Thursday, November 13, 2008
I was living in Massachusetts during the fight for same-sex marriage there and I remember being told by many of my gay friends and acquaintances that I owed it to my brethren to go back into the closet about my family because our existence sent the wrong message. The "right" message of course, and by "right" I mean the one on the press releases is that gay people are just like straight ones. They want to meet the right man or woman, settle down, raise a family. This is bullshit. Well the second part is.
I'll grant that gays are much like straights. However, I reject the notion that all straight people want the wife/kids/minivan scenario. The difference between queer folk and straight folk has been that in rejecting society's expectations that we be heterosexual we've also gained the freedom to reject other of society's expectations for who we should be, from the nature of our relationships to defying gender role expectations and a host of other individual choices (my grandfather wanted me to consider business school, I wonder if I'd have been so comfortable disappointing him if my queerness had paved Disappointment Road already).
This narrowing of what it means to be queer has been by no means limited to poly folk. Drag queens, flamers, butch dykes and other "stereotypical" queers have found the movement shrink out from under them under the banner of gaining wider societal acceptance.
I've seen the same thing happen in the Tourette Syndrome world. Just as the gay community wants the rest of the world to know that being gay doesn't mean that you swish your hips when you walk, there is a constant message from the TS world that having Tourette doesn't mean that you have coprolalia (swearing tics). Just as gays I knew told me that I shouldn't be open about Fire, Summer and my life, I recently spoke to the mother of a child with TS who stopped going to parent support group meetings because the other parents were so bothered by the fact that her child had coprolalia. She said to me (paraphrasing) "the Tourette Association spends so much time telling everyone, especially parents, that coprolalia is so rare, and that it's not the defining feature of the condition that I feel like there is no support for me or my son. I feel like they'd rather we just keep our mouths shut!"
When I was in high school a lot of the literature for gay youth emphasized that gay kids were "ordinary" kids. That most of them didn't swish or lisp or like musical theater. The problem was that if a kid did express themselves in that way (and I was literally swishing when I was five, although I later forced myself not to) they can be left feeling like they don't even belong with the gays. I don't know if that has changed much or not in the time since, although I will applaud Alex Sanchez's Rainbow Boys young adult series for featuring a variety of kinds of gay kids.
Don't even get me started on the way that the gay and lesbian movement and to a lesser extent the gay and lesbian community threw transgendered people under the bus during last year's fight for federal anti-discrimination protection. I'll get to that at some point in the future. When I can think about it without wanting to put my fist through my computer screen. Be prepared to wait.
All of this said however, Prop 8 hurt. Leaving aside for a moment all the individuals wounded personally by it's passing, Proposition 8 sends a terrible message. It says that the people of one of the most liberal states in the land don't believe in equal rights for queers. Worst of all, it steals away hope from people all over. When push comes to shove, California is still perceived as one of the better places is this country to be gay. If California can overrule same-sex marriage why should anyone fight for the right to live their lives in a way that %51 of people might not like.
Same-sex marriage rights can never be my victory. But the passage of Prop. 8 and the other anti-gay ballot measures on Nov. 4th certainly felt like my defeat.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Interestingly, the pear of anguish is featured in almost every History/Discovery Channel documentary on torture devices even though there is skepticism as to whether it had every actually been used (this particular show concluded that it probably couldn't have been). Despite this, it is the pear of anguish and the Discovery Channel's handling of its segment that sparked this post.
The pear of anguish, aside from having a nifty name, is a torture device that you may have seen under a more mundane nomenclature. In many ways it is remarkable similar to a modern speculum, although in some ways it is more like an anal rather than vaginal one. The device consists of several arms that fit together to form a narrow elongated form. When a screw at the back is turned the arms spread apart to form a conical shape. Depending on the victim's supposed crime the device could be placed in a variety of orifices.
Having already demonstrated how the finger crusher would work on an uncooked chicken bone (“you can seen how the blood and marrow are forced out as the bone breaks, if this was a finger it would be rendered completely useless”) this point is where the Discovery Channel shows its frankly bizarre squeamish point.
They first explain that the pear of anguish would be used on blasphemers by inserting it into the mouth and expanding it until the jaw dislocated or broke. They have a CGI animated graphic to explain this for people who truly lack any imagination at all. As with the other devices both before and after on the show the narrator is a bit more enthusiastic than is strictly necessary.
Then homosexuality, which one of the people on the show (perhaps an anthropologist, I don't remember) awkwardly explains “was looked on really badly back then.” You probably don't need me to tell you that there is no CGI animation for how the pear was used on suspected queers. Here though is the phrase that inspired this whole post: they go on to explain that “for the crime of homosexuality, the pear of anguish was inserted into the relevant orifice and then expanded.” That's it, homosexuality portion over.
Lastly we have adulterers who they explain in almost too graphic detail (still no CGI) would have the pear inserted vaginally (and yes they use the word “vagina”) and expanded “until the delicate mucosa tissue passes its breaking point and tears apart.”
This is the part that is really bizarre to me. The Discovery Channel feels comfortable saying “vagina” on this program and describing in somewhat horrific detail how the pear of anguish would destroy one, but can't use the term “anus” or “rectum?”
This could be a regulator issue. Perhaps “anus” and “rectum” score higher on the questionable content scale that determines a show's rating than “vagina” does. I can't see why this would be, but I don't find it all that implausible.
That said, I found the phrase “the relevant orifice” to be very dismissive. As in fact was the entire mention of torturing gays for being gay. This may not be reflective of a bias against gays. In fact if I had to guess I'd imagine that there is more than one person on the production crew whose “relevant orifice” would have been endangered back when the pear of anguish was supposedly used.
Perhaps what is more interesting than the use of the term “relevant orifice” is that there was little attempt to dismiss the use of the pear on adulterers or blasphemers. It's as if by being dismissive the producers of the show are trying to reassure us that they don't endorse the historic view of homosexuality as a crime. Blasphemy and adultery however, are still fair game.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Summer and I watched the debates last night. Since we don't really have sex anymore (although with him coming off of his meds that mights be subject to change, who knows) watching all the debates has been about the most intimate thing we've done; if you don't count the occasional awkward attempt at a hand job. The problem I found is that regardless of the questions, the answers in last night's debate were all things we'd heard before. If what many of the pundits say is true (and I fear that it is) and the American people care more about who a candidate is that what their experiences or policies are (and how else to you explain all the people who like Sarah Palin) then I think that the debates questions might as well reflect this.
As I awoke from my Benadryl/Vicodin/Ambien influenced sleep this leaped into my mind:
What we need is to have a circus clown make each canidate the balloon animal that they feel best reflects them and then have them justify their decision to the American people while holding said ballon animal.
Yes it would lower the level of political discourse, but then, having watched last night's debate I don't think lowering the level of discourse is something we need to be worrying about.
(BTW in my dream Obama choose Dorie, the forgetful fish from Finding Nemo, and McCain choose a squid. Before they could explain thier choices, or for that matter why they both choose sea animals, I woke up)
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Now, I mentioned that this is probably my favorite musical, but it is also the musical that I've interested in the longest. I first saw A Chorus Line at age ten when after much begging and wheedling, my parents surprised me in a similar (although more spectacular) way. I should note that I'd been interested in seeing the show since I was probably eight (I first heard the soundtrack around age five). Looking back as an adult I know that some of the more overt adult content went over my head, although most did not ("adult content" makes up most of the show, it's not aimed at kids... at all).
You might ask yourself "what kind of ten year old desperately wants to see A Chorus Line?" In my case looking back I can say "a sexually precocious queer one." Perhaps it was my (attempted) naughty rendition of "dance ten, looks three," (which most people know as the tits and ass song) when my age was still measured in single digits, or my enthusiastic singing along with "adolescence," but my fondness for A Chorus Line was almost certainly one reason why my mother was less-than-shocked when I came out of the closet at thirteen.
I've been re-examining the above question because I found myself asking it yesterday. As we were finding our seats we passed two parents with a boy who couldn't have been much more than ten. See him siting there in his nice shirt and sport jacket (my parents always made me get totally dressed up for theater) waiting for the show to start was like looking backwards in time. I pointed him out to Fire and we agreed that either his folks had dragged him there, or he was a budding theater fag.
I realize that I'm indulging in stereotypes here. That said, go read the synopsis of A Chorus Line if you are unfamiliar with it and find me a young boy who really wants to see it.
As we were leaving the theater, we again passed the family with the boy in question. He had a smile on his face like a Little League baseball player whose team just won the finals. If he's lucky, he's got parents like mine (and being at A Chorus Line would seem to indicate that he does) and his story will be a whole lot easier than some of the ones featured in the show we'd all just finished watching. But stereotyping or not, I'd be willing to lay money that the only close female companionship in his future are going to be fag-hags.
Of course, seeing myself back then I would have said the same thing and here I am so who knows? Whether women, men or both (I'm betting men or both) lie in his future, we were definitely looking at a young queer.
The vast gulf between the life and future that a ten year old queer-to-be can look forward to today and what he would have had to look forward to when the show was written is so immense that I realized that soon my beloved Chorus Line will be dated enough to only make sense as a period piece. And while that makes me feel old, and sad that people won't get key elements of this wonderful show, it also is a spectacular indication of the progress GLBT people have made between the show's creation in 1975 and today.
Friday, September 19, 2008
My primary reason for having the LJ will be to keep in better touch with my geographically distributed friends and family of choice. For this reason most posts will be restricted to my friends-list, so it will likely seem pretty empty.
My hope is to maintain a much higher standard of quality here at BS. Most of my essays here are heavily re-read, edited and reviewed (not as much of late I'm ashamed to admit) before being posted. The livejournal is not likely have much of that at all.
While there is certainly no reason for someone to feel any need to read both, I wanted to make folks aware of the option as well as make it clear that the content between them will greatly vary. While Wintersong Tashlin is the Barking-Shaman, wintertash the LJ is definitely not BarkingShaman the blog.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
As people who know me or have read BarkingShaman can probably guess, reading is a big part of my life. In addition to mid-grade SciFi and fantasy books (although very little fantasy for some time) I have developed a fondness for a specific kind of non-fiction in the past several years.
I enjoy reading books in which people persevere against great odds. Military non-fiction is a good source for this sort of thing as it often contains accounts of everyday people faced with unspeakable horror and terror and yet, usually through training, persevering. In my mind The Ship That Would Not Die and Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors should be considered classics of this genre.
Exploration of new frontiers is another source of these stories. The various books (and one excellent BBC miniseries) about Shackelton's failed Imperial Trans-Antartic Expedtion relate a tale that Homer could have written.
A very different kind of new frontier is ventured into in the book that I just finished reading about a man blind since age 3 who braves experimental surgery to regain his sight decades later only to find that his brain has lost the ability to process visual data.
It is interesting for me to look at how I relate to the figures in these various books. I find myself wondering, would I be able to ignore my own injuries and push away the remains of my closest friends in order to man an AA gun under Kamikaze bombardment, or would I freeze up? How would I have fared in Shackelton's party marooned on the pack ice for years? Faced with the chance of sight, would I choose to continue my happy life or at great physical and psychological take the chance that I might venture into the sighted world.
The inevitable (to me at least) follow up to these questions is, how would these people who I admire find me? What would they think of my admiration?
This is more than just a hypothetical question. There is an excellent book, Until the See Shall Free Them about the sinking of the bulk hauler SS Marine Electric. In addition to surviving in frigid waters aboard an overturned lifeboat, her chief mate, Bob Cusick broke the longstanding code of silence regarding the safety standards among the aging ships of the U.S. Merchant Marine. The changes instituted in part as a result of his testimony have likely saved countless lives.
Weirdly, this is where my this question comes almost literally home. Bob Cusick, unbeknown to me when I happened to mention the book to the teller at the bank, retired to my current town. In fact, his daughter walks my dog when she stays at the kennel and we almost rented a house across the street from him. The teller at the bank suggested that I drop a note for him there suggesting that we get together sometime.
I'll never get a chance to talk to Sir Ernest, or Ret. Admir. F. Julian Becton or the majority of the other names found in the pages of my significant collection. At least not unless I go find them among the underworlds and one lesson that I think most spirit workers get pretty fast is that you do not pester the dead.
The odds are better than even that if I wanted to, I could arrange to meet Mr. Cusick. The problem is that I don't know if I want him to meet me. I'm too afraid that I'd be found wanting by a man who I admire.
I've asked myself what my motivations are in wanting to meet him and the primary reason is that I want him to know that his story meant something to me, even though I'm not a merchant mariner. I've considered writing him a letter, could serve the same purpose, but I don't know what I'd end up saying.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
If you can't see the embeded video you can view it here.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I am always a bit nervous debuting a brand new class and that goes double for classes with a strong discussion component. If a group is engaged it can be so much more enjoyable for everyone than just me talking at a group of people for 90min. If they aren't though, there's the risk of running out of stuff to say before I've used up even half of that allotted time.
I now have a brief breather before things heat back up. In the interest of my preserving my health I've made the difficult choice not to attend the entirety of the upcoming Dark Moon Rising at Asphodel, but instead only come out for the day I'm scheduled to teach. I'll be offering my genitorture class "Mean Things to do to Guys' Bits," which was well received when I debuted it at Dark Odyssey Spring Fire '08.
Following DMR I'll be heading down to Maryland for Dark Odyssey Summer Camp (link NFSW) where I'll be teaching two introductory classes on energy play and sex magic, as well as my popular "Playing With an Intact Dick" class, and a workshop on outdoor sexual activity as a tool for building a relationship with the Land and its spirits.
I really need the breather before then. Summer just told me that I had an angry phone message from my mother. Somehow I managed to fuck up my step-dad's birthday (again). As you may know I just switched over to an iTouch for my PDA needs and a bunch of stuff got lost in the change over including the date for his birthday. I've been out the door first thing everyday and back after midnight so I won't even have a chance to pick up a belated card until Monday.
The moment DO Summer Camp is over I head back here for an invite-only gathering at which I'll be horsing Odin for a private ritual. Fun. Then it'll be back to my other jobs and hopefully to finishing the Bower Project that has been consuming the last year of my (mundane) professional life.
Monday, August 18, 2008
First off, I now know that I can teach classes that end at midnight even after a full day and have people get good stuff out of them, but it still wouldn't be my first choice.
wylddelirium is rocking fun to needle top with.
Sometimes the really important things that I have to say/do don't happen during class.
The new divination system is working well (I stayed the night before at my sister's house and gave a reading/demo).
I miss having a presenter badge (I'm pouting)
Not only do other people like watching someone bleed as much as I do, it can be more fun in a group.
950 people can be a smaller number than you'd think.
There is a sense of belonging that comes from really hurting someone in public and realizing that the people around you are not only cool with the fact that you're doing it, but also that you get off on it.
Things are mighty crazy right now. I'm leaving from here and in just a couple of days I'm heading out again for SWIG where I'll also be presenting. I'll try to get some more posting done but I expect it to be spotty and brief.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Since A Fire in the Head mentioned it, I thought I would take a moment to explain what is going on with my iTouch. In the description of BarkingShaman it says among other things that I am a small business owner, a subject and perspective that I don't write from or about very often. My perspective as both a consumer and a business owner shapes my experiences with the iTouch.
I know that the last thing the interwebs need is another damn iPhone review so I'll keep the review thing short and sweet: the iTouch is a spectacular piece of technology. Not only is it both useful and entertaining, but as a multi-touch interface (if only a 2-point) it is a glimpse into where computing may be going (for a more dramatic example see this post). What complaints I may or may not have about the iTouch itself are not worth mentioning here, I'm unlikely to say anything new.
My problems, such as they are, have much less to do with the hardware or software of the iTouch itself, but rather with the institutional mindset Apple seems to have taking during its development.
Let me explain why I bought the thing in the first place. When I leave the house in the morning this is the list of things I need to remember to bring:
Heckler & Koch P2000 and its holster
Pocket Sized Digital Camera when possible
Restoration Device (depending on what I'll be doing during the day)
(I also carry a back-up gun and back-up knife a lot of the time)
This list pushes me to the very edge of what I can plausibly carry and wear on my person. I don't carry a purse or “man-bag” because steady pressure on my neck or shoulder would be too painful to be practical. Already having to carry this many things doesn't leave me mental attention or physical space for the PDA that I need to have as well. This is why I bought the iTouch.
Since I am already carrying an iPod, I figured I could switch to an iTouch and have a combination PDA and iPod, although I'll grant that it means doing so in a larger package. I also considered getting a Blackberry and having a combination cell phone/PDA but I didn't like the interface at all. My plan would have worked perfectly but for one fact:
I am a Windows user. This is a fact that I am tired of apologizing for, whether to Mac users or Linux users. My business uses powerful CAD software that is not available for the Mac. In fact, I know of no industry standard CAD software that runs on a Mac platform. And I do not have the time or know-how to run Linux.
Since the business has to have Windows, I also have a cheap ($600) HP laptop that I use for my personal computing. This is where my iTouch problems started.
Apple doesn't really plan well for the possibility of having Windows users who buy their products. The place where this is most problematic for me is that the iTouch calendar can only sync to Outlook or iCal (the mac calendar program) and there are major problems with Outlook syncing. This is weird since it will sync to my Google contact list, just not my Google calendar. My calls to Apple support to try to find out if support for Google Calendar or Windows Calendar (the vista calendar program) would be forthcoming was met largely with the auditory equivalent of blank stares. I was also told by several support personnel (I talked to a number of them) that I should just use iCal, which is not available for Windows computers. Overall, I'd say that each support person (even the one who was able to helpfully tell me that Apple had no intention at all of adding support for anything other than Outlook) was puzzled by the fact that I didn't own an Apple computer. Non were any of them aware that new PC's shipped with Vista rather than XP.
This represents a level of institutional myopia that cannot be healthy for a business. I think that there is also an unhealthy self-confidence out of keeping with the fragile hold that anyone can hold on a market segment today. The idea that I'll eventually break down and pay $100 for a Vista version of a product so crappy that Windows replaced it for their new OS just so I can use my iTouch's calendar doesn't seem strange to Apple. They seem to think that I'd do that and more for the privilege of using their product. Or even worse, perhaps Apple believes that if they make great products which interface poorly with PC's more people will set their PC's aside and buy Apple computers.
This is stupid. Apple should be doing everything in their power to make me happy, including having their peripheral devices like the iTouch work perfectly no matter what OS I use. This way when it's time for my next computer purchase I think of them. Ditto with their tech support. If you make a product that is PC compatible you need to be up to speed on how it interacts with said PCs if you want customers to feel that you care about them and are knowledgeable, key factors in the decision to change brands.
I need a PDA combination right now. If I could wait six to nine months I'll bet someone would have something that would fill my needs as well as the iTouch does (I unfortunately thought the Samsung Instinct was a piece of shit). Somehow I doubt H&K will be releasing an combo PDA/9mm semi-auto.
The sad thing is that by itself the iTouch really is amazing. But when I connect it to my computer and try to use iTunes to do things like update my contacts I am very aware that I'm using a music player for something it was never really intended to do. I wonder it that isn't a good metaphor for where Apple's going
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
It all reminded me of a conversation that Fire and I had a few weeks ago about the difference between when we were goth kids (on the outside, I'd say in many ways we still are on the inside) and what the goth/emo thing has kind of turned into. One good way to sum it up it seems is this:
Emo kids get beat up a lot, a lot of people hate them for reasons I don't understand. Even in the U.S. it seems that being an emo kid ain't the safest thing to do.
A lot of poeple hated goth kids too, but it seems like people didn't want to fuck with you if you were a hardcore goth. Part of the goth "thing" was that you seemed unpredictable i.e. "if she'll shove a safety pin in her own ear and wear it like that, what'll she do to me?" This isn't to say that a lot of goths didn't get the shit beat out of them somewhat regularly, but that is often part of how they became goths.
The Russians aren't the only ones to try to legislate goths away. Here in America they did it years ago, just not at a national level. I believe that in some ways that is what birthed emo culture as distinct from goth culture.
Fire put it this way: Emo is goth, except that you can only be angry at yourself not the rest of the world.
Part of the point of goth was that other people found it weird and a bit scary. That's how we stopped getting the shit beaten out of us. The problem is that when Columbine and the following shootings happened, people focused on the fact that goths were the ones with the guns instead of asking "what fucked these kids up?" The general public simply decided that being goth is what made them go nuts and shoot people. I've got news for you: the fucked up kids don't become the popular and successful ones in high school. So yeah, often they became goths. The people who committed those crimes were fucked in the head long before they put on black clothes and white makeup.
This however is a reasonable point, and one thing about our culture and society is that when there's blood on the walls, reason goes out the window.
During my adolescence and college years my mother was the vice principal at a suburban high school. I remember that not to long after the Columbine shooting I was home from college and stopped in to see her at work. It was pouring outside so I was wearing the black London Fog trench coat she had bought me a few weeks earlier. Here's another newsflash, London Fog raincoats pretty much come in black and beige, and if you spend a lot of time in the woods or a metal shop, and in college I did both, wearing beige is a really bad idea.
My mother was outraged. She couldn't believe that I'd wear a black trench-coat (did I mention it was a present from her?) in her school. My protestations that it was pouring cats and dogs fell on deaf ears. In the wake of the school shootings it had been decided that goth clothing was a tool of fear and terror and was outlawed in many schools.
They had rational sounding explanations, but under examination these explanations were often revealed as, well dumb. For example, my mother pointed out that you can hide a lot of weapons in a trench-coat. Absolutely irrefutable, and maybe a good point from a school security point of view. However, her school only banned black trench-coats. To point out how stupid this was, Fire carried on an entire conversation with my mother while concealing a nearly four-foot broadsword under the cute pale-red LL Bean trench-coat she had gotten from her grandmother. At the end of the conversation she drew the sword that my mother didn't know was there, proving that the black part was irrelevant. Not that it mattered.
I'm not trying to say that there aren't differences between emo and goth, to be honest, I know a lot less about the emo movement than I could. Nor am I saying that goth is dead.
Nor do I understand why it is ok to hate and assault goth or emo or in some places queer or foreign kids in school. The fact is that I think there are always going to be kids who teachers and adults will look the other way rather than protect. And whether it's legislation in Russia or goth kids being afraid to express themselves for fear of being looked on as potential dangers, what's really going on is society making it easier to look the other way.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
For now let’s talk a bit about the past, and a bit about the future.
First, the future: The next few weeks will see BarkingShaman essays talk about things that have happened while I was not posting, like the appearance of my accent. After that, I’ll be regularly posting essays about the usual BarkingShaman topics, life as a poly/pagan/spirit worker/business owner/who barks like a dog and talks like a Brit. Additionally, the Articles of Interest tab will be removed, and instead I’ll be directly posting links to articles on the web that I think are relevant to the theme of this blog.
And now the past: If I had it my way I’d be closing BarkingShaman not resuming writing. While my previous absences were generally caused by health problems, this long gap was not. Around the time of my last post, I had a first person run-in with how toxic this livejournal/blog/myspace thing can be. It didn’t involve BarkingShaman but rather something that happened in the real world, found its way onto the internet, and then back into the real world. The consequences were deeply hurtful and soured me towards this mode of communication in a bad way. With few exceptions, I stopped reading all blogs save professional political ones. And I decided that I did not want to participate in this mode of communication anymore.
And yes, I know that was childish. It wasn’t fun anymore so I didn’t want to play. But hell, with everything on my plate personally and professionally (both professions) I thought I had the right to be a bit childish about something. Turns out I was wrong.
The Boss Lady encouraged me (in a “Do this now” sort of way) to start Notes From a Barking Shaman in the first place, and now She says it’s time to get back to work. In this, as in all things, I do what She says. And in fairness, I enjoyed writing BarkingShaman the first time around and I know I can this time too.
I ask you to be patient with me as I get back into harness so-to-speak. Strange as it sounds, it takes practice to do this well (especially the writing quality), but as of today Notes From a Barking Shaman is back.
Stick around; I’ll be here.