Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mariah Season 2k12

Just checking in briefly to make sure readers know what time of year it is. Sure, sure, December 1 is World AIDS Day, which you should all celebrate by going out and getting tested, by telling all your friends to get tested, and by refusing to fuck anyone who doesn't get tested. However, December also marks the start of Mariah season here on the Block. Mariah is a singer we love to make fun of, mostly because she's a giant mess. More seriously, she was also a precursor to the Christina Aguilera "tasteless bullshit" style of singing, which we worry has irreparably damaged popular music. However, because the holidays are a time of giving and forgiving, we are willing to put aside our malice for a short time. December is the one month a year that Will Danger will throw on the Mariah Carey Christmas album and listen along in earnest. She's just so wonderfully tasteless! She even manages to cram some cowbell into Joy to the World, which we didn't think was possible! Join us in stretching the upper registers of our hearing, wont you?

So, in honor of Mariah -- who, rumor has it, played a recording of applause while giving birth to her twins, so that it would be their first sound other than the bell tones that her uterus naturally produces -- let's all put on some ten inch pumps, hop on a stair master, and make the Yuletide really fucking gay.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Lazy Blogger's Guide to Post-Holiday Blogging

Holidays are tricky. Spending that much family time can't be healthy. Deep cynic/spoiled brat that I am, I usually reserve the dirtiest of looks for anyone who appears to be winding up for a "Today I am thankful for..." moment. Plus, any Thanksgiving dinner that involves going around the table and having everyone say what they're thankful for generally makes me want to die. Has anyone else noticed that it's usually uppity white folks that do things like this?

At any rate, we all deserve a medal and some cigarettes for surviving a sustained encounter with family members. While you're out traipsing over the corpses of fellow Black Friday shoppers and tearing out a stranger's weave for 40% off your new washer/dryer combo, here's a quick list of things I am actually thankful for:

1. Rise Up With Fists!!! -- Jenny Lewis

2. Triumph of a Heart -- Bjork

3. Asleep -- The Smiths

4. Abducted -- Cults

5. Girls -- Marina and the Diamonds

6. How Did We Come to This? -- from The Wild Party

7. Rid of Me -- PJ Harvey

8. Science Fiction/Double Feature -- Me First & the Gimme Gimmes

If nothing else, you can do a little listening around inside Will Danger's noggin and maybe take this opportunity to judge him for his questionable taste in music. I'll also offer you this pricklingly hilarious Slate article about the logistics of porcupine fornication.

Jokes aside, Black Friday is one of my favorite holidays because of the people watching it affords. There's an unparalleled frenzy to the whole affair, like going to the mall on Christmas Eve. It feels very much like worshiping at the altar of America. And we all know how obsessed I am with that kind of messiness.

Hope you had a good holiday, folks.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Too Much TV Two: Asylum

Ryan Murphy and I have a contentious relationship. When he is on point, he's one of our strongest and most important television writers, surpassing even Joss Whedon, New Queer's patron saint of quirky ass-kicking.  American Horror Story and Nip/Tuck both contain some of the best television moments out there; the writing is often sharp and mercilessly smart. And, ok fine, Glee is an important show, even if the writing is questionable and the fanbase is increasingly obnoxious. Unfortunately, Ryan Murphy is unpredictable, almost as good at missing the mark as he is at hitting it. He's also produced some of the worst television out there, very often in the same series that's just dazzled us. Sometimes even in the same episode.

It's worth mentioning that in spite of Glee's queer legacy, Ryan Murphy's worlds are wildly homophobic and especially transphobic, in an overtly violent way. Just ask Nip/Tuck's Cherry Peck (played by Willam, one of my favorite Drag Race contenders). Before Glee, queer characters had almost never done right by Ryan Murphy. Nevertheless, this season of American Horror Story is turning out to be surprisingly worth the investment. After last year's sudden decrease in quality, I was ready to declare American Horror Story a wash.

In a sequel to one of New Queer's greatest hits, I'm taking another moment to revisit/rewatch American Horror Story. Spoiler Alert: I spoil stuff. Read at your own risk. Most of my writing should probably have this disclaimer in front of it.

This season, subtitled "Asylum," takes place in a criminal asylum (duh) run by a religious order and headed by a terrifying nun named Sister Jude. It follows the adventures and foibles of nuns, doctors, and inmates, some of which are clearly crazy, some less obviously so. There's some thematic overlap between this season and the first, with a few important differences. This first is that with the exception of a demonic possession (I'm not convinced we can assume this possession is really happening), there is nothing truly paranormal occurring. This year, America's horrors are all home-grown. Serial killers, medical experimentation, and terrifying pseudo-treatments abound, but the inmates aren't actually haunted, except by each other and the downright weird narratives they've invented to account for their various crimes. American Horror Story: Asylum's monsters are products of mid-century American culture and are all the more terrifying for it. These monsters are real, kiddies.

The second strangeness of this season is that its plot has absolutely nothing to do with season one. Many of season one's actors are back in new configurations, playing entirely different roles. If I'm being generous in my thinking (and why wouldn't I be?), maybe Ryan Murphy is playing with the kinds of continuity that we take for granted in television, disrupting the concentric episode/season/series temporalities of development that are so familiar to TV viewers. Jessica Lange has described the phenomenon as very much like belonging to a theatre troop, and maybe she's onto something. Does the refusal of continuity and development expand the scope of Murphy's horror story? There may be precedence for this, but I can't think of any because I'm an inadequate TV scholar unless it involves Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Real World.

Storytelling, a particular focus of the first season, takes center-stage in the second. Murphy asks us even more explicitly to think about the stories we tell, the narratives we invent which enable us in certain ways, and the places where these revisions start to break down. There's a wonderful line from one of the inmates about stories, but I'm afraid my mind isn't what it used to be and I'm not in the position to re-watch AHS in the middle of the day, so this is becoming an increasingly less helpful paragraph. I was reminded of a line from Michael Cunningham's A Home at the End of the World, though: "We become the stories we tell about ourselves." Again, not a particularly helpful detour.

Asylum tackles storytelling at the institutional level, positioning Sister Jude's forced religious fervor alongside Dr. Thredson's faith in downright monstrous psychology and the fantastic narratives the patients invent to excuse their crimes. Where/how does (horror) story become faith, become dogma, become institution? What are the limitations of these distinctions and why do we insist on them? Though these overlapping modes of storytelling achieve different levels of plausibility and cultural legitimacy, at one point or another they all falter. Much like Dr. Arden's Frankenstein-like monsters, the narratives begin to fail their inventors, mutating unpredictably. Sister Jude's religion, once the source of her authority within the asylum, quickly becomes a source of torment as another nun threatens to expose her past indiscretions. What happens to us when our narratives fail us, take on life we'd never imagined, and become monsters beyond our control? Murphy uses the individual psyche as a framework for understanding organized memory and cultural amnesia (a parallel that holds up better in some places than others).  Asylum tangles with the instability of memory, the impulse to pathologize, and the slipperiness of sanity in importantly historical ways, an examination that is especially relevant in the wake of this summer's string of violent shootings that people continue to insist are individual exceptions rather than cultural products.

Timely television from Ryan Murphy?!?! I'm as surprised as you are.

Asylum feels all the more American precisely because it deals in real histories. Where season one set its sights on the family, Asylum sinks its claws into America's questionable history of institutionalization and diagnosis. Murphy reminds us that much of our self-evident faith in modern psychology has roots in terrifying medical practices that begin increasingly to resemble contemporary ones. One character's lobotomy (which turns her into the perfect 1950s housewife) reminds us that the history of the nuclear family and the mythology of post-war America is always one of medicalization and always brushes up against the technologies of pathology and identity-formation that are central to 21st century America. Involuntary ECT feels clearly wrong when applied to a fictional lesbian character, but remains a significant treatment for severe depression, often applied involuntarily for the same "criminal" reasons present in American Horror Story. An overwhelming percentage of ECT patients are women, by the way. Ryan Murphy holds us accountable for the gritty history of pathology in 'Merca. The show suggests that though asylums have revised their criterion for entry (slightly), the fundamental narrative framework that creates the need for asylums and that emerges through the inside/outside tension of normalization remains in place. In many ways, Asylum's American horror story is still unfolding.

Give it a watch, readers. Though it still feels like it's missing some of season one's strange intelligence, American Horror Story: Asylum continues to unfold in downright compelling ways. Of course, now that I've vouched for it, Murphy will almost certainly turn off his brain, make Kit Walker's alien story real, and have the aliens blow up the asylum, a la Independence Day. If the aliens turn out to be real, I will break my TV. I SWEAR IT.

Be good, folks.

Friday, November 2, 2012

PSA: November is National Finish Your Shit Month

October's over, and I'm happy to report that as far as I know, all of my friends survived Sandy. For those of you that don't know, November is National Novel Writing Month. Though I'm generally skeptical of anything longer than a blog post that only took a month to write, I'm staunchly in favor of this unofficial national holiday. Thanks to NaNoWriMo, tons and tons of people are putting pen to paper that wouldn't have otherwise. I'm told that Water for Elephants was a product of NaNoWriMo, and now it's a Reese Witherspoon movie, which is a good indication that you never quite know what's going to happen when you start typing.

Nevertheless, I'm pretty convinced that Will Danger doesn't have a novel in him. Some people just don't, ya know? So, riffing on this sentiment slightly, I'm declaring an official state of emergency on the Block. For Will Danger, November is National Finish Your Shit Month. I'm the absolute king of half-finished projects, and it turns out that public shame is one of the few things in the world that I still find motivating. So I'm hopping aboard the motivation train and by month's end, I am holding myself publicly accountable for the following:

1. A completed and workshopable draft of my play that's remained neglected since June.

2. A better handle on, if not draft-quality manuscript of, the short collection of essays that's somehow sprouted out of my neck, with one or two polished and loaded up for publication in some far-flung location.

3. Oh, and grad school stuff, but pfft. Pfft. Pfft. NOT NOW, GRAD SCHOOL, I'M WRITING.

nah throw it back you don't need that
Something that makes this goal all the more ambitious: The other half of this post is about writer's block. I haz it. It's not that I've been incapable of producing, just that I'm completely unenthusiastic about the shit I've been turning out. And I've been chowing down on Activia like it's going out of style. (A short aside: Those Jamie Lee Curtis Activia commercials have completely ruined the movie Halloween for me. THANKS A LOT JAMIE LEE.)

It's just one of those weeks where you turn your nose up at every sentence that comes out of your pen and think to yourself, "No, that isn't right." Could it have anything to do with the amount of time I've spent with RuPaul this week? Or my turn to Latrice Royale/Sharon Needles fan-fiction? Maybe it's the surprising political depression I'm feeling this election season. At any rate, no amount of James Baldwin essays, Natalie Dee, or The Guild comics has been able to turn my frown upside-down. Hopefully this semi-public declaration of ambition will create the tiniest sense of urgency for me. Fingers crossed.

To do list for November:

1. High-five Barack on his sweeping victory.
2. Be super cynical about gay marriage because it's legal in my state now.
3. Remember how to write.
4. Finish my shit.

At any rate, the election is almost over. Take a deep breath and remember to bring glitter-bombing supplies with you to the voting booth, because that bible-thumper with the "No on 6" sign is just begging to be fucked with and you could probably use a good laugh.

Be good(ish), folks, and happy NaFiYoShiMo.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An Entry from My Writerly Morgue

Well, readers, I think it's safe to say that we've entered the rejection portion of my writing career, where I plan to stay until the day I die. I'm definitely not bitter. Thanks to 21st century self-publication, I can pawn off my failed writerly projects on you folks! WHO NEEDS AN EDITOR?! (Answer: Me. I need an editor. Always and desperately.)

The following isn't an overly original marriage piece, but it looked like it was going to run in a certain Washington periodical that shall remain nameless, until they pulled it at the last minute. Since the piece's relevance pretty much expires on election day, I thought I'd post it here. There are a few lines/strains of thought that I want to see the light of day, in one form or another. I hate writing about my own writing, but I'd hoped this might help make the terms of the marriage debate a little less self-evident and start to get at the larger stakes of marriage equality, especially for collective citizenship.


For those of you living in a hermetically-sealed bubble for the past several years, I bring breaking news: there’s a marriage debate being staged across the nation concerning the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people to marry. The right exists in a small number of states (plus one district), and a few additional states now recognize the same-sex marriage certificates issued by other states. This election season, though, the question is appearing as a ballot initiative in four states – Maryland, Washington, Maine, and Minnesota. It seems timely, then, to take a moment to root around a little in the business of both marriage equality and state-sponsored love in 21st century America.

Perhaps we should stop swaddling ourselves in inherited marriage bullshit, whether religious or cultural. Let’s be clear: Marriage, within the realm of government legislation, isn’t about love. Marriage isn’t about creating healthy environments for children. (After all, America’s ever-expanding foster care system suggests that nuclear families fail their children every day.) Present-day marriage doesn’t have anything to do with Jesus either, much though that diva would like it to. The nuclear family, crafted in the furnace of marriage and government-sponsored love, is a technology by which the state organizes and exercises power over its citizens. Through the institution of marriage, the state acknowledges specific kinds of relationships, glues in place patriarchal gender relations, and fortifies the structural economic inequality that has become the calling card of 21st century America. Marriage is more about the selective distribution of privileges than it’s ever been about love.

In light of my emerging cynicism, maybe you won’t be surprised to learn that there are divergent strains of thought within the LGBT community about whether or not the ability to marry is even a desirable right. After all, marriage is a deeply sexist institution that has a long history of overt racism. Plus, many LGBT people have spent years, sometimes generations, forging unconventional community ties whose perceived legitimacy hasn’t a single thing to do with one-on-one marriage. We also might wonder if the enormous resources spent passing marriage legislation, by organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, might be better spent on more pressing issues like healthcare and workplace discrimination. Does the fact that in 2012, LGBT rights automatically equals civil marriage keep us from recognizing both the landscape of possibilities that LGBT politics might present to the American imagination and the larger economic problems that make marriage a necessity in the first place?

But if we’re going to have the marriage conversation, and by now it’s very clear that we are, none of this is really the point. That isn’t what is at stake for either the state-specific ballot initiatives or the larger campaign for marriage equality. The black-and-white reality is that one set of American citizens can achieve a basic set of rights and privileges that another cannot. Denying LGBT citizens the right to marry creates a system of tiered citizenship that values certain Americans over others. The fact that Sharon Stone can marry, but Sharon Needles can’t means that Sharon S. has access to fuller citizenship than Ms. Needles, having absolutely nothing to do with whether or not either has any business getting married at all. Flat-out, this is not the democracy on which America prides itself.

What’s more, this debate has an effect on our collective citizenship. Where you, good fundamentalists of the world, love to argue that homomatrimony would weaken the value of your “traditional” marriage, I’m going to suggest that denying a specific group of Americans the right to marry cheapens your citizenship. And honey, in most cases you’ve been American much longer then you’ve been husband/wife.

Will marriage be good for LGBT people? Sorry, the cynic in me started laughing before you even finished asking the question. However, at this particular political moment, it’s possible to be against marriage, but for marriage equality. Hell, it’s even possible to be against LGBT people, but for marriage equality, because voting for equality doesn’t have anything to do with marriage. It isn’t even a statement about how you feel about homosexuality. Fundamentally, it’s a vote in favor of democratic equality for all citizens.

Discuss. Oh, and vote. Be as hipster-trendy as you want, there’s nothing cool about not voting.


Now, Will Danger, your questions are irksome and perhaps you should take your furs and your literal interpretations to the other side of the river. Sashay away.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hot Glue, Halloween, and Hilary Fucking Clinton

I know, I know. On this cold, rainy Friday morning, you've come to New Queer looking for sharp, extremely relevant political commentary. I shall not disappoint you, loyal readers. Today is Hilary Clinton's 65th birthday, a holiday second only to Tyra's birthday in this corner of the internet. To honor of the birth of America's first lady of ass-kicking, and in lieu of absolutely nothing, here's a birthday/Halloween post that ended up looking more like a love letter.
The editorial staff at New Queer suspects that Ms. Clinton, rock star that she is, has been too busy saving the world, teaching Barack and Joe what memes are, and looking fabulous to come up with a proper Halloween costume. Worry not, Hilz, we've come up with several options for you. Some may be more or less appropriate, depending on which of the hundreds of potential parties you're going to attend. (We won't be too offended if you don't come to ours; you can still have our presidential vote whenever you want it.) Will Danger is also a wizard with a hot glue gun, if you need any help executing these costumes.

1. Cheetara from Thundercats: Because she was always way more awesome than She-Ra. And let's face it Hil, you'd look downright foxy.

2. 1980s Hilary Clinton: Just to remind people of the time you tricked them into believing that Bill was the politician in the family.

3. Regina George from Mean Girls: Teach the boys of the White House that they can't wear a tank top two days in a row, along with, like, the rules of feminism. And let's be honest, you already have a White House burn book.

4. Amy Poehler: Turn the tables on this comedy goddess. She how she likes it, for once. 

5. Couples Costume #1- Hilary and Michelle Obama as Columbia and Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Because I could do your sequin gluing for you and because I would really like to see Michelle with giant Diana Ross hair. And I bet you could do a pretty great Time Warp if you got Raul Esparza to sing the Riff Raff part.

6. Ann Romney: How much fucking fun would that be? You could talk about dressage horses all night.

7. Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty: It might be too late to rent a raven by next Wednesday, but this would still be a strong costume idea, especially if your Halloween plans involve standing atop the White House and cackling at how you run the world.

8. A giant pantsuit: Because fuck off, 2008 political commentary, you're Hilary Clinton and you'll wear what you damn well please.

9. Joan Jett: Because you're a fucking rock star and "Bad Reputation" is your pump-up song before every public appearance. You don't give a damn.

10. Courtney Love: You'd get to chain smoke with Barack all night and, admit it, "Doll Parts" is your ringtone when Bill calls.

11. Governor Chris Christie: Sure, you'd get in some great digs at this possible future presidential contender. Mostly, though, you'd dress up as the Governor to remind people that his future defeat has absolutely nothing to do with his body-type. 2016 belongs to you because you eat politicians like Chris Christie for breakfast.

12. Couples Costume #2- Hil, Michelle, and Ann Coulter as Baby, Scary, and Sporty Spice: Because she's the devil, poor Ann often gets left out of group costumes, and even when she's included it's usually because Sarah Palin needs someone to play bass in her Kiss cover band. Reach way way way across the aisle and invite her to join you for a little Girl Power. You'd look great. Plus in those giant platform shoes, you'd tower over all the dudes in the room.

What do you think, readers? I know most of you prefer to be silent blog spectators, but weigh in here. Surely I've missed some really fantastic costumes. Anyone want to do their patriotic duty and help me glue sequins to the Secretary of State? Your country needs you!

Seriously, Hilz. Please come to the New Queer Halloween Party. Our friends would just die.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Weaves, Binders, and Library Cards: Fragments from the Week

Twelve years in, I'm finding 21st century America to be a wildly suffocating environment, though one not without its absurdities.

1. I wrote a startlingly successful exposé detailing the latest trends in weave/wig extensions. My primary source materials were a website called "The Weave Divas," my time living in College Park, and various experiences finding old wigs on the floor of the DC metro. Needless to say, durability/reuseability was an important criterion. What is the real world, exactly?

2. Twice this week, I've opened my laptop at a coffee shop to discover that I left the previous evening's pornography playing for the world to see. The guy sitting next to me was unprepared for penetration that early in the morning, and I can't really blame him.

3. The next person I meet who describes him/herself to me as a "young professional" is getting a sharp kick in the shins. Still desperately trying to disembed myself from that kind of DC-style douchebaggery.

4a. In my wildest dreams, I'd never imagined that our presidential debates might look so much like an episode of the Jerry Springer show. Would you two just kiss, already?!

4b. Immediately following the infamous "binders full of women" remark (to which the internet has responded spectacularly), Obama almost said something really smart about gender and class, but then he backed away from it.

Image courtesy of Mr. and Ms. Vincent P. Cat

4c. The hilarity of Mittens' binders remark has actually worked in his favor. People seem to be too busy laughing/meme-ing to be properly outraged at his horrifying statement about women in the workplace getting home in time to cook dinner for their men. This fucker is running for president, you guys!

4d. People on both sides are still making uncomfortably racialized remarks about Barack's (and to a lesser extent Michelle's) anger. Ah, that Audre Lorde were still with us.

5. Adrienne Rich's 2004 essay on James Baldwin, "The Baldwin Stamp" is really wonderful.

6. James Baldwin's essays on James Baldwin (oh, and 20th century America) remain energizingly urgent, especially given our current political landscape.

7. Nora Ephron is one of the best essayists I've ever read, may she rest in peace. Her prose is so readably warm and hilarious.

8. Beat-era essays are startlingly similar to writing that came out of Occupy, leading me to wonder how much politics and counterpolitics have actually changed in the past 60 years.

9. I got a Washington library card, but you probably guessed that.

10. Rilo Kiley's The Execution of All Things is my official fall album of 2012, with Fiona Apple running a close second and third.

11. The vote on marriage equality (both here and in my home state) remains offensively close. The drama is ramping up, and I'm surprised at how personally attacked and defensive I feel about my rights being put up for popular vote. Maybe you're not surprised. After all, our worth as citizens is being held at the rusty gunpoint of a revoltingly uneducated citizenry. How else are we supposed to feel about this horseshit, exactly?

Friday, October 12, 2012

When is a Queer Critique of Marriage Not a Queer Critique of Marriage?

Answer: When it's ajar!

I've been, as usual, infinitely lax in my blogging responsibilities. In the spirit of yesterday's National Coming Out Day, the obnoxiously unfurling election season, and Will Danger's secret desire to be a bridezilla, let's talk about marriage.

There's an especially relevant conversation unfolding over on The Madwoman with a Laptop about marriage equality.  Check it out, I'll wait for you to come back. In the specific context of Will Danger's former home state (home is, after all, where you hang your hat and I don't have a single hat rack left in MD), Madwoman's "Terps Against Marriage for Marriage Equality" addresses the marriage conversation in a way that is responsible, nuanced, and generally awesome.

The fact that in 2012, when a politician says "LGBT rights," they really mean "gay marriage" says a lot about the way we think, sure. Nonetheless, the mainstream LGBT movement's matrimonial tunnel vision is toxic for a poop-ton of reasons. In a practical sense, it keeps us from mobilizing political energy on other issues, many of which are more pressing that my right to bear wedding dresses. But in a more fundamental way, the focus on marriage is limiting the way we think about so-called "LGBT issues" and indicates a national refusal of more complex, messy political thinking. After all, in neoliberal America we love the supposed clarity of identity politics. Our inability to think and legislate sexuality alongside, within, or even as race, class, and gender continues to cripple our ability to address the structural economic inequality in which marriage obviously participates. It also hampers the cultivation of an American political vision that might actually start to earn the increasingly tired label "progressive."

Lately, I've been all about plunging headlong into possibility. I think then, what I find most fascinating about homomatrimony is that it contains the possibility to fracture the stability of our gender relations. Marriage remains, after all, public enemy number one in terms of gross medieval gender dynamics and is also a primary organizing framework for American culture. So an invasion of "traditional marriage" might be exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of finally letting American gender off the leash. What happens to our sense of culture when gender runs wild, queers leading the charge? Can we start to imagine male spinsters or female lotharios or chick flicks for men? Do many/most of our cultural assumptions become deservedly denaturalized, and might this mean that we can finally start thinking beyond gender? Letting loose the reigns on marriage could reorder our culture in some really thrilling ways, and might open up some exciting and startlingly queer horizons of possibility.

And I suppose that this cultural reordering is exactly what opponents of marriage equality are afraid of. They worry that enabling the gayz to marry will unravel the fabric of society. On this particular rainy Friday, I'm sort of inclined to say, "Duh." But that's exactly the point. Sorry [insert dummy Republican], but legalizing gay marriage might actually help dismantle, or at least de-privilege an institution from which you draw a lot of smug/undeserved economic and cultural capital/superiority/privilege. [This is probably the point at which you realize I will never be a political figure, if you've even managed to make it this far with that delusion in mind]. If I allow myself to loosen my white-knuckled grip on the queer critiques of marriage for which Madwoman spectacularly calls my generation out, marriage equality might create a political environment that finally forces our political thinking to evolve, in which we can finally think about race and class alongside and in place of LGBT issues. [Quick aside: Isn't your run-of-the-mill queer critique of marriage almost as privileged and culturally specific as the institution of marriage itself?]

I'm certainly not saying that there is no trouble with normal, just that it's become obnoxiously hipster-trendy to think that marriage equality is stupid. An aversion to marriage has achieved common sense status in many queer circles (circles that, perhaps ironically, claim to resist common sense in most other contexts). I just wonder if anyone's pausing to wonder what might be queer about voting for marriage equality, and about the important ways that achieving marriage equality could reorient and expand the American political imagination.

At any rate, folks, votevotevote. Vote. Vote. Be as brilliantly queer and subversive as you can, there's still nothing cool about not voting.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Moving On, or How I Spent My Last Summer in DC

Lately, my life has provided me with an overwhelming amount of blog fodder. In my infinite laziness, I've avoided most serious thinking/writing about my giant life changes, and I'm not totally sure why. Maybe because I'm a lazy asshole. Maybe because I've been mapping out the logistics of moving my life across the country. At any rate, Will Danger is (finally) back and he's got some serious blog-ish (bloggy?) heavy lifting to do.

Both because I am boundlessly self-absorbed and because I have about six readers (on a good day), I'll assume that most people reading this blog already know my giant life news: I quit my job, picked up my life, and am currently moving it to the west coast. This move is exactly as terrifying, irresponsible, and wonderful as it sounds. I'm currently in a small-town coffee shop in Iowa, where I'm beginning to write through my journey up to this point. Pausing to flip the District of Columbia a half-hearted middle finger, I drove away on Tuesday morning and I've been casually making my way through America's heartland ever since.

As a starter, I've compiled a glorified "How I Spent my Summer Vacation" list, detailing a few landmarks of my final months in the District. They're not all good moments, and they're certainly not all significant events, but I think they're all vaguely important in one way or another and they do a pretty good job of mapping out my final months in DC. My hope is that we'll all learn something about the life I'm deciding to run away from and that this will help me sort out the recycling from the garbage. Or maybe this will all just make it clear(er) what a total idiot I am.

It's interesting, and maybe totally unsurprising, that my final month in the District was actually really pleasant. All it took for me to finally feel like I had a life in DC was the decision to leave. For pretty much the first time since moving into the city, I managed to locate some happiness for myself. The overthinkers among you are, of course, joining me in the following questions: What the hell? Did I leave just as DC was getting good? Is the city luring me into a false sense of security before delivering a final kick the teeth?! What if this means that leaving is not a good idea?! After much thinking and panicking, I've decided to consider my pleasant final days in the nation's capital a parting gift, of sorts. At any rate, without further ado:

1. Work a job you hate, realize you don't actually need it as much as you think you do, and finally quit.
I won't belabor this point, because everyone knows how much I hated my DC job. I learned the following lesson while working the job though: Always sing along to something on your way to work, no matter how soul-crushing your job is. The harder it sucks, the louder you have to sing, obviously. Boss gettin' you down? Coworker being a pretentious fuck? Just. Sing. Louder. It's what Whitney would have done.

Quitting my soul-crushing job was a nice exercise in coming to my senses, in realizing that unseemly circumstances are almost never as self-evident as they seem, and in understanding that all problems have a solution, even if that solution ends up taking you some weird fucking places.

2. Locate the most attractive guy in the room and ask him for his phone number.
(Optional: Continue to casually date him for a while.)
Sending yourself on the occasional suicide mission strikes me as a healthy habit. It's probably good for us to push the boundaries of our discomfort every now and again, keeping in mind that getting shot down (in most circumstances) really isn't such a big deal. I'm also thinking that this is probably a good way to remind yourself that a pretty significant chunk of the boundaries we think we're encountering are both completely bogus and also self-imposed. Plus, every now and again, the 800 foot tall bartender will actually give you his number and meet you for coffee.

3. Finally figure out some hobbies.
This number is actually the linchpin of my recent happiness and it's been a long process. I think part of the reason I had such a hard time tracking down proper adult hobbies is that most of my hobbies are neither proper nor adult. They're grossly nerdy habits I picked up in my early adolescence and which contribute absolutely nothing constructive to my life. What I'm really asking you to do, dear readers, is pick up some comics and a trashy teen fantasy novel every now and again. Or play a game of Dungeons and Dragons. People will give you a weird sideways look when you tell them how you spent your weekend, but you'll have a hard time hearing them over the awesome sound of your dice hitting the table. Fuck off, dudes, I'm just trying to fight some imaginary dragons/kobolds, ya know? I'm really hoping I can use this re-discovered nerdiness to make some friends in Seattle and to become exactly the kind of adult my parents were always afraid I'd turn into.

4. Go see a Florence+the Machine show.
Seriously, just go. I don't know why you're still reading this post. Go.

Flo is a fucking goddess.

5. Make a complete ass of yourself in front of an almost total stranger, who it turns out lives around the corner from you. Continue to regularly run into him on the street and relive your shame. 
I'll try to make this embarrassing story as short as possible, though in retrospect it is one of my favorite DC shame stories. I met an attractive dude very briefly in a bar. When I arrived home that night (extremely drunk at 3am), I did a little creative Facebook stalking, to discover that we had a ton of mutual friends, as is common in DC. Because I am both incredibly clumsy and had consumed Olympic amounts of tequila, I accidentally clicked the "add friend" button. Because I'm a dipshit. (Facebook, after all, does not ask you to confirm a friend request before sending it.) In addition to being super suave, I'm also incredibly lucky, because as soon as that happened, this dude sent me a message in real time that pretty much went, "Uhh, do I know you? and why are you so fucking creepy?" This wouldn't have been a big deal (what's another denizen of the District who thinks I'm a total fucking nutjob?) except that once I finally moved into the city, this motherfucker happened to live literally around the corner from me. So I ran into him on the street a ton, and was forced to relive one of my more egregious tequila errors over and over again. Whoops!

Why am I including this event on the list? Because it's a hilarious story, and because I'd like to learn to be more comfortable making a complete ass of myself. Lord knows it happens often enough. There is life after embarrassment, Will.

6. Learn to tell people to fuck off more regularly.
I firmly believe in the medicinal power of being told to fuck off. Everyone is better off for hearing it. Plus, anyone who has spent longer than like 30 seconds talking to me knows what a worrier I can be. I overthink and I fret. Then I overthink and I fret some more. In an effort to let go of some of this anxiety, I've taken to occasionally channeling this Natalie Dee comic. My hope is to eventually settle into a middle ground that involves both empathy and less anxiety, but for now, I'm experimenting with being the kind of asshole that tells people to fuck off. Among other things, being a total asshole in this way is helping me abandon most of my self-induced stress, which will probably cause me to live a little longer. And I'm all for that.

7. Get a little lost.
After nearly a year and a half of it, I think I've finally settled into being lost. What's more, I've discovered that a large part of what I found so frustrating and off-putting about DC is that it's a city of people who, on the whole, have never been lost. They've all wanted to be lawyers/work for the government since they were wee youngin's, and they've followed a connect-the-dots path from womb to congressperson. The next time some fucker in a bar tries to tell me about his Capital Hill job or about how he's going to make partner by 30, I'm gonna puke in his hair and then start crying. And that's gonna be gross for everyone, so let's just cut that shit out. How about we do some wandering together instead? I hear Iowa is lovely this time of year.

Caveat: Continuing to be lost is all fine and dandy, Will Danger, but for fuck's sake, don't stop writing about it! Look for more blogging as my journey continues. Unless I get serial murdered in the mountains of Idaho.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Experiments in Caffeine

Think of this as an experiment in electricity. And maybe caffeine. Definitely don't think of it as a spaceholder post that begs you to forget about my month-long blogging hiatus.

Sometimes you wake up in the morning, and during your first cup of coffee, the book you're reading takes a wild left-hand turn that allows your brain to catch fire. I mean, you find a cluster of sentences that really blows the roof off your head. These are the days when the sun shines, your anxiety ebbs, and you stop worrying about the increasingly real possibility of having a president named Mitt. The real world, for whatever brief interval, becomes something you can crawl out from under. You're still broke and underemployed by the devil, but your thought patterns, whirling and writhing as they are, finally let you think this is hilarious. Because it really is. You even enjoy thinking through this poem about a pianist that you don't usually care for.

You drive to work, gravelly songstress pouring out of open car windows, and you ignore your passive-aggressive dealbreaker of an officemate. Even when he wishes you a happy Flag Day. No, especially when he wishes you a Happy Flag Day. Pausing to tip your hat to Ronnie Reagan -- who you allow yourself to believe might have been less monstrous if Fiona Apple had been around in the early 80s, if maybe he'd just listened more -- you settle into your desk and blow off your work, in favor of an improvisational blogging experiment. And I think most importantly of all, you take a breath. Maybe even two. They're small, after all.

I expect this mood to last until 11:30, if I'm lucky.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Unapologetically Obnoxious Mothers Day Post #47

I have to confess folks, that we here on the Block have had our hands full with our newly-encountered twenty-something existence to do much intellectual heavy lifting lately (though I did finally get around to reading Criminal Intimacy, which was exactly as awesome as I was promised).  As a result, this blog continues to descend into some questionable livejournal-y territory. My hope is that I can distract you with a short, but heartwarming Mothers Day post. Let me know if it works.

For all of the daddy issues that Will Danger tangles with, his mommy issues are actually pretty simple. Mama Danger is the coolest. Just the coolest. And so, in honor of Mothers Day, and in lieu of a smarter post, let me share one of my favorite childhood stories. Close readers that you are, you've probably gathered that I hate to tell a story in which I am not the protagonist. Consider my willingness to do so further evidence of my mom-related appreciation.

As a child, I had a tendency to sleepwalk. And usually, when I would sleepwalk, hijinks ensued. Examples include making strange requests of my parents, tumbling down the stairs, and turning on every light in the house. All between the hours of midnight and 5am and all on separate occasions. On one such occasion, everyone in the mid-90's Danger household was sound asleep. I couldn't have been more than six, meaning that my sister was three and my mother was the exact same age she is now. [Quick aside: My mother does not age. She continues to present in her early 30s, which is embarrassing because I think in the near future, I'm set to out-age her. This also means that growing up, I was always the kid with the hot mom, which I continue to be proud of, to this day.]

The stillness of this suburban night is broken by my sister's piercing scream. Mama Danger, who is almost as big a worrier as I am, leaps out of bed and runs into her bedroom, to discover the source of this disturbance. She finds me, standing silently in my sister's room, pajama pants around my ankles, peeing heartily into my sister's toy basket. My sister continues to scream as she watches her possessions being soaked in a steady stream of urine.

As my mother walks my somnambulant self back to bed, my sister is still hysterical and entirely unable to go back to sleep. Maternal warrior that she is, Mama Danger grabs the bleach, fills up the bathtub, and proceeded to systematically scrub each and every one of my sister's toys. At 3am on a weeknight. And to this day, I have absolutely no memory of the event.

My sister and I put this poor woman through hell (and it only got worse after puberty). So here's to you, Mama Danger, for raising and supporting two of the most wildly dysfunctional pre-adults. And also for not smacking the shit out of your children, even when we so, so clearly deserved it. Sorry we about the frequency with which we embarrass you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

North Carolina: Some Quick Thoughts

This post ended up being a little partially formed. Such is the nature of blogging. See Hedonismbot, below.

I find myself annoyed. In the short time since North Carolina's voting public passed Amendment 1, which put the (further) proverbial kibosh on its queer residents' matrimonial aspirations, my Facebook wall has been ablaze with angry statuses. These statuses follow two (more or less connected) patterns of thought: 1) That North Carolina's voting public is horribly backwards, mean, homophobic, spiteful, uninformed, etc. These statuses generally amount to "WHOOPS! NORTH CAROLINA SUCKS. BOO!" 2) That the tide of progress is inevitable, and that history is progressing unstoppably toward equality. Often these statuses come in the form of things like "We're not going anywhere!" I'll address both of these thoughts, in turn.

1) Blaming North Carolina voters does two things: First, I think it keeps us from addressing our larger national culture of homophobia that not only produces such an outcome, but also brings about a ballot initiative like Amendment 1 in the first place. And it's important to understand, gays of DC, how much we all contribute to this culture of homophobia, even though we bought HRC bumper stickers and LEGALIZE GAY t-shirts. [I would actually argue that DC's political gay scene plays a more active role in furthering national homophobia than your average Joe Homosexual].

Secondly, though, getting bogged down in a discussion of what a shitty state North Carolina is feels very much like saying "It could never happen here." Guess what, folks. It's happening in Maryland right now, as we speak, and it's happened historically all over the country.

2) Among other things, the idea that North Carolina is just fighting the general trend of history is a pretty useless strand of political thought. Hopeful though it may be, how much political traction are we really getting out of "It'll happen eventually?" Since when has the history of social movements in America been the lazy inevitability of progress? What we're trying to achieve here is a fundamental shift in American culture, not to mention law and public opinion. What could be less inevitable/simple?

If this all makes it sound as though I'm not upset by the evening's events, I'm sorry. This is a pretty significant hit for queers with marital leanings, and of course I regret the outcome. But I think that as a public, we are refusing to ask difficult questions, especially when the accompanying answers might implicate us in tonight's results. Making an enemy out of an entire voting public and distancing ourselves from moments like this feels politically irresponsible.

A final thought for some DC gays specifically: Does the gentrification that you're so fond of (and it's accompanying culture of race- and class-related inequality) contribute in any way to our national culture of homophobia, whose results we've seen tonight? Give it some thought, eh?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

But We're Never Gonna Survive, Unless We Get a Little Bit Crazy

Working at Big Red is a really strange experience. It teeters between soul crushing, at which point I often imagine myself diving in front of a metro car on my ride home, and wonderfully amusing/educational. Whatever else it is, I find this combination oddly thrilling. Some quick examples:

-A coworker came into my office the other day and said, "Do you know what the biggest problem with education today is? Universities aren't teaching kids the skills they need to get jobs." I clenched my jaw, turned my head, and responded by acknowledging that we had fundamentally different approaches to education, and I didn't really feel like getting into it that early in the morning. I'm pretty proud that I didn't take the bait.

-Another coworker, while watching Bloomberg television (a staple at our office), decided to make fun of Obama by doing a Bill Cosby impression. Racism is alive and well in right-wing America. But then, when I mentioned, in my most innocent, definitely never, ever sarcastic voice, that I had read recently that Barack actually turned down his Jello endorsement deal, I was met with blank stares. If you're gonna brave the 1930's racism of an Obama/Cosby joke, at least know your history, guys. But mostly, just knock it off!

-I've made it my goal to say "God Bless America" at least once a day. Usually people just smile affirmatively, but I've also gotten two high-fives out of the deal. I don't think anyone knows how much I'm kidding when I say it. I'm also not sure they realize when I make fun of them, more generally. God bless stoic sarcasm.

-Between the job and my extracurricular reading habits, I now know more about economics than I ever wanted to. The tentative title of my forthcoming econ textbook is going to be, "Stop Giving a Shit about Pie Charts." Depending on who you are, you'll be excited/disappointed to know that I still can't bring myself to worship the dollar. Sorry, Dad.

One small bit of news that genuinely offends me, and to which I am not quite sure how to respond: In our company's quarterly newsletter*, they have a section where they list new employees, their positions, and a short bio. Well, I had to think carefully about the short bio, because I had a hard time writing anything that didn't read, "I am the homosexual menace, and here are my various fetishes." After some brief agonizing, I finally managed to put together a short, deliberately vague bio that basically read "name, degree & certificate, does a little writing, now has job." I even managed to pepper it with some pithy humor! Well, in the editing process, they completely sanitized the bio. The published bio read something to the effect of "Will Danger went to QTU. Now, he works here."

Alright, sure. Republican editors can't be faulted for being generally humorless. What I find insulting is that they refused to list my degree/certificate, when everyone else featured in this section, regardless of age/career status, had their various communications/marketing/super-lame-shit degrees listed. It wasn't a spacing issue, because my bio ended up being considerably shorter than everyone else's. There was even another former English major who had her degree listed, so I can only assume that they refused to print the fact that I have a certificate in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies.** This conclusion is simultaneously obnoxious, unsurprising, obliquely homophobic, sort of insulting, and (eventually) kind of funny. I'll make up for it by one day writing an exposé about my time in the conservative trenches. And the cover of the book will just be an image of my LGBT certificate punching my boss in the nose.***

I'll leave you with another Alanis anthem (a Seal cover, this time), whose sentiment has pretty much been getting me through the week: "But we're never gonna survive/Unless we get a little bit crazy."

Please don't think me unoriginal for repeatedly ending posts with a video. Just sing along.

*I can't believe that phrase has become part of my vocabulary. The world takes us to some very strange places, doesn't it?
**I made the deliberate decision in the bio to spell the entire thing out.

***We'll have to draw arms/brass knuckles on the certificate, obviously. Actually, the more I think about it, including a pair of brass knuckles with all future certificates seems like a good idea. Who do I see about making that a reality, Roxie?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sitting on a Dock, Watching the World End

In light of a really rough week and a seemingly-endless string of terrible dates, the possible subject of future writing, I feel the need to begin this post by taking stock of a few sources of stabilizing optimism:

1. I don't sleep all that much anymore, but I'm managing to stay (mostly) on top of both my reading and gym-going habits, despite my entry into the work-day grind.

2. In spite of the occasionally soul-crushing (and usually racist) nature of my new job, the strains of political and economic thought it has forced me to engage have opened for me much more nuanced understandings of some academic arguments about politics and culture. Between my job and increasingly-frequent social outings in DC, where the general etiquette is "BE AS OBNOXIOUS AS POSSIBLE ABOUT YOUR POLITICAL BELIEFS,"  I'm finally able to locate myself within the political narrative that Lisa Duggan traces in The Twilight of Equality?. All of this is really just to say that I am still learning.

3. I recently saw The Cabin in the Woods, which is in serious competition for the title of "smartest horror movie I've ever seen." More on this point in a second.

4. Whether through my own sporadic efforts, Roxie's deeply energizing and critter-affirming optimism (for which I remain boundlessly grateful), or Historiann's repeated refusal to put up with anyone's bullshitte, the blogosphere continues to offer me intellectual sustenance  and emotional fortification.

Now, on to The Cabin in the Woods. This post got a little lengthy, but lie to me and tell me that you read it.

Anyone who's had a conversation with me for longer than thirty seconds knows that Will Danger loves loves loves horror movies and would go even gayer than usual for Joss Whedon, who wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among other things. That being said, Joss hasn't actually produced anything of particular merit lately. Dollhouse fell pretty flat, and I've never been in love with Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Nevertheless, Whedon's newest movie, The Cabin in the Woods is one of the smartest/most entertaining horror movies I've never seen. I want to take this opportunity for my first sustained crack at thinking through horror movies.

SPOILER ALERT. SRSLY GUYS. I haven't held back any plot details. Read at your own risk.

Of course, the plot gets a little hokey. Joss leans into science fiction pretty hard, presenting a mysterious company of scientists whose sole job is to stage horror-movie rituals, where they kill off co-eds in an effort to keep "the ancients" from waking up. From what I can gather (some of the details are deliberately vague), these mysterious ancients (old gods who used to rule the world, but are now sleeping) require a horror-movie body count to be appeased. In this case, the slaughter-worthy breakfast club includes a Slut, a Jock, a Brain, a Stoner, and a Virgin. At the movie's end, the Stoner has managed to survive and the main character (the archetypal Virgin) is tasked with killing him, in order to save the world. She ultimately refuses, the ancients wake up, and the world starts to end just as the credits begin rolling. 

There are some pretty straightforward readings of this meta-narrative available, but I don't want to spend too much time on them, because they're pretty readily available and kind of boring (I hesitate to pass over them entirely, just because the straightforward and seemingly self-evident are seldom so). Among other things, it appears that the audience is meant to identify with the Company that stages these horror movies. The film's meta-narrative becomes less stable and less straightforward the longer I spend thinking about it, but in its more brilliant moments, I think the film questions our attachment to horror movies, horror's broader role in culture, and the kinds of narrative violence unleashed by our uninterrogated attachment to the conventions of horror.

The movie's most interesting moves, however, come in the last five minutes. In the film's final scene, Dana and Marty, (the Virgin and Stoner, respectively) are sitting on some stone steps, passing a cigarette back and forth and apologizing to each other as the world comes apart around them. I love how much the scene comes to resemble this image, a kind of "relax and watch the sun set" moment, except Whedon substitutes a sunset for the end of the world. I find the moment's calmness wonderfully interesting. Literally apocalyptic thought it might be, this moment indicates a resolution to the movie's suspense and is free from the tension that otherwise pervades horror movies. Though perhaps a generous reading, I think this moment has genre-redefining potential. What would it mean to end a horror movie with such a moment of calmness, clarity, and (most importantly) safety -- especially when the trope is typically to end a horror movie with a "final scare," in which we discover the villain is still alive and kicking, often at the expense of plot/narrative coherence.

In this scene, the Stoner also apologizes for ending the world. I’m absolutely enthralled both by the idea that ending the world is something that you would apologe for (why bother?) and by the idea that destroying the world is something for which you can be forgiven.

This decision to end the world is where The Cabin in the Woods most approaches queerness (Importantly, I'm not actually arguing that Cabin is a queer film, only that this moment hinges on a queer sensibility and contains mostly-unrealized queer potential). In the beginning of this scene, the Company's mysterious director (played by Sigourney Weaver, no less) lays out the Stoner's options pretty well: "You can either die with them, or you can die for them." He is going to die either way, the crux of his decision is whether or not he wants to take the rest of the world with him. This is pretty much a no-brainer, right?

The twist comes when both the Stoner and Virgin refuse this choice, opting to destroy the world, rather than to save it (This choice seems particularly strange for Dana, who opts to die AND destroy the world, rather than kill Marty. Her life is actually still at stake, here). I'm enthralled by the movie's determination to make the wrong choice and it's insistence on choosing the un-chooseable option. In his disavowal of correctness and his determination to fail in saving the world, Whedon opens up a host of previously unthinkable cinematic possibilities, the most immediate of which is that, paradoxically, failure might be the most successful option. This makes me feel much better about the fact that this post itself might indulge in failure.

Seriously, you guys. Go see this movie. Even if you hate scary movies, the writing really, really shines. Joss Whedon is back, y'all. I'm even managing to garner a little excitement for his version of The Avengers coming out this summer.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Drowning, Resurfacing, and Being Entirely Unable to Find Kansas on a Map

My life is undergoing a radical restructuring, and change is always difficult to blog. I've imagined several incarnations of this post, the titles of which were things like "How my Liberal, Hippy-Dippy Education Taught me Everything I needed to Know About Doing Your Job," "How Blogging Got me a Job Working for the Devil," and "Everything I Needed to Know about Life I Learned from Blogging." As I put fingers to keyboard, though, my thinking feels much less stable than it did when I was only dealing in possibility. Isn't that always the case? With these various potential posts floating around my noggin, I begin by saying that Will Danger is being forced to adjust his privacy settings.

I have news, dear readers, that will partially explain my recent absence, and then immediately make you stop reading my posts: Will Danger got a job.

What kind of job, you ask? Where would a comic book-reading, pop culture junkie like you get a job? Are you ready for it? (Hint: You're not)

I work for the most conservative book publisher in America, who for blogging purposes I'll simply call Big Red. That's right. I get up every morning, put on a suit (a suit!), hop on the metro, walk past a picture of Ronnie Reagan on my way into the office, and sit down at my desk, where I have Ann Coulter's phone number hanging on my wall. My weekends are spent trying to wash the taste of the Devil's dick out of my mouth. [Sample experiences: I think there's a copy of Donald Trump's new book on just about every desk in my office. I also caught a coworker with a book entitled The Terrorist Next Door. Dorothy Gale has nothing on me.]

I'll give you a moment to recover from your initial reactions, most of which I'm sure were very violent and/or visceral. As you reassemble your smashed keyboards, return from your various vomitoriums, and try to reign in your laughter, I'm going to continue to muse about privacy in the face of the professional world. Most simply put, I don't know what I can write about anymore. Obviously, I have some very, very strong feelings about this bizarre right-hand turn my life has taken, but my ability to think through them is compromised slightly by the fact that I was hired based on my experience with the blogosphere. No need to reread, you read that sentence correctly. They've visited New Queer. They took one look at this ongoing farce and decided that I was the editorial assistant for them. [The fact that my anemically-funded, queerly-slanted education in the humanities has more than prepared me to do this job is perhaps a topic for another day.]

And so, I am unsure to what extent I can blog about work. I'm going to err on the side of safety for now, but I will say the following: if there's any terror running through your heads about the state of my life (and it's obnoxiously narcissistic of me to assume that there would be), it's running through my head as well. I don't take my titular "drowning" lightly. Good or bad, I'm gonna need some more time to assemble anything coherent about my newly-found case study in American conservatism. But I am writing through my frustration as best I can, in less public spaces. 

In spite of what I may look back on as the specific moment where my life went wrong, I have to keep the following in mind: I am (finally) employed. I'm getting out of my apartment, which after the last few months, is something I will never again take for granted. Better yet, I'm writing (ghostwriting, mostly), researching, and actually publishing. Occasionally,  my job resembles that of a professional blogger. Even if it comes with a healthy conservative slant, I'm being forced to be politically present in a way that I never quite have been before, and in this sense, I can see this job being great prep-work work for graduate study in public affect/political theory/public sphere stuff. I am more obsessed than ever with the mess that's America.

All of that being said, of course, I am still being required to make ideological and moral compromises, the likes of which I will be required to account for, should anyone ever attempt to take stock of my life. Nancy Botwin and I could probably have a sit-down to discuss the fact that we both know where our efforts are leading us. I cannot say for sure if I'm doing what I should be doing, or what I'd like to be doing. All I can say definitively is that I'm doing something, which at this particular impasse, I have to label a good.

Friday, March 9, 2012

On Seeing Rent Again at Twenty-three

Why don't these people just pay their rent, again? The twenty-something slacker in me appreciates the sentiment, though.

Bear with me, dear readers. I've been wrestling with a particularly nasty bout of writer's block. In partial penance, I offer this really neat cover of Mr. Springsteen's Thunder Road:

The Boss and I don't always see eye to eye, but this is one hell of a song.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Birthdays and Death-days, an Absence/Presence Story

I'm having a particularly difficult time writing this, because of the way in which this post has needed to inhabit a space that is simultaneously celebratory and morose. The post is motivated primarily by two concurrent events. First, today marks the one year anniversary of my plunge into the blogosphere. The second, infinitely weightier event, is the untimely passing of an old friend's father. I had concluded that the easiest, and perhaps most reverent, course of action would be to write two separate posts and to leave it at that. In the midst of my emotional and intellectual head-scratching, however, we lost Ms. Whitney Houston, which has made it feel even more important that my celebration and mourning remain intertwined. I've tried to let this potentially insensitive tension guide my thinking but, as with anything worth writing, it remains difficult.

In spite of my Danger-prone blogging pseudonym, I am very fortunate to have only experienced death in the most peripheral way. I've witnessed the death of acquaintances, friends-of-friends, and distant relatives, but never a passing in which I had real emotional stakes. Even now, my attachment to both of these losses is distant. I obviously didn't know Whitney as anything more than a diva figure (a position we shouldn't undervalue), and in the past ten years, I have lost touch with both my friend and his father (though I was once close to both of them). Nonetheless, I do feel both of these deaths, and they have both occasioned serious thought on my part. I think this paragraph treads some questionable ground, so I should be clear: my thinking centers around these two passings because of their temporal proximity, not as a way of analogizing them. Tragedies cannot be analogized; grief can't really be compared in any productive way. All I can concretely say is that both have affected me, and that my (admittedly distant) grief in both cases shares a similar affective core.

What is it about death, exactly? It wounds us, it scares us, it fascinates us in some strange way. No small part of my own attachment to death is the fact that every death I encounter reminds me of my own potential to end. In that way, my reaction to death feels inappropriately selfish, a discomfort which I find quite interesting.

Having just come from a funeral service, I am struck particularly by the awkwardness of grief, both our own and other people's. Though perhaps outside of culturally available scripts for grief, this awkwardness feels really important. Unbalancing as it is, extreme awkwardness makes us feel our proximity to other people in the most visceral sense. It underscores the fact that death organizes and mobilizes us in ways that life, commonplace as it is, cannot. Death creates strange intimacies and brings us into contact with figures from our past, friends-of-friends, and total strangers. Funerals become both a staging of grief and an environment in which these oblique and decidedly un-permanent relationships play out.

I don't have any concrete conclusions to draw/arguments to make, but I am wondering about the publics of grief and the way in which the performance of death becomes about diagraming a particular life. At the funeral, the priest proposed (correctly) that everyone present had their own interlocking and overlapping stories to tell about Mr. Rob. To me, this indicates a desire to map out a life and to account for our own (inevitably complex) intersections with another person.

At its core, though, our mourning always brushes up against celebration. Dear old Emily Dickinson wrote, "The absence is as the presence" (I cannot find a citation for this, forgive me if I've misquoted). Said another way, we do not mourn that which we did not celebrate, and mourning is celebration of another kind. And so, if feels strangely important that my halfhearted musing about death should coincide with New Queer's first blogoversary. Despite my uneven posting habits, this sustained writing project indicates a definite presence, in contrast to the sharply felt absence of death. My blogging efforts have helped bring about, or at least chronicle, a noticeable improvement in my ability to write and think, a progress that stands in opposition to death's haltedness. There's an appropriate symmetry to celebrating my blogoversary on the heels of a funeral, continuing to build and progress in proximity to death, and to celebrate every step, movement, and blog post along the way. When I die, let them pour streamers (or possibly Pokemon cards) into my open coffin.

So, I am left thinking about birthdays and death-days, about progress and passing, about the euphemisms we invent, the stories we tell, and the emotional baggage that we try to avoid. (As a short side-note, the copy of Nella Larsen's novel sitting on my nightstand has me thinking about the numerous conceptual puns we might explore regarding "passing." Why do we use an action verb as a euphemism for death, the most literally immobilizing human experience?) Mr. Rob, Whitney, you are both missed in complex and surprisingly simple ways. Happy Birthday,  New Queer. Let's toast to many more years of sporadic posting and bullshit before Will Danger finally lays his pen, his party hat, and his ten-inch stilettos to rest.

A short note for my own funeral: Drag optional, presents not expected but encouraged. In lieu of flowers, you may drop jewels/pages from Mrs. Dalloway/pogs into my casket. Whitney was slated to perform, but I guess that's probably not going to happen. Bjork, maybe? Alanis?

At any rate, here's to more years, while we have them. Let's let the late Queen of the Night sing us out:

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Impossibility of Dating: A Terrible Quarter-Lifer's Guide to Being Terrible

Good Catholic that I am, I want to reenter the confessional for a moment. I've been itching to do some more autobiographical writing lately (even if my teenaged attempts at the genre suggest that I'm not very good at it). "Twenty-something confessional" or, dare I say it, "Tales from the Bad Years," was never quite the project I imagined for this blog. However, bearing in mind that blogs need to be as malleable as the assholes that pen them and that we almost never know where we're going until we get there, I am now deviating from the blog-path I originally imagined. If you're looking for a smarter, more discursive post, go here. Or even here.

One of the most frustrating things (so far) about my unmoored twenties, other than the permanent gnawing sensation that's lodged itself in my stomach, is that I find myself totally incapable of really comprehending anything. More than any other time in my life, I find myself needing to learn and re-learn the same lessons; nothing seems to stick. I know, for example, that going to the gym will make me feel great and is occasionally the only part of my day that gives me any sense of forward momentum, but convincing myself to go is still quite the chore. Every time I go, I learn this lesson anew, only to forget it the following evening. And calisthenics are not the only area of my life in which this lack of retention has surfaced. I really hope this inability to actually know anything doesn't become a permanent fixture in my life.

Perhaps the strangest occurrence of the past six months or so is that I've had my first sustained brush with dating. I don't know what it is, but the strange combination of desperation/anxiety/immaturity must be some kind of pheromone for gay men. On this seemingly endless string of first dates, I've picked up a few ideas about dating (only to forget them 48 hours later). So, without further ado, I offer you the [Never a Grown-Up] Quarter-Lifer Who's Never Really Done Much Dating but Now Finds Himself Thrown into the Romantic Deep-End's Guide to Dating, for the Neurotic Self-Saboteur in All of Us :

[A legal disclaimer: There is no one on the planet less qualified to talk about dating in any sort of successful way. These simple tenants were generated by a string of humorously unsuccessful first dates (with a few successful ones thrown in the mix; even a stopped clock is right twice a day). I can guarantee, however, that these thoughts will enrich your post-date Last Five Years sing-along, which is the cornerstone to any successful self-medication attempt.]

1. There's always more: Seriously, look around you. All the most obnoxious people you know are dating someone, sometimes multiple someones. Even if the date is going really well, there will be more awkward first dates in your future, whether a week/month/year/decade from now. When the person sitting across the table from you decides to stop answering your calls, there will always be another painfully attractive asshole waiting in the wings to repeat the experience. You will go on other dates. And they will suck just as hard as this one does. I'm wanting to say something about fish in the sea, but in a much shittier formulation. Dating feels less like fishing and more like guest-starring in Two Girls, One Cup the sequel.

2. Sometimes it really isn't your fault: That really cute guy sitting across the table has stopped answering your text messages. And you're sure, neurotic as you are, that it's because you accidentally mentioned the time when you celebrated Tyra Bank's birthday (December 4th, incidentally) by wearing a yellow sundress and having a photo shoot/walk-off. Or else you showed up to dinner wearing the same shirt you've been wearing for four consecutive days. Without trying to sound like a deluded seventeen year old prom queen, sometimes it isn't something you said. Really. Bad timing, lack of chemistry, or a weird head shape can mean that you've done everything right and still aren't getting a callback.

3. Sometimes it really is your fault: You accidentally made a joke about wearing his skin as a suit (we've all made that mistake once or twice), you got drunk and vomited on him, or you made some comment about transnational sexualities that he 115% misunderstood. In any case, this date went sour as a direct result of something you did. Well, the joke's on him, because you are going to fuck it up over and over and over again for the rest of your life. Two years into a relationship, you are going to continue to say exactly the wrong thing. I might even argue that interpersonal relationships are about failure above anything else. If that's the dealbreaker, fuck 'em. As someone whose foot likes to live in his mouth, I repeat: fuck 'em. There's only so much apologizing (or accommodating) you can do for your inept mode of communication.

4. Don't be scared of other people: Admittedly, this is the lesson on this desperation checklist with which I am most uncomfortable. That 6'2, blond, crazy attractive former-athlete you suddenly find yourself sitting across the table from (God only knows how)? He's a person, and probably a less interesting person than you are. Glitter/sunshine doesn't fall out of any of his orifices and 7-9 times out of 10 (depending on how attractive/what a basket-case you are), he's every bit as jittery as you are and just as likely to say something stupid. No one escapes the horror of dating. No one has an upper hand. This dinner is about to suck for both of you.

5. Hide the crazy: In the car, on the way to this date, you listened to the Rocky theme four times, followed immediately by The Greatest Love of All, And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going, Shake It Out, All I Really Want, and any other determination anthem that occurred to you. Plus, you showed up 45 minutes early so you could accomplish this sadness sing-along and still be on time. Whatever you do, do not mention this. As an Ally Sheedy-sized basket case, I can tell you that no good will come of it. You might think it's quirky and endearing, especially if you've just finished a lengthy conversation about Liz Lemon, and maybe one day it will be. For now though, nothing cuts a date short like tipping the hand of your neuroses. Hold it in, even if that means you cry all the way home because you're pretty sure there's no cat heaven.

6. Bring up Tina Fey: Seriously. My 30 Rock fanaticism has smoothed over more first dates than I could have imagined. I'd always suspected that quoting Liz Lemon at length would be terrifying on a date, but it has almost always worked out nicely. Thank you, Tina, for facilitating my access to a slowly revolving door of mediocrity (with an actual good date every now and again).

7. Don't over-think: There's so much bullshit circulating about the right and wrong ways to approach dating (the previous paragraphs included). Wait three days to call, make sure they don't think you like them too much, retain some air of mystery, be as oblique as possible, etc, etc. My general feeling is, messy and complicated as people are, dating them can be surprisingly simple. If they like you, you've got a lot of leeway in terms of approaching them. (When's the last time you were put off because someone you really liked was texting you too frequently?) If they don't like you, it really doesn't matter how long you wait to respond to their message, does it? Despite all the terrifying minutia which dating induces, isn't it ultimately governed by a relatively simple bottom line? They either like you or they don't. You either like them or you don't. I think we can probably all benefit from being told not to worry so goddamn much, right?

Obviously, the state of my quarter-life existence means that I will need to be reminded of each of these (variously useless) bullet points 24 hours from now, but hopefully my writing them (and your reading them) has provided us occasion to examine our various approaches to the black art of dating. Or maybe I've just made you extremely glad that you are no longer a single twenty-something. In either case, you're welcome.

As a final observation, this is the least queer and most lame this writing experiment has ever been. Whoops!

Edit: An infinitely more public version of this post can be found here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011: A Retrospective Drinking Game

I'm nearly two weeks late on my retrospective, but 2011 was a weird year, so let's take a moment to take stock. Though the year brought a few really great moments, I'm pretty thrilled to have it behind me. Overall, nine or ten of the last twelve months can burn in hell, where they will be kept company by the majority of my dignity and self-esteem. In honor of such a horrific year and with Elaine Stritch as my muse, I've organized the Will Danger drinking game. The rules are simple: Clutch your gin and tonic tightly and take a drink for every recounted event. One drink for something bad, two for something good, and three if you can't decide how to categorize the occurrence. Also take a drink for every typo you find. Vodka Stingers are acceptable for this game as well, but if you opt for the Stingers, you must also drink one for Mahler at every turn. Without further ado, I present a short, harrowing, and uncharacteristically sex-laden list of 2011 occurrences (in no particular order):

1. I dun graduated college: Many, many years in the making, Will Danger finally finds himself outside the ivory tower's comforting walls, without salary, purpose, or a clear way to keep from bleeding out in his bathtub. Sometimes lost is best, but the real world is still a work in progress here on the Block.

2. On a related note, 2011 was also the year in which I completed my PhD apps. It was a long, obnoxious process, but I learned a lot about beginning to negotiate academic bureaucracy and also finally started to get a handle on the editing process (something I never quite managed to pick up during my undergrad). I'll drink to that.

3. I developed a taste for and subsequent addiction to coffee. Growing up, I was always taught that coffee made you jittery, but it turns out that it just makes your brain work. Who knew?

4. In 2011, I had my first threesome (this is a great way to find out if my mother is reading. My money's on no), and it was great. I don't plan on making a habit out of it because of the inevitable sexual competition it engenders, but seriously, give it a shot, folks. It was pretttty good.

5. I've been sort of silent about it 'round these parts, but I also rectified my eating/exercise habits this past year. Though it's turned me into a bit of a health nut and been a little pricey, I gained 10 pounds of muscle in 2011. The endeavor's been great for my self-esteem, anxiety, and general health. Plus, if #4 is any indication, I've gotten some pretty good sex out of the deal.  Blogging about this feels vaguely narcissistic, but I set the goal about a year ago, just to see what would happen. Think of it as an exercise in self-crafting.  I don't think I'll ever be as comfortable topless as my gender demands, but I feel pretty good about being a queer Dungeons and Dragons/book nerd who woke up one morning, decided he wanted to be a little less scrawny, and is now just shy of benching 225. Drink two for that one.

6. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I also gave my first conference paper this year. It seems to have been pretty well received and was more fun/less gut-wrenching than I had expected. Speaking of which, check out what's going on on this year at Queer the Turtle University (phrase thieved from Roxie). Some really neat stuff. It's good to know they haven't been completely lost without me.

7. The word "dude" and the phrase "fair enough" have both crept into my everyday speech. I'm not sure how to feel about it, which strikes me as fair enough.

8. Let's pour some out for the various celebrities we've lost this year. Here's to you Amy, Patrice, Kim Jong, Liz, et al.

9. Finally, 2011 was the year in which this cozy slice of the internet was born! As we ring in the new year, let's all toss one back for my first sustained (if under-trafficked) blogging effort! Somehow this post and this post managed to garner some pretty significant traffic (I suspect people were just image hunting). What does 2012 hold for New Queer? Perhaps an attempt to live-blog the apocalypse? Who knows?

For the tl;dr among us, have a few drinks to catch up with the rest of us and toast the end of a pretty crappy year. Sorry/You're welcome for encouraging heavy drinking on a Thursday morning and drunken commenting is always encouraged. Happy New Year, everybody.

This is the most autobiographical, perhaps the most livejournal-y this blog has ever been. Let's hope this doesn't become a trend, eh?