Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dateline: Sydney

I always have a feeling in English speaking countries that I am having a glimpse of the road not taken. This could almost be America, if we or them had gone down a different route. Instead, things are mostly familiar and then you'll be struck by something that's just a bit off. It happened yesterday downtown. I'd gone to meet Alastair and his friend Jason for lunch, and passed a bunch of haole guys in red t-shirts proclaiming that it was "High-Five a Muslim Day." It was a nice sentiment, and a totally clueless execution.

I've been here for four days now, and having a good time. Not a wild one, which is a surprise. To me, at least - I figured I would get all caught up in the Mardi Gras energy, and be up each night to dawn.

Now, those days will come. But so far I've been catching up with friends I haven't seen in awhile, hanging out with guys I just met, and being pretty much a lazy slug. Parlty it's that everyone I know is working, and I'm not really game to join the lines of California boys queuing up outside the pubs.

So: Sunday I hung out in Bondi with Alastair's 7 year old godson Harry, his sister, and his mothers Pia and Fiona. I forgot [as I always do] that when you rile up little boys they stayed riled up. There's no off button on the little buggers. So I wrestled with him, taught him to kick box, threw him around in the pool, and all the other juvenile things I can't do to my friends. And then I wanted to rest, and the kid wasn't having any of it. I was exhausted by evening. Had a few drinks with Alastair and his [insert term for undefined relationship term here] Paul, got in too deep dissecting critical theory, then passed out to the world.

Monday I thought about shopping, but didn't. Wasted away a good afternoon at the gym, and chilled again in the evening. Tuesday met Jason and Alastair for lunch, then spent the rest of the day at Lady Jane beach with Jason. That night met Manny, who I've only chatted with online. He looked alright online. In person he was hella handsome and sexy. We'll chat later today and make more plans.

And today I finally tried to go shopping. And failed. I'm just not good at it. I saw a shirt I really liked at one shop. It was a bit tight ... and then I realized I couldn't get it out. The shop keeper had to help me out, me holding my hands up over my head like a little kid while he pulled it off. A smile and a blush later and I bolted for the door. Down the street I saw another shop with cool looking jeans. The shop was full of butched muscle boys. I walked in, picked up a pair of $440 jeans, and stifled a scream. I thought about telling the men that $400 jeans permanently negates all butch posturing, but thought better of it. I was going to give up, and figured I'd stop in Aussie Boys for a quick look. Now if anyone rich is reading this: I discovered that I look fabulous in Dolce & Gabbana. Too bad the price of one bathing suit would blow my budget for the week.

I eventually did buy some jeans and a t-shirt at a store on Oxford. I can't recall the name of the place; all I remember is the the big red "50% Off Sale" sign on the window. Which is my knod of store.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More curious information

From an American Heritage article by John Demos, 1978

The place is the fledgling community of Windsor, Connecticut: I the time, an autumn day in the year 1651. A group of local I militiamen has assembled for training exercises. They drill in their usual manner through the morning, then pause for rest and refreshment. Several of the younger recruits begin a moment’s horseplay; one of these—a certain Thomas Allen—cocks his musket and inadvertently knocks it against a tree. The weapon fires, and a few yards away a bystander falls heavily to the ground. The unfortunate victim is an older man, also a trainee, Henry Stiles by name. Quickly, the group converges on Stiles, and bears him to the house of the local physician. But the bullet has fatally pierced his heart.

One month later the “particular court” of the Connecticut colony meets in regular session. On its agenda is an indictment of Thomas Alien: “that … [thou] didst suddenly, negligently, carelessly cock thy piece, and carry the piece … which piece being charged and going off in thine hand, slew thy neighbor, to the great dishonor of God, breach of the peace, and loss of a member of this commonwealth.” Alien confesses the fact, and is found guilty of “homicide by misadventure.” For his “sinful neglect and careless carriages” the court orders him to pay a fine of twenty pounds sterling. In addition he is bound to good behavior for the ensuing year, with the special proviso “that he shall not bear arms for the same term.”

But this is not the end of the matter. Stiles’s death remains a topic of local conversation, and three years later it yields a more drastic result. In November, 1654, the court meets in special session to try a case of witchcraft—against a woman, Lydia Gilbert, also of Windsor: “Lydia Gilbert, thou art here indicted … that not having the fear of God before thine eyes, thou hast of late years or still dost give entertainment to Satan, the great enemy of God and mankind, and by his help hast killed the body of Henry Stiles, besides other witchcrafts, for which according to the law of God and the established law of this commonwealth thou deservest to die.” The court, in effect, is considering a complicated question: did Lydia Gilbert’s witchcraft cause Thomas Alien’s gun to go off, so as to kill Henry Stiles? Evidence is taken on various points deemed relevant. Henry Stiles was a boarder in the Gilbert household for some while before his death. The arrangement was not a happy one; neighbors could recall the sounds of frequent quarreling. From time to time Stiles loaned money and property to his landlord, but this served only to heighten the tension. Goodwife Gilbert, in particular, violated her Christian obligation of charitable and peaceable behavior. A naturally assertive sort, she did not conceal her sense of grievance against Goodman Stiles. In fact, her local reputation has long encompassed some unfavorable elements: disapproval of her quick temper, envy of her success in besting personal antagonists, suspicion that she is not above invoking the “Devil’s means.” The jury weighs the evidence and reaches its verdict—guilty as charged. The magistrates hand down the prescribed sentence of death by hanging. A few days thereafter the sentence is carried out.

On the next succeeding Sabbath day, and with solemn forewarning, the pastor of the Windsor church climbs to the pulpit to deliver his sermon. Directly he faces the questions that are weighing heavily in the minds of his parishioners. Why has this terrible scourge of witchcraft been visited on their little community? What has created the opportunity which the Devil and his legions have so untimely seized? For what reason has God Almighty condoned such a tragic intrusion on the life of Windsor? The pastor’s answer to these questions is neither surprising nor pleasant for his audience to hear, but it carries a purgative force. The Windsor townsfolk are themselves at least partially to blame. For too long they have strayed from the paths of virtue: overvaluing secular interests while neglecting religious ones, tippling in alehouses, “nightwalking,” and—worst of all—engaging one another in repeated strife. In such circumstances the Devil always finds an opening; to such communities God brings retribution. Thus the recent witchcraft episode is a lesson to the people of Windsor, and a warning to mend their ways.

Lydia Gilbert was not the first witch to have lived at Windsor, nor would she be the last. For so-called Puritans, the happenstance of everyday life was part of a struggle of cosmic dimensions, a struggle in which witchcraft played a logical part. The ultimate triumph of Almighty God was assured. But in particular times and places Satan might achieve some temporary success—and claim important victims. Indeed he was continually adding earthly recruits to his nefarious cause. Tempted by bribes and blandishments, or frightened by threats of torture, weak-willed persons signed the “Devil’s Book” and enrolled as witches. Thereafter they were armed with his power and obliged to do his bidding. God, meanwhile, opposed this onslaught of evil—and yet He also permitted it. For errant men and women there was no more effective means of “chastening.”


She turned me into a newt

One side of our family history goes back to 1640, when Thomas and Lydia Gilbert settled on a large estate in Massachusetts. The rumor was that it was a grant from the queen, given to Thomas as a descendent of Sir Humphrey Gilbert. The story also says that Lydia was later indicted as a witch in Connecticut, and sentenced to hang. Some stories say she escaped, others that she was hung at Hartford.

The history books don't show if we're descended from royalty or not. They're pretty solid on the witchcraft angle, though.This morning I googled Lydia, and learned a bit more. I found that she was accused of murdering her husband's former employer, Henry Styles of Windsor. And sure enough, indicted and sentenced to hang.

28 Nov. 1654

[Indictment] Lydea Gilburt thou art here indited by that name of Lydea Gilburt that not hauing the feare of god before thy Eyes thou hast of late years or still dust giue Entertainment to Bather the greate Enemy of god and mankinde and by his helpe hast killed the Body of Henry Styles beside other witchcrafts for which according to the law of god and the Estableshed law of this Comon wealth thou deservest to Dye

[Verdict] ye Party aboue mentioned is found guilty of witchcraft by ye Jury

from the Records of the Particular Court of Connecticut, 1639- [Hartford, 1928]

More information is online here
, and in The Gilbert Family. Descendants of Thomas Gilbert, 1582(?)–1659 of Mt. Wollaston (Braintree), Windsor, and Wethersfield), ed. Donald Lines Jacobus [New Haven 1953]

et voila

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Tattoo

I got the tattoo on Sunday. After ten years of talking I finally did it. Tautu showed me the design on Friday, and I liked it immediately.

I'll try and post pics soon.

More evidence for the end of civilization as we know it

From The Guns of August, 1962

So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens – four dowager and three regnant – and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.

From The Sydney Morning Herald, 2005

It was part solemn observance - though, significantly, given Packer's lack of faith, the only reference to the true God was contained in a traditional Irish blessing on the back of the service program.

It was also part Big Day Out, as Sydneysiders and tourists gathered round the Opera House in the hope of seeing celebrities, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise and his fiancee Katie Holmes, golfer Greg Norman, captains of cricket and of industry, past and present prime ministers.

If so many rich, powerful, glamorous and talented Australians had ever before been assembled, none could remember it.


We have fallen far and hard, my friends

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Tattoo, step one

I finally met Tautu, Marc's cousin, to talk about the tattoo I wanted. He's up from the Marquesas for ten days, so I don't have a whole lot of time to muck around. Last night we talked about different meanings and ideas. He said he'd dream on it, and this evening he'll show me what he came up with. I'm looking at getting a significant piece, soI'm nervous and excited all at the same time.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Brokeback Revisited

Saw the movie yesterday with Tim, Brian, and the gang. I wasn't really looking forward to it. I wanted to hang with the guys, sure. But I wasn't thrilled about sitting inside a theater on a beautiful Hawaiian Saturday afternoon.

'Cause I already knew the story, right? I had already completely deconstructed it in my mind and I just was not interested. I had been dragged to too many shitty romances, gay and straight. I'm usually the one sitting dead center trying to stifle his gag reflex while every sap around bawls their eyes out.

But most friends told me to just shut up and go, and I can never resist peer pressure for long. And so I went.

And I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. The movie hit me somewhere deep and it hit hard. It took me back to every lonely place I've ever known. It was powerful enough at the end, sure. But the movie is affecting me even more today, the day after. I still can't shake the tears.


From a 2005 interview with Annie Proulx in The Advocate

AP: Have you gotten any response from gay organizations?

Proulx: No. When the story was first published eight years ago, I did expect that. But there was a deafening silence. What I had instead were letters from individuals, gay people, some of them absolutely heartbreaking. And over the years, those letters have continued and certainly are continuing now. Some of them are extremely fine, people who write and say, "This is my story. This is why I left Idaho, Wyoming, Iowa." Perhaps the most touching ones are from fathers, who say, "Now I understand the kind of hell my son went through." It's enormously wonderful to know that you've touched people, that you've truly moved them.

From an 1999 interview in the Missouri Review:

Interviewer: Have you ever fallen in love with one of your characters?

Proulx: I have never fallen in love with one of my characters. The notion is repugnant. Characters are made to carry a particular story; that is their work. The only reason one shapes a character to look as he or she does, behave and speak in a certain way, suffer particular events, is to move the story forward in a particular direction. I do not indulge characters nor give them their heads and "see where they go," and I don't understand writers who drift downriver in company with unformed characters. The character, who may seem to hold center stage in a novel, and in a limited sense does, actually exists to support the story. This is not to say that writing a character is like building a model airplane. The thoughtful and long work of inventing a believable and fictionally "true" person on paper is exhilarating, particularly as one knowingly skates near the thin ice of caricature.

Interviewer: You have been criticized by some for overemphasizing the bad luck and failure of you characters—for not finding the mitigating factor in their lives, if only in the way you frame their stories.

Proulx: It is difficult to take this as a serious criticism. America is a violent, gun-handling country. Americans feed on a steady diet of bloody movies, television programs, murder mysteries. Road rage, highway killings, beatings and murder of those who are different abound; school shootings—almost all of them in rural areas—make headline news over and over. Most of the ends suffered by characters in my books are drawn from true accounts of public record: newspapers, accident reports, local histories, labor statistics for the period and place under examination. The point of writing in layers of bitter deaths and misadventures that befall characters is to illustrate American violence, which is real, deep and vast.

And from her website, 2005

There is one lie in this interview [from the Missouri Review] where I said I had never fallen in love with any of my characters. I think I did fall in love with both Jack and Ennis, or some other strong feeling of connection which has persisted for the 8 years since the story was written.

And finally, from the short story:

What Jack remembered and craved in a way he could neither help nor understand was the time that distant summer on Brokeback when Ennis had come up behind him and pulled him close, the silent embrace satisfying some shared and sexless hunger.