Monday, November 21, 2022

Guns and Hate

As many Americans head home for Thanksgiving, there are some who will not be heading home.

That’s because on Saturday, there was yet another mass shooting at a gay bar in Colorado, where five people were killed and many more were injured.

There have been over 600 mass shootings so far this year. That’s more than one every day.

I know we’ve become numb to the frequency of mass shootings in America, but we can’t allow that to happen.

I can’t allow that to happen. I’m too angry.

In the past few years, in addition to seeing people targeted and killed because they were LGBTQ (and, particularly, because they were trans), we’ve seen people targeted and killed because they were Black, Jewish, Asian, and Mexican. We cannot allow this hatred to continue.

But the thing that allows someone who is homophobic or racist or antisemitic to kill people, and the thing that often gets left out of the conversation, is guns.

And I’m tired of the excuses.

Don’t tell me it’s a “mental health” issue. Other countries have people who are mentally ill, but they don’t have anywhere near the level of gun violence America has. Not even close.

Nevertheless, now that Republicans are poised to take over the House, we also know that nothing will change.

And don’t tell me not to politicize a mass shooting. It is political.

That’s why we have laws. The number one responsibility of our elected officials is to protect the health and safety of Americans. And they are failing to do that.

That’s why I want President Biden to sign an executive order to ban assault weapons. And while he’s at it, he should also ban high-capacity magazines and body armor.

No one needs any of these things for “self-protection” or “hunting,” so I’m calling bullshit on Republicans and the gun lobby. I don’t even want to hear it. And I can’t wait another two years for things to change.

And let’s talk about the other thing that often goes unmentioned: hate.

While antisemitism and racism have become unacceptable (at least ostensibly), it seems that it’s still OK to target LGBT people (and, as I said, particularly trans people).

We just had a campaign season where LGBT people (and trans people in particular) were the centerpiece of many Republican campaigns.

And what message is Ron DeSantis sending with his “Don’t Say Gay” bill? He saying that LGBT people are second-class citizens and don’t deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans.

The fact that LGBT people are being targeted for hate crimes is precisely why we need to educate children about LGBT people, if only to say, “Not everyone is a cis-gendered heterosexual, but they deserve to be treated with respect, just like everyone else.”

As for guns, we know that gun control works.

It’s no coincidence that the number of mass shootings went up after we let the assault weapons ban expire.

Other countries have figured this out. Why can’t we?

After just one mass shooting in New Zealand, they banned assault weapons in three days.

Why can’t we? How many more people have to die?

And I’d like to ask our politicians, (particularly our Republican politicians), “How can you live with yourself? How you can allow this to continue?”

And you know that it will, unless we do something about it.

How long will it be until the next mass shooting?

It’s time to stop treating gun violence as yet another “culture war” issue and instead treat it as a public health issue.

I can’t wait any longer. Enough already!

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Will Ignorance Win Again?

I just got back from my corner newsstand, where I overheard three women discussing the price of a soda, which one of them mistakenly thought was $8. She said, “Inflation,” and then “Joe Biden,” as if a) Joe Biden was responsible for inflation and b) that was the hysterical punchline to a joke. It took all my self-control not to scream at that woman, “You fucking idiot! Do you even know what causes inflation?!” But I didn’t. They were probably tourists and they didn’t strike me as intellectuals. (The rest of their conversation was about a bag of gummy bears.)

I’d be surprised if they even bothered to vote.

This morning, a friend of mine, a former New Yorker who now lives in Virginia, texted me, “I take it that Eric Adams is not well liked in NYC?” to which I responded, “Huh?” This was news to me and I live in New York City. When I spoke to my friend later on the phone, I said, “Where did you hear that?” And he said, “The media.”

Everywhere I look, I’m hearing “crime, crime, crime,” and my reaction is, “What crime?” I haven’t been the victim of a crime, nor do I know anyone who has.

Today’s New York Times, in fact, has two articles which seem to contradict the running narrative about inflation and crime.

The first article’s headline is “Job Data Stays Strong, Despite Inflation Curbs” (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/04/business/economy/october-jobs-report.html) and the other’s headline is “High-Profile Subway Crimes Overshadow Riders’ Low Risk” (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/04/nyregion/new-york-subway-safety.html).

Why are so many people taking the Republican narrative about inflation and crime at face value and why aren’t the Democrats fighting back?

I suppose part of the reason is that everyone’s living in an information bubble these days, so if you watch Fox News or read the New York Post, all you’re seeing is stories about inflation and crime. Missing from those stories are several important facts.

First of all, inflation is a worldwide problem that’s primarily caused by three things: 1) the lingering effects of the pandemic and the resulting snag in supply chains 2) the war in Ukraine, which has tightened the supply of oil (from Russia) and grain (from Ukraine) and 3) price-gouging from companies (primarily oil companies), who are experiencing record profits.

As for crime, a large factor is the widespread availability of guns in this country. (There are more guns in America than people.)

And perhaps the most important fact is that Republicans don’t have a plan for either of these things beyond cutting taxes for the rich and making guns even more available.

I know the polls are predicting that Republicans will win the House (and possibly the Senate), but democracy itself is on the ballot this year. Why are so many Americans willing to give up democracy just to save on their gas or grocery bill (two things over which neither party has much control)?

Bill Maher had a devastating “New Rules” segment on Real Time with Bill Maher last night about what will happen if Republicans win (and democracy dies). Here’s a link: https://youtu.be/HKVBvooZ2c8

I would urge every American to watch it—and then vote Democrat.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Dear Democrats: Grow Some Balls

Election Day is in a little over two weeks and, according to most polls, Republicans are likely to take over the House and, possibly, the Senate.

This, in spite of the fact that we just spent the summer and fall watching the January 6 Committee painstakingly lay out their case that Donald Trump led a multipronged effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and not only orchestrated the attack on the Capitol, but did nothing to stop it.

As I write this, Trump has just been subpoenaed by the January 6 Committee (a subpoena which, if the past is any indication, he will probably ignore), and is the subject of several investigations. In addition to the January 6 Committee investigation, he’s the subject of several investigations by the Justice Department, including the Mar a Lago documents case, where he just lied to a federal court judge; Fani Willis’s investigation in Atlanta, where he interfered with Georgia’s election results (“I just want to find 11,780 votes”) and Letitia James’s investigation in New York, where he simultaneously inflated his net worth to banks and underreported it to the IRS.

In Texas, Greg Abbott is leading Beto O’Rourke in the governor’s race, in spite of yet another classroom of children being massacred in Uvalde and the Uvalde Police Department (and several other law enforcement agencies) doing nothing to stop it, and Texas’s electrical grid failing last winter.

In Georgia, the spectacularly unqualified former football player Herschel Walker is in a close race for Senate. He’s allegedly pro-life, in spite of the fact that he paid for his girlfriend’s abortion (and she has the receipts to prove it).

In Pennsylvania, TV “doctor” and snake oil salesman Mehmet Oz is running for Senate, in spite of the fact that, until recently, he didn’t even live in Pennsylvania.

And all of this is happening because the price of gas is too high.

Let me address the subject of inflation, since that seems to be the only thing that anyone cares about. The inflation we’re currently experiencing is primarily caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine and the lingering effects the COVID pandemic, both of which have had a devasting effect on the supply chain. We can also thank Russia (and OPEC) for recently raising the price of oil.

Moreover, it’s a worldwide phenomenon that President Biden has very little control over.

Inflation is a temporary situation. If we lose our democracy, that will be permanent.

I often wish Biden were a more forceful speaker. I know he had a stutter when he was a child (and he’s mostly overcome it), but nowadays, the ability to convey a “presidential” image on TV (whatever that means) means more than the ability to pass legislation or having any coherent policy positions.

Biden needs to be a motherfucker on the level of Trump. I don’t mean someone who’s willing to break the law. I mean someone who’s willing to call Republicans on their bullshit.

But speaking of legislation, Biden passed the only meaningful climate change legislation ever. He passed the only meaningful gun control law in decades. The Inflation Reduction Act will reduce the price of prescription drugs (among other things). Why aren’t Democrats shouting this from the rooftops? And, if they are, why isn’t it getting through.

Because Republicans (and, to a lesser degree, Democrats) are living in an information bubble. If you watch Fox News, you don’t even know the January 6 hearings happened. You still think Trump won the 2020 presidential election (even though numerous recounts—including by Republicans—and court cases have proven otherwise).

And if you think I’m being alarmist about losing our democracy, look at what’s happening (and has already happened).

Trump tried to overturn a free and fair election. That has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt and, if that weren’t enough to sway our opinion, we all watched the January 6 insurrection happening on live TV.

Republicans have passed numerous laws restricting people’s right to vote and are now threatening to engage in voter intimidation.

And, if they take over Congress, they’ll dismantle the January 6 Committee and try to investigate Biden. (For what, I don’t know, but that’s beside the point.)

If Republicans take over Congress (and State Houses and governorships), the price of gas will be the least of our problems.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Bros Blows Me Away

Part of me didn’t want to like Bros.

I was never a fan of Billy Eichner’s man-on-the-street interview show, Billy on the Street. But, then again, I never watched enough of it to know whether or not he was being serious about his infatuation with celebrities or whether he was sending it up.

I now have to admit that I vastly underestimated his talent.

Bros nails so many aspects of gay life and culture, it’s almost like an anthropological study. From the inantity of Grindr conversations, to gay stereotypes about masculinity (from which the movie get its title) to the ubiquity of gay men who aren’t “emotionally available,” this movie has it all.

It’s also the funniest movie I’ve seen since Trainwreck (which was also produced by Judd Apatow).

Eichner simultaneously mocks heterosexual romantic comedies and gives us the gay rom-com we’ve always wanted to see. (OK, some of us wanted to see.)

OK, so it strains credulity a bit to see Eichner hooking up with the impossibly gorgeous Luke Macfarlane (who, for you straight people, is like the gay John Cena). But it’s no less unbelievable than Amy Schumer hooking up with the actual John Cena in Trainwreck. After all, isn’t that what rom-coms are all about?

He even gives us the running reunion/finale that’s a feature of every heterosexual rom-com from When Harry Met Sally to Manhattan.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, Eichner can also sing (and has a great voice). I hate him!

In other words: go see Bros!

And, yes, I fully expect to be offered an acting and/or writing job after this review.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

How to Have a Fire Island Vacation in Two Days

As a temp who doesn’t get paid time off, I have to plan very carefully when I take a vacation. Fortunately, since I’ve been going to Fire Island for over 20 years, I’ve figured out how to have a complete Fire Island vacation in two days.

Now I should mention that there are two distinct Fire Island experiences. If you’re going to Fire Island to party, you should go there on the weekend. It will also be more crowded and expensive on the weekend.

If you’re going to Fire Island to relax, you should go there during the week. Rates will be cheaper and it will be less crowded.

This post is for non-A list gays like me who are going to Fire Island to relax. You won’t find anything in this post about the Pines, the Pavilion (the Pines dance club) or Tea Dance. In fact, the last few times I’ve gone to Fire Island, I didn’t even set foot in the Pines. I guess that makes me a Grove person. So be it.

One of the good things about squeezing your Fire Island vacation into two days is that you’ll be able to splurge. And you will splurge. Fire Island is very expensive. That’s because everything has to be shipped in from the “mainland” (i.e., Long Island).

Day 1

My first stop when I get off the ferry and after I’ve dropped my bags at the Belvedere (a “guest house for men” and my preferred place to stay in Cherry Grove) is Sand Castle for their lobster roll. Don’t bother with the French fries. That’s not why you’re paying $35 and, besides, you’re not allowed to eat carbs on Fire Island.

After lunch you’ll have time for a swim (if you can call three strokes in the Belvedere pool a “swim”) and a walk on the beach. That’s the one thing the Grove Hotel has over the Belvedere: they have a better pool. But the Belvedere is an architectural masterpiece and the Grove Hotel has all the charm of a Motel 6.

But I digress.

I don’t like to just lie (or sit) on the beach. That’s boring. Walking is good exercise and you’ll see a lot of hot guys (if you’re walking in the Pines), but I should point out that they’ll probably ignore you unless you’re also hot. In which case, you’d probably be staying in the Pines anyway. I also don’t like going in the water because I’m terrified of waves. If God wanted people to swim in the ocean, he wouldn’t have invented swimming pools.

After your walk on the beach, it’s time for dinner. I suggest Island Breeze. Actually, I’d suggest Top of the Bay, but every time I’ve gone there in the last few years they’ve been “full.” (Maybe because I was by myself?)

At Island Breeze I had an excellent sesame-crusted tuna. But if you’re going to have dessert, stay away from the churros, unless you like your carbs fried and with sugar.

If you time your dinner properly (sunset is deal), you’ll segue right into Hedda Lettuce’s show at Cherry’s (if it’s a Monday). Lettuce can write jokes and sing, which makes her a rarity among drag queens. (I kid the drag queens!) But I’d suggest standing in the back unless you have a strong ego.

Monday is also Broadway Sessions at the Ice Palace, where they have Broadway singers perform. I unfortunately missed it this time because I assumed they were just going to have another drag queen. (Oh, snap! Did I say that?)

Day 2

Breakfast at Floyd’s is a must. I recommend the Farmer’s Eggs, a combination of eggs, sausage (or bacon), potatoes and toast. You might want to break the carb rule for this one.

After breakfast, you have time for another swim, or you can just relax until lunch.

I hate to suggest Sand Castle again, but they are on the ocean. And since you can’t order lobster roll twice (well, you can, but I’m trying to give you options), you can try to Cobb salad. Just bear in mind that even when you try to order something healthy on Fire Island, they somehow find a way to make it unhealthy (usually by adding French fries or bacon).

After lunch you have time for another walk on the beach and then, voila! You’ve done it. You’ve fit your entire Fire Island vacation into two days and you still have time to catch the 6pm ferry.

If you follow my schedule carefully, you might even be able to squeeze in some sex.

A room fit for a queen (i.e., me)

F.k.a. The Bay Leaf, f.k.a. The Monster under construction

New, very Pines-looking house on Bayview Walk

Sunset

Sesame-crusted tuna

Hedda Lettuce

Belvedere at night

Wanda Sykes sighting!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Howard Jones, Midge Ure, Getting Older, WLIR and the Concert Industry

I went to see Howard Jones and Midge Ure at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts last night and a good time was had by all. I’d previously seen Howard Jones’s “acoustic trio” perform at Sony Hall in New York City back in February, so I already knew that he puts on a good show. He also strikes me as a genuinely nice person. (In fact, all the people I’ve seen in concert strike me as nice people. Maybe that’s part of their success?)

Anyway, I was looking forward to this “full concert” experience (as opposed to the “acoustic trio,” which nevertheless was able to produce a great sound) and Jones did not disappoint. Mostly.

He did perform a remixed version of “The One Who Loves You,” which was a bit of a disappointment for me, as I’d been looking forward to hearing it since February. (He didn’t perform it in his acoustic show.) I know artists need to keep things interesting for themselves as well as their audience, but I’ve listened to the original version a million times and was quite satisfied with it. (You may have noticed that I’m a bit of a control freak.) Fortunately, the hits were all there and the audience sang along.

The real surprise for me this time was Midge Ure, whom I never thought I’d see in concert ever, as I was convinced he was a studio creation, as was the stereotype about many ‘80s bands. (See my review of the Tears for Fears concert at Jones Beach.) Imagine my surprise when I saw that he could actually play guitar! And despite looking quite a bit older than his Ultravox days (I know, I shouldn’t talk), his voice was still perfect! In addition to playing several of his Ultravox hits, he really blew me away when he played Visage’s “Fade to Grey,” which he co-wrote.

It’s interesting that Jones decided to play Long Island and not New York City on this tour and I’m wondering why. I’m sure part of it has to do with the fact that WLIR, the former Long Island radio station (it’s now available online) was responsible (along with KROQ in Los Angeles) for breaking many New Wave bands in America in the ’80s. But I’m wondering if part of it doesn’t have to do with the concert business itself.

The reason I mention this is because, after I saw The Psychedelic Furs at Pier 17 on Friday (see my review), I checked Ticketmaster's website to see how much tickets would be for Blondie and Elvis Costello, who are also playing there. What I found was what was being referred to as “verified resale” tickets, which basically amounts to legalized scalping. While these tickets normally sell for $49.50, the cheapest ticket for Blondie was $114 and the cheapest ticket for Elvis Costello was $225. I would have happily paid $49.50 to see them, but since I’ve already seen both of them, there’s no way I was going to pay those outrageous prices.

A large chunk of the concert industry is controlled by one company, Live Nation Entertainment, which consists of Live Nation, which promotes concerts, and Ticketmaster, which sells tickets. That’s what’s known as a vertically integrated monopoly, and it’s supposed to be illegal. (The only thing they don’t own in this arrangement is the concert venues themselves.)

So while it may seem like I’ve been seeing a lot of concerts lately (and I have), it doesn’t look like I’ll be seeing many more—unless the tickets are more reasonably priced.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

The Psychedelic Furs and X

I went to see The Psychedelic Furs again at Pier 17 last night (with X opening) and, I’m happy to report, they were MUCH BETTER than their show at the Apollo two weeks ago! They cleared up the sound problem on “The Ghost in You” and the missing xylophone on “Love My Way” didn’t bother me as much. (They duplicated the xylophone part on keyboards, and the keyboard and drum parts were spot on this time.)

Opening for the Furs was X. They played a combination of—what would you call their music? Rockabilly? Surf rock? Tex-Mex? Anyway, they rocked, and their guitarist, Billy Zoom, was a virtuoso on the order of Chris Spedding (whom I saw play with Robert Gordon at Coney Island Baby a few years ago).

Also, the venue, the roof of Pier 17 (which I’ve never been to before) is a great place to see a concert, with views of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan and—especially good for these Covid pandemic times—outdoors.