Friday, June 09, 2006

The Windhover

My Calvinist English teacher at Ardrosssan Academy made us read Gerard Manely Hopkins. Along with Grahame Greene he made me a Catholic. Catholicism is the belief that there is not a lone "self" and God, but a God-filled cosmos working to save you. To me this is his best poem. Until you remember it, word by word, and start reciting it whenever it applies, you cannot "get" it. I live, for now, in Jacksonville Florida. Ospreys here are so common that the natives do not see them. I almost have to stop my car.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.

12. The Windhover

To Christ our Lord

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, 5
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion 10
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

Grahame Greene

To a FRIEND going to MEXICO

Read Grahame Greene's The Power and the Glory before your go. It's the book, along with Gerard Manley Hopkins that made me a Catholic. I became a Catholic the moment I read the last chapter of that book.

Part of modern Mexico's history is the supression of faith and the Catholic Church in early 20th-century Mexico .Grahame Greene is one of the the best of all English writers, and his Power and the Glory is the MOST powerful novel I have ever read.

Some Mother's Son: the Abomination of the NEW YORK POST

During the Falkland's War, as the Argentine ship the General Belgrano was sailing AWAY from the Falkland's, the Royal Navy destroyed the the ship with a loss 323 human beings. The Sun newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch, published one of the most infamous front pages in journalism's history, in which the lives of 323 human beings (some mothers' sons) were dismissed with GOTCHA

Today the Murdoch press in the US - the NEW YORK POST has the same headline GOTCHA about the death of Zarqawi. Let me be clear: this was a mean nasty man, who should rot in hell. But he is some mother's son. And it is at least possible that he was killed after capture, which civilized nations do not do to captives.

When I saw the post today, I almost vomited. For anyone who values life, the death even of an evil person is awful. When he may have been killed against all the law of civilized people, the Murdoch paper is even more awful.

How (and let's not mention Haditha) is a society that will not be disgusted by a such a headline any worse than Zarqawi's?

UPDATE: For some reason this is one of my most visited blog pages. Here is the Sun headline for comparison.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Nationalist History

The history of nationalists is all about false continuities and convenient silences, the fictions necessary to tell the story of the rendezvous of a chosen people with the land marked out for them by destiny.

Mark Mazower, Salonica: City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims, and Jews. (New York: Knopf, 2005), 349.

Mazower's wonderful book is an account of a Levantine city (compare Constantinople/Istanbul, Smyrna/Izmir, Beirut, Alexandria, Candia, Venice?), and perhaps more the work of a historian than the luxuriance of Philip Mansel's Constantinople: City of the World's Desire.

An interesting question here is whether the attraction of Levantine cities to modern writers really reflects the attractions of the actual cities to their inhabitants, or whether it is a function of the appreciation for diversity of modern world cities by modern elites. In other words, Viva Nueva Yorque, Baja Jacksonville!

More on Chavs

If you want to know more, see:


Wikipedia: Chav

As far as I can see slang rapidly turned stereotype is classist. What is really needed is a way to clarify the continued horror of the British Upper class.

BBC America : Little Britain : Chavs

Let's get one thing clear BBC America is nothing like the BBC in England. In fact some shows are not even BBC shows (Graham Norton for example), and the BBC does not involve in bloc programming as in the states.

You can get a pretty good idea of BBC radio by listening to all its channels online) BBC RADIO PLAYER (or see

But Being away from one's own country for almost twenty years is very odd. For example if I teach new American students, by this stage (19 years) I have been in the US longer than they have!

But I still never quite feel at home. The US is a very foreign country still, but I fear that like many emigrants, I tend to have an out-dated view of my country of origin.

Slang is what really gets you. Since the advent of the Internet its been possible to access UK culture on a daily basis, but it still takes time to grasp new words. A new one is CHAV ( to an American it means something like cracker/redneck).

There is however a long tradition of BBC Comedy programs which are right on the money. At the moment, if you want grasp Britain watch Little Britain (Python's successor) and The Thick of It (Think of Yes Minister combined withe the Office.)

Health and Resisting Doctors

I have to have a another PET scan tomorrow (I dont see why the dog has to get involved, but CATS, PETs etc seem to be what is all about).

The doctor said a biopsy for any lymphoma in my chest would require them to crack my chest (in some way), but that he did not think it looked that serious, but wanted a new PET scan in any case. With my drinking no alcohol for a few days . The PET scan tomorrow does not really wory me, but that's not what is scary - I am more worried about any eventual biopsy which
involves cracking my ribs, and then having to take chemo.

Meanwhile, because I have never used any HIV meds, they want me to take part in a study to compare two formulations. But I am not keen on that. After all I have been doing fine without. And once you start, you have to stay on the meds for life.

I've lived long enough - I'm not sure I want to spend the rest of it awash in doctors and all their crap. They want to try out several different drug cocktails, but the only cocktail I want is a Martini.

But I suppose if I let them do for free some extreme set of tests to see how my body is right now it will be worth it. The problem is all the tests seem horrible these days: sometimes they take so much blood you think they are working for Dracula. Why can't they do interesting tests like the CIA used to do with LSD in the old days?

"I Did it MY SPACE"


I tried, but I just cannot get the point of "Myspace." People have to join it to see anything; there are adverts everywhere, and people but up "backgrounds" which makes site unreadable

Hence blogger.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Your Contribution

The blog here fits me and the wierd range of interests I have.

But all feeback is allowed and encouraged - but you should know I cannot see your email address if you post a response only on the blog. Yoiu need to copy me at for me to be able to respond.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sex and Risk: Suck and be Safe

The Wockner Wire

by Rex Wockner

Bedroom gambling

The 2005 November issue of POZ magazine had a very interesting piece about "the odds of [HIV] transmission during mixed-status sex."

The magazine said it "combed through the University of California San Francisco's online vault of the latest research to chart the odds of infection in the absence of protection."

The article noted that unprotected sex is much more dangerous when the positive partner has an "uncontrolled viral load" (isn't on treatment), when either partner has another sexually transmitted disease at the time, or when you have "rough sex."

Here are the numbers:

There's a 1 in 122 chance of infecting your partner if you're positive and you top him (or her) in anal sex.

There's a 1 in 1,666 chance of infecting your partner if you're positive and he tops you in anal sex.

There's a 1 in 1,666 chance of infecting your partner if you're positive and he (or she) sucks you off.

There's virtually no chance of infecting your partner if you're positive and you suck him off.

Lesbians and straight men apparently don't have to worry about vaginal oral sex. The article said there was a "negligible" risk of transmission either way.

And for straight people, if you're positive and you are the inserter in penile-vaginal sex, there's a 1 in 111,111 chance you'll infect your partner. If it's the woman who is positive, then the chance is one in a million she'll infect you.

It almost makes you wonder how so many people became HIV-positive if the virus is so damned hard to transmit.

One interesting tidbit I learned a couple of weeks ago at a California state AIDS meeting in Long Beach was that they now believe that a huge percentage of all HIV transmissions occur in the months right after the transmitter gets infected. Apparently that's when an individual has tons of virus to spread around. The risk of infecting someone apparently drops significantly thereafter -- even when you're not on treatment.

One thing I appreciated about this POZ piece is that it acknowledged that taking HIV-positive semen into your mouth carries perhaps the same risk as being the inserter in anal sex with an HIV-positive partner.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health's STD Prevention and Control Services pretty much has refused to acknowledge any risk from sucking, with Director Jeffrey Klausner insisting "the risk of transmission of HIV via oral sex is very, very, very, very, very low and may be zero."

"Other sources of information ... are not based on sound epidemiological data," Klausner has written. "We recently completed a study of men in San Francisco who have only had oral sex and found zero new HIV infections. ... In terms of HIV, oral sex both ways is very, very safe."

Klauser says "saliva has natural anti-HIV factors" and maintains that sucking remains safe even if you have a sore in your mouth.

"There are no data that show that bleeding gums, sore throats, bad teeth or mouth sores actually increase the risk of transmission," he wrote. "For years, either we have not had data or had bad data. Now, reliable data shows the risk of HIV from oral sex is either zero or very, very low."

Klausner recently reiterated these beliefs in "FAQs" posted on the Dept. of Public Health Web site, concluding, "[M]y advice is: Enjoy oral sex and get regular check-ups."

That's probably right. But if you're gonna blow a positive guy to the point of ejaculation every day for five years, you might wanna keep POZ's findings in mind, too.

Are blogs stupid?

The editor of the gay paper in Raleigh, N.C., is being forced to keep a blog as part of a university course he's taking. He hates it and recently demanded that I "explain what is it I don't GET about blogging?" Of course, I love a good challenge.

1. Blogs steal power from the mainstream media, which until a couple of years ago pretty much got to decide what got reported. Here's a typical example: Why was Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., passed over for House leader? One strong theory is that they realized late in the process that gay and alternative-weekly media have outed him. Did you read that anywhere in the daily media? Nope. It got out via the blogosphere.

2. Suppose you have a lot of friends you keep in touch with via e-mail. You could spend all day responding to them. Or, you could throw up a personal blog entry and your friends could sometimes know what's up in your life that way. Not that you never write to your friends again, but it's a way to reclaim some of the time you might have spent writing similar e-mails.

3. Suppose you're some kind of public figure. A blog lets you get your ideas out there immediately, unfiltered and unedited. And it gives folks who are interested in you a more personal glimpse into your world.

4. My friend Eleanor, who is a journalist, says she finds it useful just to write every day. Makes her a better writer, she feels.

5. Finally, when I'm in a blog-everyday mode (which I haven't been lately), it forces me to do something interesting every day. Or at least to think some interesting thoughts. It can be an antidote to mental laziness or couch-potato-ness. When I'm blogging regularly, I get out of the house more, take my camera with me, and look at the world through an additional set of lenses: What about my city, my everyday life, my world might make for interesting reading or an interesting photo?

© 2005 *

A gay post: Life was worth it for Leo

I despaired of life recently, then I thought, at least I had had leo for 4 years. Perhaps I will get him back someday.

I still remember one night, perhaps in 1992, when I had managed to get him back to the US after a nightmare or US, Brazilian and UK Customs. It cost me all the money I had, and more. We had no money at all and so I had used flour to make bread and dried beans to make soup and wine from my 30th birthday present and we had eaten.

And then made love and as we we going to sleep I realized at that moment that it was the single happiest moment of my life and that it would not last. But if I died tomorrow existence was worth it for that moment.

But it makes me mad that I was stupid enough to throw it away just to talk about Byzantine studies, Catholic theology, and all that crap on the internet. I threw away all that I ever wanted. At least Leo and I remain important to each other but if I had worked harder, we would still be together.

And that is all I ever want in life: to wake up up as I did for four years and hold Leo.

When I die, I want that moment in my mind. Fuck the rest.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Life as a Capitalist: MARX WAS RIGHT

I had a little effort at door to door sales recently for a City's Best Advertising. This is part of a multi-level martekting organization known as CYDCOR

Inititally it was invigorating. Years as a "useless" professor were now spent in sales. I started the new job - [and had to go out and spend around $700 on clothes today - I had virtually no business clothes]. I knew it was basically an MLM (Multi-level marketing) organization, but it worked for me and it got me out of the house.

Despite all the lies in the ads, these jobs are basically business to business face to face cold calling. I seem to be not that bad at it: I'm a good talker. The problem was tyhe initial outlay: I had a car ( a nice SEXY RAV4, but in all I had to spend $700 - including $300 on a Brooks Brothers suit,

The problem was that I was out all day (7am until 7-8pm), with NO BASE, and facing the fact that the job involved lying. We were told to "take control" and sell BELLSOUTH to B@B customers, but the only realy way you could make any money was twofold: get the suckkers to signe the forms before they could read them (one "trainer" told me only a lunatic would sign them if they read them); and to get people who did not need long distance (they all have cell phones) to sign up for three year deals fro cheap calls to East Timor.

I did not really mind doing this (except for the lying part) because the "small business owners" were a: too sumb to read contracts, and b: paying minimum wage. But most of the time, I ended up telling customers how to save money by calling Bellsouth (AFTER I HAD LEFT) and demanding changes.

I have never worked in pure capitalism before. It was enthralling: it's all about one profiteer trying to trick money out of a less intelligent profiteer. It makes me respect Marx more than I ever did. Basically, it's all about speed-talking innocent small business people into signing full disclosure contracts that may or may not lower their bills, and if some are bankrupted in the process, that only shows the truth of "survival of the fittest" - i.e. nature "red in tooth and claw."

Screw "rational choice": you are specifically trained that the goal is to get the customer to "impulse buy" and the company teaches its employees how to exploit "impulse" factors. It's all so immoral, it's quite thrilling.

Damn, I was so guilty went to go to mass and confession, so I could confess all the sins it involved committing. Shit, they attack crack dealers, but they are way more honest than Bellsouth and its hirelings.

I don't believe in any of this, of course, but it is thrilling to expereince exactly how sales people are trained to operate in the "free market. " The old monopolies were no better: I came across one poor Black beauty store owner who has been paying ATT "phone rental" at $11.95 a month for the past 22 years. [I.e she has paid ATT $3145 for a phone that could have been bought for $60 (at the most) 20 years ago]. ATT has been quite happy to go on billing her. She was a nice lady. ATT even charged her late fees when she paid late: all she did was other Black ladies' hair, and fucking ATT has bilked her for over $3000 in the past 20 years. I wonder how many other people are still paying for "phone rental."

I spent 30 minutes trying to tell her to tell ATT to fuck off, and to go down to Dollar General and buy a phone for $10. ATT was not even here service provider, but that old Ma Bell just kept billing her for a 25 year old phone. She was basically a fairly simple woman. The guy who I was out with was also pretty disgusted. I spent 20 minutes telling her how to ditch the ATT phone, but I suspect she simply was too simple and too good natured to even understand how badly she has been screwed

This story should get into the press and TV.

It's a shame state systems dont work any better. But Capitlaism stinks.