Friday, November 26, 2010

Now Showing: "A Boy Named Charlie Brown"

Although I have been scoffed at for saying it in the past, the deeper my research into the Peanuts canon delves the more true it seems... Anyone wishing to know what kind of man Charlie Brown might have grown into need look no further than me for the answer.

The film from which this clip is derived - A Boy Named Charlie Brown - was released December 4th, 1969, six days after I was born; I'm sure I never saw it as a child, so it's message - a particularly harsh although eventually redemptive one for the boy in the title - couldn't have influenced my own view of myself, let alone reinforced the theory I iterated in the previous paragraph.

Yet I cannot watch this without seeing my life in it: the trying, the failing, the persisting... There are even glimpses in my life today of the potential success experienced by the Peanuts gang accruing to me as well. Fortunately I am not as physically alike Charlie Brown as I am spiritually, so I will be able to keep my fingers crossed!
share on: facebook

In Memoriam: Charles M. Schulz


Charles M. Schulz was more than a cartoonist, he was a humanitarian; turning his own childhood hurts into humour, he helped the generations of kids who grew up reading his Peanuts strips to know that they were not alone in their angst, utilizing the unique power of the mass media to do it.

Yet what he leaves out of is work is just as telling as what he includes; the adult presence in the strips is both minimal and incomprehensible*, and the time the gang spends in school is occasional at best and fraught with emotional peril besides. The message imparted by this is that the important lessons learned by kids are in their extra-curricular interactions with each other, be they at the baseball diamond or just in hanging out together. Whether or not I agree with this is neither here nor there, as clearly it was a reflection of the cartoonist's own experience.

Charles Schulz - Sparky, to his friends - was born on this day in 1922, and in the course of his career hand-drew every frame through fifty years' worth of strips by himself, finishing the last just prior to his death in February 2000. Owing to his considerable business savvy, he made the characters he created into television and movie stars, toys and t-shirts and everything else, as well as commercial shills - creating in them a venerable brand which has easily outlived him; thanks to them (and the revenue they still generate) he was able to turn his home in Santa Rosa, California, into the Charles Schulz Museum, which is now a place of pilgrimage for Peanuts fans the world over.

The entire run of Peanuts is being republished, two years at a time with a new book published every six months for twelve-and-a-half years, by Fantagraphics; the fourteen volumes published so far, covering the years 1950-1978 have earned pride of place in the collection of the Pop Culture Institute, and look forward to being joined by their brethren in the fullness of time.

*WAA-waa waa waa, waa-WAA waa-waa waa!

share on: facebook

Remembering... Joey Stefano

Inasmuch as I love porn, I am also the first to accept that its corrosive aspect - plus the veritable bombardment of negative messages it contains* - are as apt to poison its participants, be they creator or consumer, as not. That said, I still love it, and credit porn with preventing any number of disasters, as it has been the only sexual outlet available to me for vast periods of my teenage and adult life.

PhotobucketOne of the models whose body of work best expresses this dichotomy is Joey Stefano; not only is he the quintessential fantasy figure**, off camera his life wasn't at all improved by affiliating with an industry notoriously callous towards those it makes large profits to exploit.

Born on the first day of 1968 in Chester, Pennsylvania, Joey Stefano drifted to New York at the age of fifteen following the death of his father. Supporting himself by prostitution and its related endeavours (namely stripping, which he did at Manhattan's notorious gay burlesque house, the Show Theater) it was there he met gay porn icon Tony Davis, who convinced him to de-camp to Los Angeles and hook up with a then-emerging porn auteur named Chi Chi LaRue; together they would make such gay porn classics as More of a Man and My Cousin Danny.

For awhile Stefano was living the high life... If only his meteoric rise to porn idol hadn't been compounded with an existing drug problem and a self-destructive streak he might have survived it. As it is, the pinnacle of his career came in 1992 when Madonna*** cast him in her 'bend me over the' coffee table book Sex.

Joey Stefano died on this day in 1994; although he was HIV-positive at the time, his body contained elevated amounts of four different drugs, any one of which could have killed him. His story is elegantly told in Charles Isherwood's book Wonder Bread and Ecstasy: The Life and Death of Joey Stefano. Or, to hear about his life in his own words, click here...

*To be fair, though, depending on your perspective those negative messages may merely be read into the medium, rather than inherent in it.
The unprecedented intimacy which porn promises - and the access it offers to super hot guys, the kind who wouldn't give me time of day in real life - is largely to blame for why I love it so much in the first place.

***Herself no stranger to the gay male psyche.

share on: facebook

"Proud Mary" by Ike and Tina Turner

Birthday wishes go out to Tina Turner, shown here performing Proud Mary early in her career alongside her then-husband Ike Turner with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.

Tina Turner's career, of course, took off in 1984 with the release of her album Private Dancer, but as the video shows would have been legendary without it, based on the power of performances like this.

share on: facebook

"Ain't I A Woman?" by Sojourner Truth

In 1851 a freed slave named Sojourner Truth addressed the Ohio Women's Rights Convention... At the time many of those involved in the cause of female suffrage were unwilling or unable to see that the disenfranchised and oppressed stood a far greater chance at liberty by standing together than apart. Entitled Ain't I a Woman?, the truth spoken by Sojourner Truth on that day - and recorded for posterity by Frances Gage - speaks to us still...

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.
share on: facebook

Sojourner Truth: As Strong As Any Man That Is Now

Whenever I find myself dealing with job dissatisfaction*, I find it helps to consider the plight of slaves... So while its true that slavery to my lifestyle** keeps me coming back for more like the masochist I am, at least I'm able to take my job and shove it without my job shoving back.

PhotobucketBorn a slave in Upstate New York in 1797 with the name Isabella Baumfree, the life of the woman who came to be known as Sojourner Truth ran the usual gamut that attends the life of a slave; when she was bought and sold, repeatedly raped and beaten, denied the man she loved, and had her children taken from her and sold, it was all just another day at work for her.

New York State began the process of emancipation in 1799, a process that would not be complete until 1827; promised her freedom in 1826 by her Master, John Dumont, he reneged on the deal, at which time she escaped. She was taken in by a Quaker couple, Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen, who bought her services and allowed her to live with them until such time as she could go free. While living with them she underwent a religious conversion which would shape the rest of her life.

In 1851 Sojourner Truth made her famous oration at a convention of the Ohio Women's Rights Convention; entitled Ain't I a Woman?, it excoriated the phony chivalry of southern men, whose concern for women was entirely for pretty, young white women. She is also credited with writing the song, The Valiant Soldiers, popular during the Civil War.

Sojourner Truth died on this day in 1883, surrounded by some of the family she was able to reclaim, her words and the works she'd seen to in the last half of her life having assured that the plight of all those in search of equal rights stood a better chance at improvement when those seeking them stood together, rather than apart...

*Just about every waking minute of every day I'm not writing.
**A tiny apartment, a lousy diet, and more books that Carrie Bradshaw has shoes...

share on: facebook

Madame: Our Woman Of The Year

Wayland Flowers - responsible for the flamboyant puppet creation Madame - was born on this day in 1939; between the mid-1960s and his death in October 1988 she was the holy terror of the nightclub circuit, dispensing wit and witticism with a decidedly acerbic sting. This clip comes from the relatively anodyne sitcom Madame's Place, in which Madame is being honoured with a roast. Given that among the roasters is Judy Landers, don't expect anything with the zing of Dean Martin's Man of the Hour.

Recently, comedian Rick Skye has begun performing Madame again, at Resorts Atlantic City - a development heartily endorsed by the Pop Culture Institute; given the popularity of this post since it first appeared in 2008 it's clearly also favoured by our readership as well!

But will a scandal over who actually owns Madame derail her comeback?  Only time - and the courts - will tell...

share on: facebook