Friday, December 28, 2007

High Hopes

What do I hope 2008 will bring?

It's hard to hope with so many things going wrong for so long now. The events going on around us seem important for maybe two or three weeks and then something else pops up to replace them. Twenty or thirty years pass before we hear the truth about the matters we have to make decisions about today ... twenty or thirty years, if ever.

Individually we can be pretty smart, but en masse we're almost always cattle. Mass media play to the lowest common denominator, the part of ourselves that properly can't even be called a self.

Knowing this, still I have hopes for democracy. But not high expectations. Nothing about me is faith based.

I hope we can elect a decent U.S. President in '08. I hope both main parties find the person who they honestly believe is best fit to lead the country, not the most "electable," not the best totem representing some vague abstraction, not the most telegenic, not the one with the most money--I hope the Greens, Socialists, Libertarians, etc., put someone up too. I want the electoral process to become more complicated than it's been--more choices, more issues on the table, more democratic, more diversity, more change--less fund-raising, less emotionalist flag-waving and baby-kissing, less pandering to corporations and theocrats.

I hope the United States can make up (somehow) for the terrible fuckups in the Middle East and Central and South America. I hope the U.S. can get off its high horse, switch off the world-power bullshit, and redeem itself in the eyes of the world.

I hope people develop their reasoning powers and stop relying on faith and the good will of those who oppress them. I hope skepticism and sanity flourish. It's time to put our gods away and behave fully like reasonable adults. I hope people begin to trust their senses and instincts.

I hope the people of the world band together to stop the senseless exploitation of natural resources and the senseless exploitation of the poor, the weak, the sick, and the unpopular.

I hope blacks, women, and homosexuals decide to dis-appropriate the words "nigger," "bitch," and "faggot." I'm not for censorship and I don't believe any word is intrinsically evil. However, these words empower nobody, and using them puts a smug, self-justified smirk on the faces of the racists, misogynists, and bashers. Stop "scaring" the liberals in order to curry favor with the rich and powerful. Putting yourself down or putting your own kind down is reprehensible, sniveling, and small.

I hope people learn to laugh more, loosen up, start taking fewer inconsequential things seriously. Folks, your gods are not worth dying for, nor is your gasoline. Your jobs, your families, your life styles should not be making you sick, physically or mentally.

I hope people throw more parties throughout the year, invite friends over, have long conversations face to face, give and receive gifts graciously and joyously, stop the paranoid mistrust, blame-putting, and self-pity. Get along. Play nice.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

boxing day

what a wonderful day to be inert.

40 degrees fahrenheit this morning, constant rain (in drought-stricken central north carolina), nothing to do but snuggle under the covers with ripley, eat a slice of janet's pecan bread, read a bit more of tom hodgkinson's how to be idle + michel onfray's atheist manifesto.

i don't box, but wouldn't mind a little bedroom wrestling right now.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

the night before christmas

christmas eve dinner last night with milton + dave at milton's.

cranberry martinis, cream of asparagus soup, garlic bread, shrimp cocktail, turkey breast in mushroom sauce, rice with cranberries, green beans, hot sweet+sour slaw, + tiramisu with raspberries + chocolate sauce.

discussion ranged from what dave's reading (a thousand splendid suns), what i'm reading (how to be idle), barbara's party last week (people milton knew from elsewhere), the documentary film durham: a self-portrait, n.c. history in general, regionalisms (language + food), family histories, dreams, holidays, the episcopal church, milton's new job at durham school of the arts, + his idea for a small community of aging friends (with onsite euthanasia on demand).

lovely evening. quiet + calm like the song, though not silent. milton gave dave + me each an amaryllis bulb. dave to grow, me to kill.

Monday, December 24, 2007

kicking christ out of christmas

christmas rocks, but christianity sucks these days.

who needs a 2000-year-old religion that shit all over the reputation of a galilean man of peace, elective poverty, + tolerance (that is, if he even existed) to enjoy the holidays?

(+ what can you say about a religion that totally ignores its supposed founder's teachings in favor of focusing on his death?)

the catholic church stole the december 25 holiday (bruma) from the romans, anyway, originally a celebration of the empire's state religion--commemorating the birth of the unconquered sun (sol invictus).

if you want to celebrate christmas without the usual angels, creches, haloes (also copped from the romans), or even santa claus, you can't go wrong by consulting these three recent films, all out on dvd now, set in the christmas season but totally fucking with the whole tradition.

eyes wide shut--stanley kubrick's final film does for the christmas movie what 2001 did for science fiction. audiences who hated the movie back in 1999 were under the mistaken notion that they were going to see a sex film starring tom + nicole. instead, they got a film about consumerism--+ a class system based on what + whom you are able to buy. what most people missed was the all-pervasive xmas decorations + the characters' compulsion to buy + let themselves be bought. if frank capra's it's a wonderful life taught us how each human life matters in the world, kubrick's eyes wide shut shows us that, at the right price, people can vanish without a trace without their disappearance registering even as a blip in the social fabric.

sheitan--this french film, directed by kim chapiron, features three parisian club kids who on christmas eve follow not a star but a drunken whim to the country home of a mysterious + attractive new acquaintance named eve. the home's caretaker is a doltish shepherd named joseph, whose wife is upstairs on the verge of having a baby. the house is full of creepy-looking toys, mainly dolls, which eventually figure into the house's secret + unfolding plot. the film offers a hilarious + perverse performance by the limitlessly talented vincent cassel. by the way the film's title is the persian word for "satan," so the film provides a truly twisted twist on the nativity story + also toys provocatively with christian concepts of sacrifice + miracles.

eastern promises--again with vincent cassel, this time as the drunken heir to a herod-like russian mobster intent on whacking a newborn child, named christine, born out of wedlock to a 14-year-old junky whore. like the previous films, eastern promises takes place at christmastime, + director david cronenberg visually cites not only the nativity story but also the nutcracker + bergman's fanny + alexander (another great pick for the holiday season, by the way). unlike the previous two films, eastern promises has a tight plot +, though less audacious than the other two, its urban crime story shows that some guardian angels come with prison tattoos + moonlight as angels of death. it's also cronenberg's most homoerotic film to date, with a key plot point hinging on a character's presumed homosexuality + a now notorious nude knife fight in a bathhouse.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

the one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it

"the one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it. ... when we have fully discovered the scientific laws that govern life, we shall realise that the one person who has more illusions than the dreamer is the man of action. ... if we lived long enough to see the results of our actions it may be that those who call themselves good would be sickened with a dull remorse, + those whom the world calls evil stirred by a noble joy. each little thing that we do passes into the great machine of life which may grind our virtues to powder + make them worthless, or transform our sins into elements of a new civilisation, more marvellous + more splendid than any that has gone before. ... what is termed sin is an essential element of progress. without it the world would stagnate, or grow old, or become colourless."
--oscar wilde, the critic as artist, 1890

Saturday, December 22, 2007

you can't buy charm like mine

last night i once again tested the borders of my agoraphobia + went to a party thrown by dear friends barbara + shane.

everything was wonderful. food was great--especially those rolled-up lettuce+cheese sandwiches + tiny pigs-in-blankets. drinks were plentiful. the guests were attractive + articulate. the tree was everything a secularized version of a christianized druidic totem ought to be.

no go-go boys or wesson-oil twister, but i left relatively early.

i stayed over two + a half hours, yet the party was still hopping when i left.

stationing myself strategically close to the food, i even managed to introduce myself to a few new people. charming people who told me their names, which i instantly forgot. lubricated with a little dewars, i spoke with them on the merits of atheism, the necessity for a french government that would remain adamant in its hostility to the u.s.a., + the hopelessness of 2008's offering any relief for us right-thinking people. my new friends offered a word or two in reply + then suddenly noticed others in the room with whom they needed to speak.

if i could bottle my debonair, i could make a billion.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

seriousness + laughter

"for rabelais, man of the renaissance, laughter was precisely a liberation of the emotions that dim the knowledge of life. laughter proves the existence of clear spiritual vision + bestows it. awareness of the comic + reason are the two attributes of human nature. truth reveals itself with a smile when man abides in a nonanxious, joyful, comic mood."
--l.e. pinsky, realism of the renaissance, 1961 (qtd, in bakhtin)

"true ambivalent + universal laughter does not deny seriousness but purifies + completes it. laughter purifies from dogmatism, from the intolerant + the petrified; it liberates from fanaticism + pedantry, from fear + intimidation, from didacticism, naivete + illusion, from the single meaning, the single level, from sentimentality. laughter does not permit seriousness to atrophy + to be torn away from the one being, forever incomplete. it restores this ambivalent wholeness. such is the function of laughter in the historical development of culture + literature."
--mikhail bakhtin, rabelais + his world, 1965

Saturday, December 15, 2007


a new extended clip of the film cloverfield has just been released at

i am totally stoked about seeing this movie, + have been since the first mystifying trailer, which didn't even name the movie, a few months ago.

online rumors have attempted to identify the threat as a terrorist attack or, once it became clear that it was some sort of monster, as godzilla or even the giant stay puft marshmallow man from ghostbusters. rumors persist that the movie may somehow be linked to the tv series lost.

the marketing of the film has been especially clever. keeping audiences in the dark. leaking bits + pieces of information through the internet. it's fascinating, too, that the film does not come with star power--neither the director nor the actors are famous ... so far the biggest name associated with the film is its producer, j.j. abrams, producer-creater of lost.

the concept is genius. a giant monster movie told from the point of view of a small group of partygoers whose celebration is interrupted by the monster's attack on nyc.

limiting the perspective is a great tool to enhance suspense + terror, witness daphne du maurier's short story the birds or the complete works of h.p. lovecraft. it even worked in steven spielberg's underrated remake of war of the worlds (which itself is genius for the first hour + collapses only because of spielberg's characteristic inability to end a movie satisfactorily).

let's just hope cloverfield doesn't wind up with the partygoers in the oval office with the president + a crack military and scientific team tasked with the destroying the creature.

some responders to the trailer comment how the film may be traumatic to many because of its parallels to 9/11.

but horror movies have always been indirect ways of responding to + filtering trauma--the original godzilla, the beast from 20,000 fathoms, + them! allowed audiences to face their fears of the bomb, without having to directly contemplate the real implications of atomic war, + invasion of the body snatchers + invaders from mars paralleled public fears instilled by the cold war + the rosenberg trial, as americans panicked that even their neighbors might be soviet spies, if not martians. arguably, 1980s slasher films similarly treated the threat of aids, as sex + drug use almost always foreshadowed grisly violence.

i hope the film itself lives up to the promise of its marketing campaign.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

white liberals are the best tippers

the american democratic party has a long history of corruption + bribery. i don't think that this spin on history (usually brandished by conservative republicans) is necessarily untrue.

however, democratic corruption, though ethically suspect, does lean towards a certain generosity of spirit, money offerings to local neighborhoods, labor representatives, + minority leaders, etc., to "grease the wheels" of justice, civil rights, + progress.

one finds such generosity lacking in the no-less-corrupt republican party--where cabals + closed meetings (even closed campaigns + "missing" voting booths) are the norm.

all i mean to suggest is that republican pay-offs are no more virtuous than democratic giveaways.

republican officials repay their constituency with billion-dollar military contracts + corporate rescues.

republicans offer charity to the rich--the saudis, halliburton, shahs, royals, oil magnates, + general motors.

democratic officials repay their constituency with handouts to the poor, though undoubtedly a great amount often gets siphoned off by go-betweens + welfare programs are vulnerable to a certain amount of fraud.

on occasion, the money goes to foreign nations in a bid to prevent or just delay war.

on the other hand, republican money goes to contractors to profit from war, so that, for example, $9 billion can just "disappear" in iraq back in 2004 ... as hard to pinpoint + retrieve as bin laden's dialysis machine.

democrats at least have the decency to spred their bribe money around to the poor + genuinely needy, from time to time.

i often hear conservatives complain about how poor people abuse the system, but they seldom acknowledge the greater greed of the rich. the rich hold the pursestrings to the system, so their pilfering can, to a certain extent, be legislatively "laundered."

the rich get no-bid contracts. the poor have to rely on guile alone.

the stickiest fingers are the ones with the most stuff stuck onto them.

it's not that i think ends necessarily justify the means. but on the whole republican ends tend to be just as venal (or loony) as the means used to achieve them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

writers to learn from

this morning i responded to an e-mail from a promising student who would like to be a writer. he asked me to recommend some writers--contemporary realists--whom i would recommend to help him in becoming a better writer. i composed a list of 14 or 15 writers i admire + sent off the reply quickly, but not thoughtlessly.

now let me try the list again, putting a bit more thought into it. many of the writers are the same, but this time i want to name what exactly i would want to learn from them. i have not, however, limited myself to realists or contemporaries this time.

thomas berger--for his dry, matter-of-fact sense of the absurdly obvious

joan didion--for her sentences, sleek and highly evolved as sharks

nicholson baker--for his absorption into sensuous details

george saunders--for combining satire + perfect pitch in diction

don delillo--for turning the masses into a dynamic character + paranoid hysteria into narrative

frank o'hara--for the liveliness of his breathless conjunctions

vladmir nabokov--for his obvious delight in words

manuel puig--for combining hollywood myth + marxist politics

virginia woolf--for expressing amusement + weariness in the same phrase

flannery o'connor--for her fascination with extremes

john milton--for creating intellectual metaphors that have weight + pulse

marcel proust--for understanding human consciousness + feeling + conveying this knowledge through events + gestures

james ellroy--for transubstantiating harsh reality into noir poetry

harold pinter--for his ellipses

armistead maupin--for his winsome narrator

guy davenport--for the chiseled, angular elegance of his pedophilia

j.r. ackerley--for creating the first fully-rounded animal character without relying on anthropomorphism

william s. burroughs--for mixing horror + comedy + eroticism

d.h. lawrence--for writing the first pornography to succeed in exciting me

sinclair lewis--for saying what nobody wanted (or wants) to hear in such an appealing way that, at times, it is heard

Sunday, December 9, 2007

party boy

yesterday i went to a christmas party that should convince me either (i can't decide which) that i spend too much time on my own or that i should not bother doing anything else.

the party was nice enough--a bright + intelligent host whom i like, good food, a healthy mix of age groups--the guests consisting of equal parts the host's neighbors, fellow employees or (like me) ex-fellow employees, + fellow bicycling enthusiasts.

the problem was that i went to the party with a friend + so i couldn't leave when i wanted to, so my stay was about three or four times too long. we were among the first guests to arrive + the last to leave. the most agonizing part of the party for me was the first three-quarters of it, during which i ineptly attempted to chitchat with strangers ("how do you know the host?" "isn't this picadillo tasty?")

at the end, the party was just me, my ride, the host + one other person--a small group happy to discuss u.s. politics rather than engage in small talk--for me, the party's last hour was the most enjoyable part of the party.

now, although i enjoy parties (went to two this weekend) + hardly lead a hermit's life style, i do spend a great amount of time alone ... or, at work, in a classroom where i am able to create the environment in my own image.

my people skills are weak--more particularly, i'm a complete idiot at small talk, shmoozing, or the kind of offhand flirtatiousness that comes effortlessly to most people.

at 54, i have a fairly strong sense of myself. i am not particularly eager to be liked by a wide array of people i'm not already interested in. as i get older, the kinds of people i'm interested in are people, like me, who live self-designed lives. i have virtually zero interest in people who try or especially who succeed at living a readymade life--a life striving for normalcy, competing for gold stars, + polishing one's social resume.

having just recently reviewed woolf + forster for my brit lit class, it may be that i yearn to be a part of the bloomsbury group--or some more modern, homoeroticized yet working-class version of bloomsbury. having just ended said class with orwell's classic essay politics + the english language, i yearn for conversation that gives new shape to consciousness + reality, not conversation that draws on cliches or other vague semi-scripted niceties of social intercourse.

i much prefer the trippy conversation induced by absinthe + marijuana to the polite exchange of innocuous anecdotes.

the party yesterday made me wonder if perhaps i think i'm better somehow than all these other people--with their zeal for office gossip + workplace politics, popular sitcoms, + "good restaurants."

i certainly don't think i have any more right to life + happiness than they do.

but i do think that there are a great many people--good people, whom i can admire abstractly--with whom i just have no interest in becoming better acquainted. or, at any rate, i wish more people that i meet at parties would attempt to surprise or even astound me. the kind of chitchat that 90% of party talk consists of, between new acquaintances anyway, is to conversation what muzak is to music.

perhaps one day some entrepreneur will market a device that trades social pleasantries with other similar devices, leaving guests free to stuff their mouths with quiche + alcohol.

maybe it could be called 'dizkuss.'

Thursday, December 6, 2007


reading through orwell today with my brit lit students, on our last day of the semester, reminded me why i think it is important to teach people how to write.

to write well is to think well. those who do not think well end up letting others do their thinking for them.

stupidity corrupts language, as ignorance + mean-spiritedness try to mask themselves with lofty rhetoric, mundane ambiguities, question-begging pieties, + diversionary tactics.

once corrupted, language breeds even further stupidity, in turn.

the naive + the uneducated fall back on ready-made phrases + jargon they pick up from advertisers, politicians, + other propagandists.

a good idea cannot be built from a language stripped of specificity + elegance.

the people try to think, but succeed only in recycling cliches and bumper-sticker slogans +, what is worse, they repeatedly contradict themselves, most often + most distressingly when they try to express their most deeply felt beliefs.

language should be "an instrument which we shape for our own purposes," not the half-hypnotic recall of jingles lyrics + insincere campaign promises.

clear, exact, specific, concrete, emphatic, + grammatical sentences are the building blocks of intelligence + reason.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

ghosts of christmas past

i've been recently flooded by the spectre of my past. a cousin i haven't seen in over 30 years has sent me a two-cd collection of photographs of my mother's side of the family from 1874 to the present. a roommate of 20 years ago has corresponded via myspace, + a girlfriend from high school, 36 years ago, now a grandmother, has reached me through facebook +, just today, offered to put me in touch with yet another old friend from highschool days. another friend of 15 years ago recently phoned me to get permission to refer to me + certain aspects of my personal history in the introduction to his dissertation.

is this my life flashing before my eyes?

why does revisiting my past, through the eyes of other friends, both lure + repulse? perhaps because it calls up people who may contest my embroidered versions of my past? perhaps because a resumption of contact after decades serves to remind me how old i've become? perhaps because their existence presents me with a different version of who i might have become, had circumstances been different than they were?

having lost three years ago my (then) furthest back friend, whom i'd known since 9th grade, to aids, the "return" of these "new" old friends is more welcome than dreadful, but my feelings are mixed.

they are ghosts of my past requesting permission to cross the threshold to my present life.

i don't know how to explain myself to them ... not to people who once knew me so well. do they know i'm gay? (perhaps the ex-girlfriend did before i did, having written in my senior yearbook, something to the effect that she hoped i would find the right woman someday "if" there is a right woman.) do they know i no longer believe in a god? can they begin to comprehend the path i have taken since they last knew me?

or can i begin to comprehend the paths they have taken since i last knew them?

Sunday, December 2, 2007


queerness first entered my radar as transgendered.

one reason why, growing up, i never thought of myself as homosexual was that i was told that homosexuals were men who wanted to be women. since i wanted nothing of the sort, + still don't, for years i deceived myself that my strong physical attraction towards certain men did not make me gay--just a 'man's man.'

even before my first misunderstanding of homosexuality, the concept of transgendered entered my imagination. i remember that, when i was four or no more than five, my mother gave me an old discarded women's purse to play with (such were the toys of sissy trailer trash like me). she told me the purse had belonged to my grandmother, but my grandmother no longer needed it. i thought that this statement meant that in old age people changed sexes because, by my childish logic, the only reason my grandmother would no longer need her purse was that she was becoming a man.

i have not yet become acquainted with (to my knowledge) a transgendered person. my small circle friends includes straight people, gay men, and lesbians. i had a long relationship with a bisexual man once, + a friend of mine now is bisexual. but no transgendered people.

when sandra bernhard performed for an aids benefit in raleigh a few years ago, she mulled over the politically correct 'lgbt' printed on all the promotions for the event. she asked the gay men in the large audience to applaud (big roar of applause), then the lesbians (big roar, again), then the bisexuals (a healthy, though more subdued, applause), + then the transgendered (nothing--you could hear crickets chirping). she smirked + said, 'just as i thought.'

where were the transgendered people?

today i'm happy that transgendered people consider themselves a part of the queer struggle for equality + justice. years ago my impression was that transgendered people objected to being associated with gayness. i remember a male-to-female transsexual proclaiming proudly on an old phil donahue show, 'i have always been a strict heterosexual,' with a strong air of disgust at even the thought that she might be grouped with gays.

thus, as i came to accept myself as gay, my impression of the transgendered was that they were gays + lesbians who did not accept their homosexual natures.

i understand things differently now, but lacking transgendered friends, i find myself limited in my understanding + empathy. i want the transgendered to enjoy the same rights, respect, and opportunities as everyone else, but as a gay man, i don't particularly identify with them apart from our shared humanity.

i don't want to be a woman. i like women. i like men even more (or, rather, i like men + cock). if a friend of mine wanted to change sexes, i would support him or her + do my best to remain friends. if a boyfriend of mine wanted to change sexes, however, i would no longer be interested in the person sexually. or, more accurately, i cannot now imagine that i could be ... simply because i like men sexually, not women, not even women who used to be men.

maybe this is bigotry. or superficiality. i'm just trying honestly to assess my feelings on this issue. so i guess what i'm saying is that as a gay man of 54, i identify strongly with three-fourths of 'lgbt'--i still need to get used to the idea that the 't's' are legitimately in league with my own struggle for equality + justice.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

jim neal, democrat in north carolina

jim neal of north carolina is running as a democrat to take elizabeth dole's place in the u.s. senate.

two weeks after he announced his plan to run, the democratic senatorial campaign committee had not listed neal as running for office.

now it lists him along with kay hagan + former republican john ross hendrix as democratic contenders for dole's place in the senate. both hagan + hendrix have emerged as contenders, reportedly at the urging of the dscc, in the wake of neal's twin announcements--that he is running for the senate + that he is gay.

according to unnamed sources, new york senator chuck schumer, head of the dscc, responded angrily when neal announced his intent to run + told others that north carolina would never ever elect an openly gay candidate.

maybe not. but the democratic party does not help matters when, claiming to be friends to the glbt community, it insists on ignoring + dismissing queer people who express interest in running for public office.

of the three proposed candidates, hendrix is running on a platform that might have been the same one he held as a republican (anti-immigrant, pro-'family,' + anti-tax).

hagan, a state senator for nine years, so far is running on her record of fighting against predatory lending, supporting education, + strengthening homeland security.

neal, a 51-year-old investment banker from chapel hill, is open about his gayness but not interested in running as just a niche candidate. his web site lists three key issues: supporting health insurance for children, opposing the privatization of medicare + social security, +, except for a few small strategic units to fight terrorism, bringing the troops home from iraq.

i'm happy to have three democratic candidates to choose from in the primary, but i deeply resent the democratic party's resistance to actual progress while pretending to be progressive.

neal may or may not be the right person to replace dole, but whether he is or not has nothing to do with his sexuality.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

let the eagle glub

last night at the university of colorado, former attorney general john ashcroft answered a woman asking whether he would be willing to subject himself to the 'interrogation technique' called waterboarding:

"the things that i can survive," he said, "if it were necessary to do them to me, i would do."

i would like to make three points, in response:

(1) huh?

(2) apparently in english this statement would limit a definition of 'torture' to actions one cannot survive. since 'killing' + 'murder' already pretty much cover that territory, if we accepted such a definition, the word 'torture' would be superfluous.

(3) if ashcroft is waterboarded, how do i get tickets?

Sunday, November 25, 2007


'i was the world in which i walked, + what i saw
or heard or felt came not but from myself;
+ there i found myself more truly + more strange.'
--wallace stevens, tea at the palaz of hoon, 1923

the solipsism of artists is not the same solipsism of children + ignorant adults. it is to be, as jesus said, "in the world" yet not "of the world." with the difference being that the other world to which artists belong is the passing instant, as perceived fleetingly in a mind that is responsive to impressions, yet not responsible to tradition, faith, science, or any logic other than the particular clarity of the moment.

Friday, November 23, 2007

sick day

i feel like i've caught the groundhog-day bug. it seems like i've been through the same cold now, infection through full recovery, three times in the last month. nothing seems to be helping though--not sudafed, not claritin. i'm not achey or feverish, so i'm fairly certain it's not flu. what worries me, though, is that for the last ten years i've been fairly impervious to colds, and now i'm getting these same sniffles over + over again. the only thing i can track it down to is that i had stopped taking vitamin c about 6 or 8 months ago, so i've restarted a daily 3000-mg dose--though undoubtedly too late to help out in the current onslaught.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

things i'm thankful for ...

this thanksgiving day i'm most thankful for

... aaa tow service

... bear naked fruit + nut granola

... berlin alexanderplatz (criterion collection)

... coca-cola zero

... haagen dazs' pineapple coconut ice cream

... heyday, by kurt andersen

... kathy griffin's emmy acceptance speech

... my macbook

... mad men (amc)

... mark lander on youtube

... nikki blonsky in hairspray

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


is thanksgiving day a national religious holiday? if so, what is the national religion?

consumption, apparently.

not only is it a day we americans set aside for eating vast quantities of narcotic tryptophan + bad carbs, while watching a parade hosted by a new york department store, it is the kickoff day for the holiday shopping season, preceding black friday, on which one customarily goes deeper into debt, joylessly searching for bargain gifts for underloved loved ones at the shopping centers (some hardy pilgrims will be showing up at kohl's at 4:00 a.m. on friday).

in tacit recognition of the real spirit of the holiday, 78% of employers give employees both thursday + friday off work. my employer + others give employees the wednesday before off, too, reportedly the busiest travel day of the year. in total, this is as much time off as employers give employees for july the 4th + christmas together.

i'm happy for any day off i can get, + eating is okay by me, too, but the nature of the holiday still mystifies me. the fourth thursday of november is not on the jewish, muslim, or christian calendar, is it? so is it or is it not a 'holy day'? + it can't be an entirely secular celebration because presumably we are giving to thanks to somebody, right? + if so, to whom? the turkey?

ostensibly, the day's for celebrating the end of harvest, which, let's face it, is hardly on anyone's mind in a nation where agriculture has dwindling importance and about 14% of the food supply is imported from other countries anyway.

the wampanoag tribe of massachusetts, even the mayflower pilgrims, may have lived a life close to the earth, but we post-moderns not so much.

curiously, thanksgiving day itself is not a shopping day. gifts aren't traditionally given then, + stores are usually closed for the day. it is kind of a lull before the storm that follows--a feeding frenzy that lasts just over a month.

for all its protestant trappings, thanksgiving day is perhaps the most decadent, pagan holiday we celebrate.

from desiderata

"you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees + the stars; you have a right to be here.

"+ whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

"therefore, be at peace with god, whatever you conceive him to be + whatever your labours + aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

"with all it sham, drudgery + broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

"be cheerful.

"strive to be happy."

--max ehrmann, desiderata, 1927

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

a room of one's own

'i thought of that old gentleman, who is dead now, but was a bishop, i think, who declared that it was impossible for any woman, past, present, or to come, to have the genius of shakespeare. he wrote to the papers about it. he also told a lady who applied to him for information that cats do not as a matter of fact go to heaven, though they have, he added, souls of a sort. how much thinking those old gentlemen used to save one! how the borders of ignorance shrank back at their approach! cats do not go to heaven. women cannot write the plays of shakespeare.'
--virginia woolf, a room of one's own, 1929

Monday, November 19, 2007

mr. president, you are such a man

fran townsend, who just resigned as white house homeland security adviser, sounds like a lovesick high-school valedictorian when she writes in her farewell letter to george w. bush:

'in 1937, the playwright maxwell anderson wrote of president george washington: there are some men who lift the age they inhabit, til all men walk on higher ground in their lifetime.

'mr. president, you are such man.'

two points i want to make:

(1) i tend to side with novelist e.m. forster in thinking that the concept of heroes + hero worship promotes authoritarianism, especially outside the context of the ancient world, most especially following that great ubermensch adolf hitler. the idea that 'great men' deserve our obeisance + obedience is simply a mental trick of people suffering under a dictatorship, by which they comfort themselves that the giant stepping on their throats is some wonderful, halfway divine being.

(2) the tone of townshend's handwritten note indicates the kind of unironic flattery this administration apparently expects of its close staff. no wonder it becomes so outraged at the notion that even lesser beings, such as ourselves, or, say, perhaps, the pre-sarkozy french, do not kiss the bushes' collective asses, given that they like to tout their british royal ancestry, as could have george washington, who was somewhat more modest + democratic about his lineage (the bushes are descended from edward i, henry i, + henry ii; washington, whom barbara bush strikingly resembles without a family connection, could claim edward iii as an ancestor).

but unlike townshend + the other toadies bush + cheney like to collect, some people do not take kindly to having their privacy invaded + natural rights annulled in the interests of an imperial presidency.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

progress report

when i was a teenager, i heard, 'don't trust anyone over 30.'

the warning was generally well founded, almost certainly well intended, even if in need of some qualification.

there were, of course, older people who were worthy of trust + sources of inspiration, just as there were young people who were meanly motivated.

but, on the whole, our elders based their values on fear, reverence for authority, intolerance of relativism + uncertainty, + acceptance of injustice as a fact of life.

forty years later, the opposite seems to be true: i ought not trust anyone under 30.

again, some qualification is needed, but on the whole the values of the young today look like those of our parents. not all of the young, of course, + the values themselves, of fear, authoritarianism, intolerance, + passivity, originate not in the economic depression, world war, + hellfire + brimstone our parents grew up with, but in the frenzy of reagan-era consumerism, terrorism, aids, + media hype.

our parents had false idols, the young today have false 'american idols,' a cult of celebrity + instant, easy success.

our parents were tight with a penny, acquainted with + chastened by the poverty of the 1930s. the young today freely spend--not out of philanthropy or even pleasure, but out of a self-centered, joyless drive to keep up with rapidly advancing technologies.

religion is not what it once was. a growing number of the young are not religious at all, even frankly, happily atheistic. but the majority of young americans remain christian, though they no longer read the bible, because they no longer read anything. their christianity is marketed to them through slogans, jingles, + imagery, just like their soft drinks + music.

last night i looked at the facebook group for the christian school i graduated from in the early '70s--a fundamentalist evangelical school i remember for being racially segregated (under the pretense of moral purity + separation from the world), banning miniskirts + flared trousers as immoral, + encouraging drabness as a reasonable substitute for modesty.

gone are the earnest asceticism + (admittedly hypocritical) unworldliness.

the young people at this school today look just as stiff + borderline hysterical as i remember kids (myself) being under the rod of our elders, but in their profile pics i don't see the pretended sanctimony of our old yearbook pictures--instead, the girls look gym-toned + dressed seductively for sex + the boys pose shirtless, flexing for the camera, + sternly adopt their 'hard' faces.

but like the old-time christians they are undoubtedly still officially celibate + excruciatingly straight, while either guiltily fucking in secret or suppressing their libido with mild forms of mental + physical self-abuse. the new show of skin seems rather to represent a triumph over eroticism, rather than a celebration of it.

these kids look confident in belonging to the elites, the master multi-race (enforced segregation being, thankfully, a thing of the past).

they look certain of themselves, even if uninformed about life in general.

they lack any knowledge of philosophy or spiritual wisdom that cannot fit on a bumper sticker or a t-shirt.

as i was a fundamentalist during the 'summer of love,' i see the improvements, to be sure, but i am shocked by the lack of liberty, imagination, + generosity that to some extent characterized even uptight me + my puritan friends.

these new kids are high maintenance. they plug in + recharge their imagination, pay a monthly fee for it. they don't care about the world--they want good-paying jobs, not callings. they value security over freedom--for them, freedom is something to give up in order to gain a blemishless + no-risk hothouse existence. they want families + children. they want the government to keep its hands off the church while it legislates + enforces the values of the church.

i'm speaking in generalities, of course, sounding like the pontificating middle-aged man i sometimes am. as i said before, i do see the improvements. i do recognize that, among the young today, there are still a few romantic idealists, some skeptical thinkers, some libertines remaining. i do admit, also, that my generation was not uniformly progressive in its thought or ambition.

i guess mainly i'm disappointed that things aren't better than they are.

the most important human needs are still unmet.

democratic + rational ideas seem under greater threat today than at any other time in my half century of life.

people, young + old (+ let's be realistic enough to recognize that bush + cheney--the real problem--are anything but youthful), still are unwilling (to cite the jingles of long ago) to give peace a chance or put a little love in their hearts.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

criterion wishlist

the criterion collection makes it worthwhile to still have a regular dvd player. for me there's no choice between, say, the recent criterion release of gus van sant's first feature, mala noche ... or twister on gussied-up hd dvd.

restored, fully loaded criterion versions of godard's breathless, melville's les enfants terribles, + fassbinder's berlin alexanderplatz have been some other recent prized additions to my movie collection.

now i'm wishing criterion would release or re-release some other favorite films of mine from dvd limbo or from languishment in their current weakly restored or extra-less versions.

the gospel according to saint matthew (pier paolo pasolini, 1964)
alice's restaurant (arthur penn, 1969)
harold + maude (hal ashby, 1971)
taking off (milos forman, 1971)
nashville (robert altman, 1975)
manhattan (woody allen, 1979)
the ballad of narayama (shohei imamura, 1983)
the long day closes (terence davies, 1992)
happy together (kar wai wong, 1997)
lost highway (david lynch, 1997)

Friday, November 16, 2007


since my choices for party candidates are never among the 'viable' 'front runners,' i'm thinking of taking a new tack with my voting practices. rather than sighing + choosing the 'lesser of two evils' or throwing up my hands + simply refusing to vote, i'm considering pretending that i'm voting for class president. it would lessen the stress for me. i don't have to think about the heavy issues like iraq, the economy, human rights, + the environment. instead, i can focus on who's going to look best on the front page of the yearbook + throw the best prom.

hillary--o.k. she tries too hard (kind of like reese witherspoon in 'election'), but her husband seems like a real party kind of guy + they do make a kinda 'cute' couple. i figure the two of them must have done something right in raising chelsea, who seems poised + sane (the same cannot be said for the bushes)--naming her 'chelsea,' in fact, makes them kind of cool, + rather than hosting a gospel tour of south carolina, she posed for the cover of the advocate, some weeks ago.

barack--yes, i still hold a grudge over the gospel tour thing. also, he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would have ever spoken to me in high school. he's kinda busy being jesus + all. i could be wrong but i suspect he wouldn't throw a particularly fun party, though the fact that he has 'inhaled' is sort of promising.

john edwards--there you have it. two names. it takes two names before anybody knows whom you're talking about. he's not especially boring. not as good looking as everybody seems to think he is, even after removing the bump from his upper lip (which, truth be told, was a distinguishing feature on a rather bland face, even if it did pose a challenge to smiling vacantly).

chris dodd--see 'john edwards' above, minus the lip-thingy remark. i think dodd may in fact be the candidate who would do the best job as president ... of the senior class or of the united states. he takes responsibility. he seems the kind of guy who's capable of getting things done, + seems sincere about keeping his promises. still, is he popular enough?

kucinich--my old favorite. i think earnest geeks make terrific student body presidents, especially ones who support same-sex prom royalty + promise to bring the football team home from iraq. hanging out with shirley maclaine while watching for ufo's + having a wife young enough to work the window at mcdonald's only testify to the fact that this guy is more than what he appears (which is, let's face it, like a supporting cast member on mayberry rfd). i envision paint-ball battles at the inauguration ... not a criticism.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

paris, je t'aime

perhaps the closest to paris i'll ever be is this charming film, paris, je t'aime, a compilation of 16 short films by international directors like olivier assayas, gus van sant, the coen brothers, + tom tykwer, each corresponding to a different arrondissement in paris.

most of the stories are very good, funny + bittersweet, some negligible, even lame (notably the vampire story), some are brilliant.

this is the best example of portmanteau film i've ever seen.

i especially enjoyed the first two, unlikely romances, + the fourth, a gay romance directed by gus van sant, with an o. henry-like ending. the story of a paris mime looking for love is humorous + visually inventive.

the most accomplished work in the lot is the segment written + directed by the coens, starring steve buscemi, as an american tourist perplexed by parisian insouciance + impudence.

by far my favorite is the last segment, directed by alexander payne, about a denver mail carrier, flawlessly played by margo martindale, traveling alone in the city of lights + love. at once the most deadpan + the most transcendant of all the segments, it is a lovely note to end the film on.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

a room of one's own

virginia woolf argues that women need money + privacy to become great writers. these are two things traditionally denied to women, who were until just 50 years prior to woolf's famous essay still legally defined as 'chattel' + forever denied 'a room' free of husband, children, + servants.

women must also rise above the personal to understand the world more objectively. woolf argues that many past women writers were chained to a sense of bitterness over their limited options +, failing to transcend the reality of daily life in sitting rooms, focused on the novel, rather than on epic drama or poetry.

yet women have served, symbolically at least, as a fundamental part of male-dominated literature--as muses, sirens, earth mothers. these male-constructed women of art + literature were tools for men to express 'universal' truths, transcending gender.

women, she says, must learn to discover their own androgyny, as all the great male writers, notably shakespeare had done. (here, she borrows samuel taylor coleridge's idea of the spiritual androgyny of genius.)

women must stop viewing themselves as victims or self-sacrificing martyrs or grudging dependents or tragic suicides (like, regrettably, the woolf who was to be in later years) + discover their own integrity or 'incandescence'--the emotional independence gained by finding 'a room of one's own,' a true, unique voice that is unshackled by community other than that of one's own genius or choosing.

she doesn't call for woman-identified literature, but literature by women as fully developed human beings, independent of household or familial associations.

what she says, of course, has been echoed by a number of subsequent artists + writers, who want to create + perform without being ghettoized as a 'woman's' writer, or a 'black' artist, or a 'gay' performer. (her friend e.m. forster struggled with his own homosexual identity, deciding that it could play no evident role in his public art until after he died.)

how does one take something as personal as identity, refine it, transcend it, + find her (or his) 'incandescence"? how does one 'universalize' her or his creative vision, without suppressing (with either shame or bitterness) the identity that, once known, is all that others in society are able to perceive?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

if he were still alive, my father would have turned 88 today.

he was a neat guy. nice looking as a young man. gifted at fixing all things mechanical. back in the '80s, when he was in his sixties, he could still hold himself up perfectly horizontal, holding on to a vertical beam with just his hands.

he died on september 12, 2001, shortly after lowering the american flag to half mast following 9-11.

my mother (pictured with him, above) had died in 1995, but his life his last six years seemed like the best he had ever experienced. when he died, he had a drawer full of natural virility pills + a new girlfriend in her 50s. i intended to have thanksgiving dinner with her + him, to meet her for the first time. as it turns out, we met only after his death.

Monday, November 12, 2007

no end in sight

things are worse than even i thought + i lean towards pessimism.

charles ferguson's documentary no end in sight features a number of people (some highly placed) who have firsthand knowledge of the situation in iraq.

the film solidifies my impression that ineptitude + giddy, misplaced confidence characterize the whole mess over there.

not only did bush's associates ignore experienced counsel in planning the 2003 invasion, but the occupation, which has now lasted longer than the u.s. involvement in world war two, got almost two years less preparation than was given to the occupation of germany + japan back in the 1940s.

one witness reports running into a recently graduated american college student in bagdad, who cheerily confessed her good luck in being placed in charge of traffic planning for the city, even though she took no classes in city planning +, one assumes, had zero experience in doing what she was assigned to do.

apparently no one with actual experience in war + postwar nation-rebuilding was called upon (or, if called upon, listened to) as the president blithely ventured where angels fear to tread ... disbanding the iraqi military just when it might have proved most useful (thus basically contributing thousands of trained soldiers to the insurgency), banning all members of the ba'ath party (including elementary school librarians) from public office (thus putting the infrastructure of iraq into the hands of total amateurs), + overpaying contractors to begin but not finish projects that u.s. soldiers, taking some initiative, were able to complete at less than a tenth of the cost.

iraqis who applauded the downfall of saddam hussein now pray for the downfall of the united states.

the u.s. government commanded american military to protect iraqi oil, but expressly forbad them from stopping the looting that gutted libraries + museums containing 6000-year-old (i.e. beginning of civilization) artifacts + municipal buildings needed to re-establish normal life in bagdad.

a scant handful of the american civilians sent to iraq to help build democracy even speak arabic. almost all the american nonmilitary government personnel stay barricaded in the safe 'green zone,' away from all contact with real iraqi life.

film footage of american independent contractors randomly machine-gunning motorists was shot by the contractors themselves, with an upbeat country-western soundtrack, no less. it's the sort of thing one might call 'over the top' in a stanley kubrick satire ... but it's all too real.

clearly, the iraq invasion + occupation have increased anti-american hostility in the middle east, and the problems bush + company have initiated over there will be paid for (in lives, respect, + dollars) for years to come ... with no end in sight.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

the darjeeling limited

can a movie be too quirky? put your answer to the test by seeing wes anderson's the darjeeling limited.

three brothers (owen wilson, adrien brody, + jason schwartzman) reunite in india after a year's separation, following the death of their father.

the three brothers are goofs. the eldest (wilson), recovering from an automobile accident, pursues an obscure agenda that involves spiritual self-discovery by visiting indian holy sites, a quest he pursues crassly like a nazi tour director.

the middle brother (brody) is all nerves because his wife is about to have a baby, a family addition that was not part of his original plan for the marriage.

the youngest (schwartzman) is in the thrall of a beautiful woman (natalie portman), who is apparently stringing him along for the simple perverse amusement such sadism gives her.

then there's india--always colorful + corny +, as one character puts it, 'spicy.'

i liked the movie well enough. at no point before the end did i want to leave the theater. but i was glad when it was over, + i didn't feel my outlook of life + the world was any different going out of the theater than it was going in. i didn't feel entertained or educated. i chuckled once or twice ... but i'm not sure why.

throughout the movie wilson is wrapped in bandages + looks a bit dented + crazed, which, given the actor's subsequent suicide attempt, is difficult not to read as a darker metaphor than this light, dry comedy probably intends.

brody seems narcissistic, floundering for a character of his own (perhaps an intentional commentary on middle-child syndrome).

schwartzman is engaging + recklessly sweet, especially in his loony pursuit of an indian train stewardess, who, like his other romantic fixation, apparently needs him only to work out her own set of emotional problems.

this movie is much like wes anderson's previous film the royal tanenbaums, about enormously wealthy, highly intelligent siblings who feel unloved and incapable of trust. it's not as good as rushmore or the life aquatic with steve zissou. the sense of whimsy anderson strives for wears thin fairly quickly, but i didn't feel that it ever wore out. the film has its moments--it comes close to being lovable at times, but, for me, the connection never happens.

it's a movie about trust, but its shambling tone makes it difficult to have much confidence that anderson (our tour guide) knows or even cares where he's taking us.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

norman mailer, r.i.p.

norman mailer, a bull-headed yet often refreshingly frank sometime homophobe, sometime friend to gays, a 'man's man' back when the expression meant something different, died early this morning at age 84.

his brash macho manner often seemed linked (a la hemingway) to ambivalence about homoeroticism + a cultish fascination with masculinity.

in the 1950s he published his largely sympathetic essay 'the homosexual villain' in the pioneer homosexual magazine 'one' + later republished it in his book 'advertisement for myself.'

some mailer quotes:

'there is probably no sensitive heterosexual alive who is not preoccupied with his latent homosexuality.'

'masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. + you gain it by winning small battles with honor.'

'america is a hurricane, + the only people who do not hear the sound are those fortunate if incredibly stupid + smug white protestants who live in the center, in the serene eye of the big wind.'

slap shot

if you can get past some vicious anti-gay slurs, slap shot is kinda hot. not just because michael ontkean (later of making love + twin peaks) goes shirtless + pantless at the end of the movie in a way tame strip scene that's supposed to be shocking. not just because paul newman, as the coach of a washed-up hockey team, still looks dashing in his early 50s.

part of the hotness, for me anyway, derives from the 70s-style grit of the movie. it's of course phony hollywood grit, but it makes me nostalgic for an era in which human skin still had pores, bars + diners were still sort of mom+pop (with no strategic product placements), + a certain amount of unapologetic rudeness (or political incorrectness, if you prefer) could be tolerated, if not endorsed.

watching the film recently on dvd, i could almost smell the sweaty t-shirts, factory city smog, raw onions + mustard, diesel fumes, + stale beer.

the hanson brothers, three brutish siblings who room together + tour together with their toy trucks + racecars, + have no apparent interest in women, but megaloads of aggro attitude + worshipfully homosocial team spirit, are a big reason the movie's kinda hot. overgrown bully boys with long hair + matching hornrim glasses may just be a fetish of mine. i wish the movie had a scene of them in their threadbare skivvies snapping towels at each others' asses + roughhousing in their dingy motel room--now that would have been a 'deleted scene' worth including on dvd.

overall, slap shot is the kind of movie i remember as 'the norm' in the 1970s, so perhaps it just reminds me of my youth, + regrettably that quality also involves substantial disrespect for things gay. newman's character especially uses a character's reported homosexuality to coerce information from him + later insults a kid (i.e. a child) for having homosexual tendencies.

but, given the film's time frame + target audience, it's not all bad. some attempt is made to instill a feminist subtext to a film whose main selling point is its boyish fascism. there's a likable lesbian character, + even while strong-arming a presumed gay man, newman's character declares his openness to new sex norms, + later, when an opponent taunts him by saying he sucks cock, newman's blue eyes twinkle as he replies, 'all i can get.'

the fever reliever

Friday, November 9, 2007

sailing to byzantium

my favorite poem by yeats, along with the second coming, leda + the swan, + the circus animals' desertion. a poem about ageing + the refuge one finds in the imagination + art. in true aestheticist mode, yeats praises the artificial over the natural, portrays the power of mind + art to transcend nature + grasp the absolute.

that is no country for old men. the young
in one another's arms, birds in the trees
--those dying generations--at their song,
the salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
whatever is begotten, born, + dies.
caught in that sensual music all neglect
monuments of unageing intellect.

an aged man is but a paltry thing,
a tattered coat upon a stick, unless
soul clap its hands + sing, + louder sing
for every tatter in its mortal dress,
nor is there singing school but studying
monuments of its own magnificence:
+ therefore i have sailed the seas + come
to the holy city of byzantium.

o sages standing in god's holy fire
as in the gold mosaic of a wall,
come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
+ be the singing-masters of my soul.
consume my heart away; sick with desire
+ fastened to a dying animal
it knows not what it is; + gather me
into the artifice of eternity.

once out of nature i shall never take
my bodily form from any natural thing,
but such a form as grecian goldsmiths make
of hammered gold + gold enamelling
to keep a drowsy emperor awake;
or set upon a golden bough to sing
to lords + ladies of byzantium
of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

holiday movies

from 'i'm there' down to 'could be interesting'

there will be blood (paul thomas anderson)
no country for old men (coen bros.)
revolver (guy ritchie)
sweeney todd: the demon barber of fleet street (tim burton)
i'm not there (todd haynes)
the walker (paul schrader)
enchanted (kevin lima)
charlie wilson's war (mike nichols)
juno (jason reitman)
walk hard: the dewey cox story (jake kasdan)
the mist (frank darabont)
the savages (tamara jenkins)
p2 (alexandre aja and franck khalfoun)
the diving bell and the butterfly (julian schnabel)
margot at the wedding (noah baumbach)
protagonist (jessica yu)
the orphanage (juan antonio bayona)
jimmy carter: man from plains (jonathan demme)
atonement (joe wright)
flakes (michael lehmann)
alvin + the chipmunks (tim hill)

from 'meh' down to 'no way in hell'

cassandra's dream (woody allen)
love in the time of cholera (mike newell)
youth without youth (francis ford coppola)
honeydripper (john sayles)
i am legend (francis lawrence)
aliens vs. predator: requieum (straus bros.)
the kite runner (marc forster)
the golden compass (chris weitz)
persepolis (marjane satrapi + vincent parannaud)
lions for lambs (robert redford)
hitman (xavier gens)
fred claus (david dobkin)
mr. magorium's wonder emporium (zach helm)
beowulf (robert zemeckis)
national treasure: book of secrets (jon turteltaub)
the bucket list (rob reiner)
august rush (kirsten sheridan)
p.s., i love you (richard lagravenese)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

dear advocate

i just received my november 20, 2007, issue of the advocate. boy, am i disappointed in you guys.

some suggestions. just one actually: go back to gay.

it's time for post-post-gay, the sort of gay that isn't just faux-bourgeois-straight. i, too, believe in expanding horizons + crossing boundaries, but you're no vanity fair. in fact, you're no t.v. guide even.

details is beginning to publish more hard-edge glbt stories than the advocate + out.

do i see ebony + jet running cover stories like 'our 2007 list of the coolest caucasians'? do i see christianity today running cover stories like 'our 2007 list of righteous hindus''? sure, cate blanchett + arianna huffington are pretty neat, but what's gay about them? + do we really need you to tell us who the 'coolest straight people' are?

anywhere else i can get movie reviews of 'american gangster' +'no country for old men'--is that latter one about gay clubs, by the way?

+ enough with zac efron already. i like shirley maclaine, joni mitchell, jennifer jason leigh, + dana delaney as much as the next man does, possibly more, but do they really need the advocate to shill for them?

+, yes, i'm defined by a lot more than my sexuality + i agree with those people who say it's a mistake to ghettoize ourselves, but i subscribe to the advocate to get gay news, culture, politics, + even gossip + humor. i subscribe to general interest magazines, too--so i don't need the nation to start covering men's fashion. you see what i mean?

while i'm on the subject. if you're going to interview straight people, all the time it seems, stop asking them whom they might 'go gay' for or what they really admire about their gay friends. stop asking straight actors 'what they learned about themselves' while playing gay characters. it's embarassing + pathetic ... like offering backrubs to jr. varsity jocks.

if you are really curious about glbt matters, ask some glbt people.

look at some back issues of the u.k.'s gay times + france's tetu. get in touch again with your homosexual roots. please.

p.s. lose the 'big gay following' feature. the last thing we need is to persuade straight b-list celebrities that our one aim in life is to blow smoke up their asses on a regular basis.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

was america ever a christian nation?

'the government of the united states is not, in any sense, founded on the christian religion.'
--john adams, 2nd u.s. president, in the treaty of tripoli, 1796

'but a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the jewish religion before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, + perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, + aggrandizing their oppressors in church + state: that the purest system of morals ever before preached to man has been adulterated + sophisticated, by artificial constructions, into a mere contrivance to filch wealth + power to themselves, that rational men not being able to swallow their impious heresies, in order to force them down their throats, they raise the hue + cry of infidelity, while themselves are the greatest obstacles to the advancement of the real doctrines of jesus, + do in fact constitute the real anti-christ.'
--thomas jefferson, author of the declaration of independence + 3rd u.s. president, in an unsent 1810 letter

'faith is believing something you know ain't true.'
--mark twain, novelist, in following the equator, 1897

'the whole scheme of christian salvation is diabolical as revealed by the creeds. an angry god, imagine such a creator of the universe. angry at what he knew was coming + was himself responsible for. then he sets himself about to beget a son, in order that the child should beg him to forgive the sinner. this however he cannot or will not do. he must punish somebody--so the son offers himself up + our creator punishes the innocent youth, never heard of before--for the guilty and became reconciled to us. . . . . I decline to accept salvation from such a fiend.'
--andrew carnegie, u.s. industrialist + philanthropist, in a 1905 letter

imagination + creativity

obsession is to compulsion as imagination is to action. to create art is to tap into obsessions, not for purgation or release, not for self-expression, but for astonishment.

Monday, November 5, 2007

old guy vs. youth: a mini-tirade

i would say that at least 3 out of every 4 students i see on a daily basis, 18-22 years old, won't extend a hand to hold open the door they're passing through. half the students who do poorly in my classes decline my attempts to help them improve, preferring, i suspect, to see if perhaps the standards will come down to the level they have already reached. some never hand in work for evaluation--racking up a row of zeros--where do they think grades come from? these kids are not rebellious. just the opposite. they are anxious about letting go of mommy's apron strings. they seem only dimly aware that years of teachers' + parents' building their self-esteem has only given them an unproved, untested self-esteem. they are easily offended; their feelings easily hurt. what resources do they have for survival ... apart from camouflage (strength gained by appearing unexceptional, unthreatening, a part of the majority)? many of them look like they are sitting in the dark ... waiting. but for the life of me i can't imagine for what?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

michael clayton/gone baby gone

i'm not a person who minds spoilers, but here are two movies that are really worth seeing without knowing much about them in advance.

i saw both, one after the other, yesterday afternoon.

let me say a few words about them without actually saying anything in particular. both contain career-defining performances, though neither is a huge departure for its actors, who play very much to type.

george clooney as michael clayton displays his emotions on his face, though characteristically throughout the film he cannot say what he feels. the performance should gain the actor new respect, especially among audiences who know clooney mainly as the sexiest man alive.

i've been a fan of casey affleck since gus van sant's to die for. in gone baby gone, he proves himself more than capable in a leading role. in fact, he may be 'the' new leading man of the decade, much as james dean was in the 1950s or jack nicholson, in the 1970s.

tom wilkinson in michael clayton + amy ryan in gone baby gone are ideal candidates for supporting actor nominations for oscars. wilkinson takes on a howard beale-like role. ryan, who has appeared on tv's the wire + in the film you can count on me, is revelatory as the mother of a little girl who has disappeared.

both films contain plot twists. gone baby gone has the more spectacular + troubling twists. michael clayton has the more innovative + breathtaking narrative techniques.

both films touch on politics, but only indirectly washington politics. gone baby gone looks at the politics of neighborhoods (boston), the police, + local media. michael clayton looks at the politics of corporations, the law, + siblings.

both films are directed by first-time directors better known for other aspects of filmmaking. tony gilroy, the writer of the bourne screenplays, wrote + directed the stylishly cold + intellectually engaging michael clayton. ben affleck, casey's brother + movie star, proves in gone baby gone to be in the vein of clint eastwood, another movie star once derided for his limited range who has proved himself a nuanced film director.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

the issues are large

obama's right when he says, 'the issues are large, the politics is small.' it's the opposite, however, that wins votes in the united states, apparently.

clinton's calculated, safe responses may just be a regrettable political necessity after over a decade of living in the crosshairs of pundits. (even in a recent interview in the advocate, she had to plead--lamely--her advanced age (just 60) as an excuse for not warming up to the idea of same-sex marriage.)

the american media or the american people (or both) cannot tolerate honest, straightforward debate on the issues. we prefer the practical + the political (which often means the empty + unoffending) to the intellectual rigors of stating a clear + well-defined position on an arguable issue + then backing that position up with logical reasons + hard fact.

in the recent debacle over obama's s.c. 'gospel' tour, clearly motivated by politics + pandering to popular, faith-based beliefs + sentiments, the candidate was entirely within his rights to stand on stage with donnie mcclurkin, if he wanted to show solidarity with the sector of society mcclurkin represents. mcclurkin was within his rights to praise god for 'delivering' him from homosexuality, if that in fact is the best he could think of to say, given the opportunity. + glbt critics were entirely within their rights to cry foul. obama's camp were wrong to urge protestors to hush up for the sake of solidarity. either obama really wanted to bring two sides together, as he stated, or he wanted to give one side a platform + politely ask the other side to shut up + just take it.

it's through the honest yet respectful expression of contrary opinions about hard issues that information is shared + progress is made.

debate on the important issues of the day--real debate, not fox tv hysterics + not protesters' outshouting each other behind cordons--is no longer a part of american politics. regrettably.

more can be learned watching real time with bill maher on hbo--even though it's 'just entertainment'--than watching the democratic + republican candidates strike poses for the camera + make clever, catty, but largely unsubstantiated innuendos about each other, without brandishing the relevant evidence or even once invoking the name of reason.

i don't see signs of america's turning towards reason, mutual respect, + clear-eyed skepticism in the near future. it's much too eager to trust for the sake of trusting, to seek leaders to believe in blindly, to vote for american idols of one sort or another, in short, to 'lose its innocence' over + over again, instead of weighing words carefully + listening closely to a spectrum of arguments before choosing a side.

Friday, November 2, 2007

heart of darkness (2)

'the conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.'
joseph conrad, heart of darkness

Thursday, November 1, 2007

heart of darkness

my brit lit class is mulling over joseph conrad's heart of darkness for the next week. i'm still looking for a good angle to pique students' interest. (i suspect only two of them have actually read the assigned reading.)

here's what i'm working with:

--the novella details the rot at the core of the european 'whited sepulchre' (marlow's term for brussels--or some other unnamed belgian city), magnifying stevenson's jekyll/hyde mystery to cover the entire continent of europe--africa, the so-called 'dark continent,' is portrayed as a 'prehistoric' world, the id of europe's hypocritical ego

--the novella addresses the difficulty of expressing human experience in words--any experience, but especially an experience of the dull, 'flabby' cruelty resting in the hearts of the white race (or, actually, all human beings)

--kurtz is a sort of 'byronic hero,' + the novella is conrad's critique of romanticism's adoration of individualism + nature, exposing the 'horror' that rests in the heart of either--as well as the hypocrisy + arrogance at the heart of victorian ethics

--the novella depicts the degradations that come of colonialism--first, there is the obvious degradation of native people's cultures, religions, + lives + the exploitation of the colonized + their lands' resources; second, there is the degradation of the colonizers, who, in distant lands, answering to no one but themselves, lose their conscience (their superego), which never, perhaps, was anything more than the pressure exerted by their visibility to others like themselves, holding the same values + morals (i.e. without oversight there is no conscience or sense of duty to others)

--unwittingly, underlying its intended themes, the novella expresses racism, certainly the racism of the european characters (including marlow, although he shows more sympathy + tolerance than his fellow 'pilgrims'), + quite possibly, as chinua achebe has suggested, conrad's own racism

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

american psycho

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'i seriously believe we have to start asking questions about his mental health. there's something wrong. he does not seem to understand his words have real impact.'
--dennis kucinich 10/30/07

'i was really very unsettled by him + i started watching everything he did + reading what he wrote, + watching him on videotape. i felt he was disturbed ... fits the profile of a former drinker whose alcoholism has been arrested but not treated.'
--justin frank, m.d., psychoanalyst 08/20/04

'i trust god speaks through me. without that, i couldn't do my job.'
--george w. bush 07/09/04

'some among bush's trusted white house staff fear what they are seeing + where bush is taking us. his state of mind hauntingly reminds them of richard nixon's final days. they fear bush is becoming nixonesque . . . or worse. although bush lacks nixon's paranoia, he may entertain even more dangerous notions.'
--mike hersh 09/12/02

'all i have in common with the uncontrollable + the insane, the vicious + the evil, all the mayhem i have caused + my utter indifference toward it i have now surpassed. my pain is constant + sharp + i do not hope for a better world for anyone, in fact i want my pain to be inflicted on others. i want no one to escape, but even after admitting this there is no catharsis, my punishment continues to elude me + i gain no deeper knowledge of myself; no new knowledge can be extracted from my telling.'
--patrick bateman, american psycho (2000)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

no pitt for obama

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according to the huffington post, barack obama's people have rejected offers by brad pitt's people for the actor to assist in the would-be democratic nominee's campaign.

why? i wonder.

not homophobic enough?

after all, brad + angelina went on record that they have no intent to marry until american gays + lesbians can marry.

that's a far cry for obama's s.c. 'gospel' tour, which always closed, from what i heard, with singer/preacher donnie mcclurkin's thanking jesus for delivering him from homosexuality (i suspect we all have something to be thankful about on this point).

(kathy griffin not thanking jesus for her emmy was called 'hate speech' some time back, + soft-minded liberals concurred that perhaps the comic had gone 'too far.' in response to objections to obama's use of mcclurkin to court religious homophobes, gay + black supporters of obama tsk-tsked the critics for being 'divisive.')

+ even though i agree with obama that civil rights for gays are more important than marriage, i can't help but believe the senator is equivocating, since the marriage initiative would not compel churches to marry anyone they don't want to--it would simply bar the government from affirming + perpetuating religious intolerance.

a year ago obama practically had my vote in his pocket (provided dennis kucinich didn't get it first). his recent shilly-shallying, though, makes him look less + less like the candidate for me.

why doesn't brad run instead?

Monday, October 29, 2007

sleepy hollow

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tim burton's 1999 film version of washington irving's the legend of sleepy hollow is fast becoming my favorite halloween film.

starring johnny depp, christina ricci, miranda richardson, + michael gambon, the film features a decapitation roughly every five minutes, each one more cinematically elaborate +, well, 'fun,' for lack of a better word, than the last.

when i first saw the movie in a theatre, i enjoyed it but was mildly disappointed with it. parts of the movie drag, none more than the multiple confrontations that follow the revelation of the headless horseman's 'secret.'

but the movie has grown in my estimation with each subsequent viewing. it is startlingly beautiful entertainment. the recreation of the 18th-c. new england town of sleepy hollow, suggests carpenter's gothic + the color illustrations of howard pyle. the film visually cites disney, currier + ives, hitchcock, + bava ... not to mention burton himself, as elements of the movie deliberately recall beetlejuice + the nightmare before christmas.

depp gives his expected charming performance, as usual a pastiche of other actors' performances, most noticeably (for me) several nods to roddy mcdowall--particularly as he was in disney's the adventures of bullwhip griffin.

ricci has less to do, in a role obviously conceived for a more conventional (+ passive) beauty (someone, say, like winona ryder), but she is lovely + convincing as an aloof blonde with undertones of witchiness.

but the star of the movie is the 18 on-screen decapitations. hardly gruesome at all, certainly nothing compared to se7en or csi post-mortems, + filmed with energy + imagination. the ones that don't make you smile leave you with an enduring chill, but more heart-wrenching than gut-wrenching (like the best hitchcock).

reviewing this fine film on dvd--twice in the last two or three weeks--has only whet my appetite for what burton-depp do with sweeney todd: the demon barber of fleet street, due in theaters this christmas. hopefully, sweeney will spin burton back into true form (after disappointments like planet of the apes + big fish, less so charlie + the chocolate factory).

Sunday, October 28, 2007


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in a society conditioned to fear, fear becomes an entertainment.

that's one explanation for the popularity of horror films.

of course, horror has a long + distinguished history, its modern forms dating back to late 18th-c. romanticism--as europeans recoiled from the reign of terror (or simply 'the terror') in france, + english gothicism emerged as a distinct literary genre for several decades.

polidori's suave vampire (modeled on his friend lord byron) + later stoker's cultivated count dracula radically changed the image of the vampire from hairy, supernatural vermin to cosmopolitan gent, suggesting that horror could inhabit the most civilized exterior (stevenson makes a similar point in dr. jekyll + mr. hyde).

in film, horror emerged mainly in germany following the first world war--caligari, the golem, nosferatu.

it attracted a larger american audience during the 1930s. if nothing else, horror films convinced americans that, however bad their lot in the depression, things were worse elsewhere. fascism, nazism, + stalinism reared their heads in europe just as dracula, frankenstein's monster, + the wolfman reared theirs in hollywood's 'european' backlots.

the 1940s offered little beyond val lewton's meditative, psychological b-picture horrors, perhaps because americans were caught up with can-do optimism, buying war bonds, planting their 'victory gardens,' + fighting the 'good war.'

the cold war + the atomic bomb emerged as threats at the end of the '40s, inducing anxiety under the surface in decades of hollywood films, + their presence is most felt in a series of movies portraying invaders who look just! like! your! neighbors! + giant monsters released by nuclear testing.

hannah arendt's phrase 'the banality of evil' (an expression used to describe nazi bureaucrats accused of heinous war crimes) can be seen in hitchock's psycho ('wouldn't even hurt a fly'), frankenheimer's manchurian candidate, kubrick's 2001 (the insanely soft-spoken hal 9000), + clockwork orange (the ludovico technique).

vietnam + a series of political assassinations in the 1960s brought the horror closer to the home--demon-possessed family members + inbred cretins with axes + chainsaws ruled the new multiplexes of the 1970s.

aids + other venereal diseases, along with a born-again sex-phobia reacting to perceived excesses of feminism + 'free love,' gave us sexually aggressive female psychos (fatal attraction, basic instinct) + monsters spawned through viral infection (the blob, virus).

of course, sex + fear of sex thread through the whole history of horror (part of the reason 'sex + violence' can be paired without much protest)--from vampires sucking the blood of beautiful english virgins to horny teenage camp counselors unable to meet or survive for more than 10 minutes their midnight assignations.

it's not hard to see the shadows of 9-11 + the iraq war upon recent horror films, like spielberg's remake of war of the worlds, the british zombie films 28 days later + 28 weeks later, or even the saw series, with its brutal 'improvised explosive devices' + excruciating scenes of 'alternative interrogation procedures.'

horror became mainstream in the 20th century--who spoke of genocide or serial killers much in the 19th century? (with apologies to jack the ripper, whose disease had not yet been named.)

now we consume terror like breakfast cereal. it's a part of the games we play as kids. it has shed most of its fantastic, supernatural trappings + become a normalized fact of life.

we laugh at horror--not just the old, quaint spiderwebs + dry-ice fog in the campy hollywood classics. the new horror films expect us to laugh--to 'get the joke' whose punchline is an expoding head or a drawn+quartered body.

still, there are some films, old + new, that capture the macabre sense of dread that defines horror at its most interesting--not necessarily shocking, not even necessarily scary, but horror that haunts your dreams + perceptibly chills your waking life.

here are 13 of my personal favorites (i know, it's a pretty conservative list, but i have a taste for the 'classic' in horror movies):

1. the bride of frankenstein (1935)

2. cat people (1942)

3. psycho (1960)

4. the birds (1963)

5. rosemary's baby (1968)

6. the exorcist (1973)

7. carrie (1976)

8. halloween (1978)

9. the shining (1980)

10. the hunger (1983)

11. the silence of the lambs (1991)

12. the sixth sense (1999)

13. irreversible (2001)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

letting myself go

in her essay i worked hard for that furrowed brow, anna quindlen talks herself out of botox treatments to remove the lines on her face.

her argument is basically a two parter--one, those lines represent who she has been + what she has survived, +, two, botox treatment would limit her ability to convey present emotions with any nuance or personality.

in the course of her essay, she states that, when she was younger, she heard people say of older women that they had 'let themselves go.' it's a phrase quindlen secretly admires + has aspired to.

letting yourself go, although obviously meant as negative criticism, also conveys acceptance of self, liberation of that part of your self that's long been repressed, + permission to be yourself now.

depending on your point of view, it's either caving in to time + nature, or embracing time + nature.

it's either laziness or resistance to vanity.

i'm fine with other people's getting facelifts, tummy tucks, hair implants, + cosmetically enhanced pecs. but it's never been my style to do much to resist the course of nature, specifically human nature, more specifically my own nature.

i stay clean. i try to eat reasonably healthy meals without being a purist about diet. i should exercise more than i do, + i'm a bit ashamed for not trying harder.

but i've never seriously considered resisting the male-pattern baldness + graying i inherited. my teeth are crooked, chipped, + far from youthful white. i admire athletes + male models, but i've never been prone to measure myself against them.

men are becoming a larger share of the consumers of facelifts, liposuction, + facial peeling. we live in an age of 'image' + people habitually judge us by our looks. we are under considerable pressure (at work as much as in the clubs) to keep up appearances, to appear more youthful than we are, + to conform to media models of perfect masculine beauty.

i'm of two minds. i admire beauty (even youth) as a virtue. i think one should look as good as he's able. on the other hand, like quindlen, i think it's most important to look like oneself, to treasure the body as it ages as a museum of sorts of all one ever was in the past.

to feel comfortable in one's own skin, it seems to me, is the unique + true path to achieving beauty.

Friday, October 26, 2007

open the pod bay door, hal

i am watching the psychedelic sequence from kubrick's 2001, feeling beat up after a hard week that culminated with my car's experiencing ignition problems when i was ready to leave work for home this afternoon.

as i write this, the car is at the dealer's service center, almost certain to take a huge chomp out of next week's paycheck, but i have no idea what's wrong with the car, so the dealer was the only option.

this morning its electronics behaved erratically, the left turn signal beating arhythmically + the clock + odometer lights remaining on after the ignition was turned off.

i was scared it might break down on the highway, in the early morning darkness, with a cold rainstorm all about.

i hate automobiles.

i specifically hate dependency on automobiles.

i'm not a guy who takes pride in his wheels. i don't think cars are sexy. all i ask is that they operate as intended.

luckily, the breakdown occurred while i was still at work.

it took aaa an hour and a half to reach me--nice guy, an ex-marine, with a tow truck.

i spent over $1500 two years ago at this dealership getting a super-duper maintenance package that was supposed to solve an earlier electronics problem that i still drove home with, three times (the mechanics were never able to detect the problem).

all my friends are out of town, except for one, who may need be my ride back to the dealer's tomorrow.

anyway i'm feeling particularly sympathetic with astronauts bowman + poole, cocooned in a mechanized reality, totally at the mercy of a supposedly 'foolproof' technology.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

under obama's big tent

i like obama. i think he'd make a good democratic candidate for '08. but i can't quite swallow the balancing act he's currently performing to court homosexuals on the one hand + homophobic evangelicals on the other.

a coalition of black clergymen + glbt activists issued the following statement in defense of obama's south carolina 'gospel' tour, which prominently includes ex-gay anti-homosexualist minister/performer donnie mcclurkin:

"as representatives of barack obama supporters from the african american religious community + the gay community, we are issuing a statement together for the first time. our letter addresses the recent issue of pastor donnie mcclurkin singing at senator obama’s `embrace the change' concert series. in the midst of division, we hope + believe that this is a moment to bring together communities that have been divided for far too long.

"a few things are clear.

"first, pastor mcclurkin believes + has stated things about sexual orientation that are deeply hurtful + offensive to many americans, most especially to gay americans. this cannot + should not be denied.

"at the same time, a great many african americans share pastor mcclurkin’s beliefs. this also cannot be ignored.

"finally, we believe that the only way for these two sides to find common ground is to do so together.

"not at arms length. not in a war of words with press + pundits. only together.

"it is clear that barack obama is the only candidate who has made bringing these two often disparate groups together a goal. in gatherings of lgbt americans + african americans of faith, obama has stated that all individuals should be afforded full civil rights regardless of their sexual orientation, + that homophobia must be eradicated in every corner of our nation. if we are to end homophobia + secure full civil rights for gay americans, then we need an advocate within the black community like barack obama.

"at the same time, while obama has said that he 'strongly disagrees' with pastor mcclurkin's comments, he will not exclude from his campaign the many americans including many in the african american community who believe the same as pastor mcclurkin.

"we believe that barack obama is constructing a tent big enough for lgbt americans who know that their sexual orientation is an innate + treasured part of their being, and for african american ministers + citizens who believe that their religion prevents them from fully embracing their gay brothers + sisters. + if we are to confront our shared challenges we have to join together, build on common ground, + engage in a civil dialogue even when we disagree.

"we also ask senator obama’s critics to consider the alternatives. would we prefer a candidate who ignores the realities in the african american community + cuts off millions of blacks who believe things offensive to many americans? or a panderer who tells african americans what they want to hear, at the expense of our gay brothers + sisters? or would we rather stand with barack obama, who speaks truth in love to both sides, pulling no punches but foreclosing no opportunities to engage?

"we stand with senator obama. we stand with him because of the solutions he is proposing for our nation. we stand with him because of his character + his judgment. but the most important reason we stand with him is because today, as he has done all along, barack obama is causing us to stand together.

"that's the kind of president we need, + we are proud to support him."

fine words, in spite of dignifying intolerance + hate speech in the name of un-ignorable 'belief.'

moreover, obama has invited the 'openly' gay rev. andy sidden, pastor of the garden of grace ucc church in columbia, sc, to join the tour. a move made, without doubt, in response to the outspoken glbt 'pundits' who criticized obama for cozying up to mccormack. a gesture of token inclusion that obama would likely not have thought to make had it not been for these pundits, now being politely asked to shut up.

i, too, believe in civil dialogue. but dialogue suggests a level playing field on at least two sides.

i'm fine with mccormack as someone who earns his bread by preaching hate + calling it god's grace. he's just making the gig work for him. it's capitalism + for many it's christianity. i don't like it, but as a homosexual lefty american atheist, i've had to stomach worse.

i'm fine with obama including mccormack in his s.c. 'gospel' show, as he wraps himself + jesus together in the american flag to win southern evangelical votes. it's politics, + i'm unaware of any of the front runners who are not doing much the same or wishing they had thought to do so first. hell, it's probably why they're allowed to be front runners in the first place.

what pisses me off is it's the gays (again) who are being asked to play nice for the good-hearted democrats, who find it never hurts to urge the gays to shut their yaps, even while the democrats provide a platform for homophobes to open theirs.

so i'm fine, especially, with those glbt pundits who exercised their rights of free speech to criticize an 'electable' golden-boy candidate, so full of 'love' for us all, + managed to get a gay african-american minister on the stage with obama + the homophobe.

it's not right that, if we yelp when somebody hits us, it's our yelps that are called divisive + counter-productive, not the homophobe spewing bile.

it's also an insult to black americans to assume that the majority of them cannot see their own clear interests in supporting civil rights for all, including the liberty to pursue happiness in ways the bible disapproves. (the same bible, i might add, that has been used to support slavery + segregation in the past.)

or that they can't likewise be reasoned with to lay down their divisive + counter-productive (let alone non-'embracing') anti-gay bigotry.

it's a particular insult to the legacies of coretta scott king, jesse jackson, + others who saw, decades ago, a common bond between their christian faith + the struggles of gay americans of all races.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

cirque eloize

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went to see cirque eloize this evening at memorial auditorium in chapel hill. the company, founded about 15 years ago, hails from canada.

like cirque du soleil, which clearly inspired it, this circus mainly won me over with its hunky acrobats + jugglers. eloize tones down soleil's sexualized romance a bit + tends to overdo the simpering european clowning.

two guys balancing on each other's shoulders (arms folded across their chests, no hands for support) + a guy spinning carefree in a large hoop were about the only stunts new to me

the artists also sang + played instruments ... to original songs that suggest european gypsy music, none of it memorable, evocative of drunken carousing more than anything else. the clowning wasn't all bad + it didn't last long even when it was lame.

i enjoyed the show more than this posting suggests, but little about the production was transcendant--it reminded me of a student production, whose participants have admirable talents to show off but little vision or strategy to amaze or create wonder.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


'follow the fun, create the fun, be all about having fun.'
perez hilton, quoted in rolling stone, 1 nov. 2007, p. 66

besides having fun, i'm not sure what perez hilton is about.

if memory serves me, he once called sean penn 'evil' for meeting with venezuelan president hugo chávez, a remark i interpreted as an unfortunate vestige, if not total endorsement of miami cuban anti-communism. he also once joked that chávez' friend fidel castro was dead.

ok, so a radical idealist he is not.

erik hedegaard's short article on perez in the latest rolling stone portrays the blogger as self-loathing + undersexed, with a sad enough childhood to make right now probably the happiest time of his life, even as he holes up at home with his laptop + lots of trans-fat treats.

but his commitment to having fun is something i get behind. even if it's sexless + merely virtual. when you can't follow it readymade, make some up on the spot. amen to all that.

the people he drools over, well-scrubbed goody two-shoes like zac efron + emmy rossum, i can't find particularly interesting.

he goes after minor peccadilloes of those he hates with a vengeance (parking violations become proof of deep moral rot in perez's universe) that suggests a personal fantasy life that sees material for high tragedy in the lives of quasi-celebrities who wouldn't even make the cutting-room floor of e! true hollywood story.

but i can't make myself hate a guy who adores brad pitt + kathy griffin almost as much as i do.


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