Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows

By Jack Santino

Halloween had its beginnings in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead. The Celtic peoples, who were once found all over Europe, divided the year by four major holidays. According to their calendar, the year began on a day corresponding to November 1st on our present calendar. The date marked the beginning of winter. Since they were pastoral people, it was a time when cattle and sheep had to be moved to closer pastures and all livestock had to be secured for the winter months. Crops were harvested and stored. The date marked both an ending and a beginning in an eternal cycle.
The festival observed at this time was called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween). It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables. They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living. On that day all manner of beings were abroad: ghosts, fairies, and demons--all part of the dark and dread.
Samhain became the Halloween we are familiar with when Christian missionaries attempted to change the religious practices of the Celtic people. In the early centuries of the first millennium A.D., before missionaries such as St. Patrick and St. Columcille converted them to Christianity, the Celts practiced an elaborate religion through their priestly caste, the Druids, who were priests, poets, scientists and scholars all at once. As religious leaders, ritual specialists, and bearers of learning, the Druids were not unlike the very missionaries and monks who were to Christianize their people and brand them evil devil worshippers.
As a result of their efforts to wipe out "pagan" holidays, such as Samhain, the Christians succeeded in effecting major transformations in it. In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory the First issued a now famous edict to his missionaries concerning the native beliefs and customs of the peoples he hoped to convert. Rather than try to obliterate native peoples' customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them: if a group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship.
In terms of spreading Christianity, this was a brilliant concept and it became a basic approach used in Catholic missionary work. Church holy days were purposely set to coincide with native holy days. Christmas, for instance, was assigned the arbitrary date of December 25th because it corresponded with the mid-winter celebration of many peoples. Likewise, St. John's Day was set on the summer solstice.
Samhain, with its emphasis on the supernatural, was decidedly pagan. While missionaries identified their holy days with those observed by the Celts, they branded the earlier religion's supernatural deities as evil, and associated them with the devil. As representatives of the rival religion, Druids were considered evil worshippers of devilish or demonic gods and spirits. The Celtic underworld inevitably became identified with the Christian Hell.
The effects of this policy were to diminish but not totally eradicate the beliefs in the traditional gods. Celtic belief in supernatural creatures persisted, while the church made deliberate attempts to define them as being not merely dangerous, but malicious. Followers of the old religion went into hiding and were branded as witches.
The Christian feast of All Saints was assigned to November 1st. The day honored every Christian saint, especially those that did not otherwise have a special day devoted to them. This feast day was meant to substitute for Samhain, to draw the devotion of the Celtic peoples, and, finally, to replace it forever. That did not happen, but the traditional Celtic deities diminished in status, becoming fairies or leprechauns of more recent traditions.
The old beliefs associated with Samhain never died out entirely. The powerful symbolism of the traveling dead was too strong, and perhaps too basic to the human psyche, to be satisfied with the new, more abstract Catholic feast honoring saints. Recognizing that something that would subsume the original energy of Samhain was necessary, the church tried again to supplant it with a Christian feast day in the 9th century. This time it established November 2nd as All Souls Day--a day when the living prayed for the souls of all the dead. But, once again, the practice of retaining traditional customs while attempting to redefine them had a sustaining effect: the traditional beliefs and customs lived on, in new guises.
All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallows (hallowed means sanctified or holy), continued the ancient Celtic traditions. The evening prior to the day was the time of the most intense activity, both human and supernatural. People continued to celebrate All Hallows Eve as a time of the wandering dead, but the supernatural beings were now thought to be evil. The folk continued to propitiate those spirits (and their masked impersonators) by setting out gifts of food and drink. Subsequently, All Hallows Eve became Hallow Evening, which became Hallowe'en--an ancient Celtic, pre-Christian New Year's Day in contemporary dress.
Many supernatural creatures became associated with All Hallows. In Ireland fairies were numbered among the legendary creatures who roamed on Halloween. An old folk ballad called "Allison Gross" tells the story of how the fairy queen saved a man from a witch's spell on Halloween.
O Allison Gross, that lives in yon tower
the ugliest witch int he North Country...
She's turned me into an ugly worm
and gard me toddle around a tree...

But as it fell out last Hallow even
When the seely [fairy] court was riding by,
the Queen lighted down on a gowany bank
Not far from the tree where I wont to lie...
She's change me again to my own proper shape
And I no more toddle about the tree.

In old England cakes were made for the wandering souls, and people went "a' soulin'" for these "soul cakes." Halloween, a time of magic, also became a day of divination, with a host of magical beliefs: for instance, if persons hold a mirror on Halloween and walk backwards down the stairs to the basement, the face that appears in the mirror will be their next lover.
Virtually all present Halloween traditions can be traced to the ancient Celtic day of the dead. Halloween is a holiday of many mysterious customs, but each one has a history, or at least a story behind it. The wearing of costumes, for instance, and roaming from door to door demanding treats can be traced to the Celtic period and the first few centuries of the Christian era, when it was thought that the souls of the dead were out and around, along with fairies, witches, and demons. Offerings of food and drink were left out to placate them. As the centuries wore on, people began dressing like these dreadful creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This practice is called mumming, from which the practice of trick-or-treating evolved. To this day, witches, ghosts, and skeleton figures of the dead are among the favorite disguises. Halloween also retains some features that harken back to the original harvest holiday of Samhain, such as the customs of bobbing for apples and carving vegetables, as well as the fruits, nuts, and spices cider associated with the day.
Today Halloween is becoming once again and adult holiday or masquerade, like mardi Gras. Men and women in every disguise imaginable are taking to the streets of big American cities and parading past grinningly carved, candlelit jack o'lanterns, re- enacting customs with a lengthy pedigree. Their masked antics challenge, mock, tease, and appease the dread forces of the night, of the soul, and of the otherworld that becomes our world on this night of reversible possibilities, inverted roles, and transcendency. In so doing, they are reaffirming death and its place as a part of life in an exhilarating celebration of a holy and magic evening.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mr. Macklin's Jack O'Lantern

Mr. Macklin's Jack O'Lantern

by David McCord

Mr. Macklin takes his knife 
And carves the yellow pumpkin face: 
Three holes bring eyes and nose to life, 
The mouth has thirteen teeth in place. 
Then Mr. Macklin just for fun 
Transfers the corn-cob pipe from his 
Wry mouth to Jack's, and everyone 
Dies laughing! O what fun it is 
Till Mr. Macklin draws the shade 
And lights the candle in Jack's skull. 
Then all the inside dark is made 
As spooky and as horrorful 
As Halloween, and creepy crawl 
The shadows on the tool-house floor, 
With Jack's face dancing on the wall. 
O Mr. Macklin! where's the door?

Another quick Halloween poem by McCord:

On Halloween, what bothers some

About these witches is, how come
In sailing through the air like bats
They never seem to lose their hats?

How fun are these poems!  David McCord (1897-1997) was a renowned author of children's poetry and also wrote adult poetry and prose.  McCord, who was born in New York City in 1897, lived for a while in Princeton, N.J. At 12, he moved with his family to Oregon, where he lived on an uncle's farm on the edge of a wilderness. It was there, he later wrote, that he learned, ''Poetry is rhythm, just as the planet Earth is rhythm; the best writing, poetry or prose -- no matter what the message it conveys -- depends on a very sure and subtle rhythm.''

McCord graduated from Harvard with a bachelor of arts in 1921 and received a master's in chemistry in 1922. He became an editor of the Harvard Alumni Bulletin the next year, and from 1925 until his retirement in 1963 was the executive director of the Harvard Fund Council. In 1956, Harvard awarded him its first honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

He wrote or edited more than 40 books of poetry and prose. Among them were ''One at a Time,'' a collection of his children's verse published in 1978 by Little, Brown; ''On Occasion,'' a collection of his occasional verse published in 1943 by Harvard University Press; ''About Boston,'' a collection of essays about the city first published in 1948 by Doubleday and reprinted in 1964 by Little, Brown, and ''What Cheer,'' an anthology of British and American humorous and witty verse published by Coward-McCann in 1945 and reprinted in 1946 as ''The Pocket Book of Humorous Verse.''

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Guide To How To Survive The Last Week Of The Presidential Election With Conservatives Around

Here is a list of ten ways to survive the last week of the election with conservatives.  Seven of these came from the Huffington Post (an article on how to deal with conservative family members) while three of them are mine.  I've also added some further comments on the tips.  Besides dealing with family members I also have conservative friends and co-workers and I work at a very conservative school.  When we did a pre-presidential election last spring, only one student voted for Obama.  It can be quite,difficult since I have to teach government, and all of the students want to know how I will vote.  So far I have told them that I will vote for Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, or Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate.  I tell them that it doesn't matter how I vote since Romney will win in Alabama, but I refuse to vote for Romney.  I'm pretty sure I will either vote for Johnson or Obama, I will know when I get to the polls.

So here are some tips to survive those conservatives.

Tip 1: Set boundaries. Just refuse to talk politics with them.  They know you disagree with them, so just let each other disagree and refuse to discuss the topic.

Tip 2: Change the subject. "How about this weather?"  I do this one a lot when an uncomfortable subject comes about.  Just move on to something else, and the rest will generally follow.

Tip 3: Just keep eating.  I don't have a hard time continuing to eat, but sometimes I do have a hard time keeping my mouth shut about politics.  However, my Mama always taught me not to talk with my mouth full, so this is a polite way to just keep out of the topic of politics.

Tip 4: Remind them that they once had to fight for acceptance, too.  This is one of the Huffington Post's suggestions.  It doesn't work too well if you are from a white family in the South.  They have always felt accepted.  However, for some this might be an option.

Tip 5: Take it as an opportunity for a good laugh.  Make a joke out of it. It's according to who you are having a conversation with and what type of sense of humor they have, but you know who you can joke with and who you can't.  It is easy to joke at the ridiculousness of either party, so you can actually have a little fun with it and not get too serious, but you might also get your point across at the same time.

Tip 6: Pretend it's the holidays and just drink.  When it's hard to deal with some folks, especially at a social gathering where it is acceptable, just have a few drinks, pour you a stiff one, have a few beers.  The party will get going and the topic of politics will go out the window.  It is Halloween this week after all.

Tip 7:  Argue with them.  Yes, I said it. You can do it civilly or not, but sometimes it is just to hard to keep your mouth shut.  S let them have and let the chips fall where they may when the dust settles.

Tip 8:  Remind them that Romney is a Mormon. If they are a Christian conservative, remind them of all the things they have always thought of Mormons.  Keep as a back-up too that Obama attends the same church that George W. Bush attended as president.

Tip 9: Embrace this opportunity to cut off those family members you never liked in the first place.  This is another one of the Huffington Post's suggestions, but not one that I particularly agree with, unless it is a family member or acquaintance that you really don't like.

And finally, for those you do like...

Tip 10: Just remember that no matter what happens, they are still your family and you love them. If all else fails, just give them some Halloween candy to shut them up.  Women like chocolate and give a man something very chewy, so it will keep him quiet a while.

So do you guys have any suggestions?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Community and Gay Christianity

Hebrews 10:19-25
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Gay and bisexual Christians understand that they are part of three communities at once. They are part of the church community, the straight community, and the queer community. They understand that they are called to be responsible and active members of each community, contributing to the well-being of the church and society through each community.

Some gay Christians are active in the gay community by helping with the planning and administration of gay community organizations and events.  They might donate time to present lectures about bullying in schools, how to treat gay youth or AIDS. A few gay Christians have a significant amount of work and business contacts within the gay community. Those gay Christians who are not living in an area where there are enough gay people to have a gay community may choose to be part of one of the many online gay Christian communities.

While being responsible, contributing members of the gay community, queer Christians are also contributing to the church. Their contributions to the church depend a lot on the specific talents and interests they have. Many gay Christians are sources of tremendous strength in local churches.

Because most people are straight, gay people interact as part of the straight community too. Gay people do not live their lives in total isolation from the straight community. In fact, it would be difficult for a small group comprising no more than about 10% of society to live without regularly coming in contact with the remaining 90% of society. Gay people go to straight schools, often work for straight businesses, firms and social service agencies. Many gay Christians are very dynamic, giving members of the straight community too. You may find them contributing to straight society by volunteering time as coaches, teachers and care-givers.

Queer Christians recognize they have responsibilities in three communities, the Christian community, the gay community and the straight community. They contribute to all three communities and are proud to be able to be part of the three communities. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Moment of Zen: WORK

CDC Medical Alert

The CDC has issued a medical alert about a highly contagious, potentially dangerous virus that is transmitted orally, by hand, and even electronically.

This virus is called Weekly Overload Recreational Killer (WORK).
If you receive WORK from your boss, any of your colleagues or anyone else via any means whatsoever - DO NOT TOUCH IT!!! This virus will wipe out your private life entirely. If you should come into contact with WORK you should immediately leave the premises.

Take two good friends to the nearest liquor store and purchase one or both of the antidotes - Work Isolating Neutralizer Extract (WINE) and Bothersome Employer Elimination Rebooter (BEER). Take the antidote repeatedly until WORK has been completely eliminated from your system.

You should immediately forward this medical alert to five friends. If you do not have five friends, you have already been infected and WORK is, sadly, controlling your life.

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Interesting "What If" Scenario

I love a good "what if" scenario.  One of my favorite series of books was Harry Turtledove's Southern Victory alternative history novels.  In this series, the Confederacy wins the American Civil War and continues to exist as an independent nation into the mid-20th century. The series began with How Few Remain (1997) and continued with the The Great War Trilogy, The American Empire Trilogy, and The Settling Accounts Tetralogy.  I was very sad when the series came to an end.  For me, alternative scenarios are very fun especially if they are well thought out.

There is a current "what if" scenario brewing as the media tries to,predict the 2012 presidential race. Most polls in the presidential race show the national popular vote to be a virtual tie. But as we know, the popular does not pick the president. That's the job of the Electoral College. And some election number crunchers are starting to explore the nightmare scenario of an Electoral College tie. It's a remote possibility, but a possibility nonetheless.

Two hundred seventy electoral votes to win, there are scenarios, though, that would end up with a 269 to 269 tie. It's quite remote. But we saw in 2000 that George W. Bush won with 271, so, you know, you can get awfully close. And we have eight states that are battlegrounds, tossups. That's Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Florida. And depending on how those electoral votes get distributed, it could actually wind up 269 all.  The number of solid electoral votes for Obama can then be assumed to be 201 and the number of solid Romney votes is 191. The most likely route to an Electoral College tie by far is in Romney winning Florida (29), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Colorado (9), Iowa (6) and Nevada (6), in addition to all of the states where he has a solid lead over Obama.

Maine and Nebraska both use an alternative method of distributing their electoral votes, called the Congressional District Method. Currently, these two states are the only two in the union that diverge from the traditional winner-take-all method of electoral vote allocation. In the year 2008, just the last presidential election, the congressional district around Omaha, Nebraska, favored Barack Obama. Now, the rest of the state went quite handily for John McCain. And we expect Nebraska to go quite handily for Mitt Romney. That could change the scenario by which we saw Mitt Romney winning with 270 electoral votes nationally - and it's possible to put together that math - and then not winning because just that one city, just that one congressional district in Nebraska was taken away from his total of 270, leaving him at 269, and giving President Obama a tie.

So what would happen then?  It's a bit complicated, but also a very interesting "what if" scenario.

The newly elected (incoming 2012) House of Representatives will count the Electoral College votes on January 6th.  These new members of Congress will be sworn in 3 days earlier on January 3rd.  If there is an Electoral College tie, the House of Representatives will elect the President.

Each state delegation, not each Representative, gets one vote in this process. The House members  from each State must agree on who to give their vote to from the 3 candidates who received the most electoral votes.  That means that while California's 53 Representatives must decide amongst themselves who to cast their one vote for, Vermont congressman Peter Welch must only consult himself before getting the same amount of votes as California.  So, if an Electoral College voter in any State decided to vote for someone other than Obama or Romney ("faithless elector"), that person could also be an option for the House members.

Three times in history, the house has decided who the president would be. In 1800, they decided the electoral college tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. In 1824, they decided the four-way race in which the candidate who won the plurality of electoral votes, Andrew Jackson, lost to John Quincy Adams. In 1876, they decided the infamous Hayes/Tilden election, which led to the Compromise of 1877 and the end of Reconstruction.

Some States may have equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives, and those House members will have to choose whether to follow their party or, follow the wishes of their State.   The House vote for President is over when a candidate gets 26 votes (majority).  If a delegation is split, that State might not cast a vote.  The winner of the Presidency must get 26 votes.  It is possible that due to ties in multiple States, multiple votes would not be cast.  The hope is, however, that democracy will prevail and a President will be selected. (Probably Romney if Republicans win projected House seats) 

If there is a tie in the Electoral College, the Senate will select the Vice-President.  Each Senator gets one vote, and can choose from the top 2 candidates who receive votes from the Electoral College.  The candidate who gets 51 votes (majority) will be the Vice-President on January 20th. (Probably Biden if Democrats continue to control the Senate as expected.). In the case of a tie, Biden would cast the deciding vote for Vice President.

If the House of Representatives cannot come up with a winner by January 20th, then whomever the Senate elects as Vice-President becomes interim President until the House can pick a President.  If the Senate is also unable to reach a decision by January 20th, then the Speaker of the House becomes the temporary President.  Therefore, John Boehner could temporarily become President. If John Boehner does not want the job, which is possible, then Daniel Inouye (D-HI), the President pro-tem (President of the Senate when the Vice-President is not there) would become President until the House selects the President.  Boehner might actually turn the temporary position down because when he becomes interim President, the House of Representatives would have to pick a new Speaker, and upon his return, he would be a "regular" member of the Congress.  He would no longer be Speaker of the House, if he were to take the job as President, even temporarily.

The Electoral College has nearly always produced a winner--so far, with the only exceptions being the elections of 1800, 1824, and 1876 as mentioned above.  While it has not always picked a winner, it usually gets something on paper. Congress will only have 14 days to pick a President, provided the Supreme Court does not have to get involved to settle disputes at the State level.  The Constitution and Federal Election Laws cover many different possible scenarios.  However, many aspects of a tie in the Electoral College have not been taken into account and could provide for some interesting results.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Witch's Brew

If you are having a Halloween party this weekend, I have a drink/punch suggestion for you.  It's quite yummy but also packs quite a punch that sneaks up on you.  It's called Witch's Brew and is much better than Shakespeare's recipe in Macbeth.

Witches' Brew

(this one pretty much fills a 12-quart cauldron)

four 48 oz cans pineapple juice

one 96 oz bottle orange juice

four 2 liter bottles lemon-lime soda

one 1.75 liter bottle vodka

one 1.75 liter bottle rum

All measurements are approximate.  Adjust to your own taste.

Mix well. Pour into your cauldron, preferably with chunks of dry ice to create the bubbling steam effect.  You can also add green food coloring if you desire something more greenish.

(Be careful NOT to drink or eat or in any way come in direct contact with skin with any chunks of dry ice -
you can get burned by the extreme cold!)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

If You Have Not Seen This Video, Please Watch It

I'm not going to make any comment other than to make sure that you watch the whole video.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The three witches, casting a spell

Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I [Round about the cauldron go]

by William Shakespeare

The three witches, casting a spell

Round about the cauldron go;   
In the poison'd entrails throw.   
Toad, that under cold stone    
Days and nights hast thirty one   
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,   
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.   

     Double, double toil and trouble; 
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble.   

Fillet of a fenny snake,   
In the cauldron boil and bake;   
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,   
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,   
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,   
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,   
For a charm of powerful trouble, 
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.   

     Double, double toil and trouble;   
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble.  

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,  
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf  
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,  
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,  
Liver of blaspheming Jew,  
Gall of goat, and slips of yew  
Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse,  
Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips,  
Finger of birth-strangled babe  
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,  
Make the gruel thick and slab:  
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,  
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

     Double, double toil and trouble;   
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

I have always enjoyed this passage from Macbeth.  It's such a wonderful mixture of words, and is perfect as Halloween approaches.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Colby Melvin on Coming Out and Politics

A few months ago, I posted about the model Colby Melvin.  If you don't know who he is, then I think you should. Born in the deep South, Colby Melvin was brought up to be a gentleman, but his mother taught him early on that to make a difference in this world, you need to be a little bit "hell raiser" too! So, it isn't surprising that Colby has quickly become one of the most public activists in the fight for marriage equality across the country. Colby holds fast to his core beliefs of sincerity, civility, honesty and kindness and has used them as the basis for his commitment to raise awareness for LGBT issues. Combining his passion for politics with his love of entertainment, Colby emerged as a top spokesmodel for Andrew Christian. Soon after, he began working with Full Frontal Freedom, a coalition of independent artists and media executives – using their talent and creativity to raise awareness and enhance civil discourse. It was his first video with Full Frontal Freedom, a parody of a popular One Direction hit, that garnered Colby national attention for his willingness to publicly fight for the causes he believes in. The "Disclosure" video became one of the most watched political videos of the 2012 campaign cycle and resulted in Colby receiving the Human Rights Award for Political Performing Arts from the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club in New York.

As outspoken as Colby has become about LGBT issues and the fight for marriage equality, his journey was not always easy. After graduating from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, Colby went to work in the oil and gas industry. The oil spill of 2010 found him in a major management position helping in the Gulf Coast recovery. It was during this time that Colby's "secret" was discovered by a superior. After tolerating the corporate bullying, Colby made a decision – he would not hide who he was. Colby left his job, came out to family and friends and began working towards his dream of becoming a force in the LGBT community.

I am a great admirer of Colby, even more so after I saw this video about his experience coming out that was posted on the Underwear Expert blog on National Coming Out Day.  This is such a touching video, from the photos to the story Colby tells, that I had to share it with you guys.  I especially identified with is answer to the question, "Did you always know you were gay?"

Colby’s message is of acceptance and courage, friendship and trust; an important message indeed. And coming from a guy that’s come so far in so little time, it’s especially topical. Being gay behind closed doors is sometimes what we need, but being who we are and proud of it isn’t just about opening one door — it’s about opening door, after door, after door because when we are true to ourselves self, anything is possible.  While my job doesn't allow me to come out and be as open as Colby, I admire him.  My coming out experiences were not like his, but it does show that there is hope for the LGBT community in the South.  There are accepting people in the South, and I have known many of them.  They are also generally the ones that I am out and proud to.

Colby is also actively political and it shows in many of the charities he is involved in, especially concerning gay marriage equality. He produced and starred in a music-video parody of One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" earlier this summer. The video, released by Full Frontal Freedom, a campaign to increase political awareness of LGBT issues and promote LGBT equality, showcased rewritten lyrics urging Romney to release his tax returns. That video has received 3.4 million views, by the way. Melvin is to present the video later this month at the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club's Pre-Election Reception in New York on Thursday, October 25, 2012.

A handful of models, including Andrew Christian faves Colby Melvin and Quinn Jaxon, have teamed up with Full Frontal Freedom, an “Independent pro-equality movement not affiliated with, endorsed by or sponsored by any state campaign.” The collaboration produced a winning political parody of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.” Starring a sexually mixed (half-straight, half-gay) and underwear clad cast of characters that includes Colby Melvin (who’s also the face and spokesmodel for the coalition), Quinn Jaxon, Brandon Brown, Jonathan Myers and David Brackett, the video asks Romney to show what’s down below:  

Colby Melvin told The Underwear Expert, “The whole purpose of Full Frontal Freedom is about using different forms of media and artists so we can promote political engagement and just get people to give a sh*t.” And how exactly do you do that? Get ultra viral underwear models to get involved. “We get tons and tons and tons of views on our pictures and videos, so many comments and likes,” Colby continued. “We can actually use that for good to get people involved in the issues.”

Sunday, October 21, 2012

We Are All Children of God

It's so easy to get wrapped up in all the details of being a Christian.  There are theological issues to resolve, questions we don't have answers to, and disagreements that have existed since the beginning.  Sometimes, it's easy to miss the forest for the trees.

So this week, let's step back and get back to the basics.

If you're frustrated in your life, confused by issues, or way too busy for your own good, take a moment to relax.  Take a deep breath.  Ask God for a refreshing spiritual breeze in your life.

Then read the following two passages for a reminder of why we're Christians.

1 John 4:7-19
Beloved, jet us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

1 John 3:1-3 
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

You are a child of God.

May that be the single thing that sticks in your mind as you tackle whatever life throws at you this week.

God loves you, exactly as you are.  So take that love and share it!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Moment of Zen: That Moment...

You all know the moment I am talking about.  It's that moment when the hot guy you are checking out either reaches up for something or absent-mindedly lifts his shirt up to scratch his belly or something.  For what ever reason, you get that little extra bit of skin revealed.  Then again, maybe it's just me...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mission America Founder, Says Halloween's 'Satanic' Origins Explain Holiday's Gay Appeal

I think I have said this before, but Halloween is one, if not the, favorite holiday of mine.  It is a time when we can truly express ourselves and have fun.  I just love it, not to mention the candy.  But, you didn't expect Halloween to pass without at least one anti-gay condemnation from a right-wing pundit, did you?

Well, rest assured: Mission America's Linda Harvey has slammed Halloween, saying the holiday's purportedly Satanic origins make it a "huge celebration in the LGBT world."

"We all can see it's a huge celebration in the LGBT world, especially for the gender-confused folks. This illustrates some of the problem. The core of Halloween is glittering artificiality, you can pretend to be someone you aren't for a night, you can flirt with danger, you can divine a different destiny, but it is all void of the presence of or will of God. 
It's a seduction that says, 'don't be afraid, do whatever you want, there's nothing to fear,' it's one of Satan's oldest tricks."
Saying that costumes "disguise our very souls," Harvey noted, "Christians aren't supposed to be consulting fortune tellers, Ouija boards or palm readers about our future but all are frequently a part of Halloween your kids know how risky these practices are and that real contact with real demons is quite possible? Satan doesn't care about our intentions; he will take any willing participant."

Harvey, of course, is no stranger to anti-gay proclamations. Last year, she warned parents against allowing their children to visit lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) medical practitioners.

Harvey's rant follows news that organizers of a Minnesota town's Halloween parade have turned away LGBT youth group, claiming that the event had reached its "maximum for walking units."

The vice president of Justin's Gift, a group created to support gay youth after several suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, said kids who planned to participate were "pretty upset" by the news, and that he was "confused and mystified" as to the denial of the request. "We're trying to show these kids that they're part of the community and unfortunately it backfired and sent a completely different message," Jefferson Fietek is quoted as saying, noting that about 30 students had planned to march in the parade dressed as their favorite fairytale characters.

I have never understood the problem that some right winged nut jobs have against Halloween.  Halloween has always been fun, and dammit, it should remain that way. Some people are just too serious in this world and can't stand the thought of a little fun. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"The Right Wing Judy Garland"

She may have been once billed as "the right wing Judy Garland," but Ann Coulter is feeling the heat from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community today after a controversial National Coming Out Day tweet.
Yesterday, Coulter tweeted the following:

Ann Coulter

Last Thursday was national "coming out" day. This Monday is national "disown your son" day.
The ultra-conservative pundit's tweet was quickly slammed by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), which noted that Coulter's "joke" added "to the idea that family rejection of LGBT young people is expected, or even 'normal.'"
"There was a time in our culture's history when, if thousands of LGBT kids were to come out on the same day, the next week genuinely would be exactly what Ann describes, all across the country. Fathers disowning their sons and kicking them out onto the street. Mothers locking up their daughters or sending them to charm school. Children forced to undergo electro-shock or even worse forms of 'therapy' to rid themselves of their orientation. To learn how to not be true to themselves.
And although we've come a long way from those ideas as a cultural collective, I have no doubt that last week, more than a few American households experienced the tragedy that Ann joked about."
McQuade went on to note, "Like I said, I've never taken Ann Coulter seriously, and I'm certainly not going to start now. But the idea of family rejection is one that does deserve serious attention as a society."
Less diplomatic was John M. Becker of Truth Wins Out, who simply deemed Coulter an "odious human being."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Moderate...

When asked which political party I am, I will without hesitation say that I am a Democrat.  The problem is that, I'm not a far left Democrat.  There are some Republican issues I agree with and some Democrat issues that I agree with; however, there are also issues with both parties that I am against.   As a whole, I feel that neither political party represents me, and for that matter, neither represent the majority of Americans.  On my post on Monday, a commenter stated that like he and I were moderates, which is fairly correct. Then, why do I consider myself a Democrat?  For one, I'm a Southerner, and I think that one of the reasons that the Democratic Party continues to move further to the left and away from my political philosophy is because Southerner, by and large, no longer identify with the Democratic Party.  Second and most importantly in the last decade as I have come to understand myself more, I agree with many of the social political issues of the Democratic Party, especially when it comes to LGBT rights.

The funny thing is that even though my political beliefs have not changed in the last decade or decade and a half, the way I am viewed politically has.  Let me explain that.  When I was in graduate school and most of my colleagues were more liberal than I was, I was seen as the conservative one.  Now that I am a teacher in a small, rural Southern town, where most of my friends and colleagues are more conservative, I am now seen as the liberal one.  Mostly that has to do with the communities I have been involved in and how that has changed as my geographic location and my profession has changed.  Geographically, I am only a few hundred in distance from where I was but my cadre of acquaintances and friends has changed dramatically.

Truthfully, the majority of Democrats, if they heard my views on all of the issues, would not consider me a Democrat. Likewise, the majority of Republicans, if they heard my views on all of the issues, would not consider me a Republican. Then again I would not describe myself as a "demopublican" or as a "republicrat."  I consider myself a moderate, and as someone who really doesn't adhere to the political philosophies of either political party.  I also do not believe that I am the only one.  I believe there are many moderates out there who don't fit into the current politics of America's two-party system.  So where do we belong? Though, I wish a third party was the answer, the United States has rules and procedures that are stacked against third parties.  Third parties have often been single issue parties or a party that was formed to rally around a specific candidate.  Either way, the are not very successful.

In my opinion, moderates like the middle class are largely ignored by the political parties.  Both Democrats and Republicans will speak about middle class issues or persuading independents, but neither really do anything for the two groups.  What political philosophy do you adhere to?

Leave comments in the comments section and please vote in the poll below.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Raven

The Raven
by Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door;
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow, sorrow for the lost Lenore,.
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore,
Nameless here forevermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me---filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
" 'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door,
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door.
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is, I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you." Here I opened wide the door;---
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word,
Lenore?, This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word,
"Lenore!" Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping, something louder than before,
"Surely," said I, "surely, that is something at my window lattice.
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore.
Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore.
"'Tis the wind, and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven, of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door.
Perched upon a bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door,
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly, grim, and ancient raven, wandering from the nightly shore.
Tell me what the lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore."
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door,
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered;
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before;
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master, whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster, till his songs one burden bore,---
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never---nevermore."

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore --
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

Thus I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl, whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee -- by these angels he hath
Sent thee respite---respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, O quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted--
On this home by horror haunted--tell me truly, I implore:
Is there--is there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me I implore!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil--prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore--
Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden, whom the angels name Lenore---
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting--
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! -- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming.
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted---nevermore!

The Raven is my favorite Poe poem (second is probably The Bells).  I absolutely adore the rhythm of Poe's poetry, and I always here Vincent Price reading it in my mind when I read it.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote an essay on the creation of "The Raven," entitled "The Philosophy of Composition." In that essay Poe describes the work of composing the poem as if it were a mathematical problem, and derides the poets that claim that they compose "by a species of fine frenzy - an ecstatic intuition - and would positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes." Whether Poe was as calculating as he claims when he wrote "The Raven" or not is a question that cannot be answered; it is, however, unlikely that he created it exactly like he described in his essay. The thoughts occurring in the essay might well have occurred to Poe while he was composing it. 

In "The Philosophy of Composition," Poe stresses the need to express a single effect when the literary work is to be read in one sitting. A poem should always be written short enough to be read in one sitting, and should, therefore, strive to achieve this single, unique effect. Consequently, Poe figured that the length of a poem should stay around one hundred lines, and "The Raven" is 108 lines. 

The most important thing to consider in "Philosophy" is the fact that "The Raven," as well as many of Poe's tales, is written backwards. The effect is determined first, and the whole plot is set; then the web grows backwards from that single effect. Poe's "tales of ratiocination," e.g. the Dupin tales, are written in the same manner. "Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its denouement before anything be attempted with the pen". 

It was important to Poe to make "The Raven" "universally appreciable." It should be appreciated by the public, as well as the critics. Poe chose Beauty to be the theme of the poem, since "Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem." After choosing Beauty as the province, Poe considered sadness to be the highest manifestation of beauty. "Beauty of whatever kind in its supreme development invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones."

Of all melancholy topics, Poe wanted to use the one that was universally understood, and therefore, he chose Death as his topic. Poe (along with other writers) believed that the death of a beautiful woman was the most poetical use of death, because it closely allies itself with Beauty. 

After establishing subjects and tones of the poem, Poe started by writing the stanza that brought the narrator's "interrogation" of the raven to a climax, the third verse from the end, and he made sure that no preceding stanza would "surpass this in rhythmical effect." Poe then worked backwards from this stanza and used the word "Nevermore" in many different ways, so that even with the repetition of this word, it would not prove to be monotonous. 

Poe builds the tension in this poem up, stanza by stanza, but after the climaxing stanza he tears the whole thing down, and lets the narrator know that there is no meaning in searching for a moral in the raven's "nevermore". The Raven is established as a symbol for the narrator's "Mournful and never-ending remembrance." "And my soul from out that shadow, that lies floating on the floor, shall be lifted - nevermore!"