My People

I’ve mostly gotten over my obsession with a certain young Olympian, but it doesn’t help that he is such a shameless exhibitionist.  Seriously, shots of him fully clothed are fairly difficult to come by, and somehow, I never get tired of examining his abs, thighs, and, um, other attributes from different angles and with different lighting.

I’ve promised myself that this will be the last Tom Daley picture I post on this blog. (What is he doing in this one?)

Okay, one more. What is it about wearing a shirt that makes one’s bottom half look even more naked? I love the way that his package casts a shadow on his leg.

The old saying is that life is about the journey rather than the destination. Seeing as how the destination is the same for everyone, I don’t see how I can argue, but it’s still not a very profound statement. That said, it’s definitely true that in order to know where we’re going, it helps to know where we’ve been. So I’ll talk about my adolescence, something I don’t think I’ve done in much detail on this blog before. I went to an all-boys Catholic school basically because I hadn’t cared for the public schooling I’d received at that point, and also because my brother had gone to the same school, and seemed to think it was okay. Before you let your dirty imaginations run wild, let me say that such an environment is not nearly as much fun as you might think it would be for a young homo. It was a fiercely heteronormative–some would say homophobic–environment, and the closest thing to openly gay students at our school were a handful of guys who were so obvious that no one needed to ask and one rower who, despite being a national champion who went to Harvard, was as much talked about for his sexuality (which was sort of an open secret) as for his scholastic and extracurricular accomplishments. So I can’t say I feel too sorry for keeping to myself. I didn’t pretend to like girls (well, maybe once or twice), but got very, very good at holding people at arm’s length and ducking questions that made me uncomfortable. Some people suspected. A surprisingly large number did not. One or two people even thought I was asexual.

Falling in love with a straight friend is pretty much a rite of passage for anyone in my position, so I’ll gloss over it. Suffice to say that I eventually realized that my friend, despite being one of the biggest musical theater geeks I knew, was not confused or lying to himself when he asked women out, and he, I’m pretty sure, not only was not repelled by what he surely must have detected to be more than friendly affection from me, but came around and tried to set me up with one of the guys from his college choir. (I declined. The dude was nice, but not very attractive, and to top it off, he wouldn’t shut up about his coming out experience. I try not to talk about it too much myself, although I suspect some readers want to hear the story.)

There isn’t much else to tell. I never told my parents. They figured it out on their own (my father through an embarrassing incident that I won’t recount here, and my mother just because she knows how to read between the lines), and when I started living openly in college, word got around to them. They’re supportive. Yay. So before I start talking about what I really want to talk about, watch this. (I said I wouldn’t post any more pictures, not that I wouldn’t post more videos.)

Theater people are an interesting crowd. There are more straight people in there than the stereotypes would have you believe, and even when I did a show with the intention of meeting guys, I was flummoxed to discover that every guy in the show except me was straight, taken, definitely not my type, or some combination of the three. Having to draw one’s dating pool from a small subset of one’s preferred gender is not quite the obstacle you might think it is, although it does require you to be very vocal about what you’re into and direct with anyone you think you have a chance with (not that that’s ever helped me any). Liking theater doesn’t make a man anything except pretentious, and I am very proud to say that I am not quite so pretentious as some of the people I hung out with in high school and college. It’s easy to be nostalgic for those times, so I try to focus on the ways in which they inform my life in the present instead of yearning to return to them. The theater is a place for drama both onstage and off, but it’s also a very welcoming community, one in which many people near and dear to me are quite content to spend their whole lives. Doing a play (or a movie) with someone is a great way to get to know their best and worst qualities in a very short time, and yes, the best casts always do develop a sense of family. Then the show ends and you never see the majority of them again. I don’t miss that, exactly, although I’d still love to catch up with some of them if I get the chance.

In case anyone is wondering, I weathered Sandy just fine. The power never went down, and while I haven’t checked, I suspect classes will resume tomorrow. I’m grateful for the holiday, as it has allowed me to catch up on all of the sitting around that I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I stumbled upon a hysterical British comedy show called Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace that only ran for six episodes, yet pitch-perfectly parodied both medical dramas and supernatural thrillers. It’s available on YouTube and, as far as I can tell, nowhere else. Check it out.

Later.

An Idea Worth Considering

Have you ever felt like there’s a big party going on somewhere to which everyone is invited except you? I have that feeling most of the time. In some cases, it’s because there actually are parties going on that I might like to attend but no one thought to tell me about. Perhaps I should find it reassuring that New York, in its own way, has proven to be just as big of a drag as California was. I spend much of my time lounging around my apartment trying to motivate myself to do something more exciting and productive, but sometimes I just don’t have the energy. I keep wishing somebody would actually, you know, give me something, but the things I really need never fall directly into my lap. Maybe too many people see me as a cypher. Maybe I just haven’t found “my people” yet. All I know is that there are a hundred things going on in my head at any given moment, and I’m not always sure what to do about it.

I saw Cloud Atlas last night. It’s a sprawling, messy, sometimes heavy-handed and pretentious head trip of a movie, but I’m definitely glad that I saw it. The novel is one of my favorite books of the last ten years, and while it was subtler in underlining its themes than the film and possessed a dry wit that strongly contrasts with the film’s crowd-pleasing sincerity, I still recommend the movie to anyone willing to take a chance on something different. It is unquestionably one of the most ambitious movies I have ever seen, and if nothing else, I hope plenty of people see it just so that I will have someone to discuss it with. The conceit of having actors play multiple roles (sometimes under pounds of makeup so that they can portray someone of a different age, race, or even gender) to convey the idea that the characters in various places and time periods are reincarnations of each other doesn’t always work, but it is kind of amusing to watch, say, Hugo Weaving play a villainous female nurse or Hugh Grant play a cannibal in post-apocalyptic Hawaii. (Yes, really.) The actors are miscast in some roles and properly cast in others, so it’s possible that with some reshuffling of the actors and roles, this idea could have worked. I should probably give a shout-out to Halle Berry in particular, whom I’ve never liked (she was distractingly awful in the X-Men films) but who is quite good as a plucky Hispanic journalist and Ben Wishaw, who is simply spectacular as a broke gay composer in 1930s England.

Hugo Weaving as an evil Romulan Korean. I could watch him be menacing and say things with gravitas all day.

See how I’m getting carried away? I really wish I’d had somebody to see the film with. I don’t want to be “that guy” and say the book was better; I just want to explore the ways that what works on the page sometimes works better than you’d think on film. And sometimes it doesn’t. The reviews are mixed, but the crowd I saw it with was decent-sized for a matinee, and there was a line for the next showing as I left. I really hope this movie finds an audience. It’s far from perfect, but goddamn, will it ever give you something to think about.

While I’m rambling, I want to say that I just got my DVDs of the first season of Game of Thrones in the mail. I think I’ll marathon my way through it on the flight back home for Thanksgiving. Now if my father would stop calling my adviser behind my back and let me figure shit out for myself, I might be able to look forward to my vacation a little more…

If you have 30 minutes, you should totally watch this moving and inspiring speech by Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski about her transition to womanhood. Anyone who has ever felt different should be able to relate to this, and it’s important not to forget the “T” in LGBT.

Every so often, I have to write something like this: a post that has no real focus or point to it, but hopefully, will entertain someone. So if I had to tie this thing together somehow, I’d say that…I don’t know, that New York is now boring in its own way. I still haven’t gotten around to seeing much of the city. Sure, I could take off and walk the Brooklyn Bridge anytime I like, but what’s the point? Wherever I go, I fall through the cracks. And the strain of pulling everything together is starting to wear me down.

I’m on season four of Deep Space Nine. I’ve gushed about it before, but I really love this show. It’s gritty and complex in ways that previous Trek series weren’t while still remaining true to the spirit of the franchise. I used to think that finishing something that takes a while would automatically lead to bigger and better things, but more and more, I finish something, then say, “Now what?” It has been a long time since I have felt properly defined.

Oh, and earlier today, there was supposed to be a gathering of some sort that was Halloween-related. I went to the meeting place and no one was there, which means either that I had showed up in the wrong place (unlikely, since I checked multiple times to make sure I had the right spot), or that nobody showed up (equally unlikely, since literally hundreds of people were invited.) My therapist says I’m not very good at reading subtext. Most likely, there’s something very obvious that I didn’t think through here. But I’m still sour about it. You ever just sit around your house feeling angry, like something is pulling you apart? Yeah, that happens to me a lot. I just wish I could figure out what I did wrong before I, you know, do it.

Here’s an old song I like. Enjoy.

Being Single

I must confess to having a soft spot in my heart for this song. It’s not good, exactly, but when I was in high school, I saw a choir at a friend’s school perform it, and their delivery, coupled with the unabashedly sentimental nature of the song, got to me. I was writing about it for my own choir (our director required us to see another performance and write about it once every semester), and I paid special attention to “One More Night”. This American Life fans might remember a wonderful episode in which a writer who had recently been dumped by her boyfriend enlisted Phil Collins to help her write a good breakup song. His advice–which is useful for writing about most things but especially pertinent to anything dealing with love–was not to try to capture the totality of a breakup in this song, but to focus on one small part of it. She played him the song she had written, and he told her he liked it, being sure to add that he was not just saying that to spare her feelings. If anyone is curious, you can download that episode here. It’s quite good.

I got over my bitterness at being single a long time ago. Basically, I just want two things: good conversation and good sex. My views on romance tend to be fairly low-key. I never had a Romeo & Juliet-type infatuation in my youth during which I was convinced that the other person was the most perfect human being ever created and I could never be happy without them. Shakespeare was, I’m fairly certain, poking fun at that sort of relationship as much as he was celebrating it. How else to explain that the two young lovers both kill themselves over what turns out to have been just about the silliest and most contrived misunderstanding imaginable?

I like to think that when I finally do find someone, not much will change. I’ll be having regular sex with someone I care about, but aside from that admittedly significant change, I’ll just go on as before, right? Most people know this already, but it bears repeating: A partner does not define you. Anyone who wants a girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever just to have one is missing the forest for the trees. I say this because–and maybe I’m jinxing myself by saying this, but whatever–I think my time is coming. It could be a while yet, but if I don’t get a boyfriend relatively soon (I won’t set a deadline because I will certainly not meet it), I’ll have no choice but to swear myself to a lifetime of celibacy. Honestly, I’ll never be this handsome again, and if the 20-plus years I’ve been alive isn’t long enough to wait for my first serious relationship, maybe boyfriends just aren’t worth the effort. It’s not like I don’t spend every waking moment complaining about it to everyone who will listen.

Roald Dahl was one of my favorite authors when I was a child. There are a only a handful of talented artists I can name whose work accurately portrays childhood. Hayao Miyazaki, Bill Watterson, Dr. Seuss, probably a few others. The point is that there are many things about the adult world that, to a child, appear baffling. Having a job is one. When I was little, “work” was something that every grown-up went to every day. I knew nothing about it except that it involved dressing up and sitting in a drab office all day. To this day, I still know only a little about what my parents do. I’m not sure if children will think the same way about me once I have a steady job. My father insists that I take after my mother. My mother, though she has not said so explicitly, probably thinks I take after him. I like to think that I will become less and less like both of them the older I get. There is a lot that I can learn from them, but I really don’t want to have the life that they do. It’s ironic that I’m a fag, since my ideas about family are quite conservative. I like the idea of committing to one person and having monogamous sex with them for years or decades on end. Maybe part of the reason that I’ve never even been on a date is because finding someone who meets my criteria is fairly difficult in this day and age. But I’m willing to settle. I never get my first choice for anything, and since my first choice for a husband (or boyfriend, since I’m still so young) would be Brad Pitt or Jon Hamm, it’s a safe bet that I won’t get to be with my ideal man.

I used to think that being in a relationship would solve all my problems. This is, of course, silly, but it took a while to accept that it isn’t my only reason for being alive. Good things don’t happen to me all that often, but when they do, they stay with me. A friend of mine used to bring up my sexuality way more often than was necessary. We’d be discussing music, and suddenly he’d say, “Wow, you’re so non-stereotypical!” Right, because only straight people are allowed to like Arcade Fire. He got over that slowly, and now at least tries not to treat me like another species. Most people know there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality, but they still don’t know what it is. I’d like to say that I’ll know what it is when I find someone, but it looks like I’ll have to figure it out first.

An Extraordinary Life

One of the stock questions for any interviewer is which historical figure their subject would spend a day with, given the chance. I had to think long and hard about this because I don’t want to pick one of the obvious choices. Eventually, I settled on the Roman Emperor Claudius. Much about him is unknown, largely because his autobiography was lost to history. (Robert Graves wrote a fictional autobiography of Claudius, and the result is one of my all-time favorite novels.) I guess I want to know what he was really like. Shakespeare seems like a no-brainer, but as Christopher Hitchens pointed out, once you’ve met the man through his literature, meeting him in the flesh would almost certainly disappoint. The real question is: Who had an interesting enough life that meeting them would be more enlightening than learning about them? I doubt I’ll be quite so successful in my chosen field as Claudius was (or unsuccessful, given his untimely demise), but something tells me that I’m going to have an interesting life. I write about it a great deal, but the telling is only part of what makes the tale. I feel quite safe in saying that the bizarre and unexpected shit in my life trumps what has happened to most other people. That’s not bragging. There are times when I wish it wasn’t so.

Every so often, something like this happens, and somebody who I thought was my friend turns out not to be. I guess that’s part of life, but it would be nice to surround myself with people that I know I can depend on, not just people who have fallen in with me by circumstance. In this case, it was a friendly, personable fellow whom I’d acted alongside in a play last winter and who had, in the months that we’d kept in touch since, been a pretty good friend. Then he started complaining about politics on Facebook, not endorsing one candidate or the other, but talking loudly and obnoxiously about how both sides are full of hypocrites and the whole system is completely fucked. I hate those people. If you seriously can’t see any difference at all between the two major parties, you aren’t looking hard enough. I’m so fucking sick of these smug, condescending armchair critics who tell those of us who actually care that we’re naive to believe in the power of elections to change anything. Elections made this country, you fucknuts. If it weren’t for the hundreds of years of progress that our electoral system has brought us, none of us would even be here. I’m not going to tell anybody who to vote for (although it should be obvious who I support), but if you honestly think that Mitt Romney is as good as Barack Obama and vice versa, get the fuck off of my blog. Your ignorance is willful and you’re using it as a tool to suppress dissent.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I told my friend how I felt, and he joined his other friends in jeering at me. I never could have guessed that the man who seemed in all other respects to be a decent person would turn out to be, upon being called on his bullshit, nothing more than a playground bully. I guess I’ll be able to spot his type a bit sooner next time. Tell me something: If something that you said offended someone else enough that they don’t want to talk to you anymore, wouldn’t you want to know about it? I know I would. One thing I would not do is mock them just for bringing it up. I’ve done a lot of things that I regret, but I can’t say that I’ve ever bullied anyone.

It’s hard to do basically anything these days without hearing about the election. I never understood people who want to isolate themselves from political discussions. They ask others not to bring it up at the dinner table and complain when stand-up comedians introduce it into their act. Why? Politics is one of the most serious topics in existence, which also makes it one of the funniest. Yes, I like to kick back and relax as well, and the way that I do that isn’t by pretending that the very real problems that plague our world don’t exist, but by learning to laugh at them. My needs are simple. When it comes to choosing a president, I try to focus less on whether I agree with every position that they have and think instead about whether they have any interest in moving this country forward. Barack Obama does. Mitt Romney believes in one thing and one thing only: that Mitt Romney should be president. If you agree with that, vote for him. I’m serious.

It’s Sunday morning. For some people, that’s the best part of the week. I dunno, I guess it symbolizes renewal or something. This is my 100th post. It’s been almost eight months to the day since I started blogging. Since then, I’ve written so much and endured so much that I honestly don’t know how much more I can take. I’m not so tired as I once was, however. I try not to let my failures get me down (and believe me, I’ve wracked up quite a few since I started school again.) Most people can’t see past the superficial shortcomings of others, and thus never give them time to realize their full potential. I believe that no matter what, you must accept somebody as they are or not at all. You cannot compartmentalize different facets of a person’s true nature. Try that, and you’ll be eaten alive.

Now go enjoy your coffee.

Fun Things

I’m not sure if I’ve made this clear, but I really hate Tyler Perry. Really, really, really hate him. I mean, I’m all for diversity, but when someone has no more to contribute to the discussion than, “I’m black, how about that?” I start to wonder if there aren’t more deserving people to lavish our attention upon. So you can imagine how delighted I was to discover this video, in which one of my favorite living filmmakers calls Perry out for what he is. I think it’s time we added the phrase “coonery buffoonery” to the cultural Lexicon, don’t you?

It’s only natural, then, that somebody asked Tyler Perry what his response to that was. Suffice to say, he didn’t really address the underlying issue.

His central claim here is bullshit. First of all, he doesn’t respond to what Spike Lee actually says, offering no defense of the quality of his art. Second, he asserts that black people are the only group of people who snipe at each other like this. That is false. Gay people bicker like, well, a bunch of bitchy queens. At least one Italian did criticize The Sopranos for its stereotypical portrayal of an ethnic minority, and if Jews don’t complain about Seinfeld (which some of them very well might), it’s just because that show was awesome and Tyler Perry’s movies suck. I love the way that he implicitly compares himself to Zora Neale Hurston. She was a very talented writer. Tyler Perry isn’t. He’s out to glorify himself, first and foremost, and he does so by piggybacking off of the ignorance of the people he claims to speak for.

Chris Rock was dead-on when he said that black people are more racist than white people. It doesn’t mean that white people aren’t to blame for slavery and the disenfranchisement of black voters, just that whereas most well-meaning white people aim to be deferential, black people have no such inhibitions. The most obvious manifestation of that is in the way that black people frequently throw around a certain word that white people have to be very, very careful about saying. There are, by the same token, gay people who figure that since being gay prevents them from being a homophobe (which, paradoxical as it sounds, is not entirely true), they can talk shit about other gay people. I’ve heard the more masculine, “straight-acting” types talk shit about swishy guys because they think they’re presenting the wrong image. There might be feminine guys who hate straight-acting ones because they’re “not gay enough” as well, although I, personally, have not encountered any. The point is that whichever way you swing it, this kind of talk is bullshit. Let straight people tear us down. I’m not even a part of the gay “scene”, really, and I get sick of all this talk about what a gay man should and shouldn’t be. I have other things to think about. Besides, what’s wrong with dissent? I fucking hate Glee. If Ryan Murphy is TV’s voice of gay Americans, I’d rather he were silent.

I don’t think it is possible to say anything hateful unless you are a hateful person. There was a scandal about a year ago when Tracy Morgan said something borderline-homophobic at a stand-up comedy show and immediately set about apologizing. Over and over again. Some of his 30 Rock castmates stepped forward to attest that he was not a bigot. I don’t know about the rest of you, but that’s good enough for me. More than good enough, actually. I’ve been alive long enough to know the difference between real hate and a joke that went too far, and let me assure you that this incident was the latter. When I was in high school, I once jokingly threatened to burn my history teacher’s mother’s house to the ground. I don’t know why I did that. I have a sick sense of humor, but even by my standards, that was excessive. He forgave me, though, and went back to disliking me just because I’m an asshole (as opposed to, you know, an arsonist.)

It’s time for me to talk about feminism now. This photo has been circulating some blogs lately, largely because, if this story is to be believed, it was not the tender romantic moment so many thought it was, but totally non-consensual.

You’ll notice that I didn’t call it sexual assault. I don’t think it was. I have been sexually assaulted (basically stalking and groping that persisted for over a year), and I honestly don’t think I would feel violated in quite the same way if an overexcited sailor who had probably lost a few friends to the war that had gripped the world for the last five or six years kissed me in his enthusiasm upon learning that said war was over. The woman in this (for me, anyway) still-iconic picture appears fairly blase about the whole thing. Clearly, she didn’t want it, but she appears to have gotten over it fairly quickly. Well, that settles that. Or does it? As one blogger argues, we live in a rape culture, meaning that such violations as the sailor’s are seen as normal rather than a deviation. That may be true, but there comes a point at which we have to start taking people at their word. I’m sick of people arguing that, oh, I don’t know, A Song of Ice and Fire is misogynistic even if George R.R. Martin isn’t. I don’t see how that’s possible. If we’re all just victims of larger forces, then are we even in control of our own lives? What’s the point of fighting if nobody can even begin to understand the evil influences that are working through them? Maybe the feminists I’ve argued with over the years are right. Maybe I just don’t get it. But I do know that ASoIaF contains all manner of fucked-up shit, and while I’ve only read the first book so far and seen almost none of the TV series, I didn’t notice an inordinate amount of violence towards women. Maybe I’ve just internalized the gender politics of this rape culture and can’t see beyond my own prejudices. But I really don’t think that’s the case.

Feminism is not a religion, but an idea. It deserves skepticism and even dissent, just like any other movement. I accept nothing without question. Tyler Perry should do the same.