27 June 2012

Movie Review: Change of Heart

I only realized this was a Made for TV movie about 5 minutes into the film. It definitely has the "afterschool special" to it.

Here's the plot: Dr. Joe Marshall is the archetypal father and husband is well respected in the medical community. Dr. Marshall has a secret that begins to force its way out of his well crafted mask. Because Dr. Marshall starts to act a little strange around his wife, her interest is piqued when she (administrative officer of the medical institute he works at) adds an appointment to his calendar and sees he that his calendar has him at a local hotel with room number. Mrs. Marshall goes there conflicted about finding the other woman. When Dr. Marshall opens the door in a bath robe thinking he is room service, Mrs. Marshall is more stunned than him to find a grown man behind him in a bath towel. Ay kasta!

Like In This Life, this movie is not about the struggling gay man. It's about the mom. The movie gives a strange late 90s account of how American families dealt with the phenomenon of a gay dad. Because its PG and made for TV, there are no serial killers nor any S/M trannies. It's a Made for TV movie so I wouldn't go out of my way to watch. I'm still not sure how I ended up watching this.

26 June 2012

Movie Review: The Green

I avoided this movie for several months. I did see Julia Ormond and Illeana Douglas on the cover, but I thought, not another one of these movies. I'm glad I was wrong even about Cheyenne Jackson. Wow! What a great actor! Although some of the critics have called this a "bare-budget" movie, compared to some of the stuff I watch, the actors make up a hundred fold for any defects in the financing of this film.

The story is fairly simple. Michael and Daniel leave New York City for an idyllic life in an upper middle class country town in Connecticut. Daniel runs a cafe and catering business while Michael is a restless high school drama teacher. The community more or less accepts the couple. That is, until a troubled high school student that Michael has been helping accuses him of molestation. This complicates life as the accepting community turns into its seventeenth century New England Puritan double and even the people closest to them begin to turn their backs.

While one of the interesting themes is the precarious position gay men remain in regarding accusations of sexual misconduct, the most interesting theme has to do with the relationship between Michael and Daniel and what intimacy means in the long-term perspective.

This is definitely an excellent cuddle/date movie. It did not have a theatrical release.

25 June 2012

Movie Review: This is What Love in Action Looks Like

Now if you've watched But I'm a Cheerleader or you've read Straight to Jesus, you may be familiar with the "ex gay movement" and their Twelve Step/Christian Monastic Asceticism method of "treating homosexuality." The stories in Straight to Jesus are compelling and personal and I actually could feel the pain, torment and suffering of the people that Erzen interviewed. However, the book ended without what I would consider to be satisfactory resolution.

Well, This is What Love In Act Looks Like is. It provides a resolution to the a story of Zach Stark whose evangelical Christian parents sent off to a "Christian camp" -- that he discovers days before going is actually a camp to treat his homosexuality based evangelical concepts. He posts the pamphlets and rules and regs of the camp on his blog and asks his friends on his blog or on his myspace for help.

His friends decide to get into action and they protest in front of the nondescript compound in a suburban area of Memphis, Tennessee. This small action turns national attention on the ex-gay movement and most of it was not positive. Ex-gay ministries have since the 1970s been much an "adult" thing especially, as Erzen demonstrates in her book, because of the Twelve Step/Christian Monastic Asceticism thrust of the "ministry".

I didn't know what I was going to be watching when the movie went on but I'm glad I had the opportunity to watch. I don't recall reading anything about this story in the newspapers or on the listservs. But it had a significant impact on the national debate regarding gay teens in the U.S. The documentary was done and did not seem to be overly polemical -- and at the end we learn that most of the ex-gay movement people refused to be interviewed which explains why their side is most presented in their other interviews to there-local and national media during the actual drama.

24 June 2012

Movie Review: Longhorn

I did not have any thought that this movie might have anything significant to say about life which is why I was surprised that I ended up giving it my undivided attention. The first couple of minutes had, what I thought, was a misplaced and gratuitous heterosex scene. However, as the scene neared its end, it became clear.

If I were to imagine Victor as a Mexican-American going to college in Texas in the early 1980s, the main character's main supporting actor, Cesar, would be that person -- at least in my imagination. Cesar is played by Derek Efrain Villanueva and well, just reminded me over and over again of Victor. You'll have to watch and be the judge of that.

Without dating myself, I can assure you that college in the 1980s was not how it is depicted in this movie. In fact, this movie seemed to have part-American Pie, part-Porky's with two teaspoons of gay for good measure. I think overall how it told the story was done well although at times I thought some of the dialogue may have been a little bit strained -- through no fault of the actors.

In fact, I enjoyed the fact that Dylan Vox was cast as the Southern straight womanizer who doesn't mind a little help from his best friend now and then. I've only seen Vox in a few roles and they were all so supergay, so it was nice to see him in a straight, dabbling with gay, but actually straight Southern role. Very funny. Although, if I were the director, I would have kept the shirts on for the "buddies jerking off together while watching straight porn" scenes.

This can be a good date movie although be alerted that it has indirect sex scenes throughout of the American Pie/Porky's variety.

18 June 2012

Book Review: Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is an American author and anthologist and was the editor of this book.

I have to admit that some of the pieces in this book don't really move me. Others I felt identity with and some I felt as though I was writing myself in a parallel universe.

In one piece entitled "It Gets Better?" (having some vague notion of what this was alluding to, I googled it and discovered that the It Gets Better campaign was developed by a well known white American who wanted to counter bullying of LGBT youth. What struck me more about the piece than writer Matthew Blanchard's precise and haunting description of how his jaw was amputated due to a mix ending up in the wrong position in a drug induced stupor and the compromised state of his immune system due to HIV infection was the following passage in the story of how he got into the drug induced stupor with a compromised immune system was how his internalized homophobia seemed to be the playwright of the tragedy he himself was living.

There are pieces in here that were just uninteresting. But then there were more stories that I found by writers like Debanuj DasGupta, Ali Abbas and Ezra RedEagle Whitman which seemed to speak to experiences I myself went through (in different places, in different times).

I found the Willow Aerin Fagan's short piece about his own struggles with coming to understand and accept his sexual identity  growing up against his father's insanity, sexual violence towards him and his father's conversion to evangelical Christianity. He speaks so clearly for all adult survivors of childhood sexual violence when he says: "If some of my desire was rooted in or shaped by the abuse, how could I know which parts weren't? Was all of it tainted? Was I only attracted to men because I had been abused? Would I have to give up being queer in order to heal?" Mysterious Skin anyone?

This book is in an autobiographical collection that follows up a decade later on the themes in Warner's The Trouble with Normal and Chasin's Selling Out. It is this kind of autobiographical writing with some self-reflection but also unrestrained, unpolished truth which, in some sense, may be more useful than the It Gets Better campaign, which may be more honest with It Can Get Better. Because, for some, they are trapped "in the sleep of death, what dreams may come."

The version I read was a 232 page paperback published by AK Press (January 31, 2012), ISBN-13: 978-1849350884. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was at amazon.com used.

17 June 2012

Movie Review: Cracks

It is rare if ever that I post a review of a movie that has no male -- well no significant male -- characters. But given that I'm not sure how this ended up in my queue in the first place and I did sit through it, I thought I'd share a short review. The cinematography was stunning. There is just something about the British countryside that is really beautiful. That being said, about 20-30 minutes of the movie could have been shaved off by cutting a few shots here and there and cutting the extended lingering on the landscapes that didn't move the story forward.

Once the director got passed that, though, the movie was a nice psychological thriller. It is unfortunate that in attempting convincing period piece, the story was left with little choice but to pull a lesbian out of the Well of Loneliness and give her that lesbian preying on young girls story. The writer did an excellent job of crafting the psychology of each character so well, all of the problems of extended landscape shots, etc., drift into the past as the movie draws to its dramatic climax.

If you are not a nature lover, do not watch lesbian films on principle, or can't sit still for more than 84 minutes, this is not the movie to watch.

16 June 2012

Book Review: Kiss of the Yogini

David Gordon White is an American professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has written extensively on Hindu religious traditions, particularly in the medieval period.

Since the Buddhism I was raised in is called Tantric Buddhism, I have always had an abiding interest in religious studies that deal with the history of Tantra and comparative Tantric studies. This book deals with this and while it does not squarely deal with homosexuality, it does deal with sexuality in general and deviation and variation from the approved sexual behaviors of medieval India.

What we consider to be mainstream Hindu religious traditions were significantly reformed by a compact between the higher ups in Indian society in the eighteenth century and the British colonial officials (civilian, religious, military). Hindus religious reform did not start with British imperialism, but was much advanced by it. In the same ways that modern Buddhism in Asia and elsewhere has been modified by its encounter with the West, so has Hinduism.

Tantra is and was a common form of religious practice in Indian life that has focused on the sexual and sensual and the feminine where movements to reform it and suppress it have been spiritual, ideal and masculine. The complexification of Tantra from its humble mother goddess beginnings involve a dialectical evolution of just this. In short, Tantra was the normative religious practice in India nad it involved male practitioners exchanging powerful, symbolic and transformative sexual fluids with wild and dangerous female spirits.

Tantra had both royal sponsorship and was also used subversively by those in the periphery of political power for their own ends. For my level of interest and understanding, White's overwhelming textual evidence to prove this is just that overwhelming and at some point it was too much. However, the important part is that the religious tradition used symbols of sexuality as the central aspects of religious practice (and in many instances, literalized/concretized those symbols into sexual practices). Even in Tantric Buddhism where all of this is supposedly symbolic and these literalizations did or did not occur, the main point was a symbolic sexual union with the dark powers of destruction, anger, etc., to bring liberation from this world -- in Tantric Buddhism, sometimes the male practitioner is on the receiving end of a power wrathful male deities fluids, sometimes the other way around.

Both the modern reformed Hindu religious traditions and the New Age schools of sex both represent different aspects of human culture which are intimately wrapped up in modifications, due in part, to British colonialism. While I would ramble on about this book which is really a highly obscure, specialized volume is the underlying point that I think is important to think about, the purity -- or lack thereof -- of modern understandings of sexuality in relationship to hundreds of years of colonial contact and oppression which helped shape those modern understandings -- even when a claim to indigeneity seems fully appropriate. In this case, indigenous religious movements were able to appropriate colonial forces to reshape and suppress various improper, unvalued and potentially threatening religious practices (involving sexuality).

And more deeply, how do we integrate the light and the dark in our spiritual practice and how do we integrate sexuality and spirituality in an organic way -- a question made more important by the adoption and syncretizing of Christianity in our country.

The version I read was a 391 page paperback published by University of Chicago Press (August 15, 2006), ISBN-13: 978-0226894843. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was used at amazon.com.

01 June 2012

Songlines, A Challenge

"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures."
I cast one more line into the depth of my soul;
There among of the shapes repeating their difference
emerges a pattern, repeated infinitely into the dark
warm, cold depths.
I kick and struggle upward for the air, for the light
against the gentle formless pull downward to the water, to the dark
I struggle and let go
I let go and struggle
Until again the echo of the current overcomes and
I depart from myself 
"May Nature guard you in her deep abysses among the corals and pearls of her eternal seas! When for a holy and sublime end men should need you, God will draw you from the breast of the waves…"

Challenge II: Songlines

Sampaloc Toc

Spiral's Eye