Tulsi Gabbard serves in her state's National Guard and has been on deployment to Iraq. She previously opposed gay equality, but her tour of duty changed her mind. Her positions on war, economy, environment, and homelessness also look very amenable to the Occupy viewpoint. I look forward to seeing her accomplishments in congress.

mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
BigBirdLives.sniffyesyoudoIt would be nice to think that liberals scored a decisive victory last night, but I don't think the nation's future is that rose-tinted.

The progressive voice made impressive gains last night. Voters in Minnesota rejected efforts to alter the state constitution, voters in Wisconsin elected the nation's first openly gay senator, voters everywhere ousted many virulent anti-women candidates, voters in three states approved same-sex marriage, voters in two states and one city decriminalized marijuana, voters in Massachusetts elected Elizabeth Warren (my Occupy Wall Street sweetheart) to national senate, and not since the Great Depression have American voters RE-elected any president during such tough economic times.

But... none of those achievements really matter because the core problems facing the country remain unchanged.
  • We still deplete our fossil fuel deposits while God stubbornly refuses to put any more of it into the ground to replenish the forever-lost resource. (Conservatives conserve what exactly?)
  • We still impotently watch wealth stagnate rather than circulate.
  • We still employ exponential currency and so face the mathematical certainty of debt growth.
  • We still do nothing while the planet warms and ecosystems shift.
  • We still helplessly watch people choose to reject observation and science.
poll.Ohio.binladenThe Big Bird fiasco was a perfect example of that last point. Democrats mocked Mitt Romney for metaphorically threatening to execute Big Bird by defunding public television. Republicans, in turn, mocked Democrats for fixating on a muppet when there were real issues to discuss. Yet when pollsters asked voters in Ohio who "deserves more credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden", Republicans were overwhelmingly unable to engage reality.

How can any democracy thrive when one of its major political parties abandons reality in favor of partisanship? Mitt Romney couldn't keep his positions straight because he didn't actually have a position. It was all a tangle of self-contradicting bluster. The Republican frenzy got so bad that they abandoned their own nomination processes, so some Romney electors are threatening to withhold their vote thereby figuratively slapping Republicans back to their senses. Even Fox News seemed briefly contrite last night, like an alcoholic promising that he can stop drinking any time he wants to.  As with the decision between Obama and McCain ("The fundamentals of our economy are strong."), America is better off with a president who can rationally discuss issues.  I preferred Jill Stein, but I'll settle for "Bronco Bamma".

Voters haven't done Obama any favors. Obama now has to govern during a continuing (and I expect worsening) crisis of economy, ecology, and rationality.
mellowtigger: (mst3k)
CloudAtlas.2012Every action and inaction carries consequences.  Everything is interconnected.  I've been saying these things for a very long time, and now a movie presents the argument so very nicely.

What an interesting movie. The audience laughed, applauded, cringed, and wept. Rarely does a movie succeed at evoking so many different emotions. "Cloud Atlas" is a mystery-action-scifi-political-romance-thriller. Rarely does a movie succeed at being so many kinds of films at the same time. Not since "Fifth Element" in 1997 have I seen it happen.  Minnesota audiences are not generally known for being so interactive with a film, but I walked to the Heights theater last night and enjoyed this movie along with the crowd.  I didn't even notice that it was 3 hours long.

When you see the film, be sure to wait long enough through the credits to see the list of actors. You'll be surprised. The makeup and acting are so good that you didn't even recognize some of the characters you just saw. They cross lines of race, gender, and age.  Hugo Weaving does a great job as the many kinds of villains. Halle Berry finally gets a chance to shine among her many characters. (She was sadly overlooked in the X-Men movies as merely a supporting character.) Tom Hanks, Doona Bae, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Xun Zhou, Jim Broadbent, and many new faces show their talents. Take a look at the IMDB actor list, and notice how many different characters each person played. That feature alone is an accomplishment for this film.

Frankly, the familiarity of the actors was a necessary thread to pull together the centuries of different storylines. One of the characters (a gay character, actually) lives long enough to cross two stories.  I couldn't remember any of the names involved; there were simply too many of them.  There were times that I wished an English subtitle came with the many accents and occasionally too-soft audio track. Eventually, though, the trend in the storylines becomes clear.

This story teaches about love, hope, bravery, and their inspiration to oppose power.  It teaches the inevitability of both sides of that coin across human history.  The movie (and the book which I may now have to read) contains a great many memorable quotes, but I'll leave them unstated here for you to discover on your own.  Well, except for this one since it addresses the fabric of the story, its core lesson, and the promotional poster image:

"What is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"

Considering the theme of the movie, I can't help thinking that the timing of this movie's release is intentional.  I wish Minnesotans could all see this film before the election.  I think it very effectively presents the core of the argument in the marriage equality debate.  It also has ramifications for many other plutocratic initiatives on the ballot across the country.

"Cloud Atlas" is a very interesting movie.  I recommend watching it.  The directors, actors, and crew deserve your dollars for this talented work.
mellowtigger: (Pride)
It's National Coming Out Day, but I can't muster any enthusiasm for it.  I'm still bummed about the vivisectionist flirting with me last weekend.  Humans are weird, and I wish I could find a life that kept me away from them.  My cats like their kibble, though, so I have to stay in "civilization" to keep them pampered with regular meals and clay litter.  I keep postponing my hopes of walking into the forest and leaving humanity.

I paid money to attend a local sci-fi convention last weekend.  I ended up spending only half of Friday there (after work), skipping all of Saturday and Sunday and the big dinner event that I paid extra for.  I should have kept my money and my emotional balance.  The convention itself was nice.  I even had a panel moderator stop me in the hallway to say that I asked some good questions at her panel.  I spent several hours (into the wee morning) playing a new card game with 3 other conventioners.

There were even other autistic adults at the convention.  I recognized one from an informal autistic group a few years ago.  I recognized two others who were visitors to Occupy Minnesota last year.  One of that pair was an author panelist at the convention, and it amused me that I knew someone who was a panelist.  When I talk to autistic adults, their experiences are more like mine than any other people I know.  It's like autistics send out flare gun signals that attract anyone who might gain something by preying on outcasts and isolationists.

To be fair, I'm only assuming the guy was a vivisectionist.  There were a few clues, though.  First, he kept telling me that he had some extreme fetishes.  Second, he said that he was into throbbing arteries, and he noted that I was difficult to read that way.  It's true, my arteries do a good job of "hiding" so that nurses always have a difficult time collecting blood from me.  Third, he said that he especially liked hearts.  He asked if I had ever seen one, and they were like powerful muscular balloons.  He failed if he was trying to scare or intimidate me.  I already know that humans are weird, and I don't really enjoy spending time around them.  Instead, I was just... "disappointed", I think is the correct word.  Other people attend conventions without vivisectionists telling them that they're one of the best looking people there.  Not me, though.

I guess I just can't take a compliment.

Happy holiday.  The date is 10-11-12, if you're a backward American who orders time components illogically.

edit 2012.10.18: I recently encountered this comic strip, and it embodies the experience fairly well.  Maybe it's not as rare as I thought?  Kinda sad, really.

mellowtigger: (all i have)
It is possible for a closed mind to open. The dangerous can abandon their violent paths. I have seen it happen. I've been hunted, you see, and one day the hunter admitted his fault to his prey. That's reason enough for hope.

Long ago, back during my first stint in college, a gay man warned me to stay away from his roommate who had accidentally (he was supposed to be out of town all weekend) walked in on the two of us smooching in the dorm room. Oops! I didn't understand the prohibition, since I wouldn't even recognize the guy if I saw him again. I mentally filed away the warning with every other nonsensical statement I'd ever heard. I went about my life as usual.

I don't remember how many weeks passed before I saw him again. It may have even been the next semester. One day, that burly black Christian guy came up to me and introduced himself. He explained that he'd been following me ever since our first unintentional meeting. He was trying to catch me "doing something wrong", as he phrased it. He intended to unleash his self-righteous fury on me in that moment of vindication, beating me to death. I remembered the previous warning, and it finally made sense. He intended to hurt me. Now, here he was standing before me, talking about his intentions. As with most of the important conversations in my life, I stood there confused and silent while he continued speaking at me.

This guy explained to me that he never did catch me "doing something wrong", and it perplexed him. The poor guy had chosen to stalk a homosexual who was effectively celibate, so he had lots of spare time to ponder his actions. He eventually realized that his hatred was twisting him into something far worse than the monster that he had imagined me to be. I had not acted as he expected from his preconceived stereotypes. He found himself questioning his stereotypes because of the evidence before him. He told me these things because he wanted to assure me that I was safe from him. I hadn't been worried at all until that confrontation, since I'd been my usual oblivious self. Just as well, I suppose. He realized the error of his ways by himself. He finally understood that everyone should be free to live without interference.

Which leads me to today's theme song: "Gay Pirates". :)

They say they're gonna kill me if I look at you once more.
(They) pissed in my hammock yesterday, so I'll sleep on the floor.
I'd be under the sea, but you hold me above.

And they put glass in my sandals, so my feet would bleed all day.
And they forced me to wear them, or they said they'd make you pay.
I'd be under the sea, but you hold me above.
Cuz you're the man I love.

Yo, ho, Sebastian, let's go far away, somewhere where the captain won't be mad.
Yo, ho, Sebastian, I want to love you good, and we deserve much better than we've had.

In spite of the violent situation they describe, the lyrics are still quite nice. The music is catchy too. They all did an amazing job performing the whole video sequence in one unedited take. The kissing isn't very convincing, but all can be forgiven since Cosmo Jarvis is a heterosexual male performer who obviously understands the core issue.

monsters under our bedPeople can change, but someone must interrupt their fevered dreams of bogeymen. The horrors they imagine are worth opposing. As long as they mistake queer folk for their imagined monsters, they'll continue wasting everyone's energy on pointless hatreds. The solution, as Harvey Milk said so long ago is to "Come out, come out, wherever you are." Truth makes a difference.

The conversion of my potential gay basher is exactly what queer folk everywhere can hope for. I never reported his confession to the police. I can't remember for sure, but I think maybe I've never repeated the details of this story for anyone. I find it relevant now because of recent events in the news.
  • President Obama spoke out in favor of gay marriage. I find it less relevant that he's the "sitting" president, but it's very important that he's a "black Christian male" president. The big question for me is whether his statement will hold any persuasive power over this traditionally hardline group.
  • Colin Powell stated plainly that gay families are as stable as his own.
  • Some churches hear the message and offer powerful reason to maintain hope.
  • Even if they're successful, then we still have white churches to contend with. Some of them are quite enthusiastic as they celebrate the indoctrination of another generation into learned bigotry.
We deserve much better than we've had.
mellowtigger: (flameproof)
I recommend against annoying people who are dangerous.  Escalation of tensions rarely results in any productive outcome.  If you find yourself in a hopeless situation with nothing left to lose, however, it is possible to take a psychological swipe at a certain kind of villain.

I learned this particular weakness of the Ku Klux Klan psychology some 20 years ago when I had my own personal homophobe threatening my life online.  Don't worry.  The police got involved, and apparently they convinced him that it would go badly for him if I suddenly wound up injured or dead.  At the time, I made a dismissive comment online about him just being another clueless skinhead.  His detailed reaction to my dismissal was very illuminating.

I called him a "skinhead" because their group was in the news back around 1990 as the latest version of witless intolerance to grace America's social landscape.  My dear homophobe responded with righteous indignation to my unintended insult.  It turns out that he valued the (supposed) long history of white supremacy and the ritual of brotherhood.  He repudiated skinheads for valuing nothing.  Hatred, it seems, has levels of cultural purity.  Cultured thugs who kill their supposed inferiors find it insulting when they are mistaken for common thugs who kill their supposed inferiors.

If you want to annoy a Klansman, simply dismiss the culture that he finds so deeply satisfying.

Even longtime readers at my blog would not have known the details of this encounter or similar ones in my life.  The worst of these experiences happened during a time before "the internet" was a phenomenon.  I don't like discussing them because doing so means reliving moments that I'm better off abandoning to forgetfulness.  I mention this incident now only because it can serve a useful purpose.  The Klan, you see, is openly advertising for a good, old fashioned cross burning.

Know your enemy.

I worry about the future for everyone, so I rarely write about the unpleasant episodes of my own past.  If I make the world better for everyone, then by extension the world is also a better place for me.
mellowtigger: (the more you know)
Another child dies. I promise to stop harping about it when the children stop dying, okay? I'd rather have these kids in the world than the emotional songs that their absence inspires.

I recently encountered a song that makes the necessity of Allies quite plain.  I've decided that it is today's theme song.

We don't learn the significance of this chorus until the end of the song.

I was young and caught in the crowd.
I didn't know then what I know now.
I was dumb, and I was proud, and I'm sorry.

If I could go back, do it again,
I'd be someone you could call friend.
Please, please, believe that I'm sorry.

Allies in the majority power are necessary for social change. Male allies gave American women the right to vote. White allies gave American blacks their freedom from slavery. Heterosexual allies will be necessary for giving American homosexuals their legal equality. As I wrote back in 2003:

"Decide to become an Ally for the autistic community
(as with GLBT Allies, this title means taking a stand against any form of bullying when you have the chance to defend autistics either in person or in principle, and it means speaking to educate about their concerns when possible)

This 14-year-old kid named Jamey Rodemeyer created his own video on YouTube four months ago as part of the It Gets Better project.  He talked briefly about the bullying that he survived.  His school friends said that the new school year started 3 weeks ago with the same bullying as he experienced before.  He didn't survive it this time, though.  He killed himself yesterday.

Recently, someone asked Michelle Bachmann what she would do to stop the bullying that happens in schools in her own district.  She replied that it is "not a federal issue" (since she is running for federal office).  The trouble, though, is that it's never a matter for government intervention if it's only the right people who die.  That particular contradiction can be found throughout history.  I'll stop complaining about it.  Really.  When the children stop dying.


Jul. 26th, 2011 09:27 am
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Aaron Ashmore and Shawn AshmoreNo wonder I was confused. They're twin brothers!

Aaron Ashmore has previously played a gay character in a 2004 movie, "Prom Queen: The Marc Hall Story".  Now, though, he's also playing a gay character in a tv series, "Warehouse 13".  It certainly sparked my interest in the tv series again.

Aaron plays the character Steve Jinks, a nice guy with a superhero talent for knowing when people tell a lie.  I mean, it's practically written to appeal to me specifically, right?  Okay, maybe the perfect superhero ability would be a field of influence that prevents anyone within the sphere from telling any lie, but I'll gladly settle for detection ability in Mr. Husband there.  *laugh*

I'm sure the actor is straight, but it's still always so nice to see a straight guy prove that he understands that nobody changes their sexual orientation because of exposure to a different one.  Otherwise, how could there be any homosexuals at all in a world overflowing with heterosexual imagery?  It certainly didn't hurt the acting careers of Chris Meloni and Lee Tergeson for playing their love interest over many years in the HBO series "Oz".  They even played it up to encourage the attention.

After seeming to lose steam for many episodes, "Warehouse 13" has piqued my curiosity again.  I'll give it another chance.  Yes, I'm a sucker for a nice face depicting a nice guy with a nice superhero talent.  Ugh, am I really that predictable?  I want to see where this story goes.
mellowtigger: (Pride)
I don't know that I've ever really had an "angry song" before, something with lyrics to keep me energized about a particular angry emotion. I have such a song now.  It motivated me to spend half a day collecting the information for this post.

The Southern Poverty Law Center explained in a report last year that gays remain the minority most targeted during hate crimes. "Gay people are more than twice as likely to be attacked in a violent hate crime as Jews or blacks; more than four times as likely as Muslims; and 14 times as likely as Latinos." And the people that youngsters are supposed to rely on for protection are also likely to punish them. You can understand, maybe, why some people living in the "land of the free" may desire to add a few special caveats to their pledges and anthems.

"Make It Stop (September's Children)" by Rise Against

From a nation under God, I feel its love like a cattle prod.
I'm born free, but still they hate. I'm born me; no, I can't change.
It's always darkest just before the dawn.
So stay awake with me, let's prove them wrong.
Make it stop; let this end. Eighteen years pushed to the ledge.
It's come to this, a weightless step. On the way down singing...
Woah, woah.
The cold river washed him away, but how could we forget?
The gatherings hold candles but not their tongues.
And too much blood has flown from the wrists,
of the children shamed for those they chose to kiss.
Who will rise to stop the blood? We're calling for, insisting on,
a different beat, yeah, a brand new song.

Bullying in its various overbearing forms needs to end. It's so obvious, it's almost pathetic that anyone still has to explain why.

Jadon Higganbothan2011: Jadon Higganbothan, 4 years old, is killed by religious leader in North Carolina.

"Prosecutors said Moses killed Jadon because he thought the child was gay..." - WRAL
Steven Anderson"You want to know who the biggest hypocrite in the world is? The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers and not for homosexuals. Hypocrite. The same God who instituted the death penalty for murderers is the same God who instituted the death penalty for rapists and for homosexuals - sodomites, queers! That's what it was instituted for, okay? That's God, he hasn't changed. Oh, God doesn't feel that way in the New Testament ... God never "felt" anything about it, he commanded it and said they should be taken out and killed." - RightWingWatch
Asher Brown2010 Aug 26: Asher Brown, 13 years old, shoots himself in the head. He was a student at Hamilton Middle School in Houston.

"Asher Brown's worn-out tennis shoes still sit in the living room of his Cypress-area home while his student progress report — filled with straight A's — rests on the coffee table. The eighth-grader killed himself last week. He shot himself in the head after enduring what his mother and stepfather say was constant harassment from four other students..." - HoustonChronicle
Rich Swier"This is not bullying. It is peer pressure and is healthy. There are many bad behaviors such as smoking, under age drinking and drug abuse that are behaviors that cannot be condoned. Homosexuality falls into this category. Homosexuality is simply bad behavior that youth see as such and rightly pressure their peers to stop it." says Rich Swier of Tea Party Nation - LgbtqNation
Justin Aaberg2010 July 9: Justin Aaberg, 15 years old, hangs himself in his bedroom. He was a student at Anoka High School near Minneapolis.

"In testimony she gave to the Anoka-Hennepin School Board on Monday, Aaberg said her son was bullied because of his sexual orientation. She blamed the district for not intervening to stop the bullying, accusing district administrators of tying teachers’ hands with a policy that kept teachers from being able to “reach out and help these hurting students.”" - TheColu.MN
Michelle Bachmann“It’s part of Satan I think to say that this is “gay.” It’s anything but gay.”

“This is a very serious matter, because it is our children who are the prize for this community, they are specifically targeting our children."

“Normalization (of gayness) through desensitization. Very effective way to do this with a bunch of second graders, is take a picture of “The Lion King” for instance, and a teacher might say, “Do you know that the music for this movie was written by a gay man?” The message is: I’m better at what I do, because I’m gay.” - The BachmannRecord
Seth Walsh2010 Sep 19: Seth Walsh, 13 years old, hangs himself from a tree in his backyard. He was a student at Jacobson Middle School near Los Angeles.

"Seth Walsh was an ordinary everyday kid who just wanted to live his life except there were cruel kids around him who won't let him. Why you ask? Walsh was a young gay kid and there were kids that would not stop tormenting him while school officials ignored the problem despite being aware of the bullying." - SFGate
Bilal Philips"In a Thursday interview, Philips cheerfully advocated death as a punishment for males who “confess” to homosexual behaviour, or are seen performing homosexual acts by four reliable witnesses, in countries governed by Islamic law. Lesbians should only get lashes, he said." - TheStar

There are indeed monsters in this world. I learned about some of them while I was still a student at Texas A&M. It's sad that these young people get infected by hatred after years of learning it from the words of their elders and peers. They claim we're the ones who recruit.

You understand the irony, of course, when the evil people doing the harm actually blame the victims for their fate. Who is targeting whom?
mellowtigger: (bicycle)
While I'm thinking of it (and websurfing during insomnia), are any locals planning to attend the bear night at the drive-in theater?

I've already asked a person or two, but they aren't going. I'd like to bum a ride from somebody if they're making the trip. :) I've driven on my own in years past (bear event or just to go out by myself), but I'm without a car this summer while I commute by bicycle instead.  I could theoretically bicycle out there, but I really don't want to bicycle back after dark.
mellowtigger: (disconnect)
[personal profile] bitterlawngnome pointed out a picture gallery devoted to wresting the name "bear" from its traditional base and giving it solely to the devotion of hairy fitness buffs. It's been a while since I posted my own definition of bear, but this new picture collection called "Bear | Not Bear" (semi-safe viewing for most workplaces) seems diametrically opposed to my definition.

Basically, I think that "bear" includes the unpopular kids, the D-list crowd, all the folk who don't fit the popular culture's image of what is desirable. We remind each other that we don't have to be X, Y, or Z in order to be desirable.  We innoculate ourselves against the contamination of popular culture's dislike of fringe appearance or fringe behavior.  I enjoy thinking of bears as the Stuart Smalley fan club: "We're good enough, we're smart enough, and doggone it, people like us."

When the bear population grew large enough to attract mainstream attention, then suddenly the popular kids developed an interest. Nothing good can come of that mixture, and the discord is effectively satirized in the South Park episode about the Goth kids being overtaken by the Vampire kids.  Their tension is presented in this video segment...

You guys, I do not want to be grouped in with douchey little vampire kids. ... Get out of our space you little twerps!
More preppy straight-A students turning into vampires. What the hell is going on?

... and the difference is skillfully defined in the closing moments of the episode.

Fellow students, over the past week there has been a lot of confusion, and so we have asked for this assembly to clarify the difference between goth kids and vampire kids. Let us make it abundantly clear. If you hate life, truly hate the sun, and need to smoke and drink coffee, you are goth. If, however, you like dressing in black 'cause it's fun, enjoy putting sparkles on your cheeks and following the occult while avoiding things that are bad for your health, then you are most likely a douchebag vampire wannabe boner because anyone who thinks they are actually a vampire is freaking retarded.

So the metaphor of the popular kids trying to steal a movement from the unpopular kids is what I use to interpret the recent "redefining" of bear.  Unlike the resolution in the South Park episode, I don't know that the bears can actually reclaim their original identity.  Words are fluid, though, and language always changes, so maybe there's still reason to hope.

Or maybe we need to take a cue from Dan Savage and go on the offensive.  We could create our own new word to apply to these people, thereby deflecting their criticism of the original bear culture.


mellowtigger: (Default)

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