Friday, February 24, 2012

"Sex at Dawn" podcast

A brilliant radio podcast of SAVAGE LOVE, hosted by Dan Savage, featuring guest Christopher Ryan, co-author of "Sex at Dawn":

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Acts, Romans

Acts 26:23
What about those that Jesus himself brought back from the dead?
Romans 1:26-27
"Natural" relations. What exactly is a "natural" relation? In these verses, the words dishonorable, shameless, and unnatural can only be shown to be subjective value judgments, and not, as Paul clearly intends, descriptions of acts which break the laws of "nature". Homosexuality is a part of the natural condition of homo sapiens, as it is with many other vertebrates. Homosexuality can be a clearly beneficial part of vertebrate existence, for social group bonding or when the male/female ratio in a particular population becomes unbalanced. To allege that homosexuality is a violation of nature is patently ludicrous to anyone who has undertaken a serious study of nature. And to propose that the supreme being, or one of It's agents, could spout such idiocy...
Romans 7:18-20
The problem with these verses, as with many of the surrounding ones, is that they set up some heavy rationalization which on the surface seems quite illogical. Not necessarily unreasonable, mind you. Suppose that a person had committed murder, but claimed to be not guilty because "sin" had caused the murder. Or suppose a child lied to you, but claimed innocence because "sin" actually committed the lie. Could you intuitively or logically ascribe to these people no guilt or responsibility? Paul may have had the best of intentions in trying to separate the soul, or mind, from the flesh. But verse 18 simply sounds like the weak pleading of someone trying to rationalize those parts of their biological nature they're personally uncomfortable with.
Romans 9:15-19
Is this, then, the Bible's ultimate answer to the unjustness of many of God's past punishments? There is at least an admirable straightforwardness here. These verses proclaim, without equivocation, that God is not (and indeed has no interest in being) just. Unfortunately, that flies smack in the face of one of the central assumptions of this study. Are there those among us who have no problem with a god who is "perfectly" unfair? If so, can such self-abnegating subservience be sourced from anything other than self-loathing?
Romans 10:14-21
So these verses mean that those who have never physically heard the word of Christ actually HAVE heard, and are spiritually accountable? Whew. Sorry, Mr. Cambodian farmer born in 207 A.D., but you and your neighbors are in a reeeal bad place. What's that, you've never heard of Jesus? You fool, why did you have your Ipod on that afternoon?? That's okay, it's God's will. Don't complain, things are tough all over. Sigh. Forgive my less than austere tone, but Mr. Cambodian farmer born in 207 A.D. had his own headaches as he was ignoring "the word of Jesus on the wind". Ought we start euthanizing people who are capable of the kind of blind presumption and absolute arrogance needed to ascribe truth to words like these, if indeed there are any left?

Charlotte's Web

-summer 2001
I received a call from The Naples Dinner Theater. Artistic director Michael Wainstein had gotten my name from Stephanie Davis. Michael was witty and warm, and needed a final actor for a children's musical production of CHARLOTTE’S WEB, someone to play Templeton and Lurvy. The voicing of the scrounging, gluttonous Templeton by Paul Lynde is the stuff of legend, so i was interested. I read about four lines, and he said "perfect, you're in". I accepted, at the rate of $275 a week. Naples was about a half hour drive, but it was a brief rehearsal schedule. The theater had been running for a couple years, a big, beautiful new space. Sweet farmhand Lurvy, not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, was just as much fun. A lot of jaw-drops and double takes. The cast was very sweet. Talented and funny T.J. D'Angelo played Wilbur, and we took a shine to one another. Fourteen year-old Dana Galter played Fern. She was sweet and bright, and fit in with us adults very easily. Talented and genuine Ray DeJohn played the elder statesman sheep. He and i hit it off. Friendly Jill Defina, a recent theater grad, played Charlotte. A wonderful voice. Scott Kilgore played my boss, Mr. Zuckerman. He came up with dopey amazed expressions to match mine, and we cracked each other up endlessly. Kim Wilson, a great singer, played the goose. Jeff Bradford, a good guy, played the gander. The atmosphere in the men's dressing room was great. Michael had a nice way of knowing how much (or how little) directing is needed. Musical director Ben Bedenbaugh was sooo funny and talented. Working the harmonies with him was so wonderful. My start in acting had been exclusively musicals, and before that, it had been band music throughout my teens. But i hadn't created music in ten years. My biggest number was "Spinning", with Kim and Ray. So wonderful. I had gone through a few bad years with my singing voice, after straining my chords in my final college show (indeed, i had wondered whether i'd ever re-gain my singing voice). A surprising connection to my college days popped up, when i discovered that the script was the same one that had premiered at Opera Delaware while i was at had been directed by Professor Jane, costumed by Dr. Hash, and cast with WCU students. Now, years later and a thousand miles away, i was in the second production of the script. I hadn't been able to crack the cast in college, but here i was acting professionally in it - i couldn't wait to call Jane. I also played a contest judge, marching out with Kim and Ray while mumbling importantly. Such a kick. I was also the president of the fair, who speechifies grandly. It was as Templeton though, that i shone most. The kids in the audience howled with laughter and disgust at my antics. I had a second rat costume with a two pillow-stomach, which also killed. I developed a touching connection with the costumer Stacy. We fell in love a bit, but she wasn't free to pursue it. We played to crowds of 100-200, and went to the lobby after each show, in costume, to interact with the kids. I was always the last to get back to the dressing rooms.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stargate SG1, season 1

FOUR STAR - none
-Children of the Gods ***
The two-hour pilot. What a lovely little ride. Following in the trail of a delightful movie, expect to be surprised at how worthy this is. One year later, another alien of Ra's race appears. Col. O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson, MACGYVER) re-comes out of re-tirement, to re-turn to the stargate planet. They try to make O'Neill a blend of Kurt Russell abrasiveness with MacGyver sensitivity. Anderson could have played either direction, but the hybrid product feels faintly irreconcilable. Michael Shanks is the new James Spader, the team linguist. With sixteen million unemployed actors in LA, they couldn't have found one capable of pronouncing alien words? A pretty boy whose biceps are incongruously bigger than R.D.A.'s? That, plus Amanda Tapping as the team astrophysicist, makes me wonder whether the casting director wasn't a woman with a casting couch and an (understandable) bone to pick with the 90% of all female roles in Hollywood history going to dim and dewy twentysomethings. She simultaneously rights a wrong (by female-casting not based on sexiness) and gives men a taste of their own medicine (by ill-casting a male whose chief qualification seems to be his 8x10 glossy). Amanda is a capable actor, but comes off a bit tepid, mostly because there's no discernible chemistry with her and anyone else. Returning from the movie is Alexis Cruz as the alien teen Skaara. Vaitiere Bandere as Shau'ri is unforgettable, with a parasitic possession scene that might make your eyes vacate their sockets. Christopher Judge is solidly imposing as the alien warrior Teal'c, who dedicates his life to fighting his former leaders. The Final Cut version is a mixed bag...they excise a final shot that made me want to hang the cinematographer in effigy, but Vatiere-wise, the forces of priggishness loom large.
-The Broca Divide ***
A charming slice of sci fi. The stargate base is imperiled by an alien infection which turns people into violent, mindless brutes. Daniel gets his ass kicked, which you enjoy almost as much as Neelix's multiple deaths on VOYAGER. Richard Dean does great caveman.
-Brief Candle ***
The team discovers an idyllic planet where the inhabitants have a thirty-day lifespan, as the result of experiments by the goa'uld. One of their women sexually infects O'Neill with the condition. As he ages rapidly and shatters their illusions about gods, Anderson is given fine material to work with.
-Thor's Hammer ***
Touches of dipsy-wipsy spirituality, but a rollicking time as Jack and Teal'c are trapped in a labyrinth, hunted by a hulking alien who refuses to die (voiced by James Earl Jones!). To save Teal'c, Daniel destroys a portal that could save his wife's life. In one scene with him, Amanda almost visibly shows her frustration with this idiot actor, by over-clearly enunciating an alien word whose simple pronunciation eludes him. You can almost imagine a conversation they had between takes:
AMANDA: Michael? Sweetie, say "go".
AMANDA: Say "ah".
AMANDA: Say "oold".
AMANDA: Say "goa'uld".
-The Torment of Tantalus ***
Sappy, but charming. Daniel tells Catherine Langford (the science team leader from the movie) that they've discovered the government did experiments with the gate in the forties. She realizes that her fiance was lost through the gate, not in an explosion as she'd been told. They all go to a desolate planet where naked Dr. Littlefield (Keene Curtis, CHEERS) has been alone for fifty years.
-The Nox **
Armin!!! In an episode that plays up pacifism (but makes Anderson seem too dumb and coarse), DS9's barkeep plays a sweet prosthetic-less alien.
-Singularity ***
The first episode to provoke an emotional response...and also feel like something we've never seen in sci fi before. They bring a girl, the sole survivor of a plagued planet, back to Earth, only to discover she's a goa'uld booby-trap nuclear bomb. She and Samantha have become inseparable, and Sam must take her to an underground bunker to leave her to die. Wrenching.
-Enigma ***
A sweet offering. SG1 rescues the sole remnants of an advanced race. Their leader treats humans with disdain and mistrust. One (Garwin Sanford) befriends Samantha, and they fall in love. Genuinely touching. It's tempting to find this scenario not entirely credible...but then realize how we accepted Daniel and Shau'ris' love, and perhaps our hesitation to accept this new romance tells us something about prejudice, even our own. Of course, the fact that Shau'ri is more of a sexpot than Sam might also be a factor in that argument.
-Solitudes ***
An accident strands Jack and Sam on a mysterious ice world. Daniel tirelessly tries to discover what world they are on. Jack is seriously wounded, and after Sam's agonized, failed efforts to fix the gate, he sends her off to try to save herself. Dramatic and edgy. All the time, they're on Antarctica, at an unknown second Earth gate.
-Tin Man ***
The team unknowingly has their consciousnesses replicated into android bodies, who don't know they're not the real thing. They go back to Earth, but cannot long survive away from the energy source where they were created. Another episode that feel like nothing we've ever seen in sci fi before. Be careful with this late-season run of near-excellence, SG1. You might force me to re-think my decision to not watch the later seasons.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Sex at Dawn"

-by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha'
Do you know what it feels like to hold in your hands the most important book you'll ever read? To call this a sex book does it a monumental disservice. SEX AT DAWN offers the highest degree of clarity currently possible in understanding the dysfunctional, brutal, unnatural society we've all been born into. By studying humanity before the agricultural revolution, it takes on the question "What is human nature?". The authors employ paleontology, studies of the world's remaining human foraging societies, and a look at our closest primate relatives. The standard narrative of human sexual evolution (male and female form a pair bond based on differing agendas...she, to gain resources and security, he, to monopolize her reproduction) is revealed as an unnatural adaptation to post-agricultural life. Fierce egalitarianism, in which the concept "mine" is almost unknown, is offered as the dominant pattern of society for at least 95% of human history. Warfare is virtually unknown in pre-agricultural societies. The sexuality is polyamorous - all males and females have multiple partners. Virginity is so unimportant that there is often no word for it. Free of monogamy's crippling isolation, children relate to all adults as "parents", and have a sense of belonging which is incomprehensible to us. The one gaping hole in Darwin's brilliance is examined - he essentially called all women whores (if the film PRETTY WOMAN resonated in you, then you've bought into that whole-heartedly). If Darwin were correct about competition, human males would be twice as large as females, like gorillas (with shrunken genitals, too). Or if humans were monogamous, male and female would be same-sized like gibbons (again, with tiny genitals). So what about "survival of the fittest"? It turns out that's a reality, but it takes place inside a woman. Ejaculation comes in spurts. The first one contains anti-toxins, and the last one a spermicide. The first is a protection against sperm already present, and the last is an attack on other sperm to come. The authors reveal the adaptation at work in the ENORMOUS size of the human penis. They analyze why the world over, contrary to a sexually-reserved image, women are louder than men during intercourse. The intricate design of the cervix also points to promiscuity. If you're still unconvinced, ask your local porn proprietor what sells more, films of multiple women with one man, or the other way round. Humanity's current low sperm-count "crisis" may simply be a result of culturally-enforced monogamy. Skeletal remains reveal that agriculture brought violence, famine, stunted growth, and reduced lifespans. The life of bonobos, genetically as close to humans as chimps (and closer to us genetically than Indian elephants are to African ones) is examined. Bonobos are the only other creatures on Earth who are sexually active throughout their menstrual cycle, who use sex for social purposes and recreation, and enjoy a wide variety of sexual positions while gazing into each other's eyes and kissing deeply (a separate article is required to do bonobos justice: The myth of female sexual exclusivity is shattered. You'll learn that in societies which have no double standard, women are as eager as men (In the present-day yam-harvest festival of the Trobriand Islands, groups of young women roam the countryside "raping" strange men, biting off the eyebrows of any who don't please them. What? You think i could make that up?). You'll learn why women on the Pill should never choose a mate, and that circumcision became a part of American life not because of health or hygiene, but as a deterrent against masturbation. And that 88% of those who pledge abstinence admit to failure. And that the original key-party swingers were WWII pilots and their wives. And that there are an estimated 500,000 polyamorous families in America. And that men who adhere to monogamy experience diminished testosterone, making them more prone to depression, heart attack, cancer, and dementia (great googily, have we just had our first window into why male lifespans are shorter?) The psychotherapy profession clings to the notion that monogamy is natural, but bold therapists are challenging that status quo. So...are there holes in this book? Of course. What we DON'T know about human nature could fill volumes. But this is the first book in my lifetime of which this can be said: if you know me, you'll probably have a copy in your hands before long.
(Postscript: Within hours of posting this review, i received a thank you from Christopher Ryan. Amazing.)
(Post-postscript: The paperback version has a different final chapter. For my nickel, the hardback is better, avoiding one or two wince-inducing lines like "There are zones where it's always going to be difficult for men and women to understand one another, and sexual desire is one of them." Back to Venus/Mars nonsense, which the book otherwise does an admirable job of debunking. Even the subtitle of the book has changed: from "The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality" to "How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships". Going from hard-hitting science to touchy-feely self-help is not an improvement. Ryan acknowledges that the replacement chapter was the result of pressure from the publisher to make the book more "what to do when he cheats". So i suspect Ryan himself might urge you...get the hardcover.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

thmoke, thmoke, thmoke...FIBER!

It can be mind-boggling to ponder the little twists of chance and happenstance that affect our lives. Most of the time these twists go unnoticed, but every so often they jump right out at amazing opportunity or an awful experience that either happened or didn't, simply because we took the scenic route...or because we arrived an hour early, or an hour late...or because we forgot our keys and had to go home unplanned.
Or in today's case, a fanny pack.
Today's experience didn't qualify as life-changing. But watching your neighbor's home go up in flames ain't nothin'.
I had jumped on my bike to hit some thrift stores, a trip that was going to take at least an hour. As soon as i got to Goodwill, i realized i wasn't wearing my fanny pack. Returning home, i heard sirens. When i turned onto my street, i saw five fire trucks where none had been, six minutes before. And then i remembered, when i had left, there had been some type of city vehicle at the end of my street, with lights flashing. I'd thought nothing of it.
The flames were coming out the second story of a home two houses away from mine. They were pretty enormous, reaching three feet out and seven or eight up. I heard murmurs that everyone had gotten out, but immediately calculated that the house was lost, and possibly even a neighboring house or two (in other words, mine). I went inside and alerted my housemate and his guest. I went to the basement to get my fanny pack, and looked around. I already had my computer files on a data traveller (i almost never leave home without them). I grabbed but one thing: the $1300 i keep "under my mattress".
I returned outside to watch the spectacle. After a minute, an authority asked me to get the people out of my house.
And then, in less than five minutes, it was all over.
The smoke had turned in my direction, so i headed off on my original journey, filled with a tremendous admiration for firefighters. The efficiency with which they plied their trade that day was striking. I'm sure new developments in flame-retardant technology has made their work easier, but still...
They run into burning buildings to save people's lives.
I may not be able to sell you today on the idea that no one should earn more than anyone else...but can i sell you on the idea that no one should earn more than a firefighter? Not doctors, not scientists (and certainly not soulless CEOs).
They run into burning buildings to save people's lives.
It also occurred to me that, in a fair world, given the danger/stress quotient, each firefighter's workweek should be three days long. If that sounds nutty, you might not think so if you walked a day in their shoes.
Once upon a time, i intended to be a fireman.
This wasn't some childhood dream. It was an intent i had for about two months, in my twenties. Around the time i finished working with the mentally retarded, i decided i wanted to do another kind of service work before going into the arts. I must have seen ROXANNE around that time, for i hit on the idea of being a firefighter in the Rockies for a year or so. Then i took a short trip to FL that ended up being a long trip, and my life went in other directions.
When i got home today, my domestic life was singularly untouched. There is police tape between us and our neighbor's house. It looks like they're sleeping somewhere else tonight.
Today, i also debunked the notion that strange things happen in threes, as today is now yesterday, and no third strange thing happened. On my thrift store trip, i was biking along, and heard a loud, frightening LUBBA-LUBBA-LUBBA-LUBBA-LUBBA-LUBBA-LUBBA behind me. An SUV went by, listing at a bizarre angle. Both of its left tires were nearly gone. It smelled awful. Within one hundred feet, it pulled over. As i passed, i thought, "Well, your trip is done, sir". The driver didn't seem to be paying attention to his wheels, however, just shifting some of the contents in his vehicle. I was able to glance at his wheels more closely, and became even more perplexed. It seemed as if he had plastered nearly an inch of duct tape around each tire.
A minute later, i heard it again. LUBBA-LUBBA-LUBBA-LUBBA-LUBBA-LUBBA-LUBBA! I tensed, and again Mr. SUV passed. I was disturbed by the bizarreness. Was he trying to make it home? I then heard him pull over again, just as i saw a cop do a 180 and head after him. Given that his behavior only made sense for someone on the lam, i pulled up about forty feet behind, in case i was about to witness, say, gunplay.
After a couple minutes and no shots, i passed them.
I couldn't make anything from their body language, which was partly obscured.
Another day in the city.


Created by Brannon Braga, a STAR TREK stalwart (writer/producer of NEXT GENERATION, executive producer of VOYAGER and ENTERPRISE). His writing partner was often Ron Moore, who created BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, which THRESHOLD mirrors...a producer leaving the nest and striking out on his own. THRESHOLD fell short of both TREK and BSG, fading away after thirteen episodes. But it was compelling, and had all the ingredients for excellence. Early episodes suffered from LAW & ORDER syndrome...all action and no heart. You very much want to like the characters, but everything's rushing by so quickly you feel like you're not getting to know them. In the process, some wonderful performances never quite happened. Carla Gugino (SIN CITY) is spot-on as the lead, a crisis expert who finds herself leading a government team which has been gathered to respond to an alien probe. Charles Dutton is his usual wonderful self as her supervisor. Brent Spiner (Data, NEXT GEN) is acerbically dandy as a scientist, but underwritten. Peter Dinklage, Brian Van Holt, and Rob Benedict filled out some nice chemistry. Occasionally, the gore gets just a little gratuitous. But after the first six episodes, they loosened things up, to good effect. Some fun guest stars (Elizabeth Berkeley, Catherine Bell, Jeffrey Donovan) lent juice too. By the time it ends, you very much wish it hadn't.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

dear paul

Dear Paul,
Yes, Tony has evolved...he's become pretty dreamy in person, and has created some amazing paintings. Have you held a brush recently? Or is parenthood the death of creativity? I may have ulterior motives in asking that question, as my body seems in recent years to be SCREAMING at me to make babies...i keep finding myself being uninterested in women who want no part of children, and drawn toward fertile uteruses (uteri?), even obviously incompatible ones, almost recklessly.
Dear Rob,
Parenthood is not the death of creativity, it is just the lack of time to produce. 2 things I try to do is find creativity in what I am doing now for money. But that is an epic fail. there is no point in trying to think out of the box when raising a child. because it is pretty basic. Just nurture. I have found, if you hang around women who are not nurturing you will not want to procreate. But when you are involved with woman who are very nurturing you will want to have a child. I thought I could be a parent that would be cool and poor and artistic. but I, personally,need to make things a little easier for my son. Even though he is totally flexible with whatever situation I put him in. I love being a parent but I also do miss what I was.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Colicos & Ansara

We gratefully salute two of sci fi's most enduring baddies - John Colicos and Michael Ansara.
The award given annually to the most outstanding science fiction villain ought only reasonably bear only one name: The John Colicos Award. John (1928-2000) played the first klingon in STAR TREK history. He gave life to one of the most slimy, iconic villains of all time as the classic Baltar in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. In a forty-nine year career, he accumulated 101 other credits, ranging from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE to CHARLIE'S ANGELS to THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE.
Michael (b. 1922) first became a TV star playing Cochise, the lead in the 1956-1960 series BROKEN ARROW. He was Princess Ardala's right hand, Kane, in BUCK ROGERS. He was Barbara Eden's husband of sixteen years. Over a 55-year career, he racked up 187 credits.
Kor and Kang even appeared together once, in the DS9 episode "Blood Oath".
-STAR TREK "Errand of Mercy", 1967, Kor
-THE STARLOST "The Goddess Calabra", 1973, the governor
-BATTLESTAR GALACTICA "Baltar's Escape", 1979, Baltar
-STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE "Once More Unto the Breach", 1998, Kor
-LOST IN SPACE "The Challenge" 1966, The Ruler
-STAR TREK "Day of the Dove" 1968, Kang
-BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY "Ardala Returns" 1980, Kane
-STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE "Blood Oath" 1994, Kang
-STAR TREK VOYAGER "Flashback" 1996, Kang

Monday, February 6, 2012

hello janie

Hello Janie,
Why did i mention the prostitute? Because you asked about Greg's interest in my activities. I suspected you might not want to hear about her (which is illogical on a couple of levels, the most obvious being that my intent with her is neither romantic nor sexual...but we're all a little illogical sometimes, so i understand). I didn't feel i could properly answer your question without mentioning the thing Greg was most interested in. I didn't want to give a half-answer. Everybody in the world gives half-answers, always hiding their real selves. I think i was also willing to mention her because i didn't want to cater to your having an illogical reaction.
If it wasn't jealousy you were feeling, what was it, sweet friend?
The other answer to your thoughts is that they are a little right. The other night was very exciting to me, but perhaps not for the same reasons as yourself. I was more excited about the "friend" part of FWB, the thought of discovering a new friend. I was touched by your intelligence, and commonalities in our spirits. I had sex with you because you had set up the paradigm of NSAFWB, and because i wanted to make you happy. I knew there was some imbalance as we talked afterwards, when you asked about the moment i knew i was attracted to you. There was no moment. I genuinely like you, and responded to your desire for a certain kind of happiness.
So what made you unhappy about the prostitute? I found out today why she cancelled. She was raped on Friday.
hugs and a kiss,

Sunday, February 5, 2012

"Earth 2"

In a future when Earth is barely habitable, much of humanity lives on orbiting stations. A maverick billionaire builds a ship to explore a planet 22 light years away, hoping to colonize. The flight is sabotaged by the government, and the survivors must make their way on an unforgiving world.
For a while, the show lives up to this promising premise. You're rooting for it, because it stars a woman (Debrah Farentino) on the cusp of middle age, and a number of the creators are female as well. But eventually the other shoe drops, and the lack of any real vision or intelligence relegates it to second-rate.
The performances and visuals are wonderful. Clancy Brown (HIGHLANDER) and Rebecca Gayheart (JAWBREAKER) are a delight. Tim Curry and Terry O'Quinn (LOST) make lovely appearances. For Clancy in particular, one wished the series would have been smarter and longer. But unfortunate, simple-minded dips into ghosts, religion, and mawkish marital monogamy are leaden albatrosses around the show's neck. Poor Rebecca is saddled with a marriage that simply doesn't work, because her husband (John Gegenhuber) does so many stupid, utterly selfish things that it breaks the bonds of credibility to think that the group would have allowed him to remain (to say nothing of her loving him). On this, and in other ways, the potential for gritty, realistic humans teetering on the edge of survival, is glossed over and made "nice".