(In which Job goes to the theatre.)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 12, 2008 11:28am | Post a Comment

A few days ago I got to see Joan Rivers’ new show “A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress,” playing at the Geffen Playhouse until early March.

I’ll be honest, I went with the promise of meeting her after the show and I really wanted to see that face up-close.

I walked into the lobby and noticed that everyone there fell in two categories: grey-haired, elderly people who slowly moved in pairs of two, and young, muscled men in tight shirts who traveled in cliques, glimmering with hair product. Since I fit in neither group, I was a little suspect, and kept a watchful eye.

Things were downright Fellini-esque in the lobby. Amidst the geriatrics and the pretty boys was a mini red carpet on which two heavily made up “TV personalities” enthusiastically gushed to a single video camera. Now, living in Hollywood, I’m accustomed to red carpet springing up in places and thwarting me from a normal walk to get groceries, but these two – though in the middle of everything – seemed mostly oblivious to what was happening in the lobby. In their reality, they were covering the Golden Globes. I almost wanted to approach them and make sure they weren’t lost.

“Are you looking for your awards ceremony, little girl?”

I opted instead to knock back a double scotch and find my seat.

Once inside the theatre, things became clear. Projected on a screen over the stage, there were the two TV Personalities, now (thanks to the magic of blue screen technology) with a backdrop of outdoor, daytime, pre-awards show pageantry.

I watched them. The volume was low and there was buzz from the audience, so I couldn’t ever hear what they were actually saying, yet they managed to keep a constant, effervescent dialogue going between them. Considering the reality: they were just two people in the lobby of the Geffen Playhouse, surrounded by old folks and WeHo’s – this feat was equal parts impressive and unnerving. Ultimately though, I thought it was illuminating, and a smart insight into the “production” that goes into red-carpet production. It’s these announcer’s jobs, after all, to suspend their natural reactions and interpretations of events and instead, develop the spectacle an event must be in order to satisfy the public and the sponsors.

That scotch knocked me on my ass.

The show itself was fantastic. Well, Miss Rivers was fantastic. Her supporting cast, much like the TV Personalities in the lobby, seemed to be in a different show – something more akin to community theatre. Even so, the bulk of the show is Rivers, and she frequently broke from the action on stage to address the audience directly.

Her monologues were hilarious – a personal favorite was her story about being in a low-budget play in NYC with a not-yet-famous Barbra Streisand, in which they played lesbians (“Terrible kisser!” Joan confided) – but also included were very personal stories – everything from Johnny Carson black-balling her to her husband’s suicide.

She was alternately uppity, foul-mouthed, lovable and wise. I went in curious and left a fan. Anyone looking for a fun evening should check her show out. Especially if you wanna hear some real mean things about the Olsen twins.

I did get to see her after the show, as promised, but I was too chicken to go up and say something to her. I guess two shots of scotch wasn’t enough.

There’s no YouTube clips of the show (yet), so here’s something else that warmed my heart...

A Great American Next-Door Neighbor: Mr. Conservative, Goldwater on Goldwater (2006)

Posted by Charles Reece, January 16, 2008 02:57pm | Post a Comment
Now, I'm liberal, but to a degree
I want ev'rybody to be free
But if you think that I'll let Barry Goldwater
Move in next door and marry my daughter
You must think I'm crazy!
I wouldn't let him do it for all the farms in Cuba.
-- Bob Dylan, I Shall Be Free, No. 10
Back when I was living in Detroit, I had a philosopher friend who was as smart as they come, but as bugfuck crazy a right-winger as they come (well, the right-wing can get pretty goddamn insane, so maybe I exaggerate a bit for rhetorical effect, but he was a good deal nutty, regardless).  He was an atheist with a militant libertarian streak whose silver tongue could convince you of the rational basis for just about any right-wing position if you didn't have every 't' crossed and 'i' dotted in your own arguments.  Over drinks, we'd see who could one-up each other in our beliefs of how many freedoms a person should be permited.  I'll save our conclusions for the faint/pc of heart, but suffice it to say that his ideas for what should be socially permissible (at least, by law) might make the most ardent ACLU attorney blush.  On social issues, having his view in ascendancy in the political world would only make for what I would consider a much better society.  But, then again, he'd also proclaim his admiration for dipshits like Jesse Helms. 

To this day, I find it odd that such libertarians tend to side with right-wing extremists while holding civil views much more in line with my own.  I suppose it comes down to some radical belief in states' rights -- as if a state is any less bureaucratically unfair to its citizens than the federal government -- and seeing businesses as individuals possessing the same rights as, well, actual individuals.  That last belief tends to ignore the long history of businesses being prime real estate where those in power freely piss on the rights of those not in power.  The former tends to tie the more radicalized libertarians, at least, with certain egregious unreconstructed Southern apolegetics regarding the Civil War (as the recent brouhaha over Republican candidate, Ron Paul, demonstrates [1]).

My friend would always get a chuckle at my suggestion that I was, in fact, more libertarian than he, since I believe in using government for maximizing the freedom of individuals when the states or businesses don't see fit to grant individuals their inalienable rights.  Why, I wonder, isn't there a libertarian branch of the Democrats?  If libertarians can swallow all the anti-personal freedoms of the influential Christian Right in the Republican Party, why can't some swallow the anti-laissez faire tendencies of what is by now only a minority in the Democratic Party?  It's a telling sign of just what's ultimately the most important to the majority of socalled libertarians who, instead of "throwing their vote away" on the Libertarian candidates or having no such candidate to vote for, choose, like the rest of us, the lesser of two evils.  Only they tend to choose the more evil.  Unless, that is, we're talking about Barry "Mr. Conservative" Goldwater.

In her celebratory and loving, without being hagiographic, documentary of her grandpa, Barry, Julie Anderson provides multiple reasons why I wouldn't mind living next to the man or having him for a son-in-law:
  • If the Rockefeller-favoring press were expecting some mealy-mouthed acceptance speech from Goldwater at the '64 Republican convention, he didn't oblige.  Instead, he delivered his famous lines: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.  Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"  Granted, the devil is in the details, but them's words to live by, providing a worthy complement to Kris Kristofferson's "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."
  • In '86, Robert MacNeil went to interview the retiring Senator for one of those nostalgic puff pieces the media tend to do with politicians.  After concluding the interview and shutting down the camera, Goldwater asks MacNeil if he's going to ask him about the recent reports of the Reagan administration selling weapons to Iran.  MacNeil asks him what he has to say.  He replies, "it's the goddamnedest stupid foreign policy blunder this country has ever made."  With the camera turned back on, Goldwater is a bit more diplomatic, saying for the record, "it was a dreadful mistake; perhaps one of the major mistakes the United States has ever made in foreign policy."  This then turned into a question for a very surprised Reagan at a subsequent press conference by MacNeil's partner, Jim Lehrer, making him one of the first reporters to put the president on the spot for what turned out to be the Iran-Contra Affair.
  • With that thin tie, well-fitting dark suit and industrial iron jaw line underneath his slicked back hair and thick-framed glasses, Goldwater presented a visage which deserved to be on those beautiful Soviet propaganda posters.  Who wouldn't want to leave for work in an Oldsmobile with a face like Barry's watering his perfectly geometrical lawn and waving at you?  Just look at that dvd cover above; that's a suburb worth dying for, alright.

  • Being deeply troubled by Watergate, legal counsel John Dean arranged a meeting with Goldwater over just what he should do in his testimony before the Senate, feeling some loyalty to President Nixon, while morally not wanting to lie for his boss.  Goldwater advised, "that SOB was always a liar, so go nail him."  The rest is history.
  • Although the supposedly Goldwater conservative, Ronald Reagan, was willing to applaud a theocrat like Rev. James Robison at a 1980 Evangelical conference as he went on about the perverts, liberals, leftists and communists "coming out of the closet" and how it's time for "God's people" to "come out the closet and change America," Goldwater himself wouldn't have any of it. He knew that it was nothing more than another attempt by some group using moralism as a facade for bureaucratic administration of our freedoms.  In reference to Jerry Falwell and his moral majority play for power, Goldwater said, "all good Christians should kick him in the ass."  With the examples of Ted Haggard and Cardinal Roger Mahony "coming out of the closet" by mixing religion with political power, any good Christian shouldn't have to look very far in his or her heart to know Barry was right.
  • After retiring from the Senate, Goldwater came to regret his past belief that homosexuals shouldn't be allowed in the military, realizing that such a position was a hypocritical contradiction of his conservative beliefs.  He wrote an op-ed piece entitled The Gay Ban: Just Plain Un-American, wherein he used quite familiar conservative rhetoric: "Government governs best when it governs least - and stays out of the impossible task of legislating morality. But legislating someone's version of morality is exactly what we do by perpetuating discrimination against gays."  Can you imagine our current Democratic frontrunners being that consistent in their philosophy, much less the Republicans?
  • Finally, he supported his daughter getting an abortion back in the 50s and continued supporting a woman's right to choose all the way up till his death.  This became most notable in his stalwart defense of Sandra Day O'Connor's nomination for the Supreme Court against all the conservative Christian backlash in the early 80s.  His view was that their horseshit should have no role in politics.
Besides his honesty, what's so admirable about him was the way he made a distinction between open ideological discourse and ideological politics.  He wanted to fly around the country with JFK in 1964 debating issues for the people to make up their mind on whom to vote for.  On the other hand, he recognized the rise of the socalled moral majority as an attempt to seize control over public discourse where one contingent wants to set into law how others have to act.  It's never enough for the right-wing Christians and like-minded ideologues to behave according to their own beliefs, you have to, as well.  That's not discourse, but a power grab.  It's what Goldwater opposed in communism and it's what he opposed here at home.  Our cultural property value went up when he moved in.

[1] James Kirchick, "Angry White Man" in The New Republic.  Since they don't seem to allow hyperlinks, here's the link for you to copy and paste:

It's a good article.

The Dangers of Swordplay: Cruising (1980)

Posted by Charles Reece, December 20, 2007 11:59pm | Post a Comment
A quick Google search reveals (well, confirms) that the snooty de rigueur critical terms ‘lyrical’ and ‘poetic’, which let you know that a film is serious art, rather than déclassé entertainment, pop up frequently with discussions of Claire Denis’ BEAU TRAVAIL, but only accidentally, if at all, with William Friedkin’s CRUISING.  (‘Poetic’ even shows up as a plot keyword in the former’s IMDB listing, whereas the latter gets words like ‘perversion’, ‘evil’ and ‘stabbed in the back’.)  Yet both films feature extended sequences of men with beautiful bodies, clustered together and moving in rhythm to music; both are concerned with men of uniform in their habitus, either diurnal or nocturnal, performing a ritual; and both argue for a certain degree of fluidity in male sexuality – however, degree is implicated by using highly different narrative styles.  The “poetic” homophilia of BEAU TRAVAIL is more a suggestion through the recognition of the beauty of male movement, so any of its purported gayness has plausible deniability (like obsessive wrestling fans rewatching old matches of Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka), whereas CRUISING quite literally and graphically depicts the lure of homosexuality for even the most macho of men, NYC cops.  If the object of audience identification, a straight cop, Steve Burns (Al Pacino), can catch it by breathing in the salty air of late 70s S&M clubs and dirty rags drenched in amyl nitrate, then you might, too.  I guess lyricism and poesis don’t spring to mind when our hero is starting to get turned on by a greasy depiction of fisting.

That homosexuality might be taught, or that it could lure someone in, remains a controversial idea among gay rights advocates.  Essentialism qua naturalism tends to be a more comforting thought, and not without some good reason.  Religious demagogues work up the fear of right-wing parents by suggesting that their children might catch the immoral queer “meme.”  Thus, the possibility that homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality becomes a way of assuaging these bigoted fears, or at least as a scientistic defense.  But this has always been a fallacious debate.  Just because something’s natural doesn’t give it moral propriety.   If a murder-gene were found, society wouldn’t suddenly start calling murder moral.   And so it goes with homosexuality: regardless of whether Steve Burns starts off as latently gay, or begins to become more gay as he goes undercover in the gay S&M outre-mer to investigate a string of murders is unimportant, the moral questions raised by the film shouldn’t be any different.  Homosexuality is no more nor less moral for being biologically natural than heterosexuality.

Continue reading...


Posted by Billyjam, December 12, 2007 04:00pm | Post a Comment

Multi-media man Larry Bob Roberts is one busy San Franciscan and has been for some years now. In addition to constantly updating his ten-year old, popular Queer things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area list on his SFQueer site, he is also often involved in some worthy community activity. Additionally Larry Bob is an active musician and member of the band Winsome Griffles about whom the London Observer Music Monthly wrote, "The gay politik is equally present in the swish Americana of the Winsome Griffles," and whose new debut CD Meet The Griffles (available at Amoeba SF) is just out. This week, on Thursday, Dec. 13th, the group will perform a release party at the Eagle SF.

AMOEBLOG: Long before your online list existed you used to do a zine. Can you talk a bit about it?
LARRY BOB: I started Holy Titclamps in 1989, inspired by queer punk zines like JDs and Homocore. I did the zine for 15 years and published writing and art by all sorts of people -- published novelists, prisoners, high school kids. Material from the earlier issues is on the website, and the later issues can be ordered from me.

AMOEBLOG: Can you describe your Queer Things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area list on your website?

Continue reading...

(In which Job... well... just read it if you wanna know.)

Posted by Job O Brother, November 18, 2007 03:26pm | Post a Comment
I was enjoying my usual Wednesday afternoon – a walk to the park with a small picnic lunch. I have a favorite spot beneath a chestnut tree with sprawling branches which remind me of my Dad’s strong arms and how they seemed to be able to do anything – swing an axe, knock a ball out of the park, bruise the side of my face and neck for forgetting to put the lid back on the jelly jar…

Anyway, I sat in my favorite spot and began my standard ritual: eating the first half of my baloney sandwich, sipping a strawberry Crush soda-pop, and crying. Just crying. Sobbing uncontrollably, like, to the point where even the homeless people look at me with faces that say, “Man, that dude has it bad.”

But don’t be fooled! I wasn’t sad. It was the book I was reading – it always makes me cry. Not because it’s about bone marrow cancer (it’s actually pretty upbeat and the recipes are not only delicious but good for those of us on a tight budget!). No, the reason it makes me cry is because its pages are made out of paper-thin sheets of glass which cut my hands horribly. Oh gosh, I mean, it really hurts. And the bloodier the pages become the slipperier it gets and it’s hard to get through a chapter without passing out from pain.

Did you know that if you pass out in the park people will leave you coins in your strawberry Crush soda-pop can? This is why I have hope for humanity.

But last Wednesday, something unusual happened to my usual routine. I was passed out under the tree (though not from injuries – this time it was because I had sniffed a freshly picked plumeria, only to discover that it was actually a tank of methoxyflurane) and was brought back to consciousness by a young man performing CPR on me. (For those of you who don’t know what CPR is, it’s a thing.)

Separated at birth? Plumeria flower and Penthrox brand methoxyflurane

Once I was able to speak, I thanked the man for saving my life and offered him the second half of my baloney sandwich. Having physically taxed himself from forcing the breath of life into me, he was happy to have a snack, and the two of us began talking.

He told me his name was Andy and that he was visiting from some town called New York City. Apparently it’s located in the Northeast – I guess somewhere near Accord. I asked him what he did for a living and he said he was on a television program called “Saturday Night Live”, which sounded nice, and then I began to wow him with stories about working at Amoeba Music; how we get free snacks every Saturday, how our health benefits include a free pony (after five years of full time employment only), and how our bosses, Karen and Jim, are actually snowmen that were brought to life one day when we put magic hats on their heads and sang a merry song about retail.

By the time we had finished my lunch, we were joking and laughing like old friends, which is normally a red flag for me – I mean, once you start enjoying someone’s company you only want to hang out with them AGAIN, and who has that kind of time? Never mind the fact that laughing is very bad for the complexion; it torques the pores, causing them to sag, while attracting harmful atmospheric pollutants that cake in layers inside your skin and kill you.

Don’t ever, ever laugh. I mean it. You’ll f**king die.

Medical photo showing after-effects of laughter and smiles

But I digress. We were throwing jawbreakers at each other – trying to catch them with our mouths – which was good fun until we learned why they’re called “jawbreakers”.

An ambulance took me and poor Andy over to Cedars-Sinai Hospital where we waited in the emergency room. Andy’s face was pretty busted open and I tried to keep the swelling down by poking it really hard with the turkey-baster I found under my seat, but that wasn’t working too well.

(Incidentally, why are there turkey basters under the seats of the Cedars-Sinai emergency room? And why are they shaped like seat cushions?)

Speaking of turkey – aren’t you excited about Thanksgiving? I am. My family was very poor, but we always had a special Thanksgiving dinner. My Mom would fix pain blanc avec la gelée and my Dad would let us have one glass each of his special Albertsons bourbon. Then it was off to bed, before the Thanksgiving monster comes to collect children who are awake or complaining of hunger. Ha, ha! Oh, those halcyon days…

"Why yes, you may have another slice! It'll only cost you your land, your happiness, your prosperity. Some butter?"

Andy was admitted quickly and everyone was sweet to him and treated him like a star, I guess because they found out I worked for Amoeba. I’m used to it. I wanted to stay by his side so I lied and told the nurses that I was his brother, which raised some eyebrows because, unbeknownst to me, Andy had already fibbed and said I was his gay lover. We managed to cover up our tracks by French-kissing and talking about “our” Mom.

Andy ended up having to have an operation to remove the fetus that had been accidentally inseminated in his uterus at the first hospital we’d gone to, “Bob’s Hospital ‘n’ Things”. Luckily, the good folks at Cedars-Sinai also removed the uterus that had been accidentally inserted into Andy’s guts while we were playing Frisbee.

The fetus is fine and we’ve since named him Notfood to remind us not to make the same mistake twice. We’re enrolling him into a prestigious private school as soon as he gestates himself some thumbs and spine, then it’s “look out, ladies!” Ha!

We were out of surgery in time to catch Joanna Newsom perform at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Joanna’s performance was spellbinding. I’ll tell you all about it in my next blog. For now, let me leave you with some of Andy’s creations. Most of you have seen these a thousand times over, but why not watch them again? Just make certain, whatever you do, that you DON’T LAUGH. Because you will die. You will die suddenly and irrevocably. For eternity.

Andy's film "Hot Rod" will be available for purchase at Amoeba Music on November 27.
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