Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year ~

You survived! 2011 you're ending... thank heaven. We'll shelve the (Mayan) rapture 'til '12!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 3 Responses

It takes a lot to get me to STFU, but these responses pretty well stopped me in my tracks. 

1. I'm shout at Bam, "Stop SNORING!" when he wakes up to deadpan. "I wasn't snoring, it was a light purr."

2. Out with my friend Yvette, where I meet her 8 year old daughter Belle. "Are you named Belle after the pretty girl from Beauty and the Beast?" I lean down to ask her. "No," Yvette interjects. "I named her for the hooker in Gone With the Wind."

3. Chatting with a certain 85 year old man and asking him the secret to living a long and healthy life. "There's no secret there," he answered. "Choose your parents wisely."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Season's Greetings!

Pricked by the Violet Quill

‘I don’t belong here, I shouted at them silently’ intones the young narrator of Edmund White’s 1982 classic A Boy’s Own Story. What a hauntingly beautiful story it is, not just in the way its written (superbly) but in its emotional honesty. It could be any boy’s own story, but it so happens to be the story of a boy on the outside, a fledgling gay, coming of age in a world that doesn’t fit the worlds inside of him.
It’s not a book I should have read until now, because it wouldn’t have had the same impact without the benefit of the intervening years. It brought back feelings I had forgotten, or now (deliberately? Subconsciously?) deny or conceal. A time when innocence was not a contemptible weakness but rather wondrous, and lovely.
This is not my story, but much of it could have been - and much of it certainly informs the adult I've become.


I hypothesised a lover who’d take me away. He’d climb the fir tree outside my window, step into my room and gather me into his arms…
…His delay in coming went on so long that soon I’d passed from anticipation to nostalgia. One night I sat at my window and stared at the moon, toasting it with a champagne glass filled with grape juice.  I knew that immense light was falling on him as well, far away and just as lonely in a distant room. I expected him to be able to divine my existence and my need, to intuit that in this darkened room in this country house a fourteen-year-old was waiting for him.
The solace of the condemned is scorn, especially scorn of an aesthetic stripe.
No matter how despairing I might be I was implicitly counting on my eventual happiness.
The constant coupling of fear and desire
Would I become queer and never, never be like other people? To overcome my scruples, Ralph hypnotized me. He didn’t have to intone the words long to send me into a deep trance. Once I was under his spell he told me I’d obey him, and I did. He also said that when I awakened I’d remember nothing, but he was wrong there. I have remembered everything.
Religious doubt
When they’d talk of Original Sin or the Creation or the Devil they’d become agitated, their cheeks would flush and their eyes would sparkle, as though they were hypnotizing themselves into espousing this obvious nonsense. And the more vague and absurd the things they discussed (angels, the resurrection of the body), the more they used such words as precisely, undoubtedly, clearly and naturally.
But I also felt surging within me a fierce need to be independent. Of course I responded to the appeal of divine hydraulics, this system of souls damned or crowned or destroyed or held in suspense, these pulleys and platforms sinking and lifting on the great stage, and I recognized that my view of things seemed by contrast impoverished, lacking in degree and incident. But the charming intricacy of myth is not sufficient to compel belief. I found no good reason to assume that the ultimate nature of reality happens to resemble the backstage of an opera house.
At one point, the teenage hero goes on a date with a pretty, popular girl at school: Helen Paper. He was set up by his best friend, Tommy, who he's secretly head over heels in love with. He goes on this date with Helen and at the end of the date, walks her home and nearly kisses her in the street – he knows she prepared for it, “Had I not seen her a moment ago covertly pop some scented thing into her mouth to prepare for such an inevitability?” They hold hands, but… kissing Helen Paper doesn’t materialize:
This moment with Helen – our tallness on the moon-lashed porch, the cool winds that sent black clouds (lit by gold from within) caravelling past a pirate moon, a coolness that glided through opening fingers that now touched, linked, squeezed, slowly drew apart – this moment made me happy, hopeful. An oppression had been lifted. A long apprenticeship to danger had abruptly ended.
            After I left her I raced home through the deserted streets laughing and leaping.
I thought, reading, he was laughing and leaping – because he didn’t have to kiss her. I was so happy for him, having escaped this pressure to "perform" and be someone he wasn't. The oppression that had been lifted was his need to fit in, he had escaped unscathed!
On the following page I was jolted back to bitter truth - reading that the “apprenticeship to danger” that abruptly ended was… his own homosexual feelings. He was happy, leaping in the streets, at the possibility of now loving a girl, not of escaping her. He was not damned. He now had real hope to believe his attraction to Tommy would turn fraternal.

Of course, yes of course, sigh: that’s exactly what it’s like. 
You exalt in the hope of fitting in. How I had forgotten; how I'm painfully reminded. And how pathetic it is when I look around to see how many adults are still willing to do anything, frantically, fanatically, hypocritically, politically just to "fit in".
White effortlessly gets to the heart of the human matter, and though set in the 50's, I never read about Howdy Doody. How much more affecting and wise writing is, always, when banishing pop culture, pervasive as it is. Notice in the quote above with Helen Paper - she pops “a scented thing” into her mouth, not Wrigley’s spearmint or a Certs, it’s something bigger, universal and forever. Timelessness is a quality shared by all great works of art.
And a great book, like a great person, strives to make others feel less alone. There is no more worthwhile an accomplishment.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Xmas Whiff of Roma Therapy!

Marking the first time a drag queen proudly display balls, this Christmas Tree was caught waltzing (Matilda?) down Oxford Street.
Roma Therapy's evergreen extravagance drew lots of attention. As I walked her to her shift at Stonewall amid stares and iphone snaps, she proclaimed: "It's as if nobody's seen a Christmas tree with massive tits before!"

Who wore it better? 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cuban Boob Job for Your Cock

I write copy for the web’s top nude male objectification site Paragon Men!  Each month, hunky XXX beefcakes flood my inbox and it's my job to make them sound interesting and engaging. So I make up a lot of shit. Who else will describe a hot naked muscle stud with both occupy politics and a nod to Tallulah Bankhead?
oh fuck, I misspelled Tallulah
That unlikely triple is a scalene triangle, all emphasis on its compelling hypotenuse. And that’s precisely how the copy gets carried away…

How many ways can you describe cocks, muscles and sperm? It tends to go back to basics like botany (sequoia trunks), geology (granite), and smutty metaphors (DNA pudding) that also weave in the likes of Carmen Miranda, Rhett Butler or being offered hard candy in the back of daddy’s sedan. The fact is, my copy better be unexpectedly captivating if it’s going to be read at all, seeing as it lives beside all those attention-grabbing, phenomenal physiques.

As I scrape the depths of horny euphemism and worshipful hyperbole - I discover. For example, I got the hot loaded line up for January which includes one stud who team Paragon thought had a wart at the base of his cock. When they asked him, he told them it was a “pearl” –

My only question was: “Is he Cuban?” and Paragon HQ responded, “How did you know?” 
Behold: La perla, in repose (at cock base) - in one of the un-airbrushed photos 
Let me just reveal all I know right here because there is scant info about this freaky Perla genital beading cock amplification online. It’s not pumping, not pills, not collagen – it’s PERLA! And it’s not uncommon in Cuba to cut open your cock (on purpose!), place a hard object (or two or more) known as a pearl (perla) inside, then – sew it back up and go on your merry way. Why? Oh why! Apparently, this rise or bump hits the clitoris when fucking – making sex more pleasurable to women. Or imaginably more pleasurable, which is the exact same thing.

This genital mutilation (Carribean circumcision?) is, from what I hear, not a big deal. And it's not a surgical procedure done at a licensed, sanitary doctor’s office, btw: this an at-home, get your anaesthetic from a pal, stick it in a syringe and shoot your dick before you slice it open like a papaya kind of surgery) solely to enhance sexual pleasure. So honestly, Perla is more like a boob job for cocks. A back alley, DIY boob job.

You can put anything you want in there. A pebble, a homing device, your mother-in-law – it’s not necessarily a pearl, or even pearl-like (who can afford a pearl in Cuba?) Anything hard or durable works. In fact, I met someone who inserted the broken end of a plastic toothbrush.Who knows - perhaps when in there long enough it will crust over and give birth to an actual pearl? Just add sand? 

A profitable new industry may now be gestating inside the male members of this island nation. But tell me – can you (or your clitoris) get into this fetish? Is this gonna go global? Does the perla turn. You. On? 

How Tallulah Bankhead Influenced Aliens

I recently finished Felice Picano's collection, Portraits from My Past, essays nostalgically recollecting personalities he's known - some famous (Bette Midler), some not (a suicidal roommate)- and in one he's watching Tallulah Bankhead's final Broadway bow in Tennessee William's The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore
The actors are in tableau and Tallulah steps forward to deliver a monologue - when some queen in the audience tosses a popper onto the stage. In 1964, poppers were glass ampules that you cracked to whiff. Tallulah picks up the popper, holds it up to the light, snaps it, inhales deeply, and carries on (divinely). 
When I read that, I'm like, WHO IS THIS WOMAN? I've always known of Tallulah Bankhead (1902-1968) but never really go it... until now. Investigating further, I find her infamous sotto baritone “dahhhhling!” salutation originated because Tallulah couldn’t remember names. 

“I once introduced a friend as Martini,” she told a reporter, “Her name was Olive.”

And because of that guttural smoky voice of hers, a male reporter once asked, “Have you ever been mistaken for a man?” “No,” she responded, “Have you?” The same exact quip stolen and delivered by butch Latina Vasquez in the 1986 film Aliens.

In her youth, Tallulah would introduce herself, “I’m a lesbian, what do you do?” And who else was daring this kind of thing in the early 1900's? Though not a lesbian, she did dabble in everything sexually. At 31 years old, she contracted a case of gonorrhea so bad she underwent an emergency hysterectomy. As she was wheeled out of the hospital, she turned to her doctor and snapped, “Don’t think I learned a lesson from this!”

I love that, I mean - was she supposed to apologize? Repent? Heaven forbid: cry!? Not her.

Tallulah Bankhead is a reductive back burner figure in history (Aliens notwithstanding), probably because she was a grande dame of the stage - not of film. The bygone era of stage stars (the Lunts, Barrymores) leaves scant tangible record. We all know Bette Davis in Dark Victory, Jezebel and the Little Foxes – all starring roles which originated on the stage with… Tallulah Bankhead. Designer Edith Head modeled Bette Davis’ stage star Margo Channing in All About Eve on...  Tallulah Bankhead - instensifying the faux feud between the actresses.

You decide: Bette Davis as Margo Channing (Left) and Tallulah Bankhead as herself (Right)
But Talullah was more than an actress, she was a (tour de) force of personality that could not be contained. Rushed into the hospital shortly before her death, a newspaper headline read: “Tallulah Hospitalized; Hospital Tallulahized” – testament to the hurricane power of her own personae. Indeed, when she did die several days later, her last two (coherent) words were: “Codeine…Bourbon”. 

When I learned this bit of take-it-to-the-grave cosmic genius, I declared her my hero and the 600-page biography Tallulah!
Life and Times of a Leading Lady by Joel Lobenthal landed in my lap! What a life!

Born in Alabama, her mother died due to complications from her birth, and her father Will Bankhead went on to become the speaker of the US House of Representatives. Both these influences being perhaps just part of what propelled her to become the most ouragaeous, outspoken and uninhibited woman of her day.

Lobenthal's book itself is over-researched, taking pains to focus on her professional work and keep the curtain down on much of her off-stage antics. She did come alive through its pages, oh she did, but I felt her suppressed by long passages exhaustively/ingly outlining each of her many plays and their often piffling plot points. I wasn't looking for the history of 20th century theatre, but rather the woman - and just where was the scoop on the Lizbeth Scott affair? Don't make me read another biography! 

Leaving Alabama at 15, Tallulah scored in silents and vaudeville in NY, went to London for a decade where she became a sensation. Went back to Broadway, then Hollywood where she made a succession of films for Paramount, retreating to the New York stage when it was determined she posed no threat to Garbo or Dietrich. Besides the stage, she made frequent guest appearances on TV (her final appearance was as the Black Widow in Batman & Robin) and she made a splash hosting the variety program The BigShow, radio’s last spirited gasp before succumbing to television. 
Bankhead chain-smoked and drank, popped pills and slept with everyone from Marlon Brando to Billie Holiday, and yet she was known as one of the most professional, hardest working women in entertainment. She may have been a tyrant when crossed, drunk or feeling vulnerable, but there are many, many instances of her kindness and generosity. She personally intervened to save Jews (Otto Preminger’s family) in WW2, stood up for the rights of blacks as she toured the South, and bravely spoke out against Senator Joseph McCarthy during the heyday of his HUAC witchhunts. 

At the same time, she found underwear extremely inhibiting and never wore them. Though when sober she was known to pull up her dress, when drunk it became an imperative. Nights out with Tallulah became 36 hour affairs. At one point, when her husband refused to continue on, she dropped him off at their home, rolled down the window to say, "If I'm not home by 6 am, start without me!" and roared off. 

Because of her unapologetic outrageousness, voracious sexual appetite and capacity for camp - she became, inexorably and for better or worse - a gay icon. Theatre houses were packed with her "cult", and to appease (and fuel) them, she might resort to playing a caricature of herself at the expense of the play. "You have no idea what I'd do for a laugh," she'd claim, hindering her reputation as a legitimate actress.

Reviews of her greatest roles, once read like this:

“Miss Bankhead specializes in the deadpan and often deadly squelch. Her general air of graciousness is never completely reassuring. For there is always the possibility that that marvelous voice of hers is about to pass from a purr of honeyed hospitality to an outraged bellow of professional rage. She is, in a word, terrific” 
- Collier's

And later began to read like this: 

“The extraordinary endowments which distinguish her also imperil her. She is as much a victim to her talents as she is the product.” – Saturday Review

In the late 1950's, she worked tirelessly to overcome her tendency to "Tallulah" and perfect her role of Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, but the audience hooted and hollered at the inappropriate moments, at even the slightest hint of double entendre. Ribald fans there for her and not the story, much like the one who ultimately threw a popper on stage at her feet.

No other actor in the ensemble was able to compete, not even the play could compete, with her compelling personality - and though she didn't give in, she now couldn't control what she had long encouraged. She resisted caving, and at one performance of Streetcar, a co-star recalls Tallulah walked down to the footlights and begged the audience, "Please give me a chance!" 

Privately, she began to despise the “dahhhling" gargoyle, though she never seemed to say no to going out with the gang, and above all she hated to be left alone. She would even accompany guests to their cars pleading for them to stay just a little bit longer. In the end, it appears gays who were the only ones who could keep up/put up with her, entertaining a person as she was. Delighting as she’d spew out fast ones, like:

“Cocaine’s not habit forming, I should know… I’ve been doing it for years!”

Her fans would ply her with more and more alcohol just to see what would come out of her mouth. (Hey wait, Bam has been doing that to me for years!)

Lobenthal notes, "She offered herself to her claque with a certain amount of cynicism and despair. It was her default strategy. Fulfilled her on some of her darkest levels, these fans a fun-house mirror reflecting her own distorted picture of herself."

But although the squandering of her talent, looks and stamina has been absorbed into legend, she never played the victim. In her last years, she spoke of her cult. “The boys didn’t do it to me," she said, "they did it for me.”

It all makes me want to stay up late with her, dahhhhrling, even if, now, I'd respectfully decline to toss poppers at her professional feet. There are many words to describe Tallulah Bankhead, and so contradictory: Sincere, Ridiculous, Tyrant, Professional, Insomniac, Addict, Shrewd, Indulgent, Hardworking, Generous, Iconoclast. The sum total, I'd say, adds up to bonne vivante.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Violet Tendencies on Hulu

and it's not censored! If you're a hulu fan, please give the old girl a whirl :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

For a Good Time Call C.U.B.A.

My Aussie friend Conchita was able to visit a land without McDonalds or Starbucks, with nary a laptop or cell phone in sight. In its place, a world of 1950's Chevys and Buicks and ElDorado's with massive silver hood ornaments, who with each scrape or scuffle, much like its resilient owners, is sanded down, rebuffed, replastered, repainted and put right back out on the road to carry on.

She says everyone has their price. Because the government owns everything from the bus lines to the hotels and they pay only $20 a month so you better be clever, hopefully clever and sexy, to survive.

She recommends you hit up Cuba Junky site for information on how to stay with the locals in a casa particular. Apparently they call it that because you do get hooked on Cuba and will no doubt return.
She says Castro must be jealous that history always favors the more attractive ones who die young.
Che Guevara... on her handbag.

At night, the party people gather along an outdoor stretch of waterfront they call the Malecon. Here locals meet up to dance and sing, play trumpets, pick pockets, chat and drink and smoke and flirt.

When Conchita gets hungry late one night after too many rums at the Malecon, new friends walk her to a gas station, but there is no food - just spare auto parts, 1950s parts, of course, and motor oil. But the locals go into the back and later emerge with TuKola sodas and sandwiches. The midnight attendants sell homemade lunches in secret, to pad their income.
I'm told the only advertising is propaganda. That according to the billboards, everything is done in the name of a "revolution" that you might think is happening today. But it happened in 1959. And you must not speak poorly of the revolution or its despots, because there are informants and you will go to jail.
"all our action is a cry of war against imperialism"
A wonderful bounty of food, is always artfully served.

In a country village called Vinales, there are caves with rivers and stalagtites.
Where they smoke these kind of cigarettes.
But no matter how popular the locals are, tourists like Conchita will always be more popular. And they will pay for everyone the meet, wherever they may go (nightclubbing?), and while off-putting at first, this comes to feel natural because if you can afford a plane ticket, you are extraordinarily wealthy.

One day, on a perfect white sand beach, she was speaking with a young local man who had big dreams. As they spoke, she looked around at the sun and white sand and palm trees in the breeze, and she said, "You live in paradise". He smiled and asked her what was paradise if it came with a cage?
Through the remainder of her balmy nights in Havana, swaying to rum and soaking up salsa, Conchita wondered about the meaning of paradise.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Published By People I know!

Xmas reading or gift ideas? Congratulations to these friends who have had their works published. Understanding the fortitude (butt-glue) it takes to creatively produce, I'm very proud to present:

My pal Marc Andrews, and his two co-writers, Claire Isaac and David Nichols worked at Australia's number one pop magazine, Smash Hits, during its heyday. They provide all the gossip that's fit to print from behind the scenes during their tenure in the just-released  Pop Life.
Thrilled attend their awesomely 80's-themed release party at Hard Rock Cafe last week and though unfamiliar with Smash Hits - I can't wait to read all about it!

My pal Damon Suede (rough, but soft!) writes a seude-like sexy, successful (a best romance finalist) debut novel featuring two Brooklyn firefighters, 10 years post 9/11, in Hot Head. It's hot, it's heavy, it stars flame-haired Griff and Italian stallion Dante who look the same in my head as they do on the cover. While catering to the MM market, Suede manages to throw in subtle messages about family, truth, the American way - with a sweetness that by the finish gets downright mushy!

And now for some poetry! Carl Miller Daniels writes in the world of half-naked young hung men doing outrageous, naughty, sweet, heartbreaking things that they don't usually know they're doing. But Carl does! In his scintillating collection, Gorilla Architecture, read all about the remorseless Squid Fuckers (pg. 127), wild burnouts in Equals (pg. 53) or the ballsy guy and the mousey guy in Ozone (pg. 64). Of course it's not all about big-dicked men - it's poetry, which goes to places of whimsy, skunks, the smell of metal - asking just as many questions as it writes to resolve.
Down on Sydney's William Street, a plaque on a building reads, "This building was the setting of Vanity Fierce, Graeme Aitken's celebrated 1998 comic novel of gay Sydney". Europe may have building plaques reading, "Joan of Arc burned here" -  but Sydney is far more modern!

I rushed out to read all about the antics of uber-hot scene stud Stephen Spear in hot meddling pursuit of his best friend (and love interest) Ant, who he has unknowingly hurt with his own selfish insensitivity. Vanity Fierce is, I presume, based on WM Thackeray's Vanity Fair anti-heroine, Becky Sharp - and I have to say that a vainglorious gay world makes for an ideal update/retelling. I quickly finish and bump into Graeme and HAVE to know if Stephen ever gets his comeuppance?! He tells me there's a sequel he published last year - The Indignities - next on my hot/hit list!

I've loved Sharon Lintz from when we were part of a writers group in NYC and was introduced to her twisted, wonderful genius. After working for years in the porn world, she wrote insanely funny tales from her time (and creepy co-workers) in that world, and had it illustrated by various artists in her first comic, Pornhounds. 
She's back with Pornhounds 2 - finishing up her "career" (where she was ghostwriter of the porn star "editor" named Cytherea), a move to Tampa to teach college, and tales that include being a pawn in a "war" between two rival oncologists as she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Who's gonna do her double masectomy? Find out here!  For only $6! If there's anyone who can weave both porn and cancer together in a web of collectible hilarity, it's Sharon.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Mind of a Bam

Yum-Cha is this type of Chinese dining where you are unceremoniously seated and then attacked by a flurry of bumper carts filled with noodles, dumplings, soups, veggies, desserts and platters of clamari, duck and WTF is that??! All you have to do is nod your head or raise a hand as they swirl around and slam-bang! That dish is on your table and your menu card is stamped and the bill ends up way over $80 for two people (no booze) because they know you're there because you're a glutton who can't say no until lying on your right side praying for a puke so you can at least finish all what you were foolish enough to flag down.

Mid-shovel during our most recent Yum-Cha fiasco, Bam looks at me perplexed and asks, out of the blue, "What year was the General Slocum disaster?" I answer, "1907?" He says, "Wasn't it earlier than that?" Only then do I wonder what the General Slocum disaster - America's little-known and yet biggest domestic loss of life prior to 9/11 - came to mind at this precise moment of time?

The disaster featured German immigrants on a picnic who boarded the General Slocum in the East River of Manhattan. It quickly caught fire, flames fanned and over 1,000 people died - burned to a crisp or unable to swim in that period's fashionable, drown-happy petticoat garments. Since they were only poor immigrants, nobody much cared what happened to them and distraught at both the loss and the lack of public outcry, German widowers, sans wives and children, packed up and left the area then known as "Little Germany" - altering forever the ethnic makeup of the Lower East Side.

The General Slocum disaster, of course, has nothing to do with Yum-Cha, China, or Sydney, Australia, where we are; or pigging out, what we are now doing. In fact, it is so abstruse a topic that I ask, no, I insist upon knowing from whence it came. Bam racks his brain and here we follow the mind in all its leapfroggery:
  • All the Chinese food swirling around made him imagine there was just one massive kitchen in the back with arterial tunnels leading to all the Chinese food restaurants in Sydney's Chinatown.
  • This reminds him of the row of cheap Indian restaurants in New York's East Village, where we have long imagined there is one long corridor in back, with a massive kitchen serving the same slop to all the restaurants.
  • The row of cheap Indian restaurants is on the south side of 6th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues.
  • On the north side of 6th street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues is an old Jewish synagogue.
  • Said synagogue was once the St. Mark's Lutheran Church, founded in 1846, and attended by the German occupants of the area at the turn of last century. It was the same Lutheran church that organized the ill-fated excursion on the General Slocum. 

And the brain train chugs into the station. What a dreamy ride. But isn't it nice that someone today remembers all those poor souls lost? And he was right - it was a bit earlier, as an iphone soon remedied:. June 15, 1904.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Working Within The Box

The little light of my life, my favorite gym instructor, abandoned me. He left the evening Fitness First Body Pump class and, like an old testament test of faith - switched his class to 6am to see if I would follow him! Like Abraham ready to slaughter his son (now that's what you call fucked up devotion!) my shoulders, bicep and ass sacrificed themselves to Fitness First at the appointed hour.

Unlike that story, this one didn't end with some angel saying, Just Kidding! I got myself to the altar
expecting to find another two acolytes at such an hour. Instead, I find 4 men and 100 women because women are always more attuned to, more appreciative of, vitality. "So you all got here at 6am!" he says with a wink, "That was not the hardest part!"

Fitness First ate up most all the gym competition in Australia and has become a corporate answer to fitness across 15 nations. Their fitness classes are farmed out to another corporation, Les Mills International. Les Mills sells fitness programs to 75 countries - and each of these classes, Body Pump, for example, are regimented and set to licensed tunes - usually bad 90's covers (read: affordable!) choreographed with every step the same each day. Every day each same step, until the next "session" is launched every three months.

There is no room for creativity. No "freestyle". Whatever happened to the instructors who lead with their own music, stamp their own style, and recruit a following? One in particular I recall from NYC, Tina Thompson, champion bodybuilder and dancer, who while giving a kick-ass (always varied) workout of her own would make us laugh and teach ("You won't be able to do this forever, how many more years to do you have to sweat like this!") in the way of philosophy, empowerment, awareness.

Les Mills' corporate, planned, structured, strict, "get fit with same same same" is intended to suck out an individual instructor's substance (and with it, gym patrons' notion of free thinking - and don't let me finish the logical conclusion of this train). All classes feature a ton of equipment, even the abs class (or, um, CX-WORX) involves a contorting and pulling of rubber ropes (?) when let's face it - all of these fitness classes could be handily accomplished without a single apparatus.

But my favourite instructor, even at 6am, manages to make this regiment his own and take the piss. In the middle of the exacting choreography, comes "This is agony! Cruelty! What do you say we hang it all and go to breakfast?" without missing one raise of the barbell, lunge or lift. With winks, grunts and a trademark infectious joy, he'll say, "This music track I really can't stand - I mean, can you? Britney Spears being sung by a man. Homo, he didn't!"

What's most curious is he's individually managed to make even the same exact routine, set to the same exact music, new and special and inspiring each time. He's inserted (effortlessly?) creativity into (or out of) staid corporate confines. Let that be a lesson to me.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Tree of Life - Film Review

The Tree of Life won the Palme D'Or prize at Cannes, so I sat down with a bottle of chardonnay and figured I'd give it a whirl. It begins with an almost whispered (a recurrent theme in this film) soliloquy on grace (accepting insults, forgiving, loving) versus nature (self-involved, wanting it my way, struggle). We're in the 50's with Brad Pitt and his wife, we learn they lost a child. Then we're 2011 and Sean Penn is the brother of the one who died, and so far I'm following along although it's non-linear, features a window motif and artsy pans up into tree branches until suddenly it's a nature film.

Jellyfish. Canyons. Horizons. A wobbling underwater creature that looks like a flying vagina. And then, I swear they were in there, dinosaurs! I thought either the disc was damaged or someone spiked my wine. I went to shut it off and give up on what I determined to be piece of cinematic masturbation, picturing as I did the self-important snobs at Cannes roundly applauding as they turn to one another, tearfully nodding in silent assurance that they, and only they, understand implicitly the nobility of such an undertaking.

But instead of shutting it off, I had a huge gulp of wine. Maybe a few gulps of wine.

And when I got over my need for narrative or the built-in desire for a story to be specific, I allowed the film to be a mood. When the credits rolled and it read, "Written and Directed by Terrence Malick" I was confused because it didn't feel like there was any writing. It felt like a humble session of therapy. A religious experience that reminded me (in a meaningful way) that nothing matters in the grand scheme. It became an ode to existence, a hymn to eternity.

I recommend this film to anyone who had a child die, or anyone with a bottle of chardonnay to kill. 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Total Hilarious Eclipse of the Heart

Bonnie Tyler's video FINALLY explained!! "Staring at the swim team gets you killed by a gang of ninjas who know how to twirl"!

Total Eclipse spoof by chinesedaughter

Sydney Marriage Equality March

Bam and I joined several thousands to march today for marriage equality in Australia. It was a funny and empowering to force bystanders, shoppers, grannies, to take notice. And in a country with so little to complain about; a land where people are so mellow, it was surprising and exciting to see so many people come out for a cause. As I overheard someone say, "This is the most people Darling Harbour has seen since the Bicentennial!
We ended up filing into the harbour to chant at the government who were having a "conscience vote" (whatever that means) on whether gays should have equal civil rights. Basically, to show the ginger disaster that PM, Julia Gillard, that she's not only resisting inevitability - she is a hypocritical twat.

At one of my favorite local shops, BANG, the back of their promo postcards reads: "Julia Gillard recently declared her objection to gay marriage being 'our heritage, traditions and history' - so may we remind her that if we stuck to our 'heritage, traditions and history', black people would still be slaves, immigrants would only be white, women and aboriginal people would not be allowed to vote, and Australia would never elect an unmarried female PM living with a defacto partner."

Friday, December 02, 2011

It's Time

I'm sure you've seen this affecting Australian propaganda. It went viral this past week. I wish both that I could master the art of cinema by saying something profound without uttering a single word, and that we didn't have to prove we are "just like everyone else".  In any case, well done Australia's Get UP

Equality rally/march tomorrow in Sydney's Hyde Park, 1pm. It's the first rally, protest or demonstration I've heard whisper of in this comfy country. In other words, see you there! 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

People in the Pool

The waters of Boy Charlton Pool are a filtered mix of harbour saltwater and chlorine and it's practically empty on the weekend. That's when the starboard side wooden planks are overrun with a fashion show (and accompanying jury) mainly of gays and honorary gays (Hugh Jackman) strutting, admiring and sunning for one another. 

But in the morning, the deck is empty and people are actually swimming laps. The pool is at rush hour peak from 6:30 to 7:30am with squads taking up three lanes and the rest jam-packed with the pre-work crowd. It's all strokes, flip-turns and foaming water. I keep eyes on them as I languidly swim my 32 lap mile, and really want to know what, if anything, they're contemplating as they complete their rotations?

On the outside, it appears their minds are harmoniously syncopated with each breath (once every four strokes) as their bodies slice the water. Swimming is meant to be meditative. Escaping worlds of stress as you paddle to and fro, alone in your head as it lulls into indulgent me-time. But in my (head) case, there's not the still safe, sensory deprivation. There are voices and they don't shut up! Swimming with the others, it would appear we're all in it silently together, but in my head I'm not sure if we're all part of the same school - or if I'm a separate fish, surrounded?

I know the others by their behavior. In a busy (not slow) lane with seven other swimmers, a certain woman unfailingly decides, suddenly, to do a few gentle lengths of breaststroke. The breaststroke purports to be exercise, much like pizza purports to be a vegetable. Everyone knows if you don't really want to workout or even bother getting your hair wet, but still give the appearance of aquatic exercise - have a breaststroke. And though everyone is passing her, while trying to avoid oncoming swimmers as well as the sudden and dangerous frog-leg kick of her breaststroke, she carries on seemingly unaware: an obliviousness I always attribute to arrogant discourtesy.

She bookends the man who outfits himself with fins, hand paddles, and - so he won't have to turn his head to breathe - a snorkel. When I watch him, he's always nipping at someone's toes, and when he takes a break at the end of the pool, I perceive in his face a mix of both pride in his speed - and an aggravation that, though with none of his props, everyone else swims far slower than he does.

A rather out of shape man stands at the end of the slow lane, hanging onto the lane line. I'm not sure he ever leaves that spot, and yet I picture him going into work, hair wet and smelling of chlorine, proudly telling the girls he works with what a workout he had at the pool, when really all he did was get wet.

One really truly beautiful man wears red speedos with a white poinsettia print on the ass. He comes at about 7:27am and stretches, arms over his head, for many minutes, strategizing which lane he's going to dedicate himself to. Which one has the least amount, not of people, but of people who are aware of their own abilities/disabilities and have chosen a lane accordingly. Once he makes this decision, he will not leave this lane. I always hope its mine.

The Slapper is a trim older man who looks sweet in the locker room, but in the water his freestyle is armed with a right hook that comes round like an out of control windmill and WHAP! punishes the pool. Beware the newcomer who, unaware, does not know to swim far to the left so as to avoid the unbridled slapper which will, and does, swat you hard in the arm, back or even head. It's a slap and swim, because he doesn't stop to apologize, or amend his form. Olympian Janet Evans had one wild arm, sort of a seal flipper, but she was Janet Evans.

I think Slapper may have seen her in Seoul back in '88, made a go at imitation and since then, underwater, imagines his frenetic technique to resemble, above water, that of a champion gold medalist. 

Of course my head is extrapolating, processing, making all of this up. I speak to nobody and nobody to me until one young woman does. "I'm puffed," she exclaims as she finishes a lap. "This thing is taking all my energy," and she points down - I'm almost afraid to look - to her distended, very pregnant belly.

I consider the little creature swimming inside of her, and of her swimming here with all of us. And that each of these characters at the pool, they might stand for something. Maybe we are not people at all, but metaphors.