Friday, April 24, 2009

Fabulous ad for Iowa

Iowa recently celebrated a court decision to allow for same-sex couples to get hitched there. This is a fabulous ad put together by OneIowa, to help influence people not to work for or support a reversal of that decision. Unlike some statewide campaigns, this one actually shows gay people in it, hopefully helping those who watch it realize there are real people involved here and not just an abstract theory or religious "principle."

Watch it here.

And, if you can afford it, toss them a few bucks. I admire their donation suggestions! They range from an "anything helps" level of $5 to a note that $5000 would keep that ad running in a particular congressional district for a whole week.

And if you can't send money, send a nice note, or spread the video and donation suggestions around. They have a matching grant for $25,000 if they can raise that amount by April 30. And let's face it, volunteers can always use some nice words, especially when their opposition is so batshit crazy and foaming at the mouth. And have you ever noticed how, when religious extremists and the far right start talking about the "homosexual agenda" someone ALWAYS seems to have one sex act on their mind? Methinks some people spend a lot of time thinking about having things "shoved down throats." Just saying.

Words from the opposition in Iowa (and outside agitators)

“Sen. Gronstal has formed a pact with the rabid homosexual rights lobby in Des Moines and is now working to ram their hostile agenda down your throat!”
- Flyer from Iowa Biblical Families

“The Flood of 2008 is arguably the most destructive disaster that the state of Iowa has seen — at least, that is, until last Friday.”
- Baptist Pastor from Cedar Rapids

“I believe this case is actually about going into churches and going in and attacking churches and saying you can’t teach anything else.”
- Glenn Beck on Fox News, despite the Court’s message that religious doctrine is unaffected

“I suppose, a father and a son or a mother and a daughter… They can come to this state and get married and then go back to the state where they reside.”
- Rep. Steve King

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Got any Dresden Files books?

Someone left the first one at our house. During the library reorg, we discovered it and stashed it on the "to be read" shelf and found it was great fun.

However, they are simply not to be found on PBS and used copies seem...pricey! So, since it's a series, and sometimes people will buy a bunch of books in a series and then realize they have no great desire to keep them, I am asking...

Do you have these books and would rather have the shelf space? I will be happy to trade other books for them and/or pay for shipping costs. We have a loving home for books here and will treat them well. The author is Jim Butcher, and I am especially interested in volumes 3 and up for the Dresden Files series.

And if anyone knows - how is the TV show?

Ring of Fire, the biggest world around

Right now, I am 3/4 through Ring of Fire II (v. 2), edited by Eric Flint, who has apparently found a way to do without sleep. The Ring of Fire books, also known as the 1632 Series, belong to that small genre of "a large group of contemporary Americans find themselves sometime in the past for no discernible reason and proceed to change the world."

For example, S. M. Stirling has for his group the entire island of Nantucket. (And never a limerick anywhere in the books!) In the first volume, Island in the Sea of Timehe slams them into 1250 BCE, and if you have trouble picturing what the world was like then, they run into Odysseus. An interesting twist for Stirling is that he has two different series of books - one about the misplaced Nantucketeers and one about what happens on the world they left behind. (Given my druthers, I would have rather stayed with the Nantucket people. Just saying.) It's a sweeping world-wide story full of high fantasy tropes, engagingly improbable characters, dastardly villains and occasional lengthy and bloody battles. And one of the lead characters is a black, lesbian, martial arts master, Coast Guard Captain. (For which many people have condemned the books, saying that Stirling is PC and/or obscene, blah, blah. Whatever happened to SF people being the smart ones?) To say that his works are among my favorite for engrossing adventure and entertainment is an understatement. And his Draka books...woof. It's like the darkest of SM fantasies brought to life. When I reread those, I will go into more detail.

Flint, however, takes a small West Virginia mining town called Grantville and plops it into Europe in the middle of the 30 Years War. This series is impossibly huge, because Flint openly shares it with not only other professional writers, but with thousands of fans, who produce their own stories, some of which wind up in the supporting magazine and published anthologies and on the amazingly badly organized website for the series. I mean it, their website sucks rocks. For a bunch of people who get all geeky over the precise methods of manufacturing and warfare, they need a better web master.

That aside, I must say I enjoy the Stirling "Americans lost in time" more than the 1632 series, because of his masterful and epic writing style. (Plus, Flint looks like a High School teacher and Stirling looks like the guys I played D&D with.) But both the weakness and the strength of the 1632 series is the fact that it is a shared world. Sometimes, the novel or short story seems pedantic to the point of fetish. Other times, characters seem to change speech patterns and behavioral tics. But put together, there's this huge and varied world under construction here, spreading in all directions. So, an Italian action-adventure which has at its core a bunch of bumbling but well meaning teenagers off to rescue Galileo can act as a nice rest from reading way, way too much about various church doctrines of the time and their giant committee meetings. (At least for me.) Both the displaced Americans and the various locals appear as major and minor characters, and famous historical figures pop in for cameos or become major parts of the story. These books give me a good workout with Google; I am always looking up this king and that philosopher or artist. But then, I like that.

However, I do find myself skipping pages and sometimes entire stories of some of the contributors. It could be the topic, or the style. And there are events which unfurl over literally thousands of pages in the series; sometimes I need a codex to figure out in which volume this group gets rescued from the Tower of London, and in which book does this character die, etc., etc. A particular author can spend an entire story telling how various townspeople I can't really remember met and lived, while a central character who winds up being a sort of country-western version of James Bond seems to simply rise out of the text from nowhere.

And yet, when a new one comes out, I get it. And I enjoy...most of it. It's clear that Flint, et. al. want a more "reality based" version of the displaced Yankees story than the one Stirling tells. Stirling can't resist throwing some elements of fantasy and/or wishful thinking into the mix; but I appreciate that. But with a whole team of writers and fans constantly sending manuscripts, it's plain to see there will be simply *more* of the 1632 books. And among the quantity, there will always be some quality.

Moving right along!

Passover is done, the kitchen has been changed over (and reorganized), and I've been both avoiding writing and reading, a very odd combination for me. For some reason, visual entertainment has been more fun lately, and more interesting. I've indulged in Bones, House, M.D., The Office; (Thanks Kim!!) caught an annual viewing of some biblical epics, relaxed with Stewart and Colbert, some King of the Hill and Family Guy. Really wanted to like Kings on NBC, but wow, they missed the opportunity for some good storytelling there. (sigh) I have also enjoyed the HBO #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which is funny because I never warmed to the books.

Not that I gave up reading, per se. I reread my collection of Boondocks, devoured some cooking magazines, skimmed Haggadot for the holiday, and packed in a few books while reading at bedtime.

James Patterson had one more chance to impress me as I got Pop Goes the Weasel in the mail after I had decided his work was far too repetitive for me to appreciate. As this one came "out of order" with the others, I decided to read it before popping it back on the PBS list. Bad idea. More 3-page chapters, yet another serial killer who e-mails other killers (and would-be-killers) and yet another way for Alex Cross to lose a girlfriend.

I also read another of Daniel Silva's spy novels, this one called The Secret Servant. They also tend to be much of a muchness? I mean there are just so many stories that can be told about spies trying to catch terrorists, stop terrorists, kill terrorists. But in this case, there is enough character development and minor character involvement kept my attention, as well as the interesting descriptions of European locales and complicated political twists.

After seeing it on Amazon's "other books you might like" list for years, I gave a chance to Jaran, by Kate Elliot. This one was delightful. A soft-SF adventure novel about a woman hiding from the responsibilities of being the heir to a galactic duke (her much older brother) slips away to a pre-industrial world half filled with a people who seem a cross between Cossacks, Mongols and just enough "newly made up" cultural differences to provide the element of "strangeness" required in something from another planet. It's primarily a travel and personal relationship story; actual conflicts are spaced far apart and brutal in their lethality. But the culture of the nomad bands and their rivalries and the various mysteries woven into the story are satisfying and fun. I ordered the next two books in the series and am annoyed to find that book 4 is out of print and apparently very rare.

I'm sure there was more mixed up in there, but we reshelved a lot of books in the Passover cleanup and recovery. However, I have a nice stack of "never read before" books on our new "to be read" shelf and I am sure I will find the right balance between staring at a screen and staring at words again.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Taking a break

So, I have a huge stack of eggplant slices salting, and it seemed a good time to sit down with an ice cold kosher-for-Passover diet Pepsi. Not that there's anything in a diet drink that should not be kosher for Passover; it's the corn syrup in regular drinks which is against the rules this time of year. Which is why we have 32, count 'em, 32 bottles of kosher-for-Passover Coke in the house. That should keep Mrs. Pornographer happy for the rest of the year. Debbie Friedman is singing in the background, reminding me of the melodies for tomorrow night's Seder.

I love to cook. Which is odd, because I am not very adventurous in cooking, at least not by the standards I see around me. If you are coming for dinner, you'll probably get my pasta with red meat sauce or skirt steak; easy things I can cook (and eat!) pretty much every day. I have decidedly pedestrian tastes, despite wanting to appreciate the "better" things with all my heart. I was devastated when I realized that deep down, I didn't like most sashimi; I'm a tuna and salmon and "is this one cooked?" philistine. I have to tread very carefully with curries; my mouth can't even interpret cilantro correctly, it tastes like nasty, dry soap. So Thai food is also tricky. I have learned what I can eat without seeming too picky in different sorts of restaurants, and every time I order an old standby, I feel like I have failed some sort of cultural taste test. When I discovered I didn't like fois gras I almost cried. I'm a peasant.

Yet when I get into the kitchen with my inadequate knives and cheap pots, I really have a good time. In the past few years, I have schooled myself to experiment more and accept an occasional "what was I thinking?" moment as part of the price of getting to something that makes dinner feel special. I have unearthed some nice childhood memories - not very easy - around food and brought my mother's side dishes to my own table with success. White beans dressed with fresh parsley, garlic and a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice makes people ask for "the recipe." But that's it.

Dinner for over a dozen, and a long dinner with the chance to run overtime, is a bit of a challenge. Pasta would be great if it wasn't for the fact that Passover pasta is sucky beyond belief. There's a reason why people have bad memories of the food at Passover dinners; roasts become overcooked, vegetables become limp and tasteless, and gefilte fish is...well. Chopped, bland fish mixed with bland filler in fish jelly with a slice of raw carrot. Blech.

So, my aversion to traditional (and Ashkenazi style) dinners led me to determine that when I converted to Judaism, I converted to be a Sephardic Jew. Middle Eastern versus Central and Eastern European. Thus, my Passover contains rice dishes, lamb, and instead of a brisket, I make the moussaka. (We did actually get a rolled lamb roast for the first Leather Seder. It was delicious, but lamb for so many people

And I try, every time we do a Seder, to at least vary some of the recipes. I made a traditional tsimmes a couple of times, with carrots and apricots, but this year I roasted sweet potatoes with carrots in date syrup and cayenne. I did make a traditional charoset with apples and walnuts and honey, plus a Moroccan one with dates, figs and almonds.

Next week, I'll probably broil a nice skirt steak, toss some pears and nuts into a green salad and when the holiday is over make a rich, thick red sauce to have over penne. But this week, I am giving my spice rack a work out and pondering, as I do every year, whether I should actually get decent knives or a cast iron pan or one of those fancy stewpots. Or a food processor with more than one blade?

Time to rinse the eggplant and make more charoset.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The menu

So, for the Leather Seder, we will have...

Fresh Bitter Herb Salad - assorted leafy greens chosen for their tart and sharp flavors, accented with mint and dill, dressed with a lemon and pepper dressing.

Sephardi Roasted Eggs

Charoset Two Ways - classic style, with apples and walnuts, and Moroccan style with figs, dates and flame raisins.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Date Syrup and Cayenne Pepper

Moussaka, Sephardi style - layers of eggplant, tomatoes, and spiced beef and lamb, accented by cinnamon and nutmeg.

Cold Beet Salad with Sweet Red Onions

Roasted Cauliflower with Saffron, flavored lightly with lime and sea salt


Mock Chestnut Tort & surprise desserts brought by guests

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Leather Seder

The wife and I put together a Leather Seder (I had to look it up.) It's called Avadim Chayenu, which means "Once, we were slaves." Over the years, we've had a few of them here in Queens and this year it looks like we'll be having another "honey, ask the neighbors if they have another folding chair" size crowd.

The Haggadah is available for free to anyone who would like to see it or use it. Use this link to download the PDF file. This is an abbreviated version - the one we use has the lyrics to several Debbie Friedman songs and a few other items which would not fall under "fair use." If you would like to know what music we use, The Journey Continues is Debbie's awesomely fun CD, available for downloading, too.

The theme of a seder is familiar to anyone who has enjoyed Anne Baxter crooning, "Moses, Moses, Moses," or Edward G. Robinson trading in his double breasted suit jacket for a robe and headcloth. ("We're not gonna go with Moses, seeee? We're gonna make us a golden calf, seeee?" Kills me every time.) Every year, Jews around the world settle in at a table to retell the story of the exodus from Egypt and slavery into the ultimate in contracted relationships with the Ultimate of Tops.

So, why not appropriate this ritual for people who still negotiate relationships, fetishize rules and love to see Chuck Heston in a teeny little loincloth and a ton of chains?

I don't talk about "spirituality" and leather very much, because I am one of those people who actually believes ones personal religious beliefs are exactly that. But this is a rare exception for me, mainly because a Seder is supposed to open the way, to escape a narrow place and engage in something new. The stranger is welcomed to the table and made family. Wine flows and laughter is mixed with introspection. Someone will find what is hidden and ask for what they really want. The door is opened for a guest no one will see, but everyone knows.

I'm writing this surrounded by the middle of the kitchen transition; my cookware is still in storage, my favorite matzoh was not in the stores I went to, and this is one of those times when I really, really wonder where my f*cking houseboy is. But I think the menu is set, I'm pretty sure we can borrow enough chairs, and the leeks look especially robust in the market this year.

I wish a Chag Sameach to fellow MOTs and a joy-filled spring to everyone who finds something to celebrate. This year in Queens...

...probably next year, too. (wink)

By the way, The Ten Commandments really is just one of the best movies, evah.

NY Queers, take note!

LGBT New Yorkers: Don’t be invisible to New York State! Be counted!

Take a short survey on LGBT health and human services issues at:

Be a part of a historic effort to research and document the needs of LGBT New Yorkers, to ensure those needs don’t go unaddressed by government and health and human service providers. The information you provide will go toward fighting for policy changes and funding to make services to LGBT people in New York equitable and LGBT-friendly.
This survey is open to all LGBT New Yorkers ages 18 and over. We’ve never been counted before. This is a historic opportunity.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My appearance at

Oh, yeah, they filmed me doing an interview, too. I'd wondered what happened to the footage; it seems they edited in Peter and James saying nice things about me and a few shots of hot girls doing nasty things. And one shot of me whacking the lovely (and easily bruised) Satine. Need I remind people this is Not Safe For Work?