Greatest Gay Albums

I intended to post this a loooong time ago but while writing it my computer crashed and I didn’t realize that the new version of WordPress saved drafts! While mucking around I found it again so here it is…

Out.com has a list of The 100 Greatest, Gayest Albums (of All Time). Depite being gay and having a lot of great (I think) music, I don’t have many of these albums… (not that I’m surprised).

Since you care, I have:
08. Madonna, The Immaculate Collection, 1990
26. Scissor Sisters, Scissor Sisters, 2004
31. Sarah McLachlan, Fumbling Towards Ecstacy, 1993
36. Madonna, Erotica, 1992
37. Blondie, Parallel Lines, 1978
45. Bikini Kill, Pussy Whipped, 1993 (well, I used to have this in high school…)
46. Madonna, Ray of Light, 1998
49 .Patti Smith, Horses, 1975
54. Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes, 1992
58. Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville, 1993
61. Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out, 1997
63. Björk, Debut, 1993
65. Le Tigre, Le Tigre, 1999
66. Soft Cell, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, 1981
68. Nirvana, Nevermind, 1991
77. New Order, Substance, 1987
81. Scissor Sisters, Ta-Dah, 2006
87. Madonna, Confessions on a Dance Floor, 2005

I’m not sure how much I agree with this list… it misses a lot of electronic and dance music, if you ask me. For example, I would also add some Depeche Mode, maybe the recent Hercules and Love Affair album, French gay-sounding house music like Bob Sinclar or David Guetta. But I guess the list goes for gay-themed music, not necessarily “music gays would dance to.”

The biggest exclusion, if you ask me, is Missy Elliott’s Miss E… So Addictive. Ever since I first heard it I immediately thought it was her attempt at reaching out to gays. The album is all about clubs and dancing and sex and drugs. Totally gay, if you ask me.

Nov. 15th’s “Gay” SNL

Paul Rudd and Andy Samberg on SNL
I’m glad to see a few places (Defamer via The Stranger) noting how “gay” last week’s Saturday Night Live was.

And by “gay” I don’t mean the great, awesome, queer-type way.

There were four gay-themed sketches:

  1. A family where everyone kisses each other — and at the end two of the guy cast members had an open-mouthed kiss with lots of tongue
  2. Paul Rudd and Andy Samberg doing the “Everyone’s A Critic” digital short that included them being naked and painting nude portraits of each other
  3. Snagglepuss denying he was gay during “Weekend Update” (and if you don’t know who Snagglepuss [like me], checkout the Snagglepuss wiki entry…)
  4. Two closeted gay guys making a lot of jokes with gay sexual inudendo

It’s not that I have a problem with gay-themed jokes. Last season Shia LaBeouf did some funny Macgruber sketches with gay undertones and I loved them.

The problem with last saturday’s episode was that they seemed to be using the fact that the discomfort caused by the gayness as the punchline for the joke. It was people doing gay things but not actually being gay. And since the skits were evoking humor, it wasn’t like “oh look, straight guys can do these things without being gay” it was “when straight guys do these things they are funny [because they seem gay].”

For what it’s worth, I’ve really been enjoying Saturday Night Live lately. I think Kristen Wiig is hilarious.

I hate to say this, since I know so many gays who love him, but I think the problem was Paul Rudd. He seemed to bring some juvenile male sense of humor to the show and that’s what caused all these unfortunate gay-themed skits.

The Final Cylon? A Gay Cylon?

io9 has a (part 1?) feature about who the final cylon on Battlestar Galactica is. I honestly have no idea who I want it to be. I’m worried that I’ve been waiting to find out for so long that no matter who the final cylon is, I won’t be satisfied… I’m also worried that it will be someone so minor/out-of-nowhere that it’s like, eh, really? I’m also worried that once we find out who the final cylon is, I won’t care as much about what happens from there on after.

In other cylon news, io9 also has a spoiler about the fact that Gaeta is indeed gay!!

I was sort of hoping that Gaeta would be a cylon (and I read somewhere that he almost was — but they ended up going with Anders instead…).

Oh January cannot come soon enough!!

Gay in Iran

After all the discussion about being gay in Iran following Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comment about there being no gay people in Iran, I found this Newsweek interview with a gay Iranian (who left Iran for the U.S.) interesting and thought it was worth sharing.

One part of the interview especially struck me. The man says:

It’s not easy for everybody to get out of that situation. Especially right now, it’s very difficult for Iranians to leave Iran: they cannot get visas to different countries. They just have to deal with the situation, lead a secret life and tell lies all the time …

I never realized that the U.S. war on terror and all sorts of diplomatic restrictions (denying visas, travel, etc.) against certain countries are making it even more difficult for people in these (often Islamic and religious and extremely conservative) countries — not only economically, but also when it comes to progressive social change.

I’m not sure what the ideal situation is, but the specific case of gay people desiring to leave their super-religious conservative countries never occured to me.

Yossi & Jagger

Yossi and JaggerI tend to dislike films that fall into the “Gay and Lesbian” genre. They are usually either really unrealistic a la (straight) romantic comedies or overly dramatic or too simple and straightforward (thus not really investigating deeper themes that “straight” movies might delve into [and I think part of this is because the “Gay and Lesbian” film genre is only 20 years old]) or just “too gay” (which I hate to even say since I get annoyed with gay people who complain about “gay culture” being too flamboyant or sexual or whatever [and I therefore see “too gay” as a combination of self-hate and stereotyping]), but the Israeli film Yossi & Jagger is one of those rare gay films that transcend that “Gay and Lesbian” genre.

The film (which is apparently based on a true story) mostly follows two soldiers in the Israeli army. The fact I say “mostly follows” is perhaps the first indicator that this is more than just a “Gay and Lesbian” movie. While Yossi and Jagger’s love story (which has already been established so this isn’t one of those “finding the right one” movies, either) is the dominant narrative of the film, it also captures the isolation of a military posted somewhere on the outskirts of civilization (in this case the Lebanon/Israel border) as well as the other strange relationships (thus showing that Yossi and Jagger’s situation is just one of many slightly less-than-fully-functional/ideal interpersonal relationships) that develop in small, isolated communities.

Example 1: Some woman in the army is basically something of a pleasure woman for the colonel who comes to visit the outpost on occasion. Example 2: Yaeli, who has a crush on Jagger despite the fairly obvious fact he’s gay and/or with Yossi, who one of the other soldiers in turn has a crush on and mistakes an interaction between Yaeli and Jagger to be some budding relationship.

In addition to relationships, the film also touches on the nature of military life (close quarters, no access to movies, fighting for something you don’t fully understand/agree with, crappy food, etc.) including gayness in the military. At one point some soldiers are making jokes about “faggots in Tel Aviv” and then Jagger asks them how they’d react if he told them he was a faggot. They said something like, “Well you are pretty so we’d all be after you” and everyone laughed. (So basically, gay soldiers aren’t as much a problem for the actual people on the ground but more of a problem for civilians on the outside.)

If you don’t want the outcome of the movie spoiled, stop reading here… because my favorite scene was actually the final one.

After an ambush that goes horribly wrong (the area was laced with mines/explosives it seems) Jagger is killed. Yossi finally tells Jagger that he loves him and even shows his affection for Jagger in front of other soldiers/officers.

When the group of soldiers goes to visit Jagger’s family to pay their respects, Yaeli basically tells Jagger’s mother that she loved Jagger and she tried to tell him the day he died that she had feelings for him but didn’t get a chance and that she knew that Jagger felt the same way. The camera kept cutting over to Yossi who can really do nothing as Yaeli basically hijacks Jagger’s memory with her own unrequited love story. I found this especially fascinating because I’ve noticed that when people die, everyone seems to want to project some part of themselves onto the memory of the person and sort of replaces that person’s existence (which I guess is over since they are dead) with all of these co-opted memories.

Finally Jagger’s mom makes some comment about how she didn’t know her son at all: she didn’t know he had a girlfriend, she doesn’t know his favorite movie, and she doesn’t know his favorite song. Throughout the film Jagger is constantly making up funny lyrics to this song by some Israeli singer named Rita (who seems to be something of an Israeli gay icon a la Madonna for American gays). Yossi is able to tell Jagger’s mom what her son’s favorite song is, thus reclaiming his own part of Jagger’s memory.

Privilege Not To Think Twice

The thing about being privileged (be it by being white, straight, male, etc.) is that if someone ever calls you a name or treats you what you perceive to be unfair or differently, you never have to think twice about whether it’s because you’re somehow “different” than most people.

This morning on The Commentators, they were talking about an incident in Portland in which two 14-year-old lesbians were kicked off a public bus for kissing/making out.

According to the girls (it sounds like the transit system hasn’t released audio/video of the situation yet), after making out the bus driver called them “sickos” and that after one of the girls went to hug her upset friend, the bus driver kicked them off.

John Carlson kept insisting that the girls were making out to taunt the passengers and drivers and that the driver ultimately kicked them off because public displays of affection make people uncomfortable, and that it had nothing to do with the fact the girls were lesbians.

Okay, fine, that very well might be the case, but to those girls, I’m certain that they assumed they were kicked off for being lesbians.

When you are straight and something like this happens, you never have to think, “Wow, does the bus driver somehow hate me or have a prejudice against me because I’m straight?” I think the fact you never have to worry about that stuff is one of the most prevalent ways that white/straight/male/etc. privilege exists.

Also, on a somewhat related pet peeve of mine, I hate it when straight people say that they don’t mind gay people “as long as they don’t flaunt it” (by holding hands, kissing in public, etc.). They try to disguise it as “public displays of affection make me uncomfortable” but I highly doubt they’d complain about straight people making out in public, too. You can ask my friends: As a joke, when I see straight people holding hands, kissing, etc. in public I often say, “Ugh, don’t you hate it when straight people flaunt their sexuality?”

Again, when you’re straight you don’t even have to think twice…

A Desperate Prediction

Bree and Justin (and Andrew)
Even though I read stuff like SpoilerFix and this hasn’t showed up, I’m predicting that on Desperate Housewives when it comes down to the Bree vs. Andrew storyline (for those not familiar or caught-up with the show, Bree’s son Andrew is trying to become emancipated because she’s conservative and somewhat homophobic), Andrew’s boyfriend Justin (who determined he was gay after he madeout with Gabrielle Soleiz and didn’t feel a thing for her) is going to come to Bree’s defense.

Why would Justin want to date someone as evil and scheming as Andrew? Sure, Bree hasn’t been the best mother to him, but Andrew is getting downright evil now. In Sunday’s episode he told Bree that if she didn’t let him go, he would accuse her of sexually molesting him as a child. Yes, Andrew may be hot, but that wears off after a while. You can tell in the scene after Andrew threatens Bree when Justin turns around, his sympathies are with Bree, not his boyfriend.

So I am predicting that whenever this storyline resolves itself, that Justin will somehow intervene and testify against Andrew on Bree’s behalf or something like that. The gays are good people (despite what Andrew may lead people to believe), and I think in the end Justin will come through.

How To Stop The Avian Flu

Chicken being de-beaked
There has been a lot of news lately about the avian flu — scientists have recreated the strain of virus that caused the 1918 “Spanish” flu, Bush has called for production of new vaccine, experts are saying that nobody anywhere in the world is prepared for the flu, a man in Indonesia died from a strain, etc. etc.

I’m very skeptical of the whole thing. Every winter now for the past few years there has been some medical crisis that failed to materialize in any serious way: SARS, “bird flu,” contaminated flu vaccines, etc. None of them turned out to be as serious as “experts” told us.

(That is not to say that nobody has died or that I don’t think these are legitimate medical concerns. What really bothers me is the way the media and American public, in general, gets all worked up about these things. SARS and avian flu are a legitimate concern for Asia, yes, but in the U.S. I really think people need to stop freaking out.)

And now, again, as winter approaches the avian flu (the “politically correct,” it seems, name for the “bird flu”) is starting to freak people out again.

I’m not a biologist or anything, but first I just want to set one thing straight: The flu virus that everyone is afraid of doesn’t even exist yet. Right now, the avian flu that has killed people is just that — an avian flu. That is, a flu virus that affects birds. It has “jumped” to some humans, but even after jumping, the flu that has killed is still the avian flu. It has not mutated into a form that is transmissible from human to human.

Yes, if that happens it will be very bad because humans do not have the antibodies to fight a virus that originated in humans. The avian flu is unlike the common flu viruses that affect humans so we have no immunity against it.

So basically, while the media is hyping up the avian flu, keep in mind that what everyone is worrying about is something that doesn’t even exist yet. And it may never exist. I mean, lots of animals have different flu strains and I am sure there are random cases where those strains are passed onto humans but for the most part, those viruses haven’t mutated so that they can pass from human-to-human. From what I understand, we’re worried about the avian flu because it is especially deadly, not because it is especially prone to mutation (like the HIV virus).

That said, if people around the world are really as serious as they seem to be about stopping the avian flu before it becomes a major concern, it seems to me that the best thing to do would be to stop eating poultry.

And yes, I know that people don’t catch the avian flu from eating meat from birds with the flu.

These chickens are getting sick because they are kept in extremely close quarters with other chickens, which means it is much easier for the avian flu to spread. Plus, the conditions that these chickens live in are extremely unsanitary. Plus the chickens are constantly pecking at each other causing lots of wounds and bleeding (that is, if they haven’t been de-beaked). I’m more familiar with the situation of factory farm chickens in the United States, but I can only assume that situations are the same, if not worse, in Southeast Asia where the avian flu has broken out.

Remember that the influenza pandemic of 1918 was very likely made worse due to close quarters during World War I and the general malnourishment of people around the world due to various side effects of the war. Chickens are in a similar position now.

So if leaders around the world were truly concerned about a global outbreak and honestly wanted to do everything in their power to prevent it, perhaps they would suggest that we instate a moratorium on eating poultry until scientists have a chance to get a better understanding of the virus and/or the avian flu epidemic among the birds subsides.

It’s the same thing with Mad Cow disease. If people really wanted to stop it, they would stop eating meat.

Now I know that this comes down to personal choices and freedom and all of that, which I totally understand. What I dislike is that people say they want something to stop and they say they are afraid of it, but then they do nothing to stop it.

When HIV/AIDS became a very serious threat to the (especially) gay community in the late-1980s/early-1990s, for the most part, gay men took the threat seriously and made sacrifices of please (arguably) to practice safer sex. They may have enjoyed not using condoms, but make a conscious decision that the sacrifice was worth it. And for a while HIV infections plummeted. (The recent rise may debunk this argument, but that’s another topic…)

But I’m guessing that when it comes to stopping to eat meat, people aren’t that serious about stopping diseases directly related to those choices and that all this talk of “nipping it in the bud” is just empty rhetoric to make people feel better while at the same time keeping them at bay in fear.

Really, and this gets into a larger, broader discussion that perhaps I will open up later, this current “culture of fear” in which we are inundated with threat (terrorism, spyware, avian flu, gas prices, etc.) has no purpose other than to scare people. Rarely is insightful, helpful information provided by the government and/or media, and even less so are people actually called to action to change their lives in order to truly prevent the threat that we are so afraid of. I’m not sure (or, maybe I am?) what’s going on here, but it seems very disingenuine and manipulative.

Gender Studies 101

Strangely enough, two of my daily reads, Salon.com and Slate, featured some “gender studies”-related articles yesterday. Reading them really made me miss college (which isn’t to difficult for me) and reminded me why I really should’ve been a women’s studies minor (which, it appears, my school has renamed to “gender studies”… there was a discussion we had during my senior year and it sorta of bothers me that it was renamed and may require a blog post in the future).

The Salon.com article, “Attack of the listless lads” is an interview with Benjamin Kunkel, who recently wrote a book called Indecision. Surprisingly, the interview was less about Kunkel’s book and more about Rebecca Traister’s (the writer of the story) desire to find out “what’s wrong with young American men” (and no, I do not take offense to that question).

Kunkel made some terribly fascinating points:

He suggests that dating around with the thought that it should lead to marriage (and doesn’t more than it does), has perhaps got men stuck in a vicious circle:

The idea is that dating should lead toward mating, and spread out before us is this array of choices that should lead toward a choice you can feel secure in. But I think the opposite happens. You become familiar with disposable relationships. So though they seem to be conducting you toward permanence and mating, in fact they’re just inculcating a habit of serial monogamy.

He also suggests that because women have made such gains in the workplace, that men feel inadequate and “unworthy” of dating the due to the “super-abundance of attractive, intelligent young women”:

I think men inherit — if from nowhere else than from the movies — the impression that in order to win the respect and love of a woman, you ought to be doing something meaningful in the world. And if you can’t hold your head up high in that sense, then why ask somebody to love you?

What I thought was the most interesting point he made had to do with consumer culture and the desire to always have something better. Instead of viewing love as a destiny, nowadays love is seen as a goal — a goal that can always be tossed aside once it has been achieved.

Kunkel explains:

Partly, a model of shopping has overtaken our experience of romance. Love, historically, has been associated with a sensation of destiny. It’s very difficult for us to attain a sensation of destiny where love is concerned anymore, because we think we can always look for something better, which is essentially a shopper’s mentality. There’s no destiny when it comes to buying pants or shirts or a dress. There’ll be the nicest thing you can afford this season. But then a new season will [bring] more attractive styles and you’ll actually be able to afford something better. I think that tremendous passion that we feel other generations had and that we missed was attached to a sense of destiny, and of permanent love that would survive changes in station and opportunity and fortune.

There is a bunch of other interesting cultural criticism in the piece dealing with things like bureaucracy, the “crisis of masculinity,” and “some mild sort of institutionalized promiscuity.” I’m not sure the interview makes me want to read Indecision, but it does sound like this guy has done a lot of thinking and has a fresh view on the male side of gender studies.

As for the Slate piece, what’s going on there is one of their Book Club discussions about Pornified and Female Chauvinist Pigs. (Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families by Pamela Paul and Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy.)

Discussing the book are Wendy Shalit of ModestyZone.net, Meghan O’Rourke of Slate, and one of my favorite authors/cultural critics, Laura Kipnis (who wrote the amazing Against Love: A Polemic. Kipnis also wrote Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America, which I read parts of for my Advanced Media Studies class, so I feel confident in saying that she knows her porn! Also, she’s somewhat of a Freudian Marxist — two of, I think, the most impactful thinkers on the 20th century.

(Note: The second day of the book club discussion has already been posted, but I haven’t read that yet, so this will just highlight parts from day one.)

Kipnis, of course, makes the points that I agree with the most.

In her brief introduction/synopsis of Pornified, she makes this extremely witty remark:

… she’s utterly blinkered about the rest of society, or history, or politics; it’s as if sexuality occupied some autonomous world of its own. (Like a porn set.)

I just love that she compares the “world of its own” vacuum of Pornified with the porn sets that, undoubtedly, Paul criticizes. So smart!

I also like how Kipnis immediately kills the suggestion that porn has caused men to treat women badly. She notes that well before porn men were pigs. Kipnis dares Paul:

So, when exactly was the golden age of relationship bliss that Paul thinks porn has torn asunder?

She also channels some Foucault by suggesting that the more we rally against porn and sex, the more prevalent we make it in society:

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the two [mainstreaming of porn and abstinence-only sex education] aren’t exactly unrelated: They’re both products of a culture that’s deeply conflicted and hypocritical about sex… What comprises the majority of Web sites, aside from porn? Religion and shopping. A seething cultural compost of sexual prohibition and compulsive consumption… Public virtue and private lechery are also long-standing features of American sexual culture… We’re a culture that hates and fears sex, but can’t get enough of it.

Another assertion that Paul makes that Kipnis totally blasts is Paul’s suggestion that pornography is ruining men’s ability to have relationships with their girlfriends. Apparently Paul interviewed a number of men with girlfriends who claimed that, if they had to choose, they would take porn. This reminded me of some documentary/20/20-like show we watched during my media studies course in which a bunch of men sat around comparing stories about how porn ruined their lives. Please. They ruined their own lives, and if porn wasn’t the “poison,” I’m sure something else would have been. Similarly, Kipnis asks:

Yet Paul seems convinced that minus porn, somehow these guys would be fulfilling all the intimacy needs of their partners. Sorry, but who’s the compulsive fantasist?

Shalit makes some interesting points about the potentially self-destructive and self-hating nature of the “female chauvinists” (of Girls Gone Wild, etc.). She compares these women’s behavior with that of immature, sexually-driven, young men:

True, there have always been men who objectified women, but society also encouraged them to grow up at some point. But today, even grown women are taking their cues from the most immature males.

When she re-tells some of Paul’s stories of husbands who ignore their children while watching porn and a 21-year-old who wants to dump his 16-year-old girlfriend because she won’t get as kinky as he wants, I just cannot see how this is porn’s fault — yes, porn may make the problem more visible, but there is obviously something else wrong with these guys. To reiterate the point earlier, if porn didn’t exist, the dad would still be a bad father and the 21-year-old would still be objectifying his jailbait girlfriend.

Shalit seems to agree with this, and reiterates what Kipnis notes earlier:

As porn consumers become increasingly desensitized to viewing sex online, Paul shows how their tastes turn to the odd, the young, and the violent… I read Paul as saying that the availability and intensity of Internet porn is what’s new, and that because porn desensitizes us, we’d better wake up and pay attention… Is she implying that without porn, these men would be perfect partners?

But then Shalit falls prey to Paul’s horror stories and suggests that porn is indeed the problem:

I thought she was saying something far more reasonable: that if men weren’t learning about sex from pornography at age 8, or 10, or 13, then at least they’d have more of a chance to forge real intimacy with women.

… Yes, if it weren’t for porn, these poor men who were exposed to porn at an early age might have a fighting chance to forge real intimacy. Yes, these poor men who just need a chance! (Ugh!!)

Without reading Paul’s book, I shouldn’t comment, but it sounds like she is definitely trying to scare people into hating porn, and obviously it works. Shalit even admits:

At any rate, I found Paul’s stories quite shocking.

Nonetheless, I did find this statement by Shalit to be frightening and potentially true:

It’s like some big cosmic joke: The people who are supposed to be “sex positive” and enjoying their cultural freedoms are actually lonely and having terrible sex, whereas studies have shown that religious marrieds are the ones enjoying themselves the most. What’s happened? Perhaps without emotions involved, sex becomes boring.

I do see this happening — but again, I don’t see porn or being “sex positive” as the problem. I agree with Kipnis that it has more to do with hypocritical attitudes toward sex and the feelings of shame, excitement, perversity, etc. that they cause.

O’Rourke enters the debate as a moderator, or so it seems. She immediately (and rightly, I think), points out:

What I was struck by in each was how difficult it was for the authors—for all of us—to get past their (or our) own assumptions about porn and sex… There are murky issues just beneath the surface of each book. Yet those of us reading them quickly split along ideological (or gender) lines.

She also makes a rather bold suggestion that when it comes to the porn debate, perhaps women are the ones trying to force unrealistic fantasies on men. She asks:

Is men’s use of porn necessarily destructive, or is it simply women’s relationship expectations that make it seem destructive? Reading Pornified, I sometimes thought the women were simply allowing an unrealistic dream of imaginative fidelity to shape their response to their partners.

Additionally, she plays the devil’s advocate (or maybe not?) and asks whether porn is really as bad and degrading as conventional wisdom suggests:

I’m merely questioning the conviction that pornography is inherently degrading. Likewise, what if women who flash their tits on Girls Gone Wild are enjoying themselves—if not all of them, then a select few? What then?

She also tries to find a middle ground between Kipnis’ social/consumerism as the root and Paul’s pornography as the root argument. O’Rourke notes that porn is becoming so much more prevalent and so much more intense, that it cannot be ignored, as Kipnis vaguely suggests:

Porn doesn’t exclusively produce the relationship woes and female insecurities she describes. But in its new form it presumably contributes to the ongoing shaping of how we see the world and affects the behavior of those who use it.

Between the Salon interview and the Slate discussion, there is a lot to digest here, and I think it’s interesting that there is overlap between the two. How are relationships between men and women changing? And even how is sexuality changing?

My major critique of both of the pieces is that they are extremely heteronormative. I know from Against Love that Kipnis’ argument encompasses all sexual orientations, but in the Slate piece it is very geared toward men/women relationships. Where do same-sex couples fit into this? And how is the consumption of porn different for lesbians and gay men?

Lots to think about. Makes us all wanna be gender studies majors, eh?