Saturday, December 29, 2007

The 2007 Okapi Sampler

While the real world descended even further into social and environmental apocalypse, the music world glimmered with hope in 2007. Radio stations delved deeper than ever into inanity and irrelevence by putting Souljah Boy, Good Charlotte and Beyonce on permanent repeat, but MySpace, Pandora and YouTube allowed a lot of new sounds to escape and germinate. For the first time in many years, I noticed life in the underground again. I think, in a few years, we'll look back on 2007 as a resurrection of forward-thinking and sophisticated, but fun, music.

So, without further ado, here are the top 10 tracks of 2007*

10. It's All True - Tracey Thorn - In 2002, after 20 years, Everything But The Girl took a break. Since then, the duo, have worked on solo projects and raising a family. Tracey Thorn, the beautiful voice of EBTG, re-emerged in early 2007 with a new solo album, and this new single. Tracey's crisp, haunting voice soothes and keeps together an almost maddeningly perky dance track. It's nice to have her back.

9. Bonafide Lovin' - Chromeo - Chromeo are a couple of life-long best friends who have described themselves as the only successful Arab/Jewish collaboration in history. Their music is everything pop music should be - and isn't. On Bonafide Lovin', one of the most fun tracks of the year, Chromeo manages to successfully blend early '80s Ray Parker Jr. with up to the minute electro artsiness. Now that's an achievement.

8. Saturn Strobe - Pantha Du Prince - At least once a year, there is a house track that materializes out of the spiritual space where celebration and melancholic longing symbiotically co-exist - a house track that reminds us that everything is connected. This is that track for 2007. Imagine the sun coming up over the desert mountains and breathe it in.

7. Overpowered - Roisin Murphy - Roisin (pronounced row-sheen) spent most of the late '90s and early '00s as the voice of Moloko. Now solo, she's giving us a voice that's both familiar and distant placed delicately over a purely late '80s acid house track. Gorgeous.

6. Marble House - The Knife - The Knife is possibly the most strange and intriguing "band" of the current era. A duo of artists from Sweden, their sound (and look) is hard to define...and that usually means that we're on to something. Maybe they'll provide the soundtrack to a new Mad Max world, or maybe they'll just end up opening for the Blue Man Group. Either way, keep your eye on The Knife.

5. How We Go Out - Leslie Hall - A sight to behold in her gold glitter suit or in any one of her trademark glamour gem sweaters, Leslie Hall of Leslie & The Lys, is bringing it - Midwest style! It's hard to take her seriously when as she raps about life in the streets, basements, parking lots, and big-box stores of Ames, Iowa. But before you write her off as an internet novelty, really listen. It's the sound of electro hip-hop doing what it's supposed to - telling stories about the lives that Hollywood ignores.

4. The Way I Are - Timbaland featuring Keri Hilson - If you can get over the grammatical errors, and rhyming house with house and boat with boat, you'll find a killer sound. This is what pop music should be - fun, young and all dressed up. Timbaland proves, yet again, that you can be a musical genius and still produce songs that will sell - and you don't have to have the cheese or the car keys!

3. Bamboo Banga - M.I.A. - The world doesn't know what to make of Mathangi Arulpragasam - better known as M.I.A. Her music is a barrage of sounds and influences that push you up against a wall and hold you there until she's done with you. The voiceover is jarring, hypnotic, urgent, important and disposable. And, forget about trying to categorize this one in your iTunes.

2. Let Me Think About It - Ida Corr vs. Fedde Le Grand - my friend, Betty, got me hip to this fun little number. It's huge in Europe, and how could it not be? It's disco heyday, James Bond, and right now - all in one. And add some fierce afro-coiffs, and well, what more could a gay man ask for? Just pure fun.

1. Rapture - My Robot Friend - I probably wouldn't have given My Robot Friend a chance until my Stimpy friend sent me a CD. At first listen, I was ready to store it away with all of the pretentious, silly electroclash rubbish of a couple of years ago. But, I was too lazy to change CDs in my car player, and somewhere on the causeway between downtown Miami and South Beach, I got it. This re-interpretation of the Blondie classic is my current fave. It's fucking brilliant - and it doesn't come with an embeddable you'll have to click here!

* This list is completely biased and does not reflect the tastes or opinions of most thinking people.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Ok....the time has come. My home computer has expired, and I'm left in a quandry. Unlike a lot a blogger types, I'm not really much of a computer nerd, and I've never used a Mac. I don't even own an iPod. But, I'm wondering.....has the time come? Should I replace my computer with another PC, or should I invest in a Mac? I've always been turned off by the Cult of Mac, but I'll admit, they sure are prettier. And, now all PCs come with Vista, which apparently sucks - as evidenced by the constant wailing and weeping of co-workers with new PCs. So, should I do it? Should I defect to the Cult?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Acid House Flashback # 2

"Jack Your Body" - J.M. Silk - 1987

Monday, December 10, 2007

Maybe It's a Hanukkah Bush?

I was privy this weekend to a particularly academic conversation between two 40-something female Christmas consumers, in the Christmas tree section of Target.

Shopper # 1 - "How about these ornaments and lights for the tree?"

Shopper # 2 - "Um blue lights and stuff? No. I don't want my Christmas tree to look Jewish."

Shopper # 1 - (not in a sarcastic tone) "I don't think Jewish people put up Christmas trees."

Shopper # 2 - "Well I don't care if they do, or don't. I just don't want mine to look Jewish!"

And this was in multi-cultural Miami. What hope have we for South Carolina?

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Reason For The Season

'Tis the season for re-posting my annual updated anti-Black Friday post.....

The malls here in Miami began decking the halls 2 months ago, and had Santa's train installed just as the last back to school sales were ending. I know it's cliche at this point to feel nostalgic for the days when the holy season of giving gently revealed itself shortly after Thanksgiving. Today, a 5am scuffle in the line outside of Best Buy on Black Friday merely marks the halfway point in the season of stress and artifice.

Again, this year, I'm committing to honoring the reason for the season - the winter solstice - and celebrating this beautiful time of year by spending quality time with the people that I love, and sharing meaningful gifts instead of spending time fighting the crowds so I can check people off my list with iPod iPhone accessories.

For the like minded:

World Wildlife Fund

Now go for a walk with someone you love.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Acid House Flashback # 1

"Voodoo Ray" - A Guy Called Gerald - 1988

Friday, November 09, 2007

Nibbled By An Okapi

Ok…now about that Okapi thing. A new blog buddy recently asked, “Why an okapi? Just Curious.” Well, the okapi thing has several different origins.

When I was a kid, I was truly obsessed with two things: Disco music and my Safari Animal Cards. When I wasn’t dancing in the living room to Saturday afternoon Soul Train, I was memorizing and categorizing my animal cards and fantasizing about future expeditions to Madagascar. My favorite animal was the okapi. I was captivated by its graceful lines and mysterious past, and I loved the idea that this really large animal could have remained undiscovered by Westerners until the 20th century.

A little later in life, I read, and enjoyed, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and was particularly amused when it was revealed that the main character’s “only brother was long ago nibbled to death by an okapi.”

Then I discovered The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. It is one of my three most favoritest books, ever – the other two being Beloved and Prodigal Summer. Here’s a beautiful okapi-infused excerpt from The Poisonwood Bible

She is inhumanly alone. And then, all at once, she isn't. A beautiful animal stands on the other side of the water. They look up from their lives, woman and animal, amazed to find themselves in the same place. He freezes, inspecting her with his black-tipped ears. His back is purplish-brown in the dim light, sloping downward from the gentle hump of his shoulders. The forest’s shadows fall into lines across his white-striped flanks. His stiff forelegs splay out to the sides like stilts, for he's been caught in the act of reaching down for water. Without taking his eyes from her, he twitches a little at the knee, then the shoulder, where a fly devils him. Finally he surrenders his surprise, looks away and drinks. She can feel the touch of his long, curled tongue on the water's skin, as if he were lapping from her hand. His head bobs gently, nodding small, velvet horns lit white from behind like new leaves.

…That one time and no other the okapi came to the stream, and I was the only one to see it.

When I first read that, it took me back to the comfort and magic of solitude that I felt as a kid exploring the woods. It still does. And, that is where the okapi thing comes from.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

One For All And All For None

Way back in 1974, Representatives Bella Abzug and Ed Koch introduced to Congress the Equality Act of 1974 which would have added sexual orientation as a protected class to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The “Gay Rights Bill,” as it became known, failed to make it through the House of Representatives.

In 1996, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was proposed, and would have made it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation in hiring and employment and the treatment of employees. It failed in the Senate on a vote of 49-50.

This past April, Representatives Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Deborah Pryce and Chris Shays re-introduced ENDA as HR 2015. That version would have protected people based on sexual orientation as well as gender identity – with exemptions for small businesses, religious organizations and the military.

In September Representative Barney Frank backed away from HR 2015 and introduced a new bill, HR 3685, which would not provide protection from discrimination based on gender identity – only sexual orientation. Rep. Frank assumed his new position due to a lack of support for a gender-identity inclusive bill. He, and the Human Rights Campaign, have taken the position that a limited, but passed, ENDA is better than no ENDA at all. Apparently, there is a glimmer of hope that the federal government could possibly decide that it’s time to pass a law to protect people from being fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation – but there is no hope that the time has come to stop discriminating against trannies.

HR 3685, in effect, would make it illegal to discriminate against “straight-acting” gay men, lesbians and bisexuals – but would still allow for discrimination against transsexuals and transvestites and anyone who gender-identifies in a way that differs from traditional gender roles. The vote on HR 3685 could take place today. Of course, it would still have a long way to go to become federal law.

I am so disheartened by the angry discussions that I’ve witnessed around whether we, as a community, should support the passage of HR 3685 and leave out the protections for gender identity, or whether we should hold out until there’s a possibility for an all-inclusive law covering all sexual orientations and gender identities. The differing viewpoints have created a rift in the community – with the Human Rights Campaign supporting HR 3685, and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force refusing to support the non-inclusive bill.

Over at Joe.My.God. the debate is raging with a lot of commenters taking the position that it’s better to have something than nothing, and that once the Gs, the Ls and the Bs of the GLBT community are protected – then we can work towards having the Ts added later. I think that’s a valid position – it’s not my position – but it’s a strategy that might work. But, what really stung me, in reading the comments, was how many people were taking the position that “they” are not “us” - so fuck ‘em. Some of the gay commenters expressed a lot real hatred and disgust for transsexuals.

On Joe.My.God. Pintuck wrote: I oppose "LBGT" on a more primal level than the ENDA. I'm not a lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered person. I'm a gay man. Your lamely-imposed label means nothing to me and has no bearing on my life. And that's a simple statement of fact. If that makes me your enemy, then may your hate give you an ulcer, cause I don't give a fuck….And most of all, a drag queen who wants to cut off his dick and give himself a frankenpussy is NOT a "gay issue"!

Over at Michaelangelo Signorile’s blog, Southern Decency said: Trans advocates were behaving as an appendix to gay/lesbian-rights activism, assuming that when gay/lesbian rights pass, trans would automatically included because gays/lesbians have some sort of historical debt to the trans people. Well, they were fooling themselves, and I can't help but find some fault with them as well. That they're now whining like you do, instead of engaging in the necessary activism and education, shows that they are part of the problem.

It’s just fucking unbelievable to me that these people, who are gay themselves, could be so disinterested in standing up for the most vulnerable of our community – and whether they like it or not, those who live their gender in ways that aren’t traditional are a part of our community. It seems to me that people who express such animosity towards transsexuals, drag queens, drag kings, transvestites and the various other folks who fall under the “T” in LGBT, do so because of their own insecurity and internalized homophobia. I think of them as roughly the same people who strive to be “straight-acting” and post online personal ads claiming to be bisexual because they think it’s somehow “less gay.”

The fact of the matter is that without the protection for gender identity, it will be possible to deny employment to a qualified applicant, simply because he was too effeminate, or she was too masculine. What is being overlooked by the “abandon the trannies” crowd is that too a large segment of the anti-ENDA public, there is very little difference, if any between a gay man and a cross-dresser. No matter how far you distance yourself from the gender queers, you will never be straight to the straight people.

I’ve lived my entire life without the luxury of equal treatment under federal law. If ENDA doesn’t happen because we refused to allow our community abandon our most vulnerable, our lives won’t be any different than they were yesterday. If we do accept the “gift” that they’re willing to give just some of us, then we’ll have sold our community’s soul for a bill that will almost certainly be vetoed by Dubya anyway.

Who will have won then?
UPDATE: The House of Repesentatives actually passed HR 3685, the non-inclusive version of ENDA. It will be interesting to see where we go from here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Devil Made Me Do It!

Pure Comic Genius...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

American Justice

This past week, in holy Baltimore, the hometown of John Waters and Divine, a real judgment was handed down against Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Church. A federal jury in Baltimore awarded $10.9 million in compensatory and punitive damages to Al Snyder, the father of Matthew Snyder, a Marine who was killed in Iraq after the church members protested and picketed Matthew’s funeral carrying signs that said “Thank God for Dead Soldiers!” and “America Is Doomed!”

I feel sad that a grieving father was pushed so far by the Westboro Church monsters, and, at the same time, I’m nearly giddy that finally there’s the possibility that Fred Phelps and his ilk have been put out of the hate business.

But I do wonder, who has been funding these hatemongers for so long? I’ve been trying for a long time to quit my job and just travel, and somehow they’ve been doing it for more than 15 years - protesting and picketing at thousands of events! I’m pretty certain that they aren’t being comped by JetBlue and Red Roof Inns, so how are they affording their very demanding hate schedules? I’d bet an investigation into their finances would turn up some very interesting trivia.

I also wonder why it was ok for Fred Phelps and his followers to picket and protest at the funerals of countless gay people, including Matthew Shepard’s funeral, but suddenly the conservative bloggers and pundits are all up in arms because the Westboro Church-goers have diversified their focus to include the funerals of people lost in the war. For all those years of spewing their Calvinist craziness at the funerals of gay people, I never saw the Fred Phelps clan being lambasted on political talk shows or confronted by angry television pundits. As a matter of fact, when they limited their hatred to gay people, I never saw the mainstream media report on them at all.

But, in 2003, the Westboro Church decided to increase their visibility by protesting at the funerals of military members. And, it’s really worked well for them. Obviously, mainstream America was ok with the Westboro Church members “practicing their religion” by carrying signs that said “God Hates Fags” and “Fags Burn in Hell.” They did it for years with no media attention.

Then, in 2005, they crossed the line of decency by not only picketing military funerals, but by implying that these fallen war heroes might be gay – or “gay enablers.” And that did it. America had had enough, and the conservative right-wingnuts found themselves on the same side of the fence as the gay community in being disgusted by Phelps’ antics. Soon, Fred Phelps had become a hateful, repulsive, contemptible, vile national pseudo-celebrity – just like Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck.

So now, now, the conservatives are speaking out against the Westboro Church. Now states are scrambling to pass laws, specifically limiting the right protest near a funeral, and, last year, President Dumbya signed the “Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act,” which makes it illegal to protest near some military cemeteries.

Now, I’m sure that there are some who, thanks to lack of media attention, just never knew about the funeral protests, until they started hosting them at military funerals. But, we all know that most of the Fox News set would be thrilled with the Phelps clan if they just went back to protesting fag funerals, and stopped bringing mainstream attention to the raw hatred that serves as a foundation for the conservative ideology. They aren’t angry at what he’s saying – because they agree. Just like Phelps, the conservative base of America believes in an angry, vengeful God that hates homosexuals, and just like Phelps they believe that America is doomed because of its diversity.

They just want the Westboro Church to shut up, and to stop bringing the public’s attention to the evilness of fundamentalism. Now, back to my earlier question. Who has been funding these loonies for the past 15 years?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Samhain!

In the times before Christianity reached the Celtic nations of northwest Europe, the celebration of the last harvest, or Samhain, marked the coming of the dark and solemn time of year between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. It is a time for reflection and self-inventory. It’s a time to honor the ancestors and those who have passed on, as this is the time that the veil between the realm of the dead and the living world is at its thinnest. It’s the time to come to an understanding of the cycle of life, including the great mystery of death.

Samhain survived the rise of Christianity and made its way to the United States through the Scottish and Irish immigrants of the 19th century, and was renamed Halloween. And, like all American holidays, it became commercialized and stripped of most of its meaning.

I’m at a time in my life where I often find myself longing for the deep connection to Nature that I felt when I was much younger. I had a visceral and instinctive understanding of Nature’s seasons and cycles, that years of urban, subtropical living have softened. I also find myself thinking a lot about the cycle of life and the inevitability of death and I want so much to understand more.

I’ll most likely walk around South Beach tonight with friends, admiring the wackiest and the most creative costumes. But I’m also going to take some time this hallowed eve to notice the quietness and stillness of the retreating light, and to consider my life’s cycle and purpose.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On The Issues

We're finally heading into the last year of the Bush regime, and the customary political ridiculousness is in full swing. Unfortunately, most Americans are so worn down by trying to just make ends meet, in this, the richest of nations, that gathering basic information about the presidential candidates seems like a luxury - an academic pursuit. A sickeningly high percentage the eligible voters don't even vote, and those that do, most often do so without having any real idea of their candidate's issues on stances. Our perceptions of those applying for the most important job in the world are created by obnoxious television bullies, gossip mongers and out of context quotes. We tend to vote based on perceived character, often ignoring the candidate's positions on the issues that will affect our lives, our country and the coming history of the world.

In case you'd like to take a minute to see how the candidates' views of how things should be compare with your's a quick little questionairre that does just that. Let me know about your results! Were you surprised?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Sound Of Twisted

You know how like when you learn the definition of a word you've never heard of before, and the next day you read it in the newspaper and your boss uses it at the company meeting? Or someone at a party tells you about their recent trip to Palau and you wonder where the fuck Polow is, and then the next day on the travel channel...there's that Samantha Brown sipping Mai-Tai's on the beach in Palau?

Last week, Tony, in an effort to expand my gay culture base, forced me introduced me to "The Sound Of Music." Yep, I'd never seen it before. It really was much better than I thought it would be.

Then, two days later, I visited Stimpy's MySpace page and he had this twisted symphony as his song...

Negativland - "My Favorite Things"

Deeply deranged. I can't get enough of it.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

And The Beat Goes On

As a kid in the ‘70s, I lived for Saturdays. No school. Bugs Bunny. The Superfriends. Valley of the Dinosaurs. And record shopping. Every Saturday, after the weekly blitz of cartoons and Kenner, Milton Bradley and Hasbro ads, mom and I would head to the shopping center, and every Saturday excursion involved a tour of Murphy Mart. She would search the aisles for Saturday bargains on household essentials and ladies’ polyester pant suits, and I would get completely lost in the record section. While all the other kids panhandled their parents for Hot Wheels racetracks, Stretch Armstrong dolls and Battlestar Galactica spaceships, I was obsessively scouring the 45s and the K-Tel collections for new disco songs.

Looking back, I’m really not sure how, or why, I developed my deep, deep passion for dance and electronic music. It’s just always been there. In my small part of the world – far, far from anyone who’d ever been to a discotheque – I was surrounded by Hank Williams, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Eagles. But, my first favorite song, was KC and the Sunshine Band’s “That’s the Way (I Like It),” and by the time Chic released “Le Freak,” I was already a self-proclaimed 8-year-old disco authority. I would spend hours in my room escaping into a Casablanca and Salsoul world.

In 1979, when disco collapsed under the weight of corporate mainstreaming, “Saturday Night Fever” and a racist, anti-gay backlash, I was still dancing along with the Soul Train regulars in the living room. I learned pretty quickly not to advertise my love of disco, and as I neared my teenage years I had moved on to soul and new wave. Yes, I knew that I was still listening to disco, but it had become a word that could get you beat up.

Almost 30 years later, I’m still taken away by well-composed dance tracks, and I love researching and analyzing and sharing the history of dance music. I particularly admire the die-hard dance artists who kept the beat going between disco and house music. So, here are a few of, what I consider, the most important tracks of the post-disco, pre-house era of dance music. Enjoy, and get down.

"Let The Music Play" - Shannon - 1983

"The Look Of Love" - ABC - 1982

"Planet Rock" - Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force - 1982

"Blue Monday" - New Order - 1983

"Let It Whip" - The Dazz Band - 1982

"Relax" - Frankie Goes To Hollywood - 1983

"Jam On It" - Newcleus - 1984

"Don't Make Me Wait" - The NYC Peech Boys - 1982

"Don't Go" - Yazoo - 1982

Monday, September 24, 2007

And Iran So Far Away

Seriously, what is wrong with the people of this country? When did we become a nation of hypocritical, war-mongering, angry little sheep? So, Columbia University invited the current leader of Iran to speak. So, the fuck what? It's a university. A center of intellectual thought and discourse. A place where diverse ideas and perspectives are shared, and a community of scholars who seek to understand this world we live in. And, man could we use a little more understanding in this world.

I'm pretty sure that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a relatively unsavory character on the world stage....but so is George Dubya, and he's invited to speak at universities all the time. Actually, the two have an awful lot in common - they both proudly display a revolting mix of arrogance and ignorance with a smirk, and they both claim to act on God's behalf when they kill and destroy.

Every news "reporter" this evening, felt the need to introduce the story of Ahmadinejad's speech at Columbia using the words radical and extreme and the film footage showed thousands of protesters holding signs referring to Ahmadinejad the next Hitler and a terrorist. And, I had read a few days ago that the Iranian leader had been denied his request to lay a wreath at Ground Zero.

So, damn was I disappointed with, what I thought was going to be a shocking and rabid diatribe by the latest personification of evil. With the national hysteria over this man, I expected fire and demon dogs. What I got was a snoozy propaganda-filled speech peppered with inaccuracies and blatant homophobia. Not unlike Dubya's State of the Union address.

Let's briefly examine some of the main points, that according to even our local news "correspondent," were most delirious and offensive to our American hearts.

1. Regarding reports that he denies the reality of the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad said "Granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?" And, while I'm not particularly anti-Isreal, and certainly not anti-Jewish, I have to admit it's a valid question. He pointed out that the Holocaust was committed by Europeans and happened in Europe, and that European nations apologized by giving the Jews the land that the Palestineans had been living on for 100 generations.

2. Speaking about the 9/11 attacks, he asked "Why did this happen? What caused it? What conditions led to it? Who truly was involved? Who was really involved and put it all together?" More valid questions. I'm pretty sure that Osama Bin-Laden masterminded the attack, and extremist fundamentalism caused it. But, we certainly do have to ask what conditions led to it. How can we ever expect to lead the world towards peace if we are so blinded by our thirst for revenge that we refuse to examine the causes of such deep hatred.

3. When asked about the execution of homosexuals by the Iranian government, Ahmadinejad responded "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have this." I've seen the photos of public hangings of teenage boys convicted of committing homosexual acts, and my heart broke and my stomach turned. But, for this country to suddenly express its outrage at how gay people are treated in Iran is disingenuous at best. For the most part, we aren't publicly lynched, but there is a frighteningly large proportion of the population that given the chance...

More than outrage at Ahmadinejad's words, I feel fear. Fear that my country is ready and willing to go to war with any nation that Cheney, Condoleeza and Dubya decide is a "rogue nation" or "state sponsor of terrorism." I fear that America is ready to destroy itself in its quest to "get them back." I fear that the exact definition of "them" isn't important to us. I fear that the media is eager to jump back on Dubya's "we have to fight them there" wagon. I fear that it's already too late.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What's In A Name?

I was named after my father. My parents got married, and divorced young. And, when I was 2 ½ years old, my father took me to a babysitter and never came back. He left me with only the clothes I had on, and his name.

There were a few stops along the way, and I ended up being adopted by Ruth and Edward. I also ended up with their last name, and Edward as a middle name. I left Edward’s abusive home when I was a teenager, and I reluctantly took his middle and last names with me.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that most people have a deep connection to their name. Some people were named after a wise and adoring grandparent, or a beloved wacky aunt or uncle. For others, their name reflects a religious tradition or a specific era. Some people carry their parents’ hopes and dreams in their name, and most everyone keeps family history intact through last name inheritance. Most likely, you know the inspiration and the story of your name.

All of my life, I felt no connection to my own name – like I had borrowed it just because I didn’t have one. Every time I had to write it on paper, the external-ness of it reminded me of my particular aloneness in the world. I felt embarrassed every time I was asked why my birth certificate name didn’t match the name on my school records.

Six years ago, a very strange sequence of coincidences led me to meet my biological mother for the first time, since I was two years old. She shared old photo albums and family stories. I saw how much I look like my biological father, and I saw pictures of uncles and grandparents – people who shared my very first last name. She told me what a good guy my biological father really is, and she tried to explain how she “looked for me.” I know she’s lying. She answered a lot of questions for me, and in a lot of ways, I have gained a sense of closure.

Shortly after meeting my genetic past, I decided that I needed to take a conscious, symbolic step in the writing of my own story. I legally changed my name.

I wanted a name with meaning – something to remind me that I am not just a product of the disappointments of others. I needed to have a name that spoke to my experience and reminded me of my strength and depth and character.

I’ve written before of the magical experience I had in the early San Francisco rave scene. It was without a doubt one of the most defining moments of my life – a rare realization that everything in my life had led me to that moment. My first rave was Toon Town – UFOs Are Real. The lights and music swirled in my head and stirred my soul. At the peak of the party, I found myself in the middle of the dancefloor, a part of one huge pulsing, universal organism. For the first time in my life, I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see this cute kid with colorful baggy clothes and the happiest smile I’d ever seen, just standing, looking at me and smiling. He reminded me of the Cheshire Cat. I asked him if we had already met, and I can still hear him saying “no, but maybe we should!” And then, he hugged me and we sat down, on the dancefloor, in the middle of thousands of dancing and jumping bodies and we became friends. His name was Cyrus.

Cyrus was the first friend that I ever made a rave, and he quickly became my rave tour guide and peace and love buddy. I loved his need to participate in, and contribute to the group vibe, and his energy was just tremendously positive and contagious. With him, I felt welcome and special, and a bit like his rave apprentice. To me, Cyrus was a perfect personification of the joy and innocence and intensity of the early rave scene.

Not unlike a flower generation before, the sudden burst of youth culture and magic energy was like a fleeting fantasy, and after a few life-changing months, our paths diverged and I never saw Cyrus again.

So, I had my middle name legally changed to Cyrus in honor of that time in my life – that time when I began to realize my place in the universe. Because our time as friends was so momentary and ephemeral and fairy-tale like, Cyrus is to my memory, a sort of mythical character who represents the time and place that I began to grow past the circumstances of my earlier life.

I believe that we are all a complex combination of a genetic basis, environmental influences and self-determination. My name, now has meaning to me as it speaks to this belief. My first name, from my biological parents, connects me with my genetic history. My middle name reminds me of the strength of my choices. And, my last name links me to the place where I grew up, and the people who raised me.

Now, that okapi thing…..

Monday, September 10, 2007

Damned Tree Huggers!

Stimpy sent this one to me, and well, I just had to on the picture to make biggy.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Score One For The Witches!

I just love this story....

Elwood "Bunky" Bartlett says a New Age book store made it possible for him to become an overnight multimillionaire...Bartlett, an accountant from Dundalk, Maryland, said he made a bargain with the multiple gods associated with his Wiccan beliefs: "You let me win the lottery and I'll teach." Both tickets he purchased had numbers chosen randomly from the computer.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Happy Long Weekend!

Mel & Kim - "Showing Out"

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Hypocrisy Continues

Let's See...

Traditional Family Values Case # 1 - In September of last year, Florida Republican Senator Mark Foley immediately resigned his position as the public was made aware of a sexually explicit instant messaging conversation between the Senator and an underage male Congressional page. Ironically, much of Mark Foley's political career had been built on fighting child pornography and the sexual exploitation of minors. Conservatives joined Democrats in a call for further investigation, and possible criminal charges against the Gay chicken hawk former Senator.

Traditional Family Values Case # 2 - In November of 2006, Mike Jones went public with the news that vehemently anti-gay born-again evangelist preacher Ted Haggard had paid him for dirty meth sex, on a near monthly basis for 3 years. Ironically, much of Ted Haggard's career had been built on waging a "culture war" against Gay people. Ted Haggard was quickly removed from his position, and shunned by his long-time conservative supporters. Ted is now completely heterosexual, but having been previously Gay....his career is now over.

Traditional Family Values Case # 3 - This past July, Senator David Vitter's name was released as a client of a Washington D.C. house of prostitution. The Louisiana Senator admitted to having broken the law and paying for extra-marital sex in the past, and let the world know that God, and his wife have both forgiven him. Ironically, much of David Vitter's political career was built on his traditional family values fight to stop Gay people from having equal marriage rights. Senator David Vitter was NOT removed from office, or even shunned by his Republican base. In fact, good ole' hooker-hiring Louisiana boy David Vitter received a loud round of applause at a recent Senate Republican luncheon.

Traditional Family Values Case # 4 - Senator Larry Craig's name has been all over every television, radio and internet outlet ( including the well-received Lair of the Okapi ) as dirty Republican Senator of the week. As we all know by now, tap-dancing Larry Craig pleaded guilty a few months ago, after an arrest for soliciting sex from another man in a public restroom. Ironically, Senator Craig's political "stances" have always been particularly anti-gay. Most certainly, Senator Craig is going to be forced out of office, if he hasn't been yet ( I'm still waiting to hear the breaking news ). Fellow Republicans are calling for the most severe consequences possible for the tearoom troll.

Is it me? Or is there something even more wrong here? Mark Foley, gay, removed, ruined. Ted Haggard, gay, removed, ruined. Larry Craig, gay, removed, ruined. David Vitter, straight, applauded, possibly re-elected.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Traditional Family Values - Part Two

Ok....I think at this point, that I should run a weekly "Traditional Family Values" update where I collect and post all of the week's goriest Conservative sex scandals. Following right on the heels of Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, David Vitter, Bob Allen - we now have the Senator Larry Craig public restroom debacle.

A little background on Senator Craig. Before tearoom-gate, good old Larry Craig was well respected amongst his fellow hateful, mean-spirited, self-loathing conservative brethren. The American Conservative Union, a powerful lobbying group, awarded the ill-ustrious Republican leader with a score of 96 out of 100 for supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment (which would ban states from allowing gay people to marry), as well as his vote to NOT extend the federal hate crimes legislation to include hate crimes against gay folks. Certainly, he also got a few points for his statements shortly after Hurricane Katrina, comparing the birthplace of Jazz to the quagmire in Iraq and suggesting that New Orleans should be abandoned because "Fraud is in the culture of Iraqis. I believe that is true in the state of Louisiana as well."

In between all of his "social work" and voting to stop the gays from marrying, Senator Craig also found time to rehearse with other right-wingnuts - Trent Lott, John Ashcroft and James Jeffords - The Singing Senators! It seems that back in 1995, the Singing Senators barbershop quartet was formed as a back-up plan, should the Republican Revolution backfire. Apparently, not a bad idea. The Singing Senators actually performed with the Oak Ridge Boys and released a CD.

Now, we find out that Senator Larry Craig was arrested in June, and pleaded guilty to suspicion of lewd conduct. Though he did actually plead guilty, Senator Craig now claims to have no idea how his toe-tapping, foot touching, finger indicating, door-crack peering bathroom stall antics could have been construed as anything but normal public heterosexual behavior.

You can read the police officer's report here

At what point will Americans get sick of the hypocrisy. What will it take?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hot Off The Press!

Today's headlines...

Karl Rove has quit his position as the white-est man at the White House to pursue a career in mainstream hip-hop.

Hillary Clinton admits to her work in the 1970s as the voice of Wonder Woman.

Scott-O-Rama returns to save the Constitution.

And Stimpy turns 38!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

You Know How I Feel About Texas....

Louise: I don't want to go that way. Find a way that we don't have to go through Texas.

Thelma: Wait. What? You want to go to Mexico from Oklahoma and you don't want to go through Texas?

Louise: You know how I feel about Texas...we're not going that way!

The marketing team of the High Point Church in Arlington, Texas is really top-notch. According to the church's website, High Point started just a few years ago as a congregation of just 16 poor souls in someone's living room. But, under the guidance of Pastor Gary Simons, the High Point marketing division was able to build their flock to 5,000 loyal spiritual consumers, who now worship every $unday in a 432,000 square foot House of the Lord, that sits on 100 of the holiest acres in Texas. With slogans like "Miracles Still Happen...I'm Living Proof," the High Point public relations gurus were able to move beyond the fact that Pastor Gary has the most extreme case of "gay face" since Paul Lynde, and really take their humble little church into the realm of "any franchise for Jesus is possible."

Well, the miracles are still happening at High Point...thanks to a miracle-working marketing team that really knows its customer base. This past week, High Point Church cancelled a planned memorial service for Cecil Sinclair, who was the brother of a church janitor, because Cecil was an unrepentant homo-sex-you-all, who was survived by his life partner. Cecil was also a son, a brother, a member of the Turtle Creek Chorale and a Navy veteran of Desert Storm, where he helped rescuers to find downed pilots.

The High Point marketing group, and Pastor Simons, know that Jesus, and his most beloved followers, hate the homosexuals, and to have offered the dignity of a memorial service in their Mega-Church to a loathed homosexual would most certainly have tarnished the brand's image amongst the good spiritual consumers of Texas.

Simons said the church believes homosexuality is a sin, and it would have appeared to endorse that lifestyle if the service had been held there.

“We did decline to host the service — not based on hatred, not based on discrimination, but based on principle,” Simons told The Associated Press. “Had we known it on the day they first spoke about it — yes, we would have declined then. It’s not that we didn’t love the family.”

And, just so there's no confusion....divorcees, adulterers, child abusers, liars, thieves, Bush-administration officials, cat burglars, malicious gossipers, shell-fish consumers, Aqua-Net users, warmongers, gun-toters, bullies, gamblers, cheats and coveters are welcome every $unday at High Point.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

UFOs Are Real!

Paul Moller, an engineer, inventor and apparent devotee of Nu-Renaissance Fair, Dr. Who-esque Moog analogue synthesizer music has finally been able to bring us the M200G Flying Saucer Hovercraft. It hovers about 10 feet off the ground, and can travel up to 50 miles per hour. The price tag: around $100,000.

My birthday is coming!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Children Of House

It was Tim’s 1990 Bastille Day fete – one of those events that always brought all the Pittsburgh underground youth tribes together. There were the Carnegie-Mellon hipsters, the patent-leather creeper ambisexuals, the edgy industrial-punk queers, the militant Act-Up-ers, the Point State Park theatre majors, the disaffected Dithridge kids and the should-be-in-New-York-but-stuck-in-Pittsburgh clubbers. And, of course, no party of that era in Pittsburgh alterna-gay history could have even been mentionable without the attendance of the residents of 227. Most often just referred to as the Queens’ House, 227 North Neville St. was a sort of hip, debaucherous gay frat house, certainly not affiliated with any sort of higher learning institution. Erik, Thom, Jason, Michael, Joel and a changeable entourage of minor characters who, generally, had simply forgotten to leave after the last Queens’ House party a month or two ago were the epicenter of all things cool, fun and irresponsible.

It was a muggy, sticky summer night and Tim’s house was packed to its Victorian-era rafters. Having been around the scene for a few years already, I knew most everyone, but I’ve never been much of a mingler or a chit-chatter so I headed straight for the living room dancefloor. Back then, DJs at house parties were a luxury and a rarity, so days before a party were lost assembling mixtapes of underground alterna-dance music. Rare New Order and Pet Shop Boys 12” remixes imported from Japan, Nitzer Ebb, Xymox and Book of Love. And of course, the perennial white label pre-released Madonna du jour.

Stimpy pulled me off to the side, and asked if I could somehow get whoever was in charge of the music to play a cassette that he’d brought. He handed his cherished cassingle to me. I looked down at it, and then never looked at him the same way again.

I met Stimpy a few months earlier, through our gay youth group. Tim had known Stimpy in high school, and brought him to the group and the scene. Stimpy seemed like a nice guy to me – but a little nerdy and a lot needy. Years and years of school torment left me susceptible to over indulge my first experience of in-group status.

It sounds a bit more new-agey than I’m comfortable with, but I really was feeling a connection to some new energy – a 100th monkey-style pull. And, when I saw that cassingle that said “French Kiss” on it, I knew – I knew – that Stimpy was feeling it too, and that I had just completed another necessary connection. We got the tape played, and everyone danced to the sound of the future.

A year and a half later, the vague pull that we felt turned to outright restlessness, and Stimpy, on a total whim, instituted his SEARS (Sell Everything And Run Swiftly) sale. Within 2 weeks from his decision to leave Pittsburgh, found himself at roommate referral in San Francisco. Shortly after arriving, he, and about 20 of his new best friends, called me from a pay-phone at one of San Francisco’s first raves – the Whoopy Ball, and Stimpy’s picture was plastered in NewsWeek as a visual of the new cyberdelic youth movement on the West Coast. Two weeks later, I was headed cross-country in a Renault Alliance with $300 and some techno tapes.

It’s been 15 years since we stepped off the edge, and became who we are. We live in different cities at the moment, but we still talk nearly every day as though we’d just seen each other yesterday. Most people wouldn’t believe the things that we’ve seen together, and that doesn’t matter to either one of us. We were a part of the revolution that no one knows about, we stood on top of the mountain and watched the sun rise and we’ve laughed ourselves out of the absurdity of 1,001 tragedies. We were the children of house.

Happy Bastille Day Stimpy!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Traditional Family Values

I’ve been trying to keep my nose out of politics. I haven’t publicly expressed my seething hatred of this administration in quite some time. I’ve been watching Life on the D List and Top Chef instead of the pundit talk shows. I haven’t gotten into any heated discussions with co-workers over the Decider’s decisions regarding Scooter Libby, Alberto Gonzalez, or “The Surge” in Iraq. Sure, I’ve been wearing my new OBAMA t-shirt…but very quietly, and I haven’t made a peep about stupid Ann Coulter. It’s been good for me to take a breather.

But David Vitter. Good ole’ boy, David Vitter. Could there be a better poster boy for conservative America? David “family values” Vitter who has been adored by the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council for spearheading the campaign to re-write the Constitution of the United States so as to forever ban states from recognizing the lifetime commitments made by gay Americans. David “traditional marriage” Vitter who stood in support of upholding and affirming traditional marriage by protecting it from those people of the same-sex who wish to love each other and live their lives together. David “sanctity of life” Vitter, who has fought so vehemently against a woman’s right to choose and against gay peoples’ right to adopt unwanted children.

And, on Monday, news broke that David Vitter, while serving his family values agenda, had been a cheating-on-his-wife customer of a brothel in Washington D.C. Apparently, it gets lonely in the capital while one is drafting mean-spirited legislation. Luckily, according to Senator Vitter himself…both his wife and God have forgiven him for his indiscretion.

Now, today, it’s come out that upstanding Senator Vitter was also a favorite customer of a brothel in his home state of Louisiana. * blush *

Honestly, I don’t really care that he visited these places. I hate that modern politics revolves around these sort of personal life ambushes. For all I know, his wife is totally ok with it, and encourages him to hook up with hookers. It’s the jaw-dropping hypocrisy that kills me. What kind of moral void does one have to possess to construct and relentlessly pursue a political agenda based on denying a group of people the basic dignity of marriage – because they’re not good enough – while banging a series of prostitutes all over this country?

I guess it’s the same moral void that drove our second Republican sex scandal this week.

"I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one. I think this debate is very healthy, and it's winning a lot of hearts and minds. I think we're going to show real progress." – David Vitter speaking, shortly after his state was devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, in support of banning gay Americans from marrying their life-long partners.

"Unfortunately, it's the crossroads where Katrina meets Rita. I always knew I was against same-sex unions.” - Comedian Senator David Vitter speaking at a Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee luncheon. Apparently, Senator Vitter’s joke was supposed to be at the expense of gay Americans…but was taken as offensive to a lot of non-gay Louisianans who lost their homes, family members, friends and livelihoods during the those hurricane disasters.