Tag Archives: Journalism

Messages keep gettin’ queerer: Bruce Springsteen

“What exactly is so queer about Springsteen?” Naomi Gordon-Loebl writes in a terrific piece. “Is it his extreme butchness, so practiced and so precise that he might as well have learned it from the oldest lesbian at a gay bar? Is it because his hard-earned, roughly hewn version of love is recognizable to those of us for whom desire has often meant sacrifice? Or is it something simpler?” For Gordon-Loebl and I, both of us identifying as queer, to become infatuated with Tunnel of Love, the most heteronormative of Springsteen albums, is one of the more delightful ironies of the last few weeks. I especially relished what she wrote about “Walk Like a Man,” my least favorite track, read as an experience of “growing up in a body out of alignment with my gender, trying to walk a path that was not made for my feet and being constantly, painfully aware of the dissonance.”

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‘For a second, all that shame — all that stuff — came back to me’

Yes, I know: Brevard County’s Covenant Christian School is a private institution. Yet it accepts public money, presumably so it can exercise its right to fire teachers like Toro Lisciandro for admitting they’re gay:

While many public districts, such as Orange, have policies that ban discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and more, Florida has no law banning discrimination against LGBT employees in general.

And whereas public schools must accept all students, schools in the state’s publicly funded voucher program can refuse to serve LGBT families — even if they get money from the state’s corporate tax credit “scholarship” program.

Many voucher schools actually spell out their discriminatory policies.

At Merritt Island Christian School, homosexuality is the only expulsion-worthy sin for students listed in its “ethics” policy.

At Volusia’s Trinity Christian Academy, students are told that simply saying “I am gay” is “basis for dismissal.”

Those two schools got more than $1.7 million in public money last year.

Please linger on the last sentence from this excerpt of Scott Maxwell’s column. Two phenomena have coincided. First, the redirection of public funds into private institutions; secondly, the disinterest with which Florida legislators view the discriminatory practices of these private institutions. A few months ago Democrats failed to get amendments passed to the bill eventually signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, amendments that would have addressed sexual orientation.

‘It was just music and the baths, music and the baths’

What I like about Cowley’s instrumentals is how their bleeps and spiky melodies evoke a chintzy anonymity — the anonymity of sex in The Anvil; I can smell the sweat and mung. Reviewing Patrick Cowley’s journals, “a voraciously readable historical document” released at the same time as a comp called Mechanical Fantasy Box, Rich Juzwiak captures a period in gay life that looks like the long British spring of 1914 before Franz Ferdinand fell victim to an assassin’s bullet:

To hear him tell it, Cowley was enthralled by the sex he was having—so many great asses, so many great cocks, and such prowess. “I could never take the fuck I give,” he brags. In addition to the graphic sex, his writings contain sprinklings of romance and momentary ambivalence regarding his fast lifestyle (“The churning, crowded heat of men in a sexual banquet crowds in on me and the forced-by-circumstances emotion-lacking atmosphere drives me away”). There’s also a real sense of the brotherhood that the ritualistic scene could foster for a lapsed Catholic like Cowley: “I’m on my knees worshipping Phallus. All around me are the other similarly engaged. I feel the one-ness of our activity. Silent yet all things understood.”

A child when the AIDS panic swept Florida, I learned to cordon off my sexuality from the rest of my life. Then my uncle died of HIV complications a year before New England Journal of Medicine published an article suggesting the benefit of antiretroviral therapies. Fear, trembling, and panic — they trail the god of war. To have survived this era doesn’t fill me with gratitude so much as expose a hollowing. I could never return to a past as unfamiliar to me as the Romanov court.

Cokie Roberts – RIP

About the late Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs, George Will of all people gave the most revelatory obit quote:

Political journalist George Will, who worked with Roberts on ABC’s This Week, said Roberts was not just born to the political class but was a natural inhabitant.

“She liked people on both sides of the aisle and had friends on both sides of the aisle,” Will told NPR. “If you don’t like the game of politics, I don’t see how you write about it well,” he said. “She liked the game of politics and she understood that it was a game.”

She understood that it was a game. To millions of us who are Latino, black, or gay, for whom disenfranchisement and climate change represent irremediable eventualities, treating politics as a game insulates the powerful and condemns us. We’re not allowed to peer behind the curtain, where Cokie and Sam and Chuck and Ed Rendell and Newt Gingrich chuckle at the grift they’ve gotten away with. If politics is a game, then questions of world-historic banality – the banality of appearances – matter, such as where Barack Obama vacations (“It’s what everyone at the beauty parlor was talking about!”). Real problems, like birth control access for people of color, do not. Continue reading

Eddie Money — RIP

“I’m gonna take you on a trip so far from here/I’ve got two tickets in my pocket, now baby, we’re gonna disappear,” the late Eddie Money promised on his signature hit “Two Tickets to Paradise.” Laugh if you will, but “Two Tickets to Paradise” is a meathead’s “Born to Run,” written by the son of a cop who wouldn’t know a polysyllabic word if it came wrapped in a bottle of Jack Daniels. Maybe the two tickets in his pocket are condoms — would it surprise you? During the Carter era, Edward Joseph Mahoney churned out a string of AOR smashes: “Baby Hold On,” “Maybe I’m a Fool,” “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down.” Despite the bluster those titles and his husky howl exposed him as a lovelorn chump who wants marriage, commitment, and the other things he learned in Brooklyn. Eddie would do whatever if you asked him nicely, including wearing a New Wave skinny tie because why not.

Paradise got more expensive as the eighties dawned. Other than “Shakin’” and “Think I’m in Love,” the exquisitely titled No Control (produced by Tom Dowd!) marked the beginning of a commercial downturn. Then Money released “Take Me Home Tonight” in the summer of 1986: a song that flaunted its recycled parts with all of Money’s blowzy confidence. No one would’ve cared had another singer with a voice as ragged as Eddie’s but as committed to received emotions not belted “Be My Baby” as the chorus ended. Ronnie Spector, take a bow, for her appearance on “Take Me Home Tonight” remains one of the era’s more addled moments and a sure sign that the boomers were going to temper the years of their obsolescence into terrifying swords. Its parent album Can’t Go Back proved a quiet blockbuster: two heavily played followups (the wistful “I Wanna Go Back” and “Endless Nights”) that refashioned him into a second-string MTV presence through the grunge era. Remember “Walk on Water”? “Peace in Our Time” (quieter than a Big Country single with which it shares a title)? “The Love in Your Eyes”? Top thirties all, with “Walk on Water” his second of two career top tens.

As late as 1991’s “I”ll Get By” Eddie was still $$. Then commercial death came to Eddie Money, as it must to all men. Average talent and looks weren’t enough in a new era in which the zippy and the dippy mattered less than the projections of angst he had avoided like a bad party. Yet the hits stayed evergreens, as his steady touring on the oldies circuit proved. He even starred in his own reality show. In a Rolling Stone interview last year, Money sounded at peace. “The kids aren’t in jail, they’re not in rehab, nobody’s wrecked the car this week and there’s still milk in the refrigerator. I’m having a good month.” Savor the last sentence — wisdom that eludes greater artists.

The critic and the artist

ERNEST. The highest Criticism, then, is more creative than creation, and the primary aim of the critic is to see the object as in itself it really is not; that is your theory, I believe?

GILBERT. Yes, that is my theory. To the critic the work of art is simply a suggestion for a new work of his own, that need not necessarily bear any obvious resemblance to the thing it criticises. The one characteristic of a beautiful form is that one can put into it whatever one wishes, and see in it whatever one chooses to see; and the Beauty, that gives to creation its universal and aesthetic element, makes the critic a creator in his turn, and whispers of a thousand different things which were not present in the mind of him who carved the statue or painted the panel or graved the gem.– Oscar Wilde, “The Critic as Artist.”

To write criticism is to wrestle with the artist for control of the art. Creation and interpretation are so similar as to be in permanent civil war. Continue reading