Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Few Words From Truman Capote

" can a writer successfully combine within a single form--say the short story--all he knows about every other form of writing? For this was why my work was often insufficiently illuminated; the voltage was there, but by restricting myself to the techniques of whatever form I was working in, I was not using everything I knew about writing--all I'd learned from film scripts, plays, reportage, poetry, the short story, novellas, the novel. A writer ought to have all his colors, all his abilities available on the same palette for mingling (and, in suitable instances, simultaneous application)."
--Truman Capote (1924-1984), Music for Chameleons: New Writing by Truman Capote
(New American Library, paperback, 1981)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Terrorists Feed On Our Fears

The following is a letter-to-the-editor dated 10/15/01. It was intended for the New York Daily News's "Voice of the People" column. I checked my submission logbook and found no entry for it, so it never was published. Although it was written a short time after the 9/11 attacks, what it has to say is still timely:

FDR was right when he said: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Fear is a terrorist's stock-in-trade. Its use is a form of weaponry, psychological weaponry which, in a time like this, a time of intense grief and anxiety can breed chaos, suspicion, hate, and irrational thinking. What better way to destabilize a country. We must keep this in mind before scapegoating people because of their ethnic, religious, racial, or political affiliations.
The fear caused by the collapse of the Twin Towers as well as the anthrax attacks are part of that campaign to instill terror and irrationality. Fear of death is at the root of our fear of terrorism. The terrorists know this and use that fear to their advantage.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gays in Harlem

"...I never got to know Harlem the way I know other parts of the island's geography. ...[T]he
main reason was simple: I never paid rent there. I came as a visitor and then went home to
some other place." ---Pete Hamill, Downtown: My Manhattan, (Little, Brown, 2004)

While walking the streets of Harlem, the onset of gentrification is very evident: the springing up of luxury condos, upscale restaurants and shops, and art galleries.The attraction involves the availability of housing, wide boulevards, access to public transportation, and numerous parks. As this gentrification accelerates, Harlem will inevitably attract more and more gay men and lesbians. I met a few such newcomers at the Casa Frela art gallery on West 119th Street this summer. One artist, a white lesbian, who paints nature artworks, told me of some of the hostility she has encountered since coming to the neighborhood, like being spat at. By moving into the neighborhood, "What harm am I causing?" she asked.
Gay men and lesbians have always been a part of Harlem life, but their existence has always been on the margins. Gay men have never been as open in Harlem as is the case in Greenwich Village or Chelsea.
In the book, Queers in Space: Communities, Public Places, Sites of Resistance (1997), one black gay youth from Harlem explained why he preferred Christopher Street as a hangout: "We can't really hang out on the corner where we live, so we come here." That attitude may be more about his perception than anything else. For decades there have been out gay men in Harlem, some accepted by their neighbors, others not. But it is true that gay life in Harlem has been on the down low. Conservative attitudes about homosexuality from fire and brimstone preachers hasn't helped the situation.
With all the renovating and construction going on, the influx of gays and lesbians to Harlem will alter life, I think, for the better, bringing new vitality and money to the area.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Rival Envy?

I was interested in doing an article for the Gay City News regarding the HX Gay Erotic Expo that took place this past November here in New York. E.J. Parker of the temporarily discontinued sex party called Harlem World/Comfort Zone (about which I wrote an article for GCN) wanted me to attend it with him. So I contacted Trenton Straube, the editor at HX/New York Blade. He in turn referred me to Gary Glacinski because, I guess, he was the one who handled press relations. After e-mailing him twice, I never heard a word. Maybe they didn't want to have an article about them appear in a rival paper. Who knows? Anyway they lost out on an opportunity to further publicize their event.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Novel About A Novel

One book I want to read again is James A. Michener's work of fiction called The Novel. For anyone interested in the book industry, I highly recommend it. The book looks at one novel from four points of view: the author, the editor, the reviewer, and finally, the reader. I've never read a book that examined the book world that way. It's a look at how books were handled in the age before computers.It's been more than ten years since I've read it and I want to get reacquainted with it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Spike Lee and Barack Obama

I'm hoping that Spike Lee will do a feature-length documentary on Barack Obama. Conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and the loony Ann Coulter will accuse Lee of race baiting and rabblerousing. But who better than Spike Lee to help lead the discussion and shed some much needed light on such a thorny issue? At this writing I haven't had a chance to see his documentary on New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. But I have seen Four Little Girls, his excellent film about the fatal 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama as well as Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X. All of them are worthwhile seeing again and again.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Request for Info About a 1909 Sodomy Case

For a long time I have been interested in writing about an obscure case that was briefly mentioned in "The Alyson Almanac."It is the story of two black men in 1909 Kentucky who were accused of sodomy. They were put on trial (Poindexter vs. Commonwealth of Kentucky) and later acquitted. Depending on how much information I can gather, it might make a book-length study every bit as fascinating as "The Scarlet Professor" and "Harvard's Secret Court." Both of those historical books were about anti-gay witchhunts and persecutions. They were hard for me to put down. I highly recommend them for fans of gay history. I would appreciate any information anyone can provide me regarding this case as well as any help directing me to persons with knowledge about it.

Will There Be a Miles Davis Biopic?

Two years ago, on jazz pianist and disc jockey Ramsey Lewis's syndicated radio show, "The Legends of Jazz," I heard that a biopic of legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis was in the works and that Don Cheadle was slated to portray him. That's good news for Davis fans, however I wonder if the film (if it's ever made) will mention his gay brother who Davis was not happy about, according to Quincy Troupe, Davis's biographer. It's a safe bet that Hollywood will gloss over this part of Davis's life, not wanting to offend any of his fans uncomfortable with the notion of homosexuality.