Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!



Calico cats are the perfect Halloween accessory.  They are already Halloween colors.  My girls are perfect for Halloween.  Edith is a natural with her black and orange coat. She looks like the epitome of Halloween.  Then there is her ghostly gray companion Lucy.  As a diluted calico, Lucy has a gray coat with subtle patches of creamy orange. I hope they enjoy their Halloween.



Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Haunted St. James



The St. James hotel stands watchful over Selma, Alabama from its perch on the Alabama River banks. Both the St. James and Selma went through a spell where much of the area was depressed, dilapidated, and forgotten, but local groups and the government have been working to revitalize the area, and their diligence seems to have stirred up more than they bargained for.

The St. James Hotel in Selma, Alabama, is considered to be one of the most haunted places in Alabama. Many visitors to the hotel have reported accounts of hauntings and paranormal events. Located in the center of the historic district, overlooking the famous Alabama River, the building was constructed in 1837 and opened as The Brantley.

During the Civil War, the Brantley was occupied by Union troops during the Battle of Selma. Due to its concentration of Confederate arsenals and factories, the occupying army burned much of the city. Fortunately, the St. James and other structures on Water Street were spared. Together they form the heart of the revitalized historic district and represent one of the finest collections of antebellum industrial buildings in the South.

Following the war, the hotel was operated by Benjamin Sterling Turner; the first African American ever elected to the United States Congress. He reportedly hosted the legendary outlaw brothers Frank and Jesse James in 1881. In 1892, the hotel fell upon hard times and ceased operations.

The doors were closed on the building, and were not reopened for a century. A group of investors purchased the old hotel and after putting in approximately $6 million in restorations, they were able to officially reopen the doors of the establishment in 1997 as the St. James Hotel.

Since its reopening, two of the most reported "hauntings" in the hotel include Jesse James and his girlfriend Lucinda. Several have claimed to have seen the apparition of a man dressed in attire that was common for a man in the late 1800s. He is most often seen in the rooms in which he typically stayed - rooms 214, 314, and 315. However, he also has been sighted at a certain table in the bar.

Many things are known about Lucinda. For one, she enjoyed the scent of lavender so much that when someone smelled the scent, they knew she was near. Today, several witnesses claim they are able to smell lavender with no logical explanation. In other instances, a full apparition of Lucinda is said to be walking the halls of the structure.

In the area of the courtyard, many strange events have been reported. First, several witnesses have observed what appears to be residual hauntings of individuals who are fully clothed in dress that was common to the 1800s. They seem unaware of the "living" surrounding them.

Additionally, the sounds of apparent ghost dogs can be heard in the area. Jessie James, some have said, once owned a black dog that was his companion for many years. Many guests at the St. James have reported hearing a dog running up and down the halls. Also, guests in the hotel would often complain about a dog that would bark non-stop in the courtyard. When management would look into their complaints, no dog was ever found in the courtyard.

Psychics and investigators have been brought into the St. James to give the current management a better idea of what is happening in the hotel. Interestingly, they have picked out more than just these 3 entities. Psychics have described groups of apparitions in the inner courtyard, dressed in 1880′s clothing, going about their business and unaware of the living. Perhaps it is these ghosts of the past that cause the odd, inexplicable sounds heard from that space. Mischievous entities will bang glassware together until told to stop, a man has been seen sitting on a bench in the drinking room, and in room 304, a cook who was staying in the room complained about the curtains moving for no logical reason and bright flashes of light. A psychic claims to have spoken to that specter and discovered that the entity was angry that he passed away before finishing some business he wanted to do.

The most amusing occurrence happened in the Brantly Ballroom. A team of paranormal investigators had been tape recording the room hoping to get an Electronic Voice Phenomenon. They asked the question “Is anyone here?” When playing the tape back later on, they quite clearly heard a gruff voice reply “Well, that’s a stupid question.”

Whether you believe in the supernatural or just enjoy visiting beautiful historical landmarks, the St. James Hotel should be added to your list of must-see Alabama locations.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

13 Gayest Halloween Movies Ever


Dark, twisted tales that feed our need for revenge. Sexy scenes with hunky young bucks all desperately yearning to get laid. Gory sights and demented deeds that are so over-the-top they border on camp.

These are the staples of fright flicks, and though society may suspect that gays shy away from horror and violence, the truth is that we love it in films that speak to our unique sensibilities. So in honor of Halloween I compiled a list of our 13 favorites.

So sit back, cuddle closely with your man (or bestest girlfriends) and enjoy the show.


Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
It's the weird and wonderful as newly engaged couple Brad and Janet encounter a problem when they car halts in the rain. They both look for contact only to find themselves at the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter a transvestite. A place to stay is offered, but will Brad and Janet want to remain there? Especially when a large group of Transylvanians dance to the 'Time Warp', Dr. Frank-N-Furter builds his own man and a whole host of participation for the audience to enjoy. This movie is high camp horror at its best.


Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Mortimer Brewster is a newspaperman and author known for his diatribes against marriage. We watch him being married at city hall in the opening scene. Now all that is required is a quick trip home to tell Mortimer's two maiden aunts. While trying to break the news, he finds out his aunts' hobby; killing lonely old men and burying them in the cellar. It gets worse.  Who could not love this movie?


Rope (1948)
Inspired by real-life convicted killers (and lovers) Leopold and Loeb, Rope is Alfred Hitchcock’s gayest film ever. It features a gay couple (played by John Dall, and bisexual Farley Granger at his most luminous), a dinner party, witty repartee, and a body hidden in a stylish piece of furniture. Sounds like summers in Fire Island to me.


What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
Cast two gay icons—Bette Davis and Joan Crawford—as crazy / tragic protagonists, then have them abuse one another while performing at level 10, and you’ve got one of the most camptastic movies ever made. The dialogue is deliciously mean, the hatred between these two actresses leaks off the screen, and because the characters’ bitter back-story creates a strong foundation you have a solid film rather than one of those “so-bad-it’s-good” features gays love so much.

Best served in a crowd of drunk gays who can truly appreciate the dark humor.


Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
If Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? makes the list, this movie is also a must.  Charlotte Hollis, an aging recluse deluded into a state of dementia by horrible memories and hallucinations, lives in a secluded house where, thirty-seven years before, John Mayhew her married lover, was beheaded and mutilated by an unknown assailant.  Plus, there is always the back story behind why Joan Crawford refused to make this "sequel" and the why Vivian Leigh refused the role (Leigh famously said "I can just about stand to look at Joan Crawford at six in the morning on a southern plantation, but I couldn't possibly look at Bette Davis.")  Also, Agnes Moorehead is in this movie, not only was she the mother on Bewitched, but she was also a well-known lesbian.


Carrie (1976)
Along with Baby JaneMommie Dearest and Showgirls, Carrie is one of the films with dialogue most quoted by gay men. Gems like “I can see your dirty pillows,” to a screeching “They’re all gonna laugh at you!” and “They’re called breasts, and every woman has them...” have become part of the secret language of gays. And Carrie’s prom night-mare has become pop culture shorthand on TV shows from Ugly Betty to RuPaul’s Drag Race.


Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
New Line Cinema’s second schlep up to Elm Street is bursting at the seams with homoerotic imagery and undertones. It features openly gay actor Mark Patton as Jesse, a teenage boy Freddy Krueger tries to possess in order to leave dreamland and continue his killing spree in the real world.

Even before the film’s writer, David Chaskin, admitted to including the screenplay’s gay subtext in the 2010 documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street LegacyNightmare 2 had been herald as the ultimate homo-horror flick for years by countless fans.

A film about a boy struggling to repress “something” inside of him would have been enough to brand Nightmare 2 as an obvious gay allegory. However, it’s the moments following Jessie’s trek into a gay leather bar—where he discovers his P.E. coach—that rank this film among the gayest of all time. After all, tying up your coach in the locker-room showers and snapping his bare ass with a towel before you kill him from behind will earn you that kind of reputation.


Beetlejuice (1988)
Aside from featuring Alec Baldwin at the height of hotness, Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice has enough camp to be welcome at any homo-Halloween haunt. The film’s quirky style has held up amazingly well since it debuted over 23 years ago, and Winona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz is a queer cinema classic. From the interior decorator played by the late openly-gay actor Glenn Shadix to outrageous musical numbers, there isn’t much about this film that isn’t gay.


Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)
The Queen of Halloween’s first feature film has become a gay camp-classic for all the reasons that made Elvira one of the biggest gay icons of all time. Over-the-top in every way possible, from the costumes and sassy one-liners to the big musical number ending stuffed with hunky shirtless male dancers, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is the Showgirls of Halloween movies.

Check it out.


Hocus Pocus (1993)
This poor film has a bad reputation, and some of it is deserved. The movie is about time-displaced witches who fly on vacuums and sing songs, and the kids who must set things right. But it’s also a delightfully fun bad movie, comes from Disney and director Kenny Ortega (famous for the High School Musical franchise), and stars gay faves Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy (fresh of her stint in Sister Act). No, it’s not brilliant filmmaking, however it works for babysitting, if you’re in the mood for something light, and if you can mix a potion of vodka and… well… anything… to go along with your screening.


The Covenant (2006)
Abercrombie & Fitch goes supernatural in this good warlock vs. bad warlock fantasy/horror flick starring models-turned-actors Steven Straight (10,000 B.C.) and Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights), as well as a pre-shag Chace Crawford. Between that and this picture, do you need any further explanation on why you should rent it?


Hellbent (2004)
Two gay men on a date are murdered the night before Halloween in West Hollywood, California. Eddie and his friends Joey, Chaz and Tobey are going out the following night to the West Hollywood Halloween festival when they encounter the psycho, who sets his eye on them. The killer stalks them through the festival as Chaz parties, Joey chases his jock crush, Tobey tries dressing in drag, and Eddie pursues Jake, the bad boy he wants to get to know better. Not until the very end do you find out who dies and who survives their night of terror.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Haunted Houses


Haunted Houses
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 - 1882

 All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the "Fireside Poets," wrote lyrical poems about history, mythology, and legend that were popular and widely translated, making him the most famous American of his day. 

I've always loved a good ghost story.  Do you think ghost stories are silly or interesting?  Do you have a favorite?  Do you believe in ghosts?

I find ghost stories fascinating, and I do have a few favorites.  And, I do believe in ghosts.  I think some souls just have a hard time moving on in the afterlife.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Costumes



My favorite holiday of the year is Halloween. Since Halloween falls on a Friday this year, I may even try and do something special for my students.  I will try and make it a fun week for my students.  I know my English class will be reading Macbeth, which has the wonderfully evil witches.  I'm not sure what I will do special for my history classes, but I might tell some historical ghost stories.  The kids love them.

Halloween the day when we usually don't have to wear our masks anymore. I think that this is the reason why it has long been a favorite holiday for gay men. My best friend had her annual Halloween Party this last weekend, but since she loves in Louisiana, I can't make it down every year, but when I go, it's always a blast.  This Saturday, I will be going to a Halloween party hosted by a co-worker.

In an effort to wear a fairly simple costume, I decided that this year I will go as Clark Kent.  I won't look anywhere near as good as Derek Hough does above, but I will go as an out of shape Clark Kent.  So do any of you have Halloween plans?  Will you be going in costume?  If so, what will be your costume?


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms



The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.Deuteronomy 33:27

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms is a hymn published in 1887 with music by Anthony J. Showalter and lyrics by Showalter and Elisha Hoffman.  Showalter said that he received letters from two of his former pupils saying that their wives had died. When writing letters of consolation, Showalter was inspired by the phrase in the Book of Deuteronomy 33:27.

Isn’t it a great thought to think that God is supporting us, and that His arms are strong enough to hold us during difficult times?  That truth should provide a refuge for us.  In times when relationships disappoint us or finances fail us, it is encouraging to know that there is one who is everlasting and whose arms are there for us to lean on. 

The Apostle Paul tells us about a weakness he had in 2 Corinthians 12.  He referred to it as a thorn in the flesh.  (I have heard of some scholars that speculate that it was homosexuality, since Paul was Greek and his relation to Timothy was thought to be pederastic.  However, this is pure speculation and remains a 2,000 year old mystery.)  Paul prayed that this weakness would be taken away.  He prayed 3 different times, and God chose not to remove the “thorn.”  He then tells us about an important spiritual truth.  If the "thorn" was Paul's homosexual urges, then I would speculate that God did not remove the thorn because God did not see it as a thorn or a weakness.

Whatever the perceived weakness was, the truth is that God uses our weaknesses, our flaws, and our personal challenges, and does something extraordinary.  He takes His strength and our weaknesses, and He does something awesome with that combination.  He allows us, in weakness, to share in His glory and power.  Paul then makes the following statement “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  What an amazing statement!  Delight in weaknesses? insults? hardships? persecutions? and difficulties?  To be honest, I struggle with having that kind of mindset, even though I know it is truth.

Sources:
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaning_on_the_Everlasting_Arms
http://hymnoftheweek.net/?p=432

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Moment of Zen: B & B


A bath and a book: what could be more relaxing?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Arin and Katie's Stories


Katie Rain Hill and Arin Andrews received international attention last year because of the unique nature of their relationship at the time: They are both transgender and dated while supporting each other through their transitions.  A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about Arin and Katie and their amazing story.  I was touched to see that they have each published a memoir: Rethinking Normal by Katie and Some Assembly Required by Arin.  Huffington Post said that the "books are beautifully written and incredibly personal, with neither of them shying away from sexual content, which may be seen as somewhat controversial due to our society's fascination with transitioning, trans bodies and the way trans people have sex."

"I wanted to be the most authentic way I could explain it without getting too sexual because my grandma is going to read it, my aunt is going to read it, my little cousins are," Andrews told The Huffington Post. "So I wanted to find a way to explain it that was still able to share my story without sexualizing it a lot and I think I found that way. It was just really important to share that because there's issues that go into that with the trans community... it's a very complex thing."

Hill noted, "I thought, No one else is talking about it, so why not me? ... Someone has to step up to the plate and address these things because these are questions everyone has... We might as well be straight up and honest with these people." She added, "I know it's going to help people because I have so many people who say to me, "Oh wow! That's what it's like."

I have to admit, when I think of transitioning transgendered people and sexual reassignment surgery, I have wondered how it all works.  I doubt anyone can honestly say that they haven't thought about it.  That being said, I always wanted to know more about each of their journeys.  I will be buying tune books and reading them, and you can be sure that I will let you know in a few weeks what I thought of them.

Though Arin and Katie are no longer a couple, they do remain good friends.  Each have gone their separate ways with college and since they were not seeing much of each other they decided to remain friends but no longer date.  Also, Katie has undergone full reassignment surgery, whereas, Arin is continuing to hope to have the bottom half of the surgery done sometime in the future.  I hope both of them the best can't wait to read their memoirs.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Just A Pretty Picture



Ok, I'm sure he really is more than just a pretty picture.  He's a real human being (just a real pretty one, at that), and one who has the good taste to like Coke out of the bottle (I'd share a Coke with him any day).  The truth is, I was doing school work last night until about 9:45 and decided a short post would have to do. I wasn't up for staying up too late. I will admit I did take a nap when I got home from school because Edith decided last night to make her bed on my forehead at 1am and not finally settle down to sleep until 3am, so I lost two hours of sleep.  Then when I woke from my nap, it was time for dinner, followed by Mysteries of Laura, and chatting with a friend.  Not wasting time by any means, but it also meant that I didn't have time to write a long post, and since I have drama practice before school tomorrow morning, I have to get up much earlier than usual.  So today is just a pretty picture with a gorgeous cowboy.  Oh, and here's a bonus pic of the same guy, just for fun.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Behind the Curtain


Right now, my favorite author is Amy Lane.  I'm finishing up the Promises Series, and will review them as soon as I finish the last one.  It is not out in audiobook which means I can't listen to it to and from my way to work.  I actually have to find time to read it.  I love to read, but I rarely have time to stop and read (at least not something fun).  I've also started on the Johnnies Series.  I've just finished the first one and can't wait to read the next.  However, in between the Promises and Johnnies books, I read a sweet little Amy Lane book called Behind the Curtain.  The last time I'd written about Amy Lane, I'd mentioned that the ending to Locker Room drove me crazy because it kind of left you hanging, and someone sent me a note that Behind the Curtain contained some closure.  I fully admit, this was the main reason it made it to my next listen list.  I'd had it in my wish list for a while, but it had been on the back burner as I planned to read other things.  I need that closure though.  So I read it.  Here is the blurb for the book:
Dawson Barnes recognizes his world is very small and very charmed. Running his community college theater like a petty god, he and his best friend, Benji know they'll succeed as stage techs after graduation. His father adores him, Benji would die for him, and Dawson never doubted the safety net of his family, even when life hit him below the belt. 
But nothing prepared him for falling on Jared Emory's head. 
Aloof dance superstar Jared is a sweet, vulnerable man and Dawson's life suits him like a fitted ballet slipper. They forge a long-distance romance from their love of the theater and the magic of Denny's. At first it's perfect: Dawson gets periodic visits and nookie from a gorgeous man who “gets” him—and Jared gets respite from the ultra-competitive world of dancing that almost consumed him. 
That is until Jared shows up sick and desperate and Dawson finally sees the distance between them concealed painful things Jared kept inside. If he doesn’t grow up—and fast—his "superstar" might not survive his own weaknesses. That would be a shame, because the real, fragile Jared that Dawson sees behind the curtain is the person he can see spending his life with.
Amy Lane is known for her angst ridden books, and I have to admit, this one was low on the angst.  I don't believe I cried even once.  This is not a bad thing.  It was just a beautiful story.  Furthermore, as the advisor for my schools drama club (I knew nothing about theater before being given the task), I found the technical aspects of being behind the curtain and the emotional aspects of being in front of the curtain very intriguing.  I couldn't identify with either aspect because I've never acted, and my little hundred year old stage doesn't even have electricity (we use makeshift lights and extension cords, covering the lack of lights with on stage lamps and hiding the utility lights that we end up using).  We are low tech in the extreme.  But I think my little club does a fantastic job with what they have, and I do the best I can.  I've even written a play for them next semester.  But I've gotten off topic....

The book was heartwarming in many ways, and it had a little angst in there, just not much.  Take a virgin gay boy who is cute but awkward and goofy and put him together with an absolutely beautiful superstar ballet dancer, plus their friends, and you have a wonderful cast of characters.  Some you might not like at first until you get to know them, but by the end, you'll love them all and root for each one.

There was one other reason why I fell in love with this book.  I have a dear friend, who lives quite a ways away from me, who just graduated college in May and has been trying to find a job.  He has a boyfriend and finding a job may take him away from his boyfriend if he has to move for the job.  As much as it hurts, he and his boyfriend realize that for each of their careers, they may be separated for a little while.  It breaks my heart because they wonder if their relationship is strong enough to survive a long-distance relationship.  I firmly believe their love for each other is strong enough to pull them through.  Honestly, they were made for each other, and if don't want anything to pull them apart.  I told my friend that he had to read this book.  I don't want to give it away, but it does show that while there are ups and downs in long-distance relationships, love and faith can keep them together.  I hope when he does read this book, he will see that it can work.

You may think, "It's just a book, Joe.  It's not real life."  However, as my friend, who also loves to read Amy Lane, pointed out to me recently, Amy Lane is a master of understanding the human psyche and emotions.  Her understanding of human nature reminds me a lot of Shakespeare's understanding of human nature.  When I teach Shakespeare, I mention that one of the things that make him great is his mastery of the range of human emotions, the understanding of the human mind, and the nature of humanity.  However, I sometimes find Shakespeare's characters to be unreal, but I find Amy Lane's characters to be very real in many way.  Her characters are flawed, not as in a bad writer flawed kind of way, but in the way humans are flawed.  

Amy Lane is a master when it comes to writing and character development. I just absolutely love her.  I would love nothing more then to be able to just sit and talk with her for hours.  Maybe she could even teach me to knit. Knitting is often a therapeutic exercise for some of her characters, and reading it just makes me want to learn how.  I see how much it helps her characters be calm, and sometimes, I wish I could have that tranquility.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rome at the Pyramid of Cestius Near the Graves of Shelley and Keats



Rome at the Pyramid of Cestius Near the Graves of Shelley and Keats (1887)
By Thomas Hardy

Who, then, was Cestius, 
         And what is he to me? - 
Amid thick thoughts and memories multitudinous 
         One thought alone brings he. 

         I can recall no word 
         Of anything he did; 
For me he is a man who died and was interred 
         To leave a pyramid 

         Whose purpose was exprest 
         Not with its first design, 
Nor till, far down in Time, beside it found their rest 
         Two countrymen of mine. 

         Cestius in life, maybe, 
         Slew, breathed out threatening; 
I know not. This I know: in death all silently 
         He does a kindlier thing, 

         In beckoning pilgrim feet 
         With marble finger high 
To where, by shadowy wall and history-haunted street, 
         Those matchless singers lie . . . 

         --Say, then, he lived and died 
         That stones which bear his name 
Should mark, through Time, where two immortal Shades abide; 
         It is an ample fame. 

The Protestant Cemetery of Rome, now officially called the Cimitero acattolico ("Non-Catholic Cemetery") and often referred to as the Cimitero degli Inglesi ("Englishmen's Cemetery"), is located near Porta San Paolo alongside the Pyramid of Cestius, a small-scale Egyptian-style pyramid built in 30 BC as a tomb and later incorporated into the section of the Aurelian Walls that borders the cemetery. The presence of Mediterranean cypress, pomegranate, and other trees, and a grassy meadow suggests the more naturalistic landscape style of northern Europe, where cemeteries sometimes incorporate grass and other greenery. As the official name indicates, it is the final resting place of non-Catholics including but not exclusive to Protestants or British and Americans.  It contains the graves of many Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians. It is one of the oldest burial grounds in continuous use in Europe, having started to be used around 1716.

The Cimitero Acattolico di Roma contains possibly the highest density of famous and important graves anywhere in the world. It is the final resting-place of the poets Shelley and Keats, of many painters, sculptors and authors, a number of scholars, several diplomats, Goethe's only son, and Antonio Gramsci, a founding father of European Communism, to name only a few.

When you visit this cemetery in Rome, one of the first sites you see is the Pyramid of Cestius.  I have to admit, the Protestant cemeteries in Rome and Florence were two of the highlights of my research trip to Italy several years ago.  Not only are cemeteries a great source of research, but also the gravestones are often more than just markings for the dead, but works of art. One of those pieces of art is the Angel of Grief, an 1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story which serves as the grave stone of the artist and his wife Emelyn Story. The grave is now used to describe multiple grave stones throughout the world erected in the style of the Story stone.


If you are ever in Rome, you really should visit the Cimitero Acattolico di Roma.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Secret Life of a Teacher



So where do we go, all the teachers, when the bell rings at 3 o'clock?  Students don't really think we go anywhere. Except home, maybe, to grade papers and plan lessons and think up pop quizzes.

And when students find out otherwise, it's a strange experience. Many people remember it vividly: the disorienting feeling of encountering your teacher in the grocery store, or in the line at McDonald's, talking and acting just like other grownups. A jarring reminder that teachers have lives outside the classroom.

But of course teachers go off and do all sorts of things: They write books and play music and run for office and start businesses. For some, a life outside the classroom is an economic necessity. In many states, more than 1 in 5 teachers has a second job.

I currently don't have a second job.  I used to teach adjunct at a local college, but because of cutbacks and changes in administration, I no longer teach there, though I'd very much like to be in the college classroom once again.

However, one thing my students don't know is that I do actually have a social life.  I sometimes go to the movies, I go shopping (when I have the money), and I write this blog.  Through this blog, I have friends all over the world, which is something hat would shock my students to no end.  I also read a lot, which is something my students expect of me.  Many though would be surprised to know that I cook nearly every night.  I love cooking and it's one of my hobbies, so is occasionally doing arts and crafts.

To be honest though, my life is often pretty boring.  School takes up a lot of my time.  Even when I'm not home, I really am sometimes grading papers, making quizzes, and preparing lesson plans for the week.  Being a teacher is not an easy job, and we have to find our own rewards for it.  More often then not, students don't see the work that goes into balancing a life and being a teacher that does their best to provide them with the best education possible.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

3:16



"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."
John 3:16-21

John 3:16 is one of the most widely quoted verses from the Bible. It has also been called the "Gospel in a nutshell", because it is considered a summary of the central theme of traditional Christianity.  It is a central message in the Bible, but it's not the verse that I believe is central to the Bible.  Christianity cannot be summed up with one verse.  However, the verses around it does encapsulate the major message of Christ.  It's the context that makes the difference.

The story around the text is about Nicodemus who visits Jesus in the night.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. According to John, he showed favor to Jesus. He appears three times in the Gospel of John. In the context of John 3:16, Nicodemus visits Jesus one night to discuss his teachings with him. The second time Nicodemus is mentioned is when he states the law concerning the arrest of Jesus, and the third is when he assists Joseph of Arimathea in preparing the corpse of Jesus for burial.

In the first fifteen verses of John Chapter 3, Jesus explains to Nicodemus that you must be born again in the waters of baptism in order to see the kingdom of heaven.  After speaking of the necessity of a man being born again before he could "see the kingdom of God", Jesus spoke also of "heavenly things" and of salvation and the condemnation of those that do not believe in Jesus.

It is the later part of this exchange that I want to discuss today.  Jesus did not come to the world to condemn us but to save us, and by us, Jesus means all of humanity.  This includes LGBT people, though some Christians want to pick and choose, Jesus never turned anyone away from God.  If we believe and are born again, we will enter into the kingdom of Heaven.  We must follow Christ's example and be a light for the world.  If we do what is true and go to the light, then it will be clearly seen that our works have been carried out in God's name.

In a world broken by prejudice and hatred, Christians are called to embody the unconditional love of God for all. Jesus proclaimed this message to the world in his new commandment:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)

Jesus was not bound by the expectations of society, and through his ministry, he extended the love of God to many who had been deemed “unworthy.” Through Jesus’ own example and teachings, we are called into action.

But for those who ask, “What does God require of us?” We can look to the Book of Acts for the answer. Peter was given a vision to accept gentiles who were deemed unfit for the kingdom of God. But, God told him, “Do not call unclean what God has declared clean.” Paul talked to the leaders of Jerusalem to convince them that ministry amongst the gentiles was where God was leading him.  We are called to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, and visit the imprisoned. Some may call them the unclean, but God does not discriminate because we are all His children.  Jesus didn't say, for God so loved some of the world, He said for God so loved the world.  We are called to love our neighbor—not discriminate.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Moment of Zen: Kittens





Nothing brings joy to my day like my kittens.  Edith and Lucy are doing their best to fill the void left by the loss of HRH.  They are doing a fantastic job.  With kittens, you never know what they are going to do next,  or what new thing will fascinate them.  It's so much fun.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Comparisons


Today's post is about comparisons.  As men, we are often sizing each other up, but in this case, I wanted to compare political control of the states with it's effects on same-sex marriage recognition.

The above map shows party control of the state legislatures.  Those in Red represent that both houses of the state legislature are controlled by the Republican Party.  Those in Blue represent that both houses of the legislature are controlled by the Democratic Party.  The three states in Purple (Iowa, Kentucky, and New Hampshire) represent that one house of the legislature is controlled by Democrats while the other is controlled by Republicans.

The above map shows party control of the state governorship.  Those in Red represent that the governor is a member of the Republican Party.  Those in Blue represent that the governor is a member of the Democratic Party.  

The above map shows which states recognize and perform gay marriage.  All states whose legislature is currently controlled by the Denocratic Party have legalized gay marriage.  In most of the states that have Republican controlled state legislatures have had gay marriage made legal through the courts.  You will also notice that the political party of the governor does not correspond well with the map of states with same-sex marriage.

I decided to use the visual aids to help us visualize the politicalization of America.  JiEL commented yesterday that he'd like to see a map of the state-by-state political make-up of the United States.  He said, "I'm almost sure that the same states that are against equality of marriage rights and liberty rights are those same ones...."  I agreed that it would be interesting to compare the different maps.  I hope you'll find it interesting too.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Difficult Climb



Most people do not fully understand how an amendment can be proposed and ratified.  As someone who teaches history and government, it's part of my job to understand this process.  Article V of the Constitution lays out the processes by which constitutional amendments can be proposed and ratified.  It begins with the proposing of the amendment which can be done in one of two ways.  

In the first method which takes place in the U.S. Congress, both the House of Representatives and the Senate must approve the amendment by a two-thirds supermajority vote, a joint resolution amending the Constitution. Amendments so approved do not require the signature of the President of the United States and are sent directly to the states for ratification. The second method, which has never been used, requires two-thirds (or 34) of the state legislatures to ask Congress to call a national convention to propose amendments. 

Of these two processes, it is unlikely that a new Equal Rights Amendment as I outlined on Monday could pass by a supermajority of both houses of the current Congress.  The atmosphere is highly politicized with Republicans largely against equality for LGBT Americans and Democrats largely for LGBT equality.  With Democrats not holding a supermajority in both house, it is highly unlikely to be able to move through Congress.  

However, 34 states legislatures could call for a national convention.  The likelihood of this is fairly slim because it's never been done before, and the majority of state legislatures, roughly 60 percent are controlled by Republicans.  However, the majority of Americans, even if you go by state-by-state polls, favor same-sex marriage.  At least, two-thirds of the states have 50 percent or more of its citizens who favor same-sex marriage.  If the majority of citizens in favor of marriage equality in those 34 states became vocal enough, then state legislatures might be convinced to vote for a national convention for proposing amendments.  This is also a tricky prospect because it would depend on who the states sent to a national convention and whether or not they would even even choose to propose a new ERA.  The precedent set by the original Constitutional Convention would point to a national convention throwing out their mandate and proposing completely different amendments.

If a new ERA were proposed by a national convention, then it would move to the states for the ratification process.  Again, Article V recognizes two ways for this to be accomplished.  An amendment could be added to the Constitution if three-fourths of the state legislatures approve it.  States may also choose to call ratifying conventions in which three-fourths of the states approve it. This method has been used only once, to ratify the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition.

The fact is, I realize this is a dream.  Even with the 30 states that currently have same-sex marriage legalized, not all of those states would want to agree to a constitutional amendment for LGBT equality.  Some polls show that in 38 states, there is a majority or near majority of people who believe that same-sex marriages should be recognized.  The Pew Research poll which looked at regional support of same-sex marriage showed that only 34 states supported same-sex marriage, with basically the old Confederate states of the South, plus Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia being opposed to same-sex marriage.

Of the thousands of proposals that have been made to amend the Constitution, only 33 obtained the necessary two-thirds vote in Congress. Of those 33, only 27 amendments (including the Bill of Rights) have been ratified. It's a long shot but with enough momentum and support behind it, it is a possibility.

Sources:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_in_the_United_States
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_opinion_of_same-sex_marriage_in_the_United_States
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_state_legislatures
http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/constitution/
http://www.freedomtomarry.org/resources/entry/marriage-polling
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/10/15/gay-marriage-arrives-in-the-south-where-the-public-is-less-enthused/




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Headaches



I'd planned on a different post for today, but sometimes my migraines get me down and it's hard to think and/or write.  This headache began Monday night and kept me awake as the storms that swept through the South that night raged on. It didn't go away yesterday but waxed and waned thoughout the day.  As one set of medicine wore off the intensity of the pain increased until I could take another dose.  I'm hoping it will be better today.  I try to go about and do what I need to do when when I have headaches like this, but it's usually at a reduced capacity when the pain is this intense.  So last night as I was writing this post, my medicine had worn off, and I was feeling the intense pain come back.  I'm hoping a good night's sleep will help alleviate this headache. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Once More Unto The Breach





Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'



Monday, October 13, 2014

Equal Rights Amendment


Just over four years ago, I wrote a post about the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).  In that post I suggested that a new ERA be proposed.  The original Equal Rights Amendment was designed to guarantee equal rights for women. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman, and it was introduced in the Congress for the first time in 1923. Though the ERA was introduced in every Congressional session between 1923 and 1970, it almost never reached the floor of either the Senate or the House for a vote—instead, it was usually "bottled up" in committee. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress and went to the state legislatures for ratification.

The resolution in Congress that proposed the amendment set a ratification deadline of March 22, 1979. Through 1977, the amendment received 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications. Five states later rescinded their ratifications before the 1979 deadline, though the validity of these rescissions is disputed. In 1978, a joint resolution of Congress extended the ratification deadline to June 30, 1982, but no further states ratified the amendment before the passing of the second deadline. Several feminist organizations, disputing the validity and/or the permanence of the ratification deadline, and also disputing the validity of the five rescissions, continue to work at the federal and state levels for the adoption of the ERA.

The language of the 1972 ERA was fairly simple and read:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In all likelihood, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is dead and will never be ratified to become the 28th Amendment.  The fight to ratify the ERA is still ongoing and is not quite over.  More than three decades after the deadline set by Congress, advocates are working to advance the amendment's cause at the grass-roots level as some in Congress work to either repeal the amendment's deadline or start over.

Advocates say the Supreme Court's June 30 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby has energized interest in the ERA. That 5-4 decision said the 2010 Affordable Care Act can't require certain businesses to provide free insurance coverage for birth control if they object on religious grounds.  Pay equity is another factor driving renewed enthusiasm for the Equal Rights Amendment. Women on average are paid 77 cents for every dollar men are paid, according to the ERA Coalition.

Congress is considering amendment resolutions that take two different approaches: the three-state approach and the fresh start approach. The "three-state" approach, sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., would repeal the ratification deadline and make the ERA part of the Constitution when three more states ratify it.  The "fresh start" approach — by Menendez and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. — would start over with a new resolution and no ratification deadline. Menendez and Maloney also are co-sponsors of the three-state approach legislation.

I believe that they should not only push through with the fresh start approach, but I think there should be a Federal Amendment that would extend the ERA to include barring discrimination because of sexual orientation or identity.  I propose that the new language of the amendment read:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. All laws infringing on the rights of individuals because of sex, sexual identity, or sexual orientation shall become null and void immediately upon passage of this amendment.

I think it should also be proposed that a possible Section 4 might be added that would define sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Section 4.  Definitions of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Section 4.1. Sex shall be defined as the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.

Section 4.2. Gender shall refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. Gender identity shall be defined as the gender, male, female, with which a person identifies exclusive of their biological secondary sexual characteristics.  The gender identities one may identify as include male, female, both, somewhere in between ("third gender"), or neither and may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth.

Section 4.3. Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to men, women, both genders, neither gender, or another gender. Sexual orientation is enduring and also refers to a person's sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them.

Though some might believe this fourth section is too strict or defined.  However, whenever the debate over gay marriage is brought up, the ideas of polygamy, bigamy, and bestiality are always raised in the debate by crackpots.  I think these definitions would clear up any debate about the meaning of the terms.  It would also not allow for a great deal of interpretation of the meaning of the amendment by the Supreme Court or the state ratifying legislatures.

If this amendment were to be proposed and ratified, the debates over GLBT rights would effectively be ended.  Gay marriage would be forced to be recognized nationwide and we would no longer be holding our breaths as court cases continue in nineteen states.  Furthermore, school bullying would be against federal laws.  Teachers could not be fired because of their sexual orientation.  We would have definitive protection once and for all.  I realize this is a dream, but I think it is a great idea.  What do you think?  Should we all push to have this amendment proposed, passed by Congress, and ratified by the states?

I am going to be discussing more about this idea this week.  I want to look at whether it is possible for a new ERA to pass through Congress and what would happen if it reached the states.  Though I believe that the federal courts are moving in the right direction, court decisions can be overturned.  The Supreme Court has reversed their decisions before, and let's face it, the Supreme Court is as political as any branch of government and with that the balance of the Court could move away from LGBT rights.  I think a constitutional amendment is the true way that LGBT Americans to be equal once and for all.