Thursday, July 31, 2003

Alexander the Great Gay Hero?

Alexander the Great Gay Hero?

When Out Magazine published an article last year that described Alexander the Great as a gay hero, I was a little taken aback. (Note: In lieu of actual photos of Alexander, model, actor and all-round hot-property Christian Monzon adorned the article.) I mean, sure, this most famous of ancient generals not only maintained his father Phillip II of Macedon's empire, but also expanded it, across the Hellespont, through Asia Minor, then southwards across Egypt. But do his achievements really bear scrutiny as the marks of a hero for the modern gay movement? If the notion that Alexander could be considered as such a hero is counter-intuitive, it is nonetheless welcome, if only because it controverts the anti-gay revisionism that seems to mar so many people's understanding of the ancient world. I once had an argument -- on my graduation day, no less -- with a man who claimed that something called the "ancient Greek empire" fell as a result of being overrun by "the gays". When I tried to tell the guy that there was no such thing as an ancient Greek empire -- ancient Greece, after all, consisted of individual city-states -- he raised an eyebrow and said quite seriously, "That's what the gays want you to think!"

Alexander was a vicious, passionate, bloodthirsty, courageous, and dangerously intemperate son, lover, and leader. How could the life and times of a man such as this possibly bear any tangible connection to the life and times of gay men living today? A mosaic of Alexander in party mode, recently discovered in an Israeli seaport by a team headed by archaeologists from Berkeley, suggests a certain similarity between the Macedonian warrior-king and today's clubbers: dressed for a night on the town, Alexander, surprisingly enough, looks less like a a dashing, rugged man than an immaculately boyish twink.

Two films scheduled for production within the next year attest to the enduring interest in Alexander in our time. The first film, starring my favourite bad-boy, Colin Farrell (the man who makes 'phone booths' look sexy), will depict Alexander's bisexuality in some detail. I'm thrilled to hear that hottie Matt Keeslar (Last Days of Disco, Urbania, Dune, Red Rose) will play Colin's -- erm, I mean Alexander's -- male love interest, Hephaestion. There are even rumours of a love triangle, in which a catamite attempts to compete with Hephaestion for Alexander's love.

The second Alexander the Great film will be directed by Baz Luhrman and will star Leonardo diCaprio. Personally, I can't help but think that diCaprio would be more convincing as Alexander's catamite than as Alexander himself. But then again, Leo does look a little like Alexander as he's represented in the Israeli mosaic, so who knows? Under Luhrman's direction, the film can't possibly be boring. Frenetic, dizzying, and hyperactive, maybe, but not boring. And to be honest, I can't see how any account of Alexander's life could be dull, unless perhaps Andrew Lloyd Webber decides to do a musical about it. Alexander and his Technicolour Club Gear, anyone?

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Divas on the Move

Divas on the Move

David Gest has declared to the media his fear that his divorce from Liza Minelli is going "to get ugly". One wonders how anything could possibly be uglier than their marriage... In other entertainment industry news: a recent concert performance by Dannii Minogue turned into a drama when the Aussie singer spotted a man by the seaside trying to drag himself ashore after his boat had capsized. Dannii tried to draw attention to the man's plight by pointing frantically to him mid-song. But the crowd, thinking that this was some crazy new dance move, simply followed suit, pointing back at the pop starlet in time to the music. Thankfully, the man made it back to land without need of assistance. Phew! Given that Danni always follows her sister Kylie's career moves, it's kind of nice to hear an instance in which people are copying her moves for a change, no?

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Hairy truths

Hairy truths

Yesterday, a conversation with a friend led to a serious discussion about chest hair. "I hate it," my friend declared, before adding, "It reminds me of wild monkies. And my dad."

So this is what it's come to. Rightly celebrated in the 70's as an emblem of potent, attractive virility, chest hair is now more likely to be associated with ferals and fathers. Why is it that we recognize the strength (both physical and symbolic) of hair elsewhere on the body, yet deny its power once it's located on a chest? According to Chinese folklore, when the Monkey King ripped hairs from his chest, they would customarily transform into an invincible army of fighting monkeys. Long, flowing hair was identified with strident anti-Vietnam War activism with the musical Hair. By contrast, when the biblical Samson's hair was cut while he was sleeping, he was rendered powerless. When the fair Belinda's hair was cut against her wishes, the incident moved her to tears and Alexander Pope to write an entire mock epic about it, entitled 'The Rape of the Lock'. More recently, when Keri Russell lopped off her hair at the start of the second season of Felicity, the ratings plummeted instantly; like Russell's trademark locks, the ratings never fully recovered.

Hair is powerful, alright. But when people invoke chest hair these days, they tend to associate it not with power, but rather with corpulence, excess, lack of hygiene, and perhaps worst of all, lack of purpose. For chest hair is often portrayed as useless, an unnecessary obstacle getting in the way of the chest itself. Like the concept of clipping the perennial hairmonger Burt Reynolds, chest hair is frequently dismissed as a waste of time. We can blame this attitude on the 80's, when the idea of waxing began to grow in mainstream popularity, and chest hair began to wane as a result. To be sure, when Mr. Miyagi orders his young charge Daniel san in the 80's classic The Karate Kid to "wax on, wax off", he could just as well have been speaking to a whole generation of human wax-works waxing phobically about follicles.

Today, too many cultural commentators deliver bald pronouncements against the hairy prospect of having chest hair, asseverating, as it were, the sheer ridiculousness of the unshorn chest.

But things are beginning to change. Last year, a Sydney Morning Herald article proclaimed that the "chest rug is in vogue". And it's not uncommon now to read or hear that men like Andre Agassi, Pierce Brosnan, and -- somewhat more surprisingly -- the firefighters who worked at Ground Zero, have helped to improve the image of chest hair, by making it appear disciplined, athletic, and sexy. Moreover, people are reviving the argument that body hair, far from being dirty, is the body's natural means of keeping itself clean, working to filter out foreign particles from sensitive spots like the navel and anus. (As Hamlet might've made the case, "Angels and ministers of God defend an-us!") So chest hair is hygienic, after all. At the same time, hirsute men like Samuel de Cubber and Ryan Zane (warning: image not suitable for workplaces) make chest-hairless men like me feel downright dirty.

Though chest hair is ostensibly incidental, it can nonetheless play a vital role in the vagaries of human attraction. In this respect, it possesses the same aesthetic value as do clothes in a striptease: it tantalizes precisely because it accentuates what it obscures, inciting the imagination to wonder, as one of hairy Harrison Ford's movies has it, 'what lies beneath'. Of course it's true that another Harrison Ford character, Han Solo, once admonished his hair-saturated friend Chewbacca with a reference to Chewbacca's hair: "Laugh it up, fuzzball!" But mightn't we put this down to jealousy of the yeti-like Chewbacca, rather than a dislike of his voluminous hair?

Ok, so Chewbacca may not be the best example to have cited when I'm talking up chest hair. But let's be clear on this. Chest hair can be as exhilarating as it's hair-raising; if kept from going AWOL, it can be the very mark of naval precision. Certainly, it can often have me standing to attention.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Australian Idol

Australian Idol

I admit it. I'm hooked. Australian Idol has succeeded where Popstars failed -- and failed so dismally -- by drawing me in. Following the format first developed by the UK programme, Pop Idol, and subsequently adapted by American Idol, Australian Idol, which aired last night, has all the traits of riveting trash TV. But while it adopts the basic framework of the English and American series, it diverges markedly in its choice of judges. Where the American programme, for instance, plays the supportive big-sisterly Paula Abdul against the doggedly malicious Britisher, Simon Cowell, the bitchiness seems to be spread evenly among the Australian panel. Marcia Hines is ostensibly there to provide maternal sympathy; but in fact she makes a severe and exacting mother who doesn't hold back from telling contestants that how truly bad their performances are. One appalling act prompts Hines to burst into a fit of laughter. *Miao!* (I wonder if Hines raised her pop-star daughter, Deni, with this kind of tough love.) If and when I tune into the show again next week, it won't be for the performers, but for the judges. But if I had to choose someone I wanted to win, it would have to be the kid who sang 'Bat out of Hell'. Not only does he sing Meatloaf, but he looks like the guy, too. This, clearly, is a little (deluded) battler.

In other news, The Mole in Paradise also premiered last night. I didn't watch the show, but I did manage to see host Grant Bowler ask in his stridently Guy-Smilie-esque, straight-jawed manner, "So...who and where is the Mole?" When I flicked channels to SBS, I was surprised to find the Mole reading the news. Oh, wait, that's Lee Lin Chin...

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Gay it Forward

Gay it Forward

The Will and Grace season finale aired in Australia last week. While the series may not have been as wildly funny or bitchy as it has been in previous years, its cast continues to draw every ounce of humour from the show's one-liners.

And the list of guest stars that the series attracts continues to amaze. There was Elton John, who implied that he was working for the gay mafia -- the same mafia that prompted Will to call for a national Fitness Protection Programme; Dan Futterman (as Karen's embarrassingly geeky cousin Barry, whom Will and Jack submit to a makeover in anticipation of his coming out to the world. And this was months before Queer Eye for a Straight Guy!); Harry Connick Jnr (as Grace's suitor, then husband); Madonna (alas, the material was funnier than the performer, but wasn't it fun to watch Karen and Mads going out for a night on the town, competing against each other in their efforts to ensnare men?); Macauly Culkin (as Karen's naive young lawyer in her divorce settlement proceedings); Minnie Driver (as the buxom English prostitute and former crim sleeping with Karen's ex-husband, Stan; Minnie held her own in her scenes with Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes, which is no mean feat. She would fit in well as a regular castmember); and finally, Deborah Harry.

Yes, Deborah Harry.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you what Deborah Harry did on the show, because Channel 7, in its inimitable way, decided to edit her character out of the season finale. In fact, Channel 7 has made a habit of editing Will and Grace, regularly trimming down episodes to fit the 30-minute timeslot. This realization has made me extremely paranoid about everything I watch on the channel. I mean, what if The Powers That Be have been cutting scenes from Buffy? Or what if they screen next season's premiere of The Practice, and I miss watching the main characters leave the show? (Admittedly, I never watch The Practice, but I'm a real sucker for tv show milestones. Especially weddings and murders. Scared now? Don't be.) To paraphrase a former Channel 7 employee, Derryn Hinch: shame on you, Channel 7, shame, shame, shame.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Servius 4 Maximus

Servius 4 Maximus

Those of us who were exposed to the rigours of high-school Latin study will remember the short phrases and aphorisms whose memorization constituted such an important part of the first lessons: "Sextus sits in the chair", "Quintus runs to the market", "Cicero talks too much", and so on. Recently, I came across a book entitled Roman Homosexuality, which makes me wonder why we never got the chance to rote-learn such illuminating and memorable statements as the following, which were scratched -- for posterity? for posterior? -- on to the walls of Pompeii:

hic ego cum veni futui, deinde redei domi
When I came here, I fucked. Then I went back home.

Charming! And then there's this philosophical insight:

nam nihil est quisquam sceleris, quo prodeat ultra,
non si demisso se ipse voret capite.

For there is no wickedness to which he could descend further, not even if he were to lower his head and eat himself.

After such knowledge, what forgiveness? And finally, there's this splendid piece of oracular wisdom:

qui lego felo; sugat qui legit.
I who reads this sucks dick; may he who reads this suck.

It goes to show that even the most private and, it seems, commonplace aspects of Roman culture can reveal the distant roots of modernity.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Tourism and its Discontents

Tourism and its Discontents

I spoke again yesterday to my English cousin and her French husband. They're about to fly out of Sydney, and are lamenting the fact that they'll have to leave behind the weather, which, I must say, is unusually warm and sunny for this time of year. No word yet as to whether the cousins will also miss their relatives in Sydney. When I asked them what they'd been doing this week, they commented that they'd recently visited Centrepoint Tower. For those of you who haven't visited Sydney before, Centrepoint is a tall, chintzy gold-coloured building that lies in the middle of the CBD. Its revolving restaurant provides tourists with a 360-degree view of the beautiful city and its suburbs. But equally, it enables them to avoid looking at what may well be the city's most heinous eyesore -- that is, Centrepoint itself. A friend of mine once told me that his precocious 5-year old niece had drawn a picture of Sydney, but omitted Centrepoint. When he pointed this out, she remarked, "I left it out because it shouldn't be there." A similar view was expressed by the producers of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, which was filmed on location in Sydney, and which climaxes with an exciting battle wherein an oversized monster tears Centrepoint from its foundations and deploys it as a batting club.

My cousins had lunch at Centrepoint. What did they eat? Well, kangaroo and crocodile, among other things. They were more than a little perplexed that the menu at the restaurant of a national tourist landmark should contain a national symbol (the kangaroo) and a pseudo-national symbol (the crocodile, which of course rose to prominence as an ersatz cultural emblem after being championed by such internationally renowned Australian icons as Crocodile Dundee and the Crocodile Hunter). In fact, the entire experience of eating at the revolving restaurant can be disconcerting to tourists, for whom it's akin to the ultimate bad date: it entices you with its superficial, exotic glamour, gets you dizzy, and then makes you throw up.

I should add that there are plenty of interesting and fun places to visit in Sydney. Centrepoint simply isn't one of them. If anyone wants suggestions for alternate places to see, let me know.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

You Know who you are

You Know who you are

Urbannomad regularly receives traffic from a wide array of referrals. Well, ok, maybe not that regularly, and perhaps not so wide. You folks seem to like googling 'Ian Lawless' (a European favourite), 'Bradly' or 'Bradley Tomberlin' and 'Christian Monzon' (American and English favourites), and Gabriel Aubry (popular everywhere, but especially in Asia). Yet people can also stumble upon this site through more arcane and less predictable paths.

A few days ago, someone discovered the site after googlewhacking men+in+tighty+whities. I have no recollection of Keith or I ever using that term. Thinking it, perhaps, but never writing it. Is Google now linking to our brains?

UPDATE: Keith informs me that he did in fact write about tighty whities last year, and how they should be saved from extinction in the fashion world. Phew! For a minute there, I was beginning to think the internet had direct access to our innermost thoughts. By the way, it's reassuring to know that there are others in the blogosphere who feel the same way as Keith and I do about tighty-whities preservation awareness. I mean, where would Christian Monzon be without them? And where would we be without Christian Monzon?

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Send in the Clones

Send in the Clones

Who'd have thought that movie musicals would come back in again? A few years ago, the only musicals you'd ever see were Disney feature animation films. In a bid to clone the cult popularity of Moulin Rouge and the breakout success of Chicago, Hollywood is clamouring for the film rights to some of Broadway's most beloved modern shows. Hugh Jackman in Sweeney Todd seems like a minor piece of miscasting, but if that's what it takes to bring Stephen Sondheim's grand guignol onscreen, then I won't complain. Word is that another Sondheim show, Into the Woods has also been optioned. The project originally surfaced several years ago, with Susan Sarandon tipped to play the Witch.

I love Into the Woods, but the Sondheim show I really want to see onscreen is A Little Night Music. This gorgeous musical comedy of manners has already made it to film, during the late 70's, but the result was such a mess that it bombed at the box office and has since been forgotten. My guess, however, is that lovers of period pieces -- which is to say, the demographic built up by two decades of Jane Austen adaptations and Merchant Ivory takes of 19th and early 20th-century novels -- would now flock to a remake of this show. I'd love to see who they'd cast as Mme Armfeldt, the acerbic and perennially disapproving matriarch who demurs against her daughter's relationship with a lawyer because it dilutes the pure joy of sex with the base confusions of love. Mme Armfeldt's own fortunes are based entirely on her previous life as a courtesan: "I acquired some position,/ Plus a tiny Titian", she sings of her tryst with the King of the Belgians. Or, recalling an affair with the Duke of Ferrara: "When things got rather touchy,/ He deeded me a duchy." Mme Armfeldt has plenty to say on a treasured Sondheim theme, the distinction between sex and love:

Too many people muddle sex with mere desire,
And when emotion intervenes, the net descends.
It should on no account perplex, or worse, inspire;
It's but a pleasurable means to immeasurable ends.
Why does no one comprehend?
Let us hope this lunacy is just a trend.

A non-Sondheim musical I'd love to see on the big screen is the ever-hummable Dreamgirls. It's a thinly veiled take on the careers of Diana Ross and the Supremes. In the 80's, Jennifer Holliday made the searingly masochistic showstopper, 'And I'm Telling You, I'm Not Going' a cult favourite; more recently, a couple of American Idol contestants have helped to introduce the song to a new generation. Some fans of the show would like to see Queen Latifah play the lead role; much as I love her, I don't know whether Queen Latifah is right for the part. She has the rage, but not the vocal range.

Monday, July 21, 2003

The Last Supper

The Last Supper

On the weekend, my immediate family and I had dinner at a Thai restaurant with my cousin from England, her French husband, and the cousins they're staying with in Sydney at the moment. The night went atrociously. The food was awful, and tasted like a McDonald's version of Thai. The conversation was even worse. A mere two bottles of red into the evening and the Aussie cousin's wife was flirting with the French husband, admonishing him on his failure to pronounce "stubby" in an ocker accent, and declaring that the French for "no worries" sounded like a rip-off of the Sydney suburb of Sans Souci (pronounced 'Sanz Soozi', and obviously derived from the French). Given that the Aussie cousin's wife was dressed like a stray prop from the touring production of The Lion King, "Hakuna Matata" would've been a more appropriate translation. Throughout the evening, the Aussie cousin's wife was also busily fawning over my brother, to whom she was eager to demonstrate that she knew he was gay and that she was eager to embrace him as part of the "family" (by which she must surely mean the ya-ya sisterhood). Which was fine, except that neither my brother nor I have outed ourselves to the family.

Meanwhile, the English cousin was trying to figure out who I was; the last time she was in Australia, I was two. It was clear that she and her family had come to Sydney thinking that, by staying with cousins, they'd be saving money while also living close to the city; unfortunately, the Aussie cousins live far away from town, in an area that my brother not-so-affectionately calls "Sleepy Hollow". When my English cousin heard this, she nodded furiously in agreement. Fortunately, my Aussie cousin heard none of this; he was too busy trying to talk to his daughter, who, as the youngest person at the table by about ten years, had nothing to say and clearly resented every one of us. I didn't blame her. It was the last weekend of school holidays, and she was stuck having dinner with a group of people that could have featured on a multiethnic version of Big Brother. Actually, I tell a lie. She wasn't quite the youngest person there. The English cousin and French husband have a little boy, who ran around the restaurant squealing incomprehensibly all night, ducking regularly into the kitchen, where he menaced the cooks with some cleaning fluid that he'd found on one of the counters. (How nice, by the way, that the waitresses were forced to double as child-minders for the evening.) "Viens d'ici" and "Attends" are apparently the only castigations he ever receives. Refusing to go anywhere he was told to, he pretended not to understand French and ran off to the cash register, where he spotted a bowl of lollies and made off with the stash.

Several hours afterwards, the dinner was still going, even though the restaurant staff was clearly waiting for us, the last table, to leave. My Aussie cousin's wife was in the middle of giving important advice to my father, should he ever need it, on how to welcome newly arrived immigrants into the country; she herself is Australian-born, while my father was born in Hong Kong. By the end of the night, encumbered by a migraine that every one else at the table seemed to share, I was happy to get out of there. "We must do this again some time," someone muttered. I might've hit whoever said that, except that I was reeling from the aftereffects of good wine, bad conversation, and too much MSG.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

'Crazy if you love it'

'Crazy if you love it'

I'm appalled to hear that Norah Jones will be doing a cover version of the old Dolly Parton hit, 'Nine to Five'. The movie from which the song derives is one of my all-time favourites. Apparently, when I was four, it and Star Wars were all that I'd watch. The acerbic Lily Tomlin, amiable Dolly Parton and demure wallflower Jane Fonda find themselves kidnapping their sexist boss, Dabne Coleman, after they think they've accidentally poisoned him. (Lily, for the record, was always my favourite actress in this film.) Though I hardly realized it when I was four, this is a quintessential second-wave feminist movie, and the strident piano bass riff that opens the film, as Jane Fonda stumbles along the streets at peak hour on her way to work for the first time since her husband dumped her -- it's as though she's having trouble keeping up with the piano beat and not the traffic -- is a classic.

The soporific, shopping-mall friendly Norah Jones is totally inappropriate for this song. If it has to be redone, it should be performed by a trio of black divas. Not a la Moulin Rouge, where the singers performing 'Lady Marmalade' tried to outwarble each other. It has to be a group whose members are happy to sing with each other, and so preserve the message of feminist solidarity that lays at the film's core. Maybe Destiny's Child, with a rap interlude by Queen Latifah.

I've thought about this too much.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Springtime for Hitler

Springtime for Hitler

Did anyone watch Hitler, The Rise of Evil earlier this week? The miniseries depicted Hitler's rise to power up to 1933. In doing so, it offered an array of explanations for Hitler's adult character and actions: an overbearing father, an overindulgent mother, a latent fear of women, an early xenophobic streak brought on by his need to overcompensate, as an Austrian, for his geographical displacement from Germany. The show adopted a general catch-all policy, citing anything and everything as potential reasons for Hitler's monstrosity. This policy also extended to the choice of casting. The transatlantic cast contained the incongruous accents of Robert Carlyle (of Full Monty fame), Stockard Channing (Grease) and Liev Schreiber (most recently in a NY Central Park production of Henry V).

The miniseries has just received an Emmy nomination. I have no idea why. Never mind the suggestive title, which, for my money, is all too reminiscent of Up, Pompeii. (Or, for that matter, the Australian documentary on Russel Crowe's career, Behind The Gladiator.) The problem was the (mis)casting of Robert Carlyle. Watching the always-agreeable and congenial Carlyle bark, hiss and rant -- as though he were some stock villain on Scooby Doo -- was a little like watching me play football: simultaneously awful and hilarious.

I've come to the conclusion that it's impossible at this point in time to depict Hitler in TV, film, or stage without being -- intentionally or not -- funny. Indeed, impersonations and parodies of Hitler in things like The Goodies and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade have been so influential in his dramatization that it's become virtually impossible to portray him and appear anything other than patently, woefully artificial -- more like an impersonation of a prior impersonation rather than of Hitler himself.

For what it's worth, the most convincing, because deliberately irreverent, portrayal of Hitler I've ever seen or heard comes from Mel Brooks' musical, The Producers. The musical climaxes, so to speak, with a sung-through travesty called 'Springtime for Hitler', in which the camp and theatrical Adolf, whose rise to the top of Reichstag is depicted as having more in common with a beauty pageant than a political coup, cheerfully describes himself as "the German Ethel Merman". Who's the impersonator now?

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Girl, Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted

Bummer. Today I learnt that an article I submitted for a local literary studies journal won't make it into this year's edition, because one of my anonymous readers took too long to review the piece and get it back to me for further editing. Ah, well. I guess my conquest of the world of publication will have to go on hold 'til next year.

Something to take my mind off things: does anyone out there by any chance know the name of the actor who appears in the Hahn Premium TV ad that's been playing on high rotation at the moment? After spotting a lady relaxing in a spa, sipping on champagne, this cute guy -- a sort of a younger version of Ian Lawless -- interrupts her solitude by divebombing into the space and stretching out to soak up his Hahn Lite beer. It almost made me want to drink alcohol. Or buy a spa. Or take swimming lessons. I'm not sure which. Anyway, the guy's mesmerising.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Chris Meloni and papa, can you hear me?

Chris Meloni and papa, can you hear me?

Addendum to my last post: if the doppelgangers of Rodrigo Santoro, Christian Monzon OR Chris Meloni (from Oz and Law&Order:SVU) happen to be reading this blog, I wouldn't mind meeting them.

In the city yesterday, I ducked into a Pitt St store and decided to try on a hat. Now you have to understand, I'm generally not a fan of hats. Keith has a fondness for trucker hats, but I've always felt uncomfortable wearing them. In my opinion, hats are too difficult to match with the rest of one's clothing. So you see, my decision to try on a hat was the result of much internal debate and consideration.

As soon as I put the thing on, I knew it wasn't for me. I won't describe it, but suffice to say it made me look like the lovechild of Barbra Streisand in Yentl. Which would probably make Mandy Patinkin my father.

What was I thinking?

Monday, July 14, 2003



Yesterday, I went for a walk around the neighbourhood. My Sunday afternoon reverie was interrupted by a car noisily speeding past, its sound system blaring. I looked up and was surprised to find that the driver looked strikingly similar to a friend of mine. But whereas my friend is generally quiet, conservative and bookish, this guy looked unkempt, rebellious and angry. He could've been my friend's grungy alter ego.

From the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe to Single White Female, doppelgangers permeate pop culture. I love the idea of a doppelganger. It disorients your sense of self. It makes you wonder, what if I'm not completely unique in the world? There's an episode of Star Trek in which Captain Kirk is split into two selves, one good but effete, the other evil yet strong-minded. No one notices that the 'good' Kirk has a doppelganger, until, in the story's climax, the two figures can be seen fighting each other. And in an episode of Buffy that pays homage to Star Trek, Xander is split into two, one weak-minded and anxious, the other forthright and ambitious.

Predictably, the moral of these stories is that both parts of the self -- the good and the bad, the weak and the strong -- are vital and interdependent. All well and good, but then what are we to make of the doppelgangers who appear consciously to impersonate originals? Are they necessary? A few years ago, I went to Disneyworld and encountered a truly terrifying thing: a Jerry Lewis lookalike. And soundalike, too. The Hollywood film buffoon's eternal man-child features and obnoxious car-alarm voice were almost perfectly emulated by an attendant working at the Peter Pan ride. Actually, it was hard to tell whether the attendant was consciously trying to act like Jerry Lewis, or whether Nature, alas, had simply molded him that way. Doppelgangers may be necessary components of the self in imaginative fiction, but do we really need more than Jerry Lewis in real life?

I haven't encountered my doppelganger yet, though a friend of mine has suggested that the psychologist played by B.D. Wong in Law&Order:SVU could be my slightly-older double. (Or maybe I'm his?) Still, if I do have a double out there somewhere, I'd love to meet him one day. And hey, if there are any doppelgangers of Rodrigo Santoro or Christian Monzon out there, I wouldn't mind meeting them, too.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

The Cross

The Cross

Last night, I had dinner with friends in King's Cross. In the fifties and sixties, the Cross was an affordable, slightly trendy location that benefited from the new waves of immigrants arriving in Sydney during that time. But in the following decades it became known as a dangerous and seedy entrepot for sex workers, drug dealers, and denizens of Sydney's underground. In recent years it's made a comeback and is now garnering a reputation as a space in which the young and upwardly mobile can play.

The circulation of different demographics in the area can cause some confusion. As a group of us waited at the lights to cross the road and walk towards the restaurant, one friend spotted someone she thought she knew. "I hope I don't bump into any of my clients tonight," she groaned as she leant wearily against a pole. She'd just come from work. She's a lawyer. She was talking about clients who are represented by her law firm. But you wouldn't have guessed that from the way people around us suddenly started looking at her.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Hong Kong Handover

Hong Kong Handover

Hi, everyone. Adrian here. Thanks to Keith for handing over his blog to me for the next couple of months. Good luck with your studies, Keith, and come back soon, to both Sydney and cyberspace.

Keith's account of the way we discovered that each other is gay demonstrates how gay men naturally gravitate towards each other, even before they realize that they have their sexuality in common. Ok, so it happens a lot at the school we attended -- so much so, in fact, that a public tour of gay historical landmarks in Sydney supposedly includes a walk past the schoolgrounds. But it happens elsewhere, too. An acquaintance of mine once told me that his closest friends from high school, all of them football jocks and bodybuilders, separately outed themselves to him several years later, each requesting that he withhold the information from the others. And my brother told me that his circle of friends only discovered that each and every person in the group was gay when they went out to dinner one night. One individual's confession ("I have something to tell you guys") led, domino-like, for the person next to him, and eventually the whole table, to make exactly the same disclosure.

What Keith didn't mention in his last entry were the little things that, in retrospect, marked us out as different from early on. Like our telling mutual obsession with certain aspects of Melrose Place -- for instance, with Grant Show (mea culpa, mea oh-so-90's maxima culpa) and with how the fabulous Heather Locklear was singlehandedly saving the series from cancellation. (Hey Keith, nothing's changed, has it? Only we're now talking about Bradly Tomberlin, or Gabriel Aubry, and how the fabulous Megan Mullally works wonders on Will&Grace.)

What so often draws gays together, of course, is the common feeling of being isolated, of having a life secret that no one can know...a vitally important secret of which not even the person holding it may be aware. By the time we reach high school, our gaydar has already been installed, even though it may not be fully functioning.

But I wonder if today's gay high school students feel as though they're truly isolated. I mean, there's always the internet, right? Notwithstanding parental controls, the net is a great way for people to discover that they're linked to the great Gay Matrix (Keanu, join us). And I'm not talking about googling porn sites. Here, they can blog and read blogs by others. On the net, it's all the other stuff that tends to be kept secret -- what a person looks like, talks like, and how he behaves in public. In this respect, blogging isn't at all a matter of vanity-publishing (as a recent Newsweek/ Bulletin article called it); it's a useful way of connecting to like-minded people who you might not ordinarily have a chance to meet.

(This post is dedicated to a new friend of mine, who has only recently begun to acknowledge his sexuality and is dealing with the process of outing himself to others for the first time.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

I received my exam results last Wednesday and they weren't v. good. Actually, they were pathetic. It seems I have to re-sit some exam papers in two subjects, in order to pass the course. I rushed back to HK on Monday in order to sort things out with the University. Revision classes have been scheduled and the exams are expected to be held in August. So much for my last months of freedom; so much for my life plans...

As you may already expect, I was completely shocked. It still seems unbelievable and v. surreal. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I'm a big dunce.

Now, I need to refocus. I'm determined to pass in the supplementaries in August, which means I won't be doing much else other than studying in the next couple of months. Blogging will have to be put on hold. Besides, I don't think people would want to read me whinge about what a big fat loser I feel like...

Instead, I have invited one of my best mates, Adrian, to be this blog's first "Special Guest Star".

I met Adrian, whilst we were studying at the Sydney Glamour School of Deportment for Social Delinquents, Rich Wankers and Over-Achievers. Like others who had strong queer sensibilities, we gravitated to each other and became friends during our years there. However, it was only during my brief stint as an exchange student in the US, during university, that we discovered that the other was a poof (which is hard to imagine these days). The rest, as they say, is history.

Although he does not have his own blog yet (methinks it will come soon enough), he has been v. blog-curious for a while. I'm sure his writing will be both fabulously witty and extremely entertaining. There will be some serious thought-provoking pieces within the mix as well... and expect there to be plenty of entries about men, men and more men.

See you on the other side...