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.
I got my first hate mail. Well, not actually mail and not my first, but I’ll explain that later. My first hate comment since I began writing this blog on LGBTQ topics in January was short and to the point: “Dirty fag.” I can’t say I was surprised, except perhaps that it took so long. (In seven months I’ve had over 3100 views by visitors from 67 countries.) One friend even noted it was a sign that I’m “reaching the right audience, and not preaching to the converted.” True enough, and an apt metaphor.
The cowardly act of schoolyard name-calling was hidden behind a curious Twitter handle: Girolamo Savonarola. In case you’re not up on Italian Renaissance history, Savonarola was a 15th century Dominican friar who castigated the rich and powerful in Florence with fiery apocalyptic sermons. His reform campaigns included the infamous Bonfire of the Vanities, in which objects deemed “occasions of sin” were burned – masks and carnival gowns; playing cards and musical instruments; “immoral” books by Ovid and Boccaccio; paintings by Botticelli.
A week before Kris van der Veen was arrested in Russia, on suspicion of “promoting gay propaganda” to minors, he was reading about Ivan Dusak, or Ivan the Fool. A popular figure in Russian folklore dating back to the 16th century, Ivan is the youngest of three brothers who set out to seek their fortunes. Fairest of hair and bluest of eyes, Ivan is seen as simpleminded by his greed-driven siblings. But he follows his heart – always eager to help others, even if it puts himself at risk. Ivan’s naïve derring-do vanquishes the dastardly deeds of villains and wins the happily-ever-after love of princesses. Not such a fool after all. Kris van der Veen would be perfect casting.
The Inn is quiet again but for the rat-a-tat-tatting of rhythmic rain on the roof, Mother Nature’s own percussive washboard. It was a musical weekend with New Bedford band Pumpkin Head Ted visiting the North Country. Morning coffee on the terrace was accompanied by strumming of an acoustic guitar. A noontime flute trilled along the upstairs hallway. Hours before customers arrived, an impromptu session filled the pub with gentle harmonies. But I’d been thinking more discordant thoughts.
“I love that half of the people posting about the death of Margaret Thatcher are actually posting pictures of Meryl Streep,” wrote gay blogger and author Kergan Edwards-Stout on Facebook. At first I thought he might be joking, but on further reflection I fear not. Social media is full of such inaccuracies and one must admit that Meryl Streep, in her Oscar-winning turn as the Iron Lady, is more photogenic.
“You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good…Joan Crawford is dead. Good.” – Bette Davis (1977)