Gay art at the DMA

Art Issue Cover 11/28In this week’s Art Issue, I did a story on Mark Leonard, the (gay) conservationist at the Dallas Museum of Art tasked with restoring and preserving important items in the collection. But a few weeks ago, during Gay History Month in October, Taylor Jeromos — an intern with the DMA and its Arts & Letters Live program — did a blog post on the museum’s website honoring out artists of the past whose work can be found in the collection. It’s a really interesting mini-history. Enjoy it — link to it here — and the other stories in our Art Issue (about fashion design [also a subject of art at the Crow Collection right now], pop art and abstract art among them).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

A snippet about circumcision

banana-1

Is one of these images more a-peel-ing to you?

Probably more in the gay male community than anywhere other than mohel school, circumcision is a topic almost everyone has an opinion about. And with us being in the ‘hood, I figured we could have an uncut discussion about it right here.

Think of it as group therapy: Are you foreskin or anti-skin?

Totally upfront here: I’m one of the majority who was bris’d as a babe. Hey, I was born on an army base, and the guvmint docs did it pretty much without asking permission. Anyway, it was the ’60s (1960s, haters — I wasn’t born in the Confederacy … well, I was, but only in the minds of the rednecks in Georgia at the time). As a kid, I didn’t know any better. I didn’t “miss” it (if memory serves, my dad was circumcised as well, so I “looked” like him). It was only as I got older that the subject came up at all. I was probably in my mid-20s before I’d ever seen an uncut male in person. It was kind of exciting.

Which brings up a point: A lot of guys I know have a near-fascination with uncut men. Mostly, they themselves are cut. It’s like some kind of taboo. Here’s the thing, though: I’ve never had strong feelings about it one way or the other. I’d imagine roughly half the men I’ve been with in a state of arousal were uncircumcised (in general, many of the African-American and Latinos I’ve dated). The ages of intact vs. untact varies significantly, as well. It’s not like only older men are cut and younger not; there seems little pattern to it.

Do I enjoy a circumcised penis? Hey, I’m not one to criticize any penis that shows an interest in me. I’ve had good experiences with cut men … and no-so-good. The same with the uncut. I try to judge on a wiener-by-wiener basis, without painting all tools with the same brush.

But I also have a strong libertarian streak in me. And news breaking this week that the Centers for Disease Control weighed in this week, for the first time, about the benefits of circumcision “health-wise” made me pause. The argument I heard mounted by one author of the policy explained how there are “few risks” involved in circumcision (swelling, bleeding, etc.) and that the benefits included a substantial decrease in rates of HIV contraction.

This, to me, is muddle-headed. The cut/uncut debate has nothing (or little) to do with health. It is first and foremost an issue of personal autonomy and, to an extent, aesthetics. It is a decision made by parents (often brand-new to having a son) about a tiny infant that ultimately affects a huge psychological issue he may have in his later life. For Jews, it is a sacrament that precedes inclusion in a faith community, which I don’t have a problem with. But what about people like my folks, who were basically told, “We’re snipping your newborn — be right back”?

And if the health benefits only manifest themselves when the child becomes sexually active — at a time of presumed physical and emotional maturity — why not leave it up to him, as a teenager, to decide for himself? Or just teach proper hygiene? Speaking from experience, that’s a good thing for anyone who’s sexually active.

There’s even the possibility that telling men (and their parents) that circumcision decreases the transmission of STIs leads to a false sense that cut men can be less careful about having safe sex. That’s not true — cut or uncut, you shove your willy in enough places unprotected, you’re gonna risk a disease. (And what about guys who are total bottoms anyway? Who’s thinking of them?!?!?)

So, let’s talk about it. Are you cut or uncut? Prefer one or the other in your partner? Have any mental scars from your parents decision?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Remembering Brandon James Singleton

Brandon James Singleton

Brandon James Singleton

NOTE: Newly announced memorial arrangements listed at bottom (revised).

Over the years, I’ve worked with dozens of writers and freelancers. The best ones, you remember. And it was easy to remember Brandon Singleton.

Brandon and I were already Facebook friends when he messaged me in the summer of 2012. He was soon to turn 30, he told me, and wanted to write a series for our InstanTea blog: A kind of bucket list of things he wanted to accomplish before this milestone had passed. We worked out the style of the series together, picked a name — Tex’n the City, as he was a native of the Metroplex but living then in Los Angeles — and about every week for 13 weeks, we ran one of Brandon’s stories online.

They were marvelous. Brandon was introspective but not afraid to be upfront about his failings and superficialities. The series was as much an exploration for him working out his own preconceptions as it was a recitation of desires. He discovered, as we all eventually do, that what we think we want isn’t always what we need.

The series culminated with Brandon actually turning 30, on Dec. 15, 2012, and reflecting on what that meant. The series was full of promise and hope and honesty and good writing. I always wanted Brandon to write more for me, but he was busy and we never found the time. The last installment ran on Dec. 28, 2012.

Then yesterday, I learned that over the weekend Brandon died in Los Angeles. That’s all the information I have at this moment. He would have been 32 in just a few weeks.

I have to say, I find it almost painful to read Tex’n the City now: He speculates about turning 40 one day, and what his new set of hopes are. Knowing those will never happen is a lot to comprehend and cope with. But I do read them — and I want you to as well; I’ll put up a link at the bottom — because they also demonstrate what a sad loss the passing of this young, funny, smart, ambitious and friendly man is to all of us.

Brandon’s family is in the process of having his body transported back to Dallas for burial. They have told me they will share the details when they have been finalized, so that I can pass it along here. But until that day, let us all reflect not only on our own lives and dreams, but those on a fine young career-oriented man who had so many friends, and how he raised up those who knew him, and left a legacy that’s too brief but also too valuable to forget.

Here’s a link to one of Brandon’s last posts; there are hypertext links throughout so you can start at the beginning and read them all. Take your time. Savor them. And think of Brandon.

Wake: Golden Gate Funeral Home, 5701 Loop 820 South, Fort Worth. Dec. 5 from 7:15–8:15 p.m.

Funeral: Golden Gate Funeral Home, 5701 Loop 820 South, Fort Worth. Dec. 6 from 1–3 p.m.

Flower arrangements may be sent to the home.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Beyonce … meet Boyonce

Got the 7/11 for yaLast Christmas, Queen Bey surprised all her fans with the release of a surprise album, which contained the hit “7/11.” Well, just in time for the holidays this year, some enterprising gay folks (I mean, they gotta be gay, right?) put together this video set to the song. It’s hilarious, fun and sexy — and a perfect distraction on Cyber Monday while waiting for your online shopping cart to load. Enjoy!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Hot Toddy

2 GINGERS Hot ToddyYou’ve probably heard the name of this drink, but — like hot buttered rum and grog — never actually tasted one … or even know what’s in it. Well, time to demystify this whiskey (of course!) drink for you, a traditional cold-weather cure whether you’re chilly or feeling the sniffles coming on.

4 parts 2 Gingers Irish whiskey

2 parts agave nectar

1 part ginger liqueur

1 part lemon juice

Bitters

Lemon, cloves, cinnamon stick

Making it: Combine liquid ingredients in a mug, stir in aromatic bitters, and top with near-to-boiling water (what you’d make coffee with). Garnish by floating a lemon wheel stabbed with dry cloves or a stick of cinnamon.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘Foxcatcher’

Carell and Tatum

Bennett Miller has only directed a handful of feature films: Capote, the stark, ominous true-crime  story behind gay author Truman Capote’s efforts to write his masterpiece, In Cold Blood; and Moneyball, about A’s manager Billy Bean’s formula for for turning a last-place ball club into pennant champs. Combine the catchwords of both those films: True-life, gay, sports, crime, murder, even one-word title … all elements that emerge, in various levels, in Miller’s newest effort, Foxcatcher. It could — should? — be the perfect confluence of topic and talent. But while there’s no denying the craftsmanship and sincerity that goes into the film, it’s also difficult to shake the sense that there isn’t enough undergirding its tone, its artistry, its seriousness.

The film is based on actual events that, while shocking at the time, haven’t lived on in popular culture like they might have. Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) hasn’t lived well off the glory of a gold medal, remaining in the shadow of his more legendary older brother David (Mark Ruffalo). Then one day the eccentric billionaire John DuPont (Steve Carell) calls on him: How would Mark like to join Du Pont and his band of merry athletes at his Foxcatcher estate to train for the next Olympics? Du Pont fancies himself a world-class coach and sports benefactor — equal parts Bela Karolyi, Vince Lombardi and Tex Schramm, but it’s apparent to everyone but him he’s merely a world-class creep. Du Pont — remote, humorless, socially awkward, patently sexually repressed and lacking in any self-awareness — is a professional dilettante, a dabbler who has found the homoerotic world of pro wrestling as a weird outlet for his need for masculine physical contact. He writes laudatory speeches about himself for others to deliver. He creates a seniors wrestling league so that he might win a trophy. He commissions a documentary about himself and dictates the outcome. (It is not, in the world of the film, totally his fault. He is part of a profoundly disconnected family that has a history of making documentaries about themselves. The rich really are different from you and me.)

Tatum and Ruffalo

You know — both because pre-opening press mentions it, and the tone of the film practically projects its ominous outcome from get-go — that Du Pont is a brittle twig who will snap and commit a seemingly senseless act of violence, a crime made more tragic because of its pointlessness. You hope that the goal of the movie will be to provide context — to frame the crime and make it seem less random than inevitable. You want to, if not assign blame, figure out not just what happened by why.

And that’s where Foxcatcher fails. Indeed, it never even comes close.

There are many images and a spooky vibe that linger after the film ends, but what you never get is a sense of purpose. Miller has made a haunting story that doesn’t haunt you, a tragedy with no flawed protagonist to sympathize for. The film, like John Du Pont, is a cypher.

Miller has allowed all the artists involved so much latitude to create that he seems to have forgotten his role is to unite them together. I venture to guess that half the below-the-line budget was spent on singlets, nose putty and false teeth: Carell, Tatum and Ruffalo are all made the physically transform for their roles, getting seemingly lost in the characters, the way Philip Seymour Hoffman did in Capote. But Hoffman had a deceiver’s heart at work behind the scenes; you could tell what he was thinking. Carell is a wall of unfathomable mystery, like the patients in the criminally-insane wards of bad horror movies. You can’t understand him, just observe him. All of which keeps everything perpetually on the surface.

The actors are all quite good at their impersonations: Tatum is lurching and damaged, and you feel for him as an inarticulate man daring to find a form of expression that makes sense to him; Ruffalo’s big-brother pal-ness feels lived in, his accent authentic; and Carell is sometimes so strange that it gives you gooseflesh. But their characters, like the pacing and tone of the film, never alter. Miller’s preoccupation with silences and stillness begins to feel like a cheat, a substitute for figuring out these characters and really providing insight. (The horrible events for which the entire incident is remembered occur in the final minutes of the film, with only a few post-script paragraphs to inform us of what eventually happened. Wikipedia is more informative.)

Foxcatcher has a distinct European air to it, not unlike Capote, but without the passion that European films usually find simmering beneath. It’s OK to be cold, but to make the audience care, there has to be a spark of humanity. This film never generates that kind of heat.

Two and half stars. Now playing.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gay-interest, Texas films score with Independent Spirit Award nominations

‘Love Is Strange’ nominees Alfred Molina, John Lithgow and Ira Sachs.

The Film Independent Spirit Award nominations came out today, and films with gay content or interest — and one biggie from Texas — figured prominently.

Among the gay-interest films were Love Is Strange, about a late-middle-aged gay couple transformed by their marriage. The film was nominated for best feature, leading male John Lithgow, supporting male Alfred Molina and the screenplay by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias. Gay African-American filmmaker Justin Simien was nominated for best first feature and best first screenplay for his race comedy Dear White People.

Julianne Moore was nominated for leading female for Still Alice, about a woman ravaged by Alzheimer’s, in the drama by gay filmmakers Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer. Foxcatcher, which opens in Dallas Wednesday (and which I review here in the morning), received the Special Distinction Award.

Among the other nominees are Austin-based director Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which scored noms for best feature, director, film editing, supporting female (Patricia Arquette) and supporting male (Ethan Hawke). Strangely overlooked? The title actor, Ellar Coltrane.

The excellent Birdman, with Michael Keaton as a movie star making a serious stage comeback, had the most nominations, for best feature, director, leading male (Keaton), supporting male (Edward Norton), supporting female (Emma Stone) and cinematography. It has some lesbian content as well.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: The Versace Sour

Image_20194bIn our Holiday Gift Guide this week, we include the dazzling designer bottle of Disaronno amaretto liqueur as a good item. But here’s a little follow through on it: How to turn the contents into a smashing drink, the Versace Sour. And what gay doesn’t like to be in Versace?

1 part Disaronno amaretto

2 parts biano vermouth

2 parts lime

Prosecco

Blue Curacao

Making it: In a shaker, mix the amaretto, vermouth and lime juice with crushed ice. Pour into a Versace highball glass and top with a splash of prosecco (or cava, or champagne) and a drizzle of blue curacao. For added drama, top with gold flakes.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Liquid Zoo set for soft opening Friday in former Drama Room space

ZooWe’ve had enough of your Drama! Yep, the Drama Room closed nearly two years ago, and the space has remained vacant … until now. New owner Nell Scarborough has taken over and rebranded the space as Liquid Zoo.

The new club will feature pool, darts, shuffleboard and karaoke every night, with Wayne Smith performing host duties on Wednesdays and Saturdays, plus Bingo Thursdays, Trivia Wednesdays, Open Mike Tuesdays and poker three nights a week. There will be a full kitchen in time for the official grand opening in January, but until then, enjoy a limited menu.

And enjoy it sooner than you might expect: Liquid Zoo goes live tomorrow evening (Friday, Nov. 21)  at 6 p.m. Head on by for free food, drink specials and giveaways.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gay entrepreneur pitches product on ‘Shark Tank,’ but we wrote about it first

Nick-TsengNick Tseng is justifiably excited about his upcoming appearance on ABC’s reality series Shark Tank: The Dallas-based engineer co-created the consumer product called the Kitchen Safe, and hopes to woo one of the millionaire investors to fund the product further. (Nick can’t say what happened on the already-recorded show, but you’ve gotta figure he wouldn’t be hosting a viewing party if it was a total disaster. But ya never know.)

But if while you’re watching the show (it airs Friday on WFAA at 8 p.m.) the Kitchen Safe seems familiar, well, that’s because you read about it here first. It was more than a year ago we profiled Nick in Dallas Voice, and so we’re very excited to see how far the product has come. (We tried it out; it was pretty cool.)

Will fellow Dallas Mark Cuban get behind the craving-crushing Kitchen Safe? Tune in the find out!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones