Friday, May 30, 2014

This Culture War Is Over

My home state of Oregon became the 18th state to usher in marriage equality. Behind Arkansas and Uruguay, but honey we got there! 
As it becomes clearer to everyone that this is a civil rights issue (and not one of "privilege" - privilege is your church not paying taxes), federal judges are falling over themselves to leave history with the most memorable quotable. In his decision striking down Oregon's gay marriage ban as unconstitutional, Oregon federal judge Michael McShane's is the most eloquent I've read:

"Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other...and rise."

And then Michael Sam gets drafted by the St Louis Rams to become the first openly gay football player in NFL history. When he gets the news he's been drafted, he kisses his boyfriend. ESPN airs the kiss and the internet explodes. What was he supposed to do? Shake his hand?

And with the culture war over in the USA, the haters have fled to spread their ministry of maleficence to places that are listening: Russia, Nigeria, Uganda. Meanwhile, closer to home, the fallout is something less obvious. As the gays blend more seamlessly into society, we're losing queer culture as the ghetto becomes redundant. The oldest gay bookstore in the nation (I had a reading there, once), Giovanni's Room closed this month after 41 years serving the Philadelphia community. It was also one of, if not the, last.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Eurovision 2014 #unstoppable

Wind machines, raised platforms, shameless key changes, Latvian cake bakers, removable hair pieces, 360-degree pianos, human hamster wheels. Eurovision will put you in a gay coma. As with the World Cup, Eurovision is disturbingly huge the world over – but virtually unknown in the USA. 

Baltic nations and even Russia are allowed to compete and this year's biggest controversy surrounded the Austrian entry, a bearded drag queen named Conchita Wurst, alter-ego of Thomas Neuwirth, who sang a James Bond style power ballad, "Rise Like A Phoenix", looking pretty as a champagne flute. 

For some reason, this look is violently confronting - especially to Russia, who took time out on their invasion of Ukraine to declare war on Eurovision's degeneracy, crying for bans and President Putin threatening to secede from the contest. 

Now just calm down Russia, if a bearded dude in a dress spelled the end of civilization, we wouldn't have survived Rasputin:
But back to Eurovision, which explicitly states it is not, repeat NOT political. In this case, of course, no means yes. Because each time Russia's entry, two teenage twin girls, performed or received votes, the audience in Copenhagen loudly booed. I felt bad at first, these two pretty girls singing a pretty good (and by good, I do mean camp as a row of tents) song featuring conjoined ponytails, light sabers, a teeter totter and massive wind machine action. Just... watch and marvel.

Their lyrics were all about showing the world love, too, so likely they don't support Russia's firm stand against human rights, but at the end of the day if these girls are representing their nation (and by extension its agenda) at an international event - they're caught in the crossfire.

And I guess it wasn't political that Ukraine gave their 12 points all to the fearsome Conchita Wurst, either. In fact, a lot of countries voted that way and the controversial bearded lady ended up not just winning, but winning by one of the largest margins in the contest's history, dating back to the 1950s. The song is actually really good, so if you're easily freaked out just close your eyes and listen to this anthem, shades of Shirley Bassey and all... 

Upon winning, when asked if she had any words, she said "This is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are. We are unity and we are unstoppable."

Perhaps the most surprising thing of all? The following day, "Rise Like A Phoenix" went to #1... in Russia.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Monica Lewinsky Slams Slut-Shaming in Vanity Fair

That the Monica Lewinsky scandal was so huge testifies to the fact Americans don't get enough sex. In the early 2000s I crossed paths with Monica as she was walking through Tomkins Square Park and I told her she was beautiful, because I imagined that’s what I might want to hear if forced to live out my days forever in the halls of junior high school hell. Imagine all the sniggering and snide sophomoric humor this woman is subjected to by those who would humiliate her to death. If she had killed herself, as even the strongest among us might have understandably done in the glare of such scorn, I guarantee the conversation today would be very different. And it probably goes without saying, but I totally would have blown the President.

Here's the intro to her essay in this month's Vanity Fair. Lewinsky says it's time to stop “tiptoeing around my past—and other people’s futures." 

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Beachfront Camping

Headed with friends to camp at Coledale, about 30kms north of Woollongong (you know a place has an Aboriginal name if it has a W and about a hundred vowels). We put up camp in the dark and then woke up to this view: 
The best setting ever, even though we didn't have the best tent because you really can't go past my friend Tom's Vokswagen Bus tent.... which you would not expect to be highly functional, but it was.
Breakfast of Nisha's homemade bircher meusli.

We had so much fun at this spot. Lots of music and lively activity and exploration going on - including massive swell in the surf.
Liquid lunch at the nearby Scarborough Hotel.
Saturday night we headed on the train to terrorize the locals at Woollongong's gay nightclub, INDUSTRY.
Woollongong is known as "the Gong". We definitely gonged it hard. 
And caught some crazy public bus back at around 3am. The last thing I remember is the poor beleaguered driver telling us to shut up or he was going to let us out in the middle of nowhere.