Monday, January 14, 2008

 
Another week, another major snowstorm. This time we’re situated perfectly for the heaviest core of the storm to pass directly over us and we’ve been told to expect twelve inches and maybe as much as sixteen. The pattern remains consistent—a warm, wet weather system moves up the coast from the south and somewhere in the mid-Atlantic region it’s joined by a cold, dry snow storm coming from the Pacific northwest. When it hits the New England coast it picks up new moisture from the ocean and pumps it inland as huge amounts of snow.

We were scheduled to have a meeting up at the house this morning: the general contractor, the finish carpenter, M who had done the construction drawings, Fritz and me. I wrote them yesterday to see if they wanted to reschedule because of the forecast and they wrote back that they were hardy New Englanders and would be here on schedule. Well, hardy or not, they all thought better of it this morning and canceled.

We’re visiting the house every day even when there’s no new work going on because the drying and curing of the plaster means that our windows are covered by heavy condensation as water evaporates out of the walls. Huge amounts of water are used in mixing plaster and it’s got to go somewhere. It doesn’t take us too long, particularly as I’m able to walk around and climb a ladder easily now, but it’s essential because we have casement-style windows and if we don’t keep mopping up the condensation on the glass, it drips down into the crank mechanism and the hollow parts of the lower window sill where it could cause rust and rot. We’ve been doing this for about a week now and yesterday we began to see the first signs that the volume of moisture in the air and the amount of water on the windows was beginning to decline.

*******

Gee, I thought I had this gay business down cold, but here’s a “how to” course I could take at University of Michigan. It has a recommended prerequisite, do you think maybe they'd accept “equivalent life experience” . . . . ?

ENGLISH 317. Literature and Culture.
Section 002 — How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation.
Credits: (3; 2 in the half-term).
Instructor(s): David M Halperin (halperin@umich.edu)

Course Description:
Just because you happen to be a gay man doesn't mean that you don't have to learn how to become one. Gay men do some of that learning on their own, but often we learn how to be gay from others, either because we look to them for instruction or because they simply tell us what they think we need to know, whether we ask for their advice or not.

This course will examine the general topic of the role that initiation plays in the formation of gay male identity. We will approach it from three angles:
(1) as a sub-cultural practice — subtle, complex, and difficult to theorize [but I bet he’ll theorize the hell out of it anyway]— which a small but significant body of work in queer studies has begun to explore;
(2) as a theme in gay male writing; and
(3) as a class project, since the course itself will constitute an experiment in the very process of initiation that it hopes to understand.

In particular, we will examine a number of cultural artifacts and activities that seem to play a prominent role in learning how to be gay: Hollywood movies, grand opera, Broadway musicals, and other works of classical and popular music, as well as camp, diva-worship, drag, muscle culture, taste, style, and political activism. [Bears? Leather, anyone?] Are there a number of classically 'gay' works such that, despite changing tastes and generations, all gay men, of whatever class, race, or ethnicity, need to know them, in order to be gay? What is there about gay identity that explains the gay appropriation of these works? What do we learn about gay male identity by asking not who gay men are but what it is that gay men do or like?

One aim of exploring these questions is to approach gay identity from the perspective of social practices and cultural identifications rather than from the perspective of gay sexuality itself. What can such an approach tell us about the sentimental, affective, or subjective dimensions of gay identity, including gay sexuality, that an exclusive focus on gay sexuality cannot?

At the core of gay experience there is not only identification but disidentification. Almost as soon as I learn how to be gay, or perhaps even before, I also learn how not to be gay. I say to myself, 'Well, I may be gay, but at least I'm not like that!' Rather than attempting to promote one version of gay identity at the expense of others, this course will investigate the stakes in gay identifications and disidentifications, seeking ultimately to create the basis for a wider acceptance of the plurality of ways in which people determine how to be gay.

Additional note. This course is not a basic introduction to gay male culture, but an exploration of certain issues arising from it. It assumes some background knowledge. Students wishing to inform themselves about gay men and gay culture in a preliminary way should enroll in an introductory course in lesbian/gay studies.


David Halperin is, of course, a much-respected author with a particular interest in finding and preserving the historical record of gay and lesbian life back through the years when so much had to be so completely hidden. At a conference on sexuality given at Earlham College in 2006, his program bio describes him as presenter of “the notorious course: How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation.”

*******

I have dear Michael of Spo-Reflections to thank for this:

# 1-What is in the back seat of your car right now? Ten pounds of kitty litter and a variety of ice scrapers
# 2- When was the last time you threw up? Mid-November, when I was given oxycodone for the pain of my broken ankle. The oxy lasted one day—the pain was preferable.
# 3-What’s your favorite curse word? An expression, actually: fuck, shit, piss and corruption.
# 4-Name 3 people who made you smile today? Fritz, Sam Champion (out gay weatherman for ABC morning news), Tom of From the Ashes in a comment to my last blog entry
# 5-What were you doing at 8 a.m. this morning? Reading email
# 6-What were you doing 30 minutes ago? Beginning to write up this blog entry
# 7-Where were you born? New York City
# 8-Have you ever been to a strip club? Yes. Stock in Montreal most recently
# 9-What is the last thing you said aloud? I asked Fritz if he had found my passport that he was looking for
# 10-What is the best ice cream flavor? Chocolate chip cookie dough, followed by most of the others
# 11-What was the last thing you had to drink?. English Breakfast tea
# 12-What are you wearing right now? A T-shirt, a flannel shirt, an embroidered Tlingit T-shirt over that again, a heavy acrylic overshirt, and flannel-lined jeans. It’s COLD here in New Hampshire
# 13-What was the last thing you ate? Fat-free yogurt with honey and almond extract swirled in, and toast made from Chicago blogger Tate’s recipe for cardamom bread.
# 14-Have you bought any new clothes this week? No
# 15-Where were you last? Down at the house—I‘m up at the center with the wireless internet now.
# 16-What’s the last sporting event you watched? A baseball game on TV two or three years ago
# 17-Who won? I really can’t tell you who was even playing it was so long ago
# 18-Who is the last person you sent a comment/message while blogging? Jason at Let’s say you’re right . . .
# 19-Ever go camping? Yes, with Fritz on a white water rafting trip for gay men
# 20-Where do you live? Southeast New Hampshire, town of Raymond
# 21-What song are you listening to? Nothing right now, and when I do, it’s more likely to be an aria than a song
# 22-Do you tan? Yes, fairly easily.
# 23-Do you drink your soda from a straw? I don’t drink soda. I drink wine and champagne from stemware
# 24-What did your last text message say? I’ve never sent a text message.
# 25-Who are your best friends? Men named Jim and Al
# 26-What are you doing tomorrow? Physical therapy, a doctor’s appointment, a trip to Boston to shop and then to measure a church where I’m designing an opera by Benjamin Britten in September
# 27-Where is your mom right now? Maple Grove Cemetery, Kew Gardens, Queens, New York City
# 28-Look to your right, what do you see? A bookcase, filled, with a coffee maker on top
# 29-What color is your watch? Black with an electric green face
# 30-What do you think of when you think of where you live? The forest--Nature
# 31-Ever ridden on a roller coaster? Yes, but can’t any more as my inner ears start spinning and I get dizzy and nauseous for a half hour or more.
# 32-What is your birthstone? Alexandrite or pearl--June
# 33-Do you go in at a fast-food place or just hit the drive through? Generally the drive through, and only for iced coffee in the summer. I avoid fast food
# 34-What is your favorite number? 3 and yes, it does mean what you think it might
# 35-Do you have a dog? I’m a cat person. As a fairly dominant personality,I need to be put in my place occasionally
# 36-Last person you talked to on the phone? My general contractor on the new house project
# 36-Have you met anyone famous? Yes. Carol Burnett, Shirley MacLaine, Bobby Kennedy, Wolfgang Wagner, and Queen Sophia of Spain
# 37-Any plans today? Get this posted and then work on plans for built-in book and CD/DVD shelves for the new house
# 38-How many states have you lived in? New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire
# 39-Ever go to college? Boston University (undergrad) and Brandeis University (masters)
# 40-Where are you right now? Physically, in the front reception office of the Center. Psychologically and spiritually, I’m in a very good place
# 42-Biggest annoyance in your life right now? Delays on the house
# 43-Are you struggling to forgive someone right now? No. The only candidate for forgiveness has never asked and wouldn’t get it even if hell DID freeze over, given what happened
# 44-Are you allergic to anything? kitch, reality shows, lack of separation between church and state, the American political process as currently practiced, and (drumroll) George W. Bush
# 45-Favorite pair of shoes? Doc Martens every time

Comments:
i miss snow; can you send some?
thank you for doing the meme - one critique though; the T-shirt. I collect artwork from the Pacific Northwest, and it does not quite look Tlingit; who is the artist?
 
spo--then it could be Haida. I bought four T-shirts in different designs at the Chihuly glass works in Tacoma, WA several years ago and I know that there were a number of First People's nations represented.
 
I'm rather jealous... I would like to me Shirley Mac...
 
Sam Champion was our local weatherman here for ages. We all knew the deal, but I didn't hear that he'd actually come out. Good for him (and it's about time)!

BTW, we just got back from Atlanta, and you should see what passes for a snowstorm there. You'd laugh (I know I did).
 
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