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Book Review: The Word of God

You might think this is a religious book and in a way it is. The Word of God, or Holy Writ Rewritten, by Thomas Disch, (Tachyon Publications, San Francisco, 2008) was written not so much as a refutation to other religions, but, as Disch puts it, to establish himself as a deity. He begins his book discussing that the only way to talk to many religions, especially the fundamental ones, is to argue on their own level and point out that he too is a god and what his religion looks like.

It is witty, scathing, funny, illuminating. In part this is an autobiography of Disch’s life, but as a pastiche, not as a whole. It is part philosophy and condemnation of many conservative religions, especially Christianity. Disch was raised a Catholic and was publicly gay and since this is his “holy writ” it of course talks of religion in many guises quite a bit.

The book is also a collection of some poems and short stories, interspersed to give examples of birth, afterlife, reincarnation and judgment: “The New Me,” “Room Service,” “The Second Coming of the Christ,” “A Man of Mystery” “A Ranch House on the Styx,” “The School for Traitors,” “On the Road” and “Deus Ex Machina” almost all string together (some continuations of the same story) and of course all do touch on religion and the events that came together to create Thomas Disch. He was the illegitimate child of Thomas Mann, the prolific German writer and Nobel prize winner, though you will not find this listed in either Disch’s or Mann’s Wiki entry (and his father is missing altogether in his entry).

Many of these stories have Philip K. Dick in them, as a sort of antiChrist and in hell. It’s hard to tell from this if Disch had always hated Dick (since he wrote a poetic eulogy for Dick, which is in the book) or if he only came to despise Dick’s right-wing, bigoted, perhaps drug-induced opinions later, when Dick reported Disch to the FBI as a subversive. What the outcome of Dick’s confabulations were is unclear.

Thomas Disch was known to the SF community and was nominated numerous times for awards (and won some), but he also wrote a great deal of poetry, criticisms and other works, and had earlier aspirations in architecture. The book starts out in the present, around Christmas of 2005 when he began to write it, and he finishes on February 2nd, his birthday. Disch lived with his long time partner, Charles Naylor who died in 2005. Disch himself suffered from several illnesses and had a string of personal setbacks, besides being depressed by his partner’s death.

He took his life in July, 2008, just months before Word of God was published. It is somewhat ironic to read his words in this book that proclaims his deity and see where he was at and where life took him to. This is not his last book as I believe a posthumous work will be published this year. I enjoyed Word of God and it gave me a new look at Disch, his mind and his life. I had read his works, On Wings of Song and The Priest which was pretty scathing to the Catholic church while at the same time being deftly written enough for you to care for the very corrupt priest.

And if nothing else, I’m very curious as to what went on between Philip K. Dick, a great experimenter of drugs, married five times, and Thomas Disch, an openly gay man, all those years ago. They were both brilliant writers and characters in their own ways. Here’s to the god Disch and his ascension to his own heaven. Word of God, definitely worth a read, informative and entertaining throughout.

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Vanity Searches

I spent a couple of hours this week searching myself out. Why? To fluff up my ego? Hardly likely. A vanity search will often reveal how insignificant we are in terms of the Google universe. At least I’m on the first google page but not so much for my published stories as for this blog. So maybe I’m the second most famous Colleen, on Google, for what it’s worth. Which is not much.

But still, I thought I better find what’s listed about me before it all disappears. Should there come a day for me to prove I published something or to apply for a grant, then in some cases this may be the only published proof, such as my online flash fiction “On Wings of Angels” in Vestal Review7. I found that still up and printed the page since I didn’t have a “published” copy, it being only internet published.

The vanity search also let me find out I had received two honorable mentions for my story “Hold Back the Night,” which had appeared in the Red Deer Press Open Space anthology. I’d known I had received an honorable mention in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best SF, but only a few years later did I find out the story had received the same in Datlow and Windling’s Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. One story, both SF and fantasy honorable mentions, when there was no SF I know of in it. :) But who’s complaining: not me. Still, the vanity search has shown what few reviews of my work are still out there and though none scream that my work is stellar, most don’t say it sucks either. And I do have the distinction of “Hold Back the Night” being the only story in the anthology to receive two honorable mentions, plus having been shortlisted for the Gaylactic Spectrum award (a gay character in speculative fiction), which I only ever found on the net and otherwise didn’t know about either.

But still, I’m a small pea in a large pod and there are a lot of Colleen Andersons, some 80 google pages in fact. There is a songwriter and poet (Mother Wit) who seems to have the most hits, plus another writer with the same name. There’s a minister, a scientist, a professor, a real estate agent, a tax assessor, a nurse, etc. Of course I’m some of these things too. But I’m certainly not the only Colleen Anderson and perhaps I’m not the real one. I’ve run into a couple others in this city alone.

Still, a vanity search can be enlightening in just how many of your posts or even how your address ends up on the internet. I can’t help but think of my childhood nemesis Laura Morse who lived two doors down from me. We met at the age of 4 and never liked each other, and had the dubious pleasure of spending grades 1-12 together, going to the same schools. Her younger brother and mine were the best of friends. We were barely playmates. She used to say she would only read books that had her name in them.

Searching for Laura Morse today doesn’t turn up her name but then she married and changed her last name. Yet, google might still be useful to her if she has to find books with Laura in them (more by authors though, than characters, though google’s new wish to scan everything would change that). One can only hope her horizons have broadened.

And we, that fill one page in 8o, hope that some day there may be many pages, indicating perhaps a rise in pay for being a writer. Of course, one could always do something notorious and then your name would rise on the google listings. In the meantime, I now have printed copies of any reviews, should I decide to try and get a grant for writing speculative fiction. Hmm, I think I’ll wait a bit longer.

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Writing: Rannu Fund Fiction & Poetry Winners

donjuan-cover-72

To the right is the cover of Don Juan & Men, which is due out in June with my story, “The Boy Who Bled Rubies.” It is obviously a book with tales about the homo-erotic natures of men. I believe all the stories have a fantasy aspect, and mind definitely does.

As well, another story that also revolves around some taboo sex, “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” has been accepted by Nancy Kilpatrick for Evolve, a vampire anthology (of modern vampires, hence the title) due to debut in Brighton, England next year at the World Horror Convention.

And then, I entered the Rannu fund for poetry and fiction. I did not win, alas, nor get an honorable mention but received a note, I suppose. Here are the results of the winners, post by Sandra Kasturi, one of the patrons of the fund. Now I just need to sell my story, “Shoes.”

**Please note that all judging was done blind; names, bios, e-mails, etc. were all stripped from the entries.**

Fiction Winners (tie):
“Hell Friend” by Gemma Files
“As Promised” by Nick Stokes

Fiction Honourable Mentions:
“God’s Gift to the Natives: Flight” by Sandra Jackson-Opoku
“Crossroads and Gateways” by Helen Marshall

Fiction Judges: Robert Boyczuk, Candas Jane Dorsey, Sandra Kasturi

Poetry Winner:
“Visitation” by Kim Goldberg

Poetry Honourable Mentions:
“Book of Sloth” by Jacques Benoit
“The Gypsy” by Helen Marshall

Poetry Judges: David Livingstone Clink, Mildred Tremblay, Sandra Kasturi

We would also like to note the entries that made it onto one or more judges’ shortlists:

Fiction:
“Shoes” by Colleen Anderson
“Pearls Before Swine” by Don Bassingthwaite
“No Cages” by Kevin Nunn
“Natalie Touches Upon the World” by Ivan Faute

Poetry:
Jacques Benoit’s “Slow Day in Tabloidland”
Robert Borski’s “Neosaur,” “Frog Prince,” and “All the Clocks of Hell”
Gemma Files’ “Tantalus, Reaching Upwards” and “Jar of Salts”
Kim Goldberg’s “Inner Sanctum” and “Green Thumb”
Sidharth Gopinath’s “Watcher”
Riina Kindlam’s “Vulnerable, with a Pinch of Salt”
Helen Marshall’s “Howling,” “The Oak Girl,” “The Queen of the Cats,” and “Pan”

Thank you all for participating in this competition, and I hope you will all enter again next year–check the website for details in the fall. And thank you again for your patience as the judges got through the entries. (And thanks again to the judges!!)

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Piggy Banks

I got talking with someone the other day about piggy banks. Her four-year-old daughter had got one for Christmas and although she didn’t ask for it was ecstatic about it, telling people she had “finally” got a piggy bank.

I mentioned how I had seen one that me and my siblings had as children. I think they were mapiggy-2ss produced in cheap plastic. It had cartoon style eyes, stood on its hind legs in overalls, and wore a cap. There was definitely no high class style to these and I think they show up from time to time in Value Village or vintage stores. These guys stood about 6-8 inches high and I know I never filled it with money, though there was the handy plug on the bottom should I need the coins.

piggyThe other piggy bank I had was a little ceramic pig, white with painted designs, similar to the one shown here (except there were no indentations). The slot was right on the top and I did store money in it, which then took some fancy maneuvering of shaking or wedging a knife in to try to get the coins to slide out. Along the way it broke, maybe from shaking it too much but it was patched back together.

Then many years later I was trying to save money to go to India. Vancouver’s West End had this area near Davie St. where people would set out items to sell. I put out various things, including books, jewellery and the old patched piggy bank. I never knew it would be such a hit. A gay guy came by and gushed all over it, how cute it was, how it was just the thing, etc. But then he left. Well I was trying to sell my stuff so when another guy came by to buy the broken pig, for all of a couple bucks I sold it. Then the first guy showed up an hour later and was incensed that I’d sold it. Hey guy, you snooze you loose.

Those are the only two piggy banks I’ve ever owned that were piggy shaped. I began to wonder why piggy banks came to be. Was it like the teddy bear, where Theodore Roosevelt played a major part. Well no, it seems that a type of clay was called pygg, and people used to save their money in pygg jars. In the 18th century the spelling changed and people made the connection, playing on the word.

According to Wikipedia the etymology of the word had a similar evolution in Indonesia with this 15th century Javanese pig. I would love to have a piggy bank that looked like this. Of course, these days I have no money to save…or it’s in the bank. WordPress has gone wacky. I’ll try to upload the picture later or you can go to Wiki and type in piggy bank.

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Gay Specifics: Why There are Bathhouses and Gay Bars

Someone recently responded to my post on Pope Benedict and part of the comment was: Why should we care if a bunch of gays protest the Pope. This not just a religous thing. It’s about a people who want to legitmize and mainstream their perversions. Gay bars and hotels are in a true sense houses of discrimination. What if some restaurant throws out a gay..? (Sic)

Whoa! Perversions? Not just a religious thing? Well let’s see. You’re right, being gay is not just a religious thing. Gays protesting the pope, well that seems religious but I’m sure that some of those gays protesting (beside all us straight people) are also not religious. The protest is on principle, on the basis of discrimination and perpetuating hate crimes.

Hate? You say you don’t hate these people; they’re just perverts. Hmm. Perverts. I guess because it’s not in the Bible or something. But a gay bar makes a house of discrimination more than say, a men’s club where they can discriminate against women and paw and fondle single women (as waitresses) while these guys’ wives stay at home with the little chumps. I wonder if that’s in the Bible. Or let’s see, a house of discrimination, like those golf clubs that only allow a person in if they can afford the exorbitant fees, make them elitist and discriminating against the poor. Hmmm.

Well gosh, those darn gays are perverse whereas playing golf or say, people having extramarital affairs is normal. Why? Because some book written just a few cultures ago (like almost two thousand years ago–and no it wasn’t written right at the birth of Christ) says go forth and multiply and a man who lays with a man goes against reproduction, or some such. Sounds kind of like everyones’ homophobia and fear of homosexuality spreading like a disease is kind of religious in that sense.

Someone told us it was wrong, that it offended, that it went not just against someone’s personal dislikes but went against THE WILL OF GOD. Therefore it is wrong. And God pulls more weight. Right?

And guess what? People took that God’s word thing pretty seriously for a long time, using it to persecute, kill and jail homosexuals. Since it’s not a disease and some people are born preferring the same gender for partners, what was a homosexual to do? Stand around and wait for something horrible to happen to them because people got incensed at what they did behind closed doors? If we all got involved in each other’s personal lives, whose life could stand up to the scrutiny. Excuse me, sir, you’ve been using the missionary position for twenty-five years and haven’t given your wife an orgasm in twenty. Sorry, ma’am, but laying there like a dead fish isn’t called making love.

I think you get the picture. No one’s life can be held up to the moral candle constantly. And what people do in their bedrooms is between them, whoever they do it with. So homosexuals, wishing to avoid the pogroms of the era, formed bathhouses, where men could meet and take care of their needs. They created gay bars, where they would be able to meet others without being accused of hitting on straight men (and consequently being gay bashed). It was in fact, straight people who caused the formation of gay bars. And all the gay bars in New York in the 50s and 60s were owned by straight people or the Mafia.

The Stonewall riots of 1969 happened because of persistent persecution by the police and just one too many injustices. The 60s were a turning point that spawned many movements including the black rights and gay rights movements as well as anti-war protests. Reading about Stonewall will show exactly why some of these bars were created to begin with. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots

Perversions? In whose book? The Bible. So yeah, moral sensibility is often tied so deeply in a person’s roots that they don’t realize those morals may be based on some religious teaching. And remember, if you don’t like those other religions because they’re persecuting and subjugating, then make sure to check your religious yard first. Are you persecuting or making a group “other” because they’re female or black or gay? In one sense, yes, everyone should be equal and treated so, but until that is completely accepted in our society there are still going to be gay bars because homosexuals need a place to feel safe.

Oh and for every paranoid right winger out there who is afraid that homosexuality was a disease, you can rest easy. It’s not and many homosexuals do have children, fulfilling that reproduction thing that the Bible loves so much. And guess what? Those who have genetic children (as opposed to adopting) don’t necessarily have gay children. And even the adopted ones grow up straight. Kinda throws water on the fire of the gay disease theory.

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Pope Benedict, Shake Your Head

When is the Catholic church going to pull its head out of the Dark Ages where it first firmly entrenched itself and burned/destroyed any symbols, artifacts and writings of other beliefs (hence bringing on the “Dark Ages”)? I’ve always wondered about any religion that freezes in time. Not that the Catholic church is the only one but wearing the frocks and habits of fashionable dress from the 11th and 12th centuries gets a little…old.

Besides traditions stuck in the past, so is Benedict’s and the Church’s beliefs: “Homosexual acts are a ‘destruction of God’s work,’ he said.” (CBC  http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/12/23/pope-speech.html )  The article is a little vague in connecting his comments to anti-homosexual statements. The Vatican site doesn’t list it yet in English but someone posted the rest. Here is a significant part that talks in roundabout terms of men and women as the only natural way of relationships: “It is necessary to have something like an ecology of man, understood in the right sense. It is not outdated metaphysics when the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this natural order be respected.” 

The Church has always said go forth and multiply. It’s part of the reason we have overcrowding and poverty, and consequently more disease. If we had statistics that went back centuries I’m betting that they would show that homosexuality rises with overpopulation: perhaps Ma Nature’s way to control population growth besides disease. I know I once read about a study with rats that showed they moved to homosexuality when overcrowded. I’m not sure what the other factors were, if there were equal numbers in genders but it would be an interesting aspect of the Gaia hypothesis.

Pierre Trudeau (past Prime Minister of Canada) once said, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” Likewise there is no place for the Church. It really is no one’s business and if they actually decided that the soul was jeopardized and unsalvageable (if it commits homosexual acts), then there would be no reason to rally against it.

I mean really, there is no need for every human being to keep multiplying. Condoms are okay. Homosexuality is okay. They help control the population. More people do not necessarily equal Christian converts and the Church just doesn’t seem to get that its outmoded view is alienating more people than it’s bringing into its folds. Granted the Vatican is still one of the riches entities in the world, but that could subside (maybe they have secret stocks in condom manufacturers).

I do believe that Benedict on one level thinks he’s trying to save souls and that he sees homosexuality as a “disorder” that harms the spirit and will keep that person from getting into heaven. However, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he wrote a very long letter to the Bishops on care of homosexual persons in 1986. It’s very long, it goes into great detail on spirit and will and culpability. He is so concerned in fact that I think “he doth protesteth too much.”

We’ll never know but can only conjecture. But I wouldn’t doubt if Ratzinger joined the Church to avoid that holy union of man and woman, which God sees as natural. Odd that, how the Catholic church says it is what God wants but won’t let its priests and nuns marry or have sex. Hmmm. Ratzinger, then in trying to lead a pious and holy life devoid of all sex, including deviant, disordered sex, had to resist  his own inclinations and if he can do it, then anyone can and he can save those poor homosexual persons, because he saved himself.

That may only be a tale but I would like to think that perhaps that’s what the Pope believes. He does caution in 1986 against acts of violence on homosexuals but he certainly is vehemently against it.

Still, I wonder about the Church’s view and railing against homosexuality when there are worse crimes. There is murder and burglary and rape and other violence. Oh and there is pedophilia, perpetrated so often by the Catholic Church’s priests that they’ve been forced to make some apologies. Doesn’t Jesus say something like, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

I’d suggest that the Pope check his glass walls before he starts tossing stones on gay people. Excerpts below, from Cardinal Ratzinger’s “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html

 However, the Catholic moral viewpoint is founded on human reason illumined by faith and is consciously motivated by the desire to do the will of God our Father. The Church is thus in a position to learn from scientific discovery but also to transcend the horizons of science and to be confident that her more global vision does greater justice to the rich reality of the human person in his spiritual and physical dimensions, created by God and heir, by grace, to eternal life…

Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder…

The Church can never be so callous. It is true that her clear position cannot be revised by pressure from civil legislation or the trend of the moment. But she is really concerned about the many who are not represented by the pro-homosexual movement and about those who may have been tempted to believe its deceitful propaganda. She is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society’s understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy.

10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action….

Given at Rome, 1 October 1986.

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Book Review: The Very Bloody Marys

Very Bloody Marys

Very Bloody Marys

I’ve owed M. Christian this review for a very long time and since it’s not timely with the release (2007 by Haworth Positronic Press), then why not a review in time for that holiday shopping list? And a huge mea culpa–I didn’t realize it had been that long. I still owe you.

From the title you might think this is about drinking, or murderous monarchs. If you thought one of these, you’re close to the heart of the matter. But really it’s both, about bloodthirsty vampire queens. Some are not so much queen as just murderous gay vampires. If you’re familiar with M. Christian’s work, you know he’s a prolific writer, and his writing includes erotic tales straight, gay, lesbian, etc. He’s very versatile. So I confess to thinking this book would be about gay vampires with  a lot of erotica thrown in. Though it has sensuous details this is more the tale of a gay vampire trying to gain experience as a detective. It’s a murder mystery with the supernatural thrown in.

While vampire detectives are not necessarily new, a gay vampire detective is. Valentino is thrust into the crime scene on a personal level, since his mentor is missing. And the crime scene: Vespa scooting vampires are killing the folks of San Francisco and risking the outing of all vampires, who tend to live by a code so that they aren’t hunted down. Coupled with mentor Pogue’s disappearance, Valentino has two mysteries to figure out.

The book opens with three different beginnings as Valentino tries on his authorial voice. This sets the tone, and gives this character high twinkiness. Valentino is a flamer, vapid and vain. The character was so irritating and flittythat I nearly put the book down, but his way in the world was intriguing. I think M. Christian might have cut it down a bit but then I realized there is a good reason about a quarter of the way into the book on why Valentino is acting this way. He comes to discover what’s been done to him and his personality deepens as it’s unlayered.

Valentino relies on other supernatural help and Christian’s writing uses some very descriptive phrases. For being an undead guy, Valentino is vibrantly alive and given to over verbosity that doesn’t stop in describing his zombie driver: “One time–big shudder here–I had caught a look at his eyes, two puss-filled boiled-egg eyes staring, unblinking, straight ahead, and didn’t sleep well for a week.” Of course that should be pus-filled not eyes with cats in them, but I blame the publisher for not putting a proofreader on it or maybe they did and missed it. There are very few typos, which is a good thing.

You get a good sense of Valentino’s world as he sees it. “Finally, the Brass Ass of the Great Emancipator (Abraham Lincoln) led me through silverfish heaven to a narrow doorway between the piles…In it was Saul, tarnished silver hair, rainbow sweater unwinding in spots into primary colors, brittle bones showing where unwinding yarn couldn’t hide it, eyes like bleached robin’s eggs, Indian blanket in his lap hiding the bones I knew weren’t just brittle but also didn’t work, and, because of those legs, an ancient wheelchair.”It took me a moment to realize he meant realbones, not bony legs; the visual setting is very concrete.

Much of Valentino’s descriptions go into overdrive, with buckets of adjectives. They hit their height when he’s talking about his lover, Julian. “Oh oh oh Julian Julian Julian–beloved, adored, venerated companion, compadre, mate, playmate, partner, betrothed, idol, best friend, love, lover–oh oh oh Julian Julian Julian…” A bit much? Yes, but then this is the turning point for Valentino.

Events pick up with dire and catastrophic discoveries. I don’t want to give it away but let’s just say the Very Bloody Marys are brutal, relentless, sociopathic, fashion sensitive vampires. As the fog clears from Valentino’s eyes he finds his world isn’t as he suspected. Sure it still has a few supernatural beings but all is not what it seems. He still richly describes things but there is a darker vein now to the vampire detective’s perspective. “The inky blackness didn’t so much as run as steadily walk out of that doorway. A pooling, a billowing, a smoking, and then up and into arms and legs and a wide-brimmed hat pulled down over hooded eyes.”

When  Valentino runs into Ombre, even the supernatural shade notices something has changed though the gay vampire tries to hide it. “It’s just that you seem different somehow. The flippancy is still there, that much is clear, but it’s like something else is missing.”

And Valentino has changed on several levels. In the process of discovering what has happened to Pogue, being threatened with permanent annihilation and in stopping the brutal gang, he earns his wings. He solves the mysteries, stops the Marys and finally grows up a bit after 200 years. M. Christian wraps up the tale in a very satisfying and unpredictable way. It’s one of the many bright spots in the story; very little is predictable. You won’t see this as another tired take on the vampire trope. It’s refreshingly bright and if not a complete happy ending, one with suitable revenge.

If you’re looking for a good, fast paced read, or if you like mystery or fantasy or gay fiction. Or if you just want something different and new, this book will be as satisfying as a vampire’s first drink of blood.

The Very Bloody Marys, M. Christian, 2007 Haworth Press Inc. ISBN: 9781560235354

M. Christian’s site: http://zobop.blogspot.com/

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Remembering

As befits the day, I’m remembering those who I knew who have passed on.

First was Lydia Langstaff, so delicate that she befitted the ideal of a medieval woman. Slender, blond hair, translucent skin with a blue tracery of veins showing beneath. In fact her nails were blue as well. Born with a congenital heart defect, no one thought she would live past infanthood. She could not fly nor even walk up stairs, so fragile was her heart.

Yet Lydia never complained in the few years I knew her. She wrote, a good craft for someone barred from all physical elements. Traveling, of course was out. Lydia was starting to get somewhere with her writing career, having sold a speculative story and a few poems. She had written a novel, which took place in Scotland with an heiress who goes back to the time of her ancestors. Lydia was part of our writers’ group and I was just getting to know her a bit more (we were working on poems together I think) when she died, unexpectedly (though always expected) in the arms of her husband one night.

At 28 she had done much, a flame burning brightly but having to fight a strong wind the whole time. I remember Lydia and the lesson she taught. Don’t give up your dreams, don’t complain. Just do.

Jay Herrington was a friend I worked with in ritual plays. He was beautiful and gay and married to the love of his life, a woman. He and Deb had been school friends and married before he realized his penchant was for men. They knew though, that they did love each other, deeply, and worked around the issues. Jay was known for dressing drag once in a while as High Joan the Conqueror.

He was a talented priest and ritualist, a great artist and just starting to shine even brighter, a rising star. He and Deb made a trip back to their native Florida to bring his younger brother Josh out to Seattle. On the drive back a wheel flew off the car. Jay was sleeping in the back and never woke up. Deb was in a coma for several weeks. Josh walked away with only a scratch but with no brother. They kept Jay’s body alive long enough so that his parents could come and say goodbye. The only blessing was that Jay never woke from his injuries. He was just past 30, and burned so brightly we knew he could have done a lot. I remember Jay and the talent he and humor he brought to us.

Bear (John) Curtis, my friend of many years, was truly a bear of a man at 6’7″. He was much like his ursine namesake, grumpy and short on patience, and liked his darkish cave and backyard full of greenery and trees. But Bear was also generous and creative and deeply spiritual. Part Cherokee, he was a pipe carrier and introduced me to Native sweats and healing circles. People respected his respect of traditions.

He was an actor and had often played mountain men and bad guys in historic westerns. He was very much like a dragon in his hoard. There wasn’t a speck of wall or any surface in his home that didn’t have some trinket or treasure or image upon it. Bear collected bones, which I shared, shiny glass, Beatles paraphernalia and many other things. His greatest treasure was his wife Louise, efferevescent, loving and always joyous. There has never been a couple who balanced each other so well.

But Bear had to go for cancer surgery, which was successful. However, the state of our hospitals meant that he ended up with infections and then C-Defecil. His stubbornness and grumpiness scared some people. The damage to his body was great and Bear was scared himself, though he didn’t talk about except to Louise. He lingered and fought for fourteen months, a testament to the stubbornness he did have. He died last year, a week before Christmas. He was 59, young for his age, but the infection aged him greatly. The hardest thing was seeing his great spirit waste away over those months. I remember Bear for all that he gave me: friendship, creativity, spiritual perspectives.

There have been others, close enough to call friend and having left this life too soon. Gerry Stevens, a creative, strong minded man who was so gentle in his dying. He made it easier on everyone to deal with his dying. Having done chemo for awhile he finally decided to stop it as he was sick from it more than he was healthy. He died with dignity at home with relatively little pain. He always said, if it’s not fun, don’t do it and he had great fun.

Geoffery MacLean and Mischka Ravensfury, whose real names I didn’t know (Gordon [has told me Mischka’s was John Booth. I think I knew he was John but forgot with the Misch personality that I saw so much of). They were men I met in the SCA. Geoffery a humble bear of a man, always willing to help and maybe sometimes lacking in finesse. But he was gentle. He saved me from hypothermia one camping event, keeping me warm in bed, never being ungentlemanly. After years of health issues they diagnosed him with cancer and he had very few months after that diagnosis.

Mischka, was often a troubled man, but a big teddy bear. He tried hard, was a talented metal smith and opened his arms for anyone. Many misfits found welcome in Mischka’s camp. He was killed in a driving accident, never waking from his injuries.

These people, each and every one a bright spark, left their marks on many lives. We sometimes don’t know, indeed often have no idea, of the impact we make on someone. Everyone was human, flawed and perfect. They had good days and bad, pissed people off yet gave their love and attention. Their deaths always teach me a lesson. Live life to the fullest, go for your dreams and tell those who matter that you do indeed care for them. Better late than never.

This day was set aside, originally to mark the passing of those who had died in war. But each of us has our own war to fight and our own way to remember. I think of all the needless deaths, the lives gone far too soon and wonder if there is a better way. And I remember those I knew, keeping something of them alive in my heart.

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Homophobia and the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf

The school district of Abbotsford is at it again. A high school course is being offered called Social Justice. It deals with issues and rights for animals, gay people, races, gender, etc. This is a Ministry of Education approved course and outlines what Canadian law covers in terms of rights. It was approved to be offered this fall.

Typical of Abbotsford, where the school district has in the past banned various books because of their content, some of it being about gay people, they yet again stuck their noses in, in an effort to slow down the inevitable offering of this course.

Now Abbotsford is an interesting place. It’s nearly an hour from Vancouver and now that housing has become unaffordable for the average human in Vancouver or even Maple Ridge, people are buying out there. I have several friends who bought in Abbotsford but it’s history is more right wing. I was a book rep at one point and drove all over BC. Abbotsford was one place where religious fundamentalism raised its hoary head. I had to be very careful what I wore (taking off my extra rings) and what books I showed the bookstores. In one, even a pictorial depiction of Jesus was frowned upon. An interesting note is that this city contains many bikers as well as the bible thumpers. I’m sure it’s changing with more people moving out from Vancouver.

However, you still have that religious right screaming out about unsuitable materials in the school any time a true education is offered, especially if it involves homosexual content. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were trying to wheedle out content based on different races too. So Abbotsford school district pretending yet again that they’re just doing a “normal” (for them, maybe) review process smacks too much of the same ole prejudices. They’re the little boy crying wolf.

Yet again we have people who purport to be Christians, those who should “love thy neighbor” and to “turn the other cheek” should something offend them. Yet they get all riled up when “those people” don’t live by their values. I just can’t figure out what it matters to anyone else. Hold your religion and beliefs in your heart and don’t push them onto others. Compassion? Puhleeze. It’s only given to those who tow the line the way the fundamentalists want. How hypocritical. Really, who a person has sex with (as long as it’s not your spouse or someone under age) is no one else’s business. I could decide that in my religion the color blue was “eeeevil” and then start running around and trying to get it banned or not allowing books that mentioned blue in the schools .

Everyone might think me a kook but should my religion get more followers we could then form a cadre and start ostracizing people based on their blueness. If I don’t want blue around me, fine, but realize that other people live by other beliefs and it’s none of your business. They don’t need “saving” and they don’t want it. I really wish fundamentalists of every religion would take a reality pill and chill out. Let everyone live their lives and if they aren’t hurting someone else, let it be.

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Gay Pride and Whole Rainbow of Possibilities

This coming weekend marks the gay pride parade in Vancouver. I have only managed to go once and it was a so-so parade. I was expecting big Kermit floats and others covered in flowers. Mostly it came across as ways for different businesses to advertise while showing support. Though you do get some colorful individuals and the bare-breasted dykes on bikes. We probably have the second largest population of gay and lesbians after San Francisco. Why the west coast? I’m not sure. Probably because it’s warmer but also port cities tend to always be a blend of tradition and new ideas brought in by different ships and crews. Port cities are usually more liberal.

One of the news items associated with this year’s gay pride parade was about a Sikh man who has been trying to put a Bollywood style float together and running into some opposition: people don’t want the Sikh religion associated with homosexuality. It’s kind of odd because it’s not the religion that should be associated with homosexuality but homosexuals who are associated with the Sikh religion. Homosexuality isn’t drawn to a particular religion.

No matter what right wing fundamentalist may think, homosexuality isn’t a choice. People are born with a particular preponderance. A very good friend of mine, Greg, told me that by the age of six he knew he was gay and wanted to play “rubbing dinkies” with the boys. Most of the gay men I know tried sex with the other gender but it just didn’t work for them.

Someone posted on wordpress a while back (I wished I’d gone and responded) that their theory was that women who had a “best friend evah” who was gay were women who were dumb, vapid and not too deep (is that the same thing?). I believe the person went on to say that gay men only want these Barbie doll types of women as friends. (I didn’t read all of the article) I’ve heard some ludicrous things over the years and this rates as one of them.

Example: one of my best friends evah is gay. My other best friends are not. I have two degrees and have never been called stupid by anyone. My neighbors are gay and we’re all friends. My landlady is an architect. I certainly see no correlation with one type of person being the preferred friend type to a gay person (and I use gay here to mean men or women). Like all people, gay people have a range of personalities and religious beliefs. They are of all religions and none, varying tastes and desires and life goals. The only difference; they prefer to have sex with the same gender.

Of course, these odd prejudices of only one type for one type can also happen amongst certain gay people. I’ve been accused by gay men of being a fag hag. I hate this term and to me it means a woman who exclusively hangs around with gay men, hoping to eventually have sex with/sway one over to the other side. Even if it only means a woman who only hangs with gay men, I still take offense. If I want to go out with my gay friend, what’s wrong with that and why should it be assumed that’s all I do? Do people presume such things if you’re out with a straight male or a woman?

My biggest problem with people being against homosexuals is–what business is it of yours what they do in their bedrooms? They’re not warping your children’s minds. You can’t sway someone to the “gay side” unless they’re already gay. And as far as I’m concerned any religion that would ban someone just for being born the way they are, is a religion I want nothing to do with. Of course, mostly what happens is religious interpretation by individuals, which can get skewed. Love thy neighbor, but not if he’s gay? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but not if they’re gay?

I haven’t studied all religions but if compassion means it’s only for someone who is like you, then that’s a pretty narrow definition. Those who protest the most against being gay are probably those who have questioned their own sexuality and repressed it. Live and let live and stop repressing the homosexuals. If they were accepted in most cases as part of society, the need to flaunt or protest goes waaay down. Hooray for Canada, which legalized same sex marriages. And here’s to the gay pride parade which will be needed until everyone accepts that homosexuals are part of the overall population; 10%.

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