Howl of the KweerWolf

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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Lessons from the life of a dog

The absolute worst argument over religion I ever got into wasn't over gay rights or abortion or any other of the "hot button social issues" religious zealots get dogmatic about. It was about whether animals - dogs, in particular - have souls. I don't remember much of the argument nor the scripture my opponent quoted to justify his position, but I do recall it being particularly nasty and ending with my pronouncement that if my dogs didn't have souls, they were certainly welcome to mine because they were a damn sight more worthy of an eternal afterlife than the vast majority of humans I'd ever known. Unknowingly, I was echoing Will Rogers' sentiments about dogs and the afterlife: "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."

A decade ago I wouldn't have engaged in such an argument. I'd always been a cat person. Cats are low maintenance. Make sure they have food, water and a reasonably clean litter box and you've handled your cat duties admirably. Cats were the perfect pet for apartment dwellers.

Then I bought a house and suddenly had the option of having a great big fur-shedding dog to romp in the yard and serve as an early warning system when someone was approaching the front door. Actually, it wasn't long before there were two dogs in the house. I had Sheldon, a collie/samoyed mix, and my roommate had Bubba, a German short-hair pointer.

Then along came Gypsy.

While we had picked out Sheldon and Bubba, Gypsy was the one who picked us. Shortly after I ended a brief, tumultuous relationship Gypsy showed up at the house one Saturday afternoon. She was a pure white German shepard, but starved to the point where her ribs showed under her skin. She carried a scar across her muzzle and the bottoms of her paws were raw and tender. It was clear she had seen better days.

Thinking she had wondered off from her owners, we fed and watered her and my roommate set about finding where she had come from. What we found did nothing to raise my opinion of humanity. A neighbor of her former owners told how Gypsy's owners grew tired of her as she grew too large for their apartment and chased her away with rocks. So we ended up with a third dog.

That was six and a half years ago. She remained ours until last Friday when, after watching her decline as her hips began to give out, we took her to the vet and bid her our last good-byes.

Looking back on Gypsy's time here, it's amazing the lessons a dog can teach.

In the wake of my recently ended relationship, I joked with friends that from now on I decided to give up adopting stray men and would stick with stray dogs. It was later when I realized that was part of Gypsy's first lesson for me: Sometimes it's worth the risk to bring a stray home and give him or her a chance.

Of the three dogs in the house, Sheldon was the resident genius, picking up tricks and commands with very little effort; Bubba was the exuberant clown; and Gypsy ... well, she was a bit of the problem child. As Dr. Phil might say, she had trust issues. Sometimes it would take close to an hour to put ointment on her ragged paws and I quickly learned to raise my hand to pet her slowly so she wouldn't cringe at the memory of being hit. But the worst times were the frequent Midwestern spring storms when the sound of thunder sent her into near panic. I discovered this in the middle of the night waking up to find her standing on top of me, her face inches from mine, and staring into my face with a wild-eyed canine version of "Make it stop!"

While I was powerless to control the storm, the next best thing was for me to get up and go the front room while she impatiently waited for me to move my recliner enough to allow her to squeeze in between it and the end table. Then, hiding her head beneath the endtable, I'd go to sleep sitting at an uncomfortable angle so that I could drape my hand down to rest on her side to reassure her that I was there.

That was Gypsy's second lesson: In the middle of life's storms, it's OK to ask for a little reassurance.

Eventually Gypsy got over her skittishness around people, though it required a lot of patience. While she never quite got over her fear of thunder, it was rewarding to see her learn to trust again. While Bubba and Sheldon liked to jump on me when I'd walk through the door at the end of the day, Gypsy would hold back waiting her turn for attention, wagging her tail and uttering an "arrroo!" which I took as her best approximation of "Hello!" For all the exuberance of the other two dogs' greetings, Gypsy's was gentle in comparison. She'd wait until I was sitting down then use her muzzle to lift my hand and get me to scratch her ears and rub the sides of her face. That would inevitably be followed by a lick, the canine equivalent of "I love you."

That was another of Gypsy's lessons: A hearty lick can make a good day better and even the worst of days tolerable.

I'm convinced beyond all doubt that if more people started and ended their days with a kiss from a dog, wars would end and psychiatrists would be taking their meals in soup kitchens where they could wile away their suddenly abundant spare time debating the canine psyche.

We never really knew how old Gypsy was. She was fully adult when she arrived. From the loose bag of bones that could slip between narrow gap between the house and the gate to the yard when she first arrived, she blossomed into a 90-pound magnificent specimen of her breed with broad, muscled shoulders, ears that stood erect and attuned to any sound and clear deep brown eyes that seemed to connect with me soul to soul. It was in those moments that I hoped I'd one day be as good a person as my dog seemed to think I was.

Over the years Gypsy began to show her age. First it was the "hopping" motion she'd make with her back legs while running, a sign of impending hip problems. She still maintained her puppy-like behavior at times, playing tug-of-war with the other dogs over a toy or expressing puppy-like wonderment at whatever caught her fancy at the moment. But it was apparent that her health was failing. She developed a benign fatty tumor on her side. Sometime it would take great effort to rise from her favorite spot by my bed in the morning. Her walk became wobbly.

A couple of months ago she was unable to get up from the hardwood floor where she would sleep while I worked on my computer. Her front end made a valiant effort but her back end wouldn't cooperate without assistance. Between jobs at the time, I still managed to scrape together enough for a expensive prescription to try to stave off the inevitable and even bought her a hideous fuzzy, orange-colored bathroom rug to lay on by my desk to keep her comfortable on the cold floor. While I would have chosen another color for purely esthetic reasons, the rubber backing worked to keep the rug from sliding on the slick hardwood floor.

Gypsy had good days and bad days after that. But when the bad days began to outnumber the good ones, I knew that the time was short. As much as I didn't want to let her go, the pain of watching her try to walk only to collapse after a few steps outweighed the hope that there were still a few more "good days" left.

Late Friday afternoon my roommate and I loaded Gypsy into the car for a last trip to the vet. We stayed with her, stroking her fur and rubbing her still-scarred muzzle while the vet gave her a sedative and then administered the drug that would end her suffering. We were still petting her and telling her how much we loved her as she breathed her last and that massive chest rose and fell for the last time.

It didn't occur to me until later that even at the end Gypsy was still teaching us. Her last lessons were these: It's OK to let go and it's OK to cry.

Several weeks ago I happened across a quote by cartoonist James Thurber, himself a great dog lover. "If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons," he wrote. That pretty much sums up my beliefs as well.

Gypsy may not have been my whole life, but she shares with most members of her species the ability to make our lives whole.

Some people claim when we die there's a tunnel with a bright light at the end where we're greeted by long-departed family members or maybe religious figures. Others claim that those experiences are merely hallucinations caused by powerful drugs and chemical reactions in the brain. I'm not sure which version I believe, but when the time comes I hope I'm greeted by a big, beautiful white German shepard who comes bounding out of the light to meet me.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The new Scarlet Letter: Confessions of a sex offender

I am a sex offender.

I have engaged in public lewdness. I have indecently exposed myself. I have had sex with an underage partner.

Never mind that the acts of public lewdness involved my wilder, younger days when I had sex in such exotic locales as a cornfield, a construction site, a tent set up as a display in a Sears department store, and a glass elevator overlooking Kansas City's Country Club Plaza, just to name a few.

As for the indecent exposures ... well, see the paragraph above and add to it a few late night stops to piss behind a bush.

And the underage partner was 14 and I was 16 at the time.

But still, under various state and local laws, I am a sex offender. I've had the good fortune never to be charged or convicted with any of those crimes so I don't show up on any sex offender registry so helpfully made available online by many states. But nonetheless, had I been charged with all my infractions, I'd probably still be sitting in a jail cell.

Sex offenders have become the new boogiemen. Maybe that should be "boogiepersons" since quite a few women show up on sex offender registries, too.

The registries began in response to well-publicized cases in which persons with a history of pedophilia moved into neighborhoods and ended up molesting - and sometimes murdering - youngsters. Suddenly concerned mothers could log on to their computers and check to see if there were any perverts lurking around their neighborhoods.

I'm all for keeping pedophiles as far away from kids as possible. But as with any good idea, it can only be stretched so far before it gets bent entirely out of shape.

The trouble with sex offender registries is that there's seldom any clear definition about what constitutes a "sex offender." Few would disagree that someone with a history of molesting or sexually abusing youngsters should be on the list. But what about a couple of consenting adults - same- or opposite-sex - who get a bit carried away with passion in a parked car and get interupted by a cop with a flashlight? Should they be listed as sex offenders? Or suppose my diabetic kidney doesn't wanted to wait until I get home for relief and I get busted for indecent exposure for taking a leak behind a tree just as a cop happens to drive by? Should I be given the new "scarlet letter" of being forced to register as a sex offender?

Contrary to the popular opinion that the "degenerates" on a sex offender registry are perverts lusting after pre-pubescent kids and weinie-waggers in search of a fresh victim to flash, all sorts of people wind up on sex offender registries.

In Missouri, more than 11,000 people are listed on the state's sex offender registry. Recently a handful of them joined a lawsuit over the issue. None of them are the child rapists the registry was designed to warn the public about. One was a woman who, at the age of 21, had sex with a 15-year-old boy whom had told her he was 18. Another was a parent who spanked his child with a belt and the state, believing that this kind of discipline was a "precursor" of sexual abuse, added him to the registry. All those involved in the case have faced discrimination and harassment as a result of being listed as "sex offenders."

I hope they win their case. But it's going to be a tough, uphill battle. Right now convicted sex offenders are the boogiemen for the left and the right. The right uses sex offenders as examples of why families must be protected and the left uses them to show that they can be tough on crime, too. Each side ups the ante to prove it's tougher on crime than the other side and no one is willing to step forward to say, "But what about the rights of the sex offenders?"

In Kansas, lawmakers of both parties are trying to outdo each other on who can come up with the harshest penalty short of getting all Puritan on the offender's ass with stockades and stonings. The governor, a moderate Democrat, used her State of the State address to call for forcing convicted offenders to wear electronic monitors for the rest of their lives. Not to be outdone, the Republicans proposed a plan to force sex offenders to equip their cars with special pink license plates - presumably so all the self-righteous Kansans can decide who to aim their vehicles at if the Rapture strikes while they are out on the road and their cars are about to become driverless.

Protecting youngsters is a good and noble thing. But how far are we willing to go to reach those aims? And what rights should a sex offender have?

Even before we can answer that question, we need to make clear who is a sex offender. Right now there is such a patchwork of local laws that someone who gets caught pissing behind a tree in one place could get a slap on the wrist and a fine for public urination while the same offense in another location could result in a charge of indecent exposure and a permanent listing as a sex offender.

Let's hope that cooler heads prevail somewhere down the line; but in the current wave of hysteria over anything remotely smelling of a (gasp!) sex offense there are few cool heads to be found on either end of the political spectrum.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Picking a winner in the olympics of delusion

Sometimes it's hard to pick a gold medalist in the olympics of delusion. A few weeks ago I would have put money on all those "ex-gays" running around and proclaiming their heterosexuality while oogling hot guys in the hope of gaining some decent, erection-inspiring fantasy material for the next time they have the obligatory twice-a-year sex with their wives. Then there was dark-horse candidate the Rev. Lonnie Latham, the Southern Baptist leader who was picked up in Oklahoma City for propositioning a male undercover cop for a little weinie-chugging back at his motel room and then tried to explain away the arrest by claiming his was "ministering" to the wayward flock around the infamous Habana Inn.

But lately my money's on the Log Cabin Republicans. Not only do they give great delusion, but they can trump that act with moral indignation when theie delusions get shattered and they come face-to-face with the fact that their party really does hate them.

Case in point: Last week the St. Petersburg Times reported that the Florida Republican Party was virtually bankrolling the effort to get a statewide ban on same-sex marriages on the ballot in 2006.

Of the $193,000 that has been raised by, the political committee working to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage, $150,000 of it came in a single donation from the Florida Republican Party. That's over three-quarters of the money raised by the anti-gay group.

Amusingly, even with the infusion of GOP money, the petition seeking to put the ballot measure before voters is still less than halfway to the 600,000 signatures needed by the Feb. 1 deadline.

Now enter the South Florida chapter of the Log County Republicans who were shocked - Shocked! I say! - to discover that their own party was turning on the money spigot to fund an effort aimed at marginalizing them. According to the Jan. 14 Orlando Sentinel, Jack Majeske, president of the Broward Log Cabin Club, a gay-conservative group, said he would file the grievance against the Florida Republican Party over the donation.

I really try to understand the Log Cabin Republicans. I can accept that they are interested in lower taxes and opposed to government spending on social programs. I can even accept that they believe they are working to change the Republican Party from within.

What I can't accept is that they believe that deep down the Republican party really gives a rat's ass about them when it continually works to to undo every modest gain the LGBT community has made over the past quarter of a century.

Certainly there exist moderate Republicans ... or at least those who don't start spitting venom like a cobra on crystal meth at the mere mention of LGBT rights. But as a whole, the Republican Party will care about gays at only two times: First, when they want to give the impression they really are a bunch of good ol' compassionate conservatives under a great big tent (nudge, wink, snicker); and second, when they want to scare the shit out of their knnuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing base and get them to the polls to vote against that homo-seck-shul agenda (and, just incidentally, to vote for decent, God-fearin' Republicans in the process).

You'd think that after a while the Log Cabinites would wise up and realize they are being trotted out by the GOP to serve as the boogieman to scare voters to the polls. Sometimes I think Log Cabinites are a bit like battered wives who stay with their abusive husbands and somehow learn to believe they deserve all the smacks and insults and black eyes they end up with at the hands of the GOP.

Whatever the reason - self-loathing masochism or delusional thinking - Log Cabin Republicans need to let go of the belief that they can change such a system of institutional bigotry and homophobia from within.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Democrats need more David Elgins

Chances are that if you are outside the state of Virginia you haven't heard of David Elgin. He's a freshman Democratic delegate representing the 45 District.

He's also a Democrat who "gets it" when it comes to LGBT issues. And that makes him a rarity - even among Democrats.

Virginia is currently embroiled in the debate over a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Apparently the old tourism slogan for the state - "Virginia is for lovers" - only counts is the lovers in question have Tab A to fit into Slot B. None of that Slot to Slot or Tab to Tab lovemaking for Virginians apparently. So opposed are some Virginians to slot-slot/tab-tab action that it looks like voters will be voting on an amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the state. Just last week The Virginia House Privileges & Elections Committee approved an anti-gay constitutional amendment on an 18-4 vote. Elgin was one of the four to vote against the measure.

It's not just Elgin's vote that makes him stand out. It's the speech he made in opposition to the amendment that shows here's one Democrat that clearly understands that measures such as this are based in homophobic gay-baiting more than any real desire to "protect families."

Here is the complete text of Elgin's speech:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this resolution. I’m not going to talk about same-sex marriage. I’m no fool — although others might make a different judgement about a freshman delegate rising in this chamber on the third day of session. But I understand that on the issue of marriage, I’m in the minority, perhaps even in my own caucus. I also sleep very well at night knowing that at some point in the future of this great Commonwealth, those of us of my opinion will be judged to have been on the right side of history. But let’s for a moment forget about the question of same-sex marriage, because this amendment addresses much more than that. We need to be clear and honest: This amendment also outlaws civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar private legal arrangements.

We have heard from the other side that this constitutional amendment is necessary to protect conventional marriage. I am blessed with a beautiful and brilliant wife who is the love of my life. In June, Shayna and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, and I would fight with every ounce of my strength anything that would threaten my marriage. So I would like to know, how exactly civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar arrangements threaten my marriage?

We have heard from the other side that this amendment will protect families. Shayna and I are blessed with a strong and bright six-year-old son, Caleb, and we have a strong family. My friend the gentleman from Rockingham County, Delegate Lohr, and I have discussed how we come from different backgrounds and different parts of this great Commonwealth, yet we share a deep and abiding commitment to our families. I want nothing more than to protect my family. I spent 12 years wearing the uniform of the United States Air Force to protect my family. I’ve been in harm’s way to protect my family. So I would like to know, how exactly do civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar arrangements threaten my family? Because if they do, I will be the first one to stand up and fight, because nobody better threaten my family.

Moreover, we have heard from the other side that this amendment must pass sooner rather than later, as if there is some kind of crisis that is more important than issues like transportation or education or health care. Why else would this be our first order of business? Yet Virginia law already makes same-sex marriage and civil unions and domestic partnerships illegal.

So if this amendment doesn’t help protect my marriage, and doesn’t help protect my family, and if it doesn’t even change the status of same-sex marriage and civil unions and domestic partnership contracts, then what exactly does this amendment do? I submit to my fair-minded colleagues that this amendment sends a message. And that message is, if you are gay, or lesbian, or even a man and a woman living together and committed to each other who are not married, you are not welcome in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

And who are these people whom we are shutting out in the cold? They are my dear friends Karen and Sue, who have been together for years and are as loving and committed to each other as any husband and wife. They are my friend Lou, who served with me at the Pentagon, and continues to serve our country today. They are Father Mychal Judge, the gay priest who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 while ministering to fallen firefighters. They are Mark Bingham, a gay passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, who fought back against Al Queda hijackers and sacrificed his life to save others. They are Ronald Gamboa and his partner Dan Brandhorst, who, along with their 3 year old son David, were killed when Al Quaeda flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center. They are David Charlebois, the co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon when Al Qaeda tried to kill me and my comrades who were on duty inside the Pentagon at the time. They are friends and neighbors and teachers and doctors and soldiers and loving parents who want nothing more than to live life without fear that the government will tear their families apart.

I’m a student of history, and I find our Founding Fathers to be a great source of wisdom on many matters, so I want to close my remarks by reading from a letter that great Virginian named George Washington wrote more than two centuries ago:

“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind . . . a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.

May the Children of the Stock of Abraham who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you, be strong and of good courage and vote down this resolution.

Most legislative freshmen are two busy trying to learn the ropes to take such stands. And when it comes to LGBT issues, most Democrats - especially those in red states - are downright gutless out of fear Republicans will turn any pro-gay vote into a weapon to use against them when election times rolls around.

It's too bad we don't have more Democrats like Elgin.


Monday, January 09, 2006

Are you ready to r-r-r-r-r-rumble?!?! The homophobe vs. self-loathing closet case smackdown!

Remember the Rev. Lonnie Latham, the Southern Baptist leader from Tulsa who was busted at the infamous Habana Inn in Okla-homo ... Oops! I mean "Oklahoma City" ... for propositioning a male undercover cop? (If you don't, got back a couple of entries. I'll wait for you to catch up.)

OK. All caught up now? Good.

So here's the update on the story: Apparently Brother Lonnie's initial explanation that he was "ministering" to the lost sheep who hang out aroung the Habana Inn didn't pass the smell test for his congregation ... or for anyone with an IQ above room temperature in an air-conditioned igloo, for that matter. So Brother Lonnie stepped down as senior pastor at the South Tulsa Baptist Church and sent his flock a letter.

According to Tulsa TV station KOTV:

In the letter, Lonnie Latham says "Sandra and I thank you for the love and encouragement you have shown us not only before this incident but also after. Your cards, calls, and e-mails of encouragement, your prayers, and your presence sustain us. We will always love you. Our prayer is for you to continue to be the great ministry you are.”

Morris Chapman is the CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention and he says of Latham - "In spite of his denials soon after his arrest, he now acknowledges the incident did happen and that he needs help."

I'd say that's a bit of an understatement that Brother Lonnie needs help. Unfortunately, the Southern Baptist version of "help" in a case like this will be to whisk him off to an "ex-gay" camp quicker than you can say "Lonnie likes to lick young lads lances" three times fast. No doubt Brother Lonnie will come back "cured" and be yet another "ex-gay" spokesperson touting how rededicating his like to Jesus saved him from that awful homo-seck-shul afflication while eyeing a studly young lad in his audience and feel dat ol' devil creep into his crotch.

Ho-hum! We've heard it before from the former heads of Exodus International who fell in love with each other and decided the "ex-gay" schtick couldn't compare to playing hide-the-salami. And from John Paulk, the "ex-gay" head of James Dobson's Focus on the Family's "ex-gay" program ... at least before he got caught trying to pick up guys in a Washington, D.C., gay bar. And from ... well, the list could go on and on.

What make's Brother Lonnie's fall from grace interesting is that it's apparently caught the attention of homophobic heavyweight champion Fred Phelps of Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church. Fred announced in one of his ubiquitous flyers that he plans on picketing that "sodomite whorehouse" otherwise known as South Tulsa Baptist Church.

Apparently Fred is miffed that Lonnie's littel escapade is drawing attention away from him and his picketing of funerals of soliders killed in Iraq. Heck, poor Fred couldn't even get much publicity for his plans to picket a memorial service for the miners killed in West Virginia thanks to Lonnie stealing his thunder.

So now the smackdown is on pitting one certifiably crazy homophobe against one genuinely screwed up closet case.

It's so amusing when the fundies begin to turn on each other. Is it too much to hope they take each other out with one blow (so to speak)?


Sunday, January 08, 2006

'Brokeback' backlash: Why so many gay men are luke warm about the movie

(Spoiler alert: If you don't want to hear about plot elements of "Brokeback Mountain" before you see the movie, don't read this.)

I really, really wanted to like Ang Lee's film version of "Brokeback Mountain." For the past two months, as that all important buzz began to build about the movie, I couldn't wait to see it. My heart leapt every time the film got a great review or was nominated for this or that recognition and I silently fumed as the movie opened on the coasts and I waited weeks for it to open here in the Midwest. Finally a local opening was set and I plunked down $25 bucks for a ticket to a special premier showing. I sat in the sold-out audience as the light faded and the screen came to life.

Once the lights came back up, the one word I could use to describe my feelings was "underwhelmed."

What went wrong? Did I miss something? Had I been led to have too high expectations from all the pre-release Hollywood hype? I obviously wasn't seeing the same films the critics were seeing. They were raving about it. I was giving it a shrug and an 'eh.'

I loved the Annie Proulx story it was based on and the film is exceptionally faithful to the short story. But while I had tears running down my face while reading the last 10 pages of the story, I walked out of the theater dry-eyed.

Thinking there must be something wrong with me, I kept my ambivalent fellings about "Brokeback Mountain" to myself. Then I began to notice something on message boards: I wasn't alone in feeling a "Brokeback" backlash. Gay men all over the country were coming out of the theaters where the movie is being shown with the same sort of mixed feelings about it. Most will concede that the film is beautifully shot and that the acting is definitely above average. But the faint praise stops there at the "but" point ... the point at which they say "but ..." and follow it with some version of "the movie just didn't touch me."

I've wrestled for over a week with trying to understand why I'm not moved by a film others are describing as "powerful." Then today it hit me: "Brokeback Mountain" is a gay mainstream movie. It's "gay" in that it's two lead characters are men with a powerful sexual and emotional attraction to each other and lots of obstacles to overcome in coming to terms with their attraction. That's something I can relate to as a gay man.

What I can't relate to is the "mainstream movie" part of it.

"Gay" and "mainstream movie" aren't necessarily mutually exclusive terms, but they are like two mismatched jigsaw puzzle pieces that don't fit together regardless of how hard you try to force them. "Brokeback Mountain" is as close as we've ever come to a gay mainstream movie, but even it falls short of the goal.

In expanding Proulx's short story, the screen writers expanded the roles of Ennis's and Jack's wives. In the story, Ennis' wife, Alma, has several brief scenes and Jack's wife, Lureen, only shows up in one scene near the end of the story. Their roles are greatly expanded in the film version and it becomes apparent their roles have more to do with attracting straight women to the theater than advancing the story of Jack and Ennis.

Meanwhile, except for the opening 30 minutes that focuses on the idyllic summer Jack and Ennis spent herding sheep and discovering their attraction to each other, the film seems to focus more on the men's relationships with their wives than their feelings for each other. Their sporadic "fishing trips" are mostly just alluded to, but every tic, raised eyebrow and questioning glance of their relationships with their wives fills the screen with ominous portent.

It's such as obvious ploy to attract straight women to the theaters that I'm almost surprised some angry queen didn't stand up halfway through the movie, "Get those bitches out of OUR movie!"

In a sense, the written version of "Brokeback Mountain" is our story. But when Ang Lee chose to try making a mainstream movie, he decided to emphasize elements of the story that would take away the feelings and emotions we "owned" when we read it. In the story, the wives and children and in-laws are background noise to the story of Ennis and Jack. In the film, they move to the forefront to give straight audiences something to hang onto that doesn't involve two men falling in love in the majestic wilderness.

The film also takes what was left ambiguous in the story - the fate of Jack - and makes it explicit on film. (This is your last chance to turn back if you don't like spoilers!) In the story, Ennis learns of Jack's death when he calls Lureen. She tells him Jack died when a tire he was changing exploded, causing the rim to hit him in the face. The film follows their conversation word-for-word just as it was in the book. But in the short story, Ennis wonders if Jack was instead killed by bigots brandishing tire irons. It takes exactly one sentence in the story to convey this and allow Ennis to wonder if Lureen is telling him the truth. The answer is left ambiguous. Instead of opting for ambiguity - which might confuse American movie audience, don't you know? - Lee makes explicit what Ennis wonders. While Lureer tells of Jack's death the audience glimpses Jack being chased by rednecks, knocked down and hit across the face with a tire iron.

Jack's death is actually the second gay bashing we see in the film. The first occurs in a flashback when Jack tries to intrest Ennis in getting a ranch together. Ennis rejects the idea and tells Jack of his father taking him to see the body of one of two "tough old birds" who set up house-keeping together. "Anyway they... they found Earl dead in an irrigation ditch. Took a tire iron to 'im. Spurred him up, drug him 'round by his dick 'till it pulled off," Ennis says, adding that for all he knew, his father was involved in the murder.

Call me jaded, but one brutal fag bashing was enough to get the point across. Lee's decision to make Jack's death explicit was unnecessary and goes way beyond the original story. It focuses on Jack's being a victim at the hands of murderous rednecks and completely looses sight of the fact that Ennis remains a victim of a homophobic culture so ingrained in him that he can't fully allow himself to love Jack. Consequently, the later scene of Ennis going to see Jack's parents and finding the shirt he thought he lost during the summer on Brokeback Mountain tucked inside one of Jack's shirts rings with far less poignancy than it does in the story.

Ang Lee may have wanted to make a gay-themed mainstream movie, but he fell short of the goal. Maybe that's because there really isn't such a thing as a gay mainstream movie. To be mainstream - at least now in the early years of the 21st century - is to dumb down and whitewash the "gay" part to attract the "mainstream" part. Hollywood knows it can't make a profit with a film that just appeals to gays. So it adds elements designed to attract straight audiences and the "gay" part becomes merely incidental to the "mainstream" part.

Other films over the past quarter century or so have tried to be the breakthrough movie for gay issues. "Making Love" dealt with a married man's discovery that he was gay after an affair with another man. But the characters were all so nice and polite and upper middle class that the movie was a colossal bore to gay audiences. Then came "Philadelphia" with Tony Hanks playing an AIDS-infected lawyer who supposedly contracted AIDS from a single one-night stand while hubby Antonio Banderas was out of town. Yeah, right!

Of all the serious "gay-themed" films, "Brokeback Mountain" comes as close as we've ever seen to a mainstream movie. But in doing so, it lost a lot of what made it relevant and moving to gay men along the way.

My advice: See the movie if you want to ... but do yourself a favor and read the story for a far more moving experience.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Baptist 'parking lot ministry' aims at saving homo-seck-shuls

News item from Oklahoma City: An executive committee member of the Southern Baptist Convention was arrested on a lewdness charge for propositioning a plainclothes policeman outside a hotel, police said.

Lonnie Latham, senior pastor at South Tulsa Baptist Church, was booked into Oklahoma County Jail Tuesday night on a misdemeanor charge of offering to engage in an act of lewdness, police Capt. Jeffrey Becker said. Latham was released on $500 bail Wednesday afternoon.

Oh Lordy! Say it ain't so, Brother Lonnie!

Latham, who has spoken out against homosexuality, asked the officer to join him in his hotel room for oral sex. Latham was arrested and his 2005 Mercedes automobile was impounded, Becker said.

Dang, Brother Lonnie! A 2005 Mercedes? I'm guessing you put a lot more stock in all those parts of the Bible about callin' guys who lay with guys "abominations" than you do in the part of the Bible where Jesus says it's easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into Heaven.

Calls to Latham at his church were not immediately returned Wednesday.

The arrest took place in the parking lot of the Habana Inn, which is in an area where the public has complained about male prostitutes flagging down cars, Becker said. The plainclothes officers was investigating these complaints.

The Habana Inn?!?!?! Merciful Heavens, Brother Lonnie! I've heard stories about that place! I've heard it one of those motels were those people ... you know ... the homo-seck-shuls go to perform those vile, lustful acts ... their bodies naked and gleaming with sweat ... animal grunts and groans escaping from them while their naughty parts get all inflammed from rubbing together and being inserted into places God never intended them to go. I'll bet a place like that could even make those naughty cowboys in "Brokeback Mountain" blush.

The lewdness charge carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

After posting bond, Latham told KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City that he was set up, and was in the area ministering to people.

See! There you have it! I could have told you Brother Lonnie was innocent! He wasn't there looking to chug weinies or take a ride on the Hershey highway. He was there savin' souls. That dim-witted cop - probably one of them lib'rul Godless Democrats - misintrepted Brother Lonnie when he said, "Wanna come back to my motel room for some Bible study, big boy?" I'll bet prayin' for those poor lost souls was the only thing Brother Lonnie had on his mind when he suggested getting on his knees.

No doubt Brother Lonnie has started his own Parking Lot Ministry to save the souls of those poor, misguided homo-sect-shuls who are doomed to hell for all eternity if they don't quit rubbing their naughty parts together and making Brother Lonnie all excited when he thinks about it.

Yep, that must be it! It ain't Brother Lonnie's fault. Those dang homos are trying to recruit him and get another toaster oven!