Saturday, August 13, 2005

Good word

"People call me rude, I wish we all were nude."

Delayed gratitude

One so rarely gets to say thank you to writers, which is why it was great, a moment ago, to shake Dan Savage's hand and say, "One so rarely gets to say thank you to writers, but thanks for helping me come out."

He had just given the last talk of a writing workshop put on by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. His speech was funny, spirited and obscene--and inspiring, like an even more gay Tony Robbins seminar.

After I thanked him, Savage looked surprised, congratulated me and shook my hand again. I started to say, "In the end, a bullying tone--"

He looked troubled and blurted out, "Yes, I get a lot of shit for that."

I said, "Well, it was just what I needed when you told a closeted reader, basically, 'Stop being afraid and live your life.'"

He now thanked me and, checking out my name tag (yes, even alternative journalism conferences have name tags), looked pleased to see that I'm from Madison, where he once lived--"Where all the gay bars burn down," he joked.

What I told him is true. His writing was, finally, what prompted me to come out as gay five years ago. I remember the day: I was lying on the floor of my rented Madison room, drunk and miserable. I was perusing the book Savage Love, a collection of his advice columns, and when I read where he told some closeted guy, "Get over yourself," something in me finally clicked. I was like: well, yes.

Next thing you know, I was gay. Thanks in no small part to Dan Savage. And goodness me, now he's a colleague.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Good word

"Last Days is dedicated to the suicide of Kurt Cobain, who led the band Nirvana, influential in the creation of grunge rock. Grunge as a style is a deliberate way of presenting the self as disposable."

--Roger Ebert

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Night before last I videotaped the broadcast of "World News Tonight With Peter Jennings," and I caught up with it yesterday evening. (Yes, the show is still called that. Wonder when it will change?) The show paid lengthy tribute to Jennings, and the very end was heartbreaking: a shot of his empty chair. But also heartbreaking was an earlier moment, when pictures were shown of his 25-year-old daughter and his son, who just graduated from Wesleyan University (my sweetheart Ereck's alma mater)--fatherless now, apparently thanks to cigarettes.

They must miss their dad terribly, and in a roundabout way this got me to thinking about the smoking ban the City of Madison implemented last month. Many people are angry about it, and foes of the ban talk about rights and liberties. And it definitely is anyone's legal right to smoke; this I of course believe.

But there is right, and then there is good. And when I think about the families of people who die from smoking, I have to ask: smoking is a right, but is it ethical? If I am a smoker, is it ethical for me to smoke, knowing that my habit likely will eventually hurt someone I love, because it will make me sick, or kill me?

The answer, obviously, is no. I wish the people putting so much effort into fighting the ban would put as much effort into quitting, and getting the tobacco companies out of the business. But then again, I am an ex-smoker, and every smoker knows that the only thing worse than the preaching of a nonsmoker is the preaching of an ex-smoker.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Good word

"If I was a bird, and you was a fish
What would we do, I guess we'd wish for reincarnation."

--Roger Miller
Tuned out

The encomiums for Peter Jennings invariably mention his marathon coverage of Sept. 11. It must have been something, but I missed it: I didn't have access to a TV at the time, so I'm one of the few Americans who experienced those events mostly via radio and the Internet. It was not until days later that I first saw the footage of the planes hitting the buildings.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Good night

I'm sad Peter Jennings died. I'm one of the eight people under age 60 who regularly watch evening news on the broadcast networks, and my newscast of choice has long been "World News Tonight With Peter Jennings." I've always thought he was fabulous: poised, erudite, sexy.

After Jennings went on sabbatical for his cancer treatment, I was disconcerted every time I watched the show and heard the announcer say, at the beginning, "This is 'World News Tonight With Peter Jennings.' Reporting tonight, Charles Gibson"--or Elizabeth Vargas, or whoever happened to be sitting in. I suppose ABC will go back to simply calling the show "World News Tonight."

It feels a little early for speculation, but I wonder who will replace Jennings? There is no obvious choice. ABC has not manifestly been grooming a successor, as NBC groomed Brian Williams to replace Tom Brokaw. And ABC does have not to contemplate naming a successor amid shame and chaos, as CBS did when Dan Rather stepped down. (CBS News apparently is still in chaos: no permanent replacement has emerged.) No, among the three network news organizations, ABC has been startlingly free of drama and anticipation.

I doubt Jennings' replacement will be Gibson, who has done the lion's share of anchoring in Jennings' absence. White House correspondent Terry Moran has looked at ease behind the anchor desk the times I've seen him there, mostly on weekend broadcasts, but he seems a little young. Diane Sawyer?

I for one would love to see Vargas get the job. I admire her work. She replaced Barbara Walters on "20/20" last year, but there's no reason she couldn't get another promotion. Vargas! Vargas! Vargas!