The moon shone red on Passover — Thanks Obama

Posted on 15 Apr 2014 at 6:37pm

MoonLast night was not just a full moon, but a blood red full moon, which brought the crazies out.

Right-wing website World News Daily headlined the event with the warning: Move over Obama: The ‘pen and phone’ that really count.

Here’s their problem. In his State of the Union address, the president said he would issue executive orders to break the deadlock in Congress. Well, God doesn’t like that. How does WND know? Because the moon was red last night in a totally predictable and explainable astronomical event that happens with some regularity.

And while we’re being bat-shit crazy, we might as well bring in the Jews, especially since this week is Passover.

WND quotes a Pastor Mark Blitz who said, “I believe the moons are like flashing red warning lights at a heavenly intersection saying to Israel as well as the nations they will be crossing heavenly red lines, and if they do, they will understand as Pharaoh did on Passover night 3,500 years ago that the Creator backs up what He says.”

So, I’m not sure if the good pastor is equating the lunar eclipse to one of the 12 plagues that is part of the story of Passover. If so, were any cattle or first-born harmed during this lunar eclipse? Or is he calling Obama the Pharoah and if so, why can’t the president just tell Congress to act or he’ll bury them in the pyramid he’s building for himself.

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‘Drag Race’ promises to drop ‘transphobic’ gags

Posted on 15 Apr 2014 at 11:13am

RuPaul

Following a dustup occasioned by a game that made its contestants guess the gender of a person based on close-up photos of their anatomy, RuPaul’s Drag Race has had a change of heart about some of the language it uses on the show, the Huffington Post is reporting.

The series, which airs on Logo Mondays, pits a dozen or more drag queens — that is, men impersonating women — against each other for cash and the title of “America’s next drag superstar.” Occasionally, however, a contestant on the show has been a genuine transgender woman, not just a drag queen; those “coming out” moments are some of the most sincere and heartfelt on reality TV. So it seemed a disconnect for some that the show would routinely use the term “she-mail” as Ru’s version of  ”e-mail” to the contestants, since “she-male” is considered a derogatory term for a trans woman. (The “she-mail” controversy began when it was first used in Season 1, though the hubbub quickly died down.)

In a statement from Logo to HuffPo, the network said, “We are removing the ‘you’ve got she-mail’ intro from new episodes of the series. We did not intend to cause any offense, but in retrospect we realize that it was insensitive. We sincerely apologize.” Several former contestants (some trans, some not) lobbied for the change and endorsed the decision.

The question it raised for me is, why now? And why that term?

The “now” is fairly easy to answer: Society has developed its sensitivity to LGBT issues over the years, and it continues to grow, and the “female of she-male” game from several episodes ago was clearly a tipping point.

The “why” is harder to answer.

Is it derisive to call a trans person “she-male” offensive, even transphobic? Most definitely. But is calling a gay man a “girl” also bad? It certainly is when said with malice — but one of Ru’s other catch-phrases is “Silence! …. Bring back my girls,” in reference to the (male) contestants. Is calling someone “queer” wrong? When shouted angrily from a car at a gay man walking down the street, yes. But Queer Eye and Queer as Folk showed us how to co-op hate speech and turn it into empowerment.

“She-male” is clearly wrong, but “she-mail” — a pun on “e-mail” — is, and should be considered, a joke … perhaps one in bad taste, but then, bad taste is the stock in trade of Drag Race. In the same way that the transploitation film Ticked Off Trannies with Knives was so named in order to take ownership of a term that can be used derisively, couldn’t we all agree that “she-mail” was meant in good fun and leave it at that? There’s no show on TV that has greater respect for the gay community — including the trans community — than Drag Race. The show also objectifies men (the bikini-brief-clad Pit Crew), uses words like “hunty” and “fishy” in suggestive ways, regularly plays the quiz-show parody “Snatch Game” (and we know what “snatch” means in this context) and makes countless other transgressions. In the way that gay activisms popularized the mantra “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” could we take an expansive look at our culture and distinguish between maliciousness and good-natured hazing?

Maybe not. The trans community suffers a lot of indignities, and coming out as trans isn’t easy. We should try to be sensitive to issues of tolerance and not spread hate. But Chaz Bono — child of Cher and perhaps the most famous trans person in the world — was a guest on the show last night, and he presumably didn’t object to the term. Maybe we could all take a lesson from Chaz … or maybe Chaz needs to take a lesson from the activist trans community.

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The wit and wisdom of Leslie Jordan

Posted on 14 Apr 2014 at 3:41pm

IMG_3157In this week’s cover story, I interviewed Leslie Jordan, Del Shores and Emerson Collins about their upcoming appearances in Dallas at both a fundraiser for Al McAffrey and screenings of their film Southern Baptist Sissies. As with most interviews, your subjects say a lot more than you can use in the final story. Most of the time, you just let it go. But when Leslie Jordan is talkin’, there are just too many gems to let them be lost forever.

Here, then, are some of the great comments Leslie made during our talk that I didn’t have room for in the story. Enjoy!

On the scope of his fame: I was performing at the Leicester Square Playhouse in London — you know what’s really popular over there? Sordid Lives! Who knew? Anyway, I was walking down the street at Piccadilly Circus and this cab slows down and the cabbie shouts, “Can you see my pussy now?” Then he took off, laughing! But I got misty eyed. People are screaming my lines at me out of taxicabs — I’m an international star!

On interacting with his co-stars: I was doing a show with an actress who plays one of the maids on Downton Abbey, her name is Siobhan Finneran and she tells me, “Just call be Shiv.” “Shiv?!” I said. “In American, ‘Shiv’ is what they stab people with in prison!”

On his rent-boy obsession: I spent three weeks in Puerto Vallarta [recently]. The best part of being there are the beautiful brown boys who hang out in the square. They’re all married straight boys with children, and all you have to say is, “Do you need a little diaper money?”

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Thousands celebrate Oak Cliff Earth Day

Posted on 14 Apr 2014 at 11:18am

Thousands of people celebrated Earth Day on Saturday in Lake Cliff Park in Oak Cliff. On Sept. 20, the park will mark its centennial. The trolley that runs by the park linking Downtown with not quite Bishop Arts should open later this year.

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The five Four Questions, or: Why do we only drink Coke from Houston on Passover?

Posted on 14 Apr 2014 at 11:07am
Passover

Passover celebrates Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea allowing the Jews to escape Pharoah in Egypt and shlep across the Sinai for 40 years

Each year, lots of people look forward to getting mad at me over my annual “I hate Channukah” posts. While Hanukah is my least favorite Jewish holiday, Passover is my favorite.

I love the two nights of Seder — a dinner with a service — with family and friends, the constipating food, the terrible singing and The Four Questions.

Every Seder begins with The Four Questions:

Why is this night different from all other nights?

On all other nights we eat leavened products and matzah. Why on this night do we eat only matzah?

On all other nights we eat all vegetables. Why on this night do we eat only bitter herbs?

On all other nights, we don’t dip our food even once. Why on this night do we dip twice?

On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining. Why on this night do we only recline?

If you’re counting, that’s actually five questions, but that’s one of the things I love about the holiday. Another thing I love about it is that during a traditional Passover Seder, those questions are never really answered. (I’ll answer them below).

Passover is the quintessential Jewish holiday because it’s about asking questions. In Judaism, we learn never to accept something because a rabbi or teacher says it. We always question, and I love questions.

Like when anyone asks me, “Do you always answer a question with a question?” I invariably respond, “What do you mean?”

But I digress.

If it were me writing the Passover Haggadah (the book used for the Seder service) instead of Maxwell House writing it, I’d ask different questions.

Like: Why have more copies of the Maxwell House Haggadah been printed than any other Haggadah in history?

Because in 1934, Maxwell House noticed there was a drop in coffee sales during Passover. To encourage sales during that week, the company printed and distributed copies of its Haggadah free.

Why did coffee sales drop? In the original Hebrew, the Torah instructs that during Passover, we can’t eat legumes (string beans, peas, lima beans, things like that). Some languages don’t differentiate between the words legume and bean. In my grandfather’s Ukranian dialect, apparently, that was the case, because I grew up with no coffee or chocolate — both from beans, but not legumes – during Passover.

The good folks at Maxwell House wanted to make sure we knew there was a difference. The Maxwell House Haggadah remains in print, and this year, they came out with a new, gender-neutral version of their Haggadah to keep alive the true spirit of Passover — a time to remember which companies make huge profits stamping kosher for Passover on some boxes and doubling or tripling the price.

Another Passover question for a modern Seder should be:

On all other nights we drink Coca Cola bottled anywhere, why on this night do we only drink Coke from Houston?

The Torah bans a number of grains. Coke is normally made with corn syrup. Now, obviously corn wasn’t a banned grain since it’s native to North America, but it was never declared kosher for Passover, either. So the Houston Coke Bottling plant makes a kosher for Passover version by substituting sugar for the week. Stock up if you find some. It’s much better than regular Coke.

Speaking of grains, the Orthodox rabbis declared quinoa, a grain from South America, kosher for Passover this year for the first time. So even though we have to give up spelt, rye and barley, we can now substitute quinoa.

Some business news just last week might prompt us to ask this Passover question at this week’s Seders: Why is this Passover different from all other Passovers?

Because on all other Passovers, we ate Manischewitz products, and last week, Mitt Romney’s old company Bain Capital bought the food division. The crappy, sticky, sweet wine is made by a separate company.

Us Jews are funny about our kosher food. I don’t know how to explain it to Christians who are fine with Irving Berlin and other Jews writing all their Christmas music sung by Barbra Strisand and Neil Diamond, but Mormon matzo? It just didn’t sit right with me, and that’s the only Passover brand Kroger on Cedar Springs carries. I went to Whole Foods and bought imported, organic, whole wheat Aviv brand instead.

So happy Passover and the answer to the five Four Questions that this night is different from all other nights because we do the things listed in the other four questions. We eat matzo to remind us of the Jews not having time to let the bread rise before making their exodus from Egypt. We eat bitter herbs to remind us of the hard labor in Egypt. We don’t really know why we dip twice, but ask any rabbi and they’ll give you some ferkackta answer. And we recline to symbolize freedom from slavery.

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PHOTOS: Dallas Art Fair this weekend

Posted on 11 Apr 2014 at 9:43am

The Dallas Art Fair, in conjunction with Dallas Art Week, has become a big deal, and this weekend you can see why at the Fashion Industry Gallery, where art exhibitors from around North Texas, the U.S. and even the world gather to show everyone what’s going on in the world of art.

Among the most interesting booths at F.I.G. right now are some local ones, like Ro2Art — with two galleries Downtown — featuring witty and sometimes erotic works from local gay artists “The Brians:” Brian Scott and Brian Jones. But there are tons more to see, from portraits to modern abstracts to pop art, sculpture, photography and video installations.

Check out the gallery below.

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USA Film Fest reveals lineup

Posted on 10 Apr 2014 at 9:25am

FindingNeighbors_JEFF_PAUL_doorThe Dallas International Film Festival is still underway, but today the USA Film Festival announced its own lineup of screenings, which arrive later this month.

The 44-year-old fest, which takes place April 22–27, will include several tributes, including ones for soap stars Linda Gray (Dallas) and Morgan Fairchild (Flamingo Road), Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan, John Turturro, Ed Harris and Carol Kane.

Foodies will get a treat on April 23, when the screening of El Camino del Vino, a comic mockumentary about wine, and the film Tasting Menu (with Flanagan). In addition, chef Abraham Salum will host a five-course wine dinner at his eponymous Uptown restaurant.

Among some gay-interest screenings are the feature Finding Neighbors, pictured, a quirky comedy from Oscar winner and SMU alum Ron Judkins. It screens April 26. And out actor Paul Marcarelli (the Verizon’s “Can You Hear Me Now” spokesman) returns to the fest as a juror for the short films competition.

Tickets go on sale today. You can get passes, and search the entire schedule, here.

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REVIEW: ‘Gidion’s Knot’ at KDT

Posted on 09 Apr 2014 at 12:04pm

Leah Spillman and Jenni Kirk in ‘Gidion’s Knot’ at KDT.

A mother attends a parent-teacher conference to discuss her fifth-grader, who was suspended for a week, but the the teacher doesn’t recall making the appointment … unless the mother is … oh, her.

That’s the first 20 minutes or so of the 80 minutes that make up Gidion’s Knot, a regional premiere now playing at The MAC. It’s a frustrating first quarter, with long, slow, wordless scenes and intentionally obtuse exposition. How can the teacher, Miss Clark (Leah Spillman), childless and new to the classroom not recall a conference set up only three days ago? Then again, when the mother, Corryn (Jenni Kirk) arrives in her class the first time, why doesn’t she just say her son’s name, or Miss Clark’s, and save us all the discomfort and mystery?

The answer is pretty simply, actually: Then the play would only be 62 minutes long, and the author, Johnna Adams, wouldn’t have been able to impress us with her stagecraft — her ability to pull a Mamet out of a hat. It’s a playwrighting gimmick, a first-act conundrum meant to draw us in but which only holds in sharp relief the incompleteness that infests the entire play.

Some of that incompleteness is intentional. Miss Clark and Corryn are both incomplete women, especially when it comes to children: The teacher without any of her own (she has a cat instead), and the single mother, not especially devoted to her only child but trying to make up for it when, alas, it’s too late. No wonder they don’t communicate in full thoughts or engage in sensible dialogue — they are both cut off in some ways, adrift in their work.

It turns out that the reason Miss Clark forgot about the meeting (one for which Corryn is 20 minutes late, a further indication of her lack of parental responsibility) is that she assumed it had been canceled — after all, the child in question, Gidion, killed himself over the weekend. What led to that? And how was it related to his suspension? More mysteries, more drawn-out explanations.

When the reasons are finally revealed — quite astonishingly, if melodramatically (more extended exposition, as if Adams were terrified her play would only last 38 minutes) — it’s a further disconnect for teacher and mom: Gidion was a troubled, Miss Clark says — brilliant says mom … but why can’t he be both?

Gidion’s Knot bulges with literary and mythic references (check out the title itself), and the points it raises are thoughtful and complex, but its weaknesses are just as apparent. “Want to get people on your side? Throw in a dead child!” Corryn hisses at Miss Clark about modern society, but that’s exactly what she’s doing (and what Adams is). A dead kid raises all sorts of troubling questions, and how can outsiders (Miss Clark, the audience) judge the emotional reaction of a distraught mother?

But that’s what the play invites us to do, and Corryn — fiercely played by Kirk, who’s matched with coolness by Spillman — falls short. (Her last name, it turns out, is Fell.) She’s a bundle of contradictions, who demands the participation of the school’s principal but gets angry at Miss Clark when she won’t engage in tit-for-tat sniping, who blames Miss Clark even though she was deaf to her own child’s pain, who wants to play “what’s my line?” guessing games but criticizes efforts at deflection. She’s also critic-proof, because who are we to say her irrationality isn’t justified?

And therein lines the heart of Gidion’s Knot — its unresolvability. All rules go out the window; like the Gordian Knot, it cannot be solved, it can only be destroyed and rebuilt. Sometimes there are no answers, just more questions.

Plays through April 26. KitchenDogTheater.org.

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DTC announces 2014-15 season

Posted on 08 Apr 2014 at 6:01am
DTC-DTE Kurt Rhoads and June Squibb - by Brandon Thibodeaux

Oscar nominee June Squibb, last seen at the DTC in Horton Foote’s ‘Surviving the Estate,’ will return to play the lead in ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’

Dracula won’t be swooping into the Wyly Theatre any time soon, but Bruce Wood will make his debut with the Dallas Theater Center, and a recent Oscar nominee will make her return along with a Speedo-clad muscle man, the company’s artistic director, Kevin Moriarty, revealed this morning. The formal announcement will take place later today.

To kick off the season, audiences will get a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania taking a jump to the left in the season opening, The Rocky Horror Show. Joel Ferrell will direct the gender-bending musical at the Wyly.

Ferrell steps immediately into the next production, which will take over the Kalita Humphreys space. Driving Miss Daisy will star June Squibb — who was just nominated for an Oscar for Nebraska — as a prickly Southern lady and her relationship with her African-American chauffeur.

Bruce Wood, the choreographer and occasional stage director, will make his DTC debut with Colossal, a world premiere play-with-dancing about football. It continues the DTC’s preoccupation with sports onstage (baseball with Back Back Back, basketball with Give It Up aka Lysistra Jones, pro wrestling with The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity).

“Consistent with [DTC's mission of producing shows that reflect the community], this show is about people with disabilities — the man character is in a wheelchair,” Moriarty says. “The play will feature full-contact drills, with music provided by a drumline.” And the Wyly will be transformed into a football stadium, complete with bleachers and popcorn.

The musical Stagger Lee, written by DTC writer-in-residence Will Power and developed at DTC for several years, will have its main-stage debut.

“My first year here, I was approached by SMU, who wanted to present the Meadows Prize to a theater artist,” Moriarty says. “I gave them a list of about 10 names to discuss, and [when we decided on Will Power], SMU commissioned him to write a play as part of DTC’s season. The play is a mythical investigation of the African-American experience in the 20th century.

Also scheduled in a regional premiere, The Book Club Play, a romantic comedy about, naturally, a book club.

“Christie Vela runs the perfect book club, but then a documentary film crew comes to shoot it just as a new member joins, and mayhem ensues,” Moriarty says. It will be directed by Meredith McDonough — one of three women directing shows at the DTC this season.

rsDTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty_Photo by Tadd Myers

Kevin Moriarty

There are several significant developments this season. In addition to producing a record nine shows (the current season was only seven shows), Moriarty is launching a five-year “classical theater” initiative, which will mount at least two plays each season written before 1900. The two presented this year couldn’t be more different — at least on the surface: The 17th century farce School for Wives and the ancient Greek tragedy Medea. But Moriarty sees a theme.

“Both are plays about women denied power or justice, who eventually are victorious,” Moriarty says. The plays will be presented in repertory at the Kalita, with the Moliere comedy performed upstairs and Euripides’ masterpiece in the long-overlooked basement space, once known as Down Center Stage. Sally Vahle will play Medea, but will also take a role in School.

“It will be true rep — we’ll rehearse eight hours a day, the first four of one show, then lunch, then the next four with the other,”says Moriarty, who will direct both.

A Christmas Carol — this season performed at the Wyly for the first time, and included as part of the regular season subscription — becomes a bonus show again. The version performed this past December, written and directed by Moriarty, will be revived, though Lee Trull will direct and Jeremy Dumont will serve as choreographer.

Another development is that the traditional family-friendly summer won’t take place — or rather, hasn’t been programmed yet. The final show of the season will be a stage version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. But that production will conclude before Memorial Day of 2015, meaning the summer of 2015 may still have a musical in it … but it’ll be part of the 2015-16 season instead.

The Dracula Cycle,  set to open last year, was delayed when the playwright, gay scribe Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, become entrenched in commitments in theater (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), television (Glee) and film (the Carrie remake). It was expected to return next season but has officially be taken off the books.

Here’s the complete schedule of shows and production dates:

The Rocky Horror Show at the Wyly, Sept. 11–Oct. 19.

Driving Miss Daisy at the Kalita, Oct. 16–Nov. 16.

A Christmas Carol at the Wyly, Nov. 25–Dec. 27.

The Book Club Play at the Kalita, Jan. 1, 2015 –Feb. 1.

Stagger Lee at the Wyly, Jan. 21–Feb. 15.

School for Wives and Medea at the Kalita, Feb. 19–March 29

Collosal at Wyly, April 2–May 3.

Sense and Sensibility at the Kalita, April 23–May 24.

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PHOTOS: Jillian Michaels maximizes time in Dallas with tour visit

Posted on 07 Apr 2014 at 3:37pm
Jillian Michaels at SMU's McFarlin Auditorium on April 4. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Jillian Michaels at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium on April 4. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Jillian Michaels, out trainer on The Biggest Loser, brought her “Maximize Your Life” tour to Dallas this weekend. As expected, she was spunky, uplifting and demanding all at once, dishing out some tough love in the areas of eating, workout and life habits — all while continuing to tell the audience at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium that Dallasites are so nice. It’s our Southern charm, to be sure.

While the program got off to a late start with traffic delays because of the Final Four in town, the program ran about two hours, giving attendees a quality show that even included a brief Q&A at the end.

While this writer went in looking for motivation in various areas of her life, Michaels told the audience halfway through she couldn’t give them motivation; instead, everyone had to find his or her own internal motivation as external motivation eventually wavers and success wanes. Message received.

But it was an inspiring show with Michaels’ own personal experiences and some Biggest Loser highlights revisited. By the end of the night, she left us wanting more and waiting for the next tour.

If you bought a VIP ticket, photos from the meet and greet can be found here. And if you scroll through them, you’ll find a cameo appearance from finance guru Suze Orman, who was in town and stopped by for a photo.

More photos below.

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