Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Edmund White - The Poetry of Ordinary Gay Life

I first became aware of Edmund White through the power of graphic advertising. Working on my libido, viz a photo of a classically beautiful guy in a perfect faded purple singlet as the cover of 'A Boy's Own Story' (1982):

A great read - something of Jean Genet's mix in language of poetry and ordinary life, but different. Where Genet's palette is the underworld of pimps and sex workers and petty crime, White's is that of the middle-class ordinary-every man. The novel is in the coming of age and out genre, and set in America of the 1950's and onwards, forty years. With its very heightened poetic language appropriate for a writer's autobiography. First person narration.

In the following extract, the author as central protagonist heads into a beat area downtown, and tells us of the picking-up scene, both as omniscient observer and as participant:

'That man's embrace around the waist set me spinning like a dancer across the darkened stage of the city, my turns led me to Fountain Square, the centre. After nightfall the downtown was nearly empty. A cab might cruise by. One high office window might glow. The restaurants had closed by eight, but a bar door could could swing open to impose on me the shadow of a man. Shabby city of black stone whitened by starlings, poor earthly progeny of that mystical metal dove poised on the outstretched waist of the goddess of the fountain. ... At last a driver would pause before a young man who'd hop down and lean into the open window, listen - and then the young man would either shake his head or spit, or, if a deal had been struck, swagger round to the other side and get in. Look at them: the curving windshield whispers down the reflection of a blinking neon sign on two faces, a bald man behind the wheel whose glasses are crazed by streaks of green light from the dashboard below, whose ears are fleshy, whose small mouth is pinched smaller by anxiety or anticipation. Beside him the young man, head thrown back on the seat so that we can see only the strong white parabola of his jaw and the working Adam's apple.'

I love the unexpected imagery. It strikes you fresh, so that you savour meanings that can often go unnoticed in the driving forward of a plot. Particularly when the action is compeling, as it is here.

Images such as the dance metaphors of the beginning of this passage. From the arm around a waist (as in a waltz). Thru the certainty of the choreographic movement of 'spinning' towards the beat, and the 'turns' (of pirouettes) into the centre of the scene. It's night so the continuing theatre metaphor of the 'darkened stage' works well.

And I love the way he pre-figures the pick-up action - in the cab 'cruising by'. Taken up a few moments later with a driver stopping before a worker to negotiate. A successful transaction leading to a 'swaggering round' to the passenger's door, another calculated movement as in a dance.

And the language is fine on so many other levels.

Hustlers of this extract and that might have been picked up in the 1950 somethings seem to be suggested in these vintage photos:

Maybe these guys are not in the fine and poetic mould, but they have a certain kind of appeal. To me. To you?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Very Merry Xmas Everyone

Xmas has put me in a self-revelatory mood. So I wanna share this with you.

This is the first big hairy bloke I ever met:

So, have a Very Happy Xmas guys - hope you visit over the festive season and into next year.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Festive Season

I was thinking about the festive season this morning and it occurred to me that I'd do something other than the ubiquitous gay angle ('The Three Wise Fucks', the Porn Santa, etc). Something that captured the the essence of what this time of year can mean - to everyone.

And I thought of a trip to Laos, cos I seemed to capture images there of great tranquility and beautify, but without any calculation in my photography.

The capital, Vientiane, has the feeling of a large quiet sprawling country town:

with lots of tree-lined dirt roads:

and a colonial past still visible in architecture:

The temples you expect to find in Buddhist cities in Asia, but not bright shiny new:

And a very specific stype of Buddhist sculpture:

and the calm of the monks, everywhere meditative:

living in simple housing:

Idyllic sunsets:

Just wanna go back right now!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Beauty in Black and White

Lots of the photos round the blogs (and elsewhere) are of the hot, erotic, sexy, fuckable, whatever guys we demand. Blokes you immediately file away in your fantasy bank - for that ride to or from work, that wait in the queue in the supermarket ... . After all, we do need to make a withdrawal every 3 minutes, so we're told! And also of course for that the extra stimulus we must have for a really dud one-night fuck.

But then there are those photos which, while being of guys with all these 'special' qualities, have that something extra. And this is one of those:

I must confess I did happen to notice his cock first ... and lingered there a bit. Just cos of the lighting, mind you. But then I thought 'wow, what a beautiful picture'. Not in that 'oh, it's so artistic I can justify saving it' kind of way. So, have I managed to merge the Madonna and the Whore? Maybe my ideas are working overtime!

One final point - it's a delicate balance between 'art' and 'porn'. Some just have too much of the former for me:

Others too much of the latter:

But, hey guys, it's whatever works for you!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Gary Larson - Seriously Off-Beat Cartoonist

I was living in Beijing for the whole year of 1988 - just before the Tiananmen Square Massacre, when there was still a sense of 'opening-up' and people would stop Westerners in the street to talk, practise English, and gain a sense of the world outside the Middle Kingdom (中国) or China. Cos there was very little unofficial stuff on TV or in magazines or anywhere about the wider world.

I had an enormous old-style flat in the Friendship Hotel ('Yoyi Binguan')', in the Haidian district, north-east of the CBD. This gigantic complex was built in 1954 in a Russian style.

Anyway, one night an American friend gave me a pile of 'The Far Side' magazines, and so introduced me to Gary Larson, cartoonist extraordinaire:

One of the first cartoons I remember was this one - it got me really howling, and this didn't stop till I turned the last page in the last collection.
What I loved about this cartoon is the wild off-beat humour, quite wonderfully weird and unexpected.

Okay, here's a selection. Enjoy!

Well, how did you go? On a scale of 1-10, how hard did you howl? If you didn't manage even a decibel, you are in big big trouble, and in need of help. Though I suspect your condition is terminal!!!

Okay, you have one more chance, with this non-Larson effort:

Well ... ??? Did the gay content help? No! Dismiss yourself immediately!