Friday, June 23, 2006

Joss Whedon for Equality Now

Here is a YouTube video of the speech that Joss Whedon gave at an event for Equality Now. He's brilliant and brief and he really, truly understands why feminism is an issue for straight men (via Feministing).

Villians are fun

This is great! You can vote for your favorite literary villian and the options are such a wonderful combination of goofy and evil and contemporary and classic characters that I want to vote for about 6 of them. I'd totally vote for Zaphod Beeblebrox, but he's so lovable that it's hard to consider him evil. I encourage everyone to vote because it's suprisingly fun.

A Glimpse into Heterosexual Dating

Internet Dating: The Musical. art/works theatre. 6/22/05.

Internet Dating: The Musical is an adorable world premiere musical about, obviously, the vagaries of internet dating. It's fun; a good, solid musical that had my affection from "You're Cute (...but you don't know how to spell)" sung by the delightfully energetic Reggie de Leon. Some of the songs in this show (most notably "Google You" sung by Suzan Solomon as a protective mom) are truly brilliant and hilarious, and well-suited to both the plot and theme of the show. One of the major high points of the play was the fact that every actor had at least one strong musical number that highlighted their talent and gave depth to each of their characters.

I apparently attended on an off night, a Thursday with a small audience when a new actor was joining the cast, replacing the actor who played Mr. Flexible. The understudy, Anthony Mannix, was playing the role of Eduardo, and the lead, Ali Spuck was sick and the role was played by Ali Pomerantz, who normally plays her best friend. According to reports (some reviews available on the press page), Spuck is a little darker and more sarcastic than Pomerantz, but I found Pomerantz wonderfully cute and quirky. She doesn't look like the typical musical theater lead, but did look like the kind of everywoman you might find in an office, and I think that worked in her favor. Female understudy Dianna Wyenn substituted as one of the lead's best friends, but she was dramatically outperformed by the spunky Sandy Shimoda as the other friend.

The highlights of the show were Jennifer Norkin, who was hilarious and extremely flexible in her various ensemble roles and her wacky number as an internet virus, and the musical number "Bi-Coastal Bisexual" which had me laughing out loud even though it was performed rather awkwardly by the obviously quite heterosexual Anthony Mannix and Trip Hope.

In fact, the whole musical was overwhelmingly heterosexual, in both cast and content, and while I've experienced my fair share of queer internet dating, seeing it from a heterosexual perspective is a bit different. The biphobia inherent in making the villian the only major queer character in the show makes me a bit uncomfortable. In fact, the whole thing would benefit from a gay best friend or other fun queer character. The gender dynamic of internet dating makes everything a bit more complicated in terms of norms and expectations, though the show does a good job of demonstrating that main character learns how to make the first move instead of hiding behind the idea that girls have to wait for guys to ask them out. I also like the fact that you didn't know which guy the girl would fall for (Was it Trip Hope, who was a little too conventionally attractive for his role as the dorky but adorable scientist or was it Kyle Nudo as a slightly rumpled coworker?) It wasn't until the beginning of the second act when the number "I Never Understood Why You Were Single" acts as the traditional musical theater love song that we even have a clue who Jenny was meant to be with.

My only other major complaint about the show was that it was supposedly set in Los Angeles, but it didn't feel particularly LA (except for one mention of a screenplay). It had a very non-descript locational feel, and I would have liked a better sense of setting. The set, however, designed by Mia Torres, was wonderfully fun and practical. With a screen-shaped false proscenium and a scrim screen upstage through which potential internet dates emerged, the set was cute and functional and very fun. The stage itself sometimes seemed too small for a musical with such great energy and big heart and a fairly large cast of ten. Director Annie Oelschlager did a good job of making use of a small space, but this show feels as if it needs a bigger space and a bigger run. The choregraphy, by Brian Paul Mendoza, was a little dubious at times, with some very cheesy musical theater moves, but in general the overall staging was fun and servicable.

Overall, though, I would totally recommend this show. The writer/composer/lyricist, Ron Weiner, has a lot of talent with musical comedy and the entire cast deserves hearty congratulations for their energy. It was a super-fun little show, and I hope it has a life beyond its closing date on July 15.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Creepy Censorship of Trans Performer

Turner Schofield, my favorite queer performance artist that I know personally, recently had a run-in with some pretty icky censorship at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina. The details are reported here at Homofactus Press and in the Charlotte Observer.

While I suppose it's a good step that the Charlotte Observer attempts to use male pronouns for Turner and generally posits him as male, their real emphasis seems to be on the "former girl" part of the headline rather than his masculinity (and note the use of the word "girl" instead of "female" or "woman"). And I like that the ostensible emphasis is on the conundrum of whether a transguy with his shirt off falls under the nudity standards for men or women, which is I suppose a valid question IF there were an explicit and consistent written policy for the venue communicated at the time of booking as opposed to

"there are no written guidelines. ... We have standards we have followed over the years."
Administrator Kim Rentz does come off as pretty transphobic with quotes like:
"A man who has always been a man is different, I think," Rentz said. "That's my own personal take on it"
Asked what audiences might have found offensive had Schofield exposed his torso on stage, Rentz said, "I try not to draw a (mental) picture"
(all quotes from the Charlotte Observer).

I've seen Turner perform, and all I have to say is that any *partial* nudity there may be is in NO WAY offensive. It is important, and political, and perhaps challenging, but it is not sensationalistic. I do want to emphasize that this is ONLY Turner taking his shirt off - it's not like he's trying to remove his pants, though I've seen some pretty good full nudity performances recently, too. I wonder if the people making this offensive decision had seen/read Turner's work before the incidence of censorship, then would they perhaps have come to a different conclusion? Is it perhaps the very failure to "draw a mental picture" of the performance that makes it seem much more offensive than it is? Either way, this last-minute cancellation is profoundly close-minded and therefore unconscionable.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Smash the Cartoon Heterosexual Paradigm

Comeau, Joey. Lockpick Pornography. Halifax and Vancouver: Loose Teeth Press, 2005.

I read this a few weeks ago now, and though my summary is brief and much-delayed, I wanted to share with the world or anyone out there reading how much I enjoyed this book. It was recommended to me by ProphecyBoy, as many good things are, and I'm so glad that he brought it into my life. It's the kind of book I can imagine going back and reading again, soon and often.

This is a queer puck sex and violence kind of novel in which four young queers team up to wreak havoc on the forces of heterosexuality, normality, and stablility. There's breaking and entering, blood, and general antisocial behavior as the main character thoughtfully addresses how sex and gender circulate in his life.

"I used to seal form heterosexuals for political reasons. Anything owned by a straight white yuppie is bought with oppression. The hetero-normative ownership paragidm is a tyrant belief system that deserves to be undermined on every front, from political protest to petty theievery.

Now I'm a little more honest about it. I can admit that I steal from straight people because I just don't like them"(9-10)

The whole thing is inspiring, dealing with political and social issues in a visceral, human way. The main character even confronts his own deep-seated hypocrisy in professing the constructedness and mutability of gender while struggling to recognize the masculinity of Alex, a young female-born genderqueer character attempting to identify as a gay man.

My favorite character, of course, is Michelle, rumored to be inspired by Michelle Tea. Her character does read like the young, rebellious, violent main character of Valencia. Each of the characters is sparingly but precisely depicted, defined by action and rebellion. I have some issues with the end of the story, but it does seem like a reasonable ending that's fairly true to the characters if not as idealistic as I would like.

This novel began with 7 chapters published online, and you can still read them at, but the volume itself is so slim and delightful that I strongly recommend that anyone interested order it immediately - the three extra chapters are worth the money and the wait, and they very much left me clamouring for more.

A Bland Evening at the Theater

Stages. Hudson Mainstage Theatre. 6/9/06.

Stages had its moments, but they were few and far between. While I admire what they're trying to do, Rosalind Productions' committment to producting plays "in which the female characters are as vital, complex and influential as the male characters" aren't served by this play that needs a few more rounds of editing to make the dialogue feel less stiff and the conclusion feel more natural. The whole thing reeks of a vanity project by Abigail Rose Solomon, who not only wrote the play but also took the leading role, which was a huge mistake. She was too old for the part - it was clearly an autobiographical piece about her 10 years ago or so and she looked much older than Ryan Michelle Bathe, the actress playing her best friend. Bathe was truly stunning and the best thing about this otherwise middling-to-poor play. The worst thing about the play was the costumes, which were completely, ridiculously out of character and unflattering, and completely inappropriate for San Francisco in the 1990s. They were vaguely appropriate for Los Angeles now, but still a lawyer wearing a halter top and summer skirt to the office is rather dubious. Anyway, the costumes were so bad they were distracting. The play itself was OK but not great for the first act. There were cute moments, including a seduction scene of actors rehearsing a love scene from As You Like It, which is the stuff of fantasies for the juvenile Shakespeare-lover. The second act, however, came out of nowhere. Everything that happened seemed unmotivated and awkward, and problems that barely seemed like problems got resolved in huge dramatic ways while things that seemed like major issues were swept under the rug. Overall, the whole thing was dissatisfying. With major rewrites and a new lead actor, it could be a good play, but it was by no means there yet.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Woah, dudes. The Ditty Bops are riding across the country on BIKES. They're doing a concert tour without the bus. And they're blogging it. I love that the two entries I've read so far seem to mainly report on what they've eaten. These gals totally rock.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Queer LA Represent

Apparently, almost no one except Phranc (don't they look great together!) showed up for Alison Bechdel's book signing at Book Soup last night. Shame! This is just further demonstration of the immense difficulty of finding lesbians in LA. You have one more chance. She's signing at A Different Light Books in West Hollywood tonight (Friday) at 7:30.

And afterward, you can amble down the street for the first Guerilla Gay Bar for a revolutionary queer take-over of Barney's Beanery. Super bonus points if anyone manages to bring Alison Bechdel! Come on out tonight!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"I'm Happy Because I'm Stupid"

The Boy Least Likely To. The Roxy. 6/3/06.

Thanks to the combined effort and musical awareness of Phil and ProphecyBoy, I found myself at a show in one of the famous rock clubs on the Sunset Strip, The Roxy, last night listening to several bands of which I knew nothing, and the result was a truly delightful evening.

The Boy Least Likely To*, the headline band of the show, is a band from the UK with happy sounds and ecclectic instrumentation, and I'm quite glad to have been introduced to them. They have an extemely fun stage presence which includes a lot of clapping and good-natured jokes and insults between band members, so the live show was quite entertaining even though I had only heard a couple of their songs before I attended the show. Their songs sound poppy and summery, but the lyrics are quite dark and cynical, which I adore. My favorite song by far is "Monsters," which is about childhood friends getting married and having children. It's truly wonderful. The title of this post is from "Be Gentle With Me" which says "I just want to sparkle for a moment/Before I just fizzle out and die." This adorable band makes me totally happy, but not in a sappy way; the disillusionment and tang of bitterness only makes it better.

The Bicycles* were a brilliant choice for an opening band for The Boy Least Likely To; they were also fairly happy-sounding but mature, and their music was a good complement to The Boy Least Likely To without being too similar. They also really seemed to be having fun onstage. They had me hooked from the moment they took the stage; they began with a few beautiful notes as a demonstration of their vocal skills before bringing in rock instrumentation. This band consists of an extremely unusual group of people, which makes them a fascinating combination onstage. They're from Toronto and they're melange of styles and ethnicities. The two main singers, who appear to be called "Meatball" and "Doctor Ew" have lovely high voices and some real vocal talent. Meatball especially has fabulous rock star hair. Personally, I was totally in love with "Danatater," the girl playing the drums. It's not nearly often enough that you get to see a girl rocking out on a drum set, and she did it quite well. And after the show she had adorably nerdy glasses on - I totally have a new crush.

Their music was totally fun, and I highly recommend that you check it out, except that it seems shockingly unavailable other than the 4 songs you can hear on MySpace. Their album, The Good, The Bad, and the Cuddly is apparently quite new and is not on iTunes. You can purchase it for download it at, but I'm a little nervous about doing so because my computer keeps warning me that their security certificate is invalid. Clearly, I should have bought the CD at the show, but I failed to do so. Making the whole thing even more dubious, the band's website isn't functioning, which, according to this blog post* might be because they've failed to pay their webhosting bill. Someone needs to help these kids with marketing immediately, because all their touring isn't going to do them much good, no matter how fabulous they are, if people can't easily buy their music anywhere.

The first band of the evening, Trainwreck Riders were some scruffy boys from San Fransisco, and they were also fairly enjoyable, but not nearly as memorable. I couldn't hear a word they said because the instrumentation drowned out the vocals, which perofoundly irritated me. Their music was an interestingly tough sort of country rock - there were song titles like "Ol' Timey Feeling" and occasional bouncy country rhythms, but they also seemed very rock 'n' roll to me and they looked more like whiney rocker boys, complete with fabulous glasses on the lead singer. I'd give them another chance if given the opporunity to see them again, but they paled in comparison to the two bands that followed them.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

WeHo's changing culture

The LA Times recently published this article on West Hollywood and "the soul of Boys Town." The whole thing is framed very awkwardly and is mostly a discussion of The HERE Lounge, which was mostly known (to me anyway) for its Girls' Night on Thursdays. HERE recently experienced a demographic shift as it started getting rented out for private parties, most of which were VERY, VERY heterosexual. The patrons were generally nonwhite, with macho guys and skanky girls in skimpy clothing and, most irratating to me, HUGE SUVs and HUMMERS. It was a very different group of people from those at The Abbey next door, and thus caused concern for some. The LA Times article mentions that "Thanks to pressure from the city and law enforcement and to the increasing tension he feels from the gay community, Rogers said May 19 that, as of that evening, Here Lounge is back to being '100% gay.'" While that's a bit creepy, I must admit I'm glad to hear it.

Interestingly enough, the article doesn't mention Barney's Beanery at all, which was the first site of tension between liberal, queer-friendly West Hollywood and the macho rock star/Sunset Strip crowd and continues to be a hang-out for heterosexual frat-boy types. Similarly, there's no discussion of the closing of Don't Panic, a store that sold gay themed novelty T-shirts and accessories (mostly for tourists), which was replaced with an American Apparel store. I think the real problem is that rents keep rising and cool, queer-friendly people and establishments can't afford to move into West Hollywood any longer, which really is unfortunate, because it means the neighborhood is losing its cool, liberal character in favor of generic commercialization.

A Somewhat Divided Trans-Unity

Trans-Unity Pride. LA Gay & Lesbian Center. 6/2/06.

My first complaint about Trans-Unity was the fact that there was virtually no available information online for this event, and what was out there both conflicted and seemed to have no connection to the reality of the event. The FTM Alliance page says one thing, while the LA Gay and Lesbian Center's flyer is not easy to find and offers very little information whatsoever. In reality, the Queen of California Pageant started sometime after 8:30pm, which seems to be a good hour and a half to two-and-a-half hours after its publicized start time. The tragic result of this delay was that the second show of the evening, the Living Legends show, began around 10pm while the Queen of California Pageant was still occuring, forcing audience memebers to choose one event or the other, and effectively dividing the transmen from the transwomen or one generation from another.

First of all, congratulations to Miss Nikki, who won the Queen of California Pageant. Her costumes were magnificent and her stage presence was quite compelling.

I was there for the Living Legends Show, however, which was a produced as a Transgiving Express event. Both the performers and the audience were relatively young and most were FTM or genderqueer identified. Dan* acted as MC and also did most of the organizing, I believe. He did a great job and is completely adorable as MC, but I'd love to see him rock the mic and take charge a bit more. A little more info about some of the performers, some of the other Trans-Unity events, etc., would have been nice.

The Living Legends show was a tribute to some past performances of gender, beginning with the fabulous Stephan Pennington singing and playing banjo to some great Elvis songs. His rendition of "Love Me Tender" made me wish there were more girls there to scream and swoon. Truly a heartbreaker. And Phil, his fabulous backup guitarist, rocks in his silent, steady way.

Next came Dan and Bryan performing songs of the Indigo Girls, which was fabulous in its nod to the affinities between lesbian and trans culture and even more wonderful in Bryan's heartfelt rendition of "Get out the Map" dedicated to his boyfriend. I would have liked to hear Bryan singing alone (with guitar backup or an instrumental track) rather than with the CD because he has a lovely voice which deserves to be heard on its own. I also would have liked their set to have culminated with an audience sing-along of "Closer to Fine" rather than beginning with it; the audience was too shy to sing along when they really should have milked the audience participation. I loved this act, however; their spirit was great and their act was sweet. Seeing transboys perform the Indigo Girls totally made my day, and I think these guys could work it if they wanted to. I'd love to see this again at Transgiving or elsewhere soon.

kale* performed as Roy Orbison, complete with a truly amazing wig and a delightful stage persona. He really worked his three songs, ending with Candyman. This kid has a great stage presence and seemed to be having a lot of fun up there.

The zeatles* closed out the show. They claim to be the first genderqueer Beatles tribute band, and I think it would be hard to argue against them, though a seemingly-now-defunct Beatles cover band from New Zealand seems to have used the name first. Anyway, they're very fun performers and they totally got the audience up and dancing, which matters a lot. They played a couple of Beatles songs or songs the Beatles had covered, and one original song as well, though the vocals were hard to hear so I don't have much to say about their original work. I would have loved to hear them tackle more of the Beatles more familiar repetoire. Mostly they were a cute, energetic group of people who seemed to be having a lot of fun onstage, and that alone could get them pretty far.

So despite the organizational disaster that one has come to expect and these events and the questionable policy of having the boys and the girls performing at separate events in the same night, I'd say the show was a pretty strong success. It was fun and community-building and a little wacky. I'd say the next goal is to get transwomen and transmen performing tributes to their respective legends together.

*NB: These links for performers link to myspace pages, as these performers generally lack full webpages and without a program, last names, or much identifying information, this is the best I could do in terms of finding their online presence. I apologize for this, and if anyone would like the link changed or removed they're welcome to contact me.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Transgiving: The Sex Show

Transgiving. Plummer Park, West Hollywood. 5/27/06.

This show, and my description of it, are sexually explicit and not for those under 18.

Transgiving's SEX Show was a fun, naughty tribute to queer sex and sexuality, beginning with a parade of strap-ons and sex toys from Babeland. They were followed by some lovely ladies from Glamour Boutique modeling some fabulous corsets, lingerie, and bondage. While something about the tempo and the audience energy for the two fashion shows was a little awkward, all of the models did a fabulous job working the runway and their products.

Helen Wong performed a fascinating piece about working in porn, complete with some hilarious audience members whose enthusiasm during a simulated orgy and squirt-gun cum shots totally made the show.

The special guest perfomers for the evening brought Trans as Fuck, a 'porn cabaret' from San Francisco, down to LA for one night only. Storm Florez, Annie Danger, and Seeley Quest performed some extremely intimate, extremely sexual pieces. Florez began his performance on a spiritual note, in which he began by praying and ended by masturbating with a dildo. Not to be outdone, Annie Danger gave a fun, funny demonstration for the low-budget trans and genderqueer youth that included sticking several carrots in her ass. Florez then performed three wonderful, intimate songs with guitar while two assistants performed an intricate temporary piercing on his back. Seeley Quest ended the evening with a compelling monologue about being a sex worker that involved three costume/identity changes in which hir fabulous self was adorably queer throughout. Sie ended the night with a fabulously hot spanking of a willing audience member.

It was a fun, steamy show and a wonderful end to ryka aoki de la cruz's tenure as curator for transgiving. It seems like a bad sign that she didn't introduce her successors in the role, but I hope that they will continue her passion and dedication in combining local talent and more well-known transgender and genderqueer performers from all over the US.

Latino Drag Charlie's Angels

Chico's Angels Cavern Club Theater. 5/26/06.

The Cavern Club continues to mystify me. It would be an awesome queer theater in the basement of a Mexican restaurant, except that the two shows I've seen have had surprisingly straight casts and audiences. Chico's Angels Episode 3: Chicas in Chains was an odd combination of fabulously campy drag and a slightly off back-up cast who lacked a camp sensibility.

The Angels, led by the truly magnificent Kaye Sedia, were the stars of the show and any moments they were offstage seriously lagged. Kaye was hilarious, and the rest of the Angels were pretty fun as well. The hilight of the show by far was Kaye's rendition of "Hopelessly Deported from You" to the tune of "Hopelessly Devoted to You." That alone made my day.

The most painful moment of the show was the women-in-prison scenes, which completely failed as representations of sapphic films. The fairly normative female cast, who should have been either men in drag or recognizably butch lesbians, failed completely to treat gender or sexuality in an interesting or entertaining way.

Overall, the show was entertaining enough for me to recommend it, though I have serious reservations, because I think it could have been done better and I feel that it was significantly overpriced for what it was. In the end, I did laugh throughout the show, and that may be enough to to earn it a positive review, though it was by no means brilliant.