Naturally, as soon as I announce I am taking the blog in a new direction, I lose Internet connection for a whole week! I am currently using my roommate’s computer for a quick second while awaiting the arrival of a sparkly new router. But I promise I am brewing up some posts to share once the magic time-waster box arrives and I am once again fake-connected with the world!
Hi there, loyal reader(s), I know I have been neglecting this blog as if it were my job to do so. But, to tell the truth, I’ve been conflicted about it for awhile now. I started Love Is The Slug as a way to write about my many pop culture obsessions/fascinations/critiques and that was good fun for a little bit. But I started to feel like it was all a bit pointless and redundant. There are tons of folks writing about pop culture stuff these days and I wasn’t quite sure how relevant it was for me to keep doing so. Anyone who knows me knows I love to blather on and on about pop culture stuff in a sort of sublime-to-ridiculous continuum. And that will probably never change about me. But it’s not what I want the focus of this blog to be anymore.
In case the image to the right doesn’t give you any sort of indication, Love Is The Slug will be taking on a much more markedly queer bent from here on out. I find that it was starting to go that way already and I have a lot more I want to say about queer life/culture/issues than I do about the larger blanket of pop culture. That is not to say the content here won’t ever be about queer and pop culture intersecting – it would be impossible for that to not happen here as the two are completely connected and often inform one another for better or for worse. And this is also not to say that this blog will become uber-serious or joyless, not at all. Sometimes there will be Serious Stuff and other times Fun and Frivolous and anything else in between. I also know that I represent one voice and not the queer world at large so I am hoping to get some interviews in here with other queer folks as well as (hopefully) some guest posts.
One thing that hasn’t changed is my work as a budding hairstylist is still a big priority for me and is where my main focus is at right now. This means I can’t promise any kind of set-in-stone posting schedule because I’d just be shooting myself in the foot. But hopefully I can keep the blog active enough to keep you reading and responding. And I do want response! Comments are a great place for respectfully critical dialogue to take place. And I cannot emphasize the respectfully critical part enough. I love a good debate but let’s not let ourselves get too hateful and heated, which is easy to do with issues close to our hearts and lives. Let’s give each other the benefit of trying to come to these issues with a good intention and have the dialogue be thoughtful, exciting and respectful. Trolls will, as always, be quickly deleted and blocked.
So, hopefully you’ll keep on reading as Love Is The Slug transforms into this new incarnation. And if you have ANY stuff you want to share through this blog or people you think I should know about/interview/etc. please don’t hesitate to use the handy email form on the sidebar to get in touch!!
I’m dusting off ye olde blog to share with all of you a fantastic Valentine’s Day treat: the video for “Uh-Oh!”, by my band, Ex-Boyfriends, is live all over the web! It was directed by the amazingly talented, multi-media artist Love Ablan and she and her fantastic crew totally blew us away with this video. It’s a mini-movie all about love lost and love found and it’s sweet, sad, adorable and will make your heart melt into a puddle of delicious goo.And be sure to watch through the end for some funny little outtakes and more chances to see Iko Kagasoff in her super cute gingham shirt that I totally covet! She is completely my queer girl clothes twin!
You can check out Love’s blog post about making the video and be sure to like it on YouTube, share it on Facebook and make everyone you know and love watch it until they can’t stand to watch it anymore!!
(And keep your eyes peeled, I have not completely abandoned this blog – just considering a content overhaul/direction change.)
2010 only has about 12 hours left in my part of the world, so naturally my mind turns to things I may want to change for the new year. I’ve never been much for making resolutions because I try to work on change and growth all the time. And big declarative statements about the foods I will or won’t eat or the vices I will indulge in less always seems to end with me eating an entire bag of salt-n-pepper Pop Chips while watching too much online porn. But I do sometimes make a wish or two for the new year – either for myself or for people around me. This is a little bit of both.
I’m a gay man – or a queer man, as I prefer to say – and so I’d like to make a wish for my community, as it were. (We can debate the idea of community until the cows come home and go on vacation and come back again, so let’s just use that word because it’s a known quantity.) I would like to see gay and queer men be kinder to one another. I would like to see us stop policing each others’ identities and each others’ desires. I would like to see us stop announcing what is or isn’t a “real man”. I would like to see us use our unique place in the world to expand and explode notions of gender. I would like us to recognize what a massively diverse group we are and to realize that, because of this, not all of us are going to do our gayness or queerness the same way another one of us might. And that’s okay. I would like to see us not take all of the hatred and intolerance that we experience and turn it one on another. Because that is what I think a lot of us do – we need an outlet for all that shit we take in so we just turn it on the easiest available people: other queer guys. It’s a cycle of abuse and we just keep running around it like a hamster on a wheel. But we can stop, too.
So that is my wish for myself and my community. I know it will be hard to make it come true – we’ll all have to work at it. I will too. I don’t write any of this from a place of perfect non-judgmental behavior. I do my own policing, my own unleashing, my own transferring of my shit onto others. But if we start thinking about it more and realize that we’ve all got enough going against us in the world that we don’t need to add being against each other to the mix, maybe things can actually get better. And if we realize that, yeah, even if we think this one way is the best way to be gay or this other one way is the best that we’ll all be fine if not everyone adheres to it. You know, kind of like how we all keep saying that it doesn’t matter if people are against gay marriage because they don’t have to marry a gay person. Let us be who we are and live in the world with a little less hateful judgment.
I’ll try if you try.
Back in September of 1990 (which was 20 years ago, if you can believe it), a compilation to benefit people living with HIV and AIDS was released entitled Red Hot + Blue. The compilation featured an array of popular artists covering and reinterpreting the classic songs of Cole Porter. (The title itself was a reference to Porter’s musical Red, Hot and Blue, with the “and” replaced by a plus sign, most likely to represent people who are HIV positive.) I loved the compilation, having already been made a fan of Cole Porter’s songs via the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald, and some of the covers were truly inspired – from the humorous and campy to the chilling and serious, I listened to the album again and again as my young self tried to fight off the fears of being gay in a world in the grip of AIDS-panic. 20 years later and the landscape of this pandemic has changed in a many ways. A lot more people are aware that HIV and AIDS are not “gay diseases”, although some still like to tow that hateful line. Drugs have been developed that make living with HIV much more possible and much less horrible than in the past and a lot of HIV positive people are living much longer, fuller live. But HIV and AIDS continue to ravage Sub-Sharan Africa, while in the west we see the growing use of crystal meth contributing to the still alarmingly high transmission rate. Today being World AIDS Day, I thought I would post some of the videos for songs from the Red Hot + Blue compilation as a tribute to the millions lost to this pandemic and to those still struggling, surviving and living.
Sinead O’Connor – “You Do Something To Me”: This was easily my most favorite track from the compilation, with O’Connor surprising us all with her subtle, nuanced take on this classic song. The video is loaded with images of people of all genders and races dancing and mingling with one another, while Sinead herself performs a kind of campy drag in a platinum blonde wig, vampy makeup and a glittering gown, only to end the video with her trademark bald head and subdued clothing, leading a somber candlelight vigil. Even in this moment of soft and lilting song, O’Connor was always ready to provoke and incite.
The Jungle Brothers – “I Get A Kick Out of You”: A couple of hip-hop tracks on the compilation brought out some of the loosest and freshest interpretations of Porter’s songs. The Jungle Brothers take nothing more than the song’s title for a hook and instead spin a tale of lust and safer sex peppered with images of gloved hands, water guns spurting and ice cream drenched in chocolate sauce. While some of these images are almost goofy or over-the-top in their blatant, cheesy sexuality, marrying them with the topic of the song and the images of safer sex paraphernalia elevates them beyond mere music video porn-lite and very concisely reflect the difficulty of trying to balance desire with precaution. Furthermore, the video came at a time when people were ignorant of and willfully ignoring the impact of HIV and AIDS on the black community in America, making the visuals all the more powerful in their marrying of blackness, safer sex and HIV and AIDS.
Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop – “Well Did You Evah!”: This song never fails to fill me with joy – it’s so full of camp and piss and vinegar and that indelible New York toughness that is the trademark of both Harry and Pop. The video finds them sending up rich couples, society life and even robbing a bank before, apparently, being vaporized from colliding with Mars as the lyrics imply will happen to us next July. But for all the camp and hilarity, there’s a subtler reading that can be taken away from the video as they lampoon the excessively wealthy and saunter through the streets of New York City where thousands were dying in poverty as a result of HIV and AIDS, mere inches away from the glittering wealth of many Manhattanites. Class standing always has and always will play a role in the quality of life for people living in this pandemic.
Neneh Cherry – “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”: This track was another favorite of mine and another fantastic, bold reinterpretation of the original. Cherry uses the chorus of the song in a dual manner, to chillingly underline the nature of the disease and as a tribute to loved ones lost but never forgotten. The icy blue treatment of the videos color scheme, the stark closeups of Cherry and the other people in the video singing with her and the loan male dancer in the full body vinyl suit all convey images of isolation, desire, frustration, fear and sadness, mirroring back how complex our responses can be around a disease that can be transmitted via sex.
Erasure – “Too Darn Hot”: Erasure are going to deliver the camp, there’s just no doubt about it. But what I love about this video is how they use camp to really drive the message home. With images of 50s-era suburban families in red blindfolds watching TV while Andy Bell as a news caster sings the song while projecting statistics and information about HIV and AIDS is a pretty fantastic way of saying that people need to wake up and realize this disease isn’t just impacting gay folks in big urban cities. I also love the moments where various folks sing the chorus as if they’re man-on-the-street interviewees, further driving home the idea of how this impacts everyone and that everyone should be talking about it.
Annie Lennox – “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”: If there was anyone to interpret this already heart wrenching song for a new generation, it was Annie Lennox. Her haunting, restrained interpretation takes the song beyond a paean to a lost lover and transforms it into a lament for those lost to HIV and AIDS. The footage of what seems to be a family video of a brother and sister or two friends playing and frolicking throughout their youth could very easily represent Annie and a lost brother or friend, but exist as powerful imagery for anyone who has experienced that kind of loss and look back at the person or persons they once knew.
Oh, long-neglected little blog, how I feel guilt-ridden and angsty due to my not writing in you for such long periods of time. But, you know, real life and all of that. It’s amazing how much less productive as a blogger I am now that I have a career I love instead of a job I teeth-grittingly tolerate! So here’s some stuff that’s been catching my attention or igniting my ire while I continue to strew and brew some larger posts.
Very Mary Kate is an ongoing comedy web series from the hilarious and fertile brain of actor/writer/comedian Elaine Carroll. The show satirizes the life of the eternally tiny Mary Kate Olsen, one half of the infamous Olsen twins. In the series we see Mary Kate struggle for independence by moving out of her apartment with sister Ashley (also played by Carroll) and into an apartment directly next door. She relies heavily on her bodyguard, named Bodyguard, to make her Xanax and watermelon smoothies, feed her water from a bottle like a hamster, clean up after her many drug-induced mishaps and find her Vera Wang Snuggie because “it’s brrr in here”. (She’s always cold due to her tiny-ness. In one episode she has a fever of 74 – her normal body temperature is 62.) Each episode tops off at around 2 minutes and 30 seconds and yet any one of them could make you feel like you’re about to wet yourself laughing. Aside from her sister and Bodyguard, Mary Kate also spends time dodging the lascivious advances of Philip Seymour Hoffman, trying to date Zac Effron and attempting to bullshit her way through college with a major in ponies. New episodes generally show up every Tuesday and Thursday so check it out! You’ll be talking about how full you are from looking at pictures of food in no time.
Speaking of funny, multitalented women, Jacquetta Szathmari is a writer, actor and comedian you had best keep your eye on before she shoots into the stratosphere and becomes a huge star. Full disclosure: Jacquetta was one of my good friends back in my Sarah Lawrence College days. But trust me when I say that my love of her hilarity is totally unbiased – there is nothing more painful than having to fake interest in the bad work of a good friend. Thankfully, Szathmari makes that sort of situation totally unnecessary. Blessed with a dry delivery that would make a British comic weep with envy, Jacquetta has been slowly building up buzz and attention with her one-woman show “That’s funny. You didn’t sound black on the phone.”, which made a big splash at the 2010 Fringe Festival in Los Angeles, and her comedy podcast Hey You Know It co-hosted by Katie Kazimir. The podcast has so far covered topics as varied as politics vs. religion, supernatural occurrences, holiday hell, phobias and plastic surgery. Every episode finds Szathmari and Kazimir in the “Celebrity Corner” wherein the discuss which B, C and D-list celebrities are currently serving up the same type of work as A-list celebs at a deep discount. (E.g. Giovanni Ribisi serving Sam Rockwell at a 40% discount.) Here’s a stand-up segment Jacquetta did for the In The Flesh Reading Series’ Sex & Comedy Night. And keep watching for Szathmari, she’ll be going places.
It’s always an exercise in mixed emotions when you learn that a member of a beloved band is coming out with a solo project. So many thoughts go through your head: What if it sucks? Does this mean she/he will never be in that band again? What if it’s better than the stuff with the band? If it’s really bad will it taint my love for their non-solo stuff? It’s truly harrowing, dear readers. So you can imagine the waves of excitement and fear, of anticipation and trepidation, that swept over me when I read that Corin Tucker – 1/3 of Sleater-Kinney, one of my favorite bands of all times – was working on a solo album. After more than 4 years of post-indefinite hiatus silence, Tucker was going to be releasing music again and I mostly couldn’t wait. Mostly. But there was the fear of potential suckage. And for me to worry about that made me feel immediately disloyal. Hadn’t I loved pretty much every damn musical thing Corin Tucker had been a part of since I first heard that Heavens To Betsy demo tape back in 1993? She clearly had magic even with those rudimentary dorm room recordings, so what was there to worry about? Well, not to be a jerk, but there’s the whole parenthood thing first of all. I know, I know it sounds horrible and mean, but many a fantastic musician has gone into boring/precious territory once they start being in the family way. And while I assumed it wouldn’t just be an alternate take on S-K – that would actually be a little sad, to be honest – I was worried that it might all be lullabies and the like. Especially when I read that Tucker was describing the record as a “middle-aged mom record”.