Sunday, September 30, 2007

Making the Nine

Time is slipping past me rather rapidly. Breaking my series of “nines” in the month of September, however, seemed like a bad omen. So, I’ll just jot down a few things. Besides, the blogosphere is so empty without me.

This past weekend I had a small cocktail gathering. Two major things occurred to me. First, I ran out of cocktail glasses about midway through the evening. Even though I have eight, my first thought was, “I must buy more.” This, I believe, is a symptom of my dish mania. What am I hoping to do? Accumulate enough stemware to open a bar? How much larger am I imagining future cocktail parties will get? If not all of my guests end up with the perfect glass, it’s no big deal. Right? Of course!

Well, that is what I said until one of the other cocktail glasses broke. Then I took it as a sign from God that I must purchase more. I am very religious like that. God is always giving me messages that I should shop more. Who am I do to argue with the will of God?

The other thing that happened was that I had been battling a swarm of never-dying bees that have built a nest in between the siding on my little cottage. I have called out a professional exterminator twice to kill the little bastards. Yet, they just won’t die. Now they are burrowing into the inside. On Saturday, I killed twenty of them who made their way indoors. As I frantically participated in a bee mass-execution in the hours before the party started, I had very grave visions that they would swarm over my guests. That probably wouldn't win me any awards as host.

Part of the problem is that the exterminator seems a little conservative in her application of poisons. She has expressed concern for spraying the whole house because of Cat. While I appreciate that, I actually think that the bees are the greater danger. I mean, the chances of Cat dragging his tongue along the baseboards are fairly slim. Meanwhile, the chances of him deciding that the bees are a new plaything are very high. Coming home and potentially finding a bee-stung kitty makes me quite anxious.

To deal with the problem on Saturday, I purchased some spray that I used myself along the windows and baseboards. This only reminded me that I am fairly sensitive about killing things. Trust me, I want the bees gone. Still, I feel bad about killing insects. I mean, they are important to the environment. They pollinate the plants and stuff. Bee vomit is delicious. Who am I to disrupt the cycle of life? What if one of the little bee larvae that I sprayed now would have grown up one day to cure bee cancer?

Waking up in the morning and finding the floor strewn with dead and dying bees seemed grim. Actually, it was just dying bees that bothered me. Maybe I just want them dead, but not suffering. I half expected to see a tiny bee Scarlett roaming around the dying bees looking for a bee doctor.

This made me want to learn more about bees. Well, by “learn more,” I don't mean that I wanted to do actual research or anything that required, you know, work. So, I turned to my old friend, Professor Internet.

Here are some things that I learned about bees:

    Bees are decedents of wasps.

    Bees are also related to ants.

    It is likely that the “bees” in my house are really wasps (which makes me oddly feel better about killing them. After all, we all know that wasps are the mafia thugs of the insect world. They wouldn't hesitate to kill us.).

    There are 130 different kinds of bees, wasps, and hornets in the continental U.S.

    The honey bee is the state insect of Utah.

    Apparently the Utah legislature has a lot of time on its hands if it’s naming state insects.

    Dodge produced the famed muscle car the “Super Bee” between 1968 and 1971.

    The popular (and now shockingly overpriced) motor scooter's name "Vespa" means "Wasp" in both Latin and Italian.

    Saint Bee, according to the Catholic Church, lived between 615 and 693 CE. She founded several churches and built a convent in Belgium.

    Spelling bees are not widely practiced outside of the U.S.

    Bee is a brand of playing cards in the U.S.

    The majority of bee species produce almost no honey.

    California has three “bee-titled” newspapers: The Sacramento Bee, The Fresno Bee, and The Modesto Bee.

    Samantha Bee, a regular correspondent for The Daily Show, was born in Toronto Ontario, Canada. She was the first non-U.S. citizen to be a regular on-air correspondent for the show.

    A “bee” was a term used widely in the eighteenth and nineteenth century to describe activities that required community involvement (e.g. Quilting Bee, Husking Bee, Orgy Bee. Okay, maybe I made up that last one. They just called them orgies.)

    Bees are strictly vegetarian. Wasps, on the other hand, digest meat to feed their larvae.

    Bea Arthur was born in May, 1922. She is a Taurus.

    Reading about wasps and bees creeps me out. I am also now totally convinced that both I and my cat will soon perish and then be served to wasp larvae as hamburger.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's Not What You Say, But How Long It Takes to Listen to It

We have reached the time period and theme in one of my classes that is most aligned with my never-ending-research-project-of-doom (NERPJ). While I am weary from my work on NERPJ, I still think that it is actually an important topic. My lecture today suggests that I think it is a little too important. Out of an hour and half that was supposed to be devoted to discussing the history of five decades, we covered four years.

That was a surprisingly rookie mistake that I made. It's something that one would expect from a newly minted Ph.D. or a senior grad student. All academics are always just a little too keen to talk about their own research projects, but new Ph.D.'s haven't realized yet that talking about one's research is all about "time and place."

Going on and on in a classroom is one example, but it's hardly the only one. If given even the slightest encouragement, new Ph.D.'s will talk for hours about their current projects without stopping for a breath. During these times, they become oblivious to social cues that the conversation needs to go in another direction. You could tap your foot, look around the room furtively, stare longingly into your empty cocktail glass, or even light yourself on fire. When they are in the zone, there is nothing that will stop them from outlining their current research agenda.

So that you won’t have to resort to self-immolation, I want to give you some handy tips should you find yourself at a cocktail party with a brand-new academic. Actually, you should avoid asking these questions of any academic unless you want to lose the next half hour of your life listening to them:

    What do you research?

    I always wondered about the difference between [any topic] and [any topic]?

    When you are not teaching, what do you do?

    I was thinking about reading something in [whatever field of the academic in front of you]. Can you suggest something?

    What inspired you to become an academic?

    What’s your name?

Those are just questions to avoid being bored. We academics are also a sensitive crew. These are things you should avoid asking unless you want to really piss off a recent Ph.D.

    The last time that you walked out into the sunshine, did it hurt?

    Do you think that anybody will actually read that?

    Have you thought about what you are going to do when you are denied tenure? Or, er, I mean if you are denied tenure?

    Aren't you [name of another professor in same field]? Your work is genius!

    Wait – Are we just talking about your first footnote? ‘Cuz I am not sensing there’s enough in that story to make a whole article/book.

    Look, I am just trying to order a burger and fries here.

    Nobody invited you to your highschool prom, did they?

    My life suddenly feels a lot shorter after listening to you.

    Wow – I can tell how devoted you are to this project given how little attention you have given to your appearance.

    What would you have done if you had a real job?

    Huh – You smell like a library. (**Warning:** Senior professors will interpret this as a come-on).

    Yeah, but will you write anything important?

    I just read an article/book about that exact same research topic – only it was a lot more interesting than they way you are describing it.

    Now I understand why they never make television shows about academics.

    They always say those who can’t do, teach. Maybe you can ask for extra classes next term.

    Wow – I can’t imagine spending my twenties in grad school working on something like that. I was way too busy having lots of fun at that age. I mean, you have a Ph.D.! All I have are some truly excellent memories that will last a lifetime and a sexual history that would have made Kinsey blush.

    You remind me of a prof I had in college. We used to call him old marble nose. I think that he died alone.

    They will publish almost anything today, won’t they?

    Oh, I get it! So your next project will be the interesting one, right?

    And my tax dollars actually pays for part of this?

    I only trust academics who appear on Sunday-morning talk shows.

    But could that story ever be made into a movie?

    Have you ever had sex? Ever?

Than again, maybe you will meet one of the [very] few sexy academics. If that is the case, here are several lines that will guarantee that prof will follow you to the bedroom:

    I wish that [renowned scholar in the same field] had talked to you before writing that last book. It would have been so much better with your insight.

    Tell me more about your research. I could listen to you talk all night!

    Your gravitas is so refreshing.

    Your c.v. must be really long.


    I am surprised that you are not teaching at [name of more prestigious university (and there is always a more prestigious university)]!

    If there is one thing that you are absolutely not, it's socially awkward!

    If you give me a night, I bet that I will make it into your next article’s acknowlegements.

    If I had professors like you in college, I would have gone to graduate school for sure.

    I would love to see your rare editions.

    Let’s go to my place and have sex now.

Monday, September 24, 2007

GayProf, The Shy

Several things have crossed my mind recently. Things like, “Electric stoves are more annoying than I remember,” or “Why are bees mysteriously dying all across this nation -- except the nest in my house which has been doused with professional poisons?” Or, “Why do people mention how shy I am?” Oh, right, because I am shy.

There are two topics that people usually broach within a couple weeks of knowing me. The first involves the “g” word (I am currently taking bets on how long before the word “gravitas” surfaces among people who don’t know about the blog in MFT. We've come close with "contemplative," but not quite). The second is my shyness, especially in large crowds. Indeed, the amount that I speak at any gathering is inversely related to the number of people present. Of course, if they know me for a really long time, then they start to ask how I became such an astounding beacon of reason and truth. That, though, usually doesn’t occur until month three or four.

For those interim months, I am known as the shy boy – or, er – shy middle-aged guy (sigh). It’s always a little jarring because I don’t actually think of myself as shy. On the contrary, I think that I am really open to talking with anybody. Well, as long as they talk to me first. . . And keep a respectful distance . . . And don’t ask me any questions about myself. . . And I have Xanax in my pocket.

I kid, I kid. I am fairly quiet, but not really shy.

Maybe I don’t think of myself as shy because I know what shy GayProf really looks like. We need to turn back time and think about the era long before I was the “Prof” in GayProf, or even acknowledged the “Gay” in GayProf. Yes, we are talking about the dark, grim years of adolescence.

My tween/early teen years were my Vietnam. Only it didn’t involve gun play, Agent Orange, or all the drugs. Well, at least it didn’t involve gun play and Agent Orange.

All through grade school, I had no problems with shyness. Then my home life and school life went to hell all in one go at about the age of 11. I had the good fortune to go through puberty remarkably early compared to my peers. It’s true what they say about kids and cruelty. Any sign of difference will be a source of ridicule and embarrassment. Perhaps instead of wars we should just settle national disputes by forcing the adolescents of disputing parties to interact for a few months. Which ever group emerges with the least amount of emotional baggage wins!

Being early in puberty brought ostracization. The sense among my fellow students that I was queer brought total isolation (even if I was far from admitting being queer to myself).

Home life was even worse what with the unemployment, alcoholism, and nasty temper . . and that was just the family dog. Just imagine what was happening with the humans.

The way that young GayProf handled these situations was to go absolutely quiet in school. I had one (1) friend in grade six, until he moved to Arizona. Then I literally had zero (0) friends from grade seven to grade nine. Why? Well, it was hard to make friends when a typical conversation went:

    Fellow Student: Hi, [future] GayProf.

    [Youthful] GayProf: . . .

    Fellow Student: Aren’t you in my biology class?

    [Youthful] GayProf: . . .

    Fellow Student: What type of music do you like?

    [Youthful] GayProf: . . .

    Fellow Student: Are you fucked up or something, holmes? I am talking to you!

    [Youthful] GayProf: . . .

    Fellow Student: Screw you – and give me your lunch money, too.

Yes, I would have given Marcel Marceau a run for his money (Goddess rest his soul) in the silent category. He called it art, I called it a typical Monday.

Given how much I was beat up at school, I really yearned to be totally inconspicuous. I decided that the best way to accomplish that goal was to wear the exact same thing everyday. Monday through Friday, I wore a blue hoodie sweatshirt and jeans. Everyday. Yeah, it’s a real mystery why the other students tormented me. I kind of want to pick on twelve-year-old me and I am 33.

During lunch, I hid in the library and read. I was the only student in the whole school who used the library during lunch (or possibly ever). Well, until the school librarian asked me not to come back anymore because my solitary reading bothered her. Yes, she really said that. Adults can be so cruel.

After that, lunch-hour saw me walking around the dusty school grounds in aimless circles staring at my Pic-N-Save shoes. All I could do was wait for the bell to ring or the sweet kiss of death to release me from that mortal coil, whichever came first.

Because of the aforementioned chaos, I didn’t find a lot of good advice/ support/ much-needed-intervention at home. While I know that my mother was dealing with a bad situation for herself, it didn’t help me much that she would periodically ask, “Why don’t you have any friends?” Instead, she might have asked, “Why do you keep wearing the same thing over and over again, crazy boy?”

Now, that was shy. By tenth grade, I made a conscious decision to not be quite so pathetic. I got a job and started buying my own clothes (which involved more than a blue hoodie – To this day, I break out in a cold sweat if I see one hanging on a rack). I also made actual friends – Not just the imaginary ones who lived on the starship Enterprise.

So given how shy that I know that I can be (and have been), I don’t think of myself as shy anymore. Maybe I just use terminology wrong. Perhaps I am confusing “completely socially dysfunctional” with “shy.”

Alas, I have to embrace my quiet ways. I ’ll never be confused with the vivacious Doralee in 9 to 5. **sigh** On the other hand, at least I am not a mute anymore. Now, where did I put that Xanax?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Let's Get This Fiesta Started

It’s hard to believe that a full year has passed since I last discussed Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States. As you might recall, I have ambivalent feelings about these racialized “months.” I appreciate the intent to at least try to give attention to the history of racial minorities in the U.S. I also think, though, that such months give the wrong impression that the history of racial groups is somehow distinct from the history of the U.S. African-American history is the history of the U.S. Latino History is the history of the U.S. These aren’t “add-ons” or footnotes. Rather, it has been the very core of this nation’s development.

Such were the things that I was thinking (again) in one of my classes. We had reached the U.S.-Mexican War in our chronology. That particular day, I inadvertently left behind half of my lecture notes in my office. Much to my surprise, it turns out that I can basically give that lecture without any notes. I could even remember details down to certain statistics about casualties (The U.S. bombardment of Veracruz, for instance, resulted in civilian causalities outnumbering military casualties 2:1). Yes, my lectures are well on their way to being just that stale and route. Good news for my future students!

Having knowledge of that war so deeply ingrained in my psyche makes me quite unique in this nation. Thanks to the ways that the U.S. structures its educational curriculum, most Americans have a hard time even identifying the right decade (and century) of the U.S.-Mexican War. Indeed, they most often confuse the Spanish-American War (1898 (think Puerto Rico)) with the U.S.-Mexican War (1846 (think Texas, NM, AZ, and CA)). It’s an easy mistake. They were both started to satisfy the U.S.’s imperial ambitions. They both also ended with a huge number of Latinos involuntarily being incorporated into the U.S.

None of that history, though, is really discussed in our nation’s public schools. The U.S.-Mexican War, when it is taught at all, is usually presented as a noble fight by brave [Anglo] Texans against a tyrannical government. Or it is (ahistorically) taught as a prelude to the U.S. Civil War. Whichever the case, the complex history of the Mexicans who got pulled into the U.S. thanks to that war are basically ignored. Indeed, so little is known about Latinos in the U.S. that the mainstream media is often befuddled when it is forced to grapple with them.

The other evening I happened to catch The Daily Show showing clips from Alberto Gonzales’ farewell party at the Department of Justice. Gonzales was such an abysmal failure and so entirely incompetent as Attorney General, it is horrific to me to even acknowledge that he was the highest ranking Latino government official to date. Regardless, The Daily Show made their usual fun of the situation and Gonzales’ exit. What they missed, though, was that the Department of Justice presented Gonzales a statue of four nineteenth-century Texas Rangers as a parting gift. That gesture alone shows just how little the Mexican perspective is taken into consideration in this nation.

For most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Texas Rangers maintained Euro-American racial dominance over Mexicans through a campaign of harassment, terrorism, and murder. The Rangers' “heroic” reputation hinged on their ability to execute Mexicans and Native Americans, especially those who dared to challenge the racial status quo in Texas. Indeed, the Rangers were frequently implicated in the lynchings of many innocent Mexicans along the border. They were then often rewarded by the state government which gave the Ranger the dead Mexicans’ possessions.

To therefore present Mexican-American Alberto Gonzales a statue of “brave” Texas Rangers would be the same as presenting an African American with a statute of "daring" Bull Connor. Or a Jewish American a statue of "thoughtful" Adolf Eichmann (Truth in Advertising: I might be mingling my own personal issues with this incident. One of the last things that Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies) ever gave to me was a “Texas Rangers” badge with my name imprinted on it as a “joke.” He just didn’t understand why I was horrified and repulsed. Instead, he dismissed me by saying “I made too big a deal out of it -- as usual.” In reality, he exposed (once again) just how little he respected the history that I cared about very deeply. Actually, screw respect, he didn't even try to learn that history. In our eight years together, I don't think that he ever bothered to crack a single book on Chicano history/Mexican history/the history of the U.S.-Mexican border/ or the history of race in the U.S. He was such a loser, self-centered fuckwad. -- Huh, clearly some unresolved issues there! Funny how they sometimes appear out of nowhere. Annnnnnyway . . .). The fact is that Mexicans’ abuse and death at the hands of the Texas Rangers has not reached the consciousness of most Americans, including The Daily Show (which has zero (o) on-air Latino correspondents).

After 150 years, the U.S. still pretends that people of Latin-American descent are “new” to this nation. Even the gay-oriented Logo network fell into this presumption. In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, Logo’s news division (a subsidiary of CBS) produced a documentary on gay Latina/os. I appreciate the effort, especially given that most gay media basically ignores Latina/os entirely. Still, Logo decided to given the documentary the unfortunate title “Los Otros” (literally “The Others”). The title reenforces the presumption of Latinos’ perpetual foreignness by literally naming them racial “Others” and by the intentional use of a Spanish title in an English-language program.

Such decisions obscure how deeply intertwined the United States and Mexico actually are (and have been). As much as Canada is often ignored or presumed to be an undifferentiated extension of the U.S. (because of its perceived status as a “white” nation (ignoring the Canada’s own immigration history)), Mexico (much less the rest of Latin America) is imagined as entirely foreign and irreconcilable to U.S. institutions (and perceived as non-white/sometimes white/white, but not really white).

The Mexican border’s “forbidden” status has created an image in U.S. popular culture that makes it a site of sexual intrigue and danger for Euro Americans. In the U.S., Mexican women have frequently been presented as the sexually available, but dangerous, “hot tamales.” Take, for example, a slew of songs that were popular during the middle of the twentieth century. Using tropes that had existed for over a century, these songs depicted lusty and untrustworthy Mexican women leading Euro-American men to their doom (often at the hands of cruel and evil Mexican men). Jay and the Americans recorded “Come a Little Bit Closer” in 1964. Set in a “little café just the other side of the border,” the song tells of a [Euro] American man being lured by an unscrupulous Mexican woman to “come a little bit closer.” At the end of the song, the American must flee for his life from the bar, for “she belonged to that bad man Jose.”

Similarly, Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” (a song, by the way, that I grew up listening to totally uncritically) centers on “wicked Felina,” a Mexican woman who dances for money at Rose’s Cantina. The song doesn’t mince words about Felina, telling us, “blacker than night were the eyes of Felina, wicked and evil while casting their spell.” This time around, the wanton ways of Mexican women resulted in the tragic death of not one, but two Euro-American men. Though Robbins would later write a sequel (and much less popular) song that told Felina’s side of the story, the original “El Paso” epitomized the U.S. perception of Mexicans as sexually deviant and dangerous to good, honest Americans. There is an unspoken fear that Mexicans and Euro Americans can’t possibly coexist in this nation without one group being destroyed.

We could see this most visibly in the immigration reform debacle this past summer. A creaky bipartisan bill that, among other things, would have granted undocumented workers a pathway to U.S. citizenship died from equally bipartisan opposition. Conservative Republicans argued that it wrongly provided “amnesty” to those who had broken the law. In a common contrivance, Republicans suggested that crossing the border without proper authorization was probably the lesser of many crimes that Mexicans commit in the U.S. Senator John Cronyn, one of the two Republican Senators from Texas, explained that he opposed the reform partly because “criminals might slip” through the process. Those on the political left also took issue with bill. Tom Harkin, a Democratic Senator from Iowa declared that the immigration bill would have driven down wages for Americans “on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.”

Rather than acknowledging the complicated history of Latino/as (both U.S. citizens and Latin-American nationals) who have lived for generations in this country, the most common image of Latinos in the mainstream U.S. is that of an undocumented and unskilled worker who threatens the economy, social services, and even the very foundation of the nation! Let’s discuss that for the next month.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Return of the Evil Queens

A few days ago, Torn posted a video of an old "education" film from the early sixties. Like many others that appeared at the time, it was created to warn young men about the alleged dangers of “homosexuals.” With a title like Boys Beware, you knew that it was only going to go down hill pretty fast. The film authoritatively told its audience that homosexuals spend their days lurking about in dark sunglasses, telling dirty jokes, and murdering teenagers. Why? Because homosexuals are both sick and evil!

Since the video is forty years old, it’s fairly easy to dismiss it as a bygone piece of history. After all, we no longer hear dire warnings about the threat of creepy homosexual men who hang out in restrooms looking to exploit the innocent. Well, unless you happen to reside in Fort Lauderdale where Mayor Jim Naugle wants to install $250,000 toilets because he imagines gay men are using the current ones as the new Studio 54.

But that’s just some crazy mayor who still thinks it's 1959, right? Well, maybe not. Simply watch any of the three-thousand hours of coverage on Senator Larry Craig.

I avoided mentioning the Craig story because I was suspicious that it was “uncovered” at a convenient time for Republicans. It drew media attention away from the many White House resignations, including Alberto Gonzales’. The GOP seemingly felt it was better to eat one of their own than risk actual investigation into the ineptness that has marked the Justice Department for the past six years.

While I am happy to have Craig exposed (no pun intended) as a hypocrite, the media has rarely focused on that bit of the story. Instead, tearoom scandals like Craig’s are another means through which all same-sex sex can be lumped together as sad, anonymous, and even threatening.

To be candid, I really don’t care that much about bathroom sex. It’s certainly not my scene. It also seems like most of the men involved are unable to come to terms with their sexual desires. They would probably be happier if they could find other venues for sexual exploration. All in all, though, it just isn’t that big a deal.

CNN disagreed. Along with other networks, they spent entire segments obsessing about gay toilet sex. They brought in psychological experts to help explain why men (sick, sick men!) would do such a (sick, sick!) thing. In one memorable segment, sex-advice columnist Dan Savage valiantly tried to point out the role that the closet and homophobia plays in many tearoom participants’ lives. For them, sexual release can only be obtained in restrooms because they have internalized so much of society’s hatred of gays.

The interviewer, though, was not really interested in that type of assessment. Instead, he asked, “Aren’t these guys... just plain wrong and it has nothing to do with the culture leading them to do this stuff? I mean, after all, going into a bathroom to have anonymous sex with somebody you don’t even know is just . . . creepy.”

That is the bit where I start to get leery. One wonders what type of circumstances would the media endorse as “not creepy” for same-sex sex? Is it the anonymous bit that made Craig creepy? So, a couple who had one dinner together is not creepy? Is it the bathroom bit? No to toilets, but yes to pool tables?

I suspect it is really the gay bit. The focus on tearoom sex reenforces presumptions that all same-sex sex is ruthless, anonymous, and self-centered. David recently pointed out that the New York Post attempted to coin a new epithet by referring to all gay men as “toe tappers.” The leap from creepy Larry Craig tapping his foot to have sex in a restroom to naming all gay men as “creepy anonymous toilet-sex junkies” was an easy one for the paper to make.

There is a serious double standard when it comes to presenting same-sex sex and opposite-sex sex in the media. It is doubtful to me that a heterosexual couple who met randomly at a public rest stop, for instance, would have been construed as “creepy.” Granted, they might be considered “lusty, slutty, impulsive,” and maybe even “sinful.” I just don’t think, though, that the media would call it “creepy.”

Certainly, the media would never consider it “creepy” if a heterosexual couple hooked up at a local bar without even knowing each other’s names. That’s just “Friday night.”

Along the same lines, heterosexuals who have sex in public are often (not always, but often) construed as “adventurous” and sexual risk takers. In many instances, heterosexual couples who sneak in a bit of sex in a public place are imagined as more in touch with their erotic sensibilities. They are just being delightfully naughty and enjoying a provocative thrill! Gay men who have sex in public need medical treatment.

Some might suggest that the distaste had to do with the location of a bathroom. Once again, I am not as convinced. After all, I have heard many people tell stories of heterosexuals sneaking (or trying to sneak) into airplane lavatories to earn their mile-high wings. These stories, even when told by a third-party observer, are often presented with a wink and nod.

The media, of course, doesn’t need a sex scandal to present gay men as psychologically unstable. On the heels of the Craig affair, comedians and even major news outlets seized on an obscure “internet personality's” YouTube video. I won’t delve into the revolting level of hatred that bubbled up around the clearly distressed young person's pleas for the press to “leave Brittany alone.” Kenneth Hill already has an excellent piece on homophobia and the ridicule that follows men who refuse to conform to gender expectations (even within the gay community). It is enough to point out one of the most disturbing responses to the video which appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show. In it, the supposed father of the young man cried about his son not being manly enough. He ended with a chilling proclamation of “He’s not a human being. He’s not a human being.”

That, I think, is the media’s real conclusion about Craig, Crocker, and all gay men. We are still not considered fully human. Instead, we are all walking on the edge of showing ourselves to be creepy, crazy, or evil monsters.

Even allegedly “positive” images of gay men prop up these stereotypes in fictional programing. Queer people are grossly under-represented in prime time. The most visible and consisten gay figures to circulate right now appear on Ugly Betty. Yet, I am left wondering about both Marc and Justin.

Marc is the traditional “evil queen” that has been recycled just too many times by television and films. He mostly follows the orders of a conveying African-American jezebel (a stereotype in the show that also desperately needs to be unpacked). That, though, is for another day). In every way, Marc is shown to be both shallow and vindictive. He tortures and humiliates the central character all for his good fun.

To redeem the show, many queer folk therefore point to Justin, Betty's adolescent nephew. On the good side, it is great to see a young person presented on television who resists gender conventions (Justin’s actual sexuality has never been discussed on the show – It is only through that gender nonconformity that he can be read by many as “gay”). I am not entirely sure that the presentation of Justin really makes him into a hero. Much of his behavior is shown as part of the show’s humor. We are intended to laugh at the awkward discomfort that Justin creates among those who surround him.

Justin also exists to reveal the hidden magnanimity of the other characters who tolerate and defend him. He doesn't really fight for himself. Instead, he has most often been defended by straight men. Those scenes have been less about Justin and more about showing the "good heart" and redemption of heterosexuals.

More importantly, the show has frequently suggested that Justin has a questionable sense of morality. Like Marc, he often denigrates others with “bitchy” comments about their clothes. At the end of the last season, it was further suggested that Justin intentionally poisoned one of his fellow students to get the lead role in a musical (!). Even the baby queers, it seems, are willing to murder to get what they want.

I don’t dispute that things have improved for gays since Boys Beware appeared forty years ago. Look! I am not in jail! Still, it is too soon to claim that the media no longer construes of queers as sick and maybe a bit evil. It has just become more subtle in its approach. If Ugly Betty allegedly represents the best portrayals of gay men in the mainstream media and Larry Craig the worst, we are still in a bad place.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Let's Sing the Doom Song

Most of my days and nights are devoted to trying to finish the never - ending - research - project - of - doom. This has been the longest process of my life. Some days it feels like I am just spinning around in circles. Perhaps finally finishing a project like this is the last bit of grad school that they never quite teach you before you graduate. The dissertation seems like it was a piece of cake in retrospect. It’s sort of like taking flight lessons, only the instructor leaves the cockpit as you are approaching the runway.

There is nothing to do but simply keep working on it. I am committed to this project and won’t let it go. At some point, it will come to an end. Or I will come to an end. Whichever.

As I am zoning out staring at the computer screen, though, I often think of the many other things that I would rather be doing. Here is a brief list of some of those things:

    *Have serious dental work done.


    *Read blogs

    *Make biscuits.

    *Wonder if I will ever get to work on my research project on porn.

    *Wonder if I will be taken seriously as a scholar when I start my research project on porn.

    *Wonder if I will care if I am taken seriously as a scholar when I start my research project on porn.

    *Think I should just watch more porn regardless.

    *Mop my basement floor.

    *Learn another language.

    *Learn to spell in any language, even (especially?) English.

    *Watch the third season of That Girl on DVD.

    *Try to come up with scenarios where people would be inclined to refer to me as "That Guy."

    *Read the faculty handbook for my new university.

    *See if I really could sew an outfit out of a roll of Bounty© towels and a sock.

    *Work on the never-ending-research-project-of-doom. Oh, wait -- That is what I am avoiding. Sometimes I get confused.

    *Design a GayProf action figure (with Kung-Fu Grip!).

    *Contemplate if I would look better as a red head.

    *Apply for tax-exempt status as my own religion.

    *Scrub my kitchen sink.

    *Scrub your kitchen sink.

    *Consider if I will simply retire if they ever stop manufacturing WordPerfect. Seriously, I tried using the newest version of MSWord before they installed WordPerfect on my work computer. What a pile of junk that thing is! I didn’t think that they could actually make the program worse, but they found a way! VUBOQ, can I hear an amen? I know WordPerfect dates me (I was a secretary in the early nineties after all), but it really is better if you ever want to work on really lengthy projects.

    *Read the many horror stories about WordPerfect destroying somebody’s term paper/dissertation/manuscript/life that I will likely receive when people read the above line.

    *Go grocery shopping.

    *Pretend like I have time to plan a party over the next couple of weeks.

    *Perform a blood sacrifice.

    *Say to myself that I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    *Try not to imagine that light attached to a speeding train heading toward me.

    *Protest war/racism/sexism/homophobia.

    *Get much needed therapy.

    *Write (again) to the local place where I wanted to volunteer to see if they actually got my first message(s).

    *Realize that phoning is probably still best for such things (though I personally hate the phone).

    *Consider putting my cat on a diet. I didn’t think that he was heavy, but every person who has seen him since I moved to Midwestern Funky Town has commented on his relative girth.

    *Search for random Zorro items on e-bay.

    *Join the Navy or priesthood. Given the amount of time that I am working, it’s probably the same schedule – only those other professions come with much more guaranteed gay sex. It’s like a signing bonus or something.

    *Write a hate letter to the Ugg Boot Company – again.

    *Donate to a local charity shop the two boxes of crap that I lugged with me from Boston only to discover that I didn’t really need any of it.

    *Go to the gym.

    *Spend time giving thanks to the goddess that my new office is on the “good side” of the building with a view of trees (as opposed to the poor souls on the other side who have a view of a flat tar-paper roof top).


Monday, September 10, 2007

You Wear It Well

By my calculations, Artistic Soul is the new winner at CoG. If s/he contacts me to let me know where to send the little prizy, s/he will receive it. Clearly Artistic Soul has good taste in music.

Thanks to all who played. I posted the answers in the comments section of the previous entry, in case you are curious.

Things have been mostly fine for ol’ GayProf. One class that I am teaching, though, doesn’t seem to be moving as smoothly as I hoped. It’s odd, too, because it’s usually a really popular class. I have taught it at two different universities and it has always gone well and attracted enthusiastic students. This time, it feels like we are stuck in mud. My other class seems just fine and normal. Yet, this one just doesn’t have a good vibe. I’ll have to think about how to fix that.

In between teaching and working on the never-ending-project-of-doom, I have also been attending my regularly required institutional events. A recent occasion was a “meet and greet” of new graduate students.

At my former Texas institution, it was made explicitly clear that I was not to have any contact with the precious grad students there (lest I contaminate them with ideas about race, gender, and sexuality). The feeling is quite different at Big Midwestern U, where I am even slated to teach a grad class next semester.

All the same, grad students are a bit of a mystery to me. True, I once was one. That, however, seems like a million years ago. Now, I just observe grad students from afar. Consider me the Jane Goodall of the academic world. Sometimes I drug them, insert a radio tag in their ear for tracking, and release them back into the wild. They feel nothing.

Since I haven’t had a chance to interact with grad students individually, it’s easier to draw conclusions about them as a group. One thing that I have noticed is that there is a dress code to grad students based on their field. By the time we become professors, any sense of individuality in dressing has been ground out until we appear identical to our academic counterparts (I am considered quite radical, for instance, because I dared to put on a tie to teach today. Clearly I didn’t get the memo that the only teaching outfit for history professors is either khakis or jeans with a polo shirt. (Perhaps this is why that one class isn’t responding to me...)).

Before we learn to wear the University Approved Professor gear, though, we have a sense of style that matches our field of research interest. If you are confused about how to dress as a new history grad student, let me help (with an obvious nod to Un-Cool):

Modern European History:

    If you have decided to become a grad student in European history, you already consider yourself better than your colleagues. You don’t waste your time studying your own nation. No, no. Your time is only devoted to the “real” history of Europe. Probably you were the kid who used to bring the Wall Street Journal to your eighth grade class and pretend to read it. Hey, you needed something to put in that attache case.

    Since those times, you have grown up. Yet, your wardrobe will still reflect that smug feeling of superiority. Others might scoff and say that you are out of date (or frigid – whatever). Don’t listen to them! You know that your look is “classic.”


      Shirt: A simple button down blouse in solid colors.
      Pants/Skirt: ONLY skirts. You aren’t an animal.
      Shoes: Simple brown loafers were good enough for Grandma-ma, they are good enough for you.
      Required Item: Hair must either be in a bun or a perm.
      Optional: A festive pashmina in any color.


      Shirt: Oxford, button down. It can be either white or with a blue stripe
      Pants: Chinos, chinos, chinos. Nothing but chinos as far as the eye can see. Jeans are just too American.
      Shoes: Wingtips, which you polish weekly.
      Required Item: Sam Spade hat (that makes you look silly).
      Optional: Pipe (that makes you look silly and gives you throat cancer)

Medieval History:

    Oh, my poor Medieval grad students! You are so misunderstood by your fellow humans!

    If you are white, your wardrobe reflects the uncomfortable transition that you are making from Goth to actual functioning adult. Sure, you still have the twenty-sided dice stored in your drawer “just in case,” but your intellectual studies are making you realize that there is big difference between fantasy and what actually happened in 1205 (They didn’t call them the dark ages for nothing!).


      Shirt: Any style, but it must be black. Occasionally, you will wear grey, if you are feeling festive.
      Pants: Black jeans.
      Shoes: Three-quarter length suede leather boots.
      Required Item: Facial hair
      Optional: Long hair in a pony tail.


      Shirt: Black tank top, with lacy fringe.
      Skirt/Pants: Long, cotton skirt in dark colors.
      Shoes: Sensible flats.
      Required Item: Pentagram necklace.
      Optional: Ring with secret compartment for poison.

    **If, however, you are a racial minority who is also a Medieval grad student, please consult the wardrobe options of “Modern European HistoryGrad Students.”

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Studies/Gender Studies:

    Ironically, there is a radical divide along gender lines in the GLBTQ and Gender Studies departments. For women, you choose outfits that show that you are serious about the academic work and reject the status quo. Yet, you still want to show off your physical assets. Hey, don’t we all? Just because you're a feminist doesn’t mean you don’t also have the goods.

    Still, you don’t have time to worry about things like color choices or coordinating your undergarments. You only have time for serious, serious, serious thinking.

    Men in GLBTQG will be the best dressed fellas in the department. Your colleagues and professors will wonder how you possibly afford those latest fashions on that measly graduate student stipend. Little do they know, though, that you are secretly sewing your own wardrobe at night. Scarlett has nothing on you! A dress out of curtains? Bah! You have stitched an entire three piece ensemble out of a role of Bounty© towels and your last trick’s left sock.


      Shirt: A tank-top, but only in black or white. The bra underneath must a) have visible bra straps because the tank top doesn’t cover them and b) be the opposite color of the tank top. Alternative: A t-shirt with the Charlie's Angels logo that you wear with a sense of irony.
      Skirt/Pants: Either a skirt or pants, as long is it is in the color “Olive Drab.”
      Shoes: Sensible walking shoes that are probably also the only ones in the room to have ever been resoled.
      Required Accessory: Tattoo, preferably on the bicep.
      Extras: Either an eyebrow piercing or a tongue piercing. In lieu of that, you can also wear remarkably dark mascara or die your hair jet black.

    Men (a.k.a. GLBT Hipster):

      Shirt: Button down, long sleeve (always rolled up 3/4 of the way, natch) shirt in vibrant, shiny colors. Anything that catches the light, the better! Alternative: A T-Shirt with the Charlie's Angels logo that you wear without a sense of irony.
      Pants: Dark wool, even in summer. Sure it’s hot, but wool hangs better.
      Shoes: The Kenneth Cole boots that changed your life!
      Required Accessory: Hair product and expensive cologne.
      Extras: Some item of jewelry that people didn’t even know was produced anymore (pocket watch, tie clip, cufflinks, etc.).

Latin America/Africa/Latinos in the U.S./African American:

    White graduate students who study either Latin America or Africa (or their decedents in the U.S.) have many things in common. You both want to be “down with the people.” You both adore researching “on location” because you consider it an opportunity to take a holiday from hygiene. You both are often oblivious to your own role in U.S. imperialism.

    At first glance, therefore, one might be deceived that you don’t put much effort into your appearance. On the contrary, you spend the most time considering what to wear and how to wear it. Each item of clothing is a political statement.

    If white:

      Shirt: Something made out of hemp because the more uses that we show that there are for hemp, the more likely the government(s) will be to legalize Marijuana, man.
      Pants: Cargo shorts only, even in winter.
      Shoes: Hiking boots.
      Required: Long, greasy hair.
      Extras: A beret so tired that even Che wants you to stop wearing it.


      Shirt: Anything with a massive print to it and vibrant colors. Something last produced in 1985.
      Skirt/Pants: Broomstick Skirt or anything that is long and flowing. Which, you know, is just so practical for those long treks in the desert.
      Required; Long, greasy hair.
      Extras: Handcrafted earrings that you have been assured are made from authentic ritual stones honoring a mysterious religious past (In reality, plastic beads imported from Taiwan).

    ***If Latino/African/African American studying Latin American/Africa/Latinos in the U.S./African Americans, see GLBTQ Studies. Regardless of your sexuality or gender, you dress just like the Gay Hipster.

U.S. Historian of the West:

    Grad students in the history of the U.S. West have the least gender variation in their wardrobes. It’s not so much that you believe in gender egalitarianism. You just don’t give a fuck anymore (either men or women). Style, shopping, grooming: These are the demons that you must slay if you want to get ahead in this field.


      Shirt: Cotton, short sleeve in summer. Flannel in winter.
      Pants: Jeans – They were good enough for California 49ers, they are good enough for you.
      Shoes: Cowboy boots.
      Required: Cowboy hat
      Optional: Buckle the size of your head.


      Shirt: Cotton, short sleeve in summer. Flannel in winter.
      Pants/Skirt: Jeans – They were good enough for California 49ers, they are good enough for you.
      Shoes: Cowboy boots.
      Optional: Skin cancer from sunning yourself on a rock in Arizona or New Mexico for all that time.

Military Historian:

    There are two types of military history grad students: Those who are in the military and avoiding being sent to war by getting a degree; and those who aren’t in the military and wish they were going to war. Either way, it’s not good news for your closet.


      Shirt: Any shirt with more starch than a baked potato.
      Pants: Black trousers with exceptional creases.
      Shoes: Shiny, shiny black ones.
      Required: Buzz cut.
      Optional: A gun.

      I have never met a woman grad student in military history. Sorry.

Religious History:

    Why are you even studying history? You really want to be out saving souls and doing missionary work. It turns out, though, that “missionary” is the only professional career that actually pays less than “historian.” Besides, you were never really a “people” person. You just enjoy lecturing them and being right all the time.

        Shirt: Anything plaid. Oh, Goddess, how you love the plaid.
        Pants: Black polyester.
        Shoes: Sneakers that don’t match those black polyester pants.
        Required: Bible/Qur’an/Philosophies of Buddha
        Optional: A gun.

        Shirt: Anything with a high collar and long sleeves. Not that anybody will notice because it will be covered by the tweed jacket.
        Pants/Skirt: If the still made them you would buy hoopskirts.
        Shoes: Nothing shiny! You aren’t that type of girl!
        Required: Big, clunky wooden jewelry.
        Optional: Chastity belt.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Terrible Twos

All of the ballyhoo surrounding the start of classes made me lose sight of my blogoversiary. I have been using the internet tubes to spread my gravitas since September 1, 2005. For two years, we have shared triumphs and tragedies. Together, we have started the complicated work of building a massive media empire for GayProf.

I am sure glad that we get to spend this special time together. It's such a good feeling, a very good feeling. The feeling you know that we're friends. And I'll be back, when the day is new. And I'll have more ideas for you. And you'll have things you'll want to talk about. I will too. It’s such a good feeling.

Normally when we hit a milestone at CoG, I encourage my readers to consume liquor (usually quite heavily). I still do (Are you drinking enough, son?). This time around, some sort of prize seemed in order. I already did a fairly recent quiz, though, about things you could know about me from the blog. So I had to think.

Last night, as I was driving home from work, I was listening to Neko Case. As I sang along mindlessly with the lyrics to “Favorite,” I suddenly stopped and asked myself, “Did I just sing ‘Last Night I dreamt that I hit a deer with my car’?” Given that I am often wrong about lyrics, I Googled them. Indeed, Neko Case does sing about cervidaicide. Huh.

It reminded me how we often ignore the lyrics to songs we enjoy. Lyrics, in my mind, are critically important to enjoying the music. I consider myself a more attentive listener than other people I know, but I still often fumble things. Sometimes vital words to songs just pass through our ears over and over again without us noticing. Indeed, I have often hid lyrics to songs within many entries on CoG. To date, only three people have ever noticed (or cared enough to comment on it).

In some instances, not paying attention to a song’s lyrics can really miss the point. Billie Holiday, for instance, used to complain that people would request her anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit” by asking for “that sexy song about black bodies swinging.” She was not impressed.

This thought-train reminded me of a meme that Rebekah posted a few weeks ago. She listed the opening lyrics to several songs and asked her readers to give the correct corresponding artist/title. At most, people could guess maybe one or two each. Thus, I decided it would be an ideally arcane means to give out a prize.

Here are the [adapted] rules for the meme:

    1) Put your mp3 player or music player on your computer on random.
    2)Post the first four lines from the first 20 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing the song (Skip repeat artists).
    3) Post and let everyone you know guess what song and artist the lines come from.

Add your guesses to the comments section. The first person to guess them all (which is highly unlikely) will win a prize. The more likely outcome is that I will send it to the person who has the most songs right by the next time I write an entry. This means even an individual with just one right answer could potentially be one of life’s winners (if everybody else refuses to participate or really gets things wrong).

What will you win? Well, it will be similar in theme and content to the prize modeled by CoG’s official glamour model, VUBOQ:

Remember: The eye of Hera is upon you. Looking lyrics up on Google or any other search engine is cheating. CoG operates on an honor code and GayProf doesn’t tolerate academic dishonesty.

Do you hear what I hear? If so, name that song and artist:

    1. So Your Girlfriend Wants to be a Popstar
    And Beat the Charts Outta Me
    She Wants to Move a Million Units, Man
    Probably Just to Prove She Can

    2. Starry nights, city lights coming down over me
    Skyscrapers and stargazers in my head
    Are we we are, are we we are the waiting unknown
    This dirty town was burning down in my dreams

    3.Home for Sale
    That’s Much Too Large
    Too Many Rooms
    Big Ol’ Empty Yard

    4. Quiero Bailar, Quiero Sentirme Hermosa
    Quiero Cantar, Ver el Amanecer
    Quiero Sentir sólo Tu Dulce Boca
    Y Bailar, Quiero Sentirme Bien

    5. In My Solitude
    You Haunt Me
    With Dreadful Ease
    Of Days Gone By

    6. I Get Really Sick and Tired of Boys Up in My Face
    Pick-Up Lines Like "What's your sign?" Won't Get You Anyplace
    When Me and All My Girls Go Walking Down the Street
    It Seems We Can't Go Anywhere Without a Car that Goes "Beep-Beep"

    7. Give Your Heart to the One
    Who Gave Her Heart to You
    If You Must Play the Game
    Play it Fair (Play it Fair)

    8. How Do I Look?
    How Do I Look?
    Woke Up This Morning, It’s a Brighter Day
    I Looked in the Mirror, Saw a New Face

    9. I Wasted My Tears
    When I Cried Over You
    I Should’ve Known
    You Would Never Be True

    10. The Tide is High, But I am Holding On
    I am Going to be Your Number One
    I am not the Kind of Girl Who Gives Up Just like That
    Oh No!

    11. You Know, There are Two Sides to Every Story
    See, I Don’t Know Why
    You are Cryin’ Like a Bitch
    Talkin' Shit Like a Snitch

    12. You Say You See What's Under Me
    That the Gloss has Washed Away
    But You're the One Whose Color's Gone
    From Love to Dirty Grey

    13. Funny Cause for Awhile
    Walked Around with a Smile
    But Deep Inside, I Could Hear
    Voices Telling Me "This Ain't Right"

    14. I Wish You Could Swim
    Like the Dolphins
    Like Dolphins can Swim
    Though Nothing
    Will Keep Us Together

    15. But She had to Go and Lose it at the Astor
    She Didn't Take Her Mother's Good Advice.
    Now There Aren't So Many Girls Today Who Have One
    And She'd Never Let it Go for Any Price

    16. Sweet Dreams are Made of This
    Who am I to Disagree?
    Travel the World and the Seven Seas
    Everybody's Looking for Something

    17. I’m Coming Out
    I’m Coming
    I’m Coming Out
    I’m Coming Out

    18. I Won’t Let You Down
    I Will Not Give You Up
    Gotta Have Some Faith in the Sound
    It’s the One Good Thing That I’ve Got

    19. Non, rien de rien
    Non, je ne regrette rien
    Ni le bien qu'on m'a fait, ni le mal
    Tout ça m'est bien égal

    20. See My Days are Cold Without You
    But I'm Hurtin’ While I’m with You
    And Though My Heart Can't Take No More
    I Keep on Running Back to You

All the World's Waiting for You,
And the Power You Possess.
In Your Satin Tights,
Fighting for Your Rights

Monday, September 03, 2007

Memento Mori

My friends, this is the end. The weekend holiday marks the end of summer and GayProf’s return to the classroom. I have got to earn those coins. Don’t worry, though, GayProf still has some tricks up his sleeve for the future.

Since I knew that I will soon be swamped with meetings, students, grading, preparing lectures, etc., etc., I wanted to get my little cottage in as good a state as possible before the semester starts. This involved purchasing and repotting a number of new houseplants (ones that Cat will not torture and make beg for their lives (the list of those varieties is quite small)). I also gave the place a good cleaning.

As we know, GayProf likes living in older places. Indeed, with one exception, every apartment or house where I have lived in my adult life was built before 1940 (The one exception was a temporary apartment selected because of other circumstances). Indeed, there seems to be a theme in my life as I also surround myself with material things created between 1900 and 1940 (dishes, furniture, etc.). My research projects usually focus on the period before 1940. Even my iTunes has a significant chunk of disc space devoted to music from this period.

It all makes one ponder if I was reincarnated. Maybe I lived some tragic, but very glamorous, life between 1900 and 1940. Perhaps that will manifest itself today. Maybe you will see GayProf wandering the streets in a grey wool suit muttering, “There is something I must do, there is something I must do.” Do fish me out of the bay when I fall into it.

The thing about reincarnation, though, is that everybody believes their former life was quite romantic. People imagine themselves as long lost knights or ladies of the manner. I can’t even tell you how many former Ladies-in-Waiting to Cleopatra I have met. Statistically, though, most people who were reincarnated would have had to have been serfs. You were more likely to have been the shlep who polished King Arthur’s Round Table than to have had a seat at it. Peasants had no armor and no pretty clothes. They just toiled hard in the soil and then dropped dead somewhere around the age of 30. Just once I want somebody who believes in reincarnation to claim that their former life was dreary, but unremarkable.

Whatever the reason, I seem to bristle at living someplace newer than 1940 (and downright cringe at living anywhere built between 1970 and 1989). My vision of hell would be an apartment built somewhere around 1975 with faux Tudor windows and orange counters. Hell isn't other people -- It's bad architecture and poor lighting.

Luckily, I have been very happy with my 1940 rental in Midwestern Funky Town. Indeed, my little cottage has been one of the best parts of moving here.

Living in older dwellings, though, sometimes requires one to take their [current] life in their hands. While it has actually been renovated fairly recently, my house still has some quirks that come with age. I have been struck by how many things are around that will potentially lead to my untimely demise. These include:

    ** A garbage disposal that sounds like it is grinding something metal. I have searched for something inside of it (including an unwise mission of shoving my hand around inside). Nothing has been found thus far. Yet, periodically, it jams after sounding like I had tossed an aluminum TaB can inside of it. One day that mysterious piece of metal is going to fly out, impale me, and I will die.

    ** Older houses also usually have mature trees. In the case of my little cottage, there is a great Maple tree in the front lawn. I like the tree a great deal and appreciate its soothing shade. After all the rain a few weeks ago, however, I was certain that the tree was starting to lean towards the house. It will likely collapse and crash into my bedroom, killing me instantly. Or perhaps they only moved the tombstones and not the bodies when they built the house. Thus, the tree will come to life on a stormy night and just snatch me from my bed. Either way, I am certain that the tree will cause me to die.

    ** The house has a central fuse box. Until I moved into my cottage, I literally didn’t know any house still had a fuse box. I thought every dwelling in the U.S. had been switched to circuit breakers. How does one actually change a fuse? I am uncertain about the steps required for that. What does make me certain, though, is that my first attempt will result in me electrocuting myself and I will die.

    ** That fuse box is located in the basement. I will likely fall down the stairs and break my neck. That's not at all the house's fault. I am just clumsy. Even before being electrocuted, I will likely take a misstep and die.

    ** Speaking of being electrocuted, for mysterious reasons the electrical plug for the washing machine is positioned directly above the wash sink (where the washer also drains). Modern houses can’t put an electrical outlet within several feet of a water source. Back in the day, though, they apparently thought it was just dandy to shove an electrical cord directly in the path of running water. This struck me as a very bad hazard. It was made worse by the fact that the electrical cord from the washer didn’t even reach the plug. Thus, I had to add a power strip which I then balanced on a cardboard box to keep it off the floor. That box probably already saved my life as the washing hoses started leaking shortly after I moved into the house, covering the floor in water. That was lucky. At some point, though, I am certain that I will enter a flooded laundry room with a free flowing, though Downey© fresh, electrical current. One step in and I will die.

    ** Then there is electric mower that I bought. Granted, this has nothing to do with the age of the house. I wanted to select the mower option that was better for the environment. In Texas, the grass was simply too thick to even contemplate an electric mower. Here in the Midwest, though, the grass is delicate enough to consider buying a mower that doesn’t belt out a ton of pollution (Note: Electric mowers are better than gas mowers, this does not mean they are good for the environment). Nobody told me what a pain in the ass it is to drag around a giant electric cord as one mows. I am certain I will be careless, run over it, electrocute myself, and die.

    ** Perhaps I felt so inclined to think about the environment because my neighborhood seems disproportionately populated with Priuses (Prius? Priui?). Several times I have been out walking in the neighborhood and barely been aware that they were even there as they were in “quiet/recharge mode.” It is likely that one day I won’t be being attention and will be run over and die.

    ** Of course, I cared not at all about the environment when I discovered the nest of bees between the siding of the house. In that case, I called for an exterminator to slather the grounds and structures with profoundly toxic chemicals. Though the bees are dying, I am sure that the chemicals have also given me cancer and I will soon die. If not, I will be attacked by drug-resistant killer bees and die.

At least the advantage of renting is that my estate would not be not responsible for the repairs that would come about after my death. So, I can mostly sit back and enjoy the house. Besides, there is always the next life. Maybe I will come back as a pretty, pretty princess . . .