Friday, February 29, 2008

Daily Haiku 2

Hearts are full of love.
New beginnings make fresh hope.
But even bees leave.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What Hillary Clinton would never, ever do -

- especially in such a hotly contested debate: buy ad time in major gay and lesbian newspapers across Ohio and Texas, making a promise to never compromise on gay right, urge the federal government to overturn the insidious Defense of Marriage Act, and promise to try to overturn "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Hillary simply doesn't have the balls.

I'm glad Barack does.

This is the ad, and following that, an open letter to the gay community from the Obama campaign.

Open Letter from Barack Obama to the LGBT community

I'm running for President to build an America that lives up to our founding promise of equality for all – a promise that extends to our gay brothers and sisters. It's wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation. And I ask for your support in this election so that together we can bring about real change for all LGBT Americans.

Equality is a moral imperative. That's why throughout my career, I have fought to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans. In Illinois, I co-sponsored a fully inclusive bill that prohibited discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity, extending protection to the workplace, housing, and places of public accommodation. In the U.S. Senate, I have co-sponsored bills that would equalize tax treatment for same-sex couples and provide benefits to domestic partners of federal employees. And as president, I will place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to outlaw hate crimes and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples — whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage. Unlike Senator Clinton, I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a position I have held since before arriving in the U.S. Senate. While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does. I have also called for us to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and I have worked to improve the Uniting American Families Act so we can afford same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married couples in our immigration system.

The next president must also address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. When it comes to prevention, we do not have to choose between values and science. While abstinence education should be part of any strategy, we also need to use common sense. We should have age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception. We should pass the JUSTICE Act to combat infection within our prison population. And we should lift the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. In addition, local governments can protect public health by distributing contraceptives.

We also need a president who's willing to confront the stigma – too often tied to homophobia – that continues to surround HIV/AIDS. I confronted this stigma directly in a speech to evangelicals at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, and will continue to speak out as president. That is where I stand on the major issues of the day. But having the right positions on the issues is only half the battle. The other half is to win broad support for those positions. And winning broad support will require stepping outside our comfort zone. If we want to repeal DOMA, repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and implement fully inclusive laws outlawing hate crimes and discrimination in the workplace, we need to bring the message of LGBT equality to skeptical audiences as well as friendly ones – and that's what I've done throughout my career. I brought this message of inclusiveness to all of America in my keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention. I talked about the need to fight homophobia when I announced my candidacy for President, and I have been talking about LGBT equality to a number of groups during this campaign – from local LGBT activists to rural farmers to parishioners at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr. Martin Luther King once preached.

Just as important, I have been listening to what all Americans have to say. I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBT Americans. But neither will I close my ears to the voices of those who still need to be convinced. That is the work we must do to move forward together. It is difficult. It is challenging. And it is necessary.

Americans are yearning for leadership that can empower us to reach for what we know is possible. I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country. To do that, we need leadership that can appeal to the best parts of the human spirit. Join with me, and I will provide that leadership. Together, we will achieve real equality for all Americans, gay and straight alike.

Daily Haiku

The sky runs with blood.
Wishes for death go unmet.
"Paper or plastic?"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Graduation anxiety

I had a dream last night that two weeks before graduation, I received a letter from school that they had mistakenly not counted 4 classes on my record that I hadn't actually taken yet, and that I was going to have to stay another semester.

In the dream, I was already committed to grad school, and I had to tell them that I would have to defer my entrance for another year, until Fall 2009, but the school then said the offer was void, and I would have to re-apply.

It was one of those dreams where I woke up and it felt so real, despite how ridiculous it was, that I actually went to my computer to check my record and make sure I am, in fact, graduating in 8 weeks.

I am.

I may not be good at very much, but one thing I can do is write.

I turned in the first 16 pages of my thesis last week and got them back last night. I was really scared to look at my grade; this paper is notoriously graded very hard and the school wants you to be able to use it for grad school, so they put a lot of pressure on you to write a good one.

Well, I got a 94, which according to my professor, is quite good, as it's pretty rare to even reward on A on this draft of the paper to begin with. So I was quite pleased, and my professor had a lot of good things to say.

Lucky for you, if you want to read the paper, you can do so now! This is the Intro, Background, and the presentation of the 2 sides to the controversy. Before the paper is done, I will a critical analysis of both arguments, interviews, and a moral reasoning argument to support my ultimate opinion on the matter.

My paper is on conversion therapy, or, "ex-gay" reparative therapy. Enjoy!


In 1948, Alfred Kinsey estimated that at least 10% of the male population was exclusively homosexual for at least three years of their adult lives (qtd. in Haldeman 221). While no data of that sort exists today, many people estimate that number is probably still accurate, or, if anything, a little low. Gay rights and visibility have increased tremendously just in the last twenty years, and societal acceptance is at a level never seen before. Even among evangelical Christians, typically the most socially conservative group of people in the nation, 80% of people under 30 say that “anti-homosexual” describes Christianity, and that 76% oppose gay marriage, as opposed to 81% of those over 30 (Barna).

In 2004, however, in one day, over eleven states voted to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage (Reid), and hate crimes against gay and lesbian individuals actually increased between 2005 and 2006 (FBI). And despite marriage or a civil-union equivalent being legal in ten states, the United States is still a very divided country when it comes to gay and lesbian individuals.

Conversion therapy, as we know it today, is the attempt, generally through psychoanalysis, to convert homosexually identified individuals, both male and female, into heterosexually identified individuals (Johnston and Jenkins 62). It is also known as ex-gay reparative therapy (Throckmorton 4), and, sometimes, as “transformational ministry” (American Psychological Association 3). It is a process that has existed since roughly the end of the 19th century, when the term “homosexual” was first coined by Hungarian writer Karl Maria Kerbeny, ironically, in a pamphlet arguing for the civil rights of those who engaged in homosexual acts (Murphy 501). The primary crux for the defense of conversion therapy, particularly today, is that homosexuality is a freely chosen personality quirk, subject to the whim of suggestion or a disordered condition (Haldeman 260). Individuals may not realize that they have chosen it, arising as it does, so the suggestion goes, from a form of arrested psychosexual development (Haldeman 260). Many proponents of conversion therapy attribute this arrested development to an incomplete bond with the appropriate same-sex parent, and seek out relationships with individuals of the same gender in an attempt to recreate and stabilize that broken, or incomplete, bond (Haldeman 260). The underlying factor in this pronouncement is that the root causes of homosexuality are known, and that it is an undesirable “condition” or state in which to exist (Morrow and Beckstead 643). In conversion therapy, homosexuality is narrowly defined as little more than a series, or pattern, of behaviors, and rarely takes into account a client’s inner life, or chooses to blatantly disregard it (Haldeman 261). A number of individuals having completed conversion therapy reported continuing having homosexual fantasies, but not acting on them, thereby legitimately claiming a heterosexual identity (Haldeman 261). In theory, conversion therapy helps a client manage his or her homoerotic fantasies in order to live in, and maintain, a functioning heterosexual lifestyle (Haldeman 261). Barring an inability to control these fantasies or live heterosexually, celibacy is most often the recommended and desired outcome (Haldeman 224). At best, 38% of overall conversion therapy clients end up with “solid heterosexual shifts,” which also represent, typically, an adjustment in life, not a complete “metamorphosis” (Haldeman 223). Some of even this small number may be ambiguous, however, as further studies have shown that the greatest success came to those clients whose sexual lives and behavior already contained significant heteroerotic content, thus making them much more likely to be defined as bisexual as opposed to completely heterosexual (Haldeman 221). A commonly used metaphor is one of the drug abuser: after treatment, an ex-user may still sometimes crave drugs, but as long as he or she doesn’t actually use any, then the individual is still an “ex” drug user, despite the cravings (Beckstead 93).

That the medical and psychological establishment has not only provided no intrinsic properties to identify homosexuality as a pathology, but has outright renounced the idea that it is any more than another diversity on the broad human spectrum of diversities, means little to those who practice and preach conversion therapies (Haldeman 225). The primary objections to conversion therapy rest on the fact that homosexuality has been judged not to be an illness, and that it reinforces a prejudiced view of homosexuality among individuals and society at large (Haldeman 225). In fact, leading conversion therapists have more often than not been rabid activists in courthouses across the country in arguing against any laws either decriminalizing sex between same-gendered people, or granting protections to gay and lesbian individuals (Shidlo and Schroeder 250-251). Most importantly, it is necessary to look at the motives of those providing conversion therapy, and the motives of those seeking it. 26% of the individuals entering conversion therapy do so at the behest of their therapist (Shidlo and Schroeder 252). Typically, these individuals seek treatment to help cope with feelings of depression, guilt and anxiety related to their sexual orientation, but are not explicitly looking to change that orientation (Shidlo and Schroeder 252). Many teenagers and young adults attending religious-based universities tell stories of being forced into conversion therapy or face expulsion or termination of financial aid (Shidlo and Schroeder 252). For that other 74%, however, many simply feel that a homosexual identity is incongruent with the lifestyle they wish to live, and it provides an unacceptable alternative to a spouse, family and church (Beckstead 89). Proponents of conversion therapy view it as just another choice in the plethora of self-determined choices individuals can now make through therapy or psychoanalysis.

In 1997, after two years of in-depth study, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution condemning the use of conversion therapy, due to the fear that clients may request such a therapy due to “societal ignorance and prejudice about same gender sexual orientation,” and “family or social coercion,” and that such therapies were misguided and damaging (qtd. in Throckmorton 3). The American Counseling Association followed suit in 1998, passing a similar resolution with a companion resolution supporting same-sex marriage (Throckmorton 3). But are the resolutions themselves misguided? Despite scant evidence of its efficacy, and its threat of even further damage upon already impressionable or sensitive clients, should the American Psychological Association continue its condemnation of conversion therapy, since many people do request it, and that some people claim to have benefited from it?

Practiced since the late 19-th century, conversion therapy has always been controversial, especially in doctors’ and therapists’ choices of methods. Treating homosexuality as a pathology to be done away with, some methods have been extreme, such as physical abuse, castration, male hormone treatments, and lobotomies (Murphy 513). Mostly, though, therapies have sought simply to create behavioral changes in an attempt to control or sublimate same-sex attraction (Murphy 502). Exercise and outdoor activities were frequently prescribed, as were physical activities (such as excessive bicycle riding) that could exhaust an individual and leave him no energy to pursue sexual liaisons (Murphy 502). Others suggested visiting brothels, or for a man to be locked away alone with a woman for a week or more in order for her to help the man discover the pleasures a woman and her body have to offer (Murphy 503). Still others, however, saw marriage as the key component missing in a young man’s life who was struggling with same-sex desires; a virtuous woman, as opposed to a prostitute, was the real solution (Murphy 503). In more contemporary circles, though, homosexuality is less likely to be treated as pathology than simply as a misguided lifestyle, and that conversion therapy is simply one more choice a client has in his or her treatment options (Gonsiorek, 2004).

The history of addressing conversion therapy has basically been divided into two main disciplines going all the way back to Freud – that of psychology and that of social work (Johnston and Jenkins, 2006). While the psychological field has had its share of both supporters of conversion therapy (those who argue that it is successful as well as ethical) and its opponents (those who argue that conversion therapy has no “empirical base of efficacy,” that it is impossible to change one’s sexual orientation, and the continued use of conversion therapy fosters further prejudice and discrimination in society), the social work field has remained largely quiet (Johnston and Jenkins, 2006). Social work has a long history of ambivalence towards gay and lesbian individuals, and according to Johnston and Jenkins, most social workers have been socialized in a “heterosexist society” (2006).

Now provided almost entirely by religious organizations, conversion therapy often promotes a loss of faith as the only alternative to their particular theology (Gonsiorek, 2004). If living fully, and learning to integrate all aspects of one’s personality into a healthy lifestyle is the ultimate goal of therapy and psychoanalysis, isn’t conversion therapy really doing more harm than good, even among clients who request it (Haldeman 263)?

Until the early 1980’s, conversion therapy was primarily a quiet, underground phenomenon, practiced behind closed doors and away from prying eyes and ears. Elizabeth Moberly, a British theologian, is largely responsible for the resurgence of what she dubbed “reparative” therapy by starting up the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which offered a “new ray of hope” for curing homosexuality (Johnston and Jenkins, 2006). To date, NARTH is the only professional mental health organization in the world that preaches homosexuality as a disorder and that change is possible through pure self-determination (Johnston and Jenkins, 2006).

Exodus International, an umbrella organization of multiple ex-gay ministries, including Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (P-FOX), and Love in Action, first came to major public prominence in the late 1990’s when they ran full-page ads for a full week in national newspapers such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Washington Times (Beckstead 91-92). These ads were sponsored by over 18 religiously conservative organizations like the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family, and promoted homosexuality as a “disorder” and that a “homosexual lifestyle” was a lie and tantamount to imprisonment and spiritual death (Beckstead 92).

But why, opponents of conversion therapy argue, must individuals choose either to be “out” as a gay or lesbian, or be religious (Miville and Ferguson, 2004)? According to psychoanalytic theory, a gay or lesbian individual is considered “healthy” if he or she is able to renounce stigmatized notions and stereotypes of a gay or lesbian lifestyle, and live a full and fulfilling life (Miville and Ferguson, 2004). But if a person is uncomfortable with their same-sex attraction, or finds it incompatible with their religious lifestyle, can they still be mentally healthy by actively choosing to renounce their same-sex attracted identity (Miville and Ferguson, 2004)? Proponents of conversion therapy view the American Psychological Association’s condemnation as an “attempt to limit the choice of gays and lesbians who want to change” and that it disregards a therapist’s obligation to “respect the dignity and wishes of all clients” (Schroeder and Shidlo 132).

In the following two sections, I will more closely examine each sides’ arguments both for and against conversion therapy, and its potential impact, both positive and negative, on its clients and consumers.

Conversion therapy is not viewed by the majority of psychologists and clients as a legitimate solution to the complexity of managing multiple, and often incongruent, identities (Phillips 773). While it’s true that sexuality can be, and often is, remarkably fluid and salient throughout many peoples’ lives, research does not support the notion that any one individual can legitimately convert their core sexual orientation or that same-sex attraction is abnormal or presents a maladjusted development (Phillips 773).

Alfred Shidlo and Michael Schroeder are two psychologists working in independent practice in New York City, and at the Columbia Center for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Mental Health of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, and at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, respectively.

Both doctors have argued aggressively against the use of conversion therapy; they argue that despite the lack of scientific or empirical data proving the harmfulness of conversion therapy, the opposition it has generated from mental health organizations and the American Psychiatric Association speak for themselves (249). In 1998, the APA released a statement condemning the use of conversion therapy, arguing not only that it was ineffective, but that it prays on the most vulnerable among the gay and lesbian population:

The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient. Many patients who have undergone reparative therapy relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian is not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing with the side effects of societal stigmatization discussed.

Shidlo and Schroeder’s landmark 2002 study on the results and satisfaction or dissatisfaction of various consumers of conversion therapy was telling: more than half of the people to whom they spoke reported suffering from depressed feelings resulting from the therapy (254). Some said this was because they were told that their sexuality was a choice (and believed it); others blamed it on their failure to change or when they experienced a resurgence of same-sex desire after completing therapy; still others spoke of suicidal ideation, and one female participant even likened her therapy to having been killed; another female claimed that even years after completing conversion therapy, the process was so traumatic that she hasn’t been able to even step foot inside a church again; three respondents had actually attempted suicide during the conversion therapy process (254).

One of the biggest problems facing individuals seeking conversion therapy seems to be a lack of overall information regarding sexuality and informed consent (Schroeder and Shidlo 132). The APA ethics code instructs “psychologists…not to make false or deceptive statements concerning…the scientific or clinical basis for…their services” (APA, 1992, Standard 3.03(a), p. 1604; Schroeder and Shidlo 140). Most participants were told by their therapists or counselors that homosexuality was a psychological disorder; that homosexuality does not actually exist; or that gay lives are inherently unhappy (Schroeder and Shidlo 141).

A large part of conversion therapy involves providing patently false, stereotypical and defamatory information regarding homosexuals and a “homosexual lifestyle” to those clients in therapy (Shidlo and Schroeder 255). The literature largely attempts to devalue homosexuals and their relationships as “undesirable, sick and evil” (Shidlo and Schroeder 255). Naturally, when individuals fail to change, this only exacerbates and conflates already existing feelings of internalized homophobia, self-hatred, and poor self-esteem (Shidlo and Schroeder 254).

Most people who seek conversion therapy are very religious people, often belonging to extremely conservative religions, and have suffered enormous heartache and difficulty incorporating their sexuality into their lives and into what’s expected of them by their church (Beckstead and Morrow 653). According to Tozer and Hayes, the most widely researched constructs in the psychological study of religion are the ideas of intrinsic and extrinsic attitudes (717). People who are extrinsically motivated by religion use it outwardly, to achieve things like status or social support, whereas people who are intrinsically motivated try to actually live their religion and internalize it very deeply, using it as a central organizing force in their lives (Tozer and Hayes 717). Intrinsic religiosity has been found to be a galvanizing force for prejudice against gay and lesbian individuals, and for gay and lesbian individuals themselves, seeking to change their sexual orientation (Tozer and Hayes 717).
Generally, gay and lesbian people who are very religious are far more likely to suffer from feelings of homonegativy and self-hatred than those who say that religion is unimportant (Tozer and Hayes 718). Of the majority of the people who have completed conversion therapy and reported successful or positive outcomes, the top reason cited for entering conversion therapy in the first place was the “religious nature of society” (Tozer and Hayes 718). Other reasons cited included religious guilt, rejection by the church community, and a fear of eternal damnation (Tozer and Hayes 718). A large factor in these feelings is the lack of social support felt by gay and lesbian individuals (Tozer and Hayes 719). Whereas many homosexuals seek out other homosexuals for romantic, social and emotional support, gays and lesbians for whom religion is a very important part of their lives oftentimes lack this support, and have actively shunned it (Tozer and Hayes 719). Thus, in conversion therapy, they find many like-minded individuals, and often, for the first time, find the social and emotional support, and sense of belonging or inclusiveness, missing in their previous lives (Tozer and Hayes 719).

This is not an aspect of conversion therapy to be discounted; it should also be noted, however, that “affirmative therapy” for homosexuals, which challenges oppressive stereotypes, and advocates the validity of living a fulfilling life as an openly gay or lesbian person is rarely or never presented to those seeking conversion therapy (Morrow and Beckstead, 2004). It is also true that many gay and lesbian individuals with a religious inclination feel more comfortable coming out as homosexual in a religious environment than as religiously oriented in a homosexual community (Haldeman 262). But again, with the right guidance by an experienced and non-judgmental counselor or therapist, and the seeking out of inclusive religious communities that welcome all people, this is another dilemma that can be worked on and resolved without the drastic use of conversion therapy (Haldeman 262).

John Gonsiorek of Capella University and the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology/Argosy University, suggests a more “integrative” approach to solving this dilemma (2004). Since the beginning of its visibility, the LGB (Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual) community has struggled, often unsuccessfully, to integrate spiritual life and sexuality, while most religious organizations have outright rejected any view that diverges from their orthodoxy (Gonsiorek 751). Disapproval from both communities can create severe psychological distress and be devastating for religiously-inclined struggling gays and lesbians, but perhaps a stronger focus on the “interpersonal and sociopolitical factors” at play in these peoples’ discomfort, as opposed to a direct treating of orientation or a division of sexuality and spirituality within a person’s internal framework could work wonders (Gonsiorek 752).

First and foremost, in the possible working with and treating of internally-conflicted gay and lesbian clients, the therapist needs to understand the grave importance and influence of the detrimental effects of homophobia on gay and lesbian individuals (Steigerwald and Janson 57). Working with the client to challenge stereotypes and homophobic assumptions, and to begin to work in-depth with the client’s questions in a supportive environment, is the most helpful way that therapists and psychologists can help their clients find meaning in their lives and relationships (Steigerwald and Janson 57). This requires from the counselor an attitude of hope and non-judgment, and an “active stance” that perhaps it is not so much the client that needs to be changed, but the culture in which the client lives (Steigerwald and Janson 57).
On the basis of their research, Drs. Shidlo and Schroeder offer the following advice: for any client seeking conversion therapy, detailed, informed consent is essential, including acknowledging the condemnation and disapproval by the American Psychological Association, and accurate information not only about gay and lesbian lives, but about the lack of efficacy and possible harmful side effects of conversion therapy; the client should be educated about the possible and probable developmental pathways conversion therapy can lead to; and lastly, a thorough discussion should ensue between client and therapist about what, exactly, would entail “change” in the client’s life, and how he or she would define success (258).

So in light of all of this negative information and harmful effects of conversion therapy, why wouldn’t the American Psychological Association issue an outright ban on the practice? Well, as we will see in the next section, there is an active and persuasive argument for the diversity and autonomy that can be used to support those individuals seeking conversion therapy and wishing to change (Haldeman 263). The field of psychology is not in the business of legislating, but merely guiding and informing; an individual’s right to self-determination is not something the APA wishes to remove (Haldeman 263).

Proponents of conversion therapy use the same ethical guidelines constructed by the American Psychological Association (APA) to defend their position as do opponents of conversion therapy. General Principle D of the APA’s Ethic’s Code calls for “Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity” and affirms counselors, therapists and psychologists to be aware of, and respect, cultural and individual differences in values, attitudes and opinions (Beckstead 89). Proponents argue that for some people, especially those who are deeply religious, find it too difficult to live an “out” lifestyle as a gay or lesbian, and that literature has shown that counseling is far more effective when therapists utilize counseling techniques and interventions that respect and stay within the framework of the client’s principle values and goals (Beckstead 89).

Dr. Warren Throckmorton, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, has been a leading advocate of conversion therapy and the religious individual’s right to self-determination for years (DrThrockmorton). He argues that individuals who wish to “modify their patterns of sexual arousal” should be allowed to do so without judgment, that it can be carried out ethically, and help should be available to those who request such assistance (Throckmorton 5).

Had the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) resolution questioning the use of conversion therapy been expressed as pure opposition, or an outright ban, it would have had a tremendous impact on the counseling profession (Throckmorton 3). Counselors who believe that homosexuality can, or should, be modified, would be in violation of ethics codes and subject to punishment or loss of license (Throckmorton 3).

Despite its evidence of effectiveness based primarily on a shaky foundation of self-report, clients both in favor of, and against, conversion therapy who have previously been through the process, have described positive experiences with it (Beckstead and Morrow 652). Even though the majority of them ultimately rejected the process, many reported finally feeling a sense of relief and self-determination, not only in feeling better able to manage their life and emotions, but in gaining what they perceived as a better understanding of their own development (Beckstead and Morrow 652). Some described feeling relieved that they didn’t have to eliminate their same-sex desires entirely, and that they understood now that feelings would come and go and that was okay; others reported enhanced same-sex relationships without the constant specter of sex, as they learned how better to communicate, break patterns of objectification, and develop relational skills; enhanced gender identity and positive self-exploration was another positive outcome for many (Beckstead and Morrow 652).
Dr. Throckmorton makes an argument that nothing in the ACA’s code of ethics is being actively violated regarding conversion therapy (10). He offers that one does not have to believe that homosexuality is a disorder in order to be able to help a client change their orientation; one does not need to suffer from a disorder to benefit from counseling, only a discomfort, unhappiness or maladjustment (Throckmorton 10).
Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, PhD, clinical psychologist, founder of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino, California, and the president of the previously mentioned NARTH, claims in his book, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, that rather than “cure,” he prefers to refer to the goal of “change,” thereby never promising a fundamental shift, but instead teaching healthy and effective coping mechanisms for dealing with unwanted and/or persistent homosexual desires (NARTH). Arguing that the majority of mental health practitioners view homosexuality as a result of the confluence of biological, social and psychological factors, Dr. Nicolosi claims that the social and psychological factors, the predominant and strongest of the three, can certainly be modified to create a more desirable outcome in a client’s life (NARTH). Furthermore, since psychiatry states that a disorder is characterized by distress and disability, he sees a lot of “subjective stress in homosexually oriented people which cannot be attributed solely to social discrimination” (NARTH). Dr. Nicolosi argues vehemently that “non-gay” homosexual clients have every right to choose their own forms of therapy and the freedom to choose how to live out their own sexual orientations (qtd. in Beckstead 89).

Though the number is relatively small, there are a handful of individuals who say that conversion therapy has been a blessing to them, and helped them take their sexuality from being a “peripheral” part of their lives (i.e., distinct, negative, shameful, and polarized ideas of what it would mean to them to “be gay”) to being a more active, healthy and heterosexually-oriented part of them (Beckstead 90). One man even claimed that whatever discomfort he might feel in trying to adopt a heterosexual lifestyle was far preferable to the idea of living a “gay lifestyle,” which he viewed as devoid of commitment and integrity (Beckstead 95). All of the participants in the study who reported positive outcomes from conversion therapy said that the fundamental reason for wanting to change their sexuality in the first place was a spiritual need to “conform to what they felt to be true” (Beckstead 95).

In his defense of conversion therapy and its methods, Dr. Throckmorton uses copious amounts of data and information that is sometimes decades old (Throckmorton 12). He argues, however, that the literature on therapeutic assistance for treating unwanted sexuality came to a halt in the 1970’s due to social and political pressure from the American Psychological Association and the American medical establishment (Throckmorton 12). The desire of thousands of people to change, however, did not halt, and to deny that service to tortured individuals does not only them, but the whole psychiatric profession, a disservice (Throckmorton 12). He submits that it is inappropriate to tell clients that they cannot be helped when their desire is to change, and that using Kinsey’s past reasoning that sexual orientation lies on a sliding scale in the first place, then that scale can be manipulated in favor of a more heterosexual outcome (Throckmorton 12).

Some therapists view the APA’s decision to condemn conversion therapy as an act based on secular principles and politics, and that religious values should not only supercede those of secularists and scientists, but that the APA’s condemnation was not based on empirical data in the first place (Schroeder and Shidlo 139). Some clients reported being told by their therapists that the APA’s decision was a perfect example of why it was so important to make sure they see a Christian psychologist, since not every psychologist is a Christian (Schroeder and Shidlo 140).

Dr. Throckmorton submits the challenge that opponents of conversion therapy must effectively demonstrate that no client has benefited from conversion therapy, and that even if they have, that some abstract cost has been too objectively great to be worth it (11). Many individuals, he concludes, have been able to change their sexual orientation, and live what they consider to be far more fulfilling, integrated and peaceful lives (11). By doing so, Dr. Throckmorton is making explicit the dilemma that opponents of conversion therapy face: the lack of efficacy and empirical data that they use to justify a condemnation can also be used by proponents in exactly the same manner. In other words, both Drs. Throckmorton and Nicolosi are saying, the burden of proof is on the opponents of therapy, and thus far, that proof has not turned up (Throckmorton 12). Furthermore, for those who have successfully (by their standards) changed orientations, the APA condemnation denigrates and trivializes their accomplishments (Throckmorton 11). As long as clients are benefiting, small though that number may be, legislation and ethics codes condemning the very therapy that the clients found useful is both judgmental and short-sighted.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The midnight monster

Last night, it happened again. Despite being exhausted, and having been up for about 21 hours, I couldn't sleep. I slept maybe 3 hours last night, and had to work at 7:30 this morning until 4:30. Then I had class tonight from 6:50-9:50.

Needless to say, I'm very tired. Last night in my desperation, I thought briefly about trying to make an appointment at the school health center for tomorrow, to see if maybe I couldn't get a generic Xanax prescription or something. For situations such as these.

But upon waking this morning, I decided against it. That stuff is too powerful, and...uh..."habit forming." I'm not sure I would trust myself around it. Suddenly every night would become a stressful night, and I'd start slipping into 11-hour comas, where not even alarm clocks could stir me.

So at work today I talked to the guy that works in Healthy Living, who has, like, a Master's Degree in herbal cures, or some shit like that. He recommended this magnesium tea thing we have, that's supposed to kind of be an herbal muscle relaxant, and even gave me a 2-week supply of it to sample. Just drink a cup before bed, he said, and see how it works.

The flavor I'm having tonight is Raspberry-Lemon, and it's actually quite tasty. So for you other fitful sleepers out there reading this, I'll let you know how it works after about a week or so.

Wish me luck.

Monday, February 25, 2008

"Noisy ghosts"

On Saturday night I caught an unedited broadcast of Poltergeist, which was probably one of my favorite films of my youth, and by far my favorite horror film. I must have watched that movie 20 times on HBO, and then when it came out on VHS, I rented it multiple times. I have no idea what attracted me to it so strongly when I was a kid, but I have no doubt, after watching it the other night for the first time in years, that it was the most influential film of my childhood.

I guess I never realized just how scathingly critical it is of the suburbs, and sprawl, and reckless development. The patriarch of the Freeling family, Craig T. Nelson, plays a somewhat bumbling and disingenuous realtor/developer who can't even muster up enough enthusiasm towards his own cookie-cutter subdivisions to sell them to families desperately hungry for a place to call home. JoBeth Williams is the ideal suburban, stay-at-home mom, excpet that she was also a teen mother and is still a pothead. Though both of these things are presented quite matter-of-factly and entirely without judgment. When the home is first invaded by the "TV people," and they're playing harmless pranks, she's so excited for a distraction from the mundacity that she can't even contain herself.

The film turned the national anthem into an ominous signal of doom, and, even as a child, made me start questioning what was underneath the everyday blandness of everything shiny.

Mocking the complicity and peace of the suburbs, or at the very least, turning over the rock and looking at what lies underneath it, has been a staple of indie film since the 80's at least. But I bet Poltergeist was one of the first, mainstream, star-fueled films to take a sledgehammer and ax to Middle America and criticize everything it holds dear. And then sell their clueless optimism back to them in what is no less than a raging, politically-driven popcorn movie.

Spielberg kind of specializes, I guess, in looking at the extraordinary among the oridnary (i.e., weird shit in boring-ass suburbia), but Poltergeist felt to me like a particularly angry and frightened film. Like nothing less than a warning call to Americans everywhere mindlessly gobbling up resources, and rotting their brains with television and soulless lives.

Maybe I'm reading far too much into it, but it seems so obvious when I watch it now. And makes me like it that much more.

Full-length Sex

So, the site of my original post removed, but some site called Jezabel still has the Sex and the City trailer.

I know, I'm obsessive: I've watched it about 20 times. I'm sure I'll see it in the theater 6 times. This particular post has some snarky commentary too, that's sort of amusing.

God, it's a good thing they can't make a Six Feet Under movie.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Taking the long way around

I've been giving a lot of thought lately as to why I'm so hellbent on getting out of this city when I have so much here. This is the first place in my life where I've ever truly felt like I was at home; where I've had a whole extended family I know I can always count on, no matter what's going on in my life or theirs; where I feel like I know the city so completely, inside and out and all around that I feel totally comfortable going pretty much anywhere or seeking out anything; it's a place where I just know people: I can go pretty much anywhere and run into someone I know at least very peripherally, and if I ever need anything, someone, somewhere, knows someone that can help.

It's a weird feeling to be so discontented when you have all of that, and it certainly makes one question what's happening internally when you can look around and say, "I have pretty much everything I've ever wanted, so now that that's accomplished, off I go to somewhere weird and foreign and far away where I'll have to start all over." Why would a person do that to themselves?

And then I realized that maybe all those things are the problem. There are no surprises left anymore. I'm 30 years old and I still want surprises and adventure. Is that so wrong? When I was a teenager and in my early 20's, I promised myself I would never live anywhere for more than 2 years. Two years, and then I would move on to someplace new. I thought by now I'd have lived in New York, and Los Angeles, and maybe Miami or Seattle, and possibly even London or Florence. I honestly believed this. I wouldn't trade any of what I've experienced in my 9 years in Austin for any of that, and I don't regret a single decision, but though it's tempered a bit, that thirst for new places, faces and things is still very much alive inside me.

All I that I really fear regretting at this point is regret. I don't want to be 50 or 60, with a secure job, and maybe a family, and look back and regret not doing anything. Sometimes I fall flat on my face, and sometimes I have serious reconsiderations (okay, maybe some regrets) about things that I've done or experienced, and I know there will be more in the future, and I know leaving this amazing city and my friends will hurt like hell, but I almost physically can't not do it at this point. It's a feeling of stagnation, I guess, and a feeling that I've used this town up for everything I can. I wish I could take everyone I love with me someplace new, but even that would slightly defeat the purpose. I already regret that I may miss momentous events in my friends' lives, and that scares me a lot. But I have to live for me, and I have to create my own momentous events.

When I was younger, a lot of my wanderlust, I think, was a feeling of needing to run away from things. Luckily, now, I feel more like I'm running to something. Towards my future, towards my metaphoric fortune. I think if I'd lived 400 years ago I would have been an explorer. Or maybe I would have been too much of a pussy, I don't know. (But there were those boats full of men out on the ocean for months at a time....) It's both cliched and true that to say no matter where you go, there you are, and that you no matter where you go, you still have to take yourself with you.

Ironically, I think one reason this lust in me has resurfaced so strongly lately is because I think I make a pretty good exploratory partner for myself these days. I didn't used to think that. The biggest difference between now and then (my early 20's) is that then I was looking for myself, looking for the person or the place that was going to save me, or take care of me, or fulfill me. Now I have a much more firm understanding of who I am, and what I want, and what I'm all about, and now I'm seeking a way to best reach my own potential. As opposed to looking for what my potential is.

It's a big difference. I've been told so much in the past that I'm cynical, but nothing could be further from the truth. Even in my darkest days, I am filled with so much optimism and hope, I have it to spare. I get pessimisstic, yes, but that's not the same thing as cynical. And it never lasts, no matter how much I try to make it stick around.

I know my future is somewhere, wrapped up in my present and my past. But to get there I have to keep moving. And maybe I don't do things in a way that makes sense to anyone besides me, but I always get where I'm going. Or end up where I never thought I would, but I'm glad I did.

Well, I never seem to do it like anybody else
Maybe someday, someday I'm gonna settle down
If you ever want to find me I can still be found

Taking the long way
Taking the long way around

Friday, February 22, 2008

In case anyone besides myself and the people I've already emailed this to care...

the new, official Sex and the City trailer just came out.

(I don't know how to imbed this particular media.)

It looks good, and I'm pretty excited, although the trailer, being about 30 minutes long, pretty much gives away the entire plot. Anyway, no surprises here, but it still looks fun.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tales of the Tyrant

I just finished reading Mark Bowden's profile of Saddam Hussein from 2002, in the New Kings of Nonfiction collection, edited by Ira Glass, that Tom got me for Christmas.

It's a really interesting piece, offering a lot of insight into Saddam, and considering the level of his power, it really drives home how humiliating his ultimate defeat must have been.

A few things I learned:

- He only slept 2 or 3 hours a night, and never in any of his 20 palaces, and always in secret beds. Sleeping meant that he would have had to have trusted someone else, and he didn't.

- All three meals of the day were prepared at all 20 of his palaces: security demanded that palaces from which he was absent at least keep up the appearance of his presence.

- Water is a symbol of wealth and power in the Middle East, so Saddam had it everywhere, including in elaborate pools at each palace, which are all tested hourly for temperature, chlorine and pH levels, as well as for any poison.

- Since he ruled by fear, he could never seem to age to his population. Great pains were made to make him seem ageless, including dying his hair, never being seen with his reading glasses on, having his speeches written in huge letter for teleprompters when he gave them, and since he had a slight limp, never being seen walking for more than a few feet. Occasionally he would go walk among the neighborhoods of Baghdad, but always surrounded by security, and if anyone got close, they would be severly beaten.

- All of his food was flown in for him twice a week and sent to nuclear scientists who tested each shipment for radiation and poison.

- He was a writer who, among other things, wrote 2 romantic fables about lonely kings isolated from their kingdoms behind walls and guards. Apparently they're terrible, and were published under "Anonymous," but no one ever dared tell him they were bad.

- His favorite writer was Ernest Hemingway.

- He had a tattoo of 3 dots on his right hand, signifying his tribal roots and humble origins. Despite claiming to be a direct descendant of Muhammad, he never had the tattoo removed or tried to hide it like many people do/did.

- A hand-lettered 600-page copy of the Koran written entirely in Saddam's blood was, until recently one assumes, on display in a Baghdad museum. He donated the blood a pint at a time over 3 years.

- His two favorite movies were The Old Man and the Sea and The Godfather.

- In 1987, Saddam's army was the 4th largest in the world.

- One of his pet projects that he wanted to build for years, but never had the money to, was a world-class subway system for Baghdad, and then a multi-billion dollar nationwide rail system.

- In the early 1980's, several aides in the Iraqi ministry were accused of accepting bribes, so they were hanged. But they were also hanged in front of all of their friends and colleagues who were forced to attend, and nominally participate in, the executions, or be hanged themselves.

- Anyone in Saddam's circle overheard speaking ill of him would not only be executed, but have his tongue cut out beforehand. In his 3rd and 4th years of rule, Saddam executed over 4,000 people.

- Saddam's son Uday had a torture chamber in the basement of the Olympic Building where tortured and sometimes killed athletes (and their trainers) who didn't perform well, or made Iraq look bad.

- Typically, anyone that Saddam assassinated, he would either also assassinate their family or just their children, or, barring that, he would have the family's home bulldozed so they would have to be homeless.

- Apparently he had a pretty light and silly sense of humor and enjoyed not only telling, but animatedly acting out, funny stories, and was actually quite funny.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fewer Parking Lots = More Density

Two new major downtown Austin projects were announced this week, both of which will replace space-wasting and ugly, empty swaths of concrete space, otherwise known as parking lots.

The first is the 18-storyWestin Hotel to go in on the former location of The Bitter End and the giant parking lot next to it on 3rd and Colorado. The hotel will feature a street-level restaurant and a 3rd floor bar overlooking Colorado.

The second is the Austin Museum of Art high-rise, combining a 40,000 square foot museum facility, along with 425,000 square feet of office space. It will go in what is now the gigantic parking lot at 4th aand Guadalupe, directly north of the new AMLI tower, and south of Republic Square Park where all the homeless people hang out.

AMOA is a little less than dazzling in its current state, so this is exciting to me. It's supposed to be complete by 2011. Here is an image:

Monday, February 18, 2008

Excuse me if I'm grumpy today. I haven't slept in over 30 hours....

After a very long day yesterday starting at 8am, working on my thesis for about 5 hours, then going to a very busy and shitty shift at work, I came home, ate a little something, had a nice glass of wine, blogged a bit, read a bit, and was in bed before midnight, barely able to keep my eyes open.

Anybody wanna guess what time I finally got to sleep?


Wait for it.....

....Around 6am this morning. And I had to get back up at 8.

Insomnia of this type is a special kind of hell. And the worst part is that whenever I got up to do something to distract myself, like read some more, watch really boring TV (and I can tell you that at 3 or 4 in the morning, there ain't shit on TV), count as high as I can, walk around the dark house without turning on any lights and stare out the window at the street for 20 minutes, I would find myself yawning, feeling my eyes grow heavy and my body weary, but as soon as I would lay back down in bed - boom.

Wide awake again.

All I have to say is that I better sleep tonight.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Does anybody have a long, pretty wig I can borrow?

Back in the day, oh, in my late teens and early twenties, I used to reject the "gay" label, often quoting Michael Stipe, saying "Labels are for soup cans." I will love who I love, I said. I will love the person, not the body. Of course, back then, that was all just an elaborate charade so as to not have to admit that I was actually a homosexual, although I wasn't fooling anybody. Well, except maybe myself. Or, no, not really even myself. It was a safe way for me to admit that yeah, I was pretty queer, but not gay, not so compartmentalized, so scripted. I didn't know anyone yet who actually called themself "gay." I certainly wasn't brave enough to be the first. And as far as Michael Stipe goes, it was also a cowardly way for him to avoid the question.

Once, however, I became comfortable with the gay label, my next targets of my internalized homphobia were drag queens and transsexuals. I hated them, and Dallas nightclubs were full of them, even the non-gay ones. I resented that whenever I went to a gay club they were all over the place. They were (or maybe still are) a ubiquitous part of Dallas nightlife. At least where I went. Not until years later, when my boyfriend left me for a woman, and I had to face my own self-loathing and homophobia and fear head-on, did I come to realize that, even into my mid-twenties, being gay, to me, meant not being a man. It meant cutting off a part of your masculinity (so to speak). This was also why, for years, the biggest objects of my affection and unrequited love were always straight men. I don't know that I really wanted to date any of them (although a few of them I certainly wouldn't have kicked out of bed); I wanted to be them. I wanted to live vicariously through them. The acceptance of straight males still means a lot to me, even now. A large part of that, though, is also because growing up I never had male friends, and I always longed for them desperately. Boys always hated me, and, well, I usually wasn't ever too crazy about them either. I never had solid, close, male relationships until my early 20's. But I always wanted them, as far back as I can remember.

Luckily, and thankfully, I've moved on from all of that. (Isn't self-awareness wonderful?!?) All of which, ironically, has had me thinking about labels again recently.

In my Sexuality class a couple of weeks ago, we had a male-to-female transsexual come talk to the class about her experiences as a transgendered person, and how she came to decide to switch genders and live fully as a woman. It was fascinating, and since transsexuals are people I've taken an avid interest in recently, but never really had the fortune to sit down and talk to, I could have listened to her talk all day. It didn't help that she was a great speaker, was really funny, and had a charismatic comfort that radiated all over the classroom. Her journey was so interesting, though, and she said that her ideal man would be the totally stereotypical sort of blue-coller tough guy. Those guys, however, she lamented, were never interested in her. Freaked them out too much.

One thing I guess I'd never really considered a whole lot before her talk, though, was how identifying with one gender or another, just like sexuality, can be on a scale, just like sexual orientation (and I don't have to say that the two are totally unrelated at this point, do I....?).

One of the very best compliments I've ever received in my life came from a dear friend who told me that his favorite thing about me was that I encompassed the best of both genders. It was totally out of left field, but I've thought about that a lot since he told me that. It is true that I love being a man; I love my body (as in, the maleness of it, not my physique; I actually sort of hate that), I love being around other men, I love men's clothes, the way they smell, the whole bit. Inside, though, I've always felt much more feminine than masculine. In fact, and this is weird, but when I think of myself outwardly, like when I imagine what I must look like to others, I often imagine myself as a physical female. That's a hard thing to admit, and it's sort of scary, but I welcome in the anxiety. I'm fairly certain I'll never get to the point where I feel incomplete unless I'm a female; as I said, I do love being a man.

But having said that, I like to think of myself more as "queer" now than "gay." I know it doesn't really matter, and I still am what I am, but queer can mean so many things. Like, almost all of my heterosexual male friends I would also consider about as queer as can be. Just because they sleep with girls doesn't make them less queer than I am. (Sorry, guys, I hope you appreciate that!) It just means they're queer in different ways. At least in my interpretation.

A few weeks ago I wrote about needing to do something for my paper in my Sexuality class. Well, if you haven't figured it out yet, I have: I'm going to do a photo-essay of myself - in full on drag. I'm gonna go all out, with leg-shaving, high heels, a long wig, makeup, skirts. I think it will be a lot of fun, and yes, it does freak me out some. What if I really love it?!? Frankly, I don't really want to be a transgendered person, but I guess if I do love it and I am, then so be it. I kind of already consider myself about half transgendered anyway, I suppose.

Maybe I'll even post some of the pictures here.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Suburban Decay

The latest issue of the Atlantic has an article about what will most likely become America's next major crime-ridden slum: the suburb. It's not an entirely new theory, and if you look at the patterns and data, it makes sense.

Arthur C. Nelson, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, forecasts a likely surplus of 22 million large-lot homes in the United States by 2025. Foreclosure rates in 2005 and 2006 have been highest in suburban and exurban areas, with crime increasing in some of the harder-hit neighborhoods by 33 percent.

As more and more Americans, especially wealthy ones, start converging back upon the urban core that they all abandoned in the 1980's, property values are going to sink in suburban neighborhoods, along with tax revenue, which is highly dependent on house values and new development. 66% of suburban residents who live on the fringes of larger cities say they would prefer to live in the cities, and would give up extra space and cars to live in more crowded, dense, walkable neighborhoods, but just have no economic way of doing so. The more heating and gasoline costs go up, though, the more expensive the suburbs are going to be in the future. And with the loss of the wealthy tax base moving in the denser, urban areas, out will also go the good schools and safe communities.

One solution to this problem is the proliferation of what are called "lifestyle centers," or basically faux inner-city neighborhoods. We've all seen them: they combine retail, residential, office, and some open space, except they rise all at once and are fairly uniform. The biggest drawback with these, though, is that they must reach critical mass very quickly, and creating and filling a neighborhood out of thin air isn't easy.

There is definitely a trend in the United States towards more urban living, especially among the young, who yearn for good public transit and vibrant neighborhoods. So what will become of the sprawling 'burbs and giant McMansions that no one in the future will be able to afford anymore? Some will be bulldozed and probably turned back into public space, though, as the article states, this will be very few, as once a suburban infrastructure is built, it's very difficult to unbuild it. Most will be sold off to the lowest bidders and divided up into apartments to provide housing for lower-income residents and immigrants.

Those close to inner cities, though, and especially those along rail lines, will most likely be able to stop their population hemorraghing and survive. Those poorly served by public transport or on the undesirable parts of town, will suffer badly. The worst of it, though, will probbly be those on the far suburban fringes, with no public transport and no real core - basically, the country's most recently-developed areas.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

"Political slop"

Tonight at work I shut down my register to go relieve someone for a break (which means I had to change registers) and I had 3 customers left in my line. Two of them were a couple, a young, attractive Indian couple, and the guy behind them, my last customer at that register, was a much older, weathered, really ugly old guy. The three of them were having some kind of really involved conversation among each other, so much so that I had to try to get their attention several times to have them swipe their credit card, sign for their credit card, etc, etc. Which is one of my biggest pet peeves at work. I fucking hate being ignored by customers.

Anyway, they continued talking all the way through my completion of the old guy's order, and the Indian couple finally bid farewell and walked away. I finished up the old guy's order, gave him his receipt, did my closing spiel, and closed down.

But the old guy decided he really wanted to talk to me, and turned to me and said, "That just proves my point."

Obviously, I had no idea what he was talking about, so I took the bait.

"What's that?" I asked.

"That all this bilingual education is a total waste of time and money."

Oh, boy. I didn't want to sit and listen to another conservative douchebag give me his big spiel. One day, while I was working at the information desk and couldn't escape, some old twat prattled on for about 10 minutes about "this Socialist healthcare that your generation has got to do something about!" Because her father and husband are both doctors, and you know what socialized medicine means? Rusty scalpels and doctors who don't wash their hands. And it was all poor people's fault. Medicare shouldn't exist, Medicaid shouldn't exist, and it wasn't her job to support families who couldn't afford healthcare.

I stood blank-faced and silent throughout, and finally she got bored and left, and I flipped her off behind her back. A double-fingered salute. Becoming an automaton and not reacting at all is the best survival mechanism I've thus far discovered for dealing with customers complaining about something retarded, which is about 98% of the time.

Anyway, I start walking away from this guy, not really acknowledging what he said, and the motherfucker just follows me.

He explains to me that since India has something like 33,000 dialects and he spoke Indian to that couple, but in a dialect different from theirs, they couldn't understand him. But then, lo and behold, when he spoke English they understood him!

You don't say.

This bilingual education is just "B.S. political slop," only created to give jobs to people who don't know how to do anything else, and he wondered when everybody was just gonna wake up and learn English, since clearly it was the dominant language.

And he would. not. shut. up. I wasn't even really sure exactly what he was talking about.

I was ignoring him. I wasn't looking at him. Yet he continued to run his idiot mouth.

Finally I turned to him and sternly said, "Yeah, I get it, will you please stop talking to me now?"

And yes, I really said that.

Then I turned back away from him. And he simply turned around and left.

If only all idiots were that easy to get rid of.

I'm sorry to make such a gross generalization, and I know there are a lot of lovely old people, but when my generation finally takes over this idiotic country, and everyone now that's over 60 or so finally fucking dies off, things are gonna be so awesome. I'm not saying my generation doesn't have some serious problems, because we do, but for the most part, so many things are such a non-issue that get old people all tied up in knots. Things like race, sexuality, immigration (for the most part), multiculturalism, gender, religion. And perhaps when we learn to get past that stuff, we can actually start talking about things that matter.

But to their credit it must be really difficult to make sense of things when nothing fits into the tidy little boxes of oppression that they grew up with.

Friday, February 08, 2008

At least I don't think he's a crackpot....

Why Austin, apparently, will never have light rail. If you're a regular reader of M1EK's blog, none of this will be new to you, but here it's all nicely encapsulated.

I Heart PowerPoint!

I've never really made a PowerPoint presentation before. I had to make one for my internship class last summer, but Matt basically made it for me; I just told him what to put on it.

This week, however, I was required to make two of them for presentations I had to do in both my science class (about dinosaurs), and in my Global Processes class. We're currently studying Africa and the Orient (particularly in relation to Western culture), and I had to do something dealing with that. But on whatever subject I wanted. So I chose the history of homosexuality in Africa and the Orient to do my presentation.

Last week I had so much anxiety about both presentations. I was terrified of PowerPoint, and technology and I don't get along. I don't understand it, I'm afraid of it, it frustrates me, and I find it totally confounding. Which, honestly, is one reason I gave up filmmaking. I didn't have the patience to truly learn the technical aspects of it.

So this past weekend I sat down at my computer, fired up PowerPoint, and went to work.

And you know what? It's really fun. This is why I want to be a teacher.

You can put whatever you want on there! Whatever text, whatever pictures, in whatever order you want, arranged however the accompanying lecture suits you. You can be as creative as you want. It's like forcing people to spend 15 minutes in your brain. With text and photos.

Both presentations are very rudimentary and basic, but hey, they're the first two I've ever really made. This is pretty much the first time Ive ever played with software and been excited about it.

I know, I'm sure everyone else is like, "Dude, I thought PowerPoint was cool, like, 10 years ago."

Whatever. It's new to my feeble brain. I wanna make PowerPoint presentations all the time now!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Putting my (lack of) money where my mouth is

I've gotten rid of my car.

Not by choice, really, but that's still the fact. Driving home from some errands the other day, it started sputtering and died. It would start back up, but when I tried to accelerate, it would go nowhere then die.

Luckily I was only about a block from my house, so a nice neighbor that happened to be outside helped me push it around the corner in front of my house. I had it towed to a nearby shop, thinking it was just the fuel filter.

Well, it was the fuel filter, but it turns out the fuel filter has been blocked for some time now, not giving adequate fuel to the engine, which is now destroyed.

To repair it, I'm looking at a minimum of about $2500.

I've actually accepted all this news with an uncharacteristic zen-like calm.

Obviously, I can't afford to fix it. My parents can't really afford to fix it, nor would I really expect them to. I also can't afford a car payment at this point, so I'm pretty much fucked.

No more car for me. I can walk to work and take the bus to school, and luckily I live close enough to the central area that I guess my bike is going to start getting a pretty good workout.

I just finished paying off that goddamn car two years ago (after paying $250 a month for 5 years). Except for this issue, it's still in really good shape outside and inside. It's run well, gets good gas mileage. Considering it's 10 years old, it doesn't have that many miles on it. I've tried really hard to take good care of it with regular oil changes and tune-ups. I was really counting on it lasting me another good 5 years. It's just such a waste to throw it away, but I don't really have any other options at this point. Plus, I really like that car. I think it suited my personality quite well.

It's times like this that I feel like I'm being constantly tested by some sadistic universal governing body and I'm getting really sick of it. Stuff like this also makes me question if I can really hack being a poverty-stricken student for another 5 years. That 2-year Master's degree is looking more and more appealing.

I can live without a car. It might be really inconvenient at times, but I can do it. I'm just glad I already starting getting familiar with the bus last year, or I'd be really panicking right now.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Obama's speech

There were two things he said tonight that really surprised me, and stood out.

1. He said we had to break away from the tyranny of oil. Notice he didn't say foreign oil; he said oil. That got my most enthusiastic clap of the night (I was at the Obama-watching party downtown with Kurt, Meredith, Bryan, and Dylan.

2. Secondly, he said it wouldn't be easy, and it would require sacrifice.

How often do you hear politicians say that, and have the crowd applaud? America is desperate for this kind of honest, but hopeful, leadership.