Tag Archive | music

Rainbows and mistletoe

db1a7f72996dddab87c646b6e857cea3We need a rainbow Christmas,
Right this very minute!
Egg nog at the brunch bar
With lots of bourbon in it!

Yes we need a rainbow Christmas,
Right this very minute!
My lyrics may be getting slurry,
But Santa dear, we’re in a hurry!

Fling ’round the glitter!
Put up more twinkling lights than the whole Vegas strip!
No need for fruitcake,
We’ve got a great big table of deliciousness,
here!

Cause we’ve grown a little rounder,
Grown a little bolder,
Grown a little prouder,
Grown a little wiser,

And I need a toasty lover,
Snuggling by the fire,
I need a rainbow Christmas now!

We need a rainbow Christmas now!


And if you’d like something a big less sassy:

Pet Shop Boys – It Doesn’t Often Snow At Xmas (Live 2000)

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

(I know the resolution on that isn’t great, but I love the live performance with the live boys’ choir. If you want to see a more glossy production with dancing Christmas trees, click here.)

Happy Holidays!

No one likes change before and while it’s happening…

“Remember when floppy disks could save/destroy the world?”

“Remember when floppy disks could save/destroy the world?” (click to embiggen)

Several years ago I went on a rant about what a horrible idea it was to switch to digital music. I had a whole slew of reasons why keeping my music library on disc was a better idea. I liked my portable music player and headphones. I could carry a bunch of albums with me, and I could be sure that those discs would play in either my computer, or in the stereo or most stereo music players that most people had. I didn’t have to worry that they would get erased, or that a new player I had would have compatible software.

So it was ridiculous that people where carrying around iPods! Or any other digital music player, for that matter! What if the digital format in question was abandoned or obsoleted? How would you play your music on another player when this one wore out? Did owning music even mean anything when it was just a file on your computer?

Now, to be fair, I had converted a small number of my music discs to digital to play on my computer1, so I didn’t have to walk across the room while I was in the middle of writing something to change music. That was all right, but it was an alternative. It would never replace my real music library.

Then my husband bought me a pretty pink iPod Nano for my birthday.

And I became quickly addicted as I realized I could convert dozens of big heavy discs to files on the tiny iPod… Read More…

Got a dream we’ve come to share

An American and a gay pride flag waving in the windI do playlists, as I’ve mentioned a few times before. I’ve been working for the last week on a new Fireworks list. Digging back in my iTunes library I see I’ve got eleven previous ones each dated with the year I made, except the first one, which is merely called “Gene’s Fireworks List.” A lot of songs get repeated year after year. But this year I was having trouble, because America isn’t being it’s best. We often fall short of our ideals, but with the blatant racism, sectarianism, homophobia, and worse coming from the nominee of one of the major parties (I mean, how many times now has Donald Trump shared posts from literal white supremacist and neo-nazi sites so far?), well, I just feel as if we’re further from the aspirations of liberty and justice for all than we have been in a while.

So I wound up making two lists. One is fairly traditional, this one is just called 2016 Fireworks:

  1. “Star Spangled Banner” – Keith Lockhart & the Boston Pops Orchestra
  2. “God Bless American” – Kate Smith
  3. “America” – Neil Diamond
  4. “You’re a Grand Old Flag” – James Cagney & the cast of Yankee Doodle Dandy
  5. “Liberty Bell March” – United States Marine Corps Band
  6. “We Shall Be Free” – Garth Brooks
  7. “National Emblem March” – Keith Lockhart & the Boston Pops Orchestra
  8. “The Washington Post March” – United States Marine Corps Band
  9. “Born in the U.S.A” – Bruce Springsteen
  10. “The Thomas Jefferson March” – United States Marine Corps Band
  11. “An American Trilogy” – Elvis Presley
  12. “The Stars and Stripes Forever” – United States Marine Corps Band
  13. “What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong
  14. “The Blue Danube Waltz” – United States Marine Corps Band
  15. “Star Spangled Banner” – Dolly Parton

Then this was is a little more… aspirational:

  1. “I Love the USA” – Weezer
  2. “Song of the Patriot” – Johnny Cash
  3. “This Land is Your Land” – Arlo Guthrie & Woody Guthrie
  4. “Someday We’ll All be Free” – Donny Hathaway
  5. “All-American Boy” – Steven Grand
  6. “God Bless American” – Kate Smith
  7. “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” – Bette Midler
  8. “Chimes of Freedom” – Bruce Springsteen
  9. “Oh, Freedom” – Harry Belafonte
  10. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – Simon & Garfunkel
  11. “The Battle of New Orleans” – Johnny Horton
  12. “Living In America” – James Brown
  13. “The Star Spangled Banner” – Whitney Houston & The Florida Orchestra

Why queer clubs and gay bars are more than just places to dance and drink

Rainbow flag saying, “Is it Queer in here, or is it just me?”

“Is it Queer in here, or is it just me?” (click to embiggen)

In the immediate aftermath of the Orlando shooting, President Obama’s remarks were met with criticism from many corners, as they do, but there was a particular comment that seemed to really upset a lot of straight people on social media. This bit really got some folks’ panties in a bunch:

The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked was more than a nightclub—it is a place of solidarity and empowerment…
—Barack Obama

Some people had a real difficult time understanding why anyone would refer to a gay bar as a place of empowerment. It’s really hard for most straight people to understand just how isolated and alienated queer kids feel their entire lives. We take a lot of flack, particularly white male queer people, from people of color whenever we draw parallels between our struggle for acceptance and equality with the struggles that racial minorities face. There are more similarities than some people want to admit, but they are correct that there are differences. And one of those differences is that isolation.

A member of a racial or ethnic minority growing up in a racist society is never told that other people like him or her do not exist. At all. Usually a person of color is aware of the existence of other people of color if for no other reason than the rest of their family is also a member of that racial or ethnic minority. They may live in a neighborhood where other members of the minority are neighbors, classmates, and so on.

Not queer kids. Until very recently, queer kids were pretty much guaranteed to grow up being told and shown again and again that every human is straight. Little boys are teased about having a crush on any girl or woman other than a close relative that they get along with. Little girls get told they will be a mommy some day. Every book, movie, television show, family anecdote, et cetera shows us again and again that every boy grows up to have a girlfriend, eventually a wife, and will become a daddy. And they tell every girl that she will grow up to be some boy’s girlfriend, then some man’s wife, and eventually will have that man’s babies.

And anyone who doesn’t do those things? Well, there’s something wrong with them! Unattached characters of either gender appearing in stories and shows are usually treated as the comic relief or as tragically alone. Lonely spinsters that everyone feels sorry for or eccentric bachelors that no one takes seriously are the least horrible futures that society tells us await us if we don’t fall in love with a person of the opposite gender and settle down.

That’s the initial indoctrination. The first level of lying, if you will.

As we get older, we start noticing other fates for men and women who don’t fit into the coupled hetero ideal. They aren’t just taken seriously and pitied, it’s worse than that. Some of those oddballs may indeed have special friendships with another person of the same gender, but that always ends in death for at least one of them. If one survives, it is as a broken creature, forever haunted by guilt and despair because of it.

The lies that we are told is that queer people don’t exist, or at least they don’t exist naturally, and those few queer people that do come about however that happens, will live lives that are filled with loneliness, despair, pain, suffering, and death. But it is a pain, suffering and death that they deserve because they are monsters.

When you are told those lies again and again; when you are made to feel like a freak any time you behave or feel anything other than what is expected; when you are not allowed to see any examples of queer people who aren’t object lessons who deserve pain and suffering—you believe it. Your parents, your teachers, your church, your neighbors, your classmates, and your siblings have all told you the same thing again and again your entire life. It must be true! There must be something deeply wrong with you, and that wrongness means that you can never be happy, never be loved, never know joy, never be accepted.

And you’ve been made to feel miserable any time that any hint of your difference has manifested. You have probably developed crushes on members of your own gender, but realized that the other person didn’t feel the same way. Or if the affection was returned, you both lived in terror of what would happen if anyone found out. If anyone has found out, there were some sort of bad consequences. One or both of your were beaten. You were forbidden to see each other. One or both of you might have been sent away or simply kicked out of your home by your parents.

So, the first time that we walk into a gay bar is usually a revelation. There are other people like you there! More importantly, you find people like you there who seem to be happy. The first visit may be a short one because you’re nervous and not sure what to expect. Or it might be that the atmosphere or theme of the place is catering to a different subset of the community than you identify with. But when you find a place that you can feel comfortable in, you see that there are people there who are living lives other than lonely and tragic. There aren’t just sexual or romantic relationships, there are friendships. People share drinks and a laugh when their life is going well, they share drinks and hugs and commiserations in times of sorrow.

And while you may not be a person who particularly fits in at the bar scene, there is still a sense of community and belonging that you can find there. One that many queer people never experienced before that.

My first few experiences in gay bars didn’t go terribly well. The first place I went to was more of a leather bar and I felt as if I’d stepped into a foreign country. My bright colored nerdy t-shirt didn’t help me fit in, but more importantly, I didn’t understand any of the non-verbal signals that were going on all around me. My second gay bar was filled with loud music that I had never heard before, and everyone was dressed in far more fashionable clothes than I could pull off. I felt like a very ugly duckling surrounded by a sea fashion models and body builders.

For me, the bar that clicked was the old Timberline. It was a mix of lesbians and queer men—a lot of people wearing cowboy boots and blue jeans. Country music was played there, and twice a week there were classes in line-dancing and two-stepping. Same-sex couples danced arm in arm, circling around the dance floor to the kind of music that I had grown up with. It wasn’t every queer person’s dream, but to those of us who are came to Seattle from the south or from rural communities just about anywhere, there were enough cultural touchstones to our childhood to make being an openly queer man dancing with another man feel like a magic transformation where the impossible suddenly seemed within reach.

That’s another reason the shooting hurts so much. Even though I haven’t been inside a gay bar in something like 14 years, the images of wounded people being carried out of the club not by paramedics, but by other people who were clearly part of the bar crowd was worse than a punch in the gut. One of our places was no longer ours.

I’ve rambled enough about this. We grew up being told we were monsters who should either not exist or be invisible. We grew up believing we would never have friends who would accept us for who we really were. We grew up believing that not only would we never find love, but that we didn’t deserve any form of happiness at all. For many of us, a queer club was one of the first places that we learned that all of those things were lies.

And it wasn’t just me who experienced that:

I Found A Home In Clubs Like Pulse In Cities Like Orlando: As a gay Latino man I know there are few safe spaces for me, but Latin night always felt like a solace

How Queer Spaces Gave Me Superpowers

What We Find in Gay Bars and Queer Clubs

Dancing with my pride

“Still Here, Still Queer, Still Dancing!”

“Still Here, Still Queer, Still Dancing!” (click to embiggen)

I make a lot of playlists. I buy new music, I listen to it a few times, then I start picking out other songs from my library that I think go well with the new music for one reasons or another, and soon I have a playlist or three. Or I’ll be having a conversation with someone, and some turn of phrase someone uses will sound like it ought to be the name of an album or band or something, and the next thing I know I’m constructing a playlist of songs that fit the title. Not to mention the many playlists I put together to help with my writing. I have playlists for specific recurring characters in my stories, and playlists for particular stories, and more importantly playlists for particular plot/character arcs within a story.

And every year during May I start constructing a Pride playlist. It’ll be a mix of new songs and old. What they usually all have in common is that they are songs I like to dance to, and resonate in some way with the celebratory side of being out and proud but especially loud. Or, as Miss Coco Peru might said, a life lived out, proud, loud and just a little bit ridiculous.

Some years I feel like putting in songs that are a bit more dirty and flirty, while other years my include some ballads and either more serious or slightly darker in tone. I also throw in songs that are by artists I’ve been thinking about a lot this year. Which is at least part of the reason you’ll see both Prince and David Bowie make an appearance.

Not all of these songs will mean the same thing to you or even evoke the same feelings, of course. And you may see some familiar titles that make you ask, “How can he dance to that?” Don’t just look at the title, but try to find the exact remix by the same artist. You may find that the cover version of an old pop song you think you know has been transformed into something completely different in the particular track I’ve listed.

Anyway, this is my 2016 Pride Playlist:

  1. “Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix)” – Prince & The Revolution
  2. “Feelin’ Free” – Sirpaul
  3. “Spectrum (feat. Jo Lampert & Gyasi Ross)” – Ryan Amador
  4. “Rebel Rebel” – David Bowie
  5. “Reach out for the Stars” – Yehonathan
  6. “Revolution (feat. Levi Kreis)” – Matthew David
  7. “What’s It Gonna Be?” – Shura
  8. “Genghis Khan” – Miike Snow
  9. “Get Your Sexy On” – Lovestarrs
  10. “I Wanna Boi” – PWR BTTM
  11. “The Boy Who Couldn’t Keep His Clothes On” – Pet Shop Boys
  12. “Just Stand Up!” – Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Rihanna, Fergie, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge, Natasha Bedingfield, Miley Cyrus, Leona Lewis, Carrie Underwood, Keyshia Cole, LeAnn Rimes, Ashanti, Ciara & Mariah Carey
  13. “How Deep Is Your Love” – Calvin Harris & Disciples
  14. “For You” – Quentin Elias
  15. “The Good, the Bad and the Dirty” – Panic! At the Disco
  16. “Desire” – Years & Years
  17. “We Don’t Have to Dance” – Andy Black
  18. “Feel So Good [Orignal Edit]” – Sean Ensign
  19. “Eddie Baez Donna Summer She Works Hard for the Money” – Eddie Baez Presents
  20. “Only Love Survives (Timothy Allan & Mark Loverush Remix)” – Ryan Dolan
  21. “You’re So Beautiful (White Party Version) [feat. Jussie Smollett]” – Empire Cast
  22. “Breathe Life” – Brian Kent
  23. “Try Everything” – Shakira
  24. “Halo (Gomi Club Remix)” – Beyoncé
  25. “You Are Unstoppable (7th Heaven Remix)” – Conchita Wurst

Whatever music you prefer, never forget: dance with joy, dance with abandon, dance without worrying what anyone thinks, because life is too short to waste time sitting still!

Weekend Update 5/21/2016: Ringtone Rhapsody and Beyond

Gizmodo brings us this little story of pianist Tony Ann who has created a short piano piece that incorporates the music of several popular ringtone, transforming them into brief melodic themes that are woven together into a song. It’s pretty cool!

Famous Cellphone Ringtones Played On The Piano (Tony Ann Arrangement):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Yesterday a friend asked why I didn’t include anything about Oklahoma Lawmakers Passing a Bill Criminalizing Performing Abortion among the rest of the Friday Links. As I explained in the comments, their was so much ridiculous and outrage-inducing news out of Oklahoma this week (and a few other places), that on Thursday night while I was assembling the Friday Links post I reached a stage where I was seething. I was literally shaking so hard with rage that I could not sit still at the keyboard. I kept getting up and angrily pacing back and forth, muttering about how ludicrous it was. So I skipped over a chunk of the links I had bookmarked for the week and tried to move on to calming news.

Oklahoma was not one of the states I lived in as a child, but both my dad’s and Mom’s side of the family came from there, and I had a lot of relatives living there back in the day. My husband grew up in communities in Missouri and Oklahoma, and many of his closest relatives still live there. The upshot is that I have emotional ties to Oklahoma and keep hoping that it will become a better place than I recall it being. (While I was telling Michael about this update, he said, “There are reasons I always say that Oklahoma is a great place to be from!”) So here are a few other links that I could have included about Oklahoma yesterday:

Oklahoma lawmakers call ‘state of emergency’ to stop trans kids from using the restroom.

Transgender bathroom bills introduced in Oklahoma Legislature.

Oklahoma introduces measure to impeach Obama over bathroom rights.

Since then, there is some slightly better news. Midday Friday, the governor of Oklahoma vetoed bill that would criminalize abortion. And that’s nice. Unfortunately, she didn’t veto it because the law is blatantly unconstitutional. Nor did she veto it because the decision whether to have an abortion should be a matter of conscience for the woman involved. She vetoed it because the law failed to identify the definition of “medically necessary to save the life of the mother” which is the one exception in the law. It probably didn’t hurt that every expert agreed that the law would make it impossible for any OB/GYN to practice in Oklahoma, since any miscarriages or any tubal pregnancies that a patience experienced could be charged under the law. The governor explicitly said that she hopes a president will soon appoint judges to the Supreme Court who will overturn Roe v Wade and make abortion illegal at a federal level.

So it isn’t great news, just less awful than it originally appeared.

Speaking of good news: South Carolina Senate blocks Berkeley anti-transgender bathroom ban. This is the second time since this trans bathroom mania began that South Carolina legislators have killed one of these kinds of bills.

While we’re on the topic of improving news, some months back when the first trailer for the next Star Trek movie went up, it was pretty cringe worthy. It was blatantly obvious that whoever edited it was thinking, “Guardians of the Galaxy was a goofy comedy action movie that was a blockbuster, so how can we edit this to make it look like it is also a goofy comedy action movie?” The new trailer just dropped, and thankfully it looks much, much better:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Confessions of a technology addict

1386838922151614I was voting in the Locus Awards (annual sci fi/fantasy award poll held by Locus Magazine, which is open to anyone who wants to vote), and was completing the survey portion at the end, when I got to the question, “Do you own a computer? If so, how many?” and I paused for only a moment. See, I personally own three right now: my 7-year-old Mac Pro tower (gigantic thing that was way more powerful than I needed when I bought it because I wanted to be happy with it for years), my Macbook Pro laptop (also known as Hello, Sweetie!), and a 6-year old Windows 7 ultrabook (aka Macbook Air knock-off) for those few old programs I have that I can’t find equivalents of for Mac. Those are my personal computers.

Then there is my iPad Air 2, which I use for several laptop functions, particularly at work, because it is better at them than the clunky old Dell laptops that my employer provided (though we are finally, finally starting to get upgrades this year!). It is clearly a computing device, and a lot more powerful than many computers I’ve owned in the past. And I’m always pointing out that iPhones and high-end smartphones in general are actually pocket computers that obviate a phone, not merely phones themselves…

And then there’s another way to look at it. I’m married, and we’re living in a community property state, so technically my computers also belong to Michael, but more importantly for this survey, his belong to me and… well, I have no clue how many he owns. I mean, he has his older Macbook Air that he carries back and forth to work, and then there is his much nicer Macbook Pro that he uses for more serious portable computing, and then there are, if I just peek at his desk, four PC towers and mini-towers, and I see at least one laptop, and counting how many things are plugged into his giant KVM switch (that allows all of his desk computers to share his monitors, keyboard, and mouse)…. well, if I’m counting those right, there is at least one more computer in that desk somewhere that I can’t see. Plus the Mac Mini in another room that we use as a media server, and I know there are at least two laptops in his pile of “machines I could make usable if someone we know has a complete computer failure and needs something now” pile…

You can see why I have no clue how many computers he owns. So I asked him, “Honey, how many computers do you own?” To which he frowned, looked at me a little bit sheepishly, and said, “I have no idea. Why?”

I decided since he can vote in the Locus Awards himself, that I could just answer 3 for me, and not worry about the rest. Particularly since I could see that a subsequent question asked whether we owned any of the following: smartphone, tablet, iPod, e-book reading device. So I could count some of my other computing devices there.

Thank goodness they didn’t ask how many of those!

I only own the one iPad, myself. But since I have never gotten around to re-selling my old iPhone when I upgraded to the new one, I technically have more than one of those. And then there are iPods other than my phone: one for the car, one that I use as a watch, one that plugs onto my alarm clock and helps wake me up each morning, and I think four spares for the car (because we’ve had more than one stolen from the car over the years). The spares are squirreled away on my desk, so it would take me a bit to find them.

And my husband is worse, because he has more than one iPad he uses regularly (one lives more or less permanently in his bicycle bag. It’s an older one that he salvaged form a junk bin at work where it had a shattered screen and a slightly bent body; he straightened the body, installed a new screen, and may have done some other repairs to it to make it fully functional again).

So I should clarify, for people that don’t know, that one of the reasons we are over-supplied in this technology department is because he works for a computer recycler/refurbisher, and he frequently acquires dead or damaged computers, iPods, et cetera, and cobbles together working devices by scavenging parts out of them. And, truth be told, he did that sort of thing before he started working at this place, he just has a slightly more ready supply of the damaged tech to choose from.

But none of that explains my headphone collection. Because I have a bunch of those. Way more than I could reasonably use. I mean, I can only use one pair at a time, right? Well, it’s just easier to have one pair of wireless headphones that I wear from riding the bus to work, walking home, and so forth, and a wired pair kept with my desktop computer. And a wired pair with a good boom microphone for my laptop… and then there were those gorgeous purple headphones I originally bought for the laptop, but their microphone has degraded a bit, and they’re no longer really good for conference calls to work on my work-from-home days, or skype calls with friends; so I had to get the newer pair mentioned previously, but the sound quality for listening is still awesome, and they’re gorgeous purple, so I can’t throw them out!

And there’s a pair of wired headphones that live in my personal backpack so I have a set of noise cancelling headphones at conventions and such in case I need them. And a backup set of wireless headphones (or four or five, if I’m honest and look in that place on the desk where I keep them) for those moments (which happen with every pair of wireless headphones eventually), when you turn them on and prepare for your commute and you hear that dreaded crackle in one side… or no sound at all from one side. And there’s at least one backup set of headphones in my office bag, in case the wireless ones die while I’m out and about. And another set of wired noise-cancelling headphones that stay at the office so I can deploy them when co-workers (such as certain meeting that happen regularly in the conference room nearest my desk) get too loud and distracting for me to work. And, of course, a backup pair in my “computer things we regularly take to conventions” bag…

See, my headphone addiction is much, much worse than my iPod problem!

And then there are word processing programs! When I counted recently, I had nine or ten on my iPhone, a similar number on my iPad (but they aren’t all the same, because a couple of them are iPad-only, and some that are on the iPhone aren’t on the iPad for one reason or another), and there are way, way, way more on my laptop… Because some of them are better for some kinds of writing than others, and most of them can read each others’ files, anyway, so why not?

And let’s not talk about how many are installed on the desktop computer that aren’t on the laptop, nor why my Windows machine that I almost never use because it’s a backup, really, but it has more than one…

…and there is at least one licensed copy of a word processor that I prefer on my husband’s Macbook Air that I purchased and put on there so I could use his laptop if mine wasn’t available.

At least not all of my addictions are entirely digital. Most of the dictionaries I own are the old-fashioned printed on paper type…

…most…

The Man Who Fell to Earth

I was watching a recording of a football game Sunday night after a day spent with friends role-playing in 19th Century Scotland when I saw the first “Oh, no! Not Bowie” go by on twitter. So at least I didn’t hear the news of David Bowie’s death while I was laying half-asleep while the clock radio played news before I had to get up for work. Which is, unfortunately, how I heard about Alan Rickman. This hasn’t been a great week, obviously. But I saw one reaction this morning that helped:

Yes, let’s all be bold and creative and weird as hell.

It wouldn’t be correct to say the David Bowie was my hero, though in many important ways he was. He was also so much more. I wish that I had been bold enough during the height of his Glam Rock period to have been a Bowie fan. Make no mistake, I liked his work a lot. The first song I remember liking by Bowie was “Starman” which didn’t become much of a hit in the U.S. in 1972, but how could I not like it, since it seemed to have a sci fi theme?

Then I saw him on TV. Back the the 70s there were a lot of musical/comedy variety shows on prime time, and Bowie appeared on one of those. I don’t remember what song he sang. What I do remember was that he was dressed in something that flashed and glittered, and that his hair was in a style I had never seen on any human before, and he had face paint. When I try to visualize it, the colors keep changing, which means this was before we got out first color TV (which happened when I was 15 years old).

I was mesmerized. I had no idea a man could look like that, dress like that, and move like that while singing. I had seen men in movies and TV in weird costumes, and even in certain kinds of drag, but nothing like this. And then my dad growled, “Who is that cocksucking freak? What are you watching?”

Throughout my childhood, any time that my dad was really, really angry at me—angry enough that he’d grab something club-like to beat me with rather than just slap or punch me around—one of the things he called me was “cocksucker.” And for most of those years I had no idea what the word meant. From his tone of voice and actions while calling me that, I knew that it was a horrible, awful, vile thing—but that was it. By the time of this TV incident, I knew what the word meant, and I knew that literally it was true about me. But I also knew that my dad wasn’t the only person who thought it was the most awful thing a boy could be. I knew with absolute certainty that if any family member, or any of the people at church or school found out it was true about me, that my life would be over. Probably literally.

And Dad had just called this singer on TV (that I was finding so fascinating) a cocksucker. I knew, immediately, that I could never, ever let dad know that I thought David Bowie’s music was good—let alone admit to my fascination with how he looked! I don’t know exactly what I said in answer to Dad. I probably said the name of the variety show we were watching, and I know I said something about not liking the freaky guy at all, and hoped they got to someone else, soon.

A couple of years later, I saw a story in a magazine about a new movie coming soon, The Man Who Fell to Earth, based on a sci fi novel by the same name, starring David Bowie. I owned a paperback copy of the book, and had read it and enjoyed it. Immediately, seeing some photos of Bowie in makeup for the film as an alien who comes to Earth, I realized he was perfect for the role. I dug out the book and re-read it, imagining the alien looking and talking like Bowie. I went from simply liking the book to loving it.

The movie wasn’t a big hit, so never made it to the theatre in the small town where we lived. But I kept imagining it, based on the novel and those pictures, for years.

In the 80s, when I was in my twenties, Bowie’s music videos were among my favorites. And then the movie Labyrinth came out, and I and a bunch of my sci fi nerd friends went to see it in the theatre. I bought the soundtrack album. It was around the time, some months later, when I bought my own copy of  Labyrinth on videotape when I realized that I could safely purchase regular Bowie albums. I hadn’t lived with or even near my dad since just before my 16th birthday, but that initial fear of being recognized as queer if I bought any Bowie music lingered. It didn’t help when Bowie described himself as gay in an interview in 1978 (something he later didn’t exactly renounce, but did say wasn’t accurate). Ironically, I owned lots of Queen and Elton John music in my teens, and it never occurred to me that anyone would infer anything about my sexuality from those.

Anyway, I picked of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and listened to it so often, I wore out the cassette tape. I started acquiring some of his other albums on disc, both the older ones and the albums from the 80s.

Eventually I also finally saw The Man Who Fell to Earth. Although by that time, I had been imagining how the movie went so vividly, that I thought I had managed to see it somehow. The actual film didn’t live up to my imagination in many ways. Except Bowie himself. He was magical and ethereal and totally believable as the alien trying to pass as a human.

And by the time I was buying Bowie and admitting I liked him, I was also in the process of coming out. Which is appropriate. Knowing Bowie existed—both the singer who gave me “The Width of a Circle,” “Moonage Daydream,” “Starman,” “Space Oddity,” and “Suffragette City” and the actor who played the Man Who Fell to Earth—kept alive the idea that maybe a freak like me could have a happy and full life during those dark closeted years. He was one of people who saved my life.

Alan Rickman didn’t come into my awareness until my late twenties, when I saw Die Hard for the first time in theatres. He was awesome, of course, as he was in every role I saw him in, afterward. So he didn’t have the same impact on my formative years as Bowie did. But his work touched my adult life in profound ways, as well.

I don’t like thinking of the world without either of them.

Muddle through somehow

Sometimes the universe decides to remind us that people have a tremendous capacity to love.

I mentioned, as part of yesterday’s post, some of the past and current difficulties I’ve had with some family members—specifically the ongoing sticking points of me being a gay man raised by a bunch of fundamentalist evangelicals. So, during my day trip to Mom’s and to visit at least some relatives near her, several people decided to tell me how much they love Michael.

Keep in mind that none of these relatives know this blog exists, and one of them can’t even “work the google” without the help of their 12-year-old… Read More…

Musical packrat?

I have a large music collection (11,800+ songs, 83 gigabytes), but not the biggest in the world. I have at least one friend who, despite still having many hundreds of CDs he hasn’t imported into his digital collection, makes my digital music library look small.

No, what usually freaks people out is the size of my Christmas music collection: 9.8 gigabytes, or 1980 songs. That’s enough music that, if I just tried to listen to it all non-stop, it would take more than 4½ days.

I know that’s a lot.

Read More…

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