Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vaccine helps prevent HIV infection

This doesn't have anything to do with art or entertainment, but this was far too amazing to not say something about. There's finally a vaccine that can help prevent HIV infection.

It may cut the risk of being infected by 31%. That doesn't sound like much, but when you consider that this is the first vaccine to be at all effective this is huge. Now that they've found something that works, they can start to isolate why it works and, hopefully, create something even more effective.

Instead of killing millions across the world, we might actually see HIV put into the same category as smallpox in our lifetimes. Let's hope.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Can It Hurt Hollywood Careers to Play Gay?

In 1993, Will Smith starred as a gay con artist in the film adaptation of Six Degrees of Separation, but when it came time for him to lock lips with Anthony Michael Hall he refused. They had to handle the same sex kiss through trick camera angles, so that the fact that the two men weren't actually kissing would be hidden. Why would he agree to take on the role of a gay man and then bizarrely refuse such a minor concession to the role?

Denzel Washington had apparently told him that kissing another man on screen would tarnish his "hetero" image and ruin his career.

It's hard to believe it could have hurt someone who is now one of the hugest movie stars ever, but at the time it was Smith's first big-screen role and the short story that would become Brokeback Mountain had yet to even be written. Maybe he was right to be cautious, but is it still a concern?

Flash-forward 12 years to 2005. Rami Malek, pictured right, has his first significant role as Kenny Al-Bahir, a flamboyantly gay, closeted teenager, on the Fox sitcom The War at Home. Like Smith, he was a minority actor portraying a gay man. Unlike Smith, he didn't already have a lengthy television and music career behind him. It was a move that could typecast someone so fresh on the scene.

And after The War at Home was canceled, he disappeared from film and television for two years. Maybe all any casting agent saw when they looked at him was flaming Kenny. Maybe he just didn't have what it took to survive in Hollywood.

But, no. In 2009 he showed up again. Aside from appearing in the sequel to Night at the Museum this year, he was also cast in 24 as an Arab American would-be suicide bomber. And in 2010 he'll be popping up again as a Marine in the WWII epic miniseries The Pacific:

The pair of roles are about as macho as one can get without just spraying the set down with testosterone. Clearly, his "hetero" image hasn't been hurt onscreen at all.

But, before we get too congratulatory about how far we've come, there's one more thing to consider. One more thing that Rami Malek has in common with Will Smith. Despite how racy The War at Home was, Kenny never got to kiss a boy onscreen.

So maybe, sadly, things haven't changed nearly as much as we think.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"On a Bruised Road" Is Pepper Espinoza's Best Yet

When I was a teenager, I picked up a novel about a girl falling in love with a ghost. It was an interesting premise, but I was disappointed quickly as it turned out the boy wasn't really a ghost. He was simply disembodied while in a coma and the story ended with an all too predictable awakening and true love was found.

On a Bruised Road is about a ghost, too. There is very little predictable about it.

Edwin Masters has been obsessed with a car for decades, a 1962 Alfa Romeo Spider 2600. It's not the type of vehicle car buffs obsess over, but Edwin isn't himself a car buff. His reasons for wanting that particular car aren't revealed right away, but from the moment he slips behind the wheel of the one he's buying his life will never be the same again.

Why? Because decades before, the very year that Edwin was born, Cooper James died in that car. And he never left it.

So it seems like it's the setup for a tragic story of love across the boundaries of life and death and, yes, there are most definitely tragic moments. It also manages to be terrifying, hilarious and downright philosophical.

As Cooper is beginning to ever so delicately worm his way into Edwin's life, another man is entering it. Carson Heston is a much younger man--26 to Edwin's 47--but the two share a connection from the beginning that Espinoza captures beautifully.

As the story continues, Edwin is torn between Carson and Cooper. It's not a typical love triangle, though. One man draws him towards his future, the other his past. One offers hope and redemption, the other obsession and the ultimate of escapes.

The book could have copped out at a number of points, but it never does. It makes for a great romance, but as a novel about one man's struggles with accepting his own past and the uncertainty of the future it is phenominal.

On a Bruised Road is available for download at Loose Id.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Invitation to the Palace: A Parable

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a man named Joshua who, using the fantastic technology of that time and place, created a planet. Many books were written about him, but he had retreated into his own beautiful palace and had not been seen in person in many years.

One day Matt and Paul, ardent followers of the books on Joshua, went out into their city in search of people to bring to the palace. The first house they stopped at was that of a young man named Tom.

"How can I help you?" asked Tom.

Matt spoke first. "We're here to teach people about the things that Joshua has done and invite them to live in his palace with him."

"Wow! That sounds too good to be true. Please, come in." Tom ushered his guests into his own humble house, then sat to listen to what they had to say.

"Many, many years ago, Joshua laid down laws that everyone had to abide by, but if you accept him as the creator of our world and humbly ask for his forgiveness, you won't be punished for breaking these laws," Paul explained.

"That's very generous of him," Tom said, quite awed. "And what's the punishment for breaking these laws?"

"Death," said Matt.

That gave Tom pause, as he considered what laws he might have broken in his life. "And what might these laws be?"

"He is the creator of our planet," Paul said.

Well, that sounds more like a statement than a law, but it was reasonable, Tom decided. He agreed with it immediately.

"You should have no other creators before him," Matt went on. "Be good to your parents. Don't kill. Don't cheat on your spouse. Don't steal. Don't lie. Don't covet another man's wife or his property."

"That all sounds great. Those are laws that I'd like to follow," Tom said. "Though I have lied, and have wanted things that belonged to other people, and I haven't always been good to my parents. But, if Joshua is such a generous man, I should ask for forgiveness for those things right now and strive to be more like him."

Paul piped up. "Oh, and also, death to all redheads."

Tom was himself a redhead and looked horrified. "Excuse me?"

"Well, that isn't actually something Joshua ever said. But people who've spoken to Joshua said that he probably wanted to kill redheads and just never got around to saying so," Matt explained.

"But...but I was born this way!" Tom sputtered. "I can't help it."

"You could dye your hair," Matt pointed out.

"That doesn't change the fact that my hair is naturally red. It just covers it up!"

"No one's hair is naturally red," Paul said. "The first people on Joshua's planet were both brunettes. That was his plan to start with. So everyone is born from normal, brown-haired people. Nobody could have been born with redhair."

Tom scratched his head, confused by this logic. "That isn't how genetics works. There are recessive genes and all sorts of factors wrapped up in who we are. Besides, if I dyed my hair and got married, I'd be a redhead having children."

"No, you'd have brown-hair," Paul insisted.

"But it would be red under the dye!"

"But hair can't naturally be red."

Tom stared at Paul for a long, long moment, wondering if perhaps he was insane. "Alright. Well. Going to a palace is better than being killed, so I suppose I could dye my hair brown. What happens at the palace?"

"Joshua is able to make anyone in his palace live forever, and you'll stay there for eternity in perfect peace," Matt said, his eyes shining.

"Immortality! That's amazing. But what about the good people who don't break the law, but never heard about this invitation?" Tom asked.

"They'll be killed," said Paul.

"What?" demanded Tom. "Why? They didn't break any laws!"

"The only way to not be killed is to do as Joshua says. He says you have to ask him for forgiveness," Matt said.

"But that's horrible! I thought this Joshua was a generous person."

Paul nodded eagerly. "He is, he is! It used to be that everyone was killed. Now he's giving out this invitation. Isn't that wonderful?"

"But...isn't he the one who condemned people to death?" Tom asked.

"Of course," said Matt.

"He has mercifully offered us this escape, though," added Paul.

Tom thought for a long moment, trying to make sense of this. "But...why not just stop killing people, if he wanted to be merciful?"

"He couldn't do that. He had to punish the people who broke his laws," Matt said.

"And redheads," added Paul.

"But you said that if you ask for his forgiveness you're not being punished, no matter what laws you broke," cried Tom.

"I know. Isn't he wonderful?" asked Matt rhetorically.

"And you said that even if you didn't break any of those laws, Joshua would still kill you."

"That's right," agreed Paul.

"Why is he doing all of this?" demanded Tom, quite upset now.

Matt answered. "Because he loves this planet and all of the people on it so much, he wants to invite them all into his palace. Even the worst murderer will be brought in, if he asks for forgiveness. Otherwise everyone deserves to die."

"Killing people isn't a sign of love," Tom said flatly.

"He asks such a small thing of you, Tom. All he wants is that you stop breaking the law and ask for his forgiveness. Even if you break the law again, you can just ask for his forgiveness again. It's a lifelong get out of jail free card. Isn't that wonderful?" Matt asked.

"And he wants you to dye your hair," added Paul.

"If he is truly such a great man and loves us, I can't believe the hate and violence you people are preaching," Tom told them, getting up to usher them out of his house.

Once the door had been shut behind them, Matt shook his head, sighing sadly. "I hate to see someone rejecting Joshua's love like that."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Oh, AFP, how I love you

That would be Amanda Fucking Palmer, of course:

If I were Warner, I'd be worried about having pissed her off by pulling all of her official videos. That woman sits around thinking of bizarre and elaborate scenarios of vengeance for fun.

So Warner, flailing like crack-addled monkeys, has decided to pull all of the videos of all of their artists, as they're seeking more money from Google. The artists aren't going to get any revenue from this, so it's not as though they have any incentive for backing the label. It's just further stumblings of a dying breed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prop 8, the Musical

I'm currently dying of the flu and not quite coherent enough to finish my review of The Killers' Day and Age. Until then, I give you this gem I just found on Darren Hayes' blog:

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

As if I needed any more reasons to love Neil Patrick Harris.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Never Challenge Me on NyQuil

Someone recently said that women cannot crossdress, because it's socially acceptable for women to wear male clothing and so they can't "present" as male.

I beg to differ:

Image hosted @

(There's only one genetic male in the set. Following the source links will tell you who's who.)
Picture sources: 1. el_pachuco, 2. photoenvy, 3. emilymills, 4. cgphotoart, 5. bobonemillion, 6. ginthefer, 7. dawnone, 8. dawnone, 9. gaelx, 10. joshuarothhaas, 11. mavra_chang, 12. ginthefer