Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Print Out (Part 2)

There has been some hype about Genre magazine relaunching with some significant changes, and since I had previously identified it as providing the least value in major gay lifestyle magazines, I was curious to see if there would actually be any improvements or not. I was a little surprised to find that it is pretty much the same, and certainly provides no new reason to select it off the newsstand instead of any of its competitors.

The changes to the magazine were promised by its new editor-in-chief, Neal Boulton. To create buzz around any such changes, he characterized them as being part of trend towards a "post gay America". The concept is so ludicrous I won't waste space discussing it here, but will summarize that Boulton wanted to use it as an excuse to make Genre a more generic (i.e. less distinctively gay) mens magazine. To clarify, he is looking for some way to sell more subscriptions and increase newsstand sales and his thought is that he can do it by broadening his target market segment to be all men.

Boulton said in his inaugural editor's letter that he wanted Genre to be a "magazine for every man". That's strange, because looking through the first issue it is not clear how a story about a gay porn star or a gay rugby team would necessarily appeal to "every man".

The new editor also explained that gay interests like wanting a hot car, a hot body, and hot clothes are things that everyone else in America shares. How out of a touch can a person be? Straight men are still buying pickup trucks, chowing to excess at the Golden Corral buffet, and buying their "good" clothes at Wal-Mart.

The truth is, that like detergent companies that add an extra drop of fragrance to their product and call it "new and improved", Boulton so far has made minor changes for show instead of working on the actual quality of what he is trying to sell. To me it looks like the same magazine except for two things. One is that the front cover is trying to mimic tabloids by emphasizing the proven trick of using numbers to convince people that there is a lot of material inside (e.g "101 Ways to ..."). The second thing, in the October issue, is a two page spread on motorcycles. Actually, it was only a one page article with a facing title page consisting primarily of a picture of one motorcycle. In usual Genre tradition, the magazine makes sure it doesn't overwork its writers. Ditto for the page on Manuka Mule - a whole page for instructions on making a drink consisting of four ingredients. I'd like to be the person who got paid for those two minutes worth of work.

I will give credit for reducing the number of pages devoted to average Joe's. While some in the past have been good to look at, their inane answers to even dumber questions only showed what useless slugs they are.

Unfortunately for the magazine, it may intentionally be moving further away from having any raison d'etre at all. If looking for a real gay lifestyle magazine, for four cents less on the cover price, Instinct would a better deal. The October issue of Genre and the November issue of Instinct both had 96 pages (including Genre's useless 15 page "special advertising section") but Instinct just has more worthwhile copy in it. Genre took me less than 10 minutes to go through it cover to cover, while I am still not done with Instinct as it always takes several sittings to get through.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bachelor Of The Year

Last week I watched the annual cheesy photo-op of Cosmo magazine's 50 hottest bachelors on the Today show. Seeing a sample of men from each of the states provides a nice variety of eye candy. Of course they are really only the hottest of the limited number of people who actually applied, but it still made for a pleasant view. I was never interested in collecting the 50 state quarters, but this is the kind of cross country collection that I could get into. Hurrah for federalism!

Cosmo magazine annually has its readers submit and vote for their favorite bachelors. One bachelor is selected from each state to be eligible to be selected the magazine's bachelor of the year. The 50 men are paraded through New York City with a shirt advertising the magazine and their home state. In exchange for their dignity, the winner is awarded an oversized cardboard check for $10,000.

cosmo bachelorsThe Today segment was short, beginning with a pan of the man mob, followed by Ann Curry trying futilely to hold onto her journalistic integrity, and ending with an inexplicable push-up "contest" between Maryland and Illinois. I had to go to the magazine's website to find out more. There I found pictures of all 50 men along with some facts and some personal comments, which were of the low quality variety that you typically find attached to fold-out, pin-up models.

cosmo Mr. NebraskaPerusing through the pictures, I quickly realized that the best men came from the midwest Great Lakes and Great Plains states. Comparing region to region, it wasn't even close. Corn-fed beef reigns supreme. It makes me want to eat some corn on the cob instead of using it for its other purpose.

The comments the guys made taught me something about straight men - they are surprisingly needy. Examples:
  • Relationship must-have: “I’ll do anything for a girl I love. But I want her to be ­devoted to me too.”
  • Dating deal breaker: “When girls talk only about themselves. Make space for me too!”
  • Sweet chick move he digs: “When I get ­separated at a party from a woman I’m dating, I love when she comes back to me for a bit to let me know she’s thinking about me.”
  • Chick trait he craves: “I hope to meet someone who is a good listener. I can talk a lot, and I want to sense that she’s really listening to what I’m saying.”
  • Hint from a hottie: “The typical guy needs to be reassured every once in a while that his girlfriend still has strong feelings for him.”
cosmo mr. ohioOther comments involved promoting the stereotype that men are easy to understand and that women are not. From Mr. Ohio (at left): [If he had a superpower:] “I’d want to be able read girls’ minds. Then I’d write a book about it to help out other guys, since we’re all in the dark!”

That straight women buy into this load of crap makes me think a little less of them. The honest response is, "If I can pretend that I don't know what you're talking about because I'm a man, I've got a great excuse for ignoring you and doing whatever the hell I want to."

A third theme running through the comments was the need for the men to get away from their girls. South Carolina: "I like to go to a secluded place in the mountains and spend time relaxing and reflecting.” I know these guys are straight (or at least have to pretend to be in order to win), but isn't this what Ennis Del Mar wanted also?

The winner was Ohio. Best dark horses: Alabama and Utah.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My Fair Lady

Saturday night I stumbled across an airing of My Fair Lady, which was part of a Lerner and Lowe movie showcase on the TCM channel. For some unknown reason I don't have this movie in my dvd collection, so I took the opportunity to watch it again at this time although I have seen it many times before. The musical is one of my favorites going back to when I was a kid.

I was reminded of a scene from the movie Jeffrey where a priest, played by Nathan Lane, explained God to Jeffrey. The priest showed Jeffrey the original cast recording album of My Fair Lady with the Al Hirschfeld drawing on the cover (below) and said, "Here's how you see god. He's a Columbia recording artist. You got your idea of God where most gay kids get it: My Fair Lady - Original Cast." He went on to indicate that God was personified by Lerner & Lowe and that he could feel the presence of God when listening to a great Broadway musical.

I don't how much that resonated with other viewers of Jeffrey, but it struck a chord with me because of how much I loved the album as a kid - the same LP that Nathan pointed to. I was surprised to hear it being referenced in a movie as being an important part of gay culture. I was too young to know about any of that at the time of course. I only knew I like to play the songs and memorize the words. I wonder if my family on the other hand had an inkling of what it might mean that a little kid was doing a complete rendition for them of Why Can't The English? and Just You Wait.

The musical itself has a lot of things in it that gay men can relate to. For starters, how about the song A Hymn to Him (why can't a woman be more like a man?) Then there are the "confirmed bachelors", Higgins and Pickering. And of course, the whole nature of transformation where a person is plucked from a lowly life to become part of fabulous and fashionable society.

For gay kids who aren't sure of why they feel the way they do, the words of I Could Have Danced All Night share this uncertainty. "I'll never know what made it so exciting. Why all at once my heart took flight. I only know when he, began to [insert boyish activity here, e.g. wrestle, play ball, go swimming] with me, I could have [done it and him all night]."

The longing for male affection is expressed poignantly with "Someone's head resting on my knee. Warm and tender as he can be. Who takes good care of me - oh, wouldn't it be loverly?"

Lastly, there are the expressions of stalker Freddy, wandering around Professor Higgin's neighborhood hoping to see Eliza. I have also felt the heart flutter from just knowing that you are near someone you are attracted to. Oh those wonderful halcyon days before the advent of restraining orders.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sunday In The Park With Me

I spent some contemplative time this past Sunday walking the trails of the nearby Fort Harrison State Park. It was a good opportunity to enjoy the weather of this never-ending summer. The air is still warm and the trees still green.

The trails in this park are an easy and pleasant walk, but quite long. Fort Harrison is twice the size of New York City's Central Park, and also surrounded by urban area. (Another park within Indianapolis is Eagle Creek city park, which is 6 times bigger than Central Park.) Of course being in Indiana there is no worry of mugging or wilding.

The thing that bothered me as I carried my takeout food from Arby's on my way to a scenic spot to eat it was the uneasiness from wondering what people passing were thinking about seeing a man by himself walking into the secluded woods. There have been plenty of news stories about men everywhere being arrested while cruising for sex in public places like parks, so it would be something that could easily occur to people. To ward off such thoughts, I brandished my sandwich and drink before me so that anyone could see I was there to picnic and not to pick dick.

gay park cruisingI personally don't have a problem with forest f***ing or even getting wood in the woods, but it's crazy to risk arrest from choosing public venues for this activity. It's also not so good for the reputation of the gay community for people to think we all go to parks to literally troll under the bridge.

An idea I've had for awhile has been the establishment of private clubs owning gay nature preserves. I don't know if being on private land for use by members only would protect the participants but it would seem to make things easier for everyone. It would be easy to look down on this, but there may be something to that theory that men are genetically hunters. They go to the woods to hunt for that wascal wamwod.

In Britain it seems that they understand this. In Bristol, a group of firemen were disciplined for just shining a flashlight on four men "dogging" each other in a park. They were fined £1000, demoted, and order to attend an equality course. No action was taken against the doggers. Was this a right in the Magna Carta that somehow did not make it to our shores?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What The Hell Are You Looking At?

In Oprah's magazine (July issue), Martha Beck's column addressed self-consciousness. She gave a scenario for her readers where they go to a party feeling pretty good about themselves until they happen to see their reflection there. "The dress isn't just tight; it fits like Luciano Pavarotti's diving suit. Your hair looks as though a crazed weasel nested, bore young, and died there. Aghast, you wobble off your high heels and sprain an ankle. All eyes are glued on you. All conversation focuses on your disgrace. Everyone begins texting hilarious descriptions of you from their cell phones."

She goes on to state that the feeling that people are watching and judging you is largely an imaginary perception known as "the spotlight effect". Evidence is given that shows that others only notice you at about half the level you think they do. For attention whores, this is sad news. For everyone else, it is suppose to let you know that you shouldn't let your social interactions suffer because of the fear of being ridiculed. People aren't going to care what you do or what you look like.

I don't doubt Beck's conclusions from the straight world. However, in the gay world, you'd get more accurate advice from Carrie's mom ("They're all going to laugh at you!"). Well, not everyone will, but some will. I know this from participating in enough group situations where everyone passing by is fodder for incessant catty comments. I got so use to talking that way, I even did it with my family. Of course, they don't understand this part of the culture and just get offended by my sharp, incisive comments.

The funny thing is that I can dish out, but I really can't take it. I hate to be ridiculed. I go way out of my way to avoid any situation that may subject me to being made fun of. Obviously knowing what I know could have a deleterious effect on my willingness to be in gay social situations.

I manage using a few principles I learned along the way. One way is to tell yourself that "using only the power of my mind, I will bar the doors and then unwrap the fire hose..." (Just kidding.) For anyone who cares about this I provide the following advice:
  1. Go out with someone else who draws attention. The cat's claws generally go out for only the easiest prey in the group.
  2. Choose the right clothes. If you are large and well proportioned, dress down with neutral colors. If smaller, or not well proportioned, or have noticeable flaws, dress up with clearly more expensive clothing and brighter colors. This may seem counter-intuitive, but like mixing an acid with a base, the clothes work with you to neutralize the problem.
  3. Remember that the wall and/or doorway is your enemy. Stay away. Being there screams "I am ready to be savagely critiqued."
  4. Last, and most important, is the phrase "F*** you!!" Say it to yourself repeatedly as if you were addressing everyone around you. The concept is realizing that no one else is any better than you are and screw them if they don't understand that yet. This also helps you exhibit the necessary level of attitude to show you are also a formidable part of the pack.
Photos are from the movie Another Gay Movie, which for a parody of a dumb genre, is surprisingly funny.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Bigger Parts For Male Extras

An article in the New York Observer last month examined the lessening of the taboo of full frontal male nudity on film, video, and stage. Being the Observer, the article veered from the prurient reasons for it, to a polemic about how in the age of Hillary the male member is being objectified to rob it of its power. I haven't exposed mine publicly, so something else must have robbed it of its power. I've waved it every which way shouting "Petrificus Humongous!" all to no avail.

In the past I felt cheated by the abundance of cooch on the screen compared to the absence of man pole. Later, as the flashes of actors' ordinary looking appendages started to appear I felt only disappointment. The reason is clear. While breasts and the v thing look like they are supposed to even when they are being filmed on a big sound stage, the major root just looks sad and aesthetically unpleasing when it being upstaged. To look its best, it needs be center stage, fully alert and in action. It's not meant to play second banana to its owner's overacting above it.

Daniel RadcliffeI'm particularly tired of seeing male nudity on stage. The novelty of it has worn off. If I really want to see dick I would watch videos at home like The Ass Menagerie or the adults only version of The Iceman Cometh. On the other hand, I probably wouldn't turn down a ticket to see Daniel Radcliffe share the stage with his little buddy (now that he's 18).

Or Adam Brody. Or Bret Harrison. Or Jake Gyllenhaal. Or the cast of Heroes...

I think I'm losing my point here. Excuse me while I go dig out my copy of the original cast video of Oklahomo!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Breathe Deep

I think it has been about eight months since I quit smoking. I'm not one of those people who keep track of the exact date of things like that. It's something in the past and I seldom think about it anymore.

There have been a handful of time where I have dreamed about lighting up but that's the closest that anything red hot has come near my lips since I quit. I have been around other people smoking, such as at bars, parties and the entrances at work, but it doesn't bother me. The only time that could be considered even remotely tantalizing is when I am socializing and drinking. Fortunately, my mind has been reprogrammed not to allow me to even touch the tainted temptress.

The whole thing started years ago when a lesbian friend offered me one of her cigarettes. It was a Capri so it was closer to a candy cigarette than a real one. It was an insidious introduction to a habit. It didn't help that I was in two above average groups. Gay men and Hoosiers both smoke at rates that are higher than the national average.

Health concerns should have been the major reason for quitting but in truth it was concern for the potential effects on appearance. What's the point of always wearing the sunscreen if the damage is happening from the inside? The secondary reason was to stop stanking up the expensive clothes with smoke smell. Now the scent of "fresh rain" laundry detergent fills the air instead of fermented tobacco fumes.

For me it became clear that nicotine replacement was unnecessary. I never had a physical addiction. Instead it was always about satisfying my oral needs. Wanting to put something in my mouth only led to using nicotine gum and smoking at the same time. Work breaks became quite a buzz from the double whammy.

When I stopped I starting being considerably less concerned about what I ate. Now I'm a little above my fighting weight. It's all still part of the oral thing. It was either raid the snack machine or learn to self-satisfy. Unfortunately, it's easier to plop coins in the slot than wear your ankles around your neck.