Sunday, September 28, 2008

Looking Back, Into the Future

Yesterday Fire and Summer gave me a wonderful surprise. Probably my favorite musical in the world (it's got some competition, I am a fag after all) was playing in Boson, about 90 min from our house. So yesterday we drove down to Boson, had lunch, and then went to a matinee showing of A Chorus Line at the beautifully restored Boston Opera House.

Now, I mentioned that this is probably my favorite musical, but it is also the musical that I've interested in the longest. I first saw A Chorus Line at age ten when after much begging and wheedling, my parents surprised me in a similar (although more spectacular) way. I should note that I'd been interested in seeing the show since I was probably eight (I first heard the soundtrack around age five). Looking back as an adult I know that some of the more overt adult content went over my head, although most did not ("adult content" makes up most of the show, it's not aimed at kids... at all).

You might ask yourself "what kind of ten year old desperately wants to see A Chorus Line?" In my case looking back I can say "a sexually precocious queer one." Perhaps it was my (attempted) naughty rendition of "dance ten, looks three," (which most people know as the tits and ass song) when my age was still measured in single digits, or my enthusiastic singing along with "adolescence," but my fondness for A Chorus Line was almost certainly one reason why my mother was less-than-shocked when I came out of the closet at thirteen.

I've been re-examining the above question because I found myself asking it yesterday. As we were finding our seats we passed two parents with a boy who couldn't have been much more than ten. See him siting there in his nice shirt and sport jacket (my parents always made me get totally dressed up for theater) waiting for the show to start was like looking backwards in time. I pointed him out to Fire and we agreed that either his folks had dragged him there, or he was a budding theater fag.

I realize that I'm indulging in stereotypes here. That said, go read the synopsis of A Chorus Line if you are unfamiliar with it and find me a young boy who really wants to see it.

As we were leaving the theater, we again passed the family with the boy in question. He had a smile on his face like a Little League baseball player whose team just won the finals. If he's lucky, he's got parents like mine (and being at A Chorus Line would seem to indicate that he does) and his story will be a whole lot easier than some of the ones featured in the show we'd all just finished watching. But stereotyping or not, I'd be willing to lay money that the only close female companionship in his future are going to be fag-hags.

Of course, seeing myself back then I would have said the same thing and here I am so who knows? Whether women, men or both (I'm betting men or both) lie in his future, we were definitely looking at a young queer.

The vast gulf between the life and future that a ten year old queer-to-be can look forward to today and what he would have had to look forward to when the show was written is so immense that I realized that soon my beloved Chorus Line will be dated enough to only make sense as a period piece. And while that makes me feel old, and sad that people won't get key elements of this wonderful show, it also is a spectacular indication of the progress GLBT people have made between the show's creation in 1975 and today.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Over to the Dark Side

So after much deliberation and soul searching I've gone over to the dark side. As a compliment to BarkingShaman I've also started a livejournal under Wintertash. I've always thought that it was important that I not be posting essays primarily related to my personal life here on BS and also that I make a serious effort to hold to as high a writing standard as I my situation (and health) might allow at any given moment.

My primary reason for having the LJ will be to keep in better touch with my geographically distributed friends and family of choice. For this reason most posts will be restricted to my friends-list, so it will likely seem pretty empty.

My hope is to maintain a much higher standard of quality here at BS. Most of my essays here are heavily re-read, edited and reviewed (not as much of late I'm ashamed to admit) before being posted. The livejournal is not likely have much of that at all.

While there is certainly no reason for someone to feel any need to read both, I wanted to make folks aware of the option as well as make it clear that the content between them will greatly vary. While Wintersong Tashlin is the Barking-Shaman, wintertash the LJ is definitely not BarkingShaman the blog.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A (local) hero question

As people who know me or have read BarkingShaman can probably guess, reading is a big part of my life. In addition to mid-grade SciFi and fantasy books (although very little fantasy for some time) I have developed a fondness for a specific kind of non-fiction in the past several years.

I enjoy reading books in which people persevere against great odds. Military non-fiction is a good source for this sort of thing as it often contains accounts of everyday people faced with unspeakable horror and terror and yet, usually through training, persevering. In my mind The Ship That Would Not Die and Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors should be considered classics of this genre.

Exploration of new frontiers is another source of these stories. The various books (and one excellent BBC miniseries) about Shackelton's failed Imperial Trans-Antartic Expedtion relate a tale that Homer could have written.

A very different kind of new frontier is ventured into in the book that I just finished reading about a man blind since age 3 who braves experimental surgery to regain his sight decades later only to find that his brain has lost the ability to process visual data.

It is interesting for me to look at how I relate to the figures in these various books. I find myself wondering, would I be able to ignore my own injuries and push away the remains of my closest friends in order to man an AA gun under Kamikaze bombardment, or would I freeze up? How would I have fared in Shackelton's party marooned on the pack ice for years? Faced with the chance of sight, would I choose to continue my happy life or at great physical and psychological take the chance that I might venture into the sighted world.

The inevitable (to me at least) follow up to these questions is, how would these people who I admire find me? What would they think of my admiration?

This is more than just a hypothetical question. There is an excellent book, Until the See Shall Free Them about the sinking of the bulk hauler SS Marine Electric. In addition to surviving in frigid waters aboard an overturned lifeboat, her chief mate, Bob Cusick broke the longstanding code of silence regarding the safety standards among the aging ships of the U.S. Merchant Marine. The changes instituted in part as a result of his testimony have likely saved countless lives.

Weirdly, this is where my this question comes almost literally home. Bob Cusick, unbeknown to me when I happened to mention the book to the teller at the bank, retired to my current town. In fact, his daughter walks my dog when she stays at the kennel and we almost rented a house across the street from him. The teller at the bank suggested that I drop a note for him there suggesting that we get together sometime.

I'll never get a chance to talk to Sir Ernest, or Ret. Admir. F. Julian Becton or the majority of the other names found in the pages of my significant collection. At least not unless I go find them among the underworlds and one lesson that I think most spirit workers get pretty fast is that you do not pester the dead.

The odds are better than even that if I wanted to, I could arrange to meet Mr. Cusick. The problem is that I don't know if I want him to meet me. I'm too afraid that I'd be found wanting by a man who I admire.

I've asked myself what my motivations are in wanting to meet him and the primary reason is that I want him to know that his story meant something to me, even though I'm not a merchant mariner. I've considered writing him a letter, could serve the same purpose, but I don't know what I'd end up saying.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Now Matter How You Look At It

This is just too fucking far. I haven't really blogged about the overuse of SWAT teams and no-knock raids. Mostly because A) other people are doing it better than I would, especially Reason Magazine and B) well, go look at the link and tell me if you'd feel comfortable criticizing someone riding around in that.