28 September 2012

Book Review: And the Sun Pursued the Moon

Thomas P. Gibson is an American Professor of Anthropology at the University of Rochester. He wrote this book after extensive field research in South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

I was somewhat hesitant to write a review about this book because ostensibly, any book written about symbolic knowledge and traditional authority on any ethnic group can be characterized as dealing with gender and sexuality issues.

Nevertheless, I think there are a number of things LGBT and gender studies related that can be said about this book especially in the contest of the Philippines and thinking about Philippine sexualities and genders.

As we all known, the various Austronesian language speaking peoples of Indonesia are our close linguistic and cultural relatives. Austronesian peoples across the Pacific and Indian Oceans share strong similarities in a variety of cultural practices because we all descended from the same group of sea-faring people who left the Southern Chinese coast several thousand years ago, several groups colonized Taiwan and one other group then moved South and split into a few closely related (linguistically and culturally) branches going in different directs (Madagascar to the West, Hawai'i to the East and Papua New Guinea to the South). If that interests you more, there are plenty of books to read and websites to surf on this subject.

It's use in our context and the entire purpose for this review is to suggest how we can use discussions of indigenous Makassar mythology and symbolic knowledge to both triangulate our own historical context and also to suggest alternatives to the dominant paradigm in contemporary Philippine culture. As is commonly recognized and also noted in Neil Garcia's Philippine Gay Culture, there was a class of individuals within communities who were spiritual mediums/practitioners who were hermaphroditic/gender variants in indigenous pre-contact times. This is also true of Makassar culture even to the present day.

While Gibson does not focus on the intricacies of a modern day hermaphrodite's personal life, he does focus on a modern day hermaphrodite's social life in the context of his spiritual and other roles within the Makassar community. At once, the transgender medium has the markings of a Eliade shaman and at the same time a Catholic priest!

This all links back into Gibson's grand narrative of symbolic gender structures that bring order to the chaos of life and death. The hermaphrodite in Makassar society plays a significant "medium" or medial role between the order and chaos, bringing order to disorder, that world with this world. One such transgender medium, Demma Daeng Puga, of course, also seemed to be something of a clever businesswoman and was routinely accused of charlatanism by her main transgendered rival and had been arrested for fraud on occasion by barely tolerant authorities. This did not stop her from having a major following among various communities in South Sulawesi.

I have to admit that with some of the mythological analysis, my eyes glazed over. I have read and/or heard many mythologies of the universe, cosmos, etc., etc., but there is something about comparing a dozen versions of the same story, collected over a three hundred year period, that gets to be so tedious, you feel your brain is going to implode. Mine didn't, but that chapter was difficult to get through. It was a necessary chapter and done well so I can't fault the author.

I found Gibson's approach to the engenderation of political and social life among the Makassar with the use of folklore, mythology, ethnography, genealogy and cultural studies to be just the kind of methodological inquiry gender and sexuality studies needs the most to create culturally specific understandings of gender and sexuality through history.

I read the 262 page hardbound version in English, 978-0824828653, from the University of Hawai'i Press (March 23, 2005). The lowest available price seems to be used from amazon.com.

25 September 2012

Movie Review: Love 100 Degrees C

While I do not typically write reviews of short films, I decided to break the rule on this occasion. Love 100 Degrees C is just brilliant. The movie is about an introverted, deaf boy named Min-soo. His younger brother who is apparently extroverted, etc., actually acts like the "first son" in the family and along with classmates torments Min-soo.

One day, all this changes when Min-soo is left to go to the public bath alone and gets involved with a scrubber/masseur that works in the baths. It's actually very beautiful and touching and tragic and beautiful. Make sure if you find a copy of this that is hasn't censored the simulated sex scenes because Min-soo's facial expressions are so natural and touching that to miss those few seconds would change much of the movie.

24 September 2012

Movie Review: Seeing Heaven

The cinematography of this movie is really good but unfortunately was not enough to overcome the deficiencies otherwise in the movie. It had all the hallmarks of a being a really disturbing psychological movie. In fact, after the first ten minutes, I started to have a concern that this would be like Mysterious Skins and told myself if it went down that road, I'd stop watching and prepare myself before continuing. Well, that never became a problem.

Paul, who is an escort, is looking for his twin while he experiences disturbing visions and dreams. Having rough sex apparently triggers some of these visions which he then somehow passes onto the people he's having rough sex with. (This is perhaps the most interesting part of the movie that never fully gets fully explained, unfortunately.) Through a serious of events, he ends up in a artistic porn film director's social milieu where he thinks someone might be out to kill him -- this comes from teh dreams and visions. He trusts no one, suspects everyone.

The movie poster is about as graphic as it gets. But I know some of the readers of this blog like looking at white European boys, so if you're into it, then watch for that reason. Otherwise, let me be clear that I reserve the right to say I told you so.

23 September 2012

Movie Review: Prayer for Bobby

This was really just a great movie. I vaguely remember having heard of this movie but at the time it was coming out, I didn't watch it. Then, ♔ıǝɹɯɐı♔ referred to it in a comment on The Seminarian. I don't see the parallels. This movie is what In My Life was not. Sigourney Weaver portrays PLFAG activist Mary Griffith.

Mary had a son named Bobby. Mary is a thoughtful woman who struggles between her son's homosexuality and her own rigid understanding of the Christian Bible. Her rigidity regarding her understanding of the Christian Bible gets injected into her concern for the "intactness" of her family in the hereafter. Bobby embarks on a urban gay life. He finds a boyfriend and is able to create a counterpoint to his mother's rigidity. However, when he learns that his boyfriend is not the "committed" type, the tension snaps back like a rubberband and Bobby kills himself.

We return to Mary, who is confronted with the rigidity of her thinking when she realizes at the death of her son, that under her rigid thinking, Bobby would not "be in heaven" with the rest of the family violating the 'higher' principle of keeping her family intact. The movie is about Mary's conflict -- not really Bobby's. This movie is about Mary, not Bobby. And this is why Sigourney Weaver can thank the writers of this movie where Vilma cannot for In This Life. There was no psychological tension for Vilma -- just the shame of having a gay son and simply tolerating it.

The struggle and development of Mary's character is so profound and deep that every parent should watch this. And so should every child.

18 September 2012

Movie Review: Back Soon

I have no idea how this movie got into my queue for watching and even more strange, the previous movie that I watched and reviewed, Long Term Relationship, co-starred the same two actors stars of this film, Matthew Montgomery and Windham Beacham. I'm not sure what was missing in this movie was a stronger script or excellent directing. In researching, I realized the writer was the director which always is a danger. There is something to the story itself that I think is useful and worth watching. In spite of these significant limitations, I say make it happen. The best scene for the main actors itself was the last scene in the movie.

Windham Beacham plays Logan who suffers the death of his wife. In his long grieving process, he finally sells the marital house and the buyer, Gil (Matthew Montgomery). They develop a friendship that awkwardly (and unsupported in the story) turns into a bromance which transforms into a sexual-romantic situation while the two do not have an interest in any other man and are confirmed by supporting characters not to emotionally react as a 'gay' person should. The movie delves into post-modern Western concepts of life after death and the nature of romantic love and is a bit more hopeful it its outlook than Bungee Jumping of their Own. It also kind of reminded me of the Whoopi Goldberg/Demi Moore/Patrick Swayze movie Ghost.

Unfortunately, Bungee will continue to be one of my all time favorite films and this will not. I do give it high marks for the effort. The writer would have been helped by workshops with other people and also to have a director other than himself directing. Alas, this was not filmed on an unlimited Hollywood budget. The Mexican theme was, well, written by a white guy and in the attempt at making a comment on racism seems to be doing a little of it as well. (This is not the only time where the movie does what looks like caricaturing of itself.) Regardless of these negatives, I still think its worth watching perhaps on a date night with the boyfriend.

16 September 2012

Movie Review: Long Term Relationship

I guess it's at least partly true, never judge a book by its cover. I saw this movie poster and decided not to see it. There was something a little bit too 80s I guess. Not sure. But somehow it ended up in my queue and I watched it.

Glen starts to feel the single life has reached his limit and he is looking for more. He looks to the printed personal ads, places one and gets a number of responses -- mostly of people looking for a quick hook up. An attractive Southern man, Adam, responses. It's a little bit awkward, from my point of view, how they "hit it off" but they do. Things are great and magical, etc., until a couple of wrinkles complicate things.

First, Adam is a Republican. Second, he is not good in bed. Glen's gay roommate pushes him to go single again while his straight friends push him to make it work. Although the story isn't the most complex, it works and the production value carries the movie along. But it does express and represent the problems that beset the gay man who having "grown up" in a single-centric social scene begins to look for something different.

15 September 2012

Movie Review: Ma Saison Super 8

I was promised that this would be an invigorating drama that paid "homage to the remarkable revolutionaries who bravely began France's gay and lesbian movement." It failed. The loose plot is that a student activist, Marc, speaks up for gay rights, classes with his police officer father and the homophobic Left and starts a relationship with a factory worker who is sexually ambivalent. Spliced in this loose plot are moving images of either 1968 Paris or reconstructions of 1968 Paris. It lacked production value and felt like someone shoving a 50 minute lecture on the French Left and gay liberation into a 74 minute movie. It's a shame because it had promise and with some reshooting and re-editing, it might just be something.

14 September 2012

Movie Review: Food of Love

I'm not a fan of intergenerational romance -- at least not when the younger person hasn't breached his thirties. It doesn't quite shake off its exploitative characteristics (although I freely admit that all of the scenes in Lihim ni Antonio involving Uncle Jonbert were hot).

Now, Food of Love really has nothing to do with food or love and I may have missed the one line explanation during the film, if it existed. The movie is apparently an adaptation of a book entitled The Tale of Love by David Leavitt. The story itself has a number of very broad archetypal themes but the short of ti is that Paul is a music student who is commissioned to work as a page-turner for famous classical pianist Richard. Paul meets up with Richard again in Barcelona where Paul and Richard enter into a sexual relationship. Barcelona ends and Richard moves on. Paul studies at Julliard and tries to look up Richard only to stumble upon Richard's boyfriend, his agent and a powerful classical pianist producer. The web starts to get really entangled at this point in a teleserye fashion.

It has superior production values, no question about that -- who has the budget to do live shooting in Barcelona? The actress who plays Paul's mother does a good job of being a psycho. If anything I've just said sounds interesting, watch. Otherwise, skip.

08 September 2012

Movie Review: The Seminarian

This movie helped remind me why I never got a degree in theology and why I am not a Christian. I find discussions of the nature of the divine interesting especially when those discussing it are using their own experience as the touchstone of their beliefs. For something that is so personal, I just find it difficult to accept that something outside of psychology or epistemology can tell us anything rational or definitive about the subject (yes, I'm a Jungian.)

In any event, the seminary/theology aspect of this is really just an overly thought out backdrop (but good nonetheless) to the real story here. The seminarian is in this evangelical Christian seminary with many other seminarians and they are all working on their thesis. The Seminarian is struggling with intimacy and love issues and suffers from the fact that he is gay in an anti-gay school. The angle of suffering between right and wrong, good and bad, is the Christian metaphor of the ages. I'm not sure that was focused well enough on and the ending wobbled a little.

It was well shot and directed and the acting and script lacked nothing that I can recall. If this is an accurate depiction of a seminary where the seminarians are not required to be celibate, I find it fascinating just on that level alone. Definitely watch if you found Alikpala's God Loves Bakla remotely interesting.

07 September 2012

Movie Review: Be Mine

Since it my policy to never terminate viewing a movie before the intended end, I did watch the whole movie. Essentially, the main character has time warped from 1950s American TVland and is "just out of college" and waiting for his first kiss. He ends up entangled with a guy who is testing the waters of a gay identity.

This would have had an interesting theme to it if in fact the main actor was actually in the age range of "just out of college" and not in his mid to late 30s AND he did not have a fully realized gay identity and strong network of gay friends. It is plausible and I have known a few guys who were either asexual or so closeted to their families that they had no sex life until their mid-20s. When they decided to explore, they didn't do it with a fully realized gay identity or with a strong network of gay friends. That's something that has to be developed.

That is what makes this movie merely the implausible nostalgia heavy fantasy of the writer and director and because the fantasy makes no comment on human development or ideological critique, it makes it a bad gay movie.

03 September 2012

The Mean Reds, A Challenge

a little speck of dust
in the cold morning
on the path to my death
enveloped by the deep
dark, terror of the shadow
is the black body radiation
that cannot escape
even after every last drop of life
has been squeezed from our veins
and only the powder of our bones
in the cold morning
on the path to my death

Challenge V: The Mean Reads
 ןıuǝ oɟ ɟןıƃɥʇ  
 Spiral Prince