Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Erntedank - thanksgiving

What a beautiful and meaningful holiday this is. It’s probably my favorite holiday on the calendar. We are becoming a more and more secular nation. However, this holiday is as close as we Americans come to taking time to reflect and be somewhat introspective. Most of us “get it”, especially those of us who were born to Depression Era grandparents and Cold War moms and dads. Those of us who suffered through “trickle down” Reaganomics when the drips and drops of cash never quite reached those of us on the bottom of the socio-economic scale. We understand what it is to be truly thankful for the small things in life. We understand the spirit of this holiday.

There are still too many status-hungry materialists that miss the point of what it is to be truly grateful for what we have. Too many fail to understand that we have far more to be thankful for than what we bought at “SamLand” (Wal-Mart/Sam‘s Club) last week. As a subtle pushback against those who have missed the point, I would like to dedicate this post to those things I am grateful for that have little or nothing to do with wealth or personal possessions.

I am so thankful for good health. Anyone who takes this for granted should be required to visit a nursing home or hospital for an afternoon. I don’t have to park in a handicapped parking space. I hustle into and out of the supermarket with my arms full of bags without needing help from anyone. I dash up and down the aisles without having to ride a scooter and ask for assistance to reach items on the top shelf. I eat anything I want without fear that it will make me sick. All my parts work and I still have all my original equipment with no customization.

I’m grateful for independence. This includes such a wide category. It requires me to be thankful to so many people in my life and in my past. I’m fortunate that I have had good parents and family that cared for me until I could care for myself. I’ve had good teachers that taught me enough about the world that I could survive in it without being an excessive burden on society or placing myself under obligation to others. I’ve had role models and mentors that have instilled a sense of values within me that places me appropriately within society and my community. I see the need to contribute to the collective humanity and not simply consume the fruits of others labor. My country allows me to think freely and live in a world where ideas are cherished and unsuppressed. I’m grateful to every man and woman that has sacrificed their life to maintain this freedom and guarantee my continuing independence.

I’m thankful for meaningful relationships. There is no substitute for the lessons of life we learn through contact with other people. I’ve been embraced with compassion and cautioned with kindness. Through every relationship, whether friendly or not, I’ve learned more about myself and about the world. I’ve learned how to “be” and how “not to be”. I’ve felt acceptance from others when I couldn’t muster it for myself.

Finally, I’m thankful for peace of mind. After living for years under repression and self-denial, I’m so glad to just be myself. It’s a beautiful thing to live with a clean conscience knowing that the face I show the world now is mine, not a mask. There is no deception in my daily life. I can just be.

I hope everyone that reads this finds time to express their gratitude and thankfulness in a spiritual, non-materialistic way. Look for deeper meaning than the superficial traditions and religion we have been taught for years. Find meaning that becomes personal and unique to you and share it. In the sharing, perhaps someone else will find a deeper sense of thanksgiving than they had experienced before.

Photo Credit: Publik-Oberberg, on Flickr

Thursday, November 20, 2008

OMG! The Final Frontier Was Never This Sexy

Hey, friends! You know what a huge Trek geek I am. I was furious when I heard that a new movie was being made featuring the ST:OS characters without the original cast. How dare they defile such an exquisite and perfect piece of American science fiction history. Why, the Great Bird of the Galaxy (Roddenberry) would roll over in his grave (but he was cremated and shot into orbit) if he had seen this.

But, I was so wrong. I was breathless after watching this very slick and adrenaline pumping trailer. I loved that first mysterious “Enterprise in the construction yard” thing that they first put out but was still skeptical when I saw the boy toy cast that was going to be playing my childhood heroes. Then I saw this little gem of a trailer today. I can’t tell you how many times I gasped while I watched the kid in the car go over the cliff, the fight between Kirk and Spock, the original clunky ship zipping across the screen as if it really were aerodynamic. Wow!

If you, my dear readers, bear any love for me at all, you will share in my joy about this new prequel. Let’s boldly go to this new movie. WOW!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Artistic Discomfort

As many of you know, I work exclusively from photo references when making my drawings and portraits. Part of that is due to the fact that I’ve never taken a life drawing class. I am pretty much self-taught through books and art magazine study. The other part is because I would feel very self-conscious asking someone to pose for me. I would feel so embarrassed if someone offered to pose for me, trusted me to see them in an exposed and vulnerable fashion and then the work I created was less than high quality and didn’t do justice to their confidence in me.

When I saw this Saturday Night Live sketch it crystallized every fear that I have about drawing from life. The creepy factor in this video is so uncomfortable to watch. But, its funny too. Isn’t that the way most uncomfortable situations make you feel? Why is it we find inappropriate behavior funny? Such as, laughing in church, squirting milk through our nose at dinner, or accidentally farting in a profoundly quiet place like a library or funeral home.

Enjoy the video. I personally think that both Paul Rudd and Andy Samberg are the perfect combination of hysterical funny and colossal cutie pies. But, when I see them in this video I have to keep averting my eyes due to the “Ewww, yucky!” feeling I get from what they’re doing. All the while I’m laughing my butt off. I thought Paul was a scream in Forty Year Old Virgin. Its been nice to see that he has gained more and more exposure as a comic since that movie. But, for the record, he has far too much exposure in this little sketch. Don’t you agree?

This little clip comes to us courtesy of I love this site. It has almost replaced TV for me. Being able to watch the reruns of almost any favorite show anytime you want with thirty second commercials is just the coolest thing ever. Besides, who wants to watch all the stupid guest host stuff on SNL and the questionable musical guests when you can watch it the next morning without all that? I have found that an hour of SNL live can be reduced to about fifteen minutes of funny skits. I recommend you check it out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Inner Old Fart

That's Mister Old Fart To You Picture

Back in the mid to late nineties there was a ridiculous pop psychology trend that encouraged us to nurture our “inner child”. It was a warm and fuzzy concept that taught many of us to take better care of ourselves. According to this theory we should spend some time comforting ourselves physically and emotionally everyday. Supposedly its good for the soul and mental well-being. It was the perfect kind of stuff for Oprah and her ilk to tout on their talk shows on “up with people” days.

Personally, I don’t think I have an inner child. I may have had an inner child once but I seem to recall putting him up for adoption or sending the brat off to reform school years ago for being a pesky nuisance. I couldn't tolerate the whining and tantrums that went on inside my head. If anything, I believe that I possess an “inner old fart.”

Our inner child is supposed to be nurtured and comforted. Our inner child should be allowed time for play, fun, and frivolity. My inner old fart doesn’t usually want to have anything to do with that kind of stuff. Comforting my inner old fart usually means stirring up a big pot of pinto beans and a pan of cornbread. Nurturing the old SOB means simply wrapping up in an old afghan and kicking back in my creaky old recliner and falling asleep while watching the second or third cycle of whatever news magazine is repeating on CNN.

This particular “old fart” personality trait is difficult to assimilate into my social life. I have to work so hard when I’m “out on the town” to pull off the dashing, charming and clever gay man bit. I know that I should just be myself. But, can you imagine the kind of frumpy broken down derelict I would attract if I let my inner geriatric freak flag fly? I can’t do that. Despite my elderly disposition, this cowboy still has a hankerin’ for the young ponies and wild stallions (but to my disappointment there’s really very little ropin’ and ridin’ goes on ‘round these parts).

The clothes and dry cleaning budget to disguise the real me gets darned expensive. When nobody’s looking, I’m a sweat shirt and pajama bottom kinda guy. Elastic waistbands are our friends. Fortunately, the body is still in a younger time zone than the attitude. But, I’m not going to be taking any chances by slouching around in something that makes me look ready for the nursing home while hunting for hotties.

I’m glad I’ve gotten that off my chest. They say confession is good for the soul, so now I consider myself purged. After that and a tall glass of prune juice the job will be complete.

(illustration credit, Henry "Hank" Brown at flickr)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My New Muse

Gemini Art is finally getting back to making and posting artwork. This is my first drawing since the move so its very special to me. Its also special to me because the subject is one of the new friends I’ve met here. He was very generous to allow me to use a photo of him as a reference for this drawing. I generally use references found online of celebrities and such. This is the first drawing I’ve made using a completely original model and photo that I’ve taken myself.

This drawing is based on one of the photos taken on Halloween night (see Helluva Halloween). The room was dark and my flash was over exposing most of the pictures. There was a lot of activity and most of the pictures were blurry. But, this one turned out okay enough to draw from.

I won’t reveal too much about the model here. I think we should respect his privacy. But, I will say that he has become the class sweetheart of our little supper club. Not only is he a beautiful guy, he’s also one of the friendliest and nicest fellas you’ll ever meet. I believe all of us are a little protective of him. He’s a truly lovely person and I’m honored that he allowed me to draw his picture. No matter how pretty the picture it doesn’t do justice to his sweet and friendly personality.

There are some great technical strengths to this piece. I’ve tried to incorporate more of Anthony Ryder’s techniques in this work. I’ve tried to make better use of the encapsulating line to bound the form. I like the look it gives. The work stands out from the page stronger that my previous drawings. I feel there execution of the ear and hair are the greatest parts of the face. The modeling of the arm and shoulder are much better than I’ve accomplished previously also. I worked the fabric folds differently than I usually do. Instead of simply drawing and shading, I used a lot more eraser work to highlight the folds.

Regrettably the likeness isn’t as accurate as I usually accomplish. I definitely missed on the angle and length of the nose. Had this been a commissioned portrait I would had to start again. I attempted to draw some of the vascularity in his bicep. But, one of the viewers thought they looked like scars. In the future I need to try a different technique or try for a more delicate execution of those features.

I hope you enjoy the work. Leave a comment if you like. Also, if you are acquainted with the model, send him your compliments.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Friends, Acquaintances, Relationships & Lovers

Rick & Steve - Cast

In the straight world the boundaries and definitions of interpersonal relationships are much more clear cut. Friends are people you care about and are faithful to support in times of adversity. Acquaintances are people you have met and are familiar with but share no special bond. Straight people have “relationships” with others they feel an emotional intimacy with and affection. Lovers are people that share an emotional and physical intimacy. In the gay world these categories lose all cohesion. In the gay world it seems that interpersonal relationships are as insubstantial as half-set Jello.

Its because we don’t clarify and respect the boundaries of our relationships that we so frequently appear flaky and shallow. We are our own worst enemy. When I say “we” I mean the collective gay “us”. With all the progress that has been made for gay people; hate crime laws, non-discrimination laws for sexual orientation, even gay marriage, we so often continue to play into the ridiculous stereotypes that the homophobes promote about us. Now that I live in a larger town I’ve seen a greater cross-section of the gay community. Ninety-nine percent of the time gay men are just the same as the people I know in the straight world. But, every once in a while they really “go off the reservation.” We need to remember, as the straight world does, how to treat our friends. We have to take care of our own.

I’m shocked at the cross-pollination that happens between gay relationships. For instance, some gay men share a close intimate relationship with a best friend yet they are not lovers. Some gay men quickly become physically intimate with a casual acquaintance yet they share no special bond. Friends are people to share a good time with but quickly turn on if its no longer convenient or comfortable. The lines are so blurry that its hard to make sense of things.

The most painful stereotype to watch is the exchange of snarkey insults and sniping that goes on between gay men. So often gay men are considered petty and immature. Its hard to disagree when two men are seen insulting each other about the color and texture of sportswear, or, when two men almost come to blows over who makes a better cheese dip. Its like watching an argument between Paula Deen versus Martha Stewart, but add testosterone. Hence, the many well-justified accusations that we gay guys indulge in excessive drama.

We don’t police ourselves on these situations either. Why is it that we older, more mature guys don’t keep the young bucks in check? If a couple of smartass college boys were to show up at a bar or bowling alley full of middle-aged straight guys and start criticizing them, the old-boys would collectively kick their college-boy asses. But, not the gays. Why do we tolerate any amount of bad behavior from these men just because they happen to be young and attractive? Are we so desperate for the attention of these pretty young things that we will accept insults, criticism, and personal embarrassment just so at the end of the evening we might get a brief hug and peck on the cheek before we head home?

Having said that, let’s consider the more positive relationships and associations between gay people. Quite simply we call it “family” and for good reason. Because most of us are single (un-partnered, unmarried…..whatever) we tend to look out for one another. If we don’t, who will? Its true that biological families love us but only a fellow gay man understands what its like to live in this skin. Only a fellow gay has lived with the repression, the discrimination, the feeling of alienation from ninety percent of the human population. When a group of friends can share their feelings about the hurts and laugh despite them, they become family. When they find that their affection for one another is deeper than the physical attraction, it exceeds friendship. It becomes something else. The closest analog in straight culture is family.

What role does this family play? They offer comfort, acceptance, and most importantly security. A sad and real truth about the gay world is that there are a few predators lurking in the dark. I’ve been the recipient of cautious advice from dear friends to avoid some characters I’ve met. I’ve seen young, newly out gay men fiercely protected by their seniors without any anticipation of an inappropriate reciprocation. There is great nobility in the gay community. After all, we are a bunch of queens, right?

Occasionally one finds the rare long-term, committed monogamous relationship between two men. It’s a rare and precious thing to see. When you consider that only ten percent of the population is gay, then consider that a smaller fraction of that has compatible age and interests with one another, its amazing that two men find each other at all. How special it is when two men happen to find each other and stay together for longer than a weekend dinner party. But, whether the straights believe it or not, that long-term-relationship (LTR) is that to which most of us aspire. So many people in the straight world believe gay folk to be promiscuous, carefree bon vivants with no capacity for true love or the ability to commit. If they only realized that its simply a problem of math. In the straight world there are dozens of potentials for every man and woman but in our world its one in ten at best.

I didn’t say all that to garner any sympathy or pity for myself or “my people”. I said it with a heartfelt intent to provoke and inspire thought about issues in the gay world that should be slightly more important than who should win the next round of “Dancing with the Stars”. I’m saying it to both the gay world and straight world to highlight the fact that we are more alike than different. We both care about the same things in life, our friends, acquaintances, relationships and lovers. We care about each other.

(photo credit: logoonline at flickr)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Congratulations! President Elect Obama

I’m so pleased to have witnessed history. I just wish I could have participated in it. Due to my rapid move from there to here I wasn’t able to get registered in time to vote in this election. But, no matter. It turned out the way it was supposed to anyway.

You may not know this, but I’m a big ol’ pol. I’m a political news junkie. The tube stays set to CNN all the time and I check the headlines in the paper every morning. I’m quite serious about it. I am one of the rare people that actually writes to my senators and congressmen occasionally. I have letters back from them to prove it.

Please don’t hate me because I didn’t get more aggressive about signing up to take part in this thing. But, let me defend myself and explain why I procrastinated. I’m going to take us on a long way around to explain why I’m not very happy about our electoral process and tell you why our constitution and political parties make some Americans less important than others.

I began to get excited about Barack Obama way back when I heard him speak at the Democratic Convention a few years ago. It was the first time that a politician’s speech had moved me to tears with feelings of patriotism. I felt inspired to be a better American. I had heard people tell me that JFK had made them feel that way. I was excited that we might be seeing someone like that in my lifetime.

I was also excited that Hillary Clinton was running for president because she is just so gosh darn smart. She’s a moderate democrat like me. She seemed perfect. When Obama ran for the same nomination I was heart broken. I wanted both of them to be president. Unfortunately, our damned two party system required that I choose one or the other. After Hillary was pushed out and McCain became the only challenge to Obama I became certain that the Democrats would win.

As we got closer to the election it became clear that states were lining up in their respective blue and red categories. It also became clear that the candidates only cared to visit and pay attention to those states that would be the most help to them. Thanks to our constitution, our votes don’t “really” count. The majority vote only determines how the states’ electors will vote. Because of the elector formula not every state and its citizens are as valuable as others. My little state only contributes 6 votes to the grand total. Therefore, candidates don’t care much about how we vote unless the race is really, really close. Also, because of modern polling, its easy to find out if a state is likely to vote conservative or liberal. Our little state is small and historically conservative, so my favorite candidate didn’t bother to campaign here.

It didn’t take long to realize that a few of the big electoral states would be a close race; Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana. Therefore, those Americans became more important in choosing the president than the rest of us.

I want my vote to count for something. I’m sure that if I had seen that this election were going to be close and that my state’s electoral vote would make a difference in the election I would have voted. If I had seen that the popular vote in my state would have been close, I would have voted. But, it wasn’t. Pollsters had us clearly in the red column. Therefore, my vote wasn’t important. I was an unimportant, less valuable American voter. The constitution says so and the politicians agreed by their not campaigning in my state.

Our system isn’t perfect but I still believe that its better than any other on the planet. I just wish we could pass an amendment to eliminate the electoral college and choose our presidents by popular vote. Until then the idea that we are all equal according to our constitution is something of an exaggeration. As a matter of fact, my vote is almost three-fourths less equal than that of a Californian.

Still, my guy won and I’m happy about it. Congratulations, President elect Obama. Now, as soon as he can get himself inaugurated, its time for some Supreme Court Justices to start retiring.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Helluva Halloween

As I understand it, Halloween is the official holiday of “my people.” But, until last night I never truly celebrated the evening to its fullest potential. Having always lived as a “stranger in a strange land” (around straight people), I’ve always celebrated as they do. They dress up in old ragged clothes, call themselves hobos and haul their kids around in SUV’s into the suburbs to subsidize dentists salaries for years to come. Oh, my! How the breeders are missing the true spirit of the evening.

Only we who live 365 days a year in polite personal repression in deference to our straight families and friends truly understand how important it is to really “let your hair down” for just one night each year. When living with the daily requirement to avoid the slightest eye contact with someone you might find attractive, or editing your dinner conversation in fear that a young couple might be offended by what their children overhear at the next table, it becomes absolutely necessary to embrace the outrageous and the absurd. That’s exactly what Halloween is to the gays. It’s the one night a year that “anything goes.” You don’t even have to travel to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

Being that this is my first big city Halloween event I was both excited and frightened about how to dress for the evening. It was so overwhelming that I almost decided to pull on some unremarkable street clothes and just watch the show from the sidelines. But, last week I wrote on here how I’m often disengaged from the action. I proclaimed my intent to “prance like a pony” occasionally. Well, baby, this was my moment and I was not about to let it pass. I just couldn’t do that and look myself in the eye the next morning.

So, I had to come up with a costume. It was an intimidating undertaking. I was dressing to be in the company of several distinguished “fancy boys.” Costuming is a serious business with these guys. I knew that a half-assed effort would not be appreciated. A shabby hobo from the attic storage boxes is not acceptable. I knew going into the evening that I was going to see a “fabulous” Tammy Wynette, a grisly but audacious Doris Day, and a twinkilicious twenty-something showing more skin than the Olympic men’s swim team. I toyed with the idea of leather. Its masculine, its aggressive, it’s a full-throttle, in-your-face statement. But, its also damned expensive and frightens small children and church ladies. I knew that dressing in drag was not for me. I may be gay but I don’t want anyone confused about the fact that I’m a guy. I enjoy being a man and I appreciate men that enjoy me being a man. I also wanted a costume that showed the inner me, my personality and style.

It came to me. Ever since I moved here I’ve been goggle-eyed by the larger population of beautiful men. I’ve made no secret about my admiration of several of them around some of my new friends. I would be a “horny little devil.” I wore my all black Perry Ellis ensemble, and added a black cape and plastic horns. I painted my face a ghastly and sinister white and black. Then to demonstrate my ability to accessorize I added a chain necklace with a bulky red cross, red socks, and of course a black and red marabou feather boa. No well-dressed gay little devil would be caught dead without his feather boa, right?

It was a great night. We howled at each other as we made our grand entries into the bar. Cameras clicked all night long and I collected so many pictures that can be used “with permission only”. My escort for most of the evening was an imposing and magnificent (but benevolent) wicked witch complete with stockings and heels. Elphaba, look out, someone’s after your job. I used my Halloween personae to shamelessly flirt with anyone and everyone that caught my eye regardless of age or attire. It was a helluva Halloween! Then at midnight, like Cinderella, I dashed away from the ball unceremoniously and unescorted. After arriving home it took a good hour to soak the cosmetics off my face and hair. I washed away every bit of last night except some great memories and pictures (and a fabulous feather boa).