Month: April 2014

Thy Hood and Thy Gloves They Comfort Me

A short story about equality.

Hood

I look carefully into the mirror as I put on my hood. I have to make sure that it fits properly over my eyeglasses, which are small and discreet. Few people still wear them, but my eyes are sensitive and contacts an uncomfortable option. Dangerous actually. I had terrible infections when I was a child. My twin sister did, too, but she finally opted for corrective surgery.

Before putting on my gloves, I have to make sure that my hood is securely fitted to my shirt collar. The clips around the back are hardest to adjust, and I usually get my husband to help me with them, but he left early today. He wanted to finish his duties at work early so that we could spend more of the evening together. It’s my birthday.

After doing my best to attach my hood, I put on my gloves. All the accessories are lightweight, made of natural cotton, and you almost forget you wear them after putting them on. That’s good, because you must wear them when you are in public.

We started wearing them years ago. I was still a small child. There was a plague at the time, the government said, and this was our last recourse. Most will agree that it worked, one way or another.

In the mirror next to the front door, I give myself one last glance to ensure everything is in place, then I leave. I have an appointment with my sister.

Every year for our birthday, we meet in the market and buy food to prepare for our evening meal. We never spend our birthdays together anymore, and there have been some years where we have been unable to find each other for our yearly ritual, but I think we have that worked out now. Since our birthday is in the early summer, we have the best selection of fruits and vegetables to choose from, so it’s always a pleasure to spend and hour or so at market with her to shop.

It’s the only time we get to spend with each other.

By now I’m used to seeing everyone else on the street wearing hoods and gloves. While we get to choose what to wear otherwise, we are still limited to high collared shirts or jackets so that we can attach our hoods, and by now most people wear simple clothing. Most times, unless someone’s proportions are drastic, I can’t tell most women or men from each other. No one is vain anymore. There is no beauty to see.

It’s quiet, too.

The silence continues as I reach the market, where it’s nearly crowded to capacity already. No one talks. They type messages into their communication devices, or directly into consoles at each market stall. Transactions are conducted quickly and silently.

My sister and I always meet at mid-morning on our birthday at the stall with fresh tomatoes. We both love them.  As I make my way through the crowd I notice a strong wind picks up. I worry about my hood, and I hope that I’ve clipped it properly to my collar in the back. As the wind continues, I feel the fabric of my hood jostle on my head. The breeze passes and I feel relief that my hood is still intact, and I can see the glorious red tomatoes stacked in a stall not far ahead of me.

I approach the tomatoes and start feeling them for ripeness. By the time I find several I still feel for more. I sense someone next to me, and notice that someone else is checking the produce. This person is not my sister. Whoever it is, is too tall to be her. The eyes of our hoods meet and there is a brief nod of acknowledgement. The person quickly retrieves several of the tomatoes to put them into a bag that another person behind is carrying. They walk together arm in arm around the stall, probably to go pay.

As the tall person walks away I see another hooded person standing and looking directly at me. From the way the hooded head is tilted to one side curiously, I can tell it is my sister. I hold up a ripe tomato in front of my face as if to show her not the fruit, but my identity.

Quickly, the hood nods in affirmation. She reaches out and quickly shakes my hand and grips it with the other. We lock eyes for a moment.

It’s been a year since I’ve seen her.

After a few long moments regarding each other, we begin to peruse the tomatoes together, in silence. Then another gust of wind assails the market. This time much stronger and more insistent. Before I know it my hood is starting to flap strongly in the breeze and nearly flies off of my head. If not for my eyeglasses, the hood would have flown free. My hands, encumbered with tomatoes, are unable to quickly address my escaping hood. I feel the fortunate catch between my eyeglasses and my hood begin to slip when something hits my head.

It’s my sister’s hand. She manages to hold my hood while I can free my hands from holding tomatoes and secure it. As I quickly try to secure it, I hear a commotion behind me. As I turn around and look it is the two hooded patrons who were also shopping at this stall.

Their bag of produce has fallen. Bruised and broken fruits litter the ground. The couple, still arm in arm, have both lost their hoods like I almost did. And there in the middle of the market did the fear of the old plague once again reveal itself. Everyone was looking at the two women, standing arm in arm, faces burning red with shame that they lost their hoods. Lost their security. Lost their anonymity.

“Leave!” someone says.

The two women scurry off and my heart aches for them. Whether sisters, lovers, or friends it doesn’t matter. They have been exposed and the plague could return. And this is why we wear the hoods and gloves. They hide us, and protect us. Without them, we are seen for who we are. Unfortunately, the plague never went away. It’s potentially behind any mask in the market.

I’m just glad that I was at the market with my sister on this windy day instead of my husband. I’m also glad that my sister helped her twin brother from losing his mask. Hatred is a terrible plague. Discrimination is a horrible disease. And that’s why we hide.

No one wants to suffer from the plague. No one.

 

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Advice for Star Wars VII and Beyond…

I’m not a filmmaker, a director, a producer, or a screen writer, but I have enjoyed my fair share of Star Wars. I grew up with it. I adored it. I had the toys and the video games. I shed tears at the travesty of the prequel films (actually I didn’t cry, though tears are justified in any case).

Despite this, I have maintained restraint regarding the upcoming films, because my experience has shown me that it is better to be surprised that a film is actually good, than to be let down because it didn’t meet my expectations (ahem… J.J. Abrams’ previous films and shows…)

I am however quite interested in how they will turn out. Like many, I am just itching to learn what the films will be about, and the length at which J.J. Abrams keeps such information makes the itching that much worse. Unlike others, I will refrain from speculating what the plot will be, because at this point, there is no sense in trying as my guesses are as good as anyone else’s. What I will do is provide some brief points that would behoove the new films to heed, in my own limited opinion.
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  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope

The start of it all. It was a great introduction to everything we needed to know. The good guys, the bad guys, and the extent to which either was willing to go to satisfy their goals. We met our heroes, and basically fell in love. The one problem I have with A New Hope is that (especially compared to its sequel) it’s too bright of a film. Don’t get me wrong, I greatly adore the optimistic heroism, the mythic tone, the call to adventure, all that jazz. It’s just that it’s a bit too squeaky clean in some of its presentation, at least by comparison to the next one…

  • Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back

Widely regarded as the best sequel ever, it’s also the best film so far in the entire franchise. Take everything about the first one, dig deeper, get darker, up the ante, and you have everything that is good about The Empire Strikes Back. While nothing seems as intimidating as flying towards a giant Death Star, watching the inexorable march of AT-ATs through the snows of Hoth strikes a dread all its own. If there were a weak point in this movie, it would have to be… … … Hold on… … … Yeah, I’m really trying… … … Okay, so there isn’t much wrong with it. Maybe the incestuous kiss. Or how Yoda talks, but that’s just characterization. So yeah… a great film, with a great twist. Just make another one of these, J.J.

 

  • Star Wars VI: The Return of the Jedi

A satisfying conclusion to the saga. Our heroes confront their gravest odds yet, and we see this whole thing finally comes to a close. Luke confronts the home of his past while saving Han from Jabba (who had been hounding him since the first film), before heading off to face his uncertain future. The weakest point in this film is, arguably, the Ewoks. I think George Lucas got a bit carried away with this one. They are just so darned cute, but it does provide a stark juxtaposition against the galaxy-spanning Empire, who is defeated by a meager force rebels and their teddy bear allies. At the end of the day, everything resolves in a way that promises things will be better for our heroes, even if they enlisted the help of stuffed animals.
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  • I-III: All of the prequel films

I can’t deny that they exist, just as I can’t deny to myself that I exist. As necessary as my conception and birth are to my present state of living, I’m glad I didn’t experience my parents’ copulation or the likely nasty and painful affair that was my birth from the womb. I cannot say the same for the prequel films, which I did experience to my great disappointment. Like any trauma that affects us, I have decided it best to look forward not back, and accept the prequels as a dark, yet necessary chapter.
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So what now? Well first of all, don’t make films that you’ll need to remake again two decades later by adding unnecessary new scenes and special effects. Don’t mar your work this way, and you should be golden. Seriously, though, the new songs and and Hayden Christensen’s sudden appearance in the newest revisions of Return of the Jedi are just horrid, even if the songs replaced were campy and 80s. Campy and 90s is infinitely worse.
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Don’t dumb it down for us. Lot’s of us older and aging fans don’t need to see a juvenalized retreatment of our beloved universe, nor do we want anymore teddy bear aliens, or Jar-Jar fucking Binks. Please pardon the expletive. Give us the appropriately shady, mature, yet still fun and adventurous setting that has enough mystery and enchantment that causes even the more jaded of us melt in our seats at the theater.

Keep it classy, Abrams. No contemporary humor. No commentaries on modern society that won’t make any sense in 2050. In fact, no commentaries whatsoever. Just give us Star Wars. Keep it about that, and we’ll be happy. Don’t try to make a film that leverages you into U.S. Presidency, just stick to what you know, and hopefully that will be enough. And learn more if you don’t know a lot. Please. No shame in admitting that.

Think about a classy film like “Lawrence of Arabia”. How many special-editioned, enhanced, revised, re-edited, re-visioned, versions of this film have you seen? None? Exactly!

Make a film that will stand the test of time. That’s all I ask.

If you have any thoughts, criticisms, or feelings you’d like to express on this matter, feel free to share them.

Re-watch Reviews: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

It’s been over ten years since I first saw this film, and twenty years since its release. Priscilla (I’m not typing out that lengthy title again) is now considered a cult classic among many, especially among gay people, and is one among a handful of Australian films that had breakout success in and around the early nineties. It’s a fun trip, emotional, campy, disco-y, sometimes crude.

But who is this Priscilla figure, and of which desert is she queen?

What could this film be about?

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Drag queens. This film is about drag queens. Two drag queens and a transsexual to be exact, and their trip across the Outback which brings them all face to face with their pasts, themselves, and their futures.

There’s Anthony “Tick”/Mitzi, whose estranged wife and son reach out to him for opportunities in both work and personal life. His fellow queen, Adam/Felicia dreams of doing some drag hiking if his youthful arrogance and impishness don’t get the best of him first. Finally, there’s Bernadette, former performer and now widow who lost her lover to an early death, and fears her life as an aging transsexual will be bereft of joy.

There road trip to the center of the world (i.e. Alice Springs, Australia, which apparently is surrounded by horrid bad lands) takes center stage, and does so with comedic flair. The whole experience is campy without being grating, and even when the humor is crude, it’s not too tasteless. The scene with ping pong balls comes to mind, and causes quite the pussy riot…

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More than humor, we get a dramatic look at the pasts and motivations of the characters. These aren’t just flashy drag queen piñatas full of glitter and candy. No. These are people with pain and hopes. Fears and strengths.

Despite his confidence in make up, we see a man confront his sexuality and consolidate his private life with his estranged family. He emerges without shame and with more vigor for his career than ever. That’s Tick (Hugo Weaving).

Bernadette (Terence Stamp) is jaded, mourning her lover, and still sensitive about her former identity as a man. It’s taken her a lifetime to develop the resilience to withstand against the world’s persecution of her identity. Not only does she come alive while fending off a fearsome homophobic assailant by deftly dropping him with a knee to the groin, but she finds love in an unlikely country man.

And what of Adam (Guy Pearce)? He’s a little prick most of the movie, though a funny one, but that just makes it all the better when you see that he begins to grow up by the end of the film. He too feels shame after having been abused as a child, but figures out that he doesn’t have to be so frikin’ abrasive.

These are characters that make a movie for the ages. They’re memorable, varied, and they hit you in the heart. It doesn’t matter if they’re men, women, or something in between.

They’re human.

Much like its comedic Australian contemporaries Strictly Ballroom from ’92 and Muriel’s Wedding also from ’94, Priscilla weaves between heavy-hitting material and campy levity. While Strictly Ballroom bounces around frantically, and Muriel’s Wedding lingers a bit too long in the deep end of grave emotions for it’s comedy to keep it afloat, Priscilla masterfully balances your emotions like a queen’s good wig. It may look larger than life, but it ties the ensemble together so you can pay attention to the performance without distraction.

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The film’s legacy is still a strong one. It’s main actors are all successful and respected, and the film itself has even been adapted to Broadway. I still remember seeing Hugo Weaving in the opening scene with my friends the first time, and even just watching it recently, the celebratory ending featuring music by Abba still splits my face in half with a smile.

This film takes you on a journey. Whether you find what you never expected at the end of it, or if you wind up back home happier than ever, you’re going to have a fabulous time.

Sex and the City Re-watch Recap: Evolution

Miranda is at her gynecologist. Her sex life has become so dull that she’s dropping her birth control, which doesn’t sound like such a good idea anyway, but overly dramatic people will say anything to get attention.

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Then her doctor tells her that she’s got a lazy ovary. Apparently, that will make it harder for her to have kids. Charlotte has a tilted uterus, she says at breakfast or whatever meal they’re having, so she too is reproductively challenged.

Is the light funny, or am I just seeing a lot of foreshadows?

Samantha complains about her lady parts doctor, that all that digging around with a bill instead of a climax is no fun.

About as fun as dropping condoms out of your purse, which Carrie does to fit in with the theme of the conversation. She complains that she doesn’t have a place for her things at Big’s so she has to become a mobile prophylactic center.

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While sharing underwear stories, Miranda brings up now ex Steve and her ovary’s condition. Way to kill the convo, dear.

In an attempt to stake her claim on Big’s life, Carrie begins leaving things at his place. Watch the snow ball snow ball from here.

Charlotte decides to take a vacation from men by having dinner with a gay friend (the best kind). Everything is just fabulous, until he kisses her good night. Is this gay friend policy, now?

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It’s at this point that the episode indulges in more judgmental categorizing that only makes sense in New York, and thus makes sense to no one except the writers of this episode.

Is he a gay straight man, or a straight gay man? Thanks, girls, for making things needlessly more complicated.

Speaking of complications, Samantha spots an ex who dumped her while Miranda junks up her drinks with hormones for her ovary and Carrie brags about her tiny purse and her first “Big” dump.

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Now Charlotte’s world is rocked. Not only is a gay man asking her on dates, and Carrie is doing the number 2 at a boyfriend’s place (scandalous!), she discovers Samantha actually loved a man once, and that he broke her heart.

So Samantha strides over, determined to one up him by seducing him and then ditching him out if spite.

Big is also feeling a bit of spite, by bringing Carrie’s things back to her. How thoughtful. Carrie hashes it out with him, and Big fails to see what the deal is, because he is more than happy with their separation of things.

This gets Carrie thinking about the episode’s thin as ice theme, about women evolving. Let’s skip pondering it and just skip ahead to Samantha putting her plan into action.

But first, Charlotte tries her date with the gay man, who continues to baffle her, by alternately out gaying himself, and putting the moves on her.

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Samantha changes her plan when she sleeps with her ex.

Charlotte also alters her plan to solve the mystery of sexuality by bringing Carrie and Stanford in to meet the baffling boyfriend. Even Stanford’s gaydar doesn’t seem to work. Unlike many gay men I know, Stanford immediately concedes without the snarkiest of comments that Stefan in straight.

Meanwhile, Miranda accepts a date with a by the numbers straight man who is fighting his male pattern balding with hair plugs, and plugs up Miranda’s ovary problem with typical chauvinism.

He shows no sympathy toward her fertility issues, and actually insults Miranda’s thoughts on the matter. She shuts him and his lazy receding hairline down, and has a date with vodka at home instead of with this creep.

While Miranda cools down with a chilled cocktail, Charlotte and Stefan heat up other kinds of tails, all to the music of Cher. Charlotte finally confronts him on his sexuality. He explains rather deftly that if he were gay, he’s set up for it quite well, but he just isn’t into peen like he is Cher. And Charlotte.

So maybe, and implausibly, he is straight after all.

The next morning, Samantha’s plan backfires. She lingered too long with the man she loved, delayed too long her revenge, and Dominic dumps her again. Maybe she wasn’t that kind of woman after all, but Dominic was still an ass hat.

Also the next morning, Charlotte is enjoying the most fabulous post-coital brunch any woman has ever had with a man until a mouse invades their gay little time. Between Stefan acting more girly about it than her and the fact that his fabulous abode was infested with mice, Charlotte calls it quits.

Also that morning, Carrie decides to be passive aggressive about the whole leaving things issue, and gets ready to remove herself. However, she finds a photo of her and Big stashed away which reminds her that having her there really does mean something to Big, even if he doesn’t want her crap lying around.

Sex and the City Re-watch Recap: The Caste System

It’s spring.

And Carrie is in love but she’s too neurotic to actually say it.

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That is until Big gives her an ugly, bejeweled duck purse. Big actually thought of her when he saw it, so Carrie accidentally rewards him by saying she loves him.

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While showing the girls her ugly duckling, she laments expressing her love, because Big didn’t return the emotion and she worries that she’s set up a deadline. And even as a writer, she doesn’t handle those well.
Miranda is a bit more optimistic, for once. But that’s because she is giddy and in love with Steve, who can barely afford to date her and her lawyer’s salary. But princess Miranda is happy with pauper Steve.

They may handle this divide when it comes to pizza, but when Steve needs to attend her white collar party, she decides that a gold corduroy suit is a bit too… not right.

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Kind of like how she feels seeing said suit in Steve’s tiny apartment. While getting pedicures, the girls are forced to listen to Charlotte talk about how Steve is second class like the foreign women scrubbing their feet. Even Samantha is having experience with New York’s caste system. Her current man has an Asian servant.

That can’t be legal.

Carrie begins to feel a little uneasy realizing Big is a big upper class person, and without his reciprocated love, she’s merely a slave girl fling.

Charlotte may feel she obeys society’s rules, but even she can’t resist the chance to ride in a limo with an actor who literally can’t tell the difference between a fire extinguisher and art, a city sidewalk and a urinal, or between the names Charlene and Charlotte.

While Charlotte is having fun throwing her principles into Hollywood trash, Samantha experiments with the unprincipled concept of utilizing her man friend’s servant girl, who turns out to take no joy in serving another woman.

Steve experiences another man serving him on his knees. It’s a tailor. Miranda wants Steve to get a nice suit. She offers to pay, but the income difference isn’t as well tailored as the suit and rubs Steve the wrong way.

He scrapes up what money he can to pay for the suit instead of charging the debt to his ego account.

Carrie starts to see all the pieces fall into place with Big when he takes her to an upscale party full of women with similarly bejeweled purses. Carrie doesn’t fit in, but Big thinks a shitty purse will make a difference, which it does, but in a bad way. Carrie is banished to the porch so she can smoke and fume in peace.

Thinks heat up with the other girls, too, like the joint that Charlotte’s slimy actor friend lights up. Samantha tries to relate her tense morning with the servant girl, Sum, but she can’t quite get her point to add up with the master of the house.

Carrie runs into a hired waiter. His name is Jeremiah, who’s also an artist Carrie has known for years. He’s into tattoos, apparently, and shows Carrie his new one which creeps its way down his crotch. The mistress of the party catches them, who proceeds to tattle to Big.

Big and Carrie start to blow up over a perceived blow job, but that party was lame anyway.

Miranda’s party turns out to be pretty lame, too. Steve dumps her at her door because he’s insecure about not fitting in with her lifestyle. For once, Miranda isn’t being a big bitch, and we get to see how vulnerable she can be. Feeling punished for her success, she winds up closing the door on Steve, who was too afraid to step through it.

Charlotte finally gets the nerve to be bitchy instead of being an actor’s bitch. She leaves at his trashy proposition to go touch herself. Finally.

Pissed and drunk, which is redundant if you are in the UK, Carrie goes home with Jeremiah, but she’s likely not to remember much else.

Samantha, finally confronts Sum, who has her own designs for her master, which don’t include Samantha. She frames Samantha for attacking her in the most creative cock block ever.

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The next morning, Big calls a hungover Carrie to say he loves her, because he isn’t dumb after all and realized that all their tension was due to his impending response to Carrie’s untimely expression and a stupid purse. Thankfully, nothing happened between Carrie and Jeremiah, except the peace of blackout drunkenness.