Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Well, that was quite the week.

I took last Thursday off for my wife’s birthday. I didn’t get her a present—I long ago stopped trying to surprise her with a gift and now merely provide her with whatever she desires—but if I had, it certainly wouldn’t have been what she got, courtesy of SCOTUS. Thanks to them, everyone’s packing heat, women are chattel of the state, prayer is back in schools, voting rights have been further eroded, native sovereignty is diminished, and the government is hamstrung in its battle against climate change.

This all got plopped down on top of plates already over-filled by the war in Ukraine (served with a side dish of “Why so serious?” courtesy of Russia), the onion-peeling revelations from the January 6 Select Committee, and the smoldering root fire of pandemic, inflation, and civil unrest.

Good times, eh?

I think we can all be forgiven if we find ourselves a tad out of sorts, short on patience, or (in my case) fighting a persistent long-term, low-level depression. To combat the latter, I generally try to “accentuate the positive” by focusing on the good bits. It isn’t easy, but thankfully, in the midst of last week’s maelstrom of sewage, I did find an island of serenity.

Last Saturday, I married two young people. This was my second opportunity to officiate a marriage, and even though I don’t enjoy public speaking (an understatement), being asked to perform a wedding is an honor I’m not sure I could ever turn down.

The bride is the daughter of my adoptive family, and the ceremony was at the groom’s family home, a lovely Craftsman-style house nestled in a dell, deep in a birch forest. We arrived Friday for the rehearsal, and were met with the expected combination of almost-too-late preparations, near-to-breaking nerves, and brink-of-tears composure. My job on Friday was easy: radiate calm and stay out of the way.

Saturday . . . different story.

To complete the picture, I should mention that this was the weekend the Puget Sound region decided to turn the heat up to eleven. We went from a Thursday high in the mid-60s (20°C) to a Saturday with temps in the low- to mid-90s (35°C). And we were outside. And my spot was in the sun. And I was wearing black. Including my blazer.

At a wedding, it’s easy to interpret a profusely sweating minister as an ill omen, but I was able to maintain a cool appearance via sheer will. It wasn’t until the exchange of rings that I felt the first trickle of sweat on my sunward temple, and I didn’t have to mop my brow until the recessional was complete. Whew!

The thing I love about weddings—and I’ve been in more than my fair share—is that everyone wants them to go off well. Participants, family, friends, guests, even the caterers and photographers and musicians, everyone wants it to be beautiful and happy and glitch-free. But while beautiful and happy are do-able, I’ve never known one to be glitch-free. At mine, the judge arrived on crutches; she’d torn a ligament sliding into second base, and since we our wedding was in a forest, she had the devil’s own time negotiating the terrain (at one point the entire wedding party had to take one step backward so she could get her foot out of a hole). At another, the bride forgot the rings at home and had also locked her keys inside; we had to break in through a window. Weather is always a crap-shoot for outdoor venues. Hangovers often throw sabots into the machinery. And let’s not forget the gremlins of technology; unintentionally hot mics, recalcitrant PA systems, looping cables and wires stretched across traffic paths, they’re all just glitches waiting to happen.

But even with these myriad disasters waiting in ambush, I’ve never known a wedding to go completely off the rails. The glitches happen, to be sure, but they get handled, and they become part of the story, the one thing that makes this wedding unique, the thing we all laugh about afterward.

Weddings are built, from bottom to top, of hope.

And for me, that was definitely a bright spot in a week otherwise filled with drear and dread.

Read Full Post »

sure we are like gods
we created a machine 
that fears its own death

(more…)

Read Full Post »

in the passenger seat,
on a narrow country road,
my window rolled down,
the scent of warm grass thickens the air

beyond a low fence,
a gathering in black wool,
silent but for ritual words,
meaningless intonations of finality

as we draw near,
time congeals like aspic,
heat rises in dreamlike waves,
flowers wilt in reverent clumps

the surrounding faces
are strangers whom I know,
fugitives on the same path,
dogged by the same relentless pursuers

pain, sharp-edged,
a new reality that dawns
as the loved one stolen
is set into the receiving earth

near the center
one mourner stands,
brow blank, eyes questioning:
Who am I, without you?

as we pass
time releases us,
our hearts resume their muffled beat,
and we yearn for the peace of simple things

Read Full Post »

This is who we want to be

We want our neighbors to go hungry
So we can enjoy the myth of our exceptional diligence

We want people to die of a preventable disease
So we don’t have to suffer the discomfort of a filter mask

We want kids to be stigmatized, bullied, and ashamed
So we can believe in the binary nature of gender

We want the oppressed to shut up and take a seat in the back
So we don’t have to think about the crimes of our ancestors

We want people to work long hours in unsafe conditions for paltry wages
So we can promote the fairy tale of corporate benevolence

We want women to bear babies, even if it kills them
So we can revel in our prideful righteousness

We want nothing to change, even for the better
So we can remain faithful to the tribe of our forebears

We want our children to be traumatized, maimed, and murdered
So we can have our guns

This

This is who we want to be

A nation without compassion, without sense
A nation without morality beyond our own selfish wants
A nation without shame, without courage

And we are succeeding

Read Full Post »

I’ve talked about purges before. Be it kitchen gadgets gathering dust at the back of a drawer or the varied detritus accumulated through decades of living, going through and clearing them out has become a habit for my wife and me. Every few years we take a deep dive into areas of our house and our lives, reevaluate what’s there, determine if a thing is being used and (more importantly) if it’s useful and, if we find it lacking, we repurpose, rehome, donate, and toss.

During the recent tumultuous times, we got out of that habit, but this year our commitment to the process has been renewed and, in keeping with our family motto*, it’s a big one. This time we are looking beyond clothing, books, movies, and games, extending the scope to big things like furniture, cars, and even (gasp!) television shows.

We all have shows that we watch simply because we have watched them. But shows change; sometimes they get better, and sometimes (most times) they don’t. Conversely, sometimes it is our tastes that change, while the shows stay true to their original methods. Still, in both cases, we often continue to tune in for each season.

Long ago, my wife and I developed “drop kick” rules, rules designed to provide an exit ramp from an activity that just wasn’t giving us what we wanted. We had the 40-page Drop Kick Rule for books (up to 80 pages, for longer works), and the 20-minute Drop Kick Rule for movies. This year, we added the 2-episode Drop Kick Rule for television series, and we’ve already put it into action. (Well, I have.)

The victim: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

I got myself into a speck of trouble when I mentioned on social media that this new product from the Star Trek franchise failed to pass my 2-ep DK rule. Turns out that, in some sci-fi circles, dissing Star Trek is on par with shooting a puppy in the face, a mortal sin punishable by shunning, humiliation, and digital defenestration. Luckily, I no longer put much stock in the opinions of people I don’t know, so I didn’t suffer much, but the reason for my dissatisfaction with ST:SNW is relevant and it boils down to one thing: my tastes have changed.

My complaint—that I don’t like being preached to, even when I agree with the message—was met with general derision, as my opponent (rightly) pointed out that ST:TOS was totally preachy. Yes, it was; it was progressive, groundbreaking, and preached a message of peace and unity within diversity. And I loved it.

I was also eight. 

Since then, my tastes have changed, but that’s only part of the reason ST:SNW left me cold. The messages preached by ST:TOS were embedded in the world, a foundation that was simply there, and which informed the stories the show presented. Yes, the show had the first interracial kiss on network television, but it also didn’t shine a big old spotlight on it and surround it with neon arrows so we’d be sure to get the point. Each of the first two episodes of ST:SNW were (in my opinion) ham-fisted and distinctly unsubtle in their messaging, each one wrapping up with a little “and here’s what we learned” bow-tying epilogue.

By contrast, we also started watching Star Trek: Discovery (which somehow ran under my radar for its entire existence). This show I love, as it blends episodic storytelling with a longer “meta-plot” and character development arcs, all while incorporating the same progressive foundation as the other Star Trek offerings. This is where my tastes lie now.

My wife still loves Star Trek: Strange New Worlds; she loves seeing the younger iterations of favorite characters, enjoys the strictly episodic storytelling, and can’t get enough of Ethan Peck (my wife was once blessed by Gregory Peck, and has a soft spot for Ethan as he channels his grandfather’s voice on screen). So the show passed her 2-ep DK rule, even though it failed mine.

And that’s the crux of a purge, isn’t it? To eliminate from your rooms, your house, your schedule, and your life the things that you no longer use or that you no longer enjoy. I’m not going to look down on anyone for liking something I don’t any more than I would shame them because they didn’t like salmon or loved brie. Tastes differ, and no one is hurt because you like ST:SNW or because I do not.

Seems to me that this is the main message of Star Trek, anyway.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some boxes of books to prepare for charity.

k

*Numquam in Dimidium Mensurae

 

Read Full Post »

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more “interesting,” Justice Alito and the Doo-Wops serve up a new album guaranteed to top the charts and convulse the nation. 

Among the many things we should learn from this—the uselessness of judicial confirmation hearings, the endemic mendacity born of high ambition, the obvious fact that we no longer live in a system of “majority rules” but one of “minority vetoes,” the toxic effects of religion on a secular society, the true intentions and blatant misogyny held by the conservative right—there’s another lesson we should not ignore.

Our rights are not guaranteed.

The Constitution can be amended, and amendments can be repealed. Laws can be passed and subsequently stricken. Executive Orders only last until there’s a new butt sitting behind the Resolute desk.

There is no right, no legal expectation, no course of justice upon which we currently rely that cannot be taken away by a minority bent on its removal.

None.

The good news is, we know what to do.
The bad news is, it won’t be easy.

What we need to do—Trigger Warning: this may make white cis-het males feel bad about themselves—is dismantle the patriarchy. We need to eliminate the veto power of the minority, and never, ever relent on codifying, implementing, enforcing, and protecting the rights society adopts. Only one in three Americans believe abortions should be illegal in most or all cases, and yet they’re the ones driving this decades-long battle to turn women of childbearing age into Incubators of the State.

Putting aside the incredibly reductive and retrograde reasoning put forth by Alito & Co. in their draft majority opinion (and some of it is really quite shocking when given even passing thought), it is clear that the conservative/religious right has a stranglehold on the GOP, and that they are bent on imposing their theocratic beliefs on the rest of us. (Note: these are the same people who screamed about their personal liberty during mask mandates; irony isn’t dead, but it is picking its battles.) 

So, when we reestablish the rights of privacy, self-determination, and personal sovereignty—and I am convinced we eventually will—we need to deny ourselves that victory lap, that well-earned rest, and keep the barricades firm, because regardless the laws we pass and amendments we enact, they will come at us again.

Raise your voice.
Stay united.
Vote them out.

k

Read Full Post »

For six decades, my feet have touched the earth. This did not seem a consequential thing before, but I have learned otherwise.

I grew up on the shores of San Pablo Bay. While, behind me, the dark oases of live oaks studded the rolling golden hills, I walked unshod down the shingled shore, the smooth curves of wave-worn pebbles pressing upward into the flesh of my bare feet. I would gather kelp vines to use as bullwhips, challenge fiddler crabs to duels, and with a poked finger annoy the anemones until they spat. My bare toes gripped the ragged rim of a tidepool’s edge, and my arches provided stability as I balanced on weather-beaten logs. To my bare feet, the cool water and the hot stones were as natural as the salt air and the scent of baking seaweed were to my lungs.

Then, with shoelaces tied together and draped over my neck, I kept my shoes dry as I crossed the tidal marsh that lay between shore and home,. Navigating past clumps of reeds, gently pushing aside the serrated blades of pampas grass, I let my feet breach the brackish water, sink into the yellow mud, continue down through muck the color of rust, until they hit the underlayment of fetid black peat, the foul and oily rot squishing upward between my toes. Here, shoes were worthless, destined (if used) to be left behind in a muddy grave or, worse, to survive for a few brief and redolent hours on the front stoop before my mother gave up and threw their ruined stink into the trash.

When school let out for summer, my friends and I tossed our tattered Keds aside and headed up into the sun-bleached hills behind our homes. We followed creekbeds and ridgelines, slid on the fragrant mat beneath the eucalyptus trees, and winced as spiny oak leaves pierced our callused feet. Come late August, with back-to-school sales shouting from every newspaper and TV ad, I’d be given new shoes, along with my mother’s admonition to take care of them this time because she wouldn’t be buying me any replacements.

To be safe, I rarely wore them outside of school.

In the time between those days and now, I maintained my contact with the earth, barefooting my way through the years. Working in my gardens, shaded by their canopy of spruce and fir and maple, I felt with each step the sun-warmed grass, the cushioned mat of russet needles, the crunch of pinecones, the coolth of upturned soil, and always I reveled in the chthonic energy that flowed upward from earth to sole to crown. My feet are still callused, though now mostly from walking on pavement than traipsing across youthful hills, but lately, age has begun to make its effects known.

An injured ligament across the left arch and instep has required support beyond what my bare feet can provide, for which I resorted to an ankle brace and bindings. The foot has improved, albeit with glacial speed, to the point where the tight grip of the bindings is not always required, but sadly, the foot is not yet able to go it alone, and so a shoe (with arch support) is needed.

The practice of walking shod was melted out of my DNA by the sun of many summers and so, even though it lessens the pain, wearing shoes around the house feels alien and unnatural. I feel as if I’m just passing through my own home, on my way to somewhere else, some place where bare feet are a faux pas.

My heart holds tight the hope that this is a temporary condition and not the first step down some inexorable decline, and that by the solstice I will once again be able to feel the ground beneath my feet, but there is no guarantee. Meanwhile, I will practice patience; but do not be surprised if, now and again, I leave my shoes on the bottom step and walk out to spend a few minutes standing barefoot beneath the garden’s green-leafed roof.

k

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: