NYC for Pride! Parade & Pier Dance!

I’m sitting in front of MSNBC as I write this Friday morning, waiting to see if today’s the day that SCOTUS chooses to release their decision regarding the legality and legitimacy of gay marriage in this nation.  Regardless of how or when this transpires, whether we’ll know the answer before this weekend’s Pride festivals in NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, and so many other communities celebrating this weekend, I’m still a proud gay man and I’m happy to count so many gay men and women, friends, my brothers and sisters.

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It’s to join up with one of those “families” that Jesse and I are driving down to NYC to join up with for Sunday’s Pride festivities.  I first walked into a rehearsal with the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps band in May of 2000.  In fifteen years I’ve watched the group grow from the 15 people who were in my first rehearsal to often an eighty-to-hundred-strong musical marching juggernaut.  In the years I lived in Chicago, my biggest disappointment this time of year was missing getting to march down Fifth Avenue with my sousaphone on my shoulder and so many good friends in harmony around me.  Through this group I’ve had the honor and thrill of representing our community by being part of the national Lesbian & Gay Band Association band that marched in Obama’s inauguration parades.  Twice.  The second time we marched 180-strong, making us the second-largest contingent in the entire inaugural parade!  If that doesn’t send the country a message, I don’t know what does.

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I think it’s important to understand that it’s ultimately who we love which defines us from the rest of the world.  Yes, there are cultural differences and relational differences, but these are probably more resultant of decades of discrimination, and demonstrate our resiliency and ability to evolve into harsh environments and do it with flair.  So I think it’s of course important (to say nothing of fun) to see parade participants who look sexy in skimpy costumes or resplendent in full drag, being flamboyant and outrageous and proud.  I do get a little tired of Associated Press managing to publish only the most lurid photos, though, seemingly completely ignoring the fact that MOST of the parade participants are normal folk who just happen to be gay, and who wouldn’t be caught dead walking down Fifth Avenue in front of hundreds of thousands of onlookers wearing a speedo.  Community groups, churches, corporations, parents and families, and just folk; they’re proud too, and have far more to do with who we are as an entire community than just the few of us who might show more skin.  This has nothing to do with what a person looks like; it has everything to do with who we ARE.

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So this is why when so many of my colleagues are stripping down for NYC Pride, I’m going to be girding up.  The band has a full uniform, and one I’m happy and proud to wear (and sweat my balls off in, the way weather often is the last Sunday in June in NYC!).  Aside from my long-standing association with the band, I think it’s seriously important to show that there are ways for any of us to be involved in bringing pride to our community and joy to the public at large.  Beauty is so far more than just what we look like, it’s about how we interrelate, how we care for each other; it’s about what’s in our minds and hearts.  I think the band is a far better analog to that model of our community than are floats full of gogo boys.  Not only are we all friends, as an ensemble we have to keep our ears open to each other to stay together; as a parade block we need to constantly be checking in to make sure we’re still in rows and in step.  There’s an intimacy to that sort of connection, to working together to make music; being in a band is about working together to accomplish a common goal, and all you need to do is be able to carry an instrument.  Playing it helps, but I’ll vouch for it that it’s really not quite necessary, at least not to start–just keep trying, and you’ll get better.

I’ll reiterate, floats full of porn stars and gogo boys are still important and awesome. Just don’t discount the larger parts of the parade, the groups that actually give onlookers something to reach out to and to actually be able to identify with.  We in the band may not be the sexiest bunch, at least not in the conventional sense.  But we are BEAUTIFUL.  And what is Pride about, if not to make us all feel beautiful?

SO.  Watch for the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps Band.  Somewhere towards the back (we’re usually at the back) will be the sousaphones.  Mine’s HUGE.  I’m a tad shorter than some of the other sousaphone players, so it may not stick up appreciably, but my bell is substantially larger than the others.  That’s me!  Wave!

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AND AFTER THE PARADE…  I’m not done with the Big Apple Corps.  Every year at the Pier Dance Heritage of Pride selects community groups to run the bars.  All tips earned go towards the community group.  I’ve helped with the LGBAC’s bar a few times in years past, though it makes for an exhausting day.  However, this year the challenge HoP issued to applicants was to come up with some sort of “celebrity bartender”, and the band honored me by asking if Jesse and I would join them.  This year the band was granted the coveted VIP area bar, and Jesse and I will be there starting early in the evening, helping raise money for this band.  Come by, order a drink, and say hello!

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And with that, there are cheers going up over Washington DC.  Lots to celebrate!

A Deeply Heartfelt Eight-Octave Thank You

I don’t know how to begin or end this.  So consider this a love letter.

Bach's handwritten dedication of the Brandenburg Concertos to the Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt.

Bach’s handwritten dedication of the Brandenburg Concertos to the Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt.

At no time in western culture did the arts ever not rely on patronage.  Sure, the occasional dilettante with some wealth has undertaken to paint or compose or pick up a camera, but for most of us mere mortals, getting our feet off the ground so we can get our heads in the clouds has taken more than our own blown breath filling our sails.  Perhaps with visual artists it has been easier to see a tactile return on that investment, although sometimes one starts to wonder what makes a smear of oil paint on canvas so much more valuable when Picasso did the smearing than when anyone else did.  With performing artists it becomes more tenuous, in that there isn’t anything solid someone can take home and say “I commissioned that.”  You can’t take home a dancer and put him on your mantle if you subsidize a ballet.  Sure, for a composer there’s a score, and nearly everything Bach or Beethoven or Mozart composed comes with a cover page with a dedication to some nobleman who gave them money or a living situation or did some nice thing for them.  However, the score is only a description of a piece of music that a musician then has to realize.  Think of it as though instead of a Mona Lisa, you had a written description of how to paint a Mona Lisa, each brush stroke, what pigment blend it is, where to apply it, at exactly what time to apply it…  And every person who took those descriptions would paint a Mona Lisa, no two of which would ever be the same.  And what makes music almost noumenonal…  To complete the metaphor, as soon as you finish painting a Mona Lisa, it vanishes.  In this day and age, where having a thing to show for the investment is so much more concretely understandable as hard return for the investment, it’s hard to justify asking for that sort of patronage for something so intangible.

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Against this worry on my part, somewhat over a week ago Jesse started asking me if I’d be willing to consider a crowdsource means of raising some funds for a piano.  I’ve been living without one for upwards of five years now.  My skills as a pianist have decidedly deteriorated, to my deep frustration, and it has slowed my writing nearly to a halt.  Compound this with physical problems I was experiencing with my vocal chords.  An excellent physician specialist in Boston has finally reversed those, and an amazing voice teacher who has gone through this exact problem is now pulling me back to being able to sing again.  Compound those again with as yet not having found any ensemble to play tuba with in Boston, and there’s only so much reward to playing in my little studio room by myself…  I was starting to wonder if there really was any point to having a piano at all, if it was simply time to give up and find a job-job, if after all these years of idealistic artistic masturbation it was time to pack it in and move on.

Okay, that's actually my old ophicleide, which I don't play any more, but it's a fun photo...

Okay, that’s actually my old ophicleide, which I don’t play any more, but it’s a fun photo…

It doesn’t help that my taste in pianos isn’t Bösendorfer concert grand extravagant (they’re awesome, but far more than I need), but I also can’t work on a $250 Casiotone keyboard.  It’s like expecting a computer programmer to devise a new operating system on a Speak-and-Spell.  What Jesse and I found which I can make work (and which we can get into our house!) is a “hybrid”, a Yamaha AvantGrand N2 specifically.  The works are essentially identical to the actual working action of a grand piano, so the instrument feels right under the hands, but the sound processors are entirely digital like top-of-the-line electronic keyboards.  It doesn’t go out of tune, it can be played with headphones in the middle of the night, and I can connect it via MIDI to my computer for input and output.  Kinda perfect, but steep price-wise.  I just couldn’t justify asking for help to the tune of the $15,000 list price tag of such a device.

End-on photo of the action of an American Steinway grand piano.

End-on photo of the action of an American Steinway grand piano.

But then we’d located a used one for less, and Jesse proposed perhaps just asking for some portion of the needed cash.  I said what the hell, go ahead.  I’d thought we’d get maybe $150 and a ton of well-wishers.  So he posted a kickstarter campaign at http://www.gofundme.com/piano-for-dirk.  Two days after he’d written the campaign, I finally allowed him to promote it.

And then this happened.

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There’s data there that needs a little explaining.  That screen capture was taken as I’m writing this post, 48 hours after Jesse went live with it; the “5 days” actually reflects the time since he wrote the page.  The kicker is that we raised $5,000 in just shy of 24 hours after making this public.  Having promised to post a recording of a piano piece I’d not published before, Jesse jubilantly posted to his own blog here.  And even having reached this milestone, we’re still seeing you contribute more.

I can’t begin to say how much this means to me.  For some years I’ve been thinking more and more “Why write, when I can’t seem to get anyone to listen?”  Arts are about communication, about speaking to people’s minds and hearts in ways perhaps language can’t.  In a certain sense, even language itself is an art, an “artificial” (in the archaic sense, think of the meaning of “artifice” as an adjective) means of conveying not only concrete thoughts but feelings, conceptions, ideas…  And if you speak or write and nobody pays attention, how long can one really enthuse over the idea of writing or talking for your own enjoyment before it just starts feeling futile?

It’s been a revelation to me to know that you listen.  And you not only listen, you want to hear more.  And beyond that you want to hear more, to my utter astonishment, to want to help out with the purchase of a rather heftily expensive tool which will make it possible for me to create more.

We seem to have missed out on the used model we found earlier, but if years of watching eBay and other online sources have taught me anything, if it showed up once, another one will come along; we just have to be vigilant.  Now we have the means to jump on it when the next one does appear.  Meanwhile, the campaign is hardly closed; I’m still thrilled and delighted to send CDs and scores and manuscript pages to anyone who still wants to contribute, and believe me, every last little bit helps.  The campaign is still live at http://www.gofundme.com/piano-for-dirk.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!

I really, really hope that I can begin to repay this kindness.  It’s not just the money, as vital as that has been.  It’s the restoration of faith.  That’s priceless.

The composer at work. Thanks to you, back at work!

The composer at work. Thanks to you, back at work!

 

 

Yeah, I write poetry too.

So here’s another geeky aspect to me.  Sometimes when I’ve got an emotion I need to find an expression for or need to pinpoint the source of, I’ll write poetry.  This one was written a year ago after a vile fight with one of my very closest friends, and written in the certainty that we’d never talk to each other again.  Took us over six months, but we did patch things up, and we’re closer than ever.  However, with events in the past couple weeks, suicides and deaths of dear friends in San Francisco, New York, and Paris, I’m posting this.  You’re under no obligation to read this; this post is more for me.

Ancora Ductila

His initial impression is of a distant sweetness,
Perhaps more tasted in the air than smelled,
Redolent of apricots, of heliotrope, of hashish;
He inhales deeply, imbuing his corpse
With the vapor wafting unseen on the breeze.

The aftermath is differently beautiful.
No birds sing, no animals prowl;
Not even ants creep among the dusty remnants of grass.
Trees stand leafless, their wood dry and white
Where the bark has eroded away.
No corpse is left; only bones,
Bleached grey in the unyeilding sun,
Lying in discontigous piles, fractured and splintered,
Twisted, and tinged black along dagger-sharp edges.
Knots of what was once hair and feather
Blow in the scentless wind. Decades hence,
When starving dogs first return to this dishallowed ground,
They will refuse these gnawings,
Preferring to chew the dessicated soil.

Those colorless, fragrant clouds
Pass over unseen, like a Pesach angel,
Mordant, bearing malaise across once-verdant lands,
Stripping, defoliating flower and tree,
Dropping both hawks and bees from the air,
Still in tormented guises of flight;
Turning horse as easily as vole aside,
Slavering at the mouth as to rid themselves of the taste.
They die as do insects, their twitching legs
Pawing at the air above, attempting to run, to burrow,
To flee the death they cannot see,
The angel’s flaming sword apparent only
In the line of life overtaken.

Centuries ago, in another dry blanched land
So ostentatiously given to our father’s fathers’ fathers,
The local harpist king once quipped at dinner,
“The number of our years are three score and ten;
And the fullness of those is labor and sorrow.”
When no guest cracked a smile, he harrumphed,
Realizing that only he would ever understand the joke.
His best friend, nay lover, was compelled to forsake him;
His wives conspired and played him for a fool;
His own much-loved son betrayed him, and was slain.
This tragedy played out on a stage only he could attend;
In generations since, most men fail to see the proscenium at all,
And hence never understand that, relatively,
His life was a comedy compared to theirs.
It matters not what to what means we resort;
All human interactions end:
All friendships, marriages, businesses, emnities, treaties.
Men grow distant, or are driven asunder; they quarrel;
Men die.
The gossamer threads, these ductile anchors,
So anxiously thrown in hope
Of securing an enduring bond,
Like a harpsichord string are so easily overtuned
And played too fiercely, they snap;
Or like an elastic band, they harden by exposure
Until in an unobserved moment they crack
And crumble away like unfired clay.
The only constant in our human experience
Is the ever-renewed disappointment
That no meaningful, worthwhile, or pleasurable connection
Proves permanent.

Thus, as all isthmi wash away,
Eroded by the unappeasable surge of the brine-heavy sea,
Does each man become an island.

The only things he sees:
The colorless, cloudless sky arching above him,
And the unsetting sun,
Scorching the unending dead plain stretching waterlessly ahead of him
As far as his myopic and cataracted vision can discern.

The only things he feels:
The crumble of the harsh dead grass under his calloused, gnarled toes,
Hardened by constant wandering beyond the ability to bleed,
And the sting of the wind-borne dust on his grisled, rosacea’d face.

The only things he hears:
The irregularity of his own slowly slowing heartbeat;
And the rasping exhalation of the rank vapor
Issuing from his grey, chapped, split lips,
Seeming faintly sweet to his own nose.

And the only thing he knows
Is that he bears a guttering, malodorous flaming sword
And thus he styles himself an angel.

June 2014

 

Value everyone around you.  Take time to say you love someone.  Don’t wait to find peace after an argument; do it now.  You just never know when all further opportunity will be taken away.  In the past four years I’ve lost over twenty friends, from people I just knew and liked to my nearest and dearest.  It doesn’t get easier, it doesn’t get any less painful.  And there’re always things left unsaid.

RIP William, James, Marcel, and Eric.  I love you guys.

 

Angel with a Flaming Sword

Edwin Howland Blashfield, 1893

Another Video Cameo

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So I was at Folsom Europe last year, and while waiting for my buddies to come down from their hotel room I was sitting talking to this fascinating guy outside of the Boxer store on Eisenacher Straße these two fellows walked up to us, explained that they were filming a documentary on the Folsom festivities with a focus on extreme body modification, and would it be okay if they took a few moments of video of the two of us.

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We saw no reason why not, so they held the camera as we continued our conversation, said Danke, and moved on.

Later in the day at the fair itself, I was aware of them particularly focused on a spectacularly blue-eyed fellow with an engorged set of genitalia inside a custom codpiece, and figured that must be what they were talking about when they spoke of “extreme body modification”.  Cool, right?

Here’s the excerpt from the really rather fascinating documentary.  My appearance is a quick flash at about 1:25  …in a sequence of people presumably “laughing” at this fellow’s extraordinary equippage.

Just for the record, when that footage was taken, the fellow who’s the focus of the documentary is nowhere nearby.  And, even having noted him, I’m the last person to laugh at anyone with the balls to undertake such a physical change.  Frankly, I think this is awesome.  It’s not anything I’d do to myself, it’s not something I understand the utility or aesthetic of, but I have to respect someone who saw something he wanted, understood how to accomplish it, and put it into effect.

And I REALLY have to respect a fellow who can do this in the face of a general public that is as likely to laugh at him as objectify him or just be turned off.  How many of us really could have seen past the appendage and found the man himself?

Now I wish I’d had the opportunity.

Next year.

Yeah yeah, I know I know I know…

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I’ll say it again.  I’m a sucky blogger.

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But I’m turning a new leaf.  I just spent some hours updating the My Movies page on the blog, getting links there to as much material as I can muster.  If anyone is looking at that and sees things I’m missing still, drop me a comment here and let me know?  After some five years doing this, it’s not impossible that a few little items have slipped my memory…  Besides, I’m getting OLD.  LOL

But it’s been a busy winter, aside from just surviving the snow in Boston.  Lots to relate.  So hang tight, lots to update you all on.  And I swear I will.

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Heh.  Hopefully.

I cook, but I didn’t know I had a show

Just a really quick post. These two do a really awesome cookshow sendup. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss my cameo…

Get your PrEP facts straight.

I have to reproduce this here, because if I copied it out by hand, nobody would believe a gay man actually came up with this humbug:

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This was not sent to me on Grindr, but to an acquaintance.  Some of these notions are just silly, but I’ve been googling the more outlandish allegations mentioned for the last hour and a half, and I cannot figure out where “Prince” even begins to get these ideas from.  There’s some misinformation about PrEP out there, some about the efficacy of it, much about the supposed morality of anyone who would be taking it, and there are websites that perpetuate those lies, but these slanders I can’t even find a source for.

Other than the completely made-up bullshit, he ascribes to Truvada adipose wasting; this was true of far older medications which saved the lives of thousands a few decades ago, but which we don’t use any more.  He accuses drug companies not of gross misinformation, but absolute lies, something the FDA wouldn’t stand for, and which our experience with so many thousands of HIV-positive gay men who have been taking Truvada and Truvada-based therapies in some cases for over ten years will simply vouch against.  And finally, that last text says it all: the writer of these texts is heartless.

Know the facts.  Check out these sites and resources:

And an awesome Facebook page,

Many of us are on PrEP, not out of any rampant fear of infection, not out of any supposed inclination to whore ourselves out irresponsibly, and not really out of any sort of political solidarity with the rest of the intelligent gay community (though if you’re smart, you’ve at least considered the possibility of PrEP!).  We do it out of love for each other and so that we keep each other as safe and healthy as possible.  We use it as one more tool of many to contain the spread of the infection among our friends and loved ones with whom we curl up.  We pornstars do it to help keep the studios we work with remain safe places where THIS doesn’t happen.  We all do it for the better well-being of our community and in the hopes that by reducing the number of new infections we do to HIV what vaccination did to Smallpox in the 1960′s.

This catalog of lies at least fell on the ears of someone who recognized them as just that, lies.  It’s possible there are still many of us not yet so versed.  Please, guys, if you ever see anyone spouting this bullshit, call them out on it.  They need to know better, and this contagion of misinformation needs to be contained just as much as the infection itself.  It is, after all, far more dangerous; HIV is still a nuisance, if not the threat it was even ten years ago.  Lies like these can jeopardize lives, even ruin lives, if not end them.

Irony? The guy on PrEP is the one who won't get sick.

Irony? The guy on PrEP who received this message is the one who won’t get sick. The guy who keeps fucking guys he presumes are HIV-negative…? Who knows.  “Ok”

 

Concert in Colorado

AmericanComposersConcertDIRKFor those of my fans in Colorado, I’ve a performance of one of my own compositions in Fort Collins on January 31! This is the last movement of my flute sonata.

Especially pleasing is that I’ll be bookending this program with an esteemed composer and musicologist who’s been one of my greatest heroes and champions. I’m meaning to attend; come say hello!

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Enough is enough.

This photo was removed from Facebook for violating their Community Standards.

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I wanted to leave it be just a bit before I went raising the flag over the fort again, but Facebook, without fanfare or notification or explanation or any sort of apology, has republished my original page. This is probably largely in part to all of you who heard my partner Jesse Jackman‘s appeals, signed the petition (which is still live and still accepting signatures!), and appealed on Facebook’s “lost page” page. For this, I can’t begin to thank you all enough–

Of course, no sooner is it up than some kind follower sees fit to report a photo I’d posted to the page three years ago. It’s one of the first pictures I’d ever uploaded to the Dirk Caber page; it was one of the first images I’d ever texted to Jesse. The image violated Facebook’s Community Standards, by showing “genitals or fully-exposed breasts or buttocks.” Or maybe because of the explicitly shown sexual activity? Or might this possibly be child porn…? I dunno. What do you think I did wrong?

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 11.29.37 AM copyHere’s the thing, and we know this has been going on for a while, as we’ve all known people who’ve been reported and blocked for the most innocuous and inane content in a Facebook post: there are folk out there who seem to think that any content of any gay nature is ipso facto obscene and hence should be reported. It would seem that Facebook would be able to police these reports and make the determination as to whether in fact the material offends. And we know that this does in fact happen; occasionally a vaguely accusatory notice will appear on our login screen that says that such-and-such a photo has been reported but hasn’t been reviewed yet, and that we have the chance to remove the offending photo before Facebook has to do it and slap us with whatever penalty they deem appropriate. Sometimes nothing happens, suggesting that Facebook found the material inoffensive. Would be nice if they told us that too… However, when one of those photos was a picture of me and my brother at his wedding (to a woman), fully clothed, and holding drinks, and this photo WAS deemed offensive, was removed, and I was hit with a three-day Facebook posting moratorium for that, we can say pretty securely that something in that system isn’t working.

This photo was removed from Facebook for violating their Community Standards.

This photo was removed from Facebook for violating their Community Standards.

Similarly, photos have been removed just of same sex couples kissing.  This has happened repeatedly to me and Jesse, and evidently isn’t uncommon among the lesbian population either.

Conversely, and this has been done on an experimental basis by a number of us, we have observed perhaps hundreds of examples of instances where we’ve reported heterosexual sexual content to Facebook. These include pictures of tits, pictures of beautiful nudes and women photographed nude for the sake of laughing at them. Pictures showing female genitalia, both just displayed and being penetrated.  It’s not just sexual, this extends to hate content and material condoning violence.  And evidently, if any of this is presented in a way that can make a Facebook reviewer laugh, it’s fine.  And a few days later we’ve received the notice in our activity logs that Facebook found no problem with such content.

I really couldn’t cite any sort of comprehensive statistic as to how often the Facebook reporting policy works or doesn’t work, either at actually identifying offensive material, or at maintaining a fairness between gay and straight content. What I do see is a much larger expression of outrage over removal of gay content that shouldn’t raise Facebook red flags than I do about straight content which shouldn’t but does. Much has been made in the media about the apparent capriciousness and opacity of Facebook’s review process, and there are entire websites and blogs out there dedicated to the confusion over what Facebook deems offensive and yet what it glosses over as harmless.

So here’s my challenge, in two parts. Go to Facebook, and find a photo somewhere of nude titties or overt sexual activity. For extra credit, find the picture of the girl with her dog’s foreleg stuffed up her hoochie which I reported six months ago and Facebook declined to be offended by. Report that image. When you get the result of the report, take a screen capture of that notification (CTRL-Shift-3 on a Mac; for a PC, press ALT-PrtScn, then create a new drawing in your favorite paint program and press CTRL-v to paste it in). Do it when you first see it, as it’s likely you’ll never see that notification again. Secondly, if some photo of yours gets reported, again, take screen captures of the notification, preferably showing the photo they removed and hopefully showing why. Then send it to me via direct message on my Facebook page (look for the “Message” button below my banner). I’m going to try to collect as many of these images as I can into a presentation as part of a move to force Facebook to reexamine its self-policing policies. Hopefully we can make this otherwise rather vibrant internet resource just a bit less unfair.

New Facebook Page

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Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 3.40.21 PMSo with the presumption that Facebook is never going to allow me to republish my original fanpage, I’m taking the traditional work-around, and building a NEW ONE.  It’s still skeletal, but I’m fleshing it out soon, I promise. Let’s get my Likes count back up! 50K+ is a LOT of love I’ve got to make good on!

http://www.facebook.com/CaberDirk — SEE YOU THERE!

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