stevenpiziks: (Default)
At a street fair today, a woman approached and asked if I would sign a petition to let So-and-So run for governor in 2018, since Snyder is term-limited.

"What party is he?" I asked.

"Republican," she said. "And he--"

"No, thank you" I interrupted.  "I'm married to a man, and the Republican party isn't supportive of that. I can't sign your petition."

"Oh."  She looked taken aback.  "Er . . . yes.  I support civil unions."

"I don't," Darwin put in.

"Thank you," I added, and we walked away.

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For those Christians who say, "This isn't what real Christians are like," my question is, what are you doing to help? Here are things you CAN do to help.

1) Help this guy pay his medical and legal bills. Send cash.
2) Contact this church by phone, email, and paper mail and tell them they're in the wrong. Do it repeatedly.
3) Attend a Gay Pride Festival this month and work a booth for a church that supports LGBT people; or carry a sign that reads REAL CHRISTIANS LOVE LGBT PEOPLE.
4) Get a group of like-minded friends and attend a homophobic church service and start a discussion to let the homophobic church know you and your church disagree with them.

It isn't enough just to say, "Well, I'm Christian and these people aren't real Christians." Sending "good thoughts" or "good prayers" is also useless, and lets these people grab the spotlight. Their version of your religion wins, even if they go to jail. The fact is, this church is presenting the face of Christianity, and if you want to change that, you need to DO SOMETHING. After all, THEY are.
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Saturday, Darwin and I drove down to Ypsilanti for a late evening.  We were scheduled to join an after-dark cemetery tour, and we had decided to have supper down there beforehand.

We ate at Bona Sera, a relatively new restaurant in downtown Ypsi that's in kind of a cursed spot.  Since I first moved to Ypsilanti 20 years ago, there have been four or five different restaurants in that location, and all of them have died. 

The name made me think this was an Italian restaurant, but it wasn't.  It was an upscale fusion restaurant, with a variety of dishes.  I ordered an appetizer plate of sweet chevre with fruit and nuts, with baguette to spread it on.  Darwin, to my despair, refused to try even a bite.  But I liked it very much.

The salads were spring greens with an olive oil and vinegar based dressing.  Darwin liked it, but I found the greens bitter and the dressing too heavy.

For the entre, I ordered the shepherd's pie (chicken), and Darwin decided to try their version of four-cheese macaroni and cheese.  Both were wonderful.  And filling!  We could only eat half.  We took the rest home.

I pointed out to Darwin the variety of the people in the restaurant around us.  The server had blue hair and pierced cheeks.  The other waiter, rake thin, wore all black with huge glasses and had the sides of his head shaved.  The couple a few tables away was mixed race, with the woman's hair done up outrageously white and fluffy, her clothes high-end, while her companion wore a baseball cap and workman's clothes.  The young man and woman at the bar--he from the Middle East, she from India--wore casual business attire.  The foursome behind us--one straight couple, one gay couple--wore a variety of outfits.  One of the men stepped out of a J. Crew catalog.  His husband was a Brooks Brothers man.  The woman wore purple from head to foot, while her husband dressed in cargo shorts and a polo shirt.  Outside, a woman walked past carrying the World's Biggest Shopping Bag (tm) and looking unhappy about it while a white college student with sculpted everything jogged by.

"If we were up in Oakland County," I said, "everyone would look much the same.  Down here, it's a variety."

Darwin agreed.

The foursome, incidentally, loudly discussed politics at their table.  They castigated Donald Trump, his administration, and his trip abroad.  They mused how long it would take him to be impeached and whether the country would be better or worse off under Pence.  Darwin and I eavesdropped with amusement.

"It's like coming home," Darwin said.

On our way out, I stopped at their table and leaned in.  "Your political discussion sound just like ours," I said.

They burst out laughing and applauded a little.  We made ten-second friends. :)

More . . .
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My husband Darwin likes horror movies.  As a rule, I don't.  I do like SF movies, though, and here we have ALIEN: COVENANT, which combines the two genres.  This, I thought, would be a perfect date movie!  Horror for Darwin, SF for me.

Then I learned it has a gay couple in it.  A married gay couple.

You might think this would engender happiness.  Joy.  Even a certain amount a giddiness.  Instead, my metaphorical ears went back and my hackles went up.  I spent a few minutes looking up spoilers and discovered my hackles were justified.

I will not see this movie.  I will not rent the DVD.  I will not support this movie.  And I urge you to do the same.

SPOILERS (you are warned)

According to various on-line sources, the sins of the same-sex relationship portrayal are the standard ones we've come to expect.  First, although there were several initial shots to the contrary, there is little or no indication of a marriage--or any kind of relationship--between the two men throughout the film.  They don't touch.  They don't exchange endearments.  There was apparently a brief moment of hugging between them in a preview, but that scene has been cut from the film, and that preview has been removed from the Internet.  In other words, gay people are still invisible.  No LGBT characters are actually in the spotlight.  No LGBT protagonists.  Just a couple of background guys who may or may not be in a relationship.

But the worst sin comes early in the movie.  Hallett, one of the men, becomes infected with the alien infection, and a baby alien bursts out of his face.  (Not his chest, like in the other movies, but out of his freakin' face.  He's gay, so we have to up the nastiness.)  While the ship's captain leans in to murmur quiet apologies, Hallett's husband Lope whispers, "I love you" and then is forced to walk away.

One more time, we have the tragic gay.  Gay men continue to be the objects of tragedy and disgust and ridicule.  We're only interesting or worthy if we watch our partners die.  No happy relationships for the gay guy.  In fact, we're going to get an alien burst out of our faces, just to super-compound the tragedy.  Because, you know, just dying of an alien tearing out of your chest isn't bad enough for the gays.  Let's make it worse.


I will not spend a dime for that movie.  I urge you to avoid it as well.
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Google Home has a new ad that (supposedly) features a same-sex married couple with children.  Let's have a look, shall we?

I'm glad they're showing this, I suppose, but I'm seeing the cowardly cop-out.  Let's take a media literacy look, shall we?

Firstly, all throughout they use odd camera angles, foreground objects, and blur to confuse and hide. The camera hides us behind water glasses, pans across blurry people, and looks upward from weird angles. This hides what's going on, in case you're offended by it.

Then, when Man #1 enters, he's blurred out and he walks behind yet another foreground water glass. Then we pop to shot of Google Home sitting on the table, and another blurred person walks in front of it. Man #1 wants to know about his day, and a shaky-cam shudders and shimmies while we get a shoulder touch--just a teensy one. Wouldn't want to show any real affection, would we? Nor would we want to show a gay man touch his children at the breakfast table, for fear of anyone screaming "Molester!"

We pop back to GH on the table, surrounded by more blurry objects, then a shot of the kids surrounded by blurry water glasses, then a shot of Man #2 surrounded by blurry water glasses as he asks about his day.  Blur, blur, blur.

The camera pans sideways to push Man #1 out of the shot so we don't see the guys together for too long--wouldn't want that!  Then a shot of Man #2 framed by blurry children as he offers to "take the kids."

Then we have the big moment!  The camera pans left in order to center the blurry boy in the middle of the screen so his whole head takes up the screen just as Man #1 zips by Man #2 for a good-bye kiss--WHICH WE DON'T SEE because it's blocked by the Giant Blurry Boy Head.

Did Man #1 actually kiss Man #2? We can't tell for sure, and Google is too chicken to say.

Then another shot of kids and blurry water glasses, and we end with a brief, semi-obscured shot of Man #1 and Man #2 as Man #2 rushes off with the children.

The commercial is a clever piece of cowardice that Google pretends is bravery. If they get too much flak, they can claim that the men are brothers or even roommates. If they get support and praise, they can say the men are married.  Cowardice. We expected better, Google.

stevenpiziks: (Default)
Darwin is City Manager of Ypsilanti, but we don't live there.  For city managers, this is problematic.  Whenever a city manager makes a decision that affects residents (including tax policy), the residents like to say, "You don't really care--you don't live here and this doesn't affect you."

However, we aren't portable right now.  Maksim is in high school, and we don't want to uproot him.  Also, much as I love Ypsilanti, I'm living in a place where I have a short commute after 15 years of a 45 minute commute.  I'm not willing to move back right now.

Hence The Condo.

A while ago, I called our old realtor, the one who brokered our houses in Ypsilanti before, and the search began.  We were basically looking for a condominium to be a rental property, with the rent going to pay the mortgage.  That way, Darwin would be a homeowner in Ypsilanti and could rightfully say, "I own a home here, and these policies affect me, too."

Since I know Ypsilanti, though, most of the searching fell to me.  I wanted something close to Eastern Michigan University for the simple reason that it would be easy to rent out and the resale would be higher later.  But there aren't many, and when one does show up, it goes fast!

And then we learned about one.  It's right across the street from the University.  I wasn't able to get out to see it, but Darwin was, and it was exactly what we were looking for.  Except it's occupied by tenants--the people selling it are the landlords.  Apparently the tenants had no idea the landlords were selling it, and they were moire than a little shocked when the realtor called to arrange a showing.  (Their lease ends this fall.)  The landlord did give them the option to buy first, but they didn't want to.

Anyway, we put an offer in.  After the usual wrangling, it was accepted. 

And then there was the mortgage application.  After a 20% down payment (required by the type of mortgage you can get on a rental property), the amount we'd be borrowing for the mortgage fell below what Quicken wanted to loan us.  In other words, we wouldn't be borrowing enough money and paying enough interest.  Quicken compensated by offering us the scandalously high rate of 6% over 30 years.  Darwin was shocked.  Not only was 6% way, way higher than what our credit rating should have given us--or any other human being in America--they were requiring 30 years, and we wanted 15.  Darwin went back and forth with the loan officer for about half an hour on this, and finally snarled that we'd find someone else.  He snapped the connection shut and ended the relationship.

The next day, he talked Marj, our realtor, who said, "Oh my!  You need to talk to =these= people."  And Darwin did, and they trotted us right through a proper mortgage.  Sheesh.

So we're looking to close soon, and we'll be property owners in Ypsilanti again!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
This was a dreadful situation all around.

Short version: A gay couple held hands in a Goodfellas Pizzeria, and a bouncer ordered them to leave while another customer shouted, "This is Trump's America!" at them. A friend posted about the incident on Facebook. The pizzeria heard about it, fired at least one person involved, apologized to the couple, and asked them to return. The couple accepted the apology but said they would not come back.

I'm forced to say that the couple in question handled it badly, while the company handled it well. First, the couple should not have backed down and slunk away. They should have immediately demanded to speak to the manager and recorded the conversation on cell phone video. (I realize that not everyone is built for confrontation, but you know what? If we in the LGBT community wait for others to handle the problems for us, the problems will never be solved. So you--yes, YOU--have to handle it. So learn how.)

Second, whether they confronted the homophobic bouncer or not, once the owner contacted them and fell all over himself to apologize and beg them to return, they should have accepted the offer and returned. Otherwise, there's little incentive for the company to continue the good behavior.

Third, the couple should not have allowed the "This is Trump's America" ass to get away with it. A better response would have been either to say snap back, "This is EVERYONE'S America," or to fold a complaint against the Trumpist into a complaint against the bouncer, as in, "And that customer over there told us we don't belong in your establishment. What do you intend to do about it?"

I'm glad that Goodfellas Pizzeria handled it the way they did, and kudos to them! I will eat there, and I will recommend the place to my friends. And I hope that other LGBT people will stand up for themselves, rather than counting on someone else to do it for them.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
So the live-action version of Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has a gay character in it, and the right wing is eating apeshit crackers over it.

I'm not happy, either.

Yes, the apeshit crackers crowd are freaked for all the wrong reasons.  One Million Moms--or, more rightly, One Dozen Moms--screeches that it's not appropriate for the CHIL-dren to see such things on screen.  A drive-in theater in Alabama made news because it's refusing to show the movie.  (So a couple dozen bubbas will have to drive one town over to see the movie in an actual theater instead of watching it in the middle of a hayfield.  Oh noes!  The movie is doomed!)  These people haven't complained about the hetero stuff, though--Belle kissing the Beast, Lumiere kissing the dust mop/maid, Gaston's attempts to basically rape Belle.  And wait--isn't Belle basically being forced to fall in love with an animal?  Good heavens!  But let two men hold hands, and these nutbags act like Disney has gone XXX rated.

What's truly stupid is that this isn't the real reason to be ticked.

The gay character in B&B is LeFou, Gaston's little sidekick villain.  Here he is from the original cartoon:

SPOILERS: According to the press releases and news stories, the live version of LeFou has a crush on Gaston and flirts with him once or twice in the movie, but it goes right over Gaston's head.  At the very end of the movie, we get a brief glimpse of LeFou dancing with another man at Belle and the Beast's ball.

That's it.  That's the whole thing.  Less than ten seconds of LGBT content.

The "yay!" people are praising it.  LeFou is Disney's first openly gay character.  (Other characters have been hinted at, but never confirmed.)  What a step forward!  How fantastic!

I give it a thumbs down.

LeFou is a bumbling, sycophantic idiot.  He's clumsy, stupid, easily cowed, and comes on the receiving end of a great deal of the cartoon violence in the movie.  Gaston punches, kicks, slaps, drops, and crushes LeFou, and he begs for more.  LeFou attempts to murder Lumiere during the seige of the Beast's castle.  He's an evil, brutish, buffoonish clown.  His name is French for "fool."

This is what Disney hands us and says, "Hey, LGBT people!  This is how we're going to represent you! Isn't this great?"

Fuck you, Disney.

On top of it, the movie only gives teensy flashes of the character being gay.  A subtle flirt.  A half-second, "blink and you miss it" dance.

Fuck you, Disney.

How about creating some characters of note?  Some good guys we can root for?  Someone who isn't stupid, foolish, idiotic, or clumsy?  A strong person?  A likeable person?  A person kids can look at and say, "I want to be like him"?  I mean, when kids play "Let's Pretend", no one wants to play LeFou.

After hundreds of years of being denigrated and portrayed as the villain, we need good guys.

I can see the reponses already: "LeFou is going to redeem himself.  If he's dancing at Belle and the Beast's ball, it must mean he's changed sides, and he gets a boyfriend in the end, so he's happy.  What's wrong with that?"  Sorry, no.  For hundreds of years, LGBT people have been the villains, the bad guys, the tragic ones.  We still haven't been the protagonists, the strong ones, the powerful ones in these movies.  Not once.  Disney is handing us a rotten little crumb instead of a full meal.

This is why the apeshit crackers people are angry for the wrong reason.  Disney is timidly giving us partial LGBT characters instead of fully-developed, strong, likeable characters we require and deserve.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
For the final part of our Date Night Dinner and a Show, we wormed our way out of the tiny parking structure and headed back up to the Whitney.

The manager remembered us and greeted us with a friendly smile.  "You're back!"

"We're here for dessert," I announced, and he showed us up to the second-floor dessert parlor.  It was a large, luxurious sitting room decorated with antiques and a fireplace of its own and big windows that overlooked Woodward Avenue.  Only one other couple occupied a table.  On a Thursday night, this probably wasn't too unusual.

Iris had apparently gone home, and another server came to our table brandishing a crown-shaped chocolate construction.

"It's our Lion King dessert," she said.  "Perfect for after the show."

"We didn't come from the Lion King," I said with a smile.  "We were at the magic show at the Fillmore."  It seems the Whitney and the Lion King were a thing in Detroit.

The waitress cheerfully explained the dessert anyway and also showed us the sumptuous dessert menu.  She gave us wine recommendations, too.

Darwin ordered a fruit crumble.  I asked for a chocolate cartier and decided to have a glass of raspberry dessert wine on the grounds that raspberry and chocolate would be wonderful together.

They were.  The cartier was a layer of chocolate biscuit piled with mousse and fresh fruit, sealed in an envelope of ganache.  It was smooth and delicious.  The fruit kept the chocolate from becoming too sweet.  After a bite of the cartier, the wine made a firework burst in my mouth.  I made Darwin try it (he normally dislikes anything even vaguely alcoholic) and he was surprised how much he liked the combination.  The wine was very strong, though, and I'm not a drinker, so after one glass, I told Darwin he would have to drive.  :)

The crumble was hot from the oven, both sweet and tart, with a soft crust.  It came with Sander's ice cream, famous in Michigan.

It was the perfect way to end the evening, eating dessert with my husband in a quiet, elegant dining room to wind down after the loud, raucous show, and I was glad we'd saved dessert for afterward.

It was a wonderful dinner and a show--our way!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
We arrived at the Fillmore Theater and got parking in an ancient, tightly-wound parking structure that looked to have been built in the 40s.  It was positively claustrophobic.  Anything bigger than a bicycle would have scraped the ceiling.  Thank heavens we drove the little car.  Take that, SUVs!

Outside, the weather was brisk but clear.  A huge crowd of people went all the way down, down, down the block, across the street and around the corner from the Fillmore.  At first, Darwin and I thought this was unrelated to the show we were there for, but we were quickly disavowed of this notion.  Everyone was waiting to get in and see naked magicians!  So we dutifully trooped way down the block to the end of the line.  It was reserved seating, so we weren't worried about missing our spots.

The line did move quickly forward once the doors opened at 7:00, and the audience had a bit of a festive, naughty air to it, which added to the fun.  Here, I felt a tug on my elbow.  I turned and found myself looking at Catherine, an old friend.  We shouted with laughter and hugged quickly, though we didn't have more time than that--she was with other people and had to dash down to join them.

The line moved passed two homeless people panhandling in different spots on the sidewalk.  Giving money to homeless people is the "I have a decent job" tax, and more people should pay it.  I paid, and moved on.

At last we got into the theater.  The Fillmore used to be a grand theater, and the space still is, with its sweeping architecture and grand statues of knights in niches, but these days it's more of an alternative music and performance venue than a legitimate theater.  These days, it holds punk rock concerts and Chippendale shows and naked magicians. In the old days, it would have been a vaudeville venue, and perhaps it was.

Darwin and I took our places in the very front row at the center.  I was able to rest my feet on the staircase that led up to the stage, in fact.  The stage was bare except for a table, a box hanging from a cable, and a blow-up sex doll to one side.

We couldn't help but notice that the main floor was almost all men.  Darwin and I were greatly amused by this.  The women, meanwhile, were mostly up in the balconey. It wasn't 100%, but it was definitely noticeable.  Every front row seat was occupied by a man, that's for sure!  We were laughing about this.

And the show began.  Mike and Chris, the magicians, start their magic fully clothed, but tell the audience they'll remove more of their clothes if the audience shows their appreciation.  This, of course, earned a great deal of shouting and cheering.  (One particular woman from the balconey screeched epithets throughout: "Show us your --!" and "Whip it out!" and such, and even though the show itself was raunchy, everyone hated her and wanted her to shut up.)

It was a true burlesque show, in the old sense of the word--raunchy, occasionally tasteless, played up for humor, and a lot of not-quite full frontal nudity.  It was half strip show and half magic show.

My mother would have loved it.  I feel that has to be said.

Ultimately, the magic part wasn't all that great: rope tricks, card tricks, a straight-jacket escape, a mind-reading trick.  I caught how they did a few of them, which wasn't a good sign.  I have the feeling that Mike and Chris were trying to figure out how to get a performance gig that would make them stand out.  "Hey!" one of them says. "We can both do some decent magic! What about a magic show?"  "We can't do anything that'll get us noticed."  "Well, magicians always have scantily-dressed assistants, right?  And we've both got good bodies, right?  What if =we= took off our clothes, but =all= of them?  That would get people in!"  "Hey, yeah!"  And the show was born.

It worked.  The show at the Fillmore sold out, certainly.

Anyway, the show was fun and silly and raunchy and worth the "I have a decent job" tax.

Afterward, it was back to the Whitney...
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
A while ago, I came across a notice for the Naked Magicians. As a joke, I sent the link to Darwin and said, "This is what I want for my birthday."

Be careful . . .

On my birthday, Darwin handed my an envelope. In it were two tickets. For the Naked Magicians. Front row center.  Dearie, dearie me.

We decided to make a night of it, with dinner beforehand.  It would be dinner and a show for the gay couple!  Date night!  But where to go, though?

I pointed out that the Whitney, one of Detroit's most famous restaurants, was only a mile away from the theater.  We made reservations.  Thursday, the day of the show, Darwin came home a little early so we could make a 5:00 dinner and off we went!

The Whitney was originally the home of David Whitney, Jr., a scandalously wealthy Detroit lumber baron from the 1800s.  He built a huge, luxurious mansion right on Woodward Avenue.  After he and his wife died, however, the mansion passed out of the family's hands, and in the 80s, it was renovated and became an upscale restaurant.

We drove down the newly repaved Woodward Avenue, through the rejuvenated area of Detroit. The new transit rail is in place, too. The valet took over our car, and we climbed the big steps to the enormous front doors.

The interior of the Whitney is all dark wood and Tiffany glass.  A grand staircase sweeps up past a stained glass knight in armor, and upstairs, more stained glass shows St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music.  The house is, in fact, filled with sumptuous Tiffany glass, which altogether is worth more than the house itself.

We were shown to our table in short order, and found ourselves looking out over Woodward Avenue through the windows of the main parlor, the same view once enjoyed by David and Katharine Whitney.  An enormous marble fireplace decorated with stone cherubs sat behind us.  A friendly server named Iris greeted us and asked if we were there for a special occasion.

"A belated birthday," I said, "and theater afterward."

"The Lion King?" she asked brightly.

"The magic show," I said.  "At the Fillmore."

I didn't give specifics.  :)  At any rate, when Iris learned we didn't drink, she brought us sparkling cocktails of fruit juice and soda instead.  We started the dinner with an amuse-bouche of soft mozzarella and cherry tomato with a drizzle of sweet vinagrette.  I ordered a Caeser salad, while Darwin had a creamed bean soup.  The latter arrived in a tureen with a slice of spiced, toasted brioche in the center, around which Iris poured the soup from a small pitcher and to which she added a turn of pepper.  It was delicious, and I spent some time reverse-engineering the recipe so I could make it at home.

For the next course, I had Cornish hen with fruit stuffing. The hen was crisped perfectly, and the meat was tender and juicy. The stuffing was perfectly flavored.  Darwin had whitefish over rice.  It was similarly perfect. (I ate his cherries. Sh!)

Between courses, we had a fruit palate cleanser:

Everything was perfect!

The Whitney has a dessert parlor, an upstairs dining room dedicated solely to desserts.  I asked about it and learned it stayed open until 11:00 PM.  I said we would come back after the show for dessert, then.  We reclaimed our coats and car and we were off!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
When I was growing up, a standard insult for anything bad was to call it gay.  "That's so gay" was applied to anything from a bad TV show to stupid behavior to an ugly outfit.

This continued my entire life, really.  When I was a child and a teenager, I didn't feel able to say anything about it, so I stayed silent and aborbed the hits like a quiet punching bag.  As an adult, I gained more confidence and told people I found the phrase offensive and not to use it in my presence. I flatly forbade it in my classroom, and collared students who used it in the hallway.  Still, the awful phrase continued.

But in the last two or three years, something changed.

You don't hear that phrase among teenagers much.  Actually, you don't hear it at all.  I haven't had to say anything about it in months and months, in fact.

I brought this fact up to my media literacy students and asked if they had noticed the same thing.  They had.

"No one says that anymore," one student said.

"It's . . . immature," said another.  "Something a six-year-old would say."

Interesting, no?  I think the LGBT community becoming more visible and accepted has killed "gay" as an all-purpose insult.  Make no mistake--young people still call boys "gay" in a derogatory way if he isn't seen as masculine enough--but "gay" as a synonym for "stupid" or "crappy" is rapidly fading away.

An interesting step forward.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Darwin and I do moderate Valentine's Day things.  We like to go out for supper together, and we usually exchange flowers and/or cards or small food treats (not chocolates--diabetics have their limitations).  Oddly, we tend to run this out over multiple days.  We're pracitcal enough not to mind if we can't go out on the actual day, and are perfectly happy to do a romantic evening out earlier or later in the week, to allow for busy schedules or overly-crowded restaurants.  And doing a few small things over two or three days is more fun, we think.

But it's always interesting being married to another man on Valentine's Day.

Case in point: I sent flowers to Darwin's office this year.  I've done this before--despite sentiments of the anti-Valentiners, I've never felt constrainted to the holiday--so I'm no stranger to the process, but I still find myself twinging a little bit at putting loving sentiments on the card from Steven to Darwin and knowing the florist will read and copy my words onto the card.  It's a remnant of the "what will people think?" fear I grew up with.  I ignore it, forge ahead, and wonder if the twinge will ever evaporate entirely.

Flowers have a special significance for Darwin and me because on our first date, I arrived at Darwin's house with a red rose and a chocolate-covered strawberry.  He was startled and touched (a man had never brought him flowers or candy before), and he later told me that he started falling in love with me right then.  So flowers forever.

Anyway, I sent these flowers a day early because I wanted to avoid the rush and also give Darwin an extra day to enjoy the bouquet.

Darwin liked the flowers very much, and sent an "I adore you" text with a photo of the flowers when they arrived.  He said the entire office smells like flowers now.  And the women in the office were a-twitter, sniffing that =their= husbands didn't send flowers.  One of the women pointedly informed her own spouse that her boss's husband sent him flowers at work, unlike SOME husbands she could mention, and the next day, the same type of bouquet from the same florist arrived for her.  Straight guys can be taught!

I also shopped for a card.  This is tricky when you're a man looking to buy for another man.  You can search in the generic "Valentine for Anyone" section, but those don't mention romantic love.  And the ones in the "For Him" or "For Husband" section are often clearly from a woman--they sport graphics of an opposite-sex couple, or they say "From your loving wife," or they make other references to opposite sex pairings.  (I don't begrudge this--straight people need valentines too--but it would be nice to shop for a card with the same number of options opposite sex couples have.)  I hunted around, and did find myself wondering if anyone at the store noticed I was a man checking out the cards in the "For Him" section.  This didn't bother me, per se, but I still wondered, and then I didn't like that I was wondering, and then I stopped thinking about it so I could look for a card that wasn't all girly.

I found one and wrote my own sentiments in it in my nicest handwriting.

On Valentine's Day itself, Darwin arrived home from work a little early with flowers of his own for me!  I love them.  The card I bought is pictured with them.

We went out to Casey's in downtown Wherever, a restaurant I call the Irish Sushi Pub.  It's an Irish pub with a sushi bar in it (only in America!), and we like it because I can have sushi (which Darwin dislikes) and Darwin can have pub food (which I often find dull), so we're both happy!

We talked and ate, and during the meal, I often touched Darwin either on his hands or on his arm or even his neck, a gesture you don't often find between two men but which is something I often do without thinking.  He's my husband, after all.  The (rather older) couple one table over noticed this, and the stiff looks began.  I ignored them.  What were they going to do?  I don't think Darwin noticed--the couple wasn't much in his line of sight.  If anyone else in the restaurant noticed Darwin and I were a couple and disapproved, they gave no indication.  About halfway through my and Darwin's meal, the older couple left with one final glare, which I refused to acknowledge.  Darwin and I had a splendid time, actually, and if our presence ruined the other couple's Valentine's Day outing, too bad for them.

The rest of the evening is nunuvyourbeezwax.  :)
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I've actually run out of stuff to read.

I know, right?

So I'm auditioning books.  It's kind of frustrating, to tell the truth.  My standards on books have gone way, way up.  Anything that doesn't absolutely enthrall me, I toss aside, and when you write novels, enthrallment is difficult--you know the tricks, and even the slightest authorial quirks quickly get under your skin.

I've been searching for some nice reading, but a number of honking big red flags on the cover copy of a book will send me running.  I've learned from experience these books will not appeal to me and chances are, they'll be poorly-written to boot.  Some samplings:

"Now that Barabara's husband of twenty years just dumped her . . . " Nope.  Not interested in whiny protagonists, even if they reform later.

"In this breathless, poetic novel . . . " This book has no plot and the sentences are unreadable.  Run!

"Comes to a heart-wrenching and tragic . . . "  No.  I have enough tragedy in my real life.  I don't need it in my fiction. You, of course, are welcome to have your innards stomped on all you like, but leave me out of it.

"National Book Award Winner . . . " Translation: a judge decided "unreadable, purple prose = great literature."  Pass.  (Yes, some NBA winers are worth reading. I've read exactly one. The rest were awful.  So I've stopped.)

"Told in lilting . . . " No way.  See "poetic" above.

And any cover that has two shirtless men on it makes me shake my head.  I WANT fiction with a gay protagonist, but I can't stand I'M GAY FOR HIM! OUR LOVE IS THE CENTER OF THE BOOK! gay fiction.  Especially when it's always--ALWAYS--so badly written.  I've read maybe fifteen or twenty shirtless-men-on-the-cover books, hoping for something cool, and every single one has been a disappointment.  So I've quit.  Some of my friends have tried pointing me toward this or that author with shirtless men, and on the rare occasions I've given in to my better instincts and read their recommendations, I end up wondering what the hell kind of literary tastes my friends have.  (Yes, I know about Josh Lanyon.  Reading his books is like eating cereal made of shredded cardboard laced wtih broken glass, and why in hell he's so popular, I don't understand.)

This makes book shopping difficult.  I'm trying to find good books with a gay protagonist in which the main plot DOESN'T revolve around the main character being gay.  I want a spy thriller in which the main character dodges bad guys, then goes to his boyfriend for help; or a medical book in which an ER doctor saves lives, then goes home to his husband; or a small town story in which the local librarian handles whacky patrons with outrageous requests, and falls in love with one of them while trying to save the beloved library's funding.  Or something.  And I want them to be well-written, with riveting plots that make sense, dynamic, empathetic characters, and fascinating settings.  Is that too much to ask?
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
This week I've written about the Gay Tragedy and the Gay Tease.

Finally, we also have the Gay Promise.  This is when the producers announce loudly and firmly that they're going to have a gay character on the show.  Real soon now!  Really!  Just watch and you'll see!  It'll be a major character, too.  We promise!

Sometimes the character shows up, but more often, the promise is quietly dropped because the producers chicken out.

SUPERGIRL actually came through on this one.  Kara's sister, a contract character, started to realize she was a lesbian and is currently exploring that with another woman.  (Though the eternally unsatisfied me must still point out that Hollywood seems more willing to show women kiss on screen than men.)

Just lately, the YOUNG JUSTICE animated show announced they would have a gay character on their recently-revived show.  As always, they haven't said who or under what circumstances.  I don't know why they don't just say who it'll be.  There'd be more publicity if they announce that Aqualad, or whoever they've chosen, is gay.

Hollywood, wake up!  You can write actual gay men and give them happy endings.  Let's get started.  Now.

Gay Tease

Jan. 11th, 2017 08:44 am
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
On Monday, I wrote about Gay Tragedy.  There's also the Gay Tease.

This is when a TV show or movie claims that a character is gay, but doesn't actually DO anything with it.  There are two versions of the Gay Tease.

1. The director, producer, or writer says, "Oh yeah--he's gay.  He's always been gay," but there's nothing on screen or on the page that definitively says so.  J.K. Rowling, for example, created waves when she "revealed" that Dumbledore is gay, except in the books there's no hint of it.  (A "deep friendship" with another male doesn't cut it.)  This happens all the time, and the only reason for it is to keep the slavering homphobes happy.  If a large group freaks out about the idea of Character X being gay, the producer can wimp out and claim, "What I mean when I said that was that you can IMAGINE the character as gay if you want."  It also allows them to have a gay character without having a gay character.  And it's complete bullshit.  You wouldn't do that with a straight character.  If you say there's no stigma about gay characters these days, then give us gay characters, please.

2. The show or movie has a secondary character who pops up and says, "I'm gay!  This is my husband!" and nothing else happens with it.  We never see the husband (or boyfriend, or fiance, or . . . )  We don't ever see the actual relationship develop (though there'll be a couple-three straight relationships on the show that get extensive attention).  We never see anyone dealing with the ramifications of a same-sex relationship.  Just the occasional, "Don't forget that I'm gay!" reference, and that's it.

THE FLASH has one of these.  Barry's police captain is married to a man.  We even saw the husband once.  But that's it.  We get the occasional "Don't forget I'm gay!" reference, but no actual stories.  And the character is so minor, he may as well not exist.  Certainly we haven't seen him in the current season.  The Pied Piper is another example.  He makes a couple of reference to being gay and (stereotypically) into leather when he shows up, but no actual development of it.

This allows the show to claim they have a gay character on it without actually having a gay character.  It's a castrated gay man, really, because he never does anything sexual or sexy or romantic.  He never gets his own storyline.  He never fights with his boyfriend and makes up.  Instead, he's the non-threatening gay character thrown in as a sop to the LGBT community who also is supposed to keep the right-wing nutjobs happy.  It's nothing but Gay Tease.  We know it for what it is, and we're tired of it.  Hollywood needs to change it now.

Gay Tragedy

Jan. 9th, 2017 08:40 am
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
This is 2017.  Marriage equality is legal.  And yet we still have a media filled with Gay Tragedy, Gay Tease, and Gay Promise.

The Gay Tragedy is when a same-sex couple, usually two men, fall in love and it ends badly.  Often one of the men dies.  At minimum, the two are separated and their relationship isn't allowed to end happily.  BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is the most famous example.  When I saw that movie in the theaters, I thought it was poorly done. The characters' relationship is neither believable nor explained--they love each other because the script says so--and in the end, one of them is murdered because he's gay, leaving the survivor, who has lost his entire family as well, to weep alone in his isolated trailer.  Because, you see, two men can't have a happy, loving relationship that ends well.

TORCHWOOD does the same thing with Jack and Ianto.  Just as their relationship is deepening, Ianto is killed.  The producers said it was deliberately for tragedy, to change Jack so he could do important things later.  Yeah, sure.  But on an SF show that brings people back from the dead, they sure didn't hurry to resurrect Ianto later.  In fact, they only twist the tragedy knife by having Ianto's ghost show up and make Jack feel even worse in a later episode and make it clear that Jack and Ianto won't be together even in the afterlife.  Because gay men can't ever be happy.

Now, apparently, we're getting more of it.  CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is a gay tragedy novel ("beautifully written," says one reviewer, which is code for "uses lots of flowery, incomprehensible language to camouflage the lack of actual story").  A seventeen-year-old Italian boy meets a twenty-something American visitor in Italy.  They have a mad, tempestuous relationship in secret, but in the end, the American has to go back home.  The seventeen-year-old is unable to forget or let go, and twenty-odd years later, he goes to Boston to find his long-lost love, only to find him married (to a woman) with children.  Their love goes forever unfulfilled.

The book was made into a movie that got a lot of buzz at the Sundance Film Festival and was just recently picked up by a major distributor for wide release.  Because, you know, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, right?

Fuck you, Hollywood.  And you, too, BBC.

Apparently, the only kind of gay relationship you can show is one that ends in tragedy.  I won't go see it.  I won't buy or rent the DVD.  I will happily trash it, though.

After a thousand years of Gay Tragedy, I refuse to have anything to do with the idea until we've had a long, long history of Gay Happily Ever After.  Straight people get the HEA as a matter of course, and the tragic ending is the exception rather than the rule.  Showing Gay Tragedy after Gay Tragedy says that you think there's something wrong with LGBT people, and we're sick of it.

LATER THIS WEEK: Gay Tease and Gay Promise
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Today was a Difficult Day.  Fridays are difficult anyway because I do the weekly grocery shopping on the way home from work (mostly to get it out of the way for the weekend). This time, because of the Difficult Day, I was tired and in a bad mood.

So I splurged on the Friday menu and cooked a lot.  It became a Four Burner Friday, with Oven.

Garden Salad
Garlic Hoisin Baked Salmon
Paprika Cod
Sauteed Shrimp
Steamed Crab Legs
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Braised Carrots
Cheese Plate

This required quite a lot of careful timing.  I had to figure out how to get everything done just as Darwin got home from work.  It wasn't out of any demands made by him, but merely that Darwin gets home from work late, and the rest of us are hungry, so we want to eat when he walks in through the door.  I cheat a little here and use the tracker on his cell phone (to see how close he is).  I set the salad and cheese to chilling in the fridge first, with the sweet potatoes boiling on the stove next, since they take longest to cook.  When Darwin was about twenty minutes away, both kinds of fish went into the oven and I set the carrots to simmering on the stove, then mashed the sweet potatoes and set them back on the stove.  Ten minutes out, I heated up the pan of olive oil for the shrimp and dropped the crab into bubbling salt water.  It was a four-burner job!

Darwin got home just as everything was finishing up.  Everything headed for the table and we had a tasty meal to defuse the Difficult Day.

And I should get a medal for the perfect timing.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Last weekend was my and Darwin's first anniversary.  We've now been married for one year!

We did sort of a multi-day celebration.  On Friday, we went out to eat at Casey's, which I call the Irish Sushi Pub.  It's an Irish-ish pub downtown that serves bar food (burgers, fish and chips, various deep fried objects) but also has a sushi kitchen in it.  Only in America!  I think the place is perfect because Maksim and I love sushi, but Darwin and Aran hate it.  Normally, we're at an impasse, but Casey's lets everyone have what they like!

As it happened, one of their specials the night Darwin and I went there was prime rib, which is Darwin's absolute favorite.  I ordered a caterpillar roll, an eel and cucumber roll, and a dragon roll.  The food, as it happens, was absolutely delicious.  The sushi was delicious--everything in the right proportions, both crunchy and soft, tangy and sweet.  Darwin's prime rib was fork tender and done to a turn and spiced just right.  On the way out, I paused at the sushi bar to tell the chefs they were =on= that night.  They appreciated the compliment.

Saturday for supper, Darwin wanted to go to Wendy's.  "Wendy's?" I said in a shocked voice.  "WEN- dy's?  You know that a year ago we were dining on roasted chicken, fresh vegetables, and dense wedding cake.  Tonight you want to go to Wendy's?"

"We went to a nice place last night," he said.  And so we went to Wendy's.  Sigh.

The meal was forgettable, but the company was nice.  :)  We talked about the wedding and how cool it was:

Afterward, it was so mild out, I insisted we go down to the woods for a walk.  We intended to go to a public nature trail we like, but ended up hiking through a meadow behind the place I lived when we first met.  A hunter's moon was rising above the trees, and we paused to watch it come up, full and heavy and bright.  The deer were out, all over the place, and they watched us warily.  We found the wild apple trees we remembered, and they had no apples on them at all.  They didn't have any last year when we checked, either, and I wonder if something's gone wrong.  We walked back to a little hill we used to sit on when we were dating and wanted privacy from the ever-present boys at my place.  It was such a pleasant evening.

I never thought I'd be able to marry a man.  But here we are, celebrating our first anniversary.  Wow.

I love you, Darwin. Forever and always.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Tomorrow I go to court to get my name changed.  Again.

When Darwin and I got married, I decided to take advantage of the situation and change my name. This was partly because I've never liked my birth middle name, and I never, ever use it, and partly to point out my marriage.

Per the State of Michigan's requirements when changing one's name at marriage, I signed our marriage certificate with my new name: Steven Harper McClary Piziks.  The "Harper McClary" parts were new.

Then the fun started.

When I went to the social security office to alert them to the change, they accepted it without a blink.  As far as the federal government is concerned, my name became Steven H. M. Piziks.

Then I went to the Secretary of State's office to change it on my driver's license.  (Michigan has a DMV, but it doesn't bother itself with actual cars or driving.)  They acted like they'd never seen this before.

"Where did this name change come from?" the clerk asked.

"I got married," I said.  "And Harper is an old family name I'm taking on while I'm at it."  (If I had to explain, this seemed easier than going into details about my writing career and pen name.)

"So you're hyphenating?"

"No.  I'm taking my husband's name as my middle name, along with Harper."

"We only have space here for one middle name."

"That's not true.  My husband's full name is Darwin Douglas Parks McClary, and all four names appear on his license."

"We can't change your name without ID."

"I don't HAVE ID.  You do understand that I got married last week, right?  So all my IDs are in my OLD name.  I just changed it to my NEW name.  Here's my marriage license with my NEW name on it, along with my NEW social security card."

"We can't accept a social security card or marriage license as ID."

I wanted to mash her face into her keyboard.  "How do you handle it when someone gets married, then?"

"They show their marriage certificate."

I tapped mine meaningfully.  "Ta da!"

"But you can sign any name on that certificate," she said.

"Yes.  That's the point.  I'm changing my name to match my husband's."

"We have no verfiication of that."

"How about a marriage certificate and a social security card?"

"We can't accept those."

"Supervisor, please," I sighed.

"We can't--"

"Supervisor, please."

The supervisor also acted like she had never seen this before.

"Look," I said, growing more exasperated, "you can't tell me no one gets married and changes their name and wants a new driver's license."

"We need official documents to show a name change," the supervisor said.

"Marriage license, social security card," I said.

"We can't take those. They aren't official."

"Even though this is stamped and sealed by the clerk," I said.

"Look," she said, "we can change your middle name to McClary, but this Harper thing--we don't have any verfication of that."

"What kind of verfication?"

"A court order.  Until then, your names won't match in the two databases, and we won't be able to renew your license when it expires."

"Then change it."

"I need official documents."

The argument went on. At this point, I could see that she wasn't going to make the full name change, but in a fit of malicious revenge, I decided to deliberately waste her time, so I carried on for a great deal longer than necessary, then made her change my middle name to McClary.

Eventually I filed the paperwork with the county court to change my name fully.  It cost over $300, and I have to go before a judge.

This seemed grossly unfair to me.  If I were a minimum wage worker, there's no way I'd be able to afford this.  I could barely afford it with what I have now.  In other words, someone who has money has access to a legal process that someone without money does not.  If I were poor, I'd be stuck with the wrong name and no way to correct it.  (Also note the hidden cost of going before a judge--this means time away from work.  Someone with a job that doesn't grant sick leave actually has to pay MORE than the $300 because they lose the day's wages.)

So tomorrow I go to court, and then I go back to the Secretary of State, where I'll demand to see the supervisor and make her personally do my name change.


stevenpiziks: (Default)

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