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January 2005

Swinging Snowman


See Sparky Smile


Yes, a change of scenery was just the thing to shake me out of the doldrums. I think I may have to consider taking little retreats like this once in a while. A few days without talking much, doing much, or fussing much is awfully pleasant, and has also left me very happy to be back at home.

Ice, Ice Baby

Icy Window 1

It's a credit to the glaziers of Montreal that I would wake up in the morning, all toasty and cozy, without any indication what the weather was like outside until I looked at the outer pane of glass in my window.

(Read the rest...)

Smoke, Screened

I finally noticed this morning that the front section of the big gay coffeehouse was the only smoking section, which probably explains why everyone who sat up there was such a smoking fiend. It dawned me as I looked aorund while I was ordering my tea: smoking in front by the windows (smoking sections usually get thebest real estate), clean air in the back. I eventually found signs explaining this, but guess I was tuning them out because: 1) they were in French, and I’m used to ignoring the signs in French here, 2) there is only one sign, and it's small and posted underneath an unattractive piece of artwork which I’ve also been ignoring, and 3) It's been a while since I’ve had to figure out which part of an establishment was the non-smoking section.

After the Parties

Saturday morning in the gay coffeehouse is yet another change of pace. I’m waking myself up, nursing a hot cup of Earl Grey and still trying to finish my lesson plans, but just about everyone else here is winding down from their evening's festivities. A couple of punk-rock trannies, a guy with no shirt on under his heavy pea coat, a wild-eyed meth addict in the same dirty sweats I saw him wearing when I had dinner last night, and a couple of Larry Kramer doppelgangers in leather pants who are buying breakfast for a pair of painfully teenage rent boys. It's all a little exotic and yet a little bleak, as these things often seem to be. There was also a little old lady drinking some tea for a while, but I couldn't tell what she thought about the whole scene. If she lives in the neighborhood, she's probably as blasé as I am, in her own way.

More of the Worst Sex

I’ve already gotten some great photos to help promote next month's WYSIWYG Talent Show (go here for a gallery of all the current images), but I want more! C'mon kids, I know you have it in you. Show me your underalls!

Worst. School. Ever.

I worry about those kids at the Xavier Institute. What kind of an education are they really getting? Yes, they learn to embrace their uniqueness and fight like ninjas, but what about math? Unless they're exempt from the New York State Regents Exams (I was, but I was taught by Jesuits — I don't know if Xavier gets the same breaks), they really ought to be boning up on their writing and algebraic skills.

Let's face it, their faculty is — at best — overworked, and frequently unavailable for office hours. Isn't Wolverine part of about 50 teams right now? That doesn't leave much time for him to administer the Presidential Physical Fitness Exam to his students. Who's chair of the foreign languages department, huh? Is there any arts curriculum? Northstar has all but disappeared from view lately, so maybe he's been devoting a lot of time to teaching his economics classes instead.

Scott Summers apparently has a graduate degree from the Institute, but what was his major, anyway? No wonder he's such an emotional cripple: he's basically been home-schooled his entire adult life. And I don't think the rest of them are likely to turn out much better.

I started thinking about all of this when I was applying to graduate school this past month. As I filled out paperwork and gathered up my transcripts, I began wondering who helps the kids from other countries deal with their student visas and TOEFL scores? Is there an admissions interview, or does Xavier just give them a telepathic once-over and see how many extra body parts they have? You get the impression that Xavier handles all the administrative duties at the school, but couldn't he use a secretary or an assistant or something? I don't mean to bring up old scandals, but he does tend to disappear or go all evil now and then. In his current absence, I somehow doubt that Scott and Emma are processing paperwork or doing any college counselling.

Basically, the Xavier Institute is just another charter school run amok. The kids are running wild, the faculty is running wilder, and there seem to be no standards or accountability whatsoever. Next time they dip into the endowment fund to rebuild the Danger Room or the Blackbird, is anyone likely to bitch about the funds being taken away from the library's budget? I doubt it.

All this just makes me love Kitty Pryde even more. She rose above this nonsense and went on to a regular college to get a decent education and learn everyday social skills. She didn't let those hacks at the Xavier Institute keep her from making the most of her academic gifts. Now that she's back at the mansion and running classes of her own, I hope she turns out to be part of the solution, and not just another part of the problem.

It's Expat!

I’ve left the country! No, not for good. But Glenn had a free airline ticket up for grabs and I have no job, so I figured I’d take a brief retreat to Montreal for a few days — someplace cheap and close where I can hole up in a small room or in coffeehouses without distraction from TV, constant internet access, and the damn cat. I’m trying to write up lesson plans for this next semester (somebody IS thinking about the children!) and make a dent in some tedious coding projects that always seem less important than a nap or Gilmore Girls when I’m at home.

The plan has been working so far, but I have a new appreciation for New York's smoking ban. These Canucks really like their cigarettes, and my itchy eyes and smelly sweaters are the proof. Since I’m passing a lot of my time in coffeehouses, I’m surrounded by smoldering tobacco on all sides. Yes, smoking makes you look cool (Kids, I hate to admit it but it's true — at least if you know how to hold a cigarette properly), but that shit really does stink. Also, lung cancer! Don't forget the lung cancer. (This PSA was sponsored by viewers like you.)

Most of the time that I travel, I’m horrified by the idea of a city having a "gay village," a place where all the gays hang out since that’s where all the gay bars, restaurants, and boutiques are clustered. Since the temperatures in Montreal are hovering somewhere above absolute zero, though, I have a new appreciation for the gay village phenomenon. It's comforting to know that I never have to travel further than five blocks to find food, hot beverages, eye candy, or someplace to cut the rug for an hour or two. It may be an upscale ghetto, but it's also a model for the kind of urban experience I like — a variety of services within walking distance, people who know each other everywhere you go (luckily, the gays barely notice you if they don't think you're cute, so the solitude of my retreat remains unsullied), and thriving businesses holding their own against the encroachment of big chain stores. Maybe the threat really posed by the gays isn't to marriage after all: maybe we pose more of a threat to Wal-Mart and Starbucks.

Calling All Top Models!

Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

Of course, you're all eagerly anticipating this week's latest WYSIWYG Talent Show because you know it's gonna be fantastic as always, right?

Well, there's something else you can get excited about: being a glamorous model for next month's all-star, ass-kicking, body-moving, belly-laughing, cringe-inducing, first-anniversary WYSIWYG Talent Show: Spawn. Of. Worst. Sex. Ever!!

For the show's promo images, we wanna have a few different versions of a close-up of someone's face making a horrible reaction in response to something that’s happening "down there" (ahem). And we want you, shameless bloggers of the world, to be included in our gallery of horrors. Here are a couple of examples of what we're going for:

There are two ways you can include yourself in the fun:

  1. Come to this week's show and let me take your picture before or after the show. No need to get naked or anything, so don't be shy.

  2. Send me your photos! (Out-of-towners and foreigners — I’m talking to you!) Try to get a good reaction shot of yourself (or have someone take it for you), and send me the full-size original image from your camera. I'll take care of cropping it and getting the color right to match the others.

I'll add images to the WYSIWYG web site as they come in, and then we'll include a gallery of all the images on the site and in the show program. C'mon, play along!

Mac Rat

Hah! Look what I noticed as I was shoving the new boxes into the hall closet:

Apple boxes

that’s about 10 years and many thousands of dollars worth of brand loyalty there. God, and those are just the boxes that were easy enough to save.

Arrival of the Mac mini

Mac miniI’ve always wanted get a Mac before anyone else got their mitts on one so I could indulge myself in one of those blow-by-blow porn shoots of the unwrapping of the packaging. My time has come at last!. (Of course, it seems that Matt was rushing to get the same scoop.) Have a look at the photos to get an idea of how small the mini really is. A few notes:

Mini to Me

And in totally exciting nerdy news, my new mac Mini is at this very moment on a delivery truck speeding toward my house. (Not like a collision, of course, but I like to imagine it racing diretly to me without bothering to deliver anyone else's tedious packages.) Yay! Soon I'll be able to set it up as a server for all my archived work and whatnot, but its first mission is to take over as my primary machine for a week or so while I send my lovely PowerBook in to get rid of those pesky spots in the display.

Whenever Apple makes a big product announcement, I can't help checking out a handful of message boards to see what the teeming masses are saying about the new toys. The discussions invariably turn into a nerdy flame war between rabic Mac loyalists and rabid PC naysayers, but I’m drawn to the ugliness of it all nonetheless. As in most arguments, there is apparently no room for a nuanced opinion: just about every post either insists that each mac product is the essence of perfection, or a total swindle. Even though I’m an ardent supporter of their products, I’m pretty horrified by the blind, cultish loyalty of a lot of Apple fans. At the same time, I have too much experience with too many kinds of computers not to think that Apple's emphasis on product design is more than just window dressing or marketing bullshit.

Good design is a feature. You don't have to value it, but don't try to convince me that it's superfluous. In Apple's case, especially, good design is just one part of an overall attention to detail that makes for a more hassle-free user experience. And frankly, they weren't always this good at it, and they've really had to earn my loyalty back after the nightmare days of the first beige PowerMacs that felt more like bloated PCs than robust, flexible tools. I’m capable of worrying about drivers and video cards and patches and the entire patchwork of doodads that add up to a computer and its software, but frankly I don't want to. I’ve squandered too much precious time over the years hassling with all that. Give me a system where the pieces work in harmony and where I’m not pained by looking at the damn thing and futzing with it every day, and you've earned my loyalty. So far, no Windows machine or UNIX workstation has done that for me. I didn't need to drink any Kool-Aid to figure that out.

Writing Blockhead

It kills me that I still have trouble articulating some of my basic thoughts after all this time spent yapping about one thing another on this site, in my the zines I used to do, in thousands of e-mails, and in endless work memos. Last night I was up until the most wee of the wee hours trying to write a simple little 500-word explanation of why I’m taking another stab at grad school. The reasons have been perfectly clear in my head, and I’d been making notes for days, but I still couldn't find just the right words any faster than a blazing 85-words-per-hour. I’m still too afraid to go back and read it yet. I can only assume the first draft is a mess.

I’m sure it's just anxiety over the whole thing. Last year my bid to get into graduate school was fueled by little more than a desire to escape what I was doing and justify quitting my job. This year, after doing all that on my own and reminding myself why I do what I do in the first place, my ambitions are clearer and more focused. Honestly, last year I just wanted to hole up somewhere far away from daily life and study in a vacuum. This year, I want to do develop some specific talents for specific reasons. Even more to the point, this year's perspective comes from paying attention to what I’ve been doing with my work all along, and realizing what bits were most important to me. What a revelation, eh?

In the end, I'll probably just fuck it all and just tell them what P.J. said: "they would be stoooopid not to" think I do "killer work." Word.

In case you're curious, I also reworked most of my portfolio slides.

Are Killer Aibos Inevitable?

I’ve been gushing already about the new Battlestar Galactica on my other site so I won't repeat my praises here. One of the commenters, though, was bemoaning the new show's lack of Muffit, the robot pal of young Boxy.

I loved Muffit and miss him in the new show, but the more I thought about it the more I realized he wouldn't work so easily in a story whose premise is based on a society living in terror of artificial intelligence run amok. There would be too strong a taboo against creating a robot dog that could learn how to love. They'd be too scared it would turn into a nightmare scenario like in Grant Morrison's We3. Of course, it could also be pretty awesome if it turned into a scenario like the geniusness of We3, but it's probably not what the writers have in mind.

Still, can't you just picture it?

MuffitNice puppy

So, So, So Gay

There's a brilliant, brilliant collection of mini-stories over at Joe. My. God. right now, with a whole bunch of us recounting some of our gayest moments ever. Obviously, when we put together this June's first-anniversary show of that’s So Gay!, we'll have to surpass not only the first show but this astounding list of anecdotes.

Personally, I’d have to say the gayest thing I ever did was that time I had sex with a guy. But then I suppose it was a whole lot gayer when I had sex with that other guy. Or that other time I had sex with a guy, maybe. Yeah, that was pretty gay, too. But somehow that doesn't compare with the sheer, overwhelming gayness of the story posted by Riley about his friend who hosted an orgy in the 70s, during which Liberace insisted on hiding his jewelry in the air vents so it wouldn' get lost in the fray.

For Frack's Sake

I was totally jazzed about the new Battlestar Galactica when it was first aired, but I didn't trust my reaction completely. I mean, I didn't have any complaints about it but it was so new and so full of eye candy that I wasn't yet sure if I was just caught up in the frenzy. I’m watchng the repeats now, though, in preparation of the beginning of the new series, and I stand by my initial reaction. This really pulled off what I was hoping for: a solid update of the original premise and the original art direction, but without all the 70s network-television cheesiness that ruined the first version so completely.

This is a dark gritty future (or past? present?) that’s different but not utterly alien. I love that they really thought about the split between the human society and the Cylon: humans lost their faith in technology, but can't escape their dependence on it, while the Cylons seem to be looking for some kind of humanity in themselves. The characters are much better written this time, from the major players down to the pretty large supporting cast. (Also, most of them are smokin' hot, which is a nice perk.) Some of my favorite bits are:

Of course, now the nail-biting begins as they head into the murky territory of pulling off similar feats on a weekly basis, and within a the budget of a weekly show. Horrible things may still happen to ruin the effect of strong start like this. Let's just hope it hangs on long enough for a few shameless scenes of shirtless fighter pilots.

Drama Is My Mutant Power

Cyclops whining. Again.While recently reading an assortment of X-Men issues [Uncanny X-Men #148, Phoenix Endsong #1, and a bunch of Astonishing X-Men (Best. X-Book. Ever. [Maybe.])], I thought to myself, "Cyclops sure is a dick." More to the point, he's probably the biggest drama queen to ever pass through the doors of the X-Mansion. (And there has certainly been a lot of competition for that honor.) With the handsome-but-incessantly-whiny Mr. Summers, it's always, "Oh woe is me! I can't open my eyes! My true love is too powerful! My true love died! My girlfriend looks just like my dead true love! I have to leave my wife because her doppelganger, my true love, is back from the dead! I finally married my true love but even though she's telepathic she can't possibly understand me! So I'll have a psychic affair that my true love couldn't possibly find out about! My true love died again! No one understands why I’m screwing this other hot telepath right after my true love died! My true love is alive again!" The grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it, Scott?

Do you see a pattern here? Do you notice how it's always more about Scott than Jean, or whatever woman is reminding him of or distracting him from Jean? Scott and his problems! Scott and his great, true love! Which, maybe, wasn't so great. It's amazing there's not a round of audible sighs and eye-rolling every time Scott opens his mouth. Thankfully, at least the fabulous Miss Frost has the nerve to give him crap about it. But she's caught up in the drama, just like Jean. And Madelyne, and Lee Forrester, and the whole Summers clan and their various timelines and realities, and very person at that school who has to put up with him. Look, Summers, everyone has trouble: learn how to suck it up.

X Witch

I went to go see this Broadway musical called Wicked (after which I was able to touch a New Kid's butt), which was pretty good (not great), but had a striking parallel to the things that bring us all here.

You see, Wicked is the story of a young woman who, because of a strange formula imbibed by her parents, is born with bright green skin. Because of her unusual appearance, she is treated badly by everyone around her, and grows up a little resentful and moody. So moody, in fact, that when she loses her temper things occasionally explode or fly in all directions. She is taken under the wing of a teacher who recognizes her innate talents. She eventually befriends some fellow students as she harnesses her power and begins to use it fight for the rights of other outcasts (usually of the talking animal variety). Soon, a despotic government that wants to control her and her power finds her unwilling to be its pawn, and the populace is turned against her. The people grow to fear and hate her, and try to hunt her down. She continues to use her powers to help others who have been similarly mistreated, but all her efforts are seen as nothing but more wickedness. Many adventures later, she is forced to fake her own death and go into hiding with the man she loves, who had been turned into sentient plant matter earlier in the story.

Sound familiar? Like maybe something out of a familiar franchise? Actually it's a retconned version of a totally different kind of classic.

Who knew the wonderful world of Oz was so much like Salem Center?

Brush With Stardom

JoeyI brushed a New Kid's butt today. Well, not really, but I at least had an arm around his waist while posing for a picture, with a bit of a quick brush of the fingertips across the rump. When all was said and done, who knew little Joey would turn out to be the handsome and talented one?

My old pal Matt breezed into town today with his sisters, 4 tickets to Wicked, and a chance to get a backstage tour and a quick introduction to Joey and anyone else who might be around. As it turns out, the young Mr. McIntyre is awfully pleasant (and pretty hot) in person, and I honestly didn't realize he could carry a tune that well. I always feel a little awkward in those meet-and-greet moments: obviously he was just being friendly to another random group of strangers, so I didn't know whether it would actually be intrusive or not to make polite chatter while hanging around. To everyone's credit, they were good show people who handle the public gracefully. When the schmoozinng was done, we sent out the stage door and into the midst of a crowd of adoring fans. For a moment, I entertained the fantasy that I was the cutest, most popular blogger on earth and they were all screaming for me, not the glimpse of the actors behind me.

Sparky on the Yellow Brick RoadJoey led us on a quick tour of the stage, which was pretty groovy. The sets and such for Wicked are...well...pretty wicked awesome, and I always get a kick out of seeing how all the props and set pieces get tucked away when not in use. I’ve been backstage at plenty of theaters of one size or another over the years, and I always love that look at everything when the lights are off and the scuffs and the illusions are exposed. If anything, it makes me appreciate the final effect of the shows that much more.

I'll admit, I was pretty skeptical about Wicked after the snippets I’d seen and heard, but I was pretty charmed by the whole thing. The music isn't great but it has a bunch of really nice pieces. I actually think I’d like more of it if the whole scale of a Broadway show didn't require so many microphones on everyone: so much of the sound levels flatten out that a big moment is often as loud as a soft one, and in big group numbers you don't have enough natual acoustic cues to help you decipher what sound is coming from where. It drives me pretty damn crazy, actually, and makes me appreciate good, unamplified performance that much more. But the whole show doesn't suffer just because of a pet peeve or two of ime: it's a smart story, told with some excellent performances and stagecraft.

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