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May 2000

I Wear the Cheese

I wear the cheese. The cheese does not wear me. God, I miss television sometimes.

Very Important Mini-Treatise on Electronic Self-Publishing

More blogging than journal-writing today. Can't tell the difference? Than you've probably just been reading this, my half-assed journal, instead of my half-assed blog over at the Rumpus Room. Journal = self-indulgent ramblings that only Internet voyeurs like you may enjoy. Blog = pithy observations about stuff I read on the Web or movies I watch.

There, that’s my spin on the whole debate.

What's the Rumpus?

"What's the Rumpus?" you may ask. It's all about mutual admiration on the Web, I find. that’s the rumpus. I finally wrote to Proven to tell him that I’ve basically become addicted to his diary, and he responds by telling me that he's been reading me, too. We may not be rock stars, but apparently we drive the van.

You know, even in the 12 years or so since I’ve been in high school, I can see that things have really come a long way. Check out this great story about New Orleans' gay prom. It's so sweet I’m about to pass out from a hypoglycemic fit. All things being equal, I would much rather worry about finding the right skaterboy to take to the prom, rather than finding the right beard or sympathetic female friend. (Props to Don for the link. Go read his saucy site.)

And for the record, I did not go to my high school prom, even though it was being held at the swanky Plaza Hotel. However, I did go to another prom at the end of my freshman year of college at the highly overrated Tavern on the Green. It was there that I began to really appreciate the charms of the beautiful woman (not my date, but that’s another story altogether) who I would date for the next year-and-a-half. Yes, it's true. Actual, true love — with a chick! Life is a journey, as they say.

Now that I’m working from home again, I’ve been playing all these CDs I have that I never liked enough to listen to all that much. (Ouch! Did that sentence throw grammar to the wind, or what? You try diagramming it.) so I slap in this Hooverphonic CD someone sent me and suddenly realize that I own the piece of music from the vapor-colored Volkswagon commercial that everyone seems to be scrambling to identify. I guess I was cool enough to dismiss it months ago. By the way, does anyone else think that every under-30 dot-com millionaire is scrambling to be one of the 2000 lucky owners of those things? I bet we see a hundred of them up on eBay before too long, at double the price.

Mosh Pit Hazards

Dave makes a good point about mosh pits:

The fear of having your glasses knocked off and smashed in a pit is easily replaced by the fear of having someone elbow you in the eye and scrape your lens across your cornea. There's no way to win.

Too true, my friend.

Knock Wood

By the way, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that I’m seeing skyrockets right this week. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but my fear of the jinx prevents me from saying more. At least I’m not so envious of Tom right now, except for his still being more popular than me.

Hot Punk Rock Action

I forgot how sexy mosh pits are, what with all the jumping and the sweating and the smashing into testosterone-charged punk boys. I know this may be bad news to Mark and Brad and a handful of others, but being able to safely stand on the edge of a pit while watching a show is just another reason to be glad I ditched my glasses. Of course, I’m still too much of a pipsqueak to really throw myself into the fray.

Last night I went to CBGB's to see the big Homocorps show. It was hot-punk-boy central, yesirree. It was a rollicking good time, too. Dean Johnson from the Velvet Mafia, who organizes the show, is probably shaking things up at CBGB's more than anyone has in years by booking an assortment of dyke bands, glam bands, drag queens, and all sorts of others for the Homocorps shows. As Cazwell from Morplay put it, "You wouldn't see a faggot and a dyke rapping on stage at CBGB's if it wasn't for this guy." I don't think they see much like the Duelling Bankheads, either. The great thing about putting on a bunch of small acts like them, Cunta Kinte, and my friend Russ is that it really cuts down the annoying lagtime between bands. There were only two or three breaks in the action all night, and lots of raucous fun the rest of the time.

It was great to go see a show again. I’m a big advocate of loud music and jumping around in enthusiastic crowds, at least when it comes to shows in pretty small-scale venues. Despite my profound love of music, I haven't gone to see too many shows since coming back to New York. I’ve been slowly getting back into the swing of things, as much as my tenuous financial situation will allow, but there's so many venues to keep an eye on here. It can be a real pain in the butt to continually scan for bands I like, or ones I want to check out.

Self-Employment Limbo

The drawback to working at home is that it feels like I’m developing narcolepsy or something. OK, maybe it has something to do with the complete lack of structure to my day, and my recent tendency to stay out all night one day and then try to catch up on sleep the next. Whatever the reason, my circadian rhythms are shot to hell. I’m sure I'll even out eventually, at about the same time I rediscover the discipline to sit at my desk and be as constructive as I ought to be. I bet the first serious deadline I face will whip me into shape.

Design has been on my mind a lot lately, even though most of my waking hours have been spent on more mundane tasks. But design certainly has been a popular meme among the webloggers set lately (see here and here and here and here and here and here), and it still keeps coming back to the old "form versus function" debate that the Modernists all worked themselves into such a tizzy about.

I maintain that I think flashy websites are like cotton candy. The appeal lasts about five seconds, even if they're incredibly beautiful. Even I can't read 'em, or if there's actually nothing to read beneath all the bells and whistles, then I don't go back. Any web site that’s legible and elegant (and I don't use elegant as a stylistic term) has my undying loyalty. The web is a flexible medium as far as design goes, which is great. Good design isn't window dressing, however, and that goes for any medium.

With this site and Rumpus Room, for instance, the design has grown out of specific issues of content or structure. I try to keep the pages consistent so that it's very clear when someone leaves the pages I’ve worked on. Both sites are text-driven, so I try to make the text as legible as possible, considering the inherent problems of dealing with text on the web. I try to make sure that in a pinch the sites can be read with lynx, a text-based browser. Even the coding is consistent, because I use CSS to format everything. That way, even the guts are developed by design, not just the look.

It's taken a long time to set them up properly, but now that I have, I could redesign both sites in a few hours. But don't hold your breath, because I haven't been convinced that the sites or their context have changed enough to warrant that just yet.

Zine Life

I finally got my ass in gear and dropped a line to Chris Bickel, The King of Epinions, to tell him how much I dig his stuff. He's basically been using the Epinions site as a vehicle for publishing a zine of reviews and random commentary. It's a brilliant way to do it, and he's fun as hell. Thanks to the Epinions Eroyalties thing, it's presumably a profitable zine, too, which makes him a zine superhero.

They Give Us Ikea and Take Our Hipsters

Yes, it's true. My robot master Andy and I have a secret little project in the works. No weblogger will be safe. Or maybe they'll be a little bit safer now.

Okay, I learned the craziest thing yesterday, which you may not find at all interesting unless you live in New York or stockholm. If you don't, just read anyway. You might be amused or horrified.

There's a little restaurant here in Williamsburg that I really love called Diner. It used to be a run-down, abandoned old truck-stop diner underneath the Williamsburg Bridge that a couple of guys fixed up a bit — just a bit — and reopened as a fancy little restaurant with rough charm, good prices, a swanky menu, and the best burgers on Earth. It being Williamsburg, the crowd there is fantastically, otherworldly beautiful. I feel like I should carry headshots with me when I go there. It's basically the concentrated essense of the Williamsburg hipster phenomenon. And not necessarily in a bad way.

Well, it seems that some swedish businessmen got it stuck in their heads that they wanted a little restaurant just as fabulous to open in stockholm, so they gave the guys who run Diner a chunk of change to basically recreate the formula overseas. Which means they had to find a building, fuck it up, and then renovate it to make it look like it was restored. But the kicker is — trust me, this is the good part — they were so anxious to get the atmosphere just right, that these swedes flew over a dozen Williamsburg hipsters to stockholm for a long weekend to do nothing but sit around in the faux-Diner Diner for lunch and dinner and drinks. Ringers. Brooklyn hipster ringers trying to con the swedes. It's brilliant. And I bet they still sit around in their chunky black glasses and 70s softball shirts complaining about all the people who moved to Williamsburg after they did. God, I want to be there with them.

The Women

Aw shucks, Anne told me that I was here favorite person ever. Which is weird, because it was in response to an e-mail I sent telling her how much I hated her. Maybe it's because I told her I hated her because she's such a better writer than I'll ever be. Who can say?

At least she knows I wasn't hitting on her with all that flattery. And if she needed any more proof, she should come over and join me while I listen to the incredible Ethel Merman collection I picked up today. I’m fagging out. As an added treat, you should go watch this clip of a drag queen showing us what Ethel would be up to if she were still with us today.

Hey, a big fat HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my pal Mark!

The Most Homoerotic of All Wrestling

Mmmmmmm, oily Turks. A short while back, I read a couple of news articles (no, I’m not going to look for them to give you a link) about a minor uproar over this traditional Turkish event where all these guys dressed in leather breaches, covered themselves in oil, and wrestled each other. Yes, that’s right: Turkish leather oil wrestling. Apparently, the Turks were a bit upset about foreigners seeing homoerotic connotations in this. They claimed that there are no homosexuals in Turkey. Yeah right, just like there are none in Latin America. Anyway, look at some pictures and decide for yourself.

Hobnobbin'

Squeezebox wasn't that much fun, yet again. I’ve had some of my most fun nightlife times ever there (watching huge bar brawls, Sherry Vine's Pat Benatar show, lots of cute punk rock boys) but it's often a bust, too.

The night wasn't a total wash, though. It's fun to hang with my new pal Russ, who is something of a scenester. One of his friends there turned out to be this superfly woman named Esther who worked with me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift shop the summer after my senior year of high school. That was the summer that the first sugarcubes album came out, and about a week after I heard it for the first time and became an instant fan. Esther recognized Björk and her son coming down the street and into the shop, giving me my one memorable chance to talk to the Icelandic pixie. Esther, damn her, looks even cooler and better now than she did 12 years ago. It was a crazy moment last night, though, when we were introduced and both of us pointed at each other slack-jawed for a moment until we each realized why the other looked familiar.

My idol John Waters was also there for a while, but I never got a chance to chat him up, since he was surrounded most of the time by enough fawning groupies already. I usually don't make the effort to talk to famous people when i see them, even when I love them, because I hate the idea of being just another glassy-eyed fan with nothing more to say than "Oh my god you're the best ever you changed my life I love you oh my god." You know how it goes. I met John a few times when I lived in Boston, and frankly I was just embarrassed afterward.

To console myself, I’ve been watching Pecker on DVD with the director's commentary. In it, John actually talks about how he loves going to squeezebox, saying that it's his favorite kind of crowd in a club: three-quarters gay people, one-quarter really cool straight people, and lots of punk music to keep the disco queens away. I guess that’s exactly the formula that keeps me going back, even when it's a slow night. (The Pecker DVD, by the way, also has a great featurette on the really cute photographer who actually shot all the photos for the movie. You should check it out.)

Elsewhere in the world, it looks like Barbelith is having exactly the sort of day I’ve been craving for a while. The grass is always greener on the other side of the pond.

Customer Service

Fucking Blogger once again has freaked out and lost a whole post I had just written. No, I’m not going to try and recreate it, but it had some fun links, so here are the highlights:

Ginger is Groc's fun zine of homocomics. Yes, another Brit.

Girl on a Motorcycle is much more conservative than an X rating would have you believe. Not because the sex scenes are a let-down (they are), but because it's actually quite moralizing.

Pecker on DVD is a big thumbs up, thanks to the director's commentary track, and the featurette on the photographer who took all the pictures.

Again, fucking Blogger. Actually, "Fucking Blogger" would fit in to Mark's list of unispired movie titles which rely on the tried-and-true formula of the two-word participle-noun combo, like Raising Arizona, Crossong Delancey, Educating Rita, Chasing Amy, Deconstructing Harry, et al.

Admit Nothing, Suggest Everything

Well, that was a refreshing twelve hours of sleep. that’s what I liked about working at home last time. If I was tired, I could sleep until I was no longer tired. So if, hypothetically, I were to go out one night, knowing I had to get up at five the next morning, and decide to stay up all night wrestling and whatnot with the cute Brit boy who wanted to see Brooklyn before he went home, I could then come home after working a full day the next day and then just sleep for a dozen or so hours until I caught up.

And now I'll aso be rested up for Squeezebox tonight.

Live vicariously while you can, kids. I won't keep this pace up forever. I’m just celebrating the first week of self-employment and the onset of spring.

Pick Your Own Village People

On a lighter note, the responses to the big Pick Your Own Personal Village People survey are still rolling in, and they've lots of fun. Check it out and don't be shy about sending in your own answers.

Our Heroines

The fun keeps on coming over at the Personalized Village People survey. Check out the results, and don't be shy about sending in your own response.

I finally saw Valley of the Dolls this weekend, and it was more delicious than I could have ever guessed. The musical numbers! The wigs! The scenery-chewing! The bitchy retorts! The giant plexiglass mobile! The necklace that becomes a bustier! I was speechless. Considering how deeply saturated my pop-culture awarenes is with elements from this movie, it's amazing that I had never seen it before. I’m glad my first time was at a movie theater, so I could get the added effect of the crowd clapping and cheering at favoite moments throughout.

Smack Is Wack

My brain is racing today. I started freelancing again, beginning with a three-week consulting project that’s going to involve lots of research and writing. Aren't I supposed to be a designer? Actually, I like changes of pace: that’s what keeps my brain going. Each new problem sets me off on a whole new fixation for a little while.

And aside from renewed enthusiasm for work, I also wanted to talk about how happy I am that spring/summer has arrived in New York again. It's nice to get out on my bike again and race around and see the teeming masses of cute boys that overrun this city. Especially once it's tank-top season. Of course, 75% of them still look like they were recently shit out of a Banana Republic or an Abercrombie & Fitch, which detracts from the appeal of the nice calves and biceps.

There's also the excellent debates about boring weblogs and American English versus British English going on at Barbelith. I think I agree with Tom on most of his points, but they're big meaty issues that may have to wait for another day.

David at Planet SOMA is complaining about one of my favorite gripes: a propensity for strep throat that makes life hell, especially when you don't have good enough insurance to get antiobiotics as easily as you'd like to. Just like David is complaining about, I also was sick for about a year straight with some degree of strep, which was a real bitch considering how annoying my large, testicle-sized tonsils are even when they're healthy. I was weak constantly, and I felt like I would never see the year 2000. David also points out that those little flare-ups tend to happen soon after getting a little action, which only adds another level of paranoia to the problem. Oh yes, especially when you're supposed to be the good son with his act together.

Which brings me to the topic that’s really on my mind today.

Patric King wrote today about discovering that two of his closest friends were using heroin, and not being sure how to react. It really struck a chord with me, since I had been recently mulling over my relationship to my oldest brother, who's been battling a heroin and coke problem for a good chunk of my life, and carrying around the ol' HIV for the last ten years or so.

There are so many effects of that for me to deal with over the years. The overpowering feeling that the youngest of the family (me) ought to make up for all the mistakes of the oldest. The panic about not living up to that self-imposed ideal every time I feel like I’ve screwed up at something. The ambivalence about whether to feel sympathy or resentment, since I don't actually know my brother very well, but I see all the effects of his actions on the rest of my family. Watching some of these same patterns start to form among his kids, and wondering if anyone's taking time to worry about my niece the "good girl" as well as my niece the "bad girl."

My brother is a lot older than me, so I’ve never gotten to know him very well. I never got to know him as the first son, or the protective older brother, or the loving father like others in my family did. He's been more of a stranger, an abstraction, a bad example. At the same time, he's my brother and I can see so much in him that’s not very different from me. This too is pretty damn scary.

Most people who know me realize that I’m basically a tea-totaller: I don't smoke or drink or anything. I’m not on a crusade about it — I like to go to bars with friends, I don't see any reason to get all prissy about what other people to do. When I was a lot younger, I was a do-gooder nerd, so I didn't start. A little later, after one brother had died and another was already starting to have trouble — I began feeling the pressure not to follow those examples. Now, I can see that’s it's good that I never started, not because I think liquor or drugs are intrinsically bad, but because it's really obvious to me that if I drank I’d probably be a drunk, and if I took drugs I might be as big a train wreck as either of them. I can see patterns of compulsion and self-indulgence in things I do already.

During one particularly long spell in rehab my brother wrote me a long, very confessional letter about himself and his life. It was so painful to read. Not only was the story itself heartbreaking, but because it was so clearly a view of what my life could have been. And also because it was so like me, but from someone I considered pretty much a total stranger. someone I’ve only seen once in about eight years. It was as if he chose a different path than me at every point along the way. I’ve made my share of bad choices, too, and they weigh on me even more heavily when I see how they mirror things my brother did.

But he did some stuff that’s hurt him, and hurt the people around him — people who I know better than I know him — and that’s always pissed me off. I don't think my parents need anything else to worry about — they've had enough to last them for a while. I don't think my sister-in-law and her kids should have to worry about when he's going to let them down next, or sell all the electronics in the house next. And I don't think that I should worry about whether or not any of my failings will only make things worse, but yet I do.

I would like to get to know my brother, or at least the side of him that’s around when he's clean. He's actually great — helpful, good-natured, and a lot smarter than he gives himself credit for. But whenever I talk to him during the standard holiday phone call, I think that we'll never cross the gap. The worst part is that I can see that the problem is actually mine — he keeps trying to reach out. But unfortunately, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I keep waiting for the next time I hear that he's swiped something to sell and gone on a bender, and it's hard for me to forgive that and get past it the way the rest of my family can.

Because deep down, I think I could have been just like him. And it scares the crap out of me. And I’m damn grateful for whatever anyone ever did to help me avoid it.

Mad Science

Super-fun and smart rants from Matt Rossi are making me a happy camper this afternoon. My particular favorite is the May 4 installment about Doctor Doom and the Mad science department at Empire state University.

I also stumbled across some great comics done by Russ Turk yesterday. His pages have a few full issues from his comics online, and make a great read, especially Vanilla Bitch.

Back Out of the Saddle Again

Oh well. I guess it was bound to happen. Next!

Swedish Models Are Just Like You and Me

swedish models and smart porn. Got your attention there, didn't I? I couldn't help but chuckle when that picture popped up in David K.'s Diary on Nightcharm, illustrating a remark about magazine ads that make you embarrassed to be gay. First of all, yes: It's so blatantly targeted to the vain gayboys out there that I used to wince every time I saw it fly by on a bus or peek out at me from a magazine. More distracting, though, is the fact that the model is my friend Jakob, an obscenely beautiful and scruffy swedish straight boy (and a brunette) I met in grad school last year. (He cashes in on the occasional modeling job to supplement the cash from his web design studio.) And since coincidence rules my life, I had been talking to Jakob for the first time in months just the day before I read David K.'s post.

(Don't get me started on coincidence and the Web. I could write a fuckin' book. Or at leat draw a sprawling wall map.)

I’ve never wanted to up and ask Jakob if he realizes how trashily fey the ad makes him out to be. I think he's already embarrassed enough about how cheesy that dye job is.

Little Bits

In her own inimitable style, Dori writes in her journal about running into Ethan Hawke on an elevator, and noticing that he's nothing special in real life. Well, DUH! He's not one of those guys I would expect much from in real life. Thankfully, it's a moot point. But I wonder if he still stinks.

I found out about Grant Morrison's incredible comic The Invisibles about two seconds before the epic saga ended once and for all. Luckily, I got my hands on the first three volumes of the collected stories. Absolutely mind-fucking fantastic. Read them. You owe it to yourself. If you just want to get a tastes, Barbelith has THE definitive reference materials, apparently.

Mayday! Mayday!

Mayday! Mayday! One of the perks of going to high school on the upper east side of Manhattan was that our outdoor gym classes were held in Central Park. Now, gym class was not one of my all-time favorites (skinny, spastic, sissy that I was/am), but having gym in Central Park often gave me things to pay attention to other than baseball, lacrosse, or running around the Resorvoir (1.7 miles of tedium). I remember one lovely spring day, as I was trying not to pay an unwarranted amount of attention to the rugby scrum, that I looked over and saw a huge crowd of kids actually dancing around a maypole. Braiding the ribbons as they pranced and everything. It was very Hair.

Saturday was a day for greeting the spring in a very Williamsburg way. My houseguest and I went over to Northside to get some coffee and pick up a few hipster knickknacks at the mini-mall, and we decided to stroll over to the waterfront and lounge in the sun on the old piers. As we walked down North 7th toward the water, we passed a half-dozen cute, wiry, shirtless punks who were doing some big spray-paint mural on the side of a building. One of them said, "You mean if we get paid this won't be graffitti?" 50 feet later, we passed two musicians, one carrying a set of marching-band drums, one carrying a saxophone and looking all hipster-swing-band in his fedora, tank, and saggy Dickies. Hipster swingboy was saying something tot the effect of, "Fuck man, I just can't wait for all this fuckin' Internet shit to wear off so fuckin' everyone will forget about it and fuckin' go back to normal and shit." Obviously, he moved to Northside about two years ago instead of just the last year, so he's engaging in Wiliamsburg's favorite topic of conversation: How much better it was before. I chuckled not-so-silently. When we got down to the waterfront, we saw that the two guys were meeting up with the rest of their hot-jazz band for practice down by the water. We didn't stay long enough to hear them start playing, but we eavesdropped while they listened to a tape of one of their shows, and it was cool to watch them wander around with a tuba and warm up. On the walk back to the subway, the punks were posing very carefully for seemingly candid shots in front of their mural-in-progress. One was stretched out in a very Fosse pose at the top of a ladder.

Mayday! Mayday! (original)

Mayday! Mayday! One of the perks of going to high school on the upper east side of Manhattan was that our outdoor gym classes were held in Central Park. Now, gym class was not one of my all-time favorites (skinny, spastic, sissy that I was/am), but having gym in Central Park often gave me things to pay attention to other than baseball, lacrosse, or running around the Resorvoir (1.7 miles of tedium). I remember one lovely spring day, as I was trying not to pay an unwarranted amount of attention to the rugby scrum, that I looked over and saw a huge crowd of kids actually dancing around a maypole. Braiding the ribbons as they pranced and everything. It was very Hair.

Saturday was a day for greeting the spring in a very Williamsburg way. My houseguest and I went over to Northside to get some coffee and pick up a few hipster knickknacks at the mini-mall, and we decided to stroll over to the waterfront and lounge in the sun on the old piers. As we walked down North 7th toward the water, we passed a half-dozen cute, wiry, shirtless punks who were doing some big spray-paint mural on the side of a building. One of them said, "You mean if we get paid this won't be graffitti?" 50 feet later, we passed two musicians, one carrying a set of marching-band drums, one carrying a saxophone and looking all hipster-swing-band in his fedora, tank, and saggy Dickies. Hipster swingboy was saying something tot the effect of, "Fuck man, I just can't wait for all this fuckin' Internet shit to wear off so fuckin' everyone will forget about it and fuckin' go back to normal and shit." Obviously, he moved to Northside about two years ago instead of just the last year, so he's engaging in Wiliamsburg's favorite topic of conversation: How much better it was before. I chuckled not-so-silently. When we got down to the waterfront, we saw that the two guys were meeting up with the rest of their hot-jazz band for practice down by the water. We didn't stay long enough to hear them start playing, but we eavesdropped while they listened to a tape of one of their shows, and it was cool to watch them wander around with a tuba and warm up. On the walk back to the subway, the punks were posing very carefully for seemingly candid shots in front of their mural-in-progress. One was stretched out in a very Fosse pose at the top of a ladder.

That night I hung out in Hoboken with Simon, John (Simon's B.F.), and Joe (John's good friend). I was reminded of how pleased I am to live in Brooklyn. Not that Hoboken was awful — it's actually rather pretty — but it was filled with staggering, drunken, semi-suburbanites wandering around. Very Boston. Luckily, John's huge video archives helped us top off the night with a bang, or with a very Xanadu-esque splash of color. Did you ever see the two episodes of Legends of the Super-Heroes, broadcast once in 1978? Well, now I’ve seen them once again. Also caught the never-broadcast Aquaman pilot. Who wants to touch me? I SAID WHO WANTS TO TOUCH ME? (Momentarily channeling Eric Cartman.)

I am sitting next to Mark Edwards' doppelganger on the Metro-North right now. Kooky. I wish I could use the more exciting term "evil twin," but how could someone look like Mark and still look evil?

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