Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Years, y'all!



This definitely looks like a happy New Years party to me!

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Party safe!

Blog: fourfour



I remember seeing this video on Cute Overload and thought the guy was really cute. If I'd been paying attention, I'd have added a link to his blog a while back.

Welcome, fourfour!

Once more with feeling!



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Reading Now: The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek



Dedication:
Aż was zjadacze chleba -
w aniołów przerobi.

Until you lowly eaters of bread
Will be made into angels.

Epigraph:
De toda la memoria, solo vale
el don preclare de evocar los suenos.
~Antonio Machado

Out of the whole of memory, there's one thing
worthwhile: the great gift of calling back dreams.

When I read, I imagine the scenes of a particular book in different colors - each scene has it owns color, but each book as its own background color and the scene colors are shades of the whole.

With Chris Abani, the majority of The Virgin of Flames and Becoming Abigail was a dark color - black or brown with tinges of red around the edges. The only things that stood out were the white of Black's face at the beginning, the white of Black wearing Iggy's wedding dress, the colors of Fatima, and the celebration of East LA dancing in the snow of ash. Black's memories are a cloudy, gelled color. The majority of Becoming Abigail is black - almost like a play with a single spotlight - though dim - on Abigail standing by the river. However, her scenes of memory, of her life in Nigeria: I see white walls, brown floors - most of it dim, but dim like a room during midday with the blinds drawn - you know there is bright light just beyond.

So far, the two stories I've read in The Coast of Chicago ("Farwell" and "Chopin in Winter") everything is shades of red surrounded by cold blue winter. The color - the winter blue - brought to mind two books: Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale (which of course recalls Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale) and Kevin Brockmeier's A Brief History of the Dead.

If you haven't read it, A Brief History of the Dead is wonderful! I've yet to read either of the former (Helprin or Shakespeare) but I'll get there.

Beau: Undies



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A little post Xmas pretty







From my favorite place to peruse: DudeTubeOnline

Book Review: Becoming Abigail by Chris Abani

Maybe, she thought, maybe some of us are just here to feed others.

She struck match after match, watching their brief phosphorous flare. No, she thought, maybe I am not here as food, but to live for one phosphorous moment. No, she thought, bringing the flame of the last match to the tip of a cigarette, maybe I just light the fuse of my own destruction.

What I wanted more of in Abani's The Virgin of Flames, I found here in Becoming Abigail.

The story of Abigail told in chapters labeled Then and Now: most of "Then" deals with her life in Nigeria, trying to be seen as herself rather than as her mother, who was also called Abigail but died in childbirth. The "Now" is a description of her standing on the bank of the Thames dealing with "Then" - the funeral of her mother that she remembers as though she were there, the suicide of her father, the moving to London, the abuse by her cousin's husband, her love of Derek. The book is very dark: I've moved on to Stuart Dybek's The Coast of Chicago for a break from the darkness.
Even for the dead.

Second chances are a fact of life for the Igbo. A person who lived poor and was buried poor can, when a relative makes enough money, receive a second burial. Full of the pomp and grandeur reserved for the rich. So even in death, in Hades, the dead one can get a chance to taste the wealth that eluded him in his previous incarnation, perhaps sweetening the deal for his next one.

Why did these people know nothing of this? Of the complexities of life and how you can never recapture the way a particular shaft of light, falling through a tree, patterned the floor in a shower of shadows. You just opened your heart because you knew tomorrow there would be another shaft of light, another tree, and another rain of shadows. Each particular. Not the same as yesterday's. Not as beautiful as yesterday's. Only as beautiful as today's.

Even the dead knew this.

The Virgin of Flames seemed lighter, even if only because everything was indeed surrounded by flame.

Beau: Ring in the New Year with Edilson





I love these shorts!

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Monday, December 29, 2008

When?

When will love come again? When will I come again with someone I love? Someone worth my weight in gold. Someone that I think is beautiful. Someone who thinks I am beautiful and interesting and worth listening to. Someone who will hold me down in bed but lift me up in life.

When will love come again? When will he come and not be afraid of what's in my blood? I hope he has the same.

When will it happen? There's nothing like unrequited love to make you feel so small.

Beau: Alex



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A Year in 40 Seconds


One year in 40 seconds from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Review: The Virgin of Flames

What I feared was quickly turning into another "let's kill the tranny because she makes us uncomfortable with questions about our sexuality", thank goodness, did not. Instead it became a tale of one who could not deal with his becoming. As it says in the book, or at least I think it did, the fieriest places in Hell were reserved for those angels who took no side in the battle between Satan and God. For those who did not become one thing or another, and ultimately this is Black's problem. Black, the protagonist, is depressed, is suicidal, can barely get off because he cannot become whatever he is meant to become. Even with the help of an angel.

Though I like Chris Abani's work enough to be excited about reading all his other work, I didn't know if I like this book per se. I did recommend it to a friend, and she said:
I'm only a few pages in…so far he has a lot of the L.A. noir down pat.

To be honest, I've avoided anything that could be labeled noir like the plague. Not only does Abani draw LA in the terms of noir, he has a character Ray-Ray who constantly quotes noir novelist Raymond Chandler after whom Ray-Ray is named. The particular work is Farewell, My Lovely.

Ultimately, my favorite parts of Virgin are the parts where Abani becomes a poet; not the unsentimental, hardboiled parts of the work, but the parts in which he begins to describe the "mystery" that is LA, like Hell, centered in a ring of fire - the surrounding land is constantly burning from brush fire and by the end of the novel, ash begins to snow on the city. LA in my mind has always been a nexus between Heaven and Hell (and here), and here it is the same: Black is constantly visited by the angel Gabriel, images of the Virgin Mary abound throughout the city, and this is juxtaposed with the superficiality of Hollywood and the anger and desperation of crime, poverty, and the police breathing down the necks of the inhabitants, like demons come to tear apart the faithful. (If that isn't obvious enough, at one point, Iggy, Black's friend and landlord, walks through a cemetery where an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is being filmed.)

As I said before, in the first few pages of the book, there is a mention of Dicken's Miss Haversham. This is fitting (sorry for the pun) for Black's protection, pleasure and pain come from his wearing a wedding dress. But at least two other works are referenced: Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely (as quoted by Ray-Ray) and the poetry of Wallace Stevens. I'm not that familiar with Stevens' work, so I don't know if allusions to it occur anywhere other than the epigraphs at the beginning of the sections "Idolatry" and "The Anointing."
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
~Wallace Stevens

Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams
And our desires…
~Wallace Stevens

Whatever Black wants (needs?) to become, it starts with a dress, then becomes a mural (Fatima) that appears to be of him as a woman. He then wears panties and stockings as he has sex with the woman he's obsessed with: Sweet Girl, a pre-op transsexual who still has her penis and testicles but claims to be a lesbian. But this all quickly deteriorates as either the world (the LA city council forces him to remove the mural) or he himself fights against it.

Of the selections I'm sharing, the first is simply a description of books:
Also on the desk, in piles on the floor around the room, crammed onto too-small cases, were books. In every imaginable binding and in every state - new, battered, hardbacks, paperbacks. Black loved books and he loved to read, but sometimes he loved books more than he loved to read. And sometimes, what he loved most about books was the space they left for him between the reading the imagining. Sometimes he lived there more than anywhere else.

This, for me, is the theme of our piece. As is...
"Black, love, don't you know childhood, at least the way most of us remember it, is a violence we do to ourselves? How come you aren't looking at the journey you made from there to here? There is no core to anything, Black. It's like an onion; if you just keep peeling away, you will disappear. There is only the you you're becoming or have become. You're going about this all wrong, Black. It's everything, not one thing. Everything and then the cracks in between; especially the cracks in between!"

And this, that ultimately foretells Black's ending:
There was sadness. But this sadness wasn't a turning, wasn't a leaning into healing. There was no tight-lipped hope in the face of it. This sadness was like a dandelion blown into the wind. Not the prelude to a new beginning, but a dispersal into parts so small that there was nothing to hold on to, no way to find them all.

Yet somehow, they filled the world.

Then, on the destruction and removal of Fatima (a 50-foot tall woman that Black was painting on a building across from a school):
The schoolkids and even their teachers pressed their faces against the chain-link fence of the schoolyard to watch. Those who had gotten to school early were rewarded with Fatima in all her nudity, not this fast vanishing figure. And for years after, those boys and girls, even when they grew old, would never be satisfied with any love they had, because they, like Black, became infected by the desire for Fatima. And even though they would never remember the name of it, this desire, it would fill every pore in their body and drive them crazy.

There were other sections of this excellent book that are too long to reprint here: one in which Black and the angel Gabriel travel across the city, one in which Black and Sweet Girl discuss the colors of paint that Black uses to paint his murals, one in which Black equates the memory or ghost of his painting of Fatima to the playing of the Moonlight Sonata on a broken piano, and basically the whole last section of the book starting with Chapter 36 and Abani's description of a jazz performance by Damian Thrace's band:
At first it was a whisper.

So, I say, read this. Read whatever you can get your hands on by Chris Abani!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Finally Got the Tree Up





Merry Christmas, y'all!

I'll post again on Saturday!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beau: Miro Moreira



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Have you voted for the Hottest Brazilian yet? Edilson Nascimento is in the lead, but I actually prefer Miro!

Photo from Hans is Great

Two Pieces from The Independent



Scientists have found the first unequivocal evidence that the Arctic region is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world at least a decade before it was predicted to happen.

Climate-change researchers have found that air temperatures in the region are higher than would be normally expected during the autumn because the increased melting of the summer Arctic sea ice is accumulating heat in the ocean. The phenomenon, known as Arctic amplification, was not expected to be seen for at least another 10 or 15 years and the findings will further raise concerns that the Arctic has already passed the climatic tipping-point towards ice-free summers, beyond which it may not recover.

There's more



The Student Who Would Be President

Beau in the Face of Adversity





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Chris Abani: The Virgin of Flames



Epigraph:
There are singular people who appear like metaphors somewhere further our than we do, beckoned, not driven, invented by belief, author and hero of a dream by which our own courage and cunning are tested and tried; so that we may wonder all over again what is veritable and inevitable and possible and what it is to become whoever we may be.
~Diane Arbus

I want to prove that Los Angeles is a practical joke played on us by superior beings on a humorous planet.
~Bob Kaufman, Unholy Missions
One:

This is the religion of cities.

The sacraments: iridescent in its concrete sleeve, the Los Angeles River losing faith with every inch traveled. A child riding a bicycle against the backdrop of desolate lots and leaning chain-link fences, while in the distance, a cluster of high-rises, like the spires of old Cathedrals, trace a jagged line against the sky, ever the uneven heart of prayer. The inevitable broken fire hydrant surrounded by an explosion of half-naked squealing children bearing witness to the blessed coolness of water. World-weary tenements and houses contemplating a more decadent past, looking undecided, as if they would up and leave for a better part of the city at any moment. A human silhouette on a park bench reading a book. Junkies hustling the afternoon. And out of sight, yet present nonetheless, the tired bounce of heat-deflated basketballs against soft tar. And a dog. Old, ancient even. And curious.

NYT: The Recycled City

The Web Site of Chris Abani

Beau: Return to Key West



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And once again

Thank you, Kenneth in the (212)!

Things Fall Apart



So, like I said in my last entry, I've read Things Fall Apart three times. I don't know why. I originally read it, I think, as part of a class. Then as a suggestion from a book of the best modern writers and then a third time just within the past 6 months. It is a book that for whatever reason, I keep coming back to again and again.

It is a beautiful book - words, at least my words, do not do it justice, but yet painful. As I've gotten older, I've come to identify more and more with Okonkwo, so much so that I not only intellectually hear Yeats' words at the beginning but feel it as a spiral in my life.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
~W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

As I begin reading a book, I will post the epigraph here, and sometimes the first page/paragraph. Especially if it is amazing! Things Fall Apart would have to be posted here in its entirety!

Reading Everything: The Search

So I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately.

I read a lot in general, although I work two jobs, each five days a week, with staggered days off, so I work 7-days-a-week and three of those days I work from 8:30 in the morning to 11 to 12 at night. But before going to bed, or whatever time I do have off, I typically read, and I almost always have my limit of library books checked out. And lately that's been non-fiction - partially because I feel that I'm behind on a lot of current issues, partially because I'm dealing with a lot of emotional stuff, and partially because I'm slightly addicted to self-help books.

According to the Dewey Decimal System, the self-help books are filed under the number 158.1. Sometimes when I'm blue or feeling less than I should, I can be found in this section. Thought sometimes I do drift a little further on to the 190s - Classical Philosophy - or the early 200s which is religious (Christian) history. I was raised a Christian, so if asked, I am Christian, though I no longer believe in the modern Church. The only time I feel connected to my spirituality is when I read something by the Jewish fathers (weird, eh?) or am listening to Sufjan Stevens. Or walking in some forest, field, city street on a blustery day.

I typically don't feel hypocritical about my tangential relationship with the religion of my upbringing. Most modern Christians (or Christianists) simply act out of fear - afraid what will become of the world if we let things change too much) and thus out of fear they are destroying everything.

But I was talking about reading. The non-fiction is no longer doing it for me; the last non-fic book I read that I really, really liked was Thomas L. Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded. I also currently have Carolyn Hax's Tell Me About It: Lying, sulking, getting fat...and 56 other things NOT to do while looking for Love. Not that I'm looking: just that I'm at the extreme tail end of a relationship: so I also have Dann Hazel's Moving On: The gay man's guide to coping when a relationship ends.

However, this is the biggest problem with such books including those in the 158.1 section: just like fiction, they are other people's stories, but unlike fiction, they are such that they really can't help you. It's great that Melody Beattie became Codependent No More but her telling me how to do it, won't help. I have to tell myself how to do it. It has to come through me. Somewhat like religion. Rick Warren's way to god is definitely not my way to god. Dann Hazel's way to happiness is not mine.

Which is why I like Carolyn Hax's rule No. 1 of what not to do:
Reading Relationship Books or Otherwise Training To Date

If you're reading a book or taking a class that tells you what to do, you aren't telling you what to do...I'm not saying a book can't help you do that - but if you want a relationship education, read Jane Austen. Or Fitzgerald, Ellison, Waugh, Flannery O'Connor...Read Anna Karenina (but stay away from married Russian women and/or train platforms).

So I return to the fiction stacks and to a goal I had as a child: To start with author last night beginning with A and read all the way to the Zs while taking whatever meandering detours I want. For example, I'm currently reading Chris Abani's The Virgin of Flames - in the second chapter, the main character Black thinks about Miss Haversham, so although I could wait to get to D for Dickens, I'll probably read Great Expectations soon.

And maybe I'll give Call Me By Your Name another. And though I'll skip Things Fall Apart (I've read it three times already), I'll pick something else by Chinua Achebe. I'm also excited by reading more Lee K. Abbott.

While writing this I was listening to "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" as done by Sufjan Stevens:

OK. Yes I'm pissed...


...but I love this picture!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

AFI's Top 10 Films of 2008

In no particular order

Milk

The Dark Knight

The Wrestler

Wall-E

Gran Torino

Iron Man

Frozen River

Wendy and Lucy

Frost/Nixon

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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Mekong BeYunny!



From Towleroad: Wealth of new Species Found in Greater Mekong





Also: Gay Penguins best parents at Zoo

Beau: Zack Randall plus One



There's more - NSFW

Zack Randall is on the right. See another shot of him here.

Anyone know the name of the blonde?

And for another NSFW beauty click here - and be sure to go check out his xtube profile for his other video!

So I can't stand this guy...

...but I might change my mind.



From Towleroad:
Partially-fabricated memoir writer James Frey told Stephen Elliott of TheRumpus.net that his next book will be a continuation of a well-known series.

"It’s the third book of the Bible, called The Final Testament of the Holy Bible. My idea of what the Messiah would be like if he were walking the streets of New York today. What would he believe? What would he preach? How would he live? With who?"

Frey said Jesus would perform gay marriages and live with a prostitute: "Love is love. It doesn’t matter how or who you love. I don’t believe the messiah would condemn gay men and women. It addresses the supernatural aspects of religion, how we need to think of religion given the technology available to us. We know have the power of God in many ways: the atomic bomb, the ability to create life in a test tube, cloning, artificial intelligence."

As for his detractors, Frey said: "If a book is cool, and entertaining, and moving, then get your middle finger ready and raise it often. Fuck’em all."