Sexuality and weight
As a (largely) straight and (reasonably) thin person, I don't personally have a dog in this fight*, but Ampersand's discussion of the comparison between obesity and homosexuality (part 1, part 2) has been an interesting read. Both gays and the overweight are essentially sanctioned targets of discrimination in this society; both are most often attacked as (bad) choices and defended as genetics.
Strangely, despite their similar circumstances, there's a vast disconnect between the two -- it's not often someone's attitudes and comfort levels toward both homosexuality and obesity are the same. Overweight people can be vicious gay-baiters and gays can be among the cruelest of size elitists.
But are homosexuality and obesity choices? Yes? No? Both or neither? Ampersand's take on the subject is a thoughtful one, and some of his commenters hit it spot-on. It seems to me this comment to the first post was the money quote: "The ability to alter their sexuality or weight may vary based on how they arrived at that point to begin with."
I know people who couldn't be straight; I know people who couldn't stay thin on a starvation diet (which is a bad idea, anyway; see the discussion). I also know people who have chosen to be gay and who are naturally thin but have let their weight rise through poor diet or carelessness (oddly, people who want to be fat seem to be either invisible or nonexistent).
Neither case can be simplified down to "it's a choice" or "it's not a choice". The simplest model that fits actual, observable reality in both cases is "by genetics/by choice/not" -- or put more smartly, Brad Hicks' deviants/potential deviants/compliants.
The other interesting point about the gay/fat comparison is that it may point us to a future phenomenon. Gays, right now, are gaining cohesion and visibility -- fighting to marginalize gay-bashing and homophobes. But there's very little similar movement from the "overweight." And yet, with the parallels so strong ... if gays are successful in gaining more traction, is Size Pride going to become a force to be reckoned with within our lifetime?
* Of course, I do have a deep interest in it -- as many of the people who I respect are gay, overweight, or both, and as I think society would be better off if we could actually respect everyone instead of sanctioning people who it's OK to take cheap shots against.
And the class divide grows
Welcome to George W. Bush's fourth holiday season out of eight. Merry Christmas -- to the rich.
[T]he holiday 2004 season for retailers is turning out to be sharply divided between the haves and have nots.
But, hey, it's alright. "A rising tide lifts all boats," right? Just ask any yacht owner. Oh, and ignore the folks treading water who used to be wading.
It's no fun to work with the news for a living sometimes. Seeing graphic photos of carnage on the wire, reading an entire nation's tragedies every day, gets you pretty jaded, but there are still stories that quietly haunt you.
This particular item wasn't a very big story in the grand scheme of things -- it only made the wire services as a footnote in the Southern California regional briefs. Regardless, it was one of those that twists the knife.
Charley Aurthur took his own life in November 1996 -- a troubled 23-year-old who had struggled with mental illness for half a decade. His father, Jonathan, fought to understand the whole time what was going on inside his child's mind. After Charley's death, the process resulted in a book -- which incidentally got published by the same people who did "Chicken Soup for the Soul" -- and a website. In both, Jonathan tried to lay out their experiences, in an earnest attempt to prevent another tragedy in families going through similar circumstances.
Then, late last month, Jonathan Aurthur killed himself.
This was a man who knew firsthand the pain of suicide. A man who spent six years trying to redeem his son's death by bringing their story to the world -- who even quit his job to write that book. It may have brought him the redemption he sought ... but it obviously didn't bring him the resolution he needed.
According to the obituary, he leaves behind a number of family members, an ex-wife, and a daughter Jenny. We can only hope that they find more peace in their lives than Jonathan did.
Windi went and got hired out from underneath me -- I guess there's at least one company back in the southeast that recognizes talent when they see it. :) So, stepping up as Tomorrowlands webmaster is the equally incomparable Bob, who will also do a wonderful job helping me get everything running here at the site. Yay!
Onward and upward
Hi, my name is Baxil, and I have a confession to make.
Once upon a time, I wrote the Draconity FAQ --
-- No, no, no. That's not the confession, friend. That's just the background. I can't make assumptions about my readership; I want to set the record straight before I lay things on the line.
So. Once upon a time, I wrote what may even today still be considered the definitive basic primer for people who think they're dragons in human bodies. I spoke from experience. I was social in the online dragon community and went to a few regional "dragon gathers". I harbored dreams of a changed world.
It's been about nine years now. You know how the passage of time works. I haven't updated the FAQ since 1998; my interactions in the dragon community have gradually slowed down to occasional contact with a close group of friends from the old days. I grew, broadened; saw different sides of the human world I had a hard time considering myself a part of. Had a few big traumas in my spirit world and a few pleasant discoveries outside of it. Met a nice human girl and got completely broadsided by what quickly blossomed into a relationship.
Those days when I felt I had the universe figured out -- those days of heady certainty -- seem so far away now. I've graduated from college and moved out into the Real World; I've grappled with jobs and debt and tangled webs of roommates and relationships. I've gotten politically active and marched in protest rallies and donated good money to parties and issue groups (what can I say, blame Bush). I've met a lot of people who shared my intellectual gifts and my alienation, who never considered themselves anything but human and never struck me as anything but human, and who nevertheless got along just fine.
And then -- don't worry, reader, the confession is coming soon -- last night, someone pointed me at a piece in Teresa Neilsen Hayden's blog discussing a rather earnest born-again dragon. And I read that, and the scores of comments, many of whom made some rather cogent points about people who think they're not human ...
I read that with a sort of odd feeling brewing in my stomach. So I sat down, and listened, and gnawed on it as I went to sleep, and gnawed on it some more as I drove to work.
I think that's enough background. You probably see where I'm headed with this, anyway. My confession is --
I'm still a dragon, dammit.
Those of you who up until now were reading this with a growing sense of relief or smugness, and are now merely exasperated at me for wasting your time, are kindly advised to close your browser and go perform an anatomically impossible one-person sex act. I'll keep talking to the rest of the audience.
That odd feeling? A sense of conviction. Not in the sense of certainty. In the sense of being called out, convicted, by something greater than yourself; being shown a sign that you're not living up to your expectations. (I picked up the term from a book on Christianity my sister gave me as a gift, Blue Like Jazz, which has been a useful read on issues of faith even if I'm not taking away quite the connection to God that the author intends.)
Like I said, I've been gradually drifting away from the community. This isn't wrong; I got what I needed out of it while I was involved, and it was a great place at the time, but I'm beyond the phase where my desire for draconity determined my inner circle. Those dragon friends I keep today are increasingly those I like as people, and that's as should be.
I've also been backing away from writing about draconity -- although that decline has been more sporadic and slow. I've been feeling like I have less that I can say authoritatively as I've broadened out and gained a more worldly and nuanced perspective.
My draconity, too, has changed. Except it hasn't. Except it has. It's still the foundation on which my path is laid, and it still follows some of the same rules that seemed so familiar back then -- but at times I look around and don't recognize a thing. It's simultaneously critical and comfortable and alien and meaningless. Map and territory. Further explanation will be necessary later.
What's important is that the bottom has been dropping out of all of my reasons for believing. There are graceful intellectual and social outs; I have a peer group which would totally understand (and in many cases give me even more respect for) a reasoned decision to back away; my declining spiritual commitments would be easy enough to shut down. A dozen non-draconic interests continually compete for my attention and I could pick any of them up without looking back. The benefits of continuing to believe have gotten progressively more ineffable. The actual connection to my past and my identity grows ever more irrelevant as my focus turns to the remainder of this well-lived life. I'm growing more comfortable in my skin. I have a full life without it. And yet ... and yet.
I can't. It wouldn't be right. After the times I've walked away, it's still there. Now more than ever, since it has no reason to be but still is.
So I feel convicted about my draconity. About not knowing what to say about it. (I almost said "what to do with it," but it doesn't need doing; it's there, it's me.) There's all this wonderful discussion going on about draconity (inside the community as well as outside -- Hayden's blog was merely the spark for the epiphany), and here I am shrinking into a corner, letting people assume that the me of six years ago speaks for the me of today, not bothering to tell anyone where I actually stand and what I've seen since then and what implications this all has.
"I'm still a dragon, dammit" is a good start. But it's only a good start. It's the truth, but not the whole truth, so help me Thideras. There's so much more to say.
Trying to clear the rest out of my head may be a sporadic process, but with a NaNoWriMo novel under my belt, I have a lot more confidence that I can quietly and patiently work toward a longer-term goal like this one.
Today's little etymology lesson:
The word blog -- now used to describe any continuously updated online writing project in which entries are separated timewise into "posts" -- started its life as a contraction of weblog. Time was, a weblog was a very different thing than a diary or a journal; "webloggers" were primarily content aggregators, who spent their time finding interesting links from around the Internet and condensing them down into a series of links, optionally with limited commentary. Much like Fark still is today.
Over time, the category spread to include people who would occasionally insert personal anecdotes or brief analyses/rants in between their links. (Or perhaps high-profile "webloggers" started feeling a little more free to share their life once their audience was established.) Gradually, distinctions such as that between "webloggers" and "E/N" sites ("entertainment/news", or "everything/nothing", depending on who you ask -- the term was coined to describe someone who used their webspace as a forum to rant and riff on all and sundry) were lost.
The "weblogs" also acquired the catchier nickname in use today, dropping the first two letters. I guess that's meant to be some sort of moral to the story. "Daddy, why won't you let me guest-post on your site?" "Because, son, there's no 'we' in 'blog.'"
Somewhere along that line, "blogger" entered the public lexicon, and soon afterward, every Guy With A Website became a "blogger." In a strange twist, the original meaning of "weblog" is becoming somewhat gauche among people who proudly and with no hint of irony call themselves "bloggers"; if you merely spew out links to stuff you like, adding no original content, your readers won't perceive you as making a significant contribution to whatever field you're blogging in.
Such are the ways in which language evolves, I suppose.
Blog links, Nov. 2004
That all having been said, for several months now I've been in the habit of regularly logging the interesting links I find around the Web. Y'know ... weblogging.
Why? Basically for my own convenience -- in much the same way I used to collect good quotes in the quotebook I still carry around and be able to dig them up again with a few flips of a page, it can be tremendously useful having those links you've been reading and finding interesting just a few clicks away. Trying to remember just where it was you read someone cracking a dark joke about Iraq resembling a game of Quake? *clickclickclick* Ah! Jesse at Pandagon.
Now that MT's working again, since they're just sitting around anyway, I figured I would share the cream of the crop with y'all. I may even do this regularly if the urge strikes.
These are just the ones which I found especially worthy of note -- about 10 percent of my list of several links per day. And they're more or less pasted in straight from my linkfile -- this is how I write the notes to myself to summarize the page's content.
** Best. Camera. Ever: The Gigapxl
* Hack your way out of writer's block
* How to fix breathlessness in 15 seconds:
* Add polish to writing - Ten ubiquitous mistakes to correct during editing process.
* Why are porn movies legal when prostitution isn't and they're both paying for sex?
** Electoral maps of the U.S. in purple, not winner-take-all red/blue:
* Wonderfully insightful dKos diary on terrorist strategy - radicalize sides; their first opponents are the people willing to compromise.
* "Abandoning Libertarianism" - great essay on many of the same gripes I've got
* Puritanism -- "the religion of the new commercial classes" in 1600s -- is becoming the model for GW Bush's American religious revival:
* Abraham Lincoln was a badass - he really did stand up to the South:
* Discussing the Bible with fundamentalists - steer the argument to whether it is
* Omnibus spending bill quietly added permanent user fees for public land (!):
You may get the same enjoyment out of them that I did. I hope at least one or two will prove useful. No warranty expressed or implied, etc.
We hope you have enjoyed this interlude of actual blogging, and now return you to your regularly scheduled journal.