Saturday, November 7, 2009

Stuff I Want To Do.

1. A book called Gay Uncle, semi-scholarly but free-wheeling exploration of gay uncles and their nephews (inspired by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's notion of the "avunculate"). Including memoir, history, criticism, oral history. This is a big project, involving lots of research.

2. A series of short video pieces based on some of my new songs. Music videos, essentially.

3. A longer, but still short, film called Wall of Angels, about a woman who burns her house down and goes on a trip during which geography, duration, and chronology are unmoored. I have a script of this partially written. Surreal, dreamy, low-tech special effects.

4. A short film called Men & Boys, centering around an encounter between a teenage boy and a middle-aged man on a beach. One setting, two person cast, natural light. Could be very low budget.

5. Two feature films for which I have completed screenplays: Room for Jerry (about a middle-aged couple who begin an affair with a younger woman and the effect that it has on their relationships with their adult children) and Public Sex (a sexually-explicit, polemical story about sex among a group of urban gay men).

4. Series of nude portraits of men in my life. Drawings.

5. Four-man vocal quartet to sing barbershop, a capella arrangements of my songs.

Friday, November 6, 2009

In Praise of Andrew Sullivan. (duck and cover!)

I get flack from the Andrew Sullivan haters all the time. Gay people and liberals have a long history of grievance with Sullivan, centering around, as far as I know, three things:

1) In the mid-nineties, he wrote an essay, published in The New York Times Magazine, called "When Plagues End", which was about how the new HIV drugs were radically changing the AIDS epidemic in the United States. Lots of people thought it was irresponsible to be so upbeat.

2) He supported Bush's invasion of Iraq. Big time. When the war turned into a huge disaster, he changed his mind, very publicly.

3) I can't remember exactly when it happened, maybe 5-7 years ago?, but his profile on a gay sex cruising web site, on which he was soliciting unprotected anal sex, was made public. Sullivan is HIV positive.

I read his blog, The Daily Dish, every morning. I don't know of another journalist who blogs daily who is as consistently interesting, wide-ranging, and smart as Sullivan. His blog is a conversation; people who disagree with him get lots of airtime. I disagree with him as often as I agree with him, in fact probably more, but I learn a whole lot more reading him than I ever get by reading Huffington Post (which I stopped reading because, even though the general bias of the blog is maybe closer to my own politics, the writing there is just a lot of knee-jerk shouting by people who usually have a pretty shallow understanding of the issues). Sullivan is a thinker. He can be strident, but he listens and he enjoys the debate. That's why I like him.

I get really exasperated when I read most liberal blogs because they usually assume the correctness of their point of view on issues; they assume that if you call yourself a liberal or progressive, then of course you must believe this, this, and this. (For instance, if you don't support gay marriage, you must be a Nazi.) Sullivan gives me different things to be exasperated about. For instance, I disagree with him about gay marriage, but I agree with him about hate-crimes laws.

Anyway, all that to say that I really enjoyed this little clip this morning. It made me ponder how bizarre the world has become when thoughtful, informed commentary on the issues of our day more often than not is found on comedy shows. Of course, that's not a novel observation.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Andrew Sullivan
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

If anyone is curious as to my opinions on 1, 2, and 3 above:

1) I think the essay is great and I think it holds up all these years later. I find Sullivan's writing about the experience of being a homosexual man in these times moving and deeply perceptive.

2) Hard to forgive. But I think his support of the war and his embarrassment and shame about it is part of what motivates his vigilance now about Bush and Cheney, war crimes, torture, etc. Also mitigating was his relentless support of Obama's campaign, which I would guess was a factor in convincing lots of conservatives to vote for him.

3) I have a hard time judging anyone's behavior when they're looking for sex.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oh Maine, Why Do You Hate Me So??

I got an email this morning from a friend:
I'm looking at my facebook updates this morning and not one of my gay friends has said anything about the inclusion of gays under the discrimination law in Kalamazoo or the fact that in the 23rd district of New York, a democrat upset a Palin-sponsored conservative, indicative of the general positive sentiment toward Obama.

All they have written is "Fuck Maine," "Everyone in Maine can go to hell," "devastating news about Maine," etc. etc. etc. They have totally lost touch with the entire gay rights movement. Infuriating.
I completely agree and had a similar response to all the venting about Maine last night and this morning. No surprise, I guess. Anyone who reads this or knows me knows that marriage is not my thing.

But I did have one thought that was slightly encouraging and worth pondering. I suspect lots of people are very vocal about gay marriage who would previously -- before the movement was hijacked by conservatives -- been apathetic. The virtue of marriage as a rights issue is that it has been galvanizing. People know what marriage is -- they think they do, anyway. Almost everyone, even the crustiest among us, has a happily-ever-after fantasy just waiting to be shocked like Frankenstein's monster to new life. Marriage is a lot more emotionally potent and easier to get the average mind around than anti-discrimination legislation or local electoral politics.

I suspect the people who care about the more practical advances in equality for sexual minorities are still doing the real work, are still vocal, still care, but their voices are drowned out by all the activist wannabes shrieking that they deserve to marry the one they love, blah blah.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My Day at the Dog Park.

I came so close to walking out today. Just grabbing my backpack and going home. It was at the beginning of the last period. About 5 minutes into the period, the kids were still running all over the room and throwing things at each other. One boy, probably about 6'1" and 250 pounds had a girl about half his size in a bear hug and she was screaming, no screeching. Another boy was pounding on the wall with his feet and hands. I told him to stop and he said to me, "Seriously, you better shut up, I'm getting tired of you." Except for one student who had his head down on his desk, sleeping, and two others who were sitting quietly, the whole class was up and running around, laughing, yelling, throwing things across the room. One kid left and didn't come back. I thought about calling security, but wondered what I would say. "Help!"?

A few minutes later, things calmed down enough that I decided I could make it through the rest of the day. When I say "calmed down," I mean that nobody was trying to kill anyone. At no point in the day were more than a couple or three kids doing the work that was assigned. I might just as well have not been there. I'm not sure what difference it would have made.

I guess since the job pays babysitting wages, I shouldn't be surprised that I'm babysitting. I didn't have any illusions that I would be doing much teaching as a substitute, but I'm not interested in being a prison warden. On average there have been about 3 or 4 kids in every class who actually try to do the assigned work, try to engage with the material. The rest just flat out don't do it. They refuse.

The advice I keep getting from other teachers is, "Don't let it faze you. Don't let them get to you. Don't let them make you angry." It's well-meant advice, but somehow unhelpful. I don't feel in danger of getting angry at the kids. The ones who misbehave are too ridiculous to be angry with. The kids I had today were a bunch of brats who've clearly never had any effective discipline in their lives, but they're 12. It's their parents I'm mad at.

Substitute teaching is like spending the day in a pen full of feral cats. Or dogs. Or both -- feral cats and feral dogs. But sadder, because cats and dogs are not the future.