“They, She, He, Me: Free to Be” and the ‘debate’ over presenting LGBTQIA+ issues in schools

Swanson Middle School, Arlington VA, which I attended in 1955-58

My own first “do ask do tell” book is 25 years old.  While sales of it over the years (after the first couple) have been underwhelming, the book and the two successors, along with all the accompanying blog material, have, I think, had an impact on policy, starting first with the leadoff issue, “gays in the military” (encompassing the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy which was finally repealed in 2011 under Obama) through passive marketing, allowing others to find it with search engines and word of mouth, without aggressive marketing as usually recommended as necessary.

Generally, fiction is easier to sell than non-fiction, especially when the non-fiction is directed more narrowly at current events and their public policy implications.  Consumer interest wanes with time, although some issues have more downstream implications for the general public than the public realizes (DADT was definitely one of them, in conjunction with ideas like possible conscription or expected service and the forced intimacy that can result.) 

Writer’s Digest, going way back to like around 2000, used to counsel new writers, to “write what others want”.  That is, if you are going to make a living at writing.  Get off you high horse. Meet people where they are. (I guess I am continuing the discussion I started by mentioning Tyler Mowery’s “Writers Mind” at the end of yesterday’s post, although that isn’t necessarily what his videos say, but it is what the literary agent and bookselling world seems to demand – as well as the screenplay world.)

I might have had the opportunity in the 2000’s to help a couple other writers doing books on DADT, and I might have behaved more commercially (than I wound up doing with blogging – and that will be another topic soon).  But it’s still a question, that I get, why don’t I address the trans or non-binary now, and why don’t I write for young people, especially children?  It would certainly sell books, wouldn’t it?

Well, I have a problem with some of the hype today from the Left on promoting LGBTQIA materials with younger kids, to try to make the overall social climate more caring and less personally competitive.  I have written in the past that there is some legitimate literature (Vox in particularly summarized it) showing that gender identity can indeed sometimes be a genuine medical issue for some children.  That is probably less than 1 in 200 children through grade school.  There is an issue of Intersex, which may affect about 1.5% of births (with some chromosomal or genetic issues) but which is not said to justify medical intervention often. So it’s a bit confusing.  Even reputable literature contradicts itself, and there is some suspicion of medical scandal on exploitation of kids by some doctors.  See the June 9 -posting with a link to a Williams Institute study in the June 13 comment.

The Twitter account “@Libsoftiktok” pointed out a few children’s books in the Tenafly NJ public school library, and I bought one of them reported to be there.  That is Maya and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez, “They, She, He, Me: Free to Be!”, 40 pages, paper, from Reflection Press, San Francisco, ISBN 978-1-945289-09-5 (also available in hardcover), Amazon SiteStripe link.

Free to Be book trailer

The book, with a green cover in the geometric shape of a perfect square, starts with some pages of drawings of kids illustration each of the four titular pronouns.

The authors follow with a page for two suggested singular neo-pronouns.  One of these is “tree”, which sounds off base since it is the English language name of a particularly important biological (botanic) organism on Earth. (Yes, it helps with climate change.)  HRC has supported neo-pronouns as the singular case for persons or animals whose gender is unknown or non-binary (with “it” only for inanimate, non-living objects). 

But some non-binary people on the far Left insist on being referred to only with plural pronouns, because they don’t want people thinking about gender at all when referring to them. (I got scolded on Twitter about this at least once.)

There are pages about “creating” and “claiming” pronouns and about the authors and how they wound up with their specific pronouns.

On page 38 there is a piece “For the Grown-Ups”.  What seems disturbing is that parents are schools are asked to invite all kids to reconsider their “genders” in early childhood, when only a miniscule percentage is likely to be genuinely transgender according to our best medical knowledge. It is particularly important to note that the instances of transgenderism in small children are that: a child gives indication that “e” (neo-pronoun) is of the gender opposite to what was assigned at birth.  Specifically we don’t hear about children saying they are non-binary this young.  The debate gives me the overall impression that this problem more about the child’s or teen’s or young adult’s perception that e will not be able to “compete” (as someone who could be sexually attractive in a heterosexual or conventionally all cis-gendered homosexual) relationship.  It seems to be an irreducible problem of well-ordering the members of a finite set or population, of logic:  If a > b, then b < a.     Yes, it’s a view that was in my mind as a youth.  If everyone stuck to this interpersonally the way I did, we might head right back to fascism.

When I was thrown out of William and Mary in Nov. 1961 for admitting (under pressure) to the Dean of Men that I was “latent homosexual”, society was not used to the idea that homosexual men could live with heterosexuals in a closed environment without incident (although it had long happened covertly during World Wars even despite overt racial segregation until “Truman” [Gary Sinese] in 1948 (see the 1996 HBO film).  They basic belief ungirded the debate over gays in the military starting more than three decades later (under Bill Clinton).  Over time, and a couple of generations, younger adults got “used to it”. 

Is the current controversy over educating younger children about LGBTQIA+  issues, in order to soften the social climate and decrease bullying and artificial competitiveness, somehow parallel to the debates over gays in the military three decades ago?  The fact that we are talking about minors, especially younger ones, is a big difference in my perception right now.  I am well aware about the controversy over using the term “groomer” in social media.  The notion that teenagers, prompted early in life by the introduction of these ideas, may imagine themselves to have gender dysphoria may well have some traction, particularly when we note that pre-teen girls right now seem particularly susceptible.  (Hence some of the derivation of the forbidden g-word – see June 9 review of Shrier’s book)  It would seem that, given the relatively small occurrence of medically genuine cases of gender dysphoria in young children right now, they should be handled with carefully designed policies involving parents and school systems, allowing invisible social transition in a few cases (which can be quite simple, especially if there are some gender-free restrooms with more privacy, but which gets more testing when you get to physical education locker rooms in middle school).  Draconian state laws, like in Texas and Florida, would not be needed.  But I don’t think we should expect all children, the overwhelming majority of whom have no issues, to question their gender identities (v. sex assigned at birth) at least in younger grades, and there should be no problem with using gender-based nouns and pronouns in common English speech and writing and grammar as taught in schools.

Should books like this live in school libraries? Maybe not grade schools. I don’t think my books are suitable for grade schools either. In public libraries, yes; it’s free speech.

Note that the trailer for the book doesn’t allow comments and may be ‘made for kids’ on YT.

SciShow: “There Are More than Two Human Sexes”.  I may have embedded this before, but it’s a necessary refresher lecture here. It would seem that the resistance to LGBTQ “ideology” in some parts of eastern Europe (like the LGBTQ-free zones) may refer much more to new gender ideology than sexual orientation, although that may not be true of Russia (2013 propaganda law), but these countries do tend to be concerned about their low native birth rates.

SciShow video: There Are More Than Two Human Sexes

HBO video for “Truman” film.

HBO “Truman” trailer

(Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2022 at 2 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

“Vengeance”, black comedy taking us to west Texas where the libs (of tik tok?) aren’t too welcome

Abilene, Texas downtown 2018-6

Vengeance” attracted my attention because of its presentation of Texas, where I spent a decade of my life (the 80s) and have some attachment to, however horrible the politics are today.

B.J. Novak writes, directs and starts in this self-monument, perhaps, as writer Ben Manalowitz, a youthful 40-something who would like to be 25. He “dates” a few women in continual succession living in New York and starts with a philosophical discussion of all that with friends along the East River, maybe in sight of Barge Music.  He gets a call  one night (when with a heterosexual trick) from acquaintance Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook) that a woman he slept with once down there in southern Baptist country has died mysteriously. That woman is Abilene, Ty’s sister, yes, family.

The film gives us some geography. Abilene is 140 miles west of Fort Worth along a scenic I-20 that goes through the Palo Pinto hill country (a real escarpment at Ranger, which recent burned in a wildfire).  I can remember stopping there on Sierra Club bus trips from Dallas for supper at McDonald’s.  North of Abilene toward the Red River there is some arid country that looks like Mars with a little vegetation. But if you go west another 150 miles or so you come to Midland-Odessa.  Another 200 miles (am I guessing) takes you through the Trans-Pecos mountains to El Paso.  I don’t think it’s a full 5 more hours Abilene as the film claims.  The bus trips didn’t take that long.  The script mentions Marfa, but I think the mountains are visible from there.  The countryside in the film is flat (shot in SE New Mexico, maybe o nt he way to Roswell). 

He gets familiar with all the country folk and townspeople, most of all record producer Quinten Sellers, overplayed a bit by Ashton Kutcher, overdressed in his white house.

There is a conversation early on where he mentions almost every franchised convenience store and restaurant chain in the country, except for Waffle House and Wawa, favorites of science author Matthew Cappucci (book due Aug. 2), and All Sups, the convenience store chain I noticed in west Texas last time out. I also like Sheetz (east, however, like PA), and Race Trak (Dallas).

He writes a piece published back in a major NY rag (his editor is Issa Rae, perhaps Conde-Nast). At one rodeo he gets caught in a public word game with two near-homonyms, “rider” and “writer” (the consonants are hard to pick up). .  The MAGA crowd sneers at his pretentious elitism as a “lib” (maybe of Tik Tok).

But in time Ben tracks down the trail of possible drug activity (especially opioids, what else?) and the slow-paced black comedy (Blumhouse is the production company, for Focus Features) ends with shocking force.  Remember how notorious motorcycle flick “Born Losers” (1967. from American International, of course) ends? And he will get away with it.

Let’s mention another movie, “Paris, Texas” (1984), by Wim Wenders with Harry Dean Stanton as the drifter Travis, from my own Dallas days.  The town is in NE Texas near the OK border .

I also want to re-iterate, the idea that “Vengeance” is indeed about a “writer”, and the whole concept of the film reminds me of Tyler Mowery’s “Writer’s Mind” series (67 posts, even-numbered under Patreon) on YouTube. Tyler has a December 2019 video about his writing his own dramatic sci-fi script for “Blue Moon” (set on Luna), which you can download and read free from the notes on this YouTube post. It’s rather interesting that he came up with this idea a few weeks before the general public would learn about the coming global pandemic. But then, again, how was Avi Schiffmann so ready to write his coronavirus tracker, and how did he come up with this short film “The Central Dogma of Biology” at age 16 (practically predicting the development of mRNA vaccines at the end of the film) in June 2019?

(Posted: Saturday, July 30, 2022 by John W. Boushka at 5 PM EDT)

Why life seems eternal (but not for everyone)

Monroe Institute, 2014-8

So, Unveiled offered (in April) “Did Scientists Just Discover What Happens When We Die?” in a 9-minute video, based on a chronicle of an 87-year old man with epilepsy dying of a heart attack in Canada, and scientists recording his brain activity.

It’s not surprising, but scientists claim to have observed brain activity for about 15 minutes, including some time after heart stopped.  They believe that the patient went into a “life review” and could revisit most of the important moments in his whole life.

During the review, time seems to slow down to the patient (just as it does in a dream) so as long as the lucid recollection lasts, life to the person still seems eternal, in a relativistic sense, even near the end.  Likewise, going back to our earliest memories of childhood, life seemed to extend indefinitely back, even though it could not have happened (relatively speaking) until some time after conception and uterine attachment.

An implication of this observation would be, if death is violent (as in an explosion, or gunshot to the head) the opportunity for the life review is lost.  So violent crime, or warfare (after conscription) can deny the person the opportunity even for this kind of “eternal life” at the end.

My own mother passed away peacefully after four days in a hospice at age 97 (in December 2010).  Usually a medical death offers the opportunity for review. 

So in a sense, death can be “honorable” or not, it seems to me.  Imagine being a soldier sacrificed for the demands of his (authoritarian) leadership for more territory, making him nothing more than a pawn in a gambit.  If that happened to me, I wouldn’t want the “honor” of a funeral.  I would just be lost.

The idea that the brain is essential for human or animal consciousness to exist would contradict some ideas for afterlife, as usually offered in religious theology or even by end-of-life research by places like the Monroe Institute near Charlottesville, VA (review of their 2009 film “The Path-Afterlife“). 

Somehow the information from a person’s life would have to be captured, maybe on the surface of a micro blackhole, to be released as Hawking radiation when it evaporates, maybe inside a virus, even a spike protein.  An infected person could transfer “identities” to others.  But a particularly gifted person might have received information form others this way (from viruses).  That person could be one of the 144,000 soul-houses who live to become angels.  All of this sounds like sci-fi, and I had laid it out as a sci-fi novel called “Angel’s Brother” which is increasingly difficult to pull off as real world events since 2020 have gotten in the way.   More about that in future posts.

Perhaps the micro black holes do go somewhere else (leveraging other dimensions in string theory), for use by “soul families” as Monroe describes. But it is clear that any given time only a small percentage of past souls could really be “reincarnates”.  And it seems like new lives are more about compassion and sharing the goals of a “group” or cohort, involving a lot of compassion, than about the self.

There is something going on with me right now.  I’ll keep the remarks high-level.  But I need to be in control of my own “agency” to be of use to others (especially to join in any kind of “solidarity” for the political or social causes of others, especially publicly).  This can put my “soul” in a precarious position of the rest of the world really goes wrong.  If the world becomes a zero-sum game (as because of climate change), sacrificial conflict will be inevitable.  And so will indignation at the privileged.

(Posted: Friday, July 29, 2022 at 4 PM EDT)

“Leave No Trace”: documentary about sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America (review)

Camp Letts, MD 2015-1

A documentary directed by Irene Taylor, “Leave No Trace: The Hidden History of the Boy Scouts”, for ABC News and Hulu, 108 minutes, studiously examines the history of the Boy Scouts of America and its history of male sexual abuse incidents, which was finally settled with victims but which has resulted in a Chap 11 bankruptcy.

Leave No Trace, trailer

The film, perhaps, makes the problem look bigger that the overall coverage of its history, like in Wikipedia, would.  It might be compared in principle to the continual scandals in the Roman Catholic church with priests, which may result in part from the policy of priest celibacy. There have been several films about this other problem.

This film starts out with a history of the BSA, which was founded in 1910 as an effort to keep boys in contact with nature and the outdoors while more boys grew up in newly industrialized cities.  The organization was given considerable power to monopolize its public impact with its trademark, although there were sister organizations for girls.

The history of problems goes back at least to the early 1960s, and may have always been around. 

The film presents several harrowing cases.  One is a middle aged man who said he went bald at age 13 permanently.  In fact, from appearance, it looks like he has alopecia universalis, which is total loss of all body and scalp hair, apparently permanently, from some sort of autoimmune process, maybe triggered by the emotional trauma.

Then the film shows us a family with a slender, seemingly attractive teen who cuts himself as a result of the trauma.  The family has an attentive dog and cat, who both know something terrible is going on.

The BSA headquarters were apparently located in Irving, Texas for a long time (near Highway 183, near Cowboys stadium and on the way to DFW).  In 1979 (the year I moved there from NYC) they started having their first hardships with layoffs.  But I remember that in the summer of 1981, when I re-entered the mainframe IT job market, that they had programming jobs.  I never interviewed there and I didn’t think I wanted to.

In fact, I had some tangential experience with them growing up.  In third grade, I belonged to a Cub Scout troop in Arlington for a while.  I remember one of the boys, Ivan, was so much bigger than everyone else and I felt terrified.  That summer, my parents tried to enlist me into a day camp, which did not turn out well.  I was always called “lazybones” (this was 1952).  They also tried a place on the Chesapeake Bay south of Annapolis called Camp Letts. 

The Scouts were good at honing in on practical skills like “tying my necktie” or tying shoes with (“algebraic”) topologically secure knots, that I was not good at. 

Toward the end, the film presents the case of a gay scout, James Dale, who was kicked out and sued.  The Supreme Court ruled that since it was a private organization, Dales lost his case.  (I remember many conversations with a law student at Southern Illinois University on the case at the time.) But the case turned public opinion against the Scouts somewhat; and they eventually changed many policies, gradually loosening all policies about gender and sexual orientation over time, including allowing girls in some cases and eventually transgender.  In the film James Dale appears as he looks today in middle age.

The BSA has developed a policy saying that no scoutmaster may be alone with a minor.

I also recall, that when I was in the Army and stationed at Fort Eustis as permanent party in 1969, the field grade officers were under a lot of pressure to become involved with the Boy Scouts publicly. In many cases BSA chapters had received public funds, and the Dale case caused this aspect of their operation to get more scrutiny.

I also wanted to share a PBS Space Time video from July 27 with Dr. Matt Dowd, “How Many States Of Matter Are There?”.  The neutron star interior stuff is pretty interesting.  What about strangelets?

How Many States Of Matter Are There?” PBS video

(Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2022 at 6 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“Aftershock”: Sundance documentary hits the subpar maternity care for non-white women

NYC from Freedom Tower 2015-11-7

On July 19, Hulu started aired the 88 minute documentary “Aftershock”, directed by Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee, from Onyx and ABC News and shown at Sundance 2022, depicting the inferior health care to pregnant women of color.

trailer for “Aftershock”

The documentary traces the tragedy of two families in particular, where mothers died of childbirth complications.  The tagline for the film is, “when a black mother dies there is a ripple effect.”  The film focuses mostly in New York City, (a new women’s center is built in the Bronx), Tulsa OK, and Massachusetts.

The film maintains that sometimes doctors are quick to do cesarians rather than natural delivery. It is also critical of the way the practice of delivering babies has evolved.  In the past, the deep south had black midwives who also delivered babies for the owners on the plantations.  The field of delivery gradually became professionalized, but not always with good results.

Toward the end the film shows a natural delivery, up close and very graphically.   The moment where the baby sees the outside world is very sharply delineated and he does breathe right away.

The film predates the overturning of Roe.  But it is well to note that it is very dangerous to expect some women to carry pregnancies with major problems, and ectopic pregnancies can be treated only what is technically abortion (whether by medication or surgery).  The sudden crackdowns in several red states have made it very difficult for some women to get medically necessary care, forcing them to become very ill before an ectopic is terminated. 

I’ve met a male Air Force doctor whose specialty is to deliver babies (of female personnel or of spouses).

Back in 2008, Morgan Spurlock (who had thrown up in public in “Supersize Me” after eating at McDonald’s without the supervision of Johnny Harris) made a film “Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?” where he interviewed people randomly (in various places in the Middle East) on the villain and guessed right about Abbottabad.  At the same time his own life was late in pregnancy and the film ends with him as an attentive husband when his wife gives natural birth to his son. A very nice Baxian epilogue indeed.

trailer for “Where in the World …”

(Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2022 at 10 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

Films about Greenland (“Winter’s Yearning”)

Fire damage in Tappahannock VA, from day trip today

Winter’s Yearning”, directed by Sidse Torstholm Larsen and Sutrla Pilskog, originally 77 minutes in 2019, was presented by PBS POV on Monday July 25 compressed to 52 minutes, with a brief explainer by Larsen afterwards.

trailer for “Winter’s Yearning”

The film explores the lives of residents of the town of Maniitsoq, Greenland, on a small island off the SW coast, which had been promised a major deal with Alcoa Aluminum, which apparently has fallen through. But the deal promised more social and cultural activity for the residents of the town on the islanded country, which is now semi-autonomous but still somewhat supported financially by the Kingdom of Denmark.

Young residents discuss their culture and often loneliness, which sometimes leads to alcoholism and drugs. 

There is one particularly impressive scene of a pedestrian tunnel underneath a rocky escarpment with houses on top of it. 

Luke Korns has a new related video about Greenland, “I Visited the Most Suicidal Town in the World”.  It is age-restricted because of subject matter and cannot be embedded, so here is the link to watch on YT. The town is Tasillaq (in SE Greenland, facing the open Atlantic toward Europe).

Greenland is the largest Island in the world that is not considered a continent. Ir could be seen as part of North America, but if so, its highest peak (over 12000 feet in the NE) is much higher than any peak in the Appalachians in the US.

Here’s an older film for comparison:
Smilla’s Sense of Snow
 (1997, Fox Searchlight, dir. Billie August, R) was very ambitious for independent pictures at its time, and it is based on Peter Hoeg’s bestseller. It starts with a mystery when a small boy falls off a building in Copenhagen. Soon the investigation involves a shipper doing business with natives in Greenland, and with what may have happened a century ago with a meteor strike. The movie tantalizes us with the unexplained and makes the possibility of past alien visitations seem very credible indeed.

analysis of “Smilla’s Sense of Snow”, 1997 sci-fi mystery film partially set in Greenland

(Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2022 at 10 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

“Fire of Love”: NatGeo documentary about a married couple of volcanologists (who died doing what they loved in an eruption in Japan in 1991)

Mono Lake, California, 2012-5

Fire of Love”, from National Geographic Documentary and Neon Films, tells the story of a married couple of volcanologists, Katia and Maurice Krafft, from France, whose long filmmaking career came to a tragic end when they were caught in a pyroclastic flow from Mount Unzen in Japan on June 3, 1991.

The film is directed by Sara Dosa and written by Shane Boris, Erin Casper and Jocelyn Caput. It is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio because much of the film stock is 16mm or super 8. It is narrated by Miranda July (“The Future“).

The early part of the film deals with “red flow” volcanoes, which appear where the Earth’s crust splits apart, often in Africa.  The scientists can camp relatively close to the crater and follow the rivers of lava. 

But “grey” volcanoes appear where the Earth’s plates collide, and produce sudden explosions. The latter part of the 90-minute film shows the couple’s coverage of the Mount St. Helens explosion in May 1980 in southern Washington in the Cascade range.  They were too close to actually film the explosion, but another volcanologist 8 km was killed.  The blast covered 30 km in all directions, not the expected 6 to 8.  The mountain lost 1300 feet of elevation.  I visited the site by rental car in July 1990, but I had flown over it in August 1980 (from Seattle to San Francisco, on the way back from Alaska).

There was a volcano in Africa which produced a carbon dioxide layer which suffocated residents below.

The films produced by the couple helped governments evacuate residents before eruptions.

The New York Times has a thoughtful review by Ben Kenigsberg.

The film was aired at both Sundance and SXSW. I saw the film tonight at Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA, a Monday, before a small audience.

The film mentions the Vesuvius eruption in AD 79.  There was a film from the Discovery Channel about it.  “Pompeii: The Last Day” (2003, Discovery/BBC, dir. Peter Nicholson) was broadcast January 30, 2005 with a great deal of advertising, especially on the Washington, DC Metro. This is a docudrama that recreates what the last 18 years of that city’s life on Aug. 24, 79AD ,must have been like. The explosions of Mt Vesuvius started like Mt Saint Helens, and were followed by several spectacular pyroclastic flows, that incinerated and buried everybody.  In the modern day, about 4 million people live in the area and are exposed to a similar catastrophe. The film seems timely in light of the tsunami disaster. The style of filmmaking, however, was annoying, with repetitions of the same shots and lines of documentary script. The lead character, Stephanus, is played by Jonathan Firth.

Full length animation.

(Posted: Monday, July 25, 2022 at 11:30 PM EDT)

“Deep in the Pockets of Texas”: where Christian nationalist billionaires control Texas policy, especially on issues like abortion and LGBTQ (CNN)

Amarillo, TX 2022-5

On July 24, CNN aired a one-hour special report “Deep in the Pockets of Texas” with Ed Lavandera reporting.  CNN Pressroom reports on the special here (originally June 24).  CNN also offers the commentary on Texas far right politics, link here, by Casey Tolan, Matthew Reynard, Will Simon and Ed Lavandera.

The documentary covered the influence of two west Texas billionaire families, Dunn and Wills, on state elections.  Both families believe in “Christian nationalism”, and believe that the church should direct the policies from the government (but not the other way around).

Pakman

The family has influenced the legislature to pass some of the nation’s strictest laws on abortion, and on some aspects of LGBTQ issues (especially gender identity).

Texas had passed a law allowing private citizens to sue people connected with abortions, as a form of enforcement.  Recently, it has passed laws legislating the presentation of sex and gender in public schools, and has aggressively promoted parents’ using private schools.  It has also apparently passed a law banning any sexual reassignment interventions before age 18 even if medically recommended (it’s unclear if there would be an exception for a known biological disorder). 

While there are many reports around the country of “wokeness” in education and the apparent encouragement of young children to question their gender identity, it’s unclear how far this has gone.  The best information I can find suggests that about 1 in 400 kids is medically transgender or has diagnosable gender dysphoria.   These ought to be treated properly and discretely and handled with school system policy.  More than that is woke gratuitousness.

I lived in Dallas from 1979-1988. At the time, Texas had a homosexual-only sodomy law, 21.06.  In those days conventional sexual orientation, as opposed to gender identity, was a much bigger issue. Around 1980 there was a problem with a particular police officer coming into Dallas gay bars (like the TMC) and making false arrests for public lewdness.  A few men were convicted, and this could have happened to me. Finally one man stood up and was acquitted at a bench trial and the problem stopped.  Shortly thereafter, the AIDS crisis became more public and by early 1983 was causing deaths among gay men in Texas, about a year later than on the coasts. In the spring of 1983, a particular state assemblyman Bill Ceverha (from Amarillo) introduced a draconian bill 21.38 which strengthened the law to make it a felony and bar gays from most occupations.  The bill was supported by a right wing group “Dallas Doctors against AIDS” and was supported by language stating that (even private) male homosexuality was a public health menace because it could unpredictably “amplify” STD’s which, if they mutated, could threaten the general public at large. For example, HIV (the virus wasn’t identified until 1984) might become an arbovirus (like the putative ASFV speculated about in Charles Ortleb’s “New York Native” – statistically that’s unlikely).  Or an immunocompromised population might incubate new strains, something we have heard speculated recently with COVID.  That was never really reported with HIV patients.  And indeed, some other bloodborne diseases like HTLV-I (a leukemia) and Hepatitis C, and Zika (and arbovirus) never took root in the gay community.  Ceverha’s bill was defeated 7-2 in committee.

2106 and Lawrence v Texas

But the accusations have come back with monkeypox (which WHO has just intensified by declaring a global emergency, with recommendations).  According to an Axios story by Shawna Chen, Rochelle Walensky, two cases of monkeypox in children had “adjacency” (maybe household?) to men who had sex with men.  This is covered more in my Twitter thread July 23.  This would seem to add fuel to the fire to bring sodomy laws back, following on Clarence Thomas’s SCOTUS tirade on June 24 that could lead to the unraveling of Lawrence v. Texas (2003) next term.

Of course, moneypox could get accelerated on its own in day care centers, high school contact sports, and even heterosexual raves  and lapdances (they exist, and not just in weekday soap operas). 

Furthermore, gay men, probably because of small households and vaccine levels, have fared very well during COVID itself compared to more conventionally socialized populations in larger families.

Celine Gounder and data scientist Michael Donnelly have an article in StatNews on how dating apps could help control STD’s.

P.S. On July 25, Apple News tweeted a major op-ed by John Blake (CNN) explaining Christian Nationalism. It is rather chilling.

I’ve lived in NYC, NJ, Texas (9 yrs), MN, and even MD, as well as VA (actually born in DC in 1943), so I keep up with politics in numerous places outside the DMV. Texas is #2 on the list. I had considered moving back there in 2017 when I sold the house, good thing I didn’t.

(Posted: Sunday, July 24, 2022 at 10:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

Cato’s proposal to rewrite the Electoral Count Act is detailed (but there are several others)

Capitol, east view

The Cato Institute has issued a Policy Analysis paper by Andy Craig, “How to Pick a President, A Guide to Electoral Count Act Reform“, 24 pages, #931, June 28, 2022, main link.

The Cornell Law School gives a link to the current Act (Electoral Count Act of 1887 here. Wikipedia offers a rather detailed article here.

Craig establishes several principles in reform: constitutional compliance, clarity and simplicity, state autonomy, judicial deference, limited congressional and vice-presidential role, avoiding bottlenecks, and better timeline (for example not counting electors until Jan. 2).

On p. 6, the paper starts with a Model Template, in nine sections: selection of electors, conditions authorizing later elector selection, certification of electors, meeting and voting of electors, joint sessions of Congress, challenges, multiple certificates, contingent elections (when there is no winner of the electoral count), and parliamentary authority. There are limitations on the challenges that can be entered. On the last section, the author insists that the act must specify that the Vice President have no discretionary power. 

On p. 15, the writer provides an Appendix A, citing two sections:  Article II of the United States Constitution, and the Twelfth Amendment.  On p. 16, the writer starts his Model Draft Statute with its nine sections, running to page 20.  The text of the new statute is considerably longer and more detailed than the original.

By way of comparison, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) has proposed a “Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act” as well as an “Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act”, link (also pdf1, pdf2).

The text of Sen. Tillis’s proposal is shorter but generally sounds reasonable.  The Vice-President’s role remains ministerial.  The submission of a slate of electors must be the responsibility of the governor (unless state law allows certain exceptions).  There is a higher objection threshold standard for objections, and there is explicit protection of a state’s popular vote.

Cato would do well to reformat and offer the Policy Analysis paper as a short book on Amazon (Or Barned and Noble or bookstores) or download to Kindle/Nook, in order to achieve more attention to this urgent matter.  It could include response to Tillis or other proposals.  It would seem vital to pass a reform act this fall before the November 8 midterm “exam” elections.

PBS had reported on a bipartisan deal June 15.

PBS

Joe Manchin (D-WVa) introduced a bill July 20.

Manchin

Ayman reported on the discussions on MSNBC July 23.

MSNBC

(Posted: Saturday, July 23, 2022 at 7:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“Nope”: Jordan Peele’s new horror film issues tornado watches (and immediate warnings!)

Nar Palm Springs CA, 2012-5

Horror (particularly artistic or esoteric) movies set in amusement parks seem to be tempting ideas these days (remember “Nightmare Alley”)

Jordan Peele, known for dark comedies (“Get Out” and “Us”) built on the problems of racial sensitivities (maybe even “whiteness”) wrote and directed this rather bizarre horror spectacle, “Nope“.  Although it’s artsy and rather A24-ish, it gets a full Imax release from Universal (rather than the boutique company Focus Features).  I saw it at the 1 PM show at Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA, light weekday audience on opening day.

Universal trailer for “Nope”

Peele’s production company, Monkeypaw (unfortunately reminding us of monkeypox, not intended) starts with a prelude where a young actor Jupe Park (Steven Yeun later as adult) witnesses a chimpanzee attack in 1998 (I wondered if this was part of the production company’s trademark).

In present day grandpa Otis Haywood and his son PJ (Daniel Kaluuya) maintain a horse ranch where they train horses for sale.  Suddenly, Otis is fatally injured by debris falling from the sky (looking like huge hailstones or rocks).  The film does not immediately take on the mystery of the incident as it might have (the exposition of this story circle seems a bit detached, rather like Tchaikovsky in his first Piano Concerto!)  but rather focuses on OJ’s business problems (his sister, Keke Palmer, helps run the place).  He eventually has to consider selling the ranch to Jupe, who owns the carnival called “Jupiter’s Claim” (there really exists such an attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, but apparently not Orlando, at least yet – I was last at Universal Orlando in 2015 and recall mainly the Harry Potter train).  But in the mean time, he has connected with a tech guru at Fry’s Electronics, Angel Torres (Brandon Perea), who is presented as a cleancut athletic white cis male, perhaps gay (in order to counter current cultural wokeness), to install equipment on the ranch to investigate power dropouts and occasional odd lights and sightings.  The film has some effective scenes where a vinyl record player’s speed goes down during the power problems, creating rather microtonal music. 

It’s actually rather hard for the moviegoer to feel like belonging to this world, which seems cut off from reality.  But the bizarre clouds and lights increase, and pretty soon obvious UFO’s are flying over the place all the time, causing tornadoes to touch down and aspirate objects and animals, and posing a danger to people.   The UFO’s digest the food and spit out the waste, rather the way a jellyfish would.

“Nope” conclusion explained (spoiler)

At this point the plot seems to be about salvation for everyone, and an important element of the theme is getting an old mechanical camera to work and process pictures without electricity.  At the end, this 135 minute film shows some imagination of effects beyond mine, at least.

The music score by Michael Abels offers a brisk concert overture during the closing credits, with a timber suggestive of Prokofiev. 

For comparison, I could mention the 2010 horror film “Skyline”, from Universal (Greg and Colin Strause), where Los Angeles is invaded by alien ships at 4:30 AM, and where people are sucked up into alien ships and dissected alive.

“Skyline” 2010 trailer (Universal)

 (Posted: July 22, 2022 ar 8 PM EDT by John W Boushka)