Thursday, October 31, 2013

¡Que viva FSLN!

Oh how hilarious is the God I serve.

Here I sit, on my ass wrapped up in a blanket since I now get cold so easily. I am writing this on my laptop MacBook Pro, and I love my life. There are some very dire not-good-things about my life right now -- mostly of a financial nature -- but overall I am grateful beyond words for God's still-speaking breath-of-life and I know now, perhaps more than ever, that God is not only a transcendent eternal entity but that God is also immanently present in my life and God cares about me personally, to the point that God gave me Jesus so that I might know God as a human can know another human.

By now it should be obvious that I am taking my core theology class requirement this semester, n'est-ce pas? But back to the point: God is one hilarious μοθερφυκερ. Or, perhaps a better -- and less R-rated way -- of stating it is thus... what is old is new again.

Next January will mark 25 years since I moved to California. That in itself is worth a full chapter in my autobiography; however, right now I am focusing on the Fall semester of 1989, my sophomore year at Cal-Berkeley. So many things happened that fall which are foundational to my sense of self as a person who is California-by-adoption. Or a Bay-Area-by-adoption. Or, perhaps most accurately, East-Bay-by-adoption. I'm a little bit 925 and a whole lotta 510. (To my readers from outside the Bay Area: 510 and 925 are the two area codes for the greater East Bay subregion of the SF Bay Area.)

Fall 1989 was the fall of the earthquake, of course, and I could devote an entire other chapter of my autobiography to that experience. But Fall 1989 was also the semester when I took a life-changing class. Introduction To Cultural Anthropology. Anthro 3. It was a survey class, designed to introduce the student to the principles and methods of the sub-discipline of anthropology known as Cultural Anthropology. It is fascinating and wonderful, and it is very-much the way I tend to see the world. But more importantly it was taught by an absolutely wonderful academic giant named Jack Potter. He was a very good lecturer and he knew his material quite well. But more importantly, he was an avowed Marxist. He announced that in the first class meeting. And I was like... oooooookay, I'm a bit scared but whatever... Berkeley, yaknow.

And then, he rocked my world. Professor Potter introduced me to what Marxism actually is. And, as it turns out, God laughed audibly at this point in my life. Of course, I didn't know what I was hearing at the time since I was totally "over that God shit" having run away from the homophobic xenophobic ickiness of my ancestral homeland. But the more I learned, the more I realized just how totally I had been lied to about the Marxist tradition.

But Professor Potter was not just a screaming-left radical Berkeleyite. He was a deeply passionate, deeply compassionate, and deeply loving man who exposed for me the evil at the heart of the military-industrial complex and who showed me how the blueprint for true liberation given to the world by Marx was so evilly sodomized by those who followed him -- Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Min, Castro, the North Korean Kim dynasty, and any number of other "Marxist revolutionaries" through time. What I learned from this professor has stayed with me ever since. Even when I was worshipping the dollar in the software and biotech industries, I could not ignore the greater truth I had glimpsed. And most importantly, Professor Potter didn't just study Marx... he saw for himself how Marxism could blend with religion to truly liberate the poor under the banner of Liberation Theology as it existed in Nicaragua before the Reagan-era Contra death-squads destroyed it in the name of "American liberation from Communism." It was at the hands of Professor Potter that some seeds were planted all those years ago.

And this fall, the seeds have sprouted into a vine. Liberation Theology has come back to me. Thank the God of Liberation, and my comrade Jesus The Christ. As for how this resurgence of Liberation Theology into my life will inform my politics, and my religious convictions, going forward... well, who can say but God. But I can say the following, as an example.

Today in the mainstream press there was a huge story about how the NSA apparently hacked into the backbones of major corporate entities such as Yahoo, Google, and perhaps even Facebook (while also spying on the leaders of our allies such as Germany), in order to mine data about personal behaviors of private citizens using the services of these mega-corporations. Well, with my newly rediscovered Liberation Theology speaking fiercely into my heart, here is my response:

At the risk of offending some of my dearly valued friends in & near Silicon Valley, I must ask: are you surprised? No, really, are you? Beyond that, though, what really gets me hot under the (clerical) collar is the way these companies are reacting to the news. Maybe I missed something fundamental here, but it seems to me that Google, Yahoo, and any other such companies are guilty of the most vile of hypocrisies when they choose to whine to the media regarding how pissed off they are that the NSA might have hacked their backbones to spy on their users. Can we take a minute to review your damn business plans? YOUR BUSINESS MODEL IS PREDICATED ON THE SAME CONCEPT! Companies like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook make their money via targeted advertising. Targeted advertising is a nice neat term invented by capitalists. It's a neat way of describing how companies SPY ON YOUR INTERNET USAGE IN ORDER TO COERCE YOU TO GIVE AWAY YOUR MONEY. Let's not kid ourselves. Such companies do not give a rat's fat ass about our privacy beyond their ability to control how they invade it. That's right. Such companies only care about CONTROLLING our privacy. These companies are bourgeois capitalist entities and their only function is to generate profit from the slave-labor of the proletariat. These companies make money by mining & selling data about what we look at on the Internet to other bourgeois powers that are coercing us into buying shit that overall we do not need. These companies are just pissed off that the NSA is better at stealing our data than they are.

Hello world. Philip Tanner, the revolutionary thinker, has returned to the building. And yes, I am fully aware that I am posting this entry on a cloud-based service controlled by one of my bourgeois masters, the Google Lord itself. The irony of this is not lost on me.

Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.
-Matthew 23:31-35 NRSVA

 ¡Que viva el Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


A strange thing has happened in the last 4-months-and-a-week. I mean, yeah, as of today I have lost one hundred forty-three pounds and it's an achievement that still dumbfounds me (stop and think about the title of this blog post for a minute), but the strange thing I am focusing on today is my sense of time. It seems as though my sense of time has been affected by my surgery.

It is not necessarily some cosmic thing. I haven't found the elusive proof of String Theory or anything so dramatic. What I have found, however, is just how much time I have reclaimed now that I do not spend as much of my life actually eating food.

One effect of my surgery, perhaps one of the most obvious effects, is that I simply do not eat the volume of food I ate before. I have to be careful -- I have to chew my food a lot more than the average person now, and I have to consciously focus on eating slowly in general. The penalties for not doing these things are quite unpleasant. But the result is that even though my rate of consumption may be lower than before surgery, the amount of time I spend consuming food is substantially reduced.

I have, for many years now, been aware of just how much time we humans in the Global North spend on food. We spend time shopping for food. We spend time preparing food. We spend time serving food. And we spend time eating food. We spend a lot of time eating food. We socialize over food. We mourn over food. We celebrate over food. Food food food food food.

But due to my surgery, my gastric anatomy no longer works like everyone else's in the "normal" world. Again, this in itself is not some amazing epiphany. It's a basic fact, mathematically provable, logically sensible, etc. But it has had a subtle but powerful impact on my sense of time.

When I get up in the morning my first thought is not of food. Lately it has been something along the line of "shit, I'm COLD, what the HELL?" ... but that is another impact of my post-surgical weight loss that I kept being warned would happen. My stomach no longer does that aching "FEED ME SEYMOUR" crap, so my morning come-to-life routine is much more focused on the machinations of morning... feed the cats; take a morning dump; drink some water; etc. Perhaps the only real change is that I have a desire for protein-supplementation and since I get a lot of my protein from chocolate-flavored sources these days, I suppose my life-long demonstrated chocoholic tendencies are front-and-center when I wake up.

But it is not a sugar craving. Of that I am sure. I have reduced my sugar intake so extremely this year that I know I have finally achieved the impossible: I have actually detoxed from sugar. But again, that's another topic for another post.

What amazes me is that I can actually feel like I have more time in my life, literally, because I spend so little time thinking about food. I barely eat, by comparison to my entire life before my surgery, so I often find myself sitting around being confused by the passage of time. Gone -- for now at least -- are the evenings of "going out to eat with friends" that defined my social life for, well, most of my life.

In some ways it is good that my introversion has gotten so much stronger since I started my seminary studies, because I am able to use this reclaimed time for recharging my social-batteries. People -- with the exception of other introverts -- find it hard to believe that I am, indeed, an introvert. Other introverts understand me instinctively along this line of thought; I am "one of those introverts" who is the opposite of shy. But as so many introverts will tell you, being introverted does not mean that we are shy! It means that we expend energy when we are social and that when we reach our turn-point we must retreat to recharge. For me, I do not expend energy steadily; I am a burster. I get wild and crazy, and get loud and gregarious, and when I am done I face-plant.

And yet, because of this substantial reclamation of time in my daily life due to the reduction in my OCD-like food addiction, I find that I have more time on my hands. And this is a good thing... except when it is bad.

There is a paradox about time. Many of us experience the paradox like this: when we have a lot more down-time, or free-time, we become less efficient in how we use our time so at the end of the day we feel just as rushed -- or even mores -- than when we were "busier" beforehand. I have been feeling some of this effect in the last few months, but I have just now reached a point where I can put words to it. It is a curious sensation, and I am feeling it more acutely right now because of the thinning of the Veil. That All Saints / All Souls / Día de los Muertos / Samhain thing, yaknow. But it is intensified this year because -- holy shite -- it is my last year in seminary. And I am just about to be ordained. And I have come out as an addict-in-recovery to my mother. And I am looking at the end of what will likely be the last formal educational experience of my life.

I don't know what the point of this post was supposed to be, or what it ended up being. But what I do know, is that these past few years have been indescribably bizarre, and rewarding, and challenging, and holy. And perhaps that is all I need to know for now.

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
-Exodus 20:11 NRSVA

Saturday, October 12, 2013

137 - 34/34 - 525600

What a week this has been.

The song "Seasons of Love" from Rent has taken on a new-found power in my life. For those who do not know the song, it is the opening number of the second act of the musical. Its opening lyric is "five-hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes..." -- that particular refrain has become very well-known. (And, somewhat confusingly, the song is the opening song of the film adaptation.)

Restating a basic unit of measure in another much smaller basic unit of measure seems to hold more power in the British [meaning, non-metric] measuring system. It just wouldn't be the same if one year contained five-hundred thousand minutes; somehow, the "non-standardized" ratio between years and minutes (1:525600) belies more of the underlying mystery of life. Or at least, it does for me.

Anyway, the song is front-and-center in my heart this weekend because the creators of Glee used it as the opening number of this past week's episode "The Quarterback" which addressed the death of Finn Hudson played by the gone-too-soon recently deceased Cory Monteith. I have written a review of the episode which is possibly going to be published on a pop-culture blog sometime soon; I'll certainly be writing about that if it happens!

But as for me, several other measurements are currently front-and-center in my life and they carry profound meaning for me. First is "34/34" ... this week I bought a pair of jeans which are 34-inch waist and 34-inch inseam. 34/34 was my waist/inseam stat when I was a sophomore in college. To be back to that stat again is a dream come true. Nay, it is a miracle. God has been SO GOOD to me with this surgery and the changes it has wrought in my life. I cannot put into words how much this means to me. As of today, I have lost 137 pounds. And it feels like my weight-loss is going to continue. KNOCK ON WOOD! I do not want to become "married" to the idea that I might hit my dream-weight, but it is looking more possible.

But for now... how does one measure a year in a life? Is it by minutes? By pounds lost? Or should it be by how much we have loved?

Friday, October 11, 2013

About BART

I have opinions about the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. I have opinions about the slow-motion cluster-f*ck that the system and its unions have been foisting on the riding public for many months now. I am generally a strong pro-union voter; however, I am less than happy with SEIU at this point, and with BART -- both its unions and its management -- in general. In addition, I have a hard time supporting demands for higher salary from a group who are the highest paid workers in their profession in the entire world. That said, I am also very aware that BART (as a workplace) has become more dangerous than at any prior time in its 40-plus-year operating history. And that BART's board of directors are corrupt on the scale of Cook County, Illinois ... or San Francisco, California.

But right now, I am going to just vent my frustration, my desperation, and my anger. My regional ABC affiliate, Channel 7 KGO-TV, created a Twitter hashtag (#DearBART) and invited the public to send our thoughts using that hashtag. So I did. Following are my ten #DearBART tweets.

#DearBART > @SFBART is lying to the public: they do not want more riders b/c the system cannot even safely handle its current load.

#DearBART > nobody is innocent in this mess. @SFBART has a culture of lies: let's talk about the parking situation sometime?

#DearBART > nobody is innocent in this mess. @SFBART management is out of touch with the public. RIDE TRAINS SOMETIME DURING RUSH HOUR.

#DearBART > nobody is innocent in this mess. SEIU's heavy-handed tactics are not helping solve any problems with @SFBART.

#DearBART > @SFBART is dangerously overcrowded and public safety is at risk. We need MORE TRAINS and LESS BOARD MEMBERS.

#DearBART > @SFBART is a financially corrupt organization. If you have all this reserve $ then where the HELL are the new trains?

#DearBART > @SFBART does not enforce basic rules like NO LOUD MUSIC ON THE TRAINS because it does not have sufficient policing levels.

#DearBART > @SFBART engages in economic racism by under-serving the Richmond-Fremont line. MANAGEMENT NEEDS TO STOP LYING TO THE PUBLIC.

#DearBART > More facts: board members are more overpaid than rank-and-file workers. ALL of them make good wages and should stop complaining.

#DearBART > stop spin-doctoring. 2 facts: workers R paid very well but work is too dangerous. Board members are politicians. STOP LYING.

Ok, I am done venting. For now. Back to work on papers for school. Because, yaknow, I pay people to grade me; I only wish that I had the problems inherent in high-wage employment. Not that I am bitter or anything.