Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Greetings!

It goes without saying that GayProf will be spending the next few days gorging himself on tamales. I suppose that will be punctuated with quality time with family, but, whatever...

Meanwhile, on Paradise Island, this is that special moment of the year when all the Amazons reaffirm their devotion to the Goddess Diana during their annual Festival of the Return of the Sun. Yes, they will be dressing like deer, having massive tickle fights, and baking each other into pies. Just good, traditional, Amazon fun. Have I ever mentioned that I suspect William Moulton Marston took a lot of drugs in the 1940s?

Kiddies, I finally gave up on sending out actual holiday cards sometime ago. So let me use this moment to wish you all a happy non-sectarian, non-denominational winter holiday! And to all my loyal Wookie readers, let me extend you a special greeting for your celebration of Life Day.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Facing Facebook

Maybe it is because I have had a lower on-line presence than in the past, but I must confess that I don’t understand the Facebook phenomena. News outlets have suggested that Facebook and other "social networking" sites are now more popular than internet porn. To me, that's just another piece of evidence of how screwed up our priorities have become in Bush-era America.

Don't get me wrong. I wouldn’t say that I am a Luddite, but I do approach technology with a sense of gravitas and skepticism. Market researchers who try to figure out ways to convince us to buy technology (that we don’t need) label me a “late adopter.” Not since I owned a Commodore 64 have I been on the cutting- edge of any technological innovation. Once again, I find that I am behind the times.

Blogging, the major “democratic” innovation of five or six years ago, has clearly become passé. “What? You still Blog?” one can hear others saying, “Ack – Do you do it while listening to your Victrola and in between viewing stereographs? Is your computer powered by a cathode ray tube, Grandpa?”

I am no expert, but I would guess that blogging lost its avant-garde status around the time that “Mommy blog” became an identifiable genre. Or maybe it was at the time that "academic blog" became part of the sphere. Whatever the case, Facebook now reigns supreme.

I still remember the first time that I heard of “Facebook.” It was long ago, way, way back. Like, three years ago -- a lifetime in internet years. I still resided in Texas and had just become the faculty advisor to a campus Latino/a group. During a training session for all new faculty advisors, representatives from student-services warned us that some undergraduates had placed themselves into some pretty bad situations through new-fads like Facebook and Twitter. Giving “status updates,” it turns out, offers a real time-saver for criminal stalkers.

Facebook therefore didn’t appear to be my scene. Much of your interest fades when you learn about it in the context of a conversation about restraining orders (Of course, little did I know about the number of nutty-nuts that I would encounter on this here blog).

Time passed and eventually “friend” became a verb (e. g., Those who know my Diana-Prince alter ego should feel free to friend me on Facebook). It seemed inevitable that I had to open a Facebook page. Many of my "RL" friends and colleagues raved about the hours they spent (apparently in near rapture) on Facebook. So, I finally opened a page about a year ago. In that time, I usually checked in on my homepage every couple of days.

Let me tell you: I.Just.Don’t.Get.It.

Part of the “not getting it” might be my own lack of technology savvy (I would be aware if I were “super poking” people, right?). Part of it might also be that I am a total passive-bottom in the Facebook world. I almost never send “friend requests” (Who needs the rejection?). Instead, I only engage when somebody else happens upon me.

I don’t own a digital camera beyond the one embedded in my cell phone. Therefore, the option of having an on-line photo gallery is fairly slim.

I also never use Facebook’s key feature: status update. There is the lingering association with the aforementioned stalking, but it also seems like a dubious proposition that people care to know the most mundane aspects of my life. Do people really login to find out if I am grocery shopping? Are people actually wanting to know that I just shoveled out the ashes in my wood-burning stove? FYI: I did shortly before I posted this entry, in case I am mistaken about the level of interest.

Faculty who have Facebook relationships with their students also baffle me. Do I want to open up my internet browser to learn that my student is seriously hungover five minutes before classes start? Do they want to know that I am equally hungover before classes start? I kid – I am never hungover before class. One has to be “over” to be hungover.

Most importantly, Facebook hinges on a type of communication that just isn’t my speed. The best “Facebookers” have a quick wit that plays out through short, declarative sentences. They can spin out well-crafted epigrams that involve more than just letting people know what they are cooking for dinner. They communicate something about the human condition, sometimes via virtual-graffiti on a Facebook wall.

I simply can’t be sly in less than fifty words. My sense of humor takes pages and pages of exposition, often for much less payoff. Blogging was so much more suited to my talents. And, let’s be honest, CoG was one the best blogs ever produced.

Now that blogging is declining faster than GM stock, I feel that I should give the Facebook more of an effort. The other night, out of the blue, somebody with whom I went to highschool “friended” me. Given that I hadn’t thought of hir in years, it seemed like an ideal time to test out my interest in Facebook.

So, following hir link, I began to explore other people who had graduated from our highschool. Keep in mind that I didn’t have the worst time in highschool. By the end, I found a niche in nerdsville geekopolis Student Government. Nonetheless, my travel down internet-memory lane convinced me that I have zero interest in knowing 96 percent of the people with whom I graduated highschool.

Scrolling through the Facebook listings reminded me that a lot of people were really, really, really nasty to me in highschool. Sure, I had some satisfaction in seeing how dreadful their lives had become today: fat, saddled with too many children, boring jobs, and trapped in dead-end hetero marriages (Maybe Facebook’s real success is predicated upon schadenfreude). All of that also made it clear that these weren’t the people I want hanging around my internet world. Most of the people that I did care about in highschool were the type of folk who wouldn’t bother with Facebook.

Determined to make a better go of it, I decided to expand my search to include my alma matter. The problem there was that I graduate from a massive state university. Moreover, that university caterered to “non-traditional” students (The average age of undergraduates was 28). This means, of course, that most people did not graduate on a four-year plan. To make matters even more complicated, I often worked full-time as an undergraduate student. Most of my friends in college, therefore, came from the places where I toiled as a secretary. After all, I spent much more time in offices than I did on campus.

So, searching through my particular graduation year yielded almost nobody that I knew personally. It did, however, reveal people that I wished that I had known in college. ¡Ojalá! Then I thought to myself, why am I wasting time on Facebook when I could be on Manhunt?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Take Me for a Ride

I took time out of my busy schedule of undermining heterosexual marriages and recruiting young people into my lifestyle the other night. Hey, even we gays need time to ourselves.

While relaxing at home, a man that I had gone out with a few times this past summer phoned me. We didn’t get to know each other well. I had always intended to try to reconnect with him, but timing was against us. Unfortunately, when we first met, I was deep into the Never Ending Research Project of Doom. Later, the semester started and I became bogged down in classes. I meant to phone him when things stablized, but I had to travel for some conferences. Then, of course, there was the Project Runway finale. When all was said and done, I just never found the right time.

When he called the other night, he let me know that he had been laid-off by his company in Decaying Midwestern Urban Center. As a result, he was leaving the Midwest region and wanted to say goodbye.

I was struck by his disappointment at having to move. He was a Mexican national who had come to the U.S. Midwest because he wanted a place radically different from his home surroundings. For him, life in the Midwest was an adventure even after several years. He was one of the few people that I have met here who talked about this state with enthusiasm.

With his company hemorrhaging money, though, they cut his position. Unable to find any other work around here, he was forced to take a job in Texas, a state that he hated passionately (We had so much in common! I should have tried harder to make that relationship work).

Such is the story of the U.S. Midwest. The economy has become so crippled that even people who would like to stay simply can’t. The mass exodus from the Midwest has meant that people have relocated to places which are environmental disasters. I am looking at you, Phoenix. The Midwest actually has water. Arizona does not.

For decades, this part of the country has been in decline while the rest of the nation simply ignored it. I am willing to wager that the conditions in Detroit are comparable to pre-Katrina New Orleans, probably even post-Katrina.

Most times, the media pretends like the Midwest doesn’t exist at all. Take, for instance, election night coverage. I was astounded by the number of pundits who claimed that the Democrats, before 2008, were only a “coastal party." Well, yes, as long as you count the shores of the great lakes as “coasts.”

Today there is a question about whether the U.S.-based automotive industry will survive. The corrupt leadership in Detroit has come to the U.S. government looking for a handout. To my mind, it’s the same as giving your druggie cousin $500 for tuition money that he promises will turn his life around. Oh, sure, the auto execs made us all sorts of assurances that they will put the money to good use and become upstanding citizens. A week after they get it, though, you just know that we are going to stumble upon GM sprawled out in an alley somewhere with a needle full of petroleum up its arm. We’ll confront them, but they’ll tell us that we don’t understand what it is like when you start jonesing for the high-premium.

Much to my surprise, it is the Republicans who are now calling for these industries to fail. Their arguments can be persuasive (except for the part where they blame those audacious unions for demanding a living wage (If only American companies could simply enslave people again! Then we would show you an automobile worth driving!). Of course, many of the Republican critics are in states with foreign-owned auto factories. So, are we, as a people, conceding that we are unable to build decent vehicles anymore?

As a nation, we will now produce what exactly? Some argue that we are a "knowledge economy" or a "technology economy." To them I ask, Have you tried using Microsoft Vista? If that's our niche in the global market, we are screwed.

The sad reality is that the collapse of the automotive industry will be the death knell of several major states. Longtime readers know that this is not my first time in the Midwest. My graduate university was located in a town that once produced a major car brand that ceased to exist somewhere in the middle of last century. What replaced that industry in town? Nothing. Do I mean several smaller industries? No, I mean nothing. Do I mean that the town became oriented to service or information technology? No, I mean nothing. The abandoned factory, some sixty years vacant, still stood in the middle of the town (which was too broke to even have it torn down).

Even my current residence, Midwestern Funky Town (which is largely considered one of the garden spots of the region), is clearly feeling the economic collapse. Some of our roads have gone so long without repair that I am thinking of calling NASA for a moon-buggy to navigate the potholes.

The problems of the Midwest are the problems of the nation. I don’t mean that in some idealized “fields of amber grain” or “apple pie” sort of way. Instead, I mean that the nation’s worst impulses has resulted in the near total destruction of this part of the country. Unless we seriously reevaluate our priorities and relationships, it will happen to the rest of the U.S. Greed, petty self-interest, and unchecked corporate growth have now given us its fruits. And let me tell you, it’s going to be some nasty-ass lemonade that we are going to end up making.

I am uncertain and torn about what is best. On the one hand, I am furious by the greedy idiots who ran the companies that churned out gas-guzzling Ford F150s or Hummers. I am also furious at the people who bought gas-guzzling Ford F150s or Hummers.

Most of all, I am frustrated by the continued myth that corporations are the key to the nation’s salvation. Corporations have created many of our problems because they have sought wealth for the few at the expense of the many. I am disheartened that Democrats seem to cling to long defunct notions of “trickle down economics.” We are to believe that rescuing banks, automakers, and Goddess-knows-what-else will ultimately make its way down to help the working class. This has not proved to be true. Meanwhile, they have totally ruled out helping individual citizens in debt up to their earlobes.

Throughout this economic crisis, we have often heard that certain banks/companies are “too big to let fail.” Well, isn’t that the problem in the first place? Why did we allow any company to become that big? Mergers that were against the interests of consumers and workers have been granted for well over the past two decades. How many of you, my dear readers, heeded my Cassandra-like advice and wrote to your government leaders to oppose the merger of Northwest Airlines and Delta? Think of me in my star-spangled panties telling you “I told you so” when you try to book that ticket home to see grandma for Thanksgiving.

Alas, I can’t disagree that the region needs the auto makers for the time being. If the U.S. government does bail out these industries, however, they should adhere to GayProf’s demands:

    * First, there should be a clean-sweep of all executives in the company. They ran it into the ground, they should be shown the exit.

    * Second, let’s break up “the big three” into the “mid-size ten” or the “small twenty.” Why do we need three giant corporations? If we are capitalists, aren’t we supposed to believe that competition will make better products?

    * No matter what, the government should own part of the companies and have a direct hand in their operations. If we are paying for it, we should have title to it.

    * Fourth, profits from GM’s overseas Asian operations should also be funneled directly into their U.S. branch.

    * Lastly, GayProf should receive a brand new Dodge Challenger as payment for this advice. Hey, no matter what, it still is a hot car.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Happiness and Gravitas

Here we are, kiddies, living through a profound moment in history. Not only did Barack Obama win, he won by a massive landslide. He will take office as the first African-American U.S. President thanks to the hard work of a multi-racial coalition. All it took to achieve this victory was 232 years of constant political struggle and the near-total collapse of the nation and global economy.

Only the most cynical would argue that Obama’s victory lacks significance in terms of race in this nation. In many ways, his win will also up the ante in the global fight against racism (and it is global). Canada, Australia, and the European nations will have to reconsider their own presumptions about leadership and race. Many of those nations have deflected attention from racism within their own borders and government through the argument, “Well, at least we aren’t the U.S.” That has currency for undeniable reasons, but they are going to be hard pressed to explain why their leadership does not reflect the realities of their populations or the majority populations of the globe (Newsflash: the majority of the earth’s population is not white).

Only the most naïve, likewise, would argue that the Obama victory has meant the end of racism in this nation or that we are entering a “post-racial” moment of U.S. history. Those individuals might be surprised to learn that people of color don’t imagine an Obama presidency as the conclusion of the fight against racism. Rather, they see it as an opportunity to renew discussions about how race continues to impact our nation’s economic and social relations. Expect some difficult moments of national soul searching ahead for both the political right and the left.

What is most on my mind these days, however, is the related issue of sexuality. Like many of my queer brothers and sisters, my happiness from the Obama victory could not overcome my frustration and hurt created by voters in California, Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas. In those states (Two “Red,” Two “Blue”), the majority of heterosexuals declared that queers are less valuable citizens who have no guarantees to their basic civil rights. Arizona, which had previously turned down a similar measure in 2006, disappointingly defined marriage as only possible if penis-vaginal sex occurs. Shockingly, the citizens of Arkansas declared that children are better left unloved than placed with gay and/or single parents. Read here for a critical reaction to that state. Perhaps most disappointing for many queers and their loved ones, though, was that California’s Proposition 8 enshrined homophobia into the state constitution, thus taking away a right that had already been won.

Longtime readers of CoG know that I was never particularly thrilled that marriage had become the centerpiece of GLBT rights activism. To my mind, there were (and are) more important and pressing issues that needed our attention first. I also think that the institution of marriage needs to be reevaluated for everybody (heteros and homos alike) as to whether it really serves our needs and expectations. It has become too easily presumed to be positive and “natural” in a way that I think actually limits people’s options and imaginations.

Nonetheless, the radical right has made it our priority because they see it as the touchstone for defining our place in this society. Currently, marriage enshrines a number of basic rights that gays (outside of my beloved Massachusetts or Connecticut) are denied. We have no guarantees to inheritance, tax breaks, immigration, health insurance, pensions, social security, parenting/adoption, and numerous other forms of cash and prizes. Being denied the right to marry, in other words, has real consequences in real people’s lives.

Based on my personal experience, I would say one of the most important things about legal gay marriage would be legal gay divorce. Obviously this is not something that most supporters of gay marriage want to bring up (Much of their strategy has depended upon the image of durable, life-long same-sex unions that only stop when death does them part. I am sad to report that gays, as much as heteros, are likely to make a bad selection from the spouse shelf). Still, we shouldn’t discount why divorce is also an important “right” that gays are deprived.

Several years ago, an eight-year relationship that I was in ended quite badly. When my Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies) decided that he no longer loved me, he also decided that I warranted as much consideration as a used Kleenex in a wastebin. Though certainly imperfect, legal mechanisms exist for heteros to divorce in ways that provide mediation and balance to an otherwise emotionally impossible event. I did not have access to any of that legal recourse.

Therefore, I was left to either battle it out with the Liar Ex on my own (something that I was too hurt and tired to do) or to bow to his decisions and whims. He saw nothing unfair in the fact that I struggled to pay both rent for my own place and also half the mortgage in the house where he lived (and where I didn’t reside for over 1.5 years). On the contrary, he astoundingly imagined that he was the real victim in that situation. Isn’t it interesting that, no matter how outlandish and hurtful our actions, we never can see ourselves as the villain in the story of our own lives? When it came to the division of our meager positions, his notion of “fair” was that anything I owned before we met was “mine” and anything that we bought after we met was “his” (unless he clearly didn’t want it). We won’t even get into the question of ownership of debt. Had the state recognized our relationship in the ways that it recognizes equivalent hetero relationships, institutional structures would have existed that would have protected me from a truly callous and self-centered ex.

I don't bring this story up for pity -- anymore. Rather, I hope that it points to my basic humanness. Like everybody, I make mistakes, sometimes have bad relationships, and usually try to make my life better. It's that humanness that the majority of voters don't wish to acknowledge.

Since Obama’s victory, I have been more than a little obsessed with the President-elect. Like many people in the nation, I hungrily await news about his cabinet posts (Bill Richardson really should be Secretary of State). I even took time to watch his first press conference this past Friday. What a sea change in terms of leadership! Bushie was basically unwatchable in press conferences as he always looked like a school-boy who knew that he hadn’t studied for the test that day. Obama, meanwhile, is confident and thoughtful in his answers, always delivering a measured response.

One of my great fears about the future, though, is that Obama will follow in the steps of Bill Clinton, tossing aside gays and lesbians as “too hot to handle.” Obama has already publicly stated that he does not support gay marriage (opting instead for “separate, but equal” civil unions). He did reject Prop 8, but rarely discussed it.

Conservatives are already mobilizing the anti-gay successes in California and elsewhere as a means to argue that Obama can’t govern “too left,” despite his sweeping victory. It seems entirely likely that they will use gays as a means to threaten the new president. How will he respond? Will he see us as too small a minority to affect his next election? Are we therefore expendable to him? Will he imagine us as a political liability? Will we be the sacrificial lambs to achieve his “greater good?”

The problem with all of those scenarios is that I, as an individual, don’t imagine me or my rights as either “expendable” or a “liability” to the nation. As a citizen, I am not out to hurt anybody or to dictate how others should live their lives. All I want is to go along and build relationships with men who interest me without the threat of social, legal, or economic penalties. Because there are so few of us gays, we need a leader who will defend us against a clearly mean-spirited majority. Given the tremendous pressures that he already faces, we have no guarantee that Obama will be that leader. It is for this reason that none of us should imagine Obama’s inauguration as the end of our work. Quite the contrary, we are going to have to fight even more resolutely.

It will require the queer community to consider why the majority of whites, Latinos, and African Americans voted in such a hateful manner. We will also have to think about the ways that race and class are being deployed/upheld in fights over queer rights. Like ProfBW, I have been deeply concerned by the ways that some of the follow-up analysis of California’s Prop 8 has subtly placed the blame for its victory on people of color. Newspapers and others have focused attention on the fact that a simple majority of Latino voters and 70 percent of African-American voters decided to take the rights away from GLBT people while also voting for Obama.

The implicit (and sometimes explicit) argument is that it was people of color’s “fault” that the measure passed. This fits within a long-standing discursive strategy that makes Latino and African American communities appear dysfunctional and “out of step” with modernity (I told you that discussions of race weren’t over yet). Claiming that Latinos and African Americans are “more homophobic” or slaves to their religious institutions displaces homophobia onto those populations and avoids considering how it pervades all elements of this nation. It also ignores that the majority of white voters, 53 percent, also hate gays so much that they were willing to deprive them of their rights. It was, after all, predominantly white institutions, like the Mormon Church, that provided the majority of funding for the measure. Yet, unlike the debates about Latinos and African Americans, few news organizations have pondered how the white community could be so “dysfunctional.”

For minority communities, the queer community is implicitly figured as white in an "us" and "them" mentality. Because the queer community cuts across all racial and economic categories, though, the "them" is the "us." Indeed, many leaders within Latino and African American communities urged the defeat of Prop 8.

I have argued elsewhere in this blog that the marriage fight is really about the “wages of straightness,” to borrow a phrase from African-American scholar W. E. B. DuBois (and the more contemporary historian David Roedriger). DuBois perceptively argued that nineteenth-century white workers had willingly given up the fight to increase their real wages in favor of a “public and psychological wage” of white superiority. Rather than organizing with African Americans and other workers of color, white workers bought into the myth that their status as “white” improved their lives and set them into a higher social standing.

So too I think that the modern emphasis on the “sanctity of [heterosexual] marriage” is a means to distract the majority of citizens from the alienating and exploitive economic and social relationships that have defined this nation for the past eight years. Right-wing religious and government institutions argue that contentment (and even eternal salvation!) can be achieved by depriving gays of their rights. As long as gays are disempowered, than heteros are empowered (regardless of their actual living conditions or economic viability).

Proponents for the fight for gay marriage, however, have largely focused their message to the middle class (and I would suggest that marriage within the gay community is a middle-class issue (but that is another entry entirely)). While we can understandably be angry at their decisions to enshrine bigotry into state Constitutions, we will also need to understand why those voters wrongly imagine that doing so will improve their lives. It will require that we continue our politics of visibility, particularly in working-class communities. And it will require us to commit ourselves to fighting for social justice beyond issues of sexuality. We will need to show how equal rights for the minority will actually improve the rights of all.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Turn and Face the Change

Okay, it’s time to go out and vote, my bitches. This has been a long, exhausting couple of years (I can't believe this election cycle started when I still lived in Boston (Goddess, I miss that city)). It should come as little surprise that GayProf fully supports Barack Obama. While he was not my candidate in the primary (That was Bill Richardson), he has nonetheless won me over (starting with his speech on race). It would also be supreme foolishness to imagine that a McCain victory would do anything but push this nation further into despair and chaos.

Rather than rambling on about actual issues or platforms (which nobody seems to care about these days anyway), let me give you some unconventional reasons to vote for Obama today:

    * An Obama victory would be the first time since JFK that we had a hot president. I suppose Bill Clinton had some charm among hetero women, but, whatever. . . I want a commander in chief who is smokin’ by gay standards. We are a much better judge of male beauty.

    * Obama is just a fun word to say.

    * An Obama victory will really piss off the radical Christians in this nation. That always makes me happy.

    * Massive numbers of Democrats will finally be able to wean themselves off of the Xanax that they have been taking for the past eight years.

    * I have it on good authority that one of Obama's first executive orders will be to reunite Charlie's Angels to capture Osama bin Laden.

    * Having young children in the White House will mean that we will have the pleasure of seeing swing sets erected on the west lawn of the White House. Who could be anxious about the future of the economy when you are watching kids run and play? If Chase bank fails, maybe they will even get a pony.

    * Not having Sarah Palin hanging around the White House will mean that we won’t see the west lawn turned into a Turkey Shoot.

    * There will be a 0.000002 percent chance that Congress will actually do something productive in the next two years

    * The rest of the world will think that we might have some sanity as a nation after all.

    * Michelle Obama will join the ranks of Jacqueline Kennedy, Rosalynn Carter, and Hillary Clinton as accomplished and smart spouses of Presidents who deserve respect in their own right. Okay, I actually loathe that this nation draws in spouses as a measure for electability. Don’t even get me started about that cookie recipe bullshit, either. Besides, if ever there was any doubt that the “First Lady” position was meaningless, Laura Bush proved it by being a total void of a person. Nonetheless, I can’t help myself in fantasizing about Michelle Obama using her talents and intelligence in a new administration.

    * Even more importantly, Michelle Obama will be the new Jacqueline Kennedy in terms of style and fashion. Indeed, I have already heard colleagues and friends of mine recommending that people dress like her (and not just the drag queens, either). Personally, I would love to see her rock a pill box hat. How did that family get to be so insanely good looking?

    * We will no longer have to hear the term “maverick” thirty times a day.

    * I can keep my Obama t-shirts as mementoes of an historic campaign rather than turning them into rags to wash my car.

    * Sarah Palin’s lack of awareness about international affairs and basic news will be rejected as unacceptable. Heck, it might even mean that the rest of the nation will be required to learn about the world around them.

    * Joe Biden’s borderline Tourette syndrome will provide comedians with comic gold for the next four years.

    * It will open the door for a GayProf campaign victory in 2016.

Now stop reading this blog and vote.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What to Wear, What to Wear, четыре

Truly loyal readers, who have been with CoG from the start four years ago, know that there is a tradition here. Yes, those loyal readers remember that each year I contemplate my inability to prefect a Halloween costume. Those same loyal readers would also be able to name four supporting characters who have appeared regularly on this blog. They would dutiful remember every move that I have made and the tribulations that accompanied them. A truly loyal reader would know the make and model of my first car ever or where I attended high school. They would have small altars in their house dedicated to my image. Genuinely loyal readers would be willing to take a bullet for me. **Sigh** I wonder if such a reader exists. . .

What were we talking about? Oh, right, Halloween is just around the corner. As the official gay holiday, the expectations are always so high for choosing the right outfit. Yet, no matter how I have tried these past four years, my costumes have never quite worked out. Let me take you through what I aim for and the disappointing results:

What I Aim for: Yoda

    We all remember the unexpected way that Yoda made his way into our imagination and became a pop-culture icon. Sure, he started out as an annoying muppett who terrorized R2-D2. Eventually, though, he became the voice of reason who delivered sage advice in the form of inverted sentences. Yoda is so much part of our social consciousness, that his name is even identified by the spell checker in my wordprocessor. A great costume he is.

What I End Up With: Gollum

    Gollum, like Yoda, has his own creative rules for grammar. Less cute and endearing, though, Gollum would be a disappointing result when aiming for Yoda. Who ever turned to Gollum for advice? As far as I know, he never evidence any strange mental powers that gave him the ability to levitate rocks.


What I Aim for: Mr. Belvedere, 1948

    Of all the fussy, crypto-gay film characters to appear in the postwar era, Mr. Belvedere ranks the highest in my estimation. He was a man after my own heart. Belvedere disdained Americans’ unhealthy obsession with children, scorned the prison of heterosexual marriage, and tore apart environmentally and socially disastrous suburbs. This costume would scare the snot out of Focus on the Family.

What I End Up With: Mr. Belvedere, 1985

    After skulking around Fantasy Island, this pale imitation of the original Belvedere ended up enslaved to a middle-class hetero home in Pennsylvania. Sure, he was just as fussy as his forties counterpart, but the Reagan-era Belvedere did less to critique the banality of suburbia than to become its queer booster. Okay, there was the "very special episode" that dealt with HIV. Mostly, though, this Belvedere hid from real controversy. He even disavowed his queernees by locking himself into an unexpected and largely unexplained hetero marriage. Who needs to go disguised as that closeted mess?


What I Aim for: Phyllis Schlafly

    Going as the original Queen of Mean, Phyllis Schlafly, could quite possibly be the scariest costume ever conceived. Shlafly burst onto the national scene in 1964 with a screed that proclaimed that the Republican Party was not radically conservative enough. Never one to shy away from blatantly irresponsible statements, Shlafly frequently spoke out against any attempt to curb the proliferation of nuclear arms during the Cold War. Heck, she declared the atomic bomb “a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise god.”

    More recently, she has called for a purge of the Supreme Court of “activist judges” (Read: Anybody who disagrees with Phyllis Schlafly). Apparently, according to her altered Republican reality, justices who undermine the Constitution by supporting a coup that installs a half-wit into the presidency aren’t “activists.” They are “literalists.” She has also demanded “abstinence only”education, opposed the distribution of contraceptives for the unmarried, and has dismissed the use of condoms as a means to check the spread of HIV.

    Those other “accomplishments” aside, Schlafly will probably best be remembered as the demagogue who killed the Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. through her "Stop ERA" campaign. Schlafly confidently declared that the ERA was not what feminists claimed (ensuring equal access to services, equal pay for equal work, fairness). According to Schlafly, it was really about making women susceptible to military drafts, unisex toilets, and (horrors!) lesbian marriage. The adoring media side-stepped the fact that Schlafly was a driven, highly-educated, career activist who rarely spent her days baking cookies or mending shirts. Instead, they accepted her self-created image as representing “normal moms” who opposed their own liberation. This could be a costume scarier than Freddie Krueger.

What I End Up With: Sarah Palin

    Oh, sure, Sarah Palin is just as cynical as Schlafly. As much as Schlafly downplayed her own career success, Palin’s constant refrains of being “just a hockey mom” mask her steely determination to become a mayor, governor of Alaska, and now vice president. Like Schlafly, she also pretends to speak for the majority of women (even though polls suggest that only a tiny minority agree with her).

    And, of course, she has mastered the Orwellian double speak of “hate is love” on gay issues. In her nationally televised debate with Joe Biden, she implied that she had “gay friends,” or at least she has friends who have gay friends. Palin tends to ramble incoherently, making it hard to pin down what she really meant when she said, “I am tolerant and I have a very diverse family and group of friends and even within that group you would see some who may not agree with me on this issue, some very dear friends who don't agree with me on this issue.”

    If we were in doubt about how she defines being “tolerant,” she clarified herself in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. "I am, in my own, state, I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman," Palin stated, “I wish on a federal level that's where we would go because I don't support gay marriage.”

    What a nice, tolerant friend she is! I don’t know about you, but I always like to have friends around who, based on their theology, think of me as a lesser person who deserves fewer rights than the majority of Americans.

    While Palin has some frightful elements, I can’t help thinking she is a pale (Palin?) imitation of things we have seen many times before in this nation. If Schlafly was unique and masterful in her evil, Palin looks like a tired retread. She is just another arch-conservative woman who benefited from feminism, but seeks to dismantle those gains for others.


What I Aim For: Warren G. Harding

    For decades, Warren G. Harding was most often selected as the worst president the nation had ever known (in competition with Andrew Johnson and James Buchanan). When Harding was elected in 1920, he already had a reputation of being a bit slow and woefully unprepared for the job before him. Though he died before he even finished his first time, his administration became renowned for its corruption, unchecked greed, and incompetence. He also initiated economic policies, via Herbert Hoover, that culminated in the U.S.’s Great Depression. By all accounts, a major loser. Even Harding admitted, “I am not fit for this office and should never have been here." It would be a costume that only historians would appreciate.

What I End Up With: George W. Bush

    Harding used to be considered the worst president, but I think that we can safely say that Bushie transformed himself into the most hated executive that this nation has ever known. Unlike Harding, he didn’t have the personal self-awareness to acknowledge his own ineptitude. Instead, he has unapologetically driven this country into moral and literal bankruptcy. If I appeared as Bush, even as a Halloween costume, I doubt that I could keep from vomiting.


What I Aim For: Gollum

    Cold, soulless, greedy, erratic, self-interested, and mean: These are a few of the words that come to mind when thinking of Gollum. Okay, so he isn’t Yoda, but he has the potential to frighten. His internal dialogues and erratic behavior made Gollum unpredictable and dangerous to those who surrounded him.

What I End Up With: John McCain

    Cold, soulless, greedy, erratic, self-interested, and mean: These are a few of the words that come to mind when thinking of John McCain. While I never (ever) agreed with McCain’s politics, he long ago lost whatever courtesy I might have given him when he so clearly cuddled up to Bushie to fuel his own ambition. Seriously misreading the direction of history, McCain banked on the idea that the nation would embrace the Bush administration’s mishandling of everything from the economy to wars. He was mistaken.

    During this campaign, even he has appeared frightened by the bile and hatred that has bubbled up from some of his supporters. Nonetheless, he clearly will do anything to take power. McCain has veered from one direction to another in increasingly desperate attempts to appear legitimate. He went from arguing that there was nothing wrong with the economy to suspending his campaign because the economy was in serious crisis. Most recently he “guaranteed” that he would win the White House, despite being behind in most of the nation’s major polls. To make that guarantee, he is either completely out of touch with reality or he already knows that the Republicans are planing yet another coup that will undermine the will of the people. When he starts mumbling "my precious" on November 4, I think that we will all know the score.

    Unlike Gollum, McCain has no magical ring or bastard Hobbitts to explain his personality disorders. Sadly, a McCain costume would be a more mundane form of anxious selfishness.


What I Aim For: GayProf

    Few other bloggers have the cool and glamorous personality of GayProf. He is good looking, witty, and can deflect bullets with his magic bracelets! Who doesn't want to be GayProf? Surely his own comic book or television series is just around the corner.

What I End Up With: Kevin French

    From the extremely short-lived cartoon Mission Hill, Kevin French would probably be the best I could do for a rendition of GayProf. Nerdy, self-conscious, and maybe a bit of a smug know-it-all, French would be a downer as a costume. Ask yourself this, though, is GayProf any less likely to know the details of dilithium mining in the Star Trek universe than Kevin French?

Monday, October 20, 2008

An Academic Affair

Over the past few days GayProf returned to his equivalent of Paradise Island, known in Patriarch’s World as the Land of Enchantment. By good fortune, an academic conference happened to be in my birth city, giving the perfect excuse for my return. Such visits always makes me feel a little wistful. Why did I think leaving such a great place was a good idea? It seems like so long ago that I was chosen to bring our philosophy of peace, love, and better living through turquoise to the rest of the world.

Since I don’t own an invisible jet – yet – I depend upon the nation’s crooked and corrupt airlines to transport me around. Why, as consumers, have we allowed mismanagement to be rewarded in the nation's highly overpaid airline CEOs? As we seem to be historical witnesses to the collapse of capitalism as we knew it, why not demand a revolution in air travel? Every person reading this blog should write their governmental representatives now to oppose the merger of Northwest and Delta. Remember that their explanation for wanting to do so was that they hoped to reduce competition. In other words, they want to screw consumers by limiting our options.

Before I could get home, my airline stranded me overnight in the dreaded state of Texas. For a complicated set of reasons, not a single hotel room was nearby. There wasn’t even an accommodating manger. Thus, to get even a few hours of sleep, I had to spend the night trying to arrange myself in between gobs of gum stuck in the carpet. Twenty-four hours after my original arrival time, I actually made it to ABQ.

While at the conference, I did have an official duty to speak on a panel. For those of you who have never seen me serve on an academic panel in real life, here is a pretty accurate image of what that looks like:

Okay, maybe that's not totally accurate. Nobody on my panel wore a silver jumpsuit.

Outside of the panel, being on home turf didn’t change my feeling that academic conferences are always a mixed bag. I enjoy the opportunity of meeting new people, especially given that I was able to meet some scholars whose work I have long admired. It also gave me a chance to see some fellow bloggers!

Attending the conference allowed me to briefly catch sight of StinkyLulu. For the first time, I also met Tenured Radical and had a much needed drinkie. We spent some time comparing notes over blogging, the academic world, and the possibilities of a queer future. Why, you might even say that we spent the time “paling around together.” I wonder who is more implicated by that association? Only time will tell which of our political ambitions will be endangered.

Another good element of the conference was the chance to reconnect with a good friend from my former Texas university. Early this semester I was delighted to learn that he had also escaped found liberation run screaming into the night departed Texas for a much happier location in the urban west.

We both agreed that a) leaving Texas (Yes, including Austin) was one the best things that any gay man could do for himself and b) when people at our new institutions use the phrase “hostile work environment," they have no idea what they are talking about. That is not to say that those institutions don’t have problems, because they do. Still, in seeing him again, I had the uncanny feeling that we were like the survivors of a ship wreck or maybe a zeppelin explosion. Sure, other people can recognize those things as terrible calamities; but until you spend twelve hours clinging to a headboard in icy waters or jump out a window twenty-feet high to escape a hydrogen fire, you can't truly understand the horrors of those circumstances.

Me being me, the conference also had some moments of gravitas. Given that my non-GayProf persona is mild-mannered, I often find academic gatherings a wee bit awkward. Let’s face it: professors are not renowned for their great social skills and sparkling repartee. While I am much better than I used to be, my own natural shyness makes me less than ideal for “networking” situations.

My self-doubts and insecurities can lead to some serious over-analyzing of situations. For instance, I briefly ran into a senior scholar who has always been really nice to me. In this instance, he was still friendly, but clearly in a rush. Despite a history of goodwill, I nonetheless spent considerable time agonizing over the significance of his relatively short conversation with me. Was it a sign that he didn’t like my work? Had I annoyed him in some way? Was he disappointed in NERPoD? Did my star-spangled short-shorts make him uncomfortable?

It took me a moment to snap myself out of such thinking. Just what did I expect him to do? Lavish me with praise? Say that my work had changed his life forever? Reach into his pocket and give me c-note? Pick me up and carry me around the convention center on his shoulders? While I would have appreciated any of those gestures, it’s a wee bit silly to expect them -- at least not all the time.

Given that conferences present me with a certain level of social anxiety, I am always surprised by the number of conventioneers who knock-boots. I have a hard enough time keeping up chit-chat in between sessions, how would I possibly survive anything more intimate? Mastering the protocol of conference-shagging would elude me completely. Do you exchange business cards before or after you have fully showered? Or do you simply slink away hoping that the rumors haven’t already started that you are a “conference ho?” More importantly, how do you claim condoms and lube on your expense report?

I don't think balling at a conference would be so bad if the sex was good. But what if you ended up having a lousy time in the sack? I suppose you would have no option but to "friend them" on Facebook. That means that you are going to have to look at their "status updates" on your own Facebook page as a constant reminder of the crummy sex that you had that night. "Oh great," you'll think to yourself, "He can take time to inform Facebook that he just scooped out the cat litter, but he couldn't take an extra minute in the shower to clean around his foreskin? He sure as hell better not write on my wall."

Of course, the real thing that would bother me about a conference hook-up would be that you have to see him for the next several days, if not the rest of your life. This is a pretty serious commitment for some casual spunking.

Some guy that you pick up at a bar or on-line is gone by the next morning’s coffee at the latest. In the case of hooking-up at an annual conference, you will potentially see that same trick year after year for the rest of your career. You will both get older and older. Each of you will notice how your bodies change, including your receding hairlines and expanding waistlines. It will make you both feel strange. You will quickly wonder how (or why) you ever had sex in the first place. If your night was less than mind-blowing (or anything blowing), it might ruin that conference forever. I hear some people have decided to leave academia all together rather than having to face a bum lay at the MLA.

If that sounds like too much hyperbole, you are at least guaranteed to see him over and over for the next forty-eight hours. How much obligation do you have to sit next to him if you both attend the same panel the next day? I mean, it’s one thing to get naked and sweaty together for a quick tumble; but having to sit through a ninety-minute academic discussion together? That's starting to sound like a relationship.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Never Feed Crazy Trolls

Just because I have been away from my little bloggy doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been cursed with the trolls. Alas, these trolls don’t even provide anything useful, like spinning straw into gold or keeping bridges safe with enigmatic riddle-telling.

For whatever reason, these trolls have convinced themselves that I was deeply involved in discussions about the Duke LaCrosse Team in 2006. For those who don’t remember (or lived under a rock or in a cave with no television reception), the case centered on accusations by an African-American woman (who the team hired to strip for them) that she had been sexually assaulted by the mostly white team. After fifteen months, the students were exonerated and the district attorney of Durham, North Carolina, Michael Nifong, had been disbarred.

Investigations revealed that the police seemingly attained the accusations while the witness was under pressure; the district attorney suppressed evidence (and apparently failed to ever interview the witness himself); and the Duke campus erupted in some serious displays of bad judgment. During those long fifteen months, the media (including bloggers across the political spectrum) seized on the case as a means to debate racism, sexism, sexual violence, and economic privilege. To be certain, many of those people stepped over the students' basic rights and access to justice.

At the time, though, I wrote nothing on this blog about the case. For starters, it just isn’t the type of story that I imagine as appropriate at CoG. Why? Well, first, I try to keep up the pretense of the few journalistic ethics that I learned from high school. As I remember from my time in room A-22, assertions of guilt of an accused individual before a jury-of-their peers declares hir guilty is a big no-no (This, of course, doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to write about such cases or speculate about their larger implications. Free speech is, well, free. It does mean, however, that one must always assume innocence and write about “alleged murders," or the “individual accused of robbery,” etc. rather than “the murder” or “the highway man”).

Second, I just don’t think that it is in good taste to write about accusations of rape in a blog whose distinctive features are campy comic books and jokes about stalking celebrities. While I am happy to point out racism, sexism, and homophobia in the media, I usually stay clear of stories about specific people who are in horrific circumstances.

Finally, as a historian, I much prefer to write about the dead and buried (or, even better, the imaginary). Everything is so much more settled that way. Current events allow too many opportunities to be wrong and, as best as I remember (and that was a long time ago (and I concede I might have made mistakes that I don’t know about (I am only human and we are talking about something almost two years ago))), I did think that there were a substantial number of things that we didn’t know about this case (despite the unending press coverage).

Since I didn’t blog about it at all, and rarely commented on other blogs that did, I was somewhat surprised that individuals, like my new friend Joey7777, started showing up at CoG and demanding that I “take responsibility for my part in the Duke Case.” Hey, if people really want to know what I think about the Duke Case, who am I to deprive them?

Let me be clear: I have no problem apologizing if I implicitly or explicitly stated the guilt of the Duke students before they had a fair trial on some other blog's comments. Such actions are, indeed, unethical and contribute to the failures of the justice system. That is not something that I want to do intentionally or unintentionally. Nonetheless, I never wrote an entry on the case here or on any other blog.

I don't have a problem with right-wing bloggers forcing left-wing bloggers to eat crow when they have crossed a line and been caught at it. That is a healthy part of free speech (concerns about free speech, I suspect, is not really involved in these accusations, which I will discuss in a moment).

Too many leftist bloggers did cross the line and write about the students as guilty without first-hand knowledge of the case. We can, of course, understand why they might have been inclined to do so. This nation’s history is riddled with cases where women, especially women of color, have been deprived of justice when they have been sexually assaulted. The media also made the case into something that had to be debated. Nonetheless, we all have to be vigilant in understanding how each case develops and remembering that every individual is guaranteed some basic rights, including the presumption of innocence.

The mishandling of the Duke Case could have provided real opportunities for people who consider themselves on the right or conservative to take a moral high ground. Had they desired, they could have become leaders by building coalitions with the left to solve common problems. Without a doubt, the Duke Case exposed that many U.S. police departments and district attorney’s offices are inadequate and geared to politics rather than justice. Those are issues we all should be concerned about, regardless of our political leanings.

It also revealed that the media was not at all an agent of justice, but rather sought to capitalize on the furor around the case for their own rewards. For this and many other reasons, I no longer think that it is valid to debate whether the media has a “conservative” or a “liberal” bias. Such debates only maintain that status quo, making us part of the “info-tainmaint” that has replaced actual news in this nation. We all, on the right and left, need to recognize that the media in this nation, composed of profit-driven mega-corporations, is not serving anybody’s interests in this society.

Alas, though, most people on the right passed on such opportunities for real change. Instead, they have decided to use the Duke case as a means to distract, or even to try to silence and intimidate people. Indeed, they don’t bother with details like whether I really wrote about the Duke Case on this blog or not. Instead, they have presumed that I must have done so because of their own assumptions about who they imagine I am as a person. I have constantly pointed out to my new buddy Joey7777, for instance, that I never had an entry on this topic, but that did not satisfy him.

After many empty statements lacking any real evidence about my supposed deep investment in this case and support of the District Attorney (whose name I had to actually look up), the only thing that he could point to was a comment by me that I allegedly wrote on Angry Black Bitch. After reviewing the past files on the topic on her blog (which, by the way, maintained its own strict journalistic standards when talking about the accused players as far as I can tell), I found only one statement from me on the topic (and I spent most of it discussing the media coverage rather than the “alleged rapists”). Why bother with little things like how much I wrote when you can just make shit up because you think it must be true anyway? Joey7777 has written much more about my supposed writings on the case than I ever actually wrote myself. The Alanis-Morisette-level of irony of making facile accusations about a case centered on false accusations seems to be lost on Joey7777 (Who has time for irony when you are certain that you are right?). Perhaps his next step will be to falsify some entries under my name.

I am not interested in these accusations because of what they say or don’t say about me and my supposed culpability in the case. Trust me, this post’s mere subject is likely to generate an unending rant of hate mail and hasty comments (Thank the goddess this blog is almost dead). I try to keep a sense of humor about such things. To paraphrase the immortal words of Kylie Minogue: Regardless of the hand that is dealt, the joker is always smiling in every deck of cards.

Instead, I am interested in how individuals like Joey7777 are attempting to use the Duke Case to simply get people on the left to shut up while pretending like they care about "justice."

Indeed, some are even deploying a guilty-by-association strategy. Such things can be seen in a discussion in another blog about gays and race (one that I don’t normally read, but there was mention of me, so I was vain enough to look it up). To be honest, in that comment section, I would say neither the left nor the right were really engaged in a productive discussion. However, a telling moment came when somebody dismissed all potential participation by one blogger by stating:

    “YOU shouldn't be criticizing anyone if you're friends with that GayProf comic book doofus. Referring to the Duke case, again: Gay Prof was all over the place saying the guys were guilty and how it represented "racism, sexism, colonialism, homophobia, misogyny…blah blah…" (all the b.s. these academics play around with), and then when the guys turned out innocent GayProf skulked away and hid from the story. So don't go knocking other guys if you're buds with that racist weasel.”

Aren’t they sweet and ever so respectful? That's Professor Comic Book Weasel to you.

We can again set aside the fact that I did not actually blog about the case and rarely even commented on other blogger’s posts about the case (hardly constituting me writing about it “all over the place”). Instead , there is a telling rhetorical strategy at play here. According to this person, if you even knew somebody who once blogged about the case (or, in this instance, seemed like they might have blogged about the case), you are apparently forever robbed from talking about race, racism, shaking up the status quo, or possibly saying anything ever again. Hmm, that's a free society in the making.

My special buddy Joey7777 fancies himself as “doing his part not to let academic sneaks and bullies get away with trying to hurt innocent people.” That’s cool with me. We/I make lots of mistakes. He can look forward to pointing out each and every one if he so desires. It's unlikely that I will respond. He has also invited me to e-mail him. I think I'll pass on that, too.

I would suggest, though, that if he was really invested in questions about social justice in this nation that he could focus his efforts on people and circumstances that matter a lot more than a random prof with a blog and a Wonder-Woman kink. He might, for instance, take an interest in the racial and economic disparity that exists in our prison system. There are many innocent people who did not have the resources that permitted the Duke students to fight the system.

Or he might consider what it means that the International Court of Justice has ruled that the U.S. has violated the rights of over fifty Mexican nationals currently on death row under the terms of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. In August of the past year, a ruling from the ICJ concluded that Texas authorities had mishandled one of those death-penalty cases resulting in a prisoner being deprived his basic rights, thus necessitating a stay of execution. The state of Texas ignored both the ICJ ruling and appeals from the UN and Mexico City, moving ahead with his murder. Every comment written here could be time spent saving people's lives and reforming our justice system. To each his own, though.

Indeed, my beloved trolls would do well to follow the statements of one of the actual Duke students involved in the case. In a statement to the press, this student reminded us that it was their status and access to financial resources that helped them to attain their release. “This entire experience has opened my eyes up to a tragic world of injustice I never knew existed,” he said, “If police officers and a district attorney can systematically railroad us with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, I can’t imagine what they’d do to people who do not have the resources to defend themselves. So rather than relying on disparaging stereotypes and creating political and racial conflicts, all of us need to take a step back from this case and learn from it.” I tend to agree.

In the meantime, I wonder how long before GayProf is linked to the Weather Underground. . .

Monday, August 04, 2008

Brave New World

Today I had a delightful lunch with HistoriAnn, who is currently visiting Midwestern Funky Town. It made me remember the things that I like about blogging. Oh, sure, there are the fake personas and convicted criminals inhabiting blogland that scare me silly. But the blogosphere also provides really good opportunities to meet cool people. With only one or two exceptions, I have never been disappointed by meeting a blogger in real life.

Alas, though, my little bloggy has been far on the back burner to the Never Ending Research Project of Doom. It dawned on me the other day that I have been working on NERPoD in one form or another since my first year in graduate school in 1996. That is a long time. Let me put that in perspective for you:

    When I started NERPoD, Bill Clinton had just been elected to his second term.

    When I started NERPoD, nobody had ever heard of Monica Lewinsky or would have considered “Blue Dress” a punchline for a joke.

    When I started NERPoD, the Nintendo 64 was cutting-edge entertainment technology.

    When I started NERPoD, there was no such television show as CSI.

    When I started NERPoD, there was only one television show with “Law & Order” in the title.

    When I started NERPoD, George W. Bush was governor of Texas, a state that I swore to avoid for that and many other reasons.

    When I started NERPoD, Motorola had just introduced the first ever “clamshell” cellular phone.

    When I started NERPoD, TWA airlines was still flying planes.

    When I started NERPoD, McDonnell Douglas was still manufacturing planes.

    When I started NERPoD, it was possible for people with a lot more money than me to take a concord plane.

    When I started NERPoD, Barack Obama had never held an elected office.

    When I started NERPoD, Woolworth’s stores still existed.

    When I started NERPoD, George Lucas was known for his legacy of Star Wars rather than being known for trashing his legacy of Star Wars.

    When I started NERPoD, Princess Di was still alive.

    When I started NERPoD, all the Heaven’s Gate cult followers were also still alive.

    When I started NERPoD, they were still filming Titanic.

    When I started NERPoD, the Macarena was all the rage.

    When I started NERPoD, state “sodomy laws” were still considered Constitutional. Fourteen states, including Texas, still had them on the books until 2003.

    When I started NERPoD, I had a completely full head of dark, luxurious hair that I never imagined would recede (I partially blame NERPoD).

    When I started NERPoD, Exxon and Mobile were two different companies.

    When I started NERPoD, gasoline cost $1.27/gallon.

    When I started NERPoD, the Department of Justice still filed antitrust lawsuits.

    When I started NERPoD, you could still smoke in California bars and restaurants.

    When I started NERPoD, singer George Michael had never been arrested.

    When I started NERPoD, Charlton Heston had never been president of the NRA.

    When I started NERPoD, there was no such thing as “Google.”

    When I started NERPoD, it was not possible to clone mammals.

    When I started NERPoD, Netscape was the internet browser that everybody used.

    When I started NERPoD, I drove a Daihatsu – the best-built car that I will probably ever own. I miss that car.

    When I started NERPoD, Tony Blair had never been Prime Minister of Britain.

    When I started NERPoD, Jean Chrétien was the Prime Minister of Canada (Bonus points to non-Canadians who can name the current (evil) Prime Minister of Canada without an internet search).

    When I started NERPoD, Rachel Ray had not yet launched her master plan to become our new imperial overlord.

    When I started NERPoD, the only “reality” television show on the air was MTV’s The Real World.

    When I started NERPoD, there was no such thing as a “euro.”

    When I started NERPoD, I still used “Pine” to check my e-mail.

    When I started NERPoD, my waist was three inches smaller.

    When I started NERPoD, there was no such word as “blog.”