Showing posts from May, 2009

"The License" defending traditional marriage.

People who oppose marriage equality for gay people are doing so to "defend traditional marriage." So, what if we actually passed laws enforcing traditional marriage?

h/t Joe.My.God.

The Cost of Torture.

I wish I could say that I'm shocked that former VP Cheney and his daughter are actually going on the air defending torture, but that's exactly what they've been doing. Here's what an actual interrogator has to say to Cheney.

And, BTW, Gen. David Petraus, who conservatives touted as the big savior of the Iraq war, also supports Pres. Obama's decision to close Gitmo and stop torture.

Violence only breeds more violence.

"War By Default" with Lynn & JD at Kulak's.

The next song on the webcast was "War By Default." Listening to the excellent work of JD and Lynn this was great because I REALLY did not hear them on this that night.

Remember, we had no rehearsal. So, the two of them were just working off lead sheets and making up their parts as they went along. When I got to the very end, they got it perfectly. Fun!

"I Want To Make Music" with JD and Lynn at Kulak's.

In pulling together the video of the live webcast from the other night, I didn't realize how nervous I was about doing that show until I watched this replay. I felt so rushed to try to tell everything that it all just shmooshed together in my mind and I was mostly incoherent. I also flubbed lyrics.

However, what did come through, to my great advantage was the bass and guitar work. Lynn Keller is literally one of the best bass players in this town. She tours with all the big acts and shows. JD Sebastian has tasty, tastly licks when he plays. And though neither of them had played these songs with me before -- and Lynn had only just listened to them earlier that morning -- it felt like we were a band.

I wasn't aware, at the time, of what they were actually playing, though. I was so focused on remembering the words and the piano parts, and what I would say about myself to this room full of (mostly) strangers. And, in a place like that, where I'm sitting behind them, they had to…

Last photoday for bluebirds.

From my friend, Lucycat:
I took my last shot of the nest in Bluebird Nestbox #1 today; it's always a little bittersweet to do that. But we have another nest with eggs that should hatch in around 5 days. That will be our fourth bluebird nest this year!

Day 13 for the nestlings in Bluebird Nestbox #1, the last photo I'll take of this nest. Fledging should occur between day 14 and 22, more likely around day 18. It's getting crowded in there! The one on the lower left looks like he's getting pretty active, and judging by how bright the feathers are, I do think it's a male. Won't venture a guess on the others.

In Memoriam with a smile.

Music historian, Bill Reed, notes, from his excellent blog, People vs. Dr. Chilledair, the passing of songwriter Michael Barr. Click on the link "Hate Song". How many old references can you identify? It's like "I'm Still Here" on acid. No, on a long night of Scotch and soda.

Sorry to note the recent passing of Michael Barr. David Ehrenstein says that Barr and Dion McGregor's "Hate Song" (from Julius Monk's Dressed to the Nines) will definitely be included---if and when---in his CD compilation, Songs That Made Me Gay.

I like to think of this little ditty as "The Curmudgeon National Anthem."Michael Barr (born January 2, 1927 in Indiana) and died May 19 in Los Angeles,(California) from complications arising from diabetes. Mr. Barr was an American composer of traditional pop and showtunes, who in collaboration with lyricist Dion McGregor, wrote "Try Your Wings" for cabaret singer/pianist Blossom Dearie. "Try Your Wings&q…

A Song of Peace and Gratitude.

A good friend of mine who is serving today in the armed forces sent me this note:

i was having a conversation with my neighbor who said hey i saw you on tv

and we were talking about how

disconnected the public has been

from the realities of war

i think its fueled distrust on the left

and sanitized the thing on the right

its been more like a war movie

than a war


"Save Me A Seat" Live at Kulak's Woodshed

"James Robertson" Live at Kulak's.

From the other night:

Cat Catches Treat. (Video)

Katharine Hepburn Makes Roses For You!

The lovely Alexandra Billings as Kate doing a talk show.

Allee Willis on The Reality of Being A Songwriter.

Allee Willis spells it all out.

And she doesn't even get into the missing songwriter credits on music videos, etc. It's just the reality of the business. As always, it's the person at the bottom of the totem pole who gets it the worst.

American Idol Finals. Kris and Adam.

Idol: Adam by a mile. When he sings with absolute control and walks his voice all the way to the line just before the scream takes over, that would be the envy of any bel canto opera singer. He can dial it down just as easily as he can dial it up. I don't think I've ever heard anyone do it quite the way he does. His technical dexterity is jaw-dropping. Personally, I find his "scream" the most boring aspect of his voice.

His actual sonority isn't merely remarkably beautiful, but the control mechanism in his voice is technically sophisticated and, as such, more than killer.

As for his theatricality, which I bemoaned earlier, he's just going for it and it's working. He's actually finding an identity for himself, cutting a swath through David Bowie, Rocky Horror and Alice Cooper.

That final song was absolutely the worst of all the ones they've ever chosen. Not just because it was littered with unpronounceably twisted cliches, but the melody was so insist…

Coincidences & Connections.

I was talking to Zollo about the show Friday night. He has some great people playing with him, beginning with Jill Freeman at 8:30. Jill's husband is a great guitarist here in town named Joel Wachbrit. Joel sent me a letter through Facebook telling me that he played on the initial "Living in the Bonus Round" CD. My bassist on that session was Lynn Keller.

I think he was dragged into it with a, "Hey, we're gonna do something nice for this guy who's dying of AIDS."

Also, along for the night, aside from D. Whitney Quinn, supporting Paul, is Bob Malone. He plays his fusion of New Orleans barrelhouse blues, jazz and even classical all over the country. It makes me feel at home.

But when it was my job to help newcomers to LA, Bob was one of the "kids" who walked into the offices of National Academy of Songwriters for advice. I told him something very Simon Colwell-like, "Stop wearing mall clothes." His frequent bassist is Lynn Keller.


Singing for Songwriters.

So, I was manning camera 3 last night at Kulak's for the Monday Night Open Mic. Lisa Turner was doing her usual thing, doling out the rules for the night -- no song over 4 minutes, exit downstage (or down-rug) left, no tuning up on stage, etc. -- when it was time to draw names from the buckets. (There's a two hour time limit on the night and names are chosen randomly, one from the bucket of people buying a DVD of their performance and one from people just wanting to play.)

I was drawing the names and showing them to her, and she wrote them down in order and said them out loud. Usually, we can get about 34 people into those 2 hours, and I was number 7. The 34th person was a woman holding a guitar in the front row. Sitting next to her was a woman who looked like her mother. Grandma, who was holding a baby said, "Well, we can stay as long as the baby lasts."

Being the saintly martyr, I, of course, immediately said that I'd exchange places. (Right when mama started pla…

Hemo2Homo Review: Star Trek

The STAR TREK Review

HEMO: Seen any good movies recently, Hemo?

HEMO2031: Why yes, I have. Star Trek. Did you see it as well, Hemo?

HEMO: I did. And, overall, I enjoyed this film. Star Trek is the best Space AIDS movie since Starship Troopers.

HOMO: Shawn, who the hell are you talking to?

HEMO: I'll tell you- in the future. For now, just know that I'm tired of being the young, wide-eyed half of this movie duo. You and I have been working together for 10 years now, and you always get to play the part of "Wise Sage Steve", or "Mr. Movies" as they call you on the streets of Hollywood...

HOMO: No one has ever called me that.

HEMO: Not my point. My point is- I've survived over twenty years with HIV. But no matter how much older I get, you age at the same rate!

HOMO: Did you learn that heady stuff from Star Trek? What the hell is HEMO2031?

HEMO: It's me, 22 years from now. That makes HEMO2031 your current age- 55. He/me is your equal. And I broug…

Steve Writes in (Harvard) Gay & Lesbian Review.

I was speaking with Ed Decker up in San Francisco about doing some kind of benefit for the New Conservatory Theatre Center later this year, when he mentioned that he had seen me in the Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide (formerly, the Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review), a prestigious bimonthly.

Am I gettin' to be a big shot or what?

They didn't put what I wrote online, since this is a subscription magazine, but it does list my name on the home page.

Basically, it's an essay about why I blog. I discuss how the simple act of putting the condition of my health -- a completely new idea at the time -- led to all the little and big miracles that followed, all the way from meeting gay parents and kids to having two hit shows off-Broadway to speaking at Harvard University to playing John Lennon's piano to having a huge musical piece about war and violence at Davies Symphony Hall.

I guess I do lead a charmed life in so many ways. Anyway, you can get this publication at higher end bo…

Improv, Gyros & Rolling Stones.

In talking about improvising my way through a concert without a set-list or even thinking about what I might say, I just found this terrific story in SEED about musician Al Kooper improvising one of the great rock organ riffs of all time.
Al Kooper didn’t know what to play. He’d told some half-truths to get into Bob Dylan’s recording session — the musicians were working on some song tentatively titled “Like A Rolling Stone” — and Kooper had been assigned the Hammond organ. There was only one problem: Kooper didn’t play the organ. He was a guitarist.The first takes were predictably terrible — Kooper was just trying not to get kicked out of the studio. But on take four, he suddenly found his chords. Kooper’s playing was pure improv — “I was like a little kid fumbling in the dark for a light switch,” he would later remember — but he ended up inventing one of the most famous organ riffs in modern music.
There is something profoundly mysterious about this kind of creativity. Kooper didn’t ha…

Prologue (shot from audience in Olympia).

One last video from Olympia: The Prologue to New World Waking.

EDIT: In the video, Jeff Kingsbury and I exchange a reference about a lyric. It's because, that afternoon, he told me that he had seen canned mixed cocktails in Japan, that he saw it as a very knowing reference. Actually, I just used them because they rhymed and I thought the line was funny.

Speaking of Birth.

Day 4 for the nestlings in Bluebird Nestbox #1

From my friend Lucycat.

"Imagine" sung at Olympia, Washington.

I didn't know, going into this that I would be singing this song. It just came out of my talking about it. I love the audience singing along. This turned into a really nice moment.

The Guy on Camera Three.

I was walking to Kulak's last night when I ran into a very attractive young lady who was walking a big-pawed black puppy. I don't know what etiquette is in these situations, but I leaned over to hold my hand down for the dog's nose, and the lady said, "She's a jumper."

I told her I didn't mind one bit. I also told her that her puppy and she would be welcome down at Kulak's Woodshed.

She hadn't heard of it, but liked the idea of a place like that, that isn't a bar or a nightclub.

I also told her there was no admission fee. She asked what my involvement was. So I told her:

I'm the guy on camera three.

I like being the guy on camera three.

I only have one job. Point the camera and try stand for two solid hours. (Regular readers know I volunteer down at Kulak's, partly, as part of my program of physical therapy.)

I'm wearing headphones, so everyone treats me like I'm an authority figure. I could be the pilot of a star ship for all the won…

"War By Default" shot from the audience. Olympia, Washington.

"Gabi's Song" shot from the audience in Olympia.

Live Online May 22

People have been asking. Yes, my inbox is overflowing with queries from people demanding to know my next public appearance.

It's Friday, May 22. Live on the Internet from Kulak's Woodshed. But don't be late. I'm going on exactly at 8pm PACIFIC TIME / 11pm EASTERN TIME and finishing at 8:30pm. After that, Paul Zollo, my friend and co-writer of "Brilliant Masquerade" will be presenting a night of music. I'm the warm-up act.

It's a free media stream. (Kulak's requests a $10 donation to pay the bills, but otherwise it's a totally free webcast).

"Holy Dirt" shot from the audience in Olympia.

A Review of My Olympia Concert.

Going into this concert, I wasn't really sure how to approach it. Since the last time I sang full-length concerts, I've written two pieces.

Back then, my concerts were, basically, AIDS education concerts. All of the songs were about living with AIDS and that was my primary identity as a writer and artist. So, in a way, I've grown and become a new person in that time. How to integrate The Big Voice and New World Waking -- and how much of each -- became my task. And there are more songs besides!

I actually tried to design a concert. I wrote up a set list and even went so far as to try writing a script for myself. That turned out HORRIBLY.

Finally, Jim said, "Just do what you always do. Put a list of songs in front of you and just sing whatever you feel like singing in whatever order feels right. You'll know what to say."

And that's exactly what I did. It was SO MUCH FUN to be out there, totally improvising between songs, and just enjoying feeling unleashed from…

Hemo2Homo Connection: Wolverine

TheX-Men Origins: WOLVERINE Review
Hemo: Hey Homo, everyone’s all like, “Have you seen Star Trek? Have you? Huh?” It’s a recession, and I’m still counting my dollars trying to figure out if I’m going to see the Wolverine movie…Homo: I’ve never been so disappointed in a movie in my life. Hemo: See? Good thing I didn’t rush out to see Star Trek…Homo: No, I’m talking about Wolverine. You know, positoid, that I am a lifelong X-Men fan. Growing up, they were the superhero gays that I couldn’t be. I even put this into a song in The Big Voice. The first two X-Men movies were so good, especially the second one, because the filmmaker knew what most comic readers know: It ain’t about the action. It’s about the characters.Hemo: Yes! That’s why Watchmen was so good.Homo: Exactly. Your mutant abilities are finally forming, Hemo. But in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, they manage to take all the mystery out of Wolverine, reducing him to a whiny little bitch, running around afraid of his big…

Singing for Unity.

This morning, I was invited by Jeff Kingsbury to sing for the Unity Church here in Olympia, Washington. When I met beforehand with the minister, she, not really knowing my program, asked me if I had a song for mother's day.

I told her I actually didn't. (Now that I think of it, both Gabi's Song and William's Song are "mother's day" songs, but at the time, I was thinking more about the songs from New World Waking).

Then she asked me to tell her what I would be doing this morning. I looked at her with a totally blank expression and said, "I have no idea. I just kind of make it up as I go along."

She looked a bit scared.

So, I gave her a general outline of who I am, what I've written, etc., and then went out and hung around for a little bit.

Unity is a church founded in the late 1800s by a minister who felt that, among other things, Christianity had become so ritualized, it had lost its real spiritual power. I could try to go into it, but it's…

How I Got To Play John Lennon's Piano

This is an interview I did explaining how I came to play John Lennon's piano up in Olympia, Washington a couple of years ago. I'll be back there THIS SUNDAY to sing a concert at the Capital Playhouse.

My Opinion on Miss California and Mr. Hilton

Perez Hilton created Carrie Prejean.

Miss Prejean entered this contest in order to become famous. Why else would you be Miss USA except you're chasing fame as either a model, actress or news anchor?

Perez asked her the question. She answered the question. It could have been left at that. Yes, shockingly, there are people out there in the world who are personally against gay marriage. Did she go into this contest with the express purpose of becoming an anti-gay marriage advocate? I think probably not.

Perez is also in the business of getting famous. (As a songwriter, I understand the value of fame in terms of ticket sales and paychecks).

He served, here, the same function that Fred Phelps provides for gays. Phelps utters religious profanities, gets the spotlight, and everyone feels sorry for the gays he's attacked. We win.

Perez used his public forum to call her some profane name, thus giving her martyr status, and she, still in the business of getting famous, saw the opening …

Breakfast with Ernie: "El Tepeyac"

In this edition of Breakfast with Ernie, we go back to Ernie's childhood neighborhood and a cultural institution, a restaurant called "El Tepeyac".

Jim is a Work of Art!

For the upcoming production of ZERO HOUR at Theatre J in Washington, DC, they've hired David Polonsky, one of the Israel's (and the world's) most noted artists to create art for the shows. We had no idea this was happening. It's just magnificent.

His name is David Polonsky. From the website:
David Polonsky was the art director and chief illustrator for the Israeli animated film Waltz with Bashir, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2008. His illustrations have appeared in every major Israeli daily and magazine. He has created animated short films for Israeli television, received multiple awards for his children’s book illustrations, and teaches at Bezalel, Israel’s prestigious art academy. David Polonsky's website - #1David Polonsky's website - # 2Waltz With Bashir (Art Director)

Happy Mother's Day

I didn't realize until long after I got out of the home I grew up in that my family wasn't very sentimental. The depth of love that came from my parents was so utterly rock solid, it didn't need or require or demand a lot of gestures. I wonder if it's part of the stoic Arkansas mountain country air. So, there was no terror of forgotten birthdays or anniversaries. (In fact, for years, we celebrated my brother, Scott's, birthday on the wrong day, thanks to my dizzy mother.)

But my folks were very clear, that once we were out on our own, our personal business was our personal business. They gave me the great gift of leaving me alone. When I left east Texas and moved to Dallas in the late 70s, and came out of the closet, I kept this life from them.

Consequently, I've never really told them about certain big decisions I made in my life. At the time, I didn't even realize how big the decision was, so it's the kind of thing that one only can view retroactively.


From Dom to Jim about Zero Hour.

Click on image to enlarge:

Dom Deluise, 75

Jim and I are heartbroken. Dom was one of the nicest persons to me. When we met, I think I was very ill at the time. We were invited to a family picnic. I was just treated like one of the family. As he became increasingly immobile, we would see Carol, but never Dom.

He was a genuinely hilarious comedian.
Dom DeLuise Dies - 4 minutes ago

We've just learned that Dom DeLuise -- who starred in such classics as "The Cannonball Run" and "Spaceballs" -- died last night in a Los Angeles hospital. ...

We're told he passed away peacefully in his sleep at around 6 PM.

He was 75.

Jim, right, with Rod Steiger and Dom Deluise. Below, Dom with Dean Martin.

Music as Healing. A Speech by Karl Paulnack

Welcome address to freshman class at Boston Conservatory given by
Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of music division at Boston Conservatory [September 2008]

"One of my parents' deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn't be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother's remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school-she said "You're WASTING your SAT scores." On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they LOVED music, they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren't really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the "arts…

New Book: Pre-Gay L.A.

One of the great tragedies of written history is that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have, for the most part, been erased from the record or ignored. Not the people, actually, but the fact that they were GLBT. It's why many who oppose us think "gay" was "invented" in the 60s and is some recent phenomenon.

In fact, we've been here all along. The only difference is that because we've been a constant victim of humiliation and hate, the writers of history either didn't know we were there, or pretended otherwise, or wrote about us in some code language that's almost indecipherable.

But, as I have asserted, time and again, we are a people and we have a history.

Happily, we also have people like C. Todd White who go to great lengths to document, record and write about our history.

His new book, which will be released soon, is called "Pre-Gay L.A. A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights."

I strongly urge you to order i…

A Butt for Me?

"Hey!!" Said Heidi, who was over here this past weekend with her husband Tom, for her birthday. "You look good!"

I was, at that moment, bending over to get something out of the fridge.


"Yeah. In fact, you look real good."

Heidi was looking at my butt.

Since no one has ever complimented my butt before, I was somewhat taken aback. Why? Because I don't have a butt.

I have written a lot about the fact that the AIDS medications, while saving my life, have also caused some weird side effects, one of which is that it moves body fat around your body into inconvenient places. Or worse, moves it FROM the places that you WANT it. More specifically, my butt.

I have always had a relatively skinny ass and never gave it much thought, frankly. I'm not really that vain. I don't color my hair or pluck my eyebrows. I have no designer clothing and when the movie "The Devil Wears Prada" came out, my first question was "What's a Prad…

Dating Catwoman

Dating Catwoman

Dating Catwoman - watch more funny videos

The Unexpected Night at Kulak's.

Something unexpected happened last night at Kulak's.

I got there about 25 minutes early. Berington was doing sound. He was talking to two people who I think I've met before, but forgot to reintroduce myself. They were engaged in conversation. We all said hello and I went back to the fridge to get some water, said hello to Duane who was helping put out the coffee, and noticed that no one else was there. The scheduled artist for the evening had not arrived.

I went back to the control room to speak with Paul. Lorraine was there. She keeps the MySpace page and she was trying to explain to him the difference between Facebook and MySpace.

Were they in an accident?

And also why no audience? It was downright spooky.

So, I thought, well, I have this concert coming up next week and I need to rehease my songs. I find it tedious to rehearse material alone. I'll get on the piano and just start singing.

I pulled out the bench, sat down -- quite comfortably*, I might add -- and said to Beringt…