I recorded the audiobook of Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts by Roald Dahl
Dear President Bush:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. As you said "in the eyes of God marriage is based between a man a woman." I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination... End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.
1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?
7. Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
Alan Cumming’s China Trip
I’ve never thought of myself as a trekker.
Trekkers, I’ve always assumed, are people who spurn room service and give each other Swiss army knives for Christmas. Their rosy cheeks are not due to martini consumption but icy mountain air or bug bites, and their favourite labels are Berkenstock and North Face.
Imagine my surprise then, when I found myself recently marching along in the bracing mountain air, sucking down water from the tube connected to my rucksack’s built-in bladder, looking forward to a lunch of boiled egg and nuts sitting astride a rock and secretly hoping it would rain so I can make use of my orange waterproof two piece ensemble. And this wasn’t one of these Tv shows which seem so popular these days in which hapless celebrities are thrown into circumstances beyond their ken and comfort zone and the rest of us get a healthy dose of shadenfreude. Oh no, this was real life and I was there willingly. I even liked it! Hell, I’d do it again!
How did this happen I hear you cry?
It was actually one of those weird, kismety things: One night at dinner I had been telling my friends how I felt such a fraud for being publicly lauded for the work I do with AIDS organisations and charities, when really all I was doing was going to parties and shouting my mouth off. Of course, I understand that when you’re famous people take your picture when you go to parties and people listen to what you have to say, and – good or bad – celebrities have the public’s eyes and ears, but nonetheless, perhaps because of some protestant work ethic element in my upbringing, I felt that I wanted to actually do something.
Cut to the very next day, when an AmfAR brochure detailing their first ever money raising trek popped through my letter box!
And so that was how I, and 22 others like me, found ourselves schlepping along the Great Wall of China this past October.
The trip was a fundraiser for AmfAR’s Treat Asia programme, a new initiative to promote education, training and research for the HIV/AIDS problem in Asia. During our visit to China we had several talks and meetings with AIDS specialists and were horrified by both the scale of the problem and the many cultural and social issues involved that make dealing with it so difficult.
Although under the auspices of AmFAR, the trek was organised by a British-based company called Across The Divide, which regularly leads treks and expeditions all over the world, and often in conjunction with charities like AmfAR. We all had to raise a minimum of $10,000 to participate, and so by the end of the trek, Treat Asia’s coffers were over $275,000 better off. Aside from my epiphany about trekking, there are many reasons why I would thoroughly recommend a trip of this kind. First of all, raising such a large sum is a feat that needs the help and support of friends and family, so before you’ve even left home you’re in contact with a whole slew of people you only normally hear from at Christmas, weddings or funerals. And by doing something that takes you way out of your normal routine, let alone comfort level, you really do inspire people and make them think that if you feel strongly enough about an issue to fly to the other side of the world and go camping with a bunch of strangers then it must be something worth thinking about. And in addition to the philanthropic aspects, there is of course the actual amazing experience of the trek`- not the least of which for me was to be without email and my cell phone for a week - the first time I have been so out of contact in my entire life. Of course I did feel rather dopey when several of the other trekkers were emailing away and saying goodnight to their children from atop the Wall, and my romantic idyll was smashed even further several times when, whilst marching through remote paddy fields, a little Chinese peasant would pass by chatting away merrily on their mobile. Ah yes, the global village, isn’t it marvellous.
We started off in Beijing. I have always maintained that you can tell a lot about a city by the driving of its taxi drivers. If the one that took me from the airport is anything to go by, this place is crazy. It’s also really polluted, so asthma suffers make sure you pack an extra inhaler. Before setting off on the trek proper we had a chance to do some touristy things like Tianemmen Square, where we chanced upon teams of people in blue overalls peeling chewing gum off the pavestones. Sadly, Chairman Mao’s tomb was not open. I was gutted as I love seeing dead world leaders with lots of make up on. The Forbidden City was amazing but very rainy and cold, so when I saw a Starbucks hidden behind a Chinesey façade I suppressed my rage at American Imperialism exporting its filthy drug habits to the East and popped in for a Grande Soy Misto.
Then we were packed on a bus and drove for three hours into the mountains to the Beijing Convalescent and Holiday Centre for Cadre (!) where we spent the night being prepared for the assault to come on our senses and sensitivities.
And the next morning it was on to the Wall! The Wall! Or Chung Chung, as it’s called here. It is actually a bit of an eye opener to realise that the literal translation of what we know as The Great Wall is actually the Long City!! Go figure. But it is both great and long, and we were all blown away by the sight of it wiggling off through the mountains into the horizon.
We were actually on the Wall before we realised it. In parts it is so run down and crumbly that you only realise you’re on it when you go off and look back. In other parts it has been maintained and is very grand. It is, it has to be said, hilly. The five day trek was like a marathon session on the stairmaster. So yes, I have buns of steel.
Walking for six or seven hours a day allows you to get to know people pretty well. And my fellow trekkers were quite an eclectic bunch from all across the country. Some had lost family or loved ones to AIDS, some were HIV+ themselves, and some, like me, just wanted to raise some money and do something. There were grannies, socialites and students. We were all exhausted by the end of each day, and when we arrived at our camp each night we were delighted to see our tents set up for us and the kitchen tent bustling with preparations for our dinner. Also delightful was the fact we could buy beer and wine and much fun was had around the camp fire a few beers later. And boy, did we need a camp fire, because as soon as the sun went down it got really, really cold. One night a van pulled up and a man from the army base we had passed on our way down from the Wall got out and started to sell us Red Army quilted coats. They were a bit smelly but I got one, and, remember where you heard it first, everyone will be wearing them next year.
The best part of the trip was when our camp for the night was the playground of a rural elementary school, where the kids swarmed around us all evening, and we watched them swear their allegiance to the modernisation of the motherland at the following morning’s assembly. I taped their laughter on my Dictaphone as the perfect antidote to future blues. Seeing them and remembering the statistics about the spread of the disease in rural areas made the cold mornings, the no showering for four days and the fellow trekkers’ snoring all pale into insignificance. These kids were why we were there.
AmfAR are already planning next year’s trek to somewhere equally remote and fabulous. For more details on the trip of a lifetime and the chance to really make a difference, go to amfar.org.
Sweet Land is the story of a young German woman who is sent from Scandinavia to Minnesota in 1920 as a mail order bride. The film flashes forward to the present to throw light on the love story from the past.
It was directed by my friend Ali Selim and also stars Tim Guinee, Elizabeth Reiser, Alex Kingston, Ned Beatty and Lois Smith. I love this film. I love its pace and its heart. I love that it is undefinable. It is a simple tale about love and home, something everyone can relate to, but it is also a sweeping big story about a side of America we rarely see, especially in a low-budget independent film.
I also get to play a Minnesotan farmer with nine children. That was a first!
The film was shot in Minnesota in 2004 and premiered at the Hamptons Film Festival in October 2005, going on to be screened at many film festivals across America and Europe, before being released in the US in 2006. I was one of the producers of the film, and we won a 2007 Independent Spirit Award for Best first feature. The film was included in Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen.
Neverwas was a really great script written and directed by Josh Stern. It's the story of Zach (played by Aaron Eckhart), a young doctor who gets a job at the mental hospital where his father was once a patient. There he meets Gabriel, played by Ian McKellen, a patient at the hospital who has a mysterious knowledge of Josh and his past. The film also stars Jessica Lange, Brittany Murphy, Nick Nolte, William Hurt and Vera Farmiga.
I played a small role, one of the patients in the mental hospital. Here I am impersonating a 70s porn star at theNeverwas world premiere at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival
Bad Blood is a short film directed by my friend from Vancouver, Kyle Leydier, and he adapted it from a chapter of the novel Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh.
The film premiered at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. We shot it in Vancouver in 2004, around the time I was there to shoot Neverwas, and it also features myEighteen co-star Paul Anthony.
Bad Blood is a really dark look at revenge and pain and disease. I like it.
I went to the Democratic National Convention in Boston as a delegate for The Creative Coalition. It was a really fascinating thing for me, especially being Scottish and not totally au fait with the way American politics operate. We went to the convention center each night and heard the speeches, and the days were filled with talks and meetings with various organizations and politicians.
I had to take part in a really scary event: Art$, Education and the 21st Century Economy--a panel discussion in which I sat between Arianna Huffington and Bill O'Reilly. As you can imagine, Bill O'Reilly did what he was there to do and trotted out some really contentious statements. Most people were used to him, but I had never really watched (or wanted to) his show so I was utterly horrified and at one point, when he suggested that someone on the panel wanted to teach terrorists how to sing (or something equally ridiculous), I told him he was insane.
I still think he is.
The highlight of this week was, of course, hearing Barack Obama speak for the first time. He lit up the room.
After shooting Reefer Madness, I stayed on in Canada to shoot a small role in Eighteen, a film written and directed by Richard Bell, who I'd first met when I was shooting Josie and the Pussycats in Vancouver in 2000.
Eighteen is Richard's first feature-length movie, and is about a young boy of 18, Pip (played by the wonderful Paul Anthony), who is given for his birthday a tape from his dead grandfather telling him what his grandfather went through in when he was 18. The film flashes between the present and the trenches of World War Two.
I play Father Chris, a priest who befriends Pip.
In October of 2004 I was asked to take part in an art installation by Vancouver artist Fiona Bowie. Slip/Host features a pair of continuous 360 degree panoramic settings. These settings incorporate time-synched video to produce an enveloping dramatic narrative. These parallel installations are set as parallel universes... one cartoon-like, the other an industrial park. I play a different character in each realm: the Gargantuan Head and the Sedentary Manufacturer.
I finally saw the piece in 2007 when it had its premiere at a gallery in Vancouver and I was back there shooting Tin Man. I loved it.
Reefer Madness is a movie musical based on a musical based on the 1936 propaganda film!
I had seen the original movie a long time ago and didn't remember too much about it (I wonder why?!), but I did remember it being hilarious. I also remember thinking how alarming it was that people would go to such lengths to demonize and misrepresent something (in this case pot). This is what Dan Studney and Kevin Murphy highlighted so cleverly in their musical - the way we are ruled by fear, and how it is in our governments' interests to keep us in this state.
The film is an absolute hoot and we had a blast making it. It was great to be able to sing again, and also act with such an amazing group of performers: Christian Campbell, Kristen Bell, Ana Gasteyer, Steven Weber, Amy Spanger, Neve Campbell, Bob Torti and John Kassir, and a hilarious director, Andy Fickman.
I play the lecturer who come to the town to warn the parents of the evils of marijuana, but then in the film within a film parts I take on lots of different disguises including President Franklin Roosevelt and Goat Man!!
Reefer Madness premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on 27th January 2005 - my 40th birthday! I know it sounds like a great thing to have a film premiere on your birthday, but actually having an entire audience sing me happy birthday and then having the after-party come to a halt whilst a massive marijuana leaf-shaped cake was wheeled towards me followed by a phalanx of photographers was really very embarrassing!
The film was then shown on Showtime, who incidentally supported it from its early incarnation onstage in LA and were really amazing to work with, especially considering they were funding a political satire about a propaganda film about drugs!
I was asked to host Out on the Edge, a special for Comedy Central that was an attempt to showcase a more edgy, queer brand of comedian and performer, and I was really excited to do a bit of stand up comedy again.
Craig Chester worked with me on my material, and I blame him for encouraging me to talk about my foreskin on national television at such length (as it were) again.
For the last of my talk shows for Oxygen, Eavesdropping with Alan Cumming, I took Julianne Moore to Dumbo in Brooklyn to make chocolate at Jacques Torres' chocolate store.
Graham Norton and the lovely Vicki Gaberau.
I contributed an essay to the publication, If You Had Five Minutes with the President, an original non-partisan collection of 55+ essays by personalities who are members or supporters of The Creative Coalition. The book also features a foreword by Ron Reagan.
Considering the President in question is Bush 2, my essay is not very complimentary. Still it was fun to write. Here it is...
Mr. President: You must forgive me for my audacity in writing this. I am not one of your citizens, although I do reside in your country. But worry not. I am not one of those illegal immigrants who are so vilified at election times in your border states to scare the electorate into voting against any wishy-washy liberals who might actually allow these people in and give them rights or benefits, instead of the much more sensible alternative of letting them work illegally at raising the children and keeping the homes of America, or any of the other low-paid jobs that no sensible American would want to do.
No, be not alarmed. I am a legal resident. I am just an alien. And not one of the new breed of aliens we have all sadly had to become more wary of since the horrible events of 2001. Relax, I am not dark-skinned, though I am European. And I only wear a towel in public at the gym, and if I did have a God (I don’t mean to alarm you but I don’t think she exists) it wouldn’t be a nasty, war-mongering one like Allah or one of those other ones that demand constant kneeling and regular slashing of oneself with chains and the like.
No, no, no. I am an alien of extraordinary ability, which in spite of its rather ominous overtones of espionage and such like really means that I am an actor who was asked to work in your country and liked it and stayed.
Since I have lived here there have been two presidents, and so my understanding of your job, be it naïve and simplistic, is entirely gleaned from their examples.
So here, Mr. President, are a few tips:
You’ll have had, no doubt, a family member remove thousands of people from the electoral register to enable your ascension to power, but please don’t forget to be publicly outraged when other countries do exactly the same thing. And oh yes, don’t ever comment on the matter even when your own people admit that the margin of error involved in this “cleansing” translates into many thousands more votes than your opponent lost by.
Forgive me if I am preaching to the choir here, but remember to start a war without sufficient evidence of any just cause to do so, apart from the fact that you just don’t seem to like dark-skinned people (call them “evil folks” when you don’t want to get bogged down with specifics, by the way), and tell your public that you have top secret evidence that certain countries with really large fuel supplies are about to launch nuclear bombs, but be careful to turn a blind eye to countries like India and Pakistan when they threaten to do so because of course they don’t have much fuel to take. Actually, come to think of it, don’t mention nuclear bombs, they’re too hard to pronounce. You don’t want to look stupid.
What else? Oh yes, make inappropriate jokes whenever you can; encourage your countrymen to believe certain evil folks are in utter cahoots when in fact they don’t like each other at all; claim any minor and normal upward fluctuation in the world’s economy as proof that all your policies, not just the economic ones, are working great.
I think you’ll find it’s best to have had a drug problem of some kind in the past, or at least to admit to having had drugs but not having consumed them in the way of most mortal men. Have offspring who are either so ridiculously successful that they can inspire jealous rage, or else drunk yahoos who give stupid Americans a bad name.
If you aren’t really charismatic and sexy, with a series of messy public extramarital affairs behind you and willingly lie under oath that a love affair with a young, impressionable woman never happened, then go the other way altogether and cultivate a look that is more prairie dog than horn dog, talk a lot about Texas and if possible—but this might be milking the Jock sympathy vote a little too far—try asphyxiating on a bar snack whilst watching sports alone.
Make sure you either court the gay vote by allying yourself with lots of queer causes and maybe even putting out a rumor that your wife is a lipstick lesbian OR completely alienate them and hopefully ensnare another group of minority voters (they being fascists) by denying gays the same basic rights and benefits as all your other citizens.
Finally, Mr. President— - and by the way, thank you, I know you don’t have to listen to anyone, least of all someone like me, for this length of time— never, ever admit you are wrong.
It’s always their fault.
Don’t ask why, ask how.
Oh, and have the same name as a previous president—even if it’s your dad.
I wrote the the foreword to Andy Warhol Men, a book which contains hundreds of rarely seen illustrations, paintings, drawings, silk screens and photographs of men, and their various body parts, by Andy Warhol. The book was published in late 2004. If you'd like to purchase a copy, visit Chronicle Books here.
Here's what I wrote...
Andy Warhol Men Introduction by Alan Cumming.
I have always maintained that the mark of a great artist is their ability to draw a good bum - a bum that stirs our loins, be we man or woman, attracted or repelled by the idea of a real, naked, honest to goodness bum in such close proximity to us.
But a great, great artist, I have realized, is one who can evoke such a bum and cause such stirring in a line drawing only. No rococo shading and texture, or Botticelliesque nonsense, just a simple collection of lines on paper that magically produce a sense memory of something so visceral it can actually arouse.
Aubrey Beardsley could do it. Picasso could do it. Cocteau could do it. And Andy Warhol can do it.
Leafing through the pages of this book was a revelation for me. I knew Andy was a genius of that curious and now much-copied fusion of art, pop culture, celebrity and kitsch, but – and I am feeling like my mother even writing this – I hadn’t ever realized he was so good at drawing.
I have already cited my criteria for greatness in this area, so let me just say that Andy Warhol is truly great: he can do brilliant bums.
Whether it is his longing for them, or indeed the sheer volume that passed so close to his dark-glassed eyes that makes his reproduction of them so evocative I know not. All I know is they float my boat.
But this book is not just a celebration of the anus. It takes a more holistic view of man seen through the Warhol prism.
His male nude photographs are at once intimate and raw, the subjects’ faces rarely seen. Of course, that makes it easier for the focus to stay with what Andy wants us to concentrate on: the member, the pudendum, the cock.
(I feel it is my duty to warn you there are a lot of cocks in this book, and whether you are a fan of them or not, you must agree Andy shot some quite nice ones.)
But just as he became famous for pointing out the beauty and weirdness of material objects we had previously thought mundane, here we have a collection where Andy can fascinate and mesmerize us with not just the beauty and weirdness of that absurd muscle we boys all have in our underwear, but the faces the owners of those muscles choose to project to the world.
The series of pictures of drag queens is so endearing - partly because it differs from the slightly detached, objectifying feel of most of Warhol’s photography - and we share the joy these boys feel at having someone simply take an interest in them.
Desire is big in this volume: Andy’s for the men he shoots and draws, the men’s to please him.
But an even bigger emotion is joy, Andy’s that is. He obviously loved men. And like his pictures of soup cans and brillo pads he forces us to reconsider that men, and all their essences, are pretty extraordinary.
This is a fascinating collection from a man who understood the value of capturing the everyday for tomorrow. How lucky we are. Enjoy!
I co-produced and appear in Showbusiness, which premiered at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival and was released in 2007 by Regency Pictures.
Showbusiness is directed by my friend Dori Berinstein who I previously worked with when she served on the board of The Art Party, and also when she directed me in Eavesdropping with Alan Cumming for the Oxygen network. The film follows a year in the life of Broadway, focusing on the personalities involved in four shows - Caroline or Change, Avenue Q, Wicked and Taboo.
Find out more at showbusiness-themovie.com
Son of the Mask is a follow-up to The Mask (1994). I shot this movie in Sydney, Australia from November 2003 until March 2004. I played Loki, the God of Mischief (natch), who is on a quest to get his precious mask back from the hapless Tim (Jamie Kennedy) and Tonya (Traylor Howard). He does this by taking on lots of disguises. There's also an uber-cute baby and a dog! What's not to like? Son of the Mask is directed by Larry Gutterman and was released by New Line Pictures.
This was a really long film and full of effects, but even though it was sometimes incredibly technical I sort of went into a zen place and didn't really engage with it all and just tried to remain in character and pretend it was a normal film! Of course getting to swish around in a leather coat makes me happy any of the day of the week, and this was also the first of two films I did back to back (the other being Reefer Madness) in which my character goes into loads of disguises, so it was always fun to look forward to my next crazy creation. And filming in Sydney was really amazing - a beautiful city and a funny, down to earth crew.