Monday, July 31, 2006

Israel & Lebanon: diagnosis mental illness

Another morning, and Israel, after waiting 12 hours of a 48 hour aerial ceasefire, is bombing again. Hezbollah continues shooting rockets indiscriminately into Israel, trying to injure/kill as many people as possible. All I can think is the UK protest singer Leon Rosselson’s song “It goes on”: “It goes it on, it goes on, without wanting, without end, I go round, I go round, I am dust blown in the wind.”

Yesterday’s attack on Qana which killed 56 civilians, at least 37 children amoung them, got the UN and the US to talk about “ceasefire” instead of the previous hand’s off position held by the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Israel, besides the shelling and border clashes has flown over 5,000 aerial sorties against Lebanon in a military action which resulted in the fleeing/displacement of over 500,000 civilians. Civilians fleeing north have been mortared and killed, the crossing out of Lebanon into Syria has been bombed, the UN observers have been bombed, injured and killed including a dark comedy of 11 bombing strikes against a UN observation post which called six times to ask the Israeli forces to stop, before being fatally hit. There are estimated 750 Lebanese dead so far, mostly civilians.

While tens of thousands of elderly, women and children are trapped running out of food and water in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah continue to fire up to 150 Katyusha rockets into northern Israel with the sole intent of hurting someone Israeli. While not as efficient as the Israeli army, killing only 19 by rockets, they have injured over 1,200 civilians, leaving the 2 million civilians of Haifa (a favorite target) to crouch in bomb shelters. Israel responded by saying any village where rockets are launched will be totally destroyed which they have enacted in Operation Just Reward using cluster bombs in civilian Lebanese areas.

While Jordan and the Arab world have launched massive Aid campaigns for the displaced and bombed civilians of Lebanon (something the West still fails to consider), finding an unbombed airstrip or getting the humanitarian aid to the south remains difficult to impossible. According to the UN 750,000 Lebanese civilians are displaced in what US Secretary of State Rice says are merely "birth pangs of a new Middle East."

Last week I decided not to blog about Israel/Lebanon because it was a murky subject on which while I am confused everyone else has a strong opinion. On Saturday I changed my mind, because I realized that huddling terrified and feeling helpless is something I do know about. On one side we have a military force which, while trying hit guerillas, instead has become very good at killing civilians, particularly children. On the other side we have a guerilla group no less eager to kill, but lacking the technical ability to bring their desires to fruition. Between the two groups we have MILLIONS of people scared, displaced, houses bombed, friends and family injured or dead. It is not birth pangs, it is madness. When each side holds their justifications, desires and history strong enough to kill civilians indiscriminately rather than face changing their view about themselves or they people they attack, it is mental illness. Yes, I am naïve; a wide eyed idealistic but when I see two groups running around my neighborhood shooting machine guns through people’s homes in hopes of hitting each other do I need to know and weigh their every validation before deciding their reactions are disproportionate? Israel military policy and Hezbollah are both unwell; they are unable to control themselves and make rational decisions. They need help. And I wish the rest of the world would help them understand that.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/5228392.stm

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Summer blues; summer heat & me, me me!

Everyone seems to have the summer blogging blahs. Maybe it is the mind-numbing heat wave, maybe it is everyone but me having lovely vacations, or maybe it is because I stay up till 2:00 am staring down people walking by as I shriek and claw at the bars on my windows; the way they breath makes me so ANGRY!

So, a little light distraction is in order. First, in tribute to Dampire let me recommend the quiz: Which Beautiful Vampiress are You?

Of course, nothing is more enjoyably narcissistic than recommending you read my old blogs. Alas, like so much in life, why certain blog entries get read so often have less to do with how good they are – but because men are horny, horny creatures.

1) To Canada Customs x-men means x-rated. (read 1500-2000 times)

Canadian Customs thinks comics, and manga in particular are x-rated. I just sold some gay manga to a Canadian, he told me he would pay the extra not to have them sent through the US as they could be seized. Yeah. Now, every time I go through customs, they type my name and exactly what I bring in. I went with Linda last week. She gets a pass, I get typed in. Thanks to Gayprof mentioning my experience to his friend, this story got linked around the world; including a lesbian sex site.

What I hope you read: Naked lesbian epee & Sabre fencers? Yes!

I think the title says it all – I mean, a commercial showing naked lesbians with swords fighting – does life get better than that? It’s like watching one of my life dreams come true. Also Catholic School, Zoloft & lesbian pirates - that pretty much sums up my life, right there: getting frustrated at a religious school, mind altering medications and lesbian pirates. Lesbian Pirates: the sun still shines a little brighter every day I say that phrase. Oh, the reference to myself as the “bitch-hermit” refers to this short film (Which is sadly completely accurate, especially now as have the same hair colour as her)

2) Ebay: Child Pornography made Easy (read 800-1000 times).

This is hit again and again, at least 40 times every weekend for people looking for “nude boys”, “pojkart”, “Baikal”, “Moviebizz” and “BoyloverNet” – The article is even a dedicated link on several sites/forums for guys who love looking at naked boys. I originally wrote it to shame Ebay into enforcing their policies on child sexual exploitation, and instead it’s now that internet “how to” guide on getting soft child porn off ebay. Sigh.

What I hope you read: Incest child abuse and a need for heroes

The problem hasn’t gone away. We feel helpless; it sucks. But better to talk about it than just shove it back in the closet and pretend it doesn’t happen.

3) Female masturbation, x-box 360 and lipstick. (read 300+ times)

Not only do I get the weekly hits for “female masturbation” but this is the number one post for people who just wander onto the site. For those who want to find out more of my masturbation habits, I recommend this short education video Elf Dreams about how to turn J. R. Tolkien into an erotic experience (only for me Legolas is really a girl disguised as a boy).

What I want you to read: Death notes and Beth’s big trip to the ER

Taking something that it pretty horrid and scary and turning it into something sweet and funny is actually hard work, so not only was this a memorable day but one of my better writing attempts.

4) Beth’s naked day; join me, clothing optional (read 200-300 times)

Search terms: “naked women”, “female naked”, “naked peeper” – that’s kinda self explanatory isn’t it? On a side note, I flashed my breasts at the peeper a block away; I think it was triggered when Linda said, “Good girls don’t” which got me ripping open the blinds and shouting, “I’m not a good girl!”

What I want you to read: Epee: The fighter stands alone

Epee as symbol of life. Put in your own struggle, your own obstacles. “Don’t try: Do!” I’ve had coaches and rock climbing instructors yell at me every time I say, “I’ll try.” But when the others have come and gone, I’m still trying. I’d take someone who keeps trying any day. (If you want the lighter friendship aspect of epee try: Magic Epee breeches, kiss & boo boos)

5) Equal Humanity for gays/lesbians? Part II (read 200-400 times)

This was picked up by quite a few different groups, and not only was it one of my better researched pieces but actually got me a job. But now, like all things religious/political we’ve moved on. So yeah, read this.

Hope that distracted you from the kids screaming, the partner screaming, your mind screaming for at least a few minutes. If not, try a little trick I do on a hot day: Walk downtown with a large bucket of water, at a convinant spot, throw the water on yourself and start rolling on the ground screeching and moaning, “Is it out? Is it out?” Not only are you cooler now, but I bet no one is even coming close to bumping into you on the sidewalk either, eh? Eh?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Christian view: gays & women bad; abuse nonexistant!

Some days, living seems a little harder. Some days, I get tired of believing in inherent good in people. I read this morning that Washington State Supreme Court has upheld the ban on same sex marriage. So when we board the ferry to Port Angeles, Linda and I are a legally married couple. But an hour later, when we arrive, we are not. Yesterday, when talking to a man about our relationship I referred to it as a “covenant” between us. “That’s a particularly strong word” the person said in surprise. Covenant: “A binding agreement”; “A promise across time.” To some our relationship is a surprise, to others, now including Washington state, it is something which must never be acknowledged.

Earlier this week Dr. Stephen Baskerville President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children and advisor to Men’s Health Network wrote a piece for the religious “non-profit” organization, The Howard Center entitled: The Real Danger of Same-Sex Marriage. His attacks on same sex marriage are nothing particularly new, however it is his attack of women “allowed” to be independent human beings which made me reach for my axe, or epee. His concern is always with men and in particular the idea that women shouldn’t be allowed to divorce a man, simply because they choose to. The rules for men are simple, other than adultery, the wife and children are a father’s property: “because as long as he remained faithful, the man in return derived from marriage that vital protection we examined at the beginning: the right to have children recognized as his.” The villain, as in most religious conservative woes, are feminists (To the religious right, females who accept and obey the men over them are “righteous women”, all others are “feminists"): “it was really feminists who created the divorce revolution.” He gives as an example of the upside down nature of the world: “Turkey was forced to withdraw a proposal to criminalize adultery by the European Union, but liberal divorce counted in their favor.” What, women are able to leave men but not imprisoned for consensual choices...it truely is a world gone mad!

In a jaw dropping rationalization, Stephen Baskerville claims that domestic abuse and child abuse don’t really happen, they are just part of the feminist plot to deprive fathers of their rights. Eh? First he questions how non-physically violent abuse can be considered abuse at all, “Governments throughout the United States treat it not as a form of violent assault, but as a conflict, again, within an “intimate relationship.” It therefore blurs the distinction between crime and disagreement and need not be either violent or criminal.”

Restraining orders and stalking restraints are tools of oppression to a father’s natural right to possession of his child, his right to BE with his child, regardless of his actions. As for safety orders, the too are part of the plot. The arguement goes, since beating a wife is already illegal, so why the need for safety orders? The real answer: a feminist conspiracy of allowing women to make a free will choice of divorce and thus split families; and thus whatever violence occurs becomes the fault of the woman: “It is also likely that forcing parents to stay away from their children provokes precisely the violence it ostensibly aims to prevent.” The worst offence? A state program which requires domestic abusers to state “I am responsible for the violence I used” which is compared to both the governments of Hitler AND Stalin. Though it is unclear whether such a program exists (I wish it would) as the citation is from 1965. A Canadian “expert” lawyer Walter Scott tells us that Canadian courts are “pre-facist”; this would be the same Walter Scott who told parliament that feminism is a replay of Nazism, or who while thousands of dollars in arrears of child support he rufused to pay, sued his children and ex-wife for the money they received from his father’s estate?

Hold on to your sick bag, because it turns out that child abuse is also just a ploy to remove fathers and dissolve marriage: “The heart of the child abuse and foster care crises, therefore, is marital dissolution or non-formation.” Stephen feels that unless the abuse can be substantiated with evidence then it is just “not fair” to father's rights (he doesn’t seem to think much about what might be fair to the children). So, listen up you 9 and 11 and 13 year olds. Remember to hire someone to take pictures of your stepfather raping you. Or sneak out of the house and walk all the way to the hospital in your PJ’s. Stephen believes that this is part of a grand conspiracy to coach children into hating fathers. Much of his references rely on the work of Ralph Underwager, a Christian Psychologist (and Pastor) heading the Institution of Psychological Therapies who used be on the board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and is also an “expert witness” called in to verify that in child sexual abuse cases, the child is lying. This testimony is often excluded by the court for being without scientific basis. While seeing homosexuality and pedophilia as virtually interchangeable condition, Underwager goes further to state that pedophilia is a responsible relationship choice.

“PAIDIKA (interviewer): Is choosing paedophilia for you a responsible choice for the individuals?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: Certainly it is responsible.. Paedophiles spend a lot of time and energy defending their choice. I don't think that a paedophile needs to do that. Paedophiles can boldly and courageously affirm what they choose.”

So the “expert witness” is a person saying that adults who have sex with children are making good choices and that children who say they were sexually abused are lying? Oh, wait, I forgot the punch line: the whole reason for child abuse? So gay couples can get their hands on your children! “Few have questioned where gay parents obtain their children. Granting gay couples the right to raise children by definition means giving at least one of the partners the right to have someone else’s children”

Yup, there is nothing worse in the world than women and gays; sucks that I am both, and now responsible for a fair share of America’s woes. Look, I’m still breathing, that’s why your marriage is breaking up, why men are beating, berating and emotionally crippling women and why children are being abused…sorry I meant LYING about being abused, those that aren’t in “loving” relationships with adults that is. Oh yeah, and I’m stealing your children. It’s a joke right? Except the article has already been picked up and passed along as “truth” by the various religious right organs, including the World Net Daily and Christian News Wire.

Be nice if I once started reading about Christians owning up to creating environments in which sexual and physical abuse can flourish. Let’s see: three years ago the Catholic church faces tens of thousands of cases of sexual abuse. It’s solution: blame the gays.

Screw it, I’m going back to bed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Luminara: wiccan fun for the whole family

Nothing gets people in Victoria to participate more than a family friendly pagan festival conducted into the darkness. It’s called Luminara and a delayed soft-pop version of the midsummer night festivals (long celebrated by wiccan and other pre-christian worship groups). This was a night of wonder; the traditional brushing of the mortal and the more than mortal worlds; celebrated with fire and dancing.

In Victoria, Luminara was celebrated July 22nd in the large city-central Beacon Hill Park with tens of thousands of candle lanterns lighting the grounds, lakes and ponds. Scattered around were dozens of costumed performers, musicians and dancers along with standing lantern illustrated art, sculpture and floating art. Everyone is invited to bring non-flammable fuel lanterns and candles. Starting at 5pm the mask making, lantern making and face painting started for children in the adjoining orchards of the 140 year old St. Anne’s Academy (originally priory of the grey nuns).

It coincided on the hottest day of the year, making the evening turnout gigantic (30,000-50,000). Where do you take kids too hot to sleep? To Luminara! Linda and I didn’t go in costume this year but took with us our trusty camping candle lantern and our teak Laos candle lantern we bought together in Chatuchak Market, Bangkok. Everything looks better in the soft light of candles, even us!

We wandered through the park, my eye wandering to the many girls in fairy wings and some with glowing devils horns. Glow sticks were turned into earrings, hair sticks, and jewelry. While going over a bridge, I caught the eye of a fairie princess, travelling with winter fairie court. Our eyes lingered on each other in the lantern light before we passed into the darkness. Following the sounds of drumming Linda and I came to a open space filled with belly dancers of all ages. I spotted a 6’1” woman with flaming red hair belly dancing. Linda agreed, yes, she would make a great epeeist.

Down by the central lake were a series of floating sculptures, mostly made from paper mache, there were floating boats and peacocks. There really was something magical about wandering around in total darkness following the edge of a lake illuminated by candle lanterns on the ground and passing people carrying the hundreds of different candles and lanterns brought and created for this event.

Further on we ran into a complete five piece swing/jazz band, playing entirely in the dark. This was Luminara’s seventh year and I have to hand it to the person who not only pitched it to the city counsel but managed to get so many local sponsors. How exactly do you start out: “Okay, during the driest part of summer, I want to put up tens of thousands of open flames in paper bags in the central park. And then we will invite everyone to bring some more! No, wait, I haven’t told you about making paper mache sculptures and putting candles inside of them, wait, wait, there’s more…” (noise of being dragged out by security)

We stopped to listen to the jazz band before moving on to a sacred ring, which in the UK would be full of standing stones. Linda says, “I think it is a Celtic circle.”

“Uh, I don’t remember authentic Celtic circles having a mural of the original cover of the UK first edition of the Hobbit on them.” I pointed to one large and vivid mural. In typical Victoria fashion, this was a ring of murals done by local J.R.R. Tolkien enthusiasts. Of the murals read in Elfish: "May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out."

We pass a lit Japanese pagoda set up in the Japanese Gardens and then moved on to the magnificent Lion set up outside the park's children’s play area. It stood at least 8 or 9 feet tall and was always surrounded by little girls in fairy wings holding magic wands staring up with open mouths. Little boys ran around it making “Grrrrr!” sounds. Moving toward the Chinese Gardens we came by the Luck Gate as well as the Dragon Wall where people could tie their wishes for the year on the illuminated lines stretched between the trees. One woman shyly approached me. She wanted her wish tied as high as possible. Was this a secret wish? I obliged by standing on my very tip toes and tied her wish so high that no one but the gods would read it.

A little further on, by one of the other lakes, was a Chinese musician playing a stringed Chinese lute, probably a Jing-Hu, with his bow. Again, he did this entirely in the dark. I play the double bass and I can tell you, playing for hours entirely in the dark and hitting the notes on an instrument when you can’t even see your hand position (or bow) is quite the skill level. Behind him floated a river boat, with the silhouette of the traditional fisherman inside.

As children were present, no alcohol was allowed, and no pot. It was an example of the wonder that people can accomplish and experience together. You might want to put it on your calander for next year if you are neo-pagan or wiccan (wiccan being the second most popular religion of Victoria). We drifted back home and sadly, for another year, blew out our lanterns.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Epee Fencing: limits of heat and exhaustion

In summer, no one wants to fence, the numbers thin and when a heat wave hits, people just want to survive. That’s why I ran, in full kit, to the YMCA to fence on Friday. Then remembered I forgot my helmet, ran home and then ran back again. Even the birds were too hot and tired to do anything but sit and stare as I ran by.

There weren’t any other epeeists at the hall and it was hotter inside than outside. I put on my glove, enter the hall and practice lunges, lunges, lunges. I find that I am lunging almost 1 inch too short. This means I need less speed practice and more accuracy practice.

Amanda showed up but seeing it was just me, decided not to suit up. So I did more lunges for another 15 minutes. I find there are three types of athletes: Those who have a natural gift or aptitude or hand eye ability, those who accept their limitation and me. When I was in junior high school I really wanted to play basketball and so I practiced. And I was crap. But the coaches, who just looked at my 6’0” height thought, “She’ll get better with practice.” So I went to daily practice, then I went to school early 3-4 times a week to practice an extra hour. I did every drill the coaches wanted me to and for the year I made only 2 baskets: 4 points.

So much for a career in basketball. I was a bit too “nice” for all the under the basket fighting anyway. I don’t have natural athletic ability. So I took up running, because everyone though runners were masochistic idiots. I found more pride in being a masochistic idiot that I ever did in being a hopeless spaz.

Gerald arrived, slightly dazed with swollen lymph nodes. “Is Amanda fencing?” he asked. I shrugged. We started sparring. She suited up 20 minutes later.

Gerald also brought Pam, a woman 6’0” who was interested in epee so she suited up and gave it a try. She had great hand eye coordination and after a few bouts, she tagged me to win. “Time to introduce you to my motto” I told her.

“What’s that” she asked.

“Revenge!” We laughed, “Just ask Gerald.”

I pushed myself hard against Gerald and Amanda; my mind was clear and I knew what to do, but my body just couldn’t seem to get it together. “She’s going to attack my foot” I thought to myself, “be ready.” Amanda attacks my foot and hits it. “Hello brain? Didn’t we have a plan?” There is nothing worse that being mentally aware, knowing, anticipating and coming up with counter attack solutions but having them all end up just a little short, or a little to the left, or a little to slow. My solution, push my body harder and go to a rapid bounce stance. Rapid bounce is where you are in fencing position but making micro bounces several times a second, allowing you to sneak forward and back and giving several chances each SECOND to launch yourself into attacks. It is good for extremely aggressive attacks or fast defense with counterattacks but requires enormous amounts of energy. I have to admit I was starting to feel nauseous at this point which I thought, considering the heat and that I hadn’t really eaten or drunk that day, was probably an early sign of heat exhaustion.

I still had 20 minutes to go until 9:00, which would be two hours of fencing and when I told Linda I could come home and eat. I went and got a drink. “Ready to fence?” Amanda and I were pretty active. During one bout I hit her groin while her blade whipped around to give me a welt in the back of the head.

Gerald was lying down while refereeing the bouts. “Leave, go home!” I was urging him mentally. He’s older than me, and sick. I can’t stop fencing until he does. And no, I don’t have foolish pride issues.

We keep going until 9:10. For the last 15 minutes, I can only focus for seconds at a time and work hard at not throwing up. I find a corner of the hall to curl up in. Mr. Ho finds me. “Women should be strong!” He tells me. I look up at him and stagger to my feet. Last week a fencer was found stabbed to death a few blocks away. Mr. Ho’s opinion, “To be stabbed so much, he must not have been a good fencer.” What a motivator.

I am dizzy, I cannot walk in a straight line, I feel nauseous and I am pretty sure I have heat exhaustion. My body is begging me to lie down and maybe get naked and lie in a puddle of water. ‘Please, please, please,’ it asks me, ‘do not keep fencing.’ This, I decide, is a great training opportunity.

I weave back to the strip where Gerald is lying down and fumble to connect the electric cord. “The last thing I want to do right now is fence.” I told Amanda, “So it’s great training for fencing when totally exhausted. She looks confused. I put on my helmet. We fence. I do okay, I think I am wearing her down. “One more.” I ask Amanda, “You’re the toughest here, so let’s do it again!” Gerald is still staring off into space breathing heavily, and thinks NOT fencing for another five to ten minutes is a great idea. I am getting a heart episode of P.A.T. It feels like there is a ferret trapped in my chest clawing to get out. So I start smiling. “It can’t kill you.” I murmur to myself and put on the helmet.

I wish I could remember that last bout. I got points; I stayed upright. By the time I finished it was 9:35. I left the strip to see Linda marching across the hall. She was pissed. I did not come home; I did not eat dinner. “I don’t feel well.” I tell her as she drags me home. Oooh, not the right time for getting sympathy. Her opinion: Beth is an idiot, only an idiot would fence when feeling that bad and only an idiot would choose getting heat exhaustion over coming home to their partner for dinner. She may have something there. But I think I need to start running during this heat wave; it will push my body to the limits. I’ll do it in the morning, when she can’t see.

Jpeg 1 - http://thumbs.photo.net/photo/678266-sm.jpg
Jpeg 2 - http://www.fencingchannel.tv/clip/fencing/img/STMAUR.png

Friday, July 21, 2006

Innocence or potential: a culture choice

This last week I watched two films on childhood and expectations. One was the Academy Award winning documentary I Am A Promise about first to fifth graders in a Philadelphia inner city school and the second was the French film Innocence, which I first noticed a year ago when DVD copies were selling on ebay’s pedophile ring for over $100. Several foreign film watchers assured me that it was not a film for pedophiles of pre-pubescent girls in the same way Baikal films is for pre-pubescent boys so I gave it a watch.

Innocence starts out with swirling, turgid water images which reveal themselves as rolling undercurrents of a green and beautiful stream. This is the theme of the film. We are shown beautiful forests, but then notice that there are air grills on the forest floor leading down to underground tunnels from which there is a rumbling approach; always the darkness behind the reality. We see a coffin and some girls come in. We can’t see their faces, only looking at their young legs, and up their pure white miniskirts. Their bodies are interchangeable. The coffin opens and inside is a naked girl, the newest occupant of this particular place. “Will my brother come?” She is told no, boys are not allowed here, nor are family or visits. There are just girls, who each year exchange hair ribbons, from red up to violet, after which the girls disappear. There is only 1 ribbon colour in each house, five houses and the oldest girl, the violet ribbon, must leave for an hour to disappear each night following a lit path through the forest. There is no education beyond dance instruction and a sort of biology class whose focus is animal life, reproduction and sex. The biology teacher calls the students her caterpillars, who may turn into butterflies, “But not all will.” She murmurs to herself. Her hobby? Collecting and mounting butterflies. If you try to escape, as another newly abducted girl tries, you die. They must play, but are often watched by adult faces in the background.

Innocence is a film about sexual exploitation of young girls through forced expectations. These girls have their childhood and ideas of sexuality dominated by this artificial system which enacts male fantasies about the innocence of little girls. The girls, always in perfectly white mini-skirts and outfits, always with little girl hair and ribbons, go about playing, sometimes naked, sometime turning a kiss quickly into whipping the soft white legs with a birch branch. We find that the oldest girls are forced to perform in an underground secret stage their dancing for a crowd of men. “You are the prettiest” a 50 year old male voice calls throwing a rose on stage. We have a close up of the girl’s face in confusion, but later she examines her naked body in the mirror trying to understand. And all the time, the girls are told by their teachers, “obedience is the only path to happiness.” This has very little to do with childhood and much more to do with creating girls who only can view themselves and the world in one way. Each year the headmistress comes to pick one of the girls to take away. One girl is told that as her period is approaching, she will taken away, outside, “Where you will know how to make good use of those legs”.

The director has said in an interview that what males and females bring to this film will be very different. And the reviews on this film fall directly down the gender line, with Marcy from About.com saying, “I couldn't stop thinking about pedophiles while I watched Lucile Hadzihalilovic's surreal film "Innocence."… Creepy is not strong enough a word.” and Elizabeth of the New York Daily says, “a mysteriously isolated French boarding school, perfectly turned-out little girls are being carefully groomed for ... what, exactly?” Male reviewers like Phil on IMB see it as “an allegory of a young girl's development into womanhood”, Michael from the Village Voice, “The girls, gently examined, indoctrinated, and trained in matters of traditional girlishness,”, Glenn from the Daily Info Oxford “Intriguing, alluring. Perplexing, vexing. All the things a girl wants to be. How appropriate that Innocence, a haunting study of girlhood, is all of these too.” or Thomas on IMB “The film is very much a metaphor for a childhood world which is in many ways separate but also protected from that of adults.”

Several male bloggers/reviews listed Innocence as the best film they had seen about childhood. One has to wonder on viewpoints of a film about the abduction of young girls, forcibly restraining their intelligence and teaching them that the only thing that matters is their aura of purity and their body used for the display/enjoyment of adults. A film where little girls are killed or punished if they disobey before finishing the film with a 20 year old man and 12 year girl old who ALMOST has her period in blatant ejaculation/sexual images is seen as a film about growing up? Or about childhood? Or about developing into a woman? Would these males see films where boys are taught to rub themselves down with oil before wrestling in front of older men and finishing by sitting in the men’s lap as a film about the wonders of a boy’s childhood?

Innocence is the theme of this film, but it is about sexual and social domination of women passing itself off as male fantasies of innocent “girlishness”. The writer/director Lucile Hadzihalilovic does not use accidental imagry. Lucile is the partner and collaborator of Gasper Noe, famous for his film Irreversible, which contains the most explicit, prolonged rape scenes released in mainstream cinema. As Lucile has co-edited Noe’s work, he helped her with her previous project, “her 1996 medium-length film 'La Bouche de Jean-Pierre' (shot by Noé) that she was fascinated by the traumatised perspective of a child's-eye view: that film was about child abuse in a claustrophobic apartment block.” BFI.

Sexual abuse and abuse of children is Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s theme, one which she plays so well that while men are abstracting about the symbols of innocence, women KNOW the horror of constrained sexual expectation that lurks underneath. Some risqué lolita scenes were edited for DVD, and Inspired by the 1888 book, The Corporal Education of Young Girls, I can appreciate the film’s statement about the horror of girls from whom innocence and purity are both social demands but also not only sexual expectations but the very aspects that make them sexual targets. As the New York Times says about the film in a piece entitled, Young Girls and their Bodies, All for the sake of Art: “The line between cinematic art and exploitation has rarely seemed finer and nervier” But since it is a theme few women need or want articulated and since so many men simply fail to get the point, not to mention accepting responsibility for the demands and fantasies in the first place, then this falls back to what a French Film forum asks; “Is Innocence a film for pedophiles?”

I Am a Promise, though no less emotionally exacting, has a far different theme: There are children out there who need us. Following the year of a principal in an inner city Philadelphia elementary school of 600+ students, we get to see the problems first hand. There are students who are smart but only know how to get attention through negative actions like fighting. When the parents, teenagers themselves, are called in the principal often has to calm down a parent planning on beating the child as the solution. There are children as young as 5 and 6 who dress themselves and come down, hours early, while their parents are in jail or passed out high in bed, to wait until the school opens. The free breakfast and lunch is the only food they get all day. There are kids who have moved in with strangers at the age of 6 rather than stay at home. “She’s like a cat that won’t leave.” One older man says about the child living with him, “She calls me her grandfather, but I’m not. She just was waiting here on my steps when I came home.”

We see a first grade class of high risk boys, taught by a male teacher who will be the only male role model they have. These 5 and 6 year old, beyond the regular school curriculum get lessons in what it means when a parent is an alcoholic or a drug addict, and the ways to escape and flee to safety when things go bad. They get instruction on how to stop having nightmares by things they have seen adults doing to each others. The children ask, “What are white people like?” and they discuss it, as there are no white children in the school. One father comes by, and promises to come to help his son every day, but we can see the needle track marks on his hands; he never returns. Students are taught what to do when they come across a used needle, as the staff must clean the school ground of needles EVERY morning. They talk about The Corner, and the principal tries to get the police to not do drug raids when school is releasing. A rumour goes round that a nine year old girl has been abducted and raped, and the frantic father is down at the school with the principal. This is childhood. Maybe a little dirtier, a little more dangerous than the childhood I knew but not all that different from the LA neighborhoods where a bunch of kids would get together to search for bottles to return for deposit, or if someone had a bike, take turns riding, walking on old rail tracks, avoiding the “bad” places and the neighbors with mean dogs, hiding out on rooftops. The playground in I am a Promise has an ex-marine tending kids, and so did my elementary in LA, he came complete in combat fatigues and a bullhorn.

The documentary tells one tale, a child at a time, that these are kids that could make it, with enough help, but that help isn’t coming. One child moves in with his grandmother, who looks about 40, while another mother of three struggles with night jobs after the children’s father leaves them. And while schools in Philadelphia’s suburbs get $8,000-$16,000 per student, this one only gets $4,000. The principal arrives at 5 am and spends her off hours scouring bargain bins at stores for possible school supplies.

After watching the documentary, Linda and I talked and decided that while we don’t have a car, or a lot of money, we are stable and capable of caring for someone. We emailed Big Sisters to let them know that we were a lesbian couple and we wanted to join their Couples for kids program – as there are 10,000 kids in Canada who still need a Big Brother or Big Sister. So far we haven’t heard back, but next week we’ll write them again. I recommend skipping the rental fee for Innocence and getting I am a Promise instead. The kids at the end sing that they are “a promise, a potential.” And they are right. Feminism, LGBT rights, human rights are all about helping to make sure individuals can fulfill their potential. That goes double for those children who never get to show their potential in a world of chaos and fear.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

HIV positive? You're a threat to the USA.

The United States of America, when it comes to LGBT rights, while presenting itself as “the leader of the free world” actually trails at the back of the pack. The 19 year old US Immigration and Nationality act which denies entry to HIV positive travelers is the most restrictive HIV visitation worldwide policy, followed by Syria testing requirement for those staying longer than 15 days, according to the US government’s own HIV travel list. A 2003 UK survey found that 99% of HIV+ patients who came to the US did so illegally, including 15% of those on medication who stopped taking their medication during their visit for easier entry. It is no surprise that gay men are targeted for HIV related examination and exemption, including visitors from Canada.

The CDC, who had sat on its hands during the first years of HIV/AIDS jumped into action in 1987 to uniquely deny entry to any HIV positive non-nationals, based on it being a “dangerous and contagious disease.” This was part of a larger federal advertising and funding program with the message: “Anyone can get AIDS.” While technically true, it also channeled money from already high risk groups to low risk heterosexuals and started the panic of a heterosexual AIDS epidemic. Within a year 69% of Americans believed it. So in 1993 Congress amplified the act and turned it into permanent law.

Though the Chicago Gay Games got a government wavier for HIV participants and visitors, six months from the start of the Gay and Montreal Out games, 51% of gay European Athletes had chosen to go to Montreal while only 7% to Chicago. As the President for Team Sydney Geoff Lynne explained “The challenge with the waiver is that you are then on record, and if you ever try to enter the US in the future, they will know you are an HIV-positive person and can deny your right to entry.” Though originally part of INS, the job of keeping HIV positive individuals out of the US is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.

The American Medical Association and the World Health Organization have both stated the policy has no sound reasoning, but it remains. While the US is often a large funder for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment overseas (though always with morality clauses), their exclusionary HIV entry law presents the US as one large gated community. “Stay away from us,” they tell HIV/AIDS people of the world, “and we’ll give you some money.”

In an odd twist, this week Russia did what the US cannot, it stopped blaming gay men for HIV by dropping it’s blood ban on gay citizens. France and Australia are planning to follow suit. As yet, neither the US or the UK have plans to end the stigmatization regarding blood donation to gays or bisexuals.

If the US wants to be a world leader in human rights and LGBT issues, it would help if it was at the front of education and change. Each year, the disinformation surrounding HIV is replaced by education and understanding. It is long overtime to remove those laws the disinformation created.

Gif2- http://www.montreal2006.org/home.html

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Screw Bronze hits 100! Elizabeth gets cookies!

We’ve reached 100 posts. Who, besides friends, family & co-workers knew I could be so vain? I think this blog was supposed to be talking about my book Zed. It got a lot of good reviews and one speculate-on my-possible-suicide negative review; also won first place in the Washington DC book of year awards for Science Fiction. I did not get shortlisted for Canada’s Relit Award, though I am currently waiting for the Victoria Bulter Book Award Shortlist and the Sunburst Awards (Canadian Science Fiction). I do not think I will win. Books that get shortlisted or win these awards are set in small or distinctive Canadian towns with distinctive Canadian characters.

I did however get interviewed about being a writer for the local lower mainland paper. I made it up to the ranking 4,000 in Canada and 72,000 in the US based on Amazon book ranking. And the Victoria and Vancouver libraries are going into their 8th straight month of my book having a hold queue of people waiting to read it. On fame level, this puts me up there with local “colourful” characters who streak during folk festivals. From the Vicnews article:

“I started writing when I was 16. I just thought it would be a wonderful and glamorous occupation. Boy was I wrong on that one.”...McClung ended up writing five novels before Zed was finally published, something that would deter any writer from their craft. “I was getting really discouraged, but I read some story about a guy who had written seven unpublished novels then he won the Pulitzer Prize. But obviously when you get up to five it does get hard.”

I am still working on my next novel, Control Group. So far the only part I am somewhat happy with is page 1, which you can see here. But then yesterday I read Involuntary Witness by Carofiglio whose first seven chapters were so brilliant that I will likely end up rewriting my book again. All I want is to write better than anyone living or dead, is that too much to ask?

On Monday at Epee fencing, after hearing about my heart, Gerald said to me, “Elizabeth, you have to realize, you aren’t going to be an Olympic athlete.” I looked puzzled, “Wha?”

He tried again, “Maybe this would be a good time to re-evaluate your goals and how competitive you need to be.”

“I don’t need to go to the Olympics,” I told him, “I just want to beat the World Champion.” I went on to lose EVERY bout that night.

The next morning I got up from the computer and almost made it to the hallway before I went down clutching my chest, “Shit, Shit!” Lying on the ground, “Shit!” I count my heartbeats. Apparently my heart thinks 160-180 is a good resting heart rate. Pain goes down, Beth gets up, momentarily wonders if she should consider beta blockers, then remembers she has COOKIES and wanders off to the kitchen.

Linda arrives home where I have been cleaning the apartment for some time while muttering, “Disorder and confusion.” We had somehow “lost” three months of internet bills and yesterday they cut us off. The pain of “phantom internet limb syndrome” sent me into a tizzy. Tizzy’s are like roulette: I might get naked, I might hide under the covers with the laptop and watch anime or I might mutter to myself and clean. This time it was cleaning. But we call up internet priests, sacrifice a goat and presto, I am back online! (Those internet gods really like smoked goat).

Goals for the next 100 blog entries? 1) finish and submit my novel Control Group. 2) Have another woman try to pick me up using a line about “aren’t you on America’s top models?” and not self destruct this time 3) Keep talking about the things that society tries to hide in silence (like suicide, hate crimes & incest). 4) Read more Yu+me and I was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space. 5) Avoid getting imprisoned for lewd or lascivious behavior.

It’s good to dream.

jpeg 1- http://www.wednesdaymourning.com/foyer.html
Jpeg 2 - http://cache.boston.com/bonzaifba/Original_Photo/2005/06/20/1119280934_8953.jpg

Monday, July 17, 2006

Lesbian vampires, goth lesbians and evil Willow

I originally had this long intellectual blog about Bram Stoker; the Victorian fear of loss of sexual control and syphilis, all tied in to the aspect of terror emerging through examining our own fears instead of being a willing voyeurs. But, forget that. Let’s talk lesbian vampires instead! Woo hoo, I love lesbian vampires and here are some reasons you should too:

1) Female vampires are sex personified, even Bram Stoker knew this. Movies like The Hunger pretty much reaffirmed for me that if there is going to be sheet-tangling, pale skinned kissing and moaning going on while being made into an immortal – we want lesbians, or at least Catherine Devevue.

2) Whose better – good Willow or evil lesbian Willow who dresses up in black corsets? I know who I want to go to party with. Sure she’d dangerous and maybe slightly psychotic, but she wears black leather! There is even a nice colour e-comic sharing the Erotic Adventures of Buffy and evil vampire Willow.

3) Vampires are often used to represent power by outsider groups – why else would Jesus himself need to come back to defeat lesbian vampires? Check out this listing of Queer Vampire movies for all occasions including Cunt Dykula: a lesbian safe sex public service film. (also check out this list of Grrl Vampires)

4) Want more web comics? How about Blood and the Art of Baking about a lesbian vampire pastery chef? And it comes from the artist of Sin.

5) Q: What does one lesbian vampire say to another lesbian vampire?
A: See ya same time next month.

6) Here’s an interview from Pam Keesey, anthologist of the cult famous lesbian vampire book, Daughters of Darkness: “The earliest English-language lesbian vampire appears in the poem “Christabel” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1797. Christabel was followed by LeFanu’s novella, “Carmilla,” and “Carmilla” set the pace for all sorts of erotically charged relationships between female vampires, femmes fatales, and their prey,”

7) Vegan-Vampires: Tell me this isn’t going to apply to more than a few lesbian vampires? Tell me we won't need two tables at the potluck?

There is a fine line between goth lesbian and vampire lesbian, one which I intend to repeatedly cross. I think I am a blood-intolerant vampire however as a big YES on the leather and lace, the hypnotic seductive stare and the sex by candlelight in castles but a big NO on the way-beyond-hickey bloodsucking. It’s just the vampire equivalent of lactose intolerance, honest!

Friday, July 14, 2006

HIV/AIDS: Remembering our debts

When I was 12 I sat, a couple hundred miles from San Francisco while a minister preached a sermon on AIDS. It was a sign on the end times; God sending a plague to wipe away the wicked. But the “righteous” needed to take precautions: it could be caught from a whirlpool, or a public toilet seat. “We all know how homosexuals pollute public toilets” (I didn’t and still don’t but this sermon gave me a terror of public toilets for years). “It is a scientific fact that the sneeze of a gay man can infect you with AIDS.” I did not know any out gays or lesbians. But like tens of millions of North Americans I learned that there was a disease striking gays, and they were dying in agony, and they deserved it.

Two of the documentaries I’ve watched recently were Common Threads, tales from the AIDS quilt and Absolutely Positive, the documentary from the 80’s interviewing different people with AIDS. Today, AIDS is big business, worth billions of dollars annually; so much that a cure would dramatically effect the US GDP. Meanwhile AIDS ceremonies & focus, even in the west, have moved toward the “friendlier” face of aids, with no pictures of prostitutes (used for human trials in Asia), junkies (up to an estimated 1 million infections due to drug use in Russia) or gay men (despite recent upswing in resistant strains in the US) but children and single mothers. At the capital’s official World’s AIDS/HIV service I attended last year, there was not one gay male speaker, not one mention of gay men. I think that is a mistake.

If there is one incident which has tested and exposed Christian faith, it is AIDS. For most Christians this was the “Samaritan on the Road” and most Christians failed. HIV/AIDS showed, not the depravity attributed to gays, but their divinity. The organizer of the AIDS Quilt said that in 1982 he realized that 1,000 gay men had died within six blocks of where he stood. The Surgeon General of the US said it wasn’t an issue. The president wouldn’t talk about it. Centre of Disease Control would not treat with equal seriousness. And gay men and supporters were marching, not firebombing, to town halls and health department to remind that they and their friends were dying. There was fear and desperation, yes. People were trying bee pollen and the colour blue, crystals and mind control. But people, specifically gay men were organizing, were speaking up, making books, films, movies. “You will not forget us,” they said in a thousand ways, “You will not shut us up.” Classic films on AIDS like “An Early Frost”, “No Sad Songs”, “A Hero of my own life” and “Too Little, Too Late” came out BEFORE the president would even publicly speak about AIDS.

AIDS is about hemophiliac children having to be removed from school from their own safety. In Common Threads, a seven year old hemophiliac in 1982 asks, “I’m going to die, aren’t I?” He was dead at 11. In Canada in the mid to late 80’s, plasma from US prisons, already declared too dangerous for sale in the US, was sold and used by the Canadian Red Cross. If you were a hemophiliac in the early 80’s, you got HIV, and likely you died.

To remember AIDS without the sacrifice of these groups is wrong. Gay men died so doctors could figure out that diseases never seen in humans before were killing them. Gay men died on drug trials that didn’t work, that somewhat worked, that killed them faster. One patient heard, “Your T count is 40. People with 40 T-cell count are dead.” Now we know better. People with HIV got together and made their own education pamplets, started their own organizations, started their own safe-sex lectures. Virtually EVERYTHING we use now in the fight against AIDS was done started, tried, experimented by a group of people; despised and abandoned by society. It took 13 years before Tom Hanks would win an Oscar for his portrayal of a group of men who were, for the most part, already dead.

The President never apologized, the Congress and the Surgeon General never apologized, and certainly the churches and leaders never apologized. I do. I am sorry that in my youth and ignorance I believed hate instead of love. I wrote a paper for my bible class on shipping all the gays of San Francisco to an AIDS island like a leper colony. I got an A. I’m sorry.

It’s important, as we now move into the generation born after HIV/AIDS that we remember those who more often than not died unheralded, sometimes abandoned by family, who at times were too ashamed of their sons to even tell people how they died. They were the ones who helped us understand not only what AIDS is, but how to still see the person standing behind the disease. We owe so much to them.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My heart attempts an uprising; and wins!

Good news: a have a heart condition which feels like having a heart attack and can last for hours but doesn’t damage the heart. Wait a minute, how is that good news?

Yesterday the Doctor said that my Holter heart test found I have a condition called PAT. There are a whole bunch of different types of PAT and the doctor probably covered the exact one, except I missed it because I was just saying to myself over and over, “They found it.”

It goes like this: I am a healthy person with a healthy heart. BUT...there is a thing called an AV node in the upper chamber which tells the heart when to pump (because the chambers are full of blood). I, however, have a rogue section of tissue which starts beating at a much, much higher rate and actually hijacks (Heartjacks?) the heart. This takes my heart from a resting rate of 65-75 to over 250 (or in extreme cases even higher). As this is actually far ABOVE my “maximum” heart rate, it can cause extreme chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath and palpitations (also nausea, and passing out). It can also stop and start again for hours. But, except for the pain and lying there afterward feeling like you got hit by a truck, once it stops, your heart is perfectly fine. There are two exceptions, because such a rapid heart beat may not allow the heart to fully fill with blood if it continues over a long period of time (more than four hours) the heart may begin to fail. Or, sometimes combined with prolonged high Cardio exercise (like say EPEE!), it can beat so fast (over 400 beats per minute) that the heart doesn’t pump blood at all. I really, really don’t want to think about what having my heart beat 400 times a minute would feel like.

According to Cardiologist Michael Crawford, “studies show that PAT strikes hard-driving, Type A personalities… PAT can strike--especially if you take your playing too seriously and are up against stiff competition.” Would that include female epeeists in their 30’s who plan to win against younger faster opponents by obsessive training and a determination to push themselves to the limit again and again? It would?

There are three treatments: 1) Take the pain and if it lasts longer than 15 minutes, go to the ER for a drug to slow down the heart or in extreme cases, be shocked by the paddles (oh yeah, while you are awake). 2) Take beta blockers which will slow down the heart. The downside is chronic fatigue and lethargy. 3) Have a heart catheter where your heart is mapped and a long catheter inserted into your heart to burn out the tissue sending the wrong messages. Problem: YUCK!

The heart catheter works MOST of the time, however it seems less effective on people who continue to be competitive athletically. One cyclist had it done four times and still gets attacks.

Does this mean I am stopping Epee? No. I am fencing tomorrow, 100%. And I still plan to compete this fall, including going to North Carolina to the Iron Maiden Competition. Actually I am still trying to wrap my head around excruciating & debilitating heart pains which DOESN’T hurt you? I am guessing the “It’s only one organ in my body, how important can it be” plan isn’t going to work.

The “take the pain” option looked appealing until I remember I might have to forfeit a tournament because I am rolling around on the floor holding my chest. But hey, I’m so competitive, parts of my heart are trying to take over independently.
I want to thank everyone who left messages for me on the blog or sent email. I am not very good at knowing what to do with concern. It somehow implies that I am mortal (which we all know is a LIE!).

For now, I am just filing this under “God hates you.” A heart that makes you feel like you are dying or want to die equals healthy heart. Tell me that isn’t a cosmic joke?

Jpeg1- http://evanescence.m6blog.m6.fr/images/medium_image-017359.jpg
Jpeg 3- http://evelyngothicgirl.weblogger.terra.com.br/img/gothic_girl13.jpg

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Maiden of Epee is Back. Watch out!

Epee? Am I still the Maiden of Epee? Oh yes! The Y just took a week break so I couldn’t fence. But I practiced at home (somewhat...). I am working on a “speed lunge” which others might refer to as “a lunge done correctly.” Put simply: because I am tall and not a size 8, it is easier for me to simply drop my body into a lunge than push off with the back leg. Problem? It slows me down.

Linda counts while I do the lunges, and watches my back leg. And by myself I lunge to techno-pop; specifically to Melanie C’s “I turn to you.” One beat to get out, one beat to get back and one beat to retreat a step and again.

On Monday I showed the guys what I had been working on. With their usual sensitivity they immediately started making fun of me. “What’s she doing?” Gerald asked.

“Shhhhh” William told him, “It’s her SECRET weapon.”

William was going around telling people he had a cold when it was obvious that he was actually a vampire or maybe a zombie (clammy skin, ashen pallor, avoidance of holy water – the signs are there!). The fact that he didn’t seem able to get out a coherent sentence didn’t stop him from beating everyone, myself included before leaving early. Gerald was also in fine form, as the more he DOESN’T fence epee; the better he is when he comes back. I can’t explain it but that’s Gerald, it’s why I like fencing him, you never get the same thing twice.

Rodney was there. Rodney did sky diving, actually 3,984 dives to be exact before his parachute didn’t do what it was supposed to correctly and he ended up with more broken bones than I can remember and in a coma. Well, he’s coming back and snowboards in the winter and fences in the summer to gain flexibility. He really wants those last 16 skydives. We are a good pair as he has a very strong inner defense and I have a long lunge – so basically, if I’m not fast enough on the lunge and he deflects it, he can move in for a point.

Gerald and I talked about my training, and knowing my competitive nature, suggested I move from practicing point control from a ping pong ball to simply a knot at the end of a string. I haven’t hung it up yet, but soon will. In appreciation I trounced him (only in that bout), including leaping vertically ABOVE his blade to hit him in the chest in a point which reduced him to helpless laughter and comments about “pure ballet”. It also included my only “real” point of the night: a short lunge which hit his moving forearm; after a circle avoidance of his parry. It feels great when you actually DO what you have spent hours practicing. He also got a few of my ugliest points of the evening, including one where I am crouched on the floor after he has folded himself bodily around my blade, leaving me to dig and jab around blindly until the point light went off. Sweet sweet victory!

http://www.manchestercadet.org/images/mensEpeeFinal2005.jpg

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The haters, the watchers & the changed

A couple years ago a young man I knew came out. He was one of those innocent and sweet young men who didn’t really come out as much as extend his collection of hair sprays, body glitter and mascara. I’d sometimes see him running off to a club, 17, in a body hugging T-shirt and fairy wings. Then one day a man came up to him when he was walking in the park and started beating him. A couple months later, after leaving the Golden Cross, a local gay bar, some “lads” decided to set him on fire. He wouldn’t have been the first gay burned alive in our town that year; it was local trend. The lads couldn’t get their lighter to work, and he escaped. But now he worked hard to look straight, to not stand out. Where he had once bubbled with enthusiasm, he didn’t like to talk to people or be around strangers. “It changes you,” he said about his attacks. I know.

Last night at 1:00 am our apartment buzzer went off. “It’s a drunk.” Linda said. “It’s them.” I said my heart racing. I was remembering our apartment in the UK, where men would come at midnight, once the pubs had shut, to yell things at our windows. We would turn off all the lights and hope they went away, knowing the police wouldn’t come for hours if at all. When they pushed things through our mail slot, we creep downstairs to make sure it wasn’t burning. Once you’ve been attacked, you’re always waiting; waiting for them to come for you. Hate crimes aren’t about someone who has a grudge about you, or who you offended. It’s about people who simply hate the fact that you exist, or that you can walk the streets, or have jobs. You don’t know them when they attack you, and there are always more, more who find out and are offended because you are different to them. Once, coming out of the Golden Cross with friends, there were a couple police officers and behind them lads on bikes, riding back and forth yelling slurs. The police would protect the bar, but once you left, you were fair game. There were always a few beatings around Gay Mardi Gras. Seeing us all have so much fun triggered a lot of hate.

I used to work in a shop next to a Council Estate (think GIANT trailer park). My manager was homophobic and would randomly tell me he thought I was trying to hit on customers (Apparently UK customer service is so bad that “have a nice day” is the equivalent with “I want to sleep with you”). Yeah. Once a group of 20 drunk lads decided to smash the windows; I had to lower the security grates and wait inside for over two hours for the police to show up. It’s that kind of place. But I’ve never walked away from a job because someone didn’t want me to do it.

There were a couple 15 year old girls who used to come and get drunk outside the shop and gossip, and they knew a bit too much about my life and orientation. This pissed off a particular 15 year old boy, who, with his buddy, decided to come so they could shout things at me at the start and end of my shifts. Then he got some more friends involved. And the word spread. Until one day, I was caught outside the store and told that if I didn’t apologize (for simply being) that I would get a beating. I wouldn’t apologize. They didn’t beat me, they just wanted to terrify me. Like the time they surrounded my car one afternoon to trap me so they could yell out all their hatred against my orientation. People nearby looked and then looked away.

They wanted to terrify me and they did. Hours before a shift my heart would start pounding, I would stutter; someone asked me at a party what my greatest fear was and I immediately replied, “gang rape followed by murder” That’s what happens to uppity lesbians. I had kept a notebook of every incident. I went to the police. They couldn’t/wouldn’t do anything without names. I found out names. It kept getting worse. Every day there were insults, obscene shouts from the darkness. One day, one of them came in to the shop and started making loud insults about my breasts. I went over and grabbed him by the neck, I walked him up against a case and I whispered in his ear that he should never come near me the rest of his life. He ran out and I called the police and reported myself for assault. I had become so filled with fear that I became what I hated most. The police listened to the incident and told me they didn’t consider it assault. In the end, the police confronted the original ringleader in the family home. His mother, I was told by the constable, was shocked. It had gone on for over three months. For a time, I couldn’t go out in public alone, I had panic attacks. It changed our lives. From now on, when things happened, we asked ourselves, do they know we are a couple? Do they know our orientation? Friends in the next town over had a hate campaign against them at their apartment. They were in their 60’s. Someone kept breaking into our car to smash it up, about once a month for over six months. “Do they know the car is ours? It is because of our orientation” we asked ourselves.

We went jogging around a green park and woodland next to the hospital. I would try and memorize the license plates of cars that passed us. Often cars full of lads would whip round so they could scream at us. Once I went running alone on the street and a car full of four guys came past me three times before slowly stalking me. I heard them pull up next to me and saw the bumper as they rode the car up on the sidewalk. I didn’t turn around, I jogged on, waiting to hear them get out of the car. They didn’t. I looked up and a police car had stopped 50 yards ahead, facing me. I didn’t run alone after that.

Last November, Linda and I went for a jog around the green between 6pm and 7pm. There was a one way lane around the green and lads would sometimes use it as a shortcut in their cars of super bass stereos and running lights. A car came by, then doubled back and came again. The last time it roared by and we could hear things smashing into the walls of the residences around us. Something hit my leg, hard. I cried out and the car took off. I could feel moisture on my leg, I didn’t know if it was blood but I kept jogging, I didn’t want to make a standing target. Linda wanted to run to the car and go home. I wanted to make another lap. I didn’t want to let them dictate to me how to live simply because they hurt or terrified me. I should have listened to Linda. Every time a car came up behind us, we waited, hearts pounding, to be attacked again. It turned out they were throwing eggs, but with such force that by the time I got home there was an ugly welt, just smaller than a fist, where I had been hit. We called they police. They said they would “note it down.”

Fear and terror did not give me insight. Often people stood by and did nothing, sometimes they watched. It was always males who attacked us. When Linda went to a giant flea market to sell some things before moving, a Christian started harassing her, escalating into yelling curses and insults. Finally a guy at the stall next to hers told the guy to buzz off. That was the sum of concern. I get angry sometimes at a world where straight men are free to attack women or gay men. I get angry at a world which holds dominance and violence up as male rights. I get angry at the crowds of people, who I will and do risk myself to help, but when we are attacked stand by and WATCH.

That teenage male who decided I shouldn’t be? He walked, because of me. I couldn’t go to trial. I couldn’t go and testify in court about the things he said and did, about how it made me feel, cross examined, accused by the defense barrister. So he walked. It made me feel like I deserved it. Back when I wouldn’t apologize and thought I was going to be beaten unconscious or dead? I was relieved. All I could think was, “It will be over now.”

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Post ER denial & cool jobs that suck

I am dealing with post-ER life in my typical mature and reasoned manner:

Friend: “So are you going to be getting a pacemaker?”
Me: “What? No! Why would I get a pacemaker?”
Friend: “Well, you said they think something is wrong with the electrical with your heart and a pacemaker....”
Me: “I’m not talking about this.”
Friend: “Has your doctor said what....”
Me (sticking fingers in my ears): “La la la la I can’t hear you la la la!”

So that’s enough on that topic. But the last couple days have me thinking about how things don’t always turn out as expected. In fact my life is a lot like ordering that chocolate cake which looks so moist and delicious that I start pre-salivating just by thinking of ordering it. And when it comes it is so dry, & nauseously sweet that I gag it up into a napkin and start scraping my tongue with a fork. Some jobs are like that: they look great, they sound great and then when you do them, they ain’t so great. These are my top six jobs that didn't turn out as great as they sound (please share yours):

1) Detective: I was prepared; I had read every Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes, Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown book I could get my hands on, I had even read Harriet the Spy. I had a magnifying glass. I had a table and a sign reading “Detective for hire.” The problem? No one would hire me. I just sat there hour after hour waiting for clients. Okay, I was 10 or 11 but Nancy Drew never had this problem. Encylopedia Brown never had this problem. Why couldn’t MY Dad be police chief? Time lasted: Probably a week.

2) Librarian: This should have been my dream job. I love books. I loved the idea of being a librarian so much I even set up a “private library” of all of my books as a kid, with date stamps and everything. At 15 I got a job as a library page. But I didn’t get to read books. And I didn’t get to talk to people. I got to alphabetize and learn the Dewy Decimal system. My excitement for the day? Finding a book labeled 808.23 in the 808.64 section. Plus, as I worked in a Christian library, all day long I had a giant poster facing me which said “God is watching you.” Thanks, really needed reminding. Time lasted: All Summer

3) Used book store owner: Dream come true, right, I get to buy all the books I want and read them all day. Yes. But I also get to deal with every lonely and unmedicated soul in a four mile radius who is bored and wants to talk. I can’t leave, I can’t escape. Plus these were questions I would asked get on a weekly basis:

*Do you sell computers? (The shop is called “Secondhand Books”)
*Do you have a first edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost? Or Frankenstein? Yes, let me call my storage over at THE SMITHSONIAN.
*Do you have the 1923 T.S. Eliot book of poetry by Faber & Faber? Yes I do. Oh, I wanted the one with light blue instead of the orange jacket.
*Do you sell books here?

*Is there a lot of killing in this book?
*I need three to four feet of leather books to go with my couch, do you need a picture of the couch?

*This first Edition Dicken’s has $400 on it, will you take $10?
Time lasted: 2 years

4) Model: Yes, I was a youth model for Christian magazines for those stupid “group shots” with kids “having fun” in parks or going on a hike or shooting each other with water pistols. Want to be a model? No problem, just learn how to smile for hours, learn to use gel, point at things that aren’t there and listen to: “Big smiles this time, okay, you in the back look worried, okay, and again, now remember, fun fun fun.” My nightmare; a photo of me in late 80’s clothes appearing in a booklet by Exodus International. Time lasted: 1 year

5) Church Associate Pastor: I wanted to make a difference and I believed that Christians cared about making a better life for themselves and others and wanted to be part of that. One problem was that while I liked people in general, I didn’t always like them specifically, and since listening to people and visiting them was a major aspect of the job, I just kept repeating, “With God all things are possible.” The other problem is that I couldn’t say something I didn’t believe whether it was popular or not. So when I started giving messages on the divinity of all humans, there were some uncomfortable looks. When I started talking about the bible not condemning homosexuality people attributed it to my overly generous nature. When I came out of the closet: end of job. Time lasted: 2 years

6) Writer: When I was a teen being a writer seemed the best thing ever. As time went on, I begun to realize I was not a naturally talented writer. I also found out improving took really hard work. I then noticed that all the writers I liked and compared myself to were really, really unhappy people who more often than not were broke and alienated in life. That sounded cool when I was 21. When I was 30 it sounded a lot less cool. I also learned that being a writer isn’t about writing notes on bar napkins but about sitting down, writing and editing EVERY DAY. It is about worrying that maybe I just don’t have the skill and capability to make people see and care about the world only I see, and forcing myself to try again and again anyway. Time lasted: 20 years and counting

Friday, July 07, 2006

Death Notes & Beth's big trip to the ER

Last night Elizabeth went on her very first trip to the ER(I don't count that skiing accident when they had to come and get me with the skimobile and sled; but that’s a story for another day). And unlike Curious George, this trip had nothing to do with puzzle pieces...or heroin.

You see, yesterday afternoon while I was getting a facial I had a painful surging attack of arrhythmia in my heart. I am not sure what this looks like to others but I think I tend to roll around clutching my chest making mewling noises. What it feels like is the part in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when the evil priest is reaching into your chest, grabbing your heart and slowly, every so slowly, ripping it out of your body. After about 90 seconds it stopped and though I was feeling weak and punky, I was able to ask the beautician, who was now standing slightly away from me looking at me as if I was about to explode if we were going to continue. Errrr...not.

Two days before I had gone to my doctor’s appointment at a heart clinic to take a stress test, involving a treadmill and a bunch of heart monitors. I think the idea is to try and create a heart attack. After which they revive you and confirm you have a heart problem? Anyway, I really got into the spirit of the event and convinced the woman administering it to take it several levels beyond normal. So first walking then jogging, then running, all while trying to maintain a conversation on the difference between British Canadians and the “real” British (the technician was British). I was determined to surpass and set a new record for my maximum heart rate. After 10 minutes I had gotten past 190 beats per minute when the technician wimped out and stopped the treadmill. She did say with the right financial inducement she might be able to sneak me in again (I can break 200!). I must have passed the test because they didn’t send me upstairs to see the cardiologist.

After the attack at the beautician I was feeling weak and kittenish the rest of the afternoon. I took it easy, Linda came home, left to pick up some groceries and I started writing emails. To tell the truth, my body has always been a bit of a whiner, so when my chest started hurting again, I ignored it, and continued writing emails. But the pain kept growing, so much I couldn’t sit still anymore. Even after I got up, the pain just kept growing plus I was getting dizzy and the ends of my fingers were numb. “This,” I thought to myself, “Is a bad sign.” Don’t you wish that was what I thought? I do. What I really thought was “FUCK! Help! OWWWWW! Linda make bad pain go AWAY!”

I’d never felt this bad before and started to worry that if I died, Linda would still be out buying frozen lemonade. I found a marker and a pad of papers by the phone and started writing love notes. The pain was too intense for me to stay in one place, so I staggered around scrawling down “I love you”, dropping the pieces of papers as I hit walls. Then called for a ride to the hospital.

Linda arrived back in time to come with me. By the time we drove up the hospital, I was feeling better, not great, still what Linda loving called, “Slick and pasty” (or was that sick?).

Linda was dumped with the paperwork and I was soon in one of those hospital gowns at bed A-3 of the ER. Actually it still hurt too much in my chest to lie down so I sort of leaned by A-3. Many, many attendants came by forcing me into bed, including two, one who hooked me up to a cardiogram while the other took my “incident” history (they took my incident history three times, but the doctor never saw them). Truth is, I was pretty wacked, and once I got in the bed just lay there, spaced out, except when I would make non-sequitur statements about the nurses who came in “You smoke” I muttered to one who walked by, and asked another couple if they wanted the bed back. I was pretty scared, since I’ve watched ER and I really didn’t want to be admitted. It would only be a matter of time before I had tubes all over me and someone was on top of me yelling for a sternum saw.

Linda was let in to keep my company but instead stared at my heart rate and breathing monitor above my head. Then she would say things to make them go up and down. “Oh, wonder if you are getting a big needle!” she’d say and then smile, “Look at the heart rate go!” I had to keep reminding her that I was not a toy, and if I was, I was a broken toy.

When the doctor came he was blunt and seemed to be in caffeine withdrawal. I did not have heart disease. It could be stress, it could be thyroid, it could be the adrenal going nuts, but none of those are ER tests. They take days. I was getting turfed. Had I been under a lot of stress, he wanted to know. Well, it had been a very bad night. What does that mean? Well, for example Linda had to restrain me at 2:00 a.m. from trying claw off my own skin. Doctor says, that sounds like stress.

When it comes to the heart there is the pump, there are the tubes and there is the electrical. At the ER they checked and my tubes are fine. The previous echocardiogram showed that the pump is fine. So something is wrong with the electrical. Problem is, unless they actually see it happening, they can’t figure out why it is happening. Is there anything I can do when it happens again, I asked. Yes, the doctor replied, count your heart rate, particularly if it goes over 100. Uh doctor, I was actually thinking more in lines of something to stop the agonizing pain. Nope.

A nurse did say that certain anti-depressants can cause electrical problems with the heart, she said they get people on Zoloft in all the time (Take Warning!). She also kept a close eye on us when I let slip that I tend to "liberate" doctor's office supplies (I already have a Zoloft pen!)

So, I came home, collected up all the “death notes” I left for Linda and am depressed. Two reasons: first is that when I have chest pains again, I know there is no point trying to get help and second because I see a lot more medical tests in my future. Linda and I have different philosophies about what to do next about the heart pain. Linda says I should “lie down and take it easy” while I feel that since it is hurting me and nothing can be done about it, every time I get heart pain, I should go for a killer 10 mile run. Ha ha, try to cripple me will you body, well I can cripple you with pain too! Linda says trying to extract revenge on your own body is slightly deranged. Well, we’ll see...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Angel Cup & other yaoi & yuri/lesbian manga

After I managed to get my yuri (girl/girl love) & yaoi (boy/boy love) manga through Canada Customs, I had such a good time reading them, I just had to talk about them. But first, some reasons why you might want to try reading manga: As an article in the Toronto Star states “The fantasy gay-male sex in Yaoi is leading to a lot of actual sex between women.” This is due to bisexual/lesbian women who like seeing femininity enacted sexually. Plus if you are LGBT or LGBT friendly, manga is a worldview where being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered makes you not only normal, but usually the hero. Under the “only in mangaland” umbrella, take for instance President Dad, which is about a teen girl whose father is the President of South Korea while she is falling in love with an assassin from North Korea. And of course her bodyguard is a stunningly beautiful crossdressing guy who becomes her best girlfriend, but has a few issues of his own (like the gangster boss he married as a bride who knows he’s a guy and still wants him back). If there was ever a medium that constantly preached the message of love without regard to sex or gender, it's manga.

My favorite yuri themed manga is the just released female soccer oriented Angel Cup. Through the recent upswing of sports oriented girls manga like volleyball themed Crimson Hero, we are seeing strong, butchy, athletic girls taking on the world. Angel Cup goes one better when So-jin, faced by sexist male soccer players immediately challenges them to a game, without even having a team. She soon collects one including a lesbian goalkeeper Yee-Ju (who lifts So-Jin’s skirt to check out her figure before joining the team), and Soo-hee, the girl in love with Yee-Ju amoung others. When it comes to the game itself, the guys dominate the start but So-Jin refuses to give in, blocking shots with her body until she is bleeding. Frankly she’s got the sort of “all the way” attitude that scares the guys. For me, seeing girls who are so passionate that they will do whatever it takes in sports is a far cry from the “play nice” themes of western literature when I was growing up. The lesbian Yee-Ju ties a red ribbon around So-Jin’s forehead to hold back the blood and they fight on. Inspired by the example of her love (the goalie Yee-Ju) the timid Soo-Hee is determined to meet the challenge, and blocks a shot to goal with her face, which knocks her unconscious as blood pours from her wounds. Go team!

Some Yuri popcorn is Magical x Miracle which has ultra femmy girl Merleawe arriving in the big city to start magic training, only ala Prince and the Pauper, she is needed by the kingdom to replace the Master Wizard Viegald, who is an ultra femmy guy (and looks just like her). Beyond trying to fill the shoes of the Master Magician, no one told her that as Viegald, she has a female fiancee, and kissing is involved. In typical Mangaland fashion, even when she returns to her ultra femme dresses as Merleawe, everyone now just assumes that she is the male magician Viegald wandering around in drag. Oh well, sometimes a girl’s got to be a femme guy.

For some more gender bender/same sex love romance I recommend the Series Angel Diary by the same creator of yaoi themed classic Demon Diary. We have an angel princess who is living disguised as a boy on earth named Dong-young (hey, I don’t make up these names). And her best friend is the openly gay Bi-wal who has claimed “him” as a boyfriend (with some interesting situations as they get assigned the same room on a field trip). Of course there is a love triangle with another boy at school who seems to want to know Dong-young better. Meanwhile, the angelic guardians sent to search out the princess are falling in love with each other, only due to their own gender bending histories, some aren’t sure if they are in love with boys or girls. Luckily a Tree spirit drag queen steps in to help sort everything out. It’s like a pride parade in a book!

Another light read is the single volume Angel Dust, which is like a lesbian Evangelion. Yuina is a shy school girl who finds a female angelic android name Seraph from the future who must “integrate” with her through kisses. Seraph helps Yuina grow in confidence and starts a love story across time and space. It’s candy, but pretty candy. Mmmmmmmmm, yummy.