You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.
26 June 2007

May I make a small confession?

Web designer extraordinaire Eston Bond is quite the handsome geek. Moppish hair, serious look, what’s not to love?

Plus, his design work is absolutely beautiful.

Posted in OnTheWeb, RmAuNsDiOnMg on 26 June 2007 at 8:52 am by Nate
11 September 2006

Holocausts of various sorts

The word “holocaust” denotatively means a destruction or consumption by fire. It came to stand in specifically for the Nazi’s machinery of the infatuation of the death of Jews, gays, gypsies, Slavs, and so forth because of the fire they used to destroy the remnants of their victims. Disease are often described as burning through a population, as being a sort of natural holocaust.

In the commemoration of the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 today, I’ve read or heard many of the victims’ survivors talking about the incomprehension of how so many people they knew could so immediately and simultaneously cease. How it shook their faith in some sort of Ultimateness. How it shook their understanding of themselves.

But this feeling has been nothing new to those gay men I know who saw everyone around them cease within a tiny bit of time. And it’s nothing new to those Jewish people who lived through the camps. Or to the Hutus in Rwanda. Or to countless others.

I’m not trying to downplay the very real wounds of that day five years ago. I, like everyone, can never forget that day: the images, the looks on faces, the phone calls from all over the world, the weeping student of mine whose father died.

I cannot make sense of this, and I don’t expect to be able to understand it rationally. But even so, we have to understand it in some fashion, so as to know when the evil of holocausts rises within each of us, overtaking us, and living on its own.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 11 September 2006 at 11:50 pm by Nate
25 July 2006

Floyd and doping

I wanted to believe that Tyler Hamilton hadn’t doped two years ago. I think Lance Armstrong probably doped at some point or another (which I don’t think takes away from his achievement at winning 7 straight Tours). (His achievements as a person, however….) And I hope that the only doping that Floyd did was this sort:

Dopez vous au lait!

Here’s some of the reasoning that I think helps to support the idea that Floyd hasn’t doped:

The numbers on Wednesday, Lim said, showed that Landis’s collapse was not caused by a single factor like lack of food or water. Rather, his bad day was much like what eventually happens to a sleep-deprived student at exam time: his overtaxed body forced him to take a break. After he slowed down and lost the lead, Mr. Landis’s average power output fell by about one-third.

Before cyclists began adopting illicit methods for boosting their levels of oxygen-rich red cells during the 1990’s, such events were so common that French riders called them “jours sans,” or “days without.” During this year’s Tour, which saw several favorites excluded because of doping investigations, jours sans have made something of a comeback.

For Landis, Lim said, the enforced break from the action during his collapse probably gave him an edge on the following, winning day.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 25 July 2006 at 10:32 am by Nate
30 June 2006


This is a test.

{landis, sport, new stuff}

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 30 June 2006 at 1:18 pm by Nate
4 May 2006

Traveling annoyances

Number 17: Upon attempting to walk through the metal detector, the “security guard” tells you that no shoes are metal detector “safe,” so you’ll have to remove them. All right, it’s one more step, even though you’ve been through other airports where they let you leave your shoes on. (This leads me to believe that “security” is a relative term–why might shoes be safe on one flight but not another?) Then he lets the woman behind me leave her clogs on (which are easier to take off than my shoes).

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 4 May 2006 at 11:00 pm by Nate
18 January 2006

The “normal” way

Here in Winthrop House, we are about to have a dance called “Debauchery.” Fear of the potential that a dance of this title might bring for sexual forms of behavior has led to a number of meetings and discussions about how to control the people in attendance. A few nights ago, the tutor staff met with the students organizing the dance, to talk about how they had planned for it, how they would deal with public sex and “inappropriate behavior.”

One of the tutors who has responsibility for issues of sexual harassment was pushing the students to say that they would stop active, in-progress sex if they observed it. The students demurred a bit, somewhat uncomfortable with the conversation, saying that they would stop behavior that made them uncomfortable.

Finally, I got tired of dancing the divide between “sex” and “inappropriate behavior.” “What constitutes ‘sex’?” I asked. A moment of silence. And then the aforementioned tutor slowly offered, “Uh, the normal way. Oral sex. And anal sex.”

The normal way. Oral sex. And anal sex.


One of the factors of being a homosexual today, even and sometimes especially in an “accepting” environment, lies in our invisibility. Our presence is taken for granted and regarded as fairly unremarkable. BF and I live with 400 people, as an openly gay couple, on the premise that the same equality and human dignity inheres in our relationship as in any other permanent couple living here in Winthrop House. And it’s not even a premise. Our capacity for love and commitment is the equal of any here in the house. And perhaps it has even has to be more, because of the greater obstacles we face, on external factors, to our functioning in a “normal” fashion.

I know that my life and love are not “normal” in the sense of statistical averages or predominance. But I can find no reasonable logic that says that I am aberrant in any normative sense. I don’t, however, think either of these were what they were getting at in our meeting the other night.

In some sense, it was a form of discrimination. Discrimination is a curious double-bind. One the one hand, we engage in it when we evaluate people because they are members of a minority. But we also do it when we refuse to evaluate people because they are members of a minority. The act of forgetting, as in this case, can be unintentional discrimination.

But, if I may, I think there might be a deeper matter here, a spiritual matter. To speak of sex in the language of “normal” gives some indication of an impoverishment. Sex provides one of the signs that we are not divided beings, at least in total. We tend to think of ourselves Platonically, as having body, soul, and spirit/mind. And for many of us, the spirit/mind predominates, or is at least seen as separate from the other two. And it is where we probably spend the most of our time, cultivating and conversing with our own inner dialogue.

But sex is one of the pieces of who we are that can unite those three elements of being. It can eradicate the differences between them, show them to be only particular understandings of our nature, pull down the mask of identity that we make with them. At its full expression, sex is the appearance of love throughout all of our being, even a sacramental pointer toward Love itself.

I think gay men might understand this better than many other groups out there. We have faced the rejection of our families, our friends, our communities, and (sometimes) risked and lost everything we know to so that we might love as we are. And, while there is a certain libertinism in gay male culture, I’m not convinced that it occurs simply because men, especially gay men, are fulfilling their biological desires (as some argue). I think many of us, even when we think it’s just sex, are searching for dignity and love, our own and other people’s. And since that dignity and love are often denied to us in our other relationships, we go looking for it in the places where we have found it before. Many of us initially found that love for ourselves and for another in the first time(s) we had sex, and that sets a standard.

(In all of this, I am not necessarily saying that sex must only occur in the context of a monogamous pairing to “count.” Far from it. That would be to make the same mistake as the one I discuss here.)

But when we normalize sex, we normalize love. When we make sex about one action or one way of doing it, we imply a limit to love. If we regard a sex act as the “normal” way, whether in the quantitative or moral sense, we fail to regard how it brings us to ourselves. It becomes simply another thing that we do, a routine to check off of our lists of “to-dos.” Sex can bring us to the deepest part of our being, and when we routinize it, we deaden ourselves to ourselves.

I grant that the speaker probably did not take all of this into account when saying it. She probably wasn’t really thinking (which is problematic in its own way). But the underlying problem really is there, I think. If we think of heterosexual, vaginal sex as the “”default”” position, not only does it lock other types and peoples out, but it also reduces the special potential of that act, too.

Bono once said, “Wherever I look, words have been used up. Gone. They don’t mean anything. God. Light. Sex. And the most powerful word has got to be love, but the fight is on for that one.”

We obsessed over sex the other night because we know that sex has power, and that makes it dangerous and vital and superb. When we make it “normal”, we rob it of all those aspects, its power and its glory. This doesn’t just hurt gay people, when we’re forgotten in discussions of what’s “normal.” This hurts straight people, too. If their sex has become routine, “normal”, “traditional”, then they forsake the fullness of sex, the fullness of their humanity, and the fullness of love.

Maybe the fight needs to be on for “sex”, too. And against “normal.”

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 18 January 2006 at 12:13 am by Nate
15 August 2005

Grammar issue

The difference between noun and adjectival forms of words escapes far too many people, it seems.

Working through a back issue of the New Yorker, there’s a quote from
Elizabeth Dole, the senator from N. Carolina, complaing about the
“liberal Democrat agenda.”  Democratic is the word, Libby.  Democratic.  See, “Democratic” is the adjectival form, used when we
modify nouns like “agenda” and “party.”  Democratic agenda. 
Democratic party.  But “Democrat(s)” when we talk about the actual
people.  “The Democrats are a political party.”

Would you say “This is the America agenda”?  Or, “The America
people are lovers of freedom”?  Clearly not, unless your English
was quite bad.

I have this feeling that this is being done because it somehow seems
derisive in the eyes of Republicans who use the noun as an adjective, as if
not using the correct form demeans the Democrats somehow.  Whatever
the reason, it just makes the users sound like ignorant,
grammar-challenged rubes. 

Same goes for “Episcopal” (adj.) and “Episcopalian” (noun). 
And “organization” (noun) and “organizational” (adj.).  And a
whole host of others.

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 15 August 2005 at 12:35 pm by Nate
5 May 2005

Strange confluence

Today is three holidays in one.

You can guess the first one easily.  It’s Cinco de Mayo, to
commemorate the Mexican victory over the French occupiers of Mexico at
the Battle of Puebla.  More info here, here, and here.

It’s also Ascension day for Latin Christians, commemorating the
Ascension of Christ into Heaven 40 days after the Resurrection on
Easter.  (The Orthodox just celebrated Easter last Sunday, so it’s
not Ascension Day for them.)  It comes 10 days before Pentecost,
which commemorates the coming of the Third Person of the Trinity, the
Holy Spirit.

It’s also Karl Marx’s birthday.  You know about Karl.  I
think Karl’s fantastically intelligent and interesting.  If you’re
looking for something to read, I’d suggest “On the Jewish Question.” 
This is perhaps the most succinct, insightful, and laser-like critique
of liberalism ever written.  Although I buy liberalism in general,
Marx’s points about the failures of liberalism are absolutely necessary
to consider.

It’s also Yom Ha’shoah, the day of remembrance for the Jewish Holocaust
of World War II.  It’s also a day to remember the other victims of
the Nazis (homosexuals, the mentally and physically handicapped,
gypsies, and others) and the victims of other genocides in
history.  “Rest eternal grant unto them.  Let light perpetual
shine on them.”

A very strange coincidence of holidays.

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 5 May 2005 at 10:45 am by Nate
29 December 2004

Christmas back home in Southern California

I miss a few pieces of Christmas in Southern California. A couple of
articles from the Times last Friday reminded me just a bit of it.
First, one on the tradition of las posadas:

The most exciting time will come on Friday night, when the children
will dress as Mary, Joseph and the three kings. All the parents have
the night off, so the group, both Aguilar family members and friends,
may swell to 100 people. They will sing, dance and eat more tamales.

And, at last, they will break a pi

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 29 December 2004 at 6:11 pm by Nate
8 December 2004

Discussions below the surface

Good discussions goin on in the comment threads of this entry and this entry.  Take a look.  Join in.

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 8 December 2004 at 10:24 am by Nate