Melville’s Love Life

Posted in Uncategorized on October 21, 2014 by willard43

I don’t give a fuck who Herman Melville slept with. I don’t think Herman Melville gave much of a fuck either, to be honest. And yet any discussion of Melville in our time inevitably leads to theories of his homosexual nature seeping into his work. I get it, anything nautical or penal gets discussed our snickering, prurient interest, rife in our 21st-century culture, rears its ugly, slavering head. I feel like Carmella Soprano in that episode where “Billy Budd” is being discussed during dinner at her daughter Meadow’s apartment; “everything is not gay!” she frantically exclaims as the inevitable theories of homosexual love come into the conversation.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it centers around an attractive, albeit stuttering, young seamen aboard an 18th-century, British man-of-war who kills his master-at-arms. Go ahead…titter away at “seaman” and “master-at-arms” or even just the fact that it’s a Navy story. My contention is that we miss the very point of the story by concentrating on this prurient interest. Just like our culture is far more interesting in what actors are wearing or who they’re fucking than their roles and their movies. Hell, we’ve created “reality TV” so we can do away with plot and story and watch nothing but naked, brutal drama (or rather manufactured melodrama) to appeal to that prurient interest. We’ve become a nation of Gladys Kravitzes who no longer have to get up to look out the window, but who can simply switch through channels of our neighbors’ exploits. Oh no, Melville couldn’t have possibly been commenting on human nature or themes of God, society, justice, or the disparity between the classes as played out in microcosm aboard a ship. No, it’s got to be a gay story, right!? For fuck’s sake, it’s got to do with the Navy and “seamen!”

This, of course, draws the criticism that I’m homophobic, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. I can’t be homophobic if I don’t give a shit who fucks who. I don’t care who fucks who unless it has to do with me. I’m not liberal. I’m not progressive. I’m not “straight not narrow,” I just don’t give a fuck who’s fucking who outside of my own bedroom and excluding my children, and only for simple parental concern. I don’t think I’m alone either. In fact, I’d wager that, regardless of whether Melville was homosexual, bisexual or liked to rub a cheese grater on his dick, his stories were not about sexuality. I can’t prove he was or wasn’t, and it’s moot; his writing is not about his sexuality or anyone’s sexuality. I won’t say that his sexuality, whatever it may be, didn’t inform his writing on some level, but it was not a central theme. “Moby Dick” was just not that obvious.

Knobby Lobby

Posted in Uncategorized on July 3, 2014 by willard43

The Hobby Lobby decision was a very disappointing setback. One of many from this current Supreme Court. It would appear that it is less a position of wisdom and jurisprudence than one of politics and morality. How, in good faith, could anyone who lives in a country that thrives on the separation of church and state possibly look at this and say “yes, corporations are people and should be allowed to dictate values to their employees?” Sure, I’m a lefty when it comes to social issues, and I’m appalled that we live in a country where same sex marriage, drug prohibition and racial bigotry still thrive. Have we learned nothing? But I’m not just speaking from my liberal sensibilities. I’m also looking at the argument from the other side of the fence. I’m an atheist and abhor organized religion, but I’m also an American. Add to that I’m a veteran that laid my dick on the line to protect this country and its Constitution. Even those I disagree with, which is primarily the Religious Right and the Tea Party. This, though I’m doubting they see it, is a blow to them as well. Why, you might ask? Because it forces the debate about religion in this country. I believe that a person’s religious beliefs, mine included, are sacred. However, I also believe they are private. And they should remain private. Furthermore, if I were a religious person I’d want them to remain so. Why? Because once they become part of the legislation, they will no longer be so. By that I mean, now that corporations can impose religious views on their employees, there’s nothing to stop an “atheist” corporation from doing the same. I also see this as a stepping stone to eliminating the tax exempt status of religious organizations. Bear with me…if corporations are people, and as such they have religious, won’t that marriage expose them to taxation? I am 100% in favor of making churches pay taxes. I defend their First Amendment right to be and to practice their religion without hindrance, just like I expect the right to enjoy my same freedom from religion and of speech, guaranteed in the same amendment. But I pay taxes. And every club or association I belong to does as well. I think it’s high time that if religion, having been a part of the political landscape for a very long time, pays its dues. You want to decide the rights of your employees based on your religious views, being a corporation and a person and all, then pay taxes like everyone else. After all, your church is really just a private club for you to hang out in and feel superior to even other members of your religion. Pay your dues!

Merle

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2013 by willard43

I am a fan of The Walking Dead. Apparently, I’m not the only one. I love the show because it goes where no other zombie movies go; after the apocalypse. The only other example I can think of is World War Z, which deals with it, but only to a certain extent and do to the nature of the novel, across a wide variety of situations, so not in depth. TWD does a great job of establishing a universe where zombies, or “walkers” (“biters” in Woodberry), are de rigour. So humanity and society have fundamentally changed and we see the impact to the characters. I find the best example of this new, zombie-filled world is young Carl, Rick and Lori’s son. 

However, Merle is the topic of this little rant. SPOILER!!!!

Poor Merle passed away this most recent episode (3/24/2013; sniff, my mom’s b-day). Unfortunately, there were some stupid plot points in this last episode that almost ruined it, but in the end, it was a very emotional scene as Merle’s brother, Daryl (one of my, if not my absolute, favorite characters). Merle having, at long last, succumbed to humanity in setting Michonne free and trying to eliminate the current villain of the show, the Governor. Merle failed, unfortunately, and was rewarded with a bullet to the chest. He died as hard as he lived.

Now, the character of Merle, is not very deep. He’s generally a bully and a redneck. He hates everyone, it seems, except for Daryl, who, it’s hinted, he did not treat very well either. Merle’s an asshole of the highest order. A man consumed by envy and meanness. That’s what bugs me about the way he went out. He goes out after he finally shows some humanity. I don’t think Merle would have done that. Michael Rooker, the actor who plays Merle, on the other hand, would have done just that. That’s the dilemma. I like Michael Rooker. I think he’s a fine actor, and frankly, brought the depth to the character that the writing did not. I’m sad to see him go, as he was a colorful addition to the show.

The bigger problem I have is that I would suppose that Merle and Daryl would be the most likely to survive the zombie apocalypse. Both men have the necessary skills with weapons, hunting and or military background, and they’re rednecks. Most of all, they have a deep self-involvement, which would be necessary to make the tough choices to survive. Daryl has lost some of that as he as become a major player in the group (obviously something he’s been missing most of his life). Daryl is the most conflicted when Merle comes back. He tried to walk in his brother’s shoes in the beginning, being cold and hard in the new dynamics of the TWD universe. He slowly became an essential member of the group; a leader, and that changed his perspective. Merle returning force him to face who he was and who he’s become. I love the character for that, and it makes this latest episode all the more heart-wrenching, as Daryl has done everything to try and make Merle and the group work. In the end, Merle turned, in essence, from a zombie to a human. His reward is becoming a “walker” and having his own brother have to put him down (and quite a grisly death it is). 

This is why I love TWD. Not because of the gore or the zombies, but because of the humanity. We are at our best and or worst when we are under the gun, it would appear. In the zombie apocalypse, you really find out where you stand in those extremes.

Parenting As A Developmental Stage

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2013 by willard43

I recently watched The Bitter Buddha, which is a biopic about Eddie Pepitone, a 50-something comic who had influenced many of today’s comics. I was not really familiar with Eddie Pepitone, though it would appear he’s done some bit-part acting in many shows and commercials. I’m an avid follower of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, and he plugged the movie during his interview with Pepitone, who’s also appeared on many of the live WTF podcasts, so I gave it a shot. I also have to preface this by citing the apology that Marc Maron was “forced” to give to Eddie and the director Steven, who both felt he had, in some way, slighted both of them during the interview. I heard the interview and I don’t see how, but suffice it to say, it seemed a very lighthearted apology.

First, this was an okay documentary. I don’t find Eddie Pepitone all that funny, compared to many of the comics who touted him as being an influence. He’s not bad, but I can see why the guy has not garnered the success of many of his contemporaries. He’s balding, overweight, just recently got into a stable relationship (I believe he may be married now), and has never had children. Neither has Marc Maron, who is a few years older than me.

Both men seem to be preoccupied with finding themselves and, frankly, blaming others (specifically parents) for their own shortcomings. Maybe “preoccupied” is a bit strong. Both men definitely have that common thread going on in their lives. I know, because I was at a point in my life where I blamed my parents for a lot of my own shortcomings, so I’m not judging. I’m merely stating that I think they both have just simply not taken that essential (in my opinion) developmental step; parenthood. I’m not saying having kids is a pathway to Nirvana or bliss; nothing of the kind. Having kids does, however, change your perspective on just about everything. Just like leaving home, or any of the other milestones of our lives. I also think that becoming a parent affords you a viewpoint otherwise obscured to those who have not taken on that responsibility. You cross over to the other side, so to speak, and are now the one responsible for someone else. And they’re going to blame you for everything as well. Now, do Maron an Pepitone avoid that because they know the standard they have held their parents? Did they just not find the right person? Or do they just not want kids? Who knows?

Now, I hate those folks who put themselves in a position where they cannot be reproached or argued with because they have children, (you know, the mothers who will say “do you have kids? Then shut up about it! What do you know!), but there’s a kernel of truth there. By not having them, you, once again in my non-judgmental opinion, you have not passed a milestone in your life. I notice these folks tend to become attached to pets or hobbies that they often equate to a sense of parenthood as well (both Maron and Pepitone fawn over their cats). Not saying there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s a huge difference between pets and kids, let’s face facts.

One poignant moment in the film is Eddie’s father attending the performance. Here’s a man who worked all his life and did the best he could by his family, and there’s a sense that Eddie does not hold the man in very high regard, especially when his father balks at going to the show for some unknown reason. His father does come and is heard saying at the end “you had them eating out of your hand” in a congratulatory manner. A proud father celebrating his son’s accomplishments, and yet this does not seem to satisfy Pepitone.

Both Maron and Pepitone will be the first to admit that they share the same sense of anxiety when speaking about their families, who, despite their tone, I suspect they truly love. And I believe that if both men were to take that leap into parenthood, they would come to some resolution with regard to how they feel about their parents. I know this because I came to the same resolution myself. I hope for both of their sakes that they do so before their parents are gone, as it’s gratifying to bury that hatchet no matter how you do it.

My Father the Martyr

Posted in Uncategorized on March 10, 2013 by willard43

My dad died when I was two. He was transferring duty stations in the USN from London, England to some place in California. He, my mother and I were staying with my grandparents in LA, and he went ahead to the base to secure base housing, check-in, etc. He and my mother flipped a coin to see whether he would take the little TV they had or her, in his little, red Triumph Spitfire. Fortunately for me, my mother loss the coin toss. While probably tooling down Highway One in California, he come up to a rise where, barreling up the other side, a lumber truck whose driver had nodded off after being on the road for twelve hours, crossed the center line. There was no avoiding the carnage and he pretty much died on impact. I know this because a few years ago an aunt sent me a box of his stuff, which included a detailed death certificate and police accident report.

I look just like my dad, minus the butt chin. Well, I looked like him, but since I’ve made it to 47, I’d dare say I am a pale shadow of what he would have looked like had he made it that far. He died when he was 25. “Forever Young,” as the song goes. And he will ever occupy a heroic figure in my mind. I’ve had two step-fathers in my life; both good people, and both stuck with the position of father to another man’s son by virtue of their love for my mother. Basically, they were screwed as father figures in my mind having the christ-like figure of my dead, warrior father lodged deep in my psyche.

Hell, if I try real hard I can still conger up deep-seated memories of the man. One of which is a fairly vivid one where he is sitting in our apartment in London drinking red wine and watching the news on that little TV. It shifts from black and white, and I also remember looking out the window from the second floor seeing my mother crossing the rainy street in her red, patent leather raincoat for which I had a matching ensemble (complete with red Wellies). Memory is a tricky thing, but I seem to also remember his face wreathed in parental concern as my mom screamed at me the time I snuck out from under his not-so-watchful eye one afternoon. I went out the door of the apartment and down the stairs to the neighbors who had a piano to sing some songs. My mother came home to find me missing and my father, once more seated in front of the TV drinking wine. 

The only other memory I have is getting the triangular flag at his funeral. I remember I was wearing the same little gray suit with short pants that can be seen in an old picture of me with a little monkey on my shoulder. 

Flash forward and I’m a father myself. I have two sons and a daughter in the middle. A full-time single dad to boot, and my kids are 14, 11 and 10. I like being a dad and turns out I’m pretty good at it too. I like to think that my dad would have been good at it as well, and it’s something I inherited it from him, but that would be robbing some good step-fathers and my mother of their due. On parting thing I will say, though, is that I was privy to some of his letters to his parents in that box I received. In it he described some marital issues, I’m all-to familiar with, having been through a divorce. He spoke very passionately about wanting keep me and be a single dad himself, if it came to that. Fortunately, my mom and he worked things out, but only to end tragically on a California highway.

I wonder like anyone would what life would be like if he had lived. Would he have been that good dad, and what would I have become? What kind of father would I have turned out to be, having had the benefit of his fatherhood? And in the end, what will it mean for my sons and daughter? I would like to think his martyrdom was not for nothing. I would dare to hope that his death will be part of a legacy and his family line will remember him as I do.

The Pope

Posted in Uncategorized on March 8, 2013 by willard43

All this hoopla over the Pope, and what strikes me is this urge to believe that he resigned the papacy, (something unheard of since the middle ages), because of age and health. Look at his predecessor, John Paul the ?? He couldn’t even stand up straight, but he poped til he dropped. Now that’s old-school poping right thar. 

I guess the internet kind of insulates you because I rarely watch mainstream news without my lens of familiarity. I don’t watch Fox or read the papers any more, so I tend to follow people I share a common view or opinion. I’ve found that I can be quite surprised when, for instance, events like the pope resigning don’t impact me the way they do others. I find it odd what the major news channels choose to cover…to death. I guess the pope resigning is big news, but even CNN seemed to kowtow to the Catholic Church on this one. All those benevolent priests acting like there’s nothing odd about the pope resigning out of the blue…it’s comical.

And what about this pope? He was a Nazi Youth, but somehow that seems to have been forgiven. I wonder if the Church would have been so forgiving if he’d said he was an active member of the Gay Rights Movement? I’m thinking no, but hey, it was the 40’s, everybody killed a Jew or two in the Fatherland. And he was the Grand Inquisitor, wasn’t he? Ok, the organization is no longer called the Inquisition, but that is where it came from. He was in charge of all the secrets, so it would seem. I think that would make you a logical choice, as if they said nah, we’re going with someone else, what’s to stop the slim chance he would quit and go to the papers with all he knows about global, institutionalized pedophilia?

And that’s what I think it all comes down to; pedophilia. The church has been turning a blind eye for centuries, and their sins have finally caught up with them. It staggers my imagination that any family with children would even consider being a part of an organization that has condoned and protected this behavior, let alone a man whose sole job at one point was to keep those secrets to avoid the law and lessen the dollar damage these sins incurred. In essence, Ratzinger was akin to Ed Norton’s boss in Fight Club. His minions went about assessing the damage and seeing if they could get the families of victims to shut up “in the name of our lord Jesus Christ” or not and what the damage would be. Or, how much to pay them off?

And I’m not just picking on this most recent pope. The office of pope has been plagued with impropriety, violence, political intrigue, and war for time immemorial. Hell, the church itself dug up a dead pope, put the funny hat on his corpse, sat him on the throne and tired and convicted him. The Cadaver Synod, it was called. Pope Formosus was involved in some sort of intrigue, and his successor had him exhumed to what? Prove a point? Just a philosophical question, but if he made it all the way to pope, wasn’t that god’s plan?

On another note, I have a theory that the Roman Empire never really “declined” but rather transformed into the Roman Catholic Church. Fore example, the vestal virgins took vows of celibacy in order to watch the “eternal flame” of Rome. This could explain nuns, as the bible does not. Priests were similarly barred from sexual congress, and the grand poobah was the Pontifex Maximus or “Pope.” Funny little fact, both Julius Caesar and Augustus were both pope…what does that tell you? 

In conclusion, I guess what I’m driving at is that the pope is no longer the figure he was. And that is a good thing. It shows progress in my opinion. The decline of religion is evidence of evolution. Not Darwin’s physiological evolution, but a spiritual and philosophical evolution. From many gods to one, from one to none. It’s the logical progression and I believe we are witnessing a very important period in history. Unfortunately, I predict that the faithful will not relinquish their beliefs without a fight and who could blame them. I did not take my loss of faith lightly.

Jesus McMurphy

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2013 by willard43

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a messianic story paralleling the life of Christ as an everyman named R.P McMurphy. It hit me the other day as I was surfing through channels and found it on IFC. McMurphy is a kind of a fraud who finagles his way out of prison and into the nut hut only to become the savior of every man in there and the bane of the nurse in charge. McMurphy is the messiah of these men, reminding them of their humanity and dignity despite their mental challenges. Nurse Ratchet is the pharisees keeping close the keys to the kingdom by forcing the patients into her dogma. The patients are McMurphy’s disciples, and the indian his Judas Iscariot, who ultimately martyrs him. 

It’s odd to me that Judas Iscariot is not a more sympathetic character in Christianity. After all, if it weren’t for him, Jesus would not have died on the cross for the sins of the world, no? And Judas had to make the hard choice (or maybe Christ ordered him to make that choice, knowing that he must be martyred to affect change) to betray Christ. For his sacrifice, he dies alone, hung from a tree with his entrails hanging out. 

What does it say about a faith that is so quick to find villains, yet preach tolerability and love? Where is the forgiveness for Judas in this story? And don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning religion, though I myself am an atheist, I’m just trying to find some logic within that framework. Judas should be celebrated as a martyr beside Christ. Christ died in agony on the cross, but Judas had to live with the stigma of betrayal and the blood of Christ on his hands, possibly knowing it was the only way to accomplish Christ’s goals.

Yet another figure that vaguely appears in OFOTCN, that of Pontious Pilate in the form of Dr. Spivey (the actor Dr. Dean Brooks was actually a psychiatrist at the institution where the movie was filmed). Forced not by some hatred or fear of Christ, but rather bound by the desires of the Pharisees (Nurse Ratchet; the staff at the institution) to keep order over the patients. Like Pilate, Spivey almost admires McMurphy and wishes him no real harm. Pilate offered to crucify a known rapist and murderer in Christ’s place, but the Pharisees would not have it and swayed him to crucify Christ. 

This is all fairly loose, but it came to me and I could not deny the parallels. 

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