Wednesday, January 24, 2007

This is CNNOnion?

Someone has missed the point. To be fair I am unsure as to whether or not I may be that someone, but from where I sit the world is making my brain hurt. Witness this image.

At first glance it looks like an ordinary post-SOTU CNN Online front page. However, if one is to look at the lower right-hand portion of the image something is awry. That something is the “BREAKING ONION NEWS” box.

For those of you who don’t know, The Onion is one of the most successful online satirical newspapers (there is still a print version put out as well). Onion headlines often cut to the heart of the absurdity of the American experience. Their post-9/11 coverage attracted some of the widest publicity, prompting Newsweek to affirm that The Onion really is “America’s finest news source.” A recent article, “ Recommendations Understand Area Woman Better Than Husband” is an excellent case in point. Of course, The Onion doesn’t always rely on current events: “Why do all these homosexuals keep sucking my cock?” is a timeless piece of… journalism.

Perhaps it is apparent then why I am so flabbergasted (fun word, don’t get to use it often enough) by the presence of an Onion link as part of CNN Online. For one thing, there have been too many distressing instances over the past several years in which it has been hard to tell that an article on CNN wasn’t in fact a spoof from The Onion. And for its part, the Onion has carved out a web presence and a loyal following from pointing that sort of thing out. Can either outlet remain true to the intent of their content when existing in this sort of relationship?

Ok, they probably can both do that just fine. The Onion has demonstrated time and again that they don’t really give a fuck what the world thinks as long as people laugh, and CNN is probably incapable of seeing the irony of having fake news headlines next to such “legitimate” gems as “Beefier High School Football Players Verge on Obesity” and “Sea Lion Wanders on to Dairy Farm.” (Sea Lion headline found originally here on CNNOnline, although it goes to an affiliate website)

I have been sick lately and having pain problems to boot (being sick means I can’t have barking tics which means more physical tics and hence more pain) so I have been sleep deprived and this evening I added two Benadryl on top so perhaps this seems weirder to me than it really is. Hence the screen shot. After all “CNN Online to Carry Onion Articles” sounds, well like an Onion article.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

It’s Not Paranoia If It’s True

As I have discussed in BarkingShaman previously, one of my roles in Tashlin is to monitor news, weather, and international affairs for information that I feel is relevant to who we are and what we do. As I have also indicated on this blog, I feel that the United States and the world are entering into what could prove to be a very difficult and scary time. The Crazy Years as they were prophesized in Robert A. Heinlein in his famous Future History.

I have been told time and time again, maybe by some of you reading this blog, that I was looking for enemies where there weren’t any and that I was allowing a persecution complex to make mountains out of molehills.

Read this article and tell me if I am crazy to be afraid. Before thinking that this has nothing to do with us because it is happening in another part of the world, please note that the majority of the churches that have broken their ties with the Episcopalian Church in the U.S. have allied themselves with the Anglican Church of Nigeria, the country this article is about. In fact, the head of Nigeria’s Anglican Church strongly pushed for and supports the law discussed by the article. By extension we can assume that the members of the American churches that have chosen to place themselves under his leadership feel the same way.

Ordinarily I would just post a link today I will reprint the entire article:

Nigeria Prepares To Vote On Bill To Outlaw Meeting Gays
by Newscenter Staff

Posted: January 18, 2007 - 5:00 pm ET

(Lagos) Legislation that would strip gays and lesbians of all civil rights has passed its final hurdle and is set for a vote in Nigeria's Parliament.

The bill started out as a ban on same-sex marriage and has been revised to make it a crime for more than two gay people to be in the same venue at the same time.

It prohibits LGBT social or civil rights groups from forming. It would be illegal to sell or rent property to same-sex couples, watch a gay film or video, visit an LGBT web site, or express same-sex love in a letter to one's partner.

The legislation goes so far as to make it a criminal offense to impart information of HIV/AIDS to gays or for non-gays to meet with any group of gays for any purpose.

The penalty would be five years in prison with hard labor.

Gay sex already is illegal in Nigeria with sentences up to 14 years behind bars. In the mostly Islamic north homosexuality can be punishable by death.

Last year it became a crime for same-sex Nigerian couples to travel abroad to marry.

"Nigeria seems certain to legislate one of the world's most sweeping and repressive anti-gay laws, unless international pressure is bought to bear on the Nigerian government," said Peter Tatchell of the London-based LGBT human rights group OutRage which has been monitoring the situation in Nigeria.

"The bill outlaws almost every expression, affirmation and celebration of gay identity and sexuality, and prohibits the provision of sympathetic advice and welfare support to lesbians and gay men," Tachell said.

The new bill has the support of Nigeria's Anglican Church, and its leader Archbishop Peter Akinola who has been at the forefront of opposing gay clergy in the denomination. Conservative Anglican churches in the US have aligned themselves with Akinola.

Impetus for the legislation followed the legalization of same-sex marriage in South Africa.

Last year Zimbabwe passed the "sexual deviancy" law making it a criminal offense for two people of the same sex to hold hands, hug, or kiss.

© 2007

Friday, January 12, 2007

Hanging on the course of this damn cold, so to speak

It is not a great day today. About four days ago I developed a sore throat and it is developing into bronchitis, an ailment that I get several times a year. Ordinarily this would not be a huge deal. I am accustomed to this after twenty-plus years of struggling with this specific ailment and I know that while I might feel like I am dying I, it will be better in a few days.

Unfortunately, I do not have a few days. I am scheduled to go up in a “superman” style hook suspension with Rites of Passage on this coming Sunday. Now it looks like I probably won’t be able to. There is a chance that I will be doing well enough tomorrow (Saturday) that I will be able to keep the appointment, but if I am not doing better by early afternoon I’ll have to call and cancel.

This situation has got me thinking though. The dominant thought is something along the lines of “what the fuck am I thinking?” It’s not that I don’t want to do the hook suspension, I do. It’s just that I imagine that the majority of the population would be delighted at coming down with an upper respiratory and sinus infection if it meant not having between eight and ten modified fish hooks driven through their flesh and used to hold them off the ground. Yet here I am, depressed by that very fact.

I suppose that the most logical conclusion is that I am just whacked in the head. Something in my make-up is skewed in a way that makes going up on hooks a good thing. Certainly there is an element of truth to that. My recreational use of sharp and/or unusual objects is a well established fact in my circle of friends. Pain is an integral part of my sexual experience of the world and I find the contents of an EMT’s supply bag far more erotic than scented massage oils.

It would seem that the pondering could stop there, but it can’t. There is more going on than just my brain being weird. For instance, I don’t find hook suspensions erotic. I have had hooks put in me, I have gone up in a suspension once before, and I have certainly seen many pictures of various people in various forms of suspensions. None of those things make the blood rush away from my head.

Nor it should be noted to I place any great weight in ones ability to withstand physical pain. I have been up on hooks once before. If being suspended was about proving something, then once would have been enough. People who do really crazy painful shit don’t impress me all that much. Admittedly, depending on what they are doing, I might find it hot. But that doesn’t mean that I think that they are better people for being able to withstand pain. This is the same as not being awed by someone who can play a sport well enough to be paid millions of dollars. Or can play an instrument well enough to pack Carnegie Hall. Impressive skill in one area, but do not make you a superior person overall.

I know why I want to do this suspension. The other hook suspension I did was a four hook, “suicide” style hang. It was an integral part of the last of the four ordeals from my shamanic death cycle. It also sucked. A lot. First off, it was chilly out. There was some very serious spooky shit involved in the whole thing. And it was a four hook suicide suspension, which while putting in the hooks is easier, is a much more intense hang than an eight or ten hook superman. Not to mention that a “suicide” is much harder on the back and neck, not areas where I am doing great to begin with. Based solely on that experience, I would be unlikely to do another suspension.

However, I had been interested in being suspended for a long time before the ordeal. I am planning on doing this next hang because I want to find out if suspending is something that I could enjoy/find meaningful. There is no way to separate the “ordeal” from the “suspension” in my previous experience. It is important that I go up in a way that will let me focus on experiencing the suspension itself. This is also the reason I wanted to do a superman since that style is a less painful hang than a suicide. Obviously the placement of the hooks is more intense, both because of the number of hooks and the locations they need to be placed, but I can handle getting the hooks.

This train of thought clearly leads nowhere. Why I want to do this suspension doesn’t really say anything about why I wanted to do one in the first place. I have some ideas though.

First off, and speaking only for myself, there is an undeniable connection between sexual ecstasy and spiritual ecstasy. I am not saying that I find sexual experiences spiritual or spiritual experiences sexual, but there is a similarity in the mental states and afterglows of both. It might make some sense then that if pain is can take me to places sexually that I couldn’t go otherwise, that it might have the same effect on a spiritual experience.

There is also something to be said for doing something that is powerfully other in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment of some sort. In both ritual and magical practice we talk about “creating sacred space” and/or defining the protected boundaries of a working. “Going” someplace in one’s head is aided by literally “going” someplace in the mundane world designed for that purpose. That can obviously take many forms. Sacred space can be a sacred grove that has been used for worship for years and it also can be burning some incense and lighting some candles in your bathroom. One common thread in most forms of sacred space though is separation, usually physically. And again that can mean a place that you only go for this purpose or it can mean closing the door to the room you have made a sacred space.

The “separation” of being suspended is undeniable. The feeling of something on which we are supported is a constant in our existence. One of the only clear memories about the suspension itself from my fourth ordeal was looking down as I was lifted off the ground and seeing the earth beneath me but not touching it. You could look at a suspension as the power of the spiritual “lifting you up” and overcoming the power of the mundane in the form of the gravity holding you down.

Surely a bit of discomfort is worth that. You can’t have a powerful experience if you are unwilling to put out anything.

If I am not feeling better I won’t be able to hang on Sunday. Nor would it be as meaningful or enjoyable if I did try to suspend with a sinus infection and bronchitis. But I console myself with the fact that I will do it. If I have to cancel, I’ll try to reschedule at the same time. As strange as it may sound, this is something that I want to do. If other people find that hard to understand that is ok. I don’t entirely understand it either, and I don’t think that will change just because I do it again.

UPDATE 12/13/07- I called Emrys from Rites of Passage this afternoon and canceled my suspension for tomorrow. I now have a sinus infection and bronchitis. Aside from being a really bad idea, I don't think I'd get much out of a hang in this condition. He said to call as soon as I felt better and we could reschedule. On the other hand, I think that my puppy is way more unhappy than me, she got back from the vet's office this morning after having all her girly inside parts removed. I am guessing that sucks more.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Too different a difference...

After a few months of giving it a shot, I have decided that I have to stop seeing the local physical therapist I have been working with. You might remember the post I made, More Than Just a Difference of Opinion regarding the radical differences in our beliefs. The post generated 17 comments at the time.

At that time most of the people I spoke to about the situation advised me to find a different care provider. I did not do so, and I do not regret that decision. The gods above and below know that my personal beliefs and way of life would not mesh well with the beliefs of the majority of the populace (especially here in New Hampshire). However, I feel quite strongly that it is my obligation, especially as a shaman and community leader to work with people of different faiths and belief systems. In one of the earliest posts on BS I wrote about the need to put matters of faith aside in the interest of having a functional multicultural society. Certainly I would hope that a prospective client not choose someone else's company rather than my own due to my paganism.

However, as was pointed out by many at the time, physical therapy is a much more intimate form of interaction than sitting on a public transportation committee. I feel it is necessary to reiterate that fact that this physical therapist has never failed to be professional, courteous, and even kind to me over the course of my treatment. The only exception that comes to mind is being subjected to several weeks of Christmas carols, but I can surely deal (although the Muppets album was a bit much, nothing like Kermit singing about the birth of "our" lord and savior).

I have finally come to the conclusion that I am unable to be comfortable with, or fully trust her in the way I have to for the care to be effective. Also, I have issues with giving her my, or my insurance company's, money.

I buy Shell gasoline because they have a good employee care rating with HRC. I take pride in the fact that the company that makes my car advertises exhaustively to the GLBT community. Yet for something as intensely personal as physical therapy, I see a woman who honestly sees nothing wrong with a public school teacher telling a Muslim student during class that she is going to hell unless she abandons her evil ways and embraces Jesus Christ. A woman who feels that it should be illegal for me to even have the health insurance that pays for my treatments because my coverage is through Summer's company's domestic partner insurance plan.

Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to best handle the situation. First of all, I can't just stop making appointments. I need physical therapy and she has my prescription in her files, which I will need to make arrangements with another provider. More importantly, I think it is appropriate for me to make the reasons for my departure known. I am a shaman. That means that I have an obligation to not shirk away from uncomfortable truths, and from sharing said truths when appropriate.

I have decided that I will write her a polite letter explaining my reasons for leaving. It is vital that I not sound bitchy, elitist or like I expect everyone to cater to my personal view of the world. I see nothing wrong with her holding her beliefs as dear as I hold my own. I just cannot be comfortable working with her because of the intensity of both of our beliefs, not solely hers. Belief cannot be "wrong" or "right." That is the nature of "belief" and what distinguishes it from fact.

No one believes things that are not true in their experience of reality. Accepting this makes interacting with those who disagree with you much easier. But, as I have discovered, that only works up until a certain point. I hold no ill feelings toward this woman. That is a surprise to me, but I find that it to be the case. That doesn't change my inability to be comfortable having this form of relationship with her. A fact that I find leaves me a bit disappointed in myself. Unfortunately, my health and financial situations do not permit the leisure of trying to work this out at this time.

I would be interested in how readers of B.S. think I should approach the writing of this letter. Especially what points you folks feel I should make a specific note of. If you have ideas, feel free to either post in the comments or drop me an email.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

This can't be all good

I am actually working on a new post, which can be expected in the next few days. This however couldn't wait. Here you have the temperature statistics for the town where I live for the date of January, 6 2007:

(via AccuWeather's website)
Yesterday, 1/6/2007 in *******, NH

High Temperature:

Actual: 69°F
Average: 31°F
Record: 69°F in 2007

Low Temperature:

Actual: 50°F
Average: 10°F
Record: -20°F in 1904

Actual: 0.34 in