Saturday, August 25, 2007

What Fosco learned from Mother Teresa

Fosco doesn't like to discuss religion in polite company; and if my conversation with you here at Fosco Lives! isn't polite, I don't know what it is. Aside from a few good-natured jokes about the Morms, Fosco prefers to live his unrepentantly atheistic life and ignore all the silliness about this Jebus Jesus that people keep talking about. This is the understanding here at Fosco Lives!: let's not talk god.

Fosco is going to break this agreement to make a brief comment about the soon-to-be-released letters of Saintish Mother Teresa. This collection reveals that Mother Teresa may have had (gasp!) doubts about her faith and the existence of god, revealing what is described by the NYTimes as a "profound darkness." From the NYT:

"I have no Faith--I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart--& make me suffer untold agony," she wrote in an undated letter.

In 1956, she wrote: "Such deep longing for God and...repulsed empty no faith no love no zeal. ... Heaven means nothing pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything."

Mother Teresa acknowledged the apparent contradiction with per public persona, describing her ever-present smile as "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything."

Some writings seem to suggest she doubted God's existence. She wrote in 1959: "What do I labour for? If there be no God--there can be no soul--if there is no Soul then Jesus You also are not true."

Now Fosco has no interest in snarking at Mother Teresa. Even taking into account what Christopher Hitchens has (persuasively) argued, I still find Mother Teresa to be a lot more saint-like than say... me. Or Robert Olen Butler (R.I.P.). No, the target of Fosco's ire here is not MT herself, but rather anyone who thinks that christianity produces peace of mind.

Now Fosco's mind has a long and proud tradition of inquietude. And on several occasions has Fosco been assured by some glassy-eyed christo-zombie that a life of faith is pure blisssssssss. Fosco was once told (at a school board meeting, no less!) that only god could bring quiet to his troubled mind. And at least when Fosco is on an airplane or insomniac in the middle of the night, that kind of promise can seem pretty appealing.

But look at Saint Albanian Nun! This is what Mother Teresa's doubts suggest to me: the key to peace of mind is not faith in god, but rather near-vegetable idiocy. Apparently, even Mother Teresa was too smart for that.

(Of course, part of the Vatican's point here is that MT performed her saintly deeds despite her doubts--she lived a faith she didn't feel. Fine. I can deal with that. We can productively disagree over whether or not that's inspirational or pathetic--or some of both.)

So the next time Fosco finds himself in existential crisis in the middle of the night, he's going to think about Mother Teresa. And then he's going to roll over and make out with his boyfriend Oz, secure in the knowledge that christians all over the country are having similar midnight anxieties (and that most of them do not have a boyfriend with such a cute ass).

Every silver lining's got...

a Touch of Gray.

We're trying something new this weekend at Fosco Lives!: color scheme tweaking. Fosco is a fan of the ol' black background, but it has started to look a bit like the standard Blogger template that it is.

But drastic change is not the place to start--especially since Fosco prefers content to style... So here is the first tweak: a gray blue red background. Let's see how that works.

[N.B.: the Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics site in the link above is hosted at UCSC. Go figure.]

A Fosco Lives! Exclusive: Bald in Birmingham

Fosco usually doesn't pay much attention to his site statistics, except for an occasional glance at the geographical locations of his visitors. He almost never bothers to check the links that led people to Fosco Lives! But once in a while...

Last night, Fosco Lives! got a strange visit from Birmingham, Alabama. Here is the search that led him/her to this site:

I hope "Bald in Birmingham" found whatever he/she needed here at Fosco Lives!

A Fosco Lives! Exclusive: Robert Olen Butler Dead.

Fosco refuses to be outdone by Perez Hilton's numerous (and increasingly less convincing) announcements that Cuban strongman Fidel Castro is dead, dead, totally dead.

Luckily, Fosco has his own EXCLUSIVE to report: the death of Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist Robert Olen Butler.

Mr. Butler's graduate students were notified last night. They were asked to keep the news quiet until after an official announcement, but you know how that kind of thing gets around...

Oh, and you know who should be dead? That guy who runs Comcast. I hate that dick.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Four Excuses

Fosco recently hinted that he has been a busy little bee for the last six months and promised to tell you what he was doing instead of blogging. He's already offered two excuses . In the interests of not dragging this out, here are all of the other things that prevented Fosco from blogging for most of this year:

  • in the past, Fosco has occasionally complained about being single. Well, somehow the previously unlovable Fosco has found himself a boyfriend. For our purposes here at Fosco Lives!, we're going to call him "Ozias Midwinter" or "Oz" for short. Oz is (if you'll permit me to say) quite adorable. He hails originally from the Sandwich Islands. He works at the corporate headquarters of a trendy company located somwhere between San Jose and San Francisco (psst: it's not MMM Carpets. Mmm... carpets...). He is fun and things are going really well. Oh, and he thinks blogs are pretentious and narcissistic. Well, yeah.

  • Fosco's a little embarrassed about this one... but he got himself a Second Life. You've maybe heard of Second Life: that virtual "game" where you just sort of live a life instead of actually going on a quest or something. For gay men in Second Life, this means three activities: sex, dancing, and shopping. (Wait, is that just Second Life?) Fosco is proud to say that, while he did indeed explore the Big Three, he has moved toward a more productive second life: as the owner and curator of a contemporary art gallery! Apparently, that's what Fosco would be doing if he lived in a world (like Second Life) in which books and food are totally irrelevant. Right now, Fosco's gallery is showing works by artist-of-the-moment Jeff Wall. I'll probably blog more about Second Life at some point in the future.

  • since discovering Arrested Development during my recovery from The Accident, I've been hooked. In my spare time over the past eight months, I have managed to watch the entire series (two and two thirds seasons) FIVE TIMES. Five whole times! It's heaven... for crazy people.

  • here's a time waster extraordinaire: Facebook! As an old-timer Harvardian, Fosco remembers when the facebook was a book. It was called the Freshman Facebook and it was sent out to all members of the firstyear class the summer before they arrived at Harvard (or did they give it to us at orientation? Well, whichever.). It had the high school pictures of every member of the firstyear class. It was indexed by first name! It told you where each student was from and which freshman dorm he or she lived in. It was the perfect guide to getting to know one's classmates.

    The online version is useful for different reasons: it's a great way to catch up with your old friends, you can explore your social networks, and the interface is very clean and fun and appealing. It doesn't look cheap and vulgar like MySpace. Here's the key to Facebook: Facebook is the Target to MySpace's WalMart. And who doesn't love Target?

Places to Go, People to Meet

You may remember Fosco's sister, Maggie Tulliver. She has recently moved to Hyde Park in Chicago. Well, allow me to direct you to her brand-new blog: Tyrannical Whimsy. If you give her all the love and support you've given me, she's sure to reward you just as I have: with six month "hiatuses" and frequent typos.

Also, I would also like to note the addition of several other new blogs/links to the sidebar here at Fosco Lives! Fosco's former student Mere brings her cynicism to your table at Connoisseur of Human Folly and members of the multi-talented Goddard family can be accessed here and here.

And, if you ever think the patient on "House" has lupus, please remind yourself of your folly by visiting this site.

That is all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

America is fucked lying.

Here's the most depressing news story of the year:

One in Four Read No Books Last Year


I have no energy to introduce this quote:

''I just get sleepy when I read,'' said Richard Bustos of Dallas, a habit with which millions of Americans can doubtless identify. Bustos, a 34-year-old project manager for a telecommunications company, said he had not read any books in the last year and would rather spend time in his backyard pool.
Fosco is sad. He can't even make a good joke here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Two Truths and Lie: Haunted by Mormons.

Remember this feature? Where I offer three titbits from the news? One of which (in some small, small way) has to do with lying? Here we go...

  • Those two giants of social science research, the Associated Press and MTV, released the results of a major study today on "young people and happiness." By young people, they mean 13-24 yr olds.

    Here's something interesting and no entirely surprising:
    Young people who are non-Hispanic whites are happier than blacks and Hispanics by a wide margin: 72 percent of whites say they are happy with life in general, compared with just 56 percent of blacks and 51 percent of Hispanics.
    Well, as long as the white kids are happy...

    Even better news:
    In looking to the future, 70 percent say they want to be rich - and nearly half think it's at least somewhat likely they will be someday.
    I remember thinking that when I was a teen. I wish some cynical blogger had burst my optimism back then.

    Fosco finds the following result most telling:
    And contrary to popular views of technology as a source of stress, many young people would be more stressed out without technology, with nearly half saying they never turn off their cell phones - even when they're trying to chill out.
    As someone who almost never turns his cell phone ON, Fosco now understands why he hates young people so much.

  • You may remember the horrible suicide last summer of UCSC's Chancellor Denice Denton. There were several unpleasant aspects to this story, including some possible relationship issues between Denton and her partner Gretchen Kalonji (as well as the possibility that idiot student protesters may have contributed to Denton's depression).

    The story got sadder this weekend, with the Kalonji is suing Denton's estate because she received nothing in the will nor from Denton's life insurance policy.

    Now Fosco has no idea what to make of this case. Clearly there is a cautionary lesson here: if you're in a long-term relationship, you should change your will to include your partner.

    But this is what is bothering Fosco:
    UC officials declined Friday to comment on what Denton's benefits were and how they were dispersed, but according to [a Denton family attorney], Denton didn't leave the insurance money to anyone and the policy has been split between Mabee and Denton's estranged father in accordance with UC protocol.
    Again, it is clear that Denice Denton probably should have named a beneficiary of her life insurance policy. However, why wouldn't the UC system pay that life insurance to Denton's life partner of nine years? If Denton and Kalonji were legally married (you know--that thing that straight people can do?), wouldn't Denton's life insurance money go to Kalonji without trouble?

    Gay people just keep getting hosed.

  • The 2008 US News College Rankings are out! Princeton continues its dominance; Fosco's alma mater Harvard is still pretty good.

    But what of UC Santa Cruz? Apparently, UCSC is about where it usually sits (#79), but now it is TIED for #79 with... MORMONS. That's right, Bringem Young University is tied with ultraliberal UCSC.

    You know how Fosco feels about Mormons, so you can appreciate the irony here. I've been thinking of ways to resolve this problem: can UCSC challenge BYU to a tiebreaker?

    Suggested tiebreakers that UCSC would win:
    • bong painting contest
    • Diet Coke chugging
    • blow-job-a-thon
    • evolutionary biology quiz
    • surfing
    • voting for change

    That's my school! Go Slugs!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday Reading: Dan Harper wants your kids to squirt his car.

It's Sunday: time for another column from the inimitable Dan Harper.

A somewhat dull offering today, although it does seem to get away from him toward the end. He starts with "the house that we lived in for 40 years, which we sold a few months ago" and ends with a story about "the family Ford [that] delivered us to California for the last time 50 years ago."

And in between, there's some weirdness with a carwash:

Kids of every age and color swarmed all over it, scrubbing absentmindedly while they watched me through the car windows. For a few minutes I was the fish in a fish bowl.

At one time there were more than a dozen kids scrubbing and squirting my car. After this ferocious drubbing stopped, I rolled down my window and asked a plump little girl if they were finished with me. She thought it over and said, 'Yes, you can go now.'

I wouldn't let my kids wash his car.

Or was it?

You may remember last week, when Fosco posted a camera-phone photo of Patti Smith in his review of her concert. Look familiar?

Fosco will be the first to admit that he lacks the camera equipment and motor skills of, say, Herb Ritts or John Mackey (seriously, have you seen his camera work?). Looking at the above picture, it occurs to Fosco that you (Dear Reader!) have only Fosco's word that the blurry figure is indeed Patti Smith.

Who/what else could it be?