Sunday, June 28, 2009

That Would Explain (Literally) Everything

I posed a question in The Stranger's (New) Questionland a few days ago.
"Is being smart a turn-off to the Seattle gay men in their 20s? Seriously, is it?"
I've received a few answers thus far (and you can see them here). But the best one came today:
"No, but your mustache might."
Bravo...bravo. And yes, I'm afraid that I am going to be shaving off the 'stache. It's just not me.

Friday, June 26, 2009

More From The Gmail Archives

I won't go into the details, but I do suspect that I was nearly kidnapped, raped and/or murdered in Auburn on March 31, 2007.

Facebook Knows Too Much

It's true. Facebook knows too much. It's too big to fail at this point. It seeks to bridge any and all gaps between people. This doesn't just include coworkers and classmates (current or otherwise). No, Facebook wants me to be friends with guys that I've had even the lowest level of physical interaction. Facebook 'suggests' that I should be friends with a guy I once made out with over a year ago...'suggests' that I should be friends with a guy I slept with over two years ago. These were one-time deals, and how Facebook came to connect me with these guys is a mystery to me. I say that because there is virtually no digital (public) record of my interaction with these guys. So how did Facebook do it? This is what troubles me. What is next? Will Facebook 'suggest' I should be friends with guys that I merely thought were attractive?...that I saw on the street?...etc.? Are you listening Facebook? Do you hear me? Answer me! How did you do it?

Number of times 'Facebook' was mentioned in this post (including the reference-use): eight.

I Believe They Call It A Fag Rag

A coworker was able to find some very interesting items. She informed me as such via text message:
"I found gay comix and a gay coloring book in the donates."
I didn't even know that such things existed. After further inspection, I discovered that these were put out by Kitchen Sink Enterprises beginning in 1980. The editor was Howard Cruse, who personalized--"Hi, Michael!--, signed, and dated four of the six issues. [7/28/84]. That means that these things are older than me!

I've had these for weeks now, but I have not made the time to give them an in-depth look. When that time comes, I will be sure to post something about them. Stay tuned.

Film Review

For whatever reason, I always find myself at Blockbuster when I'm feeling lazy and wanting to just sit down and enjoy a movie. The downside to this is that I tend to rent crappy Hollywood movies that attempt to give me some cheap laughs or scares. Perhaps if I rented movies when in a good mood, I might be better off. All this aside, I found an amazing film that everyone should see (for numerous reasons). It's an animated Israeli film by Ari Folman called "Waltz with Bashir". It's the (mostly) true story of Ari's experience as a 19 year-old during the First Lebanese War (ca. 1982). The film's culminating aspect, and thematic plot point, is the massacre of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in the Beirut refugee camps, Sabra and Shatila. I was not at all familiar with these massacres until viewing this film, and I'm sad to say that this is just another awakening to me of how disgusting the human race can be to itself. Here I'm reminded of John F. Kennedy, when he said:
"Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind."
Ari Folman, in the film, does not remember what happened or where he was during the massacre; but he continues to have a dream that prompts him to ask those people he knew to be there at the time what role, if any, he played in the events leading up to, and including, the massacre. As it turns out, his role was an indirect one: he, along with his IDF unit, continuously fired flares into the air throughout the night, allowing for the Lebanese Phalangist militiamen to slaughter men, women, and children. The death tolls are extremely inconclusive, with some reports saying as little as 328 or as many as 3,500 murdered.

Further adding to the film's robustness is its animation and soundtrack. Both elicit a certain aesthetic quality to an otherwise disgusting story of humanity. However, one must remember that this is not a work of self-hatred, or any, for that matter. This film very subtly gets to the core of the human struggle: we're not perfect. There is genuine remorse and horror to be found from the characters (albeit real people), and maybe that's enough to show signs of hope. This is to be seen, researched, and discussed for a long time to come. This struggle continues to this day, with no end in sight. Viewer beware: the last minute of the film shows original (actual) footage of the survivors' post-massacre reactions. It will break your heart to see.

Here is the trailer:

It is also available as a graphic novel from Metropolitan Books.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

At Least He Was Honest - From The Gmail Archives

About two years ago I was out with some friends for a bachelor party. At said party, a guy we knew from high school (Nick) showed up. At one point, he looks to me and informs me that he heard I 'came out' and 'congratulations'. I'm not sure how he came to figure out my 'type', but eventually he told me that one of his coworkers (Ryan) was gay and that he could introduce me. According to Ryan--as he told me later, anyways--this is what Nick sent him via text message:
"dude ryan there's this guy i want you to meet..."
"he's kind of thick though..."
And this, for the most part, is how the gay community functions. Also, for the record, Ryan thought I was very attractive, but we ultimately did not work out.* C'est la vie.

*But I can't say that nothing happened.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book Review

After reading "God Says No" by James Hannaham--my review is here--I thought the next McSweeney's Rectangular would be just as interesting and fun to read. I was wrong. I made it 151 pages (out of 241) of Jessica Anthony's debut novel, "The Convalescent".
"Convalescent - a person who is recovering from illness"
It's the story of, what appeared in my mind, a troll--think the troll from Ernest Scared Stupid--living in a broken down bus, selling meat. There is also a supplemental narrative that gives some insight into Hungarian history--to what extent it is accurate, I do not know--and how it led Rovar Pfliegman (the protagonist) to a life of being a butcher.

It had an interesting start, but it left me feeling bored after 100 or so pages. One gets the impression that the story's happenings are realistic, but eventually it turns surreal. In one Hungarian story, a woman gives fish and enough water that it creates an (historic) river. There's also a hideous looking baby that comes out of her too.

Lastly, McSweeney's needs to employ a real editor, or fire their current one. There were so many grammatical errors that should not have been in there. I'm talking about simple things that would have been caught had they actually read the book. This has been the case with the past three McSweeney's titles that I've read.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Last Night's Free Sheep Event At The Moore Theater

Every now and then I'll venture outside of my cave, swallowing whatever self-induced agoraphobia I might be having on that particular day, and attend certain publicized events. Last night, for one night only, the Moore Theater let 30+ artists (in all senses of the word) run amok and give everyone in attendance a free mind-fucking experience.

The Stranger has had the details here. The event's their details would serve only an informative purpose.

Sadly, for me, art is a very personal experience to be enjoyed at whatever pace I so choose. There were hundreds of people aching to get inside this mere four-hour show. Hence, and as is the case with most art I experience, I did not get to enjoy and discern all that was offered in a fashion suitable to my liking. The show started in the back alley. As you waited in line, you could get a poster and write whatever the hell you wanted in a black square (with white pens). This part was your showpiece. Once you were in, the choices of where to go were limitless. You could go down into the basement, up to the balconies, to the main entrance, anywhere...except for the roof, I think. And (via my broken iPhone).

For whatever reason, I had to see the bathrooms filled with watermelons. It was a bitch to find though. There are only so many ways to get down to the basement. The women in togas are representative of the muses, and were running about and screaming in joviality. I later found out that one muse in particular wanders off, and the others are intent to find her in the likes of Ms. Pac Man. From the Seattle Times:
Performance group Seattle School is planning to reunite Urania, the Greek muse of astronomy and the only muse not to be depicted in marble in the Moore's lobby, with the rest of her sister muses. The unpredictable Urania will be portrayed by Marya Sea Kaminski.
Perhaps if I came out of my cave more often, I might be more appreciative of these walking art exhibits. Finally, as a side note, the theater, in retrospect, had a very eerie feel to it. This was especially true in the basement. It was cold and felt haunted almost. I definitely would not want to be in the theater by myself at any point.

Friday, June 19, 2009

[Updated] If I Were A Drummer In A Band...

...this is how I envision it would go down. It should be obvious which one I am. We are the "Shredders of Dignity"...and we have a rotating lineup. Check us out sometime.

We made it big with Rolling Stones we decided to shed the clothes. Oh yeah, you know I would kill to look that good. Dare to dream, right?

Book Review

Published in 1987 (when I was a mere three years old) was David Foster Wallace's first novel, "The Broom of the System". It's a story about...well, nothing, in fact. Okay, that's not true. It's rich with stories inside the main narrative, absurd character names, paradoxes of life, and the overall underestimated importance of connections. It's a very accessible read, no doubt less time-consuming than his magnum opus, "Infinite Jest". The story is essentially the telling of Lenore Beadsman's life, and how everything around her is just one shit-storm after another. Her job sucks, her boyfriend is incredibly jealous, her grandmother is missing (somewhere out in the Great Ohio Desert, or G.O.D.), and her cockatiel becomes a Christian TV network superstar.

Wallace hits home the ideas understood by the complexities of life, such as how paradoxical they can all be. Here are three of my favorite passages from the book:
"They found out that what they needed to get their feelings of being themselves was from themselves..."

"...the severing of an established connection is exponentially more painful than the rejection of an attempted connection..."

Attachment to things, to places, to other living beings requires in my view expenditures of energy and attention far in excess of the value of the things thus brought into the relation of the attachment."
Regarding the second quotation: one of the secondary reasons why I do not date. Regarding the third quotation: it just goes to show that one never gets what they give; one gets less than that. But the overall value placed on the very thing for which you strive must be equal to the effort you put into obtaining it, no? There is definitely more to the story than I was able to pick up on, but that's okay. I enjoyed it for what it was worth. Although, the ending left me utterly confused. Wallace may have some heavy theological undertones present in the text, but you wouldn't think so until the last page. A good read all-around.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What Ever Happened To That Warning System?

Remember this thing? Oh, yes. You remember. Remember how it has never once gone below "Elevated" (yellow)? Does anyone care anymore? Clearly no one does, because we have not heard one mention of it in...I don't know how long. The only way to ever check it is to go directly to the Department of Homeland Security's website. I, myself, check it twice, daily. I want to know what color my security level is at every point of the day.

As of June 17th, the United States' government threat level is Elevated (yellow). But don't get to comfy with your security just yet. There is a separate threat level for domestic and international flights as well. Did anyone know this? I sure as hell didn't. And as of June 17th, for all domestic and international flights, the United States' threat level is High (orange). It's fucking orange! Oh my god! Stay away from airplanes! Going to the airport reduces your security by 33%.

(Let's do the math here: there are five threat levels, and two of which are never used; we now have only three threat levels. To move into a darker color would reduce your security by that 1/3, hence, 33%. Makes sense, right?)

Infinite Wisdom

I'll discuss this later (in my review):
"Attachments to things, to places, to other living beings requires in my view expenditures of energy and attention far in excess of the value of things thus brought into the relation of the attachment."

Broom of the System (1987), David Foster Wallace

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A New Generation Of Hope

If you haven't been paying attention, the Iranian presidential election was two days ago, and a shitstorm has subsequently ensued. I'm not going to waste time attempting to recall all that has happened in the past 48 hours--you can do that here--, but rather, express what it has meant to me. I have absolutely no connection whatsoever to Iran. So why should I care? Because I'm a human being who is having to stand by and watch as other human beings are being overrun with tyranny. I watched a video of people being beaten in the streets, and I couldn't even finish it; I broke down in tears.

It both enrages and encourages me to read the frequently-updated news feeds, view photos from on the ground, and watch videos of ordinary citizens protecting others from physical harm. It lets me know that (hopefully) my generation will be the one to fix this world. We'll be the ones to finally take charge and do something about our situations (should we be overly discontent with them). What is going on in Iran right now is something historical, and defining of our generation. This is our time. We own it. I stand in complete and utter solidarity with those brave citizens taking to the streets and proving to themselves and those in power that they're not going to live in a world ruled by fear and domination anymore.

This is big. As Andrew Sullivan is saying, "Know Hope".

[The green color represents the color of the opposition: the supporters of Mir Hossien Mousavi, and the ensuing "Green Revolution"].

Overheard Near Work Today

From a woman who was more than content with what she said she did:
"When Jake's dad went out and cheated on me, I went out and cheated right back!"
I hope you weren't giving marriage advice to your lady friend.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

U.S. Senate Passes Bill To Regulate Tobacco Industry

From the Washington Post:
Landmark legislation approved by the Senate yesterday will give the federal government sweeping new powers to oversee tobacco products, allowing regulators to control factors including the amount of addictive nicotine in a cigarette and how that cigarette is packaged and marketed.

Many of the new restrictions are aimed at preventing children from starting to smoke. Cherry and other fruit flavorings that appeal to children will be banned, along with marketing aimed at younger smokers, such as the use of Joe Camel and other cartoon characters.
Here is my question: why? Why are we tacitly implying that there is only one entity responsible for tobacco use? Of course it's the tobacco industry that is making these people smoke. We live in a world of zero accountability; there is no personal responsibility. This is another sign of the government knowing what's better for you than you do. I don't necessarily agree with the tobacco industry and how it markets its product, but the government has no right to impose sweeping regulations such as these.

No one is forcing these cigarettes into the mouths of people; everyone who smokes does so of their own accord. You know who is to blame? If I get lung cancer, that's on me, and no one else. If the government's concern is with regards to curbing healthcare costs, there is a reason why insurance companies want to know if you smoke. Those extra costs are coming out of the pockets of the people who choose to smoke.

If the government has gone this far, why should it not go further? Let us pass legislation that would set strict fat and calorie thresholds on fast food products. We want to fight healthcare costs, right? Well, obesity is surely one of the most common reasons in this country for health ailments. What is going to come next? I can only imagine.

Photo via smokefreeuk.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Review

Ahh...the perks of being a bookseller; Joshua Ferris' second novel, "The Unnamed", will not be published until January of 2010. And yet, I've already had the privilege of reading it. A man who seemingly has it all--partner at prestigious law firm, wife, daughter, big house, money--becomes inflicted with an otherwise unknown ailment: his body begins to walk and walk endlessly at random intervals. The man can be working on a high-profile murder case, and merely get up from his desk, and walk outside for miles and miles until his body collapses from exhaustion. This happens constantly, and it begins to take its toll on those around him. His colleagues no longer believe in him, his wife has to surrender her life to his, and his daughter has to babysit him as if she was the parent and he the child.

I found the story and writing to be simplistic, but its message strong and enduring. The point is that we all imagine our lives working out without any flaws or setbacks, and yet, more often than not we have to deal with obstacles--tremendous in size and scope--that force us to adjust to our situations accordingly, whilst still living our lives. There's only two options when these obstacles come to fruition: deal with them or commit suicide. The second option isn't viable. So what does Tim (the protagonist) have to do? He has to adjust his life accordingly. Unfortunately, this means losing his job, his wife, his health, several of his fingers and toes, and any sort of purpose to life other than walking without end.

I would have appreciated more of a stronger middle and end to the novel, but they say that the "second book" is the most arduous. There was a sub-plot involving a murder suspect that could have been crucial to the underlying story, but nothing ever came out of it in the end. And of the four parts of the novel, the latter one was reminiscent of the myth of Sisyphus; such as Sisyphus was tasked with pushing a rock up a hill ad infinitum (devoid of any other purpose), so it went for Tim and his uncontrollable need to walk.

"One must imagine Sisyphus happy." - Albert Camus, Le Mythe de Sisyphe (1942).

I Now Fully Endorse A Mandatory Aptitude-Qualifying Exam In Order To Vote

Between two passengers (A and B) on my bus ride home:
A: "Do you like President Obama?"
B: "He's okay."
A. "Yeah...he's okay. He's got his two girls and wife. They smile a lot. That's why I voted for him...because he smiles a lot. It's important to smile...but you don't want to overdo it.
I cringed knowing that this person has the ability to vote. And then I died a little inside.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Book Review

I heard about this book--"What is the What" by Dave Eggers"-- well over a year ago, and I finally decided to give it a read. I should also mention that I was unable to finish the last 129 pages of it. Sadly, it could no longer keep me interested. The story is essentially a loose fictionalization of the real life of Valentino Achack Deng, a Sudanese Lost Boy. It's told from the point of flashbacks, all while he is being robbed by two assholes with a gun. The events that transpire throughout are absolutely horrid, and can easily make one sick to his or her stomach. I cannot even imagine living a life such as the one that Valentino had no choice but to endure.

He's poor and doesn't have much to look forward to in life. Then he loses his parents and siblings, and his friends to pointless civil war. The Sudanese government is run by Muslims trying to eradicate all that is unholy, and the SPLA is trying to fight back in their own way of rebelliousness. One thing is for sure: no one wins. Valentino treks across southern Sudan with thousands of refugees just trying to live and find safety. Several perish along the way, and the language with which it is described it clear and to-the-point. Malaria, lions, dehydration, exhaustion, soldiers--any of those contributed to the death of countless of innocent people. Their exodus from their home country led them to Ethiopia, which only resulted in a temporary reprieve before being chased out at gunpoint with even more innocent men, women, and children being murdered in cold blood. From there, they made their way to Kenya, where refugee camps were setup for thousands of displaced people. I stopped reading around this point.

It was a rather remarkable story, almost too much so. I am both sad and overjoyed to know that I will never know a life such as the one laid on these pages. I'll never have to see a friend eaten by a lion, or my family gunned down near a river. It sickens me to know that these atrocities have happened, are happening, and will continue to happen until mankind finally puts an end to itself. It's an important story, and I recommend reading it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Play (Book) Review

While my manager was in New York City last weekend (for Book Expo America) he twittered about, amongst other things, a new play that has just been published by Wallace Shawn: "Grasses of a Thousand Colors". If you aren't familiar with his work, you'll at least know him as the guy from "The Princess Bride" that repeatedly exclaims, "inconceivable!" Yep, that guy. But don't judge his work by that performance alone, as I'm sure he would not like that very much. Anyways, I came across the aforementioned play the other day at work and mentioned it to my manager. We talked a little about it, but not enough for me to know what to expect, and he gave me his free copy to enjoy. Being that I was home ill today, I decided to give it a read.

The play begins, unfortunately for me (as a mere reader), without any sort of scene setting. One must imagine how these scenes are unfolding. To me, it was almost as if the narrator, Ben, was giving a lecture at a podium. I doubt this is true though. He reads aloud, acknowledging the audience, his memoirs. Most of the play focuses on the love affairs that he and the other three characters (Cerise, Robin, and Rose) have throughout a long period of time. There are a few life lessons to be glorified throughout, but other than that, I found the play to be rather eccentric.

Granted, the material of which the narrator speaks is not being played out, merely retold; but still, I found myself questioning the sanity of the playwright. Ben gives a very long and thorough speech about his relationship with his penis. I thought that was the extent to which the material would go. I was completely wrong. At one point, Ben wakes from the night, goes outside, climbs atop a horse and ventures through a forest to a castle. In this castle, he sits at a table, and is eventually masturbated by a cat. He mentions how he ejaculated all over her paw.
"At a certain point in the meal, I felt the white cat's paw move onto my leg. Playing with my testicles humorously and slowly, she watched me eating the mice, a drunken, drowsy expression wavering on her face. The somehow her paw had extracted my member from inside my trousers...Finally, to be known, I thought, as hot sperm flowed out of me, flowing over her paw as if it would never stop" [pp. 35].
From there, they go upstairs, and have sex. Other eccentricities include eating mouse-themed foods--that is, food with mice in them--, Ben being sodomized by a clown while a house-maid jerks him off, and the subsequent beheading of the cat and it growing back.

The line between reality and illusion is blurred by the mixture of seemingly real and eccentric adventures in which the characters all partake. I have no doubt that this play contains far more in terms of morals and messages than I can pick up in one quick reading, but I think I need to give it some time before I give it another go. If you have two hours to spare, I suggest reading it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Question Of The Day

As posed to me by a coworker:
"What is the proper etiquette for de-friending someone on Facebook?"
My answer: go to the "Friends" tab at the top of the page, and click "All Friends". On the next page, find the friend you want to "Remove" and click the "X" on the right side (next to their name). Easy as pi (3.141592653...)

If you are concerned that the so-called friend might find out about your removal of him/her from your friends list, rest assured that Facebook will not send the person a notice that you did so. Also, if the person has hundreds of friends, it will be difficult for them to notice one missing.*

*If the person only has ten friends, or keeps count of how many friends they have at all times, you might be screwed. And this is why I hate Facebook.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

SIFF Film Review

Last night I finally attended a SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) film: Boy. I should begin this review with the one that Paul Constant at the Stranger wrote:
An adolescent sells most of his nerdy comic book paraphernalia in order to rent a pretty young boy who dances in a nightclub. Boy feels vaguely cutting-edge, if just because it’s a movie about young gays set in the primarily Roman Catholic Philippines. Some of the shots are gaudy and embarrassing and perfect. But many scenes—including a never-ending sex sequence—drag on way too long. If you like slender young Filipino boys in their underwear, you should line up for Boy right now, but if that’s not your cup of tea, you’ll probably be bored.
If you know me, then you know that nothing is more perfect to me than a young, gay, and slender Filipino boy. Given that tidbit of information, it seemed only natural that I would have to see this film. Overall, the film was all right. It served its purpose, but I wouldn't praise it as anything that goes above and beyond in cinematic terms. The story was very loose; it never quite started or ended. A young boy becomes smitten with another young boy. They have sex. They share a few hours in each others very different lives; the end result is one of them throws up--he was overwhelmed by any number of alluded-to-reasons--and reading a poem about men liking men. Once again, I need remind people that I am terrible at writing reviews. Take them in stride.

[Updated: I found an interesting interview with the director here.]