Quote of the day: AWAKE

October 16, 2017

AWAKE

I’m not saying that it’s easy to shine, to love, to twirl
I’m not saying it don’t hurt to be awake in this world

–Marsha P. Johnson


From the deep archives: Harvey Fierstein and TORCH SONG TRILOGY

October 12, 2017


It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since the first glimmer of Harvey Fierstein’s epochal gay play Torch Song Trilogy emerged. As I’m gearing up to see the revival at the Second Stage, directed by Moises Kaufman and now titled Torch Song, I’ve been going through my Fierstein file folder, reviewing the history of my relationship with the gravel-voiced legend. I met Harvey in 1975 when I was in college at Boston University and he was starring in a local production of Robert Patrick’s The Haunted Host. We became friends, or friendly in the way that young journalists and the young artists they cover favorably can be.

Throughout the years of writing the plays that eventually became Torch Song Trilogy, Harvey kept in touch with me, sending me scripts and gossipy letters and postcards. I interviewed him several times over the years, but the first time was in February 1978, for an article published in The Advocate, when he was performing The International Stud (the first play of the trilogy) at La Mama. The picture above was taken by Allen Tannenbaum, staff photographer for the Soho Weekly News, during the 1978 Off-Broadway run of Stud at the Players Theater on MacDougal Street.

As a treat from the archives, I’m posting here the typewritten transcript of that interview. Check it out and let me know what you think.


Quote of the day: TENSION OF THE OPPOSITES

September 26, 2017

TENSION OF THE OPPOSITES

Holding an inner or outer conflict quietly instead of attempting to resolve it quickly is a difficult idea to entertain. It is even more challenging to experience. However, as Carl Jung believed, if we held the tension between the two opposing forces, there would emerge a third way, which would unite and transcend the two. Indeed, he believed that this transcendent force was crucial to individuation. Whatever the third way is, it usually comes as a surprise, because it has not penetrated our defenses until now. A hasty move to resolve tension can abort growth of the new. If we can hold conflict in psychic utero long enough we can give birth to something new in ourselves.

–Marion Woodman


Quote of the day: FEATHERS

September 22, 2017

FEATHERS

“Have you ever examined the feather of a bird?” Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-founder of evolutionary theory, once wrote. “No man in the world could make such a thing.” Feathers are even harder to fake than fur, their structure being vastly more complex and varied. Falcon feathers are stiff, like jet-fighter wings, for stability at high altitudes; owl feathers are soft and barbed, to muffle their descent on prey; sandgrouse feathers soak up water, so their chicks can sip them in the desert. The range of designs would put any wilderness outfitter to shame. Bald-eagle feathers zip up to keep out moisture; mourning-dove feathers rotate individually to control flight; golden-crowned-kinglet feathers keep the bird’s body so insulated that it may be a hundred and forty degrees warmer than the air. “If human hair were similarly diverse,” Thor Hanson writes, “a person might combine a neatly trimmed Van Dyke beard with a teased hairdo taller than the Statue of Liberty.”

Yet none of this compares to the complexity of bird color. The leaf green of a quetzal’s tail, the cerulean blue of a tree swallow’s back, the golden-eyed wings of a great argus are the work of an infinitely patient genetic process—mutation upon mutation, like paint layered on canvas. Some feathers are pigmented. Others have structural color: nanoscopic bubbles, lattices, and granules that scatter and refract light. Still others have both, the ornithologist Richard Prum, a professor at Yale, told me. The green broadbill of Sumatra and Borneo, for instance, has feathers that blend prismatic blue with pigmentatious yellow. Add to this the ultraviolet hues that birds can see and we can’t, and you can start to imagine how bedazzling a Himalayan monal truly is—how nearly hallucinatory to the female watching him dance. “All the beauty is in the feathers,” Wallace wrote. “I almost think a feather is the masterpiece of nature.”

–Burkhard Bilger, “Feathered Glory,” The New Yorker


R.I.P./From the deep archives: Don Williams

September 14, 2017

I grew up listening to country music because that’s all my parents played around the house. (My father lovingly called it “hillbilly music.” I won’t mention his all-purpose epithet for pop music.) So when I started writing record reviews as a rock critic, I specialized in writing about country music because most of my peers didn’t know or didn’t care much about the field. It amused me to get a reputation as a young journalist who wrote about gay literature, avant-garde theater, AND country music. One of my first pieces for the Village Voice when I moved to New York was a review of the latest album by Don Williams, a wonderful country singer who died last week at the age of 78.

‘Tis a gift to be simple, and Don Williams is c&w Christmas. Dubbed “the gentle giant” by his Nashville constituency and revered by rock stars like Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend, he sings spare, laconic songs of heart and home with the imperturbable modesty of a man who never raises his voice. Straight in every sense of the world – morally upright, poker-faced, drug-free, unimpeachably heterosexual – Williams projects a staunch (though unpushy) Puritanism, both in his musical austerity and in his conventional domestic romanticism. His courtliness places him in the tradition of polite country crooners such as Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves; among today’s candidates, Jesse Winchester falls into that category, unlike Kenny Rogers, whose penchant for lurid, Peckinpah-ish soap operas belies his mannerly pose. And though Williams began his career as part of the pop-folk duo, The Pozo Seco Singers (best known for “Time”), his fiddle-and-pedal-steel-reinforced music places him in the country tradition rather than in pop. Actually, he’s almost as much a folkie as a country singer; he favors a stripped-down, acoustic sound that carefully distinguishes him from both Billy Sherrill’s hypercommercial c&w machine and the rock-oriented “outlaw” pack.

I haven’t listened to his music in many years but I liked what I heard. I just added my Voice piece to my writing archive. Check it out here and let me know what you think.


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