27 August 2010

We're Watching You

NPR reported a great story about the struggles of bloggers in Egypt and across the Middle East and the revolutionary power of their word -- which is quite conservative and moderate actually. The flow of information through relationships (from organization of the permanent laws of the Republic to the general circulation of tsismis) is power.

24 August 2010

Behind the Curtain

This may not seem like a story about an amazing lamp, but it is. It doesn't take place in China, but in the Kingdom of Golkonda.

I traversed the great ocean and reached China. From there, I traversed farm fields, hills and mountains and finally arrived in Delhi -- late at night and in a thick fog. It seemed like our guide drove around in circles for hours and then we turned off onto a narrow street. A monk quietly walking through the shadows. A drunk laid out on the ground below a bench. We arrived in an inn and tried to sleep. The following morning I went to the shrine and meditated.

We headed for the Kingdom of Golkonda. It was a slow journey. When we got to Golkonda, I was entertained until quite late by a Muslim prince -- who looked like Keanu Reeves. In fact, for someone of such humble background. Being entertained by a Muslim prince was quite magical all around. The people that lived in the city around the palace were quite friendly.

A many number of strangers wanted to entertain and socialize with me and the invitations were quite numerous. However, after the late night entertainment by the prince, I decided to decline all.

We then joined a caravan leaving for the village of the final destination -- so I thought. As we got closer, the road to the village was still being built. Somewhere in the middle, the road was most rough. But we carried on and arrived in the village. It wasn't really a village any more. What was normally a small village of 500 peasants was transformed into a city of almost 200,000.

You see all of this seemed so magical. Princely entertainments, a mirage city. But the real magic was still to come.
In the middle of this hot desert under tents, more than 100,000 prostrated, sat and listened to the words of this wise sage. Night and day, hundreds of monks chanted to purify the land and the sky. It was the convergence of these many different universes that a magical resonance. But it was not until I had entered behind the curtain did the real journey begin. When the wise sage was present, a light fog appeared and cooled the land.

Then, I entered behind the curtain. I walked through the black eastern doorway. His words then pulled me quickly through many hallways with many perfect beings. I could see the detail so clearly but it was so fleeting. I felt like I was looking through a pinhole. I was overwhelmed with symbols, color, sensations. Then, I came to another set of four walls and another entrance. More corridors. More perfect beings. This occurred once more. But it was so overwhelming. I clung to the hand his words held out to me. The flood of sensations, symbols and colors did not slow but increased. Then, a square platform. Then, at the center another square platform. But no matter how close to the center I got, I could not, on my own, buoy myself from the inundation. Then, at the center, my guide appeared embracing his consort -- Love. The unity, my God.

The bells began to ring. The chanting began to pick up again. And slowly the intensity began to dissipate and dissolve. The colors, sensations and symbols dropped away until then, I returned to the mysterious cool fog in the middle of this mirage city in the desert.

And then, it was done. I got to peer behind the curtain and found it to be incomprehensibly beautiful and terrifying. The rest of the journey and the return, I crossed paths with many magical things but it was what I saw behind the curtain which continues to haunt my soul.

13 August 2010

Movie Review: Amnesia

I'd like to start this by saying Canadians don't make good Pentecostals. I'm also planning on spoiling the ending of the movie so read no further if you want to watch it and be totally surprised.

I very vaguely remember the true story. A young man woke up naked in an alley in Montreal with no recollection of who he was. After some time, he believed he was an American of British origin James Brighton. But actually, he was Matthew Honeycutt of Tennessee. After being confined to a psychiatric ward, he calls a gay hotline and gets rescued. His new gay friends help him get media attention but the search for his true identity went nowhere. Then, early one morning (or late one night, as the case may be), the Montreal Police came to his friend's apartment and arrested him. Matthew Honeycutt had been identified by family members in rural Tennessee.

Matthew Honeycutt's brother was a Penecostal minister. The story is left quite ambivalent about the veracity of Honeycutt's amnesia. Medical doctors, after performing tests, believed him to suffer a rare case of amnesia. When he is found, the real tracing the path to Montreal begins. We learn of the real James Brighton. "They talk as only stranger can. They fall in love as only strangers can."

I will end this with the observation that sometimes the truth is so painful that the only thing left, if we are forced to continue living, is to forget. Yet, if one can find the strength to integrate that which we cannot remember or refuse to remember, then we will then truly find the freedom to live.

11 August 2010

Movie Review: Another Country

This was not the first time I had seen this film. In fact, I had forgotten all about it -- at least its name and movie poster. It is interesting that at the time when Greg has taken the helm from Victor I would encounter this film once more. This movie can be summarized as Rupert Everett and Colin Firth, the queer and commie of a pre-WWII English prep school.

When I first saw this movie more than fifteen years ago, the idea of same sex marriage (although recently approved by the Hawai'i Supreme Court) was still theoretical. The interlocutors of the discussion were those in favor of same sex marriage, those opposed to same sex marriage and those opposed to marriage. I considered myself clever to be the only one in my circle to be of the third group. A true sex radical. In fact, my position was so unintelligible to "ordinary" people that most people thought I was against same-sex marriage. Now that all looks like a curious footnote to an otherwise seemless two-sided debate. When I campaigned against the ballot ban on same sex marriage, many of my comrades, true liberals could only barely make out what I was saying and only if I didn't use the word capitalist in a sentence.

Even when I was younger, I agreed with the legal arguments for same-sex marriage. I just opposed marriage in general. The difference between then and now, is that I don't have a negative affect towards the institution of marriage and family in general. These concepts -- which have meant many things to many people in many different ways in human history -- are not just enforcers of the capitalist hegemony at least not in as much as a hammer is an enforcer of the capitalist hegemony.

It occurred to me in watching this movie, something that I could have only reflected upon with a bit more experience, is the nature of intimacy in adolescence. I watch with anticipation for how those that are just suffering adolescence will bring meaning and stability to the constant onslaught of updates and the current instantaneous nature of information retrieval and how that resolution implicates intimacy. The automobile, the movie house, etc., all provided material support for radical redefinitions of romance in the twentieth century -- that help support redefining gender roles and sexualities. I am curious to see the outcome of social networking and what kind of material support it will provide in the changing notions of romance in the twenty first century. Will it be something I have previously seen, if only a glimpse? Or will the landscape be so changed that I will struggle to find patterns of recognition in a desert of the unknown?

07 August 2010

06 August 2010

State Lacks Rational Basis to Ban Same-Sex Marriage

(courtesy of obeygiant.com)

A U.S. federal district court judge in San Francisco struck down California's infamous Proposition 8 as violating the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the lacking a rational basis for distinguishing between same- and opposite-sex couples violating the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The 138 page ruling can be found here.

Both retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and current Justice Anthony Kennedy have said the next twenty years in the courts will be characterized as the period of advancement of civil and political rights for gays and lesbians. When they said this ten years ago, it seemed curious and a bit strange.

In his ruling U.S. district court Chief Judge Walker found that state laws that burden the right to marry (due process claim) must pass the constitutional test of strict scrutiny, that is the state must have a compelling state interest that is narrowly tailored to effect the compelling interest and no more. Banning same-sex marriage lacked a compelling state interest. He also found that state laws that discriminate on the basis of gay or lesbian status (equal protection claim) must pass the more liberal constitutional test of rational basis, that is that the state must have a rational basis for treating people differently. Banning same-sex marriage lacked a rational basis.

(Patrick Lagon and the late Joseph Melillo, Plaintiffs in the Baehr case
photo courtesy of HonoluluAdvertiser.com)

The trial was hauntingly similar to the Baehr v. Lewin litigation in the U.S. state of Hawai'i in the 1990s. After the Hawai'i Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that laws prohibiting same-sex marriage must survive a "strict scrutiny" analysis under the Hawai'i state constitution, a trial was held in 1996 (Baehr v. Miike). The attorney general's office defended the state law with the same theory as the California litigation: one male parent and one female parent married is the optimal familial relationship for raising children. Hawai'i State circuit court Judge Kevin Chang found that the state's case was wholly lacking and found in favor of the suing gay couples. Banning same-sex marriage violated the couples constitutional right to marry. His decision was stayed pending appeal and the Hawai'i Supreme Court held off decision until after a state constitutional amendment was passed authorizing the Hawai'i state legislature to limit how marriage is defined. At that point, the case was moot in the Hawai'i Supreme Court's view.

The difference between the Hawai'i case in the 1990s and this case now is two: first, the state officials charged with enforcing the law refused to defend it and it was the official proponents of Proposition 8 that defended the law; second, the case was pursued on the basis of the U.S. constitution not a state constitution.

Subsequent to the famous Hawai'i Baehr v. Lewin case which was the first legal case anywhere in the world to find that the constitutional right to marry included same-sex couples, U.S. state Supreme Courts in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California and Iowa citing Baehr v. Miike have held that each state's constitution includes same-sex couples in its constitution's concept of ordered liberty.

01 August 2010

Try a New Name at Starbucks

(Courtesy of NPR/Getty Images)

There is a great story with transgender undertones on NPR. Check it out.