31 October 2013

Sine Nomine

For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!
For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

27 October 2013

Daily Readings, Christ the King

The Daily Readings for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Rite of St Tikhon, as assigned by the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate together with other devotional material. For other material, see the Book of Common Prayer as published by Lancelot Andrewes Press.

24 October 2013

Hedonic Choice

That definition is a key phrase, "considered in terms of pleasant sensations" and it provides us with a logical course for the second image:

There are many reasons this may be of concern to a Christian, but I want to lay aside the first one: Hedonism is not only about anti-Christian moral choices.  Once can find intrinsic pleasure in long periods of silence, luxurious polyphony, Gregorian or Byzantine Chant, religious art is all kinds of expensive and collectible, religious garb is pricier than even the most expensive of bespoke hipster clothing, one can enjoy the health benefits of a feast/fast cycle, and there are even fetish clubs celebrating celibacy and enforced chastity.  One can be a Christian for purely self-interested, hedonic reasons.  There are a lot of "Church Shoppers" who make very hedonistic choices in their churches: better music, better choirs, better sermons, better people, better coffee hours, better Sunday Schools, better parking, better service times... I rarely hear "better theology" as a reason but when I do hear bout theology it's most often "I'm XYZ and I need a church that won't judge me for that."  Churches are "shopped" for hedonism all the time.

We make the same choices in clothes, sex, food, housing, bank accounts...

20 October 2013

Reverse Identity Theft

XKCD totally gets it! I am an early adopter. I joined and paid for Blogger when Ev was still in an apartment on Judah St. My Twitter number is only 6 digits. I’ve had an Amazon account since 1998 or so. I’ve had my gMail account only a tiny bit less: certainly it was this millenium, but it was before 9/11.  I can still see the office I was sitting in the day I got my invite - and sent out a few to friends who asked.  Back in those days you could still do cool things like hold raffles on your website:  “I’ve got some more gMail invites, the first ten of you to write and post a Haiku about how awesome Cherry iMacs are (and link to me) will get one...”  The cool thing is that I was in so very early that I managed to get my first initial and last name at gmail.com with no numbers or other qualifiers at all.  

I’ve got a common last name.  You’d may not be surprised how many people think their email address is mine.  Over the years - including once whilst writing this article - I’ve very politely written back to a number of parties and said, “I think you’ve sent this to the wrong address.”  Other parties have registered my email address assumedly by mistake, or else used my email address to avoid spam in their real address.  There are a lot of my first initials out there.  There would be my real name, eg, Huw, then Hugh, Henry, Hyrum, Harry, Harold, Halley, Heather, Henrietta, Haighlea, Harley etc, and then because it’s gMail and the punctuation doesn’t matter, there’s h. and h- and h_ in all of its possible permutations.  Then there’s typos - as the most recent one was (evidently the party left out a middle initial in the address).  

So for the humorous, yes, one party put my email address on her bridal registry:  I do hope she liked all the avocado green place settings.  I couldn’t resist.  There were travel documents - one airline with whom I was already registered kindly assuming that anyone using my address must actually be me - I could have cancelled them, at least they didn’t ask me to pay for the tickets to Europe!  Magazines constantly send offers to me thinking they are reaching more appropriate folks.  One party in England used my address to register at a couple of very posh eateries of the sort that bother to write personal emails to invite you to come back to dinner.  One party in LA uses my address, still, for just about everything - and her parents don’t seem to remember me every time I have to write and say “I’m not your daughter.”

Honestly, I only get annoyed when they keep contacting me after I’ve clicked unsubscribe or when I’ve contacted them once to say “Not me”.  The only thing more annoying is the woman who owned my phone number before I got it and bounced a lot of checks.  After eleven years with this phone number I still get calls from claims investigators looking for this scofflaw from North Carolina.

The security aspect, however, wasn’t quite clear to me until one party registered his first initial and last name at gmail.com (my email, that is) as his email on his SAT.

With no way to turn it off until it was too late, the SAT sent his score and my email address to just about every college in the known universe.  I was able to tell the SAT they had the wrong address with one click, but the report had been sent out already.  At my address, he was offered scholarships, invitations for visits and telephone interviews if he couldn’t show up.  I heard about visiting days, advanced programs and work-study options.  Most of these had “unsubscribe” links at the bottom and since I couldn’t be bothered to track any of this I did, just as a matter of course, click unsubscribe on everything.  Those that didn’t have unsubscribe were blocked as spam (thank you, gmail for an excellent filter) and, after a couple of months, it all stopped.  But as the next admission cycled rolled around, a few colleges decided to try again.

After clicking unsubscribe one morning, suddenly I was staring at the home address of my erstwhile kin! One college, a tiny school in Missouri, didn’t unsubscribe, but rather invited someone to “confirm their account settings.”  I tried it again, yup: his home address and phone. No, I didn’t call him and say, “Hey, I’m the reason you never got your SAT scores or that scholarship to Harvard.”  Instead I contacted the college admissions office and said, “This may be a FERPA violation.  You’d better check.” Of course it wasn't their fault - but it seems kind of odd to reveal so much information based on an unverified email.

Since that time, I’ve had more shocking events.  People often send the most revealing photos to the wrong address.  The email today was a photograph of handwritten account information, including phone numbers and, one assumes, some kind of UK personal ID number.  I was most horrified at the Real Estate agent in Ontario that kept sending me loan documents for a family (that had given the wrong email) even after I asked for her to stop.  My assumption is that she called the family to confirm the email address and that they, again, gave the wrong email.  But really, when you get email from an address, that’s about all you need. Loan documents.... with a lot of info on them. Just imagine that for a minute: with whom would you want to accidentally share your banking information?

This is what happens when you either mistype the intended email address or else give the wrong email address: you share personal information. Full stop.  It's not "Reverse Identity Theft" so much as "Free Identity Give-away". You've created a security leak on your own: and how much of one depends entirely on the company with whom you're doing business.

You may share it with someone  who is kind-hearted and who will write you back and say ”you’ve reached the wrong address” or you may not.   You may reach someone who changes the color of your place settings, or you may share payment information or banking information in a way that can put you at risk!

After more than two decades in customer service of one form or another, I no longer think that most of these are mere mistakes.  I’ve worked for ISPs and websites. I’ve managed customer files for employment agencies and for IT departments in colleges.  Over and over people do not know their email address.  That’s not a mistake: that’s stupid.  “Ma’am, that address is not in our database. Sir, there is no account with that address.”  I have no idea how they manage to do this.  To me it’s like not knowing your own phone number.  Yes, certainly, it may be hard in a given moment to remember your own number - I never dial it, you know!  But after a moment you remember it and go “Ah, yes”.  And yes, certainly, people have multiple email addresses - I’ve got 7 or 8!  But again, it’s like your work phone and your home phone, or, better, your land line, your cell phone and your work phone and the fax number at the office - all of these are usually within easy reach of whatever passes for the remainder of my memory.

Uncharitably, either the vast majority of users are so very dense as to be unable to find their hometown on a map, or else  - with a bit more charity - they are just making up stuff to avoid giving out personal information over the internet.  “I’ll just say my email address is bilbo at baggins dot com and it will all be ok”. But that is just as stupid. Someplace Bilbo is waiting to get the next email and he may have nefarious plans on your precious information.

Right now I’m dealing with a very annoying case: a party used my email to register her B&N Nook.  Now, I’m greatly astonished that there was never a validation email: click here to validate your account. Sure, I never had to validate my Kindle - but I've had the same address on my Amazon account for over a decade: that address was validated back then. I’m equally astonished that it took several weeks of conversation with B&N to get someone to contact their customer and asked her for a proper email address.  I’ve even called B&N and they won’t talk to me about the account because I can’t validate it!  But I could reset the password. Why would a customer do this?  Why would a company not want to correct it?  Who knows.

Again, when you either mistype the intended email address or else wilfully give the wrong email address you share personal information. Full stop.  

19 October 2013

All Saints' Day


TIZ THAT Time of the year again when accusations will fly: you stole our holidays!  You're being Satanic! We will be bombarded with bad history and bad social science and bad theology. I won’t even bother to link to the most common Christian “proof sheet” that takes the Irish name of the holiday (Samhain) and makes it into a god’s name – a god to whom human sacrifices were offered. This deity never existed. Samhain is simply Irish gaelic meaning “End of Summer”. It is stidthe name of the Month of November in the Irish language. I will also not bother to link to sources produced by Modern Neopagans who get their history all wrong, too. This holiday was not stolen by the Church from them. Firstly because their patterns are modern – based on a Christian culture – so their patterns are not the “real, ancient practice” of any people. Secondly because their ancient feasts were not celebrated on fixed calendars. After ten-plus years as a pagan and twenty plus years as a Christian I’m just annoyed by all the politically-biased claims out there.

A good deal of the modern evangelical and fundamentalist (and Orthodox covert) complaints about Halloween are just badly disguised ultra-Protestant Anti-Roman Catholicism. In some cases (Jack Chick comes to mind) it’s not very thinly disguised at all. Other sects often succumb to such uber-frummery, too. When I was first Chrismated as Orthodox my only reply was “it’s not my holiday”. In this I was following my priest – Fr J – although, truth be told, he bought into all the Satanic myths too. Of course, considering the Orthodox Western Rite celebrates All Saints day with the Christian West we must admit that, in fact, some Orthodox do celebrate All Hallows’ Eve. So also do Roman Catholics, Anglicans and some (most?) Lutherans. In other words a majority of Christians around the world have this day on their liturgical calendar.

We are, therefore, going to have to define some terms. "A Christian Holiday" in this conversation means that it is part of the Christian liturgical calendar.  In East and West, being on the calendar may mean various liturgical functions - and east and west do it differently.  But both East and West treat their most important feast days the same: there's a Eucharistic liturgy (communion service) and there is something of a complex evening prayer the night before.  All Saints Day fits this pattern: there is a communion service on the day of, and a complex evening prayer service on the vigil, the "Eve".  It's this "Eve" that is "Hallowe'en".

A pagan holiday is one that is non-Christian, or Pre-Christian and, usually, localized: there was no pre-Christian religious tradition that was pan-European.  There were Celts and Romans and Greeks, there were Scythians, Gauls, Goths, Visigoths, Egyptians, etc. Each one of these ethnic groups would have had pagan holidays.

Stealing our holiday means exactly that: moving in, remaking and rewriting it until it matches our pattern not yours.

It is my assertion that the celebration of All Hallows eve is Christian; that is was never Pagan; and that it is, in fact, the Pagans who are stealing holidays.

Let's first take a look at three parts: the Eastern Christian, the Western Christian and the Non-Christian.

The East
In the east, St John Chrysostom (4th Century) set a celebration in memory of all the “other” saints on the Sunday after Pentecost. Since he did not (nor does his successor) have universal jurisdiction, this holiday would have, of course, only applied to those dioceses and parishes under his patriarchate. Since it was a good idea, however, the tradition spread among the other Orthodox. Additionally, in some places the second Sunday after Pentecost is observed as All local Saints. Thus in the Russian Churches, this is All Saints of Russia. In the Orthodox Church in America, that Sunday is “All Saints of America” but it is not so named among the various non-Autocephalous or “self-ruled” groups in the US.

This celebration was not commanded to those churches under the Patriarchate of Rome although the tradition began spreading there, as well.

The West
In AD 609 or 610, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the ancient Roman Pantheon as a Christian Church.  The new name was St Mary and All Martyrs and the anniversary of the consecration, 13 May, was a feast celebrated in all the western Church. This was the beginning of All Saints’ Day in the West. It’s important to note two things: (a) this happens after the coming of St Augustine to Canterbury in 587; and (b) it doesn’t happen on 1 November. These are important because of the claim (sometimes offered in error on these pages as well) that Augustine merely baptised a pagan feast day he found in England and that it came back to Rome. Nope. Sorry.

About 100 years later another Pope, Gregory III, dedicated another All Saints’ chapel – this one in St Peter’s – on 1 November and began to commemorate the feast on that day. The next Pope Gregory made that feast (on 1 November) of universal practice.

The Roman Martyrology, still read daily in monastic orders, tells the story this way:
Festívitas ómnium Sanctórum, quam in honórem beátæ Dei Genitrícis Vírginis Maríæ et sanctórum Mártyrum Bonifátius Papa Quartus, cum templum Pántheon tértio Idus Maji dedicásset, célebrem et generálem instítuit agi quotánnis in urbe Roma. Sed Gregórius item Quartus póstmodum decrévit, eándem festivitátem, quæ váriis modis jam in divérsis Ecclésiis celebrabátur, in honórem ómnium Sanctórum solémniter hac die ab univérsa Ecclésia perpétuo observári. 
The Festival of All Saints, which Pope Boniface IV, after the dedication of the Pantheon, ordained to be kept generally and solemnly every year on the 13th of May, in the city of Rome, in honour of the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and of the holy martyrs. It was afterwards decreed by Gregory IV that this feast, which was then celebrated in many dioceses, but at different times, should be on this day kept by the whole Church in honour of all the saints.
(From the Internet Archive.)

All of these Christian dates are very important because these dates mean the festival of All Saints (and thus the Vigil the night before) is a feast of the pre-Schism Patriarchate of Rome. It’s Orthodox. 31 October/1 November is not a Pagan festival.

3 The Real Pagan Stuff
The real Pagan strand is harder to trace. As noted, there is no pan-European culture or religion.  Not every Pagan European culture had a festival here.  To find any festival at all at this point of the year, we have to leave the Roman Empire and go to the edge of the known world: Ireland. There was a festival in ancient Ireland as the Sun reach halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. The bards report this feast was celebrated on the Hill of Tara with the Ard Rí – the High King. Should one visit Tara today one will see a “passage grave” on the hill. In the back of the grave are small spirals carved into the wall. Once a year – around November 7th on the modern Gregorian calendar – as the sun passes the half-way point between the Equinox and the Solstice, a shaft of light penetrates the cave and strikes the spirals. Does this indicated the feast of Tara? Don’t know. But it does show that the astronomical point – not a calendar date, per se – was marked at Tara. To be certain the Pagans in the only part of Europe not conquered by Rome didn’t use the Roman Calendar – and so wouldn’t have known what 31 October was. The passage on Tara shoes that (in modern terms) it was the Sun at 15 Degrees of Scorpio that was celebrated – not a specific day.

Bonfires were lit that night, but we know no more of the festival at all.  We don't know that the Irish even had anything to say about the dead on this night.  Anthropologically it would make sense for this festival to be a harvest festival and it would be likely that the dead might be invoked or appease at harvest time... but that's it. We don't know.

Would the Church have adopted the pagan practice of a remote tribe from the hinterlands and commanded it to the whole of the western world? Unlikely.

Bad Victorian Mythology
Costumes? Trick or Treat? Pumpkins? Mostly bad Victorian-era Scholarship – and that mostly American, not European at all. Like us moderns, the Americans of the Victorian era had a penchant for things that “feel ancient” and, like us, they tended to make stuff up when they didn’t know the answer. They just call it “ancient tradition”. Americans feel guilty sometimes that most countries have indoor plumbing older than our culture.

Our American custom was, until recently, to becostume ourselves and trick-or-treat on Thanksgiving! In fact this may go back to a Roman Catholic custom on St Martins day: and and this custom was moved to Halloween in the early 20th Century and, as things happen it is the “American Style” Halloween that is only now being imported into Europe. It’s our American customs, superimposed on All Hallows Eve that we now deck out as “ancient” and then call pagan.

Everything else we claim to know about the holiday is from this final strand of Bad American Victorian Scholarship. So we like to blame wearing masks on the ancient Celts. We claim the sweets should be offered to the Ghosts. The Jack O’Lantern is a candle lit to show the dead how to get back to their homes. All of this is without proof of course – positive or negative. The ancient religions were not literate. They didn’t write it down in guidebooks on How to Be a Druid. Almost all of these later inventions have to do with Protestant ideas of the all the departed commemorated on 1 & 2 November. Romans say they are saints – but Protestants know there are no Catholics in heaven so all their “saints” must really be spectres and ghouls. Having made up a pretty fun holiday (admit it!) it caught on! Even Europeans now like this idea.

31 October is Not Pagan.

Modern Neopagans take up this theme – using American Christian customs! – when they say “Christians stole our holiday”. In fact, 1 November was never their holiday – it was, however, the closest Christian party to their own historical party at 15 Degrees Scorpio. So they moved their gew-gaws and froo-froo a week over or so and stopped counting days by small spirals carved on walls and tried this new Roman invention – the Fixed Calendar. They did this so as not to be continually persecuted by the Christians – they wanted to blend in. I’m clear on that – and Christians need to be honest about our persecution of other religions throughout our history. We see the same traditions in Yoruban cultures where their Afro-Caribbean and South American cultures adopt Catholicism as a cover for their African Gods. In like manner, albeit, a thousand years earlier, the Celtic tribes covered up their pagan traditions with a Catholic overlay.

We might better say that the Pagans, to avoid persecution, stole a Christian Holiday. Certainly the idea of the Western All Saints being stolen from the Celtic “day of the dead” is not at all historic.  Since the ancient religions did not write stuff down, we have no way of knowing from Pagan sources if the Festival of Tara was anything to do specifically with the dead or the “Veil between the worlds” getting thin. We don’t even know it was “new year” for them – we just made that up too. Like other pagan festivals some of this stuff may have carried over: the “bonfire holidays” in England are mostly pagan festivals that were transferred to Christian days. This is especially clear on St John’s day in the Summer when they light the midsummer bonfires. This tradition of moving traditions to the biggest party continued through history: now the Mid-Autumn bonfires are not lit on Halloween, but rather on Guy Fawkes Night (Nov 5) which is coincidentally much closer to 15 Degrees Scorpio.

The Aztecs?
Since I’m now in California, it’s worth talking about the Day of the Dead, Dìa de los Muertos, one of my favourite times of the year to switch cultures – we have no idea at all what the ancient Celts did, where as the Day of the Dead is a living tradition. Some Protestant commentaries are quick to point out that this is Pagan Catholicism. Of course it is. But it is Catholicism – not paganism – that rules the day.

The Aztec (Ancient Mexican) Calendar had almost 30 days dedicated to the dead in or around the Gregorian month of August. These were dedicated to the “Little Dead” (children) and the Adult Dead. Within a few decades of the Spanish conquest all the traditions of these festivals had been transferred to the WR feasts of All Saints and All Souls. The Church didn’t move them there – nor did she “take over” the Aztec feasts. Instead – as in the case of the Celts and the other pagans – local traditions were, effectively, baptised and brought in. They were seen as way-pointers on the way to Christ who is The Truth and therefore all things true point to him. There is nothing to be afraid of in the truth: nothing at all. And anything that really is True is Christ.

Now does any of this mean that the modern, Non-Christian silliness that goes on in Schools is really-Christian or even Anti-Christian? No. No more than singing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is an act of Christian piety although I know some who would file a law suit nonetheless.

Most of the secular holidays that happen now  - from Christmas to Easter to Halloween - are decidedly not Christian and should be avoided.  The revelries that happen on this night are lewd, crude and are often designed to mock Christianity.  That is Satanic.  But bobbing for apples, trick or treating - or using this day and season to commemorate the dead and the departed are not Satanic at all.  In fact, it's an Orthodox practice that is so evidently healthy that even the pagans took it over: All Saints Day (and the vigil) and All Souls Day and the whole month of November.  Should the kids be allowed to have that fun? Well, that’s up to the parents. 

17 October 2013


What do you think it might mean to "be" something?

In Irish when one is greatly wanting food, one says "Ta ocras orm."  In English we say "I am hungry" but the Irish say "there is hunger upon me."  The English seems to say "I have become this thing in my being."  We use the same form in discussing just about everything: religion, politics, sex, race, sexuality. We do say "I have a cold", but we go right back to beingness in our jobs, our marriages... Divorces.  Just noticed that we say "I am divorced" but not "I am broken up." (Of course, we do say 'I'm all broken up' in another context that is also a good example of what I'm thinking about.)

So, why is it that, consciously or not, we put our being, our very being, into such a linguistic change cycle every time we enter into description?

What do these statements have in common?   How is it possible that we use the same words for these things?  Do we mean the same thing?

I am married.
I am Republican.
I am Black.
I am English.
I am gay.
I am baptized.
I am drunk.
I am hungry.
I am somebody.

From one angle, of course, we're using shorthand: "I am Republican" is short for "I am a registered member of a specific party." But we don't say that.  What we say is that "In the same way that God self-referentially said, 'I am what I am' I refer externally to something other than myself to say 'I am a Communist'."

But is that what we mean?

I note that this is different from saying "I am doing something".  I am running means that the being I - whatever that is - is involved in this process of whatever it might be.  Only in the most vague newage spiritual language would we ever say "I am batting', meaning 'I have become batting in my being,  as we "unify" the self with the sport.  We usually only mean "I am batting." I am walking.

The Abrahamic Hindu and Buddhist teach teach very important doctrines about the being of the person and while they have only the sketchiest of common threads, they do rather insist on the being as an ontological closed point, at least as part of the path towards whatever. English ignores all that and says the being has no being but rather fluctuates between this state and that state and this other state where what "I am" today is not what "I am" tomorrow.

How can this possibly be?

16 October 2013

Bosses' Day

I have been lucky to have some very awesome Bosses, from Constancio and Mark and Br. James and Pat at the Church Center, Joan L at Borders, Jeff at Gay.com and Vern, Tom and Jim at Swain, John in Buffalo and Eric, Thomas, Sejal and Phil here at Zoosk...

My bosses challenge me, encourage me and force me to grow. 

Sunrise over St Mary's

Looks like a lovely, clear California day.

15 October 2013

Grandpa's Pancakes

AMONG My earliest childhood memories (which start around age 2) is Grandpa cooking breakfast. When I would stay with my Grandparents, I slept on the sofa in the living room. Grandpa would get up very early in the morning and make himself breakfast. It was always the same thing, and I can see him sitting at the head of the table in the kitchen (all one room with the living room in their trailer). It’s dark outside and there’s just a gold-coloured light coming from the one overhead fixture. One pancake, some juice and percolated coffee. Sometimes, if I woke up he would make me a pancake as well. His was adult sized while mine was kid-sized.

Lately, I’ve been remembering his recipe – which I’ve never used, if I’m honest. Mixes and Bisquick took over long before I could cook. But scratch seems like the best option:

  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Cup milk
  • 1/4 Cup self-rising flour.

That’s it. Don't over mix.  He always fried it up in corn oil: makes the edges very crispy. If you're making another, there's enough for two pancakes there, really.  But you can add another 1/4 cup each of the flour and milk and do well. This recipe also works well with self-rising cornmeal: try it with 1/4 of meal or 1/4 each flour and meal.

Cheerwine Pepper Pork

  • 1 Pepper-marinated loin of pork. (Rolled in cracked pepper, marinated. It came from the store this way.)
  • 1 Can of Cheerwine
  • 1 Crockpot.

  1. Put the loin in the crock pot.
  2. Pour the Cheerwine on top.
  3. Cover and slow cook on high for 4-5 hours. The pork will fall apart.

Hot and Spicy Cream Cheese Brownies

Spicy Cream Cheese Brownies

Dagoba Xocolatl is organic cocoa powder plus hot chilies. It’s very tasty. I wondered what sort of brownies it might make.

I did realise that this would require some experimenting. I found a recipe that started with cocoa powder and adjusted it: the Xocolatl already has some sugar in it. So I took out some sugar from the recipe and added some extra cocoa powder. Then I played with everything to get it balanced…

I assert ownership to this recipe: I made it up, it’s mine. Ok? You use it, I get credit!

For the Brownies

  • 1 Stick (1/2 Cup) Butter, Melted
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 1/3 Cup Dagoba Xocolatl 
  • 1 Tbs Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 325° with rack in centre of oven.

  1. Line a 9″x9″ pan with tinfoil.
  2. Combine melted butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs in a bowl. Stir until thoroughly blended.
  3. In a separate container, combine flour, Xocolatl, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add the dry to the wet and incorporate completely. Do not over-mix!
  5. Reserve 1/2 cup of this batter and pour the rest in the prepared pan.
  6. Sprinkle pecans on top of the batter.

For the Cream Cheese Topping

  • 8 Ounces Cream Cheese
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla
  • 1 Egg

  1. Beat the cream cheese with the sugar.
  2. Add the vanilla and the egg.
  3. Blend thoroughly.
  4. Pour this over the brownie batter (and nuts)
  5. Place the reserved batter in small dollops on the top.
  6. Use a knife or an spoon handle to swirl the two batters without mixing them.

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 mins or until the brownies start to pull away from the sides of the pan and the edges of the brownies are just beginning to brown.

Chill for at least two hours before cutting into squares.

One other option: instead of cream cheese, try moscarpone!

Moving the Blog

I'm moving my blog back to Blogger.  I'm doing this b/c my blog - as opposed to another site I own - is not a full-on website: it's just my essays.  And essays are kinda boring if no one reads or responds to them.  I've explored cross-posting options (that would update G+ with my blog posts) but I don't trust the companies that want access to my WordPress AND my Google account.  Good heavens but my Google account is like... me in cyberspace at this point.

So, since Google owns blogger AND since I can cross post to Blogger and Google+ and, for better or worse, I actually trust Google...  I'm switching over.

By the by: I was one of the first people ever to pay for Blogger back in the 90s: $35 for a lifetime of service.  :-)

The domain name (http://raphael.doxos.com) will continue to point over there for a little while until I fix all my email issues... but then "Doxos.com" will point directly to my Blogger.

New York Morning

by Bill Bailey (DHR)

quiet as deliveries in early dawn
subterranean thunder rolls
calling us to life again
soft dreams fading in
the fragrances of the bed
and light cascading in on our sleep

glowing as tower lights on hanging clouds
I feel You more than see You
closed eyes and breathings merge
and gentle angel wings enfold
as You pull yourself to my chest
I hold a man holding me

sharp as city spires
we open eyes and souls
each to the other’s body heat
bursting intensities of morning’s rush
upon us and through us
body and blood on which we feast

quiet as the empire city’s streets
we are a living fire in winter’s day break
falling in the night like snow on clean cotton
our love shatters with arrows
the shields which hold us down
and in the burning of our rest we soar

Georgia Morning

by Bill Bailey (DHR)
© 1995

soft as dew on early morning grass
I touch You as You sleep
with my heart and mind
quietly like the rising sun
your eyes open and You smile

gentle as breezes through tall pines
You caress my arms and hair
and I hold You to me
glowing like dawn’s reds and pinks
in the flush of reunion

loving as Georgia’s red clay
You mold my heart with your soul
shaping it to the forms of Love
in the crucible of morning’s breakings
a chalice to celebrate our mass

soft as spanish moss on my face
your lips touch mine with moist dances
both mouths curving into smiles
as aurora’s rays pierce our eyes
We close them the more to share our Joy

San Francisco Morning

© 1997 Bill Bailey (DHR)

street car rumbles on Market
as dawn brushing our eyes
sneaks past your blinds
and wakes us in each other’s arms

waves crash on Black Sands
as gentle mist caresses lips
hands touch nipples
fogs cresting Twin Peaks

redwoods ancient on Mt Tam
see tide surge past the Golden Gate
our eyes opening in day see
bridges to each other’s soul

then heart to heart chest to chest
tectonic plates sliding together
as on earth so in heaven
joys rumble and subside

later streetcars wend me home
passing in twilit evening
I see your window
and I smile.

Why I am not a Gay Christian

One of the “breaks” in my life, as might be seen by anyone “outside” me, is my sexuality as paired with my usually conservative religious bent. I’m Eastern Orthodox – and yet I identify as gay. I don’t use “homosexual” or even “same sex attracted” for I’m quite willing to be “in the midst of” my gay brothers and sisters. I like the rainbow flag. I’m here. I’m queer. Get used to it.

But I’m not a Gay Christian. I’d use the lingua franca and say, “I’m a Christian who happens to be gay.” Yet that’s not 100% right either. Truth is I identify more with my Christian fellow travelers – even the ones who reject me – than I do with much of the Gay Community. I think I’m obligated to do so by my religion: if I am a faithful Christian, my refusal to scandalize my brothers and sisters in the faith is far more important than my freedom (sexual or otherwise). And in the end a preacher who slams all gays, qua gays, is just, in my book, as ignorant as a gay or lesbian person who slams all Christians, qua Christians. Both come in so many shades and fetishes that any attempt to label “all” is stupid.

I reject “Gay Christian” because I’m willing to admit I’m wrong. I’m not pitting my 45 years of experience in my skin against 4000 years of Judeo-Christian moral tradition. I don’t expect my halting theological steps to be yours: but even so, I might be wrong.

The Church does not need to change: by God’s grace I’m man enough, adult enough, to be challenged by a preacher, thanks. And I’ve heard it all my life. I’m still here.

I know there are people who are not strong enough to be criticized. We hear from them all the time: Jews who don’t want to be told that we believe they rejected their Messiah; divorcees who don’t want to be reminded that we believe they should not have gotten divorced; mothers whom we believe have murdered their children in utero. These people demand not only that the church change – but that she stop saying what she believes. Why? I know what some Jews say about my Jesus – there are entire sections of Yiddish dictionaries devote to slamming the man I believe to be God-in-the-flesh. So what? They say what they want. I say what I want. That’s ok – and life’s more colourful that way!

Likewise my sex life. Sin is – anyone who has been honest with herself knows that sin is. Yet it’s not that we “are” sin: rather we are sinners as surely as we are breathers. All of us. And I can trust God’s grace to supply his riches in my weakness. But I don’t mind being told I might be – or even am – wrong. It forces me to question, to challenge my desires, to deal with the realities of my sin.

The real fault here is in imagining this is “Who I *am*.” We’ve seen all kinds of mistakes in ontology – beingness – in our history. We constantly imagine “the other” to be evil, hyper-sexual, and sin-filled. All black men have huge penises and want to rape white women (or white boys in prison). I’ve been hearing a version of that all my life. It’s one reason I’m less afraid and more titillated when I’m surrounded by persons of colour. The Yiddish terms for gentile boys and girls (not “Goyim” for gentiles in general) convey the same ideas of hyper sexuality and loose morals and titillating temptation for “good Jews”. Likewise Grecian, Roman and Russian attitudes to “barbarians”. But then we discover they are just people, just a different sort of being. All these things St Paul implies are not who we are in Christ, "neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male and female".

What we know about human sexuality today will change tomorrow. And what we know tomorrow will change next year. Today it’s a genetic thing and yesterday it’s hormones in the mother’s womb and who knows what tomorrow will bring? But we keep telling ourselves “Now we finally know, really” when what we usually mean is “We’re hearing something that confirms our suspicions.” The blame is on us, really: for telling ourselves “this is *who* you *are*”.  As created in God's image, we are neither gay nor straight.

Who I am has changed at least once a decade for the last 45 years. I’m dying to know who I will be tomorrow. And I mean that. Gay is not who I am: it’s what I do in bed. It doesn’t get better if you imagine “this is who I am”. Cuz I know it’s not who I am that matters at all: It’s who I’m struggling to be.

I’m a failure most of my time in the Christian half of the equation as well: I fail to love, to forgive, to turn the other cheek. I fail in the easiest of commands: we are told “resist not evil”. I’d much rather fight, thanks. I fail in charity and I fail in greed. In these failures I know I am wrong. What’s to prevent me from being wrong in my assumptions about human sexuality?

My goal, however, as a Christian (and if you’re not a Christian, this is not your goal)… my goal is to become so open to God, burning and flowing through me that I become divine. This is salvation as taught by the Church: not some twopenny morality, not some platitude about “being nice”, neither some irritating piety that grates on the teeth. Nothing short of divinity will satisfy me. To this end I wake and sleep, eat and drink and yes, make love and pray.

I might be wrong.

The problem is that we don’t like that one sentence. We don’t like the challenge of that possibility; the assurance that in our humanity we are not infallible God. I might be wrong about the very things that I think I know the best: my insides, my wiring. I might be broken, somehow, through no fault of my own. The very thing some folks want me to say “is me” might be the very thing that’s broken.  The very thing that the world insists - even demands - is my identity... this might be the very thing that is the weakest link, the thing that isn't me at all.

I know that’s not my experience: and I know that’s not what I feel. But it's possible.  When millenia of human experience and moral teaching say otherwise, I might, you know... we few moderns living in the latter half of one century and the first half of another, in one "language sphere" out of all of history... we might be wrong.

More importantly, I know what the fathers and mothers, the Saints, say about it: in all things Eucharist. Man is the priest of the universe commanded to make thanksgiving (eucharist) in and for all things. I am commanded to bring me – myself, my life, my all – to the altar and to raise it up. By God’s grace it comes back to me not as “me” but as God. What will that be like? I don’t know.  I know I can bring my sex life (or lack of one) to God.  It won't be the same when it comes back though.

Maybe it’s gay. Maybe it’s not. Maybe I won’t know for a long time yet. But until I do know, I’m happy in my agnosticism. I will yield it to God.

When I manage to be a Christian at all, of course, I am still gay. I get the jokes, I speak the language, I understand the culture. I’m still an American as well. Maybe some part of me breaks free from sex and birthright. Maybe not.

But I feel no need to label myself as a “White Christian”, “American Christian” or even a “Male Christian” and, indeed, all those things are supposed to go away in Jesus. Maybe gay does too? Not in a “cure” sense but in a “doesn’t figure” sense. I am gay. I am Christian. I am not a gay Christian.

Happy (belated) National Coming Out Day.