Monday, September 01, 2014

What if everything you’ve been told is wrong?

Being gay is very different from a heterosexual’s experience, in which everything they see, hear, and have been told confirms their own experience. Whereas for gay men and lesbians, their experience is at odds with what they’re told.

That’s Robert H. Hopcke in an interview conducted by Mark Thompson.

source:Gay Soul: finding the heart of gay spirit and nature with sixteen writers, healers, teachers, and visionaries interviews and photographs by Mark Thompson

Sunday, August 31, 2014

what I got at SF Zine Fest 2014

Tyranny of the Muse, issue #1, written by Eddie Wright, illustrated by Jesse Balmer
plus Tyranny of the Muse stickers
Tyranny of the Muse website

Police Log Comics: comic strip interpretations of the police log of Carmel, CA, issue #2, by Owen Cook
sample Police Log Comics in color

Tortilla, issues #2 and 3*, by Jaime Crespo
The artist doesn’t seem to have a website of his own currently but here’s his Wikipedia entry: Jaime Crespo

The List by Maia Kobabe
Red Gold Sparks

Childhood, a mini-comics anthology by students at California College of the Arts
class taught by Justin Hall

Jin & Jam, no.1, by Hellen Jo
for more: Hellen Jo

paperdummy, issues #5, #6, #7, and #8, by Peter S. Conrad

Four Mission Mini-Comix: When Naked Hallway Dudes Attack!, The Thrill of Living in a Dying Empire #2, Quincy’s Terrible, Horrible, Worst-Ever Blind Date, and Do You Suffer for Your Art … Or Because of it?
Mission Mini-Comix

postcards by Lia Tin, Lauren Kawahara, Aki Neumann, Emma Judd, Shawn Eisenach, and a postcard-sized piece of original art by NubsArt

a reminder to attend the 5th annual East Bay Alternative Book and Zinefest in Berkeley on December 6.

* actually Kent bought these, but I talked to Mr Crespo about Harvey Pekar and the work Mr Pekar left unpublished at his death - I would contribute to a Kickstarter to see that stuff.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

“migrant and unspecified forms”

[T]he right to look, for unstructured amounts of time, at migrant and unspecified forms, and at the relation between them, without demanding that the forms have a single meaning, and without demanding that whatever significance I ascribe to these forms be defensible, explicable, or based on any evidence but my own sensations.

This is how Wayne Koestenbaum descries one’s “rights” in regard to the experience of viewing abstract art.

source: My 1980s & Other Essays by Wayne Koestenbaum

Monday, August 25, 2014

word of the day: irrefragable

Over the years I [Oliver Sacks] have seen … patients who, in consequence of a right-[brain]hemisphere stroke, have lost all feeling and use of the left side [of the body]. Often they have no awareness that anything has happened, but some people are convinced that their left side belongs to someone else (“my twin brother,” “the man next to me,” even “It’s yours, Doc, who are you kidding?”). … It needs to be emphasized that such patients may be highly intelligent, lucid, and articulate — and that it is solely in reference to their odd distortions of body image that they make their surreal but irrefragable statements. [my bolding]

definition: impossible to refute
per Merriam-Webster

quote source: Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

Monday, August 18, 2014

“You don’t have to bend the whole world”

I always had hopes of being a big star … As you get older, you aim a little lower … Everybody wants to leave something behind them, some impression, some mark upon the world. Then you think, you left a mark on the world if you just get through it .. You don’t have to bend the whole world. I think it’s better to just enjoy, pay your dues and enjoy it. If you shoot an arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you. [ellipses in original]

That’s Dorian Corey at the end of the documentary Paris Is Burning. Dorian Corey is a professional drag artist. Paris Is Burning focuses on the Drag Ball scene in New York City in the 80s.

source: Paris Is Burning: a queer film classic by Lucas Hilderbrand

Friday, August 08, 2014

Handwriting Rebels

A couple years back Kent & I were doing a tour of Northeastern California. We stopped in at a museum that featured gold mining equipment and Indian baskets and so on. I bought some postcards, as I am wont to do, and chatted a little with the lady behind the front counter. When I said we were from Berkeley, she said she was born in Berkeley!

Somehow we got onto the topic of education - maybe it was the ignorance of kids today, or some such evergreen - and she said she couldn’t believe schools no longer required handwriting, that is, cursive. How could you consider yourself educated if you didn’t know how to do that?

Probably nobody (older) has ever but agreed with this sentiment (not long ago my younger sister posted similarly on Facebook), so I must have surprised the museum lady when I rolled my eyes and said, “I always hated cursive. As soon as it was no longer required I stopped using it. The only time I write with cursive these days is when I apply a signature.”

Sadly, we suddenly lost our common ground!

In his book about the FBI and the Free Speech Movement Subversives, Seth Rosenfeld spends several pages on a biographical sketch of former University of California president Clark Kerr. Kerr remembered his grade school days and one of those confident predictions made by his teacher at the old one-room school:

[T]hough she insisted he learn the prevailing Palmer Method of cursive writing - unless he mastered it, she warned, he would “never amount to anything” - he clung to his block letters.

I doubt Rosenfeld interviewed Miss Elba himself so I’m guessing Mr Kerr provides the quote from memory. It stuck in his memory! He did amount to something, the little rebel.

source: Subversives: the FBI’s war on student radicals and Reagan’s rise to Power by Seth Rosenfeld

Thursday, August 07, 2014

What J. Edgar Hoover liked to see

This one’s not going in the “evidence disproving Hoover was gay” column.

[FBI agents] complied with a dress code enforced as much through fear of Hoover’s personal disapproval as through any written rule. They wore dark, conservative suits, white shirts, ties, and spit-polished shoes, their hair cut short and their faces closely shaved. They were subject to annual physicals and strict weight limits, though some of them complained that Hoover seemed well over the limit. “We were all taking pills to try to repress our appetite, to trim down,” [agent Burney] Threadgill recalled.

Hopped up on pills to look good to a man.

Victims of the male gaze.

source: Subversives: the FBI’s war on student radicals and Reagan’s rise to Power by Seth Rosenfeld

Wednesday, August 06, 2014


Two FBI agents under Jessica Mitford’s house :
One evening in the [nineteen-]fifties, [Burney] Threadgill and another agent named Harold Hoblit were assigned to monitor a meeting at the [Mitford/]Treuhafts’ home [in Berkeley]. They sneaked into the crawl space beneath the house to eavesdrop on Mitford and her visitors, but as the meeting wore on, Threadgill fell asleep, and began to snore loudly. In a panic, Hoblit rousted him and they crept away.

source: Subversives: the FBI’s war on student radicals and Reagan’s rise to Power by Seth Rosenfeld

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Clyde Tolson at J. Edgar Hoover’s funeral

On the whole Seth Rosenfeld’s book about domestic spying and the government’s efforts to undermine dissent is not sympathetic to J. Edgar Hoover and the agency with which he was virtually synonymous. Still I found this passage about Hoover’s elderly (and now widowed) second-in-command Clyde Tolson a poignant portrait in a few words:

The casket was lowered and the flag shrouding it folded and presented to [Clyde] Tolson, who looked weak and confused. He had resigned the day after his companion’s death, and on inheriting nearly all of [J. Edgar Hoover]’s estate lived in Hoover’s house among his antiques until his own death three years later.

If you’re curious to read some thoughts on the relationship between the two men you might check out this slate article, which ends with a snippet from a letter Clyde wrote to Edgar:

“Words are mere man-given symbols for thoughts and feelings, and they are grossly insufficient to express the thoughts in my mind and the feelings in my heart that I have for you,” Hoover wrote to Tolson in 1943. “I hope I will always have you beside me.”

And, no, I haven’t forgotten the FBI’s persecution of homosexuals, an irony (Hoover’s vicious defense of his closet?) that certainly colors any discussion of the Tolson-Hoover relationship.

source: Subversives: the FBI’s war on student radicals and Reagan’s rise to Power by Seth Rosenfeld

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

One Patty is not like the other

Jeffrey Toobin writes about the Supreme Court for The New Yorker. The New Yorker is famous for the rigorousness of its fact-checking. I don’t know if the biographical information about John Roberts that Toobin includes in his latest book also appeared in The New Yorker. Regardless, it’s time for a little correcting.

John Roberts, the future Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Toobin says, attended a single-sex Catholic high school in Indiana.

Roberts was not just the valedictorian of the class of 1973. He served as captain of the football team, a varsity wrestler, member of both the student council and the drama club. (He played Peppermint Patty in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown …)

A real jack-of-all-trades, eh? For a moment I was amused by imagining the young Roberts in drag as a female Peanuts character. Then I remembered that Peppermint Patty is not a character in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Toobin isn’t the first to make the mistake. My high school did You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, too, and there was some confusion about the character in it named Patty. The original Patty had disappeared from the comic strip by the 70s.

The original Patty, a blonde, and her friend, Violet, a brunette, were a tag team who were alternately friendly with and harassers of Charlie Brown, more or less the role Lucy later filled. I’m not sure when the original Patty (and Violet?) disappeared, yet a second Patty had (coincidentally?) joined the strip’s cast at about the same time You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown was being written. Peppermint Patty (unlike the original Patty) was a tomboy and was the first girl Charles Schulz didn’t draw in a dress. Peppermint Patty wore shorts and sandals. Had John Roberts played Peppermint Patty on stage he would hardly have been in drag at all.

A 1999 revival of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown switched out Patty for Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally.

source: The Oath: the Obama White House and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Keep your medicines out of reach of your octopus

[B]iologist Roland Anderson … helped to design an experiment for a female giant Pacific octopus … named Billye. … A fellow female octopus named Pandora had gotten tasty hunks of herring in a screw-top jar, which over several tests took her an average of two minutes to open. Anderson … decided to … ‘offer [their captive octopuses] childproof pill bottles.’ … Anderson and his team at the aquarium had drilled small holes in the plastic bottle so Billye would be able to get a whiff of the meat inside. Fueled with this incentive, she managed to open the bottle … in … about fifty-five minutes. … With a little practice, she was able to get it down to an average of about five minutes.

It was the kind of child-proof bottle where you have to push the lid down while turning it. I just got one of those from the pharmacy. After I open one of those I won’t tighten the lid again. My mother often had me open her childproof bottles. There have been times I’ve been tempted to saw the top off.

source: Octopus! the most mysterious creature in the sea by Katherine Harmon Courage

Monday, May 05, 2014

Poetry & Comics in a Spinadoodle

source: Sam Spina's Spinadoodles blog

Two of my favorite things - poetry and comics. “John P.” might be John Porcellino, creator of King Kat Comics. I’m guessing so because John Porcellino’s work often feels like poetry to me, with his line drawings suggesting more than they explicitly depict, and their frequently contemplative quality. Is Noah in the strip disparaging comics for being “like poetry”? Chiding comics creators for making comics only another comics creator will want to read? It’s a common criticism of poets these days. The final panel might be a confirmation of Noah’s belief - the girl is yawning so Habibi (a book-length comic) must not be connecting with this reader? We don’t know whether the girl is a comics creator. I suspect the confirmation is meant to be gently ironic - it is being offered by a comics artist in comics form, after all.

I discovered “Bar Talk with Noah” in a collection of Sam Spina’s autobiographical Spinadoodle strips that I bought at the Alternative Press Expo 2012 . With all the eager artists and their often-impressive wares at table after table, the choice of what to actually buy ends up more random than you’d think. There are things one takes into consideration, of course. I bought Spinadoodles: the third year because - ? Because I usually like autobiographical comics. Because the price wasn’t bad. Because I liked the art. Because the artist was selling his work himself. Because the artist was cute.

update 5/20: Sam Spina confirms my suspicion: "I am talking about John P of King Cat fame with another really, really awesome cartoonist Noah Van Sciver in that strip."

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

“The question of publishing is always the question of facing embarrassment”

In an interview the Icelandic poet Sjon says, “The question of publishing is always the question of facing embarrassment.”

Sjon published his first book as a teenager and recently came out with a collection called Complete Poems. The interviewer asked about the decision to include those early poems. Sjon replied:

My first poems were written when I was fifteen and published in the summer when I was sixteen, so [my first book] is really something that was written by a fifteen-year-old teenager. I actually decided to print them all, to just let them out there, because you can find them in the library. … [W]hy don’t I just acknowledge … them[?] … I am not sure I would have been so relaxed twelve years ago or so. Today, now, I am approaching middle age, so I’ve got no problem with that because the question of publishing is always the question of facing embarrassment.

The Sjon quote puts me in mind of those who advise writers not to send their work out too quickly. You might not realize it’s bad, these advisors say, so keep it back until you’re sure. There’s nothing you’ll regret so much as seeing embarrassing poems in print. Bad poems will haunt you!

Hmf. When a publisher chooses your work, they are usually choosing it over the work of others. Publishing is a lot of work - and not much reward. So if they like something trust that they like it, that they saw a value in it, something worth their trouble and expense. If you decide that, after all, the poem was lousy, well, so what. Lots of lousy stuff seems to get into print. Maybe the publisher put it between covers (or into pixels) for extra-literary reasons - because you paid them to, because you’re their friend and they didn’t want to hurt you, because you have a big name they hoped would help with marketing, because reasons.

A poet’s collected poems rarely includes everything they’ve published. Even a Complete Poems will exclude poems. I recently read through all of Alicia Ostriker’s poetry books yet did not find a poem I copied out from an anthology a few years ago. I copied out a couple poems from her books, too, but clearly Ostriker did not agree with me that the poem in the obscure anthology was superior to so many she chose over it for her collections. Was she embarrassed by the poem after its publication? Should Ostriker’s opinion of her poem (or her publisher’s opinion) influence mine?

source: Gulf Coast: a journal of literature and fine arts v.24, issue 1, winter/spring 2012

Thursday, March 27, 2014

“How does this even work?”

In a moment of deep despair, I grabbed a knife and toyed with ending my life. … I took the knife into the bathroom … I walked to the shower, slid the glass door open, and sat down inside, sliding the door shut behind me. … [T]he room just beyond was a blur, obscured by soap scum. … I ran the dull side [of the knife] along my left wrist, like I was taking it for a test drive. The metal, like the shower floor, was cold. … How does this even work? I asked, almost aloud … I couldn’t will myself to go through with it. I was too afraid - of the selfishness of this act and how my family would react to it; of the physical pain involved; of failing at this, too; but most of all of the fate I was sure would greet me after death.

That’s Chris Stedman’s low point, according to his memoir Faitheist, which recounts his spiritual journey, from culturally Christian as a child to his born-again experience as a teen to his accepting himself as a gay man and rejecting Christianity’s monstrous god.

Stedman says the main reason he didn’t kill himself in the shower that night was the expectation he would face the terrible tortures of hell, suicide being one of those sins that park a soul in that unfriendly place. In a post earlier this month I wondered if many people were dissuaded from killing themselves out of fear of the afterlife. In the above passage Chris Stedman says that fear was what, “most of all,” made him choose life.

Maybe so. Stedman lists other reasons, though. And by the time he crouches in the cold shower he is already convinced that his same sex desires have reserved him a boiling pot of torment in God’s ugly cellar. Stedman has prayed repeatedly over the Bible verses that supposedly condemn homosexuality, and God hasn’t piped up with any relief. He isolates himself from his family and his Christian friends. He is in pain and sees no way to alleviate it.

Considering the rest of the memoir, its testimony to Stedman’s need for social engagement, his sense of justice, I’m not convinced that imagining post-death torture is what stops the knife. I suspect it had more to do with the poverty of the Christian version. This Christianity is empty of love so his empty heart yearned for something beyond it.

I know I contemplated the permanent pain killer and hell was no factor. Nor, for that matter, was another of Stedman’s reasons for living - what he calls the “selfishness” of suicide. Rather, if I can come up with any particular reason why I’m yet alive, if one really can look into that tunnel-vision state of mind and say much coherent about it, I’d say I could imagine a better life. I could imagine not hurting so much. I could even imagine being happy. I didn’t know how or if a better life would be mine, but it was not out of the reach of my dreams.

source: Faitheist: how an atheist found common ground with the religious by Chris Stedman