Thursday, August 31

A Piano Should Fall on Their Heads

This month’s pianos are lovingly dedicated to the ex-gays who trekked all the way to New Orleans to protest at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association (APA). It really saddens me that this was the most productive task that these so-called Christians could envision for themselves in a city as devastated as New Orleans.

Why not go down and volunteer with those organizations like Habitat for Humanity helping repair and rebuild homes damaged by Katrina? In May the New Orleans city council unanimously passed an ordinance (City Ordinance #26031) stating that those whose damaged homes were not gutted by August 29 (the first anniversary of the hurricane) risk having their property seized and bulldozed by the city.

Thousands of displaced working-class residents who are living in trailers or with family members are either waiting for insurance payments or did not have adequate insurance coverage, making the cost of gutting and repairing one’s home beyond the reach of many of the city’s poorer residents. Consequently, thousands of those whose homes were damaged by Katrina missed the deadline, not to mention the thousands of others who sought shelter in other states and haven’t yet made it back to their old neighborhoods to assess the state of their homes.

Although there were a dozen or so non-profit organizations that were gutting homes for free, there simply weren’t enough volunteers to get to every home before the deadline. The fifty or so protesters at the APA meeting could have lent a hand. Instead of hammers, however, their hands held picket signs reading: “Don’t tell me I was born gay!” and “You don’t have to be gay.”

They neglected an opportunity to do good in order to do harm. Instead of taking advantage of an opportunity to minister to their impoverished brothers and sisters, they chose to spread a message that undermines the dignity of their GLBT brothers and sisters.

Of course, they have argued that they were merely protesting the APA’s position that gay people can’t change. As I pointed out in my previous post, however, the APA has never issued a formal resolution on the changeability of homosexuals. Instead, they have condemned reparative therapy on the grounds that it is often coerced and, moreover, it treats homosexuality as a mental disorder, something the APA explicitly rejects. The APA has also expressed concern over the lack of scientific evidence demonstrating the successful conversion of unhappy homos into happy heteros, on one hand, and the abundance of scientific evidence for the harm done by so-called conversion therapy, on the other.

The idea that same-sex attraction is a form of mental illness and its religious counterpart (expressed by such organizations as Exodus International) that homosexual desire is contrary to the will of God and homosexual acts are a form of depravity contribute to the ongoing marginalization and victimization of GLBT people. The ex-gay movement has repeatedly accused the APA of undermining their dignity by refusing to acknowledge their existence, but in reality, the APA is simply refusing to endorse practices that undermine the dignity of others.

Tuesday, August 29

In Him

OK, I admit it, I kinda started this one. I blame it on the guys over at Queer Today for drawing my attention to some recent ex-gay activity in Boston and to one ex-gay blogger in particular. I followed her blog to another blog (as often happens within the blogosphere) and before I knew it I was commenting on a protest staged by an ex-gay contingent at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA) in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago.

The long and short of it is that the ex-gay movement desperately wants to achieve legitimacy for themselves and for “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy,” which refers to the process by which a person suffering from same-sex attraction is “cured.” Specifically, they have been trying to get the APA to acknowledge that gay people can change. “We disagree with the APA’s stand that people can’t change if they want to,” said Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a Los Angeles psychologist and president of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).

Although the APA’s online Help Section Q&A on Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality concludes that homosexuality “does not require treatment and is not changeable,” they have never issued a formal resolution on the changeability of homosexuals. Rather, their Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation points out that reparative therapy is often coerced and reinforces feelings of guilt and self-loathing.

The main reason, however, that the APA opposes reparative therapy is that as it is currently practiced, it rests upon the conviction that homosexuality is a mental disorder, something that the APA explicitly rejects. As long as the ex-gay movement insists that homosexuality is a form of mental illness in need of a cure, the APA is right to condemn homophobia and heterosexism masquerading as psychotherapy.

I tried to explain this to a young man who participated in the New Orleans protest. I told him that it made much more sense for the ex-gay movement to work within the confines of those bodies (i.e. evangelicals) that share its view that homosexuality is unnatural and disordered and that the APA is not such a body. This is the response that I received from him by email:

Dear Dean,

I don’t appreciate you acting as if I don’t know my own convictions and what it is I am asking the APA to do.

I deleted your last comment because I simply don’t have time to allow you to treat me and my beliefs in such a condescending manner. I would never go to your blog and do the same.

In Him,
“In Him,” meaning “in Christ,” is a very common closing for evangelicals, but it might not be the wisest choice for an ex-gay man. All you ex-gay men out there may want to rethink the whole “In Him” thing.

Just a suggestion, Randy.

Monday, August 28

All sweaty from the gym

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Another from the Greek Anthology (Book 12, CXCII, Straton). The translation is my own. Incidentally, I share the poet’s desire:

Ού τέρπουσι κόμαι με, περισσότεροί τε κίκιννοι,
τέχνης, ού φύσεως έργα διδασκόμενοι·
αλλά παλαιστρίτου παιδός ρύπος ο ψαφαρίτης,
καί χροιή μελέων σαρκί λιπαινομένη.
ηδύς ακαλλώπιστος εμός πόθος· η δέ γοήτις
μορφή θηλυτέρης έργον έχει Παφίης.

A head full of long curls fresh from the salon? No thanks.
All dolled up like a girl? I don’t think so.
A boy all sweaty from the gym is what I want,
every limb glistening with oil.
Boys are best when natural and unadorned;
though I admit, a touch of feminine
can also be alluring.

The image shows two sweaty Attic Red-Figure wrestlers (British Museum, London).

Saturday, August 26

Mystery Chirp

Last night in my living room I heard a cricket that seemed too loud to be outside and when I investigated, sure enough, it was a cricket that had somehow found its way in and was making its music on a pile of old 78rpm’s (mostly Greek) in the corner.

The interesting thing is that it was clearly missing one of its large back legs, which are what I thought they used to make their chirping sound. Joe and I managed to trap it and brought it outside. I should’ve taken a photo.

Monday, August 21


I was sitting here watching Seinfeld on Fox, and it was “The Opposite” episode from the fifth season. In that episode, Elaine’s love of jujyfruits costs her her boyfriend and her job and begins a chain reaction that turns her into a George-like loser.

Anyway, I suddenly had a craving for jujyfruits, and, of course, we didn’t have any in the house (why would we?), so I went hunting for something to satisfy my appetite when it occurred to me that in the cupboard there was a box of Güllüoğlu lokumu (Turkish delight), which are kind of like Ottoman jujyfruits.

It’s not as good as göz lokumu, but it’s damn good. I had too much though.

Thursday, August 17

Hubris Kiss

The moment and setting were perfect; but we were too shy. If only we’d been bolder, then we could have said:

Εί σε φιλών αδικώ
καί τούτο δοκείς ύβριν είναι,
τήν αυτήν κόλασιν
καί σύ φίλει με λαβών.

If my kissing you
offends you with its hubris,
punish me likewise.

The verse is from the 2nd-century CE Greek Anthology (Book 12, CLXXXVIII, Straton). The translation is my own. It’s a haiku.

The image shows an imminent kiss on an Attic Red-Figure cup from Etruria (Antiquarium, Berlin).

Tuesday, August 15

Recommended Reading

Last Friday after I missed my afternoon train from South Station, I wandered over to Calamus Bookstore. They’ve got a couple of shelves of second-hand books, and in the past I’ve come across some great finds.

This time around, I picked up a parallel Greek-English text of ancient Greek erotic epigrams, which almost made me jizz my jeans. I was so excited because I’ve always been interested in these very homoerotic bits of verse, but rarely encounter them in their original Greek forms.

I didn’t know much about their origins or authorship (many are anonymous) or how they got preserved. As it turns out, they formed part of The Greek Anthology compiled in the 2nd century CE by Straton, a poet in the court of Hadrian, who ruled Rome from 117 to 138. A single manuscript of that anthology (also known as The Palatine Anthology) has survived.

The parallel text of the epigrams that I picked up is Puerilities: Erotic Epigrams of The Greek Anthology, translated by Daryl Hine. Hine, who is himself a poet, took some liberties with his translations so as to render the epigrams in verse form, so what they lack in accuracy for not being literal translations, they make up for in feeling, as the original epigrams were also in verse form. So far, I’ve really been enjoying them, though so far they’re not as dirty as I’d expected. Most are about love and longing, rather than sex. Many deal with unrequited love and the suffering endured by men who love youths. Not all of them are homoerotic, though the vast majority are.

It’s amazing how similar the Greek is to modern Greek. It’s similar enough that I can understand far more of the Greek than I thought. For example, I didn’t need the parallel text to understand:

Οι παίδες λαβύρινθος ανέξοδος·

Boys are an endless maze.
That’s courtesy of Rhianus (275 – 195 BCE) of Crete. He was a wise man.

Χρόνια Πολλά!

Today is a big day in the Mediterranean. In the Greek East, August 15 commemorates the Dormition (i.e. “falling asleep” or death) of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary). Most Greeks refer to the holiday simply as Παναγίας (pa-na-YEE-as), meaning “of the all holy one,” which is one of the names by which the Virgin Mary is known in the Greek-speaking world. Theotokos or “God bearer” is more common in liturgical settings as opposed to common parlance.

In Italy the holiday is referred to as Ferragosto, which in the Catholic tradition refers to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (i.e. her bodily assumption into heaven), which is a little different than the Greek version. Still, they are parallel holidays, celebrated in both Greece and Italy (as well as other countries) with great fanfare and festivities spread out over multiple days. On Lesbos (especially in the town of Agiassos), the August 15 πανηγύρι (pan-ee-GEE-ree) or festival is one of the largest in all of Greece with some great live music and dancing.

As in Italy and the Catholic West, the Eastern Orthodox countries developed a complex Mary cult or Mariolatry. They would argue that Mary is venerated, rather than worshipped (an important distinction for both Catholics and Orthodox), though in practice, this distinction was probably lost on the largely illiterate masses. Clearly, the adoration of the Virgin Mary is an example of the syncretism that helped Christianity spread. In Mary, we see elements of the ancient mother goddesses as well as Athena, Artemis, and even Aphrodite.

In a rather bizarre epilogue to the Dormition myth (which parallels certain elements in the Gospels), three days after her death the Virgin Mary rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, dropping her belt as she drifted upward. The holy belt was caught by Saint Thomas. It was said to possess miraculous properties, and pieces of it are believed to have survived today as holy relics. The belt actually has its own feastday, which falls on August 31. I always used to chuckle whenever I passed the Church of the Holy Belt in Athens.

To all named Mary, Panayioti or Panayiota, Χρόνια Πολλά!

The image of the Dormition is part of an early 14th-century mosaic situated in the Chora Church/Kariye Camii in Istanbul.

Weekend Wrap-up

On Saturday Joe and I spent a lovely day on Moshup Beach down in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard. We went with a friend who’d never been before. He really liked it. We explored Oak Bluffs for a bit and had lunch before setting off for Aquinnah, so it was after 3pm when we finally got to the beach. The air was warm, the sea was warm. We swam and then slept. The surf wasn’t nearly as rough as when we were there two weeks ago, which was itself a magical day.

We were awakened from our nap by Stephen Dirado, who’s kind of a fixture on the island, especially on Moshup with his big accordion-style box camera and tripod. Joe and I met him many years ago when we first started visiting Aquinnah’s funky beach. He photographed us, and we stayed in touch for a while, but eventually lost contact. However, every time we’ve been down there, I’ve thought of him and wondered if we’d see him.

Years went by, and we never saw him again until two weeks ago, that is. There he was, strolling down the beach with his camera. We were so psyched to see him. He remembered us right away. He said we looked the same as when he first met us (which was very nice of him). We were with a small group of friends and we were getting ready to leave to catch the ferry, but he slipped in a quick photo of us, which he sent us last week.

I thought about posting it, but decided against it. I know that’s being a bit of a tease. It’s not because we were naked when he photographed us that I’m not going to show it. It only shows us from the chest up, so you can’t tell that we’re not wearing anything but our tans. I just think that, for me, some anonymity is important on this blog. I liked the photo though. We look kinda tough. We were sorry that we had to leave to catch the ferry since he wanted to take another of us. He said to let him know if we planned to be down again before summer’s end.

I emailed him Friday night to let him know that we were going to be on Moshup. I wasn’t sure that he’d be able to make it. The three of us were out cold on our blanket when he found us. I think I had a boner. I wasn’t really all that embarrassed because Stephen knows Moshup and understands its freedom and unique culture more than most. Plus he’s a great guy, totally cool. We chatted for quite a while—mostly about our plans to adopt and parenthood. He has a way of making his subjects feel relaxed and at ease. Being photographed by him is a real honor. He took two more photos of us with our friend on Saturday. They show a bit… er… more than the others. I can’t wait to see them.

On Sunday we had brunch with another couple. I took a nap, and Joe joined me after a little bit. Later we met the same couple at their place and walked over to the Common for the final performance of The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s production of The Taming of the Shrew. We enjoyed it. They set Shakespeare’s tale of marital bliss in Boston’s North End (that’s the Italian neighborhood) in the 1950s.

It’s not that it didn’t work. Overall, it was very well done. It’s just that the story itself is tricky to process in that it’s not clear (to me at least) whether Shakespeare was endorsing or parodying the notion of the uber-dutiful wife. Add to that a parody of an Italian-American neighborhood in the 50s, and I felt like there was too much parodying going on.

I think a much better choice would have been to set the play in the present, in say, Jamaica Plain (a largely Hispanic neighborhood) with Katherine as a feisty Latina. That way, the stereotypes would at least have been current and, for those who’ve ridden the Orange Line, more familiar.

Monday, August 14

They started it.

In remarks made this morning following a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah after weeks of bombing and destruction in southern Lebanon and northern Israel that has left hundreds of thousands homeless and almost a thousand people dead, President Bush declared that the “responsibility for this suffering lies with Hezbollah.”

He continued, saying: “Hezbollah attacked Israel, Hezbollah started the crisis, and Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis.”

Like a four-year-old, Bush falls back on a “well, they started it” argument. This is not about who started it. This situation is more complex than that. What has happened over the last several weeks has to do with the larger Arab-Israeli conflict in which Israel is by no means an innocent bystander.

His administration’s typically one-sided analysis made no reference to the fact that Israel responded with disproportionate force to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militants. If the United States had chosen to nuke Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks, would we have been justified because Al-Qaeda (in Afghanistan) attacked us and started the crisis?

There is such a thing as disproportionate force. However, those of us who expected Bush to acknowledge Israel’s use of disproportionate force were disappointed, fools that we are. Still, we’re not as foolish as those who think that Israel’s heavy-handedness, whether it be in southern Lebanon or Gaza—and especially when it results in heavy civilian casualties—will contribute to peace in the Middle East. What solves problems in the short term can often create larger problems in the long term.

The situation in the Middle East has become much more dangerous and volatile as a result of Israel’s recent shortsightedness. When moderate Arabs who were once critical of Hezbollah begin fundraising for Hezbollah, can anyone (other than Hezbollah) really claim victory?

Thursday, August 10

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Because the world just got a bit more dangerous. Between the Big Dig’s faulty ceiling bolts made more unstable as a result of recent testing to the threat of bombs made from common household chemicals, I’m wondering which potential disaster I should fear more. And let’s not forget about global warming.

Fuck it, I’m going to the beach this weekend.

Wednesday, August 9

Happy Birthday!

Though I myself do not eat oysters (or shellfish of any kind—not for religious reasons, but because I just don’t like shellfish), I have a soft spot for the Union Oyster House, which celebrates its 180th birthday today.

When I worked for the School of Theology at Boston University, I would take groups of alumni/ae to the Union Oyster House for a large and festive dinner every May during Reunion Weekend. Most of the reunioners were elderly Methodist ministers (the majority of them coming from the year’s 50th class). Back in the 1950s when they were young and idealistic seminary students, many of them spent their summers in between academic years doing civil rights work in the South. Many of them spent time in Southern jails for participating in voter registration drives. As we chatted over bowls of clam chowder (for them, not me) and plates of baked haddock, their stories never failed to inspire me.

In those days, Boston University’s School of Theology was a pioneer in social justice ministry, its graduates speaking out against racism, inequality, and bigotry masquerading as religiosity. That legacy still survives with many at the School (including the former dean) taking a vocal stand against the discrimination of GLBT people within the Methodist Church (it’s a Methodist seminary after all) and our nation. Moreover, the School remains a staunch champion of theological liberalism.

Now that I work closer to the Government Center/Haymarket Square area where the restaurant is located, I pass it when I take lunchtime walks, usually to buy wine at Martignetti’s in the North End. Admittedly, I love the building as much as (if not more than) the restaurant. The building itself is one of downtown Boston’s oldest surviving structures, dating to the 1720s. Only a handful of buildings (including some meeting houses and a few residential buildings in the North End) are older.

Before there were brick rowhouses with bowed fronts in the South End or elegant townhouses sprung up in the Back Bay, the structure that has been home to the Union Oyster House since 1826 stood overlooking Union Street. The building was part of a massive building campaign to replace Boston’s wooden structures with brick following a series of devastating fires during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Its elegant brick façade speaks of the architectural revolution that swept through colonial Boston as the port city grew in size and wealth during the first half of the 18th century.

Shown above is the Union Oyster House ca. 1919.

Tuesday, August 8

Göz Lokumu

A controversial art exhibit in the town of Schwerin has many Germans up in arms. The exhibit features the work of Arno Breker (1900 – 1991), a prominent 20th-century German sculptor whose neo-classical works featuring muscular youths in heroic poses were prized by Hitler and other Nazi leaders.

Many consider Breker to have been a Nazi propagandist. They point to the fact that he produced busts of high-ranking Nazi leaders (including Hitler) and accepted commissions to produce monumental works as part of Nazi-funded public art projects, such as the sculptures of athletes that decorated the Berlin stadium built for the 1936 Olympic games.

Although Breker accepted Nazi patronage, he never joined the Nazi party. After the war, moreover, he continued to be respected and commissioned by world leaders. His post-war busts included West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who restored relations with France, and Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat. An Arno Breker Museum opened in 1985.

Still, many Germans feel that his works should not be on display as part of a publicly-funded exhibit. I myself (not being German) cannot help but admire the beauty of his sculpted forms. Were I to have stumbled across one of his heroic youths without knowing anything about the artist, I surely would have admired the figure’s beauty and perhaps been aroused by the homoeroticism lingering under the surface. Breker’s talent as an artist was widely recognized, and his ability to bring stone and metal to life once got him labeled “Germany’s Michelangelo.”

Looking at his works online, I find that my reaction is much the same, even though I now know about his more questionable commissions. It would be dishonest of me to say that his work repulses me now that I know about how some of it originated.

Pictured above is Breker’s Wounded Warrior (1940).

Wednesday, August 2

Göz Lokumu

It’s in the mid 90s right now in Boston, and it’s supposed to reach 101◦ Fahrenheit soon. When it gets that hot, my thoughts turn to... well, you know where.

While poking around online, the above painting entitled Faun (oil on canvas, 1914, Ateneumin Taidemuseo, Helsinki) by Finnish painter Knut Magnus Enckell (1870 – 1925) caught my eye. I knew virtually nothing about Enckell. Here’s what I found out:

Magnus Enckell was one of the leading figures of the Golden Age of Finnish art. After studying in Finland he traveled to Paris in 1891 and enrolled at the Académie Julian. He remained in Paris almost uninterruptedly until the spring of 1894. In Paris his development was strongly influenced by the mysticism and romantic symbolism of the arts and literature of the age. He was immediately attracted by the current in contemporary French painting that modeled itself on primitive art, the work of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and the work of Manet.

Enckell was also strongly influenced by the literary mysticism of the Soleil d’Or groups and of Joséphin Péladan. He firmly rejected Realism and developed a sculptural and synthetist style, adopting extreme asceticism in his treatment of color, which was limited almost entirely to various shades of grey, black and ochre.

Around the turn of the century, Enckell’s art took on a more picturesque tone. Having met A.W. Finch, a Belgian-English artist, who was living in Finland, and later Sigurd Fosterus, a young architect-art critic, he discovered the new colors of the Post-Impressionist style of painting. After completing the large fresco for Johanneksen kirkko church in Tampere in 1907, he focused on depicting light-filled landscapes and island scenery with pure unadulterated colors. His first fresh atmospheric images include Abutments outside Helsinki from 1908 and his spontaneous watercolor and gouache sketches of Helsinki harbor in the early spring of 1909 (Courtesy of The Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki and The Grove Dictionary of Art).
Enckell is believed to have had male lovers, though not much has been written about this aspect of his life. Based upon his work, I find this a credible assertion. Many of his paintings celebrate the beauty of the male form.

It was only while trying to gather more information on him that I came across his version of Daedalus fitting Icarus with his wings (oil on canvas, c. 1923). You’ll recall that my previous göz lokumu (that’s eye candy for those of you new to this blog) was Lord Frederick Leighton’s version of the same two mythological figures.

Enckell’s Icarus lacks the statuesque dignity and rigidity of Leighton’s and instead conveys a youthful innocence as the awestruck boy marvels at the prospect of trying out his wings. Note the pubes, btw. In Enckell’s Icarus, we see the anticipation of pleasure.

In Faun, we see the afterglow of pleasure. The beautiful youth lies spent, almost nude, his face aglow, blushing. He appears to be resting on a river bank. What kind of physical exertion has left him so exhausted and dreamily content, I wonder?

Tuesday, August 1

Ο Αύγουστος ο υγρός

Αύγουστος (August) is upon us, and he’s hot. Very hot. And I want him all over me. The watermelon too.

That’s one hot moon

I don’t know why I find this so amusing. Perhaps the heat’s got me.

According to, it’s 96◦ Fahrenheit in Boston right now, and apparently the sun has disappeared from the sky and been replaced by the moon as in some kind of apocalyptic Biblical plague à la Moses in Egypt.

Is it Judgment Day? Already?

Anyway, a hot moon makes me think of this past Saturday, which Joe and I spent frolicking naked with some friends on Moshup beach in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard. There were a couple of hot moons hanging out near us.
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