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July 2005

The Manhattan Gaudi-an

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DC scores a nice, modest publicity stunt with this New York Times article about Cinderella City, the fantasy version of New York where Grant Morrison's version of the Manhattan Guardian has his adventures. I'll have to admit, it's a nice take on the city — I only wish the whole comic were as interesting as the bits of fantasy architecture that pepper its panels. Is it possible that Guardian is the least popular of the set, forcing DC to plant a newspaper article to increase its circulation? That would certainly be a kooky bit of life copying fiction, considering the comic's premise that the Guardian is an elaborate newspaper publicity stunt.

Guardian is the only one of the Seven Soldiers books that I’m struggling to get through. The art's a little stiff and the story isn't nearly as fun a mind-fuck as the others in the series, no matter how many wacky bits Morrison builds into its urban landscape. I’m glad the various titles are starting to connect — I’ve been waiting to see how Morrison brings the characters together — and I hope something happens to make the Guardian a more compelling character. Just to justify my decision to keep buying this title so I can have a complete set of all the Seven Soldiers.

Type Geeks

Just about all my waking hours for the last few days have been spent in the midst of fellow typography nerds at Typecon, where we all get to let our freak flags fly and rant about the differences between the 7 different versions of Garamond (including Sabon, the pseudo-Garamond) without getting crazy looks. Sadly, I had to pass up a few cool type-drawing workshops because work duties overlapped with the conference more than I was expecting. I also had to miss a walking tour of some classic NYC signage, which was especialyl disappointing since the Times pointed out that one of the stops was my old high school, where apparently, "The 'R' is too small in the bowl, and too long in the leg."

As tired as I am (since all the sleeping hours were spent trying to fend off the summer combo of cold/allergy attack), I have to hustle back there this morning looking as cute as possible, since my colleague Ina Saltz is giving a talk about typographic tattoos that will include some pictures of my work. If Erik Spiekermann finds me to yell about the why I altered the position of the dots in my Meta Bold umlaut, I want to at least look presentable.

Aw, who am I kidding? I want to look cute for all the cute type geeks who'll come up and admire my arms afterward.

Filling in for Faustus #5

Originally posted to The Search for Love in Manhattan:

Damn Faustus for cursing his guest hosts with a daily obligation! Having a theme, though, does make it easier to follow his draconian orders. In fact, I should consider subjecting myself to similar rules on either of my other blogs — I could be much more prolific that way. Anyway...

See the eight-year-old
Knitting mittens on the bus.
Does his mother know?

I don't really like kids that much, but there are a lot of things I like about kids. Enough, at least, that I find them entertaining in small doses. One of the things that I always love is seeing kids who haven't had gender roles bludgeoned into them yet. Future-gay, future-straight, or future-whatever, there's a time when a lot of kids just gleefully go about their business doing what they like before they realize they're not supposed to act that way. I have a soft spot, of course, for little boys who haven't been called sissies yet for the way they run around with arms flailing, or the way they like to play with dolls, or the way they like to dance, or the way they like to kiss mommy and daddy just because they love them so much.

Sadly, the messages come from all sides that it's not so good for boys to be too girly, and the older kids get the more likely they are to toe the line. Better gender theorists than I can probably be more erudite about this. After all, I’m just another gay boy who had a harder time learning to be butch than most boys, but who still managed to develop a deep fear of being too much of a sissy. But patterns seem to emerge, and no matter how often we felt Free to be You and Me, we notice those kids who keep doing their thing longer than the other kids and we're sure we know their story.

Now, I don't think there was a direct correlation between my faggotry and my insistence that I pretend to be Jamie Summers as a kid, but I think that maybe I didn't realize the other kids wouldn't think that was cool for some of the same reasons I couldn't quite figure out why I felt a little set off from the other boys with whom I played tag and whiffle ball and whatnot. The signs often all add up, even if they don't add up too directly.

My friends and I would often eat at this diner down the street from where we worked, and we became very friendly with one of the waitresses who handled the lunch rush. (As a side benefit, we often got free cake.) She was single with an 8-year-old son who was her pride and joy. One day, she was so excited to show us his pictures from dancing school. There he was, captured forever in that moment when he was totally excited about working the jazz hands in his purple sequined tights, top hat, and fringed sleeves. The four of us — two gays, a dyke, and gay-friendliest single woman on Earth — shot glances at one another. We knew, and it probably wouldn't be long before the kid figured it out, but it was at once so sweet and so sad that his mother would probably be the last to know. Well, maybe not the last to know but possibly the last to acknowledge it. God bless him, I hope he's still tapping as fast as his light loafers will let him.

Filling in for Faustus #4

Originally posted to The Search for Love in Manhattan:

Yikes, this has to be a quick one so I can sneak in under the wire before midnight. Faustus ordered us to post at least once a day while he was gone, and that last one doesn't really count. So on to the haiku:

Sitting at the bar,
My soul filled with deep longing
And deeper terror.

I am that goody two shoes that Adam Ant sang about. I don't drink. I don't smoke. On top of that I don't do any drugs, I’m prone to crippling shyness, and caffeine makes me jittery after a while. (OK, I’m not that much of a goody two shoes because left to my own devices I’m prone to being slutty, but you get the point.) Therefore, the idea that bars are the easiest way for a gay man to meet another man has never really worked for me. Catch me in the right mood and I can be awfully sociable, but even with a group of friends hanging out in a bar is tough. I just don't have the social skills for it. I can't rely on alcohol to loosen me up (besides, I suspect I’d be either very maudlin or very angry if I ever got drunk), and drinking Cokes all night makes me hyper and fidgety. And since I’m pretty shy, I don't really have much natural grace when it comes to chatting up strangers. Even worse, I’m too naturally polite to repel the unwanted advances of guys who creep me out. Bar hopping? It's a death sentence for me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah — I know. Bars aren't the only way to meet other people. Duh. But they seem like the thing to do sometimes when you're bored, lonely, and tired of sitting in front of the TV all night again. In effect, they seem like the thing to do at the exact moment when my self-esteem is least prepared to deal with a meat market. It's a vicious catch-22, and I’ve caught myself in it many times over the years.

Sometimes, though, I would just convince myself that I was making a big deal out of nothing and give it another go. Hope, or at least delusion, springs eternal. It's been quite a relief to be out of that game for so long now.

Camp It Up

No more excuses! It's time you got yourselves down to the WYSIWYG Talent Show before we take a little break for the rest of the summer. So get down to P.S. 122 tonight and catch Greetings from Lake WYSIWYG: Summer Camp Stories, the last show we'll do until September.

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Filling in for Faustus #3

Originally posted to The Search for Love in Manhattan:

This is Sparky, your nurse practitioner in the doctor's absence:

I know you think I
Like it when you slap my ass.
You are mistaken.

Have you ever been fooling around with someone and suddenly realized that you weren't much more than an elaborate masturbatory aid? Like you were just one of the accessories of his scene? It's such a disappointing moment. It's awkward to go through those sexual negotiations with someone, trying one way or another to let him know what you like, trying to figure out what he likes. Sometimes he won't get your hints, or you can't figure out when you're pushing the right buttons, or one of you feels silly just coming out and saying what it is you're into. Ideally, though, you're both trying, and you're both trying to reach a common ground where everyone has a good time, gets a little sticky, and goes home (or rolls over, or curls up to you) with a smile.

But. BUT! Some guys just aren't into your opinion. You can nudge, hint, take his hand and move it, or even blurt out "Quit it!" and he doesn't get the point. Or, more accurately, he doesn't care about what you're after. It's selfish, yeah, but it's also self-absorbed. If I’m going at it with a gentleman caller, I’m trying to see to it that he enjoys himself. I really am! But I want to be in on the fun, and I have a few requests of my own. I like to think that he's there because he's into me in some way, not because I’m just the right size or shape to fit into his ritual. I want to feel a little chemistry. I do not want to feel like an interchangeable character in someone else's script. Hell, even if I like the script (and I am, shall we say, a fan of a variety of genres) I want to be able to collaborate and improv a little.

This problem can show up when you least expect it. I’ve been with guys and experienced a real connection on the basest levels, giving and taking and get a kick out of each other's enjoyment, when neither of us had even exchanged names or were likely to see each other ever again. that’s a lot of fun, and one of the reasons why I think even the most casual sex can be very fulfilling if you luck out with the right person and have a good attitude about the whole thing. Conversely, I’ve also dated guys who had no ability whatsoever to adapt to having me there, which is infinitely worse than being ignored by a relative stranger.

So seriously guys: don't just plow ahead assuming you're both having fun. Pay a little attention, and then maybe you both will.

Filling in for Faustus #2

Originally posted to The Search for Love in Manhattan:

This is Sparky, filling in for Faustus and working that gimmick:

It's Dorian Gray
In reverse: you aged and yet
Your photo stayed young

It's happened to most of us at one point or another, especially those of us who've chosen to embrace our inner slut during the Internet Age. We see a suggestive pseudonym, a few compelling statistics, perhaps a blurb of some kind or another, and a photo. (I hope you all at least insist on a photo these days. These aren't the early nineties for god's sake!) It always amazes me that there are men out there who think they can get away with fudging the basic parts of this kind of rudimentary advertising. I suppose what really amazes me is the thought that there might be other men who fall for this bait and switch, who might see that guy at the door and not feel swindled. Or at the very least, not call their bluff and withhold the nookie.

Granted, I think there's room for a little flexibility depending on what you're really after at any given moment. I’ve been willing to overlook a little fibbing or the use of slightly misleading imagery if a guy was still attractive in person. It's the nature of the business to put your best face forward, and I imagine it's a slippery slope once you tell that first fib. I have a friend, for example, who dated a guy for years without confessing he was ten years older than this guy, and not five years younger. But he had the good skin and the limber body to inhabit the lie. I have — more than once — encountered guys who thought they could show a ten-year-old photo of themselves and assume I wouldn't mind getting pawed by the cryptkeeper hands I eventually saw. When faced with such blatant, artless dishonesty, I’m too annoyed to even stick around (or play host) for small talk.

I’m often attracted to older guys, so it's not a matter of age discrimination. But I like honesty. And the confidence that honesty requires. After years of trying my luck with personal ads (of both the reputable and tawdry kinds), I’ve lost a lot of faith in men's ability to be upfront about what they have to offer, so I’ve learned to read those many little photos much more critically. Getting a good photo is much easier now than it was when I was more of a catch myself, thanks to the availability of scanners and digital cameras, which makes it even easier to assume that you can make a few key judgements about books from their covers.

A few of the guidelines that I’ve learned (the hard way) to follow over the years:

A little imagination, with a dash of loneliness and horniness, can make us see what we want to see, or read what we want to read. We fill in the details with what we hope to discover, and that’s where the trouble starts. We wouldn't be silly romantic fools if we didn't hope for the best, but we have to draw the line somewhere. I draw the line at that washed-out old wedding photo a guy shows when he's trying to talk his way into my pants. Show a little effort, at least, before I waste the subway fare.

Filling in for Faustus #1

Originally posted to The Search for Love in Manhattan:

Greetings, kids, this is Sparky, assuming control of the Faustus, M.D., Clinic for Neurotic Bloggers for the remainder of the good doctor's absence. When we authors ad interim were given our assignments we were instructed in no uncertain terms to produce at least one substantial post a day during each of our stints. that’s a nice idea, but when you've been at this game as long as I have, that kind of inspiration is hard to come by. The musical theater, however, provided me with an answer to the dilemma, as it does in so many things: "You gotta have a gimmick."

So, for the next week I’m going to take a few of those gay haiku you've heard so much about, and tell stories that will illustrate why I found a few of them so personally meaningful. Voilà! Instant content.

Gone Fishin'

As a freelancer, I don't really have a summer vacation because I find myself doing lots of work when other people go on vacation. Which is lovely and profitable, if also a little bit of a logistical nightmare from time to time. This week, for example, I’m working on decent-sized projects for three different nonprofit organizations, teaching two classes, attending a typography conference, attending this month's WYSIWYG Talent Show (on Tuesday — be there!), and guest blogging for the esteemed Faustus, M.D. So if things continue to seem a little quiet, just assume I’m busy, and check out what I’m reading over at Faustus's site. Ta ta!

Back in the Saddle Again

Just a few general tidbits to clear out my "notes for future posts" file:

So how are all you kids enjoying your summer?

Do You Believe?

"I do not believe in belief. But this is an age of faith, and there are so many militant creeds that, in self-defence, one has to formulate a creed of one's own. Tolerance, good temper and sympathy are no longer enough in a world which is rent by rules, and science, who ought to have ruled, plays the subservient pimp. Tolerance, good temper and sympathy — they are what matter really, and if the human race is not to collapse they must come to the front before long. But for the moment they are not enough, their action is no stronger than a flower, battered beneath a military jack-boot. They want stiffening, even if the process coarsens them. Faith, to my mind, is a stiffening process, a sort of mental starch, which ought to be applied as sparingly as possible. I dislike the stuff. I do not believe in it, for its own sake, at all. Herein I probably differ from most people, who believe in Belief, and are only sorry they cannot swallow even more than they do."

— E. M. Forster, "What I Believe," 1939

I’ve made a few clumsy attempts to make the same point over the years, but he already said it a whole lot better than I ever will.

Scent of a Man

It's hot and gross, and because I ran out of the house before showering this morning I found myself on the subway, hanging onto the rail, and horrified by the intensity of my own stank. If it had been a leisurely weekend spent in the soothing bosom of air conditioning, things would be better, I’m sure — it usually takes a while for me to proceed very far past musky under ordinary conditions. But I spent a good chuck of yesterday in the hot sun, hauling props and styling models for one of my little projects, and I got home slightly before the onset of heatstroke. I spent the night like spent the rest of the weekend — hunched over my laptop designing my little heart out, and I was up again this morning finishing up the work at hand. Before I knew it, it was time to fly and haul myself uptown to teach.

Blah, blah, blah. I’m sure you all get the point: I worked all weekend and forgot to shower this morning and so I’m trying not to pass out from the smell of my own armpits. Mmmmm, the glamor of summer!

Posed and Unzipped

This awesome review from the August 2005 issue of Unzipped is probably the best one of them all (my reviews for Poseable Thumbs, that is). They obviously get it.

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(Read the rest...)

In Defense of the Prime Directive

Take a moment, all, to consider this pledge:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Federation of Planets,
and to the galaxy for which it stands,
one universe, under everybody,
with liberty and justice for all species.

This sweet, idealistic, nerdy — and apparently inflammatory — version of the Pledge of Allegiance resulted in the suspension of the awesome 8-year-old kid who is my new hero. My other new hero is his mom, who stuck up for him and refused to have him do the stupid punish assignment the school wanted him to do. There are more details to the story buried in the comments on that post I linked to, so be sure to check them out. The one that bugged me the most (aside from the principal being such a melodramatic jerk) was that the kid got in trouble because another kid's parent ratted him out.

Freedom of expression is dead in our society. Or at least it's on life support, and this time the enemy among us isn't so reluctant to pull that plug.

Speaking of which, who else is already depressed about the battle for a new Supreme Court justice?

Playlist, Part 2

I don't see as many bands play live as I once did, even though I tend to like music better that way. For one thing, it's a whole lot pricier and more of an ordeal here than it was back than when I lived in Boston near a handful of great venues. My music interests have also expended considerably over the years as I’ve filled in the gaps in my pop knowledge, and frankly most older acts that I’ve rediscovered aren't as much fun to see when they're past their prime. As for the newer stuff the kids all listen to? Well, I barely have the energy to keep up when I’m still trying to track down MP3s of every song that once lived in the 110-cassette mixtape library I gave away when I left the Swanktuary.

In the interests of good record-keeping, though, here's my updated master list. If you remember ever seeing someone with me that I’ve left out, please let me know, since this is largely reconstructed from memory.

1986–2005:

3Puen!
808 State
The Afro-Cuban All Stars
The Allstonians
The Alterbois
Los Amigos Invisibles
Laurie Anderson
Ariel
The Authority
The B-52's
The Balanescu Quartet
Barenaked Ladies
Shirley Bassey
Sandra Bernhard
The Beta Band
Björk
Black 47
Justin Bond
The Bonedaddys
Book of Love
BOP (harvey)
Brassy
Brave Combo
The Brodsky Quartet
Brown Belt
Bullet
The Busters
Reuben Butchart
David Byrne
Candy Butchers
Cazwell
Cherie Curry
Chucklehead
Church of Betty
Circle Jerks
Colon on the Cob
Consolidated
Corn Mo
Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet
The Creatures
The Cure
Terence Trent D'Arby
Da Lipstyxx
The Dead Milkmen
De La Soul
Depeche Mode
Digable Planets
D'Influence
Dirty Excuse
Dresden Dance
The Dueling Bankheads
Duran Duran
Echo & The Bunnymen
Elva Snow
El Vez
Cesaria Evora
Fishbone
The Flaming Lips
Julian Fleisher
Lisa Flores
Lisa Jackson
Diamanda Galas
Galaxie 500
Gang Green
Gang Starr Posse
Gene Loves Jezebel
The Go-Gos
Go West
Guadalcanal Diary
Hayseed Dixie
The Hazzards
Heart
Imogen Heap
The Hi-Hats
I, Gingko
The Indigo Girls
The Jack Rubies
Joe Jackson

Kid Koala
Kiki & Herb
Killing Joke
Kinky
The Klezmatics
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Let's Go Bowling
The Losers Lounge
Lyle Lovett
Man or Astro-Man?
The Manta Rays
Manufacture
The Maul Girls
Jonny McGovern
Meat Beat Manifesto
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Moby
Modest Mouse
Monopuff
Morplay
Mr. Cranky
New Order
The NY Citizens
OK Go
Paxton
Pere Ubu
Phranc
The Pixies
PJ Harvey
Poi Dog Pondering
Pop Will Eat Itself
Potato 5
The Power Station
The Proclaimers
The Promise
Public Image, Ltd.
Radiohead
The Rain Dogs
Anthony Rapp
R.E.M.
Royal Crescent Mob
The Scissor Sisters
The Scofflaws
John Sebastian
The Selecter
Shadows of Dreams
Shy Five
Sigur Rós
Siouxsie & The Banshees
The Skatalites
Sleep Chamber
The Smiths
Jill Sobule
Special Beat
The Spin Doctors
Stephanie St. John
The Sugarcubes
The The
They Might Be Giants
Think Tree
The Three Terrors
Toad the Wet Sprocket
The Toasters
Too Much Joy
Tribe
T.S.O.L.
Russ Turk
Ultramarine
The Velvet Mafia
The Violent Femmes
Rufus Wainwright
The Wau-Wau Sisters
The Who
Xavier
"Weird Al" Yankovic
W.I.T.
Yolanda & the Plastic Family
Zog

Updates:

Bryan Adams
Marc Almond
The Brand New Heavies
Fringes
Gio Black Peter
I Know I Have No Collar
Brian Kennedy
Gill Manly
Ste McCabe
The Melting Ice Caps
The Night Terrors
Sleeping States
SmaxXx

Grape Crush

It's so, so painful to have a big crush on someone, especially when it's been so long since I’ve had one. There's a steady stream of cute boys that catch my eye, and there have even been a few where my attraction to them was a bit distracting, but it's been years since I’ve been in the throes of a full-on crush. You know the kind, right? You get giddy thinking about him, you're amazed at how easily you get on with one another, you can't wait to hang out again. For me, crushes are also notable for being more about the overall guy than just whether or not he's sexy. Cute guys are a dime a dozen, but those guys who are all cute and smart and fun and easy to talk to are much more rare, and make me swoon that much more. I don't think about sex quite as much as I think about running around together and having adventures. Granted, he's adorable and has a great mouth and it's easy to imagine myself making out with him, but that’s only a part of the whole spell.

Of course, crushes hurt like hell, too, at least for me. If I were more confident that any attraction could be mutual, crushes wouldn't be so bittersweet. But, me being me, I’m convinced that no one that cute could be all that into me, no matter how well we hit it off. (And I’ve been down this road many times before, so experience backs me up on this.) In a way, though, that’s safer, because the most painful part of having a huge crush right now is that it makes it very hard to ignore how poorly suited to one another my boyfriend and I are. I adore him and can barely consider a life without him in it, but we really have no business considering one another partners when we can't share much more than chit-chat and chores. Running across someone who fires all those dormant cylinders in my engine just reminds me how much I keep denying myself the things I enjoy.

I don't see myself ever getting out out of the situation by leaving one guy for another, but my crush — my sweet, sweet, excruciating crush — is a painful reminder that a change is gonna have to come someday.

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