Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chocolate Amethyst

I often enter the world of creativity when it comes to alcohol. Mr. Man prefers his tried-and-true rum and diet Coke, time and again. (Well, sometimes he switches to diet Dr. Pepper, and if he wants to sin, he'll indulge in the real stuff. But rarely.) But I'll try all sorts of different concoctions. No mixologist, I, however. More often than not, my drinks are valiant attempts, and that's as far as they go.

A year ago, almost exactly, inspiration struck like it will from time to time. But this time, the attempt was a hit. So here's the recipe:

Chocolate Amethyst

2 shots vanilla vodka
1 shot vodka
1 shot white creme de cacao
1/2 shot Chambord

Shake together with ice in a martini shaker, and serve in a cocktail glass.

Simple, right? So, more blogging to regale ya:

It turns out a pretty light lavender. (Usually lighter than it appears in this picture.) I originally tried it with dark creme de cacao. From a taste perspective, sure, it's the same. But to really evoke the name "Amethyst," you have to use white creme de cacao.

Mr. Man thought it would be especially decadent with Godiva liqueur. I didn't think it would make that much of a difference. So one night, because it's fun to drink these, we did a blind taste test, and found the taste about 99.9% the same. I liked the creme de cacao just the slightest bit more, and Mr. Man thought Godiva won out, but just by a sliver. But again, the color is part of the drink, so out went the Godiva.

The first sip may taste a bit cough syrupy. That's, unfortunately, what happens quite often when you use Chambord. But get past that first sip, and the rest is divine.

Mr. Man, well-connected social whore that he is, broadcast news of the Amethyst far and wide soon after its discovery. By far and wide, I mean to friends in places like India, Brazil, Australia, and the Netherlands. And, of course, stateside. Funny how the world wide webiverse works like that, ain't?

A few iterations followed, with varying degrees of success.
  • Substitute creme de banana for the Chambord, and you have a wonderful banana split-flavored concoction. Especially good with cream added in.
  • Substitute 1/4 shot of creme de menthe for the Chambord, and there's a good chocolate mint drink. Do NOT go overboard with the creme de menthe, lest you end up with vanilla-flavored Scope.
  • Limoncello instead of Chambord results in Generic Sweet Martini #248A.

One last fun fact: the word "amethyst" is derived from a Greek word that means "not intoxicating" or "not intoxicated." Apparently the gem amethyst was rumored to prevent intoxication. Amusing, right?

So there's your drink for the new year. Happy 2011!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Serve. Ask. Tell. And celebrate.

I'm a bit late on this, but huzzah! DADT is repealed! It marks, in a very significant, official way, that homophobia will officially no longer be tolerated, just as President Truman's executive order back in the 1940s effectively ended official tolerance of racism.

I just saw President Obama sign the repeal of DADT into law this morning. Of course, he thanked the soldiers present today, saying that with little doubt, gay soldiers fought during the conflicts through our country's history...blasting the British in our fight for independence, marching along the front lines at Gettysburg, storming the beaches at Iwo Jima, dying and being consecrated forever for service in Vietnam, and currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military service is frequently ugly, and the policies that back it up are often questionable and sometimes reprehensible, but seriously, this repeal is major cause for celebration.

I remember watching some CNN or MSNBC show recently when the House passed the DADT repeal (before the Senate acted like morons). Rep. Barney Frank was interviewed about what it means, and how he felt about it. His first response? "I feel safer." I was first jarred by this response. Wasn't this all about LGBT rights? Then on further thought, the cynic in me thought that he was just saying something particularly politically savvy. Well, he was, but man, he's right: Eliminating DADT is just as much an issue of national security as it is LGBT rights. And for the majority of Americans, that's really the main issue.

A political promise made to our nation, and to gay men and lesbians across this nation, has been kept. And with such a huge, visible, nationwide discriminatory policy struck down, a huge step in LGBT civil rights has been taken. The positive ramifications of this action should reverberate for decades to come.

Thank you, Senators Lieberman and Collins, for fighting to keep this issue alive. And well done, President Obama. Thank you for keeping your promise.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Of fools and kings...

...and I think we "fools" in this case might be smarter than the kings.

(Or: rants about the inability of our fucking government to repeal a stupid, stupid law, despite all evidence showing that it should.)

Now, I ain't no politico. (Imagine me as an armchair warrior, saying that with a good Southern drawl, slow and deliberate.) I seldom get riled up over politics. I usually keep my head down, and don't talk about things over which, aside from voting in this (har-de-har-har) democratic nation, I basically have very little control. But this is a fucking travesty.

As one of my friends put it, only in America can a 17-vote majority not pass legislation. I'm talking, of course, about Don't Ask Don't Tell. (There's a seldom-mentioned third part to that: Don't Pursue, but meh...niggling details, right?) Didn't pass today by a vote of 57-40. (Needed 60 to pass.) Gadamighty, but I am so disillusioned by our gummint. Indulge me in some no-solution spleen-venting, m'kay?

I have no desire to be in the military, nor have I ever. But I do have a great deal of respect for the men and women who live and work in service to our country in one of the most honorable ways I know. Soldiers put themselves in harm's way regularly. They do what they can to protect our country and preserve the stability thereof that helps to ensure a pretty damned productive society. I like the statement, overblown though it may be in some cases, that soldiers write a blank check to the nation for the total up to and including their lives. Quite true.

Not gonna go that much into the extra sacrifice that gay men and lesbians make. We all know it. Under DADT, they can't tell the truth about who they are and what, at a very core level, defines them. They live a lie so they can serve their country. Being honest about who they are places them at risk of being discharged. It also places them at significant risk of being harassed, physically and otherwise, although that's decreasing day by day as we're becoming more visible and more accepted.

But here's what really galls me. Despite such overwhelming evidence that out gay men and lesbians do not pose a risk to a unit's morale and ability to function; despite a recommendation by the motherfucking PENTAGON, for crying out loud, that DADT should be repealed; despite a majority of servicemen and servicewomen who believe that DADT should be repealed; despite a majority of Americans who believe that DADT should be repealed, it remains intact due to the asshattery of Congress.

If I ever met John McCain (thanks to Sarah Silverman, I know his name rhymes with "shit stain"), I'd spit in his face. Hypocrite that he is, he originally stated that he would go with whatever recommendation the Pentagon handed down regarding DADT. I'm sure he did that figuring that such a conservative, old-guard entity would never recommend anything other than maintaining the status quo. Well, oops. Now with this recommendation, he's been making flippy floppy and leading the charge to keep DADT intact. He's stated that more research needs to be done, more thought needs to be put in, and it shouldn't be repealed. He's even gone so far as to say that the recommendation is that DADT can be repealed, but the recommendation doesn't say it should. Good God. Get me a battleaxe.

With this position, McCain is saying that we should continue to accept convicted felons into the military to serve our nation, however warped they might be. But out gay men and lesbians, regardless of how morally upright they might be, or how powerful, or intelligent, or diplomatic, or dedicated, or self-sacrificing, or honorable they might be, should not hold a position in our military, and if found out, should be discharged. In essence, gay men and lesbians (assuming they are not felons themselves) hold a lower status in the military than felons.

He's also saying that the priority should be placed on discharging out gay men and lesbians, regardless of the position they hold, or of the scarcity of their talents. Witness the soldier whose fluency in a number of Middle Eastern languages, and subsequent value as an intelligence expert, was trumped by who he's attracted to. Never mind that there was no one nearly as qualified as he was to do his job. Never mind that his expertise - which I'm sure came in pretty handy about 5 years ago - was judged inconsequential when placed beside his orientation. And especially never mind that the end result of this could have contributed to a breach of security in our country, no matter how small. (He and over 13,000 other soldiers were discharged because of DADT. How's about THAT for a loss of valuable men and women who would otherwise protect our country?) McCain and his fellow blithering idiots believe that we should just plain get rid of the queers.

Other stupid-asses who have made it into holding public office believe that gay men are, across the board, wispy little fairies with limp wrists and who can't hold their own physically. Or at least that's what they say publicly. (Pandering to their constituents?) I'd love to invite them to some of the gay bars I frequent and show them the guys there - physically daunting, huge in some cases, who are awfully muscle-bound and know how to use their muscles. I'd love to introduce them to the gay men I know who are - right now - serving our country faithfully and loyally (one of them out, no less), and whose compatriots consider them tremendous assets. I'd love to show them gay men who don't know the first thing about flaming, and wouldn't know how to flip their wrists convincingly if their lives depended on it. But they could certainly handle an M-16 if given the proper training.

Oh, and of course, there's the argument that gay men are all ravenous sex machines who would try to come on to straight men if they were placed in close quarters together. Please. Soldiers - regardless of orientation - are there to do a job, and they know it. Straight men have largely proven that they can function in the field with women without disrupting morale. If a straight man is that insecure about a gay man potentially coming on to him, he needs to address why he's so insecure. (To be fair, if a gay man ends up coming on to a straight man and it does interfere with morale, then disciplinary action should be taken.) (Another non-sequitur: one of my favorite ways to totally deflate straight guys who think I'm checking them out: "Don't flatter yourself." Catches 'em off-guard every time.)

I'm done.

DADT MUST GO. NOW.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Powder blue and fuchsia...I'm thinking wedding colors now.

If you want to raise my hackles at the post office and make me wish silent death by repeated 30-gauge needle pricks, here's what you do:

- In December, wear a tennis skirt.
- Make it as bright and obnoxious a fuchsia as you can. The better to set off your unusually tan legs for this time of year, right?
- As a top, wear a '70s powder blue quilted jacket.
- Roll the sleeves back juuust enough to show the plaid pattern that brands it a Burberry.
- Do your hair back like a tennis player. Scrunchies are really fashionable.
- But don't worry about any other pretenses about being a tennis player. After all, it's December. *facepalm*
- Carry a Louis Vuitton bag.
- Check your Blackberry about that baby shower that Ashley and Kimberly are throwing for Madison.
- Look as entitled as you know you are. Blasé works as well.
- Don't even glance back at the 15-person line that's been forming behind you.
- And most of all, lug five or six packages - unpacked, unsealed, and not in envelopes - just for the poor unsuspecting postal worker to deal with for the next 15 minutes.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why I hated 8th grade, part 529.

Omphaloskepsis: excessive introspection, self absorption, or concentration on a single issue.

Interesting dream this morning. While visiting a friend in San Francisco, I began reliving unfun times at my 8th-grade yuppie training facility. Some background: Back in the day, I decided rather stupidly to jump ship from a middle school I rather liked into a richie-rich prep school with a three paragraph-long dress code. (The parents thought that I had exhausted the curriculum at the former school, and they really wanted to say their son was going to one of the most prestigious schools in town.) Bad enough that being 13 or so is already tumultuous. Add on the fact that the kids at this school were snobs who had already formed their cliques. They were not going to be interested in having a nerd with braces, large square-rimmed glasses, an unflattering buzz cut, and more-than-lacking social skills soil them with his uncool ways. So I gritted my teeth and endured 8th grade with no lack of Sturm und Drang.

So, back to my dream. Recounted to my friend how much I hated that place. He then produced a letter out of thin air and told me to read it. It was from a guy who was among the quieter, nerdier types who, despite this, was still in one of the cool cliques (due to his longer tenure there). His letter was actually really complimentary. He said he wished we could have been better friends, and in the end, he wished me well. Whoda thunk?

Enter Facebook, for better or worse. I found...well, not this guy. Not immediately, at least. I first found another guy I had known in this former life of mine, who had well over 600 friends. And amongst them, I found quite a few names from said former life. It was wild to see how many people I had known in the past, and how many people I had turned my back on. And not necessarily for the worse, either. There were lots of kids I just plain didn't get along with. The pictures I saw were pretty telling, too. These people are now living, in part, the life I wanted to avoid as much as possible. Yuppie families, consisting of real estate agents, architects, self-employed people, and the like. All showing off their happy babies and young kids. Beautiful people smiling over fancy dinners, functions, benefits, and charity gatherings. (Never mind that I'm actually kind of a guppie myself, and self-employed too.)

Back in the day, I hated these kids more than I can say. They were my ultimate nemesis. I saw a lot of what I did not want my life to be like. I saw a lot of who I did not want to be friends with. Unfortunately, what I did not see was a good view of how I wanted my life to be like.

One thing I've learned while being self-employed is that if you are to be successful, you have to have a razor-sharp clear vision of what that success looks like. And that has been incredibly difficult for me to envision. I've always known the opposite. It's awfully tough to look at things that are traditionally associated with success, and not reject them out of hand. When I was younger, my view of "success" involved a lot of business casual, a lot of snifters and highballs in the den while discussing business, a lot of easy-listening crap from the 1970s, and not a whole lot of iconoclastic fun. And the kids of these so-called successful grown-ups seemed entitled, spoiled, and either pranksterish frat boys in the making or holier-than-thou princesses. I was usually the target of these kids. Again, this wasn't how I wanted to live my life. The problem was, I couldn't find exactly how I wanted to live my life for a long, long time.

Even now, I have a hard time sometimes talking about things I love in my life, things for which I have a great passion or a great desire to see/do. Music is up there, as is writing...

Okay. This is getting even too solipsistic and What Color is your Parachute-ish even for me. I'll spare you the details.

Oh, and that dream? I'm certain there's a big lesson in there for me about how I should give these people who I grew up with a second chance. Or something.

Friday, December 3, 2010

PSA re: AIDS

Yeah, a few days late for World AIDS Day, but oh well.

The current scene regarding AIDS and HIV is one of apathy and complacency. One of my friends (in the army, no less) frightens me...young, attractive, sweet guy, who's negative, but who nonetheless is regularly putting himself in the crosshairs, sexually speaking. Like so many guys like him, he has the feeling he's invincible. (Didn't we all when we were young?)

I hear stories about "bug chasers," guys with an apparent death wish, who actually WANT to contract HIV, so they just get the supposed-inevitable done and over with. I simply cannot imagine.

On the upside, the drugs being used nowadays are indisputable lifesavers. I know a few guys who contracted HIV in the 1980s, and somehow lived through it. They're still alive and in relatively good health today. It's now more common for PWAs to actually die of something else other than AIDS. Unfortunately, death from side effects of the drugs (usually liver failure) is one of the more common scenarios nowadays.

Apathy and complacency is frightening against a disease of this sort. Which is why I find it really important, on a regular basis, to take out either the movie or (preferably) the book version of And the Band Played On. It's a compelling documentary about how AIDS was spread, the research that was hamstrung by homophobia everywhere from the federal and local government to the gay men who fell victim to it, and the pissing contest between the Americans and the French who only wanted to claim the title of the first country to discover HIV.

Another great, essential movie is Longtime Companion, which was the euphemistic title given to those surviving partners of AIDS victims. The New York Times couldn't say "his boyfriend" or "his partner" in the obituaries, again, due to internal and external homophobia. This one is more of a story of how HIV ended up slaughtering a community of friends in New York and Fire Island, and the emotional fallout from it. A certain tearjerker, with the memorable line, "What do you think happens when we die?" "We get to have sex again."

Those happy, hedonistic days of the 1970s ended up being the dreadful conduit through which HIV could flourish. A virus that could be spread so easily, enable a victim to live symptom-free for up to 6 years, then begin wreaking havoc on the immune system is just frightening. It's a perfect recipe for an epidemic, especially knowing how wild gay men lived back in the day. How many potential partners could you sleep with in six years? Some guys couldn't count the number of partners they had in just one year...upwards of 300 in some cases? The mind boggles.

If I had my druthers, I'd sit my friend down and have him watch both movies back-to-back, just so he can see what the generation before him had to endure. Living with AIDS is a lot easier now than it was 30 years ago...hell, living with AIDS is actually possible. But it doesn't diminish the import of trying to fight it and (hopefully) coming up with a cure of some sort.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Top of the World - Shonen Knife

Very little to say about this, except that it is in heavy contention for the happiest, sunshiniest, poppiest, most joyous song I've ever heard. Take Karen Carpenter's original, performed with measured contentedness and a sprightly but low-key beat. Now let an all-female power pop/punk group from Japan grab hold and blast through it.

Shonen Knife doesn't care that their rhythms might be a bit off, or that they can't quite sing "world" right, what with its tricky "rl" combination. That's what make it so fun. They power through "Top of the World" with such unabashed playfulness, it's impossible not to enjoy it. Or dance like a Muppet or a Peanuts character with it. For me, songs like this, even more than Nirvana, guaranteed that the 1990s would not suck.

From "If I Were A Carpenter":



A slightly edgier live version complete with lyrics:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An evening in the life...

Because this is what y'all live for, right? A glimpse into the dark underbelly of yours truly. And how exciting could this get? Strap yourselves in.

What makes this evening, November 18th:
  • Juno. Or at least the last 30 minutes of it. I have a bad habit of watching movies in fits and spurts. I started Juno about a month ago, and have been, give or take, watching it 30 minutes at a time. And the good news about this is that you can successfully watch it this way - in fact, I almost recommend it over seeing this in one sitting. Two things make it this way. First, anything Minnesota-related moves at a slower and more comfortable pace than in many other states. Even Minneapolis. So you can get into it easily. And although I'm a huge fan of snark, Juno herself is eons beyond. Small doses go a looooong way.
  • Purple potatoes. Cookin' 'em as I type. Should be ready in about 20 minutes. That's my dinner. Why? Well...
  • Some weird virus. I've been fighting something or other for a while. HATE sore throats. It reared its ugly head last night. Won't bore you with the details (and they really are boring, not gruesome...do I really need to describe what a fever feels like?), but they were debilitating enough to necessitate me calling off work this morning. And a workout. And a meeting with four people about my business. (One that was already rescheduled.) The day was just filled with exciting naps and naps. And when I get sick, I generally don't eat much. But for some reason, these purple potatoes on the counter were calling me. I'll tell you how they are in a bit.
  • Kathy Griffin: Whores on Crutches. I'm not one of "Kathy's gays." But I do enjoy her comedy.
  • Rebel Without a Cause. Will go on shortly after KG. One of the most influential movies in my life. Srsly. Through most of high school, I wore button-down shirts and Dockers almost exclusively. A friend of mine once asked me to sing "Runaround Sue" with him in our high school talent show. In 1950s drag: t-shirts and jeans. Except I didn't have any jeans. Fact! But after watching James Dean in action, all that Alexander Julian and Polo became obsolete overnight. T-shirts and jeans were ALL I wore the following year. And that movie, for some reason, just liberated me.
  • Kiss. The Prince song. One of my friends who lives in Longmont raved about a new karaoke venue up there, in a nice, spacious auditorium. So a bunch of us boys from the local gay choir drove up 40 miles late last night to warble. Won't exaggerate: I sang "Kiss," and brought the muthafuckin' house DOOOWN. And this was amongst the likes of Luther Vandross, Phantom, Josh Groban, and Patsy Cline. A few guys didn't think I could pull off the high notes at the end. Pfft. Whatever. (Other songs I sang that were hits: Rufus Wainwright's version of "Halleujah" and Michael Buble's "Sway.")

Oh, and the purple potatoes? Not bad.

Friday, November 12, 2010

He kissed me...it felt like a hit.

Okay, all you Gleeks. This last episode SUUUCKED. Or rather, it would have, if it weren't for the stellar plotline following Kurt and his tribulations with being bullied. Or even more so, his suddenly finding his version of Hogwarts for gay boys and an absolute dreamboat named Blaine.

I go back and forth on this one. See, I understand the import of the "Teenage Dream" sequence, wherein Blaine and his fellow (all-male) glee clubbers serenade directly to Kurt, complete with knowing smiles, winks, and all other manner of good-natured flirting. God, this was adorable. Gay boys around the country now have, for posterity, a concrete vision of possible romance going right. (Read more from my compatriots Tom & Lorenzo, who really brought down how revolutionary this episode was.)

But at the same time, the guy in me who understands that Glee is nothing if not unrealistic still felt his guts go gooey in the most amazing way during another scene.


Yeah. That locker room scene. HOT HOT HOT.

That kiss. So violent and passionate. THAT'S the kind of kiss that would have sent me WAAAY over the moon back in the day. Not to mention the exact surroundings, and the exact type of guy. A slightly dopey, overgrown linebacker...who turned out to be gay, and quite possibly totally into me? Swoon. Seriously. That was my high school fantasy.

Kurt and I are most decidedly not cut from the same cloth. He shoved that galoot away when he tried to go in for a second kiss, and totally should have. Me, I would have thrown all caution to the wind, gone in for seconds, and within 2 minutes, we would have been caught up in some wild-ass monkey sex.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Randomless meanblings ram. Seattle version.

Ah, Seattle. So stately, calming, grounding, pretty. And potentially so depressing. Kindasorta remember why I hightailed it outta the Pacific Northwest after school 7 years ago, but for a weekend visit, it's hard to beat. Rained yesterday, but today, the sky actually had pretty layers of all shades of periwinkle, steel gray, deep blue, and white. And the simple, minimalist architecture just accentuated its beauty. Not your typical fall/winter day up here. I'm so used to the monochromatic, monolithic pea soup fog that permeates the sky, the soul, and the brain - and utterly etherizes you. But today was just gorge.

I was grateful to see that the typical naturopathic chic fashion was not in display at this conference - not like February. Green and purple Columbia sportswear fleece and scarves (at 50 degrees!?) ruled the place last time, and the place was filled with the stench of entitlement...the kind that gives liberalism and environmentalism a bad name. I could, if I put my mind to it and had nothing but time, write a satire about naturopathic culture...but the appeal would be WAAAY too narrow.

But I do feel more ready to attack autoimmune disease of all sorts and heal/cure it more effectively than my medical compadres. For my sake and for the sake of future patients, this is an unequivocally good thing. Do MDs really want to squash us out of existence? Fine. Let's see how well they handle autoimmune disease with their arsenal of steroids and...uh...yeah, that's about all they have, isn't it?

Now, how to get word out...

=======

Don't bug me. Like the rest of America (or the part that actually cared), I was LIVID on Thursday night. But life goes on. As one charitable woman put it to Sir Tim of Gunn, Mondo's got his career. Gretchen needed the money to get out of debt. In a way, it worked out. Somewhat.

But Meana Garzilla and Duchess L'Orange got a LOT of 'splainin' to do otherwise. It's not just the title they're bestowing. They're fucking fashion experts. They're naming The Next Best Thing, and their peers are gonna hold 'em to it. (Or, to really vulgarize it, they've named America's Next Top Fashion Designer.) Heidi, you're acquitted. (Tangentially, Jessica Simpson has officially joined the ranks of those who look gorgeous with voluptuous curves. I say: Let her quaff milkshakes! See also: Carey, Mariah; Hendricks, Christina.)

=======

Confidential to CDOT: It's nice that you've been cleaning up the I-70 Viaduct for these past few years. At a pace slightly faster than a snail on bennies would be nice, though. And does completed construction mean that there shouldn't be ANY sudden gravity-defying foot-deep dips in the asphalt, or am I wrong? Can I get a confirmation on this?

=======

Sometimes shyness sucks. See a guy on the dance floor, mentally grope him for a half hour (combined time...I dance, wander and get drinks, see...), and finally see him in the men's room as we're washing hands. We stand next to each other...the sinks are a comfortable elbow-rubbing distance apart. He says hi, I say hi, we smile at each other, and...that's it. He soon leaves with his friends, none of whom are particularly hard on the eyes, by the way. But this one...rowr. (And yes, I do have free license to, *ahem*, window shop. And a bit more. We have our version of "the rules" written down. But as aforementioned, my shyness keeps me from moving any further, not "the rules.")*

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*This last message brought to you by the Cuff Complex in Seattle, about 5 Cape Cods, Kylie's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head," "Blue Monday," (as if I need to say who's responsible for this slice of heaven), Daft Punk's "One More Time," and because it's 2010 and it's unavoidable, goddammit, "Bad Romance." (Again...do I need to state the source?) Oh, and about half a pint (so far) of Ben & Jerry's Magic Brownies. Which, actually, aren't as magic as they purport to be. Just raspberry and chocolate. Tasty, but not so "magic."
Long live 2003. The longer, the better...so 2004 can be squished out as much as possible.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bloodletting (20th Anniversary Edition) - Concrete Blonde

I've already referred to Concrete Blonde twice here, so it only makes sense that I should pay homage in full to their kick-ass 1990 album, Bloodletting. This has to be one of the best albums for this chilly, sinister, skittish time of year. Though only two songs show direct inspiration from Anne Rice's vampire books, Bloodletting is dark throughout. Still, as an invitation to don your broomstick dresses and black eyeliner and lipstick, it's the most accessible goth album ever made. (That honor might otherwise go to the Cure's dolorous Disintegration, but sometimes those 9-minute dirges are a bit tough to plow through.)

Lead singer Johnette Napolitano is one of the coolest women in all of post-punk rock. Her blood-stained voice cracks and trembles throughout; indeed, she seems incapable of not expressing emotion. Even on the Dead Can Dance-worthy "I Don't Need A Hero," she nearly whispers naked vulnerability, then shows occasional flashes of rebellion on the chorus.

Aside from the wild, punky "The Sky Is A Poisonous Garden" and "The Beast," it's evident that Concrete Blonde's strengths lie in midtempo rockers. The title song sashays through New Orleans with a singalong chorus that's as fun as it is sinister. And the two singles ("Joey," "Caroline") take their time, with guitars fading and notes being held out for effect and increased tension. Despite their obvious status as singles, neither is light and fun. "Caroline" mourns the broken dreams of a vagabond who has suddenly skipped town. "Joey" chronicles the pain of a woman in love with a self-destructive alcoholic (with the memorable line, "I know you've heard it all before, so I don't say it anymore/I just stand by and let you fight your secret war").

Bloodletting's emotional nadir is its last song, "Tomorrow, Wendy." An autobiographical account of a friend who was dying from AIDS, this one bleeds anguish, bitterness, and irreverent rage against the powers that be. ("I told the priest, 'Don't count on any second coming. God got His ass kicked the first time he came 'round here slumming.'") But the most devastating words cut any hope for a happy ending off at the knees with the force of a blunt axe. ("Underneath the chilly gray November sky/We can make believe that Kennedy is still alive and/We're shooting for the moon and smiling Jackie's driving by and/They say, "Good try. Tomorrow, Wendy, you're going to die.") Ouch.

So why the need for a remastered 20th anniversary edition? Well, this is Concrete Blonde's best album, and some cobwebs really needed to be swept away. The sound is noticeably crisper and louder. And more songs were added, mostly to the album's benefit. A few worthy B-sides appear at the end, including a gorgeous rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" that would have fit perfectly in the Singles soundtrack. From a live show, "The Sky Is A Poisonous Garden" blasts past even the original's meteoric tempo, while Napolitano does a nifty call-and-response rap in "Roses Grow." The only unlistenable bummer is an unfortunate bilingual version of "Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)," wherein Napolitano sings the last chorus over and over in French while her bandmates sing it in English, producing incomprehensible cacophony. But really, in an album that now stretches over 16 songs, having only one clunker is pretty damned good. If you liked the original Bloodletting and are looking for a reason to pull it out, or if you just want to feel some sinister glee you haven't felt before, treat yourself for Halloween and get the new version. Very worthy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yes, it truly does get better.

Nowadays, it's the best of times and the worst of times for gay men in America. DADT was just deemed unconstitutional, and a federal judge barred the Pentagon from pursuing any action under the policy. Of course, with such a volatile issue, we can expect a lot of wrangling before the dust settles. (UPDATE: Yep, the "stay" was just stayed itself. No surprise, but still a major bummer.) In the meantime: the result? Utter pandemonium and dissent in the ranks? Decreased morale and resignations by those disgusted by their fellow gay and lesbian soldiers? It's still early, but you can be the judge.

In addition, although the run seems to have slowed down, 5 states and Washington D.C. now allow gay marriage, and 3 more legally recognize it. And on a lighter note, Denver reprazents on Project Runway...at Fashion Week, and my money's on Mondo to take it all.

But on the other side of the coin, Logo is shilling the worst gay minstrel show on TV that should be avoided at all costs ("The A-List: New York"). Seriously, I never felt so good about being a suburban quasi-guppie in middle America after seeing this show. If that's the A-List, I want nothing to do with it. And if straight America wants to get their worst suspicions confirmed about gay men, then that's their show. Me, I cringe, and thank God that it's not being shown on a (slightly) more mainstream network like Bravo or Lifetime. Those guys certainly don't represent how I live on a daily basis...or how the vast majority of gay men in America live.

And most seriously, the biggest news item lately: the teen suicides that are occurring as a result of homophobic bullying. Five of them within the past month, right? Although I don't want to minimize the suffering of these five teenagers and their devastated families and friends, it has to be said: Those are only five that have been publicized. There's plenty more casualties. I won't go deeply into statistics, but thousands of teenagers yearly take their lives, and queer youth are nearly 4 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts. You can do the math.

These suicides have spurred a lot of overdue action and publicity. First bit I saw was the Give a Damn organization, showing videos by all sorts of celebrities discussing the fears and agonies so commonplace to queer kids of all sorts. Pretty poignant, these. And they're a wonderful contribution.

Dan Savage - the outspoken sex advice columnist of Savage Love fame - started the It Gets Better channel on YouTube. Being a teenager really sucks, and it really, really fucking sucks if you're a gay teenager. And if you're gay, you can't easily look up to teachers who are out and proud and happy to be mentors and role models...because they're pretty few and far between. And schools won't bring in gay men and lesbians from the outside, lest parents accuse us of something absurd like recruiting or trying to inculcate moral depravity. So Dan did what he felt was the next best thing: He opened up a place for any LGBTers and straight allies who survived their adolescence and subsequently saw their lives get exponentially better to post videos about their experience, so gay teens could see gobs of living proof that people lived through that hell, and are now living wonderful lives. What an amazing idea. Hundreds and hundreds of videos have appeared, filled with fascinating and often heartbreaking stories.

God, have I been there. It started when I was 13. I woke up from a rather vivid dream and suddenly put two and two together...did this mean I was gay? Scared me to death, as you might imagine. And indeed, within the year, after moving schools, becoming a complete outcast and nerd, and being accused of being gay numerous times, I nearly took my life. I had my head in a noose a classmate had jokingly made and hung from a rafter. I had one foot off the chair, and felt the other one begin to lift off, but then decided not to follow through, for whatever reason.

Then came high school. While many of the popular kids were totally getting it on and following their instincts, I was struggling to simply plant a first kiss on my girlfriend - just one, after she had asked me, after months of being together! - and feeling deep down in my core that this was wrong, so wrong, no matter how cool and sweet and pretty and intelligent and understanding and just plain fucking awesome she was. While some friends were going to parties and making out (I'd imagine), I was staying home and taking a knife to my arms and legs because I felt so different and wrong and misunderstood and because...well, if there's something wrong with me, there's only one person to blame and punish, right? And while lots of classmates were excited about their futures and wondering what they would bring, I was morbidly predicting that I would not live past the age of 17...that in fact, it would be wrong for me to live longer than that.

That was over half a lifetime ago. Now, every day that I live is in large part in gratitude to my 13 and 16 year-old selves for not taking my life. Every day, I also try to prove to that boy and that young man how amazing my life has now become, and how much better it keeps getting every day. I keep coming closer to becoming who I was fully meant to be every day. I'm in a wonderful, tremendously loving relationship with a really amazing guy; we just celebrated our 9-year anniversary a few months ago. I have a multitude of friends who love, accept, and celebrate me just as I am...and the sentiment is definitely returned. My work is very fulfilling...I see people grapple with health issues every day, and I do my best to help them overcome these issues and become as healthy as they want to be. At the end of the day, I'm thrilled to just plain be alive.

Normally, I don't go in for being so forward...particularly when there's a lot in just this blog post that could defame my character, let alone the rest of my blog. (I long ago wrote off running for public office.) But maybe I could reach a kid who has lost all hope and is about to take a horribly drastic action, and prevent him or her from taking that action. Or even just help someone who needs some reassurance after a tough day. For that, I will step out from behind this blog.

And if you're that kid reading this, I'm glad you're here. Stop. Take a deep breath. You're not alone. And trust me, and the thousands of people beside me who have already posted videos: Yes, it truly does get better. Hang in there.



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"I am bored, so I figured I'd write you a letter."

Random sentences (or two) from letters from friends, acquaintances, and loved ones, circa 1988-1993. (Man, in this day of quick, disposable e-mails, actual handwritten letters are like gold leaf to me. SO glad I saved so many of 'em.)

"It's such a pleasure to ask myself in the summer: What should I do now?"

"I love you."

"Well, chemistry (aka the deepest, darkest, foulest-smelling pit in hell) beckons, and as always, I heed its call." (Written on the back of recycled old chemistry papers, no less.)

"Have fun writing advice letters, luv. (I can just hear you laughing at those letters!)"

"I feel the need for speed - rollerblade style, that is."

"I think I'll go to Spain. Beautiful country, they speak Spanish, FABULOUS food, and a beautiful way of life - no hurry, no worry, no timekeeping, no problems."

"The kids are a blast to be with. Want to hear about them? You don't have much of a choice, do you?"

"I love the Scorpions (did you know they sold out 10 shows in Leningrad, Russia??!!)."

"I don't care though, because I like it, and it's my ear!"

"So after being significantly incoherent this evening, we are leaving at 12:00 noon tomorrow to go to a keg party with the social group that I want to pledge - the Sponges."

"AEROBICS FROM HELL calls me - my muscles already hurt, but Holy Moses, I'm gonna be able to wear a size seven COMFORTABLY."

"What I'd really like to know is how you're going to kill me when I live 2000 miles away!"

"My birthday is Wednesday - the big one-nine. God, I'm old."

"Sorry I can't share this one with you. But what will be will be. Smile."

"The reason I go along with the great Santa Claus 'lie' to my kids is because I truly believe and it is because of this article and what it says. Sometimes we all need to believe in 'lies.'"

"I'm sorry you hate your YTC school." (YTC = "yuppie training camp")

"To make a long story short, the fuckers arrested all twelve of us."

"Mom just came in and handed me a feeler from Northwestern! Awesome! Let's see what it says...college here is hell, write if you're interested. Am I ever!"

"Hey, right back soon. (Boy, it's nice to not have to worry about spelling things correctly anymore!)"

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fat Boys w/ Beach Boys - Wipeout

Ah, memories of the summer of 1987...the best of times, the worst of times. The worst being the 5 weeks I spent at a military summer camp just outside Phila...Look. You can stop laughing. It really did happen. I think. Yep, it happened. You can't manufacture memories that for kids could be so traumatic.

Tragically, the same thing happened precisely four years prior. I remember that first night at camp in 1983 so well: my brother and I getting our stuff packed in the barracks, other kids much rowdier and wilder than us going apeshit all over the place, and the two of us kinda cowering in our bunks, immediately regretting signing on to this military camp thing because...why? Because our grandfather was the head honcho of the entire place, and he could get us in for free (and my brother in despite the fact that he was two years younger than the minimum accepted age). Not a good reason, folks, if you're looking to make friends. The morning after, we both wandered around the front of the barracks, all bleary-eyed, like it was some really fucked-up dream, all washed out like The Day After.

And military camp ain't a whole buncha fun. Counselors are hired for their sadistic tendencies. They love to make miscreants chew and swallow cigarettes while putting them through lots of physical training. And they're really pissed - probably because they didn't make the cut to become drill sergeants, so they have to deal with kids instead. The cool kids are the really gung-ho militaristic kids...the ones who can't wait to get into the army or whatnot. Then you have the kids who are so fucked in the head, the parents don't know what else to do with them, so they send them to military camp, hoping that'll teach them some discipline. (Note: This runs the gamut from spineless bedwetters to deranged psychotics whose parents dropped them on their head as a kid. And believe me...these two together do not make good bunkmates, as I witnessed across the hall from me: Faust and Nemkov.) Anyhoo, my brother and I survived those five looong weeks, swearing never to return. Oops.

Anyhoo, 1987 was a bit more tolerable. You get older, you get more laid back, things are cooler. The counselors seem to tolerate a lot more attitude. And the tunes get more fun and wacky. They didn't get any more stoopid than this, though. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

TEAM MONDO!

Good Lord, have you ever cried so much at a ProjRun episode?

So tonight, some of my friends and I traipsed down to Beauty Bar, a hipster dive where the schtick is a manicure and martini happy hour most evenings. Pretty enticing, this; I may have to take them up on it some evening. Anyhoo, they show Project Runway every week on a few projector screens, and during the commercials, they have raffle drawings and DJ Craig C spins until the show comes back on. Sweet and frilly cupcakes and cosmos are the order of the hour, and everyone just has a great time.

The reason for this scene is Denver's own Mondo Guerra. As I've said before, that boy is bound for Fashion Week. Ain't no stopping him now. Three wins in a row. He's got pretty much everything you'd want in a designer: strong point of view, he's not afraid of color, and has damn-near impeccable tailoring. Oh, and Nina j'adores him. If you can clinch that, you're golden.

Mondo rules the roost at Beauty Bar during PR showings. Tonight, he also brought along the much-maligned but still adorable and talented Michael Costello and his boyfriend. (One of my friends claims to have, uh, participated in a threesome with them last night, but that's a story for later.) As we found out later, it was because Michael wanted to provide support for Mondo tonight.

Once again, Mondo blew everyone away; no one was even close to him. And, of course, the room went berserk once he was declared the winner. But here's the big deal, in case you don't watch PR. The designers got to reunite with either their mothers, or in one case, the guy's hot-as-fuck boyfriend. Tears flowed like boas in a drag queen's dressing room - myself included. But then it came out that Mondo was HIV-positive, and had been for 10 years. He wisely decided not to tell his mom as they were enjoying an afternoon together in the big city. But it rode on him. And his poz status inspired the gorgeous black, yellow, and purple print he made of repeated plus signs. After hesitating on the runway to reveal his inspiration to Nina, he decided to divulge his status, much to everyone's deep respect. Tears, cheers, and hugs everywhere again, both on the show and at Beauty Bar.

Now, for the killer: Did I mention that his parents were at Beauty Bar, too, watching the whole thing? (Uh, Mom? Dad? I have something deeply personal I need to tell you, and nationally syndicated TV seemed the most appropriate way to do it.) I'm sure they were frightened and probably more than a bit upset, being (most likely) conservative Catholic Hispanic parents. But seriously, I'd like to think that was buffered by the obvious Mondo love flowing through the place...as well as the obvious Mom love that surfaced when the moms reunited with their kids. At least, that's the hope.

I'm firmly on Team Mondo. At the beginning, Gretchen was the one to beat, and she's still pretty solid, but her latest designs haven't been all that. Still, her spot in Fashion Week is hers to lose. I know I've called out Andy to complete the Fashion Week trifecta, but after the past two weeks of random designs, he's lost focus, and I don't know if he can get it back again. He does have that strong POV, though. April is also a big contender, and I see her possibly beating Andy out. Everyone else can pack it up and go home. (With apologies to Michael C.)

Why it's not easy being green

Once upon elysian days in halcyon fields, I loved the color green. It vied with blue for my favorite color, until I came out and fell in love with orange as well. (Blame Very.) But for the past year or two, my love for green has steadily dwindled, and uggh...if I open up the pages of the local alterna-screed and see one more shade of green, I'm gonna puke. Green puke, of course, just to purge it from my system once and for all.

Why is this? Well, as a leftie health care professional who does not prescribe drugs (can't even do it legally if I wanted to, which I don't), I can say the color green has been linked with our profession, at least to some extent. You know...it's the color of that beaten-to-death sacred cow, The Environment. And my colleagues and I are nothing if not tied with the environment. Pretty much all our healing techniques are dependent on the health of our planet: herbs, homeopathy, clean water, fresh air, high-quality food, and other such stuff. If it goes down, we start to struggle. Digression over.

So I can sum up my aggravation in two words: Medical marijuana.

The only real objection I have against marijuana in general is that I really don't care for the smell. (That, and the "we fear what we don't know" argument...I've never ingested marijuana in any form other than second-hand smoke.) I'm not against medical marijuana...I've heard numerous stories about how it has dramatically helped people seemingly after all other (allopathic, traditional) methods have failed. And medical marijuana has been available in Colorado for a few years legally...as long as you have a, uh, doctor's "prescription." It's been about as easy to procure said ganja as limping (truthfully or not) into a dispensary, claiming joint or low back pain or some other such thing, and getting someone to write a prescription for it. Again, there's a legitimate use for it, but when 18-25 year old males are the demographic that uses medical marijuana most, it kinda makes you wonder about that legitimacy.

I suspect there's been a lot of abuse of the legal right to use medical marijuana here in the (ahem) highest state in the nation (average elevation just shy of 7,000 feet). And it gives medical marijuana a bad name. There was a law passed this past year making it significantly more difficult to run a medical dope shop (read: you gotta have all your licensing creds together), which, knock wood, will raise this profession's standards. But until that law gets enforced, there's plenty of evidence of an economic marijuana bubble about to burst all over the place. And the most readily visible evidence of that is in the back pages of the local rag, where every ad for a place that dispenses marijuana is, of course, green.

For that matter, I seethe when I see the word "wellness" or "holistic" used in such context. Marijuana, on its own, does not constitute "wellness." It is not a "holistic" treatment. And for health care professionals such as me, using these words in the wrong context a) gets at my craw, b) usurps a word that really, should be about the medicine that my colleagues and I practice, and c) could potentially damage what little reputation our profession has.

Overthinking things, mayhaps? Guilty. But fergawdsakes, I can't WAIT to see the green ads for medical marijuana be reduced from 6+ obnoxious pages of poorly-regulated, low-quality shoppes down to maybe a page of ads for a handful of reputable companies.

And while I'm at it, I'd like to have a pony and peace in the Middle East.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Your fucking stupidity has killed me. Now my goddamn cat is homeless."

By now you undoubtedly have seen this hilarious beauty. The debate between the old warhorse iPhone and the new upstart Evo/Android rages nowadays, and many people think the iPhone is going down.

I'm no tech expert, but as someone who has had both an iPhone and an Evo (my current phone), I have to say that the iPhone wins out in my book. I may change my tune soon, but I've got some reasons why (much to my better half's chagrin) I still prefer the iPhone.
  • Music. First and foremost in my list, of course. iPhone backs up seamlessly with (duh!) iTunes. Plug it in, and iTunes opens automatically and does its job. The Evo has a crappy music platform that's hard to back up. Worse, it doesn't link easily with any music software like Media Player. Big fail in my book.
  • Sound: Voices sound awfully tinny on the Evo. And for that matter, the little music it makes when it starts up is pretty craptacular. Sounds like some tone-deaf audio intern came up with this half-assed music that was thrown on at the last minute because...well, you do have to have something on there, right? Paging Thomas Dolby, please.
  • Backing up in general. Effortless with the iPhone. Plug it in. Done. But the Evo? Wake up your phone. Plug it in. Open the top menu. Select the item that says "Select to change USB connection type." Then select "Sync contacts and calendar." Then "Done." It finds HTC Sync on the PC. Hang out for a bit...it takes some time. Then on the phone, select "Sync now." If you're lucky, it syncs up immediately...but that's not a guarantee. Then you get to close the window with a report of what just synced (which actually is a pretty good feature.)
  • Battery life. Far and away, the #1 complaint of everyone with an Evo. I agree...the battery life SUCKS. But you have so much going on in the background that of course the battery life is gonna suck. And suck and suck. How do I adapt? A charger at home, at work, and in the car. Pretty high-maintenance for me.
  • Too many options. This, in my mind, is one of the big differences between Apple and Microsoft...at least from a user point of view. Apple is streamlined, with very few ways to do things...but they are effective. Microsoft is more varied, with many ways to do things. This accommodates more, uh, interaction and learning styles, I guess. (Oh...it's called "customization," apparently.) But for me, it's a bit too chaotic. I appreciate the relative simplicity of the iPhone and its easy learning curve.
  • Size. I just plain think the Evo is too big. Many will disagree with me, especially those with thicker fingers that need a bigger touch screen, and they have a legitimate argument. For me, though, the iPhone was just about the perfect size.
  • Predictive text. It's great if you accidentally type "reapect" and your phone automatically shows "respect." But do you really need predictive text if you're typing "dog"? Especially if there's five different words it offers as possibilities? (Or you could hit the arrow that offers up even more...20 words in all, including "significant" and "division." Please.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"...a cross between MC Hammer and The Beverly Hillbillies Grandma..."

Michael Kors is a treasure. Even when you take away his contributions to fashion. His witticisms are simply brilliant. This blog title just happened to be his best one yet this season of Project Runway. I also have a soft spot for "barefoot Appalachian Li'l Abner Barbie."

There's being catty for the sake of fun, you guys. But yeesh! Who pissed in the judges' bowls of Bitchy Bits this time? Duchess L'Orange (aka Kors) looked like he'd just had his teeth scraped with a rusty metal hasp, and Nina Garcia (aka Meana Garzilla) looked next in line for the torture. And it didn't help that this TV season's ice queen extraordinaire, January Jones (aka Mrs. Betty Francis) was on line to help with the executions. Nope...no wacky Milla Jovovich here. Not even Frau Seal was friendly. Interrrupting a designer trying to discuss his dress just to say you're about to lose it laughing because he was so way off the mark (even though he was so way off the mark) is just plain rude. (Thus saith the king of run-on sentences.) There must have been some gawdawful disaster backstage before taping began, and I cannot wait to hear what it was all about during the reunion show.

And on the flip side: let's hear it for the hometown boy! Team Mondo! He's bound for Fashion Week, kids. Mark my words. He and Gretchen and...well, I would have said Valerie before tonight, and I do adore her, but she's slipped a few too many times now for me to be so confident in her. That third spot's up for grabs by this point.

=====

And now for some completely depressing things: this was the front page of MSN.com tonight. This stupid-ass self-pity party. And directly underneath it, this latest attack on the sacred institution that is marriage. Seriously, you guys, if gay men were to try and bring marriage down, I don't think they could come close to what this monstrosity is proposing. We just want some simple legal rights and some tax benefits awarded to our straight brothers and sisters that we don't have. Meanwhile, brides-to-be are using this show not for finding the man of their dreams and pledging eternal love, but as a means for getting the lipo they've always wanted. Seriously. Another nail in the coffin of meaningful marriage, y'all.

And the worst of it all: total, endemic lack of confidence. Well, at least small business is doing among the, uh, least bad of them all. Huzzah for the small business owner. (Yes, that's me patting myself on the back.)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hairstyles I Have Known...

The good, the bad, the ridonculous, and the downright tragic.

The straight comb (through age 12): Pretty much the most boring of 'em all. Not so good for a fine-haired towhead like I was. Showed off every little mistake a stylist made. But I didn't really care too much about hair...for a while.

The spike (one-time shot at age 10): So I wanted to try something new and edgy. My stylist offered up this beauty, which made me look like I had a blond koosh ball sitting on my forehead. Never again.

The part (through age 15): Pretty innocuous, except for when my mom first bought me Dep to help with the part when I started 6th grade. I didn't know how to use it. Combed my hair to the side, then applied the Dep only to the bangs so they would stay. End result: a lock of hair across my forehead as stiff and attractive as a plank of wood.

The flattop (again, one-time shot at age 13): This was too good. Asked my mom if I could get a flattop. She assented, but I totally didn't hear her say "wait until after your sister's debutante ball tonight." I came home with this beauty, suntan lines and all, and you shoulda seen her jaw drop and her eyes bug out as she turned the corner from the garage hall. Comical now, but she shot flames of fury my way that afternoon. (Sister's ball went off without a hitch, natch.) But as a hairdo, it was way too long. Picture Bart Simpson.

The skater bangs (through age 18): Partially inspired by my skater betty girlfriend, I decided to grow my bangs long. They eventually reached down past my chin, and provided a great quasi-refuge when I was feeling antisocial (which, every damned day, people).

The #3 buzz (summer of '94): Look. When you're working at a Boy Scout camp, and no one really cares how you look, and the last thing you need to do is pay attention to your hair on your way to the morning's flag ceremony, why bother? Make it easy on yourself and hack it all off. That was my philosophy. Worked fine by me, and again, none of my fellow counselors paid any attention, but at least one of my high school friends threatened to disown me if I ever did that again.

The green stripe (fall of '94): And when you hate the college you go to and read the Anarchist Cookbook and listen to the Dead Kennedys and the Descendents for inspiration, your hair has to change accordingly, right? So once my hair grew out from the #3 phase, I took Manic Panic Alpine Green to my hair in much the same way my unfortunate experiments with Dep went. It actually looked quite cool, but washed out way too quickly. Two applications over two months, at which point I decided it was too much trouble to be worth it. (One picture taken of it, btw...by an ex who probably shredded the picture when we broke up. Squish squish.)

The long hair (summer of '95 through summer of '96): Almost the most unfortunate of 'em all, especially once it got long enough for me to tie back in a ponytail. Yes, you heard right. In its shaggy, Eddie Vedder era, when it was just getting started, it was actually quite cool. But I had to go further, and one year in? Dear Lord. Yes, there are pictures out there, about which the less seen, the better. Worst of all, I decided to keep the hair - tied back, of course - when I sang for my sister's wedding. And, oh, God, I hate to admit it, but Ma, you were right...it was a phase, and a bad one. Mea culpa. But not the worst. That honor goes to...

The Dutch Boy (fall of '96): Take your long hair. Tie it back. Chop it off. And when it gets longer and annoys the hell out of you, push it behind your ears. And pray to God there's no one with a camera within miles.

The butt cut (winter of '96): Now, go to a Russian hairstylist, tell her you have no idea what to do with this craptacular style, and ask her to just make it go away. Terrible name for it, but a part down the center made for one of the more successful styles I've ever rocked. Extra, extra points to her for using only scissors.

The spiked part (various and sundry times throughout): A little less conservative than a regular part, and way easier to maintain. My old standby.

The bedhead (current): Who knew I could wear this to work and get away with it? Maybe not terribly doctorly or professional, but it's fun and looks pretty good.

The death row inmate (fall of '05): I had just finished chiro school - the worst two years of my life. I needed some form of catharsis and release. So once graduation was done, I went to a friend who had clippers, and asked him to take 'em to my head. No guard. Just straight-on clippers. I saved the hair, and burnt it along with written memories of the worst times, people, places, and experiences I'd been through. Threw the remains into the lake in the center of the campus, and yelled a few defiant "FUCK YOU!"s at the place that had damned near flattened me. And I looked every bit the angry asshole for a few weeks afterward. Upside: I did get quite a few approving looks from guys in gay bars who went for the uber-masculine. But since I've grown my hair back out, I've fallen out of favor with them. Oh well. When you really don't have all that much of a receding hairline, and you're not going bald, why cut off what you have?

Friday, August 27, 2010

"Based on a Cro-magnon skinning chant..."

This brands me a music nerd now and forevermore. If you couldn't guess before.

These pieces are mostly for those of you who can read music. But really, even if you can't, these are still pretty amusing. I mean, a piece that instructs the player to pick up small pepperoni? Insert peanuts? Add a bicycle? Release the penguins?

I would LOVE to hear some really, really brave and accomplished pianist crack their knuckles and give any of these a try. Or actually...a full-fledged band or orchestra. Someone's gotta cool the tympani with a fan, and it sure ain't gonna be the pianist, who will suffer certain carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar tunnel syndrome, and spontaneous psoriatic arthritis upon attempting these pieces.

All compositions by John Stump, who gives P.D.Q. Bach a real run in the masters of absurd music dept.

Prelude and the Last Hope in C and C# Minor from the opera Marche de L'oie (March of the Ducks)

Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz (from "A Tribute to Zdenko G. Fibich")

String Quartet No. 556(b) for Strings in A Minor ("Motoring Accident")

Atushi Ojisama and Ijigen Waltz (from "A Tribute to Yamasaki Atushi")

Lament of the Introspective Turnbuckle (actually by Andrew Fielding, aka Bicuspo N. Behemouth.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Glee songs, for your consideration...

I know there's people out there who hate on Glee. And I can kinda understand it. I started off feeling kinda weird about the whole Glee thing, myself. It was just too geeky to succeed. But thanks to the mystical powers of the World Wide Webiverse, my friends ended up piquing my curiosity. And damn it all, if by the fifth episode I warn't hooked.

But why in the world ever? I mean, aside from the utter BRILLIANCE spewing forth from one Emmy-bound Ms. Jane Lynch, who makes Sue Sylvester one of the most hilarious curmudgeons ever seen on TV. Oh, and then there's Brittany, who somehow brings new vistas to the overplayed dumb-blonde stereotype. From a comedic standpoint, the show could rest on the shoulders of these two. But that's not Glee's big raison d'etre, nor is it how it established a name for itself. It's the music.

And so, at the risk of boring my readers with yet another list o' songs that simply must be heard (hey, at least I don't do the "Top 10 Songs To Bludgeon Your Hamster By" stereotypical titles, right? Oh, yeah...guess I do), here we go again. Why's Glee worthy? Here ya go.

To Sir With Love - Originally done by Britpop starlet Lulu, she of the doey eyes and the vibrato that sits just short of Judy Garland's earthquake-rendering tremolo. Lulu did make a charming run of it, and consequently the song hit #1 way back in the early 1970s. Glee does Lulu two better. First, it's great to hear the song sung with very little vibrato, but full of emotion. But second (and this is why you really need to watch the show), the glee club basically sings its gratitude to Mr. Schuester, the director, through this song. It's poignant in the most amazing way...just ask Sue Sylvester, who was actually brought to tears when she accidentally stepped in the auditorium during the glee club's tribute. Sue Sylvester. Tears. No, I'm not kidding. (And if my description falls kinda flat, that's because I'm sidestepping a spoiler. In other words, you really, REALLY need to watch the show. Last episode of the first season, specifically.)

Don't Stop Believin' - Who'da thunk that Journey, of all groups, would have lent one of their songs to a show with as daring a conceit as Glee? Let alone make it the linchpin for the pilot episode? But there it is, a song about lost souls in the guise of barflies and prostitutes, being sung by a high school glee club. Over the course of three minutes, this song made believers of anyone who watched that pilot. Then it formed the basis for New Directions' entry in regionals. (For fun, stand up and say "New Directions" as loudly and as quickly as you can when you find yourself in your next cubicle jungle.)

Don't Rain On My Parade - Look here. I am NOT a fan of Barbra's. I just don't get her. And I saw the original version of this song on Funny Girl. (Would it have killed her to break a smile while she was singing?) But OH MY GOD. Strap me in a chair and force me to listen to Rachel's version during their sectional performance, and man, I'll be a happy kid. Hell, I'll be busting out of the straps so I can vamp and lip sync along with her. Another one where you really need to watch Rachel's performance.

Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) - Well, this one could cut either way. You may love it, you may hate it, but you won't forget it - at least in this context. I'd never heard the song before Glee, and my first exposure to it was Kurt Hummel, in a unitard, performing Beyonce's breathless tartlet on video before his dad unexpectedly showed up and caught him. (A very straight-acting, blue collar, seemingly homophobic dad, too.) Somehow, Kurt managed to, uh...let's let Kurt explain it. "My name is Kurt Hummel, and I'm auditioning for the role of kicker." On the football team. And with his Beyonce routine, he not only landed the "role," but managed to get the whole football team to dance to this song during the last play of The Big Game. Cheesy beyond belief. (Oh, and about that homophobic dad? Not so. Kurt comes out to his dad during this episode, and he is waaaay beyond cool about it.)

Alone - Raise your hand if you actually loved Heart back in the mid '80s. That's it. Don't be shy. You're not alone. I was there too. Now give this one a listen. Will Schuester, the director, joins forces with April Rhodes (the astounding Kristin Chenoweth) in an impromptu karaoke performance at the local bowling alley. Actually sent chills up my spine the first time I heard it.

Proud Mary - Now, I can't go through this list without paying my props to Mercedes, the requisite black diva with all the high notes and all the sass. She does a respectful slow duet with Artie on the first part, a la CCR. Then she blasts away everyone around her with a blistering version that would do Ike and Tina proud. Mercedes is given WAY too little screen and stage time, suffering the role of bridesmaid to Rachel. So moments like these are particularly welcome.

And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going - Yeah. What I said just now. Only ten times more. More Mercedes, please.

My Life Would Suck Without You - Me, actually liking a Kelly Clarkson song? Good God, the end is truly nigh! But New Directions sold it to me and I swallowed it whole and asked for more. I can't resist a song that goes "I know that I've got issues/But you're pretty messed up too." Hurray for dysfunctional people in warped relationships that stick together just because of love!

Vogue - The video. But only if you're a Madonna fan. A fine homage to one of the most iconic music videos of all time, with some amusing, subtle twists.

Sure, there are plenty of songs that are merely okay, and if I were to blog about the worst songs on Glee, that post might be three times as long. And ten times as boring. So there ya go. Enjoy. (And I swear my next post will not be a bunch of bullet points about music.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Because being positive takes just too much energy.

People, events and facts of 2010 (thus far) about which I could really give a shit. And then some, for good measure.

Tim Tebow - So the Donkeys...er, I mean, the Broncos...recruited this poster child for Good Moral Christian Fambly Values. And he writes Bible verses under his eyes when he throws the pigskin, y'all. Because he's so hard-core. People, I cannot ABIDE. Is it bad enough that this state of ours is saddled with Focus on the Family and one of the most conservative Christian cities in the whole damned country? I am NOT joking. (Aside: I drove through Colorado Springs with the radio on scan about ten years ago. For a city that at the time was about 360,000, there were four - FOUR - Christian radio stations. Again, I cannot abide.) Incidentally, a guy I know who is the most muscle-bound and chiseled man I have ever met is apeshit for Tebow, the quarterback. Not just Tebow the kinda-hot guy. I will admit that Tebow is a bit easy on the eyes (not in the pic here, though), but those muscle supplements must be working better than beer goggles on my friend here. (Who, incidentally, cannot write a correct English sentence to save his life...and he's a doctorate-level health care professional.)

Daniel Schorr - Who? Sorry, folks. I do have a literary streak in me, and I once contemplated a career in journalism, but, uh...the sorrow for this guy's passing just eluded me. Not the biggest fan of the etherized news broadcasting that is NPR, I. (Then again, take that with a grain of salt. Sometimes, even Dan Savage's podcasts bore me.)

Lady Gaga - Please. If you're going to push buttons, do it the old-fashioned way...with sex, not outrageous costumes. (With props to Madonna. But only through Erotica. She's been dead to me ever since, with a few spurts here and there.) Gay bois (and can I tell you how much I HATE that spelling?) LUURV her. And consequently, I have never been more thrilled about my advancing age. Oh, and I love this argument: "Oh, but she's really a good musician/songwriter." Someone...a barf bag? NOW.

Bears - Let's dive into this subbacultcha of gay life. I once loved me some bears. And to be honest, certain parts of my male anatomy still twitch if a particularly perfect specimen happens my way. (That's if, not when.) But damn my luck to be as hairy as a recently-shorn chihuahua. Hence, my utter invisibility in the eyes of bears. If ever there were a more perfect example of high-school cliquishness, you could hardly do better than the bear scene. I've lost friends to bears, seldom to be heard from again. And when they do acknowledge me, it's with a held nose. So...very little respect.

Tiger Wo... - Fuck it. Not even worth my time.

Arcade Fire - I tried to...um...tolerate these guys. I really did. Branding your first album Funeral is not a way to win over the populace, despite the frightening adulation of your adoring...uh...tens of critics. But hearing Funeral once - maybe twice - put me on permanent notice: these guys are not of use to me.

Anything vampire-related (almost) - Perhaps - perhaps - with the exception of the fount itself. And I admit I did wrong by it. I slogged through Bram Stoker's Dracula in high school over the course of one year. Shoulda taken me 1/12th the time. Oh, and there's Bloodletting, which cements Concrete Blonde into eternal greatness. But those are all pre-2010. So maybe I should really title this "anything Twilight-related."

Lindsay Loh... - What did I say above? Yeah. Goes double for this moron.

The 2010 World Cup - And thank you very much, South Africa, for 1) introducing the world to the fucktacular phenomenon that is the vuvuzela (despite being one of the coolest words ever), and 2) as a result, dampening my sincere desire to see the summer Olympics in Cape Town, whenever that may happen.

Rue McClanahan - I'm not a huge fan. She never did anything wrong in my eyes. But her death this year sent some of my friends into a tailspin the likes of which I couldn't grasp. Whatever.

Friday, July 30, 2010

More than anything...more than jewels...more than life...

What I wish on this watershed of a day...

- that I could go to Hawaii
- that I could be bigger and stronger without health repercussions
- that I could have the libido I had half a lifetime ago
- that I could have the energy I've so often lacked
- that my office were fully packed up and I could leave for the day
- that I could be in a relationship where I don't feel like we both are keeping each other from being who we really could be
- that I had a big ol' soft-serve orange and vanilla twist ice cream cone
- that I didn't have to act as professionally as I do
- that I could just open my goddamned mouth and let fly whatever comes out and not care about the consequences
- that I could know who my birth parents are, and subsequently...
- that I could know what my health history is
- that I could paint my reality with broad strokes, instead of obsessing over the pointillistic details
- that alcohol and sex, sex, sex weren't so important to gay men (one sex is fine, thank you)
- that I lived closer to a beach with great boogie-boarding and body surfing waves all the time
- that I didn't have these damned voices in my head telling me what I can't do or can't have
- that I could be one kickass DJ and bring in at least some good coin from it.

Well...gotta keep packin'...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

RRRGH...can't...write...can't...think...

With apologies for the time being for you, my thousands of readers hanging on every word. Writer's block is a bitch. Well, that, and the fact that I'm preoccupied with leaving my place of work this Saturday and moving on to a better, more appropriate place for my skill set. (GAAH! Did I just say that? "Skill set"? Corporate-speak, get behind me!)

Just to let you know that, yes, there is someone still manning the controls up here. Coasting on autopilot for a bit, though. Life will calm down, inspiration will strike, and regular blogging will resume momentarily.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"There is no aspect, no facet, no moment of life that can't be improved with pizza."

I have just finished watching the last two episodes of Daria: The Complete Animated Series. Oh, and the two hour-long movies, "Is It Fall Yet?" and "Is It College Yet?". And the Mystik Spiral video "Freakin' Friends." And the cast interviews. All in one night. Obsessive? Owned.

My ultimate judgment? Given that it's a cartoon about the trials and travails of high school, it's only appropriate to seal the whole thing with the most symbolic of high school judgments.

A+.

Seriously. This subject matter is timeless. High school angst? Sibling rivalry? Heartless lifemanship? Cliques at their worst? Teenage friendships at their best? First loves (and loves lost)? All handled with the skill of an expert swordsman.

Maybe I'm stuck in a permanently pre-adult, purely puerile (say that five times quickly) point in my life. Maybe I'm just clamoring for the teenage years I wish I could have back, just so I could do them right this time, dammit. But Daria is utter brilliance. I never thought I could be so riveted to a teenage girl's monotonous angst. And I really feel that although it encapsulates the angst of the 1990s high school scene, its theme is truly for the ages.

But then again, I have to think: in high school, I really was Daria...only on the male side of things. My voice was as monotonous as you could get. I was dripping with angst and self-doubt with every hallway corner I turned. I tried to sabotage my first real relationship (first unsuccessfully, then...well, is there a successful way to end a relationship, really?). I never had a faithful sidekick as devoted and cynical and witty as Jane Lane (damn, Daria was lucky), but the friends I did have definitely all fit the bill in one way or another. So I'm really, really biased. (Check that: my first real relationship? She was my sidekick. And I kicked her to the curb. Damn you, sexual incompatibility!)

Looking at the whole series in chronological order, I can definitely see things I never recognized in the past. To wit:
  • You NEVER would have seen Daria run up to hug Jane at the beginning of the series, when their standoffishness was central to their characters...yet there you see it, at the end of the series, after Daria nearly gets into a car accident. Daria is human!
  • Bribing. Fucking UBIQUITOUS at the beginning of the series. But for some reason, the Morgendorffers grew up, and at some point, money was no longer considered a means to achieve selfish ends.
  • Quinn. My God, but Quinn evolved. The snobbiest, most selfish, most superficial kid who always fit in perfectly in the Fashion Club grew up. She found out that learning and being smart is cool. She learned respect and - dare I say it? - sisterly love for Daria. (This, after years of disowning her as some distant relative or other.) She even stood up to one of her peers, calling her on having a drinking problem, even when it meant the end of their friendship.
  • Daria herself. I mean, she was so uniformly cynical, antisocial, sarcastic, a loner...you know the type. She totally encapsulated it. At first. But as the series went on, cracks showed up in the wall of cynicism she built around her. She began to acknowledge the love that her parents had for her. She began to show - in more overt ways - her devotion to her friends. She even (begrudgingly at first) reciprocated her sisterly love toward Quinn. And my GOD...she even maintained a relationship with a BOY for awhile!
  • Ms. Barch's utter HATRED for the male species - because of a heartless, cruel divorce she endured before the series started. No blaming her here. But it was totally cool to see how the endlessly hypersensitive Mr. O'Neill unwittingly and effortlessly melted this crone's heart...to the point where she was making out with him at any opportunity. By the last episode she was wholeheartedly accepting what she misconstrued as a marriage proposal. Take home: if the man-hating Ms. Barch can fall in love again, ANYTHING is possible. ANYTHING.

But some things that were established firmly at the beginning also remained stalwart to the end.

  • Jane. In all respects: her cynicism, her slicing wit, her (nearly) undying dedication to her friendship with Daria. (Aside from that whole boyfriend quasi-stealing mess. Justifiable and forgiven.) LOVE me some Jane Lane.
  • Kevin's utter stupidity. Duh! He was the QB, right? And of course, he flunked his senior year. (Yes, this attitude contributed to an anti-homecoming/football screed I published in the school paper my freshman year that all but guaranteed me a pummeling by our linebackers.) (If only...)
  • Brittany. Kind of. She did actually grow some semblance of a brain. Somewhat.
  • Jodie. God bless her. I really felt for her. So pressured to be the best of the best. Oh, and let's add the pressure of being one of only two minorities at Lawndale High. And she graduated valedictorian, natch.
  • Sandi. President of the Fashion Club. Always and forevermore a bitch of the highest order. And no, that is not meant as a compliment. But I will grant her this: she can manipulate better than anyone I've ever known.

Seeing Daria (both the character and the series) just affirms my position in life. I'm intelligent, cynical, somewhat antisocial, somewhat reclusive, yet constantly evolving and learning stuff about human nature. And the fact that a network as influential as MTV found a character and series as non-mainstream and subversive as Daria (see also: My So-Called Life) and could support said series for five seasons gives me hope for persons such as myself. (Of course, MTV has since devolved into a state of putrid swampstank the likes of which Daria represents its absolute antithesis. I mean, MTV hardly shows music videos anymore, right? It's time to pull the plug. Like about a decade ago. We can all live without The Real World, which is, like, so real, btw.) But if Daria can thrive, I can too, right?

Then again, we may never know. The final movie, "Is It College Yet?", showed everyone going separate ways. Daria broke up with her beau, Tom. Brittany promised Kevin she'd wait for him...while crossing her fingers behind her back. All the main characters wound up going to completely different colleges. But a silver lining of sorts: Daria and Jane ended up going to different colleges, but in the same town: Boston. But there ended the season. Maybe continuing to pursue Daria: The College Years might have been pretty tough. Still, given the caliber of what the team behind Daria had turned out, it would have been possible, and possibly very compelling. But the world will never know...just like that damned Tootsie Roll commercial.

God bless Daria Morgendorffer. And God bless pizza.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Michael Jackson, one year later

For any of you chipper whippersnappers stumbling across this here blog who don't remember Michael Jackson circa Thriller, don't understand his appeal, or perhaps weren't born yet, check this video out. It's made of unadulterated marvelous white-sequined AWESOME. Here's what an amazing, unifying force of nature he was, shot just a few days after his untimely death. I'm hard pressed to think of any other pop star who could cause this sort of spontaneous celebration amongst complete strangers. (Oh, and for the record...the geeky tall white guy in the center of most of the video? That'd be me, making a complete fool of myself and not caring one bit...if I were on that subway.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Disco Box

2001 was a banner year for me. I had broken up with my ex that January, and moved out a month later into a studio off of NW 21st Street in Portland. The ensuing six months was the best time of my life up to that point. So that spring, as a present to myself, I strolled down to the local music store and picked up this hunk of fun.

I rediscovered it a few days ago, and have been listening to it nonstop since. Maybe it's that summer has FINALLY, irrevocably arrived. Maybe it's that Pride is this weekend. Whatever...something in me is celebrating and aching for sweet release of some sort.

And this four-disc box set delivers. Uneven in places, especially during the last disc. And as you'd imagine, 80 tunes spread out over only four CDs does not lend itself easily to extended mixes - the way you'd hear them in the clubs. But if you want to hear some of the most hedonistic music ever created, condensed down to radio-friendly bite-sized chews, you owe it to yourself to listen to a few of these gems. A few of my all-time faves:

Born to Be Alive - Patrick Hernandez: My absolute favorite of everything here, and that's major praise. The title says it all: kinda corny and self-evident (yeah, you're born, you're alive, duh-hickey), but damn, defiant ecstasy has seldom been so catchy and exciting.

Rock the Boat - The Hues Corporation: I hadn't heard this one ever before 2001. No real reason to like it other than it's catchy, it swings, it's got a good beat, you can dance to it...I'd give it a 88, Dick.

Young Hearts Run Free - Candi Staton: Man, something about the horns in this song just do me in. Horns in disco in general, yes, but here they're just perfect, toe-curling. And then Ms. Staton uses her beautiful but weary voice to tell the story of the man who left her and her young baby to fend for themselves. Irresistible but heartbreaking.

Turn the Beat Around - Vicki Sue Robinson: Crazy, sassy and classy. Sung with whiplash intensity.

Get Up And Boogie - Silver Connection: Stupid, stupid fun. Makes me want to lace up my roller skates.

Boogie Nights - Heatwave: Another song I just like, just 'cause. It's underplayed and deserves a new audience.

I Feel Love - Donna Summer: Bow down to the ultimate queen of disco, bitches. But even more so, pay respects to HRH Giorgio Moroder. His throbbing synthesizer here filled a million discotheques and inspired countless DJs. Techno and its myriad offshoots (for better or worse) wouldn't exist without this one.

The rest of Disc 2 - I can't list them all. This disc is golden.

Y.M.C.A. - Village People: I know...this song's too obvious. Still, it cracks me up that this homage to clandestine M2M fun at the local gym is still a perennial favorite at weddings. Besides, I heard this one recently at a club here in town, and it worked the crowd into a froth even more than "I Gotta Feeling."

Knock on Wood - Amii Stewart: Tribal, before tribal was even considered a concept. (Trying not to use the word "fierce," it's so overused, but it really does apply here.) And the video is classic '70s kitsch.

Good Times - Chic: This one comes right after "Born to be Alive." It's a dangerous pairing...by the end of these two, you're bounding out of your skin with unspeakable joy. Need I bring up the immortal bass line?

Lost in Music - Sister Sledge: I love "We Are Family," which is also here. But man, talk about your statements of purpose. "Responsibility to me is a tragedy...I won't give up my music - not me, not now, no way, no how!" Cue me falling in love.

Funkytown - Lipps, Inc.: So fun. And I miss those Star Wars-like synthesized voices. SO 1980, but so timeless.

Cruisin' the Streets - The Boystown Gang: Not much as a piece of music. But I gotta give it up for a band that ain't the Village People that name-checks gay meccas and waxes rhapsodical about finding...not a love interest, but a hunky guy and your next conquest, boys. The shorter version is here; I desperately want to find the extended version, with its VERY explicit lyrics.

It's Raining Men - The Weather Girls: Of course. One of the greatest gay anthems of all time. But by this point, the term disco is being diluted quite a bit - this is more straightforward pop than disco.

And now, for the few clunkers that just don't work for me.

Honeybee - Gloria Gaynor: If you can make it past the first 3 seconds, you're stronger than me. How annoying can a honeybee's (imitated) buzz be on record? Check it out...but you probably won't be back.

In the Bush - Musique: A bevy of oversexed women panting "Push, push in the bush. Do you like it? Do you like it like this?" I generally have no problem with sex in songs, but this is just me: I don't care to think about vajayjay in any of my music, disco or otherwise.

Last Night A DJ Saved My Life - Indeep: What a brillant title. What a great premise. Such potential for a kick-ass song. And this dud falls SO flat. A plodding beat and a lame, lame rap by the DJ make me want to flush this down the drain. (Cue - I kid not - a toilet flushing. Because that's the sound sensation that's sweeping the nation, right?) Also: not disco.

Other quibbles: Far too little Donna Summer, no Bee Gees (!?), no Earth, Wind and Fire. They could have fleshed out the set with more of these artists and thrown some of the non-disco stuff out toward the end. And extended mixes would have been fun, perhaps even segued one into the next. And saddest of all...it's out of print. Still, you can buy it if you search around, and the prices are pretty comparable to what it was originally sold for.

This set makes me wonder if there's any demand out there for an old-time disco-era DJ, and also if there's still time for me to hone my craft. I loved doing the college radio DJ thing, but to be able to play songs end to end - with no breaks and no commercials - and to be in control of a party's mood just gives me the best kind of chills. And I ain't a fan of the soulless machinelike overwrought beat playing in the clubs nowadays.