Thursday, September 30, 2021

Pic of the Day

Busy Day


Yesterday was a really busy day. I was busy with numerous things at work basically from the time I got there until I left. This is actually quite unusual for me. Many days, I’m able to write my blog posts at work, but not yesterday. The first time I looked up at my clock, it was past 11 am. The next time I looked at the clock it was after 3:30 pm.and I leave work at 4 pm. I did have a nice lunch with a friend of mine, but even with that time flew by. When I got home it wasn’t much better. I made dinner, I had a friend texting me about a problem she’s having, and then I was on the phone most of the rest of the evening. I am not complaining about any of this. It may have been a busy day, but the time really flew by. It was not an unpleasant day at all. However, I say all this because this will be a relatively short post. There are a few things I could talk about, but I’m tired and want to go to bed. I’m glad I have a four day weekend coming up so I can relax a bit.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Pic of the Day

Call Me Daddy?

When did I become a “daddy”? As I said on Monday, my hair has turned gray and there is much less of it while there is more of me around my midsection. Lately, I have been logging onto the dating apps a little bit more. Inevitably, a younger guy will message me and at some point, he’s going to call me “daddy.” I guess as a gay man, when you get older, there can be a few shocking moments. One of these moments is when you’re chatting with a younger guy, and he says he’s into older guys. And then it hits you: I’m the older guy.


So, what exactly is a “daddy?” Generally speaking, “daddy” is a category that gay men use to define themselves and/or each other. It is not to be confused with a “sugar daddy,” an older man who provides money or gifts in return for sex and/or companionship with a younger man. Other categories for gay men include “otters” (slim hairy men), “bears” (bigger hairy men) and “twinks” (skinny, smooth men). Some people outwardly identify as a “daddy” often on hook-up apps or on alt social media accounts*, and some people describe others that way. In its most stereotypical form, a “daddy” is an attractive older man who takes on a dominant yet paternal role in relationships with men who are usually younger. He is well-groomed, toned, masculine, and often successful. He takes the lead outside the bedroom and (again, so the stereotype goes) is a top in the bedroom. 


Similarly, to concepts like “queer” and “camp”, “daddy” is much debated, and its meanings and representations can be different depending on the person. For instance, not everyone thinks a “daddy” must be mature in age. Also, in today’s world, there is a bit of a change with the standard definition because of the seeming obsession with the “dad bod.” This phrase has been adopted to refer to an "average" guy who doesn't have a lean, fit physique. He might instead have a paunch, a spare tire, or a middle-age spread. I guess that’s where I fit into being a “daddy” since I don’t have the perfect body. Usually though, a guy looking for a “daddy” associates the type with sexual dominance and penetration. For some, “daddies” are men who physically and mentally dominate while turning on their partner’s submissive side. When guys call me “daddy” it means they want a masculine or dominating person; neither of those descriptions particularly fit me.


In short: daddies tend to be older and, often, on the dominant side. But not always. The trope is an identifier for older men, but also a label that’s often put on them by younger guys whether they like it or not. Depending on the person, it can be a kink fantasy, or a genuine relationship philosophy. I asked one guy why he was interested in an older chubby guy like me when he had a fantastic body and a big dick, and he said, “It’s my fetish.” I can respect that. I have my own fetishes. By the way, what shocked me most about this particular guy is he recognized me from my profile picture and told me that he’s seen me around for the last couple of years and has always fantasized about me fucking him and how he wanted to “suck my cock.” He had no interest in kissing or getting blown himself. He wanted to please me. A dream come true, huh? I asked the guy if I knew him. He implied I’d recognize him but not know his name which is possibly true since I am terrible with names. He begged to get together, and we tentatively set a time. However, “something came up.” He was either telling the truth, or he got cold feet. That happens with “discreet” guys. We’ll see if I hear from him again. Anyway, the conversation caused me to think about my “daddy” status.


I find the concept of being considered a “daddy” interesting. I’ve never fit into other gay categories. I was never a “twink.” I’m not hairy so I’ve never been an “otter” or a “bear.” I’m not feminine or outgoing so I am not a “queen,” nor would I be considered “campy.” I’m not muscular so I’m not a “gym bunny.” I guess you could put me in the category of a “chub,” but I also don’t think that fits very well either. The fact is, I have never fit a gay stereotype. I, therefore, find it interesting that the “daddy” thing seems to be coming up a lot lately. Maybe it’s because my hair has gone nearly completely gray. Who knows? I just know most people would identify me as gay fairly easily.


One thing I do think is true about gay culture is that people are beginning to become more comfortable with being open about their preferences, fetishes, or kinks. A wider societal acceptance of kinks and sexual practices have changed how people communicate with each other online. For starters, it’s part of the reason “thirst” language has become increasingly violent and explicit. “Choke me daddy” is a common phrase seen online these days. Most of the time, the person is not saying they want someone to literally choke them but instead, expressing a desire for a particular person to dominate them. I’m going to choose to believe that “daddy” is used as a compliment even when someone, like me, doesn’t fully fit the stereotype.



* Alt, or alternative, social media accounts are secondary profiles people use in addition to a main account on a social media platform. They are a way of representing the self that deliberately displays a different identity facet and addresses a different audience to what someone considers to be their main account. The term “alt” originated from videogame culture and has been incorporated into social media accounts.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Pic of the Day

When Autumn Came


When Autumn Came

By Faiz Ahmed Faiz

 

This is the way that autumn came to the trees:

it stripped them down to the skin,

left their ebony bodies naked.

It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,

scattered them over the ground.

Anyone could trample them out of shape

undisturbed by a single moan of protest.

 

The birds that herald dreams

were exiled from their song,

each voice torn out of its throat.

They dropped into the dust

even before the hunter strung his bow.

 

Oh, God of May have mercy.

Bless these withered bodies

with the passion of your resurrection;

make their dead veins flow with blood again.

 

Give some tree the gift of green again.

Let one bird sing.

 

 

About the Poet

 

Faiz Ahmed Faiz was born on February 13, 1911, in Sialkot, India, which is now part of Pakistan. Faiz's early poems had been conventional, light-hearted treatises on love and beauty, but later, he began to expand into politics, community, and the thematic interconnectedness he felt was fundamental in both life and poetry. He received a bachelor's degree in Arabic, followed by a two master's degree, one in English and the other in Arabic. After graduating in 1935, Faiz began a teaching career. During his years teaching, he married Alys George, a British expatriate and convert to Islam, with whom he had two daughters. In 1942, he left teaching to join the British Indian Army, for which he received a British Empire Medal for his service during World War II. After the partition of India in 1947, Faiz resigned from the army and became the editor of The Pakistan Times, a socialist English-language newspaper.

 

On March 9, 1951, Faiz was arrested with a group of army officers under the Safety Act and charged with the failed coup attempt that became known as the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. He was sentenced to death and spent four years in prison before being released. Two of his poetry collections, Dast-e Saba and Zindan Namah, focus on life in prison, which he considered an opportunity to see the world in a new way. While living in Pakistan after his release, Faiz was appointed to the National Council of the Arts by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's government, and his poems, which had previously been translated into Russian, earned him the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963.

 

In 1964, Faiz settled in Karachi and was appointed principal of Abdullah Haroon College, while also working as an editor and writer for several distinguished magazines and newspapers. He worked in an honorary capacity for the Department of Information during the 1965 war between India and Pakistan and wrote stark poems of outrage over the bloodshed between Pakistan, India, and what later became Bangladesh. However, when Bhutto was overthrown by Zia Ul-Haq, Faiz was forced into exile in Beirut, Lebanon. There he edited the magazine Lotus and continued to write poems in Urdu. He remained in exile until 1982. He died in Lahore, Pakistan in 1984, shortly after receiving a nomination for the Nobel Prize.

 

Throughout his tumultuous life, Faiz continually wrote and published, becoming the best-selling modern Urdu poet in both India and Pakistan. While his work is written in fairly strict diction, his poems maintain a casual, conversational tone, creating tension between the elite and the common, somewhat in the tradition of Ghalib, the renowned 19th century Urdu poet. Faiz is especially celebrated for his poems in traditional Urdu forms, such as the ghazal, and his remarkable ability to expand the conventional thematic expectations to include political and social issues.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Pic of the Day

Remembering Steve Walker


Since the beginning of this blog, I have used the 2001 painting “David and Me” by Canadian artist Steve Walker as my profile picture and my avatar. Someday, I may change it to an actual picture of me, but for now, it remains. I chose it for what I think is a very good reason. Back in 2006, I spent a month in Italy conducting research for my dissertation. I remember standing in front of and looking up at the remarkable statue of
 David by Michelangelo much like the guy in the picture, though I don’t think I was wearing a backpack at the time. It was a truly awesome experience. Each time I look at images of the painting I am transported back to that day in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. Of course, back then I did have a head full of brown hair with a similar hairstyle. Today, there is much less hair and what I do have left is now nearly completely gray. I don’t have the muscle definition I had back then, and there’s more weight on my body. The painting has always had a special place in my heart, and I wish I owned an actual print of the image.

Walker passed away at his home in Costa Rica on Jan 4,2012, at age 50. He was best known for his haunting and poignant acrylic portraits of beautiful young men (solo and in pairs), often done in muted shades. “Some colors are very exciting to me,” he once told James Lyman, a Massachusetts gallery owner, and Walker’s art executor and trustee. “While others are quite offensive. Painting flesh is very exciting to me because of the huge variations possible within a very small color range.”

According to friends, Walker was strongly influenced by Renaissance Italian artist Caravaggio – especially in his use of shadow to show the contours of the young male form. For his subjects, he chose to paint gay men, depicting the struggles and joys the gay community lived through in his lifetime, from the fight for sexual liberation to the devastation brought about by HIV and AIDS. Walker believed his subjects were universal, touching on themes of love, hate, pain, joy, beauty, loneliness, attraction, hope, despair, life, and death. 

As a homosexual, I have been moved, educated, and inspired by works that deal with a heterosexual context. Why would I assume that a heterosexual would be incapable of appreciating work that speaks to common themes in life, as seen through my eyes as a gay man? If the heterosexual population is unable to do this, then the loss is theirs, not mine

—Steve Walker

Walker was an entirely self-taught artist and sold his first painting, Blue Boy in 1990. He painted a second in 1991, called Morning, of two young men in bed after sex. Walker’s paintings were mostly large because he believed that a large image was more appealing and has more impact than a smaller one. As with many artists, Walker was painting the sadness that was in his life. Two of Walker’s partners had died over the years, and his close friend Marlene Anderson says he was lonely. His paintings are about gay life, and the focus of them often depicted sadness and loneliness to reflect the reality that much of anyone’s life is sad and lonely. Walker told a friend that it is rare to find success as an artist, and Walker was happy his work would be his lasting legacy.

I strive to make people stop, if only a moment, think and actually feel something. My paintings contain as many questions as answers. I hope that in its silence, the body of my work has given a voice to my life, the lives of others, and in doing so, the dignity of all people.

—Steve Walker

In his lifetime, Walter’s work was exhibited in Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Provincetown, and Pasadena. Much of the gay community loved Walker’s work and many pieces were sold for several thousand dollars. His art appears on the covers of gay novels, such as American writer Felice Picano’s 1995 epic Like People in History and the late Gordon Anderson’s novel of 1970s Toronto, The Toronto You Are Leaving. His paintings also grace the covers of six books by Michael Thomas Ford: Last SummerLooking For ItFull CircleChanging TidesWhat We Remember, and The Road Home. Ford describes the book on his website mirroring what has been said about Walker’s art:

Much of my fiction is about what it's like living as a gay man at this time in history. These six novels look at different aspects of the gay experience. Although they share a cover style, they are not a series, and may be read in any order. Many people ask who the cover artist is. It's Steve Walker. Steve died in 2012, but his wonderful artwork capturing the lives of gay men remains to remind us of his talent.





Sunday, September 26, 2021

Pic of the Day

Creating A Sexual Ethic

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

—Matthew 7:15-20

 

As I said in a post last week, “I think sometimes people who grew up like I did in a religious family where sex was a dirty thing and gay sex was unthinkable, we often feel ashamed of exploring our sexuality.” When it comes to sex, many of us have been told what we should and shouldn’t do, especially when it comes to sex. If I’d done everything that I was told not to do, I’d have lived a boring life. As it is, I wish I had become more accepting of my sexuality earlier in life, but now that I have, I am not going to have someone else’s morality imposed on me, when I know they don’t even understand the Bible verses that “shaped” their morality. For those of us seeking to figure out sex within an LGBTQ-affirming Christianity, it can be tempting to look outside of ourselves for the answers. However, I believe religion is a deeply personal belief and experience. It is the group think that has nearly destroyed Christianity. Too many people are giving up on religion instead of searching their soul and looking for answers from God, not from someone telling you what God is saying.

 

Likewise, developing a sexual ethic that works for you and is in alignment with your personal faith is also a deeply personal experience. That doesn’t mean that it exists in a vacuum, or that you can’t (or shouldn’t) consult others — trusted friends, spiritual leaders, mentors, or the Bible— but what it does mean is that ultimately, the responsibility lies within you. There is a saying, often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, that says, “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.” While the quote likely did not originate with Emerson, there is a lot of wisdom in those words. We must look within to decide what our personal faith and values are, and those include our sexual ethic.

 

For me personally, I try to follow the Golden Rule: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) My ideal sexual partner would be someone who is: honest, thoughtful, caring, and communicative. He doesn’t have to want a relationship as long as we both go into the encounter realizing this. There also has to be some chemistry between us. If there is no chemistry, I will be honest that I am not interested. I do care about others and I try my best to be thoughtful, that goes for whether it’s during an encounter or letting someone down easily. Most men are not known for being communicative, and I may fail on this at times, but it’s not because I am “ghosting” someone, but usually, it is a result of my fear that I am bothering someone or that I might interrupt them when they are doing something. So, I am not the best at follow-up, and I know I need to work on this. However, if I am messaged or texted, I will respond as soon as I can, which is more often than not immediately as long as I see the message.

 

If you want to develop a sexual ethic that resonates with you, there are a few things we can all do. The first thing we need to do is take stock of our values. Take some time to think about the values that matter to you. If you are not comfortable with something, then don’t agree to it; however, if you are uncomfortable about something like not communicating, then maybe that’s something you can work on. Usually, our personal values should be how we respect and treat others and what is going to make us happiest in a relationship. That could be a one-night experience or something that is more long-term.

 

Second, think back on the sexual and romantic experiences you’ve had and get in touch with what felt good and what didn’t. We usually have a variety of sexual and romantic experiences so think about everything from holding hands and kissing to penetrative sex (if you’ve had it). And don’t just limit yourself to “traditionally sexual” experiences. You can also meditate on times when your boundaries have been respected or transgressed. When you’ve felt safe and when you’ve felt vulnerable. Try to notice when your desires match or mismatch with your actions or the expectations or people around you. Maybe you don’t experience sexual attraction to anyone and feel pressured to have sex. This step isn’t about coming up with a list of “dos” and “don’ts” (those are often context-specific and shift over time). Instead, this is about picking up on patterns.

 

Third, we should step outside of ourselves and use each of our experiences to realize our shared values. As we look at our past experiences, we need to look beyond the specifics (“We were drunk,” “there were lots of candles and rose petals”, “we did this thing,” or “we didn’t do that”) and look at how we felt: safe, seen, understood, respected, violated, disregarded, taken advantage of, excited, scared, etc. We should decide if our experience were a positive experience or a negative experience. Not all of our experiences will be completely positive or negative, but there may have been some of both in an encounter or relationship.

 

Next, we need to articulate to ourselves what our ethics are. So far, we have gotten in touch with our values, reflected on our experiences, and stepped outside of ourselves, and tapped into something bigger. That’s the hard part. Now, we need to put it all together. I don’t mean you need to create a sexual rulebook. It’s nothing that formal, and quite honestly, it may change from time to time according to our continued experiences. Merriam-Webster defines ethics as “a set of moral principles; a theory or system of moral values.” That’s what we’re creating here: a set of moral principles. What’s right and wrong. What’s helpful or harmful. What’s ethical and what’s not. When we create a sexual ethic, it’s not a list of what we want or don’t want to do, and it isn’t going to tell you what you’ll do in any given situation. Instead, it’s a framework that you can refer make to when you need to make sexual choices.

 

In addition, we need to release judgments. Our sexual ethics are the summary of what we value, how we see the world, what’s right, and what’s wrong. Sometimes we are called to make decisions about what’s right and what’s wrong, and sometimes we are called to celebrate differences. It’s important that we distinguish between “judging something as right or wrong” and “judging something as different than me.” It’s possible for someone who shares my sexual ethics to make completely different sexual choices. You may decide that celibacy is right for you, while you may also be like me and comfortable with casual sex or you may want to only have sexual encounters while in a relationship. Just because we have different sexual ethics does not make them wrong and we should not judge others for their sexual ethics as long as they do not harm others. Release judgment against people who are making different decisions than you would make, even if you don’t understand them, as long as they are acting ethically.

 

Finally, think of your sexual ethic like the United States Constitution: it’s a foundational document, it’s what we base our decisions on, it should withstand (and transcend) the whims of the moment, but also sometimes you need to change it and that’s OK. Sex is messy. And so is life. You’re going to hit some bumps along the way. You’re going to have an experience that shakes you up or meet a person that challenges everything you thought you knew. My sexual ethic today looks completely different than the one I had 10 years ago and even more different than the one I had just 5 years before that. Our preferences change usually because we broaden our horizons. Don’t feel guilty because you tried something or did something you thought you’d never do, but again, the main caveat is “do no harm.”

Friday, September 24, 2021

Pic of the Day

HUMP!


My friend and I from Wednesday night did not repeat our “roll in the hay” again last night, and we won’t tonight. Maybe this weekend before he leaves town. We’ll see. Tonight, I am going to the HUMP  Film Festival in Burlington. HUMP! is a festival of short erotic films made by real people for real people curated by Dan Savage. The filmmakers and stars make films to show hot and sexy, creative and kinky, ultimate turn-ons and craziest fantasies. Some of them can be a bit wild. I won tickets to it a few years ago, and some friends and I went and had a lot of fun, so we decided to go again this year. 


The short films show a cornucopia of body types, shapes, ages, colors, sexualities, genders, kinks, and fetishes—all united by a shared spirit of sex-positivity. HUMP! can shock you. HUMP! can make you laugh. HUMP! can turn you on. HUMP! Film Festival “has been successfully disrupting the way America sees, makes, and shares porn since 2005.” Needless to say, it’s an interesting experience. There are showings all around the country. Have any of y’all ever attended the HUMP! Film Festival? If so, what did you think?

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Pic of the Day

A Roll in the Hay


I think sometimes people who grew up like I did in a religious family where sex was a dirty thing and gay sex was unthinkable, we often feel ashamed of exploring our sexuality. I know I’ve often said to people that I was a slut in my twenties, but that is really just sex-shaming myself and being self-deprecating. The truth is, I had fun, and I’m not really ashamed of that. I doubt I’ll ever get married, so if I’m going to have sex, sometimes it’s just a random hook-up. Hell, I hooked up with a guy within days of moving to Vermont. In fact my bed hadn’t even come yet, so we had sex on an air mattress. It was great sex too, and I’d love to get together with him again, it’s just never worked out. I do see him on occasion and he has expressed interest in getting together again. It just hasn’t happened yet.

This brings me to the main topic of this post. A week or so ago a guy messaged me that he was in town and wanted to get together. At the time, I couldn’t, but he said he’d be back this week. We chatted a bit and realized we’d both like to get together, so we made tentative plans for this week. Don’t think this guy was just some random guy off the internet. I knew what he looked like, what his first name was, and why he was in town. With that information, I was able to look him up online, so I knew more about him then he’d probably intended. He’s closeted, or discreet as many guys say these days, and I respect that, even if I wish no one had to be closeted or discreet these days. 

Anyway, he’s in town for a big event at the university and wanted to get together. I said sure and was looking forward to it. It wasn’t a major get together, but really just a “fuck and go” as I tend to call it. He only had a limited amount of time before he had another engagement (not another sexual one, I might add), so he came over, we got down to business and had a great time. He said he’d like to see more of me while he’s in town, and I’d like that too. Discreet guys though can be a little skittish, whether it’s because of post-sex guilt, being afraid they might get caught by someone, or any other myriad of reasons. Will I see him again? Yeah, if he wants to. I got what I wanted out of it; he got what he wanted out of it. We had fun! I’d like to repeat the experience.

The thing is, I refuse to feel guilt or shame for hooking up with a guy. I’ve been there done that and wasted too many years doing that. I have a few local guys I get together with occasionally, and if this guy wants to get together when he’s in town (and I think he’s in town a fair amount), then I have no problem with it. You can only do so much by yourself, and while that can be pretty good too, there’s really nothing like having someone else to help you out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Pic of the Day

Thinking Positively

"We are beckoned to see the world through a one-way mirror, as if we are threatened and innocent and the rest of humanity is threatening, or wretched, or expendable. Our memory is struggling to rescue the truth that human rights were not handed down as privileges from a parliament, or a boardroom, or an institution, but that peace is only possible with justice and with information that gives us the power to act justly."

—John Pilger

Australian journalist, writer, scholar, and filmmaker

 

Are you a glass half-empty or half-full sort of person? Studies have demonstrated that both can impact your physical and mental health and that being a positive thinker is the better of the two. Sometimes, having a positive outlook is one of the hardest things to do. One just needs to look at the news to feel depressed and hopeless. Whether it’s from a natural disaster like a hurricane or a wildfire or it’s the hate filled politics of the current Trumpism of the Republican Party. Every time politics is mentioned especially something done by either the Democrats or those Republicans who opposed the former president, the Republicans trying to find the favor of the former twice impeached and disgraced president seem to be diametrically opposed to it. They don’t seem to care how much it would benefit their constituents, how sensible or scientifically proven it is, or even if it was a policy they previously supported. The current climate is nastier than I can ever remember it. The world continues to see deaths from COVID due to the delta variant, and it seems to go ignored by those who refuse to support science or believe in helping their fellow man simply to follow the lunatic ravings of one madman. 

 

It is all so disheartening and depressing. What can we do about it? If we dwell on it and allow it to consume us, we are only seeing the world through a one-way mirror and the hopelessness consumes us. We must make a change in our outlook before we can make a change in the world. We must turn to positive thinking and heal ourselves first. Jesus reminded those in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:23) of a Greek proverb, “Physician, heal yourself!” The moral of the proverb in general, containing within itself also a criticism of hypocrisy, is to attend to one's own defects before those in others. If our defect is negative thinking, then we must heal that first. Positive thinking isn’t magic, and it won’t make all of our problems disappear. What it will do is make problems seem more manageable and help us approach hardships in a more positive and productive way.

 

The first thing we can do is to focus on the good things in our lives. Challenging situations and obstacles are a part of life. When we’re faced with one, focus on the good things no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they seem. If we look for it, we you can always find the proverbial silver lining in every cloud—even if it’s not immediately obvious. To follow this up, we should practice gratitude of what we have. Practicing gratitude has been shown to reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and foster resilience even in very difficult times. Think of people, moments, or things that bring you comfort or happiness and try to express your gratitude at least once a day. 

 

Comedians who often tell stories instead of just telling jokes often say that humor is all around them and they find their stories in everyday situations because they open themselves up to the humor of life. Instead of dwelling on what can go wrong, they focus on how to find the humor in the situation. Studies have found that laughter lowers stress, anxiety, and depression. It also improves coping skills, mood, and self-esteem. Be open to humor in all situations, especially the difficult ones, and give yourself permission to laugh. It instantly lightens the mood and makes things seem a little less difficult. Even if you’re not feeling it; pretending or forcing yourself to laugh can improve your mood and lower stress.

 

One of the most important things, and something I have been doing more of lately, is to spend time with positive people. Negative people will only pull you down into their negativity. Positivity and negativity have been shown to be contagious. Consider the people with whom you’re spending time. Have you noticed how someone in a bad mood can bring down almost everyone in a room? A positive person has the opposite effect on others. Being around positive people has been shown to improve self-esteem and increase our chances of reaching goals. We should surround ourselves with people who will lift us up and help us see the bright side.  Two songs come to mind, the jazz classic, “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” and the country/bluegrass classic, “Keep on the Sunny Side.” The latter song tells us, “It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way, if we keep on the sunny side of life.”

 

We also need to not be so hard on ourselves. We tend to be the hardest on ourselves and be our own worst critic. Over time, this can cause us to form a negative opinion of ourselves that can be hard to shake. To stop this, we need to be mindful of the voice in our head and respond with positive messages. Research shows that even a small shift in the way we talk to ourselves can influence our ability to regulate our feelings, thoughts, and behavior under stress. We need to identify the areas of negativity in our lives. We should take a good look at the different areas of our life and identify the ones in which we tend to be the most negative. If you are not sure what those are? Ask a trusted friend or colleague. Chances are, they’ll be able to offer some insight. A co-worker might notice that you tend to be negative at work. A close friend may notice that you get especially negative while driving. Tackle one area at a time.

 

We can also drive away the negativity in our lives by starting every day on a positive note. There are several ways we can do this. We can create a ritual in which you start off each day with something uplifting and positive. We can tell ourselves that it’s going to be a great day or any other positive affirmation. We can listen to a happy and positive song or playlist, or we can share some positivity by giving a compliment or doing something nice for someone. We can’t undo years of pessimism and negative thoughts overnight, but with some practice, we can learn how to approach things with a more positive outlook.

 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Pic of the Day

The Teller of Tales


The Teller of Tales

By Gabriela Mistral - 1889-1957

 

translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

 

    When I’m walking, everything

on earth gets up

and stops me and whispers to me,

and what they tell me is their story.

 

    And the people walking

on the road leave me their stories,

I pick them up where they fell

in cocoons of silken thread.

 

    Stories run through my body

or sit purring in my lap.

So many they take my breath away,

buzzing, boiling, humming.

Uncalled they come to me,

and told, they still won’t leave me.

 

    The ones that come down through the trees

weave and unweave themselves,

and knit me up and wind me round

until the sea drives them away.

 

    But the sea that’s always telling stories,

the wearier I am the more it tells me...

 

    The people who cut trees,

the people who break stones,

want stories before they go to sleep.

 

    Women looking for children

who got lost and don’t come home,

women who think they’re alive

and don’t know they’re dead,

every night they ask for stories,

and I return tale for tale.

 

    In the middle of the road, I stand

between rivers that won’t let me go,

and the circle keeps closing

and I’m caught in the wheel.

 

    The riverside people tell me

of the drowned woman sunk in grasses

and her gaze tells her story,

and I graft the tales into my open hands.

 

    To the thumb come stories of animals,

to the index fingers, stories of my dead.

There are so many tales of children

they swarm on my palms like ants.

 

    When my arms held

the one I had, the stories

all ran as a blood-gift

in my arms, all through the night.

Now, turned to the East,

I’m giving them away because I forget them.

 

    Old folks want them to be lies.

Children want them to be true.

All of them want to hear my own story,

which, on my living tongue, is dead.

 

    I’m seeking someone who remembers it

leaf by leaf, thread by thread.

I lend her my breath, I give her my legs,

so that hearing it may waken it for me.


 

La Contadora 

 

    Cuando camino se levantan

todas las cosas de la tierra

y me paran y cuchichean

y es su historia lo que cuentan.

 

    Y las gentes que caminan

en la ruta me la dejan

y la recojo caída

en capullos que son de huella.

 

    Historias corren mi cuerpo

o en mi regazo ronronean.

Tantas son que no dan respiro,

zumban, hierven y abejean.

Sin llamada se me vienen

y contadas tampoco dejan…

 

    Las que bajan por los árboles

se trenzan y se destrenzan,

y me tejen y me envuelvan

hasta que el mar los ahuyenta.

 

    Pero el mar que cuenta siempre

más rendida, más me deja...

 

    Los que están mascando bosque

y los que rompen la piedra,

al dormirse quieren historias.

 

    Mujeres que buscan hijos

perdidos que no regresan,

y las que se creen vivas

y no saben que están muertas,

cada noche piden historias,

y yo me rindo cuenta que cuenta.

 

    A medio camino quedo

entre ríos que no me sueltan,

el corro se va cerrando

y me atrapa en la rueda.

 

   Los ribereños me cuentan

la ahogada sumida en hierbas,

y su mirada cuenta su historia,

y yo las tronco en mis palmas abiertas.

 

    Al pulgar llegan las de animales,

al índice las de mis muertos.

Las de niños, de ser tantas

en las palmas me hormiguean.

 

    Cuando tomaba así mis brazos

el que yo tuve, todas ellas

en regalo de sangre corrieron

mis brazos una noche entera.

Ahora yo, vuelta al Oriente,

se las voy dando porque no recuerdo.

 

    Los viejos las quieren mentidas,

los niños las quieren ciertas.

Todos quieren oír la historia mía

que en mi lengua viva está muerta.

 

    Busco alguna que la recuerde

hoja por hoja, herbra por hebra.

Le presto mi aliento, le doy mi marcha

por si el oírla me la despierta.



 

This poem is much longer than poems I usually post, but I found it very interesting. I think we are all “Teller of Tales.” We all have a story to tell. Anyone who knows me in real life will tell you that I am a shy person until I get to know you, then I can be quite a talker. I have a story or an obscure fact for most anything. I may not be able to remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can remember that Vermont used to alternate governors according to what side of the Green Mountains they lived on. I can tell you that Alabama Governor Lurleen B. Wallace once was publicized for going turkey hunting and was called Governor Diana (the Roman goddess of the hunt) and that she weighed that turkey on the porch of my grandparents’ store. Telling that story will probably get you a whole dissertation on the governorship of Lurleen Wallace and how running for governor ultimately led to her death. It’s amazing the minutia in my head, yet when I play Trivial Pursuit, I often can’t recall those “trivial” details when I need to. 

 

The point is, we all have stories to tell. One of the things I love about working in a museum is that every object has a story. Every person behind that object has a story. We may not know all the details, and some things may be impossible to know, but the stories existed at one time or another. Can you think of a story or piece of minutia that is in the back of your head that comes up at odd times? What is that story?

 

 

About the Author

 

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957), pseudonym for Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga, was born in Vicuña, Chile. The daughter of a dilettante poet, she began to write poetry as a village schoolteacher after a passionate romance with a railway employee who committed suicide. She taught elementary and secondary school for many years until her poetry made her famous. She played an important role in the educational systems of Mexico and Chile, was active in cultural committees of the League of Nations, and was Chilean consul in Naples, Madrid, and Lisbon. She held honorary degrees from the Universities of Florence and Guatemala and was an honorary member of various cultural societies in Chile as well as in the United States, Spain, and Cuba. She taught Spanish literature in the United States at Columbia University, Middlebury College, Vassar College, and at the University of Puerto Rico.

 

The love poems in memory of the dead, Sonetos de la muerte (1914), made her known throughout Latin America, but her first great collection of poems, Desolación [Despair], was not published until 1922. In 1924 appeared Ternura [Tenderness], a volume of poetry dominated by the theme of childhood; the same theme, linked with that of maternity, plays a significant role in Tala, poems published in 1938. Her complete poetry was published in 1958.

 

Note: I found this poem as part of a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month on Poets.org, the website of the Academy of American Poets. National Hispanic Heritage Month (Spanish: Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana) is a period from September 15 to October 15 in the United States for recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Pic of the Day

JBC vs. CDR


For Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Canada’s Drag Race (CDR) should have been a dream come true. He was raised in a tiny town in Alberta and had no previous major television credits to his name. The 36-year-old actor and model — whose biggest credit was playing a manipulative reality TV producer on Lifetime’s UnREAL — was chosen to sit among its panel of judges. The openly gay and biracial Bowyer-Chapman already was familiar to CDR fans the world over having appeared a handful of times as a guest judge on VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) and RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars. “There’s something about drag that I’ve always been so enamored by,” he said. “Drag is magic."

But the dream quickly turned into a glittery nightmare. In a recent interview, Bowyer-Chapman discussed his exit from the program where he alleged racism from the CDR producers, as well as a toxic fanbase that prompted his abrupt exit from the program. Bowyer-Chapman had served as one of the permanent judges in the first season of the series, a spin-off of the popular American show, RPDR. He exited the job prior to Season 2 following a campaign of online blowback for his comments as a judge although he cited “scheduling conflicts” as the official reason for his departure. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Bowyer-Chapman explained that American producers convinced him to accept the job as a judge on the Canadian show, but that the toxic work environment drove him to leave.

Upon arriving on the Canadian set, Bowyer-Chapman encountered a new group of local producers, and very different attitudes about his involvement. “I came into CDR with a false sense of security because I had built trust with the producers of the American show,” he said. “But this was a different set of producers. And I think they were trying to create something impactful and prove themselves along the way. There were many instances where I should have paid attention to my intuition and spoken up. And I didn’t.”

The problems began almost immediately when a “white, gay, male showrunner” pulled Bowyer-Chapman aside and told him just before he was to meet the queens for the first time that he was the “man-candy for the queens to drool over.” Apparently, all the judges had signed very ironclad contracts stating they would not fraternize with any of the contestants or the crew off-set. They were to have no personal relationships, dialogue, or contact with the queens whatsoever other than when they were filming. Bowyer-Chapman said in his introduction to the drag contestants, “the queens were flirting with me and being suggestive in some ways. My walls went up immediately. I realized there were different expectations being put on me that were not being placed on the rest of the cast, and nobody was going to protect me.”

The harassment from the showrunner continued, as Bowyer-Chapman’s boss explained he needed to play the role of the “sassy” judge on the panel. Bowyer-Chapman said, “Being told that from a white person, ever, as a Black person, it’s like a dog whistle. It’s like what is said of Black women and of Black queer men meaning you’re the hot-headed, opinionated one who’s going to tell it like it is and not give a shit about what anybody has to say. And that’s not who I am.” He also attributes that environment, at least in part, to a lack of Black talent behind the camera. “There really was no Black talent,” he said. “We’re walking onto a set of CDR day one, and the showrunner is telling me how diverse the crew was as he’s giving me a tour. And I didn’t see one Black person.”

In a departure from the US version of the show, the Canadian version outfitted judges with earpieces to get suggested snarky comments from producers. Judges also got a list of suggested negative criticisms from producers ahead of time, and were required to record them so editors could drop them into a show at will. The policy made Bowyer-Chapman uncomfortable as it forced both him and the other judges to constantly deliver negative criticism. “Even if we didn’t have anything negative to say, you had to come up with something negative.”  He said he realized the producers were portraying him as aggressively negative after the first episode. Tensions hit a new level several episodes into the season when Bowyer-Chapman had a terse exchange with the contestant, Jimbo. The moment, in which Bowyer-Chapman told Jimbo to “use time better, maybe,” became an instant meme, and prompted fans to create a Change.org petition to have Bowyer-Chapman fired from the show. The petition didn’t garner anywhere near its signature goal, but the moment started a campaign of online bullying that would follow Bowyer-Chapman the rest of the season. 

“My inbox was flooded with people telling me I was too mean. I didn’t know what I was talking about. Just a lot of blatant racism. Their public profiles read ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but their DMs were all about how my Black life didn’t matter. All of us were locked in our homes, riddled with anxiety … and then to be experiencing this hate and verbal violence and emotional assaults, this just blatant racism at the same time from my own community? It was really hard.” Bowyer-Chapman’s co-judges felt some of the backlash, too — but whereas judge, Brooke Lynn Hytes (who said of one contestant’s piñata-like outfit, “I should … beat you with a stick”) already had competed in a season of RPDR, and earned the right to critique, Bowyer-Chapman was viewed as an interloper with no expertise in the field. There also was the matter of race. “There was a lot I experienced that Brooke Lynn just couldn’t have, because Brooke Lynn is a white man.” 

Amid the harassment, RuPaul himself reached out to comfort Bowyer-Chapman. He also advised the then-judge to leave Twitter over the ongoing harassment. “We had conversations about his experience in this world and this industry as a Black, queer man. As a drag queen,” Bowyer-Chapman recalled. “All the hate and trolling and vitriol he’s experienced his entire life. And it’s really heartbreaking, but he’s experienced it for so many years and he’s so clear-headed about it. He has learned to not take it personally.” Still, when Season 2 of CDR rolled around, Bowyer-Chapman opted to leave to accept a role on another series though not before he “called a lot of attention to the bullshit that occurred behind the scenes and the stuff that happened online and their inaction.”

Crave, the network that airs CDR, released a statement regarding Bowyer-Chapman’s departure and the campaign of online bullying. “In light of the social media attacks and bullying that Jeffrey experienced during season one, we put measures in place to mitigate this for future seasons. This includes a dedicated social media consultant to work with Crave to continue monitoring conversations in real-time.” RuPaul declined to comment, but his relationship with Bowyer-Chapman remains good, and he already has taped an appearance on an upcoming season of RPDR. For Bowyer-Chapman, though, the lesson is clear: “That’s what happens when it’s only white, cisgender people behind the scenes making the decisions. That’s what happens.”

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Pic of the Day

What Is Faith?

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

—Hebrews 11:1

 

The expression “just have faith, it will work out” is used by people to encourage and comfort someone facing serious problems or stressful situations. But just what is faith as described in the Bible, and does it really work? Elizabeth Gilbert, an American journalist and author best known for her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, described faith as "Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be... a prudent insurance policy." 

 

Faith is the substance or assurance of things we hope for but have not yet received. Faith (confidence, belief, trust) is also our evidence of that which is not seen. Faith comes before a prayer is answered or before an individual has received what he or she has requested from God. If we have received what we asked for, then faith is not needed. An example of this definition is found in Matthew 9:27-30 where two blind men came to Jesus and asked Him to heal them. Jesus first asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” and their reply was, “Yes, Lord.” “Then He touched their eyes saying, ‘According to your faith let it be to you.’ And their eyes were opened.” Their faith and assurance that Jesus could give them sight was the substance or reality they hoped for. It also gave them the evidence or trust that they would receive what they asked for. They believed; that is, they had faith in advance that it would be done.

 

Another example from the Old Testament is that of Daniel’s three friends who refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold. Those who refused to bow to the image were threatened with being thrown into a fiery pit alive. In Daniel 3:17-18, the three young Jewish men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, told King Nebuchadnezzar: “If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver usfrom your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” They did not know in advance how God would deliver them from the fiery furnace, whether at that time by saving their physical lives or later in the resurrection. Their faith or trust was the substance of what they hoped for, and it was the evidence of that which was not yet seen or received.

 

The apostle James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, uses the example of Abraham, who had both faith and works because he believed God and he obeyed what God commanded him to do. In James 2:18-18, James said, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James gave an example of this in verses 21-22 saying, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” Real faith is more than just believing in God alone. It includes acting on that faith in one’s life by serving God and obeying His commandments. We cannot have faith if we don’t show our faith through our works and how we live. Living faith is accompanied by service and obedience to God and His laws.