Friday, September 29, 2006


Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley, chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, in an IM exchange with a sixteen year old boy:

Do I make you a little horny?

Boy: A little.


Bertrand Russell

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

If I Can Talk About Myself For A Minute

At the risk of falling into a pool of narcissism, I must say that I love this photo. It was taken last month when I was down in Austin for my friend Cody's birthday. I love this photo because it isn't a "good" photo. Oh, it's beautifully shot, but it also is an image that shows many things about my appearance that have long made me insecure. The thick chin, the receding hairline, the crooked teeth, the bulbous nose, the deepening lines around my eyes, all are things that I would often try to avoid in a picture where I was trying to impress.

I'm a single gay man who works in the fashion industry, for god's sake! Aren't I supposed to be striving towards a low-body-fat, firm-jawed, tight-bodied, perpetually youthful image? In this picture, my age, my weight, my round-faced thickness, all the things that since puberty have alienated me from my own body and made me awkward with my physical nature, all the shortcomings that made me jealous of my peers and horribly shy about my own flesh, all the things that drove me as an adolescent and young man away from sports and leisure and sex and into a cocoon of books and a Cartesian rejection of the body for the life of the mind, a false dichotomy that continued without interruption until I was almost thirty, all these elements are on display here.

But in this photo, I'm blissfully happy.

I'm blissfully happy because I am with real friends. I'm blissfully happy because I am in a beautiful place. I'm blissfully happy because I'm healthy. I'm blissfully happy because at a certain point in my life those insecurities started to fall off.

It started with sex. Or rather, with the desire for sex. When I decided to come out, I knew that I couldn't continue to neglect my body. At first, I tried to radically change my self, losing weight and spending a lot of spare time in the gym. After a few years, it was evident to me that I would never be that cliche of fit that floated above Los Angeles like an imaginary god. I was stuck with my white trash/native American gene pool, with the kind of body that an axe-wielding Saxon foot soldier would be proud to own. So I played to my strengths and started playing rugby.

I'm not a great rugby player. I didn't take up the game until I was 31, after all. But I loved instantly the sheer, almost drug-like physical bliss that rose from using my body at it's limit. Out on the pitch was the first time that the fake wall between my mind and my body tumbled, and I felt my two sides come together. That analogy that Socrates created about human beings searching for the other half we had before the gods split us with their lightning? It was like I had found my other half.

I still have some of the old ghosts haunting me. I don't like taking off my shirt at the beach at Laguna. I'm not yet happy with my weight (though I'm getting there, thanks Cedars-Sinai!) and I still feel like a defendant in the dock every time I step within the city bounds of West Hollywood.

But I don't go to West Hollywood that much anymore. Instead, I go to Texas and float down a river with my friends. Instead, I hang out with the Australians at bars that we pick for the music. Instead, I accept that this is the only body I will ever have. Lots of burly gay men embrace the label of "bear" as a way of defining themselves and creating a tribe. I don't. Yeah, I'm a bear, in that I fit the physical requirements. I use the term sometimes as shorthand, but I also find it incredibly silly. I don't need to be part of an exclusionary culture based on fitting a physical type, even one that I happen to meet to the T. I may be the beariest bear in beartown, but in the end, I'm just me, Spence, the guy in this snapshot. Either you get it or you don't.

Either way, I love this photo.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Circling The Bowl

A letter posted to Andrew Sullivan that describes how America is now perceived in the world, from a grunts-eye perspective:

I was deployed in my reserve unit (USMCR) as part of operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Marine infantry, and we were on the front lines, supposedly to guard a gunship base, but really, though, the gunships guarded us.

Not too much later, it was time to take prisoners. One of the platoons went north, and when they came back, there were stories about how Iraqi soldiers lined the roads, trying to surrender. I spent a week guarding Iraqi men in a makeshift prison camp, a way-station really, and more than I could count. They didn't look like they were starving or dehydrated. Apparently, once the ground war began, they just pitched their weapons and headed south at first opportunity. The more I've thought about it, the more I realize that they knew bone deep that they'd get fair treatment. We gave them MREs (with the pork entree's removed) but almost immediately some Special Forces guys arrived and set up a real chow line for them. We gave each man a blanket, (I kept an extra as a souvie) and I think I saw a Special Forces doc giving some of them a once over.

Once, only once, one of them got all irritated and tried to get in one of the Corporal's faces, loud. (I was a lance-corporal). He wouldn't back down, so the Corporal gave him an adjustment, a rifle butt-stroke to his gut, not hard, but he went down. The Corporal sent me for the medic. The guy was ok, and now calm (or at least understanding the situation), and hand-signed that he was out of smokes and really, really needed one... Not a bad guy, just stressed-dumb and needing a smoke. None of the others prisoners in the camp even registered it.

We went north to mop up not long after that. I saw the Iraqi weapons: rocket launchers a little smaller than semi-trailers, hidden in buildings, AKs in piles, big Soviet mortars and anti-tank mines, everywhere but unarmed. They had food too. Pasteurized milk to drink, but most gone bad by then. Some of the mortar rounds were still in crates. They had long trenches that were hard to see in the dunes, bunkers with maps, fire-plans laid out, and blankets, all placed with decent vantage for command and control. They even had wire laid for land-line communications. The point is, they could have fought. Not won, no they couldn't have won, but they could have fought. Instead, they chose to surrender.

Looking back, I think that one of the main drivers in these men's heads was that they knew, absolutely, that they'd get fair treatment from us, the Americans. We were the good guys. The Iraqis on the line knew they had an out, they had hope, so they could just walk away. (A few did piss themselves when someone told them we were Marines. Go figure.) Still, they knew Americans would be fair, and we were.

Thinking hard on what I now know of history, psychology, and the meanness of politics, that reputation for fairness was damn near unique in world history. Can you tell me of any major military power that had it? Ever? France? No. Think Algeria. The UK? Sorry, Northern Ireland, the Boxer Rebellion in China... China or Russia. I don't think so. But America had it. If those men had even put up token resistance, some of us would not have come back. But they didn't even bother, and surrendered at least in part because of our reputation. Our two hundred year old reputation for being fair and humane and decent. All the way back to George Washington, and from President George H.W. Bush all the way down to a lance-corporal jarhead at the front.

Its gone now, even from me. I can't get past that image of the Iraqi, in the hood with the wires and I'm not what you'd call a sensitive type. You know the picture. And now we have a total bust-out in the White House, and a bunch of rubber-stamps in the House, trying to make it so that half-drowning people isn't torture. That hypothermia isn't torture. That degradation isn't torture. We don't have that reputation for fairness anymore. Just the opposite, I think. And the next real enemy we face will fight like only the cornered and desperate fight. How many Marines' lives will be lost in the war ahead just because of this asshole who never once risked anything for this country?

Is That A Mustache?

So surging Democratic Senatorial Candidate Jim Webb of Virginia is being haunted by a comment he made 27 years ago, referring to female Midshipmen at the Naval Academy as "thunder thighs". In his defense, I used to live in Annapolis. Imagine a steroidal Russian power lifter dressed up like an ice cream man, and you get a pretty good idea of the average female Middie.

But that's a good thing, no? Who wouldn't want a battle-ax like that next to you in a fox hole?

Google Hearts Republicans

Guess who's standing up for endangered New Mexico Republican Congresswoman Heather Wilson? Why, it's the company whose motto is "Don't Be Evil".

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Stephen Laffey, writing in a Bowdoin College paper in the 80's:

"I have never once seen a happy homosexual. This is not to say there aren't any; I simply haven't seen one in my lifetime. Maybe they are all in the closet. All the homosexuals I've seen are sickly and decrepit, their eyes devoid of life."

Stephen Laffey, failed wingnut Senate candidate, yesterday:

Um, happy much Stevie?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Henry Rollins Hearts Ann Coulter

As much as I love this, I still want to kick Henry Rollins' Ass.

The Olbermann Commentary

Monday, September 11, 2006

Seven Things Democrats Should Love About The Path to 9/11

Ok, I'm gonna play devil's advocate here. I caught a lot of inaccuracies in this controversial show, and I generally agree that it was a hatchet job, but here's a few points about it that, to the filmmakers credit, Democrats could love:

1) Terrorists hate Bill Clinton. I mean, they call him Satan and mock-execute him. If he was so soft on terrorists, why did they hate him so much?

2) Bush's T-shirt. Bush is shown on the morning of September 11th, having just finished a run, standing in a dorky yellow sweat-stained t-shirt talking about how "this whole day is about education". He looks hopelessly out of touch.

3) Richard Clarke is a badass. This Clinton Administration holdover seemed to be about the only dude in the Bush Administration who had any balls. Whether it's giving orders on his front porch or rushing to the White House the morning of the attack, he certainly comes off better then Condi, George, or Dick (who appears to be a senile 90 year old in the film)

4) Colleen Rowley is a badass. The current Democratic congressional candidate from Minnesota is the Cassandra of terror, ringing the bell over Moussaoui.

5) The Bush administration sits on it's hands. This is the major theme of the second half of the movie, and White House higher-ups ignore warnings from the Northern Alliance and from their own FBI agents, doing nothing but infighting while the attack approaches. Generally, the second half is almost as hard on the Bushes as the first was on the Clintons. Not quite, of course, but almost.

6) The shot of Condi Rice holding a report entitled "Bin Laden determined to attack within the United States" and sitting at her desk doing nothing.

7)Probably most damaging of all, the coda at the end. Text at the very end announces that of the 44 recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, the government, i.e. the Bush Administration, received almost all failing grades last year in the Commission's follow-up. This is a point that Democratic politicians have been hammering home, and that last bit of text that closed the film could have been written by Howard Dean's office.

I bring these points up only because, while I generally found the film disingenuous and downright mendacious at points (Bush didn't give his "moment of silence" speech until after all the planes had crashed, to cite just one example from the last five minutes) I also didn't find it to be the blunt instrument of propaganda that I expected it to be. I can't stand the Administration, and I loved Olbermann tonight, but the greatest sin I saw in Path to 9/11 was the cheap cynicism of melodrama.

Oh, and the way that ABC made it's own reporters out to be heroes. That must have been the hook in the pitch meeting for sure.

Kieth Olbermann, Tonight From Ground Zero

Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.

All the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and -- as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul -- two more in the Towers.

And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.

I belabor this to emphasize that, for me this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.

And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft,"or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante and at worst, an idiot whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.

However, of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast -- of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds -- none of us could have predicted this.

Five years later this space is still empty.

Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.

Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.

Five years later this country's wound is still open.

Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.

Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.

It is beyond shameful.

At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial -- barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field -- Mr. Lincoln said, "we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.

Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground." So we won't.

Instead they bicker and buck pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they're doing instead of doing any job at all.

Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.

And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.

And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.

The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President -- and those around him -- did that.

They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."

They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."

The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."

Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space, and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.

Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.

Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible for anything in his own administration.

Yet what is happening this very night?

A mini-series, created, influenced -- possibly financed by -- the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.

The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.

How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?

Just as the terrorists have succeeded -- are still succeeding -- as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero.

So, too, have they succeeded, and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.

This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney's continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things.

And long ago, a series called "The Twilight Zone" broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."

In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm. Suddenly his car -- and only his car -- starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man's lights go on. As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced. An "alien" is shot -- but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help. The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials are seen manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there's no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it's themselves."

And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight: "The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men.

"For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own -- for the children, and the children yet unborn."

When those who dissent are told time and time again -- as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus -- that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American...When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"... look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?

We have not forgotten, Mr. President.

You have.

May this country forgive you.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Oye, Bubeshko!

So. Damn. Jealous.
One of my favorite buildings, the 1941 Schindler-designed Bubesko apartments in Silverlake, is renting out the grandest top floor unit. Private backyard and terrace included, only $3650 a month. All those bad things I've said about being rich? I take them all back.