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


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