Thursday, May 3, 2007

Statistics.

Wow, I think this is the most math I've done in one sitting since high school.

I'm writing this screenplay which is about sex and men, and, in particular, how men go about trying to get it and how that affects the way they see themselves and each other. I've had this opinion for a while that most men are very focused on body parts to the detriment of their ability to function sexually as whole people. I believe a common ailment for men is that we're unable to bring our whole selves into sex. Evidence of this is the way men will fetishize a body part to the extent that they fashion an identity around it ("ass man," "leg man," "cocksucker," etc.)

And I came to think that this phenomenon really stands out in online profiles on dating and sex hookup web sites, where men give limited, directed information about themselves and choose pictures of themselves with the object of attracting somebody for sex. So I decided to check my theory with a little scientific study. Well, maybe pseudo-scientific.

I looked at 150 profiles on Manhunt.net, one of the big gay hookup sites, and I compiled some information about the photos. I only looked at the main photo, the one that appears first to anyone browsing the site. There are often additional photos in a profile, including "private" photos that are only available when people "unlock" them for men they might be interested in. It seems to me that this main photo is where men put what they consider their best foot forward.

I've had the impression in browsing these types of sites over the years that a big percentage of the photos are of isolated body parts: an erect penis, a spread butt, leading to an I-am-my-cock syndrome (or my ass, or whatever.). So I wanted to see if the numbers match my impression.

I took the first 150 profiles of Austin men and divided the photos into 8 categories. Some were a little ambiguous, but most of them fell pretty neatly into one column or another. Here's what I found:

Face: 26%
Penis, naked: 10%
Penis, clothed: 3% (This might seem like a strange distinction, but there are quite a few photos of erect penises "hidden" by a wet shirt, or something else that clearly shows the attributes.)
Ass: 6% (I could break this down further, and I might if I decide to do a more detailed study. Some are just shots of a naked butt, but many of them could more accurately fall into a category of "asshole.")
Body, no face, clothed: 1%
Body, no face, naked: 26%
Body and face, naked: 12%
Body and face, clothed: 17%

I had expected much bigger numbers in the penis and ass categories. (Sometimes when I'm looking at profiles on these sites, it starts to feel like an endless parade of assholes and hard dicks, which just feels kind of heartbreaking sometimes, that that's what we're reduced to.) These numbers are probably lower in Austin than they would be in New York or San Francisco. People are more modest or conservative here.

It's heartwarming that over half of the men posted pictures of their faces, in one form or another. And I actually find it encouraging that 12% posted photos of their naked bodies with their faces showing. However, in probably half of these, their penises were hidden, and a large portion of the shots seemed clearly intended to show off a nice chest. Still more distinctions for further study.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bachelor Dinner.

J. is out of town tonight, and I just made myself the most yummy dinner. One of those dinners that's so good you want to eat it again as soon as you finish even though you're stuffed.

Last night, late, I got a wild hair to make cilantro pesto. The cilantro in the garden is about ready to bolt, so I've been telling the neighbors to help themselves and I've been trying to think of ways to use it. J. suggested cilantro pesto last week.

I tossed a couple big handfuls of cilantro, a couple big handfuls of roasted peanuts -- I was going to use walnuts, but I burned them in the toaster oven; we got a new one, and the controls on it are still a bit of a mystery to me -- a few cloves of garlic, two big pinches of salt, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a splash of lime juice, and probably about 1/2 cup of olive oil in the blender. I had to add a little water to make the thing go, but no more liquid than you need, because you don't want it to be runny. You have to stop and start and poke at it every once in a while until it finally gets ground up smooth. You could do it in the food processor, and it would be less work, but it'll never grind it as fine as the blender.

I froze some of it in small containers and put the rest in the fridge.

So, tonight, I made pasta with a cilantro pesto smoked gouda cream sauce! The sauce is so easy. At the restaurant in Utah where I worked the last two summers, we made a quick mac and cheese for kids that is so quick and delicious, I have to be stern with myself not to make it more often. It's probably the main reason I weigh about 15 pounds more now than I did before I worked there. The sauce is just butter, cream, cheese (use some kind of melty cheese, like Monterey Jack or a young cheddar), and a pinch of salt and pepper.

After I cooked the pasta -- about 1/4 to 1/3 pound for one serving -- I rinsed it in the colander under hot water. Then I melted a tablespoon of butter in the pan and added about 1/3 cup of half and half (at the restaurant we used heavy cream!), and a pinch of salt and swirled it over medium heat until it was bubbling and steaming. I stirred in a big handful of grated smoked gouda. Stir it quickly over the heat, or whisk it; you don't want it to scorch. Lower the heat and stir in a big heaping tablespoon of cilantro pesto, and then the pasta. More salt if it needs it.

Can't beat it. I put it in a big bowl and ate it with a spoon on the porch with a beer and watched the thunderstorm.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Eighties Night.

J. and I did a dollar double-feature last night. U.T. does a free movie night (weekly? monthly? I can't remember) at the student union. Last night was Spike Lee's first film, She's Gotta Have It, which somehow I missed the first time around. From there we went to the Alamo for Music Monday, which is $2, but half price for Austin Film Society members (J.) and students (me, maybe, for now).

The professor who introduced She's Gotta Have It, with a personal anecdote about his friendship with Spike Lee, talked about the film like it was a recently unearthed prehistoric artifact, which felt appropriate since most of the audience were probably born after it was made. And it did look a little prehistoric, all grainy and streaked and out of focus. (I don't know if it was a bad print, or if the original film looked distressed.)

If I had chanced upon this film without knowing its history and cultural importance, I'm sure I would have thought it was just, well, bad. When J. and I were discussing it on the way out, I said that maybe, with our theater background, our expectations of acting and dialog in a film are different from those of the average film buff, or film student or academic. Acting and writing (as in the words that are spoken) are a starting point for me. If they're bad -- and I know these judgments are subjective, but I also think it would be hard to argue that the actors are not extremely self-conscious and awkward in this film, partly because of their lack of skill but also because the dialog is so stilted -- I have a hard time seeing much else.

I can intellectually know that this film was revolutionary at the time -- because it dealt with black people's lives and women's sexuality in a way that was new in American films, etc. -- but boy it doesn't seem to me that it has held up very well after only twenty years.

One thing about it that kept my interest was the Brooklyn setting. I lived with my first long-term boyfriend in a run-down, ramshackle floor-through apartment in Fort Greene at that time (from 1984 - 1989), so the scenes that were shot in Fort Greene Park and on the Fulton Mall made me flush with nostalgia. It looked in the film exactly like it looks in my memories.

Back then, Fort Greene was a very mixed bag: majestic, tree-lined blocks of single-family brownstones in which middle-class black families had lived for generations, next to some of the most severe urban blight I've ever seen. That neighborhood is now one of the most expensive and desirable urban neighborhoods in the country. (I'm one of those homosexual artists who move into neighborhoods before they're safe and can't afford to stay once they become safe.)

Next, a documentary about the Smiths. Sometimes the crowd is sparse for Music Monday, but this one was sold out. I guess the Smiths are pretty hot with the kids.

When I worked as a waiter at Bandito, a Mexican restaurant on Second Avenue in the early eighties (this was when Tex-Mex and Margaritas were just starting to become sort of trendy in New York), the bartenders played great music, and that was often where I first heard new stuff. I remember once the bartender asking if I had heard REM (I hadn't) and he described them as "like the Smiths, but American." They seem so different now, but at the time I think there was a similarity in the sound, and certainly in the feyness of their lead singers.

The doc was good. It was made for the BBC, traditional talking head format (with some bizarre animation for the clips of Morrisey, I assume because he wouldn't allow his face to be included in the show). The doc itself was just an hour long, so they augmented it with some of the original music videos, which I think was unnecessary. The videos were cut into the film, interrupting the pace of the story in a way that made it seem overly long.

It was great to hear the songs again. I had their records, and my friends and I listened to them a lot back then, but I didn't replace them when I got rid of all my LPs. My favorite thing -- and I'm not sure it was a part of the original doc -- was a short film (a music video, really) by Derek Jarman of "The Queen is Dead."

I'm amazed by how much obviously gay pop music made it into the clueless mainstream back then. This stuff was not exactly coded. I guess it was a subject people at the time were still more or less terrified of, so they didn't even see it when it was right in front of their noses.

I saw Morrisey live once, at a big outdoor venue in New York, probably not long after the Smiths broke up. His opening act was Phranc, the lesbian folk comedy singer-songwriter. My friends and I all sort of liked Phranc, even though she was pretty hokey, because she looked like a Beach Boy and sang songs about crushes on girls in gym class. But Morrisey's audience didn't like her at all. She played her entire set, just her and her guitar, to boos and shouts of "get off the stage." I was horrified.

I expected Morrisey to say something about it when he came out for his set. I guess I wanted him to reprimand the audience or something, but he didn't acknowledge what had happened. After that, I lost interest in him.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Jesus Fucking Christ.

I guess this is what they mean by dire consequences.

I called the Selective Service, and of course they don't have any record of me. The woman I spoke with directed me to the form on the web I would need to fill out and send to them. They would then decide whether or not to issue some kind of letter regarding my status. In this form, I would have to tell them that I actually did register, and tell them where and when.

While apparently I was somewhat willing to prevaricate and mislead ("I don't understand how I could not be registered -- otherwise how could I have applied for and got federal aid 25 years ago?"), I'm not willing to fabricate such an elaborate written lie.

So...

I have the summer to investigate other means of funding, but I'm not optimistic. I would have to come up with about $8,000 a semester to cover tuition and fees and some portion of my living expenses. I could work full-time while I'm in school, but I don't know that I'm willing to do that. Part-time I could handle. There are private loans, but the interest rate on them is much higher than on federal student loans. And I don't think I want to borrow the whole amount. I was counting on at least a portion of the expense to be covered by grants. I already have $15,000 in credit card debt from Life in a Box.

My head's spinning. Once again, the future looks cloudy.

This afternoon I'm finishing up my application to the Sundance screenwriters lab program, which has to be postmarked tomorrow. If my script is chosen, I will need to spend a week in Utah in January. I'd been a little concerned about how that would work with me being in school. Now I guess that won't be an issue. What a relief.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Screenplays.

I mailed my screenplay to the Slamdance Festival screenplay contest on Friday, a couple weeks ahead of the deadline. (Slamdance is the "alternative" festival that runs concurrently with the Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah. I think it was founded by a group of filmmakers who felt left out of Sundance as it became more establishment.) The top prize for the contest is $7000, I think. This is the script called Room for Jerry, which I wrote over the last 2 years. It's good. I was going to write, "I think it's good," but I changed my mind. I know it's good, especially good for a first effort.

Now, back to work on my second script, working title Anonymous Sex. I'm waiting for a better title to suggest itself. The story is about, among many things, anonymous sex, but it makes a bland title. Either that or needlessly provocative, I'm not sure which. I'm more than halfway finished with a first draft. It's turning into kind of a sprawling story, which is exciting. I'll have a lot to work with when it comes time to rewrite.

I'm submitting this one to the Sundance screenwriters lab program. The deadline is Tuesday, but I only have to submit the first five pages, a 2-page synopsis, and a cover letter, so I think I can get it together. The first five pages are all pretty much sex, so maybe it'll grab their attention.

They choose a very small number of writers to come to Utah for a week or so in January to shape and workshop their scripts with a group of industry folks. It's the first phase, and the only one with open submissions, in the Sundance process. Projects in the screenplay lab program that they think have potential are shepherded through the Sundance Institute's various programs and sometimes go on to become full productions supported by the Institute. (I submitted Room for Jerry last year and it was turned down.)