Saturday, April 30, 2022
Friday, April 29, 2022
The day has finally come; I have my laryngoscopy today. I’ve been waiting since January 10 for them to schedule this procedure, and it will determine if I can get the Inspire implant as a replacement for my CPAP to treat my sleep apnea. I have to be at Dartmouth by 7 am, so we need to leave my apartment no later than 5:45 am. My friend driving me will have to leave her place around 5:10 am. I feel bad about the imposition I am putting her in, but I don't have a lot of options. My boss was supposed to take me, and I would not feel bad about him having to leave so early, but his daughters came down with COVID, so he's quarantined with them and can't take me.
On a different note: While Isabella seems to enjoy my new apartment (as do I), she has been doing this odd thing lately. She will sit in front of the glass of my entertainment center and stare at her reflection. I had this entertainment center at my old place, but she never took note of it. She will sit there for the longest time just staring at her reflection, though I don’t think she realizes that it is her. Occasionally, she walks around the entertainment center to see if she can find that other cat. Of course, she never does, but it’s always back right where it was when she looks again. She doesn’t do anything but stare into the glass. She has done this with the front windows a few times, but never in a mirror and never for as long as she sits looking at the glass in the entertainment center. She doesn't seem upset but seems more curious than anything else. So, I have a question for those with cats: have any of your cats ever exhibited this type of behavior?
She’s usually pretty smart, and things like this don’t fool her. Although she still occasionally chases her tail, she will get tired of it after a little while. Also, she sometimes accidentally sits on one of her mice when playing with them and gets very perplexed about where it has gone. Eventually, she moves and reveals the mouse and seems surprised when the mouse suddenly reappears. Occasionally, she gets lost under the quilt on my bed but usually finds her way out unaided. Sometimes, I have to assist her. Cats are infinitely entertaining, especially Isabella. With all of these strange behaviors, she eventually gets tired and curls up on a nice comfy blanket and goes to sleep, which she seems to do, like most cats, for about 18 hours a day.
PROCEDURE UPDATE: The laryngoscopy went fine, but I am not an good candidate for the Inspire therapy, so I’m not sure what the next step is.
Thursday, April 28, 2022
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
Tuesday, April 26, 2022
By Bayard Taylor
He was a boy when first we met;
His eyes were mixed of dew and fire,
And on his candid brow was set
The sweetness of a chaste desire:
But in his veins the pulses beat
Of passion, waiting for its wing,
As ardent veins of summer heat
Throb through the innocence of spring.
As manhood came, his stature grew,
And fiercer burned his restless eyes,
Until I trembled, as he drew
From wedded hearts their young disguise.
Like wind-fed flame his ardor rose,
And brought, like flame, a stormy rain:
In tumult, sweeter than repose,
He tossed the souls of joy and pain.
So many years of absence change!
I knew him not when he returned:
His step was slow, his brow was strange,
His quiet eye no longer burned.
When at my heart I heard his knock,
No voice within his right confessed:
I could not venture to unlock
Its chambers to an alien guest.
Then, at the threshold, spent and worn
With fruitless travel, down he lay:
And I beheld the gleams of morn
On his reviving beauty play.
I knelt, and kissed his holy lips,
I washed his feet with pious care;
And from my life the long eclipse
Drew off; and left his sunshine there.
He burns no more with youthful fire;
He melts no more in foolish tears;
Serene and sweet, his eyes inspire
The steady faith of balanced years.
His folded wings no longer thrill,
But in some peaceful flight of prayer:
He nestles in my heart so still,
I scarcely feel his presence there.
O Love, that stern probation o'er,
Thy calmer blessing is secure!
Thy beauteous feet shall stray no more,
Thy peace and patience shall endure!
The lightest wind deflowers the rose,
The rainbow with the sun departs,
But thou art centred in repose,
And rooted in my heart of hearts!
Bayard Taylor (1825-1878) was an American poet, novelist, travel writer, literary critic, diplomat, lecturer, and translator. He was a frustrated poet who, even though he published twenty volumes of poetry, resented the mass appeal of his travel writings, because his desire was to be known as a poet. Even his travel writings have been relegated to the dustbin of literary history, and he is known today solely for his translation of both volumes of Goethe’s Faust.
Bayard was born on the January 11, 1825, in the small town of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania into a Quaker family. His parents were reasonably well-off farmers and could afford to give their son a decent education at academies in West Chester and Unionville. Although he entered the printing business as an apprentice, he was a keen writer of poetry and took great inspiration from the influential Rufus Wilmot Griswold. Encouraged by Griswold he published his first volume of poems at the age of 19 and called it Ximena, or the Battle of the Sierra Morena and other Poems. It sold badly but was noticed by the editor of the New York Tribune.
He worked as a journalist on the New York Tribune and other publications and this profession turned out to be his gateway to extensive worldwide travel when sent on assignments abroad. He even turned his hand to lyric writing for famous singers and completed a period of diplomatic service in St Petersburg, Russia.
He was lucky that his first commission was a European trip covering Germany, Italy, France, and England. He spent two years happily travelling at a slow pace, sending reports back to the Tribune. He was also engaged by other publications such as The Saturday Evening Post and The United States Gazette. On his return to the States, he was encouraged to publish his first travel book, based on his recent adventures. Views Afoot, or Europe seen with Knapsack and Staff was published in New York in two separate volumes in 1846. Further assignments followed but this time within the United States and Mexico. Taylor was now comfortably established in both journalism and as an author. He also had some success with a set of lyrics written for a visiting Swedish singer called Jenny Lind which were sung at concerts around the country. Within a few years he was off again on his travels, this time to Egypt and other countries in the Middle East.
In 1853, Taylor started from England and sailed to India, China, and then Japan. He was back in the States at the end of 1853 and then began a successful lecture tour. Two more years passed before the next overseas trip and this time he chose the countries of Northern Europe such as Sweden. Here he was inspired to write a long poem in narrative form called Lars.
Incredibly he found the time to serve as a diplomat and was appointed chargé d’affaires at the United States embassy in St Petersburg in 1863, accompanied by his second wife Maria. The following year they were back home at Kennett Square and Taylor wrote four novels with limited success. Poetry was his forte.
Taylor confided to Walt Whitman that he found in his own nature “a physical attraction and tender and noble love of man for man.” Taylor’s novel Joseph and His Friend: A Story of Pennsylvania (1870), which depicted men holding hands and kissing, is considered the first American gay novel by modern scholars. It presented a special attachment between two men and discussed the nature and significance of such a relationship, romantic but not sexual. Critics are divided in interpreting Taylor's novel as a political argument for gay relationships or an idealization of male spirituality. This novel is said to be based on the romantic relationship between poets Fitz-Greene Halleck and Joseph Rodman Drake. In Keith Stern’s Queers in History, it is revealed that the love of Taylor’s life was George Henry Boker, although both men married women. The American banker, diplomat, and poet George Boker wrote to Taylor in 1856 that he had “never loved anything human as I love you. It is a joy and a pride to my heart to know that this feeling is returned.”
His travelling days were not finished, and he was appointed to another diplomatic post, this time in Berlin. Unfortunately, he died only a few months after arriving in the German capital.
Bayard Taylor died in Berlin on the December 19, 1878, at aged 53.
Monday, April 25, 2022
Sunday, April 24, 2022
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Past Tense," a transporter anomaly accidentally sends Commander Sisko, Dr. Bashir, and Jadzia Dax back in time to a pivotal moment in Earth's history, August 30, 2024. The date was significant in the storyline because it was the day before the Bell Riots. "Past Tense" was a two-part episode that has recently garnered more scrutiny by many Star Trek fans because the current season of Star Trek: Picard is also taking place in 2024, this time in mid-April. The DS9 episode received critical acclaim for analyzing U.S. social issues in a science-fiction context and addressing various societal problems such as homelessness, poverty, and technology. Sisko and Bashir find themselves in the Sanctuary District of San Francisco, a section of a city designated for the homeless and financially destitute members of society in the 21st century United States. The U.S. government created the Sanctuary Districts in response to serious social and economic problems that had resulted in an increased rate of poverty and social destitution during the early 21st century. By the early 2020s, every major city in the United States had a sanctuary district. In the wake of the Bell Riots and the senseless deaths of so many people, American public opinion turned against the Sanctuary policy, and the districts were eventually abolished. By the 24th century, the Sanctuary Districts, and with them, the lack of empathy and public apathy toward the plight of the masses was seen as one of the darkest chapters of Earth's history. The episode's final lines have Dr. Bashir asking Commander Sisko, "You know, Commander, having seen a little of the 21st century, there is one thing I don't understand: how could they have let things get so bad?" Sisko responded, "That's a good question. I wish I had an answer."
While it is improbable that Sanctuary Districts will ever materialize in our history, a large part of the U.S. population lacks empathy and has a public apathy toward the plight of the masses, especially the poor and those who are seen as different. The current Republican party seems to hate everything considered different: LGBTQ+, those who are not white, the poor and destitute, and individuals with health problems. As long as Republicans can feel like they can look down on others, they believe they elevate themselves, even if the policies of the leaders of the Republican Party harm the majority of Republican voters. They would rather be harmed themselves than have any of their tax dollars going to those who need help or allow laws guaranteeing equality. Most Republicans claim to be Christian, but the people they vote for and the policies they advocate are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
One of Jesus's most famous (and often misunderstood) parables is that of the Good Samaritan. The parable is told in Luke 10:25-37:
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?"
So he answered and said, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"
And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?"
And he said, "He who showed mercy on him."
Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
As I said, this parable is one of the most well-known and most misunderstood of Jesus's parables because most people are unaware of its context, i.e., the oppression of the Samaritans and the bitter hatred that Jesus's listeners and the Samaritans had for each other. Most people saw "Samaritan" as merely a convenient name for that individual when in fact, it stood for "hated outsider who worships falsely and desecrates our religion." Today, to remedy this missing context, the story is often recast in a more modern setting where the people are ones in equivalent social groups known not to interact comfortably. Thus, cast appropriately, the parable regains its message to modern listeners: namely, that an individual of a social group they disapprove of can exhibit superior moral behavior to individuals of the groups they approve of. One example is Democrats, who advocate for the poor, those who face discrimination, and support universal (or at least more affordable) healthcare, are vilified and hated by Republicans who oppose any such reforms.
Christians have used the Parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of Christianity's opposition to racial, ethnic, and sectarian prejudice. For example, anti-slavery campaigner William Jay described clergy who ignored slavery as "following the example of the priest and Levite." Martin Luther King Jr., in his April 1968 "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, described the Samaritan as "a man of another race." Sundee Tucker Frazier saw the Samaritan more specifically as an example of a "mixed-race" person. Klyne Snodgrass wrote: "On the basis of this parable, we must deal with our own racism but must also seek justice for, and offer assistance to, those in need, regardless of the group to which they belong." I am using it in the context of the LGBTQ+ community.
Who were the Samaritans? The Samaritans claim descent from northern Israelite tribes who the Neo-Assyrian Empire did not deport after the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel. They believe that Samaritanism is the true religion of the ancient Israelites, preserved by those who remained in the Land of Israel during the Babylonian captivity; this belief is held in opposition to Judaism, the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, which Samaritans see as a closely related but altered and amended religion brought back by Judeans returning from captivity in Babylon. Samaritans consider Mount Gerizim near Nablus (biblical Shechem) and not the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to be the holiest place on Earth. If you look at biblical teachings and Jewish religious beliefs before the Babylonian Captivity, they are different. Judaism did not have a sense of Hell before the religion came into contact with the Zoroastrians, who believed in two different afterlife possibilities: one for the good and one for the evil.
Jewish hatred of Samaritans was all-encompassing, much like Republicans for Democrats. Jesus' target audience, the Jews, hated Samaritans to such a degree that they destroyed the Samaritans' temple on Mount Gerizim. The Samaritans, reciprocally, hated the Jews. Tensions between them were exceptionally high in the early decades of the 1st century because Samaritans had desecrated the Jewish Temple at Passover with human bones. Due to this hatred, some think that the lawyer's phrase "He who showed mercy on him." (Luke 10:37) may indicate a reluctance to name the Samaritan. Or, on another, more positive note, it may mean that the lawyer has recognized that both his questions have been answered and now concludes by generally expressing that anyone behaving thus is a "neighbor" eligible to inherit eternal life as described in Leviticus 19:18 which says, "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord."
The state of the world around us, whether in the domestic issues at the heart of so many political disputes in the U.S. or the Russian invasion of Ukraine, brings us back to Dr. Bashir's question, "How could they have let things get so bad?" Democrats and Republicans oppose each other's policies just because the other thought advocates for them. It doesn't matter the policy, or if the other side agrees that it would benefit their constituents, they will still refuse to support the policy. For example, Republican Congressmembers went into their home districts and touted how wonderful and helpful the infrastructure bill was that they had voted against. To oppose something just because those who support it are from a different party is bad enough, but it's even worse when you know that the policy would do a tremendous amount of good, and you oppose it is even worse.
Jesus used a Samaritan when telling the parable because he knew that the Jewish people he was talking to would hate anything a Samaritan did just because they were Samaritan. He told a story of a man who was hurt, and his people passed him by, but his most hated enemy was the one who came to his rescue. Shame is a great motivator, as Jesus was making the point that it should be shameful not to help your fellow human, no matter how you might feel about them, which is why the news is so depressing to me lately. For years, especially recently, it has been happening in Republican-dominated states who are passing harmful laws against LGBTQ+ individuals. The various "Don't Say Gay Bills" or the transgender discrimination bills are done out of pure hate without thinking about Christian beliefs. They will claim they are doing the Christian thing and protecting the family, but Jesus gave the Greatest Commandment "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself." Jesus did not say that this only applied to those who believe the same as you. Instead, Jesus asked, "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" The lawyer answered, "He who showed mercy on him." Notice again that the lawyer refused even to say "the Samaritan." But Jesus replied to the lawyer, "Go and do likewise."
Jesus commands us to "Go and do likewise." We aren't told to love, support, and help others only if they have the same belief or look the same as we do, but He commands us to "Go and do likewise." Simply and plainly, no caveat, no exceptions or exemptions, just simply "Go and do likewise." When we look at the world around us and ask, "How could they have let things get so bad?" The answer is that we did not "Go and do likewise."
Saturday, April 23, 2022
Friday, April 22, 2022
Back in graduate school, I took a seminar on Latin American History. My research project for that class was sexuality in colonial Latin America. It has a fascinating history. I remember that I read, Beyond Carnival: Male Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Brazil which I found infinitely fascinating. So, when I saw that Dr. Cervini’s Queer History 101 this week was about “Sexuality and the Colonization of the Americas,” I was eager to read it and share it with you.
From Dr. Eric Cervini’s Queer History 101
Even in 2022, we are still seeing an alarming rate of LGBTQ+ content being unjustly censored. In China, an episode of Friends was edited so Ross’s ex-wife wouldn’t be gay. In Hungary, a recent law has banned queer content in schools or kids’ television. And right here in the U.S., dozens of state legislatures have attacked teachers' ability to teach queer and trans history. But how far back does this phenomenon of censoring queerness go?
Zeb Tortorici, an Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures at NYU, understands the reality and nuances of this suppression more than most. Tortorici’s body of research focuses on the origins, archiving, and censorship of the queer “obscene” in New Spain, which included Mexico and Central America.
“I was directed toward the obscene,” Tortorici told me, “through my first book, Sins Against Nature: Sex and Archives in Colonial New Spain, which is about the archiving of sodomy.” It was during this research of colonial, same-sex criminal case records that Tortorici noticed the repeat occurrence of the Spanish word obsceno, or obscene. But it struck him as odd. “The word ‘obscene’ in the cases that I looked at,” explained Tortorici, “was particularly grafted upon desires that were less legible than something like sodomy.” So what were these “less legible” offenses?
First, Tortorici pointed me to the 1776 case of Manuel de Arroyo from Pachuca, Mexico. “Arroyo asserted that consuming human semen from another man is not a sin,” he told me. “The assertion of this heretical thought is what Inquisitors referred to as ‘obscene.’” Curiously, the act of oral sex wasn’t the obscene offense, but holding the belief was obscene.
Tortorici also cited a second example, the 1803 case of Juana Aguilar from Guatemala. “They were a so-called hermafrodita, or a hermaphrodite. Their body is described as ‘obscene’ in some records, including medical reports published in the colonial Guatemalan Gazette.” Again, the alleged act of Aguilar being a hermaphrodite wasn’t necessarily obscene, but the description of their body was obscene.
“Obscenity is produced in conjunction with other forms of alterity,” explained Totorici. “It's not simply something that refers to explicit sexuality or sexual desire in the wrong place or in the public sphere.” For Arroyo and Aguilar, moralistic and cultural opinions were “grafted” onto them in a means that further marginalized them as individuals. The Inquisition’s concept of the “obscene” wasn’t solely about being queer; it was a commentary on diversity and how difference itself was anathema to colonial culture. Thus, being different became criminal.
“Sodomy itself was policed in colonial Spanish, Portuguese American, and Spanish Pacific landscapes,” noted Tortorici, “but women and men were judged and denounced very differently for the crime.” Regardless of the type of court–criminal, secular, ecclesiastical, or inquisitorial–colonial Spanish America, despite an effort to standardize punishments for sodomy, allowed gender biases to influence legal consequences. And, in Tortorici’s research, the proof is in how records were kept.
“I spent from 2003 to 2018 in the archives looking for as many cases dealing with the sins against nature as I could, and I was struck by the fact that almost no cases of female sodomy appeared.” Indeed, Tortorici found only one unambiguous criminal case from 1732: it was about Josepha de Garfias, a woman from Mexico City who was punished for the crime of sodomy. But as far as details goes, that’s it!
“All we have is a one-paragraph summary of Josepha’s criminal case, which basically says that she was convicted of the crime of sodomy with other women,” said Tortorici. Apart from that, all evidence was burned and no record of punishment was kept. A leniency toward a female, same-sex crime all but proves, as Tortorici puts it, “the topic of sodomy was not the the axis of the case itself.”
So, as Tortorici asked me, “What is queer? And what does it mean to think about queerness centuries before the term was ever invented?” As Tortorici suggested, “Maybe what makes something queer is in the ways that it is trying to rupture or challenge identitarian claims and politics.” Queer history, in other words, may be much more expansive than you’d think!
For more of Tortorici’s fascinating work, check out:
- Against Nature: Sodomy and Homosexuality in Colonial Latin America (History Compass, 2012)
- Queering Archives: Historical Unravelings, Eds. Kevin P. Murphy, Zeb Tortorici, and Daniel Marshall (Duke University Press, 2014)
- Sexuality and the Unnatural in Colonial Latin America (University of California Press, 2016)
- Sins Against Nature: Sex and Archives in Colonial New Spain (Duke University Press, 2018)
A few more suggested readings:
- Guy, Donna, Sex & Danger in Buenos Aires: Prostitution, Family and Nation in Argentina (University of Nebraska Press, 1991)
- Green, James, Beyond Carnival: Male Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Brazil (University of Chicago Press, 1999)
- Bliss, Katherine, Compromised Positions: Prostitution, Public Health, and Gender Politics in Revolutionary Mexico City (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001).
- Sigal, Pete, Infamous Desire: Male Homosexuality in Colonial Latin America (University of Chicago Press, 2003)
About Eric Cervini
Dr. Eric Cervini is an award-winning historian of LGBTQ+ politics. His first book, The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America (a fascinating read), was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It also won the Publishing Triangle’s Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, the NYT Editors’ Choice, and the “Best Read of 2020” at the Queerties.
Cervini graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College and was a Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge, where he received his PhD. As an authority on 1960s gay activism, Cervini serves on the Board of Advisors of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of gay American history. His award-winning digital exhibitions have been featured in Harvard’s Rudenstine Gallery, and he has presented his research to audiences across America and the United Kingdom.
He lives in Los Angeles with his drag queen boyfriend and their dog, Moo Bear.
Here's a bonus picture of Dr. Cervini, just because...
I think more people would enjoy history if their professors looked like Dr. Cervini. (I have such a crush on this man.)
Thursday, April 21, 2022
Wednesday, April 20, 2022
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
Monday, April 18, 2022
Sunday, April 17, 2022
As the war in Ukraine continues into the Easter season—with the Catholic and Protestant churches celebrating Easter on April 17, and Orthodox Easter, as celebrated by many Ukrainians, falling on April 24—a spotlight is shining on the Ukrainian Easter tradition of decorating Easter eggs known as pysanky. Decorating them has become a gesture of peace, as the war has brought new meaning to an old tradition that dates back to pre-Christian times.
In Christianity, eggs are a common symbol of the resurrection of Christ. Traditional designs on the eggs are also imbued with meaning. Per Christian tradition, triangles on eggs represents the Holy Trinity. Different regions of Ukraine decorate eggs in different ways. For example, the pysanky in Western Ukraine boast drawings of chicks to represent fertility and deer to represent strength and prosperity.
Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”—John 20:1-2
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”
Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”