Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Perfect Color of Purple

Twenty years ago Stephen Spielberg made me feel like a big sissy when he made me cry over this story. He had made it into a movie and then won multiple Oscars. It was weirdly cast with comedian Whoopi Goldberg as the dramatic suffering Celie and self-important talk show host Oprah Winfrey as Sofia. Nevertheless, the story of suffering, hope, redemption and the many expressions of love captivated me. It was always a secret favorite movie of mine. I'm not black and I'm not a woman so it was inappropriate for me to confess my love of the show. The catch is this, the themes are universal. Everyone alive is familiar with suffering, loss, insecurity, isolation, low self-esteem. If you've not experienced these things, you know someone who has.

Now, twenty years later I had the chance to see this show again as a musical at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. It was glorious. I laughed, I cried, I clapped and shouted. In short, I practically had church at the Kennedy Center. So did everyone else in the audience.

The show starts with two little girls growing up in the south. It seems sweet. Then the gossipy local church ladies start their self-righteous singing and narrate the rest of the show. It turns darker when you see that one of the little girls is pregnant. Her daddy tears the baby from her arms after its born and the tears start there. The waterworks continue off and on for the rest of the night.

Sofia shows up midway of the first act and suddenly you have reason to celebrate. With her strength and powerful voice, as well as her fists, you realize there is cause for hope. If she can stand up to the mistreatment, so can everyone else abused in the show.

When Shug Avery makes her appearance, Celie finally gets the affection that she so richly deserves. The first major love song of the musical is heard. Shug Avery tells Celie that she is "Too Beautiful for Words". Up until this point in the musical we've heard jazz, blues, and gospel. The show has been a barnstorming blaze of music. Now, this first love song is a subtle, soft ballad that is all the more poignant because of its breathless contrast. This hardworking, humble little woman that has been called ugly by everyone in her life is now called beautiful by the most devastatingly gorgeous and sensual human being she has ever met. Anyone in the theatre who can sit through this song dry-eyed is completely soulless. The writers handle this scene so tastefully. What might be played uncomfortably sexual is offset by Shug's words to Celie before the song. She is thanking Celie for nursing her back to health and tells her, "You're the grace of God."

The production I saw starred several members of the original cast with one exception. Celie was played by American Idol winner Fantasia. This little lady and her story energized this role in ways that were a joy to watch. I don't watch American Idol and was unfamiliar with Fantasia. Apparently, the actress was a high school dropout from the ninth grade. She was an unwed mother at a very early age. At twenty years old she wins American Idol and suddenly has a celebrity career. You can tell that her personal story is close to the surface of her performance. She plays the role and sings with emotion that is raw and authentic . I wouldn't want to see this production with anyone except her in this role.

While the first act is powerful and exhilarating it is just a warm-up to the dynamics of the second. Celie finds her letters from Nettie in Africa. We see this as Celie is transported to Africa while she reads the letters. She is frightened and tossed about. She staggers around awkwardly in the way of the African dancers and in awe of the African chiefs. Then as she reads more and gains confidence and pride she begins dancing in step with the African women. It is a celebration that everyone in the audience applauds. Celie has found herself and found her identity. From this point on she begins to stand up to Mister and stand up for herself.

Celie and Shug part ways as Shug goes back on the road. When she leaves they sing one more beautiful ballad. These are the most beautiful and meaningful lyrics of the show for me. In finishing this article I will leave you with the words of their song.




Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Good Little Preview

Admittedly, this is a teaser. A close friend recently acquired a new Randall Good drawing. It is not yet framed so I won't reveal the whole work yet. He has also graciously allowed this exquisite angel to live with me for a few days. The angel and I plan to get to know each other and then I will write the full review. Please don't respond with comments quite yet. I wouldn't want to be accused of being influenced in the review. But, I guarantee it will be a positive one.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gemini Geriatric: My Annual Annoyance

Why must we celebrate birthdays? Who ever thought up this aggravating tradition should be burned at the stake on a stack of cheap grocery store cake candles. This is the one human custom that causes me almost as much angst and anxiety as do-it-yourself dental procedures. Why do we have to celebrate the fact that that we have grown more gray hair, found more wrinkles, and experienced a decline in physical condition over this time last year? It’s ridiculous. Those who celebrate it with grace dignity are lying to themselves. Those who make fun of the effects of growing older are just plain tacky.

Birthdays, like Christmas, are for children. Children get excited when they are surrounded by crowds of friends and family pretending they are the most important thing in the universe for a day. I’m old enough to know that I’m not, so why make a big fuss? After you’re old enough to have voted in several elections even parents have a hard time remembering the day you were born. So, why not just forget about it, okay? If I can’t remember having more than twenty or thirty birthdays, then why not just say that’s how old I am, twenty or thirty. We’re allowed to estimate our taxes to the nearest dollar amount. So, why don’t we estimate our age to the nearest decade? Rounding down, of course.

Who is the event for, anyway? Is it for the one with the birthday or for the friends and family? If the celebration is for me then I shouldn’t be bothered with the planning or execution of the event at all. If it’s my event then I shouldn’t have to work for it, right? If it’s for the family, then just tell me. I’ll give you a wad of cash and a cardboard effigy of myself and all can pretend I’m with them. My favorite way to celebrate the thing is to not be bothered or inconvenienced by all that.

I get so annoyed by birthdays, all that annual repetition of the thing. It becomes so monotonous after several years. I’m annoyed by the fact that I’m expected to be happy about my birthday so that the celebrants can feel good about what they’re doing for me. I’m annoyed by experiencing guilt and feeling under obligation to reciprocate those who feel I deserve a gift for having lived another year. And most of all, I’m annoyed at being reminded that I’m one year closer to dementia, arthritis, bifocals, and questionable bladder control.

Yes, all may grimace at my whining. I’m being a grouch about the whole thing. This attitude about it demonstrates that I have already drifted from the category of “eccentric old uncle” to “cranky old coot.” Geezers like me don’t deserve birthdays, so let’s just skip it this year, shall we?

Monday, May 25, 2009

More Good Stuff

Once again I’ve found a beautiful piece of Randall Good’s work that deserves mention here on the blog. Of course, I would love to review each and every piece of work that he creates, but that would be a little time consuming. This piece is a drawing I acquired for a friend’s birthday present. He admired it at the last gallery walk we attended at Blue Moon Art Gallery in Hot Springs. I generally need very little excuse or persuasion to buy Randall’s work. I love it all.

This piece was untitled but I’m sure it could be called, “Christ Victorious”, or “Christ Triumphant”. Another interpretation might be a highly stylized ascension. The work is a graphite and white chalk drawing on a gray tinted paper support. Once again, Randall left a beautiful white deckled edge lending to the suggestion of an old parchment. The sense of Michelangelo’s or Da Vinci’s Renaissance works is prevalent again. This work was floated over gray mattes to compliment the tone of the support. The fully framed dimensions are 14X21 inches.

This work is a striking composition and succeeds on a number of artistic levels. As a balanced composition it appeals because of the contrasting elements of the organic and dynamically posed body countered by the static and geometric form of the cross. The drapery is energetic and wind-swept while serving a primarily decorative and ornamental purpose. The dominance of the cross in the upper left quadrant is countered nicely by an abundance of twisting fabric held in Christ’s hand and in the lower right corner. Randall’s sense of line and movement gives the viewer’s eye a number of paths to follow through the work. The lovely S-shaped serpintinato of the body projects upward, the diagonal of the cross moves left to right, the billowing curvature of the drapery encircles and frames the figure. It all works together to create a vigorous amount of activity in what could be a very static and stationary posed figure. One is reminded of Michelangelo’s David when looking at the bent knee and counterbalanced angled hip.

In analyzing the work one must question its purpose and meaning. At its essence, is this a spiritual work or a decorative one? Is this a religious work celebrating Christ or is it an ornamental work using the imagery of the Christ figure as decoration? Could it perhaps be both? Most religious works display the Christ figure for the purpose of narrating the His message and ministry. The crucifixion describes the story of the Passion. The resurrection shows His victory over death. The ascension demonstrates His separation from earth and habitation of heaven as a divine being. But, this work causes us to question which event is being portrayed. What is the story or message here? Is it simply a tribute to Christ as a physical being?

In this work, Christ is not nailed to the Cross. He embraces it as a symbol. Without it the viewer would be hard pressed to identify the figure as Christ. Perhaps this is an interpretation of the Resurrection. The billowing drapery might be the linens used to wrap His body. In the powerful force of reanimation He is liberated from them and they become more symbols of His victory and defiance over death. However, the drapery does little to cover the nudity of the figure and serves an accessory to stylize the work. The figure stands on a swath of the billowing fabric as if He is being elevated by wind alone giving Him a light and ethereal presence.

When looking at the image it gives the feeling of celebration and joy. This figure, without the cross, could easily be the triumphal top of a modern-day athletic trophy. The pose is not unlike the victorious Athena Nike with the uplifted arms ascending into the air. All that is missing is the wings.I like that this piece provokes questions in the mind of the viewer. I like that Randall didn’t do all of the mental work and storytelling for us. He intelligently creates an image that allows the viewer to bring their own interpretation and overlay it on the beautiful template he provides, thus creating an individual meaning for everyone who sees it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Boom and a Bust

It should come as no surprise to anyone that reads this blog that I am EXTREMELY happy about the creation of a new Star Trek franchise. It should also come as no surprise that I was very skeptical about the idea of new hands taking hold of the reins. I feared this new younger generation had no connection to the show and had not experienced the love of the original series. I doubted they would handle it with the respect and dignity that we true fans believe it deserves. My feelings were to either make the movie in good taste, or leave it alone. I was very happy that the movie was created with great passion and a new youthful energy that had been missing for the last couple of releases. It also looked like the cast had been well schooled on how to be good Starfleet officers. They also appeared to love and respect their characters. They looked like the sexy children of the original cast. If I were Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, Nichols, Koenig, Takei, and Doohan, I would be very flattered.

The story was close to perfect. It gave us Vulcans, Romulans, the Kobayashi Maru. We had warp drive, phasers, photon torpedoes and deflector shields. We had an Enterprise that was built like a college boy’s hot rod. I believe this is the ship we would have had if Gene Rodenberry or Rick Berman had the technology to make it years ago. My only disappointment with this outing was a little story twist that involved time travel. I understand it was used as a device to give us Leonard Nimoy in a nostalgic homage to the original series. He gave the new guys the necessary LL&P as a blessing to continue. I appreciated that. However, time travel episodes get very complicated with their plots. It was cool that the “alternate universe” now gives us liberty to do almost anything with the new set of movies. But, stay in the present with these new kids now. Let them have fun and save the universe on their own without the help of the old guys. Our beloved Jimmy Doohan and D. Kelley are gone now. Let’s not try to bring back cast reunions without them. If any of the original cast deserves a cameo, let them appear as holographic computer references and move on with the new guys. And, as Captain Janeway was told a couple of times in Voyager, try to avoid time travel.

As much as I enjoyed the new Trek, I disliked the new Dan Brown movie, Angels and Demons. I went to this movie with the greatest sense of anticipation for good. Many of you have seen my drawing of Bernini’s Ganges from the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome. That drawing was inspired because I fell in love with it after reading Angels and Demons a few years ago. I posted the drawing here on this very blog.

We all have to agree that DaVinci Code the movie was awful. It was boring. I didn’t care if they solved the codex or destroyed it. I didn’t care if the main characters lived or died. I was angry that a great book had been made into a bad movie. Of course, we all hoped that Howard and Hanks had learned their lesson and would do a better job this time. The one good thing about these movies is the fact they are based on fantastic stories written by Dan Brown. Angels and Demons is an even better book than DaVinci so it should have been a better movie, right?

The show started out better than the last one. There was action, there was excitement, and there was the very adorable Ewan McGregor as a heroic and lovable camarlengo. Then they ruined it. Spoiler alert here! They made McGregor the villain. The joy of the book is that the hero is elected Pope after he risks his life to save the church he loves. When he shows he is willing to sacrifice himself for it, he is made leader of the church. It is a beautiful and optimistic ending that shows the possibility of a Catholic church that just might have the common man’s touch. Instead, Hollywood makes the church appear to be an institution of crime, misdirection, lies and conspiracy again. That’s how we left it at the end of the DaVinci Code. Wouldn’t it have been better to show a balanced interpretation of faith in this movie? Brown did. Brown showed that men of faith could be heroic, altruistic and noble. He allowed that the Christian faith could inspire men to greatness and allow them to find their better selves. Why did the makers of the movie feel it necessary to tarnish what was an optimistic and inspiring ending to the story?

Brown created a noble and honorable character, why did Hollywood feel it necessary to destroy him? Do the makers of the movie not believe that such men are realistic? Are good men so fictitious and unrealistic that Hollywood can’t portray them? If so, they are a very pessimistic lot. If that’s what they believe, then they should watch the new Star Trek. Those moviemakers believe in heroes and know that the good guys should always win.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spiritual or Religious?

Window of rose

I have not yet brought up any spiritual or religious discourse on the blog. I have discussed art, politics, pop culture. But, religion is such a sensitive matter to most people that I have avoided it. Generally, the readers of this blog are somewhat liberal and have such a diverse, unique, and non-traditional opinion of spirituality that it would offend some, many, perhaps all if I were to broach the subject. Most of this audience are either artists, fellow bloggers, gay people, or close personal friends. Several are devout in their personal beliefs while others have been so criticized by mainstream established organized religion that they have rejected it completely. Religion has been a subject best left untouched here to save myself the headache of reading emails from irritated subscribers.

However, I have recently been prompted to confront my own personal views on spirituality. A dear friend reminded me how much comfort and consolation his religious beliefs bring him. He asked where I stood on the matter.

For the remainder of this blog post you will see me use the term “spiritual” rather than “religious” quite a bit. While many people use those terms almost interchangeably, I see them as being vastly different concepts. I have found many of my acquaintances, if not all, possess a strong core of personal values. Many of them believe there is a deeper meaning to life than merely living day to day. They believe there is a purpose to life that exceeds what we see with the naked eye. Most people I have met believe in a higher power (God, Divine Spirit, collective consciousness, Oversoul). I consider this to be the demonstration of a spiritual awareness or spiritual life. Religion, on the other hand, is an established, contrived collection of rules, practices, rituals and conventions that organize, separate, divide and categorize people into groups that loosely agree on the same views of spirituality. Where spirituality is the music of the heart, religion is the written notation that cannot be improvised on. Spirituality is the subject, religion is the painted canvas that is a mere interpreted reflection of the actual thing. Spirituality reinforces our humanity. Religion has sewn divisiveness and hatred for ages. Spirituality has inspired us while religion has spawned wars, bloodshed, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and terrorism. Okay, that’s as much as I can do with analogy and metaphor to explain myself. Moving on.

Like many in the southern United States I was taught to believe in one of the many super-conservative Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian sects. It has shaped my understanding of God, the afterlife, and the human soul. It has also taught me an exaggerated concept of sin, justice, social conformity and moral absolutism. It taught me to be self-loathing. While many Christian traditions teach the concept of “grace”, the notion that God forgives us our human fallibility, my particular upbringing required that I embrace the notion of an unattainable personal holiness.

Discovering that I was a gay person as a teenager complicated my spiritual life and religious beliefs considerably. Yet, I continued into my thirties trying as hard as I could to follow through on what I had been taught to believe. That conflict between my personal orientation and psychological conditioning through religion pushed me to the limit of my tolerance for emotional stress and anxiety. It led me to psychologists, counseling, SSRI prescription drugs and a constant pursuit of study in comparative religions and spiritual traditions. It led me away from the one thing I needed most, a nurturing, intimate relationship that would satisfy my need for personal acceptance.

Eventually I had to make a choice for my own personal happiness. I could either reject the Fundamentalist teachings I was raised with, or I could accept the fact that I was a “sinner” and pursue a potential fulfilling relationship. But, I could not do both. The two ideas were mutually exclusive according to the teachings of my religious upbringing. It was a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. I am always amazed by the gay people who are able to reconcile the disparity of being gay and being Christian. On the one hand it’s a compromise that allows them a modicum of spiritual comfort, on the other its religious hypocrisy (which is supposedly an additional sin compounded onto the first).

So, I have drifted into my own somewhat “New-Agey” variety of Christianity. I don’t attend church because I don’t feel welcome or comfortable among people who think that I am an “abomination.” I’m not certain who to trust as an authority for spiritual information. We don’t trust witch doctors to be our physicians. We look to more educated people to care for our sick bodies rather than superstitious shamans. Why should we not be even more cautious when searching for information that might jeopardize the condition of our souls?

To answer the original question, “Where do I stand?”, I say this: I believe in God. I believe that I have experienced prayers answered. I do not believe anyone who uses God as an excuse to teach hatred or violence truly understands or knows the nature of God. Anyone who practices hatred or violence toward his fellow man does not understand the true nature of God. I do not believe that one must be religious in order to be spiritual. And, I certainly do not believe that a loving and nurturing relationship between two people, whether they be male or female, is something that God will punish. This is where I currently stand in my “spiritual” life.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I am a Kroger Gigolo

I looked into the face of loneliness today.

A sweet older woman saw that I had fewer items in my grocery cart and insisted that I go ahead of her in line. I insisted that she keep her place but she refused. Then, I really looked into her eyes. She didn’t simply offer a courtesy, I could see she wanted to speak to me. I started a conversation. “Looks like we’re cooking the same thing for dinner, Mexican food.”

“No,” she said. “Chili.” Then she picked out a few other things in her cart to show me. She told me that she was only cooking for one now and which things were perfect for a single serving. Her hair was a cottony snow white and her eyes were bright in her plump face. I wondered how long it had been that a young man had spoken to this lonely widow. When was the last time a man had spoken to this sweet lady except to sack her groceries or mow her yard? When was the last time a man had shown any personal interest in her? I wondered how far away she might be from her children or grandchildren. When was the last time they might have called her? It hurt to think how lonely she might be. What depth of solitude would prompt her to converse with a total stranger in the grocery line. I wasn’t that interested in the vegetable and rice frozen dinner she showed me. I was also amused by the fact that even if she were forty years younger, I’m a gay man and would have little more interest in her than I do towards her at seventy. However, I did my best to look her straight in the eye, gave her one hundred percent of my attention, and smiled as kindly as possible.

I’m a single man but I’m surrounded by people every day. That doesn’t mean that I have not experienced loneliness. I am very often a loner by choice but when I want company, there is no greater ache than unavoidable solitude. I wonder how long it will be before each of us will have outlived our friends. Will the adventurous call of life pull our children, grandchildren and energetic young friends away on their own life’s journeys. Will they travel to places that we cannot follow? Who will remain behind to comfort us with company and friendship? How do we prepare for such a time?

The Hindu believe that we are a reflection of the universe and a reflection of each other. We are one and the same. I don’t agree with the spirituality but I do agree with the symbolism and philosophy. Let’s all try to sympathize with one another more than we presently do. Let’s try harder to see ourselves in the place of another. Let’s be ready to show love with our eyes if a stranger needs it. We all may need it one day.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

He’s a Real AMERICAN President

When I was in college (1984-89) I remember being told in American History class that all American presidents govern “toward the middle”. I really didn’t think too much about what the professor meant by that. Reagan had just finished his first term in office and was about to begin his second. It appeared that he was about to take us into a nuclear war with Russia. The last thing I was concerned about was the right or left leanings of his political agenda. I just didn’t want to get drafted and be sent into World War III.

However, last week I read an article from the New York Times about President Obama that brought back memories of that lecture as if it were yesterday. The article by Charlie Savage reported that President Obama had upheld the Bush administration policy on military detainees in Afghanistan. The report stated that: “In a two-sentence filing late Friday, the Justice Department said that the new administration had reviewed its position in a case brought by prisoners at the United States Air Force base at Bagram, just north of the Afghan capital. The Obama team determined that the Bush policy was correct: such prisoners cannot sue for their release.”

Wow! All through his campaign Obama criticized the Bush justice and human rights policies and scored big points with liberals. In light of the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo fiascos it seemed that he had hit on a legitimate issue. But, now he has been elected. Now he is governing, not campaigning. He has begun to show his moderate, more centerist self. With little or no regard for the way it has angered his base, Obama has upheld a position that was in the best interest of national security and not the best interest of his political base. I must admit I’m even more pleased with his governing style than before. He is truly a “Real American President”.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The New Aristocracy - Where's the Revolution?

History is such a great teacher. Why is it that we are such poor students that we insist on repeating the mistakes of previous generations? I have thought for some time now that we Americans are in the process of creating a new elitist upper class, a new modern American aristocracy. I have also tried to repress that notion because I thought I might be just a little bit biased. After all, I grew up somewhat poor in a very modest southern, backwoods country home. Perhaps I am a little prejudiced against those who appear to have had it a little too easy while me and mine have struggled. However, after the last few months of watching our national wealth evaporate and hearing news reports repeating that the ultra-rich of the banking industry are to blame I feel that I was right in my original assessment. I just want to scream, “I told you so!”

The seeds of this new aristocracy were sown almost thirty years ago when a wealthy movie star Republican was elected and began to tell the world that the most important people in our capitalist society were those who create wealth and jobs through their entrepreneurship. They were given special privileges and status. The rest of us were told to be grateful when their wealth would “trickle down” to us. How patronizing.

We endured eight years of his ideas and a further four more of his lackey right after him. This one was worse than the first. He was a New England Blue-Blood who had moved to Texas and flourished in the oil business and ingratiated himself and our nation with a corrupt Middle Eastern monarchy and Communist Chinese (he was our ambassador to China) that has influenced our energy policy and public policy ever since. This fella certainly had no concept of what it was to be an average middle-class American. Remember, this was the guy that had never been grocery shopping. He was amazed by the magic of the common bar code scanner. His most memorable statement on economic policy was, “No new taxes.” What he meant, of course, was no new taxes for his wealthy buddies. They got tax cuts. We poor slobs that worked for them had plenty of new taxes to pay. Apparently what we earned in our paychecks had nowhere to “trickle down” to. So, Blue-Blood thought he had a better use for it, such as paying for a war against the enemy of his Middle Eastern oil-rich buddies.

It didn’t help any when his political colleagues began to collaborate with major religious figures to promote the ideology that God himself was on the side of the greedy. A whole branch of “prosperity doctrine” grew into the theological teaching of the most dominant evangelical traditions. So, now this new class not only had the wealth and political power to do whatever they wanted, they also convinced themselves and much of the public that it was ordained by God. It was an explosive combination. The reaction gave birth to a monster, a new American aristocracy.

The next administration changed political parties but did little to defuse the dangerous situation that had begun. While economic policy changed, the appreciation and admiration of the wealthy did not. During the Clinton years there was a parade of celebrities and superstars through the White House like had never been seen before. No political cause was deemed worthy until it was trumpeted by a “celebrity spokesperson”. The growing technology industry and improved economic policy eliminated our national debt for the first time in years. Unfortunately, the intelligent policies were eclipsed by the low personal value system of the leader. And, because Big Bill couldn’t keep little bill under control, the new corporate-religious-politico elite took him and his party out of control.

The rest of the story is such recent, sad history that it hardly deserves a recap. We all know that the son of the New England Blue Blood was put in office by his ultra rich cronies through a manipulated election that had little to do with the will of the majority of American people. At this point, we had completed the transition. Not only had we birthed and nurtured this new aristocracy, we had handed them control of the world. They began to govern in an fashion that was unashamedly self-serving. There was never a sense of humility for the next eight years. Mistakes were never acknowledged. Wars were unleashed across the globe in the most unapologetic way regardless of the suffering that resulted. American wealth was siphoned off into warmongering. While we were busy spending money on the reconstruction of foreign countries, our jobs were simultaneously being sent overseas. Bush economic policies made it perfectly acceptable for his corporate supporters to eliminate American jobs if India, Mexico, and China would do the work cheaper. Is there any wonder why we are in the condition we are? What does this remind you of? Ready to storm the Bastille yet?

The last time something like this happened in a major world power there was a bloody national catastrophe like had never been seen before. France 1789, had a feckless inexperienced leader being manipulated by sinister handlers (I.e. Bush/Cheney-Rove). An expensive war was being fought that the nation couldn’t afford (Iraq-Afghanistan). Those in power are completely out of touch with the reality of their world (“Mission Accomplished”/”Let them eat cake”) Yes, I know she didn’t say it, but you get my point, right? What’s the only thing missing from this picture? Guillotines? I guess it’s a good thing we had an election, huh?

Personally, I don’t think we are quite out of the woods yet. We have a new leader but that old entrenched aristocracy is still there. The financial nobility that helped create our current crisis has still not faced justice. They have been scolded by Congress in word only. There has been no justice, no punishment. Instead, it can be argued that they have been rewarded with government rescue funds while the victims of their greed lose their homes and jobs.

The French Revolution began with the poor and middle class being completely fed up with the way the super-rich and noble were running their country. They were without bread. We are without homes due to the mortgage meltdown. They were tired of being treated as subservient by those they considered to be noble. I’m reminded of the recent publicity about our own modern royalty disappointing us. Christian Bale publicly humiliated and denigrated a subordinate coworker because of a minor offense. Baseball player Alex Rodriguez is cheating at the profession that has earned him millions of dollars and made him world famous. Michael Phelps promotes himself as an all-American hero to children while he flagrantly indulges in drug crimes that would get the common man arrested with charges that would likely cost him his job and livelihood for years to come. If these people are not deserving of a “national razor” I don’t know who would be.

We have our hopes set on our new young and energetic President. His ideas seem fresh and optimistic for a new way. But, let us not forget that during the French Revolution that Maximillien Robespierre also swelled the hopes of his people. His charm lasted for approximately five years until they were just as fed up with him as they were with the previous rulers. A word to the wise. If you’re going to make a change Mr. President, make it quickly. Angry villagers tend to keep their pitchforks and torches nearby. Let us only hope that we Americans continue to create revolutions in the voting booth and not in the streets.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I Am Job

In the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire”, Robin Williams plays a funny scene where he is calling his ex-wife with prank phone calls. He pretends to be a non-English speaking caller and tells her in a fake accent, “I am job.”

The first time I saw that scene I laughed just like everyone else. As I have looked back on that line, it doesn’t strike me as funny as it once did. I can so easily imagine those very words coming out of my mouth, “I am job.”

During this time of year I am very busy at work. It’s the middle of winter, its dark when I leave home and dark when I get back. None of my day is spent simply being myself. Its completely spent in the service of others.

At home I cook, eat, clean up, do laundry and hit the sack for a few short hours before starting all over again. I live alone so I don’t have anyone to talk to about how their day went. I just ruminate on and replay everything that happened to me at work. I am job.

I’m not expecting sympathy. Trust me, I am very happy to have a job in these difficult economic times. I can think of at least two people in my close circle of friends that are currently looking for work. I simply acknowledge that I don’t balance my work life and personal life very well. I identify too much with what I do and not enough with who I am.

I think most of us in the US are in this situation. US workers spend more time at work than any other country. US workers take less vacation time than any other country. This leaves all of us with the humbling question, “If we spend all of our time at work, who are we when we are not working?” It creates a warped sense of self. I want to feel that I am NOT job. I am me.

Photo Credit: Ludovic0077 at Flickr

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Star Buckaroos

Starbucks at home
When I relocated last fall I quickly went in search of community. The bigger city made “coming out” a little easier because it allowed me some anonymity. It eased my self-consciousness. I was able to be discrete in the workplace but still meet gay people and have friends that I wasn’t afraid to know my “deep dark secret”. Finding a community of people with a common sense of self was more important to me than dating. Romance comes and goes with the phases of the moon but real friendships are enduring and meaningful. You have to ask yourself, “After the hot date breaks up with you, whose shoulder are you going to cry on? To whom are you going to bitch about it?”

I met a group of guys through a mutual acquaintance at a local club. They are my support system, the potluck group, the supper club, the movie buddies. As Ms. Kathy would say, “my main gays.” They have certainly been a surrogate family while I make this transition. But lately, I have found myself in a new phase of my metamorphosis. I’m no longer saturated with the insecurities of the first few months. I’m gaining the confidence to approach strangers on my own without introductions. I’m beginning to step out of the crèche and totter around on my own gay legs.

I’m becoming aware that the shiny newness has worn off of me. My main gays are no longer amused at the novelty of the “new guy”. I can feel myself being pushed out of the nest and expected to stretch my wings. I’ve garnered more than one disapproving look lately when an attractive potential crossed my path and I didn’t act on it. (Its so gross having to learn how to date at forty instead of fourteen.) I’ve seen the frustrated eye-rolls when my buds have gone in pursuit of their own conquests and I’ve intrusively tagged along rather than letting them have their space. I’ve even been targeted by some more fearsome glancing daggers when I’m seen as competition for a perspective’s attention. Whew! I was really unprepared for those. (Note to self: Don’t bogart the hotties).

So, recently I’ve made an effort to expand my circle of friends. I’ve reached out to people I’ve met on my own, face to face, no introductions. I was spied by a group of fellas at a local Starbucks. I was flying solo, reading my paper, minding my own business. The finely tuned gaydar of more proficient gays picked up on my status and invited me into their breakfast circle. It didn’t take long before I warmed up to their special blend of caffeine and conversation. They’re a bizarre mix of Jew, Muslim, professors, professionals, and one hillbilly newcomer (myself). Their seven o’clock outing to Starbucks is a ridiculous substitute Sunday-school. It’s gay church at its best.

I knew that eventually my practice of being an early riser would pay off one day. Nothing feels better than to start the morning off with a big jolt of caffeine and a huge dose of laughter that makes your sides hurt. While I love Waffle House (as you’ve read in previous posts), Starbucks is a little classier. It’s a whole lot more low-fat and carb-free. Its also more fun when the sass comes from your companions instead of the waitresses.

After today I’m ready to play a little more of a full-court gay game. I have a B-team now. I have my starters and my back-up. How appropriate for Super Bowl Sunday. I apologize for mixing my basketball and football metaphors. What am I supposed to know about sports anyway? I’m gay, right?

Photo Credit: Jerine at Flickr

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Gift From Italy - Frederick Studio

I’ve mentioned here before that the Internet has made “Gemini Art” an international publication. One of the first contacts I received was from a fellow artist in Italy, Federico Forconi. Freddie also posts a blog about his artwork. I have listed his link on this site for quite a while.

Freddie recently asked for a picture of me because we have actually never met. I was pleased to find that his request for a picture was to use as a resource to create artwork of his own. He has sent me a copy of the finished work as a gift. I was very flattered.

Our artistic styles and media are very different. I’m a traditionalist, Freddie works in a very modern, abstract, digital format. I believe our only common artistic frame of reference is that we both love to create and use our imaginations.

In appreciation for his gift I have posted a copy of his “portrait” of me and a brief interview (think of “The Actor’s Studio" ala Gemini Art) we conducted via questionnaire. I have left his responses to the questions just as he answered with very little editing. I love how his vowels and adjectives flip-flop occasionally and his prepositions go askew sometimes. Leaving it like this gives us a sense of what I’m sure is a very cute Italian accent. I’m so glad he speaks English. Goodness knows I could never hope to speak his beautiful language. I hope you enjoy this feature on Federico Forconi.

GA: Age, Personal Stats, Location?

Freddie: I am 42, I am fiancé and definitely in love, I live in Florence, (my hometown) - Italy

GA: Education and Background?

Freddie: I studied to become an accountant: I tried to work as an accountant but I hated that job! In family my dad was a graphic (now he’s retired) and he worked as graphic and artist for many Italian publisher. My mother is a housewife (but non desperate). My brother work as editor and graphic for a publisher. At the moment I work in the same publisher but at the commercial department!

GA: Artistic medium and preferred aesthetic?

Freddie: The artistic mediums I prefer are Cinema and photography. Cinema, the so-called 7th art has been keeping me alive for 42 years! My favourite directors are Stanley Kubrick and Pedro Almodovar! I love very much the American science fiction films of the fifties such as Body Snatchers, the War of the Worlds, the Japanese Godzilla! About photography my favourite artist is the American photographer David Lachapelle. Last year my publisher published the catalogue of his exhibition hold in Florence and I really fall in love with his artwork. In my photos I I love using Photoshop to recreate a sort of science fiction atmosphere in my photos for example in “Clones Attack!” and “New World”. These two photos are visible on my blog: ht
tp:// (key words on Google: Frederick Studio) . The models of my photos are some friends of mine.

GA: Personal philosophy?

Freddie: Anywhere you go there You exist!

GA: Politics and religion?

Freddie: Politically I am left-wing! If I were American I would have voted for Obama! I did not vote for the government currently in power in Italy, whose prime minister is Silvio Berlusconi, the man that in an interview defined the American President, Barack Obama, “a tanned man”!?! Regarding my religion I am Buddhist and a member of the Soka Gakkai Association an international Buddhist association. Soka Gakkai promotes the peace and culture throughout the world. One of the member is Tina Turner.

GA: Would you ever consider visiting the US? Why or why not?

Freddie: I visited United States in 1991: New York City, Boston and Chicago (Obama’s Town). I loved these towns. New York City is my favourite American Town probably because in my imaginary is the greatest movie set in the world: its skyscrapers made me think to some movie masterpieces such as Metropolis by Fritz Lang and Blade Runner by Ridley Scott even if the first was German and the latter was set in Los Angeles in 2040. I also enjoied very much the Chicago’s Downtown. The towers along the Michigan Lake reminds me the Tuscan’s town of San Gimignano that is situated not very far from Siena. San Gimignano is very famous too for its towers. Evidently I am also fascinated from modern architecture and in Big Apple and the Windy City you’ll be spoilded for choice. But I would like to visit U.S.A. one more time. I am attracted from the American big spaces such as Grand Canyon, Sequoia Parks and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and where Spielberg shot “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”.

GA: Why do you go by Freddie "FEET"?

Freddie: probably you are referring to my previous e-mail address That address is not more valid. I chosen that name because some friends of mine gave me as nickname Fred Flintstone, the famous Hanna & Barbera Cartoon of the Flintstones: Fred Flintstone is always barefoot. In fact in summer I often wear flipflops , of course barefoot like Fred Flintstones… In Italy despite Flip-Flops are in fashion if you wear them you can cause an uproar amongst Italians. Anyway my new e-mail address is:

GA: What are you truly passionate about?

Freddie: Definitely CINEMA!

GA: What makes you laugh? What makes you cry? What makes you angry?

Freddie: What makes me laugh? Spontaneity! And the Italian stand-up comedian Luciana Littizzetto! ( What makes me cry? A truly romantic film (such as Moulin Rouge or Brokeback Mountain)! What Makes me Angry? Italian Citizens that voted for the actual Italian government makes me angry. As I already said, the prime minister is Silvio Berlusconi an Italian media tycoon: Silvio Berlusconi in its politics only take care of his huge private business.

GA: Anything you want to add?

Freddie: Be Yourselves tonight! And today and each day for the rest of your lives!


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cashing In, I Hope

DOLLAR SIGN (2)You may have noticed I've added something new to the page. Due to the loyal and faithful readers of this little trifle, we're now receiving roughly one thousand page views per month. I am very humbled by that. Thank you, all. I've decided that I will allow a little advertising on the page as long as it doesn't distract the readers. I am allowing the Adsense ads to be placed on the very bottom of the page. Hopefully, no one will be bothered by it.

Photo credit: ebaycoach at Flickr

Monday, January 19, 2009

How "We" Shall Overcome

As we honored the memory of Dr. King today I have reflected on its relevance and impact on my life. The most direct impact is that the movement he started helped shape our country into a place where all people, regardless of race, have equal opportunity. President-elect Obama is the personification of that opportunity as he has ascended to our highest office in less than a generation after Dr. King’s efforts began. I am so proud that our country has moved so far away from its bigotry and hatred that we can respect the contributions of every citizen regardless of race or color. I also believe that the peaceful resistance that Dr. King preached can also teach us how gay people can overcome the prejudice and discrimination that we face.

Racial discrimination has been fought for years by religious people beginning with northern Abolitionists fighting slavery. Later, Dr. King mobilized religious people and intellectuals to support the cause of African-Americans in their pursuit of civil rights. His most touching words expounded that we not judge a man by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. That was a message that religious people could easily get behind. But now, I find it interesting that the very religious institutions that helped Dr. King fight prejudice and discrimination for racial injustice are the very institutions that promote it against homosexual people.

The one hopeful idea that has reached us is Dr. King’s teaching on non-violent protest. I believe that this message is the only way to persuade the homophobic evangelicals that hate us so bitterly to treat us with compassion. Of course, the Christian right-wing are not going to react toward us with physical violence. Instead, they mount campaigns of fear and misinformation. They spread hatred and untruths such as, “they are pedophiles,” or, “they recruit heterosexuals.” Nothing could be further from the truth. What they are saying is a “spiritual violence,” as Tracey Zoeller has said.

I was so touched by this brave young woman’s response to Pastor Rick Warren. She shows that we gay people are being injured, hurt, victimized by the hateful speech of heterosexual evangelicals that have no idea what they are talking about. I don’t think the activists fighting for equal gay-marriage rights are going to help us. I don’t think the banner-wielding protestors will help us by shouting, “I’m here, I’m queer, get over it.” I don’t think the “Gay Pride” parades will amount to anything but a paltry amusement for most straight people. I do believe the most effective method of persuasion will be from the heart felt expression of sorrow from young people like Tracey Zoeller that show how we have been hurt. We have been hurt, brutalized and victimized not with fists but with words. We have been ostracized from our families and communities. We have been pushed to the fringe of society when we want to be embraced at it’s heart. This peaceful protest against spiritual injustice is the only way we will overcome.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Off Center Is Not That Easy

Wow! I was so excited to see the change in the old place. There was more than just a fresh coat of paint. There was a new sense of life. The most noticeable change was an energy and excitement brought on by the house band playing. Cody Belew covered a pop-rock repertoire with a live band that kept the crowd very happy.

The crowd was shoulder to shoulder. Of course, part of this was brought on by the absence of a cover charge and free drinks for the first hour of the evening. I’m sure things will settle down soon. If tonight is any indication of what is to come, Little Rock is in for a treat. Patrons that want a comfortable smoke-free environment with great music now have a place to come.

The regular cast of characters was there with a few new additions. There was one very heart felt absence, of course. We miss you Buddy. But, it was like old home week after the place has been closed for the last couple months. I never go out on a work night. Who parties on a week night? I felt so rebellious. It was fun. There’s more to look forward to on the weekends now.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dissing Dysfunction

I found a gift tag left over from the holidays. “We love you,” it said. It was such a nice thing to hear. I can’t remember the last time I heard those words said to me with sincerity. It was even more remarkable that these words came from relatives on my father’s side of the family. The people in dad’s family are wonderful folks with great core values and integrity, but for the most part they are emotionally stunted. The emotional dynamic of most of the family ranges from a frown for displeasure to a pat on the back for encouragement. Any more feeling than that is a waste of breath.

A younger cousin asked me a few days ago, “Was my dad (my uncle) a cheerleader in high school?” I responded that males in our family aren’t capable of expressing that much excitement. We both got a good laugh at that. Its sad but true. Our fathers grew up in a time when the All-American man was strong, solid, steady, stable, sober (and a whole lot of other power words that start with “S” I’m sure). The last thing they were expected to be was “sensitive”. No matter the emotional trauma, “real men don’t cry.” If something really outstanding happens to excite you, a mild expletive like “damn” (pronounced with two syllables for emphasis, “da-yumm”) might be appropriate. Anything more than that and you might be told to “settle down”.

Our fathers love us. We know that. They told us so. They knew it was the right thing to say and do. They just couldn’t look us in the eye when they said it. I can remember my dad mumbling the words “luv-ya-son” very quietly with his eyes pointed at his shoes as he would quickly sling one arm around my shoulders and then let it slide off. The hug was over almost before I knew it happened. With the right camera angle and editing I’m sure it would have made a great comic scene on “how-not-to-hug.”

I like to look back at that attitude with as much humor as I can bring to the situation. Remember that during the “free love ’60’s” when I was born, the words “I love you” meant “I find you attractive and I want to have sex with you.” I guarantee you that after that little cultural perception occurred, no man in our family was about to say those words to another man. It just wasn’t natural. Believe me, a psychologist tried for quite a while to convince me that the reason I am “this way” is because I’m still searching for affection from a man as an adult that I didn’t receive as a child. Hmm? I disagree.

I feel that some of the most overused and abused words ever spoken are, “I love you”. These simple words can cause such joy and pleasure when spoken in honesty and cause such suffering when spoken with deception. These words, when spoken by a lover, can sustain one for a lifetime, and when spoken in betrayal, can inflict the most painful wounds. No words are more often used for the purpose of manipulation. No words are more often used to inspire guilt.

I said all that to say this. Its nice that the young people in my family (and I include myself in that) are trying to overcome the emotional absurdity of the past generation. We are finding that the word “love” means nurturing not seducing. Perhaps our family will achieve some emotional balance eventually.

I’m finding it difficult being in that bridge generation between the baby-boomers and the “metro sexual” males. I like to hear people express affection toward me but I forget to return the sentiment. I argue with myself about who is a close enough friend to demonstrate affection and who is merely an amicable acquaintance. If I show affection to someone who does not share the same feeling about me, will they consider me too forward? But, I am at the right place at the right time with the right people to teach me that. I’m with family and I’m with “family” who have no problem expressing those feelings. Little by little I’m losing my touch-me-not complex that I have had since high school. My personal space is getting a little closer. I can be embraced without feeling restrained. I can be touched without feeling fear or embarrassment and hearing “I love you”, means “I accept you.”