Monday, December 20, 2010

My top 14 albums for 2010 featuring women singers!





1. Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid



2. Carolina Chocolate Drops - Genuine Negro Jig



3. Robyn - Body Talk



4. Sade - Soldier of Love



5. Best Coast - Crazy for You



6. St. Lola in the Fields - High Atop the Houses and the Towns



7. Angus & Julia Stone - Down the Way



8. Shakira - Sale El Sol



9. KT Tungstall - Tiger Suit



10. Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster (An EP but still cool)


11. Kylie Minogue - Aphrodite


12. Azure Ray - Drawing Down the Moon



13. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - I Learned the Hard Way



14. Ke$ha - Cannibal

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Incredible Hulk, Biology, Intelligent Design, and the Total Lie that is Adaptation Via Natural Selection

This is what I awoke with, cogitating through closed eyes, groggy from some medicine I took last night, a grogginess which will not leave me, and so I share my points as point-by-point. I confess I'm feeling very clever right now, my head-full-of-cotton notwithstanding.

1. Preface: I'm not doing any additional research, so any one of these points could be proven wrong, with a simple reference to the Incredible Hulk's long history, biology, or intelligent design argumentation. I still boldly go, intuitively raining my brilliance upon the Nation of Facebook.

2. Let us proceed, for a bit, to reason from a scientific mindset.

3. When Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk, he gets a lot bigger, stronger, and less intelligent, more simple in choosing the factors upon which he chooses to act. He converts from brilliant scientist to freakish huge green cave-thingie.

4. When this happens, do certain neural pathways gently unplug themselves from each other? As the body grows, do the synapses fail to grow along with the skeleton, the muscles, the skin? I propose something like this must happen. Just as his clothing remains on his body, even though in the comics he sometimes grows ten times his size, this so he doesn't show his big green penis to the millions of ten-year-olds who used to read his comic book, so must his synapses remain undamaged. So it must be a gentle process he undergoes, which allows him to return to the status of Scientific Smart Person at some point with all of his cognitive abilities reinstated as if nothing had happened.

5. Furthermore, "Hulk smash" is not similar to how any two-year-old I've met speaks. Nobody talks like that. So this is not a cognitive reversion to childhood. Maybe it is literary (more on that in a moment) device to show that he is becoming more like a beast than a man, but scientifically speaking, that is not allowed. Hulk's linguistic change is not deterioriation - he loses weird things, like prepositions, and verb tenses, and commas. And when he shrinks back down in size and becomes Banner again, he's able to speak normally again.

6. We should note that, while there appears to be a connection with whatever keeps his close from ripping completely off his body and whatever the heck happens to his neural network, the difference is obvious: he does lose his shirt and the lower-leg portion of his purple pants do end up shredded. The only parallel I can see is that Banner's Hulkifying does damage to his conscience and his social life, so maybe I'm onto something there. That appears, however, to be literary rather than biochemical.

7. (Speaking of literary, and films are considered part of literary study these days, while Banner might feel fortunate that he doesn't always emerge from Hulkdom completely naked, werewolves in movies and TV do not share that luck. Of course, that makes this viewer happy, as there are so many hot actors playing werewolves and it's always nice to see them completely naked. The exception I must note is the second Twilight film - I haven't seen the third, as the second was terrible but I can't help it, I have a Robert Pattinson attraction as big as the Hulk himself - in which the actors are underaged, and the world is paranoid about underaged nudity these days, in spite of the irony of the focus on a gang of muscled teenage boys running around shirtless certainly having some element of sexual intent behind it.)

8. Most of what I've observed, excluding #7, which is True and not False, would certainly not match what scientists have observed thusfar in the natural world. Unless, like with the extra-terrestrial crash-landing at Roswell, they are keeping it a secret from us, scientists have most likely not observed a human turn into a very large creature with strange verbal skills return to his normal state with his former intelligence and verbal acuity regenerated.

9. Either:

10. Bruce Banner has regenerative powers, and the gamma-ray blast gave those to him along with everything else, or

11. God exists as an intelligent designer, and Darwin worshipped Satan.

Note: is the Bruce Banner/Hulk dichotomy the two sides of Jesus, both God and Man? Or something more complicated, like Jesus and Herod?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The smallness of spirituality, sometimes

I share this because in all the debate that continues about God vs science (as if there needs to be any opposition between the two), all the wondering about our individual problems, concerns about gay marriage, concerns about the U.S. becoming a theocracy, and so much else, is the God in question the God of all the earthlings, all the earth-like-planetlings, or is all of this explained in some bigger way? As I make my own way along the path of life, the spiritual life, whatever phase I feel like I'm in, whatever label I slap on myself to tell people what I believe, is insufficient, or too specific, or too small.

When I see stories like this, my spiritual view just seems to small to hold it all.

----

More than 100 'Earth-like' planets discovered in past few weeks

By Niall Firth
Last updated at 11:43 AM on 23rd July 2010

(Excerpt):
The breakthrough raises the tantalising prospect that we may not be alone in the Universe.

Scientists now believe that there are likely to be around 100 million planets in the Milky Way that harbour exactly the right conditions for life.

And they expect to be able to identify around 60 of these habitable Earth-like planets within the next two years.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1296841/More-100-Earth-like-planets-just-past-weeks.html#ixzz0uvYCCHw5

Friday, July 16, 2010

Best birthday card ever? Maybe.



from

http://shop.moderntoss.com/cards

So now we just wait

Just don't read this one if you fear getting depressed. Or worried.

I saw this article over at the excellent blog Alterdestiny (http://alterdestiny.blogspot.com/) and just noticed that they took the post down. Not sure why.

But according to some scientists we have about six months to find out if we are on the brink of the next mass extinction. Warning to you all, the information in this article is not pretty.

I don't have any background in the field of geology and even less in mass extinction research, so all I can do is share this frightening link and ask, so what, do we sit and wait?

http://www.helium.com/items/1882339-doomsday-how-bp-gulf-disaster-may-have-triggered-a-world-killing-event

"Doomsday: How BP Gulf disaster may have triggered a 'world-killing' event"

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Theism and atheism: I can't see beyond the river, so maybe it doesn't matter right now

As someone who has struggled along the spiritual path most of my life...wait, got distracted by a hottie standing next to me...anyway, as such a person, I find myself not only dipping my toe in spiritual waters, but converting only to be disillusioned. Pretty much every time. I think this is because so many Western religions strive to define *too much*...or at least my own habit of scrupulosity "goes there" into the "too much" world of theology and practice and...dang, the hot guy just left...and morality, and find it difficult to be just as I am within a context of practice which I know would be very good for me.

My point is that theologically I will probably always be mostly agnostic, in terms of the full identity of deity or beyond-deity is concerned. Philosophically - and this is much more complex than it seems, and possibly more vague at the same time - I'm Muslim and Taoist. At that level, I don't see much difference. I run into trouble when I get into that which was generated by culture rather than wisdom. And recognizing wisdom is such an individual, subjective thing. There is oneness, and life is a river. There is not much else I can be certain of. Even the oneness betrays me, or perhaps I betray it, very often. So life is a river. Worthy of (and for centuries already the subject of) much thought and writing.

Theist vs. atheist, well, I never got much into that, because with life being a river, and that being all I know, or believe, or something, God and Spirit and whatever else we want to call it is either necessarily real or not (or something else!).

Okay, enough of my Andrewocity for now. I seek serenity, and thus go to a lecture on the pre-Socratics. I wonder if that will bring serenity or dischord. I'll let y'all know.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day, DADT, And Why I'm Not Pro-Military

"Don't ask, don't tell" is in the U.S. spotlight lately.

Personally, I don't know why any queer person would want to fight for a country wherein they are still second-class citizens. Ironically, I remember filling out that stupid selective service form when I turned 18 only because I have a penis.

I wonder what selective service means for trans people.

Forbid me from the military, doesn't really matter to me, because we haven't fought a worthwhile war since WWII, and then those guys came back and beat their kids. At least that's one of those generalizations I've heard.

Sorry, I'm very cynical on the whole war/military thing, especially on Memorial Day weekend when everyone is telling me to "thank a vet" and such. Instead, I feel bad for the vets. And the civilians. And the animals who suffer in warfare. And the environmental devastation. And the works of art destroyed by bombs.

Nope, this is not an issue I personally have much stake in. When I was younger, I was "outraged" about DADT or whatever. Today, I don't care. I'm not pro-military. It sucks our money. It increases our debt. It hurts our planet. It hurts people.

And I have no reason to feel that this country is better than any other country. The only reason I would fight is if my family or friends or neighbors were in danger.

As for those who might say, "love it or leave it," and "they died for your freedom," those are meaningless statements my friends. They died because they were pawns in games played by those who don't fight, those with political clout and LOTS of money. It's a tragedy any time war results in death and suffering. So this Memorial Day, I remember this suffering, this tragedy, this abomination of human absurdity, and hang my head in shame for my species.

Peace and sadness,
Andrew

Friday, April 30, 2010

Trying on love in an age of suspicion

It's an age of suspicion, of lies, of danger.

People are outright lying about the president's actions, for one thing. No, he didn't cancel the National Day of Prayer.

He actually proclaimed it, and then decided to pray in private.

http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/prayerday.asp

See, not everyone prays the same way.

I became a Muslim. I'm learning to pray five times a day. I pray for the whole world, for friends and family who are sick and recovering, for the leaders, for many things. I don't need one day dedicated to it when I'm doing it five times a day.

When I announced I was a Muslim, some were congratulatory, some wished well, and many said nothing. Some issued little challenge after little challenge. I don't know if anyone dropped me from their friends list after I made that announcement.

I have little doubt that some quietly judged my decision.

I know from what I've seen that, just like people either outright lie or choose to blindly accept whatever they hear about the president, whose religion is nobody's business by the way, they blindly accept whatever they hear about Islam.

I'm not trying to equate myself with the president. I am just saying I feel the distrust out there. The suspicions. And it's getting kind of dangerous out there, it seems.

I learned from my dream last night that part of me wants to be a protector. Maybe that's an archetype. Maybe it's part of my personality that wants to come out.

Who do I protect when everyone's fighting each other? I'm not going into self-defense mode. I've always known there is a mama bear in there, even though friends of mine have been prone to thinking of it as a mama teddy bear, more like a giant Snuggles than some pissed-off Grizzly.

Well, maybe there's a peaceful kind of protection too.

I don't know.

But I am hating this division. I'm hating this blame game. I'm hating the against-ness.

Love is possible. I beg you all to try it on. It comes in all sizes.

Peace,
Andrew

Friday, April 23, 2010

The South Park controversy

Context in which I heard about it:

Last night, light rain falling.

Waiting in drive through for my order. Very cute guy at the drive through by the way, warned me that if I got green chile on my vegetarian burrito I should choose chopped green chile because the sauce had chicken broth in it. I was waiting for my food, thinking about the drive-through attendant, doing my usual fantasizing about asking him on a date when he handed me my food, and the ineloquent DJs on the radio made a brief comment about how radical Islamists just need a sense of humor.

It really is that simple, though South Park creators and Comedy Central certainly knew this would happen if you put Muhammad in a bear suit. (Didn't see it, don't know the joke behind it, so can't comment on it in that much detail). Maybe ratings were down or something.

Life is more important...the rain falling on the windshield and a friendly attractive guy at a fast-food restaurant. From what I've learned about Islam, the best way to worship Allah is to do something nice for someone else. This guy going out of his way to tell me about the chicken broth ... he may not have been a Muslim but I take his act of kindness as a lesson in how to be a good lover of God by being a good lover of fellow humans.

This is getting me a bit choked up. This incident not only is an impediment on free speech, it will only add fuel to the anti-Muslim fire. These radicals make Muhammad into an idol and in my opinion in the process dishonor him. This incident illuminates that.

Look at me, a Muslim for only a couple weeks now and I'm already pretending to know stuff.

Peace,
Andrew

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Converting NOT to perfection

And that's the way it's gonna be, cuz that's the only way it's gonna work.

I love doing the five daily prayers. But if I'm expected to adhere to a rigid time schedule, it's not happening. I'll struggle to do it, I'll freak out, I'll resent it, and then I'll leave.

I don't really want that to happen, so I'm just going to be with Allah. Pray to Allah. Go to the Sufi dhikr. Learn the prayer and dance and chant and singing methods there. Because they bring me closer to God and they bring me peace.

I broke down in workshop tonight. Totally lost it. All this transition releasing itself. Control release. I always try to control everything, try to be perfect, and I'm darn harsh with myself when I fail.

Not anymore. If I can cry in front of my classmates I can trust Allah with anything. There is nothing to fear.

And by the way, cleric whoever you are, promiscuity doesn't cause earthquakes. Earthquakes cause earthquakes. I'll be taking an elementary earth science course this summer and I bet I can tell you all about it.

But ye who think your morality is bigger than Allah's, which seems to be peace and goodness and healing and love and joy and forgiveness and mercy and light, forget it. God created all of this. The earth quakes. We just have to adjust.

Peace, love, goodness.

From me to you.

Andrew

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Islam: Week One

My first week anyway.  Actually, I reverted last Sunday night, so this is a bit early.

Most of my actions this week, regarding learning how to be a Muslim, has been the five daily prayers.  Actually, I averaged four, but I'm getting better, as yesterday I managed all five.  Getting up before dawn for the first prayer, I think I only managed that once or maybe twice.  I just need to work on falling asleep earlier so I can more easily awaken earlier.  There are health issues to consider, but I also want to be able to do this.

I didn't make it to mosque on Friday, which is kind of a big deal in Muslim practice.  I don't know what my block is...I mean, I have "reasons"...a gay person in the midst of gender segregation is actually a complicated thing...but there is a deeper emotional something that is making it a very anxiety-producing thing.

But overall I made the right decision.  I keep getting advice to take it easy on myself (though almost everyone said I should just go to mosque and experience it...maybe next week).

What I have learned: transition to new religious practices is not as easy as I thought.  I also learned that social anxiety for me extends beyond just gay groups.  I've also learned that I'm very, very weird.

This week's goals: get up to five prayers a day at least three times, with the intention of doing it every day.  Stop talking about myself so much (though I'll continue blogging and asking questions).  Stop focusing on anxiety and remember something that worked for me one day: sitting silently, closing my eyes, taking deep breaths.  Saying "Allah" in my mind like a chant.  This helped me the same way saying the Jesus Prayer did in Orthodoxy.

On a totally different note, a friend turned me on to this great band, Drink Up Buttercup:



Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Accepting Islam

Some call it reversion, rather than conversion. Such a complicated word, considering what that means to us LGBT people who have encountered in any way the notion of "reversion therapy" aimed at us in one way or another.

But this is a nicer way of thinking about "reversion." It is said among some Muslims that all babies are born Muslim. It's a simple faith, in my view, in that it's not complex theologically. One God, one big huge creation, and messengers (prophets). A God of love and peace and joy.

So when one converts to Islam, they are really reverting. Going back to their natural state.

I don't share this in order to try to convince anybody of anything. I just find it pleasant and comforting.

On Sunday night, I sat with an older, experienced man who came from a Muslim country, and did my shahada. This is the declaration of faith you make to become a Muslim. Accepting Islam. There is none worthy of worship but God (Allah), and Muhammad is his messenger. Except you say it in Arabic.

So Sunday night, around nine p.m., I became a Muslim myself.

I've done religious conversions before. I've spent most of my religious life in Christianity (especially Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and a year or so as an active Episcopalian) and Wicca. In all cases, while I sometimes felt connected to God, I had trouble accepting certain key beliefs even though I wanted to. I have spent quite a bit of time reading about Islam, discussing with other Muslims, and contemplating this decision. I was led to a Sufi group which has a chapter here in town. While this particular Sufi lineage does not require conversion to Islam, the praying and chanting and singing there has been very powerful.

In one of my conversations online, someone told me that from what I had said, I was probably already Muslim in my heart. I just hadn't made the declaration yet.

So I have done so. From a positive place. Because while there are cultural aspects I am not accustomed to, and while I do not know Arabic, and while I have mostly stayed in contact with the more progressively identified Muslims, I really was already Muslim, and have been for a long time. I had to learn more about Muhammad to be comfortable with the decision, but that wasn't very difficult, it turned out.

I'm still me, not changing much. That's why I am attracted to the progressive side of things. I'm still gay. I still want a boyfriend, Muslim or not. The prohibitions on pork and non-halal meat and alcohol are not a problem, as I've been trying to be a vegetarian for years (mostly successfully), and haven't had a drink in over a month for health reasons. What has changed is that I have finally found a home, a home with God, and that struggle which has consumed me for so many years I can finally call complete.

What has changed is the inner peace bit. The focus on the positive. I'm finding it easier, so far, to stay level with myself, to recognize the negative emotions and get back into my heart.

I don't write this for kudos or expressions of any kind. I just wanted to share with everyone this huge next step. I'm in big transitions in so many ways. As the pieces of the puzzle, the joints of the body, start to click together for a more cohesive Andrew, this is the one that finally brings some order, some reason for me to move forward, an impetus to be a better person.

Peace,
Andrew


Currently reading: Blue-Eyed Devil: A Road Odyssey Through Islamic America, by Michael Muhammad Knight, a road-trip book. Interesting, readable, quirky.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Looking at the future on approaching 40

As I approach the age of 40, it seems that in spite my intentions, I have made this an important birthday. Life events, including a lay-off and the death of my dog who had been my primary anchor during the toughest years of my life, have played a part. I have finally fully accepted that the fragments that seem to be forced upon us in the academy are illusory. The idea, for example, that a scholar must write boring prose, is no longer something I accept. One of the reasons I took this creative nonfiction course was so I could experiment with ways I could incorporate a more engaging writing style with my scholarly essays. Unexpectedly, I found myself writing on more personal topics, such as my own social, spiritual, and general life struggles. Perhaps that is what I need to be doing right now to push past this final obstruction that I’ll forever call the wretched thirties. Maybe not. Maybe perspective will soften that judgment. I’m certainly open to that.

Now, I am planning on full-time study of spirituality and religion. My engagement with the writing world is not going to disappear as this progresses. In fact, the primary way I plan to use this training and study is for writing. I envision myself writing essays about religion, finding the nooks and dark corners and quirky sidebars of spirituality that show how different we are as people expressing, probably, the same universal desire. I realize not everyone is as serious about this topic as I am, but it seems everyone I have met has reckoned with the big questions at some level, even if it is to take a peek, or be forced to go to some religious service, and conclude that they will just find out when they die.

With each new professor in the very near future, I will inquire about his or her receptiveness to my writing papers for their courses in a creative-nonfiction manner. Speaking from a craft-oriented perspective, I think the more essays of a similar nature that I read, the more skilled I will be, and the stronger my instincts will become. I foresee the challenge of writing at a scholarly level but with the idea of “making the topic interesting” for a reader who would not be in such a college course. While this is still a foggy idea for me, I feel it is part of my own calling as a writer. I have been told that, based on blog entries I have written on various topics, that I should be striving towards publication, and that has become appealing to me. Fiction writing, which is what I’ve primarily studied for most of my adult life (a pursuit which included not only an M.A. in the topic, but also additional workshops later in life), has become increasingly frustating, while nonfiction has offered much gratification. I have enjoyed what I have done so far in this class and elsewhere, and can see taking it more seriously than I once did. While I am unsure how much memoir-type writing I really want to do, I am very attracted to weaving in some personal memoir along with more philosophical religious ideas.

I’ve heard that some writers have the goal of having published enough books to fill a bookshelf by the time they pass away. I hold no such goals, but I do want to actively publish, in both the scholarly journals and in the more popular press. While book publishing is certainly a desire, my more immediate interest is in articles and essays, and I doubt I will limit myself to my academic pursuits, topically speaking. I do have some memoir pieces already begun, of course, and I am not abandoning those. The spiritual autobiography is a draw for me, though I am seeing this being more “doable” if I pursue it first as a series of articles that I can later compile together for a book, with some transitioning and editing to make it into an effective larger work. Small slices of life are important to me too, so I will continue to write about those. My role in the writerly world, as I see it now, is to move away from my previous desire of writing solely for an audience of other writers. I want to be part of the world’s thinking community, and I want to share my thoughts and research with the readers of such publications as Harper’s and the New Yorker and The Atlantic, even if those specific magazines aren’t my ultimate destination. I’d like to contribute to the world of thinking, and I want to do it wearing the hat of the distinguished and talented writer. I plan to keep working on my skills, on my studies outside of those oriented on craft, combine the two, and share the fruits of my effort. This is my new dream. Better stated, this is to where I have come and how my self-image has evolved. It presents me with a feasible future and a satisfying career orientation. I’m not choosing a job; I’m integrating my strengths into a complete way of life, God willing.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What I believe

1. Don't take your beliefs too seriously.
2. Being a "blog administrator" is an illusory power.

Amen?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Slight hurdle created

Comments are now going to be moderated, due to spam.  Don't worry, if it's not spam, I'll more than likely approve it.  And I seem to check email like 1300 times a day!

Compassion for animals and ritual slaughter

Okay, the quick research I just did is on wikipedia, which is ALWAYS suspect, so I wanted to acknowledge that from the beginning.  Some of what I share here is just from memory of things I've read.  I won't go back and provide sources for now, because I just want to make a quick point.  I'm sure there are inaccuracies and other problems with my specifics.  That's not the point of this blog, so I've decided to place a HUGE disclaimer here instead.  Maybe someday I'll do a better job researching this and writing something much more substantial.  For now, you get this sloppy non-academic blog entry!

Warning: I do describe methods of slaughter here, and link to the wiki articles which go into even more written detail.

In Islam and other religions, animal welfare is actually important - treating animals with compassion, not abusing them, that sort of thing.  Hence, only "halal" (legal or lawful) meat is allowed (among other restrictions).  The halal article on wikipedia is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halal.  It is argued by some Muslim scholars that the method called Dabihah (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ḏabīḥah) is a humane way to slaughter an animal for meat.  Dabihah is "cutting the large arteries in the neck along with the esophagus and trachea with one swipe of an unserrated blade."  Supposedly this is relatively painless and the animal is effectively brain-dead as it bleeds to death.

Some disagree, and some studies have been done (see the links).

Kashrut (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosher) is the Jewish method, which seems similar. There are differences between the two and the details are available online.

Hindus and Sikhs who eat meat sometimes use a method called Jhatka (also, Chatka) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jhatka), which is essentially very quickly chopping off the animal's head.  Obviously that's a pretty quick death.

There is a difference, in my opinion, between what is allowed by a religion and the solution to the complications.  There is a lot of respect towards the animals intended behind these rules and regulations, and much spirituality as well.  I respect this.

At the same time, bleeding an animal versus decapitating it...this is a choice for an animal lover?

When we don't need to eat these animals to begin with, it seems to me the least complicated and most compassionate way to go is to stop eating them altogether.

I say this with no judgment towards meat-eaters whatsoever.  What I believe is right and what I practice do not always match up.  I do occasionally eat meat at restaurants or when visiting others who are doing the cooking.  I've been though very tough times wherein the comfort-food qualities of meat-based dishes won out over my own personal ethical code.

And hence I write this blog entry as a musing on the issue.  For many years I have wanted to become a very disciplined vegetarian, and eventually a very disciplined vegan, and have not yet arrived there.

We do our best, and that's what all of this is about.

Very few people act with outright cruelty as their intention.

I've tried to make it clear here that this is complicated, and I am merely presenting my thoughts on the matter.  My hope is that my respect for you comes through.

Peace and all good.

Andrew

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

As I move to the next square

...yes, I've been exploring Islam as a possible faith path.  As I listen to lectures online for non-Muslims I find them jargonistic and I recognize that self-forced belief thing that's present in every religion.

Sometimes it seems almost OCD that people say "peace be upon him" every single time they mention the name Muhammad.  It might not be, but for me, it would become that very quickly.

I'm attracted to Islam because it's a desert religion and its theology is very simple, with lots of room to move.

But no matter what, I know these things.

I won't accept OCD in my spiritual path.  That means there are obstacles in Islam for me.

Five prayers a day with very specific rules, not only for the prayers, but for the washing up ahead of time.

An apparent tendency towards putting trust in conservative Muslim scholars.

The use of "fear" in relation to Allah with the immediate caveat that Allah is "merciful."

Hence, my focus has become more on Sufism, which is mystical and focuses on love.  Some Sufi teachers are pretty radical.

I'm also inspired by Michael Muhammad Knight's shocked discovery, as detailed in his road-journey book "Blue Eyed Devil," that there are half-assed Muslims just like there are half-assed Catholics.

Knight is one of the 1% of Muslim converts who are white in this country.  At least a couple years ago when he wrote that book.  I haven't read the book...just the first chapter.  It's now on my short list for reading soon.

I've got this awareness of myself, as I turn forty in a couple months, that I need to take seriously: I don't like party-line sermons.  I don't like peer pressure.   I need the mystical.  There is no way I'd become a conservative Sunni.  Even if I did become Muslim and accept the five pillars (they seem simple enough), going on the Hajj I will NOT participate in ANY WAY in the traditional animal sacrifice that takes place on that pilgrimage.

I don't think any religious scripture is literal.  Even if I were to convert, there is no way I could force myself to take the Qur'an as "not to be interpreted."

The modern "conservative" take on the Sodom and Gommorah story is just as misguided as the Christian take.

I'm still a seeker, still learning, just happen to find a lot which is appealing in Islam at this moment in my life.  Two most important things I know:

1. I have to be true to myself.
2. I suspect, if I did it, I would not have the support of some people who do support me now.  At least not in that decision.

I have to continue trusting that God (Allah, YHWH, whatever word you want) is in some way part of what moves me.  I get so angry at God so often, and that's usually when I connect him to any kind of fundamentalism or anal-retentive religiosity.

So no matter what, I must remain a free-thinker.

Feedback that one religion is "better" or "truer" or more "gay-friendly" than another will be considered irrelevant here, because it's what I DO with the religion, what I TAKE from the religion that matters.  I'm a child of God, in some way, and that means I am an equal partner in the relationship.  It doesn't work if both partners aren't participating in the dance.  And so I trust myself, and God (that's harder than trusting myself), in whatever steps I take next.  And now, I haven't quite decided what those are.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A thought about Sodom and Gomorrah

Just noticed: in my copy of the KJV bible, the Gen. story of the destruction of Sodom/Gomorrah, the commentary refers to "homosexual gang rape." Why even use the word "homosexual"?

Because it would have been gang rape of the daughters of Lot, should they have accepted the offer...they wanted the men instead.

I suppose that's why this commentary includes the word "homosexual."

I do not know Hebrew, though I do have a Torah commentary which I have not yet consulted (another note, later, perhaps), so I'll just put forth this very rough theory:

Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by a volcanic eruption. The writers of this part of what became Genesis, in their ancient Jewish method of writing history (as the history of God in his interactions with his people), included their contemporary morality in with the story-telling. Though it is not clear to me in reading this passage that homosexuality was the issue for which they attributed to God in his destruction of the cities, it is clear to me that the aggressive behavior towards Lot and his people was the reason.

It is also clear to me that, to these writers anyway, the offering of the daughters by Lot would have made it "okay" for these aggressive men to have sex with them. Is this what "honor your parents" meant at the time of the writing?

Today, as such passages are used in attempts to prove a moral position against gay people, is it not more honest to look at the passages without leaving anything out? If we are to accept the notion that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexual gang rape, then we must also accept that Lot was not punished for offering his daughters to these unfriendly citizens.

Note 1: Not addressed here are matters of different Bible translations and different interpretations of this passage. I understand that many believe the wickedness of the city to be that of inhospitality. I also understand that the men (the ones they want to rape) in question might be angels, not men. I don't address this because it would make a very long note, and I merely wanted to post my thoughts on this one point of argument.

Note 2: Genesis, Chapter 19, contains the passages in question.

Note 3: I always picture this scene as an isolated incident, and therefore assume that it is but one example of the sins of these cities. I wonder how this modifies the interpretation.

Peace and all good.



(The commentary I refer to is on page 39 of "The New Student Bible, King James Version," published by Zondervan in 1992. "Notes by Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford." There are other contributors to the book as well.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gay Marriage - We have the right, just not the acceptance

It was suggested in the comment section of this blog entry:
http://www.religiondispatches.org/blog/sexandgender/2203/religion_largely_absent_in_proposition_8_trial/?comments=view&cID=6131#c6131
that we might consider accepting the term "civil unions" instead of "marriage" as queer people, as long as we have all of the same rights, in order to mollify the opponents who just can't seem to get over this.


Rachel Maddow has recently pointed out on her show that the idea of gay marriage used to be considered a conservative initiative among gay activists.  Heck, I remember even twenty years ago people debating whether assimilation was a good thing.  Screw the straight society, we'll do our own thing.  Why should we fight to be accepted?  Why give them that much power?


I agree with that, to be honest.  However, that's me.  And at the same time, I'm kind of a mellow person nowadays.  I don't have as much fire as I did when I was 21, just out of the closet, and newly angry about all that I was learning about gay history.  By fire, I mean, "energy to fight."  Yeah, I'm still angry, and obviously I still speak out as much as ever.  But I'm also focused on other, more enriching things in my life. Vocation.  Spirituality.  Personal happiness.  Connecting with others.  Wouldn't mind a bit of romance either.


Because I've pretty much decided to coexist with the  filthy masses, I want the already existent right for us to get married to be recognized legally.  Every law which says we cannot get married is as unconstitutional as the Jim Crow laws, the laws against interracial marriage, and those enforcing racial segregation.  It's already there.  The fight is not to obtain equal rights.  We must fight to get the institutions to do what they are supposed to do when we exercise those rights.  It's not that we don't have the right to marriage; it's that the courts won't sign off on them.  It's not that we don't have the right to sign up to be in the military; it's that they won't let us in the door if we admit who we are.


I know we're "supposed" to be friends, but frankly, we have enemies right now.  They've been given power through the institutions of power-granting which exist in our country.  At the very least, we can disobey them.  Their behaviors are unconstitutional.  The sickening irony is that we have to go to the courts, which are part of a society behaving unconstitutionally.


What do I mean by disobedience?


We get married and a queer minister signs off on it. We submit it to the state.  No matter what they do or say, we claim spousal status on our tax forms.  Whenever we have to declare single or married, we declare "married," on any form whatsoever.


Does this have the potential to threaten our livelihoods, to get us jailed and harassed by the law?  Yes.  They would do this to us unconstitutionally.  We bring this to the courts over and over until they buckle or get responsible judges.


Who am I to even advocate such things?  I am nobody.  I don't even really advocate them.  If you did it and were to suffer because of it, and I advocated it, I would feel guilty.  That's my personality.  So no, I'm not advocating.  I wish to preserve my own happiness.  It's something I might be willing to do if I met someone and fell in love and he agreed to take such actions with me.  If you choose to do it, it's because you choose to do it.


Self-responsibility is the only way to live anyway, right?


I do think the current methods of fighting for gay marriage and other recognitions are fine too.  They are safer and will eventually be effective, if what we currently see happening continues.


Anyway, here is the response I posted to the idea that we accept "civil unions" instead of marriage, in order to mollify the masses:


I appreciate your desire to be find a win-win, but I for one cannot get past the "separate but equal" thing. Most of us were raised in a culture - overtly or not - which repeatly emphasized (still does actually) what a huge deal marriage is to the community. When you get married, there are kudos galore; it's akin to getting pregnant, and beyond the public congratulations of something much harder, like graduating. So basically we grow up being taught that marriage is THE thing, that we'll find that "right boy" or "right girl" someday, and we'll get the rings and the fancy outfits and the cake and the dancing and the toasts and gifts and the weeping mothers and proud fathers. Then we figure out we're gay, and we slowly understand that no, we don't get that. We have to settle for civil unions. Goodie.

See, I'm not willing to sacrifice our equality to mollify anyone. I don't necessarily want a big wedding with all the trimmings, unless I find that "right guy" someday who DOES want it. With or without the trimmings, I DO want it to be called a marriage.

Peace.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sharing vs. Debate on Haiti, Gays in Christianity, and Everything Else

Candace Chellew-Hodge writes about some Christians' discussion of whether they should the love the sinner but hate the "sin," or if they are really called to just hate both.

That's one of those discussions I've been in before. To be honest, I'm a bit bored with it. Maybe that's because I'm leaning away from being part of the aspects of religion which focus on limitations, rigidity, dogmatism. More on that in a later blog post.

Then there is Pat Robertson's much-decried statements that Haiti's earthquake was the result of an historic pact-with-the-devil which has curse that nation for many many years. Anthea Butler discusses this using points that lead me to believe that Robertson's comments connect to an outdated colonial rich-white-man's superiority delusion, and ultimately a (possibly subconscious) racism.

It's getting exhausting trying to meet people point-for-point when, frankly, the points repeat with every debate. I prefer discussion to debate.

Yes, the distinction is subtle. They may even be synonyms. I use them as different terms for convenience of communication. When I think "debate" I think of two people, each with a thesis. The goal is for each to present the best arguments for their position, to be convincing, to win. I'm not sure what you win, maybe an ego boost or admiration in the eyes of viewers. Unless my debts get paid off from this sort of debate, I just find them frustrating and energy-sucking.

A discussion, in my own use of the term here, is one wherein both parties (or more than two) are engaged in a thoughtful, honest, open mulling-of-the-issues, preferably with open-mindedness thrown in. "I have to admit that it is hard for me to discuss abortion because I have had a traumatic experience with it in the past." That's the kind of honesty that's great to have in a discussion. In a debate the retort would be something like, "then all of your arguments are suspect," or "let's use your traumatic experience to turn it around to prove my point." In a discussion, the response would be empathy, or at least a deepening engagement with the topic at hand and, even better, between the people involved.

I'm not advocating anti-logic. "I don't see how that's logical" is still a proper thing to say when someone says something. For me the defining characteristic of a good discussion is that there is no longer a final goal of "winning."

With someone going on about how different it is to hate the "sin" but not the "sinner," is there really a point in pursuing it, trying to convince him or her that it is difficult to love someone when you truly "hate" something about that person? Maybe, but one must listen first, encourage that person to really get into why they feel that way. But it's exhausting to try when it just boils down to Bible quoting and talking points. If it doesn't get down to the nitty gritty personal aspects of why someone feels the way they do, that energy is expended for little reason but to build one's rhetorical skills.

The example of Pat Robertson and his Haitian devil comment is trickier. This is based on a colonial idea of the "primitive" (in today's terms, "Third World") person, the "savage," who is not enlightened by the "one true religion," and of course proper old-European social class stratification. Vodon ("Voodoo") isn't devil-worship. It's not a religion I know much about, but the idea that it's satanic is coming from the imposition of a certain kind of Christian worldview that is pretty much irrelevant to those who do not share that worldview. It ultimately boils down to who is right and who is wrong, once again. I'm "right" because I'm "white" and my ancestors were European. Goodie. Again, while it's fun and enlightening to have a discussion about the complex issues that Robertson has raised, I don't see much fruit coming from actually debating the guy, or those who agree with him.

Bishop Spong wrote this in October of 2009: "I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone.... Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy." (The short manifesto is worth reading in its entirety.) That's where I am now on all religious debate. I'm willing to discuss (by my own definition which I described above), but if I'm asked which religion is best, or most true, or most dangerous, I'm not going to answer definitively. I will share my experience, knowledge, interpretations, even instincts, but I'm not going to try to prove me right or prove you wrong. I'm not going to waste time answering every talking point. If I make an assertion, and you ask me to defend it, I will do my best to explain why I feel that way or from where comes my conclusion. But the minute it becomes about winning a debate, I will ideally pull out. I don't care if I'm accused of something unsubstantiated, like "typical liberal can't take a debate." I've been called a "typical liberal" many times, for this reason, even if my accuser only knows one thing about me (like my stance on the war, for example). Whatever. I'd love to engage with you on why you feel the way you feel, and why I feel the way I feel. But that means listening, sharing, asking, nodding, being very present to the experience of you and me being who we are, connected as humans. Can we do that? If not, then it's time to move on, because, to steal from Spong, it's "no longer worthy of my time or energy."

No offense, but I've spent too much time playing these games. I want a boyfriend, a life's vocation, a purpose. I want to connect and mingle, not bash my head against yours.

Peace and all good

Friday, January 8, 2010

The continuing irrelevance the big music labels

In response to:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8444854.stm
and
http://www.usatoday.com/life/music/news/2006-01-04-music-sales-main_x.htm

Getting close to the death of the big record labels, or at least the significant (and overdue) downfall of its influence on the state of the music industry, which they have abused for the past ten years or so, but not put more long-term commitment into bands that don't become megastars with their debut album, and other problems like that. If debut album sales were the only factor in label support historically, we would not have seen the rise of great bands like R.E.M. and U2, for example.

Downloads are more environmentally friendly too, though the physical product issue could be partially solved if they committed to using recycled or sustainable materials in their packaging. There would still be the carbon-releasing problems associated with shipping, of course, but I don't know how significant that really is, since the mail is being delivered regardless.

Putting those environmental issues aside, I consider this to be fair pay-back to these companies, which frankly earned their downfall. I'd like to see (ideally) the "illegal" downloads calm down and purchases increase, but maybe music shouldn't be about making millions in profits anyway. Great music is more accessible than ever because of the internet. One can discover new artists by following links in blogs, Youtube pages, Myspace, and elsewhere. The relevance of the big mega-labels is dissipating, and this is a good thing. Let them be the suppliers of the overproduced emotionless autotuned forgettable pop American Idol offshoots and copycats. But let us refrain from mourning that they are beginning to lose their ability to speak for the masses, let alone the music connoisseurs. They have their niche, and don't deserve our attention any longer.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2009 - Best Albums by Men (According to Andrew)

When I try to fit so many albums on a list, ranking starts to reach a level of absurdity.

I had about 130 or so that I chose to listen to, and I added a couple here and there as I explored...I did have to sample a lot. But I listened to enough to know what to do. But it did get to the point where it was obvious that five or six albums in a row were of equal quality...so basically, if it's on this list, I recommend it.

I disqualified "Dark Was the Night" for myself even though it is excellent...it's a compilation of various modern indie bands as part of the Red Hot series of albums which benefit AIDS groups. It's simply too hard to know how to rank it, but I DO recommend it.

Why is this list so much longer than my women's list? Put simply, there are simply more male-created artists that I am drawn to. Note though that my number 2 album is really a team effort, men and women together making music. And Matt & Kim...one of each!

Another one I missed: the live Tom Waits album, Glitter and Doom Live. I was leaving out live albums, but I noticed as I was digging up video links that the Steve Vai album was of course live. Obviously Tom Waits never really does wrong, so if I had caught the mistake earlier, I would have removed Steve's album. Anyway, both are excellent as far as live albums go.


1. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (the Fall Be Kind EP is fantastic too, but I'll restrict to one release)



2. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love


3. Baroness - Blue Record


4. Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle


5. Mastodon - Crack the Skye


6. U2 - No Line on the Horizon


7. The Red Chord - Fed Through the Teeth Machine


8. Mos Def - The Ecstatic


9. Sonic Youth - The Eternal


10. Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg


11. Pete Doherty - Grace/Wasteland


12. Gomez - A New Tide


13. Torche - Healer/Across the Shields EP


14. Wilco - Wilco (The Album)


15. Piano Magic - Ovations


16. Matt & Kim - Grand


17. Mumford & Sons - Mumford & Sons


18. Orthodox - Sentencia
I cannot find a musical sample for you, but you can read about this Spanish Doom/Jazz band here: http://www.thesirenssound.com/2009/09/22/orthodox-sentencia/

19. Flaming Lips - Embryonic


20. Yosh - Fistful of Lies


21. Morrissey - Years of Refusal


22. Les Claypool - Of Fungi and Foe


23. Mowgli - 93


24. Sondre Lerche - Heartbeat Radio


25. NOFX - Coaster


26. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix


27. Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk


28. Jay-Z The Blueprint 3


29. The Joint Chiefs of Math - You Are Here

(I wish there was a better video for these guys, so listen here: http://www.myspace.com/thejointchiefsofmath)

30. Causa Sui - Summer Sessions vol. 2 and 3 (not sure how to break these up...they are equally good...and volume 1 came out in 2008, and now they have all three out there as a set.)


31. Arctic Monkeys - Humbug


32. The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love


33. The Avett Brothers - I And Love And You


34. Midlake - The Courage of Others


35. El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez - Cryptomnesia


36. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

Is this the creepiest video ever?

37. Mr. Scruff - Ninja Tuna


38. Mexican Institute of Sound - Soy Sauce


39. The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come


40. Steve Vai - Where the Wild Things Are


41. Megadeth - Endgame


42. Bruce Springsteen - Working on a Dream


43. Moby - Wait For Me


44. Other Lives - Other Lives


45. Marduk - Wormwood


46. Tom Russell - Blood and Candle Smoke


47. Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young


48. For Against - Never Been
Check it out here: http://www.myspace.com/foragainst

49. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Somehow I messed up...this should have been on my women's list. Well, enjoy it and don't complain ;-)

50. Snoop Dogg - Malice in Wonderland


51. The Who Boys - Now That's What I Call the Who Boys!
Couldn't find videos, but you can download the album for free on their website: http://www.zen8003.zen.co.uk/twic/index.html

52. Jay Brannan In Living Cover


53. Bob Dylan - Together Through Life


54. The Barcode Experiment - Yellow Ball, Glass Wall

Not the best video! Check 'em out here: http://www.myspace.com/thebarcodeexperiment

55. Bear in Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth


56. Brakes - Touchdown


57. Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free


58. Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications


59. Girls - Album


60. John Vanderslice - Romanian Names


61. Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall


62. Ryan Leslie - Transition


63. Napalm Death - Time Waits for No Slave


64. Gallows - Grey Britain


65. Titãs - Sacos Plásticos


66. Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane & Sugarcane


67. Eels - Hombre Lobo


68. Mama Rosin - Black Robert


69. Phish - Joy


70. Meat Puppets - Sewn Together


71. Mariachi El Bronx - Mariachi El Bronx


72. Loney, Dear - Dear John


73. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - The Road (score)


74. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport


75. M. Ward - Hold Time


76. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm


77. Mudvayne - Mudvayne


78. Nox Arcana - Blackthorn Asylum


79. Isis - Wavering Radiant


80. Son O))) - Monoliths and Dimensions
You can hear one of the songs here: http://www.myspace.com/southernlordrecordings

81. Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs


82. Aerosol - Airborne


83. Vomit Heat - The Melody Haunts My Reverie EP
http://www.myspace.com/vomitheat

84. With Abandon - Maturation EP


85. Woodpigeon - Die Stadt Muzikanten


86. The Swell Season - Strict Joy


87. Church of Misery - Houses of the Unholy


88. Converge - Axe to Fall


89. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains


90. Drake - So Far Gone


91. The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die!


92. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Pin Points and Gin Joints


93. The Lytics - The Lytics

One I should have probably ranked higher.

94. Wild Beasts - Two Dancers


95. Candlemass - Death Magic Doom


96. Calamar Audio - Squid Fluid
http://www.myspace.com/calamaraudio

97. Brutal Truth - Evolution Through Revolution


98. Boris - Japanese Heavy Rock Hits (EP)


99. Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Pains of Being Pure at Heart


100. Mark Vidler - Tension (EP)
http://www.myspace.com/markvidlerGHP
http://www.gohomeproductions.co.uk/

101. Lamb of God - Wrath


102. The Devil's Blood - The Time of No Time Evermore


103. Adam Lambert - For Your Entertainment


104. Bad Lieutenant - Never Cry Another Tear


105. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Summer of Fear


106. Coalesce - OX


107. W.A.S.P. - Babylon


108. Hatebreed - Hatebreed


109. The Leisure Society - The Sleeper

I guess this is a re-release. I don't know much about it...

110. Bibio - Abrasion


111. Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions


112. Crystal Method - Divided By Night


113. The Mars Volta - Octahedron


114. Anaal Nathrakh - In the Constellation of the Black Widow


115. My Dying Bride - For Lies I Sire


116. Harlem Shakes - Technicolor Health


117. Robin Thicke - Sex Therapy: The Experience


118. Revocation - Existence is Futile


119. Atlas Sound - Logos


120. Nile - Those Whom the Gods Detest


121. The Positives - Person L


122. Letting Up Despite Great Faults - Letting Up Despite Great Faults


123. Holopaw - Oh, Glory, Oh, Wilderness.


124. Amorphis - Skyforger
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