Saturday, 28 December 2019

Greta too, will grow old…

I was very sad when Buddies in Bad Times Theatre dumped me. I’m pleased to say that bad feeling is gone. I’ve realised something about all of this ‘generational’ business. This weekend in the press the left is telling us that the very idea of ‘generational divide’ is a product of our imagination; while the right insists that divide has never been greater and that young ‘uns  were never more cruel. I beg to disagree. The fact is that, quite simply, Greta too, will grow old.
What do I mean by that? The ‘woke generation’ is no more extreme than we were back in the 60s. And what they are doing is ultimately for good. Why? Because it won’t, ultimately work.
Take a look at our dreams back then — it was no less than world revolution. If the hippies had their way, blacks, gays, women and the poor would have taken arms against a sea of oppression. It would have been the end of the ‘family’ as institution: we would all be living communes, taking psychedelic drugs to realise our true potential, and enjoying promiscuous sex to spread the love. And, it goes without saying, capitalism would dead. You may have noticed that all that didn’t actually happen. Those were the ideals of a generation, but we had to settle for considerably less. Kicking me out of Buddies and vilifying me was very necessary; as are so many other ‘cancellings’ of the older generation — and as were the beheadings in the French Revolution. In order for the smallest change to happen, the dream must be big, and yes, I must say it — it must also be at least somewhat scary and violent. I have no doubt that those ‘woke kids ‘ — who are now insisting that there is no gender and that racism is okay when it’s directed against white people — will be singing a different tune someday. They will be raising a heterosexual family and pulling in a hefty salary from a big, white mega-corporation.  How many hippies stayed hippies? How many became virulent consumers? Capitalism is a sweet, sweet lover, and a liar too.
It’s good that Greta Thunberg is here. Something must be done about climate change, and if we didn’t have her melancholy, suicidal extremity, people would do nothing.
And we will never forget her, just as we will never forgot Allen Ginsberg. 
But did we all end up being gay, promiscuous, drug taking, meditating, mystic poets? No. We did not.
Is that a good thing? I’m not at all sure……

But we must remember, that Greta too, will grow old.

Friday, 20 December 2019

The Death of Tragedy

We live in the era of melodrama.
It is the era of good and bad, there are no longer any shades of grey.
Recently, I read Streetcar Named Desire with my students and asked them if Stanley was a bad man. ‘Why yes of course —yes  — he raped Blanche.’ I asked them to tell me, then, if Blanche was a good woman. They were confused —their faces contorted with discomfort. ‘But….you are asking us a question that can’t be answered,’ they said. 
Well gee, I thought that was the whole point. Now the same students who are upset by Blanche’s dual nature — a mixture of good and evil — are obsessed with comic book heroes. I told my students I didn’t want any more talk of comic book heroes in their papers. One of them complained ‘But with comic book heroes, there is hope that good will triumph over evil.’
Okay, I get it. This is the world we live in now. Us and them. The world is divided into good and evil, period. How did we get here? 
Adorno once stated (and I am paraphrasing) ‘there can be no art after The Holocaust.’ I fear he may have been right. What Adorno meant to say was that it was impossible to write about The Holocaust without trivializing human suffering. But what I think happened is this: when we saw naked human evil up close, we lost all sympathy for the tragic hero. (The only author who has dared to see Hitler somewhat as a tragic figure is Karl One Knausgaard in his novel The End.) That is why, these days, if you dislike your opponent enough, you call them ‘Nazi!’
What is lost in all this? Of course we have abandoned political civility — the ability to have rational debates in the public square. But we have lost much more than that. Tragedy is about looking inward, about seeing the flaws in ourselves. When Greek audiences wept, wailed and screamed — bewitched by the masks, the music, dancing, and the shocking portrayal of mothers killing their children (Medea), women falling in love with their stepsons (Phaedre) and bloodied heads nailed to the door (The Bacchae) it was not just because Euripides was a ‘shocking’ playwright (something we rarely see today!), but because he was forcing them to look inward, and examine themselves.
When Prospero says of Caliban “this thing of darkness I / acknowledge mine’ he is doing something we are incapable of doing anymore. 

He is recognising the evil inside.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Rudy Giuliani Is No Hero

President Trump’s personal lawyer is not only up to no good in the Ukraine, he’s been up to no good for years. People keep asking “What happened to Giuliani?” As if he has had some dramatic fall from honesty and integrity. Giuliani is just the same crooked hypocrite he always was. His career — like Donald Trump’s — is mostly hype. As Associate Attorney General under Ronald Reagan Giuliani was famous for high profile cases — some involving organised crime. But though Giuliani may have put many criminals in jail, many of those he prosecuted also walked away — while Giuliani continued to bask in the glory of the celebrated indictments. As for being ‘America’s Mayor,’ the The New York Times says “Giuliani has exaggerated the role he played after the [911] terrorist attacks, casting himself as a hero for political gain.” Which is what Giuliani and Trump do best.
The 1980s is usually seen as a time when New York City was ‘cleared of crime’ by various mayors. In the 90s Giuliani took all the credit. But this was less an idealistic ‘clean up’ than an opportunistic money grab that toyed with the lives of sex trade workers and gay men (as brilliantly illustrated in the recent HBO TV show Forty Deuce) who were helpless to defend themselves in a misogynistic, puritanical post-AIDS environment. It is undeniably true that the crime rate in New York City has plummeted. But at what cost? Forty Deuce shows that New York’s mayors and police conspired with big real estate to close bars, bath houses and and massage parlours, driving gay men and sex trade workers into the streets. The result is evident to anyone who takes a trip to New York City today. Gone are the colourful neighbourhoods and sexual variety that characterised the once great city. (This sad story is also chronicled in Times Square Red, Times Square Blue by Samuel Delaney.) A small price to pay to stop crime, you say? But the crime problem did not originate in the massage parlours and the bath houses, and could have been eradicated without enriching those already flush with cash.
New York City is now a bland, bloated tourist destination, promoting mega-musicals and family vacations. We have Giuliani to blame for that. (Toronto, by the way is poised in the same direction — enriching the already rich and destroying neighbourhoods.) Meanwhile Trump and Giuliani stand up publicly against queer rights and abortion, while their own tawdry personal lives spill over with a succession of adulterous affairs and divorces.

It’s hypocrisy, alright. And as long as no one speaks up, our world will be dominated by a dull colourless hypocrisy — one that fills the pockets of the privileged, and oppresses those who are open and honest about their sexuality.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Let Meghan Murphy Speak!

Have we gone insane?
I ask that quite literally. A woman dares to identify as a woman, and dares to say that there are two genders, and people consequently brand her words as ‘hate speech’ and ‘equivalent fo physical violence’?
What is going on here?
Anyone who has actually read Meghan Murphy’s writings will tell you that her words are not hateful, and that she is not ‘transphobic’ or even homophobic. She is a thoughtful woman with an important, well-reasoned point of view.
Frankly, even if her words were homophobic, I — for one —would not demand that she be silenced or locked up.
Those who wish to ban Meghan Murphy’s ideas are effectively burning books. It is not merely ironic — but terrifying — that a library in a free society is being asked to curtail freedom of speech.
Vickery Bowles is undoubtedly Toronto’s top librarian. She should be given some sort of award for defending Meghan Murphy. She is on the right side of history, and has spoken bravely and eloquently— as a librarian should — about the importance of the unfettered circulation of ideas in a free society.
We need to stop the finger-pointing, name-calling — stop the hatred and the demonization — and start respecting each other as human beings.
Will some be driven to pain, distraction, or even suicide by ideas they hear or read? Sadly yes; this is the downside of living in a society that does not censor ideas. The alternative is much more horrifying — a world unburdened by the unfettered circulation of ideas
Words are not violence. Books are not violence. Libraries are not violence. 
In fact, they are quite the opposite.
Society has a duty to protect the weak from physical assault, but not to protect the vulnerable from offensive speech
Libraries offer ideas that may offend. It is their job to challenge our established and entrenched feelings and prejudices, and that is a good thing.
We abandon them at our peril.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

You Are Erasing My Desire

With the rise of transgender washrooms comes the end of urinals. Apparently what we have to look forward in this ‘ideal world’ is rows and rows of bathroom stalls, with all genders and non-genders waiting in line to use them. There is only one problem with this model of the new washroom. 
It erases my desire.
Washroom sex is part of gay culture. And before you say — ‘What the…?”  — try and understand that yes we are a minority group, and yes we are oppressed, and yes we have developed a culture that is different than yours. Sure gay men are sometimes raped by other  men. But our rape does not make us afraid, like heterosexual women. No, in our bars, bathrooms, backrooms and bath houses we have developed a civli sexual culture in which gay men understand that they can flirt and touch other gay men — in very intimate ways - and that 'no still means no.' Sure there are rude outliers — but gay culture simply has less rules around unwanted touching. Frankly we need them less than you do.
Men’s bathrooms are sexual places. Try reading the graffiti (or maybe that will be banned now, too?) Yes, when men — all of them, straight or gay — stand at urinals, you know what? They look. They look, and sometimes they touch. Sometimes they get a message — ‘No way.’ Most men when they get that message will stop touching. It’s civil. But all men know that urinals are sexual places, whether men choose to be sexual there or not. Period.
The end of urinals means the end of all that. It means the death of an iconic gay image — the drag queen at a urinal, her dress hiked up above her ass, proudly, freeing her libido and her wee. It’s over. We will not see that image again; we are not allowed to have that desire again.
I want to ask those who believe that all washrooms should be transgender washrooms one simple question.  Why are you doing this to us? Why?
Why are you so intent on erasing my desire?

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Why Are Computers Polite?

I was buying stuff at the grocery store - at one of those automated quick check-out stations? And  when I was done with my purchase, the computer chirped — in a soothing female voice — “Thank you so much for your visit, and have a nice day!”
I resented it deeply. And at first I wasn’t sure why. Then I glanced back at the real live human cashiers (remember those?). They were all indeed living beings —  some with crooked smiles, some fat and some thin, some old and some young — and each I’m sure, replete with a complex, deeply changeable temperament. They were, in other words, people. I realised that — as deeply flawed as human cashiers are — I would rather do my business with an imperfect living person than an impeccably polite machine. 
For I am human, and am deeply imperfect too. Frankly, life  — for a writer — is sometimes lonely, and I relish any human contact (that includes an argument!).
So sure, judge me. But I don’t think that I’m alone in this. I think that — not only do people need to buy things at stores that are staffed by human beings — but that it is good for them to do so.
The politeness of computers signals the real problem. The digital world is increasingly replacing the human one. But I’m not here to rail against computers; the issue is actually capitalism. More and more, governments are being run by big corporations  — that’s what ‘populist’ leaders are, ‘ordinary’ business men, just facilitating business. Computers no longer simply disseminate information, they steal your data and clock your preferences, in order to  earn lots of money for big corporations.
In a capitalist culture, everything comes down to expediency and use. New products must make things faster and easier.  Human contact, in contrast, is slow and sometimes difficult.
Nevertheless, I humbly suggest that human contact is something every single person desperately needs. Computers are great, and necessary — and so is capitalism. But we must not forget that our economy essentially has no heart.  And some things that are easy and fast, also, coincidentally, kill the soul.

People need people (to quote Barbra in that increasingly relevant song from Funny Girl). Without other people — climate change or no climate change — we will suffocate. No, not from lack of air, from lack of love.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Anorexia, Judy and Me

I went on a diet to facilitate an operation a few months ago. I lost 45 pounds. This weight loss necessitated that I wrangle once again with my personal issues around gender.
Don’t worry about me. I’m not anorexic. But, boy! — or perhaps I should say, girlfriend! —  the gender issues that had been percolating during my summer diet kinda reached the boiling point after watching Renee Zellweger in Judy. The film triggered me — in the way that art is is supposed to trigger people. (It’s always a good thing when art upsets you and challenges your fundamental world view!) 
I was a fat, effeminate little boy. Judy Garland was a fat little girl. We both struggled with eating disorders. And for Judy and me, being skinny was all wrapped up with being beautiful and feminine. As a fat little boy I struggled with shame when people noticed my effeminate mannerisms, asking ‘You talk with your hands, why?” — and suggesting “You’re a big kid, shouldn’t you try out for the football team?” Of course I never wanted to play football (in reality I dreaded the thought). For me, as for a lot of gay men, my big masculine physical body was at odds with my inner feminininity.
I am not ‘trans.’ In fact one of the reasons I am writing this is to explain that gay men and lesbians have always had lots of issues around gender — and we had them way before the notion of ‘transgender’ ever existed. 
After losing 45 pounds, I began to feel very at home in my body. Before losing the weight, I was a big guy who made people uncomfortable because of my fluttering hands. Now — on the far side of my diet —  I have long slender arms and legs, and no belly to speak of. I feel graceful and delicate.  I feel like me. Now, when I dress up in drag I look like a female porn star — though an ageing one  — (the kind of girl I’ve always been inside, really!).  Not all gay men are effeminate, but we all (due to stigma) deal with issues of gender. Lots of gay men have eating disorders for many of the same reasons women have them  —  because being skinny seems to fit with being girly in a sexist society. If you want to be a feminine sex object, you are ordered to be lithe, poised, and petite.
Hey -- it’s nice to be an effeminate gay man, comfortable in my new body. 
But I promise I won’t be losing any more weight.

Cuz now I’ve got it all figured out!

Sunday, 22 September 2019

We, ‘The Disgraced Generation’

I’m speaking to the present generation of senior citizens — my generation. 
We are the ‘disgraced generation.’ 
Once, I imagined that at the very least that my ‘golden years’ might be a time to look back fondly on all the things I’d worked so hard at in my life; a time when I could, at the very least, feel somewhat proud.
But for my generation — the disgraced generation — it was not to be. The young have done more than just discard against us, or even rebel against us. They are quite furious at us, and are not content to remain quiet about it.  It’s hard to blame them. The world is in a sorry state — what with climate change, and the re-birth of populism, the rise of xenophobia, and the ever- widening gap between rich and poor. What do the young have to thank us for? Wouldn’t you be angry?
But for people like me it’s more than a little jarring. The young have not just turned away from me, they have publicly shamed me for my life’s work. I set out to make it a better world for gay men — whom I considered to be oppressed — and to celebrate male femininity. Now I know that was all quite literally in vain. Now I know that most people consider gay men to be the most privileged beings in the world, and our effeminacy has become perhaps part of what makes us seem the most spoiled and irritating. 
But never mind me. Consider a huge literary celebrity like Margaret Atwood. I remember seeing her read at York University in 1973, and watching with admiration as she hoisted her right leg up on a table, resting it there — crosswise — for a poetry reading; looking every inch the fierce feminist. I remember being brilliantly entertained by her cruel, funny poems. But even Margaret Atwood has been taken down a peg— scolded for a celebrating a feminism that was an exclusionary sham.
I know that we, the old, not only didn’t make the world better, but we made it far, far worse. I just want the young to remember that for most seniors, being so despised in our old age has taken us somewhat by surprise. When we were young, people respected the old — even if there was no reason to do so. I’m not saying those were the good old days — far too many egregious sins were swept under the carpet. I’m just saying today’s oldsters, well — we didn’t expect to be disgraced in our dotage, and it might take us a little time to adjust.

Here is my advice for the ‘disgraced generation.’  Death — which of course comes to us all — is no great respecter of legacies or reputations. It might be good for us, and I mean this quite sincerely, to learn some humility at this point in our lives. Ignoble humility is, after all, a good preparation for death. 

Friday, 13 September 2019

Should We Censor The Joker?

Joaquin Phoenix’s new flic The Joker is stirring up endless controversy. The Toronto Star says: “at the post-screening party, a debate broke out amongst the journalists and industry executives over whether the movie could become part of the texts cited by mass shooters.” Sarah Hagi of The Globe and Mail warns us: “the film does offer a queasy sense of entitlement, which seems to ring true to how lonely, violent men view themselves.”
The subject here is censorship — though no one seems capable of of mentioning the word. For even if critics are not asking for The Joker to be pulled from theatres, this brand of journalistic rhetoric delivers a chilling message to artists and creators. Has the time come finally to stop creating films and plays with controversial themes? Maybe we should only write stories about politically correct heroes and heroines — men and women who are non-violent, ‘virtuous,’ tolerant, and loving? The problem with cleansing art of any representation of toxic humanity, is that repellant individuals do exist (and will exist forever, unfortunately). Not thinking about them — or not talking about them — doesn’t solve the problem, it simply exacerbates it.
Those who suggest that The Joker should not have been made or widely distributed are buying into the false notion that art is the cause of human evil. This has never been proved, and never will be. Art — far from being the cause of societal distress — is merely its symptom. Art offers a barometer about what plagues and obsesses us; it is a unique and often weirdly accurate snapshot of how awful we are.
But it is is not only art that is threatened by these veiled journalistic threats. This controversy over The Joker also endangers free speech. Social justice warriors have recently suggested that only those they deem ‘without privilege’ can ever really be victims of censorship. These suggestions are much more toxic than any movie representation of a comic book villain. Censorship is censorship no matter who is censored. I detest right-wing hate as much as anyone, but eradicating such speech from theatre, films, books and entertainment will merely silence thought and drive hate underground.
Joaquin Phoenix’s The Joker originates from the long tradition of discomfiting and attractive villains — one that goes back to medieval morality plays. We might as well banish ‘The Devil’ from Everyman. (The fact is that ‘The Devil’ happens to be the most interesting character in the play — much more enthralling for an actor to portray, or for us to watch — than a rather pallid and predictable character named Jesus!)

The fact is that banishing the representation of evil from art, spells the end of art itself.

Friday, 23 August 2019

I Used to be Jealous of Xavier Dolan

Wouldn’t you be? I’m an old gay writer. Nobody cares much about me anymore. But just as my ‘decline’ began, a young whippersnapper appeared. He quickly became the new god of the gay art scene. And he’s cute as a button to boot.
In case you’re wondering; yes I have seen some of Xavier’s flicks — and, I kinda like them. 
Which is another problem. This made me really jealous; the guy is not only cute, and a great actor, but he can direct!
Well now I can relax because there’s nothing to be jealous of.
Xavier Dolan has been knocked off his pedestal — a victim of political correctness, intersectionality, and the ’woke folk.’
What I interpreted all these years as a rejection of my writing had nothing to do with me. It’s just that what used to be the called ‘the love that dare not speak its name’ — and became (briefly, in my heyday) ‘the love that won’t shut up’ — is now, well, pretty much over.
I haven’t seen Dolan’s new film The Death and Life of John Donovan. But my critique of the reviews of this film has nothing to do with whether the critics are right or wrong, and everything to do with the cultural prejudices that dominate their writing. Angelo Murreda in The National Post refers to the film as “a comparably minor story…about a relationship between a gay actor unable to live frankly in public and an awkward pre-teen in search of a friend.” The Globe and Mail’s Kate Taylor is even more explicit in her dismissal of the film’s subject matter: “I am prepared to believe that a rising actor in the early 2000s in New York would be as firmly closeted as Rock Hudson in the 1950s, but I’m not prepared to believe it’s still society’s fault.” Wow.
When Kate Taylor was a theatre critic she never seemed very fond of my work. But I never dared imagine she was homophobic. It’s now clear to me that she always thought gay men were repulsive, annoying whiners. It’s just that now she can be completely comfortable about expressing her homophobic views in a culture climate that believes homophobia is over, that feminine boys are probably asexual and trans anyway — and that all us privileged fags should just shut up.
This cultural shift will not pan out well for anybody, gay or straight. There are (have you noticed?) lots of tortured young men out there, many conflicted about their sexuality and its relationship to masculinity, some of them with guns — some of them who are ‘incels’ — and some who are shooting up gay bars.
Pretending that homophobia does not exist will not make them all go away.
But hey— let’s look at the bright side.
I’m no longer jealous of Xavier Dolan.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Advice to A Young Artist, 2019

“It is as dangerous for society to attract and indulge authors as it is for grain dealers to raise rats in their granaries.”  - Anton Chekhov
Right now it is very difficult to be an artist. I feel for you.
When I started writing in 1966 it was very different. It was the era of abstract expressionism and conceptual art — fiction was the domain of the new French anti-novel, the ‘new criticism’ dominated poetry,’ and Bergman ruled film. Susan Sontag just published her ground breaking essay Against Interpretation (READ IT NOW!). Artists were suspicious of work with a clearly articulated message — or even of art with a meaning. Instead, artists were rebels, aesthetes and dreamers. They created — for passionate reasons they themselves could not fathom —  works that some did not understand. But nevertheless somehow the greatest of these works communicated — not about the latest ‘issues’ in the news — to people who were moved, upset, angered, and inspired by art’s form, style, grace, wit, craft, and, yes, well, beauty.
Today, art is a very different matter. We are told that every artist must have a clearly articulated message, and that message must be the correct one. What is correct — and what is not — are both relentlessly argued on social media. Christian publishers will give you money to write a ‘Christian’ book. Social justice publishers will give you money to write a book that articulates the principles of social justice. Everyone will want to know what you have to say, and there are lots of rewards for saying whatever is considered by the ‘powers that be’ to be ‘the right thing.’
You must not expect to get support from libraries, universities, arts councils, publishers — in fact institutions of any kind. You must stand alone, outside. Digital media is now the conscience of the world, decreeing that there are two points of view — right and left. They world knows (and rightly so) that these ruling dichotomies are deeply threatened by artistic work.
Knowing all this, will you still want to create? 
I suspect so. 
Because you must, because you can do nothing else, because your art is your life.
So do it.
(How? On the sly, in secret, 'privately circulated to friends’ — however you can.)
You may be called ‘amateur’ because at one time professional standards were wholly aesthetic; now they are merely ideological.
But remember, ‘amateur’ means ‘lover.’
So always remember, you are not a preacher.
You are a lover.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Sorry Bracken, But You’re Not A Drag Queen!

Bracken Hanke is a lovely little girl who likes to dress up in high femme fashion with lots of make up. She looks absolutely fabulous in her costume and should be encouraged to dress up (as should all the young!) in any way she wishes. 
However, Bracken is not a drag queen.
I blame Bracken’s parents for putting her on display in the new CBC documentary Drag Kids and encouraging her to assume an identity to support a cause. What’s the cause? Facilitating a ‘no gender’ universe. What’s my problem with all this? There is such a thing as gender, and drag is very much a part of gender and sexual politics — past, present, and future.  And you can’t — and mustn’t — erase history.
What is a drag queen? A drag queen is a gay man who is noticeably effeminate in his daily life. Gay men who do drag  are often ridiculed and bullied for their femininity and even shamed on online gay ‘hook up’ apps (‘no fats, no femmes, please’). They dress up (usually) as a glamorous, feminine women in social situations or for performance. A drag queen does not desire a sex change, or desire to be a woman, or even desire to spend a significant amount of time dressed as a girl. Drag is a way for gay men to deal with the psychological effects of the homophobia that is directed against them by straight people who consider us second class citizens, because it is assumed that because we are effeminate we play the much despised ‘passive’ part in sexual relations.
Also drag is a lot of fun, and a way for gay men to celebrate their feminine side.
So why should I care if some little girl’s parents are calling her her a drag queen?
Well this little girl can — of course — call herself anything she wants. And yes it’s great that women can enjoy the experience of dressing up in drag, that is, the thrill of ‘acting’ femininity rather than simply assuming that they must be feminine because they are women (this is what Judith Butler talks about). But for a female of any age to call herself a drag queen is deeply insulting to gay men. 
A drag queen is not just a guy in a dress; he is part of a passionate and brave tradition of fighting the patriarchy. Drag queens populated Molly Houses in 18th century England — where gay men gathered for same sex parties, and dressed up for mock wedding and birthing ceremonies. In 1969 drag queens were on the  front lines of the Stonewall riots. They finally stood up to the police and changed the world, inventing gay liberation. Drag means this: you are looking at a man — not a woman — in a dress, and men have every right to wear dresses, to be sex objects, to be passive partners in sex, and to explore their femininity. 
Should a white woman like Rachel Dolezal call herself black? No. Should a perfectly abled person use a disabled parking spot? No. Should someone put on some medals and call themselves a war hero? No. We drag queens have fought with our blood, our tears — and yes sometimes our lives — for the right to be proud  pansies, girly boys, and men who have sex with men.

And no one has the right to take that away from us.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel)

Day 21
So there has been a lot of kissing of beautiful men. It does strike me though that in talking about this I am trying to capture something that cannot be captured, which is precisely: the thrill of it all, back then. I will never forget the first discovery of beauty; being 27 years old, and never having kissed a man, and suddenly figuring out what all the love songs were about, which means the hurt really, and wanting something so much you could almost taste it, and then it’s not there, suddenly, and what are you going to do? And when I first began writing poetry, real poetry it was about this; there were endless poems to Glenn Glenn Glenn (where are those poems now?;( I know he is a homeopathy receptionist in Vancouver) which was about the discovery of the sweetness of his body. But for me it was the sweetness of the body of any man, because it was the first time. I was 27 and he was 19. But he was far more experienced than I. For me it was also the first thrill of having someone I desired, desire me. And now I can see what I am trying to recapture here and I just can’t — that goes without saying. So I wish I could say there will be a polite closing of the door to all that, and a sigh, and a sly, wistful smile, and a ‘not at my age’ — but sorry folks, that’s just not going to happen. Because I can’t imagine anything more perfect than dying with a kiss from someone beautiful on my lips, because even if it’s not a discovery of anything at all, a kiss from someone beautiful is always fresh with simply, well, with simply that.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel)

Day 18
I’ve lost 20 pounds and I am starting to enjoy looking in the mirror again. I was standing outside a restaurant on Church street and a man came up to me and started flirting. I know he was flirting even though I’m very unadept at this. Interesting that he is someone I have had my eye on for years, I’ve seen him making moves in bars and thought hmmm…he’s so sexy and so what’s the word …assertive? Unlike me. He said “I went down to the beach today, took off my clothes you know…but it was so windy.” NOT too much information at all. He touched me twice in one conversation and I have never met him before. (Flirting 101 — touch them lightly, casually, but not offensively.) So what does it mean to be desired, and why does it matter? Well first of all I’ve been living this tragical life because I’ve always been a big burly threatening-looking man so ergo, albeit, therefore, duh everyone expects me to come onto them and I’m just not constitutionally capable of doing that. You have to come onto me. So I’ve missed out on so much because the outside of my body has been sending a message my inside can’t deliver. I get women for this reason. (Their bodies send the message that they are weak and yielding personalities when so many are not. Get it?)  Anyway, all my personal pain aside, men are not desired, are never — not the way women are, our bodies are not culturally fetishised and it is all that I have been desperate for all my life really is to be desired, and all it takes is twenty pounds. I know you don’t like it — when I say ‘you don’t like it’  you don’t like that, right? Speaking for you when you’re not there, that’s what you don’t like, right — but you are there, aren’t you? You are reading this? — no, now this blog is getting too meta. What I am saying tho is you don’t like it when I talk about men being desired -- it’s a huge cultural taboo. But just go to Shakespeare, go to Two Noble Kinsmen. Shakespeare is unabashedly unaware of this taboo it seems, for the knights are young and beautiful and help each other put on their armour before they fight each other ‘oh did I pinch you?’ — the one kinsman says to the other. The other might reply: ‘You mentioned caring about the injury to my supple, young, tender, hard, sun-grazed, lightly furred, dapple flesh, no, I don’t mind. I know that we are set to do battle against each other, and perhaps kill each other, but you hope my armour doesn’t pinch.’
 Wow. Is that love? Desire? Obsession? Or just plain nuts? So this guy who is flirting with me (his name is Gilbert, by the way, that’s his first name, like my last, so we are in effect Two Noble Kinsmen — or perhaps ignoble ones) I don’t know if he’s beautiful on the inside as well as the outside as Shakespeare would have it, probably not, after all, we talked about the weather. Well I shouldn’t hold it against him - or rather I would love to hold anything against him I could. We must all talk must about the weather sometimes, mustn’t we? (Chateaubriand did, it’s what Barthes liked about him.) But what matters is that this man who desires me is violating an ancient taboo by worshipping my body not because I am a warrior but only because I look like one (I am doing a passing imitation of a warrior now that I am leaner) and of course our sex, if we ever have it, will not be generative — a cardinal sin — it will only be for pleasure, it will be for the orgasm alone, so put that, as they say, in your pipe and smoke it.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel) 

Sublime encounter. It’s spring, I unbutton my jacket, displaying my body. A man, very handsome, slender, immediately responsive, kisses me, No one ever believes of course that such an encounter with a stranger can be loving — but it was. It’s a revelation; now everything is related to my diet, my body. I’ve been talking with my friends much to much about what I eat, which really means what I don’t eat. I have to apologise to my friends constantly for always returning to the subject of food. It’s an obsession. But now — this. This — reward. No, not a burger and fries. The beauty of a man. The confidence of going into a certain situation where men are being gay together and instantly matching up with someone who is instantly attracted to me, and not coincidentally, he is  someone I am attracted to also. Almost annoyed to find out that it has always been this easy. There is another world. And is that a bad thing? Well of course it is; one can only access these men with their perfect bodies by eating healthy food and losing weight. Another revelation; my newly discovered resentment of fat people. I did not think that would happen. I have lost just 13 pounds but it is two belt notches and a significant amount of belly fat (or it certainly seems significant to me). And now I look at fat people with disgust. And suddenly everyone is fat. Or that just what comes of being eternally hungry?

Monday, 1 July 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel)

Day 12
It’s been three days and my weight loss has slowed down (apparently it was water weight…huh?)  but I went to see Mathew Bourne’s Swan Lake and now I have to do ekphrasis. This is when a writer describes a painting. Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake was like a painting. I went there fully expecting to go ‘oh la-te-da a bunch of gay men dancing around and being really erotic with each other in tights how lovely, snore!’ And it was a little bit like that until I figured out that the plot was very Oedipal (or should I say anti-Oedipal) in a gay way. The young prince, who resembled me in every way except looks, is locked in a love/hate relationship with his beautiful, imperious and scornful mother. He goes to the park and falls in love with a swan (a very sexy male dancer) and then the party! Oh the party! Everyone is dancing sexy and then the prince has to compete with his mother for the beautiful swan man —who is wearing leather pants. The leather pants was the best part. I’ve never seen leather pants in a ballet before. Anyway I won’t tell you the end but yes I will — the young prince kinda ‘gets’ the gorgeous swan guy when they are both dead, which kinda sucks (but hey, it’s a ballet). I got lost in it. The leather pants dance scene was so sexy and imagine competing with your mother for a guy (something I kind of feel like I’ve been doing for my whole life) and all the guys were strutting and slapping their thighs and punching each other and pulling themselves towards each other — and then anyway — it was just all about the way sex is. For awhile I was that ballet. I was crying. It was more real than my real life.

Is that a problem?

Friday, 28 June 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel)

Day 9
Thirteen pounds. A bit terrified, called the Nutritionist, is that too much weight to lose? She says, — everybody says — don’t worry, it’s all water. Okay. She lets me replace my melba toast with bread though, just to be sure. 
I should be happy. I know I should, and I am, I’m weighing myself now (haven’t done that in years), I’m not so ashamed of what I weigh and I even looked at myself naked in the mirror and I can totally see it, I look like a regular size person tending to fat — not a fat person. That’s all very good and I should feel happy — but when I visit my therapist we decide that I want to be one with everybody. Are you ready for that? In other words I don’t know how to be separate from people; I either have to fuse with them, which means we have being the same person, or I have to be rejected. As you can imagine this has caused some problems in my personal life. Could it be also why I am so obsessed with beauty? You know someone once said about me ‘You always seem to be surrounded by beautiful young men’ and I thought sure yeah why not? Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? But now I’m wondering if my obsession with beauty is an obsession with being one with another beautiful person so that he is beautiful and I am beautiful and — mirrors. Narcissus. 
Or can we just leave beauty out of this please? That is, out of this analysis. Beauty is a given. Meaning it’s precious. You can’t touch it. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel)

Day Seven

Late last night I met someone who caught my fancy earlier; he was short and slim and handsome and wearing ripped white pants. After stuff happened, he was adamant ‘I’m twenty-seven. How old are you how old are you how old are you?’ I kept saying ‘very old.’ He guessed — ‘thirty” and ‘thirty two?’ I said ‘I am your grandfather —you just had sex with your grandfather.’ But he wouldn’t give up so I finally told him the truth: ‘sixty-six.' It didn’t phase him; he asked me to put my number in his phone. His name is Donny and he is from Tel Aviv, and  we talked about my visit there two years ago.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel)

Day Six

A beautiful young waiter was nice to me. This sounds so pitiful. What is beauty? In medieval times one would prostrate oneself before the beloved like a dog. (‘Spaniel.’) Beauty is over, is it not? I am antique to talk about it; immediately you say — what kind of body fascist is he? And what particular type of person is beautiful? But I am adamant, it is about the shape of the neck the curl of the eyelash, the shy look, the man planting his two legs firmly on the ground. But why physical? Oh why so physical? I wish I could answer that; I wish I could answer why I think that if I lose weight I will be more ‘attractive.’ What is attractive? Why not just seek to be a better person? But, nevertheless, I have a body, it has ‘needs’ — as the pejorative cliche goes, and it does things, and wants to do things, and demands attention: to be taken care of (or not). We all have bodies, don’t we? We all may harbour different fantasies of what is beautiful; but must we relinquish the term? I speak in defence of beauty; a beauty that I attest will never go away. Try and deny it; it will assail your eyes and your desires. And go on, admit it, you will always believe somewhere, deep inside you, that what is beautiful on the outside must be beautiful on the inside too.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel)

Day Five

Cramps. Not stomach cramps, muscle cramps. Not clear on what that is? Skin…tightening? Surely it’s too early for that. Anyway there was one incident — a guy on his bike almost ran me over, and usually the guys on bikes who almost run me over just continue on their way, but this one — totally out of the blue — terribly chatty! “Oh I don’t have a notch in my belt,” he said and I had no idea what he was talking about and he says “You know I don’t have notch in my belt for all the people I run over with my bike,” and I laughed and said no of course not. And then I realised that he was kind of cute and giving me very positive energy. Again…could it be — the weight loss? It’s only been five days but a delivery guy on a bike, chatting? And then he asked me where MacDonalds was because he was delivering something there (to — MacDonalds?), and I told him and he seemed happy. That’s all basically. Except — some random guy at the bus station told me a joke: “Why did the prune ask out the banana? Because he didn’t have a date.” Haha, he wasn’t cute so it doesn’t count. I know that sounds awful, but with this weight loss thing I’m really obsessed with — am I getting more attractive or not? And by that of course I mean — attractive to guys that I am attracted to (isn’t that what being more attractive means? Getting the guys you want?)

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel)

Day Four

Another incident — quite cheering — not to make a mountain out of a molehill but I was standing outside Starbucks in the rain and right out of the blue this guy asked me directions. No biggie except that he was tall dark and handsome and extremely masculine and he treated me like just another dude, which obviously, I’m not. I was wearing a touk and t-shirt which I suppose might make look kind of cool, but I just had to assume that already I was giving out skinny vibes that made me much, much more attractive.

When Political Correctness Replaces Informed Criticism

These days discussing the sex life (or twitter chat) of an artist, or discussing the morality of immorality of the work itself — is what passes for informed aesthetics.
I am not the first to notice this.
But now it’s getting personal. I can’t figure out if a movie is good or bad anymore— at least not from reading all the dumb, ham-handed reviews.
Here are three recent movies that have been badly — and misleadingly — reviewed.
I'm setting the record straight.

  1. LATE NIGHT I haven’t seen anything Mindy Kaling’s done (my bad) since The Office which I loved her in. Well she’s great in this. And she’s written a witty, touching comedy; no small feat. But everyone keeps taking about how great the politics of this film are, when truth be told —  they’re lousy. Emma Thompson plays a female late night talk show host, ala Jimmy Kimmel. Right. Lightbulb? I mean, um, look around? There is no such creature. Mindy Kaling, why are you criticising white women for a privilege they haven’t attained yet? Not even Joan Rivers could get white male execs to grace her with a late night talk show. So my review is the reverse of all the other ones — ‘Kaling is a great writer with bad politics.’

2. ROLLING THUNDER REVUE This documentary is being criticised because some of the talking heads are actors not real people. The dumb critics seem to think this is bad, or immoral, or unethical — or some such rot. How stupid can you be? This film lies because a) Scorsese wants us to remember that documentaries don’t always tell the truth, and  b) Scorsese is demanding we be skeptical of media these days. Get it? So how dumb are you, critics? And how smart is Martin Scorsese?

3. ANNA In case you’ve missed it (and I’m sure you have) this is a film by Luc Besson. The reviews were all snide, calling it sexist (it isn’t). Then I realized that Luc Besson is ‘Fifth Element’ Luc Besson and a very skilled filmmaker. I go. It’s great -- and I hate movie violence and complicated plots and I’m certainly not turned on by kickboxing women (although I did act in a movie once called FACE THE EVIL starring a kickboxing Shannon Tweed — and she did turn me on by showing me the ring that Gene Simmons gave her). Turns out that Besson has been accused of rape (the charges were dropped) — and the unwanted touching of five women. Oh —  I get it, so now his movies are suddenly all bad? But they’re not. However there’s no arguing with people who think that assholes make only lousy art. Hey - how do I tell you that most great artists are assholes?

These are all great movies. But the critics were wrong about them; go see for yourself.