Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Yay! I convinced my mom that I do know what I'm doing, am responsible enough to handle lye (well, not handle it... cause that would burn, but use it rather without poisoning myself and others), and will keep everything having to do with soap making entirely separate from her precious kitchen... All of which I had already planned to do, but "lye" being one of my mom's buzz-words, she kinda stopped listening as soon as she heard it and had to be convinced that much harder. I'll be collecting the stuff to make soap over the next several months and have all of it ready to go by the time the herb garden is producing again. I'm planning on using all natural ingredients. If I didn't make it myself or buy it in its most basic form (such as turmeric and paprika to use as dye), it's not going in the soap. ::nods:: Should be good!

In other news: I'm still working on the Mrs. Beeton cuffs and the 19th century hood. It's all coming along. One thing I have noticed about the hood is that I seem to be knitting it a little looser than the sample I have from Susan. I don't know if it is because the original has been felted down slightly, was done on different size needles than those prescribed by the pattern (size 10.5) or if I just naturally knit looser... any could be possible, I suppose. But it's looking good so far and I've had no problems.

Monday, January 30, 2006

an e-mail fwd I recieved & knitting news


One day, when a seamstress was sewing while sitting close to a river, her thimble fell into the river. When she cried out, the Lord appeared and asked, "My dear child, why are you crying?"

The seamstress replied that her thimble had fallen into the water and thatshe needed it to help her husband in making a living for their family.

The Lord dipped His hand into the water and pulled up a golden thimble set with pearls. "Is this your thimble?" the Lord asked. The seamstress replied, "No."

The Lord again dipped into the river. He held out a silver thimble ringed with sapphires. "Is this your thimble?" the Lord asked. Again, the seamstress replied, "No."

The Lord reached down again and came up with a leather thimble. "Is this your thimble?" the Lord asked. The seamstress replied, "Yes."

The Lord was pleased with the woman's honesty and gave her all three thimbles to keep, and the seamstress went home happy.

Some years later, the seamstress was walking with her husband along the riverbank, and her husband fell into the river and disappeared under the water. When she cried out, the Lord again appeared and asked her, "Why are you crying?"

"Oh Lord, my husband has fallen into the river!"

The Lord went down into the water and came up with Mel Gibson. "Is this your husband?" the Lord asked. "Yes," cried the seamstress.

The Lord was furious. "You lied! That is an untruth!"

The seamstress replied, "Oh, forgive me, my Lord. It is a misunderstanding. You see, if I had said 'no' to Mel Gibson, you would have come up with Tom Cruise. Then if I said 'no' to him, you would have come up with my husband. Had I then said 'yes,' you would have given me all three. Lord, I'm not in the best of health and would not be able to take care of all three husbands, so THAT'S why I said 'yes' to Mel Gibson."

The moral of this story is: Whenever a woman lies, it's for a good and honorable reason, and in the best interest of others.

That's our story, and we're sticking to it.


In other news, I can't figure out gauge for this knitting project (Belle Epoque) with the yarn I have... According to the yarn company (Sugar 'n Cream), the gauge should be identical to the one the original was knitted in (which has been discontinued)... but it is not, in practice. Even if I made the smallest size with this yarn, it would still be too big around by about 7 inches... For now, I am giving up on it and moving on. I've started on Mrs. Beeton for myself (I found the rest of the supplies I needed for it this weekend) and a 19th century hood pattern for Susan to sell on her site. Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

While the world was sleeping...

I was dealing with my brother... which don't get me wrong, I was glad to do 'cause Lord knows someone had to and I was the only one who could. He got into a car accident last night in Ybor City after attending the Gasparilla all day (the images are all of what his car looks like right now). He was tired, sunburned, had been drinking much earlier in the night (he's not that stupid), and he reached for his ringing cellphone and hit a telephone pole as he was making a U-turn on Palm Avenue. At 1:30 am... So he called the house a little 2 am, and I was just getting ready to go to bed and, of course, I said I'd go pick him up. A police officer had come and pronounced him fine and didn't ticket him and wasn't concerned enough to call an ambulance, and a tow-truck from AAA was on the way... I woke up my parents and told them what was going on, washed my face, got my keys, and headed out at 2 am. Because of the lack of traffic at that time of night, it only took about 15 minutes to get there by I-275. The tow-truck took another hour and a half to get there around 3:12 am. We got it towed back to the house... By the time we got here, Josh's head was really beginning to hurt and I thought and he thought and his friend Phillip thought that he might have a concussion... Josh hit the pole in such a way that, even though he was wearing his seatbelt, he was bounced up when the car went over the curb and hit his head on the windshield. There are 27 cracks in the glass from the impact, but his head isn't even showing a bruise. So we brought his few items from his car inside, got some water and went to the emergency room... got there a little before 4 am. He was scared shitless and very sleepy and I wouldn't let him fall asleep because of what they say about concussions and sleeping... They saw us around 4:30 and the doctor ordered a CT Scan. Went down for that at 5, came back to the ER, the doc looked him over, said they'd know more once the scan came back and gave him some Ibuprophen for the headache. He fell asleep... I sat... tick, tick, tick... Just before 7 the results came back. No concussion, but a possible anomaly on his left side caused be an unknown injury... So he has to see a specialist and possibly have a more detailed scan early next week... He wouldn't wake up to hear all of this however cause he just wanted to sleep. We tried, he wouldn't budge... like a young guy does when he's trying to sleep and doesn't want to wake up. So the doc started the discharge procedure and we got out of there at 8 am... I had called my parents and let them know what was going on after the results came in. They hadn't known we'd gone to the hospital, but said I handled it all well. When we got home, Josh was more alert. I guess all the movement of getting out to the car had woken him a bit. I told him what the doctor had said about the follow up. Josh was pissed that the doc had told me all this, and not him. Explaining that at the time he was not waking up to hear it didn't help... I had had to put his shoes back on him, for goodness sake, the whole time ranting at him how the shoes were the last straw and I had better get a really good present for it all, and he didn't hear a bit of it, he was that non-responsive. Oy! He didn't want to hear it all. He was just pissed, coming down from all the trauma of it, and wanted to rant and rave and go to bed. But apparently when he woke up at 2 this afternoon, he was doing better and my mom was able to better explain to him what had happened. I slept from 9 til 3pm... I'm still tired, but couldn't sleep anymore right now. That's okay. I have homework to do...

Once more with feeling...

So I've come to the conclusion that I don't know what I'm doing... about anything and with anything... Have not a clue in the world... And I'm in the process of reasoning my way to being okay with that. I mostly mean grad school, the future and even what I'm doing right this second in school. 'Case you hadn't guessed, school is pretty much the ever-present concern. You know, it's scary when you feel like you're drowning whenever you think of your own life... And if I don't distract myself sufficiently, that's pretty much how I feel way more of the time than feels healthy for my mental well-being. I don't know how people with more obligations to family and work manage, honestly... But I think that most of my issues with my whole world manifest in my concerns over school.

Talked it over with mom though and I think some of it - hopefully *a lot* of it though because this is relatively easy to fix - stems from me feeling very fragmented right now... like I have two and maybe even three separate lives that I'm having a hard time reconciling, simply because I'm the only connection I have between them. Those being my life at home and my life with my birth family, and my life where school is concerned is the possible third. This is no one's fault and nothing could have prevented it and it's all okay. I had thought that knowing of my adoption all my life would have kept me from having any "odd" feelings when I finally found Susan and my family there, but apparently, it hasn't. I've read before that adoptees pretty much always have a lot of unexpected, unpredictable, complex, unique-to-their-situation, and yet totally valid emotions and feelings about things relating to their adoption, so I really shouldn't have been as surprised by it as I was. I feel I was well-prepared for a reunion and it has been better than I ever expected in my wildest imaginings, but as I said, nothing could have prevented or predicted the feeling that my life has been fragmented. However, I welcome this feeling, because I totally believe that from it, I'll gain something even better. So, as Susan says, "It's all good."

That being said, I'd been having a hard time getting that feeling to gel into something I could articulate for at least six months and possibly longer, so it's good that I've figured that much out *and* talked about it (always makes me feel better). Because of this, I've decided not to take classes this summer either, something that USF and my advisors will not like and think is dumb... I can see my advisors' frowns already, but to be perfectly frank, they can bite me for all I care. I'm going to work on other things that are even more important than school, like myself and my direction and reconciling my life to name a few, do some independent study for independent study's sake and explore some possibilities. Mom says she's been dying to take a vacation from Tampa since the remod on the house started and so we're going to take one and multi-task over several weeks. Basically, this is the preliminary plan... We're going to the Carolinas sometime after May 25th and before the first week of August. While we're there, 1.) we're going to spend some time with Susan and everyone there, 2.) my parents will also be using the time to check into different places and see the kind of areas they may want to buy some acreage in, and 3.) we're going to look into the schools that I've got high on my list while we're at it (right now, this means AppState because as I understand it is so far, this would come as close to my perfect school as I'm going to get). Sounds like a pretty good plan to me...

In other very important news, I'm working on knitting historic patterns for Susan to sell on her site, http://www.plainlysimple.com/ . Quite excited about that...

I'm also looking into making soaps and herby/flowery things since our garden is getting so extensive. We can't even use all the herbs we produce now, let alone how many we will be producing this summer... Figured this would be an excellent use for them and a way to make me some money and make me feel productive and meaningful. All good... Mom *did* react just as I suspected she would when I mentioned the word "lye" though... so, I know if I go that particular route and don't use pre-made basic soaps, I'll be doing it outside, somehow, while wearing a gasmask and hazmat gear if she's got a thing to do with it. (I exaggerate not. She's a chemist. She knows how dangerous lye is...) So, I'm going to be looking into the pre-made basic soaps... probably vegetarian... Don't know how practical it will be to pay for it pre-made when the ingredients seem to be so much cheaper, but I'm looking into it for her sake... and ultimately mine 'cause I'd really like to figure out some way to do this. (Susan? What kind of market do you figure is out there via your site for yummy herby handmade soaps? I mean, what do you think would be a good trial amount to test the market with so I don't go overboard? Like, how many bars and what kind would be most appealing to your customer base, do you think? ... since I have a real tendency to go overboard with this sort of thing...)


Would like to point out the site of my dear friend, Melinda. We went to high school together and so I've known her... going on eight years, holy cow! She very cool and exceptionally talented. She draws and works in various stained glass techniques. There are examples of her work on her site and that's mostly why I'd like to point it out. She does commissions as far as I know... http://www.geocities.com/melifair/ Do check it out! (Though we are all adults here - right? - I would like to warn that there is a little bit of artistic nudity on the site. If you're sensitive, use discretion.) A link to the site is also available in the right-hand column of my blog, under "Blogs and Sites of Family and Friends."

Note to Melinda if you're reading this: I really wish that there were bigger versions of the sketches and other work on your site. The smaller versions just don't do them justice and raving about them to people I know, but who don't know you isn't cutting it... if I may say... If you want to, sometime when you come over to my house or something, when you get a chance, bring a disk with the files, if you can, and I'll show you how to give them their own page like I did on my geocities site. Then everyone will "oh" and "ah" the way they should when I show them the site. :D It's very sad that they can't see the pretty sketches and glass work in person... :( I feel the need to help them... Pardon my rambling, I'm feeling rather loopy from lack of sleep.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Hebrew Mamita

http://www.hebrewmamita.com/ Cool poems, and cool woman who writes them - Vanessa Hidary... The poems are better when performed live or on tv though, because being in the spoken word style, they don't follow anything even resembling form. I had a better more eloquent post written about this, but blogger decided to go down for maintenance or somesuch just then and I didn't save it... so there you have it...

Sunday, January 15, 2006


My dearest, oldest friend Lauren, who is a sister to me, asked me to check out MySpace... I did... I now have a profile and stuff there... I'm not sure of it yet... Will keep my blog posted.

Friday, January 13, 2006


I looked up info about sheep breeds... (This is what I do, people... research random topics that pop into my head.) Why share the info here? 'Cause it's my blog...

All of these sheep are attractive breeds (none of those sheep that look more like goats or have oddly football-shaped heads). A lot of them have something to do with the Vikings... as in, they owe their existence to them... (I love the Vikings... as if I need to mention that.) The Vikings preferred animals that could pretty much take care of themselves in a cold climate with generally rocky terrain and that did not require shelter for most of the year. This is one of the reasons they never bothered with pigs or chickens. They considered it too much trouble to keep them from turning into pigcicles and chickencicles to be worth keeping. Most of the breeds descended from their domestic animals are fairly independent, self-sufficient, stocky, winter-hardy animals that need little supplementary food and are very easy-care.

- easy to care for, does well on sparse pasture where other breeds would not do well
- very little herding instinct, will wander in small groups
- good mothers
- can be aggressive toward other breeds, will usually dominate
- milk, meat and wool!
- wool very long and low grease
- oldest, purest breed of sheep in the world, unchanged & undiluted for 1100 years (that's when the importation of livestock was cut off.)
- horned (both females and males usually)
- females can lamb as young as 12 months old, and continue until as old as 14
- generally produce 1 - 2 lambs at a time, rarely they can produce as many as 3 - 4 lambs at a time
- males can sire offspring as young as 7 months old
- not a docile breed, can be nervous until acclimated to people and herding animals, but then usually become quite friendly
- seasonal breeding - November to April

- need extra care while fleece is growing in order to get good fleeces
- wool is less fine than the Leicaster, but finer than the Lincoln
- developed in the 1820s and 1830s to present breed standard (traditional breed completely replaced by an original Cotswold/Lincoln cross to result in better meat production.)

- produces more wool and eats less for its weight than any other breed
- produce twins 70% of the time
- wool used in tweed fabrics, blankets and carpets
- post-17th cent. breed
- developed from the native Heath or Cornish Sheep, native to Devon
- very winter hardy
- rare breed - currently level 4 of Endangered Breeds on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust List... whatever that means...

Faeroes - not really bred for wool anymore, due to comparatively low yield of fleece and the commercially low price of wool
- primarily bred for meat nowadays
- descended from the Old Norwegian, related to the Icelandic, Shetland and other Scandinavian breeds

- surprisingly young breed considering it is native to such an isolated country, only going back a few hundred years
- good fleece producers
- few in NA
- currently undergoing "improvement" in Finland through selective breeding (not interbreeding with other breeds to preserve bloodlines)
- from the pics I saw, rather delicate looking... like a ballerina...

Gulf Coasts (aka "Florida Natives")
- native to Florida
- related to Spanish sheep - arrived in 1500s
- naturally developed a degree of resistance to internal parasites
- perfectly adapted to the hot & humid conditions of the Southeast, very hardy in Florida
- medium to long staple length (2.5" - 4") wool quality variable, averaging 26 - 32 micron, grade 48 - 58
- horned and polled (without horns) in males and females
- critically endangered
- because they lived wild for several centuries, were never wormed, had no assistance lambing, and were never shorn, these sheep have developed in such a way that they need no assistance lambing, have very few internal parasitic problems and have relatively light, compact fleeces, open faces and bare legs.
- can be used for dairy
- I want some of these!

- old, but now rare & used most commonly as a decoration on estates
- small
- solid black face and legs
- fleece black, grays with age
- both sexes horned, curled, and they usually have 4!
- wool quality in the 44s - 50s, medium length staple
- browses and forages
- low fat content in their meat

Leicester Longwool
- 18th century breed
- used in "the Colonies" and UK
- very heavy fleeces, sometimes 20+ lbs
- wool 32 - 38 microns
- very rare and endangered - global pop est. at 2,000 animals w/ fewer than 200 new registrations in NA each year
- a favorite of George Washington

Old Norwegian
- one of the oldest domestic breeds in Europe
- closely related to Bronze Age "Soay" breed
- cute with short legs and snout
- pop #s around 10,000 animals
- remains of the breed have been found at Bergen that date to ca 1000 BCE
- all males and 10% of females have horns (although females' horns are small)
- very fine wool, long staple - good for hand knitting and felting
- very strong flocking instinct, can keep flocks as small as 5 - 7 animals without problems
- do not do well with herding dogs - the weak will hide while the strong of the heard will lead the dog away, resulting from their natural reaction to predators; little if any loss of the herd to predators and have practically no need for a dog
- very excellent mothers and lambs will be defended fiercely by the herd
- lambs begin grazing at around 14 days old
- need little if any surplus feeding as long as grazing is present
- love to eat heather
- right now there is a shortage of animals for meat production, so prices are high

- eats exclusively seaweed most of the year
- evolved to deal with the harsh conditions of the N. Atlantic
- small, fine boned
- almost entirely open-faced and bare legged
- rams are horned
- wool quality 50 - 56

- late 18th century/early 19th century breed
- mix of Spanish Merinos and native French stock, with some German
- very fine wool at 18.5 - 24.5 microns, quality range of 60 - 80
- staple length 2" - 4"

- from Kent, predates 19th century
- quality 40 - 48, 38 - 31 microns
- considered dual use (meat & wool)

- date to ca. 850 CE
- smallest British breed, rams weigh 90 - 125 lbs, ewes 75 - 100 lbs
- considered one of the "primitive" or "unimproved" breeds (personally, with wool like this, I don't know why it would need to be "improved"... any breeding with meat stock would probably significantly reduce the quality of the wool... That's what happened with the original Cotswolds when they were crossed with Lincolns.)
- rams are horned
- fine-boned, very short-tailed
- fiber 20 - 25 microns, quality 58 - 62-ish, staple 2" - 4.5"
- very hardy, good mothers, easy lambers, high milk production
- meat is very good, but difficult to produce in quantity
- numbers are slowly rising, there are now approx 2000 breeding ewes in the UK
- calm, docile and easy to manage
- slow growing & long lived
- price ranges from $100 - $300 per animal in US
- I think I'd like a small flock... would be most useful...
- http://www.shetland-sheep.org/

Got to toot my own horn a bit

I just measured the Shetland yarn I spun on my Ashford Student drop spindle the other day. It's 60 wraps-per-inch! ::squee!:: In 2-ply, that's 30 wpi... well into the fine lace weight range. I am so proud of myself! ::jumps for joy:: ... Now, if only I could figure out how to do that on my wheel...

To comment on the Shetland fiber... I think it's easier to spin than Merino... That was unexpected, since it seems like so many people sing the praises of Merino.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The New World

Was watching "The Making of 'The New World'" this evening, and had to share. I'm not an expert, but it looked fairly accurate from what I could tell. The war paint on the Natives is a bit of... a stretch. The Native American actors who portray them collaborated with the makeup artists to create "their own look" basically. They wanted the war paint to be an "extension of the individual" and for them to be "walking works of art." ... So basically, it probably has little basis in history because the director and the art director wanted things to look interesting and exotic over historical as far as the Natives' war paint was concerned... and if there's a justification for that, I suppose it would be to contrast the Natives with the englishness of the settlers. So when you see warriors wearing small snakes literally as earrings... that's not CG and they are *real* living snakes.

However, the sets of the Powhatan village and the Jamestown fort were meticulously reconstructed with the assistance and supervision of the archaeologists who dug up and mapped the real things about 7 miles from where the filming took place. Both sets are the actual size of the real historic places and they are 360 degree sets... basically *real* villages constructed with the same materials as the originals. They shot everything as close to where history sets the events as they could without stumbling over real historic sites or modern cities, and all daytime scenes were shot using only natural light to give it a clean, real look. The actors found it very freeing because they could take the scenes essentially anywhere on the sets they wanted to go in that moment, and they didn't have a difficult time staying in the moment because besides the crew and one or two cameras there wasn't any equipment to avoid or to distract them from being in early 17th century Virginia. I have to give them kudos for going to all that trouble.

Everybody went through boot camp. All of the natives did exercises not only to learn how to use the weapons and get in shape, but also to learn the physicality of the Powhatan people... how to move in a non-modern way... How to walk, all the dances, how to move silently while stalking, the way of speaking and all the little idiosyncrasies that have been lost to time. One of the actors who played a warrior said it was like learning a new language... a language that was dormant in their blood. That's beautiful...

The Englishmen went to boot camp to learn how to build the fort, what daily life in the fort was like, and how to fight, basically... and some of them had dialect lessons.

Apparently, the director likes using spontaneous moments and there will be quite a few scenes that are almost entirely improvised in the movie... One of the crew says the director was trying to "capture life on the whim." Looking forward to seeing that. Oh, and he's also not afraid of letting silence speak. Some scenes will have no music and only natural background noise... birds, water, etc. So that when the music is there it's more meaningful and when there is no sound it's more meaningful. Kinda makes me want to see more of this guy's movies. (Oh, and the guy who did all the music is James Horner, the guy who did "Titanic"'s music.)

And, I just have to add, Colin Farrell cooing over and playing with the babies in the Indian village is just about the cutest thing ever...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Warning: Spoilers abound! Don't read further if you don't want to be spoiled. If you don't care, or you've seen the movie, read on...

I had not and have still not read the short story on which this movie is based, so all impressions given here are based solely on the movie and nothing else.

This is one of those movies that will have you laughing one minute and crying the next. And the end feels like an unexpected punch to the gut. Bring tissues when you see it! Some people have said that "Brokeback Mountain" reminds them of "The Bridges of Madison County"... I might agree with that. I've never seen all of "TBOMC", just a few scenes... I was quite young when it was in theaters and they don't air it on tv very much. But I know my mom liked it. From what I have seen of it, yes, it probably has a similar tone.

Ang Lee did a magnificent job with directing his cast. He really is the master of repression and hidden emotional pain, and it comes through in "Brokeback Mountain." You can see the progression through his movies from "The Wedding Banquet" to "Sense and Sensibility" to all his more recent stuff to this. Heath, Jake, Michelle and Anne are at their very best. The cinematography is indescribably beautiful... as if that would be difficult with the vistas available in Calgary and Montana... I really appreciated the stark contrast between all the natural beauty surrounding the run-down, economically near-dead towns of rural Montana in the 1960s and 70s. And the music just adds so much. Thank you very much Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson. Thanks to them, Maria and I just cried through the credits... (Zinzi being Zinzi was already out of the theater and looking for the bathroom when the credits started rolling.)

Ennis Del Mar, Heath's character, reminds me of John Wayne or the Marlboro Man in a lot of ways... Doesn't talk much, classic cowboy. He has an interesting way about him when he actually does talk. I don't know if it's just the Montana accent or what, but his jaw doesn't move very much. Ennis also can't dance to save his life and has no rhythm at all. Heath was really making those late-1960s/70s sideburns look really good though! Didn't think that was possible... Ennis is the side of the duo who is full of repression and restraint.

Jake's character, Jack Twist, is a little more open, but comes off as your typical Montana rancher's son turned Texas rodeo cowboy... pretty much what you might expect that to be. Jake said he loved working with the sheep, which they were really herding for real throughout much of the film up and down the mountains in Calgary, Canada, because they were such stupid but lovable animals. He said it was pretty neat how all you had to do was lift up your arms near them and walk toward them, and they'd run away in fear. Made him feel quite powerful. As for the character of Jack, he's a bit more easy-going. He can dance and though he can't sing, he still tries. He doesn't care if he makes a fool of himself, and he doesn't like to be pushed around, although he'll take it to keep the peace. Jack would be the side of the duo who's full of longing.

I really like Ennis and I really like Jack. They both make valid points, and it was unfortunate for them that they had to come about in the 1960s and 70s in the rural West. Even another part of the country at the time would have worked better... or if Ennis' dad wasn't such a psycho and hadn't traumatized him when he was nine, things might have been much easier for him, and therefore for Jack.

Anne's hair as Lureen Twist gets progressively more blonde. She starts with her natural color and by the end is as platinum as Marilyn Monroe. The story moves from 1963 to about 1980, and you can kind of tell how much time has supposedly passed by watching her hair get more blonde, and Jack's mustache get thicker. I'll need to pay better attention to her character the second time around to really figure her out because like Jack says, most of the time we see Lureen, she's just sitting there at her desk, crunching numbers for her father's tractor business, asking why Jack doesn't have Ennis come down to Texas to fish instead of him always having to drive 14 hours to Montana. The only thing that really changes is her hair... until the end... when we actually see some emotion behind the mask of calm indifference.

Michelle's character, Alma Del Mar, moves the story on quite a bit, and she's the strongest female presence on screen... Her life is hard, living with Ennis, with all the secrets and lies between them, and yet, I still don't feel sorry for her because she's better off at the end. She fuels his paranoia a bit, and his carelessness fuels her suspicion... It was a very tense onscreen relationship.

I really liked Ennis and Alma's elder daughter, Alma Junior. She's a lot like her dad, doesn't talk much and knows more than she let's on she knows. And she's very well adjusted despite her surroundings, which surprised me quite a bit. Her relationship of silent understanding with her father is very telling, especially closer to the end of the movie. The part was very well cast as well because not only was the actress very capable, but she also bore a resemblance to Heath. Her eyes and nose are of a similar shape and she has a squarish jaw line... not in an unfeminine way though. She just looked like she could be his daughter were he old enough to have a 20 year old daughter.

You have to pay attention while watching this movie. You might miss something if you close your eyes. A lot of the story is told through looks and body language because the main character, Ennis, talks so little.

I really liked how nature was used in the movie. It was similar to how in "Tristan & Isolde" (the medieval story, not the movie... haven't seen the movie yet.), nature seems to be on the lovers' side, protective and a haven, while society/religion/humanity disapproves. This is also perhaps why the contrast between the town and the mountains is visually emphasized in "Brokeback Mountain" - for the same reason. Ennis and Jack almost always escape into the wilds of Montana for their trysts, and whenever other people come around, that's when bad things happen. In "Tristan & Isolde," the point of nature being on their side is that love is a natural thing, to be protected and celebrated, and that society and religion, which are human constructs, disapproves of their love is unnatural and dangerous... and essentially wrong... This is why "Tristan & Isolde" was so controversial in the 13th century when it was composed. But it wasn't an unusual piece at the time. Much of the romantic literature of the Middle Ages was extremely controversial because it covertly or not-so-covertly criticized the Church and therefore all of Medieval society. So to with "Brokeback."

I recommend the official webpage: http://www.brokebackmountain.com/home.html . The soundtrack plays on every page, and on the soundtrack's own page, you can listen to clips of all the songs. Even if you don't like the movie, or don't want to see it, I recommend the soundtrack. The music is lovely. The site also gives a good impression of what the film looks like.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wishes and fears

Well, I wish I could say that this has been an altogether delightful birthday, but it hasn't due to one reason. Not only have I gained yet another year, which is, by all means, better than the alternative, 'tis true... but I have also just had my major phobia poked at. I'm taking Introduction to Religious Studies this semester... or rather, *might be* taking Intro. the Religious Studies. I can't get a religious studies minor without it. But there are at least 2 papers, each 5 to 7 pages long and one ten page paper to do for the class, and all of that's a major pain in the ass, but I could deal with it... In addition to that, I have to give a ten minute oral presentation on a topic of the instructor's choosing... Ten minutes!? Oral presentation!? Topic of instructor's choosing!? Could there be more horrible news? No... there could not... I'd write three 50 page papers rather than do this. Took all my self control not to hyper-ventilate in class at the mere thought... held til I was almost home. Then I sat in my car for several minutes feeling distinctly light-headed, sobbing and gasping uncontrollably... Now, I'm sitting here typing, drinking a vodka tonic (which is actually pretty good), trying to steel myself enough to go plant the trees that are waiting in the backyard. I suppose I'm going to have to write to Ms. O'Brien and see if there's any way around it. It is only 10% of the grade, so I wouldn't get a horrible grade in the class if I just said "fuck it," but it'd be nice if I could just do something else... I might just drop the class and spend the semester really getting into my major and focusing on that subject more in depth and to hell with a minor, which I've already done all the classes but two for anyway... do I really need a piece of paper to verify it?

I've been trying to figure out the root of this phobia. The best that I can come up with, as to what it actually is that I'm afraid of is that I... don't feel I have a right to speak authoritatively on a topic of which I am not an expert, and I feel extremely uncomfortable drawing attention to myself in a group of people whom I don't know at all, let alone well. I'm afraid of being told I'm wrong, and I'm afraid of the looks I'll get... the judgment I know will come. I hate it.

The last time I did it was in my Humanities class, Freshman year. We had to do art projects and write one page explaining the project and present the project while the prof had the paper in his hands. I wrote in the paper that part of the real reason I did the project on the topic I did, which was landscape photography of the Hillsborough River, was to prove that I could after what almost happened in the park on the Hillsborough River to me several months before. I was nearly attacked by a perverted old man in that park, and escaped only because the guy ran away when he saw me take out and dial a number on my cell phone. It happened in the Winter of 2002. I haven't told many people about it because nothing really happened, but it was traumatic at the time... This project was done that Spring, and at the time I wanted to prove to myself that there was still beauty to be seen there. I put all that in much greater detail in the paper version of my explanation with a note that I did not want to share that with the entire class. But the prof, largely because he was an asshole, asked me specifically about it in such a way that I couldn't answer the question without telling the entire class about it. The looks I got were not something I appreciated.

It's a very vulnerable position, speaking in front of an audience. And I, the control freak that I am, need a certain amount of distance and authority in order to feel comfortable. That's why I don't feel uncomfortable with the idea of teaching a class because in order to get there, I will become an authority on what I am teaching, and besides, I'd be in charge, what I say would go... With a presentation for a class that I'm taking though, I'm not in charge, I have no control, unexpected things can happen to me in ways that I can't anticipate because I'm no good at improvisation. It's potentially humiliating... It makes me very uneasy in the best of circumstances, at worst, I'm terrified... At the moment, I'm somewhere in between. But this is still not the way I wanted things to go today...

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Anyone who really knows me, knows that I think Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is a prize idiot, to put it politely... I'm sorry to type, he's at it again... This time, he's leading "Justice Sunday III"... as if the first two were even necessary. If you ask me the "Saw" movies are more worth a third than "Justice Sundays." There's a protest petition started by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/663959653?ltl=1136618453

Because I really like what I wrote in my petition signature, I'm going to post it here too... Pretty proud of my ability to use a search engine to find stuff for this one. Even dipped into one of Paul's Letters for the closer of the argument.


"It's pointless to try to reason with these people who are entirely unreasonable, because "a witless man can no more become wise than a wild donkey's colt can be born a man" (Job 11:12), but the elected and appointed officials of this country are not to be responsible to the teachings of any religion, only to the Constitution and to the American people and that is it, period, end of story. But since these persons who are participating in Justice Sunday III are who they are, and one should "answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes" (Prov 26:5), I present the following for their consideration: "Do not keep talking so proudly /or let your mouth speak such arrogance, /for the LORD is a God who knows, /and by him deeds are weighed." (1 Sam. 2:3); "Doubtless you are the people, /and wisdom will die with you!/But I have a mind as well as you; /I am not inferior to you. /Who does not know all these things?" (Job 12:2-3); "If only you would be altogether silent! /For you, that would be wisdom." (Job 13:5); "There are six things the LORD hates, / seven that are detestable to him: / haughty eyes, / a lying tongue, / hands that shed innocent blood, / a heart that devises wicked schemes, / feet that are quick to rush into evil, / a false witness who pours out lies / and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers." (Prov 6:15-19); "A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, / but a man of understanding holds his tongue." (Prov 11:12); "The way of a fool seems right to him, / but a wise man listens to advice." (Prov 12:15); "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Cor. 10:12); "Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise." (1 Cor. 3:18)."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Blogger Posts while Blogger was not working...

Here's all the stuff I tried to post in December when the Blogging programs weren't working for me. I'd try and end up with blank posts. So I back-logged them and now that Blogger is working for me again, here they are.

12/08/2005 - All but done with the semester! WooHoo!!

12/09/2005 - "The Straight Dude's Guide to 'Brokeback Mountain'"

posted here in it's entirety from: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/10342237/

The straight dude's guide to "Brokeback"

Our intrepid gay columnist has sage advice for his straight brethren
By Dave White
MSNBC contributor
Updated: 7:26 p.m. ET Dec. 8, 2005

You are a heterosexual man. And you have no personal beef with gay people. You're educated and fairly socially liberal and occasionally listen to NPR and you don't like to see anyone bashed or discriminated against. You're no homophobe. You're proud of yourself.

But your girlfriend/wife/common-law/female or whoever loves that adorable Jake Gyllenhaal has already stated her intentions. When it's her turn to pick the Saturday night date-movie, you're seeing "Brokeback Mountain."

"But I am a heterosexual man," you''' thinking, "very, very, very, very straight." And you're kind of freaking out as the release date quickly approaches, and even the expression "release date" is making you kind of jittery. You're hoping to remind your female life partner that, while you feel gay people are very wonderful, colorful, witty additions to the human population and that Ellen sure is fun to watch dance in the credit card commercial and that Tom Hanks really deserved that Academy Award for whatever that movie was where he died at the end, that you are very, very, very, very straight and that it should exempt you from seeing Adorable Jake... um... do "it" with Heath Ledger. You really don't even want to know what "it" entails because you've lived this long without finding out. You're thinking the words "red-blooded," as in "I am a red-blooded American male, etc," don't sound so retro anymore.

And yet, you're still going to see it whether you like it or not. This necessarily presents a dilemma: how to make her happy and endure your first gay-themed movie where guys actually make out on a very big screen right in front of your face? And that's where I come in. I'm a red-blooded American male homosexual movie critic who's already seen "Brokeback Mountain." And I could just tell you how great the film is, that it's really powerful and moving and all that, but that isn't what you want to hear. So I have some viewing tips for you, my straight brothers. I promise I'm only here to help...

1. Accept the fact that this is all your fault in the first place. You were the one who was all excited to take your ladyfriend to "Jarhead" anyway and when you got there and saw that it consisted of lot of AJ (how this article will refer to Adorable Jake from here on) running around all sweaty, muscular and shirtless in the desert, doing a sexy dance wearing nothing but a Santa Claus cap over his "area" and then simulating a big gay orgy with his fellow grunts, you were like, "When does the killing start in this movie?" while your woman thought, "Oh yes, more Santa Dancing please." You brought it on yourself.

2. Realize now that you have to shut up. You kind of have no idea how important it is for you to shut up. But it's crucial. I was recently at a press screening for another movie and I overheard four guys in the theater lobby talking about "Brokeback." They were resolute in their refusal to go see it and they couldn't stop loudly one-upping each other about how they had no interest, were not "curious," and were, in the words of the loudest guy in the group, "straight as that wall over there." Oh, the wall with poster for the Big Gay Cowboy Movie on it? That straight wall? Well here's something that everyone else now knows but that guy: he's probably gay. Being silent marks you as too cool to care about how other men see you. It means you're comfortable and not freaked by your own naked shadow. Did Steve McQueen go around squawking about how straight-as-a-wall he was? No, he didn't. He was too busy being stoic and manly.

3. The good news - there's less than one minute of making out. It's about 130 minutes long and 129 of them are about Men Not Having Sex. So yes, maybe it will be the longest almost-60 seconds of your life, but there it is. Less than one minute. In fact, it's 129 minutes of really intense longing and sadness and unabashedly weepy, doomed love story. In a very real way that's a lot more porny than any of the man-on-man canoodling that made it past the editing room. But if you're going to be a big sissy about it then you can go get her that Diet Coke and jumbo popcorn during the first major sex scene. And no plugging your ears and singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb," either. All singing is inherently gay, is why. Plus you'll be in a movie theater and some big bruiser gay guy might kick your butt. Then you'll feel even more emasculated.

4. Remember that it's a western. And the script was adapted by none other than Total Dude Larry McMurtry. That guy is the coolest western writer in the country. He wrote "Lonesome Dove." You love "Lonesome Dove." In fact, the only problem with remembering that it's a western is having to ignore the fact that most westerns are about 1000 percent gay. If you think I'm making that up, just go watch "Red River" again.

5. They're tortured and you get to feel sorry for them. Just like in that Tom Hanks movie, these gay guys get kicked around a lot. It's set in the 1960s and the characters played by Heath and AJ don't even know they're gay. They think they're just regular straight guys who suddenly find themselves all turned on by each other and, honestly, don't even really understand why they're awash in yucky, hypnotic love feelings. Actually wait... you know what? Don't think about that too much. Better if you just forget about the "why" of it all and start rooting for these underdogs. Pretend they're like Sean Astin in "Rudy."

6. Anne Hathaway, who plays AJ's wife, gets topless. The End. I think it's fair to report this and here's why: as a gay man, the only reason I even agreed to sit through the really stupid remake of "The Longest Yard" was because one of my friends told me you get to see the wrestler Goldberg in the shower. In one scene. That's it. I sat through the whole thing for one scene. In that respect, my hetero pals, we are all brothers deep inside... it's just a different brand of naked flesh that ignites our prurience.

7. And finally, it's just your turn. Really, it is, and you know it. Imagine how many thousands of hetero love stories gay people sit through in their lives. So you kind of owe us. Now get out there and watch those cowboys make out.

Dave White is the film critic for Movies.com and has a not-all-that-gay blog at www.livejournal.com/users/djmrswhite.
© 2005 MSNBC Interactive


I am most amused... I saw this movie last weekend, and while it is almost completely wrong, wrong, wrong... Matt MacFayden was really hot as Darcy, and Keira wasn't as bad as I thought she'd be. This is what happens when I go in with expectations that couldn't be lower, I am usually pleasantly surprised. I thought Matt put in some subtle little looks on Darcy's part when Elizabeth's back was turned that were very telling and a good addition to the smouldering that Colin gave us. It was an interesting interpretation of Darcy at least. And of course, the script comes near to butchering the story... And I don't know what the costumers were thinking. The dress that Bingley's sister is wearing at their ball has straps just slightly wider than spaghetti straps - that can't be right. The women don't even have corsets on for half the movie, and at least half of the time they do, they are the wrong corsets... And there's a line where one of the girls is complaining that the corset being tightened is painful... again... It wasn't Keira this time, but for pity's sake! And there are some distinctly Bronte-esque scenes. And the last scene, while it had me grinning like a mad fool, was total invention of the script writers... But miracle of miracles, Zinzi saw it with us and she *loved* it! Anyone who knows the kinds of movies she usually has that reaction to knows just how amazing that is! 'Cause usually she'd have to be tied down and her eyes would have to be pried open to get her to watch a traditionally romantic movie, let alone something based on one of Jane's novels, but she really liked this, and was even asking me questions about what was going on during certain scenes cause she really wanted to know... Which is something that the filmmakers should have done better! There are parts where I know if I didn't know the story so well, I wouldn't have a clue what was going on, and the dialog is several scenes was unintelligible. On to the amusing article!

The importance of being Darcy
Matthew MacFayden has a tough job filling Colin Firth's smoldering shoes
By Mary Beth Ellis
MSNBC contributor
Updated: 10:24 a.m. ET Nov. 11, 2005

I was speaking to an older colleague about the latest essay I was writing; I informed her it concerned a new movie based on "Pride and Prejudice," which she last read at approximately the same time the Earth was first cooling.

And first words out of her mouth were: "Oh! Mr. Darcy!"

Yes, Mr. Darcy. Thanks loads, Jane Austen, for ruining generations of perfectly good women with your ballgowns and your rolling barouches and your Mr. Darcy. Many are the ladies who wait in vain for their own personal, portable Darcy, complete with estate in Derbyshire.

The number has increased since 1995, when Colin Firth took on the role for a BBC miniseries. Colin was Action Figure Darcy. He fences! He swims! He bathes! Naked! He gives and fixes and scowls and rides his horse and just in general Firths all over the place, and we are much the better for it.

He also stares, a lot. There is a great deal of staring on the part of Darcy, mostly at Elizabeth Bennet, who occasionally stares back, which in the Regency era I suppose was the equivalent of text messaging.

A difficult act to follow
Primarily, what sets Colin apart from all other Darcys is his hair. It truly is wonderful hair. The man rides thither and yon - sometimes yon twice in the same scene - and not once does he suffer hathead.

You kind of get the feeling that Darcy, in college, was not a frat boy. He wasn't showing up at your doorstep with Game Cube and a 12-pack of Natural Light and calling it a romantic evening. Darcy would at least change out of the ball cap he had been wearing for the past eight consecutive days first. He's a difficult act to follow.

But now the Lord has now bestowed upon us a new incarnation of Darcy, now played by Matthew MacFayden, which' good luck, Matt. Sometimes actors simply define roles; I cannot imagine Professor Higgins without Rex Harrison, Harold Hill without Robert Preston, or, of course, Larry Gigli without Ben Affleck. So has Colin's stare enamored any number of Austen fans.

It's all in the smolder, you see. For in today's culture, there is little time to smolder; the next episode of "The Apprentice" is roaring down the pike, or the plane is circling the airport yet again, or our cell phone is insistently informing us, via a tinny version of "La Bamba," that our best friend is currently standing 10 feet away - where are we? I don't think modern society loves Elizabeth and Darcy as much as we covet their spare time. House parties would last up to six weeks at a time in the 1880s. Who, outside of Paris Hilton, has that much alcohol on hand?

Among his other fine attributes, Colin Firth's Darcy possesses the ability to selectively bilocate. It really is quite extraordinary; one moment he's brooding on horseback, the next his face is floating to the forefront of Elizabeth's mirror or carriage window, issuing dark, repetitive, and sonorous pronouncements about how very icky he finds her family. "You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you - but your mother is horrid and will have to stay in the basement. Dad needs to go too, and I seriously hate your sisters. And how attached are you, really, to the family dog?"

Darcy also maintains quite the respectable crib, and, it's safe to imagine, the most pimped-out carriages available. The driveway alone could serve as a landing strip for the space shuttle. And the pond - all proper estates require a pond. All I have is a sad puddle of warm beer beneath the refrigerator.

And you just know that Darcy gets into all the best clubs, too. He really is the ultimate date. There would be no standing at the hostess station, light-up seating alert device limply in hand for Darcy. No, he walks into Friday's, and he sits right down!

Shall we dance?
Impressive, too, is this whole business of dancing. I welcome any new adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice," Firthed or un-Firthed, so long as the dancing is done properly. People in Regency England didn't dance quite the way we do. There was, for example, precious little grinding. Smoke machines were rarely used. I doubt lasers made much of an appearance. On the other hand - fortunate generation! - everyone was spared the Electric Slide.

Physical contact between unmarried men and women was pretty much limited to a lot of bowing and fan fluttering. In dancing there was a great deal of twirling, which - and I say this as a square dancer from way back - is a lot harder than it sounds. I've thrown off the rotation of the planet with a poorly directed alamand left. But Colin manages this admirably, and with a remarkably small amount of dorkiness. He even skips in a manly manner.

Darcy, however, may not be well suited for the long haul. Once all the smoldering is done - what is there to burn after, really? A really excellent pot roast on Michaelmas, or whatever in the world people yearned for once plights were trothed? I mean, Pemberly is quite the hizzy, but how many chandeliers does one person need?

And is he really the best judge of character? Look at his friends: He hangs out with Wickham, who is the leading candidate as a spokesman for Rohypnol, and the overly smiley Bingley, who never met a pile of dog poop he didn't like. "Colin-as-Darcy," I would say - for I'm sure Colin Firth prefers to be addressed as nothing but - "Colin-as-Darcy, you may stay for as long as you like, but your friends are only allowed inside when I'm off at Pilates class."

However, given the bilocation and the preference for pond-swimming, I suppose I could settle in for a nice life of horses and twirling. An 80-year-old Colin Firth is still far preferable to a 27-year-old Kevin Federline.

Freelance writer Mary Beth Ellis runs http://www.blondechampagne.com/, from whence she leads a merry chase, or plights her troth, or whatever.

© 2005 MSNBC Interactive


After working really hard on my Cinxia sweater (pattern can be found here: http://knitty.com/ISSUEfall05/PATTcinxia.html ) for weeks and weeks I found today that it is undoubtedly going to look like crap. I don't know if I made a size too big or what, although I'm making the size according to my exact bust size. And my yarn is the *exact* same gauge as the one the pattern writer used... so I don't get it. I'm almost done with the collar, so I could try it on easily while it was still on the needles... It's not that the fabric is too bulky. It's that there's too much of it in the wrong places. The back of the sweater looks like it's a bed jacket, very loose, almost like a gathered skirt, with no shape at all (I know what you might say, that it was decreased wrong, but I was very careful and counted stitches the whole way at every step and sometimes in between. That is definitely not the issue). The front might look okay after it's blocked, but I can tell there is no hope for the back of it. Which sucks 'cause I was really hoping that it would look like the one pictured at knitty... I might try to make the next size down to see if that was the problem at some point in the future, but for now I have a lot of ripping to do and I'll just move on to something else.

12/13/2005 - Done with exams, thank goodness! I also got my second archaeology paper back from Dr. White. She gave me an 83. I do not think it deserved an 83. Her comments on it indicated that she only seemed to have a problem with one sentence, claiming that it was, in fact, not a sentence. Actually, it is a sentence. I don't write incomplete sentences in academic writing... I even have a hard time managing it in e-mails. Plus, Word would have picked up an incomplete sentence and I would have fixed it. So it is not an incomplete sentence. She also expressed that she would have liked to see me explain "cultural history method" more fully. Personally, I think we're beyond that, but whatever. Other than that, her comments said that it was "very good, but difficult to understand." This is one of the lowest grades I've *ever* gotten on a paper, let alone a paper in college. I admit it was not my best paper, but it did not deserve an 83. An 87 maybe, if one is being particularly nitpicky, but not an 83. I take it as further evidence that Dr. White doesn't like me. Every time I ask her a question, her face takes on an expression like she just tasted or smelled something nasty.

If that weren't enough, when I turned in my exam, there were two stacks of papers facedown in front of her on her desk of approximately the same height. I couldn't tell which one were the exams, so I asked, "Which are the exams?" with a smile. She rolled her eyes, snatched my test out of my hand and with a small disgusted noise, put it on the correct pile. I blinked and left the room. I may have slammed the door (I was the second to last to finish and the other person was handing her the test when I did that, so I didn't bother anyone but her). Her behavior was entirely uncalled for. I'm at a loss as to what I did that so offended her this semester. It's very true that she told me around midterms that she wanted me to participate more in class discussions and that I didn't really do that because I hadn't a thing to say, but honestly? Where's the professionalism on her part? So if I get a B in her class, I put it entirely on her because in any other professor's standards, I've given A work or near enough to it all semester.

I'm lucky that this is only the second prof that has been this unprofessional toward me. The first one was Dr. David Underwood, professor of Humanities. He was untenured and let go a semester after I had his class, I think it was because our entire class (and probably his other classes too) wrote very long complaints about him during the instructor evaluation. We were all very vocal about it, since he was not in the room while we were writing them and they went straight to the Dean's office for review, reminding each other of shitty things he had done, not missing a thing. But he was unprofessional with the entire class (although I do think I got a B in there specifically because he didn't like me). He was one of those sleazy kinds of guys who would flirt with the blonde sorority girls. I e-mailed him asking if he could let me know what grade he had given me on our class journal project and he never e-mailed me back. All other grades indicated that I should have had a solid A and the journal grade was supposed to be based on completion, not content, and it was complete, so I don't know what could have happened other than he gave me a B because he didn't like me or I was very blatant about my disgust for him. And since the only grade that prof's are prohibited by the school to give by e-mail are final exam grades, he had no legitimate reason not to e-mail me. To put it simply, he sucked.

I am *so* over all the bs at USF! Thank G-d this semester is over! ::sighs:: Now, on to preparing for the holidays!


OMG! Joe Redner has just publicly announced to the Tampa community that he's gay and that that's why he's suing the county in Federal court for discrimination. He said that no one can prove that he is and no one can prove that he isn't, but that the reason that his previous suit over the County Commission prohibiting the recognition and funding of Gay Pride events was thrown out of court was that because the prohibition did not directly impact him... which is bs if you ask me... but since he's publicly announced this, the suit can't be thrown out for that reason again... So it's entirely possible and (knowing him) probable that he's just saying this so he can sue, although he says that he isn't lying about it because that would perjury. One might point out that he owns at least three all female strip clubs in Hillsborough County along with others in NYC and Las Vegas... Not to mention, this guy is like a hometown version of Hefner. Despite that, I still love this guy just cause he's such a thorn in a lot of conservative politicians' sides down here, and would have voted for him to get a City Council seat the last several times he's tried for it if I could have (unfortunately, I'm not a resident of the city). For more on that, see my post from earlier this year on this case.

In reaction, Rhonda Storms, the leading bigot on the Commission, said that the reason they can and should prohibit public money and authorities from supporting Pride events is because "[gays] are not a legally protected minority." Well, Rhonda, the Jews weren't protected by law in Germany either, but that sure as hell didn't make the Holocaust okay. (I know Jon Stewert has said that we really need to stop jumping to the Hitler/Holocaust analogy because it demeans the evilness of Hitler and the seriousness of the Holocaust, but it's the first analogy that pops into my head and one that is readily recognized by the most people. Sorry, Jon.)

In other news, there is a group of people trying to get Gay/Straight Alliances (a GSA) banned from high schools in Hillsborough County. They have petitioned the School Board to take care of that. The School Board however has put together a commission to study non-academic clubs at all high schools cause it doesn't want to get sued. Pretty much, it's looking like if they ban the GSAs, they will be banning the Chess Club, Star Trek Club, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and all the rest too. I don't think that they will. I hope that they won't. If the Blake High School GSA is still as large and active as it was the year I left, they'll probably have representatives, at least, show up at the January School Board meeting, where the Board will be reviewing the commission's findings. I know Equality Florida and the local GLSEN people will be there.

The parents that are protesting it probably don't even know what a GSA is... They say that they don't want their minor children participating in a GSA and think no minor children should be in a club that focuses on sex. Well, I'll have them know that sex has nothing to do with it. It's about charity events, peer counseling, and awareness programs within the school to educate the student body that there really is no difference between gay and straight high school students and people in general, and most importantly, there is no reason to harass or make fun of students who are different. We had to fight for it at Blake, despite the school being affectionately known by some as "Bi High" and that students from other high schools at sporting events and the like would often ask students from Blake, "So, you go to Blake? Does that mean you're gay?" The principal did everything he could to block the GSA from forming, up to and including intimidating the faculty against sponsoring the club, and that I know is a fact because a faculty member admitted that to me. Finally, in my senior year, the efforts of Bryan (aka "Big Gay Bryan," the president) and Jorel (the VP and a total hottie) paid off and we found a sponsor that wasn't intimidated by our principal and we had at least 45 people at our inaugural meeting. Even in the 2000/2001 yearbook it said, "The GSA is not as new as some people would like to think." I don't remember ever talking about sex in that club. We didn't even take a census of which students were gay, which were bi, which were straight, and which were questioning, but we were supportive if it came up in the course of our usual activities. As far as I remember, the big thing that year was getting teachers to participate in our "Safe Place" campaign, which meant that they would put stickers in their front classroom windows next to the door to show students being bullied or harassed in the halls could feel safe about taking refuge in their classrooms. Now, that might sound like an obvious thing, something all teachers would want to be a part of, but it's not. We worked hard and only got a few out of dozens of teachers to post the stickers. We also had a number of members participate in the Tampa AIDS Walk that year. The year after I left, when I was a Freshman in college, the GSA at Blake grew to such an extent that they had to hold meetings in the cafeteria because there were no classrooms large enough to fit everyone who wanted to be a part of it.

12/14/2005 - Heard that Colin Farrell is in rehab for exhaustion and dependency on prescription drugs. Poor darling. He needs to sleep more. He's said before that he has had chronic insomnia since he was a child, it was only a matter of time before it caught up to him. He also works way *too* much and knows it. His publicist has released info on how the addiction came about. He injured his back several months ago and was prescribed pain killers for it and has become dependent. At least he was responsible enough to catch himself fairly early and didn't let it go on for years. In somewhat related news, 30 Seconds to Mars has had to cancel some of their show dates because Jared has injured his back. Poor darling... Probably climbed one too many towers or something...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The USDA & livestock registration

Got this in an e-mail today and found it very disturbing... but oddly not surprising given the state of government at the moment. Sign the petition if you're as outraged as I am... Is livestock a threat to national security now or something? If someone understands this or has more info on it, please leave me a comment or two.


"Small farmers and backyard flock/herd keepers are facing a serious threat to their way of life. The government is proposing a Mandatory Property and Animal Surveillance Program that will require the registration of property and individual animals, even if you have only one chicken, pig, cow, etc. This must be stopped, or all small farmers will be driven out of business.

Help Stop the USDA from Taking Away Our Livestock and Our Pets

Poultry keepers and small farmers are facing a serious threat from a proposed government intrusion in to their pastimes and way of life. For quite a while now, the USDA has been working with the very largest scale animal industry organizations ( for example, The National Pork Producers, Monsanto Company, and Cargill Meat) to develop a mandatory "National Animal Identification System" (NAIS). Most small scale livestock producers, people who raise animals for their own food, and people who keep horses and livestock as companion animals do not know about this. The NAIS will drive small producers out of the market, will force people to stop raising animals for their own food, and will invade our privacy to an extreme degree. It will violate the religious freedoms of Americans whose beliefs make it impossible for them to comply, and will destroy the last vestiges of animal welfare from the production of animals for food.
On April 25, 2005,the USDA released "Draft Program Standards" and a "Draft Strategic Plan" concerning the NAIS. If you think the description below to bizarre to be true, please go to usda.gov/nais and read the Standards and Plan and check the citations for yourself.
By January 1, 2008, the NAIS will be mandatory.(Plan,pp. 2,10,17) Every person who owns even one horse, cow ,pig, chicken, sheep, pigeon, or virtually any livestock animal, will be forced to register their home, including the owners name, address and phone number, and keyed to Global Positioning System coordinates for satellite monitoring in a giant federal database under a 7-digit "premises id number." St., pp. 3-4, 10-12; Plan,p.5) Every animal will be assigned a 15 digit I.D. number, also to be kept in a federal database. The id will likely be a tag or microchip containing a Radio Frequency Device, designed to be read from a distance. (Plan, p.10; St.,pp.6,12,20,27-28.) The plan may include collecting the DNA of every animal and /or a retinal scan. The owner will be required to report the birthdate of every animal, the application of every animal's id tag, every time an animal enters or leaves the property, every time an animal loses a tag, every time a tag is replaced, the slaughter or death of an animal, if any animal is missing. These events must be reported within 24 hours.

Third parties, like veterinarians, will be required to report "sightings" of animals. For example, if you have a vet on your property to treat a sick animal, and the vet sees any animal without the mandatory 15-digit computer readable id, the vet will be required to report you. If you do not comply, the USDA will exorcise "enforcement" against you. The USDA hasn't specified the nature of "enforcement" as of yet, but it will probably include fines and/or seizing your animals. There are no exceptions - under this plan you will be forced to register an report even if you raise animals only for your own food or keep horses for draft or transportation.

What you can do: Small scale keepers of poultry and other livestock can take action to create an effective movement in opposition to the USDA plan. First, small scale livestock owners should not participate in any "voluntary" state or federal program to register farms or animals. The USDA is making farmers willingness to participate in a "voluntary" program as a justification for making the program mandatory. ( See Plan, "Executive Summary" and pp.7-8) Small farmers and livestock owners can also help to inform and organize others. The USDA presently does not plan to finalize it's rules for mandatory id until the summer of 2006. There is still time to make your voice heard. Please, sign this petition and let the USDA know we will not stand for having our right, freedoms, and personal privacy taken away. Thank you."

Body of St. Mark may actually be Alexander the Great

So I recently stumbled upon this website: http://www.alexanderstomb.com/ . To summarize the site for those who don't want to go stumble around there, this historian and achaeologist, Andrew Chugg, has reason to believe that historians and archaeologists have missed a few things when looking for the tomb of Alexander and that the local Alexandrian story that it is under the Mosque of Daniel in Alexandria (which can't be confirmed since they won't allow excavation under the holy site) is actually false and that it was made up after the stone sarcophagus of Alexander was moved by the British to London in 1802. His mummified remains were not in the sarcophagus, and it had been found about 5 years earlier by Napoleon empty, and appeared to have been empty for quite some time. It being Alexander the Great here, and Napoleon being who he was, I don't think he would have lied about that.

So having gone over the surviving ancient sources on Alexander's tomb, the location of his body and the history of Alexandria, Chugg has come to the conclusion that it may have become misidentified by the time Muslim forces took over Alexandria from the Christians and that they may have by that time started venerating the remains as the remains of St. Mark, the founder of Christianity in Alexandria, much as Alexander's remains had been venerated by the pagans as the founder of Alexandria itself. In the earliest records of the death of St. Mark, he was said to have been martyred and his remains burned. Later records say that a miracle occurred and that his remains were spared from the flames and protected by his Christian followers. In 828 CE, the remains officially identified (though not scientifically identified) as those of St. Mark were smuggled out of Alexandria by Venetian tradesmen when the Arabs took the city and taken to Venice where they were housed and continue to be housed in the Basilica of St. Mark (or San Marco). I shudder to think of Alexander's remains in a city so wet and prone to flooding, not that Alexandria, Egypt was much better, but supposedly they have been moved, as flooding has grown worse in recent years, to a part of the church safe from flooding.

Now, as of July 2005, the Vatican is still refusing Mr. Chugg's requests for an investigation of St. Mark's remains to determine their date of origin, cause of death, and, in fact, if they are not the remains of St. Mark, but rather the remains of Alexander the Great... At which time, I hope they are removed to a safer, drier, more stable location. One can well imagine all the reasons why the Vatican would not want that to be proven. Mr. Chugg has information on his site about how you can help his cause to get permission from the Vatican under "St. Mark Testing."