A storm rages outside. Wind rattles the windows of the 150-year-old inn. Ominous rolling thunder, lightning flashes, horizontal rain whips through the trees. The lights dim for a second. (Should I unplug my laptop? Yes.) Atop Mt. Washington, not far away, conditions must be terrifying. The worst weather in the world is recorded there. The power fails. Darkness. I light a candle. A few minutes ago I was reading a book called The Demonologist. Now I am afraid.
“It’s always best to start at the beginning,” advised Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. The day before the storm on the summit of Mt. Washington, a cold wind swept clouds across my face in the colorless landscape above the tree line. Like Kansas, I thought. Dorothy battling the wind in black-and-white before the arrival of the cyclone that will whisk her away to a Technicolor land of make-believe. The Wizard of Oz was on my mind because this week marks the 75th anniversary of its premiere.
I couldn’t help but smile at year’s end when the Arts section of the New York Times published an essay by James Franco called The Meanings of the Selfie. It followed a November announcement by Oxford Dictionaries that selfie was their international Word of the Year 2013. Old news now, with the lightning speed of the information highway. But together the stories had a full-circle resonance for me. I began the year with a determination to pave new paths in social media. And almost everywhere I turned, James Franco popped up waving a checkered flag.
For many years I co-hosted a local Amsterdam LGBT radio show called Alien. We broadcast live for two hours every Sunday evening. On April 3rd 2005 we canned our usual extraterrestrial opening jingle. Without warning or explanation of any kind, we simply began with the entire Munchkinland sequence from the film soundtrack of The Wizard of Oz, including the two rousing choruses of Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead. The message was clear: Pope John-Paul II had died the day before.
Disrespectful? Yes. That was the point.
What a kerfuffle! A few days ago a story twittered through Blogville, most notably via HuffPost Gay Voices, about Philadelphia drag artist Martha Graham Cracker. She’d been invited by someone at a nearby New Jersey after-school program to delight the kids with stories by Dr. Seuss on his birthday, in celebration of Read Across America. But in a blink of the Grinch’s eye, the invitation was ever so rudely rescinded. Day-care officials deemed Miss Graham Cracker “inappropriate” to read for their children.
Early in 2012 author Edmund White was asked by The Browser to select five gay novels with beautiful writing. His top two choices: Jean Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers and A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood. He praised Genet for his sumptuous poetic style, Isherwood for his chaste simplicity. Polar opposites, some might say. And yet, true to my contrary nature, I find a certain confluence. Continue reading