Posts Tagged ‘Geeky

01
Feb
11

A Trans-Analysis of SNL (and some really blatant self-promotion)

Pageant Queen At Work!

Lorelei Erisis doing what I do best!!!

There are those moments when I think to myself, “Lorelei, keep you’re your trap shut”.  Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t.  This is clearly one of those moments where I don’t.

There was a sketch on SNL last weekend that’s got all kinds of folks up in arms this week.  It was one of SNL’s standard fare commercial parodies starring guest host Jesse Eisenberg and several other cast regulars.  The sketch was a commercial for a fictional product called, “Estro-Maxx”, an estrogen supplement for male to female transsexuals hoping to speed up and simplify their gender transition.

I haven’t watched SNL regularly in years, so I had no idea about this sketch until this morning when I opened up Facebook and saw several of my friends and acquaintances from the trans world expressing their horror and dismay over this particular sketch.  Some were even calling for a public apology from NBC as well as a removal of the offending sketch from all media and future broadcasts.  In short, it was a shit-storm.

So, trans-activist that I am, I clicked the link, ready to formulate my own facebooked expressions of dismay but also trying my best as a comedy person to keep an open mind.  One minute and 55 seconds later, my impressions were similarly divided.

As a transwoman, I was deeply unsettled by the depictions of a transwoman with a beard and one with a mustache.  I was also jarred as an activist by the sloppy pronoun usage in referring to these transwomen.

But as someone who has spent most of their life studying, performing and working in the comedy field, I couldn’t help but think maybe there was something there.  I’ll admit, I did laugh a couple of times.  Not a hearty laugh, but enough of a chuckle to count.  I still felt somehow offended, but there were details that kept nagging at me.

As it happened, I had to get to work and get on with the day to day of paying the rent and living life.  But I kept an eye on the opinion threads through the day, wanting to feel out how other people were reacting.

The more I thought about the sketch though, the less offended I was.  There were little details that made me have to think.  Inferences I made based upon what I know about comedy and from a lifetime of eagerly staying up late to hear Don Pardo say, “Live from New York!”

When I got home just a little while ago I watched it again and discussed it with my friend Widow Centauri, who I met while she was doing standup and I was running the show at The Hollywood Improv.  Here are the conclusions that I’ve come to.

(click the link  below to watch the actual sketch on NBC.com)

http://widget.nbc.com/videos/nbcshort_at.swf?CXNID=1000004.10045NXC&widID=4727a250e66f9723&clipID=1279560&showID=61

First, yes it is offensive.  It’s comedy though and sometimes comedy ain’t pretty and almost all comedy is offensive to someone.  Even “self-deprecating” comedy is simply making the comic themselves the butt of the joke.  They are offending themselves.  And before you shout, “What about Bill Cosby?!?” at me.  Just consider how his kids must feel about his jokes.  Or Noah?

The line between when people feel offended and when they laugh, tends to lie in direct proportion to how actually funny the joke was.  I’ve seen comedians get away with the most incredibly, outrageously, the-ACLU-should-be-alerted, offensive material, because the audience just couldn’t help but laugh!  Because it was super-friggin’ funny!!  Because it was delivered well and the timing was just so.

Now the folks at Saturday Night Live have to turn out a fresh show every seven days.  An hour and a half of material that people are going to reasonably expect to be funny.  But that isn’t always going to be gut-busting.  With that much pressure, some of it will be “merely” clever.  Kinda funny.  Hopefully at least smart.

So, back to the sketch.  It was kinda funny and the more I examined it, kinda smart too.  It works on a number of levels.  Transsexual folks are only one of them.  It’s a very effective skewering of all those commercials offering health products to women.  Menopausal women especially.  On that level, it’s a pretty note for note replication of one of those commercials.  For it to work as satire though, you need an unexpected element.  For that, in this context, transsexual women are perfect.

On deeper reflection, I am forced to believe that this was in no way meant to be a skewering of transwomen.  Though there are women-with-beards presented, it in no way resembles the standard “gender-panic” type joke that you usually see pointed at transpeople in the popular media.  It is nothing like Letterman’s tasteless joke when Amanda Simpson was appointed by President Obama last year.

In fact, given the very specific reference levels of the sketch, I would say that it was written and performed by folks who, while they may not be perfectly sensitive, are at least familiar with and surprisingly informed about transpeople in real life.  There were elements of the sketch that, while easy to miss in the first flush of reaction, were pretty trans-specific.  Like the idea that the initial stages of gender transition are never as quick or as dramatic as some of us would like it to be.  Or showing transwomen as respectable people living our daily lives, in positions of power even!

I also read a number of comments from transpeople around the internets who noted that for once, we were not portrayed as over-sexualized freaks.  Heck, most of the women portrayed in the sketch weren’t even in dresses.  They were mostly in casual pantsuits!  They were probably dressed the closest to how actual (or at least, white, middle-class) transwomen dress that I’ve yet seen on television.

The sketch really could have been quite a positive piece overall.  But then came the facial hair.  And you could almost hear a thousand transsexual and transgender people go “Booooo!!!  Hissssssss!!!!”  And honestly, if it had been me, an actual, honest to Gods, transgender woman, writing the sketch, I would not have gone there.  But it wasn’t me, it was a bunch of (as far as I know) young-ish, cisgender guys.

Folks whose job it is to come up with, write, perform and often produce themselves, fresh funny material in less than six days every week for several months a year.  And hopefully not offend anyone too badly.  A job I would kill for, but by no means an easy one.

I actually thought, upon examination, that the “Estro-Maxx” sketch had a lot in it that was specifically applicable to transpeople, potentially funny to us and not necessarily a lot of other people.  But SNL has a lot of other people watching who also need to be made to laugh.

So, beards on transwomen.  In comedy terms it’s an unexpected juxtaposition of elements.  One of the basic building blocks of comedy, put a couple of disparate things together and build the yucks.  It ain’t always pretty, but it’ll make the Coors Lite buying segment of the viewing public laugh and keep them tuned to an otherwise oddly specific sketch.

But wait!  It goes a little deeper than just that even.  When we first see the bearded transwoman, she’s going through an airport security scanner.  The bored looking guard overseeing this doesn’t even blip at the women with obvious facial hair going through the scanner until he sees the scan and the scene implies he’s seen her genitals, at which point he finally reacts.

I kept thinking about this and it seemed to me, the more I thought about it, that this was actually a pretty astute observation of how genitally obsessed people in our society can be.  I can tell you from personal experience that I encounter this sort of thing all the friggin’ time!!  People will be completely unfazed by the fact of a six foot four woman with a gameshow announcers voice towering over them, but they cannot let go of the idea that my genitals might not be the standard issue for most women!!

But then, the guard does not react with the boring old, standard issue comedy, shock and horror, total disgust face.  The guard actually seems interested and happy!  He even shows up in the final tableau!!

The mustache on the other hand, I can’t defend except to say that for some reason it was a hilarious mustache in and of itself.  Seriously, you could show me 30 seconds of just that ‘stache and I’d be laughing my fool head off.  But probably it wasn’t appropriate for the sketch.

All told, I did not think the “Estro-Maxx” commercial parody was the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages or even close to the funniest thing I’ve seen on SNL.  (“Wake Up And Smile” was.  Trust me, Google it.  It’s friggin’ twisted)  And I can well understand why many of my transsexual/transgender sisters and brothers are so offended.  But I have to say that I found it surprisingly smart and somewhat funny.

It’s never fun to be the butt of the joke, but I can tell you one thing.  When they’re making fun of you on Saturday Night Live, it means people are paying attention.  You are important enough to make reference to.

And transpeople are that!  We are finally beginning to be heard.  The media juggernaught has taken notice and the advertisers will not be far behind.  That is something SNL got dead right.

Now, the question is, what do we do with that spotlight?!?!

As far as SNL is concerned, I know what I’d like to see.  I’d like to see a transsexual/transgender host or even cast member!!  If Lorne Michaels and NBC want to make a gesture to the trans community I have a suggestion.

Let me host!!!

I’m a Second City trained improviser, actor, writer and sketch comic who has been doing comedy one way or another since I could first make words come out of my mouth!!  And I’m also a genuine Bona-Fide transsexual woman!  Heck, I’m even a transgender celebrity.  A columnist, an activist AND a pageant queen.  I was the very first Miss Trans New England!!!

How do you like them apples!??!?!

And if one transgender woman’s not enough for ya, I’ve even got funny friends!!  I’m sure my friend, stand-up comedy veteran and also genuine bona-fide, etc., etc., transwoman, Tammy Twotone could be convinced to join me!  You could get a Comedy Transwoman Two-fer!!

So whaddya say Mr. Michaels???  Will you let me host?

How about you internet friends?  My trans sisters and brothers and everyone else reading this???  Do you want to see a flesh and blood transsexual woman making the funny for you on national TV??  Do you want your voices represented?

Then make it so.  Time for us to grab control of that spotlight ourselves.

Get out there and tell SNL and NBC that you want Lorelei Erisis to deliver that famous line, “Live from New York!  It’s Saturday Night!!!”

"The Tranny Rat Pack"

Lorelei Erisis, Tammy Twotone & LezleeAnne Rios

Tell Lorne Michaels you want Lorelei Erisis to host SNL

Slainte!

21
Apr
09

The New Tech Voyeurism

I have a Confession.  I like to watch.  Everything.  I am very curious.  One of my absolute favorite things to do is simply to sit somewhere busy and “people watch”.  Or walk around on a crowded city street.  When I’m waiting for a movie or concert to start, I will spend most of the time looking around the theatre to see who else has come out to see this thing, participate in this experience.
I once went to a screening of Pasolini’s Masterpiece Salo, which is based on a novel by the Marquis DeSade, mainly so I could see who would show up to a public showing of it.
Of course I like to watch cute girls (and boys too!), but I especially relish watching all of the characters go by.  From the busy businessmen to the cuddling couples to the fucked-up frat boys, I watch how they carry themselves, how they move through space, how they interact with each other and their environments.
The crazies are a particular treat.  Especially when they’re good and removed from reality.  I will almost always listen to their stories.
I will watch and try to figure out what these random people’s stories might be.  And as the old saying goes, “God is in the details”.  How a person is dressed, what they’re reading, or drinking or carrying.  I have my own special tells though, specific things that give me the richest information.
Shoes for instance.  I can tell quite a bit about someone from their shoes.  A man in a nice suit with a pair of loafers on is not a man who likes to look good.  He is wearing the suit because he has to.  It’s his uniform.  As soon as he gets home, he will probably slip into his favorite, ragged sports team t-shirt and a pair of baggy shorts.
On the other hand, a man in a slightly ragged suit with nice shoes, is possibly not making the highest salary, but he’s going to be a much more interesting person to meet and he possibly even takes pride in his appearance!
I can also, personally, learn a lot about a person from the books that they have on their bookshelf (or the lack thereof).
But for me, the thing that tells me the most, that adds colour to the pencil sketch, is music.
Which brings me, in a kind of a roundabout way to the actual subject of this particular blog.
I am sitting right now in the Haymarket Café, a little place in Northampton Massachusetts of which I am inordinately fond.  I have a pot of lemon ginger tea and a nice spot by the front counter, where I can see all of the coming and going, ebb and flowing of the people around me.
I also have my trusty, slightly ghetto-ized Mac PowerBook.  Sylvia.
She’s a few years old, and a little cranky.  She won’t turn on unless she’s plugged in and has a USB keyboard because her built-in one no longer works.  She also has a USB track-ball mouse plugged in because I do a lot of work with music and video editing and I hate the trackpad for that stuff.  But she still does what I need, mostly, and I am very fond of her.
All of this makes for an unusual setup, with wires and peripherals everywhere.
But still, I digress.  I merely paint the picture of this moment.  A six foot four, drop dead sexy transwoman with an uber-nerd setup in a crowded, socialist coffeeshop.
What I have discovered, that I wish to share with you, is that a new (at least to me) feature on iTunes allows me to listen to and browse the music libraries of any Mac users sitting nearby.
For me, this is the holy grail of people “watching”.
As I write this I have been switching back and forth between various music libraries, scanning through the artists and hitting shuffle.  One person is heavy on hip hop, another pretty folky.  There’s someone who really like local music.  And someone who favors Ani DiFranco and NPR.
I found out that Lady Sovereign has a new album that I had not yet heard about.
It’s interesting to try and figure out who these people might be.  A Smithie, a townie, a bored suburbanite or a political activist?
I wonder if they even realize I am listening?
All I really know are the names of the playlists.  “Jane Smith’s Library”, “Chouzou”, “Lindy’s Music”, “Guerre de Fleur”.  Even those details help to tell the story though.  Are they whimsical or straightforward?  Angry, with a lot of NWA and Rage Against The Machine?  Or a little sappy with a music library heavy on the Abba and light on the Metallica.
There are mix CDs, where the tracks were never named, just the album.  “Judy’s Random Retro Mix” and “Some Love Songs For Lucy”.  Or just “Jason’s Disc”.
While I was writing those last few lines, the library I was listening to went from Sade to the Pogues to something simply called “track 8”.
I keep looking around to see if I can match up playlists to faces.  I am convinced, because I can hear their music, that they can somehow read these words.  That they are looking at me because they know!
I tend to forget that I stand out in a crowd sometimes simply for being who I am.
I suppose they just might read these words though.  It is a public blog.  Anyone can click through.  Maybe it was your music I was listening to.
I have been sitting here for several hours and I have barely spoken a word to anyone around me.  Even though they are very close.  It is you that I have been talking to, while I have been listening to their music.
And even now, when I was about to wrap up, hit Save, take off the headphones and close iTunes, I am informed via a helpful window, “One or more users are connected to your shared iTunes library, are you sure you want to quit?”
Of course not.  It is somehow gratifying to find that they are watching me!
Far be it for me to turn off the feed.
Now I want to scroll through my own music library and wonder, who I may appear to be?
It’s a brand new voyeurism for a brand new era.  This is “Radio Around You”.

18
Apr
09

Ask A TransWoman!

Attack!

Attack!

Dear TransProviser,

So I was wondering, (and I apologize in advance, because you probably get this question all the time) what part of being a trans is the most like being a secret agent:

A) The cool gadgets (e.g. laser torch watch, exploding dental floss, ball point pen w/ homing signal, etc.)?

B) Infiltrating the secret lairs of super villains?

C) Fighting henchmen with weird names/shticks/artificial appendages (claws, metal teeth, cybernetic arm, laser eye, etc)?

D) Saving the world from almost certain peril?

Yeah I know… probably have to answer that one all the time.

Sincerely,
Curiosity Is Super

Dear CIS,

You are right.  If I have to answer this question one more time I will scream.

Aiiiaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiaiaiaiaiaiaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigghghgghghghghhh!!!!!!!

I’ll take your question in the order presented.

A) Yes, the gadgets are pretty nifty.  You’d be surprised what kind of circuitry can be hidden in a new pair of tits!!  Two words.  Spy cams.
That’s right.  When the pervs are staring at my tits, they’re staring right back!  And they’re broadcasting to my Fortress Of Transition to be recorded for future job search “leverage”.
Also, the hormones have the added benefit of giving me Ultra-Empathy.  I can feel any person’s emotions at distances up to a mile.
Of course I also have a tube of lipstick that is actually a small thermonuclear device.  But that’s just standard.  Most women have one of those.
And that’s just the beginning of the gadget list, but I can’t tell all my secrets or I’d have to kill you with my Gay Disco Intensifier Ray.  Trust me, it’s a seriously gruesome, glittering death.

B) What most people don’t realize about super villains is that they put on THE BEST parties in their “Secret Lairs”!  You really haven’t been to a great party until you’ve partied in a hollowed out underwater Volcano.  Forget “Pink Floyd at The Planetarium”.  Evil Masterminds really know how to put on a laser show!!!
The only trick is to leave before the host gets too drunk and wants to corner you to make you listen to their “Secret Plans To Take Over The World”.  Bor-ring!!!

C) Oy, the henchmen!!!  What a fricken nuisance!  My inbox is always full of emails from a million henchmen who all want to send me pics of their Special Appendages.  And no introduction just, like, “Me Kill!!  Master Pleased!!!”
You know just once I’d like to get an email that just has a headshot and maybe, “Hi, I’m Claw-Man.  Perhaps we could do battle sometime?”
Or, “Greetings.  My name is Destructor.  If you are free this Thursday I’d like to take you for drinks and maybe a movie.  Then perhaps, if you’re feeling it, I could tie you up and deliver you to my Evil Master.”
Now that’s a good time!  A little politeness and courtesy can go a long way.

Oh, well.  I guess maybe that’s asking too much.

D) As for saving the world from almost certain peril.  I swear we’d love to get to that, if only people would stop being so worried about which bathroom we use.
How are we supposed to stop all the plots to destroy the world if we have to spend hours trying to find the Unisex Restrooms first?!?!  Do you think James Bond ever has that problem?
Seriously, most people don’t realize how much water you have to drink while saving the world.  Epic Battle can really Dehydrate a TransGirl!!!

I hope that quenches your curiosity CIS.  If I can add just one little bit of understanding to the world about us Transgendered folks, I will have done my job.

This blog will self-destruct in 10- 9- 8- 7- 6-

Resolution!

Resolution!

Photos by Daniel Rivas.  Models are Lorelei Erisis & Widow Centauri.

(Thanks to SR who sent me this question.  Seriously.  It was a real question!)

15
Apr
09

A few thoughts on the influence of Doctor Who

I’ve been talking an awful lot about my childhood and coincidentally about Doctor Who in a number of places recently and so I thought it might be a good time to let you, my dear readers, in on few thoughts I’ve had about The Good Doctor and his influence upon me.

Ever since that dreadful morning that I woke up (literally, my clock radio went off and it was the first thing I heard) to the news that Douglas Adams had died, I’ve been casting about for some meaningfully British Geek Guidance.

Now after a long absence, The Doctor is Back!  And even after a couple of reincarnations (and another one coming) he seems to be sticking around,.

So much of who I am and how I view the world was influenced by my babysitter, the television.  And my little b/w TV very rarely got much more than a couple of local channels and PBS.  WGBH to be specific (she was my favorite babysitter).  Monday through Friday I would come home after a long day of being teased and taunted at school and I would watch all the interminably violent American “kids” cartoons, soaking it all in, until my 7 o’clock reprieve.

And then at 7pm, for half an hour every night, I’d hear that same eerie theme and I would fall into the time vortex.

Was it a violent show?  Yes, quite.  People/Lifeforms/Entities tended to die rather horribly left and right.  Sometimes whole civilizations would be wiped out.  But there was never any celebration of death.  The Doctor always tried to find a peaceful solution when one was available.  And when one wasn’t, he always used his wits and his intelligence to try to save himself/his friends/the world/the universe/the whole of creation itself.  And he never used a gun.

The Doctor made being smart seem sexy.  He had a Sonic Screwdriver, his Companions, and his intensely clever curiosity and that was all he ever really needed.

Plus he had a wicked fashion sense.

From The Doctor I learned that it was more than just okay to be different.  It was exciting.  It was a thing to be treasured.

I learned that a loyal friend is just about the best thing one can have in this universe and you should be willing to face down a Dalek to help one.

I learned that you can be any number of different people over the course of your life and still be the same person inside.

I learned that if you can sound like you know what you’re talking about.  Sprinkling in a couple of big, important sounding words here and there.  Most people will give you just about the time you need to actually figure the thing out for real.

I also learned that pretty much everyone in the universe is actually English.

Thanks Doctor.  So nice to have you back.  I look forward to meeting you again for the Eleventh time!




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