Friday, April 28, 2006

"United 93 / Stick It" Double Feature

I was on the tail end of a bout of gastroenteritis and didn't eat the entire day. My roommate and I got sushi, since Japanese food is the absolute easiest on my stomach. I went with a bowl of steaming udon, tamago maki, and avocado maki. We had already purchased our tickets and I was starting to feel nervous about United 93. I wanted to see the movie, but I wasn't sure if I really wanted to sit through it tonight.

Jane and I had decided earlier on a United 93 / Stick It double feature, because neither of us wanted to end the night with the tragedy of 9/11 weighing so heavy on our minds. The only DVD I own is "Bring It On," and since the writer of that movie penned the script for Stick It, I was going to see that movie sooner or later. But as I chowed down on my food, I started to have serious misgivings. Was I cheapening the whole experience by watching both movies the same night?

I finished my meal and the two of us headed to the theater. I felt a little queasy, which was probably a combination of the stomach flu and my anxiety over the impending film. I don't think I ever felt so uneasy before watching a film. The only thing that was remotely close was the way I felt before watching Hostel.

United 93 was heart-breaking to watch, as expected. The fact that the movie was done with the blessings of the families of the deceased was enough to convince me to see it. But some icing on the cake is that 10% of the proceeds are going to the Flight 93 memorial. Several friends and aquaintances have had very negative opinions about the film, or rather the very making of it, since they don't plan on watching it. But I don't see this as any different from other human tragedies that have been brought to the big screen. Heaven and Earth, Schindler's List, Europa Europa, Bent, and Life is Beautiful, each of these movies wrenched my heart and made me feel real pain. They were true stories with people who truly suffered.

I sent a thank you note to Cheyenne Jackson, the actor who portrayed Mark Bingham, the rugby player who helped take on the hijackers. I was very happy that for once and openly gay man was played by an openly gay actor, though I didn't mention that in the letter. He probably gets that all the time.

After United 93, Jane and I were pretty much silent. The auditorium for Stick It happened to be right across the hall from United, so it was a quick trip. As I listened to the teen laughter and banter prior to the movie, I almost got up and left. I wasn't sure I could sit through a "teen" movie with everything that was on my mind from United 93. But I remembered my original purpose for the double feature and stayed in my seat. I'm so glad I did.

Stick It was an incredibly uplifting movie. There were tons of the usual teen movie clichés, but then the film broke the mold with several surprises that I really did not see coming. Young women who are allowed to excel, to strive for their own glory, to compete with such raw physicality are a great rebuke to all who feel a woman's worth is judged by her husband and her sons.

For a teen film there were plenty of adults, including myself, in the audience cheering at the breakout moments. United 93 was still on our minds, but we left the theater with our spirits lifted. Watching the films back to back was an experience that was more synergistic than I expected, and it made for an incredible, introspective night.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Big Letdown

The following is the email that the director of "Pandemonium" received yesterday:

Hi Paul -

Thank you for keeping up with me regarding the status of your film, Pandemonium. At this point, I regret to inform you that we were unable to include your work in this year's festival program. We had over 500 entries submitted this year and were unable to program all the film's we liked. Considering that Pandemonium is a work-in-progress, we strongly encourage you to re-submit your completed work this December for consideration in Frameline31.

On behalf of Frameline, I wish you the best with your work.

Sincerely,
Stephen


Frameline's application form clearly states that "works in progress" are acceptable entries. Had we known this would be used as a reason to cut us, we could've cut some corners and submitted a "completed" version.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Tempeh Salad Sandwiches

This past weekend I feasted on egg salad sandwiches. Ingesting nine eggs in two days really isn't so bad, but *18* in less than a week? That what would've happened if I made egg salad sandwiches again tonight. Not exactly the healthiest interpretation of vegetarianism. So instead, I switched out the eggs and replaced them with tempeh. This was more like a chicken salad. But really, it's the combination of mayonnaise and celery that are at the root of my egg salad cravings.

A
1 lb of tempeh
1/4 cup soy sauce
pinch of ginger powder
2 cups of water

B
4 stalks of celery, diced
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1 tsp each of paprika, cayenne, black pepper, dried parsley, oregano, and thyme
2 cloves of garlic minced



Place A into a shallow pan, bring to a boil, then simmer for as long as it takes for the liquid to reduce completely. Turn the tempeh pieces occasionally. The pinch of ginger helps balance out the pungent taste of tempeh.



Crumble A, mix well with B, and serve with bread.



My current favorite sandwich bread is the whole wheat from Noe Valley Bakery. That's the bakery that got me turned on to egg salad sandwiches. One sandwich from there costs $5.75. This recipe costs about $5.00 ($4.00 for the tempeh + incidentals) and yields 8!

Missing Miami

I used to live in the middle of all this. I love San Francisco. But after this particularly long stretch of cold, rainy days, I do miss the fun and the sun.

This Is Miami

Friday, April 14, 2006

Rejecting Cultural Relativism

Recently I've been thinking a lot about radical Islam and the reluctance of the political Left to criticize it. The following missive has given me a measure of hope.

MANIFESTO: Together facing the new totalitarianism


We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject « cultural relativism », which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.

12 signatures

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Chahla Chafiq
Caroline Fourest
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Irshad Manji
Mehdi Mozaffari
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasreen
Salman Rushdie
Antoine Sfeir
Philippe Val
Ibn Warraq

February 27, 2006

Presentations:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, from somilian origin, is member of Dutch parliement, member of the liberal party VVD. Writter of the film Submission which caused the assassination of Theo Van Gogh by an islamist in november 2004, she lives under police protection.

Chahla Chafiq
Chahla Chafiq, writer from iranian origin, exiled in France is a novelist and an essayist. She's the author of "Le nouvel homme islamiste , la prison politique en Iran " (2002). She also wrote novels such as "Chemins et brouillard" (2005).

Caroline Fourest
Essayist, editor in chief of Prochoix (a review who defend liberties against dogmatic and integrist ideologies), author of several reference books on « laicité » and fanatism : Tirs Croisés : la laïcité à l'épreuve des intégrismes juif, chrétien et musulman (with Fiammetta Venner), Frère Tariq : discours, stratégie et méthode de Tariq Ramadan, et la Tentation obscurantiste (Grasset, 2005). She receieved the National prize of laicité in 2005.

Bernard-Henri Lévy
French philosoph, born in Algeria, engaged against all the XXth century « ism » (Fascism, antisemitism, totalitarism, terrorism), he is the author of La Barbarie à visage humain, L'Idéologie française, La Pureté dangereuse, and more recently American Vertigo.

Irshad Manji
Irshad Manji is a Fellow at Yale University and the internationally best-selling author of "The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith" (en francais: "Musulmane Mais Libre"). She speaks out for free expression based on the Koran itself. Née en Ouganda, elle a fui ce pays avec sa famille musulmane d'origine indienne à l'âge de quatre ans et vit maintenant au Canada, où ses émissions et ses livres connaissent un énorme succès.

Mehdi Mozaffari
Mehdi Mozaffari, professor from iranian origin and exiled in Denmark, is the author of several articles and books on islam and islamism such as : Authority in Islam: From Muhammad to Khomeini, Fatwa: Violence and Discourtesy and Glaobalization and Civilizations.

Maryam Namazie
Writer, TV International English producer; Director of the Worker-communist Party of Iran's International Relations; and 2005 winner of the National Secular Society's Secularist of the Year award.

Taslima Nasreen
Taslima Nasreen is born in Bangladesh. Doctor, her positions defending women and minorities brought her in trouble with a comittee of integrist called « Destroy Taslima » and to be persecuted as « apostate »

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie is the author of nine novels, including Midnight's Children, The Satanic Verses and, most recently, Shalimar the Clown. He has received many literary awards, including the Booker Prize, the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel, Germany's Author of the Year Award, the European Union's Aristeion Prize, the Budapest Grand Prize for Literature, the Premio Mantova, and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. He is a Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres, an Honorary Professor in the Humanities at M.I.T., and the president of PEN American Center. His books have been translated into over 40 languages.

Philippe Val
Director of publication of Charlie Hebdo (Leftwing french newspaper who have republished the cartoons on the prophet Muhammad by solidarity with the danish citizens targeted by islamists).

Ibn Warraq
Ibn Warraq , author notably of Why I am Not a Muslim ; Leaving Islam : Apostates Speak Out ; and The Origins of the Koran , is at present Research Fellow at a New York Institute conducting philological and historical research into the Origins of Islam and its Holy Book.

Antoine Sfeir :
Born in Lebanon, christian, Antoine Sfeir choosed french nationality to live in an universalist and « laïc » (real secular) country. He is the director of Les cahiers de l'Orient and has published several reference books on islamism such as Les réseaux d'Allah (2001) et Liberté, égalité, Islam : la République face au communautarisme (2005).

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Confederate States of America

http://www.csathemovie.com/

I grew up in South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union. In our compulsory SC history classes, I remember quite distinctly feeling a sense of pride over this as kid. "We were the first! Yay!"

To be fair, the Civil War was about a lot more than slavery. That was beaten into my head back in AP History. But I've noticed on film's official discussion boards the trend of stating "the North was racist, too!" Duh. Abraham Lincoln was no friend of blacks, the Irish draft riots lynched black people in New York City to protest the war, and the North was segregated. But having actual laws, ala Jim Crow, is worse. Sure, the United States still has problems when it comes to women's rights. But compare us to places in the world where the laws of society are completely arrayed against women. "But at least Saudi Arabia is open about their misogyny!" Feh.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

United 93

Warning, portions of the following trailer contain actual footage from 9/11.

United 93

I am definitely seeing this. Mark Bingham, the rugby player in the trailer, is a local hero here in San Francisco. An openly gay Republican, he was a member of the San Francisco Fog, two-time Gay Rugby World Champs. I had the pleasure of seeing his mother speak at the SF Frameline Film Festival, where the film "Rugger Buggers" was dedicated to him. She shared with the crowd her final conversation with her son prior to their planned assault on the terrorists. I look forward to seeing the character of Mark Bingham in this movie kicking ass.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Comics!

Five years ago I was a member of a round-robin superhero fiction group. Over the course of three years, the other members and I wrote dozens of short stories on a group of gay superheroes and straight allies. The basic premise was a world where superheroes were common. But gay heroes were expected to be discreet and "focus on being heroes," as if being gay and being a hero were mutually exclusive.

I've recently reconnected with my fellow writers. One of them was in New Orleans when Katrina hit... but he saved his computer, and every single story and image file we had from our heyday was still intact. We've decided to make a comic and are now in the process of editing and updating our fiction. For publishing, we'll most likely go with the independent online publishing house, ComixPress, thanks to the recommendation of my comic-savvy friend, Eric. Thanks Eric!

We're looking for a gay or gay-friendly artist with a deep interest in the LGBT community, as well as comics. This will be paid work, with a rate to be negotiated. If this interests you, please contact me with examples of your work.

Here's a peek at an custom action figure made by a friend that's based off of the fiction.

Verdant the Action Figure