Monthly Archives: May 2011

On this day…

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On this day in 1873, San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss and Reno, Nevada, tailor Jacob Davis are given a patent to create work pants reinforced with metal rivets, marking the birth of one of the world’s most famous garments: blue jeans.

And they have been helping to make men look hot for the last 138 years.


Mercuralia

tumblr_ll9tjxGez61qepg91o1_500In Greco-Roman belief, the god Mercury (Hermes) was thought to have invented masturbation and taught it to his son Faunus (Pan). The Greeks called it thrypsis, “the rubbing,” and in Latin it was known as masturatus. As with other aspects, the Celts were influenced by Roman ways and beliefs after the two cultures began to merge in some areas.
Mercuralia was the celebration known also as the “Festival of Mercury”. Mercury was thought to be the God of merchants and commerce as well as the patron of masturbation. On 15 May, merchants would sprinkle their heads, bodies, ships, merchandise and businesses with water taken from the well at Porta Capena. But some believe they would sprinkle themselves with another liquid as well.
Obscure sources suggest men would masturbate – an expression thought not uncommon or unseemly to the Celts – in honor of Mercury on this day because he was believed the patron of the act and that doing so would bring virility and sexual prowess. Given that May is now known as masturbation month, an auto-erotic experience could seem an appropriate Mercuralia observation…
Image: Pierre et Gilles
163207_130005253732189_100001681458906_188331_3773745_nceThe picture and text are courtesy of Celt Eros: The mystique – imagined or real – of the Celtic male and Celtic culture appeals to many worldwide. The constructs of this culture, both ancient and modern manifestations, are alluring.  CeltEros is about sharing and spreading appreciation for the Celtic ethos, mythos and importantly – eros.


Divan of Hafiz

Hafiz i-Shirazi

hafezKhwāja Šamsu d-Dīn Muḥammad Hāfez-e Šhīrāzī, known by his pen name Hāfez (1325/26–1389/90) was a Persian lyric poet. His collected works composed of series of Persian poetry (Divan) are to be found in the homes of most Iranians, who learn his poems by heart and use them as proverbs and sayings to this day. His life and poems have been the subject of much analysis, commentary and interpretation, influencing post-Fourteenth Century Persian writing more than any other author
Despite his profound effect on Persian life and culture and his enduring popularity and influence, few details of his life are known. Accounts of his early life rely upon traditional anecdotes. Early tazkiras (biographical sketches) mentioning Hafez are generally considered unreliable. The preface of his Divān, in which his early life is discussed, was written by an unknown contemporary of Hafez whose name may have been Moḥammad Golandām.
Modern scholars generally agree that Hafez was born either in 1315 or 1317; following an account by Jami 1390 is considered the year in which he died. Hafez was supported by patronage from several successive local regimes: Shah Abu Ishaq, who came to power while Hafez was in his teens; Timur Lang (Tamerlane) at the end of his life; and even the strict ruler Shah Mubariz ud-Din Muhammad (Mubariz Muzaffar).

Ghazl No. 10 from the Divan of Hafiz

Divan_von_HafizHis mop of hair tangled, sweating, laughing and drunk,
Shirt torn, singing poems, flask in hand,
His eyes spoiling for a fight, his lips mouthing “Alas!”
Last night at midnight he came and sat by my pillow.
He bent his head to my ear and said, sadly,
“O, my ancient lover, are you sleeping?”

The seeker to whom they give such a cup at dawn
Is an infidel to love if he will not worship the wine.
O hermit, go and do not quibble with those who drink the dregs,
For on the eve of creation this was all they gave to us.
What he poured in our cup we drank,
Whether the mead of Heaven, or the wine of drunkenness.

The cup’s smile and the wine boy’s knotted curl
Have broken many vows of chastity, like that of Hafiz.

A variation on the interpretation of E.T. Gray, Jr.
in The Green Sea of Heaven, White Cloud Press, 1995.
http://www.gay-art-history.org/gay-history/gay-literature/gay-poetry/hafiz-i-shirazi-wine-boy-ghazal/Hafiz.htm


Fantabulous

I was recently shocked by a student of mine who described something as “fantabulous.”  I had heard the word (maybe even used it myself), but I would have never used slang in a paper I turned in to one of my professors.  I do not consider slang to be proper English and therefore not a real word.  So I decided to look it up and see if it was in the dictionary.  It was in online dictionaries, and of course, it was listed in UrbanDictionary.com.
According to UrbanDicitonary.com:

Are you tired of your old gay quotes?
Doesn’t fantastic just feel like it used to?
Is fabulous already soooo used?
Then Fantabulous is for you!
Now with 50% more gay!

I hope you have a fantabulous day today.  I only have one more half-day of school (the students were gone on Friday), now it is just getting everything ready for summer and tying up loose ends. Who knew teachers did so much after school was out?


Moment of Zen: Cooking

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Blogger Buzz: Blogger is back

Blogger Buzz: Blogger is back: “Update (5/13 7:46PM PST): Nearly all posts since Wednesday are restored, now bringing back comments from last couple days. We expect the co…”


Sorry Guys

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Thank you for your patience the last day or so.  Blogger has been undergoing maintenance for about the last 24 hours. During that time, all of my posts since Wednesday night were deleted during this maintenance. Also, the comments were deleted as well. I had been in the process of answering comments when Blogger shut down.  Hopefully, the comments will be recovered, but I am not holding out a lot of hope.  I have re-uploaded the posts that were saved to my computer. Blogger seems to be up and running again now, though it still has a few problems.


U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School, St. Mary’s, California

footerThe Christian Brothers who moved the College to Moraga in 1928 would scarcely recognize today’s Contra Costa County, with its crowded freeways and sprawling subdivisions in place of the orchards and pastures that once dominated the landscape.

Moraga itself, which has grown to a population of 16,000, maintains much of the bucolic charm that enticed the Brothers from Oakland’s Broadway and 30th Street eight decades ago. Yet the surrounding East Bay has experienced an almost continuous real estate boom — especially when World War II’s military mobilization and industrialization transformed the region.

The war certainly had a dramatic impact on the College, as the U.S. Navy’s Pre-Flight School took over most of the campus at 1928 St. Mary’s Road from 1942 to 1946. The arrival of thousands of Navy men housed in temporary barracks and trained in classrooms also brought a crucial missing ingredient to Saint Mary’s — a reliable supply of water that has allowed the College to expand ever since.

The Move to Moraga

tumblr_l7eyg41Fa81qc0um2o1_1280As the College started outgrowing the Oakland Brickpile campus after World War I, trains and automobiles were making it easier to settle in outlying parts of the Bay Area. In 1919, the Brothers purchased what seemed to be an ideal new location: 255 acres next to Lake Chabot in the San Leandro hills.

Unable to raise enough money for construction, the Brothers turned their attention elsewhere. In 1927, James Irvine’s Moraga Company — hoping a college would jumpstart real estate development — offered the Brothers 100 free acres, the beginnings of today’s 420-acre campus.

The Moraga location had many virtues — pastoral seclusion, rolling hills and plenty of elbow room — but it lacked a dependable water source. While the proposed San Leandro site was on a lake, the Moraga location was fed solely by the fickle flow from Las Trampas Creek through a marshy area north of campus.

“It’s amazing to me that the College was able to survive here for years without other sources of water,” says biology professor Lawrence Cory, a Saint Mary’s student in the 1930s. “Some years, there might be enough water, but what about years like this one (2007) when the creek is completely dry?”tumblr_l7eyh4AigG1qc0um2o1_1280

In fact, Moraga developed more slowly than its neighbors because Lafayette and Orinda were situated along the aqueduct system created by the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) in the late 1920s. EBMUD, a public trust set up in 1923 to develop a steady water supply for East Bay communities, piped Mokelumne River water to reservoirs, including the Lafayette Reservoir, by 1929. But Moraga was too far away and too small, even with the arrival of more than 200 Saint Mary’s students in 1928, to merit the effort and expense of EBMUD incorporation.

This lack of water hindered early Moraga development efforts, as Nilda Rego chronicles in her history Days Gone By in Contra Costa County. In 1922, when the county and Irvine’s company split the cost of a “Moraga Highway” from Orinda — today’s Moraga Way from Highway 24 into the town — the project almost foundered due to lack of water.

E.E. O’Brien, the Martinez contractor who won the bid, had her crews implement creative solutions to the problem.

“They told me there would be many difficulties and said I could not get the water to mix concrete for one thing,” she told the Contra Costa Courier on May 8, 1922. “Water was obtained by impounding dams along the right of way, thereby conserving the rainwater that otherwise would have run off.”

Necessity: Mother of Invention

tumblr_l7l2dtaqx51qc0um2o1_1280During their first years in often-arid Moraga, the Brothers relied on similar improvisations to keep the College hydrated.

As they began setting up the College in 1927, however, lack of water did not appear to be a problem. If anything, there seemed to be an abundance.

With heavy rainfall in 1927 and 1928, the campus was often flooded, slowing construction. Las Trampas Creek frequently overran its banks, rainwater flowed down from the hills and the campus’ adobe soil turned to thick mud.

One of the College’s oldest Moraga alums, Bob McAndrews ’32, remembers his first year at the College as particularly muddy: “We had to slog between buildings in boots because roads and pathways weren’t finished and the winter was exceptionally rainy.”

The soggy beginning failed to dampen the Brothers’ spirits. They lived in an era marked by new confidence in water management feats similar to EBMUD’s successful dam and pipeline system. William Mulholland’s aqueducts had brought water hundreds of miles south to thirsty Los Angeles and earthquake-shaken San Francisco dammed faraway Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite for a reliable water supply. The Brothers were convinced Las Trampas Creek could make a big enough reservoir to supply the College.tumblr_l7l2fkOnrT1qc0um2o1_1280

So Lake Lasalle, created with a $100,000 earthen dam constructed by Berkeley contractor J.P. Brennan, was formed. The College’s main source of water from 1928 to 1942, the 134-acre-foot reservoir was north of the campus (behind the Power Plant) at the mouth of Bollinger Canyon.

Wells supplied some of the College’s water, but Lake Lasalle provided the rest, including irrigation water for the campus’ 20 acres of lawns. A pumping station sent lake water to redwood storage tanks located in the hills behind De La Salle Hall (near today’s “SMC” logo). The College also set up a treatment system in the hills for purifying and chlorinating water.

The water tanks proved to be an irresistible target for some pranksters: At the height of the Saint Mary’s–Cal football rivalry in the early 1930s, Berkeley students tried to paint a big yellow Cal “C” on them before games.

For a while, the water system did more than quench the campus’ thirst. The lake itself was an added attraction, as students swam and boated there in the 1930s. A 1939 Gael yearbook writer rhapsodized: “Lake Lasalle, limpid, cool, inviting, where many an hour is whiled away in an easy jaunt around the mossy banks … a tranquil panorama of water, sky and rolling hills to soothe the weary eye escaping from the printed word.”
Soon enough, however, this aquatic idyll faced a significant problem — the steady accretion of silt due to erosion which threatened to overwhelm the lake.

The Brothers’ own ad hoc hydraulic engineer, Brother Nivard Raphael, took matters into his own hands. In 1941, he built a small foredam to catch silt upstream from Lake Lasalle. But Las Trampas Creek uprooted it, leaving him back at square one. He later attempted to use the sump valve that contractors built into the bottom of the lake to drain silt through an underground pipe. The valve failed, and much of the lake’s water was lost.tumblr_l7l2gpJNZ11qc0um2o1_1280

These efforts to revitalize Lake Lasalle were soon overshadowed by a more pressing national concern: preparation for World War II.

A Navy Needs Water

With an acute shortage of fighter pilots after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy set up pre-flight training schools at colleges across the country. Naval officials considered several West Coast locations before accepting Saint Mary’s offer of its Moraga campus.
In a brusque wartime communication, Navy Secretary Frank Knox informed Brother President Austin via telegram on Feb. 27, 1942, that “St. Mary’s College has been selected by the Navy Department as one of the four locations for pre-flight training. Your patriotic cooperation in this vital program is appreciated.”

By June 1942, the campus’ population swelled from around 300 to more than 2,000 — the vast majority of whom were navy cadets and officers.tumblr_l7l2i0tpLe1qc0um2o1_1280

With a pre-flight curriculum that included boxing and swimming rather than Greek and Latin, certain accommodations were necessary. Major construction projects — including temporary barracks, a field house and a rifle range — were completed with lightning speed.

The Navy pumped silt from the bottom of Lake Lasalle to level out the area between the Chapel and St. Mary’s Road for athletic fields. The College still uses some of this space for rugby and soccer fields.

But Lake Lasalle itself, the Navy concluded, was not a good primary source of water, especially during a drought.

“When the Navy came here, they were determined not to have to rely on a creek,” Cory explains.

The College was still outside EBMUD’s service area. But while the utility district could turn down the Brothers’ request to run water pipes to Moraga, it couldn’t say no to Uncle Sam.tumblr_l7l2jbm1ns1qc0um2o1_1280

“The Navy went to EBMUD and told them to bring in water,” says Brother Raphael Patton, the College’s unofficial historian. “The response — that it was too far and too expensive — was what had denied the College a water connection since 1928. The Navy did not take this response kindly.”

Top Navy brass made it clear that water for the College was crucial to the war effort. Admiral L.E. Denfield sent a telegram about it to the Joint Army and Navy Munitions Board Priorities Division on May 12, 1942:

“To provide adequate water supply, both for drinking purposes and for fire protection, a pipeline will have to be constructed. The subject school (Saint Mary’s) is scheduled to open June 11, 1942, and accordingly it is requested that proper rating be assigned to the College as soon as possible.”

Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs, the chief of naval personnel responsible for overall manpower readiness, followed up with another telegram.tumblr_l7l2m8WVlO1qc0um2o1_1280

A few months later, EBMUD and the College made an agreement leading to the installation of iron pipe beneath St. Mary’s Road to the closest EBMUD water main (two miles away, near the intersection of Rheem Boulevard and Moraga Road) and pumping equipment to bring 200,000 gallons a day to the College.

With access to EBMUD’s Mokelumne River water established, the Navy trained thousands of pilots for action against the Axis powers. After the war, it left behind the water infrastructure that has allowed the College to grow over the last six decades.
Following years of improvisation and praying for rain, the College’s water supply was finally resolved — no more relying on Lake Lasalle, which gradually turned into a willow-covered wetland.

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Source for text:  http://www.stmarys-ca.edu/news-and-events/saint-marys-magazine/archives/v28/sp08/features/01.html


The Cornelian

LordByron3The poem below appears in The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse (ed. Stephen Coote, pp. 192-93).  “The Cornelian” is about a choirboy, John Edleston (spelled “Eddleston” by Byron), whom Byron met as a student at Cambridge and with whom he was deeply in love (see The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature, ed. Byrne R. S. Fone, p. 219).  Despite Byron’s reputation as a womanizer and a world-class object of heterosexual love, he was, apparently, throughout his life romantically attached to men.  Louis Crompton, in Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in 19th-Century England, has shown that Byron fled England not only because of the scandal over his affair with his half-sister, but also because of the repressive anti-same-sex laws in England, where the penalty for sodomy was death.  expoAlso, Crompton suggests that homosexual desire was one of the reasons he first went to Greece and the anti-same sex sentiment in England may account for the famous Byronic stance of lone defiance.  The Oxford Anthology of English Literature, Vol. II, says that Byron was “fundamentally homosexual” (p. 285), yet that was not a fact generally taught over thirty years ago, at least not in my experience, and the latest edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature (2006) ignores the fact Byron was “fundamentally homosexual.”

The Cornelian
No specious splendour of this stone
    Endears it to my memory ever;
With lustre only once it shone,

Wilhelm_von_Gleuden

    And blushes modest as the giver.

Some, who can sneer at friendship’s ties,
    Have, for my weakness, oft reprov’d me;
Yet still the simple gift I prize,
    For I am sure, the giver lov’d me.

He offer’d it with downcast look,
    As fearful that I might refuse it;
I told him, when the gift I took,
    My only fear should be, to lose it.

This pledge attentively I view’d,
    And sparkling as I held it near,
129206699892370848_dbeac859-4c06-4f11-bd27-579462390b88_103725_273Methought one drop the stone bedew’d,
    And, ever since, I’ve lov’d a tear.

Still, to adorn his humble youth,
    Nor wealth nor birth their treasures yield;
But he, who seeks the flowers of truth,
    Must quit the garden, for the field.

‘Tis not the plant uprear’d in sloth,
    Which beauty shews, and sheds perfume;
The flowers, which yield the most of both,
    In Nature’s wild luxuriance bloom.

Had Fortune aided Nature’s care,
d4952936r    For once forgetting to be blind,
His would have been an ample share,
    If well proportioned to his mind.

But had the Goddess clearly seen,
    His form had fix’d her fickle breast;
Her countless hoards would his have been,
    And none remain’d to give the rest.

                                                                          (1807)
 

Note: Byron received the cornelian (also spelled carnelian, “a reddish variety of chalcedony used in jewelry,” Random House Webster’s College Dictionary) from the choirboy, Edlestone.
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The photographs are by William von Gloeden, one of my favorite early historical photographers of male nudes.  This post combines two of my favorite things: the poetry of Byron and the photography of von Gloeden.


Mother’s Day

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I hope that we all think of our mothers today. I love my mama, but like all mothers, she drives me crazy sometimes. She has been in a long, five year period of depression since she found out I was gay, but that was relieved somewhat by the birth of my niece, so she now has the grand-baby she always wanted. She is still convinced I am going to hell, but she doesn’t say it as much anymore. As long as it is a “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t discuss” situation, we get along great.

So even if your mother drives you crazy, I hope that you still have a good relationship with her and tell her how much you love her today.

I love you, Mama.

(She would surely die if she ever saw this blog, but I did choose a picture of sunflowers because they are her favorite.)