Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What They Always Tell Us, by Martin Wilson

So, based on this comment by Brent, LGBT teen blogger extraordinaire…

Destinie and I spent our days in Borders and on Amazon.com looking for gay characters. The only ones we could find were the ones in the adult section (not that we were complaining! Have you read those steamy, passionate sex scenes? *Sigh*). I found one that seemed like what we were looking for. What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson. I read it. Then Destinie read it. We talked about. And cried about it. People really write about this stuff? I thought. It felt . . . great. Imagine that you are an alien on your own planet. And imagine you find out that there are more aliens, just like you, on your planet. And imagine what it would be like–to know that someone knows what it’s like. What you’re going through.

…I decided to start my exploration of this new LGBT YA world with the book he mentions by Martin Wilson.

I’m about 80 or so pages into it.

Damn it.

Goddamn it.

I simply love this book. Wilson captures everything about finding that first love perfectly. And I’ve started to tear up several times already from the sheer and utter sweetness of following Alex and his growing friendship with Nathen.

This book is utterly amazing. Read it. Yes, that means you.


UPDATE: I’m now about 170 pages into What They Always Tell Us. For one thing, I’ve read plenty of “grown-up” novels that don’t have characters quite as vivid and real as Martin Wilson has created here. Second, the events of the story itself, what Alex goes through especially in his relationship with Nathen, so deeply affect me that I sometimes have to stop reading. I’m almost afraid to continue, as if I’m thinking, “This novel cannot keep up the same level of quality, can it?” It does. And finally, why wasn’t this book around when I was sixteen? This one is special, and utterly priceless.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gay Teen Blogger Blasts School, Public Librarians

An outstanding interview with Brent, the awesome author of the post on LGBT YA lit that I highlighted a couple of weeks ago. I love this bit:

How did it make you feel when your middle school librarian told you LGBT novels were inappropriate?
Can I cuss in this interview? I felt disgusted. And pissed at her.

Here's your chance to get it off your chest. Say something to her.
Get over it. Get over your prejudice. It doesn't matter. It's not your place to judge what kids should read based on your prejudices.

Read the whole thing; it’s well worth it.

"Gay Teen Blogger Blasts School, Public Librarians" (School Library Journal)


Thursday, June 24, 2010

"If a guy saves my ass, he sure as hell can look at it."

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic offers a fascinating look at the current level of acceptance of gays in the military. You may be quite surprised at straight soldiers' attitudes, especially as one of Ambinder’s examples involves Special Forces. Plus, did we gays just lose an important end-DADT ally with McChrystal’s removal from command?*

Maybe McChrystal is unique in the special forces (SOF) community, but I tend to think not. In fact, having spent quite a bit of time recently with current and former special forces soldiers, I find that McChrystal's views on gays seem to be the rule rather than the exception. Given the traditional outline of the gays-in-the-military debate, one might think that the special forces soldiers, guys from traditional military families who spend unusual amounts of time in close quarters, would be the most opposed to having gays serve openly. My admittedly limited experience suggests that this is not the case. As one former member of a special missions unit put it to me recently, "It's really about competence. If you're competent, it doesn't matter who you are." And then, switching instantly from an analytical posture to a machismo mode, he said, "If a guy saves my ass, he sure as hell can look at it."

Read the rest; it actually offers hope.

*For the record, Obama really had no choice but to relieve McChrystal of his command. But one wonders what influence McChrystal may have had on the ongoing debate about DADT if he'd been able to stick around.

"McChrystal's Social Liberalism and the Integration of Gays in the Military" (The Atlantic)


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Books with gay themes for young readers take off

Okay, so recently I started writing short stories featuring young gay people, thinking that the tales would be too quirky to get published but, what the hey. Well, so far one of these stories has been published and another one is on the way. A third very nearly got published, and I have high hopes for the gay teen vampire story the same editor is considering right now. Then last week we saw the excellent post from Brent about LGBT YA books. And I realized -- wait a minute. There are people actually doing this already. And the LGBT kids love it! (I had some positive feedback from a couple of them regarding my story "Wolf Dreams.") Anyway, here's a good overview of the entire phenomenon, kicking off from -- you guessed it -- Brent's excellent blog post from last week. Check it out -- I have to get back to writing more of these stories!

"Books with gay themes for young readers take off" (MercuryNews.com)


Monday, June 21, 2010

Watching The Defectives, from Joe.My.God.

Joe Jervis reposts this essay every June at his excellent blog, Joe.My.God. There is not a thing I can add to this; you just need to go over there and read it. Joe talks about gay culture and the assimilationists who want gays to drop what the assimilationists see as the excesses of pride parades. Joe's response: fuck that. This is a marvelously heartfelt piece. I hope Joe posts this every damned year – it’s outstanding.

Watching The Defectives (Joe.My.God.)


The Fear Factor

Here’s a look at the cowards who are too scared to go on the record as being against gay marriage. They’re scared? How do they think gays feel when we get bashed for walking down the street, for simply living our lives; when we’re murdered because some timid hetero is afraid of catching gay cooties from our close proximity; when gay kids get beaten and shot by their classmates? Violence and intimidation are no ways to respond to your political opponents, and any gay marriage proponents who engage in such behavior should stop, now. But let’s get one thing clear: this is a democracy, and the only thing secret about it is the ballot. Everything else requires the clear light of day so this country can find its way out of the morass of bigotry and prejudice saddled upon us since our founding. The anti-gay cowards can get back to us when THEY STOP MAKING GAYS AFRAID EVERY FUCKING DAY in some parts of this country.

“The Fear Factor: What happens to democracy when everyone's too scared to show up?” (Slate)



The Arcade Fire -- the real deal. Accept no substitutes.

Oh my FSM. This classical music blogger sums it up perfectly. A marvelous analysis of everything that is wrong with Renée Fleming’s new CD, Dark Hope.

The same mistakes are repeated all over the record – Band of Horses’ sparse ballad “No One’s Gonna Love You” is transformed into a half-hearted syrupy mess. Willy Mason’s naïve “Oxygen” becomes overworked with the addition of synthesized strings.

What do you think would happen if you tried to put these strings on one of Renée’s classical albums? How is it ok here? Is there a good reason to accept lower standards because it’s a rock record?

No, there is no good reason, and that’s what forms the glaring fault at the heart of this project. Compliments for Renée’s voice, but what the hell were they thinking with these arrangements? They’re timid and totally without character. As with any other cover of a song, the artist has to have a point in doing it in the first place – what are you trying to say that wasn’t said in the original? Somebody grabbed some indie tunes for Renée to sing and did nothing to make her versions count. Coming on the heels of what I consider one of Renée Fleming’s finest CDs (Verismo), Dark Hope is just embarrassing. The bright hope is that they won’t try this again.

“A hope in the dark: Renée Fleming’s rock album” (Proper Discord)


"Flying Fox" will be coming your way soon!

Good news arrived today – Sand Pilarski at The Piker Press has accepted my story “Flying Fox,” a tale inspired by the intrepid Daisy Mora of Columbia. Daisy travels to school each day on a zipline a quarter-mile above a river. The links below are my posts on this brave kid, and they include pictures, links, and a video of Daisy making the trip. Incredibly awesome! “Flying Fox” is a fun adventure tale, and it should go up at The Piker Press sometime in late July or early August.

Children take flying fox to school

Braver Than I Thought...

Fasten Your Seat Belts!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

What's Life Like For Gay Kids In Public Schols?

Last week, NPR's Talk of the Nation did a segment on gay kids in public schools -- their experiences, fears, hopes, and what people are doing to help them. Here's a link to a recording of the segment along with a transcript. It's quite good, although some of what you will hear about what these kids have to go through I find terribly angering. If you want to look at the depths of shitty behavior amongst people who think they're far more righteous than the rest of us, look no further than the way gay kids get treated today. Here's an excerpt of what gays, and not just the kids, have to go through:

BRANDON (Caller): Hi. I am a queer teacher in Columbus, and the big thing I've noticed, the big problem that I have had, is I live in a state where it is still legal to fire someone for being gay.

So I cannot fully support my students who are going through the same troubles I went through in high school without risking my job and my livelihood. I cannot come to them without drawing attention to myself, and always worrying what will be the ramifications of that and what will ultimately be the lesson that they get from that - when they see someone helps them and then gets punished for it.

I so often have to support the right of students to say things in my classroom that I find abhorrent, that are insulting and discriminatory against me, but it's under this guise of every voice has a right to be said. But at the same time, I don't have the right to really give the ability for students who need the voice, who are so invisible, to have that safety without putting myself at risk.

Another excerpt focusing on the bigotry gay kids experience (emphasis mine):

While there are protections under the umbrella of Title 9 at the federal level, there are not non-discrimination protections for employment for LGBT people at the federal level. That's why we're trying to pass a law called ENDA. And in fact, in eight states in this country, there are laws that specifically prohibit positive discussions of homosexuality in public schools.

Now, these laws vary in terms of what they actually cover, but what we see in our research is that in laws - such as Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina and Texas, the effect of that law is that teachers in those states, whether they are LGBT or straight, are less likely to intervene when they witness anti-LGBT harassment and name-calling in their schools. And they also, sadly - in those states you are more likely to have students report that teachers themselves are making derogatory comments.

So the prohibition on positive comments is also seen as a license to say negative things themselves.

Nationwide, we have a problem with teachers not intervening when they witness this behavior. Eighty percent of LGBT students report that teachers who witness this behavior rarely or never intervene. And half of LGBT students report that they don't bother telling anyone when they face name-calling, harassment or assault at school because they don't think anything will be done.

There is hope, though -- the straight classmates of gay kids do learn when it's pointed out to them:

Just the other day, I was working with some students and there were a fair - I would say over half the class would go(ph), well, what's the big deal? It's OK. You know, whatever, kids are gay. And then there were others in the class - and this was so inspiring - they said, you know, I never realized when I said "that's so gay" that I was really hurting somebody. I'm not going to say that again. So I saw hope, and I see change.

Take time to read or listen to the whole thing. And keep in mind, you may well know one of these kids who are suffering from this and cannot tell anyone. What you say and how you act count for so much in their lives.

What's Life Like For Gay Kids In Public Schols? (Talk of the Nation, NPR)


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Renée Fleming's Dark Hope

I finally found a chance to listen to Renée Fleming's new CD, Dark Hope. My opinion is divided. Renée's voice is perfect on this disc, both bluesy and beautiful in all the right ways and far surpassing her run at jazz and soft pop on her CD Haunted Heart, which wasn't bad at all. But she has found a better and more substantial voice for pop/rock music here. The Renée Fleming fan in me is very, very happy.

However, the arrangements of the songs on Dark Hope are a little too MOR for my taste -- the rock fan in me wants more energy and aggression. My keystone song on the CD is "Intervention," originally done by The Arcade Fire on their CD, Neon Bible. This is an angry song with huge operatic themes and emotions (see the video, which is well-accompanied by clips from Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin). Ironically, in the hands of the greatest active operatic soprano, this arrangement of "Intervention" fails to reach those emotional heights.

Renée Fleming, with that perfect voice, would be better served with more aggressive arrangements of all of these songs -- her delivery of the Letter Scene in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin has more emotional heft to it. So, my feelings about this CD are mixed. A missed opportunity in many ways. Renée delivered, but perhaps the fears of the producers kept the balance of the songs' imprint a bit too tame. Damn, this CD had the potential to be great.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I’ll miss the Angus Burgers but I won’t miss the bigotry

Well, this certainly is a rotten turn of events. McDonalds COO Don Thompson says, regarding the absolutely charming French McDonalds ad featuring the gay kid that went viral recently, “[T]hat commercial won’t show in the United States." Without irony, moments before he says this, as he preps us for that lovely declaration, he says, "I’ve never shied away from the fact that I’m a Christian. I have my own personal beliefs and I don’t impose those on anybody else."

Well, I have my own personal beliefs about where I spend my money for greasy fast food, and it will no longer be with McDonalds and their Christianist-bigot corporate staff. This article at The Edge Boston (from which the above quotes were taken) goes on to present a more rational look at how marketing and advertising should work in this era:

At Marketwatch.com, Thomas Kostigen wrote in his June 4 Ethics Watch column that the move’s reflection of "inclusive advertising" was as step in the right direction for a host of reasons.

"Companies should advertise to reach the largest number of customers for their products," Kostigen write. "Sexual orientation should just be another demographic in the mix, and just as with all the other groups, advertising should be done well. Yet there is a larger social responsibility when dealing with certain groups and minorities; a bigger, positive message can be had."

Kostigen went on to write that, "it’s important for companies to think beyond the aspect of commercialism and see the larger social benefit in advertising to, and hopefully attracting more customers based on minority status: they are in a subtle, powerful and effective way saying: ’It’s OK who you are. You are welcome here.’ "

I cannot get this quote, which I heard back when this story first broke, out of my head:

Though the ad has yet to air outside of France, the executive director of the Canadian equality group EGALE, Helen Kennedy, praised the spot, saying, "It’s very encouraging for gay youth to see themselves reflected in such mainstream media."

I can’t imagine how much a commercial like this would have meant to me back when I was the age of the boy in the ad. I can imagine how much it might mean to a gay teen in the U.S. today. To all the bigots out there: someday the citizens of this nation will look back on this period of religious-based hatred that you represent, and like your racist predecessors you will be covered with shame and reprobation.

As for Mickey D’s, I’ll miss the Angus Burgers but I won’t miss the bigotry.

"Gay-Positive French McDonald’s Ad Won’t Air in U.S." (The Edge Boston)


Contested Will is a Great, nay, TREMENDOUS Book!

I recently finished reading James Shaprio’s marvelous book, Contested Will. Michael Feingold writes in his terrific review of it at the Village Voice:

With sardonic aptness, James Shapiro, a Shakespeare scholar at Columbia, chooses Garrick's adoration as the starting point for his new book, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, a rueful history of Shakespeare worship's darker side. For it seems that even in a field as narrow as dramatic poetry, once you declare that a god has walked the earth, satanic forces must instantly spring up to deny him. From Garrick's veneration of Shakespeare's unearthly powers, a counter-assumption was born: A lowly actor from a small-town background, like "the man from Stratford," could not possibly have written these extraordinary plays.

With even-handed compassion, Shapiro chronicles the slow but steady growth of this dark belief, from its first scholarly murmurs, circa 1800, to its current Internet burgeoning. Wisely, he declines to ridicule its preachers, instead weighing their various claims fairly, in lucid, uncontentious prose, saving for the final chapter his reasoned rebuttal of their basic assumption. Secure in his knowledge of Shakespeare's world, Shapiro feels no compulsion to pick quarrels with these cipher-hunters and conspiracy theorists, not even when their extravagance invents, for their authorial candidates, incestuous affairs with Queen Elizabeth. He takes no cheap shots at such easy targets.

Instead, cunningly, he makes his opponents' lives, not Shakespeare's, his principal subject, replacing their nitpicky disputes over unprovable biographical what-ifs with a fascinating, well-documented parade of literary eccentrics, displaying the torments that drive frustrated souls into revisionist mythmaking. Shapiro doesn't flinch even when the frustrated souls carry beloved names: Henry James, Mark Twain, Helen Keller, and Sigmund Freud are among those whose disbelief in Shakespeare's authorship he confronts, squarely and honorably.

Feingold follows this with a short summary of Shapiro’s case, and his concluding paragraph is pure gold. Read the review, and then read the book – it is very rewarding.

Note to my commenting Oxfordian fans: Please take issue with Mr. Shapiro, et al., and not me. They’re the ones you have to convince, because it is they who will have to convince me.

Contested Will Looks at the Nuts Who Think Shakespeare Didn't Write Shakespeare (The Village Voice)


I'm in Ravenclaw House Myself...

Congrats to my best friend for a gajillion years Claudia White, flute-player extraordinaire, who landed an awesome gig tonight playing for a whole host of celebrities and guests as part of an orchestra at the grand opening of the new Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios in Orlando. I understand author J.K. Rowling will be there along with the stars of the Harry Potter films, and the orchestra Claudia is playing in will be conducted by none other than John Williams! Woo!

The degree of separation between me and John Williams has now been reduced to one. This is exciting! I was a John Williams fan before anyone knew who he was. Seriously, do you know anyone who actually owned (I may still have it somewhere) the original soundtrack recording of The Towering Inferno? On LP?!? I credit Williams’ lush scores with introducing me to the world of great orchestral music, laying the groundwork for my later interest in classical music. A favorite JW score? Too many to mention, and he has had his ups and downs. But who of my generation can forget that day when we first sat down to watch some brand new space adventure flick called Star Wars, and Williams’ iconic theme tore out of the speakers and into our ears for the first time? You knew in two seconds this was going to be the best adventure of you life ‘til then. Currently, I’d have to rank JW’s score to Catch Me If You Can as one of his finest, mostly because the jazzy riffs were totally unexpected. One of my most enduring favorites by him has to be his score to Empire of the Sun, a very underrated classic from Steven Spielberg that introduced us to some kid named Christian Bale – wonder whatever became of him?

And J.K. Rowling herself? Don’t get me started. This is the woman who took fantastic tales that most people regard as children’s stories and made them respectable for everyone to read. Outside of the pleasures of the Harry Potter series itself, would we have Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book or China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun without HP’s success? The best writers have long known that if you want to write inventive stories with memorable characters, you write for young people – or the young-at-heart.

Anyway, congratulations once again to Claudia White, who has put up with more of my insanity than any reasonable person should. I toast thee with Maker's Mark!

Incidentally, there's a live web feed available here tonight and Friday morning.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gay Teen Pwns Gay-cist Librarians!

This blog entry by Brent, a fifteen-year-old bibliophile who is also gay, brought tears to my eyes and made me want to jump for joy. With more and more confident gay kids like this, the world is certain to become a better place -- I dare any bigot to look into this young man's face and try to shame him. You can't. You...simply...can't.

When I set out to find more LGBT titles, I turned to my school’s library. Honestly? It was pathetic. There was not one single LGBT novel. But oh, of course the librarian went out of her way to buy books about gangs, drugs, and teen pregnancy. Like, for real, the people who actually do care about gangs, drugs, and teen sex sure as hell don’t read–they’re too busy (note: gangs, drugs, and teen sex. Yeah, they’re going to interrupt all that fabulous action to sit and read a good novel!). When I asked her about it, she replied, “This is a school library. If you are looking to read inappropriate titles, go to a book store.” Uhm, how in the hell is LGBT YA lit “inappropriate”?

I mean, think about it. Let it register: The librarian claimed LGBT novels were inappropriate, yet she approved of books that had heterosexual sex. Yeah, she was being gay-cist! It wasn’t until May of 2009 (my last month of attending that school) that she bought a book that mentioned gays. It was Ellen Hopkins’ Impulse. FINALLY!


The world needs more librarians who serve the purpose of finding the right book to put in the right person’s lap. Not librarians who think that they can decide what’s “inappropriate” and what’s not, based on their personal prejudices. There are tons of gay teens, struggling to find a group to fit in. LGBT YA lit helps us find out that no, we aren’t alone and no, we aren’t worthless or disgusting. It helps us discover that we are part of a group. The LGBT group. Which is the group to be in. Tons of brilliant people, doing brilliant things, fighting for brilliant causes (Straight people with gay tendencies included).

Read the whole thing. Astonishing and wonderful! Check out Brent's own blog here.

"Gay teen blogger/book reviewer takes librarians to task over LGBT lit" (Pinched Nerves)


h/t Andrew Sullivan

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Twinkle Takeover!

This is such a fantastic article! The times, they are a-changin':

Is it finally okay to be a 13-year-old sissy? From the feather-cuffed, drama-filled Olympic figure-skating competitions to the unashamedly oddball high-school TV show Glee, being young and gay suddenly has a place in pop culture that isn’t cruel or tragic...Call them Twinkles: preteen boys who may not know they are gay yet, or may not want to say they are gay yet, but who have a gleam in their eye and a definite sensibility. Twinkles proudly prance, unashamedly emote, high-kick, jazz-hand, belt out “Paparazzi” with piano — everything a gay kid used to do in his bedroom with the door shut.

Ah, yes; I recall having the bedroom door shut at age eleven while I pranced around singing along with my Elton John records. Things aren't perfect yet for gay kids, but damn, it's great to see the good guys winning this. The bigots are on the run. Changing attitudes takes time, and I can't believe we aren't there yet, but we will get there. I know we will. Harvey Milk promised us we would.

The Twinkle Takeover: Gay (and Gay-Seeming) Boys on the TV and at the Mall (New York Magazine)


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Shining

“Wow, Stephen King remade my movie for TV. And it sucks.”

Here’s a look at the real-life inspiration that prodded Stephen King to pen his best novel ever, The Shining, on the 30th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s iconic film version of the story.

Built in 1909 by the high-rolling F. O. Stanley, co-inventor (with his twin brother, F. E.) of a steam-powered car known as the Stanley Steamer, the Stanley sits in lucid splendor, in Georgian incongruity, on the eastern rise of the Colorado Rockies. The hotel is welcoming and comfortable; the mountain air is thrilling. King stayed at the Stanley in 1974, the night before it shut down for the winter, and his muse was tickled. Old World fixtures and furnishings; a vibe of vanished gaiety, of cigar-chewing autocrats and good-time gals, parties and their orchestras, all sliding down into darkness, like the Titanic … And then the hauntings, for which the Stanley was already famous: paranormal poppings-in by domestics and scampering children, and also by the scandalous Lord Dunraven, who likes to goose ladies in the closet of Room 401.

In the hands of Stanley Kubrick, The Shining became the finest film adaptation of any of King’s works. I don’t care what King says; Kubrick drilled down to the dark essence of the characters and created something that, when tried by lesser filmmakers, doesn’t always work – an almost personal riff on someone else’s creation – but which in this case worked fantastically. I was a huge fan of the book (I first read it when I was 14) when Kubrick’s film was released in 1980, and I hated the movie. Thirteen years later I rented the video to give Kubrick another chance, and I discovered what a masterpiece it is. (The less said about the King-scripted TV remake, the better.)

How powerful is King’s book? A few years ago I was re-reading The Shining for the umpteenth time during my lunch break. I was on the Plaza in Kansas City at the Penguin Court on a brilliant, sunny spring day. People were enjoying their lunch, shoppers were strolling happily about, and children ran around the bronze penguin sculptures that give the court its name. In the book, little Danny Torrance, all by himself in the Overlook’s playground, crawls into those concrete rings buried in the snow. The snow falls in, blocking the open ends. And Danny realizes…there’s something in the rings with him!

A beautiful, sunny spring day, and my skin crawled right up my body with a shiver. I’d read that scene many times, but god, how well it still worked! If I ever write anything that brings a reader an emotional response half that enduring, I’ll be happy. The Shining is only one of two books that contained a moment which, when I first read it, made me almost literally crawl up the wall behind me with fear (the other was The Silence of the Lambs). I can’t tell you which scene it was; you’ll just have to find out for yourself. But it took place in room 217.

Kubrick’s film is a different animal and is great in different ways. In a book about Kubrick, I once read an excellent analysis that convincingly proposed Kubrick’s The Shining as a literal anti-thesis of his film 2001: A Space Odyssey, with a remarkable discussion of how the use of mirrors and mirror-images in The Shining (think of that lake in the opening shot, or what you see reflected in the mirrors along the hallway outside the ballroom) differentiates between the worlds of Jack Torrance’s sanity and insanity. The story of The Shining has become so well-known that I would love to see, like Shakespeare, many different directors tackle the material and give us their personal take on it. King needn’t fear, for his original novel will always retain its terrifying brilliance.

"A Killer Vacation" (The Atlantic)


"How do they get to be that way?" Ebert on Race in America

Somehow over the years I never noticed that Roger Ebert could write like this about topics other than movies – touching, insightful, heart-wrenching, angry. This column by him is about race, and it is about as emotionally devastating as anything I have every read. Ebert kicks off from the racist attacks on that school-wall mural in Arizona.

That brings me back around to the story of the school mural. I began up above by imagining I was a student in Prescott, Arizona, with my face being painted over. That was easy for me. What I cannot imagine is what it would be like to be one of those people driving past in their cars day after day and screaming hateful things out of the window. How do you get to that place in your life? Were you raised as a racist, or become one on your own? Yes, there was racism involved as my mother let the driver wait outside in the car, but my mother had not evolved past that point at that time. The hard-won social struggles of the 1960s and before have fundamentally altered the feelings most of us breathe, and we have evolved, and that is how America will survive. We are all in this together.

Ebert magnificently sums up everything I beleive about injustice in this country. The last two paragraphs of his essay will shred your heart.

“How do they get to be that way?” (Chicago Sun-Times)


h/t Andrew Sullivan

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Digital Closet

This is a great article about the realities of being gay today and the decision to be in or out about it. Throughout my life I think the most difficult task I’ve ever faced was coming out. I told my older sister when I was 15, but I found it impossible over the years to tell my mother. I rectified that just before Christmas last year while, when talking to her about some news issue involving gay rights, I said to Mom, “You know I’m gay, right?” “Of course,” she said. And so do such fearful things fall so easily from us after all that worry.

Part of my problem over coming out is that I genuinely don’t like such emotionally heavy-laden moments. When I was 15 (late seventies), the idea of coming out always struck me as such a portentous event that I could barely overcome my shyness about making such a big deal out of anything, much less worrying how other people would react to the specific news that I’m gay. Today it’s easier for me to come out, but I don’t know if it’s because technology allows me to be out without having that awkward “OMG, here we go!” moment or simply because I’ve smashed down the closet door for the last time in my life. The sad truth is that I probably wouldn’t have left that closet door closed for so long had I been able to dig down for the courage to tell people the truth about me.

At Facebook and on my blog I’m out, and I’ve lost any shyness I once had over working gay themes into my fiction. Last night I added a rainbow icon to my profile at Facebook so that anyone looking there knows right up front (in the speed of the online world, it helps to be blunt). I want my friends to know. I want my family to know. At work a couple of co-workers know (Hi, Wendy!), but I haven’t come out totally in that, “Hey everybody, guess what?” sense. But anyone who sees my blog will probably figure that out pretty quickly. One thing that inspires me deeply is seeing how young people are coming out to their families in greater numbers. If these kids can face their fears and do it, so can I.

Is it wrong for me to lean on technology and chance to spread the news? Maybe, but I do love knowing that I can circumvent my own reticence and get the news out a little more easily. It is far easier for me to write what I have to say here than it is for me to ever speak the words for no other reason than I convey every topic better through the written word. In the end, that everyone knows I’m gay is what counts, not how they find out. And I can safely say that no one is going to find out about it by accident, because I no longer want to hide who I am from anybody.

“The Digital Closet” (Newsweek)


h/t Andrew Sullivan

Renee Fleming rocks out on 'Dark Hope'

As the big day approaches, here's a great article about the genesis of Renée Fleming's new CD, Dark Hope, featuring songs by The Arcade Fire, Peter Gabriel, and others. What's it like to tone down the sheer vocal power of an operatic soprano?

Kahne too wasn't sure he could pull it off. When Fleming first arrived in the studio to sing with his demo tracks, he was overwhelmed. "It was like a Ferrari going through a school zone," he said. "You sense the power, and once it gets out of the school zone, it can zoom away."

And can an old lady pull off this music written by young people?

The album's most discordant selection may be Mason's "Oxygen," a political folk-rock anthem for kids whose parents told them about Bob Dylan over dinner. A one-two beat propels such lyrics as "Just need to get past all the lies and hypocrisy, makeup and hair to the truth behind every face." The song's naked earnestness makes sense when you learn Mason wrote "Oxygen" when he was 17 in high school.

Can a 51-year-old get away with singing a teenager's protest song about Ritalin, TV and war?

"This is not new to me," Fleming said. "I'm mostly singing roles of 16- to 23-year-olds in opera. So I'm used to imagining a young person's point of view. Frankly, as we age, we don't change our thinking about wishing things were different. We're just more resigned to it. So it's fun to reenact what it means to be super-charged-up about something."

You're only as old as you feel, right? The CD is released in the U.S. tomorrow. I can't wait! Although I'll have to because Amazon hasn't shipped the dang thing yet. Hmpf!

"Renee Fleming rocks out on 'Dark Hope'" (Los Angeles Times)


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gay? Whatever, Dude

Rolls out of bed, opens eyes, sees this editorial at The New York Times website. Shakes head; rubs eyes. Looks again. Smiles.

A new Gallup poll shows some remarkable advancement in the acceptance of gays, particularly among men. This can't be for real, right?

1. For the first time, the percentage of Americans who perceive “gay and lesbian relations” as morally acceptable has crossed the 50 percent mark. (You have to love the fact that they still use the word “relations.” So quaint.)

2. Also for the first time, the percentage of men who hold that view is greater than the percentage of women who do.

3. This new alignment is being led by a dramatic change in attitudes among younger men, but older men’s perceptions also have eclipsed older women’s. While women’s views have stayed about the same over the past four years, the percentage of men ages 18 to 49 who perceived these “relations” as morally acceptable rose by 48 percent, and among men over 50, it rose by 26 percent.

I warned you: stunning.

How amazing! Harvey Milk taught us to have hope, and sometimes hope hits you smack in the face. Let's hope the trends seen in that poll continue.

"Gay? Whatever, Dude" (The New Yoirk Times)


Friday, June 4, 2010

"Wolf Dreams" is up!

In Dreams I Walk With You, a mixed media painting by artist Jen Storey, inspired by Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.

My short story "Wolf Dreams" just went up at the Toasted Cheese Literary Journal website. The painting above inspired the tale -- it reminded me of how much I loved wolves when I was a teen at the same time I was beginning to realize that I'm gay. In the story, the character of René is very much based on me. Just about everything in there about how I felt about wolves is also true.

I really did fall hugely in love with another boy in high school. Unfortunately, he was straight, but we were still good friends for a while. "Wolf Dreams" is how things might have gone for us had he loved me in return.

"Wolf Dreams" (Toasted Cheese Literary Journal)


Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Gay McDonald's Ad!

This spot is absolutely charming! The ad has gone viral, and is receiving much praise:

"It's very encouraging for gay youth to see themselves reflected in such mainstream media," said Helen Kennedy, executive director of EGALE Canada. "It's great that McDonald's is putting it out there, and kudos to the creative team. It's certainly a step in the right direction."

As you might expect, the wingnuts are having fits. Follow this link and see what Joe Jervis's commenters think about that nonsense.

What I and many other gays want to know is, when do we see an ad like this here in the U.S.? I'll accept no less than the day when that happens.

Gay McDonald's ad in France (YouTube)


P.S. Who's up for an Angus Burger?

UPDATE: Well, THIS certainly is a rotten turn of events. Who's up for Burger King?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Joy of (Outdated) Facts

Smashing article about the changing nature of facts, chock full with many facts about, um…facts. And some interesting observations as well:

Similarly, books of facts always display localized preferences, cultural values, sometimes straightforward prejudices. My “New American Cyclopaedia” (1872) tells me that in 1855 there were 25,858 people in New York who could neither read nor write, and 21,378 of them were Irish. This may well have been true, but why exactly did it need to be emphasized? Well, I think we might hazard a guess.

With hindsight, we can always see through the dubious “authority” of such historical sources. Few things look as unstable as the rock-solid certainties of previous ages. Since encyclopedias are supposed to be balanced and disinterested, the bias often seems even more naked. Sometimes I wonder if the editors of my 1952 Encyclopaedia Britannica ever regretted their assessment of William Faulkner: “It is naturalism run to seed, for it means nothing. . . . In the hands of Faulkner brute fact leads to little but folly and despair.” Certainly the current editors of the Britannica reckoned some serious updating was required. In the online edition, we now read, “Some critics . . . have found his work extravagantly ­rhetorical and unduly violent, and there have been strong objections, especially late in the 20th century, to the perceived insensitivity of his portrayals of women and black Americans.” Note, however, that instead of a lofty judgment, we’re now given the opinion of these shadowy “some critics.”

Read the whole thing; it ends marvelously.

"The Joy of (Outdated) Facts" (The New York Times)


A Connection Between How You Write and Alzheimer's?

An amazing look at the possible signs of future Alzheimer’s disease in one’s writing.

Here's an example of a sentence packed with ideas, from the one of the sister's diaries:

"It was about a half hour before midnight between February 28 and 29 of the leap year 1912 when I began to live, and to die, as the third child of my mother, whose maiden name is Hilda Hoffman, and my father, Otto Schmidt..."

And here's an example of less idea-rich sentence:

"I was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on May 24, 1913, and was baptized in St. James Church..."

Snowdon discovered that sisters who scored poorly on these two measures — like the second example — were much more likely to develop dementia. Sisters within the lower third of the sample with respect to idea density, for example, were 60 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's than a sister in the upper third. In fact, using the essays, the researchers could predict with 92 percent accuracy whether the brain of a particular sister, investigated after their death, would contain the plaques and lesions in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's Disease.

Should I feel a bit relieved that I tend to fall into the idea-rich category in my writing?

"Agatha Christie And Nuns Tell A Tale Of Alzheimer's" (NPR)


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Utah Youth Founds GSA

All right, what the heck is going on in Utah? This is the second mostly-positive update on LGBT youth issues from that state in the last couple of weeks.

James Bennion, 15, began his project at the start of the year. Six months later, he’s got a GSA well on the way to being started at South Davis Junior High, having gathered 120 signatures from students at the junior high.

High schools were once the domain of GSAs, but in recent years such groups have also become more commonplace at junior high schools, as GLBT youth come out at younger ages and awareness permeates the culture that anti-gay taunts, harassment, and attacks do not have to be accepted as a young gay person’s lot in life.

"I just think people should be able to go to school without fear of being assaulted," Bennion told the press, going on to note that young GLBTs "shouldn’t have to miss days of school for fear of being bullied."

This keeps up and who knows? Maybe seeing the hope-filled faces of these brave gay kids will shame into silence the kind of nasty bigots talked about in the article.

“You’ve have to give people hope.” – Harvey Milk

Utah Youth Founds GSA (Edge Boston)


20 things you never knew about Shakespeare

Simon Callow, actor extraordinaire, star of a new one-man show called Shakespeare: The Man from Stratford. Openly gay and quite outspoken on LGBT issues, BTW.

This piece about Shakespeare is sort of self-explanatory. Lots of interesting and fun tidbits about Shakespeare, such as:

Was he gay, straight or just sex-mad?

The sonnets are often cited as evidence of his bisexuality. He may have been in love with his patron the Earl of Southampton, the Earl of Pembroke, or even the playwright John Fletcher. “The fact is he was married and had children,” Jonathan Bate says. “But he imagined in his work every type of romantic and sexual love. It is probable Shakespeare, once in London, would have tried anything.”

“If you’d asked him if he was gay he’d have been totally bewildered,” Simon Callow reckons. “But his work is drenched in sexuality to an extraordinary degree and his plays cover the entire waterfront of human sexual expression. As Leontes says [in The Winter’s Tale]: ‘I am a feather for each wind that blows.’ Whatever he was, at parties he would certainly have gone home with the best-looking person in the room.”

And this topic is, of course, much too fun to pass up!

What would be the ultimate Shakespeare find?

“I’d love to find a document linking the Shakespeare of Stratford irrefutably to the plays,” Wells says. “A letter from a Stratford friend, perhaps. ‘Dear Wm. Shakespeare: your wife Anne and the twins are in good health and wish you all the best for your new play Hamlet.’ It would save the world so much wasted paper on the subject of who wrote Shakespeare.”

"20 things you never knew about Shakespeare" (Times Online)