Tuesday, September 29, 2009

masturbation montage

A snapshot of a moment.
The women of my dreams, the fodder of my fantasies.
I'm not talking about wistful longings for some ideal woman. These are the women i think of when i touch myself, in this crystallized moment in time. The women i dream of loving, when dreams are all there is.
In one way, these women, and the thousands who have had their place, are more substantial than women i've loved in reality. I am one of those humans who has been alone in sexuality more often than not. There are people who have always had some kind of significant other in their lives, such that they've never even known who they are when they're not with someone.
I've lived closer to the other end of that spectrum.
So just in terms of accumulated psychic memory, the women of my fantasies have weighed more prominently than the real ones. There is overlap, of course... (or perhaps not of course, as one person's fantasy life can be radically different from another's) ...the women of my fantasies have always been women i've known, and some of these women have been more than fantasy.
In a snapshot of this variety, the picture is far from complete. In a moment of ecstasy, unexpected women can pop into your head. I almost entitled this article "my women", but it's more accurate to say that i am theirs (whether or not they want me).
If you're expecting rhyme or rationality in the choice of women who creep into my head, you'll soon be disappointed.
There's Thach-Giao, a client i did a moving job for months back. She's a cancer researcher, and not my usual physical type. But there was something so gentle and touching about her, that for weeks afterward i was filled with strange daydreams...of making love in her empty apartment, standing behind her as she leaned on a table...of giving her children, and raising them as she spent her days curing melanomas...of always being there when she got home, to rub her and love her. I sent her an e-mail last week, thanking her for her generosity on moving day, and offering my friendship if she's ever in New York. She didn't respond.
There's A, my last lover. We broke up months ago, for sound reasons. I imagine going to her, and holding her. I imagine the ways i'd kiss her, and pour my body into hers for another healing slice of eternity. Her presence is there when i try to be with someone new. Part of the reason i've held back from any new consummation has been because of some sad fidelity not of my choosing (though i don't fool myself into thinking that i might not meet someone tomorrow who could make me forget all that). I miss A, she's pushed me 99.9% out of her life...
There's M, a woman i've known a few months. She's very sexual and impulsive, and wants me as her lover, with no expectations. We watch West Wing together. She's never had intercourse which didn't hurt, and i think of how wonderful it could be to be the man with a slow hand she's not had. But my spirit becomes fractured when i'm with her, and i know i don't have the kind of strength and patience she needs. She has a submissive side, which isn't me, and she would hate that i was sexually attracted to her sister-in-law. In my raw state, being around her might be sufficient to melt my resolve, but the thought of being careless or destructive pushes me into solitude, even though a part of me longs to live up to the free love ideals i've often championed. If it seems like i'm lionizing myself, it's also possible that if she were more my physical type, i wouldn't have been holding back. Or maybe even if she didn't live all the way up in the forsaken Bronx.
And finally Mindy, whom i met at the natural foods show last week in Boston. She worked for another vendor. She was young, and not at all my type at first glance...she seemed pretty far from Mensa, perhaps shallow, and she wore eye makeup. But she also seemed genuinely happy to talk with me (if you've ever been to a food show, you know sincerity is as rare as a two-tongued Turk). We shared a moment every time i passed her booth. By the end of the show, i was dreaming of taking her to some corner of the convention center, and making beautiful fucking. In my fantasies, she'll have a short shelf life.
The women of my dreams, on this day...

Monday, September 28, 2009

"The Beauty Myth"

(How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women)
-by naomi wolf
1991
Perhaps the most brilliant, flawed book i've ever read.
It examines the ways we value physical beauty in women, and subject them to judgments and demands not faced by men. It examines how the myth arose as a response to sexual freedoms and the incursion of women into the work force in the second half of the 20th century, and how it functions as a capitalistic backlash, subjecting women to huge burdens of time and money, and devaluing any woman who might have the wisdom that comes with age. It studies how the myth replaced the feminine mystique, moving us from a system wherein a woman's virginity was her greatest treasure, to a system wherein her physical approximation to an adolescent girl is how she is measured. This change is neatly pointed up in a comparison of two movies. In 1979's 10, george webber's fantasy is shattered when he finds out the woman is not a virgin. In 1999's AMERICAN BEAUTY, lester burnham's obsession wilts when he discovers she IS (cinematic contrast courtesy of me).
I can best describe the book as a burst of buckshot across the landscape. Buckshot is powerful, but a goodly amount misses the target. The primary flaw is a lack of distinction between "Truth" and "a truth". There are many truths, but they're often contradictory. And generalities have limits; within the complexity of human behavior, individuals cannot be understood through generalities. She acknowledges these things, but not enough.
Her views on censorship align a little too closely to radical feminists who posit any form of female erotic imagery as degrading. The flaw in this is that social advances for women have always come hand in hand with times of freedom in literary and artistic expression.
I also take exception to some of wolf's thoughts on fat. I agree that the body images women feel they must live up to are all too often anything but the way real women look, but she makes no allowance for the fact that we live in the fattest society in the history of the world, and that it's not only okay to be disturbed by that, it's also needed. The words, "Honey, you're a little overweight" cannot be allowed to be seen only as an utterance of misogynistic oppression.
It's been remarked that wolf occasionally plays a little loose and fast with her numbers. And whether the creation of the beauty myth was as intentional as she implies, is also an interesting question. Yet her deconstruction of the submissive impulse in some women, and how it comes from identifying with one's own objectification, is utterly fascinating.
Critiques aside, this book is simply scathing. I recommend it as required reading for every teenager. To put oneself in these shoes, to relate to each other and ourselves as physical beings through the eyes of this paradigm, is to come away with a sensitivity which can only move the human race forward. There is a whole lot of horror and damage to get past. Wolf also focuses on how we are entering the "surgical age", where perfectly healthy women (and to a much lesser extent, men) allow their bodies to invaded and mutilated by the doctor's scalpal, killing some and damaging the rest in ways we've barely begun to understand. At the very least, people who are mutilated thus are engaging in a psychologically perilous exercise in self-negation. For a person capable of empathy, reading these sections is disturbing and physically hard.
Flawed. Brilliant. Mostly brilliant.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pippin

THEATER 18
-summer 1988
Back to the Pennington Players and Washington Crossing for another summer show, this time the really cool musical PIPPIN. This was the play that Mr. Mankowski had directed my sister and baby brother in, back at P.H.S. in 83'. Judi directed, and i was a dancer once more. There were no trees for me to play this time, but we joked that i'd be the easel. I also played the severed head who speaks to Pippin on the battlefield. They built a box that my head popped out of. It was fun. Newcomer Amy Gilroy played Katherine, and dated newcomer Walt Cupit, who played Pippin. They were very good, and i got on well with them. And Diane Wargo, my otherworldly choreographer from high school, was the narrator. It was so great to be around her again, and she even flirted with me (though i couldn't quite imagine it was anything other than playfulness). But it's funny, her presence finally made me ever so faintly self-conscious about not having a larger role. Betty Henninger played the sassy grandmother Berthe, and i realized that this was a role i wanted to play someday. John Kling played the narcissistic Louis. John Blackwell, a fun guy, played Pippin's father. The fact that i remember more about four or five lines i had as a severed head, than i can about being a dancer for an entire show, is revealing. I had known all along that there were other area companies doing summer shows, but i'd never looked into them, with an eye to picking auditions with roles for me, because loyalty and family meant a lot to me.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"12 SONGS" (artist's cut)

2005
-by Neil Diamond
Not long ago, a friend of mine opined that no one over thirty has ever created a great rock album. To refute that claim, i need two words: Rubin and Rick. His production of Tom Petty and Johnny Cash, artists decades past their twenties, was nothing short of brilliant.
And then there's Neil Diamond. It would be hard to overstate Neil's Rick-directed rebirth. I won't take any cheap shots at the hardcore Neil fans who never lost the faith, either. In my own small way, i'm one of 'em. Even with limited knowledge of Neil's oeuvre, i can attest that our faith was well-earned. THE JAZZ SINGER is simply one of the greatest albums ever. The week he recorded THE CHRISTMAS ALBUM, he must have been elbowing into someone else's Wheaties bowl. And give "I am the Lion" a listen if you'd like to have your aural and lyrical senses put on happy overload.
Sure, Neil's been capable of being underwhelming. For any singer/songwriter given the opportunity to create albums for forty-plus years, the miracle would be if there weren't some limp daisies in the lot. THREE CHORD OPERA, his last offering before Rick, is a bit disconnected and uninspired.
Rick was having none of that. It's probably no coincidence that for the recording, Rick insisted Neil play the guitar, after leaving the instrumental work to other musicians for decades.
The first single, "Oh Mary" actually doesn't excite me as much as it does some. Oh, i love the feel of it, but it's almost too simplistic and repetitive. It's a statement of vitality that Neil hadn't demonstrated in a long time, but for me, it's just Neil clearing his throat for the wonderfulness to follow. Among 12 SONGS' thirteen songs, there's not one clunker. And there are three absolute gems (four if you count "Oh Mary", and five if you count the bonus track with Brian Wilson). "Hell Yeah" is an object lesson in a level of coolness that most artists, twentysomething or knockin' on heaven's door, never reach. It makes you stop and just live in a moment of gratitude that music exists. "Captain of a Shipwreck" is quietly towering, the seamless expression of an exquisite song. "Delirious Love" is what air guitars were built for.
In response to the success of 12 SONGS, a two-disc edition was released, the second disc an artist's cut of early and alternate takes. At first listen, it's underwhelming, because the versions of the best songs don't add anything to the original brilliance. But you soon realize that the artist's cut's greatness lies in the lesser songs. In particular, the sparse and intimate recordings of "We" and "Men Are So Easy" elevate them nearly to the level of the album's best.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"God"

-by john lennon

God is a concept
By which we measure our pain
I'll say it again
God is a concept
By which we measure our pain
I don't believe in magic
I don't believe in I-ching
I don't believe in Bible
I don't believe in tarot
I don't believe in Hitler
I don't believe in Jesus
I don't believe in Kennedy
I don't believe in Buddha
I don't believe in mantra
I don't believe in Gita
I don't believe in yoga
I don't believe in kings
I don't believe in Elvis
I don't believe in Zimmerman
I don't believe in Beatles
I just believe in me
Yoko and me
And that's reality
The dream is over
What can I say?
The dream is over
Yesterday
I was the Dreamweaver
But now I'm reborn
I was the Walrus
But now I'm John
And so dear friends
You'll just have to carry on
The dream is over

This towering song rips away...everything, really. "Imagine" was already embedded in my spirit when i heard this, and it almost doesn't seem fair that one artist could write two songs that would be so immeasurably impactful on one person (to say nothing of millions). Is it only towering because of how we felt about "john lennon"? To hear john discard the Beatles, without hesitation or remorse, is just searing. Yet he tucks that message into an infinitely larger context, perhaps the only way he could have made it credible. If you were to look at the lyrics before you heard it, you might think there's no way it's a good song. It resembles a tedious laundry list. And then you hear it, and musically it's almost disturbingly sparse...but then in an instant you understand the howling torment john probably endured during the "bigger than jesus" storm...how he bit his tongue and backed away from his words, when his better angels were telling him to shove his truth right down the idiotic gullet of the beast that "Beatles" had become. In the hypnotic "I don't believe" section, the percussive piano starts to feel like the keys are being thumped directly on your heart, and you're holding your breath, because you never imagined you'd hear a song as honest as this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Battlestar Galactica"

-created by glen a. larson
1978-1979
-SAGA OF A STAR WORLD ****

A gripper. A ripper! In this three-parter, humans create robots who rebel, retreat, then return decades later to annihilate all twelve colonies, leaving a small remnant of humanity on the run in a tiny fleet, protected by one warship and looking for the lost colony Earth. An oasis planet with all they might need is discovered...but commander adama is suspicious. Fans focus negative energy on the fact that BSG was cancelled after one season, but that's the wrong attitude. Imagine instead that we suddenly found twelve lost episodes of FIREFLY! Zack does not get jessie's girl, and check out lurch as the imperious leader, in the deleted scenes.
-Lost Planet of the Gods ****
In this two-parter, most of the viper pilots get cripplingly sick, while starbuck is captured on baltar's base star. Apollo and serina marry. Great, albeit with with the most strained credibility of any episode, as shuttle pilots become viper jocks in one easy lesson. This one, plus TREK's "Turnabout Intruder" and some other sci fi chestnut, would make one heck of a radical-feminist-fodder marathon. Starbuck's won't-hear-that-on-TV-today quote: (to female trainees) "Remember, these controls are as sensitive as a schoolgirl's...um, lips." Just what word, presumably starting with an "s", was he going for? Plus the slaying of serina! The sacrifice of solitaire! The death of dr. quinn.
-The Lost Warrior ***
Prime directive? We don't need no steenkin' prime directive! No one bats an eye as apollo lands and integrates with a pre-flight culture, who are singularly unfazed by this visitor from the sky (these cats are centered, babe). Those who dismiss GALACTICA as camp should watch this one. Apollo has an old-west showdown with a deranged cylon, a premise that's almost by definition camp. Yet the characters ring true, and the story rises above it.
-The Long Patrol ****
Starbuck gets lost in an experimental, unarmed shuttle, and lands in jail on the remote planetoid Proteus. For any who fancy poetic justice, remember spock's faithless fiance, t'pring? Well, it seems she (or the actress who played her anyway) ended up serving a life sentence for adultery. She wants to know what starbucking is.
-Gun on Ice Planet Zero ****
Britt ekland and tongo the ape man (imdb denny miller, i dare you) help our heroes in this two-parter, as criminals are recruited for a sabotage mission on an ice planet where a superlaser will soon destroy the fleet, ship by ship. Is dr. zachary smith now a cylon? Indeed, baltar. Guest star richard lynch chases the rare GALACTICA/BUCK/TREK trifecta.
-The Magnificent Warriors ***
On a mission to trade for desperately-needed crop seeds, the locals eye starbuck as their new (sacrificial) constable. Plus MATCH GAME's irrepressible brett somers! If charles had come along, they'd have nailed that fourth star. "If only starbuck knew, athena was a better *blank* than cassiopeia".
-The Young Lords ***
A wounded, crash-landed starbuck helps a family of children fight the cylons who have invaded their planet. A delightful episode, brightened by the presence of poster icon audrey landers, which loses one star for a queasy feeling brought on by the, um, song.
-The Living Legend ****
This two-parter is the highlight of the series. Shining above all is lloyd bridges as commander cain, of the lost battlestar Pegasus. We're not worthy. Also, the arrival of sheba, whose character was possibly a reaction to feminist criticisms of the second episode? From that point on, all mass viper launches feature at least one woman pilot (usually brie...sigh). Note the parachute drop out of the shuttle, if you'd like an extra giggle.
-Fire in Space ***
Gaping plot holes, but athena actually gets screen time, as a fire threatens all life on Galactica! It's a shame she and boomer, the other romantic odd wheel out, couldn't have made a connection. It would have made the show a little more socially daring...or even just a little.
-War of the Gods **
Wow. Anybody else hear that singing sound? That's glen larson massaging a four-foot holy phallus. And remember that screen time athena got? Apparently it didn't go so well, as the vocals on her one conversation here are, i swear, replaced by general crowd noise. Ouch. Look at her last shot, you'll see a face that isn't even remotely connected to what's going on. Nobody is that bad an actor, so obviously someone was content to have her look like a simpleton. In this two-parter, a mysterious stranger come to the fleet, and offers to perform three miracles if they agree to follow him.
-The Man with Nine Lives ****
Fred astaire? On GALACTICA?? It's almost surreal watching him, yet he carries himself with such grace and charm that you forget all that. Is he starbuck's long-lost father? And who's trying to kill him? Plus the first appearance of the borellian nomens, GALACTICA's resident monks of mayhem!
-Murder on the Rising Star ***
As boomer, apollo, and starbuck compete in a fleet-wide triad tournament, ferris bueller's dad schemes to kill apollo.
-Greetings from Earth ***
A small vessel with four people in cryofreeze is intercepted. Is it from Earth? Galactica then encounters the violent eastern alliance - okay okay, we get it, bad guys dress like nazis and speak with an english accent! Plus ray bolger dances! And mark harmon's sister offers apollo a lifetime supply of Tic Tacs!
-Baltar's Escape ****
The weakest four-star entry, but this one is undeniable because it has it all...baltar, borellians, enforcers, and cylons. And adama gets some lovin'.
-Experiment in Terra ***
The mysterious beings from the ship of lights conscript apollo to preserve the peace negotiations on the planet Terra. What would happen if GALACTICA, QUANTUM LEAP, and KNIGHT RIDER had a party in the q continuum, had a little too much ambrosia and a menage a trois, and GALACTICA got pregnant? This episode would happen.
-Take the Celestra ***
Happily back to BSG basics, after detours in terra and mystical-wystical felgercarb. Starbuck chases a lost love, as he and apollo get embroiled in a mutiny on the civilian ship Celestra.
-The Hand of God ****
A patrol discovers a base star, and adama orders a strike. Sappy ending notwithstanding, not many shows go out in a blaze as beautiful as the one on which they came in. They didn't leave anything on the shelf either, as sheba kisses apollo. And quit whisperin', col. sweetpea, you're givin' me a hard-on. Don't blink, or you'll miss starbuck's "cassie's not wearing underwear" double-take.

BSG Ambrosia Game
1 drink: a shot of the muffy costume, without the chimpanzee inside
1 drink: an episode with a gold centurion
1 drink: adama monitors cylons coming in, and orders shields raised AFTER they attack
2 drinks: a viper pilot hits the IM on the joystick
2 drinks: they visit and leave an inhabited human planet, despite the fact that all-powerful aliens bent on human extermination are close behind
3 drinks: a three-handed handshake
4 drinks: a red cylon raider

Monday, September 14, 2009

C

WOMEN 33
I met C my ninth and final semester of undergrad. She was a freshman living in Killinger Hall, the honors dorm. I don't remember how we met, but hanging out soon led to kissing. She was tall, just half an inch shorter than me. Long wavy dark brown hair, a long, big body (no fat, just a large structure), and full, beautiful breasts. She had smooth skin, with almost invisible body hair except for her head and pubis (she'd never shaved anywhere). When we met, i had the feeling of having wished her into existence. At this point in my life, i was determined not to take any of the chances i'd previously taken with STDs. But i didn't like condoms. When she told me she was a virgin who was incapable of conceiving…i'm not proud of this, but i wonder if she'd been fertile with a checkered past, would i have pursued her? Suffice to say that i said "thank you" to a fictitious creator, and kissed this young woman, happily and often. We chose monogamy. She was a nice lover, she had a peaceful quality. She thought sex was fun, and too silly to really take seriously. She and her roommate had a running joke about the "missing spooge" (one time i had cum outside of her, and we couldn't locate the shot...they searched behind desks, on the ceiling…). We happily indulged in oral pleasures. I enjoyed giving it, as a regular part of foreplay. She gave less frequently, because she said her jaw tired quickly, but the fit of our genitals was very pleasing to me, so that was fine. She seemed quite satisfied with the missionary position, so that satisfied me too. Foreplay followed by 1-4 minutes of thrusting…she loved the sex, said it felt great. She said she felt things that were "orgasmic", but in retrospect i had some doubts. She was of the Swedenborgen, a Pennsylvania religious community transplanted from the old world largely intact. She wasn't religious herself, which made me happy. She took me to her home once. A very nice area, and the church was quite impressive. C had Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, a condition wherein a male fetus is missing a chemical, which makes it not respond to the hormone androgen, which then makes the fetus switch genders. But the switch is not altogether complete, as infertility is always a result. C displayed all the outer female attributes, and had been born with gonads in place of ovaries. She said it was only after reading research which showed that her brain had female patterns, did she finally come to peace with her identity. And me? Only once in awhile, in idle moments, did my brain stir up some sort of brow-furrowed, homosexual-aversive thoughts, trying to wrap my mind around it all. We were together for over six months, through graduation and beyond. We spent lots of time together, but hardly ever around the theater department, mostly because she didn't quite fit my self-image there. That's a bit cold, i know. I could talk about our culture "defining" us too much by our mate...but i don't want to sugarcoat the fact that i never wanted to hold her up to the world with pride and joy. I knew pretty much from the beginning that i wasn't going to fall in love, and consoled myself with the thought that i'd never led her on in that regard. Did i sleep okay with that? Pretty much. Being with C was also kind of an admission that i wasn't going to have any "great college romance"...but in my last months there, i took for myself a happy relationship based mostly on lots of sex, something i'd never had. It seemed a fitting consolation prize. I finally broke it off, saying that our relationship wasn't going anywhere. I saw her a few years later when i went back to West Chester for my M.A. It was very good to see her, she was happy to see me, and engaged to be married…

You Can't Take It With You

THEATER 17
-spring 1988
Back at West Chester in the fall, i promptly went down swinging in two auditions, a Bob musical and a Jay drama. I worked as a stagehand on THE FANTASTICKS, and spilled a mop bucket onstage before a show. Some of the paint came up, and after good-natured grouses about "goddamned actors", they permanently excused me from mop detail. Glenn Subers and i worked an info table, and i made up matching t-shirts saying "The Mopper", and "The Lounge Man" (turns out he didn't just act like a lounge singer, he was one). Also that year, i agreed to be prop master for a studio production of HOOTERS, which i had also failed to get cast in. I did so begrudgingly (i was no damned tech). A breakthrough came with the prop i had the hardest time procuring: a diaphragm case. I asked friends, friends of friends, even a few strangers. Finally, i got one from Planned Parenthood. Their doctor's first words to me were "Oh yes, we get a lot of you boys from the university". Walking home, i felt a sense of accomplishment i hadn't expected. Finally came the spring show, YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, directed by Sandi. I was cast as Ed. For my wife Essie she cast an unknown named Stephanie, who was incredibly gorgeous. I got to carry her and lock lips (i was attracted, but she was dating some motorcycle guy). The show was a sweet Hart/Kaufman 30's comedy. John Riddell played the wise grandfather, Karen Paxson (John's real-life amazing and talented girlfriend) played the granddaughter ingenue, Duane McDevitt was the romantic lead, Gary Lennon the Dad, a senior named Katie the Mom, Lou Markert was Dad's right hand man, and Jeff Bleam was the Russian dance instructor. Jeff was friendly, but he directed jibes my way, which was rather how he dealt with everyone. People looked up to him, because he was talented and quick, but i worried that his humor wasn't kind. Sandi's touch made the show a good one. Playing the small part of a J-man was Jim Sioutis, a transfer student. He expressed his affection for me by abusing me in greek. I liked him, too. One night he and the other J-men came on with pinkies and pointers extended, doing a Jay impression (the most spot-on, hilarious Jay was done by Lou, though). The actors loved it, though it didn't do a lot for the audience. I played xylophone as Ed, and trumpet too, because Sandi had asked whether i played any other instruments. At one rehearsal, Jay walked through the set and busted my chops, because one of my masks was on set for Act One, but i don't build it until Act Two. I had noticed this, but i guess i was using Ed's wiftiness to justify it. I ended up looking like a schmuck who didn't know what he was doing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Star Trek: Dove

To boldly go...
Some have said that the STAR TREK sequels (and prequel) lacked the vision of the original. They've been exciting space adventure, but without the social relevance of the classic. This criticism is not entirely spurious. Oh, there were strides, to be sure - a black and a female captain are now a part of our collective consciousness. And any number of TNG, DS9, STV, and STE episodes dealt with subtle issues of immense social import.
But it's time to get the TREK vision humming again. I give you the next series, STAR TREK: DOVE.
The original gave us a glimpse of a human future wherein war, poverty, religion, and disease have been consigned to the scrapheap of our barbaric past. The next step? Our boldest yet - putting killing and violence behind us. The Dove is the first vessel of the line to be commissioned with no weapons. The series is set a decade or two after VOYAGER (so, y'know, room for old series guest appearances). The captain will be a non-white bisexual woman, whose doctor has a heart of gold and pines for her in silence (played by yours truly). The captain's romantic interactions with aliens and humans alike will be a focal point of the show (well, obviously). The doctor is her truest friend and confidante, whom she always goes to for advice, laughter, and comfort. In the first episode, she drops her pants for an inoculation. When he points out that pants-dropping hasn't been required for hundreds of years, she replies that her gesture is symbolic, and that he will henceforth be the one person she will always "let her hair down" with. He administers the shot, and upon learning that he hasn't been inoculated, she takes the hypo, gestures for him to turn around, he drops trou while looking her in the eye, and the tone of their relationship is set.
Miral torres-paris is the helm officer, and white males do not predominate. The bridge crew rarely go on away missions, and a surgeon is never sent where a medic is more appropriate (it only takes Starfleet 300 years to realize that 837 starships have been left leaderless when the captain, first officer, and chief surgeon were eaten by a big rhododendron). A regular character will be the "away mission major" (though i'm sure the captain will be abducted from time to time, so don't fret). An away mission medic, science officer, and perhaps empath will also be regulars. Many of the crew will be played by actors of mixed descent, so that you're left guessing as to their ethnicity. And holodecks will occasionally be seen used as a crew on a years-long mission with possibly minimal sexual release would logically use them. The sexuality of these future humans will be less victorian than previous TREKs, and more in line with human sexual nature (i.e., non-monogamous). And let's dispense with the nudity taboo of previous incarnations. Having janeway cover her breasts in "modesty" was a 20th century hangup - the future of humanity will be a thousand times less repressed. Audiences have become accustomed by the good people at Showtime to casual nudity - it's time for TREK to lead again, not follow.
The Dove will survive without weapons because the shields are so advanced that damaging the ship is virtually impossible with any known technology. The Dove is the fastest craft in the fleet, with multi-directional tractor/repulsor beams to deal with hostiles. Plus some sort of deadening beam that can disables other ships' systems. Hand phasers will be stun-only (with perhaps one standard one per away mission, for heating rocks and such).
And may we have a vulcan who isn't an over-emotional ninny, please? Nimoy pretty much got it right. Russ came close. Other than that, it's been pretty abysmal. The writers have been as much to blame as the actors and directors. And don't give me "they're just failing to repress nature"...i haven't even had the benefit of growing up in an emotionless society, but time and again i personally outdo these "vulcans" in detached serenity.
In the first episode, we learn that for decades Starfleet has known of an advanced alien society who have an impenetrable defense screen around their system. They never venture outside, and refuse entry to any vessels which possess weapons of war. The Dove is built for the purpose of first contact. Afterwards, the Dove will continue on a mission of deep space exploration. For much of the first season, the Dove is accompanied by an armed Starfleet vessel, until Command is convinced the Dove can function alone. At some point, a sister ship is commissioned, the Organia.
And no, it was not my intent that there be a series known by the abbreviation STD. That was just a little bonus.

(postscript: If it should prove impossible to get the current "owners" of STAR TREK on board [since berman's ouster, people like frakes apparently can't even get a meeting], this visionary is open to having this produced as an altogether new, non-TREK entity entirely. It's not the name that matters, it's the vision.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Wizard of Oz

THEATER 16
-summer 1987
My freshman year done, i returned to the Pennington Players for another summer show at the Park. Judi asked me to be a dancer again. Among the dancers were Jim Patton, Kathy Guthrie, newcomer Brad Dilly, and Donnamarie D'Andrea. Donna joined the Judi/Cathy/Rob carpool on occasion. She was around my age, extremely earnest and emotional, and serious about dancing. She developed a crush on me. I liked her, but not in that way. One car ride, she lay her head on my shoulder, and stayed there the whole ride. I caught Judi and Kathy in the mirror, stifling their bemusement. Betty Henninger returned, Doug Russell didn't, and a newcomer was fourteen year-old Randie Brotman. She hung out very easily with the adults, and i enjoyed befriending her. John Kling was the Tin Man. I played tree#1, who yells at Dorothy about stealing apples. I was hidden onstage when John sings "If I Only Had a Heart", and i suggested i sing the "Wherefore art thou, Romeo" line, falsetto. John agreed. One night, i completely missed the line. Oops. My first missed line ever. It was great having Jim around. He was just so goofy and fun. He was the one dancer who took at least as long as i did to get the steps. He told me he was moving to California, and i asked how he could give all this up. He said he was tired of returning year after year without getting a lead. I was surprised, but understood. Our costumes were great: big bumblebee jitterbugs, and skeletons with glow-in-the-dark makeup. A running joke started about me being a tree, two years running. The Wizard was Charlie Leeder, a barrel of non-stop fun. He was an imsomniac, and always pushed for everyone to stay out late. We were the two best ping pong players in the cast. After my second 4AM homecoming, my parents expressed concern. I told them not to worry. I developed a crush on Michelle Kovacs, a Polynesian girl a couple years my junior. We dated twice or once, but it didn't take. We had one rainout, and were so bummed that all the dancers went onstage and did one number in the rain, as the audience was filing out. So much fun.

100 greatest movies

(periodically updated)
Acknowledging a subjective element which is inescapable in any list of this nature, this is nonetheless a greatest films list, not a favorites list. That said, there's a curiously simpler test of "greatness" than the more complex formula used for the "worst films" list. Curious, because that list was more subjective. The test of greatness is this: resonance. How deeply does a film resonate, and how persistently do its resonances endure? Then toss in a nod to my status as the world's AATGF (Arbiter of All Things Goodly and Fine). I'm irked that Spielberg, who's turned into a bit of a weenie, has so many entries. I've not seen BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN or GONE WITH THE WIND, but don't tell me about CITIZEN KANE. Seen it. Darn good, and strangely overrated.
1) Star Wars
2) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
3) The Wizard of Oz
4) King Kong
5) It’s a Wonderful Life
6) The Princess Bride
7) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
8) American Beauty
9) Young Frankenstein
10) This Is Spinal Tap
11) Patton
12) Animal House
13) Airplane!
14) The Empire Strikes Back
15) How the Grinch Stole Christmas
16) A Night at the Opera
17) Das Boot
18) The Jungle Book
19) Tootsie
20) Jaws
21) Twelve Angry Men
22) The Naked Gun
23) The Full Monty
24) Last Tango in Paris
25) M*A*S*H
26) Victor/Victoria
27) Planet of the Apes
28) The Birdcage
29) sex, lies, and videotape
30) The Big Chill
31) Best in Show
32) My Dinner With Andre
33) The Terminator
34) Shakespeare in Love
35) y tu Mama Tambien
36) Notting Hill
37) 10
38) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
39) Miracle on 34th St.
40) The Days of Wine and Roses
41) Dr. Strangelove
42) An Officer and a Gentleman
43) Dangerous Liaisons
44) Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
45) Ishtar
46) Rocky
47) The Great Escape
48) Jurassic Park
49) Deliverance
50) Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
51) Airplane2
52) Raiders of the Lost Ark
53) Labyrinth
54) The Lover
55) The Exorcist
56) Our Gang Follies of 1938
57) Some Like It Hot
58) Walkabout
59) Annie Hall
60) The Breakfast Club
61) The Graduate
62) Jesus Christ Superstar
63) Close Encounters of the Third Kind
64) The Jazz Singer (Neil Diamond)
65) Pulp Fiction
66) Psycho
67) Blazing Saddles
68) The Great Dictator
69) Schindler’s List
70) Glengarry Glen Ross
71) Tombstone
72) Singin’ in the Rain
73) The Matrix
74) As Good as It Gets
75) Aliens
76) Fight Club
77) The Wall
78) When Harry met Sally
79) The Muppet Movie
80) Defending Your Life
81) Apollo 13
82) JFK
83) The Unbelievable Truth
84) Bill Cosby: Himself
85) Bull Durham
86) Reservoir Dogs
87) Un Moment d’Egarement
88) Harold and Maude
89) Jerry Maguire
90) E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
91) Tribute
92) Romance
93) The Rocky Horror Picture Show
94) Rebel Without a Cause
95) My Fair Lady
96) Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
97) Napoleon Dynamite
98) Mumford
99) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
100) Mister Roberts

Friday, September 4, 2009

the 2/1 club

I'm going to start a club. A very exclusive club. Members must possess some natural physical characteristic of which they have two on one side of their body, and one on the other. At the meetings, members will not be required to display their distinctive physical traits (though of course the qualifying features of many will be entirely obvious). As of now, i'm the only qualifying member, but i have no doubt there are thousands of us out there. Come to me, fellow 2/1ers! Our times of glamorous, freakish isolation are over.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

dad

Some people go out of their way to be likeable. Their need for approval is so strong that their integrity usually suffers (making them, oh irony, unlikeable).
Some people love to be liked, but are comfortable with being unliked.
Other people go out of their way to be unlikeable. That's rarely their conscious intent...indeed, these people are often highly sociable, and want to be liked as much as anyone. But through some combination of ego and misplaced good intent, they end up rubbing people the wrong way, time and again.
My dad falls into the third category. He attributes his over-alpha tendencies to being a male of his generation, and to a limited extent, that's a fair cop. At the urging of many, he's become less abrasive as the decades roll by. I offer one example: on my recent vacation, he got very upset when i ate a dinner tomato slice before the group meal had convened. He called me selfish, and i agreed that my action was almost entirely selfish. After many minutes of fuming, however, he changed his tone and went out of his way to be pleasant with me.
I never saw the dad of my youth offer a single conciliatory gesture, so progress is progress.
I love him, though he doesn't make it easy. I've made a conscious effort my whole adult life to not take his unpleasantness personally. Many children in similar relationships have just let the relationship die, but we all need forgiveness and love. There are moments when i think that my issues with him are just a function of any parent-child relationship, and i'm as responsible for them as he. But then i'll receive some confirmation that no, being overbearing is a part of who he is. My uncle, one of my favorite people, told me that Bob had recently been hammering him over how he was "mishandling" his hearing loss (Bob is my Dad's name, by which my brothers and i have called him since i was in my teens). Finally, Uncle Cork asked Bob to stop his hammering, saying that he was dealing with the situation as best he could. Bob stopped, but Uncle Cork reflected that Bob usually just doesn't perceive how debilitating his hammering can be.
In my case, for the past decade or so, the hammering i've been trying get Bob to stop has been his questioning of my life's choices. Again, his actions spring from an essentially good intent. He wants what's best for me. But his definition of "best" is about him, not me. He wants me to have security. He wants me to be a winner in the financial game of life. He wants me to have medical insurance, a luxury i've not enjoyed in many years.
But my choices are a reflection of deeply held philosophies, so i'm always searching for the elusive words to make him understand how hurtful he can be. Mostly, it affects my attitudes about bringing my loved ones around him. He's almost never met any of my girlfriends, and that's not entirely by accident (um, that plus the fact that i haven't had many). Why would i expose someone who loves me to seeing my life undermined? And it's also a bit of a relief to not have children. It would be a tricky road to navigate, deciding whether to have Bob be a part of their life. How would i explain him? And mind you, he's in some ways a wonderful grandparent to my sister's kids. But for someone who professes spiritual humility, he's got a long way to go with the personal kind.
This year, i thought i had finally found the words to get through to him, when i asked him how hurtful it would be if, every time i saw him, i pointed out the ways in which he wasn't living up to Jesus' example. Unlike he, i am not a born again christian (or even a "born once" christian), but i've read every word of the Bible, and have a truer love of Jesus than most christians, perhaps him included.
He would strenuously disagree with my assessments here, by the way. He'd insist that i have things backwards, that it is i who belittle his choices...even though since my early twenties, i've gone out of my way to be supportive of him. We may disagree sometimes, but i always strive to lead with love and acceptance.
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WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM to tell you the great things about my dad! He's always there with a helping hand or open wallet. By the standards of his generation, he was in so many ways an exemplary parent. We never wanted for creature comforts, he was never drunkenly abusive, and he provided us with riches far beyond the basics...a Miles Davis concert, "Les Miserables", and happy afternoons at Veterans Stadium come to mind. He busted his butt, in ways i didn't appreciate until adulthood. The ridiculous hours he spent driving, after a long work week, so his children could know the magic of their grandfather...priceless. When the folks split, he took on Mom's domestic duties, and maintained a home for us boys which was a source of immeasurable joy. His personality was no small part of that joy, as he was as much a part of our ebulliently indelicate "boys club" as any of us. To say nothing of his nonpareil mashed potatoes. And the ironic thing about his constant questioning of my life is that he openly admires my personality and freedom, even to the point of envy.
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Perhaps to understand all this, some history is in order. I am the second of four children, but as the oldest boy, more of Dad's dreams and expectations were heaped on my head than the others. This must have been no small cause of consternation for him, for from an early age it must have been clear that i wanted no part of anyone else's drummer. To my eyes, his most dominant characteristics were competitiveness, Republican conservatism, athletics, and militarism (anyone out there who knows me is probably shaking their head in bemusement). As long as i have memory, there was the awareness that i was i and he was he, and the twain just didn't meet. He never became a demon haunting my psyche, but i did have one or two moments of unhappiness. He pushed me into a never-ending succession of sports, trying to find one that fit. Some of those times i actually have fond memories of, but most of them were a tad miserable. I was an undersized kid who wouldn't bloom athletically until my twenties. He had been a college basketball player, and that sport was the scene of my greatest failure. I was so small, i just couldn't compete. I tried, somehow sensing it was important to him. But i spent the season on the bench, playing only a handful of minutes. I was alone after practice one night, waiting to be picked up. In an enormous, darkened hall looking out on the street, i started to cry, because i just couldn't do what he wanted. In my generation, boys didn't cry, so it was probably the first non-injury cry of my life. He found me in that hall, asked me what was wrong, and took me home without a word. His accepting silence was the one genuinely shining childhood memory i have of him.
But he was a bear, no two ways about it. His competitiveness is perhaps one of the few ways in which he had a profound effect on me, in that i went so far in the other direction. Whenever we played family games, particularly outside games, no one EVER wanted to be on his team, because he would tear you down if you made a mistake.
He's always had an excess of charm. Many have responded to that charm...though part of that may be just the self-defense of people trying to figure out why this man is trying so hard. But he's a charmer, winning over many, yet often making those closest to him wish he would dial it down a bit. Saying that he doesn't mind being the center of attention is like saying elephants don't mind peanuts.
I recently gave him a three-part image of my life in christian terms, hoping to make him see that anyone who professes christian belief should react with profound joy at my life. I told him that:
1) 16,000 children will die of starvation today while people like Bill Gates, and most of you reading this, are capable of feeding yourselves many times over. Living in such a world, it gives me spiritual comfort to have little more than what i need. A bit christ-like? (Of course, it could be argued that i need medical insurance, but if i stand with the majority who don't get proper care, perhaps that injustice might be sooner ended.)
2) I am dedicated to forgiveness, including and especially for those who harm me. (Dad thinks i let people take advantage of me, but what is more Jesus-like than returning love for injury?)
3) I am a profound pacifist, dedicated to ending murder on this planet. (For once, i can even invoke the normally bone-headed Old Testament. "Thou shalt not kill/murder" seems pretty straighforward. I may not get through to him on this one though, as he's an ex-soldier who declares that he would re-up if they would have him.)
He ain't heavy, he's my daddy.
Okay, he's a little heavy.
But i do love those mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

conceit

In this society, where competition and selfishness are endlessly nurtured, the fight against conceit and vanity is an uphill, herculean struggle.
I've just returned from vacation, and now face a glaring opportunity to watch my own conceit in action.
Vacation photographs.
Happy friends and family send me photos, and i get to observe myself picking the ones i want to keep for my files. Do i pick the ones that flatter me, and avoid the unflattering ones?
Um, yeah.
Hm.
EVERY WOMAN WANTS ME, AND EVERY MAN WANTS TO BE ME!
No?
Though i celebrate the ugly and unloved, the lonely child in me wants to be beautiful and loved. Society teaches that love is not free, it must be won. So we all go out and fulfill that prophecy, crippling each other's self-worth in the process.
We must learn to seek sex with more love, but less self-affirmation...with greater giving, but less needing. Then we must unromanticize sex, as our primal pageant plays, and learn to love all people with the intimacy formerly assigned only to sex.
But the fight 'gainst conceit is never-ending, and we are all so very full of shit...i try so hard in these words i share, but on occasion catch myself...last month i wrote about a lover named A, and in the original draft, i wrote how my erections had been unpredictable with her, but that this was not the case with the two others i've been sexual with this year. Mentioning the one woman was essential to the story, mentioning the other was conceit..."no unreliable erections here, no no!"...it was conceit, plus wanting to communicate to A (if she chanced to read the article) that i hadn't "consummated" any affair since her, as though i were "faithful", though i wasn't, not in the way she wanted...but i was lonely and horny, and so built a feeble fantasy of a context wherein we could be together again in sexual healing.
EVERY MAN WANTS ME, AND EVERY WOMAN WANTS TO BE ME!!
No?
I suppose not, but compared to the earlier invocation, it's almost more fun (and distinctly more credible) imagining every woman wanting to be me.
Ah well.
In the words of Phil Esterhaus, let's be careful out there.

The Birthday Party

THEATER 16
-spring 1987
There were usually three mainstage shows per year at WCU. The second show of my freshman year was written by Harold Pinter, and directed by Sandi Hall. Again, one of the more heavy writers of modern theater. But a smaller cast, only six. A much smaller chance of being cast. I got cast. I was feeling a little predatory again...not that i thought i was the greatest thing since serrated knives (and i knew that casting was circumstantial), but two shows in a row, for a freshman? The script was amazing, and Sandi and i hit it off in a big way. She was head of the department, and had been teaching for decades. Her grace and enthusiasm were beautiful. The play is about a quiet lodger at a boarding house on the English coast. Two gangster types show up, and begin a slow terrorization of the lodger. Senior Vince, hair coming in, played the lodger, Stanley. Cat Hasson played a chatty local girl. I played Petey, the sweet sixty-eight year-old proprietor. My wife Meg was played with wifty wonderfulness by Tracy Seschion. I learned to put on old-man makeup. We did working class British accents. I doddered around, eating fried bread and reading the paper (the bread was toast and syrup). The gangsters were played by Troy Wenger and some guy. Oh yes, Lou Markert. Yup, that Lou. With yet still undiminished antipathy toward me. I'd seen him on campus the first semester, and thought that maybe he wasn't going to get involved in the department, but no such luck. He played the loquacious leader, Goldberg, and Troy played the heavy. Lou had no problem playing older roles, he'd been balding since i had known him. He was good. They both were. The play was surreal. Stanley is interrogated and assaulted, and we never learn why. Tiring in the second act, Lou has Troy blow in his mouth. Lou's, that is. The stagehands, particularly Melanie and Rose, took a little more of a liking to me than the other actors. They played a joke on me one night. I opened my paper onstage, and there was a false headline taped on, "Meg's Porn Report". Melanie insisted that that was the one time i broke character, in four years. I insisted that if i did have a ghost of a smile, it was because of something i was reading, something in character. So there. And something else happened that spring. After auditions for the final show, HAY FEVER, directed by Jay Berkowitz (who was all business and no warmth), i beheld the first cast list of my life that didn't have my name on it. I guess i knew it had to come sooner or later, but i was still a little surprised. I entertained myself by making comparisons to Rob Lowe. I fancied a contest in which we both had to play all the characters in BIRTHDAY PARTY. In my thinking, i'd have gotten the best of him. It's a funny thing, where confidence ends and conceit begins. The sweet boy was still there, but my theater desire burned. BIRTHDAY PARTY was still running when they cast HAY FEVER, which softened the blow.