Saturday, July 28, 2007


I'm not a critic. I took a course in graduate school (Illinois State University, 1976) in communication criticism. I enjoyed the class as much as I feared the professor. He sought to give us the tools with which to think about communication and the media. It was a memorable class.

I learned an important principle in that course. Opinion is more than just, "because I think so." Professor Cragan sought to tease out our opinions, and to help us understand what they were and why we held them. In short, we're all critics; we just don't know it.

I don't like today's media circus. I can hardly stand to watch a talk show, or Bill O'Reilly, or any "news" show on Sunday. Talking heads have become shouting heads, and no one offers evidence anymore. Opinion has been reduced to the quick quip, the ad hominem attack, and the guilt by association stain. Reasoned analysis is pretty much gone from the news.

I'm frustrated by this trend. America faces important challenges in Iraq, the Middle East, and in its relationship with the European Union and Russia. We have a health delivery crisis at home with 43 million people with no medical insurance. Hunger and poverty are at home in our cities and in many rural areas. There is a wide gulf between our political institutions and the people they were meant to serve.

These problems are poisoned with a political rhetoric that separates people by religious belief and personal values. Such a belief-based rhetoric makes it impossible to find common ground on very pressing social issues because the necessary compromises that must take place can't. Coalition partners, experts, and politicians are all subject to religious and political litmus tests that prevent elected leaders from effectively working together.

I blame it on a biased media. I blame it on a populace that can't think critically about issues. I blame it on politicians who base their positions on poll results rather than coherent political and moral principles. I'm ready for some fundamental change, because the current direction is a dead end.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I'm Retiring

So, one of these days, I'll have to change the catchy text at the top of this blog, because I'll no longer be a product manager. Truth be told, I'm not doing that anymore, either.

Last Friday, Ron and I went to talk to the Glitter Twins, our finance guys. I thought the talk was going to be about whether I should accept my company's buyout offer. Wrong! Instead, JK had prepared a payout schedule, telling us how much we could spend in our golden years, beginning in 2008.

I obviously didn't get it. I asked him about the package, and he said, "Oh, we're way past that." And then, "These projections are based on Ron's porfolio, only." Hmmm, chump change here. Talk about feeling like the dependent wifey. All kinds of visions (some of them not very happy) flew through my head.

I'm getting over that, though. I'm thinking I'm very fortunate to be retiring relatively young and in good health. I have a man who loves me, and I love him. Our house is paid off. Maybe this retirement thing won't be so bad after all.

And then one of the other people in the office who also got the company package came by my desk yesterday, and offered me a job for when I retire. So now I have even more choices.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I'm in Hell

All I want to do is install Norton Internet Security 2007. That's all, nothing fancy, just install it. But I can't. So I'm now on a live chat with a technician somewhere in the Indian Sub-continent. I'm being escalated from analyst to analyst. I'm always answering the same questions. I probably brought this on myself. I never should have purchased a computer. I could be cooking dinner in my kitchen instead, but I'm here, waiting for Vijayaraja. He's telling me to run an uninstall program that I've already run. It will be the third time that I've tried to install the program. I'm more than mildly annoyed that Symantec and Norton would sell this kind of product, and punish the people that buy their software.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I'm on a Diet, Again

Like Oprah, I like food too much. She makes a lot of money and publicity off of her plight. I just suffer silently. Actually, I don't suffer at all. I just eat too much. I was discussing this with Tim, how I get OC about certain food "rituals." I know that I'm out of control, but am completely in the thrall of it, and I usually can't stop until the food is all gone. This is a little disturbing to me.

And like some other gay men that I know, I have body issues, too. I see myself as a fat guy. If you saw me, you'd probably laugh, because I'm not fat, but I can tell you where every little jiggle is on my body, and I feel fat. This usually is not a serious problem. I am immune to eating disorders because eating is my second most favorite activity. On the other hand, it makes dieting problematic.

So I'm cutting out sweets and starches, I'm ramping up the veggies, and I'm trying to be a little moderate at the dinner table. Tim's secret weakness is cashews. My secret weakness is food. I just have to learn to manage my mania.

All of my boyfriends know, you never want to interrupt me when I'm eating. It can get ugly.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gay Camping

I just got back from a week at Camp Ramblewood, just outside of Havre de Grace, Maryland. My partner, Ron, and I attended the 13th IMEN Gathering. That's International Men Enjoying Naturism. Yes, we were in the buff, along with 170 other guys. So, you might ask, what do you do in the woods with 170 naked gay guys? The quick answer to that is that Ron gave a lot of massages, and I had a lot of heart-to-heart conversations with other guys.

Camp Ramblewood is a beautiful place to spend a week. We stayed in the Bates Motel, but that is no comment on the quality of the facilities. Food is definitely camp. It won't win any awards, but nobody got food poisoning, either.

The gathering featured lots of activities: lots of camper-lead discussions, heart circles, movies, massage, socializing around the swimming pool, cocktail parties, ice cream socials, disco, and (of course) square dancing.

For me, the wonderful thread that ran through the gathering was long, heartfelt conversations that I had with a number of men. They all had stories, and it confirms my sense that all of us have a unique vision, and a unique tale to tell. The wonderful part of it was that I heard their stories. Brokeback Mountain meets Birdcage.

Oh, there was sex, too. I wouldn't have wanted that any other way. It was pretty low-key. I met an older couple who acted like pubescent teenagers, and it gives me hope for my old age. I hope I can act like they did.

Friday, July 6, 2007

After Sex

After sex, for whatever reason, I feel very proud of myself, like, "Look, Mom, look what I did!" I don't know why I should feel this way. I mean, it's not like I've discovered Uranus or performed brain surgery. I'm not sure whether this feeling is mine alone, but after many years of having sex I still get the feeling, like, I'm the first person who's ever done this. I guess it's kind of like new parents thinking that their baby is special or something.

Meeting another guy in that intimate place of sex is the closest connection I ever make to another human being. It's a literal connection, a physical connection, and many times a loving and brotherly connection. I'm amazed every time it happens, and each time is a rediscovery of self with other. Maybe it's just hormones, but even in the wildest or nastiest sex, it has the potential to move me spiritually to a closer place with my partner. And most times, it does.

So maybe I should feel proud of myself, not because I discovered sex, but because I discovered its spiritual consequence after sex.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Looking Death in the Face

A friend of mine died in March, and I recently attended a memorial for him. Here is where the empiricist in me is at war with the believer. I see no evidence anywhere of life after death. But it was interesting, at the memorial, everyone claimed that my friend was present, and everyone noted how they felt my friend's presence. Even I felt it.

I'm pretty sure what I felt, though, is the familiar emotional tie that I had with my friend and that he had with the many people whose lives he had touched. We all wanted to believe that he was there with us, because we loved him so much, and because we miss him, too.

So what if life ends? What if nothing happens after death? Is that a problem for the person who died, or for those who are left behind? The older I get, the more convinced I am that death is not a problem for the person who died. I have enough aches and pains, and I have seen enough people die some pretty awful deaths that life certainly had nothing to offer them.

I went to their remembrances, too, and indeed, everyone present claimed that the deceased was present, too. Are we deceiving ourselves? Do the living need to believe that the dead are with them - alive, but not alive, and certainly not dead?

No, I think the after life is for the living. I think death is for the dead, who are freed from their suffering, indeed freed from life, itself. The dead have no needs, no pains, no desires, no taxes.

As far as life after death, I've seen no evidence. No one can tell me what the soul is that survives death. No one can show me empirical evidence or proof of an after life. Certainly among religious practitioners, the after life comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. It has little consistency across faiths, and an alarming inconsistency within different faith traditions. So I remain skeptical and unbelieving.

That doesn't mean that I don't want to believe in a meaningful existence after death. Maybe life goes on in a parallel universe. Maybe life continues in a sublime, magisterial place where souls plays harps endlessly, and their robes never get wrinkled. Maybe our post-existence is a meme virus that lives on among the living, long after we have decayed to dust from which we sprang.

Warren, What a Dance

I was at a square dance on Saturday night to remember our club's square dance caller, Warren Jaquith. Warren died last March of a massive stroke doing what he loved, teaching a square dance class.

Warren's loss is quite evident, from the hole it's made in the club's dance schedule to the moments on the dance floor when you think it's a "Warren moment," but Warren isn't there.

So on Saturday, almost a hundred people gathered in a school gym in Takoma Park, Maryland to remember Warren, but more importantly, to square dance and have a party, because that's exactly what Warren would expect us to do on the last Saturday night in June. So we did.

Warren's Dance Party, Downtown
Warren's Dance Party, Downtown

We had a wonderful party, too. Barry coordinated the food. Nick took care of the door. Larry made sure that every last detail was set. Tom came with Warren's brother, cousins, and partners in tow, and several square dancers who knew Warren many, many years ago came to remember Warren's gentle humor, broad smile, and love of square dancing.

They all said, Warren, that you were there. Your cousin, or maybe it was Tom, mentioned that you were out in the hallway, somewhere, drinking a very dry gin martini. And I don't doubt that at all. Thanks for a wonderful evening. Thanks for everything. It was just like downtown.