30 May, 2018

Dawn Dancing, and things memorial

It's been a while since this woodchuck last rambled much beyond what is required to hold down a job. Happily, with my father and i mostly packed for an eventual move that is taking its sweet time, a chance to take a break from the perpetual stressors presented itself, and dad agreed to lend me the car.

Long-distance drives have been the norm since i was a kid, when my siblings moved to Maine and West Virginia. These days, though driving is more a chore than a joy to me, there's still an element of fun in trying to choose the most efficient route and beat the Camry's fuel efficiency specs.

When your focus is on driving as efficiently as possible, you start to discover who the bullying drivers are, and who's just not paying attention. It's as though most drivers think the speed limit is a minimum speed! Not to mention how few respond to the signs that warn of pending speed limit downgrades, or bother to reduce their speed on wet roads.

A navigation fail added an hour of high-stress, high traffic conditions to the travel time. Though the wooded and stream-lined mountains of New Hampshire made for a drive that was mostly pleasant, frustration combined with nicotine withdrawal made for an angry woodchuck. Thankfully there are spots like Loveren's Mills Road in Antrim, NH, where a little dirt parking area for some state fish & game lands offered a brief time-out before a rain-soaked descent into Brattleboro, Vermont.

Brattleboro Dawn Dance is an opportunity to mingle with some wonderful dancers from around New England. This year it was special because for the first time, i attended it with the person i've been sharing my life with mostly long-distance for eight years. Gary hadn't danced in about six years, so he was timid about getting out there on the floor, and despite taking dramamine, struggled with motion sickness, but he managed three contras and enjoyed the music.

I danced until both knees started complaining, then retired to the motel room for a nap. But i was up with the robins, back on the floor by five AM to dance up the dawn (sunrise / lights-out was at 5:17).

Since i didn't take any pictures at the dance, here's one taken in 2011. The dancer dipping me is caller Luke Donforth, who called up the dawn this year. Having done the same last Memorial Day, i have mad respect for Luke's craft. (As a new father, i can't help but wonder if he has an edge on being alert at odd hours. I jest, just more mad respect.)

It was good to have a day to decompress, a hot tub to ease strained knees, and a full night's sleep before the trip home. Also nice to spend some time walking around Brattleboro with Gary.

And then it was back to current normal. Happily, over the 574-mile round trip, the Camry got 45.9 mpg - well above the EPA estimate of 34 and average driver reports of 36.5!

May 29 was the ninth anniversary of my mother's passing, and i brought her memory along on the trip in the form of lilac blooms. Lilacs indoors weren't something she could enjoy - her airways would close up instantly - but they were nonetheless a reminder, as i drove by blooming bush after blooming bush.

Today, the newest generation of my family has entered the world. Blessings to my niece and her husband as they embark on parenting.

23 May, 2018

Adventures in eldercare: The passenger seat

"Honor thy father." It's a challenging dictum to follow when thy father is approaching eighty, and thoroughly attached to an illusion of independence steeped in America's love affair with the automobile. My siblings have conveyed to me that they feel our father, behind the wheel, may be a danger to himself and others. I recognize this firsthand. 

This past Monday we were headed to Bangor together. I had a neat logistical plan laid out in my head to run errands efficiently and be home early, in time to make the most of a day off and do some cooking. But he insisted on driving, and once i was in the passanger seat headed toward the Narrows bridge, insistent on driving the route west of the Penobscot River to visit the branch of his credit union he used for years, the branch farthest from the rest of our errands. 

Frustrated, i sat in the passenger seat doing all i could to hold my tongue as he consistently drove ten miles per hour or more above the speed limit. (So much for my continued efforts to model mindful driving and encourage him to take advantage of the Camry hybrid's fuel efficiency.) On one of the longer uphill grades, where there's a left lane, he passed two other vehicles and was bearing down on a tanker trailer. "The lane is ending!" i yelled, and he slammed on the brakes just as the trailer began to merge left. I think there was about fifteen feet between the passenger seat and the back of that trailer. 

At the credit union, i said "There's a way of doing this where i could enjoy being your passenger. A way i could be rooting for you, rather than actively rooting for you to get another speeding ticket, and not be reminded every time i get in this seat i am literally putting my life in your hands." 

He laughed. While he was inside the credit union, i moved to the drivers' seat. Thankfully, he didn't challenge that choice. 

That's a little slice of current reality. Soon, we will be living in Bangor, and i hope he will surrender the keys more easily when his sweetheart is no longer a half-hour's drive away.

Now that i'm working in Bangor, there are days i make the commute without my father. Southbound, in Orrington, there's a pull-out on the right just before some of the steepest grades on the route. So now i let other drivers pass me, and so long as the rearview is clear, take the uphills at a pleasant 35 m.p.h., resuming the 50 m.p.h. speed limit on the downgrades. The Camry hybrid almost makes me not hate driving.

I could be doing the same job as a grocery service clerk an ever-pleasant five minute walk from my Tucson home. But i'm making an effort to define "honor thy father" for myself, so being nostalgic for Tucson life, and mourning the loss of access to "my" little piece of earth is counterproductive. 

Here in Bucksport, the trees are unfurling their leaves. The warblers are back, which means the globe's still working, though aside from bird life, the estuary is pretty dead. The paper mill stands silently insolent.

24 October, 2016

Elegy for a compost pile

It’s been a long time since i’ve felt such a stirring to write for writing’s own sake, fingers pining for the keyboard and remembering what retreat and sanctuary i found in the act of writing. Too long without taking a reflective hour to memorialize the passing day. 

In the latest round of garden expansion, i had excavated the beginnings of a new bed. My housemate Gary joked that it looked like i was preparing to bury someone or something, and i had every intention of burying some horse manure there, one of these days, when the horse manure connection was available and friends could help with their truck. Then living order asserted itself as what seemed to the lazy mind entropy and disorder. A task not in my awareness four days ago was, looking back on the day, the one real, necessary thing i accomplished beyond the daily chores - and that’s the sort of day that begs reflection.

A compost pile is more than just a cache of vegetable scraps, egg shells, and the right balance of carbon and nitrogen residues to achieve efficient decomposition. It’s a sourdough, a partnership with microbes as delicate and resilient as a kefir culture, a mother of vinegar, or a good scoby. Compost is metaphysical, an apotheosis of that natural alchemy constantly transforming death into new life. It is alive, for it contains millions of organisms. 

When three years ago i signed the contract with this little chunk of earth, i purchased among other minor outbuildings a small stake-sided bin. Whatever feral microfauna the home’s prior owners had managed to lure into their service lay in a rather dried out pile. Over seasons as compost receptacles came and went, a little of the old compost went into each new pile. 

Autumn 2016. My little microbial cattle were grazing quite happily in the remains of an old Tucson barbecue - a brick structure along the back fence, handy to the garden, that handily held two batches of compost side by side. Overly vegetative tomatillos - they grew like weeds, but never set fruit - got tossed in, along with the Anaheim pepper on its last legs. Then the nights got cooler, and the compost started to sputter. 

One day while watering, what i thought was a beneficial wasp alit on the watering can. Little did i know this was actually a black soldier fly, a common yet not oft seen and largely unsung ally in decomposition. The slender black adult, which i later learned was Hermetia illucens, was the first sign the pile had cooled too far. Adding some vegetable scraps i found the writhing mass of larvae that helped - though icking me out a bit at first - clarify the insect visitor’s identity. Consulting the internet took my stress level down a notch. I could accept that this very squirmy batch of larvae are allies, and while i still needed to do something with the pile, that task’s urgency could be downgraded. The fact the compost had cooled enough for macro-grazers had yet to sink in completely. Then one day, proverbially haying the microbial cattle, i lifted the paving stones set atop the pile to see a very quick scuttle. Not a slow fly-larval writhe, but the unmistakable movement style of a cockroach. “Scores” might be an appropriate scale on which to estimate the pile’s roach population. 

On the heels of several months of occasional indoor roach visitors, this discovery of massive proliferation lent a certain urgency to the “deal with compost pile” task. How to vanquish a roach nest - without poison and without landfilling the compost? I was stymied until i remembered my parents’ time-tested method of dealing with garden pests: drown them. 

A few roaches ran for a nearby woodpile (the lizards’ favorite hang-out spot), but most made the journey by shovel into the blue rubbermaid tote where they met a watery death. Unfortunately, drowning the roaches meant drowning the compost pile and all its other denizens. The H. illucens larvae, a few massive white grubs, isopods, ravenous staphylinid beetle larvae - i couldn’t begin to identify the organisms i could see, not to mention the ones i couldn’t - and most of the aerobic microbe populations perished with the roaches. The morning after this act of destruction i had a new resource: a vat of compost tea that didn’t yet stink to high heaven. (Anyone who has dealt with waterlogged compost may well know the aroma of anaerobic decomposition.)
The sloppy, waterlogged remains of the drowned compost pile were laid to rest in the sepulcher intended for horse manure in a sort of substitutionary fertility rite, ligneous central stalks of the disappointing tomatillos and a few still wriggling H. illucens and all. In the world of compost nothing, in the end, is lost. The whole garden got a shot of the tea - some sixteen gallons worth - before i worked the solids into the garden. That fertility, hopefully, will be the secret to finally growing Romanesco cauliflower.

Unless we get all Leeuwenhoek with the microscope regularly, those of us who dabble in micro-ranching never see our flocks. Composting is in many ways an act of faith - though i can’t see the microbes, their populations are present, shifting in response to the pile’s microclimate and other ecological factors, and actively reshaping its internal ecology.

It’s easy to neglect an invisible resource.

07 December, 2015

Oral traditions, digital transmission

This multimedia essay, gestated four months, is intended as a gentle critique, clearinghouse, and attempt to set the tone for future discussions on making the most of online resources available to the folkdance community, via an analysis focused on the contradance universe. It's a bit long, but i hope if the topic area is of interest to you that you'll set aside an hour or so to fully digest what the linked videos convey, that you'll share and discuss it with other practitioners of your own folk tradition, and that the effort put into writing this will positively impact other performers' development just as the efforts of the contra-verse's documentarians have impacted my own, adding zest to contras everywhere.


Much has been said by folklorists and musicologists on the methods of oral transmission in folk traditions. But while oral transmission remains a valuable conduit for the propagation of tunes and action of the folk process, the majority of learning musicians today rely on printed collections of tunes. This is positive in light of how the uniformity of printed texts allow musicians from different regions to share common repertoire without the obstacle of strong regional variations in a given melody. Ear learners, however, have access to a far broader range of tunes that may not exist in printed form. Audio recordings, MIDI transcription and the internet have allowed an explosion in the number and variety of folk tunes accessible to musicians anywhere on the planet. 

Folk music, storytelling, and community histories are easily recognized examples of orally transmitted traditions. Dance calling is another, and despite publication of dance sequences, calling arguably remains more dependent on oral transmission than its allied traditions. Like musicians, dance callers collect repertoire, often at weekends and festivals, from peers and mentors, from printed texts including event syllabi (for example, syllabi of the annual Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend being an excellent resource available online, one of a number of valuable online resources available from the University of New Hampshire Library special collections) and through exchange via email and listservs. Unlike musical constructions, which do not require the performer to generate a method of instruction, dance sequences obtained in printed form are often collected lacking key information - information on how best to teach sequences and transitions, information on how dancers respond to a given sequence and its transitions, and information on the technical elements of dance calling that relate to personal performance style and stage presence. This missing information is gathered through observation at events, in workshops, and in verbal and written conversation among peers and mentors, and generated through observation of similarities among sequences in a growing caller’s repertoire. 

Over the past five years, the efforts of a handful of professional documentarians and many more enthusiastic amateurs have revolutionized digital transmission of the contra dance tradition. At this writing in December 2015, a YouTube search for “contra dance” yielded some 177,000 results, many of which are full dance sequences from various festivals and regular dance series, along with instructional videos such as contrasyncretist’s flourish tutorials, George Marshall’s beginner session, and Dennis Merritt's performer interviews. Any caller can easily collect a range of dance sequences, and as videographers post and choreography nerds continue to identify dance sequences, possibilities for caller - and musician - repertoire collection expand rapidly. 

This rapid expansion is not without thorny questions of intellectual property, release waivers, and dancer privacy, matters with which the dance community will need to grapple in the future. Regardless of those implications, YouTube and similar video sharing platforms now occupy a unique niche with rich potential for the tradition’s future.

Let’s take a dance break. 

The above example includes a number of different types of information beyond the sequence itself (“Lanier Equation” by Bob Isaacs). Not only does the video clearly capture Nils’ full prompting and timing of calls in early iterations of the dance, it reflects the mechanics of the sequence and how dancers respond to transitions. 

Repertoire collection is an important but relatively small part of callers’ ongoing development. An equally important element of calling skill is to modulate the voice, respond to dancers' movements, adjust calling to reorient and reinforce when dancers are uncertain, and engage in on-the-fly set management. 

Two videos of Lisa Greenleaf’s calling aptly illustrate the potential utility of recorded sequences for learning these skills. Note the set management occurring around the 1:11 mark here; voice modulation and the use of clarifying prompts are illustrated here. In some ways recorded sequences are superior to in-person observation in that they allow repeated observation of ephemeral elements that may slip by unnoticed when one is engrossed in the immersive momentary experience of interactions with partner, minor set, and music (note dancers' response to the Free Raisins’ exemplary musical climax at the 3:23 mark here).

Such online resources may be of particular value to developing callers in rural areas for whom opportunities to learn from the best national-level performers are often infrequent and subject to financial, scheduling, and travel constraints. While they are no substitute for personal peer and mentor relationships, online recordings have a demonstrable potential to increase performer and therefore dancer skill and enjoyment in remote dance communities lacking the economic resources to regularly import top-flight talent for events and workshops.
More can be learned from a recorded sequence than simply figures and calling technique: the careful observer may note how a tune set works with a given dance and, with diligence, how several different tune sets modulate dancers’ kinesthetic responses to the same dance, a possibility that grows as recordings are added but which requires that uploaders identify the dance sequence in the video title or at least in the description. Learning musicians can observe how performance situations differ from studio recordings (e.g.: how the best bands abbreviate phrases early in a set to accommodate the calls, which was my reason for selecting that particular video of Nils and Elixir), and how arrangements are built and deconstructed. Ear-learners can collect tunes, and online mp3 conversion and tempo alteration tools can facilitate ear learning. 

On YouTube, digital transmission grows to resemble oral transmission: dance tunes are heard in their living, amorphous form, and thanks to DSLR onboard audio quality limitations, with enough noise to result in meaningful variation through signal degradation much as orally transmitted tunes achieve variation through limitations of human memory.

Here’s another fantastic example of an information-rich recording: while the calls are not as clear, it’s easy to observe dancers’ response to Marty Fager’s “Balance and Bounce” early on, and visible details of the Syncopaths’ adventurous arranging offer learning musicians inspiration, echoing Colin Quigley’s observation in the 1993 paper Catching Rhymes: Generative Musical Processes in the Compositions of a French Newfoundland Fiddler that “experimentation is always within the structural parameters of the fiddle-tune form.” 

The utility of recorded sequences to callers, however, turns on the inclusion of key information. Ron Buchanan’s “Glenside Promenade” is challenging to successfully collect from this video because Ron does not use the terms “partner” and “neighbor” in the prompts, and the camera motion that makes it such a watchable video complicates a learner’s ability to deduce which of the swings is with partner and which is with neighbor. Dancers’ behavior suggests that would be the first swing, a deduction reinforced by the nature of whole set promenades, which are almost always done with a neighbor. Potential for collection errors would be reduced if the camera lingered on a single region of the hall for a full iteration of the dance. 

At this point it is important to note an enormous absence within the vast trove of recorded dance sequences online: the absence of the walk-through. It may be possible to ascribe a certain sense of privacy to the walk-through, as it is the time when dancers are learning - but it's more likely the walk-through's absence stems from a key difference in status between bands and callers. Callers have fans, sure, but from an organizing perspective the average dancer is more likely to turn out for a particular band than a particular caller; excitement resides in dance time, not teaching time. Teaching workshops are useful, but the best tool for a developing caller is to observe the best callers in action, and the absence of walk-throughs is a limiting factor in what can be gained from recorded sequences. 


While next-generation digital transmission offers rich possibilities, questions arise both about the intellectual property ramifications of video posting and about how videographers can maximize the utility of these publicly available archives to current and future developing performers. Many contra choreographers already make their sequences freely available online, but some do not. What are the implications of identifying recorded sequences for intellectual property among dance composers? Has the late 20th-century effort at dance-book publishing acceded to this digital evolution of oral tradition sufficiently that taggers need not consider whether a dance has been previously published when commenting with a sequence name? 

For an oral transmission to make the most of what digital transmission allows, it is important to recognize that different documentary approaches will facilitate different results. Videos which afford the best learning opportunities to callers and musicians may not be the best videos for organizers to leverage as tools to recruit and train new dancers in dance etiquette and uncommon courtesy. How can the contra community as a whole shape this emerging resource to best transmit the tradition? How can the community guide developing musicians and callers to gain the most from YouTube’s possibilities as a learning tool? 

At some point in the near future, i would argue, it may be beneficial for an organization like CDSS to dedicate resources or the efforts of a qualified individual to develop a “curriculum” of videos like the ones i have included in this post, explaining what the particular types of information learners should look for. The efforts of tagger extraordinaire ccpage19143 would do well to be abetted by others with a similar depth of choreographic knowledge, and a new layer of comparative analysis of tune-dance pairing would be possible were uploaders to note sequence names in video titles. Adding links to recorded sequences would give Michael Dyck’s dance index vastly more utility than the resource's current list of links to printed texts offers. Dance organizers could include in outreach and advertising materials or on “second dance free cards” a URL or QR code linking new dancers to an orientation video on basic style and etiquette.

A significant advantage in harnessing the power of this unorganized body of information is that efforts need not be local. It is our local dance communities that nourish us, but when we invest effort in enhancing the body of contra performance knowledge on a meta-scale, that effort improves communities across the contra-verse including our own. There are many dedicated and passionate practitioners of the form - here i sing the choreographers, veteran local callers, musicians, organizers, wearers of many hats - whose efforts are seldom recognized outside their local communities but whose contributions to the contra-verse amplify the effectiveness of initiatives at many scales. There is a human resource dimension to the questions of digital transmission, and it is perhaps a dimension characterized by the problem of coordinating distributed volunteerism in ways that have direct benefits to local communities while simultaneously enhancing the meta-resource.  

I’ve outlined here some of the key possibilities and considerations i think must be raised and discussed throughout the contra-verse in order to make the most of the opportunities inherent in digital transmission. Focusing the raw potential of an as-now-unorganized resource will require ongoing dialogue and some application of fiscal and temporal resources, but that outlay of effort may be key in ensuring community dance is as accessible as we dream it to be and continues to flourish on into the 22nd century.


Footnote: The role of video editing has been left out of this analysis - despite that being a primary skill area of mine - because the role of editing is worth an essay of its own.

I'd like to thank Doug Plummer, Doug Heacock, Dave Pokorney, Ray Sebold, John Newsome, John Michael Seng-Wheeler, Chris Page, Ryan Holman, Dennis Merritt and all the others whose investments in documenting the contra dance tradition online have been instrumental to improving my skill as a dancer and caller.

09 November, 2015

Winter garden (prologue)

I picked the garden spot because it was the only place in the back yard that made sense. With a neighbor and his pickup truck, a few cubic yards of composted horse manure were procured, and with the help and viking metal proffered by a visiting midwesterner learned in the arts of soil, the horseshit was given a proper burial. Then came leaves from the neighbors' pistachio tree and leaflets from my mesquite, roots left behind after leafy early summer harvest; micturated beer mingled in the soil with three months of laundry water and above-average September rain.

When i pulled back the basil, three feet tall and mostly lying on the ground, what i found was astonishing. Little trace of the leaf mulch remained: the top three inches of soil were filled with filamentous fungal hyphae. As i forked and raked the soil, i found shriveled fruiting bodies. My desert garden grew mushrooms! Thanks to all that leaf mulch (and urine, putting leaf decomposition on speed), in just under eleven months the soil's organic matter content has increased considerably.

We'll see how things do with a Nov. 7 planting date. What went in the ground: Danvers 126 carrot, Cylindra beet, Romanesco cauliflower, Tokyo Bekana, Tatsoi, and mesclun mix, along with hardy mustard and "dancing kale" gene pools from Restoring Our Seed all those years ago.

04 November, 2015

Gratitude season

So picking up the story where i left off, after the abrupt loss of job and temporary work left me severely depressed, I decided to head back to Maine where i could work for an old friend and keep an eye on my 77-year-old dad, who had given us all a little scare with pneumonia earlier in the spring and would continue to live alone until October. While there, i hoped to get my motorcycle on the road so i could ride it home to Tucson and have wheels here. Turns out Virago carbeurators are as finicky as they tell you, and when you're earning ten an hour to the mechanic's sixty-five, professional help is hard to finagle.

Because life is never stressful enough, one of my tenants contacted me in early September to report boxes in his room had been tampered with, personal documents were missing, and he was dealing with identity theft. Soon i too found myself receiving decline notices on credit cards i'd never applied for. When i returned to Tucson, two pieces of furniture were missing and three camera lenses and my violin had disappeared from the storage closet, along with my mortgage documents. The tenant who now, nearly a month later, admits he allowed an unauthorized occupant in my home - something i initially knew only from others' reports - says he's going to sue me.

It wasn't just an armoire, lenses and violin missing. So many of my personal belongings had migrated into that tenant's room that it took days to get any real sense of what had been stolen versus simply appropriated.

You don't really know the value of an item until it's stolen. Sure, it has a replacement value, and keep a list of serial numbers just in case. Sentimental value includes sweat equity: I poured every bit of earnings from my first job into buying those lenses. The violin i was looking forward to play in the neighborhood's Las Posadas processions this Christmas season; all that's left of it is a single Pirastro string envelope by the trash cans. I can get another dozuki saw, but that one belonged to my mother. Because the universe is never finished, while i was putting dishes away, my favorite mug decided to fall and shatter.

Trying to accurately gauge my losses, i ended up with a dual-entry. For everything i had to replace, there was another reminding me of its origin memories, its latent value as art, its usefulness.

Out here in Arizona, November is a comfortable, slightly rainy month. The basil had grown so out of control it took up most of the garden - even started putting down adventitious roots - and smells glorious. The soil was actually damp two days after rain, thanks to all that prostrate basil. Three volunteer jalapeño plants that sprouted in the potted jasmine already held pendant podfuls of capsaicin. I can't really think of a more appropriate "welcome home to Tucson" sign from the garden than volunteer jalapeños.

Bronzed beech trees and bare boughs or mesquite and cacti, November has a special feeling for me no matter the climate and flora. I start staring down that fourth Thursday and think to myself, "it's gratitude season." 

26 June, 2015

Sackcloth and ashes

For many of my friends, GLBT individuals and cisgendered / heterosexual allies alike, today is a joyous affirmation of equality and dignity under the law. After reading through the court's momentous decision and four impassioned dissents, however, i must confess i don't feel like celebrating. My thoughts are instead with those for whom the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is proof positive of America's decline.

For starters, the left's scorn of the four dissents is palpable in comments like "your tears are delicious." Such sentiments are as toxic to our civic discourse as the fearful rhetoric used to impel voters to pass the laws today's ruling overturned. As tempting as it is to go all argle-bargle and impugn the dissents, particularly Justice Scalia's (see #AskTheNearestHippie), demonizing dissenters is disturbing. But i digress. What bothers me most is the rush to proclaim, whether in "showy profundities" or shrill disapproval, what marriage is and is not.

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family," Justice Kennedy writes in his concluding paragraph. "In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were."

Can embody. Can become. Marriage, whether civil or religious, is not a magic bullet. Marriage can be an utter hell, should the participants therein not act in the best interest of their union. It is, like anything in life, what we make of it, not to be taken lightly. Does marriage make our nation stronger? Not if it's a bad marriage. Does today's ruling render marriage meaningless? One could make the cynical argument that secular straight folks, Vegas wedding chapels, seventh marriages and shotgun weddings long since have. I would argue that it is in the love and actions of married individuals that marriage finds its meaning: We as a society collectively derive meaning from the sum of individual meanings, religious teachings and cultural experiences of marriage writ large. I stand with Evangelical left leader Tony Campolo when he writes that "the institution of marriage should always be primarily about spiritual growth," and believe that if indeed gays and lesbians wish to claim the rights, responsibilities and "transcendent purposes" of marriage, we must diligently aspire to those purposes, and demonstrate dignity to those who would deny it.

But to the subject of America's decline. Yeah, America's in decline. America is still exceptional, just not in all the positive ways we used to be: highest incarceration rate in the world, for example.

I'm turned inside out tonight. It was surreal to see the White House lit up in a rainbow. And something about the decadence with which that postdiluvian gesture was displayed throughout media and social media made my stomach churn. What started the churn was a shorthand reference to Proverbs 16:18. "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Pride was everywhere, and nobody was talking about the TPP, TTIP or TiSA -- leftwing-conspiracy theorists are probably loving that -- or about this morning's trio of terror attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia. Nothing wakes up an atheist like adhan. (I know from experience.)

Nature offered no respite from rainbows. As i waited for a bus, a massive and intense bow spread across the pueblo's sky. It remained there for more than half an hour.

Christians, and it's the ones of you who are upset be today's ruling i'm talking to here: You know those bold displays of homosexual conceit (and of LGBT dignity being affirmed by a world sometimes more Christlike than you)? Those you are responsible for. Pride, in the sense of that thing gay people resort to to keep from feeling less-than-human, is the offspring of shame promoted by body negativity and sex negativity (again, speaking from experience), and you've had a big hand in that. You created the need for all those rainbows by promoting a morality that pushes LGBT people to the margins rather than welcoming them, sexual orientation and all, as God's beautiful handiwork. Morality does not consist of how others' actions affect us. It consists of how our actions affect ourselves and others.

While some of y'all are celebrating marriage equality and some of y'all are flipping your lid, a great many people don't have the economic luxury to notice. But a few people on the other side of the world (who are as unhinged on Divine Revelation as you and even more keen on the afterlife) did notice, and they saw the White House lit up like a great big rainbow target. So sure, have a great time celebrating Pride and have a great time greasing the wheels of the Republican reaction machine and have fun bitching about unelected judges and lamenting as disastrous America's decision to affirm in secular civil legal tradition, on civil legal precedent, the right of all consenting adults to marry the partner of their choice. 

The rainbow has a very specific meaning in the tradition i come from: God's symbol of his promise never again to destroy the world with a flood. Education and good sense do not permit me to read as literal that story, but meaning transcends the literal. The rainbow to me represents a promise of grace: the promise that God will never again destroy the Creation. "He" is leaving that up to us. The question is, do we destroy ourselves through the consequences of our choices? You can blame natural disasters like drought or the Houston flooding on homosexuality if you want, or you can realize that, among the things that *are* true and which you *should* be flipping your Christian lid about, is the utter waste our society is laying to the planet. Who needs fire from heaven when we're adding this much CO2 to the atmosphere?! Denial doth not the consequences of complicity in capitalism's crimes against creation absolve. And you may discover, if you happen to be even the slightest bit wrong on that bit about every word of your Book being literally, infallibly true as translated and taken wildly out of its historical context (which is a pretty reasonable possibility), that Jesus is not in fact going to reappear to make you magically transform into a heavenly being, and that if we continue to mindlessly soil our nest you are just as frelled as all of us, and just as much to blame.

So can we stop fighting about what other people do in their bedrooms and start talking about whether or not your God would approve of the violence we're doing to each other with guns and greed and words, and of the damage we're doing to the planet via our fossil energy habit? And whether maybe those things actually matter more in the scheme of Luke 10:27 than whether or not consenting adults are allowed to marry? Can you apply your sense of Divine Wrath to things that actually piss God off as per Matthew 25? And can we all try to live by Jesus' actual teachings? Please and thank you!

Meanwhile, in Mosul, comeuppance for George W. Bush's immoral, illegal invasion of Iraq is brewing.

Once more, in case it didn't sink in the first time. Morality, as described by Christ in the gospels, does not consist of how others' actions affect us. It consists of how our actions affect ourselves and others.