Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Live FREE Music!

San Francisco is chock full of music and musicians, much of it free! Here are two upcoming shows I'll be participating in: 

Friday, August 27
Marianne Barlow, Brent Calderwood, and Russell David @ SoCha Cafe
Acoustic rock, folk and alt country songs at the hip Mission venue, which serves coffee, beer, and wine.. Free. 8:30pm-11pm. 3235 Mission Street (@ Valencia).,,

Sunday, September 12
Drew Boles and Brent Calderwood @ Brainwash
Queer singer-songwriters Drew Boles and Brent Calderwood perform acoustic and electronic guitar- and piano-based pop and folk music at the hip SoMa cafe, where you can do your laundry, throw back lattes and beers, and get a taste of the local music scene all at the same time! 7pm-9pm. 1122 Folsom Street (@ Langton).,

I've been seeing lots of great singer-songwriters and local musicians lately. One of my favorites is Carletta Sue Kay, a San Francisco performer/band headed by Randy Walker (Carletta) that deftly combines rock, roots music, country, camp and cabaret all into one satisfying package. If my ears were right last time I heard Carletta Sue Kay live, one of her songs has the hook, "It's not love till someone calls a cop." If that's not right, someone let me know—'cause I'll use it myself!  Their next show is this Thursday, August 26 at 111 Minna Gallery, 9pm-1:30am. Also playing are the fabulous Ex-Boyfriends

Last May, I attended a great evening of gay singer-songwriters, some local, some touring, at the Metropolitan Community Church in San Francisco. Called Sing Out San Francisco, the evening showcased cutie Tom Goss, along with the sensitive-but-edgy Dudley Saunders, Daniel Owens and Jeremiah Clark in diverse evening of original pop, folk and jazz music. I was impressed by all of them, especially the guitar and piano stylings of Clark and Owens.

I'll be updating you on other local musicians and artists in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, here's a few videos to tide you over!

Monday, August 16, 2010

"We Were There" Tells a Story That Needs Telling

Emmanuelle Antolin, Tamara Loewenstein, and Melonie Green
We Were There
June 10 – September 30, 2010
African American Arts & Culture Complex
762 Fulton Street @ McAllister
San Francisco, CA 94102-4119
(415) 292-6172

I recently visited “We Were There: The Lesbian Response to the Early AIDS Epidemic among Gay Men," a new exhibit showing now through September 30, co-curated by Melonie Green and Tamara Loewenstein. "We Were There" is also the name of a moving short film created in conjunction with the exhibit and directed by Emmanuelle Antolin. 

photo by Leigh Meryhew
I spoke with Antolin, Green, and Loewenstein about the project.

Q: Who helped you make this project happen? 
 TL:The National Queer Ar ts Festival and Queer Cultural Center of San Francisco awarded Emmanuelle Antolin with a small grant that allowed her to begin film production. The African American Arts & Culture Complex (sisters Melora and Melonie Green) have been incredibly generous with their space, resources and time. 

Q: What's the response been like so far? 
MG: Those who were featured in the project (via photographs, featured in the film, pamphlets on the walls, etc.) were so moved. Some were surprised to see their work on the walls. They certainly didn't expect to see their words on the walls. I think seeing the exhibition made things very real for them. The film was such an inspiration. It received laughs, tears, applause.

Q:  Describe the curatorial process for the exhibit.
TL: The curatorial process was a very collaborative one. Emmanuelle was able to gather most of the images during her research in New York City and at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, among other resources. The three of us went through all the images we had gathered and decided together which ones should be key images or themes within the exhibition. Later, Melonie and I worked together to finalize our selection of photographs, images, posters and ephemera. From the beginning we wanted the space to have an ambiance of intensity that communicated the activist sensibility of the period.
MG: Tamara and I discussed putting the words on the walls. we had a few ideas. I suggested that we hand write the quotes ... because in the grand scheme of things, this was a DIY movement and seeing the quotes on the walls gave it a very organic and "real" vibe and feel. From there we decided to paste and post the posters on the walls unframed to continue that element of DIY and "in the moment" feel.

Q: What's the future of this project?  
EA: As we go further with this project, we feel that quality film production, in-depth research, interactive web presence and more are integral to making this piece come alive the way it is meant to. So far, I have funded the entire project from my personal savings, with the exception of a $500 seed grant from the Queer Cultural Center, and a few donations. I did this because I got into it, I knew this story had to be told, and had to be told right. Now I am seeking funding to help me complete the film and expand the project.  I'd love to talk to anyone who feels the same and would like to discuss funding.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

James L. White's "The Salt Ecstasies":
the return of an out-of-print classic

(This review first appeared at
Part of Graywolf’s wonderful “Re/View” series, which publishes important work by out-of-print and outsider poets, The Salt Ecstasies, one of the jewels in the crown of Graywolf’s impressive poetry catalogue, seems long overdue for such treatment. Luckily, it was worth the wait. Series editor Mark Doty introduces the collection with a thoughtful essay, and has included two previously uncollected poems, as well as excerpts from James L. White’s journals.

In addition to making The Salt Ecstasies available to a new generation of readers and writers—the book, published posthumously in 1982, has been hard to find outside of libraries—this new edition gives us the chance to reconsider White’s work and legacy beyond that of being a ‘poet’s poet,’ unknown to most and idolized by a rarefied few.

White’s outsider perspective permeates much of his work. Whereas the work of his contemporaries leaned heavily on the erotic, political, or erudite, White’s poems, as Doty points out in his introduction, “are heartbroken in that everyday way we recognize; they are the exhalation of a sorrow held so long it’s become as ordinary as it is sharp.” In this way, he is a sort of Minneapolis version of James Schuyler, and a male counterpart to many lesbian and feminist writers of his period.

“Making Love to Myself,” for instance, one of White’s best-known poems, takes a stance on autoeroticism otherwise unheard of among gay men, even down to its title. “Men don’t usually ‘make love’ to themselves,” Doty observes—“they jerk off….” In his plainspoken and poignant free-verse style, White begins
When I do it, I remember how it was with us.
Then my hands remember too,
and you’re with me again, just the way it was.
Free of ego, shock, or posturing, White’s diction and tone invite the reader into this most intimate of moments. “What a sweet gift this is, / done with my memory, my cock and hands”: alloyed with the heartfelt, language that might otherwise be too crude or obvious becomes credible and eloquent. After these lines, though, comes a turn; typical of White’s poems, and, one senses, of his life, the erotic is short-lived, hard to hold:
Sometimes I’d wake up wondering if I should fix
coffee for us before work,
almost thinking you’re here again, almost seeing
your work jacket on the chair.
As the speaker goes on to ponder his break with his working-class lover, self-pleasure seems all but gone. The pervasive pull of loss and longing are stronger than those brief moments of joy, stronger even than fantasy, so the poem is aborted: “I just have to stop here Jess. / I just have to stop.”

If so many of White’s poems are about not fitting—frequent themes are loss, aging, being overweight, illness, isolation, and a bittersweet childhood—they tell us much about the human heart. They also debunk assumptions about gay life and gay literature pre- and post-Stonewall, the closet on one side of the riots and liberation and free love on the other. White’s potential partners, then, are just as likely to be closeted, or ’straight,’ as not—if they seem fickle or reluctant as a result, there are also moments of vulnerability and tenderness that are lacking from other more modern, liberated, cocksure writers. From “The First Time:”
Sometimes I’m their first.
Sweet, sweet men.

We’re bunglers when it’s really good:
bow legs, pimply backs, scrawny chest hair,
full of mistakes and good intentions.
Another poem on similar themes, “Lying in Sadness,” sparkles with striking images and emotions that seem instantly relatable, yet particular to the speaker’s experience. “I love you completely as salt” in the first stanza, and later “You exhale a fist of memory,” followed by the last stanza: “When you return to something you love, / it’s already beyond repair. / You wear it broken.”

In his journal from October 1979, White demanded bare honesty of himself: “Don’t be afraid, Jim. Sometimes this will hurt you but there is also great beauty in your life. Don’t be afraid, Jim, or if you’re afraid, just go on and do what you do have to do: tell it, tell the story.”

Writing on the cusp of the decade, White trained his pen on age-old, deep-seated fears and desires that for many of his fellow gay writers were sublimated beneath the post-Stonewall frisson of political and sexual liberation, and then sidelined by the political and sexual stridency that the AIDS crisis demanded. Writing in the spaces between, before, and outside those zeitgeists, White explored the sublimated and unearthed the sublime.

White knew how painful it could be to stare directly into what we fear—including the ways in which many of us today still feel alienated, different, and indelibly queer. Perhaps writers and readers at this moment in queer history are again willing to take up the work White started 30 years ago; in so doing, we may come to a deeper, more personal sense of liberation, and even connectedness—to ourselves, to each other.

James L. White
Graywolf Press
ISBN: 9781555975616
Paperback, $15.00, 96p

Monday, August 9, 2010

Patricia Neal: Great Career, Tragic Life
(January 20, 1926 – August 8, 2010)

Patricia Neal, a Kentucky coal miner's daughter, was not only a first-rate actress who's been called the American Jeanne Moreau—she also lived a life so dramatic in its own right that it was the subject of a 1981 TV movie, The Patricia Neal Story

During the filming of the screen adaptation of Ayn Rand's controversial classic, The Fountainhead, the 21-year-old actress began an affair with Gary Cooper, then 46. It ended after Cooper's wife sent Neal a telegram requesting its termination, and also after Cooper's daughter spat at Neal in public. 

In 1953, Neal married British writer Roald Dahl, whom she'd met two years earlier at a dinner party thrown by Lillian Hellman. According to Wikipedia
In the early 1960s the couple suffered through grievous injury to one child and the death of another. On December 5, 1960, their son Theo, four months old, suffered brain damage when his baby carriage was struck by a taxicab in New York City. On November 17, 1962, their daughter, Olivia, died at age 7 from measles encephalitis.    
While pregnant in 1965, Neal suffered three-burst cerebral aneurysms, and was in a coma for three weeks. Dahl directed her rehabilitation and she subsequently relearned to walk and talk ("I think I'm just stubborn, that's all").

On film, Neal commands your total attention in every scene she's in, whether she's sharing the screen with Paul Newman (Hud, for which she won the Oscar), Gary Cooper, or even an alien robot (The Day the Earth Stood Still).

Recommended viewing:

  • 1949 - The Fountainhead 
  • 1951 - The Day the Earth Stood Still 
  • 1957 - A Face in the Crowd 
  • 1957 - Breakfast at Tiffany's 
  • 1963 - Hud 
  • 2003 - Broadway: The Golden Age

Neal's obituary in The New York Times