April 2007June 2007 


57 posts from May 2007

May 31 2007
You Only See What Your Eyes Want To See Comments (1)

The Madonna-discovering (well...) Stein has a great point. Though I wonder—white-dominated "mainstream" audiences in the U.S. tend to shy away from foreign cultures; maybe a big Indian or Asian superstar won't cross over to us, but instead will be so big globally that the white-dominated mainstream will become the niche from which white artists hope to cross.

"Made in India" by...who else?...the "Indian Madonna."

America likes to think we own history, let alone entertainment history. The music, movies and pop-cultural events that matter to us form the permanent record, while anything that was, say, #1 in England...or Indonesia...or Pakistan...doesn't really "count." I think within my lifetime the American point of view will cease to be the predominant one in regards to popular culture. Perhaps we will get into the rising foreign superstars, perhaps we'll cling to Carrie Underwood and rap. But I do think it will become increasingly hard to insist that stars who are primarily American-interest stars (Janet Jackson comes to mind) are stars at all, or that a phenomenon's popularity Stateside means anything more than success in just one more market among many.

The late "Chinese Madonna," Anita Mui.

May 29 2007
Paths Taken Comments (0)

My partner took off this week and I wound up in Chelsea. Only it's not like it sounds. I typically go back there when he's not around, maybe because it reminds me of our original home there, the place where we lived together the longest. It's like revisiting neural pathways except using my whole body.

Img_0164_2I tried the new rage: Pinkberry. It's gross. It's just bitter frozen yogurt with fruit on it for five bucks. For five bucks, I'd rather go get a tub of Tasti D-Lite in peanut butter from the W. 72nd or 6th AvenueE_026_3_2 Village locations—they know how to make it as thick as porn hero Chad Douglas and as addictive as heroin.

I also eyed the new luxury condo at 18th & 8th. "Coming Soon" the sign out front says, which you will be if you live there and meet an out-of-towner at Splash. I know some have decried this and other new buildings, and my own choice has been to always seek out old buildings with character, but I can't whip up nostalgia for 18th & 8th, the restaurant that died to make way for the new residence. Knock down a landmark, and that makes me a little sad. Knock down another generic building that's just kinda old, and that doesn't bother me. It's like how some people complain bitterly about the new Times Square. Yes, it's annoying and I wish I didn't have to be there every day (for work) and it's not my cup of tea, but it used to be a pit and glossy Disneyfication beats being groped by prostitutes, which I was one time a dozen or more years ago.

Img_0163"Coming Soon" always means something's "Going Soon."

But those old places meant nothing to me, the memories were not fond, nor were they especially memories even. For other people, those former places meant something, in the same way walking past my old building in Chelsea meant something to me.

The last time I came to Chelsea alone while my partner was in Puerto Rico, I ate at Mary Ann's, where I'm likely to be found once or twice a week. A young guy was seated at the table next to me, which if you've been there you know means we were practically in each other's laps. He was very handsome and fit and seemed reserved. Then he started talking to me. His first question was, "Do you live around here?" Usually in Chelsea, that means, "I've got an hour, so if you live more than 10 minutes away that might make this not worth it." But he seemed just to want to know. The more we talked the more I decided he wasn't coming on to me (rats, it's nice to be asked to the dance even if you're already going).

Turns out he was visiting from Alabama and was just...being nice. Staying at a buddy's around the corner. (Wait, maybe he was coming on to me?) He'd spent the day touring the city and wondered if Shakehe'd missed anything. (No, he wasn't coming on to me.) As we spoke, I found myself reverting to the polite Michigander I was raised to be, and using the masculine voice my father taught me to use, the friendly and helpful—the proper—tone a guy uses when speaking with another guy when they are not showing off or discussing girls or sports, but are just communicating. Just remembering that mode of speech was a flashback. That and the way we ended our conversation—with a handshake. The first in Chelsea since the ’70s. Always give a firm handshake. You don't want to give them a lame duck. The neural pathways extended back 25 years to that lesson.

I think I helped him out a bit, and he said he was coming back to NYC again soon to see the rest of it. I've been here 15 years and still haven't seen it all one time, let alone had time to get nostalgic for all of it. But that's the beauty of living in Manhattan, a place as vast and complex as the human brain—the paths are countless and never-ending.

Pet Shop Don't Preach Comments (0)

3631_2SaluteThought police on patrol.

Pet Shop Boys have consistently been music to my ears, but this comment by Neil Tennant hits a sour note:

"I've always been against the idea of rock stars lecturing people as if they know something the rest of us don't —it looks arrogant. It's not as if they have a private source of information. To state the obvious as if you are the only person that knows it is intellectually weak."

Petshopboysactually_3Petshopboysactually_4This is stupid. I totally get that average joes get irked when popstars get preachy, and of course many of them do. I would imagine it's hard not to speak down to people when they are the ones who've put you on a pedestal.

HyBut there is a big leap from "don't act like you know everything" to "shut up." Tennant (and a few others have done this lately in slagging off Live Earth) says that this concert is another example of 'stating the obvious,' but in saying this, he exposes how removed he himself is from reality. Global warming is far from accepted as an obvious fact. Sure, Al Gore says it's true and he won an Oscar for it. But the right is vigorously attempting to discredit the entire notion, Evangelicals are against it because the most hardcore of them have zero respect for this intransigent world and we are far, far away from having a comprehensive policy in the U.S. that recognizes and attempts to counter global warming—man-made or otherwise.

In reality, an awareness-raising concert like Live Earth is not the same as doing a "Let's Be Nice To Kittens" gig (though Republicans would probably be against that, too); the message has not reached everybody. Therefore, even if the concert only succeeds in raising some funds for the cause and changing some minds, that automatically makes it worthwhile, right? It's not going to restore the earth to the way we found it (that won't happen until it finally belches and destroys us and a few billion years have passed).

Worst of all, when popstars like Neil Tennant or Bob Geldof (well...not really a star...) or Roger Daltrey criticize the good intentions of a Live Earth, they give ammo to the people who are actively arguing that global warming does not exist. In that way, they're actually helping to advocate—to preach—the opposing argument.

AjojpgStars who do it for the green. Not that kind.

On the larger subject, I'm fine with a policy that asks celebrities not to preach, but I'm avidly opposed to asking them to shut the fuck up. You don't have to have access to "a private source of information" in order to have an opinion. PSB are among my favorite escapist pleasures, but escapism needs mental and political and emotional challenge or it's just living with blinders on. If I can't get the challenges from PSB, then why not let me get them, or a small part of them, from Al Gore or Angelina Jolie or Beastie Boys or Leonardo DiCaprio? Is something a celebrity says really so much less informed than something a government official says? The problem is that the government does have access to a private source of information—and all too often, that is how the government wants to keep it: private.

May 28 2007
Feats Of Hercules Comments (0)

HerculesAbout men, fashion & people. But mostly men.

British lad-fashion mag Hercules has Jamie Dornan in Hugo Boss on the cover, and a host of twentysomething (if even) style cubs on its endless pages. Because I can't see how encouraging men to obsess over the perfect forms of boys half their age could ever be psychologically damaging (wait...), here are the highlights:


Alex Pettyfer is the new Jamie Bell, an I-can't-wait-till-he's-legal type. And now that he's sort of legal (if you're in the UK) and in college, he's getting his kit off, all in the name of high fashion. Many more shots of him after the jump.

Sc00140948A yen for Yon.

Yon Gonzales is a "new face," or so says a Spanish-language Q&A and shoot by Luis Venegas. I don't know about new, but if it ain't broke...

Hercules2This layout is about white jeans. No, really.

Sc00146e4201Dolph Lundgren and Lukas finally meet.

I love this David Dunan shot. It's very, "Hey, do you see that creepy dude taking our picture over there?" "Yeah...don't look and he'll go away. He does this all the time."

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Planet Out Comments (3)

I've met Chris Ciompi and liked him, so I hope my respectful disagreement with him will not be interpreted as "maligning" him. In his new "From the Editor" letter in Genre's June 2007 issue—a gay pride issue with a featured article by James Withers calling for the end to the concept of the "LGBT" community—he notes bloggers had maligned him for speaking against rival Out's decision to put Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper on its last cover to represent powerful gays and lesbians.

His editorial starts out with the insight that "The business of defining—of shifting grey areas back into the black-and-white—is a daily, multi-billion, cross-industry dollar-generating extravaganza." This is true. It's hard to sell to diversity; niches or, if they're huge, sectors are a lot easier to pitch.

Sc0010cfabMore than just Out? Or so Out it's in?

But he goes on to say he thinks a world without definitions would be a better place. I have never accepted this belief, and by now it sounds to me really '90s and outmoded. Aren't we post-post-gay by now? He claims we're "boxing outselves off as separate from the mainstream," but this presumes that our status is of our choosing. Forgetting the don't-label-me-I'm-unique nonsense for a second, the reality is that if society didn't find homosexuality outside the norm, then we wouldn't be outside the norm; there would be no need for a rights struggle or for visibility or for loudly, clearly stating which team you play for, if you play for both or if you play for the "home" team despite wearing the "away" shirt.

We're not boxing ourselves off, we were boxed off at birth. The choice we have is either to decry this by being open about who we are, or to accept this—and even delude ourselves that we're not boxed off in the first place. Ciompi calls identifying gay people as gay people "over-definition." I think over-definition is something that occurs while attempting to be featured in Genre's Genre Man advertising section. It's not over-definition—it's just reality, and all the post-gayers out there have yet to explain to me why simply stating the truth about gay celebrities is worse than discussing the dating, mating, marrying, divorcing, child-bearing, parent-hating, drug-taking, car-crashing details of straight celebrities' lives. It's special treatment, this under-definition.

Imagine a label-free society? Fine. Imagine it. The world is not like that and will not be like that in our lifetimes. It can improve, but we are not going to make homosexuality a non-issue while we're alive. So in my opinion, it's not time to be calling for an end to "LGBT" as Genre does. Yes, maligning "LGBT" in the pride issue provocative. But to what end? To start a conversation? Maybe. To shake people up and generate sales? Definitely. Definitely. Kind of like Out's use of Jodie and Anderson, something Ciompi has criticized ever since it happened. (His publisher perhaps regrets Genre didn't do it first).

Sc0010e61bA male model from the new issue of the magazine Genre. Well, "male" is a label...and so is "model"...and so is "magazine." So, just...here.

Also upsetting to me is that Ciompi is continuing to say that Out's Jodie/Anderson cover was strictly for money, and that if it were, that would make it morally reprehensible.

"But, what I find completely unacceptable is the pushing of any agenda for the sake of financial gain at anyone's cost but your own."

Oh, please. Genre is itself a highly commercial-minded magazine, no? Well, provocatively publishing an anti-LGBT article during gay pride month is a way to catch readers' attention, infuriate and energize them and make sales. Sales at the expense not of one or two extremely powerful, wealthy and believe me unconfused closet cases (Out could almost be seen as an outing Robin Hood), but at the expense of our admittedly challenged sense of community. Marginalized citizens of LGBT will be the primary losers if Genre's rich white gay male readers abandon LGBT. Jodie and Anderson—those two rich white men will be fine.

20070403out_2Please don't tap on the glass ceiling—the homosexuals are in their "coming-out process"!

I can accept the central argument and insight that bandying the term "LGBT" does not erase our differences—race and gender and class are not going to be trumped by sexuality, especially when our sexualities are not even the same. But instead of calling for an end to the effort that is "LGBT," we should be acknowledging the differences and finding the common ground, not abandoning it. The women's movement had and has women of different races and sexualities and classes, and yet has made a lot of progress in the past 40 years. And you know what? They didn't get there with women denying their true gender for fear of a label.

Cmfairbrass_wideweb__470x38Not too sexy for a label. Da!

The only way to acceptance is to hold ourselves—and each other—to high standards of honesty.

I will say I still like Genre (and Chris) and Out (don't know any of them) despite the times when they let me down or say things that don't represent me. Because I don't need my LGBT to be, as Rosie would call it, same same same. But I need my LGBT—and they need me.

Brilliance Coaxed By Q. Allan Brocka Comments (0)

The Gay & Lesbian Times gives Boy Culture a nice review here, or you can click on the image below to read it. Some of the review is a bit unnecessary...I mean, not liking Eating Out is fine, but I almost feel like some reviewers used Boy Culture's release as an excuse to badly review it a second time. (Of course, lots of people liked Eating Out, but the second round of negative reviews is like a communal effort to have everyone agree it was demon-sent.) Still, three stars for Boy Culture is three stars for Boy Culture.Gaylesbiantimes_2

May 27 2007
Playin' With My Heart Comments (0)

Not for any other reason than just wow, here is a clip of Madonna miming "Borderline" that I'd never seen. She performed "Borderline" on The Virgin Tour, but that song (along with "Angel" and "Burning Up") was deleted from the VHS release and she has steadfastly refused to do it in concert, making this appearance pretty rare. I'm not sure why Madonna despises "Borderline," but it could have something to do with anything but how she perceives it musically. The clip is especially fun because at the end she answers questions from the square host, practically sneering, and even throws some spotlight on little bro Christopher, who along with Erica Bell and Bags was dancing with Madonna in those days.

May 26 2007
Touched By Her Presence Comments (5)

L_95d340a8de2ad47a032d8a2a4d61a736Once more into the bleach.

I've been obsessed with Blondie and in particular Debbie Harry ever since I realized my older cousin liked them. By the time I figured that out, they were already pop-culturally past it, and Debbie was releasing her Inlovesecond solo record, Rockbird. I loved the album so much I bought my first 12", "In Love With Love" (the UK single is pictured), and promptly played it till it was smooth and shiny. I'll never know if I objectively feel that album is musically amazing or if my appreciation for it is inextricably linked with my desire to be as cool as my cousin. The origin is lost, irrelevant; what followed has been 25 years of excitement, disappointment, curiosity and compulsion—but mainly excitement.

RockbirdIt's so hard to keep my wits about me...

DebbieLoving post-Blondie and pre-Blondie v2.0 Debbie Harry has been more of a challenge than loving Madonna. With Madonna, you just have to wait a couple of years between albums, and news is anywhere you look. With Debbie, I wouldn't know what the hell was happening until it was happening half the time, at least until the Internet emerged. And even now, I had no clue she had a new solo CD coming in August called Necessary Evil. Bad fan! Bad!

Crave02Satisfying my Crave-ing.

I've met Debbie Harry three times now. Once was briefly at a record signing, which hardly counts. Once was a fabulous close encounter at a Blondie AOL Sessions taping that become the first thing I ever blogged. And the other time was in December of 2000. I went to see the late Sarah Kane's play Crave in the Village specifically because Debbie was in it. I had amazing seats. The play was obtuse, very out-there. I thought Img_0159Debbie was a more compelling stage presence as an actress than she has been in most of her movies (Heavy is the obvious exception), but was almost sick throughout the performance I had to go to the bathroom so badly. I'll never forget that feeling. Afterward, I was determined to get an autograph. They do that on Broadway, so Off-Broadway should be easy, right? Nope. We were told she was not doing anything after, and if anyone had objects to sign, we were to send them backstage. Dejected, I handed over my "Denis/Contact In Red Square/Kung Fu Girls" 12" and glumly received it back with a dazzlingly bold signature a few minutes later.

It wasn't enough.

I know it's ridiculously rude and I was ridiculously too old (32!) to be so fannish, but I felt I'd never see her again so this was the time to seize the moment. I waited around anyway. It was just myself and another fanboy, who was bearing a bouquet. Finally, Debbie came out, looking completely unthrilled with the world. He handed her the flowers, and I handed my camera to José. I told her she was great in the play and asked if I could please have a photo with her. She didn't say yes or no, she just stopped, lit her cigarette, pulled her hood way up and struck a pose. The picture came out great. I used to look thin in it, but as I've lost weight I now think I look fat. She's got the other fan's flowers, which make me look like the queen handing them to her. Then she continued walking, totally alone, off into the Village.

I hope I didn't piss her off, but I've never felt too bad about seizing that moment.


To promote a new CD+DVD of Eat To The Beat, Blondie appeared on The Today Show and Debbie warbled "Heart of Glass" alongside ("warbled alongside" is more appropriate than "did a duet with" because I think Debbie is too singular for me to accept as half of a duet) Lily Allen. Over 60, she can still summon up the breathy Blondie vocals. I am going to cherish every out-of-the-ballpark performance, wobbly note, triumph and failure because at some point, she is going to stop performing and a chapter of my youth will retire with her.


Luckily, that doesn't appear to be on the horizon, not with Necessary Evil around the corner. Check out Debbie Harry's MySpace to hear her single "Two Times Blue" and make sure to support the entire endeavor when it drops, because that which you crave may not always be available for consumption.

Glass tigresses.


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