Tag: gay

Paris is Burning

Monday, 3 December, 2018

We’ll deal with the oleaginous Monsieur Macron tomorrow, but today’s post is given over to the film that inspired a thousand headlines this weekend. Paris Is Burning is a documentary directed by Jennie Livingston that chronicled the “voguing” culture of late 1980s New York City and how gay, transgender, African-American and Latino artists lived out their glamour fantasies in a world that had its own vocabulary: house, category, mother, shade, legendary, walk


Gunn and Vuillard: Coffee people

Tuesday, 29 August, 2017 0 Comments

In a poem from his 1982 collection The Passages Of Joy, Thom Gunn declared: “I like loud music, bars, and boisterous men.” Gunn was born on this day in 1929 in Gravesend in Kent and died on 25 April 2004 in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. He moved from England to California in 1954 to live with his male lover and to immerse himself in San Francisco’s bath-house culture. Gay life, however, was not his sole poetic focus. Celebration, endurance, mortality and reading, in their broadest senses, were his themes. “Deep feeling doesn’t make for good poetry,” he said once. “A way with language would be a bit of help.”

Thom Gunn’s meditation on Deux femmes buvant leur café, a remarkable painting by Édouard Vuillard now housed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, is filled with the poet’s love of people and places and art and coffee.

Painting by Vuillard

Two dumpy women with buns were drinking coffee
In a narrow kitchen — at least I think a kitchen
And I think it was whitewashed, in spite of all the shade.
They were flat brown, they were as brown as coffee.
Wearing brown muslin? I really could not tell.
How I loved this painting, they had grown so old
That everything had got less complicated,
Brown clothes and shade in a sunken whitewashed kitchen.

But it’s not like that for me: age is not simpler
Or less enjoyable, not dark, not whitewashed.
The people sitting on the marble steps
Of the national gallery, people in the sunlight,
A party of handsome children eating lunch
And drinking chocolate milk, and a young woman
Whose t-shirt bears the defiant word WHATEVER,
And wrinkled folk with visored hats and cameras
Are vivid, they are not browned, not in the least,
But if they do not look like coffee they look
As pungent and startling as good strong coffee tastes,
Possibly mixed with chicory. And no cream.

Thom Gunn (1929 – 2004)

Vuillard


Trump, Thiel and tech

Wednesday, 18 January, 2017 0 Comments

One of the most puzzling things for the sycophantic media of the Obama era is the role technology played in the stunning electoral success of Donald Trump. The White House press bet the farm on Hillary Clinton winning the ultimate prize with the aid of her Silicon Valley pals, but despite all their money and all their coding, the nerds couldn’t get the “popular” candidate over the line. Instead, on Friday, it’s the Republican who will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

Much has been made of the part played by Cambridge Analytica in Trump’s victory, but it’s Peter Thiel who excites the wounded media most. How could a gay board member of Facebook so betray his sexual orientation and venture capitalist class? That question has been posed ad nauseum since 10 November and in an attempt to get the definitive answer, one of the heaviest media artillery pieces, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, was moved into position a week ago. “Peter Thiel, Trump’s Tech Pal, Explains Himself” was how her effort was headlined and it’s a lengthy read with lots of detail: “… Mr. Thiel, wearing a gray Zegna suit and sipping white wine in a red leather booth at the Monkey Bar in Manhattan.”

However, the inability of Dowd and her colleagues to grasp what’s happened can be found at the very end of the article in this exchange:

“I ask him how Mr. Trump, who is still putting out a lot of wacky, childish tweets, has struck him during the transition. Isn’t he running around with his hair on fire?”

“The hair seems fine,” Mr. Thiel says. “Mr. Trump seems fine.”

Reading Maureen Dowd’s article is not a complete waste of time. Consider this: “One could have predicted Mr. Thiel’s affinity for Mr. Trump by reading his 2014 book, Zero to One, in which he offers three prongs of his philosophy:

1) It is better to risk boldness than triviality.
2) A bad plan is better than no plan.
3) Sales matter just as much as product.”

What Dowd terms “his philosophy” seems to work. Mr. Thiel is a billionaire.


Gay Gatsby, patriarchal Gatsby

Thursday, 27 August, 2015 1 Comment

All’s fair in love and (gender) war. Back in 2013, Greg Olear argued in Salon that Nick Carraway, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, is gay and in love with the novel’s eponymous hero. In the absence of any concrete evidence, Olear bases his case on the fact that Nick is aged 25/26 and still single. This is “exactly the profile of a (closeted) gay young man in a prominent Middle Western family in 1922,” he claims, triumphantly. When Nick meets Gatsby for the first time we get, according to Olear, a scene from a potential Fifty Shades of Gay:

“He smiled understandingly — much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you might come across four or five times in your life. It faced — or seemed to face — the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

Gatsby Olear could be right, or a brilliant smile might just be that, a brilliant smile made all the more radiant by Fitzgerald’s poetic prose. Meanwhile, Soheila Pirhadi Tavandashti offers A Feminist Reading of the Great Gatsby. The problem with Fitzgerald’s book seems to be that it is narrated by a man and is lacking in clever, liberated women voicing their own experiences. Snippet:

“The novel abounds in minor female characters whose dress and activities identify them as incarnations of the New Woman, and they are portrayed as clones of a single, negative character type: shallow, exhibitionist, revolting, and deceitful. For example, at Gatsby’s parties we see insincere, ‘enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names,’ as well as numerous narcissistic attention-seekers in various stages of drunken hysteria. We meet, for example, a young woman who ‘dumps’ down a cocktail ‘for courage’ and ‘dances out alone on the canvass to perform’; ‘a rowdy little girl who gave way upon the slightest provocation to uncontrollable laughter’; …a drunken young girl who has her ‘head stuck in the pool’ to stop her from screaming; and two drunken young wives who refuse to leave the party until their husbands, tired of the women’s verbal abuse, ‘lifted [them] kicking into the night.'”

Tomorrow, here, Gatsby and Donald Trump.