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September 2004

Freaky Gay Celebrity

The latest issue of The Advocate has a cover feature on hunka hunka Johnny Knoxville, doing the promotional circuit to pimp A Dirty Shame, and he's totally up-front and easygoing about the gay following he and his frequently naked Jackass cohorts have developed over the years:

I know a lot of gay guys who were huge Jackass fans because it had the most male nudity on TV. Did you ever hear from those fans?
When we were out in public, people would come up and say nice things. There's times when they've been a little physical.

A little or a lot?
A lot. I’m trying to think of one guy's line: I was in a bar in the East Village and this guy comes up and grabs my package, and I forget the exact verbiage, but the idea was that he really wanted to fuck me. He had one hand on my package and the other hand around my shoulder. And I was surprised and like, "that’s very sweet of you. Thank you very much."

Folks, this should come as no surprise to any of you. It certainly comes as no shock to me, considering that my infamous "Freaky Gay Porn" entry still ranks as one of the top search-engine destinations on this entire site. The gays love Jackass, and you can watch the show for about two minutes and figure out why. And bless their fun-loving, homoeroticized, souls, the fellas don't seem troubled by the attention.

And for the record, that wasn't me who grabbed Johnny Knoxville's crotch. But only because I’m too shy to be that direct. I certainly agree with the sentiment, though.

A Dirty Raspberry

John Waters and Alan J. WendlTracey Ullman, Selma Blair, et al.

I curated my own double-feature this weekend, checking out two movies about sexual revolution (more or less): The Raspberry Reich, the latest rump romp from Bruce La Bruce, and then A Dirty Shame, the latest farce fest from John Waters. I didn't intend a themed afternoon, but part of the way into Raspberry Reich it was clearly going to be one, since most of the movie was a tedious rehash of stuff that John Waters has done more successfully (and certainly with better jokes) in the past. It was also a self-described "agit-porn" movie, so it wasn't much of a leap to consider its kinship to a Waters movie about sexual deviance upsetting a quiet neighborhood in Baltimore.

The Raspberry Reich is the tale of a group of aspiring German revolutionaries aping the gimmicks of the Baader-Meinhoff Gang, and they happen to screw each other a lot and quote a lot of radical propaganda along the way. I wanted to stab pencils in my eyes most of the time. No, I take that back: it would have been pleasant enough to watch the gay sex and the punk/camp art direction if I could be spared the wooden dialogue, the pedantry, and the terrible sound quality. I always want to like Bruce LaBruce movies more than I do because I get what he's doing (and I like subversion and gay porn), but his movies always strike me as being so blunt, with so little energy. Yeah, there's some good camp, but it falls flat. It's interesting to watch pornography and philosophy collide, but not when it has to rely on the comic timing or acting chops of porn stars. "Gay is not enough," as the saying goes, and neither is punk. It still has to come together somehow, and hopefully do something a little more interesting.

John Waters has handled the clichés of revolution before (and more adroitly) in Cecil B. Demented (and even flirted with it in Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble), and even though his humor can be pretty blunt — sight gags and one-liners — he and his casts always revel in the material. Everyone always has fun and plays their parts to the hilt, and often that zeal makes for better performances than traditional acting skills might. His films are like a celebrity roast, somehow managing to spoof and celebrate at the same time. They're famous for being shocking, but shock always fades over time, and even the earlier, cruder ones still work because they're smart enough to hint at more than they show. They lampoon both sides of any argument (with more than a touch of sympathy for the underdog), but pretty much leave it to you to figure out who the real freaks are, who goes further over the top in defense of what they believe.

And A Dirty Shame does it again. Sorry, Bruce, it's not so shocking to show sex in this day and age, especially if you have a jaded audience. What's pretty outré, though, is to take a subject as highly charged as sex and make merciless fun of it. It's a movie that’s relentlessly showing, cataloguing, and laughing at every perversion it can think of, and taking the erotic charge out of all of it. It's not salacious in any way — it's just having fun with how much we sexualize everything around us, regardless of whether we think all that sex is bad or good. And it's having a lot of fun with that. The revolutionary part of all this is that it's daring a jaded audience to take itself less seriously. Do what you want — and as much as you possibly can — but you're not necessarily any more outrageous than the guy down the street. The revolutionary idea, of a kind that always lurks around and under all the jokes and the gags and the camp in John Waters' universe, is that we're all kinda freaky, and that’s good. We can all be sexy, as long as we believe we are. Your perversion isn't bad, but your interference with someone else's perversion is. Why shouldn't we laugh ourselves into epiphany? It's probably more effective than trying to badger or seduce us into one. Enjoy the ride, and let the dangerous ideas creep up on you later when you least expect it.

Tedious hostage sceneTedious masturbation scene

First Step to Freedom

I gave notice yesterday, so my servitude to the engineers ends in a few more weeks. Weeks full of nothing but writing documentation and offering polite, sympathetic gestures if people panic about my departure.

Sweet freedom!

I was stalling, but then I got a call about a decent freelance gig to take me through November, a timetable that eases me financial woes through at least the new year.


I may never be able to put on khaki pants and boring polo shirts ever again.

Give Us Your Lunch Money

Don't forget that tonight is Bullies and Mean Girls! Be at P.S. 122 by 7:30 or we're gonna kick your ass and then tell the whole school you're a slut.

Bullies and Mean Girls

Kiki and Herb Will Cover You

iTunesOne last thing before my Kiki frenzy dissipates: I put together an iMix of songs performed at the show last night. If you're iTunes-enabled, get some of the originals from Kiki and Herb Will Die for You . (Sadly, the iTunes Misic Store lacks some of the songs from the show, or at least some of the most definitive versions, so I’ve found some second-rate covers when available.)

If you'd rather relive the show itself, it looks like you can pre-order the recording made of last night's show. It'll be the Judy at Carnegie Hall of our generation, I promise.

(And just for kicks I threw together another iMix of Kiki and Herb classics that didn't make it into the Carnegie Hall show.)

Kiki and Company

Herb at Carnegie HallKiki at Carnegie Hall

It was quite a show. Compared to the many I’ve experienced in smaller venues, a lot of the intimate feeling (which could sometimes leave you feeling gloriously trapped in a room with a raving madwoman) was lost in such a big space with such a large throng of people. It was still easy to get caught up in the madness and the sentiment of the evening, though, and it felt good to have so much people bombarding Kiki and Herb with so much hard-earned devotion. A lovely farewell, overall.

And a total scene. I hardly know where to begin with all the name-dropping! I think I ran into every blogger I’ve ever known, every blind date I ever had, every cute guy I ever had a crush on, and every quirky downtown celebrity I’ve ever seen. And that was just outside the boxes on our tier. (Apparently I run with a $45 crowd.) There was a certain Belle Epoque opera-house glamour to hopping from box to box during intermission, dropping in on friends and acquaintances for gossip and reactions to the show. With any luck there'll be a flurry of cross-posting about the evening for the next couple of days so I won't have to dredge up the energy to say much more.

Together at last!: Jake Shears, Isaac Mizrahi, Sandra Bernhard, Kiki, Rufus Wainwright, and Michael Cavadias

Update: Andy writes a great Culturebot entry about performances and their context that explains much better than I have what was really so amazing about the Carnegie Hall show, even though it seemed like such an odd venue at first.

And delovely Sturtle also sings praises...

I didn't see Landry at the show, unfortunately, but true to form her first exposure to Kiki and Herb was wacky and glamorous.

Tin Man was there, too, but didn't have quite as emotional a response.

Subway Sunset

A clear afternoon and saturated colors do a lot to add a little charm to our rundown subway platform. (And now you where to stalk me when I’m commuting!)

Long Live Kiki and Herb

Kiki & Herb Will Die For You

If the conservatives really wanted to eliminate the subversive homosexual menace, the best way to do it would be to blow up Carnegie Hall tonight, where a great throng of us (and a great many sympathizers, no doubt) will be gathered to honor our beloved, bedeviled Kiki and Herb.

Originally, I’d decided not to splurge on tickets for the show, since I had seen them so often from mere inches away and couldn't imagine enjoying the spectacle quite as much from across a concert hall. When I first heard about this show, though, I didn't quite realize it was supposed to be not just the biggest, but the last show (except maybe there'll be a Kiki & Herb Resurrection Special someday). When Andy informed me of this, and mentioned he had two extra tickets, I knew I couldn't miss such an event, even if I had to experience it from the cheaper seats.

It's been nice to see the Times giving some press to Kiki/Justin and Herb/Kenny this week. I was startled to see the interview mention the infamous "Last Thursday Ever" show, which remains one of the most visceral theatrical experiences of my life. (It was also the first time I saw the Scissor Sisters, and even though they were fun I still find all the fuss a little inexplicable.) I’m amazed how many people seem to remember being at one of the two tiny, drunken shows at the Knitting Factory that night. I remember all the usual suspects being there — including Glenn, who couldn't have gotten a better introduction to the terrifying magic of Kiki and Herb — but I regularly meet people who also caught that show and were more than usually affected by its darkness and cynicism, and its surprising call to count your blessings in a troubled world. And the drunken fan kicks, of course, were hard to forget if you were too close to the stage.

As a special treat for those of you who love Kiki and Herb but are sick to death of listening to your copy of Do You Hear What We Hear?, may I offer this brilliant recording of Kiki performing at the Losers Lounge 1996 Nilsson tribute (taken from Simply Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad About the Loser's Lounge):

Coconut — The Losers Lounge featuring Justin Bond as Miss Kiki DuRane


I was utterly dumbstruck yesterday when I read the following passage and realized that somehow Lance Arthur's therapist has managed to distill the entire experience of maintaining a weblog for so long, and through so many permutations, to its core raison d'etre:

"Everyone needs to ask the universe a few questions now and again. Some people call that prayer, some people call that meditation, there are different words and different methods but the goal is the same. We come to places we can't figure out on our own, and even our friends and family can't really help. So we ask the universe — the larger power, God, what have you. And I think your Web page, that act, that place, that’s your larger power. You launch the questions out there and sometimes you get a response, sometimes not. It's the act that’s important. You've just chosen a unique and very public God to question."

Woah. OK, that pretty much eliminates the need for any future hand-wringing about why I bother to keep on truckin'. I wonder if she's this good at giving advice on low self-esteem? that’s probably my second biggest puzzle.

Expected Behavior

And if I quit, it certainly won't come as a shock: my boss has been assuming for a while now that I could disappear at the drop of a hat. It's obvious from almost every conversation we have that she expects me to resign any second now. So since we've both been making sure I tie up loose ends on old projects, the timing couldn't be better.

Shove It

I’ve been grappling with this problem in varying degrees for well over a year, but I knew I had to tough it out for a while. The problem became more acute this last Spring, but I had made a promise and didn't want to be a dick about things. I tried, unsuccessfully, to deal with the issue as the Summer wound to a close and the real scope of the problem became clearer and clearer. It's pretty much the only thing I’ve been able to think about for the last couple of weeks, and I’m 99.5% sure it's time to deal with it once and for all. (As soon as I figure out if that .5% is a half-point of fear or pragmatism.)

My stable, full-time, and fairly lucrative job is killing my career. Not only is it crushing my soul, but it's also keeping me from doing work that will help me get any further in my career of choice. Every so often, people have contacted me about freelance design projects that sound really interesting, but I’ve had to turn them down because I didn't have the time to give them the attention they need because of my full-time non-design job. When I was applying to schools and applying for jobs, I barely had any recent work to show because I haven't been doing any graphic design, except for basic things I’ve been able to knock out in my spare time. As far as my career goes, I don't have a lot to show for the last few years, other than some more experience at managing large projects and a handful of excuses why a designer would stay so long at a job that regularly refuses to consider graphic design. Yes, it's been interesting in some ways. Yes, I’ve gotten my finances back under control. Yes, I’ve taught myself that I have more patience than I thought. Yes, I’ve learned how to consider a wider scope of issues when I think about a project.

But what do I have to show for it? Not much. How can I show that the lessons I’ve learned make me a better designer? Right now, I can't. What I need to do is design things. What I need to do is something I enjoy, something with tangible results that show what I can do. If I’m going to work as a designer, I need to work as a designer. If I’m going to get work as a designer, I'll need to offer more than assurances and outdated work. If I’m going to take another stab at graduate school, I need to think about what I want to learn about design, not how badly I want to stop working at something else.

I think I’ve hit the tipping point. I did what I promised my employers I would do, and now they need to know if I’m going to go or if I’m going to commit to more long-term efforts. I needed to beat my debt into submission, and I have. I even feel like I’ve paid a debt to an old friend, who would surely want me to think about the future of my dreams as well as the future of my work. I think that if I don't start doing a little of the right work, it will only get harder and harder to do more of it.

I think — no, I know — it's time to quit the job that’s holding me back and cobble together a little work that'll take me forward. I need time to concentrate on new projects and developing my thinking. I need time to concentrate on making things. I need time to do the work I want to do, and be the person I want to be. Isn't a little hardship worth that?

And besides, aren't there some of you out there who could use the services of someone like me?

Crack Whore

Over the years, my co-workers have learned that the best way to thank me for all my troubleshooting is to offer me candy. This is a lovely gesture, because I would still help them without it, and also because I love candy quite a lot. Candy, in fact, is my crack.

I’m not prone to a lot of vices. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't take drugs (in fact, I’m regularly accused of not being Irish at all), and my slutty days are long behind me. I am the soul of moderation. Unless you place any kind of candy within reach of my piehole, that is. At that point, I lose all self-control until the candy is gone or my sugar-addled limbs get too shaky to place the candy in my mouth anymore. I’ve learned the hard way that candy is good, but controlled doses of it are best.

So when I walked in today and found a large bag of candy corns on my desk, I knew it was going to be a long, delicious, and ultimately unfortunate morning. My hands haven't started shaking yet, but odds are I won't be able to remember my own name by noon.

Rocking Out

Life, as you may have learned, is full of surprises. Last night, for example, I discovered that some old chums have secretly transformed into a really excellent band. Now, I’ve known for a while that they've been turning years of experience with jamming, karaoke, and general noodling around into an actual band — Brownbelt — but I had no idea that it had come together so well. It's no surprise that the gents are talented, but I’ve never seen them focus so much on this particular range of talents, and it was really excellent to see (well...hear) what's come of all that pent-up musicality. Here's a taste:

Brownbelt — Central Time

brown belt brown belt brown belt brown belt brown belt

Brownbelt shares a practice space with a band called The Sex Slaves, and I always get a kick out of seeing the division of the room. On one side, the fellas have set up instruments, keyboards, Macs, microphones, amps, and other equipment all tethered together by a rat's nest of cables (and a smattering of beer cans and ashtrays). On the other, it looks like a heavy metal band exploded, leaving a pile (a somewhat orderly pile, granted) of nudie centerfolds, flyers for the The Man Scouts of America, Kiss memorabilia, and other detritus of a Life in Rock. When worlds collide, it's pretty wacky.

The Grahan Norton Alert

Alert! Alert! It looks like TONIGHT (10 p.m., 9 p.m. Central) is when they're planning to show the taping of The Graham Norton Effect that Chris and I went to two days ago. Don't miss it!

If anyone has their electronics hooked up so they can get a screen grab of any moment I’m on camera, I'll be forever in your debt!

The Graham Norton After Effects

There was flooding in the subway tunnels all over the place this morning, so the crowding on the few trains creeping their way through the mess was out of control. Everyone was wet, crabby, and pushy, and tempers were flaring all over the place. True to form, the people who were angriest about getting knocked around by the soggy masses were the ones who had already shoved their way past others waiting patiently before them. Given a choice between getting to work on time and being comfortable and polite, I made my usual choice and steered clear of the stampeding herd as much as I could.

I certainly didn't want mundane commuting troubles to take the edge off my lingering bliss from last night. (Besides, today's my birthday! Yay.) Chris and I went to the taping of the second-to-last (unless he gets renewed for another season) episode of The Graham Norton Effect, and it was too, too much fun. Well, it was fun once the endless waiting on line beforehand was over. We realized during the wait that we weren't going to be pulled aside for any on-camera close-ups, but we scored excellent seats and will be totally visible during crowd shots.

Photo by Chris

Chris Rock and Marilyn Manson were the guests, and much hilarity ensued with so many wildly opposite personalities on one stage. I'll wait and see how much gets past the censors before I pass on any of the kookiness, but suffice to say it'll be a miracle if they can edit it all down to 40 minutes that can be viewed in mixed company. (And I know for a fact that the viewing public will never be treated to the incredible story about George Michael, his internet trick, the drug-fueled threesome, and the mix CDs.) The episode ought to air in about three weeks, but I'll give a reminder before then so you can set your Tivos. (Because I know you're a tech-savvy Tivo crowd, bless you.)

Photo by me

This Month at WYSIWYG

Bullies and Mean Girls

This month's WYSIWYG hootenanny rings in September with a celebration of the perils of going to school: Bullies and Mean Girls. The line-up is almost confirmed, but so far it looks to be pretty snazzy. (Naturally, you'll be able to check for updated details at the web site.)

I’d Rather Swish Than Fight

My dear friend Lubin Odana (who is definitely not a Republican) was a more welcome surprise guest in our fair(y) city this week. Although I was only able to have one audience with Lubin and his gentleman companion, it was as delightful as ever.

Darling Lubin is an accomplished scholar of gay cultural history and connoiseur par excellence of all things kitsch and camp, so he's constantly unearthing the most astounding relics of our illustrious cultural heritage. (When I say "our" I mean the gays, because he's one of them foreigners.) I’m once again indebted to him for pointing me toward the Queer Music Heritage page, and especially its page about Camp Records.

Camp Records covers

Camp Records put out a few incredibly camp records. They're sort of awful but sort of brilliant — an invaluable nugget of their time, in the same vein as gay pulp novels that make you cringe and squeal with glee all at once. You really have to check out the site, where you can listen to the songs themselves and see the lo-fi magnificence of the sleeve art. The same way I retain a slight, Catholic preference for sinful sex, I have a slight, nostalgic preference for the days when gay pop culture was so marginalized and tawdry and campy at the same time.

(A tangent: If there's one thing I'll say about gay Republicans [out of the many things I could say], they sure don't make being gay seem like much fun, do they?)

Having Turned to the Dark Side...

A little creepy, eh?

So when you watched Zell ranting, spewing, and fuming did this image occur to you at any point? It was the first thing I noticed.

I’m So Over the Republicans

Well, thankfully the Convention of Empty Promises is over, and none too soon. I’m disappointed, though, by the overall lack of showmanship. Smoke and lights and venomous ranting are what we all expected, so none of that was any surprise. I was really hoping they would end on a huge note of outrageously populist manipulation, like having a caged, raging Osama Bin Laden suddenly thrust forward at the apex of Bush's speeach, just like in King Kong.

But the more I think about it, the more likely it seems they're saving that for the last week of October.

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