Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blessed, but depressed

(This started out as a journal entry, then I started to get engrossed in it and decided to cut 'n' paste and see where it took me. In a pretty cynical direction, as it turned out. Some day I will try to write about the profound spiritual experience I had in 2005 that changed everything for me, forever. But not today.)

Oh well. We had today “off”, but as usual it flew past. It just goes. That’s OK, maybe even good. But I yearn, I yearn. I’ve been yearning for a very long time now. I remember the times before I was published at all, I mean in novel form, when I just thought I was going to die, I wanted it so much and it seemed so far away. Then somehow, it happened twice, but now I seem to be farther back than I was before the first one. I keep bouncing back and forth: some part of me that wants to keep me from suicide insists I have a chance. Then the other side, gloom, just comes in and crushes me.

I try to pray, but I seem to have lost the knack, or else I just don’t believe in it any more. I don’t see what it does. It doesn’t change anything. If you’re asking “God” to give you what you want, it’s pretty ludicrous. "Mother, may I?" Also, what if you get two opposing sides praying for different things? Does the more holy side win, the more worthy side? The Christian rather than the Muslim? What a bunch of horseshit!

So why pray, and what does it mean? Does it mean anything at all, or is it just “wish upon a star”, or “favour me, God, because I’m worthy, besides I want this and you’d better give it to me or I’ll stop believing in you”? Can we change the laws of the universe just by saying, “Now I lay me down to sleep”, or “Our Father”? Can we bend reality to our own will? And if that’s not what it’s about, then what IS it about? Isn’t it about changing reality? And can anyone actually do that by muttering certain magic words, or squinching their eyes up real hard?

I guess there is another form of this, the one that always appealed to me the most, which I'd call the Saint Francis method: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. It's kind of like Gandhi's exhortation to be the change you want to see in the world. But how realistic is this? How many "instruments of peace" do you know? I've known one in my entire lifetime, my grandmother, who was love, and never once uttered the word or even demonstrated it in any tangible way.

I don't know, I think I got myself involved in a very deep case of religious poisoning. I know any number of people (and believe me, I'm tired of these bloody gasbags, but they have no idea how obnoxious they are) who insist that "I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious." So what does "spiritual" mean then? That they squinch up their eyes and try to bend reality to what they want more effectively than their neighbor, whom they supposedly love "as themselves"? Does it mean they are more caring (usually not)? More sensitive? I think I know three sensitive people, and that's in 57 years. Very bad. I think in many cases it's lucky rabbit's foot stuff: I'm protected, I'm special, God will never give me any more than I can handle, and besides, everything happens for a reason.

Where is the evidence? There isn't any. Suicide happens every day, so God does give many people more than they can handle. Many things happen for a reason, but not everything, surely not everything. Anyone who has borne witness to the appalling tragedy of someone losing a child surely can't adhere to that facile truism.

But we have to give thanks to the Lord. Give thanks, no matter how appalling our reality is. Why? Sometimes life is atrocious, hideous beyond words, but we're always supposed to be grateful. Oh, and forgive! Forgive our enemies, and everyone who has ever hurt us. That means if someone ruptured your hymen when you were three, you're supposed to forgive. Oh, you'll feel so much better when you do!

I wonder sometimes, what happens when everything falls apart. Everything at once, I mean. When you lose your longtime community due to profound alienation, when you lose your health and four of your friends (to death, I mean), and many more due to circumstances that are uncontrollable. The whole universe turns into a flaming molten ball and slowly turns inside-out. When you crawl out of the wreckage, everything looks different.

That's because everything is different.

The old hymns are wheezy and boring, unbearably stultifying. Your old church is a spiritual disaster area, so you try again: not once, not even twice, but three times, with three different churches. No one seems particularly friendly, and when you try to sit down the old lady in the pew puts her hand on the seat beside her, shakes her head and says, "No. My family sits there."

No. Don't come in, not in here. Who are you?

You're not one of us. You don't know the ropes. You don't know the words to say. You don't know the responsive refrain. You don't know the hymns. You don't know the gospels. You don' t have anyone to talk to after church. You aren't on any committees. You don't bake for the bake sales, you don't count the money after church. You don't do anything but sit there with an odd look on your face. Like you're not happy. Like you might even cry. What is wrong with you? You are different. Stay out, stay out, you are a threat to our practice of acceptance and unconditional love!

It seems, it really does seem like an "I'm-in-and-you're-not" thing. We all band together every Sunday to be stuck to each other like glue and feel better for a while while we keep reality out. We send a few old socks to the poor. Things like that. Jesus would spit on that. Jesus would be on the Downtown Eastside RIGHT NOW,  just talking with people, maybe making the sign of the cross on their foreheads or hugging them.

Handing out clean needles? I don't think so. I think he might put his hand out and say, "Why don't you give me those." To lighten the burden, so to speak. Or at least, that's what he said.

He didn't aid and abet. He healed. Didn't he?

I don't know what Jesus was like, I don't even know if there was a Jesus, and if there was, I know he wasn't much like the Gospel version of him, and NOTHING like the interpretations that have been layered over him for centuries like so much poisonous muck.

I don't know why people give their lives over to him, but then, there are plenty of UFO sites on the internet, aren't there? "Look at all the people who have followed Christ over the centuries," a minister once said to me, trying to convince me that Christianity's validity could be confirmed by sheer numbers.
I don't live by numbers. I don't live by "everyone's doing it, so it must be good", because it can all too quickly lead to yet another soul-numbing statement: "I was only following orders."

And in God's name, where is the grace in that?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why I don't like the Pride Parade


Admit it, guys. The Vancouver Pride Parade isn’t just about pride.

It’s about flamboyance. It’s about being so over-the-top that crowds scream with shock before they laugh. It’s about grown men mincing around in heels, plastering makeup over their five o’clock shadows, and talking in squishy syrupy voices that sound like no woman who ever lived on earth.

And that’s my problem.

I have no issue with being gay. Gay? OK! Hey, I’m the biggest Anthony Perkins fan going, and I can sympathize with the heartbreak men and women must have endured for years because their sexual orientation did not conform with a narrow, restrictive “norm”.

I hate norms. Absolutely hate ‘em. I can see why a gay man (and they’re mostly men, at least the most outrageous heel-strutter-makeup-plasterer-voice-swoopers) might want to just explode out of the closet and dance in a delirious frenzy of “look at me, everybody. I am OUT.”

 But one of my problems is, I wonder why these men are dressing the way they are. Call me naive, call me stupid, but I wonder. They look like no woman I have ever seen. They don’t even look like Vegas chorus girls or streetwalkers. I don’t know what they look like, truthfully, or why they need to dress, supposedly, like the “opposite sex”. And if they’re not dressing up as women, which I don’t think they are, then who are they dressing up as?

Some men feel a compulsion to wear women’s clothes: it makes them feel good, or, in some cases, gets them off. That’s fine with me, so long as they don’t borrow my pink cashmere sweater and stretch it out at the neck.

But even decked out in all the most flamboyant, extreme accoutrements of women (and I hope I spelled that right), they aren’t women, don’t even remotely resemble women. In my worst moments they strike me as awful, even contemptuous parodies of women, or at least their view of womanhood. These men are more feminine (or at least girlie-girl) than I am by a long shot, and I resent that.

OK, I get: that they are playing around with the trappings of conventional gender roles. That they are bending and twisting them this way and that. That they are perhaps making fun of the whole damn culture and its uptightness about anyone who's "different". I get all that.

I also think they're playing around with gay stereotypes, pushing them to their farthest limits and beyond, and glorying in them, which I can't help but think is pretty strange and even self-defeating(but I'll get back to that in a minute).

You know, these days it’s hard to get and hold a job. I think this explosion out of the closet into the land of garish tub-thumping might just be a black mark (or at least a gray one) on your resume. If Chuck in Human Relations is spotted on the TV news with fake plastic boobs plastered on his hairy chest, 9-inch heels, a spiked collar and a whip, mightn’t it cramp his chances for a promotion if his boss just isn’t into that sort of thing? I’m just sayin’.

Another point. Heteros don’t do this. OK, I know heteros are boring, boring, boring (or so my gay friends tell me), but there is no parallel, no Hetero Parade (Shame Parade?) with men in grey flannel suits and women in wool skirts and sensible shoes. No parallel in what we so laughingly call the “real” world. It’s a little strange to me. Of course it could be argued that these guys n’ gals need the exposure (pardon the expression) and the freedom that comes from sticking the thing that used to be so shame-based right in everybody’s face. (But I'll get to that, too.)

Another thing I notice, though. Boy, there are a lot of bandwagon-jumpers. All of a sudden everyone wants to get into the act. If you feel any misgivings, think any of it is silly or sickening (the disturbing sexual undertones of sadism, masochism, bondage and leather), you have to keep it to yourself. Hey, get out there and support Pride (not gay pride, any more. We don’t even need to say.) If you’re a politician, a mayor, a public figure of any kind, working in the media or anywhere else that’s visible, you just have to get on board because the Pride Parade is cool. It’s universally cool, all of it, even the stuff that makes your dinner stick in your throat.

I remember the riots in Detroit in 1968, dubbed Black Day in July in a Gordon Lightfoot song. Black Power was seething and bubbling away, and it needed to happen, the extremes needed to be there just so everyday people could begin to be recognized for who they were. Got it.

But if there were such a thing as a Black Pride yearly parade, and I don’t see one anywhere at this point, would they send up black stereotypes the way the Pride people seem to be sending up and playing with gay stereotypes?

Let’s see, we’d have little boys in overalls and straw hats and bare feet, (a.k.a. "pickaninnies"), large women in headscarfs mixing up pancake batter, white guys in blackface singing My Old Kentucky Home (“’tis springtime, the darkies are gay. . .” Oops, that’s mixing it up too much), big muscular men with chains around their ankles, and. . .

And watermelon galore. Plus a few pimps in white hats.

I’m sorry, but I don’t like the Pride Parade. It’s not fashionable to say it, but I think it’s a bunch of nonsense that only gives gay men a chance to dress up and act like flaming idiots. I see it as an uncomfortable mixture of narcissism and aggression. It’s in your face, and I don’t like having anything shoved in my face. Not watermelon, not grey flannel suits, not three-foot-high wigs and  heels that scrape the sky, and especially not some bizarre ideology that equates playing dressup with human rights and personal freedom.

Corgi Tetherball

News Flash: two corgis escape Buckingham Palace for sudden-death tetherball faceoff, with Kate in hot pursuit!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Phaedra: this should clear up the confusion!

Phaedra (mythology)From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaIn Greek mythology, Phaedra (Phaidra) is the daughter of Minos and Pasiphaë, wife of Theseus and the mother of Demophon of Athens and Acamas. Phaedra's name derives from the Greek word φαιδρός (phaidros), which meant "bright". Though married to Theseus, Phaedra fell in love with Hippolytus, Theseus' son born by either Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, or Antiope, her sister. Euripides placed this story twice on the Athenian stage, of which one version survives. According to some sources, Hippolytus had spurned Aphrodite to remain a steadfast and virginal devotee of Artemis, and Aphrodite made Phaedra fall in love with him as a punishment.[1] He rejected her. In one version, Phaedra's nurse told Hippolytus of her love, and he swore he would not reveal her as a source of information. In revenge, Phaedra wrote Theseus a letter that claimed Hippolytus raped her. Theseus believed her and cursed Hippolytus with one of the three curses he had received from Poseidon.[2] As a result, Hippolytus' horses were frightened by a sea monster and dragged their rider to his death. Alternatively, after Phaedra told Theseus that Hippolytus had raped her, Theseus killed his son and Phaedra committed suicide out of guilt for she had not intended for Hippolytus to die. Artemis later told Theseus the truth. In a third version, Phaedra simply told Theseus this and did not kill herself; Dionysus sent a wild bull which terrified Hippolytus' horses.

(That better? I thought so.)

Awful then, awful now

I don't know if it's brain damage from smoking too much nutmeg or what, but some poisoned synapse of my brain just released this from the dark dungeon of memory. It was one of those things I hoped I had only imagined, or just had a horrible dream about. When I found this video, I groaned with agonized delight: it was even worse than I thought! They'd done a video for this song in 1967, the music sounding sort of like a cross between a spaghetti Western and Romper Room.

Here's this guy talking about wanting to be straight (and hey, wouldn't Tony Perkins have done a good job here?), "straight" in the sense of being a non-druggy I guess, and rambling on about this mystical chick called Phaedra penetrating the great fortress of his heart, or something. He's on a horse, for Christ's sake, rambling around on beaches being Remote but Sensitive, a kind of dollar-store Neil Diamond (or Neil Zirconia?).

Then Nancy Sinatra, yes, THE Nancy Sinatra, the same Nancy Sinatra whose boots are made for walking, the same Nancy Sinatra who spent all that time in Shu-Shu-Shuuuh, Shu-Shu-Shuuuh, Shu-Shu-Shu-Shu-Shu-Shuuuh Sugartown, is here telling us about flo-o-o-o-owers, flo-o-o-o-o-wers e-e-e-e-e-ev'ry-whe-e-e-e-e-errrrre, how you can lo-o-o-o-k at them but do not touch, etc. etc. And in case we forget, she repeatedly tells us that Phaedra is her name.

So who's this Phaedra? I was just looking for clips of a movie by that name starring Tony Perkins and Melina Mercouri, one of the many films where he is paired with a man-eating monster. I guess I have to go get all mythical here and go on Wikipedia and see if this Phaedra stuff has any real Significance to it.
But until then, don't enjoy this video, it's too excruciating. But do appreciate the fact that it's a definite front-runner for the worst song ever written.

Bessie Smith My Kitchen Man

In the Great Kitchen/Handy Man Sweepstakes, who comes out on top? I think it's Bessie. Great as Ethel Waters is (and I saw her on Turner Classics last night in one of the very first movie musicals, singing Am I Blue), she's just a bit too much of a lady, with a dry, ironic delivery that removes her from the naughty/earthy subject matter.  Bessie is more of a force of nature, delivering the outrageously suggestive lyrics ("love the way he warms my chops") without a trace of apology.

I confess I haven't paid enough attention to Ethel Waters up until now: I only remember her wobbly late performances, a la Mahalia Jackson, when she had pretty much lost the vibrant, almost bell-like tone that made her singing so amazing. When she first came on the screen in this incomprehensible mess of a movie (called, un-originally, On with the Show), I had no idea who she was because she wasn't even listed in the credits, in spite of her two solo numbers. She even made the ludicrous ballad Birmingham Bertha seem credible, with a superb male quartet behind her.

I was surprised to see how many black performers were in this thing, providing its only really inspired moments. There was no discernable plot: it seemed like watered-down Showboat mixed in with some sort of hokey ghost story. At one point a whole lot of girl dancers came out in riding costumes and rode broomstick horses all around the stage, then all of a sudden real horses plunged out of the scenery, throwing one rider (on purpose, or not?). Calling Busby Berkeley! We need you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bambi: the real story (Part I)

If you've never read this, and most people haven't, be prepared for a shock. Felix Salten's masterpiece Bambi: A Life in the Woods was written in 1923. As a Hungarian Jew living in Austria (later to flee to the United States), he already felt the seismic trembling that foretold the rise of the Third Reich. At least, I think he did. Those deer, the dire conversations they have, are full of hopelessness and doom. Little Gobo vibrates like thin glass before an earthquake.

This ain't the Bambi you knew and loved. There isn't a character named Thumper, though Friend Hare and his family come to a very bad end. This is nature red in tooth and claw, but it's also the heartless greed and oppression of humans as they rape and plunder Eden, just as they always do. Suitable for small children? I wonder.