2013 in Review: Art Friday, Jan 3 2014 

Although PJ and I saw fewer plays last year than we’d like, we went to more museums that I think is typical. As part of my 2013 round-up, I’d thought I briefly write about the five works of art that I most enjoyed seeing in 2013.

Herrin Massacre, 1940 by Paul Cadmus 

The top work on my list is a rather serious work by Paul Cadmus about the massacre of strike breakers in June 1922 in Herrin, Illinois, which I saw at the Columbus Museum of Art.

The painting was originally part of a commission by Life, but it was ultimately not published in the magazine since its editors did not want to offend pro-labor groups.

I tend to think of Cadmus’s work as mostly comic and (homo)sexual rather than gritty and political. He always seems to emphasize the male body in one way or another. Here, I think his way of depicting their bodies adds to the pathos of the massacre: we see these men as living men who are being brutally murdered. It’s beautiful, shocking, and political. I really admire it.

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2013 in Review: Theater Thursday, Jan 2 2014 

PJ and I only went to New York City once in 2013, and we didn’t manage to see any plays when we traveled to other places. Consequently, I saw fewer professional plays in 2013 than was usually  the case over the previous few years. We did see a local summer stock production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was fun. We also saw some of the shows that the School of Theater produced this year. So we didn’t entirely miss out!

Since I didn’t get a chance to post about most of these productions throughout the year, I will write a quick round-up of my five favorite productions that I saw 2013.

Cloud 9 

My favorite production from 2013 was a production of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9 locally. Our School of Theater has an MFA in Directing. The students, of course, have to direct productions of various kinds to earn their degree. One of these is a “style project,” and one of the MFA directing students, Ryan Holihan, chose Cloud 9 for this assignment.

I don’t know the director, but I love Churchill’s work, so PJ and I made sure we got tickets to see it. Holihan did an amazing job — and not just amazing for being a graduate production in a small Appalachian town. Everything about the production was top-notch.

What impressed me most was Holihan clearly understands the play and was able to get his actors to understand it as well. The production was hilarious, suspenseful, and moving, not an easy combination. Add to that the fact that some of the actors play characters of different genders and ages, and you have a work that could be an utter disaster in the wrong director’s hands. I was clearly impressed by the skills Holihan, his cast, and his crew demonstrated in this production. It’s a reminder that, perhaps, the most important theatrical engagements don’t happen on Broadway by on stages throughout the country, in small towns with amateur or student actors and crews. The work these performers do is arguably the true essence of what theater is all about.

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2013 in Review: Brazil and Seattle Wednesday, Jan 1 2014 

As the new year begins, it feels like the right time to look back at 2013 and think about the year. PJ and I agree that 2013 was a pretty great year for us. We traveled, enjoyed museums, music, and theater, saw friends and family, and generally appreciated the life we have made together. Since I didn’t blog much in 2013, I plan to write a series of short(ish) posts about the things we did and saw in 2013. These will then lead into my annual favorites lists. Hopefully I’ll get them all done before work takes up all of my time again!

This post will be about our travels in 2013. We only made it to New York City once in 2013, which was significantly less than in 2012 (when I was there three times!). Conversely, I visited San Antonio three times in 2013. My younger sister and her husband had their first child in 2012, and I’m totally in love with her. I’ll be going back a lot in the coming years. For our annual summer trip abroad we returned to South America and visited four places in Brazil. It was a whirlwind tour of the country during their early winter, but it was a wonderful experience. And we visited Seattle for the first time to visit one of PJ’s longtime friends and her wife. All of the trips were great, but I thought I would post a few pictures and comments from just two of the trips here: Brazil and Seattle.

Brazil

Brazil is a beautiful country. We were there before the riots; if we had gone after them, it might have changed our perspective somewhat. We started in Rio de Janeiro. We spent our first afternoon on the beach. I enjoyed watching this guy, who seemed to be gay or trans, braiding women’s hair for a small fee:

Maybe we were just hungry, but the cheap lunch we had that day was great — I had a ham and cheese crepe with a local beer. Yummy! We also tried fish balls — balls of fish meat that were battered and then deep-fried.

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Turbo: A Review Sunday, Dec 8 2013 

While home for Thanksgiving, I watched DreamWorks’ Turbo with my 16-month-old niece. This animated adventure tells the story of a snail who obtains the ability to go super fast after a freak accident. Here’s the trailer:

Voiced by Ryan Reynolds, Theo, who goes by Turbo after the accident, has always dreamed of racing. The desire for speed is a part of who he is. His brother Chet, voiced by Paul Giamatti, wants him to stop his dreaming and conform to the normal snail culture. After the accident, both Turbo and Chet are rescued from a crow by Tito, who drives his brother’s taco truck by day and races snails with his friends at night. Tito and Turbo are perfect for each other, and before long Turbo is racing against his idol, Guy Gagné, in the Indy 500.

Generally speaking, the movie is predictable, but I enjoyed it. I couldn’t help but take Turbo’s description of how he feels inside and desire for racing as a kind of metaphor — or at least a parallel to — being gay. For example, Theo is an outcast among the other snails, who routinely pick on him. Chet tells him, “You do this to yourself, you know.  Look at you.  It’s like you’re almost forcing them.” Turbo responds, “I can’t help it.  It’s in my nature.” But Chet will have none of this: “No it’s not.  And the sooner you accept the dull, miserable reality of your existence, the happier you’ll be.”

This is exactly the same conversation obviously gay kids have to have with their parents and other grown ups all the time. Their difference is their fault as is any bullying that might result from other people seeing it. I’m not saying that this parallel was definitely intended by David Soren, the co-writer and director, but I enjoyed the movie all the more for taking it this way.

We also watched Disney’s 2006 animated movie Cars while I was there. I hadn’t seen it before, since PJ and I don’t often see animated movies. I can definitely see why it’s become a classic of contemporary animated movies. It, too, was relatively predictable, but it was a lot of fun. Who would have thought that cars and snails could make such interesting characters!

SotW: If I Were a Boy from Glee Sunday, Nov 24 2013 

A couple of weeks ago I flipped the channel briefly to see what was happening on Glee, a show I don’t watch much anymore, since it conflicts with Project Runway. The beginning of this video is exactly where I came in:

I wasn’t sure what had happened to lead to this song — I asked PJ later, since he watches Glee — but part of the beauty of this performance is that you didn’t really need to know what had happened to precipitate it. It’s moving and beautiful without any context.

A few years ago, Glee was on the forefront of depicting gays and lesbians on television. I’m glad that it’s continued that progressive tradition by depicting a trans character like Unique. Just as younger audiences have arguably learned greater acceptance of gays and lesbians by watching them on television, hopefully the same positive acceptance will come soon for transpeople. Orange Is the New Black and Glee are leading the way. Hopefully other shows will soon follow.

My Dorothy Loudon Obsession Thursday, Nov 21 2013 

A couple of years ago I stumbled across a video of Dorothy Loudon singing this medley of two songs by Stephen Sondheim while PJ and I were going through a big Sondheim phase:

This performance still gives me goosebumps when I watch it. It suggests how brilliant Loudon was, but I didn’t really follow up by listening to anything else by her. But this past Sunday, we were listening to the Broadway channel on Sirius when we heard a song that neither of us had ever heard before. It turned out to be Loudon singing “Fifty Percent” from a Broadway show entitled Ballroom. Here’s a video of her singing it much later:

Again, she gives a mesmerizing performance, and I now LOVE this song. And I’m obsessed with Loudon. She has a couple of albums, which I’ve purchased and have been listening to. She’s amazing!

12 Years a Slave: A Review Monday, Nov 18 2013 

Over the weekend, PJ and I saw 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen’s adaptation of the true story of Solomon Northup’s kidnapping into slavery. It’s an incredible, moving film that is surely the most realistic depiction of slavery yet produced. Here’s the trailer:

It’s almost impossible to describe this movie adequately. I knew almost nothing about it before seeing it (unlike PJ, who has read the original memoir). One consequence of this was that I really didn’t know what was going to happen next. The consensus among our friends was that it didn’t matter either way — if you knew the plot or didn’t it was still a powerful depiction of the ills of slavery (to put it mildly).

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2013: The Summer of Gay Love Sunday, Nov 17 2013 

I’ve been meaning to write this post for months and just haven’t gotten to it. This past summer will be remembered for the landmark Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage. While that decision did not extend marriage rights to all 50 states, our nation is headed in the right direction, and I look forward to being legally wed to PJ in the not too distant future.

Gay love was also in the air this past summer musically. In many respects, it started with Macklemore’s “Same Love”:

I’ll admit that, at first, I didn’t pay much attention to Macklemore. But once I sat down and listened to his hit, I was really impressed with what he’s achieved: he’s captured the way so many younger people now think. It’s a beautiful video, and I think it paved the way for other music made by queer artists.

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SotW: Annie’s Song by Brett Dennen and Milow Thursday, Apr 18 2013 

I’ve loved John Denver my entire life, so I was excited to see that a new tribute album recently came out. Lucinda Williams has a track on it, so I knew that it was going to be good (and her version of “This Old Guitar” is great!)

“Annie’s Song” has long been one of my favorite of John Denver’s many great songs. The version recorded for the tribute album really lives up to the original’s emotional lyrics. I also like that it’s two men singing it — that doesn’t have to make it a gay love song, but I choose to hear it that way. It’s a great cover that will surely become one of my favorite songs of 2013.

I’ve already threatened to have this version song at our wedding if PJ and I ever have one!

Tom Bull Tuesday, Apr 16 2013 

Yesterday, I blogged about my favorite men of 2012, so I’m excited to find my first potential favorite man of 2013: Tom Bull! One of my favorite blogs, Sissydude, posted a series of photos, gifs, and a video of male model Tom Bull, a scruffily blond hottie, as you can tell from this picture:

Bull is 6’2″ with blonde hair and blue eyes. He also looks good in clothes:

But what really made him stand out was seeing him in action. Sissydude also shared this video:

Who doesn’t like a wet, hot man in nothing but a towel? Add suggestive lighting and a great soundtrack, and you’ve definitely got a hit little video! After a Google search, I found this video, which I think is even better, especially since it’s trying to be a little more artsy:

I love the track by The Presets in this video. I’ll keep an eye on Mr. Bull over the coming year; he might just end up on next year’s list of favorite men!

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