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10th July 2009

Gossip - Music For Men

Posted by: Kitten Power

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On the first listen I liked the new Gossip album Music For Men. On the second, I really liked it. By about the third or fourth, I was hooked and delirious. Even when I’m not listening, Beth Ditto and her Stevie Nicks-esque yowls are playing on repeat through my head.

Let’s get something out of the way, as many in the media seem so obsessed by the fact singer Beth Ditto is a plus-sized lesbian they seem to have forgotten to listen to the music when reviewing the album . . . ok so yes, she’s a big woman, but she has an even bigger heart.  Ditto is an icon for any woman who has ever stood up and said ‘who the hell wants to look like Britney Spears anyway?’

So to what really matters, the music . . . Music For Men bangs open with Dimestore Diamond, then the camp, catchy single Heavy Cross which exemplifies the dance vibe, that is a progression from the stripped-down punk rock and roll of Gossip’s early days.

Yet Music For Men is still very rock and roll - Brace Paine’s guitar is still gleefully unleashed and Hannah Blilie pounds the drums like a demon . . . but there is also 80s-synth, pianos and enough “oohs and ahhs” to make The Supremes proud. 

This album does come with a sense of deja vu, with pop references jumping out all over the place. Such as in Love Long Distance where Ditto croons “I heard through the bassline, not much longer would you be my baby”.  But just as a song sounds familiar - it takes a leap in a completely different direction.

The track which has been the most compulsively in my head since I heard the album could also be the new Gossip gay anthem - Men In Love.  It urges gay men to “dance like there’s nobody looking . . . go out all night and sleep all day”. The “nah, nah, nahs” and shame, shame, shames” in this track are addictive.

But I mean - how many songs are there in this world which proudly state “Men in love - with each other?”  It’s just another reason to treasure Gossip.

Beth Ditto once said one of the reasons Gossip started was to make people dance - and I defy anyone to keep still while listening to Music For Men.

This album will get you through any winter blues . . . whether you just had an awful break-up, or are simply sick of being cold, Beth, Brace and Hannah will warm you up.

→ No CommentsTags: Music

20th March 2009

Food for Thought

Posted by: Kitten Power

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If I do say so myself, I am becoming a rather accomplished vegetarian cook.  You see, while I enjoy slicing into a pink-hearted steak, my girlfriend is a vegetarian.  The kind that only eats fish.I first discovered this when we were in bed one afternoon (it was in those early days, when you stay in bed most of the day) and we decided to order a pizza to stave off starvation.  “Well what do you want, a barbecue chicken or a meatlovers”, I asked, perusing the menu.  “Um, I don’t eat meat” was the reply. 

Now I was relatively new to this lesbian game and while I’d heard rumours a blight of non-meat-eating was common among women who love women, I was a little taken aback.  You see I grew up in a meat and three veg household - sometimes it was even a two meat and one veg household.  So I instantly decided the relationship was doomed.  Until, thankfully, we figured we could get a half and half pizza . . . which arrived with some kind of bean gunk on her slices. 

What is it about lesbians and being picky with food?  I have about 59 vegan friends, 101 vegetarian mates and another who, most shockingly of all, doesn’t eat onions.  No meat I can handle - but no onions?!

It’s kind of funny to think back now on how terrified I was about the prospect of my girlfriend foregoing meat now, as I type between hunting down vegetarian recipes that I think may thrill the pants off my woman.  I’m a lover of lentils, a cous cous connoisseur, a terror with tofu.

My piece de resistance is a pumpkin and spinach lasagne, which is getting me a reputation as a kitchen whiz from Silverdale to Panmure.  My spicy chickpea curry is rating a close second.

But honestly, what’s the real secret?  Why do I spend so much time crafting such delicacies?  

It’s because she, my darling vegetarian girlfriend, cooks a mean steak.

Anyway, this weekend my girlfriend and I head off to the home of strange food, the USA, for a WHOLE MONTH.

I’ll aim to blog about my experiences along the way.  I will chiefly be in New England - where I will be sure to have a good taste of the food and a good look at the gay scene.

See ya!

→ 7 CommentsTags: General

11th March 2009

Amanda Palmer brings a killer show

Posted by: Kitten Power

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So who killed Amanda Palmer?  Well I don’t know.  But she sure slayed me last night.

Palmer strode onto the stage at Auckland’s The Studio clad in never-ending leather boots, a short skirt and a beat up t-shirt, clutching a handful of flowers.  The audience cheered and heckled, but was quickly lulled into silence as she stood waiting.  The she burst into a powerful rendition of The Wind That Shakes The Barley, with no backing, letting her voice do it all.

two.jpgShe then took a seat at her piano and burst into Astronaut, then Ampersand, both from her solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

Palmer brought a stripped down show to Auckland after parting ways with performance troupe The Danger Ensemble in Australia - and it wasn’t long before she was stripping herself down, whipping off her shirt to reveal an incredibly sexy bodice.

There was a sense of loneliness around Palmer, she admitted herself “I’m not used playing alone, so I’m just going to sit here and play songs that occur to me.”

The intimacy of her loneliness made her performance even more honest, more real, more hilarious, more poignant and even more rollicking.

Palmer’s music choices ranged from a heartbreaking song written in response to the Columbine shootings, to the “controversial” single about teenage mindsets Oasis.  From ditties about lovers googling each other, to a cover of My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. 

She also treated the crowd with a few Dresden Dolls tracks; Coin Operated Boy, Mrs O, finishing the show with a crowd-favourite Girl Anachronism.

Palmer’s easy connection with her audience is incredible.  Most touring artists struggle through a few mumbled attempts at “Hello Auckland”, but when Palmer chats between songs it almost feels like you’re hanging out in your lounge with a friend who is jamming a few tunes.  She weaves stories, she jokes, she dips into quiet sincerity - and she listens to what people shout out.

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There was also a segment called “Ask Amanda Anything” where pre-gathered audience questions were read out.  Palmer was asked questions like what her favourite Neil Gaiman book and David Bowie record were, whether she was too classy for cask wine (the answer - no, she’s definitely not) and why she was so sexy - which she decided was a rhetorical question.

Although she may be feeling a little lonely, Palmer doesn’t need to worry about the solo-power she wields over her audience.  She’s a one-woman danger ensemble.

Amanda Palmer plays Bar Bodega in Wellington on Thursday March 12.

→ No CommentsTags: General · Music

4th March 2009

Album review: Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

Posted by: Kitten Power

Bisexual musician Amanda Palmer (of the The Dresden Dolls) plays in at The Studio in Auckland on Tuesday March 10, then Bar Bodega in Wellington on Thursday March 12.

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The solo-debut from Amanda Palmer opens with an explosion of shouts and banging piano in Astronaut: A Short History of Nearly Nothing.  The piano lulls fleetingly for the entry of her deep, dark voice, before both she and the piano rollick together with pounding drums, then mellow out once again, in a Pixies-esque cabaret kind of way.

I’m in complete, head over heels, ridiculous, teenager-like love with Amanda Palmer’s voice.  Her Boston accent is musical in itself, but her voice has an addictive toffee-richness.

The solo effort Who Killed Amanda Palmer? knocks the socks off.  It is both rollicking and gentle. Astronaut could wake up your neighbourhood; Leeds United is stuck-in-your-head-all-day catchy, while the ballad Ampersand is simply beautiful.  Palmer doesn’t just sing.  She weaves raucous stories.

Some of those stories have courted some controversy.

Now, the video for upbeat track Oasis has been banned in the UK, apparently for “making fun of rape and abortion”.  The song is about a teenager who is fed alcohol, gets raped and has an abortion, but finds it’s all ok really because she sent a letter to Oasis and they sent her an autographed picture back.

It seems in this case the Brits don’t understand the power of irony in expressing a message. Palmer, herself a rape victim, blogged: “if you cannot sense the irony in this song, you’re about two intelligence points above a kumquat.”

That isn’t the only uproar - a fan “reBELLYon” was sparked when her label demanded she remove “uncommercially fat” shots of her stomach from the video for Leeds United . . . fans responded by sending pictures of their own stomachs to the record company. 

All controversy aside, Who Killed Amanda Palmer is a quickly addictive solo debut which fans of The Dresden Dolls will lap up.  I only wish it included her cover of Radiohead’s Creep, which she plays with a ukulele.  Have a listen here.

Fingers crossed she plays it at her Auckland show, where I’ll be front and centre.  The word is the openly bisexual musician likes femme girls . . . guess I’ll be dusting off the heels then.  Heh.

→ 2 CommentsTags: General · Music

25th February 2009

Testing Time

Posted by: Kitten Power

This week I did something I have wanted to for a while and took an HIV test.  I know the risk for lesbians is considered pretty low and even when I was with men I was generally pretty safe . . . but there were a few mistakes and the odd condom breakage.

Since I’ve come out I’ve been increasingly aware of the prevalence of HIV.  Every year one or two people from my wider social circle have contracted the virus and even more have had scares.  I’ve even made appointments at Auckland’s Burnett Centre for friends and ensured that they were supported and went along.  Was this not hypocritical if I didn’t get tested myself - how could I tell them what to expect?

Truth be told, when I strolled up the stairs and into the clinic I was feeling pretty blasé - but as soon as I my pen hit the first form it became real.  I was immediately fearful - what if despite all my precautions and confidence, I was positive?

In the consultation room I nervously made it through all the kinky questions about my past sexual experiences, about what my partner and I get up to between the sheets and about drug use, when suddenly one question left entirely stumped:

“How would your sexual behaviour change if you were positive?”

I can quite honestly say I had never thought about it, and I was ashamed.  The staff member who did my test sat patiently as I stammered and inhaled a little too deeply, trying to come up with something coherent.  My mind ran with “How would my behaviour change?  Would I still have sex?  Would my girlfriend stay with me?  Would anyone want to sleep with me?  Or would life remain mostly the same?”

I think I came up with something like “um, maybe a little, I don’t know, drastically”.  I was assured that I was low risk and even though my heart told me it was going to be ok, my mind was far from calm.  I thought of a friend whose partner left him upon hearing they were HIV positive . . . another whose world crumbled for months as he fought to come to terms with the result of a one-night mistake.

Then my finger was pricked and within 10 minutes I was told I was clear.

I know there are many of you out there living positive - and living positively.  I’ll of course never understand what it means for your life . . . but in that one fleeting moment I think I got a half ounce of an idea of what it might, maybe, possibly be like for me.

Anyone thinking about getting tested, you have nothing to fear from the staff at the Burnett Centre . . .  they are respectful, wise, kind, entirely honest and incredibly calm.

That night I told my girlfriend about my experience and as I was in her arms I asked her “baby, if I had been positive would you still be with me?”  “Of course baby!” she replied, “Were you really worried about that?  Gosh, we’d just be a bit more careful, that’s all - we could buy some dental dams.”

You got to love her, I sure do.

Want to know where to get tested? Click here

→ 1 CommentTags: General

13th February 2009

Summer reads

Posted by: Kitten Power

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With the small number of quality movies tracking the “homosexual experience”, it is in books that I have so far found the best depictions of gay and lesbian life. This summer I have been eating books, and as I’m on a severe savings drive, the Auckland Public Library has become one of my favourite hangouts.

The range is stunning and easily accessible - I hope it’s the same for other libraries around the country?

Here are my three favourite reads of summer 08/09:

1 Tales of The City - Armistead Maupin
An absolute classic. I rented the TV series on DVD a while back and just had to read it for myself. Set in San Francisco in the mid-70s it tells the stories of a diverse bunch who live in a rambling house on Barbary Lane, run by eccentric and secretive pot-growing landlady Anna Madrigal. Character Mary-Anne Singleton moves in and we explore the delights and wickedness of San Francisco through her sweet naivety. Maupin is a great writer and his characters feel so alive on the page, with gay Southerner Michael “Mouse” Tolliver easily providing a perfect balance of laughs and “awww” moments in his search for love, to make him easily my favourite character of the summer.

2 Kiss The Girls and Make Them Spy: An Original Jane Bond Parody - Mabel Maney
My most frivolous read of the summer. This book tracks Jane Bond, (007’s sister) who is bribed to dress in drag and pretend to be her brother (who has been locked up in a Swiss sanitarium), in order to save the Queen. While a bit slow in some places, this book is a good light laugh -it’s camp, it’s cheesy . . . and Jane Bond is HOT.

3 With Billie - Julia Blackburn
With the biography Billie Holiday co-wrote regarded by many to be based much more on fiction than fact, this biography seems to create the fullest picture possible of the much-loved songbird. It’s based on interviews conducted in the 1970s with more than 150 people who knew her from all levels of her life, whether childhood friends, fellow musicians or lovers. The book’s strength is that it does not try to answer too many questions for you, giving the reader a chance to make up their own mind on what really led to her tragic downfall and death.

What are you reading?  What are your favourite gay and lesbian books?

→ 3 CommentsTags: General

15th January 2009

Burglars. They’re just not sexy.

Posted by: Kitten Power

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Burglars are not sexy. Breaking into someone else’s place and rifling through their stuff is just not hot. Going through someone’s underwear drawers and throwing knickers and bras across their room, before tipping their bed sideways, just doesn’t do it for me. That’s why I’m thinking about starting International Castrate a Burglar Day.

Certainly, if I find the stupid straight man who broke into my apartment, let’s call him “The It”, I will castrate him.

I know what you’re thinking, another lesbian wanting to give a straight man the chop, nothing new there - well there is for me. I like women, but have never been a man-hater. Except now, except this one man, except “The It”.

Now that’s settled, you’re probably wondering how do I know it was a straight man? Easy:

1- The toilet seat was left up.

2- A kit containing thousands of dollars worth of professional make-up was opened, then discarded.

3- Being a burglar isn’t sexy, ruling out all women and most gay men.

After we cleaned up, put our underwear back in our drawers and had a good look around, my girlfriend and I were relieved to realise all we lost was a couple of cameras, an old laptop, about $15 and a tired backpack. We started listing all the things ”The It” did not steal - CDs, the stereo, the computer, passports, my girlfriend’s irreplaceable art. That quickly led to an easy coping mechanism of making jokes about other things he left behind, like “oh yay he didn’t take the toothbrushes” . . . “oh great, my favourite sock are still there” . . . “wow lucky he didn’t take the library books, that saves us some fines.”

What can you do but laugh right? Yet I really feel for people who come home to find their house emptied of all their valuable and loved possessions. We got off pretty lightly really.

And yet, if I find “The It” I will still castrate him. Slowly. But not in a man-hating way.

→ 13 CommentsTags: General

9th January 2009

Seasonal Sounds

Posted by: Kitten Power

Have you ever noticed that your music taste is slightly altered by seasons?

I watched an amazing show from Seattle band Fleet Foxes at Auckland’s Bruce Mason Centre last night - and it struck me that their music was the soundtrack to my winter. Their songs, with their warm four-part harmonies, evoke a feeling of respite from the cold. It’s a sound that is exactly perfect for curling up with a nip of scotch in front of an open fire, hiding from the rain and reality outside.

To be fair, it probably helps that the first song I heard from the band is called White Winter Hymnal.

But my new love of folk, of alt-country, of music from America’s northwest emerged this past winter. Strangely, I also found myself drawn to a litany of bands with animal names in the title - tracks from Band of Horses, Caribou, Deerhoof, Grizzly Bear, The Mountain Goats were among those loaded into my music library in the middle of 2008.

Yet now as the nation is sweating through a heatwave that has many of us scrambling into our air conditioned cars and cruising to the beach, it has left me with a new summer romance - a pop flirtation.

Songs I kinda liked, but did not love, in winter, are becoming favoured parts of my summer playlist, as I seek lighter more chilled-out tunes.

So I just went through my mp3 player and deleted winter warmers like Sigur Ros and Radiohead and added the soul and pop vibes which are easing me through summer.

Here’s a mini sampler:

Ladyhawke - Back of the Van

Gnarls Barkley - Who’s Gonna Save My Soul

Sia - Academia

→ No CommentsTags: General · Music

16th December 2008

My favourite things from 2008

Posted by: Kitten Power

A fabulous number of entries are already pouring in from gaynz readers for their favourite things from 2008, keep them coming! 

Here is a quick rundown of few of my favourite things from this year:

Best LGBT Event: The Big Gay Out is always a highlight of my year and this year’s event was no different.  There are two things I most love about it: the diversity and the sense of being somewhere on that great big mysterious spectrum people call the “gay community”.

Best movie: Two New Zealand movies were by far the best I saw this year.  Vincent Ward’s haunting Rain of the Children and Florian Habicht’sRubbings From a Live Man, a look into the wonderfully odd world of Warwick Broadhead:

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Best theatre show: Sadly, I didn’t get to see as much theatre as I had hoped this year . . . however, Priscilla and The Reindeer Monologues were definitely the most fun, from what I did catch.

Best TV programme: I may have had to watch it on YouTube, but The L Word season five definitely had me hooked.  I loved the surprise appearance of New Zealander Melanie Lynskey near the end of the season . . . Meanwhile Rick and Steve is fast emerging as a new favourite in our house.

valenciasmall.jpgBest book:

Her books didn’t come out this year, but the writing of lesbian author Michelle Tea was the best written discovery of 2008 for me.  Her heady memoir Valencia looks at her life as a queercore punk in San Francisco, and it is as graphic as it is hilariously honest.  It now sits among the classics on my bookshelf.  Also check out Chelsea Whistle and The Passionate Mistakes and Intimate Corruption of One Girl in America.  Tea is also a spoken word artist and is the co-founder of Sister Spit.

Best concert: It’s a dead heat between PJ Harvey at The Civic and The Breeders at The Bruce Mason Centre.

Best album: There are two albums I have gone back to for repeat listening time and time again this year:

Santogold - Santogold 

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The Breeders - Mountain Battles

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Best Song: M.I.A. - Paper Planes.  This song sends a shiver down my spine every time I hear it.  I know the album technically came out last year, but this was released as a single this year . . . and once I hear it I can’t get it out of my head!

Best Kiwi LGBT pride moment: The Topp Twins being inducted to the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame at the Silver Scrolls, an awards ceremony which opened with a beautiful tribute to the late Mahinarangi Tocker.

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→ 3 CommentsTags: General

27th November 2008

A cycle of persecution

Posted by: Kitten Power

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A sick feeling rose up within me when I first heard that the Mormon church actively encouraged its members to battle against gay marriage in California.  You see, I grew up Mormon.  And to have something which formed such a large part of my early life now fighting against my rights makes me nauseous.

Proposition 8 narrowly passed in California at the election three weeks ago, banning same sex marriage in the state and leaving thousands of gay couples in limbo.

According to gay rights groups, Mormons gave more than US$20 million to support the anti-gay marriage cause and travelled from Utah to California to lobby for Proposition 8.

And it’s just emerged that California state officials are investigating whether the church failed to report its own contributions - and, with members contributing 10 percent of everything they earn to the church’s coffers, the religion is relatively wealthy.

One of the chief reasons I left the church was because as soon as I was about 17, the clear message being repeated to me was that I now needed to find some boring Mormon guy, get married and pop out babies.  I was not at all interested in marriage.  I wanted more from life than being a barefoot pregnant teenager in the kitchen, as many of my schoolmates were becoming. 

And now, the church that once shoved marriage down my throat is fighting to take the only form of marriage I would ever consider away.

My girlfriend is American and it is bizarre to think that we could have a civil union in New Zealand . . . which would be a meaningless piece of paper if we ever wanted to live in the US.  The way I figure it, the more states which recognise gay unions in the US, the more likely it is there will be change on a federal level.  So these battles are all crucial.

I have made my peace with my largely Mormon family since I came out a few years ago . . . they don’t think me being in a lesbian relationship is “right” - but they still love me and want me to be happy.

They have even kindly informed me that the church doctrine is this (in case I want to return to the fold): I can BE gay, but I can’t ACT on it.  They might as well cut my hands off right now.

But I am finding it hard to find any peace with the religion that formed such a huge part of my early life.

You see, the Mormon church was built on persecution.  Its founding prophet Joseph Smith was tarred and feathered, jailed, then murdered, which is no less than homosexuals have faced across the globe.  The church even grabbed its handcarts and moved its population to Utah in 1846 to get away from the hate that was thrown at its members.

And now all I feel coming back at me is hate and persecution.

So to the group of old white Mormon men who tell their members what to think: stay out of our lives.  Spend your money on shiny new bicycles for missionaries and popcorn for making the ridiculous arts and crafts you love so much.

→ 6 CommentsTags: General