Friday, January 31, 2014

First Active College Football Player Comes Out

A kicker for Oregon's Willamette University became the first active college football player to come out publicly when he announced to his team -- and the world -- that he is bisexual.

Conner Mertens came out to his coach and to his teammates, and then to the world, this month after years of keeping his identity a secret. In a profile for Out Sports, Mertens described how he felt a youngster growing up in a conservative town.

"For me growing up, I always felt the biggest thing that caused my depression was the feeling of being alone," he said. "I hate the stereotypes that go along with liking the same sex. You don't have to follow the stereotype to be this way. I made the decision that if I could help anyone else avoid feeling the way I felt, I would."

While coming out might have been daunting, Mertens received nothing but love and support from his team.

"Coach didn't blink an eye," he told Out Sports. "He talked about how they don't build football players at Willamette, they build men, and that he was proud that I could tell him this about myself."

After coming out to those close to him, Mertens came out to world. He posted a letter to Twitter about his decision.

"I finally love the person I see in the mirror for the first time in my life," he wrote, in part. "Unless you have had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds you may not understand the importance of being able to be... you."

After his story went viral, he received support from former Minnesota Vikings punter and gay rights advocate Chris Kluwe.

Mertens came out to his family around Christmastime and was humbled by the response.

"It sounds corny, but I legitimately feel there's a weight off my shoulders," he told the press, per ESPN. "It's tiring to pretend your something else for 24-7, for 18 or 19 years of your life. So finally to be able to joke about it, to be honest about it, not have to put on this mask, I'm finally able to take a deep breath."

The 19-year-old told the Oregonian he likes and has dated women but is currently in a relationship with a man from Portland who goes to school in Washington.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Birmingham's Good Samaritan

It’s no secret that Chick-fil-A was founded by a family that considers itself Christian, and yet that same family continues to contribute to hate groups who wish to destroy equality in America. They claim that they run their business on biblical values, but their version of biblical values are not the values of a loving God.  However, with the winter storm that swept through the South this week, one Chick-fil-A franchise owner is an example of true biblical values.  What happened in Birmingham Tuesday evening was an example of how true biblical values are played out.

A snowstorm in the South is about as rare as it gets. Folks around Birmingham, Alabama, weren’t all that worried though. The storm was only supposed to dust the city – not even enough powder for a Southern snowman.  Every prediction of the storm was that any major winter precipitation would be mostly contained to south of Montgomery in a northeastern arch that would stretch from Louisiana to Virginia.  South Alabama was expected to get the brunt of the storms. North Alabama would be spared, but was likely to get some snow flurries.

So when the first snowflakes began to fall, no one paid all that much attention. But then, the flakes kept falling. Before too long people in the Birmingham Metro area realized it was much more than a dusting. By that point, it was too late for anyone to do anything.

Icy interstates and highways soon became clogged with cars and trucks. Thousands of motorists soon found themselves stranded with nowhere to go – including many stuck on Highway 280.  (As a side note, a similar situation occurred in Atlanta, but Atlanta had been predicted to get heavy amounts of winter precipitation. Birmingham had not.)

But a good number of those stranded motorists were able to find shelter in the storm thanks to the kindness and generosity of some Chick-fil-A restaurant employees and the restaurant's owner, Mark Meadows.  Once the snow started accumulating, Meadows closed the restaurant and sent his staff home. But a few hours later, many of them returned – unable to get to their homes.

“Our store is about a mile and a half from the interstate and it took me two hours to get there,” manager Audrey Pitt said. “It was a parking lot as far as I could see.”

So Audrey left her car on the side of the interstate and joined a flock of bundled up drivers trudging through the snow.

“At one point there were more people walking than driving,” she said.

Some of the drivers had been stuck in their cars for nearly seven hours without any food or water. So the staff of the Chick-fil-A decided to lend a helping hand.

“We cooked several hundred sandwiches and stood out on both sides of 280 and handed out the sandwiches to anyone we could get to – as long as we had food to give out.”

The staffers braved the falling snow and ice, slipping and sliding, as they offered hot juicy chicken breasts tucked between two buttered buns. And Chick-fil-A refused to take a single penny for their sandwiches.  The meal was a gift – no strings attached.

“They were very excited and extremely thankful,” she said. “People were thankful to get something to put in their stomachs.”

“We just wanted to be able to help,” Audrey said. “[Tuesday] was such a hopeless situation. We wanted to do something to make people feel a little bit better. We were here. We had food and there were people outside who needed food. So it just made sense to do something for them.”

But Chick-fil-A’s generosity didn’t stop there.

“We opened up our dining room to anyone who wanted to sleep on a bench or a booth,” Audrey said. And this morning, the weary staff members fired up their ovens and began preparing chicken biscuits. The only thing that is closed – is Chick-fil-A’s cash register.

“We’re not open for business,” she said. ‘We’re just feeding people who are hungry.”

I’d say the Chick-fil-A team blessed a lot of people in Birmingham – but that’s not how Audrey sees it. “It’s a blessing to us to be able to help people,” she said. “It really is.”

I think this is a wonderful story of generosity.  “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,” Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew. “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”  The owner of this Chick-fil-A franchise obviously knows the meaning of the teachings of Jesus.  Maybe one day the CEO of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, will learn what the true meaning of Christianity is.  I have to say though, that until Cathy quits donating to anti-LGBT organizations, I still won't be going to a Chick-fil-A restaurant and giving them any of my money.

I am glad though that there are people like Mark Meadows who understand the true nature of Christian charity.  May God bless him.

And while we are speaking of people getting stranded in the Birmingham area, some teachers and school administrators have my complete sympathies.  Throughout Jefferson County (Birmingham is in Jefferson County), some parents were unable to get to their children to pick them up from school and teachers and administrators stayed with the students, some overnight, so that the children would be safe, warm, and well-fed.  Being stuck in a car for hours on the road is one thing, but I can't imagine the nightmare of being stuck at school with my students overnight.  It may sound horrible of me to say that, but if you knew my students, you'd no doubt feel the same way.

Thankfully, Alabama should begin to thaw out tomorrow afternoon.  Today will be another snow day for us.  The good news is that with the governor declaring a state of emergency, we will not be required to make up the missed days.  I could not have made it to school tomorrow anyway.  My driveway is still frozen over as is the road in front of my house.  I keep praying that no one hits those patches of ice and has a wreck.  I can understand carefully getting out on the roads if you have a major emergency, but it is quite stupid to get out and joyride and sightsee.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hell Froze Over

Well, Alabama froze over, which sometimes is close enough to hell for me. It sure feels like it in the summer months. I had planned on writing more, but I usually write my posts the night before and I'm sleepy as I write this one. I might add to it later this morning.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Day

Snow Day
By Billy Collins

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

Billy Collins (born William James Collins; March 22, 1941) is an American poet, appointed as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. He is a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York and is the Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute, Florida. Collins was recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004 through 2006. He is currently a teacher in the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton.

Source: Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (Random House Inc., 2001)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Preparing For Winter Weather

I received an alert from my Weather Channel app today for this:







We don't often get this type of weather here in Alabama. Yes, we generally get at least some snow once a year, but rarely is it considered a "winter storm." I'm not sure how bad this might be, and I actually expect it won't be much of anything. Yet, two inches of frozen precipitation can wreak havoc here, since we are not accustomed to icy road conditions.

Sometimes in icy conditions we lose power, so we will definitely get some gas for the generator, and I plan to cook a large pot of corn and potato chowder to warm things up in the chilly days ahead.

The worst part about Alabama winters is not the cold, but the extreme fluctuations in temperature. Yesterday, we had mild temperatures in the 60s and tonight it will drop to 28 degrees. The extreme swing in temperatures gets everyone sick.

When in the South, you get used to weird weather. Like most things in the South, you just have to deal with the eccentricities, whether they're from family, friends, or Mother Nature.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

God Is Love

Beloved, let 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. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:7-21

One of our greatest needs as human beings is to be loved. We all need love. We need to know that we are important to somebody, that somebody truly cares about us, wants us, and accepts us unconditionally. When we doubt that we are loved, we may develop unacceptable behavior patterns to compensate for it.  We all need to know that somebody loves us.

The good news from God's Word is that somebody does. To know Him is to find release from the crippling effects of feeling unloved. Twice the Apostle John categorically stated that God is love (1 John 4:8,16). Love is one of the warmest words in the English language, and that God is love is one of the most sublime, uplifting, and reassuring truths known to mankind. Love is His nature. It is not merely a friendly attitude He projects. It is the essence of His being. He is always going to act toward us in love because He cannot do otherwise. Love is the way He is.

Knowing the God of love can help to make us more loving and giving persons. Not only will getting to know Him more intimately cause us to become more like Him, but resting secure in the assurance that He loves us will keep us from making demands of others and free us to reach out unselfishly and minister to them for their benefit alone. It is vitally important that we understand how much God loves us.

Not only does God's love motivate Him to give, but it motivates Him to give when it costs Him dearly. That too is different from our love. We hesitate to do anything for others that will cost us too much or inconvenience us too greatly. But God's love cost Him the very best that He had—His only Son. That is the message of the greatest love text in the Bible: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). God's giving His Son involved more than merely allowing Him to leave Heaven's glory and enter earth's history. It meant allowing Him to die in our place and pay the awful debt of our sins. God proved His love conclusively and irrefutably by sending His Son to the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10). That is sacrificial love.

Whenever we are tempted to think that nobody loves us, we need to think of the cross. Jesus bore that shame and suffering because He loves us. He values us so highly that He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to secure for us eternal joy. That is the epitome of love. Knowing Him intimately will motivate us to make some sacrifices for the good of others—for our spouses, our children, and other members of the body of Christ. It will help us give up what we want in order to minister to their needs.

When some people hear that God's love is self-giving, sacrificial, unconditional, eternal, and infinite, they get the idea that it is merely soft, sloppy sentimentality, that God is an indulgent Father who gives us everything we want and conveniently turns His head the other way when we sin. But that is not the case. Everything God does is done in the totality of His being, so His love must always be consistent with His other attributes. Since God is holy, then His love must be a holy love that encourages holiness in those loved.

Look for evidences of God's love for you all throughout the day, and remind yourself often that you are the object of His endless love.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Moment of Zen: America

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free"

-President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas), The American President (1995)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Condomless Controversy

When I was reading up on the suspension incident with "Noel" from Sean Cody, the first websites to report on the situation were gay news websites, the mainstream local and national did not begin to report on the situation until after the holiday weekend. I found one thing particularly interesting in the difference between how the mainstream media and the gay media treated the story. The vast majority treated it fairly and pointed out the inconsistencies among the principal and school board and "Noel" and his family. Nearly all of the reporting was the same, but with two main differences. First, most of the gay media sites reported the story about "Noel" of Sean Cody, while the mainstream media used his real name and mostly referred to Sean Cody as an adult gay website or as a gay pornographic website. Just a quick note on this, I think the gay media understands why porn names are used, and the mainstream media does not care. The second main difference is how Noel's work was portrayed. Nearly all of the gay media sites mentioned that he performed bareback sex, whereas the mainstream media just said that he had done a number of videos, never mentioning what type of performance he did.

The second difference is the main topic of what I want to discuss. A few years ago, anytime bareback sex was brought up, it was generally a condemnation of the practice. In 2008, Chi Chi LaRue responded to the increasing number of bareback gay porn movies being made. LaRue is a well-known, award-winning, longtime director of (gay and straight) porn who stopped working with Vivid Entertainment when they went condoms-optional. LaRue is a powerful voice in the industry and in his mission to promote safer sex started a website called "Safe Sex is HOT Sex!" LaRue made the following statement about condom use or the lack thereof in the gay porn industry:
I have always promoted on my sets the same thing that I feel every gay man should practice in his personal life. ASSUME EVERYONE YOU ARE HAVING SEX WITH IS HIV+. Some companies say that they test their models, which just gives a false sense of security. There is no way to 100% protect the health of models by testing only. What if the test was taken a day before the persons HIV became detectable. What if the model caught HIV a day after he was tested? Unfortunately, this way of thinking is why I had to quit working in the straight industry. I walked away from a lucrative contract with Vivid Video when they decided to go "condom optional" so don't ever say I don't put my money where my mouth is!

The fear I have is that when we are silent and choose to ignore issues as serious as this, then perhaps barebacking in porn will just keep increasing like HIV infection rates. Then more and more models will be sucked into putting their health at risk to make porn!
Interestingly though, if you do a search for about condom use and Chi Chi LaRue, you won't find anything more recent than 2010 stating LaRue's views on the issue. In fact, you will not be able to go to the website she had set up "Safe Sex is HOT Sex!" anymore either, since it no longer exists. In a recent study by GMFA, the leading gay mens health charity in the UK, about gay porn viewing, the following results were presented:

  • 87% of gay men report watching porn at least once a week (1 in 4 watching porn every day)
  • the most popular act watched was anal sex (91%)
  • 69% reported actively choosing bareback porn with 96% having ever watched bareback porn.

From the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s until the mid-1990s, the adult entertainment industry voluntarily adopted the requirement that performers practice safe sex in porn films, but many producers dropped the practice when drugs became widely available to control, but not cure, HIV.

Some producers never returned to the days before AIDS, when condoms were hardly ever seen in pornography. (They still aren't in straight porn where most content - both vaginal and anal - is performed without the use of condoms.)

The fact is barebacking is an issue in gay porn. It is such an issue that Falcon Studios, one of the oldest gay porn studios and one that adamantly uses condoms in its films, has begun to airbrush the condoms out of their films. Gay porn megastudio Falcon have always been pioneers, leading the way with hot content and always staying abreast of what's going on in the porn and non porn world around them. Now, with condoms in porn the major issue of the day, they have found a way to appeal to lovers of bareback porn without putting their performers at risk or giving into filming "raw" sex. In their upcoming release, California Dreamin', they've airbrushed all the condoms out of the movie. In the promotional stills for the movie, the condoms used in filming are clearly visible. Yet when the final stills form the movie were released the airbrushed condoms were invisible.

Director Tony Dimarco said in a press release that the technique has created "a completely safe sex movie that mostly appears to be a bareback release." Dimarco continues:
With this movie I really wanted to capture the essence of that time, when life seemed more carefree and spontaneous. In keeping with this concept, I felt that condoms need to be addressed. I wanted to give the impression of a pre-condom movie, but use condoms as we do in every scene we film. I found a way to film the movie safely and effectively, while giving the experience that I had intended and using the hottest modern stars.
Nearly every "amateur" gay porn site has gone to bareback videos. Corbin Fisher began doing so without even a mention of it. Chaos Men promoted their videos as "Raw," and Sean Cody flatly calls it barebacking. Up until recently the gay porn blog QueerClick showed a few preview pictures of "condomless" videos but you had to their sister blog and more extreme QCX for the rest of the preview images that showed condomless sex. Their only exception was Bel Ami Studios which bareback sex has become the norm, and I am sure because of the popularity, QueerClick did not want to relegate them to another blog. However, over the past year as Sean Cody and others have begun producing more and more bareback videos, QueerClick has begun using QCX for only the most extreme BDSM posts and bareback has been put on the mainstream blog.

The question as to why barebacking has become increasingly popular, both in adult films and in everyday life, has become something of the elephant in the room in the gay community: something that's going on despite the health risks, but really not discussed.

In an article on the website The Body (the Complete HIV/AIDS Resource) Rick Sowadsky, a communicable disease specialist studying AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, looked at the pro and cons of barebacking, as well as the reasons why men continue to do despite the health risks.

Sowadsky concludes: "For some gay men, the benefits of unprotected anal intercourse (intimacy, pleasure, etc.) outweigh the risks (HIV and other STDs). On the other hand, if two gay men have unprotected anal intercourse, and neither of them is infected with HIV, nor any other STD, then barebacking would be completely safe as far as infectious diseases are concerned. But if either partner has HIV or another STD, then there are significant risks of infection for these diseases through barebacking. Future HIV and STD prevention efforts targeted toward the gay community must incorporate the issue of barebacking."

Just as the adult male video industry (hit hard by the recession and the growth of amateur and pirated porn on the Internet) is shrinking, barebacking is more popular than ever. While the major adult male video companies continue to produce condom-only content, smaller companies produce nothing but condom-free product. One reason is demand.

"Bareback? I don't even consider that a fetish anymore, it's become so big," said the owner of one Los Angeles gay video rental store to writer C. Brian Smith in the Advocate in May 2009.

Yet barebacking remains a highly debated issue, partly because many feel that barebacking videos encourage the behavior, making it seem commonplace and desirable. This brings forward the question if gay men are being exposed to regular bareback sex, in particular anal sex that is considered the highest risk sexual act for transmission of HIV, is there likely to be a wash over effect to actual behavior? Does watching bareback porn promote actual bareback sex?

Interestingly 7% of GMFA survey takers said that yes, watching bareback porn lead to them having unsafe anal sex, with almost all (96.8%) saying that this would not stop them watching bareback porn.

By far the most interesting question I found was "do you think watching bareback porn can lead others to having unprotected sex?". More then 50% of the people taking the survey said yes, watching bareback porn was likely to make other people have unsafe sex. Is this a case of "well clearly I can tell the difference between fantasy and reality, but I can't speak for others…"?

What we can say is that clearly there is money to be made in the production of bareback porn. When production houses like Sean Cody who used to be staunchly "safe sex only" start producing bareback the question has to be asked why? High demand from the already subscribed members? A decline in members with the current porn dollar being spread ever thin by sites like x-tube?

The act of barebacking however, is it liberating, a right, an act of defiance as reported by gay anthropologist Eric Rofes? Or is bareback porn an act of exploitation of vulnerable actors in a fickle market throwing demands where increasing competition means anal sex without condoms is the only way to make money? Are models being put at risk for the sake of public demand?

Are the public being placed at risk with depictions of raw sex separate from safety measures that may be in place to reduce risk of HIV infection? Is porn purely about the depiction of sex or can it have a role in education?

I'd love to hear your thoughts guys.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Went to Bed Early

Last night, I was so sleepy, I could barely keep my eyes open past 8:30 pm. Sean (Just a Jeep Guy) had suggested I write a piece about the popularity of bareback videos in gay porn.  I had planned to write that post for today, but just couldn't hold my eyes open.  After getting home from school late, then cooking dinner (which I do nearly every night, but tonight it was risotto, which takes a bit of effort to cook), and doing laundry, I knew I couldn't hold my eyes up long enough to write the post that I had planned to write.  I feel asleep, and thus, this is the part for today.

I guess I can hope the old saying is true: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What lips my lips have kissed

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)
  by Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why, 
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain 
Under my head till morning; but the rain 
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh 
Upon the glass and listen for reply, 
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain 
For unremembered lads that not again 
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry. 
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree, 
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one, 
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before: 
I cannot say what loves have come and gone, 
I only know that summer sang in me 
A little while, that in me sings no more.

Edna St. Vincent Millay's What Lips My Lips Have Kissed is a conventional Italian or Petrarchan sonnet and is the speaker's reminiscences of the numerous love affairs of her younger days and her regret that such amours were moments of days past that will not be repeated.  This poem struck a particular chord with me, since the older I get and the more time I am single, I begin to wonder if my past amours are in the past, not to be repeated again, though hopefully, I am not too old to find love again.  I certainly think I am still young enough to still find love again, but some days, I just have to wonder if it will ever happen and "summer will sing in me" once more.

In the opening quatrain Millay refers not to individual lovers but merely to lips that have met hers and arms that have supported her head. Millay admitted her free ranging sexuality and eventually entered into an open marriage with a man who managed her business affairs and was a dear friend. She complains not so much about her early promiscuity but about the passage of time. Her early loves are now "ghosts . . . that tap and sigh." In line 7 and 8 she refers to them as "unremembered lads that not again/ Will turn to me at midnight with a cry."

With the beginning of the sestet or concluding six lines, she creates a  brilliant and evocative metaphor. She never says, "I am a lonely winter tree," but the identification of herself with the tree of silent boughs is inescapable. Similarly, the lovers of her youth are birds that "have vanished one by one" leaving her now leafless boughs (read arms)  "more silent than before." Just as she had refrained earlier from identifying whose lips and arms had kissed and held her, she now "cannot say what loves have come and gone." However, those past days of passion were a "summer [that] sang in me/ A little while, that in me sings no more."

Certainly there is regret and "a quiet pain," but the sadness is not shame at her youthful promiscuity but a quiet melancholy that the onset of winter or age that has caused the leaves to fall and the birds to vanish. Were another summer season to come, she would welcome another succession of nameless lips and arms. But in human life we are not accorded renewed youth, renewed leafy boughs and more than one singing summer. This graceful sonnet renews and heightens one's appreciation of the poet about whom Richard Wilbur said of Millay, "She wrote some of the best sonnets of the century." That is a strong compliment from the second Poet Laureate of the United States.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Looking to the Future

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13

I will admit this last week did not go as I had planned.  Last Sunday, instead of boarding a cruise ship for seven days, I returned home to my family after I received the news of my aunt's passing.  To say that this week has been difficult would be an understatement.  But I am reminded that God has a plan for each of us.  James 4:13-17 states:
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"-yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
For reasons that may (or may not) one day be revealed to me, it was not in the Lord's will for me to take that cruise. God has a purpose for everything he does, and we are not to always understand his purpose, but we must remain faithful that is that His purpose is "to give [us] a future and a hope." And as much as I wanted to go on that cruise, I knew that if I had forsaken my family in a time of need then I would have failed to do the right thing.  My mother needed me, so I sacrificed my trip to be with her and comfort her in her time of need.

None of us knows what the future holds.  Just as we cannot tell what the future holds; we cannot dwell on the past either.  We have to look toward the future and see the great hope it holds for us.  Maybe we have had great glories in our past or we have had great misfortunes, but they are things in the past and if we dwell on them, then we become lost in the past. We  must look to the future, even though we do not know what it holds.  The future has great hope contained within it, especially if we look to God and seek Him with all our heart.  If we do this, then the glory of God will shine down on us, and our future cannot help but be bright.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Moment of Zen: A Favorite

There have not been a lot of moments of zen this week, because of the death of my aunt, missing my much needed vacation/cruise, and going back to school early.  Because of the misery of this week, I wanted this week's moment of zen to be one of my favorite pictures.  I used this picture once before on this blog in a different context, but I love it for many different reasons and just wanted to share it.  I find it so incredibly sexy.  I don't know if I can describe why I find it sexy: maybe it's the tattoo, maybe it's the perfect little nipple surrounded by just a bit of hair, maybe it's the blond underarm hair, or the freckles, or that he's not too muscular, the other guy's hand on his shoulder, or maybe it's all of the above. I just know that I find it incredibly sexy and it brightens my week to look back on my earlier post with this picture and remember all the subtleties of this picture that make it a moment of zen especially after a particularly dreadful week.

Friday, January 17, 2014

May "The Professor" Rest in Peace

Two characters of movie and television inspired me to become a teacher.  Those two characters were the Professor from Gilligan's Island and Indiana Jones.  I think there are few historians or archaeologists of my generation who were not inspired by Indiana Jones, and the Professor was just so incredibly smart. On January 16, 2014, Russell Johnson passed away from natural causes.  He was best known for playing the handsome Professor Roy Hinkley (usually referred to as "The Professor"), the very knowledgeable polymath who could build all sorts of inventions out of the most rudimentary materials available on the island, but, as Johnson himself pointed out, could not fix the hole in the boat. 

Gilligan's Island was one of my favorite shows as a young kid (ranking with I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched, and Scarecrow and Mrs. King).  On Gilligan's Island, the Professor was always my hero.  The Professor was a good-looking but nerdy academic, an exaggerated stereotype of the man of capacious intelligence with little or no social awareness. Occasionally approached romantically by Ginger (and guest stars, including Zsa Zsa Gabor), he remained chaste and unaffected.  Since I was a kid, who didn't understand why I was not all crazy about girls and had more of a fascination for boys, it seemed like remaining "chaste and unaffected" was the way to go.  It would largely remain my philosophy until I was in my twenties.  The Professor was my role model in many ways.

Before becoming an actor, Russell Johnson served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. He was on a B-24 Liberator when it was shot down during a bombing raid over the Philippines in 1945, according to his official biography, and used his G.I. Bill benefits to pay for acting school after the war.

Johnson married Kay Levey on July 23, 1949. Their son, David, ran the AIDS program for Los Angeles, California, until David's own death from complications of AIDS in 1994. Johnson was a full-time volunteer for AIDS research fundraising since his son was diagnosed.  He also had a daughter with Levey, Kim. Kay Levey died on January 20, 1980 in Century City, California. In 1982, Johnson married Constance Dane.  Johnson is survived by his wife, Constance Dane, and daughter, Kim Johnson, from an earlier marriage.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Back to School

I wasn't supposed to return to school until Tuesday, since the cruise was supposed to be until Sunday and Monday was a holiday.  I was supposed to be in Belize touring ancient Maya ruins today.  However, since I did not go on the cruise and my aunt's funeral was held yesterday, I decided to go back to school today and tomorrow.  It's not particularly what I had planned to do, but why waste the vacation time.  I know that my students have been in good hands; I've had a retired teacher subbing for me this week.  My only reason for taking the rest of the week off would be to keep an eye on HRH and her continued recovery.  HRH, though, is progressing well and has retaken her throne as the ruler of the house, so I'm not too worried about her.

I dread dealing with my students though.  Kids today have no boundaries.  They always ask questions that I would never have dared to ask my teachers.  They will question why I didn't go on the cruise anyway, because they have no sense of duty and family.  They will question why I came back and didn't take the rest of the week back, because they have no sense of responsibility.  They will question the work I left for them to do in my absence, because they have no sense of their own education.  Maybe I can use those questions as a lesson on duty, family, responsibility, and education.  I think all of those lessons are lessons that should be taught to them at home by their parents, but sadly, none of it is taught at home anymore as parents continually expect teachers to do more and more of their responsibilities.  Therefore, I try to teach these lessons to my students, but I try to do it in a way they will understand and not in a way that seems like I'm teaching them a life lesson.  It's a delicate balance, but that's part of being a teacher and molding young minds.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


My original plan today was to be disembarking from a cruise ship at Isla Roatán in Honduras.  However, since my cruise was cancelled due to my aunt's death, I will be serving as a pallbearer at her funeral instead of taking a historical tour of Roatán and getting in some beach time.

For those of you who may not know, a pallbearer is one of several funeral participants who helps carry the casket of a deceased person from a religious or memorial service or viewing either directly to a cemetery or mausoleum, or to and from the hearse which carries the coffin.

A pall is the heavy cloth that is draped over a coffin. The term "pallbearer" is used to signify someone who bears the coffin which the pall covers.

In western cultures, the pallbearers are usually male family members, close friends, or colleagues of the deceased.  A pall-bearer in the USA will carry a casket by the handles, and at around waist height. In the United Kingdom, the casket is carried on the shoulders, and the handles are for the most part decorative. All lifting should be done from underneath the casket.

I realize that this is a somewhat somber post, and it's quite a somber time for me and my family.  I just did not feel like righting a cheerful post today, so I hope you will forgive me.

P.S.  HRH seems to be enjoying being home.  I'm sure after being kept in a kennel for a week, she is happy to be able to roam around some, though she's mostly resting.  Quite honestly, sleeping is what cats do most of the time anyway.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Cat's Song

The Cat's Song
by Marge Piercy

Mine, says the cat, putting out his paw of darkness.
My lover, my friend, my slave, my toy, says
the cat making on your chest his gesture of drawing
milk from his mother's forgotten breasts.

Let us walk in the woods, says the cat.
I'll teach you to read the tabloid of scents,
to fade into shadow, wait like a trap, to hunt.
Now I lay this plump warm mouse on your mat.

You feed me, I try to feed you, we are friends,
says the cat, although I am more equal than you.
Can you leap twenty times the height of your body?
Can you run up and down trees? Jump between roofs?

Let us rub our bodies together and talk of touch.
My emotions are pure as salt crystals and as hard.
My lusts glow like my eyes. I sing to you in the mornings
walking round and round your bed and into your face.

Come I will teach you to dance as naturally
as falling asleep and waking and stretching long, long.
I speak greed with my paws and fear with my whiskers.
Envy lashes my tail. Love speaks me entire, a word

of fur. I will teach you to be still as an egg
and to slip like the ghost of wind through the grass.

HRH is finally home and seems much healthier (though she still has another round of antibiotics).  See was royally pissed that I had left her down there for a week, and she let her displeasure be known to the whole veterinarian clinic.  She hissed, growled, and attacked anything near her, until I got her in the car.  Once in the car, she was considerably calmer, and has been quite calm since she's been home.  I'm just so happy she's home, and I'm pretty sure, so is she.

Marge Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan, into a working-class family that had been hard-hit by the Depression. Piercy was the first member of her family to attend college, winning a scholarship to attend the University of Michigan. She received an MA from Northwestern University. During the 1960s, Piercy was an organizer in political movements like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the movement against the war in Vietnam, an engagement which has shaped her work in myriad ways. Perhaps most importantly, though, has been Piercy's sustained involvement with feminism, Marxism and environmental thought. An extremely prolific writer, Piercy has published 17 volumes of poetry and 17 novels. Her novels generally address larger social concerns through sharply observed characters and brisk plot lines. Though generally focused on issues such as class or culture, and usually written from a feminist position, Piercy's novels have taken on a variety of guises, including historical fiction and science or speculative fiction. Her novel He, She, and It (1991)—published as Body of Glass in the UK—won that country's prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award; an earlier novel of speculative fiction, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) has been credited as the first work of cyber-punk.

Piercy's poetry is known for its highly personal, often angry and very emotional timbre. She writes a swift free verse that shows the same commitment to the social and environmental issues that fill her novels. The Moon is Always Female (1980) is considered a classic text of the feminist movement. Early Grrl (1999) collects Piercy's earliest work and includes some unpublished poems. Of the autobiographical elements in her poetry, Piercy has said that "although my major impulse to autobiography has played itself out in poems rather than novels, I have never made a distinction in working up my own experience and other people's. I imagine I speak for a constituency, living and dead, and that I give utterance to energy, experience, insight, words flowing from many lives. I have always desired that my poems work for others. 'To Be of Use' is the title of one of my favorite poems and one of my best-known books." Piercy has also written plays, several volumes of nonfiction, a memoir, and has edited the anthology Early Ripening: American Women's Poetry Now (1988). Increasingly interested in Jewish issues, Piercy has also been poetry editor of Tikkun Magazine.

In 1971 Piercy moved to Cape Cod where she continues to live and work. She and her husband, the novelist Ira Wood, run Leapfrog Press. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why Traveling Is A State Of Mind


No matter the duration, each trip is addicting beyond the places, the food, the people and the experience. It is the state of mind and the state of being that I am so addicted to every time I had the opportunity to go see the world and to travel on my own. What makes traveling so enjoyable is the mental state you choose to bring with you while on your travels. It is the exact same kind of mindset that we should be bringing with us through life.

1. The eagerness to get out of bed and start your day

It's an incredibly motivating and uplifting force when you know you have so much to look forward to in the day and just can't wait to get started. You might not have had a lot of rest from the previous night, but you still feel charged up and ready to go when your alarm goes off because you know you have a full day of sight-seeing, food-hunting, and cultural immersion to look forward to.

2. The decision to be pleasant to people around you

Because you are on holiday, you might sometimes carry with you a silly grin of happiness with you wherever you go. Sometimes you feel like you have to be on your 'best behavior' to people around you because you are like an ambassador of some sort because you are a tourist. Of course, it goes without saying that if you are pleasant, it makes it so much easier for you to get help when you need it.

3. Embracing all experiences as great experiences

It's an art of being and the art of embracing what comes your way that some people struggle with even on holiday. Some people might feel sour about having to line up for a long time to get into a museum or get upset with how their plans are spoiled by bad weather. If you can stop getting hung up over what it should be as opposed to what the reality is, you might just learn how to be in the moment and embrace it for what it is. Walking in the rain in Paris? Sounds like an experience! Watching an Opera standing up in Vienna? It's one of those things you have to do once if you are on a budget. Even if you if you have to forego sleeping in a cozy hotel for a night to afford seeing a beautiful city, it makes for an interesting story once you get through it.

4. Taking responsibility for yourself

If it's entirely up to you to find your way from the city centre of Munich to the bus terminal where you are going to catch a night bus into Bratislava and then find your way to a hostel, you will make sure that you know how to get there and have the necessary information and maps with you when you have to make the trip even if you don't speak the local language and have never been there before.
There is an analogy somewhere in there about how this should be exactly how we ought to be approaching our life – to decide where we want to go, and make it our responsibility to get ourselves there. We will have to make all the necessary preparations, perhaps ask for directions along the way and try to figure out road signs, but in the end, we will get there.

5. A willingness to be awed and to be filled with a sense of wonderment

It's far too easy for us to become jaded and to be less than impressed by all that we see around us and to act in a way where we think that we have 'seen it all'.
Nothing can impress you if you decide not to be impressed. Even the most beautiful of sunsets and the most magnificent of monuments cannot make you feel anything if you choose to be dead inside and numb to it on the outside. When I travel, I allow myself to indulge in some of these addicting mindsets, in hopes that I will one day attain the mastery to apply them as part of my daily life. After all, whether you board a train, a plane, or climb into a car, you're not only traveling, but exploring the world, too.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


I won't be going on my cruise. My mother called early this morning to tell me that my aunt passed away last night. It's more important that I go spend time with my family and help comfort them than trying to go out and have a good time.

At least this way, I can pick up HRH myself from the vet (they plan on letting her come home Monday), and the money I would have spent on the cruise can go to taking care of vet bills.

I had so looked forward to getting away for a little while and putting my trouble behind me, just for a short while. I guess that I was just not meant to go on this cruise.

Lift Your Eyes To the Hills

A Song of Ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121

We all travel at some points in our lives, and a prayer for when we travel is important to be sure God knows we want His hand in our vacation, trip or in any journey in which we travel. We all may be good enough in our driving, much aware that there are important travel safety tips we can follow to protect ourselves away from home, but one of the most important is to pray for God to be with us. 

Life itself is often a challenging, dangerous journey, with no clear idea what is over the hill in front of you.  You "lift your eyes unto the hills" and ask from where will help come.  We will all need help and courage in getting over those hills and this can only be fulfilled with the grace of God. 

Only The Lord can direct the steps and can provide peace throughout the trip. I know whenever am away from home there are some people back home praying the whole time for my return. For all of my family members, relatives and friends I would express my humble thanks, and request to pray for my journey of life as well. One thing I have gotten to know is the point that no matter where you go and whatever you might experience, God is always their watching over you.  May god watch over me this week! and may he watch over all of us in our travels through life.