“Amateur” sermons, poetry readings and live sculpture on the IRT Lexington Ave. line in NYC; also, High Heels Race, Washington DC

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I encountered some interesting street presentations on the Lexington Ave Line, the IRT, in New York City on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014.

In the first two, I did my best to get the audio only and not show people any more than necessary.  But notice Easdales’s “The Red Shoes“.

Some woman was preaching Christian fundamentalism (This may be Jehovah’s Witnesses; I couldn’t tell) on the subway car.

Some young men recited poetry.  I didn’t see them hand out the hat for donations.  They claimed to be poets with street smarts.

And in the Subway station, the “Goldfinger” character from the Bond movies appeared, or is he the gold-painted David Fairie from Oliver Stone’s movie “JFK”?

(Published Monday Oct. 27, 2014 at 10 PM EDT.)

Update: Oct. 28, about 10:45 PM EDT

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High Heels Race on 17th St NW, near JR’s Bar, in Washington DC, Finish Line

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Many stills taken.

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Minor essays: “What Does It Mean to Believe in Christ?” and “What Is Friendship?”

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Since I’m accounting for all my past work here in this column, as I prepare to move ahead, I wanted to mention at least two other essays.

One of them was my first theme in English 101 at the College of William and Mary, probably turned in around Sept. 27, 1961.  The assignment had been to use the idea of “definition” to build a theme.  (My father had always called me a “stickler for definitions”.) I wrote about “What Is Friendship?”  My roommate was rather unnerved by the “implications” of what I had said, but I got an “A-” on it.  I don’t have the theme, but I’ve tried to reconstruct it here.

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In 1983, with the help of my own personal physician in Dallas, I wrote one of the first AIDS information pamphlets to be published, through the Oak Lawn Counseling Center.

I also wrote a number of letters to politicians and health officials during the AIDS crisis, some of which are in my first DADT book appendix (link).

In 1986, having lived in Dallas for seven years and having attended and been a member of the Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas on Reagan St. in Oak Lawn, with Rev. Don Eastman — in the days before the Cathedral of Hope and during the heart of the AIDS explosion — I wrote an essay called “What It Means to Believe in Christ“. I wrote it on an AT&T 6300 with an old MS-DOS operating system and a word process called Q&A, which resembled Word Perfect more than Word today.  I went to a print-shop to have it typeset, because this all was done in the days long before personal publishing software. That cost $18.

I don’t have the piece, but I’ll reconstruct what I think I said.  That is not to proselytize or to “save souls”, but to outline a point that has become very critical in my own thinking. I believe that ultimately everyone has to come to terms with his own faith on his or her own terms, regardless of what any priest, pastor, rabbi or imam says.

I remember that I did talk about the logical equivalence of “faith” and “works”.   If you have the faith, you will do the work.

But faith is somewhat a matter deep in the heart, and organic and earthy experience, beyond intellect and the literally following of laws.  This aspect seems rather unique to most forms of Christianity, as opposed to both Judaism and Islam.  Closely tied to faith is the idea that every human life is to be regarded as precious.  If so, however, that demands more than just “avoiding sin” (like not doing abortion).  Valuing of life means a real effort (including a lot of emotion) to support parents and others at the end of life, a need which is increasing as people live longer (and that is more obvious now than it could have been in 1986, when my own father had just passed away rather suddenly).  It also means that social structures need to offer everyone some kind of “meaning” even though a lot of people are more gifted in ability as well as circumstance than others. Coupled with the inequality of gifts (which is inevitable) is the unpredictability of circumstance.  Any of us can be unlucky, or be harmed or stiffed by others, and be made to look “brought low”.  External threats and hardships, whether from enemies or from nature (and whether or not nature is aggravated by man’s activities) can cause any of us to “need God”, and can cause any of us to be faced with the need of “change”.  And “change” or being “reborn” is something more than just a ritualistic or rules-based practice of a different faith, such as when demanded by an invader.

A similar need to accept change can occur in a secular implementation of psychological growth, as Paul Rosenfels had explained in his writings.  One gives up the psychological defenses, which often involve public accolades for accomplishments in a more usual sense of “works”, in order to have a more earthy and natural relationship with others, sometimes in a more closed (even “intentional”) community. This sounds relatively close to the Christian concept of “born again”.  The old sense of self falls away, and even though a track of free will is continuous, a new person is born, much as what New Age philosophy says will happen with reincarnation.

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The need to accept “change” is especially difficult for someone who lives “on the wall” like me (sitting on top Boston’s Green Monster, if you like).  It is offensive to be expected to prove I can “protect” others when I was not competitive in a conventional sense, or to ratify “family” when I did not form a family myself, and can instead go off on my own way, and live a productive, often effective even if solitary life as an observer and journalist, often, as relativity predicts, changing the people I observe merely by tracking of “following” them. Being expected to “change” is especially daunting, to say the least.  Yet, it seems uniquely demanded by Christianity as part of eternal life, at least in Paradise.

I can remember in the show Everwood, that Ephram’s fatal flaw was “My inability to change.”

There are elements of all major faiths that make some sense.  (All have some sort of judgment before the afterlife, although the  Islamic idea of afterlife only after the end of time does not make sense to me in terms of the physics of it.)  Both Islam and Judaism seem more focused on justice secured by following the law.  (To some extent, so is Mormonism;  LDS seems like a religion of “works”.)  I remember an orthodox Jewish boss in New York in the 1970s who said that obeying religious law was the only reason he couldn’t come in on Saturday (and I had no such comparable restriction).  I think it is emotionally easier (and perhaps lazier) to follow a system based just on “law” and “justice” and not have to show forgiveness and feeling for people when they are far less than perfect, possibly because of matters they could not control.  Sometimes living in a community is more important than “justice”.

So “eternal life” (as a kind of final state) seems to be available to those who will “change” because people who “change” can accept the gift of Christ atoning for their sins;  they don’t have to prove anything more, even if life cheated them.  “Heaven” would seem to work only for people who are well socialized into a community, to the point that a “forever marriage” (with passion, come what may — a promise I can’t imagine making) makes sense and is integrated into the socialization. (I don’t see how Heaven can work for kids without another shot with reincarnation.)   Although Christian faith is experienced individually, it does not exalt individualistic values, because it has to deal with hardship and inequality as inevitable.  But all religions have to deal with this, and many stricter religions react with lots of rules, so people can shield themselves from the emotional challenges of dealing with others on terms other than their own.  Christianity, opposed to other religions, doesn’t base salvation on the basis of rules that can protect one from deeper emotions shared with others who may seem unworthy.

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I can imagine being presented with Christ’s forgiveness, but not wanting to accept it because in some sense, given the goals I developed for my own “different” life, I would feel dishonored by accepting it — in certain situations where coercion or force had been used to try to force me to accept some other party’s purposes rather than my own.   I might feel that the community which I would normally join had dishonored itself, whatever forgiveness were offered.  There would be no way it could then offer a reward.  (There are other ways, too, but they are self-created.) In such a case, reincarnation– starting over, maybe in abject poverty — is all that could make sense.  Already, by my inflexibility and static nature, I am taking on the karma for the sins of others.  I can imagine a film plot based on this idea.  In fact, if I “came back” on the same planet (Earth) would I be allowed to find the evidence of my past life?  That’s still another movie (a kind of “Cloud Atlas“).  It would seem I would have to find it to remain the same soul.  But this kind of idea was not apparent to me in 1986.

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Visitors may want to look at my table for “Items published by others” here, particularly the Ground Zero News (Colorado Springs, CO) in the 1990s, the Minnesota Libertarian, the Quill (Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty) and Forward Observer.  Many of these pieces and letters reflect the status of “gay rights” in the mid 1990s.

I did write a few private pieces in the early days, like “The Meaning of Gay Community” while on a plane to Minneapolis for a benchmark for Univac in early 1974, and in fact “The Way I Love” while in a hotel room in Glenwood Springs, CO in August 1973 while on vacation.

(Published: Tuesday, October 21, 2014, at 10:45 PM  EDT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Master’s Thesis “Minimax Rational Function Approximation”

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Since I’m accounting for my work to date, this is a good place to mention my Master’s Thesis in Mathematics, published at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas in January 1968, a few weeks before I went into the Army.

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The thesis is titled “Minimax Rational Function Approximation“.

The link with abstract and PDF is here.  The abstract explains what the subject matter is.   I seem to have misplaced the black-covered bound copy, but’s around somewhere.  But I can always reprint it from the PDF.

When I was in Army Basic, toward the end, I actually had an unsuccessful interview for a direct commission.  I had arranged for my parents to mail a copy of the thesis, which actually lived (quite legally, as far as inspections were concerned) in my foot locker the last couple of weeks.

(Published Monday, Oct. 20, 2014 at 11:45 PM.)

More of “Bill’s Clips” (including a simulated air raid drill in 2002)

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I do want account for all my other filmmaking from the Past.

In May 2003, I showed four or five clips of a simulated “attack” on the University of Minnesota campus at the Flaming Film Festival at Intermedia Arts on Lyndale Ave.  in Minneapolis.  The film would be called “Air Raid” (or “Bill’s Clips“).

The links are:  1,  2,  3, 4, 5.

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These items are on a 34 minute DVD called “Do Ask Do Tell” which I stitched together with iMovie in 2003.   I should get this uploaded with a DVD ripping program (like this or DVDX like this).  I should do this, too, with my 58-minute Hamline lecture from 1998.  No recording exists of a similar talk at the University of Minnesota in 1999 or Dakota Unitarian Fellowship in 2002.

The hits at that 2003 festival were two gender benders from Josh Margolis, Joanie Loves Tchotchkies and Joanie Loves Furbies. 

(Published Saturday Oct. 18 at 11:45 PM.)

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WJLA7 News Channel 8 in DC hosts Town Hall: “Your Voice, Your Future: The New Terror Threat”: video clip excerpts

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On Thursday, October 16, 2014, News Channel 8 (of television station WJLA-7 in Washington DC) held a Town Hall “Your Voice, Your Future: The New Terror Threat“.   (This title has also been spelled in different word orders: “The New Terror Threat: Your Future, Your Voice” and “The New Terror Threat: Your Voice, Your Future”.)

I’ve described the points made in my “cf” blog Oct. 16, but I want to present all the video I made here from YouTube

Part 1  (Suicide bombers mentioned)

Part 2

Part 3 (threats on military members within the US)

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9 (relative seriousness of ISIS/ISIL threat and Ebola)

(Published: Friday Oct. 17, 2014 at 2:30 PM EDT)

HBO: “Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia” (from UK Channel 4); also “Moscow Is Burning” and “Campaign of Hate”

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Tonight, HBO aired the 49-minute Channel 4 documentary “Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia” , previously aired on UK Channel 4 (in the “Dispatches” series)  in February 2014 and even available on YouTube for a short while.  I had reviewed the earlier airing on my TV blog here.  HBO’s  main link is here.

The documentary explains how the Russian anti-gay propaganda law has been taken as excusing or even incentivizing anti-gay violence against gay people from vigilante groups.  The film emphasizes the effect of a false “mainstream” belief in Russia that homosexuality equates to pedophilia.

But one married man in St. Petersburg, Tibor, runs an anti-gay organization and says that when you become a father and hold your father, you do everything you can to protect his future.  This sounds like more than the trite idea of pedophilia;  it sounds like he believes that gays would dissuade his own children from giving him as many grandchildren, a belief that Putin supports.

Radio Free Europe has a review of this film here. Gawker has another sensationalistic commentary here.

There is also an ABC Nightline film “Moscow Is Burning” about vigilante attacks against the now-closed Central Station in Moscow.

Reel Affirmations and HRC will show “Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda” Oct. 14, 2014 in Washington DC, link.

Update: Oct. 14.  I attended the showing and the full review is here.

Here are a few videos from the QA

as well as (2)

and (3)

and (4) (kids who grow up in Russian immigrants become criminals)

and (5)

and (6) (how ISIS recruits in Britain — bullied youths)

 

 

(Published Monday, Oct. 6, 2014 at 10:30 PM EDT.)

Note: The source is Britain’s Channel 4, which, though associated with the UK government, is not the same thing as the BBC.

 

“Outbreak” (1995 film) and “The Hot Zone” (1994 book) prescient for “Ebola Bill”

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On a day when Ebola virus is big news, as a Texas hospital failed to hospitalize a patient who had traveled to Liberia, it’s well to remember one of the most important science-fiction films about something similar, “Outbreak“, by Wolfgang Petersen, in 1995, from WB.  I remember that this film was shown to honors and Advance Placement chemistry classes one time in the spring of 2005 when I was substitute teaching at West Potomac High School near Alexandria, VA, a curious artifact of my own history (more here).

There is also a TV mini-series, “Robin Cook’s Virus” (1995).

The film supposes that an Ebola-like disease in Africa (the Motaba River Valley in Congo) had been vanquished.  The virus has mutated to airborne form and accidentally been imported into Cedar Creek, CA in present day by a money.  And there is a government plot to destroy Cedar Creek with a bomb. The film ran longer than one block at school and seems like a strange fit for high school.

Of course, the classic book on Ebola is Robert Preston’s “The Hot Zone“, (Knopf) which covers the stories of some related viruses like Marburg.  It also covers Ebola Reston in 1989, which appeared among primates brought to northern Virginia but which did was not transmissible to humans.  I bought that book in the 90s at a book fair in the company cafeteria at work, which earned me the nickname “Ebola Bill”.  How prescient!

Laurie Garret’s “Coming Plague: Emerging Diseases in a World out of Balance” talked about Lassa Fever, Marburg and Ebola, detailing a European who survived Ebola in the bush but went totally bald.  There is also Judith Miller’s “Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War

On Anderson Cooper’s AC360 show on CNN today, David Quammer discussed his book “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic” (2013),  (NPR discussion) where he suggested that Ebola may be unlikely to become airborne, but it might be shed in body fluids before there are symptoms (which is true of HIV), but that would mean we need a much more sensitive test for the antigen.  Why not a Western Blot test?

(Published:  Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 at 11:30 PM EDT)

Past films titled “The Substitute” (about substitute teachers)

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I’ve talked here before about my screenplay short “The Sub”,  which I have embedded in a feature sci-fi script “Do Ask, Do Tell: Conscripted”.

There does exist a series of feature films titled something like “The Substitute”, about substitute teachers, some of them disturbing,

In 1993, Paramount released “The Substitute“, directed by Martin Donovan, written by Cynthia Verlaine.  This drama presents a femme fatale Laura Ellington (Amanda Donohoe) who takes a long term sub job.  Soon she is in an inappropriate situation with a teen male student and, with his efforts later, her long and dark past and fake identity unravel.

Lionsgate has a “franchise” called “Substitute 4” with Treat Williams (from “Everwood”).  The most important of the films is the last one, “Failure Is Not an Option”, where Treat plays a black-ops guy (for the CIA?) in South America and works as a history teacher in a military academy.  Will be recruit as a “stumper”?

What gets touchy is that the school itself becomes a front for a right wing plot to re-educate people for some kind of “revolution”, whether or not the power stays on.

LOTUS: Light of Truth Universal Shrine; “Many Paths, One Truth”

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The LOTUS Light of Truth Universal Shrine, of the Satchindananda Ashram at Yogaville VA, offers an introductory video depicting its construction from 1980-1986 (near the James River in Buckingham County).  The flood plain had to be elevated by earth moving from around the area.

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The video is supplemented by a DVD, sold in the gift shop, “Many Paths, One Truth: The 1977 Yoga Ecumenical Service“, a 25 minute service.  The point is made that it is not possible for every dogmatic religious belief system to be literally true.

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I appreciate the fact that the DVD comes with instructions as to how to release the disc properly!  Many commercial DVD’s are a struggle to release.

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(Published: Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 at 12:45 PM EDT)

Comparative media reviews on hot topics