Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger 1919 - 2014

Pete Seeger's Banjo

Seeger singing for Eleanor Roosevelt and a racially mixed audience in segregated Washington DC in 1944

Seeger before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, 1955; He refused to plead the Fifth Amendment, refused to name names, and refused all cooperation with the Committee.  He was charged with contempt of Congress and sentenced to 10 years in prison.  The sentence was thrown out and the conviction reversed in 1962.

Pete Seeger with Dr. Martin Luther King, Charis Horton, Rosa Parks, and Dr. Ralph Abernathy, 1957

Seeger in Greenwood, Mississippi, 1963

Seeger performing with Bob Dylan, 1963

Pete Seeger marching with Occupy Wall Street Protesters, about 2011

A friend of mine met Pete Seeger when Seeger was in his late 80s.  My friend was there to clean up after a benefit for a labor organization.  Seeger came back to personally thank each of the cleaning staff.  He was warm, generous, happy, and remarkably energetic for so old a man.  He was a man of many superior gifts.  Instead of clobbering the rest of us mere mortals with his superiority, he very generously shared out his gifts and gave it all away to make everyone else a little stronger.

Thanks Pete Seeger for always being there and giving us heart.

Rest in Peace and rise in glory.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Some New Paintings

I've been busy in my studio over the past 2 months.  Here is what I've come up with so far.

These are all my photos, so the quality is not the best.

Painting Fire
This is another painting from the new series about the artist and writer David Wojnarowicz that I've been working on since 2011.  This painting is about David's mural painting in the abandoned (and now destroyed) warehouses on the West Side docks.

The Mountain
This painting remains unfinished.  I will probably go back and repaint the foreground figures and other aspects of the landscape, but I'm not quite sure yet how I will do so.

The Homophobe Mascot

Counterlight's Peculiars proclaims Maxim "Tesak" (the "Hatchett") Martsinkevich as the mascot for the games in Sochi, and as the poster child for homophobes and their religious and ideological enablers and funders everywhere.

Here's your ultimate fighter for traditional family values, for children's welfare, for morals and decency, for God with a penis.

Scott Lively, Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson, Pete LaBarbera, Bryan Fischer, Sally Kern, Tony Perkins, Brian Brown, Phyllis Schlafly, Robert Jeffress, Maggie Gallagher, your Graces, Eminences, Holinesses, and assorted cardinals, metropolitan patriarchs, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, monsignors, priests, pastors, preachers, rebbes, rabbis, ayatollahs, sheiks, mullahs, etc. ...

Come get your boy!

Once again all you good Christian folk who are anxious to protect "the family and all things decent," this guy is on YOUR side.  You see yourselves as on the side of decency.  Do you see anything decent here?  This guy is fighting for YOU.  He's on his way back to Moscow to face criminal charges for directly and aggressively taking on what you see as a primary threat to morals and civilization.  Again, I do this not to impugn you by association with this man, but to make you reconsider your position.  There's probably nothing wrong with you, but that's all the more reason to reconsider your views about your LGBT neighbors.  Who's really the threat to all things decent here? the organist from your church with his longtime boyfriend that everyone calls his "roommate"? or folks like this who claim to be "protecting" children and purifying the earth?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Gays Did It...They Always Do It

I'll never understand obsessive homophobes.

In Syria, Bashir Assad is determined to hold onto power for himself and his dynasty at all costs.  Al Qaeda not only wants to overthrow him, but to realize their dream of a reviving a mythic unified Caliphate of all the (Sunni) Muslim faithful at all costs.  Both Assad and Al Qaeda between them have made Syria into a hell for its inhabitants.
International corporations in Latin America, Africa, and South Asia bulldoze their way into local cultures, extract natural resources with all the profits going to themselves and to whatever warlord claims the leasing rights, and spoil the local environment and reduce the local populations to de facto slavery.
The global financial industry arrogantly thumbs its nose at national governments while transforming the international system for raising business capital into a vast casino where the house always wins.  In the meantime, its machinations moving money around in ever more opaque schemes continue to impoverish millions around the world.
Mexican drug gangs murder each other and anyone who inconveniences their efforts to supply the insatiable American demand for narcotics.  The huge market for a decadent luxury good in the American Empire creates death and misery for thousands of people in Mexico.
All the world is caught up in a merry dance of greed, power, death, and trade that leaves millions poor, injured, or dead; a world where everyone, even its rulers, is ultimately expendable; a world where everything and everyone is just so much trash.

And yet despite all that, the one thing that we are supposed to believe pisses off God more than anything else is what two boys or two girls like to do with each other on a Saturday night.  We are supposed to believe that God overlooks Bashir Assad and so many rulers like him who eat children and drink blood, that God takes most offense at two young cowboys taking a roll together in a saddle blanket.  Somehow God overlooks drug smugglers worshipping an idol of gold and death while they murder and intimidate local populations into submission and collaboration; and yet God sends snowstorms, drought, and hurricanes against states that recognize same sex families.

I'm convinced that these obsessive homophobes project their own fathers onto the cosmos and call them God.  They assign sexual minorities the same role that they once assigned Jews a century ago; as a living embodiment of everything they fear and hate about modernity and liberalism.  They're not just mad at us, they are mad at everything that they see standing behind us from cosmopolitanism to feminism.  Nothing so threatens their hierarchical model of the cosmos more than two men pleasuring each other (especially when they penetrate each other), or two women who prefer pleasuring each other to any man, or that some men and women figure out that masculine and feminine are not biological assignments but cultural constructs that can be easily deconstructed, or that any man or woman could realize that the gender assigned to them by biology might be mistaken.  The very idea that all these things are just natural variations somehow is too much to bear ( and massacring thousands upon thousands somehow is not).

The political, social, and cultural success of gays and lesbians in the West (and elsewhere) is awakening expectations among sexual minorities around the world.  This deeply threatens guardians of a masculine hierarchy who react with growing hysteria and violence.

Expectations are awakening among sexual minorities in Africa, and much of central Africa is reacting with paranoia and violence stoked by active interference and financing from far-right Americans.  The very far right religious agenda may no longer have much popular support in North America or Europe, but it has bottomless pockets from ample funding by right wing billionaires in Texas and California.  They are using Africa as a "laboratory" for their Dominionist ideology with every intention of exporting it back to North America.  They exploit lingering colonial resentments in Africa while aiding and abetting Western corporations who wish to extract Africa's mineral and timber wealth.

Nigeria recently passed anti-gay laws on top of laws that already prohibit gay marriage and gay sexual activity.  Being gay is already a criminal offense in Nigeria punishable by 14 years imprisonment.  Under the new laws, providing services and accommodation to gays, forming gay organizations, any gay PDA, is now punishable by 10 years in prison.  HIV and AIDS related services will have to close up shop under the new law.  Hospitals and clinics cannot treat known homosexuals under the new law.

There is still legislation pending in the Ugandan parliament that would make it a criminal offense punishable by prison time not to report to the government homosexuals.

Muslim clerics have joined Anglican and Catholic bishops in both of these countries in supporting these new laws; laws passed through tears of national resentment, and yet are based on colonial era laws from over a century ago imposed by the British.

In the face of all this, it seems a small thing to demand that the leaders of the Church of England speak out about what is taking place in a former British colony.  But it does matter.  The moral credibility of the Western churches is dropping like a brick in the wake of criminal pedophilia scandals, cover-ups, sensational corruption scandals, and stands on women and sexual minorities that seem to a growing public not just archaic, but morally offensive.

For the archbishops to speak out on these laws would tell the world that they care more about people than institutional preservation; more about the Gospel than about appeasement.

Those of you out there who are Episcopalian or Anglican (and those of you who are not) please sign this petition to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to speak out against the new laws in Nigeria, and against homophobia throughout the world.


The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Nigeria endorses the new law.


Nigeria's Muslim north is taking the law much further.  A Sharia court in the city of Bauchi will put 11 men on trial for their lives for belonging to a gay organization after a mob demanded that they be stoned to death.

All you good Christian people who are defending "traditional marriage," you are on the same side as these folks, and also these folks.  I'm not out to declare you guilty by association.  I'm urging you to rethink your position.  Do you really want these folks agreeing with you on this issue?  And if they do agree with you, then maybe there might be something terribly wrong with your position.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Back to Texas

... for a few days to visit.  Back to the land of biscuits and gravy where macaroni and cheese is considered a vegetable (I love it).  Back to where the Heavenly Banquet is a plate of enchiladas and a cold beer (or if you're on the Gulf coast, a big plate of boiled shrimp and a cold beer).

And to keep you company while I'm gone, Bonkers and Willy:

Mother Nature is Driving Drunk

Yesterday we had a high temperature of 55F.

This morning in Central Park, the official temperature was 4F.

Friday, January 3, 2014


The Chihuahuan Desert

I discussed evil before in a post from a couple of years ago.  I'm not sure I've changed my mind all that much, but I've been thinking about that subject again, this time in the context of a novel that I finished recently, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, a horrifically violent book that does not have much of a plot, but is strangely riveting.  For anyone with a sense of decency and sensitivity (most people), this is not an easy book to read.  There are horrific massacres of women and children.  There is one vivid scene of a small tree outside a massacred Mexican village adorned with the corpses of infants like some horrible Christmas tree.  Two men die together by hanging from their Achilles' tendons head down into a raging fire.  The plot line is a series of murders and massacres and counter-massacres.  We have an idea of what the outcome will be, so there's not much in the way of dramatic tension in the action of the book.  The drama is interior, about what all this mayhem means (or doesn't mean) and what claims it makes upon the main characters, and on us.

I'm not writing a critical essay on this novel (far greater minds than mine have written such essays far beyond my poor abilities).  I want to use this novel as a starting point for thinking about the subject that is at its heart, evil.

Blood Meridian is based on an actual event in history, the raids of the Glanton gang in the areas around the Mexican borderlands; mostly south Texas, Chihuahua, Sonora, Arizona, and California.  They took place in 1849 to 1850, shortly after the conclusion of the Mexican American War from 1846 to 1848.  John Joel Glanton was a veteran of that war, and a man who already had a long criminal record before the war.  He put together a troop of 39 men and went into business as a scalp hunter for the state government of Chihuahua (over the objections of the governor).  They made a handsome profit turning in Comanche scalps until 1850 when they began supplementing their dwindling Comanche scalp supply with the scalps of Mexican tenant farmers and peaceable Indians.  The Chihuahuan government put a bounty on Glanton and his gang driving them into neighboring Sonora where they went to work for that state's government hunting Apache scalps.  It soon became clear to the Sonorans that Glanton and his men were nothing more than a band of murderers for profit and drove them into Arizona where the US government had a price on Glanton's head.  In Arizona, the Glanton gang seized control of a ferry crossing the Gila river.  They robbed and murdered both settlers and Indians using the ferry.  A band of Yuma Indians raided the ferry and killed and scalped Glanton and most of his men.

As violent as the novel is, perhaps it is only a slight exaggeration of the violence of that place and time.

McCarthy bases much of his story on the one first hand account of the Glanton gang, Samuel Chamberlain's My Confession: Recollections of a Rogue, a largely self-serving and unreliable source.  Blood Meridian sticks fairly closely to the narrative of events and the characters Chamberlain describes.  McCarthy's tale revolves mostly around 2 characters.  The first is an anonymous runaway orphan known only as "The Kid."  The novel begins with the Kid leaving a broken home at age 14.  Most of the events of the novel take place when the Kid is 19.  The novel ends when the Kid is a man in his 40s (McCarthy abruptly begins calling him The Man at this point).  Though young, the Kid is hardly an innocent.  When he joins Glanton's gang in San Antonio, he's already committed a number of assaults and murders.  Even so, the Kid is a kind of protagonist in the novel.  Though a cutthroat and a murderer himself, he is the most determined holdout against the power and influence of the other main character, Judge Holden.

Judge Holden may, or may not, be a historical character.  So far, the only known record of his existence is Chamberlain's account.  According to Chamberlain, Holden was from Texas and was Glanton's second in command.  He was a first rate shot and remarkably well read in all kinds of science and history.  Chamberlain also describes him as unusually large; tall and rotund, and completely hairless.  He describes Holden as a cold sadistic killer.  McCarthy remains faithful to this description of Holden, but the Judge dominates the central portion of the novel.  McCarthy gradually makes it clear that the Judge is a more than mortal figure.  The Judge seems to have some kind of hold on Glanton and his men, and they come to depend on him for success and eventually for survival.  From the beginning, the Judge himself makes it clear that he is a liar, and eventually betrays Glanton and kills off many of the remaining gang.  Some critics see the Judge as the devil.  Others see him as a personification of war.  McCarthy has made no public commentary on this novel, and rightly so.  Whoever and whatever the Judge is, he's a kind of immortal being of evil, whether a spiritual being or one conjured up by human hearts remains unexplained.

McCarthy fills the novel with vivid imagery and with all kinds of religious allusions.  Among the most memorable is the Kid's nighttime encounter with a lone burning tree struck by lightning in the middle of a winter desert.  As he approaches the burning tree, he sees all kinds of poison creatures, snakes, gila monsters, spiders, crowding around the flames for warmth.  This is clearly a reference to Moses and the Burning Bush.  Christian imagery plays a large but entirely impotent role in the novel.  Churches are usually found deserted and in ruins, and in 2 cases, filled with corpses; people who crowded into a village church as a last refuge from massacre by Comanches or by Glanton's men.

Landscape plays a major role in this novel as more than just a backdrop to human events.  The deserts and mountains of the Southwest and northern Mexico are spectacular, alien, and hostile in the novel.  We encounter desert lightning, skies full of stars, meteor showers, high snow-bound mountain peaks, flat featureless salt plains, and volcanic landscapes paved with glassy obsidian.  McCarthy describes this terrain as explicitly hellish.

On the day that followed they crossed a lake of gypsum so fine the ponies left no track upon it.  The riders wore masks of boneblack smeared about their eyes and some had blacked the eyes of their horses.  The sun reflected off the pan burned the undersides of their faces and shadow of horse and rider alike were painted upon the fine white powder in purest indigo.  Far out on the desert to the north dustspouts rose wobbling and augered the earth and some said they'd heard of pilgrims borne aloft like dervishes in those mindless coils to be dropped broken and bleeding upon the desert again and there perhaps to watch the thing that had destroyed them lurch onward like some drunken djinn and resolve itself once more into the elements from which it sprang.  Out of that whirlwind no voice spoke and the pilgrim lying in his broken bones may cry out and in his anguish he may rage, but rage at what?  And if the dried and blackened shell of him is found among the sands by travelers to come yet who can discover the engine of his ruin?

Don't miss the reference to the story of Job embedded in that paragraph.  As always with these religious allusions in the novel, they are less inverted than rendered impotent.  This is not the material world liberated from belief in God as in so much atheist polemic, but a world abandoned by God.  There are also more than a few nods to Dante's Inferno in McCarthy's descriptions of landscape.  To anyone like me who has traveled in the Southwest, McCarthy's writings about the landscape are not exaggerated, at least not by much.  The landscape of the Sierra Madres, the Rockies, the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts really does have that kind of drama and sublimity.  You really can see dry lightning and thunder at night in these deserts.  The night sky really is full of stars and meteors.  The lava fields really do look like the pavement in Dante's inferno.  Most remarkable of all is that constant contrast of fire and ice; you really can see snow capped peaks from the hottest desert floor.

Dust devils on a salt flat, Alvord Desert, Oregon

Lava fields in northern Mexico

There are a number of dialogues involving the Judge and Glanton's men.  The Judge is a very talkative man.  The Kid by contrast is very reticent.  There is one crucial dialogue in the 17th chapter in which the Judge justifies war and violence:

Suppose two men at cards with nothing to wager save their lives.  Who has not heard such a tale?  A turn of the card.  The whole universe for such a player has labored clanking to this moment which will tell if he is to die at that man's hand or that man at his.  What more certain validation of a man's worth could there be?  The enhancement of the game to its ultimate state admits no argument concerning the notion of fate.  The selection of one man over another is a preference absolute and irrevocable and it is a dull man indeed who could reckon so profound a decision without agency or significance either one.  In such games as have for their stake the annihilation of the defeated the decisions are quite clear.  This man holding this particular arrangement of cards in his hand is thereby removed from existence.  This is the nature of war, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification.  Seen so, war is the truest form of divination.  It is the testing of one's will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select.  War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence.  War is god.

When some of the other cutthroats object that might does not necessarily make right, the Judge replies:

Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak.  Historical law subverts it at every turn.  A moral view can never be proven right or wrong by any ultimate test.  A man falling dead in a duel is not thereby proven in error of his views.  His very involvement in such a trial gives evidence of a new and broader view.  The willingness of the principals to forgo further argument as the triviality which it in fact is and to petition directly the chambers of historical absolute clearly indicates how little moment are the opinions and of what great moment are the divergences thereof.  For the argument is indeed trivial, but not the separate wills thereby made manifest. Man's vanity may well approach the infinite in capacity but his knowledge remains imperfect and howevermuch he comes to value his judgments ultimately he must submit them before a higher court.  Here there can be no special pleading.  Here are considerations of equity and rectitude and moral right rendered void and without warrant and here are the views of the litigants despised.  Decisions of life and death, of what shall be and what shall be not, beggar all question of right.  In elections of these magnitudes are all lesser ones subsumed, moral, spiritual, natural
Keep in mind that this a speech delivered to cutthroats by another cutthroat (albeit a more than mortal one).   The Judge is a self-confessed liar who betrays all who come into contact with him.  These men are all killers who wear ornaments of human hair, ears, and teeth, who the author regularly describes as foul and disgusting to look at and smell.  They are hardly the noblest specimens of humanity, but quite the opposite.  They are not soldiers, but murderers for profit.

The Judge may well accurately describe the way the world is, and how it works, but is that desirable?  What kind of life have these men made for themselves spreading death and grief, adding to the terrible desolation of the desert?  What the Judge describes may well be what we are born into, but is that what we truly want to dwell in or bring children into?  I'm reminded of a remark by a zoologist (whose name I can't remember) who specialized in the behavior of apes.  She said that she is always amazed when she takes a commercial flight from New York to Los Angeles, at how hard people confined to the small space of plane for 5 hours work to keep a measure of peace with their fellow passengers, what sacrifices of gratification they will bear for the peace and welfare of everyone else (I've noticed the same thing on very crowded subways).  She says that a similar flight containing nothing but chimps would be a bloody chaos with maybe one or two mortally wounded survivors limping off the plane when it lands in Los Angeles.


One of the things that I've noticed that evil has in common with good is a remarkable selflessness.  Human nature is fundamentally selfish, and we share that selfishness with all other life on earth.  Just like chimps, sparrows, fish, trees, and bacteria we want to meet our needs, gratify our desires, and avoid pain.  We usually do things for selfish reasons.  In McCarthy's novel, Glanton and his men go through all kinds of suffering and hardship to do their destructive work.  The Mexican villagers, the Indians, the settlers, the townspeople they encounter lead happier and more comfortable lives than they do (and longer lives).  Glanton and his men have all sacrificed family ties, friendship, and happiness for... for what?  For victory, or for a chance at victory, I suppose.  Terrorists are as selfless as martyrs.  For the sake of destroying as many people as they can, they will happily destroy themselves.

I've never been comfortable with the idea of a spiritual or metaphysical evil in the world.  I don't really believe in the devil.  I don't trust the supernatural, and unlike most American Evangelical Christians, I don't believe in Manicheanism.  The war between good and evil is already decided ... by definition.  However, evil is more than some kind of defect that can be corrected through education and better hygiene.  Whatever evil is, it is that rot at the center of the universe that wills harm and destruction.

I don't believe in Fate or Karma.  We DON'T always get what we deserve.  Terrible things happen to undeserving people for no reason other than the fact that we are mortal and therefore vulnerable.  We are free agents in this world, and so is everything else.   I've never believed in a God who is the ultimate cause of everything that happens.  God is not a puppeteer.
 If I believe in Original Sin, it's not in the idea of God nursing an ancient grudge over a stolen apple, and demanding the bloody death of His own Son as satisfaction.  I do believe in Original Sin in the sense that no one pulls themselves up into salvation by their own bootstraps.  Even with the best of intentions, we always trip over ourselves on the way to the Celestial City, and we can't help but do so.   Somewhere in the gap between God and everything else, between the mortal and immortal, between the provisional and categorical, is that will to destruction that is evil.  It is something much more than the usual selfishness and fright of mortal beings.  It is our mortal animal nature that saves us from absolute evil just as it prevents us from becoming absolutely good.  Our basic animal selfishness keeps us from the temptation to push God off his throne and sit there ourselves (or to imagine that we are His sole agents and create franchise thrones for us to sit in).

I've said before that I am no believer in theodicy.  We mortals are within our rights to complain and to rage against the Almighty.  We mere mortals who can only see as far as our particular part of time and space must suffer His machinations.  There is no reason to do so quietly.  We are within our rights to demand that God explain Himself.  He is within His rights to refuse.  We suffer evil.  God does not.

I could be wrong, but I think it was Karl Barth who said that in the Cross humankind is justified before God, and God is justified before humankind.


The Judge concludes a long speech to Glanton's men at night around a campfire amid the ancient pueblo ruins of Keet Seel near Monument Valley in what is now Arizona:

...If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now?  Wolves cull themselves, man.  What other creature could?  And is not the race of man not more predacious yet?  The way of the world is to bloom and to flower, and to die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night.  His spirit is exhausted at the peak of his achievement.  His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day.  He loves games?  Let him play for stakes.  This you see here, these ruins wondered at by tribes of savages, do you not think that this will be again?  Aye.  And again.  With other people, with other sons.
   The judge looked about him.  He was sat before the fire naked save for his breeches and his hands rested palm down upon his knees.  His eyes were empty slots.  None among the company harbored any notion as to what this attitude implied, yet so like an icon was he in his sitting  that they grew cautious and spoke with circumspection among themselves as if they would not waken something that had better been left sleeping.


It's a bitterly cold winter day in New York today with about 8 inches of snow on the ground and the high temperature today to be only 17F.  The winds are gusting to 20mph.  A serious winter day, but hardly the worst I've seen in 23 years living in New York, and but a normal March day in Michigan.  As usual, the teevee is giving the snowfall hyperventilating wall to wall coverage as if it's the Apocalypse.

Most of the airports are closed, and those that aren't are full of cancelled flights and stranded travelers.  There are subway delays due to electrical shorts in the signal system.  Schools are closed.  Most people are staying home from work.

It's days like this that remind me of the great trade-off of technology:  with greater capability comes greater vulnerability.  I doubt a winter day like this would have meant much in old New York before electricity and the internal combustion engine.  But, no Luddite here!  No way am I trading away painless dentistry, flush toilets, or my 6 year old Mac for some pre-technological Strawberry Fields.

From Canada (where else?), a working truck made of ice.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Day In The Big City

Sunrise over Manhattan viewed from New Jersey

Here is one more essay by a disappointed aspiring creative type (a writer) who finds life in New York so all consumed with the whole business of how to pay for it all, that she's left; though she didn't go far, just up the Hudson.  The very high cost of living, especially housing, is ending New York's historic role as an incubator for new talent, as a place where artists, writers, musicians, actors, etc. could come to find each other, to compete, to collaborate, to argue, to fight, and to form communities and bonds of friendship.  New York City played that role for over 200 years.  So much of the culture of the 20th century was created out of the encounters between the concepts of the Old World and the New World in the bars, cafes, apartments, studios, and on the streets of New York.

But life is harder for everyone making less than a million dollars a year in this city.  The global plutocracy's fondness for the city is driving a boom in the construction of luxury high rises, but is also driving up rents and leases all over the city.  New York finds itself in an unprecedented situation where rents are rising fast and the median income for city residents is declining.  Considering how much money is taking up residence in this city, it is astonishing to find out that 46% of all city residents live at or near poverty levels.  Homelessness, especially among children, is at levels not seen since the Great Depression.

My friend David Kaplan always said that New York is a city that works for about 250,000 people; certainly not for all 8 million who live here, more than at any time in the city's history.  There are some who say that the solution is for fewer people to live in New York, but it's the longtime residents (like David Kaplan) who are among the first to be forced out of their neighborhoods.  The very very rich moving in (if they are moving in at all) are from around the world.  They are international wealthy transients with no local ties and no national loyalties.

I've lived in New York for almost 23 years now.  Believe me there are times when I think about leaving; but, to go where?  San Francisco's once famous resident subcultures are already priced out of existence (and across the Bay to Oakland where they are getting priced out there).  Housing prices are going up in just about all major cities.

I want to stay in New York.  To those who are thinking about coming up here and have heard all the bad news, I say come anyway.  New arrivals are the life blood of this city, not the stock market.  Be prepared for a struggle.  It is not easy to live here.  You have to decide for yourself if it is worth it.  I've heard from a reliable source (a cab driver; not much more reliable than that) that New York is just as edgy as it always was.  Its edginess is just much more spread out among the 5 Boroughs than before.  There are hosts of sub cultures and sub sub cultures flourishing out there just under the radar.  While the art scene may not be quite what it used to be, there are still lots of artists of all kinds here, and opportunities are still here.  The city has a flourishing musical life that appears to be concentrated in Brooklyn now.  The thing I've always loved about this city is its amazing vitality.  The city's near total recovery from a major hurricane and from the deadliest terrorist attack in American history is astonishing, and testimony to its strength.  I think it likely that the city will survive Manhattan being transformed into a theme park resort for the very rich and for tourists.

But the thing I love most about this city is that it is a place where people from everywhere come to start a new life and to reinvent themselves.  My native Texas is a place where if you fit in, it's paradise.  If you don't, it's hell on toast.  In New York, nobody fits in and nobody cares.  You can find a community of your own kind, whatever kind you are; or you can form a community.  No one will feel threatened by you or come after you for not fitting in.

Today, New Year's Day, we have a new mayor, the first Democratic mayor in 20 years, and probably the first real progressive since at least Lindsey, and the first since LaGuardia to win by a landslide.  We may be at the beginning of a new progressive politics in New York.  There may be only so much the new mayor can do since a lot of what happens in the city is due to state and national policies over which he has no control.  We will all see what happens over the next 4 years.  Already, he is such a break from recent history.  He's the first mayor in forever from outside Manhattan (a Brooklyn native and resident still).  He's the first mayor in forever to have a family with kids (Giuliani dumped his wife and kids rather ruthlessly soon after becoming mayor).   He has a family that looks like the city, and that reflects the growing experience of a lot of people from families that are becoming more ethnically and racially mixed.

The new mayor and his family at today's inauguration


Some abrasive but wise complaining about the current state of the city from Fran Leibowitz.

Person of the Year

Edie Windsor 

Edie with her late spouse Thea Spyer

Time magazine may have put the Pope on its Person of the Year cover, but the staff here at Counterlight's Peculiars voted for Edie Windsor, and in that I am unanimous.  A widow who was hardly shy and meek put a spike heeled boot through the Defense of Marriage Act and opened the gates for same sex couples everywhere in the USA, even in gay-hostile states in the Old Confederacy and in parts of the Midwest.  This was an easy pick this year.

The pundits go on with breathless amazement at the suddenness of the big gay success story this year; marriage equality in 18 (count them, eighteen) states.  The snowball began with the 2012 elections that saw marriage equality legislation of one kind or another win on the ballots of 4 states.  ENDA sailed through the Senate this past year with sponsors from both parties.  Only Speaker Boehner appeasing the reactionaries who dominate the House kept that vital anti-discrimination bill from becoming law.

Those of us who've been paying attention all this time know that this sudden sea-change is the end result of more than a century of blood, sweat, and tears in the struggle for freedom and dignity for sexual minorities.