Sunday, December 31, 2006

Two More Movies of Note for 2006

Netflix is a great invention. I see a lot more movies than I used to. Ron and I saw a couple of movies last week that I wanted to mention here.

Little Miss Sunshine is a great roadtrip from hell movie. It also has a high ick factor when it comes to tiny beauty princesses and foul-mouthed grandpas. As the trailer says, it puts the fun back into dysfunctional family. Let's just say the movie captures new-age affirmations, teenage angst, and old-age libertarianism. Grandpa is Sophia on steroids. Be very afraid. If you like Miss America pageants, you'll love the last twenty minutes of this movie, guaranteed.

A Scanner Darkly is a more sobering, animated tale. Philip K. Dick's short story comes to life in Anaheim seven years in the future. I've never read the short story, but the film is tight, ambiguous, addled, dystopic, in short a good flick on a Saturday night. The strangeness of the animation fits the strangeness of the story. Keanu Reeves isn't quite so wooden. The film has a high creepiness factor, and was probably filmed at the NSA, at least the technology would lead a drug-addled paranoid junky to think that.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


I read a piece on in its On Belief forum. A panelist wrote why he believed in God, and basically why the rest of us were going to burn. Of course, his God was the Christian God, so I guess, even more of us are going to burn. Well, many, many people jumped on his case, including some Christians. A few, very few, came to his defense. Most of the comments remarked about the panelist's simplistic argument. Lots of smoke on the computer screen, here.

For me, it comes back to being able to distinguish factual phenomena from unverified (or unverifiable) belief statements. I think that the human brain is wired to conflate the two, because most people (including about 93% of Americans) don't make much of a distinction. The argument is something like this: I believe (with all my heart) that God is real; therefore, God is real.

For example, President Bush says he talks with God, and God talks with him. Nobody questions that conversation, its reality. On the other hand, if President Bush said that he had conversations with little green men from Jupiter (and said it with conviction), you can bet that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid would be dusting off the 25th Amendment. Yet, factually, both statements are equivalent. President Bush is holding conversations with an unseen, unverifiable, unknown entity, and nobody seems to care.

Faith is a problem. It prevents a further search for factual truth. Often in public policy it trumps truth. For example, sex education is deemed immoral because it might cause teenagers to have pre-marital sex. That's all based on belief: our major religions condemn pre-marital sex (because God condemns fornication and adultery); therefore, sex education is wrong. Issues like abortion, gay rights, stem cell research are cast as moral problems, and the factual issues around them are not examined because people's minds are already closed.

What's a homo to do? I find that public policy is lurching to a theater of the absurd. And because I'm a homo, I'm part of the show. I'm really tired of playing my part. And I'm really tired of being accused of being incapable of having a moral and ethical sense because I'm not Christian or religious. I'm tired of being told I'm immoral because I am gay and certainly act on that. The world is crazy.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Masturbation 43 Years Later

I began masturbating when I was 12. I discovered it quite accidentally, and have not looked back since. Back when I was 12, I could hardly keep my mind off my penis, and I find, today, it's still a huge distraction.

Do other men have this problem? Do other 55-year old men beat it on a regular, nearly daily basis? See, I don't know, because sex is something that people don't talk about, usually not with their spouses, their best friends, and especially their co-workers. So I don't know if my callus-inducing behavior falls within one standard deviation of normal. I kind of doubt it. But I'm putting it out there to the rest of the world to find out.

Sometimes after Ron and I (or probably Tim and I) have had sex, we'll get into this discussion. One of those boys is pretty right down the middle, and the other is wild and crazy. Me, I'm just crazed through and through, and I worry about finding an old-age home when incontinence and senility catch up with me. I can't imagine my life without my hand around my penis, and that's a pretty strong sentiment, instinctual fumblings when I'm an old man, but ready to be expressed. I worry about that. I worry about me in an old-age home.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

It's Christmas Eve, and I Should be Studying Portuguese

But I'm not. No, I'm writing in this blog, because, well, a trivial life well lived is still a trivial life. Like most bloggers, even gay bloggers, life is pretty lame most of the time. I think we're genetically designed that way because the continuous excitement of an epinephrine-induced state of angst, excitement, or flight would just get in the way of a contented lifestyle.

Some bits and pieces: Tim and I spent last weekend at the Woodley Park Omni Shoreham in downtown DC, enjoying a weekend in the city. The hotel was offering a "Spain Package," and since Tim didn't get to go to Spain with us, it seemed the right thing to do. The hotel chef gave a two-hour cooking school, and the package came with an overnight stay, an amenity (wine and cheese), dinner, and breakfast. No complaints here. If it has food, I'm in line.

The cooking school was a little odd. The chef, Jon Dornbusch, knew how to cook, but wasn't particularly informed about Spanish cheeses or wines. That's probably okay, because other information filled in the gap. Of course, it didn't hurt that I'd just gotten back from Spain, and actually knew something about Spanish cheeses and wines. The school was fun, and I enjoyed eating the food, particularly the genuine jamón, imported from Castilla y León.

You might want to check out the Omni-Shoreham, anyway. It's one of DC's grand hotels, not as grand as the Mayflower, but a very nice pile of bricks in its own. We had a very nice room with a view of Rock Creek Park, as well as the Naval Observatory. We didn't see any black heliocopters flying over that vice-presidential undisclosed location. The hotel is huge with lots of nooks and crannies to hang out in. Take the nature walk for birdwatchers behind the hotel. Even at this time of year, you can see a lot of feathers. The hotel has more ballrooms, meeting facilities, and strange little passageways than most small European countries.

The neighborhood: Check out New Heights Restaurant across the street on Calvert. We had a very nice dinner, New American cuisine. I had Sea Bass, and it was delicious. After opening the front door, go up the stairs. Yes, they really are serving dinner up there. The decor features paintings for sale, bright colors, and a little attitude. The service was okay, neither fussy nor fast. Expect a leisurely meal. The menu changes regularly.

For coffee, breakfast, or more, check out Open City which is across the street and New Heights neighbor. It's full of neighborhood types, and only made us want to move into the neighborhood. The coffee comes in very large cups, the wait staff are very friendly, indeed, the prices are right, and the food is all-American diner. You can't beat this for a Saturday morning wakeup!

So that was my weekend.

Neither Ron nor I are avid Christmas celebration agents. But, I went out and rounded up friends and others who needed a dinner on the day that all restaurants except Indian and Chinese close. It's going to be a low-key affair with the traditional turkey dinner, plus whatever anyone brings. No gift exchanges or anything like that. In our 23 years, Ron and I have never had a tree. Sometimes I think I'd like to do the holiday up big, but the thought gets a little more punishing each year. Either you have the decorating gene, or you don't.

Finally, my wishes for the season: I wish all my kids and grandkids a special day of laughter and innocent joy. I wish that the family that our work group adopted for Christmas has a holiday that matches its dreams. I wish that the Prince of Peace would usher in an era of peace. We are so deaf to the messages of tolerance and love. The whole world is so deaf. But I continue to hope for it. Finally, I hope that my families by birth and by choice grow in love, understanding, and joy, and that they always have every needful thing. I'm truly blessed with all of them.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My Daughter Sent Me a Christmas Letter

Yesterday, I received a letter from my daughter, Mary. She enclosed a picture of her family, her husband, herself, and her three boys and a girl. The portrait evokes youth, confidence, and happiness. It almost brings tears to my eyes. This family is so beautiful - Mary, Joseph, and their four angels.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Gay Ethics

I'd hazard a guess that some people would think gay ethics an oxymoron, or something similar. I've just finished the Very Short Introduction to Buddhist Ethics. It's a very interesting, and for me, thought-provoking book. I am concerned about my personal behavior. I am concerned about my actions in my world. I believe my intentions count and that my actions mean something, if not intrinsically, then intentionally.

In the course of the book, I discovered that I'm not utilitarian or deontological. I base my behavior on intentions and rules, not on results. At least the book gave labels to what I do, and it provided a framework in which to fit my values. I discovered that I'm not a Buddhist. This is probably to everyone's relief.

What was interesting in the book is to see how people with very different perspectives on ethics could end up taking similar positions on moral and ethical issues. The book was a good read. It will spur some more thinking on my part.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Twenty-five Years and Counting

This past week was International AIDS Day. Millions have HIV, millions have died, and millions don't know they are infected. I've somehow avoided getting infected since the world first became aware of the disease in the early 1980s, but I think early on that was just dumb luck. What scares and fascinates me is that people still sero-convert, I mean gay men my age who have lived through this so far still sero-convert. Their sero-conversion scares me because I know it can happen to me, and it fascinates me because the story of how they sero-converted is rarely told.

I think their stories need to be told. The problem with safer sex is that many of us act as if it means "safe" sex, and each of us carries around in our head our own definition of safe. Safer is not risk-free, and so knowing how men sero-convert is important because we can begin to learn what we collectively think safer means. We can begin to quantitatively and qualitatively evaluate what safe is and what risk is.

Safer for most of us falls within the range of masturbation and taking a load up the butt. Between those two points also lays "risky" and "pleasure" and "I guess I can do it just this once." The realm of safer sex is relative. Safer sex demands that men balance behavior and lust, that we act rationally without all the facts, or that we abstain. In moments of anger, or shame, or ignorance, misjudgments occur. Condoms break. Or the canker sore gets overlooked during the blow job.

In the meantime, twenty-five years and counting, the research has not been done, and men having sex with other men continue to sero-convert.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Another Gay Movie

Ah, the joys of popular gay culture. Ron, Perry, and I watched Another Gay Movie last night. It's not great art, but it's lots of fun, if you aren't looking for any content.

Actually, it presents a pretty radical view of gay life - no fuss about being gay, no qualms about having sex, just a lot of trouble getting to that point. Of course, it had its poignant moments, its piggy moments, and its improbable moments. I recommend this movie to just about everyone, except my Mom. I'd have to answer too many questions.