aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Tonight’s our last night in New York. Last night we went to see Spring Awakening:
‘’Spring Awakening’’ is a withering attack on a rigid, hypocritical society that cares only about outward appearances and refuses to deal openly with natural sexual urges. The plot [based on an 1891 German drama by Frank Wedekind] focuses on three adolescents—Wendla Bergmann, Moritz Stiefl and Melchior Gabor—who are grappling with the emotional turmoil that is triggered by their sexual awakening. With wit, if not always subtlety, Wedekind skewers Victorian conformity (whether from liberals or conservatives) and evasiveness about masturbation, homosexuality, sadomasochism and more. The 14-year-old Wendla, for example, futilely begs her mother to tell the truth about how babies are born instead of more fairy tales of storks flying down chimneys. By the end this sort of repression and enforced ignorance lead to suicide, abortion and violence.
To Wedekind theater was about expressing emotional truth. Uninspired by naturalistic drama and the surface reality it portrayed, he stretched and bent traditional dramatic structure, using stylized dialogue, fragmented sentences, episodic storytelling and bizarre scenarios to capture an interior world of feeling and fantasy. Forerunners of Expressionism and the Theater of the Absurd, his theories and techniques would undergird modern drama.
In the current Broadway musical Duncan Sheik, the composer, and Steven Sater, who adapted the book and wrote the lyrics, deploy pulsating rock music to transport the characters from their 19th-century reality and get at their inner lives: ‘’See, each night, it’s, like, fantastic—tossing, turning, without rest,/’Cause my day’s at the piano—with my teacher and her breasts,’’ sings Georg Zirschnitz, a boy in Melchior’s school, as he daydreams during Latin class about sex. Two other students sing: ‘’See there’s showering in gym class/Bobby Maler, he’s the best/Looks so nasty in those khakis/God, my whole life’s, like, some test.’’
Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, whose sexual relationship with U.S. President Bill Clinton led to his impeachment, has graduated from the London School of Economics, her publicist said on Wednesday.
Lewinsky, who was 21 when she became involved with Clinton, is interviewing for jobs in Britain, publicist Barbara Hutson said. [...]
She completed a thesis entitled “In Search of the Impartial Juror: An exploration of the third person effect and pre-trial publicity.”
An interesting thesis topic too!
The nearly three-minute digital film, shown on “Saturday Night Live” last Saturday, was a parody of two boy-band singers (including one played by the real Justin Timberlake) crooning a holiday song about making a gift to their girlfriends of their male anatomy, which they appeared to have wrapped in boxes (strategically placed) and then topped with bows.
Given the subject matter, it was little surprise that NBC bleeped a recurring word in the chorus 16 times. But soon after the broadcast concluded at 1 a.m. Sunday, viewers who’d seen the bit on TV (and others who had just heard about it) could find the uncensored version online. That’s because the network itself had placed it on its own Web site (nbc.com) and YouTube.com, under the headings “Special Treat in a Box” or “Special Christmas Box.”
In less than a week the official uncensored version of the video has been viewed by over two million people on YouTube alone. In the process “Saturday Night Live” appears to have become the first scripted comedy on a broadcast network to use the Web to make an end-run around the prying eyes of both its internal censors and those of the Federal Communications Commission, whose jurisdiction over “Saturday Night Live” effectively ends at the Web frontier.
The common denominator in “Special Treat” and “Lazy Sunday” - as well as another “Saturday Night Live” favorite on You Tube featuring the actress Natalie Portman and her supposed bad-girl side - is a performer on the show, Andy Samberg, and a supporting cast of producers he brought with him to “Saturday Night Live” from a pioneering Web site called Lonely Island.[...]
As yet another production featuring Mr. Samberg spreads like electronic wildfire, the performer said he was pleased that the show was becoming so adept at finding alternate routes to viewers, beyond the 6.5 million who, on average, watch the show on NBC each Saturday night, according to Nielsen Media Research. (A figure that is down slightly since last year at this time.)
“A sign now of success with a certain audience when you do a short comedy piece, anywhere, is that it gets on YouTube and gets around,” Mr. Samberg said. “It’s always something you’re thinking about unconsciously. It’s not our main objective. But there’s no part of us that doesn’t want to be on YouTube.”
Here’s the uncensored Dick in a Box video from NBC’s YouTube page (it’s been removed from everyone else’s). The Times’ story details its genesis and concludes with SNL lead writer Seth Meyers’ observation that “it’s actually not funnier uncensored.”
Jeff Jarvis has his fingers crossed hoping that the tough time federal appeals court judges gave the FCC yesterday over fines against Fox for graphic language in a live broadcast portends something good:
The judges bored in on the FCC argument. Noting that the hearing was being broadcast on C-Span, the judges quizzed Mr. Miller about whether news programs that subsequently air the oral arguments - where the offending words were sprinkled liberally throughout - would violate FCC standards.
Mr. Miller said likely not, as the words are used for legitimate news purposes.
“This seems to be a scheme that depends on what you [the FCC] think instead of having objective criteria,” said Judge Rosemary Pooler, part of the appeals-court panel. “Are you just telling the networks Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ to make some sort of cockamamie claim and they’ll survive?”
Judge Pooler kept Mr. Miller on the defensive throughout his half-hour long argument, telling him he seemed to contradict himself over whether broadcasters can claim virtually anything has news value. Later, she asked why the FCC had cited a need to protect children from profanities when it had cited no studies finding children were injured by them, but yet had never sought to penalize broadcasters for violence in programs when many studies show they do injure children.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
***LATER: I don’t get what’s going on. My Dick in a Box link goes to a YouTube error page, even after I correct the link. Does YouTube have some technology that remembers that I linked once so won’t let me link again??? Click here to go to a page (scroll down) that links to the uncensored Dick in a Box video. Grrrr!
Reality Check: 95% of Americans had premarital sex
My parents conceived me that way. And I’m in my 50s so that was well before the sexual revolution. CNN:
More than nine out of 10 Americans, men and women alike, have had premarital sex, according to a new study. The high rates extend even to women born in the 1940s, challenging perceptions that people were more chaste in the past.
“This is reality-check research,” said the study’s author, Lawrence Finer. “Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades.”
Finer is a research director at the Guttmacher Institute, a private New York-based think tank that studies sexual and reproductive issues and which disagrees with government-funded programs that rely primarily on abstinence-only teachings. The study, released Tuesday, appears in the new issue of Public Health Reports.
Via Pam at Pandagon:
The WaPo reported in March that those virginity pledges touted by head-in-the-sand organizations like True Love Waits and the Silver Ring Thing are doing nothing to stop STDs either. Among the 20 percent of kids that took a virginity pledge, 61 percent of the consistent pledgers and 79 percent of the inconsistent pledgers reported having intercourse before marrying or prior to 2002 interviews. Almost 7 percent of the students who did not make a pledge were diagnosed with an STD, compared with 6.4 percent of the “inconsistent pledgers” and 4.6 percent of the “consistent pledgers.”
2006 Year-End Google Zeitgeist
Hm, I’m out of step with the spirit of the times:
Google.com - Top Searches in 2006
3. world cup
Google News - Top Searches in 2006
1. paris hilton
2. orlando bloom
5. hurricane katrina
7. martina hingis
9. 2006 nfl draft
10. celebrity big brother 2006
LATER: John Battelle, “The top list is not very revealing, save the instance of “rebelde” - a telenovela - or Radioblog - makes me wonder what the parameters are for their filtering. Obviously they filtered out sex searches. What else? What was the methodology? Google doesn’t tell us.”
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Practicing the Viper
Typical GrooveLily-style scheduling: Ted had mentioned late on Thursday that he’d like to try the new “Wonderful” reprise with solo violin accompaniment, instead of Brendan accompanying himself on piano - so the only time to write and practice a violin part before performing it was in the rental car between Menomonie and Fairmont, during our Saturday afternoon drive between gigs. For anyone reading this who has not seen us yet, I should mention that my violin is not typical - it’s a crazy flying-V-guitar-shaped six-string fretted electric instrument called a Viper, which attaches to my body with a tripod/guitar strap harness. It’s bigger than a traditional violin, has the range of a violin, viola and cello combined, and has no chinrest so it’s much easier to sing while playing. The good news (for those attempting to practice in the passenger seat of a moving vehicle): it’s quite sturdy. The bad news: it’s really hard to a) get it out of the case, b) strap it on while wearing a seat belt, c) maneuver the empty case into the rear cargo area, d) move the bow at all without whacking the driver and/or the ceiling, or e) hear anything you’re playing with no amplification and above the roar of the highway.
They say they conceived the show, in part, so they could stay home off the road for the holiday. After the performance Saturday, I asked if they’d be back on the road (duh, they’re musicians, of course they’ll be on the road!) and had they played Georgia?
Ineffective pandering to hyped sex panic feeds the crime
California was the first state to establish a sex offender registry, in 1947. Now every state has one and California is again in the lead (Georgia’s right there with them) in the use of GPS to monitor offenders for lfe.
Effective? Not particularly.
Pamela D. Schultz, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, is skeptical that broad application of GPS technology will do anything to prevent crimes like the one she suffered as a girl, which was committed by a neighbor. Now an associate professor of communications at Alfred University, a private school in western New York, she is the author of “Not Monsters: Analyzing the Stories of Child Molesters.” Schultz is also a mother of two, who has a daughter in the second grade and a 21-month-old son. Regarding the new California laws, she says, “I think it’s another example of feel-good legislation to get communities to feel that actual action is being taken to stem the problem. GPS monitoring and residency requirements are not going to do anything with the vast majority of offenders. They’re just not."[...]
In fact, many sex crimes, notably those committed by family members or acquaintances, go unreported. Schultz fears that residency requirements and GPS tracking will have the unintended consequence of making victims of these crimes less likely to turn an attacker over to authorities. “When the bulk of abuse happens within families and close relationships, there is going to be less of a tendency to report those crimes,” she says. “If something happens inside your family, and you report that, it’s going to be plastered all over the place. Not only is the offender under public scrutiny, so are the families of the victims.” For these types of offenses, adding GPS monitoring and strict residency requirements into the mix adds “another level of pressure into silence.”
Schultz would rather see the tens of millions of dollars California is about to spend monitoring felony sex offenders be poured into counseling for victims of sex crimes and into programs for offenders that aim to prevent recidivism. “As a society we need to become less hysterical and more informed about sexual abuse,” she says in an e-mail. “When we demonize the offenders, we’re pretty much feeding the crime. We further isolate and alienate the offenders, which is a precipitating factor in many offenders’ impulses to act out. We’re so focused on the minority of offenders who seem to fit our skewed perceptions of what sexual abuse and sexual abusers should be, we fail to recognize that the crime actually occurs closer to home.”
If reporting goes down, arrest rates will go down too and lawmakers can claim success while no actual progress has been made or remedy has been found. There is a real problem to be addressed; our legal system is not addressing it.
Billed as “a cross between a rock concert and a holiday show for people who don’t like holiday shows,” it is everything I miss when I’m home away from New York theater. I thoroughly enjoyed it. From the NYTimes review:
Its sweet-and-sour story line is simple: The cranky hero is seduced out of his emotional cubbyhole by a visit from a kooky urbanite, played by Ms. Vigoda, who goes door to door selling “special full-spectrum holiday light bulbs” geared to keep New Yorkers from succumbing to seasonal affective disorder. Musing on her plaintive reaction when he brings up a comparison to the Little Match Girl - “Do you know what happens in that story?” she asks darkly - Mr. Milburn’s character pulls out his handy Hans Christian Andersen. Forgoing an evening of trolling through the holiday offerings on television (cue a hilarious parody of “Law & Order"), he rereads that touching if gloomy tale, and it springs to life in song. The show then toggles between the urban fairy tale and the classic one.
The most important ingredient for a successful musical, it has long been acknowledged, is a first-rate score, and this one is terrific. The rhyme schemes aren’t particularly complex, but the lyrics are alive with wit and humor, and they don’t shy away from surging emotion either. I was hooked by a single, lovely pair of lines that manages the tricky feat of encompassing both: “I would not dwell on the past/If time would not go by so fast,” Mr. Milburn sings in “Last Day of the Year.” The music is rhythmic pop founded on a rich vein of melody, with Ms. Vigoda’s electric violin adding a distinctive note to the clean but potent arrangements. (Although music and voices are amplified, this is the rare musical that allows you to hear virtually every word of every song.)
The photo is of Valerie Vigoda and drummer Gene Lewin of Striking 12 signing what will be a Christmas gift for my nephew (who is himself a very talented drummer) after Saturday night’s performance.
Monday, December 18, 2006
On Genarlow’s cruel & unusual punishment
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The sentence sounds mandated by state statute, and I don’t think there’s any Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause problem here...But while the conviction is constitutionally permissible, it hardly seems like a just result.
How can it be that, in the judges own words, a “promising young man with good grades and no criminal history [is sentenced] to ten years in prison without parole and a lifetime registration as a sexual offender because he engaged in consensual oral sex with a 15 year old victim only two years his junior” and THAT IS NOT CONSIDERED CRUEL AND UNUSUAL???
Thankfully, someone at Sentencing Law and Policy disagrees:
I am not sure I have a fully evolved and sound-tight approach to this provision. But I think a common-person test ought to be of some use. And I have to think common persons would surely view imprisoning a Georgia teenager for 10 years for consensual oral sex as far more “cruel and unusual” than imperfectly administering a lethal injection to a condemned murderer in California.
Again, the key facts are that Georgia Legislature has now said that the defendant’s type of behavior should be treated as a misdemeanor, and many studies suggest that the defendant’s sexual behavior is quite common among teenagers. Yet prosecutions for consensual oral sex between teenagers is extremely rare, and I doubt anyone in recent decades has every received more than a year in prison for such an offense, let alone ten years. Why don’t these facts alone make out at least a plausible case of the infliction of a "cruel and unusual punishment"
So we’re left with a case for executive clemency. Be sure to read the comments:
It seems as if there was a day when the judiciary was more robust and served as more of a real check on the excesses of the political process in the criminal area.... I understand frustration with judicial activism. But there is just so much evidence of disfunction in the legislative branch in dealing with criminal justice—particularly sentencing—issues. And one cannot realistically expect the Executive Branch to function as an adequate check… I don’t think the reason political reform is not coming is because the majority of reasonable people (or legislators) think things are fine with sentencing the way they are. The reality is we pretty indisputably have real problems with over-incarceration in this country, but it is an terribly hard issue for politicians to deal with.
I had lunch in Center City Philadelphia the other day and asked friends, “what’s up with wireless?” I thought Philly was to be the wireless city and there was nary a signal to be found. Turns out, I was there a month too soon:
The grand experiment is about to begin.
Philadelphia’s push to become the country’s first major city with free, or at least cheap, wireless Internet connections, takes a big step forward this month as EarthLink Inc. completes a 15-square-mile test area. “So far, it seems to be going very, very well,” said Terry Phillis, the city’s acting technology chief. [...]
EarthLink workers have hung about 750 signal boxes in the test area. The entire project will blanket all of Philadelphia’s 135 square miles and require up to 5,000 signal boxes. It is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2007.
Customers can expect download and upload speeds of about 1 megabyte per second. That’s a fraction of the wired speeds offered by Comcast and Verizon, but it’s also a fraction of the cost.
Service will be free in some areas, including LOVE Park and the Independence Visitors Center. Low-income clients can sign up for $9.95 a month, compared to $21.95 for other customers.
Back home, our town is one of those awarded funding by the Georgia Wireless Communities program. I’m guessing we’ll be looking to Philadelphia as a model.
Genarlow Wilson appeal rejected
I am sorry to read that the Georgia Supreme Court has denied the appeal of Genarlow Wilson:
In the opinion Justice Hunstein wrote for the Supreme Court: “Ã¢â‚¬Â¦.while I am very sympathetic to Wilson’s argument regarding the injustice of sentencing this promising young man with good grades and no criminal history to ten years in prison without parole and a lifetime registration as a sexual offender because he engaged in consensual oral sex with a 15 year old victim only two years his junior, this Court is bound by the Legislature’s determination that young persons in Wilson’s situation are not entitled to the misdemeanor treatment now accorded to identical behavior under OCGA 16-6-4” Chief Justice Sears dissented from the opinion.
His attorney says she won’t quit and asks that we please sign the petition. Here’s today’s opinion. Here’s AP. Here an AJC profile of Justice Hunstein who wrote the opinion. All via Howard Bashman at How Appealing.
Shut Up & Sing
I loved the film:
On the surface, “Shut Up & Sing” is a modest film with no obvious axes to grind. As it follows the Dixie Chicks around for three years, it takes Ms. Kopple’s usual route and lets events speak for themselves. No talking heads appear to debate the politics of the Bush administration. Neither the group nor its manager, Simon Renshaw, sat for a formal interview.
Shifting back and forth between 2003 and the more recent past, as the trio prepares its newest album, “Taking the Long Way,” with the producer Rick Rubin, the movie offers a revealing case study of the relationship between politics, celebrity and the media in today’s polarized social climate. The hatred hurled at the Dixie Chicks seems outsized measured against an offhand remark at an overseas concert. As the Dixie Chicks would put it in their song “Not Ready to Make Nice”:
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over. [...]
The film’s generous helpings of the Dixie Chicks’ music culminate with thrilling performances of “The Long Way Around” and “Not Ready to Make Nice” from the recent album. Performing these anthems expressing passionate defiance and solidarity, the group has never sounded more vital and engaged.
Here is the Dixie Chicks interview by Charlie Rose (aired Nov 17, begins @36:35):
Here is the Not Ready to Make Nice music video:
More on the networks’ YouTube killer
Few of my NY friends share my views on copyright (I take my lead from Larry Lessig, who celebrated Creative Commons’ 4 year birthday this past weekend); they see themselves as content owners. I see them as snookered by the real content owners who also regulate everything about that content: giant media companies!
The model I advocate would not net them any less cash, it would mereely alter the dynamics of how that cash is earned. I think they’d wind up with even more money, though those who traffic in trash would make less. And we’d loosen the grip of those giant corporations. More from the Times’ on their attempt to come up with a YouTube killer:
“Content owners needed more bites of the apple,” one executive involved said.
When YouTube was acquired by Google, some media executives openly questioned the legality of YouTube while entering negotiations to license their content to the site. When the idea of the big media consortium was initially conceived, there was some discussion of those companies removing all their content entirely from YouTube. But that drastic action is no longer under consideration, both because it might turn YouTube fans against the networks, and perhaps because it would have raised antitrust issues.
Yes! Fans rule! And Google’s got their number, networks better learn it:
Among its efforts to develop business models, YouTube is incorporating advertising spots into videos only after the clip rather than before, and Google believes its technology for matching relevant ads to Internet searches and other Web content can be applied to video.
I imagine the network types planning a player all tarted up with preroll ads. May they rest in peace.
A network site to take on YouTube
[A] handful of giant media companies, like NBC Universal, the News Corporation, Viacom and possibly CBS, are close to announcing a new Web site that will feature some of their best-known television programming and other clips in an attempt to build a business for distributing video on the Internet to rival YouTube. The new business could be announced as soon as this week.
Fred was spot on when he commented on the prospects for success last week:
First, you can’t build anything interesting by committee. Second, this is not TV, this is the web. This is about rejecting everything about TV. Third, I watched and rooted for NBC to get their NBBC initiative right and they just messed it up. It’s not about content. It’s about context, convenience, and community. It’s about letting the audience dictate the experience, not having it dictated to them.
The chances that any one of the TV networks could get it right is slim. The chance that they could get it right in a partnership is nil.
More from the Times:
Executives from the companies have been in intense negotiations over the ownership and management structure of the new entity - which is as yet unnamed - and the talks could continue until the end of the year or fall apart entirely.
“They really want to do it,” one executive briefed on the talks said of the partners involved. However, this executive predicted, doubting the ability of the competitors to play well together: “Ten minutes after they do it they’ll want to kill themselves.”
He’s right. This just ain’t gonna happen!
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Has the global Christian community lost its moral bearings?
I think it’s good that those seven Episcopal parishes in Virginia voted to secede and ally themselves with the Nigerian archbishop who believes that gays should be jailed and their free speech curtailed. Let’s get real and be clear as to what this battle is all about.
I point again and again to Russell Shorto’s summer 2005 Times’ Magazine piece, What’s Their Real Problem With Gay Marriage? It’s the Gay Part:
I found no one among the people on the ground who are leading the anti-gay-marriage cause who said in essence: ‘’I have nothing against homosexuality. I just don’t believe gays should be allowed to marry.’’ Rather, their passion comes from their conviction that homosexuality is a sin, is immoral, harms children and spreads disease. Not only that, but they see homosexuality itself as a kind of disease, one that afflicts not only individuals but also society at large and that shares one of the prominent features of a disease: it seeks to spread itself.
It’s no secret that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are engaged in a bitter internal struggle over the role of gay and lesbian people within the church. But despite this struggle, the leaders of our global communion of 77 million members have consistently reiterated their pastoral concern for gays and lesbians. Meeting last February, the primates who lead our 38 member provinces issued a unanimous statement that said in part: “The victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us.”
We now have reason to doubt those words.
Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, primate of the Church of Nigeria and leader of the conservative wing of the communion, recently threw his prestige and resources behind a new law that criminalizes same-sex marriage in his country and denies gay citizens the freedoms to assemble and petition their government. The law also infringes upon press and religious freedom by authorizing Nigeria’s government to prosecute newspapers that publicize same-sex associations and religious organizations that permit same-sex unions. [...]
Surprisingly, few voices—Anglican or otherwise—have been raised in opposition to the archbishop. When I compare this silence with the cacophony that followed the Episcopal Church’s decision to consecrate the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, a gay man who lives openly with his partner, as the bishop of New Hampshire, I am compelled to ask whether the global Christian community has lost not only its backbone but its moral bearings. Have we become so cowed by the periodic eruptions about the decadent West that Archbishop Akinola and his allies issue that we are no longer willing to name an injustice when we see one?
I also feel compelled to ask the archbishop’s many high-profile supporters in this country why they have not publicly dissociated themselves from his attack on the human rights of a vulnerable population. Is it because they support this sort of legislation, or because the rights of gay men and women are not worth the risk of tangling with an important alliance?
The bigger their brawl the more likely people are to pay attention. The broad Christian public of this nation will not support these draconian attitudes.
The Potato Peeler
Apparently profiled in Vanity Fair in April of this year - “With his hand-tailored suits and Turnbull & Asser ties, Joe Ades definitely looks the part of a Park Avenue swell. But unlike his neighbors, Ades works the streets-selling potato peelers.” - they say he’s a rich man. And a New York legend. I do love New York…
Google is on the move. The internet giant has held talks with Orange, the mobile phone operator, about a multi-billion-dollar partnership to create a ‘Google phone’ which makes it easy to search the web wherever you are. [...]
Their plans centre on a branded Google phone, which would probably also carry Orange’s logo. The device would not be revolutionary: manufactured by HTC, a Taiwanese firm specialising in smart phones and Personal Data Assistants (PDAs), it might have a screen similar to a video iPod. But it would have built-in Google software which would dramatically improve on the slow and cumbersome experience of surfing the web from a mobile handset.
A source close to the talks told The Observer: ‘Google are software experts and are doing some amazing work compressing data so that the mobile user gets a much better experience. They don’t know so much about mobiles, but they are eager to learn from Orange’s years of experience.’
Among the potential benefits are location-based searches: aware of your handset’s geographical position, Google could offer a tailored list of local cinemas, restaurants and other amenities, and maps and images from Google Earth. It is believed that the Google phone would not go on sale before 2008.
Via Om Malik:
Google Phone, if you think about it is a reasonable speculation. Google has been aggressive in developing location based services, has amp-ed up its local search and mapping services. In addition, it has also been mobilizing its applications such as GTalk and GMail. YouTube, the video arm of Google, is beginning to embrace the mobile ecosystem. [READ ON]
Saturday, December 16, 2006
How lame is that?
LATER: Jon Stewart, “why us?”
Funny anti-gay slurs?
In “The Little Dog Laughed,” Douglas Carter Beane’s Hollywood satire at the Cort Theater, the central character, a ruthless female agent played with verve by Julie White, uses the following terms, among others, to refer to her client, a closeted gay movie actor: “that pansy,” “Mary” and “Miss Nancy,” “little fairy Tinkerbell” and “little fruit.Ã¢â‚¬Â� Coining her own variation on derogation, she calls another character “St. Francis of the Sissies.”
At the performance I recently attended, virtually every one of those lines got a laugh. As they were meant to. For the character’s noxious vocabulary isn’t meant to mark her as a bigot. The epithets, generally employed in acerbic monologues addressed to the audience, are meant to establish her as a funny gal, if maybe a little soulless. It seems for most people they do.
Little notice has been taken of Mr. Beane’s comic exploitation of what is, in other contexts, called hate speech. But he seems to be aware that he is treading on tender turf: how else to explain the agent’s opening announcement that she’s a lesbian? Her sexuality then disappears until a passing reference in the last scene. But it’s enough to inoculate her (and perhaps him) against accusations of homophobia: she’s on the team, so she’s allowed, and we’re allowed to chuckle. (For the record, Mr. Beane is an openly gay man.) [...]
Because he knows his audience is overwhelmingly made up of the gay and the gay-friended, Mr. Beane can safely use words that in other contexts would still call down opprobrium. But it doesn’t make the humor any smarter, and as the snipes kept coming and I stopped counting, the barking of those words in viperish tones began to push a few of my buttons. (Let’s just say that, as a gay man, I don’t look back on my suburban junior high school years with unalloyed fondness.)
Nor me mine (and I was just home to revisit them). Still, I look forward to the play and hope to chortle my way through it.
On a Greenwich Village elevator
Should you be so inclined, you can get one here.
The limits of tolerance
Later, at a lower Fifth Avenue dinner party, I tried out my argument that, contrary to Schaller’s advice, big ‘D’ Democrats should redouble their efforts in the South to make up for their complicity in its racist heritage.
I can’t say that it was immediately understood or ever bought into; some suggested I had become a Blue Dog Democrat at best or a Red State Republican at worst. I tried, defensively, to trot out my liberal bona fides.
Earlier we discussed The Island at the Center of the World and marveled at how tolerant New York has always been. The founding principles of NY were rooted in commerce rather than New England’s religious freedom so, I suggested, New York’s tolerance was then, as it remains today, a self-interested one.
And in that context I revisited this morning Stanley Fish’s Chronicle review of Wendy Brown’s new book on tolerance:
Locke declared (in A Letter Concerning Toleration, 1689) that “every Church is orthodox to itself” and concluded that, in the absence of an independent mechanism for determining which among competing orthodoxies is the true one, toleration is the only rational policy. Locke then asked, What about the churches and orthodoxies that value tolerance less than they do the truth and political supremacy of the faiths they espouse? Do we tolerate them? The answer he gave is still being given today by the guardians of Enlightenment liberalism: “No opinions contrary to human society, or to those moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of civil society, are to be tolerated.”
But the question of which opinions are “contrary to human society” does not answer itself, for if it did, if there were universal agreement on what views were simply beyond the pale, tolerance would be unnecessary. The category of interdicted opinions must be established by an act of authority and power, an act Locke performed later in the tract when he made his own list. He thus made it clear that in the liberal tradition he initiated, tolerance, rather than being a wholly benevolent and inclusive practice, is an engine of exclusion and a technology of regulation.
The triumph of toleration as the central liberal value, and the attendant inability of liberals to see the dark side of their favorite virtue, is the subject of Wendy Brown’s insightful and illuminating new book, Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire (Princeton University Press). Brown sets out to understand “how tolerance has come to be such an important justice discourse in our time.” The “conventional story,” she reports, goes this way: “[T]he combined effects of globalization, the aftermath of the cold war, and the aftermath of colonialism have led to the world’s erupting in a hundred scenes of local and internecine conflict, roughly rooted in identity clashes, and tolerance is an appropriate balm for soothing those conflicts.” In a world where difference seems intractable and irreconcilable, parties are always poised for conflict (Brown notes the Hobbesian antecedents of this picture), tolerance appears to be a “natural and benign remedy”; natural because, given what men and women are (irremediably) like, it seems the only way to go, and benign because while it reins in differences, it accords those difference a space in the private sector. You know the commonplace aphorisms and slogans: Live and let live, different strokes for different folks, can’t we all just get along?
Sounds good, but Brown isn’t having any. Her critique of tolerance challenges the common assumption that the differences the sharp edges of which tolerance is supposed to blunt “took their shape prior to the discourse called on to broker them.” No, she insists, those differences are produced by a regime of tolerance that at the same time produces a status quo politics built on the assumption that difference cannot be negotiated but can only be managed. When difference is naturalized, she explains, it becomes the mark not of an ideological or political divide (in relation to which one might have an argument), but of a cultural divide (in relation to which each party says of the other, “See, that’s just the way they are"). If people do the things they do not because of what they believe, but because they are Jews, Muslims, blacks, or gays, it is no use asking them to see the error of their ways, because it is through those same ways - naturally theirs - that they see at all. When President Bush reminds us of ‘“the nature of our enemy,”’ he is, in effect, saying there’s no dealing with these people; they are immune to rational appeals; the only language they understand is the language of force.
“This reduction of political motivations and causes to essentialized culture,” Brown says, “is mobilized to explain everything from suicide bombers to Osama bin Laden’s world designs, mass death in Rwanda and Sudan, and the failure of democracy to take hold in the immediate aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”
And, she adds, it does more than that: It legitimizes, and even demands, the exercise of intolerance, when the objects of intolerance are persons who, because of their overattachment to culture, are deemed incapable of being tolerant. Live and let live won’t work, we are often told, if the other guy is determined to kill you because he believes that his religion or his ethnic history commands him to. Liberal citizens, Brown explains, will be tolerant of any group so long as its members subordinate their cultural commitments to the universal dictates of reason, as defined by liberalism. But once a group has rejected tolerance as a guiding principle and opted instead for the cultural imperatives of the church or the tribe, it becomes a candidate for intolerance that will be performed in the name of tolerance; and at that moment any action against it - however violent - is justified. Tolerance, then, is a virtue that liberal citizens or those who are willing to act as liberal citizens are capable of exercising; and those who refuse to exercise it cannot, by this logic, be its beneficiary.
LATER: My commenter points out that my stream of consciousness was confusing. I edited some for clarity. I’ll try to make the connection clearer in the future.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Judith Regan axed
What an interesting time to be in NY:
Judith Regan, the firebrand editor who stirred up decade-old passions last month with her plans for a book and television interview with O. J. Simpson, was fired late Friday by HarperCollins, the publishing company that oversaw her book business.
HarperCollins announced the dismissal, “effective immediately,” in a two-sentence news release that was issued at about 7 p.m. Eastern time. The announcement was made by Jane Friedman, president and chief executive of HarperCollins, who has long had a strained relationship with Ms. Regan.
Comments News Hounds (they watch Fox so we don’t have to) “...one wonders whether the right is trying to cleanse itself and “liberals” are on a tear!”
LATER: Much much more here.