Monthly Archives: June 2011

Requiescat in Pace: Mrs. Windham Dies at 93

If you are not from the South, or you are not a long time listener of NPR, then you probably have no idea who this woman is.  However, you should.  With her large floppy garden hats and her unassuming dresses, Kathryn Tucker Windham was one of the greatest American treasures, a true storyteller.  I write this with tears in my eyes, because this woman was truly larger than life.  On a few rare and special occasions in my life, I have met her and listened to her tell her stories. Most of the stories were everyday life, but as soon as she spoke, you were in awe.  She wrote a series of books about ghost stories that were some of my favorite reads.  When she signed the books, her own personal ghost, Jeffrey, signed them as well.  Jeffrey had been her inspiration for collecting the ghost stories she wrote about.  I am sure that Mrs. Windham is with her late husband and Jeffrey in a better place today, she died on Sunday and the South, the United States, and the World have lost one of its great treasures. I urge you to please go to the link above and listen to the NPR’s All Things Considered story from today about Mrs. Windham and her contributions to NPR during the 1980s.

Here is her biography from the Encyclopedia of Alabama:

Kathryn Tucker Windham

Kathryn Tucker Windham (1918-2011) is best known for her series of ghost story collections, beginning with 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey in 1969, as well as numerous other publications, photography, and storytelling. Windham’s work focuses on the South’s multilayered lifeways and evokes positive qualities of the human experience: family, community, tolerance, good humor, laughter, and joy.
Windham was born in Selma, Dallas County, on June 2, 1918, to James Wilson Tucker and Helen Gaines Tabb Tucker. She grew up in Thomasville, Clarke County, the youngest of a large family. Her interest in Alabama lifeways began early. Her father, a banker, was a gifted storyteller. Windham also absorbed family history and lore from her mother, a former teacher, and her aunt, Tab Forster, the Thomasville postmistress. Young Kathryn attended public schools in Thomasville and in 1930, at age 12, began writing movie reviews for the Thomasville Times, owned by her cousin Earl Tucker. That year, early one morning, she sat on the sidewalk in front of People’s Drug Company in Thomasville to be first in line for a Brownie camera given away as part of Eastman Kodak’s 50th-anniversary promotion. Writing and photography would become lifelong pursuits.
In 1935, Windham graduated from Thomasville High School as class valedictorian, then attended Huntingdon College in Montgomery, graduating in 1939. She first worked in Thomasville as a freelance journalist and in March 1940 was hired by The Alabama Journal in Montgomery as a feature writer and police reporter, replacing a male reporter who was entering military service. She was one of the first women to cover the police beat for a major daily newspaper in the South. In 1942, she moved to Birmingham, where she served as publicity director for the Alabama War Bond Committee. The following year, Windham began working for the Birmingham News editing articles on state news and aviation and serving as a courthouse reporter. There, she also took photographs with the newspaper’s Graflex camera.
Windham married Amasa Benjamin Windham, a journalist, editor, and World War II veteran in 1946, and the couple would have three children. The family later moved to Selma, where Kathryn wrote freelance articles for Progressive Farmer magazine and many Alabama newspapers, and from 1950 to 1966 penned a locally syndicated newspaper column “Around Our House.” She also raised the Windhams’ children, Kathryn Tabb “Kitti” Windham, Amasa Benjamin “Ben” Windham Jr., and Helen Ann “Dilcy” Windham Hilley. (She had two grandsons, David Wilson Windham and Benjamin Douglas Hilley.) After Amasa Windham died in 1956, Windham joined the staff of The (Selma)Times-Journal, where she worked until 1973.
While in Selma, Windham began writing and publishing the first of some 20 books, the initial one being Treasured Alabama Recipes. Her eight-book series of ghost stories began in 1964. Alabama: One Big Front Porch (1975), one of Windham’s most popular books, is a compilation of stories, lore, and recipes from across the state.
In 1982, Windham worked on a Birmingham Public Library project on Gee’s Bend, a rural African American community in a bend of the Alabama River in Wilcox County, now nationally known for its quilters. During her visits to Gee’s Bend, Windham produced a long report, including interviews and observations. She and Birmingham photographer John Reese took extensive photographs, including a series depicting Pleasant Grove Baptist Church’s baptism ceremony in a local creek.
Windham was also known for her storytelling and radio broadcasts. In 1974, she was a featured teller in the second National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, eventually appearing there more than a dozen times. Beginning in 1984, Windham’s commentaries were heard every Friday morning on Alabama Public Radio. Between 1985 and 1987, they also were broadcast on “All Things Considered” for National Public Radio. Windham also developed her personal interest in Julia Tutwiler into a “living portrayal” of Tutwiler, which she first performed in period costume at the Birmingham Public Library in 1981.
Even before she acquired her first Brownie camera in 1930, Windham had been interested in photography. From the 1940s, she took photographs as a journalist, and when she traveled around Alabama for pleasure or to cover stories, she was rarely without her camera. By the 1980s, she began including some of her photographs in her books.
In 1989, Windham’s photographs were included in the major traveling exhibition In View of Home: Alabama Landscape Photographs, organized by the Huntsville Museum of Art. Her work also appeared in the 1992Amazing Alabama exhibition in Montgomery, organized for the Retirement Systems of Alabama. In August 1993, the Huntsville Museum of Art invited Windham to make the presentation “Words into Pictures” for its endowed Marriott Lecture series. The museum mounted a one-person exhibition of 28 of her finest photographs: Encounters 24. Kathryn Tucker Windham. This exhibition led to publication of a book of her photographs and stories, Encounters. Kathryn Tucker Windham, in 1998.
It is highly unusual for a talented wordsmith also to be a gifted photographer, but Kathryn Tucker Windham used both forms of media to communicate memorably about southern culture. Whether telling stories, commenting on southern customs, passing along cherished recipes, or capturing Alabama life in photographs, her work has a unity that centers on her powers of observation and memory and her love for the South, its people, and its lifeways. Windham’s achievements have led to numerous awards and honors, not the least of which is the Kathryn Tucker Windham Museum at Alabama Southern Community College in her home town of Thomasville.
Windham passed away on June 12, 2011. She was buried in the New Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, in a custom-made pine casket that she had kept in a shed in her backyard.

Works by Kathryn Tucker Windham
Treasured Alabama Recipes (1964)
13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey (with Margaret Gillis Figh) (1969)
Jeffrey Introduces 13 More Southern Ghosts (1971)
Treasured Tennessee Recipes (1972)
Thirteen Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey (1973)
Treasured Georgia Recipes (1973)
Exp loring Alabama (1974)
Thirteen Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey (1974)
Alabama: One Big Front Porch (1975)
Thirteen Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey (1977)
The Ghost in the Sloss Furnaces (1978)
Southern Cooking to Remember (1978)
Cou nt Those Buzzards! Stamp Those Grey Mules (1979)
Jeffrey’s Latest Thirteen: More Alabama Ghosts (1982)
A Serigamy of Stories (1988)
Odd-Egg Editor (1990)
A Sampling of Selma Stories (1991)
The Autobiography of a Bell (1991)
Twice-Blessed (1996)
Bridal Wreath Bush (1999)
Common Threads (with photographer Chip Cooper) (2000)
It’s Christmas (2002)
Ernest’s Gift (2004)
Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories: From Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi (2004)
Spit, Scarey Ann, & Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another (2009)

Frances Osborn Robb
Huntsville, Alabama

Sughaim Sine

gaysexAncient Celtic culture is typically lauded for such things as storytelling, mysticism and warrior fierceness. Mistakenly, however it’s not been broadly known for its eroticism. Something we know to be a historical oversight at the least.

It wasn’t always like this. In ancient times, the Celts were widely renowned as much for their erotic energy and prowess, multiple love affairs/sexual liaisons and androphilic activities, as for their warlike habits. It is known that male warriors were often part of ‘sodalities’ or groups of “special friends”. They engaged freely and openly in same-sex relationships and participated in a variety of acts for pleasure and bonding. Ancient Greeks such as Aristotle and Strabo mention Celtic homosexuality as one of the few good things about what they considered a barbarian culture. Diodorus Siculus chronicled his impressions writing —

They are accustomed to sleep on the ground on animal skins and roll around with male bed-mates on both sides. Heedless of their own dignity, they abandon without qualm the bloom of their bodies to others. And the most incredible thing is that they do not think this is shameful. But when they proposition someone, they consider it dishonourable if he does not accept the offer!…

A particularly succulent example of this fluidity is perhaps exemplified in the adjunctive early Irish practice of homosocial nipple-sucking or what today can be called “sughaim sine”. tumblr_lhi0bkngz81qgjfjao1_500[3]This typically male act stood for many things in the pagan culture of the times. In one aspect, it was used as a way to pledge loyalty, devotion and submission for a king. Among common men, it was an expression of friendship, greeting, reconciliation, affection, fealty, protection and not surprisingly, as some sources suggest, sexual stimulation and pleasure.

While Ireland was still a pagan culture, Christianity was taking hold in Europe and North Africa. Christian philosophy increasingly taught that all sexual ways were physically harmful and that sexual abstention was the wisest course. But the tradition of “special friends” and the importance of love, physicality, affection and sexual expression did not die out. tumblr_le08mhOUFr1qfv0meo1_1280[7]It was an essential part of the culture. An old Celtic saying holds, “A person without a soul friend is like a body without a head.”
Though Irish monasteries in the Dark Ages between the years of 600 and 1200 CE tried to control the sexuality of both the clerics and the converted, the privileges and benefits of soul friendship could not be destroyed. The delectable habit of men sucking on each other’s nipples to affirm friendship (particularly after a quarrel) seemed indelible and was slow to change.

There are a number of references or implications regarding the practice but detailed information is spare. The most notable account is in an oft omitted passage of St. Patrick’s ‘Confessions’ wherein he says —-

On the day I arrived the ship weighed anchor, I explained that I had the wherewithal to sail with them. And that day, furthermore, I refused for fear of God, to suck their nipples. (A Pagan custom of friendship) Nevertheless I hoped that some of them would come to faith in Jesus Christ (for they were heathen). This displeased the captain who answered sharply, with anger “Your wish to travel with us is quite futile”. And when I heard this, I left them in order to return to the shelter in which I had lodged, beginning to pray as I went. Before the prayer was finished, I heard one of them, who shouted out to me “Come quickly these men are calling you”. I returned to them immediately and they began to explain to me: “Come, we will accept you in good faith. Bind yourself to us in whatever way you wish” Because of this I was received among them and we set sail straight away…

fs634300[6]Patrick was citing the prevalence of pagan practices and in doing so he was making the obvious point that the Ireland in which he had been a slave was largely un-Christianized. Since he does not explain the significance of the incident, its meaning is taken to have been evident to the readers of his day. This suggests therefore that the custom was widely accepted and well-known among Celts. By declining to participate, Patrick denies pagan practice and in turn gives us an idea of how deliciously unrestrained the Celtic/Pagan world may have been.

Archaeological bog discoveries in Ireland have corroborated the “sughaim sine” practice in another of its aspects. The subjects of ancient Irish king’s ritually and routinely demonstrated their submission by sucking on their ruler’s nipples – some believe perhaps in a nursing, group or perhaps erotically intended way. NIPPLEPLAY-092310-007[2]It is theorized that there may have been royal reception days when the king exposed his nipples for his “court” in order to facilitate sucking for a large group. In a potentially more macabre element, there appears to have been power games in the nipple hierarchy. Cutting off a royal descendant’s nipples made him ineligible for kingship. Not as subtle as poison, but undeniable evidence of his unsuitability for a kingly role. No nips, game over.

Perhaps the King’s nipples were most important when celebrating fertility compacts, in the festivals where the King was wedded to the Earth (Goddess). His kingly role required him to keep nature and society in equilibrium. A little nipple sucking would surely increase his self-esteem, stimulate him thereby enhancing his virility and help him on his way to essential potency. But if he failed to keep everything fertile he could be dispatched. PotD_20101008_LeviPoulter[2]Such is believed to possibly have been the case of the bog men.

The practice is also referenced mythologically within the tale of King Fergus mac Leite. Lore says that the King, after returning to his own land, falls asleep on the coast near the sea. Small people appear who carry the king without his sword into the water. It might be inferred that they want to abduct him to their own ‘land’ under water. This ‘foreign’ invasion threatens the king and thereby the land. When his bare feet become wet and cold, however, he awakens in time and grabs three of them. In order to save themselves they offer a pact, which is introduced by a ritualistic exchange of words and is sealed by the mutual, prolonged sucking of nipples. Thanks to this agreement, the king receives a charm with which he can survive under water – a kind of ‘passport’ to travel in the ‘foreign’ lands under the waves and is forever nipple-bonded to the small men.

Suck-my-nip-boy-2[3]Finally, the nipple motif even reappears later after the Christian era is in full swing showing again the importance of “sugere mammillas” within the culture. There is reference of holy men suckling neophytes relatively late in Irish hagiography. This seems significant in a metaphorical sense as a spiritual act of imparting the perceived grace and teaching of Christ through the symbolic acts of nursing and bonding. This information relates to the role of saints of both genders. However, it is notable in that the nipplage of male saints is cited equally in their place as nurturers of the early Irish church meaning that the “nursing” of male breasts was acceptable. This suggests the continuance of the tradition, albeit in a post-pagan, Christianized and sanitized configuration.


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The text is 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.


Baristas

I know as gay men, many of us may fetishize a particular attire.  Some love a man in uniform: a soldier, a police officer, or a fireman.  Others may like an athlete: football, lacrosse, wrestler, baseball, etc.  Some men like a man in a suit or tuxedo, while others may prefer less dressy cowboy or farmhand look.  What is your preference?  Do you have one?  And don’t be shy, we probably all have one, so speak up.

soldierI will go first.  Though I love uniforms, and I think that soldiers and firemen are very sexy (French and Italian police officers are drop dead gorgeous—I think it is a requirement), I also love a man in a baseball uniform.  All of these have one thing in common, they tend to show off the man’s butt.  However, I always tend to have a thing for waiters and baristas.  Part of that is probably that they tend to flirt to get a good tip.  A waitress has to provide great service to get a larger than normal tip from me, but a hot waiter who flirts just a little, well he will get a great tip every time. And I think it goes without saying that in America, a lot of the waiters are gay, and many will use that to their advantage with other gay men.  I remember this one waiter, whose name was Michael, and a group of my friends and I used to call him the Archangel Michael, because only an angel could be that beautiful.  And he was: great body, fine ass, a head full of blond hair, and piercing blue eyes.  He could have been the worst waiter imaginable (he actually was pretty good), but you wanted him to wait on you just so you could have his attention, not to mention that you could stare at his butt when he walked away from your table.

coffeeHowever, my last two service industry crushes have been Starbucks baristas.  The first one is tall and slender with dark hair and eyes, and he is always eager to chat.  He always treats you like an old friend when you come in, and as many times as I have been in there, he knows exactly what I am going to order and starts it as soon as he sees me and asks me if I will be having my usual.  He knows that I am a teacher and always asks about how my classes are going, , etc.  I’ve never been in there that he didn’t have a smile on his face.  Lately, because of time constraints with teaching high school during the day and college at night, I have been going to the Starbucks that is closer to campus. Lo and behold there is another cutie there.  This one is shorter, with dark brown hair, and the most gorgeous and captivating blue eyes that you have ever seen which are accentuated by long beautiful eye lashes.  He always is a little bit scruffy, never a full beard, but not clean shaven either. He not tall like the other guy, but is just below average height and cute as a button. 

starbuckscupsI go to Starbucks every time before my evening class, to the extent that my night class students in the Fall pooled together and gave me a Starbucks gift card for my birthday. (They also brought cupcakes and were an exceptional group of students—btw, they never curry favor with me by giving me those things, and they know it.)  I feel like I have been cheating on my old Starbucks guy recently with my new one.  Grant it, there is nothing going on except flirtations with either one, and they don’t know it but they usually make my day when I go in.  So with the old Starbucks guy (and I’m not talking in age here), I never was sure if he was gay or just very friendly.  He did wear designer belts and shoes with his Starbucks uniform of black pants/shorts and white shirt.  Where I live, you don’t see many straight men wear D&G belts.  But other than his accessories, he has never given me an indication one way or another.  However, with the new Starbucks guy, there is no doubt. He is gay.  Mike Mongeau 028bHe is not effeminate, but he makes the gaydar go off with just the inflections of his voice and mannerisms.  It also helps that the other day when I was in there he was talking about a movie and said of one of the actors: “He’s so pretty.”

There are several things that I was thinking about as I was planning this post.  The first thing was fetishes about uniform and profession.  Again, what is your preference? Do you have a particular type of uniform or profession that gives you tingling feeling in your nether regions?  Does a certain part of you want to stand at attention when you see a soldier standing at attention?  Is a passing desire for a hot guy really because of his uniform or is it just that he is hot?

gaydar2The second thing is whether or not gaydar is real?  Can we really identify one another because of mutual attraction? inflections of his voice and mannerisms? animal instinct? noticing the way a man looks at another man v. how he looks at a woman?  I think these are all things that make up our “gaydar.”  What do you think makes up our gaydar?  Or, do you even believe in gaydar?


Moment of Zen: Pride


A Bibliophile’s Top Five

Hi, I’m Joe, and I am a Bibliophile.  I have been talking a lot about books this week, so I thought I would share with you my favorite five authors.  I have loved books nearly all of my life.  I had an older cousin who each year for Christmas would give all of the younger cousins a book.  These books became some of my most treasured gifts.  They are still on my bookshelf at my parent’s house.  The books he gave me transported me to the world of he fairy tales of my youth: Jack’s beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood’s forest, etc.  They transported me to the fairy tells of Russia and the Ice Princess.  And I remember falling in love with Scheherazade and her tales of Arabian Nights.  Mark Twain took me on journeys with Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Prince Edward and the pauper boy, and the Connecticut Yankee who found himself at King Arthur’s Court.
Then there was the summer that I discovered Sidney Sheldon novels.  I read every one of his books that summer.  The remarkable thing is that I haven’t read one since.  I think I got it out of my system, LOL, but what an adventure that had been.  I think I was 12 or 13 that summer.  Of course, being a southerner, then came the legal dramas of John Grisham.  I fell in love with fast-paced thrillers and have since then. 
Mark ChildressThen I read the book that was THE book for me.  My aunt had checked it out of the library and I read the first few pages and was hooked.  I had to have that book.  My aunt went to the bookstore and bought me an autographed copy.  It is very much a treasured possession.  You are probably asking what book it is?  Have I got your curiosity up?  Well the book was Mark Childress’s Crazy in Alabama.  Now if you have never read the book, or if perchance you saw the movie, then you are probably thinking WTF!  This book spoke to me like no other.  The town is actually based on my hometown even down to using real people from the town in it.  The Southern speech patterns were dead on and so was the lingo.  Childress had actually spent part of his years growing up not far from where I did.  It was like picking up a book in which the characters instantly became your neighbors, except that this was in the 1990s and the book took place in the 1960s.  I was in awe and began to read more that Mark Childress had written.  V for Victor, A World Made of Fire, though I never actually read Tender.  I loved his books though and as each new book came out, I read it.  I currently have his newest book Georgia Bottoms in my stack of books to read over the next few weeks.  By far, Mark Childress is my favorite author.
Greg HerrenI guess next on my list is the New Orleans writer Greg Herren.  Herren also occasionally writes as Todd Gregory. In fact as I started writing this post, I was reading a book by Todd Gregory, Games Frat Boys Play which is sort of a sequel to his other novel Every Frat Boy Wants It.  When I first read Every Frat Boy Wants It a few years ago, I immediately thought that the author’s tone and cadence were much like that of Greg Herren.  According to their biographies, they were both New Orleans authors.  It was only recently that I read on Herren’s blog (Queer and Loathing in America, or Dealing with the Stupids) that I found out that my suspicions were correct.  Greg Herren has a unique style which I love and there are a few things in nearly all of his books that give him away: his apparent disdain for the Churches of Christ, the frequent mention of my graduate school, and a few other oddities that I have picked up from reading his books.  Currently, I have read nearly everything he has written that I can put my hands on (with the exception of his blog, which I haven’t read all of yet).  I have read all of the Chanse MacLeod Mysteries and all of his Scotty Bradley Mysteries, with the exception of the most recent one, Who Dat Whodunnit, which I only got in the mail a few days ago and is currently in my stack of books to read.  If you have never read any books by Greg Herren, the mysteries are a fun read, and the Todd Gregory books are hot, steamy, sexy romps.  His novellas and short stories are also well worth reading.
leon_donnaNumber three on my list would have to be Donna Leon, a American expatriate living in Venice, Italy who write about the fictional Venetian Commissario Guido Brunetti. Unlike Childress or Herrin, Leon’s books are a slower read, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.  The books are intricate, somewhat slow paced, much like the Italian bureaucracy it describes.  The are a delight to read, not only for the descriptions of Venice or or for Brunetti himself, but for the beauty of Leon’s writing.  Donna Leon is  winner of the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, among other awards, Leon was born in New Jersey and has lived in Venice for thirty years.  Donna Leon is the ideal author for people who vaguely long for a ‘good mystery.’ That Leon is also a brilliant writer should only add to the consistently comforting appeal of her Venetian procedurals featuring Commissario Guido Brunneti. Leon allows her warmhearted detective to take what solace he can from the beauty of his city and the homely domestic rituals that give him the strength to go on
Sarah-Durant-AuthorMy next author is another woman, which is Sarah Durant.  Her books, The Birth of Venus (2003), In the Company of the Courtesan (2006), and Sacred Hearts (2009) are some of the best historical fiction that I have ever read.  The main characters are strong women who are not your typical heroines, but they draw you into their lives that are weaved through the fabric of the Italian Renaissance.  Durant is another absolutely beautiful writer and is also a writer than you cannot put the book down until you have finished it.  Her next book, Blood & Beauty: The Borgias, is not scheduled for release until July 2012, but I already can’t wait to read it.  Sarah Dunant’s tireless research has resulted in vivid reconstructions of women’s secret histories in the characters of a Florentine Noblewoman, a Venetian Courtesan and with Sacred Hearts the spellbinding and fascinating lives of the Sisters of Santa Caterina.
LarsonErikThe fifth and final author of my favorites list is not a fiction author at all, but a writer of non-fiction, Erik Larson.  I picked up his book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (2003)  in 2005, I remember because it was right after Hurricane Katrina, and I was living in the dorms because my house had been destroyed. There had been so much buzz about the book, that I thought I would check it out for myself.  I started reading this book and could not put it down.  I mean that quite literally, I could not stop reading until I finished it.  I then read his 2006 book Thunderstruck and though I could put this one down, I was never the less blown away at how richly Larson was able to write about history.  Later, I finally picked up Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History from 1999.  Since it was written before The Devil in the White City I had not expected much from it.  I was vastly mistaken. It was every bit as good as The Devil in the White City and in my opinion better than Thunderstruck.  His newest book, In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and An American Family in Hitler’s Berlin (2011) is in my most wanted books list right behind David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.
By far this is not a total list of the authors I love. I must mention Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, and many others. And of course for history, no author can as richly describe a point in time as Barbara Tuchman can, whose first few pages of her acclaimed book The Guns of August are the greatest and most vivid writing I have ever experienced. I also cant’ forget some of my favorite contemporary novelists: Harry Turtledove (The Great War Series), Will Adams, Jason Goodwin, Steve Berry, and so many others.  The authors that I have mentioned, especially the contemporary ones are the ones that I cannot go without reading and acquiring their newest books.  Hi, I’m Joe, and I am a Bibliophile.

Who are your top five favorite writers?

Johnny Murdoc: Writer | Cerebral + Raunchy


tumblr_le8bklA3y01qadgwco1_500I want to introduce you guys to a new (new for me) author I just found.  His name is Johnny Murdoc.  Murdoc writes erotic fiction and non-fiction. He’s 29 years old (30 this month–Happy Birthday, Johnny!) and lives in St. Louis, MO with his partner of 8 years. His interests include porn, comics, and copyright law. He likes bike rides and sci-fi movies.  All of this makes him sound like my kind of guy, though truth be told, I always found copyright law (any corporate law, for that matter) to be quite boring.



His fiction is included in anthologies from Cleis Press and RavenousRomance.com, including Skater Boys and Best Gay Erotica 2011, and his erotic comic book Crash Course is published by Class Comics. His essays for SexIs span a range of topics from porn to politics. Johnny’s latest collection of stories is in his new book Blowjob 3, which you can find by clicking on title of the book.  It contains both erotica and essays (as well as a photography section). It’s available in print and as an ebook. He also self-publishes the zine Blowjob.


I’ve read several of his essays for SexIs, and I immediately liked him because not only does he seem to have a level head on his shoulders but is also quite intelligent.  I first came across Johnny’s work with his audio recording of him giving a live reading of a story called the “The Horror in Dunwich Hall.” 

The story is sort of Stephen King meets gay erotica.  It was a fun listen, and Johnny has a great voice.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I wrote him an email saying how much I enjoyed his work and what a great voice he had.  He emailed me back to say that he had one more audio version of his stories, a story called “Dicksucker.”  When I went to the link for “Dicksucker” it had a way to embed the story into a website, so I asked Johnny if he would allow me to write a post about him and embed the story for my readers.  He agreed and here you have it below, “Dicksucker” read by Johnny Murdoc:

JohnnyMurdocDicksucker





I hope you enjoyed listening to this as much as I did.  I also hope that you will check out Johnny’s work, not only are his short stories highly erotic and fun to read, but his essays are thought provoking and enjoyable reads as well.  So check him out at:

JOHNNY MURDOC

I do hope that you will check out this blog and his writing.  There is a something there for everyone, whether you are a fan of erotic fiction (which I am, I love reading the blog Horny Fiction) or whether you are a fan of non-fiction and/or political pieces, you should check out Johnny’s work.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as I have.  His blog is a fun read too, and it is “like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Honoré de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac (French pronunciation: [ɔnɔʁe də balzak]; 20 May 1799 – 18 August 1850) was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon.

Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multi-faceted characters, who are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. His writing influenced many subsequent novelists such as Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe,Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Marie Corelli, Henry James, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Italo Calvino, and philosophers such as Friedrich Engels. Many of Balzac’s works have been made into or have inspired films, and they are a continuing source of inspiration for writers, filmmakers and critics.

An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was an apprentice in a Law office, but he turned his back on the study of Law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie Humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.

Balzac suffered from health problems throughout his life, possibly due to his intense writing schedule. His relationship with his family was often strained by financial and personal drama, and he ended several friendships over critical reviews. In 1850 he married Ewelina Hańska, his longtime love; he died five months later.

Now you might be wondering, SO WHAT?  Well, I bring up Honoré de Balzac because I am currently reading two books: The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough and An Evil Eye: A Novel (Yashim the Eunuch) by Jason Goodwin.  Balzac is mentioned numerous times in each book. At first I just thought of some sophomoric comment about what a great name Honoré de Balzac is, i.e. “honor the ball sack” which I still think is funny in a juvenile sort of way, but you get the picture and that’s about all I am going to say about Balzac.  But I did want to talk about the two books that I am reading.  I have not finished either one, but both are equally interesting for different reasons.

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough looks at Americans abroad in Paris from 1830 to 1900.  McCullough features several prominent Americans, such as James Fennimore Cooper, Samuel F.B. Morse, and Charles Sumner, among others.  His central thesis is that Americans who traveled to Paris were greatly influential to the development of America, owing much of that to their time in Paris.  I tend to disagree largely with McCullough because whereas most of these men and women stayed in Paris for a few months, they also traveled to Italy and usually spend much longer time periods there.  Paris was not the center of European culture and history in the 19th century: the Italian peninsula was.  One might be able to copy some of the masterpieces of art and study medicine and history among other disciplines in Paris, but nowhere compared to the medical school or University of Padua and to the rich history of the Ancient Roman Empire, which at its heart was the city of Rome.  The great artists were not form Paris, though Impressionism was beginning in France.  The greatest artists and sculptors were form Italy and that is where most of their art remained.  The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Academia in Venice, and the museum of all museums, the Vatican Museums in Rome.  Though Napoleon had plundered Italy and much of Europe for great pieces of art for the Louvre in Paris,t he Vatican had been collected works of art for centuries, not to mention that the Medicis of Florence had been some of the world’s greatest patrons of the arts.  It is not to Paris that the Americans flocked, though of course it was essential to any European tour, but to Italy and the rich legacy of art, architecture, and history that they went.

The other book I am reading,  An Evil Eye: A Novel (Yashim the Eunuch) by Jason Goodwin, I had mentioned before in a post about a year ago, Author Spotlight: Jason Goodwin.  At that time, the book was still in the works, but it has since been published and as all of Goodwin’s books, it is an absolute joy to read.  Goodwin brings alive the Ottoman Empire of the 19th century, the food, the smells, the harems, etc.  If you have never had an interest in the Ottoman Empire, I would suggest you pick up the Yashim the Eunuch books and your interest will come alive.  I love to read mysteries; mystery novels are some of my favorite books.  For me history is always a mystery, because we want to find out how and why something happened.  Therefore, an author adds together a historical novel with a mystery, I’m in love.  Goodwin does that very well with Yashim the Eunuch; we are presented with the rich history of the once great Ottoman Empire along with a subtle mystery of political intrigue and endearing characters.


The Sonnets

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As I stated to Ace in a comment about last week’s poem, sonnets are my favorite form of poetry.  The rhythm and cadence of a sonnet is pure beauty.  I wanted to share with you today my two favorite sonnets.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? (Sonnet 18)
by William Shakespeare

2718_01[3]Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
 

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

aint heavy[3]How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

What is your favorite form of poetry?

What is your favorite poem?  

Sonnets from the Portuguese
Shakespeare's Sonnets

Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are: An Idealist’s Dream

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I am an idealist and a realist all at once, or at least I strive to be both, even though they seem contradictory.  A few people commented on my post yesterday, Pale Blue Dot, in which I suggested that in celebration of Pride Month that “I think we should show random acts of kindness.”  The comments showed very clearly an old debate in all struggles for equality.  Whether we should be “accommodationists” or “activists” is a debate that dates back throughout all equality struggles.  The most famous is probably that of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois in their struggles dealing with the black community in the late 19th and 20th century.  And this is precisely what I want to discuss in this post, and why I have such a strong belief in the ethics of reciprocity.  First let show you my example of Washington and Dubois, then I will quickly discuss women’s liberation, and GLBT liberation movements.

Accommodationists vs. Activists

btwoverviewBooker T. Washington was born a slave in 1856. His philosophy was one of “accommodation” in which “Negroes” accepted the idea of white supremacy and legalized discrimination.  In 1895, Washington gave what later came to be known as the Atlanta Compromise speech before the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta. His address was one of the most important and influential speeches in American history, guiding African-American resistance to white discrimination and establishing Washington as one of the leading black spokesmen in America. Washington’s speech stressed accommodation rather than resistance to the racist order under which Southern African Americans lived.He used the following story in his speech that day:

A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal: “Water, water. We die of thirst.” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time, the signal, “Water, send us water!” went up from the distressed vessel. And was answered: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A third and fourth signal for water was answered: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.

In his “Atlanta Compromise Address,” he urges white America to help “Negroes” acquire employment and gain knowledge in agricultural and technological fields. In return, “Negroes” would give up their struggle for social equality and voting rights. His belief was that hard work, useful education, and the acquisition of land might earn civil rights. Many supported his plan; it was the more peaceful approach to helping African Americans and required no concession to equality. White philanthropists donated money and made it possible for Washington to found the Tuskegee Institute where African Americans were taught a useful trade.
Du_Bois_WEB_seated1903W.E.B. DuBois was born a free man and was educated at Harvard University. Like Washington, he agreed that “Negroes” needed to become economically independent and better their place in the world. On the other hand, DuBois was outraged at racial injustice and inequality. He demanded that African Americans be given the right to vote, equal rights, and more educational opportunities. He wanted to reform education to meet the needs and interests of all African American students. In the “Declaration of the Principles of the Niagara Movement” he and other Black intellectuals outline a list of demands-mainly social equality. This movement led to the organization of the N.A.A.C.P. (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
Eventually, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in the United States led to a mixture of both of these approaches along with Thoreau’s ideas of civil disobedience and Gandhi’s ideas of non-violence to achieve their goals.  The women’s rights movement had a similar conflict.  The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 formulated the demand for women’s suffrage in the United States of America and after the American Civil War (1861–1865) agitation for the cause became more prominent. In 1869 the proposed nawsaFifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave the vote to black men, caused controversy as women’s suffrage campaigners such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton refused to endorse the amendment, as it did not give the vote to women. Others, such as Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe however argued that if black men were enfranchised, women would achieve their goal. The conflict caused two organizations to emerge, the National Woman Suffrage Association, which campaigned for women’s suffrage at a federal level as well as for married women to be given property rights, and the American Woman Suffrage Association, which aimed to secure women’s suffrage through state legislation.
dubsw_medIn the past, especially with my posts about Stonewall, I have talked about the early split between the conservative groups such as The Mattachine Society which tried to work with the system in the US during the 1950s and 1960s and later the Gay Liberation Front, which was more visible during the 1970s than many people actually preferred to be, but for the GLF to succeed they had no choice but to use the “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” tactics. Though The Mattachine Society was replaced by the Gay Liberation Front there still continues to be a debate about how we should go about equality.  Should we work with the system at hand (the current government), or should we be more active and use the “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” tactics?  President Obama made many promises to the GLBT community, however, he has been slow to actually push through those promises.
usmap-southI live in a highly Republican/Christian Right state which is highly homophobic.  How do I deal with this?  Sometimes you have to turn the other cheek.  You have to show them through actions, not protests that we are just like everyone else.  I tend to believe in the Booker T. Washington approach of casting our buckets where we are.  We have to work with what we have.  Does that mean that we shouldn’t occasionally fight back?  HELL NO, but still the same to gain enough allies to fight back.  Just as I wouldn’t go into a redneck honky-tonk and announce alone, “I’m here, I’m queer, fucking get used to it” instead I would make sure that I had a large support group with me and just be myself.  We are who we are, and we shouldn’t change that for other people.  I can camp it up when I have been drinking but that is not really the real me, it’s just the me without many inhibitions.  But I attempt to always be true to myself.

My Ideal Solution

I know that far too many people in this world do not follow my ethical ideals of reciprocity.  I am by no means always successful, but I strive for it everyday.  I strive to follow what we have been taught of as the Golden Rule.  Some may mock me for my belief in “love thine enemies,” “turn the other cheek,” or my oft quoted belief in “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.”
religionEvery major religion and philosophy has the ethics of reciprocity as their cornerstone.  An early example of the Golden Rule that reflects the Ancient Egyptian concept of Maat appears in the story of The Eloquent Peasant which is dated to the Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1650 BCE): “Now this is the command: Do to the doer to cause that he do.” An example from a Late Period (c. 664 BC – 323 BCE) papyrus: “That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.”  Plato quoted Socrates as stating “One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him.”  Confucius stated “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”  The ethics of reciprocity are evident in several different forms in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Luke 6:31 says: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”  In Muhammad’s The Farewell Sermon, he stated “Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.” Zoroaster, the founder of the Persian religion Zoroastrianism, probably summed it up most succinctly in his belief in “good word, good deeds, and good thoughts.”
Just think about this, if everyone followed the tenements of the Golden Rule, there would be no war, there would be not inequality, no discrimination, no sexism, no homophobia, no religious strife, etc.  We would live in a world of unlimited freedom, peace, and prosperity.  Why do we not all follow the Golden Rule?  Greed and human nature are the answer to that.  Until we decide to become better people and live by example, we will not achieve this ideal goal.  I don’t expect everyone to follow this advice, but if we realized what could be achieved though this, then we show others how humanity and grow and evolve into a utopian society of unlimited freedom, peace, and prosperity.  I realize that there is no such thing as a Utopia, and I doubt there ever will be, but I can still have hope and faith in humanity to become a better species and to treat all of mankind as you would like to be treated.
Rainbow flags gay lesbian glbt Peace Signs (2949)


Pale Blue Dot

 Sagan points out that “all of human history has happened on that tiny pixel, which is our only home” (speech at Cornell University, October 13th 1994, shown here inside a blue circle).

PaleBlueDot
In his book, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, Carl Sagan related his thoughts on a deeper meaning of this photograph:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Just think about that little pixel on this photograph of the planet Earth taken in 1990 by Voyager 1 from a record distance, showing it against the vastness of space. By request of Carl Sagan, NASA commanded the Voyager 1 spacecraft, having completed its primary mission and now leaving the Solar System, to turn its camera around and to take a photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space. It is an amazing thought that we inhabit that small pixel.  When we worry about all those things in life, when we worry about what someone has said to us, when we worry about the hate associated with small minded people, etc.  All of those things are made insignificant by that little pale blue dot as seen from a man-made satellite as it leaves the Solar System.  For me this just says so much about our existence.  God placed us on this this pale blue dot to do something, to achieve something, and that something is to treat others as we would like to be treated.  It doesn’t matter how they treat us, but how we treat them.

June is Gay Pride Month.  PrideNotPrejudiceGo out and do something that no other group does during the month associated with them.  What do I think we should do?  I think we should show random acts of kindness.  That is how we can truly show our pride.  I hope you will join me in this month of celebration by not getting upset at the homophobes that exist, but instead treat them as you wish to be treated.  I realize that this is a plea of a pacifist, but it is also a plea for humanity and equality.  We are all a part of that pale blue dot, and we must find a way to live in harmony.