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itunes showcases digital gay pride parade

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Apple’s iTunes is getting its gay on right now with a virtual pride parade in honor of Gay Pride Month.

A rainbow-flag banner is featured prominently on the front page of iTunes on both the U.S. and Canada versions of the service. Users who click on the banner are served up a curated collection of GLBT-related music, audio books, video, podcasts and iPhone/iTouch apps.
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Given the subjective nature of compilations and the space limitations that iTunes assigns to its collections, the music, books and video offerings are quite random. Lacking any theme other than “this stuff is gay,” there is an air of cliché that hovers over the picks. Even so, if Gay Pride is about the GLBT community being visible, Apple’s efforts, as general as they might be, are welcome.

There are several gems in the music collection. If your iPod is absent some classic albums, adding the ‘Best of Freddie Mercury’, Sylvester’s ‘Original Hits’ and the Village People’s ‘Macho Man’ are three must-haves for anyone wanting to pay proper homage to the heady days of the post-Stonewall 70s.

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More modern audiences can nab some of the gay-latest like DJ ‘Bob Mould’s Life and Times’, ‘Yes’ by the Pet Shop Boys, and Michelle Shocked’s gorgeous new release, ‘Soul of My Soul.’ If you are looking to discover some truly queer — and more obscure — selections, try ‘The Essential Pansy Division’ (explicit, with a sense of humor), music maverick Arthur Russell’s ‘Love Is Overtaking Me,’ or ‘Rising Free, the Very Best of the Tom Robinson Band,’ whose cutting-edge work remains under appreciated.

The Pride movie downloads are a random hodgepodge of older and newer releases, too, but they are good films for the most part. Download ‘Milk’ if you’re one of the few thinking-people who hasn’t seen it (get the brilliant documentary ‘The Life and Times of Harvey Milk’ while you are at it). There are some fun women’s films offered, The ‘Itty Bitty Titty Committee,’ ‘Desert Hearts’ and ‘Liana,’ plus a couple of interesting film histories including ‘The Celluloid Closet’ and ‘The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender.’ There are another 20 videos in the television category; no surprises of note.

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A scant selection of 21 audio books seems somewhat lazy given that scads of GLBT-authored books exist on iTunes, but what does appear here is a rather smart group. David Sedaris, Ellen DeGeneres and Dan Savage are obvious picks. Impressively, some stunning works of fiction are in there such as ‘A Home at the End of the World’ by Michael Cunningham, ‘Someday this Pain Will Be Useful to You’ by Peter Cameron, and ‘Three Junes’ by Julia Glass.

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Unfortunately, both the podcast and apps categories are hardly worth exploring, but it isn’t Apple’s fault. There are simply very few GLBT podcasts or apps that are any good. Gay podcasts tend to be inane and exceedingly uninteresting for some reason (why?), including most of the ones listed in this collection which were reviewed for this article. One enlightening exception to the rule is ‘Here! With Josh and Sara,’ a smart weekly show that spotlights people of note in the GLBT community. Subscribe to it, you won’t be sorry.

As far as iPhone/iTouch apps, there simply aren’t any queer apps out there that are worth downloading, free or paid. The localized guides lack depth and are basically useless. All the gay news apps are too narrowly focused and suffer from poor functionality. The only one in the Pride collection that is viable is Gay Dance Radio. iTunes shouldn’t have even included apps as an offering, unless they are trying to shame the gay community into developing some that people could actually make use of?

All said, while Gay Pride on iTunes isn’t perfect, Pride month in fact *is* about gaining visibility for the lives of GLBT people, so a rainbow flag waving to hundreds of thousands of users who hit the front page of iTunes every month is a veritable and welcome feather in the GLBT community’s hat.

Yes, Apple is a huge corporation and choices made about what products to promote are driven by business decisions, but the company has also proven itself to be strong supporters of GLBT rights.

In addition to a long history of progressive employment policies, Apple took a stand last October for gay marriage with a donation of $100,000 to fight Proposition 8, the ballot measure which sought to overturn same-sex marriage in California. (Sadly, voters passed the proposition on November 4, effectively banning gay marriage in the state.)

If iTunes’ Gay Pride collection was a Pride float, it wouldn’t win any prizes for originality, but it’s lovely nonetheless to see Apple in the parade.

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