Jun 14, 2014

DH Lawrence and the Naked Cornish Farmer

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) was the darling of the grad English students when I was at Bloomington, maybe because he was more accessible than James Joyce or T.S. Elliot, but still Great Literature, and he wrote about sex.

A lot.

The heterosexual girls seemed to gravitate toward Lady Chatterley's Lover (1926), a Harlequin Romance with bad words.

The heterosexual boys liked Sons and Lovers (1913), about a boy who is in love with his mother.

No one ever mentioned Women in Love (1920), and I hadn't yet seen the 1969 movie starring Oliver Reed and Alan Bates (top photo).

Turns out it's about two sisters who become involved with a gay couple.  Actually they're all bisexual.  One of the men dies, and the other is told, "There can't be two kinds of love."

Aaron's Rod (1922) is about a flutist who leaves his wife and kids to go to Florence with his boyfriend and show his "rod" to men and women.

Lawrence was rather critical of heterosexual romance, Instead spinning wild fantasies of all-male Arcadias.

But he also created horribly homophobic characters, and criticized Walt Whitman for his gay subtexts in Studies in Classic American Literature. 

D.H. Lawrence had several same-sex relationships, notably with a farmer named William Henry Hocking, whom he apparently encountered naked on the beach in Cornwall.  He spent the rest of life searching for someone as perfect, just as Ernst Josephson spent his life searching for the "beautiful boy with a violin" he met in Norway.

But he also warned writer David Garnett against pursuing his "homosexual tendencies," and he hated the gay men he met in the Bloomsbury Group, such as Duncan Grant and John Maynard Keynes; they made him "mad with misery and hostility and rage."

Do you get the impression that this guy was a little nuts?

He tried his hand at painting, and exhibited 25 works at the Warren Gallery in London in 1929.  But they were mostly of nude Italian men with their penises flapping around, including his lover Piero Pini.

The police raided the gallery and seized 13 paintings. They were later returned, on the condition that Lawrence never again show them in England.   When his wife, Freda Lawrence, died in 1956, she willed them to her friend Saki, who willed them to Taos art collector George Sahd.  They're in Taos, New Mexico today.

Priest of Love (1982) stars gay actor Ian McKellen as D.H. Lawrence, Graham Faulkner in a five-second flashback as a nameless Cornish farmer, and Massimo Ranieri (left) as Piero Pini.  It displays his bisexuality in a couple of "you have to be looking for it" scenes.

Jun 12, 2014

Mark Trail: A Substandard Tarzan

This is not a parody beefcake cover; it's the real thing. Mark Trail Magazine, the Magazine of Adventure for Boys, gave Boys' Life some strong competition during the 1960s, with articles about rough-and-tumble activities like camping, horseback riding, shooting, skiing, and fishing.

And, apparently, building rafts in your underwear.

It was based on Jack Elrod's comic strip Mark Trail, started in 1946 and still syndicated in 175 newspapers.

Mark Trail was a sort of North American Tarzan, an adventurer more at home among redwood trees and grizzly bears than in the city.  He lived in Lost Forest National Forest, where he shot pictures for Woods and Wildlife Magazine (a take on Field and Stream).  His assignments got him into jams involving rampaging grizzly bears or (more often) villainous poachers, gun-runners, and...well, um poachers.

His comic strip was very popular during the 1950s and 1960s.  There was a radio series, a tv pilot starring Todd Armstrong (Jason and the Argonauts), and even a series of books, from Mark Trail's Book of Animals to Mark Trail's Cooking Tips.  

But Mark Trail was no Tarzan.
1. Darkest Africa offered much more interesting animals than the United States.  Lions, jaguars, 20-foot pythons, crocodiles vs. grizzly bears and...um...squirrels.

2. Darkest Africa had cannibals, leopard cults, and lost civilizations.  The United States had....um, poachers.

3. Outside of the MGM movies, Tarzan worked alone, or with a teenage sidekick.  Mark Trail had a girlfriend, Cherry Davis, and a series of flirtatious female photographers, damsels in distress, and villainesses to contend with.

4. Tarzan was loincloth clad and muscular.  For that matter, real naturalists tend to be quite muscular, like Stan Brock of Wild Kingdom.

But Mark Trail almost never took his shirt off, and when he did, he displayed a scrawny, unimpressive physique.

Artists have the choice of drawing muscular physiques or not.  Why wouldn't they?

See also: Top 10 Nature Show Hunks.

Jun 10, 2014

MyMusic: A Webseries with Nudity and Deliberate Gay Subtexts

Back when I was a kid, and great herds of dinosaurs thundered across the prairie, every night you turned a knob on a small box in the living room called a "TV."  After it warmed up, you could watch a weekly episode of a "program," a dramatized story with ongoing premises and characters.

All programs began in September and ended in May.

There were programs playing on three different channels, so you had to choose one.  

After the episode ended, it was gone forever, so you could never see it again.  If you happened to be away from the TV while the episode was playing, you missed it forever.

Today there are over 100 channels.
Programs begin and end randomly through the year.
You can tape the episodes you miss to watch later.
Or you can go online and watch them whenever you want, on your tv, computer, ipad, or smart phone.
Plus there are web tv series that have never been anywhere near a tv set.

Deciding what to watch, when to watch it, and what platform to watch it on is all rather exhausting.

So my head is still reeling from MyMusic, a youtube series which starts out as a mockumentary, pretending to follow the daily activities of an indy music studio.  The employees are named after their jobs or the style of music they represent:

1. Indie, the CEO (Adam Busch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
2. Metal, the Production Manager (Jarrett Sleeper)
3. Idol, the Social Media Expert (Grace Helbig)
4. Scene, the Scene Girl (Lainey Lipson)
5. Flowchart, the Gay Intern (Jack Douglas)
6. HipHop, the HipHop Fan (Mychal Thompson)

In the second season, they added Toby Turner (top photo) as Satan, Paul Butcher of Zoey 101 as Boomer Pookie (left), and several others.

The characters all have a strong social media presence, with accounts on facebook, twitter, linkedin, yelp, tumblr, instagram, and so on.

But that's not all: the 8-minute episodes are compiled into a 24-minute "Sitcom Version" and broadcast (um, I mean uploaded) separately.

And the cast comments on the Sitcom Versions on another webseries, Sitcommentary.

Plus they have a podcast, a tumblr series, and an audience-interactive series called The Mosh.

Fictional characters merge with real people, fictional situations merge into commentaries on real pop culture events, mockumentary becomes reality.

Personally, it gives me a headache.  But I'm willing to put up with it for the constant male nudity and deliberate gay subtexts.

TV series aimed at the younger generation tend to be vigorously homophobic, like Family Guy and everything on Adult Swim.

This one, not so much.

Jun 9, 2014

Ernst Josephson: A Water Sprite Disguised as a Boy

Ernst Josephson (1851-1906) was the "father of Swedish modernism," a painter who drew on folkloric and mythological themes and infused his work with private symbolism.

Sounds like a fertile place to find some gay subtexts.

Sure enough, at age 20, Ernst was taking a nature walk in Norway when he encountered a water sprite, or Näcke, disguised as a beautiful young man with a violin.  The sprite's music almost lured him to his death.

A water sprite?  Or maybe a real person who suggested an erotic encounter?

Ernst went home and painted the sprite -- actually, many different sprites over the years.  The image of the beautiful young man haunted him.

He was plagued by mental illness through his life.  In 1877 he transcribed his madness into David and Saul: the Biblical king is soothed by the sound of David's harp.  Ok, so this time the beautiful young man is a saviour, not a threat.

Ernst kept looking for his own beautiful young man.  Maybe he found one in the young art student Anders Zorn (1860-1920).  In 1879 they embarked on an artistic tour of Italy, Germany, France, and Spain.

Spanish Blacksmiths (1879) looks like a naturalistic depiction of two men in the style of Velazquez, naturalistic, but are they really Ernst and Zorn?  And who is the black-robed woman standing behind them, threatening their idyll?

Maybe it's heterosexual marriage: Zorn married in 1886, and could no longer keep Ernst calm.

He began to behave bizarrely: he claimed that he was God, and demanded a sacrifice, like Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac.  He was taken back to Sweden, where he spent the rest of his life under psychiatric supervision.

He produced many more paintings and drawings of nude men, some too risque to display here.

He suffered a devastating blow when his masterpiece, Strömkarlen (another water sprite disguised as a beautiful young man, top photo) was rejected by the National Museum as too risque (the water sprite's penis is visible).  But Prince Eugen, the Duke of Närke, saved the day by adding it to his personal collection.

Today it can still be seen in his home in Stockholm, Waldemarsudde, now a museum (a great place for beefcake aficionados, by the way).

There's a nude statue of Ernst Josephson in Stadhusparken, Stockholm, right next to the nude August Strindberg.

Wikipedia says that actor Erland Josephson is his grandson, but it's wrong.  Ernst never married and had no children.

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