Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ho Ho Hotei

is the season to be jolly. And who is that rotund man with the bag of goodies, spreading joy? Why it's
Hotei, (click)
also known in China as Bu Dai, and in the West as the Laughing Buddha.

Hotei of Briar Hills
Gift of Maggie and Jocelin
Photo by Jameson

As the malls gear up for Capitalistmas, we pagans, Zen masters, Buddhists, Taoists, Pantheists, and other non-materialists worship the Winter Solstice with our spirits. Even Saint Nicholas (click) from Byzantium, the original Santa, would weep at the crass and greedy grabbing of property, the commercial excess of the present day, the day of presents.

Saint Nick

Give the gift of love, of appreciation, of kindness, of empathy. Stop to see the sublime snow-covered mountain. Walk in the woods. Sit by the fire. Decorate your sacred tree: O, Tannenbaum. Let the birthday of Mithra(s), the festivity of the Roman Saturnalia (read about it), the manger of Jesus surrounded by animals, and the lighting of the Hanukkah Menorah inspire celebration of something other than mindless toys.



Buddha of Lookout Mountain
Photo by Starr

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rounding the Table

Watching the rather mediocre, but nonetheless romantic, 2006 film version of Tristan and Isolde recently, I've gone on my own quest for the Holy Grail of Love. Is it the forbidden aspect of romantic love that gives it its thrust, its jolt?
Tristan and Isolde
from http://www.angelfire.com/al/lancelot66/

From the "Dark Ages" of Medieval Europe to the dark depths of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Freud, it does seem that the real kick in erotic love comes from being taboo, forbidden, denied, delayed, or even repressed. Take a read from Wikipedia: Schpoenhauer's influence on Wagner's opera version of Tristan:

Influence of Schopenhauer on Tristan und Isolde

Wagner was introduced to the work of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer by his friend Georg Herwegh in late 1854. The composer was immediately struck by the philosophical ideas to be found in “Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung” (The World as Will and Representation), and it is clear that the composer and the philosopher had a very similar world-view. By the end of that year, he had sketched out all three acts of an opera on the theme of Tristan and Isolde, although it was not until 1857 that he began working full-time on the opera, putting aside the composition of Der Ring des Nibelungen to do so. Wagner said in a letter to Franz Liszt (December 1854): “Never in my life having enjoyed the true happiness of love I shall erect a memorial to this loveliest of all dreams in which, from the first to the last, love shall, for once, find utter repletion. I have devised in my mind a Tristan und Isolde, the simplest, yet most full-blooded musical conception imaginable, and with the ‘black flag’ that waves at the end I shall cover myself over – to die.” By 1857 Wagner was living as the guest of the wealthy silk merchant Otto von Wesendonck, and during the composition of Tristan und Isolde was involved with Wesendonck’s wife, Mathilde, although it remains uncertain as to whether or not this relationship was platonic.
Nevertheless, the twin influences of Schopenhauer and Mathilde inspired Wagner during the composition of Tristan und Isolde. Schopenhauer’s influence is felt most directly in the second and third acts. The first act is relatively straightforward, consisting mostly of an exposition of how Tristan and Isolde come to be in their current state. However the second act, where the lovers meet, and the third act, in which Tristan longs for release from the passions that torment him, have often proved puzzling to opera-goers unfamiliar with Schopenhauer’s work. Wagner uses the metaphor of day and night in the second act to designate the realms inhabited by Tristan and Isolde. The world of Day is one where the lovers must deny their love and pretend they do not care for each other, where they are bound by the dictates of King Marke’s court: it is a realm of falsehood and unreality. Tristan declares in Act 2 that under the dictates of the realm of Day he was forced to remove Isolde from Ireland and to marry her to his Uncle Marke. The realm of Night, in contrast, is the representation of intrinsic reality, where the lovers can be together, where their desires reach fulfillment: it is the realm of oneness, truth and reality. Wagner thus equates the realm of Day with Schopenhauer’s concept of Phenomenon, and the realm of Night with Schopenhauer’s concept of Noumenon. While none of this is explicitly stated in the libretto, Tristan’s comments on Day and Night in Acts 2 and 3 make it very clear that this is Wagner’s intention.
In Schopenhauer’s philosophy, the world as we experience it is a representation of an unknowable reality. Our representation of the world (which is false) is Phenomenon, while the unknowable reality is Noumenon: these concepts are developments of ideas originally posited by Kant. Importantly for Tristan and Isolde, Schopenhauer’s concept of Noumenon is one where all things are indivisible and one: and it is this very idea of one-ness that Tristan yearns for in Acts 2 and 3 of Tristan und Isolde. Tristan is also aware that this realm of Night, or Noumenon can only be shared by the lovers in its fullest sense when they die. The realm of Night therefore also becomes the realm of death: the only world in which Tristan and Isolde can be united forever, and it is this realm that Tristan speaks of at the end of Act two (“Dem Land das Tristan meint, der Sonne Licht nicht scheint”).
Tristan rages against the daylight in Act 3 and frequently cries out for release from his desires (Sehnen): it is also part of Schopenhauer’s philosophy that man is driven by continued, unachievable desires, and that the gulf between our desires and the possibility of achieving them leads to misery. The only way for man to achieve inner peace is to renounce his desires: a theme that Wagner explores fully in his last opera, Parsifal.
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tristan_und_Isolde )

Which brings me to Sir Lancelot of the Lake. Even more than Tristan, he is the very image of the marriage (and struggle) of the Apollonian and the Dionysian-- to use Nietzsche's ideas. His love for Arthur merges with and fights with his love for Guenivere. Lancelot's passion is contrasted with Arthur's cool. Arthur is able to preserve his high regard, his cool-headed love for both. His understanding transcends the mores of Medieval society, of possessive love, of jealousy, of church, state, and culture. His wisdom cuts through the situation like Excalibur. Now there is a film that magically embraces the mysticism and fervor of Medieval romance.
(Read Salon's review)
(David Keyes' Review)

What if Arthur prevailed? What if the king truly ruled society, and the love triangle just went on without protest, without villains spying, without the downfall of Camelot? Would we have true love... or no love at all? Or at least not the passionate, erotic, romantic love in the deep forest that Lancelot has with Guinivere?
Worse still, what would happen to art? To poetry, literature, painting?

The highest peak of love may need, at the base, dragons to slay.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Convent Island

We are thankful
for our room at El Convento (click) and for the lush island of
Puerto Rico. History rich, elegant, flowered San Juan (click) has given us shelter and seafood and island spice.

Luguillo Beach

photo by Jameson

It was splendid being away from the mainland, recalling the Democrats' victory
earlier in the month, and taking joy in the sun and sea breezes on the wide, arching, soft-sand beaches, or hiking in the fresh air of the rainforest, El Yunque (click). Life should always be so exhilerating.

More photos from our visit (click)

Our nights were filled with the sound of coquis:

coqui perched in a Canarion flower Puerto Rico

photo courtesy of wildhorizons.com

This coqui, perched in a Canario flower, gives you a good idea of how small the coquis really are. Photo by Thomas Wiewandt. His website of Nature Photography will open in a new window, close new window to return here.

Website dedicated to coquís.

The Coquí is a small 'singing' tree tree frog found nowhere else in the world. They sing Puerto Rico's lullaby and probably influenced her music.. The frog population in the rain-forest is one of the densest frog populations in the world. There are 14 species of the tiny Coqui, the 'song' is the mating call and starts every afternoon, increasing in volumn with rainfall.

Back to the El Yunque Rainforest Page of ElYunque.com

Happy Peeping! (click to listen)


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Shortbus Revisited

On seeing Shortbus a second time, I have to say
"Love is lovlier, the second time around."

The way I see it, this film, a true mindfuck-- in the best possible way-- should become our next Rocky Horror Picture Show.

We should all see it attired as our fave character and have orgiastic sex orgies similar to those on the screen.

Seriously, the only way to approach such a pioneering film is with the legs of the mind wide open, ready to receive the film's deep thrust. The viewer can quibble and find little faults with the plot, like looking for moles on a lover. Or he/she can just lie back and take it in all the way. After that first penetration, go back for a replay. The psyche's second orgasm is even more fulfilling.

You want some pics? Go to the first entry below (click).

Warm Embraces...


Monday, November 20, 2006

Botero Does Prison

Remember the Boteros on Park Avenue-- those happy, fat figures? Botero has now turned his genius to more serious matters: All four of these articles are stunning.

Visual Arts

Artist Botero Turns to Abu Ghraib in New Paintings

Abu Ghraib 67, 2005. Oil on canvas Courtesy of the Marlborough Gallery
Abu Ghraib 66, 2005. Oil on canvas Courtesy of the Marlborough Gallery

More Images from the Exhibit

Weekend Edition Saturday, November 11, 2006 · Fernando Botero's portraits and sculptures of happy rotund people have delighted millions. But the Colombian painter and sculptor's latest exhibition takes on the subject of Abu Ghraib. After reading news reports of American abuses at the Iraq prison, Botero produced works unlike anything he has done before.
A collection of some 50 paintings and drawings at the Marlborough Gallery in New York depicts prisoners as they are beaten, sexually abused, blindfolded, hooded, bound with ropes, attacked by dogs and forced to wear women's underwear.
After he read Seymour Hersh's account of the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib in The New Yorker, Botero found himself obsessed.
"I was... in shock like everyone else in the world was, the more I read about it," Botero says. "Somehow I was more and more upset with the situation."
For 14 months, Botero worked exclusively on drawings and paintings related to Abu Ghraib. He created about 100 works, some of them large paintings, as well many drawings. About half of the total collection is at the Marlborough Gallery.
Botero says he did not use any of the famous photos of Abu Ghraib for inspiration, but relied only on the texts of news articles.
"Some people think that this is more dramatic than the photos, and perhaps it is true," Botero says. "Because, when you paint, everything that is not necessary, you let out. You go to the essence of... the subject."
Botero hopes his paintings will find a permanent home in a museum in the United States. He has kept ownership of all the paintings. None of them is for sale. In the meantime, the show is at the Marlborough through Nov. 18, then travels to Italy and Spain.


and a review from the New York Times:


and from the Nation by Arthur Danto:


And from Donald Kuspit:


Get out of Jail.


Sunday, November 19, 2006


Here's to life. What better toast? It's not what happens to you, it's the attitude you take to events that determines who you are. Kitty Carlisle Hart, at 96, was a tribute to just the right attitude. She had us all in laughter and in tears, just singing along to Kurt Weil and Cole Porter at the intimate 14th st. Playhouse last night.
With Starr at our side, Dar and I had a perfect evening. And this morning's brunch with Joce, fresh from her birthday in the landscapes of the Southwest, completed the ambiance.

Kitty Carlisle Hart
from the PBS site: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/broadway/stars/hart_k.html (click)

Here's the AJC's nice rendition of Kitty's visit:

Oldest gal in showbiz remains a class act

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/18/06


Kitty Carlisle Hart: "Here's to Life"

With pianist David Lewis. 8 tonight. 5 p.m. Sunday. $35-$100. 14th Street Playhouse, 173 14th St. N.E., Midtown. 404-733-5000, woodruffcenter.org.

The weather called for heavy flooding with a slight chance of pneumonia, followed by a cold blast. But Kitty Carlisle Hart —- the Manhattan social butterfly, arts advocate, quiz-show pioneer, Metropolitan Opera diva, Marx Brothers co-star and famous playwright's widow —- was not about to wilt.

Tuesday night, it was caviar at Restaurant Eugene in Buckhead. Wednesday morning, she braved the rain in pearls and a dazzling peach suit for a round of interviews —- with a two-hour lunch sandwiched in between. And Thursday night, "at the mere age of 96," she gave the first of four Atlanta performances —- getting a standing ovation before she could warble a note from her Broadway songbook or reveal a single tidbit about her illustrious circle of dearly departed friends: George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Bing Crosby, Richard Rodgers and numerous others.

While her own career may have been relatively minor, Hart was intimately acquainted with most of the leading lights of American musical theater.

If you are under 40, you may have no idea who Kitty Carlisle Hart is. But if you grew up in the '50s, '60s and '70s, you will remember her as the ever-curious panelist on TV's "To Tell the Truth," an early game show featuring a roster of wits who looked as if they were dressed for a night of dancing at El Morocco.

As America became a place of ranch houses, station wagons and backyard barbecues, this New York smart set was the last vestige of a vanishing, glamorous age. Appearing with the likes of Johnny Carson, Dick Van Dyke and Peggy Cass, Hart was celebrated for her effervescent wit, endless wardrobe and million-dollar smile. "TV's touch of class," as a quip from the video montage that introduces her show puts it.

Though the former Ziegfeld Follies dancer looks a little frail when she arrives Tuesday at WAGA-TV, everything changes the minute she perches on the recording studio couch.

"Now you have been on TV before," her producer, Joe Spotts, says, arranging a dais of pillows for her to sit on. "You know what to do." Sure enough, as the cameras roll, Hart's rouged cheeks glow, her lips put on a smile to make Carol Channing envious, and the so-called "oldest gal in showbiz" is suddenly on —- tossing off bons mots about the glittering diamond necklace she wears during her performances.

"My mother told me she got it from the king of Bulgaria," Hart says, "and I believed it for 40 years. What nonsense!"

"Kitty is just Kitty all the time," Spotts says later. "Camera-ready, every minute."

But life hasn't always been a parade for Hart, who lives in a Park Avenue apartment decorated with paintings by friends like Noel Coward, Marc Chagall and Harpo Marx, and is known to greet visitors wearing a bright-red kimono.

Born Catherine Conn in New Orleans in 1910, Hart lost her physician father when she was 10; he died in the typhoid epidemic. Soon, her ambitious, social-climbing mother pushed her onto the stage. She led a swank life as the wife of theater luminary Moss Hart, but the playwright died of a heart attack in 1961, leaving her to raise their two children alone.

Along the way, this granddaughter of a Confederate soldier who survived the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack has battled anti-Semitism —- from her own mother, even. And as chairman of the New York State Arts Council from 1976-1996, she had to defend controversial exhibits by Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano. Spotts rescued her from performing on the cruise-ship circuit.

"My mother wanted me to marry a rich nobleman —- and failing that, an impoverished baron," Hart says, nibbling a lunch of salad, soup, ginger ale and just a few bites of creme brulee at Buckhead's Bones. Though her European education never made her a princess, she ended up courting theater royalty —- demurring a proposal from Gershwin but accepting one from Hart after a 10-year courtship.

As she talks, Hart chuckles heartily and throws her hands in the air to emphasize a remark. Her mother always wanted them to pass for Gentiles, Hart says. (Once, when a taxi driver asked if her daughter was Jewish, her mother replied: "She may be, but I'm not!") She changed her name to Kitty while attending school in Switzerland; she found the name Carlisle in the Manhattan telephone directory.

During her concert, Hart leans on the piano and only occasionally forgets a lyric. Her voice is weathered, but she looks remarkably fit.

Sprinkling the night with anecdotes from the golden age of Broadway and TV, she recalls once being scolded by composer Kern for changing key during "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." She remembers crooner Crosby having to stand on a platform during filming of a duet in 1934's "She Loves Me Not" to reach her height. She lifts her skirt to reveal the legs that made her performance in vaudeville impresario Flo Ziegfeld's late-1920s "Rio Rita" so memorable, and she recalls Gershwin as a man who "needed constant approval.

"Women adored him, and he returned the compliment —- I should know," she says with a wink.

After Carlisle made the Marx Brothers' "A Night at the Opera" with screenwriter George S. Kaufman in 1935, he introduced her to two Broadway scribes who were in Hollywood shopping for actresses. The pair turned out to be Cole Porter and Moss Hart, and their musical was "Jubilee" ("It Was Just One of Those Things").

"I didn't get the job , but many years later, I got the man," Hart tells her audience. Before the marriage, Kaufman and Hart wrote two of the most successful comedies of their time: "You Can't Take It With You," which won the Pulitzer Prize of 1937, and "The Man Who Came to Dinner."

These days, Hart says she feels like Dickens' Miss Havisham in her enormous New York apartment.

"It's half a city block, and it was just fine when I had two children and two servants. ... However, I'm not going to move, because that kills people. I'm going to be taken out feet first."

(By the way, gentlemen, if you are thinking of asking Hart out, get in line. She has plenty of beaus already. "I have one who is 103, sharp as a tack. ... And I have one who is younger than I am. He's only 90. And he takes me to dinner and to the opera and to concerts. He's very nice.")

At the moment, Hart shows no signs of slowing down.

After sold-out shows in Palm Springs, San Francisco and St. Louis, Hart's latest comeback —- and the revival of "To Tell the Truth" episodes on the Game Show Network —- have made her a kind of aging hipster. On New Year's Eve, she will play a Portland, Ore., gig with the trendy pop group Pink Martini. And, Spotts says, "I do have an option for her to appear in 2010 at the age of 100."


Bon Voyage... Jameson

Monday, November 13, 2006

New Day

Read Frank Rich's excellent editorial on the election:

2006: The Year of the ‘Macaca’


Backyard Maple
photo by Jameson

Thanksgiving approaches with all sorts of changes...

Next week, San Juan

Happy Trails


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Burns and Allen

Republican Senators Burns and Allen will lose in Montana and Virginia, thereby turning the Senate, and the entire Congress, over to the Democrats. We won. Happy Days are here again.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Winds of Change

What good news. Nancy Pelosi is going to be the next Speaker of the House of Reps.

And New Jersey is the latest state to affirm gay rights, albeit with the reservation that same sex couples deserve equal rights whatever they are called.

That is fine with me.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Frankly, my dears, I don't give a damn what it's called. Civil Union is fine. I shall have a civil, and we can making being civils what we want. Why not have an alternative relationship just so long as it has the same rights and privileges as marriage does.

Letter to the AJC: Mon. Oct. 30:

To suit everyone, call it 'civil unions'

The ruling of the New Jersey Supreme Court that gay couples deserve the same rights as heterosexual couples reveals how difficult it is to give up old prejudices ("N.J. court backs gay rights," News, Oct. 26).

The word "marriage" is too politically charged and filled with religious meaning to be applied equally. So use another word; call gay relationships civil unions. It's the solution Vermont came up with six years ago. If that makes heterosexuals more secure and happy, that is fine with me. I'll call my husband my civil partner, or invent some new word. The rights are what matter, whether hospital visiting rights, joint taxes, inheritance, or Social Security rights.

Legal recognition of my 16-year union is far more important to me than calling my relationship marriage. A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.


The election approaches. I don't fool myself that the Democrats have the answers. I just know that they do not bow quite as low to the oil companies, the drug companies, the insurance industry, and the religious zealots as the Repubs.
The Dems may just help end the carnage in Iraq, as well.

This past week we were in Albuquerque. (click)

This week is GISA in Dillard. In November we fly to San Juan and in December, San Francisco for X-mas- New Years.

Dar will tour Ancient Egypt (click for the tour) in January, 2007. Here's hope for a better year, then.

Happy Trails.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Swimming with God

Father Anthony Mercieca has confessed to swimming naked with Congressman Foley when Foley was around 13. (see story: Priest: I massaged young Foley naked)
The priest also mentioned that they sat naked in a sauna together and that he gave Foley a massage. There may also have been some fondling, but no penetration, the good father recalled through his foggy memory, no doubt still a bit steamed up.
So what's wrong with skinny-dipping with your priest? Isn't it a little like being baptised?
What better way to get right with God?
So it was from the church that Foley was inspired to titilate Congressional pages with emails about getting naked and comparing penis size. Like a good church steeple, the penis should point up to God.
Meanwhile, 72- year- old Father Tony retains his fond memories on Malta, where the age of consent is 14.

Pederastic courtship scene

Athenian black-figure amphora, 5th c. BC, Painter of Cambridge; Object currently in the collection of the Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, Munich, Germany.

The bearded man is depicted in a traditional pederastic courtship gesture, one hand reaching to fondle the young man, the other grasping his chin so as to look him in the eye. The youth is putting up symbolic resistance only.

Happy strokes...


Saturday, October 14, 2006




Review from Salon:

Photos: ThinkFilm
Shanti Carson, Sook-Yin Lee and Jan Hilmer in "Shortbus."


What's shocking about John Cameron Mitchell's new film is not the real sex -- gay and straight; solo, duo and beyond -- but its Midwestern friendliness.
By Stephanie Zacharek
Oct. 04, 2006 | At a screening a few weeks back I overheard a fellow critic describing to another colleague, in derisive detail, one of the numerous (unsimulated) sex scenes in John Cameron Mitchell's "Shortbus," which I hadn't yet seen. The sequence in question involved a somewhat awkward threesome and the humming of "The Star Spangled Banner" right into that spot where the sun don't shine, but never mind that for now. This critic, who writes for a mainstream national publication, had decided not to cover the picture at all, reasoning that it was a bad movie that wouldn't be opening in most towns anyway. Why bother?
Decreeing "Shortbus" unsuitable for the masses seemed a little weird, considering that so many critics had already come back from Cannes talking about how notably unsexy, if charming, the picture was. (My colleague Andrew O'Hehir, writing from the festival, summed it up perfectly as "a sad, sweet openhearted work.")
But after I saw "Shortbus," the notion that the good folk of America had to be protected from it seemed even weirder. "Shortbus" does feature unsimulated sex, both gay and straight (solo, duo, trio and beyond). Yet the sex is the most unremarkable thing about it. What surprised me most about this gentle-spirited sprawl of a movie, set in post-9/11 New York City, is what I can only call the friendly, Midwestern quality of the filmmaking. It's as if Mitchell -- the thoughtful, mischievous faun behind "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," one of the only truly swinging rock musicals ever made -- were calling out to one and all, "Come on over, kids -- we're having a sex party!" This may be a movie made by a New Yorker (albeit a Texas-born one), yet it's anything but insular. Gregarious, neurotic, maybe a little guilty of oversharing: "Shortbus" is American right to its nonexistent short shorts.
Mitchell is credited as the director and writer of "Shortbus," but he's really more of a conductor, a maestro in charge of overseeing the picture's multiple stories, which were conceived and developed by the performers. (Listen to Mitchell discuss the film here.) Mitchell and the actors, many of whom are his friends, rehearsed on-and-off for two and a half years, which helps explain the movie's relaxed, improvisational feel -- and also why it sometimes feels like a bit of a mess.
But sex isn't so neat, either. And considering the pitfalls that lie in wait when you attempt a free-form process like this, "Shortbus" hangs together surprisingly well. Mitchell opens the story with a naked guy in a bathtub -- we later learn that his name is Jamie (the actor who plays him is Paul Dawson) -- who's part of one of the most adorable couples in New York, the kind of couple that most people, coupled or not, straight or gay, envy. These two are known as Jamie and Jamie (the other Jamie is played by PJ DeBoy), and they are truly adorable, but they're not quite happy: Dawson's Jamie has suggested, for reasons that somewhat puzzle DeBoy's Jamie, that they open up their relationship. So they seek the guidance of couples counselor Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee), who has her own problems with her husband, the goateed, underemployed Rob (Raphael Barker): She has never had an orgasm with him, or with anyone. As she blurts out -- inappropriately, but this is a movie about dissolving boundaries -- in the middle of her tense first session with the Jamies, she's pre-orgasmic. (One of the Jamies, trying to wrap his brain around this wholly foreign concept, innocently asks her, "Does that mean you're about to have one?")
The Jamies find themselves in the position of wanting to help Sofia, a crisp, efficient, overachieving Asian-Canadian who really does need to learn to let go. So they invite her to Shortbus, an underground salon hosted by swanning bon vivant Justin Bond (played by the real-life Justin Bond, who's also part of the cabaret duo Kiki and Herb), a combination performance space and sugar shack, where people get together to talk, hang out, eat hash-enhanced snacks, and, if they're moved to, have sex -- possibly with the partner they brought, or maybe with somebody (or somebodies) new. (The salon's name, as Mitchell explains in the press notes, is a reference to the shorter yellow school bus often ridden by "special needs" kids -- a vehicle for outcasts and misfits.)
At Shortbus, new people drift into the Jamies' orbit, and into Sofia's: The guys meet a gorgeous, self-absorbed yet not completely empty-headed young model and singer-songwriter whose name is pronounced Seth, although he's quick to point out that it's spelled with a "C" (the actor who plays him is Jay Brannan); and Sofia makes the acquaintance of Severin (Lindsay Beamish), a professional dominatrix who's not only having trouble making ends meet, but who feels disconnected from everyone and everything around her -- a scowling, eyebrowless crosspatch in red lipstick, she can barely make friends, let alone forge any deeper emotional bond.
"Shortbus" isn't a movie with a point to make or an ax to grind: It's a warm, amorphous shape stretching out in many directions, touching on the neuroses and anxiety everyone, at one time or another, feels about relationships, and the connection (and the disconnect) between sex and love. Mitchell's New York is a place where young and not-so-young people come to make art, to do cool stuff, to find a mate, for the night or for life.
But even if New Yorkers are sometimes guilty of believing they're the center of the universe, it's useful to remember that New York is really just a patchwork of small towns. "Shortbus" understands the sort of urban loneliness that can strike any of us, whether we live in a coastal village or a borough that's almost the size of a small country: How we can feel completely alone even at a rollicking party, or feel jolts of loneliness even when we're wrapped in the cocoon of a secure relationship. Mitchell and his actors sketch vignettes of loneliness and connection: One minute, we think a character is just a goofy thrill seeker; the next, we catch him crying furtively, and we know something is terribly wrong. Another character has a moment of panic when it dawns on her that the city she so desperately wants to live in is expensive and cruel, and she's not sure she can survive it. She blurts out her fears to a new friend: "I want to have a house, and a cat that I can pet," she explains through her frustrated tears, in a non sequitur that clicks like a perfect algebraic equation. "Do you know what I mean?" she adds, although she doesn't have to.
Sex may be "Shortbus'" raison d'être, and it certainly figures in the movie's funniest scenes. And yet the sex becomes so integral to "Shortbus" that eventually you barely notice or think about it. Mitchell isn't going for the end-of-an-affair melancholy of Michael Winterbottom's "9 Songs," or the cherry-bomb bravado of Catherine Breillat's "Romance." Mitchell is hip to the way sex, supposedly the most natural thing on earth, is often actually quite ridiculous. The movie is so open about sex, and approaches it with such affectionate bewilderment, that it feels like an anomaly in our so-called sex-obsessed culture: I've felt sleazier looking at ads for Captain Morgan's rum. When Mitchell trains his camera on a sea of naked bodies of all colors, shapes and sizes, grinding and undulating on the floor of a very large loft, he sees both the humor and beauty of this writhing tableau. These sequences are aesthetically pleasing to look at (Mitchell isn't going for the tattoo-and-cellulite realism of, say, HBO's "Real Sex"), but they also embody the spirit of a Roz Chast cartoon: Group sex may be a beautiful thing, man, but it's also a jumble of wobbly lines and arms and legs heading the wrong way.
Of course, one man's explicitness is another's indiscretion, and there are places where "Shortbus" may be a little too free with the sharing. A friend of mine, referring to one character's saga of sexual angst, called it "TMI" -- more than he wanted or needed to know -- and he has a point.
But I think Mitchell would rather blurt too much than too little. He doesn't want to make a baffling picture that people won't understand; he's reaching out to everyone here, and in a world more perfect than the one we live in, "Shortbus" would be a bigger hit than the dismal indie-juggernaut "Little Miss Sunshine."
There's a sense in America today that our sexual freedoms have been restricted, and in some ways, maybe they have been. But even if this country is still idiotically hidebound over the no-brainer issue of gay marriage, we're still better off than we were 50 years ago, when anyone who didn't fit the hetero mold had to live in secret. "Shortbus" is a movie about the joy, frustration and sadness that are inherent in freedom -- sexual freedom, or any other kind. Let us sound the ass kazoo of freedom! is Mitchell's rallying cry. He's got a bell, and he's gonna ring it: This is his song about love between his brothers and his sisters, all over this land.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Birds Do It; Bees Do It...

It's a Bloomin' Gay World:


Bees sucking pollen from a wild flower in the morning in a deserted area in Amman, Jordan, May 31, 2005. The birds and the bees may be gay, according to the world's first museum exhibition about homosexuality among animals.

Here's the story:

Birds and bees may be gay: museum exhibition

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent 47 minutes ago

OSLO (Reuters) - The birds and the bees may be gay, according to the world's first museum exhibition about homosexuality among animals.

With documentation of gay or lesbian behavior among giraffes, penguins, parrots, beetles, whales and dozens of other creatures, the Oslo Natural History Museum concludes human homosexuality cannot be viewed as "unnatural."

"We may have opinions on a lot of things, but one thing is clear -- homosexuality is found throughout the animal kingdom, it is not against nature," an exhibit statement said.

Geir Soeli, the project leader of the exhibition entitled "Against Nature," told Reuters: "Homosexuality has been observed for more than 1,500 animal species, and is well documented for 500 of them."

The museum said the exhibition, opening on Thursday despite condemnation from some Christians, was the first in the world on the subject. Soeli said a Dutch zoo had once organised tours to view homosexual couples among the animals.

"The sexual urge is strong in all animals. ... It's a part of life, it's fun to have sex," Soeli said of the reasons for homosexuality or bisexuality among animals.

One exhibit shows two stuffed female swans on a nest -- birds sometimes raise young in homosexual couples, either after a female has forsaken a male mate or donated an egg to a pair of males.

One photograph shows two giant erect penises flailing above the water as two male right whales rub together. Another shows a male giraffe mounting another for sex, another describes homosexuality among beetles.


One radical Christian said organizers of the exhibition -- partly funded by the Norwegian government -- should "burn in hell," Soeli said. Laws describing homosexuality as a "crime against nature" are still on the statutes in some countries.

Greek philosopher Aristotle noted apparent homosexual behavior among hyenas 2,300 years ago but evidence of animal homosexuality has often been ignored by researchers, perhaps because of distaste, lack of interest or fear or ridicule.

Bonobos, a type of chimpanzee, are among extremes in having sex with either males or females, apparently as part of social bonding. "Bonobos are bisexuals, all of them," Soeli said.

Still, it is unclear why homosexuality survives since it seems a genetic dead-end.

Among theories, males can sometimes win greater acceptance in a pack by having homosexual contact. That in turn can help their chances of later mating with females, he said.

And a study of homosexual men in Italy suggested that their mothers and sisters had more offspring. "The same genes that give homosexuality in men could give higher fertility among women," he said.


So Bee it.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Foley's Folly

It is easy to revile Mark Foley as a monster. He took advantage of his power to abuse teens who were under his watch. He clearly knew what he was doing was wrong. His contribution to legislation to protect children is a sad irony. How, I have to ask, could he fall into such a moral abyss?

Daily, I work with teenagers the same ages as these pages. They are in my trust as a teacher. Some know I'm gay; some don't. Ultimately, I think it better that they do know, though that may cause odd questions and expectations. Gay students have confided in me their own private gayness on occasion. I never forget my responsibility or my place with them. These students need to learn about trust and honor. Even friendship is not an option as long as they attend my school or are under 18. Ultimately, being gay has nothing to do with it-- it is the same for the straight teachers and students of the opposite sex.

If Foley were to befriend a page and have a relationship when the page left Congress and was over 18, we would have no grounds for criticism, however much we might not like such a tie between people of different ages. What is horrible about Foley's actions is NOT that he is in his 50s. It is that he betrayed the trust of those who served him, and who needed to learn about honest government.

Foley may well go to prison, whether he actually had sex with a minor or not. Internet soliciting for sex would be a crime. Yet, it seems clear to me that if he didn't actually have sex with a page, that what he ought to have is psychiatric care. He needs to learn how to love. No doubt the pages he wrote were old enough and educated enough to see Foley as a lonely, desperate man. I doubt they were damaged, other than to be more cynical and cautious in their dealings with those in power. Face it, 16-year-old pages can be clever and calculating themselves, as the email responses also reveal. It is sad that they were not given wiser and better role models. But they are not helpless children.

The cover-up of the Foley emails is in many ways as bad as the emails. They show Republican leaders afraid of the consequences of revealing the truth. Foley needed help, not a cover up. The House leaders show less regard for the pages than Foley had. All they wanted was the preservation of their power.

Is it possible to have leaders who put honor and integrity above greed and the lust for power-- or just plain lust? Jimmy Carter may have been our last honestly altruistic, benevolent leader; though perhaps local Congressman John Lewis still is. What must we do to have more citizens like them running the nation?


Friday, September 29, 2006

Stop the Corruption

October is the month of Change. This October leads us right up to the election of 2006. Isn't it ironic that some of the Republicans' most powerful names on the 2006 ballot are those they want removed? From Tom Delay to Joe Foley, these disgraced leaders epitomize the corruption and the arrogance that have grown like a disease in our government. Truth and goodness have been replaced with lies and greed of the worst sort. Republican fundraiser Abramoff's crimes are but a symptom of this governmental power run amok. Our nation needs us all to remove the Corrupticans from office and restore integrity to Congress.

Foley, like Governor McGreevy of New Jersey, is the latest victim of his own closet. Only in Foley's case, his repression has led to his preying on teenage pages of the House of Representatives. At least Jim McGreevy has seen the light and emerged from his cave a wiser man. Foley seems more like an abusing priest, preying (pun intended) on the most vulnerable.

What is the antidote to all the corruption and greed?

If nothing else, I'd suggest art. This month we shall enjoy a show in Chattanooga at the Tivoli by Leslie Jordan, traditional art from the Louvre at the High Museum, and some excellent films, including an Almodovar retrospective and the new film Shortbus.

Here's how this particular film addresses the problems of the day:

Sex film "Shortbus" finds distributors world-wide

By Rachelle Younglai

TORONTO (Reuters) - Hard core sex in a mainstream movie? No problem.

Three months after John Cameron Mitchell showed his sexually explicit film "Shortbus" out of competition at the Cannes film festival, he said it had attracted distributors in dozens of countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan, France and Singapore.

"People are ready for change. There is a thirst for something different," Mitchell told reporters on Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival, where "Shortbus" was set for its North American premiere before an October opening in the United States.

Mitchell aims to use sex as a metaphor to tell a story about people looking for solace and searching for something more in their lives in a post-September 11 world.

"What pissed me off was that it was ... generically identified of as porn," Mitchell said of his film. "We are not trying to do anything salacious here. That is just the language which we speak."

The film is graphic: Scenes include a man being whipped by a dominatrix as he masturbates and a straight couple having sex in a variety of positions.

But pornographic? Mitchell argues not.

"Porn is really to arouse. This film explores the other areas of sex," he said.

The story revolves around two couples, one straight and one gay, accompanied by a few other lonely souls.

One couple seeks counselling from a sex therapist, played by Sook-Yin Lee, who works for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. as on-air host of a show about popular culture.

It turns out Lee's character has never experienced an orgasm, which leads the couple to invite her to a salon called Shortbus, where everything goes -- from group sex and voyeurism to cabarets.

Lee said there were initial reservations at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. about her being in the film.

"Once they were re-educated, they allowed me to do this movie," she said at a press conferen

"I don't know if I would have been able to do this if I was working at CNN."


Happy changes...


Thursday, September 21, 2006

The R word

"Bush is the Devil."

"Saddam is evil."

"The Pope is the Anti-Christ."

Whatever the charge, it is all Pure



Superstition, otherwise known as the R- word: Religion, is the true root of all evil.
The Pope's quotation from a Byzantine Emperor could easily be expanded to include all religions:

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The man Benedict quoted was Manuel II. He was one of the last emperors of Constantinople. The Byzantine Empire finally fell to the Turks 28 years after his death. Manual II failed to convince the West to save Byzantium. He was himself, at times, a prisoner of the Ottoman Turks and was involved in various failed intrigues with them.

Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos

Met Home

The ultimate irony is that Manuel II-- and Benedict by referring to him-- argued for the use of reason. Reason over blind faith. Reason over irrational and violent zealotry. It is just such reason that should have inhibited Bush. What the Christian Fundamentalists say about Islam is just as true of themselves: Use of the sword (and bombs) to spread ideology and religion is wrong, no matter the religion and no matter the ideology (We can't force freedom).

And so, let's take the Pope at his word:
Let's use our reason, use our heads.
We are all Hamlet's Yorick.
We are all this daughter of Lucy --
half ape, half human,
far from being angels.

Reread Sailing to Byzantium.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Public Privates

The happy couple - Photo EFE

Happiness triumphs in Seville, Spain as the first military wedding between men takes place on September 15.

Here's the scoop from

© typicallyspanish.com

First gay military wedding in Spain
By h.b.
Sun, 17 Sep 2006

Spain’s Air Force has seen it’s first gay wedding. 27 year old Alberto Linero from Seville married 24 year old Alberto Sánchez from Madrid at a ceremony in Seville carried out by the city’s mayor, Alfredo Sánchez Monteseirín. He described the day as a dream made true and an answer to a demand from society at large for equality in diversity.

Congratulations to the grooms.


PS More details from the Baltimore Sun:

SEVILLE, Spain -- The Spanish military - once a remnant of a right-wing government closely linked to the Roman Catholic Church - got its first public taste of gay marriage last week as two male air force privates wed, sealing their union with gold rings and a long kiss.

Alberto Linero, 27, and Alberto Sanchez, 24, wore dark blue dress uniforms with red and gold epaulets as they exchanged vows in a reception room at Seville's town hall, the first known wedding among same-sex members of the military since Spain legalized gay marriage last year.

The men declined to say whether f they are being harassed by commanders or colleagues, but the Defense Ministry has said it considers the wedding a personal matter and that the men will be allowed to continue with their careers. It had no comment on the wedding.

Spain has no law against gays in the military, and other service members have acknowledged their homosexuality in the past.

In the United States, the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibits the military from inquiring about the sex lives of service members but requires those who openly acknowledge being gay to be discharged.

The men were married by Seville Mayor Alfredo Sanchez Monteseirin, who said their wedding marked a victory for gay people everywhere who have suffered from discrimination.

"This is not just your wedding. You symbolize millions of people who are not here and suffer from homophobia," Sanchez Monteseirin said. "The city will protect your rights."

After they were pronounced spouses, Linero and Sanchez placed gold rings on each other's fingers and kissed. The 100 people in attendance clapped wildly. Sanchez later wept as he hugged his younger brother Sergio.

The mayor is a member of the Socialist Party, which oversees a government that legalized gay marriage last year and has pushed through laws including fast-track divorce and easier terms for medically assisted fertilization.

The laws have irked the church and the country's conservative establishment, which has accused the government of eroding the nation's traditional values.

Addressing reporters after the ceremony, Linero said the wedding was a small step toward equality for homosexuals.

"We've done our little bit. We hope society realizes this," he said.

About 4,500 same-sex couples have wed under the gay marriage legislation, which took effect in July 2005, according to the Justice Ministry.

The wedding is believed to be the first marriage between two same-sex members of the Spanish armed forces, said Beatriz Gimeno, president of Spain's Federation of Gays and Lesbians.

She welcomed the wedding as something the military and Spaniards in general must get used to.

"I don't think the army in a democratic society has to be conservative," Gimeno said.

Besides Spain, the Netherlands, Canada and Belgium have legalized same-sex marriage. Britain and other European countries have laws that give same-sex couples the right to form legally binding partnerships.

In the United States, Massachusetts is the only state that allows gay marriage. Vermont and Connecticut permit civil unions.

Copyright © 2006, The Baltimore Sun |


Monday, September 11, 2006

911, Savannah, and the Collective (Un)Conscious

Today, as the Multimedia news world attempts to gag us with platitudes about the horrors of 911 in New York, many of us are switching off the televised photo ops and political posturing that seems to be necessary for those in the public eye to maintain their status in the Collective Conscience of the nation. Maybe we should get more in touch with the Unconscious, the groundwork of far more than one catastrophe.

Bridge to New York
photo by Jameson

This blog contains plenty of images that ought to give us pathways-- the clay tablet from Uruk depicting tortured prisoners in Mesopotamia, the image of Saladin, defending Moslems from the horrors of the Christian zealots, Delphi, the Oracle of which should remind us of the irony of misleading predictions, Munch's Scream which transcends time and place... Or San Martin, horseback, the image of a leader virtually unimaginable among the world's puppet masters today.

Bridge to Savannah

photo by Jameson

In Savannah, over Labor Day, Dar and I read Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore (click). That novel spoke to the Jungian Soul, and portrayed a rich reality deeper than the holes left in New York. Read another review (click).

It is as tragic that those holes have become cliches as the lie that has linked them to Iraq. To the extent that we have given in to fear and yielded our freedoms and our common sense, the terrorists have won.

Thousands of people tossing tiny packets of shampoo into the bottomless trash of our airports-- that is the archetypal symbol of our defeat.

Flying With Scissors,


P.S. here's the whole review of

Kafka on the Shore
from the Washington Post:


As the Crow Flies

Reviewed by Steven Moore


By Haruki Murakami.

Translated from the Japanese. By Philip Gabriel

Knopf. 436 pp. $25.95

If bizarre things are happening in Japan, then there must be a new novel by Haruki Murakami. America's favorite Japanese novelist could publish this anonymously, and his fans would instantly recognize it as his. And for first-time readers, Kafka on the Shore is an excellent demonstration of why he's deservedly famous, both here and in his native land. He writes uncanny, philosophical, postmodern fiction that's actually fun to read; he's a more serious Tom Robbins, a less dense Thomas Pynchon. Like those two, he mixes high and low culture, especially ours: Two of his novels are named after Western pop songs ("Dance Dance Dance" and "Norwegian Wood"), and his characters are more likely to see a film by Truffaut than one by Kurosawa. In this new novel, characters may occasionally discuss The Tale of Genji and the novels of Natsume Soseki, but the presiding influences are Plato, Sophocles and, as the title indicates, Franz Kafka.

It would be easy to make this novel sound goofy: There are talking cats, sudden downpours of fish and leeches, a ghost that takes the form of Col. Sanders pimping in a back alley of Takamatsu, another character who dresses up as the Johnnie Walker whiskey icon and collects the souls of cats for a magic flute, a gorgeous prostitute who quotes Henri Bergson and Hegel, and an "entrance stone" to another dimension. It would be just as easy to make the novel sound ponderous: There are many discussions of Greek tragedy, Plato's myth about the origin of the sexes, predestination, various metaphysical systems, musicology, the nature of symbolism and metaphor, the ways of Buddha and the Tao, and grim memories of atrocities committed during World War II. The wonderful thing is the mash-up Murakami creates from this disparate material, resulting in a novel that is intellectually profound but feels "like an Indiana Jones movie or something," as one character aptly notes.

Or something. The novel consists of two parallel narratives told in alternating chapters. One features a bright but unhappy 15-year-old boy named "Kafka" Tamura -- he adopted the name partly because he likes his fiction but also because "Kafka" is Czech for "crow," with whose solitary nature he identifies -- who runs away from home because of an Oedipal foreboding that he will murder his father and sleep with his mother. (His mother abandoned him at age 4, and he hasn't seen her or his older sister since.) He leaves Tokyo for the southern island of Shikoku and spends most of his time at a private library run by a 21-year-old "hemophiliac of undetermined sex" named Oshima and a mysterious, elegant woman named Miss Saeki, old enough to be his mother. Both of them play key roles in helping the runaway find himself and come to terms with his dark destiny.

The other narrative deals with a retarded, illiterate man in his sixties named Satoru Nakata, who as a child underwent an inexplicable experience during World War II that erased his memory and stunted his intellectual growth. In recompense for that loss, however, he has the ability to communicate with cats and control the weather. (He's the one responsible for those downpours.) He gets involved with the cat-soul collector and commits an act that forces him to flee Tokyo. He hooks up with a truck driver named Hoshino -- just a regular guy who favors aloha shirts, Ray-Bans and a Chunichi Dragons baseball cap -- who agrees to help the old guy. They too make their way to Shikoku on a kind of metaphysical quest for an "entrance stone" that Nakata must open and close. As another character says (this is a very self-conscious text, frequently commenting on itself), it's "like some film noir science-fiction flick."

On one level, the novel is about a 15-year-old boy's rite of passage into the adult world, but on a larger level it's a meditation on Plato's notion (voiced in the "Symposium," as Oshima explains to both Kafka and the reader) that each of us is looking for a soul mate to complete us. Hoshino finds one in Nakata, who reminds him of a dim-witted but devoted disciple of the Buddha, but who also fills in for a beloved grandfather. Kafka finds one in Miss Saeki, who appears to him in dreams both as the 15-year-old girl she once was and at her present age. And though Kafka and Nakata never meet, their parallel actions complement each other on a metaphysical plane. Hermaphroditic Oshima -- the most self-possessed and knowledgeable character in the novel -- exemplifies the original state that Plato said the soul enjoyed before it was split into halves.

Murakami's spin on this theme and the Oedipus myth is daringly original and compulsively readable, enabled by Philip Gabriel's wonderfully fluent translation. Kafka on the Shore is warmly recommended; read it to your cat. •

Steven Moore, the author of several books and essays on contemporary fiction, is writing a history of the novel.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Gay Daddy and Naked Teens

What a day for news. First, we learn that Karl Rove's stepfather, whom he thought of as his only father, came out years ago as gay.

Book: Rove was close to gay stepfather

He hung with the Palm Springs crowd and was proud of his Republican son. Not only did Karl not mind his Dad's being gay, rumor has it that Karl is also an agnostic. Tell that to the Fundamentalists Rove has been so good at rounding up for Bush by promoting a Constitutional Amendment forbidding same-sex marriage. Who expected that amendment to pass? Not Cheney, not Karl Rove (or his Dad) and not Bush.

Later today we learned that the city council of Brattleboro, Vermont (one of our very favorite towns --where we celebrated our civil union in 2000) absolutely, positively refused to ban public nudity. See the local news: SunJournal (click)

Here's what the Washington Post had to say:

Nature Vs. Nudity

Following up on the delightful tale of Brattleboro VT, where summer heat and naked teens aroused the ire of certain prim residents and caused one reader of this blog to insinuate that I thought civil unions were to blame: On Tuesday, the town's Select Board decided to take no action on an anti-nudity ordinance, hoping the upcoming Vermont winter would put the issue on ice. The Green Mountain State has no laws against public nakedness and Brattleboro has long been a birthday suit friendly town, with clothing optional swimming ponds and the annual Breast Fest. Still this summer's heated escalation of nudity (which in my opinion was caused more by global warming than civil unions) brought unwanted global attention to a vibrant New England town, where most of the 12,000 citizens prefer seeing teens naked than wearing gang colors.

Source: Vt. Town to Let Nature Deal With Nudity


The naked teens in the parking lot cheered their enlightened decision. Autumn and Winter will clothe the kids soon enough. Leave it to Nature.

Lets hear it for Brattleboro!