Thursday, February 16, 2017

After the Funeral

Recently I read a piece from NPR that, in a nutshell, suggested we always attend a funeral if at all possible. Not every funeral, of course, but the ones for those we knew in life, or (perhaps especially) the funerals for loved ones of someone we know. Our attendance can mean so much during those occasions. The piece is almost twelve years old but, as with most things these days, nothing truly dies on the Internet. It was resurrected recently on social media, and I read it with interest.

Over the years I have attended funerals and visitations that ran the gamut from sparse to overwhelming attendance. Some funereal proceedings were an odd mix of fire & brimstone religiosity that decided to use the occasion to touch upon seemingly every hot button topic except for the deceased, to ones that were intimately personal ceremonies that provided those present with comfort. memories and closure. I've even been to one where a group of my cousin's peers performed a beautiful rendition of a Boyz II Men song.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Pic of the Week

This week our focus is on Pietro Boselli, who has been dubbed "the world's sexiest maths teacher." Enjoy.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

What Does It Mean to Be Black?

"Is you mixed?"

"You know you're black, right?"

Those are just a few of the things I heard growing up, from my black peers, as a biracial kid who thought of himself more as Matt, rather than about his racial identity. If anything, the more pressing minority status at the time was being homosexual, as it seemed to create more issues with people than anything else. Regardless, I've always struggled with what it means to be black and, as time has gone on, it has oddly not become any easier to navigate.

One thing to understand first is that, aside from the obvious biological aspect, there is a personal component to my desire of having the biracial definition applied. My father was black. My mother is white. With them come the requisite lineage. Whenever someone refers to me as being either "black" or (a lot less common) "white," it engenders a mental and, sometimes, physical pain. I think of the parent that such a label erases, of the aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins whom it ignores. That, I cannot abide.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Time's Subjects

I read a rather over-the-top article recently that posits the notion of how Star Wars: The Last Jedi will render Return of the Jedi "meaningless," though the article never adequately explaining how it will do so. There are a jumble of thoughts about how The Force Awakens was just a remixed A New Hope (not untrue), and how the new trilogy is just redoing the original trilogy (an assertion I find odd, since we haven't seen 66% of the new trilogy yet).

Regardless, I will let one particular section of the article speak for itself:

Luke’s moral and spiritual triumph on the Death Star, the Rebel Alliance’s military victory at Endor, and even Lucas’ awesome special edition scenes of people dancing and shooting off fireworks across the galaxy were pointless. The “Star Wars” universe slipped right back into tyranny and the resolution of the original trilogy was as fleeting as Hayden Christensen’s acting career. If this movie is what its title implies, then Luke might just as well have gotten a job selling power converters at Tosche Station.

It is unclear what the author expects from a continuation of the Star Wars saga. Granted, Force Awakens didn't have to be such a carbon copy of A New Hope. There could have been new dangers revealed, rather than a Death Star on steroids and a Darth Vader wannabe. The thing is, this is Star Wars. We're in the same universe (well, galaxy) as the original trilogy, so if there's going to be a new movie, there's going to be a renewed conflict within said universe. Evil never truly dies, it's just kept at bay for a time.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Windmills of Your Mind

Once, several years ago, I was talking with a fellow gay man (who happens to be African-American), and remarked that I'm not really attracted to black men. "That's racist," he said, sounding affronted. Back then, perceiving racism as something of a choice, I retorted: "How can it be racist? I did not choose to not like black men, just like you didn't choose to be gay." This seemed to dissuade my friend from any further accusatory remarks.

Over the years I've thought back to that occasion, and wondered if my friend might have been on to something? Of course it depends upon one's definition of racism (an oft-overused word these days), and the social/cultural dynamics one has been surrounded by in life. It's true that racist homosexuals do exist (once, when a gay guy found out I was biracial, he promptly told me that I was the product of race traitors, and should be hung from a tree). Still, are our sexual preferences a product of upbringing/influence, or are they more innate?

There's long been the nature vs. nurture argument when it comes to human sexuality. Personally, I think it's a bit of both, but I also think it is a superfluous bone of contention. It is my contention that the whole "born this way" line of thought negates the underlying issue for what it is to be gay. It shouldn't matter whether it's something we're born with. It should matter that it's simply something we want to do, and that it harms no one. Surely this isn't a controversial concept?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Hitting the Jackpot

I was in high school English class, and we were focusing on the prose & poetry of African-American authors. I was somewhat nonplussed. Yes, there was a mild appreciation of how my teachers were putting this into the curriculum, something that isn't done everywhere. It was nice to have a balance of John Steinbeck one week, followed by Lorraine Hansberry the next. A nice parade of black voices were to follow: Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes and Mark Mathabane, to name a few.

One day (I forget whether it was because we were about to focus on him, or if I simply flipped ahead a few pages in our reading), I happened upon a brief bio of James Baldwin. Of this, I took notice. It is said that gay men can tell if another person is gay, just by appearance. The curious notion of "gaydar" is one founded, like most things, in some sliver of truth. I saw the picture of Baldwin, the slim build, the smile, the twinkling eyes and thought, 'This man is gay.'

Memory fails as to whether the bio for Baldwin verified his homosexuality, or if I researched it soon after (though "research" back in the early 1990s involved more than Google, so it's probably the bio that mentioned it). Regardless, I was heartened. Shocked, even. Here was a man, deceased only a few years previous, who was publicly identified as being attracted to men. It struck a chord, for obvious reasons.