Queer: December 2008 Archives


This is a seasonal post - but with a twist.

Although I'm a refugee from a Roman Catholic youth, a steadfast atheist for almost 50 years, I suppose I may still be somewhat conflicted about the baby Jesus.

For some reason, when I saw this delicate little ceramic infant a number of years ago inside the gift shop at New Mexico's ancient El Santuario de Chimayo, I couldn't resist snapping it up. At first the priest didn't want to part with the pale-skinned hand-made figure, even though it was on the merchandise table, but he eventually agreed to sell it. It turned out to be the last one in stock, and he wasn't sure they'd ever get another. Maybe he had fallen in love with it himself, and maybe he sensed I wasn't going to use it for conventional devotion.

Okay, it was the eyes that got me.

I lay him down carefully in some raffia on the cherry tea table every December 24th; it's always the most Christmas-y thing in our apartment. We're actually both pretty devoted to this child, even though our own convention is that he gets packed away in a few days until his return appearance next year.

When the kid looks up at us through that fantastic eyeshadow, I like to think he's trying to tell us something we already know.

Hieronymus Bosch The Mountebank 1475-80 oil on panel 21" x 29.5"

I'm going to close my eyes and count to ten, and when I open them I want to find that fat mountebank gone.

I'm very much in and of this country, but I'm not a member of Rick Warren's wacky faith-based syndicate of dupes. I'm not a Christian of any description, and I'm also not a Jew and not a Muslem or Bahá'ist. I'm not Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddist, Confucian, Taoist, Shinto, Zoroastrian, Druze, Shamanist, Unitarian or Yoruban. I'm also not a part of the Prince Philip Movement.

In fact I'm not a member of any magic cult, and I'm not a part of any other kind of club. I like to believe that I can think for myself. It's a competence I continue to hope I might share with every American adult, in spite of all the sad evidence to the contrary. At the very least I'd like to think that the person chosen to occupy the office of President of the United States of America can and does think for himself. Yet it now seems pretty clear, as he's about to be anointed on the steps of the Capitol, that even our latest almighty one doesn't think for himself, or at least that he doesn't want us to think that he thinks for himself.

It's not only that I am appalled by Obama's choice of Rick Warren to deliver an "invocation" at his, no, . . . our truly-epochal January 20th inauguration ceremony. No, it's much bigger than that: I object to the fact that even in the twenty-first century, in order to get a proper send-off into the most important secular office a nation can award to one of its citizens, the President-elect of my country feels he has to enlist the public help of any crazy sky pilot to formally summon the private imaginary friend the two of them share.

NOTE: If I were to object only to the specific choice of Warren as the next American high priest, I would hope I could come up with more reasons than those connected with his vocal opposition to gay marriage, comparing it to incest, pedophilia and polygamy. This seems to be all that most people find appalling about Warren.

I would add, and this is just for starters, that he does not believe in evolution; that he would deny women the right to their own bodies, comparing abortion to the Holocaust and those who defend a woman's right to choice as no better than Nazis; that he has said that women should submit to their husbands; that he believes that Jews who do not convert will surely roast in hell; that he has advocated the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; that he has said that Christians who advance a social gospel (the religious crusade against poverty and inequality) are Marxists; and that he opposes stem-cell research.

But enough. Écrasez l'infâme!

[image from Web Gallery of Art]


I know it from the very personal relationships the man enjoyed with good friends of mine who regularly hosted this sweet man in their homes. Van Johnson was quite queer, even if he didn't seem to want it broadcast everywhere.

It's too bad the obituaries in the NYTimes and other MSM outlets I've just looked at on line still seem to think that queer is, well, . . . too disgusting to talk about in public, thus perpetuating the climate of fear and loathing in which Johnson grew up and which continues to waste and destroy lives even today.

ADDENDUM: By way of media corroboration, I just found this copy of a 2004 obituary of Evie Wynn Johnson, the woman the star married in 1947, It appeared in the The Independent.

[image from ioffer]

"No Border Camps" members dramatize how goods cross borders freely, people don't (1998)

Queen Mother Moore radicalizing much younger Green Haven Prison inmates in 1973

Barry and I spent almost two hours at the current Exit Art show, "Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures 1960s to Now", on what may have been our last beautiful late fall Saturday afternoon. Let me just explain that it was several times more compelling than even this old activist had expected. I'll add this caution: It closes at the end of the week, on December 6th.

There are colorful posters, photographs, broadsheets, banners, sound documentations and videos. In addition to the two images above I can show captures of a small selection of some of the more provocative posters below. I'm including only minimal captions since a proper context for the posters generally requires more information than I can supply here.

The single greatest thing about the show may be less its lavish size than its enormous geographical compass. It covers modern social movements just about everywhere on the planet. The video documentaries are particularly intense.

So I hope this short tease works. If you read this blog with any frequency you probably should see this exhibition, especially if you're the sort who is inclined to muck about in the street, or maybe especially if you're not yet that sort. Tell your friends, in any event.

I suppose it was not part of the project's scope, but I noticed that there were virtually no artifacts in the exhibition which were not printed, that is, there were no hand-made "signs of change". And I'm sure that anyone looking for specific content could find something to say about the curatorial choices, but after I left this rather dense survey of the use of art in social movements I recalled that I had seen very little material devoted to AIDS or homosexuality. That really surprised me, as it's not as if these two issues, AIDS in particular, did not attract artists of all kinds, or that their response had no aesthetic resonance.

anonymous poster from the 1970s

poster using cover from 1980s UK newspaper, Class War

poster from Chicago feminist collective, "SisterSerpents" (1989) [blue is a reflection on plexi]

poster from "Dirty Linen Corp" (1969)

1970 poster from Amsterdam absurdist theatrical party, "Kabouterbeweging" [gnome movement]

This page is an archive of entries in the Queer category from December 2008.

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