Regular readers of my blog are familiar with my copious critiques of the American Idol contestants. And, I admit, I get into reality television. But with one qualifier--it has to a creative competition in which contestants are judged on their merits. I do not enjoy those ridiculous shows that demean women by having them compete like cows at a county fair for the alleged love of some well-to-do bachelor (or some has-been rap star--good heavens) which we are all supposed to believe ends in a fairy tale marriage, or those shows where the object of the game is to be as back-stabbing, conniving and manipulative as possible, and the person who is most successful at it wins. They are actually rewarded for this behavior. Then comes the inevitable fan outrage that the nastiest person on the show won the game. Uh--no duh.
Anyway, I try to choose my reality TV carefully. I will not get committed to that many hours of TV unless it's something that actually interests me. For example--Project Runway, yes--Shear Genius, not so much. But one of my favs is Design Star on HGTV. Designers compete to host their own design show on HGTV. One of the contestants who has made it to the final two this year is Matt Locke, pictured above. Now, I'm not encouraging you to vote for him only because he's a sexy gay bear, but also because he's a brilliant designer. Ivy league educated, Matt takes his inspiration from great architecture and innovative design. Some of the design solutions he came up with on the show clearly come from a mind that thinks outside the box. So, yes, as a designer he is deserving of the platform, but also he has charisma, knowledge and skills. AND, yes, he's gay. The point is we need more gay men on television in roles where they are respected for their talents and given a platform to display them, educate and entertain. We have so much talent in our community--surely we deserve to be more than just comic relief or resident drama queen.
How will I ever save the planet if I KEEP FORGETTING TO BRING MY FREAKIN' EARTH-FRIENDLY REUSABLE GROCERY BAG TO THE STORE??? UGGHhhhhhhhhhh!
UPDATE 7/24/08: Okay, so today I FINALLY remembered to bring my green eco-bag to the Westside Market. The checker began to bag my groceries in a combination of both paper AND plastic (good heavens!) when I stopped her and said proudly "No, no--I have my own bag."
"Oh, no problem," she responded and switched the groceries to my reusable bag. Then she piped in with "I'm gonna give you some information on some specials we're having this month."
"All kinda organics and green products. Ya know..."
"Some really good buys."
"Okay, I appreciate it."
So even though nothing I bought today was organic, my earth-friendly reusable grocery bag has me pegged by super-market checkers as an organic-eating, crunchy granola, tree-hugger. And I don't even wear patchouli!
Ridiculous. Yankee stadium officials in their infinite wisdom have decided to ban patrons from bringing sun block into the stadium. Why? Terrorism of course! Haven't you heard of the infamous Coppertone bombers who have been terrorizing beaches from Waikiki to San Tropez? Puleeze. Sunblock is on sale inside the stadium of course for $5--an ounce!
The message here? Real Americans burn for their baseball.
I spent this weekend with Scott and some friends down in Asbury Park for Road Trip 7, the annual gay beach party in town that attracts more than the usual weekend crowd. The weather was hot as blazes, but the breeze off the ocean kept us cool on the beach. I've been to at least 3 or 4 or these Road Trip weekends in the past and this was by far the most popular and successful. It amazes me that every year this once run-down, depressed coastal town moves closer and closer to its former glory--even in this economy.
I've been a bad, bad blogger. A week has gone by without a post from me. Outside of the Countdown to Grad School To Do list which is occupying much of my time and the summer sunshine beckoning outside, all the post ideas I've had lately are political in nature and Scott always warns me not to do political posts "it polarizes people". But then he's a nice mid-western boy who doesn't like to make waves and...well...I'm not.
I had to resist the urge to write a post about my shock and disappointment over Obama aligning himself with the right on four separate issues--all in one week! I wondered who this man was that Republicans claim has "the most liberal voting record" in the Senate. That frustration resulted in a group email to my family. We're all fierce liberals (and Obama supporters) so I thought they might either try to help me understand it or empathize with my feelings. Besides, we often do this in my family--the emails have been flying back and forth since Primary season began. Anyway, a NY Times op-ed piece by Gail Collinshelped me understand where Obama was coming from and at least validated my feelings of confusion and disappointment as it was the number one most emailed item of the day that day, indicating that many other people out there share my feelings.
And this week's hot topic is that stupid New Yorker magazine cover. Honestly, I get the satire, but I think it was in very poor taste and only fans the flames of the right wing lunacy. As my sister Janet stated in her family group email "What's insane is that we have to battle our own team of liberals--this is an easy win for us finally and now we have dopes on our own team causing headaches." Further illustrating the New Yorker's failed attempt at satire, my brother Peter added "If you need to explain your joke, it usually is not funny." Here, here!
Finally, the thing that really drives me nuts in the mainstream media is the time wasted on stories like the New Yorker flap or politicizing the most ridiculous things imaginable. For example, I heard a story on the news the other day hypothesizing who animals would vote for in the presidential election if they could. Supposedly they would vote for McCain because he owns a whole gaggle of pets while Obama owns none. So guess what I got today? An email from an animal-loving friend requesting that I sign an online petitionto urge Senator Obama to adopt a homeless dog. (Hi, Traci!) Frankly, I think Obama would make a lousy pet owner considering his grueling campaign schedule and what will hopefully be a grueling presidential schedule but I'm sure his girls would love it. Anyway, I signed the petition because I love Traci.
I mentioned a couple posts back that I was introduced to George Carlin's brilliant brand of comedy by one of my seventh grade teachers, Mr. Heumer and promised to write more about him. I had hoped to have this posted by Pride weekend, but what with my grad school preparations blogging has been on the back burner lately. Anyway, here it is.
Seventh grade is horrendous. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, chances are seventh grade was the worst year of your life. It certainly was for me. But if you were very lucky, as I was, you had a Mr. Heumer to see you through it. Mr. Heumer was my seventh grade social studies teacher. True to his surname, he was good-natured and warm. Yet Mr. Heumer was considered an oddball for many reasons including a gnome-like appearance, a gimpy gate and perhaps most significant, rumors that he was gay.
If he was gay, and I’m pretty sure he was, in the greater scheme of gay culture he would have belonged to the bear set. He was short and stocky, with auburn hair and beard sans moustache trimmed into that Abraham Lincoln/Amish look. He walked with an limp due to a deformity in one of his legs which required him to wear an orthopedic platform shoe and drew attention to his stocky figure as he jockeyed to navigate the hallways daily through a sea of seventh graders. He had the worst sense of style of not only any gay man I ever knew but any other teacher at the junior high school–including the math teachers! He wore the same thing almost every day: blue, black or brown polyester pants and a navy blue Columbia Wrestling short sleeve crew neck pullover. On dress up days he wore a salmon colored polyester leisure suit circa 1974 in 1981. This was an item of particular ridicule from heartless seventh graders he taught--Gay Mr. Heumer and his pink suit. “It’s not pink, it’s SALMON!” he would insist.
Like his unkempt appearance, Mr. Heumer’s classroom also lacked the queer eye. His desk was cluttered with newspapers and paperbacks. There were none of the brightly colored bulletin boards, art posters or maps like in the other classrooms. His one attempt to dress up the place was a copy of the US Constitution on the otherwise bare cinder block wall in the back of the room. But none of that mattered, for Mr. Heumer believed that real learning happened in life--not in classrooms. For example, much of what they taught in seventh grade social studies back then was American Civics. So rather than read the chapter on the role of small business in the American economy, he had each of his classes create a small business. We had to choose a product to make and sell, were responsible for the manufacturing costs, the bookkeeping, manned the manufacturing or sales divisions, etc. We sold our products (usually holiday themed crafts as the lesson fell around November) in competition with the other classes and at the end of the term the class, or business, with the highest profits won the competition of free enterprise, such as it was in seventh grade.
The year I was in seventh grade, two small bits of theater history took place: The Fantastics, the longest running musical in history at the time, was slated to close after almost 20 years. And Rex Harrison would be returning to Broadway in his last revival of My Fair Lady. Not one to be tethered to the classroom, Mr. Heumer wanted to make sure that his seventh grade students did not miss the opportunity to see The Fantastics and Rex Harrison before they both disappeared forever. Tickets were booked for both shows. But rather than simply pile on a bus and head into the city to see the shows, weeks of preparatory work ensued. Including listening to the original cast recordings of the shows, reading the Greek myths of Pyramis & Thisbe as well as Pygmalion, the stories the shows are based on. And finally learning all about the origins of both shows, their context and significance in American culture and theater history–all in terms a seventh grader could understand.
But as I mentioned, it wasn’t all Broadway musicals and Christmas crafts in seventh grade. In seventh grade all the elementary schools in town were mixed together in the cesspool of Junior High. No one's social status was safe and everyone started from square one. It was the basest kind of survival-of-the-fittest social warfare I’ve ever seen. And I was one of its most serious casualties. It all began around the cafeteria table or maybe in gym class, some of the other boys were discussing which of the girls in our class was prettiest and by “prettiest” they meant which one’s boobs were most developed. The consensus was that one particular girl–let’s call her Jeanine--was the “prettiest”. This Jeanine had expressed some sort of crush on me in particular, and so I was asked my opinion on the matter. Well, I told them that no, in fact, I didn’t think Jeanine was all that pretty and, frankly, she dressed a little slutty for my taste.
You would have thought I published a cartoon of Allah in a Muslim newspaper. The fervor, the outrage, the threats of physical violence to me all in the name of Jeanine’s honor seemed akin to something that would start a holy war. As word spread it got uglier and uglier. But this was more than just schoolyard taunts, it took on a kind of mob mentality vengeance so that kids I never saw before were tracking me down in the hallway threatening to beat the crap out of me. Their faces were sharp and angry, their threats and voices seemed to come from a place that was dark and hate-filled. It became increasingly clear what the overall tone of these attacks were. After all, what kind of seventh grade boy objects to any girl with big boobs dressing too slutty? A fag. That’s what kind.
My introduction to homophobia was played out on the cruel stage of the seventh grade social hierarchy. It became so disruptive that I could barely get to class on time and it even continued during class interfering with lessons. After a few days of this my teachers began to fear for my safety. A meeting was held and I was assigned to all different classes but with the same teachers. The day that decision was made each of my teachers took time to talk to me after class about what had happened. They were all very kind and supportive. But mostly I remember they seemed shocked in their empty classrooms at the end of the day that a kid like me, who was nice and well behaved and worked hard, could become the object of such scorn and hatred so quickly.
But when I went to talk to Mr. Heumer there was a different feeling all together. He didn't seem shocked. Instead, there was a weariness there mixed with anger. He had thought about what he was going to say and it seemed important. What he said came from a place of one who had been battle worn with name-calling and ridicule his whole life. I sat down and he chose one of the student desks across from me. "You have done nothing to deserve this," he assured me. “And don’t ever let anyone think they have a right to treat you this way.” He took care with his words and continued, “Who you are is your own business and no one else’s. If anyone gives you a hard time about this, you come talk to me. You have nothing to be ashamed of.” He paused again debating just how much to reveal. “Listen,” he said "I know what they say about me. I've heard it for years. But let me tell you something, they don’t know the first thing about me. I know the truth about me and I have nothing to prove to any of these people.” He stopped a third time and added “Sleeping with a woman doesn’t make you a man.” This last part came as a shock to me. I had never heard any teacher talk that way. And as I left the room I remember replaying that last line over and over again in my head. To this day I still remember it. It was perhaps the most valuable lesson Mr. Heumer ever taught me.