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February 2007

that’s Not How I Learned to Kern

I saw these lewd typographic posters show up in a few conference presentations this past summer, but could never track down the images. Thankfully, someone tracked down the evidence.

Where in the World Is Tommy?


Jungle Tom
Originally uploaded by thomasmaresca.

While I’ve been settling into my sedentary (well, with occasional exceptions) expat life here in Reading, my ol' pal Tom has taken off for a more glamorous adventure in further flung corners of the world. Where where where is he now?

Who Are You Wearing?

Primping

Are you getting ready for the Oscars tonight? I don't actually care about them this year (None of my friends got nominations, after all), but they're a good excuse as any to post some great images from Cinemonde that I’ve had lying around for a while.

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Slip It In

Every now and then certain pieces of music will catch me unawares and hit me with an onslaught of memories that had been packed away for a while. Usually, the culprit will be a song that I had one of the mix tapes I thrived on during high school. Like with most teenagers, I guess, music was a huge part of my life back then. It was a way to choose and declare some kind of identity and tribal association. It was a litmus test to see who was on your wavelength or not. It was a complement to heady adolescent emotion. I spent so many hours listening to music then — on my long commute between Staten Island and the Upper East Side, hanging around with friends listening to each other's albums, and just hanging out alone in my room (probably sulking or pining away for one thing or another, since I was a teenager). Hearing a random track from that time can dredge up exactly the feel of the moment in the most vivid ways, especially when it takes me back to moments I’d forgotten about.

black_flag-slip_it_in.jpgI’d downloaded a bunch of tracks a while ago without looking at what the batch included, and I’ve been slowly working my way through the bunch while I sit at my desk working at night. So I’m sitting there tonight polishing up a few letters (I’ve got 26 lowercase and 9 uppercase so far, if you're curious) when Slip It in by Black Flag comes on. Wham! A flood of heady, hormone-fueled teenage memory comes flooding back. Slip It In was on one of the earlier mix tapes — number 4, I think, of the 130 or so I’d made by the time I gave up cassettes in the late 90s — and was probably taped off of WSIA, the college radio station on Staten Island. I listened to this particular mix a lot.

Actually, I listened to Slip It In more than the rest of the mix. In a way that only a closeted homo with a neurotic flair for being a goody-two-shoes can really pull off, I didn't really tap into my churning hormones until I was well into my teens. By the time I finally discovered the simple, intense pleasures of pulling my own pud, my whole sense of sex and self was already deeply mixed up.

For me, Slip It In was like a thunderclap of sex. The whole pace and tone of the song is about sex, and not the polite kind. My first really intense orgasms came while listening to this song over and over, getting off on the sound and the images I put to them. (And I didn't even know that Henry Rollins was monster hot yet.) What's fucked up, though, is that I could imagine what I wanted so intensely without actually realizing it. When I was horny, I would think about all these cute New Wave girls I had crushes on — you, like I was supposed to — but it didn't take long before my pulse was racing and my dick was throbbing to images of wiry punk rock boys in leather jackets and combat boots. If you want to know how fucked up it is to be in the closet, that’s it: happily jerking off to one thing for years without ever even acknowledging it to yourself. And man, did I know some hot punk rock boys when I was in high school and college. So many wasted opportunities! It would have been a lot easier for me, the girls I dated, and probably everyone all around if I had just been able to figure out why that stuff kept popping into my head when I let myself go all those afternoons in my room.

(You can watch the video here, but it really doesn't do the song justice. In fact, if I had seen the video back then I doubt the song would have become so erotically charged for me.)

SoStupidRIGHT?

It is my fondest wish — professionally, at least — that organizations would stop trying to establish their brands with creative capitalization. It just causes problems and makes them look juvenile.

Shamelessness

"Shamelessness" is a strange title for anything related to me. If anything defines my overall sense of self, it's a murky combination of shame, insecurity, self-consciousness, and regret. I may have a certain amount of confidence in my ability to do certain things, but otherwise I tend to dwell on the many things I dislike about myself. I also have a vain streak, but it largely comes from a sense that I need all the help I can get to overcome a fundamental drabness.

Strangely, though, things have been better lately. For one thing, I’ve been doing this picture-a-day self-portrait project over at Flickr. I’ve had to find different ways of looking at myself every day for the sake of variety, and I’ve been feeling like I may not be the loser I’ve always imagined. At the same time, I’ve also been feeling a lot less depressed than I have in a long time. Life is currently pared down to interesting work, a quiet routine, and few entanglements, and I’ve been happier and more at peace than I have in a long, long time. I tend to feel grateful for something or another every day, rather than anxious or angry. Things being interconnected the way they are, feeling better about life makes me feel better about myself, no matter how flawed I may be.

I doubt such peace of mind will last forever. A lifetime of dissatisfaction doesn't just melt away, but at least I’ve stumbled into a good spot for the time being. So maybe I’m propped up by my advanced ability to ignore painful memories, but at least I’ve finally dropped the last of that SSRI weight that’s dogged me for years.

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Tableaux Vivants

Wow, I will never be the gayest alumnus of my high school as long as Bill Condon walks the earth. Dreamgirls has a lot going for it, but it's hard to ignore the overpowering pinkness of a movie that signifies character development with wig and costume changes, with the occasional help of a musical number. And a big, sassy black lady.

Speaking of story-telling through costume changes, I also saw Marie Antoinette this weekend, which lacked all the pizzazz that Dreamgirls has in bucketloads. Yes, Versailles looked very, very pretty. Would it have killed Sophia Coppola to leave some room for a little acting now and then? Tableaux vivants, knowing smirks, and pop music do not make a good movie on their own. Actually, they can, but not well enough for this particular story. And yeah, I get that the mish-mash of accents was an artistic choice, but it was really damn annoying.

Versailles

Snowfall

I’m still not a big fan of the snow, but I have to admit that it's much prettier and less of a slushy nightmare here than it was in the middle of Bed-Stuy.

reading_winter_1.jpg reading_winter_2.jpg reading_winter_3.jpg

My Time of Night

Unlike Sky Masterson, I’m not much of a night owl. I am a big fan of cities, though, and my favorite time to see a city is the middle of the night. I like the play of shadow and artificial light. I like seeing what spaces designed for lots of people look like when they're empty. I like the stillness. When you know a city's rhythms during the day, it's almost magical to see it at night. Sometimes it's not a good magic necessarily — sometimes it's like an evil curse of drunkards and litter — but it's usually quite lovely.

Through a wacky series of logistical mishaps, I went into London last night but my plans for lodging fell through and I found myself having to kill time until the morning train. (Of course, the joke was on me when I discovered that there are trains running all through the night.) I decided to take a late-night walking tour and look for interesting pictures to take and get a feeling for London's other side.

Desolate Street Even during the day London's curious, crazy-quilt layout of tiny streets, back alleys, mews, and side passages leads to a lot of serendipitous discoveries, and they're even more curious at night. Granted, I avoided the darker alleys and passageways, a little too haunted by visions of Dickensian ruffians in every shadow, but there was still plenty to see. For one thing, the main drags of Soho and the West End are filled with even more stumbling drunks than I’ve ever seen at the same hour in New York. And they all want curry or pasties! Since they mostly seem to stick close to places to get food, taxis, or night buses, though, the streets would be completely empty as soon I turned a corner. Places like Carnaby Street whose shops are thronged during the day were completely desolate. Empty little passages that just look grey during the day glisten a little under the lights at night. It's lovely.

Caranby Street

Inspired by the pictures I got, I put together a Flickr set of night photos from London, New York, Lisbon, and a couple of other places I’ve explored in the wee hours. Check out the dark side.

Faces of Terror and Death

So perhaps you were deeply traumatized by the hideous visage of the scary baby mannequin featured in my last entry, and you thought to yourself: "Goodness gracious, who would think that’s a good idea?" The culprit is a shop called Jacksons here in scenic downtown Reading, and I wish now I had started paying attention to their mannequins earlier. I was willing to write off Scary Baby as an ill-conceived fluke, but today I noticed that they've redone the display and raised the creepiness to a whole new level. Let's try and imagine what they're actually trying to suggest with their latest models:

I see you

I’m already baffled, but I know this face will haunt me in my nightmares for months — if not years — to come. Maybe the idea was: "Even demon zombie children deserve to look stylish on a budget."

jacksons_2.jpg

"Join the scouts and run for your life!"

jacksons_3.jpg

"You can even be a boy scout if you're a woman with cancer! Just watch out for those open sores on the face."

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