Replacing the National Anthem

Posted by Madam Bubby

 

The current national anthem of the United States is extremely difficult to sing. As someone who has done some professional singing and is now currently trying to rejuvenate his voice, trust me on this one.

It keeps plunging down into low notes or what some vocal pedagogues call chest register, which can drag the rest of the voice down, and at the end, one is supposed to sing a high note on an “ee” vowel, “land of the free.” Because of this difficulty, it even gets transposed down even lower, which means it ends up sounding like a growling monotone.

 

Star Spangled Banner sheet music

 

The composer, Francis Scott Key, was aiming for a heroic line that matched the bombastic lyrics, and he perhaps was thinking of situation like those that occur at baseball games where one listens to trained singer sing it.

Times have changed in that manner, and unfortunately we have been subjected to travesties like the dreadful yowling of Roseanne, or in the manner of many pop singers, adding to what is already difficult by adding vocal turns and coloratura and the like (perhaps to keep the voice flowing as it tries to surmount the line’s irregular see-sawing movement).

Vocally it’s problematic, but regarding the text, many have complained about the militaristic imagery, especially “rockets’ red glare/bombs bursting in air.”

 

Bombs bursting in air illustration

 

More significantly, given the social changes now occurring because of the Black Lives Matter movement, some activists say the United States should replace “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Why? Its lyrics were written by Francis Scott Key, a slaveholding lawyer who expressed white supremacist views.

Songs that some have suggested as replacing it have included “America the Beautiful,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “My Country ‘tis of Thee” “God Bless America,” and “Lift Up Every Voice and Sing.” John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Dolly Parton’s “Color Me America” are also on the list.

See this link for some performances of the some of the above songs.

I have in the past tended to move with the “America the Beautiful” replacement crowd. Why? It’s easy to sing, with a range, and more significantly, meter that matches many of the hymns people were used to singing in church. In fact, it’s got the same meter as “Auld Lange Syne,” the common meter, which means one can sing the lyrics and melody for each song interchangeably.

 

Common hymn meter

Common hymn meter - Source: https://poemshape.wordpress.com/category/guides/about-common-ballad-meter/

 

Now, some have noted the text by Katherine Lee Bates tends to read like a travelogue or landscape; it doesn’t really proclaim and develop an idea as much as describe a landscape, vast mountains and plains and “spacious skies” surrounded by “shining sea.” But that’s the part of the lyrics we usually sing. There’s much more!

In 1893, there’s the verse:

God shed His grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain,
The banner of the free


Which was then changed in 1904 to:

May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine


The 1893 verse actually sounds more radical, given the context of the previous lines, which refer to “liberating strife,” which could refer to the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, “once or twice” events that liberated Americans from “selfish gain.” Ultimately, war is vain and degrades the human person to a number, an impersonal body, rather than as earlier in the verse, “a precious life.”

 

Katherine Lee Bates

Katherine Lee Bates - Source: https://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/cambridge-harvard/katharine-lee-bates/

 

In 1904, and in a later revision in 1911, one encounters stereotypical imagery of heroes sacrificing themselves for America and tying in more the Manifest Destiny idea. The result of the liberating strife veers between martyrdom and material prosperity; I am getting more than a hint of the Prosperity Gospel. Success, in whatever shape or form, means one is blessed by God.

Overall, this conversation ultimately ends up being a “tough call,” and as the LGBTQ Pride Flag has now undergone a transformation to include people of color, one wonders if the traditional staples need to be cast aside as we confront the injuries in the name of those American, using Bates’ word, “glory tales” that oppress rather than liberate, enclose rather than include.

 

2017 update of the Pride flagUpdate of the Pride flag with black & brown stripes introduced at 2017 Philadelphia Pride as an inclusionary revision highlighting people of color

 

2018 update of the Pride flag

2018 update of the Pride flag by artist Daniel Quasar that also includes the Trans Pride flag colors

 

Music moves flexibly in time; it’s not an immobile statue in physical space. As long as there is someone to sing a song, it will exist.

Ultimately, the act of singing itself is an act of vulnerability but also empowerment. Every time one sings, one re-creates, just as all are “crowned with good,” because they were created in the image of the Divine.

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David's Chicago Sexual Underground - 4/22/20

 

David's Chicago Sexual Underground header

 

Greetings P(r)icksters,

You’d think since Touché is closed due to the Covid-19 virus, I would have lots of free time and be on top of things. But it’s just the opposite. I have no set schedule – don’t have to be at work at any set time, don’t have to work so many hours. Just meandering through my days here.

Oh, I have been busy. Taken the time off to do some housekeeping at the bar and at home, just not putting in that many hours each day. Decided I would use this down time to clear out stuff at both places. We literally pulled stuff out of the basement at the bar and are sorting what stays and what goes. You know how it is, you have a piece of wood, an extra light fixture, that backdrop for a staged event from 10 years ago, stuff you might use again and keep. It’s all piled up for the dumpster.

Doing the same at home clearing out closets, stuff under the sink, in this cubbyhole, etc. Got lots cleared out of storage, now just piled up in my living room for me to haul away. I have come across stuff I forgot I had and others that I couldn’t remember where I'd stashed. Like my train set (yes, I still have trains and track I pull out and play with). Though I haven’t found the box with the rest of the tracks and the power supply. Next stop, the basement storage locker.

I should have enough time to get through everything I have stored away. They announced today that Chicago and Illinois coronavirus cases should peak by mid May and with a 2 week waiting period, that would begin our comeback the end of May. It will be a gradual process to reopen businesses with bars way down at the bottom of the list. So I’m hoping for June sometime to get back to work.

The other big part of my day is Facebook. I am a latecomer to FB, I signed up a couple of years ago basically to promote events at the bar and my country dances I have been hosting for years. Mostly I would post an event and invite others, check on my family and friends and once in a blue moon post something that I felt was needed to share.

With this freer time, I have been on FB a lot more than before and reading a lot more comments, news, posts about this Covid-19 mess we are in. Of late, this rash of protest to “liberate” our nation. Now being mindful of purposely feeding misinformation on FB, I just got a video from a friend that just astounded me.

The video was of a woman stating she was in Jacksonville, Florida and she was all upset about the need to stay at home. The case she made was just so, so stupid. She claimed that up in Jacksonville where she was, was safe from coronavirus. They are safe up there because the hot spot in Miami was due to the numerous Mexicans (not Cubans, mind you) in the Miami area. And they all drink Corona beer in glass bottles.

Her logic for Jacksonville was that it is hot there, not the 70 degree hot in Minnesota, but daily 95 temps in Jacksonville that keep the virus at bay. Plus the salt in the water at the beach, that salt keeps things well. And... They drink Natural Light beer in cans. It’s natural beer, and it’s light beer and it’s in a can not a bottle, not imported Corona.

I can’t make this kind of stupid up. What is probably the most frightening thing about this is that this woman not only thinks this (Corona beer & Mexicans are the source) but that she feels good enough about this concept to post it online and that others around her will see this and agree with her. Be proud of her for her complete ignorance, meaning there are many more just as ignorant.

I can stay at home but thanks to FB, I can’t avoid the ignorance out there. Maybe I’ll spend a little less time on FB and watch more porn. I did uncover some more Bijou DVDs I had tucked away. Now I just have to choose who to spend tonight with: Al Parker, Jack Wrangler or Bruno.

Grab my P(r)ick this Week and get shacked up with Joe Gage’s Closed Set. For this plotless film, director Joe Gage invited the entire stable of Gagemen to the studio for an uninhibited orgy. Men. Dozens of them. Hairy, hung, horny men, stroking themselves, stroking each other. Fucking and sucking each other in pairs, threesomes and groups.

Now if you like solo action, my second P(r)ick of the Week is Beat Cop starring the muscular Donnie Russo as beat cop Sergeant Geraldi taking us from one crime and j/o scene to another. The criminals, Tony Lattanzi, Eddie Acosta, Richard DeSantis and Eddie Rodriguez are all uncut and jack-off to an excellent soundtrack.

Enjoy your “captivity” and stay safe with some fun from Bijou Video.

David

To order from Bijou, visit bijouworld.com, call 800-932-7111, or email bijou.orders@gmail.com

 

Closed Set images
Closed Set (D00042) - On DVD and Streaming

Beat Cop images
Beat Cop (D02659) - On DVD and Streaming
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1920s LGBTQ Fantasy

posted by Madame Bubby

I was staring the other day while on the internet at images of 1920s living rooms and kitchens, because I realized how many places I’ve lived in (including my current dwelling) were built in that time period. For example, builders were churning out rows and rows of the traditional Chicago brick bungalow, and, as my grandmother (born in 1900, and she would know) had told me, this was really one of the first homes with consistently “modern” conveniences such as an indoor, private bathroom with a tub and shower, a kitchen with a sink and room for an icebox/refrigerator, and up-to-date electrical wiring and outlets for the period.
 

1920s bungalow kitchen
Source: Old House Journal

Thus, I posed this question on my personal Twitter: what if you woke up and it was 1920 or thereabouts (which, next year, will be 100 years ago!); where would you be, who would you be, what would you do?

Most of the responses were frankly, more glamorous and noble, than mine, such as, according to one classical music specialist being in Vienna and/or Paris and hanging around with such luminaries as “Webern, the Mahlers, Picasso, Woolf, Freud, and Jung.” Another person chose Paris, identifying himself with The Lost Generation, “buying tickets for Koussevitzky’s concerts, Prokofiev’s recitals, and Diaghelev’s ballets.” Another person claimed she would be involved in the women’s suffrage movement.

I concocted a 1920s LGBTQ fantasy. I wonder if I should just write it as a kind of 1920s “Tales of the City,” set in Chicago.
 

Dapper young 1920s guy

I imagined myself as a “dapper young” homosexual, working as a clerk in a library, maybe the Chicago Public Library or even the more esteemed Newberry Library. I would also be trying at the same time to go to school in some humanities-related field. I would be riding the streetcar downtown to work and school from the single room occupancy hotel for men where I would be living.
 

Newberry Library, 1920
Newberry Library, 1920

At the hotel, I meet another dapper guy who is studying philosophy, and we both plan to go to the infinitely more exciting New York and experience the much more sophisticated bohemian scene there (we are both too poor to go to Paris, alas). But a muscular stevedore with a big moustache moves down the hall and distracts me, especially after I accidentally on purpose get a glimpse of his massive uncut cock as he is leaving the shared toilet area in the hotel.
 

Newberry Library, 1920
Source: Collector's Weekly

By this point, one of my Twitter buddies (who is married, of course, grr) said he was getting turned on by this whole narrative, that he would be thinking about it all day, and that he wants to hang out with me, and that, when I mentioned the stevedore, he was thinking, “I want to binge this on Netflix.” (I now know I may have missed my calling.)

Continuing the literally steamy narrative, the dapper philosophy student goes to the Turkish bath. He lies to me that he “did something naughty there.” But I pretty much realize the story is a fabrication, because during that time period, one would be arrested and jailed for sodomy.

As a result, I break up with him (he goes back to live with his Irish parents on the South Side), and visit my eccentric grandma who lives in a two-story frame house in the Division/Milwaukee area, at that time a Polish area. She works full time at the famous Wieboldt’s department store in the area. She is my only family left, because both my parents had died in the 1918 influenza pandemic.
 

1920s Chicago Tribune article on Milwaukee Avenue retail district boom
Milwaukee Avenue retail district - Source: Chicago Patterns

Next door to Grandma, two German ladies live together in a “Boston marriage” (two single women, usually wealthy, living together, not necessarily lesbian, but … ). Scandalously, one of them was seen outside smoking.

While I am staying next door at my grandma’s house, enjoying her front porch on steamy summer nights, the spinster aunt of one of the lesbians next door (Aunt Heddy owns the house) is found stabbed to death with an ice pick. One of the ladies blames the African American ice man, who is convicted on circumstantial evidence (revealing the extreme bigotry of the period, right after the infamous 1919 Chicago Race Riots), but I suspect something else may be afoot.
 

1920s Women
Source: America in Class

All the while, the stevedore and I are enjoying casual kinky sex (Mr. Muscles of course is the dominant one, of course, but he does like me to give him a spanking once in a while with my belt), but his parents are setting him up to get married to an extremely boring childhood neighbor girl who works at Western Electric in Cicero.

The stevedore and I now decide to do some of our own investigating to find out who really killed Aunt Heddy. Was it her cigarette-smoking niece who was going to inherit the house she was living in with her friend?

That’s as far as I got. I think it’s got potential, both as a novel and/or as a screenplay, and also because of its rich allusions to the specific urban culture of the period.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll just write one of the steamy gay sex scenes and share it on the blog.

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The Movie Philadelphia: Sanitization of the AIDS Crisis?

Philadelphia release poster

I remember going to the movie theater with a friend in 1993 to see the much-hyped movie Philadelphia which purported to be the first “mainstream” movie to address the AIDS crisis. Tom Hanks starred as a closeted (at work) upper middle class lawyer, Andrew Beckett, who is fired by his prestigious law firm because he is suffering from the disease. Denzel Washington starred as an African-American lawyer, Joe Miller, who overcomes his own homophobia to serve as Beckett’s attorney when he decides to sue. Hanks won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in that movie.
 

Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in Philadelphia

I won’t go over the plot details, but in hindsight, I do wonder, as many critics have noted, if the movie did indeed the sanitize the ultimate rawness of the crisis, not just because of its target audience, but because of deeper issues that connect to race, social class, and gender/sexual orientation.

I did mention Beckett’s profession, a lawyer, but he practices in a “good old boys” corporate law firm. The point may be that AIDS can affect anyone. In fact, the film does make this point in a quite moving moment when an AIDS victim from a blood transfusion who testifies at Beckett’s trial proclaims in a voice of soft empathy, “I am not different from him.” But Beckett possesses access to quality health care; he can even afford a specialist in cosmetics to help him cover his lesions; and he lives in an expensive loft with a life partner. His family is loving and supportive; in fact, when he visits his childhood home, Norman Rockwell should have been there to paint the landscape and the event.
 

Joanne Woodward in Philadelphia

But, and here’s the rub, there’s an implication that this white picket fence life would have continued had he not descended into the gay underworld of adult movie theaters. There’s a scene that shows him encountering a stranger sexually in one of those establishments, and one could too easily infer he is reaping what he has sown. But it’s more than that, as the movie’s message is to not blame the victim, but I think the contrast here between the “good life” of Andrew Beckett characterized by monogamy, a loving family, and, until he gets fired, a career in a white heterosexual male world, and the “rough” life of so many other gay men, characterized by promiscuity, family rejection, and marginalized employment, is obvious.

The lesions on Andrew’s face thus expose the awful truth which might not have come to the surface if they had not appeared and led to his loss of livelihood and his subsequent fight for justice and ultimately, life.

And the irony that his advocate is a homophobic African-American man from a lower social and professional class hinges upon the racial and class divides that affect not just Beckett, but other characters in the movie. For example, in the trial, an African-American paralegal, comments that the managing partner in the firm, played with true good old boy condescending assholery by Jason Robards, asked her to remove her long, dangling earrings because they were too “ethnic:”
 

Jason Robards in Philadelphia

Joe Miller: Have you ever felt discriminated against at Wyatt Wheeler?
Anthea Burton: Well, yes.
Joe Miller: In what way?
Anthea Burton: Well, Mr. Wheeler's secretary, Lydia, said that Mr. Wheeler had a problem with my earrings.
Joe Miller: Really?
Anthea Burton: Apparently Mr. Wheeler felt that they were too..."Ethnic" is the word he used. And she told me that he said that he would like it if I wore something a little less garish, a little smaller, and more "American."
Joe Miller: What'd you say?
Anthea Burton: I said my earrings are American. They're African-American.

Touche! Anthea takes back her dignity with humor, but ultimately, her race and gender determine her station in a world dominated by powerful, white, heterosexual men.

Gender/sexual orientation, race and social class actually collide but don’t coalesce in the famous scene when the desperately ill Andrew Beckett sings along to Maria Callas singing the aria “La mamma morta” from Andrea Chenier. The aria ends on a note of transcendent love, the “sublime Amor” that ends up for the heterosexual main characters as a pact of death. Beckett is alone, tethered to an IV, and Joe Miller is a spectator: he deals in messy personal injury and death for the public, but his personal life is the heterosexual ideal of monogamy and procreation, not the messy and dangerous homosexual intoxication of love and sex and death.
 

Opera scene in Philadelphia

Overall, I obtain a mixed message from this movie in hindsight. At one level, it attempted to show that AIDS was a disease that affected everyone and that people suffered discrimination for simply contracting it. But I also found some implications in the film that showed not just how the divisions of race, gender/sexual orientation, and social class can profoundly affect the fate of a person with AIDS, but that the movie affirms these divisions in a way that clashes with its supposed message of inclusive justice.

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Chicago LGBTQ Pride Parade 2016: Subdued but Controversial

 

The lowdown from the Chicago Gay Pride Parade this year was “subdued” but “still colorful” or “festive” but “respectful.” 

The subdued and respectful adjectives fit, because the LGBTQ community is in mourning because of the horrific events at Orlando, and in tandem with many pride parades around the globe, the victims were honored. In Chicago, the first entry was a memorial to the victims, with participants holding photos of them. A woman standing next to me wept. 
 

Orlando tribute at Chicago Pride Parade


After this profoundly moving start, the action began to pick up a bit, but I noticed less people standing by the beginning of the parade (where my friend and I were hanging about). It seemed at times the people marching and on floats had to do more to get the crowds cheering. As usual, PFLAG and the schools elicited enthusiastic cheers. 

I did find it rather unfortunate that the Chicago PrimeTimers (a gay male senior citizens club), which entry consisted of three elders holding a banner, was followed immediately by a bevy of young hot gay hockey players. At least the PrimeTimers got a mention on the special ABC local news coverage! 

This juxtaposition of older and younger might be interpreted as a show of unity in diversity, and several parade organizers claimed that the mood this year, rather than jubilation over marriage equality for all, was respect and unity. Everyone was showing unity based on a broader definition of love in the face of hate. 

Yet here's the rub. Something controversial happened in Chicago that shows we have a long way to go to remedy serious structural social and economic inequalities in the LGBTQ community, in many ways a microcosm of our society as a whole. An event called Pride at Montrose was abruptly cancelled by the police. The reason was ostensibly the height of a security fence. 
 

Pride at Montrose


Note that this event is sponsored by the Chicago Gay Black Men's Caucus, which in the past had used this event to perform valuable health services, (now in danger because of the state budget problems in Illinois), such as HIV testing, and this year, an emphasis on Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). 

Last year #BlackLivesMatter performed a die-in at the parade. 

See the connection here? It's pretty much a stereotype that many of the advances in the gay rights movement were often orchestrated by white men with power and money (and still are). The thrust to be able to join the army and get married could be interpreted as even conservative, as the army and marriage are traditional structures. In other words, was the goal really assimilation, thus marginalizing groups the large society also marginalizes? 
 

Wealthy gay married couple with a baby


The victims of Orlando were mostly young Latinx persons, many struggling to make ends meet in low-paying service jobs. Some were still going to school, mostly community colleges. I doubt any of them would be considered “upper middle class” or even “middle class.” They wouldn't be living in expensive condos (built because greedy developers force out the working class families in those area), walking designer dogs, or attending fancy benefits in beaded gowns (like many of the gay men in the area I live in, I must say). 

Marriage equality is beautiful, but how many persons on the lower end of the income scale can even afford to reap the economic benefits of marriage? And let's not forget that many lesbians, because women still make less money to the dollar than men, are struggling to maintain lives of dignity and peace because their earning power is reduced. And, shamefully, the poverty rate among transgender individuals is quite high as well. 
 

Housing is a Queer Issue - facts about housing in the LGBT community


If we are to really show unity, I think we need to start seriously addressing the fundamental inequities in the LGBTQ community that reflect those present in the society as a whole. We ask others not to judge us because of who we are; let's stop judging others based on income, appearance, age, or even personality. I'm hoping the younger members of our community, many of whom stand the most to lose in an dismal economic future (perhaps why many of them voted for Bernie Sanders), can prove to be an example of unity in diversity for their elders. 
 

Bernie with young people supporters

 

 
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