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Theatre, Music, etc.


December 21, 2007


Next week, you can shop for yourself

Generally, holiday gift guides come out weeks and weeks before the holidays. This year, however, Hanukkah fell early (beginning at sunset on December 5), meaning that any inclusive holiday guide would have had to appear in our World AIDS Day special issue.

That would have been tacky.

Instead, how about a holiday gift guide that includes really fun things that can be given as presents if there’s time, but also serves as a checklist of things to run out and buy for yourself when everyone is having their post-holiday sales, assuming there is anything left in the coffers after the Xmas consumer frenzy. It’s not too late, after all, to start a feud with someone for whom you have yet to buy a present, thus saving that money to spend on yourself.

For the sake of simplicity there are three categories: DVDs, CDs and books. It never hurts to visit your local LGBT merchants before relying on big box stores or the major online retailers. Much of the time, what you save by purchasing something from Amazon is almost immediately eaten up by the shipping charges, then you have to wait for the item to arrive--and shipping in December is a slow process.


There are two major releases backed up by the unmitigated queerness of Russell T. Davies, the man who created the original British Queer as Folk. The first, Doctor Who Season 3, is already available on DVD, while the second, Torchwood Season 1, will be out in mid-January.

After producing soft-core gay porn for the British Broadcasting Corporation, nobody expected Davies to straighten up his act, and he most certainly hasn’t.

Torchwood revolves around the Cardiff, Wales branch of an extra-governmental agency that fights alien threats to mankind. Why in Cardiff? Apparently, there is a rip in the fabric of space and time right in the middle of the city.

The team is run by Capt. Jack Harkness (openly gay actor John Barrowman), introduced in the middle of the first season of Davies’ reboot of the Doctor Who franchise. Harkness is a bisexual time traveler, now stuck in the early days of the 21st century. Oh, and he cannot die. He tries, but it just doesn’t work. Somehow, by the end of the season, every character on the show is shown to be bisexual as well. Apparently, when it comes to fighting aliens, everyone swings both ways.

At the end of the season, Harkness jumps ship over to sister program Doctor Who, where he rejoins the cast for the final three-episode story arc. Joining the doctor is comedian Catherine Tate for the season premiere, then Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones, looking much better than she did in her season 2 cameo as another character, when she gets taken over by the Cybermen.

Hey, there is a large contingent of gay nerds, and Davies acknowledges and celebrates that fact.

Rounding out a trifecta of fabulousness from the BBC is Little Britain Abroad, a new collection of sketches by creators Matt Lucas, the straight one who plays “the only gay in the village,” and David Walliams, all of which involve their various characters going on trips to exotic, far-off locations.

For instance, the socially irredeemable Vicky Pollard is locked in a Thai jail for drug-smuggling, while the Prime Minister and his assistant Sebastian are in Washington, D.C. One would think that, given the current state of the G.O.P., Sebastian would have no trouble getting some political nookie…

The DVD features guest stars like Dawn French, one of the creators of Absolutely Fabulous, Steve Coogan, Peter Kay and Ronnie Corbett (three iconic British comedians of different generations). It also features the voice of Tom Baker, who played the Doctor in the earlier incarnation of Doctor Who.

For those who cannot understand British accents and can’t read the subtitles fast enough to keep up, there’s always Season 3 of Bravo’s Project Runway. Heidi Klum is generally easy enough to understand, and it’s always fun trying to find out which of the male would-be fashion designers on the show are claiming to be heterosexual. Generally, it’s only one . . .


There are three new--or newer--releases out this holiday season that almost seem like three generations of queer women performers.

However, it might be more accurate to describe it as three musical paths instead of generations, since all these women are still releasing music and going strong.

Interestingly enough, they were born about a decade apart, too, so musically, that might be a generation.

The oldest is Melissa Etheridge, who at 46 shows no signs of stopping. Having battled breast cancer, she just released the album The Awakening.

Qualifying an album by an iconic artist like Etheridge is difficult, at best. Yes, it’s filled with the introspective songs of love and loss that one expects from her, the focus on guitar and voice, the forays into political commentary.

What’s perhaps most amazing is that, almost 20 years after her first album, she is still going strong, no mean feat for a female in the world of rock and roll. Joan Jett occasionally makes forays out of the obscurity into which she’s fallen; Debbie Harry still rides the success of Blondie; Chrissie Hynde will always be the voice of the Pretenders. None of them, however, can stand on their own two feet like Melissa, as easily identifiable by that one name as Madonna or Cher.

Born just shy of a decade after her, Ani DiFranco released her first album two years after Etheridge’s start, and now has 20 full albums, along with some official bootlegs, under her belt.

The latest, Canon, is a two-disc set collecting her best-known, most-loved tracks, like the signature “32 Flavors.” It also has new studio versions of the tracks “Napoleon,”  “Shameless,”  “Your Next Bold Move,”  “Both Hands” and “Overlap.”

For the casual fan who likes a DiFranco song here and there, it’s the perfect anthology of her work to date. And it’s really necessary to stress “to date,” since she releases about an album a year, and she’s only 37.

Finally, that brings the babies of the bunch, Tegan and Sara, out with their latest, The Con.

The Quin sisters, lesbian identical twins from Calgary, are getting their second taste of success in the United States with this album. Those who liked their song “Walking with a Ghost,” but thought it was a bit repetitive, should be thrilled with the new album. There is no reliance on what seemed like the constant repetition of the chorus in that song off of their last album.

What there is, however, is 14 tracks of indie singer-songwriting bliss, with just that little dash of maple leaf goodness that makes everything better.

With Kaki King and members of the Rentals, AFI and Death Cab for Cutie adding instrumental skill and production power, hopefully this album will continue the twins’ rise to fame and fortune.


Alas, poor books. It seems that the day of the printed page is nearing an end, between the seeming illiteracy of the American people and the rise of ebooks. Have you heard about Amazon’s new Kindle ebook reader? No? Well, you’re probably not missing much. Reading a book on any form of a computer seems about as painful as watching an entire week of television while sitting about six inches from the screen.

However, there are still great books out there, printed on actual paper, providing something to fill shelf space once it’s over and having a good heft in the hand while it’s being read.

For one, there’s Supervillainz by Alicia E. Goranson, described as “rump-smacking good action-adventure trans fiction.”

Basically, a team of superheroes has appeared in Boston, fighting petty crime. When a hapless young trans woman and her trans-man best friend are mugged, they encounter one of these “heroes,” and he accidentally winds up dead, leading the rest of his team chasing after the protagonists as they learn that heroes are not necessarily the ones with the powers.

Speaking of superheroes, Blood Moon’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Film, Second Edition has a whole section of essays on superheroes in television and the movies.

It also covers many of the queer films that came out in 2006 and 2007, and straight films with queer connections. What it does not necessarily do well, however, is explain why some of the films in the book are there at all. V for Vendetta, for instance, had Stephen Fry, an openly gay actor, playing a closeted gay television director, but they make no mention of that. Nothing else in the film suggests queerness.

It’s still a fun read, especially for a hopeless cinephile.

Finally, there’s Powerhouse Books’ Czanara: Photographs and Drawings, a lush coffee-table book by an obscure French photographer who often used an overlaying technique to put texture into his photos, or blend them together.

Filled with timeless pictures of disaffected young male models, the book is a fitting tribute to Raymond Carrance, the artist who worked under the pseudonym Czanara. While few had heard of him, even fewer who see his work are able to forget it.




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