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Archive for September, 2007

September 30th, 2007

Then Jesus Said, “Hey Everyone…Let’s All Sit On This Side Of The Table…”

Seeing yet another outraged headline from some right wing crank site, about the so-called anti-Christianism of the annual Folsom Street Fair, coming across my Google News Digest, finally made my gorge rise enough that I started looking through Google images for other parodies of da Vinci’s Last Supper to post here.  I’d come close to doing it the other day when I saw Andrew Sullivan bloviating about the Ad being a provocation.  You can always tell that Sullivan’s taken his stupid pills, when he starts channeling the likes of William Donohue.  I was scanning Google for other examples of anti-Christian blasphemy, like this one of Christ as a medical marijuana advocate, and the truly bizarre painting titled Frida Kahlo’s Last Supper (I have No idea…), but I soon found that Dan Savage had beaten me to it.  Though he Did miss this little collection of Last Supper Cartoons.

Allow me to gratuitously join in the…provocation.  Here’s the image, from the Folsom Street Fair program that’s giving the kook pews vapors…

 

"The bread and wine representing Christ’s broken body and lifegiving blood are replaced with sadomasochistic sex toys in this twisted version of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper," says Concerned Women For America.  "’Gay’ activists disingenuously call Christians ‘haters’ and ‘homophobes’ for honoring the Bible, but then lash out in this hateful manner toward the very people they accuse".  Kiss my ass.  Listening to CWA yap, yap, yap about people not having respect for Christianity is like listening to Al Capone giving advice on fighting crime.  I’m no fan of the S&M subculture by any means.  My libido doesn’t go there, I’m not into it, I don’t grok it at all, it completely grosses me out.  But S&M is by no stretch particular to gay folk, as any casual stroll through the world of heterosexual sex fantasies will quickly show you, and I’ll endure lectures on hate from a lot of people, but not from Concerned Women For America.  Hate…did you say?  Hate?  Let me hear CWA denounce Paul Cameron’s The Medical Consequences Of What Homosexuals Do and I might consider listening to them talk about hate.

It’s a symptom of how the conversation about religion and spirituality has degenerated here in America, that people, even normally sane people, are treating a 15th Century wall painting (it isn’t actually a fresco) as though it’s a page right out of the bible.  Iconic it may well be, but that speaks to the skill of the painter, one of the true masters of the art form.  It’s Leonardo’s version, not Matthew’s, not Mark’s, not Luke’s, not King James’, not Cyrus Scofield’s.  And it’s not a particularly realistic representation of the event either (Hey everyone…let’s all sit on This side of the table…).  As I’m told some of the figures in the painting are supposedly representations of politicians who lived during Leonardo’s time, the painting may itself have elements of parody in it.  The fact is that this Folsom Street Fair graphic is just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of parodies of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous work that have been created over the years.  If anyone has a right to be offended here, it’s Leonardo’s ghost.

And…you have to laugh sometimes…Leonardo, if he wasn’t gay himself, certainly sets you wondering about it.  Charged (and acquitted) of sodomy as a young man, he never married, and once said that "the act of procreation and anything that has any relation to it is so disgusting that human beings would soon die out if there were no pretty faces and sensuous dispositions".  And what did he consider a pretty face?  Take a look at the figure of John in The Last Supper.  It’s probably his pupil Salai, whom Leonardo fondly and often painted.  Another pupil, Melzi, the 15 year old son of a Lombard aristocrat, became his life companion, traveling with the painter and Salai (who was said to have been greatly jealous of the younger student at first), and remaining with the painter until his death.  If Leonardo was alive today, Matt Barber would be bellyaching that The Last Supper, with its androgynous John practically swooning at Jesus’ side, was a hate filled anti-Christian parody of…er…The Last Supper.

[Update…] As I scan the images of representations of The Last Supper, one thing that strikes me is how often John is represented as a beautiful young man, often in a…er…Very friendly pose with Jesus.  As John is, by legend, The Beloved Disciple, that’s not all that surprising.  But…Look at some of these.  Here’s one by the painter Jacopo Bassano, done in 1542, showing a Much younger John, literally sitting on Jesus’ lap.   And this one, painted by Valentin de Boulogne in 1626, showing a Much younger John with his head practically in Jesus’ lap.  And check out this stained glass panel from New York City’s Church of the Incarnation. This one from a church in BelfastAnd this one from an Australian LDS (!) seller of bible paintings

Now, the sentiment in these works strikes me as a profoundly beautiful one.  If I’d been allowed to see more imagery like this in church as a young gay man myself, I might still be calling myself a Baptist today.  But again, it just strikes me as funny that the kook pews are whipping themselves into a sanctimonious lather about the sacredness to them of a genre of religious art, that itself has a rich history of homosexual overtones.  Have any of these jackasses looked, really looked, at some of these Last Supper paintings?

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

September 23rd, 2007

Woodward Class Of 72 Reunion

Just so you know, and to help spread the word, I’m on the Charles W. Woodward Class of 72 Reunion Committee.  We’re planning a 35th year reunion this November, on the weekend after Thanksgiving (on the theory that most of our classmates will be traveling home for Thanksgiving…), and I’ve set up a class reunion website at www.woodwardclassof72.com.

If you’re a classmate who occassionally reads my blog, or knows someone who is or might be, stop on by the reunion site and check out some photos from way back when, and a few issues of our student newspaper, The Advocate (some of my classmates may appreciate the irony in my being able to honestly claim to have had my photos and cartoons printed in The Advocate…hehehehe…), and get up to date on the reunion news.  And…join us for a good time at…er….wherever we decide to hold our reunion (we haven’t settled on a venue yet…)

I’d really love to see all my classmates there.  And especially some…and extra especially a certain someone…   Even though he wasn’t class of 72…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Woodward Class Of 72 Reunion


Say…How About We Discuss Our Differences Over A Nice Glass Of Get The Fuck Off My Back…?

Via InterstateQ.Com…  It seems a certain preacher down in North Carolina would like to have a little dialog with
them thar Homersexuals

The original intent of the forum, according to Coalition of Conscience director Dr. Michael Brown, was to have an open and honest dialogue between the Coalition of Conscience and members of the Charlotte-area gay & gay-friendly clergy.

Brown said he had invited members of the clergy from thirteen area churches – including the New Life Metropolitan Community Church, MCC of Charlotte, Myers Park Baptist Church, St. Martin’ & St. Peter’s Episcopal Churches, Holy Covenant UCC and Jay Bakker’s Revolution Church. Brown also said up to 500 personal invitations to the event were handed out at the Pride Charlotte festival at the end of August. He also noted that this was his third or fourth attempt at organizing a public discussion on issues of sexuality & Christianity with members of the Charlotte-area LGBT community.

“We want to open a door of grace to the gay & lesbian community. We are convinced from the Scriptures that Jesus is against homosexual practice. We are equally convinced that Jesus died for homosexual and heterosexual alike,” Brown said, “We know there is a lot of misunderstanding. We know that a lot of gays and lesbians have been driven out of churches as if homosexuality was the worst of all sins…. Just by saying, ‘Let’s talk about it,’ hopefully we can break a wall down there.”

Oh how…neighborly…  

Uhm…well…sort of….

At the beginning of the forum, however, Brown made his point very clear: One cannot be gay & Christian, or rather, one cannot be a self-affirming gay person and Christian:

“If you mean, can I be a devoted follower of Jesus while struggling with unwanted sexual desires, while saying I know these are wrong, I resist them, I don’t give into them, I do not practice homosexuality, I’m celibate and I’m abstaining from these things and my goal is to be pure in front of the Lord, but I’m still struggling with these things… Can you be gay and follow Jesus? In that sense, yes. And that’s the same as a heterosexual struggling with lust, desire, temptation outside of wedlock. However, if you mean can I practice homosexuality? Can I engage in romantic and same-sex relationships and does God endorse those things and can I be a follower of Jesus at the same time? The answer is absolutely, categorically no. The Scripture leaves no room to question that.

(Emphasis mine…)  Oh.  Well there’s nothing to talk about after all then is there? 

Never mind…

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

September 22nd, 2007

Message In A Bottle

It’s been almost a year now since we talked.  It was amazing that last time, to hear your voice after so long: you sounded just like you did way back when.  It took me back…almost like that first time I called, and heard your telephone voice.  Well…actually it was better, because that first time, I think I might have gotten you into some kind of trouble.  You remember.  You gave me your phone number that Friday before school was over, and we agreed that I’d call you Saturday and maybe we could both take our cameras for a hike somewhere…like maybe Great Falls.  By the way…I still have that roll of film of yours you had me develop.  I think I gave you the contacts I made, and some prints, but somehow I ended up with the negatives.  I can mail them to you if you like.  Anyway…I called and asked whoever it was who answered if you were home, and then you got on the line and you were all like…uh…sorry…I didn’t think you’d call…why did you call…I can’t go anywhere…I didn’t think you’d call…like I wasn’t supposed to call, which really confused me because we’d agreed I would call and you gave me your phone number which isn’t the sort of thing you do when you Don’t want someone to call you.  Next Monday morning I met you at school it was like nothing had happened.  There were times while we were seeing each other, when I wasn’t sure when you were teasing and when you were serious.  And you always kept me at arms length from your family.  For years afterward I wondered if I’d gotten you in some kind of trouble with your parents for giving me your number.  Maybe we should have agreed you would call me.

Say…maybe you should call me now.  It’s been almost a year.  It would be nice to hear from you again.  We’re too far away from each other to go for that camera hike like we were going to back then.  But we can chat now, can’t we…without it getting you in trouble…right?

Wave back sometime.  Please.  It would be the best birthday gift ever.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Message In A Bottle

September 21st, 2007

Our Worthless Senate…

Just in case you needed another reason to spit whenever the word "Senator" tries to come out of your mouth…

Senate Approves Resolution Denouncing MoveOn.org Ad

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 — The Senate approved a resolution on Thursday denouncing the liberal antiwar group MoveOn.org over an advertisement that questioned the credibility of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq.

MoveOn.org, with 3.2 million members, has become a powerful force in Democratic politics and the advertisement it paid for, which appeared in The New York Times, has come under sharp attack from Congressional Republicans and others as unpatriotic and impugning the integrity of General Petraeus.

Damn those dastardly democrats!  Impugning the integrity of a war veteran! Is there no low they won’t sink too!!!

Like…oh…this for instance…?

 

At a White House news conference, President Bush called the advertisement disgusting and said it was an attack not only on General Petraeus but also on the entire American military.

I got your disgusting right here Junior… 

 

You want a civil debate on the issues?  Fuck Off!  pls?  kthxbye…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Our Worthless Senate…


Libertarianism In The Age Of Bush

From our Reasons Why I Am Not A Libertarian department… 

Over at Box Turtle Bulletin, Timothy Kincaid notes the recent Values (sic) Voters conference down in Orlando

The “values voters” seem (so far) to be obsessed about homosexuality. And the candidates that showed up to pander are playing right along. They all weighed in on how to oppose “the homosexual agenda” with only Ron Paul hedging his anti-gay attitudes in terms of libertarianism.

Libertarianism…did you say…? 

Every single candidate present would veto ENDA, would support a federal marriage amendment, and would support healthcare policies that would reward a “moral” lifestyle.

Emphasis mine.  Ron is the kind of libertarian who would have (and probably did as far as I know) joined in the celebrations over the supreme court decision in Hardwick v. Bowers back in 1986, which upheld the sodomy laws.  It was a "state’s rights" thing see.  Now of course, it’s Let’s  Let The Federal Government Define What Is And What Is Not A Family

State’s Rights.  Libertarianism.

[Update…]  In the comments to that post, Ron Paul’s supporters note that Paul is apparently "on the record" as being against FMA.  However, that seems not to have been a record Paul was willing to share with the Values Voters.  Apparently he weaseled his way around the question.

See…this is the thing I noticed even back in the 1970s about many libertarians.  You can appeal to a lot of people by saying the government should get the hell out of (insert what government does that you despise most here), so long as you mute the part about wanting to dismantle (insert what government does that you really like here).  And almost without exception those libertarians who did that, turned out to be mostly right wing conservatives, wrapping themselves in libertarian language, trying to convince liberals that government is more a source of all our troubles, then a means to any good end.  They’ve been singing that tune since…oh…back around when the feds started desegregating the public schools…

I won’t deny that there are libertarians who would be perfectly willing to get up on that Values Voter stage, look that audience right in the eye, and tell them if they want the government to leave them alone, it has to leave their neighbors alone too.  They’d be tossing those votes away of course, but they’d say it.  Paul apparently, couldn’t bring himself that day to stand on…you know…principle.  There’s probably a reason for that.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Libertarianism In The Age Of Bush

September 20th, 2007

Some Better News On The Equality Front

After the grotesque decision by the Maryland Appeals Court to sustain the Heterosexual Prerogative, on the basis that even though some opposite sex couples absolutely cannot procreate, there remains some mystical possibility that they might anyway, and individuals cannot be discriminated against on the basis of sex, but only entire genders, and besides we’re normal and you’re not and there are more of us then there are of you, and minority rights are really only a gratuity bestowed by the majority so you need to just keep begging for them and if you beg nicely enough, well who knows you might actually get a few crumbs from the table not that you deserve any, or as another famous and still very well respected in many quarters Maryland judge might have put it, a homosexual has no rights a heterosexual is bound to respect…I really needed to see some evidence of actual goodness in this world.  Thankfully, there was some…

First…if you’ve been following GLBT news lately, then you know that the City of San Diego recently voted to endorse a court challenge to the state of California’s current ban on same sex marriage.  This came after a previous vote rejecting endorsement of the court challenge that surprised and angered a good many people who expected some long time gay rights advocates to…well…you know…do the right thing.  But on the second go-around the endorsement was passed, at which point the mayor of San Diego, republican Jerry Sanders,  announced he would veto it.  But there were enough votes to overturn the veto, assuming nobody on the council switched again.

Then…someone had a change of heart… 

San Diego Mayor Backs Same-Sex Marriage

The mayor of the nation’s eighth-largest city abruptly reversed his public opposition to same-sex marriage Wednesday after revealing that his adult daughter is a lesbian.

Mayor Jerry Sanders signed a City Council resolution supporting a legal fight to overturn California’s prohibition on same-sex marriage. He had previously said he would veto the resolution.

Sanders, a former police chief and a Republican, told reporters that he could no longer support the position he took during his mayoral campaign two years ago, when he said he favored civil unions but not full marriage rights for same-sex couples.

"Two years ago, I believed that civil unions were a fair alternative," he said at a news conference. "Those beliefs, in my case, have since changed. The concept of a ‘separate but equal’ institution is not something that I can support."

He fought back tears as he said that he wanted his adult daughter, Lisa, and other gay people he knows to have their relationships protected equally under state laws. His daughter was not at the news conference.

"In the end, I could not look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationships — their very lives — were any less meaningful than the marriage that I share with my wife, Rana," Sanders said.

The mayor, who is up for re-election next year, acknowledged that many voters who supported his earlier stance may disagree, but he said he had to do what he believed was right.

Now look at this…a republican with a gay child, who not only isn’t going on a jihad against the gay community because of it, they’re standing up for their rights as citizens too.  Wow.  And you thought republicans like that didn’t exist.  Well…I did anyway.  Hey Alan Keyes… Phyllis Schlafly… all the rest of you louts who can’t love your gay kids… Take A Look.  Rex Wockner has the complete statement, and some photos…

And…speaking of loving your gay kids

Dear Abby: My husband and I raised our two sons and two daughters. One son and both daughters married well. Our other son, "Neil," is gay. He and his partner, "Ron," have been together for 15 years, but Neil’s father and I never wanted to know Ron because we disapproved of their lifestyle.

When I was 74, my husband died, leaving me in ill health and nearly penniless. No longer able to live alone, I asked my married son and two daughters if I could "visit" each of them for four months a year. (I didn’t want to burden any one family, and thought living out of a suitcase would be best for everyone.) All three turned me down. Feeling unwanted, I wanted to die.

When Neil and Ron heard what had happened, they invited me to move across country and live with them. They welcomed me into their home, and even removed a wall between two rooms so I’d have a bedroom with a private bath and sitting room — although we spend most of our time together.

They also include me in many of their plans. Since I moved in with them, I have traveled more than I have my whole life and seen places I only read about in books. They never mention the fact that they are supporting me, or that I ignored them in the past.

When old friends ask how it feels living with my gay son, I tell them I hope they’re lucky enough to have one who will take them in one day. Please continue urging your readers to accept their children as they are. My only regret is that I wasted 15 years.

— Grateful Mom

Dear Grateful Mom: You are indeed fortunate to have such a loving, generous and forgiving son. Sexual orientation is not a measure of anyone’s humanity or worth. Thank you for pointing out how important it is that people respect each other for who they are, not for what we would like them to be.

You could have learned that lesson long ago, had you and your husband contacted Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) when you first learned that Neil was gay. Among other things, the organization offers support groups and education for parents who need to learn more about gender issues. (The address is 1726 M St. N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036.)

That was from a Dear Abby column back in July.  This week, Abby posted what came in the mail

Dear Abby: I am writing to respond to "Grateful Mom," the widow who, in her time of need, was invited by her son Neil and his partner to live with them despite having rejected Neil in the past because he is gay. I have a gay son, too, and I would not trade him for anyone. He is the most loving and caring son any parent could ever have. I consider myself very lucky.

When it was time for me to relocate, it was his partner who first approached me about moving across the state to be near them. My son helped me find a cute little house to buy. My two dogs and I are very happy.

I will not have grandchildren, but I do have grand-dogs and another wonderful son. I am blessed.

— Another Grateful Mom in Florida

Dear Abby: "Grateful" said her two daughters and one of her sons "married well." Sounds to me as if Neil is the one who married well. If only the world could be half as tolerant as Neil and his partner, Ron. Because of their good hearts and generous spirits, even that intolerant mother was able to change!

— Berkeley, Calif., Reader

That’s just a sample of the outpouring.  Not bad, eh?  There’s hope for this poor world…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Some Better News On The Equality Front

September 18th, 2007

Property

I see that the New York Times has a glowing review of Ayn Rand’s Literature of Capitalism

One of the most influential business books ever written is a 1,200-page novel published 50 years ago, on Oct. 12, 1957. It is still drawing readers; it ranks 388th on Amazon.com’s best-seller list. (“Winning,” by John F. Welch Jr., at a breezy 384 pages, is No. 1,431.)

The 1957 novel was harshly reviewed and widely read.

The book is "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand’s glorification of the right of individuals to live entirely for their own interest.

For years, Rand’s message was attacked by intellectuals whom her circle labeled “do-gooders,” who argued that individuals should also work in the service of others. Her book was dismissed as an homage to greed. Gore Vidal described its philosophy as “nearly perfect in its immorality.”

But the book attracted a coterie of fans, some of them top corporate executives, who dared not speak of its impact except in private. When they read the book, often as college students, they now say, it gave form and substance to their inchoate thoughts, showing there is no conflict between private ambition and public benefit.

“I know from talking to a lot of Fortune 500 C.E.O.’s that ‘Atlas Shrugged’ has had a significant effect on their business decisions, even if they don’t agree with all of Ayn Rand’s ideas,” said John A. Allison, the chief executive of BB&T, one of the largest banks in the United States.

“It offers something other books don’t: the principles that apply to business and to life in general. I would call it complete,” he said.

The roll call of the rich and powerful who became fans of Ayn Rand could be engraved on tablets of gold.  They were her audience.  The ones she would preach to, that theirs was both the power, and the glory.  Amazingly enough, her work was also much beloved by many ordinary Americans who were drawn to her passionate defense of individual liberty, and her vision of a world where your right to live your life as you pleased, was held sacred.  These were decidedly Not her audience.  We were, to employ a phrase whose origins she would understand perfectly well, her useful idiots.

I was one of those college age kids who were bedazzled by Atlas Shrugged back in the mid-70s.  I devoured the paperback, one of the thickest books I’d ever read (in more ways then one…), went out and immediately bought a hardback version, and for years carried in my heart her message that to live for the Self is a virtue.  I was a believer.  But like a many believers, I eventually came to a shame-faced understanding that what I thought the prophet meant, and what the prophet actually did mean, weren’t necessarily the same thing.

In some ways, Rand was my rebellion against my Baptist upbringing, which if it was anything, was more about pounding shame and self-denial into my heart then a love of God.  But Rand also spoke more directly to my love of human beauty and achievement then any other writer I’d known up to then, and which was a thing I felt was being betrayed by the cultural climate of the times.  I’d grown up during the space race, watched raptly as Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on another world.  I was appalled afterward, to see so many in my generation, and so many of our intellectual elders, treat the space effort with contempt.  In Rand I found what I thought was a champion of human achievement against both leftist nihilism and right wing fascism, along with the grotesque inhumanity of "original sin" that I’d had drilled into my head every Sunday since I could remember. 

Her exaltation of technology as an extension of the human mind appealed to my budding techno geek side.  Her insistence that sex for its own sake was a righteous thing, that a couple needed no external validation of their desire for each other, that in fact that to take pleasure in each other’s bodies is the right of two people who wholeheartedly desire one another, body and soul, appealed to my emerging gay awareness.  I tended to overlook back then, that her sex scenes consisted mostly of rape fantasies.  Later, I would dismiss her knee jerk homophobia as merely a product of her times.  I should have taken more careful notice of all that.  Fact was, the longer I kept Rand close to my heart, the more I had to forgive her for.  Rand as it turned out, wasn’t so much a product of her times, as a product of her own imagination.  And mine.

She had an afterward attached to her novels, which she said consisted of the words "And I mean it", saying that she’d always lived by the ideas she presented in her novels.  But…she didn’t.  Not always.  Like many prophets, she practiced what she preached only so long as it wasn’t inconvenient.  From her self serving denial of what her affair with Nathaniel Branden did to her own marriage, and to Branden’s, to her stubborn refusal to stop smoking and encourage her fans to quit too, even as she lay dying of it in her hospital bed, Rand never checked any premise that gave her conceits pleasure.  Most tellingly, she said she was neither a supporter nor a detractor of the theory of evolution.  It’s not hard to see why.  Evolution was the monkey wrench in her philosophy, which was entirely driven by a model of human consciousness, that acknowledged only our capacity for rational thinking.  Rand’s human being, was every bit the separate creation that Adam was in Genesis.  And that is not what a human being is.

Rand said her morality was based on the primacy of human life.  Actually, its based on the primacy of power, and of its principle expression: the acquisition of property.  In order to sustain our lives Rand argues, we must acquire the necessities of life.  But since, according to Rand, human beings are lacking instincts, have no automatic code of conduct by which we sustain ourselves, our entire means of survival depends on our ability to think, to make judgments, and to act on those judgments to our own benefit.   Since the those things which we work to acquire to sustain our lives are the products of our capacity to think rationally, and are not provided for us in some automatic form such as by instinct or by some other gift of nature, they would not exist at all were it not for us.  Therefore as our lives are our primary value, that which we create to sustain our lives, which would not exist without our intellect, must belong to us as both the creator of those things, and as the means of sustaining our lives.  If we do not own the means of sustaining our own lives, those means, and therefore we, must belong to whoever does own them. 

This is human existence reduced to the act of acquiring and disposing of property, and it’s true as far as it goes.  Without some right of ownership of the fruits of our labors, we are merely slaves.  But the problem with a property centric view of morality is that eventually it turns people into property, and all questions of right and wrong become merely issues of ownership.  And there are some questions of right and wrong, that have nothing whatever to do with property.

As a matter of fact, some things necessary for human existence Are provided to us by nature.  Which is really unsurprising considering the fact that human beings Evolved in the natural world we live on.  We may have to think about how to go about getting the food and water we need, but nobody invented water, or meat, or apples. And we don’t even have to think about how to go about getting and using the air we breath.  It comes to us as naturally as…well…breathing.  How do you determine ownership of air?  Well…we know how Rand felt about all those dirty hippies who were bellyaching about air pollution back in her day.  In her book, The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, Rand cites a series of statistics that show life expectancy in the U.S. was increasing, even as the environment was becoming more and more polluted, and said,

Anyone over 30 years of age today, give a silent “thank you” to the nearest, grimiest, sootiest, smokestacks you can find

Of course Rand was citing the life expectancy of the nation as a whole, not that subset of folks who, as a matter of fact, actually could take a short walk from their houses and lay hands on some grimiest sootiest smokestacks, not to mention living with ground water that was tainted with more dangerous chemicals then a nerve gas factory.  She might have discovered that as it turned out, Their life expectancy wasn’t quite so much.  But in Rand’s morality, since they choose to live in an ecological disaster zone, they deserved what they got.

Rand also had this to say about the nascent environmental movement of the 60s…

The immediate goal is obvious: the destruction of the remnants of capitalism in today’s mixed economy, and the establishment of a global dictatorship.  This goal does not have to be inferred – many speeches and books on the subject state explicitly that the ecological crusade is a means to that end.

There are two significant aspects in this New Left switch of the collectivist’s line.  One is the open break with the intellect, the dropping of the mask of intellectuality worn by the old left, the substitution of birds, bees and beauty – nature’s beauty – for the pseudoscientific, super-technological paraphernalia of Marx’s economic determinism.  A more ludicrous shrinking of a movement’s stature or a more obvious confession of intellectual bankruptcy could not be invented in fiction.

The other significant aspect is the reason behind the switch: the switch represents an open admission – by Soviet Russia and its facsimiles around the world and its sympathizers of every political sort and shade – that collectivism is an industrial and technological failure; that collectivism cannot produce.

In other words…it’s all a communist plot, to seize our private property.  Like they did her father’s pharmacy. 

It was after seeing in the Reagan years what kind of government we were likely to end up with when money became synonymous with morality, and more to the point, the kind of people we were likely to be ruled by in that world, that I finally walked away from Rand, and from the bastard child she always hated, Libertarianism.  It was years before I went back and read some of the books of hers that I once sat raptly with.  It was…embarrassing.  Her writing really is just awful.  Horrible.  Worse even, then LaHaye and Jenkins’ Left Behind books.  And it’s interesting to note that Rand shares with LaHaye and Jenkens, more then merely an apocalyptic fervor.  More fundamentally, she shares their utter obliviousness to actual human nature.  Her characters aren’t even two-dimensional, particularly her villains.  They’re not people, they don’t act like people, they don’t talk like people, they are merely scarecrows flap, flap, flapping in her long winded wind.  And interestingly enough, just as in LaHaye and Jenkin’s book, there are no children.   More specifically, just as in the world of Left Behind, in the world of Ayn Rand not only are the children not there, nobody seems to notice that the children aren’t there.  There is a striking obliviousness to the vast landscape that is the human experience, which in novels of the size and scope of hers should be all around her characters, and it just isn’t there.  And there’s a reason for that.

Until just recently, I put Rand’s babbling about things like environmentalism being a communist plot, along with her vitriolic hatred of the 60s counter culture, down to a bred to the bone hatred in someone who had every legitimate reason to detest communism.  When it came to anything that even vaguely resembled communism, I figured she just had to be against it.  That was why, in the face of any evidence that laissez faire capitalism might only end up destroying democracy, and any vestige of freedom for all but the very few, and very rich, she just had to stick with it, because to give an inch would mean the communists would win.  She was, I figured in other words, a zealot.  But that wasn’t it at all.  The fact is, her celebration of the individual over the mob was rhetorical.  She never really believed in it.  As long as the mob was made up of John Galts, she was fine with whatever it wanted to do.

Ayn Rand died, ironically enough, on the anniversary of the Dred Scott decision.  You may think Dred Scott was about slavery…but as far as some folks were concerned, it was about property rights

Scott was an enslaved man from Missouri who had lived for several years in Illinois and the Wisconsin territory, where slavery was prohibited by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In denying Scott the opportunity to sue for freedom, the Court also ruled the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional. In the notorious majority opinion, Chief Justice Roger Taney argued that blacks had never been intended to receive any federal rights “the white man was bound to respect,” and that it was inconceivable that blacks should ever have been intended by the Founders to enjoy equal citizenship.

Scott you see…wasn’t a man, he was property.  You might suppose that the Randian position on that is that Scott’s primary ownership of himself, of his life and the means to sustain it, had been stolen from him, and that no one can rightfully receive stolen property.  You would be wrong.

In an ideal world where the law really is an impartial referee, and justice is blind, a property centric rule of law might grant even the poorest of us rights that the rich and powerful would have to respect.  I may only have the clothes on my back, and whatever skills I’ve learned to survive on, but those belong to me and I can freely barter my skills with others for goods I need.  I may only be able to afford a run-down shack where nobody but the poor would want to live, but your multi-billion dollar factory right next door can’t pollute my ground water, and the food I grow, and the air I breath.  But in a world where the rule of money is bigger then the rule of law, and morality is measured by a balance sheet, rights will reliably gravitate to the few and away from the many.  What you have to understand, is that this is exactly the world Ayn Rand worked tirelessly for.  Not the one where everyone is free, but the one where only money talks.  A world where the marketplace bestows moral value, and might inevitably becomes right.  If The Man wants your meager little portion of the American Dream, then it’s his right to take it…because he can. 

And if you think this is Not what Rand meant, you are sadly mistaken:

On the 125th anniversary of the Dred Scott decision, Ayn Rand — who surely would have approved of its fearless pronouncements on inequality — died at the age of 77. The right-wing cult philosopher and high priestess of tedium somehow managed to sell millions of copies of her nearly unreadable novels from the 1950s onward, including paperweights such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. On 6 March 1974, following a speech to the Army cadets at West Point, Rand was asked about the dispossession of American Indian land. In short, she approved of the idea.

They didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using . . . . What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.

I’d have to say that if working your land well enough that you are making an independent  living off of it, which they were regardless of the degree of civilization the native peoples of America had, and they had a good goddamn more of it then Rand is giving them credit for there, if that gives you a moral claim to the land, then the Native Americans certainly had more then enough at the time of the European invasion…even on Rand’s stated terms.  They were in fact, making productive use of their lands.  Maybe not the productive use Rand would have cared for, but nonetheless they were earning a living off it, and had been for thousands of years.  The native Americans of the time didn’t live in caves, and in fact knew enough about their environment to live well in it, that they had to teach the first settlers how too, otherwise a lot of those oh-so-civilized white folks would have starved to death.  And if anyone was behaving like animals I’d suggest it was more the various civilized Americans during the 17 and 1800s, who decided that the natives needed to be eradicated, instead of traded with, which many of them were more then willing to do before being pushed off their lands.

See…Rand always claimed that the icon of civilized society is the trader, and that no value was ever gained with the force of guns.  It seems grotesque then, to see her justifying the seizing of property in a way not at all dissimilar in kind, if not in the particular, from what had happened to her father back in communist Russia, so long as it was being done to people she was pleased to call savages.  And…unwhite.  Many of those savages starved to death after their means to earn a living was taken from them, like Rand’s family almost did.  It all seems so staggeringly obscene…but that’s only if you take her postscript to her novels at its word.  And I mean it…  That’s the problem.  She didn’t.

Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.  Or for that matter, take over a dark person.  To…you know…civilize them.  And perhaps "stick a knife into the body of a starved, toil-dazed, germ eaten creature, as a claim to a few grains of the creature’s rice…"  Now you know how Rand could be utterly indifferent, contemptuous even, to the idea that capitalism could be just as dangerous to individual liberty as Marxist collectivism.  She was never really against the use of force to steal value from others…only against it to the degree that the values came from the white landed gentry.  What they did with the rest of us was merely the prerogative of the rich and powerful.  And the white.  That was her personal philosophy.  The public one was merely the instrument by which the personal one could be achieved.

And as America has been learning ever since George Bush was elevated to the presidency by an ersatz states rights supreme court, this is the way it is with the right wing.  Their values are mere window dressing.  A facade meant to fool the rubes.  The real value, the only value, is might makes right, and that was all that Rand’s philosophy was ever intended to do: give the powerful a moral sanction to rape the weak.  Ayn Rand styled herself as a champion of the mind.  She styled herself as a champion of freedom.  She styled herself as a champion of the individual over the mob.  It was all a fraud.  She was none of that.  She was a champion of the rich and powerful and never anything more.

Eight years to the day she gave her West Point speech, one-hundred and thirty-three years after Roger B. Taney declared from the bench of the United States Supreme Court that a black man had no rights a white man was bound to respect, Ayn Rand died.  The author Mary Renault once said that a person’s politics, like their sex life, is merely a reflection of the person within.  If you are mean and selfish and cruel it comes out in your sex life, and it comes out in your politics, when what really matters is that you aren’t the sort of person who behaves like that.  Consider Rand’s politics then, as being merely a reflection of the sex scenes in her novels, which are almost without exception fantasies of rape.  There’s the woman.  There’s her philosophy.

Postscript:  In re-reading that essay of hers in The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution for this post, I had to laugh when I came across this:

But – the ecologists claim – men would not have to work or think, the computers would do everything.  Try to project a row of computers programmed by a bunch of hippies.

Ahem.  Yes.  Just try Ayn…

[Edited a tad…] 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Property


Fundamentalism Explained

A Northerner walks into a bar in the Deep South around Christmas time. A small nativity scene is behind the bar, and the guy says, "That’s a nice nativity scene. But how come the three wise men are all wearing firemen’s hats?" And the bartender says, "Well, it says right there in the Bible–the three wise men came from afar."

More Someone, Some Guys, Some Things walk into a bar jokes Here.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Fundamentalism Explained

September 16th, 2007

Things You Learn On Your Birthday

…or thereabouts.  Yesterday a group of friends from Washington came up for a visit.  I did my fish fry and they brought me some birthday gifts, since last Wednesday was my birthday.  I spent all day Friday getting Casa del Garrett ready for its first party since I bought the place in 2001.  I shampooed the carpets, dusted as many corners as I could reach, stocked the bar, the fridge, and the pantry, got the music ready, set out the deck and patio furniture, put out fresh towels and fluffed the cushions.

It was wonderful.  My friends came and settled in out on the backyard deck while I fired up the deep fryers and sliced up four pounds of hake I’d bought that morning at Whole Foods, and dipped it in Deep Fry Batter #5.  I had two Waring deep fryers going, a second one that I’d bought recently for this party and future ones, so I could have one fryer going with fish and another with french fries.  My friends brought me an absolutely decadent vanilla cake, flowers…(Flowers!  Nobody’s ever brought me flowers before…ever…) and Anton Bauer eiswein, which I was told is a sweet wine made from grapes that have been allowed to take the first frost on the vine before being picked and pressed.  It’s a "sipping wine", they said.

We’d planned to go out to the Baltimore clubs later in the evening, but instead we all stayed here at Casa del Garrett well into the wee hours because we were all enjoying each other’s company so much.  They put candles on the cake, and I blew them out (making my usual wish…) and read my cards.  We listened to music off my satelite connection and iTunes around the bar.  My friends helped themselves to the bar, and the kitchen, as I’d hoped they would, and as usual, every last scrap of my fish fry vanished.  Once, as I was offhandedly bitching about getting old, one of them told me to knock it off because I still had a very nice body, and a cute ass.  My friends know how to perk me up.

One friend stayed overnight on the art room sofa bed.  The others rented a local hotel room for the evening.  This morning we all had brunch at Cafe’ Hon just down the road from my house.  Then we browsed a few antique shops on the Hampden Village Avenue.  They’ve gone back to Washington now, and I’ve just gotten into the eiswein.  Oh My God this stuff is…decadent.  And yes…you must sip it, savor it, slowly.  It’s very sweet, melt-into-your-pallet wine.

I’m all alone here at Casa del Garrett again.  And yet, something’s different.  I’m sipping eiswein in my little Baltimore rowhouse and it feels more alive now then before.  Happier.  More contented.  It takes more then living in a house to make it a home.  You have to invite people in too.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Things You Learn On Your Birthday

September 11th, 2007

Gay Geeks…Just Like Straight Geeks, Only Gay…

I’m reading a post on After Elton about gay comic book heros, or more precisely the darth thereof, and how the ones that are out there seldom fare much better then other gay characters in pop culture fiction…

Comic writer Mark Millar isn’t thrilled to learn that his story was the breaking point that inspired Perry Moore to tell a positive story of a gay superhero. A 2005 story by Millar was brought up in Sunday’s New York Times profile of Moore:

But things work out relatively well for him, which makes sense given Mr. Moore’s distaste for how some gay comic-book characters have been treated. His hackles still rise at the death of Northstar, a mutant hero who made headlines in 1992 when he uttered the words “I am gay” in the pages of a Marvel comic.

Death is rarely final in comics, so it’s no surprise that Northstar came back to life. “They couldn’t bother to mention he was gay,” Mr. Moore said of Northstar’s most recent appearance in “X-Men.”

Taking a cue from Gail Simone, a comic-book writer who first gained notice as a fan with her Web site, “Women in Refrigerators”, detailing the mistreatment of female heroes, Mr. Moore created his own tally. “Who Cares About the Death of a Gay Superhero?,” which he has delivered as a speech, includes more than 60 gay and lesbian comic book characters who have been ignored, maimed or murdered.

“Yes, bad things do happen to all people,” he wrote in it. “But are there positive representations of gay characters to counterbalance these negative ones?”

Not nearly enough, Mr. Moore said, and that’s one reason he wrote “Hero,” for which he already has ideas for future installments.

Millar wasn’t thrilled to see a story he wrote mentioned as a low point in superhero comics’ treatment of gay characters, and he reacted on his website:

Oh, tell him to f**k off.

He didn’t die because he was gay. He died because he’d been brainwashed by The Hand.

Well that explains it.  If that’s not geek enough for you, there’s always the reader comments, where one poster named ‘Cylon’ defends the treatment of Northstar thusly:

I think it was just a bad coincidence that he died three times that month…

He also died in X-Men: The End and Age of Apocalypse.  I hope he’s getting workman’s comp out of all this.

I’ve been reading a lot of Yaoi manga lately…stuff I’ve been buying almost by the ton from Amazon.  It’s probably a symptom of how starved for romance I’ve been most of my life, because in case you aren’t aware, yaoi are Japanese boy meets boy soap opera kinda stories, mostly marketed I’m told, to teenage Japanese girls.  When I joked in my cartoon series A Coming Out Story, about how I’d once had a stash of Tiger Beat and 16 Magazines under my bed, I wasn’t kidding.  And my tastes in comic book superheros ran more toward Spider Man then The Incredible Hulk.  I think Denny O’Neil and Michael Kaluta created a far more formidable dark knight in The Shadow (I have Every issue), then Frank Miller’s aging bar stool reactionary Batman.  I’m not generally attracted to the over muscled double-y chromosomed hulking bodybuilder genre of comic book hero, or to stories that are little more then blood and guts, slash and burn.  But the word ‘yaoi’ was originally coined as a term of derision by teenage Japanese boys, and it’s basically so I’m told, an acronym that means "no climax, no point, no meaning".  

I want my torrid same sex romance.  But I’d also like a little action and adventure please.  It would be Real Nice if some publisher could combine all these elements someday.  Or maybe it already is out there somewhere and I just haven’t found it yet.  Every now and then the manga creators manage to sneak in some Super Hero-ish elements.  One title I’m reading now, Hero Heel, the story of an actor cast as a TV superhero, who finds himself falling in love with the actor who plays the series super-villain.  I’m hopeful about the possibilities here.  Already in book one the creator Makoto Tateno seems to be weaving the plotline of the actor’s realtionship, with the plotline of the space opera they’re acting in.  This could be fun…

 

No…the guys of manga aren’t generally over muscled double-y chromosomed hulking bodybuilders.  They’re just unabashedly beautiful.  And the stories are unapologetically about love and desire.  Which is why I keep buying the damn things.  But high art they’re not.  Hmm…Northstar is actually pretty good looking…at least in this artist’s take…

 

 

…too bad he keeps dying.   Seriously…read Perry Moore’s Who Cares About the Death of a Gay Superhero, and you’ll see why I’m skeptical that the big comic book publishers, with their business focus on the fantasies of straight teenage boys and twenty-somethings, who also happen to be the demographic group responsible for most gay bashings, will ever be able to treat gay characters with much respect.  Of course Northstar had to die.  Read Moore and you’ll see how gruesomely, and what his fate was after being "resurrected".  The surprising thing is they only killed him three times.

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

September 10th, 2007

Hey…John Wayne Isn’t Rolling In His Grave Now…

A little over a year after Hollywood gave the Best Picture award to a depthless piece of crap rather then let a film about two-gay cowboys win, the Psychotic Homosexual Villain Who Must Die Horribly is making a comebackQuelle Surprise

The villains weren’t there as a nod to the gay community or to add diversity, of course. They were coded gay to heighten their wickedness and make it that much more satisfying for straight audiences when they met their usually violent death at the hands of the hero. After all, as Zack Snyder, director of 300, said about his movie’s version of the villainous god-king Xerxes, “’What’s more scary to a 20-year-old boy than a giant god-king who wants to have his way with you?”

Oh…I dunno…  A roving pack of gay bashers walking up behind you and shouting "Hey Faggot"….?

The new film 3:10 to Yuma delivers yet another coded gay villain to add to the already crowded pantheon. A remake of the 1957 film starring Glenn Ford, Russell Crowe plays the role of outlaw Ben Wade. Christian Bale co-stars as Dan Evans, the down on his luck Civil War veteran desperate enough to try to bring Wade to justice despite the near certainty he’ll die trying. And Ben Foster stars as Charlie Prince, Wade’s villainous henchman and second in command who oozes gay subtext.

When we first see Charlie Prince, he is astride his horse, one hand draped delicately over the other with the limpest wrist this side of the Mississippi river. He is by far the nattiest dresser in the entire cast, and if that isn’t mascara he’s wearing when we first meet him then I’m Buffalo Bill.

Within the first five minutes of Prince’s appearance onscreen, one character refers to him as “missy” and “Charlie Princess,” a nickname usually not uttered to his face, but apparently widely used behind his back. Naturally, Prince is utterly ruthless, killing anyone who gets in his way, and showing no emotion at all – not unless he’s interacting with Ben Wade, who clearly makes Charlie swoon.

The Ben Foster character has a thing for his outlaw boss.  But in the end decent family values prevail, and the outlaw learns what it is to be a Real Man from decent family man Christian Bale character who was sent out to apprehend him…

Shortly thereafter, Wade is captured and Christian Bale’s Evans signs up to help convey Wade to the town of Contention where he’ll be put on board the 3:10 to Yuma, a prison train. Prince pretty much disappears from the middle part of the film, except for long shots that show him glowering menacingly at Wade’s captors or ruthlessly shooting or burning to death anyone standing between him and his beloved Ben Wade.During this section of the film, Wade and Evans get to know each other and even bond, although without any of that icky homoerotic subtext. Rather, this is two men getting to know and, to a certain extent, respect each other as real men ought to do. Crowe’s outlaw especially comes to admire this determined family man trying to bring him to justice in order to keep safe his wife and two sons back on the farm. In fact, Wade admires Evans so much that he ends up helping him complete his quest.

This fits so nicely pat with the current crackpot theories about homosexuality now being peddled by the ex-gay movement that it’s hard not to wonder if director James Mangold or writers Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas didn’t ask Richard Cohen to help them research the characters of Wade and Prince.  But this is a story as old as the first fag bashing on the silver screen.  Just as every lesbian needs a Real Man to make a woman out of here, every wild and reckless young man needs a Real Man to teach him how to deal with a faggot.  Especially one that has a crush on him…

The film’s climax is appropriately dire, with bullets flying every which way. Of course, the odds against Evans’ succeeding seem impossibly high, and I won’t give away the ending (except to say that it is improbable at best), but of course Charlie Prince does figure prominently.

He arrives at the very end, riding in to rescue Wade from Evans’ heterosexual clutches. Naturally, that involves putting a bullet into Evans, an act that so infuriates Wade that he in turn pumps Prince full of bullets himself. Shocked at the actions of the man he adores, the dying Prince looks like nothing so much as a dog being put down by his master.

And what is the moral of the story children…?

As Wade watches Prince die, I couldn’t shake the feeling that thanks to the influence of Evans, he now sees Prince clearly for the first time. It is only then that he understands what friendship between two men should be like and it doesn’t involve what Prince yearned for. He may have been an outlaw and a murderer, but make no mistake – that isn’t the reason Prince has to die at the end of the film.

But it gets Even Better.  3:10 to Yuma is a remake of a 1957 film starring Glenn Ford as Wade, Van Heflin as Evans and Richard Jaeckel as Prince.  And in That prior version of the story, there was no gay subtext.  None.

In the original movie, Prince is played by character actor Richard Jaeckel (The Dirty Dozen, Starman). At no point is his character called “missy” or referred to as "Charlie Princess". In the saloon scene where Wade flirts with Emmy, Prince also spends time talking with her. Nor is it made to seem that Prince is pining over his boss, jealous over the attention he gives to others. At one point, he even discusses his having a wife.

One thing does remain the same in both movies: Prince dies in each, but in the 1957 version it’s at the hands of Evans, not Wade. Thus there is no message sent that Prince is being punished for his “queer” transgressions against Wade (which aren’t even present).

Dig it.  Less then two years after Brokeback Mountain, about the lead time for these major Hollywood films, we have the loathsome faggot character back front and center in the Hollywood’s toolkit, dying horribly so the film’s star can avenge his heterosexual manhood.  Teenage boys and young men will leave the theaters where this film is playing, knowing that real men pump faggots who have a crush on them full of lead.  And James Mangold, like every other gutter crawling maggot willing to exploit the anti-gay fear and loathing of their young male audience for a buck, gets a little richer, thanks in part to the labors of all the gay people they personally know who work in Hollywood.

See how groundbreaking Brokeback Mountain was?  Oh look…John Wayne isn’t rolling in his grave anymore…

[Edited a tad…] 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)


Strange How Emotionally…Empty…The Fundamentalist Reality Is…

Fred Clark has, for I think the past year or so if not longer, been doing a running, chapter by chapter review of the first book in the apocalyptic fundamentalist hit book series, Left Behind.  If you haven’t checked in on it yet you should, because while it may seem that taking a serious, critical look at Left Behind is like shooting fish in a barrel, Fred not only brings to it his editorial knowledge (he works for a local newspaper where he lives), he also brings to bear his own sincere and deeply held Baptist faith (he’s a Baptist in the sense that I once, in a world long ago and far, far away, thought of the word…), and with it a humanity utterly absent from the scribblings of LaHaye and Jenkins.  It must be a painful chore, but after so long his readers can tell Fred’s committed to it, because it’s important to him that people see what the likes of LaHaye and Jenkins have done to his faith, and are doing, still, to their followers.

I bring it up, because this week’s episode finds Fred, once again, pounding on the one, overreaching flaw in the series, the thing that taints every word of it from the get-go.  And you see that flaw in how strangely indifferent the characters of the novels are, to the sudden disappearance of millions of people…

Buck Williams and Steve Plank have been watching the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 on CNN. They don’t wear sackcloth and they don’t shoot fire out of their mouths, but two guys who tried to kill them tripped, fell over and died, then one of them claimed to be the Messiah before they both settled back into chanting that Jesus was the Messiah. CNN’s Dan Bennett, bored already with the chanting, signs off, promising to record anything else that happens and to report on it after the fact.

Marge and a few others on the staff had drifted into Steve’s office during the telecast. "If that doesn’t beat all," one said. "What a couple of kooks."

If you ever met someone, in real life, who talked like the characters in Left Behind, it would become a story you told for the rest of your life. "No, for real," you would say to your friends, who had heard this story a dozen times, but still enjoyed it while half-doubting that it really could have happened. "It was six years ago, at the airport, and the guy actually said, ‘If that doesn’t beat all, what a couple of kooks,’ just like that. And then he said something about ‘coming on like gangbusters.’ …"

But it’s not that they don’t talk like real people talk…it’s that they’re missing something that real people, mostly, have…

Buck decides to stick up for the kooks:

"… What a couple of kooks."

"Which two?" Buck said. "You can’t say the preachers, whoever they are, didn’t warn ’em."

Actually, you can say they didn’t "warn ’em" because they didn’t warn ’em. Instead, they started out with a lethal little object lesson — kill the first two and the others will get the idea. It was only after killing those two that they informed the rest of the crowd that this is what would happen to anyone who tried to harm them. That’s a rather vivid warning, but it came a little late for those first two dead guys.

The authors have gotten confused here. They have read Revelation 11:5, which says of the witnesses that "anyone who wants to harm them must die." That warning seems to be what they have in mind when they have Buck weirdly assert that the preachers "warned" their attackers that they would be devoured by flame and/or trip and die. But the authors seem to forget that Buck and Dan Bennett and, most importantly, the two trip-and-die guys, have not read Revelation 11:5 and thus were not privy to this warning.

The central conceit of the Left Behind books, is that it’s a future history according to the Dispensational Millenialism theology of it’s authors.  Events in the book of Revelations, taken at literal face value by crackpot fundamentalists, begin happening throughout the world, and are witnessed by the central characters in the book…a group of sinners who were "left behind" after the rapture.

There’s a problem here…and it runs throughout the book.

"What’s going on over there," someone else asked.

"All I know," Buck said, "is that things happen there that no one can explain."

Two weeks ago, Buck’s co-workers would have been impressed by that comment. A year before, you’ll recall, Buck had been "over there," in Israel, when the Ruso-Ethiopian Air Force launched a full-scale, doomsday nuclear assault, concentrating its entire arsenal on that tiny country. And no one was killed. No one was even hurt. And Buck was right in the middle of it, watching this According to Hoyle miracle unfold before his eyes. Buck had seen something happen "that no one can explain." Two weeks ago, that made him special.

But that was two weeks ago. He’s not special anymore.

Last Monday, a third of the planet vanished faster than you can blink, without a trace, without an explanation. The entire world has seen something "that no one can explain." There are no more children anymore and no one knows how or why or what happened. Compared to The Event, even Buck’s bona fide nuclear miracle seems a little less impressive. Compared to the confounding, incomprehensible, world-altering Event, a couple of guys tripping and dying scarcely registers on anyone’s personal list of unexplainable happenings.

Look at this.  Really look at it.  LaHaye and Jenkins are writing about events that have happened after what must be the greatest calamity that the human race has ever faced.  Not only have millions of adults suddenly vanished from the face of the earth, but so has every single child.  There are no children anymore!  To everyone left alive after such a cataclysmic event, it would have to seem as if the world had suddenly ended.  There is no future left for humanity.  This is it.  Finito.  Done.  End of story.

And yet the characters drawn by LaHaye and Jenkins seem utterly indifferent to that.  They just go on about their lives.

There’s a reason for that…

"If that doesn’t beat all …" No, you moron, it doesn’t. Every child on the face of the earth simultaneously vanishing and no one knowing why beats all. With prejudice. All has been beaten, decisively, and all won’t be coming back for Round 2.

The next thing Buck says is, "I’ve got to get to JFK." In the context, I at first took this to mean that he had decided to fly to Israel to check out these preachers for himself. (Buck likes to fly all over the world investigating stories. Someday weeks from now, if he finds time, he may even write something about one of them.) But what he meant was that he had to get to JFK to meet a flight attendant he spoke with once, briefly, for a few minutes, so that he can take her to meet the president of Romania in his hotel.

As he leaves for the airport, Buck doesn’t give a second thought to any of the things that no one can explain. He’s not thinking about the witnesses and the trip-and-die guys. He’s not thinking about The Event, or about the international criminal conspiracy whose secrets he has promised not to reveal, or about his betrayal of his slain friend Dirk, or his likely complicity in the suspicious death of rival reporter Eric Miller, or about how he’s well on his way to missing his second consecutive weekly deadline. He is thinking, instead, of the promotion he has just been offered:

Buck knew Steve was right. He was going to have to accept the promotion just to protect himself from other pretenders. He didn’t want to be obsessed with it all day. Buck was glad for the diversion of seeing Hattie Durham. His only question now was whether he would recognize her. They had met under most traumatic circumstances. 

In his article for Vanity Fair, American Rapture, Craig Unger tells of walking with a group of the faithful, led by their prophet LaHaye, to the very place where the longed for battle of Armageddon will occur… 

On a scorching afternoon in May, Tim LaHaye, the 79-year-old co-author of the "Left Behind" series of apocalyptic thrillers, leads several dozen of his acolytes up a long, winding path to a hilltop in the ancient fortress city of Megiddo, Israel. LaHaye is not a household name in the secular world, but in the parallel universe of evangelical Christians he is the ultimate cultural icon. The author or co-author of more than 75 books, LaHaye in 2001 was named the most influential American evangelical leader of the past 25 years by the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals. With more than 63 million copies of his "Left Behind" novels sold, he is one of the best-selling authors in all of American history. Here, a group of about 90 evangelical Christians who embrace the astonishing theology he espouses have joined him in the Holy Land for the "Walking Where Jesus Walked" tour.

Megiddo, the site of about 20 different civilizations over the last 10,000 years, is among the first stops on our pilgrimage, and, given that LaHaye’s specialty is the apocalypse, it is also one of the most important. Alexander the Great, Saladin, Napoleon, and other renowned warriors all fought great battles here. But if Megiddo is to go down in history as the greatest battlefield on earth, its real test is yet to come. According to the book of Revelation, the hill of Megiddo – better known as Armageddon – will be the site of a cataclysmic battle between the forces of Christ and the Antichrist.

To get a good look at the battlefields of the apocalypse, we take shelter under a makeshift lean-to at the top of the hill. Wearing a floppy hat to protect him from the blazing Israeli sun, LaHaye yields to his colleague Gary Frazier, the tour organizer and founder of the Texas-based Discovery Ministries, Inc., to explain what will happen during the Final Days.

Like they’ve seen it in their dreams, a thousand times… 

Once Christ joins the battle, both the Antichrist and the False Prophet are quickly captured and cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. Huge numbers of the Antichrist’s supporters are slain.

Meanwhile, an angel exhorts Christ, "Thrust in thy sickle, and reap." And so, Christ, sickle in hand, gathers "the vine of the earth."

Then, according to Revelation, "the earth was reaped." These four simple words signify the end of the world as we know it.

Grapes that are "fully ripe"- billions of people who have reached maturity but still reject the grace of God – are now cast "into the great winepress of the wrath of God." Here we have the origin of the phrase "the grapes of wrath." In an extraordinarily merciless and brutal act of justice, Christ crushes the so-called grapes of wrath, killing them. Then, Revelation says, blood flows out "of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs."

With its highly figurative language, Revelation is subject to profoundly differing interpretations. Nevertheless, LaHaye’s followers insist on its literal truth and accuracy, and they have gone to great lengths to calculate exactly what this passage of Revelation means.

As we walk down from the top of the hill of Megiddo, one of them looks out over the Jezreel Valley. "Can you imagine this entire valley filled with blood?" he asks. "That would be a 200-mile-long river of blood, four and a half feet deep. We’ve done the math. That’s the blood of as many as two and a half billion people."

We’ve done the math…   Read that again.  "We’ve done the math."  What kind of person goes to the trouble to calculate to the corpse, exactly how many human beings have to be crushed like grapes at the hand of the man who once said that to love God, and your neighbor as yourself, was the greatest commandment.  I recall reading after the last book in the series was published, that someone asked LaHaye how hard it would be for God’s Chosen to go on living after having witnessed almost four fifths or more of the human race cast into hell for eternity…many of whom must have been family and dear friends…

Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and a yawning chasm opened in the earth, stretching far and wide enough to swallow all of them. They tumbled in, howling and screeching, but their wailing was soon quashed and all was silent when the earth closed itself again
-Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Glorious Appearing

…and LaHaye averred that God would probably, in kindness, erase the memory of it from everyone’s mind.  But why would God have to, if the faithful are all as empty inside as LaHaye.  Without a doubt LaHaye could go on living just fine after having watched all the heathens, all the intellectuals, all his betters, everyone he’s despised all his life for being more gloriously human then he could ever hope to become, cast into fire for eternity by a loving God.  He’s the kind who, if he was a good Party Member in the Germany of the 1930s and 40s, he’d have shoveled Jews into the ovens and gone home to kiss his wife, tuck his children into bed, and listen to a little Bach before turning in for the night.  All of them could.  That’s why they’re fundamentalists.  They have no inner compass for managing human relationships.  No instinctive sense of sympathy and decency.  They need rules.  But even more, they need someone to blame for that inner void that keeps nagging at them, keeps reminding them of everything fine and noble and decent a human being can be, that they are not.  They need scapegoats.  They need someone to hate, so they don’t have to hate themselves.

This is why the characters in LaHaye and Jenkins novel can walk around in a world where all the children have suddenly vanished and worry about their job promotions.  They act like they’re oblivious, because their creators are oblivious.  But they know down to the corpse how many bodies it takes to fill the valley of Armageddon with blood up to a horse’s bridle.

[Edited a tad…] 

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

September 9th, 2007

Weird Geek Dreams

Last night I had a weird dream about a Star Trek episode.  You remember that one with the Horta?  Yeah…that little blob like critter that could excrete some sort of powerful acid and melt its way through solid rock?  Yeah…  Anyway…in my dream, the Horta weren’t acidic.  They were explosive.  Instead of melting their way though the rock of their planet via caustic slime, they would hurl bits of themselves at the rock in the direction they wanted to go, and explode their way through the planet, eating the most delectable parts of the rubble as they went.  So Spock is wondering all through the episode why such an old planet shows so many signs of a highly active geology.  Fascinating Captain…until very recently, this planet was being continuously rocked by very small earthquakes…everywhere…

The Enterprise is called to help the mining colony on Janus VI when miners start mysteriously…exploding…for no apparently reason.

Kirk and Spock also notice that large portions of the planet’s surface are being constantly destroyed every fifty thousand years by some unknown process.  You know the part about how the Horta all die off periodically?  Yeah…  In my dream, what happens is that the Horta population eventually gets so dense that a tragic accident is bound to happen, and a couple Horta accidentally bump into each other and set off a Horta explosive chain reaction that destroys most of the planetary surface.  The few remaining Horta start laying eggs everywhere and eventually a new generation starts the process over again…

I remember telling the friend I was watching it with in my dream, that this episode of Star Trek was one of my favorites, because of all the pyrotechnics going off in it.  You didn’t have five minutes pass without some sort of major explosion going off somewhere.  Oh…and Dr. McCoy says "Dammit Jim I’m a doctor not a demolitions expert!"  In my dream I had the TV connected to the stereo, which was cranked way up for added effect.  Also, I had all the window blinds drawn so the room we were sitting in was dark, which made the explosions off the TV screen bright. 

Ah…the simple pleasures of boyhood.  Have I mentioned that my favorite muppet was Crazy Harry?

[Edited a tad…] 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Weird Geek Dreams

September 7th, 2007

Everything Is You Experience For The First Time Is Pure…Including Fear…

There’s a good thread going on over at Fark.Com, about the TV (and movie) characters that scared us when we were kids

the oompa loompas used to scare the shiat out of me…

The Sleestacks from Land of the Lost. Those things were farking creepy…

no kidding. i used to hide behind the couch when they showed up…

Banabas Collins, Dark Shadows…

The cybermen from Doctor Who.
When I was a wee pup my Dad took me to a Doctor Who Tardis in Blackpool, and as soon as we had set foot in the door I ran out. 

And The Twilight Zone freaked me out. Especially the one about the mannequin…

The Zantes from old Outer Limits…

Yes! Dear god, that episode scared the bejezus out of me when I was little. The Zanti..

…the floating vampire boy in the original Salem’s Lot…

The spaceman-ghost from Scooby Doo that lived in the abandoned airfield…

"My name is talking Tina, and you’d better be nice to me"

That freaky little doll in the original Trilogy of Terror…

The freaky little doll is getting a lot of votes in that thread.  So were the Zanti Misfits from the Outer Limits, and the energy beings in the episode The Production and Decay of Strange Particles got one vote which I was happy to see, not so much because they gave me nightmares as because when I was a boy I thought those were the coolest monsters I’d ever seen.  The Sleestacks got a lot of votes, which probably surprises me because Land of the Lost didn’t come to TV until I was well past the stage of being frightened by men in rubber suits.  But that vampire kid in Salem’s Lot really creeped me out and I was a grown man when I saw those scenes.  I can’t imagine any parent in their right mind letting a kid watch Salem’s Lot.

When I was a small kid, like 6 or 7, and we were on vacation, mom took me to a movie theater to see Darby O’Gill And The Little People. I guess she figured it would be fine for me to watch since it was a Disney flick. But some of those Disney films could be really scary at times, and mom always loved telling everyone later about how, when the banshee appeared on the screen my scream rocked the entire theater.

For the rest of that vacation I woke up everyone every night with my nightmares.

As for TV, again when I was very young, well before I’d even entered grade school, and they were still showing the old Max Fleischer black and whites on TV, it was this goddamned clown…

It’s interesting to note that clowns of one kind or another got a lot of votes in that Fark.Com survey.  I’d have nightmares about this one trying to get inside our apartment…usually to the sound of something going thump-thump-thump in the background and I’d wake up screaming. It wasn’t until I’d been long grown up that I realized that thumping sound I’d heard in those dreams was my little heart pounding.

I think I must have blocked all that out of memory as I grew up.  The clown eventually vanished from the TV screens as the old black and white cartoons lost their appeal to kids growing up on color TVs, and I never saw him again until well into adulthood, when the Max Fleischer cartoons experienced a revival.  I was browsing a video store and saw a copy of old Betty Boop cartoons and remembered I used to love them.  So I bought it, took it home and popped it in the player.  Back in Betty’s "garter belt" days, pre Hays Code, the clown was one of her constant sidekicks, and when I saw him appear once more on the TV screen I felt a sudden chill reach all the way from childhood and tap me on the shoulder.

Damn!  It’s that clown…I remember him…!

Same thing happened when I watched Darby O’Gill again after many, many years…but that time I knew the banshee was coming.  No, they don’t give me nightmares anymore.  Adult fears are different from kid fears.  The last time TV ever gave me bad dreams was when I watched The Day After and had a really bad dream about slowly dying of radiation poisoning while laying, weak and utterly helpless, in the middle of a pile of rubble that was once the apartment complex I lived in.  When you’re a kid, fear is much simpler and to the point.  The Bad Thing Is Coming To Get Me…!

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Everything Is You Experience For The First Time Is Pure…Including Fear…

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