Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Year in Review

When 2014 began, it was a year filled with hope.  I looked back over my posts for the last year, and as I look at my post for January 1, I saw where I wrote:

However, I am looking so forward to 2014.  I truly believe that it will be a monumental year.  I'm going to be an uncle again in July, and I could not be happier.  I'm hoping this year will be the year that I find love.  I, like many people, hope to get in better shape physically. I also hope to improve my health and well being.

I've never been keen on New Years resolutions, because they are almost always impossible to keep.  However, this year, I have three that I plan to keep.  First of all, I am going to be more positive and optimistic....My second resolution is to be more proactive in making myself happier.....My last resolution is that I am going to read more. 

Looking back over the year, I really have tried to be more positive and optimistic, but it has been incredibly difficult at times.  I have also tried to make myself happier, and in some ways I succeeded.  I have also read a lot more books this year, and have loved each and every one of them.

However, several difficult things happened over the course of the year.  By the second week of January, I had to cancel a cruise because my aunt died.  Then in September my beloved HRH died.  As I was looking over my posts, I came across one of the things I wrote about HRH:

Overall, she's a wonderful companion.  The picture above is from when I had my headache.  She was sleeping quietly beside me making sure that I was alright.  Occasionally, she'd even get up and pat my head with her paw, as a way of saying, "Get well, my friend."

I wish I could have done more to keep her well.  I miss her so much.  I have to stop writing about this or I'll start crying more than I am and never get this post written.

At the end of January, Hell froze over or as I wrote:  "Well, Alabama froze over, which sometimes is close enough to hell for me."  In March, I had a case of bronchitis, which was no fun.  In April, the school drama club which I'm in charge of put on a production of "Steel Magnolias" which was a major success.  The girls did wonderful and during the intermission we had a "wedding reception" complete with red velvet armadillo cake, which we sold slices of to raise money for diabetes awareness.  We raised nearly $300 for the charity and even made a nice profit on proceeds from the tickets to give us a nice cushion for future drama club productions.  The drama club is tiring work, but very rewarding.  I'm trying to delegate more for this years production, which was written by yours truly.

May came and we got out of school and I was finally able to take my cruise.  Originally my mother was supposed to take the cruise with her sister, but she was the aunt who died in January, so with my sister pregnant, I went on the cruise with my mother.  Going on a cruise with my mother was not my ideal but we had a great time, even if it turned out to be the same cruise that my graduating senior class was on, but to see the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza was a dream come true.  May and June were also when my love life got a bit of a jolt, though neither of the guys I started dating lasted very long.  The sex was a lot of fun though.

In July, my sister gave birth to a beautiful  and healthy baby boy, and I became an uncle for the second time.  As with my niece did as a baby, he seems to cry every time I hold him.  July was a month of vacations though.  I took three.  First, I went to spend a week with a friend of mine in Louisiana.  Then, I took my niece to Six Flags, and as soon as I returned home from there, I left going on a trip to Dallas.  It was a very fun July. And then, school started back in August.

Tragedy occurred in September when HRH passed away, and most of that month was spent dealing with the loss of a great companion.  In October, a little joy returned to my life:

My heart was broken by the passing of HRH, but I now have two girls who are doing their best to mend a broken heart.  There names are Edith and Lucy, and they are just over two months old.  Edith is slightly younger than Lucy.  They are not sisters but get along very well.  I adopted them Saturday from the Montgomery Humane Society.  I had not been without a cat since 1985, and though many might question getting kittens so soon after Victoria's death, I don't.  There was a void that needed to be filled and these two little ladies are doing their best to fill it.  I saw Edith on the MHS website and fell in love. My cat before Victoria was a calico, named Calico (I was 7 when I got her and wasn't very imaginative).  I've always loved calicos for their sweet disposition, and I knew if I got another cat, it would be a calico. 

October was also a busy month as I was preparing for a small drama club production for the first of November.  It was not one of my best productions, but everyone seemed to enjoy it.  November and December have not been the best months, however.  For most of the past six weeks I have been in near constant pain, either migraines or lower back pain.  Thankfully, they tend not to happen at the same time, but it seems lie, when the headache clears, the migraine returns, and vice versa.  I hoping to get in to see the doctor next week and see what he says.

So that's my year in review.  Some good, some bad.  I do hope that 2015 will be a much better year without so many ups and downs. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Old Year

The Old Year
By John Clare

 The Old Year’s gone away
     To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
     Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
     In either shade or sun:
The last year he’d a neighbour’s face,
     In this he’s known by none.

All nothing everywhere:
     Mists we on mornings see
Have more of substance when they’re here
     And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
     In every cot and hall--
A guest to every heart’s desire,
     And now he’s nought at all.

Old papers thrown away,
     Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
     Are things identified;
But time once torn away
     No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year’s Day
     Left the Old Year lost to all.

The year of our Lord two-thousand fourteen is almost over.  I will not say that it has been an exceedingly good year, nor an exceedingly had year.  It's just been another year.  I will reflect more on 2014 in my post tomorrow, but for now, let's hope for a prosperous and healthy 2015 to friends, family, and my readers.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Game of Thrones

I am sure I am far behind on becoming a fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones, but I just got the first two seasons on DVD for Christmas.  I spent much of the weekend watching the twenty episodes of the first season.  If I subscribed to HBO, I'd probably have already seen the series before, but I don't so I had to wait to get it on DVD.  As soon as I watched the first episode, I knew I was hooked.  Now I need the third season and can anxiously await the fourth season on DVD in February.

If you are not familiar with the HBO series,  it is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's series of fantasy novels, the first of which is titled A Game of Thrones. I've never read the novels, but hope to one day.  The novels and their adaptation derive aspects of their settings, characters and plot from various events of European history. A principal inspiration for the novels is the English Wars of the Roses (1455–85) between the houses of Lancaster and York, reflected in Martin's houses of Lannister and Stark. Most of Westeros, with its castles and knightly tournaments, is reminiscent of High Medieval Western Europe.  I am not an expert on Medieval Europe, but I have been fascinated by Medieval England since I took a class on it from a woman who I consider to have been one of the greatest history professors to ever live.  She was also my mentor until her death, and she encouraged me to continue my study of history.

That being said, Game of Thrones has many redeeming qualities.  There are a massive number of characters to keep up with, but the male eye candy is tremendous.  With gay knights and nobles, there is a bit of gay sex thrown into the mix.  The male nudity is not nearly as numerous as the female nudity, but each time it appears on the screen, it is well worth it.  Amazingly, or maybe not so amazing, the most well-endowed actors tend to show frontal nudity, but there are plenty of male backsides to enjoy as well.

Game of Thrones star Finn Jones stated the obvious in one interview: There’s “not enough hot gay sex” on the show.   Jones plays Loras Tyrell (pictured on his back in the above screenshot), a rather unique character for American television.  He is unreservedly gay, but fierce as any other Westeros warrior.

Actor Kristian Nairn is best known as the dim-but-loyal Hodor on Game of Thrones.  His character carries a crippled child around and only utters the word Hodor.  Hodor is said to have giant's blood in him and by the looks of his nude scene in season one, he's a giant in more ways than one.  But more interesting than his prodigious member is that he is openly gay.  In an interview he said of being a gay man, "I had an upbringing to respect other people’s privacy, and their right to be and choose what they want, and I expect—no, demand—no less for myself. It’s a very small part of who I am on the whole, but nonetheless, in this day and age, it’s important to stand up and be counted. I have and always will stand my ground. So, yeah, people have been great, on the show, but I don’t see why it would be an issue."

If you enjoy semi-historical television with a mix of fantasy, Game of Thrones is well worth watching.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A No Fear New Year

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

God's Word brings us a comforting promise, along with an insightful command as we face a new year: "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6).

We can live this coming year without fear if we apply these four incredibly wonderful truths to our lives and root them deep into our hearts.

1) The Contentment of His Provision

Contentment is not getting what you want, but it is wanting what you already have. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 says, "But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content." If you know Jesus Christ, you have contentment. If you've got clothes on your back, something to eat, and Jesus Christ in your heart, you're rich!

Do you know why we have fear? Because we think our needs or the needs of someone we love are not going to be met. Or we fear that the things we think are meeting our needs are going to be taken away from us. The deepest need of your heart can only be met in the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will provide for our needs, and we should do our best to help Him provide for others' needs.

2) The Companionship of His Presence

I don't know what I'm going to face next year. But there's one thing I know, He will never leave me. As children of God, He will never leave us. He is always by our side, and He is guiding us in the path of righteousness.

We are often afraid we're going to have to face something we don't understand, and we're going to have to face it alone.  When God's Word promises that God will never forsake us, it literally means that He will never abandon us. He will not give up on us. We need to practice the presence of the Lord this coming year. If we believe He is with us, then nothing can stop us and we will never be alone.

3) The Confidence of His Promise

We're going to zero in on a little phrase in our verses in Hebrews, "He has said." A promise is no better than the one who makes it. Who says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you"? It is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God. This is the confidence of His promise.

In the coming year, when we say, "God, I just don't have the strength." The omnipotent God will answer, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." When we say, "God, I'm afraid of what is going to happen." The omnipresent God says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." And when we say, "God, I don't know what to do." The omniscient God will respond, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." He therefore will not forsake us and will be by our side through all that happens to us in the coming year.

4) The Comfort of His Protection

Hebrews 13:6 promises, "So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" Now, put that with verse 5, which says, "He has said."

Like I said earlier, I don't know what you're going to go through this coming year. I do not know what joys and sorrows, trials and tribulations that I may go through this year.  But I know you can boldly say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" When we find our contentment, companionship, and confidence in Jesus, then, we'll find our comfort and courage in Jesus.  Remember that The Lord is our helper, and we should not have fear.  Ultimately, no man can harm us or judge us if we believe in Jesus, for God is our only judge and if we do God's will and follow His Word then we will truly be blessed in the hereafter, and with courage and faith, we will be blessed in this life as well.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Moment of Zen: Reading While on Break

While school is in session, I usually don't have much time to read for pleasure.  I do plenty of reading, but it's usually school related reading.  So when I have a break from school, I usually have a long list of books to read, which I love to do.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Post Holiday Post

Let your imagination run wild with this lovely picture.  To be honest, my internet connection is so limited at my parents' place, where we spent Christmas night, that this post is by necessity brief.  I hope that all of you had a very merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Silent Night

One of the most amazing events of the First World War happened 100 years ago today. As a historian of World War I, I can't let the day go by without retelling this story, which is one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories, and by he way if you have not seen this commercial by  Sainsbury, you really should.  The picture above is from the commercial.  Click on this link o watch it: It was made in partnership with The Royal British Legion and was inspired by real events from 100 years ago today. I cried the first time I watched it because it's such an inspiring story of the spirit of Christmas.

During World War I, on Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies. On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. Though Germany readily agreed, the other powers refused.

Even without a cessation of war for Christmas, family and friends of the soldiers wanted to make their loved ones' Christmas special. They sent packages filled with letters, warm clothing, food, cigarettes, and medications. Yet what especially made Christmas at the front seem like Christmas were the troves of small Christmas trees.

On Christmas Eve, many German soldiers put up Christmas trees, decorated with candles, on the parapets of their trenches. Hundreds of Christmas trees lighted the German trenches and although British soldiers could see the lights, it took them a few minutes to figure out what they were from. Could this be a trick? British soldiers were ordered not to fire but to watch them closely. Instead of trickery, the British soldiers heard many of the Germans celebrating.  They heard songs that were very familiar being sung in the other trenches:

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

The British responded with the song in their own language:

Silent night, holy night
All is calm all is bright
'Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man's-land, calling out "Merry Christmas" in their enemies' native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.

Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man's land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers' threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers' essential humanity endured.

During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield, but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.

The First World War is one of my favorite topics of study. It is so important for much of the history of the twentieth century, even though it is often overlooked. We, the GLBT community, also owe a great deal to the Great War. The First World War traumatised millions of men and challenged hegemonic conceptions of masculinity. In the post-war era, battles raged between competing socio-political groups over masculinity and the war experience. The homosexual movement posed one of the most significant challenges to pre-war gender norms. The war galvanised homosexuals to challenge social and cultural perceptions of gays as degenerate ‘enemies of the nation’. The movement was fragmented by rivalries and theoretical differences, but the memory of the war served as a central reference point for defining homosexual identity, masculinity and political rights in the Weimar Republic. The First World War was a turning point for Germany's homosexual movement, as the war provided a central ideal – comradeship – that became a cornerstone for defining homosexual identity and justifying emancipation. An intensely militarised rhetoric permeated the language of gay rights organisations in the 1920s and, despite the differences among those organisations, the war gave homosexuals similar visions of a spiritually and politically liberated gay man who could use his training at the front to fight legal oppression and cultural prejudice.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tracking Santa

Each Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. I remeber the local NBC station would break in with updates on Santa's location.  As a kid, I always thought it was so cool. Tracking Santa all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup's secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.  

The Santa Tracker tradition started with this Sears ad, which instructed children to call Santa on what turned out to be a secret military hotline. Kids today can call 1-877 HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk to NORAD staff about Santa's exact location.  Col. Harry Shoup's children, Terri Van Keuren, Rick Shoup, and Pam Farrell, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.  Col. Shoup had two phones on his desk, one was the "red" phone that only Shoup and a four-star general at the Pentagon had the number.  Of course, this was the 1950s during the height of the Cold War.  Shoup was the first line of defense against a nuclear attack.
The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it.  On the line was a small voice that asked "Is this Santa Claus?"  Shoup was a serious, disciplined, and straight-laced colonel and was immediately annoyed at the call, thinking it was a joke.  Then the little voice began to cry, Shoup realized it wasn't a joke.  So, Shoup went into Santa mode.  He talked to the young boy, said a few "HO-HO-HOs" and asked if he'd been a good boy this year.  Then Col. Shoup asked to speak to the boys mother.  And the mother got on and said, 'You haven't seen the paper yet? There's a phone number to call Santa. It's in the Sears ad.' Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number.

That was the first of many phone calls that the Continental Air Defense Command received on the red phone.  Shoup decided to assign a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus.  It became a big joke at the command center.  Col. Harry Shoup came to be known as the "Santa Colonel." 

The airmen had a large glass board with the United States and Canada on it so that they could track airplanes in the skies.  On Christmas Eve of 1955, when Shoup walked in, there was a drawing of a sleigh with eight reindeer coming over the North Pole.  Shoup asked, "What is that?"  The airmen replied, 'Colonel, we're sorry. We were just making a joke. Do you want us to take that down?' Shoup looked at it for a while, and next thing you know, he had called the radio station and had said, 'This is the commander at the Combat Alert Center, and we have an unidentified flying object. Why, it looks like a sleigh.' Well, the radio stations would call him like every hour and ask, "Where's Santa now?"

Later in life, Shoup got letters from all over the world, people saying, 'Thank you, Colonel,' for having a sense of humor. And in his 90s, he would carry those letters around with him in a briefcase that had a lock on it like it was top-secret information.  The letters were important to him.  He had been an important man for America's defense in the Cold War, but he was also known as Colonel Santa. 

Col. Shoup died in 2009.  How many of you have fond memories of tracking Santa all thanks to this straight-laced military man who turned out to have a good-natured sense of humor?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol
George Wither

 So now is come our joyful feast,
  Let every man be jolly;
Each room with ivy leaves is dressed,
  And every post with holly.
    Though some churls at our mirth repine,
    Round your foreheads garlands twine,
    Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
  And let us all be merry.

Now all our neighbors’ chimnies smoke,
  And Christmas blocks are burning;
Their ovens they with baked meats choke,
  And all their spits are turning.
    Without the door let sorrow lie,
    And if for cold it hap to die,
    We’ll bury it in a Christmas pie,
  And evermore be merry.

Now every lad is wondrous trim,
  And no man minds his labor;
Our lasses have provided them
  A bagpipe and a tabor.
    Young men and maids, and girls and boys,
    Give life to one another’s joys;
    And you anon shall by their noise
  Perceive that they are merry.

Rank misers now do sparing shun,
  Their hall of music soundeth;
And dogs thence with whole shoulders run,
  So all things aboundeth.
    The country-folk themselves advance,
    For crowdy-mutton’s come out of France;
    And Jack shall pipe and Jill shall dance,
  And all the town be merry.

Ned Swatch hath fetched his bands from pawn,
  And all his best apparel;
Brisk Nell hath bought a ruff of lawn
  With droppings of the barrel.
    And those that hardly all the year
    Had bread to eat or rags to wear,
    Will have both clothes and dainty fare,
  And all the day be merry.

Now poor men to the justices
  With capons make their errands;
And if they hap to fail of these,
  They plague them with their warrants.
  But now they feed them with good cheer,
  And what they want they take in beer,
  For Christmas comes but once a year,
  And then they shall be merry.

Good farmers in the country nurse
  The poor, that else were undone;
Some landlords spend their money worse,
  On lust and pride at London.
    There the roisters they do play,
    Drab and dice their land away,
    Which may be ours another day;
  And therefore let’s be merry.

The client now his suit forbears,
  The prisoner’s heart is eased;
The debtor drinks away his cares,
  And for the time is pleased.
    Though others’ purses be more fat,
    Why should we pine or grieve at that;
    Hang sorrow, care will kill a cat,
  And therefore let’s be merry.

Hark how the wags abroad do call
  Each other forth to rambling;
Anon you’ll see them in the hall,
  For nuts and apples scrambling;
    Hark how the roofs with laughters sound,
    Anon they’ll think the house goes round;
    For they the cellar’s depths have found,
  And there they will be merry.

The wenches with their wassail-bowls
  About the streets are singing;
The boys are come to catch the owls,
  The wild mare in is bringing.
    Our kitchen boy hath broke his box,
    And to the dealing of the ox
    Our honest neighbors come by flocks,
  And here they will be merry.

Now kings and queens poor sheep-cotes have,
  And mate with everybody;
The honest now may play the knave,
  And wise men play at noddy.
    Some youths will now a mumming go,
    Some others play at rowland-hoe,
    And twenty other gameboys moe;
  Because they will be merry.

Then wherefore in these merry days
  Should we, I pray, be duller?
No, let us sing some roundelays
  To make our mirth the fuller.
      And whilst we thus inspired sing,
    Let all the streets with echoes ring;
    Woods, and hills, and everything
  Bear witness we are merry. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Break

It's the first weekday of my Christmas Break.  I'm gonna sleep in a little and then go and finish up my Christmas shopping.  Wish me luck.  I hate the crowds at stores during Christmastime, but I haven't had time before now.  I will smile, be cheerful, and wish people Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

In The Spirit of Christmas

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, 
"As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God."   
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Romans 14: 1-12

This may sound odd, mainly because I love Christmas, but most members of the church of Christ do not celebrate Christmas as a truly religious holiday.  Since the bible does not give us a specific time to celebrate the birth of Christ, we celebrate it everyday of the year.  My family has always celebrated Christmas though, and it's always been a special time of year for us.

We've always seen it as a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men and women agree to stop work, spend time together, and celebrate the joys of giving, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds us of the joy that surrounds us.

But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping the spirit of Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you? Are you willing to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world?  Are you willing to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground?  Are you willing to see that your fellow-men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy?  Are you willing to realize that probably the reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life?  Are you willing to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness?  Are you willing to put aside your judgement of your fellow man, and realize that God does not wish us to judge one another?  Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep the spirit of Christmas.

Are you willing to consider the needs and the desires of of humankind young and old? Are you willing to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough? Are you willing to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts?  Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep the spirit of Christmas.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world--stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death--and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep the spirit of Christmas.

And if you keep the spirit of Christmas for a day, why not always?  We should open our hearts and minds to all of humankind and be blessed that we are on this earth another day.  We should celebrate the love that Jesus Christ brought us each and every day of our lives, not just on December 25.  I had planned to expand my post from Friday and discuss more about those who pass judgement on the LGBT community, but I chose to focus on the good that we can do as people.  There will always be those who pass judgement on us, but as the passage above states, they will be held accountable for their actions.

At Christmastime we should rejoice and love our fellow man, whether he or she loves us or not.  We need to be the better people, for as the angels declared to the shepherds who were watching their flock outside of Bethlehem:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:14

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Moment of Zen: Christmastime

Christmas, Christmas time is near
Time for toys and time for cheer
We've been good, but we can't last
Hurry Christmas, hurry fast
Want a plane that loops the loop
Me, I want a hula hoop
We can hardly stand the wait
Please Christmas, don't be late.

Friday, December 19, 2014


It started mid afternoon yesterday and seemed to jut get worse as the day went on.  I took some medicine and slept off and on until this morning when I had to get up and go to work.  Thankfully, today is a half day and then I am on vacation for two weeks.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


I had a topic for today's blog, but at the last minute I just didn't feel like writing it.  Maybe I will do so for tomorrow's post.  I could just ask the opinion of my readers before I wax philosophically and historically about the topic in mind.  A friend of mine and I were watching the Michael Bublé's Christmas Special last night when Barbara Streisand came on to sing with Bublé.  We began to wonder why she is a gay icon.  I just don't get it.  He didn't quite understand why Cher and Judy Garland were either, though I kind of understand Cher (the woman is fabulous) and, of course, Judy was Dorothy.  We both get Bette Midler and Lady Gaga, but what is up with gay men and divas?  Anyway, I was going to write about that and look at each one, but then...I just got lazy.

I spent most of the night cuddling with a sick kitty (Edith has a cold and wasn't feeling very chipper last night).  If she's not better when I get home at lunch tomorrow (it's a half day for us), then she will get to go see our hottie of a veterinarian.  

Anyway, can y'all provide an answer for the why gay men love divas so much?  Especially Streisand? 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


When I lost HRH back in September, I thought that no cat would or could replace her.  I was mostly right.  HRH was unique in her loyalty, love, and benevolent reign.  She was a queen of cats, no single cat could ever come close to replacing her in my heart.  However, HRH's spirit must have guided me in choosing those who would try to fill her shoes, because I see so much of HRH in both Edith and Lucy.

Lucy is dainty.  She has a regal quality and a grace that HRH possessed.  When HRH was alive, you knew instantly when you entered her domain that she was the sole ruler of her domain and everyone else bowed to her rule.  Lucy is not quite as demanding of being worshipped like HRH was, but I see the potential.  When Lucy wants to be held, petted, or loved on, she does not take no for an answer.  HRH was the same way. When Lucy wants something, nothing will stop her from getting what she wants.  I've known HRH to smell the fear on someone and corner them until she got what she wanted, which was most often food.  Lucy is more vocal about what she wants, but no less demanding.  Lucy also doesn't strike fear into mortal humans as HRH could do so well.

Whereas Lucy is a beautiful cat, as was HRH, Edith is simply the cutest creature on earth.  With a bobtail, big ears, and long hind legs, she like a cross between a cat, a rabbit, and a dog.  As with HRH, Edith is completely fearless and very headstrong.  She will do what she wants and when she wants to do it.  Edith likes to sleep on my chest just like HRH always did.  She's a snuggled too.  For a cat as regal as HRH, she could at times be a total klutz, I believe this is why she led me to Edith.  Edith is incredibly klutzy, mainly because she moves so fast that she can't stop herself.  There is one major unique oddity about Edith: she's a theif.  If it can fit in her mouth, she is going to take it and hide it.  I have yet to find her hiding place.  You could never have her around a chess set like the one in the picture above, because she'd have grabbed a piece and run off with it before you could blink an eye.

So no single cat could ever replace HRH, but two are doing a mighty fine job.  I hope they are getting some guidance by HRH.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When Giving Is All We Have

When Giving Is All We Have
 By Alberto Ríos
                                                       One river gives
                                                       Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.


About This Poem
“This is a poem of thanks to those who live lives of service, which, I think, includes all of us—from the large measure to the smallest gesture, from care-giving to volunteerism to being an audience member or a reader. I’ve been able to offer these words to many groups, not only as a poem but also as a recognition. We give for so many reasons, and are bettered by it.”
— Alberto Ríos

Alberto Ríos is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and the author of The Dangerous Shirt (Copper Canyon Press, 2009).  He teaches at Arizona State University and lives in Chandler, Arizona.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Busy Weekend

It's been quite the busy weekend.  I brought home work from school Friday and spent Friday night, Saturday morning, and Sunday afternoon and night making out semester exams and study guides for those exams.  Saturday night a friend of mine had a belated birthday dinner for me and an early birthday celebration for another friend.  They grilled steaks, each was huge and cut two inches thick.  It was more than I could eat. We had a wonderful time though.

Sunday morning, I went to my niece's baptism.  It was at one of those huge Baptist churches, where my sister and her family attend church.  My brother-in-law refuses to ever attend church with us because he says the singing is terrible, and while we don't use music, I always find our singing, with all voices, and only voices combined, to be the most beautiful sound.  However, the singing I heard yesterday morning was pitiful.  The one song that they allowed the whole congregation to sing was merely drowned out by the orchestra and most of the music service was solos and duets.  One of the joys of going to church, for me, is being able to sing, and at this church no one was encouraged to sing except those whose voices they deemed worthy.

The rest of my Sunday, not involved in making exams was spent baking.  A friend of mine gave me a KitchenAid stand mixer for my birthday, and I've been dying to try it out and I always love baking for Christmas gifts, so I made four dozen cookies and a dozen mini loaves of bread.  The cookies I usually make are very simple: refrigerated cookie dough, a cup of dried cherries, and a cup of pistachios.  When they are done and cooled, I dip them in white chocolate.  Everyone loves them.  It's an easy recipe, but kneading the pistachios and cherries into the cookie dough takes a while to get a good mixture, so I decided to make the cookie dough from scratch this year.  What has always taken about 30 minutes to put together, took less than five with my new mixer.  I was amazed and the cookies look beautiful, but I will wait and dip them in white chocolate tonight.  I ran out of time trying to get everything done.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Proverbs 19:17

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
Proverbs 14:31

I have to admit that when I was looking up some commentaries on giving and the Bible, too many of the sources I found focused on giving to the church.  I give what I can to church, which is what I think of when the apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:12 "For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have."  Many churches though use this as a means of forcing a true tithe of 10 percent.  However, even though we are in the season of giving, we should be giving and helping year round to those who need assistance.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands us to give to the needy:
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:1-4
Giving is not all about what you give to your local congregation, but what you give to those who are in need.  We are to love our fellow man and not judge them.  If we look down on the poor, then how can we look up to God.  Some people blame God for the misfortunes of the world, I blame those who do not follow the teachings of love and charity.  Do you have to be a Christian to have love for your fellow man or to be charitable to the less fortunate?  Of course you don't.  But I will say this, too many people who call themselves Christian often follow the proverb "God helps those who help themselves."  The phrase is often mistaken as scriptural, but it appears nowhere in the Bible. 

Political commentator Bill O'Reilly employed the phrase, in responding to Jim McDermott, the Democratic U.S. Representative for Washington's 7th congressional district, who argued, "This is Christmas time. We talk about Good Samaritans, the poor, the little baby Jesus in the cradle and all this stuff. And then we say to the unemployed we won't give you a check to feed your family. That's simply wrong." O'Reilly argued for a more selective approach to unemployment benefits, and the importance of individual responsibility, concluding "while Jesus promoted charity at the highest level, he was not self-destructive. The Lord helps those who help themselves. Does he not?" Political comedian Stephen Colbert parodied him in response, concluding in character, "if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we've got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition; and then admit that we just don't want to do it." Colbert may be a comedian who is often irreverent, but he makes a good point.

For the vast majority of us, misfortune finds us at one point or another. Various people have helped me during those unfortunate times, and I do my best to help those in need when I am able to help.  Giving is not just for the red buckets of the Salvation Army during Christmastime bit for all year round.  It is also not about gifts and money, because not all of us are able to do so, but it is about giving our love to those around us.  Love is the greatest gift we can give.

Peace, love, and charity!

If this post looks familiar, then you read it a year ago.  I wasn't feeling well last night, and I'd planned on posting about the hymn "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms" until I realized that I'd already written that post in October.  So I decided on a more holiday themed post from last year.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Normal Heart

The Normal Heart is a 2014 American drama television film directed by Ryan Murphy and written by Larry Kramer, based on Kramer's largely autobiographical 1985 play of same name. The film stars Mark Ruffalo, Jonathan Groff, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, and Julia Roberts. 

I usually find that when a movie has an all-start cast, you can't expect much from it because all of the actors compete for the spotlight.  This movie wasn't like that.  It largely focuses on Mark Ruffalo's character Ned Weeks, and the cast surrounding him make the movie sublime.

The film depicts the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks, the founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group. Weeks prefers public confrontations to the calmer, more private strategies favored by his associates, friends, and closeted lover Felix Turner (Bomer). Their differences of opinion lead to arguments that threaten to undermine their shared goals.

The play and film are based on true events and real people.  After most performances of the 2011 revival of The Normal Heart, Kramer personally passed out a dramaturgical flyer detailing some of the real stories behind the play's characters. Kramer wrote that the character "Bruce" was based on Paul Popham, the president of the GMHC from 1981 until 1985; "Tommy" was based on Rodger McFarlane, who was executive director of GMHC and a founding member of ACT UP and Broadway Cares; and "Emma' was modeled after Dr. Linda Laubenstein, who treated some of the first New York cases of what was later known as AIDS. Like "Ned," Kramer himself helped to found several AIDS-activism groups, including Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) and AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), and indeed experienced personal conflict with his lawyer brother, Arthur.

This is a truly powerful movie and people need to see it. Kramer’s furious inveighing against a government that seemed content to let gay men die by the thousands has plenty of bite left in it nearly 30 years later. In many ways, The Normal Heart has become an entirely necessary historical document, giving full-bodied life and spirit to a piece of recent history that’s all too often forgotten in our progressive, gay marriage-sanctifying present. The horrors of the play’s generation must be remembered, not just because H.I.V.-infection rates among young people are troublingly on the rise in this country, but because these stories crucially remind us how we got where we are now, how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go. Murphy gets out of the way of this message, filming from a respectable distance as Kramer’s words flare and burn. But this is also an intimate movie, close and textured, made all the more so by the fine cast.

I hope that lots of people watch this film, as lots of people seemed to watch HBO's similarly themed masterpiece Angels in America ten years ago. Because it's a good movie, and because it roars with the fury of many ghosts who didn't have to be ghosts. If only more people had said something, done something. At least Larry Kramer and others like him did, and The Normal Heart is a fine accounting of that noble history.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Up Too Late

I was up late watching a movie with a friend and didn't have time to write a descent post.  A friend of mine had given me The Normal Heart for my birthday, so we watched it together. My friend lives about 500 miles away, so we sometimes have a "movie date" where we text each other during the movie.  It's a fun way not to watch a movie by yourself.  I will write more about The Normal Heart tomorrow, but let me just say that if you haven't seen it, you really need to watch it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Coming Out to Play

In 2013, Robbie Rogers briefly retired from playing soccer with Leeds United in England and then came out in a poignant blog post on his personal website before signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy in May 2013.  When he signed with the LA Galaxy, Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to join Major League Soccer or any of the five major North American sports leagues.  In 2014, Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to win a big-time team pro sports title in the United States when the Galaxy won the Major League Soccer Cup.  However, well before he came out to his friends and family, Rogers first opened up about his sexuality to a random woman he met at a bar in London.

"I had been thinking about it a lot," Rogers, 27, recalled in a HuffPost Live appearance this week to promote his new memoir, Coming Out to Play. "I just was so sick of lying and wanted to get the ball moving."  Although he told his family a month later, Rogers said the initial coming out "felt so amazing, and I'm sure [the woman] didn't realize it."

"Secrets can cause so much internal damage," he wrote when he came out. "People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay."  We all come out for the first time in different ways.  The hardest person to come out to can sometimes be yourself, and then you have to voice it aloud to someone.  The first time I told another person was late one night at a party when I told two of my closest friends.  They were shocked, but not really.  I'm not sure I could have told a complete stranger in a bar though.

Rogers told HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski that while it was "rewarding" for him to hear from younger athletes who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), he's "always surprised" that so few professional sports stars have come out.

"That's always been a little weird to me," he said.  I find it disheartening, and a sad commentary on the American sports world.  Jason Collins and Michael Sam both came out but neither has really played professionally since.  Collins I believe played in a few games, but Sam was a star in the SEC, which should, have made him a top draft choice not someone who was dropped from the Rams and Cowboys.  American sports have gay athletes, but it's sadly understandable why they don't come out, because they fear losing their jobs.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sonnet 97

Sonnet 97
By William Shakespeare

 How like a winter hath my absence been   
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!   
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!   
What old December’s bareness every where!   
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time;
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,   
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,   
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:   
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me   
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,   
And, thou away, the very birds are mute:   
  Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer,   
  That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Boxers or Briefs?

Just as underclothes are shielded from public view, the evolution of men’s most intimate apparel is shrouded in secrecy. But the story of men’s underwear is about more than which came first: boxers or briefs. Undergarments as we know them today were first sold to promote cleanliness and improve the comfort of wearing clothing. The idea that they might one day be deemed fashionable was not even an after-thought.

During ancient times, the loincloth was the garment of choice. Typically made from wool, linen, silk or leather, material was wrapped between the legs and around the hips. Can you imagine how uncomfortable it was to have wool against the family jewels? Speed up to the Renaissance period to find men who wore a codpiece, a cloth pouch that supported the genitals, and typically was adhered to hosiery and attached with a button for easy access for bathroom breaks. The Industrial Age brought with it a structured type of garment known as a jockstrap, an undergarment that has an elastic waistband and a pouch over the genitals designed for support and protection. 

In the 19th century, men’s underwear was closely linked with hygiene; associating these undergarments with athleticism, let alone sexuality, is a 20th-century notion. These shifts paralleled a growing public acceptance of the undressed male body, moving from the chaste forms of the Victorian era to the endlessly scrutinized torsos of today.

Hanes finally came into the underwear game during the roaring 20s, bringing comfort and ease with the creation of boxers. Jockey was introduced during the 1950s and the brief became the underwear of choice. Finally, in modern times with fabric introductions such as spandex and nylon, men’s undergarments have evolved into upgraded versions of the boxer and the brief, including boxer-briefs and trunks. 

The men’s underwear game once only had two major players— boxers and briefs—but now there is more opportunity than ever for a man to express his style when getting dressed for the day. Men are no longer expected to declare loyalty to one style. Every style of underwear lends itself to different occasions. Moisture-wicking briefs, trunks, and jockstraps excel in athletic environments, while seamless briefs or thongs will go unnoticed beneath dress pants. My underwear drawer has a multitude of styles to suit my mood for the day, but you won't find any thongs.  If my ass is going to be bare, then it will be in a jockstrap.

While many will offer plenty of advice on what underwear style looks better on different body types, ultimately, the decision should be based on what makes you feel best. Briefs alone offer an extensive assortment of silhouettes for all different types of men—whether it’s the classic, white cotton, fly-front brief, or a low-rise, contour pouch brief in a fashion color. Boxer shorts are now available in a stylish, tailored fit as well as the relaxed fit made popular in the 90’s. Newest to the annals of underwear history, the trunk is a shorter, square-cut version of its predecessor, the boxer brief. And, not to be confined to strip joints and bodybuilding competitions, men’s thongs and g-strings serve a higher purpose in the boardroom—working hard to prevent visible underwear lines beneath your trousers, but I just can't being myself to wear them.

What you wear beneath your clothes should be as fun and unique as you are, or wish to be. If drab work clothes or uniforms—or company policy—have you seeing drab neutrals every day, start mixing up the styles in your underwear drawer with bold prints, bright colors, and diverse textures and fabrics. Don’t be afraid to get a little risqué—a fashion jockstrap will have you feeling adventurous and daring even when sitting at your computer for eight hour days. Give others a peek at your inner-exhibitionist by flashing a stylish waistband above your jeans. With new fashion styles coming in every season, there’s never any shortage of distinctive new underwear styles for men.

Which do you prefer?