Dec 30, 2018

You: What's Worse, a Predatory Lesbian or a Hetero Stalker?

I don't usually watch romance movies, and I didn't even know that romance tv shows were a thing, but when you're visiting relatives, you watch what they watch, and what they watched was You.

A tv series with a title that makes internet searches extremely difficult.

It's a bland anxiety-stalker romance with not enough twists to keep your interested past the first episode.  Unless your relatives insist.

Manhattan used-bookstore manager Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley, who I originally confused with comedian/atheism activist Penn Gillette) falls in love at first sight with customer Beck (Elizabeth Lail), a creative writing student. Through a combination of traditional stalking and social media mining, he manages to arrange some meet-cutes and tries to push his way into becoming her boyfriend.

Beck has some problems: she's insecure about her writing, a gold-digger, and a sex addict with a penchant for authority figures.  And that's just obvious: there are dark secrets in her past.  But nobody's perfect.

Of course, there are obstacles on the way to True Love.  Joe kidnaps, and eventually kills, Beck's ex-boyfriend Benji (Lou Taylor Pucci, left), manhandles her harassing academic advisor (Reg Rogers) and the therapist she's having an affair with (John Stamos).

Rich friend Peach (Shay Mitchell), a predatory lesbian with designs on Beck, is the worst threat, suspecting Joe from the beginning.  So Joe kills her, too, both to keep his secret safe and to keep Beck out of her clutches.

Meanwhile he befriends Paco, the kid next door who is living with a druggie mom and her abusive boyfriend (Daniel Cosgrove, left).  See, he's not such a bad guy.  Besides, he has a dark back story of his own.

I expected more plot twists to maintain audience interest.  I expected Beck to turn the tables and be a stalker-murderer of her own, like on the episode of Amazing Stories where a serial killer discovers that his intended victim is another serial killer who's been targeting him!

But nothing that clever.  I only saw 4 episodes before leaving Indianapolis, but back home I watched Episode 8, and it's still still "Oh, gee, that guy's a threat, I think I'll kill him, and then go buddy-bond with Paco."

Gay characters: A predatory lesbian, but otherwise this is a gay-free Manhattan.  I expected more from Greg Berlanti, who is gay in real life.

Beefcake: A lot of chests and butts of the guys Beck screws.  A lot of hunky cops, bookstore patrons, party guests, and bohemians. And don't forget the cheery, lacking-in-dark-secrets Ethan (Zach Cherry).  Frankly, I'd rather date him than any of jerks-with-muscles on the show.

Dec 28, 2018

"God Friended Me": God Friends Gay People, Too

TV dramas often sent the protagonist out on the road, to encounter new people in different settings every episode.  It provides for more plot possibilities than the "what else can we have happen at that radio station?" of situation-bound dramas. and famous guest stars can draw in the viewers. 

Sometimes the wandering busybody is an angel, or sent by God in some way.  I tend to avoid those shows, as they tend to be treacly "learn to live every moment!" nonsense. 

God Friended Me gives the heavenly helper a twist.  Miles (Brandon Micheal Hall), who runs a popular atheism podcast, gets a Facebook friend request from "God."  Obviously not the Creator of the Universe, but some provocateur, so Miles accepts.  "God" suggests other Facebook friends, all of whom have problems that Miles can solve.

1. A doctor planning to commit suicide.

2. A writer with writer's block and an estranged mother gets into an auto accident, and is assisted by the doctor from Miracle #1.

3. A single mother with an autistic son.

4. A motherless teenager (Jason Genao) and a police office with a dead wife (auto accident) find each other.

5. A woman with a lost love, who turns out to be a lonely gay guy (Will Rogers, left).  They are happy to reconnect as friends.

6. An alcoholic artist with a sister who died in an auto accident feels guilty.

7. A Muslim cab driver who disapproves of his daughter's Jewish boyfriend (Etai Benson, right).

8. Miles' own estranged father, a minister who disapproves of his atheism, and whose wife died in accident.

And so on.  By the way, what's with all the auto accidents?  Sloppy writing, or is Miles in some sort of coma after accident? 

Meanwhile Miles (center) tries determine the identity of this "God" person, along with his Scoobies:

1. Cara (left), the writer from Miracle #2.
2. Ali, Miles' sister.
3. Rakesh (Suraj Sharma, right and top photo), a computer hacker.
4. Jaya, his girlfriend
5. Arthur, from Miracle #8

There's a lesbian couple and a gay man among the miracles, which raises the ire of fundamentalist Christian fans:  "'s about God!  It shouldn't be forcing deviant lifestyles down our throat!"   

Fundie fans also tend to believe that "God" is actually God, communicating out of an updated Burning Bush.  After all, who else would be able to get Miles to the exact location he needs to be in to meet the person who is connected to another person who will help them reconnect with their estranged whoever?

"Bird Box": One Gay Character, Who Dies.

Bird Box appears in articles on "LGBT Movies to Watch on Netflix in December" and "Top LGBT Movie on Netflix."  It even appeared on a Decider list of the "Top 50 LGBT Characters."   So I watched.  Well, I fast forwarded through some of the gross stuff.

The opening: Malorie (Sandra Bullock) tells two children, named Boy and Girl, that they are going on a perilous journey down the river to safety, and they must never take their blindfolds off, or they will die.

Interspliced with the perilous blindfold journey is the back story:

Depressed painter Malorie, who is pregnant with a baby she doesn't want, is meeting her sister, Jessica (Sarah Paulson, who works with horses. Neither of them seems to have much room for other people in theiir lives.   I'm pretty sure they were written as a lesbian couple, and changed to sisters at the last minute. 

They dismiss tv reports of mass suicides in Europe  and mass hysteria in the U.S., and head out to see their obstretician, Dr. Lapham (Parminder Nagra).

Lapham?  Got a problem with Indian names? mean Dr. offended by their many jokes about how much they hate the baby.  She suggests that they give it up for adoption.

On the way out of the appointment, Melonie and Jessica run headlong into the Apocalypse.  Something or some things appear.  Anyone who sees them, including Jessica, immediately commits suicide.  Start running, and don't look back.

We don't know what they look like.  People who see them say "What the hell is that?," "Mom?", and "They're not so bad."  One guy says that they show you the worst of yourself, but that's just speculation.

Melonie takes refuge in the very well appointed house of Greg (B.D. Wong), along with a ragtag band of whoever happened to be running past and invited in.  They're familiar from other stories of Apocalypse survivors:

1. Born leader Tom (Trevante Rhodes, top photo)

2. Survivalist Douglas (John Malkovich).

3. Druggie Felix (rapper Machine Gun Kelly, below)

4. Religious fanatic (Lil Rel Howery, left)

5. Teenage boy.

6. Elderly lady who talks about her dead husband

7. A woman who was out jogging

8. Another pregnant girl

Sorry, I lost track of character names.

Besides, Tom, Charlie, Greg, Gary, Rick?  What's with the whitewashing of everybody's name?

Standard survival stuff ensues -- go on a food run blindfolded, give birth without any medical care, and so on.

A twist comes when some of the people who see the things don't immediately commit suicide.  They stay sentient long enough to force other people to look.  One of those shows up at the house, talks his way inside, and begins tearing down the curtains so they have to look.

Eventually all of the survivors die except Melonie, Tom, and the two kids, who form a nuclear family.  Then Tom dies, too, and Melonie takes the kids on the perilous journey to the sanctuary, which happens to be a school for the blind.

The survivors are mostly blind children, who are immune to the things.

Among the residents is Dr. Lapham, who smiles approvingly at Melonie's two children.

Wait -- has all this been a lengthy morality tale to convince Melonie that having kids is worthwhile?  That the goal of all women's lives should be to reproduce?


No beefcake.  Felix takes his shirt off, but that doesn't count as beefcake, not by a long shot.

Oh, by the way, Greg, whose house they crash in, is gay.  We know because Douglas states that his husband was an architect.

He's the first of the survivors to die (bury your gays).

This by you is a LGBT movie?

Dec 27, 2018

Getting Naked after Christmas: The British Boxing Day Dip

In Britain, Christmas is traditionally a time for caroling, exchanging gifts, going to pantomimes...

And plunging naked into the frosty Atlantic Ocean.

Porthcawl, Wales, has been holding an annual Christmas Morning Dip for chartiy for over 40 years.

Many other seaside towns hold their in Wales and England, like Aldeburgh,  Llandudno, Cromer, and Tenby, hold theirs on Boxing Day, December 26th (so-called because people would box up their Christmas dinner leftovers and pass them out to the less fortunate).

In Aldeburgh, Llandudno, Cromer, Tenby, and a dozen other towns, Boxing Day means a morning of fun and entertainment, followed by a quick costume change and a headlong dash into the sea (typically a frigid 50 degrees Fahrenheit).

Many dress in tuxedos and evening gowns (they're not limited to men, like the Naked Festivals of Japan).  Others go in costumes as Santa Clauses, Elves, Uncle Sams, or Power Rangers.  But most take off as many clothes as they can stand.

The rules are:
1. No full nudity (though occasionally skimpy thongs are ok, and sometimes they "accidentally" slip off).
2. No wetsuits (you have to be cold).
3. It only counts as a "dip" if you get your hair wet twice.

Afterwards the participants dry off, sip Bovril (beef tea)  and wait to see if they have won the prizes for bravest, best costume, and most donations.

Boxing Day Dips aren't gay-specific events, but they're a nice opportunity to see some beefcake during the most bundled-up of seasons, and give to charity.

Dec 26, 2018

Camp Toodik: Two Dicks are Better than One

I thought this had to be a joke, some gay guys having fun with a made-up sign.  Camp Toodik?

Two dicks are better than one.

Or does it mean that you can't have too much dick?

But believe it or not, it's a real place, started by Britt and Nancy Young in 1969.  Since lesbian couples didn't commonly share names back then, Britt must be either Nancy's sister or her husband, who has a girl's name.

Or maybe they were both boys with girls' names, so it was appropriate to call their camp "Two Dicks."

  Later Britt and Nancy bought a nearby canoe livery (there are such places) and named it Toodik, too.  They retired in 2007, and sold it to Bill and Brenda Lucas.

Who didn't change the name.  Maybe they were trying to draw gay campers.

No, I guess not.  Camp Two, I mean Toodik...emphasizes "family fun."  Husbands, wives, and kids pile into a camper or tents, or rent a cabin, and go swimming, hiking, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.  There's a swimming pool, wagon rides, craft classes, and bingo for the grown-ups.

I don't know if single people are permitted or not.

So Bill and Brenda must just be ignorant of the sexual connotation.

It was hard finding beefcake photos of the campers.  They mostly seemed rather on the portly side, and their kids were mostly portly preteens.  I can hear a thousand variations on the complaint "Mom and Dad, Camp Toodik is lame!  Can't I stay home and text my friends instead?"

This is as muscular as it gets: two guys, either brothers or the same person photographed twice, riding a life preserver through disgusting muddy water.

Even if I liked camping, I wouldn't want to go anywhere near that mud.

It's about halfway between Columbus and Cleveland, which leads to the question, why do people go to Camp Toodick at all?  Another 1 1/2 hour drive, and they'll be in a big city.  Isn't this a lot more interesting then brown water and trees?

Maybe they come for the camp value. "I'm going to Camp Two Dicks."

Final Space: Gay Subtext, Beefcake-Heavy Sci-Fi Spoof

In the animated sci-fi series Final Space, bumbling small-time crook Gary Goodspeed (Olin Rogers) masquerades as an elite Infinity Guard pilot (to impress a girl -- he's rather aggressively heterosexual). 

His attempt to actually fly a spaceship (how hard can it be?) results in the loss of 92 Imperium Cruisers and a small family-owned Mexican restaurant.

He receives a five-year sentence on an empty spaceship, with no company except the deadpan control computer, HUE (think Hal-from-2001); and the annoying anti-insanity robot companion KVN.

After nearly five years of isolation (and no cookies), Gary is desperate for company, so he eagerly bonds with a cooing round semi-sentient space animal that pops by one day.  He even names it: Mooncake.

Turns out that Mooncake is a baby "planet destroyer" with mega-powers that every baddie in the galaxy is after.  Especially the Darth Vader-like Lord Commander (David Tennant), who was besties with Gary's father before going to the Dark Side.

To protect his new pet and avoid being disintegrated by his Dad's former bff, Gary teams up with a catlike bounty hunter named Avocato (Coty Galloway), and the game is afoot.

Later Avocato is killed, and his son, Little Cato (Steven Yeun), becomes Gary's replacement sidekick. Quinn (Tika Sumpter), Gary's crush, joins the gang, although she adamantly refuses any of his ham-fisted attempts at eliciting romance. Until she doesn't.

The stakes get higher -- a breach in space-time threatens to destroy the universe, and Gary and his team must steal an anti-matter bomb from Earth and fly through enemy territory to...well, it's just a maguffin to help Gary to transform from doofus to hero.

Aside from the obvious Star Wars-inspired plotline, there are echoes of Futurama, Guardians of the Galaxy, Mystery Science Theater 3000 ("He's the only one who can keep you sane") and even Adventure Time (Mooncakes looks sort of like a semi-sentient Jake the Dog).

Gay subtexts abound in this series.  Gary hugs, grabs, and complements physiques with post-gay nonchalance, and he grieves the loss of his bff as intensely as if he were a partner -- and has a child to raise alone.  Plus most of the supporting characters express no heterosexual interest.  Gary had a father but no mother.  Avocato has a son but no wife. 

Beefcake abounds, too.  Underwear shots of Gary and occasionally other characters, bare butts, and once, briefly, a penis. The humans have cartoon stick-figure bodies, but beefcake is beefcake.

Olan Rogers created the characters while a student at the University of Memphis, and uploaded some comedy shorts to his youtube channel. They attracted the attention of talk show host Conan O'Brien, who encouraged Olan to develop the tv series.

By the way, he's a born-again Christian, but writes that he doesn't have a problem with gay people: "I've met some gays that are nicer than straights."

Dec 25, 2018

"I Kill Giants": Just Shoot Me

I have had the misfortune of seeing I Kill Giants (2017).  It was one of several dreary choices that my relatives offered.  The cover shows a girl with a battle axe facing a giant, with an evocation of Harry Potter.  Naturally one expects a rollicking adventure with trolls, goblins, and magic swords, perhaps set in a fantasy world on the other side of the looking glass.

By the time I realized the depth of deception in that cover, it was too late: the movie was playing, and I couldn't say "let's watch something else!" or leave.  I had to bury my head in my cell phone for two annoying hours.

See, there aren't any giants, nor magical battle-axes.  A girl named Barbara (Madison Wolfe), who is much younger than the cover art suggests. is crazy.  She has created a whole elaborate mythology in her mind: a giant invasion is immanent, heralded by ghostly harbingers, and only the Chosen One (guess who?) can save the world.

And above all, don't go near the room at the top of the stairs.  The most horrible, most frightening thing imaginable lives there.

If only there were a teensy bit of ambiguity, the slightest possibility that maybe, just maybe, the giants are real. After all, no one believed Alice about Wonderland or Dorothy about Oz, either.


Barbara isn't even a sympathetic crazy person, someone nice, caring. for instance. She rejects everyone who tries to reach out to her with a snarky comment: "Sorry, I don't have time for idiots like you!  I'm busy trying to save the world!"

Actually, she's trying to destroy death.  The giants represent death.  The horrible, frightening thing at the top of the stairs is Barbara's mother, who is dying amid iv bags and drawn curtains.

That big reveal was broadcast in scene #1, too.

When Barbara finally meets a giant, it turns out to be as interested in restoring her to sanity as people in the real world.  It delivers a long speech about how everyone eventually dies, and we should cherish each moment as a wonderful gift rather than worrying about the end.  Then there's a smarmy song, and Barbara is ready to finally visit Mom on her death bed.

So basically Bridge to Terabinthia, without the cute boy.

The only thing I liked about this movie was the girl power.  Barbara doesn't get a boyfriend.  Actually, there virtually no boys or men around at all.  Instead, a girl name Sophie makes a number of overtures of friendship.  Although rebuffed, she tries again and again, with the zeal of the smitten.  Finally, in one of the ending scenes (I forget which -- there are so many, they just keep ending the movie over and over), the two girls walk off hand in hand.  Lesbian subtext!

Here's the only boys: Art Parkinson in one scene as Barbara's clod of a brother.

And Noel Clarke (not nude) in one scene as the sympathetic psychologist's husband, who is holding their newborn baby.  Barbara snarkily tells them, "She's going to die."

Yeah, sure, in about 80 years.  But we should savor every moment, right?

Except for the moments wasted on this horrible movie.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to look at Noel Clarke's penis.

Humphrey Bogart Comes Out of the Closet

I just watched Casablanca (1942) again, about a suave American exile in World War II Morocco who helps his ex-girlfriend and her husband escape the Nazis, and was impressed by:
1. The war intrigue.  It's as important as the hetero-romance.
2. The gay subtexts.  Every man in Casablanca is in love with Rick, and the fade-out scene shows Captain Renault offering to go away with him, as he quips "This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
3. The humor.  Humphrey Bogart tosses out sardonic one-liners with the ease of a Woody Allen.  He could easily have been a comedian.

Bogie was the most famous actor of his generation, winning five Oscars for 86 film roles, mostly as suave, sophisticated guys with troubled pasts and passionate hetero-romances.  Also strong gay subtexts, at least in the movies I've seen:

Dead End (1937): Baby-faced gangster (Bogie) and architect (Joel McCrea) compete for the body and soul of a teenage hood.

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938): Same plot, only baby-faced gangster (James Cagney) and priest (Pat O'Brien).

The Maltese Falcon (1941): Detective Sam Spade (Bogie) wrests the mysterious statue from the hands of a gay criminal.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948):  Gold prospectors (Bogie, Tim Holt) get more than they bargained for.

Knock on Any Door (1949): Attorney Bogie is in love with his hunky young protege (John Derek, below).

I really should see Key Largo, The African Queen, The Caine Mutiny, Sabrina, The Barefoot Contessa, and We're No Angels.

There is also, apparently, a gay connection in real life.  Due to his lisp, sophistication, and feminine mannerisms, Bogie was often assumed gay.  Even if he wasn't, any male Hollywood star was bound to get lots of offers.  He rejected them with good-natured aplomb -- or, according to rumor, sometimes not.  After all, he had a prodigious sexual appetite, and even the most wealthy, talented, and attractive of heterosexual men sometimes has trouble finding enough women.  

The occasional guy amid his thousand or so women made Bogie wonder about his sexual identity, especially when he found himself impotent with second wife Mary Philips (1928-37).  Was he gay?  The thought filled him with self-loathing; he considered suicide.

Wait -- he had no problem with gay people, yet grew suicidal over the thought that he might personally be gay.  Something doesn't add up here.

This all comes from Darwin Porter's obviously fictionalized biography.  One doesn't find any references to Bogie being bisexual in earlier accounts of Hollywood "scandals."

But it's undeniable that Bogie was a gay ally -- or as allied as you could get in that era.  He frequented gay bars and had close friendships with gay men throughout his life, including Charles Farrell, Spencer Tracey, William Haines, Noel Coward, and even a young Truman Capote (who beat him at arm wrestling).

A life full of beautiful friendships.

Dec 24, 2018

Winthrop: A Gay Kid in 1960s Comics

When I was a kid, if you wanted a good comic strip, like The Wizard of Id or Doonesbury, you had to go across the Mississippi to Iowa and buy the Davenport Times-Democrat. A lot of people did.  Rock Island's newspaper, The Argus (what kind of stupid name was that?), ran only thousand-year old strips like Out Our Way and Alley Oop.

And bargain-basement knock-offs.  Instead of Peanuts, with Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy, we got Winthrop, about a similar group of kids, but with none of the humor or ironic wit.

Apparently Winthrop wasn't intended to be a Peanuts knock-off.  Dick Cavalli started it in 1956 as Morty Meekle, about a mild-mannered office drone who was dating Jill Wortle over her father's strong objections.  Eventually he found the "disapproving dad" schtick too limiting, and started centering strips around Jill's preteen brother Winthrop.  In 1966, Morty and Jill vanished forever, and the strip was renamed Winthrop.

But at least it had gay-vague characters.

Winthrop had a set of quirky friends and relatives, most of whom I don't recall. There was a parrot who quoted Shakespeare, a best friend, a girl with a crush on him, a sister, a bully...nothing special.

But Spotless McPartland was nattily dressed, an intellectual, not into sports, and a germaphobe, sort of the Felix Ungar of the comic strip crowd.

And Foster Norman encapsulated the childhood fear of balloons: they might lift you off the ground and send you soaring into space.

He floated, balloon in hand, over the landscape, week after week, year after year.  He couldn't come down; he was lost  He looked on from above, occasionally making ironic comments about a world that no longer made sense, with rules that he no longer understood.

Even his name was evocative: "Foster," a foster child, someone who doesn't really belong, and "Norman," close to "no man," a boy who will never become a man.

I understood being an outsider, looking onto a world that made no sense, where the cries of "What girl do you like?" filled the air, and same-sex bonds were trivialized and ignored.

I was floating, observing but not belonging.  I was the boy with the balloon.

See also: Gay-coded Peanuts.

Dec 22, 2018

A Remedy for Twinks

I've been doing a lot of twink-style beefcake lately.  Time to get back to macho men with muscles and chest hair.

This wrestler has a singlet with an eagle logo and "Jacob Curby, 1984-2010."  I can't read the line in cursive below it, but it probably says something like "Rest in peace."  So I wanted to find out who this Jacob Curby was, and why this wrestler memorialized him.  His big brother, perhaps?

Jacob Curby's obituary was easy to find: He was from LaGrange Highlands, Illinois, and he had two siblings, Nicholas and Courtney Curby.

He graduated from L.H.S. in 2002, and studied at the United States Olympic Education Training Center in Marquette, Wisconsin.  He was a member of the U.S. Graeco-Roman Wrestling Team.

After receiving his B.S. from Northern Michigan University, he moved to Boise, Idaho, to train for the 2012 Olympics.  But died unexpectedly one day, while taking a nap after a practice.

He suffered from cancer as a child, so memorials were requested to go to U.S.A.Wrestling or to Loyola University Pediatric Oncology Research.

More details: Jacob's family sponsored the  Jacob Curby Foundation, which offered the Curby Cup to American and Iranian wrestling teams every year from 2010 to 2015.

I don't know why American and Iranian in particular, but the 2015 winner was Bashir Babjanzadeh, who also competed in the 2016 Olympics.  He was suspended from competition for four years for doping (misusing steroids).

So who is wearing the memorial singlet?  I tried  Jacob's brother, Nicholas, the fiancee's brothers, and wrestlers at his old high school. No dice.

A reverse image search on google revealed "Beefy Men," "Muscular Wrestling Hunk," and various other photo names.

Then I found an exact duplicate: "Ben Proviser vs. Manuchar Kvirkelia, 2012 Curby Cup.  The memorializing wrestler must be one of those two.

Manuchar Kvirkelia, from Tbilisi, Georgia, won a gold medal in the 2008 summer Olympics.

Ben Proviser, from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, competed in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

The memorializing wrestler doesn't really look like either of them, but things change in 6 years.  It's probably Ben.

Here's Philippe Doux LaPlace, just because he's bulging and has chest hair.

And someone whose name I don't know, just because he's bulging.

Tired of muscle men yet?
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