Sunday, January 30, 2011

Psalms to Solomon

Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon
As regards a test of reasonableness, i have chosen to limit my responses to these chapters. Even though the Bible is, in its entirety, alleged to be the inspired word of God, the words in these chapters are basically men's words and praises; it's conceivable even that the Lord, for reasons of Its own, could allow certain of these explanations and praises to be less than divine truth. Perhaps i should hold fast to the same set of standards for each and every word in the Bible, but these allowances will mitigate the protests of those who might say "but that's men speaking, not God".
Psalms 40:6
Subject: commandments, divine. Problem: contradiction of other such commandments (cross-reference the books of Moses, Proverbs 9:2, or Isaiah 1:11-14).
Proverbs 3:5
Assuming the existence of a supreme, benevolent being, this verse could be reasonable. However, the second part of this verse seems a dangerous philosophy. Indeed, many tyrants throughout history have committed untold abuse, because people have been willing to offer the blind loyalty this verse commands. Even if such loyalty were given to a benevolent being, is it credible that a god would give Its creatures the ability to make moral judgments, but then command that they ignore this capacity? Such belief involves an enormous logical circle. If abandoning one's insight is the path the Lord wishes, mustn't one choose to follow such a path? But wouldn't one have to use their own insight to make such a choice? And wouldn't they then have to discard that decision, because it was based upon them, not the Lord? The Lord asks for that which cannot be given.
Proverbs 16:29
The Lord of the Bible has been a God of quick and severe violence. But now we have the testimony of this verse. Either account of holy truth, this one or the earlier, could be reasonable. But to have the Lord be an advocate of both violence and non-violence, is not reconcileable. The only thing we can say with any degree of assurance is that the Lord could be anything, except that which It is not (and we probably can't even say that).

that lion again!


ANDROCLES AND THE LION
THEATER 45
-fall 1998
Around this time, artistic director Bob Cacioppo had been voted out by the Pirate Playhouse board, and they replaced him with another Bob, who'd had a distinguished New York career. He was gentle and thoughtful, and we hit it off. He directed the first show, and cast me as Lentulus the mocking patrician, and the Retiarius, a crafty gladiator. The pay was $200 a week. I loved Shaw, and had played Androcles at Hedgerow. Bob assembled a wonderful cast of New Yorkers and locals. Playing the Emperor was Obie-award winner Robert Bonnard. His quirkiness and grace were a constant delight. His Emperor voice was imitated by most everyone ("man" was pronounced "me-an"). Local actor Steve Smith was the lion and the gladiator i vanquish (his whine of "Caesar!" was well-imitated too, though perhaps not so complimentarily). New Yorker Charles Turner played Ferrovius, and his huge presence was wonderful. I had to stage-slap him, and he was nervous about being hit, but he did me honor with how greatly he eventually trusted me. He was a spitting actor, but it was worth it. My patrician partner was Jason O'Neill. A great actor, and my closest friend in the cast. We made our big entrance from the front, so we had to walk around the building. After the show had been running a week or two, the unthinkable happened. We strolled into the lobby (Steve came on with us too), as the stage manager came tearing out of the booth. We'd missed our entrance, and scurried in. Unbelieveable. My third missed entrance in the space of a few months. The Captain was played by Billy Green, who did a nice job. Robert S. played the cowardly Spintho, with wonderful comedic presence. I liked him. I think he thought me a bit of a buffoon at first. He had propositioned me, i had declined, and soon after, i greeted him with a mock-punch. He told me not to do that (i don't blame him, it was faux-macho nonsense). Rachel Botchan played Lavinia with charm and grace. Having done the show before, i realized that an audience member might love a play, yet not like it if done by a different cast (even if that cast were just as good, or better). Eric Kuttner played Androcles. He was fine, but i thought his nervous quality wasn't quite as right as the sweetness i had given the role. Lou Tally played the menagerie keeper. We got along wonderfully, and i've never seen an actor continue growing with a role after opening, as much as he did. John Thomas, Leanne Braman, Cary Coffy, and Brent Smith were local actors, a pleasure to be around. But the (ahem) star of the show was local Nat Gerhart, who played a guard. He used recreational chemicals to prep for performances, and one night, he lost his balance onstage, proceeding to do an extended stagger-dance, trying to not fall down. He didn't succeed. Each night as the show music came up, Jason and/or i would do an abstract jungle-dance backstage, for the entertainment of all. My greatest moment was when i came down with food poisoning on the day of a matinee. By my final scene, i was on the backstage floor, lying inert. They were trying to figure out how to go on without me, but i pulled myself out. When my last line was spoken, long before i normally exited, i slipped offstage. I collapsed, not moving until after the curtain calls had ended. We did another show a few hours later. A great day. The soundman Todd and i hit it off (at least until i approached a woman he hadn't been able to get the nerve up for). He assembled the "I'm a Man" mix, a pseudo-rap with computerized rhythms and vocal tracks from the show ("I'm a Man" was one of my hugely-imitated lines). Bob took me on a trip across state to scout acting talent, but may have been disappointed in my heterosexuality. He felt my acting technique needed more schooling. During one rehearsal, he took my performance to a place that felt quite good, and i had trouble recapturing that exact feeling. Early on in my craft, my technique had centered on creating an extensive character biography. Lately i'd been experimenting with different ways of being alive in the moment, and not doing as much bio work (and honestly, the fact that i was making less money than the leads, also played a small part in my lessened prep time). A group of us had a weekly poker night, usually at Bonnard and Steve Wise's, who played the Centurion. Wonderful fun. The only sour note was when Jason and i were invited to Steve and Robert's Christmas party, but then un-invited, as they had overbooked. Sometime that year, i'd started using the surname Shineyoung. I had long been disenchanted with our patrilineal system, and how our given names were a reflection of our parents. The only tribal name i could think of was the anglicization of the Chinese for mountain goat, which is what my hosts had taken to calling me after watching me on the Great Wall. I used Shineyoung on and off for years.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Land of the Lost"

1974-1977
One of the seminal Saturday morning shows of my youth. Some of the creators were from the STAR TREK family. A father and two kids (Spencer Milligan, Wesley Eure, and Kathy Coleman) go river rafting and plunge through a hole in the earth, arriving at a dinosaur-laden land with no other humans, save some "missing link" creatures. They struggle to survive and find a way home. In the third season, Dad was replaced by Uncle Jack. The animatronics are sometimes laughable compared to KING KONG four decades earlier...but that's unfair, given that a TV show goes from idea to fruition in seven days. Is it just rose-colored bias to say that children's TV in the 70s made all that came after a bit lame in comparison?
GREATEST EPISODES (season)
-The Sleestak God (1)
The first appearance of the sleestak, some of the ookiest villains ever dreamt up (by David Gerrold, the same mind that gave us tribbles). Will and Holly are captured and held suspended over a misty pit. Discovering the sleestak fright of fire, Marshall and Cha-ka rescue them. One a' them sleestak is seventeen year-old future NBA all-star Bill Laimbeer.
-Downstream (1)
Penned by Larry Niven (!), our heroes try to find a way back home by rafting away on the river. But the river is circular, and they may be in a land out of time, as they discover a tetched confederate soldier who uses his cannon to keep the sleestak at bay. The lonely fella mines gems, and wants to make Marshall and the kids stay with him.
-The Hole (1)
Marshall is thrown into a pit, to be eaten by the sleestak god. He and Slatch, a verbal sleestak outcast who didn't de-evolve, escape together.
-The Paku Who Came to Dinner (1)
Actually, the previous title is more fitting for this one. Under the veneer of kiddie fun, this episode is a beautiful exploration of primal sexuality. After a month or so away from home, eleven year-old Holly stakes out her sexual turf, putting on makeup and perfume for the younger Cha-Ka. Mayhem follows as Cha-ka's brothers and even Grumpy the T-rex, react to the perfume. Ta and Sa kidnap Holly, to sniff themselves into orgasmic ecstasy. The real reason the show was canceled? The writers couldn't much longer avoid the episode where Uncle Jack walks in on Holly and Cha-Ka doing it pakuni-style. Think about the dynamics...a total population of five males and one female. Realistically, how long do you think it would have been before brother or dad slid over to Holly in the middle of the night? Don't be obtuse, you know it's true.
-Elsewhen (1)
Trying to open a time portal in the lost city, Will and Marshall are captured by sleestak. A woman (Erica Hagen) appears, who guides and encourages Holly. Holly finally realizes that the woman is herself, all grown up. She's also a babe. I mean, i'm not much for the Barbie type, but lordy.
-Survival Kit (3)
A cro-magnon man has convinced the sleestak he's a god. Uncle Jack and Will need the medicine the sleestak stole for tribute to Malak, to save Holly, so they must outwit the giant brute, played to the hilt by Richard Kiel (Jaws, of James Bond!).
-Flying Dutchman (3)
The family discovers a tall ship. Malak the cro-magnon is back, causing trouble. The ship turns out to be the cursed Flying Dutchman, and the solitary captain schemes to abduct thirteen year-old Holly. He drugs her, and puts her in his bed. Again audaciously for a kiddie show, his demeanor and caress leave no doubt that there's a whole lot of salty sex comin' Holly's way.
NOTEWORTHY
-Tar Pit (2)
In season 1, the pakuni had a limited vocabulary. Suddenly they're waxing pakuni-shakespearean...quite bizarre. Also notable is the replacement of Joe A. Giamalva with Scutter Mckay, as the tallest paku Ta. Don't do that to your loyal child audiences, producers. Thankfully, Sharon Baird is still playing against gender as Sa. Sharon's mouth acting is for the ages.
-One of Our Pylons is Missing (2)
Cha-ka falls down a hole to an anti-gravity power core, and Holly follows. The visuals are unintentionally hysterical...computer graphics in its infancy. You'll laugh and laugh.
-The Musician (2)
Cha-ka without makeup! Cha-ka without makeup!! Our crew unwittingly awaken "the builder", a glowing creature of phenomenal power. Cha-ka is told it's "his time", and suddenly gains prodigal musical talent. In a vision, he sees a human boy...and it's him! An uncredited Philip Paley, without makeup. He's so cute it almost hurts.
-Blackout (2)
The season finale, and Marshall's last episode (not that anyone knew, of course). A nice tale about a sleestak plot to achieve eternal nightfall in the Land of the Lost, which would result in sleestak overpopulation. Our heroes and Enik work together. It's fun to watch the other sleestak treat him as a dwarf, and the voice of the sleestak skull is too classic.
-After Shock (3)
Marshall falls through a pylon time portal, which is destroyed by a quake. Uncle Jack arrives in his raft, searching for our heroes. The cave is destroyed, and Ta and Sa have disappeared, so they all set up home in the temple by the lost city, over the ardent protests of the sleestak. Jack is played by Ron "heroic-human-dropped-into-bizarre-alien-world" Harper, fresh off his run as Virdon in the PLANET OF THE APES series. Cha-ka is no longer speaking 80% pakuni, he's shifted to 100% English. He sounds like Tonto. I suppose he might have learned that much by now...but really, it just feels like the producers couldn't be bothered to care anymore. All those paku words took time to dream up and memorize, but now...it just feels kind of sad. The sleestak are talking, too? Sigh.
-Scarab (3)
Evil Cha-ka! Evil Cha-ka! Our little paku is bitten by a magic bug, and goes on an evil spree. Evil Cha-ka!! Cue the ELO.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

farewell, goofy prince

Leslie Nielsen, 1926-2010
Talk about finding one's niche. While it's short-sighted to reduce a filmography that spans sixty years and 239 titles to performances in one sub-genre, it's also no crime to salute the all-time clown prince of spoof! Leslie carved out a long career on the fringes of movie stardom, then at 62, found himself one level of superness above star. He did sixteen spoofs, and the majority (including one with fellow spoofmaster Mel Brooks) were mildly to achingly unfunny. Not that his talent ever let him down...the love child of Larry Olivier and Lucille Ball couldn't have made REPOSSESSED a gem. But that was the other singular quality of his stardom - a success rate that would have buried others. Would Pacino have kept getting work if three quarters of his films were unwatchable? So here's to you, Leslie. This is your hill, and these are your beans.
ESSENTIAL FILMOGRAPHY
-FORBIDDEN PLANET, 1956
The oft-overlooked gem of his career, he played the stalwart space commander in the film that lifted sci fi out of comic strip silliness. He was there at the rebirth of two genres.
-TAMMY AND THE BACHELOR, 1957
He played a faintly bow-legged leading man in this Debbie Reynolds musical romance, which is thoroughly charming (and not just because we know where his career is heading).
-THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, 1972
Who among us would have wagered that the white-haired, short-lived captain who goes (upside) down with his ship had a brighter future than Pamela Sue Martin?
-M*A*S*H, "The Ringbanger", 1973
As Col. Buzz Brighton, he brightened one of the top fifteen M*A*S*H episodes of all time.
-DAY OF THE ANIMALS, 1977
A B movie so ridiculous it's wonderful. Ozone depletion causes all animals (including Leslie) to go savage! Keep those dewy hiker girls away from him! His performance is so sublime that when he half-nakedly attacks a grizzly, you're sure for a second that he's going to kick its ass.
-AIRPLANE!, 1980
Surely this aging B movie leading man can't do broad, deadpan comedy?
-CREEPSHOW, 1982
His segment isn't the best, but seeing a zombified Ted Danson come after him is too classic.
-POLICE SQUAD!, 1982
The most laughter-intense TV show ever. Cancelled after four episodes.
-NUTS, 1987
The most chilling role of his career, as a homicidal john attacking Barbra Streisand. His performance was so violent it scared Babs into fighting back less than she intended.
-THE NAKED GUN, 1988
Hey. It's Enrico Pallazzo.
-THE NAKED GUN 2 1/2, 1991
If you think they needn't have made the sequels, go back and watch the bar scene. I've been swimming in raw sewage. I love it.
-THE NAKED GUN 33 1/3, 1994
Do you have "Spartacus"?
-MEN WITH BROOMS, 2002
A non-spoof three-star comedy with heart.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

spirit steps south

(I've carried the weight of this article inside me for most of the past month. The heavy hand of sadness my constant companion and constant conflict. I've not known whether to write this story now, or decades from now. There is a person on this planet who has asked me to never share this, even anonymously. This person will never know whether i've honored her request. For the sake of her friendship, i would silence this chapter of my life, but she has withdrawn any love she once felt for me, and with it, a proper understanding of her request. More painful than hiding a part of my life is the thought that my silence would be an affirmation of her shame. In the week i lived with her, she walked in beauty and grace. In sharing this story, i rend another tear in my battered heart.)

A few months ago, a woman in Florida responded to an online romance ad of mine. She would later tell me of the enormous act of nerve it took for her to hit the "send" button on her reply. We began a correspondence that culminated in meeting six weeks later. She told me she had been a sexual "hermaphrodite" for three years, wanting nothing to do with males ever again. I called that sensible. She'd had three long relationships, each one ending when the male wanted to marry. For the past year, she'd been making multiple attempts at in vetro fertilization from males of "superior" stock, determined to start raising godlike children. To that end, she drove an enormous car and lived in a big, empty house.
You might ask why a self-professed hermaphrodite would be browsing a M4W romance site in the first place. I asked her after we met, but the answer that came back was so indistinct that i recall no part of it.
In my ad, i invoked a woman who didn't know the color of her own skin. When she identified herself as black in her initial response, i called her on it. She said i was right. But race issues ever did and perhaps ever would overshadow her life (it's a million times easier for a white person to forget their color). She admitted that any time she'd ever seen an interracial couple, she'd looked upon them as traitors, and that before she met me, if anyone had suggested that she would one day be intimately loving with a white man, she would have reacted violently.
She worked as a nurse, and had a huge family of sisters and brothers, with a father a bit like George Jefferson. She had caused much consternation among them for her attempts to have children without a man. I shared some insights i'd learned, as to why artificial insemination has such staggering failure rates. The body knows what it wants and what it doesn't, and for much smarter reasons than science yet understands. When a woman is attracted to a man, her body is pointing her in that direction because of immunological advantages for potential offspring. We play god at the risk of our unborn children. I wasn't trying to change her mind...but knowing the marathon pain of IVF, and how the body dies a little every day without intimate touch and healing sexuality, a little dream was born in me, to be the natural father of her children. I of course had no idea whether i wanted to raise these children...but if children were her crusade, i wanted them to be born of love.
We had one phone call during our pen-palship. On a sad day for her, i asked her to call. I read her a story, written by a woman going through IVF. After a marathon of failures, she finally gets a fetus that doesn't abort. It's beautifully-written, and in choosing that story i pointedly wasn't trying to force my own beliefs. The next day, she wrote that she'd decided she was done with IVF.
And as we wrote, a cybercrush was being born. We agreed to let it flow, keeping one eye on the reality that a cybercrush in no way prepares you for the real world. She fell in love with the idea of my lovemaking. I told her of my gentle ways...of the sexual communion of being inside someone for an hour or more, without mad thrusting to ejaculation. She said all the sex in her life had been short, and a bit painful.
She also told me she was an addict.
A workout addict.
Truly. A few years back, she'd been fat. She'd lost forty pounds, and wanted to lose forty more, but had reached a point of frustration, after a year of working out three hours a day had only gotten her halfway to her goal. She said she ate no sweets, a modest breakfast, and then just an apple and nuts throughout the day.
During our correspondence, she had cosmetic surgery around her breasts, to remove excess skin. She maintained that it wasn't cosmetic...and as she was going through such pain, i didn't have the heart to correct her. When we were together, i told her that any surgery which has no medical purpose is cosmetic. After a little debate, she accepted my point.
So much pain in her life...so of course my weakness for the wounded ones drew me to her. Plus genuine spiritual connection. She wanted to be more open and free, and able to run naked in the rain. She didn't believe in marriage. It turned out she was open to polyamory (or possibly only polygyny...what she actually said was that she could imagine being with a man who had other mates). I was also drawn to her because she was so profoundly enamored of me. She said she'd never dreamt that a white man like me might exist. I tried to tell her that i was just like everyone, full of vanity and conceit. She wasn't buying it, but i knew there would be time to convince her.
After a month of letters, i'd impacted her life profoundly...she'd abandoned IVF, and reversed a lifetime of racism by dreaming of loving a white man. I had to meet her...all of these changes were too sacred to not pursue into the real world.
In practicality, i knew there were any number of reasons why we mightn't be compatible as lovers. The lack of self-love inherent in cosmetic surgery is alien to me, and we seemed at different levels of spiritual growth. There was also an imbalance in how much we'd "seen" of each other. She'd seen many photos of me, yet i'd pretty much seen only one image of her, a distant shot from when she was at her fattest, which didn't trigger an attraction response. She also straightened her hair, a spiritual/physical turnoff for me. We discussed all these things, at least a little.
But the time had come to leap off a cliff. If she could leap by inviting a strange man to stay in her home, how could i not leap in return? I knew the dangers...she was walking on thin ice, trying to step beyond a whole lot of pain and gender/race hatred. She assured me that she trusted me implicitly...that any direction my spirit turned, she would cherish me 100%.
There's also a big part of me that just needs to jump off cliffs.
The only thing she made me promise was that when we first met, we would share one of those hugs that has no end.
No problem.
I had no time constraints for my visit, other than a ten-day maximum. She told me she was going to tell her family that she would be out of town on a business trip. Secrets shatter my spirit. We talked about it, and understood each other's perspectives better. The one concession she made was that she agreed to tell one of her sisters the truth. As the trip neared, i suggested we live out a dream i'd had for years. When we met, we would speak no words. Only once the sun had risen on our second day, would we talk. She agreed.
I arrived at the Homestead bus stop, and we hugged...not as long as i'd imagined, but still nice. In the car, it became apparent that she wasn't going to be able to handle not talking. She tried, but words kept slipping out. I finally freed her of the burden. After some pleasant talk, i mentioned the spiritual truism that words are a sign of someone not at peace with themselves. She laughed.
Her house was less rustic than i'd imagined. She'd talked of a lake, but i hadn't pictured a gated community. She had a bidet (which she never used!). I was in heaven. She told me she always slept downstairs on the sofa, and that she never felt comfortable in the master bedroom, where i'd be sleeping. None of the other bedrooms had any furniture. I'd imagined us making love on that bed. After talking for a while, i went up for the night. She joined me a bit later. I was naked, and we held each other. As we caressed, i became erect. She was on her stomach and i was on her back. She said she could feel my erection through her clothes, and asked me to move it faster. I did so. After a while i fell asleep, and she returned to her couch.
The next night, as she felt my erection again, she said she wished we could go further, but she felt so self-conscious, and needed to wait until she was slimmer. I smiled and shook my head. Of course she was being silly, but...i already knew that my physical attraction and spiritual desire for her weren't strong enough to support an ongoing sexual relationship, so i didn't mind that she wasn't ready. It would give us a beautiful window where we could just be intimate and loving.
We had six days of profound beauty without walls, even more so than i'd dreamed. She was so present and free. We shared our lives. Every night, she asked me to read some of my writings to her. One night, lying together after a perfect moment, i gave her the gift i'd brought from home...a felted scarf made in South Africa by one of the women a friend of mine is teaching trade skills to. She wore it everywhere the next few days. She suddenly felt self-conscious about the gift she'd gotten for me. She said she was going to return it, it was all materialistic and wrong. I nudged her into telling me what it was. An IPad. I told her i was touched, assured her i saw myself using one someday, and that any gift from her would be perfect.
One afternoon, we were sitting on the couch, and she was going on about how surprised she'd been at the softness of my hair. I knew there was an element of that she didn't appreciate yet. I took off my pants and put my legs across her lap. She was entranced, and gently explored my penis as i became erect. That was the single most beautiful moment we shared...knowing how far she had come to be living in that moment. She loved my size, and said it would be perfect in her. The next day, she asked if she could put oil on my penis. I happily agreed. She masturbated me, and i was able to push myself into having an orgasm...a verrry surprising occurence, as the tightness of a vagina has been the only way any woman has been able to make me come in a long, long time. My pushing notwithstanding, it stands as the only time a woman has ever masturbated me to orgasm. The next day, she oiled me again. I knew that she very much wanted to see me ejaculate, so i offered to masturbate for her. She sat between my legs as i went to work. For a while it just wasn't happening, so we talked. Finally i got it going. She moved her head closer, and asked if i wanted her to lick me. I wasn't expecting any kind of penetration, so i smiled and said "No, that's okay." When i ejaculated, she was amazed...she didn't think there would be so much.
We went garage saleing and thrift shopping, a passion she kept secret because her family wouldn't approve. I found her THE PRINCESS BRIDE, which she'd never seen. I found an album i love by the Notting Hillbillies, which she fell in love with. She shared her comic porn collection. I was a little surprised by it, and delightedly so. Most of them were plotless dreck, but there were two i liked, one about witch sisters, and one called "Alrayne", i think, which is just exquisitely drawn. She was extremely surprised at how i loved certain "black" TV shows, like CHAPELLE'S SHOW. She said she never watched any show that didn't have at least one black character. I laughed and called her on her racism. She disagreed. I constructed a counter-argument, and she relented.
I told her i too was surprised at the softness of her straightened hair. And she did make me understand a certain practicality to it. Natural black hair can take thirty minutes to comb out. Straightened, only five. But she conceded that there were a significant percentage of black women who straightened because they thought their natural hair "ugly". For me, once that admission is on the table, that's the end of the story. Malcolm X was right, and straightening is racial self-hatred. Why why WHY would anyone then choose it?
Especially when natural black hair feels soooo amazing.
She had another cosmetic surgery planned, to excise excess skin on her lower body. She'd also had a nose job a couple years before. I asked her what she might say, if her daughter one day found a picture of the "old" her, and asked "Mommy, am i ugly?"
One day, she took me to work, doing outpatient consultation with an AIDS patient. His mother confiscated me to help her on the computer. A beautiful afternoon.
Occasionally, she had a sad moment, telling me she was going to miss me. I told her not to do that...that by drawing that thought unto her, she rendered me already out the door in one corner of her mind. Doing so, she wouldn't be able to commit her entire spirit to our togetherness.
I had been working on her to lower the "secret" factor of my trip, and one afternoon she asked if i wanted to visit two of her sisters, and two nieces. I was thrilled. On the way, she told me that no one in her family had ever had a white lover. The scene at the door was nice. She was nervous, but kept it together. One niece was a toddler, and the other around six. The first sister was friendly, and when the second came down the stairs, there was an immediate spark between us. It was sexual, and the look in her eyes told me she was entirely comfortable with that. We chatted and visited for a bit, ending up in the backyard, where the older niece became quite taken with me after i climbed a tree. We lounged on the grass. When my friend said it was time to go, her sister said we'd only just gotten there. She made us promise to come back for a meal. I was delighted, and my friend was happy too. Back in the car, i told her that it was possible she didn't know her sister as well as she thought, and urged her to ask whether she'd ever been with a white man. The next day, she found out her sister had had two white boyfriends in college, whom she'd kept hidden. Bringing about that conversation was the second-sweetest joy of my trip. I told my friend that i'd felt a sexual spark with her sister. If that seems strange to you, gentle reader...if it seems dunderheaded or insensitive, well, i almost agree. Even at my semi-advanced level of spiritual development, i can't declare myself entirely free of the emotional minefield that surrounds our lovers being attracted to a sibling, or vice versa. But you must understand the state of grace my friend and i seemed to be in. We were sharing ourselves with no perceptible barriers. Perhaps subconsciously i needed to test that, but mostly i just wanted to offer up all of myself for her...feeling that if i held anything back, it would come back on me, creating the same energy in her. If you find contradictions with that position later on, well, i do too. We humans are all so broken, that always knowing the right thing to do is perhaps an impossible dream.
I had fantasies about her sister the rest of the trip, imagining beautiful shower sex. I wanted to give the sister my contact information, to explore our connection and talk about all my friend had been going through. I decided, however, that reigning that desire in was the wiser choice. And through busy scheduling, we never saw her family again.
The next night, she came to me in bed, clothed as always. We were spooning, and i was erect. She told me she was ready to have me inside her. My spirit eyes went wide. In those few seconds, i had to process one of the toughest choices of my life. Understand too, some of the ancillary energy that was swirling my brain around. At that time, i was reading one of the most amazing books i've ever found, "Sex At Dawn", a study of human sexual nature. I was tapping into a scientific basis for ideas i'd always been drawn to...the idea that radical sharing is the "natural" state of humanity. In foraging societies we're able to study, any form of withholding is a social evil, and no one is "so self-important that satisfying a fellow tribesman [is] less gratifying than personal gain". How could i possibly not give this woman ANY happiness it might be in my power to give?
But i knew we were still on thin ice...added to the imbalances between us was my attraction to her sister.
So i told her we didn't have the right balance yet.
Whether i made the right spiritual choice, is something i may live my whole life never being sure of. Had i already done wrong by not telling her about my lack of physical lust? I rationalized it with the idea that i was trying to operate on a higher spiritual level, and that i didn't want to shut doors...we might be coming to a better place of balance, and even if we weren't, how many walls might be created by a pre-emptive"no"?
She seemed to take my decision as easily as she had taken everything that week. But in her talking the next day about how other women would have been so insulted, i knew that she was struggling a little. Still, we were okay.
The wheels fell off the following day.
We survived the family hurdle, and i thought we could survive anything.
I was wrong.
The friend hurdle laid us low.
While at work, she opened up to a group of friends about what she'd been doing. They were scandalized, and in one way, i absolutely agreed with them. I didn't like their being upset that she'd let down her walls, but they were also horrified at how she had been putting me on a pedestal. I'd been gently chiding her about that for several days. She was catering to me too much, spiritually and literally. I still couldn't make her believe that i could be vain and foolish.
Whatever combination of words they laid on her did their job. Her walls had gone so high that nothing could top them. We talked about it, but kept coming back to her telling me i didn't understand who she was, and when i pushed her to explain, met only silence. She was in a state of shame and self-loathing. The best she was able to manage was one morose joke about wanting to have a neuralizer, like in MEN IN BLACK, to erase the last week forever. She held back from being overtly hostile, and threw me one or two bones about how she still thought i was spiritually advanced...but she peppered that with vague allegations about my shallowness. The only time i became impassioned was when she reduced me to my skin color. I told her that if she didn't understand that "white male" is not how i perceive myself, then she'd misunderstood the most important piece of me. She said the biggest thing i'd misunderstood about her was that her wanting intercourse had not signified any desire to have an ongoing sexual relationship. Yet i knew that a part of her spirit had been in that place, and that she'd happily imagined me "bringing her home" to meet my family. There were little glimmers that not everything had been lost. She said she would probably return to in vetro...but that she was open to having a romantic relationship with a man. But only under conditions of total emotional control. I tried to tell her that the need for control comes from a place of fear, and was that the emotional legacy she wanted to offer her babies? It's unlikely that anything i said at that point could have touched her, though. I tried to lighten the mood, saying i had NO idea how i was going to write about all this. I'm not one for regret, but a part of me wishes i'd never said that. She asked me to never write about us. I told her my reasons for hesitating to promise that. I made my own feeble attempt at a joke, saying that subconsciously she must have planned everything that week to lead up to that precise moment, because "hurting whitey" was her darkest dream, and she must have realized that no request could ever wound me so deeply as forcibly silencing my voice. I think she understood my maudlin attempt at humor. That night, while i was eating, she fell asleep, and her feet came to rest on my lap. That unconscious act gave me some tiny measure of healing - the thought that subconsciously she hadn't been able to convince herself that she hated me. She dismissed that idea out of hand the next day.
When she dropped me off at the bus station, i had about an hour's wait. She sat in her car. She'd given me a present, which she told me to open on the bus. After a couple minutes, i told her she was obviously so unhappy, and that she didn't need to wait.
As my bus pulled away, i unwrapped the gift.
A bookmark.
A little part of me hopes we'll laugh together again one day, with that bookmark nearby, doing what it was made for.
A foolish dreamer walks on.

(Afterword: Despite the pain that came with the writing of this piece, i realized something midway through - this is the first time i've been able to breathe in the month since i returned. For better or worse, sharing my life with you has become my very breath.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

This comes from no slave girl!

Quick! Name the only actress who was both a Bond girl and an original Charlie's Angel?
Tanya Roberts.
A P.R. firm's dream client!
Or...
Quick! Name the actress who sank CHARLIE'S ANGELS and killed James Bond! (Roger Moore survived the KGB, Jaws [twice!], Saruman, and that "7-Up never had it never will" guy, but failed to survive acting opposite Tanya)
Well...
Begone, naysayers!
Yes, we'll allow that she's one of the most wooden actors in cinematic history. Yes, we'll allow that her plunge into the softcore dreck that gave B movies a bad name was, well, deserved (and well-deserved).
But we love our Tanya.
For three reasons.
1) BEASTMASTER
2) Whenever we asked, she almost always took her clothes off.
3) Have you seen her with her clothes off?
Really. A career born of the male inability to say, "Um, that was really bad, Ms. Roberts." Perhaps the only tragic missed opportunity of her career, considering the fact that sometimes you just have to embrace the ludicrous, is that she never acted with Schwarzenegger. It's not too late...a Broadway revival of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, mayhap? And then, 13 years after her last A feature, Tanya became a comeback kid, playing neighbor Midge for six years on a hit sitcom. So sit back and enjoy the...
ESSENTIAL TANYA ROBERTS FILMOGRAPHY
-CHARLIE'S ANGELS "Attack Angels", 1981
November 30: Charlie introduces Angel Julie. June 24: Bosley torches office, disembowels self. In this episode, Tanya is hypnotized into believing she's an amazing actress. Well no, she's actually hypnotized by Eric Braeden (the immortal Victor Newman of THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS) into becoming an assassin. Give in to the camp, give in, give in...
-THE BEASTMASTER, 1982
Sometimes a film has so much charm and integrity, it elevates every performance to perfection. The elusive magic of chemistry. Even if the brain says no, the heart says yes. Tanya is our Kiri. Seen the dvd easter egg?
-HEARTS AND ARMOUR, 1983
An Italian sword and sorcery epic, where charm keeps shortcomings at bay...ever so barely.
-SHEENA: QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE, 1984
Teetering on the abyss of the abysmal, it's so bad we like it. Great googily, look at her shower. And bathe. Why do you suppose she has such obviously better hygiene than, say, Serpico?
-A VIEW TO A KILL, 1985
Just kidding. The worst Bond ever, nothing comes close. I beg you, take my word for it. Of course, if you're feeling perverse, watch this in a marathon with her FANTASY ISLAND/LOVE BOAT appearances.
-INNER SANCTUM, 1991
Awful. But a must-see, for reason #2.
-ALMOST PREGNANT, 1992
Can Tanya do farce? No!! But almost worth watching, to see her, Jeff Conaway, and Joan Severance try to make lemonade out of a turd. And for, um, reason #2.
-THAT 70's SHOW, 1998-2006
I never saw it myself, but some of you neeners musta thought it was good.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Next Generation, season 2

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 2
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.7
-The Child **
One is tempted to award a third star just for a juicy burst of show development, but i'll show some restraint. In a scene that pushes the image of sexual penetration farther than you'd expect, deanna is impregnated by a semi-corporeal space being. She soon gives birth, and the child grows up almost before their eyes. When the benign, curious tyke realizes his radioactivity is a danger to the crew, he kills himself. Blah blah blah...and the debut of riker's beard! Whoopi goldberg arrives as guinan! O'brien's first appearance as transporter chief! After 25 episodes and three chief engineers, they finally put geordi where he belongs! Seymour cassel (RUSHMORE, TRACEY TAKES ON...) plays a shabbily-concealed plot device! And finally, beverly is gone and replaced by katherine pulaski (diana muldaur - MCCLOUD, L.A. LAW, two classic TREKs).
-Where Silence has Lease ***
Investigating a sensor void, Enterprise is engulfed...and cannot get out. They encounter a fake romulan adversary, a fake sister ship, then realize they are rats in a maze. The superior consciousness (earl boen - TERMINATOR 1-3, AIRPLANE II: THE SEQUEL) investigating them finally sets them free...or does it? A ripping teaser, as riker is a guest for one of worf's holodeck combat programs.
-Elementary, Dear Data ***
Finally, the amateurish writing touches of season 1 are disappearing. Data and geordi play holmes and watson on the holodeck. When pulaski protests that data solves the dilemmas too easily, geordi challenges the computer to create a villain capable of defeating data. The professor moriarty character suddenly achieves self-awareness, and soon realizes it's own nature. Realizing its life is at stake, it takes over the holodeck and some ship functions. Surprisingly, it refuses to murder, and agrees to have its program stored until a way can be found for it to exist in the real world. The first of two appearances by anne ramsey (MAD ABOUT YOU, A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN) as the charming ensign clancy, and a brilliant, nuanced performance by daniel davis (THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, THE NANNY).
-The Outrageous Okona ***
Guest star billy campbell (DYNASTY, ONCE AND AGAIN and roddenberry's original choice for riker) plays a roguish captain of a crippled freighter who starts bedding female crewmembers. Quick...name another TREK in which a character has sex with more than one partner? That non-monogamous beacon alone makes this one a winner. Guest star juiciness abounds - the initial apple of okona's eye is teri hatcher (LOIS & CLARK, SOAPDISH), looking incontestably luscious. In the B plot, guinan mentors data as he struggles to understand humor. He employs the services of a holodeck comedian...mr. joe piscopo! Stick your scoffing in your ear, he's great. It's amusing how okona's loves play out like classic red-shirt deaths...people you've never met have an intense experience, then are never seen again. I wanted to go four stars, i really really did.
-Loud as a Whisper **
Enterprise transports a deaf negotiator to a peace conference. Deanna counsels him after he loses his irreplaceable interpreters, including randy oglesby (ENTERPRISE, PROJECT: ALF).
-The Schizoid Man **
Data's beard! The most heralded genius in the galaxy (william morgan sheppard - THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY, MAX HEADROOM), who taught data's creator, is dying. He wants no help, then uses the opportunity to covertly transfer his consciousness into the android. Data's personality is subsumed, and dr. graves plans to live forever. Aboard the Enterprise, he is unable to rein in his arrogance and jealousy over picard's innocent attentions to his former ward. The scripts suffers from a too-tame treatment of graves' desires (there should have been at least one seduction scene), and an underestimation of how adept he would be at impersonating an android. Also, it's the debut of TREK luminary suzy plakson (DINOSAURS, MY STEPMOTHER IS AN ALIEN), as a vulcan doctor. Strange that they don't involve her character in a discussion of katras.
-Unnatural Selection **
On a supply ship and a planetary research facility, everyone is dying of premature old age. Picard and pulaski clash, as her humanism butts up against the rules. Aboard a shuttle, she become infected. Some transporter magic (in the most o'brien-heavy episode to date) saves the day. A cut above the norm as science fiction, but some spark is missing...
-A Matter of Honor ***
In an officer exchange program, riker serves aboard a klingon cruiser. He survives a crucible of violent subordinates (brian thompson - GENERATIONS, ENTERPRISE), animate food, an abusive captain (chris latta - STAR BLAZERS, THE SIMPSONS) and rapacious females, and avoids having to carry out an attack on the Enterprise. The first NEXT GEN that stands alongside any of the TREK best. But for a middling B plot about a benzite assigned to the Enterprise, this might be four stars. Can jonathan frakes carry an episode? Indubitably.
-The Measure of a Man ****
-written by burton armus
-directed by robert scheerer
A Starfleet cyberneticist is given permission to disassemble data. Brian brophy (THE PLAYER, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION) hits the right notes as commander bruce maddox. Data's sentience is put on trial, with picard and riker conscripted to defend and prosecute. Why is this the first NEXT GEN to trigger tears, and reach as high as anything produced by the classic? It all comes back to the writing by burton armus. Time and again, when you fear a line will be just a little off (as it has been frequently before this episode), the perfect words materialize. Spiner is pitch-perfect, and stewart is towering. A minor but critical scene has guinan lead picard to realize that what's at issue is nothing less than slavery. The series' first poker scene arrives! And on a deeper level, it works because we can all see ourselves in data's trial. We live in a time of fear-based alienation, superstition, sexual repression, and a global pandemic of physical/emotional violence. Each day, in a hundred ways, our humanity is assaulted...and always lurking around a wrong turn are much more shattering dehumanizations. The more consciously aware you are of these things, the more this episode will move you. My only critique? It's ridiculous to propose that 24th-century humans won't have evolved beyond the adversarial courtroom process. A system of justice founded on the search for the "winner" and "loser", as opposed to the truth, is a little slice of barbarity we'll soon leave behind.
-The Dauphin ***
Wesley suffers first love with a dignitary (jaime hubbard - THE HITCH-HIKERS, ROSEMARY) escorted by an overzealous chaperon. She loves him back, then reveals that they're metamorphs. He gets a bit xenophobic, but comes around. The furry, ferocious manifestations are classic...as is the riker/guinan scene, and a tantalizing shifter appearance by madchen amick (TWIN PEAKS, DREAM LOVER). Tender and touching, with only occasional writing lapses.
-Contagion ***
Enterprise responds to a distress call from a sister ship in the neutral zone. Before help can be rendered, the Yamato explodes. With a warbird shadowing them, archaeological relics from a superior race (including a "guardian of forever"-type portal) could upset the balance of power in the quadrant...or destroy them.
-The Royale **
Riker, worf, and data discover a luxury Earth hotel on an uninhabitable planet, and find themselves unable to leave. A long-dead astronaut is discovered, in an environment created by aliens who only had a bad 20th-century novel to go on. Noble winningham (CITY SLICKERS 1-2, AFTERM*A*S*H) plays a garrulous gambler. The original script called for the ancient astronaut to still be alive: given this moribund effort, they perhaps shouldn't have strayed.
-Time Squared **
A Starfleet shuttle is found with a comatose duplicate picard aboard. The shuttle is from six hours in the future, the sole survivor of a disaster. A soporific, originally meant to be a two-parter with q.
-The Icarus Factor ***
Will is offered a ship of his own, and the civilian adviser assigned to him is...his father, with whom he has an adversarial relationship. Kyle riker (mitchell ryan - DHARMA AND GREG, HOT SHOTS! PART DEUX) has a romantic past with pulaski, who has some nice commiseration scenes with deanna, who is one of many upset by the possible loss of will. Worf is upset too, because he's alone for the anniversary of his ascension. Wes figures it out, and a surprise ceremony with klingon pain sticks is arranged on the holodeck. The first episode to feature o'brien doing something other than his duties. The father/son posturing and reconciliation doesn't quite work, not least of which for a martial arts contest which strays too close to the silly line. The highlight of the episode is an unplanned moment of hilarity, entirely manufactured by the acting skill of patrick stewart, who took an uber-controlled character and found a way to inject quirks the writers never intended. Pay close attention to his description of the linguistic talents of will's potential first officer.
-Pen Pals **
Wesley is put in charge of a mineralogical team, and his first command experience goes less than smoothly. Data develops a radio relationship with a girl whose pre-warp civilization is about to be destroyed by geological forces. The minor flaw is proposing that humans will still be enslaving other species as beasts of burden centuries from now. The major flaw is proposing that data would be emotionally careless concerning the prime directive...which is disappointing, as an interesting idea is given short shrift (and uneven, clumsy writing). Should the prime directive extend to letting a civilization die of natural causes, if you can save them without their knowledge? To have Enterprise interact, accidentally or otherwise, with a doomed pre-warp culture is a fascinating notion, and deserved double-episode (or even cinematic) treatment.
-Q Who? ***
Annoyed by human smugness, q sends Enterprise to its first encounter with the borg (take note, they haven't come up with the idea of assimilation yet). Lives are lost, and picard admits they need q's help. Whoopi goldberg's finest contribution to date, as she and q have a history. Their monster-claw standoff strains credibility, and the episode suffers from poorly-written scenarios and behavior...but the overall juice factor nearly pushes this one to four stars. Never mind the ferengi, and the romulans were only a red herring - the arrival of the borg, who will now be coming for humanity, provide the series' dangerous edge. Oh, and let's not forget ensign gomez (lycia naff - FAME, THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR) spilling coffee on the cap'n. That part is perfect. Sigh.
-Samaritan Snare ***
So...this is the up-and-coming will riker that Starfleet wanted as captain of the Aries? Hmm...
JAG PROSECUTOR: And it was at this time, commander, when your captain was away, that you sent your chief engineer alone to the pakled vessel, a race you knew almost nothing about?
WILL: Yes.
JAG PROSECUTOR: You didn't think this rash?
WILL: No.
JAG PROSECUTOR: And your officers all thought this was a fine idea.
WILL: No. Not exactly.
JAG PROSECUTOR: I believe your security chief expressed misgivings? Not once, but repeatedly?
WILL: Yes.
JAG PROSECUTOR: Did any other officers express misgivings? Commander?
WILL: Our counselor felt that geordi was in danger.
JAG PROSECUTOR: Ah...but she's usually wrong about these things.
WILL: No. No she is not.
JAG PROSECUTOR: Ah. Well, did you then have mr. laforge transported back, as you could have done?
WILL: No.
JAG PROSECUTOR: No? What did you do instead?
WILL: I talked some more with geordi and the pakled.
JAG PROSECUTOR: Ah.
Aside from that bit of humor, the pakled (a sub-light species who plunder technology they don't understand) actually work pretty well...almost too silly in their presentation, but they stay on the right side of that line, barely. Over in the B plot, wesley and picard take a shuttle in order for the captain to have heart replacement surgery at a starbase. Their nuanced conversation is very nearly worthy of stewart's talent, and sets up beautifully the late-season episode "Tapestry". Farewell, ensign gomez - there won't be another TREK character this underused until leeta on DS9.
-Up the Long Ladder ***
A distress call is received from utopian colonists who disappeared centuries before. They've split into two acrimonious cultures, one hi-tech and one agrarian (and a bit drunkenly irish, to colm's displeasure). Their sun is becoming unstable, and Enterprise must transport them to a new home. Bickering and hilarity ensue, plus one of the sexier moments in TREK history, as a disrobing farmwoman (rosalyn landor - BAD INFLUENCE, RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY) asks riker whether he doesn't like girls. His flirtations with her are the most libidinous thing to hit the franchise since james t. A curiosity is how the crew reacts so unilaterally to the idea of donating DNA for cloning. A little hesitancy is understandable among savages (in other words, ourselves...ugh, clone steal my soul!), but it's hard to believe that we'll be such tightasses centuries from now.
-Manhunt **
Lwaxana troi (majel barrett - EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT, every TREK ever) visits. She's going through the betazoid "phase", when sexual desire increases fourfold (at least). Her sights are set on companionship. Picard hides on the holodeck, for another dixon hill diversion, this one featuring robert costanzo (HILL STREET BLUES, CITY SLICKERS) and the TREK debut of robert o'reilly (NEXT GENERATION, DEEP SPACE NINE). This episode actually improves with age...once you get past the lwaxana factor, the charm is undeniable.
-The Emissary ****
-written by richard manning, hans beimler
-directed by cliff bole
Half-klingon Starfleet agent k'ehlayr (suzie plakson - MAD ABOUT YOU, LOVE & WAR) arrives, to assist in dealing with a klingon warship whose crew is coming out of a 75-year stasis. She and worf have an unconsummated history. They mate. It's bloody. Diedrich bader (NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, THE DREW CAREY SHOW) breezes through, and lance legault (STRIPES, THE A-TEAM) completes the TREK/BUCK/GALACTICA trifecta as the klingon commander. The writing is a hair off four stars, but they don't come much juicier.
-Peak Performance ***
The crew participate in war games. Riker is designated "enemy" captain, and his team assigned the U.S.S. Hathaway, a derelict eighty year-old starship. A Starfleet strategist observer (roy brocksmith - IT'S GARRY SHANDLING'S SHOW, PICKET FENCES) gives data his first defeat in a game of skill. The ferengi (led by armin shimerman) stage a surprise attack, and the two starships must work together. The script doesn't quite rise to the level of the story, but still...
-Shades of Gray **
A clip show? A clip show?? The (unintentionally) funniest NEXT GEN. Riker is comatized by alien microbes, and his memories flash by our eyes. Does the camera avoid his lower torso because he has a chubby? Rescued from one-star hell simply by the competence of the inoffensive original material. Fittingly, the ending offer perhaps the most groanworthy joke in the history of TREK. Making the moment pass without eliciting pots and pans from the audience is perhaps the greatest acting triumph of stewart and spiner's careers.

Friday, January 7, 2011

lennon

"Everybody loves you when you're six foot in the ground"
-john lennon

As much as he wanted to run from his Beatle past, John never wanted to become marginalized, so there's little doubt his lack of chart success frustrated him heavily, and perhaps made it easier for him to walk away from the music world the last five years of his life. His six non-album singles had some winners: "Instant Karma!", "Cold Turkey", "Give Peace a Chance", plus "Happy Xmas", perhaps the most subversive song ever written. He had no time for religion or materialism, so he entered the yuletide genre with his biggest mind game, causing the world to sing and hear "war is over" every year. Cover versions just keep coming and coming. "Serve Yourself", on either of the big box sets, is also a peach. His albums?
PLASTIC ONO BAND
An intensely personal album arising from his foray into primal scream therapy. The minimalism is starkly anti-Beatle, and the standout tracks ("Mother", "Working Class Hero", "God") are stellar. "Isolation" is great too, and "I Found Out" is lennon the scathing social critic at his lyrical best. The rest? Forgettable.
IMAGINE
The title track is perhaps the most towering artistic achievement of the 20th century, an indelible synthesis of unforgettable melody married to a revolutionary's grand vision. The lyrical seed springs from a yoko poem, so whatever else you might feel about her, it's doubtful he would have written this song had they not met. "Jealous Guy", "How Do You Sleep?", and "How?" are an artist at peak form. "Crippled Inside" is a lyrical gem. The rest is good.
SOME TIME IN NEW YORK CITY
Enjoying this one requires lowered expectations. John moved to NYC, met a rocking band (Elephant's Memory), and decided to write and record an album in two weeks, focusing on contemporary, specific social causes. In the midst of forgettable songs, "Woman is the Nigger of the World" stands out like a beacon in the sky. SOME TIME also marks yoko's debut as a musical partner - writing and singing her own songs. Her music is simplistic...whether we would be more (or less) accepting of it were she not married to john, is a fascinating question. Perhaps both? But naysayers don't get the final word...on the LIVE JAM bonus disc, recorded with zappa and the Mothers of Invention, the most breathtaking track is her "Don't Worry Kyoko". It's one of the more terrifying, mesmerizing recordings you'll ever hear.
MIND GAMES
A marriage is crumbling, and the album that results is a pedestrian mess. Yoko's music is gone, but that's no help. John dismissed the title track as uninspired craftsmanship, and he's right (though it is a fascinating glimpse into a universe where thoughts are more powerful than physical revolution). "One Day (At a Time)" and "Bring on the Lucie (Freda People)" brighten the proceedings, but...
WALLS AND BRIDGES
Largely ignored because its predecessors were dismal and it has no song that ranks with lennon's greatest, it's his strongest top-to-bottom solo effort. Created during his year and a half away from yoko, it's easy to imagine what his music might have been without her...and perhaps too easy to love may pang, his lover during this time, all the more. There's little doubt he was more himself with may. That's a complicated proposition though...john was probably attracted to yoko BECAUSE she changed him. And that's not all bad - in person, he was probably much more a controlling bastard than anyone would want in a lover or friend. Perhaps he wanted yoko because she was the only woman who was as much a controlling bastard as he. The most shameful yoko artistic act i know of is injecting herself into the video for "#9 Dream", when it was may who sang the "john" line...but she may have honestly thought the song had been written with her in mind. The best tracks are "Scared", and "Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)", written for may.
ROCK 'N' ROLL
An album of covers, a love note to the 50s american music that john grew up on. A lovely party album. The highlights are "Stand By Me", "Bony Moronie", and "You Can't Catch Me" (in which he plays up the similarities to "Come Together", the copyright lawsuit concerning which was the reason this album arose in the first place).
DOUBLE FANTASY
The first album i ever bought. I became so adept at skipping the needle past the yoko tracks, that my brother was gobsmacked decades later when he discovered yoko's songs. Yet the passage of time has made me almost like her stuff. And on john's end? Even with only half an album, his tracks are so monumentally fantastic, that this one ranks on my 75 greatest albums of all time. If i were to mention one song, i'd have to mention all.
MILK AND HONEY
Produced posthumously, after he had recorded the basic tracks. How different would it be had he finished it himself? Plus the double whammy of having to follow up an astonishing predecessor? The deck is stacked, in the wrong direction. Yet any john collection would be woefully incomplete without "Nobody Told Me", "Stepping Out", and "Grow Old With Me". The other songs aren't far behind.

Monday, January 3, 2011

penn state girl

WOMEN 56
I was visiting my brother John at Penn State for a couple weeks. One day i was bouncing around campus, when a student asked me to pose for a photo. This led to an invitation to a Women's Issues class that night. Student multi-media presentations were being presented. The most moving one was done by a girl who projected slide photos onto a wall, which she was leaning against naked, her face hidden while she spoke of being raped. After class, we walked and talked long and openly. At her apartment, she told how she volunteered on a reservation each summer. The next might, she asked me over again. She asked whether i was attracted to her. I said yes. We talked our way into bed, where we got naked and kissed. If i be a moth, one of the most powerful flames has always been the wounded ones. She said we were not going to have sex. I told her i knew. I kissed her from head to toe, and gave her oral sex into the wee hours. The next morning, John laughingly called me shady for going to an event with one girl and leaving with another, but my connection with the first girl (and the spiritual importance of it) paled in comparison. My new friend didn't answer my calls over the next two days, so i figured she had spooked. A couple days before i left campus, she called. We got together, and she said "You didn't think you'd hear from me again, did you?" I smiled, we talked for a couple hours, then i gave her oral sex into the wee hours. A couple days later I was back in Florida. I never heard from her again.

The Fantasticks

THEATER 44
-summer 1998
The next show at the Schoolhouse was a musical, with a cast of mostly professionals. J.T. asked me to play the mute, at my same pay rate. I wasn't thrilled with the money, but felt i could really do a lot with the role. I'd always been intrigued at the thought of acting without a voice. It became one of the most special roles of my life. Returning with me was Dave Yudowitz as the Indian. His rubbery face and comic presence were one of the highlights of the show. J.T. directed, and played Mortimer the actor. My respect for him as a director grew, as he was able to give very specific notes from scenes he was acting in. He was a good performer, too. Jeff March played El Gallo. His performance was a tad superficial, but he was a very good singer. The parents were played by Clement and a fun woman named Ginger, whom i hit it off with very well. The kids were played by a real-life couple named Eric and Jackie, who had plenty of talent, and were good folk, too. I served as the facilitator of the play, always there with a prop, or confetti or moonlight. In one scene i played a wall, holding a stick straight out in front of me for many minutes. Counter-intuitively, the first stick they gave me was too light, as the slightest wobble was noticeable. It was a monumental physical challenge, and i could only succeed if no one noticed my effort. No audience member ever mentioned it. With my eyes, i sought to communicate all the sadness of the ages, and lift the entire theater with my energy. The response i got was profound, from audience members who were incredibly touched. One reviewer, Marsha Wagner, gave me one of those reviews you can never forget, particularly so because i was playing the least noticeable part in the play.