Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar Who?

Meyer? Fischinger? De La Renta?

The Academy Awards are on tonight, and I will not be watching them, because I just don't care.

For a great dissection of their meaninglessness, check out this New York Times article from a couple of days ago - it starts by stating You may not care about the Oscars, but the Oscars definitely don’t care about you.

I did rent, yesterday, two movies that are up for technical awards.

Wall-E - which was mostly* brilliant, and a model for what a fun movie can be. My only criticism was that it wasn't as monumental as the hype surrounding it. But that's not the movie's fault. *I have to agree with Den of Geek's take on the second half of the movie.

The Dark Knight - After its bewildering start, I thought it was getting exciting. But then it turned into torture porn. Then I got hung up on convincing myself that the Joker just decided to leave the DA's fundraiser thrown by Bruce Wayne, after the jokemeister dispatched Batman and the girl out the window. Plot holes like that opened up all the rest of the way through the movie. Near the end, the Joker tells Batman that the caped crusader has "too many rules" governing his morality. But where were the rules? I didn't see or hear any. Plus, whatever rules Batman has, they don't extend to wrecking public and private property.

I would have let the Joker fall to his death.

And I was left wondering: If Bruce Wayne is so bleedin' rich, and brilliant in the ways of martial arts, why doesn't he just fund development and training in his high-tech crime fighting ways for Gotham's police department?

P.S. You know spring is around the corner when it's time to read Tom Shales's dismantling of the Oscar show in the Washington Post.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The First Great Gay Movie?

I saw Milk yesterday, and it was incredi-freaking-able. Thoughts:

It reminds us of how persecuted we were, and how that persecution drove many of us deeper not just into our respective closets, but into our thick and heavy shells.

Sean Penn becomes the character. I would say he becomes Harvey Milk, but I can't, since I didn't know him. But not only is there not a false moment in Penn's performance, every moment is totally, without-a-doubt believable. I never thought "Oh, that's Sean Penn playing a character based on Harvey Milk."

Did Milk invent The Castro? And GLBT politics?

Dan White comes across as a tragic figure, and Josh Brolin's performance is masterful. We never get a sense of what Dan White is thinking, and Brolin conveys no answers. Some critics feel the movie contains strong hints that White was gay. In my opinion, it's pretty subtle. Brolin raises tons of questions about Dan White, and actually makes you feel sorry for the guy. To some extent.

Anita Bryant plays herself, glimpsed through archival film and videotape, and never do you once feel sorry for this combination of Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the East (sorry, had to insert the obligatory OZ metaphor!)

During some scenes, I flashed momentarily on where I was at the time of the real events. And in every case, where I was happened to be someplace miserable. But then the story would take over once again and transport my thinking to where I am now, the progress I've made, and the steps these people in San Francisco put in place for me to climb years later.

Although the movie has to conform to Mainstream Gay Movie Character Standards (the main one being "The Gay Character Must Die"), the finale opens up that hope that Milk ran with. Unlike the dour, downbeat ending of "Brokeback Mountain."

I think it's the first Great Gay Movie.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Just Blocks from the White House - Can You Hear the People Sing?

The Washington Post essay titled Taped Inaugural Music Is Live Issue prompted me to leave the following comment/rant on the venerable paper's Web site:

So what are you saying - that the performance wasn't authentic, that all we want to see "live" is a performer crash? The reporters who contributed to this essay have never created music outdoors. If they had, they would realize the immense number of problems that crop up once a soloist or group leaves the protection of a concert hall. Sure, the Marine Band wasn't taped - that's because there's safety in numbers. And Ashley Simpson wasn't ridiculed for lip-syncing - she was ridiculed for lack of professionalism, for messing up so blatantly, which was rather inexcusable considering the amount of money and/or publicity she receives. This whole "the quartet wasn't actually playing live" thing is a totally manufactured controversy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The View Just Blocks from the White House: The Day, Part 3

Read Parts One and Two .

In a government known for its bureaucracy, for systems of checks and balances that prolong ever getting anything done, for page after page of reports, contracts, and applications, the actual presidential inauguration ceremony is surprisingly short.

Just a few words, your left hand on a bible, your right raised, and you're president. Heck, once the populace elects and the Electoral College confirms and 12:00 noon rolls around on January 20, you're The Man. (We'll leave it to Constitutional analysts to figure out whether or not Mr. Obama was president or not at that moment.)

Back on the Mall, standing on the Monument grounds, facing the Capitol. The ceremony is racing ahead and the quartet finishes and Biden says "so help me God." And then, without warning, it's time for Barack Obama to take the oath. Nobody moves. It begins...

...and was that a mistake? Did they hesitate, start over, do the verbal version of that dance to the left and right we sometimes do when approaching someone and not sure which way to pass?

It was hard to tell. The speaker in front of me delivered the audio, and there were speakers behind me too, and they repeated the words. Throughout the hour or so, everything echoed, wonderfully, because everything was so important it had to be said twice.

So it wasn't until I came home and heard on the news of the flub, the "Greedo Shot First" of the Obama Inauguration.

But it didn't matter, because now Bush was out and Obama was in.

The crowds broke up immediately after the speech. Pity that poor poet, who had the toughest follow-up act of the last hundred years. We responded "amen, amen, amen" at the end of the benediction. But it was cold and history had been made. The walk home was long and freezing, as thousands moved north on the numbered D.C. streets, the lettered streets blocked by National Guard, possibly to provide unfettered escape routes.

And passing Constitution Hall, I saw a man holding up a posterboard sign, artless in its execution, surgical in its precision. It read:

"One Nation, Under a Groove."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The View Just Blocks from the White House: The Day, Part Two

Read Part One here...

When last we saw him, our hero was standing in the cold on the Washington Monument grounds, facing the Capitol, wrapped in multiple layers, waiting for the ceremony to start.

I was thankful at that point for the coverage on the jumbotrons, which carried the children's chorus and the Marine Band, alternating with shots of the presidential motorcade advancing toward the capitol.

The winds picked up, and the weather predictors were right, it dropped the temperature even further. But the sun was out, and when the wind died down, there was heat from the sun you could feel right on your face.

I alternated between this welling excitement and calling all my willpower not to check the time.

A few around me had blankets and sat on the ground, but almost everyone else stood, looking at the Capitol dome. I could see the long red-white-blue banners hanging above the presidential podium.

Sure, it was watching TV on your feet out in the cold wrapped in more clothing than most of us wear on a typical D.C. winter's day.

But then the announcer started, loud and clear: Ladies and Gentlemen! in a voice one reporter likened to the Barnum & Bailey ringmaster.

Suspense was building, the rising action of senate and house members, past presidents, other dignitaries, climbing the ladder to the outcome we all knew beforehand but was not spoiling our excitement for the knowing.

"Ladies & Gentlement: President Carter!" Cheering in the crowd!
"Ladies & Gentlemen: George Bush Sr!" and the crowd was silent.
"It wasn't him," said the man next to me. "He wasn't so bad. It was his son!"

Our silence at his announcement brought forth a kind of amazed laughter, as we realized how we had suddenly, collectively, voiced a complex opinion.

And yes, we boo'd when Bush was introduced. Disrespectful? I'm a D.C. resident (and native), and he made no attempt to get to know my home town. He never appeared in restaurants, or read books to children in the public schools. At the Kennedy Center Honors I performed in, he looked bored, about to fall asleep. A resounding boo may have been the most respectful thing we could offer at that moment, instead of voicing the full fury many of us felt.

But there was too much excitement in the cold clear air to drive us down for long.

A shot on the jumbotrons of where we stood on the Monument grounds instantly prompted us to raise our hands and wave and cheer and then laugh as we knew how ridiculous it was, since we registered as no more than a mush of pixels. But we knew we were there.

Aretha and The Hat, a wild confluence of sound. She sounded hoarse, but it could have been distortion from the giant speakers as they tried to broadcast the thick range of sounds from her lush accompaniment.

And then the part of the ceremony I had my doubts about. Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman (and others), performing "Air and Simple Gifts" arranged by John "Star Wars" Williams.

Perlman's violin began a questioning yet hopeful phrase. The notes cut through the cold air and rhetoric, a bright gold wire of sound, simple, zizzing from the Capitol to the Washington Monument and off to the Lincoln Memorial. It was an incredible thing to hear, and no one around me spoke or moved.

Then on to the reason we were all here...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The View Just Blocks from the White House: Here's Something You've Probably Never Seen Before

The week continues to be seismic. became today, and if you hover over "The Agenda" and click on "Civil Rights," scroll down and you'll see this:

Support for the LGBT Community

  • Expand Hate Crimes Statutes
  • Fight Workplace Discrimination
  • Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples
  • Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage
  • Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell
  • Expand Adoption Rights
  • Promote AIDS Prevention
  • Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS
I could have linked you directly to the Civil Rights page, heck, I could have even linked you directly to the list of LGBT Community items.

But I wanted you to walk in through the front door.

The View Just Blocks from the White House

I love this picture (#3). Note the desk top - polished and reflecting. Just a few papers, the phone, and space.

The new neighbors have moved in.

The View Just Blocks from the White House

Exhaustion sets in. At work, I almost fell asleep during the staff meeting. I looked at papers on my desk and couldn't read them. Then I realized - I didn't just go to the Inauguration yesterday. I wandered The Mall on Monday. I wandered Capitol Hill on Sunday. Parties. Endless hours clicking between CNN and MSNBC.

I'm tired...time for some more zzzzzzz's...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The View Just Blocks from the White House - The Day, Part One

On TV this morning, I saw so many people already on the Mall, I feared I wouldn't get near even the Lincoln Memorial.

I dressed in countless layers and headed down 17th street. A scattering of walkers moved south, their numbers growing until diverted to 18th street, where their numbers exploded.

Ahead, all I could see was a moving mass, packed together. My hopes were low as I could imagine reaching Constitution Avenue and being forced by security to turn back. I tried to ignore the sinking feeling as I envisioned witnessing this day via cable.

Later I would learn of all the people who had to turn around, go back to hotels or into restaurants to watch the seismic event on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC...

Still, I reach Constitution Avenue, where a torrent of a crowd flowed toward the Washington Monument. We weren't like sardines, though, and I quickly found myself climbing the Monument's hill, making my way toward a huge jumbotron.

To my left, I could see The Ellipse and The White House. There was plenty of time before the ceremony would start. And I couldn't see the Capitol.

I forged ahead, along with three Philadelphians who struck up a conversation with me.

"Have you ever seen anything like this?" they asked.

"I'm native, and I live here, and I haven't - this is huge!" I said.

We parted company and I moved forward, around the Monument. The wind sliced across the crowd, dropping the temperature even further. But the countless layers of clothing I wore deflected it.

I soon found an ideal spot - with a view of two jumbotrons and in front of two massive speakers. I wanted to hear most of all, and the view of the screens and the Capitol was perfect.

Then came the long wait.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The View Just Blocks from the White House: Wandering the Mall

I spent a big chunk of today just wandering The Mall.

Got really close to the President's parade reviewing stand. A guy dressed as the grim reaper and holding a sign with the words Bush, Cheney, Death, (among others), was getting photographed as much as those cardboard cutouts of PEBO.

Stopped at the MSNBC setup and got on TV (although I don't think anyone who knows me actually saw me.)

Caught the stunning Kenyan Boys Choir performing for CNN's remote setup. With the Capitol in the background, these guys came all the way from Africa to bring their cool vocal blends and a song about Obama, and broke into some great dance moves to accompany it. You could tell they were excited to be here - their effortless smiles and infectious energy raised the temperature twenty degrees. One singer's shoe flew off his foot and sailed over my head and barely missed a couple of others, which prompted some to wonder out loud "was that a reference to Bush?"

Browsed the t-shirts, sweatshirts, and inaugural memorablia at the "Official Inauguration Store," where I bought inauguration mementos to hand out later.

Stopped at a Jumbotron to watch, once again, The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington back up Josh Groban and Heather Headley at yesterday's Lincoln Memorial concert. Picked out more friends singing up there. (Here's hoping HBO identifies all the choruses that performed when they re-cablecast the event and make it available on DVD.)

Was generally rather amazed at how easy it was for a pedestrian to wander around the Washington Monument grounds, the Ellipse, Pennsylvania Avenue near the reviewing stand, and right up to the seating area at the Capitol. And all in spite of the massive security.

Walked home. Not sure of my strategery for tomorrow. But at this moment, I'm planning on Being There.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The View Just Blocks from the White House: If You Haven't Yet, You Probably Won't

Seth Godin asked the other day "when newspapers are gone, what will you miss?"

I'll won't miss the out-of-touchness of the "old" media.

Case in point: yesterday, The New York Times ran a slew of articles on Washington, D.C. in honor, one could say, of the upcoming Inauguration/Revolution, which carried news that was weeks if not months old and tips that were covered on Web sites starting in November 2008.

If you waited until yesterday to investigate the possibilities of being in D.C. this weekend and counted on the Times to guide you, you'd still be sitting at home, wherever you are.

In "Take Patience and Good Shoes" we're told "The 240,000 tickets for the hourlong swearing-in ceremony are long gone" and "Pretty much all of Washington’s 29,000 hotel rooms are booked, not to mention hotels in suburban Maryland and Virginia and even parts of West Virginia."

Thanks for the update, but we knew that weeks ago.

The profile of D.C.'s 9:30 Club - "The District Will Rock: Line Up Early" - was not early enough. A quick trip to the club's Web site yesterday showed that "one of the best nightclubs in the world" (according to the Times) has not a ticket left for everything but one event. And they don't even talk about that event - Saturday night's gigantic gay dance party known as "Blowoff."

So, you'll have to come back some other time to "this place where Bob Dylan, a favorite of the incoming president, has been known to play unannounced shows, where Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü fame occasionally spins records, the kind of joint that will warm up the night before the inauguration with a double bill of, get this, the Beastie Boys and Sheryl Crow."

And finally, The Times sneaks its snooty provinciality into "Plenty of Options for Washington’s Hungry Visitors" noting first that "There are many reasons to make a special trip to the nation’s capital...But, truth be told, restaurants are not exactly on top of the why-to-visit list."

The article then lists a few places to eat. It doesn't mention whether or not reservations are still available, or even whether or not the restaurants will operating at full capacity. Employees all over town who have to work are juggling schedules and some are setting up cots in establishments as the public transportation system will be taxed and roadblocks start on Saturday.

Granted, it's tough to go from the "print" mindset, where you have one chance to get things right, you have limited space and time to make your points, and you treat a publication as an event, to the online world, where change is by-the-moment and anyone can post information as soon as they get it.

But we've been getting our Inaugural info, ever since that night in November when Obama was announced as the next president, from the sites The Times lists at the end of "Take Patience and Good Shoes."

Sorry NYTimes, but you're Days Late as you and the established fourth estate find yourself Dollars Short.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Obamarama - The View Just Blocks from the White House

In my neighborhood just blocks from the White House, the mood is much as it always is. The crowds haven't converged on Dupont Circle (yet), and almost everyone rushes about - because it's freakin' cold outside. Online, however, there's all kinds of stuff going on:

How lame are Inaugural Balls? Roxanne Roberts eviscerates them in her entertaining Washington Post article on tips for surviving the parties. It makes hunting wolverines in Alaska sound like more fun.

This map shows you'll need a ticket to merely stand at a location (the grey areas) where Obama will be the size of an atom. I stood in the grey area for Clinton's second inaugural and was too far away to see anything. Living in DC gives one ample opportunities to achieve Presidential Proximity other than a cold day in January. Places where I've been only feet away from (or in the same room with) a past President: Georgetown Park Mall on Christmas Eve (Clinton), Foundry United Methodist Church (Clinton again), the White House tennis court (Bush senior), the Kennedy Center Honors (Bush-who-is-leaving-and-not-a-moment-too-soon).

What would you do if you were given a ticket to the Inaugural Parade? asks the Freakonomics blog. I'd give it to a student who's traveled hours on end from far away, and then I'd watch the event on television. The parade is just not that exciting.

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson's invocation at the Sunday night Lincoln Memorial event should not be interpreted as "a direct reaction to the Warren criticism," says an Obama source. Americablog responds "Making sure that we all know that this move should in no way be interpreted to suggest that Obama feels our pain is just incredibly dumb."

Where's the free National Symphony concert for those of us who are hopelessly out-of-touch with popular music?

Your Inauguration forecast: Cold.

If you have to be attend (but are ticketless), the key to survival is: seek out the furthest Jumbotron.

Even the President-Elect says You Don't Have to Be There:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Barack Around the Clock

Interesting things I've found through blogs and other places, some about the Inauguration, and some not.

Crash the Inauguration is an interesting idea, but follow their outfit suggestions for watching the parade while standing on Pennsylvania Avenue and you will freeze to death.

The President-Elect ate at Ben's Chili Bowl yesterday with D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty. Am I the only person around who thinks the Chili Bowl is overrated? That Fuddrucker's is just as good, for what it is? I'd rather chow down on L'Auriol Plaza's chips and fire-roasted tomato salsa.

Don't Ask Don't Tell could be repealed, reports AmericaBlog.

Nine Broadway shows close in one night, and Hugh "Gaping Void" MacLeod tells us why, in eleven words (and none of them are economy).

If you're sick of the pettiness, bullying*, and stupidity of most television contests, check out the infectious energy, humble sportsmanship, and incredible athleticism of America's Best Dance Crew, which starts its third season Wednesday night at 10pm on MTV.

The Top 50 movie special effects shots are found at Den of Geek! I agree wholeheartedly with numbers 42, 36, 33, 32, 26, 20, and 10. What's missing? All of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and "The transport shuttle crashes, stranding the survivors on the planet" scene from Aliens (while it's obviously back projected, the scale of the shuttle as it careens toward Our Heroes is frightening. Unfortunately, I could not find it online.)

Brazen Careerist deconstructs Tim Ferriss while showing the positive alternatives to his "self-centered, conniving, ethically challenged, cheating," and "fraud[ulent]" ways.

Nowadays, anyone can ski on YouTube (even me, for the first time in 25 years.)
*On a recent episode of Top Chef, Colicchio said to the losing team something along the lines of "if it was up to me, I'd send you all home." Someone from the team should have said "it's not in your power to send us all home, and that kind of bullying statement is way out of line."

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Music Helps Kick Off the New Year in a Positive Way

Over at the blogs I read, there are some great posts which aim to help us get on track for a successful 2009. More on them after I set the scene...

It's 8:42 a.m. New Year's Morning, and the network news shows are broadcasting the same old stories about the Ball Dropping In Times Square, Fireworks Across The Globe, and Resolutions.

But Seth Godin's got one of his short, masterful pieces up, urging us to Take The Lead this year, while everyone else will be falling in line...

Spreading good cheer of a different sort is Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project, who charts the Four Tips for Writing Your Personal Commandments. Gretchen also compiles a short list of readers' commandments - the one that hits home for me is "Music Helps."

Oh boy, does it help.

There are works that can float me into summer while I freeze in January.

Others convince me that, in spite of the chaos, intelligence, fairness, and decency are possible.

Some combine forces to remind me that majesty and mystery exist beyond the confines of a 40 hour work week.

A few are impossibly gorgeous, no matter how they're presented.

And then there's one of my favorite movie scores, although I'm not a fan of the film itself. But I'll watch it just to hear the music, which starts with an effective fanfare for the new year's wide open spaces:

P.S. This part is great too...