Saturday, October 29, 2011

Spooky Time Horror Movie Chat: A List of Some of My Fave Horror Films

There is something, for me, oddly comforting about a good horror film (or even a bad one). Maybe it's the opportunity to explore some of humanity's most archetypal fears in a safe environment that I find so strangely cathartic, or just the fact that scary movies always put me in mind of my all-time favorite holiday, Halloween and, by extension, my favorite month, October, and all the cider swilling, leaf piling and pumpkin consuming it entails. So, in that spirit, here is my list of some of my favorite spooky cinematic classics. In the interest of full disclosure, you're not going to see any torture porn-y films featured here, as I really just find those boring and unpleasant (and not in the intended way) that said, here is my list of some of my favorite movies, presented without any connection through logic and probably many shameful omissions. Deal with it.


It's probably not entirely accurate to say Audition is one of my favorite scary movies, in fact, I've only seen it once (and would argue that once is about as many times as a sane person needs to see it). I'm including Audition to this list for one reason: it's the only torture porn style film I've ever seen that actually scared me based on its content, not the content's societal implications, and, for all its sadistic aspects, is simply one damn good, high tension piece of filmmaking. Audition does more with a bowl of vomit, a rubber apron and a wire saw than six Murder Saw Hostel 3's could do with 50 gallons of blood and equal disembowlments and limb cuttings. A large part of Audition's success in true scary where other, similar films fail is the Japanese film's willingness to build fear with insinuation, along with the chilling and unflinching focus on the villain, Asami's, unfettered enjoyment of torture, making its moments of visible violence truly shocking. Saw, Hostel and other, like films show so much gore and violence they fall into the realm unintentional self-parody. Also in the favor of Audition is the use of an unexpected antagonist; the villain of audition is not the weirdo or monster but rather the seeming innocent. It's a simple idea, but I defy you to watch Asami's coy petting of her tongueless man-friend without longing to take a sleeping pill and a shower. Truly twisted, scary stuff.

Event Horizon

Event Horizon
is probably (okay, maybe definitely) not, objectively, a very good movie. Event Horizon is also pretty much everything you could possibly ask for in a single film. There is madness. There is Latin. There is interesting production design. There are terms such as "Neptune orbit" and "dimensional gateway" and jokes about coffee said by black men such as "Would you like something hot and black in you?" Event Horizon stars the world's greatest actor, Sam Neil, going completely batshit. Scary videos are discovered! Blood is found in unexpected places! Black men make jokes comparing their members to Folgers! There is the vast emptiness of space! There is merciless terror! Event Horizon is a film of space terror! Hell dimensions! Prepare yourself for a bit of cheese, but also a surprising number of genuine scares/creepy moments. Watch this movie in the dark late at night. Maybe high. Not too high, though. Event Horizon.

The Ring

To be fair, a great deal of my fondness for The Ring is sentimental; The Ring is the one of the first movies I can remember, despite the fact I'd been watching horror movies since my young childhood, truly scaring me. Like, locking-the-car-doors-on-the-way-home-peek-under-the-bed-and-turn-on-your-nightlight scared. But, while I can recognize The Ring will always hold a special place in my heart due to its initial ability to leave me near pants-shittingly frightened, it's also, objectively, just a good, scary movie. Having seen Ringu, the Japanese film The Ring was based on, I think I can fairly say that The Ring was and is possibly the only film (or T.V. show, for that matter) in history whose American remake was far better (and scarier) than the original. Actually, had I seen Ringu, with its muddled narrative and seemingly illogical editing, before The Ring I doubt I would have bothered with Gore Verbinski's version. Good thing I did, though, because this is easily one of the best scary movies of this millennium. I've always been a visual person, and some of the images that have long freaked me out and fascinated me the most are those which are dream-like, seemingly discordant. This means the supremely creepy, video at the center of The Ring made, and still makes, my mouth drop in terror in the way no amount of gore could. Add to that the fact that The Ring succeeds in an area where many other ghost-y films fail: it keeps things mysterious. If you are planning to make a ghost movie, know this: we do not need to know every detail of the haunting's backstory. We do not need to see detailed facial close-ups of your ghost. You do not need to spend hours weathering a wedding dress and shredding fabric and preparing explanations, you just need to provide enough logic to pull your audience through and leave the rest to the imagination, since the imagination is scarier than any special effect. The Ring knows this.


I say The Ring was not the first movie I can remember really scaring me because Cube got there earlier. I was only a kid the first time I saw Cube, and I can't remember under what circumstances I watched it. I would say I saw it with my older brother, but I have a sense that I was alone, terrified, and in the living room, so maybe on T.V.? In any case, Cube deeply disturbed me and haunted my nightmares for the next fifteen years or so, and all this having only seen it once. By the time I watched Cube again, about six months ago, I had forgotten all but its title and a few, disjointed images from its plot: some people, stuck somewhere not knowing why they were there nor how they'd arrived. This is, really, Cube's essence: five people stuck in, well, a cube, in matching underwear with, it seems, nothing in common other than being trapped in this odd purgatory. The cubists (ha!) have to work together (and fall apart) in their attempt to solve the math-y puzzles required in order to exit their cube-atory, all with the looming threat of some seriously freaky booby traps should their calculations go wrong. Cube was made on a shoestring budget, but it was obviously made with a lot of love. While there is some, minimal, blood in Cube, the real scares come from the film's sense of near-overwhelming, claustrophobic dread, as well as its complete refusal to explain what, precisely, the fuck is going on. Cube feels like a really good, movie-length episode of The Twilight Zone, which makes sense, as it was apparently inspired by one. If you want simple screams and good fun, go see any of the many throwaway slashers or ghost movies out every year. If you want lingering creep factor and a major sense of unease, see Cube.

The Fly

Oh my God, The Fly is so awesome. Number one: brilliant casting. Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum should be in many more films. More films with these two, please. Two lanky, smart, sort of weird-sexy people being lanky and smart and weird-sexy: this is just damn fine filmmaking. Oh, but what's that, you say? There's also a lesson about man's hubris via science and an ape turned into an inside-out goo pile? Who could cram this many dreams into one movie?! David Cronenberg, of course. And, while The Fly has as many gross-out practical effects as a human dare dream of, it also has a great deal of empathy for its characters. Yes, Jeff Goldblum gets turned into a hideous bug-man, but what's really scary about The Fly is how damn tragic the whole thing is. Boy loves science. Boy meets girl. Boy loses humanity through his ceaseless yearning to be more than just a mortal man (via science), and, boy, does he get his wish. Plus that ending. Yeesh! I also really liked this movie as a kid. I should have been started in therapy really young.

The Sixth Sense

I had the shocking twist ending of The Sixth Sense ruined for me in middle school. God, I hated middle school. It was just the worst. I remember there was this girl I used to sit with at lunch sometimes. Cute girl; curly hair, freckles. All-american sort of a look. This girl was way more popular than I was. I was not popular. Not. That not was in italics just to emphas ize how unpopular I was. So I sat at this girl's table and probably her and all the other girls sort of felt sorry for me because I was a weirdo but also made fun of me when I left because I was a weirdo. This chick was the first person I knew to give a blow job. A blow job. You should be whispering that in shock. We were twelve, maybe thirteen and she came to lunch and was like “blahblahblah blow job” and she was pretending to be happy but she looked so sad. Oh my god, she just seemed so sad. Middle school was miserable, wasn't it? Then a few months later she went and blabbed the ending to The Sixth Sense and I would have been mad at anyone else but then I thought about her sad blow job and how sad I was and how it was sad I would never be allowed the shock of a true The Sixth Sense ending and by eighth grade I just started sitting alone at lunch because anything else was way too much work even though a teacher asked me “Why are you sitting alone?” I just said “There's no one I want to sit with” and stared wistfully out the window. And that's what The Sixth Sense is all about! Isolation, feelings of freakdom, children in oversized glasses from their dead father. I don't really consider The Sixth Sense a horror movie so much as a sad movie, or, if anything, a horror movie about the horrible horror of growing up different. And dead people! This was a really pretty good film. M. Night Shyamalan is capable of making good films! And hey, I actually really liked Unbreakable. But The Happening, oh man. That was almost shocking in its humorless awfulness. If I were friends with M. Night Shyamalan, after seeing The Happening I would have taken him aside and said “Are you okay, M. Night? I mean, really? Because this is, it's just, well, I'm concerned” and then maybe I would give him a hug because, really, no one wants to be alone at the lunch table.


I made the mistake, in my arrogant assumption of my un-scare-ability, of watching Rec for the first time alone, in my old apartment, in the dark. This was a dire miscalculation on my part. Rec is straight up, fast paced, merciless, poop-your-pants style zombie horror. This is about the only film I can think of, post-The Blair Witch Project, where the use of shaky-cam is actually scary, and adds to the movie rather than just induces mild nausea. A reporter, her cameraman and the firefighters they're following, trapped in an apartment building where all hell breaks loose: freaky. It was also refreshing to see a zombie movie that puts the supernatural back into the ghouls, rather than using the explanation for zombification that's grown all too common in the past ten years or so: that there's some sort of virus on the loose. If you saw the American remake, Quarantine, but haven't seen the Spanish original, then I'm sorry, but don't bother. Quarantine really accomplished a small miracle with its ability to take a truly scary movie, remake it, soullessly, shot for shot, and completely fall flat, to the point where I'd say the shock of Rec will be ruined if you haven't watched it first. Thanks a lot, America.

Mr. Arkadin/Confidential Report

Mr. Arkadin (or Confidential Report, as it was called outside of America) is not, strictly speaking, really a horror film. There are no ghosts or creative killers, but there are plenty unsettling images and disorienting scenes. Mr. Arkadin is filled, like most of Orson Welles movies, with a sense of creeping unease; it's a film about duplicity and deception, and there's enough of Welles' looking forbidding in a fake beard to qualify this film, in my opinion, as "vaguely and lingeringly disturbing" if not outright "scary." Bizarre characters, the imagery of a fever dream, and its history of conflicting edits make Mr. Arkadin one of my favorite Orson Welles films, and a good movie to spend Halloween with.

Rear Window

I think I'd be remiss if I didn't include at least one Alfred Hitchcock film in this list, and, while Psycho is probably Hitchcock's scariest movie, Rear Window is one of my favorites. The simple setup, the feeling of dread from Jimmy Stewart's lack of mobility, the creepy feeling of being a voyeur unto the actions of a voyeur all make Rear Window a supremely tense, enjoyable movie. Plus, I just love the set.

The Shining

The Shining is easily my favorite horror film from all the annals of history. The Shining is one of my favorite films, period. Pack up the creepy psychic kid and his creepy psycho dad and let's spend the winter snowed into an evil hotel in the mountains of Colorado! What could possibly go wrong? I'll tell you what: redrum. The Shining has all the disturbing atmospherics you'd expect of Stanley Kubrick, allowing a viewer to notice new fucked up and weird shit with every viewing. There's much to be scared by, but the scariest thing in this movie is, by far JACK NICHOLSON'S FACE!!!!! While the Stephen King book The Shining was based on says definitively that the Overlook Hotel was haunted, the film leaves open the possibility that all the scary things going on could very well just be reflective (or the result) of Jack Torrance's descent into TOTAL FUCKING MADNESS. Actually, Stephen King was really disappointed in this movie as an adaptation of his novel, but, while The Shining is an enjoyable enough book about ghosts and alcoholism and the alcohol of ghosts, it's no The Shining, if you know what I mean. I've watched a lot of documentaries about Stanley Kubrick, and while they all seem to emphasize that he was nice to his kids and loved animals, I still can't help but think this was one brilliantly disturbed brohan (see: behind the scenes footage of Kubrick emotionally torturing Shelley Duvall to get the perfect, scared performance out of her). If you haven't seen The Shining, I pity you. Watch The Shining!

Friday, May 13, 2011

“Cannes is in the Can!” “Don't can Cannes!” “French Can Can-Can all the Way To Cannes!” Etc.

OMG Cannes Film Festival is here! What do I really know about Cannes? Do I know what films are premiering? What the adjudication process is? How valuable a good Cannes reception is, anyway? I know absolutely nothing about any of these things! Why am I so excited about Cannes? Just look at all the famous people! Oh, the famous people. They're emerging from boats! They're defiantly killing thousands of birds for their latest ensemble! They are eating hors d'oeuvres from the taught, nude bodies of men named Sebastian who are really just trying to work their way through art school but wouldn't say no to giving John Travolta a $300 dollar hand job! $300 for a hand job?! YES! IT'S CANNES!

If you're shocked by my suggestion that John Travolta would be soliciting French hand jobs from nubile bodied 25-year-old men, then Cannes probably doesn't mean much to you. I pity you. I'm sorry you still think John Travolta is a happily married man. I mean, really? Did you ever even see “Grease?” I digress, though. If you are, however, a person who fantasizes about eventually being employed to shampoo, comb, and delicately scent all the fine, human-hair wigs kept in John Travolta's New Zealand Wig House (a house John keeps exclusively for his collection of wigs used to convince the Oprah audience he is a virile, hair covered, heterosexual), then I bet you, too, love this Film Festival. Cannes is, almost undeniably, a pageant of unbridled vanity and excess, a despicable singularity wherein all the worst traits of western society parade around in clothes that cost more money than any yearly salary I could hope make during the entirety of my life. And that's why I am so obsessed. Do I think that such a display heralds the inevitable downfall of civilization as we know it? Absolutely yes! I also believe that the scenes we see in Cannes are roughly the same sort of celebration that goes on among the upper echelons of Satan's followers; you know: fancy clothes and big parties and overindulgence in the sexual acts and pooping the bed. I believe celebrities, as a group, are probably notorious bed-poopers. What's not to love?

Oh, it's Adrian Brody. I wonder what he's promoting? Probably, he's not promoting anything. I used to really like Adrian Brody; he just sort of seemed like an eccentric, lanky Jew, which, in my opinion, is a likable thing to be. Lately, though, I dunno. He just seems a bit unhinged, anymore, doesn't he? I'm not really sure what's going on in Brody's life these days, but would it shock me if underground Berlin sex clubs were involved? No, it would not shock me. It would not shock me to discover that Adrian Brody performs under the name of Fritz in some sort of sick, German erotic Cabaret. Ugh, Germany just seems the weirdest, doesn't it? Also, with the beard, I realize that Adrian Brody bears a startling resemblance to a neighbor of ours growing up. This neighbor was one of those creepy baptists, if you know what I mean. I bet you know what I mean. Like, he belonged to one of those churches that called themselves “Eternal Light of the Flame Fundamentalist Advent Baptists” which seem to have no affiliation with the actual Baptist church and which require that all skirts be knee-length and yet, all of their daughters seem to get pregnant before sixteen. Yes, this is what Adrian Brody looks like: my weird Baptist neighbor growing up who was also an avid bow hunter. I also don't like the hat. This whole fedora thing has gotten really out of control. So, Adrian Brody: I'm just not sure. That's all I can say. I'm just filled with hesitation and confusion. Do you think Adrian Brody's death will involve autoerotic asphyxiation or an adult swing?

Here are Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas: two people widely deemed attractive. Antonio Banderas has always had a sort of uncomfortable “Here I am, Moms who serve wine coolers to your children because you'd rather have them drinking at home than out god-knows-where, please devour my image in a manner which is sexual and yet not entirely threatening to your husbands. I'm Spanish!” kind of a vibe, but I actually think he looks pretty good here. The short hair is definitely an improvement, so good for you, Antonio! The outfit is a bit too Cialis-commercial for my tastes, and the necklace: yeesh! But whatever, he's Antonio Banderas. I imagine if you're married to Melanie Griffith you spend a lot of your time together dressed in matching denim outfits, letting her ride on the back of your motorcycle all the way to the glorious beaches of Santa Monica. I'm fine with that. As for Salma: is it just me or do her boobs look smaller? That's probably a totally anti-feminist thing for me to be noticing, but I mean, just objectively, without any sexual or male gaze-ing intent, does not her boobage look reduced? I'm sure that this Little Shop of Horrors bolero thing is probably skewing the perspective, bust-wise. I get that the choice of bolero and red leather are probably a nod to being a saucy Latina, but, gurl, you lookin' wack. Listen, if you're going to go with a tube dress and wicked rose shrug, then you might as well have either gone all out and worn a vintage Bob Mackie purchased from a private Cher auction or just relaxed and worn some crimson wrap from Diane Von Furstenberg. I said that wrap dress thing as a joke, but now that I think about it, wouldn't it have been nice? Just some high thread count, cotton wrap dress which flattered the boobs (which are totally wasted in this getup) designed by free-spirited DVF? It would have looked so nice when posed against the denim security of your friend, Antonio. And you could have just worn your hair down, maybe slightly mussed. Hell, put some kind of tropical flower in it if you want, but this, this is just--overwrought. And also, don't you get the impression from this photo that it's rather warm out? And here Salma is, dressed in pleather sausage casing and Michael's entire stock of red silk flowers. And where is the cleavage?!

Oh my God, I think I'm in love with Uma Thurman. I think I've always been in love with Uma Thurman, but just look at her! Uma Thurman always seems like she just rolls out of bed, looking all dewy and says to herself “Oh, I've got to go to Cannes today. What a bore! I guess I'd better pick something out to wear. Oh, this old thing will do” and then she just sort of pins her hair up with little effort and puts on a quick slick of lip gloss before dashing out the door and bam! This. I feel like, were you to meet Uma Thurman, you'd find yourself unexpectedly having a very lovely conversation about yoga and the finer points of Eastern religions during which she'd laugh delicately and touch your arm, gently, several times with a jingle of exotic silver bracelets. Normally, I can't stand people who talk about yoga and Eastern religion in casual conversation, but with Uma it would totally just be so lovely. I also like her lean in this photograph. I realize she's probably leaning because she is three-and-a-half feet taller than Jude Law and Robert DeNiro, but with any other celebrity this sort of pose would result in instant schlubbo. And yet, Uma manages to look as though she's just so self-aware and effortless. Let's compare the way she is wearing her Dolce and Gabbana to whatever Haunted Flower Crisis that was that Salma made the mistake of donning. I mean, obviously Salma Hayek is a gorgeous, admirably sassy lady, but just look at Uma! Meanwhile, Jude Law: you lookin' real old. It's time to just cut the hair short or shave it or buy a better hair piece or something. I'm sure you could visit the New Zealand Wig House for inspiration. The suit is very fine though, well-tailored and most likely covered in the varied secretions of Totally Very Talented Person, Sienna Miller. Then we have Robert DeNiro, fresh from the Focker Memorial Retirement Home. You know what, though? I am very sexually attracted to Robert DeNiro. Yes, even weird, doddering, old Robert DeNiro. I think DeNiro probably has a very tastefully decorated apartment and he looks like he's dressing for comfort which, fuck yeah, he's Robert DeNiro. DeNiro could show up in a heather gray Hanes sweatsuit with the elastic at the ankles while wearing a pair of Crocs and a fedora and I wouldn't have anything particularly negative to say. The man has acted in some of the greatest films of the past 30 years. Also his physique was awesome in “Taxi Driver” and, yes, I know he is playing a crazy person in that particular piece of cinema but, come on! Travis Bickle? You know that there was something really alluring about the whole screaming-at-oneself-in-a-mirror routine. I once got in an argument with my sister when she told me she felt most people were attracted to either Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro, almost never both, and she preferred Al Pacino by a long shot. This just seems wrong to me, as I have a feeling you'd find Robert Deniro awake and looking over the city skyline wistfully a lot when he thought you were sleeping and Al Pacino, who I also love, would just spend this time to down Danny DeVito's Limoncello and enjoy some manic yayo consumption.

I was going to post a photo of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie here, but then I remembered just how boring I find them. I miss the days of Angelina making out with her brother and practicing dark, blood-based rituals by night and sleeping with ladies. I also miss her days of boobs and probable heroin addiction. I know I should be happy that Angelina Jolie seems pretty stable, but, I dunno, she just seemed like one of my people before. A real weirdo. And now she's just so—ugh. And poor Brad. Poor, poor Brad. Did anyone else see those paparazzi photos which came out a while ago where Brad's in one of his Beard of Despair periods and he's wearing a hat and holding a nice camera and he just looks so, so sad? He looks like he's thinking about how, sometimes, at night, when everything is quiet, he just lays in the bed he shares with Angelina and thinks about how life doesn't feel quite right. He stares at the vaulted ceiling and considers how, maybe, if he had stayed in Oklahoma, it might not have been all bad. He could have become a producer of fine marijuana. Not a major dealer, mind you, more of a grower-with-a-conscience. Maybe he would have married a girl named Susie, or Trish. Trish wouldn't have asked for much but she would give good blow jobs and they'd have had a couple kids. Oh, things wouldn't be perfect. There would be fights. Trish would want him to get out of the business, the weed-growing business, and get a job at the plant in town. Really, though, all in all, they would be pretty happy. There would be presents at Christmas and he'd save up for that old camera that had been sitting in the pawn shop for years. This is all I can see when I look at photographs of Brad Pitt, anymore, so instead, we have a pic of some woman, Woody Allen and Rachel McAdams. Woody Allen looks the way Woody Allen always looks. I'm constantly torn between great affection for Woody and being taken well into CreepTown. Anyway, he looks fine. I don't expect Woody Allen to be dressed in a Bespoke suit and wearing contacts, so here he is. No idea who this brunette broad is, but the dress looks like a member of the Elaine Benes collection or the Haute Couture wear of My Closet at the Age of Ten. Rachel McAdams looks good as a blonde. This is pretty much the most interesting thing I can think of to say about Rachel McAdams. Rachel McAdams looks nice. She is wearing a white dress. Sometimes, Rachel Mcadams is an actress. Is Rachel McAdams a good actress? I have no idea. I sort of feel like I'm suffering hysterical blindness whenever I see her because she just kind of appears as a blank spot on my periphery. I guess Rachel McAdams is okay. Mostly what I know about Rachel McAdams is that her name is Rachel McAdams, so I'm just going to continue using that. Didn't she used to date Ryan Gosling? I've never seen “The Notebook” so this coupling means nothing to me. Ryan Gosling doesn't really rev my motor the way he seems to with a lot of ladies. I know people were all hot and bothered recently because when “Blue Valentine” originally got an NC-17 rating, our ol' pal Ryan put out a press release which was something along the lines of “Feminist paradigms modern America cunnilingus beauty of female pleasure misogynist pressure ratings comission white people” which is a good thing, I know. It's always great when famous people are willing to admit that ladies are people and sometimes they enjoy a good, respectful sexing, but I just couldn't get my panties wet over this. I mean, ladies, if you want to find a man under the age of thirty who will thrill you all night long with talk of gender roles in contemporary society, then I direct you to the campus of every liberal arts college in the country. Some of these men will even have Devil-may-care, Gosling-ite beards. You're welcome.

Ah, Cannes. Such glamor! Such magic! Such famous fecal residues amongst Egyptian cotton bed sheets! Perhaps, even now, Karl Lagerfeld is hosting a well-attended Champagne Yacht Party featuring gold jello dunking and “Name-That-Cookie!” These, of course, are indulgences which you and I could not possibly understand. Not even in the wildest imaginings of our stout, plebeian minds could we create a game as shockingly luxurious as “Name-That-Cookie!,” nor could we possibly visualize what, precisely, constitutes gold jello nor that which shall find itself dunked in it. Celebrities are different from you and I; they are rich and altogether genetically, physically and spiritually superior to us. The greatest gift of these blazing fame-columns is that they allow us to freely gaze upon them in all their twinkling glory. So, thank you, Cannes Film Festival and thank you, actors of supreme accomplishment. You are our gods, now.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Boy Beautiful

Boy George might be the nearest thing I have to a celebrity doppelganger. I didn't really realize my resemblance to Boy George until recently, but I've always felt a great passion for and kinship with the Boy. I find, more and more, myself dressing in Culture Club-era George-ish outfits. I've been drawn to Boy George since I was probably too little for the attraction to make much real sense. It began when I found an old “Colour By Numbers” vinyl in the flaking apple crate where my mom kept all of her records, allowing them to accumulate dust and feather at the edges. Yes, there were copies of “Thriller” and “Rumours,” most of the Elton John oeuvre and “Born to Run,” all of them albums I would eventually listen to repeatedly and to come love, but the cover which caught my attention first and came to occupy my imaginings most wholly was the candy-bright squiggle of that Culture Club record. I think I must have gasped when I first saw it. Sure, Stevie Nicks looked awfully witchy, maybe even distinctly magical, in her photograph, and Bruce looked hard and honest and Elton looked like the frothy occupant of a particularly zany Disney movie. And of course, Michael looked like Michael with a baby tiger, but, oh, Boy George. Boy George was beautiful. Back then, of course, I didn't know his name, but I knew he was important. The other band members were there, their photos also intensely saturated, captured cheerfully in bouncing little circles, but it was Boy George whose photo was the biggest, and it was Boy George whose photo looked like the glamor shot of a movie star. And not just any modern movie star but one from the golden era of film. I knew Boy George had more dazzle than a handful of Rita Hayworths or Carole Lombards before I knew these women to compare him with. This album, I decided, was the one for me.

That day, I took the weathered copy of Colour by Numbers to my mother for analysis and explanation. I wanted to know who this was and what it all meant, post haste. Mom seemed closely acquainted with the old cardboard square, and not particularly surprised that I would have been drawn to this, of all objects. She explained that the album had been sort of a gag gift to my brother as a young or perhaps even pre-teen. He, and my mother, had, however, both ended up liking it quite a bit. Culture Club was, she noted, very popular at the time, and Boy George had been something of a fashion icon. I wanted to know more about Boy George. Well, she told me the record was a good one, but, then, that wasn't what I wanted to know. I wanted to know about this Boy George, what sort of life he had, what shade of lipstick that was he was wearing. Mom informed me that this particular album, which had been very popular in its day and liked both by herself and my young brother, was made in the wake of broken romance. Oh, of course, yes. This made perfect sense to me. Though Boy George was powdered without flaw, he looked, also, sad and perhaps distant. Mom went on to say that the romance had been with the band's drummer, who she pointed out in one of the circles. This, too, made sense. The drummer was the band member I'd liked the least; he was handsome, but also greasy-looking. He would break a person's heart. And, well, he did break Boy George's heart, left him to marry a woman and then broke that engagement, too. And still, there was the album to write, both of them squished into the same little rooms, the sound of their voices echoing against the soundproofing. Boy George had written songs which, mom said, were about this experience. I demanded we take a listen.

There is, without doubt, something slightly unhinged about my unending attraction to music which manages to sound both chipper and tragic. I have lists of songs which, when played on the radio or heard in clothing stores, elicit little reaction from the general public other than, if generous, a disinterested head nod or smirk. These are works which make me feel as if I've entered into an exclusive club, that I've become one of the Special People, able to understand the true pathos, the real sadness, of their writers. Paul Simon's “You Can Call Me Al” is one of these: a nice, hopping little ditty which jaunts along, with a video which stars Chevy Chase leering and lip syncing goofily, and whose lyrics are all about fear of growing older and of mortality and a sense of futility at the speeding gallop of years. Oh, I've got plenty of these songs. If I were to make a mix of them, there would be all sorts of recognizable hits among the ranks. I could write an entire blog just about this strange categorization of mine, and maybe, one day, I will. Or, I could just direct you to the entirety of “Colour By Numbers.”

It was after my first listen to “Colour by Numbers” that I began building my own vision of Boy George's persona. I've always been a person who, when interested in a person for their art or music or work in film, becomes fascinated, also, in the person themselves. I am drawn to these characters because of the lives I imagine for them, lives I base only loosely on the bits of their real lives I read or hear about. Mostly, I create their existence based on what I see as the image wavering through their work. I checked Boy George's Wikipedia page before writing this blog, just to make sure I didn't get anything to terribly wrong, and I saw the following quote from the man himself “People have this idea of Boy George now, particularly the media: that I’m tragic, fucked up. I mean, I’m all those things, but I’m also lots of other things. Yes, I’ve had my dark periods, but that isn’t all I am.” I felt, upon seeing this, a little wriggling of guilt, because my picture of Boy George, the one that drew me to him so strongly, is the picture which dominated “Colour by Numbers.” This was a person I could relate to, a sad person singing over cheerful tunes. As Boy George's voice strained over the songs on my brother's old album, I sensed a kindred spirit. Sure, Boy George was dancing through his videos and drawing his eyebrows to perfection, but something else was cracking through. He was trying his best, but, still, he was troubled.

By high school, I'd learned that Boy George was born in a small Irish town where he never fit in, where maybe he'd even be treated with cruelty. This was something I understood, being, myself, from a small town where I didn't feel I'd ever really fit in. I admired George's flamboyance; when I felt ready to cave in, I'd listen to “Colour by Numbers” and continue to dress and act in the way I wanted, the way which caused me to be labeled a weirdo. After all, George had survived it. I'd learned, too, about his drug problems. The drugs made sense to me. Boy George, I thought, probably felt a lot like me. Boy George remained a kindred spirit. He wore those extravagant outfits and was noticed, yet he wanted to fade away. Boy George wanted to be himself, yet couldn't stand himself at all. As I wandered through my adolescence I kept tabs on George's latest happenings. I longed for his happiness with the same intensity which I longed for my own. I hoped, for George, a life of quiet contentment, the sort of life I figured both of us assumed we'd never attain.

When I heard the news of Boy George's assault on a male escort, about how he had dragged the man and chained him to the wall, the man only able to escape after pulling a bolt free, I was, perhaps shockingly, not shocked. My sentiments were, immediately, with the victim of such a horrible crime. Boy George had never exactly been a role model to me, so I wasn't crushed by this revelation. I'd always known George as a troubled man with a troubled life. George was like an uncle I loved and related to while knowing that, even as he had been victim to bad things, he was capable of inflicting bad things himself. While I was almost certain George deserved jail time, perhaps even more than he actually served, in some way I mourned for him. I mourned for the loss of his former beauty, the bloated and pale frame he presented at trial, how ill he looked. I mourned that George had once been young and now was not, that he had fallen for grace. I also thanked him for making such grievous mistakes that I might learn not to be so wholly consumed by sadness and bitterness as George himself obviously had. And I listened to “Colour by Numbers.”

Not long ago, I saw a brief interview with Boy George where he remarked on how he had spent his time in jail reading. People would send him books, and he would spend days in the cell quietly working through the western literary canon. This seemed just, to me. Around the same time, I heard a new song which Mark Ronson had featured George on. I immediately loved it. Boy George's voice had changed, it was raspier and more coarse, it seemed strained and filled with regret. It was much like what I think Edith Piaf's performances must have sounded like in her last days. There is, in many ways, little to admire about George as a person, and yet my feeling of kinship persists. I don't go in much for Karaoke, despite loving to sing drunkenly in public, but when I have fantasies about performing in a smoky bar I am almost always rocking slowly back and forth, with or without a single tear rolling slowly down my glistening cheek, singing with great emotion “Time (Clock of the Heart).” This is the relationship I continue to have with Boy George: as a singer of great songs. Though I continue to wish George happiness and hope for his contentment, for the most part he is crystallized for me. In my mind, Boy George remains captured in the most sad and glorious moments of his youth: singing songs about the man who broke his heart while trapped in the same room with him, spinning, for a brief but eternal span, the desperation which seems to have characterized his life into hope for others. Into something beautiful.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wanting To Write

I want to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, as far back as I can stumble, all I ever wanted to do was write. Ridiculous, isn't it? I don't know that I realized how patently absurd my desire was until I heard my freshman year roommate, a well-meaning girl with whom I was very, very poorly matched, affirm repeatedly and with pride “I've wanted to be a writer since I was five years old.” Me too, I thought uncomfortably. How distinctly uncool the admission sounded coming from someone else, how odd and desperate. Why would anyone be so deluded as to think they were called to such a thing? That they were called, even as a child, to create? I realized, with more force than I had ever encountered before, that any illusions I had about being “special” were false. I was not special. Here was the roommate, badly dressed and poorly groomed, thinking that she, too, like Joan of Arc, was destined, was meant, to do this one, silly thing.

When I was very young, three, maybe four, my grandfather died. I'd been very close to my grandfather. He'd had a beard. When he had served in Italy during World War II, he was often mistaken for a native and there are black and white photographs of him as a young man, arm wrapped around women who were not my grandmother. My memories of my grandfather are distilled, mainly, to these facts and a single image: myself, very small, looking up at a couch, tapping against the open blur of a newspaper, being shifted wordlessly into this grandfather's lap. I had looked to my grandfather as a place of respite. He was quiet where my older siblings were loud. He was poor and hadn't finished high school, but he read books. He always read books.

My grandfather's death was a sudden one; he was allergic to bees and, while moving rocks for a wall on his property, he uncovered a nest of yellow-jackets and was stung repeatedly. It was my aunt who found him, still alive but unconscious, sprawled on the steps of the front porch, reaching, presumably, for the reaction kit which would have waited not feet away. These are not my remembrances. I've been told, vaguely and in smallish bits, this story over a period of many years. Every so often, I learn a new detail. It's an event never spoken of in depth; I would imagine depth comes too painful for my mother, though it's been many years. These aren't my remembrances, but I've written of them more than once. What I've never written of is my own memory of this event. What I've never written is the fractured, light-soaked thing which passes, I think, for a factual record of my feelings at the time, though I can't be sure what I really remember and what's been told to me and what's been slipped, like the other details. What I remember is this: my mother on the phone, on and off the phone for days. Myself, on the couch. I have crayons. The crayons are Crayola because I don't like the RoseArt kind, I don't like how thin the colors are. I have, on my lap, the little cardboard desk with the bears and the ice cream shop which someone has given me. People know I like to draw. On the back of this desk is red fabric, filled with little styrofoam pills, like a beanbag. I am drawing a picture of my grandfather as an angel. I have not been told he has died.

This is an event which deeply unsettled my mother. We're a family who records history mostly by regret. It's through what we regret doing or not doing that we explain our experience of the past; in this way we can take on blame and, thus, an element of control, over the things we're incapable of changing. We're a family who has a hard time admitting to sadness or softness, and so it is that the story my mother most often relates when confronted with questions about her father's death is this story of the drawing. She regrets not having told me he had died; I was an odd child and she feels she should have known that I would have picked up on the feeling around me. I don't really remember picking up on any feeling, though, I just remember drawing, with certainty, my grandfather as a heavenly dweller. I had drawn it, and so I had sensed it, not the other way around.

I learned to read young, and without much specific instruction. My mother read to me often and for long periods of time. Some books she read to me so often that I was able to memorize them. Once they were memorized, I began picking out which words were which and, so, not long after my grandfather died, I began reading to myself. Not long after that, I began to write. I can't, however, remember when I began making up stories, the stories always simply were. I created things and then came to understand them. I memorized the book and then learned to read it. I drew the picture, and then understood my grandfather had passed on. Always I have seemed to perceive things indirectly, to understand things not from direct interaction but from creation and reflection. Life never seemed to happen to me, I just seemed to make up other lives and watch as they happened. I was the lens, not the catalyst.

Another memory: I am in elementary school. How long has my grandfather been dead? I'm not sure. Not too long, but I no longer draw the pictures. I am a dutiful schoolchild. I never break rules or speak in class. I almost never ask to use the bathroom which is, perhaps, why this day is extraordinary. I remember this day because I have asked to go to the bathroom. And here I am. I exit the stall and wash my hands. Everything in this bathroom is small, scaled down to the size of a young child. I realize this as I look in the mirror. I consider how strange this tiny bathroom is, with its tiny toilet and sink, the mirror adjusted to a tiny height. I wonder if, hidden somewhere, there is a full scale bathroom which only the teachers use. I wonder, then, if the teachers ever think how strange it is to have a bathroom just for children. I wonder if the thoughts which occur in the heads of others are like the thoughts which occur in mine. I wonder if anyone else wonders.

It must not have been long after this that my first story was published. I'd been sick and dictated, not handwritten, a story to my mother about a pair of unicorns. My mother sent it to my teacher, to prove I had been working while at home; the teacher was thrilled. She entered it to the local paper and they published it. The day they did, my bus driver paused me before I left to offer congratulations. I was proud and also puzzled. What was the big deal? Wasn't this how everyone came to understand the world?

I've come to learn, in recent years, through more regretful slips, that my grandfather was, perhaps, not an altogether happy man. That he was, in fact, what we would now consider seriously depressed. Of course, back then, and still in the language of my mother and grandmother, he was only vague things: melancholy or sad, not content. Troubled. There was, it would seem, one period so dark that my grandmother went to my grandfather's doctor with her concern. My grandfather was deeply displeased. Funny isn't it? That I was drawn, so strongly and so young, to my grandfather to find, now, that he may have shared the same maladies which have always haunted me? Strange, how the weight of a family trickles down. I wonder if I could have known that my grandfather and I were similar souls in the same inexplicable and instinctual way I have always known that I wanted to write. Could these things possibly be fated? And then, of course, there returns that roommate and her refrain “I've wanted to write since I was five years old.” The worst part was finding, upon reading some of the roommate's work, that she really wasn't all that good. And I have seen many people like her: people sure that their destiny lies in a certain direction and yet, really, they aren't that good. I can imagine nothing more horrible, and now, in my darker moments, I wonder if the same cannot be said of me. I worry I am hopelessly mediocre and yet unable to imagine doing anything else. I worry that I may be fated to write, but will never be able to. I often doubt so heavily I refrain from sharing any of my work. I don't know that any of my family, with the occasional exception of my mother, has read anything I've written. I'm just not sure enough in myself. And of course, a big part of achieving success is self-promotion. My father says I lack confidence. I suspect he is right. And yet, you are, right now, reading my writing. Why would I do such a thing if I really worried I was no good? No one told me my grandfather died, and yet I drew the angel, and I knew. I doubt, and so I write it. I write it, and so I come to understand: I want to be a writer

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm Miss World and You Know the Rest

It's spring and I haven't written here for nearly a year! Why am I writing here now? Well, because spring always seems to drive me into an existential crisis or two, mostly of the creative sort; you know: what is art? Who am I? Nothing particularly interesting, really. Nothing to write home about or, frankly, to constitute a navel-gazing blog. I think my life is mostly made up of a series of existential crises wherein I question my purpose in the ever expanding universe at least twice a week. It's boring. I'm boring. It's also humid. I think it's something about the heat that always makes me feel a little out of sorts. Something about everything looking happy and maybe not feeling as content as the sudden scenery deserves. I like to listen to "Malibu" on repeat on days like this. You know what I mean, or you should. Something about Courtney Love staggering out of that trailer, tripping through the sand in her heels, just made perfect sense to my ten year-old self. Courtney's always made perfect sense to me, no matter what messes she makes or absurd statements she releases, I never feel anything less than a sense of kindred spirit-hood. I still believe Courtney Love was at her most beautiful when she was young: all smudgy, before the nose job, her dresses seeming like they were about to fall off or just fall apart. Of course, she wasn't really beautiful back then: too messy. Too much of a mess. Objectively, Courtney Love is a much prettier princess with the cheek implants and restylane, the obsessive rhinoplasty and elaborate weaves. Courtney Love has done everything Hollywood right, but they still hate her. Why?

Probably for all the same reasons I continue, illogically, to hold such affection for her: no matter how nice her clothes or elaborate her skin care, Courtney love will never, ever be able to shed entirely that nasty, angry, questioning girl. Courtney Love still doesn't know what the hell she's doing, so she just sort of, well, does things. A lot of them cuckoo bananas. It's the same sort of spirit which makes me really feel like I missed out by being too young to take part in the Riot Grrl movement. Growing up blows. I am endlessly confused by people at or around my own age who seem already settled into lives which content them. It seems strange and unnatural; how could anyone have a fucking clue what makes them happy yet? And riot grrl, beneath its political motivations, seemed to have a fast moving, nervous desperation. It was, at its simplest, girls saying they were unhappy, that, really, they were pretty damned pissed at a whole lot of things. That maybe they were a little crazy. That maybe they didn't really care.

Not that Courtney Love was aligned with the riot grrl movement; she wasn't. Or at least, not really. Courtney Love was always sort of a feminist, sort of ideologically compatible with Bikini Kill and Daisy Chainsaw and Bratmobile, but at the end of the day Courtney Love was too much and too completely nothing and no one but Courtney Love to stand for any bigger movement. Girl was a hot mess, but she hardly seemed to care. Who was she trying to impress? At the same time, though, the answer was obviously: everyone. Thus the nose jobs. And the cheek implants. And the restylane and weaves, even the fake boobs which have come and gone and maybe come back again. What did Courtney want (and probably still does)? Not a damn thing from anyone. She also wanted to be a star, to be loved and adored and pretty. In other words: she had absolutely no clue what she wanted. Neither do I. What a mess.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Good Like Sunkist, Made Me Wanna Know: Who Done This?

The answer to the above is, quite obviously, Marky Mark. I love Mark Wahlberg. I mean, oh my God I just absolutely love him. Usually, I don't really go in for beefcake, so the response Wahlberg elicits from my lady parts is a somewhat unexpected one. For the most part, the men I crush on, celebrity-wise, are sort of weird looking, dark and/or mysterious, waifish or schlubby, artsy and probably gay. That's just my style, I guess. And then there's Mark. Oh, Mark. Mark Wahlberg makes me want to put a giant, poster-sized version of his Calvin Klein advertisement on my wall and draw a big red heart around his head in permanent marker, along with "Sab & Marky Mark 4EVA." You know, just like Mark himself did in the masterpiece "Fear"; just knifed "Nicole 4EVA" all up on those glistening pecs. I also consider that Mark is not so much acting in any of his films as he is displaying facets of his actual persona. Thus, I've not bothered to learn the name of Marky's character in "Fear," even though I think about "Fear" and how it applies to my life at least once a week, because as far as I'm concerned that was just Marky Mark demonstrating what would happen if he had a psychotic break and Alyssa Milano were hanging around wearing a high waisted thong.

Maybe I like Mark Wahlberg because he doesn't seem like he'd be very smart and there's something strangely comforting about the thought of falling asleep in the strong arms of a Boston accent. On the other hand, maybe I like Marky Mark because I think he's secretly SO smart. Like, tortured genius level of intellect. Maybe I like that I can totally picture Mark Wahlberg secretly sitting in a dimly lit room, reading, oh, I dunno, "Waiting for Godot" or some other piece of existential literature, pausing, mid page, to look into the single flickering, fluorescent light and saying, so quietly not even he is sure he's spoken aloud "Why doesn't anybody take me SERIOUSLY?" And maybe that question would be fair. Mark Wahlberg works so hard! Just think of all the enjoyable films he's been in! Maybe not GREAT films, but films you'd watch. Films you'd watch and probably say "Oh, that's Mark Wahlberg. You know, I actually really enjoy watching him on camera. He seems to be a pretty hard working actor. I wonder why nobody takes him seriously?"

There's no reason Mark Wahlberg shouldn't be taken seriously; he seems like a great guy! I picture Mark hanging with all of his bros at a basketball court in Southie (is Marky Mark even from Southie? I just assume everyone from Boston is from a hardscrabble, Catholic, Southie upbringing). Mark is obviously wearing some sort of stained wife beater, or possibly no shirt at all. Look at that crazy Mark! I know he sleeps around, but he just seems so sweet! I bet he's really good to his mom. See how he ties that bandana around his head?! Watch as he sensually poses against a chain link fence. Oh, now he's using two cinderblocks as weights! I guess that's how they do it in hardscrabble Southie! No real weights, just two cinderblocks on either end of some industrial rebar stolen from the foundation of the new bank building that seems like it will just NEVER be finished. But then, that's Southie: broken dreams as far as the eye can see. The only distraction from disappointment is to hone one's shimmering pectorals and make love under the influence of Guinness on all those cold, cold Boston nights. Is that the woman who sings on "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)?" You know, the kind of fat lady with the impressive wail that they replaced in the video? God, that skinny bitch's lip sync-ing was AWFUL. Just the worst. America's obsession with weight is so embarrassing.

I really don't know very much about the actual life of Mark Wahlberg. My research for this blog consisted of watching the "Good Vibrations" video on repeat and looking at a lot of shirtless photos. Didn't Marky Mark get married not long ago? To a lady he had a kid or two with? I'm not entirely sure about this because it's the sort of news I would hear, process, then choose to ignore upon deciding its effect on my fantasies of having a Funky Bunch reunion tour made in my honor would be entirely too negative. I did recently read a blurb where Mark himself claimed he was in talks to make a movie with teen heartthrob, Justin Bieber. My response to this gossip was first "WHAT?!" and then "OMG FINALLY!!" Mark needs to be on film more often. Particularly in the sort of fun, frothy films which would star Justin Bieber and allow me to fantasize about hanging out with my husband, Mark, and his little bro (though they're not genetically related, just close from their time in the orphanage in Southie,) Justin. "Mark!" I'd say "Don't fight over me!" I'd have to say this a lot because Mark would often be jealous of strange men. "Oh baby," he'd respond, face streaked with tears, belying his tough talk, "Oh, baby it just drives me crazy to see anyone look at you that way." And I would smile, because I'd know he'd care. Then, my love, Mark Wahlberg, would rip off his shirt. "You drive, Biebz," he'd command, one beefy arm looped round my shoulder, and we'd all share a good laugh as the Corvette stuttered into the sunset, because Justin is not a very good driver. Not a very good driver at all.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Prop 8 Overturned: Welcome to the Land of the Obvious!

Well, it's been a week. A test of the human will to overcome small trials, which is why I haven't been here to bloggify in a while. I'm sorry, I know there are many people who have been bitterly mourning this absence, but don't worry! There will be some typically moaning coverage of my experiences, filled with the angst and ennui you crave. There will be both durm and strang aplenty. Right now, though, I just want to take a little time out and post about something other than myself, a person I'm finding particularly boring at the moment. I'm tired and I'm just sort of barely able to eke out a little strang, and the ability to durm again seems far-off. So, something else! Let's talk! Or, rather, let me talk at you and you look interested, kay?

So, Prop 8 got repealed. Which is a good thing. A great thing, really. I've been listening to Culture Club all day in celebration. Of course, if you let yourself think about it too much,it's a victory that starts to look a little dingy. A little small. All these years, all this technology and modern learning and we celebrate with thanks and joy and relief that people who want to get married are allowed to do so? In a single state? Why should this even be an issue? Why should it even be a question? And of course, the decision to overturn this decision wasn't made by the people. In truth it really had nothing much to do with the people at all, no glorious demonstrations of public opinion, no sea changes in the mind set of the majority. Don't get me wrong, I still think this is a victory, and one worth praising. I think that people are slowly, achingly slowly, starting to realize that maybe all human beings deserve human rights, but what I want to talk about now is those other people. Those people, that majority, who believed gay marriage is wrong, and more than likely still do. And belief is, I think, an essential word, here. It seems the whole argument over gay marriage and, by extension, the belief that maybe, just possibly, there is a whole spectrum of sexual interest and definition and that all of it could be worth respecting, comes down to two sides, and those sides argue with either belief or logic. To me and many others like me (including those judges in California), it seems obvious, it seems logical that gay marriage should be legal and that gays should have rights. For a lot of people though, voting people, they cannot shake the belief that this lifestyle is wrong. And that, the more I think about and the older I get, just makes me feel very sad. For them.

Yesterday I was at the grocery store and I saw a guy I went to high school with. He was about two years behind me in school, and I didn't know him all that well, but we were involved in some of the same activities (theater, mostly) and so I was familiar with him peripherally. He had always been, as far as I could tell, flamboyantly, obviously, unquestionably gay. In school I just assumed it was a known fact and didn't give the situation any further thought. Frankly, I found the boy a little on the annoying side. Sort of catty. But, beyond that, I didn't really spend much time considering him or find him all that interesting. Then one day I said something to a friend about him and she told me how he was taking a girl from another school to our homecoming. Well that's sweet of him to do, I said, picking at my lunch and not particularly interested.

"Why is that sweet?" asked my friend.

Well, I told her, it's sweet of him to take that girl so that she'll be able to have a date.

My friend crinkled up her forehead, looking confused, and told me she wasn't sure what I meant since he was dating the girl, since she was, after all his girlfriend. Well at this I did a spit take. I think I probably laughed, too, which isn't very polite, I know, but, I mean, really? I mean seriously? There was no way in hell this guy was straight, just absolutely no way, and I told my friend that. She shrugged. She's his girlfriend, she repeated. Well, I didn't say anything more. I had no doubt in my mind that the kid was anything but straight, but it wasn't really any of my business.

Not long after that, one of my best friends came out. While none of her friends cared, and although I knew, from the experience of other friends, that coming out in our community was no small step, I was flabbergasted by the cruelty she was met with. Did she get beaten up? No. She wasn't shoved into lockers or punched or kicked or anything like that, but the viciousness with which people reacted to her was shocking nonetheless. I remember one day, as I waited with her and several other people in the library for classes to start, a girl walking up to this friend of mine. I didn't know the girl, and neither did my friend, but there she was. "So, what," the girl said, her voice filled with contempt, with disgust, "you like pussy now?"

I couldn't imagine what sort of stunted, twisted sense of morality would cause a stranger to walk up to someone just to suggest they hated them, and purely for who they were, not because of something they had done or an offense they had committed. Youth can make people cruel. All those hormones and the confusion and all that, and maybe that girl, that nasty, cruel girl, got older and realized that she had been unkind. I certainly hope so, but I sort of doubt it. I noticed, too, that the boy I had peripherally known, with his girlfriend and his homecoming plans, hung out with a specific group. Rich kids. Popular ones. And, well, the way things worked, it wasn't that anyone I knew who had come out really changed at all after they announced their orientation. None of them suddenly switched from mild-mannered, church attending, clean cut young little lads and ladies and morphed into disco-dancing, fruity drink swilling, bumping and grinding fags or wallet-chain wearing, dog training dykes. Their personalities didn't change, but before they came out, for many of them, they had friends they no longer did once they announced they were gay. And this isn't even going into the shades of sexuality, the mutability of gender, the subtle variants of sexual definition. You were gay or you weren't. I'd always pretty calmly and quietly presented myself as bi, which was seen for the most part as extravagant and bizarre and impossible to understand, the reaction being mostly "What?" Followed by "Do you have naked pillow fights with your friends?" You were either gay or you weren't, and if you were you had better at least be one of those Cosmo holding fruits with good hair and a swish in your hips or those lezzies with a thick neck, a buzz cut and an interest in home repair. Something that could be easily understood. Something that could be boxed up, nice and neat, and shoved to the side. This is us. That, over there, is them. Freakish. Cartoonish. Obscene. As long as that boy could keep saying he was straight and talking about being straight and going with girls, well, that was all right. We could agree not to notice. We could turn our heads.

As with many things, I've come to regard the world as not much more than a macrocosm of the sort of stupid shit that happened in high school. When I see news coverage of anti-gay marriage protesters, red-faced and straining, spitting with anger, I am mostly just reminded of that petty little girl who was so unkind to my friend. It makes me sad. I think most people who believe, passionately and without question, that to be gay is wrong, that it is a choice and a perversion, believe so fully because they haven't had the chance to feel otherwise. They have come from families or communities where this belief is drilled into them from their childhood, and they are so consistently and for so many years denied access to any other opinion that they don't even seek out such education anymore. Their faith is unwavering. They genuinely believe whole huge chunks of people, who are different or believe differently or act differently than they do will be going to hell. And that makes me sad. What a terrible life that must be, to carry around so much hate. What a terrible weight that must be, to think that you are forever walking a very narrow line between right and damnation, eternal and full of pain. And then there are others, a smaller portion, who share many of the qualities of this first group but add to it unmitigated hatred. Cruelty. Anger. All too often, violence. These people are dangerous, but I can't help but feel a little sad for them, too. They are a sort who will never be able to let themselves go and laugh and be happy, because their cruelty to others is almost always turned toward themselves as well. People like this disgust me and make me tired, but I don't want to approach them and I don't want to argue with them. There is no point. Their punishment is having to live with a person like themselves.

There are, of course, less zealous and extreme impediments to equality. There are many more people who just feel confused and put off by people who are openly gay than there are people who believe in the unspeakable atrociousness of gay marriage. Most of these confused folks are just sort of bumbling but well-meaning. I genuinely believe that, although so many horrible things happen at the hands of humans on a regular basis, most people are, for the most part, good. They have jobs and friends and maybe they're not as sensitive as they should be, but they're not evil. Should people be educated in acceptance? Absolutely. There is, without question, a great deal of danger in the sort of everyday, innocent ignorance that is so common in our country (and probably the whole world). I think, though, that the majority of humans can learn to accept one another on the basis of being human, and that's hopeful. I feel sad for those that can't, and I do think the are some who can't, accept people as they are for precisely who they are. I feel sad for them but I don't particularly want to waste my time attempting to convince them to believe otherwise, because it's their loss (and it really is a terrible loss). So Prop 8 got overturned. That guy I saw at the grocery store is in college now, and out. And maybe things can change.