Monday, November 29, 2004

Addicted to Leisure

Well, my friends, this Thanksgiving Weekend has been lovely, and I am so sad to see it end... especially since I have a work-week ahead of me that is daunting, to say the very least. I have to run two ballots and one flyer distribution, manipulate a cumbersome outmoded database and stuff envelopes for a Hudson notice that should have gone out months ago, manage the details for an executive board meeting, finish typing up a set of minutes, and chase officers around trying to get signatures on checks and things... on top of all the phone-answering, mail-sorting, and butthead-appeasing that I normally do. I'd really rather stay in bed, thank you.

Ah, well, all good things must come to an end. And I wonder if I'd have enjoyed this weekend so much if I hadn't had so many new DVDs to watch. On Friday, instead of going into the office to get a head start on my envelope-stuffing and finish my Hudson printing as I'd intended (and make up a few missed hours, though I don't know why I try to hoard sick leave and comp time when I have it in such abundance), I stayed in bed quite late and then watched the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in one sitting. Ten and a half hours of viewing, interrupted by maybe one aggregate hour of going to the bathroom and getting snacks (string beans and grapefruit juice, yummmm... goddamned diet) filled my day nicely.

And if you ever get the chance, I totally recommend viewing the entire trilogy as one movie. I had only seen it in episodes separated by an entire year (except for The Fellowship of the Ring, which I have on VHS and have seen a few more times in between), and one simply cannot maintain a narrative mood over that much time. But seeing it all at once, on a comfy couch instead of a theater-seat, and having a pause button so you can get up and pee and eat and stretch whenever you want, made the whole epic undertaking so much more enjoyable and cohesive. It was a grand and a beautiful thing.

And then last night I watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; I ordered the double-disk widescreen edition DVD from Amazon last week, and wasn't expecting it to come any time soon (I opted for the free shipping, you see), but there it was on my doorstep the day after Thanksgiving, rattling around in the wonderuful smiling Amazon box that was much too big for one DVD and one small book (I finally broke down and bought David Sedaris' Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim at the same time, having despaired of ever finding a used copy, or of it coming out in paperback... people keep buying the hardback, and never letting it go).

I've already seen it twice in the theater (Harry Potter that is, I don't think David Sedaris can be seen in a theater), and there was no narrative thread to lose, but I was reminded how superior this film was to the two that preceded it, how lyrically beautiful and deliciously dark. And I was reminded of how exceptionally attractive young Daniel Radcliffe is becoming... is it wrong to lust after a fourteen-year-old boy? I mean, I know it's wrong to touch them and to take nudie pix of them (illegal, at any rate, if not actually wrong), but I found my libido enslaved by his growing physical beauty.

What made this DVD most interesting to me was the rather elaborate Extra Features that came on a separate disk and featured (really terrible) interviews with groups of the cast, conducted by some nattering idiot I've never heard of (Johnny Vaughan, apparently a BBC talk-show host) in tandem with that horrid shrunken head from the Knight Bus... I mean, I don't think I learned anything of interest about any of the actors, except for a glimpse of their natural out-of-character demeanors.

But then, that's what I really enjoyed... I understood why it was I'd started lusting after Daniel Radcliffe despite his tender years: in this film, he portrays Harry as a very steady, strong, and self-possessed character, and his on-screen demeanor is very adult... the adult mind behind the youthful face is a heady attraction. But the interview revealed him to be a rather typical high-strung teenage boy, given to spasmodic movements, clutching convulsively at the seat of his chair as if afraid he'd fly away, and letting loose with nervous giggles strenuously supressed into a rictus grin, unable to look anyone in the eye for more than a moment... he was pretty and endearing, but not sexy.

The other young actors were rather more self-possessed in their real-life characters, and rather more attractive than they are made in the films... Rupert Grint, who in the film alternates between a Stan Laurel-like comic terror and an inbred slack-jawed awe as Ron Weasely, is really quite lovely when dressed properly and not snivelling or gawping; Emma Watson, who plays the bush-haired know-it-all frump-in-training Hermione Granger, is a truly beautiful and surprisingly feminine young lady.

Many of the young people in the movies have become unexpectedly good-looking, and have to be laden with prosthetics to keep them funny: Matthew Lewis, who plays the hapless Neville Longbottom, had to wear stick-out braces behind his ears and goofy false teeth (as well as shoes and clothes much too big for him) in order to disguise the handsomeness that has grown on him since the first film; the brutish and porcine Dudley Dursley is played by the rather sweet-looking Harry Melling (couldn't find a good link), who has to wear an immense fat-suit over his relatively svelte frame.

At any rate, the Extra Features are very nice, though I didn't really explore the built-in games... I have a hard time using my remote as a game-controller. Perhaps the best part is the "making of" featurette, which had a lot of footage of Alfonso Cuaròn and J.K ("Jo") Rowling sitting at a table and discussing the eerie similarities between their different internal visions of the world of Harry Potter. Seeing how some of the effects were achieved was terribly interesting as well... I had become so entrenched in the vision that I'd quite forgotten that much of the scenery and a number of the characters were total CGI.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to go through all of the extra feautre disks of my Lord of the Rings box set... each episode came with an extra disk, but after the nearly twelve hours spent on Friday, I wasn't able to devote a similar amount of time to them on Saturday, as I had to prepare for the Cookie Monster Show at Harvey's, where I would be bringing the Baroness Griselda von Beitte-Meihasse back to life for her first appearance since winning the (first last and only) Hallowqueen Pageant last year.


The show itself was fine, but the hours leading up to it were an utter disaster of bad planning. To start, I unexpectedly fell asleep in the afternoon for two hours, totally throwing myself off schedule. Then I realized that I'd lent the corset I'd planned to wear to Angelique, and she was out of town for the weekend at Los Angeles Imperial Coronation, so I had to go to Frederick's yet again to buy another one. Before that, I went scouring through a shop in Berkeley called Sunshine Fashions, seeking a high-gloss-vinyl corset or waist-cincher to match my high-gloss-vinyl thigh boots (and the waist-cincher I did find, which is really just a very elaborate belt, cost more than the boots did).

Then I picked up Madasin, and then did the grocery shopping I'd intended to do instead of sleeping (I'd also planned to go to the gym during those two lost hours, but that was simply out of the Q), and then got back to the house to get my things together and shower and shave. Of course, I couldn't find several of the things I'd wanted to wear, and had difficulty finding several others, and so wasted an hour that I could no longer afford after all of the above shenanigans.

My makeup went on like a breeze, the Baroness being much easier to paint than Marlénè... the Flapper/Goth Baroness is pretty much just a blank moon face with panda-eyes and severe cheekbones over a downturned china-doll mouth, the eyes and mouth done with one shade of bruise-purple, with black eyeliner and burst-blood-vessel-red rouge, while the much classier and classic Marlénè is a masterpiece of very subtle shadings and contours, two different colors of rouge and five of eyeshadow and three of eyeliner and a lipliner and lipstick and three separate layers of powder. Of course Marlénè is easier to put on, since I have more practice, but it takes me at least forty minutes to do that makeup, and the Baroness only took me twenty despite the unfamiliarity of the materials and shapes.

The makeup, unfortunately, was the only thing that didn't turn on me. As I was putting on the vinyl thigh-boots, the zipper on the right boot burst at the ankle — I'd forgotten to loosen the laces before I tried to zip it up, as I had with the left boot, it can be fixed but I didn't have time — and then the vinyl waist-cincher (which I had of course not tried on in the store) wouldn't close over my waist, at least not without the help of another pair of hands, and Madasin had her own wardrobe malfunctions to deal with... so the whole idea of the first dress, which was intended to be made of contrasts between the hardness of the vinyl boots and corset and the softness of the shredded-chiffon dress, the severity of the bobbed hair and the girlishness of the beaded voile throat-ribbon (which I couldn't find), was shot straight to hell.

By the time we got into the car, dressed and more-or-less ready, we were fifteen minutes late for the scheduled starting time, and Goddess knows how much longer it would take to drive there. Fortunately, when I called Cookie on my cellphone to let her know of the delay, I found that she was still getting dressed: the show wouldn't start for at least another half-hour, so we had time to get across the Bay and finish getting ready there. So I got over the Bridge and across the City double-quick, pulled into the bus stop in front of Harvey's and unloaded Madasin and our luggage, then went off looking for a parking space, finding one quickly on my usual secret-magic-parking-place-street... which is about eight blocks from the club on 18th and Castro.

Fortunately, I had the foresight to wear walking shoes (or to be more specific, tap shoes) so that I could schlepp from the car to Harvey's in a reasonable amount of comfort, instead of trying to do it in my four-inch-stilleto-heeled boots (I'd brought a back-up pair, naturally, the Edwardian-style satin knee-boots I wore for Hallowqueen last year). But still, with a corset pulled tight around my middle, freezing to death with a very cute but totally inadequate Liz Claiborne ribbon-tied rabbit stole, it was not an easy walk.

And then, the minute I got to the club, where the show had just started, and began changing into my boots and getting my jewelry on, I realized that I'd left my music in the car! So back I had to go, running part of the way, in a fully-cinched corset mind you, uphill, eight blocks back to the car, and then rushing/running all the way back again as fast as I could. At least I wasn't cold anymore. I just had time to get into my boots and put on one bracelet before I had to get up on the stage without even catching my breath or powdering my face or touching up my lipstick.

Well, as frazzled as that, it's no surprise that I didn't put near as much oomph into my first number as I'd intended, pretty much phoning in my performance while trying to breathe normally and not pass out from the strain. But then, I've noticed that most people can't tell when I'm giving a half-assed performance, and so they don't seem to mind. I mind, though: I thought the song was important, and I really wanted to be on for it.

I performed Ute Lemper's German-to-English-translated version of "The Lavender Song," a rousing anthem to gay pride that was written in 1920 and very popular in the cabarets of Berlin as Hitler was coming to power; it's pretty much a march, very militant and in-your-face, and relevant to the growing climate of reactionary backlash in this country — the second verse goes: "Round us all up, send us away / That's what you'd really like to do / But we're too strong, proud, unafraid / In fact, we almost pity you"... in view of what happened in Germany after that song was first sung, there's a poignancy that I find very stirring.

The second number, "Peel Me a Grape" as performed by the smoky and sassy Anita O'Day, went a bit better, since I could breathe, and my makeup was neat and matte, my hair combed, and I was wearing the outfit I'd intended to wear (a chiffon peignoir with faux fur collar and cuffs with my satin corset over a satin slip, and the satin boots... actually, I'd intended to wear lace-topped stockings, too, but I ended up having to wear tights because I'd not had time to shave my legs, something I haven't done in years but thought would be appropriate to the character). I was very sultry, and they loved it. Hell, I loved it!

In between and after the numbers, I also got to sit and chat with good friends: Daisy Wynan-Roses and her hubby Dean, and Miss Ivy Drip and her hubby Nick, and Princess Johnson and Dazelina and JoJo and of course Madasin; and I also got to collect compliments from various of the audience members, two of whom compared me quite favorably to Catherine Zeta-Jones (I get that whenever I wear a bob, I shall have to explore the possibility of a more direct imitation), and ogle some very cute (but fuzzy, as I wasn't wearing my glasses) young men inside and outside of the club.

Afterward I gave Cookie and her hubby Michael (I call them "hubby" in this condescending manner because I am jealous as all hell) a ride home with all of their many goods and chattels, took off my face and put on my jeans, and then Madasin and I had a late supper at Baghdad Cafe before finally heading home. I almost fell asleep several times on the way home, and seriously considered pulling over and taking a little nap, but I was afraid I'd stay asleep too long and freeze to death on some side-street in El Cerrito... explain that one to St. Petie.


Joy of all joys, Grandmother didn't wake me up at 8 to go to church Sunday morning... I had been dreading that, since I didn't get in bed until 3:30 and would have been a wreck. I was sorry that she felt sick (she's been having dizzy spells and sleeping a lot all weekend, I think she either has a flu or had a reaction to something she ate at Thanksgiving... though I don't think she ate anything I didn't), but her discomfort was my luxury when I woke up at noon after eight uninterrupted hours.

I was so overjoyed that I got up and started doing laundry (eventually, that is... after reading a little and having coffee and talking with Caroline, and during the making and eating of dinner [short ribs and steamed rainbow chard with onions, really yummmm and on my diet] and the watching of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). I'm about a third of the way through the laundering, and it feels so good to have the piles of clothes up off the floor. Of course, I wasn't so energized that I was able to pick up the trash and books and magazines that are also on the floor, nor to make my bed again with clean sheets... after all, remember that I ran several blocks uphill and downhill in a corset the night before, and I was sore (still am, actually).

So anyway, that's my Thanksgiving Weekend. When I started writing this post this morning before going to work (it's now almost 9 p.m., and I've been pecking at this all day), I had a theme that I was going to explore, which had something to do with the title at the top... but damned if I can remember what it was. That's what I get for letting work get in the way of my leisure activities! (Maybe that was the theme...) Anyway, the dryer just buzzed, I have to go fold now. Toodles!

Thursday, November 25, 2004

For Which We Are Truly Thankful

I swear, if I hear one more person call Thanksgiving "Turkey Day," I may just scream. But that's just something else for which to be grateful, the fact that I have a pretty good set of lungs and can produce a damned impressive scream when I'm motivated. Especially if I warm up first with a little singing.

Focusing on the food, and the ample opportunities for gluttony, seems to take the point out of Thanksgiving, a holiday that I think of as being about Gratitude and Family. Yes it's about being grateful for a plentiful harvest and displaying that gratitude by eating as much of the harvest as you can manage; and it's about family, and there is no more potent image of Family in the Western mind than gathering around a holiday table.

But really, why focus on the poor old turkey? I love turkey myself, I eat it all the time, it's low in fat and cholesterol yet packed with nutrients... but turkey really isn't as special as it used to be, now is it? Turkeys aren't that expensive anymore, and while they take forever to cook, so does a good brisket, and you can get really good turkey at Boston Market without even trying (though BM doesn't do the dark meat, and that's my favorite).

In my family, the menus of the two big holiday dinners, Thanksgiving and Christmas, are pretty much the same: Turkey of course, and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas and corn (in separate dishes), candied yams, black olives and jellied cranberry sauce from cans (chilled and served on fine crystal), rolls, Martinelli's sparkling apple cider and a choice of other secondary beverages, and pie — chocolate meringue, apple, and pumpkin. The only difference between Thanksgiving and Christmas is that for Christmas there are usually banana and coconut meringue pies as well, and sometimes we throw some ham on to costar with the turkey.

And though the turkey is de rigeur, my family isn't really interested in it except as a tradition; the real stars of our family holiday meals are the stuffing and the chocolate pies. In a family of food fetishists, these two things are weighted with such importance that to even suggest not having them would be tantamount to inciting a riot. Granted, the stuffing recipe is generations old, Grandmother learned it from her mother, who learned it from her mother, going back God knows how long, probably to the invention of cornbread; but it's not all that different from other people's cornbread stuffing recipes. And granted, the chocolate meringue pies are pretty special, being rich but not too rich and sweet but not too sweet, beautifully balanced flavors working especially well together; but the apple pies are utterly delicious, and the pumpkins aren't to be sneezed at, either.

Yet, even for a family extremely fond of food and rather addicted to very particular traditional food, it strikes me as almost idolatrous how devoted people are to the stuffing and the chocolate pies. My aunt in particular, who risks the wrath of her daughter's mother-in-law (who is slated to make the stuffing for today's festival, which is being held at my cousin's house with her in-laws mingled in with us, poor slobs) insisted, connived, and inveigled Grandmother to make at least a small batch of the family stuffing... and if the mother-in-law was offended, she'd just go out and eat it in the car.

And silly as I think she is, the image of my aunt eating stuffing surreptitiously out of the trunk of my car fills me with delight, something else for which to be grateful.

I find myself being very grateful today, but I like to cultivate (if you'll pardon a hideous old twelve-step cliche) an Attitude of Gratitude, to never let a day go by where I don't express my thanks for at least one blessing I've enjoyed during that day. I was going to post a list of such things here, since it's Thanksgiving, but unfortunately I've run out of time. The timer just dinged on my yams...

False alarm, they need at least another twenty minutes, I put too much butter on and I hate when they get soupy, so they'll need to bake a little longer.

Grandmother and I had a really good time last night putting all this together. Our first batch of chocolate custard didn't work out because we'd neglected to double the flour and cornstarch when doubling the recipe and ended up with a really yummy but quite useless chocolate soup, so I did another batch solo, all by myself, even the meringue, and I had a great time. Though I have never managed the knack of rolling pie crusts, I do know how to make Grandmother's crust recipe... I also know the stuffing recipe pretty well by heart, having learned it the way Grandmother learned it, by watching and helping.

It's a nice feeling to have the ability to continue a family tradition like this. There's a beautiful resonance in taking part in a tradition that goes back so far, and being able to provide the idols of worship for the family. It's really about being a part of something greater than onesself. And though I complain a lot about my multitudinous and sometimes onerous family obligations, and often complain about having a family thrust on me instead of being able to create one for myself, I am unspeakably grateful to have a family in which I can participate... not everybody does have that, either created or provided. And it's a lovely thing.

Damn, the yams are even soupier! I should have baked them at three-seventy-five instead of three-fifty. Oh, well... I'll give them another ten minutes and then that's that. I have to shower and shave and get dressed soon, we're expected in San Ramon at two and I have to pick up my Daddy and my niece and some rolls in Concord on the way (my sister backed out at the last minute, again). In the meantime, here is a short list of ten things for which I am grateful today:

  1. My current state of hunger is self-induced to counteract the effects of past overeating, and not my daily portion.
  2. I have good health... not great health, I catch colds easily and all, but I have never had a disease or a broken bone or anything serious.
  3. I am warm and comfortable (except for my toes... there's a ground draft in here).
  4. Sobriety and spiritual growth.
  5. There are beautiful things in this world to enjoy.
  6. There are beautiful men to look at.
  7. Orgasms (I talk about them a lot, I know; but really, what's not to love?)
  8. My family
  9. My friends
  10. And you, my lovely reader.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Survey Memes ~ A Quartet

Because I have nothing better to say at the moment, and since nobody in my blogroll has posted one lately, I did a Google Search for survey memes... and among the blinding array of results, I found the following four survey memes, which I now present (with links to sources) for your reading pleasure:

A - Age: 36 years (or more accurately, 13481 days)

B - Band listening to right now: I'm listening to the radio, and I don't know who this chick singing is... something about "I can feel you breathe"... it appears to be Faith Hill (according to Google... it's not like radio deejays ever tell you anything useful anymore)... in the time it took me to find out about Faith Hill, it changed to the classic "Melt With You" from Saves The Day!

C - Career future: Career? I have no thoughts... though I expect I will continue having some dumb day job that pays the bills and squashes my soul, along with my non-paying but soul-enriching real careers of drag and writing.

D - Dad's name: Robert L. Manners, Senior (not really, but I am named after my father, and my nom de plume is Robert L. Manners, and that's all you're getting).

E - Easiest person to talk to: I don't find anybody particularly easy to talk to, it's always difficult for me to start conversations, and I seem to forever be explaining myself on one level or another.

F - Favorite song: I don't really have a favorite song just now... but the last song to obsess me was "Yo, Pumpkinhead" from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack.

G - Gummy Bears or Gummy Worms: Eew, either way.

H - Hometown: Oakland, CA.

I - Instruments: I played the viola and the French horn in elementary school (back in the olden days when schools actually had arts funding), and I took piano lessons in mid-adolescence, but I never became proficient at any of them... I am not known for applying myself to things that don't come easily.

J - Job: My title is "Staff Secretary" but I am really an office manager/administrative assistant/general factotum.

K - Kids: The bloodline stops here... well, that's not strictly true, since my sister has a son who carries the family name and he's straight, but we hope he has sense enough to not reproduce.

L - Longest car ride ever: From Hayward, California to Bridger, Montana... it took thirty-two hours, Kevin refused to stop anywhere along the way to sleep (though we did stop to eat), and it was miserable... though the scenery was splendid.

M - Mom's name: Kathryn Marie (no Manners... she's remarried twice since Daddy; I shall not divulge her last name and cannot be bothered to make one up for her).

N - Number of people you slept with: Uhm... let's see... for the purpose of counting, we will include the people with whom I just had sex and then left, rather than actually sleeping with them (though that's a much more manageable list)... actually, I'm just not sure, I'll have to count them out: 1 Joey (the first), 2 Todd, 3 Anthony, 4 Eric, 5 some English guy with a ponytail, 6 Glen, 7 a friend of Glen's, 8 Jason, 9 some straight guy who was a friend of a coworker, 10 a guy with a moustache who was really understanding when I shit on him during sex, 11 this older guy who lived in San Mateo with his parents and was a nurse I think, 12 Kevin (though he doesn't remember it), 13 a Berkeley student with really smooth balls, 14 another Berkeley student with a funny goatee, 15 Eustacio, 16 a really cute WASPy Navy boy with black hair, 17 a cute but very short bodybuilder, 18 & 19 two different straight male strippers in one night, 20 a guy with false teeth who turned out to be homeless, 21 Jim, 22 this guy with long hair who lived on a boat, 23 Wally, 24 an English teacher who lived out in Pittsburgh and was really tall and had huge hands and feet but the tiniest pipi I've ever seen, 25 some blond guy at a bathhouse, 26 an Arab guy who pretended to be Latino, 27 & 28 this ugly older man and his pretty young Puerto Rican partner who lived in SOMA, 29 the gorgeous Czech I threw up on, 30 a big ugly black man who insisted on a blowjob just because he'd been buying me drinks all night, 31 Greg, 32 another random pickup with pretty brown eyes and a lesbian roommate, and finally 33 Ed... that's all I can remember, after wasting about an hour searching the dusty corners of my mind.

O - Obsession[s]: Beefcake! In particular at Most Sexy Guys.

P - Phobia[s]: Crowds and small spaces.

Q - Quote: "You can't direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails."

R - Reason to smile: The pear I just ate for lunch was molto delicioso!

S - Song you sang last: "Another Mr. Right Left," I can't remember who sings it, it was on a CD Bill at Mermaniac made. I love singing along with it.

T - Time you wake up: Whenever I wake up. Today it was 10:30 a.m. and I had to rush like hell to get to the office.

U - Unknown fact about me: I can't think of anything interesting and factual I've never shared here before... how about this: my third-grade teacher's name was Mrs. Kermit.

V - Vegetable you hate: Squash. I dislike lots of vegetables, but I really hate squash. I don't even like the way it sounds.

W - Worst habit: Belching loudly... but then, I'd rather belch it all out as soon as I can, rather than let the air come out elsewhere.

X - X-rays you've had: I've had my teeth X-rayed a number of times, and I had my back X-rayed once, and my hand got X-rayed when I was helping my Grandfather remain in position for a chest X-ray.

Y - Yummy food: I ate a perfectly-ripe Macintosh apple the other day, and it was quite possibly the best apple I've ever eaten in my whole life... I wished I'd bought a dozen.

Z - Zodiac sign: Capricorn, with Gemini rising and a Scorpio moon.

1. Are you mono- or polytheistic? I guess I'm a monotheist, insofar as I am not an atheist or a polytheist and there seems no other choice... but I have a hard time thinking of God as an individual... though when I talk of God, I use the personal pronouns He and Him, I really think of God rather as a force than as a personal gendered individual.

2. Do you subscribe to a major religion? No. I deplore religion; though it has its good points as making spiritual growth accessible to people, it unfortunately sets too many traps in the way of spiritual progress... religion isn't evil in and of itself, but it is too easily used for evil, in the same way that weapons are not intrinsically evil but they are too easily used for evil purposes(the difference between a tool and a weapon is its usage).

3. How do you feel about Jesus? I think he was a teacher, and that much of what he taught, or as much of it as was passed down, was good and worthwhile (though like most Semitic mystics, he was a little too body-phobic).

4. What holy book do you feel is most accurate (Bible, Koran, etc)? The Tao Te Ching... it's not really holy, but we studied it in a comparative religion class and I found it very... restful. I also find The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran spiritually uplifting, though it is not strictly "holy" either.

5. Do you believe in reincarnation? Sort of, I think it happens, and it's a good idea and it has a poetic resonance that I find charming; but I can't say I really believe in it, in that my actions are not based on the belief (that's the difference between believing and believing in something... you can believe something, but unless your actions are based on and influenced by that belief, you don't believe in it).

6. Do you believe in the traditional heaven and hell? No.

7. Do you believe in ANY heaven and/or hell? I believe in Enlightenment, and I think that a soul can learn after death (either in "purgatory" or through reincarnation) the lessons it needs to attain enlightenment... and that Heaven is the destination of enlightened souls.

8. Do you think the god(s) are vengeful or nice? I don't think God is either vengeful or nice, these are human constructs. I believe that God is benevolent, that He wants us to love and enjoy creation and be happy, but we have to learn to accept the "cruel" aspects of Creation (death, pain, etc.), and we have to find out how on our own.

9. Do you believe in angels? I think the probability they exist is fairly high, considering the number of sightings, but I don't know what they are and I don't think they are messengers of God.

10. Do you believe in miracles? Not insofar as the laws of matter and nature being suspended and/or reversed by God; the only miracles are those where our animal nature overcomes itself in actions of pure good. I think that a lot of the physical "miracles" that people see and experience (stigmatae, weeping statues, visitations and apparitions, etc.) are the result of a natural process, involved in human will, that we don't fully understand, and more akin to hallucination than anything else.

11. Do you believe in predestination? No... first, because predestination negates the possibility of free will; second, because time is linear and only moves in one direction. The future hasn't happened yet: I don't think God even knows the future, though He may know what all the possible outcomes are.

12. Do you believe in original sin? I don't believe in sin at all, I only believe in harm; and furthermore the concept of Original Sin is ridiculous and sets up the paradigm that human beings are inherently evil, which I think is disastrous.

13. Do you believe in freedom of will? That I do believe in. You'll find that most of the "evils" that people blame God for allowing are based in two principles: free will and natural process. We are harmed by the will of others and by our own choices, and we are "harmed" by the movements of nature and the inevitablility of disease and death. Getting our panties in a bunch that God "allows" these things is selfish and egomaniacal folly on our part.

14. Do you believe in souls? Yes indeed. I believe that our intelligence and our individuality and our abstract memory are part of a force that develops from and resides in our bodies but is independent of us and continues on after the body returns to process.

15. What do you think will happen to you when you die? I don't have any expectations or ideas, though I am interested in finding out. I believe I will continue in another form, be it spiritual or physical. I feel that our ability to consider our individuality, to want the possibility of consciousness and individuality after death, indicates that there is some form of individuality after death... for if it weren't there, we would create it by the strength of our own wills.

16. Do you think there will be an Armageddon? Not with the armies of Earth battling to the death and all that jazz (though it is possible that the armies of Earth can end life as we know it). But all things end, it is the nature of natural process, and there will come a time when the planet Earth will end and that the human race will no longer be what we know... it will either evolve or die out.

17. Why do you think we exist? Because we do... everything exists, I think, because God set the universe in motion and we are one of the results. I don't believe we were created to fulfill a specific preconceived purpose, though, other than to be a part of the Creation.

18. Do you believe in life on other planets? Considering the size of the universe, I think it's mathematically impossible for there not to be life on other planets; but it may not be life as we understand and define it, it might not even be recognizeable to us as life.

19. Do you believe in evolution? What's to "believe"? It's scientifically proven fact; it is the process by which God created the universe.

20. Do you think religion and science will always oppose each other? Only as long as people ask religion to answer our questions about the natural world, and ask science to answer our questions about the spiritual world. As far as I am concerned, religion exists only to understand our relationship to the spiritual, and science exists only to understand our relationship with the physical; there may be overlap, spirit and matter do affect each other, but science and religion are separate objects and should not even be considered as opposing forces or even opposite sides of the same coin... they're apples and oranges, if you know what I mean.

21. What would you say to God if you met him/her/them today? Hi! How are you today? What is it all about, Alfie? And thanks for the orgasms, those were a nice touch.

1. Using band names, spell out your first name.
    Rolling Stones

    Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (OMD)



    Roxy Music

    Thompson Twins

    Mamas and the Papas

    Alvin and the Chipmunks

    Rude Boyz

    Linkin Park

    Everly Brothers

    Nine Inch Nails

2. Ever had a song written about you? No, nobody I know writes songs; nobody has even inadvertently written a song about me, thinking they were writing it about someone else but nevertheless describing me perfectly.

3. What songs make you cry? "Bill" from Showboat. I don't know why, but I always tear up at the end of the verse.

4. What song makes you happy? Almost without fail, "The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music.

5. What do you like to listen to before bed? Whatever. I usually have the Classical station on when I go to sleep... I leave it on all night.

6. Name a song by Coal Chamber: Who? Never heard of them.

7. Who were your idols when you were younger? Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran was perhaps my first pop idol (in that I loved him and loved looking at him and wanted to be like him), and then the fabulous David Bowie (particularly his earlier incarnations as Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke), and then Annie Lennox... after that I ceased to be "younger."

8. First album you ever bought? Quel embarasse! The first album I ever bought with my own money was Wham!'s Make It Big... somewhat less embarassing is the first album I ever owned (which I demanded by name for a Christmas present), Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Eugene Ormandy conducting.

9. Name a song that reminds you of someone. Why? Songs don't generally remind me of people, except maybe of a drag queen who performed it. But the song "Stardust" does usually make me think of my Grandfather; it was his favorite song, and he used to have this brushed steel music-box with big sparkly rhinestones on top that played the tune (Grandmother still has it).

1: Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says: There are hundreds of books within inches of me, I'm sitting right next to my tall bookshelves... but the one closest to me by virtue of not having anything else in front of it to block my way is Natural History by Maureen Howard, which I've never read. I think my sister gave it to me. And the text in question is: "all." The fourth sentence is: "Then she can face her Bill, round and balding, his tilted smile fresh as a wondering boy's, the little strawberry mark like a dollop of jam in the cleft of his chin, big open eyes, for sure the windows of his soul." Gack, I don't think I will ever read this one (though I notice on a later editing spree that this is the third occurrence of the name "Bill" in this post... hmmmm)

Maybe I should have grabbed the book next to it, Paradise Lost and Other Poems by John Milton, which would have resulted in "And former sufferings otherwhere are found" (from "The Passion," 1630).

2: Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?: Since I can't really stretch my left arm out, as my bookcase is about eight inches from my shoulder, I have to reach out diagonally, then swing my arm left... at which point the first thing I touch is my CD tower, my longest finger landing on... let's see, what is this? Sarah Vaughn at Mister Kelly's.

3: What is the last thing you watched on TV?: Drawn Together on Comedy Central last night. That show is seriously fucked up, and I love it!

4: WITHOUT LOOKING, guess what the time is: Eight-thirty-ish?

5: Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?: 9:11 p.m.

6: With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?: I can hear Grandmother watching television in the next room... right this second it's a Dodge truck commercial.

7: When did you last step outside? What were you doing?: I stepped out of the gym, and then I stepped out of my car before I came into the house (PS: I started answering these questions hours ago, in case you were wondering).

8: Before you came to this website, what did you look at?: What do you think? Most Sexy Guys... they should be giving me some kind of a subsidy, I've linked to them like ten times in the last couple of weeks. But then I've spent more time mining beautiful images there than I have writing about it here, so I guess I am being paid.

9: What are you wearing?: Black t-shirt, grey sweatpants (they're cargo sweats, they have pockets on the legs, so hip-hop), white socks, and a silver wristwatch.

10: Did you dream last night?: I dream every night, I just don't always remember them. I kind of vaguely remember the dream just before I woke up as being interesting and fun, but I can't now remember the plotline.

11: When did you last laugh?: At dinner when I was talking to Grandmother about something. I laugh a lot, though. I like laughing.

12: What is on the walls of the room you are in?: I wish I'd answered this question while I was still at the office, where I haven't quite loaded the walls up yet. Going clockwise from directly in front of me: three wall-mounted shelves with books and magazines, two metal plaques from Aahmes Shriners' 100 Club that belonged to my Grandfather, two narrow closet-door mirrors mounted side-by-side to create one large mirror, a red sequined headband with a red ostrich feather, a tiny Polaroid picture of myself and Shiloh, a waterproof tchotchke-box on a cord (for putting your money and glasses into on water rides) from Dalton's company picnic at Marine World (these last three hanging from the same plastic thumbtack), then the door, around the corner to a large photograph of Caroline with really long hair and lots of beaded necklaces and nothing else on (from her first paid modeling gig), another large set of wall-mounted shelves with three shelves on either side of my dressing-table mirror and one shelf over the top containing books and videos and jewelry boxes and my stereo and a rather baroque little clock and a stuffed turtle and a lot of grooming products and my alarm clock and four folding fans, then the closet door and around the next corner, an oval mirror in a white wicker frame, then the window with miniblinds, then (gasp!) a blank space, then around the corner to another set of three wall-mounted shelves filled with books, and then my tall bookcase with an elecric fan and several decorative objects and commemoratie coffee mugs and an immensely tacky but somehow endearing lamp featuring a porcelain statue of a flapper and a bead-fringed shade, and then the CD tower with a white teddy bear with a leopard-trimmed black velvet coat and hat with her own little pet leopard cub, (I know these are not on the wall so much as in front of the wall, but they cover the wall, anyway), and then another tiny blank space and the fourth corner.

13: Seen anything weird lately?: Define "weird." But no, I can't think of anything lately that struck me as particularly odd.

14: What do you think of this quiz?: It's harder than I thought it would be to answer.

15: What is the last film you saw?: Joseph Andrews, based on the Henry Fielding novel, starring Ann-Margret and Peter Firth. It was very amusing, if a trifle silly. But that was on DVD, not film... the last on-film film I saw was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban... it's sad that the last movie I saw in a theater is about to come out on DVD next week.

16: If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?: A fur coat. Silver fox, long, fabulous! Or else a really really big diamond. But definitely something to wear.

17: Tell me something about you that I don’t know: Well, now that I've let Mrs. Kermit out of the bag, I just don't know what's left... how about this: I've only once had an orgasm without using my own hand, and boy was I surprised! (for those following along, it was #5 the English guy with the ponytail).

18: If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?: Create some kind of mandated test by which stupid people would be given to comprehend that they were stupid, and would thereafter be forced to act accordingly by keeping their stupidity to themselves.

19: Do you like to dance?: Not really... I enjoy it for a little while, but eventually I will become poisoned by the knowledge that I look stupid, and that takes the fun out of it.

20: Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?: Anastasia... or Charlotte... or Charlotte Anastasia Manners.

21: Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?: Sebastian Mountjoy Manners. He will perforce have to be home-schooled.

22: Would you ever consider living abroad?: No, I don't think I'd care for that. Not even just to Canada. I would like to take extended vacations, but to have to go through all the resident alien paperwork and buying household necessities in a foreign language and having to actually figure out currency exchanges for a long period of time? No thank you.

23: Will you pass on this survey?: I just did.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Worth the Weight

Bad blogger! Going so long without posting anything. In my defense, though, the last two posts were long enough to rate as a week's worth of posts, each. And this last week has been strangely busy... not unbearably busy, but just busy enough that I don't have time to sit and think and write. I've been enormously productive in the other corners of my life, and this diary just had to hold its horses.

So what have you been doing? I hear you ask.


To start with, I have committed myself to my diet (though I had to hedge a little when Grandmother cooked dinner, she simply cannot grasp the concept of a diet without starch, and really can't grasp that corn and carrots and peas are not actually vegetables) and, with the exception of last night when I had my GSR meeting, I've been going to the gym for my forty minutes of cardio every day. And not only do I feel a lot better, more physically energetic and mentally agile and emotionally positive, I have also lost three whole pounds! Just twelve more to go, and I will have reached my short-term goal of fifteen pounds before New Year's... and I'm already one-fifth of the way there!

It's been a bit of a struggle to stick to the diet, though. It's not a hard diet in and of itself, it's just a matter of eschewing all sugary and starchy foods, avoiding fatty foods when convenient, sharply limiting my bread intake (only in the morning, and then something whole-grain), loading up instead on meat, vegetables, and dairy, and drinking lots and lots and lots of water. But it's mid-November, and my mostly-Nordic-blooded body is telling me to put the fat on for winter, and is rather irritated that I am trying to take the fat off... as a result, I feel terribly hungry a lot of the time, even when I've just eaten.

At first, I found it helpful to drink a bottle of water instead of eating something, it deadened the feeling a bit and did my body some good. But the real issue was that it takes a while to reorient my grocery priorities to the new diet; there were loads of cookies and candies and crackers all around me, and little or nothing good that was on my diet. But now I have assembled a stock of lean lunch-meats and fruits and vegetables and yogurt and cheese to keep at the office and at home, so when I crave a snack, there is something allowable at hand to munch on (not forgetting, of course, to drink lots of water anyway). And in just one week, I've gotten results! Not big results, it's not like my pants are suddenly sagging, but results nonetheless.

My goal after the fat-loss is to discover and redefine the abdominal muscles that I know are lurking under those extra pounds... though I am too much a realist to consider a six-pack as something attainable, or even desirable, I do want to actually see the bones and muscles of my pelvis moving under the skin. I am also working a little on my pecs, trying to isolate with isometrics the upper pectoral muscles (and once isolated and understood, I will weight-train them at the gym), which when built up will drag the loose skin out from under my arms and around my waist without altering my suit or bra sizes.

Soon I will be learning how to strengthen my back so that I don't have a repeat of the injuries I've suffered lately, and then will consider some more intense body-sculpting exercises. I am going to start Pilates lessons, too, as soon as I feel comfortable on the cardio machines again; to prepare, I am trying to stretch my hamstrings so I can touch my toes (an important feature needed for Pilates moves), something I haven't been able to do since I was twelve, and which made Pilates very difficult for me before.

It feels great to simply be doing something about my body again, instead of just passively loathing it. And surprisingly, I am finding myself quite inspired by the acres of gorgeous muscle-boys I've been ogling online all day every day... Most Sexy Guys is my new favorite website, it is constantly being updated, and it's a great site to sort of run in the background and rest my eyes there in between work chores. And while I am fully aware that I shall never, no matter how hard I work, manage to look like a twenty-year-old physique model, and while I understand that even having a nice body is not going to miraculously resolve my body-image issues, I nevertheless find that the dizzying splendors of their bodies spur me to make my own body as close to perfect as I can (without giving up my entire life to the quest, of course).


At work, things are going extremely well... Grandmother suggested to me, when I told her that I find myself dreading going to work in the mornings, that I might try to make my office more pleasant to be in by hanging pictures or moving my desk to where I can see out the windows better. Of course, Grandmother hasn't seen my new office and has no idea why it looks depressing to me, but I did adapt and take her advice... I hung up a couple of posters to add color, and I unpacked all of my framed photographs and put them on my desk; I also opened all the blinds in the atrium next door to my office so I can see out from my desk without having to move it. The results have been remarkable; my office is still a little crowded and depressing, but it is a lot less crowded and depressing after these three little changes.

With the slightly more cheerful atmosphere and my own increasing energy, I was able to get a lot of really big tasks started (and in some cases finished), major and minor-but-no-less-important projects that should have been done in May but which had been put off by unnumbered emergencies, catastrophes, other people's priorities and other people's failures, and of course my own forgetfulness, over and over again all summer; these undone tasks were weighing on my mind more than I had realized, and now having them all in process or finished, I feel that an enormous weight I didn't even know I was carrying has been lifted off of me. The idea of going to work tomorrow doesn't put a sour taste in my mouth.


There are other things I could talk about, a show I did on Sunday and enjoyed and a talk I had with Grandmother that I didn't enjoy but which was nonetheless helpful (from which came her advice on the office), and how now that I am not eating sugary and salty snacks, all of the food I do eat tastes absolutely fantastic... but I am too tired right now.

All in all, things are looking up. I am getting Out From Under the grim weight of unhappiness that I was suffering as recently as last week, and these small changes have brought a ray of sunshine into my life. It is quite refreshing.

Sleeeeeeepy! I am going to go read a book for a while (I'm still on the Anne Rice vampires, of course, and I've moved through Vittorio the Vampire, which isn't very good, and have started on Merrick since last we spoke), and then go to sleepy-byes. I will hopefully be talking to you again soon.


Friday, November 12, 2004

Auntie Meme

I started writing this out on Saturday because I didn't have anything to talk about, and didn't want to go too long without posting, so I found this survey and copied it for my own use; but then I did have something to talk about, and took a hell of a long time and an awful lot of cyberspace to talk about it, so I put this off for a while. Then I came down with a cold Monday, and though staying home from work for the next two days freed up a lot of my time, it locked down a lot of my brain-power. Thursday my cold was better, and I had a holiday from work (thank you, Veterans), but this has been a slow-going process. As a result, this survey is several days in the making, and it is hideously long.

It's sort of an odd survey, since it is focuses on domestic things, and one of my favorite sayings is "My only domestic quality is that I live in a house." But any port in the storm, and I simply yearn for the time-consumption and self-examination that survey memes provide. So here we go...

~ Question Air ~

Stolen from Lance Arthur, who got it from an interview with Mark Morris in The New York Times Magazine:

1. Best household chore: I hate all household chores... but some more than others, so I guess the best would be the one I hate least... which I guess would be dusting; I sometimes even enjoy running a fleece dusting-mitt or a bit of old sock over all of the furniture and objects, it has a soothing quality (although I'm allergic to dust).

2. Fantasy career: At first I was going to say "novelist," but I think I'd almost rather be an advice columnist. I love giving advice, just love it! It would be supercool to be paid for it and have people begging for my advice all across the country (instead of my circle of friends simply ignoring my unsolicited free advice). On the other hand, we're talking about fantasy here, and I often fantasize about being a nudie-art photographer like Greg Gorman or Tom Bianchi or like that... just all day long gazing at gorgeous boys and capturing their beauty on film. And since we're still in fantasy-land, why can't I be all three? A novel-writing advice-columnist and art-photographer!

3. Favorite place to shop: Though I do most of my shopping on the internet, I actually enjoy shopping at little specialty boutiques more. There is a little shop on Piedmont Avenue called Pimlico Place that I love going into, it sells all sorts of beautiful things like artisan jewelry and small sets of china or crystal or silver and other decorative objects, and I am so thrilled when I find something I like and can afford, and I so enjoy chatting with the owner even when I don't buy. There's another place on Lakeshore called Juniper Tree that sells bath-things and candles and what-not where I often go to buy gifts and perfume. And a gifts-and-decoratives shop on Market Street near the Castro called Earthtones that I absolutely adore. There's something about small, single-owner, personally-appointed boutiques that I really love.

4. Superstitions: I have long held the superstition that the mood or tone or activities of midnight New Year's Eve will repeat throughout the year. And it's pretty often true. This last New Year's Eve I felt lonely and frustrated and just a bit angry with myself at midnight... and I've felt that way a lot this year.

5. Morning routine: I wake up and I pee and I drink coffee, pretty much in that order, and I pretty much always download email and view some websites, and that's about as routine as I get... it's not always even morning still when all this happens. Every day is different.

For example, if I remembered to set my alarm the night before (which I do about half the time), I will hit the snooze button (which is across the room from my bed) every nine minutes for an hour before I actually get up and stay up; sometimes I go back to sleep in between alarms, sometimes I read, sometimes I think I've gotten up and left the room but I've actually dozed off and am surprised to find myself still in bed the next time the alarm goes off.

Sometimes there will still be a cup of coffee in the pot from yesterday, so I will have my first cup ready for the microwave while the fresh pot is brewing and can read blogs or even do some writing; sometimes not, and so I might fall back to sleep before the coffee is ready, or I read in bed or read some of my simpler daily-read blogs.

Sometimes I'm hungry enough to eat something, and that something is more often than not a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, but mostly the thought of food makes my throat cringe; every other day I take a shower before I get dressed, unless I've lain in bed too long or sat at the computer too late and have to skip it; sometimes I shave after the shower, but not very often anymore. Sometimes I remember to brush my teeth.

Most days I walk around the house in circles for at least fifteen minutes trying to get everything together so I can leave, my keys and phone and shoes and sunglasses and money and anything I want to take to work with me and trying to find where I left my coffee cup. Then I finally leave... unless, of course, I don't.

6. Evening routine: My evenings are even less routine than my mornings, so rife with Ifs and Ands that I never can tell in the morning what my evening might be like.

When I get off work, I usually argue with myself for some time about whether or not to go to the gym; an argument that the gym, I'm sorry to say, quite often loses. I frequently go grocery-shopping and/or pick up takeout dinner on the way home; but if I don't, I generally go home and turn on the computer and/or the television for some down-time before dinner; unless Grandmother finds herself unequal to the task of making dinner, in which case I will bake something out of the freezer and perhaps make a simple salad to go with it.

If I have a meeting, I leave again after eating; unless it was an early meeting, in which case I might have gone straight from work without eating at all. If I don't have a meeting, and if Grandmother is watching television in the living room, I will go to my room and play on the computer or watch a video or read a book; if I'm home and Grandmother is watching television in her room, I usually nest on the couch and channel-surf for the rest of the evening.

I always hit the computer again before I get in bed, and usually end up surfing a little porn. Then I go to bed and have a nice orgasm followed by a prayer and meditation session, and if I'm still wide-awake after that I read a book until I feel sleepy enough to drop off... at which time I will turn on my left side, close my eyes, and wander off into REM. And then it starts all over again in the morning.

7. Favorite memento: As I look around me at the stunning array of objects that all hold some meaning for me, I am hard-pressed to choose a favorite. But I think I will go with the two Aahmes 100 Club plaques that belonged to my Grandfather and used to hang on his tie-rack behind his closet door, and which now hang on the wall beside my desk at home. I don't know what the 100 Club is or was (but I just now found a website for the Aahmes Shriners that is pretty cool, though there isn't a secondary link to my Grandfather's unit, the Novkeps, nor any info on the 100 Club), but they're interesting-looking metal medallions of the Aahmes logo, one silver with bolted-on bronze letters and one painted with bright colors. I find some comfort just looking at them and remembering my Grandfather and his various Masonic and Shriner paraphernalia, all of which connect me to his memory in a peculiarly visceral manner that his other possessions do not.

8. Favorite place in the house: Filthy dark sty that it is, I do love my bedroom. It's safe and it's mine, and everything I need is here. I even like the squareness of it, the particular size of the window, the fact that no two pieces of furniture are the same color of wood, the fact that it faces WSW and only gets direct light at the time of day in which I was born (4:15 p.m.) It would be nice if it were bigger, or if it had a bathroom en suite and a larger closet, or if I was able to keep it a little tidier; but I wouldn't trade it for any other room in the house, and I spend a huge amount of my time in here.

9. Best thing about being you: Being smarter than most people, with an IQ in the lower end of the Genius scale and a special talent for complex comprehension. Though sometimes it's irritating to be surrounded by comparative intellectual midgets, and quite frustrating when others don't figure things out as quickly as I do, not to mention absolutely infuriating when they can't keep up with my logic or argue it on a similar level (and, as my mother always says, "Everyone wants to get a little ass... but nobody likes a smartass"), it is nevertheless nice to be able to learn things quickly and to do the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink and to have the answers to all sorts of useless questions at one's fingertips and kicking ass at Trivial Pursuit or the home edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Jeopardy!

10. What’s your reputation: I don't really know what people think of me or say about me when I'm not there. But judging by what people have told me, like in my Friendster Testimonials (this link will only work if you are a Friendster; if you'd like to join Friendster, let me know by email and I'll send you an invite), I seem to have a reputation for being classy, talented, intelligent, adamantine (look it up), nice, and perhaps a tad cannibalistic; I also have heard that people who've never met me frequently think I am stuck-up and unapproachable, formidable even. But that's just what people tell me... I'd have to bug a lot of rooms to find out what people are really saying about me... whereupon I would be devastated to discover that they never talk about me at all.

11. Favorite movie: Auntie Mame. NOT Mame, mind you... people get so mixed up by this. Auntie Mame was released in 1958 by Warner Brothers and stars Rosalind Russell in her signature role and is not a musical and is unbelievably fabulous; Mame was released in 1974 based on the so-so Jerry Herman musical and stars the wonderful but frog-voiced Lucille Ball and hysterical frog-voiced Bea Arthur and has gorgeous costumes but is otherwise quite savorless. Auntie Mame has some of the most beautiful clothes, and far and away the best set design of any movie I've ever seen (like the stage production, Auntie Mame has only one real set, the wonderful Beekman Place apartment with its sweeping stair and dramatic open spaces, and the very few other sets are just not as deeply realized; unlike the stage production, the main set is in the round, i.e. entirely enclosed and realistic; it's also the only movie I know where the set has almost as many costume changes as the star). It has parts that are so funny I still giggle when I see them, and parts that are so touching that I still kvell up a bit, even after the 150th viewing. It is genius, completely without flaw, and I love it love it love it!

12. Book to recommend: In practice, the books I most frequently recommend to people are Living Sober, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions. I mean, even if you're not an alcoholic, these books are extremely helpful for getting through a lot of problems in life... just substitute "alcohol" with sex, drugs, food, shopping, relationships, work, whatever, and you have a guide through the labyrinthine addictions of the human spirit.

But as literature, I love to recommend The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. It taught me a lot about love and passion, nobility and greatness, sacrifice and happiness, and it's simply a beautifully-written story. I don't know how many times I've read it, and I never get tired of it. And then, if you liked that one, follow up with Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian... another French lesbian writing about male homosexuals in the Ancient world, and again a lot about love and nobility and living a good life, but this is longer, more philosophical and less story-driven, and has that peculiar sleepy lyricism of French prose that has been translated into English.

13. Your welcome mat: It's made of fuzzy green plastic on top of heavy black rubber, fretworked like an old-fashioned heater register, and doesn't say anything... its purpose is to scrape the crap of the outside world off your shoes before you enter and trip over one of the little mats that litter the foyer, not to entertain strangers (who, by the way, are not welcome... unless I know you're coming or I see your car in the street, I won't even answer the door).

14. Little big toy: I was sure they didn't mean the kind of "toys" that came immediately to my filthy mind (of which, incidentally, I have none) so I had to read the previous answers to even understand this question. Oh, ah, electronics: I don't really have very many toys of this type... I mean, I have a computer strong enough to access the internet and play music, a television and VCR in my room for watching porn and movies, and a DVD player and a nearly-antique N64 video game in the living room, but these are bare-minimum things, bought to access media rather than for their own sakes. But as a favorite, I'd have to go with my computer, since it's the most expensive and I spend a lot of time using it as well as a lot of money on MP3s and gaming software, and I might very well die without it.

15. Last meal: I've always thought the idea of a last meal before execution was kind of silly... I mean, why would I want to nourish a body that is going to die in a couple of hours? What's the point? And then it also puts a lot of pressure on the poor food: how can any food justify itself as the last thing you ever taste on this earth? I think I would almost rather spend my last few hours in meditations and preparing my soul for death instead of clinging to life's pleasures one last time... or, if in life's pleasures, I think I might rather have mind-blowing sex (because, really, I've had mind-blowing food already, many many times, but mind-blowing sex is still on my list of things to experience).

But in the spirit of playing along, I guess I'd want a little bit of everything I like, just a couple of bites each so I wouldn't run out of stomach-space too quickly... orange Pims, Philly cream cheese on a Trisquit, five or six different kinds of cheeses with a crusty sourdough baguette, strawberries and blackberries and cantaloupe and a banana and white grapes and Ranier cherries and peaches, asparagus and artichokes and sugar snap peas, combination pizza, bacon and eggs, toast with homemade plum jam, a variety of nice chocolates, a nice medium-rare steak and a slice of pork loin and some salmon and a rack of lamb, Sacher torte and tollhouse cookies and rocky road ice cream, three or four kinds of fruit sorbet, a chocolate mousse from Scharfen Berger and a chocolate pudding from Jell-O, mint nonpareils and a handful of Jelly Bellies and a few Red Vines, some good rich black coffee and some Earl Grey tea and some jasmine green tea and some sweetened iced tea and some chocolate milk and a Snapple Mango Madness, maybe even some really good champagne and a superdry martini and a balloon of old armagnac (though I'm not sure these taste the way I remember them tasting, and I might not like them any more). And if I was really lucky, someone would slip a nice quick-acting poison into this gluttonous feast so I wouldn't see my death coming.

Chee-rist, this thing is taking forever... I can't just answer a question and move on, can I? Oh, well, let's have a quick beefcake break, shall we?

Ahhh, much better. To continue...

16. Technology item you can’t live without: Again, my computer. I mean, I could live without it easier than I could live without food or clothing or shelter, but with just a good PC and the right peripherals I can substitute pretty much every other form of technology I use (with perhaps the exception of my car and the microwave).

17. Idea of the perfect party: One in which I am only consulted on the details and arrangements, but don't have to do any of the work. It would be in a rented facility like a ballroom or a fancyschmancy clubhouse, there would be entertainment in the form of go-go boys and a drag revue (in which I might or might not participate), a whole lot of finger-food beautifully presented by professional caterers, all of my friends and as many of my friends' friends as they cared to bring, balloons and flowers and lights and a DJ... and I wouldn't have to do anything except enjoy the company of my friends and their friends and the food and the music and the show.

18. Topic you wouldn’t bring up at a party: I've always thought bodily malfunctions were an inappropriate topic of conversation in any group, but especially at a party. Other than that, I think any topic that you and whoever you are talking to can converse upon without getting violently angry or upset would be just fine.

19. Fictional character you most identify with: I honestly can't think of one... I identify with piles and piles of fictional characters on one level or another; I mean, isn't that the point of fiction? But I've never read a book, or seen a movie or a TV show or even an opera, where I found a character and said to myself "Wow, that's so me!"

20. Favorite decorating technique: Preemptive Clutter. I have a great fondness for clutter anyway, a baroque sensibility when it comes to decor, and an acquisitive nature paired with a love of display... but Grandmother and I are also terrible slobs, and preemptive clutter has saved the shared rooms of our house from getting too messy. The messiest shared rooms in the house are the ones where we are supposed to keep large spaces of clear tabletop or counterspace (the dining room and kitchen), which are simply piled all of the time with papers and empty bags and open magazines and unopened letters and half-used boxes and little bits of refuse and dirty dishes and clean dishes; the tidiest rooms are the ones where there simply isn't anywhere to set anything down (like the living, room, hallways, bathroom, and guestroom), and so you are forced to put the thing away where it goes rather than drop it where you are.

21. Thing in your house you’re fussiest about: The arrangement of the preemptive clutter. Though I have a penchant for the baroque, I also have a yearning for symmetry and balance that is almost neoclassical... and so tablescapes and the arrangement of objects on shelves become the medium through which I blend and exercise both tendencies. I even do it in other people's houses, if I think they won't mind, shifting an object here or there in its place to achieve a better balance and symmetry. It took me years to get the pictures in our living room shifted around to hang just right in balance with the doors and windows and light-fixtures. Flower-arranging can drive me quite mad, when the stalks and blossoms simply don't stay where I want them. And don't get me started on refrigerator magnets, I can spend hours shifting them around seeking a balance and proper spread of color and pattern (one of the reasons I dislike the children in my family... they always disarrange my refrigerator magnets).

22. Procrastination technique: Being too tired. I'm always tired, it seems, but more so when there's something I don't particularly like to do... and when I do like to do something, I do it anyway, whether I'm tired or not, so I really shouldn't allow it as an excuse. But I have to have some kind of excuse. I found, during my arguments with myself about going to the gym, that I will just move on to the next excuse down the line: I often didn't go because Caroline didn't go, so I started making myself go alone anyway; then I didn't go because I'd forgotten to bring my gym clothes with me, so I started wearing my gym clothes to work; now I don't go because I'm tired. If I start going even when I'm tired, I am sure I will come up with some other reason to put it off.

23. Guilty pleasure: Sophomoric humor... I get the biggest kick out of the kind of slapstick and crotch-centered comedy that involves horny teenagers and young adults trying to get laid or get through finals or get across country or whatever, and generally humiliating themselves and others along the way... there's always a lot of nudity and usually some cute boys in such movies, and homosexual terror/rage and therefore a lot of focus on the ass and genitals (some of my favorite parts), and embarrassing injuries, and bodily fluids, and incredibly elaborate practical jokes, and predictable but no less hilarious punchlines. Last week I finally got Jackass: The Movie, and I laughed my ass off, so hard at one point (the bit with the doctor and the toy car in the rectum) that I almost made myself quite sick, a fifteen-minute episode of hysterical convulsions immobilizing me completely.

24. What’s by your bedside: To the left, a small white bookcase with a celadon ginger-jar lamp, a white coffee mug full of pens that probably don't work, a green coffee mug full of popsicle sticks, some candy-wrappers and bookmarks, and at the moment a blue-and-white teapot full of Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer (I don't feel tense, I just like the taste); under this are books of various prurient interest, and on the floor all along this side are books and magazines (some pornographic and some not) and clothes and waste paper; to the right, actually on the bed but against the wall and therefore "bedside" are my teddy bear Antinöus, a little golden wrought-iron basket (with my remote controls, a little fur-lined cup for my glasses, a bottle of baby oil, and a little tin of cuticle cream), and a jumbled low wall of books, magazines, and VHS cassettes (also some pornographic and some not).

25. Pets: I haven't any pets... I am trying to talk Grandmother into letting me get a pug, but she doesn't want another dog (our last was a lhasa apso named Maggie, who had to be put to sleep after she went blind and then broke her back), and if she did she'd prefer a spaniel of some sort; and I am not as yet responsible enough, either financially or attention-wise, to take care of a new dog on my own. But someday, when I am responsible enough or Grandmother breaks down, I want a pug puppy.

26. Recent purchase: Domestically, the last thing I bought was a utensil basket and a new paper-towel rack for the kitchen, of modernistic chrome to match the fruit basket I bought some weeks ago (and which does not match our kitchen at all but draws attention away from the rather sinister-looking new coffee-maker). But the last actual objects I bought were two Rampage black jersey dresses of vaguely Gothic aspect that were on sale for 75% off at Macy's; these are for Marlénè's alterego, the Baroness Griselda von Beitte-Meihasse, who will be appearing at Harvey's on Thanksgiving Weekend and needed some fresh clothes (only I am insane enough to have an alterego with her own alterego... maybe someday she'll have an alterego, and we will be the psychological equivalent of Russian nesting dolls).

27. Always in the fridge: You want a grocery list? Our refrigerator is always packed with stuff. There are loads and loads of things we always have in our refrigerator, all the usual staples like milk and butter and cheese and lunch meat and jelly, and then all the leftovers and snacks. But things I particularly crave and keep in the fridge and freezer for my own personal use would be juice (two or three kinds, the light sweet-tart sorts like ruby grapefruit and white cranberry), yogurt (nonfat store-brand, black cherry, peach, and key lime being my favorites), and fruit popsicles of some kind.

28. Nagging injury: My right wrist... I don't know what the original injury was, but every now and again it will flare up, after particularly strenuous use of the hand in writing or carrying things, or if I bang it on something; the little bone on the back of my wrist (let's see if we can find out what it's called... lunate carpal, I guess, such a tiny thing) pokes out of place somewhere, and it gets inflamed underneath and hurts a lot. Then I have to wear a CTS brace and everyone razzes me about masturbating too much... which is perfectly silly, because I think it's quite obvious to the intelligent observer that I masturbate with my left hand.

29. Collections: Jewelry is my greatest collection; and of that, I think the most "collectible" portion is my Suzanne Somers pieces. I used to collect colored rhinestones, but that collection is too varied and odd to really catalog, and then I have absolute mountains of white rhinestones as well. I have piles and piles of jewelry in all sorts of different colors, and even a few really collectible pieces, but I keep my Suzannes separate in the very top of my jewelry wardrobe. Second to that would be my Dead Animals, from fur pieces with their heads and tails en suite to handbags made out of entire animals (an armadillo and a baby alligator, as well as a coin purse made from an Australian cane frog) to stuffed and completely inutile remains like my inflated dried blowfish and my stuffed Mexican sea turtle that plays a little wooden harp. I also collect egg-shaped things, and things with elephants, and pretty much everything else I touch.

30. Fitness routine: Huh? See above for my definitions of "routine." Well, when I do go to the gym, if Caroline is with me I just do twenty or thirty minutes on an elliptical machine while we talk a mile a minute and get all out of breath; if I'm alone, I will usually do twenty minutes on the treadmill at 4 mph and twenty minutes on the exercycle at level 4 or 5; in between, if I'm feeling frisky, I will go upstairs and maybe do a couple of butterfly presses and maybe some thigh presses, whatever catches my fancy and doesn't threaten to bulk up my biceps or calves or shoulders (so unladylike).

But since that pitiful and woebegone cry in my last unbearably long post (just beneath this unbearably long post), I have "hit bottom" on my body-hatred and have decided to do something about it. My immediate short-term goal is to lose fifteen pounds, and my mid-term goal is to have a body that I myself find sexually alluring... the long-term goal being to finally make peace with my body. When I get back into the swim of things (which I had vowed this week to do in earnest, before I was felled by this idiotic head cold), daily gym visits with forty minutes of cardio and fifteen minutes of weights will become de rigeur. I will start the weekly Pilates classes again, and maybe if I can swing it I'll take some training sessions to tone myself a little better. I have been back on my modified Atkins diet this week, and will remain on it (with exceptions for holiday dinners) until I reach the mid-term goal.

31. Recurring nightmare: I don't have recurrent nightmares in the usual sense, that the same specific dream comes back. But the two main themes in my nightmares are about being caught unprepared and having to go through with it anyway and make an absolute ass of myself, and being hideously betrayed by someone I love and trust. Paging Dr. Jung, paging Dr. Jung... even a novice could analyse those two.

32. Idea of a perfect day: I have no idea. Really. I mean, I can think of a catalog of things to do, but they won't all fit in one day; I can think of ideal weather conditions, but they don't really exist anywhere except in my own fevered brain, I can think of friends I would want to see and people I'd want to meet, jewels I'd want to buy and stores where I'd want to find super bargains, meals I'd like to eat and so on and so forth ad infinitum... but I don't believe in perfection, not of days, not of meals, not of anything really. Instead, I will hope to make each day perfect in its own way, to seek the joy in everything, to savor every moment as it passes.

And on that resoundingly saccharine cliché, I must leave you. I've been chipping away at these thirty-two questions for days and days. I have learned a lot, and in the interim between questions I have had a lot of ideas for the future. Thanks ever so for sharing this rather lengthy journey with me. And, as always with survey memes, please reproduce it where and when you can. Love!

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Comments on Comments

I started writing something else yesterday, but got sidetracked and went away from it (a questionnaire-type meme, which took longer to answer than I'd thought it would, so I will have to post it later); but since then, my brain has sort of slipped into overdrive and I'm thinking very clearly and very quickly... something I haven't done in a while. And among the many things that I'm thinking about, I'm considering some of the things I've said in previous posts, but more about what other people have said about what I said, in my Commentary. And I would like to take some time to address those comments.

Bush Whacked

At brunch today, Grandmother and Daddy and I got into discussion about Bush and the war in Iraq. This is very rare, since we usually get so het up about our differing beliefs that we have difficulty sticking to the rules of debate, and have to abandon the topic before we get anywhere. But for some reason, today, we were able to stick to rational discussion without getting really angry (though I almost lost it the third time Grandmother indicated that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11... I can't quite get her to wrap her mind around the fact that the terrorists who plotted and carried out the 9/11 attacks were not Iraqis).

And during our discussion, two things became clear to me (and clarifying one's own thought processes is the purpose of debate, incidentally, not winning your point; the very nature of Socratic dialog is to understand, not to compete): first, that all of us at that table, and most of the people I know, choose our information sources based on our predisposed opinions; second, that the desire to believe a certain thing is incredibly dangerous.

Grandmother gets most of her information from cable television news, mostly Fox though she does watch the other news networks as well, and a little from one print newspaper, The Oakland Tribune; Daddy gets his information about half-and-half from television news and from Internet news sites like BBC and Reuters; almost all of my information comes from the Internet, which is filtered entirely through blogs, and the rest is whatever else filters through the entertainment shows and lifestyle magazines I enjoy.

Of the three of us, I think Daddy is the best informed, simply because he focuses on detached and factual rather than opinion-filtered sources. I am far and away the least informed, because I can't allow myself to know about these things in too great of a detail; it's hard enough facing reality on vague, filtered terms... the details would quite possibly send me into a bottomless pit of despair; Grandmother is, in my opinion, the most deeply misinformed... though she isn't stupid, I seriously believe that her opinions and views are colored by the speed and intensity of the news to which she exposes herself, hours and hours of it every day, much of which she sleeps through, and I don't think her unconscious can tell the difference between a fact and an opinion when it is presented in a news format... I think on some level she believes that Hannity & Colmes is a news program, not a current-events opinion program; I mean, I had to remind her three times in one conversation that there has never been any factual evidence to indicate that Saddam Hussein had anything directly to do with 9/11.

Now, during this conversation, I have to admit that Daddy and I ganged up on Grandmother a bit, because we think alike and she doesn't think like we do; but Daddy thinks her misinformation is based on her questionable sources, and I think her misinformation is based on the way her brain works: on faith rather than on reason. She believes in Bush because she wants to believe in Bush... she believes in the Government only because the alternative is too terrifying to consider. And I don't believe in Bush, maybe because I don't want to and maybe because I can't; and the alternative is terrifying, I can't help but consider it all the time.

As an unbeliever, you will have to give me solid documentary evidence that Bush does not have an alternate agenda for this war, solid documentary evidence that he will in no way personally profit from this war, solid documentary evidence that he is not evil and stupid, before I will believe it. As a believer, Grandmother (and those who want to believe in Bush) will take the vaguest of reassurances... he's not stupid, he's simply down-home, regular, unaffected; his oil-company-owning family is not profiting from a war with a major oil-producing nation, they haven't walked off with any barrels of oil tucked under their arms; he didn't know that Iraq was devoid of any weapons of mass destruction, or that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was in any way connected to Al-Qaida, why would he have attacked them if he didn't know they were going to attack us?

Now, neither of these positions is ideal... one should never be so skeptical that you have to actually see the Face of God before you'll believe He exists; but neither should you take on faith anything of which there isn't at least a scientifically plausible indication of truth. There should be a rational detachment, an interest in fact and analysis that does not require an emotional response of faith or fear.

But, even though I am of course prejudiced in my own favor, I do think that my skepticism of the Government is healthier than Grandmother's blind faith. Because I would love to be proved wrong, and she would refuse to be proved wrong.

If somebody popped up on television right now and produced solid evidence that I am wrong, I would dance and sing and throw rose-petals at Bush's feet and give my favorite bracelets to Laura by way of apology for calling her a crazy-eyed Stepford freak. I would be thrilled out of my fucking mind to have proof that Saddam Hussein was on the very brink of attacking the US with stockpiled weapons of mass destruction just hours before US troops invaded Iraq. I would shit myself with glee to find out that Halliburton won the troop-support contract fair and square without any help from its former CEO. I would pee with happiness if Dubya could pass a lie-detector and an IQ test.

But would Grandmother embrace information proving that her idol is a bastard, that the US is engaged in an unjust war and killing innocent civilians and our own soldiers in the name of greed? Would she embrace information proving that her beloved and divine Democracy is being held captive by a vicious cabal of Good Ole Boys? No, I don't think she would.

She even believes things from the past that have been proved wrong. Let's leave for the moment her touching belief that God created the entire universe and everything in it in six calendar days, that He formed Adam from literal dust with His own five-fingered hands, that all human life is descended from the literal and actual persons of Adam and Eve who lived approximately five thousand years ago, and that two of every 8 billion species of animal on the planet was somehow herded to the Mediterranean and loaded onto Noah's ark...

...but she also believes that the USSR actually had the power to invade and conquer the United States in the 50s and 60s, despite the fact that they couldn't even build a fucking tractor to farm their own goddamned land and feed their own starving people... I mean, they couldn't conquer Afghanistan (though in all fairness even Alexander shrugged it off as pointless), how could they have conquered us? She also believes it was right to inter the Japanese-American citizens of the US during WWII, even though it turned out there was not one single solitary spy among them and all those people lost their property and years of their lives just because people were scared. She believes the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justifiable... not merely necessary, not simply the only apparent solution in a time of extreme crisis, but actually right and deserved.

She believes these things because to not believe them would admit that she'd been a dupe of propaganda. The alternative is too terrifying to contemplate, so she simply ignores the alternative. Would that it were so easy for me.

Tell It With Slant

Despite any preference for one's own opinion, I think the best way to discuss this (and anything) is with an open mind... and, unpleasant as it might be, with people who disagree with you. If we only talked to people who agreed with our opinions, we'd never know if our opinions were valid.

The entire above was brought to mind by the comment DM wrote in my previous post-election post, referencing some comments left on her site; I read them at the time and thought they weren't very politely-worded, but also thought how rare it is in these days to have people one knows posting dissenting political opinions.

On the other hand, I also disagreed with some of the points they made, and those points started rattling around in my mind... so I went back to that post and left a really long comment, commenting on the comments which commented on the original post, which I guess is kind of circular. But I hope I made my points respectfully and in the spirit of open and rational dialog. You can make up your own mind if I succeeded.

But as I was writing it, I started questioning some of my assertions: where did I read this piece of information? Where did I find that factoid? Can my sources be trusted any more than their sources? I don't know... and I'd like to find out. But I don't want to find out badly enough to go and find out.

I simply haven't the stamina for that much research. Honestly, the whole overwhelming amount of information makes fact-based ideology impossible... and when we can't trust anyone to do that research for us, when we can't trust the media or the government to give us the correct information, or to properly sort out the important information from the emotionally-charged information, then (as I say several times in the comment) we have a problem.

So if we cannot deal solidly with facts, if the facts are so numerous and piecemeal that we cannot rely on them for our theories, then what do we have left? We have dialog and deduction.

The ancient Greeks figured out the existence of atoms long before they ever figured out cells, centuries before microscopes and particle accelerators; and they did it by thinking about if for a long time and deducing the truth. Ancient Roman philosophers (specifically Ptolemy of Alexandria, if I remember correctly) figured out not only that the Earth was spherical but also figured out how big around it is, without ever leaving Egypt much less sailing around the world or launching into space. They sat around and argued possibilities, looking at a question from all sorts of different angles, cogitating on what they knew and what they supposed, inferring further possibilities on top of the first, and eventually getting at the truth without even being able to produce much in the way of supporting evidence.

And they did this by using the predecessor of Scientific Method, the Socratic Dialog: they entertained and discarded a variety of possibilities, never becoming so enamored of one possibility that they altered the question to accomodate it. It is always fatal to become enamored of a theory, because the only way to prove a theory is to consciously try and disprove it... if a theory resists all valid attempts at disproof, it is considered proven (until new information is introduced).

On the other hand, it is impossible to form a theory without having some idea of what outcome you'd like. We do not have access to any information or any form of truth without it filtering to us through our perceptions. Everything we hear and say is inevitably slanted by our egos, the way light is slanted through even the clearest glass. So the entertainment of dissenting opinion, like the entertainment of alternate theories, is a must when trying to seek the truth... for only in passing the information through multiple layers of perception, only by testing our perception of Truth against other people's perception of Truth, can we get the slant out and know actual Truth. And that requires a dedicated conscious effort and a great deal of mental discipline.

It is very difficult, though, to discuss certain things with an open mind; so many topics will piss us off so thoroughly and immediately that our Socratic dialog devolves quickly into a demagogic mess of name-calling and fact-skewing. And if either of the correspondents in a dialog is untrained in the discipline of open-minded debate, the dialog will fall apart and perhaps even become physically violent within minutes.

And to me, that is why education is important: if we were all capable of speaking rationally and openly about things, even and especially our deeply-held beliefs and greedily-treasured theories, then the human race can progress beyond the warlike shouting and competitive posturing that currently plagues us, leading to anger and separation and destruction. We should always be prepared to die for our beliefs, but never ever should we kill for them; and unless we can all learn to hear and speak about deep and difficult topics, someone will always die for someone else's beliefs.

So I hereby open myself to the universe: Please Prove Me Wrong. I would love to believe in Dubya the way 52% of the country apparently does (though I don't really believe that, either... there can never be true representative government without comprehensive suffrage). I would love to sleep better at night, to not worry about the seeds of our own destruction that are being sown in our name, to not worry about my nephew in the Army with his life being directed by a commander-in-chief I consider mad, to not wonder how much worse things are going to get before they start getting better. Educate me.

But to do so, you'll have to produce evidence... if not concrete facts, then at least truly plausible and fairly watertight scenarios (I don't have to prove mine, because I am happy to relinquish my position and will not waste time defending it); you'll have to answer my questions without getting angry; you'll have to behave with respect for the beliefs that I hold dear. And I'll do my best to return the favor.

In the Eye of the Beholder

Speaking of beliefs and irrationality, I have been giving a lot of thought to the feelings I expressed in my post on physical beauty last week. I posted some of the thoughts in the comment box, in response to Vince's comment; but it has been niggling in the back of my mind all this time. When DM commented, it brought back some of the things I was trying to express about Perfect Form versus sexual or personal attraction.

I am assailed by the possibility that my belief in Perfect Form is bullshit... or rather that it is possible to project an ideal of Perfect Form on an object of desire when it does not in fact exist there, and therefore I haven't got the ability to discern actual Perfect Form in animate objects, and any attempt to describe Perfect Form in human beings devolves into an excuse for deviant biological urges.

However, I don't really believe this is true. But I find that my own sexual psyche is very much influenced by certain things which may (by pure accident) also be Perfect Form, but my reaction is to the sexual and I am trying to rationalize my sexual desires with a lot of teleological architecture in order to elevate my animal lusts to an intellectual sublimity... or, in short, to make my shit not stink.

Nevertheless, the feelings I described about beautiful boys and my own anger at having never been (and knowing I'll never be) a beautiful boy has nothing to do with whether or not Perfect Form really exists in the person of Kevin Zegers or Tom Welling. The fact is that their beauty touches me on a higher level than just lust... I don't really become sexually excited when I see them. I mean, I don't get a hard-on when I look at them; but beholding their faces and watching them move and talk and blink grabs at my heart and obsesses my mind. I derive a satisfaction at the sight of this kind of beauty that is separate and apart from the sexual thrill of hard young bodies and succulent mouths and imploring eyes.

The anger, though, comes from something else: the fact that I have never found myself sexually attractive. This is, I think, at the heart of the problem.

I mean, I can see what are my good features and what are my bad features and what could be improved here or there to make me more sexually attractive to others; I comprehend that not all people are attracted to hairless pretty-boys on the brink of adulthood, that many people (if not most) prefer character to looks... though nobody ever holds looks against a person if he's also wonderful in other ways; I understand that Perfect Form is not sexually attractive in and of itself, and that what is sexually attractive has absolutely nothing to do with Perfect Form.

But I don't like my physical self. My face isn't ugly, but I don't see anything very attractive about it, with its smallish features gathered in the middle of a large off-square head, the thin skin and coarse beard and screwy teeth behind narrow lips; my body isn't too bad, but even when it wasn't fat, I didn't find the sight of it remotely alluring... it's badly proportioned, not well-muscled, hairy in all the wrong places, too loose in general, and sort of awkward all over.

Not only am I not my own type, I simply can't see why I would be anybody's type... and even though I know there are plenty of people going around having sex with people way uglier than me, and that there are even people in this world who do think I'm attractive, God help them and bless their little hearts, my bafflement at what they see makes me tend to discount them. I just don't get it.

When I look at myself, even when I look at the features of my body that I like, I can still see room for improvement, or some element nearby that I actually find repulsive. And I really am seeing what's there, I'm not making it up to bolster my low self-esteem. I know exactly what I look like, but I don't like how I look... I'm judging myself by a different standard than others might judge me, judging by my own erotic paradigm, to which I do not conform.

I mean, I think I have rather nice eyes, nicely shaped and a pretty color, but I'd like them better if they were bigger and didn't have those little circles under them. I have nice skin, smooth and soft and a nice color, unless the sun touches it anywhere, whereupon it becomes spotted and gross. My nose is cute, too, but for being kind of undistinguished and having hair in it. I rather like my hands, and my feet, but not the hair on them. I'm exceptionally fond of my penis, of course, he's my best friend some days; and though it's quite big enough, I certainly wouldn't feel slighted if it was bigger, and then again there's all that coarse untidy hair.

Actually, all this hair really grosses me out and always has... I've gotten used to it, but I still don't like it. And it doesn't help that I'm not all that hairy, or that lots of people do like body-hair, or that it's natural or whatever. I just don't like it, not on other people but especially not on me. Shaving or waxing doesn't help much, because it comes right back quick as a wink, and usually causes unsightly and uncomfortable bumps in my too-sensitive skin.

And you know, I do often find myself sexually attracted to people who do not fit in my own generalized paradigm, hairy guys or overweight guys or crooked-kneed guys... but it's always something non-physical that tips the scale. I can even sexualize body-hair if it has a nice texture or is elegantly placed or reminds me of something comforting, even though I don't like it for its own sake.

However, finding onesself sexually unappealing shouldn't stop someone from having sex, or rather shouldn't keep anyone from exposing his body for sex with someone who is (for whatever incomprehensible reason) attracted to that body. I mean, straight people never find themselves sexually appealing, do they? They can admire their looks and enjoy the effect on others, but they don't want to do it with themselves, do they? So why should I expect myself to want to do me?

This is one of those places where biological inversion can really fuck with you... where the biological mating portion of sex gets all mixed up in the spiritual loving portion of sex. It's an old gay tradition that you should do everything you can to become the man you want to sleep with... that's what all those gym-bunnies and fashion-clones are up to, you know: they see what they like, and they do everything in their power to become it in hopes of attracting it. It becomes completely circular, because muscles and hot clothes are attractive in themselves, and people build bodies and buy hot clothes to become what they want, and then they are what other people want, who then become that in their turn, and so on and so on.

But we're not all narcissistic in this manner, surely. Look at all those "different" couples out there, who must outnumber the mirror couples (though the mirror couples seem more visible, somehow); most of the men I know in long-term relationships do not fit into any of the artistic or pornographic ideals of beauty, nor do they look remotely alike. Handsome, maybe... sexy even, but not beautiful... and yet there they are in love with each other, different from each other and nevertheless sexually attractive to each other.

But I am narcissistic, though not in the way that I desire the mirror of what I am, but instead desiring the mirror to impossibly turn and make me the image of my own desire... for some idiotic self-defeating reason I feel like I have to be what I want, and what I want is something that I could never be no matter how hard I tried.

I mean, there isn't a plastic surgery in the world that would turn me into a beautiful nineteen-year-old boy who's six inches shorter than I am; there isn't a gym routine in existence that would actually alter the imbalanced proportion of my frame. And though there's a lot I could do to make myself into something at least closer to my own ideal, I just don't have the energy and the resources to do it. And so I feel bitter and angry.

These are deep waters, here... waters that I have explored before, and I have never found a path out the other end, so I always just retreat whence I came and try to think about something else.

If I want to do the work, I can change: either my body or my expectations... this is a truth I know. But I feel so tired, the very idea of the amount of dieting and exercising and pecuniary sacrifice I would have to go through to make myself attractive in my own eyes just makes me tired; the idea of years of therapy to overcome my horrid self-esteem issues and inverted narcissism and freaked-out sexuality makes me tired.

I want it all to be solved for me without any work work from me, tomorrow, so I can just have what I want and go on to something else.

But you know what? I'm glad I have you to talk to. I resolve so many issues in this diary, receive so much useful feedback, vent so many painful psychological boils that even getting into deep waters and having to retreat is a worthwhile and eventually effective learning process.

So thanks for listening, thanks for reading all my stupid big words and show-offy long sentences and rambling topheavy paragraphs. Thanks for being here with and for me. Thanks for being you!

And now I really am tired. It's eleven p.m. now, and I've been writing this (and related things) and editing it for the last six hours (with a little break to eat dinner); I didn't get quite enough sleep last night (which is probably the genesis of this squirrel-in-a-cage thinking) and now I'm going to bed. Nighty-night!