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Varla Jean Merman and the Unspeakable Act of Assimilation

July 30th, 2010 No comments

Last night, David and I prevailed on my in-laws to sit with the kids and ambled from our sleepy vacation spot in Wellfleet, MA to Provincetown. After a predictably low-key but excellent dinner at Cafe Heaven, we were ready for something more dazzling: Varla Jean Merman‘s Loose Chanteuse performance at the ArtHouse.

VJM is a whip-smart crackle of manic energy: able to glide to operatic heights, write and produce videos of snapshot genius, rap with street-savvy accuracy, and perform on-the-fly acts of performing derring-do that — abetted by the tidal tumbler of Myers’s Rum and tonic I’d downed — left me helpless. The few game straights in the audience struggled to keep up with the stream of gay-only references (some were even more targeted to “older gays”; as she pointed out, the audience was “riddled with them.”) I was reminded of another P’town show I’d seen, long ago, where the comic first asked whether there were any “straight folks” in the audience and then, after a few hesitant hands had gone up, shouted: “Get ’em!”

By “long ago” I mean: Before I had kids. And this brings me to the one real downer of the evening.

Tomorrow begins Family Pride Week here in P’town. So this gave Varla Jean a big, fat target that she hit again and again — even more often than she plumbed the comedic possibilities of Ambien). Most of it was fun: “Family Week seems like two weeks.” I bet that’s right, for many of those without kids. (Although one could always choose any other week of the entire summer for vacation if being around children were seen as that much of a crimp in one’s style.)

But some of it was quite ugly — on both sides of the performer-audience divide. When she mentioned “gays with kids,” there were more than a few hisses from the crowd. (She handled this well, offering that they’d “already started blowing up the balloons.” Yes, hisses.

We were appalled, but with reflection, I’m less than shocked. There probably isn’t anything that more suggests assimilation to the LGBT community — especially older members of that community — than the conformity to middle-class values that can be (too) easily equated with raising children. And surely no gay person at a Varla Jean Merman show wants to be reminded of these values after seeing the star talking to her diseased liver and then defeating it through heavy drinking of a substance too vile to mention here. (The video is from the “Don’t Eat Out, Varla Jean” series (see! punctuation is important); I couldn’t find it on youtube, but this one is great, too.)

Everything else, though is cute or cool: VJ called two couples up to congratulate them on their impending (same-sex) weddings, to more than polite applause (and no boos or catcalls) from the audience. She showcased her dog in a series of photos: more oohs! and ahhs! The pianist (lots of good puns there from the star) proudly announced that, in his mid-40’s, he’d just gotten involved in “adult movies,” and also received applause — presumably because of a combination of his undeniable sexiness and the career accomplishment of having broken into a market usually dominated by younger men, and at an age greater than Isabella Rossalini’s when Lancome dumped her as a model.

And then: VJ talked about the gay couples and “their inner city children.” The combination of classism and racism was jaw-dropping, and not mitigated by any jokey, or winking, disclaimers.

The P’town Library, where I’m sitting to write this, is about to close. I feel a lot more welcome here than I did at certain parts of the VJM show.

NOM’s “Summer for Marriage Tour”‘s First Stop: Write Your Own Caption

July 16th, 2010 4 comments

Mine follows the photo:

Unexpectedly high attendance at kick-off rally forces NOM to order second pizza

Hard to Bee-lieve

July 14th, 2010 No comments

In the latest claim of “gay causes apocalypse,” one James Hartline (an “ex-gay”) implies that a swarm of bees that descended on Lemon Grove, California a few days after a Gay Pride event there was caused by God. I respond as follows:

Unlikely Things Bees Claimed to Do

The Worst Summer Vacation, Ever

July 13th, 2010 No comments

Pity the children of Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage. To satisfy dad’s need to poop on the marriage equality forces, the poor kids will be dragged up and down the East Coast during the hottest, most miserable summer in recorded memory.

Yes, kids, hop aboard the Summer of [Some] Marriage[s] Van, where you’ll get to attend rallies, some attended by as many as dozens of people, in support of the fairness-stopping agenda!

Better bring your video games and plenty of stuff to do.

Here’s a conversation that I’m imagining having with my kids were I to suggest a counter-tour (which, by the way, someone without kids and with some time ought to organize; follow these dreary killjoys from pillar to post, and liven things up with some clever, performance art-type responsive rallies):

Me: Kids, this year we won’t be going to the beach, or to any water parks, or to camp.

Girls: Daddy, what will we be doing instead?

Me: We’re going to travel across the country in a van, and get out at some points and talk to people about things that matter to us.

Girls: What things? Having fun?

Me: Not exactly.

Girls: This sounds boring.

Me: Someday you’ll understand.

Girls: {burst into tears}

Maybe NOM should try a stealthier approach, since the van they’re using might as well have a sign on it that says: “Egg Me!” (which I don’t for a minute condone; eggs are too valuable to waste). Perhaps they could salvage this van, and trick the kids into thinking they’re headed for stardom:

Partridgebus02

Cry “Babies!” — Gaga, Goo Goo To Team Up

July 7th, 2010 No comments
Lady%2BGaGa.png

Live Nation has just announced a late summer, early fall tour that promises to be a blockbuster. The bill will be jointly headlined by the unstoppable Lady Gaga and reliable hit-makers The Goo Goo Dolls, and is tentatively titled Google’s GaGaGooGooFest 2010.

“We’re just surprised no one had thought of the pairing of Goo Goo and Gaga,” said promoter John Waite, formerly the lead singer of the British band The Babys. “Isn’t it time to make fans drool with excitement?” And we’re of course delighted to have landed internet search giant Google as our title sponsor.

Tickets go on sale on July 10, with discount coupons available on specially marked boxes of Pampers, America’s most beloved disposable diaper.

In a further development sure to excite fans of Neonate Rock, Gaga and GooGoo have announced that the warm-up band for the extravanganza will be the reunited Kajagoogoo, well-known for such monster 80’s hits as “Too Shy” and — well, isn’t that enough?

[Warning: Do not stare directly at photo.]

Kajagoogoo reunite for UK tour

But Here’s the Problem with Wonder Woman

June 30th, 2010 3 comments

This story talks about yet another attempt to reintroduce Wonder Woman, this time with a new costume:

It’s a vast improvement, yes, but for all of DC’s effort to place WW in the Superman-Batman icon troika, it’s not worked yet, and likely won’t. Here’s why:

Her powers have always been a shadow of Superman’s. He’s all-powerful; she’s super-strong, but less so. He’s indestructible; she has some resistance to injury, but has to fend off bullets with her bracelets, for Pete’s sake. He can fly; sometimes she can, too, but then why has she relied on her invisible plane? And so on.

Powers aren’t everything, as Batman conclusively demonstrates. But heroes need their own act. And a magic lasso isn’t enough, unless she’s planning to join the super-rodeo. The new origin even sounds like a Superman knock-off: Her homeland (Paradise Island) and family is destroyed, and she escapes and is raised by…ordinary earthlings. Folks like you, me, and Idina Menzel.

Don’t Mess With Idina!

June 27th, 2010 2 comments

Yikes! A silly post that I wrote about Idina Menzel last night while wasting time in front of the TV elicited some of the nastiness comments I’ve gotten.

Interesting. I’ve written about very sensitive stuff, including abortion, and generally gotten respectful disagreement. Granted, my tone here was snarky — but it was mostly a joke, people. I don’t really think Menzel believes her son can dream about unicorns, and really, does it matter? There’s hardly a lot at stake here.

Don’t insult celebrities, or their fans will come after you. One even criticized my parenting, questioning my decision to leave my kids home with a sitter when, he claims, there were tornado warnings in the area. I’ve done my share of bad parenting, but if there really were tornado warnings I’m guessing the concert would have been called off. Oh, well. It’s not like I let them sail around the world, or anything.

And for the record: Read the previous post, and you’ll see that I did like her music (even “Poker Face”), and the way she dealt with some of her more obnoxious fans (who knows? maybe they’re the same ones who wrote me). She was even kind of sweet about it, obligingly singing a quick “Happy Birthday, Anniversary, and Anything Else” and telling the story about her visit to the hospital to deal with broken ribs.

But I defy anyone to listen to her random musings and tell me how she gets from A to…some non-contiguous letter.

Hmm….is there a future in gratuitous celebrity attacks? Does Liza Minnelli marry gay men?

Idina Menzel Knows Nothing About Cognitive Development

June 26th, 2010 10 comments

On Thursday evening, David and I left our two kids with a babysitter and a few flashlights (we’d had a major storm that took out our power, knocked down a branch and shattered our lamppost), and headed off to see Broadway and Glee diva Idina Menzel at the Mann Music Center, an outdoor venue that hosts all kinds of stuff every summer.

OK, she can sing — well enough to make the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra wonder why they spent countless thousands of hours studying incredibly difficult instruments only to be back-up to a (pretty clever) cover version of “Poker Face.” (To her credit, Menzel, who studied at NYU, really did seem to understand and appreciate the talent behind her; she thanked them profusely and endlessly.)

She should have done more of that, and less of her incomprehensible, meandering, and self-absorbed stage patter. At her best when she sparred with idiot hecklers in the audience — just the right mix of pissed and playful — she otherwise rambled about various and sundry aspects of her — as she knows you surely know — amazing career. Most of the time I had no idea why she was putting one thought next to each other. I felt as though I was being subjected to live broadcasts of random neural firings.

You wouldn’t expect such a person to be a good songwriter, and Menzel isn’t. Or at least she should never be permitted to write another lyric. She sang one of her self-penned dance hits, Gorgeous, which has a shamelessly catchy pop hook, but features these wince-worthy words:

When all of the beauty turns to pain,when all of the madness falls like rain, as long as we crash and we collide, we will be gorgeous you and I.

Well, it could have been worse. As a proud and often surprisingly irony-challenged parent, I’m reluctant to criticize others for cooing about their kids. But her paean to her infant son, Walker, was enough to make me want to call the Department of Human Services. I could imagine her belting out the song she’s constructed to her helpless child, drawing screams that she probably mistakes for the adulation of her fans. And she was singing about his dreams, which are supposed to have included such storybook stock characters as — wait for it — unicorns.

OK — the kid is still an infant, about nine months old. He’s not dreaming about unicorns. Menzel, apparently, can defy both gravity and neuroscience.

The Joy of Radio Wimbledon

June 22nd, 2010 No comments

This is better than I expected. I’ve figured out how to make my enchanted iPhone transmit the live tennis broadcast from Wimbledon, and I’ve been listening to it in the car on my commute.

Tennis on the radio? Yeah, I’ve got a case. And no, it doesn’t work — at least not in terms of play-by-play action. But the British commentators are worth the price of admission (free Wimby app!), as their comments seem spouted by John Steed and Emma Peel from the Avengers. A few of my favorite comments and exchanges:

  • “And then she hit the ball into the half of the court where her opponent simply…wasn’t.”
  • [Steed]: “This is some stiff competition for her. Too bad she couldn’t start out by playing someone a bit easier.”   [Peel]: “Like a British girl.” [The eight British women all flamed out in the first round. Would American commentators have been equally mercilessly funny about a similar flop at the US Open? You tell me.]
  • [After a primal scream by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga]: “He seems slightly perturbed.”

The very best exchange took place late today, when play had been stopped on most of the courts. Steed tried to convince Peel that she must hie herself to the last remaining court, to report on the action. The courts were adjacent, but Peel kept trying, playfully, to bow out, claiming, variously: not to know where the court was; not to be able to get there in time; unable to comprehend what was being asked of her; and so on. (Of course she gamely soldiered on over.)

In this era of idiotically besuited sports anchormen, shouting out their opinions as though the fate of the Gulf depended on them, this charming, love-of-game approach won me over — right away.

Try it. You won’t miss talk radio as much as you think you might.

Now I have to go read some poetry by the official Wimbledon poet. There really is one, and his name is Matt Harvey.

GraphJam: There Goes Another Hour of my Life

June 10th, 2010 No comments

I just discovered this site, and while it didn’t cost me a full day of existence (compare: discovery of YouTube), I did lose almost an hour that’s supposed to be dedicated to my chapter edits — due tomorrow. 😉

For example:

Usage of the Semicolon

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