October 26, 2007

Too Gay or Not Too Gay

If you're reading this here now, chances are good that you already read elsewhere a few days ago that J.K. Rowling stated that Albus Dumbledore, beloved headmaster of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books, is gay. You may not have heard, but four days before Rowling outed Dumbledore, she also declared that the content and imagery of her books is, indeed, explicitly Christian. What do these revelations have in common? Neither of them can change what has already been written.

And yet, I can't help but feel a little irritated at the level to which discourse about the books will now be permitted, nay forced, to sink. I'm not irritated at Rowling, mind you. She revealed her thoughts on Dumbledore in response to a direct question from an audience member. I don't think she was trying to drop a bombshell. What I do think is that sexual orientation doesn't play a role in the books, therefore it shouldn't play a role in the already muddied and inane waters of public discourse about the books. Insofar as the series is a prolonged argument for diversity and tolerance, there is an implicit acceptance of homosexuality, but the subject simply does not come up.

I am no great respecter of authorial intent. I have long believed that, as interesting and even illuminating as an author's insight can be, a work of fiction will speak for itself in ways that even the best writer could never have foreseen. I've been arguing for over three years that Harry Potter is Christian fantasy. It's obvious. It's in the books. That's the way Rowling wrote it, and nothing that she says can make it any more or less true. As gratifying as it was to hear it confirmed, I was surprised that she felt that she needed to. On the flip side, Dumbledore's alleged homosexuality flew so far under the radar that not even Rita Skeeter nosed it up in one of her muck-raking columns about him in book 7. It just wasn't in there.

Take a look at this rather good pair of articles by John Mark Reynolds, philosophy professor at Biola (is Martinez familiar with that name, I wonder?). I'm not sure I agree with everything he says, or perhaps I just don't agree with how he says it, but it's a good, level-headed piece of writing. "Taking Stories More Seriously Than the Author: Dumbledore is not Gay, Dumbledore is not Hetero."

This is a non-issue masquerading as an issue. If you pick a side, you automatically lose. Whether you happily accept Dumbledore as a gay character or disgustedly condemn Rowling for her declaration it says something about you, and nothing about Harry Potter, either as literature, entertainment, or anything else. As someone who understands that homosexuality is a highly-charged and deeply-complicated issue involving real people, I resent the assumptions produced by holding either opinion about Dumbledore. You know what I mean . . . If you think it's okay that Dumbledore is gay, you hate children and family values. If you think it isn't okay that Dumbledore is gay, you're a bible-thumping homophobe . . . that sort of thing.

Guess what? I don't care whether Dumbledore is gay or not. I realize (and resent) that making a big deal out of this makes me sound like I do, but I honestly couldn't be less interested. He is a fascinating and wonderful character, and I love him as I love everything else about the Harry Potter books. What I do care about is the irrelevancy of the topic to anything important in Harry Potter and the lack of maturity that results from its introduction.

On the one side, seriously, what's to be so giddy about? Check this out. Stop dancing around like you've just scored a victory that you can rub the other side's face in. On the other side, there is the equally childish "ewwy" reaction . . . particularly annoying when it comes from long-time fans of the series who now find themselves "turned off" by something that they didn't even catch while they were reading (because it wasn't actually there).

And, moving from childish to juvenile, we've got the people snickering in the back about Dumbledore wanting to hold Harry's "wand" and how now it makes sense that he never left Hogwarts to become Minister of Magic. Grow up. Isn't it funny how no one ever thought Dumbledore stayed for the little girls, but as soon as someone says he's gay he must like the little boys? When did homosexuality become a synonym for pedophilia? In any case, this is precisely why the subject should never have come up. It denigrates the discourse rather than elevating it. Our society simply isn't mature enough to talk about this like adults yet. It may never be mature enough.

I rewatched an old favorite last night: Anatomy of a Murder. It's a courtroom drama starring Jimmy Stewart. The movie was made in 1959, and there's one scene in particular that's always just blown my mind. The trial involves a murder and an alleged rape, and the rape victim's panties play a key role. When the subject first comes up, the judge makes a point of standing up and announcing that panties will be part of the discussion. The whole courtroom cracks up, and he tells them he wanted them to get their chuckles out now so the trial could continue.

It's hard to believe that a mere 50 years ago, a roomful of people older than the age of 12 could find the mere mention of the word "panties" so hilarious . . . and yet, watching the furor over "Dumbledore is gay" I realize I shouldn't really be surprised. We haven't progressed all that much. I think that may be what gets to me most of all . . . even participating in this discussion as though it were important makes me feel like I'm in junior high.

Posted by Jared at 11:02 AM | TrackBack

October 25, 2007

Back Online

Okay, it's time to bring this puppy back to life. You may have noticed that Moviegoings has been stirring a bit lately, so it was only a matter of time before I returned to my personal blog and brought it back up to speed. I've left a lot of time in the dust since I stopped posting regularly. Let's see . . . where were we? Rachel was hired to teach 1st grade in Waco . . . I quit my library job . . . We got a house:


It's been an eventful couple of months, to be sure. Randy, the Scholls, Gallagher and Becca helped us move back in August and then Rachel's school year started. The less said about that right now, the better. I really need to get her to blog (carefully) about it sometime. We'll see. Now . . . what's happened since August . . .?

Ashley came to visit us the weekend after the move and we adopted 2 cats. Here they are, sitting in our living room with us:


The one Rachel is holding is Dickens and the one I'm holding is Shaw. I wanted Simon and Garfunkel, but Rachel didn't go for it. *sigh* Randy came the next weekend to visit the kitties . . . and also us. We stayed up most of the night watching half a season of Dr. Who. Good stuff.

About a week and a half after that, word came down the pipe that my father-in-law's well drilling rig was ready to be transported from Marquez, TX to Aptos, CA, so I loaded up the truck and sallied forth. I was gone from September 19th to the 29th, traveling over 4000 miles. For slightly less than half of that journey I was dragging a trailer that technically was probably a bit much for my truck to handle. Going faster than 55 mph was generally not an option. If I hit an uphill slope I was lucky if I could top before I dropped below 25. During the remainder of the trip, once I dumped the trailer, I was hauling a load of bamboo back to Texas. It didn't slow me down noticeably, but it did stick out of the back of my truck about 12 feet.

Here's a map of my route (click to enlarge):


The blue pauses represent overnight stops, while the yellows were brief stops for gas and/or food. Starting from Waco in the bottom right corner:

1. First stop for the night at my grandparents' house in Southland, TX. Need to be up and on the road by 6:30 or so to make it to Uncle Doug's house in Chino Valley, AZ.

2. After about 10 hours of driving, I pull off the interstate at Joseph City, AZ for one last fill up before the final leg to Doug's house. As I come to rest at a stop sign on the access road, I hear a very nasty noise from the back and pull off to the side of the road. The portion of my bumper to which the trailer is hitched has snapped off on the left side and is dragging on the ground. I'm going nowhere.

3. After semi-frantic calls in all directions (and locking my keys in my truck) I manage to have myself towed to nearby Winslow. My truck will be fixed in the morning and hopefully I will be back on the road. Needing to keep moving, but loathe to miss my visit with Doug, I persuade him to come with me for a portion of the rest of the trip. He will fly home from Denver, once we get that far. The only problem: He wants to fly out of Colorado on Tuesday morning and I am currently broken down in Arizona on Thursday night. We buy the ticket.

4. I finally leave Winslow and pick up Doug at a gas station in Ash Fork, AZ before continuing on to California. We expect to reach Martinez's house in Riverside by 8 or 9.

5. It's nearly 9:00 and we still have at least an hour to go. We are driving through the middle of the desert . . . there is nothing around, but in the distance we can see the glow of one of the largest cities in the world. Doug is at the wheel. Suddenly, the lights on the dashboard go out. A few seconds later, we realize that we have lost our tail lights and trailer lights as well. Brake lights and signal lights also appear to be non-functional. We exit the interstate as quickly as possible, pull out the flashlight, and start probing. It is very cold. Doug eventually discovers that the grounding wire to the trailer has come loose and has shorted out one or more fuses. I call Martinez. Doug jury-rigs a fix for the wire, finds the busted fuse, and replaces it with a spare. We are back on the road with full lights a little over an hour later.

6. It is nearly midnight as we turn onto Martinez's street. We hit a bump and all of our lights go out again. Martinez and I drag Doug out from under the truck and make him go to bed. We have a lovely breakfast Saturday morning and then go to work. It seems that approximately 15 things have gone wrong with the lights and wiring on the truck and trailer, all at the same time. I am amazed that we had lights at all for the final leg of our journey. Finding all of the problems and rectifying them takes most of the day (not counting a lunch break for my first visit to In-N-Out . . . yum). We even have to go buy a brand new tail light for the trailer. Finally we bid Martinez farewell and hit the road in the early evening.

7. We reach Aptos at around 2 in the morning and go to bed. I seem to have picked up the cold Rachel had before I left. Guess I'd better pass that on to Doug. We go to church the next morning and then hang out all afternoon . . . get the well set up . . . chat . . . watch a few episodes of Dr. Who. Good times. All too soon it is Monday morning and the pickup is loaded for the return trip. I would like to stay longer, but we have a plane to catch. It is 10 in the morning and we have approximately 26 hours until Doug's plane leaves Denver.

7a. After making good time through San Francisco and Sacramento, Doug talks me into a brief detour to Lake Tahoe on the CA-NV border. It is absolutely gorgeous. We cross into Nevada late in the afternoon.

7b. Northern Nevada turns out to be pretty empty. In fact, no one really seems to live anywhere along our route between Reno, NV and Cheyenne, WY. The sun sets just as we pass Winnemucca, NV, Doug takes over the wheel, and our long night begins. Note: Battle Mountain, NV is not nearly as exciting as its name implies.

7c. We stop for gas in Elko, NV and I take over again. It's not terribly late yet, but it will be before the tank is empty again. By about midnight I've crossed into Utah. It is very dark, but I can definitely see the salt flats stretched out on either side of the highway. They practically glow in the dark. They also give me nothing to look at, and sleep becomes very difficult to fight. I drive right by the shore of the Great Salt Lake at nearly 2 in the morning, but I can't really see it.

7d. We stop for gas in Salt Lake City. I tried to get to Temple Square, but I didn't want to lose the highway and it was time for Doug to drive. The gas station doesn't have a bathroom, so we find a Denny's and use their's. Doug and I are panhandled three times in the space of 10 minutes in downtown Salt Lake City. I sleep fairly well, asking Doug periodically if he's staying awake okay.

7e. We stop for gas at about 4:30 in Wamsutter, WY. Doug claims he has no idea when we crossed into Wyoming, but it was apparently hours ago. He can't keep it on the road anymore, so I take another turn. We are passing through the heart of the Rockies, nearing the northernmost point on our route (Rawlins, WY), and it is ridiculously cold.

7f. The sun peeks over the horizon at last as we drive through Laramie, WY. We have traveled nearly 750 miles since it went down. We stop for gas and breakfast at McDonald's in Cheyenne at about 7:30 before beginning the final push to Denver. The scenery is gorgeous and I regret missing so much of Wyoming during the night.

8. We reach the Denver airport shortly after 9:00. Doug has plenty of time to spare. We say our goodbyes and he goes to wait in the terminal while I proceed for my last hour down to Colorado Springs where my friend Andy lives.

9. I reach Andy's house before 11:00. I have been on the road for over 24 hours and have traveled over 1400 miles. I discover that the distance (as the car drives) from San Francisco to New York City is only 2900 miles, and I realize that Doug and I have just driven halfway across the country in a single go. I am tired, but satisfied, but the lack of rest has done no good for my cold. I relax at Andy's all day Wednesday and Thursday, recovering for my last two days of travel. I haven't seen Andy in a few years. We watch movies, visit Barnes & Noble, and generally let the good times roll.

10. I leave early Friday morning and drive back to Lubbock to spend the night with my other grandparents . . . but I won't be here long. Rachel has been ready for me to be home for several days, despite a visit from Gallagher and Becca the weekend I was in California. I leave bright and early Saturday morning for the last few hours of driving, stopping briefly in Southland to return some stuff I borrowed from my grandparents there (like that super-handy flashlight I mentioned in #5).

11. It is approximately 2:00 in the afternoon and I am a mere 60 miles from home driving down highway 6. It is pretty, but remote. I haven't had cell phone signal in over an hour, but I suddenly notice a single bar, so I call Rachel to let her know where I am. I have just enough time to tell her where I am when I lose the signal again. 30 seconds later, my front left tire shreds itself and I pull off to the side to assess. I retrieve the larger fragments from a few hundred yards back and stick them in the bed of the truck, then begin the onerous task of unloading enough stuff to let me get at my jack and lug wrench. After a very tiresome hour of work, I have successfully installed a very shady-looking donut tire. I decide I'd better take it slow the rest of the way.

12. At nearly 5:00, I finally pull up next to my driveway and walk inside. It was an exciting trip and I saw lots of new places, did several things I've never done before, and visited good friends along the way. But I sha'n't be doing it again anytime soon.

Meanwhile, I went to see Martinez's brother Brian perform with with the Baylor Jazz Ensemble a few weeks ago (it was really great!), and Brett and Holly (who are now living in Austin) came to visit us weekend before last. I have plans for the next 2 weekends, and Thanksgiving isn't long after that . . . time is flying right along. And that's the latest from Waco. It's good to be back.

Posted by Jared at 08:36 AM | TrackBack