Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sugar Coated Assholes (Literal; Figurative)

I've just completed reading Cross Examinations of the Oscar Wilde Trials: A Comparison, which consists of what it sounds like: Transcripts of the cross examinations in the three trials involving Oscar Wilde. (What can I say, here? I'm a history-fascinated pansy with access to the materials of a legal library.) Of course we know that Wilde was famous for being well spoken and witty, but it is incredible to read how articulate he managed to be in the courtroom, under the rapid fire queer-outing interrogation of Mr. Edward Carson.

Although I knew that they had brought in some of the pieces he had written, I never realized how heavily his art was used as an attempt to create a case against him.  There's an entire section of the cross examination of the first trial that focuses strictly on Wilde's writing, and they go through everything: novels, plays, letters... entire segments and even single phrases are interrogated.

Mr. Carson reads heavily from The Picture of Dorian Gray,  but one of my favorite moments of classy smartass-ness (aka resistance) is in relation to a letter that Wilde wrote to Lord Alfred Douglas (aka "Bosie", the most infamous of Wilde's boys).  Mr. Carson is reading excerpts of the letter in order to imply to the members of the courtroom that Wilde's relationship with Bosie was "indecent":

Carson:  "Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry."... Is that a beautiful phrase?

Wilde: Not as you read it, Mr. Carson. You read it very badly.

While answering questions about supposed rent boys (Oh, to be a rent boy once again...) and rumors of stained hotel sheets, and while in the midst of a sturdy, glorious rain of cigarette cases, Oscar still manages to even achieve cross examination fashion cattiness (Here he is being questioned about a particular lad):

C. Were you fond of this boy?
W. Naturally.  He had been my companion for six weeks.
C. Did you take the lad to Brighton?
W. Yes.
C. And provided him with a suit of blue serge?
W. Yes.
C. And a straw hat with a band of red and blue?
W. That, I think, was his unfortunate selection.
C. But you paid for it?
W. Yes.

There is nothing in the world like a fashion-catty daddy.


Ah, Oscar...

You may be many things, but you are far from tragic.

Each time I plume my back pocket with a flowering handkerchief
and each time I slide that last bit of notch to my Windsor knot

I will think of you.

That bit of wrist that is exposed
the end of a glove
and the beginning of one's sleeve

I will think of you.


(photo credit: Lydia Roberts on Flickr)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Glory Be to the Poised Princes and the Bruise-Knuckled Femmes

Last night I went to go see Xiu Xiu. It was incredible. Crass and beautiful and gay and broken. The first song they played was "Fabulous Muscles".

Click here and play it. If you can, open another tab and have it playing in the background as you're reading this.

If you are familiar with the song, chronologically, Jamie sings about someone cumming on his lips. Later in the song he sings about a 'star filled night kneeling down before...your deformed penis". Here I must vent a bit:  The moment he sang the word "penis", half of the girlfriends in the room had a quick veil of panic glide past their faces and, quite literally, clung to their boyfriends. They began randomly kissing their boyfriends "passionately" for the duration of the song.

As no surprise to me, while kissing their girlfriends, the boyfriends kept their gaze locked on Jamie as he sang.


It made me think of a particular strand of homophobia that I experience. For me, it is perhaps the most painful kind of homophobia~ at least emotionally. It has to do with some straight people peripherally in my life- specifically some male partners of female people in my life. It's difficult to articulate. I get along with the man. I get along with the woman. But when the three of us are together, there is an aggressive suspicion that the man has with me and his female partner. Like if she and I talk "too much" together, or laugh "too much" with each other. That's when these weird homophobic comments start. "You two are acting like you're going to make out." "Oh, do you want me to leave the two of you alone?" "You're not going to leave me for her, are you?"...Things that completely do not fit the situation and things I can almost guarantee would never be said if they did not know I was queer and if they weren't a straight person who is mostly around straight people. But these are the same guys saying that "gay people should be able to marry" and "end homophobia" and all of that partially mainstream jargon.

And when it happens, it freaks me out. This guy who was normal and funny and silly the day before is now interacting with me in this aggressive manner fired by that typical and tired narrative of "If you're gay than you must like my girlfriend" and "queer as lecherous recruiter" shit.

Sure, I could go into an analysis here of how it devalues my friendship with the woman and blah blah blah, but won't. I don't have the energy. For me, it's just, well,... depressing.


Other than that, the show was amazing, and the temporary world that flourished within it- needed. Gorgeous queers in the audience of a thousand genders and well fitted jackets. Fingers jeweled with too many rings because, well, they should be.

Here is to the lad standing next to me with the gorgeous and lithe hands that he kept, for the duration of the show, gently clasped over his awed and open lovestruck mouth: So beautiful a cage that held your adoring lips.

be well; be loved


(visual credit: Egon Schiele: Self Portrait)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Claiming That The Sailor On Top Of You Is a Martha Stewart Linen: The Art of Debate

A quick, nerd-fun piece I wrote for a theater-related class. (Somebody else's class, yes. Full disclosure: I was doing someone's homework for them.) The assignment was to write a brief dialoge between two characters to demonstrate two perspectives on the question "Was Angels In America a tragedy in the classic sense?".

Scene: The kitchen of a Dunkin Donuts; 5am. Coworkers Brad (26 years old) and Jim (49 years old) are starting to make the donuts. They have had a one night stand with each other the night before and after a brief bit of awkwardness, are now happily slinging dough and intellectualizing.

JIM: (Pouring a flour like substance into an industrial sized mixer) I don’t know Brad. I think the only thing tragic about Angels In America was the reality of Roy Cohn’s politics. I mean, …haven’t you ever read a history book? That man was an asshole- plain and simple. Ethel Rosenberg being executed and Cohn playing a huge part in that…now THAT’S a tragedy.

BRAD: (Has elbows on the steel industrial table in front of him , chin in his hands. He rolls his eyes, stands up and grabs a baking sheet) I’m talking “tragic” like in a classical sense, Jimbo. Think about it: Human fallibility, mortality, death, dying…it’s all in there. Roy Cohn is an example of all these things: He has all the power and connections in the world, he boasts that he can have the president’s wife on the phone with the snap of his fingers: but that’s not going to save his ass from dying of AIDS. He can call it cancer, he can threaten his doctor, can have access to all the AZT in the world but, in the end, he’s just another man who is going to die of AIDS.

(A pause.)

JIM: (Playfully throws some flour at Brad to break up the seriousness. Some flour gets on Brad’s nose) What would you know about the era this play was written in, anyway? You were, ultrasound at that point? (Laughs to himself, pauses, then suddenly becomes serious, himself.) For me, it’s different. I was a 30 year old man living in New York when this play came out. Up until a year prior, with the whole Magic Johnson thing, people just talked about AIDS as a “gay disease”. And because of that, there was no mainstream dialogue about what was happening in the gay community because no one cared. This play gave voice to a point in the 80s when no one knew what was happening: Gay men were dying left and right and no one knew why. THAT’S “tragedy”. This play? It was inspiring. Igniting. It started that absent mainstream discussion. Not just of AIDS, but also of the complexity of relationships -gay and straight alike. Sure…there was death and people facing their own mortality, but what play doesn’t have that? We’re human. We die.

BRAD: (Beginning to stuff a pastry funnel into a donut to squeeze filling into it): Well, tragedy doesn’t necessarily have to involve a literal death, you know. I mean, Aristotle described tragedy as being the downfall of a well meaning hero more or less. Look at Louis, for example. He’s a tragic character. He loves Prior. He means well. On some moral level he wants to be able to stay with Prior but, in the end, he doesn’t. He can’t. And so, he fails. No matter what we as the audience want, or what he as a human with guiding principles wants- he fails. (Tosses a donut to Jim, who catches it.) You know who didn’t fail last night, though? (Smiles slowly, in a flirty fashion). You. When we read Jean Genet’s play The Maids out loud to each other. (Wiggles eyebrows)

JIM: (coming towards Brad, putting the donut he has just caught up to Brad’s mouth) Oh, yeah? (Pushing his body up to Brad’s).

BRAD: (Pushing closer to Jim) Yeah…

JIM: (Shoving the donut into Brads mouth to Brad’s surprise) Well, bite me. (Smirks. Walks past Brad and pushes open the two steel doors that lead out to the front counter of the store).

(end scene)

I'll leave you with a clip from Genet's The Maids. I just read an article about him and how he would protest his plays (The Balcony, in particular) being produced by most directors because they weren't performed in as perverse and disgusting a style in which he intended and would get taken out of the theaters by the cops. Gotta love him.

Keep in mind that these two female characters were written by Genet with the intention that they should be played by men playing women; watch from 1:11-1:44.

The Maids/Jean Genet.

And with that a good, good night.


photo credit: This is a still from Rainer Werner Fassbinder's (film) version of "Querelle" written by Jean Genet.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sound in Time

I've been reading a book of a huge ass collection of John Steinbeck's letters. In one of them, he is responding to a letter his son wrote to him when he was a college student and thought he was in love for the first time and didn't know what to do. In the letter, closer to the beginning he writes:

There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you -- of kindness and consideration and respect -not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn't know you had.

He goes on. But at the very end, the very last thing he says to his son is:

And don't worry about losing. If it is right, it happens. The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

And he's right.

Each one of those last sentences.

Every tic-toc second of life proves that he's right.


Photo: Art piece by Su Blackwell inspired by The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino