Category Archives: Politics
Hi Guys/Gals/Groovy Ghouls,
It’s funny how you can care so much about the world yet not even know what’s up with your own soul.
It wasn’t that long ago at all that I confessed my unease with being considered “queer.” That wasn’t because I would be ashamed of being part of the LGBT world, but because I didn’t think my behavior and emotions, which run juuuust straight-of-center on the Kinsey Scale, qualified me to put myself in the same grouping as gay, lesbian, and trans people. Historically they have been marginalized in ways far harsher than anything I would ever experience, and I knew I could always “hide out” in heterodom if the Nazis or Christian Fundamentalists ever retake power.
I also knew that, while I loved to perform sexual acts with people of more than one gender (and yes, I’m good enough to use the word “performance”), I didn’t want to be defined primarily by that part of me. And I hated the binarism of “bisexual,” and the muddiness of “pansexual” or “polysexual,” and didn’t feel like certain behaviors or inclinations meant I had a right to join a movement.
You know those guys who say they can wear Native American headbands because they are 3% Cherokee? I didn’t want to be them. I felt alone and bereft in many ways, but I didn’t want to steal an identity that wasn’t mine.
I’m glad I started that conversation, though, because it led me to finally meeting others who have similar backgrounds and inclinations. And that led to my learning a lot about myself. I found, first of all, that I do belong to an identity, and I’m not the only one. I am part of a group that, perhaps more than other groups, has such a wide variety of feelings and emotions incorporated within it.
Perhaps that’s why so few bi people are out? We don’t feel a kinship with each other, much less with gays and lesbians or straights. And so there’s no sense of unity to help us feel strong, or brave? Compared to gays and lesbians in “America,” we’re the only group that still has its majority in the closet. And the schism is vast:
I’ve heard gay guys talk about coming out as “coming home,” but my experience felt like the opposite, like going out onto an empty stage. Even when you do come out as bi, recognizing that about yourself can feel a bit lonely compared to what, from the outside, it looks like to be fully straight, gay, or lesbian. “Bi” contain such a spectrum of people, e.g. men who mostly like other men and pass for gay but also like some vagina now and then, e.g. women who love other women but whose “straight” look traps them in a straight world most of the time, e.g. men like me, who like to feel androgynous and find receiving vigorous, tooth-rattling anal sex from other men is somehow much easier than forming relationships with them like the kinds we form with women.
And it is gendered. Aside from trans people, who face a prejudice still sharper than almost anything out there, bisexual men tend to have it the worst:
There are so many distinct ways to be bi that really, by comparison, “gay” looks like a large nation state, and “straight” looks like a whole continent, but “bi” is sort of like a sexual Micronesia.
And yes, I do now identify as bisexual because I want this to end! I want us to be seen as real, and I want not to tiptoe around my relationships and loves. And the only way to do that is through showing off our numbers.
With that in mind, I now see “bi” as a blanket term that includes the more specific terms and inclinations, basically anyone who does not fit info the gay or straight slots (in fact, Vee Ritchie has a great video explaining why “bisexual” actually means both “same” and “not the same” which actually does NOT imply a binary of merely two genders, and even though that may sound like loophole logic, it helped me feel at ease with the term a great deal).
At first even saying “I’m a bisexual activist” felt so antiquated, like saying the phrase “American Indian Movement,” or “United Negro College Fund.” But like those organizations’ names, the phrase “bisexual” contains all the history of the “B” in LGBT, our forefathers and foremothers, people such as Brenda Howard who was not only a pioneer in 20th Century bisexual awareness, but was at Stonewall and was a radical activist for queer folk in general. And who cares if the straight world thinks “bisexual” means we have to love women the exact same as we love men, or if they just think it means we’re gay. They were never going to understand anyway … but then again, if they want to understand, I want to make sure we’re represented, that we’re seen as real, that our true numbers are reflected–far from being rare, by some measures our numbers rival or exceed those of gays and lesbians:
So yes, I’m bisexual, and if you feel you are not a 1 or a 0 in the digital game of gay/straight, you could be, too!
I want to talk about this more, but I have to get in the bimobile and go do some bi things tonight… I feel like I’m rambling, so maybe re-watch this video I did for #StillBisexual a few months ago, open up your hearts and minds, and … I dunno, call me for a hot threesome.
-D. M. Collins
P.S. Did I say threesome? I meant “orgy.”
We’re excited to invite Nancy Lynée Woo to the A Rrose in a Prose stage Sunday, for the first time ever!
Nancy Lynée Woo is a 2015 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow, and founding editor of social justice literary press Lucid Moose Lit. She is currently working on a collection of poems about her mixed heritage, called The Great Divide. She graduated UC Santa Cruz with a degree in sociology, and works in marketing. Often caught cavorting around Long Beach, CA, this poet can also be found at nancylyneewoo.com.
You can catch her and the rest of the ARiaP crew at Stories Books at 2 p.m.
This was a fun one: an interview with my old pal, Jessie Jones, who I first met seemingly yesterday when she was a teenager, a member of Feeding People, and now have to stand back and admire as a full-grown solo artist!
Truth be told, the interview we did at Sage to prepare for this article went on FOREVER. What ended up in print is only a small portion of the rambling talk we had about all the crazy stuff she’s gone through in such a short period of time, including working in a factory in a rural town, hiding out from Bigfoot, and trying to escape society by moving off into the woods.
Of course, the L.A. RECORD folks had to trim even more off to get it to fit in the magazine, but there’s one fun part at the beginning that I wish had stayed!
… and since I wrote the darn thing, and ONLY because I like the original intro enough that I think it’s worth sharing as an outtake, I’m reprinting my original beginning to the interview here. You can read this first and then jump into the article, or just go to the article now if you think I’m already long-winded enough.
She may look it, but Jessie Jones is no longer the same shy, young singer from Orange County with the bold, weathered, jazzy old woman’s voice that she was when D. M. Collins first interviewed her in 2011. Back then, she sang with the psychedelia-tinged, Burger Records-approved garage band Feeding People, who then seemed to be just approaching the lip of the cusp of the edge of greatness. Instead, they quickly burned out; but Jones never truly faded away. After a few years in wandering the country trying out dead end jobs and engaging with supernatural phenomena, Jones re-emerged in full force in 2015, first on a triumphant tour co-singing lead vocals with Death Valley Girls, and now, as of this month, with her first solo album, which has been tickling the fancies of folks from the bowels of Gnar Burger all the way to the corridors and clicks of NPR. She speaks now, again, to D. M. Collins, who has convinced her to join him for a very candid interview at the vegan restaurant Sage in Echo Park, a place so opposed to animal cruelty that even the arachnids have started getting cocky…
FUCK! FUCKING FUCK! I giant spider was just in my mouth! Oh my fucking god. Did it bite my lip? It just, like, swung whole into my mouth! I didn’t swallow it; it’s climbed somewhere back up on the umbrella and disappeared….
JESSIE JONES: Maybe it’s trying to bless you?
Jessie, you are such a witch! People think you are this innocent little lamb, but you are a witch! Is that giant spider your “familiar?”
JESSIE JONES: I have weird relationships with spiders. Sometimes when I’m about to make a really drastic decision, I’ll wake up with like six spider bites! Their symbolism is tied up with the mythology of the Fates, the makers of destiny.
So, that reminds me, I’ll forgive the spider, because I have a confession. Remember when I interviewed Feeding People in my backyard in 2011 [in issue #104 of L.A. RECORD, e.d.]? You were all so young and so charming; it was obvious the band was going to implode horribly, and soon. I should have said something. Do you forgive me for not warning you that your life was about to go to shit?
JESSIE JONES: Um….. yes!
Yay! She forgives me! That apology on my part was far more than casual conversation. Glad she’s not mad at me for not trying to “save” her from the future fate had waiting for her. Then again, that spider certainly did act suspiciously, as if bewitched…
Okay, with the above original text out of the way, feel free to hop to the actual article and continue reading.
And in honor of labor day, please make sure to savor her words when she starts to describe some of her experiences out there in the “eye of the storm” of capitalism. This part of her responses really struck me as both insightful and beautiful, while at the same time, you know, scary as hell:
“South Carolina, when I was just living in the middle of nowhere—that’s where it hit me: there’s so much poverty, such a lack of education, and not a lot of opportunity for people who are born without any guidance or any money. Just seeing how capitalism and consumerism really exist only when you’re in the eye of the storm. And when I was working weird jobs and stuff for companies in weird factories to keep existing, and I could see like, all this crap is coming from China. And I’m sending it to some person’s house in like Anaheim or Chicago, but they don’t see what’s going on behind closed doors. It’s like I could finally see how big America was, how small I was, how small my little bubble in Orange County was. And I had to talk about it, I guess. I had to get it out.”
-D. M. Collins
I made a video for the #StillBisexual Twitter-y YouTube video campaign thingie. The music is by the delightful Kyle Souza.
Mom, please don’t watch. There’s sex stuff mentioned.
I know this is an old episode, but there have been so many good ones, and I don’t have cable, so I was unaware of it.
Thank you, John Oliver, for saying that our prison system is broken. Thank you for saying that prison rape, and “drop the soap” jokes, are tired and cruel and silly and unacceptable.
And thank you for keeping it up with similar messages. I was so moved by the clip above that I had to check out Oliver’s most recent show. I was not disappointed by this one, about the ridiculousness of municipal fines for tiny little infractions, and how the fees on those services can snowball into a world of fuckedness:
I’ve recently been unemployed, for the first time basically since 2001 (give or take a week here and there in 2012 and 2013 when I got laid off and then hired within a fortnight). This lack of work couldn’t have happened at a worse time, since I’m kinda crazy and have incurred thousands of dollars in fees for things I was late on paying, even though I had the money, like a ticket for driving with an expired tag, or a minor tax fee to the state of California (where I got over $1000 just as a penalty for about $2000 worth of overdue taxes).
I’m in a world of financial hurt. And yet I am technically a lucky fella–on a good year, I can pull in an upper middle class salary doing tech work. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be gainfully employed, working hard, making minimum wage, and trying to pay off these ridiculous fees.
I’m glad someone is preaching the healing truth about how fucked up our federal, state, and local governments have become, and how we’re making billions of dollars for private companies at the expense of the poor, and even at the expense of government. We needed someone to tell us this.
Thank you, John Oliver. Now it’s up to us to do something about it.
Sure, I may be too lazy to re-register in my proper neighborhood, and I worry that I might even get disenfranchised because of it. But that doesn’t mean I’m too lazy to do the hard research on today’s election! Actually, I got quite a bit of help from some friends at a “prop party” where everybody researched one prop and came with their information. I picked the judges! Fun! Here are my picks.
And by the way, a small reminder that people DIED so you could fucking vote. Even if you are an anarchist, at least go vote and try to fuck shit up with weird votes. You should vote. Vote vote vote.
Governor: Jerry Brown
Reason: He seems to be doing good, gives me hope about comebacks, and he’s not a Republican. Bonus: he was the subject of that whole Dead Kennedy’s song.
Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
Reason: He tried to pass really good campaign finance reform. Bonus: He’s not a Republican.
State Controller: Betty Yee
Reason: She’s not a Republican
State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson
Reason: His opponent, Marshall Tuck, is one of those charter school funding asshats.
L.A. County Sheriff: Jim McDonnell
Reason: I’m not as up on this contest as I’d like to be, but his opponent, Paul Tanaka, seems to be a crook.
L.A. County Assessor: Jeffrey Prang
Reason: His opponent is a Republican.
L.A. County Supervisor District 3: Sheila Kuehl
Reason: She and her opponent, Maria Shriver’s brother Bobby, are both liberal Democrats. But her endorsements come from “women’s and environmentalist groups” whereas he is loved by the business community. When in doubt, go girl.
Prop 1 Water Bond: NO.
Reason: It purports to be a public good, but it’s dodgily written. So say “No,” toss it out, and let’s rewrite a new prop with specific detail about where the money goes. It seems like this one MIGHT spend taxpayer money on giving something to private firms that they’ll just charge us for, so why foot their bills?
Prop 2, Rainy Day Fund: NO.
Reason: We decided the provision preventing schools from keeping their own rainy day funds was weird. If a school saves their own money, why prevent them from using it towards potential budget problems next year? Big N-O.
Prop 45, Insurance Rates: YES.
Reason: My group researched this, and at the end of the day, the Health Insurance companies HATE it, which gives us the resolve to trust in our convictions on this: it’ll help keep insurance rates saner for Californians.
Prop 46, Drug Test Doctors, Put Patients in a DB, More Pain/Suffering Money: NO.
Reason: This is really three separate ideas, and right off the bat, you should be wary of voting “yes” on only a part of a prop. The first two parts of the bill, forcing all doctors to get drug-tested themselves, and making a database for patients that doctors will be forced to research each time they prescribe you something, are unconscionable civil rights violations that address no actual need—there is NOT any evidence that doctors are going into surgery high, and this is one more step on the path to make every “important” job, from medicine to firefighting to forklift driving, one where your personal freedom is at risk of violation. Plus, do you really think your dentist is going to be as liberal prescribing the Vicodin you need after having a tooth pulled, when he sees (possibly) your marijuana card and (almost certainly) your Adderal prescription in a database? These things make doctors even more squeamish and timid about what they prescribe, and that hurts you.
The part about increasing the pain and suffering monies is good, but not crucial—currently there is a cap of $250,000 you can get out of a malpractice suit for the pain and suffering caused by an injury from what Bon Jovi once called “Bad Medicine,” and this would increase it to slightly saner levels. But that money is on top of the unlimited funds you can sue for for actual physical damages, so that cap is not the end-all-be-all recourse for malpractice, it’s just an increase to one part of the money.
Prop 47 – Reducing Nonviolent Crimes from felony to misdemeanor: YES
This is a no-brainer, and an attempt to rectify some of the horrors of the three strikes law. We researched this, and it helps out a lot of folks who don’t deserve hard prison (and retroactively, too), while still having safeguards against the kinds of criminals you might want to stay as felons.
Prop 48 – New Indian Casinos: YES
This one was tough, but in the end the idea is that this casino will have a relatively neutral environmental impact, and it prevents another casino from being built in a different part of California that would have a very harmful impact. That makes me feel good about voting “Yes.” The problem with casinos is that they are not helpful to the Native American populations as a whole… it’s a disproportionate number of Native Americans, often from very small tribes, that often benefit. But hey, these are supposed to be sovereign nations, right? Who am I to deny any Native American anything they want to do on THEIR land, even if, in this case, I think they purchased the land in the eighties rather than having it promised to them via treaty? If they won’t hurt the groundwater, then fuck it, bring on the keno.
Measure P – small tax on property for funding parks and stuff: NO
This one sounds good on the surface if you read the description in your sample ballot, but it has no accountability and is a flat tax. As much as I feel like everyone who can even own a house is super wealthy, really, that’s not the case–some homeowners are poor, some are very poor, some are rich, some WERE rich but are not now, some are wealthy, some are VERY wealthy. Why would everyone be charged the same $23 per year rather than, I dunno, at least $24 for the super mansion folks? And where does the money really go? The measure doesn’t say… There’s no accountability and they need a more progressive tax. Bring this idea back in the near future, and better, and with more detail, and then I’ll sign it.
Office #61: Vote for Jacqueline Lewis
Her opponent isn’t terrible, but he’s a former prosecutor, whereas she has volunteered for a host of judicial duties over the years, including some really hard stuff that doesn’t involve trying to put people away for years and years.
Office #87: Vote for Andrew Stein
This is a progressive that even the conservative folks are saying to vote for, because his opponent, Tom Griego, is just so horrible. Both got shitty reviews from the people who judge potential judges, but in Stein’s case, it seems to be because he was a defense attorney who frequently advocated too loud and without the proper courtroom decorum. I could give a shit about decorum as long as he doesn’t send children to the death chamber.
These guys are in their chairs already, and you can vote to oust them if you want. The Democratic Party and other establishment leaders just say to vote “Yes” on all of them, but that’s boring: and remember, anyone ousted will be replaced by the governor, who will be Jerry Brown. I looked at some conservative websites and learned who they think is a good conservative and who is a lousy liberal. I REVERSED their ideas and based on that plus some research as to who was appointed by a Republican, who has voted as a so-called “strict constructionist,” who is wishy-washy on gay marriage, etc, here are my picks. (To be clear, don’t reverse MY picks: if I say “no” then I mean for YOU to vote “no.”) I have highlighted ONLY the NO votes, and everyone else is a yes.
GOODWIN LIU – YES
MARIANO-FLORENTINO CUELLAR – YES
KATHRYN MICKLE WERDEGAR – NO
(Note, I originally marked Werdegar as a “YES” but changed my mind due to her participation in removing Prop 49 from the ballot, an initiative to overturn Citizens United. Note, this article about it says to oust both Werdegar AND Liu, but my research tells me that this is a slip-up from Liu in an otherwise long string of awesome, brave, spirit-of-the-law kind of gestures that culminated in a nomination by Obama that the conservatives went batshit over. Hence, he’s still my boy.)
Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 2, Division 1
Frances Rothschild – YES
Jeffrey W. Johnson – NO
Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 2, Division 2
Brian M. Hoffstadt – YES
Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 2, Division 3
Lee Anne Edmon – YES
Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 2, Division 4
Nora M. Manella – NO
Audrey B. Collins – YES
Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 2, Division 5
Paul A. Turner – NO
Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 2, Division 6
Kenneth R. Yegan – NO
Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 2, Division 7
Dennis M. Perluss – YES
Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 2, Division 8
Madeleine I. Flier – YES
Laurence D. Rubin – YES
Revolutions fail when they succeed;
Their spoils spoil in glory’s stale heat.
I freed love from debtor’s jail,
And was rewarded with debts.
Tyranny’s cancer will never die.
Till every cell is separated,
I scoff as love’s prison guards
Still lock each other in cramped cells;
But where will I sleep tonight?
I’d bomb a million banks to get that back.
But time can’t be pried
from under the fingers
of executed execs,
once so eager to squeeze the throttle
that has no reverse.
They even owned our skill in owning.
I would not own you.
But how you love a uniform.
And so do I.
-D. M. Collins
So… there was a VERY brief moment in my life when I went from living with Joshua Sheehan and Matthew Sheehan in Koreatown to living in a wacky cul-de-sac in Highland Park. I first moved there with a strange and wonderful artist friend who has long since evaporated in a haze of alcohol (she painted the floor, with marbles, in front of the fridge… “there’s so many women in it…”), but then I lived alone for a month or three. And then my buddy Kris Rose moved in from Tulsa. And then this girl Anna was over a lot, and I eventually moved to a bigger place down the road with her… I had to move off to seek my fate.
But that was the PHYSICAL me. In the PHYSICAL realm, I’m long gone.
But Daniel M. Collins, as far as the registrars of Los Angeles County know, has never left.
Daniel M. Collins has been living at 5374 S. Raphael St. since at least 2002. From his perch above the kids walking to Ben Franklin High School every morning (a typical place for the polling booth in most elections), Daniel M. Collins has been contributing to the health of our fair democracy in a methodical fashion in every election possible. He walked from there down the block to vote for Obama twice. He tried not to let Prop 8 pass from there. And he’s scratched his head and hoped for the best over countless Props and contested judgeships, only missing elections during those hazy times when they moved the polling place, and he didn’t know where it was–oddly he somehow wasn’t home the day they mailed him his sample ballot.
But something must have happened to that guy, because I went to Ben Franklin High School today, and they had no record of him being registered to vote. I actually went to THREE polling places, including finally Aldama Elementary, which the map there showed me definitely was the voting headquarters for the precinct which included Daniel M. Collins’ place of residence, the little cul-de-sac of Raphael St. that leads to nothing but a broken cement staircase and earwigs, and which somehow grew much quieter and freer of band practices and drunken yelling around the early 2000s.
But Daniel M. Collins the registered voter is no more. Did he pass away? Was he stricken from the records? Did some well-meaning do-gooder decide that he must be a ghost, flitting about in an alternate present where he still caught the Gold Line to work in Pasadena every morning, while meanwhile a totally different loser with different problems was living in the same house and casting votes using the same address, and the whole thing didn’t make sense?
I pondered these things deeply as I walked into the voting booth, my provisional ballot in my hand. In my horror over what might have become of Daniel M. Collins, I think I even voted for a Green Candidate for Lieutenant Governor! I mean, what’s the difference, right? It’s a provisional ballot, and it’s never going to count for shit.
Some might say I’ve been disenfranchised, and that it’s illegal. And weird. And confusing. But I can’t be angry–I’m just sad. The ghost of Daniel M. Collins has finally died.
-D. M. Collins
Okay, so let’s talk about the term “queer.” How do you feel about its use as a self-identifier, as the “Q” in LGBTQ?
I’ve noticed that it’s gendered: many of my female friends identify as queer, whether or not they seem to date other women. Yet guys like myself who are generally straight but occasionally date (read: sleep with, make out with) other men don’t use that term to define it. Or maybe some guys do?
I actually don’t know very many guys like me. We don’t really have a community. Despite the last 20-40 years of broadening acceptance of homosexuality, passing between sexual gender preferences still seems far less acceptable for guys. We’re supposed to be straight, or openly gay, or secretly gay (“come on, just admit you’re gay/straight!”), but not bisexual. Actually, I like the term “bisexual” even less. It sounds too polarizing and falsely egalitarian at the same time. Who really is evenly ambidextrous with their preferences?
But I feel almost as uneasy identifying as “queer,” and not because I’m ashamed of people putting their gay-ass prejudice on me. It feels kind of false to claim such solidarity with my gay friends just because I occasionally have sex with them. I do not truly suffer from the same oppression. When push comes to shove, if the fundamentalists take over and anti-gay bigotry returns, I could always bunker down in a nice safe relationship with someone of the opposite sex, and my gay friends can’t. Calling myself “queer” feels a bit like the awkwardness of the MC5 in the 60s trying to appropriate the righteousness of black nationalism with their sympathetic “White Panther Party.”
That sounds harsh, and I don’t mean to be offensive to anyone regardless of how they identify. But I think we need another word. Hell, maybe we should navigate without a need for taxonomy, for specific words identifying people by the ratio of penises versus vaginas in their lives.
What’s your opinion? If you’re 110% gay, how do you feel about people who identify as “queer” but date primarily from the opposite sex? If you identify as “queer” but aren’t a full time, card-carrying homosexual, what about the term do you find useful or empowering? And does anyone feel comfortable identifying as “bisexual?”
Repeat reader at A Rrose in a Prose (and former author here) Ross Lincoln is part of a really interesting panel discussion on the future of gaming. They cover everything from sexism to nerdism to a wish-list over the future of gaming, and while I don’t agree with everything all the panelists say, Ross is pretty fucking dead-on.