Friday, August 31, 2007

mad men

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jon hamm in amc's mad men

mad men is the only t.v. series i consciously try not to miss.

it's the new amc series about madison avenue advertising at the end of the eisenhower era.

i reserve thursday nights at 10:00 for its 52 minutes of faux-1960 sleaze + backstabbing. first thing the next morning i talk over the previous night's episode with jim, a fellow english instructor with whom i share an office.

the look of the series is right out of 1950s magazine ads + douglas sirk movies. the dialogue is true to the mindset of the era--sexist, antisemitic, consdescending to blacks, + pre-homophobic, i.e. so entirely homophobic nobody even addresses homosexuality as something that might somewhere or somehow exist--not even salvadore, a visual artist working for the firm, who obviously belongs to our tribe, but prefers to boast to his male colleagues about how lucky he is to be an artist working with so many sexy female models.

the era's political incorrectness inspires a sort of campiness in the show that, once the smirk dies down, leaves a chill.

the workplace is all white. for most of these guys, jews + negroes may as well be martians.

at parties, pregnant women smoke cigarettes + gulp down goblets of red wine. men wonder uncomprehendingly over onion dip, for them a new + exotic dining ritual.

in one episode, a little girl runs into a kitchen with a plastic bag wrapped around her head, + her mother scolds her, "young lady, that bag better not mean that my dry cleaning is lying in the bottom of the closet."

this sort of stuff could be in a script by john waters.

although the story covers multiple points of view, a central figure is the troubled + mysterious don draper, played by jon hamm. he has a wife at home he cheats on, but watches over with possessive, patronizing jealousy.

his wife betty, played by january jones, looks due for a breakdown or consciousness-raising, depending on whether the pills or betty friedan gets to her first.

at work don competes, aggressively, with his older boss (john slattery), + with a younger would-be protege, pete campbell, played as half creep, half advertising prodigy (yeah, i know) by vincent kartheiser.

the show is so cleverly written that you had better listen carefully or you'll miss some gems. they're easy to miss because the show does not rub your nose in its hipness. in last week's episode, for instance, betty doubts the appeal of joan crawford to men, particularly those eyebrows of hers, but then don counters by saying that some men--salvadore, for instance--love her.

still a marginal but enigmatic character in the series, salvadore is played by bryan batt, who has appeared in gay-themed movies like hit + runway, jeffrey, + kiss me guido. the preview for next thursday's episode seems to promise to nudge salvadore a bit out of the closet. in early episodes, batt has subtly conveyed the sadness of a smiling clown who believes in his heart he is straight-acting enough to fool the men he works with.

+ given the apparent absence of gaydar in 1960, so far the strategy is working.

but from the perspective of 2007, it's hard to believe anyone could have ever been fooled by salvadore--but, back then, remember, denial of homosexuality was enough (how our closeted republican senators must miss those happy days), + few members of the general public recognized liberace or paul lynde as anything but an amusing, yet still marriageable bachelor.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

some notes on john ruskin

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"imperfection is in some sort essential to all that we know of life. It is the sign of life in a mortal body, that is to say, of a state of progress + change. nothing that lives is, or can be, rigidly perfect; part of it is decaying, part nascent .... no human face is exactly the same in its lines on each side, no leaf perfect in its lobes, no branch in its symmetry. all admit irregularity as they imply change; + to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality."
--john ruskin, the stones of venice (1851-53)

the aestheticism of ruskin is not about perfection. the aethetes' models of beauty derive from classical greece, northern european gothicism, + the early renaissance, when people associated beauty with organic, breathing, palpitating life.

a concept of bodily perfection had to wait for the full fluorishing of the age of machines + mass media in the twentieth century.

today we don't live in an age of beauty + youth, as some people believe. we live in an age of 6-pack implants, anorexia, 30-minute makeovers, + concepts of human beauty based on numbers + charts.

our erotic artists (even the amateur ones we find online) depict, sometimes with clinical precision, human body parts in isolation--perfect torsos minus heads. just as the early christians defaced the heroic nude statues of the greeks + the romans, reportedly out of rage against life-affirming paganism + the statues' unashamed sexual leering--now, we've grown almost to prefer that our models have no heads.

we live in a society that has celebrated sexless, pubeless, animatronic perfection for a while now. our idea of sexy is a corvette convertible--+ human beings similarly streamlined + aerodynamic, with customized frills.

now i sense a revolt of sorts against the disneyfied + mattelized aesthetics of the last century. a new society where sexual vigor + spirited attitude compensate for asymmetrical noses + balding pates.

social-networking profiles are beginning to voice a preference for pictures with faces + bios with information about tastes + personality, as well as the stats.

i don't mean the phony egalitarian affirmation of flab + dowdiness, out of political correctness, or the rejection of the physical in favor of the intellectual or spiritual, in any religious sense, but rather the realization that a man with a few extra pounds + crooked teeth can still dazzle with animal magnetism + a robust pulse, in ways perhaps that airbrushed, posing perfection can only envy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

ode to mark lander, bully of my boyhood dreams

at age 12 i was a total bottom.

sure, when i grappled with the blonds on their bedroom floor, on afternoons, while jonny quest flickered on a japanese tv screen overhead,

i climbed on top,

pinned their tan skinny wrists against their ears,
brushed against their downy cheek,
smelled their mustard breath.
sweaty t-shirts roused up to our ribs, my stomach pressing down theirs,
hardness shaped itself in boyish hijinks.

but what i ached for was a brutal big brother--

he would pull in my reins,
teach me a lesson i would not forget,
own my sorry white ass but good.

at 12 i was a total masochist.

i needed payback for my petty crimes.
i needed cutting down to size.

every nerve in my gangly prepubescence cried my need for a whupping.

now the moment is long gone--
late middle age, old age, weight beginning to spot + sag,

too late for the darkhaired boy in his black speedos,
his hardware thighs, his python back.

he would make me writhe + moan,
tie me into a knot + turn deadeyed to space + flex his knotty bicep,
hard as a wham-o superball.

he would teach me a thing or two.

he would push me down for good.

he would pounce me black + blue.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

7 memories of pre-katrina new orleans i'll take with me to the grave

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dancer with a nice endowment at oz new orleans, 1995

i haven't been to n.o. since march 2003, when i celebrated turning 50 there. in the years before, i visited the city more than 20 times, mainly when i lived in pensacola, fl, about 3 hours away by car.

my friends barbara + elizabeth taking me to a trendy french quarter restaurant for my birthday (after casing the joint earlier that afternoon to handpick the cutest waiter to serve our table).

french kissing + groping my (then) boyfriend vince at the bourbon bar.

the red hot chili peppers concert in 1991 or '92.

watching todd haynes's first feature film, poison, at the prytania theatre.

a complete stranger buying me a bottle of champagne on my birthday, in 1989 or '90. it wasn't dom perignon, but then i wasn't brad pitt. still a generous + fondly remembered gesture.

my first sazerac cocktail at the sazerac bar + grill in the fairmont hotel.

on multiple occasions over the years, having a cheeseburger + fries long after midnight at the clover grill, home of the sassiest waitstaff on the planet.

no doubt my finest memories of n.o. have died along with the corresponding brain cells; such was the nature of the place.


on june 11, less than a month after telling his state newspaper that he has never engaged in homosexual acts, 62-year-old republican senator larry craig of idaho was arrested in a minnesota airport men's room + charged with lewd conduct, a misemeanor.

sen. craig, who is married with three grown children, but whose homosexuality has been rumored for decades, pleaded guilty of the charge on august 8.

the story broke in the mainstream press yesterday.

as a u.s. senator, craig has repeatedly voted against gay rights + publicly supported a 2006 amendment to the idaho constitution banning state recognition of gay marriage + even civil unions (although in the recent interview he claimed to oppose only gay marriage, not civil unions). he supported the strongly antihomosexual federal defense of marriage act in 1996, as did, the liberals would like to forget, president clinton + other leading democrats.

as for his guilty plea, he now claims that he naively thought it would be a quiet, effective strategy to make the whole mess go away + now reasserts his innocence.

according to the recently publicized arrest report, this is what happened on june 11:

responding to complaints of sexual activity in the minneapolis airport men's room, the city sent a plainclothes police officer to check the situation out.

shortly after noon, craig peeked through the crack of the officer's stall door, sustaining eye contact with the plainclothesman for about two minutes. the cop returned the gaze, later reporting the fact that the senator had blue eyes, but neither party said a word to each other before the arrest.

the senator then entered the adjacent stall. craig slid his foot under the partition, + began tapping it, which the officer "recognized ... as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct." the senator repeated the action + moved his foot closer to the officer's foot. in response, the officer "moved [his] foot up + down slowly."

when craig reached his hand under the partition, the arrest was made. no money was exchanged. no words were spoken.

from what i have read, what the arresting officer did is not entrapment. he did not instigate communication with craig. he did not actively encourage craig to commit the misdemeanor.

apparently, it doesn't even matter that no public sex actually occurred, only a public attempt to procure sex, which, if performed at that location, would be defined as lewd conduct. it's hard to argue that craig wanted anything other than sex + sex right there + then (though craig now does contend the whole silent dialogue was simply a series of miscues + misunderstandings).

but here's my question: generally speaking, is looking for a sexual partner a crime? guys pick up women in public all the time + some women find the predatory nature of heterosexual males not only offensive but also physically threatening. but are plainclothes officers sent to hooters to catch men who signal their interest in getting laid?

i don't want to be facile about this--i understand that public restrooms at an airport are not comparable to hooters or any other meat-market environment. i also don't want to be thought to have any sympathy for sen. craig.

personally, sex in public restrooms is not my scene, not even my fantasy, but although straight men can't enter women's restrooms in search of sexual partners, seeking sex partners in lavatories is something gay men have done, simply because they could.

but is tapping one's foot a crime? is sustained eye contact in the men's room lewd conduct if both parties are doing it? all questions of hypocrisy + years of passing for straight aside, at what precise point did craig cross the line on june 11?

a little over 15 years ago, i participated in a news story about the treatment of homosexuals in pensacola, fl, the city i lived in at the time. my part in the story was simply to answer questions about what it was like to be gay in a hornet's nest of fundamentalist christians + conservative republicans in the early 1990s.

but during the interview the reporter told me he had found out that pensacola police went through rather thorough training on how to spot + pick up gay men--how even to "act gay" themselves--which, even now, i think would make a sidesplittingly funny subject for a short film, preferably a documentary.

the areas patrolled were public places: shopping malls, parks, + beaches. in contrast to what's reported above, the florida plainclothesmen often made the first advances, + if the other party was already known to be homosexual, even if he pushed the cop's hand away, they might arrest him for assault.

the reporter told me that the usual targets of these stings were closeted gay men, because, like craig, they could usually be depended on to plead guilty or no contest to hide the incident from friends + family, thus supplying the city with a fairly dependable source of non-tax income.

don't get me wrong. craig fully deserves whatever shitstorm may come his way. he's had to resign a rather important position in the mitt romney presidential campaign already. i have no sympathy for self-loathing individuals who make it their business to loathe me too +, worse, take legal means to hinder my pursuit of happiness.

fortunately for sen. craig, perhaps, his scandal has got to look like pretty small potatoes next to what his fellow republicans have stacked up in recent years.

my point is that i feel a little uncomfortable in seeing people, even bad people, arrested for acting on harmless desires + feelings. if only people could be charged with being hypocrites or assholes. that would make some sense to me.

still, you live by the sword, you die by the sword. sen. craig has made a career of fanning the flames of intolerance, + perhaps it's only justice for him to feel the heat now.

Monday, August 27, 2007

the pictures of dorian gray

yesterday, as part of the 12th annual north carolina gay and lesbian film festival in durham, i saw the modernized, americanized, + highly stylized 2006 film version of oscar wilde’s novel the picture of dorian gray, starring 7th heaven’s david gallagher as dorian.

the film was entertaining in its use of gilbert-+-george-like graphics, with 1980s neo-noir effects left over from less than zero + the hunger.

as narrative it was drained of blood + paced like a visconti film, but watching it made me think how thankless the role of dorian must be—a beautiful but vapid young man, whose corruption is untraceable in his face, but readily apparent in his portrait (in the latest version, a video installation created by a gay new york artist). there isn’t a whole lot for the actor to do in this role, except for looking wan, bored, + up for some homosex or quasi-homosex.

a quick search through imdb reveals that gallagher is the (at least) 20th actor to take on the role on film + television, including five silent film versions, a number of other quirky films not based directly on wilde’s story, a french hardcore porn vid, + even an american made-for-t.v. version, costarring anthony perkins, whose dorian is a woman).

yet another version of wilde's novel is listed on the database for 2007, something to be directed by jon cunningham. no hint, so far, as to who will play dorian next.

here then is my tribute to the dorians—those adored, amoral villains whose true selves remain locked away in closets until tragically smashed to pieces at story’s end.

[the titles are all “the picture of dorian gray,” unless otherwise noted in parentheses. other information in parentheses includes nationality of film or t.v. version]

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1910 valdemar psilander (norwegian silent film version)

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1913 wallace reid (u.s. silent film version)

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1916 henry victor (u.s. silent film version)

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1917 bernd aldor (german silent film version)

1918 norbert dán (hungarian silent film version, with bela lugosi as henry wotton)--image unavailable

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1945 hurd hatfield (u.s.)

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1961 jeremy brett (u.k. t.v.)

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1970 helmut berger (dorian gray—u.k./u.s.)

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1973 shane briant (u.s. t.v.)

1974 richard kavanaugh (feasting with panthers—u.s. t.v.)--image unavailable

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1976 peter firth (u.k. t.v.)

1977 patrice alexsandre (french)--image unavailable

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1983 belinda bauer (the sins of dorian gray—u.s. tv)

1988 chris d’bray (testimony—european)--image unavailable

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1988 lance eng (urinal—canadian)

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1998 rocco siffredi (erotic dorian gray—french)

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2003 stuart townsend (the league of extraordinary gentlemen)

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2004 josh duhamel (u.s.)

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2005 matthew jaeger (dorian—u.s.)

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2006 david gallagher (u.s.)

[the five films i saw at this year's festival were, from best to worst, the bubble (2006, dir. eytan fox), outing riley (2004, dir. pete jones), the picture of dorian gray (2006, dir. duncan roy), 2 minutes later (2007, dir. robert gordon), + back soon (2007, dir. rob williams).]

Sunday, August 26, 2007

john waters

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just watched this filthy world on dvd. it's a live-performance film by writer-director john waters, directed by jeff garlin.

looking like the geiko gecko dressed as algernon moncrieff, waters speedtalks nonstop for 86 minutes on his career, crimes, + obsessions in front of a (it seems to me) underappreciative new york audience.

the man is brilliant, + his riff is a live bomb. if warhol was the leonardo of american pop (+ he was), waters is its bosch.

unlike the thousands of other 70s provocateurs who came + went, waters crafted, however haphazardly, an aesthetic of shock, characterized by brutal honesty, contempt for right-thinking mediocrity , + fondness for violent + crass outcasts.

nobody since james dean has done so much to glamorize juvenile delinquency--+ waters's j.d. creds are arguably superior to dean's. no american filmmaker has come as close to luis buñuel's eye + ear for middle-class bad faith--including, now, a new gay mainstream--in the new century, gays have more kids than catholics, he observes.

as an actor in not only his own films, but also films of other directors, like jonathan demme + woody allen, he symbolizes american sleeze--his mere appearance in a film implicitly standing for an indictment of an entire nation's false values.

everyone knows the eat-the-rich sensibility of waters' films of the 70s was full-frontal class warfare. that he did (+ still does) this without bitterness + with considerable warmth + charm is just short of a miracle.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

archaic torso of apollo (rainer maria rilke, 1907)

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we cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. + yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips + thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
+ would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. you must change your life.

(translated from the german by stephen mitchell)

one of my favorite sonnets, perhaps my very favorite. i wish i could read german for no reason other than to read this poem as rilke wrote it.

the poem speaks to me of the powers of mythic beauty, derived from nature by undoubtedly superstitious minds but minds still in tune to the nuances of the natural world.

religion, reason, + science may callous, rebut, + ignore these fundamental aesthetic perceptions, but they outlast the dogmas, arguments, + theories meant to contain them.

in certain sublime moments, we all sense these timeless impressions--poets + artists more often than the rest of us. it is these flashes of insight that have the power to change our lives.

Friday, August 24, 2007


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who hasn't fantasized about going to bed with a cannibal with a swimmer's build + skin art?

besides being my favorite premodern american novel, herman melville's moby-dick is a pioneer queer-friendly text. ishmael's adventure aboard a massachusetts whaler begins with a night in the sack with queequeg, a tall polynesian prince who excels at water sports + headshrinking.

at first the shy, neurotic narrator of the novel blanches at the discovery that his bedmate is a "savage." but by morning he awakes with queequeg's muscular arm thrown over him + giddily reports he has never slept better in his life. his only concern is how politely to extricate himself from the sleeping brute's embrace:

"i tried to move his arm--unlock his bridegroom clasp--yet, sleeping as he was, he still hugged me tightly, as though naught but death should part us twain."

when it occurs to ishmael that he may spend the next 16 hours locked in his new friend's bearhug, he turns prissy catholic schoolgirl + repents. queequeg, in turn, is typical rough trade in the morning:

"at length, by dint of much wriggling, + loud + incessant expostulations upon the unbecomingness of his hugging a fellow male in that matrimonial sort of style, i succeeded in extracting a grunt; + presently, he drew back his arm, shook himself all over like a newfoundland dog just from the water, + sat up in bed, stiff as a pike-staff, looking at me, + rubbing his eyes as if he did not altogether remember how i came to be there."

melville is mum about what the boys do about queequeg's stiff pike-staff, but the experience quite changes ishmael's view of savages (quickly he learns to prefer them to his fellow christians) + the "queer" (melville's word) matrimonial bond thus initiated between two future shipmates remains steadfast till death do them part at novel's end.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

five (or six) nineteenth-century masterpieces i'd like to fuck

the pre-impressionist nineteenth century was the last of classicism in art before the onset of modernism. it was a beautiful era for art, though, from what i've read about the century, i don't think i would have liked living then.

nineteenth-century artists streamlined 17th-century baroque for the new age of machines.

here are a few masterpieces of the period i would not have kicked out of my bed.

1. polites, son of priam, observes the movements of the greeks near troy (hippolyte flandrin, 1834)

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young nude man sitting by the sea (hippolyte flandrin, 1836)

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ok, i'm torn. flandrin's nude young man by the sea has become almost as much a gay icon as michelangelo's david or jake gyllenhaal. but two years earlier the artist painted an equally enticing figure study under the pretense of an interest in greek mythology.

at the moment i think i like the polites better.

the inviting skinfolds on the two boys' stomachs are what do it for me, i think.

2. self-portrait (leon bonnat, 1855)

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i've been in love with this painting by + of bonnat since i first saw it on the cover of a paperback russian novel.

hurt and handsome, even if too thin, this is the face of the masochistic bottom of all my dreams.

3. the age of bronze (auguste rodin, 1877)

auguste neyt, a 22-year-old belgian soldier, posed for rodin in 1876.

now regarded a masterpiece, the life-sized age of bronze excited only suspicion from late 19th-century art critics, who believed rodin used a plaster cast to create the sculpture. later rodin cast the work in other sizes to prove the critics wrong.

it's easily my favorite sculpture by rodin. in many ways it's sexier than michelangelo's larger-than-life david.

the pose especially seduces, relaxed yet electric with potential strength + availability.

when at a traveling exhibition i first saw the six-foot-tall version of the statue up close, i could have swooned.

4. the wrestlers (thomas eakins, 1899)

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eakins's swimming hole painting is the one usually included in the canon of pre-20th-century homoerotic art. but i like this one better.

eakins was a master of making factory life in the american north look idyllic. certainly the industrial revolution gave eakins opportunity to portray young, gainly bodies washing away the soot + grime of daily work, to reveal enticing pasty pink flesh underneath the canvas workclothes.

late in his career he created this painting, known as the wrestlers. it captures the christian athleticism movement that possessed america + england at the turn of the century, with organizations like the ymca + the boy scouts.

it's hard to say whether the wrestlers are hot or not. from what we see of them, they look a bit nerdy. nothing in their pose suggests obvious eroticism. but wrestling's hot no matter who does it--lean or muscled, handsome or ordinary, young or old, male or female, for that matter--clean, sportsmanlike wriggling, skin on skin, makes me tingle every time.

5. drawing of olimpio fusco (john singer sargent, c. 1900)

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don't know who this olimpio fusco was, but, oh yeah, he'd do.

sargent's my favorite 19th-century painter, a guy who knew his way around a male nude too, as recent exhibitions prove. but i love him because, as you can see here, his true gift was faces. this one's a knockout.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

impeach bush

our president speaking, on 21 august 2007:

"if the government doesn't respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government."

the man makes sense. unfortunately he's talking about iraq + not the u.s.a., where he continues to ignore widespread antiwar rumblings, not just among the citizenry at large, but also in his own party, + where the democrats, the only sizable group that might effectively oppose him, continue to wring their hands or, worse, more or less agree with him on matters ranging from gay marriage to health care to the middle east.

apparently hillary rodham clinton assigns a lot of the blame for the middle-east debacle to nuri al-maliki, the (ahem) democratically elected prime minister of iraq. today she agreed with michigan democrat carl levin, who stated two days ago that maliki should be ousted. hell, ousting saddam hussein was such a success, why not a remake?

admittedly, both democrats call on the iraqi parliament to do the ousting, + not the u.s. military. but i wonder why it hasn't occurred to them to urge the u.s. congress (our parliament, in effect) to oust bush? clean up our own back yard, so to speak.

without directly repudiating maliki too, president bush said, "i think there's a certain level of frustration with the leadership in general, inability to work — come together to get, for example, an oil revenue law passed or provincial elections."

again, we must remember he's speaking of iraq, not america, where the leadership come together too well. it's good that local elections in iraq (the model home of democracy in the middle east) are a priority with bush, right after oil revenues.

for all the outrage mainstream liberals express against those on the left who see little difference between republicans + democrats anymore, it's obvious the democratic leaders merely fan the flames of antibush emotions, while arguing positions hardly different than the present policies.

bush said in reference to what's to be done about maliki, "that's up to the iraqis to make that decision, not american politicians." again, maybe the man is right. would that he had thought similarly four or five years ago. would that american politicians would decisively oust bush + cheney.

for years now, democrats have quietly tiptoed to the beat of republican goose steps. those, like the late paul wellstone + now dennis kucinich, who have dared to distinguish themselves from the herd are politely dismissed for not appearing "presidential"--which apparently these days means being pretty much like the current president.

"without contraries is no progession"

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blake's angel of the revelation (1803-05)

my 8 favorite passages from william blake's the marriage of heaven + hell (1790-93)

"those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained."

"the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."

"no bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings."

"what is now proved was once only imagin'd."

"every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth."

"exuberance is beauty."

"the man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, + breeds reptiles of the mind."

"jesus was all virtue, + acted from impulse, not from rules."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

hottest champions of the wccw

kevin von erich v. matt borne

rick rude v. chris adams

steve simpson v. john tatum

pro wrestling's golden age was in the early to mid-1980s, when between the era of sweaty fat slobs + the era of depilated steroidal clowns, a few american wrestlers with lithe sexy bodies entered the squared circle to become nationally televised champions.

though u.s. wrestling never reached the level of homoerotic allure of european or japanese wrestling, in their youths kevin von erich (1957- ; 1984 tv champion), rick rude (1958-99; 1986 tv champion), + especially steve simpson (1963- ; 1986 tv champion) were the greek gods of the irish whip + hammerlock.

the out-of-ring drama was not yet set at a hysterical pitch, so we got more action, less dialogue + character development. the show was still innocent enough that these guys did not shy away from sexy-looking headlocks, scissors, sleeperholds, + prolonged skin-on-skin clinches.

back then, tv wrestling might have been good clean fun for the family, but for me it was hot sticky heaven. today's crew, for all the pyrotechnics + tight latex, are only as exciting as macy's parade balloons bumping against each other.

Monday, August 20, 2007

my dog as a christ figure

suppose there's nothing really to be done about the world's evil.

global warming--an elaborate lie or an unsolvable fact.

terrorism--this century's version of the red menace--fakery just true enough to keep us all in the thrall of even more powerful forces of destruction.

bigotry + vehement fundamentalism--simply a normal part of human nature + another tool in the hands of interests too powerful to combat.

hunger, poverty, + disease--come on, don't be naive: without other people's suffering, you would have none of the things that make life seem worthwhile to you--even the granola bar in your hands is a gift from the children of darfur.

i suppose we could be like ursula le guin's ones who walk away from omelas, unwilling to find pleasure in our own lives knowing that it's paid for with the suffering of others.

but isn't it really easier just to come to terms with evil? accept that the battle's just too fucking huge for us? that everybody's getting screwed in this deal, so why bother?

the cosmos is awfully complicated + awful in very complicated ways.

ok, let's accept for a second that evil's too big a target, and, anyway, shooting a hole through evil will probably just sink the ship we've all been sailing in so far.

i'm beginning to think i could let go of my grudge with the malevolent gods of the universe, if we could just bring back some common courtesy.

why is it so difficult nowadays to find someone who's polite? how hard is polite? why does everything today from t.v. commercials to videogames celebrate petty meanness as a new form of wit? do any parents teach their children to be gentlemen + gentlewomen anymore?

let's say we're all about to be engulfed in apocalyptic flames--whether they come by bombs, fire from thrudheim, or dramatic climate changes--can't we still be nice to each other as we run in wild panic for the hills? couldn't i perhaps hold open a door for you?

lately i've been looking to my dog for moral leadership. he's a good dog. not just good-obedient, but good-holy--a dog's buddha or jesus. he's warm, open, and forgiving. he shows no favoritism--even though i'm the guy who feeds him. he welcomes all creatures great and small to his nose. his love is universal + even promiscuous. he asks only for attention, but in return he puts on a damn good show.

clearly he has no sense of the big picture. he's unconcerned with motives or agendas. anxiety + worry play no role in his thinking, + not because he has any faith in the future. he doesn't seem to. he lives in the moment. he plays the hand as it's dealt him. he shares his time with anyone who's present + even sometimes appears to care whether he has neglected somebody while attending to somebody else.

maybe he's not perfect, but perfection is not something to concern him. i'm not sure it would be such a good idea for me to become just like him, but he's certainly a dog whose virtues deserve further attention.

maybe we people have gotten too selfish, too self-absorbed.

in a world where heroes are, more properly speaking, victims of circumstance, + role models are guys who can afford rolex submariners + louis cristal, animals have something to teach us.

even jesus cited nature more often than he did the scripture--sparrows, lilies of the field, fig trees, + mustard seeds.

read without prejudice, the gospels portray jesus as more a natural pagan than a rabbi or savior.

here's something tolstoy said:

"love is life. all, everything that i understand, i understand only because I love. everything is, everything exists, only because i love. everything is united by it alone. love is god, and to die means that i, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source."

he also said this:

"our body is a machine for living. it is organized for that, it is its nature. let life go on in it unhindered and let it defend itself."

maybe i can never be the machine for living and love that my dog is, but it couldn't hurt to put it on my to-do list.

tolstoy was a man with a dog. i think i read it someplace.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

myra breckinridge

gore vidal compares rusty godowski's sphincter to "a tiny pale pink tea rose, or perhaps a kitten's nose and mouth." it is an entertaining figure of speech, foreshadowing myra's impending use of it as a pussy.

hairspray (2007)

the new hairspray works on the power of its corny artificial sweetness. set in baltimore, filmed in toronto, the movie lacks the moments of grit of the 1988 original, directed by john waters (who cameos as a flasher in the opening musical number). nobody barfs in this version, nobody even sweats. the words "high yellow," much less "whore," never pass anyone's lips. as in an old m-g-m studio production, the rats + the garbage trucks look clean. this movie's version of the 1960s makes 1978's grease look like a documentary.

the film works because, although the relentlessly cheery version of urban racial tensions is not real, the cast sing + dance with enough energy + apparent earnestness to make us forget about the reality--so, unfortunately, undermining the film's halfbaked attempts at social consciousness. nikki blonsky as tracy turnblad radiates good will + energy. in fact, the film owes everything to blonsky, one of those rare entertainers who can sparkle without making me want to slap them silly. she carries the movie.

the rest of the performers are good too--even amanda bynes, whose casting in the film was why i had to be dragged to the theater 4 full weeks after the movie opened. travolta is good, but i wanted him to be better, and he does seem to get better as the movie goes on. his version of tracy's mom is jarringly different than divine's, but effective + at times touching. queen latifah is queen latifah, not the ball of fire ruth brown is in the original film, but likeable + comfortable. michelle pfeiffer + christopher walken are terrific, she is all delicious malevolence, he is all enthusiastic cluelessness. i wish the movie gave them more to do. zac efron looks more plastic than a ken doll, but like a doll, he is sexlessly adorable. elijah kelley comes closest to projecting the sense of eroticism one feels as an undercurrent in the 1988 waters version. james marsden proves that as a song+dance man he can offer much more to a film than just his glowering boyish good looks. allison janney, paul dooley, + jerry stiller are wonderful to see, too, but have little to do here.

i like john waters' hairspray better, but even the original hairspray was no pink flamingos. overall, the new movie is good entertainment, especially in the singing + dancing numbers, which seem nonstop. i see myself as pretty jaded, but occasionally a bit of fluff + schmaltz like this film can put a silly grin on my face in spite of myself. it's a glazed doughnut i feel guilty about eating in the first place, then even guiltier for enjoying.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

taxi driver

just bought the new restored taxi driver on dvd. it looks great.

do we know for sure that scorsese is not gay ... or bi? i realize that this is slim basis for questioning his sexuality, but in the featurette for taxi driver, he talks about how fassbinder films + a bigger splash influenced his film style--+ elsewhere he's a big advocate for kenneth anger's films and, less startlingly, powell/pressberger's.

add to that, the lurking sense of homoeroticism in a lot of movies like mean streets, raging bull, the king of comedy, + the departed (almost always, however, offset by fear/homophobia), and his statements, always vague, again in the featurette, about feeling a kinship with outsiders.

if he's not gay, he's certainly acknowledged more gay influences than any straight director i know of--and specifically films that deal directly with homosexuality. of course acknowledging influences doesn't prove anything about an artist, or else quentin tarantino would be chinese.


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