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Pab Sungenis Posts

Woodstock: Why It Sucked. (Or, 40 Years of Peace, Love, and Wasted Promise)

In anticipation of making some new posts here in upcoming days, I thought I would share some posts from my old “PaBlog” that have been lost to posterity until now. This one originally ran in August of 2009.

After tomorrow, blessed be, we will finally be able to go another 10 years before we ever have to hear the name “Woodstock” referring to anything other than a bird.

Still, as much as I hate the hype around one of the worst-planned rock concerts in history – one that was so badly thought of at the time that Joni Mitchell, who would later make 2.8 shitloads of dollars off a song where she pretended to be there, thought it was more important to go on the Dick Cavett Show – I do think it is something to be studied. The problem is that while most people weave hagiographies to this travesty in a mud pit, I think it’s more important to study the complete and utter failure that Woodstock is in nearly every category.

First off, for what was supposedly the greatest rock concert in history, let’s look at a few of the artists of 1969 who were supposed to be at Woodstock, but all felt it was more important to not show up:

  • The Doors
  • The Byrds
  • Jethro Tull
  • Joni Mitchell (as mentioned above)
  • Led Zeppelin
  • The Moody Blues
  • Tommy James and the Shondells
  • Bob Dylan.

Really, now, the biggest concert of the 1960’s and you don’t have The Doors or Bob Dylan? Sure, the Beatles were breaking up and the Rolling Stones were in Britain, but you can’t land Bob Dylan, who lived a couple of towns over and was the voice of the generation that this festival was supposed to personify? Weak. Sure, you had The Who and Janis Joplin, but when the big draw on your bill is Creedence Clearwater Revival? Pack it in.

But even if we want to overlook the second-string lineup of acts (although some, like Crosby Stills & Nash would become even more famous after the fact), there is one area in which the sheer suckitude of Woodstock cannot be overemphasized. Sadly, that’s the one area that the whole big mess that the stoner revisionists and baby boomers keep bringing up. They keep pushing Woodstock as the height of a social movement and something to be proud of.

Know what? They’re full of shit.

Look at the defining moments of just a few recent generations. The generation before the Baby Boomers fought and won World War II and put a man on the moon. The generation before that brought us the height of American literature and arts. Before that, the Progressive Movement changed society forever and World War I changed the political face of the entire world.

And what did the Baby Boomers do? They got stoned, listened to some music, and fucked.

In the mud.

I’m sorry, but when the pinnacle moment of your generation includes the warning “don’t eat the brown acid,” I think you need to reevaluate your priorities.

The saddest thing about Woodstock is that, for all intents and purposes, it was the end of the Hippie movement. It was the peak, and everything else from that point on was downhill. The people at Woodstock could have been energized to go out and really change the world, like so many people have tried to make it out that they did. They didn’t. Nixonism reigned down in Washington. The Vietnam War got longer and bloodier. Domestic unrest and violence in our streets picked up. Peace and Love became just another bumper sticker. If the pre-Woodstock days were summed up by the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” the years after Woodstock were summed up by the Rutles’ “All You Need Is Cash.”

There were half a million hippies at Woodstock. 500,000! That’s a massive number of people, especially at that time. If the Hippies really wanted to change the world, end the war, etc., they could have marched two days south (on foot, in their vehicles they could have been there in hours) and brought Washington to a complete standstill. They could have made their voice and their message heard. Or the people could have dispersed from that point and gone home to organize; re-energized and encouraged by their experiences at Yasgur’s farm they could have left with a new commitment to carry their dreams and actually change the world.

Instead, they all dispersed and went home… where they got stoned, listened to music, and fucked. But at least this time mud wasn’t involved (in most cases).

Woodstock should be held up as the apotheosis of self-aggrandizement. It is a testament to the utter and complete failure of the Baby Boomers. Woodstock was the death rattle of the social movements that had come along in the late 60’s in America. The promise of a revolution of peace and love died with a whimper accentuated by the strains of Jimi Hendrix’ guitar. The Flower Power Company disconnected everyone due to non-payment. As the 6 in the year rolled up off the universe’s perpetual clock display to be replaced by a 7, it took with it everything that the hippies stood for. The memorial plaque at Yasgur’s Farm might as well have been a headstone.

Even The Who, who played their entire rock opera Tommy some time around 4 AM when probably 50 people were awake, recognized the sea change. Actually go listen to the lyrics of Won’t Get Fooled Again some time if you can avoid being distracted by Roger Daltrey ripping his vocal chords to shreds and Pete Townshend destroying his eardrums:

And nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” indeed.

And let’s also not forget that twice as many people died at Woodstock as died at Altamont a few months later.

In ten years, the 50th anniversary of the world’s most disastrous rock concert will come upon us. Everyone who attended the concert (with the possible exception of the two babies born there) will either be on Social Security, in a home, or dead. Maybe by then cooler heads will prevail and those of us who happen to be left half-alive (as Townshend wrote) will be able to cast a serious eye on Woodstock and recognize it for what it really was: three days of escapism, drugs, self-importance, and wasted youth. It really was a teenaged wasteland, and those who hold it up as anything but do the entire world a disservice.

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“Love, Simon” – Why It Sucks

I have a running joke about my husband Bryan. I don’t ask him what he thought of a movie until about a week after we see it. That way I can get a proper answer. You see, movies are like hand grenades for him: they only explode after time has elapsed. The more he thinks about a movie, the more likely he is to hate it. I think the world record for fastest turnaround with him was Star Trek: Generations, where after the lights came up, he was gushing about how great the movie was. When we were out in the hall he was like “wait a minute.” And by the time we started the car he was saying “WTF was that piece of shit!?”

My opinions about Love, Simon by comparison have gone full circle. I hated the idea of it, then I loved it, now I can acknowledge that it does, in fact, suck.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda I loved the book the movie is allegedly based upon, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agendaso I was cautious going in. (Much the same way I am dreading seeing Ready, Player One in the theaters, knowing that no matter how good the film is it will never live up to my imagination.) I was especially concerned because all the trailers and advertising were making it out to be an epic love story, which the novel is not. In the novel, the romance is really the “B” or “C plot, just the catalyst for the main storylines. I won’t give away any more for those of you who have not read the book. No spoilers here if I can help it.

Seeing the movie, and the fact that they at least made the book’s “A” plot the “B” plot, I felt better. I was especially entranced by Nick Robinson, who I had earlier fallen in crush with watching The Kings of Summer and how he realistically portrayed Simon Spier. So I felt good leaving the theater.

Now, with distance between me and the screen, I can look at the movie with clear eyes and acknowledge it for the shitstorm is actually is.


Probably the one time each year that the average American thinks (if they do at all) about “cultural appropriation” is around Halloween when the backlash against racist, sexist, and other -ist costumes once again makes itself known. It’s when people who are not part of a culture dress themselves (figuratively or literally) in a stereotype of that culture for amusement’s sake. For a more recent example, consider how the 12.5% of me that is of the O’Donnell Clan feels when they hear “everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.” Hint: it feels worse than the Polish part of my ethnic heritage, which is always afraid that the German part of my heritage is going to invade it again.

Cultural appropriation is wrong. I acknowledge that. The use of “Indian” stereotypes like Chief Wahoo are subversively racist and have no place in today’s culture. And while my alma mater’s team will still always be the Brown Indians I agree that the school was right to change it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Love Simon is the gay equivalent of if Chief Wahoo and the Washington Redskins had a gangbang with the Frito Bandito and sired a love child who would grow up to be a big buck-toothed squinty eyed “Japanese” character out of a World War II Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Let’s start with, sadly, the book. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a coming of age, coming (or being forced) out story about a young gay man written by… Becky Albertalli.

That’s right. This story about a gay boy was written by a straight woman.

In and of itself, this is not a big problem. It’s just a symptom of a larger problem. After all, about 90% of all books about gay teens that are on bookshelves are written by women. Another 4% are written or co-written by John Green. That leaves 6% or so of books about gay teens that are actually written by gay men. And 5.8% of those are by David Levithan. In the competitive world of retail bookselling there isn’t much room on the shelves for people like Bill Konigsburg or Mark A. Roeder and nearly no room at all for up and coming authors. Booksellers have to go with what they know will sell and to them YA is written by women for women.

Now let’s go on to Nick Robinson. Nick is straight. Openly straight. Almost flamingly straight. When there are so many young out actors, or those who are on the verge of coming out, the protagonist of what is being billed as the first great teen gay romance is being played by the straightest of straight boys. I don’t know whose decision it was, whether the studio forced the straight boy onto the project or if Greg Berlanti, the openly gay director and creative force behind the film, made the choice himself. But it’s not encouraging to see that gay leading roles still have to be played by straight men who are “brave” for making the choice to play against their orientation. (This is nothing new; I’ve been bitching about this for 20 years ever since straight Eric McCormack beat out gay John Barrowman for the part of the gay leading man on Will and Grace.)

“But there are actual gay boys in the movie,” you’re saying. Yes. There are three. Oh, what the hell.


One of them is Joey Pollari, who plays a straight waiter named Lyle. Another is Keiynan Lonsdale, who plays Bram, who in a fake-out the novel did not need, we are led to believe is straight the entire freaking film. And before you ask, the kid who plays Cal the pianist (who has a much larger part in the book and is acknowledged as gay therein) isn’t number three; Miles Meizer is straight.

Number three is Clark Moore.

Oh, Clark.

Stepin Faggot

Clark Moore plays Ethan, who is the movie’s homophobic comic relief. He swishes and sways, wears his hair long, and is played like someone plucked off the runway of RuPaul’s Drag Race (“Category is: realness!”) and dropped in a high school. He is played as every bad mincing stereotype for maximum comedy, and no main character (not even newly outed Simon) treats him nicely or even as a human being. The script and direction surely don’t. He’s there to make straight people laugh at him, a Stepin Faggot character of the worst kind.

There is literally no reason to have Ethan in the movie. Other characters with more actual impact (like Simon’s older sister) who were in the book were cut out of the film, so why keep Ethan who has no impact at all on the plot?

Just to show everything “gay” that Simon is not.

Ethan is there to show what people expect gays to be: effeminate, swishy, just south of cross dressing. Simon is none of those, so Simon is the acceptable gay. Especially because he’s played by a straight boy.

Clark Moore and Nick Robinson are very talented actors who deserved better than to be stuck in these sad stereotypes of femme and butch queer kids.

The film loves to ask “why is straight the default” so much that they sell freakin’ T-shirts with that slogan. Here’s the answer: it’s the default because Hollywood insists on casting straight actors for gay roles.

But that’s okay, because we queers aren’t the film’s target audience. Straight girls are.


For those of you who have not been around manga-obsessed teen girls in recent years, “YAOI” is a form of manga about boys in love with each other. The term comes from a Japanese acronym for “no climax, no plot, no meaning.” It’s just slightly androgynous boys getting it on with each other to make straight teenager girls aroused. It’s written by women for girls and the men are just objects of the audience’s lust.

Love, Simon, is American cinematic YAOI.

Written by women (novel – which is not YAOI but has a compelling plot – by Becky Albertalli, screenplay co-written by Elizabeth Berger) for teen girls.

Simon is portrayed throughout the film as ideal boyfriend material, played by a masculine actor who is not unpleasant to look at, to provide a sex symbol for teen girls to desire. And when he kisses another hot boy at the end? Boom.

For Hollywood, this is not a bad thing. Teen girls first showed their power by keeping Titanic afloat for so long, seeing the film and its love story multiple times.

(For the record, I almost linked to the theory that Jack from Titanic is actually a cross-dressing woman here, but when I went googling for a link I got scared; never search for “Titanic Transsexual” if you know what’s good for you.)

But I digress. Teen girls in cinema.

According to MPAA numbers for 2014 (most recent I could find online), more women than men buy movie tickets, and 40% of all tickets are bought by people 24 and under. So if you can win over a big bunch of teenage girls and get them to see your movie multiple times it’s a formula for success.

Yes, it’s nice that gay teens have representation on the screen. It’s nice that a gay teen love story did so well. And it’s wonderful that it’s inspiring gay teens to come out to their parents.

But kids? Make no mistake. You are the side effect. This is not your movie. You were not the intended audience. And this is not going to blaze a trail for real gay cinema. This is just another teen girl-targeted romance. This is this year’s Everything, Everything or The Fault in our Stars as far as Hollywood is concerned.


Is it worth seeing? I guess. I don’t regret seeing it. I may watch it again when it comes to Netflix. But so much about this movie leaves a bad taste in my mouth. (No gay pun intended.) It reinforces the “acceptable gay” trope. It continues the tradition that only straight boys can play leading roles (or, even, gay roles!). And it’s appropriation by straight women of gay youth culture and stories by straight women to appeal to straight teen girls.

All of which I would have thought Hollywood would be long past by now.



Yet Another Book Building Application

I love Cory Doctorow’s writing. I’ve read most of his novels multiple times. But there is one area where he has caused me great tsuris over the years.

Cory has a new book out called Walkaway. I plan to pick it up soon. But you see, between my fading eyesight and the fact that I spend a lot of time in my car, I prefer to get my literature in audiobook form when possible. Most of the time, that means going through Audible, who are the 8,000 pound gorilla in the audiobook business online.

Cory doesn’t make his books available through Audible because of their “digital rights management” policies. I happen to agree with him (although as a much less popular author than he I have to deal with them). So he makes the audiobooks of most of his works available through his website, and I have bought directly from him in the past with relative ease.

But his audiobooks come in what is an inconvenient format for me: a series of individual .mp3 files breaking the book down chapter by chapter or, in two cases, CD by CD. As a guy who has built a huge folder of audiobooks over the years and still prefers to listen to them on his old iPod Classic, this is not how I prefer my books. I would rather have the single huge file that Audible offers, or that you can get by building an .M4B file for iTunes.

In previous years, this would have meant using a program called Chapter and Verse, which would take those individual files and spit out an M4B. But Chapter and Verse hasn’t been updated in years, doesn’t work with modern versions of iTunes (which it needs to convert files), and is stuck in the mindset of the old days of 32 bit systems and thus doesn’t like creating audiobooks over 8 hours when it will create anything at all.

Of course, you know me. I come from the old school where the answer to not having software that does what you want is to write it yourself. So here is a quick and dirty, yet fully functional program, for all of you.

Yet Another Book Building Application

YABBA is a front-end for two other programs, FFMpeg and AtomicParsley, which respectively convert and add metadata to your audiobook files. You select and add files to your project, rearrange them if necessary, and can retitle the individual chapters. You can add cover art and information for author, title, year of publication, and description. Then just press one button, wait a considerable amount of time (how long depends on length of the book and speed of your computer) and out will pop a fresh baked audiobook. Add it into iTunes and you are ready to go.

I wrote the program to be as intuitive and simple to use as possible. Just feed it a bunch of MP3’s and some other information and let it do its work.

I wrote this program over four days when I had nothing much better to do simply because I needed it, and am happy to share it with any and all who want it. Use and copy it all you want, just don’t charge anything for it. If you find it useful, kick back a donation through the button at the top of the page.

Download Yet Another Book Building Application: Windows 32-bit Installer, Windows 64-bit Installer, Lazarus Source Code

If you found this post by kibozing for Cory’s name, you might also want to check out “…Only to Find Gideon’s Bible,” my short story set in the universe of Cory’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. And if you read this, Cory? I’d love to record an “official” audiobook for DAOITMK; you can donate whatever fee you would normally pay a narrator to EFF if I do.


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