Interesting and provocative thoughts on gay history, gay sexual history, gay porn, and gay popular culture.
Analysis of past, present and future trends in popular culture.
It's not porn (not really a strange addiction), and it's not my strange addiction. What is it? The series My Strange Addiction on the The Learning Channel. Everyone seems to be baring privates, or in this case, mostly eating publicly what they are doing privately, on TV these days, but what I find most fascinating is the eating. Yes, people addicted to eating objects one would not consider to be food. And we aren't talking about the sexual fetishes of eating/drinking piss/cum and the like that often appear in porn movies, though, recently, the show featured a woman addicted to drinking her own urine, which sometimes tasted "lemony" (she claimed it was a type of holistic therapy for cancer).
Here's the rundown on the eating strange objects episodes, and of course you can obtain more information about these episodes on-line (http://.howstuffworks.com/tv/my-strange-addiction) : eating toilet paper; eating chalk; eating the insides of couch cushions; eating laundry detergent; eating household cleanser; eating glass; and eating cigarette ashes. Sounds gross, revolting, and other adjectives that mean approximately the same? Perhaps so, but perhaps not that unusual, in many cases.
What's disturbing, in my view, is that many of these addicts are socially, psychologically, and economically marginalized, such as minority women or gay men, many of whom have suffered serious traumas. For example, Crystal has been eating household cleanser everyday since she was twelve; her shame, embarrassment and concern for her health have caused her to keep this a secret. She said in a later interview that she thought she was "cleaning herself out" after suffering physical and sexual abuse as a child. Adele, an African-American woman, suffers from Pica, a disorder found most commonly in toddlers and pregnant women who lack certain nutrients, causing them to crave non-nutritive substances like chalk, coins, batteries and even dirt. Sometimes this addiction is caused by stress, and Adele admits her first time happened during a very emotional period in her life, when her parents were on the brink of divorce.
Not that these addictions are solely, or ultimately, class-based cause or effect, but where are the wealthy white upper middle-class men in this scenario (the ones who still hold the power)? Perhaps they can't come out with these types of issues because of their position in the society, or they have recourse to private (and expensive) psychological assistance, or they haven't experienced the level of trauma these women have suffered (including never having experienced hunger, forgive my self-righteousness). There's also perhaps the stigma, at least in certain social strata, of divulging such private matters in any public media, much less the specific "trashy" association of appearing on reality TV.
Or, more significantly, perhaps the powerful suffer from an addiction based on power (harming others), rather than powerlessness (harming one's self). I'm thinking of Larry Craig and his bathroom escapades, or, more overtly, Bernie Madoff and his colossal ponzi scheme. Note that Craig and Madoff were involuntarily outed; Adele and the others like her voluntarily submitted their addictive behaviors to the scrutiny of the public.
The key to a possible cure in many cases of addiction that are ultimately psychological (rather than organic) is moderation, founded on a respect for the self, integrated with a respect for others, a concept that proves elusive in a culture of narcissism. Everyone wants to be a celebrity; everyone wants, and attempts to imitate, the power and fame associated with such celebrity. And it's so easy to do so.
I'm concerned that someone on youtube is already eating poisonous couch cushions for their celebrity moment. I'm even more concerned that Madoff-like schemes, like the recent "Diamond Bar PTA mom" ponzi scheme in California, continue to devastate the livelihoods, and hopes, of many Americans.
Great advancements in modernization came about because of beer. Just listen to this, some German immigrants (think they were Miller & Coors) brought a new type of beer to America, lager beer which is cold brewed. Well to keep it cold they needed some form of refrigeration. So the first refrigeration was developed not to keep your milk cold, but to keep your brew beer perfect for drinking. Did you know that beer produced the first manufacturing plants. That's right and everyone thinks is was Ford who modernized manufacturing to built the Model T car. Not so, modern mass manufacturing plants were built to make bottles to hold all that beer.
Even advances in medicine comes from beer. The concept of germs and bacteria came from beer. Distillers showed how the heating process in the brewing killed the crap in water that was making people sick. I learned in that wonderful Discovery Channel show that distillers took water from a duck pond and brewed beer from an old recipe, while the water was foul from the fowl, the beer was not. All because of the technique of distilling with boiling water. Need I say more, even the very idea of washing your hands came about because of beer.
Scientists in the 20th century discovered Tetracycline in Egyptian mummies which was long before the discover of this antibiotic in the 1940's. How was this possible? That's right, the brewing of beer from an ancient Egyptian recipe.
There was a lot more to this show and everything they presented about the evolution of mankind was based on the discovery, the production and consumption of BEER. All the way back to mankind settling down.
Now what they didn't show was how beer brought us porn, so let's just run with that idea for a moment. Because of beer we can relax in cool comfort on hot days (or cold days), grab a little something to eat (or not) and a beer from the fridge. We have our TVs for entertainment where we watch ball games and all those beer commercials and low and behold came the VCR, and "whala!" here comes porn right on my TV. So here I am with a bottle of beer in one hand and my joint in the other. So because of beer there is a lot of one handed entertainment.
Didn't I tell you that the educational valve of the Discovery Channel will give you a whole new perspective on beer?
Speaking of beer, we have plenty of freshly brewed beer on hand at Touché everyday and every night.
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I recently saw a show on the Discovery channel the other night that informed me about one thing that we all should be thankful for, and that is Beer.
Beer truly makes the world go round. Yes I learned that beer is the basis for everything in this world (I shit you not). The show was simply amazing, so grab a bottle and learn a little something from the Chicago's night life sexual underground. Early man was a hunter-gatherer, each day he wandered around for a couple of hours hunting looking for something to eat. May it be animal or vegetable it didn't matter the routine until around 9,000 B.C. Of course early man did a lot of fucking also or we won't be here (to enjoy a good beer).
One of the things they gathered was barley. Well one day just by accident a container of barley was left outside and it rained, so guess what happened? The barley naturally fermented and some brave cavemen dared to drink that fomented, frothing mixture and boy did he yell, THIS TASTE GREAT, and it also made him feel really good 15 minutes later.
The caveman motto for beer became: Taste great and makes you fly like a bird. This caveman go so excited that he called all his cave buddies over to his cave to try out this great tasting brew; and what do you know, by the next full moon, they all moved into caves next to this great and wonderful party animal. This my dear reader is the true history of how communities and villages were first formed, all because of beer. (Ok, I made this last part up.)
So let's continue this wonderful story. It was because of beer that man settled down, to plant and raise the crops that made beer (I shit you not). And as it turned out this drink was certainly was better than water. With this new discover mankind developed the mathematical designs to plot land and so we could keep track of the barley beer harvest. To be near beer people gathered together and towns sprung up. Did you know that the pyramids of Egypt were built by workers who were paid – that's right, in beer!
Lets jump ahead a bit to medieval times. I learned that the water ways rivers, brooks, streams, reservoirs weren't keep clean for there was a lot of shit and piss floating around. So the drink of choice, you guessed it was beer because the water was boiled first and the bad shit was boiled out (the makers of bear didn't know this, they felt the boiling of the water made a better beer).
Colonists coming to the new world drank beer on the ships because it would keep. A famous event that took place before our revolution (and which a political group today is named after) came about when a group of colonists gathered at a tavern in Boston and decided to dump some tea in the harbor. Of course they were drinking only the best beer when they made that historic decision.
Find out more about beer and porn in part two of Beer, Instrumental in the Creation of the World.
I remember some kind of rumor or urban legend circulating that Lady Gaga is/was really a man. No, she is a woman, not a drag queen, but her extravagant dress and overwhelming public persona (all in the interests of self-expression of course, the byword among her young fan base) can honestly lead one to come to that conclusion.
Drag queens of course always adopt another name, as did Lady Gaga, who is really Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, as did gay porn director/star Christopher Rage (The infamous sex pig, who plays Mary Jim Stunning in drag) mildly camping (I emphasize mildly) it up as the evil Arachne, a “brilliant, evil madwoman on a crusade to rid the planet of sex” in the early 1970s porn flick Drive. In Drive Ms. Stunning kidnaps scientist Mark Woodward, who developed a drug that can control the human sex drive. Do you the reader knows what that means? It means that evil super villain Arachnein would have the power to control the whole world! In fact, as our porn reviewer argues, cause “the complete castration of humanity.” Oh No!!!.
Is this shades of Zsa Zsa Gabor, Queen of Outer Space, who hates all men? Or, a closer analogy, Faye Dunaway, essentially the drag version of Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, taking over the town in that dreadful film Supergirl. The B-movie connection between Ms. Stunning, Zsa Zsa and Dunaway is quite obvious. What's different in Drive as to the other films is the sense of story, a grand outrageous narrative (and not just the big orgies with 50-plus people which the other films don't have). For there's something at stake in Drive: sex, sexual interaction, sexual closeness, sexual outrageousness the celebratory feeling in gay sex before the AIDS crisis and Ms. Stunning.
Back to Lady Gaga and Ms. Stunning. Lady Gaga is very talented who showcases diverse talents (yes, she does a drag routine playing a man) in a very entertaining flamboyant style. But I think one needs to understand that she is indebted to an exciting history of gender-bending that the gay community, one of her biggest fans, started long before the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s. Her style without question acknowledges the similarities of the Christopher Rage's aka Mary Jim Stunning's of the world.
On the Television Without Pity online forum, comments about the A & E candid reality show Hoarders have reached page 941. Comic Kathy Lee Griffin was upset that someone tweeted, in her name, her love for Hoarders. She does like the show. But she also supposedly was accused of making fun of the hoarders and thus the mentally ill in one of her comedy routines. What's all this hype about Hoarders/hoaders? Or, rather, why are we obsessed with seeing others who are pathologically obsessed with stuff?
I don't want to blame this hype, nor the mental illness which is now, if I may be cynical, the current mental illness in vogue, on the easy access to material goods, resulting in rampant consumerism, which easily feeds into the disorder. That's too easy an explanation, but some of the hoarders on the show seem to spend much of their time watching and ordering from QVC or hanging about thrift stores, garage sales, or Dollar General. One woman on the show showed her unopened boxes of items bought from practically every home shopping network on the planet. Scary.
Is the explanation for the hoarders' behavior thus more psychological? The presence of “licensed clinical psychologists” to help the hoarders on the show would thus seems to be a given. For example, in many of the show's cases, the hoarding seems to be the byproduct of some kind of unresolved post-traumatic stress disorder. I remember one specifically hat involved unresolved issues about 9/11. In another really sad case, the hoarder, who specialized in food hoarding, had been physically, psychologically, and sexually abused by her now dead ex-husband. She also fed her daughter bizarre dishes like mealworm cookies and chicken hearts pie. Shades of Baby Jane and her infamous fried rat?
Some of the more extreme cases seem to go beyond the frightening colossal disorganization or mounds of clutter (which one might see on shows like Clean House), but to those types of “garbage” houses that occasionally appear as human interest stories on the news, dwellings filled with adult diapers, dead cats, and refrigerators filled with rotting food. In one case in Louisiana, the amount of waste took on apocalyptic proportions. Think decaying heaps of what's left of civilization in a dystopian Mad Max scenario. A follow-up visit showed no improvement. The woman could not explain why she couldn't throw anything out. Literally, anything.
I've given you but a taste of a couple of the more horrific cases. I'll spare you the frankly unwatchable and exploitative animal hoarding cases. But I haven't really answered my most significant question. Why do we watch, other than the usual pull many audiences feel toward reality TV show drama, with its own scripted or semi-scripted climactic and anti-climactic moves, such as “here comes the meltdown”? What is the fascination with Hoarders' often indescribable decay and horror? Is the fascination akin to watching some type of horror movie, except the horror is real, in fact, mundane, which makes it more horrific? The horror of heaps of adult diapers swarming with mouse droppings. The horror of three rooms filled with nothing but the heads of dolls.
Possibly, but I do wonder if this fascination with heaps of stuff has something to do with our fascination with multiplicity in all its forms and functions. I'm not just talking, literally, about our easy access to tons of stuff and our equally easy generation of tons of garbage. Elias Canetti in Crowds and Power proposes a type of crowd that he claims “modern society” no longer believes in: the invisible crowd. According to Canetti, cultures such as the Greeks, the Norse, and the medieval Christians believed in supernatural invisible crowds such as crowds of ghosts, demons, dead warriors, and saints. The invisible world was densely populated. A multitude of angels could dance on the head of a pin. Once people cease to literally believe in such crowds, scientists discovered other invisible, but natural, crowds through the microscope, such as atoms, bacteria, and all those multitudes of sperm that come out in cum (hence the connection with gay porn). In the case of the hoards, which also resemble Canetti's key images of heaps of the war dead (like the waste heaps of the hoarders) and also heaps of abundant crops, do we once again see something like the more hellish invisible crowds made visible?
And one could even argue that invisible crowds have resurfaced in the flash mobs of the Internet, friends made on social networking sites, all those infinite bytes and kilobytes and megabytes, and their visible manifestation in another type of hoarding, digital hoarding. On Hoarders, Beverly tapes every show she ever watched on television. When VHS became obsolete, she switched to DVD. Her granddaughter is now convincing her to start digitizing all those, as her grandson sarcastically said, Phil Donahue Shows from 1982.
I'm not going to end with the “go clean out your closet” directive, which on boards discussing the show, seems to be the usual reaction to the show. Rather, the show makes me think about how it's remarkably easy to become overwhelmed on all psychosocial fronts, paradoxically, in a society that prides itself on material ease and technical efficiency. Hoarders and hoarding seems to be a most disturbing and visible manifestation of an extreme disorder which can so easily destroy our order like the invisible bacilli of the plague.
It's as if the invisible crowds of Canetti have turned on us. And now we can see the visible results in those hoards.
Have you noticed that the typical gay celebrity on television dispenses advice on weddings, hair styles, fashion, desserts, and home décor. What if gays instead dispensed advice on fishing, truck driving, auto repair, hunting, American football, home repair (not decorating), and tool and die techniques (and I'm not in anyway referring to the classic gay porn flick L.A. Tool and Die)? Would anyone listen, much believe that the above is even possible? That gay men do men things? Or would the straight experts in those fields allow a gay guy infringe on their traditionally masculine territory? But then, there are straight male hair stylists, fashion designers, and wedding planners. Or are there, or are they hiding in the closet, pun intended?
I'm not calling for an all-out war on gay stereotypes, but I do wonder if the prototype of this gay advice genre, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, only served to perpetuate, if not emphasize the stereotypes. Not that all the guys on that show were as “flamboyant” as Carson Kressley, but several Carson Kressley types have popped up on such reality TV/advice show fare such as My Fair Wedding and Clean House. These gay “fairy godfathers” usually help straights clean up their messes, but what do they get out of it after they work their magic? I would love to know if there is any dick involved as gratitude for a makeover well done, but nobody's telling. The straight couple gets married, their house gets decluttered and redecorated, and the gay fairy godfather returns to his lover that he can't marry in most states or countries or to his beautifully decorated empty house and a cat (more stereotypes, perhaps?).