When it comes to dating (or hooking up), do you have a racial preference?

“The heart wants what it wants,” the saying goes, but even if that’s the case, does broadcasting a racial or ethnic preferences on a hookup app smack of honesty … or racism?

It’s a question many gay men have probably asked themselves in the age of Grindr, Scruff, Growlr, Jack’d and other such apps. “Not into Asian guys — sorry, just a preference” is probably familiar to some. Others are more coarse: “No blacks! No exceptions!”

This summer, the blog Angry Homosexual took up this cause with an experiment: The author (himself Asian) posted two profiles on Grindr with equally impressive stats and pictures. The only difference? One profile was for a white guy, one an Asian. And the author found that the white guy did a lot better in the dating market.

According to him, there’s a hierarchy that goes “white, Latino (honorary whites), Mixed, Asian, Black, Indian, etc.” I’m not sure where he gets all those stats, but I won’t dispute them here.

Anyone who knows me knows that I do not discriminate on race or ethnicity. I have been in relationships with white, Southeast Asian, Arab, black, mixed race and Latino men over my adult life. To me, hot is hot … and nice is nice, interesting is interesting, a good person is a good person. Am I attracted to men who “turn me on” more than those who have good qualities but I don’t find physically appealing? Sure, we all do. But race is never a factor for me.

I wonder if, once you start dating outside your own race, you have a sense for physical beauty that’s more expansive than if you never did. For instance: If you grew up idealizing blond hair and blue eyes, chances are black, Latin and Asian men don’t fit into that. But what if you dated a bald guy? Once you got beyond the color of the hair, and developed an attraction for a sleek head, would you start to think, “Hmmm… dark-skinned heads can be nice, too.”

The question I have about this, though, is: How do you feel about guys who express those preferences on their hookup profiles? If they aren’t attracted to one race, do you appreciate them being up-front about it so you don’t waste your time? Or is that assertion of one preference a breach of social decorum?

And maybe just as importantly: Does it matter what your race is? I mean, you rarely see “no white guys” on app profiles, so is being white the advantage the Angry Homosexual says it is? But I have seen black men saying “not into blacks” and Asians who do not wish to date other Asians. Is this better or worse?

And what about guys who only want a different race? Some men will ask, for instance, “You into black guys?” Is being into someone because of their race better or worse than not wanting someone for the same reason?

And how do you personally react when you see a same-sex interracial couple? Is it still a taboo?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Online hookup terminology decoded

I saw this on Twitter, and I think it will prove very helpful, especially for young guys just entering the gay scene and even older men who feel more comfortable with hanky codes than what’s meant in app-dating profiles. Here is some gay terminology, explained:

Bottom = bottom

Versatile bottom  = bottom

Versatile = bottom

Versatile top = bottom

Top = will top if necessary, but prefer to bottom

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Singer Matt Alber offers free music via Scruff app

To celebrate the release of his new album Constant Crows, singer Matt Alber is generously offering it up for free for Scruff fans. Well, the first 1,000 that sign up to receive the 10-track album. Just click on to the app and wait for the pop-up. He works his inner-Madonna by covering “Take a Bow.” You should see the boys loving that one with the comments on his Facebook page.

So start up your apps and hopefully you’re still within the 1,000 mark to get Constant Crows for free.

—  Rich Lopez

Photographer Blake Little talks more about his (very hot) photo book, ‘The Company of Men’

Tonight at Nuvo, photographer Blake Little will sign copies of his pictorial The Company of Men. The book includes photos of everyday men who you wish would show up on your Grindr and Scruff apps. Little talked to us a little more about how the book came to be, which we first wrote about here.

Interview with Little — and some more pictures — after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Grindr pays respects to Steve Jobs

No doubt you’ve been either part of the public grieving process for Apple founder Steve Jobs, or have suffered through it. In our little way, we’re going to add to that. Of course, we appreciate that Jobs’ innovation allows us to do our jobs here at Dallas Voice, but why would you want to hear from us when you can hear from Grindr?

The app for locating a nearby potential hookup and the iPhone were a match made in heaven for gay men and led to similar apps like Scruff, Growlr and ReCon.

Grindr just posted the following statement from founder Joel Simkhai:

—  Rich Lopez

In other R.E.M. news, see Michael Stipe naked

Thanks to Stereogum for pointing this out Wednesday, but coming off the heels of R.E.M.’s big announcement, we were also privy to singer Michael Stipe’s semi-big statement of his own. In a Tumblr post from earlier this summer (how are we so late to this?), Stipe reveals all in a series of photos mashed together as he dresses, undresses, whatever. Thankfully, Fleshbot took it upon themselves to slow the vid down to post the money shots of Stipe as he was in his full monty. And by the way, that link is SO NSFW.

But here’s a slight preview sans Stipe’s monster. Heck, this pic alone is ready for Grindr and Scruff.

—  Rich Lopez

Disc men

Matt Zarley tackles relationships while Adam Tyler delivers smart pop on new releases

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

……………………..

2.5 out of 5 stars
CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME
Matt Zarley
Independent

Matt Zarley may be all scruff and muscle, but he has a sweet delicacy to his voice that’s properly displayed on his newest album, Change Begins With Me. He’s the product of Broadway, but it would seem his sights are on the music charts.

Back in May, Zarley previewed his album with “WTF,” a whimsical dance track that pitted an earnestly lovestruck singer against the man who done him wrong. The song is borderline silly, if fun, though the accompanying video was painful to watch.

For the most part, the tone of Change is adult contemporary but by a refreshingly new, gay (and far hunkier) version of, say, Michael Bolton or Phil Collins. Well-polished songs beautifully showcase Zarley’s vocal talents, on songs like “Perfect“ and “Forgive Me (For Not Forgiving You)” which evidence a tenderness that makes it almost hard not to swoon along.

Dance tracks, though, don’t do him justice nor add much to the album. His sexy talk in “Trust Me” is unconvincing. As the fifth song, Change, marks a small decline in making a bigger impression. The previous ballads, and even the album opener “WTF,” are engaging enough, but from “Trust” on, the songs almost disappear.

‘CHANGE’ IS GONNA COME | Matt Zarley is a whole lotta hunk, but surprises with an insightful album about his past relationships.

“Apology” and “I’ll Always Remember” display sweet emotion, but with ordinary skill. This is a shame; the album is well paced before it downshifts at this point. The fault though, is in the music. Lyrics resonate strongly and are probably my new go-to when I can’t find the words to appease an angry or hurt boyfriend.

The title track suffers from cheese factor, but it is less a self-help tune than an admission of bad love-life decisions. Zarley holds himself accountable for mistakes he made as a gay man — I’m not sure I’ve heard that message recorded before.  Sure, “Change” swells into a clichéd climactic chorus, but it’s a fascinating juxtaposition from the lead song.

I’m not a big fan of remixes, but the two bonus tracks of “WTF” surpass the original. The beats are a helluva lot of fun to groove to. Instead of reworking the song into an unrecognizable version, the remixes amp up the rhythm and scale back on some of the gimmickry of the original.

With bumps along the way, Zarley provides a collection of songs that start him in a bad situation and result in a brighter tomorrow … so much so that it may beg for an immediate second listen with some songs making more sense.
………………………

3.5 out of 5 stars
SHATTERED ICE

Adam Tyler
Tiger Bay Records

Adam Tyler describes himself as a pop music geek and it shows on his debut release Shattered Ice. This is a good thing. He sidesteps a lot of easy traps to deliver 11 tracks of wow.
On first impression, Ice opens as any other dance album in the “dime a dozen” category, but quickly, the opening track, “Like a Drug,” moves into a techno-rock hybrid, hitting many correct notes. Tyler gives an onslaught of an opener that is held up by subsequent tracks.

The album leans more into electronica elements, but Tyler treats them with care, layering bass-lines and blippy flourishes into solid sounds. “Music Freak” could have easily been a pedestrian effort, but he saves it by not adding extraneous effects. Tyler has a gift for letting the song build itself rather than throwing everything against the wall to see what will stick.

Adam Tyler studies pop music enough to make some of his own with his debut album ‘Shattered Ice.’ With strong confidence, Tyler makes a stellar impression.

Tyler doesn’t have the vocal strength of Zarley, but he belts within reason and recalls some of the quality of Paul Lekakis. He has enough depth to go slower on the opening of “I Won’t Let You Go,” while offering a healthy set of lungs on the title track. There isn’t a lot of surprise in his vocal spectrum. This provides a particular comfort and even consistency, as his music should keep listeners on their toes.

The blemishes on this album are minimal and perhaps expected from a debut. “Forgive Me” is weak with middle school lyrics. “Touch” is a misguided track that begins with a keyboard track that sounds like a child trying to play ABBA’s “Lay All Your Love On Me.” Here, he makes the mistake of adding a little too much flair, and to a slower beat, it misses the bullseye.

The album recovers immediately with strong tracks like “Taking Back My Love” and “Let Me Breathe.”

Shattered Ice finishes with minimal versions of previous tracks that calm the robust energy down. “I Won’t Let You Go” on piano is a gorgeous ballad and “Forgive Me” fares far better as an acoustic tune than it did before in its electro incarnation. These add to Tyler’s versatility.

For a debut, Tyler seems to have set a goal and met it, which would explain the amount  of confidence in Ice. His songs don’t play as mere musical byproducts in search of superstardom. He has a true genuine sound that pulls you in and when it lets go, you almost wish it didn’t.
Thank goodness for the repeat button.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Ad campaigns we love: The Lawn Whisperer

Has anyone else noticed that the Lawn Whisperer is one hot bear? You know the guy. His face is on billboards and Facebook and sporadic commercials. The Lawn Whisperer looks like he stepped right out of the Scruff premium profiles or out of Bear magazine and into our hearts. I’m surprised the Dallas Bears haven’t latched onto him for public appearances.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it doesn’t seem too often that a spokesman/model/whatever on TV is rocking the facial hair as opposed to some five o’clock shadow to imply sexiness. Props to whoever put this campaign together. They may not have realized they’d be appealing to the gay community, but they got my attention, I can’t be the only one.

Or maybe they did know. You could say they straddled the line nicely with a non-threatening, outdoorsy guy for the non-gays and a cuddly, well-groomed brawn for the gays. Mostly the ones in Oak Cliff with superbly manicured yards.

I’m figuring with these heat and drought conditions, perhaps we’ll see those commercials more often. The campaign is part of the Save North Texas Water initiative by Dallas Water Utilities. This is the group who educates about saving water, cutting utility bills and also posting watering restrictions for lawns — which is where the Lawn Whisperer comes in to save the day.

According to “his” Facebook page, he can “talk to your lawn. Really, I can….You can have a beautiful, healthy lawn and still save water. When you really listen to your lawn, it can tell you when it needs water and when it doesn’t. Check out my videos to learn how to talk to your lawn, too.”

In this heat, we’ve just given up on our yard of dried-out grass. But we’ll never give up on the Lawn Whisperer! Let’s just hope he still talks to ‘em in the winter.

—  Rich Lopez

Granola cluster

IMG_0376

Hot men, a funky vibe, a thriving downtown scene and easy acess to the mountains add up to make Denver the Austin of the Rockies

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

“There are two seasons in Colorado,” asserts Cartman on South Park. “Winter and July.”

That’s not really true, anymore than the cliché that Dallas is always hot. (Remember three snowstorms this year?) In fact, it’s not all that unusual to see folks walking around in shorts or without winter coats, albeit in weather that would chill most Texans.
With summer on the horizon, the already highly livable Mile High City is ideal for warmth-seekers who want to enjoy the outdoors — or the many sophisticated options Denver offers.

Some cities are tweedy; some are silky or denimy or flannely or, God bless ’em, polyester’d; Denver is a hybrid of Gor-Tex and burlap — in the best possible way.

What is it about hilly college towns with capitols that breed a certain crunchy, alternative-lifestyle vibe? Dallas doesn’t have it, unless you count Deep Ellum, which you can’t (at least not since 1996). With its comfortable, old condos and warehouses, an easygoing pace, overcast skies and small-city atmosphere, Denver resembles a Rocky Mountain version of Austin or Seattle.

But there’s more to the appeal of Denver than just the environment. Colorado is the state with the fittest population in the Union, and many of the men here exude an unpretentious, earthy masculinity — one local woman told me the unofficial nickname of the city is “Menver.” Scruffy guys are common here, hot in a granola-hiker-outdoorsy way. (Grindr, though, is a lot more popular that Scruff; go figure.)

Maybe what attracts them to this city of 600,000 is the diversity of options, from fine dining to museums to history.

It’s easiest to stay downtown, where tons of options — from a performing arts center to an urban mall with moviehouse to a full-fledged convention center — provide a hub of activity. The Hyatt Regency, a skyscraper of a hotel with an upper floor bar overlooking the Rockies, an extensive in-house gym and refreshing spa (complete with expert massages), provides a comfortable, mainstream and centrally located hotel option. Clean, well-appointed and easy to spot, it fits the bill nicely.

Denver was founded in 1858, and has long remained the hub of culture and industry in the mountainous part of the western plains. Cowboy culture exists, of course, just like in Texas, but there’s an urbane sensibility as well.

Consider the Tattered Cover, a cavernous hardwood-and-exposed-beam-and-brick bookstore and café in a former warehouse on 16th Street in LoDo (Lower Downtown). While bookstores across America are closing, Tattered Cover is a destination for locals who line up for their scones and to read a paper. Then, you can stroll around the corner and visit Rockmount Ranch Wear. The storefront for the company that invented the sawtooth pocket design and snap short buttons is a friendly place where you can see a display of their most famous shirt: The one worn by Jake Gyllenhaal (and rescued by Heath Ledger) in Brokeback

IMG_0361
DESTINATION DOWNTOWN | Public art, thriving businesses and a free shuttle makes Denver accessible and packed with options. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Mountain. (It sold at auction for $101,000.)

Both are in the LoDo district, near the terminus of the 16th Street Mall. This mile-long plaza, designed by I.M. Pei, is served by a fast, convenient and free shuttle that makes getting from one part of town to the other a breeze. While in LoDo, visit the old Union Station, now undergoing a facelift but still operational. Across from the station, duck into the historic Oxford Hotel, a charming boutique property with an enchanting foyer (much refinished after years of disrepair following its stint as a brothel.)

In addition to accommodations, the Oxford offers food and drink worth your time. The Cruise Room Bar is a reproduction of the interior of the Queen Mary cruise ship, complete with art moderne accents and classic cocktails. Across the hall, McCormick’s prepares mouthwatering fresh-off-the-boat seafood. The clam chowder here is among the best I’ve tasted, and the crab and mango tower was heavenly.

In general, Denver is a great city to enjoy exquisite food, including seafood (unexpected for a landlocked state). I arrived during Restaurant Week, a nationwide event held in many cities throughout the year; but I have never encountered a town where diners take it so seriously.

ChoLon may be the hottest place in town, a spacious, Asian-inspired bistro from chef Lon Symensma that recalls New York’s Buddakan or Las Vegas’ Tao, both in décor and in clever twists on Vietnamese and other Asian dishes. A sesame rice cake the size of an hibiscus bloom, served with tomato chile jam, replaced the traditional bread basket, while the peanut and tamarind glaze on the lamb shank perfectly balanced its savory and sweetness.

Not far from LoDo is Larimer Square, a fashionable pocket of fine dining and high end shopping a la Highland Park (stop in at Goorin Brothers Hat Shop not just for the novelty of a hat shop, but for exquisite toppers). Local celebrichefs predominate here, including Jennifer Jasinski, chef/co-owner of Rioja, a Mediterranean restaurant of intimate charm and intense, flavorful dishes, like sturgeon with grilled artichoke and tomato tart mousse and sea scallops with a tower of potato and carrot medallions. For a quick drink, Corridor 44 is unique: A champagne bar serving flights of sparkling wine.

You can get drinks and more at the Corner Office Martini Bar and Restaurant inside the distinctly boutique-y Curtis Hotel. The food is a hodgepodge that includes yummy shishito peppers, excellent mac and cheese and delicious fish tacos, plus on Sundays a disco brunch that gives life to the campy retro character of place.

History buffs will enjoy exploring the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which currently has a massive exhibit called Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah, a slave ship that became a privateer. (The collection includes an authentic reproduction of the gally — complete with creaky floorboards and a rocking motion — as well as countless artifacts from gold coins to iron cannons to the ship’s bell, unearthed from a sandy grave after 300 years underwater.) Closer in town the Denver Art Museum houses an impressive collection of Western art as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

You can buy some of your own art from local artisans at the First Friday art walks in cultural neighborhoods across the city. The Santa Fe District boasts an eclectic array of galleries displaying everything from abstract paintings to handmade jewelry and sculpture to Warhol-esque, ultra modern art. North Denver’s Tennyson neighborhood features a different style of galleries, including bookstores, glass blowers and antique dealers. The Pattern Shop, a beautiful home and gallery in the RiNo (River North) area, is worth the trip.

Like most cities in North America, Denver celebrates its Gay Pride Week in June (PrideFest 2011 is June 18 and 19). The community in this region is sizeable, with the gayborhood in Denver concentrated on the opposite end of the mall from LoDo. It’s a refreshing walk off the shuttle to the Denver Wrangler, a neighborhood leather-and-Levis bar with pool tables and videos. On Sundays, the patio turns into brunch central, resembling a corral of beefy gay men penned for branding. Close by are JR’s Denver and Hamburger Mary’s, which are hubs of gay life here. You’ll have to take a car to get to one of the rougher clubs, Compound, but like most things in Denver, it’s worth the hike.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Boy wonder

HITTING THE GUSHER Local entrepreneur Colin Stuckenschneider goes old-school with his web-based dating site. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Not all young folks get their social media in app form, and Colin Stuckenschneider keeps gay chatting web-based with his site BoyGush

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Colin Stuckenschneider is the kind of guy we all get jealous of. Young and smart, like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Stuckenschneider recalls shades of the billionaire entrepreneur that most people will never be. At 22, he’s already sold two online gaming websites, but his latest venture is something else altogether.

“I was very young when I did them,” Stuckenschneider says, “and BoyGush is much more personal because it is a gay website and thus more related to me. I feel like I have more passion to manage this one.”

On March 5, BoyGush.com went live offering a different take on the current crop of smartphone apps — or rather, a nostalgic one. Where only people with high-tech gadgets could access the likes of Grindr and Scruff, Stuckenschneider saw a niche for people who like to surf from a laptop. Since those apps didn’t have an online equivalent, he created his own.

Where Scruff is geared toward bears and admirers worldwide and Grindr is across the spectrum but local, BoyGush targets (duh) a younger crowd. But while phone apps are the apparent wave of the future, Stuckenschneider is hoping to recall the days of chatting a la AOL or Gay.com, but knowing whether that guy is either 236 feet away or three miles.

“I’m really trying to keep away from the social network label,” he says. “You can just log on to chat with boys. It’s already growing a lot bigger though and it seems I’ll have to build up the social networking aspect to keep people’s interest.”

Like the phone apps, the name BoyGush seems to say everything it needs to and he assures that it was by complete accident.

“I wanted one that would grab attention and so I searched for hours on different names,” he says. “I came across word ‘gush’ and it wasn’t taken so I went with it. Nothing obvious came to mind then, but it sounds like a porn site. I guess that’s outta my control.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Words of advice, Stuckenschneider: Sex sells.

Nothing is set in stone for Stuckenschneider right now anyway. He went live but he’s already been making adjustments to the site per the feedback from his friends and site members. What he saw as the winning feature — the chat — was off in the beginning. That drove people away, but after some major revamping, he’s fixed the issue and is in the process of adding new features.

“I’ve been correcting the site since it first opened. I have a long to-do list I’m looking at,” he says.

So far, in addition to taking suggestions from his 400-plus members, he’s been working on a picture rating system, notifications and comments, comprehensible user searches, an easier way to organize profiles and ultimately creating an app version.

This is old hat for the tech expert. At 12, Stuckenschneider found himself fascinated by video games. He wasn’t as interested in a high score so much as how the game was constructed. He read up on programming and began creating his own games.  A virtual dog-sitting game was his first and at 15, he sold it for a grand, but not without making some impressive scratch thanks to a $20 upgrade people bought in to.  He partnered with a friend for the second game based in a fantasy realm.  Soon after, the partner bought him out of it for $2,000. Stuckenschneider was 16.

“I guess that’s a good amount of money for that age,” he laughs.

After graduating from high school, Stuckenschneider had just two goals: “I’ve always had a passion to have my own site and manage that,” he says. “My other goal is that I want to work for Google.”

One down, one to go.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2011.

—  John Wright