In my work as a psychotherapist, I find myself mindfully, organically mixing Internal Family Systems (IFS), EMDR, and Brainspotting (BSP) with clients. This is parallel to how artists learn certain styles and techniques to then eventually intuitively draw from any and all of them, thereby creating something uniquely their own. This flexing and mixing of treatment models results in my more effectively meeting clients where they are at.
Here’s an Old Photo of Me in Drag, ‘Cause I Support Drag Queens
This photo was most likely taken in either late 1999 or sometime in 2000, when I lived in Somerville, MA. The occasion may have been my 33rd or 34th birthday, but I’m not certain. I dressed in drag for a few of my birthdays when I lived with three roommates for five years, near Tufts University.
Somewhere, I have more photos of me dressed in drag on other occasions, all in the early 2000s. If I find them, perhaps I’ll steadily post those images on this blog.
I always knew cross dressing was a political act, but now it’s especially the case in such culturally and politically polarized times here in America. So, here’s a post to show my direct support for drag queens everywhere. And, hey, at heart, a major part of my own true Self is a drag queen.
Movie Review: THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES
THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES (released in December of 1973), is an obscure, low budget Gothic(ish) horror film starring the lovely 1950s scream queen Faith Domergue. John Ireland gets top billing and old-time horror movie actor David Carradine appears in a supporting role.
There are some gems within this campy, sometimes silly, movie, primarily Ms. Domergue, who was forty-eight or forty-nine during filming. The narrative is straightforward enough. A supernatural horror movie is being produced in an old mansion where seven residents met mysterious, violent deaths. The main star of the production, Gayle Dorian (Domergue), reads from the TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD as part of her screen role. In the nested film, Ms. Dorian is playing a 19th century witch in New England (or so it seems to take place there). Just outside of the house, her reading in the scene being filmed inadvertently, actually animates a long-dead resident. Violent incidents begin to happen, starting with the sudden death of Ms. Dorian’s pet cat.
The movie opens with Faith delivering a monologue in which she has cast a witch’s circle and is summoning a spirit. She brings pure elegance and intrigue to the rather routine, cliched material she is left to work with here. A pleasant foil to the character of Gayle is Eric Hartman (John Ireland), an impatient, veteran movie director. He and Gayle are old flames who maintain a romance-filled friendship and working relationship, including on this current project. Their brief moments of chemistry and tension seem genuine.
Ms. Domergue delivers at least one good one liner that I can recall, this occurring in a scene where she and a makeup man argue about her eye wrinkles being “laugh lines” vs. “crow’s feet.” She may have said another one elsewhere that I’ve already forgotten. Regardless, the actress’ delivery is consistently smooth and elegant, due to her beautifully unique sloe eyed face and seductive voice. Her dyed-brown hair enhanced with a fall is visually remarkable, a holdover from 1960s fashion. While watching, I wondered if the project was all largely built around this underrated star of B movies. A quick Google search indicated this was the second to last film she appeared in before retiring from cinema altogether. I got the sense that THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES was a homage to Faith.
Some particularly colorful supporting characters are Edgar Price (Carradine), the long-time caretaker of the home, and the drunken, frustrated Shakespearean actor Christopher Millan (Charles Macaulay). They offer more amusing moments to this campily entertaining screenplay. Writers Paul Harrison (who also directed) and Thomas J. Kelly go for the tongue-in-cheek, which comes through in many of the players’ sardonic responses to others on the set.
For people who enjoyed watching DARK SHADOWS and/or STRANGE PARADISE, this movie will likely seem to be inspired by those slightly earlier produced television series. I appreciated the look and feel of both of those shows (which I admittedly hardly watched) and this film, in each of which the grand house is a central character.
The movie within a movie approach is both fun and effective here, a classic means of turning a mirror on Hollywood and the movie making experience. We the audience are allowed both distance/larger perspective while also being drawn into the actors’ lives, especially Gayle’s and Eric’s. When reality outside of the dramatized, nested film production finally converges with the actual movie we the audience are watching, a sweeping sense of the theatrical happens. I often laughed out of amusement while smiling with a wistful respect for both the characters and actors playing them. It looked like everyone was having fun within this simple, now dated script and set up, even if this may actually not have been the case and only an illusion. But, playing with illusion is what movies are usually about in some way or another, and THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES is often a play of sorts and very much filled with verbal and visual play.
My Musings: Secession of Southern States From the Union?
With the increasing fascist overreach of the state government in Florida and similar moves with the authoring and enacting of discriminatory, civil rights restriction laws in other Southern states, I do wonder about eventual attempts at secession from the Union. Doing so would be unquestionably tumultuous and hurtful for assorted vulnerable groups, such as Black people, gays, trans folx, and others who reside in those states, not to mention generally economically cataclysmic. However, the aggressive direction of Florida becoming a more nationalistic, authoritarian run state is alarming. I don’t see other sections of the country, such as New England (and certainly not Massachusetts, where I reside) and California, going in that direction. How are these differently run states supposed to harmoniously operate cheek to jowl together under the same umbrella sovereignty? If the federal government becomes led by Trump or DeSantis, or someone else ideologically like them, will the more Blue, democratically-oriented states just go along? The cultural-governmental tensions are growing before our eyes. Either authoritarianism will need to be contained or the U.S.A. seems headed for some kind of deeper splitting along geographical-ideological lines.
The parallels of Eastern Europe, namely the Balkans and their historical divisions (most recently the former Yugoslavia becoming the handful of countries it now is), come to mind for me. From a far distance, without getting into the enormous details of differences between Eastern Europe and the U.S.A., what I see in both of these regions is a strain occurring along major cultural, ethnic differences.
The right wing extremist congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene recently spoke in the House of Representatives of secession. She was soon widely judged for speaking of this. However, as much as I do not like or respect Rep. Greene and wish she would be expelled from her post, I do wonder just how much she was speaking aloud the sentiments of many in her own constituency and beyond. I am not familiar with a recent, large survey of U.S. citizens and their thoughts on secession. But, it is remarkable how this topic keeps coming up in public discourse more often in recent years, even if it continues to get stridently dismissed. It concerns me how the idea continues to be brought up anyway.
Pragmatically speaking, does the U.S.A. need to become a smaller group of sovereign countries, governed in different ways according to their cultural majorities? Is this the direction things are going whether one agrees or not that there is such a “need?” I am all for unity while respecting diversity and even enjoying it, but a lot of people do not seem to be thinking and acting this way. I’m just not sure if many of those minds can be changed, even if doing so is a worthwhile, valiant effort. White supremacy needs to be quelled, and urgently, but how? I don’t think education alone will achieve this.
Will progressive activism, including efforts to enfranchise as many voters as possible to then vote, stabilize the country? I hold some cautious hope, for now. But, how long will that overall approach consistently work? Can we depend on a critical mass of Millennials and Gen Zs, perhaps especially the latter, to stabilize governments on both federal and state levels? Will economic shifts, such as those towards a fairer, less extreme distribution of wealth, happen soon enough as a major part of this stabilization process? (Corporate oligarchs are benefitting from these cultural divisions between and among us middle and lower income folks.)
As a child growing up in California, my very left leaning former step/foster mother told me on more than one occasion that she thought the U.S. was too big and would fare better being divided into at least a few countries. It was too large and unwieldy to govern. I’m sure she explained with more details, but I can’t remember exactly what those were. These days, I wonder if she was on to something.
These are not fully formed, particularly researched thoughts, but, for now, there they are. I am left feeling very concerned about the future of America.
My Other Life Purpose: Reflecting On Pop Culture
When I’m not busy as a psychotherapist, I enjoy observing and writing about aspects of pop culture, especially those in movies and television/streaming series, though sometimes in books as well. I reflect upon beauty and meaning that can be found in those media.
Time For a Fresh, Second Look At Marilyn Monroe
Having watched and reviewed the movie BLONDE, a very distorted, negative portrayal of the film star Marilyn Monroe, I find myself experiencing a re-awakened interest in her, namely to give this cultural icon a fresh, second look. I intend to watch more of her movies, discerningly read about her, and find any well-balanced documentary on her (if one exists). It’s time to view Ms. Monroe as the fascinating, full person that she was.
I was enamored with Marilyn as a young child, starting at about age six years old. But, by age ten or eleven, I began to think of her as a sad, tragic figure, more a victim of circumstances than anything else. She was not at all “cool” to think much of in my 1970s and ’80s West Coast feminist-oriented household and social circles my folks ran in. She was someone to pity and avoid thinking much about at all, in order to not participate in perpetuating negative, oppressive stereotyping of women. Okay, fair enough, but yet limited and, ultimately, also unfair for Marilyn and, by extension, perhaps even, for women.
The truth is, Marilyn Monroe was not just a victim but many other things as a human being. She was a successful, assertive businesswoman, a singer, a natural comedian, a generous soul, a progressive thinker, and, undoubtedly much more. A few examples of her progressiveness: She was a staunch advocate in making sure the Black singer Ella Fitzgerald got a big break; she was a nudist; she was a supporter of “free love,” which has culturally since evolved into the furthering of polyamory as a way of structuring intimate adult relationships for some people who this is more natural feeling to do (this being just one among other freedoms of sexual and relational expression differing from hetero-normative, patriarchal norms centering on monogamy and heterosexuality). As dear Ella herself once said of Marilyn, she was “ahead of her time.”
The more I’ve learned about this historical figure, the more I realize I don’t know about her and got lulled for decades into holding a skewed, unexamined viewpoint of Marilyn. This has been lazy thinking on my part. Regardless of what one may feel and think about Ms. Monroe, in her own right, she was a dynamic, complex human being overcoming great odds for a while before her tragic end. I no longer wish to participate in relegating this woman and her legacy into a box that I and many others then inaccurately see her as pitifully stuck within.
(Photo of Marilyn Monroe taken in 1953.)
Mini Movie Review: BLONDE
I could not watch the Netflix movie BLONDE (2022) all the way through. After a while, I fast forwarded a lot to the end. What a relentlessly prolonged, dismal, degrading, nightmare presentation of Marilyn Monroe. Ana de Armas generally looked the part, though her slightly Cuban Spanish/Latinx accent tainted the illusion somewhat. That was the least of this awful production’s problems. Ms. Monroe is portrayed as a pathos soaked victim, and this never changes. I went from initially feeling sad to irritated to outraged. The narrative is fictional, but what a tawdry, even sleazy, regressive, disrespectful, misogynistic depiction of an iconic historical figure. Shame on the creators and marketers of such dreck.
Movie Review: LOOKER (from 1981)
The talented, late actor Albert Finney starred in two films released in 1981, neither of which performed well at the box office at the time. His urban horror film WOLFEN (released in July of ’81) was powerful and well-done, however. It explored the tension between nature and the encroachment of humans and their technology via an often haunting, atmospheric screenplay about highly intelligent wolves killing people in parts of NYC. There was even a Native American shamanic thread within the narrative, adding further depth. I watched that movie with rapt attention in the theater and then again on video about a year later. I can see why Mr. Finney chose to perform in such an interesting, thought-provoking project.
LOOKER, released in October of 1981, is also an urban-oriented suspense thriller, though far more superficial than that year’s WOLFEN. As a teenager, I remember feeling curious to see the film when it was new in the local movie theater, but, somehow, I didn’t manage to get around to doing so until very recently, over forty years later.
Albert Finney stars as Dr. Larry Roberts, a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. Susan Dey costars as Cindy Fairmont, a professional television and print model and one of his recent patients. Three models, all patients of Dr. Roberts,’ are mysteriously killed in close succession, two of them on screen. Larry and Cindy become caught up in the police investigation of these murders, which point to Digital Matrix, a research firm that’s directly a part of a large corporation headed up by John Reston (James Coburn).
LOOKER is a fairly weak screenplay, which, I read, would likely have been more coherent and logical if it were not so edited down to just ninety-four minutes. It presents some science fiction technology that borders on the absurd, namely a certain light pulse (Light Ocular-Oriented Kinetic Emotive Responses or L.O.O.K.E.R.) gun. This weapon temporarily blinds a person with carefully pulsed light, hypnotizing the victim to lose sense of time for several moments and render their assailant briefly invisible to them. Some similar technology is used on television commercials, whereby the audience is hypnotized into buying the endorsed products. The presentation of this and the CGI of human models is visually interesting and intriguing, especially for how long ago this movie was made. The actual CGI in LOOKER is minimal (on CRT screens within the movie), whereas real people (including Dey’s character Cindy) play what are supposed to be CGI creations within TV commercials. We viewers are never explicitly told why three models are killed and a fourth one, Cindy (Dey), is in grave danger. But, we eventually surmise that Digital Matrix simply does not wish to continue to pay a salary to live models once it creates CGI duplicates of them to use on TV at no further cost and only for profit.
The core premise of this what now seems like a fun cult movie from the early ’80s is that TV is a means of hypnotic control of the masses by predatory corporations and humans are disposable, even replaceable with computer technology. In a way, this campy, somewhat tongue-in-cheek production is hauntingly prescient. It presents AI made imagery, now taking off hugely on social media over the past few years, without actually calling it that. The development of “deep fake” online videos of people and the current debate about concerns over AI stealing from and, eventually, replacing the work of graphic and other visual artists are indicators that we have pretty much arrived in the strange world LOOKER was foreseeing.
LOOKER is visually slick and entertaining in places with its display of beautiful women models wearing tasteful clothes and bathing suits. And I always find Los Angeles city and beach scenery make for pleasant viewing. Finney’s and Coburn’s presences lend some ruggedly masculine gravitas to this amusingly bizarre, if often flimsy, film. Nevertheless, what manages to come through somewhat are the grave implications of technology driven by hyper-capitalism. If left un-checked, this economic model can and will further steal lives and souls from humanity. I do wonder if some footage left on the cutting room floor rendered this movie more vapid than what it may well not have been had the final print been, say, about half an hour longer. According to Mr. Coburn himself, “They really pissed that film away,” because of over-editing. It seems like an opportunity was missed in producing a more substantive, memorable project.
In Memoriam: Mary Norbert Korte (1934-Nov. 14, 2022)
I hesitated for a good while to post this, because I thought my small handful of childhood memories about this woman would be viewed as insignificant, petty, overly “precious.” However, as I’ve grown older, I now view any memorable, positive presence of a person in my life, no matter how brief, as something to be treasured.
I met the celebrated, published poet Mary Norbert Korte (who left out the “Norbert” when I knew her) around late 1976, early 1977 in Berkeley, CA. I was nine, possibly newly ten years old. My then step/foster mother S. befriended her, the two having probably met through their mutual involvement in California Poets in the Schools (CPITS, later called CalPoets), a program through the California Arts Council. As a poet, she looked up to Ms. Korte as one of her older female role models. She stayed for a while on Mary’s land in the redwoods in 1978 and wrote poems for her first book.
From around 1979 to 1981, after we’d moved to Grass Valley, CA, I went with S. and my father a few times to Mary’s cabin in the redwoods, where Ms. Korte hosted a gathering of poets over a long weekend. If I remember correctly, we camped out in a tent each time. Before this, while still living in Berkeley, I would see Mary at other weekend-long poetry gatherings and probably at a few poetry readings, me tagging along with my folks. I road in the back seat of her car on at least one occasion.
My memories of Mary Korte are a handful of moments in time, but all are pleasant and comforting. Her voice was clear, strong, gentle, and kind. Her demeanor was always warm and grounded. She spoke to me respectfully and attentively, like I was another worthwhile adult she knew, not some child to be tolerated. All of this I found refreshing and soothing, particularly because so much of my childhood was fraught with emotional instability around me and internally. I’m glad my parents at the time brought her into my life when I could use all the positive, warm presences of others I could get.
My Own Attempts at Art: “Alive” (abstract watercolor painting)
I painted this piece with watercolors while an undergraduate student at UC Santa Cruz in 1986 or ’87. I promptly titled it “Alive.” I felt it expressed an enthusiasm for life pushing, shining through.
I vaguely remember arriving in my dorm room one evening where my roommate at the time and a friend of his were hanging out and painting. They invited me to join them in making some art. This was the result.