Dream diary, 10/25/06: The bees

BeeI dreamed that Ingrid and I were going away for a while, and had left careful instructions for a housesitter. I woke up in an incoherent, terrified panic because we had neglected to tell the housesitter about the bees. There was an enormous beehive under the building, and we had meant to warn the housesitter not to disturb it, but had forgotten. It was all mixed up with comics somehow: we’d written our housesitting instructions in comic-book form, and I had a vivid image of the comic I’d intended to write about the bees but had forgotten about.

This was a genuine night terror (although somewhat less intense than others I’ve had). I woke up petrified and struggling to speak, and tried for some time to explain to Ingrid that I was frightened because of the bees and the comic book.

Best Erotic Comics 2008: Call for Submissions

Last_gasp(Note: This news has now been updated.)

Last Gasp is seeking submissions for an anthology of adult comics, Best Erotic Comics 2008 (the first in a planned annual series). The series is intended to showcase the most artistically interesting — and most sexually arousing — recent erotic comics, from both the literary comic side of the field and the smut comic side. We believe that the divide between literary comics and adult comics is unfortunate and unnecessary, and we plan to make “Best Erotic Comics” enjoyable both as a literary and artistic exploration of human sexuality… and as a fun dirty book.

*****

Thus begins the call for submissions for my brand-new book project, “Best Erotic Comics 2008.” (The complete call for submissions is on my Website, but I’m also including it at the end of this post.) If you’ve talked to me in the last couple/few months and I’ve said I had a potential new book project in the works but was cagey about the details… this is it.

I am dying of excitement. I am so proud of this project — and am having so much fun with it — that I could just fall into hysterics at any time.

And here’s why I’m doing it.

Black_holeIf you’ve been paying attention, you know that the last 20 years or so have seen a tremendous blossoming in the world of comics and graphic novels.

Bae2006And if you’ve been paying attention, you know that those same 20 years have seen a similarly fabulous blossoming in the world of erotica, especially erotic writing and photography.

But erotic comics have not been getting their props. Adult comics are very much ghettoized in the comics world, shunted off to the side with the expectation that its readers want jerk-off material and nothing more. As a result, the work has suffered, in the same way that stigmatized, low-expectation, commerce-driven art forms and genres have always suffered.

Lost_girlsThere’s good work being done, though. There are adult comic artists doing work with excellent literary and artistic merit. There are serious art/literary comic artists and graphic novelists creating some wildly hot and dirty scenes in their work. And Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s impossibly beautiful Lost Girls (drool, drool — but that’s a post for another day) has made the potential for this field — and for the fusion of its literary/art side and its dirty side — unmistakably clear.

The time is clearly ripe for a blossoming in the field of adult comics. With the “Best Erotic Comics” series, I want to help foster that growth. I want to spotlight the good work that’s currently being done — and I want to encourage comic artists to do more of it.

So if you’re a comics fan and you have suggestions for work you think should be included in this book, please look over the call for submissions, and send me your suggestions/nominations. If you have friends/colleagues/etc. who are comic artists, please pass the call for submissions along to them. And if you’re a comic artist, for the love of God, check out the call for submissions, and send me your work.

*****

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS:
Best Erotic Comics 2008, to be published by Last Gasp

Last Gasp is seeking submissions for an anthology of adult comics, “Best Erotic Comics 2008″ (the first in a planned annual series). The series is intended to showcase the most artistically interesting — and most sexually arousing — recent erotic comics, from both the literary comic side of the field and the smut comic side. We believe that the divide between literary comics and adult comics is unfortunate and unnecessary, and we plan to make “Best Erotic Comics” enjoyable both as a literary and artistic exploration of human sexuality… and as a fun dirty book.

In keeping with this vision, submissions to “Best Erotic Comics” should be both:

a) Hot.

b) Interesting in some way in addition to being hot.

Here are some more details:

IF YOU ARE PRIMARILY A SMUT COMIC ARTIST:

Submissions to “Best Erotic Comics” should not simply be hot sex comics. They should have some literary and/or artistic quality, as well as being arousing. We are looking for hot sex comics that are also thoughtful, insightful, engaging, funny, poignant, political, and/or exceptionally well-drawn.

IF YOU ARE PRIMARILY A LITERARY COMIC ARTIST:

Submissions to “Best Erotic Comics” should not simply be about sex. They should also be hot. We are looking for thoughtful, insightful, engaging, funny, poignant, political, and/or exceptionally well-drawn comics that make the reader want to have sex and/or whack off.

IF YOU ALREADY WORK IN LITERARY SMUT COMICS:

Excellent! Send us your best work.

We are looking for a wide variety of erotic content — straight, gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and other; kinky and vanilla; from the points of view of women, men, and others. Both single-panel and multi-panel comics will be accepted. We are primarily looking for black-and-white work, but will be including a limited color section. We are accepting both original and previously-published comics; previously-published work should have been published or reprinted fairly recently, ideally after January 1, 2000. You can submit individual stories or excerpts from longer works. Work should be in English or wordless. Deadline for submissions: November 30, 2006. The pay starts at $20 a page, depending on length and other considerations.

The editor of the anthology is Greta Christina. Greta has been writing about sex professionally since 1989. She is editor of the anthology “Paying For It: A Guide by Sex Workers for Their Clients,” and author of the erotic novella “Bending,” which appeared in the three-novella collection “Three Kinds of Asking For It” edited by Susie Bright for Simon & Schuster. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including Ms., Penthouse, and the Skeptical Inquirer, as well as several anthologies, including Best American Erotica 2003 and 2005. She has worked for Last Gasp Books and Comics since 2002.

Please send submissions to:

Last Gasp
Attention: Best Erotic Comics
777 Florida St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Do not send originals, or your only copy. All submissions with SASE will be answered, but submissions will not be returned. Deadline: November 30, 2006.

If you have any questions, please contact [email protected]

The Death of the Novel?

Matisse_woman_readingMy friend Kanani and I were talking about books last weekend, and one of the topics on the table was the fact that, even though we’re both voracious readers, neither of us reads very many novels any more. (Not contemporary ones, anyway.) This brought up an idea/rant I’ve been wanting to blog about for some time — a response to people who complain about the fact that almost nobody reads serious novels anymore, and who bewail the impending doom of literary fiction.

*****

Pride_and_prejudiceThis is going to make me sound like a Philistine. But I think that living in the late 20th/early 21st century and griping about the fact that nobody reads novels anymore… well, it’s a bit like living in the early 19th century and griping about the fact that nobody reads sermons or epic poetry, because they’re all reading those darned newfangled novels.

Guns_germs_and_steelWe are living, right now, in a time of tremendous blossoming in the field of non-fiction. There is just an enormous amount of amazing non-fiction out there right now — compelling, insightful, allusive, funny, petrifying, inspiring, and beautifully written. (BTW, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most exciting and interesting cinematic form right now is the documentary…)

PersepolisAnd we’re extraordinarily lucky to be living in a time when an entirely new literary form is blossoming like mad — the graphic novel.

MausYes, yes, I know. Graphic novels aren’t all that new, and comics as an art form have been around for a while. By the same token, the novel had been around for a while by the early 19th century as well — and I’d still peg that as the time when the form really began to come into its own. At the risk of sounding like an SAT question, I would argue that the last 20 years or so is to comics and graphic novels what the early-to-mid 19th century was to the novel: not the time when it was born, but the time when it began to really flourish and take hold as a serious — and seriously recognized — art form. (Art Spiegelman is to the graphic novel as Jane Austen is to the novel? Okay, I’ll stop now.)

Sim_cityOf course, fiction hasn’t just been losing readers to non-fiction and graphic novels. It’s also been losing readers to TV and video games and the Internet. I get that. (Although I’ve seen some interesting defenses of video games as a new and valid art form..) And of course, something dear and precious would be lost if the novel dwindled away completely… just as I’m sure something precious was lost when epic poetry began to fade.

Lisa_saxophoneMy point is this: If one creative form is in fact diminishing in impact and importance, that’s certainly sad if you’re attached to that form. But it doesn’t mean that creativity itself is disappearing. Creativity seems to be hard-wired into the human brain, and as long as we’re around, I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

Dream diary, 10/20/06: Illeana Douglas and the Oakland A’s

Oakland_asI dreamed that I was going to an Oakland A’s baseball game, and was just finding my seat when an usher told me I had to move. They were setting aside the section I was in for the hearing-impaired, and were shuffling people around to make that happen. I was irritated — I had a good seat, and I thought they could have handled this better in advance — but agreed to move as long as I moved to an equally good seat.

Illeana_douglasOn the way to my new seat, I ran into the actress Illeana Douglas, who was doing some sort of charity work connected with the game, and was helping arrange the hearing-impaired section. We started chatting — I’d never met her before, but she was very smart and sweet and interesting, and asked me lots of questions about my tattoos and my new book project. We hit it off really well, and I decided I should Google her after the game to see if I could get in touch with her again.

TelevisionsWhen I found my new seat, though, I was really annoyed. They had seated me in a section that was facing away from the baseball field, where you couldn’t watch the game live — you had to watch it on a bank of televisions. The seats were filled with kids — it was clearly the “kids’ table” of the stadium, where people stuck their kids so they wouldn’t have to sit with them at the game — and the fact that I’d been stuck there was almost as insulting as the fact that they’d made me leave my good seat and expected me to be happy watching the game on TV. I left the stadium in a state of high dudgeon, vowing to never go back.

Shortbus — my complete review

Shortbus1_1So Adult Friend Finder magazine has given me permission to run my review of “Shortbus” (the original, unedited version) here on my blog now, without waiting the usual 90 days. So here it is. Enjoy!

The Holy Grail Is Filled With Lube
by Greta Christina

Shortbus. Starring Raphael Barker, Lindsay Beamish, Justin Bond, Jay Brannan, Paul Dawson, PJ DeBoy, Peter Stickles, and Sook-Yin Lee. Original music by Yo La Tengo. Written by John Cameron Mitchell, in conjunction with the cast. Directed by John Cameron Mitchell. 102 minutes. Unrated. Opens October 4 in New York, October 6 in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Shortbus10John Cameron Mitchell has done it.

He’s cracked the code. He’s found the Grail. Best known until now as the director/co-writer/star of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” John Cameron Mitchell has done the thing that it seemed was going to be done in the ’70s but never quite happened; the thing that those of us who care about sex and movies have been hoping for decades would happen but never really expected to see.

Shortbus9He’s made a movie — a regular, non-porno, arthouse-circuit, movie-type movie — with real sex. Explicit, non-faked, “actors actually doing it” sex. Lots of it, not just a scene or two. And he’s made it good. The smart, funny, engaging, “stay up ’til two in the morning talking about it” kind of good. Serious, top-notch, deserving of many awards good.

And now nobody else can ever again say that it can’t be done.

Shortbus5“Shortbus” is unquestionably about sex. I mean, come on — the working title was “The Sex Film Project.” But it’s not about sex in the way that, say, “Debbie Does Dallas” is about sex. It’s about sex in the way that “The Godfather” is about the Mafia, the way “Babette’s Feast” is about food. Sex is the hook, the peg to hang the ideas on. It isn’t so much about sex as it is about what sex means, how people use it, what place it has in our lives. It isn’t so much about sex as it is about the problem of intimacy — the problem of how to connect with other people without losing yourself.

Shortbus14It digs into that question through seven main characters, who intertwine and intersect at a New York sex club/art salon called Shortbus. There’s Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee), a couples’ counselor/sex therapist, who’s never had an orgasm and fakes it dramatically with her husband. There’s Rob (Raphael Barker), Sofia’s sensitive and supportive husband, who has no job or direction — or indeed life — of his own. There’s Jamie (PJ DeBoy), a former TV child star with an unsettling attachment to his old TV catch phrase, who can’t let go of his former fame and who wants more than anything to “love everyone in the world.” There’s James (Paul Dawson), Jamie’s lover, a former hustler, who’s obsessively filming his life for the lover he’s getting increasingly detached from. There’s Ceth, pronounced Seth (Jay Brannan), a dishy young model in constant search of a husband, who hooks up with Jamie and James — and leaps giddily to the assumption that the two of them are the husband for him. There’s Caleb (Peter Stickles), a quietly creepy freelance proofreader who stalks/spies on Jamie and James and has become scarily obsessed with their relationship. And there’s Severin (Lindsay Beamish), a professional dominatrix and amateur artist, a woman with perceptive and profound insight into other people’s lives and problems — and an equally profound inability to connect with those people in a way that’s anything other than confrontational.

Shortbus11And right from the beginning, you see these people’s characters — and their neuroses — sketched out in their sex lives. Sofia and Rob, who look like a perfect couple from a Gap commercial, start the movie having wild porn-star sex in every position in the Kama Sutra, followed by a smug little post-coital chat about how great their life is. (Sofia actually says, “I feel sorry for couples who don’t have what we have.”) But we soon find out that Sofia’s not getting off and is faking it so Rob won’t leave her… and a bit later on, we learn that Rob isn’t getting the one thing he needs to wake him up sexually and make him feel connected. James starts the movie masturbating into his mouth on camera, for the film he’s making for Jamie… but when Jamie comes home and wants to make love, James turns him away. Meanwhile, Caleb is watching James jerk off — actually, he’s watching James filming himself jerking off — through a telephoto camera lens from a neighboring building. Ceth starts his stretch of the movie using a hand-held electronic dating-service device to try to meet guys… while he’s at the Shortbus sex club and art salon, surrounded by amazing people of all genders and preferences. And Severin is half-heartedly whipping the ass of a smug trust-fund hipster who keeps pressing her with nosy questions that seem profound and probing on the surface but are actually glib and meaningless.

Now, the thing that strikes you right off the bat about the sex in “Shortbus” isn’t just what a natural facet of the characters it is. What strikes you about the sex in “Shortbus” is how natural it is, period — how authentic it feels, how much it looks like real human sex.

Shortbus13I mean, if you’ve heard anything about this film, you’ve heard that it’s the Real Sex movie. And even if you’ve seen a lot of porn, you might expect to be somewhat startled by that, either shocked or titillated or both. But the very explicitness of the sex actually makes it less jarring. In most non-porn movies, when you see someone naked, it’s so fleeting — and so out-of-place — that you can’t help but be jolted out of the narrative while you stare at their goodies. But in “Shortbus,” the nudity and the sex are so upfront, so un-selfconscious, and such a fluid part of the story, that you almost immediately stop being surprised by it. The sex in “Shortbus” doesn’t push you away from the characters, to drool over them from a voyeuristic distance — it draws you in, to identify with the characters and care about them.

Shortbus3_2And I think because of this, the sex doesn’t get used as a symbol of the characters and their strengths or flaws. In most movies, good sex and bad sex are handed out like lollipops or spankings — rewards or punishments for being the right or wrong kind of person. But in “Shortbus,” bad sex isn’t a finger-wagging punishment for being neurotic and troubled. It’s just one aspect of a neurotic and troubled life. The sex isn’t a consequence of these people’s lives. It’s part of their lives. It isn’t separate.

Shortbus6There are so many examples of this, and I could gas on at great length about every single one. But my favorite is the remote control vibrator. After going to the Shortbus sex club on her own, Sofia brings Rob along — along with a remote control vibrating egg, the egg portion of which she tucks into her panties, and the control portion of which she hands to her husband. The idea is that they’ll wander around the party on their own, but when he wants to connect with her, he can give her a little remote control buzz, and she’ll feel it and know that it’s his touch.

But Rob is distracted and uncomfortable at the party, and he sticks the remote in his back pocket and pretty much forgets about it. He does set it off, several times — but he does it by accident, without even knowing he’s doing it, leaning against a door or flopping down on a sofa. Eventually he loses the remote… and it gets picked up by someone else at the party, who tries to flip channels on the TV with it.

Shortbus15So Sofia keeps thinking that Rob is sending her happy little sexy “I love you” messages by remote control… but in fact, he’s not. He’s in his own little world, and isn’t really thinking about her at all. And the buzzes keep going off at exactly the wrong moment, interrupting connections and conversations that Sofia’s having with other people, turning moments of genuine intimacy into awkward erotic faux pas. Once Sofia discovers that Rob has lost the remote, every shred of her therapy-speak “own your own feelings” relationship style gets blown into shrapnel. She flies into a rage — probably the most honest and direct communication she’s had with Rob in ages — and smashes the egg into pieces.

In other words, the device that’s meant to create a loving and sexy connection between them winds up just being sexual static — the illusion of a connection without a real connection — that gets in the way of any closeness they might have with other people, without fostering any intimacy between the two of them.

Kind of like their marriage.

Shortbus7That may sound depressing and grim. But “Shortbus” is anything but. It’s a serious movie, yes, and at times it’s fucking tragic. But it’s also funny and clever, touching and sexy, engaging and sweet. And it’s hopeful. This is actually one of the things I like best about the movie — it’s positive about sex, without being deluded about it. It doesn’t pretend that good people will always be rewarded with happy sex; it doesn’t pretend that all sexual problems are easily solved with the right toy or technique or even the right partner; it doesn’t pretend that sex will save the world. It acknowledges how complicated sex is, how wrong it can go, how badly it can hurt when it goes wrong. It sees all that — and it still sees sex as joyful, and necessary, and worth trying to do right. It sees sex as an essential form of human connection — and it sees human connection as worth doing, maybe the only thing worth doing, even when it’s difficult and frustrating and doesn’t go right.

Shortbus8I could go on an on. This could easily have been a five-thousand word movie review, and I’d still have felt like I had more to say. I could talk about the recurring theme of documentation and self-documentation: how everyone in the movie is filming and photographing themselves and each other, so busy trying to connect through art and technology that they wind up making themselves distant and self-conscious. (Like having your primary form of connection with the world involve sitting at a computer by yourself at two in the morning telling everyone what to think, just for example…)

I could talk about how non-simplistic that theme is, how the movie isn’t just a heavy-handed ironic screed about the isolation of the modern world. I could talk about how the tools people use to connect in the movie do sometimes help them connect, even when they’re crossing their wires… and how the crossed wires sometimes turn into real connections.

Shortbus12I could talk about how, unlike almost every other movie ever made about love and sex, “Shortbus” doesn’t view every dissolved relationship as an unredeemed tragedy. I could talk about how rare it is for a movie to acknowledge that some relationships make people unhappy — even good people who are trying their best — and that sometimes a break-up is the beginning of a happy ending.

I could talk about the fact that all the jobs the main characters have — actor, model, sex worker, proofreader, therapist — are all jobs that are about communication and connection… and yet are also about keeping a leash on self-expression, molding the face you present into something other people need.

Shortbus4I could talk at great length about the repeated theme of boundaries and boundariless-ness: the delicate balance between too much distance and not enough, the question of how to keep reasonable boundaries without building impenetrable walls, and how to let the world penetrate you without losing your own skin.

I could talk at very great length about how fluid sexual identity is in the movie, and how naturally people from different sexual identity groups connect and interact. The lesbians and gay men and straight people all have their little worlds; but this is a modern American city, and these worlds all overlap, and these people all know each other. This is actually one of the most striking things about “Shortbus,” and it’s a little depressing to realize how unusual it is. There’s no Gay Best Friend in an otherwise totally straight movie; there’s not the One Lesbian Couple at the party, or the Tranny Comic Relief who shows up for five minutes to be laughed at and disappear. There’s just gay men and lesbians and straight folks and bi folks and transfolk, and they all know each other and like each other and irritate each other and get tangled in each other’s lives. You know — like real life, in any major city anywhere in the Western world.

Shortbus2_1I could talk about the fact that, for once in my goddamn life as a movie viewer, I didn’t feel insulted by the depiction of sadomasochists. I could talk about how sadomasochism isn’t used as a sign of evil or craziness or misery in “Shortbus,” but is shown as just another way to be sexual, with its own special pleasures and complications, and as much potential for trouble and joy as any other way.

I could talk about how the movie seems much longer than it is — not because it’s dull or sloppy, but because there’s so much going on. The movie is so rich, with so much nuance and complexity and detail, that it doesn’t seem possible that it all got packed into just 102 minutes.

Shortbus16And I could talk about the places where the movie doesn’t quite work — the false notes, the plot turns that feel forced, the character developments that don’t seem plausible. There are undoubtedly a few of these: the therapist who smacks her client in the face and then spills out the details of her fucked-up sex life; the clients who then invite her to the sex club; the voyeur/stalker who turns out to be just another caring guy who needs love and connection. The dead body in the Jacuzzi that nobody notices until they bump into it. That sort of thing. “Shortbus” is not a perfect movie, and I like and respect it too much to pretend that it is.

Shortbus17Because this is much better than a perfect movie. This is a great movie. This is a true movie. This is a unique movie. And this is an important movie. This is a movie about sex that’s explicit, not just in the standard sense of the word, but in every sense. It tells the truth about sex, as clearly and precisely and honestly as it can.

And that, all by itself, makes it invaluable.

Shortbus: The Holy Grail Is Filled With Lube

Shortbus1John Cameron Mitchell has done it.

He’s cracked the code. He’s found the Grail. Best known until now as the director/co-writer/star of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” John Cameron Mitchell has done the thing that it seemed was going to be done in the ’70s but never quite happened; the thing that those of us who care about sex and movies have been hoping for decades would happen but never really expected to see.

Shortbus2He’s made a movie — a regular, non-porno, arthouse-circuit, movie-type movie — with real sex. Explicit, non-faked, “actors actually doing it” sex. Lots of it, not just a scene or two. And he’s made it good. The smart, funny, engaging, “stay up ’til two in the morning talking about it” kind of good. Serious, top-notch, deserving of many awards good.

And now nobody else can ever again say that it can’t be done.

Shortbus3Thus begins my review of “Shortbus” — a movie I’m tremendously excited about — which just got posted to the Adult Friend Finder magazine. Lately I’ve been putting my Adult Friend Finder reviews in their entirety here on my blog — but my contract with AFF says I have to wait 60 days to do that, and since the movie opens this weekend, I thought y’all would want to read it now. I’m not ecstatic with the editing on it, and I’ll almost certainly post the original version in its entirety here at some point… but in the meantime I’ll tell you that you absolutely cannot miss this movie. If you care about sex and movies, you have to make seeing it a high priority. And I’ll leave you with how I closed my review:

Shortbus_4This is much better than a perfect movie. This is a great movie. This is a true movie. This is a unique movie. And this is an important movie. This is a movie about sex that’s explicit, not just in the standard sense of the word, but in every sense. It tells the truth about sex, as clearly and precisely and honestly as it can.

And that, all by itself, makes it invaluable.

Sixteen Candles: The Rep. Foley Scandal

Mark_foleyWell, the main thing I was going to say about the Rep. Foley teenage boy dirty text message argle-bargle, Susie Bright has already said, and better than I would have. The upshot: Congress just abolished habeas corpus and legitimized torture, and the story got buried with the department store ads (the SF Chronicle put it on Page 3). But a gay teenage sex scandal in Congress — that’s the lead story everywhere, our top story tonight, front page above the fold, and probably will be for days. (Except for the Chron. The headline story in today’s Chron was the Michelin guide giving three stars to only one Bay Area restaurant in its new Bay Area guide. You kind of have to love the Chron sometimes. Foley did make Page 1 — just not above the fold.)

So here, instead, is the other thing I want to say about the Foley scandal.

*****

SixteenI was sixteen when I first had sex. (According to how I defined it at the time, anyway.) I had it with an adult, a man in his thirties. More than once, in fact: the affair lasted roughly a month and a half.

And while I don’t think the guy covered himself with glory, I also don’t feel that I was molested. My memories of the experience aren’t stellar, but they fall into the “stupid decision/learning experience” category — not the “invasive violation/abuse of power” category. I think the guy was a schmuck, but I don’t think he was a predator, and I don’t think he was a pedophile.

CongressBefore you flip out and hit the comment button, let me be very clear — I’m not trying to defend Foley. There’s a lot of stuff Foley did that the guy I’m talking about didn’t do. As far as I know, the guy I fucked didn’t make a habit of going for teenagers on a regular basis. He wasn’t aggressive or forward about pursuing teenagers, including me. He wasn’t taking advantage of political power and status to pursue teenagers — he didn’t really have any to speak of. And, of course, he didn’t head up a Congressional caucus on protecting teenagers from people like him. Foley is a Grade A asshole, and I’m watching his fall with shameless, gleeful Schadenfreude. As Molly Ivins once said, Mama may have raised a mean child, but she didn’t raise no hypocrites.

JusticeAnd let me be very clear as well — I support the idea of age of consent laws. They’re never going to be perfect — no matter where you draw it, there are always going to be people under the line who are ready for sex, and people over the line who aren’t — but I get that that’s what laws are like. I do think age of consent laws need to be tinkered with (I personally support a three-tiered system, in which under a certain age you’re off-limits, between certain ages it’s only okay with people close to your age, and over a certain age you’re fair game), but I think the basic idea is sound.

BritneyMy point is this. When we talk about the Foley scandal, I think we need to be extremely careful about we’re getting irate about. I don’t want to reflexively join in the hysterical chorus about pedophilia and molestation and “won’t somebody please think of the children?” There’s a big difference between having a thing for 16-year-olds and having a thing for, say, 12-year-olds. Having a thing for 16-year-olds makes you a chicken-hawk — but it doesn’t make you a pedophile. (If it did, everyone who watched the Britney Spears naughty-schoolgirl video with lust in their heart is a pedophile.) In particular, lots of gay men had their first sexual experience as teenagers, with older men — and lots of those teenagers had warm, positive feelings about the experience, and continue to have those good feelings into adulthood. A good case could be made that adults having sex with 16-year-olds should be against the law, and a good case could certainly be made that it’s creepy and fucked-up — but it doesn’t make you an evil despoiler of innocent children.

No, what makes Foley evil is the hypocrisy. What makes Foley evil is that he made political hash out of Scary Disgusting Sexual Predators On The Internet Who Are Trying To Seduce Your Children… while he was using the Internet to try to seduce teenage boys.

And what makes his Republican compatriots evil — more evil than Foley, I would argue — is that they apparently knew about the Foley thing and covered it up… while they’ve been busy frothing at the mouth about those awful liberals who supposedly want to protect criminals and terrorists.

By, you know, granting them habeas corpus and stuff.

Sublimely Ridiculous: Mark Morris’s “King Arthur”

Dealy_boppersKing Arthur
Mark Morris Dance Company
Cal Performances, Zellerbach Auditorium at UC Berkeley, 9/30/06

I am, rather uncharacteristically, speechless.

Not that that’s going to stop me.

I guess I should start by saying that it’s magnificent. Much of what I’m about to say is going to make it sound ditzy and dumb, so I should make it clear from the outset that it’s neither. It’s extremely goofy; it’s utterly shameless; it will do absolutely anything to get attention or admiration or cheap laughs. But it’s not ditzy, and it’s not dumb. It’s one of the most splendid performances of any kind I’ve seen all year.

King_arthurIt’s a modern dance performance set to Purcell’s opera “King Arthur” — in which King Arthur never makes an appeareance. (His hat is often on stage, though.)

Union_jackIt’s a modern dance performance set to Purcell’s opera “King Arthur” — in which all the parts with story and narrative have been expunged, leaving behind a series of songs on the topics of (a) how we should all have lots of sex while we’re young, because life is short and soon it’ll be too late, and (b) how fabulously terrific England is.

Top_hatIt’s a modern dance performance set to Purcell’s opera “King Arthur” — featuring cheap tinsel curtains, sequined top hats, gym shoes with flashing red lights, and rhythmic-gymnastic ribbon routines. Among other things. Among many, many other things.

Dealy_boppers_2It’s a modern dance performance set to Purcell’s opera “King Arthur” — in which a magical spirit is costumed in a blue cardigan, costume-shop butterfly wings, and a set of silver sparkly dealy-boppers.

OrgyIt’s a modern dance performance set to Purcell’s opera “King Arthur” — in which women and men partner indiscriminately, and you often aren’t sure which is which anyway.

BoxersIt’s a modern dance performance set to Purcell’s opera “King Arthur” — in which the naked river spirits dress in an astonishing variety of silly underwear, from pantaloons to boxer shorts.

TreeIt’s a modern dance performance set to Purcell’s opera “King Arthur” — in which the sets have no ornamentation or facade of any kind. Moving platforms are black with big yellow X’s; moving staircases are bare metal; trees are blatantly artificial and set in big wooden blocks; and the snow in the winter scene is generated by a perforated roll-up shade filled with fake snow, being operated center stage by one of the dancers.

MimeIt’s a modern dance performance set to Purcell’s opera “King Arthur” — in which, in defiance of absolutely every rule about setting dance to vocal music, the song lyrics are broadly and literally mimed by the dance movements. Not just once or twice, but over and over again.

MaypoleNow, if this were being done by college dance majors or a local avante-garde theater company, it would be pretentious and laughable. But this is the Mark Morris Dance Company, and they completely get away with it. They get away with it because they know their shit. They get away with it because they dance with genius and discipline. Every movement, even the goofiest — especially the goofiest — is flawless, fluid and controlled, powerful and graceful. They did a schottische — a fun but lumbering dance that always makes me feel like I’m wearing ten-pound boots — and made it look weightless and lithe… while still, somehow, preserving the dance’s essential dorkiness. They did a Maypole dance that made Ingrid afraid to ever get near a Maypole again for fear of being unworthy (while, at the same time, she was busily stealing ideas).

Mirror_mazeAnd every moment of it is just flat-out beautiful. Sometimes it’s simply and straightforwardly beautiful — the sumptuous and romantic partner/mirror duet between the two women springs to my always libidinous mind. And some of it is dazzlingly beautiful while at the same time being goofy and ridiculous — most notably the ensemble piece that frantically weaves and dashes through a constantly moving set of free-standing mirrored doors, looking for all the world like twenty cheesy stage magicians in a fun house mirror maze, all competing for attention.

Mark_morrisIn the end, I think that’s what capped it for me. Mark Morris and his dancers have every shred of the discipline and devotion required by high art — with absolutely none of its stuffiness and self-importance, and none of its sense that That Simply Isn’t Done, Dear. Morris clearly believes that high art and low entertainment not only aren’t contradictory, but are actually complimentary, even symbiotic. And so the gasps of epiphany and the cheap laughs don’t alternate or compete — they come together, a simultaneous orgasm of aesthetic delight.

It fuckin’ rocks, dude.

King Arthur continues at Zellerbach until Oct. 7.