December 28, 2004

Holiday booty.

Not the rear kind, the gear kind. I'm 25, and I still go home to my parents' house every single year for Christmas, even though I live 850 miles away. It's sort of a deal between my mother and I that I will continue to do so as long as she continues to provide presents on an equal scale with when I was, say, ten years old. The fact that I'm in grad school and still have Christmas vacations helps, too. My reluctance to really grow up always proves itself to be to my benefit. We also have a running game where I steal Baby Jesus from the nativity scene and keep him until Christmas day, not to be surrendered unless there are presents for ransom. Hey, he's born on Christmas, right (allegedly)? This year, he was super-glued in there, and I wound up pulling the entire manger out of the scene, after which I had to pry the little baby out of a hell of a lot of glue. Christmas is fun on Elm Avenue. I don't even get dressed on Christmas anymore, really -- P.J. pants and something cozy on top, rarely even shoes. I'm adept at doing nothing or very little, and I really excel at it on Christmas day. Being a vegetarian in a house with ham and turkey roasting is trying, given my former affection for the latter, but there is actually a buffet of candy and cookies in the dining room at my parents' house. To say that I have some holiday weight on me right now would be to propose that "some" means "formerly merely noticable gut goes very awry in its noticeability." Gifts this year? A glass pen and ink set; American Writers at Home; assorted underthings from the GAP; The Polar Express; Bottle Rocket; a toaster oven; money and gift cards; a gift certificate to Center Stage in Baltimore; coffee; candy; "My So-Called Life" on DVD (the entire series); customized bookplates; a fascimile of the first edition of For Whom The Bell Tolls; an Edgar Allan Poe Little Thinker doll; and more items I have forgotten to list. Why so smugly materialistic? Hell, Christmas is about giving and getting presents and family and rest and eating too much good food and spreading joy to all and coming to Baltimore and doing nothing. That's what it's always been to me. Even when I was a practicing Catholic, the togetherness and presents got me more excited than the birth of Jesus. Is that wrong? I don't feel badly for having the holiday mean something to me other than what it's "supposed" to mean, even if my up-bringing was geared to getting me to remember "the reason for the season" and all that. There's really nothing "spiritual" about it for me. Why would my spirituality need a holiday to be exercised anyway?

December 24, 2004

Christmas: Only for Christians?

I'm getting very sick of hearing and reading that Americans have taken "the reason from the season" of Christmas and all of that bullshit. Sure, for a lot of people, Christmas is a religious holiday, the way it began. But I can't believe that people are so clueless and naive that they actually think that Christmas in the United States has been a religious holiday in recent memory, including those you-should-believe-what-I-do middle-agers who've found the Lord. How many people are still alive who didn't get Christmas as a commercial or -- at best -- a cultural holiday? I know some people still experience Christmas firstly as a religious observance. Yes. But, as a culture, that's just not how it is here in the United States. Everyone knows that, right? No one says you can't go to church where you can say "Merry Christmas" and not "Happy Holidays," right? Why should your church extend to the mall and to the bookstore? Why do you need to "get Christmas back" from its current cultural and commerical meaning? Who's stopping you from still letting Christmas mean to you what you want it to mean to you? What can't we all have Christmas and have it the way we want it without people speaking out telling us that we stole their holiday and that we should give it back? As if Jesus was really born on December 25th and as if the idea of the Christmas season wasn't stolen from someone else. Oh, wait, I forgot. This is America, and we were founded by Christians, and "most" of us still convince ourselves that we're Christians, so we should all just let Christianity go where it wants to go? Right. You know what? The real Christians I know don't want to claim Christmas for what it is anyway, since they can tell the difference between the public sphere and the private one. I wish there were more people like that.

December 23, 2004

Listen to me whine.

Rain rain rain. Nothing but rain and traffic here in Baltimore. And it's snowing like a bee-siz-nitch in the Heartland, where I would be, if it were not a holiday. I wish it would snow here. Booh-hooh.

Damned engine light.

I get in the car Monday when the wind-chill is below zero (F), and the "check engine" light is on. It doesn't go off, so I call the Mazda dealer. They say not to worry too much if it's not blinking, which it's not. I have a great trip to IKEA to do some shopping yesterday, and it still does not go off. I wake up so early today to take it in to the dealer that I'm not even showered, and the damned light goes off before I leave the driveway. Ain't dat a bitch? Oh, well. There was a safety recall that's being taken care of today anyway, one that's over a month over-due. To top it off, UPS has lost one of my packages; Red Envelope screwed up my order; and Amazon might go back on that guaranteed delivery promise. Damn it. Oh, well. It could be worse, right? It will probably work out.

December 19, 2004

New York, Part. I.

Here is a photo of a walk-way in Central Park, and my shadow. I was busy all day today catching up with some great friends, going out to breakfast, spending too much money at Daedalus Books near Washington, D.C. and driving through some snow. More photos and stories shortly, promise. I have a few hundred photos of the Big Apple to sort through.

December 18, 2004

Going to New York.

I am leaving for New York, New York tomorrow, er, later this moring, really. After 22 years in Maryland and 2 years in Massachusetts, I have not actually been to New York. I've been through it in cars and trains and over it in planes (low enough to see downtown). Never got to hang out or explore, though. I have my pencils and pens and my current Moleskine packed. I bought a new and larger (256 MB) memory card for my camera. I have all of my gear all ready to go. The fact that I'm not going to sleep much is fine, since I don't have to drive. After life in Carbondale, Baltimore is super-big-city to me again. New York -- the veritable giant of American cities -- is going to be even more shocking. I'm completely stoked and a little nervous. Then again, I got around in super-congested Boston fine, and it's not like Baltimore is not a huge city, too. I should really just be excited. Damn, now I really can't sleep. At a small holiday party tonight, a kid told me that "[I] can burn in H-E-Double-Hockeysticks" for not going to church or even considering myself a Catholic anymore. Don't get me wrong. After a semester of studying the "philosophy" of the Puritans, I appreciate my Catholic up-bringing a little more. But what that kid said was the funniest thing I've heard in a long long long time.

December 15, 2004

December 14, 2004

Appetite is back and bad.

I had been losing my appetite and my sleep there for a few weeks. With several long nights of sleeping and being near the end of the semester (and already being 850 miles from school), things seem to be getting back to normal -- which is good, since we all know what those two symptoms can be an indication of, especially since such disorder runs in my family, especially when combined with a loss of interest in what gets you excited. And such. This is some homemade carrot cake, put together by my culinarily-talented mother-in-law. Yes, it was tasty, very tasty. In other good news, I am finished a draft of my last paper, a double-length essay on the Puritans' conception of Nature and junk. More on that when it's finished.

December 13, 2004

Getting that Yule-log cheery stuff.

I've slept for ten hours -- each -- two nights in a row. It's bliss. Too bad I'm not finished my work for the semester and am already in Baltimore with my family and hood. Put up my first Christmas tree this year, at my mother-in-law's house. Post some cheery photos soon. Listening to holiday tunes and drinking too much crappy coffee. It's that time of year when I post crap on the internet when I should be going to sleep so that I can get up and do some research and writing. But I'm still up. Still up. Night-e-night, party people. More stories and adventures soon.

December 08, 2004

All hail Fergy!

Good news for fans of "The Late Late Show." Today, CBS has announced that Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson will be the permanent replacement for Craig Kilborn. While I was sad to see Craigers go, Ferguson was definitely my favorite guest host of the four finalists. He starts his 12:35 a.m. ET tenure on January 3rd.

December 07, 2004

Once you go black.

Apologies in advance for another bitching-post. It's that time of semester -- which those of you attending or teaching at a university can relate to, I'm sure -- and I'm stressed out and in general feeling very critical about everything. So there. What's wrong with people? It's not bad enough that we have what I have heard called the civil rights issue of our generation that we're not dealing with very well: gay rights. We're still not through with the original civil rights issue regarding race, either. Before 1967, I would not have been allowed to marry the person that I did, because she is black and because I am white. Some of us got over that, didn't we? Not all of us, though. Remember that contraversial commercial a few weeks ago that involved Nicolette Sheridan and Terrel Owens? Come on, there was no more skin and no more sexual implications than in the very show that Ms. Sheridan stars in, let alone the soaps that the same network airs when kids are actually awake and flipping through the channels. People were pissed off because she was blonde and white and because Owens is black. You know that those Nascar dads and big Wal-Mart moms are horrified at the idea of a black man penetrating a white woman. You should see the stares my wife and I get sometimes around here. There are parts of the country I don't even like to get out of my car in while travelling, no matter how much I have to pee or how badly we need fuel. Is all hope lost? Are we really a country of bigots, closeted bigots and those very very few people who don't have their heads up their asses in 1630 or 1960? Are things getting better or worse? Shows like "Friends" continually put together inter-racial couples without having to point it out like something is wrong with it. Great. But the same show constantly made gay-jokes about all of the male cast members: "Dude, that's so gay." "Dude, you kissed a guy." While charges that the show was always a "white show" might be attenuated by their portrayal of inter-racial couples (which I think does really go further to advance true racial equality, at least on NBC, than merely having black cast members), the show was clearly homophobic from its debut in 1994 until that tearing ending in May 2004. And no one seemed to care or even notice. Gay jokes are funny, right [sic]? Can we assume that the generation leaving college and graduate school now is any less narrow-minded than our parents and grandparents? I knew plenty of homophobes in college and even a racist kid or two. That's just sad. Sometimes I want to run away to somewhere else. I can fake my way through a little German, and my wife is fluent in Spanish. If we could learn some French, we could run away to most European countries. I was a good Boy Scout and all that, and I have one of those yellow-ribbon-magnets on my car (that is, until some bastard stole it). I don't lack patriotism or love of my country. But I don't like it sometimes, more and more often now. You know how it is when you love someone, but they are in a stage where they are continually doing stupid and mean things, and you don't like them for a while, despite your continuing love? (Crappy example, I know.) That's how I feel about the US these days. It's not a giving up. If I ever left, it would never be for good, only to get away for a while and to return and remember what I love about living in the United States. I know that my veteran father always tells me when I call home and bitch that this is "the best country to live in." But is it right now? I know how whiny this all sounds, so please don't leave "If you hate this country so much, College Boy, leave" comments. Read what I said. I don't hate my country. It's precisely the love I have for my country that makes me so angry and makes me want to leave for a while. Besides, if you hate anyone who doesn't fit your narrow definition of patriotic (or you hate gay people and people of color and anyone who is a not exactly a Christian), then why the fuck are you reading this blog?

December 04, 2004

Does an "alternative lifestyle" have to be alternative?

I just watched a taped episode of CBS's "Cold Case" from three weeks ago. The episode centers around a young gay man who is murdered in 1983. I won't give away "who done it," but I will divulge that the episode unabashedly depicts gay men touching each other, hugging, cuddling -- nothing more "racey" than if the people involved were male and female. Holy Rollers, hold onto your bibles! I was very glad to see such a progressive approach to homosexual couples on what is a very good television show, but I didn't really think anything was up at first. It took me a few minutes to realize that stations don't usually nonchalantly show gay couples being affectionate or end a show with a gay wedding, especially not at 7:oo p.m. in the Heartland, especially not a network that just rejected a commercial showing a church that accepts homosexuals as just as good as you or me. It then occured to me that CBS did something great three weeks ago, then regressive this past week. Why the change in temper? I was tempted to just write off CBS as a network of hypocrites. They know that young, "progressive" people watch "Cold Case" and might be turned off if the show held back or otherwise implied that a couple consisting of two men ought not to be able to hug one another on network television, when a couple consisting of a man and woman can. But, they have to look out for "families" and cannot allow acceptance of homosexuals outside of "Cold Case." But that's not it. CBS rejected that commercial -- while producing and airing that episode of "Cold Case" -- for another reason. I think that it is hard for people with "family values" to swallow that a person can have an "alternative" lifestyle and still have faith or be a good Christian. It is inconceivable that a person can be homosexual and still be a "good" person who attends church and loves Jesus. The alternative lifestyle must be an alternative to the kind of lives the rest of us lead? I don't think people are willing to accept that being homosexual is a sexual orientation and not necessarily a different kind of lifestyle. What's the difference between me and someone else working on a PhD in philosophy who happens to be homosexual? Does he or she necessarily hate God's people? Is he or she more promiscuous than I am? Is he or she a threat to "our values"? Will he or she getting married ruin the "sacred institution" of the American family? Two PhD students in philosophy will do many of the same things and live very much the same lifestyle, even if one prefers members of the same sex. It's plainly stupid to think that someone will live a totally different, totally alternative lifestyle just because of who they prefer sexually. Is academia that different? Would not the same be true of other "lifestyles"? Are not homosexual and heterosexual people very much the same, save for our sexual preferences? What makes a homosexual: preference for the same sex, or promiscuity and moral uncleanliness? What makes a heterosexual: preference for the opposite sex, or family values and Christian love? Cannot homosexuals love God, God's people, Jesus and all the rest the same as heterosexual people? I don't think that the American public is ready to accept that. They think that homosexuality is really an entirely alternative lifestyle -- wholly unlike our own safe and tame heterosexual adventures, right? The fact that, when I have sex, I can maybe "make a baby" makes me more able to love Jesus and to embrace some kind of family values, right? Sheerly by virtue of the fact that I prefer women to men, I am capable of living a normal life? If everything about me stayed the same, but I suddenly preferred men, all of that would change? Because sexual preference determines everything, right down to your ability to love Jesus and your neighbor, right? Bullshit.

December 03, 2004

Photo Friday: Reflections II.

The sky in a puddle or occasional pond at Gettysburg, PA, at the foot of Little Round Top.

December 02, 2004

Down da Avenue, Hon.

The neighborhood that I grew up in has been transformed from a town of city-styled rednecks and racists to a hipster paradise. Unfortunately, Baltimore City has replaced the nice brick sidewalks on the Avenue with cement lately. On the bright side, the crappy hardware store is now a nice used bookstore (Salamander Books, where I spent way too much money last week). The sleazy video store is a Cloud 9. There are TWO coffee shops, and the restaurants get better and better. The old five and dime store is an upscale antique shop. There are two small apartment buildings going up on my parents' street. I can walk on the Avenue with my black wife, being white, and not be afraid of any ill consequences. I know that a lot of Hampdenites are not happy with the new developments, but -- as I've said before -- it's a hell of a lot better than the redneck dump Hampden was when I was growing up there and couldn't wait to leave. It's nice to not have to avoid mentioning where you grew up. Now, there is probably a tinge of snobbery when someone asks me where I am from: "Oh, Hampden? Damn, you're from the real Baltimore." You bet your ass, Hon.