Tuesday, May 29, 2012


As usual, I'm late to respond here to a current event, because I've had a debate with myself about whether or not I should blog it. But after dithering, I needed to, because I find myself angry after President Obama's current stance on gay marriage. I feel badly for being so critical of what many view as a major landmark for LGBT rights. Firstly, I'm disappointed it has taken him this long. This is a statement that had to be lured out of him. A response anyone may give me is the classic "better late than never" rote optimism. But, I'm sorry I can't focus on the now of the situation. A main source of my spite isn't so much at Obama himself, but at what this is politically -- a move. He waited until it was safe. The hateful anti-gay bombs have been disarmed by public opinion lately, and so it's all right for him to come out from the bunker and into the dust. It gives me a queasy feeling, realizing that this apparent public "evolution" is basically strategy for a broken but powerful political machine.

Not only is this supposed new position not all that revolutionary, it's also not marriage equality. For all my mixed feelings about marriage, one aspect I stand firm on is how necessary gay marriage is for LGBT liberation. He has made a clear delineation. He is for same sex marriage only on a state level. Some may need this outlined for them, others not, so I'm going to reiterate what's been outlined in all kinds of studies, articles, and blogs. A gay marriage within a state is not equal to a heterosexual marriage on a national level. Over 1100 benefits are still denied to ALL same sex couples -- married in an individual state or not -- under the federal government. And anyway, putting rights for minorities to a vote by the majority is flawed -- a nail in the coffin. Human rights are not conferred to the disadvantaged by the masses. They are inherent. If only five hetero US citizens supported same sex marriage, that should not be a deciding factor in whether or not it should be put into law. As an outlandish example, if I didn't want Guatemalans, and Guatemalans only, to become legally documented equal citizens to me, it would not matter. Their rights are not for me to decide. So, excuse me if I'm not leaping for joy at Obama and lauding him with, "Oh, thank you SOOO much my hetero President! for helping me get my rights. Give yourself that pat on the back!"

I realize arguments about how change has to happen slowly and on an individual level are circulating out there on the internets. And, there are the well intentioned, honorable, and courageous battle cries about not giving up the fight, but I can't find the motivation to be rallied, and I'm truly sorry about that. Maybe it's because I'm weak willed. Among all of the cultural divide, I'm more so filled with disillusion that being treated equally is something I have to fight for in the first place. When I'm surrounded by the swarm of heterosexism -- even the small things like those dumb stick figure family bumpers to obnoxious Facebook man, wife, and kids picture posts toting them as the "perfect family" to subtextual hints from family members that I should date a girl, even though I am out -- I'm sorry my natural reaction is feeling disheartened and bitter. Similarly, others may argue to me that I need to be an example, a testament for change. When did it become my responsibility to educate the ignorant? Seriously, why is it my job to change the prejudice of the outright hateful grandpa voting against positive gay legislation, or even the soft homophobia of any random dude on the street with a head full of stereotypes and fear of anything feminine in masculinity? Yet somehow I feel like that has become my burden to bear, and it makes me want to say, "Screw it" and live my second class citizen life in my curtained room away from those kinds of people while the political opportunists and analysts use me as a wedge issue.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

HE-MAN: The Secret of the...

Some amazing Netflix logic here!

1. Family Feature Animation is directly after Steamy Movies
2. HE-MAN!!!
3. If N-Flix knew me at all, wouldn't they base The Secret of the Sword recommendation on this tour-de-force I unashamedly viewed the other week.
4. Or maybe they are subliminally putting it in the Family Animation for me, like a wink and nudge.
5. Do they think I'm a muscle worshiper?


Monday, April 16, 2012

Horrific: My Response to The Cabin in the Woods (No Spoilers in Here)

When I was about eight or nine, I walked home in the dark from a childhood friend's house to my own only five houses down. Except in this particular case we had just seen IT, Stephen King's clown-demon, terrorize kids through unsuspected sinks, shower nozzles, sewer systems, and caves. Surrounded by menacing suburban trees shaking in the darkness' wind, my whole body was wrapped in fear. Irrational. Even then I knew this clown wasn't real, but for some reason, I still rushed past the water drain in the street court of my upbringing, and on a path I tread over and over growing up, knowing it was perfectly safe. But watching this, my first horror movie, made me feel like I wasn't, that something horrific could easily enter my life. I didn't want to go near a bathroom for a solid month. Horror as a genre is often looked down upon, and understandably at times. Yet it can be one of the most powerful types of movies in that, if it gets everything right and immerses someone in the story, it has the ability to alter the viewers' consciousness to the point their lives no longer feel secure.

After I got over it -- still question whether I really did fully -- and was able to bathe without fear of a balloon full of blood blowing up out of the drain, I was a glutton for punishment. On weekend movie rental nights, while being able to sneak away from my mom's radar, I crept into the forbidden Horror section and eyed the VHS covers with fearful glee, and sometimes, before checking on both sides and with ears tuned in to make sure no one else was around to catch nine-year old me in a treasure trove of R ratings, I would swipe a read of a back cover, engrossed with the then-titillating melodramatic plot description, and maybe catch a frightening picture, like the glint of a Jason Voorhes machete, evil bump faced Leprachaun peering through a dimly lit door, the creepy blank stares of the Children of the Corn kids, or sharp Freddy Krueger claws coming down on a victim's head. My fascination was partly due to the off limits status set by my parents, and rightly so. But, the other part was the need to experience an intoxicating thrill of unease and trepidation, of witnessing seemingly real terror in the comfort of a spectator's role, and the unreasonable feeling the monstrosity could enter into my own life. I eventually was able to see some of these movies, of course, and sneaking Scream at eleven only made me more interested. I would imagine if I were to watch a few again, I would probably LOL forever at some of the god-awfulness. And, by laughing at the movies, I would be laughing at myself for allowing them to scare me. There comes a transition period, though I can't identify a clear time frame for when mine happened, where we realize the movie, like our fear, was silly. The bubble bursts.

After seeing Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods this weekend, I've been dwelling on the nostalgia for my relationship with the genre. I recommend it to anyone who has ever enjoyed any horror movie. Without spoiling anything, all I will say is that it is a horror movie about horror movies. Yeah, yeah, I know. Movies like Scream and Drag Me to Hell had the meta self awareness going for them too. The difference here is that it's self-aware while also taking that knowledge to create something original. We all know how flawed the genre can be at times -- misogyny, pointless gore, the dehumanization as a result, lack of any character work, triteness, unintentional camp, plot structures with more holes in it that Pinhead's needles, and the list could go on. But, horror wouldn't exist if the masses didn't create it by consuming it. And, who knows what kind of primal need that taps in to. The monsters represent the real-life kind, or more likely it's not so much metaphor, but that the made up Hollywood creatures provide a popcorn distraction from our true fears. Or maybe a little bit of both.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Last night, while re-reading and skimming sections of one of my favorite books, A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White -- in anticipation of reading his newest, Jack Holmes and His Friend -- the inevitable finally happened. The spine of the pink cover's front edge had already detached from the pages on the side a few years ago, yet still held on in the back. With a turn of about page 12, the chunk of pages 1-40 fell out. As you can imagine, I was crestfallen. Sure, poke fun, or think, a hashtag of "firstworldproblems" could easily accompany relaying this in a tweet. But, I cherish this book and had been refusing to get a new one despite its decrepitude . It's the copy I had in college, bought because a writing professor and mentor recommended it to me to discover White's illuminating and still-relevant prose, the copy I used in my American Novel class to lead a two day discussion on its first three chapters, the copy with my marginal notes and underlines -- in pencil, I promise! And, of course the first chapter -- an example of some of my favorite writing ever, and the best part of the whole book -- has to be the problem. In the midst of e-readers' increasing popularity, I couldn't help but think of my claws-in-the-dirt stance to refuse them in a sea of recent discussions about DRM and the environmental impact of print versus digital. Some may tell me condescendingly with their marketing and/or computer science/tech degrees, "This wouldn't happen if it was on a tablet." But, despite the way one of my favorite hard copy print books fell apart on me, I still resist a tablet reader, and here are the reasons:

1. I like numerical assignments to pages and despise percentages. The percent system makes it much more difficult to go back and re-read (what would one say during a class discussion or book club meeting? Let's all go to about 12% in?)
2. I cannot sell a digital book back.
3 I cannot lend a digital book to a friend. I know the different companies are working on lending features, but believe it will only be limited to that device within the company (i.e. Kindle users can lend to Kindle users only). And, even if they make lending broader, the personal quality of what lending is all about to me is lost. I recently put two of my Margaret Atwood hard copies on lend, both of which I enjoyed in Florida at different times in my life, and both of which I associate these memories with, and to me, passing them on is also like passing on that part of myself.
4. What about author signings? Two books I hold dear the most are signed by the author.
5. I cannot indulge in the pleasure of perusing used bookstores like A Reader's Corner for an hour and stumbling upon good cheap finds I ordinarily wouldn’t have thought about reading before. I cannot support local shops like Carmichaels. Even if they offer the option of purchasing e-books on their website, part of the local book shop experience is going to the shop itself, getting recommendations from the clerks or talking about books with them.

While I'm sure I can think of more, these are the primary reasons. In the boom of social media and ipads, writers are responding differently from the Margaret Atwood full embrace to the T.C. Boyle fear over what may become of such a plugged in culture. I fall somewhere in the middle. But, I know this much: I will take reading those first 40 pages in a hunk outside the bound book over caving and buying something like a Nook.

Or maybe I can duct tape the spine! I'm sure the dark gray would provide a poignant chiaroscuro against the book's hot pink front. At least better than the disappointing cover of the new edition in its boring, nasty brown and tan hues. That's for sure.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gay Flicks

Straight people don't care about gay stuff. At least this is the general impression I get. Yet, I have to be inundated with and am demanded to care about movies, TV shows, music, art work, and news with hetero-centric focus. It's a double standard expressed by a character in my favorite movie last year. He makes the ironic and funny, yet true point that people will praise and welcome art work with images of war, violence, poverty, etc. but anything with gay sex, and it is immediately taboo and shunned. LGBT material has been placed in a small niche market in pretty much every media form. Especially as a writer and reader of fiction, my hope is for a transition where it will be accepted in to the main cadre of the respective format (i.e. a well written and layered book classified as gay literature will be seen as good literature in general, and accepted as such within the literary community.) With the buzz of Oscar season, recently I've been thinking more about the discrepancy and gap in movies. Straights can find themselves represented in film easily. The majority are made for you. If you give Brokeback Mountain as a counter-example, I will throttle you. It's more difficult for us gays. They're either these cheesy, campy romps often a nudge-and-wink parody of a mainstream non gay movie but with cheeky exploitative stereotypes or seedy underground films that are essentially softcore porn under the veil of being edgy (look no further than 90% of the selection in the Netflix Gay and Lesbian section, like this one or this one) The similarity between these two categories is awful acting, fake dialogue, and no real characters. The third category is the Hollywood movie pre-packaged for a safe portrayal to cater to heteros -- don't want to push their limits too much! -- that is an opportunistic way for a straight actor to be lauded for playing gay while gay actors themselves struggle getting roles, and new actors in the biz are forced to remain closeted (think A Single Man and Milk, both of which I like but still take issue with). A number of great counter-examples are out there though. I watched a good deal of LGBT movies in the past year -- many of which occupy the realm of the gay genre and haven't gained much audience outside of gay people, which is why I feel the need to share my top 3 (note these are movies I saw for the first time last year, not necessarily with a 2011 release date but made within the last 10 years):

3. Strapped (2010) rating: 9/10 - Some may find this plot a little gimmicky and unrealistic, but it worked for me. If you suspend your disbelief enough, it may for you. A young gay hustler -- don't walk away yet!, I know you may be thinking "Again?!" or "Typical," but I beg you to look past this routinely used character type -- finds himself in an apartment complex after a trick. But, he can't seem to find his way out, as the complex becomes almost maze-like. On his journey to find the exit, he encounters about 5 different types of gay men. I like the way this one is structured in arcs, each exchange a different act in itself. I also like how it plays on stereotypes but then breaks them by peeling back the layers to reveal authentic people.

2. Red Without Blue (2007) rating: 9/10, instant streaming on Netflix - An excellent documentary. I could've picked a great political one exploring aspects of the struggle for gay rights, because there are many out there, but I chose this one because of the personal quality of it. It's about one family --specially two twins, Mark and Alex Farley. They grew up in the typical fake cookie-cutter nuclear family, but in the onset of their parents' divorce, they both came out. The film explores their struggles: Mark's depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, Alex's identity as transgender in her transition to become Claire, the way their parents handle their sexuality, and the connection that both of them have to one another despite their recent decision to live apart. I also picked this one because it not only explores gay issues, but gender and identity overall.

1. Weekend (2011) rating: 10/10, instant streaming on Netflix - Real, raw, and honest, Andrew Haigh's Weekend is now my favorite LGBT film, and beyond that, my favorite movie period of 2011, and definitely my favorite love story in the past 5 years. The review over at Slate can probably do a better job outlining for you, but I'll give you the basics if you don't want to read the whole thing (also a bit of a spoiler alert in their review). It's main character is Russell, an average, ordinary gay guy in Nottingham. Haigh's aim was to depict gay culture in Nottingham specifically, so it has a regional flare, but this depiction will easily resonate with any gay community in a city. We're put in to his POV immediately -- please note this, Darren Aronofsky as an example of how to effectively follow your main character with a shaky cam shot without giving the unsettling feeling that we're stalking them as viewers -- as he goes to a gathering at his straight friends' place (a sequence shot in a way that's coated with the very real feeling of outsidership as a gay man). He leaves early and heads to a local gay club, where he meets Glen. What starts as a one night stand slowly becomes something more neither of them wants to admit. Glen is an artist and records Russell as part of a project he's working on, the catalyst for a gradual weekend long exploration they go on with each other. Their conversations address the gay struggle in one of the most apt and contemporary ways I've seen. Glen is a bit of a radical who is angered by oppression and thinks gay marriage is conformist to heteronormative power structures, whereas Russell is shy, sweet, and is looking for a monogamous relationship eventually. I see myself and my outlook in both. It embraces the tropes of romance dramas in a self-aware way, but turns them on their head by breathing new life in to them within a gay love story. What is so refreshing about this movie is the intense attention to the specifics of character and what it's like to connect with someone, whether gay or straight, providing a gleaming, novel view of what love can be. (Advice: may want to turn on subtitles at times. We're dealing with British low talking mumblers, here)

I'm hoping with movies like Weekend, gay cinema is headed in a great new direction, and maybe it has to be the indie scene to break the barriers. In his recent Salon review of Keep the Lights On, an upcoming similar film which currently made the Sundance rounds, Andrew O'hehir predicts something comparable to New Queer Cinema of the early 90's, except hopefully a turn away from that to something more expansive, something that resonates not just with the LGBT genre, but with open movie goers willing to experience another perspective than their own and discover the reason for the differences while identifying with the similaries of a shared human existence. And, in the end realize a good movie is a good movie. Also, if I can sit through Katherine Heigle trying to find a boyfriend while being a bridesmaid for the 34th time, Micky Rourk trying to date a stripper, Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon Levitt going through a break up set to the tunes of The Smiths, or Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhal screw and sit around naked while she's dying, you can sit through a gay sex scene.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Have I Been Up To?

Should I come up with a clever first line for my post after an unintentional blog hiatus? One that is self-reflective, poignant, and tugs at the heart strings of my imaginary blog audience? Nah. I didn't mean to go this long without any post. I could say it may have something to do with "writer's block." But that's not true. I have had many FEEEEELINGS I could've blogged over the past 6 months. I could excuse it as blog fatigue. But that's not true either. Or, I could say I wanted the adorably atrotious Purple Hat Willow to be the first gracing anyone's presence upon visiting this page. That may be closer to the truth. But, I can part with PHW on mutually good terms in favor of future posts.

What Have I Been Up To?, Why I Thought You Would Never Ask (In No Particular Order):

I have read 6 books. My favorite was The Year of the Flood. My least favorite was The Art of Racing in the Rain
-Dived off a rock quarry... twice.
-Sneered at an episode of Glee.
-Went on a beach vacation.
-Developed a crush (that was developing previously)
-Saw many movies. My favorite was Weekend. My least favorite was The Wrestler.
-Celebrated a birthday.
-Tried some restaurants that made me go, "YUM!"
-Tried some restaurants that made me go, "Bleck!"
-Watched all of Mad Men. I am team Peggy.
-Listened to much music. To give an idea of my diverse taste, 3 examples are Nero, Bon Iver, Stevie Nicks.
-Injured my foot... twice. Because I am dumb and lazy and refuse to get new running shoes.
-Got new running shoes.
-Sneered at a Lady Gaga television appearance.
-Watched all of Breaking Bad and can report that it's overrated.
-Wiped out in the middle of an engagement party, spilling 2 creamy milk based drinks all over me, and no one cared.
-Stared at a computer screen 40+ hours a week.
-Got over a crush.
-Bought a new -- to me -- car
-Sneered at Zooey Deschanel approximately 38 times.
-Bought 2 cardigan sweaters.
-Realized that Modern Family is not as good as I thought it was.
-Got writing done!
-Was overcome with extreme self doubt at said writing.
-Watched all of Twin Peaks and discovered the owls really AREN'T what they seem.

All of these could have been blog topics in the past months, but they are all bullet pointed here for you to impose whatever you think I may have explored and pontificated on in them. And, that's why this post is just soooooooooooooo... META!