Was Spock “Queer”?

W.J. Astore

Friendship? Bromance? Something more? Spock and Kirk in an “intimate” moment

Was Spock “queer”? Of course he was, by one definition of the word. He was unique. And he was (and remains) my favorite character on “Star Trek.”

If you’re a fan of the show, you may have heard of a rich literature that suggests Kirk and Spock were something more than friends. That they were, in some sense, lovers. And indeed there apparently exists plenty of imaginary pornographic imagery of such a relationship, which, to be honest, I have not checked out. I’ll use my own imagination here.

The whole idea of Spock as queer was revived for me by this article at Tropics of Meta:

When I watched “Star Trek” in reruns in the 1970s, I never thought of Spock as “queer” in this way.  I viewed him as exceptionally loyal and in such a close friendship with Kirk that it transcended our limited sexual categories. But just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too can be other forms of attraction.

The notion of Spock’s “queerness” strikes me as part of the richness of “Star Trek.”  That it’s open to multiple interpretations.  That it had complex characters who couldn’t be reduced to one type.

As a character, Spock was truly a stroke of genius.  Half Vulcan, half human.  Always alien — and always conflicted. Spock is a friend and inspiration to anyone who doesn’t quite fit in. Anyone who feels himself or herself (or themselves!) to be “alien” in some way.

His superior, Captain Kirk, seems to be a conventional ladies’ man, but you get the sense they’re all disposable.  Kirk is in love with his ship, with his command, and the only “human” who’s truly indispensable to him is Spock, or so it seems to me.

They had a “queer” relationship in the best sense of the word: rich, complex, special, and unique. They could (and did) risk their lives for each other. May we all have more of such “queer” relationships in our lives!

Kamala Harris Is Lost in Space

W.J. Astore

Did you know Vice President Kamala Harris is Chairwoman of the National Space Council? I didn’t — until a friend notified me of a feel-good video featuring Harris and a few earnest and photogenic kids on YouTube. The kids were decidedly diverse: boys and girls, black and brown and white, but they all had something in common. No, it wasn’t their enthusiasm for space — it’s that they were all paid actors.

Here’s the link if you haven’t seen the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5PABXXdDwA

As my wife and I watched the video, my better half turned to me and said, “stagey” and “fake.”

I had to laugh as Kamala Harris tried to wow the kids about seeing craters on the moon. My goodness — on a clear night you can see craters with the naked eye. A decent pair of binoculars (I have 10×50 Tasco binoculars) will reveal plenty of gorgeous detail. You don’t exactly have to visit the Naval Observatory to see moon craters.

Even through my relatively cheap $200 camera, I can see plenty of detail. Here’s a photo I took of the moon, a handheld shot done quickly and inexpertly:

The Moon by me. Look at the craters!

I have some experience talking to real kids about astronomy. Elementary school kids can be fun. One class I talked to wanted to know all about UFOs. Another wiseguy kid asked about Uranus, pronouncing it “your anus,” of course. I smiled, quietly corrected his pronunciation, and answered his question. We both had a laugh.

Yet apparently Kamala Harris is not to be trusted talking to real kids who might go off-script. Perish the thought of a kid who might make a joke about Uranus. The horror! It doesn’t inspire confidence that she’s only a heartbeat away from the presidency, as the saying goes.

If and when the space aliens come for me, I know what I’m saying: Take me to your leader — mine is lost in space.

On Radical Skepticism, Friendship, and Truth

W.J. Astore

My dad was a skeptic. He taught me the saying, never believe anything you read, and only half of what you see. Sound advice in this heavily propagandized world of ours.

Despite my dad’s skepticism, I eventually earned a doctorate in history and wrote books in which I pretended to know what was going on in the past. Or, that’s the way my dad would have put it. To my claims he would sometimes say, “Were you there, Charlie?” In other words, if you weren’t a direct witness to the event in question, how can you say what really happened? In fact, even if you did witness it, are you sure of what you saw or heard or sensed? Our senses can be unreliable for all sorts of reasons, such as fatigue, bias, distractions, and so on.

How do we know what we know? Can we ascertain truth? “Truth — what is truth?” Pontius Pilate asked Christ. Small wonder that so many people seek truth through religion when there’s so little of it available in non-religious realms. (Of course, religion operates on faith, not on truth per se, though those who believe see faith as a way to truth, perhaps as a form of truth.)

I think the most “true” thing in my life, the thing I doubt least of all, is the love of my closest friends and family. Once again, my dad had something to say here. He believed that you’d be lucky to have a handful of friends in your life who truly cared about you, who’d be there for you no matter what, who’d take a bullet for you, as my dad put it. And, let’s face it: not many Facebook “friends” fit my dad’s definition here!

So, I suppose my dad taught me to question received “truths” and also to ponder what real friendship is all about. The latter shouldn’t be easy; it’s not a trivial matter of clicking “friend” on a social media site. Friends are there for you, my dad explained, they are sympathetic, they are sacrificial, because in some sense they love you.

Which leads me back to Christ, friend of humanity, who was sympathetic to our human plight in all its zaniness and sordidness and who nevertheless sacrificed himself for us. How many of us think of Christ as the Ultimate Friend? For that’s what he was and is, if you believe in him.

I was raised Catholic by my dad (my mom didn’t go to church, but that’s another story). My dad, the radical skeptic, had faith in the Church and in Christ. I have no faith in the Church, sadly, but I do have faith in Christ and his teachings, which to me show us a path toward the truth in the form of a better life, a more compassionate and generous one.

Today, we find ourselves immersed in a matrix of lies, or “alternative truths” if you prefer. My dad had, I think, the way out. He taught me not to believe too easily, not to be glib, even as he showed me through his own example what living a life of value was about.

Be radically skeptical, yes. But believe in what is right; seek truth and recognize its demands on you. (Truth is rarely easy, especially truth about oneself.) And then manifest it as best you can.

It’s a tall order, dad, and I still have a long way to go. We all do, for it’s really all about the quest, not the destination. Seek and ye shall find are words that comfort me. Surely I heard them first standing next to my dad in church, listening to the gospel, the good news, the teachings of Christ.

But no man, no church, no entity has a monopoly on truth. It can be found in other religions and outside of religion. It can be found within and without. All I know — or think I know — is that it won’t be easy. But what of value is?

My dad as a young man, looking, always looking

AOC’s “Radical” Gown

W.J. Astore

AOC got a lot of attention wearing a gown to the Met Gala that read, “tax the rich.” Here’s a fetching image:

Of course, this is hardly a radical message. Firstly, the rich are already taxed. Secondly, something like 70% of Americans, and perhaps more, agree that the richest Americans should pay more taxes. Thirdly, attendees of the Met Gala are, though rich, generally supportive of liberal causes, if not of true leftist agendas, so her message was hardly offensive to most of the people there.

Many people have pointed out AOC’s hypocrisy, such as her lack of action on issues like health care for all or a $15 minimum wage. Her gown was basically an exercise in performative theater. It garnered “hits” and “likes” as well as fury, but in the end it signified nothing.

Actions speak louder than words, even on gowns, but I can imagine more powerful words for her to have worn, if she’d really wanted to send a subversive message. Examples that occur to me:

EAT THE RICH. Much more amusing and to the point.

END THE WARS. Why not focus on America’s forever wars that have (or will) cost us $8 trillion?

HELP THE POOR. Why not remind the rich at the gala that there is such a thing as poor people in America?

GREED IS BAD. The anti-Gordon Gekko message.

CLASS WAR: Why not go all Marxian on them?

NO MORE NUKES: Why not remind Americans that the Pentagon plans to spend as much as $1.7 trillion on new ICBMs, bombers, and nuclear submarines, when the “old” ones we have are already capable of ending most life on Earth?

OK: Wearing what amounts to a bumper sticker on a gown isn’t going to change the world. It’s a stunt to grab attention, with an element of narcissism to it. But if you’re going to pull a stunt like this, why not go big? Why not be radical?

One more thought: If you watched the Met Gala and all the celebrities showing off their gowns and outfits, and you’ve also read “The Hunger Games” or saw the movies, you couldn’t help but recall the scenes of the decadent few in The Capitol, thoroughly enjoying life as all the proles in the Districts suffer to serve their prodigal and hedonistic lifestyle.

Something tells me AOC is very much a Capitol creature. She’s no Katniss Everdeen, no matter what she puts on her gown.

Readers: What message would you dare to wear on your gown or suit to show your “betters” you mean business? Have some fun in the comments section, but let’s keep it rated “R,” not “X.” And short!

The Marsh in Snow

W.J. Astore

Yesterday, I got out on the marsh during the snow. The landscape was much changed from the previous photos!

New snow planet
This part of the marsh made me think of a nasty trench in the lowlands during World War I
There’s an austerity or bleakness to this photo
At home, a coating of white makes everything look fresh and new
Another month until spring!

Donations — and Forgive the Ads

W.J. Astore

If Bruce Springsteen can make a commercial for Jeep aired during the Super Bowl, I can start accepting a few dollars for content at Bracing Views. (Donations are voluntary.)

Seriously, I’ve been running Bracing Views for five years, and before that I ran The Contrary Perspective, without ever asking for donations or bothering readers with ads.

But site costs are rising, and I suppose I should be open to earning some money for the site.

So I’ve added a PayPal button for $12.00 donations (a buck a month: what a deal!), but it’s purely voluntary. Many thanks if you choose to donate, but no worries if you don’t. These are tough times for many people.

Also, you may now see some ads when you visit the site.

Again, many thanks to all of you for following the site, and for reading and commenting as well.

P.S. I’m just another sellout like Bruce. 🙂

Update (3/29/21): The great donation/ad experiment is over. First, I’d like to thank everyone who chipped in $12.00. Enough people contributed to pay for my site fees and domain registration for the next two years. Hooray!

The ads are another story. Since my site is small, I was lucky to earn $10 a month from ads. And they’re annoying. So I got rid of them. I also removed the PayPal button. Feel free to reach out to me if you wish to contribute. I especially like gold and other precious metals, rare stamps, antique chess sets, fine watches, and bitcoin. Surely my writing is worth it? 🙂

Textures

W.J. Astore

A sunny day has me out in the field taking photographs. The general theme is nature’s textures. Here are a few images that nature gifted to me:

I’ve always loved tree rings.
Tree moss
Tree bark. So much character trees have
From trees to wood pilings and water
Earth and water and lots of organics — a sort of peat
Ice and sky and trees and water and sun

If you have the chance, get out and enjoy nature. She’s always giving us little gifts if we have time to pause, look around, and open our senses to her.

The Storming of the Capitol!

Let freedom ring!

W.J. Astore

It wasn’t exactly the storming of the Bastille or the sack of Rome, but yesterday’s scenes from the Capitol were disturbing enough to the self-avowed “most exceptional nation.”

If only the mob of protesters had shouted “We want affordable health care for all!” or “Racial equality!” or “Peace now!” or “Money for the poor!” instead of “USA! USA!” and “Trump! Trump!” as they marched through the Capitol on Wednesday.

But I suppose protesters who shout for health care, racial equity, and peace get clubbed and gassed, whereas Trump supporters by comparison get handled with kid gloves.

Trump, the law and order man, has always been unlawful, a man of disorder. As I wrote early in 2016, Trump disqualified himself from the presidency with his empty and dictatorial boasting. That he would incite a mob to gather at the Capitol to contest the election result was hardly surprising. What is surprising is how the Trump mob so easily breached the Capitol’s defenses, such as they were. In at least one case, it appears the police removed a barricade and let the pro-Trumpers in. Someone should be fired for this national humiliation.

It’s a small miracle that only one person was killed, an Air Force veteran who was reportedly shot in the neck as she tried to break into an inner chamber room. An avid Trump supporter who’d traveled from California, she’d be alive today if not for Trump’s selfish and reckless call for a protest at the Capitol.

Of course, predictable calls for Trump’s impeachment are coming from Squad members like AOC and Rashida Tlaib. Really. In two weeks, Trump leaves office. And you want to squander energy and time in yet another unsuccessful attempt to impeach him. At the same time, you won’t even fight for a vote on Medicare for all.

Once again, America will likely take the wrong lessons from these riots. The Capitol police will likely call for more money, more resources, more officers, more guns, more security cameras, more barricades, etc. There are already calls for more Internet censorship. Homeland Security funding will surely get a boost. And certain people will dismiss too easily the alienation and indignation of Trump supporters.

What I mean is this: Americans are upset. Angry. Alienated. Confused. And rightly so. And until our government serves the people instead of corporate, financial, and similar lobbyists and special interests, the potential for future mobs will remain. Donald Trump is a total buffoon, a shell of a man, a narcissist with ambitions centered always on himself and his self-image. But imagine a more skilled manipulator, one less narrowly focused on himself, one with a stronger work ethic, one with boundless ambition for power. Such a person could truly lead an insurrection or coup, and yesterday’s scenes suggest such a takeover would be easier than we think.

The answer is not more guns, more security, more police, nor is it impeachment. The answer is a government accountable to the people and for the people. If we don’t want our government to perish from this earth, it needs to be of the people, by the people, for the people. But it’s not, and until it is, a repeat of yesterday’s scenes, but on a much larger and more violent scale, will remain a possibility.

Who wouldn’t want a “Speaker of the House” podium?

Finding Solace in Nature

W.J. Astore

I write a lot about politics and war, and both are depressing and frustrating subjects here in the USA. But I’m not an intense political junkie, nor am I closely following all of America’s wars. If I were, I might be clinically depressed.

I’m sure my readers find purpose and comfort in something other than America’s tragic political scene and its endless wars. One thing I like to do is pick up my camera and go for walks. And since I live near a salt marsh, there’s always opportunities to take photos of nature.

Here are a few that I took this AM:

Come, sit, let us reason together
A flash of blue below my feet
The marsh at low tide. A warm and windy morning.
Sentinels
Your kindly photographer

I’ve been taking photographs since high school, where I took a photography class and developed my own film (black and white). I had a basic 35mm camera for the longest time. I think I bought my first digital camera about 15 years ago. It’s a hobby and I’m strictly an amateur with the most basic equipment, but I truly enjoy getting outside and taking pictures. The camera forces me to slow down and look more closely; to abide in nature, if you will.

I hope you enjoy these “bracing views” and that you also have a way of escaping, a place of solace.

Our New Facebook Page

W.J. Astore

Bracing Views has a new Facebook page, as follows: https://www.facebook.com/Bracing-Views-100104955252693/ or click here.

For several years I’ve been using the Facebook page for The Contrary Perspective to post BV articles, links to other articles, cartoons, photos, opinions, and the like, all related to what I write about here. But with the growth of Bracing Views to nearly 1000 followers, it’s time I created a unique page for it.

If you’d like to stay abreast of articles, ideas, and so on that are related to what I write about here, and you can endure belonging to Facebook (All hail Lord Zuck!), please follow or like the new page. Many thanks!

And many thanks again to all the people who read and comment here. I’m sure I learn more from you than you do from me.

Bill Astore