Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hipsters on Food Stamps.

This is a fascinating read, or at least I thought so, given my current preoccupations with poverty and the artist's life. Two quintessentially American but seemingly unrelated attitudes dovetail nicely: Americans' general disdain for and suspicion of artists and Americans' belief that poor people deserve to eat crappy food.

(Be sure and read the response by one of the subjects of the article. He expresses most of the thoughts I had while reading the piece.)

I've thought about food stamps recently. Not thought about like "I'm gonna march down there and get me some," but thought about like, "What would it mean for someone like me to be getting food stamps?" I've been looking for work for months, and I don't have enough savings to live on for more than another few weeks -- why is it I seem to have a basic assumption that people like me (white, single, middle class background) don't really deserve public assistance? Why is it I assume that since I chose to be an artist I deserve financial insecurity? I'm not eligible for unemployment (the sort of respectable welfare for middle-class people), even though I've paid taxes all my life and even paid double in most years because self-employed people have to pay self-employment tax.

I don't intend these questions to imply that I feel I'm not getting something I'm entitled to. They're genuinely confusing questions to me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It Doesn't Hurt to Ask. I Hope.

I remember years ago watching a country music awards show with my family and my mom rolled her eyes when one of the winners said something along the lines of "I want to thank my fans who I love dearly because without them I wouldn't be able to do this." I probably questioned the sincerity of the statement, too, this being before I saw at close hand how personally tied up an artist's livelihood can be to his or her fans' support.

When J and I were on the road with Y'all, I loved our fans deeply, sincerely, because, well, without them we couldn't have been doing what we did. Their love and support of our work was the engine that make it go. (Whether or not it made it go a little longer than it should have is a question for another day....)

Not only did our fans provide cash flow for our living expenses by coming to see our shows, buying our CDs and books and T-shirts and whatever else we could come up with to sell, they often fed and sheltered us. I don't know what else to feel but love and gratitude for people who took care of our basic needs, regardless of whether I knew them personally or not.

I still don't feel comfortable asking for money, but I don't want to stop making art, so I've made some kind of uneasy peace with it. I know the constant pleading can be a turnoff. I'm sure we lost fans like public radio stations lose listeners during pledge drives, but sustaining a career as an artist can be a giant money-eating monster, and in order to keep making art you have to keep feeding the monster.

I'll be very frank. I've had a hell of a time trying to figure out how to make a living the last few years, post-Y'all. I've had some great successes recently. A real career high for me has been my show, Lizzie Borden's critically-acclaimed run in New York last fall. That has been and continues to be a huge thrill for me, huge, but it's a success I can't measure in dollars and cents. Literally.

And it's been 5 years since I made Life in a Box, what I consider to be my biggest artistic achievement. The film did well, premiered in the San Francisco Int'l Film Festival (a fact which I'm very proud of) got great audience response during its festival run in 2005-7, and continues to accumulate admirers. But it hasn't made a dime and I'm still paying the credit card bills.

And I'm broke. I've been applying for every teaching job I can and trying to get work as a substitute and very rapidly running out of money. Lately, one thing does not seem to lead to another, and I wonder how I will ever get back on my feet. I hope I don't sound over-dramatic, but things are a little scary lately.

In my more confident moments, I don't care if I never get back on my feet again as long as I can continue to be creative. I want to make another movie. I'm tired of waiting. I've been writing screenplays, songs, essays, blogging like crazy. I'm doing the most complex and thoughtful writing of my life now. My best work is ahead of me. Broke and desperate or not, I need to be producing work.

I've written a short screenplay that I think is the ideal project for me now -- it's a simple, provocative story that I can shoot and edit without a lot of fuss, on a very small scale. But the only way I'm going to be able to do it is if I can get a short reprieve from the wolf at the door. A few thousand dollars will let me take a break from looking for a day job so I can finish writing, do some preproduction, shoot and edit the film. This is a tiny project, a 10-minute film. Probably a two-day shoot and maybe a couple weeks of editing. The speck of a budget also provides small stipends for a crew of one or two, two actors, and lunch on shooting days. I just need a couple months of being a full-time artist and then I'll go back to being broke and desperate.

If you appreciate my work and have $10 bucks or more to throw my way, now's the time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hot Guy.

Man oh man, I am sure having a complicated reaction to these photos of a beautiful man. This is Olympic pole-vaulter, Balian Buschbaum, née Yvonne Buschbaum.

I don't see anything queer at all in these pictures after (after?) his transition. He has become exactly the sort of impossibly handsome, athletic man that I have resented and desired since I was about 11 years old. I am aware that I am reacting to pictures, to a presentation, not to an actual man, but I was responding to a presentation, to a performance, in 5th grade too: the straight white teeth, the shirt open 3 buttons, the hiphuggers, the masculine swagger that I couldn't master.

I don't have any pithy conclusion to offer; I just found my reaction to these photos fascinating.

I'll Watch Drag Queens Do Pretty Much Anything.

I get bored fast with all the Project Runway/American Idol, etc. talent shows, but for some reason (i.e., because it's drag queens) I'm mesmerized by RuPaul's Drag Race. I actually teared up a little last night at JuJuBe's harrowing last-minute save from elimination when she Lipsynched ... For Her Life. And we laughed and cried to see Jessica Wild sashay away.

If you don't have time to catch the whole thing, this parody from Big Gay Sketch Show pretty much nails it.

More Gay Movies & Entertainment News


M and I were on our way to A's house for his weekly RuPaul's Drag Race gathering last night, guessing that everyone would want to know about our trip to Mexico City last week, and of course anxious to tell everyone how wonderful and magical and absolutely amazing it was, but we both sort of realized that we didn't know how to turn it into a narrative. And, too, I thought, I don't know how to turn the last few months of my life into a narrative. Which is saying something, because I'm pretty good at the narrative thing. Even if I have to bluff.

I fell madly in love with a man, and then I fell madly in love with a city. That's all I've got so far.

So, I'm seriously neglecting my blogging. Not just here, but at The Gay Place and Bilerico where I'm required to write something about something instead of blubbering about my incoherent thoughts. Not only did I take a week off, but now, three days back, I can't focus long enough to write a paragraph that's not a mess. I'll come up with something, I hope soon, but right now my mind is spinning too fast.

Oh! My birthday was Monday, the day I returned from Mexico. I turned 49. Unbelievable. I spent the eve of my birthday vomiting on the bus from Mexico City to Nuevo Laredo at the border. Nice. Maybe it was the lax food safety laws in Mexico (are there any?) or the water, but I'm telling myself I was just overwrought and overwhelmed. I was actually crying the night before we left, I was so sad to be leaving. I haven't fallen so hard for a city since I was 18 on my first visit to New York. Hard core.

(Okay, one coherent thought: the street food in Mexico City is sublime. We ate almost every meal from street vendors. Usually for less than 5 bucks for the both of us, we stuffed ourselves on the most delicious food I've ever had. I guess, in a way, that fact can stand in for the whole experience of the city.)