Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dreaming of Stars

Post by Portraits of Boston.
I’m studying astrophysics.”

“Tell me something about astrophysics that maybe most people don’t think of when they hear the term.”

“Simply, the awareness that the stars are also alive, depending on how you define life. They are breathing, and there is energy inside them that is constantly flowing. For me, it doesn’t matter where I look, at the ground or in the sky, there is life constantly breathing all around me. This life here is great, but I also want to know about that life. Something more exists outside the human realm or condition.”

“Do you have any 
other interests outside astrophysics?”


“Interesting. The way you spoke of the stars was quite poetic, too.”

“I feel that poetic expression is the way my brain naturally thinks. The other day I wrote a poem that goes like this: “The baby came too soon / The blood flows through the moon.”

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rob the Rainbow

This advertisement for Jester Wools, suggesting that their product can make gayer garments, is just far to amusing to not share immediately. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's Only a Paper Moon

"It's Only A Paper Moon"

It is only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believed in me

Yes, it's only a canvas sky
Hangin' over a muslin tree
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believed in me

Without your love
It's a honky tonk parade
Without your love
It's a melody played in a penny arcade

It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believed in me

Without your love
It's a honky tonk parade
Without your love
It's a melody played in a penny arcade

It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believed in me

Images of men on a paper moon keep coming up in my search through vintage images. None of them can be traced back to a specific story, yet all depict a moment of intimacy between men that was witnessed by a camera nearly a century ago. I love them and the hints they give us about the moments people shared together in another era. 

No one seems to know where the paper moon came from. 

The first reference to a paper moon in a failed Broadway play called The Great Magoo. The song, with music written by Harold Arlen with lyrics by E. Y. Harburg and Billy Rose, was eventually used in the 1933 movie Take A Chance. In World War II the song was reprised by Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole. Since that time scores of artists have remade this jazz standard.

It seems however that by the time Ella and Nat were singing It's Only a Paper Moon, the pictures were already started to disappear. Few pictures of World War II era soldiers can be found with this backdrop. The vast majority of the images seem to come from the 1900s into the 1930s. 

Photography became available to the mass market in 1901 when Kodak released the Brownie. Freed from the need to cary around bulky equipment and toxic chemicals, the average person was able to document their experiences in the world for about a dollar (the cost of the first Brownie). In a book called the Artistic Secrets of the Kodak, Austrian architectural critic Joseph August Lux wrote that the inexpensive cameras allowed people to "photograph and document their surroundings and thus produce a type of stability in the ebb and flow of the modern world."

Perhaps the paper moon pictures were an effort to preserve the fleeting moments of joy and pleasure between friends at carnivals, festivals, and parties in turn of the century America?

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Queer Nation Manifesto

This morning I read an article in the New York Times an article that made mention of Queer Nation protesting in New York. Good to see them back. Modern social movements have seemed to lose the power needed to disrupt the status quo and bring about meaningful social change.

The website History as a Weapon has printed the text of a manifesto originally passed out by people marching with the ACT UP contingent in the 1990 New York Gay Pride Day parade. I'm reprinting the manifesto here. 

It reminds me of a time when social change was about liberation and freedom -- not conformity and becoming part of the status quo.

Queer Nation Manifesto

How can I tell you. How can I convince you, brother; sister that your life is in danger. That everyday you wake up alive, relatively happy, and a functioning human being, you are committing a rebellious act. You as an alive and functioning queer are a revolutionary. There is nothing on this planet that validates, protects or encourages your existence. It is a miracle you are standing here reading these words. You should by all rights be dead.

Don't be fooled, straight people own the world and the only reason you have been spared is you're smart, lucky, or a fighter. Straight people have a privilege that allows them to do whatever they please and f--- without fear. But not only do they live a life free of fear; they flaunt their freedom in my face. Their images are on my TV, in the magazine I bought, in the restaurant I want to eat in, and on the street where I live. I want there to be a moratorium on straight marriage, on babies, on public displays of affection among the opposite sex and media images that promote heterosexuality. Until I can enjoy the same freedom of movement and sexuality, as straights, their privilege must stop and it must be given over to me and my queer sisters and brothers.

Our Days Go By So Quickly

Sonia Nevis sends out occasional letters to the Gestalt community. I received this yesterday and reprint it with her permission. She wrote, "certainly use this letter on your blog. What would be better than to have hope spread around for more and more people."

Our Days Go By So Quickly – What Can We Do About That?

Recently I have realized that I am 86 years old, and there is nothing I can do about it, since each day that passes us is lost forever.

I take short walks, love my work, cherish my clients and have wonderful friends. I have loving children - I hope you can see how lucky I am.

Yet I wake up each day - sad that yet another day has gone.

Up to now I thought there was not much more I could do - but now I feel as though my life has a long carpet to walk on: it lives on.

I have begun to see that all lost days are alive.

The experiences and memories of the life that we have lived and are living, as well as the fiction we have read and the images we have seen in the theater and the films, all contribute to the richness of our being.

Once we understand how much we hold within our hearts, we easily turn them into stories – stories which will live long beyond us.

Realizing this has shifted the way I feel, and how I am looking at my life. I’m amazed at how it comforts me.

But what matters the most is how much I can still do in this difficult world:

• I want to turn my interest to even more people I have never met and talk to them. That might be one of the roads to peace.

• I will keep paying attention to my generosity. There is so much needed that I can be giving.

I hope my long carpet stays very long. I will keep enjoying my life and doing all the things that I love.

I hope you all join me.



Sonia March Nevis, PhD, is co-founder of the Gestalt International Study Center and has practiced and taught Gestalt and family therapy concepts worldwide for over thirty-five years. She was a founder of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland where she created the Center for Intimate Systems, devoted to the training of couples and family therapists. You can read all of Sonia's letters here

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Vintage Gay America: Crawford Barton

I almost passed by this image. It appears on first look to be a rather uninteresting scene of late 1970s New York or San Francisco. After looking a little closer and dwelling on the afternoon light illuminating the men, I decided to dig a little deeper. The glowing afternoon light gives these men the appearance of coming out into the light.

“I tried to serve as a chronicler, as a watcher of beautiful people - to feed back an image of a positive, likable lifestyle― to offer pleasure as well as pride.”

American photographer Crawford Barton (June 2, 1943 - June 10, 1993) chronicled the rise of gay culture in San Francisco from the late 1960s through the devastation brought on by HIV and AIDS in the 1980s. 

Barton's partner of 22 years, Larry Lara died of AIDS related illnesses shortly before Crawford Barton joined the overwhelming chorus of creative men dead from AIDS on June 10, 1993. It is estimated that more than 650,000 have died in the United States from this plague.

There are used copies of a book of Barton's work available on Amazon. The GLBT Historical Society in California holds all of Barton's papers and studio work. Here are a few of his images. Let them invite you into a world when the gay community was just waking up and discovering their own liberation.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Titicut Follies: An Asylum for the Criminally Insane

"They was gonna take my balls out of me... I told the doctor before I come here that I didn't want my balls taken out of me, so they took the cords out instead."

Titicut Follies, a 1967 documentary film by Frederick Weismann, depicts the miserable and inhumane existence of inmates living in Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

 It's not easy to watch. It hasn't always been easy to find a copy of the movie to watch, either.

Shortly before screening at the 1967 New York Film Festival, Massachusetts sought a legal injunction banning the release of the documentary. These actions come at a time when there was significant negative press about the institution and the state's handling of people with mental illness.

Despite the filmmaker getting permission from all the people shown in the film as well as the superintendent of the facility (who appears to have used the documentary as a tool to try to get more funding), Massachusetts claimed that the permission was not valid. In the end, the film was screened at the New York Film Festival. However, a year later Massachusetts Superior Court judge Harry Klaus ordered the filmed removed from distribution because of claims that the film violated the patients' privacy and dignity.

Wiseman appealed the superior court decision to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The court allowed for a limited distribution of the film allowing it to be shown only to doctors, lawyers, judges, health-care professionals, social workers, and students in these and similar fields. Further appeals to the US Supreme Court were refused.

For years hardly anyone saw this film. For years, the men at Bridgewater languished, often naked and in solitary confinement. This institution was one of the myriad examples of  people with mental illness being treated like unwanted animals.

Who were the men at this institution? How about the man who painted a horse? One inmate was sent to Bridgewater in 1938 because he painted a horse with stripes to make it look like a zebra. He was a fresh fruit vendor and in order to increase sales and get more attention, he though it might be a good idea paint his horse. He was arrested for public drunkenness at age 29 and died at Bridgewater from old age. He was supposed to serve two years.