Tuesday, February 27, 2007

They Don't Know Me

Christian fanatics have a lot of time and money on their hands. Maybe all that self-denial and repression frees up your schedule. Every time I turn around some hateful Christian is running off to court to try and eliminate other people’s rights (Yet, they are also the first ones to claim that they hate “activist judges” and courts that decide social issues).

Where do they find the time? I don’t have a spare moment to contest a parking ticket. Yet these folk spend all day long in court. Don't they have jobs? Who is taking care of that gaggle of kids they keep churning out irresponsibly?

Most recently, a federal judged dismissed a case brought by the mean-spirited David and Tonia Parker and Joseph and Robin Wirthlin. These “parents” sued a Lexington, Massachusetts school because the teacher had the nerve to tell second-grade students that (*gasp*) gay people exist in the world and (horrors!) they have the right to marry in this state. These Christian parents argued that the school infringed on their right to force their children to be hateful monsters. The core of their argument suggests that their children have no rights and must unthinkingly adopt a religious doctrine like their parents. From this Christian perspective, children are their property and should not be allowed exposure to any other viewpoints – or the reality of human diversity.

In particular, the parents got all tied-up over the children’s story King and King. In this fairy-tale, a young prince, under orders to marry, interviews a number of princesses. Ultimately, though, he finds that the person that he loves is another prince.

Well, there was the problem right there. Love? We know how much Christian fanatics hate love. Nothing makes them more angry. Marriage isn't supposed to be about love. Marriage should be as God intended it: unhappy, filled with remorse, and about one person owning another.

It did get me to thinking. Fanatical Christians like the Parkers and Wirthlins must have very little idea about what my personal life is like as a gay man. Gay men and lesbians are just abstractions that they use to avoid thinking about how empty and wasted their own lives are.

They must conjure a very peculiar view of what daily life is like for us queer folk. Here is what I imagine they think that gay men do with our days:

    9:00-10:00 am: Wake up, Urinate on New Testament

    10:00-10:45 am: Seduce unsuspecting heterosexual Christian preachers. That’s what keeps us gay men looking so youthful.

    10:45-11:15 am: Burn down a children’s hospital.

    11:15-11:45 am: Undermine a heterosexual marriage. Our goal is to end civilization as we know it, but we can only do that by undermining one hetero marriage at a time. Eyes on the prize.

    11:45 am-12:45pm: Lunch, consisting of Cottage Cheese and pineapple.

    12:45-1:15 pm: Dress as Cher

    1:15 – 1:30 pm: Infiltrate public schools – Arrange a curriculum that contains almost no information about heterosexuality. Teach children that the only authentic expression of love occurs while wearing a leather mask.

    1:30 – 2:00 pm: Orgy with a Roman theme – Precipitate the collapse of the U.S. Empire

    2:00-2:30 pm: Take a person-to-person call from Satan.

    2:30- 3:30 pm: Compete in the regional softball tournament that pits gay men against lesbians.

    3:30 – 4:00 pm: Go to a local church and replace the holy water with sulfuric acid.

    4:00 - 4:30 pm: Write and produce all of the news and entertainment currently available in the United States – ‘cuz we are so well represented in the mainstream media.

    4:30 – 5:00 pm: Show up in Tim Hardaway’s locker room and just, you know, linger.

    5:00 – 5:30 pm: Canvass the neighborhood passing out informational literature in efforts to recruit people to be gay. Borrow strategies from both Christian missionaries and Avon. Have you heard the word? The good word of man-on-man sweaty action? Now in shimmering Sunset Rose!

    5:30 – 6:00 pm: Break into heterosexuals’ houses in order to redecorate them.

    6:00-6:45pm: Sensible dinner.

    6:45 – 7:15 pm: Go to a local bar and just arm wrestle for half an hour.

    7:15 – 7:30 pm: Style somebody's hair.

    7:30 – 8:15 pm: Sing karaoke.

    8:15 – 9:30 pm: Organize and star in a Broadway Musical

    9:30 – 10:45 pm: Sex with random strangers. I mean, come on, we don’t bother to look at the guy’s face.

    10:45 –12:00 am: Hide under Christians’ beds until they fall asleep.

This must be what the bizarre Christian folk think of my days. That is just so unfair. Really, I can only accomplish 30 or 40 percent of this on any given day. Plus, have you seen the price of sulfuric acid these days? And those Roman orgies don’t just spontaneously happen. There’s a lot of planning that goes into one of those. A Roman orgy isn't a daily event with that level of work. You need to block out a whole weekend for that. Renting that donkey can be a hassle.

Of course, the big thing that separates fanatical Christians from me is that I mostly don’t care about this list. Even the things that the Christians fear most seem like pretty small potatoes. Well, except maybe the hospital thing. Probably burning them with acid would be extreme too – probably.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Video Ga-Ga

Lots of good things have been going on lately. This, though, results is a lack of ideas for my little bloggy. We all know that my secret powers comes from my gravitas. Without that, I am nothing. Well, actually, I am still the most desirable man on the blogosphere – but I am just the most desirable man who has not much to say.

While we wait on that gravitas to return, take a look at some old music videos from the eighties. You know, sometimes I get to thinking about those old videos, and I miss them. Yeah, it’s not particularly original to bemoan the days when MTV actually played videos. When I was a young lad, however, my sisters and I spent hours glued to MTV. We memorized every detail of the original VJ's and created elaborate back-stories for them. We were pretty sure that Martha Quinn was sleeping with everybody. Who knew that she would later marry (in the t.v. world) on the Brady kids? Then MTV had this other woman we always referred to as "Tweety-Bird" because of her blond spiky hair -- Anybody remember her name? Eh

Still, that early eighties witnessed the creation of a stylistic art for music videos. It was not enough to simply get air-time, artists had to create visual entertainment to accompany their song. Many succeeded at this venture, but The Eurythmics and Queen became masters. Each of their videos had a particular tone. Those videos, in turn, became self-referential and mutally reenforcing. One needed to know all (or at least some) of the previous videos for the newer ones to make sense. Annie Lennox created alternate personalities and characters that almost had lives of their own. Freddie Mercury brought every gay iconic image to the small screen: Leather guy, eighties clone, weird-mechanic person. He had them all in his videos.

Some artists still put the same effort in videos (That cute lesbian Eminem comes to mind. She is a lesbian, right?). Where do those videos even get a venue?

Of course, as much as MTV always liked to claim it was avant-garde, it often balked at things that seemed too confrontational. We all remember the Cher-in-a-leather-band-aide verses Madonna-chained-to-the-bed controversy. Many people forget that long before that MTV-created cat-fight, the network policed gender roles with vigor. Two videos, in particular, made the MTV executives very nervous in the eighties: Queen's "I Want to Break Free" and The Eurythmics "Love is a Stranger."

Looking at both again, we can see why they made the suits so squirmy. Both are devoted to drag performances of different types. Yet, they are such absurd and cartoonish takes on gender, they suggest that all gender roles are just learned social performances (Judith Butler must have been a huge MTV fan) with no real root in biology.

Queen recreating the women characters of a popular British soap made the video a big no-no. Well, at least it made it a no-no until 10:00pm. After all, MTV still wanted to make a buck off the video if it could.

Mercury (without shaving his mustache) and the other members of Queen made exaggerated gestures to their female personas. They wore giant wigs, heavy makeup, and skimpy-minis. They all went about their business trapped within the urban domestic space. Mercury did the drudgery of housework while singing about wanting to break free. It's small wonder that Mercury opens a closet door in the middle of the video as the proposed escape from domestic hell. Opening doors, closet doors in particular, figured heavily in Queen's videos... I am just sayin'.

Beyond the closet door, we see all sorts of scenes of sexual freedom. Mercury romps around shirtless. He then rolls across virtually naked bodies of all genders. For Queen, breaking free was about tossing aside the crushing gender expectations of the household and escaping from the closet. Queen dissmised the unwavering conformity of the Reagan-Thatcher era. They suggested that young queers (or queens, if you will) could find happiness and contentment outside of the confinement of the traditional home.

Annie Lennox didn't get any warmer reception from MTV. An oft-repeated story is that Lennox had to provide confirmation that she was biologically female before MTV would accept the "Love is a Stranger" video. She so easily transgressed gender costumes, MTV allegedly became confused about her "actual" gender.

Lennox starts out the video in one of her eighties-personas: the blond bimbo. She gets into the car, mentioned in the song's lyrics, and vamps it up for the camera. As the video moves along, though, she rips off the wig to reveal the artifice of her gender performance. In that one step she moved from hyper-feminine to androgynous (or even masculine).

The rest of the video she tries on all sorts of different gender identities. Each becomes a play-thing and a mask, none any more real than the next. In case we missed the point, the video concludes with Lennox doing the robot dance -- Suggesting that all the previous gender performances had been as mechanical and artificial as any automaton.

None of the videos on MTV made a direct plea for sexual freedom. Yet, some still acknowledged that many people wanted more out of life than the rigid sexual conformity offered by the eighties. They provided a visual representation of things that many of us wanted to do if we had a little more freedom: Rip off the wigs and bust open the closet doors, all to a catchy tune.

Video, someone still loves you.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Meet Me at My Locker

Torn recently had an entry about an encounter with some loud high school students on the metro. Let me tell you, high school was not the best time of my life. Granted, it was better than junior high. Those middle grades (sixth, seventh, and eighth) were my Vietnam. Still, high school was no pleasure cruise. I wasn’t one of those cool gay kids who came out in high school; who then forced the school to recognize his rights by inviting another boy to the prom; and ended by getting a blow job in the back of his dad’s Buick LeSabre. No – I just danced at my prom and marveled at all the decorations that I hung just a few hours earlier. Yep – I was that kid.

Anyway, Torn noted that high school never really ends. We just learn to cover up our behaviors a bit more. Or words to that effect – I was kinda too lazy to find his exact quote. Anyway, it got me to thinking, the social dynamics in the academic world still do run off the same basic principles as high school.

Seemingly we never quite get over our adolescence. Let’s see where high school and life as a professor intersect:

    High School: Who you eat lunch with matters a lot. There is a designated table where the cool people eat lunch.
    Academia: Who you eat lunch with matters a lot. There are no cool people – Our non-coolness foreshadowed our life as professors in the first place.

    High School: Those who drop out are doomed to a life of economic hardship.
    Academia: Those who drop out usually find jobs that pay twice as much.

    High School: Classes are just space-filler for your day. Most of the time is spent daydreaming and ignoring the teachers.
    Academia: Classes are just space-filler for your day. Most of the time is spent daydreaming and lecturing the students.

    High School: Jocks are given undue preferential treatment.
    Academia: Jocks are mythical creatures who exist in some sort of alternate universe.

    High School: Though there is a great deal of illicit sex occurring, nobody is talking about it openly.
    Academia: Though there is a great deal of illicit sex occurring, nobody is talking about it openly.

    High School: Many individuals think that trashing and/or bulling other people is the key to popularity.
    Academia: Many individuals think that trashing and/or dismissing the academic research of other people is the key to career advancement.

    High School: You wonder why your teacher assigned some dry eighteenth-century novel.
    Academia: You wonder why your students are not as excited as you are by that thrilling eighteenth-century novel.

    High School: The principle is in a position with questionable authority. He/She often fears that students will TP his house – again.
    Academia: The dean is in a position with questionable authority. He/She often fears that the faculty will organize a non-violent, safe gathering of interested parties to air grievances – again.

    High School: Teenagers imagine their problems are the most important things in the world.
    Academia: Professors imagine that their research is the most important thing in the world.

    High School: Your peers relentlessly judge you and force you into social conformity.
    Academia: Your peers relentlessly judge you as part of the job description.

    High School: You need a hall pass to pee.
    Academia: You debate the philosophical and social implications about the spaces designated for peeing.

    High School: Social events are sponsored by the school. Many students sneak in liquor to spike the punch.
    Academia: Social events are sponsored by the university. Many faculty won’t come unless they serve liquor.

    High School: Truancy is against the law.
    Academia: Truancy is part of the lifestyle.

    High School: Angst, self-doubt, and social awkwardness mark these formative years.
    Academia: Angst, self-doubt, and social awkwardness are prerequisites for the job.

    High School: Though 99% of students never hold the title, most daydream about being named prom king or queen.
    Academia: Though 99% of professors never hold the title, most daydream about being given a MacArthur Genius Grant.

    High School: Friday night means partying and drinking.
    Academia: Friday night means partying and drinking.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Put on Those Ol'Glory Short-Shorts

Today turned out to be a good day. Sun broke through the grey. Most of the ice has been cleared from the sidewalks. I connected with a friend via IM.

Now that we have passed Valentine’s Day, everything in the world seems so much better. There is something about the end of February where the tide seems to turn and it all rolls my way – at least for a little bit.

During the bleak January, though, there was some good news. In particular, we learned that Joss Whedon had been taken off the Wonder Woman film. Thank the goddess. The last thing we needed was Whedon’s pseudo-feminism or a Buffy knock off.

Now that the project is wide open, let me offer Warner Brothers my thoughts about how to make the Wonder Woman movie a success:

    Hire me to write it.

    Read the first years of Wonder Woman’s comic. When they make a Superman movie, do they go to that dreaded period when he had a fleet of Superman robots? No. They go back to the original stuff. If the comic was a hit the first time around, shouldn’t we pay attention to why?

    Why, you ask, was the original Wonder Woman comic so popular? Sweet, sweet bondage. Yep, it was all about the kink for William Moulton Marston.

    Remember that the Invisible Jet, to be effective, should also make the pilot invisible. In other words, don’t show a crazy looking Diana sitting on nothing and steering an imaginary yoke. She’s a superhero, not a mime.

    She has to wear the bizarre red, white, and blue Playboy-Bunny costume. The outfit makes the character. No outfit, no Wonder Woman. Do we all remember the god-forsaken Cathy Lee Crosby fiasco? No, we don’t. And why? No outfit.

    Wonder Woman first appeared as an intentionally feminist character. Granted, it was a weird, Freudian feminism – but still feminist. Don’t shy away from that message. She should be horrified when she arrives in man’s world. Think of all the things that would prove her mother right about men: Women getting paid 2/3 of men; Women being forced to do the majority of house work; Women not being given equal leadership roles in government; women being named “Tipper.” These would be Wonder Woman's worst nightmare.

    Have Wonder Woman use her magic bracelets to deflect bullets fired by Dick Cheney during a quail hunt.

    Don’t forget Diana Prince. The comic often struggled without the alter-ego. That’s the deal with DC heros. They need their secret identity. You could practically hear the nation squealing with delight when the recent relaunch resurrected Diana Prince. Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t the nation that was squealing. Still, you could hear all comic geeks squealing. Well, okay, maybe not all comic geeks were squealing. Fine – It was me that you heard squealing. We need Diana Prince.

    We can probably dump the magic girdle idea.

    More tiara, less lasso.

    If you have trouble imagining what Paradise Island would be like, sign up for an Olivia Cruise.

    When casting, remember that Diana is 2,468 years old when she enters man’s world. Do you really think that an actress who once starred on the O.C. could muster the gravitas necessary for that type of role? She’s not a teeny-bopper. Remember, it’s Wonder Woman – not that skank Wonder Girl (who we all hate).

    Cast an unknown in the role. It’s going to be hard filling Lynda Carter’s 9 ½ red and white boots. If unknown, nobody will have any preconceived notions.

    Hire me to direct it.

    Don’t forget that the only hero more powerful than Wonder Woman is Superman. She has the power of the whole earth behind her. Keep that in mind: the EARTH.

    Wonder Woman’s villains have been unfairly dismissed. Well, except Egg Fu, who was racist and, well, kinda disturbing. People sure did a lot of drugs in the sixties – and were really racist. Annyway, much can be done with Baroness von Gunther or Dr. Psycho. I also never understood why everybody loves Catwoman, but doesn’t like Cheetah (who appeared just three years after Catwoman in 1943). Really, they are basically the same character. If you can’t find a way to maker Wonder Woman’s villains interesting, you aren’t creative enough to be working on her film.

    If you must cast a known star, consider Selma Hayek. Okay, she doesn’t have blue eyes and might only have a fragmentary and incomplete sense of feminism. Still, beyond that, she had the right body and perfect hair for Wonder Woman.

    Steve Trevor will be the hardest character to make sympathetic. He was always kind of a jerk. My suggestion? Nobody will care if he is has rippling muscles and always runs around without a shirt. Mmm – Dreamy, dreamy Steve Trevor. Do you think Diana loved him for his brains? She was as wise as Athena – I don’t think that she turned to some minor-league flyboy for scintillating conversation.

    Don’t listen to fans like me.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Worst. President. Ever.

Because it’s President’s Day Weekend, Reuters carried a story about little Georgie Bush, Jr. touring the White House. Given how much he vacations, he probably needs a tour just to remember what the place looked like.

On these tours, apparently Bushie fondles priceless artifacts from Abraham Lincoln. He also (allegedly) likes to linger in the Queen’s Bedroom and think about British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. I suppose Bush might as well do these things. It’s the closest that he will ever be to great leadership.

Right now, we are witnessing a man in serious denial about his role in history. Bush told C-SPAN that he thinks historians will be kind to him in the future. “I tell people I'm reading books on George Washington,” he said, “and they're still analyzing his presidency." This statement shocked me. Bush is literate?

Whatever the case, it takes a lot of delusion for a man with such a horrible record on leadership to compare himself to the first president of the United States. I am surprised that George Washington didn’t rise up from the dead just so that he could spit on Bush.

Bush need not wait to hear what historians think of him. Prominent U.S. historian Eric Foner already condemned Bush as the Worst President Ever in a scathing essay. You might ask, “Ever-ever?” Yep, ever.

What about Bush’s “leadership” on September 11? Oh, I don’t think so. Historians will remember that Bush ran away and hid in a bunker on September 11. For most of that dark day, Americans didn’t even see Bush.

Sure, Bush has two more years to go (When will this long, national nightmare end?). Let’s be honest: What could he possibly do that will improve his image in those two years? Unless he starts handing out platinum nuggets to people on the street or puts on a uniform for duty in Iraq, nobody is going to think highly of this man. In the unlikely scenario that the Iraq (and Afghanistan) conflict(s) find resolution, he still seriously bungled those wars from the start. Everybody is going to remember Bush as a man who should never have been president.

Still, it makes one wonder: Who is Bushie competing with when it comes to the title of Worst President Ever? On Presidents Day, we tend to only talk about the great ones – or at least the sort-of-okay ones. Everybody can think about the traits of people like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR. Those are the “gimmies.”

This nation, though, has had a whole stable full of mediocre presidents. Can anybody that you find on the street name an accomplishment of Calvin Coolidge (without using Google)? Do they remember why James Garfield was shot? Do they even know he was shot? Or that he was President?

With these lackluster folk, naming the worst is a lot harder than you might think. Nixon doesn’t even end up at the bottom of that list. Nope, that sweaty, paranoid, lying fool fares at about the middle of the list. This should tell you something about the caliber of some of the men who have been in the White House.

So, with such a list, how bad does Bushie have to be to find himself declared the all-time suckiest? Well, Bush’s stumbling into the White House should earn the gratitude of three dead Presidents: Warren Harding, Andrew Johnson (who, btw, would be my choice for worst), and James Buchanan. Bush’s presidency redeemed them from being known as the worst.

Warren G. Harding’s ghost was probably already grateful for Bush. With Bush’s intellectual void, no longer would Harding be considered the dumbest President (though Ronald Reagan’s simple-minded view of the world always put up a strong contest as well).

Harding and Bush share a lot of parallels. They both became President because of other men’s ambitions and political connections. Both administrations became synonymous with corruption and greed. Like Bush, Harding never really wanted to do all that much work. Instead, he spent his time playing golf, gambling, and inviting his mistress, Nan Britton, to the White House for sex (What? You thought Bill Clinton invented the blow job?).

Since Harding was neither smart nor in control, the rest of his administration made a fortune through crooked deals. Most famously, Harding’s Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, accepted bribes from oil companies so that they could have access to government petroleum reserves (And we historians say that history doesn’t repeat itself).

Why is Harding better than Bush? Harding at least had the brains to realize that he didn’t have the brains to be president. Instead of bluffing, Harding admitted, “I am not fit for this office and should never have been here." Oh, how great it would be to hear those words from Bush – Like tomorrow, when he and Cheney resign.

Other than Harding, we have to go all the way back to the Civil War to find the other two contenders for worst president ever. Yep, not since the nation split into two have we had a worse president than Bush.

Ever wonder how Lincoln attained such god-like status? Well, it helped that both men who came before and after him were either useless or evil (or both). James Buchanan was vain and irresponsible. (As a side note, he is also the first “bachelor” ever elected to the Presidency. It doesn’t do my queer heart any good, but it does seem that Buchanan liked to – How to phrase this? Oh, right – Live and sleep with William Rufus King for fifteen years (What? You thought Bill Clinton invented the blow job?). Andrew Johnson referred to Buchanan as “Miss Nancy” and also King’s “Better Half.”)

Buchanan did nothing productive in four years. Maybe he was just mourning because King had died a few years earlier. He started his administration by basically endorsing the Dred Scott decision before the Supreme Court even handed it down. He ended his administration by refusing to do anything to stop southern slave states from seceding. Hey – There’s a model of greatness: Indifference and Inaction.

Why is Buchanan better than Bush? Buchanan, though very misguided and generally incompetent, didn’t actively try to make the situation worse. In simply doing nothing, Buchanan still ends up better than Bush’s unwavering insistence that the nation follow his march to war(s).

Bush’s stiffest competition is Andrew Johnson, probably one of the most hateful men to ever be in the White House (though Ronald Reagan’s callous indifference to human suffering...). As president, Johnson worked to undermine Reconstruction, permitted members of the white elite to retain their authority in the South, and side-tracked the nation from its goal of ensuring equal rights to all citizens. Although Johnson disliked plantation owners, it turned out that he hated African Americans more. When he met with Frederick Douglass in 1866, Johnson declared, “Those damned sons of bitches thought they had me in a trap! I know that damned Douglass; he just like any nigger, and he would sooner cut a white man’s throat than not.” Johnson was racist and crazy.

That bizarre mess of a man stumbled into the presidency by accident. He had been the only Southern Senator to stay at his post after secession. Lincoln, not really planning on being shot, decided to make him his Vice-Presidential candidate in 1864 as a political gesture. After all, what does the vice-president do anyway?

Why is Johnson better than Bush? Uh – Actually, I am not sure that he was. Can we call it a tie?

So, these are the folk that Bush now jockeys against for his position in history: A drunken idiot, a vain coward, and a racist maniac. Hmm – It almost seems like this could be some sort of Sartre play where we find these four men locked for all eternity in a hotel room together.

For Bush, hell is other presidents.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Come Out -- Win a Million Dollars

John Amaechi’s public identification as gay created a tiny amount of interest. The former NBA center reminded the public that homophobia still runs rampant in professional sports. My solution would be to eliminate all professional sports, but, alas, this doesn’t look likely. Damn it.

To almost no queer people’s surprise (but many straight people’s disbelief), another former NBA player, Tim Hardaway, went on the radio to proudly declare his homophobia days after the Amaechi announcement. Hardaway spent much of the interview giving lengthy speculation on what it would mean to have a gay man in the locker room with him (a topic that he seems to have given a great deal of thought). After that, he put the issue in simple terms, “Well, you know I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States. So yeah, I don't like it.''

Gee, I just can’t imagine why so many athletes wait until after they retire to come out of the closet (which, btw, I think is wrong – Being out is still the easiest and best strategy to obtain equality for queer folk regardless if you are in the NBA or the PTA – but that’s not the issue today). Personally, I think Hardaway harbors resentment that he has a last name well suited for a gay porn star. While we can work out his psychology later, his comments were not unexpected given the homophobic climate in professional sports.

The other responses, though, that interested me much more were the sports commentators or coaches who dismissed Amaechi’s outing as a means to make a buck. In fairness, Amaechi did reveal his queer desires at the same time that he introduced his autobiography. One commentator for Deseret Morning News called Amaechi’s story of being gay “boring.” “If he is looking for publicity for his book and a big payday by outing himself — and he is,” the columnist wrote, “he's going to have to do better than that.” In a similar vein, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, suggested that coming out could result in cash and prizes for NBA players. “From a marketing perspective, if you're a player who happens to be gay and you want to be incredibly rich,”Cuban told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “then you should come out, because it would be the best thing that ever happened to you from a marketing and an endorsement perspective.”

While I thought these suggestions a bit strange, I really didn’t pay much more attention. Then I happened to be in a conversation about academic job-searches. Several heterosexual professors put forward the notion that being queer helps one get an academic job these days. They argued that departments look for “diversity” and, therefore, are eager to hire gay men and lesbians. This left me a bit mute for a moment.

When did it become possible to imagine coming out as a savvy financial strategy? Yes, I understand that a few queer people have linked coming out to their less-than-noble personal agendas. Jim McGreevy, for instance, declared himself a “gay American” in order to occlude a deeper look into his skivvy political dealings. Likewise, Amaechi’s revelation did conveniently coincide with his book appearing at a Barnes and Noble near you. Overall, though, these are fantastical situations and don’t at all reflect the reality of day-to-day life. Nor do they address the real struggles that many queer people face in being out at work.

I found the academic context more troubling because, well, we are supposed to know better. I can agree that one’s ability to be out in the academic world has improved dramatically even in my short career. At best, though, I would say that one’s sexuality during an interview process is a non-issue. To suggest that being queer gives special advantage either inside or outside the academic world is naïve. It also suggests that queer issues are being conflated with the equally misunderstood notions of affirmative action (It’s not about quotas – but that is an issue for another day).

Gay men, particularly white gay men, are not, and have not been, an under-represented group in the academic world. In proportion to their numbers in the general population, they have attained work as professors (Unlike (gay or straight) Latinos, African Americans, or women, who still don’t have parity with their numbers in the broader society). The issue that has been most salient for queer professors, therefore, has not been attaining work, but keeping it. The academic closet, like the professional athletic closet, allowed queer people to work as long as they kept their sexual desires a secret.

It was only through the willingness of certain queer professors in the past (and present) to be out that changed the climate in the academic world. They had the strange idea that it would be nice if their departments treated them like colleagues rather than something to fear.

In a peculiar turn of events, some have construed queer efforts at creating a fair working place as opportunistic ploys. The presumption that being queer will land one a job for reasons other than their academic research is a dangerous (and wrong) one.

What is particularly disturbing about the linking of being out with gold-digger aspirations is that it is coming from people who imagine themselves as our allies. These are not the hateful Hardaway’s of the world. On the contrary, they intend no harm to us at all.

Unknowingly, though, these types of arguments create an impossible situation for queers. It undercuts the political purpose of being out. Rather than being out as a means to create a safe environment for themselves and other queer people, being out has been remade (by a few straight people) to be all about self-interest. Anybody who comes out, therefore, must only be looking to advance their career or make some quick money. The logical outcome would be, therefore, if one wanted to “prove” their merits, they should stay closeted.

That’s the paradox: Any acknowledgment of our difference from the majority is viewed with suspicion and discounted as just a form of “selfishness.” Yet, without acknowledging the differences, we are not being treated (or treating ourselves) like we are equals with the majority.

This line of thinking also presumes that being out is no longer necessary. Many people claim that one’s sexuality “just doesn’t matter any more.” That is far from true. Rather than consistently being trumpeted as a “hot commodity” or a “lucky hire,” queer professors, especially those who work on queer topics, are often marginalized or made to feel unwelcome (At my home institution in Texas, I once had some senior colleagues making homophobic jokes outside my office door (just as an example)). Even in Boston (a city with explicit civil guarantees for queer people) I have encountered professors who don't feel comfortable being out in their departments.

Claiming that Armaechi’s sexuality is “boring” or just a means for a “big pay-day” becomes a means to ignore his valid complaints about homophobia in the NBA. Such comments pretend that sexuality is not a defining element of our society that structures our sense of ourselves.

Unless, of course, I have been misinformed. If being out really does have some huge pay-day associated with it, then my check must have been lost in the mail.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


My least favorite holiday is upon us: Valentine’s Day. Since I was a young child, this day has just never gone my way. When I was in school, we had to exchange Valentine’s Day cards. It was a court-order or Congressional edict or something. In third grade, my fellow students made fun of my Valentine’s day cards because of my poor handwriting and spelling skills (Which, in truth, were really quite poor). It made me cry. Since that day, my experiences on February 14 have basically gone downhill.

High School was even worse. Student organizations sold carnations as a scam oblique measure of popularity fund raiser. Basically, you paid $1 to send a red carnation to somebody you lusted after liked romantically or a white carnation to “just a friend.” Oh, I got lots of white carnations from the many girls around me. Did I ever get the red carnation from Mario Pacheco that I longed for? No. Stupid Valentine’s Day and secret-unfulfilled-high-school crushes from before I even came out of the closet.

Apparently I am not alone in my bad feelings towards V-Day, either. According to many polls, a simple majority of people are in favor of eliminating Valentine’s Day altogether. What other holiday has that? Some people might not like the commercialism in Christmas, but you will never get 51 percent to say that they don’t want all those presents. When was the last time you heard somebody suggest not celebrating New Year’s? “No, man,” they would say, “I liked 2006 too much. Let’s just keep that clock from rolling over. Tonight we’re gonna party like this night is not fundamentally different from any other night.”

Yet, more people dislike or are indifferent to Valentine’s Day than want to celebrate it. Are we all such slaves to commercialism that we just won’t let it go?

Today (February 13), I saw an ad for an on-line dating service that said “Alone? It’s not too late to find that special someone for Valentine’s Day.” Hey – That sounds like a healthy relationship in the making. Nothing like two people being made to feel like losers so that they will desperately cling to each other. Why not follow up this advertising genius with other ads that will result in equally dysfunctional relationships. How about: “Low Self Esteem? He’s not too married for you to start your own relationship with him.” Or, “Emotionally Stunted? Somebody just like your mother is out there – Find them on-line now.”

The reason people don’t like Valentine’s Day is that it never turns out like it’s supposed to turn out. If you are in a relationship(s), the pressure is simply too high. Everything feels contrived and artificial. If you aren’t in a relationship, a pink and white army emerges to tell you that you suck at every turn.

Well, screw all that. Being single on Valentine's Day won't prompt me to open a bottle of wine and drink alone. Nope - No wine for GayProf, cuz wine can't compare with vodka.

In the meantime, I have created a list of activities that are distinctly anti-Valentine’s Day:

    Contemplate the necessary economic conditions that would result in Hallmark’s financial collapse.

    Compose an essay outlining how Valentine’s Day is a hetero-sexist institution that enforces gender and sexual conformity. Print and distribute it on pink paper as an ironic statement.

    Listen to the commentary on That Girl DVD’s. Wonder how Marlo Thomas can have only the sketchiest memory of the show’s plot-lines, development, or fellow actors, but can remember every single outfit that she wore and where she acquired it.

    Marvel at the time it takes to mend a heart once it breaks.

    Bake some cookies.

    Get baked.

    Undermine heterosexual marriages simply by existing. It’s what we queer folk do – as a people.

    Consider what it means (if anything) that the fictional character that you have most related to in the past few years is the suicidal gay Proust scholar in Little Miss Sunshine. Well, that character and Helen Mirren’s Queen. Yeah, it’s a real mystery why I don’t have a date tonight. **Sigh.**

    While thinking about Little Miss Sunshine, debate via text-message with a sassy friend whether the film is a repudiation of Nietzsche’s philosophies in favor of Proust or if the film seeks to reconcile these two figures (Actually, I already had this conversation via txt-msg. I am not sure that I have an answer. After all, I am no suicidal gay Proust/Nietzche scholar. Let me tell you, though, it takes forever to spell out Thus Spoke Zarathustra when you only have a standard 12-button pad on your cell phone. -– What?)

    Get laid.

    Wonder if getting a Pharaoh hound would be worth the hassle of their in-bred genetic problems simply so that you could have a dog that looked like the Egyptian god Anubis.

    Plot revenge on all of those snot-nosed third-grade bastards. Be sure that it involves a Carrie-like finale where you use your strange mental powers to make them pay.

    Develop strange mental powers

    Send hate mail to the pope – again.

    Convince yourself that writing an anti-Valentine's Day screed does not at all mean that you are bitter.

    Watch gay porn.

    Make gay porn.

    Ponder if drinking liquor after eating a container of yogurt kills the L. Acidophilus and B. Bifidus cultures, thus negating the benefits of eating the yogurt in the first place.

    Submit a proposal to Logo Network for you to star in the all-gay-male remake of Charlie’s Angels.

    Consider turning your blog into one long and continuous personal ad.

    Stage a production of the Vagina Monologues.

    Watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch and savor the bitterness.

    Refuse to be impressed by any Democratic presidential candidate who “just can’t support gay marriage because of their religious beliefs.”

    Finally, my annual favorite: Crush up Xanax into a bowl of ice cream and go to bed early.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Child's Play

There’s something about memories. When we tug at one little string we suddenly find we have unwound a whole hidden skein that we didn’t know existed. My last entry, intended as toss-away nostalgia about toys, made me think more deeply about childhood play. Like Dolly Parton, I go wandering through the seasons of my youth once again.

In our society, child’s play is heavily gendered. Indeed, it seems that all of us have key memories about when we “learned” what was imagined proper to our biological sex. Young girls sometimes find their interests in trucks or building sets redirected to dolls or domestic toys. Adults tell boys who take an interest in dolls or cooking equipment that they should refocus their energies on sports or feats of engineering.

In truth, all children, regardless of their future adult-sexualities, usually experiment with different gender performances. Part of coming of age for everybody is trying out the different options available in society to see how they “fit.” Such play is not at all “predictive” of later sexual or gender identities. Perhaps, though, many (not all) who later claim an adult queer identity linger longer in this play.

From a lot of the gay men that I have known, stories about toys and play are often important moments in our autobiographies and how we later understood our adult queer identities. Many (not all) point to a moment when their parents repudiated their desire for a baby doll or a toy mixer as a defining incident in their life.

Because ideas about gender and sexuality are so intertwined in our society, those toy choices perhaps appeared doubly threatening. Or maybe because these parents already suspected their children might have queer desires, they became even more eager to police a strict gender dichotomy. In my own case, I can certainly say that it was true.

Yes, I am going to talk about Mego Wonder Woman again. Hey – You came to a blog where the author has chosen Wonder Woman as his personal avatar. What other topics do you think we are going to discuss? That twelve inches of plastic would be critically formative in my life at age five – and again at age nineteen.

As we know, my father greatly disliked the notion of boys playing with dolls. As a counter, he spent much of his time trying to force sporting activities on me. I hated (and still hate) almost all sports. In his mind, this lack of athletic inclination signaled a dangerous failure to adopt proper masculine traits.

My mother, in contrast, provided a loving refuge. While she didn’t ever contradict my father’s ambitions, she never really enforced his edicts either. In my young mind, the two parents represented polar opposites: safety and danger; compassion and severity; comfort and hurt.

As a result, I simply learned to avoid my father as much as possible – especially when he was drinking. He was always vigilantly watching for some type of effeminacy that he could crush out. Such was childhood.

Thinking about toys got me thinking about a particular night, though, that I hadn’t thought about in a very, very long time. While the story of my father relenting and buying my Mego Wonder Woman doll is now CoG lore, the story didn’t really end there. Sequels, after all, bring in the bigger net profits.

My parents took me along to various dinner parties. It wasn’t that unusual as their friends also had children. Most times, though, my parents’ friends had children who didn’t go to my school or weren’t quite the same age. Being on the shy side, I didn’t always bond and scamper off into a play zone. Besides, even when really young, I wanted to know what happened with the adults.

On this particular evening, we were at a house with people unknown to me. They had two daughters who appeared just a little too intrigued to have a boy in their house. Shortly after our arrival, the children were sent off to play while the adults gathered in the kitchen. I didn’t find the girls' proposed activities interesting (Doctor? Why would I want to pretend to be sick? Boring.), so I headed back to the real action. The house, I remember, had lots of macrame and dimly lit amber light fixtures. It also had an unusually wide hallway where I could settle and look into the kitchen unnoticed by the adults.

Our hostess engaged in some mindless chatter that filled the room. Somehow, the conversation turned to her daughters (I have no idea of their names) “The girls were just adamant about getting a Wonder Woman doll,” she said with a giggle, turning to my mother, “Have you seen those dolls? She looks just like the woman on t.v.” From my peculiar perch, I could see my mother briefly knit her brows and blush just slightly – It was barely recognizable as blushing. She then responded, “Um – No.”

She . . .lied.

It was just a split-second. Nothing profound had occurred to the other people in the kitchen. The hostess continued to babble, totally unaware that she had just been deceived. I lost interest in the rest of the conversation. My little brain puzzled out what I had just witnessed.

I had begged and pleaded for the Wonder Woman doll for months before the Christmas that I got her. Some of the most dramatic tantrums of my life had been orchestrated in order to obtain that doll. Trust me – There were times when I turned our living room into the stage of a Verdi opera as I lamented my sorrow of not having Wonder Woman.

After I got her for Christmas, I played with Wonder Woman all the time. My mother knew the Mego Wonder Woman doll well. Everybody in our house knew about Mego Wonder Woman. Yet, when asked directly about it, my mother lied.

Even at that age, we have an amazing ability to piece things together and analyze their meaning. The only reason that she would say that she didn’t know about the doll, I quickly deduced, was because she was embarrassed to admit that her son had one. My mother was embarrassed by me.

All of the forced sports and chiding by my father could not have been more heartbreaking to me than that single, seemingly inconsequential, moment from my mother. My father, in my mind, was discountable because he was simply mean to me most of the time that he was around. His brutality did little to make his vantage point seem worthwhile. I wanted, though, to please my mother. She didn’t act out of malice. She wasn’t looking to hurt or harass me – She didn’t even know I was privy to the conversation. Yet, she felt ashamed of me and my doll.

I might disappoint the anticipated direction of this tale. This night wasn’t a critical moment when I suddenly stopped playing with Mego Wonder Woman. Don’t conjure an image of a distraught queer youth who went home and burned all his girl-toys in an effort to claim his manhood. I liked Wonder Woman’s fully-rooted eyelashes too much to go for such theatrics.

Still, I think these smaller incidents tell us a lot more about how we come to understand gender and sexuality. I hadn’t thought about that dinner party in a very long time. Yet, it was a small pain hidden in the back of my mind that I did carry around with me.

In a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible ways, the young queer me was told that something just wasn’t quite right. Sure, there were the big and dramatic confrontations over sports. Yet, there are other ways that gender and sexuality is policed. Much of the time, it isn't even in a direct way.

Little boys who "act gay" are seen as needing to be “straightened out.” It is difficult for young queer boys not to see that they are different and to imagine that difference as a horrible secret. My preferences and interests couldn’t be discussed without embarrassment. They needed to be hidden and tucked away in the [toy] closet.

Even today, some people (including some gay men) expect me to be embarrassed about having played with dolls with I was a little boy. During much of my adolescence, I was. Mego Wonder Woman, in particular, was a secret that I intentionally kept from my teenage friends. Now, though, I think both my ownership of the doll and its many responses are informative. In the end, I simply liked playing with Wonder Woman.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Come Play With Me

Mattel’s recent decision to recall their Easy-Bake Oven got me to thinking about toys. I love toys. No, I am not crazy and spending my days playing with toys in my office – Uh, for the most part. Still, toys always fascinated me.

My childhood lacked many things (e.g. a sense of security) but toys was not one of them. Those who have been with CoG since the beginning, or those who diligently read the archives (which I am sure includes all of you), know the story of my Mego Wonder Woman doll. After her, though, I became a small baron with Kenner Star Wars toys.

Tie Fighter? Oh, yeah. Millennium Falcon? Who didn’t have one? X-Wing? Small potatoes. I had Darth Vadar’s Star Destroyer (with his special meditation chamber), the Imperial Shuttle, and the Hoth Battle Set. Let me tell you, I had some serious toys.

An Easy-Bake Oven, however, didn’t make the list. Actually, I don’t really remember wanting one nor did my sisters have one (or seemingly want one either). Probably my interest in that particular toy never piqued because the friends that I knew who did have one only succeeded in making chocolate flavored rocks.

Being a greedy bitch, I was never satisfied with what I had. So, instead of talking about the many, many, many great toys that I did have, let me mention some of those fabulous seventies/early eighties toys that I never quite got, but always wanted.


    While I had an Etch-A-Sketch, I never had my own Lite-Brite. The cheerful box, lightbulb, and non-toxic colored pegs alluded me. Come to think of it, given how hot the bulb got, I am not sure there was much difference between a Lite-Brite and an Easy-Bake Oven except the lack of a door to put cakes through.

    Anyway, my second grade classroom had a Lite-Brite. Which does make me wonder, are these things educational? It seems like the teacher dragged it out whenever she got bored with us. Eh – Probably they develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. At least that seems to be what we say for toys that don’t appear to have any other redeeming educational value. It’s always about the “hand-eye coordination” and “fine motor skills.”

    Sharing a Lite-Brite with my fellow students, however, just wasn’t satisfying. First off, all of the templates had been used so many times that you couldn’t tell what picture you were trying to make. Plus, the students who had not yet developed their fine motor skills simply shoved pegs wherever they wanted. They didn’t even pay attention to which color they were using. Animals. They didn’t please my budding aesthetic eye.

Barbie’s Bubbling Spa Set

    Now, let me say up-front that I have no trouble telling you that I played with dolls (and liked it!) as a little boy. Once again, I point to Mego Wonder Woman (I think I am going to be buried with that doll). Moreover, I often would sneak into my sisters’ room and play with their Charlie’s Angels dolls. We also haven't even gotten into my Sea Wee.

    So you will know that I am being fairly honest when I say that Barbie-brand dolls never quite captured my imagination. Barbie was just a lot of blonde coming at me. For whatever reason, I had an early preference for people with dark hair. Come to think of it, I am not sure that I even knew any blonde people as a child.

    Yet, Saturday morning television presented the ultimate Barbie accessory that just felt so right to my young mind: The Barbie Bubbling Spa.

    It was a SPA for a doll! Genius! My sister’s Charlie’s Angels dolls, for instance, could be deployed to reenact the episode where Kris got naked to question that suspect in the hot-tub. In retrospect, why were my parents letting me watch that show?

    Anyway, the Barbie Spa came with a little airpump that made the water “bubble.” Probably this broke instantly, but I didn’t care. It was a SPA for a DOLL!

    I imagined many, many hours of fun with the Barbie Bubbling Spa. If I only I had this toy as child, maybe bathhouses wouldn’t seem so interesting to me today.

Jiffy-Pop Popcorn

    Okay, so this wasn’t technically a toy. Still, Jiffy-Pop felt like a hell-of-a-lot more fun than my parents’ method of making popcorn. They dragged out a heavy cast-iron pan, which weighed more than I did, sloshed in some corn oil, and waited until the corn stopped popping. That wasn’t fun – That was cooking.

    Later they got one of those air-poppers that was as quiet as 757 in a wind-tunnel. Since it eliminated the oil, the popcorn had no fat – and no flavor.

    Jiffy-Pop looked more like a science experiment than a means to obtain a snack. The expanding cone of tinfoil promised unknown surprises.

    Given that I don’t have a microwave (it’s a long story (short version: Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies) is a greedy, self-centered asshole)), I now buy the jiffy-pop as an adult. You know what? It’s still just cooking.

Mego Star Trek Bridge Gift Set

    Mego really produced the best seventies toys. Why did that company go bankrupt? Not only did they make Wonder Woman, but I had many of their other Superhero dolls as well: Captain America, Spiderman, Batman, Evel Knievel. Actually, that last one wasn’t really a superhero. Come to think of it, that doll might have been made by Ideal, not Mego. Anyway, you get my point.

    I was just a few years too young, though, to feel the full affects of Mego's Star Trek blitz. By the time I got interested in Star Trek, I only obtained a Captain Kirk Mego doll. Legends abounded, though, that just a few years earlier there had been a whole model of the entire Enterprise bridge, which came with the entire crew!

    It turns out, the Mego Bridge set was really just a plastic doll case with a couple of bar stools and some cardboard cutouts. Mego did try to make a “transporter,” but it was only a cone with a spinning geometric pattern. Huh – No wonder that company went bankrupt.

Play-Doh Fuzzy-Pumper Barber Shop

    If only my parents had indulged me maybe I could have been a hair-stylist to the stars. Or maybe that’s why they resisted the idea. Whatever the case, I never got the Play-Doh Fuzzy-Pumper Barber shop. Instead, I got the Play-Doh Fast-Food Restaurant. Hmmm – Maybe my parents just had low expectations of me.

    If you don’t remember the Play-Doh Fuzzy-Pumper Barber Shop toy, basically it involved a "chair" that shoved pumped play-doh out of the heads of some plastic people. You were then supposed to cut and style it. Come to think of it, that is a pretty queer notion for a toy clearly marketed to boys.

Big Jim and the Big Jim Camper

    The seventies were a time of war and war protest. Conscientious parents decided that they didn’t want to raise a generation of children geared toward violence. As a result, G.I. Joe fell out of favor.

    As an alternative, Mattell launched the Big Jim line. Jim, you see, didn’t carry guns or fight in unwinnable wars in former French colonies. No, no. Jim spent his days working his muscles at, I can only assume, the Y.M.C.A. and trying on different colors of short-shorts.

    Every Jim figure had a button on his back that, when pressed, allowed him to flex his arm and show off his bulging muscles to his friends, like Big Josh.

    The most coveted item in the Big-Jim line was the Big-Jim Adventure Camper. Yes, with the Camper, Big Jim and Big Josh could get out in the wild together – just the two of them.

    While in the woods, where they went together – alone, they could do all sorts of manly activities. Big Jim could go fishing, for instance. After he brought a couple of trout back to camp, Big Josh could cook a nice meal for the two of them. They could talk about nature while they ate, without their shirts on.

    Afterwards, they could go swimming together. Heck – Given that there weren’t any girls around (actually, there weren't any women in the entire Big Jim universe), Big Jim and Big Josh wouldn’t need to wear swimming trunks. It was just a couple of guys – you know, doing guy things together – alone – in the woods – and naked.

    Well, you get the general idea why I wanted the Big Jim Camper. Sigh – So young, yet so pervvy.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Which One Are You?

Boston has become quite chilly. Though the wind is bitter, I just have to think about the alternative of sweltering. It makes me much happier to be in a cold climate for part of the year than a steamy-hot climate for the majority of the year. Of course, my anti-lotion stance has resulted in my hands cracking and bleeding.

Spending all this time in the indoors leaves me with lots of opportunities to think about the academic world. I have come to the conclusion that there are basically only eight different types of professors that you will encounter. Yeah, there’s some idiosyncrasies and individuality. Overall, though, there really are just a basic eight.


    Image of Self: ColleagueProf feels like part of a larger network of like-minded researchers. They believe that each member of that community should assist others to reach their goals. All research, regardless of field, is valuable to ColleagueProf as long it is well done

    The Truth: ColeagueProf is often overly modest about his or her accomplishments. Their own career has shown them to be some of the strongest and most productive members of the department or sub-discipline. ColleagueProf often naïvely believes that everybody in the department/sub-discipline really wants to be as fair as they are.

    They Spend Their Time: Working like a dog. They serve on a ton of committees, make sure their friends receive attention, teach challenging courses, and still get their own research done.

    When They Ask About Your Work: They are genuinely interested and eager to help.

    Achilles Heel: They get overextended.

    They Dislike: People who don’t pull their fair share or who discredit research without bothering to learn the details of the work.


    Image of Self: They are the only ones smart and experienced enough to know which grad students or junior faculty should move up in the ranks. Every aspect of scholarship needs their rigorous reading to ensure its quality. Most people, they argue, are “just not cut-out” to be a professor.

    The Truth: They are the least qualified people to determine which grad students or junior faculty should move up in the ranks. Their own scholarship, the little that exists, was long ago discounted by the discipline in general. They really aren’t cut-out to be a professor.

    They Spend Their Time: Searching the hallways for somebody on whom they can assert their authority. Also, harvesting souls.

    When They Ask About Your Work: They are really reminding you that your future is in their hands. If they dislike you/your sub-discipline, be prepared to listen to a forty-minute lecture about how your career will never advance – ever.

    Achilles Heel: Almost all grad students and junior faculty will surpass their level of productivity.

    They Dislike: People different than themselves.


    Image of Self: Without them, the academic world would stop existing.

    The Truth: They did produce some critically important research – twenty years ago.

    They Spend Their Time: reading the glowing reviews of their first book – out-loud – during department meetings.

    When They Ask About Your Work: Uh – They never ask about your work.

    Achilles Heel: A well positioned mirror will mesmerize them for hours.

    They Dislike: People who don’t kiss their ring.


    Image of Self: The academic world has misunderstood their important contributions. Their department/sub-discipline doesn’t support them like they should. Other people get “special-treatment” they never had.

    The Truth: Their department and/or sub-discipline is eager to support them, but BitterProf would actually need to do something first.

    They Spend Their Time: Being bitter.

    When They Ask About Your Work: They can’t wait until you stop talking so they can launch into a sob story about their own career disappointments.

    Achilles Heel: They are their own worst enemy.

    They Dislike: Everybody.


    Image of Self: Tired – So, tired.

    The Truth: They have been a professor longer than most people live. In that time, they accomplished a great deal.

    They Spend Their Time: Being glad that they finally retired.

    When They Ask About Your Work: They wonder how somebody “so young” could have a Ph.D.

    Achilles Heel: Calcium deficiencies.

    They Dislike: People who treat them like they died.


    Image of Self: Thinks that their scholarship makes them sexy.

    The Truth: They have the sex appeal of a toilet brush.

    They Spend Their Time: Propositioning grad students and/or junior faculty. Wondering when giant gold chains are going to come back into style.

    When They Ask About Your Work: They are expecting that you will be so glad they asked that you will take your clothes off right then and there.

    Achilles Heel: Finding out that Enzyte does nothing to naturally enhance their manhood.

    They Dislike: People who sue them for sexual harassment.


    Image of Self: Uses a complicated and specific language that shows the sophistication of their thinking.

    The Truth: They are smart people, but nobody will ever be able to understand their work because they refuse to be concise.

    They Spend Their Time: Inventing words.

    When They Ask About Your Work: You don’t understand the question.

    Achilles Heel: Encountering somebody who also knows the jargon and, after cutting deep into the icing, finds a half-baked cake.

    They Dislike: Anybody who does not have a Ph.D.


    Image of Self: Most desirable man on the blogosphere.

    The Truth: Well, obviously it’s true that GayProf is the most desirable man on the blogosphere.

    The reality, though, is that GayProf has some traits from each of the above professors as well, both good and bad. I only mock what is true about me at some level.

    Or I am suffering from multiple personality disorder – Whatever.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

I Earn Frequent-Flyer Miles

I have returned to Boston again. Traveling so much in a short period leaves me tired. Of course, it doesn't help that I think that the airlines are basically evil.

Now, I am not one of those people who romanticizes air-travel in the past. You know the folk who remember when “flying was fun.” When was that? You mean when Orville and Wilbur were your pilots? Flying has always been stressful. I think mostly because humans aren’t supposed to be in the sky.

That aside, the airline companies and the FAA are both way out of control. I simply don’t believe that airlines can’t be profitable. Air traffic today is greater than pre 9-11, so they can’t hide behind that anymore.

If they are really so financially strapped, it is time to nationalize them and get rid of private business all together. No more corporate welfare for these corrupt companies. The CEO’s of these allegedly failing businesses make more money than Puerto Rico’s annual budget. I never obtained an MBA, but if a company is losing money, that might be the first place to cut some corners.

Instead, though, they cut services left and right. On all of my flights, I had the option to buy a “snack” (stale cookies or staler pretzels) for $2. These weren’t bargain-basement airlines, either. If you fly Jet-Blue or Ryan Air, you expect such things because you paid $18 for your ticket. A “full-service” airline, though? Exactly what is the “full” part of that service? Does not burning us with lye now count as “full service?”

Northwest had the even more astounding policy of charging an additional fee for certain seats in the plane, like the exit rows. Being an “elite” member of the frequent-flyer program (soon to expire – gasp), I could opt for these seats as well. So, basically the airlines are creating a class-hierarchy within the coach cabin. Passengers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your roller-bags.

Keep in mind that airline fares are peculiar as a service because you and the person next to you might have paid radically different prices for the exact same ticket. Can you imagine going to a barber and paying $10 more than the person who came before you for the same haircut? Or being charged a fee for that haircut, but finding out that the barber had “oversold” his time? We accept these policies, however, as necessary for airlines.

I remember, in the mid-nineties, Congress and President Clinton threatened legislation (dubbed the “Passenger Bill of Rights”) that would have required airlines to treat their passengers as slightly more than cattle. Oh, how the airlines protested! While under that threat, however, somehow they managed to improve! Once that fear went away, the airlines went right back to business as usual.

Of course, nationalizing the airlines would just put them in the same hands as the people who are already bungling security. Yes, we all want a safe and secure air-transport system. That doesn’t mean, however, that being reactionary makes us safe. Instead of addressing the economic inequalities that fuel terrorism across the globe, our government has decided that they can magically prevent all terrorism. Okay, I am particularly annoyed by the 1-1-3 rules.

For those who haven’t flown recently, you may not know the meaning of 1-1-3. If you have flown, then you have heard the same announcement over and over every ten minutes. Every (1) passenger is allowed a one(1)-quart zipper-topped bag of liquids or gels no greater than three (3) ounces. This rule emerged as a compromise from the briefly enacted 1-0-0 policy. Some law enforcement agencies in Britain uncovered a potential plot to destroy an aircraft by mixing an explosive cocktail on-board. As a result, they panicked and made an impossible policy.

Now, I am no explosives expert, but it seems to me that a clever person determined on bringing down an aircraft would be able to accomplish his goals with certain materials less than three ounces. Or, potentially, they could have several people bring on-board dangerous liquids, in three ounce sizes, that would amount to the necessary amount.

So, it seems to me, that the 1-1-3 rule is all glitter and no glam. We are as unsafe as ever. The airline safety authorities, however, want to look like they are doing something to make us safe. If we feel inconvenienced, they figure, then they must be on top of things.

It’s just like the deal with the shoes. Do we even remember why they started the shoe thing? FOUR years ago, a single (one) loser named Richard Reid unsuccessfully tried to make his shoes into a flaming weapon. Apparently Reid figured he could combine his contempt for human life with all those episodes of Get Smart that he watched in his parents’ basement.

The 29-year-old’s pyromania hardly appeared the most successful or imitated form of terrorism. Yet, domestic flights now require that we all have some stocking-feet time before boarding. That way the technician can ignore images of our shoes as much as they ignore images of our carry-on baggage. Yeah, that solves the terrorism problem.

Oh, and by the way, Richard Reid had a fuse sticking out of his shoes when he went through security. Did security really need him to take them off for the x-ray to figure out his plans? I mean, I haven’t heard of Nike marketing their new cross-trainer with built in fast-burning-flint.

Maybe I am just bitter because I am a nervous flyer. Nothing like being all twitchy to raise a few eyebrows as you head towards the metal detector. Combine that with my goatee and gravitas and I become the perfect target for airport screening. By the time I get through security, all I have left on my body is my strategically placed one-quart zipper-top bag.

One day, it will eventually come to this:

    Security Guard: Do you have liquids, aerosols, or gels?

    Me: No.

    Security Guard: What’s that in your mouth?

    Me: Saliva.

    Security Guard: It better be less than three ounces. We scanned your brief case and saw a 32 inch flat coil with a metal end.

    Me: You mean my belt? You made me take it off before I went through the line. Remember?

    Security Guard: A belt? Didn’t Richard Reid wear a belt? Get him!

I have a solution that solves all of these problems. With one simple policy change, I can resolve security concerns, the airlines’ lack of services, and my own flying anxieties.

Instead of harassing us and pretending like they can tell the .0005% terrorists from the rest of the flying public, just drug everybody before boarding. Put us all into a chemical-induced coma before the plane even leaves the ground. We can just sleep through the whole flight. With enough drugs, we won’t even notice the lack of a complimentary beverage service. If a terrorist happened to sneak aboard, he will feel just too darn good to commit any evil acts. It’s win-win.

We can implement this plan immediately. Between the liquor and Xanax I take to fly, I have been single-handedly field testing this program for years.