Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Take that, CNN!

Flipping through hurricane coverage, I saw Fox automotron Shepard Smith tout his network's "fair and balanced" reportage of Katrina. None of that liberal, biased coverage of natural disasters we've had to endure in the past. Can't wait to watch their take on W's visit to the Bayou: "Braving floods, alligators and floating corpses, our heroic Commander-in-Chief lifted an entire region on his broad, athletic shoulders..."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Villainizing victims

So which vice is worse, homosexuality or gambling? If a hurricane had leveled San Francisco, wouldn't you expect the Falwells and Robertsons of the world to be crediting the hand of God with the disaster? God hates fags, you know.

Gamblers, I guess, are more of a gray area. (Just ask Ralph Reed). And Biloxi is in a blue state. Thanfully, I expect the good reverends to lay off the condemnation when it comes to the victims of Katrina.

No disrespect intentended to those who have suffered ... I just couldn't resist making a point. Godspeed to the Gulf!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Live free or die!

New Hampshire's motto also qualifies as the mantra of a good friend of mine, Miss Mattie Waters.

She's 100-years-old, and the only reason I disclose that is my knowledge Miss Mattie doesn't have access to the blogosphere. She's very discreet about outlasting a century (something I would boast about incessantly, were I to defy death that long). She still hears relatively well, communicates clearly and moves without the aid of a walker.

Until last Thursday, when Miss Mattie fell and broke her hip in the home where she lives, alone, with an old baseball bat providing her only protection. The woman's independence is an inspriation; I've received more than a few dirty looks from her whenever I've attempted to help guide her down some stairs or hold open a door.

While inspiring, it's also sad to see Miss Mattie fight off the nurses and orderlies in her hospital room. (Just yesterday she leveled a fierce backhand into the chest of the fey orderly attempting to hoist her into bed). Twice she's removed her IV, trying to get home. She's doing all she can to avoid verticality, sitting up whenever possible.

While it hasn't been discussed with her (Miss Mattie has no family, to speak of), I have little doubt she's aware of the options that likely await. At best, she'll probably require live-in assistance. At worst, she'll have to relocate to a nursing home.

Miss Mattie has lived in the same (rough) neighborhood (two blocks away from Turner Field in downtown Atlanta) for more than 80 years. She no doubt wants to die there. I pray she gets her wish, but not anytime soon: I've still got plenty to learn from this most formidable of spirits.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

WWJD, Part II? Buy a Bentley!

That's what Bishop Eddie Long of Atlanta did with the proceeds from a charity, aptly named for himself. Seemingly indisputable evidence lists Long as the primary recepient of the fund, obtaining at least $3.07 million during a four year period, nearly as much as was given to those in need, according to the AJC.

With the money, Long, a rising star among black religious conservatives and pastor of a 25,000 member megachurch in suburban Atlanta, purchased a $350,000 Bentley and a $1.4 million six-bedroom, nine-bath home, located on 20 acres of land. Of course he's done this in part through taxpayer charity, since, as a church, New Birth Missionary Baptist is tax-exempt. The government won't get a dime of the three million plus Long accrued.

I'm not a religious person, but I spent enough involuntary time in the Baptist church to be quite familiar with the Bible, in particular the teachings of Jesus. You know, that homeless guy so many Christians like to ignore (since his approach doesn't quite jibe with the condemnation and wrath the Falwells of the world prefer).

Wasn't it Jesus who said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God?" Yep, the very same guy who instructed his followers to "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." The very one who fashioned a whip to chase merchants from the temple: "My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a den of robbers."

Somehow, Long has a different take. "I would love to sit with you and walk with you through the Bible to show that Jesus wasn't poor," he told an AJC reporter. Those verses must be found in the book of Pastor Delusion.

Long is not alone in preaching this warped ideology that rationalizes the unbridled pursuit of prosperity. Here in Atlanta, I know of two megachurch ministers living in million dollar homes (presumably there's many more). The pastor of Atlanta's First Baptist Church used to tool around town in a brand new Mercedes, accompanied by bodyguards. And the children of Dr. Martin Luther King, sadly, have traded on the sacred name of their father in favor of commercial dollars (selling the "I Have a Dream" speech to the highest bidder).

And of course there's the televangelists, standing behind pulpits in crystal cathedrals and traveling to highly paid speaking gigs in private planes. You think Jesus would ever sit in coach?

Beyond the peverse betrayl of their faith, these religious "leaders" are also ripping off taxpayers. The government needs to investigate, but likely won't since this crooked cabal would, in all likelihood, counter with the "religious persecution" card. Their followers already seem to buy that lie, standing behind Long, according to the AJC article. And the bishop claims his congregation is inspired by seeing its pastor do well.

"I'm not going to apologize for anything ..." he says.

To quote Max Van Sydow's character in "Hannah and Her Sisters": "If Jesus saw what people were doing in his name, he'd never stop throwing up." Or maybe He's just sick from drinking one of Pat Robertson's diet shakes.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Quote of the day

This one should get you through the weekend:

"I'm a Spalding Gray in a Rick Dees world."
---Homer Simpson, natch.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My Jello Biafra moment

As the product of baby boomers, I was brought up in a culture where selling out was vice. Now it's expected, even celebrated. I used the phrase in front of my teen-age nephew one day and he looked at me like I was smoking angel dust.

Used to be that celebrities needing a commercial buck (to pay off those nagging paternity suits or escalating plastic surgery costs) went to Japan, so one here could accuse them of "selling out." (Woody Allen, I'm looking in your direction).

Now "musicians" like the human turnip Moby (sorry, I'm on Eminem's side in this feud, just like I favored Suge Knight over Puff Daddy ... no one's paying me to call him Diddy, so I'll go with the less contemporary moniker) brag about how much money they make selling their art (commerce?) to big business. Exposure over integrity! Funny, I thought that was the motto of the (Jessica and Ashlee) Simpson clan.

But what can you expect in a world where a minimally talented teenager has released a greatest hits CD? And it's number one on the charts. God save Hillary Duff!

The latest in sports cliche

Fellow malcontent Terrell Owens says it all the time. I heard Ray Lewis sing the same plaintive tune the other day. Turns out they're not playing for love of the game or anything quaint like that. Not that they're selfish ... they're just trying to "feed (their) kids."

Because, apparently, you can't feed your family on the $46 mil T.O. is scheduled to make over the next seven years. Unless his family is the state of Utah, I think he has enough for Spaghetti-O's, at least. I don't even know if the Atlanta resident has any kids; pardon the snarkiness, but he seems a bit fey to me: ("Hell no! I ain't ever gonna speak to that bitch Donovan McNabb again!) I'm not making any accustations, but I gotta wonder about a man who can't stop showing off his abs.

Please, will some sportswriter(caster) challenge these egomaniacs the next time they claim it's all about keeping the kids fed, a statement so silly as to be on par with "I didn't know there were steroids in that needle Mark McGwire stuck in my ass!"

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Have You Forgotten?

There's been way too much 70s nostalgia over the years. Yes, we all remember pet rocks. We know the words to "Afternoon Delight." We watched "Schoolhouse Rock."

But it seems everyone's forgotten Renee Richards. I'll never forget, because, as a 7-year-old, I got to watch the transgendered icon play in a tennis exhibition against Dutchess Betty Stove. Since I was only a "yute," I didn't really understand all the hype surrounding the match. I heard a lot about how Richards used to be a man. (And, to be honest, I'm still not entirely comfortable with this whole GLBT classification. Not that I wish any harm or prejudice to my transgendered brothers and sisters and brothers and sisters, but it still seems like an entirely different dilemma).

I don't hold any special torch for the former Richard Raskind; I just think it was fascinating to live in a time when women didn't want to play against women who used to be men (that was quite the controversy back when Richards joined the pro circuit. After his sexual reassignment surgery, Richards --- who would later become Martina Navratilova's coach --- competed successfully in several amateur tournaments en route to appearing in each of the Grand Slams, advancing, at age 44, to the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open in 1978). Now, men don't want to play against women who want to compete with men. Have we advanced? Hell if I know.

By the way, I had a hard time figuring out which one, Richards or Stove, used to be the man and which one was born a woman.

Weekend at L. Ron's

Ever wonder what Tom reads to Katie on one of their romantic getaways? You're in luck. And so was I, having a friend not shy about opening his neighbor's mail after it was accidentally deposited in his box. My friend's neighbor was a Scientologist, and what follows is insider gibberish, intended for L. Ron Hubbard disciples only:

Your Progress to OT (Arbitraries Cancelled!)
"The announcement of the Golden Age of Tech marked a watershed in our application of the tech. It placed into all our org Academies the ability to train perfect auditors at the speed necessary to actually create planetary clearing for real ...

Therefore, nothing is more important to us than YOU making it to OT. LRH's researchers and discoveries resulted in making the route through the lower levels and up to OT a rocket ride. If someone has told you it takes a long time, or you feel that way even if they haven't told you, let me indicate that is FALSE DATA."

Well I'm glad that's all cleared up. Really, now, how could Katie resist? Scientology may be nonsense, but it's still the best beard in Hollywood!

WWJD? Kill the bastard!

The world's most corrupt protein shake salesman (Pat's Diet Shake, "the most delicious, nutritious shake you will ever taste," according to the good Rev. Robertson, and we know his word is platinum) has a confusing dictator policy. While he advocates assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (somehow he misquoted himself), Pat Robertson had nothing but kind words for West African butcher Charles Taylor.

"We're undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country," he said on his 700 Club show about good pal Taylor, the deposed Liberian president. "And how dare the president of the United States say to the duly elected president of another country, 'You've got to step down.'" (Yet Robertson supported the removal of Saddam Hussein).

This wouldn't have anything to do with a lack of gold mines in Venezuela, would it? Washington Post religion reporter Alan Cooperman revealed in an article two years ago that Robertson --- who blamed the Liberian bloodbath on State Department opposition to Taylor --- had an $8 million agreement with the Baptist president to mine gold in his country. Operation Freedom Gold, he called it. Freedom for what, Robertson's debt?

Frankly, I wouldn't lose sleep if Chavez slept with the fishes. And why is this such a story? It's not like this is Robertson's first inane commentary. His post-Sept. 11 summit with Jerry Falwell (where they joined bin Laden in the belief that God was behind the terrorist attacks) should've permanently dismissed him as any kind of spokesman, Christian or otherwise.

What would Jesus do? Hold on, he's sipping a Pat's Diet Shake.

Self-indulgence gone mad!

One more reprinted post, just as an introduction, of sorts. Originally appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

More revenge for nerds: They're now trendsetters

Remember the Star Trek juror, the Arkansas woman who wore a Starfleet uniform during the Whitewater trial? Yes, we all had a good laugh at her expense. Little did we know that within five years she'd be among Hollywood's prized demographic. Without warning, a confederacy of geeks has taken over the popular culture.

"The Matrix." "X-Men." The latest chapter in the trolls and elves trilogy. This is cinema for the "Dungeons and Dragons" set. Who put the Society for Creative Anachronism (that group you may recall from college, jousting on the lawn in medieval garb shouting "zounds" at each other as they drank from faux goblets) in charge of programming?

Once we mocked nerds. It was tradition. Now we (filmgoers, the flock mentality media) follow their lead.

Check out the passion spouted by one local man in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution just before the opening of that hobbit movie: "There is a vague sense in my mind that this is the last time in my life I'm going to have this experience. Nothing else is going to generate this excitement."

I should've seen this coming. On my first day as a film schooler out West, we were asked which writer or director had inspired us most. I feared my response would be sneered at as pedestrian or, even worse, domestic!

But then I heard the name James Cameron. More than once. Same with George Lucas. No Ashbys or Wilders or Peckinpahs or Hustons.

Even now, having switched coasts a second time, I can't avoid the "other world" acolytes. An editor recently encouraged me to hook an article about police corruption to the struggle for the ring. When I displayed ignorance at his reference to Gollum, he gave me the kind of look once reserved for people who couldn't tell you the name of the vice president.

Such sentiments were formerly restricted to online chat rooms and sci-fi conventions, a few of which I covered (we had slow news days back then). I watched people nearly trample each other in their rush to fill an auditorium where Marc "The Beastmaster" Singer was set to muse. I observed adults bid thousands of dollars on an autographed copy of Leonard Nimoy's biography.

Little wonder I would always leave those events with unprecedented conviction that I was the coolest guy in the room.

Nerd mainstreaming was inevitable, I guess. It happened to rednecks (auto racing and wrestling have never been more popular). Are you really prepared for a pocket protector version of comic Jeff Foxworthy: You might be a dork if . . . ?

So the need for reaction is clear. It's time someone stood up against geek chic. Back to your parents' basement, I say.

As for everyone else, step back and reflect on the security of the schoolyard pecking order. Remember when the kid with the Star Trek Trapper Keeper was all that stood between you and the bottom social rung? Fight these otherworldly powers or, 10 years on, face the prospect of water cooler chatter about "Dungeons and Dragons 4: Back from the Maze."

Christian Boone is a writer living in Atlanta.

The Homophobic Homo

Below is a column I penned for the Los Angeles Times a few years back. It's still releveant, I think. As a preface, I was recently accused of pretending to be gay just so I could make fun of gay people (stemming, perhaps, from a favorite character of mine, Ronnie Sproles, aka Gay Redneck. Sample quote: "Nice pumps, bitch!"). When they try to take away our self-deprecating humor, that, my friends, is facism:

I'm Gay, Therefore I Must Love Show Tunes and Barbra (Yeah, Right)
It comes as no surprise that the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) gave awards to Showtime's "Queer as Folk" and NBC's "Will & Grace" for their "positive portrayals of gay and lesbian issues" (Morning Report, May 1). But for this gay malcontent, it's a tad disturbing, something akin to if the NAACP had handed out an Image Award back in the 1950s to "Amos 'n' Andy" for its contributions to African Americans.

I'm assuming the producers of "Queer as Folk" and "Will & Grace" would argue that their shows are not meant to reflect all of gay society. Fair enough. But, as "Amos 'n' Andy" was in its day, theirs are the only shows in town. And whereas African Americans justifiably expressed outrage toward the clownish, shuffling duo, the gay community has embraced its own stereotypes. Instead of fried chicken and watermelon, we have Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. After all, what gay man doesn't worship the two "divas"?

Maybe I'm missing something, but what exactly is so positive about these characters? Examine the "Queer as Folk" roster, stocked with, among others, a conceited materialist who beds an underage boy; a whiny, needy closet case; and your classic, stereotypical queen fond of quoting, you guessed it, Mrs. James Brolin. That last description could also be used for Jack on "Will & Grace." Correct that. He's fond of quoting Cher. Now that's diversity! Frankly, I think I'd have more in common with Tony Soprano.

In truth, the gay community has only itself to blame. Could it be we're suffering the consequences of elevating one too many lightweights to hero status, just because they're gay and famous? And where's the indignation over repeatedly trite media characterizations of homosexuals, as if it's a given that we're all theatrical and melodramatic, with a show tune in our hearts? Now there are some films that do not rely on the trite--movies such as "Beautiful Thing," "My Own Private Idaho" and "The Edge of Seventeen," which dare portray homosexuals as, gasp, three-dimensional characters. But for every aforementioned independent find, there seems to be 20 "In & Outs."

Perhaps my beef lies more with the fact that movies such as the latter actually do reflect our lives, featuring far too many shallow characters and predictable plot lines. The gay movement hasn't matured; it's grown stale. Pride marches have turned into shopworn cavalcades of been-there, done-that decadence.

While society as a whole has embraced the flock mentality, it seems even more concentrated among homosexuals. When's the last time you went into a gay club in West Stepford (er, Hollywood) and did not hear the familiar pulsing of techno/groove/ambient (whatever it's now called) sounds? And how many gay men bought Mazda Miatas when they first came out? As if the cars hit the road affixed with rainbow stickers on the bumper. Sadly, far too many of us seem content fulfilling the roles society and the media (including the gay media) expect: gossipy "girlfriends" who love to party and shop. We may be born homosexual, but we're not all born addicted to the E! network.

Before I'm branded as some kind of gay version of Ward Connerly, let me set the record straight. I'm glad to see more gays represented in movies and TV, both in front of and behind the camera. But is it quantity we're concerned with, or quality? Here's wishing the millennium brings us a few more Tennessee Williamses and a few less Kevin Williamsons. I hope a new wave is in the offing--one that recognizes an anachronism when it sees it. Remember, we're here, we're queer--and we're not all caricatures.

Christian Boone attended USC's graduate screenwriting program, and his writings have appeared in The Times, US Weekly and the Advocate. He lived in Hollywood.