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A random thought on the sustaining power of love

For the better part of the day, as I’ve been organizing my desk, taking care of some obligations and running errands, a character from one of my (unwritten) screenplays has once again come alive.  And I realize in again engaging with her how much this woman has in common, at least in terms of the broad outline of her life, with Lauren Bacall.*

Those who have seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  will understand how Tom Wilkinson‘s Graham Dashwood brought her back to life.  (And those who haven’t seen the film should see it as soon as they are able.)

I called this character the “50-year Widow”.  In the late 40s when she was just out of college, she fell for a man a quarter century her senior.  He had lived a wild life, womanizing, drinking and otherwise carousing  . . . until he met her.  Of his seven wives, he was only faithful to her.  They had seven years of marital bliss until the effects of his previous life finally took their toll on him.

She had been a widow since the mid-1950s.  And though she grieved when he passed, when she picked herself up and took care of their children, she found she could move on, the glow of her romance, the knowledge that she loved — and had been loved — helped sustain her through life’s continuing challenges.

In talking to people who have loved and lost, I do find this idealized notion of romance has some basis in the real lives of human beings, perhaps not (entirely) in that of Wilkinson’s Graham Dashwood, but the notion does emerge.

——-

*A major difference being that Bacall remarried when she was 37, though that union ended in divorce.

When a same-sex kiss would have been (most) warranted

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 5:44 pm - March 18, 2012.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV,Romance

Just started watching the first season of Game of Thrones on DVD and have not just been impressed, but have actually been blown away by the production quality of the miniseries.  This is not to say I have some quibbles with the sets (don’t remember there being palm trees in King’s Landing), but just to appreciate what the production designers, etc. have accomplished, creating a truly believable (and fantastic) medieval world.

Last night, I watched Episode 5, The Wolf and the Lion, where we see the first stirrings of romance between Gethin Anthony‘s Renly Baratheon and Finn Jones‘s Knight of the Flowers, Loras Tyrell.  Unfortunately, their, well, intimate moment lacks much evidence of emotional intimacy.  Instead of the two men sharing a kiss, the former suffers the latter to shave his torso.

This would have been the appropriate place to show a same-sex kiss rather than at a political rally.

The Silas Marner Test

I put this post in our “Random Thoughts” category because I put it out there, as kind an observation with a question mark, wondering if the “test” really works.

As many of our blog readers know, I am a huge fan of the English novelist George Eliot.  Along with J.R.R. Tolkien and Albert Camus, she ranks as my favorite prose author, with Homer, Wordluf (AKA the Beowulf-poet) and Wordsworth ranking as my favorite poets.

I have often believed that if you really want to date someone, you would show an interest in their passions.  For example, before I came out, a German woman was obsessed with me, yet entirely indifferent to the things I loved, refusing to understand why I would prefer to sit at home reading than to go to a crowded club with loud music playing.  It seemed she was attracted to the surface and remarkably uncurious about what lay beneath.

Over a decade ago, I met a nice intelligent, attractive, libertarian man in a relationship and we struck up a friendship.  When I met him at his office for lunch, I caught sight of a brand new volume of Wordsworth’s poetry.  He had bought it because of my love for the great English Romantic.  I was flattered.  I also recognized that all was not well with his (then-)relationship.  In retrospect, I wondered if I should have done something more, given this obvious interest.  He would later break up with the boyfriend, but foolishly perhaps, I never pursued the matter.

Only later, much later, did I appreciate how significant his act was, going out of his way to buy a book of poems because I loved the poet.

I doubt I had that experience in mind when I bought Silas Marner, Eliot’s shortest, sweetest and most accessible novel for a close friend (but it may have been lurking in my subconscious).  When we first met, we started dating, but realized there wasn’t a romantic spark, so enjoying each other’s company, remained friends.  As to the book, he couldn’t, he claimed, get past its first few pages. (more…)

Happy Birthday, Leah!

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 5:47 pm - February 25, 2011.
Filed under: Blogging,Holidays,Romance

Just wanted to wish our loyal reader and GayPatriot-get-together organizer Leah a Happy Birthday today.  Apparently, she’ll be celebrating the way some of our male readers like to celebrate, by spending the evening with a studly guy!

Leah, thanks for all the support you’ve provided to this blog and for the friendship you’ve shown to me.  You certainly have earned the right to spend not just evening with a stud, but also to share your life with such a guy.

Valentine’s Day Post: How Did you Meet Your Schweetie?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 10:40 am - February 14, 2011.
Filed under: Holidays,Romance

I always thought the term “significant other” was a bit clunky, so I’ve adopted the term schweetie to describe the individual who is the long-term object of our affection, spouse to some, boyfriend or girlfriend to others, husband or wife to the more traditionally inclined or just plain partner to the practical.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, let  me ask those of you who are attached to provided anecdotal advice to those of us who long to be and to tell us in the comments how you met your schweetie.

Ronald Reagan was born good; Nancy Davis made him great

On portraying gay couples in mainstream movies

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 3:47 pm - July 22, 2010.
Filed under: Gay America,Movies/Film & TV,Romance

I have a confession to make.  Last Wednesday, July 14, five months to the day after Valentine’s Day, I ordered the recent release titled (and set on) that day honoring romantic relationships.  I have always like Garry Marshall‘s movies.  And this is his latest.  To top it off, I had just learned that this particular flick featured the fetching Bradley Cooper as a gay character.

Well, on the whole, the movie didn’t disappoint. Despite some treacly exchanges and some groan-inducing dialogue, it was perfectly entertaining (if not entirely believable  – most of the men behaved as women want men to behave).  At moments, it was surprisingly sweet.

What struck me most of all was how it fumbled the gay relationship.  Neither the screenwriter nor Marshall spent much time developing the relationship between Cooper’s Holden and Eric Dane‘s Sean Jackson.  In fact, when the finally get together, they don’t even kiss.  Not even on the cheek.  It seems, at times, that their story was pasted onto the film in order to appeal to gay audiences.  Or just to make it so au courant.

Instead of an actual relationship, we see the very public spectacle of Jackson, a professional football player scheduling a press conference to announce his sexuality.  It’s all about this public relations gesture.  Indeed, his PR agent plays a prominent role in the film.

Contrast this to the truly heartfelt treatment of a gay couple in the 1994 British film Four Weddings and a Funeral.  I don’t recall the word, “gay,” being used even once to describe the relationship between Simon Callow‘s Gareth and John Hannah‘s Matthew.  Instead, we see the two men interact and see particularly the grief of Matthew when he learns of Gareth’s death — and at the latter’s funeral. (more…)

On sex difference and same-sex marriage (continued)

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 3:27 pm - May 2, 2010.
Filed under: Gay Marriage,Romance,Sex Difference

Earlier today, Glenn Reynolds linked a piece which gets at the real problem of gay marriage perhaps better than anything I’ve read in the past few weeks. In his post, Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman?, Stuart Schneiderman writes “about experiments in Germany and the United Kingdom where men were treated with a nasal spray containing the hormone oxytocin . . . a hormone that men and women possess, but that women possess in larger quantities”:

According to the article, it triggers labor pains, helps mothers to bond with their babies, and produces enhanced sensitivity and empathy.

The article fails to mention that when a woman has a sexual experience her body produces extra oxytocin, thereby drawing her closer to her lover. Researchers call oxytocin the “cuddle hormone.”

Oxytocin is one of the primary reasons why women who make a habit of hooking up cannot detach their emotions from their sexual experience as easily as men can.

Emphasis added.

And this difference why making the case for lesbian marriage is a heck of a lot easier than making the case for gay marriage, given that women more readily make an emotional commitment to their relationships than men do.  And seem to more innately understand the link between sexual fidelity and emotional commitment.  That said, our culture is replete with stories of women “taming” men, where the Lothario becomes a Romeo under the influence of a woman.

Marriage serves to resolve the natural tension between the sexes.

Now, this is not to say that we should not consider gay marriage because of the absence of sex difference between the partners, but instead that we should address that absence in our conversations on gay marriage.  And, in our personal lives, find means to incorporate the qualities contained in that tension in our relationships.

Happy Valentine’s Day:
How did you meet your schweetie?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 2:43 pm - February 14, 2010.
Filed under: Holidays,Romance

Last night, I again watched a clip of Joy Behar telling us that gay men don’t take monogamy as seriously as straights.  This time, however, I noted that Whoopi Goldberg rose to our defense, saying “not with the gay folks I know.”  (When I watched this last month, I saw a shorter clip* than the one I discovered last night on Towleroad–full clip below the jump.)

Yea, Miss Behar has a point that monogamy is harder for men than it is for women, but she could at least have allowed that if straight can learn not to stray, so too can gay men.  Indeed, the Oscar-winning actress countered the left-wing talker, saying her gay friends are “not happy” if their partners fool around.  They have learned to tie their sexual drive to emotional connection.

Kudos to Whoopi for standing up for gay men.

With Whoopi’s words in mind, this single man wishes all his coupled friends a Happy Valentine’s Day and invites you to use our comments section to share your stories with us–how did you meet your “schweetie”? (more…)

“But that’s what the Left does: indecent, ugly rage”
(& the Gipper rose above it)

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 10:59 pm - February 6, 2010.
Filed under: Republican-hatred,Romance,Ronald Reagan

In his tribute to the Gipper today on the Corner, Paul Kengor reminds us that W wasn’t the first Republican president the left demonized.  Demonization of prominent Republicans, it’s what the left does:

Reagan was just plain likable. Of all the subjects I’ve studied, few were as universally liked. Sure, Reagan, as president, was demonized by the Left, but that’s what the Left does: indecent, ugly rage. Still, even most liberals muster nice words about Reagan personally.

Central to that likability was Reagan’s humility. The word “I” didn’t dominate his conversation, unless he was poking fun at himself. He was no narcissist. Ronald Reagan was not full of pride; he was thoroughly unpossessed of self-love.

And the Gipper was a plain ol’ nice guy.  He didn’t let the barbs of the media–and there were many–get to him.  I speculate that it was his lady’s love that made him so strong.  The leftists’ barbs bounced right off him because he was confident in his beliefs and strengthened by Nancy’s affection. 

He didn’t need love himself; he got all the validation he needed just from one look in his wife’s eyes.

Kengor concludes with an anecdote about the Gipper’s common touch which shows why our Ron was such a great man.

Absence of Chemistry: A Death Knell to Believable Screen Romance

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 5:18 pm - October 2, 2009.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV,Romance

From the first moment Spencer Tracy sets eyes on Katharine Hepburn in the 1942 classic Woman of the Year (at 5:46 on the DVD), you know he wants to explore that leg which she has been stretching and find just where it leads.  Just by the glances the exchange in the ensuing scene, you know they find each other attractive and want to act on attraction.

That coupled with a good script (well, until the concluding scene) makes the movie compelling.  We believe the tension and affection between the two.  Indeed, their cinematic chemistry defines the various movies they  made together, overcoming, in a number of cases mediocre scripts.  For example, in Desk Set is almost unwatchable, but the scenes where the two are together more than make up for the emptiness of much of the rest of the script.

Good screen chemistry can often overcome a mediocre screenplay (see e.g., Two Weeks Notice, Titanic) and turn an excellent script into a great movie (see e.g., Casablanca, The Philadelphia Story, When Harry Met Sally).

And bad screen chemistry can ruin even a well-crafted script, the first two-thirds of Absence of Malice, which I watched this past week.  From the first moment the leads, Paul Newman and Sally Field, come together, anyone familiar with contemporary cinema knows they are being set up to fall in love.  We know this, in large part, because Field spills her coffee when she first hears Newman’s voice identifying himself to her.  Sydney Pollack, the film’s director, needed to have her do this to show how she was caught off guard by his appearance.

Miss Hepburn, however, didn’t need to spill any coffee or drop a hairpin when she first caught site of the man with whom she had been feuding in the pages of the newspaper for which they both wrote.   (more…)

Does Dick Cheney Owe it All to Lynne?

As I was driving to the Reagan Library yesterday afternoon, listening to Hugh Hewitt while caught in traffic on the 170, I heard Hugh (or was it one of his guests?) refer to former Vice President Cheney as the left’s “favorite punching bag.”  Before leaving home, I had read snippets of that good man’s speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and thought it one of his best, one which every American should read, particularly those critical of the previous Administration..

I began to reconsider my own past criticism of his post-Bush Administration outspokenness.  It seems he was only defending himself (and that Administration) against unwarranted criticism for his successors and the MSM.  While it may be unprecedented for an immediate past Vice President to criticize the incoming Administration, it is also unprecedented for a new President and his team to lay so much blame on his predecessor and his team.

So, when I heard expression, “punching bag,”on the radio, it reminded me yet again how members of the current Administration and their media and weblog cronies blamed their predecessors, particularly Cheney, for the current “mess.”  And I wondered (and not for the first time) how the former Vice President bore with such equanimity the vitriol hurled regularly against him for the better part of the past eight years.

(more…)

I thanked the Gipper’s Lady; Athena thanked me

I just returned from hearing Athena Peggy Noonan speak at the temple of her spiritual father Reagan Library.  Due to traffic, I missed the book signing, so I did not come close to the divine presence have the chance to shake her hand, but after her talk (about which more anon), I did get to ask the first question.

But, before I did, I acknowledged another divine presence great woman in the room, the lady who has no mythological counterpart because, well, no Olympian loved her husband the way Nancy Reagan loved the Gipper.  After John Heubusch, the new Executive Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, called on me, I rose, apologized to Miss Noonan for first addressing the former First Lady.

And while I could not see Mrs. Reagan when I spoke, I told her that I had worn a red tie in her honor (it is her favorite color) and then said, “Thank you for making him great.”  It’s what I’ve have always wanted to say to the former Nancy Davis.  Ronald Wilson Reagan had always been a good man.  It took a woman, the love of his life, to make him great.

Peggy said as much in her speech; “there was,” she said, “no him without her.  She was the stable platform from which . . . his midlife career was launched.”

And just as Ronald Reagan needed Nancy to become the great man, the great president, that he became in the second half of his life, so too did the Greek heroes need the guidance of a woman, in their case, the goddess Athena to achieve success in their endeavors.

So, I began my question to Peggy Noonan by introducing myself as “the blogger who compared you to Athena.”  She had not alas previously heard this reference, but before addressing my query, offered, “I’ve never been compared to the goddess Athena.  Thank you.”

And when she concluded her response, she thanked me again.  It more that made up for being caught in traffic and losing the opportunity to have her sign the books I had brought along just for that occasion.

Visiting Reagan’s Ranch
Seeing His Greatness in Its Simplicity

I just returned from an afternoon at a place that many readers of the site, including (and especially?) its two principle bloggers consider practically sacred.  With Dr. Nigel Ashford, the distinguished British political scientist honored by Dame Margaret Thatcher, I had a tour of the Reagan Ranch.

Kudos to the folks of the Young America’s Foundation for taking such good care of this site and for treating us well on the tour.

While the ranch sits on a large and beautiful piece of land, the house itself is quite small, only 1,800 square feet.  The Gipper himself was not extravagant.  He built the fences around the property and even built the front porch.  He cleared brush and took care of the horses.  In short, when he was out there, he liked to work with his hands.

The house had a Western/Southwestern theme, with paintings of Western landscape and American memorabilia.  I particularly enjoyed a chair whose cushions were covered in a needlepoint image of a Minuteman with the year 1776.

Of the many stories our tour guide shared with us, this one best (in my mind at least) described Ronald Reagan the man.  Before going riding with his beloved Nancy, he always insisted on tacking her horse. He would never let the staff do it. When her horse was ready, he rang the bell below to signal that it was time for her to join him.  

Even as president, he insisted on performing this task himself.  As valuable as then was his time, he had to go out of his way for Nancy. No wonder he was such a great leader. He knew how to appreciate the things that really matter, knew how lucky he was to have found a woman who loved him the way she did.

UPDATE: As per Sonicfrog’s comment, I provide a picture of the Suburu Brat below the jump.  (more…)

Happy Anniversary Ron ‘n Nancy

Today we celebrate the 57th anniversary of the nuptials of Ronald Reagan and his beloved Nancy. Her strength and affection helped him become the great man that he was. And his appreciation of this strong woman helped define his quality as a man.

Few presidents were as devoted to their wives as was the Gipper to his Nancy. So, in celebration of their romance, I post this touching tribute I found on youtube:

On Dumbledore’s Sexuality, Romance and Wisdom

When I first heard (somewhere on the road in Kansas as I journeyed cross country) that the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (for the better part of the first six books of the Harry Potter series) was gay, it just made sense. As I wrote at that time:

When I heard the news, it just made sense. There was something in the wise wizard’s manner which suggested a certain gay sensibility, but also a sense that he had somehow sublimated its sexual aspect.

As a young wizard, Albus Dumbledore had fallen for Gellert Grindelwald, his equally precocious colleague from the Durmstrang Institute, but forsook that then-fair young man, largely because of his beloved’s increasing fascination with the dark arts.

I can’t quite put my finger on it (and hope to be able to provide a few examples should I re-read the series), but as I noted previously, there was something in the wizard’s manner which suggested that he was gay, perhaps it was the avuncular tenderness he showed to Harry. Or maybe he just had a more gentle disposition than do most men, a gentleness which he manifested in a number of contexts, but particularly in his relationships with other men.

It was also a gentleness, devoid of sexual obsession*. He may have been more drawn to Harry (and other male pupils) because of their gender, but he did not see them as objects of sexual conquest. Perhaps, it’s because after turning away from Grindelwald, he had somehow sublimated his sexual longings. He had found that deeper connection and could not conceive of sexuality without such a bond.

Or perhaps it’s all just because Dumbledore’s experience seemed to parallel that of the wizards in my fantasy realm, a world I hope to reveal to others if I find myself ready to write the “epic” which has been kicking around in my head for about five years. I have a strange sense that the Harry Potter books somehow influenced my writing. When I read the first book, it struck me as odd to find a world with so many wizards. In most fantasy realms (as well as medieval legends), there are only a handful. (In Tolkien’s Middle-earth, there are only five, with two having disappeared not long after their arrival from the Undying Lands.)

In mine, there are only four alive at the time my story takes place, with one imprisoned and a second having lost his human form because he abused his power of transformation. In my realm, each wizard gains his wisdom, in large part, after losing his beloved. For you see, these wizards because of their semi-divine origin have extraordinary long life and also have a great capacity for love, but living in the mortal world, they fall for those around them.

The luckier ones fall for elves who while not immortal (unlike Tolkien’s elves), do live longer than the humans whose forms they take. But, as their beloved will die during their life times, they all must learn to live without the individual for whom they have the strongest, most passionate and most tender of feelings.

And yes, there is a wizard in my epic who does fall for another man.

Maybe it’s just the similarity between Dumbedore’s story and that of my wizards which engendered these thoughts. But, I want to offer one final thought. In Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart‘s Rick finds his own redemption (in a manner of speaking) when he realizes he must forsake the love of his life for a cause greater than both of them. In that way, Albus Dumbledore has much in common with one of the great characters of the silver screen. It seems then that part of wisdom is understanding that while there is truth in romance, romance is not the ultimate truth.

- B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)

*Not sure this is the right word.

ADDENDUM: And while you’re pondering Albus Dumbledore’s sexuality, take a gander at Pink Elephant‘s post on the topic. That blogger is a “little put off by the current fashion of including a stock gay character for whom sexuality just comes up constantly.” Read the whole thing so as to better understand his point.

Relationship–the Essential Ingredient to a Good Flick

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 2:42 am - June 12, 2007.
Filed under: Family,Movies/Film & TV,Romance

After a busy month doing jury duty and working on my dissertation concept paper, I’ve finally been able to see a few flicks, indeed, have gone out to the movies for the past three nights and while I didn’t particularly love any of the films I saw, did appreciate certain aspects of each of them. And I did find that of the three, only one “got it right.” By get it right, I mean understand the medium — what it is movies are all about.

To be sure, the makers of the second movie I saw, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End understood the business of making money, but seem to have lost sight of the art of making movies. With a successful franchise, they just needed to create something which would offer some eye-catching scenes for the preview. That said, while I couldn’t really follow the plot of the flick, I did enjoy the special effects and found the first half (Itself the length of some movies) quite entertaining. I did not enjoy Johnny Depp‘s performance as much as I had in the two previous Pirates movies,* perhaps because I had seen it before.

But, the performance I just saw in La Vie en Rose, that of Marion Cotillard as Édith Piaf just blew me away. Her portrayal of that tragic French chanteuse is alone well worth the price of the movie ticket. Where the movie excelled in acting and set design, it suffered in relationship. While the movie did show several of the doomed singer’s relationships, it didn’t present (what I call) a “defining” relationship which drove the movie. And I believe movies (in general) need such a relationship to hold our interest — and to move us.

(That said, there were some powerful scenes in the flick, both involving relationship which did move me to tears.)

The latest Pirates movie quite unlike the first also lacked such a relationship. The one movie which did have one was the very entertaining, but quite raunchy Knocked Up (a term which, in other news I am happy to report, could be used to describe the current situation of one of my sisters-in-law). While the movie is not nearly as good as the director‘s recent The 40 Year Old Virgin (to which many have compared it), it is thoroughly entertaining (if a bit over the top at times).

There not only do we see the developing relationship between Seth Rogen‘s Ben Stone and Katherine Heigl‘s Alison Scott, the woman whom he “knocked up,” but we also believe some of the secondary — and tertiary — relationships, between Alison and her sister (delightfully portrayed by Leslie Mann) and between Ben and his friends. Because we believe the relationships, we become more invested in the characters — and concerned for their well-being. We want Ben to grow up so he can be a husband to Alison — and father to their baby. And we want her to loosen up a bit so she can better appreciate Ben’s quirks — and the general zaniness of life.

Of course, the relationships alone don’t make the movie. The cheap humor did provoke a few laughs.

This flick does show that director Judd Apatow “gets” the medium in which he is working. It’s about relationship. No wonder his movies have done so well at the box office.

*******

A past post on a similar theme: Romantic Chemistry – A Lost Cinematic Art?

*I offered some thoughts on the second Pirates flick in this post.

Soon back to blogging/Thoughts on Friendship & Romance

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 7:34 pm - April 2, 2007.
Filed under: Blogging,Friendship,Romance

I apologize for not having blogged in some time, but my last round of papers really drained me. And not long after returning from my last class session (also draining) and beginning to prepare for the next round of papers, I had to start preparing for Passover which starts tonight at sundown.

Anyway, as I post this, I’ll note a conversation I had with a close friend this weekend where I wondered if a friendship between two gay men could develop over time into a romantic relationship. My friend, while open to the possibility (in the abstract), wondered if each friend/partner might end up seeing the other as his “default” boyfriend. I wondered, if over time, as each began to appreciate the other’s qualities, that he might realize that what they shared was more important than intense sexual attraction.

So, as I prepare for my Seder, I leave you with that question — and invite you to share your thoughts.