In India, those of us who have expressed views on nuclear bombs, big dams, corporate globalization and the rising threat of communal Hindu fascism - views that are at variance with the Indian government’s - are branded ‘anti-national.’ While this accusation doesn’t fill me with indignation, it’s not an accurate description of what I do or how I think. Because an ‘anti-national’ is a person who is against his or her own nation and, by inference, is pro some other one. But it isn’t necessary to be ‘anti-national’ to be deeply suspicious of all nationalism, to be anti-nationalism.

Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century. Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.

When independent-thinking people (and here I do not include the corporate media) begin to rally under flags, when writers, painters, musicians, film makers suspend their judgment and blindly yoke their art to the service of the ‘Nation,’ it’s time for all of us to sit up and worry.

18 September 2002 - Excerpt from Arundhati Roy’s “Come September” Lannan Foundation lecture.

Full transcript of Roy’s lecture available in PDF form here.


Inside the Episode: creator/co-executive producer Michael Lannan and director/executive producer Andrew Haigh discuss the season finale, “Looking Glass”

HBO’s Looking: Not ‘the Ultimate Gay Show About All Gay People’

While television has, in recent years, offered a growing cast of gay characters on shows from Modern Family to Orange is the New Black to The New Normal, (cancelled last May), few series focus solely on the nuances and complexity of contemporary gay relationships. This is about to change, however, with the premiere of HBO’s Looking, (Sunday at 10:30pm), a half-hour drama exploring the lives of three gay men in San Francisco.

The three friends—Patrick, a 29-year-old video-game developer (Jonathan Groff); Agustin, a 31-year-old artist (Frankie J. Alvarez); and Dom, a 39-year-old waiter (Murray Bartlett)—are based on the characters in Michael Lannan’s short film Larimer. Lannan, the creator of the show, also serves as its co-executive producer along with Andrew Haigh, who directed the 2011 indie film Weekend. I spoke with Lannan and Haigh from their office in L.A.

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It’s no more than co-incidence that I happen to be here, on American soil, in September - this month of dreadful anniversaries. Uppermost on everybody’s mind of course, particularly here in America, is the horror of what has come to be known as 9/11. Nearly three thousand civilians lost their lives in that lethal terrorist strike. The grief is still deep. The rage still sharp. The tears have not dried. And a strange, deadly war is raging around the world.

Yet, each person who has lost a loved one surely knows secretly, deeply, that no war, no act of revenge, no daisy-cutters dropped on someone else’s loved ones or someone else’s children, will blunt the edges of their pain or bring their own loved ones back. War cannot avenge those who have died. War is only a brutal desecration of their memory.

To fuel yet another war - this time against Iraq - by cynically manipulating people’s grief, by packaging it for TV specials sponsored by corporations selling detergent and running shoes, is to cheapen and devalue grief, to drain it of meaning. What we are seeing now is a vulgar display of the business of grief, the commerce of grief, the pillaging of even the most private human feelings for political purpose. It is a terrible, violent thing for a State to do to its people.

18 September 2002 - Excerpt from Arundhati Roy’s “Come September” Lannan Foundation lecture.

An important reality check in light of Barack Obama’s defense yesterday of the Iraq War as a legal, cleanly conducted war.

Full transcript of Roy’s lecture available in PDF form here.

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Why Are We Dismissing ‘Looking’ as Gay ‘Girls’ Before It Even Premieres?

When is it too early for a think-piece? Considering Looking, HBO’s new dramedy series about a group of gay men in San Francisco, doesn’t premiere until mid-January, it seems like this is jumping the gun just a bit. But folks (read: gay guys) on the Internet have already quickly pounced on the show despite the network’s limited publicity around it. We’ve seen a collective 51 seconds of clips from it so far — the first teaser, released last week, was a brief montage set to music; yesterday we got a second look at the series in a trailer than actually included some dialogue — and it seems like that’s quite enough to form an opinion about it already.

Looking has a long history, surprisingly. It originated as a short film called “Lorimer” about gay men living in Brooklyn. Series creator Michael Lannan wrote and directed the film, which was released in 2011. The TV adaptation has been in development since, and the success of Girls probably pushed it along. Naturally, the setting was moved to San Francisco from Brooklyn (there can’t be two North Brooklyn-set series about 20-somethings, now can there?), and the city is probably more iconic than New York in the context of its rich gay history.

Unlike Girls, however, there’s a bit more diversity in its script. The main character is white, sure (he’s played by the very-cute Jonathan Groff), and his best friend, Agustín (played by Frankie Alvarez), is described in the pilot’s script as “South American, attractive, has a heavy accent, but perfect grammar.” The script, by the way, has deliberately diverse characters — more than you can say for Girls, which has mostly used characters of color to play New Yorkers in the service industry (and most of those characters didn’t even get first names). But the response to Looking‘s 30-second trailer has still generally been along the lines of, “Look at all of these white people!” It’s a pretty lazy observation, and one that comes from a very brief look at the show — it’s almost as lazy as calling Looking the gay Girls. (Full disclosure:I’m not immune to that kind of lazy writing.)

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Looking - Inside Episode 5 “Looking for the Future”

Michael Lannan's Looking Is More Than Gay Sex and the City

None of Looking’s men are closeted; their aforementioned problems are not too different from those of their straight peers. Their gayness becomes an issue in more subtle ways, like perceived judgment from family members, commitment struggles between men, and internalized homophobia, a subtle theme that crops up often with Patrick, the main character played brilliantly by Jonathan Groff. (x)

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