Sunday, December 28, 2008
Don't get me wrong – I'm disappointed & unhappy about Obama's choice of Rick Warren. I was just questioning whether boycotting is, in this case, the answer.
Also, I wasn't clear – it wasn't Obama who met with Melissa Etheridge, but Rick Warren. She was performing for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and found out shortly before the event that Pastor Warren was going to be the keynote speaker. About this, she said:
We watched as our nation took a step in the right direction, against all odds and elected Barack Obama as our next leader. Then we were jerked back into the last century as we watched our rights taken away by prop 8 in California. Still sore and angry we felt another slap in the face as the man we helped get elected seemingly invited a gay-hater to address the world at his inauguration.
I hadn't heard of Pastor Rick Warren before all of this. When I heard the news, in its neat little sound bite form that we are so accustomed to, it painted the picture for me. This Pastor Rick must surely be one hate spouting, money grabbing, bad hair televangelist like all the others. He probably has his own gay little secret bathroom stall somewhere, you know. One more hater working up his congregation to hate the gays, comparing us to pedophiles and those who commit incest, blah blah blah. Same 'ole thing. Would I be boycotting the inauguration? Would we be marching again?
Well, I have to tell you my friends, the universe has a sense of humor and indeed works in mysterious ways. As I was winding down the promotion for my Christmas album I had one more stop last night. I'd agreed to play a song I'd written with my friend Salman Ahmed, a Sufi Muslim from Pakistan. The song is called "Ring The Bells," and it's a call for peace and unity in our world. We were going to perform our song for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a group of Muslim Americans that tries to raise awareness in this country, and the world, about the majority of good, loving, Muslims. I was honored, considering some in the Muslim religion consider singing to be against God, while other Muslim countries have harsh penalties, even death for homosexuals. I felt it was a very brave gesture for them to make. I received a call the day before to inform me of the keynote speaker that night... Pastor Rick Warren. I was stunned. My fight or flight instinct took over, should I cancel? Then a calm voice inside me said, "Are you really about peace or not?"
I told my manager to reach out to Pastor Warren and say "In the spirit of unity I would like to talk to him." They gave him my phone number. On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.
When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future.
The conclusion of this piece, which appears on the Huffington Post, was in my previous post.
My point was, I think Etheridge made a good choice & a good point here – sometimes extending an invitation to communicate is more effective than boycotting in protest. [That said, I suspect that Rick Warren was pandering, at least a little, when approached by a reasonable & (let's be frank) very famous gay woman.]
Re: Pastor Warren telling a Jewish woman who asked him, point blank, if he believed that she, as a non-Christian would go to hell – of course he said yes. He's not alone there – he just said it out loud. Many Christians believe that believing in Christ is the golden ticket into "heaven" & that non-believers are doomed to hell. Even among Christians there are denominations who believe their sect is superior & that other sects are going to hell. I'm pretty sure there are Catholics in my extended family who wring their hands over my un-baptized children, & who believe that they & I & Chris will all end up in hell unless we accept Jesus Christ as our true lord & Savior (& splash our kids with holy water). Most Christians are just too polite to say this out loud. It makes the day-to-day awkward. "Hey, Jenn, I like your sweater! & by the way you & your pagan family are damned to eternal hellfire."
All that said, I'm still far from taking back my vote – I truly believe we're far better off than we would have been with a McCain-Palin administration.
But let me say that I too was excited when Obama won. In fact when Obama won Iowa and shook the "inevitable candidacy" out of Hillary Clinton and her smug, patronizing husband, I thought, "WOW, MAYBE OBAMA HAS A REAL CHANCE!"
When he won against McCain it almost seemed impossible. I remember waking up with friends in New York to watch TV to MAKE SURE something hadn't happened during the night to take it away from us. It felt that personal, it felt that delicate, the idea that someone might "take it away from us" again.
To be honest I'm still a little SHOCKED by Obama's CHOICE of Rick Warren though. It's a wicked thing to do to the queer and Jewish voters who HELPED GET HIM all the way to the White House.
I'm glad that Obama met with Melissa Etheridge. That was a thoughtful gesture. He now needs to meet with some rabbis after the latest You Tube of Warren saying Jews will all burn in Hell. I guess they're burning in Hell with us queers? Well I have some great Jewish friends, we'll make the best of it I'm sure!
Anyway, while I don't HATE Obama, I'm extremely disappointed, and also deflated by this CHOICE he made for the spiritual tone to be set with that creep Warren.
Oh, and maybe I'll see you at the inauguration, I'll be the one with the sign, "YOU'RE LUCKY I CAN'T TAKE MY VOTE BACK OBAMA!"
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I've been thinking a lot this week about poet Elizabeth Alexander, Pastor Rick Warren, president-elect Obama, & this blog. I've written & re-written responses, but haven't been satisfied enough with any of them to post them here.
I respectfully disagree with the request for Elizabeth Alexander to refuse the invitation to read at the inauguration.
I do urge her to use her increased visibility to speak out against Proposition 8.
I've been thinking, too, about PA Senator Casey (my vote for whom I have debated & argued, including on this blog), and his speech at this year's Democratic National Convention, particularly the following passage:
"So now let us work together, with a leader who, as Lincoln said, appeals to the better angels of our nature. Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion. But the fact that I’m speaking here tonight is testament to Barack’s ability to show respect for the views of people who may disagree with him. I know Barack Obama. And I believe that as president, he’ll pursue the common good by seeking common ground, rather than trying to divide us. We are strongest when we are together. And there has never been a more important time to devote ourselves to common purpose."
President-elect Obama promised during his campaign to bring together opposing opinions and voices. He seems to take more seriously than any other president in my memory the notion that as the president of the United States, he represents not just those who agree with him, not just those who supported him, but the many who do not & did not. Rather than ignoring those dissenting voices, he seems to be genuine in his desire to listen and discuss and try to find common ground.
I respectfully disagree with Conrad's opinion that: "while [president-elect Obama] talks about building and maintaining bridges with opposing forces, that should not in my opinion spill over into the celebration of his inauguration."
I believe, rather, that a promise to build and maintain bridges with opposing forces is doomed to fail when one qualifies that pledge with the caveat, "Except for this historic occasion, with the whole world watching – I'm only going to invite those who agree with me to that. We'll work on the bridge-thing later. After the party."
Ultimately, after writing and rewriting my response, I read Melissa Etheridge's op-ed on the Huffington Post (written after her recent conversation and meeting with Pastor Warren, when she performed at for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, at which he was the keynote speaker), and found that she kind of did it for me:
"Brothers and sisters the choice is ours now. We have the world's attention. We have the capability to create change, awesome change in this world, but before we change minds we must change hearts. Sure, there are plenty of hateful people who will always hold on to their bigotry like a child to a blanket. But there are also good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen. They don't hate us, they fear change. Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on [Pastor Warren's] church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world.
Maybe if they get to know us, they won't fear us.
I know, call me a dreamer, but I feel a new era is upon us.
I will be attending the inauguration with my family, and with hope in my heart. I know we are headed in the direction of marriage equality and equal protection for all families.
Happy Holidays my friends and a Happy New Year to you.
Peace on earth, goodwill toward all men and women... and everyone in-between."
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Joe Massey's "Poem Including History" has been made available online without a subscription. Check it our right here.
- Frank Sherlock
- Frank Sherlock
Friday, December 19, 2008
Rick Warren's money, time and effort towards Proposition 8 in California is a very clear message. Any man who would put THAT MUCH time, money and effort into a campaign is sending a message which is nothing but clear.
This is not an easy thing to ask you to do Elizabeth. As a poet I know full well how long and hard we work with little or no recognition and respect. Being asked to read at Mr. Obama's presidential inauguration is without a doubt one of the highlights of your life as a poet, I'm sure. The papers say you say you're "completely thrilled." I believe that. I understand that, but, I'm asking you as a poet, and a queer man to consider the implications of reading in January.
When George W. Bush was reelected I was one of millions in DC to protest the inauguration, but that was different, that was very different because he was transparent. The transparent man is always easiest to protest. Mr. Obama is not transparent, and while he talks about building and maintaining bridges with opposing forces, that should not in my opinion spill over into the celebration of his inauguration.
Asking Rick Warren's blessing is Obama's message. Rick Warren has been publicly open about his homophobia, but Mr. Obama has not been, not until now that is. In asking Rick Warren to bless the inauguration the LGBT community is being told straight up we will not count, we will be ignored, we will continue to suffer.
Protesting Mr. Obama's inauguration is much more important than protesting George W. Bush's inauguration ever was because Mr. Obama promised us he was a man with ethics and courage. By asking Rick Warren to give the blessing the weakness of Obama is immediately clear. Courage is something someone has when they are standing against oppressive forces, not when they stand with them.
It wasn't my intention of turning this letter to you into a lecture, but while I'm at it, let me say that I PROTEST this choice Mr. Obama made to invite Rick Warren on behalf of the many LGBT people I have known, most especially the African American LGBT friends I have made over the years. I have learned from these friends just how entrenched homophobia is within the African American community, and this decision of Mr. Obama's serves to galvanize that bigotry.
If we are going to send Mr. Obama a message, better to do it on his first day. Send it now, tell him No Thank You, please do that Elizabeth Alexander. Mr. Obama isn't George W. Bush, meaning HE WILL LISTEN, but, if we don't tell him how we feel then how will he know? You have the power in your hands to tell him how you feel. You have the opportunity and power more than any other poet in America right now Elizabeth Alexander. And if you read then you are telling him that it is more important to you to read for him than it is to tell him you are disappointed with his decision to invite Rick Warren.
But then again maybe you aren't disappointed that he chose to invite Rick Warren? What do I know about you after all? Maybe all of this is just fine with you?
Here's to hoping you tell Mr. Obama No Thank You on behalf the millions who suffer under the pressures of Rick Warren and all those who stand beside Rick Warren and his very bad, bigoted decisions. It was easy for Sharon Olds to say No to George W. Bush, but for you it's a more difficult decision, I understand that. But the only right decision in my opinion is to say No, and I hope you realize that.
cc: Graywolf Press, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Congratulate CAConrad for spearheading the campaign to preserve a little bit of Philadelphia history. Blick Art Supplies has replaced the plaque marking Thomas Eakins' studio at Juniper and Chestnut Streets.
Check it out in your travels!
- Frank Sherlock
Monday, December 15, 2008
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 17TH
8PM TO 11PM
Frank Sherlock & CAConrad will host
TUNE IN AT YOUR AM DIAL IN PHILADELPHIA OR ON THE WEB AT NEXUSradio.com FOR POETRY/MUSIC/INTERVIEWS
(posted by CAConrad)
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Philly.com’s most egregious coverage of this tragedy is the Daily News column (Regina Medina and Christine Olley) entitled “Stormy Leather”, where there are many sexy details about Maa’s lifestyle. The lead sentence includes a description of the victim as “a self-proclaimed fan of sexual teasing and sissy-slut training.” Later in the piece her professional pleasures are listed: "I particularly enjoy sensual teasing and denial, rope bondage, sissy-slut training, dog training, tickle torture and corporal punishments of a traditional nature," she wrote in the ad. "I savor utilizing human toilets, ashtrays and trampolines."
In the torrent of sordid details about Maa’s profession, they left one important detail out of their story… THAT SHE WAS SEXUALLY ASSUALTED during the 41/2 hour hell ride she endured with a gun to her head… a ride Medina and Olley simply describe as “bizarre.”The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Maa’s account of her kidnapping. "I was abducted at gunpoint by David and held hostage with the gun to my head for several hours," she said. "He sexually assaulted me at gunpoint.”
I guess that’s a mundane detail not worth repeating. There are more important news details to reveal, like Philly.com’s “Jade Vixen Gallery.” In the fifteen pictures Philly.com posts, one includes the murder victim, one includes the murderer David Krieg, and a high school yearbook photo of Maa. The other twelve are pictures of Maa in various fetish get-ups. The minimizing of her sexual assault combined with the exploitation of her fetish photos in femme fatale character may suggest to some that sadly not-dead-yet assumption, that “maybe she asked for it.” At the very least, Philly.com needs to take down the Jade Vixen Gallery. Edythe Maa’s a victim of an awful tragedy and a horrific crime. She doesn’t need to be victimized over and over again for the kicks of overgrown adolescents and a news source that panders to the lowest common denominator. Please let Philly.com know that stalking, murder and sexual violence are not to be minimized or snickered at, no matter what a woman chooses to do for a living.You can reach Philly.com by
- Frank Sherlock
Friday, December 05, 2008
I’ve been reading The Reactionary Poems (Olywa Press) by Laura Jaramillo. If you open to the exact center of it you read EPIC MINIMALISM, a poem that seems to make the case for the short form of these 25 poems:
I, on the other hand, am
miniaturizing so my anger
doesn’t lose its
The anger, perhaps, is epic, as it steams out slowly, larger than the voice, from the other poems: a collective anger, in the end, tempered by wit and playfulness. After reading the chapbook, I imagine the tiny subject, this I, a speck standing on a giant hand that is the consumer culture or city in which we live, refusing to play the city’s games of hyper-individualism and one-upmanship yet not afraid to claim a stake in its own subjectivity—in fact, claiming identity in doing so, in reacting to the lie that there is nothing you can say about reality that has not already been said; that to risk repetition is not worthwhile, as whatever meaning you make will be subsumed anyway, ultimately, by big capitalism, so why bother—you don’t really have a voice.
The Reactionary Poems articulates the struggle to recognize that lie and to find ways of speaking against it. Laura has bound pieces of language from various compartments of our compartmentalized American life into a single absurdity. Working-class speech, corporate media-speak, institutional and academic idioms among others are exposed as rife with the same contagion, which you might call a desire to be god of something, god at the expense of all else. However, the voice – Laura’s voice – is never unloosed from each poem. She’s titled many of the pieces after overheard pieces of speech or idioms and written a short “reaction” that allows the title to work against the intentions of its original speaker/culture. The found title simultaneously inhabits and is inhabited by the poet’s voice. Here are the third and fourth poems of the book:
F U U THINK U ARE THE GOD
I spend too much
myself the language
much to me
as it does
to them. I am still
How could the word ‘post-
exist but it does
not from advertising
but from theories
invented to sell
concepts in the field
The ‘them’ in “F U” could be a teenager in an online chat room, a graffiti artist, an aesthetics professor, or a working-class poet. What’s suggested is all of the above and more. In what ways, I ask myself, have I been trying to become god of paintball?
Rendered ironic and polysemous, the titles, as well as words which reappear in different poems (such as still and drag) contribute to a book that’s reactionary in a useful way. The combinations of culture critique and self-reflection draw attention to the reader’s priorities, to one’s investments in matters which may be far more trivial than one realizes. To that end there’s also an attention to “the fact of being flesh in the world.” Such reminders are fashioned in contrast to the isms by which we order our lives and lose sight of the value of a single human life, whether oneself or someone else. POST-HEROIC DRAG is followed by:
POST-HEROIC DRAG, PT. II
Still, she drags her tired
shadow her leathery
bosom into the empty
Another of my favorites, MORTGAGES FOR ALL CREDIT SCENARIOS, ends with the question “Who’ll return New/York to its humanity”?
This little book sounds to me like the very music of humanity.
-- Ryan Eckes
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
The Sexiest Poem of the Year Award is given annually to a finely crafted poem demonstrating a fearlessness which confronts injustice. The panel of judges is CAConrad sitting in five different chairs manifesting five different facial expressions. The judges must have a unanimous decision in order for the award to be granted. In the case where a unanimous decision is not decided upon, no award will be granted that year.
DETAILS, EXCERPTS, AND LINKS HERE!
posted by CAConrad
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
A bunch of us performed tonight, including Ish Klein and Molly Russakoff. Molly arrived a little late, and JUST BEFORE I was to go up to the microphone she touched my hand and said, "I have some TERRIBLE news," looking at me, knowing how terrible it would be to hear. But I said, "Molly, PLEASE don't tell me before I read, whatever it is." And I'm really glad I told her that.
Our friend Norman died earlier tonight helping Larry Robin's move boxes at his store. Robin's Bookstore is closing down for good, another terrible bit of news. But, Norman IS DEAD! I have no idea what Norman's last name is, never knew I don't think, and he only knew me as Conrad, but we've known each other for MANY years, so many I just don't know how many. But, Norman had a heart attack earlier today.
Immediately following the reading of Ron Silliman, Magdalena Zurawski and Pam Brown we found out that one of Larry's employees, whose name I never knew, died of an overdose THAT DAY.
Immediately following the reading of Chris McCreary, Sarah Dowling and Aaron Kunin we found out that Robin's Bookstore was closing for good.
Now this today, Norman's death.
I need to take a break from this to talk about the show tonight. It was marvelous, Needles was dressed like Andy Warhol, and this MARVELOUS stripper named Randi Warhol was playing Edie Sedgwick, driving needles into an Andy Warhol voodoo doll while Needles(playing Andy and LOOKING just like him, bright white wig and all) would walk around the room moaning from a new pain: groin, heart, and where Valerie Solonas had shot him. Then Needles(Andy) sang a new song he wrote about Andy Warhol, singing in the voice of Andy about fucking young men at the Y, doing coke at the Factory, you know the story, but it was really good, as Needles is always really good. We LOVE Needles.
Ish performed an amazing set with the band New Pony, a new poem, fantastic new poem.
But after I sat down from reading, and there was a lull while New Pony set up their equipment, that's when Molly announced to us that Norman had died earlier in the day at Robin's while helping Larry move books.
I first met Norman when he worked at THE BOOK TRADER when it was on South Street. He was obsessed with soundtracks like NO ONE I had ever met. He really was. And it's ALL he listened to, and it was marvelous to walk in and ask Norman what movie THAT one was from. He knew all the details of the soundtrack, and many of them it turns out from movies he never even saw, didn't even want to see.
When I was dating his coworker Tommy at the store I got to know him better. He took me aside nervously one day to let me know Tommy had AIDS. I said I knew, and was touched that Norman was concerned for me, and he told me "BE SAFE CONRAD, BE SAFE, THAT'S ALL I'M SAYING!" Everyone wanted to tell me to be safe, or to not date Tommy, but I loved him, and no one seemed more understanding of this than Norman as it turns out.
Norman turned me onto FOOTLIGHT MUSIC in NY, which sells every single soundtrack you can imagine. He wasn't kidding about that place. He knew I had a little (well, big actually) crush on him. And Molly knew that too, which is why she knew it was going to be terrible news.
It's so terrible.
I can see him sitting behind the desk at THE BOOK TRADER conducting some obscure soundtrack. Frank Sherlock has some amazing stories about Norman, you should ask him to share them.
I want to go to Robin's Bookstore tomorrow. Not to be morbid, but to talk to Larry and Ray, and Gendler. It's tragic, all this death of people and the bookstores they kept alive for us.
Good-bye Norman. Miss you very much. I'm going to put on the soundtrack to Dracula now, old friend. It's so awful you're dead, you were so young, younger than I am, too young Norman.
Your old friend,