Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Mysterious Skin

Gregg Araki has given us a provocative look at the characters created in the novel Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim --who is not in Kansas any more. There is a remarkable review in Salon of this film at:

As Gay Pride celebrations take place world-wide, as Canada recognizes same-sex marriage equality, and as religious zealots attack gays as immoral and the end of civilization, this film offers a penetration into the complexity of personality, a delving into the heart and soul of individuals, that defies the stereotyping and the hype we find in the modern press, and in the preaching so often pouring forth from anti-gay and pro-gay sides. The four characters: Neil, Brian, Wendy and Eric, from whom we learn the story of a coach's child abuse and its after effects, reveal both our radical difference from one another and our common humanity. The way the characters reach a revelation of themselves and their own worth and values is fascinating.
That Neil knows he is gay from the age of eight, BEFORE the contact with the coach, is telling. The film is not about the horrors of child abuse, it is about how individuals deal with what happens to them in different ways, and how they grow, ultimately, despite the abuse. If there is anything from this film relevant to the ongoing debates over gay rights, it's that being gay is a part of ones personality, not something caused by some traumatic, negative, or random event, however damaging. What is especially wonderful about both the novel and the film is how the imagination is so critical to ones being. The fantasies of Neil about sex and the fantasies of Brian about alien abduction are central to who each is. It is in the presentation of these creative worlds of the characters that the novel and the film achieve so much.
I have to add that I find it strange how prominent a place pedophiles have taken in our consciousness. From pedophile priests to the Michael Jackson case to a paranoid fear of child abuse in schools, by relatives, by coaches and scout masters, the heightened awareness indicates to me a cultural disconnect. Our culture's growing fear and condemnation of sex, generally, of the denial of sexuality in children, of the fanatical religious suppression of sex altogether, all seem a part of the same problem. We must return to the attitude of the 70s, the view summed up by D. H. Lawrence's claim that ""Sex is the root of which intuition is the foliage, and beauty the flower."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Savannah Solstice

(scroll down for poetry and photographs)

On Friday, we made the drive to Savannah, leaving Atlanta at 2:45 PM, and just beating the traffic out of town. We arrived in time to walk to Chuck's Bar on the River, Blaine's, and Pinkie's, all packed on this Father's Day weekend. Then we attended an all night party on 48th St. just beating the sunrise to get to bed by 5. (Thanks for the party, Tye.)
On Saturday, John and I joined Dad and Maggie at the mall. In the afternoon, Dar and I checked into our suite and drove to Tybee. We gathered on the deck of the house just down from the Sugar Shack.
On Father's day, as rain and wind whipped the beach, we met Dad on the covered deck of AJ's on the Back River of Tybee. We sated our hunger with seafood. Go for the shrimp.
Single malt scotch soothed away the day's storms as we sat once again at the beach house.
As the rain stopped, we went to Fanny's on the boardwalk. Fun crowd, including a few extras from the "Midnight" movie.
Dar flew home Monday at sunrise and I went to Tybee to play tennis (watching Wimbledon in the morning didn't help my game). Sunburn .
John brought Mom to our return dinner at AJ's. and the next day (Tues.) many of us met at Mrs. Wilkes where Mom was holding forth to the startled old couple from Indiana.
Mrs. Wilkes: Southern cooking and the Late Mrs Wilkes' granddaughter Marcia with whom I used to cut up in English class in highschool. Love the fried chicken and okra and tomatoes.
To conclude: Solstice in Savannah: Savannah parks, gay bars (Chucks and Blaines), moss draped oaks and cool shade. Bricks and memories. Kathy's art gallery. Johnny Mercer's grand nephew Robby stabbed in Daffin Park. John visits him-- he just survived bleeding to death.
Thoughts of death haunt this town. Cemetaries and Father's Day. Rocking with Lee on the broad deck of the beach house. Then drinking with Chris at Blaines, hearing his lament.
I found solace in the walks on the beach with the full moon rising. Night after night. Last night walking the whole length of Tybee with Karen, Steve, and Carl to the pier. remembering New Orleans' Marcie West saying "The wind and the rain erase it all, Jack."

We ended my last evening on the ocean with a recitation from D.H. Lawrence:


And who has seen the moon, who has not seen
Her rise from out the chamber of the deep,
Flushed and grand and naked, as from the chamber
Of finished bridegroom, seen her rise and throw
Confession of delight upon the wave,
Littering the waves with her own superscription
Of bliss, till all her lambent beauty shakes towards us
Spread out and known at last, and we are sure
That beauty is a thing beyond the grave,
That perfect, bright experience never falls
To nothingness, and time will dim the moon
Sooner than our full consummation here
In this odd life will tarnish or pass away.

(D.H. Lawrence, 'Moonrise')


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Rufus in the Garden

A halcyon summer night greeted Rufus Wainwright at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. A loving crowd filling the expanse of lawn before the Greenhouse stage cheered him. He could do no wrong. His self-mocking, often melancholy, lyrics penetrated the night air. His songs pierced our hearts.
His wit also pierced. He dedicated his song "Pretty Things" to Michael Jackson. He sang to the frogs in the pond that spread at the foot of the stage. He mistook the loud pulse of crickets for the frogs singing back. When trying to think of an image to embody Atlanta, he came up not with a monument, but with a fire. Southern Boy Rufus ain't.
And the night, like the singer, was upstate New York, or Canada. It cooled as a bright half moon lit the lawn of listeners, as the moon slid closer to Jupiter, the lone "star" visible in the hazy Atlanta sky. The audience leaned back or spread their legs into the wet grass, and settled in for a full night of song. (Some Atlantans got out their ubiquitous cell phones to take blurry pics as a cop, loud on his walky talky, made sure no one smoked).

Rufus Wainwright is from a musical family: Mother, father, and sister are singers too. His dad, Loudon III, is still performing and can be remembered for "Dead Skunk," and the song to his son,"Rufus is a Tit Man." Nice irony. Rufus, in turn, sang a song to his father.
Rufus' style reminded me of off-Broadway musicals or cabaret songs. No wonder there's a movie connection. He appeared in Aviator and one of my favorite performances is his rendition of "Origin of Love" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
It was not always easy to decipher Wainwright's lyrics, often nasal, high-pitched, and blending into the night sounds-- crickets, an airplane. Yet, two songs did come through with clarity: Peach Trees (dedicated to the "capital of the Peach state") and "Art Teacher." Rufus sang the last from the point of view of an 11- year- old girl in love with her art teacher ( her favorite work of art was he).
Here are four links well worth a look (and a listen):

and of course,

and for RW's innovative lyrics:

Monday, June 13, 2005

Not Guilty

This Op-Ed was published June 17 in USA Today:

Jury finds no crime in Jackson's difference

The Michael Jackson trial was a circus because a celebrity was accused of child molestation. But what the trial really was about was something else: Jackson's being radically different (“Jackson free: Fans rejoice as jury acquits him on all counts,” News, Tuesday).
Will our society allow the strange behavior of a man who spends the night with boys who aren't family members? Will a jury acquit a man who has changed in appearance over the years to become a virtual freak? Is it believable that a grown man who appears so strange could have such an intimate relationship with boys without having sexual contact?
This jury, hardly of Jackson's peers, answered with a resounding “yes.” Over and over we heard “not guilty.” Being different, contrary to the bitter attacks of the prosecutor in this case, is not a crime.
This verdict is more than a victory for one lonely celebrity. It also is a victory for non-conformity. Bullies such as Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon, the prosecutor, deserve to be punished for abuse of their power. Mercenary mothers who lie for material gain, who prostitute their sick children for personal gain, should be punished.
Yet creative artists and performers who are wildly eccentric, who do not look like the rest of us, who live in a reality unfathomable to the majority, deserve praise, kindness and appreciation for their talent and their gift of genius. Vive la difference!

Jack Miller

Saturday, June 11, 2005


With the approach of storm Arlene, the obvious thing to do was attend the Atlanta Film Festival. This afternoon's show was Loggerheads. Set in North Carolina over three different Mother's Days, the film explored searching for identity and birthright. Below, I shall provide a link to a synopsis of the film and cast, including the producer Gill Holland who appeared after the screening for a Q& A. I asked him about the story on which the film is based, and he elaborated some details such as how they softened the image of the preacher. We also asked about future "screenings." The film was picked up by the Sundance Channel and is scheduled for showing next summer. Showtime had made an offer as well; but the Sundance offer was better.

I don't want to be a spoiler and give away the film's intertwined mysteries which were presented in a compelling way. I liked the use of the loggerhead turtles both as a symbol and as an essential element of the story, giving insight into the main character and his values. The locales were also used well: a beach community near Wilmington, Asheville, and the foothills not far from Charlotte. All three cities are shown and a feel for their region is nicely portrayed.

The film certainly embodies the South and its personal conflicts. North Carolina's unreasonably strict adoption law is exposed. Religion is given a brief, interesting study, as well, with short, perhaps ironic, references to a few Biblical passages. Always apropos.

The film though is about character, identity, love, and human dignity. At the end, the audience all applauded -- not for the ending itself, but for the film's honesty. Here's the synopsis with http footnote:

Sundance Film Spotlight - Tim Kirkman's 'Loggerheads'

Tim Kirkman’s LOGGERHEADS is easily one of the front runners to win the award for best film in the Dramatic Competition at this years Sundance Film Festival. Inspired by a true story, and set in three different geographical regions of North Carolina, LOGGERHEADS follows the journey of Mark (KIP PARDUE), a soft-spoken drifter in his twenties who makes a pilgrimage to a small coastal town near Wilmington in order to save the endangered Loggerhead turtles that nest on the beach in the summer. Mark’s journey brings us into contact with three other characters, each at the crossroads of their lives: George (MICHAEL KELLY) a local motel owner who, until now, has avoided dealing with his emotions; Grace (BONNIE HUNT), a middle-aged woman recovering from a breakdown, has returned to her hometown in the mountains near Asheville to stay with her mother (MICHAEL LEARNED). Plagued by the desire to fill an emotional void, Grace embarks on a search for the child she secretly gave up for adoption when she was a teenager; and Elizabeth (TESS HARPER), who has lived a fishbowl existence as the wife of a minister (CHRIS SARANDON) for twenty-five years in a small town in the foothills of the state. When her safe, sheltered neighborhood starts to change around her, Elizabeth must decide whether to stand by her conservative husband’s beliefs or take a stand on her own. At the heart of this tale of disparate lives running intertwined is the discovery on the importance of connections Tim Kirkman directs based on his own screenplay (inspired by a true story). Bonnie Hunt, Kip Pardue, Tess Harper, Chris Sarandon and Michael Kelly star in Loggerheads with Michael Learned, Robin Weigert and Ann Owens-Pierce.

TIM KIRKMAN (Writer/Director) Cowboy Pictures released Tim Kirkman’s film debut, the documentary DEAR JESSE, theatrically in 1998. After its cable television debut on the highly acclaimed HBO/Cinemax “Reel Life” series, Mr. Kirkman was honored with an Emmy nomination for his writing. Previously, DEAR JESSE won the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Best Documentary, Audience Award) and was named Best Documentary of the Year (Runner-Up) by the Boston Society of Film Critics. DEAR JESSE also received Independent Spirit, Gotham and GLAAD Award nominations. The film is currently on the Sundance Channel. His second film, THE NIGHT LARRY KRAMER KISSED ME, a film adaptation of David Drake’s Obie-winning play, was released theatrically in 2000 by FilmNext to wide acclaim. Mr. Kirkman was born and raised in North Carolina. He received his bachelor’s degree from the School of Design at North Carolina State University and a Masters Degree from The New School for Social Research in New York City. He moved to New York City in 1990.

GILL HOLLAND (Producer) Nominated for the Spirit Award for Producer of the Year 1998, Gill Holland produced Morgan J. Freeman's Sundance-winning 'Hurricane Streets', the FOX sitcom “Greg the Bunny”, “Spring Forward” (on many critics’ top ten lists for 2001), the Emmy-nominated “Dear Jesse,” and AFI-winning “Bobby G. Can’t Swim.” He is developing a movie about “The Wright Brothers”. He produced three volumes of cineBLAST!, the short film video compilations. He was associate producer on “Dot the I” and “Jump Tomorrow” and co-produced “Desert Blue” and Cannes selection “Inside/Out”. He is a half-Norwegian, half North Carolinian reformed lawyer and former adjunct professor at NYU Graduate Film School. He worked briefly at October Films (now Focus Features) and spent three years at the French Film Office which represents the Cannes Film Festival in the US. He sits on several film festival boards and was on the jury for shorts at Sundance in 1999 and selection committee for the Academy Awards, Student Division 2002 and 2003. He started the music label sonaBLAST! Records, whose releases by Mark Geary both hit top 40 in Ireland.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Platonic Cinema

Outside In

Cinema brings to mind Plato's Cave. There we are, glued to our seats, mistaking mere images for reality. I know, this is not an original idea. Movies have been made about it. What fascinates me, though, is that Plato may have been mistaken. The way to truth, to reality, to beauty and to goodness...well, it may not be to leave the theatre... cave, that is. The reality may be inside, not outside.
Take Harry Potter, for instance, or Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings. What do these films, and others like them, provide? Magic, fantasy, adventure, myth. Do they not contain truths we are seeking? The best films come right from the Psyche, the Collective Psyche. Plato must have known this was true of Homer's work, that of Sophocles, of Aeschylus.
It is true of the best cinema. Chinatown reveals the reality of evil and corruption better than any history of L.A. Women In Love presents us with an understanding of the depths of desire and the connection of desire with friendship and society in general. Film has the power to see beyond the everyday world of particulars to the eternal archetypes. Just as Hamlet in Shakespeare's day was an archetype more real than any single Renaissance man; the anti-heroes of today, Michael Corleone, or Mike Waters from My Own Private Idaho, transcend those of us who sit in the theatre darkness, enthralled.
It remains a question of irony just how much Plato belittled art. After all, were his dialogues not art? Would his fellow Greeks not have found humor in some of the comments we take so seriously from The Republic? Perhaps Plato had more knowledge and respect for "the Dark Side" there in that Cave than we realize. What is certain is how amazingly relevant Plato remains. In a democracy, he wrote, even actors become leaders. Actors are most suited to win over the majority. From the screens of the cave they step out to rule the willing onlookers. Whether literally...Reagan, Schwarzenegger... or in leaders pretending to be what they are not, Plato has proven to be all too right. The Cave has turned inside out.


Thursday, June 09, 2005


A lazy summer week continues. Yesterday, John and I took in some films: Monster-In-Law and Star Wars III. Good. Entertaining. Not great.
We talked of our upcoming trip to Savannah and Mt. Pisgah.
Dar and I saw the provocative film Song of Nomi Tuesday night after dinner at Apres Diem. Our South Beach Diet enters its second week.

Work on my novel The Zone of Totality continues. Dar says it needs a new title and I agree. Maybe I'll post a few excerpts here, soon.

As Yellow Submarine's Boob said, "so much to do; so little time."


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

AJC Letters > Opinion

Letters from our readers
Published on: 6/8/05

Dan Meehan, John Eaton Morris, Harris Green, Jack Miller, Richard Erickson, Tom Ellicott - For the Journal-ConstitutionWednesday, June 8, 2005
Medical marijuana: Responses to "Ruling: Feds trump states," Page One, June 7
Patients lose their hope
In the decision citing that federal law supersedes state law for the purposes of prosecuting the users of medical marijuana, the Supreme Court has struck a powerful blow for . . . who? what?
The potential defendants in these cases are terminal AIDS and cancer patients who use the drug to curb their nausea enough to be able to eat, gain weight and keep their energy up so that they might fight off for another day the diseases slowly killing them.
While the pharmaceutical companies that hold Washington under their thumbs are producing highly addictive narcotics and reaping tremendous profits, the court has destroyed the small hopes for survival of thousands of patients all over the country.

Compassion from Congress unlikely
Who would have thought that the liberals on the Supreme Court would vote against medical marijuana while Sandra Day O'Connor, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice William Rehnquist voted for it?
Was this compassionate conservatism? Actually, they voted on the basis of states' rights, finding the federal government's intrusion into health decisions overreaching. Will the conservative Congress now show compassion and amend the law to allow seriously ill patients the only relief from suffering available to them? Don't count on it.
It is sad that the two appointees by the president who didn't inhale couldn't find the compassion to agree with O'Connor's well-reasoned arguments.

Ties prompt Bush to silence science
The Republican-controlled Congress is not about to allow scientists to establish whether compassionate use of marijuana is a good idea ("Set rules on medical marijuana," Editorial, June 7).
If scientists concluded that marijuana has legitimate medical applications, the Bush administration (and Sen. Bill Frist) would have to dismiss it as "junk science," since it would undermine their relationship with a major contributor --- the pharmaceuticals industry.
Can you imagine the anguish at Merck, SmithKline et al. if suffering cancer victims could grow their own palliatives?

Friday, June 03, 2005


Summer vacation finds me at home watching the French Open. Champion Raphael Nadal is awesome.

Ahead lie trips to Savannah and the Blue Ridge mountains where Darryl and I just spent Memorial Day weekend at the High Hampton Inn, near Cashiers. Tennis on the excellent clay courts and hikes in the forest.

For an overview of everything, see our website: