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91 posts from April 2007

Apr 30 2007
Illinois Death Trip Comments (3)

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I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. I don’t know what’s causing it to be a matter of concern—I’m not even sure it is a matter of concern. Maybe it’s just that it’s something worth considering.

For the past year or so I’ve found myself puzzling out death, trying to picture what will happen. What I’ve come up with instead of answers are metaphors. Death could be just another part of life, similar to sleep. Sometimes, as I drift off to sleep, I find myself wondering if this is what it will feel like to die—an overwhelming urge to be still, to close one’s eyes, to relinquish waking control. If so, maybe, against all odds, death isn’t an end, but a transition. Maybe there is some vague degree of consciousness, similar to dreaming.

Even if death is an ultimate cessation, I still wonder if our need to sleep every day is some kind of natural preparation for an eventual dirt nap.

If death is an ending, I can envision it as the culmination of a long, wearying journey. I think about a person walking down an endless hall that gets darker and darker, more claustrophobic. He eventually tires, slowing to a crawl, finally becoming still. No more progress. Others will pass him and forget him soon enough, and in turn meet the same fate and be forgotten themselves despite there being so much more hall to travel; such a shame to have the desire and determination without the energy. Death as a failure to continue, a defeat.

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Very recently, death has crossed my mind for specific reasons.

First, I’ve finally gotten around to reading Joan Didion’s The Year Of Magical Thinking. I’m late to this, I know, considering Vanessa Redgrave is already Broadwaying it. But I knew nothing of the content of the book until I began reading it. It’s a shockingly naked catalog of grief and mourning, of life and death, as told by a wife and mother whose daughter is on the verge of dying from septic shock when her husband suddenly does die from a massive cardiac event. It’s not just a story; it happened. The fact that it happened to people whose survivor is as uniquely gifted at expressing her feelings as Didion is is the only bright side in an incredibly sad book.

Didion_2I love the book. It’s not morbid, it’s about morbidity. I admire that Didion (pictured) is able to write about things that threaten to destroy her; it’s a case where being too close is being exactly close enough. It’s heart-breaking, but heart-breaking at least reminds you you have a heart in the first place. It's also insightful to the point that it feels like a crash course in dealing with something that will happen around all of us and, eventually, to all of us.

It’s a hard sell for some readers. I discovered this on Amazon, where some reviewers deemed it “boring” or—the worst thing any work of art can be called in our happy-go-lucky culture—“depressing.” One monster even wrote that she disliked the book because she found the narrator “unlikeable.” Ridiculous things to take the time to write about a woman honestly attempting to make sense of the lowest or highest common denominator for every human being who’s ever lived. But maybe people say these things because they can’t handle the truth, because it’s easier to play dumb than to play dead.

Sc0004cf53_2As I read the book, which I can’t recommend highly enough, I planned a trip to Chicago to see my mother and sister and yet it was Chicago that reached out to me first. I received an e-mail a couple of nights before I left from a woman I’d known there over 15 years ago, before I moved to New York. I’d known her as a fabulous, exotic type who could be trusted to dress flamboyantly and accompany her gay brother to a club. I dated her gay brother (pictured) and had a lot of affection for him, a bright, mysterious young guy who shared some important experiences with me, and who I stopped seeing only because I left the area. In that way, we never truly broke up, just separated.

The e-mail I received from his sister was to inform me he’d died that day. It took me completely by surprise. You sometimes forget people’s lives continue on even when you’re not in the room, and so do their deaths. When I gently inquired as to what had happened—“Was this as much of a surprise to you as it is to me?”—she replied that he’d been drinking himself to death for many years. “He could not seem to accept or forgive himself. Thank you for remembering him.”

Remembering him was not a courtesy for me, it was a given, but I knew what she meant and was touched, humbled even, that she’d decided to inform me—on the day it happened, no less. I was haunted by what she told me because I could not connect alcoholism with the person I’d known, let alone a persistent, self-destructive death wish. I also could not guess what it was he did not like about himself—homosexuality seemed an unlikely cause. Somehow, I felt this was all I needed to know, and all I was going to know, so I asked no more questions.

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In Chicago, I stayed in a friend’s absolutely beautiful home, a duplex with a lake view in a historical building. I stayed in a serenely unadorned guest room painted white. At night, I would lie in the bed and stare at the moonlight that created the borders of the window and feel like I was floating, wondering if this was in any way a parallel for the loss of consciousness, or even of death itself.

Walking around the city, I visited my agent, who told me a famous writer I’d once worked with and who was one of her star clients had been told he had terminal cancer and was expected to die at any moment. Img_0315_2This was exactly what happened to her former boss, my former agent. Thinking of him making arrangements not for his death but for what would happen after he had died made me more openly curious about the end of our time on earth than ever. I remember when my former agent—a beneficent mentor and good friend—found out she would die. I spoke to her on the phone and told her I was so sorry to hear the news. “Don’t you be sorry,” she urged in a girlish voice. Then she asked to see me. I flew in within a few weeks, but arrived the day after she lost consciousness. We held her hand in the hospital and reminisced with or to her, watching her brow furrow (could she hear?) even as she was unable to close her mouth. She died the following day, which seemed impossible. (Pictured is a cookbook manuscript she had once been working on, a life souvenir.)

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Walking along the beach (yes, Chicago has them) in the unseasonal 80-degree weather, I discovered it must be a tradition to memorialize late loved ones with graffiti on the cement walkways. Seeing the child-like scrawlings and odes to “Mom” and “Dad,” I wondered if there were people out there who might critique them as boring or depressing. These same people will be stifling yawns as The Grim Reaper hugs them close.

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I know there are people who want to die, but I can’t understand them. In the car on the way to the airport to get home, I called my grandmother, 90 and still living alone quite handily. She told me how her pastor son, my uncle, had to accompany a woman to the “boondocks of Canada” to identify the body of her husband, a suicide. Death is such an expected eventuality that we’re all a bit obsessed with tales that challenge any of our expectations—suicides, murders, freak health collapses, previously unguessed personal failings...all will keep just about any of us rapt, maybe also because they are potentially autobiographies.

I’d like to say I live each day as if it were my last, but the reality is I—and most people—live each day as if it were the first day of the rest of my life, like I have time to burn so I burn it without a care in the world. Maybe the best thing to take from my recent fixation on death is putting that angst to good use. What gives death its greatest power over us is the fear that we lived the wrong way, missed out.

I think the least we should take from our shared expectation of death is to resolve to let that expectation inform how we live.

(The title for this post was inspired by this book.)

 
 
Apr 29 2007
Men In White Comments (0)

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V Man's issue 8 (spring/summer 2007) has a gross-looking Orlando Bloom on the cover—unwashed and lit just doesn't do it for me.

But inside, there are two amazing attractions. First, there's a great ("fantastic?") Chris Evans spread by Inez van Lamsweerde. Here's one shot, see the rest after the jump:

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Even better, David Armstrong shoots some memorable dirty blonds for "Summer Whites," a fashion editorial that had me thinking hard about my wardrobe (again, more after the jump):

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Guytopia Comments (0)

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10 Men's "Utopia" issue really hooked me with this up-the-shorts-shot (left, by Mariano Vivanco), though the artsy twink on the right (by Anuschka Blommers & Niels Schumm) has his charms:

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But the real prize is Toyin's Weber-esque underwear layout featuring Bjorn Borg unmentionables. I had no idea the ex-tennis pro even dabbled in these, and my take on underwear is if it fits, wear it till it disintegrates. But these are some prime examples that can make a guy think twice about what goes on in his pants:

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Many more after the jump.

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True Ewww! Comments (0)

Artist Peter Howson gives us Madonna and Guy Ritchie, as he sees them, in an exhibition of his work in Glasgow. Somehow, as cool as these are, I don't see him being commissioned to do her next album cover.

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Apr 28 2007
In Touch...For Men? Comments (0)

In Touch Weekly stole its name from In Touch For Men, a famous gay-porn mag. This week, it gets back to its roots with pulse-pounding shots of Drew Lachey (all the hotter because he's half-naked with his own brother right there?) and Matthew McConaughey, who probably had to think long and hard when trying to come up with something erotic he hasn't done in public yet. "Ah, a wetsuit! Perfect!"

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Poolboy Comments (0)

Heat's Torso Of The Week (14-20 April 2007) is one Kyran Bracken. I don't know who he is, and I don't suppose it matters.

Sc00093855_2Lots of laps required.

 
 
Apr 27 2007
In Strip Search Of... Comments (0)

Gaytanamo, I was against. But this is the kind of law-enforcement humiliation I can get behind. I wonder why the casting of this real strip-search info video involved a gorgeous, young Lorenzo Lamas type as a representative male con, while the female looks more like a hardened criminal? Watch it and I promise you'll never squat and cough deeply the same way again.

 
 
Madonna 25 Comments (5)

Taken 25 years ago, these unseen images (by, I believe, Tom Morillo) reveal a young artist burning up, burning up for your love. They're strikingly beautiful. I know Madonna was born without a nostalgia bone, but I wish that when she gets around to doing a definitive, career-spanning box set, she'd reach out to the many photographers over the years who've chronicled her evolution and also put together a definitive, Taschen-style photo book.

Many more images after the jump.

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What A Feel Like I Just Got Home! Comments (0)

With thanks to Scott...now I've heard everything.Website_069Flashdance_black_2

 
 
The Stranger Is Fiction, And That's The Truth Comments (0)

The most respected film critic in Seattle has given Boy Culture a Space Needle up. It's a great review, and I'm sure Allan will be happy about it since he's a Seattle boy who actually took the movie from Chicago and set it in his hometown, where he shot it using many local actors and locations.

Which is nice because the least respected film critic in Seattle (he normally writes about sex, the field in which he's top dog), Dan Savage of The Stranger, has decided Boy Culture is no better than the American Family Association's Web site...yeah...because he's probably right that all of us ridiculously progressive gay people behind the film were going for that, so it's best to Savage the film and its imaginary intent rather than to just say, "I really didn't like it."

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