A Most Austere Prayer

Let us pray:

O Father, who art in Heaven,
Rescue us from worldly temptations
Such as fresh bread
Purchased from a good local bakery
Sliced and toasted golden brown on the outside
And the ruination of a soft pillowy crumb within,
Slathered with softened butter and preserves,
Or topped with an egg fried Spanish-style
In a quarter inch of olive oil
Until the edges are brown and crispy.
O Lord, rescue us from such temptations,
That we may focus on carrying out Your will.

O Father, protect us from the deviancy of pasta,
Whether noodles or extruded into shapes,
Whether coated in a rich cream sauce
Or a tomato sauce infused with herbs
Or just some garlic sauteed in olive oil
Or even boxed fluorescent orange mac and cheese.
O Lord, cast pasta away from our mouths
That You may speak the gospels through us.

And potatoes, O Holy Father, potatoes!
Those high-glycemic apples of the underworld.
As the Grace of Your only Son’s blood sacrifice
Rich in tannins, with signifiers of blackberries and red currents,
Underscored with notes of dried red florals and salted dark chocolate,
Hath cleansed mankind of our sins,
Thus we ask for Your Grace and Strength
In resisting finely mashed potatoes whipped in buttermilk
Or oven-baked potatoes broiled until crispy on top
Or potatoes chopped and fried with onions and herbs
Or even potatoes zapped in the microwave
Served with sour cream and pepper
But most of all from chips,
Nasty chips !
Nasty perditious chips !
The Prince of Lies whispers in our ear
That one chip will be enough,
That one taste will be enough,
But as with all sins, O Lord,
One sin follows another
Until the entire bag is empty.
Close our ears to these lies, O Father!
Make these susurrations as discordant as chainsaws
As children screaming in restaurants
As neighbors renovating the apartment upstairs
So that we may not be tempted
By salt and vinegar chips
By dill pickle chips
By hickory smoke chips
By sour cream and onion chips
By those ketchup chips they sell in Canada
By cracked pepper chips
By any potato chip of any flavor anywhere.
Already potatoes led our Irish brethren to famine
Please Lord, do not allow them to claim another soul.

O Father, spare us from tortilla chips also,
Whether salted and plain
Or loaded up with sour cream
And refried beans
And salsa
And salsa verde
And guacamole
And grated cheese melted under a broiler
And maybe olives on top.
As Your Son resisted his three temptations in the desert
May we resist the temptations of loaded nachos
And thus carry out Your Will.

We look to You, O Lord
And place our hearts and souls in Your Care.
Please lend us Your strength
That we may be well prepared
For St Peter’s measuring tape
And St Peter’s bathroom scale.
Shield us from temptation
So we may join You
In our eternal reward:
Plates of steamed green vegetables,
Half-scoops of cottage cheese,
And on occasion
Bits of stale dry Melba toast.

Grindr PSA

“Walk in the swamp.” “Replace the houseplants.” “Take a driving test.” “Go to the carwash.” “Rehome feral kittens.” “Take up tea-totalling.” “Ride in a Lamborghini.” “Install a Magic Keyboard.” Judging by the number of charming euphemisms for anonymous sexual encounters in my blogroll recently, it seems that the lot of you are done with pandemic isolation and revving up your libidos again. And since we are in the roaring 2020s, that means booting up your smartphones and hitting the apps.

Well, Old Stick-in-the-Mud Lurker is here to offer a note of caution about Grindr in particular. In my opinion this app has not had a good track record about caring about your privacy. Let’s ignore the fact that the company was owned by the Chinese for a few years before being sold to a mysterious group of “US” investors including a former executive of Baidu. That’s just geopolitics, and besides China has a commendable record of treating its minority populations with kindness and respect. Instead, let’s examine a few instances of how the company treated your data.

There was, of course, the infamous disclosures of HIV status to analytics companies (as documented by the security researchers). That feels unpleasant, but since we have drug cocktails now there is no more HIV stigma, so I guess this was no big deal. Also it is not surprising at all — pretty much every app on your phone makes use of a bunch of other surveillance companies and libraries, and it is exceedingly common to allow those apps to collect more data than you intend.

How about the incident with Norway, which got mad at Grindr for sharing potentially-identifying data with advertisers. Again, I guess this is no big deal, and probably Norway was just being a bully.

The incident that worries me the most happened last October, when noted computer security researcher Troy Hunt (oh behave! That’s his real name. This is not a “Lost Boys” post.) discovered that you could exploit the “forgot your password?” functionality of Grindr to log into someone else’s account.

Oh wait. Troy Hunt didn’t discover this bug. Another less famous security researcher named Wassime Bouimadaghene discovered the exploit, tried to tell Grindr about it, and was summarily ignored. It wasn’t until Hunt boosted the signal that Grindr bothered to respond.

Look. I’m not computer literate but even I know that bugs happen in computer programs. This was kind of a stupid bug to leave uncaught in your code (especially for a security-related function like password resets) but it does not surprise me that such a bad bug got through.

Having said that, this bug is really serious. You did not need a virus or a phishing email to exploit this. You just needed someone’s email address (is your email address floating around the Internet somewhere?). The unforgivable sin here is that Bouimadaghene reported a serious problem and Grindr ignored it. It does not matter than Bougimadaghene was not famous. It would not matter if it was reported by a completely anonymous source. When somebody tells you about a bug like this, you investigate and you act. Otherwise people get hurt. (I am tempted to make a Lindsey Graham joke here, but that would undermine the point. It might be nice schadenfreude if Miss Lindsey’s Lady G’s account got hacked, but being happy for security bugs because they hurt people we dislike is a bad security attitude that gets us into lots of trouble.)

Once Troy Hunted the company on Twitter, Grindr acted quickly to fix this particular bug. That’s great, but the fact that they needed to be publicly shamed before acting is reprehensible. That does not matter for me because nobody on Grindr would ever want to date chat with me, but my blogroll is full of beautiful charismatic people and I want you all to be safe.

So should you switch to another hookup app? This is not an easy question. On the surface it might seem like Bumble or Scruff or ChristianMingle might be a better choice, but on the other hand they all have bugs too. Some people might argue that Grindr is safer because (as the market leader) it is under so much scrutiny. Personally (and perhaps irrationally) the underlying values a company demonstrates matters a lot in my technology decisions. WordPress and Blogger are both big targets and have lots of security issues, but my values align more closely with WordPress, so I chose that platform for my regrettable blog. It might have been the wrong choice or it might have been the right one, but as a heuristic it has not been awful. In that sense, Grindr is right off the table for me.

Mind! Learning anything about the underlying values of a capitalist enterprise is no easy task, especially if you want to dig deeper than the marketing fluff. So most of us just use whatever everybody else is using and rest assured we will all go down on the ship together. Maybe that is not an awful strategy, but sometimes these ships do sink.

Windfall of Misery

From time to time (such as while preparing the last entry) I find myself looking through old posts, and I run across comments from somebody no longer active in the blogosphere. This time it was some comments from Jean-Paul at myhusband&i, who suddenly shut his blog down a year ago. At one point, JP was one of my most loyal readers and commenters. I was certainly not as loyal to him, but just like everybody else I loved his blog and his witty storytelling and the Spanish Onion and Cruella and most of all the love JP had for Guido, his tall gorgeous hairy Spanish talented chef husband. JP was unafraid to declare his love for his husband out loud, and that devotion infused every entry. Maybe somebody disliked JP or his blog, but you would not know it from his large and devoted readership.

JP’s blog is gone, but he is not forgotten, and from time to time I see him comment on somebody else’s blog. Once I made the mistake of replying to one of his comments, which probably just irritated him and/or scared him away. Nonetheless I miss JP and I miss his blog, and when I see his handle these days I feel a stab of emotion. This often makes my inner four-year-old and upset, which result in internal conversations that go something like this:

“I wanna read JP’s blog!!”

“Sweetie, JP took his blog down from the Internet. But there are lots of other blogs to read. Why don’t you read Willym’s blog? Sometimes he posts those funny sock puppet videos. You like sock puppets, don’t you?”

“NO! I don’t wanna read Willym’s blog!! I wanna read JP’s blog!!”

“You don’t want to read Willym’s blog? Oh, that will make Willym so sad. You don’t want Willym to be sad, do you?”

“… n… nnno…”

“Then let’s read Willym’s blog so he won’t be sad. Oh look! He posted about Linda Ronstadt! Yay!”

“… ok… but…” (lower lip trembles)

“Come on, little guy. Let’s see. Oh look! Gilbert and Sullivan! Parkinson’s disease! Let’s read so Willym won’t be sad!”

With a certain amount of distraction and emotional manipulation, I can usually move past the emotions and back into the numbed resignation that is the best we can hope for in life. But then last week I read the news and my inner four-year-old had a meltdown. I’m talking a full-blown, at the grocery store, other shoppers looking away awkwardly, on the floor, shrieking screaming wailing meltdown, the kind often referred to as “the most effective contraception in the world”:

“No! It’s not fair! NOT FAIR!! NOT FAIR!!!”

“Sweetie, I know you’re upset, but it’s time to get off the floor now.”

(Arms and legs flailing, knocking boxes of pasta off the shelves) “Noo!! NOOOOOO!!! Guido DIED and it’s not fair!!”

“Come on, kiddo. Let’s ge–”

“NO! NO NO NO!! Guido DIED and now he’s NOT HERE!! It’s NOT FAIR!!!!”

What am I supposed to say? My inner four-year-old is correct. It isn’t fair. As much as I want to join my inner four-year-old on the floor we have to get the damned groceries and pretend like everything goes on just as it did before. Life isn’t fair in any way, but how do you tell that to an inner four-year-old? What can you say that makes anything better? No wonder we make up comforting stories about people looking down upon us from happy afterlives, their pain and suffering over, waiting for us to join them (provided we are subservient enough and stay on God’s good side by accepting the blood sacrifice of his only Son). Without those stories what do you have?

There’s an excerpt from Dan Savage’s book The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family that comes to mind at times like this:

When I can’t sleep — something that happens at least three nights a week — I sometimes just sit and watch Terry sleeping. He takes a breath, there’s a pause, he exhales, there’s another pause. What, I wonder, would I do if this man stopped breathing? Can the day-to-day misery of being alone be worth the risk of being absolutely shattered if Terry should die before me? If Terry were to die today, if a knock came at the door tonight, if some stranger arrived to tell me that I would never be able to speak to Terry again, or hold him, or look into his eyes, or smell him, or listen to him breathe — just writing these words makes my stomach hurt.

Being single visits a kind of constant, low-intensity misery on a person — at least on a person who doesn’t want to be single. Coming home to an empty house, not having anyone to confide in, facing illnesses on your own — being alone hurts, but people can get used to it. But being in a long-term relationship doesn’t spare you from all that day-to-day pain. It just banks it. Every day I’m with Terry, every day I’m not alone, a little misery gets put into a savings account, where interest is compounded hourly. The day Terry dies, all the pain I avoided when I was with him will be paid out all at once; I will suffer a windfall of misery. I imagine the pain would feel literally like being torn in two. Maybe that’s what people mean when they talk about “one flesh”?

(pages 119-120)

Is this true? I don’t know. Savage doesn’t know either: knock on wood, his swimwear-modelling husband is still alive and well, and hopefully will remain so for a long time yet. Who knows? If Terry does die before Dan, then maybe things won’t play out this way at all. Regardless, this metaphor of a bank account of misery resonates with me deeply. I have not had an intimate partner die and am probably a psychopath who doesn’t feel empathy anyways, but I have felt weaker forms of that connection towards animals (very) few humans. I have felt that windfall of misery upon learning that an animal I have bonded with has died, especially when that animal died under unpleasant circumstances. A human who has been relatively close to me in life is currently dying of stage four cancer and I can feel that payout coming due. In many ways I consciously avoid getting too emotionally invested in people or animals or projects or organizations these days because I can see what is inevitable, and low-intensity misery seems preferable. Other people look back at past relationships with fondness and gratitude; I tend to see the pain, especially when my own bad conduct has played a part in hurting others. It is better to be a rock, or an island.

Some of you are shaking your heads at me now, because of course I missed the backstory: yes, Guido died of cancer, but he had been diagnosed with cancer years ago, and JP started his blog partially in response to that diagnosis. I did not learn this until preparing for this entry, and I suppose this is supposed to be the redemptive arc I am supposed to use to comfort my inner four-year-old: yes, Guido got sick and died, but it’s because Guido was sick that JP started his blog, and wasn’t his blog delightful to read when it was around? Sure, I guess, except not. It is great that JP’s blog existed as an artifact of his marriage, but in no way does that make it okay for Guido to die. I would have much preferred JP’s blog never having existed if Guido was still here and healthy. From the outside, it seemed that JP and Guido had a great relationship. They were still young and still in love and still having sex with each other, and if they could not live happily ever after what hope is there for the rest of us? It’s not fair. Sooner or later, death is inevitable, but that doesn’t make it fair.

Of course, JP is not the only one who has experienced loss recently. John Michael from Open a Window, and Agnes Goldberg-DeWoofs both lost their partners to COVID, and Mildred Ratched is dealing with a lot of grief after her mother died. It is unfair to play favorites, but Guido’s death still hit me hard.

I don’t know how other people process grief, and I certainly don’t pretend to understand what Jean-Paul is going through these days. I imagine people who are more emotionally mature than me and my inner four-year-old handle grief in more emotionally mature ways. Certainly I did not have to go through the day to day as Guido was in the last stages of his life. (Pardon my French, but fuck cancer.) But it is hard to imagine that JP is not grieving. I doubt JP will read this (and it will be plenty embarrassing if he does), but just in case: thank you for your blog, we miss you and you are welcome back whenever and in whatever capacity you want, I’m sorry Guido died, your relationship with him was an inspiration to many of us, and I hope you (and all the other people who have been dealing with grief) have strong supports you can lean on as you grieve and heal.

Sprung Again

Well, here we go again. I have written about the treachery of spring clothing before. Once again Lurkville is emerging from a long, dismal weather. Once again people are cavorting around in immodest dress, and once again I am struggling. A handsome mustachioed fellow walked by wearing shorts that ended above the knee, and my thoughts were derailed. You might think exposing a little leg is no big deal, but let us not forget the trouble the Israelites got into for worshipping a golden calf. God was real mad at them for that one.

Of course, things are a little different this year, because we are living in a pandemic, which makes these unclean thoughts even more unwelcome than usual. In the linked entry I blamed my impure thoughts on how other people dressed, but that is just blaming the victim. I bear sole responsiblity for my lustful thoughts. If others choose to wear shorts or leave the top button of their shirts undone or otherwise dress immodestly, it is my job to stop drooling and avert my eyes, and if that does not work then I would be well advised to take Jesus’s advice; blind people cannot commit adultery in their hearts.

I don’t understand why this is so difficult for me. We all know that this is a pandemic year, and unless you are in a social bubble with one or more willing partners, it is our duty to quell our libidos and chastely sit through seven hours of Zoom calls a day with gratitude in our hearts. Everybody else can manage this. I read your blogs, and see that you have all managed to keep your libidoes in check. You restrict reproductive thoughts for appropriate situations such as scrolling through Scruff profiles, reading Captain America/Winter Soldier fanfiction and serving cake to people in your social bubble. Otherwise you calmly reason with your bodies that this is not the time for libidinous thoughts, and your bodies comply. Mine very much does not. That might be understandable if I was fifteen years old and struggling with the hormonal waves of puberty, but I have no such excuses. Furthermore, I have not had sexual contact with another human being for twenty-one years now (not that I am counting). You would think my body would take the hint: if nobody wanted to sleep with me before, they certainly don’t want to sleep with me now.

I am not arguing that lay people should be held to exactly the same standard, but if the Catholic priesthood can be expected to live lives of chaste service, it surely is no big deal to expect the unmarried laity to embrace chastity during a global pandemic. And yet, not for me. Maybe I am a nymphomaniac?

I thought these thoughts were supposed to subside as I got older, but now I am older and they are still here. There is talk that Lurkistan is taking steps to ban conversion therapy. Overall, this is pretty good news; coercing people to change against their will is awful, and I fully endorse ending it. On the other hand, I am worried, because if I would like outside help in converting from a hypersexed menace to a well-adjusted asexual, I had better act soon.

Drag Queen Story Time

Here I go again, critically writing about drag. It is a good thing Maddie is on hiatus, or my life would be forfeit.

Today’s homily concerns a story about “Drag Queen Story Hour” I heard on some socialist podcast. The story goes like this:

  • Progressive librarian really wants to signal her virtue and hold a Drag Queen Story Hour for small children in her town. But she can’t find any drag queens!
  • Oh look! She found a drag queen who works as an early childhood educator when he is out of drag. Bonus!
  • The two of them run an event at the local library and it was super-successful! There weren’t even any protestors outside the library!
  • Oh no! The mean old CEO of the library (who is an accountant! Not even a librarian!) sends a scary memo advising the childrens programming not hold controversial events. He even advocates (gasp!) oversight of the children’s programming!
  • This blows up into a controversial issue in the town. Awful bigoted people wonder if this is appropriate for toddlers, and whether strippers and drug addicts will be invited to read stories to children at the library next.
  • Then the organizers hold a second story hour, which is even a bigger success! Even some of the people who were hesitant about the event attend and see it is not so bad.
  • The mean old CEO recants and repents, and everybody lives happily ever after.

What a heartwarming story, right? But there is an interesting rhetorical technique at work here, and I am uncomfortable with it.

Pretend Covid never happened, and I say: “Hey! Jimmy and Deedles and Kato and I are going out to a drag event! Want to come?” What kind of event do you think I am talking about?

Option 1: Some cheerful drag performers dressed in flamboyant yet modest dresses sing childrens songs and read didactic stories about how it is okay if you look different so long as your values strictly conform to those dictated by progressive secular Western norms.

Option 2: Some ribald drag performers dressed in slinky things with deep cleavage lip-sync to sultry torch songs, before making transgressive jokes laced with sexual innuendo and cutting remarks.

You’re all thinking Option 1, right? In these enlightened days of RuPaul’s Drag Race, we all perceive drag to be a cheerful, family-friendly entertainment suitable for toddlers? Oh wait. That has not been my experience at drag shows. The drag shows I have attended have been much more like Option 2, but I guess all the other drag shows are more like Option 1, because when you say the phrase “Drag Queen Story Hour” to a bunch of suburban concerned parents, they are all supposed to understand that Drag Queen Story Hour is Option 1 and in no way Option 2. Because drag has nothing to do with Option 2. Nothing at all. It’s just about dressing up in makeup and wigs that cost more than my monthly rent.

This is an excellent trap. When some parents have thoughts of Option 2 in their heads, and express concerns about a Drag Queen Story Hour happening at their local library, then you can label them ignorant at best and homophobic at worst. Drag Queen Story Hours are innocent! What are you even thinking?

I am assuming, of course, that most of us agree that Option 2 is not a good entertainment choice for toddlers. Drag has traditionally been subversive, and although there are many drag cultures, many of them remain transgressive and sexually charged. I am sure that there are some people who think that kind of grownup entertainment is appropriate for toddlers, but I do not think that the Overton Window has shifted that far yet. (And if the intent of Drag Queen Story Hour is to push the window in that direction, then I am on the side of the Concerned Parents.) As far as I know Drag Queen Story Hours have remained age-appropriate, but I am not surprised that there are lots of people who don’t know that.

Is it okay for parents to be apprehensive about Drag Queen Story Hour? Is it okay if they would prefer their children not attend such events? Does that mark them as bigots? The tone of the socialist podcast certainly seems to imply this, although the librarians interviewed insist that this is an optional program, and different families can make different options. Fine. Great. What about when entrprising schoolteachers want to virtue signal by bringing Drag Queen Story Hour into their classrooms. What then? Unlike a library storytime program, schooling is mandatory. What happens to parents who do not feel comfortable with their children attending such events?

There is a motte-and-bailey style attack going on here. I do not know that every Drag Queen Story Organizer has this in mind, but I think someone along the way realized that organizing Drag Queen Story Hours would be provocative, and that it would be a great way to stick it to the conservatives.

Take, for example, the slippery slope argument some opponents made: “What’s next? Strippers?” Doesn’t that seem ridiculous? Except that here in Lurkville drag shows are frequently held together with burlesque performances, and what is burlesque but pretentious stripping? (Hoo boy it is fortunate that Maddie is on hiatus.) Maybe it is the same in other places. Of course nobody would ever subject toddlers to burlesque, but why? Where is the line? Social conservatives (especially Christian ones) mistrust all of secular society, and feel that progressives are out to sexualize more and more of the public sphere. How do you explain the line between drag queens reading children stories and burlesque performers reading children’s stories to somebody who worries about that kind of sexualization?

Furthermore, I think this is about more than just diversity and inclusion. These are not “Storytime with a diverse LGBTQ+ person” sessions. These are Drag Queen Story Hours, and that comes with particular connotations. Drag is a form of performance. It is not “diversity” as we think of diversity in daily life. (Whoo boy. Cue the “drag is transphobia” culture wars here.) Unless you are Coco Peru, you aren’t going to the grocery store dressed up in drag. There are lots of ways to showcase diversity without turning to a deliberately transgressive art form. Yet, Drag Queen Story Hour is what took off. Why? It is difficult for me not to see an agenda at work here.

I realize this makes me look like one of those bigots, and that is fine. If drag queens want to hold story hours and parents want their toddlers to attend, who am I to complain? But I have some definite apprehensions.

The first is that didactic children’s literature is usually pretty boring.

The second is that what constitutes “diversity” in progressive circles is pretty damn limited. It’s fine if you look different, and maybe even if you talk with a funny accent. It is fine if you eat weird foods (but not shark fins, of course, because sharks are endangered) and great if you show off your funny dances. But if you actually live by any cultural values that are incompatible with those dictated by progressive secular Western norms, then watch out! If you want to be one of them Hindus then that is great, but you had better leave the caste system at home. You can wear that cute hijab if you want, but burkas are oppressive, and you had better not believe that claptrap about the Quran’s view of gender roles. Progressive secular Western ideologues use no true Scotsman to explain away these incogruities.

How does this relate to drag queens? Do all of the habits of drag queens (or the homosexuals portraying them) fall so conveniently into progressive secular Western norms? They certainly did not used to, before we whitewashed gay people into being “just like everybody else, except who they choose to love”. Drag queens at Drag Queen Story Hour are just like everybody else, except they dress up funny. Right?

My third objection has to do with the infantilization of drag culture. I know I will get in even more trouble for writing this, but in some ways drag queens remind me of clowns. The reasons clowns seem scary is because they are scary; they represent humans we perceive(d?) as monstrous, with deformities and physical mannerisms that scare us. But clowns have a superpower: they can say the things we cannot say out loud — think jesters at court. Similarly, drag queens (which represent a different kind of scariness, namely gender transgression) say the transgressive things we are supposed to keep to ourselves in polite company.

Yet somehow we have redefined clowns as children’s entertainment, and now we are doing the same to drag queens. It is so strange, and it robs clowns (and possibly drag queens) of those superpowers. I am under no illusions that all of drag will become Option 1 family-friendly, but it is definitely weird to see drag become children’s entertainment.

You are probably right: there is no conceivable way Drag Queen Story Hour could be misinterpreted, and anybody who does so is clearly either ignorant, bigoted, or both. Once again, I am making a big deal out of nothing. But if this really had been a rhetorical trick intended to make parents with legitimate concerns look bad, then that would be reprehensible. I do not like it when people use reprehensible tactics against each other, even when it is my side who is winning.

God Hates Drag

Unless you are a heathen, you are probably familiar with the classics: Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Genesis 19, and of course Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. In addition to endorsing incest, these passages from the Good Book have long been used to oppress gays and lesbians.

But the Bible is full of treasures, and while reading a (sadly, secular) book called Solomon Gursky Was Here I was alerted to another one (p. 230-231):

One evening Mr. Nicholson, having quite forgotten his wife’s presence, covered Ephraim’s hand with his own to guide him in a penmanship exercise. Ephraim, fully aware that she was there, contrived to draw his head closer to Mr. Nicholson, their cheeks blushing. Mrs. Nicholson spoke out: ” ‘The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are an abomination unto the Lord thy God.’ ”

Mr. Nicholson’s eyes filled with tears. His lower lip trembled. “That will be sufficient for today, boy. Now you run along and see that you make yourself useful to Mrs. Nicholson.”

The young Ephraim Gursky is learning to read and write from the kindly Mr. Nicholson, who just happens to have the hots for his teenaged student. (For some reason, nearly everybody — man or woman — who runs into the young Ephraim Gursky develops the hots for him.) Mrs. Nicholson, wise to her husband’s unnatural desires, recites the above passage, which I had never heard of before. But sure enough, it’s Deuteronomy 22:5. Most of you are more Biblically literate than I am, and have probably run into this passage before. It was completely new to me, particularly in the context of oppressing the LGBTQ+ community. In my defence, Deuteronomy is not exactly the most plot-driven book of the Bible. But in all my years of living in this wretched state, you would think somebody would have thrown these verses around even once? Am I really that oblivious?

The context of this quotation is so weird. As far as I could tell, Mr. Nicholson was dressed in a perfectly masculine manner: pressed J. Crew slacks, Derek Rose boxers, maybe a nice button down shirt from the Gap, socks from one of those monthly buying clubs they advertise during podcasts. Yet Mrs Nicholson pulls out these verses, and not Leviticus or Genesis 19 or any of the other greatest hits. This scene was set in the 1830s or 1840s. Is that how people of the day oppressed homosexuals? Surely they had access to the classics too. It is entirely possible that the author was being intentional about the Bible verse being off-target, but I did not catch the significance. Or maybe Mr. Nicholson wore an earring in that ear? That could explain the verse for sure.

Even if these verses were off-topic ammunition for homosexuality, they make God’s opinion of crossdressing pretty clear. Aren’t there all kinds of Drag Queen Storytime events that make evangelicals itchy? Strictly speaking, these verses would not have been appropriate fodder for discriminating against transgender people, given that transwomen are women and thus presumably should wear women’s clothing, but lots of drag queens are cisgendered. Also, some women wear trousers and some men wear War Paint makeup. There are lots of targets for this particular verse.

The more I think about it, the more strongly I feel that I have just been oblivious. But now I am aware, and you are too. Let us all be very careful the next time we tune into catty Drag Race recaps on Maddie’s blog, or the next time Sixpence posts some charming video of a genderbending country music star giving us a tour of his tiny New York City apartment. Also let’s remember that clothing is strictly gendered, and be careful to abide by those gender rules. We would not want to jeopardize our immortal souls.

Sluts vs Prudes

It has been a while since I regurgitated some point Dan Savage has been making for two decades, so here is another poorly-chewed bolus.

Most of us know about extroversion and introversion. It is the only trait from the beloved but rawther unscientific Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to survive to the less beloved but more scientific Big Five Personality Traits that govern every aspect of our success on this Earth.

Some people are extroverts and get energy from being around lots of people. Some people are introverts and find the company of lots of other people exhausting. Instead they recharge their batteries by staying home and reading comic books or sewing Spo-shirts or socializing with a few chosen companions.

Secretly we all know that extroverts tend to be more successful in life. They know how to schmooze and thus develop lots of helpful connections that propel their careers forward. They know how to flirt in bars and thus get girls. However, some introverts become computer programmers and/or tech billionaires, so we keep our secret thoughts to ourselves and proclaim that both extroverts and introverts are valuable in society have have important roles to play, lest the nerds exact their revenge upon us.

Of course, once in a while there is a global pandemic that forces us all into social isolation. Then the introverts have their real revenge. They read their comic books and sew their Spo-shirts while their extroverted associates gnaw their own legs off. So maybe there is some truth to the lie that both extroverts and introverts have valuable roles to play in society, because sometimes circumstances change and suddenly being an introvert instead of an extrovert (or vice versa) is a more successful survival strategy.

Here is a tiny, stupid hypothesis. Maybe people can be extroverted or introverted with respect to other things. Maybe some people are sexually extroverted, and recharge their batteries in the company of lots of other people. Maybe some people are sexually introverted (not to be confused with sexually inverted), and recharge their sexual batteries in the company of only a few people, or all by themselves.

Even though sexual extroversion seems like a pretty good survival strategy overall, we do not award sexual extroverts the same respect we do to social extroverts. Instead of saying that both sexual extroverts and sexual introverts have important roles to play in society, we denigrate sexual extroverts as sluts and laud sexual introverts as the basis of the nuclear family. Our expectation is that everybody will be happy as a sexual introvert — in fact, a rather extreme form of introversion called monogamy. Mind! We consider extreme sexual introversion (eg Shakers or Catholic priests or asexuals) as pathetic, but on the whole we approve of monogamist prudes and disapprove of sluts.

Our expectation is that everybody can be happy living as a prude. Yet, we do not insist that everybody can be happy living as a social introvert (at least, not unless there is a global pandemic). Even in these times of lockdown, we acknowledge that social extroverts are gnawing their legs off and acknowledge that this is sad. But we feel no such guilt about telling sexual extroverts to stop flirting or stop looking at porn or stop having extracurricular sex. Curious!

New Zealand Public Service Announcement

Well, the happiest time of the year has passed, and Christmas season has come to an end. (Don’t give me that. There are many adjectives that might be used to describe my tiny readership, but “orthodox” is not one of them.) Let’s return to the blogging mines by examining a New Zealand public service announcement you may well have seen already, given that it went viral six months ago.

(Content note: at one point there were innocents (Willym, Maddie, maybe others) who at one point visited this blog. The below video may not be appropriate content for them. Such readers may want to seek permission from a parent or guardian before proceeding to watch.)

This PSA blew my mind when I first saw it. It is so strange.

Firstly, this is a government public service announcement for a website called Keep It Real Online. That in itself is not so strange, but the PSA is genuinely entertaining. When was the last time you saw a government PSA that was genuinely entertaining? Many government PSAs try, but the vast majority end up being (as the kids say these days) “cringe”.

Secondly, this government PSA is using sex to sell a message about… sex. Isn’t that supposed to be illegal? It is well and good to use sex to sell beer and shampoo, but since when are you allowed to use sex as a lever to educate people about sex?

Thirdly, and maybe most significantly, look at what the PSA is not saying. Even though this ad is commenting on the consumption of pornography by children, it is not trying to ban porn or even saying that porn is bad. As Sue says, “We usually perform for adults, but your son’s just a kid. He might not know how relationships actually work.”

It turns out that there are many activities — investing in real-estate, playing contract bridge, listening to rock-and-roll music — that are appropriate for adults, but which you would not want your 10 year old doing unattended. Young brains are still growing and maturing, and children often lack the life experience to put these activities in an appropriate context. This PSA is putting porn in the same category, as an activity that requires context to appreciate without harm.

Can you imagine such an ad running in America? Just think of the backlash from assorted concerned moms of America, who by day loudly proclaim that pornography is ruining America and ask “who will think of the children?”, and never ever search for pegging or cuckold videos late at night. They would be organizing maskless protests and making angry phone calls to their senators if any government was to suggest that porn should even be allow to exist.

There is a fourth thing. It consists of only two words, but they are important: “No judgment.” (Can you imagine a PSA with those words airing in America? Holy cow.) The idea that kids are going to find porn, and that it is better to give them context for what they are seeing rather than punishing them for their curiosity is inconceivable. What kind of parenting is that? How do you build up a culture of vindictiveness if we went around saying “no judgment” to children? What’s next? Dismantling the prison-industrial complex because retaliation is less effective at keeping us safe than rehabilitation? Holding police officers to account for arbitrarily inflicting force on black people instead of rationalizing how the black people in question deserved their brutality for not being compliant/subservient enough? This slope gets real slippery real fast.

I’m not trying to say that this PSA is perfect, or that the associated educational campaign is perfect (there is a lot of “stranger danger” when they talk about grooming) but something is very strange in New Zealand. Maybe it is because they live upside down and all the oxygenated blood rushes to their heads, but I do not know that I have ever seen frank and honest messaging like this coming from a government agency. Maybe things are changing everywhere and I am just out of touch?

There is also a good podcast about the campaign which is worth a listen: Pornography awareness ad reaches millions around the world.

Old Lurker, the Queen of Giving

It appears that the latest fad is to bestow presents upon our fellow bloggers this season. And what better time than during a pandemic, when our wallets are already stretched thin? There is nothing Baby Jesus likes more than credit card debt. Still, one must maintain appearances, and who am I to go against the flow?

Sixpence has dealt with a lot of isolation this year. Maddie got him a car, but if he is to venture outside he still needs protection.

Maddie has had a tough time too, but not as tough as figuring out what to buy for the queen who has everything. But surely everybody can use a new pair of shoes?

Dear Debra has been doing a heroic job of entertaining us, so she is due for some gourmet treats to satisfy her sweet tooth.

RTG and Anne-Marie have patiently been waiting for a vaccine, but once things are back to normal they would probably enjoy a cultural adventure.

I know Willym is into culture and stuff, so what better gift than some music for his ears?

Let us not forget the Duchess Deedles and her green thumb. I had hoped to find some living plants to cheer her up, but all I came up with was a packet of potential. May her new hobby prove fruitful.

Poor Steven is another tough one to shop for. Fortunately Jimmy (the dear!) recently posted some video which inspired the idea of some handcrafted art.

I have no good idea of what to send Jimmy. Some yuppies for his neighborhood, maybe?

I do know Sassybear likes comic books, so how about some movies featuring his favorite characters? Or maybe a different movie?

I also know RJ is into art, so how about a nice wall calendar to inspire him all year long?

Let’s not forget Dr Spo. He is not doing much driving these days, but come January 20th the plandemic will be over and he will be commuting to Mesa and his office. Maybe he is due for some new wheels?

As usual, I have left a lot of people out. Some of you are tough to shop for. Others have been naughty. JP has not blogged for a while so I do not remember his likes and dislikes. Regardless, there are lots of stocking stuffers for all of you to enjoy.

Prediction Followups

Well, the election is settled and everyone is as pleased as punch with the results, so I guess I should follow up on my predictions post from January. It isn’t as if I have not humiliated myself enough already.

  • Biden will win the nomination, because he is the establishment candidate. (60%)

I got this one, at least. Remember back to those fifteen seconds when we all thought Mayor Pete would win the nomination?

  • There will be the usual grievous infighting in the Democratic party from the Bernie Bros and Warren Sisters because of this. A bunch of democrats will refuse to campaign/stay home because of this. (80%)

Nope. There was definitely grumbling on Twitter, but I think most Democrats caved and voted for Biden in the end.

  • The Republicans will push the “Creepy Uncle Joe” narrative hard. (70%, conditional on him getting the nomination)

The Republicans (bless their hearts) opted for “Sleepy Joe” and not “Creepy Joe”, for the most part. There was that one photo floating around of Joe Biden and his son, and that almost flipped Sixpence’s vote, but the “Creepy Joe” narrative was much more subdued than I expected.

  • The Republicans will take as many negative traits we tend to apply to Trump and apply them to the Democratic nominee instead. They will work as hard as they can to suppress the Democractic vote and get it to stay home, especially in swing states. (80%)

This is two predictions. I think “Sleepy Joe” counts as projection, as does the narrative of fraudulent elections. I definitely am giving myself the prediction of the Republicans (bless their hearts) suppressing the Democratic vote. The closure of polling stations in Democrat-heay areas (Houston, anyone?) boiled my blood.

  • Biden will win the popular vote by a margin larger than Hillary got, but thanks to our friend Gerry Mander (and its institution the Electoral College) it won’t make any difference. Trump will be re-elected. (40%)

This is also two predictions. It looks like Biden beat Clinton both in total number of votes and in voter percentage. Sadly, activist judges appear to have hampered Trump’s re-election bid.

  • There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (90%)

Whatever do you mean? I am sure nobody wailed or gnashed their teeth waiting for the counts to come in.

  • Mitch McConnell will lose his seat, because the spotlight is finally on him (60%)

Bah. Did I ever get this one wrong. McConnell (bless his heart) will win re-election until he is 300 years old.

On a cheerier note, Miss Lindsey (bless his heart) also won re-election, which I am sure has all of you cheering. After all, aren’t you the ones always clamoring for more LGBTQ+ representation in politics?

  • The Democrats will keep the House (65%)

Yes, the Democrats (bless their hearts) managed to keep the House, despite losing seats. How in Heaven’s name did they manage to lose ground in this election?

  • The Democrats will take the Senate (60%)

I guess this is still up in the air because of the Georgia runoffs, but I am counting this as a failed prediction.

  • We will all be sick and tired of this election campaign by November (80%)

I don’t know about this one. I guess I cannot award myself this prediction.

I got six out of 12 predictions, for a success rate of 50%.

If my calibrations were correct I should have gotten 8.05 of them (67%), so I suck as a political analyst. I am sure you had better success in your predictions.

If there is a winner from this election, it was the Democrats. What a masterful campaign they ran! What a phenomenal candidate they chose! They did everything right and so Joe Biden won in a landslide, and now they can cheerfully conclude that there is nothing at all they need to change about their strategies in future elections. Hooray for them!