Bea Arthur: What’ll I Do? Sunday, Apr 26 2009 

Lord Peter Wimsey on Page and Screen Tuesday, Aug 12 2008 

This summer I’ve been reading Dorothy L. SayersLord Peter Wimsey novels. I had read a few of them years ago when I was in college, but I hadn’t really read very many of them. So, I started with the Lord Peter-Harriet Vane novels — Strong Poison (1930), Have His Carcase (1932), and Gaudy Night (1935) — before going back to the beginning of the Lord Peter novels,Whose Body? (1923). In addition to those novels, I’ve read Clouds of Witness (1926), Unnatural Death (1927), and The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928). I’ve just started Five Red Herrings (1931), but I have to admit that I’m losing steam and may have to take a break from Sayers for a bit.

Sayers is one of the great writers for the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. She started her literary career as a poet before World War I. After the war, she decided to try her hand at detective fiction. In all, she wrote ten Wimsey novels and two collections of short stories. She also composed a play that takes place during Lord Peter’s honeymoon with Harriet. After she discontinued her detective series, she wrote religious plays, translated Dante, and composed several nonfiction works.

Having now read the majority of her novels, I have to say that Sayers is the greatest detective writer I’ve ever read. When I was younger, I spent a summer reading Agatha Christie’s works and I’ve always considered myself a Christie devotee. In graduate school, I took up reading Patricia Cornwell‘s novels, the first few of which, at least, are excellent, scary reads. And of course there’s Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Sherlock Holmes stories and novels are unrivaled in the genre — or at least they were until Sayers came along.

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Celebrating My Birthday Thursday, Jun 26 2008 

Today is my birthday. It’s been a good, relaxing day. It’s not a particularly big year, so I don’t feel any specific anxiety about aging or anything like that. I’m healthier than I’ve been in a while, eating well and exercising. Since my last birthday, I’ve lost 20 lbs. and I’m feeling good. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the obvious fact that I’m balding, but that’s not particularly birthday related. My relationship with PJ is the best it’s ever been, and my career is going well. All in all, I’m happy with myself, my life, and the world around me. So, having a good, relaxing day seems in order.

I woke up early and opened my presents from PJ. These included a iPod nano, which is what I had wanted most this year, a soapstone Ganesha, and the first two seasons of Sex and the City on DVD.

I spent most of the day loading music onto the iPod. Of course I just started loading stuff without really knowing what I was doing. This ultimately meant that I ended up downloading many more tracks individually than I would have had to if I had just slowed down, read the instructions, and thought about it for a second. (I have music on two different computers, and that led me to make a poor decision early on.) But now I have 150 tracks on the ipod and lots more room — about 98% — left to slowly add more music over the next few days.

Soapstone Ganesha

I’ve decided to sit my new Ganesha on my desk. Here’s a picture of it. Click on it to see a larger version. This is my third Ganesha statue (or statuette — they’re each only about 5 inches tall). I also have some postcards of Ganesha.

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It’s Been a Weird Week Saturday, Apr 12 2008 

It’s been a week since PJ left for his month-long fellowship in Worcester, Massachusetts. At least in part due to his absence, it’s been a weird week.

PJ left last Saturday morning. I’m a little surprised that I didn’t immediately go into some kind of mild depression. Before he left, I imagined that it would only take a couple of hours before I would be curled up on the floor in the fetal position or something like that. While I definitely miss him, this first week hasn’t been too bad. At times, I’ve even kind of enjoyed having the house to myself.

It probably helped that the first thing I did when he left was indulge my culinary whims. On Sunday, for example, I made gazpacho, which I ate over the next three dinners. I also bought the stuff to make fish or grilled cheese sandwiches to go with the soup. I think eating well for much of this week has helped my metal state.

Another thing I’ve done is watch a couple of dvds from Netflix. Early in the week, I watched was The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, an independent Filipino movie about a 12-year-old gay boy who is torn between loyalty to his family of petty criminals and his desire for a new police officer. Here’s the trailer:

I have to admit, however, that I really didn’t care for this movie. It was well reviewed by other members of Netflix, but I thought it had A LOT of problems, not the least of which was the young actor’s inability to act convincingly. But I’m glad I watched it — usually when PJ’s out of town I just end up watching my favorite movies, which I’ve seen over and over again. (In that vein, I did finish watching The Best Years of Our Lives, one of my all time favorite movies on dvd and saw part of Star Wars: Episode III on Spike.)

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What I’m Watching: Torchwood, Dr. Who, & Bob and Rose Saturday, Sep 15 2007 

Torchwood premiered on BBC America last Saturday. Here’s the trailer:

PJ and I first were interesting in seeing Torchwood because it stars John Barrowman and because we had heard that his character is bisexual. There are so few American television shows that have interesting depictions of sexuality that we definitely wanted to see how far Torchwood would go.

John BarrowmanWe also wanted to see it because Barrowman is gay. I first saw him when he starred in Central Park West, a fun primetime soap that aired in 1995. While his character in CPW was straight, he seemed so gay that we were interested in following his career even before he came out.

We didn’t actually see any of his movies, mind you, but we’ve kept an eye out for what he’s been in. I did buy his album, John Barrowman Swings Cole Porter, but apparently I’m not that kind of gay, since I didn’t really care for it. Don’t get me wrong — he’s very good at what he does, but I’m not really into Cole Porter.

But back to Torchwood. While I first tuned in for its depiction of sexuality, I’ve already gotten hooked on its geeky sci-fi plots, gadgets, and action. It’s quick paced and action packed. And in just two episodes it’s managed to create characters that I can get into and “care about.” I also really like that it seems to assume non-heterosexuality as the default sexuality for all of its characters. The first episode had one of the male characters go ahead with a seduction of a man and woman when the woman’s boyfriend unexpectedly show up, and the second episode had a female character snogging another woman when she gets caught up in alien pheromones.

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An Agatha Christie Rant Monday, Jul 30 2007 

At some point in junior high or high school I spent a year reading Agatha Christie novels. Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence, Miss Marple, even the other ones. After I’d plowed through the Bryan Public Library’s Christie collection, I moved on to Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, and other classic British detective writers, but Christie was always my favorite.

I was especially fond of Miss Marple. I had seen a few movie and t.v. adaptations of Miss Marple novels as a kid. My parents like older movies, so we watched a lot of pre-1970s movies. I remembered the Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple:

She always struck me as too energetic. There was also Angela Lansbury:

She always seemed too Angela Lansbury (though I’ve always liked her and thought she should have won several Oscars). And there was Helen Hayes (generally forgettable, unfortunately).

But there has always really been just one Miss Marple, Joan Hickson:

She is incomparable in this role. Completely unparalleled. So, why in the world have “they” decided to remake the Miss Marple television series?

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Playing it Straight Sunday, Apr 1 2007 

PJ and I have been watching a marathon of Fox’s Playing it Straight on t.v. today. This reality series puts a young woman named Jackie on a ranch with 14 men. She initially thinks it’s a straight up (pun intended) dating show like The Bachelor (this year’s bachelor is totally HOT, but I won’t watch that show regardless), but she soon learns that some of the men are gay. If she ends up with a gay guy at the end of the series, he gets $1 million; if she selects a straight guy, they split the million.

These kinds of reality shows (Gay, Straight, or Taken is another one) really anger me. While many of the gay contestants who are on these shows claim that they’re doing it to prove that gay people are everywhere and you can’t always tell who’s gay and who’s straight, it’s nevertheless bad for gay people, in my opinion.

First, it’s the gay men who are depicted as playing the game just to get the money. We’re the greedy ones. Of course the straight men are also playing for money, but they’re consistently discussed as in it for the potential relationship and not just the cash. (PJ just told me that one of the straight men just confessed that he’s in it for the cash, but I still don’t think that’s how the show depicts the straight men overall.)

Furthermore, it’s the gay men playing straight that are the liars and deceivers; they’re the ones who have to apologize when they’re kicked off for hurting the woman by lying to her, for just wanting the cash.

And finally, it really bugs me that these shows force gay men back into the closet, even if just temporarily. The guy who got kicked off the episode of Playing it Straight that was just on had a departure confessional in which he explains that he’s glad he got kicked off because he didn’t like lying to Jackie’s face and he has a boyfriend with whom he’s in love. It bothers me that these shows force the gay men to deny their partners/boyfriends just like society at large has forced these denials for so long. At least pick single gay men to be on the dating reality show. (One of the gay guys just made the comparison to being in the closet and how uncomfortable he was going back in for the show. But just because the contestants see my complaints too doesn’t mean that the complaints aren’t legitimate.)

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What I’m Watching: Rome Monday, Feb 5 2007 

In the past year or so, I’ve cut back on the number of TV shows I watch. I seem to only have a few that I keep up with regularly: American Idol, The Office, and whatever Bravo reality show is on Wednesday nights (though none are as good as Project Runway). But my favorite show right now is HBO’s Rome.

I love its use of history and politics as a set for its drama, intrigue, and occasional humor. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s not afraid of a little male nudity from time to time! Last season ended with the death of Caesar. (I’m a little disappointed that the scene didn’t steal Shakespeare’s famous line, “Et tu Brute.”) I love how self-centered and cruel Atia can be (this week’s scene of her supervising the torture of a servant is typically delicious).

The friendship between Pullo and Vorenus is the heart of the show. I’ve liked Kevin McKidd since I saw him in Topsy Turvy, one of my favorite movies. McKidd is also great in Bedrooms and Hallways, in which he plays a gay man who joins a men’s group and falls in love with the seemingly straight Brendan, played by James Purefoy, who happens to play Marc Antony in Rome — clearly the English acting pool is a small one.

My favorite character has been Brutus, played by Tobias Menzies. He’s the conscience of Rome’s conniving elite. I think he’s cute and I love his accent, but he’s also a very good actor. A lesser performer would quickly make Brutus seem morose and weak. Menzies embodies his conflicted sense of honor and the welfare of the republic, which are often mutually exclusive in this series. I hope to see him in other productions.

I’ve also enjoyed Octavius, who until this week was played by Max Pirkis. Pirkis has been great in this role; he has the perfect blend of patrician arrogance and childish lack of experience. Starting this past week, Octavius is now an adult and is played by Simon Woods, who played Mr. Bingley in Pride and Prejudice last year. Here he is in Rome:

Not only is Woods in this series now, but so is Alex Wyndham from The Line of Beauty. Again, the British pool is a small one. Hopefully, Octavius gets a little action soon — Woods is adorably cute, though I prefer him with his faux-hawk from Pride and Prejudice rather than with his Caesar cut here!

Unfortunately, this season is the last one of Rome, or so I’ve read. Apparently, it’s too expensive to produce. I really wish it would go on and on. I really enjoy the show. I don’t know what I’ll start watching once it goes off — where else can I see handsome British actors, historical intrigue, and frequent male nudity all at once? And when is someone going to produce a series that traces the politics, sexual hijinks, and social activities of the Restoration/late seventeenth century? Wouldn’t we all like to see Behn, Rochester, Charles II, etc. on our TV screens? Maybe Alex Wyndham could play Rochester and Simon Woods could be Etherege. It could be Rochester getting it on with his servants (instead of Atia’s bald servant buggering the other slaves).

Until someone creates that show, I’ll enjoy my new favorite Atia quote:

“It would serve you right to be gelded. And I would, you know, if eunuchs weren’t so unfashionable. Next time, if you want a boy, pick one up at the market! Everyone knows boys you pick up on the street aren’t to be trusted.”

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