For those of my readers in the U.S. with access to PBS—whether through their website, their mobile apps, or even, you know, the plain old television set—I recommend the Ken Burns Prohibition series that played in three parts over the last few hours last week.
No, not because it's filled with hot men. Quite the opposite, actually. Some of those nineteenth-century beards are kind of horrifying, and a lot of the men look like they smell. No, Burns has created a fascinating look at the period in the early twentieth century when, for a brief period of time, the nation prohibited alcohol from the lives of its citizens. It's fascinating because it was the only time in U.S. history that our elected officials successfully amended the constitution to prohibit freedoms, rather than expand upon them. It was also a dismal failure.
The documentary sticks to its topic, by and large, but the parallel between Prohibition and the current drive of social conservatives to amend state and federal constitutions to prohibit gay marriage is pretty plain throughout the entire project. Burns is offering a really engrossing, and comprehensive, look at what happens when we allow a subset of our society to legislate morality for all, and how minorities of all sorts—racial, economic, and cultural—become the scapegoats in their quest for purification and establishing themselves as political powers.
Whew. That got heavy. It's just plain interesting, really. And there are plenty of interesting photos and film clips. Watch it, if you get a chance. And then we can all get back to our regular TV diet of Top Model and Project Runway.
Okay. That's my regular TV diet. Who'm I kidding?
Let's get to some questions from formspring.me, and from the readers who've sent in questions to my email box, since I had to shut down temporarily the anonymous question portion of that particular web site, thanks to one person abusing it. (I'm hoping that it'll be back up soon.) If you have questions and a formspring.me account, ask me what you'd like there. I'll answer if the question's not invasive or rude. If you don't have an account, just drop me a note at the email address in the sidebar, and I'll include it in the next column.
I have always considered your blog substantially true. A certain type of reader makes too much of the "inconsistencies" in viewpoint or reporting that are part and parcel of human nature. Those have nothing to do with honesty or truth, and little to do with good writing.
May I differ, now, as regards "a wonderful life"? Certainly taking the reins and shaping things to our benefit is key -- absolutely. Where we are and where we want to be are indeed the heart of the matter. Where we want to go, however, is also determined by where we can. Per one theory of intelligence, you have it all: a very high IQ ("Componential"), abundant creativity ("Experiential") and a capacity to modify your circumstances ("Contextual") that blossomed before most of us could diagram sentences. (Many who misunderstand you, I think, churn and generalize your decadent side into deceptiveness and lack of self-control. This blinds them to your resourceful side.)
Few manage time (especially) and money as well as you. Most do not develop those flairs at such an early age (if ever), making them second nature. That you believe the rest of us can have done as much and need only apply it is an index of strong character; but it also risks becoming "an intelligence trap". I must agree that most of us can and should do better at managing our lives; yet I wonder how many of us can equal or exceed you. (Neither, good sir, can most of us play the computer keyboard with musical dexterity.)
Thanks for your vote of confidence, first. I appreciate it.
Your observations are based on something I said in last Sunday's blog post, namely: As I said publicly earlier this week, when people think my blog is fiction, what really saddens me most is not the accusation itself. It's that these people can't envision that they could be making their own lives extraordinary as well. As extraordinary as mine. Way more so!
Your statements may be true, to a certain extent. I'm aware that to other people, it does seem as if those who have certain gifts have an easy time of squeezing every last drop of happiness out of their lives. I think that looking at other people and thinking "Oh, I can never do that!" is what turns into a dangerous trap, though. Measuring one's own shortcomings against the seeming lack of them in someone else is just one of those inertial blocks that's going to prompt someone to say "I'm never going to be as creative or have as much flair at managing my life as this guy. Why should I even try?"
I honestly believe that it's not true, anyway. I am rotten at a lot of things—managing money is one of them, though you seem to believe I have a flair for it. I don't. I shouldn't be allowed to have a bank account, honestly, because I won't balance it, don't intend to, and only have a vague idea of how much money's in there at a given time. You may think I have a strong character, but most of the time I am berating myself for indulging in what I perceive as my weaknesses.
The grass is always greener, in other words.
Merely because I have a minor facility with words and present my thoughts cleanly (once in a while, anyway) doesn't mean I am any better at managing my life than anyone else. I'm pretty sure that anyone can live his or her life better than I.
What I do recognize, though, is that my life doesn't have to follow pre-conceived notions. If I can employ an extended metaphor here, it's less a roller-coaster on tracks from which I can't deviate, and more a car that I can attempt to drive where I please. Sure, occasionally I'll run into one-way roads and traffic jams and the other stuff that impedes me from reaching my goal. But I'd rather drive along my own roads than let everyone else do the steering for me.
This is what a lot of people never seem to wake up and realize. You don't have to have your father's career path. You don't have to have your grandparents' mode of marriage. Figure out what you want out of your life and if it's lacking, figure out what path will lead you in its direction. Then start walking that path with a clear mind and a knowledge that you might not get quite where you want, but that the journey's going to be a hell of a lot more interesting than watching everything pass you by from the passenger window.
Man, any more of this and people are going to think I'm a motivational speaker for my career.
How often do you go to NY? Business or pleasure or both?
Since I've moved, I've been hitting Manhattan at least once a week. Sometimes more. And it's always pleasure.
Commenters sometimes mention Armistead Maupin. How do you find your writing most like him? How do you find it least like him?
Maupin is a fine writer. His novels, save for The Night Listener, move me a lot. (That one was just dopey, though.) Maupin, however, writes novels about fictional characters. He can make them behave however he'd like, and have them say anything he wants.
In my blog, I'm writing about real life and how I see it. I record people saying what they've actually said, and doing things over which I have no direct control. I don't have the luxury of having characters do something to manipulate an emotion in a reader. I write about real people, not fictional characters. I can't bring in transsexuals and hookers and ingenues simply because it makes good reading. Furthermore, Maupin writes for a mainstream audience and commercial success; I write a fucking sex blog, which is pretty marginal to begin with, and for an audience that's even more on the periphery of the mainstream than the vast majority of sex bloggers.
Maupin and I both write in American English and about gay life sometimes. Further comparisons are pretty pointless, since he operates in a vastly more elevated sphere than I.
On Maupin & The Breeder -- Breeder ought to remove his green-eyed glasses. If Maupin aims for a mainstream audience and commercial success, he does not have the luxury of making his characters behave as he likes, having them say anything he wants, or
Actually, dumbass, he has exactly that luxury. That's what fiction is. It's made up in the author's head. He can do whatever he likes.
What in my response implied any sort of envy of Maupin at all? Nothing. Repeatedly insisting I'm envious of Maupin doesn't make it so. I'm not in the least envious of his skill or his popularity. There's no reason to be. He's a fine writer, and I've said I greatly enjoy his novels. I'm glad that he's successful, because it means every few years I get a new book to enjoy.
In the real world in which I live, my own happiness and success doesn't depend on being better than anyone else. I don't need to tear down and insult and destroy to feel good about myself. Maupin's decades of literary triumph don't impede any other writer's progress or achievements. Particularly not someone who writes a sex blog.
Which have you found to be kinkier: Nerds, Geeks or Jocks?
The nerds and the geeks, by a long shot. The jocks are usually fairly unimaginative, by comparison.
Milk, semi-sweet, dark, or bitter?
If we're talking about chocolate, dark. Like my soul.
How did you wind up living in your current county rather than the Grindr friendlier areas to one side or the other?
The apartment in which I'm currently living is a temporary spot while we take our time finding a more permanent home. It has the advantage of being in a good location near my other half's workplace. Sadly, I wasn't able to give the county a Grindr test before I moved.
The first time I visited here, however, I stayed in a hotel and managed to score sex within six hours of my arrival; I'm surprised it took six weeks after I actually moved.
What's your favorite position to get fucked? A) Face down, ass up; B) On all fours; C) On your back legs up; D) Sitting on it; or E) Not listed (please describe)
I haven't really bottomed to completion in a decade. However, in the days when I did bottom, face-down-ass-up and on all fours were my favorite ways to get it. I also enjoyed lying on my side with a leg pulled up while a guy slid inside me.
Have you ever made a video of you or with others engaging in a sexual act? If so Have you posted it on the web? Will you tell us the URL?
No, I've never posted videos of me on XTube under the name of mrsteed64, because that would be soooooo trashy.