Saturday, February 28, 2015

New Order. Power, Corruption & Lies

from the book log (2/8/89):

New Order. Power, Corruption & Lies
1983. a record album

My fav. song is “Your Silent Face”, a mellowish, danceish, Kraftwerkish creation that sounds almost new age but is more fun. Definitely the high point of the album. The rest is okay tho’ little really stands out.


The record did not come with “Blue Monday,” which I otherwise would have called its high point. You could only get “Blue Monday” as a single at first. It was added to Power, Corruption & Lies when the album was released on CD.

I played “Blue Monday” on my radio show at London’s Imperial College. I have the cassette tape to prove it. Somewhere. Maybe.

Power, Corruption & Lies grew on me.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Go-Betweens. 16 Lovers Lane

from the book log (2/8/89):

The Go-Betweens. 16 Lovers Lane.
1988. a record album

I really like The Go-Betweens. I first heard “Streets of Your Town” on SF’s LIVE 105.3. A station which no longer seems to come in, drat it. & I bought “Was There Anything I Could Do?” [as a 7” single] on my London trip. Those two songs are definitely big highlights of the album. I like “I’m All Right” quite as much. All these songs are on side 2. I’m not as impressed with side one but it’s certainly quite listenable. The Go-Betweens strum what the Brit press would probably call “jangly” guitars, but the music is generally friendly sounding, folky, with a beat that lets me dance.

When I started watching the “Streets of Your Town” video on youtube, it looked unfamiliar. Huh. You never know what you’re going to see for the first time that you didn’t think to think about seeing.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Monkey Wrench Gang

from the book log (2/8/89):

The Monkey Wrench Gang
Edward Abbey.
1975 & 1985

George Hayduke, Bonnie Abbzug (no relation to the Senator [that is, U.S. Representative for New York’s 20th district, Bella Abzug]), Seldom Seen Smith (a jackMormon), and Doc Sarvis become eco-raiders. The term today might be eco-terrorists. They meet on a rafting trip down the Colorado which is led by Seldom. And they decide to do their best to rid the West of its cancer. Their ultimate goal is blowing out the Glen Canyon Dam. They don’t get to it during the course of the book, but you never know.

In the meantime they wreck a few billboards and a lot of earthmoving equipment, one and a half bridges. Abbey’s prose is sometimes verbose. On the first page — in one paragraph — I encountered 3 words with which I was unfamiliar: acedia, schmierkunst, and monovalent. He dint do much else of that — or I didn’t notice. But the adventure rollicks along pretty well once it gets going. Bonnie was rather two-dimensional, I thought. The tryst between her and Hayduke was predictable and briefly yucky. But the chases are great fun and I really liked the characters.

When I put up a DIR post I try to find the cover image of the edition that I read. In the case of The Monkey Wrench Gang there are several editions. I know I didn’t read one with an R. Crumb cover. If a cover depicts an incident or character from the novel I will incorporate the cover’s version into my reading. This may mean I will disagree with it. “That does not accurately portray that scene!” I remember not really having anything to go on with the cover in this case. I’m not absolutely certain the cover image included in this post is the cover of the edition I read but it matches my memory of an image that contributed nothing to my reading.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

positive notices

from the diary (Wednesday 2/8/89):

I was a big success in Reader’s Theatre today. We did solo monologues (isn’t that a little redundant?) I did a monologue from Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart. Bruce (the one in the play who’s supposed to be devastatingly handsome) is telling Ned that his lover has died of AIDS.

I got very positive comments from Susan Stathus (our teacher): “You have excellent timing.”

Somebody else: “He’s not afraid of silence.”

“I almost cried.”

“I got so into it I nearly forgot I was watching a monologue.”

I wrote about finding this monologue in an earlier post.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

We Are Your Sons: the legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg

from the book log (1/26/89):

We Are Your Sons: the legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg
written by the children, Robert & Michael Meeropol
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1975

Begins with an engrossing selections of letters by Ethel and Julius to their sons, to one another, to Emanuel Bloch, their lawyer, and to the public, most of which were written while the two were incarcerated at the Death House in Sing Sing. Michael Meeropol provides connecting narrative, filling in some of his memories of family life before the notorious spy trial and after. How he and his younger brother (by 4 years) Robert lived for a time with their maternal grandmother. This woman sided with her son David Greenglass, against her daughter and son-in-law and told her daughter as the date of the execution moved nearer: “I mean even if it was a lie, all right, so it was a lie, you should have said it [David Greenglass’ testimony] was true anyway! You think that way you would have been sent here [the Death House]? No, if you had agreed that what Davy said was so, even if it wasn’t you wouldn’t have got this!” Ethel quotes her mother in a letter dated Jan 21, 1953.

Michael and Robert were placed in a Jewish children’s house which Michael remembers as mostly torment. He was seven, Robert three, at the time of their parents’ arrest. From there they went to live with their paternal grandmother, then to a young couple. After the execution of their parents they were adopted by Anne & Abel Meeropol, although at the death of Manny Block they were nearly taken permanently from this new family via legal maneuvering by New York officials.

An interesting and fast-reading book. It gives few details of the trial or the adult Rosenbergs other than those remembered by Michael and, of course, the words of the Rosenbergs themselves in their letters. …

Robert recounts the brothers’ adulthood experiences. Each became involved in the youth movements and New Left of the Sixties, although in somewhat different ways.

Finally the book ends with Michael’s political analysis of the events leading up to and the reasons behind the prosecution (persecution?) of his parents.

I think this is a valuable book. I have a couple other books waiting that delve into the case itself, but this is a rare memoir — the testimony of two innocent victims of the Cold War. And the Death Penalty. Hm. Four innocent victims? I was thinking of Robert and Michael, yet Ethel & Julius went to their deaths proclaiming their absolute innocence.

For my Reader’s Theater class I performed the letter from Ethel Rosenberg which I excerpt above.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed by the US government in 1953 for providing the Soviets information on creating atomic bombs. Did they do what they were convicted of? If they did spy for the Soviets, was executing them appropriate?

I remember my mother being uncomfortable when she saw me reading this book. I don’t think we figured out how to discuss it. The Rosenbergs were her contemporaries, only 3 to 6 years older, and I’m sure she had opinions about them at the time.

We Are Your Sons was the first work of any substance that I read on the case. Robert and Michael are convinced of their parents’ innocence. It was easy to take their side. How could you not feel for someone whose parents were killed, even if by the state for supposedly just reasons?

My mother was a proponent of the death penalty. As a kid it made sense to me; doesn’t a murderer forfeit his right to life? Gradually my sympathies shifted. The criminal justice system is fallible. Some laws are plainly unjust. I decided it was better not to give the government permission to kill people. Better to err on the side of mercy and put the priority on addressing the social causes for crime than go along with the mistakes that will take the lives of innocents. My mother may have come around. I don’t remember exactly, but I did talk her into changing her mind on some things.

What made me pick up the book in the library? Part of it would have been its uniqueness. Name another memoir written by the child of an executed spy. Part of it would have been a couple novels, which I had either read recently or considered reading at about that time. E. L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel was based on the Meeropol boys and was made into a movie in 1983, the title shortened simply to Daniel. I hadn’t seen it but I certainly heard about it. I read The Book of Daniel at some point. Probably before reading We Are Your Sons, but I don’t remember how the reading of either book informed the other. The second novel would be Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, which doesn’t spend much time on the Rosenbergs but has that striking first line: “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs …”

Monday, February 23, 2015

“Unlock Your Heart” by Kenyth Mogan

The sweet crackle of cellophane opens to rainbow candy.

Mostly what pop culture knows of The Wizard of Oz is the MGM movie, and that’s certainly the case here. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t fresh things you can do with familiar elements.

Found this one at Towleroad.

Kenyth Mogan has a Facebook page.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fanny and Alexander

from the book log (1/25/89):

Fanny and Alexander.
A film by Ingmar Bergman. 1983. 3 hours 10 min. Watched on TV.

Emilie loses her husband (heart attack?), marries The Bishop who is an ogre and treats her children, Fanny and Alexander, terribly. Emilie finally flees him back to her dead husband’s family.

That’s the extremely condensed version. Quite strange and hypnotic at places, especially when Alexander wanders through Uncle Isak’s house and meets Ishmael. Fanny’s place in the title is her biggest role, tho’ she’s a cute little dickens. Dickens … the story rather reminded me of Dickens. Ghosts and evil grown-ups and big family gatherings. I loved the grandmother and Uncle Isak, just like I was supposed to.

Ingmar Bergman is a giant of world cinema. So by now I should have seen more than one of his films, right? If only for my cinematic literacy. Somehow I’ve never gotten around to it.

I remember watching Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert review Fanny and Alexander on their TV show; what was their show called by that time? At the MoviesSiskel & Ebert & the Movies … ? They loved Fanny and Alexander. Loved it! For some reason a clip they showed of the family playing at a party, especially a man chasing a woman around the dinner table, flickers in my memory. I can’t dredge up anything else. Still, I do remember enjoying the movie, and that it held up throughout its 3+ hours. I can even feel a twinge of anger at the cruelty of the stepfather, though perhaps that’s more from reading an overview of the plot than anything else.

The Criterion Collection makes available the 5 hour version that showed on Swedish television, for those who want to see Bergman’s “vision … expressed at its fullest.”

Saturday, February 21, 2015

a cold wind off the ocean

from the diary (Tuesday, 1/24/89):

”What are you thinking?” said Glenn to Garin.

“I was just thinking I’d like to take time off from work and go up to the snow.”

“Do you ski?”

“No. Everyone I know who’s gone skiing has broken something. I used to love to sled.”

“What else are you thinking?”

“It’s blank. I’m not thinking anything.”

“The wind blows right through, hm?”

“What are you thinking about?”

I said: “You.”

Garin and I went to the beach today — Salmon Creek. Mom says they are going to be closing [the] old favorite parking lot but they haven’t yet. The weather was gorgeous. No fog. We got there early — elevenish and the beach was actually warm for a couple hours. A brisk wind from the ocean became quite chill on the way back to the car but the sun was still comfortable. …

Garin claims he was badly hurt during the affair with David W. … These people who say they are so hurt by a previous relationship that they … [w]on’t … jump into anything — … seem to jump [pretty fast] when they find Mr. Beautiful.

As I remember it, the wind off the ocean was so sharp and cold that it drilled into my ear and brought on a headache, which eventually turned into a migraine, probably one of my more memorable if only for the poetry of it. Garin and I did not go out on another date.

Friday, February 20, 2015


from the book log (1/20/89):

This is a monster movie. A fairly well-made old fashioned monster movie mercifully shorn of gobbledygook.

You have the minimal characterization — stock characters — the horror of justice and injustice, the teenagers, the ugly monster. You see, this group of youngsters goes to country to ride their motorbikes — a little boy gets run over by one. The daddy gets very pissed and asks the wicked old witch of the forest to sic Pumpkinhead on the bad old kids. Pumpkinhead does a pretty good job but every time he kills Daddy goes all funny inside. Daddy decides he’s done bad, rushes to save remaining kids. As a change of pace I thought Pumpkinhead might kill the “good girl,” the good girl has been surviving too many of these [horror] movies. Let’s have a slut come out on top.

Pumpkinhead had decent special effects, enough corniness to make you feel good & a few scary parts — generally above average for the genre. Unfortunately, I should prob’ly say, it is likely well above average.

Maybe give it a B+. Your basic scary fairytale ghost story.

I met my brother in Santa Rosa to see Pumpkinhead. David was riding his motorcycle, wearing the Christmas present Mom gave him, a helmet! We both enjoy a good monster movie. I no longer say I like horror movies. The genre got hijacked by the serial killer. In a monster movie the monster is out of this world, supernatural or extraterrestrial, and the humans unite against it. In serial killer movies the monster is too human. That’s no fun.

There’s a character in the Oz series named Jack Pumpkinhead. Jack is a somewhat flimsily constructed wooden man with a carved pumpkin for a head. Though Jack’s character is sweet and innocent, he is tall and that jaggedly carved grin is a little scary. I was hoping the monster in the movie would be a little bit inspired by Jack Pumpkinhead. Sadly (or fortunately) I must say there is no resemblance.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Handful of Dust

from the book log (1/18/89):

A Handful of Dust
Evelyn Waugh. 1934

This is the first novel I’ve read by Mr. E. Waugh. The movie version was playing in London while I was there, but I dint see it. The book is a new paperback edition with a promo photo of the three actors who portray the main characters. One, the one (I suspect) who plays Tony, was Maurice in the movie Maurice (or he looks like the same guy) [James Wilby]. The one who must be John Beaver [Rupert Graves] is very sexy in a white and black sort of way.

I enjoyed the book although the ending is quite dastardly. It’s a Very English novel. Upper crust sorts going to parties, saying clever and witty things, emoting in the most subdued ways. Tony & Brenda Last seem to be enjoying a harmonious and loving marriage, but then Brenda unaccountably falls for the unlikable John Beaver who (unlike Tony) has no money and is described by one character as “London’s only spare man” as he is often invited to parties merely because a previous invitee couldn’t come. Brenda leaves the Last estate for an apartment in London where she carries on with John (unbeknownst to Tony). Tony & Brenda have a son also named John who is killed about this time in a riding accident. (The two children in the novel, John and Winnie, the child of a prostitute, are quite unpleasant creatures.) The death precipitates divorce, which Tony ultimately decides not to go through with. In a bizarre turn Tony decides to accompany a boisterous explorer to the wilds of Brazil to find a lost city. Where this came from I don’t know — it’s quite unexpected. They never find the city, by the way, and John Beaver, the opportunist, doesn’t do well by Brenda and, except for some people we don’t know, there isn’t really a happy ending. Very odd. Lots of eccentric folk populate the scenes and every happening is recounted in the same wry, dry tones. The narration is not at all intrusive. I liked the feel of the style, the words.

I have not read any more Evelyn Waugh, not even Brideshead Revisited, which I keep thinking I should read. I know I have a copy around here somewhere. Probably a move tie-in paperback.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Lair of the White Worm

from the book log (1/17/89):

The Lair of the White Worm, produced & directed by Ken Russell, based on the novel by Bram Stoker.

Went to the Plaza tonight with Rodney Aho. This was a fun movie. Lots of weird goings on but nobody was quite as seriously absurd as in the usual horror/monster flick; no, they were serious sometimes and absurd sometimes. Lots of little (and not so little) sexual innuendos throughout. A sexy villainess with great vamp costumes. A film for the jaded — it even had some scary parts. Lots of evil going on. The silly explanations were kept to a minimum and only a few rubbery special effects. A worm/slash/dragon lives in the big cave on the hill and the mysterious woman periodically sacrifices folks to it. Until she is outwitted by our wily hero(es) and she & dragon meet their doom. Pretty much.

This is Dare I Read post #1000.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Odyssey: the Inca Empire

from the book log (1/16/89):

ODYSSEY. A regular TV series made circa 1980. This episode about the Inca Empire.

Potentially dynamic information and locales exhibited in the typical dry, overawed, museum tones of the archeological documentary. Some fascinating stuff. The knotted ropes that recorded the huge civilization’s holdings and transactions, the long, well-maintained roads, the system of labor tax whereby each person worked for the government, whether building road or city or agriculture or textile making on a rotating basis, the arrangement of agriculture to best advantage, taking into account native plants & animals and using as assets their adaptations to specific habitats. These Andean people used a method of freeze-drying that effectively preserved food for years. The cities were not occupied with resident populations but with people doing their labor taxes, consequently the toppling of organization with the coming of the Spaniards emptied many of the cities rapidly.

I found the pre-Columbian American empires of the Incas and the Aztecs fascinating (well, I was a bit skittish about the Aztecs what with the scary heart-cutting-out sacrifice stuff). Exploring these civilizations was part of why I chose Latin American Studies as my major at UC Berkeley.

A 9-minute preview:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Masterpiece Theatre: A Very British Coup

from the book log (1/16/89):

Masterpiece Theatre: A Very British Coup.
aired in 2 parts: Jan 15, 9:00-10:00pm and Jan 16, 9:00-11:00pm on channel 9, KQED

An interesting entertainment. Lots of quick cutting from scene to scene, overlap of dialogue & background noises as locale changed, lots of extreme close-ups, the faces from lower lip to eyebrow filling the screen. Well-written drama about a “radical” from the Labour Party left, Perkins, [who] wins a landslide victory. He tells the U.S. to take its bases and go home. He dismantles the British nukes. He fights a CIA-led electric power workers’ strike. And there’s a happy ending that almost seems plausible.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

“a readaboutable life”

After talking about looking over my senior yearbook (1983), I wrote in my diary (1/15/89):

Then, of course, I pulled out an old diary — from ’86, not that old. Was actually rather entertaining. I was attending Day Treatment at the time. [Day Treatment was a mental health program.] I think I was trying to make my diary fun to read. I have all these journals full of poetry and prose. It’s quite amazing. All this stuff. A resource. It can take credit for it. I can loot them for the good stuff. And say, oh, I wrote that. Hm. I’m glad I wrote all that. Even if much of it’s crap and much of what I write now is crap. Not all is crap. I don’t know how to talk about this. It just seems weird. I have a readaboutable life.

The next day (1/16/89 “Martin Luther King Jr. official b-day celebration”) I continued this thought:
I’m starting to look at my journals as a treasure trove. You run your hands through the pieces, the woven & wrought lengths or rings or garments, some are unremarkable, disappear into the pile, some seem to sparkle. So today I typed up ‘Mrs. Alabaster,’ a storyish thing I wrote in 1986. I’m going to send it to Fantasy & Science Fiction and see if it’s good enough to attract comment. I’m dissatisfied with it as a story but I like the prose.

“Mrs. Alabaster” attracted a rejection slip. Any comment? I would have remembered a comment.

Since I’m looting my old diaries “for the good stuff,” I thought I’d give a nod to my old self and all the “crap” he piled up that I now “run [my] hands through.” Here’s to you, me!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book of Love. Book of Love

from the book log (1/14/89):

Book of Love. Book of Love. a record album.

This is not a great album. I remember [the band’s] name from KITS — LIVE 105.3 — I thought I really liked them. I think I got [Book of Love] and Colourbox mixed up. Anyway. They’re not terrible but neither do they stand out. “Modigliani (Lost in Your Eyes)” reminds me a lot of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” “Boy” is the song that sounds familiar; prob’ the one I heard on LIVE 105.3. “Yellow Sky” is my fav. track but that’s not a wild recommendation. Somewhat danceable, too ordinary synthesizer semi-mellow pop. Awful lyrics. From “Modigliani”: “You knew what / I was thinking inside / with one look / of your all seeing eyes.” From “I Touch Roses”: “If you think I’m magical / cause roses bloom with my touch / but magic’s just not practical / I think you think too much.” Very vacant, full of cliches and stupid “relationships/love.”

I must still have this. I haven’t sold or given away any of my vinyl. Not that I’ve listened to it in years. I don’t understand the vinyl revival. Vinyl is such a hassle. If the sound is so much better it’s nothing my ears can detect. Pops and clicks, yes. I think I picked up a clearance bin CD of Book of Love thinking I was missing something. But I never played it.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Our Time Has Come: a delegate’s diary of Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign

In 1988 Jesse Jackson made a second run for the presidency. I remember splitting my California Democratic primary delegate vote between Jesse Jackson and Sen. Gary Hart. Did I do that in 1984 or 1988? Looking over the Wikipedia pages for the campaigns I’d guess it was ’84. I’m pretty sure I was ready to go all in for Jackson in 1988; besides, I don’t think you could split your vote the same way in ’88.

I attended my first (& so far only) presidential campaign rally when Jesse Jackson came to the Santa Rosa fairgrounds to give a speech. I remember Eric Shanower wearing a Jackson ’88 campaign pin at the Oz Convention that year. (When I met Kent I discovered two Jackson ’88 campaign coffee mugs in his kitchen. We still use them.)

As an out gay man I was sick of the Democratic squeamishness around my kind, an attitude that hobbled the fight against AIDS as well as limiting the recognition of equality. Jesse Jackson spoke out for gay people and for major funding in the AIDS fight. It was thrilling seeing him win state primaries. It felt like there was Hope.

When I spotted Our Time Has Come at the library I was looking forward to at least some discussion of the ’88 run. Got none.

from the book log (1/13/89):

Our Time Has Come: a delegate’s diary of Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign by Lucius J. Barker. 1988. University of Illinois Press

It’s curious that the book, emerging in 1988, deals exclusively with Jackson’s 1984 campaign. A bit disappointing because one would like some comparisons and contrasting of the ’84 with the ’88 campaigns.

Lucius Barker does go on. Goodly portions of the book could be excised without trauma (without noticing). He chose a strange middle ground between objective analysis and personal involvement narrative — strange because I got such a sense of “neither here nor there.”

Barker talked an awful lot about his objective/subjective dilemma — he talked about his dilemma. [I didn’t record what Barker’s “objective/subjective dilemma” was exactly, but I’ll guess the dilemma was what stance to take when writing about the campaign.] The old saw: Show, don’t tell. He does a lot of tell. Not nearly enough show. Yet until I find a better book about Jesse’s campaign this is better than nothing. I liked Barker’s observation that, win or lose, Jesse’s campaign gave a lot of minority and social justice-type people valuable experience in running a national presidential campaign, experience you can’t get elsewhere. Hope some of these folks move into positions of power and leadership because of Jesse’s runs.

The campaign began with black leadership divided between Jesse & Mondale, then came Lt. Goodman’s Jesse-made release from Syrian prison, then the overblown Hymietown remark, the frustrating convention where all of Jackson’s minority planks were not only defeated but ignored and the boffo speech (which is reprinted in this book and; reads well too).

The “delegate’s diary” of the title is just one chapter but gives a feel of the convention. More show than tell, finally.

I’ll make the prediction that if Jesse runs in 1992, his negatives will have come down — not all the way but some, and he will be first or a close second in those stupid “if the primary were held today for whom would you vote” polls in early 1992. Whether he’ll stay on top I won’t predict but I do think he’ll do better than in ’88. I’m not sure he can remain a perennial presidential candidate too many more years. ’92, I think so. ’96? The year 2000? I’m inclined to doubt that he’ll be a big force unless he does gain the presidency in the 90s. Who knows. What is he doing now I wonder … He made some statement about how corruption is not a color issue & bad when anyone engages in it, in reference to Marion Barry, Mayor of Washington, D.C., & the trouble Barry is in.

Jesse Jackson did not run again in 1992. I thought Jackson could build on his ’88 successes, since there was no Democratic incumbent and the people who had supported him were as ignored and discounted as ever. Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton came along and spoke up for gay people in a way no one had. Despite my doubts about a Southern politician really being there for us when the going got rough I pinned a Clinton/Gore political button to my college backpack.

Thursday, February 05, 2015


from the diary (1/13/89):

I mailed a few postcards today. To Eric [H], Lary, Jeni (saw her last night at the library coming to use the photocopier, she gave me her new SF address), and Chris [B].

I had a lot of people to write to when I was in London. I got in the habit of writing postcards. A lot of postcards. It was a habit I tried to keep up once I got back. I will still occasionally address a big stack of postcards and spend a few days squeezing a tidbit of news into the space a postcard provides. It helps when there is some news, but even when there isn’t I think it’s nice to get mail and be confirmed that somebody is thinking of you, isn’t it? Sure, there’s email, which is so easy, but physical mail with real ink scrawled by a human hand with a pretty picture on the back … something about it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Color of Honor

from the book log (1/11/89):
The Color of Honor documentary, 1987, 1 1/2 hours, shown on KQED

Another very effective and informative documentary. Focused on the students of a U.S. Army language school who became interpreters throughout the Pacific Theater [during World War II]. These interpreters were Nisei — young men born in America to Issei, parents who had immigrated here from Japan. The Japanese-Americans of Hawaii were not interned and many young men from that territory volunteered enthusiastically for the Armed Services. But, of course, many Japanese-Americans were interned on the mainland [out of the racist supposition that they were likely to betray the U.S.] and their treatment was disgraceful.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Fighting for Our Lives

from the book log (1/11/89):

Fighting for Our Lives, documentary on KQED, the San Francisco PBS affiliate. Narration by Linda Hunt. Produced in 1986? 1987? The latest dates mentioned were in 1986. (30 minutes)

This is a very good to excellent documentary. About as deep as this audio-visual medium can get. Made me drip a few tears. AIDS. They interviewed Randy Shilts among others, gave a brief overview of gay history in San Francisco, talked about the way AIDS crept into consciousness. Gay plague? Originally people scoffed, but when it hit home how real and deadly was this thing, behavior as well as attitudes changed. One in three gay men in San Francisco is expected to die. Yet the gay community is now a community in ways it never was before, with community support services, choruses, marching bands, theatre, food banks, health care, political action, bowling leagues, and so on. The makers of this doc stressed how the existence of an out gay population in powerful positions in the area made the model AIDScare program. Highlighted the efforts of lesbians. Interviewed Roberta Achtenberg.

I found the documentary on youtube. Throughout, and distractingly, “Fighting for Our Lives” hovers over the lower third of the screen, added, I'm sure, for the youtube version.

The bit in my log entry about the gay community being “a community in ways it never was before,” etc. seems to be paraphrasing Randy Shilts.

Sunday, February 01, 2015


My mother was a DONAHUE fan. Phil Donahue’s talk show addressed serious issues that the cooking and celebrity focused talk of other daytime programming ignored. Abortion, gays … According to Wikipedia, consumer advocate Ralph Nader was Phil’s “most frequent guest.” Each episode’s guests would be seated on the stage and Phil would circulate through the audience with a handheld microphone offering audience members the opportunity to ask questions of the experts. It was a democratization of the questioning that was really refreshing, for a while, at least. DONAHUE gave me a chance to see real live gay people speaking up for themselves, witnessing for their lives. Even before I dealt with my own unresolved same sex attractions, I was fine with rooting for the gays who certainly should be able to live forthrightly, legally and safely. On DONAHUE questioning tended to be respectful. I don’t recall Phil necessarily including “the other side;” that is, the bigot contingent wasn’t obligatorily presented as a valid and equal authority on whether everyone got to have civil rights.

from the book log (1/11/89):


The Supreme Court has decided to review a Missouri law (?) that restricts abortion. So Donahue had a couple anti-abortionists, both young women (relatively) and two women who were pro-choice; and some guy from The New York Times (formerly) who reports on the Sup Ct gave a rundown on how the nine will likely vote. It infuriates me how the “pro-life” fools call the terms of the debate. [Those] who define the terms have already won. I thought of a “pro-life” counterpart. Why not call the pro-choice advocates “real life counselors,” or something. The Real Life Action Coalition.

Also the hour talk show — [with commercials] some hour — when dealing with a complex subject like this cannot even sketch the real situation. And the “debate” becomes largely a repetition of slogans and a shouting match — the pro-choicers never shout loud enough, they are too nice. More men stood up than I ever remember in a Donahue audience. [Is this irony?] The [men] were speaking on both sides of the issue — as were the women. The show’s concluding comment was from a teenage girl and she was cut off by the credits. I thought she made one of the best statements in the show because it was a chance to turn the debate. She said the “pro-lifers” seem so concerned about the “unborn children,” what about the “born children”? The “pro-lifers” seem uninterested.

The case that the DONAHUE guests were addressing was called, Webster v. Reproductive Health Services. The Supreme Court ultimately decided that the states could further restrict abortion, despite the Court’s earlier declaration in the Roe v. Wade decision that abortion was a right women held under the Constitution.

A few days ago there was a diary at DailyKos about Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan’s change of position on abortion. After listening to women describe situations that made their decisions about whether to carry a fetus to term something other than a simplistic Shall I Kill My Baby?, Ryan decided he would no longer vote to make abortion illegal. I left a comment:

I’ve been rereading my diary from 1989 and I came across a formulation that I proposed -- instead of Pro-Life being opposed by Pro-Choice, it seemed to me more accurately one should contrast the fantasies behind the "Pro-Life" position with "Real Life" as lived. Whatever we learn about fetuses it will still be true that they are sited in grown persons and that the real lived experience of the person must take priority.

“These women gave me a better understanding of how complex and difficult certain situations can become,” says Rep. Ryan.

It's easy -- way, way too easy -- to imagine a few cells burgeoning with potential as having a right to life, a right to develop into a human being. Why is it so so difficult to imagine the grown human beings struggling with all the things we have to deal with and recognize that some will make choices that nip the potential of those burgeoning cells? And that punishing women for making this decision is, at best, counterproductive to the professed (but actually fantastical) Culture of Life?

Real Life versus Your Dreamland.

Rep. Ryan woke up to reality?

In a debate it probably doesn’t help to accuse the other side of living in a fantasy world.

Anyway, let’s get back to the gays for a paragraph. I remember trying to suss out my attraction to boys by debating whether I felt any physical draw to Phil Donahue. Not even when he took off his shirt to be bound in clear plastic wrap on a show about packing your fat tightly so you wouldn’t look flabby. Not even then! Well. I will admit I did stick out the whole episode to make sure.

screen capture of 80s Donahue source