Saturday, February 27, 2010

Just finished reading...

...WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS by Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury’s newest collection of short stories, WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS features new pieces; some written between 2005--2007 but the bulk were written in 2009. The ink is still drying. Bradbury, may the universe bless him, will be ninety this year and he is still writing.

Although thought of as a science fiction writer, Bradbury’s work more closely resembles speculative fiction (a genre which speculates about worlds unlike our own, including utopian or dystopian fantasies) or social fiction (which is a more anthropological version of science fiction, as seen in the writing of Ursula K. LeGuin). In this newest collection, we get a bit of both genres, but more often than not, we are on earth, in ordinary reality, reading about people: just people, living their lives, while things happen to and around them. Some stories are sweet ("Arrival and Departure"), some are bittersweet ("The Visit"), some are creepy ("Ma Perkins Comes To Stay"), some are puzzling ("Remembrance, Ohio"), and some are metaphysically inspiring ("The Reincarnate").

It is a bit of a misnomer to call these short stories. They are more like sketches, brief pencil strokes scratching out the general shape of something so as not to be forgotten. It feels like these sketches should be material for later, more in-depth, more fully realized stories. They are fleeting, flitting. They feel light-weight; some are only two or three pages long! The ideas are good, the writing is typical, straight-forward Bradbury, but the presentation is often over before you know it.

The interesting thing to note about Bradbury’s recent writing is that it unexpectedly includes a lot of gay themes and plots. The title story is about an older, married gentleman on vacation in Paris with his wife. He goes out alone for a walk one evening after midnight and— well, there is really no other word for it—cruises a young man. They find themselves in a closed, darkened gym after hours. The young man unbuttons the gentleman’s shirt. The young man kisses the gentleman. But the situation is not right and they part. Other stories show great sympathy for gay characters and an acceptance without any judgment, a commendable feat for a nearly ninety year old man who was raised in a different era, where the general culture was not as understanding or accepting.

Recommend? Large type and lots of white space make this a very fast read. If you have nothing else queued up on your night stand, give it a try. Otherwise, you’ll be fine without it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Building Blocks of Culture

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
--Founding father and second US President, John Adams

All around us...

"You could try making sense out of the universe, but you were too small and the parts you needed to see were too large or even smaller.”
--Kathryn Davis

Top to bottom: Barry Underwood, Bill Viola, Damien Rudd, Gregory Crewdson, Holger Pooten

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Bring Me The Heads"

Bring Me The Heads

Plates below us moving, grinding.
The earth is alive, serious, means business.

One city is underwater, another is underground.
Two views of the same world.
Neither of them have a chance.
This has nothing to do with myth or fiction.

I beg you to do something,
to create something, to step in,
slough off ribbons of time, of truth,
slice into our awareness, and if need be,
separate us like fighting children.

Of those who live above,
who would boil us, rip us apart,
make our hearts stop beating:
you send me to the cathedral
with these orders:
“Bring me the heads—”

©JEF 2010

Just finished reading...


I suppose I should have read NOCTURNES FOR THE KING OF NAPLES first, followed by THE FAREWELL SYMPHONY. But I didn’t.

They both cover the same stories, characters and events from White's life. But THE FAREWELL SYMPHONY, whose title references a Haydn piece where each orchestra member stops playing and leaves the stage one by one until only two muted violins remain, is much more autobiographical. Pioneering gay author Edmund White tells us about losing his lover to AIDS in Paris while intercutting to memories throughout his life—memories of loves and losses, parents and family and friends, traveling and writing. But especially losses. The early years of AIDS, the seemingly unending deaths of friends, and the weekly or almost daily funerals are all told with heartbreaking starkness. Each friend, each orchestra member leaves one after the other, the sound of life growing smaller and dimmer with each exit.

Names of prominent people have been changed and, he tells us, some characters are composites, but we still get the sense of White’s life just the same. When presented in this way, his life seems restless, maybe even aimless, funny in places, often unlikely, but sad and lonely. He carries with him throughout his life a motif of loneliness, somewhat resulting from the institutionalized and publicly sanctioned scorn and derision of gay relationships and gay life in general. But some of this loneliness comes from himself, choosing partners whom he knows, even at the time, are not the best for him—he pines for men who are indifferent, unavailable or simply not interested. I suppose this is not so unusual—people of all persuasions seem to make such mistakes, especially in youth when experience has not caught up to longing.

He is quite unapologetic—and rightly so—about “cruising” for sex on the docks and piers in New York City or in parks in Rome or in the dunes of Fire Island. The sex is described with the same starkness as his description of lost love and death. He speaks at length and often about the attitude fostered by gay liberation of the 60s and 70s (he was present at the historic Stonewall Riot!). This frank treatment of sex and an affirmation of oneself as a sexual being is one I appreciate and agree with, but after a while, White’s need for cruising and sex starts to seem a bit compulsive and I wondered now and then, “When did he have time to write anything?” He is aware of this himself and rolls it into the mix with everything else.

I must confess that it was sometimes a bit difficult to remember all the men in his story. Names and personalities bled together. It was a bit like reading ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, with nearly everyone named Aureliano Buendia, but Marquez was making a point: “The more things change the more they stay the same.” Or “Meet the new boss—same as the old boss.” Or even better: “The more time goes by, the more everything becomes alike—interchangeable.” I mention this because I suspect that White had a similar idea in mind. Men come and go, love comes and goes. And I know it is like this for everyone. We look back on our lives and it often appears not as a pattern, but as solid mass.

NOCTURNES FOR THE KING OF NAPLES was all this but in a slim volume of gorgeous, embellished and highly ornate prose. It was dream-like meeting the same people and reading about the same events and circumstances but told to me through a veil of silk, in the golden light of sunset or the tenebrous otherworldly light of dusk. Had I read NOCTURNES first, its enigmatic feeling would have impressed itself upon me as truth, but hearing the unadorned, gossipy version first in THE FAREWELL SYMPHONY takes away the mystery. Which is not to say that NOCTURNES is not worth reading, because it certainly is. Despite the fact that it appears to be a slim volume, it is a surprisingly slow read. The baroque form of his sentences, the curlicues of his logic and the delicacy of description requires one to read slowly, take it in, digest it.

Recommend? Yes. But if you are going to read them both, do it the other way around.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Currently listening to...

...a Gus Gus spree!

The silky, sensuous, yet syncopated "Desire" with Daniel Agust's warm, velvety vocals.

"Moss" with a hint of old-school house music, and sweet visuals.

The melancholy dance sound of "Add This Song" and the accompanying wonderful, unsettling retro hospital video featuring the über-sexy Stephan Stephensen (a.k.a. President Bongo, Alfred More, or President Penis) as the doctor.

"Add this song to your heart
Let it beat in your chest real hard"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Currently listening to...

...a powerful live performance of "Believe" by the Icelandic group Gus Gus. Dark and deliciously sinister electronic trance/dance music. Epic in nature, listen to how it swells and grows...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just watched...

..."A Single Man" directed by Tom Ford.

Fashion designer Tom Ford (Gucci, YSL, Tom Ford) makes his directorial debut with a beautifully intimate, thoughtful, and profound film adapted from a novel by legendary gay author Christopher Isherwood.

Set in 1962, the film follows our narrator and main character George Falconer for one day. George has recently lost his partner, Jim, of 16 years and George’s grief is palpable and ever present yet we see how he must keep it on the periphery of his mind in order to function. There is also the issue that because his was a same-sex relationship, his loss and therefore grief is not socially sanctioned or recognized. His loss is invisible, silent, just as his grief must be. Indeed, this film and George’s story is one of the best portrayals of the experience of grief I have ever seen; there is no “sentiment” or clichés, only real emotion and the reactions of someone truly in the disorienting, paralyzing process of grieving.

Colin Firth gives a miraculously nuanced and subtle performance as George, perfectly and brilliantly embodying the anxious, quiet process of mourning. And the beautiful and phenomenally talented Julianne Moore, as his best friend Charlotte, is alternately shockingly aged and spectacularly gorgeous (à la Ann-Margaret) in an exquisitely tender yet brittle performance.

The look of the film is exquisite as well. This does not appear to be a film created in the digital age of clarity and high definition. The film stock looks like it came from 1962 and the color is heartbreakingly washed out, like an old Kodak photo of some lost summer. The only time the color becomes saturated is in George’s memories of his life with Jim and when he meets a young man who brings some respite to his grief.

The team responsible for the remarkable period look of television’s Mad Men, set in the same year, did the art direction for this film. All the details are perfectly rendered: cars, desks, buildings, homes, etc. The set for George’s home is the famous Shaffer residence, a mid-century redwood and glass gem built in Glendale by architect John Lautner in 1949. And the period costumes and make-up are spot on as well. Charlotte’s eye make-up in particular is something to behold, as well as the eye make-up of another character, Lois, who is a sort of situational double for Charlotte.

Speaking of which, this is definitely a film about eyes. We are so often right up to the irises of all the characters, looking at the shifting emotions drifting through their eyes and their souls. It is an intimate, pensive technique and Ford uses it beautifully, knowing that his casting of such masterful actors justifies such close-ups.

Recommend? Absolutely yes!!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Pure creation.

R.I.P. Alexander McQueen

Today we lost a true genius. A true creator.
Imagination. Power. Talent. Brilliance. Sensitivity. Grace. Authenticity.
Creation as a holy act.

He lost his mom a week ago.

Please don't go.
Give us more to see...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Halfway there...

Halfway through winter...

The Vernal Equinox is on its way...