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Friday, February 17, 2017

Fake News You Might Like to Read

I’d like to offer some minor relief for the hard pressed liberal community, which includes my much-oppressed husband, David Vargo, suffering greatly from the excesses of the Trump Administration (not yet a month old).  I present for your consideration “FAKE NEWS FOR LIBERALS!”  Just pretend these news snippets are real and easing of your stress will follow immediately.  Let’s get started.

1.  Conway and Spicer Discovered in Love Nest

            This one is a shocker!  Though both are, in their words,“happily married” to others, Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to President Donald Trump, and Sean Spicer, Trump’s Press Secretary, were photographed in a compromising assignation at the Lincoln Memorial at 3 a.m. last Tuesday evening.  (See photo below)  Outraged, they’ve both denied they are the couple in the photograph.  “I’m super faithful to my wife,” Spicer said,” and, besides, I don’t like blondes.”  For her part Conway asserted that on the night in question she was out of town, visiting an aunt in Alternative, Iowa.

[Click to enlarge]

            When Donald Trump was asked about the assignation he replied he didn’t know if it was true or not, but “Why shouldn’t they be hot for each other?  They’re both very sexy people, though not, of course, as sexy as I am.” 

2.  Michelle Obama Throws Her Hat in the Ring

            Though she’d stated she had no interest in public office as recently as the beginning of 2017, Michelle Obama fired up the Democratic Party this morning by announcing she’s forming a campaign committee to explore a run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.  “Every day I hear more news about what Donald Trump has done in the White House and, frankly, it makes my blood boil!” she explained.  Excited supporters are forming their own committees, state by state, and donations are already pouring in though it’s not clear how this is being done or where to send the millions of dollars already promised.

            When Barack Obama was quizzed by reporters as to what he thought about his wife’s decision, he smiled broadly and declared that he’d love to return to the White House as “First Gentleman.”  He added that he “always went along with Michelle when she decides to do something, so I’ll follow her lead.”

3.  Korean Leader Dead!

            In shocking news it was just revealed that yesterday North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was assassinated by his own troops who suddenly attacked the reviewing stand in which he was seated and hacked his body to pieces.  When the soldiers were done they quickly took over all government buildings and declared their intent to petition South Korea to amalgamate the two countries into one, to be called simply “Korea.”  When the leader of the triumphant troops was asked why they had killed Kim Jong-un he replied that “He was too ugly a person to live, and we got really, really tired of being forced to smile, applaud enthusiastically, and goosestep in tight formations while starving.” 

            In keeping with the tradition Kim Jong-un began when he had his own uncle murdered, the dead leader’s body was fed to a pack of dogs.  There will be no funeral.

4.  Donald Trump’s Obituary

            Solemn news.  Just as this blog post was going to press Donald Trump died unexpectedly when he fell from the Truman balcony of the White House to his death this afternoon.  Apparently he screamed all the way down, so it is unlikely this was a suicide.  Beside him on the balcony at the moment of his unfortunate fall were his wife Melania, his young son Barron, and Vice President Pence.  Police are interrogating them at this time.  Strangely they all appear unwilling to cooperate fully in the investigation, claiming they didn’t see anything.  “He was here one second, then he wasn’t,” was all a dry-eyed Melania could contribute.  Barron was so overcome by emotion that he could express his grief only by uncontrolled laughter.

            Vice President Pence will be sworn in at the police station, reliable sources state.

            A number of tourists captured the President’s deadly fall and snapped photos of our leader’s demise.  Here's one:

[Click to enlarge]

Well, that’s all the news that isn’t.  But one might wish some of it was.  Pick your favorite.

Related Posts:
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“Careful What You Wish For: Making Trump an Illegitimate President,” January 20, 2017;

“President Preposterous: Donald Takes the Helm,” November 14, 2016;

“Calm Yourself: What Trump Can and Cannot Do About LGBT Rights,” November 16, 2016;


Friday, January 20, 2017

Careful What You Wish For: Making Trump an “Illegitimate President”

I’m writing this on Friday, January 20th, the day Donald John Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.  That fact has caused a lot of anxiety in this country.

There’s a great following suddenly for the idea that Representative John Lewis so casually mentioned in a recent NBC interview with Chuck Todd in which he identified Donald Trump as not a “legitimate president” because his election was corrupted by Russian thumbs leaning heavily on the electoral scale.  That’s a very seductive idea for those of us (me included) who are disturbed by the idea of the United States of America being led by someone who has the impulses of a five year old and the attention span of a puppy. 

“OH HELL, YES!” I want to shout.  If only enough people can rise up and proclaim Donald Trump’s so-called “presidency” not real, then—hallelujah!—our national nightmare is over!!!  We aren’t, after all, going to all be merely collateral damage as he alienates first this group, and the next group, and ruins health care, and civil rights, and destroys the environment beyond saving, and pokes other countries until they bristle at his hamhanded attempts to bully them until he’s finally forced to sit the nuclear football down on his lap and begin experimenting with the buttons.

I think all of those things are very, very possible.  The coming nightmare is no dream at all.

But . . .  (deep breath here) . . . but I also think that what John Lewis said and that others are so anxious to embrace is far more dangerous than the presidency of Donald John Trump.  Saying Trump is “illegitimate” is easy; implementing the idea is impossible.

Bear with me as I explain why. 

In the bestselling book “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari, the author draws a distinction between “facts” and “myths.”  A tree is a fact, but when I say I live in Columbus, Ohio, in the United States of America, that is, in his words, a myth.  Columbus is just a story the people who live around here tell ourselves, but if we quit believing in the City of Columbus, it would disappear.  Yes, the buildings would still be standing, but the ideas that makes it “Columbus” would not.  This is equally true of the “State of Ohio” and the country called the “United States of America.”  That country, in turn, bases its existence on a government run by our Constitution, which is the bedrock of the whole system.  That document is also just a story that we all agree to believe in, or, perhaps more accurately, a contract which we have impliedly made.

Donald Trump has been elected through a process dictated by that Constitution, and today, in front of the major government officials (including his outgoing predecessor) and with the whole world watching, he swore an oath to uphold that Constitution.  This peaceful transfer of power is an American invention, a major development in the history of the world, something now imitated in country after country.

But the whole thing only works if we all agree that it works.  If Lewis’ view prevails and Trump’s presidency is “illegitimate,” well . . . then, what?  The Constitution has made him our president.  The only path it provides for his removal is impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  During the next four years he may commit such crimes, but until he does and that process is triggered, he is still the president.

What would Lewis and adherents of his view have us do?  There is no mechanism for his removal other than impeachment.  Should we nonetheless ignore the Constitution—quit “believing” in it?  Storm the White House and take Trump out by force?  A pitched battle that would pit anti-Trumpers against pro-Trumpers (and the United States military)?  Anarchy?  Civil war? 

Does anyone . . . anyone  . . . think that’s a good idea?

John Lewis is an admirable man, one of the greats of the civil rights movement, and his words should count for something when he speaks so seriously.  But the idea that we can just deem our president “illegitimate” and therefore not recognize him as the head of our government is also a rejection of that government.  It took us a long time to create the world’s first sustainable democracy, but if enough people stop believing in how it works, it will cease to exist.  In the words of King Lear “That way madness lies.”

I hate Donald Trump.  I think he’s likely to quickly prove to be the worst president this country has ever had, and that it was a major mistake to put him in office.  But he’s in that office now.  He’s the President of the United States, and it’s important that that fact be clear in all our minds, like it or not.  Trump is my president and, if you’re a citizen of the United States, yours too.  If you’re going to battle the asshole, do it legally.  Protest his policies and actions, not his office.  I’ll join you in that.

Upside Down Flag: Symbol of Distress

Related Posts:
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“President Preposterous: Donald Takes the Helm,” November 14, 2016;

“Calm Yourself: What Trump Can and Cannot Do About LGBT Rights,” November 16, 2016;

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I’ve Published an Article!

I’m pleased to say that I’ve had a small article published in a magazine, and have just received a copy of the relevant issue in the mail.  The magazine is Free Inquiry, February/March 2017, Vol. 37, No. 2.  The article is at page 54 in a segment labeled “Humanism at Large,” and is entitled “Creating the Bible: Water Into Wine.”  This piece of whimsy, taken from a prior blog post of mine, speculates how the authors of the Bible could have come up with the famous story from John 2 in which Jesus goes to a wedding and helps the host out with a wine shortage.

I was thrilled when Tom Flynn, the editor of Free Inquiry, told me he would publish this piece.  The little blurb about me at the end mentions that I am the author of an atheist thriller “Imaginary Friend,” the novel I published some years ago and that has sold rather well.  It’s available on Amazon, and the first three chapters of that work can be read in the blog posts mentioned below.

In any event, here is a jpg of the article as published (click to enlarge).  My very similar blog post can be found at “Creating the Bible: Wine Into Water,” April 7, 2013;

I'm particularly pleased by the artwork of the wine skin and grapes added to my little story.  It's perfect!

Related Posts:
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium” (Chapter One of “Imaginary Friend”), October 9, 2010;
“Escape From Ohio Stadium” (Chapter Two), November 2, 2010;
“Open Mike, Insert Foot,” (Chapter 3), November 9, 2010;

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Questions To Ask a Homophobe

Socrates----Jay Lawrence Westbrook
Socrates arrived at the truth by asking those he was conversing with a series of questions until all was revealed.  Using the Socratic method in my law school classrooms for the last 47 years has been good training for arriving at the same goal: finding the best answer.  But above that, when I was in law school myself, my roommate was the great Jay Lawrence Westbrook, now a Professor of Law at the University of Texas and a world renowned figure in international bankruptcy law.  When I was in my 20s he taught me a fundamental rule of arguments: at the very heart of any dispute is one central fact of disagreement.  One.  Everything else is just noise—static.  Therefore to arrive at the crux of what’s really going on you have to get rid of the many things that are not at issue and find that one thing that is.

Years ago when I was teaching law full time at OSU I gave a noon brown bag talk at the school on the issue of gay marriage.  When I asked for questions, one student (who I knew and liked from my Commercial Law class) raised his hand, and said, “Well, Professor, it all sounds good but you’ll never convince me that gay marriage is right.”  Hmm.  I started using Jay’s process to locate the one basic thing he and I disagreed on.  Was marriage important to society?  Yes, of course, he very much thought so.  Is it in society’s interest to stabilize loving relationships? Yes.  In this manner we explored the very real problems that unmarried couples can have (losing the house to inheritance taxes, for example, no visitation rights in hospitals, being cut off from attending the partner’s funeral, not getting health benefits, legal difficulties arising from the children the couples have), and I realized that the student was getting closer to having to say what was really our real point of disagreement: he didn’t think homosexuals should have the same rights as other people. Why not?  Okay, he “just didn’t like homosexuals,” he finally admitted.   Ah, but why not?  More questions brought us to the  real problem: the thought of gay sex repulsed him. Normally I wouldn’t push a student to such a statement, but in a public discussion of gay marriage where he’d challenged me, I did make him say it aloud. As he did so he was glowering at me, furious, and perhaps I should be sorry I’d forced him to paint himself into that uncomfortable corner. Hmm. At least his admission was now on the table for all to stare at and ponder, and the lecture on gay marriage had revealed the very core of the dispute. For how many lectures is that true?

I did give him one small comfort.  I told him I knew some gay people who were themselves repulsed by the idea of what straights do in bed  (“Eew!  A man touching a woman’s privates!”).  If these heterophobic gays were in the voting majority and thus made the rules, would prohibitions against straight marriages be permissible?  He didn’t comment, our session timed out, and we all went off to other classes.

For two decades I joined the front ranks battling for gay rights in Columbus, Ohio, and those experiences were most informative.  On multiple occasions in the 80’s and 90’s I was on late night call-in radio shows for periods that were sometimes four hours long!  The callers were often supportive of gay rights, but the really interesting calls were from people who loathed homosexuals and were willing to take me on.  Sometimes (rarely) callers were themselves trained in these battles and thus wouldn’t really argue at all.  They’d just mouth slogans, and no interchange, no dialogue, no movement was possible.  But mostly those who called the station were sincere people whose dislike of homosexuals was based on religious training or common social assumptions (“gays molest children”), and if they’d talk with me some progress could be made. 

The same bald assertions and false premises came up over and over.  Here’s the list and how I’ve learned to respond:

1.  Being Gay Is a Choice

Gays all know this one is wrong.  Ask my husband, for example.  He was routinely bullied and beaten up more or less every day in both elementary and high school, being called “faggot” as early as the first grade.  “They didn’t know what it meant and I didn’t know what it meant,” he says, “but we all knew it was something impossibly bad to be.”  Did this gentle, unassuming boy choose such a horrific life?  Are all LGBT people bonkers because they too made such a ludicrous choice?

When people assert this “choice” in our conversations, I smile and say to them, “Oh, yes!  And I’m sure you remember that big day, when you were young, and you thought carefully about whether you should be attracted to the same sex or the opposite sex, and—after much give and take—chose to be straight, right?”  Invariably they look confused or bemused, and shake their head.  There was no such day in their (or anyone’s) memory.

You can choose to act on your sexual orientation or to hide it, but you can’t choose the orientation itself.  As we grow up at some point we look at the people around us, and the ones who attract us sexually aren’t necessarily the ones our parents would vote for.  This is true of straights as well as gays.  Desire cannot be dictated.

2.  Gays Can Change and Become Straight If They Really Want To

On some of those call-in radio shows my callers would claim that they used to be gay but now were straight.  The law professor in me would go to work.  "You used to be gay, but now you're married and having sex only with your wife?"  "Yes," one male caller replied, pride in his voice.  "And you never have homosexual thoughts—and before you answer, be aware that if you lie even slightly about this, you will deceive hundreds of men in your position who are desperate to change and depend on you to say—if it's true—that you never ever even slightly think about gay sex."  Long pause.  "Well, yes, I guess I still think about it sometimes."  "And sometimes masturbate thinking those thoughts?"  Another pause.  "Sometimes."  "Well, if it's still that important to your pleasure, how do you satisfy yourself with your wife?"  At this point one of the callers frankly confessed, "I pretend she's a man."

I also ask straights who assert gays can change "What would you do if you were a homosexual?"  "I wouldn't be a homosexual," is the usual response.  "How would you avoid it if you discovered that in spite of your upbringing, in spite of your religion, in spite of your strongest desire to change, you were a homosexual like it or not?"  "I'd get help from my pastor or a doctor."  When told that this supposed help doesn't work (with offers of books and websites to prove it), the person I'm talking to changes the subject.  I just have to be wrong.  I just have to be.  The bible commands that I be wrong.  Surely religion or medicine or something can produce the magic pill to be taken twice a day until heterosexuality occurs.  Surely.  Because if I'm right and change isn't possible, then whomever I'm talking to has to rethink their position, and most people would rather slaughter hogs than do that.

As I've mentioned before on this blog [see Related Posts below] I have a standing offer of $5000 to be donated to the charity of choice of any offeree who can produce five men who used to be gay but by the efforts of whatever organization or process can now be tested and found to be totally heterosexual.  After decades of the Ex-Gay movement and the steady efforts of many “reparative therapy” psychologists you'd think there would be thousands of men who would so qualify, but so far not a single effort has been made to collect my $5000.  The reason is clear: you can't change gay people into straight people, and these efforts always fail.  Always. 

All the science, all the experience, all the history, shows that trying to change gays to straights has no more success than would trying to change straights into gays.  It’s a matter of genetics and that’s that.  Exodus International, which for 37 years was a Christian organization that purported to cure gays, closed its doors in 2013, apologizing to all those who had trusted it during its existence, and acknowledging that no one’s sexual orientation was ever altered by its attempts, of which there were thousands.  Ex-gay conversion doesn’t work, and even leading psychiatrists like Robert Spitzer, who once championed reparative therapy, have quit and themselves apologized for a practice that is now condemned by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association.

If you, reader, are a straight person who has never had any homosexual urges or experiences, ask yourself this: do you believe that there is—out there somewhere—a process or treatment that you could undergo that would successfully strip you of your interest in the opposite sex and replace it with a carnal desire only for your own sex?  When I recently asked a very straight male friend this question, he laughed.  “Hell, no!” he said.  “It’s women all the way!”

3.  Being Gay Is Evil

One of the happy things about the success of gay rights in this country is that this veniality idea is dying out.  Yes, there are religions whose books say gays are evil, but we don’t run this country based on religious prejudices.  Those same books condemn all sorts of things we find perfectly acceptable.  Before we prohibit some lifestyle in the United States it has to produce major unacceptable behavior. 

But when gays get married, nothing happens to the rest of the country except there are more weddings and married couples who behave more or less like married couples always have.  Lots of straights go to gay weddings these days, and the economic boom from this is great.  When gays no longer get fired from their jobs because of gayness the result is that more people are concentrating on their work and not on private bedroom behavior.  If gays now can serve in the military, well, so what?  They are just soldiers/sailors/pilots like everyone else.  When I stand in front of my classroom and teach Commercial Law, the students all know I’m gay (my husband and I routinely throw a party for the entire class), but that has nothing to do with the importance of the Uniform Commercial Code and the grade they will get by understanding that marvelous statute.

Study hard---it's heavily tested on the bar exam.

Granting gays the same rights as straights hasn’t produced chaos.  The result has been . . . boring.  How very distressing this obvious fact must be to homophobes!  As they more and more lose this battle, it must be more and more embarrassing for anyone to be (publicly) homophobic.  Friends don’t let friends be so “last century.”  Pat them on the shoulder and say, “There, there . . . keep it to yourself.”

“Gay rights” is a nonstarter as a problem.  Let’s just drop the whole non-issue and move on to something really worth worrying about like [fill in the blank yourself:] _______________. 

There are real problems in this world.  Let’s try solving those.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;  

“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010;

"Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight," January 25, 2011;

"Going Undercover at an Ex-Gay Meeting," September 19, 2011,

“Disowning Your Gay Children,” October 9, 2013; 

How To Cure Homophobia,” July 30, 2015; 

“A Homophobic Organization Throws in the Towel: Goodbye to Exodus International,” June 21, 2013;

Monday, January 2, 2017

Pronouncing 2017

This is a slight rewrite of a prior post, but on an important, and annual topic of communication.  It's about 2017.

Let's begin by agreeing that 2016 wasn't the happiest of years.

                                                   "I'd give it a few minutes kid."

To make the coming year better it's very important that we all agree that "2017" is henceforth to be pronounced "twenty-seventeen" as opposed to "two thousand and seventeen."  Why—you might ask, given all that is going wrong on this planet—is this issue important? 

It's for reasons of being vocally "green," of course!

Consider, blog readers, that "two thousand and seventeen" has seven syllables whereas "twenty-seventeen" has only five.  Just five!  Recently on NBC News as the announcers covered stories about the advent of 2017, the coming year was intoned using both possible pronunciations.  But the announcers who said it correctly (fewer syllables) had more breath and air time to get out two extra syllables, thus perhaps altering their careers for the better.  "Nonsense!" you may mutter—"Whaley has lost it!  How can it ever make any difference?"  But consider that this issue is not just a one year affair, but will go on for 82 more years (and has already plagued the past sixteen years).  Think of all those wasted syllables!  Zillions of them are coming!  It's horrifying!

This crucial dichotomy didn't arise last century because no one considered saying the mouthful that "one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine" would have entailed (much less "1977" which would have added two more syllables to the verbal landfill).  But the disarming convenience of "two thousand" has led us into sloppy temptation.  Avoid it, blog readers.  Avoid it, I say!

Fortunately this syllable battle will not likely be an issue for, say, "2117," since "two thousand one hundred and seventeen" will be too daunting for even the most committed of the current "two thousanders." 

In the meantime, the saner of us (the more "vocally green") must convince those wrongheaded people of the correctness of our cause, and fight lustily for "2017" to have only the minimum syllables that common sense demands it be allotted.

So, blog readers, correct your oversyllablizing friends (having them thank you for this correction as you put their feet firmly on the verbally green path) and send emails of complaint to NBC and like organizations if they fail to live up to modernity in this important logomachy.

Remember: Friends don't allow friends to be "two thousanders!"

Happy "twenty-seventeen" to you all!


“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Counting Blessings: The Seventh Anniversary of My Heart Transplant

In November of 2009 I was clearly dying of an enlarged heart (atrial fibrillation being the main culprit).  I’d been on the heart transplant list for ten months, and I was told by my doctors at The Ohio State University Ross Heart Hospital that if I was lucky enough to get a heart it would likely not happen until sometime in 2010. 

It is one thing intellectually to think you are getting a heart transplant in 2010, and quite another to have a morning phone call (I was working at the computer) on Nov. 23, 2009, in which the pleasant female voice announced: "Mr. Whaley, we have a heart for you." This was the most startling sentence I have ever heard in my life! My old heart started beating very fast indeed.

As I’ve detailed elsewhere (see Related Posts below), thereafter things happened very quickly.  By midnight I had a new 27-year old heart, and eight days later I was home!  The whole experience was like science fiction, and these days, seven years later, I am in good health, and, as the rest of this post demonstrates, happily doing many things.

This year, and particularly the late summer and the fall, have brought me an amazing combination of wonderful events, so the seventh anniversary of my transplant is a fine moment to contemplate them and realize how marvelous life can sometimes be.  [At the end of this post is a little list of bad things that crept into the mix, but that unpleasantness can wait.]

1.  Becoming a Life Master at Bridge

I learned to play bridge when I was a junior in high school, and first played in minor tournaments in college.  When I married Charleyne Adolay in 1971 she and I began playing in local duplicate clubs and many tournaments, joining the American Contract Bridge League, and beginning to pile up “Master Points,” which are awarded for doing well at the tables.  One gets black points fairly easily, but to earn red points you must play and place well in sizeable tournaments, and—hardest of all—for gold points (of which you need at least 25) you must play in very important tournaments. 

Through the years (but very little when I was actively teaching law), I accumulated points, and they came fairly rapidly once I retired from full-time teaching in 2004.  By this past spring I had over 350 ACBL points, and the only thing that kept me from attaining the valued rank of “Life Master” (which all serious players hope for) was .36 gold points.  That’s a very small amount.  A win in big tournaments earns at least l.75 gold points, but try as I might in tournament after tournament this year, I couldn’t acquire that stupid tiny amount of gold points.  However, my steady partner, Lewis Rakocy, and I went to a Regional Tournament in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday, September 29th, and managed to come in third in a large field of players, earning 3.78 gold points, and—just like that—I became a Life Master, with a certificate from the ACBL to prove it.

Years ago my older cousin Judy Calley, who I did not then know well, sent me an unexpected email stating “I’ve finally become a Life Master and I know that you’re the only member of the family who will know what that means!”  I congratulated her heartily, and Judy was the first person I called last month when I managed the same feat.

I know this means nothing to people who don’t play bridge, but, damn it, after all those years it felt great.  They say that it costs a bridge player about $10,000 in gas, hotel bills, tournament fees, meals, etc. to become a Life Master, and that seems about right.  It was long and expensive road to travel, but well worth the journey.

2.  Becoming a Professional Actor

I did a good deal of acting when I was young (school plays, college, community theater), but mostly avoiding it when I was teaching.  Following my retirement twelve years ago I went back to acting and directing in around twenty shows.  Things increased in 2013 when I married David Vargo, who has been a professional actor all his life (and a graphic arts designer to pay the bills), and he and I have been in four shows together.

Most recently he auditioned for a part in a play that CATCO, Columbus’s major professional theatrical company, was putting on this fall: “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde.”  On a lark I went to the audition with him, and, to my surprise, was called back for more (along with David, of course, but he’s so good every company in town wants him), and, to my amazement landed a part in the production!  CATCO is an Equity company, meaning that it follows the union rules for paying actors and treating them well (defined breaks during rehearsals, mandatory time periods for meals, etc.).  My paychecks were not large, but I treasured every one of them. 

The play is not fiction.  Through trial transcripts, biographies, newspaper articles, etc., it accurately tells the story of what happened to poor Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), the great English dramatist, as his homosexuality ran afoul of the law and he was eventually condemned to prison for two years at hard labor.  In the play I had small roles, playing the Judge in all three trials, and—get ready for it—appearing as Queen Victoria reading aloud the “gross indecency” statute as she signed it into law.  When it was pointed out to her that as currently worded it would only prohibit male conduct, she famously replied “Women don’t do such things!”  To play this role I had to shave off the mustache I’d grown when I turned 40.

It was a marvelous experience (I’d never been in drag before!), and thrilling to see how very professional everyone was from the director, the stage manager, the various artists who created the set, the sound, the lighting, and the costumes, to the other eight actors, all of whom were splendid.  During rehearsal I worried I wasn’t in the same class as all these talented people—though David (who had a large part) assured me I was fine—but I calmed down after being told by the sound designer as we passed backstage one day, “Queen Victoria rocks!”

All in all, it was truly the thrill of a lifetime to appear in the fifteen performances CATCO produced, and to do my part to make sure the audience enjoyed this vital story.  David and I threw the cast party and it went on merrily into the night, with the Whaley martini being distributed liberally to all the thespians.

3.  Rewriting Seven Textbooks in One Year

When the Great Recession hit in 2008 the legal profession took a major blow.  Law firms not only stopped hiring, they started letting people go, and it became almost impossible for most law graduates to find a job.  As a consequence law school enrollments dropped, and lesser law schools all over the country began closing their doors.  Major schools—and Ohio State is one—also had to cut back.  Our enrollment dropped from 220 per class to something like 175 now.  I have seven textbooks (called “casebooks” in legal education) used across the country (five of them have coauthors these days, who I've added, book by book, as I’ve aged).  I was startled when my royalty checks dropped dramatically in amount (two-thirds!) as the recession broke the back of the legal market. 

Students in law schools responded by not buying new editions of the casebooks.  Instead they did a variety of things to save money.  They would buy the used old edition and then go on the internet to add whatever new cases the author had added, counting on lectures to fill in the remaining blanks.  Another tactic was to have five students buy one copy of the new edition of the book and then scan it for everyone.  Some students would stand in the bookstores and compare the new editions with the old editions and buy the new one only if it appeared to be a major revision.  All of this is understandable.  Casebooks are very expensive—most of my books cost over $200 each (though rented or electronic versions are, of course, cheaper).

My publisher contacted me by phone, email, and even a personal visit from Boston over a year ago with the proposition that I (along with my coauthors) should in one year write new editions of all seven books with this goal in mind: to make them as different, at least in appearance, as possible from the old editions.  Perhaps stupidly, I agreed and there were monthly deadlines set up over the past year for the submission of new manuscripts.  To make these as different as possible from the prior edition, the chapters were renamed, renumbered, and given new material to begin each chapter, thus making it almost impossible to compare with older editions.

As to whether this will improve the market or not remains to be seen, but I had poorly thought out how much work was involved in rewriting seven books in so short a period.  Because these books, with one exception, were all originally books that I wrote more or less alone, they are my babies, and my input was vital to the rewrites.  Of course there were also changes in the law in each of these areas (commercial law or its components), and I was running around frantically, much like a mother mysteriously giving birth every month and a half or so until she had produced seven babies.

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I am proud that they are all now done and available for adoption nationwide.  If you want one yourself (and no home should be without at least one), go to Amazon and type in my name.

4.  I’ve Written a Play

In my youth I wrote a number of very bad plays which I ought to pitch before someone reads them—I keep them in a cabinet in the office closet.  None were ever performed (except some skits for law school talent shows in which the faculty made fun of themselves).  For some reason it didn’t occur to me to go back to playwriting when I returned to acting and directing in 2004.

I don’t believe in ghosts or anything supernatural, but I do love ghost stories, and have always had a fondness for plays involving ghosts.  A  year or two ago I toyed with the idea of writing a full length play that would be a comedy about ghosts haunting their old house and interacting with the new buyers, or something along that line, but nothing came of it immediately.

In 2011 the Columbus Dispatch published a column about two soldiers, one on each side of the Civil War, who became friends as the war ended and lived together here in Ohio just south of Columbus, running a farm that raised turkeys.  They were called the “Turkey Men” by their neighbors, and they lived until the 1920s, being buried next to each other in a local cemetery.  The columnist thought of this as an example of how good friendships could arise between former enemies, but I sent him an email suggesting he’d overlooked another possibility: they were lovers.  He did not reply; being an older gentleman he was undoubtedly both shocked and offended at the new direction I had aimed his tale.  I wrote a blog post about this called “The Presumption of Heterosexuality” [see Related Posts below], and then forgot about it.

Camp Chase, Columbus, Ohio 1865

But in 2014 it occurred to me that my ghosts might be these Civil War soldiers, still around and haunting their old turkey farmhouse in 2016.  The idea amused me enough to write two or three pages of Act One, but then I put it down and did nothing more.

In September of this year, my mind having apparently mulled it over without me being aware of it, I suddenly sat down at the computer, pulled up that aborted file, and began typing furiously.  Within five days the first draft of the play was completed: two acts, five characters, one set.  It all had come pouring out of me at a rapid rate.  (The same thing had, in various forms, occurred when I wrote my two novels: “Imaginary Friend” and “Corbin Milk,” both of which have done quite well for self-published works—see Amazon).

With some serious trepidation, playing all the parts myself, I read the play aloud to David (who knows a lot about plays and is not slow to voice his opinion), and, to my surprise, he was delighted by it.  With his encouragement I wrote another draft and have been shopping it around among playwright friends, who have been very generous with their advice on how to alter it and get it produced.  They’ve suggested various playwriting competitions both in Ohio and around the country, and so that is the next step.

My play is called “The Turkey Men” and it is both a comedy and a social commentary because the two ghosts have to deal with visitors who are performing a religious conversion on a 16 year old lesbian whose parents hired them to turn her straight, and who are using what they think to be an abandoned house for this purpose.

I don’t know what will happen to “The Turkey Men,” but it was great fun to write.

5.  Becoming an Ordained Minister  [See photo at the top of this post]

Now this is an odd one.  At a meeting of the Freethinkers Book Club, Nathan Weller, its president, mentioned that he and his finance were looking for a nonreligious officiant at their upcoming wedding.  I casually said I’d been thinking about doing that sort of thing, and within the blink of an eye it was a done deal!  I applied online to the Universal Life Church to become one of their ministers (which costs $25 and included a handsome certificate).  Their "Monastery" has only two tenets: (1) Do only that which is right, and (2) All should be free to worship as they see fit.  I had no problem agreeing with those precepts.  Next I had to register with the State of Ohio ($10), and then was ready to go.  Nathan and his bride, Karla Norquist, wrote the ceremony with some minor input from me, and the wedding was held on a Monday afternoon, October 17th at a country venue on the north side of Columbus. Everything went off splendidly, and the happy, handsome couple and their guests had a lovely wedding and reception. 

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For my part it was fulfilling to be part of the legal creation of their relationship (I am a lawyer, after all), and my loud voice was useful in a windy environment to make sure the important words were heard by those assembled.  I don’t know whether I’ll ever have another “gig,” but the whole experience was, in its own way, thrilling.  My husband, thinking it wonderfully funny that his atheist husband is a minister, has been clowning around claiming (in a mock southern drawl) that he is now a “minister’s wife”!  Hmm.

6.  Wondrous Events

            a.  The Cubs Won the World Series!  As readers of this blog may know, I’m a rabid Chicago Cubs fan and have rooted for them since I was a 25 year old lawyer in Chicago, going frequently to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.  Like all such hapless fans I have endured the fabled misery they’ve caused since they last won the World Series in 1908.  [I’ve written blog posts about this before (see below).]

But this year my beloved Cubs had the best record in baseball with a young team that didn’t feel the heavy hand of the past, and advanced their way through the playoffs like champions crowned from the start (if willing to take a few breaks in the middle).  The Cleveland Indians had a terrific pitching staff, one of the best in history, and in the World Series forced the Cubs to win the last three games in a row in order to prevail (which was only possible because the Indians had to rotate their pitchers too quickly).  When Kris Bryant on third threw the final out to Anthony Rizzo at first base, the curse of the goat (look it up) was over, and the Cubs and their fans were reborn—able to hold up their heads and say, “We’re Cubs fans!  Beat that!”

My Cubs Shirt Is Not Popular in Ohio

b.  Ohio State Beat Michigan in The Game in Double Overtime.  Enough said (if you know the history of this fabled rivalry).  The despicable coach of That Team Up North blamed the officials for not helping him overcome the interceptions and fumble of his quarterback, but to hell with his whining.  The twelve people in our living room watching the game were able to get the calls right, and the world wobbled a little because of our celebration in Dublin, Ohio.

            c.  All the Usual Good Things.  My wonderful husband, David Vargo, and I celebrated our third anniversary as a married couple, November 9th,  by going to The Refectory, a wonderful restaurant here in Columbus, eating a meal that flowed soothingly over our taste buds, and then reveling in a romance that is about to be four years old—the very definition of the word “love.”

            My son Clayton called and told us stories of the vacation he and his wife Maria just took to Croatia, making us think about going ourselves.  He, a composer in his spare time, has written an octet and sent it to me.  He plans to enter it in competitions, hoping to have it performed.  I am very proud of him.

6.  Horrible Happenings

Life is never just one untroubled day after another.  Here are the two major downsides for the same period.

            a.  Diabetes.  As I explained in a prior post (see below), in late August I had an operation on my pancreas to remove a cyst.  This went off without a hitch, and the cyst, happily, was not cancerous (pancreatic cancer is fatal even from one infected cell).  While in the hospital I was told for the first time that there was a 70 to 80% chance I would become diabetic as a result of the operation!  This was shocking and, frankly, it made me furious that it wasn’t disclosed prior to the operation.  My guess is that I would have still made the choice to let them cut me open, but not having all the facts when I had to make the decision is inexcusable.

Genetic optimist that I am, I thought I might beat those odds, but, alas, I was wrong.  I am now a diabetic and will be for the rest of my life.  [Here insert several forceful, short, and explosive words I learned in the Navy but will refrain from putting in this blog post.]  As a result I’m testing my blood sugar four times a day by sticking pins in my fingers, and injecting myself with insulin regularly. 

Happily there is a new inhalable insulin that allows me to avoid some of these injections; unhappily, it’s expensive and not covered by insurance.  I have a snort of it through a little pipe ten minutes before I eat.  In restaurants this means I take a deep inhalation on that pipe immediately after ordering, hoping that the other customers won’t think I’m snorting up and call the police.  So far there have been so such incidents.

            b.  Crashes.  In mid-November I carelessly opened an attachment on an email and promptly had my desktop computer crash.  Everyone reading this knows the horror of that feeling: your computer is suddenly nothing more than a large paperweight and all your data may well be lost!  Not only that, you are, for days, without a computer, and the withdrawal symptoms are terrible.  I tried using David’s computer, but it’s a Mac and he had to sit at my shoulder and do most of the work moving things around.

On Wednesday, November 16th, I was taking the computer to the repair shop around 4 p.m. and was in fairly heavy traffic on Henderson Road, a major street, in the middle lane planning to turn left when I got to the bottom of the hill, when the traffic slowed to a stop.  As I was stopping I was hit from behind by the car in back of me.  I managed to stop before striking the car at my front, and then got out to see what had happened.  There were two moving lanes on either side of our vehicles, the lanes moving in opposite directions.

What had happened was that a man in a third car had plowed into the back of the car behind me, striking it very hard (35 mph. was the estimate) without braking, causing that car to then hit mine.  In the middle car was a nice man named Michael and his ten year old son.  While Michael was getting the boy to safety on the side of the road, I went back to the car that had hit us.  The driver was a man in his fifties, woozy and dealing with an inflated air bag.  I asked him if he was all right, and he said yes, but his eyes were not focused.  I helped him from his car, and he had all the looseness of a lump of cooked spaghetti, leaning heavily on me as we crossed the lanes and made it to safety.  I then went back and stood behind the vehicles flagging down traffic to keep it from plowing into our cars, all the while worrying I was about to die if some coming driver was paying more attention to texting than the road.

A very experienced cop arrived.  I told him I thought the man in the last car was injured, but the cop, looking at him, waived that away with his hand.  “He’s soused,” he flatly declared, and, turning to the man, asked him, “How many drinks have you had?”  To this the flippant reply was, “Not enough.”  This led to his arrest, and much else:  my car was drivable (the middle car was not—in the picture notice the trunk lid is up) but I missed getting my computer to the shop before it closed.  Michael and I have received subpoenas to testify at the criminal pre-trial hearing in a week, my car is in the shop being repaired, and life has been a mess without a car and a computer.  I trust it will all be straightened out soon, and we’re all thankful no one was injured.

            c.  The Election.  Far worse than having diabetes inflicted unexpectedly is realizing that Donald John Trump will be the 45th President of the United States.  I could write a large number of paragraphs about the shock of the election (having already written a large number of posts pre-election explaining why he couldn’t possibly win), but I’m just not up the task.  I’m still in mourning and refuse to display my suffering for all to see.  (Little sob here.)

7.  Conclusion

As readers of this blog know, I judge everything in life by what I call the “Death Bed Test.”  Under this measurement assume you are very, very old and lying on your death bed with enough time to comprehensively review your life.  You think over all the things you did in your many years on this planet.  Some things make you slap your head and exclaim, “How could I have been so stupid?”  But others will bring a broad smile to your face as you announce, “Oh, that was good!  That was a great time!

All in all, this past summer and fall are firmly in the latter category.

Seven years after my enlarged heart was cut from my chest, and the strong healthy heart of a stranger was inserted, tests in the past week show I’m in great physical shape, so I’m a happy man.  On my death bed I will surely be smiling when remembering all the good things that happened in the fall of 2016.

Related Posts:
A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

"About That Heart Transplant," January 24, 2010;

“The World’s Greatest Game [Bridge] Needs You,” June 6, 2011;

“The Emperor Caligula, Gross Indecency, and the Killing of Oscar Wilde,” October 21, 2016;

“The Presumption of Heterosexuality and the Invisible Homosexual,” October 2, 2011;

“My Sad Tale of Being a Chicago Cubs Fan,” May 27, 2015;

“On Being a Gay Sports Fan,” March 3, 2012;   

“Give Me Back My Spleen and Other Adventures From Surgery,” August 31, 2016;

“President Preposterous: Donald Takes the Helm,” November 14, 2016;

“Calm Yourself: What Trump Can and Cannot Do About LGBT Rights,” November 16, 2016;

“The Death Bed Test,” July 27, 2010;