SotW: Wanna Be Starting Something Saturday, Aug 29 2009 

Tonight I went over to my friend Michael’s house and then out to dinner. After dinner we met up with a couple of his friends for a drink.

One of his friends, Justin, is obsessed with Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Starting Something.” He gave us a ride back over to my friend’s house. As we drove, we listened to this song, which is now going to be stuck in my head. It’s way too catchy!

I was never much of a Michael Jackson fan — Tina Turner and Madonna were more my style. But this song made me interested in Thriller again, so I downloaded it from iTunes and am listening to it from start to finish really for the first time. It’s still not exactly my thing, but the big singles are all amazing pop songs. Jackson’s death really is the end of an era.

I’ll post the lyrics after the break.

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Visiting Venice Friday, Aug 28 2009 

The last part of our trip to Italy earlier this summer was to Venice. I guess it goes without saying that Venice is unlike any other place I’ve ever been. This is the only place I’ve ever visited that had absolutely no automobiles. You get where you’re going either by walking or by boat. It’s totally foreign to everything I’ve ever experienced as an American.

Ultimately, I have to say that I loved it, but the Venice part of our trip was complicated by two significant factors. First, I was exhausted. We had already been walking a lot for more than a week by the time we arrived in Venice. In that regard, I was pretty much over this vacation. My feet hurt, my legs were tired, and I just wanted to go home. More importantly, on the second day we were there was got a message from our house sitter that one of our cats was severely ill and might be dying. Not a great way to end a vacation. Again, I just wanted to go home.

Despite these obstacles, we decided to persevere and try to enjoy ourselves. We couldn’t get home early, there was nothing we could do to help Marlowe until we got back to the states, and you never know if you’re ever going to have the opportunity to visit a place like Venice again, so we decided to walk more slowly and just try to forget our troubles. It didn’t entirely work, and we both spent time crying over what might be awaiting us when we got home, but ultimately I couldn’t help but love Venice.

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Men’s Semis at the Western & Southern Sunday, Aug 23 2009 

PJ and I spent most of the weekend in Cincinnati. For as long as I’ve lived in Ohio, I’ve wanted to go to the Western & Southern Tennis Tournament in Mason, OH. We almost went last year. I was determined to go this year no matter what.

So, we drove over the Cincinnati on Friday, had a nice time downtown, and then went to the men’s semifinal matches on Saturday. We also got to see the end of the first men’s doubles match, in which Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonnic played Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles.

Nestor and Zimonjic (above) won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3. I only saw the last few games of the match, but it was fun to watch Nestor and Zimonjic work together so seamlessly. They seem an unlikely pair in some ways, Nestor is a little older than your average tennis player (he’s 36), and Zimonjic is beefier than most tennis players (the ATP website lists him at 200 lbs. whereas Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are listed at 188 and 187 lbs.).

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SotW: We Are Golden by Mika Wednesday, Aug 19 2009 

Just when you thought Mika couldn’t get any gayer, he comes out with a video featuring him in nothing by white short shorts and various colors of glittering hightops (and lights shining out of his fingers and crotch). His new single is “We Are Golden,” a would-be generational anthem that would work well as the theme song for twinks at next year’s Pride Parades, is the first single off his new album. The embedding is disabled for this video on YouTube, so click here to see it. 

I love Mika’s first album, so I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the new one. I also think Mika is hot — he could be incendiary when he gets a little older — so I’m perfectly happy that he’s showing some skin in this video.

But mostly I like his creative energy and enthusiasm. His videos are always visually interesting, even when they cross over into total camp mess. “We Are Golden” really works, I think. Its motif of the boy singing along to his favorite song alone in his bedroom and using his imagination to express his relation to the music is a great concept. (And a totally gay one!) 

His album, The Boy Who Knew Too Much, comes out September 22.

(500) Days of Summer: A Review Tuesday, Aug 18 2009 

Over the weekend, PJ and I saw (500) Days of Summer starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Gordon-Levitt plays Tom, a relatively recent college grad who couldn’t find work in an architectural firm so he’s working as a writer for a greeting card company. He believes in true love and thinks he’s found it when he meets Summer, played by Deschanel, one day at work. Here’s the trailer:

As the trailer states, this isn’t actually a “love story” in the traditional sense, which is what I really like about it. Director Marc Webb, who’s been a video director up until now, and the film’s writers attempt to experiment both with genre and form in this movie. We’re told from the beginning that our protagonists will not end up together. This movie, therefore, relates their meeting, dating, and relationship demise rather than their meeting, courtship, and marriage. I love anti-romances, so I like this element of the film a lot.

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Listening to Linda Ronstadt’s What’s New Monday, Aug 17 2009 

Lately I’ve rediscovered my love for Linda Ronstadt’s 1980’s albums of pop standards: What’s New (1983), Lush Life (1985), and For Sentimental Reasons (1986).These albums combined Ronstadt’s considerable vocal talents with arrangements by Nelson Riddle, who had previously worked with Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland, among others. Here’s the title track from What’s New:

My dad had these albums when I was a kid, and I remember falling in love with many of the tracks as soon as I heard them. “What’s New” was instantly among my favorites. Even as an adolescent, I was impressed with this song’s story — I didn’t know music could do this. It made you imagine a little movie as you listen to it.

I also love the emotion of the song. Ronstadt’s ability to capture the embarrassment, disappointment, and yearning that imbues this song fascinated me. It’s so beautiful, delicate, and sad when she sings it. And the final cry of the last line’s crescendo is amazing.

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Fifteen Years Sunday, Aug 16 2009 

Today marks (as near as we can tell) the fifteenth anniversary of when PJ and I first met. We met during the new teacher training workshops for Ph.D. students at the University of Tennessee in 1994. We first saw each other a day before that — we both thought that we were supposed to attend a workshop about the Writing Center; it turned out that the letter telling us to go to that workshop had been sent to all of the new Ph.D. students mistakenly. But we didn’t actually meet until the real workshops started.

In 1994, I was definitely a shy, quiet kid who didn’t know how to start conversations with strangers. (I’m still shite at small talk and being friendly with people I don’t know, but I’m slowly getting better at it.) So, it’s clear that PJ made the first move towards friendship. In retrospect, I don’t know how he had the patience to cultivate my friendship that first year. I’m lucky he did!

We soon started going out to dinner from time to time, going to the gay bar, Trumps, and watching The X-Files at his apartment on Friday nights (I’ll never forget how scarily dark the staircase in his building was — it was an awful way to follow a really scary episode of X-Files.) We also had a class together that first semester, a seminar on Wallace Stevens and T. S. Eliot. Slowly we got to know one another and became really good friends.

Near the end our first year in the grad program we decided to move in with one another the next year. UT had cheap apartments for graduate students and married undergraduates. That fall our friendship developed into something more, and by the end of 1995 we decided that we wanted to try being together romantically.

This picture was taken around the time that we started this new phase in our relationship. (This was one of two times between 1994 and 1999 that I tried having longer hair. It didn’t really work. I still like the idea of having long hair, but I don’t think it was the best look for me.)

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SotW: It’s a Sin by the Pet Shop Boys Monday, Aug 10 2009 

This week’s song of the week is a golden oldie, the Pet Shop Boys‘ “It’s a Sin” from 1987. Here’s the video:

I stumbled across this song again last week. I was looking through our CD collection in an effort to find more tracks for one of my workout mixes. I started listening to a couple of PJ’s Pet Shop Boys CDs and instantly fell in love with “It’s a Sin.”

I don’t remember the song from 1987, though it sounds vaguely familiar. After uploading it to iTunes, I went over to YouTube to see if there was a video. As soon as I saw it, I loved it too. Not to sound like too much of a typical gay guy, but I especially loved the guys in their underwear. Very sexy in an innocent sort of way.

This song became even more relevant to my thinking this week after I saw Save Me over the weekend. As I wrote about yesterday, I really enjoyed that movie in part because of its ability to present its Christian characters in a non-stereotypical sort of way.

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Save Me: A Review Sunday, Aug 9 2009 

Last night, PJ and I watched Save Me on dvd. It stars Chad Allen as Mark, a drug addict who also happens to be gay. When he nearly overdoses (again), his family more or less commits him to an ex-gay ministry, Genesis House. They hope to cure two ills — his addiction and his “broken” sexuality — with one stone, or something like that.

Here’s the trailer:

Overall, I really liked this movie. It’s a good, heart-felt gay independent film. I think the way to think about it is that it’s a love story set in an ex-gay ministry. As such, it could have been cliched and boring. Instead, it tries its best to be respectful of Christianity (and even ex-gay ministries) while calling into question their motives and efficacy.

I really appreciated this attempt at respect. Its success lies mainly on the shoulders of Judith Light, who is wonderful as Gayle, the co-leader of the ministry. She gives a quiet, subtle performance for most of the film, slowly revealing her history, heartache, and motivation in trying to help homosexuals “recover” from their “brokenness.” She could have made this character a monster or a joke. Instead, Gayle ends up being the heart of the film, a character we can’t help but love even as we judge her actions, goals, and efforts.

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Julie & Julia: A Review Saturday, Aug 8 2009 

Last night PJ and I saw Nora Ephron’s new movie, Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell, a writer who decides to blog about making all of the recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Here’s the trailer:

I’ll jump right to the chase: I loved everything about this movie. As a kid I loved watching Julia Child’s PBS show, so I was really looking forward to seeing what Meryl Streep could do with this character. But the commercials looked a little cheesy, and based on that I thought that her accent as Child might be distracting and that she might be too over the top. I wasn’t sure she would pull it off.

But if I weren’t already a Meryl Streep queen, her performance in this movie would make me one! She is amazing in this role. I forgot that she is Meryl Streep after the first few seconds of her being on screen. She embodies Julia Child. She channels Julia Child. She IS Julia Child.

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