Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Here’s an illustration of why I’m glad I’m gay.

It was a collegiate women’s softball game maybe six months ago (or six years given my spongiform memory) that ended with a walk-off home run, or, at least the ball was hit over the fence.

But, fluke of flukes, the batter-baserunner tripped rounding first base and broke her leg—she was unable to continue rounding the bases as required to actually score the run.

The normal course would be that the injured player would be helped off the field and she would be called “out” and the run would not be scored. Within the rules there are only two ways she could score the run: by hobbling or crawling by herself and touching the bases, or, if there had been a runner on base ahead of her, that runner could have helped her around the bases.

The rules didn’t anticipate what actually happened: members of the opposing team carried the injured player around the bases so that her run would score.

This was touted in the news as an example of extraordinary sportsmanship, actually, “sportswomanship,” because men would never have considered the possibility of assisting an opponent in that way.

In my opinion the coach of the team that assisted their opponent should have been summarily fired: he or she failed to teach the basic goal of the game—to win.

I would be happy to argue this issue with another man. If I failed to convince, I’d dismiss the other guy as a pussy*.

But arguing this with a woman would be way dicier. Whenever a man and a woman argue there’s a chance that both are right, that there’s a male point of view and a female point of view.

At least that’s what a man who wants peace (or its homonym) must pretend.

There’s a whole lot of male cognitive dissonance that’s required for a successful heterosexual marriage.

Many men prefer the company of other men, only the sex thing draws them to women. It’s common these days to hear straight men say they wish they were gay, but they’re just not attracted to men.

So, when gay men insinuate that their relationships are “equal” to heterosexual marriages, it’s like George Bush saying that his wearing the uniform of the Texas Air National Guard was “equal” to seasick, seasoaked, scaredshitless soldiers storming Normandy.

As far as I’m concerned heterosexual men are real heroes, especially those who hang around to support and raise the kids, which in many cases are the women’s idea, and to accept the screeching dissonances of living with a member of the opposite sex.

BTW: I reluctantly voted against Proposition 8. I’d prefer an amendment establishing marriage for heterosexuals and domestic partnerships for everyone else, including heterosexuals who don’t want to get married, AND an amendment declaring that no tangible benefit of either status be denied the other.

That way, penis-in-vagina sex remains the only type of sexual activity that is explicitly approved by society, while everything else (adult, consensual blah blah) is allowed.

I think it’s too much to expect society to explicitly approve anal intercourse as equivalent to the kind of sex that has the potential for making babies.

The passage of Prop 8 was viewed by some as a setback for Gavin Newsom’s political ambitions. Good.

* “pussy” short for “pusillanimous (person)”

----- o -----

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I’ve been reading the Greek tragedies. This is my second time. One Christmas vacation during college I determined to read the complete Greek tragedies, which is less formidable than it sounds.

There are only twenty-nine of them extant, and they average maybe 1300 lines. Back then I got bogged down in Euripides and left two or three of his unread. The same thing is happening this time.

I told myself I’d read everything else before doing the Oresteia and the Oedipus cycle, but I couldn’t hack it and am now in the middle of the Eumenides.

Anyway, I’m impressed this time with the centrality of emotion in all the plays. There is never a dearth of “alas, I am ruined,” “woe is me,” “life is nothing but pain.”

We must accept our fate, i.e., death, but we are definitely not happy about it. How we go about dealing with anger and frustration creates our life stories, but in the long run we aren’t much different than goats being led to the sacrifice: we bleat then we bleed.

So, a couple weeks ago I’m driving to the tennis courts in Golden Gate Park for my usual morning session (poor me!) and I’m totally steamed about the bailout news—like, this guy Paulson is fucking me and I never said yes and he ain’t even my type.

The usual bicyclists were annoying but there were a couple of egregious near-death encounters with spandexers whipping through stop signs out of a blinding rising sun. Readers here know how pathetic I find the bicycle movement as an expression of left wing politics.

Why do these guys (and gals) risk their lives pitting their flimsy frames against evil death machines?

[Click picture for source.]

Looking at my own boiling rage I understood their need for physical confrontation. Young people (more than old people) yearn for it. Warfare, gang warfare, and individualized violence are the undesired forms of confrontation. Political action (which is basically the threat of warfare) is the alternative, and physical confrontation is part of it.

Civil rights in the fifties and sixties wasn’t about constitutional law, or some Marxist theory. It was about fire hoses, and police dogs, and martyrdom. The white kids (and not-so-youngs) who went south for Freedom Summer were in the same kind of peril that soldiers experience.

Similarly, the bicycle activists are putting their own lives on the line.

The felt need to confront, and if necessary die, seems better than suffering in silence and feeling like one will explode.

The evil perps in this country who deserve to be confronted have so well insulated themselves that the enemy, for bicyclists, has become anyone who drives a car.

Meanwhile Pelosi and Newsom and the building trade unionists will be spending more than a billion dollars on a three-stop subway that was cooked up as a payoff to Rose Pak for her support in some pissant political race, long forgotten.

This time through, my favorite play is Philoctetes, which is about political conniving. In it, Neoptolemus (son of Achilles) responds to Odysseus’ advice to employ deceit against the blameless man:

…I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating. …Do you not find it vile yourself, this lying?

Not if the lying brings our rescue with it.

How can a man not blush to say such things?

When one does something for gain, one need not blush.

BTW: It was Neoptolemus who eventually killed Priam, king of Troy. He also killed Astyanax, the infant son of Hector and subject of the “the most touching scene” in the Iliad.

----- o -----

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Rudolpho Austria organizes tennis matches for old folks at Golden Gate Park every morning of the year. It’s referred to as “Rudy’s Group.” It’s strictly volunteer and there’s no money involved except standard court fees. [email me for more info on Rudy's Group.]

Rudy, or “Rudolpho,” as he prefers, performs a service that we might expect of a playground director. Such services are called “programs.”

I once asked a playground director about the “programs” he was required to run. He said,
“Willie, my boss at Park Lodge doesn’t care about programs. I could conduct a hundred programs, or zero… my boss doesn’t care.”
Anyway, the upcoming economic depression will put increasing stress on the public health system. Out-of-work people tend to get depressed and have more physical illnesses.

One cheap solution would be increased recreational programs at our public parks. Instead of staying home consuming pork rinds and Oprah, the out-of-work could get out of the house, get some health-promoting exercise, and socialize with people like themselves.

The only difference between the out-of-work and the folks in Rudy’s Group is that Rudy’s Groupers are unemployed voluntarily.

I think this would be a terrific use of City resources. But it ain’t gonna happen. Why?

Because the Rec and Park employees who would actually do the programs will all be laid off. The remaining Park-Lodgers mostly suffer from a work related partial disability—fat assedness—which renders them unable leave their deskchairs (except for breaks.)

It’s just like City road repair crews, if you’ve ever seen them “at work”: there’s one guy digging in the ground, two guys watching the one guy dig, and two supervisors, who haven’t had a callous in twenty years, watching it all, “supervising.”

So, with the City budget cuts, which member of the road crew gets laid off?

Answer: The guy who actually does the digging. Those remaining now have an official excuse for doing nothing—staffing shortage.

Happy depression!

----- o -----

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Review: Island Song

Synopsis: A-Gay takes vay-cay to Hawaii, screws the flower of the big island’s youth (male), and turns some native shamanic mumbo jumbo into a worldwide pop-religion whose adherents pilgrimage to the source (and overrun the island).

Alan Chin's first novel, Island Song, (Zumaya Publications, 2008) is competently written, which puts it above Robert Ludlum and Cornell Woolrich junk. It seems a little too well written to fit in the (GLBT) trash-romance sub-genre where its publishers think it belongs. Here’s their blurb:

Two years after the death of his lover, Garrett Davidson sits in a Hawaiian beach shack, gazing out over the vast, empty Pacific. He has nothing left. Despair has robbed him of his elegant home, his lucrative job and his sanity. The single thread holding him to reality is the story he has come to this shack to write: Marc's story, the story of his lost love.

Then Songoree breezes into his life.

Songoree, a Hawaiian surfer and Garrett's new cook, is not gay, but he can't help being captivated by Garrett. He has always been attracted to broken things, like the crane with a broken wing he once mended and cared for. He is drawn to anything that reminds him of the broken image he has of himself. When he attempts to heal Garrett's spirit they become entwined in an extraordinary relationship.

The stakes are raised when Songoree's grandfather, a venerable Hawaiian kahuna, frees Garrett's mind from anguish by using ancient shamanic methods to induce altered states of awareness. Garrett and Songoree struggle to transcend their differences in age, race and life experiences. They soon discover that some of the islanders will stop at nothing to destroy their unique bond, while Songoree's grandfather is hell-bent on bringing them together to fulfill an ancient Polynesian prophesy. A clash of wills erupts between grandfather, grandson and hostile islanders, with Garrett caught in the middle fighting for his life and plunging headlong to a moment that will brutally test the boundaries of the human spirit.

Not that there’s anything beautiful about the writing. It’s all present tense. This gets annoying after awhile. Screenplays are written in all present tense, since they describe what’s happening on the screen. So, I figured, Island Song is a crypto-filmscript.

As a movie it makes total sense: attractive main characters, spectacular settings, shark attacks, frenzied luaus, fire walking (!), and plenty of mano-a-mano violence. Oh did I mention flashbacks to gay sex scenes.

So, what is 275-page Island Song after we subtract the 102-page screenplay? Description. Lots and lots of description. Lots of colors and smells e.g. there are many verbs specifying exactly how particular smells combine.

Lots of meal menus. Lots of physical sensations.

None of the description seems to have any purpose, no particular meaning. The description of sunlight sifting through green fronds is no more or less important than the description of the protagonist’s nervous system as he walks on burning coals.

Nothing makes the reader sympathize or identify with the main characters, Barrett Davidson, an ex-Navy Seal white gay guy from San Francisco, and Songeree (no last name) a Hawaiian youth who is heir to a fading shamanic tradition.

Does the white guy have an interesting story? Not really. Does he ever have an interesting thought? If so, they’re not recorded in this novel. Does he have any interesting aspirations? No. Does he look good in a tuxedo in the flashback to his now dead boyfriend’s art opening? He looks great.

And so does Songeree. Besides being a dutiful student of his shaman-grandfather, Song is a pillar of his family. He’s a great hula dancer who loves to strip down to his loincloth and wriggle for an audience. Plus, he’s a surfer who hangs with his regular-guy small village contemporaries (who don’t like the idea that some rich haole foj wants to fuck their pretty-boy compadre).

Song is not only beautiful, and servile, he has (supposed) deep understanding which he shares with Garrett. There’s nothing particularly interesting about the mystical knowledge Song has inherited, at least not as reported in the novel, except it seems to be heavy on warrior-spirit stuff, Earnest Hemingway stuff, for instance the fire walking.

So, Chin gives us nothing in the religion to root for.

The eventual mating of Garrett and Song is opposed (violently – Chin’s writing comes alive in the Hollywood-perfect fistfight scenes) by the local youth-trash, so I guess we’re rooting for the gay guys.

The gay guys win. Plus, the book Garrett writes to promote Grandfather’s shamanic delusions (wisdom) becomes the hottest thing since Dianetics.

And they all live happily ever after, in their alternate versions of Architecture Digest and Gourmet magazine, all simple yet elegant.

Do we care? Not at all. And that seems to be the (extremely) subtle point. In a world devoid of meaning, does it really matter who is and isn’t successful? Do we care which Roman emperors were gay?

The satire is so deadpan it might be missed entirely. For instance, in the dénouement, Song and Garrett take a rich guy on a fishing daytrip (that’s their new business) and after the rich guy’s three hour aneurism-popping (almost) fight with a magnificent sailfish, Song cuts the fish loose. He explains to the irate rich guy that in the struggle he and the fish became one, that the rich guy actually experienced love with the fish.

This completely assuages the rich guy and seems to give him some deep insight or peace of mind or something. This crap supposedly exemplifies the religion that is taking the world, and the island, by storm: you can love a fish by making it fight for its life.

Alan Chin gives us only two little hints that he doesn’t necessarily endorse the happy ending.

The book begins with a quotation from Buddhist scripture about happiness and geography, cautioning against the thought that one place is happier than another.

Then, at the end of the fishing trip day, the book ends with Garrett writing in his journal:

But he has a nagging feeling there was something frightening about today. He searches his feeling the way Songoree taught him to do, but he can’t quite see it. He has the vague feeling it has to do with life being out of control, and he’s reminded of the poem Grandfather once quoted, the one about the falling leaf showing front then showing back.

The hell with it, he decides.

There is something frightening about every day. Sleep well and pick up the rhythm of your life in the morning, make love to your man again, go to town and pickup your son, and do what you can to make them as happy as they were today.

To summarize, Island Song is a subtle critique of materialism, taking on not the worst of it but, ostensibly, the best. It seems aimed at people who would never read “The Stranger,” yet it imparts the same sense of pervasive emptiness.

Coming soon (I predict) to a theater near you. It could even spark a spate of Gay-Buddhist-vigilante movies.
----- o -----


For me the most touching reports about Obama’s victorious campaign regard generational interactions. Who knows how true, but we heard many anecdotes of old folks voting for Obama because their kids were so adamant that they do.

As Chris Matthews said, “The parents and grandparents sacrifice to send their kids to college, so they must think a college education is important. So when their kids, who went, or are going to college, ask them to vote for Obama, the old folks listen.”

It makes sense, the kids will be paying the price for Obama’s decisions, the old folks have already enjoyed a standard of living that won’t be seen again for many generations.

In the 1960’s we heard a lot about “gaps.” Much of the 1960 presidential campaign concerned the “missile gap” between the US and USSR. Kennedy was the hawk. He contended that during the previous eight years of Eisenhower/Nixon, the Russians had deployed more ICBMs than had the US. This was total bullshit, and Nixon had the (secret) U2 photos to prove it, but Kennedy knew Nixon couldn’t reveal such.

Anyway, among the various gaps was the “generation gap,” between boomers and their parents, The parents had survived the Great Depression and World War II. The boomers were surviving, well, large class sizes.

My dad was 44 when I was born so he was 60 when I got my drivers license. My favorite toys, as a kid, were cars, I paid close attention to my dad’s driving and asked a lot of questions, so I was ready for my license years in advance. My 16th birthday fell on a Saturday, so I had to wait till Monday for my driving test, which I aced without question, having prepared my entire life for it.

[Click on image for source.]

Of course I was wild to drive, and I was surprised how much my dad let me. Things like going to the store, or church, or even longer family trips, my dad was happy to let me drive.

Having reached 60 myself, I understand why. My dad glad to have a competent kid take over a task which for him had grown less and less fun. These days I’m always happy to let someone else drive.

So when a really competent young guy says he WANTS to govern, some of us are more than happy to let him have a try.

I had predicted a McCain victory that would follow an apocalyptic trajectory, the question being “Do we pay off our foreign debt, or do we go to war with our creditors?” I thought for sure Americans would opt for survival of the fittest.

By simple calculation, our ten trillion dollar debt divided by three hundred thirty million Americans equals $30,000.00 per person, $120,000.00 for a family of four.

McCain’s ilk could argue that much of America’s national debt was incurred in furtherance of our role as protector of international order since World War II, and that the rest of the free world should indemnify us, i.e, forgive us our debt.

It wouldn’t even be a forgiveness of debt. We could prepare invoices to other countries for their previously unbilled debt to us, and enter our borrowings from them as “payments on account.” While our foreign debt is only part of the overall, we can charge other countries for the whole ten trillion, because, whatever America was spending, it was all about protecting the world.

This has a kind of Hitlerian ring to it, which will sound better and better as we slog through years of depression.

It looks like, for the short term, Obama wants to borrow more, with no repayment plan except a belief in never ending growth. If America will eventually renege on our foreign debt, then we might as well max-out all our credit cards first. The change promised by Barack wasn't regarding direction, but rather a somewhat slower rate of acceleration toward World War III.

For me, the honeymoon is already over.

Even a slave labor camp, populated by innocent political prisoners, can have better or worse management. The inmates might indeed rejoice when a new commandant is installed. The old commandant was terrible, and the incoming commandant has promised to increase daily rations from "slow-starvation" to "slightly-slower-starvation."

An improvement?

----- o -----

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


The little American boy asks the little French girl, “Would you like a ride in my new red wagon?”

“Oui, oui,” the little French girl responds enthusiastically.

“Not in my wagon you don’t,” the little boy says.

Speaking of which. What kind of toilet facilities are provided for voters who must wait in hours-long lines? This is a horrible scandal.

Polling officials cannot impose any additional requirements or tests for voting beyond those defined in state constitutions, and those cannot be discriminatory. Clearly, a four hour line imposes a test of physical stamina as a requirement for voting.

I have voted only in San Francisco, and only once in a precinct other than the one I grew up in and currently occupy. I always vote. Only once have I encountered any wait at all, and that was maybe five minutes tops.

Today was typical, with election workers outnumbering voters. It might be stereotyping, but they always put two young asian student types doing the sign-in paper work.

This amiable gentleman’s job was to help feed the marked ballot into the optical scanner.

This man seemed to be a supervisor, who dropped by to make sure everything was going ok.

The lady in the background was voting before I arrived (I pride myself on speed), and the lady with babe in arms was just signing in. Five poll workers (one not shown), three voters.

If San Francisco can do it, what’s Virginia’s problem? Or Ohio's?

----- o -----

Monday, November 03, 2008


This morning Michelle Obama speaking to a crowd in Nevada issued the usual praise for the young volunteers with their tremendous enthusiasm.

Then she addressed at length the “not so young” volunteers, praising their focus and determination. And tenacity

Mrs Obama said she’s never felt a grip stronger than that of a ninety year old who won’t let go her arm until she gets their picture snapped. She was completely uninhibited in talking about old folks, none of that “eighty-years-young” crap.

Of all the people appearing on the tv screen in connection with the presidential campaign Michelle Obama has been the most appealing.

She’s very smart and she’s down to earth. Her kids seem pretty normal. What a great first lady she will make.

Michelle is obviously more gifted than is Sarah Palin in just about any regard, except maybe hair.

Michelle will do her damnedest to see that neither of her daughters gets knocked up prior to high school graduation.

Imagine a discussion, about almost anything, between Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin. Then imagine Sarah Palin talking to Vladimir Putin.

With a wife like Michelle, Barack can’t be all bad. So I guess I’ll vote for Obama.

I feel strongly that McCain will pull it out. Too many Americans have a “fuck it” attitude. They support McCain’s commitment, couched as a joke, to bomb Iran. It’s not the anti-black, it’s the anti-rational that survey-ees won’t admit to pollsters.

Sarah Palin, in her first few appearances used “American exceptionalism,” as a slogan. She thinks our country is exceptional. For instance, in her recent energy-policy speeches she mentions the great energy resources that God has given to the United States, as if indicating divine favor.

God, she failed to extrapolate, must really love Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Columbia, and of course, Russia.

It’s moronic and irrational. Exceptionalism is an example of magical thinking, the kind of thinking that said we’d be greeted as liberators. Or that maybe America could actually survive a nuclear war, with God’s protection. It could even be good for business.

----- o -----

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Four years ago I was staying in Ventura, CA, providing homecare for my newly bedridden mother.

The call had come ten days earlier that she was in the hospital with a condition that would kill her within a day or two. When I arrived at her bedside my mom was dictating her voting choices to my cousin, Barbara.

Barbara was quite amused that my mom’s greatest concern was to get her absentee ballot filled out and mailed before her demise. By my mom’s way of thinking, if she had only one minute left to live, she’d use it to vote against George Bush.

It turned out that my mom lived another seven weeks, during which she had to witness Bush’ reelection.

So I was thinking about death and politics, and I had an epiphany about democracy.

Of course, there were reports of voting irregularities, and I found the reports disturbing. Efforts to suppress voter turnout, or to expunge qualified voters from the rolls, or stuffing ballot boxes, or hacking touchscreen results, all are attacks on democracy, or so it seemed.

The essence of democracy, or so I thought, was that people affected get to vote. The vote is sacred, and to be respected as thoroughly as manners at a Garden Society tea. People who suppress votes, or send crappy machines to black neighborhoods, I reasoned, really don’t believe in democracy, all they believe in is winning.

And, I had to admit, the skullduggery wasn’t particular to any party. The Kennedy victory was corrupt as hell. Kennedy was succeeded by “landslide Lyndon” whose first election to public office was made possible by the discovery of a “lost” ballot box, the contents of which changed the outcome.

Even saintly (ahem) Bill Moyers apparently committed numerous serious felonies when he and Lyndon Johnson had J. Edgar Hoover (blackmail was his game) dig up dirt on Barry Goldwater operatives prior to the 1964 presidential race. This was, at the very least, theft of government services and conspiracy to do so.

I’ve always felt queasy about Moyers. As a confidant of LBJ’s Moyers hasn’t come clean on the JFK assassination, which propelled LBJ’s career and as a result, Moyers’ own. Moyers certainly has Vietnamese blood on his hands.

There’s no statute of limitation on murder. Hoover was criminally liable, at least after the fact. What was Moyers’ role in the cover-up?

Anyway, politics, whether in democracies or otherwise, is not a Garden Society tea. Humans have long been willing to kill for power, so lesser offenses shouldn’t surprise. The USA is likely no better or worse.

My insight, coming strangely in the heightened state of waiting for a loved one’s imminent death, is that democracy isn’t about process and procedure, it’s about dramatis personae. It’s about who gets to participate in the skullduggery.

In America, anyone with ambition and smarts can get involved in the corruption and intrigue. In other societies participation in government is limited to a subset of the population.

Here it’s possible for the likes of Sarah Pallin to occupy the oval office, if not wield actual power.

And Bill Moyers, a poor kid from Oklahoma, certainly went far.

----- o -----