Jun 29, 2014

Calvary: A Film Not To Miss

Last evening I viewed this extraordinary Irish film, a one of a kind and I'm still absorbing its impact. Directed by John Michael McDonagh and starring Brenden Gleeson, this is the third film the pair have collaborated on, the previous two being In Bruges (McDonagh wrote the screenplay) and The Guard.  Both of these previous endeavors were wickedly funny, and Calvary as well has elements of high black comedy. Yet the film goes far beyond it's moments of humor and becomes a profound meditation on the trials of faith in face of the terrible absence of God - in human society, in a corrupted church and in the tragic lives of individual men and women. The film has been crafted with a deep appreciation for the Catholic faith and the terrible trials that threaten it's present day existence.

Without giving away the plot (since this info occurs within the first ten minutes), Brenden Gleeson plays a wise and weary priest in a small Irish village, peopled with the usual assortment of eccentric characters and the usual stories of adultery, drunkenness, violence and betrayal. One day a man comes into the confessional and tells Gleeson that he is going to kill him in a week's time, the following Friday. He explains that as a youth in a Catholic boarding school he had been sexually abused by a priest - from the age of eight up to the age of thirteen, several times a week for five years. He explains that his life has been shattered by the experience and that there is no hope of redemption or healing for himself. Because the predator priest is already dead, he can't hold him to account. So the only comfort left to him is an arbitrary act of vengeance. Just as he was 'chosen' by the priest in an arbitrary manner for the priest's sexual indulgence, so now the young man will arbitrarily choose a Catholic priest to be the victim of his vengeance.

That is the kick start to the story. Over the next remaining six days, we see Gleeson come to terms with this threat, discussing it with the bishop and the police and his daughter from a marriage before he was ordained. We also see him dealing with an assortment of characters in the village, all of whom are struggling with their faith or cynically mocking it and Gleeson himself as the Catholic Church's representative. Gleeson has to deal with every conceivable and anguishing trial of faith imaginable and he enters into dialogue with these 'lost souls' with deep compassion, wisdom and weariness of soul. He is asked every conceivable doubters question and presented with all of the most sordid crimes of the Catholic Church, and with patience and deep faith he must try to respond. The film is the most painful exploration of the absence of God within institutional religion. These six days are the priest's Calvary and a more profound way of the cross in today's climate of doubt  I have never seen portrayed so brilliantly in a film before. The film deserves its accolades as "Nothing short of a masterpiece!" 

In the end, though the film doesn't dwell directly on the sex abuse crisis in the church for that much of the screen time, this is the most devastating treatment of the scandal I have ever seen. It hits with the force of a knife through the heart. The most anguishing le cri de coeur comes from the victim as he shouts, "We are the lucky ones (those who survived their abuse and lived to tell about it). There are thousands of bodies buried up there (and he points generally upwards towards the hills and all of Ireland). This is the priest's great challenge, to demonstrate through his living witness, his capacity for sacrifice and forgiveness, that 'God' still lives and breathes in the human heart, even if the fires of his love seem to have turned to ashes within the hearth of the institutional church. 

The film was made with great sympathy and understanding for the Catholic faith itself, yet it takes an unflinching look at the terrible doubt brought down upon it by the unrepentant crimes of the institution. Yet faith survives in the face of the terrible absence of God - which is revealed at the film's ending as an even more terrible and compassionate Presence. The hidden God - hidden by the crimes of the institution that carries his name - yet still living and breathing in the pilar of fire that leads us out of the desert. 

Jun 23, 2014

Texas Gay Dads denied parental rights to their own twin sons

A heartbreaking story is going viral over the internet waves today about a charming and charismatic gay couple, Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs, who have been denied parental rights in Texas to their own twin sons. The case is complex and baffling in the extreme, but put simply, both men hired a surrogate mother to carry donated eggs (not her own), and each father fertilized one of the eggs, so that both boys share the same biological mother source, but each has been 'fathered' by one of the men. What a beautiful and mystical way to have brought these two boys into the world and into the blessed family of Jason and Joe. What a remarkable symbol of family these two men have forged through this birthing. Yet a stubborn Texas judge has denied both men the right to be listed as the father on either of the boy's birth certificates, that's right, not even on the birth certificate of their own biological child. It is the kind of case that makes one want to tear one's hair out - or to go back and read the articles again and again convinced you must have missed something. I've done this and I can't make any sense out of the case, but it does state clearly the men have been denied the right to be listed as the father even on the birth certificate of their own biological child. The case gets even more complicated when one considers the well being of both boys together, should one of their fathers pass away unexpectedly. 

However, rather than rant on the subject - actually the Family Equality Council has said it best -

“This case clearly illustrates the concrete harms that LGBTQ families face on a daily basis in states like Texas, which have few protections in place for them," said Family Equality Council Executive Director, Gabriel Blau. “This judge was wrong on moral, ethical, and legal grounds.  It is time for judges and others in positions of authority to put the best interests of children first. Judges and lawmakers should stop denying loving, committed families the protections they need to take care of one another. As the patchwork of laws affecting LGBTQ families across this country continue to cause uncertainty, we will continue to push for both legal and lived equality for all families, and we are grateful to Jason and Joe for standing up and telling their story.”

Instead of ranting over this case, however, I was immediately struck by its many positive aspects. First both of these men are poster 'boys' for gay families. You couldn't ask for a more charismatic, photogenic pair, glowing with health and happiness. This photo below radiates the men's own deep affection for one another, and presents a balanced visual image of relational love between the same sexes. How could anyone find this unwholesome, unhealthy, unloving or immoral? Well, only persons who do not have eyes to see, and whose ideological view of the world is more important to them than the test of lived experience.

Secondly, the outpouring of support for these men has been overwhelming, because the case is so egregiously unfair. Check out the comments sections of both of the articles below, and watch the commentators attempt to make sense of the convoluted legal complexities of the case and offer helpful advice. You would think that the case is simply about the wish (and the right) of each of the men to legally adopt the other's child, of which they are not the biological parent. But in fact, it seems to be worse than that. 

Each of the men is a biological father to one of the babies. But, because Texas has a ban on gay marriage (it was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge last February, but the decision was stayed pending appeal), and because a judge can use his or her own discretion in these cases, neither of the men is currently on the birth certificates of either of the boys, nor have they been able to co-adopt each other’s biological child. HUFFINGTON POST

Fox News gave a fairly positive spin on the story, while explaining the legal complexities, and the judge's final comment that she 'strictly follows the law'. But a law which denies a father the right to be listed even on the birth certificate of his own biological child is obscene. 

See the story and many other updates at Glaad Org. 

See also the Huffington Post article, with many great comments. 

One of the more insightful comments went something like this: They seem like such bright, intelligent caring men. What on earth are they doing living in Texas? I have to say that was my first reaction as well. For the sake of the two boys, isn't it time to relocate? Both men were legally married in Washington DC last February. Perhaps they need to consider relocation to a state that would recognize their marriage and grant them full parental rights over their children. However, that's an easy suggestion to make when one doesn't have to deal with the consequences. Their family roots may be very deep in Texas, as well as their vocational ties.

What is clear is that the case is making headlines around the nation (and the world) and only highlights the urgent need to get rid of these antiquated discriminatory laws. If ever there were a case that was 'providentially designed' to elicit both sympathy for gay marriage and outrage over the injustices when it is denied, it is this one.

May Blessings fall from the heavens upon Jason and Joe, Lucas and Ethan. 

Jun 16, 2014

Sister Teresa Forcades on Homosecual Love as Holy and Sacramental

One of my personal 'heroes', the radical Benedictine Catalan Nun, Sister Teresa Forcades, has just recently published her book Es a les nostres mans,  critiquing unbridled capitalism. You can read reviews of it here at Rebel Girl's Iglesia Descalza site or at William Lindsey's On Bilgrimage.

In honor of this event, I want to return to Sister Forcades' positions on abortion and gay love, which are so far advanced from the official church's positions, one wonders how or why she has not been excommunicated. Conservative "Protect the Pope" websites consider her 'evil' and spue out all sorts of vitriol in frustration at any lack of censure from the Vatican or the present Pope. But the fact that such a dynamic, prophetic woman can still survive in the Catholic Church - and her Benedictine order - is some cause for hope. 
You can read the full interview in Spanish here at Pikara On Line Magazine, or in English here at Iglesia Descalza. 

Teresa Forcades: "To appear in the world, God didn't need a heterosexual couple, only a free human conscience that said yes"

How have you arrived at queer theology?
Sr Teresa Forcades OSB. By studying Judith Butler. I appreciate that queer [theology] asserts the unique character of each person, and that any gender, race, national identity tag … is a crutch that reflects your fear of personal freedom. The process of spiritualization, Christification, and deification is daring to be a manifestation of love and freedom that are God Himself, when He says “you are made in My image.” Buddhism says that personal identity is fiction and should be overcome because everything is one undifferentiated entity. This personal emptiness is only a first step for you to move on to a unity consciousness. But, with the Trinity, the unity is never beyond the difference. The Trinity says that diversity is as exalted as unity, because unity is one thing and uniformity is something quite different.
The religious analysis that understands sex as something that is intended for procreation is a utilitarian view of human love and is contrary to Christian spirituality. To surrender to the mystery of an interpersonal relationship is to surrender to growing towards being an image of God, towards incarnating what God represents on earth. Upon entering, you receive a gift, that this union could engender a child, but that’s perfectly compatible with you being able to be responsible and use contraception when you please.
The opposite of Christian morality is thinking as if there were two ways to use women’s bodies, usually based on the male perspective: the bad one — using them to give yourself pleasure, which would be lust and which is condemned by all the church fathers, and the other one — using them to give you children, and that’s good. No! It would be denigrating the integrity of the partner, of the other person.
So I think that homosexual love is perfectly understandable to the church, because it has what is essential: it’s not having children, but an open intimacy to an interpersonal relationship that includes respect for the integrity of the other. Two people who love one another, desire one another, and respect one another are giving testimony: this is the sacrament, a visible sign — like baptism — that’s saying, “This creature is accepted in this community as any other.” Trinitarian theology says that all sacraments are an embodiment of God’s love. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are different but they are not complementary. Love is not necessity; it’s not when I need you because I’m missing something. It can’t be utilitarian love.

What do you think of the draft law on the protection of the unborn and the rights of pregnant women that was presented to the Cabinet on December 20th?
Sr Teresa Forcades OSB: My position is that of the Procès Constituent: criticism and outright rejection, because it attempts social regulation based on some imposed values. That said, now comes my personal motivation for which I take responsibility individually: I think it is a clear violation of the right to self-determination of a woman that a law requires her to be a mother. I greatly appreciate what it means to be one. I think that a woman who has become pregnant without wanting to, even through violence, can experience the pregnancy as something positive, but I’m in favor of allowing abortion as long as the fetus isn’t viable, without considering other factors.
There’s a real ethical conflict, a bio-conflict, between the right to self-determination of the mother and the right to life of the being in gestation. In a situation where the mother can not choose, her rights of self-determination deserve the utmost respect. There may be a mother to whom it makes sense to bring into the world and accompany a child with a serious malformation who we know will suffer and die shortly after birth. Forcing her to abort would be the other extreme and I’m against that. I think that creature is the image of God and I wish we had a world that would accept him or her. But it’s what I believe, and I can’t tell another woman, “I want the state to force you to do what I think is right.”

Jun 13, 2014

The Story of a Child Abduction


Ruminating on 'gay' experiences from my youth in the previous posting about Spanish model River Viiperi, I was reminded of another incident from early childhood, one which could have had tragic consequences, except for a strange, providential twist of fate. As a boy of eight, I  was almost abducted off the streets of San Francisco, a fact I kept to myself for over fifty years. I never told my parents, and semi-repressed the memory for most of my adult life. It was never completely forgotten, simply placed in the nether regions of memory until the time I could face its full implications. It is as if the unconscious protects us from the full horror of certain incidents. I can now understand the 'concept' of repressed memory in cases of child abuse, however true it might be that the concept is abused. 

Claire Lilienthal Elementary School

During my early grammar school days, I attended the Jean Parker Elementary  School in Cow Hollow, the Marina District in San Francisco. The school long ago changed directorship and is now part of the very progressive Claire Lilienthal Elementary Schools in SF. My mother was a math and gym teacher at the time at Marina Junior High School on Chestnut Street, some seven blocks away. It was my custom when school let out to walk the seven blocks to my mother's school, where I would cheerfully walk into her classroom and wait for her to finish, so we could ride the bus back to our apartment on Pacific Avenue. At the time, San Francisco was busing students from poorer neighborhoods to more upscale schools, and Marina Junior High had a high percentage of black kids from Mission or Potrero Districts. My mother had great sympathy for these underprivileged kids, but had to work hard to gain their confidence and trust, let alone motivate them to learn. I was always fascinated by the social interactions in her classes, as I would wait in the back, where I would be greeted with sly winks and smiles from her students. However, that is another story from the one I wish to reflect on today.

Marina Middle School

One hot June day near the close of term, I was walking from school along busy Chestnut Street with its array of shops and restaurants.  I was wearing shorts and a white t shirt and sandals, and skipping along happily, contemplating the summer just around the corner, when my family would go on trips to Ray's Resort on the Russian River and Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. Thanks to my dear and loving aunts, Helen and Dorothy, who kept constantly gushing about my good looks and pinching my cheeks, I knew I was an appealing child. My father was extremely (and wisely) annoyed by all of this attention, but it gave me a bouncy confidence in myself and contributed to a chattery friendliness. I talked to everybody, talked and talked and talked, cheerily, with big smiles and giggles. My parents had warned me numerous times not to talk to strangers, but it was difficult to repress this innate friendliness. 

As I approached the corner of Chestnut Street and Fillmore, with my mother's school just across the wide boulevard, I noticed a scruffy man leaning against a long black limousine parked against the curb. As I came close, he stood up and came towards me and said, "Where're you going, kid?" Did he really say this, or am I creatively embellishing past memories. No, I can confidently say - after some 60 years - these were his exact words. And with that prompting, my innate talkativeness kicked into high gear. I immediately began babbling, "Oh, I'm going across the street to see my mother. She teaches at Marina High. She teaches math and gym. And one day I went in the girls showers to see her, and the girls were taking showers two by two in these stalls with curtains, and one time I saw their titties and they screamed and laughed." Did I actually say that? Yes, that is what bubbled out of me almost word for word some sixty years ago to a complete stranger on the streets of San Francisco - within minutes of safety just across the street.

So the man then said, "Well, would you like a ride across the street in my big car?" And he opened the door to the back seat. I remember being so impressed by the size and luxury of the vehicle, and intensely curious. Had I ever ridden in a car before? I know my family didn't have one until some years later. This was just too much of a fascinating opportunity to pass up. And so I said, with great friendliness and gratitude, "Oh, thank you," and climbed right in. I remember clearly thinking, "gee, it's only just across the street. How nice of him. Isn't that a lot of trouble for nothing." What trust and naivete.

Chestnut Street today at almost the exact location where I encountered the man with the limousine. 

Once inside the car, I immediately began bouncing on the big black leather back seat, bouncing up and down up and down. I saw the man come around the back of the car and I could see him looking around with his hand on the toothpick. That is the precise moment when I came to my senses, and realized this was probably not a good idea. I could see the man was scruffy looking, with several days growth of beard, he seemed nervous and his eyes were darting back and forth along Chestnut Street. But I realized I was 'trapped' at this point, much too timid to try to get out the car. And I was still bouncing, more from nerves now than from everything.

The man got into the car and sat down heavily with a sigh. I was bouncing in the back seat and just at that moment I cut a little fart. Pop! I was terribly embarrassed. The man looked around over his shoulder, sighed, and said rather gruffly. "I can't take you today, kid. I'm sorry." I was so shocked, and even a little hurt, despite the reservations of the previous moment. Had he been offended by my fart, had I talked too much, had I said something to offend him? When I sat there dumbfounded, he shouted at me, "Beat it, kid, I'm busy." Some sixty years later and I have no doubt this was the exact conversation. I scrambled out of the car immediately, confused, hurt and  embarrassed. I should have been relieved. Instead, I wondered what I had done wrong? At just that moment, the street light turned green at Fillmore and Chestnut and I skipped across, determined to run up to my mother and tell her all about it. I pushed open the big glass doors of the school and scampered up the stairs, full of excitement and nervous anxiety about this strange encounter moments before. But as I got closer to the second floor, I began slowing down until I was barely moving at all. I realized my mother would be furious with me for having not only talked to a stranger, but even gotten into his car! I would be punished for weeks. It was one of my worst faults, babbling to everybody I met about this and that with an irrepressible friendliness. And so I walked slowly down the corridor to her classroom, entered and sat down and waited for her class to end so we could take our bus ride home. I never said a word to her. Not then, not ever. And I never told a soul for over fifty years.

*   *   *   *   *   *
I was going to include within the posting a spiritual comment to this effect, that I was 'saved' in the last moment only by the grace of Providence, since I don't believe this was purely accidental. I have no doubt that if the man had succeeded in driving me off in his car, I would have been gone forever, vanished without a trace. But what about all of the other victims of abuse and abductions who were not so lucky? What about them? Was the mercy of a loving Universe not watching over them? Very difficult questions to face and answer. I only know that I feel so blessed and protected by a gracious, loving Providence that in its own mysterious way carries all victims in its loving, wounded heart, the Heart of Divine Compassion. 

Jun 11, 2014

River Viiperi and the Winds of Fashion

 And now for a little bit of divine beauty from a gracious loving Universe

(Photo taken from River Viiperi Tumblr)

I've recently become friends with a Spanish model named River Viiperi, which has prompted these reflections about my own past and the painful process of coming out. But before getting to that, here is a plug for River's fashion sale:)

Spanish hottie River Viiperi,  one of the most sought after male models in the world today, is offering a 40% off summer sale on all hoodies and sweaters at his official website, River Viiperi Official Store. Check it out here.  Some very hot stuff for younger guys.

As a dignified grandfather, I'm much too old to be wearing such studly stuff, but I'm going to buy a few of his Toy Boy T Shirts to wear at summer camp this year, since the kids will love the joke. More about the significance of this design later. 

I'm posting this with a twinkle and a smile, since it's not the usual kind of post readers of Gay Mystic expect. Product placement, all of a sudden, and for a sexy twink? All part of divine beauty, I suppose. But the hidden subtext is that I used to be a male model myself many (many) years ago. It's how I got myself through graduate school. Sadly, I've lost all of the magazines from that pre-digital age (though my mother stored them away somewhere) and I've only three photos left, which were taken on the day of a shoot for winter wear on San Francisco Bay. The photographer was Marti Kheel who went on to become a significant lesbian eco-feminist theologian, earning her doctorate at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. How strange the ways of fate. Marti was also working her way through graduate school - as a photographer. Sadly, Marti passed away four years ago of leukemia. While we didn't have photoshop in those days, I do remember that the laugh lines around my eyes were definitely removed or smoothed over. 

But now back to young River, who is undergoing his own unique journey from boyhood into manhood, with a fair number of surprising turns on the road. A few days ago I had a brief (very brief) internet exchange with River at his Twitter Site, check it out here. River is known for his personal warmth and friendliness, so a response from him is not uncommon, as he makes an effort to reply to as many tweets as he can. But the 'connection' brought back memories of my modeling days long, long ago - not all of them pleasant, as I had to endure quite a few 'advances' from gay predators. This was especially so in the early years before the above photographs were taken, when I was a boy of 18 and a first year freshman at the Jesuit University of San Francisco. In those days, I looked like a 14 year old, and that is not an exaggeration. 

Photos taken by openly gay photographer, Declan Neil (if I remember his name correctly), when I was 19 years old! He was quite 'besotted' with me at the time, but treated me with decency and respect. My mother, however, smelling his sexual interest, disliked him intensely. 

I was terribly shy in those days, uncertain about my own sexuality, far from "out of the closet," and dealing with girls on campus trying to seduce me as well, much to the consternation of my roommate, Steve, who writhed in agony at all the missed opportunities. So it was traumatic in the extreme to be preyed upon by gay men in the fashion industry, who were quite open and aggressive in expressing their interest. All of them assumed I was gay, assumed I knew it, and assumed I would thereby be interested in them. On one occasion, I went into a toilet stall during a shoot, only to have a member of the tech staff come into the stall next to me and reach his arm and hand far into my own stall, then his leering face. I was so terrified I ran out and downstairs. Friends saw me and said I was as white as a sheet. When I told them what had happened, they ran up into the toilets determined to confront the man, but he was long gone. In my shock, however, I couldn't recognize his upside down face. I never went into a toilet stall again during a shoot. 

Even more disgusting to me was having men come up to me next to the urinals and proceed to pull out their dicks and bring them to erection, all the while gazing over at me expecting me to respond. I found this so grotesque and revolting. On one occasion, a stylist engaged me in a conversation at the urinals, then proceeded to back away with his member fully erect and exposed, and proceeded to casually and very slowly put it away, all the while expecting me to do what? Express an interest?? I had such a look of shock and horror on my face that he realized his mistake, and stumbled out of the room in confused embarrassment. I did feel a twinge of sympathy for him, because later in the day he was so embarrassed in front of me, and clearly regretted his indiscretion. To repeat, what was most shocking to me at the time was the fact that all of these men assumed I was gay and assumed I knew it, which was anything but the case. I was a pious little Catholic boy on my way to the seminary and could not, for the life of me, understand why these men thought I would be turned on by their advances. The experiences simply confused me for years afterwards, because I was so disgusted by them. I would not fully come out of the closet until my mid thirties, a very long time indeed. Having said that, however, it is important to mention that the vast majority of gay men I encountered during my relatively short career as a boy model were uniformly decent and respectful. I would not wish to contribute to the stereotype of all gay men being 'pedophiles,' (though the proper term would be 'ebophiles'). 

One trusts and hopes that River Viiperi has not had to deal with such experiences. Judging by videos of him, he has a clear sense of his own (hetero) sexuality, a strong masculine confidence, and the capacity to knock any sexual predators into the next country with a strong uppercut to the jaw. However, he has said that his first modeling experience was his most uncomfortable. He was asked (at age 18) to remove his underwear and wrap himself in a semi-transparent shower curtain. To what purpose, we ask, and in front of how many crew members? One supposes the photographer was looking for an erotic effect with at least a shadow of the genitals displayed through the curtains. Exploitative is the word for that one.  And in fact as one surveys the world of male fashion today, it's clear that the boundaries between porn, fashion and art are being blurred, if not dissolved. The Huffington Post has just today published an article to this effect, entitled Why Is Fashion Dipping It's Chocolate in Porn's Peanut Butter. As the article makes out, because of the internet we have all become desensitized to porn's near universal presence and the effect is often decadent and unsettling, but not always. I have no objections to a bit of cheeky semi-nudity, as the following photograph of River reveals (begging his pardon): River has some outrageously cheeky semi-nude shots out there. I tried to choose one of the more modest ones:

(Taken from River Viiperi Tumblr, again, in the hopes I'm not violating copyright. )

Once one goes this far with a model, however, its far too easy to take it to the next step - and the next. Speaking as a theater director of 30 years, what one looks for in a director of film or a photographer is respect for the dignity of his or her actors or models and their bodies. A cheekiness that displays a confident joy in one's own sexuality and attractiveness is one thing, an undue emphasis upon the "sex" of the model is another, particularly if it robs the model of personal power over his or her own body. The sexuality of a boy model should not be 'owned' by a photographer, as a right. And the message of a sexualized image should also be respect for the mystery of sexuality embodied in the model, as a gift to be given with discretion, not as a toy to be thrown away at public auction. My own past in the fashion industry has made me especially sensitive to this issue. Women have been enduring this for years, being turned into sex objects for the viewing pleasure of men. It is quite a  modern twist to see the same objectification occurring with young men. Up until the 60's, it was considered unmanly and effeminate for a man to display his body with the intent to invite sexual interest and viewing. Only women were to do such things and to do them as a duty to men. Hence all of those famous movie stars from Cary Grant to Paul Newman who took little care of their physiques, and appeared shirtless in films with torsos wildly out of shape. But that was considered manly at the time, simply not to care. After the 60's all of this changed, and it quickly became acceptable for men to groom their bodies as visible objects of sexual desire. Need I say how much the gay cultural revolution had to do with this? 

And thank god for that, say I at Gay Mystic. Good for women, good for sexual tolerance, good for gay friendly relations between the sexual orientations, and good for gay men in general who have the pleasure of worshipping at the altar of male beauty. Good, healthy, celebratory, joyous and wonderful - up to a point. The danger of exploitation of young men in the fashion industry remains very real, and the whiff of decadence is ever present. Some of the photos give a lift to the heart and the spirit, the kind of male beauty that reveals divinity and lifts us into the clouds. Others, however, have the ugliness of human arrogance, proclaiming absolute ownership over sex without care and without responsibility. And these bring a darkness to the spirit and a heaviness to the soul. However, one very healthy result of this remarkable change is that it's made the fashion industry and its models so gay friendly in the best sense of the word, friendly to gays who do not prey on the boys and who respect the straight boys' own heterosexuality. The fashion industry, for all of its flaws and decadence at times, is making its own contribution to tolerance and understanding. 

(I've decided to refrain from ranting about body stereotypes and the obsession of many young gay men with physical perfection, which the current blurring between porn and fashion is only whipping into a frenzy. That's been done to death by more eloquent voices than my own.)

Finally, as a postscript, it should be said that River Viiperi is the current boyfriend of Paris Hilton. I know, I know, I jumped to the same conclusions and indulged in the same negative judgmentalism when I first heard the news. But then I thought, wait a minute, I'm not going to pass judgement here. So I went online and looked at a few videos of Miss Hilton being interviewed by David Letterman and Ellen Degeneres recently. I was struck by how poised and dignified she was, gracious, charming and deferential without a hint of spoiled arrogance, and as lovely as a spring day in May as well. Unlike some of her 'reality TV' counterparts (who shall go unnamed), I felt no negativity in her presence, quite the contrary. She seems to have come a long way in the past few years. All of my preconceptions were shattered in an instant, and I noticed that Dave L and especially Ellen really, genuinely liked Paris, and that says a lot. She was like a breath of fresh air. Her hottie was in the wings and given a few charming moments on camera of his own (pity they were not longer), where he shined with boyish enthusiasm. Both of them seem deeply in love.

So, I'm not going to say anything more because I don't think there is anything more to say on this subject. No comments about consumerism, money, wealth or privilege. In the end, I borrowed a line from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, and I decided

Even a millionairess socialite is entitled to some happiness. 

And if River can give it to her, then blessings on them both. 

For those of you nonplussed by the Fiddler on the Roof reference, the timid tailor Chava wants to marry the milkman, Tevye's daughter. Tevye responds to this with amused contempt, until that climactic moment when Chava overcomes his timidity and shouts out to Tevye, "Even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness."