Dec 28

Preparing for a move

Howdy, folks. This is a quick entry to let you know that I’m getting ready to change webhosting services. I will spend the next day or two downloading all of my webpages on three subdomains, creating a backup copy of my Movable Type database, aquiring hosting elsewhere, and restoring everything to the new site. I hope to have everything done by the start of the new year, but who knows what will happen.

From your perspective, the change should be transparent. I’ll still be located at the northerngrove.com domain. So once I’ve gotten set back up and the new DNS information has propogated, things will be business as usual.

In preparation for the move, I’m disabling comments and trackbacks. That way, nothing gets lost once I start the moving process. I hope all my readers have a wonderful new year, and I’ll see you when the dust settles.

Dec 10

Masculinity and Sexuality

My friend, James, once commented to me that in our society, masculinity is a terribly fragile thing. To underscore his point, he offered an example: ?If a guy likes flowers, it?s automatically assumed he?s gay.? I?m certainly inclined to agree with James on his observation, but I also have to admit that I find myself wondering what being gay has to do with one?s masculinity. After all, I?m gay, and I consider myself 100% male. My masculinity is not up to debate.

Because of this conversation, I started wondering why this idea that gays are inherently ?not masculine? comes from. And while I considered all of the stereotypes which are the source of James?s lament, I decided that the matter had to go deeper than that. So I dug deeper, and realized that the real issue is deeply routed in how our society ? and especially the men in it ? have viewed sex in general over the past few decades.

Sex and sexual prowess has been the primary determination of a man?s masculinity for quite some time, now. Indeed, the only other factor of masculinity that even comes close to degree of importance is athleticism and physical strength. To comfirm this, one merely needs to go back to the high school locker room and pay attention to the two things that teenage boys brag to each other about: How great they did at the last game and what girl they ?bagged? over the weekend.

When you look at it from the most common view in our society, sex is all about the man. The man is the active partner, doing his thing to the woman, who is often seen as just laying there and letting him go at it. If she gets any pleasure from the experience, that?s fine. But even her pleasure is often seen merely as a sign of the man?s prowess and ability in bed. After all, anyone who watched the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine tells Jerry that she always faked orgasm whenever the two of them had sex knows that Jerry was far more concerned about how this demonstrated a lack of his own skill in bed than any sincere concern for Elaine?s lack of pleasure. Based on my own observations and conversations with people, I think it is safe to say that this is a clear case of television portraying a strong cultural trend.

But obviously, this paradigm only works when the sexual activity in question involves both a man and a woman. When you introduce a sexual situation which only involves men, this paradigm less becomes comfortable. Suddenly, rather than the activity being all about the man and the woman being a more-or-less passive participant, you have two men. Under this paradigm ? and it is only natural for us to try and squeeze any situation into our current paradigm because we are comfortable with it ? you are left with the problem that suddenly, one of the men must become passive and let it be all about the other man. Suddenly, a man has to subject himself to the needs and whims of another. This is a scenario that most men in our society cannot comprehend, and it makes them uncomfortable.

This passivity is something which men in our society have been taught to avoid as a rule. Indeed, in this sense, the idea of passively submitting to another man?s sexual prowess also collides with the competitive, athletic, and physical strength components of our understanding of masculinity.

Interestingly, some society?s ? and even some segments of our own society ? have dealt with this dissonance to some degree by only ostracizing gay men who take on the ?passive? role in male-to-male sex. In our society, you can see this by the fact that many men seem to be disgusted by the idea of ?taking it up the ass,? but remain relatively quiet about having anal sex with a receptive partner ? male or female.

The solution to this, of course, is to develop a new paradigm of human sexuality that does not rely so heavily on a strict dichotomy between passive partners and active partners, as well as coming to appreciate the importance of a receptive ? be it actively receptive or passively receptive ? role in sex. Not only will this help undo the divide between masculinity and homosexuality, but it will force us to further explore a broader and deeper understanding of masculinity.

Dec 10

Great Party

I had the most excellent time last night. My friends Michele and Belinda were invited by the Western New York Paranormal Society to come to their Christmas party. Well, Belinda was unable to go due to a previous engagement, so Michele wrote the hostess back and asked if she could bring me instead. After all, who wants to go to a party alone — especially one where you don’t necessarily know the majority of the attendees? Sarah said that was okay — in fact, she said all three of us could have come if we wanted to. So I went through my wardrobe, picked out something tastefull, bought and wrapped a small gift for the gift exchange, and headed to Michele’s house. From there, we hopped in her car to go to the party.

The party was absolutely spectacular. It was a great mix of friendly people, with personalities ranging from quiet and reserved to “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe he just said that!” I recognized a good number of faces from psychic fairs that I’ve attended with Michele (or helped with, in the case of the one sponsored by the Pagan Outreach Center, though the only person at the party I’d ever been formally intoduced to before was Ralph. But even having been involved in some of the same events (the paranormal group gets a vendor booth at many psychic fairs and similar events) made the situation somewhat more comfortable.

The gift exchange was quite a lively event, especially once a trio of people kept “fighting” over two sets of holiday candy dishes. I ended up coming home with a coin purse shaped like a stocking, which was rather amusing. And food and drink flowed freely the entire night. It was nice to be able to meet and talk with many more like-minded people for the night.

Michele and I ended up leaving at about quarter of midnight, as we were both starting to get a bit tired. I had to find a quiet place about an hour prior to that just to refocus my energies and strengthen my shields. While fun, parties like that tend to be hell on you when you’re empathic. Trying not to get bowled over by the mental and emotional state of at least twenty people congregated in a relatively small space can be quite a challenge. But let me tell you, if they were having another party tonight and saw fit to invite me again, I’d be in the car before they finished telling me I was invited.

Dec 09

Greatly Amused

In checking one of the various mailing lists I’m on, I found a link to an article about a Unitarian church who invited school students to their Pagan themed Yule celebration through a system a local school uses to distribute literature and notices. And the great beauty of the whole thing is that those Christians who want to complain about it can’t, because the right Reverend Jerry Falwell and his associates opened the door for it to happen. You see, they took the school to court so to force them to allow an evangelical church to use the same distribution system to circulate invitations to their Vacation Bible School program earlier this summer. Of course, many Christians who supported the court case this summer are finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of havng to live with the unforeseen fruits of their labor. Personally, I’m rather amused by their sudden epiphany concerning their own shortsightedness.

It just goes to show you that the old adage is true: Beware what you ask for, because you may just get it.

Dec 07

Tarot Musings: Eight of Disks

Deck: Tarot of Transformation
Card: Eight of Disks
Keyphrase: Skillful Perseverance

A lone woman, dressed in a long, simple dress, stands with her back to us in the lower right quadrant of the card. Her eyes are fixed on a point near the center of the distant horizon. There is no path before her, merely a broad, rolling landscape. The sun shines overhead just above her distant destination, and birds circle around it. A spiral pattern ? suggesting air currents ? flows from the foreground around and towards the glowing orb in the sky. To the left of the woman stands a transparent image of an antlered beast, possibly a moose.

This card calls us to keep moving forward in our journey. Though there may be no apparent path before us, we know our destination and the direction in which it lies. So it is up to us to begin walking towards it as best we can, taking comfort that our path will become more clear as we continue our quest. Indeed, quite often, the first stage in a journey is to find the path that will guide us in the rest of the journey.

However, this card reminds us that we are not left completely alone in this stage of the journey. Even without a true path, there will be those small cues that will help us find our way and make course adjustments as necessary. One merely needs to open oneself up to sensing the ?currents in the air? which will beckon us on. Or perhaps we will get more tangible clues, like the birds who follow the currents. Or perhaps even a guide ? such as the animal totem in the picture ? will show up to offer us guidance. We merely need to keep striving for our goals with an open mind and an open heart. After all, perseverance and openness are always rewarded when the time is right.

Dec 06

Tarot Musings: The Star

Deck: Tarot of Transformation
Card: The Star (XVII)
Keyphrase: Guiding Light

A lone female figure stands in the center of this card, leaning against a tree. The tree?s barren limbs and the mostly white ground at the figure?s feet tell us that it is winter. The woman wears a long, heavy dress, and a dark shawl is draped around her shoulders. From her neck hangs a pendant of an upturned crescent moon with a single flame nestled in the inner curve. The woman?s head is slightly inclined to view the lone star shining in the sky towards the left edge of the card (to the figure?s right).

This card speaks of the inner wisdom that comes from within the individual. This wisdom is available to us when we allow ourselves to stop and listen to it, divesting ourselves of the distractions that often fill our lives. The woman on the card stands in a barren winter-land because she knows that it will enable her to focus more on that wisdom she carries with herself, as symbolized by her pendant. The crescent moon suggests that this is more an intuitive wisdom rather than intellectual knowledge.

There is a strong correlation between the star in the sky and the pendant of the figure. These symbols remind us that consulting this inner wisdom is a matter of consulting the source of that wisdom ? that Divine source to which we are connected. In essence, we are reminded that the search for the sublime starts within, for that is our guiding light.

The wintry background also reminds us that cultivating and accessing this inner wisdom and the resulting cosmic understanding requires some unseen work. There may be times which we must go through a period of silence while our unconscious works to rearrange things and prepare us for the next stage of the journey.

Dec 05

Tarot Musings: Seven of Pentacles

Deck: Robin Wood Tarot
Card: Seven of Pentacles

A young man, perhaps in his late twenties or thirties, stands in the middle ofthe card so that his upper body is visible. His hands rest ato one another, the fingers of his lefthand slightly curved downwards. The end of a handle — perhaps to a shovel or a hoe — pokes into the center of his left palm. He wears thick gloves and a canvas jacket, the perfect attire for yardwork or gardening. He also wears a grey hat with a brim and a green kerchief tied around his neck, the latter being reminiscent of a boy scout uniform.

Around him are numerous leafy plants, some of which are taller than him. The pentacles rest in the leaves of these plants, sugesting they grew from them. A partly cloudy sky overhead completes this idyllic scene, creating the perfect spot for the figure’s quiet musings.

This card speaks of the relationship between effort and success. It reminds us that our projects are most successful and rewarding when we immerse ourselves in our work and lose ourselves in the process. The figure beckons us to find true enjoyment in the process as he has.

His stance also reminds us that there is no race. Great outcomes require us to lean to work through things and cultivate them over time and at an appropriate pace. The growth of green things cannot be rushed, nor can many other goals we may choose to work towards.

The kerchief suggests learning and kowledge of the ways of cultivation. In this respect, this card also reminds us to consult the sources of wisdom — whether that wisdom comes from ourselves or others — that will aid us in our work. Also, this card calls us to further develop that wisdom within ourselves as we proceed, as there’s always ways for even a master to improve.

It is only by doing these things that our efforts can be as rewarding and fruitful as possible.

Dec 02

Great Day Yesterday

I spent most of yesterday with Becky. We had a pretty good time. The day started with me going to the one office she works out of for a massage. I didn’t have anything in particular I wanted her to work on, so she basically did a full body massage. In practice, though, she spent most of the time on my legs.

She yelled at me during this part of the massage. I was having trouble relaxing my legs. Particularly, when she would go to move my legs, I’d move them for her. Apparently, that makes certain part of the massage process difficult to do effectively. I don’t know why it was such an issue for me. Probably because I have control issues, anyway.

Once the massage was over, I got dressed and we ran some errands together. Becky had to go to the printer to get flyers printed and get new business cards created. I ended up helping her with figuring out some of the details of her business cards — such as what color paper to use and the font to use for her name. Once we were done there, we swung by my bank so I could deposit a cashier’s check. You see, over Thanksgiving break, I decided to close out my savings account at the bank near my parents’ home. Because of the amount, I had them give me a cashiers check rather than giving me the balance in cash. So now that’s in my checkign account up here. Which is good, because I needed money to pay rent and a couple bills.

Once the errands were done, we decided to go catch a movie. After looking over our options, we finally decided to see “Deja Vu.” Personally, I thought it was a pretty good movie, though I found some annoying inconsistencies in the underlying concept. (Warning: Stop here if you don’t want any spoilers.) The big problem is they never made up their mind whether they wanted past events to be unchangeable with a single, permanent timeline or whether they would allow changes to the past to spawn alternate timelines. As a result, they ended up alternating between the two scenarios based on what was convenient for the plot. The end result was that they created a alternate timeline in the end, but allowed things that should have been only in the alternate timeline (such as finding the ATF agent’s fingerprints in the victim’s home) appearing in teh original timeline anyway. So it got messy. But other than that, it was a good movie. And Denzel Washinton was as great as ever when it came to playing his part.

After the movie, Becky and I went to check out Red Robin, which just opened here in the past couple of weeks. It was a pretty nice experience, though it’s quite obvious that they’re not kidding about their reputation of being a “Burger and Spirits” establishment. They’re just about the only things on the menu. But the BBQ burger I had was excellent and the desert was practically orgasmic, though entirely too big. Fortunately, Becky was there to help me eat it all. And of course, there were plenty of cute guys to check out.

All in all, I felt it was a delightful day.

Dec 02

Tarot Musings: Seven of Swords

Deck: Robin Wood Tarot
Card: Seven of Swords

A man shrouded in a gray hooded cloak is climbing over a waist-high stone wall. Only eyes, nose, and mouth are visible from within the hood, wearing a scowl that suggests anger and bitterness. Sticking out from beneath the man’s cloak are four swords, while a line of tents is visible in the background, suggesting an encampment from which the man stole his treasures. His left boot rests on a flat surface of stone that sticks out halfway down the visble side of the wall, aiding the man in his escape.

This sword speaks of ill-begotten gain, both material and intanglible things which we have aquired in less than honorable ways. Like the man on the card, we sneak away feeling that we have gained something, but at the expense of our own integrity. Most often, these occasions occur when we feel that we are due something and have been cheated out of it. After all, the expression on the man’s face makes it clear that he feels that his pilfered blades are rightfully his. Perhaps he too feels that he was beguiled out of them unjustly and sees his thievery merely as the best way to rectify the situation.

However, this card reminds us that even the right result achieved in less than honorable ways robs us of something greater. While the man may be collecting what is rightfully his, his methods of doing so shall permanently mar him as someone who is slippery and less than trustworthy. Indeed, the relatively small size of his stepping stone in the escape — barely big enough to rest his boot upon — suggests a precarious path, and one that can easily result in a sudden downfall. And so it is with the path of going to dubious means to aquire our goals, no matter how noble they may ultimately be.

This card calls us to consider our methods of getting what we want and going where we want to be. It calls on us to be upright in our dealings, even when those we deal with fail to return the favor. After all, the way in which we make the journey for ourselves can have as lasting effect on us our final destination.