meet pen & ink
by Roberto Friedman
Comic books are visually stimulating and verbally engaging, a two-for-one that's hard to resist. Last week Out There had our nose buried in two delectable collections of transgressive comics, QU33R: New Comics from 33 Creators edited by Rob Kirby, and Anything That Loves: Comics Beyond "Gay" and "Straight" edited by Charles "Zan " Christensen, both published by Northwest Press. Let us share our delighted impressions.
Pushing past boundaries is an important part of both volumes. As editor Kirby writes in his introduction to QU33R, the artists included "are of varying statistics and life views – some of whom may not necessarily identify as queer artists, some challenging even what queer is. All of which is our privilege, maybe even a sort of duty." Contributors include such well-known gay comics artists as Eric Orner and Justin Hall, as well as a lot of newcomers unknown, at least to Out There. Territory covered runs the gamut, from the expected – coming-out tales, melodramatic love affairs – to the unexpected. For example, artist Michael Fahy sets a much-quoted line from a Frank O'Hara poem to four panels of intimate portraits in "O'Hara Song": "Someone comes along with a very bad character/he seems attractive./is he really. yes. very. he's attractive/as his character is bad. is it. yes."
There's also an insightful story about the appeal and perils of exacting revenge on a high-school gay-bashing tormentor (Steve MacIsaac 's "Vacant Lots") and a poetic meditation on past loves (Rick Worley's "For Fletch and Ruski, Spooner, and Calico"). Jon Macy writes about his heroes Oscar Wilde, Djuna Barnes, Raymond Chandler and Charles Mingus. And the book makes a strong case for the efficacy of comics in conveying up-to-date health information. In Carlo Quispe's "Political Will," a sex party pick-up is a font of info about the pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, he is taking. And in Andy Hartzell's "Manning/Lamo Project," the cartoonist illustrates dialogue taken from the consequential chat-logs between then-Pvt. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning and hacker Adrian Lamo, first published by Wired magazine in 2011. The transcripts and accompanying pictures show how integral to Manning's whistle-blowing were his personal experience and torment with his gender identity.
With an introduction by Carol Queen, Ph.D., Anything That Moves is a good journeyman's guide to the wide spectrum of sexualities and identities that exist apart from the gay/straight binary divide. Editor Christensen writes, "The common thread that united them [the book's contributors] is not their sexuality, but their humanity. These are people who want love, affection, companionship, security, fun, adventure, solace – all the things that you and I and anyone would want."
Bill Roundy writes that "I was (and am) a Gold Star Gay, i.e., a gay man who's never had sex with a woman. But lately, my credentials have come under question because I've dated transgender guys (three of my last four relationships have been with transmen*). *men who were assigned 'female' at birth, felt that didn't fit, and transitioned to 'male.'" When we see the butch little numbers he's referring to, Roundy admits another sort of preference: "I may have a thing for short guys."
In fact, we discover, one's sexuality can even preclude sex. In "This Time It's Personal," Powflip tells the tale of a latex-loving girl who discovers that her neighbor is a latex-loving boy. "The more experience I had with sex, the more I realized that the stuff I found most gratifying was the introspective exploration of my personal sensuality. That's why I got into latex. It physically, mentally, and sensually insulates one." But the two rubber-lovers find each other and fall in love. "Two years on, and we still haven't had sex with each other. What more could one ask for?"
Kevin Boze makes a case for his thesis that "Bisexuals are the platypus of human sexuality. Early Europeans thought platypus were fakes. Platypus lay eggs, but they suckle their young. They're unusual, true. But they are real." We didn't even know the plural of platypus was platypus!
In "Swimming Pool Suitor," Leanne Franson's "bi-dyke" Liliane finds herself on a date with a gregarious guy. Thought bubbles during their dinner show what they're really thinking, a convention in comics that comes off as overly broad or absurd in other forms, like an aside in theatre. When Fred orders – "Well, I'll have de steak, well-done, wit' tomado catsup, potatoes, no salad, no veg'ables an' a pitcher of draft, t'anks!" – Liliane thinks, "Gosh! He wears an earring and a necklace, but what a boy!"
Post-dinner rumination: "Too weird: talk about ATV racing, beers with the guys, he pays the bill. Is this what straight girls live all the time? Is this what 'normal' is like?" Read a few of the compelling pieces in Anything That Loves, and you'll agree that "normal" comes in a whole range of human behavior.
Last Friday night's San Francisco Ballet performance of Giselle was the first in the season's NiteOut series, designed to appeal to LGBT audiences. At the afterparty up in Dress Circle bar, hosted by gorgeous SFB principal dancer Damian Smith, ballet-fanciers were still talking about principal dancer Vanessa Zahorian's amazing feat of endurance at the opening gala, when she fractured a bone in her foot as she stepped onstage yet danced her pas de deux as if nothing whatsoever were wrong. We learned that she even appeared at the gala afterparty – in high heels!
"Plus she's just really a genuinely nice person," one ballet insider told us.
Unlike some of the other prima ballerinas?
"Allegedly." (People have learned to be so shrewdly circumspect when speaking to the gossip-minded press!)
So Zahorian's turn in Giselle will have to wait for another season. Meanwhile, Bordeaux-born principal dancer Mathilde Froustey danced the part on Friday night, opposite dashing Tiit Helimets, and nailed it. Veteran ballet-goers were saying it was the best production of Giselle they had ever seen. Dance maven Paul Parish's review appears in this issue.
Alternative Futures, an exhibition of visionary architectural designs inspired by the new LGBT senior housing project at 55 Laguna St., is on display on the third floor of the San Francisco LGBT Community Center through March 15, with a free reception open to the public on Sat., Feb. 8, from 1-3 p.m. Using 55 Laguna, an LGBT senior housing project currently being developed in SF, as inspiration, Masters students in the California College for the Arts' (CCA) Architecture program were challenged to think about the specific history and needs of the LGBT senior community, and how that might inspire new strategies for multi-unit housing in the city.
Also, Queer Conversations on Culture and the Arts (QCCA) will present Aaron Betsky : Queer Space (revisited) on Mon., Feb. 24, 7 p.m. at Timken Hall, CCA, 1111 8th St., SF, a lecture free and open to the public. In his groundbreaking book Queer Space (1997), Betsky examined how same-sex desire is creating an entirely new architecture. Both of these events are co-presented by the Queer Cultural Center (QCC).
Advance word from one of our favorite local film fests: "The Mostly British Film Festival returns to the Vogue Theater Feb. 13-20, showcasing 25 classic and new films from the UK, Ireland, Australia and India. It opens with Le Weekend, a comedic drama starring Oscar winner Jim Broadbent as an Englishman who takes his wife to Paris to reignite their stalled marriage. The closing-night film, Summer in February, features Dan Stevens fresh from his lead role in Downton Abbey, as part of a love triangle in a bohemian artists' colony in pre-WWI Cornwall.
"Valentine's Day is devoted to romantic fare, kicking off with Love Me Till Morning, a tale of love among 20-somethings that proved a sold-out hit at the London Film Festival. Love Actually follows love affairs among Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and Liam Neeson. The 1998 hidden gem Sliding Doors stars Gwyneth Paltrow with a credible British accent as a London single caught between two romances.
"On Feb. 15, the festival will pay tribute to Michael York, a 50-year acting veteran known for his famous roles in Cabaret and Murder on the Orient Express. He will be here for an onstage conversation with Ruthe Stein and a screening of England Made Me (1973), in which he gives one of his favorite performances, as an ambitious Englishman trying to better himself in pre-WWII Europe."
The MBFF is presented by the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation and the California Film Institute. On Feb. 18-20, the Rafael Theater in San Rafael will show three films selected from the festival. Tickets for the Vogue are available at the theater box office or at www.mostlybritish.org.
Without a doubt the Meal of the Week for Out There came last Thursday at the Crab & Champagne Dinner served up at the Americano in the Hotel Vitale. Talented young Executive Chef Kory Stewart's three-course family-style menu started with avocado salad with baby kale, quinoa, scallion, housemade cumin yogurt and toasted seeds. Then came the star: local Dungeness crab with crab butter and salsa verde, a shell-cracker, a bib and plenty of cloth napkins. Dessert was pear and huckleberry pie with creme fraiche ice cream. All paired with Moet White Star sparkling wine, not too shabby a libation!
Out There grew up enjoying our gold-standard crustacean, the Chesapeake Bay blue crab. But we converted to Dungeness when we moved to the West Coast, and the meaty-clawed creature is pretty much one of our reasons for living. We weren't able to shake Chef's hand when he came to our table, because our paws were all crabby, but we doff our hat to him now: You do Dungeness proud!