Sep 1, 2018

"The Good Place": Afterlife Beefcake and Bonding

Eleanor (Kristin Bell) has just died.   Her guide, Michael (Ted Danson), says that after a complicated algorithm analyzed her good and bad deeds, she has been assigned to The Good Place, a village where 300 compatible good people spend eternity.

They seem to mostly wander around, greeting each other, getting frozen yogurt, and flying kites.  In the evening, they throw parties.  Eternity seems really, really dull.

Or is it more sinister, like the Village in the 1960s British sci-fi The Prisoner?

Each resident of the village is assigned a soul mate, someone with whom they are spiritually compatible to share eternity with.  Eleanor, an environmentalist lawyer/human right advocate in life, is paired with Chidi  (William Jackson Harper), a West African professor of moral philosophy who suffers from indecisiveness and tummy aches.

I have a lot of questions:

Shouldn't most of the people in the afterlife be really old?

Should most of their soul mates be their partners back in life?

And what do they do all day?




Eleanor has a secret:  she is not who they say she is.  Someone made a mistake.  She was actually a boorish, foul-mouthed drunk who worked for a telemarketing company, scamming the elderly into buying medicine that they didn't need, and in her off hours refused to donate to charity or recycle.

She schemes to make sure no one finds out and sends her to the Bad Place.

Her allies include Chidi; Tahara (Jameela Jamil), a snobbish philanthropist; and Tahara's unlikely soulmate, Jianyu (Manny Jacinto), a Taiwanese Buddhist monk who has taken vows of poverty and silence.



Jianyu has a secret of his own.  He was actually Jason Mendoza, a small-time hood who sold fake drugs to college students.  He and his buddy Pillboi (Eugene Cordero, left) were trying to break into a safe when he died.

Actually rather bad.  Another mistake!

Tahara did get $6 billion in donations for a charity, but she was shallow, egotistical, obsessed with money and fame, and intensely jealous.  She died trying to tear down a statue of her pop-star sister at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Wait...

The first season has a big reveal.  Spoiler alert.
















They are actually in the Bad Place!  Junior demon Michael got permission from his supervisor to try a new type of torture: Sartre's "Hell is other people."  Most of the villagers are demon actors.  Eleanor, Chidi, Tahara, and Jason are the only humans, brought in to annoy each other for all eternity.

Once they discover the secret, Michael wipes their memories and reboots the village.

They keep discovering the secret, and Michael keeps wiping their memories.  Over 800 times.

Eventually some of the demon actors get frustrated with their minor roles, and start working to overturn Michael's experiment. And Janet, robotic personal assistant/Google for the village, falls in love with Jason, then builds her own boyfriend, Derek (Jason Mantzouakas, left), and becomes an ally.


 The humans negotiate with Michael, his boss, and finally a big moderator, Judge Hydrogen (Maya Rudolph)  They argue that if people can change in the afterlife, becoming better, then eternal punishment is unjust.

The Judge promises to think about the issue, and in the meantime reboots them them all the way, sending them back to the moments of their deaths and making sure that they don't die in their various accidents.

They end up encountering each other.  Maybe they really are soul mates.

The Good Place is very funny, and the characters are appealing enough to make the show worth watching.

Gay content: Apparently, in spite of the male-female icons on the explanatory video, there are some same-sex soul mates: gay couples appear occasionally in the background.  And they are referenced occasionally:  one deceased person states that he spent the first half of his life in North Korea, working for women's rights, and the last half in Saudi Arabia, working for gay rights (it must have been a short life).  That's quite a lot for a comedy starring Ted Danson, who is not known as a gay rights advocate.

Beefcake:  The two male humans, Chidi and Jason, are both cute, and there are lots of other hot actors around.  All racial groups represented.


Chris (Luke Guldan, top photo), a demon playing one of Eleanor's fake soulmates, who rips his shirt off and says "I'm going to the gym" at odd moments. (Do spirits need to go to the gym?)

Uzo (Keston John, above), Chidi's childhood friend.

Demon actor Trevor (Adam Scott).

Luang (Hayden Szeto, left), a demon playing one of Jason's fake soulmates (a "best friend" rather than a romantic partner).

See also: The Prisoner




Aug 31, 2018

I Spend the Night with Calvin and His Four Brothers

Calumet City, Illinois,  February 1982

When I was an undergraduate at Augustana College, there was  no place to meet gay men except for Rock Island's only gay bar, the Hawaiian Lounge.  I was too young to get in, and besides, bars were scary to a Nazarene.  Of course, I met dozens of guys in class, at the campus radio station, and at my job in the Student Union, but how to tell if they were gay?

I obviously couldn't come out to them, and they would never come out to me.  So I tried a noncommittal reference to gay people, to judge their reaction:

"I visited Los Angeles two years ago. Very interesting. Sights you'd never see in Rock Island, like gay guys walking around openly on the street." 

Most of the time, my target said "Gross!  Those freaks should all be taken out and shot!  Fortunately, there aren't any  in Rock Island.  I couldn't stand being in the same city with one!" 

Straight.  Time to make an excuse and leave.

A few said: "I don't know...I mean, they're sick, they're disgusting, and all that, but, really, they're not hurting anybody. Why not just let them alone?"  

Straight.

But one guy in a dozen, or one guy in a hundred, abruptly changed the subject: "Los Angeles, huh?  So, did you meet any movie stars?"  


The hesitancy about discussing gay people at all meant that he was gay.

Calvin (not his real name) abruptly changed the subject.  He was a freshman physics major who somehow enrolled in my upper-division Eastern Religions class, tall and thin with gangly hands, a round face, unruly reddish hair, and smooth pale skin. A tight swimmer's build, but not particularly athletic.

I'm not particularly into redheads with pale skin.  I prefer black guys, Asians, Arabs, or dark, swarthy Mediterraneans.

But Calvin was probably the only other gay guy on campus.  You take what you can get.

In order to ask him out on a date, I needed an activity, and it was hard to find a common interest: he didn't like science fiction, comic books, languages, or the paranormal.  Actually, he wasn't much into anything.  He was taking an overload of 21 credit hours, mostly hard classes that required endless hours with textbooks and calculators.

It was also hard to find a time to schedule the date.  Augie classes met Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday, leaving Fridays off, and every Friday morning at 7:00 am, he got into his car and drove home for the weekend.

After a few weeks of ruminating over how to get to stage 2, from "finding out that he's gay" to "asking him out," Calvin asked me!

I mentioned that I was applying to graduate school at the University of Chicago in linguistics and Byzantine Studies, and I wanted to go tour the campus.  But I didn't relish the idea of driving all the way to Chicago and back on the same day.

"Why don't you come home with me this weekend?"  Calvin asked.  "We can go up to the campus on Friday, and then see the sights on Saturday and Sunday."

A weekend, for a first date?  I was too naive to realize how risky that would be.

We actually drove to Chicago with two other guys, so Calvin and I couldn't have much of a conversation. I discussed my ex-boyfriends, Fred and the Priest with the Pushy Mom

The campus was beautiful, Medieval, like Oxford.

But then we started driving.  I thought Calvin lived "in Chicago."  He lived in Calumet City, a suburb 18 miles south, 45 minutes away during rush hour.

Stuck between 3 major highways and Indiana, its motto is "We Love This Town!"  It smelled   bad all the time, due to auto exhaust, overindustrialization, fertilizer factories, oil refineries and marsh gas from the Prairie and Marsh Nature Preserve.  It was once known as Sin City, for its taverns, brothels, and go-go clubs.

It was also known for its Catholics. Calumet College of St. Joseph, affiliated with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, with 1000 students, in Whiting, Indiana. Across the street from industrial blight.

Calvin lived in a modest three-bedroom house with his parents and FOUR BROTHERS.

Who cared about my date with Calvin.  I wanted a ginger orgy!

The full story, with nude photos and explicit sexual content,is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Dreamboat or Dud?: Heterosexism and "Mystery Date"


Mystery Date was a board game introduced by Milton Bradley in 1965.  The object was to assemble the proper cards to create a full girl's outfit for a formal dance, bowling, the beach, or skiing.  Then, if your outfit matched that of the dreamy boy at the door, you got to go on the date.  But you had to be careful of the wild card, a poorly dressed "dud."

The real object, of course, was to get girls used to the idea of being objects of desire, using fashion and accessories to draw the attention of dreamy boys.  The game was for "girls only." 

 I played on occasion, but only when my friend Beth insisted, and even then, I found it annoying to have to pretend to like wearing girls' clothes just to go bowling or to the beach with a cute boy.  Why couldn't boys go on "mystery dates" with boys?












The answer is that no one at Milton Bradley in 1965 ever considered for a moment that any girl  existed who might want to accessorize for girls, or that any boy existed who wanted a dreamy boy at his door.  

But nearly half a century has passed.  Now we have same-sex marriage, gay senators, gay-straight alliances in high schools, a gay teen in Paranorman, and a video of Woody, the cowboy toy from Toy Story, advising gay kids that "It gets better." Surely in new versions of the game, boys can participate, and there might be male or female dreamboats at the  door.

No, not at all.  In 1995 Hasbro released a new version of the game, with a real "mystery" component: you received clues about your date from boys talking to you on the telephone, and had to dress properly for 24 potential dates.  But it was still girls prepping.




Milton Bradley released several versions to tie-in with Disney's successful (and relatively gay-positive) High School Musical  franchise.  I checked the latest, High School Musical 3  Mystery Date (2008).  You have  to prep for a date with one of the four movie hunks, Troy, Ryan, Chad, or Zeke.  But you still have to be a girl.







Aug 30, 2018

Men in Handcuffs

If you're interested in BDSM, sooner or later you will run across someone's stash of photographs of attractive men who have been arrested, and are being led off (or dragged off) in handcuffs.  Shirtless, or sometimes even naked.

The problem is, you don't know who these men are, or what crimes they are being charged with.  They could be murderers or rapists.  They could be charged with possession of marijuana or disturbing the peace.

You have to distance yourself from their alleged criminality, and concentrate on the erotic potential.

1.Insouciant nudity.





2. Why are the cops so interested in his butt?
















3.  The School to Prison Pipeline means that teenagers are now being arrested and charged with crimes for things that used to get you detention.
















4. The guy is losing his pants.



















5.  Don't they usually let you get dressed when you are arrested?

More after the break.














Aug 29, 2018

From Joliet to Dyer: Beefcake on the Family Trip to Indiana

When I was growing up in Rock Island, we would cross the southside of Chicago two or three times a year to visit my parents' relatives in northeastern Indiana, but we never took the horrible I-80-294-94-90 bumper-to-bumper white-sky-and-concrete trap.  Dad was too nervous to handle that much traffic, and besides, he absolutely refused to use toll roads, on principle.  Instead, we got off I-80 just after Joliet, and took US-30 through the far south of Chicago.

We never stopped in any of these towns, not even to get gas, but they are still etched in my memory -- at least the part you see on the highway.  I wanted to know what else is going on there.  Are there houses and schools, stores, parks?  Are there people who call it home? Are there guys with their shirts off?
1. Frankfort straddles US 30 between US 45 and Harlem Avenue, past white houses, green spaces, and a public library Median household income $83,000, quite a change from the poverty-stricken suburbs to the north.

Lincoln Way East is unusual among Illinois high schools for offering boys' gymnastics.








2. Matteson extends from Harlem Avenue to Govenors Highway.  It's surrounded by parks, nature preserves, and country clubs. It had some regrettable racial tensions in the 1980s when the demographics changed: the black population increased from 10% to 50%. White residents responded with a campaign encouraging white people to move to town to "restore the balance." Today Matteson is 79% black.

Matteson doesn't have its own high school; students are channeled to Rich East, Rich Central, or Rich South, which also offer boys' gymnastics.



For college,they're close to Governors State University (no apostrophe), where they hold crossfit championships.







3. Chicago Heights  extends for two miles to College Grove.   It is actually only a little worse off than Harvey, with 27% of the population under the poverty line, and there are some middle-class areas, like the neighborhood around Prairie State College and Marian Catholic High School.  But as you head east, it gets more and more rundown, until at East End Avenue, it's all liquor stores, pawn shops, gun stores, storefront Pentecostal missions, and industrial blight.   Mom would always say "Lock your doors and roll up your windows."  She was afraid we would be carjacked.

.











Prairie State is a community college with 12,000 students.  I found a wrestler who won a state championship.

More after the break














4. Ford Heights extends for about a mile to just past the US 394 interchange and the Weatherstone Lakes Mobile Home Village.  A mile is enough.  Liquor stores, gospel ministries, broken sidewalks, abandoned buildings.  It is poorest suburb in America, according to Consumer Reports, a mean household income of $17,000, and with news stories about "mayor arrested for theft" and children being killed.


There is no high school in town; students go to Bloom Trail in Chicago Heights, where the sports team used to be the Trail Blazers, but is now the Blazing Trojans.  Something about condoms being set on fire?

I couldn't find any beefcake photos.  Here's one from Frankfort.









5. Lynwood.  You only pass through a small part of the southern end, between Torrance Avenue and the state line, and it seems mostly rural.  The Ho-Chunk Indiana Nation is planning to build a casino on an unoccupied plot of land near the 394.

Most Lynwood high school students go to Thornton Fractional High, where this wrestler has won a match.













6. Dyer.   If you continue on Highway 30, you hit Dyer just across the Indiana border, with the most egregious speed trap in the U.S.  The speed limit changes from 45 to 25 for no apparent reason, with the sign hidden behind a tree.

Come again?  I don't think so.














Well, maybe to watch the water polo team.

See also: Beefcake on the Harrowing Highway Across Chicago's South Side




Aug 28, 2018

A New Sensitive Tarzan

Miles O'Keeffe graduated from the University of the South with a degree in psychology, and worked for a year as a prison counselor, before heading for Hollywood, hoping to make it big as an actor.

He did.  The biggest.

Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), the first Tarzan movie in over a decade, was an attempt to revitalize the Tarzan myth for the 1980s generation.  It starred the breasts of Bo Derek, a heterosexual sex symbol from 10 (1979).

 The plot was about Jane (Bo Derek) and her breasts traveling to Africa on a scientific expedition, where they meet, civilize, and have sex with the Ape Man (Miles O'Keeffe).  Though superbly muscular, Miles' Tarzan was not a man-mountain; he was a romance novel hero, a New Sensitive Man, desirable more for his tenderness than his muscles.

I don't remember him speaking, not even a "Me Tarzan" grunt.

There was no gay subtext.

Bo won the Golden Raspberry for the Worst Actress of the year, but Tarzan was a box office success, making more money than, Excalibur, The Great Muppet Caper, or An American Werewolf in London.










Miles disliked his Tarzan character, and spent the next decade trying to live him down.  I haven't seen any of his later movies, but apparently he played sword-and-sorcery heroes Ator (1982, 1984, 1987), and the Lone Runner (1986), the Medieval hero Sir Gawain (1984), and some man-mountains rescuing buddies from Southeast Asian warlords (1987, 1988, 1990).

No gay characters, but between 1999 and 2001, he appeared six times on So Graham Norton, a late-night talk show hosted by the gay British comedian.

See also: The Tarzan Who Might Have Been.

Aug 26, 2018

My First, Second, and Third Time with David from San Francisco

San Francisco, June 2018

One of the problems with being an academic is constantly moving from job to job, which means you make a lot of new friends, then move away, then make more friends, and so on and so on.  Every summer is a flurry of activity, as you fly across the country to visit them, and they fly out to visit you.

This summer I was in Indiana (Tyler and my relatives), New York (Troy and his relatives), Virginia (Jonathan), North Carolina (Verne), and San Francisco (David).

David is 65 years old, a bald, buffed Daddy with craggy features, a moustache, a tight hairy chest, thick biceps, and extra-thick beneath the belt gifts.  A Baptist preacher from conservative small-town Arkansas, married with children, he  didn't have his first same-sex experience until his 43rd birthday, January 6th, 1996.

Within a week he had come out, resigned from his pulpit, filed for divorce, and moved out of the parsonage.

Within a month he had moved to San Francisco, the only place he had ever heard of with gay men. He got an apartment, a job, a new wardrobe, and a gym membership, and began cruising.

David vowed to have "make up for lost time" by having sex with 5 different guys a day until he reached the goal of 5,000.  Soon that proved impossible, even in San Francisco, if he wanted to do anything else, so he reduced the goal to two, then one.  The rules were:

1. It had to be a new guy, one he hadn't been with before.

2. He couldn't go to a sex club or bath house and get a whole week's worth at once.  One per day.

3. Except if he was too sick to have sex, he could make up for it later.

4. Any sexual activity counted.  No orgasm was necessary.

During my visit in June, I asked David if he actually kept track.

"Absolutely!" he exclaimed.  Every night, or if the guy spends the night, the next morning, I record his name and pertinent details in my Little Black Book."

"It must be a Big Black Book by this time."

"Actually, it was written at first, but around 2000 I moved it all to an Excel Spreadsheet.  I record the guy's name, where I met him, and any pertinent details."

"Rating, on a scale of 1 to 5?"

He laughed.  "No, nothing like that.  Just their size, what we did, that sort of thing.

"What if it's a sex party or a bathhouse?  Do you record a dozen guys?"

"No, just one guy per day."

Suddenly I had an idea.  "Hey, let's look up me.  Our first time together, back in 1996.  See what you said."

He agreeably opened his laptop, pulled up his spreadsheet (it really was titled Big Black Book), and searched for Boomer.  15 entries, mostly guys annotated with lines like "Shared with Boomer" or "Boomer's roommate."  But the first Boomer entry, the first time we had sex,  was Tuesday, June 25th, 1996:



Boomer.  Met at work. Nice chest.  Interfemoral





.

"I remember that night," I told him.  "It was first week at the AIDS Foundation.  I was working in publications and publicity, and you were in prevention services.  You offered to take me out for "a drink" after work.  We ended having dinner, talking about the deprivation of a fundamentalist childhood, then having sex."

"Interfemoral," David says.



"But I didn't spend the night -- I went home after.  I don't remember why."

"You were babysitting your friend Buzzy's dog."

"Right...he was going away for the weekend."  I thought for a moment.  "For the weekend...it must have been a Friday night, not Tuesday."  I checked the spreadsheet.

"Oh, I must have mixed up the dates when I was transcribing all this," Dave said.  "Maybe the sex club Daddy was on Tuesday, and you were..."

"Or I was the previous Friday."

Friday, June 25th.  Haldor.  Waiter at Almost Home.  From Denmark.

"That was our dinner!  Almost Home, because you wanted to be reminded of home.  Haldor was our waiter.  He was from Denmark, and I went to a Swedish Lutheran College, so I won him over.  Did you go back after our date and pick him up?"

The rest of the story, with nude photos and explicit sexual content, is on Tales of West Hollywood.


Battlestar Galactica: Star-Fighting Boyfriends

On Sunday nights in the fall of 1978, Boomer kids who were too young for All in the Family sat watching Battlestar Galactica, the beginning of a mythos that would last for three decades and rival Star Trek in scope and complexity.

The brief plot: in a distant part of the galaxy, the Twelve Colonies of Mankind have been destroyed by the evil Cylons.  A ragtag band of survivors, led by Commander Adama (Lorne Green) on the last surviving warship (the Battlestar Galactica), head out into space to seek the last human colony. . .Earth.

The beefcake was handled by the cute Star Wars uniforms. The bonding was handled by Commander Apollo (Richard Hatch, below) and Lieutenant Starbuck (Dirk Benedict, left).




In spite of their quests after girls, gay Boomer kids and the writers of slash fiction knew that they were romantic partners.


Teen magazines were content with gushing articles and semi-nude photos.

There were dozens of other characters. Ray Bolger, Fred Astaire, Randolph Mantooth, and Ed Beghley Jr. showed up.  Jonathan Harris of Lost in Space played Lucifer, leader of the Cylons (this was the heart of the Cold War, so good vs. evil were clearly drawn).






Ratings problems and howls of "plagiarism" from 20th Century Fox, owner of the Star Wars franchise, led to the cancellation of Galactica after just one season.  But it returned for Galactica 1980, set on Earth, with Kent McCord (left) and Barry Van Dyke (right) as the star-fighting romantic partners.

And in 2004-2009 as Battlestar Galactica, a re-imagined series with a female Starbuck.  And a prequel, Caprica (2010).

And feature films, comic books, a web series, over 20 novels (some written by Richard Hatch), video games, action figures, toys.

Just before the end of the 2004-2009 series, a couple of characters were outed, but not on screen, on a webisode. A bone thrown to gay fans, but more than they ever got from Star Trek. 

Handmaid's Tale Season 2: Bleed, Scream, Cough, Repeat

"Torture Porn" is the unofficial name for a genre of fiction designed not to scare you, but to hurt you.  You have to endure reading about or watching people undergoing horrible ordeals of pain and degradation, pain and degradation, with no moments of happiness, no humor, no hope, nothing but agony.  The person being tortured is not necessary the fictional character, but you, the viewer.

A literary example that springs to mind is "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream," by Harlan Ellison, in which a sentient computer takes over the world and kills all humans except for a group it keeps alive to torture.

A tv example is the second season of The Handmaid's Tale, the adaption of Margaret Atwood's novel.

In the first season, we learn about a dystopian society, Gilead, today's fascist America multiplied by a thousand, except instead of white supremacy, it's built on religious fundamentalism and patriarchy.  June (Elisabeth Moss) has been conscripted as a Handmaid, forced to have a child for a member of the ruling class whose wife is infertile.

Episode 1: The handmaids are being punished for an act of civil disobedience, refusing to stone an errant handmaid to death.  They get electric shocks.  They are burnt on a gas stove.  But June escapes, with the help of her boyfriend Nick (Max Minghella) and other members of the Resistance.  First she has to cut a microchip out of her ear.  Blood, agonized screams, burnt flesh.  Pass the popcorn.

Episode 2:   It's rather an inept Resistance. June  is brought to the deserted office of the Boston Globe and left there for two months. We spend the entire second episode there, watching June be bored.   Oh, wait -- we visit the Colonies, radioactive wastelands where "unwomen," political prisoners, recalcitrant Handmaids, and lesbians, live in concentration camps, dig up toxic waste, and die of radiation poisoning. Cough, cough.  And in flashbacks, we find out what happens to the gay people: the men are hanged, and the women, if fertile, become handmaids; otherwise it's the concentration camp.  Are we having fun yet?

Episode 3:  Finally!  June is picked up to go to a safe house,but it is compromised, so she goes home with Resistance fighter Omar (Yahna Abdul-Mahteen), a closet Muslim.  He'll take her to an airfield that night, and she'll get on a plane to Canada.  But Omar and his loving family never return from church -- they've probably been discovered and executed --  so June gets to the airfield herself  (is that a good idea?).

But just as the plane is about to take off, the Gestapo arrive and shoot the pilot and other passenger, a gay man.  He bleeds out.  Oh, and in a flashback, the handmaids are shown a film of the Colonies -- cough, cough -- and one of the Unwomen  is June's mother.  Talk about unlikely coincidences.

And June goes back to being Offred, the handmaid.   Pain, degradation, tongues cut out, fingers cut off, strangulation, vaginal bleeding, dying babies, executions of various types.  Isaac (Rohan Mead) and his girlfriend are chained together and drowned.   Even the Commander (Greg Bryk, top photo), one of the architects of the new society, is targeted.  June is covered in blood more times than I can count.   Meanwhile, at the concentration camp...cough, cough.

And I'm wondering, why am I watching this?  I have the complete Seinfeld series on DVD.

Other than the unrelenting agony, the series hasn't thought out how the society works very well.  Margaret Atwood didn't really need to, since she was writing through June, who didn't know what was going on.  But the tv series expands far beyond June to various players and parts of the society, and they are nonsensical.  For instance, in one scene, all of the Econowives (apparently regular women who haven't committed any crimes) get on a subway by themselves at 5:00 pm on a Sunday night (in a New England winter, although it's broad daylight), and get off at the last stop.  Where are they going?  We don't know.

How do the lights stay on?  How are good manufactured?  What happened to the world's economy when the Midwest turned into radioactive waste?,

To be fair, the cinematography is striking, especially the overhead shots.  And it's sort of fun seeing ruined landmarks, like the Boston Globe headquarters, deserted.

But I don't watch tv shows about the Holocaust.

See also: The Handmaid's Tale, Season 1



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