column from author/activist
Carol Queen

The Royal Treatment

Attention, Fans of French

You already know, of course, that we have gone to war, or perhaps it will wind up being termed, as was Viet Nam, a "police action" -- Phil Ochs&Mac226; old song We're the Cops of the World comes to mind here. This is not a new role for America, really, though not all citizens are pleased with it. But a newer task is upon America: that of linguist. Yes, I know our great land does not have a world reputation in this area yet. (Witness the old joke: "What do you call someone who speaks two languages?" "Bilingual." "What do you call someone who speaks one?" "American.")

Yes, even though there are a good number of cunning linguists over here, far greater numbers of people are not up on either language skills or tongue movements. And now this!

You know that the conservatives are mad at the French, for having the temerity to take their role on the UN Security Council seriously. Hey, frogs, that was just to thank you guys for giving us the dang Statue of Liberty! Don't get so damn uppity! But America struck back: no more French fries! No more French toast, either! Hey, symbolic actions are important, and never more than now.

Was it the French ambassador who drolly said, about the newly-named Freedom Fries, that France was OK with the name change? "Anyhow, they're really Belgian." He did not say that it might be a good idea to boycott them altogether, since American asses are already wider than may be healthy. It's not the place of the French to monitor Americans' well-being, after all. If it were, we'd all drink better wine.

And he had nothing, nada, rien to say about the French toast controversy. Well, that&Mac226;s because it isn&Mac226;t French, either. It was invented a century or so ago by an American -- named Mister French!

Geez, what an embarrassment.

Pundits of the liberal stripe leapt on this (as, you see, I am not able to prevent myself from doing, even though it's old news). How could we not make fun of this? And before the bombs began to fall, it seemed like such a sweetly stupid thing -- harmless yet truly, beautifully idiotic -- the kind of brazen stupidity that our dear-hearted Annie Sprinkle sees not as politics, but performance art.

One pundit quipped that it might have the unintended effect of banning French kissing in Washington, but at least that'd keep Bill Clinton out of town.

(To which I reply: Oh no it won't. As long as there are still cigars in the nation's capital, Bill will find something to keep himself busy. Though I must say, I hope French letters are not inadvertently caught up in this ban.)

But here's the alarm I have not heard, and I feel I must sound it myself: What about the personal ads? How will Bill Clinton advertise? It costs too much per word to just spell out! "Fmr prez sks 20-smthng intrn w/ thng panties, flshy bttchks a plus, 4 oral plsrs. No sex."

French, you dopes, we can't ban French! What, no more blowjobs in the Capital? We'll really be in trouble if none of those guys are getting their rocks off. And "French," of course, in the special stenography of the back pages, refers to all things oral. We can't just ban that, for god's sake many Americans were just now getting good at it! If they lose any practice at all, it'll be back to square one.

Of course, now that I think about it carefully, I realize that many of the "ban the French" jokers come from states that still retain their sodomy laws which, in several cases, include oral sex (or "oral copulation," which sounds dirtier and also more difficult to do).

So perhaps these guys feel they have nothing to lose by getting rid of all things French, since they are not indulging in French to begin with. More's the pity for them -- and, I am guessing, for the Iraqis, and for us.

Strangers in Paradox

Kate Bornstein (photo: M. Serchuk)
The Angel and The Kidd
Casey and Troy

No, it's not my new appellation for the recycled Nixonian nutjobs who are running the no-longer-quite-so-civilized world. It's Kate Bornstein's new play, and it's up now, enjoying its world premiere, at San Francisco's Theatre Rhino. It may be extended, so call Rhino at (415) 861-5079. But hurry! If it's not extended, its run will be finished soon.

Kate, of course, is the famed (and fabulous) author of several plays (her Hidden: A Gender was a great success here a few years back) and several books, including My Gender Workbook. She is a performer, trans activist, and all-around doll. And she has brought several of her obsessions together in Strangers in Paradox; very likely at least some of them are your obsessions, too.

We got your lesbian serial killers! And they are super-cute and even lovable -- hey, they call each other Sugar Pop! We got your gothic insane asylum! We got your reality TV, a nasty bit of spoof called "America's Least Wanted!" We got your obsession with identity, and we got your fixation on death. What's not to like?

Casey and The Kidd, the serial killers, provide one focus to the show; they engage in a bizarre lesbian ritual (warning: I'm gonna give something away here, so if you like surprises, don't finish this sentence) called "consent" -- they'll only off people who want to die. Then there's Angel, the asylum inmate who knows everything about the duo, even says she commits their murders and is their victims. And Doc Grinder, and old Bornstein character who doubles as the host of the reality show that pursues exclusive glimpses at the Sapphic criminals and the head of the asylum where Angel is held. The show is funny, thought-provoking, and occasionally features a loud gun shooting, we fervently hope, blanks.

We got your foxy lesbians! (And they get pretty steamy -- this play isn't about sex, exactly, but neither is sex left out.) We got your raving lunatics! We got your murders! We got your stage blood! (Which, as Bornstein says, is practically a character in its own right.)

What would you get if you crossed Jack Kevorkian with pulp-fiction bad girls who might have been pulled from a Tarantino flick? Only the ever-fertile imagination of Kate Bornstein knows for sure. Strangers in Paradox is the result -- see it while it's hot!