Thursday, January 24, 2013

Water Balloons, A Rainbow & Thrift Shopping

This is rapper Macklemore.
He's going to take you thrift shopping later in this blog.  You don't want to miss that.

Before we get to Macklemore...

I recently stumbled upon the YouTube channel of Belgian-based photographer/videographer Pablo Vicente. The description goes like this: Buenos dias. I shoot photos and videos because I love pixels, cuts and rendering afternoons. Filming with DSLR and Super 35 mm slow motion camera. I think we can all agree that watching a cute, physically fit guy get pummeled by water balloons in slow motion for two minutes is art. And probably someone's masturbatory fantasy, too.

Actor, blogger and Internet sensation Randy Rainbow creates wildly irreverent videos in which he stages fake interactions with famous people by editing real audio clips of those celebrities. The results are frequently brilliant. Here, Randy is a lesbian matchmaking guru who discovers that helping Jodie Foster find love is going to be more difficult than he anticipated. (To stage this, Randy uses portions of Foster's recent Golden Globes speech and sweetens everything with some rabid, apoplectic snippets from Mel Gibson.)

Mrs. Betty Bowers, also known as America's Best Christian, is a fictional and very satirical character created by writer Paul A. Bradley. Portrayed by voice actor and comedienne Deven Green, Betty Bowers skewers the hypocrisy of fundamentalist Christianity with aplomb. Here's a video from last December that I didn't get a chance to work into my blog until now. The set up: Mrs. Betty Bowers faux-Skypes with notoriously mean and homophobic Shirley Phelps-Roper, the spokesperson for Westboro Baptist Church (you know, the "God Hates Fags" people led by her father, Fred Phelps). This one is so scathingly accurate, I had to share.

I could spend a couple of paragraphs going through the twisty history of rapper Macklemore; it's a bit of an indie rags-to-riches story. But let's talk about the music. Last year, the 29-year-old struck gold collaborating with producer Ryan Lewis. Their "Same Love," a message tune explicitly supportive of gay rights and marriage equality, got them noticed in the LGBT community and raised a few eyebrows in the (sometimes aggressively) homophobic hip hop scene. But another one of Macklemore's collaborations with Ryan Lewis, "Thrift Shop," was released last August and has quietly managed to accumulate over 64 million views on YouTube and just reached number one on Billboard's Hot 100 music chart. Macklemore, who's straight, does most of the singing/rapping here with an assist from another singer, Wanz. Ryan Lewis produced and directed the video; you can see him here as the DJ in sunglasses. When I made my list of favorite videos of 2012 recently, I somehow managed to forget this one. So let me set the record... er, straight, this video would have easily placed near the top of that list.

Peace out,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Elaborate Riddle, Country Drag, Beards, Etc.

My good friend Terri insists that I write something about Jodie Foster. Here goes. At the recent Golden Globes ceremony, Ms. Foster was honored with The Cecil B. DeMille Award by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for a career that has spanned five decades (she entered show business as a toddler and turned 50 last November).

Jodie Foster at the Golden Globes. Fabulous at 50.
But don't get me started on that Project Runway reject of a dress.
The award celebrates "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment." She's made a handful of good to great films -- from Disney's Freaky Friday to Taxi Driver and The Silence of the Lambs. Whether or not her contributions are outstanding enough for this award is debatable; I like her but I don't find her body of work extraordinary. And after the speech she gave, no one was talking about her movies anyway. A lot of people think she came out of the closet at the Golden Globes. No, not really. At a 2007 Women in Entertainment breakfast, Jodie Foster acknowledged her partner of 14 years, Cydney Bernard. It wasn't televised, but it was reported by lot of entertainment websites and magazines. So the Globes speech, posted below, was a wonky, rambly, idiosyncratic acknowledgment of something that anyone who's been paying attention for the last, oh, thirty years would/should already know: she's a movie star who happens to be a lesbian.

One of my Facebook friends -- okay, several of them -- got all pissy about the fact that Jodie Foster didn't announce her sexual orientation years ago... while simultaneously conceding that it was common knowledge. It was repeatedly suggested that, as a celebrity, she had both a responsibility and an obligation to come out waaaaay before she was 50 years old. I disagree. People act like there's some kind of Celebrity Coming Out Protocol that must be followed, yet no one can produce a copy. Tell People magazine! Tell Oprah! If you win an award, make sure everyone knows the name and gender of your significant other. Really? There is simply not one exactly right way for a celebrity to disclose their same-sex attraction. I've heard the argument that if she'd come out in 1990, around the time everyone was flocking to theaters to see The Silence of the Lambs, she could have helped so many gay and lesbian teenagers and kids. Maybe. You know what else helps gay and lesbian teenagers and kids? When their parents accept them, love them and nurture them. It would have made a world of difference in my life if my father had simply accepted the reality of having a son who was different and made some effort to work with that fact instead of checking out of the situation emotionally. We have really got to stop insisting that celebrities take up the slack for inferior parenting. Furthermore, not every celebrity is cut out to be an activist or a spokesperson for a movement. It's not a fair and reasonable expectation. It's just not.

But I'm not letting Jodie Foster off the hook entirely here. I still think her speech was an awkwardly heartfelt but oblique train wreck (which, of course, made it perfect television). And if you really really really enjoy your privacy and some semblance of a normal life as she claims, then why bring it up in the first place and spend nearly seven minutes coyly refusing to say the words gay or lesbian? For anyone who hadn't ever really thought much about Jodie Foster's sexual orientation -- despite the fact that she's never been married or romantically linked to a single male co-star, ever -- she sounded like she was setting up an elaborate riddle to be solved by the dumbest people on Earth. Me? I think she's a lesbian Rubik's Cube.

So what Jodie Foster did was just what she did. There was no way she was going to please everyone and she seems like the kind of person who's smart enough to know that. My biggest reservation about her appearance was the fact that Mel Gibson, the legendary anti-semite, misogynist and homophobe, shared a Globes table with her and her two sons. I'd really like to hear her explain that in under seven minutes.

Moving on...

New York based actor, comedian, blogger and Internet celebrity Randy Rainbow creates cheerfully irreverent videos that always make me laugh. Last year he successfully skewered the Chic-fil-A controversy and had a series of zingy mock phone conversations with celebrities and politicians. Now he's signed up for GwistTV, the new LGBT online network from the founders of Logo. Here's his first video for them, an exploration of the history and evolution of gay. In song. In under two minutes.

The minds behind the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel describe it as "the best of indie geek culture and the internet's foremost geek voices." They produce a diverse lineup of web series, including a spoof of children's educational shows called LearningTown. In this clip, puppets and some adult friends belt out a completely inappropriate "kid's song" about sausages.

According to Wikipedia, John Charles Hagee is "the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a non-denominational charismatic megachurch with more than 19,000 active members." And since you can't be a megachurch pastor without a media empire these days, he's also the chief executive officer of his own non-profit corporation, Global Evangelism Television (GETV). That's where he gets to spread his message outside the pulpit. Here's his message about why same-sex marriage is all wrong.

Bless his heart, Pastor Hagee is on the wrong side of history. The momentum for marriage equality cannot be underestimated. That video of him characterizing same-sex marriage as "two disturbed people playing house" will live forever on the Internet and become his inevitable noxious legacy.

I have lived in the south all my life, including Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia. I was a child during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and vividly remember reports of nonviolent protests and civil disobedience. When marginalized and disenfranchised peoples have had enough, they've had enough. And they will confront and stand up to their oppressors in hundreds of ways. The LGBT community has had enough. It's not about pride or parades anymore. We aren't asking for permission to sit at the adult's table; we're taking out seats. But here's what I know: the south, it distresses me to say, will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this new reality. Southern states will be the last ones to allow marriages between two women, two men, or transgendered individuals and whomever they love.

Thankfully, the Internet is good for something more than cat videos, online shopping and porn -- it provides a means of documenting the progress toward marriage equality in ways the mainstream media never will. Here are two videos from Campaign for Southern Equality that document some of the creatively nonviolent and civilly disobedient ways LGBT equality is being addressed in the south.

First up, "Game On: Marriage Equality in the South" -- this one resonates with me simply because of its football theme. I played football for two years as a kid. My parents insisted. I'm pretty sure they thought it was going to make a difference in how things turned out. It didn't. Football will not make a gay kid turn straight. Fortunately, however, the quarterback taught me how to masturbate, so it's not like I regret the experience.

Next up, "WE DO Campaign: Across the South" -- since January 1st, 26 LGBT couples from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee have applied for marriage licenses in their states and here's what that looked like. (Damn, this one made me tear up.)

On a less serious note, here's openly gay Canadian country artist Drake Jensen collaborating with drag performer Willam Belli for a cover of Tammy Wynette's classic "Stand By Your Man." Lighthearted homage or unmitigated blasphemy? Your call.

Have you been curious about what's hitting the big screen in 2013? Here's a mashup of what you can expect during the first half of the year, courtesy of YouTubes's MovieClips Trailers channel. (Not to spoil it too much, but you can expect explosions, zombies, psychopaths, alien invasions, apocalyptic-level destruction, car chases, superheroes, more explosions, and at least one haunted cabin in the woods.)

I love beards. I grew mine out in 1986 and did not shave it back to a goatee until 2000. I'd have a full beard now except that it would be filled with wild gray hairs and people might confuse me with the Unabomber. Anyway, I love beards and always appreciate men with nice ones. Here's a video produced by Xtra!, a gay and lesbian news organization from Canada. This might be the video that proves it's better to be seen with a beard than to be heard talking about your beard.

Speaking of beards, the lead singer of Los Angeles-based multi-instrumental duo PAPA, Darren Weiss, has a nice one.
PAPA, a duo composed of Darren Weiss (right) and Daniel Presant (left).

Here's the video for their solid rocker "Put Me to Work." The beard is prominently featured, ultimately managing to upstage a flaming ax and dancing skeletons. A good beard can do that.

Peace out,