Friday, November 25, 2005

Men in Funny Hats and Dresses

Some nights ago, I zoned out in front of dreamy Anderson Cooper’s news program. As one of his minions reported on the Catholic Church’s recent attempt to expunge gay men from seminaries, I began to think of my own relationship with “the” church.

Having been raised Catholic, I have plenty of complaints about the Catholic Church. One could never know when the priest would suddenly start screeching about sexuality. What you could count on was that, when he finished, you needed to say 250 rosaries. That could take forever.

My parents both had tremendous devotion to the Church, eventually becoming mayordomos for their parish. Even as a child, however, I tended to be suspicious about the Catholic Church’s rigid structures. Catechism teachers, for instance, required us to learn the names of each piece of the priests and nuns’ outfits. Even at that young age, I thought that heaven would not possibly refuse admittance to people because they couldn’t distinguish wimples. Then again, I don’t have evidence that it doesn’t.

Historically, Catholicism most often encouraged blind reverence and fear of authority. Priests and Bishops demanded obedience, often thwarting social change. In terms of sex, the Church created generations of men and women dominated by shame, guilt, inhibitions, and a lack of self-esteem.

Back in the day, though, the Catholic Church had some consistency. They hated all sexuality. According to these men-in-dresses, all sex resulted in burning torment in hell whether it was gay, straight, or single-handed. Sure, the priests made some distinctions of degree. For instance, they really, really hated birth control. Yet, they also hated fertility research, which they argued was as “unnatural” as birth control. Nor did they encourage people to have a zillion children. Rather, they (unrealistically) told everybody, married or single, not to have any sex whatsoever. More children, after all, delayed the second coming. The current Catholic Church, however, has become increasingly hateful as they now specifically target gay men and women as the ultimate threats to civilization as we know it.

Discussions about Catholics’ obligation to fight for Social Justice, in contrast, seem long forgotten. The current pope even persecuted Liberation Theologians in Latin America before he put on the miter.

Organized religion appeals to people because it provides a purpose for living and explanations about dying. It is not hard to understand, therefore, why people would be hesitant to let go of their religious institutions. These meta-discussions prove too complex for me to grasp. After all, I am equally suspicious of claims that humans have figured out everything about the universe through scientific reasoning.

What I also can’t ignore is that much of my sense of morality and understanding of the world also resulted from childhood Catholic teachings. I have already noted that the saints occasionally come to my aid when in trouble. When we weren’t learning about the priests’ wardrobe changes, our catechism class also emphasized a connection and obligation between all people. Certainly these ideas created my nascent understanding of our common humanity.

Cosmic balance and justice seem to be ideas that flow through many religious systems. You would be amazed at how easily Catholic training can be translated to ideas about karma. The expression “If you sow tears, you will reap sadness,” works for both Catholicism and Buddhism, for instance. Religious symbols also can be powerful allies in efforts for community mobilization. It was not an accident that the UFW marched under Our Lady of Guadalupe when they sought fair and safe working conditions. The image of a Virgin who kicks ass for social justice appeals to me.

All of our religious backgrounds need acknowledgment, even if we no longer find them valuable for our day-to-day life. If we now identify as secular, we also can’t allow institutions like the Catholic Church to continue to claim authority over all of our histories and symbols of morality. After all, many of our ideas about justice developed from those earlier teachings.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Judging, Judging, Judging

Lately I have been feeling out of step with mainstream culture. Yeah, I know being gay and of mixed ancestry means I am always already out of step with U.S. mainstream culture. Still, some elements in popular culture seem overvalued. Yet, other things that I think are dandy receive almost no attention. Do I need to rehash the Futurama cancellation horror? Other examples? I might have a few:

    Overrated: CSI: Las Vegas, New York, Miami, Little Rock, or wherever. When I visit my childhood home, my parents have an obsession with these shows. Don’t get me wrong, I can be a sucker for the hour-long drama (keep reading). These incarnations, though, just don’t do it for me. I am no forensic scientist, but their methods always struck me as implausible. One episode, in particular, had them solve the crime by enhancing a digital picture to show the reflection in somebody's eyeball. If this was a possibility, how come when I use Photoshop to magnify my images, I just end up with a pixilated mess? Unless that digital camera had 200,000mpi, it just seemed unlikely.

    Underrated: Quincy, ME. Back in the seventies, our television shows didn’t even put on a pretense of good science. Instead, it depended on gruff character actors to keep us engaged. Quincy got the job done and usually pushed some lefty, though simple, political message (hey, television audience, Quincy says that racism is bad -- oh, and stay in school -- oh, and don't do drugs -- oh, and live on a boat). Plus, he had his friend Sam to watch his back.

    Overrated: Snow White – So what if is she was the “fairest of them all?” Snow White seemed like a terrible bore to me. That whistling-while-you-work thing would drive me nuts. Plus, why didn’t she have breasts? I could hardly be accused of being a “boob-man,” but her total lack of cleavage strikes me as a bit, well, creepy. Was she supposed to be prepubescent? If so, doesn’t that make both the magic mirror and Prince Charming pedophiles?

    Underrated: Evil Queen – She came up as second most fair in all the land. I am here to tell you, that ain’t bad. Okay, so Evil Queen might have been a little blood thirsty. I have been to plenty of gay clubs, though, where queens have done much worse than ordering the woodsman to cut out prettier folk’s hearts. So, let’s not cast stones at Evil Queen. Plus, Evil Queen could run down castle steps while wearing some ultra-hip high heels. I dare you to even try that!

    Overrated: Jordan from Crossing Jordan. My shallowness resulted in me watching episodes of Crossing Jordan when dreamy Jerry O’Connell guest starred. You would be astounded at the crap I will watch on the off-chance that some hunky actor will remove his shirt. I know, it shows a shallow character flaw. Leave me alone – I live in a really small town.

    Jill Hennsey’s Jordan, though, just never seemed to be able to pull of the vibe the show wanted. I mean, the idea of a rock’n’roll coroner sounds appealing. But, it’s not like Joan Jett is carving up cadavers (which I would watch, fyi).

    Underrated: Clair from Law & Order. Why, oh, why did Jill Hennessy leave Law and Order? Why, oh, why did the producers murder her character, thus preventing her from ever returning? This was the golden age of hour-long crime dramas, people. Plus, Clair had that certain something that made the show special. Was it the Jacqueline Kennedy style suites? Was it the page-boy haircut? Was it the sexual tension with Jack McCoy? Was it the sexual tension with Anita Van Buren? Whatever the case, Clair offered the full package. Secretly, I want to be Clair – but that is another entry entirely.

    Overrated: Gay Marriage – Oh, sure, it starts with him giving you a ring and promising to always make you his priority in life. It turns out, though, that what he really meant to say was that he would be committed to you only until he grew bored, restless, and/or met people he thought were more interesting than you. Oops, am I leaking bitterness again? Give me a break, I am still “in process.”

    Underrated: Gay Single-hood – For the past year, I endured things ranging from callous indifference, forgotten anniversaries, to just plain silly statements about him having “evolved” beyond me. Boy, in comparison to all that nonsense, gay single-hood looks great!

    It’s not that I am happy about the situation or agree that it was the right decision (which I am not and I don’t – some histrionic blog entries attest to that). Whatever the case, I am starting to look forward to building a new life after I finish mourning. It will take time for the pain to clear even after we finally sell the house and go our separate ways. Now, though, I eagerly await being free. Given my heavy-duty belief in cosmic karma, I am also working hard not to wish him harm (hard work indeed!). Instead, I want to reach a point where I can wish him only peace and an answer to his unsolvable longings and discontentment (an answer, I hope, found far, far, far away from me). Like Alanis, I want to get to a stage where I also can thank India.

    Overrated: Tax Cuts – When did our nation become filled with such greedy bastards? For the amount of money we all make, Republican tax cuts don’t help us much. What could I buy with Bush’s big 2001 tax cut? Delivery Pizza? It’s just not worth it.

    Underrated: Public Services – Call me a crazy liberal, but I like having free roads, post offices, and decent public schools. I would be in love with also having universal health care, federal utilities, and greater pensions for all Americans. What do we need to make these dreams come true? Less war, more taxes. That’s not exactly a winning campaign slogan, though.

    Overrated: G.I Joe Usually I am sucker for a man in uniform, but I think Joe sends kids the wrong message. His only ambition seems to involve killing – at least in-between wardrobe changes. At times, his gun appeared bigger than Joe’s whole body. I am not Freudian, but it seems like Joe might be compensating for something.

    Underrated: Big Jim – Created as a peaceful alternative to Joe, Big Jim had a brief moment of fame in the seventies. Responding to the decade that shunned violence, Jim didn’t own guns. Rather, he devoted his time to camping and showering with his friends. He also seemed to go to the gym quite a bit. I don’t like to gossip, but Big Jim and Big Jack often slept together in the big camper.

    Overrated: Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor – Okay, we gay folk are falling over ourselves in honor of Madonna’s latest album. Don’t get me wrong, “Hung Up” keeps me going on the treadmill. But, is it really as good as we want it to be? Or do we simply find relief that Confessions on a Dance Floor is not the totally unlistenable American Life?

    Underrated: Madonna’s Erotica – After the whole Vogue craze, Madonna would never please everbody. In this case, she found much critical derision for Erotica. In retrospect, though, the album had its moments. How many albums can you name with songs dedicated to S&M? Likewise, “Deeper and Deeper” always seemed underrated as a song. Or maybe I am just partial to the video with Madonna in a big, permed bubble-do getting in a pillow fight.

    Overrated: The Wizard of Oz: The Film. I know, I need to turn in my gay card. I just haven’t been able to work up any enthusiasm for this film since I was six. Yeah, there is the witch, but she is no Evil Queen from Snow White. Yeah, there are the flying monkeys, but they kinda creeped me out. Yeah, Judy Garland eases on down the road (or was that somebody else?). Now, it just bores me.

    Underrated: The Wizard of Oz: The Book. Many historians argue that the book, unlike the film or sequel novels, actually appeared as a satiric critique of now antiquated monetary debates in the late-nineteenth-century U.S. You see, it was all about whether the U.S. should base its national currency strictly on gold or a combination of gold and silver. In the book, unlike the movie, Dorothy has silver slippers (not ruby) as she skips along the golden brick road. You see where we are going? She meets the tin woodsmen, who represented the inhumanity of the industrial revolution that turned men and women into extensions of machines. The Democrat's Presidential Candidate for 1896, William Jennings Bryan, made a guest appearance as the cowardly lion and -- wait -- Did you just fall asleep reading my blog? Man, why does that keep happening to me?

    Overrated: Barbara Streisand It’s another reason why they are going to make me turn in my gay card. The Babes thing, though, just leaves me stumped. Maybe I don’t get it because she’s from a previous generation of gay men. Or maybe my tastes lack the proper camp aesthetic. While I appreciate her lefty ways politically, her voice grates on my nerves like the Bee-Gees. I also find it peculiar that she keeps releasing Christmas albums.

    Underrated: Dolly Parton My ex does deserve credit for breaking down my knee-jerk reaction to country music. Previously, I tended to ignore and disparage all things country. Now, though, I understand that country music is really white people’s jazz. Dolly leads the pack, in my mind. We will ignore her recent dreadful album of covers. Instead, think about her coat of many colors, working from 9-to-5, or making plans for checking out, Dolly has tremendous talent as a writer and a performer (did Babes ever actually write a song?). Dolly always seems to have a warm spot for us gay men. It might be because we keep dressing like her, I don’t know.

    Overrated: George Pérez’s Wonder Woman – This borders on sacrilege for some die-hard Wonder Woman fans (no, I am not the only one - there are at least two others). I understand that Pérez actually got people reading Wonder Woman again after some hard times for the Amazon Princess. His emphasis on Greek mythology also had its moments. For me, though, Pérez pushed Wonder Woman off track. She got a bad perm and her breasts eventually grew as big as her head. She just didn’t have the campy fun of yore.

    Underrated: William Moulton Marston’s (aka Charles Moulton's) Wonder Woman. Did somebody say campy fun? Real-life inventor of the lie-detector William Moulton Marston had some pretty darn quirky ideas about gender and sex. In his spare time, he loved, loved, loved being tied up by two women (think golden lariats). He also fantasized desperately wanted envisioned that women would soon rule the world. Combine these two ideas, and you have the trippy first issues of Wonder Woman.

    Overrated: Gay Academics Gay Academics can prattle ceaselessly over arcane subjects (like the difference between the film and book versions of The Wizard of Oz). They often take themselves way too seriously, proclaiming to be the “Center of Gravitas,” or some such nonsense. Pfft – what do they know about anything?

    Underrated: Gay Porn Stars – Be honest, which would you rather be doing now: Reading this blog or watching porn (straight or gay)? You are likely at work (where we all do our blog reading), so the latter is not really a possibility. Let’s face it, Gay Porn Stars are infinitely more interesting than Gay Academics, at least in the short term. I know I have learned much more watching thirty minutes of porn than entire semesters of some classes. Plus, Gay Porn Stars are almost never as pale as Gay Academics (we border on the translucent).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Job Search, II

Here we go, kiddies. In a couple of weeks, GayProf will be one of three candidates for an “on-campus” interview at a southwestern university. This means I now have a 33 percent chance of being able to leave Texas. You may recall, I have every intention of becoming a Perry-evacuee.

Currently, I operate totally based on self-preservation. After all, I don’t want to be somebody who endlessly complains about their job and nasty colleagues, but is too lazy, or makes excuses, about not trying to leave.

While we are on the subject of my resolutions, I am also going to make a better effort to keep my little bloggy from being too morose. Sometimes I need to vent, but lately I have been feeling overly toxic. Perhaps the blog isn’t the best place for that.

“Wait, GayProf,” I can hear you calling out, “We care about you. Don’t bottle-up your emotions. We unquestioningly worship you as a deity who can answer all our prayers. Glory to GayProf in the Highest.” Okay, maybe you are not saying that last bit – yet.

Seriously, I do appreciate all the good wishes from posts where I was down. While I offer no absolute guarantees (GayProf can be fickle. Well, I call it fickleness, my psychiatrist calls it “bipolar.” Pfft – whatever.), I will try to keep my personal perniciousness limited. After all, there are so many other avenues to direct my perniciousness (politics, popular culture, the academic world). What? I only said personal perniciousness – it is the Center of Gravitas, after all. Read another blog for sunshine and flowers.

So, let us chat again about the academic job search process. Nobody tells you in graduate school, but your dissertation is really just a five-hundred page job application. Universities across the nation decide which positions they will be filling all at the same time in the early Fall. Each department then advertises in their discipline’s major journals. For each discipline, there is usually a national convention where departments send search committees to conduct initial interviews. What makes my interview with southwestern university unusual is that they have decided to bypass the convention and move immediately to the “on-campus” interviews.

Still, what would such a conference interview look like? Glad you asked. For history, this meeting occurs in January. The search committee selects about ten people for an interview at the conference. The lucky applicant gets to sing his/her little heart out about why they are the bestest historian ever, ever. You suddenly become Ron Popeil as you discuss the merits of your research: “Do you want to know about urban history? My work takes place in a city!”-- trying to look positive, smiling often, “Oh, you want somebody who can teach rural history? No problem! I meant to say that most of the people I study lived on farms before they came to the city. Did I mention my research is self-cleaning?”

If you pass this test, you move onto the bonus round: the on-campus interview. During this grueling process, you come to the university and meet every faculty member in the department individually. It may surprise you, and I hope I am not giving out secrets of the profession, but some academics don’t have what we call “people skills.” Most of these individual meetings, of course, are pleasant. Sometimes, though, they can drag on forever. It is in these instances that we realize that we have met a MAD-C (Middle-Aged Disgruntled Colleague). Every academic department has at least one MAD-C. Just as a coincidence, most MAD-C’s happen to also be white, straight, men. I am not saying -- I am just saying.

MAD-C’s constantly harass the department head about how unfairly they are being treated. Having been granted tenure some twenty years earlier, they long stopped doing their own research. Thus, MAD-C's have plenty of time to fill their day.

One MAD-C in my current department, for instance, recently spent his day going through each faculty member’s operating expenses. He even double checked the current cost of printer toner to ensure that we were paying the least possible. Perhaps he imagined that the department would give him the discrepancies out of gratitude. Unfortunately, and totally predictably, he found no dishonesty among the faculty, at least in their use of paper clips. Still, he is confident that somebody is screwing the department and he remains vigilant.

During interviews, MAD-C’s use their individual appointments to harass the job candidate by informing him/her that they must “defend” their research strategies. Usually the MAD-C has never even looked at the applicant’s file, rather they are pissed off that the department isn’t hiring their best friend for the job. Still, the candidate must accommodate MAD-C if he/she wants that job.

Next, you are whisked off to the dean’s office. The dean is the most important person during your day because A)he/she can hire or not hire you regardless what the department votes and B)he/she is usually the only person who will tell you what your salary would be if the university does hire you. This meeting will also probably be the last time you ever talk to your dean one-on-one again. All of this fun is capped by a presentation on your research. The department’s faculty gather, pretend to listen to your work, and ask some questions that are more related to their research than yours.

Of course, I kid. I am quite thankful to even have an interview. It is a competitive market out there. Let’s just hope I have some employment options outside of Texas.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wanting to Make the Cut

Shakespeare’s Sister has advocated for all good lefty bloggers to come forward and nominate themselves for Bill O’Reilly’s enemies list. I don’t want to feel left out (I wonder if I submit to peer pressure too easily), so here is my note the Fox pundit:

    Dear Mr. O’Reilly,

    Blogs are aflutter about you building an “enemies list.” It would pain me if you don’t include my little bloggy, The Center of Gravitas, on your enemies’ list.

    You see, Billy-boy – Can I call you Billy-boy? Thanks. You see, Billy-boy, I break with others who call for your termination based on your hateful declarations against San Francisco. What separates you and me, Billy-boy, is that I appreciate and value your basic rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

    What are these rights? Well, free-speech, for instance. I actually believe you have every right to spew your hateful lies and I don’t want to censor you. That would be, well, wrong. I know, you disagree. You think anyone who does not follow you should have their microphone silenced or be added to your paranoid enemies’ list. See, though, we are different again. I am much more concerned that everybody be open to listening to multiple perspectives. It is my hope that if people were actually granted more perspectives from the mainstream media, the left wouldn’t need to campaign against you. It will be much more satisfying to have low ratings end your reign of hate than any “lefty” campaign against you. I am optimist, though.

    I know you are busy making that list and coming up with ways to keep the public immobilized with fear and hate, so I won’t take much more of your time. I just want to note one other thing. San Franciscans voted their conscious against military recruiters. You see, Billy-boy, that is what we call a “democratic” decision. A government issue was put to the people, and the people voted based on their sense of ethical values. I know, you like the top-down dictator stuff. That’s your prerogative. Alas, that is also why I must be your enemy.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mint -- NRFB

Depression elicits several obsessive compulsive responses in me. When feeling blue, for instance, I am guaranteed to start cleaning the house. Don’t know why, but doing battle with mildew seems like a victory when my life is in shambles.

Issues around food seem to be another major component. Either I stuff myself silly or I simply stop eating all together. No happy medium can be found around eating when I feel down.

Finally, I spend money in totally ridiculous and unhealthy ways. Shopping becomes the most dangerous salve to my wounded soul. Given that I live in a town remote beyond compare, few possibilities exist to spend money in brick-and-mortar stores. On-line shopping, however, has resulted in some bad decision-making on my part. My credit-card balances could easily rival the national debt of some small island. Surfing through on-line auctions, though, temporally stops me from thinking about my sadness. It is also much easier than working on the encyclopedia articles that are still overdue and not even close to completion. So, what insane purchase did I recently make? A 1977 Wonder Woman Doll produced by Mego Corporation.

I have no idea what I will do with Wonder Woman now that I am victorious in my auction battle. Given her Never-Removed-From-Box status, it seems foolish for me to send her out on missions or even change her into her Diana Prince outfits. Nor does she exactly compliment my art-deco furniture.

Obviously, my blog points to an unhealthy fixation on the Amazon Princess. I have a long history, though, with the Mego doll in particular. It was the first toy that I distinctly remember wanting and asking my parents for based on my own interests. My best friend at the time, Ramona, had one of these dolls and it made me green with envy. Mego didn’t skimp in making her super cool, at least for the late seventies. Not only did Wonder Woman come with the tiara (which she used as a boomerang, fyi), the bullet-deflecting bracelets, and the magic lasso, but she also had outfits for her alter-ego, Diana Prince. I wanted one and badly.

This desire for Wonder Woman put me on a collision course with my father. Weeks of pleading did not sway him. “Enough,” he furiously said one day, “Boys do not play with dolls.” When angry, his eyes turned coal black. It was the same anger that he had when he found me playing with my sister’s Charlie’s Angels dolls. I knew he could not be moved. I also knew that any further requests would result in more than stern words.

Many gay men have similar stories about their fathers. A friend of mine went on a Barbie©-binge when he came out of the closet. Having always been deprived of Miss Golden Pinkness, he built a shrine to her in his adulthood. Barbie©, though, never caught my attention. I just wanted that damn Wonder Woman doll.

Even at that young age, my father had made his disappointment with me known. He fully believed and accepted gender divisions. Both before and after the Wonder Woman doll incident, my father pushed sports and athletics on me as part of “being a man.” Enter Exhibit A: The picture below (by the way, I would later grow up and drive the red car in the background, but that is an entirely different entry):

I just never, ever had an interest in sports. My father, on the other hand, loved every sport. In high school, he played on both the football team and the baseball team. Despite my overt lack of interest, he instituted mandatory hours of sports practice for me (he, btw, wasn’t ever actually present at such practice, he just made sure that I went). Given my already existing disinterest in sports, it's no mystery that those hours in the New Mexico sun built my burning hatred of all things sports related.

During holidays and birthdays, my mother left the shopping for my gifts mostly up to my father. This resulted in many balls, clubs, bats, and I think even a croquet set. All things I rarely wanted or used. My father proved determined to find some sport, any sport, that I wanted to play.

On my fifth Christmas, however, I found that my father had tidily wrapped a Wonder Woman doll and left it for me under the tree. To this day, it still stuns me. It also stands out as one of the happiest Christmases of my childhood.

I loved my Mego Wonder Woman doll. She had quite the adventures, eventually losing her left hand during some super-battle. Of course, after a couple of years, my interests had changed. Wonder Woman got deposited in a toy box and forgotten. By my seventh birthday, I became a capitalist slave to Kenner’s unending Star Wars line of toys. This, though, appeared much more gender appropriate. My father seemed relieved, at least for the time being.

Still, the Wonder Woman doll showed an unusual level of kindness and love from my father that touches me today. We have had a difficult relationship, to say the least. Even though he abhorred the idea of his son playing with a doll, however, he still bought one because he knew that it would make me happy.

Yesterday, my recently-purchased Mego doll arrived in the mail. Seeing the familiar package and revisiting these memories made me feel a bit better.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I Cried a Tear

Recent events aside, tears rarely flow from eyes. Entire calender years have passed where I did not cry once. This is not to say that I did not face unhappiness, obviously. It is just that, under normal day-to-day circumstances, I don’t cry that easily. I am confident that it is some sort of bad, gendered, stilted emotion thing learned during my childhood (therapy probably is required).

So, I began thinking, what does actually bring tears to my eyes? I mean, besides a spouse who stabbed me in the heart by breaking every promise he ever made to me (and that’s going to help my trust issues – yet more therapy. Man, I better find my Employee Benefits Manual to see if I have enough coverage for all of this.).

Beyond that, not many things move me to tears. Here, though, are some guaranteed Kleenex moments for GayProf:

    The Color Purple

    Most times, I feel like Spielberg films try to manipulate me. Saving Private Ryan, for instance, just made me angry. Beyond being historically dubious, I don’t like a film that intentionally elicits an emotional response for some ulterior motive.

    Still, The Color Purple gets me every time. Alice Walker’s novel ranks infinitely superior (worth the read, if you have not), but the film makes me as weepy as a willow. At what point do I get misty eyed? Oh, probably the opening credits when Celie and Nettie are playing in the sunflower field. You just know that the next thirty years of Celie’s life is going to be a living hell. Yet, they are happily playing – with sunflowers! It will be the last joy Celie has for a long, long, long time. Sob.

    Don’t even get me started about the scene where the mean bar women make fun of Celie’s hat. Just when Celie lets these slags make her feel like garbage, Shug sings her a song that she wrote just for Celie. Really sobbing.

    If a tear doesn’t form in your eye during this film, you are a heartless bastard.

    "Brass in Pocket" Video

    Okay, the Pretenders had this little song in the early eighties about “being special” and using all of your unique attributes to attract somebody. That sounds nice, right? It is nice -- until you see the evil video.

    Chrissie Hynde sings this little ditty as she works in a dead-end job as a waitress. Men enter the restaurant, and Hynde tries to show them that there is “no one else there -- no one like her.” She’s special.

    Okay – all is fine, until the men’s girlfriends show up. At the end of the video, Hynde is left singing "Brass in Pocket," but now in an ironic way. She looks mournfully out the window as the happy couples drive away. This poorly made, twenty-year-old video still haunts me. Waitress Hynde deserves some love, people.


    New Mexican pride means I can take the spiciest food out there. I welcome Mexican food that claims to burn holes in your stomach. Green Chile? The hotter, the better. Asian food? Let the chile acid burn-off the flesh from the roof of my mouth. It will grow back, and the spice just helps you digest the food. You would be hard pressed to see me flinch with these types of spices.

    The simple condiment horseradish, however, will require a Bounty super roll to wipe away the tears. Don’t get me wrong, I love horseradish. It affects me, though, in ways that most mortals wouldn’t believe. My parents gave us green chile or other peppers as part of our daily dose of Vitamin C. Yet, they apparently had some type of bizarre anti-condiment agenda. I was sixteen before I even tasted horseradish. Not being used to it, my eyes now water like faucets. If ever I land a recurring role on Guiding Light, just give me a pack of Arby’s horsey sauce. Downing said packet will be all the prep I need for any sad acting that they might require.

    Gym Scale

    When I am overweight, the gym scale brings up much dread and maybe a stray tear. You would think, therefore, now that I have lost much weight, my old nemesis would not bother me.

    Silly reader – GayProf is way too neurotic to enjoy something like that. Now the scale makes me wonder if I have lost muscle mass. Maybe the weight loss occurred in the wrong areas. Ugh – I blame society, man.

    Billie Holiday Songs

    If I am really listening, I mean really listening, Holiday’s angst can elicit a tear. This woman had a hard, miserable life. Her father rarely had anything to do with her. He abandoned Billie and her mother during her early childhood. Wanting to keep the fact that he had children a secret from his numerous girlfriends, her father also discouraged Billie from approaching him if they ever encountered each other on the street.

    By her thirteenth birthday, she became involved in prostitution. Though she gained fame for her startling voice starting in the 1930s, she also became increasingly dependent on drugs. By 1940, heroine and abusive relationships dominated her life.

    Worse still, Diana Ross portrayed Holiday in a film biopic. Though she died long before this film, Holiday probably sensed the bad, bad, things that the Ross movie would represent. No one deserves Diana Ross to play your part in a film. How cruel!

    All of this suffering comes through Holiday’s recordings, particularly the post-war era. Nobody – no, really – NOBODY could sing about pain, suffering, and want like Billie Holiday. Listen and weep.


    Tears of frustration sometimes roll down my face when I look over students’ papers. Many students write excellent papers, and those are a joy to read and grade. It is the students who submit papers with only an hour’s worth of effort that hurt. It isn’t the grammar, which often needs help. It is the total lack of knowledge about the past. As university students in a U.S. history class, they shouldn’t submit papers discussing “slaves’ activities during the 1920s.”

    Okay – how poorly prepared are they if they don’t know that slavery ended in the U.S. around 1865? Hey, I am not even a date-driven history prof. You don’t have to know 1865 – just have an approximation. I would be content with, for instance, a student who knew that slavery stopped sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century.

    No matter how poorly written or how little time students gave to their papers, I have to read all of them. A colleague of mine has a theory that we are only paid because we have to grade. Almost every other aspect of this job we would do for free. Research? Love it. Teaching? It’s grand. Chatting with students? They are most often interesting folk. Grading? I’d rather be branded by the fireplace poker.

    Beautiful Thing

    Coming-out stories dominate almost all queer films and novels in circulation. As a result of their ubiquitousness, coming-out tales usually don’t impress me anymore. Come on queer folk, as a people, can’t we come up with some other genre besides the coming-out tale? Please? We do other things, too, you know.

    Still, the quirky little British film Beautiful Thing results in some tears shed. Two queer boys making their own happiness, despite their poverty and dysfunctional families, taps into something in my emotional makeup. Plus, all of the drama unfolds to Mama Cass recordings!

    2000 Election

    George Bush did not win the 2000 election. No matter which way you slice it, Al Gore had more votes. He had more popular votes nation wide, and he had more votes in Florida. So, why wasn’t he president? I am still not over 2000, even if the public did return Bush to office in 2004 (something else that could make me cry).

    2000 causes many tears for me. It marked such a bad turn for this nation. Go ask Jimmy Carter. He feels what I am laying down.

    Futurama, Episode 4ACV07, “Jurassic Bark”

    First, Fox’s insane decision to cancel Futurama almost brings tears to my eyes, but not quite. Seriously, though, they ax Futurama and give us the sexist garbage The War at Home? Surely this shows that Satan masquerades as Rupert Murdoch.

    “Jurassic Bark,”to bring us back on topic, made me cry like a silly fool. In this episode, Fry discovered that his twentieth-century dog, Seymour, had been petrified for ten centuries. Using zany technology, Fry's nephew, the professor, offers to bring Seymour back to life (more or less). Fry ultimately refuses when he discovers that Seymour lived an additional ten years beyond the time that Fry disappeared. Fry reasoned that the dog had another life beyond him.

    What we discover, though, is that Seymour spent those ten years loyally waiting for Fry to return to him. Man, I get weepy just thinking about that poor little dog waiting day after day for his owner to reunite with him. All he wanted was to share the good times he once knew with Fry. For his part, Fry could have fulfilled the dog’s greatest wish to see him again, but unknowingly cast him aside. -- Excuse me, I have something in my eye. --

I Always Suspected . . .

Based on an on-line quiz (and they are always correct, right?), I scored as Buddhism. The quiz suggests: Your beliefs most closely resemble those of Buddhism. Do more research on Buddhism and possibly consider becoming Buddhist, if you are not already.

In Buddhism, there are Four Noble Truths: (1) Life is suffering. (2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving, attachment, and grasping that result from such ignorance. (3) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance and attachment. (4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and right contemplation. These eight are usually divided into three categories that base the Buddhist faith: morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentration. In Buddhism, there is no hierarchy, nor caste system; the Buddha taught that one's spiritual worth is not based on birth.



















Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Job Search

Many reasons prompt me to think about going on the job market again. My burning hatred of Texas has been high on the list recently. Harsh? Let me remind you which god-forsaken-state that Bushie trashed before he trashed the federal government. Plus, Texas’ current governor, Rick Perry, has suggested that gays find other states to call home because they aren’t welcome here. Consider me a potential Perry-evacuee.

Shaun had been a major reason to stay here. Given this university offered the highly unusual option of academic jobs for both of us, it made staying here more important. So, even with the obvious hostility of my colleagues, I still felt lucky that Shaun and I could build a life together. Shaun breaking off the relationship, though, means all those dreams have fallen flat. I, therefore, have few reasons to remain in Texas.

Shaun’s leaving also raises the unpleasant specter of trying to be a single gay man in this small town. Once my heartache is over (which I am just assuming as a theoretical possibility at this point, btw), I am pretty sure that I won’t want to live life in a solitary void. I love the idea of donning a wimple and black habit, but creating a gay-convent-for-one does not appeal to me. I am not judging (much), but many of the single men who have been here for more than ten years don’t foretell a happy future. The gay pool is simply too shallow to hope to find somebody swimming in town.

"Wait, Gay Prof," you are likely shouting out, "It is too early to be thinking about these issues. You need to heal. We love and worship you, GayProf." Alright, maybe you're not saying that last bit.

You are right, though, it is too early to be thinking about these issues. Believe me, the last thing I am really thinking about is life without Shaun. The problem is, though, that all academic jobs advertise and interview at the exact same time across the nation (starting November through February). So, even though I am wheeling from the impending breakup, I have to decide now if I am going on the market. Practicality verses emotion can be a tough battle for me. Predicting my future has never been my best ability (for instance: failed marriage).

The idea, though, of searching for a new job fills me with grim visions. It is, once again, a reminder of the reality of my ending relationship.

Moreover, my chances of ending up someplace better may not be great. Even if I enter the market (which also puts at risk my current job), there are few guarantees that I could even get another interview, much less a job. For every job posting for general U.S. History, there could be literally hundreds of applications. That number increases if it is a cool university or in a cool city (you may have noticed that the founders of many of the nation’s universities selected backwoods locations for their institutions).

Truth be told, though, despite all my complaining, I also have a pretty good gig in Texas. As I mentioned before, my job doesn’t involve a lot of heavy lifting. For an academic position, it is centered more on research (which I prefer) than teaching (which I like, but not as much as research). I also have a kick-ass office. Seriously, it is a corner office with two windows and as nice a view as possible. I mean, you still have to look at Texas, but it is pretty good.

Few outside the academic world realize how scarce academic jobs like this can be. There are many, many more historians in this country than jobs. Let’s face it, we don’t have the most marketable job skills. After all, when was the last time you said, “If only we knew a historian, all our problems would be solved?” Star Trek, in another example, never had an Emergency Holographic Historian.

So, it is a buyer’s market for historians. I wonder what other people do with their careers.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Say No to Macy's

While New Mexico always holds my heart (the Land of Enchantment, you know), my favorite U.S. city is Chicago. It, therefore, irritates me that Federated Department Stores, Inc. has decided to rename the venerable Marshall Field’s Department Store on State Street. Since 1852, Marshall Field's has been an icon of shopping goodness. The historian in me cries out for preserving the city's past. The gay man in me cries out for the ability to buy Kenneth Cole in a landmark store. Clearly, Federate Department Stores, Inc., has no respect for local icons or history. If we let Marshall Field’s go, what next? Where does the madness end?

Gay Bloggers of the World, Unite! It doesn’t matter if you live in Chicago. If you ever visit Chicago, or think about visiting Chicago, don’t you want Marshall Field’s to be there for you? We all love shopping, even the socialists amongst us, right?. Write to Federated and tell them you will never accept Macy’s on State Street. Flood their on-line e-mail system with angry missives (angry missives falls under the category "Store Experience," fyi). Even if you don’t accept capitalism or hate shopping, it will be your opportunity to harass an evil, faceless corporation. Surely that appeals to you.

Seriously, this isn’t like my usual calls to vote or march for equality. This really, really matters!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Signs I May be Going to the Gym Too Often

My personality has always had an obsessive side. The gym thing, though, surprises me. It’s not that I like going to the gym. On the contrary, one of the main reasons I became an academic was because it didn’t involve a lot of heavy lifting.

Now, though, I might be a wee-bit haunted by the gym. It is the perfect distraction from work/relationship/politics/global unrest. Still, these things suggest maybe I am taking it too damn far:

    Before I walk in the door, I know which clerk will be at the desk based on the day of the week and the time of day.

    I weigh myself at the start, middle, and end of my time there.

    I have a treadmill that I consider mine.

    I know which shower stall is the most used throughout the day (thus, the most dirty) and which is the least used (thus, the most clean). This one also suggests something about my obsessive-compulsive behavior in terms of cleanliness, but that is another blog entry entirely.

    I know how many 45lbs weights my gym owns.

    I can predict, within three days, how long it will take before a new gym member stops coming to the gym.

    My i-pod has music that I will only listen to in the gym and nowhere else.

    Although I have never once attended an aerobics class, I know the routine by heart.

    I can identify which other regulars are at the gym by looking at the cars in the parking lot.

    I notice when they have replaced the belts on the weight machines.

    I see more television at the gym than at home.

    When I have muscle pain, I think it is a good sign.

    I have memorized all the gym’s music play-lists (I prefer the eighties/nineties mix, fyi).

    Work is merely something I do before the gym.

    I can automatically calculate in my head how many calories I have burned based on how long I have been in the gym.

    I show up to the gym at all.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Phantom Minstrelsy

Part of my job description involves thinking about race and racism in the United States. That is until some of my colleagues get their wish and amend my job description to involve cleaning the men’s room. That, though, is a different issue. Or is it?

Regardless, something emerging in certain circles of this nation has left me quite disturbed. Blackface minstrelsy, to my horror, seems poised to make a major come back. My first year at this university, the student newspaper revealed that a dorm had been having annual “ghetto parties.” At these events, mostly white students dressed in black face and “pimp” or “whore” outfits. Not shortly thereafter, the University of Texas acknowledged that fraternities had been holding similar events in Austin. At the time, obviously, I was outraged and horrified that students could be so clueless when it came to issues of racism. Still, I assumed that these events occurred because of the regional-specific history of Texas. This state, after all, has a scarey past (and present) when it comes to race. It is also easier for me to ascribe this type of hate to Texas rather than considering it a systemic problem with the nation.

Signs indicate, however, that these Texans may have been on the front edge of a new minstrelsy wave. Recently, a rather famous blogger’s entry drew my attention to Charles Knipp (a.k.a. Shirley Q. Liquor). Being somewhat out of touch living in Texas, I had not realized that Knipp’s blackface drag show attracted an astounding audience of (mostly white) gay men.

To the best of my ability, I have educated myself on the content and intent of Knipp’s work. Let me offer truth-in-advertising, however. I have not seen Knipp’s live performance, so my estimation is based on his web-page, audio and flash clips, as well as transcripts of his work. It seems unlikely that a live performance would alter my view, but I like to be honest.

Let me pause also for those who might suggest I lack a sense of humor about such things. They are probably right. I do lack a sense of humor about such things. This blog, after all, is called the Center of Gravitas. As such, I am compelled to speak out on these types of issues. I think it is a federal law or something.

I would never, by the way, suggest that Knipp should be censored either. We all know that GayProf worships at the alter of free speech. This entry is not about trying to get Knipp to be quiet. Nor am I looking to toss out blanket accusations of racism to his audience. With those caveats in mind, I want us, instead, to think about what his popularity suggests about the current discourse on race.

Most of the humor in Knipp's sketches involve stereotypes about southern blacks that have existed for centuries. He trades on the image of black women as hypersexual, poor, uneducated, and a burden to society. During his performances, Knipp’s character introduces herself as the mother of nineteen children who collects welfare. Clearly Knipp intends Shirley Q to provoke strong responses from audiences. Some suggest that Knipp’s character exists as a satire of previous minstrelsy characters. Knipp even won an endorsement from RuPaul.

Arguing that Knipp’s performance is parody, I think, gives him too much intellectual credit. When questioned about the potential racism in his act, Knipp retorts that people of color have endorsed his visage. “To be honest,” he reportedly said, “people of colour who have seen my shows live... overwhelmingly tell me how much they enjoyed my accurate portrayal of a certain genre of the gritty, witty Southern women that they fondly remember, no matter what her race.” This last statement alone makes me suspect that Knipp lacks the intellectual nuance for us to consider his performance satire. Instead, he defends his character’s racist stereotypes as “an accurate portrayal.” At a basic level, in other words, Knipp believes his blackface character to be based in reality.

Likewise, his claim that the character could be of any race falls flat. Why? Because he did not make her white (his own racial group). Instead, he made a conscious decision to put on blackface. Likewise, testimony from a couple of real-life African Americans does not negate the problems. It is a serious mistake to presume that people of color can’t also have problematic ideas about race (or even be racist). Finally, Knipp conveniently ignores that the majority of his audiences are white.

Minstrelsy first appeared in the U.S. on the eve of the Civil War. We might expect that blackface shows developed as the sport of slave holders in the South. In reality, however, blackface minstrelsy developed and had its greatest popularity in the nineteenth-century urban North. The white, working-class became the most devout audience members of this form of entertainment.

These white performers “borrowed” black cultural materials for white consumption. Knipp might be surprised to find that his minstrel forefathers also claimed an authenticity to their blackface performances. Stereotypical performances only have currency, after all, if people think that they are true. It might also be news to him that white men often performed blackface drag in these shows. In the nineteenth century, minstrel shows made slavery seem amusing, right, and natural (even fun). U.S. popular culture since that time has constantly returned to minstrelsy whenever discussions of race became heated in the U.S. Films from Birth of a Nation (1919) to Soul Man (1986) had white actors who put on blackface makeup for whites'amusement.

Knipp’s popularity, it seems to me, shows that the nation continues to feel uncomfortable addressing social injustice and racism. Much like the first minstrel shows reenforced slavery as the natural order of things, Knipp and “ghetto parties” legitimate an unfair economic system that links race and poverty. Rather than addressing institutional racism, these types of blackface images simultaneously valorize poverty while also repressing real discussions about the nation’s racist present. The current glamour around "bling" and "ghetto style," for instance, implies that there is something special about being poor in the U.S. There is nothing heroic or interesting about being poor. It only makes you tired and hungry.

Knipp’s performances and popularity bother me most of all because they involve gays. Come on, queer folk, we need to work this out. United as gay brothers and sisters, we should never be enemies.

Much to my dismay, however, many gay men and women still do not take issues of race seriously. While searching for information on this topic, for instance, I found many willing to defend Knipp. Still others see debates about Shirley Q as being unimportant. One has to wonder, though, if these supporters come from a rather comfortable class status. Because these images don’t seem important to them and don’t affect their daily life, they believe racism is not important to the larger gay community either.

Today the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released a report that documents that gay Latino couples face great disadvantages compared to their gay Euro-American peers. Gay Latino couples, for instance, earn less than their white counterparts and are much less likely to be able to own their own homes. It would not be unlikely to find similar reports about African-American gay couples as well.

One of the greatest difficulties facing the queer community, it seems to me, is the chronic indifference of middle and upper class gays to these realities. For many individuals, the nation allows just enough flexibility for middle-class gays to enjoy a fairly comfortable life (myself included, btw). As a result, many of these middle-class gays ignore or, in Knipp’s case, mock the misfortune of others. We can’t take Knipp’s popularity lightly. We have to consider that the reappearance of blackface minstrelsy within the gay community suggests a much greater and complex system of institutional racism.