Monday, October 30

All Tricks and No Treat

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If this doesn’t scare the crap out of the kiddies this Halloween, I don’t know what will. I can think of few things more frightening than four years of Kerry Healey as governor.

Healey’s spent the past few weeks trying to scare the people of Massachusetts into voting for her, but recent polls show that an overwhelming majority feel she’s a helluva lot scarier than her ads attacking Deval Patrick.

Of course, the youngsters approaching my door for candy to fill their sacks might not be politically savvy enough to recognize the Lieutenant Governor’s frightening visage on my Healey-o-lantern; they might conclude that it’s just a plain old witch.

And the problem is…??

Sausage Fest

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No, not that kind of sausage fest (though we did attend a Halloween party on Saturday that was chock full of cute boys). Our good friends L and M—who are foodies on a level that Joe and I only dream of—invited us over for dinner last night after making their own sausage on Saturday with pork shoulder from a locally-raised pig (purchased in Groton, MA).

The sausage was delicious, and the ingredients simple: just salt, pepper, garlic, and wine (and natural casings). They served it pan fried on a bed of caramelized onions with a side of sautéed Roxbury Russet apples, a hearty brown bread, and an Aglianico from Basilicata (our contribution). What a meal. Thanks, boys.

Friday, October 27

Göz Lokumu

Last month
Will of Designer Blog asked me whether young men alone qualified as göz lokumu (eye candy). My response was to invite him to compose this month’s post. He has written a wonderful piece on the Poseidon of Artemision (ca. 460 BCE, National Archaeological Museum, Athens), so named because this amazing work (shown above) was raised from the sea, off northern Euboea’s Cape Artemision in 1928.

He begins, however, with an allusion to figures like the Youth of Antikythera (ca. 340 BCE, National Archaeological Museum, Athens), another fine bronze (shown right) depicting a well-built youth (possibly Paris). Like the Poseidon of Artemision, it too was raised from the sea floor, off the island of Antikythera in 1900.


The well-known Greek admiration for the human form resulted in some of the most beautiful images of young men ever created. But the Greeks had equal veneration for the male body as it passed through life, as muscles grew and hardened, bones developed and lines of character formed in the face, the languorous beauty of youth attaining the confident power of middle age.

I was in my early 20s when I realized that my personal standard for male beauty was directed at men a good ten to fifteen years older than myself—experienced, centered men who’d maintained their bodies, were at the height of their powers, sexual and otherwise—men who knew their way around.

When I first discovered the great bronze Poseidon in Athens, I recognized him immediately as my ideal: a handsome, beautifully proportioned and totally believable god poised to hurl his iconic trident (that has unfortunately) not survived antiquity. He stands today as fresh and powerful as the day he was created.

Poseidon’s brother Zeus, King of he Gods, generally gets the major credit for divine philandering, but Poseidon more than holds up his end. According to one source, he impregnated twenty-six women in addition to his sister-wife, resulting in a total of at least fifty-two children. Among these are some very famous names like Pegasus, the winged horse (conceived with the gorgon Medusa while he was disguised as a stallion in what must have been a truly remarkable sexual encounter); Polyphemus, the Cyclops; Byzas (the legendary founder of Byzantium, which became Constantinople and eventually Istanbul); and Pelops and installing him on Olympus as his lover, eventually settling on him the gift of a great winged chariot as a token of his passion.

Poseidon is credited with causing earthquakes (or was that just the bed shaking?). He was he god of horses, seducing several women as a stallion (or was he just “horse-hung”?). And most of all he was god of the seas, ruler of the middle layer of the Greek cosmos with Zeus the Thunderer ruling the sky above, and Pluto ruling the Underworld below. Like his brother Zeus, Poseidon took as wife a sister, Demeter, the goddess of wheat and grain; together they reigned jointly as god and goddess of fertility.

In my adulthood I began seriously to question just what’s supposed to be so “advanced” and superior about monotheism. I look at the Greek pantheon as a veritable guidebook to all aspects of human emotion and psychology from which we can learn far more about ourselves and our fellow beings than from the watered-down or thinly disguised versions that Christianity provides (Ares or Mars as St. Michael the Warrior Archangel, for example). When I visited Apollo’s sanctuary at Delphi, as a gay man I felt instantly and completely at home there, as if embraced by the spectacular site and its ancient cult. When I look at the strong, handsome and majestic head of Poseidon, I have the same feeling and know that this is a god (in company with his modern day human descendents) I could truly adore.


That might seem like a strange word to apply to Grace Ross, who is running for governor on the Green-Rainbow Party ticket. To the consternation of many of my friends and neighbors, I often vote third party. Yes, I’ve heard all of the standard arguments: “Don’t throw your vote away,” “You’re giving votes to the opposition!” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Perhaps when I have more time, I’ll devote a post to the importance of third party politics, but for now, I’m simply including a link to a great article on Grace Ross in today’s Boston Globe. I’ve liked Grace Ross from the very start of the race. She is the candidate that most closely represents my values. She won’t win. But paradoxically, that’s exactly why I’m thinking of voting for her.

She has no chance of winning because the electorate has been trained to think that third-party/independent candidates aren’t viable. Perhaps if more people (like me) vote for them, they’ll begin to seem more viable and as a result will receive a larger share of the votes. By voting for Ross, I’m challenging the two-party system, which is as important a strategy to me as who becomes the next governor. It’s not all about the short term. Besides, if casting a vote is based solely on the likelihood of a candidate’s winning, then even a vote for Kerry Healey is likely to be a wasted vote, given Deval Patrick’s commanding lead in the polls.

Click here to read the article.

According to the article, “[d]uring Ross's visit to Massasoit [Community College], a custodian, a campus security officer, and a cafeteria worker sought her out to tell her they were thinking of voting for her.” Therein lies the key to success. Her message resonates with the working class, who rightly feel that they’ve been given the shaft by the political establishment.

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Ross’s greatest asset is her message and its appeal to working class voters. Her biggest liability, as shown by recent opinion polls (above), is her lack of visibility (which is a direct result of her lack of funds). Compare the 46% of those polled who don’t know anything about Grace Ross to the less than 15% for each of the other candidates. However, the fact that 28% of those surveyed viewed her favorably, compared to the only slightly higher 34% for both Kerry Healey and Christy Mihos is quite telling.

The real challenge facing any third-party candidate is getting noticed and getting what is often a very appealing message out in front of the voters. All the more reason why Healey should shut her damn profiterole hole about a one-on-one debate with Patrick.

Although Ross has only about 2% of the vote this time around, if she and other populist candidates like her can continue to mobilize large numbers of the working class and those who feel disenfranchised and alienated by the political process, then the poll numbers might look very different down the road.

Wednesday, October 25

News from New Jersey

Mark Lewis and Dennis Winslow, et al. v. Gwendolyn L. Harris, etc., et al.

“HELD: Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed same-sex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to same-sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.”
Read the full text of the decision here.

I’m happy, but I can’t help but feel that the Supreme Court of New Jersey chose the easy way out, effectively giving the people the right to undermine (if not overturn) this decision by creating a legal relationship between two people of the same sex that is something other than marriage. In a way, I can’t blame them. They have doubtless seen the divisive and bitter fight that resulted from the 2003 Goodridge decision here in Massachusetts.

The court knows very well that this is not simply a matter of semantics. What the relationship is called matters. The federal government is not obligated to recognize civil unions because civil unions do not exist at the federal level. Of course, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) already exempts both the states and the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. However, this can be challenged by legitimately married same-sex couples suing in federal court. If they are not married, however, but merely are joined by a civil union (like what exists in Vermont), I don’t believe they would have standing to challenge DOMA.

Call me cynical, but while I would like to see this as a victory for marriage equality and GLBT rights, I feel that the Supreme Court of New Jersey has opened the door to separate but equal.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

While I myself detest Kerry Healey’s race baiting and fear-mongering tactics, I don’t have much sympathy for the Reverend Jeffrey Brown (pictured left), pastor of Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, who’s been crying foul over Healey’s most recent attack ad—you know the one, a woman walking alone in a parking garage, it ends with a sanctimonious “Deval Patrick should be ashamed, not governor.”

I think it’s safe to say that the ad, which continues to air, has backfired and resulted in much consternation. In Brown’s own words: “When I first saw [the ad], the effect for me as a black male, it just killed me. It’s the kind of race-baiting ad that plays to the worst fears of suburban America. It has crossed the line, as far as I’m concerned.”

Those of us who consistently oppose the politics of fear and division can rightly be outraged at what Frank Phillips referred to in the last gubernatorial debate as the ad’s “racial subtext.” When Brown expresses his outrage, however, he just sounds like a hypocrite.

But wait—isn’t it reasonable for black leaders to be outraged at an ad that just about everyone (other than Healey herself) finds offensive? Of course it is. But it’s far less reasonable for someone like Brown to cry foul amidst what he calls race-baiting after engaging for so long in gay-baiting.

Brown has been a vocal critic of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and affixed his name to the “Joint Statement in Support of Constitutional Amendment Initiative,” signed by the state’s conservative clergy back in 2004. Moreover, as co-founder of the Boston Ten Point Coalition, he was one of three co-authors of the “Black Clergy Statement on Marriage,” which urged the Legislature to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

Brown didn’t stop there, however. He went on to express his personal outrage that GLBT people would have the unmitigated gall to define their struggle as a battle for civil rights: “I’m offended that they’re comparing this to civil rights. Marriage is not a civil right, and the struggle of gay and lesbian people cannot be compared to the struggle of blacks.”

The fear-mongering tactics employed by the opponents of marriage equality are not simply equal to, but surpass Kerry Healey’s fear-based attack on Deval Patrick. They talk about the destruction of marriage as an institution, the negative impact that same-sex marriage will have on children, and the dreaded gay agenda. In their opposition to same-sex marriage, they have demonized GLBT people, and Reverend Brown is part of that equation. It’s easy to demonize, and back in 2004, Brown was quick to jump on the anti-gay bandwagon. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and Brown is being given a painful reminder that it’s not as much fun when you’re the one being demonized.

The moral of the story for Brown and others like him is that just because conservative Republicans zealously court the African-American community in the battle over same-sex marriage, it doesn’t mean that deep down they’re not racists.

Friday, October 20

Tax the Rich

Thus far during the gubernatorial race, the citizens of Massachusetts have heard a lot of talk about the high cost of living in Massachusetts, which is easy to understand, combined with a lot of talk about the state income tax and property taxes, which is not so easy for the average layperson to understand.

While property taxes have certainly risen in Massachusetts—as a resident of the City of Boston, I know mine have—I think it’s important to recognize a few basic things up front:

First of all, there is a cap on both the amount of property taxes cities and towns can raise and also on the amount property taxes can increase from one year to the next. It’s called Proposition 2½, and Massachusetts residents have been living with it for the past 26 years. Proposition 2½ places two constraints on the amount of property taxes a city or town can levy:

1. A community cannot levy more than 2.5% of the total full cash value of all taxable property in the community (called the levy ceiling).

2. A community’s allowable levy for a fiscal year (called the levy limit) cannot increase by more than 2.5% of the maximum allowable limit for the prior year, plus certain allowable increases such as new growth from property added to the tax rolls in that year.
I think it’s important to remember this when discussing taxation in Massachusetts. People talk about property taxes as if they’ve gone through the roof and will climb higher still as a result of Healey’s plan to roll back the income tax. In reality, Proposition 2½ limits how much property taxes can rise.

That’s not meant as a defense of Proposition 2½, which I suspect gives incentives to cities and towns to favor new housing developments (which often contribute to sprawl and eat up open space) over historic preservation and rehabilitation. The point is that in the conversation about what’s causing people to leave Massachusetts, we need to spend less time making false assumptions about property taxes and shift the emphasis back onto housing costs, the lack of affordable housing, and the lack of employment opportunities. These are the true factors in the exodus, not property taxes.

Nor do I wish to see the income tax rolled back. While it won’t produce the spike in property taxes that figures so prominently into Deval Patrick’s argument, we will see more cuts in state aid to cities and towns. With so many cities and towns in need of more state aid, we cannot afford to roll back the state income tax rate from 5.3% to 5%, as Kerry Healey has proposed. A rollback isn’t where the conversation needs to be. What we should be discussing is scrapping our flat rate income tax once and for all.

Massachusetts is one of only six states without a variable tax rate. Call me a socialist, but I think that’s a mistake (Oh wait, I am a socialist). California has six tax brackets ranging from 1.0% to 9.3%. Closer to home, Maine has four tax brackets ranging from 2.0% to 8.5%. I agree with Grace Ross: it’s time to overhaul our tax system in Massachusetts and institue a progressive tax. With so many of our cities and towns continuing to suffer from economic blight and high crime rates—have you driven through Roxbury, Lawrence, or Springfield recently?—we can’t afford more budget cuts.

It’s time to reverse the cuts to cities and towns that in recent years have had a devastating impact on our local schools, public safety, and basic services. In January 2003 Romney cut state aid to cities and towns $114 million below the amount that had been appropriated for the fiscal year. While a balanced budget is great, the answer is not to reduce the amount of state aid to cities and towns as the Romney-Healey administration has done. Rather, we need to tax the rich.

Thursday, October 19

Third Debate

Watching the third gubernatorial debate right now, and I’m happy to see Kerry Healey getting her ASS KICKED all over Faneuil Hall.

Kudos to Deval Patrick for retaining his poise and composure and delivering an eloquent defense of his candidacy. How inspiring to see the bust of Frederick Douglass over his shoulder.

Greater kudos to Grace Ross for her steadfast defense of the working poor and for reminding us all that by giving tax breaks to the wealthiest of the wealthy, we are starving our democracy.

And Christy Mihos is an idiot.

To read the entire transcript of the debate, click here.

Sick to My Stomach

Rarely do I judge the quality of a film by its ability to make me want to vomit. After watching Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, however, I felt sick to my stomach. It wasn’t just the detailed accounts of war profiteering and the sad fact that war makes some rich and many more miserable. What made me even sicker was a feeling deep inside me that there is no remedy for this bleak situation because humans are innately greedy and cruel and predisposed not only to slaughter each other, but to try to get rich in the process.

Iraq for Sale tells the story of how Halliburton/KBR, CACI, and Blackwater (to name a few) have been given no-bid contracts to handle logistical support and reconstruction in Iraq and have reaped billions in the process. While many Americans have probably heard some of the allegations of how this outsourcing has led to cost overruns and substandard services, fewer are probably aware of how outsourcing has contributed to the breakdown of the rule of law.

The film examines, for example, the role played by private contractors in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and points to the fact that private workers are not subject to the same laws and regulations as military personnel. The film also documents specific instances of how cost cutting and attention to the bottom line have repeatedly put employees at risk, often with devastating results.

There is no doubt that privatizing the Iraq war has opened the door to enormous profits. Sadly, the relentless pursuit of profit in Iraq has taken place at the expense of the American taxpayers, the Iraqi people, and the lives of rank and file workers. And it sickens me to think that not a damn thing will be done about it.

If you want to feel sick, go see Iraq for Sale. It’s currently screening at multiple locations throughout the greater Boston area and elsewhere in Massachusetts through November 11. The screenings are free, but you need to sign up in advance. To do so, click here.

If I thought I could stomach it again, I’d sign up to host my own screening.

Tuesday, October 17

Les censeurs ont tort.

Last Thursday, France passed a law making it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottomans during the First World War and its aftermath. This leaves me frustrated, in spite of the fact that I have recently had a series of unpleasant and caustic encounters with several very angry readers of this blog who denied that what happened to Armenians during the last years of the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide.

I do not believe that censorship is the answer. Rather, those who deny the Armenian genocide should be treated with the scorn and derision that they deserve. The solution is to deprive them of their legitimacy, not their voice. I would make the same argument about the phenomenon of Holocaust denial, which is illegal in many European countries as well as Israel.

To me, these laws are no better than the infamous Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code under which the “Public denigration of Turkishness” is punishable with a prison sentence ranging from six months to three years. Under the terms of the law, the celebrated Turkish author Orhan Pamuk (Snow, My Name is Red), who was recently awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature, was brought to trial last December for comments he made about the Armenian genocide during an interview with a Swiss newspaper in which he stated: “30,000 Kurds and a million Armenians were murdered. Hardly anyone dares mention it, so I do. And that’s why I’m hated.”

The charges were eventually dismissed on a technicality, but during his trial Pamuk offered the following defense, which deeply resonates with me: “What I said is not an insult, it is the truth. But what if it is wrong? Right or wrong, do people not have the right to express their ideas peacefully?”

I agree with Pamuk and I applaud his bravery and his integrity. Pamuk did not choose his conscience over his country. He did not betray his patriotism; he obeyed it, by choosing to acknowledge the darker episodes in his country’s past. And while acknowledging them should not be a matter for the courts, neither should denying them.

Monday, October 16

Rembetiko of the Month

Αμάν, αμάν.
Στην ξενητειά, την ορφανιά, την πίκρα, καί την λύπη—
Όλα μου τ’άδωσε ο θεός• κανένα δεν μου λείπει.

Aman, aman.
In exile, to be an orphan with bitterness and grief—
God has given me all of these; not one of them have I avoided.

Click here to listen.

I believe this melancholy song was recorded in Athens between 1935 and 1937. It features vocals by Stratos Payioumdzis (ca. 1902 – 1971), who was born in the port town of Aïvali (Ayvalik) in Asia Minor and fled to Greece as a refugee during the First World War, a few years before the massive population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Payioumdzis did not begin recording until 1934, prior to which he worked as a laborer in Piraeus.

Payioumdzis (pictured left) is generally regarded as belonging to the Piraeus School of Rembetika, which refers to the male-dominated subgroup whose songs featured gritty themes and had a much less polished sound than the songs of the Smyrnaïc School. The most common instruments of the Piraeus School were the bouzouki and baglamas, though other instruments, such as the oud and accordion, were sometimes used. The Piraeus School flourished in the 1930s, during which time it gradually began to eclipse the popularity of the Smyrnaïc School.

While I don’t contest the main points of this narrative (and have relied on it myself to distinguish between Rembetika’s different sub-genres), I am beginning to see its inadequacy. For one thing, the Smyrnaïc School continued to enjoy widespread popularity with the Greek Diaspora in the United States during the 1940s. Furthermore, while the Greek popular songs (λαϊκά) that emerged after the Second World War drew heavily on the bouzouki-dominated Piraeus School, they also looked to the Smyrnaïc School as well. In reality, the first generation of postwar Greek popular singers like Yiota Lydia and Stelios Kazantzidis were influenced by both subgenres of Rembetika, and this dual parentage can be heard in their music.

Of greater importance in deciding whether to stick to the main contours of the Piraeus- Smyrnaïc School dichotomy is whether or not it is flexible enough to accommodate all that we know about Rembetika. For example, we know that αμανέδες, a mainstay of the Smyrnaïc School, were being sung in Athens in the Sandouri Café/Café Aman establishments that had appeared as early as the 1880s. The same could be said of Jannina to the north, though this city was not incorporated into Greece until 1913.

Similarly, there were edgier, bawdier songs being sung in Constantinople (Istanbul), Syros, and probably Smyrna as well that had much in common with the feel (though not necessarily the instrumentation) of the so-called Piraeus School. These were songs of the male-dominated τεκέδες (te-KE-dhes)—or hash dens—prisons, and bordellos. While the Piraeus School moniker may seem a useful term to describe the recordings produced in the 1930s by a specific group of male musicians, the style of music recorded by Markos Vamvakaris, Yiorgos Batis, Stratos Payioumdzis, and Andonis Kalivopoulos (to name a few) traces its origins to the underground music that existed on both sides of the Aegean as early as the 19th century.

Perhaps the division is less one of Smyrna and Piraeus, which places too much emphasis on geography, than one of τεκές (te-KES) and Café Aman, which shifts the emphasis to one of setting and mood. As a genre, Rembetika mixes underground songs with bourgeois songs. The irony is that as the sound of the underground songs became more popular, it took on a more bourgeois feel and arguably lost its edge.

I chose Payioumdzis’ Ουσσάκ Τραγούδι της Ξενητειάς (Song of Exile in makam Oussak) this month because, while it is common to classify this song as belonging to the Piraeus School, it has many elements that are more characteristic of the Smyrnaïc School. For one thing, it is an αμανές. Also, it features the oud as well as the bouzouki. It may belong in the τεκές, but it simultaneously pays homage to the Café Aman. Such is the beauty of Rembetika.

Recommended Listening:
Rembetika: Greek Music from the Underground

Thursday, October 12


A couple of news items caught my eye last week, but I didn’t have a chance to post about them until now. Certainly, they’ve been eclipsed by other stories (like North Korea’s nukes), but that’s perhaps all the more reason to revisit them. Even when they appeared, they were small stories, not garnering much attention, but they are significant in that they highlight a sickness that has infested our government and our nation, and that sickness is something that the ancient Greeks called hubris (ύβρις).

Last Wednesday Bush signed the new homeland-security bill. Among other things, the bill also included provisions pertaining to our neighbors to the north and south: it allows Americans to import a 90-day supply of prescription drugs from Canada (thumbs up), while calling for $1.2 billion in fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border (thumbs down).

One important provision that was attached to the bill called for minimum qualifications for the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Congress was responding to the fact that in the aftermath of FEMA’s slow and poorly coordinated response to Hurricane Katrina, it was revealed that Michael Brown, Bush’s choice to lead FEMA, had no prior experience in emergency management. Congress is requiring “a demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management” and “not less than five years of executive leadership.”

Bush’s response was to issue a signing statement declaring his authority to bypass the provision and ignore the minimum qualifications set forth by Congress. His reason: the law “purports to limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from whom the president may select the appointee in a manner that rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office.”

What a slap in the face to the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast who lost their homes and loved ones and whose suffering was made worse because of FEMA’s mishandling of the crisis. It’s as though Bush wants to reserve the right to hire someone who is inexperienced and incompetent. I guess he had no choice really. To accept that provision and the prerogative (and responsibility) of Congress to set minimum standards for so important a position would be a tacit concession that “Brownie” had no business serving as FEMA chief.

While Bush is trying to beat the law, Guantanamo guards are busy beating prisoners. In a two-page statement issued to the Inspector General at the Department of Defense by a high-ranking Marine Corps defense lawyer, it was revealed that guards at Guantanamo have been bragging about the beatings they routinely give prisoners. Stories about the abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo have surfaced before, and this recent development adds to the mounting pile of evidence pointing to the mistreatment of Guantanamo detainees.

On one hand we have the President of the United States defending his right to hand pick the head of FEMA without any restrictions imposed by Congress in spite of the fact that his last pick was an abysmal failure that caused enormous suffering among hundreds of thousands of Americans. On the other hand we have soldiers actually bragging about the inhumane manner with which the treat prisoners at Guantanamo. I’m not sure I know which one is worse. Each of these episodes demonstrates hubris and is a disgrace to our president and our nation.

Aristotle defined hubris as

doing or saying things that cause shame to the victim, not in order that anything may happen to you, nor because anything has happened to you, but merely for your own gratification. Hubris is not the requital of past injuries; this is revenge. As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater (Rhetoric 1378b).
It’s easy to see how the above definition relates to the maltreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. One might argue that the hubris lies in not so much the beatings, but the very act of holding men prisoner without any formal mechanism in place for adjudication.

In the case of Bush’s signing statement, the link to hubris is less clear, but it’s there. Bush believes not only that his presidential prerogative is greater than the power of Congress, but also feels that it’s more important than the victims of Katrina and, really, all Americans, whose safety depends on there never again being a Michael Brown in charge of FEMA.

Thursday, October 5


The other night Joe took Neretta to Angel Memorial in Jamaica Plain. Neretta is a little black cat that has taken up residence on our front porch. She was feral when we found her several months ago and she’d run away if we got too close, but we’ve managed to tame her and she’s become quite affectionate. The problem is that we both have allergies, and a cat indoors is out of the question. We’re trying to figure out if she can survive outdoors during the winter months. So far, we’ve not been able to find a suitable home for her and we’d rather keep her outdoors than hand her over to an animal shelter. In the meantime, we thought we should get her checked out by a vet. We’re taking her to be spayed next week.

While sitting in the waiting room at the vet’s office, Joe picked up a small neighborhood newspaper (the name of which he could not recall) and came across an article from which he tore out the following excerpt:

“Hooking-up and having friends with ‘benefits’ is very common among students in schools and colleges throughout America.

In earlier times, affluent Americans had a place on their property called a ‘garconaire’ where young boys learned about sex. We ought to have it today for everyone…”
He found that quite amusing and brought the scrap home to me, suggesting I do a little research into the whole garconaire thing. Not having the complete article in front of me, I’m not sure if it was part of an editorial of some kind or what. The author went on to reminisce about the era of Doris Day and John Wayne, lamenting the libertinism of our own day, which, s/he argued, has lead to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases.

Regardless of the veracity of that argument, I too was intrigued by the concept of the garconaire as a place where boys go to learn about sex. These days that seems to be Capitol Hill.

I decided to google the term and discovered that the term is actually “garçonnière.” Apparently, during the 19th century, separate living quarters akin to small cottages were set up on the grounds of large estates for the family’s teenage sons. They seem to have been more common in the antebellum South, where they were referred to as garçonnières.

I myself was not familiar with this practice, so I probed a bit further. I didn’t find much, but I did manage to locate an entry on Wikipedia’s German mirror site:

Eine Garconniere (von frz. garcon für Junggeselle) ist eine voll ausgestattete und möblierte Kleinwohnung, die zumeist von Junggesellen oder Studenten bewohnt wird. Eine Garconniere dient jedoch auch Verheirateten manchmal als Zufluchtsort für Seitensprünge. Der Begriff ist vor allem in Österreich gebräuchlich für eine Einzimmerwohnung.
Not being a German speaker, I ran the text through altavista’s Babel Fish translator, and this is what came out:
A Garconniere (of fr. garcon for bachelor) is a fully equipped and furnished small flat, which is inhabited mostly by bachelors or students. Sometimes, however, a Garconniere also serves married men as place of refuge for side jumps. The term is particularly common in Austria for one-room dwelling.
Not bad for an online translator. It’s pretty readable, with the exception of the phrase “side jump,” which I found kind of amusing. Clearly a mistranslation, I isolated the word, “Seitensprünge,” and googled that. Here’s what I found:

Upon further investigation, I discovered that Seitensprünge refers to a fling or dalliance, which is kind of what I suspected all along and probably why I shouldn’t have googled it at work. Moreover, if that’s what used to go on in the garçonnières, I wish my parents had built one for me.

Sunday, October 1

Ευμετάβλητος Οχτώβρης

I initially thought this October looked a bit melancholy, as October is apt to be, but then I concluded that he just looked moody. I didn’t know the word for moody in Greek, however, and when I went to look it up, all I could find was the word for “changeable” (ευμετάβλητος).

I think that’s equally appropriate.
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