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April 1998

The Minefield of Aggressive Language (Part 3)

Subject: Re: What's considered RACIST in the Zine World
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 16:21:09 -0400
From: Daniel Rhatigan <Sparky@inch.com>
Newsgroups: alt.zines

D. Halligan wrote:

> one also needs to keep in mind that this is a newsgroup revolving around writing, self-publishing, and free speech. I think if it's important to you to point out words and ideas that offend you, then by all means do. [snip] But realize the free speech that protects your right to voice your opinion is the same free speech that allows someone to say something that may be offensive to you.

Really beautifully stated. And probably a good concept for participants in the newsgroup to keep in mind. I would even go so far as to say that if we're committed to being writers and self-publishers, it's our responsibility to exercise that free speech to its fullest — we're less bound by the forces that might keep it at bay. Sure, it would be fantastic if everyone in the newsgroup ? and in the world at large — were considerate, rational, and committed to an open dialogue of ideas. Truth is, that’s not necessarily the case, and I’d rather argure someone down to the mat or make a personal choice to ignore them rather than let their unpopular ideas fester behind censorship until they explode without warning.

The Minefield of Aggressive Language (Part 2)

Subject: Re: AN OPEN LETTER
Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 15:35:00 -0400
From: Daniel Rhatigan <Sparky@inch.com>
Newsgroups: alt.zines

Dolya wrote:

> How can you complain about someone using a word if you use that word yourself?

Easily. The complaint is about use of the use (or misuse) or words, the intent of words, the implications of words. Personally, I don't think words themselves should be damned, but I can object to the ways they're wielded. Like I don't object to baseball bats unless they're being used to smack someone in the head.

We're zine publishers, right? Presumably that also means we're writers — words are our tools and part of the substance of our work. Even if my subjective point of view — I don't like feeling maligned by strangers — is irrelevant, my objective point of view is still valid. Words have meanings, often multiple meanings, and usually defined by the intent of the writer or speaker. If you are going to communicate with words, use them well. Know what you are trying to say. If you don't want to offend, see that you don't. If you want to offend? Whatever — go for the jugular, but know that you are doing it. And be ready to take the inevitable criticism. that’s all.

The Minefield of Aggressive Language (Part 1)

Subject: Re: AN OPEN LETTER
Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 09:44:32 -0400
From: Daniel Rhatigan <Sparky@inch.com>
Newsgroups: alt.zines

Shantia wrote:

> and faggy is not an insult.

Uh-oh, we're digging deeper into that thorny "use of language" issue again.

I find it pretty hard not to find "faggy" an insult here. ("...quoting faggy bands like the Flaming Lips.") The defamatory sense of the word is pretty clear. And the defamatory point of the word is to malign someone or something by implying it has the quality of what is perceived as standard gay characteristics.

that’s not an insult? If the point is to say that the Flaming Lips are admitted homosexuals and no one cares about it anyway, it's still a callous way to put it, considering that all the taunting that’s made use "fag" and its derivatives over the years. If the point really is to say that the Flaming Lips aren't that good, then the insult to us fags seems pretty clear. The intent behind the word always means something. And that’s why people need to be responsible for their use of language.

And I don't mean "responsible" to be steering clear of offensive or impolite words. "Responsible" means use your language carefully, and say what you really mean. Or people might think you mean what you are only saying. Swear like a sailor! Push people's buttons! But make sure you know what you're doing, and do it for a reason.

There are a couple of zines out there like "Teen Fag" and "Single Faggot" that are using the words with great care. They're trying to push some buttons, and throw the word back at the public that might otherwise use it as an insult. that’s pushing some artistic boundaries. Just tossing the word "fag" around liberally by somebody who's not thinking about the implications isn't breaking any new ground, it's just crossing over the same tired ground.

Same deal with this ongoing debate about rascism. Careless use of the word "nigger" isn't automatically pushing artistic boundaries just because someone has the right to use it. Sure someone has the right use it, but also the responsibility to face criticism for it. I don't think the post that started all this hoopla used it any way that was going to make people question their own position on rascism. Not do I think it was meant to spark a healthy debate on the subject. It was just thoughtless. And hence insulting to anyone who ever got called a nigger and had a reason to get pissed off about it.

Just like "faggy" is an insult to anyone who ever got called a fag and knew that it wasn't meant as a compliment.

So even if I am a man-lovin', limp-wristed, lisping, cocksucking, buttfucking, gerbil-chasing, popper-snorting, disco-dancing, pink-wearing nancyboy, but — and I quote Joe Jackson — "don't call me a faggot, not unless you are a friend."

Dan

Plan Nine from Chelsea

Gay Black

To the best of my knowledge, this book was not really written by Ed Wood the filmmaker, nor is the gentleman featured on the cover a gay black. My guess is that "Ed Wood" was chosen at the time as a nom-de-plume by the author back in the days when Ed Wood was still something of a cultural obscurity. But I could be wrong. I do know for a fact, though, that the photograph on the cover is not supposed to represent Charlene, the hero/heroine of the book who escapes a tortured youth as a sharecropper to go an become a cross-dressing bitch for a series of con men and thieves.

This little example of vintage "erotica" turned up in a yard sale in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, one day. I really got a kick out of seeing how dirty stories were written back in the good ol' days of the year I was born. I almost feel a pang of regret that contemporary smut has lost that sense of the hero being really deviant and indiscrete: it seems a lot more thrilling than than the explicit, happy rainbow crap that gets churned out these days.

Macho Men

We all remember the Village People and their unique portrayal of a number of standard sterotypes and fantasy characters from the swinging gay New York City of the 70's. My question is: Why should we let them remain the end-all and be-all of kooky stock character types? Why, when there are so many other pigeonholes waiting to be filled and acknowledged!

Here is your chance to "show your Underalls" by identifying your six Personalized Village People for these swinging fin-de-siecle times. What sorts of guys do you usually go all ga-ga over? What does it take to tickle even the mildest and most innocuous fetish you have, or at the very least, what do seem to fall for over and over again, good judgement be damned?

For example, my Personal Village People would have to include:

Every Life Should Have a Soundtrack

that’s the reason I can usually be found walking around with a Walkman on. I am so consumed by my love of music that I want it to surround me as often as possible. When I walk around, listening to music keeps my imagination engaged, and prevents me from becoming a walking vegetable as I commute.

I find it difficult to restrict my listening habits to just one or two genres. Every nuance of my moods can have a different sort of music that suits it best. If you just look at the list on the right, you'll see that the evidence speaks for itself.

Unfortunately, as I’ve become an overworked old fart, my concert attendance has dropped off considerably. For one thing, I’ve lost my patience for seeing bands in any kind of stadium or other large venue. They lack any kind of intimacy that allows me to feel really involved in the show. At the same time, I have fallen into a vicious cycle where I stopped seeing shows as often because I wasn't too thrilled with the indie music scene in Boston my last couple of years there, and now I’ve gotten so out of touch with local music both there and here in New York, that I never know what will be a good show to see, so I don't go.

To top it off, New York seems to have an inexplicably crappy radio market, so I don't hear much that way. Thes days I depend on recommendations from friends and what exposure I get through TV and my frequent forays to sample the listening booths at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square. (Sending me into Virgin is like waving an open bottle of gin in front of an alcoholic — so dangerous.)

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