21 May 2019

"Leave the Rooster Story Alone, That's Human Interest" - Cary Grant in His Girl Friday

Photo taken by yours truly.
Sunday we were in the Castro District of San Francisco as one of my daughter's graduations was held at the historic and beautiful Castro Theater. I hadn't been in those parts in many moons. I was impressed by how clean it is (you may, if you've a mind to, insert your own joke about fastidious gay people here and yes, I said insert so there is yet another opportunity for you to construct a clever wisecrack). There were many nice shops including a bookstore. Youngest daughter is like me in that she cannot resist a bookstore and so there was no question about entering. It should come as no surprise that I found a book to purchase. I'm like that. Currently I have about two dozen books I've yet to get around to reading with many more that I'd like to purchase. I make no apologies for this particular addiction. It compares quite favorably with my previous addictions that involved drugs and alcohol. I have yet to get a hangover from reading, nor forget the previous night due to excess reading, nor have I damaged either my mental or physical health through reading nor have I insulted people nor made a fool of myself through excessive reading. I have spent more money on books that I'd planned but not to the extent I spent more money than I'd planned on scotch or cocaine.

Later I happened to stroll by the former offices of Harvey Milk and happened to do so when the Gay Men's Chorus was singing Happy Birthday to the late great Mr. Milk, though it was actually a few day's before the anniversary of his birth. They also sang I Left My Heart in San Francisco and another song, the title of which I don't recall, that was first performed during the Candlelight Vigil after Mr. Milk's assassination. There was also what I guess what one would call a gay marching band that performed. It was all quite lovely.

So yes, I saw many gay people striding about (and standing, for that matter) as one does in the Castro. I walked by a group of about six gay men standing around chatting and I noted that the vibe was much different that it would be had I walked by six straight men in conversation. There was a different energy entirely, more relaxed and friendly.

There was also, once the sun made an appearance, a gentleman who was standing on his street without a stitch on. One part of his body seemed to indicate that he was half excited. When I taught in San Francisco my students (who were from all over the world) would, of course, take trips to the Castro and most of them really liked it although they were confused by the naked men. "Why?" I was often asked. I could only shrug.

Another observation I had was that there were a lot of couples, some young, some old and many in between and like straight couples in love they seemed quite happy. It therefore continues to confound and anger me that there are those regressive forces in the United States (and other parts of the planet) who actually hate the fact that two people of the same gender can love one another romantically and express that love physically. The repugnant TV preacher Pat Robertson recently suggested that god was going to "vomit" up the US because of laws guaranteeing equal rights to the LGBT community. One must suppose that Robertson's god looks favorably on countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar, Somalia and Uzbekistan where homosexuality is not only forbidden but punished. And think of all the other countries besides the US that this god must hold in disdain for permitting gays equal rights such as the the UK, Argentina, France, Mexico, Belgium, Brazil, Taiwan, Finland, South Africa, Italy, the Netherlands, Uruguay, Spain, Sweden etc.

You would think that god would really reserve his (it has to be a male god if it's so uptight about gay sex) ire for countries that made war on others but evidently two people of the same gender fucking is worse in the eyes of Pat Robertson' god then blowing apart human bodies with bombs. Evangelicals are some pretty messed up people.

As I indicated earlier the ceremony was held in Castro Theater which has been a going concern since 1922 (yes, that makes it older than me, smarty pants). If you live in these parts or visit here I'd recommend catching a flicker in the theater. It's gorgeous.

After the ceremony we went to a restaurant where I indulged in a whole lot of eating including a very rich dessert. That night my tummy stated it's objections to my over indulgence and refused to let me have a good night's sleep. This was one of the few signs of aging that I've yet to experience. The next day I still managed to work on one of my novels and enjoy a visit with two grandnieces one of whom is but a month old. Holding a tiny baby for more than a few minutes (I got nearly an hour's worth) is one of the most pleasurable experiences I can imagine. Talk about cures for anxiety and depression.

Today there was more writing, a long walk, reading and two movies to be watched the second of which was His Girl Friday which is among my ten favorite films of all time. I've watched it many times and I could watch it again tomorrow and the next day and be happy doing so. I heard a line from the film I'd not noticed before and it forms the title of this blog post.

I've very much enjoyed writing this and am sorry to anyone who cares (Betsy McGillicuddy of Trenton, NJ) that I've not written more often of late. I'll try to do better. In fact I'll try to do better in other things. We all should.

08 May 2019

The Author Again Assails Cell Phone Use But Extolls Museums, Exercise and Books

A photo the author took at the de Young yesterday that was painted by Gauguin
I wonder if before there were cell phones some people wouldn’t go to the gym because they might miss a phone call. I also wonder if these same people wouldn’t go to the gym because while there they couldn’t make a phone call. I further wonder why the actual fuck people feel compelled to answer and make phone calls at the gym. I continue to be amazed at how so much of some people’s workouts are punctuated and interrupted by talking into or looking at their goddamned cell phones. I wonder how much better my work outs are than people who bring and use their phones to the gym. You see, I actually go to the gym to workout. Old fashioned, I know, but that’s me.

I don’t only complain about people. The missus and I went to the de Young Museum yesterday. I love museums. They make me happy and relaxed and I feel smarter and more cultured just being in one. I learn and am inspired and become more creative. I appreciate the people who curate museums, the people who work at museums and the people whose contributions make museums possible. I also appreciate my fellow museum-goers.

Speaking of people who work at museums…How about those folks who have to stand around all day, mostly just making sure that nobody gets too close to the exhibits. Occasionally they get asked a question, usually about directions to other exhibits. You talk about thankless jobs. Standing for hours on end usually without a damn thing to do. They’re like well-dressed security guards. Bless them.

Whenever we go to a museum I always make a beeline for the gift shop. Museum gift shops are ridiculously over-priced and rarely have anything I’ve the slightest interest in. One exception is bookmarks. Most museums sell or give away bookmarks and some are very nice. Those I’ll buy. I bought a tee shirt at MOMA in New York but that was an exception. They had a really cool tee shirt at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC but none in my size. Yesterday at the de Young there was nothing of interest in the gift shop. They had free bookmarks which were a value at the price. The thing is there were two more gift shops in the museum and excitedly went into both of them. Why? Beats me.

I’ve written a lot about running on this blog but I haven’t written anything about not running. I should explain. I’d been having pain in my knee whilst running for a few months. I went to the doctor and was sent for an X-ray then I saw an orthopedist. This was in March. I was told that the ligaments in my left knee were wearing away and if I continued to run I’d eventually need knee replacement surgery. So I’m not running anymore. Ever again. I always thought that I would be devastated if told I couldn’t run but when I actually got the news I shrugged and got on with my life. I’m like that. The good news is I can do everything else. I started lifting weights and still get in 40 minutes of cardio on the elliptical. I can also use the stair master and the stationary bike. (A stationery bike is one that you can write and send letters on.) I feel fantastic since I started using weights. And I don’t miss running. I also don’t miss teaching anymore. I just move on, whatever happen. (Full disclosure: I may return to teaching on a part-time basis to pick up a little extra cash.)

In casual conversation recently someone said to me that nobody reads books anymore. “I do.” I responded. It seems so do a helluva lot of other people (albeit not to the extent that they used to). Two Saturdays ago was Independent Bookstore Day. I noted that two local bookshops had big doings going on and both were packed with book buyers, enticed by special deals and their on-going support of indy book stores. Last Saturday the Bay Area Book Festival was held in Berkeley and there were hordes of people in town to see the various speakers — all with books to promote — discussing their books and related topics. There were also people buying books from the many sellers who set up shop. It’s a big annual event that shows that reading books has not quite yet faded into history. This coming Saturday the public library is going to have its annual book sale and judging by the past few years, the joint will be picked. Nobody reads books indeed.

01 May 2019

Oh My God, The Author Takes on Christianity

I recently saw a tweet by a former Cal women's basketball player: "I'm 32 years old today, God is good." So because she reached 32 years of age this young woman deems god to be "good." Interesting. One of former students died at 16 from leukemia and another at 22 from colon cancer. God not so good? When something positive happens in a Christian's life, they will often claim that their "prayers were answered." Many people who never pray have good fortune bestowed upon them. Many people who pray for something don't get it. They say it was not "god's will." If everything is god's will anyway, why bother praying?

If two christians are in a car accident and both end up in the hospital with life-threatening injuries, you can rest assured that their families will pray for them. One dies the other recovers. So did one family not pray enough? Or without enough faith? God's will. When my best friend died at age 42, his mother, a devout Christian, said, "god has other plans for him." Really? More important than raising his young children? A few months later his widow was struck by a drunk driver. She was hospitalized for months and suffered brain damage sufficient that she was no longer able to take care of her children. Was this another case of god having other plans for someone? If so incapacitating a single mother of three is a strange plan. When my former student died of colon cancer a former colleague (a Christian) who knew the young man said that he would pray that god comforted his family. If god had given a rat's ass about the kid's family he wouldn't have given their child cancer in the first place.

I saw a tweet from a high school senior who signed a letter of intent to accept a scholarship and play football at Cal. In his tweet the young man said that "all glory goes to god." I've heard this one from athletes before. What kind of insecure self absorbed god needs us mere mortals to "give him all the glory" for all of our piddling little accomplishments? How about just being happy for what you have and thanking those PEOPLE who helped you achieve it? But of course god expects people to show up at church every Sunday and worship him. Again, what an ego. You're also not supposed to take his name in vain. That might hurt the almighty's feelings and we know how sensitive he is.

Of course there is no greater example of hypocrisy in the world today than the evangelical's embrace of our current president. They are -- along with white nationalists -- the biggest part of the idiot-in-chief's base. Never mind his immorality, his infidelities, his lies, his insults, his crudeness, these supposed Christians believe that god has chosen this scoundrel to be our president. On top of everything else we see that right wing evangelicals have no regard for the poor and that they care nothing about the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. They care more for money, guns and the persecution of gays than they do about social justice. Their twisted image of Jesus is as a white, Republican, businessman who loves the Second Amendment. They would never recognize the man who said this:

Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.

There is disagreement among historians about the historical figure of Jesus, including whether he even existed. Be that is it may there is no question but that a lot of the New Testament stories about Jesus tell of a person of great compassion who cared most for the poor and otherwise disadvantaged and showed disdain for the rich and privileged. Yet evangelicals ignore this Jesus and dwell on the vengeful god of the Old Testament. They parse the book of Leviticus constantly pointing to the admonitions against homosexuality while ignoring the bits about being able to own a slave from a neighboring country (Lev. 25:44), the obligation to kill those who work on the Sabbath (Ex. 35:2), never cutting your hair (Lev. 19:27) and that eating shell fish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10). There are other examples of ridiculous laws god imposed in the Bible but it is the one about homosexuality that evangelicals obsess about. Assholes.

I am not against the practice of any religion. I am against people trying to codify their religious beliefs into the laws of the land. In this country Christians, with their tax exempt status, feel free to mix politics and religious dogma in the worst possible ways. They have even, as noted above perverted the man they purport to worship.

I was raised in the Lutheran church which is the blandest version of Christianity I'm aware of. It was totally uninspiring. The only aspect I enjoyed was hearing from the Bible stories during Sunday school. There are some ripping good yarns in the Bible, though they shouldn't necessarily be taken as gospel (pun intended). However the church services had no relevance to my life and within a month of my confirmation I stopped attending church. I've since kept an open mind to all religions and philosophies and generally have found organized religions to be a crock. They are perfectly entitled to carry on preaching their delusions provided they don't bilk followers (as so many do) or try to restrict the others (again a common offense) or advocate discrimination or violence against others. I also wish people would be more rational about things like prayer and that they wouldn't feel compelled to credit God for everything while similarly excusing him for everything. Maybe someone can pray for me. That ought to do it.