Archive for June, 2015

uninhabitable

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we’ve been burned out
we

the city you knew
a bruise in history
broken capillaries
speaking to discreet and private calamities
ripe for forgetting

it’s horrifying, creation

atoms in the asphalt buzz
haunting
and we shutter up the windows
board the doors
keep the disharmonies out
pray quietly
for another hour

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The Thing They Don’t Get…

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A lot has been written already about Bruce Jenner’s gender transition and his emergence as Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair, but I have to say that it never ceases to amaze me how quickly society and its standards have changed over the last few years when it comes to LGBT rights and acceptance.

For some that change is disturbing. For others, a revelation.

Take, for example, two online articles I happened to see about Jenner, both written from a “Christian” point of view.

This blogger echoes a common point of view, saying about Jenner (and strangely, all of us) that, “We seem to want to erase the idea of gender and reinforce it all at once. We don’t want to have to conform to gender stereotypes. We don’t want to be put into categories and yet we want to be able to transfer ourselves by self-declaration from one category to another.”

The author goes on to say that her “Christian world view” forces her to decry Jenner’s transition. It is her rational conclusion that we are what God made us and we don’t get to “self-declare” something else.

Strangely, another author I came across by chance uses her “Christian” point of view to come to the exact opposite conclusion, asking, “Can you IMAGINE? Spending your whole life being told that who you are and what you feel is wrong on every level? What that would do to your mind, your soul, your spirit?”

I think it’s time, as a society, that we admit that our reactions and beliefs about issues like this have nothing to do with Christianity or any rational standards of right and wrong.

The Christian Bible says nothing about transgender issues and precious little about homosexuality. True, there are a few not-so-nice lines about it in Paul’s letters and some stonable offense bits in the Old Testament. But Christians willfully ignore or reinterpret plenty of stuff that’s a lot more prescriptive than those few lines.

The opposition to LBGT rights is, to my mind, actually about something else.

Take a critique of gay marriage I heard a while back on NPR (Sorry, no link available). The man being interviewed related his views, without rancor or animosity, that for him, marriage should be defined by tradition and biology.

The tradition, he reasoned, was for a man and a woman to be paired in matrimony.

The relevant biology was the pairing of male and female for reproduction.

It was a simple, rational explanation for a defense of “traditional” marriage.

But the tradition of marriage has been wildly diverse throughout human history, even in the Christian era. The Bible itself–again in that inconvenient Old Testament part–allowed for polygamy, a tradition that survived for much longer than paired marriage. What’s more, there are many other “traditions” of marriage that we have radically altered in today’s world, not the least of which allowing women to be partners in marriage and do things like, oh, actually consent to be married.

Marriages were, traditionally, arranged by families or set up as binding economic contracts. All these are traditions that have defined marriage in recent history.

The rational conclusion from any study of history is simply that traditions change.

That may seem paradoxical, but it’s the reality that, rationally, we have to accept. Trying to hold cultures steady, to protect them inveterately is to try to hold back flood waters with our bare hands.

And what of biology?

Surely here, the opponents of gay marriage and other LGBT rights have a rational argument to make. After all, gender and sexuality exist as hard biological facts. We can’t change that.

Well, this is what opponents to LGBT rights just don’t get. People like Caitlyn Jenner aren’t trying to thwart their biological natures–they’re trying to reconcile them.

Biologically, we now know–based on scientific evidence that any rational point of view must consider–that human and mammalian sexuality just isn’t as simple as male and female. The wiring and plumbing that define gender and dictate our sexual natures just aren’t as locked down as people once thought–or as some people would like them to be.

There’s a spectrum out there with all sorts of possibilities.

This is not unnatural. It is not rebellion against God. It’s just who these people are.

What it’s not, I suppose, is normal.

And that’s important. We know from psychology that “normal” is an important comfort blanket for human beings. Any time we are exposed to something that is outside our own “normal,” it is a stressor.

The weird rings the same kinds of bells in our brains as danger. So it’s no wonder that people react negatively to LGBT issues emerging so publicly into our social discourse.

It’s weird for a lot of people. I’ll admit that homosexuality was weird for me until I had gay friends. My own children will never experience that because they are growing up in a world where almost nobody feels the need to stay in the closet anymore.

Now, I’ve only ever known one transgender person, and that was a young person I never got to know too well. I hope he or she is doing well now and I’d bet that Caitlyn Jenner’s public transition is an important moment in his or her life. (Probably “her” by now, but I can’t be sure.)

So I can relate to people who think that Bruce Jenner’s transition is off-putting. Bizarre, even.

But it’s time that those people get it.

I think they need to do some rational thinking. They need to imagine how hard it must be to live one’s life with such a tension between the way one looks to the world and the way one looks to oneself.

All of us who are “normal” need to strive for some empathy toward those who aren’t, who have been marginalized in our society for so long because of who they are.

That’s what everyone needs to get about LGBT rights.

The only choice they get is to hide who they are and suffer for it or to come out and be true to their natures.

Now, I’m not a Christian, but I’ve studied Christianity and read a great deal about it. It seems to me that the main lesson of Christianity is about compassion. It seems to me that once we understand that biology is diverse, that people come in all sorts of gender/sexual arrangements, then the “Christian” thing to do would be to accept them and embrace them all.

I’m quite certain that that’s the rational thing to do.

Sci-Fi Connoisseur: There is Something New in Jurassic World

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Most cynics probably think that Jurassic World has nothing new to offer, despite the trailer’s promise of a bigger, scarier dino.

And, well, for the most part, they’d be right.

The essential formula for this film has not changed from the original: add equal parts hungry dinosaurs and human hubris in a theme park and viola!

It’s actually a bit of a return to form. The two other Jurassic Park sequels were huge let downs. The Lost World ignored the most menacing element of Crichton’s follow-up novel in favor of Spielberg’s ego-trip addition of a Godzilla-esque T-Rex rampage through San Diego (look it up, ole Stevie boy really just stuck it into the movie because he knew he wasn’t going to direct another dino film and really, really wanted to do it before he went bye-bye). The third film may have been less of a mess, but it paid for that by having nothing original to offer beyond a dinosaur with a sail on its back–leaving it literally a simple matter of dropping victims in dinosaurs’ faces to be eaten.

Simply by returning to the idea of a park, Jurassic World gives its story more legs…and arms and other parts to be eaten. There are 20,000 people on the island for the mayhem this time, up considerably from the handful Spielberg left in place to narrow the focus in the first film.

But this setting also lets the filmmakers return to the same old themes of the first film. Greed. Man’s arrogance. Putting human life before other concerns. We’ve been here before. The set pieces, though, are more elaborate as we have more dinosaurs–one of which is a Frankenstein’s monster of helpful genes–and more victims over more terrain.

If Jurassic World was the first film, then–blasphemy coming–it might be considered a better movie. Its protagonist is more affable. Its kids-in-peril subplot is not as labored (and the kids not as annoying).

But it’s not the first film. Something it reminds the audience of through constant nostalgia notes. We see the original logo peeking through, even though it’s been banned as a reminder of past unpleasantness. We visit original locations from the first film and even see those goofy night vision goggles.

Then there are the raptors. They’re a whole subplot unto themselves and the entire structure of it relies on us already knowing that they are deadly clever.

What it doesn’t do that the original did is establish the wonder of seeing dinosaurs realized in the flesh (or as near to it as movie making magic can accomplish). But that’s part of the story, too. Audiences, we are told, are too jaded and need something bigger and louder to draw them in.

It’s a clever jab at us, the movie-goers. For a while it seemed like corporate sponsors like Verizon and Samsung might also be the objects of satire, but unfortunately marketing oversaturation is only gently ribbed, not skewered.

What then, is actually new in Jurassic World?

Just this: You’ll finally be made to feel something for the dinosaurs instead of at them.

Thanks to Chris Pratt’s character Owen Grady being a raptor-wrangler, we actually get to see the raptors as characters for a moment or two, and they end up getting the kind of sympathy that dogs do in movies.

It’s not much. Not enough, probably, to justify this film’s existence. By some metrics it may even be a superior story, but it seems that no matter what goes into a Jurassic Park sequel, nothing can escape the shadow of the first film.

In the end, Jurassic World is yet another monument to the idea that some (maybe most) sequels just shouldn’t be made in the first place.

another season

By way of shameless self-promotion, I offer this.

shoddy metaphor (unremarkable, given the theme)

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what’s in there
that hasn’t been ransacked
metaphysics tied up
in half-baked abstracts
stitched together into
relativistic ethical shamanism
it’s just a bucket sloshing over
and all the good apples have been picked out already

woe unto he who searches through
with probing fingers
to the rusty bottom