Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Really Big Shoe

From millinery to shoemaking, politics and apparel go hand in hand...

Iraqi shoe hurler inspires art in Saddam hometown

BAGHDAD – When an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at George W. Bush last month at a Baghdad press conference, the attack spawned a flood of Web quips, political satire and street rallies across the Arab world.

Now it's inspired a work of art.

A sofa-sized sculpture — a single copper-coated shoe on a stand carved to resemble flowing cloth — was formally unveiled to the public Thursday in the hometown of the late Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein.

Officials and visitors walked around the outdoor sculpture during the brief ceremony, pondering on its eccentricities — such as a tree poking up from the shoe's interior.

Its sculptor called it a fitting tribute to the shoe hurler, Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, and his folk hero reputation in parts of the Muslim world and beyond.

The Baghdad-based artist, Laith al-Amari, said the work honors al-Zeidi and "is a source of pride for all Iraqis." He added: "It's not a political work,"

But its location in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, about 80 miles north of Baghdad, is a point of reference for prewar nostalgia among some Iraqis.

The sculpture also includes an ode to al-Zeidi and mentions the virtues of being "able to tell the truth out loud."

Al-Zeidi had shouted in Arabic as he pulled off his shoes and heaved them at Bush during the news conference. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq," screamed al-Zeidi, who was working for a Cairo-based television station.

Bush dodged both shoes, but the image was extremely powerful in Arab culture, where throwing shoes at someone is a sign of extreme contempt. Iraqis whacked a toppled statue of Saddam following the U.S.-led invasion with their shoes and slippers.

"This monument ... will remain a present for the forthcoming generations," said Fatin Abdul-Qadir al-Nasiri, director of a Tikrit orphanage whose children helped fashion the sculpture. "(They) will remember the story of the hero (al-Zeidi) who bid farewell to the U.S. president ... in such a way.

Al-Zeidi was scheduled to face trial last month on a charge of assaulting a foreign leader, but the court date was postponed after his attorney filed a motion to reduce the charges.

On Monday, Swiss lawyer Mauro Poggia said al-Zeidi planned to seek political asylum in Switzerland, but one of al-Zeidi's brothers denied the report.

Unfortunate update: the sculpture was taken down by some nasty art critics. Oh, well. Maybe they can send it on a museum tour.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fashion. Turn to the Left.

Aretha Franklins Hat Creates Fashion Boom

The calls began to flood Luke Song's hat shop not long after Aretha Franklin finished belting out "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at President Barack Obama's inauguration. Franklin, who wore a gray felt custom-designed hat from Mr. Song Millinery, has inadvertently caused an economic boom for the South Korean immigrant's store. Song said he wasn't prepared for the hundreds of calls requesting the hat with a Swarovski rhinestone-bordered bow. "We even have a lot of men calling to get it for their wives, mothers and grandmothers," Song said.

The hat worn by the "Queen of Soul" was hand-molded and would cost upward of $500 — if it were for sale, the 36-year-old designer said. Customers instead were offered a satin ribbon version for $179. "They want the same hat, but they understand it's for the 'Queen' only," he said. "Ninety-nine percent said, 'That's fine. I'll get the next best thing.'" The family millinery has been in Detroit for about 25 years, and Franklin has been a customer for about 20 of those years. The store also sells to about 500 boutiques across the country.

The now world-famous hat has inspired a lot of parody images, too.

(Thanks to Joe.My.God.)

One comment from my Facebook post noted that most people unfamiliar with African-american church and society culture don't know fo the preponderance of such big hats. "The higher the hat, the closer to God." But when I lived for a year in Pittsburgh, my loft was next door to a Black Baptist church, and every Sunday, the ladies wore big fashionable hats. Of course, every Sunday, one of those hats was held by someone else, as one of those ladies got the holy vapors and had to be carried out in an ambulance stretcher. Really!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

So long, Sucker

Inauguration for your dad: $175 million.

New outfits: a few hundred dollars.

Being able to give Chimpoleon the stink-eye up close: priceless.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change, and Bookmark

Change has come to America, and to the White House web site.

In the flick of a server switch, as the now-historic Inauguration ceremonies were taking place, and Chimpoleon's belongings were dumped into a truck, even the official White House website was dramatically changed.

At the same time, pathetic rightwing scumbags have been installing malicious viruses and hateful rhetoric on fake websites. The inauguration ceremonies were guarded by extra police and security, because of insane loser rightwing threats of violence.

As the losing bilious rightwing becomes a sad sidebar, Democrats and believers in democracy also have to be careful online. Bush may be in Texas, and evil Cheney may be in a wheelchair, but their hateful minions continue to be an annoying and real problem.

Yet, we must look forward, unflinchingly. Check out the expansive LGBT issues in the Civil Rights section. Hopefully, this will counter the bland and inane invocation by Evangelical goateed fatface Warren, and the blunder of omitting Bishop Robinson's Sunday sermon.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Sermon: Here's to You, Bishop Robinson

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Note: According to JoeMyGod's blog -he's in D.C. now- and cable viewers, Bishop Robinson's entire speech was deliberately omitted from the HBO free broadcast, and the Mall loudspeakers were deliberately turned down during his invocation. The D.C. Gay Men's Chorus was also deliberately not included in the show credits, while all other choirs were.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

That was Then

Here's a little weekend trip down memory lane. Gabriel Rotello, former editor-in-chief of Outweek magazine, just posted a video -the only known video- inside the offices of the magazine that shook up the New York activist world, and LGBT publishing worldwide.

At the time of the video, I was assistant to (adorable and inspirational) publisher Kendall Morrison, and eventually editor of the offshoot bar rag Hunt, which was aimed at diverting the phone sex ads and bar listings to a national free publication. Too bad it didn't save the company, which eventually folded. That's why I'm blathering about porno and erections in the video. Really.

I also cut my teeth in arts writing, including my first cover story, an interview with brilliant choreographer Bill T. Jones (download PDF HERE) Imagine having the likes of acclaimed author Dale Peck proofread your work, Michelangelo Signorile suggest story ideas, and Sarah Pettit approve them. They were amazing, tumultuous times.

In its article on the demise of Outweek, The New York Times noted that, "Outweek established itself from the start as the most progressive of the gay publications. Its controversial practice of "outing" -- exposing public figures who are gay and lesbian -- and its support of Act-Up and Queer Nation, two activist gay organizations, brought it national notoriety.

“Outweek gave voice to a new generation of AIDS activists who had not previously had a public voice and provided a rallying point for the more militant members of the gay community."

Time Magazine wrote: "The magazine had earned recognition for its reporting on AIDS, homophobic assaults and gay politics, but its greatest success was in shaking up its competitors by challenging their brand of gay activism with a more militant stance."

In 1992, The Advocate appropriated the spinoff magazine idea, separated its "pink section" and created Advocate Classifieds, with more x-rated material.

Nevertheless, OutWeek, "the little magazine that could," is now a significant piece of queer history, and rather ironic, compared to this week's news that gay media entity PlanetOut (for which I also worked in 1998 and 2000, respectively, but eventually not particularly respectfully) were just purchased by Regent Entertainment.

To peruse some of the old OutWeeks, visit Gabriel's site and the magazine's Wikipedia entry.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cabin in the Sky(rise debt)

Oh, boo-hoo.

Log Cabin facing money woes
Gay GOP group at least $100,000 in debt

The Log Cabin Republicans, hampered by lackluster 2008 fundraising, is facing financial difficulties and ended the year at least $100,000 in debt, according to Patrick Sammon, the organization’s president, who spoke to the Blade Friday.

Sammon said he expects the organization to have around $100,000 in debt or “maybe a little more,” adding that the figure is made up of consolidated debt.

“It’s not like we’re not paying the rent or not paying the phone bill or anything like that,” he said. “We’re current on the bills that we owe, but we do have some debt that’s consolidated.”

Sammon said the organization expected donations would be higher last year because of the presidential election.

“Really what we anticipated was that 2008 would be a better year fundraising-wise based on what we’ve seen in other presidential election years,” he said. “We just didn’t see the fundraising materialize the way that we expected.”

Sammon said the economic downturn in the past year “certainly has affected” Log Cabin’s ability to raise as much as had been forecast for the year. He added that other gay organizations and non-profits are facing similar challenges in the current economy.

“I think we’re in a place that’s similar to other organizations,” he said. “It’s a difficult time for the economic situation and we’ll make decisions accordingly and in a responsible way.”

Log Cabin began noticing the economic downturn last year and cut expenses by 20 percent compared to 2007, Sammon said.

Sammon said he expects Log Cabin to set up a reduced budget for 2009 at a meeting scheduled to take place in Atlanta the weekend before Inauguration Day. Based on preliminary budget drafts, Sammon said he expects the organization to have a budget that is 35 to 40 percent less than what it had in 2008.

“We’ll expect to spend 35 to 40 percent less because, again, I think, we have to be prudent in battening down the hatches in figuring that the economy is not going to turn around overnight,” Sammon said.

When asked whether he had been taking reduced salary from Log Cabin, Sammon said he has “not been getting fully compensated.” He declined to elaborate.

So much for the "fiscal conservatism is more important than gay rights" debate.

Funny, they claim so many members, but can't pay their rent from all these alleged rich gay "conservatives." And they've only got two employees.

On their website, they've also dispensed with the bought stock images of women and people of color. Have they finally embraced their true image as debt-ridden white affluent golfers?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Queer as ...WTF?

This story's got everything you need in a batch of Queer as Folk episodes, except it wasn't shot in Toronto: A-gays, a mayor, a bath house and a corpse.

Club Pittsburgh's owners often open their home for philanthropic events

Almost every week, Peter Karlovich and Steven Herforth open the doors of their $2.5 million Mount Washington home to Pittsburgh's gay, arts and nonprofit communities.

In October, they hosted the Persad Center's "Spell" Halloween party and City Theatre's "Season Shake Up," with 300 attendees. In September, Quantum Theatre held its own season kickoff event there, with cocktails, dining and dancing on the house's disco floor.

"Both Steve and Peter have been very generous with City Theatre," said Greg Quinlan, the managing director. "We're glad to have both of them associated with our organization."

Mr. Karlovich and Mr. Herforth also are owners of Club Pittsburgh, the Strip District establishment that was the scene of a death Sunday and the target of a June complaint to the city alleging open sex, the sale of paraphernalia and the screening of pornography.

The city's Bureau of Building Inspection issued a "cease and desist" order in August, asserting that the club was in violation of its occupancy permit as a health and fitness center. The order was later rescinded after Mr. Karlovich and Mr. Herforth met with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's chief of staff and top city lawyers.

The mayor, who has used their home for a fundraiser, denied this week that the pair received special treatment. Many in the nonprofit sector have come to their defense, highlighting their charitable work.

"The only way to describe Steve is as incredibly generous, kind and always willing to help in any way he can," said Kathi Boyle, executive director of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, which counts Mr. Herforth as a board member. "He's been a tremendous asset to the agency."

Neither Mr. Karlovich nor Mr. Herforth responded to a call seeking comment yesterday.

In a posting on, Mr. Karlovich defended himself and his partner, saying the city's complaints about his club were based on factual errors and minor violations that were later corrected.

"We have done nothing wrong. We love this city and our community," he wrote. "We will continue to do what we can to improve this city as a whole and our gay community in particular."

Mr. Karlovich also expressed sorrow for the death of Cleophus Pettway, 31, of Youngstown, Ohio, whose body was found in a private room at Club Pittsburgh. He said the club's Web site,, would provide information about helping Mr. Pettway's family raise money for funeral expenses.

For one very strange year, I lived in Pittsburgh between college and moving to New York City. It may have changed, but back then it was like a little bit of Cleveland, surrounded by Appalachia. In between working for a dance company, then night shift at a pastry cafe, I produced odd performance art, plays and made videos in a massive loft right out of Flashdance. But there wasn't a shower.

Once, a band party got invaded by some local hicks, who started a fight until the cops came. Good times!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Victory Off the Mat

...and in court.

NY Times: Videotaped Athletes Victorious In Court

A federal judge in Chicago has ordered a group of individuals and video companies to pay more than $500 million to 46 athletes who were filmed in college without their knowledge by cameras hidden in locker rooms and showers.

Last week each of the athletes was awarded a total of $11 million -- $10 million in punitive damages and $1 million in compensatory damages -- by Judge Charles P. Kocoras of the Federal District Court of Northern Illinois. The defendants were also ordered to pay court costs and lawyers' fees in a judgment that amounted to $506,045,795.82.

The defendants were ordered to surrender all the videotapes and any images produced from them. They were also ordered to permanently refrain from selling, advertising and distributing the tapes, which were made during the 1990's and sold on the Internet, carrying titles like ''Straight Off the Mat'' and ''Voyeur Time.''

Calling the judgment a significant victory for the victimized and embarrassed athletes, Cindy Fluxgold, a Chicago lawyer who represented them, said last night that the tapes had been sold as pornography. ''They clearly were trying to appeal to people watching these films for sexual satisfaction,'' Fluxgold said of the defendants.

She added that the judgment was ''a clear statement by the court that the wild, wild Web is going to have to follow the rule of law.''

Like any redblooded homo, I love my porn. But this was something different. If you've read my first novel, PINS, you know how I -and my protagonist, Joey - feel about this creepy video "genre."

I'm happy these wrestlers finally got some justice. They get videotaped by voyeuristic pervs while on the mat, too. The Internet's littered with pics and videos of matches, and the athletes never see a penny, but exploited by creeps who are the sport's parasites.

Locker room fantasies are for the weasels too chicken to go in one. And the creeps who made these tapes, and profited for years off of wrestlers, will finally have to pay up.

I think EBay should be a defendant, too. For years they allowed these tapes to be sold. Sue 'em.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

...Just a T-Shirt Away

"The revolution is just a T-shirt away," sang Billy Bragg a few decades ago.
That, or a massive lawsuit is just a T-shirt away.

Yes, I despise the crypto-fascistic ambiance of airlines. Yes, I used to wear "in your face" T-shirts. Yes, I agree that this guy was mistreated. No, I don't agree with the settlement amount. They should move the decimal point to the right.

240,000 dollars awarded to man forced to cover Arab T-shirt

NEW YORK (AFP) – An airline passenger forced to cover his T-shirt because it displayed Arabic script has been awarded 240,000 dollars in compensation, campaigners said Monday.

Raed Jarrar received the pay out on Friday from two US Transportation Security Authority officials and from JetBlue Airways following the August 2006 incident at New York's JFK Airport, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced.

"The outcome of this case is a victory for free speech and a blow to the discriminatory practice of racial profiling," said Aden Fine, a lawyer with ACLU.

Jarrar, a US resident, was apprehended as he waited to board a JetBlue flight from New York to Oakland, California, and told to remove his shirt, which had written on it in Arabic: "We will not be silent."

He was told other passengers felt uncomfortable because an Arabic-inscribed T-shirt in an airport was like "wearing a T-shirt at a bank stating, I am a robber,'" the ACLU said.

Jarrar eventually agreed to cover his shirt with another provided by JetBlue. He was allowed aboard but his seat was changed from the front to the back of the aircraft.

Last week, nine Muslims, including three children, were ordered off a domestic US flight after passengers heard what they believed were suspicious remarks about security.

Although the passengers, eight of them US citizens, were cleared by the FBI, they were reportedly still barred from the AirTran flight.

Security has been at a high level in US airports since the September 11, 2001 hijacked airliner attacks against the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

However, rights groups and representatives of the Muslim community say the security measures have led to frequent discrimination and harassment.

Muslim passengers kicked off flight after remark
WASHINGTON – Nine Muslim passengers were kicked off a flight from Washington, D.C., to Florida after other passengers reported hearing a suspicious remark about airplane security. AirTran Airways spokesman Tad Hutcheson called the incident on the New Year's Day flight from Reagan National Airport to Orlando, Fla., a misunderstanding, but defended the company's response. He said the airline followed federal rules and did nothing wrong.

One of the Muslim passengers, Kashif Irfan, told The Washington Post the confusion began when his brother was talking about the safest place to sit on an airplane.

"My brother and his wife were discussing some aspect of airport security," Irfan said. "The only thing my brother said was, 'Wow, the jets are right next to my window.'"

Irfan told the newspaper he thought he and the others were profiled because of their appearance. The men had beards and the women wore headscarves, traditional Muslim attire.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


I'd estimate that about 400 of the readers of my first novel, PINS, discovered it as a course requirement. From 2000-2003, having sent promo postcards to university library listings, and having really done my homework about promotions on PINS (unlike the subsequent two), a good chunk of sales were to college bookstores, including, my own alma mater, Ohio State.

It's interesting to wonder about students' take on the book. I do get fan emails here and there. But I wonder how it's interpreted. I get that people empathize with the characters, and the main story is understood. But I often wished it could be truly analyzed by an instructor for more than its surface story. I've sent course study questions to a few instructors, but don't know if they used them.

For me, the difference between PINS and other similar novels is the layers of symbolism, allegory, and biblical references that make it a more intricate weave than most young adult, and specifically, sports young adult books I've read.

A few days ago, I shipped about a dozen copies of PINS to the University of Wisconsin-Plattville. I got an order from the school's bookstore manager who told me that the instructor is Keith Hale, who wrote the acclaimed 80s coming of age novel, Cody.

While lookng up Mr. Hale online, I re-discovered Ian Young's online articles about Gay Fiction book covers and paperback fiction's history with gay lit. He also runs a rare books store in Toronto.

It's fascinating to look over this history, having read and collected pretty much all the books in early gay fiction. I remember ordering them from Giovanni's Room with a check and a little order form clipped from the back pages of a Mandate magazine, this while in college with few dollars for food or rent.

When I was asked by to co-keynote the literary conference at the University of Florida -Gainesville in 2004, I put together a slide show and essay about the path of 20th-century young adult sports fiction, culminating in why I wrote PINS, and what I knew was already prevalent in the genre, and how I pushed the boundaries with PINS, hoping it would be considered a crossover between genres, if not only for its explicit sexuality, but its more mature literary style.

I'd already compiled an expansive collected list of my own collection on my old Sports Complex site, which included sports fiction of all genres.

A more concise version of that essay was published in my syndicated column, Sports Complex.

By the way, along with getting PINS cheaply online*, you can also purchase it via Golden Gate Wrestling Club's store. All proceeds benefit the preimminent LGBT-inclusive wrestling club in the world, and you can help clear out coach Gene Dermody's garage while you're at it!

*Just an addendum; looking through the results of my ego-search on Amazon, it includes books that cite or quote my nonfiction articles. One, Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times: A Collection of All Original Essays from Today's (and Tomorrow's) Young Authors on the State of the Art --and ... Hustle--in the Age of Information Overload by Kevin Smokler, includes an essay about the fall of gay publishing.

In it, Smokler goes through a list of contributors to the first anthology to include one of my short stories ("Split Lip"). Smokler claims that with the exception of Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham, the authors in the Ethan Mordden-edited Next Wave, "crashed offshore." He claims that my "two novels have been published at much personal expense and effort."

Well, yes, but also three times as much profit, Mary. Along with the theatrical commission and translation rights sold, I lived off PINS for two years! Yeah, for a while, cartons of it covered in pillows served as my sofa. But with only 100 copies left, it's done quite well, thank you. Meanwhile, your book is selling at a penny a copy.

But I do understand his larger point. The hype for Gay Lit fell off and is now in a state of desperation. Most anthology calls for submission I get are for erotica, a genre that's limited and a safe sales bet. Potential publishers are limited, and they mostly choose a few books that are safe bets in a tough economy.

Yet, still, only last week, I got a copy of the December issue of Torso (yes, it's still being published) that included a near full-page glowing review of my latest novel, Cyclizen. I've scanned and excerpted it below.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Ah, the tingly glow you get from a fresh porn magazine, especially when it's delivered free, and includes a glowing review of your novel. Editorial schedules being far in advance, this review is a bit after the fact, but nice nonetheless.

"The prose is swift, like spinning tires turning out Kent's journey. His novel has a current that sweeps you along. Cyclizen is a small yet valuable book that has a place among great New York stories ... a period piece preoccupied with mortality and the sexy adrenaline rush of those who dare to live."