Let me backpedal even further down memory lane to the very first time I first became interested in eunuchism; even though, like most men who have no transgender aspirations, I had an instinctive aversion to it and wanted at the very least to cross my legs when I thought about losing my genitals, or even better don a pair of titanium underpants to protect myself. That first time coincided with my decision to abandon acting and become a filmmaker at the age of eighteen.
Stefano Dionisi as the castrato singer Farinelli.
I had an older gay mentor at the time, as many young Gheys do, a sort of nonsexual guru who instructed me in the Ways of Ghey—by ‘older,’ I mean he was twenty-four. He was a classic of his kind: bitchy, funny, great taste, somewhat aristocratic, edgy, Italian. He worked for a while as an assistant to a famous gay journalist for the Village Voice, and one day he threw me a book he’d stolen from his boss’s library called Memoirs of a Castrato by Henry Lyon Young. (He threw things at me a lot, which is probably why we’re no longer in touch.)
At some point during Shoot Your Heroes Week here at PFC, I had an exchange with Eric Baker in our incestuous comments section that led me to remember the time I crossed the Rann of Kutch in a rickety van in search of the secret temple sacred to the hijras, the notorious eunuchs of India.
A hijra performing for the boys.
Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton became the one and only hero I’d ever had around page one hundred of Edward Rice’s superlative best-selling biography of him, which I read when it first came out in the early 90s. This is the kind of man I would have tried to become had I been a Victorian with the sort of linguistic and scholarly brilliance with which he was blessed. Burton was a character far more extraordinary than his contemporary Rudyard Kipling in many respects; he didn’t just dream of the Indian subcontinent and the British Raj in poems and novels, he lived it, playing the Great Game to the very edge of brinksmanship with a level of chutzpah I aspire to.
It hasn’t been a good year or so for my ideal younger man, Ashton Kutcher. This breaks my heart because I do wish him all the best, in a concerned, fatherly way. First came his split with Demi, then his stint on Two and a Half Men, a show he is being credited with killing, although I see that more as a kindly act of euthanasia; I agree with Charlie Sheen: TAAHM kinda sucks. Now he has managed to outrage some members of the Indian community by appearing in “brown face” in an ad for PopChips, and he has been roasted alive on Twitter, a social media platform he in no small part helped to build.
This poses something of a conundrum for performers in general and the people who create material for them: at what point does satire become offensive and racist? Are actors, comedians specifically, only allowed to appear as their race or, in the case of repeat-offender Sacha Baron Cohen, as something other than their real sexuality?
I cannot imagine what it must be like for twenty-three-year-old Hamza Kashgari right now. It’s one thing to be Salman Rushdie, already a Booker Prize-winning novelist when the fatwa was issued against him by the ayatollahs in Iran after he willfully went against everyone’s advice and published TheSatanic Verses,but quite another to tweet a series of messages addressed to Mohammed on his birthday that the Prophet himself might have approved of.
One man's devil is another man's god.
There is no existing iconography of Mohammed—or there shouldn’t be— because he explicitly forbade it. He didn’t want to be worshipped and deplored any form of idolatry. As we in the West often imagine what Christ would think if he came back and saw the sorry state of what his teachings have wrought over two thousand years, the same would apply to Mohammed.
This is a part two of yesterday’s musings, so you’d best read that first if you’re going to try to follow my ramblings here.
My fellow contributor Eric Baker, a man I have tremendous respect for even though we have never met in person or even spoken on the phone, left a very sweet comment to yesterday’s post saying something to the effect of being proud of being associated with someone so “erudite.” The reason I have so much respect for Eric is not just that he writes superbly, with honesty and a great deal of un-cheap humor, it’s also because he’s like me, utterly dependable and delivers on time. And people who are, like, real mensches and stuff, are few and far between.
That's right: infrastructure comes from heaven. Says so right there in the Good Book, Mark 6:31-44, when the Lord divided the loaves and the fishes.
Erudite to me means academic, but Eric is probably right in using it in the context of my writing in this blog because it actually means “to show great learning,” which is distinct from academic, or specifically well read.
In honor of the hopeful revolution sweeping this country, let me digress a bit to talk about my own rebellion, which I consider more of a pilgrimage to my Self than a deliberate act of defiance.
According to Indian Railways I shouldn’t be writing this. It’s not like I’ve ever misbehaved on an Indian train, unless you count the time my mother and I were taking an overnight local from Jaipur to Bikaner—which would be a three-hour drive on American roads—and I was hoisting her up to the top bunk of the sleeper, and she kept falling off, and we were laughing so hard she said, “Oh, no, I think I’ve wet myself,” which meant she had to get down and the whole process was repeated again.
No. The reason Indian Railways doesn’t think I should be writing this is because, according to them, I have been dead for twenty years.
This masterpiece of assemblage art is entitled "Attack of the Killough Blog, 2011," an homage to five months of PFC, by James Killough.
This is, of course, entirely the Raja of Kotwara’s fault. Creepy bastard. I’m not talking about the New Raja, but the old one, the New Raja’s father. I never knew his name because I just called him Raja-sahib like everyone else. But he certainly knew mine.
Let me immediately state that, despite the title, there will be no borderline pornographic body parts in this post. But just the fact I have willfully boxed PFC into a corner where I have to make that caveat is relevant to this article. I think.
First, take a look at this viral video currently eliciting belly laughs across the Interweb:
It’s a fake, of course. The bride sort of gives it away, but the drunk woman herself is also too alert; her face lacks the woozy, careless expression of someone who is no longer in control of her actions. In a way — in a convoluted, forced association sort of way — the video is representative of what I’ve been doing with the content of this blog. Continue reading →
Flipping mindlessly, sleepily through the chattering polyglot channels of Indian TV last night in my hotel room, I landed on a station that screens Hollywood films, the kind I would never ordinarily watch, i.e., the majority of films that are made. Ivan Reitman’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend was on. Wow, what a crock of shit. Unwatchable. I cannot imagine how Uma Thurman must have made it through a single day of shooting that clownish cack without taking her eye off her mortgage payments.
Uma Thurman rocking the widest, longest red carpet in the whole wild world at Cannes in a damned fine gown. And taking a photo call ass-first.
During a showdown between Uma Thurman’s ex-girlfriend character and Anna Faris’s current girlfriend character, the word “bitch” was bleeped so as not to offend sensitive Indian ears. The subtitles, which translated American into standard English, substituted “bitch” with “witch.” That blip of stringent censorship helps to understand why studios are so relentlessly inclined toward making nothing more rattling than a PG-13 film. Even the anodyne The King’s Speech has been modified to take out the whole “fuck” sequence with a view to broadening the film’s marketability, as if an Oscar sweep weren’t enough. As a result, it has made over four hundred million worldwide, and will continuing pumping money for years to come.
My Australian maternal grandmother had a few annoying habits. The most glaring was that she snorted like a sow chasing Thanksgiving leftovers when she laughed too hard. It drove my father crazy. It was nervous laughter, and the pig snorting was exacerbated as she tried to stop herself mid-chortle when my father glared at her. She was terrified of dad, which made her more nervous, which made her chortle-snort at everything he said even when it wasn’t funny. A typical dinner scene at our house ended up seeming like Lars von Triers’ take on Everybody Loves Raymond as scripted by Jonathan Franzen.
Rather than inserting an image of a massive schlong, or even a much smaller one, as was the case yesterday with Jesus Luz (what were you saying about Latinos being hung?), we're taking a break from the smut by marveling at what size queens the Arabs are. Behold Burj Khalifa.
The most annoying thing for me about Grandma’s visits was the breakdown of her flight, even though now that I think about it, it’s from her and my mother that I get my daunting, entrapping sense of detail. It’s a long way from Australia to anywhere these days, they still haven’t mastered that distance thing, but back in the 70s and 80s that distance thing was even more acute, which meant we had to listen to hours of a blow-by-blow description of everything that happened during the flight, including what she ate, and how inevitably the food on Qantas was so much better than BOAC/British Airways, “those awful poms just cook the most atrocious food, soggy vegetables, tasteless meat…” etc.
Lest we ever give up, the Rigging Miss India post finally seems to be having some impact via an Indian beauty pageant forum called missology.org. It would appear that the pageant organizers themselves are commenting; there are some very well informed opinions floating around on that particular thread. For instance, someone mentions how the 1993 pageant didn’t have computer tabulations of the judges’ votes, despite the fact there were computers on site; they conveniently went down just before the show. I’ve heard that excuse before, with the exact word ‘tabulations’… when was that? Oh, right. When I hosted the 1993 Miss India Pageant.
Still one of the most beautiful women in the world, Aishwarya Rai was only the second runner-up in the Miss India Pageant the year after I hosted it. Why she wasn't the outright winner for the whole decade is another question for the Times of India. She laughed all the way to the bank with that L'Oréal contract, though.
Guys, as you well know, we were there for over four hours taping that show. There was plenty of time to count the votes of a few judges accurately by hand. Just as there was enough time for the judges to write me notes about who the real winners were. What you did was not only wrong, it was sloppy; I’m still carrying a grudge that I was sent out on that painted plywood peacock stage in front of a billion people without a rehearsal.