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April 2000

Cautious Optimism

I was very pleased with the date. Very pleased. This may be a good spring after all.

The Filthiest of Heroes

I was raised on filth. More specifically, I have been an ardent fan of the John Waters aesthetic ever since I was an impressionable young high-school sophomore. I was hooked even before I finally got to see my first films of his, a double feature of Pink Flamingos and Polyester my senior year of high school. By that time I had read plenty of stuff by and about John, and I was truly devoted to him and his canonization of trash culture. Finally seeing all the movies only intensified things by a few levels.

My appreciation for John and his Dreamland players has never wavered, but finally going to see Divine Trash, steve Yeager's documentary on John and his early career brought all that giddy enthusiasm right back. In particular, this was the first time I had ever gotten to see Waters regulars like Edith Massey, David Lochary, and Mary Vivian Pierce speak out of character. If you love John — and I know you do — try to find and watch this film. You'll be grateful just for the chance to watch the woman from the Maryland Film Censor Board go apoplectic as she recalls Divine's infamous "rosary job" scene from Mondo Trasho.

The photo above was taken by Stephanie Hernstadt for The Finger. M. J. Loheed, Matt Patterson, Eddie schmidt © 1998.

OK, New Topic.

Spring is in the air. At least that’s one possible explanation for the rampant cruising I’ve been noticing on the streets of New York lately. Another possible explanation (and the more likely, I suspect) is that it was a really good idea for me to finally ditch the glasses look. Who can say? Maybe the boys checked me out before and I just never noticed because I had no peripheral vision, and was constantly wiping greasy dirt of my glasses. Maybe they just made me look dorkier than was optimal. Either way, I have had a real streak of self-esteem-building incidents lately, ones involving really cute guys giving me long, intentional, very frisky looks on the subways and the streets.

Not that this means I have the necessary social skills to take advantage of this new development. I’m getting better, though. Maybe I'll work my way up to the next hurdle soon: meeting a guy who not only wants to get busy, but also wants to stick around for movies and adventures afterward. And is engaging enough to that I would encourage him to do so.

I’m not holding my breath. It's easy enough to meet sexy guys and have sex with them, and easy enough to meet cool guys who are a lot of fun to hang out with, but the two factors come together a lot more rarely than I would think possible.

One More Topic

Right now I’m sitting in Cinema Classics, one of my favorite hangouts, waiting for a date, believe it or not. Unfortunately, the mix of the crowd right now has achieved a certain level of comically cliche urban hipness. There's scruffy writer guy next to me, who's madly scrawling away in his spiral notebook and reading rumpled activist flyers. There's the group of crusty-punk bike messengers in the back ranting about human rights, the World Trade Organization, and (you knew it had to be coming) the many, many uses of hemp. There are three groups of Germans. Worst of all is the intellectually pretentious older guy on the couch, trying to impress his blind date with all sorts of masturbatory bragging about how he only goes to see movies at revival houses. When he's not engaging thin, winsome strangers at coffee shops in discussions on the problems of the modern educational system. Of course, I’m not much better than any of them: I’m the guy tap-tap-tapping away on his laptop, working on one of his many fruitless personal projects. (Namely, my two web sites.)

Center of the World

Cutey-pie Tom Coates thinks the Internet is all about him today, but Patric King and I are discovering that Jonno is the real center of the Internet. All roads seem to lead back to him lately. What about you? Have you had any extraordinary small World Factor incidents with Jonno, Tom, or someone else? Don't be shy, tell me about it.

Movies for Gay Boys

That Gregg Araki, he sure does make a sexy movie. Not to mention pretty goofy and fun. His pop culture allegiances also strike right to the heart of the teenage New Waver that would later become Sparky. Unfortunately, most of his stuff isn't out (ba dump bump!) on DVD yet, so it looks like it'll be a while more before I finally get to see Nowhere or Totally Fucked Up (no asterisks for this cat).

Also, check out the ultimately happy story of Rusty. It's cute.

All Kinds

It takes all kinds, as the saying goes. Thank goodness for the Skirt Man this also has to apply to him. Be sure to check out the pictures of him with all those Hooters gals.

On a totally unrelated note, has anyone ever seen any other pictures of the Barbelith guy? That one blurry little picture on his site suggests to me that he's quite the cutie-pie, and I want to know for sure. If he is, then that — along with the charm and talent displayed on his site — may be grounds for another one of my innocently aggressive flirting campaigns. They're so much less risky with people overseas who I'll never meet, after all.

Retribution

Holy cow! New York State lets you take a tax deduction for Nazi persecution. that’s wild. I wonder if getting harassed by my skinhead ex-boyfriend counts?

First Things First

A few months ago, when I was knee-deep in my "should I or shouldn't I" grad school crisis, Adbusters and a few other magazines simultaneously published a reprint of First Things First, a manifesto first written by Ken Garland in 1964. First Things First was a call to designers to take responsibility for the role they played in society, and not just idly contribute to the propagation of reckless consumption. It asked designers to make a distinction between design as communication and design as persuasion, and side in favor of using their skills to improve our culture rather than drown it in a deeper sea of crap.

This made a big impact on me, since it was a clear, passionate articulation of problems I’d wrestled with for years as a designer. This was the reason I’d quit or turned down more than one job rather than produce second-rate crap just because it might sell. This was the reason that one of my professors at Pratt consistently made me furious in class for wasting our energy on a project geared toward producing modular, "sell-as-much-as-possible" crap. This was the reason that I’ve never considered working in advertising. This was also the reason I loved working for public television and teaching. I really believe in design's ability to facilitate learning and understanding, in ways that are explicit as well as implicit. I love typography and design and photography and stuff, and I want to use them for good, not evil.

Naturally, this high-falutin' approach regularly comes into conflict with my desire to earn a living. I once had to design a kids' book that was little more than a perverse attempt to move product by cashing in on public-domain ideas. I still cringe when I think about the time I gave telephone software support to what is apparently a cult. It's an ongoing battle, and one where I’m not always happy with the outcome, but I think it's worth the effort to try and stick by the ethical approach.

Wired published a great article that hit me in the same way, even though it wasn't about my field of expertise. Why The Future Doesn't Need Us was an examination of where the future of robotics, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering might be taking us, and whether or not they posed more of a threat than an ultimate benefit. This wasn't a reactionary warning from a Luddite; it was written by Bill Joy from Sun, and looked at both sides of the coin. But it made the same call to scientists and engineers that First Things First made to designers: Take responsibility for the things to which you contribute. He points out that Robert Oppenheimer and the scientists of the Manhattan Project learned this lesson later than they wished they had, and that some of today's technologies pose even greater threats than the Bomb posed.

It wouldn't be such a bad idea for everyone to ponder the ethics of their careers, now would it? Maybe that tickle in the back of your brain, that aspect of your job that you try not to think about, is something you should think about. Maybe it's not such a grey area after all. Maybe it's touch of conscience.

Rise Robots Rise

Humans! Hear me! I am S.P.A.R.K.Y. (Synthetic Positronic Android Responsible for Killing and Yardwork), the Digital Artificial Neo-human. What are you?

My favorite web site of the day, Oh Messy Life, directed me to that little bit of fun. Andy is my new robotic master.

Viewing the Internet in Transit

This is just the sort of thing that panders to my basest instincts. And hopefully yours. Voyeur serves up 12 randomly selected web searches people are trying to make, and gives you the chance to click and see the results. Frankly, I don't care about the results: the fun is reading what questions people are asking. so think twice the next time you hunt for +amputee +goat +fellatio, 'cuz someone might be noticing.

Visit with the Brits

Yesterday I was strolling through Williamsburg in just jeans and a t-shirt. Today it's snowing. Jeez, this is a maddening time of year. Luckily, the weather calmed down eventually, allowing me to spend a very pleasant afternoon with Paul and his boyfriend, Tony, who does a devastating impression of Edith Massey (even funnier in contrast to his natural northern English accent).

I felt more than a few lonely pangs of envy as I sat across from the two of them at Cinema Classics, watching a number of little glances and gestures they exchanged. They're the same sort of pangs I get every time I’m with couples who've been together a long time and have an easy, affectionate rapport. It's been a while since I’ve experienced anything close to that, and the onset of spring fever doesn't do much to keep my mind off this problem. Aaaaah, some day things will work out for me, I suppose.

Hipster Credentials

I had a perfectly lovely day walking around with Paul "Dreamboat" Baker (my nickname for him, not his). After presenting him with a three-volume set of knitting hints from the 70s, I escorted him down to Las Venus, and then over the Williamsburg Bridge to experience the Bedford Avenue runway experience. We had a ball, and Paul occasionally got dizzy from all the kitschy delights we checked out. I love being able to experience the city through a visitor's perspective. It gives me a chance to gush about how much I love New York in a way that’s just not acceptable in the company of jaded city-dwellers.

Not that I’m not jaded myself. I’ve had another rash of minor celebrity sightings recently — Michael Musto on a bicycle, Rex Reed on the subway, Pauley shore on 42nd street — that left me completely (and understandably) unfazed. [snicker!]

Honestly, though, I felt like sort of a caricature of the Brooklyn hipster the other day when I found myself on the L train speeding out to my Williamsburg loft, setting aside my borrowed copy of Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of staggering Genius to dig my Palm Pilot out of my Manhattan Portage courier bag (sans label). Lord help me, I’ve got to find myself a farmhouse with a patch of land and a big, fat T1 line before it's too late.

And Paul, I look forward to a long, delightful, chuckle-filled friendship. It's a good thing you're already spoken for, or I’d be all over you like a cheap suit.

Don't it suck that all the good ones are taken?

Updates

For the sake of convenience, I’m back to using Blogger so I can throw interesting crap up here as I feel like it. The more self-indulgent revelations about my life are now permanently housed over at UltraSparky, my more self-indulgent, revelatory site.

Very few fun tidbits to pass on today, since I’m concumed with work and paying my taxes. TurboTax is rocking my world, however, and making it very easy for me to do my very complex taxes, right over the much-heralded Web. Sparky loves progress.

Very Important Pointless Trivia

It's a new month and I suppose I should throw all my readers a bone and tell exciting stories or something. screw that. I got a bad cold again, which seems to have left me with the official onset of my seasonal allergies. The oxygen deprivation has left me a little woozy, so I’ve been trying to lay low.

That, and my total and utter lack of cash. I am not one of those people who can be expected to budget himself with a once-a-month paycheck. The thing is, I’m not even squandering it on anything fun. The day the funds hit my bank account, they're immediately dispersed to a number of creditors. Boring.

Miki was in town for the weekend, though, and was able to score us free tickets to see Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway. To the limited extent that I’m a show queen, I am not a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber. In fact, I loathe him. And aside from one of two good riffs in the music, I loathe Jesus Christ Superstar. But I can't deny that it was trashy good fun. I laughed an awful lot, and during some very innapropriate moments. Take a very (VERY) 70s show, update the production design for the nineties, and add more leather and cargo pants and a little Nazi imagery, and what do you get? Rent. Or at least a cast filled with people who toured in Rent. (Another theatrical abomination. Don't get me started.)

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