Beck just can’t stop rockin’ my world. His new album, Midnight Vultures, is absolutely unbelieveable. I just got my copy yesterday, and I’ve had to listen to it a bunch of times already just to try and process everything that’s going on. It’s the funkiest, most complex mix I’ve stuff I’ve heard since The Beastie Boys came out with Paul’s Boutique. You will not believe the stuff that beck weaves together on this: banjo riffs, Kratfwerk, falsetto, and who knows what else. Buy it. Listen to it. Love it.
Life in the Future
The future is now. But I don’t have a flying car, and I don’t seem to be living in a pod-home on the moon with cool, minimalist, Eames-like furniture. I think I would be laughed at if I went out in a silver unitard. Thankfully, though, I am not taking my meals in pill form.
I think 2000 will be most notable for all the crushed expectations that people will abandon. A lot of people are going to have to get used to the unexciting reality that this is just another damn year, not the dawn of something new and fabulous, or new and apocalyptic. sure, I would love to see some massive transformation take place in global society during the new year, but I’m not holding my breath.
I want to find all those people who promised Li’l Danny his moon-pod, though, and give them a piece of my mind.
As far as news goes, not much. It was great having guests all weekend, although my plumbing problems (my friend Jen dropped a bar of soap into my toilet while flushing last week) detracted from the urbane sophistication of it all. I doubt Noel Coward ever had to snake the potty in front of his guests.
Back from the Tumult
Back at last after a tumultuous few days. I’m feeling a little exhausted, and my throat feels a little scratchy. If I have strep throat again, I may as well shoot myself, ‘cuz I just don’t have time to deal. I’ve already ignored my long list of things to do by going to Baltimore and Washington last week. It wasn’t all frivolous, though: I went to the Miles 33 User’s Group Meeting out by the glamorous BWI Airport, and then down to Washington, D.C., for a visit with Jim and Frank on Friday and then a party and Kris and Casey‘s on saturday. Whoo! What a whirlwind!
Speaking of whirlwinds, I had the kookiest evening Thursday at Hurricane’s, the bar/dance club attached to the BWI Airport sheraton. Not only did I find myself at a trashy, packed airport bar in the middle of nowhere with former and possibly-future co-workers, but it was also ladies night at the club. As you can imagine, that made the whole thing even classier. But, just when we’d hit a good jaded-urbanites-dishing-the-townies groove, an assortment of cast members from The Real World and Road Rules walked in. No camera crews, no fanfare, just the sudden appearance of Jason, Kameelah, Kalle, Norman, and Matt (if I identified them all properly). Freaky.
Well, my head is ready to explode now. stevie Wong, my supplier for all things modern, sent me a little package of goodies (Thank you, sweetie!) including a copy of flatnessisgod, by Ryan McGinness. Wow, I just couldn’t believe it when I started to look through it. I think it may be the most exciting book about design, picture-making, and visual communication I have ever seem. Buy it, if just for the square — yes, square — CD-ROM. I swear to god, if this stuff is important to you it’ll rock your world.
Twee Li’l Moby
That Moby — what a kooky, wee little pixie he is. He’s the sweetest, littlest pop star on earth until he starts playing and singing, at which point he becomes this hyperactive, screaming animal with veins popping out of his head. It makes for a good show, but I still don’t think I have any need to buy one of his albums. Check your local listings once the new seasion of sessions begins: my pals Mark, Tom, Steven, Alex, and I got seats in the front row, so we’ll be on your TV.
One warning if you ever go to a taping for sessions: Don’t be intimidated by the blonde bitch who seats the audience. she’s a pain in the butt, and you have to pay attention to you or you’ll get a crummy seat, but you just have to remember that she’s got a sucky, high-stress job. And someone’s probably screaming at her through her headset the whole time.
Have I mentioned how much I love Sessions at West 54th Street? It’s great show to watch – one more reason to support public television, I say. It’s much greater, though, to be able to live where they tape. Last season I got to see great live performances by David Byrne and the Balanescu Quartet, Lyle Lovett, and the Afro-Cuba All-Stars. Even though I couldn’t use my tickets this season for Cibo Matto, Los Lobos, or Marianne Faithful, I am going to see Cesaria Evora today, and I scored tickets for Moby on Monday. And it’s free!
UPDATE! Cesaria Evora is so captivating! She’s so dignified and lovely, and her voice is just wonderful — rich and haunting. It frustrated me, though, to be surrounded by so much Portuguese again. I can never manage to translate enough to keep myself from getting frustrated at my lack of comprehension. Natalie Merchant, who sat in front of us, seemed less troubled by it all.
The Minefield of Aggressive Language (Part 1)
Subject: Re: AN OPEN LETTER
Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 09:44:32 -0400
From: Daniel Rhatigan <Sparky@inch.com>
> and faggy is not an insult.
Uh-oh, we’re digging deeper into that thorny “use of language” issue
I find it pretty hard not to find “faggy” an insult here. (“…quoting
faggy bands like the Flaming Lips.”) The defamatory sense of the word is
pretty clear. And the defamatory point of the word is to malign someone
or something by implying it has the quality of what is perceived as standard
that’s not an insult? If the point is to say that the Flaming Lips are
admitted homosexuals and no one cares about it anyway, it’s still a callous
way to put it, considering that all the taunting that’s made use “fag”
and its derivatives over the years. If the point really is to say that
the Flaming Lips aren’t that good, then the insult to us fags seems pretty
clear. The intent behind the word always means something. And that’s why
people need to be responsible for their use of language.
And I don’t mean “responsible” to be steering clear of offensive or
impolite words. “Responsible” means use your language carefully, and say
what you really mean. Or people might think you mean what you are only
saying. Swear like a sailor! Push people’s buttons! But make sure you know
what you’re doing, and do it for a reason.
There are a couple of zines out there like “Teen Fag” and “Single Faggot”
that are using the words with great care. They’re trying to push some buttons,
and throw the word back at the public that might otherwise use it as an
insult. that’s pushing some artistic boundaries. Just tossing the word
“fag” around liberally by somebody who’s not thinking about the implications
isn’t breaking any new ground, it’s just crossing over the same tired ground.
Same deal with this ongoing debate about rascism. Careless use of the
word “nigger” isn’t automatically pushing artistic boundaries just because
someone has the right to use it. Sure someone has the right use it, but
also the responsibility to face criticism for it. I don’t think the post
that started all this hoopla used it any way that was going to make people
question their own position on rascism. Not do I think it was meant to
spark a healthy debate on the subject. It was just thoughtless. And hence
insulting to anyone who ever got called a nigger and had a reason to get
pissed off about it.
Just like “faggy” is an insult to anyone who ever got called a fag and
knew that it wasn’t meant as a compliment.
So even if I am a man-lovin’, limp-wristed, lisping, cocksucking, buttfucking, gerbil-chasing, popper-snorting, disco-dancing, pink-wearing nancyboy, but — and I quote Joe Jackson — “don’t call me a faggot, not unless you are a friend.”
Media junkie that I am, I naturally checked out a lot of stuff while
I was in L.A. In the interest of passing on useful information, here are
brief reviews of movies, music, and zines that came my way during my vacation.
If you’re one of those people who reads reviews to be up-to-the-minute,
move along. These will all be hopelessly out of date by the time you read
Directed by Steve Miner, 1991
I came into this movie late, since it was on television when I was trapped
in a Minneapolis motel room, but I think I got a pretty good sense of it.
This is the movie where Mel Gibson is a test pilot who was frozen back in
the thirties and then defrosted by two kooky kids in the nineties. Basically,
this is entertainment-lite. Not a fantastic flick, but soothingly bland.
There are vast gaps in logic and plot scattered throughout, but Mel looks
good, Jamie Lee Curtis gets to look concerned a lot, the young Elijah Wood
gets to show that he’s a pretty good actor for a little kid (I don’t think
that little kids have to prove their acting talent by faking cancer or anything
melodramatic; I’m won over by believability), and the job is utterly mild
overall. Beware, though: if you can’t stand saccharine, heartwarming endings,
stay away! You’ll blow all over the screen.
The Good Son
Directed by Joseph Rubin, 1993
Elijah Wood pops up again, if just to prove that Macauley Culkin is a gimmick,
not an actor. This cinematic atrocity was forced upon me during a five-hour
airplane flight, so I won’t take responsibility for choosing it.
This is a turkey. It uses every goofy cinematic gimmick to build predictable
suspense and dull, anticlimactic action sequences. The only shining moment
is watching Mac plunge to his death, dropped from a high, rocky ledge by
his mother, who realizes that Elijah Wood would be a lot less hassle to
have around the house.
Directed by Michael Apted, 1994
I caught this at a cast-and-crew screening, so there was a lot of excitement
in the audience, since everyone there had their messy little hands all over
it at one point or another. These people were applauding during the credits,
if that puts it in perspective.
This flick is worth seeing, though. The lovely Madeleine Stowe plays a violinist
in an Irish rock band, blinded as a child by her loopy mother. After getting
a cornea transplant to restore her vision, she sees a serial killer leaving
the scene of a murder upstairs from her, but doesn’t realize it, since her
eyes are still adapting to being able to see again.
The thing is, she has a rare condition where her brain processes information
long after her eyes see things, so she keeps seeing this killer, and other
wacky things, at totally random times. She’s the only eyewitness, though,
which forces misogynist, abrasive detective Aidan Quinn (looking a little
puffy and over-the-hill, but still okay), who once mooned her in a bar when
she was still blind, to stick around her until they catch the guy.
I know this sounds like a hokey premise, and I guess it is, but it works.
The optical effects are really nice, and the suspense is nicely crafted,
with a few good twists near the end. All in all, my only complaint is that
once again, a blind woman in the movies has impeccable taste in trendy clothes,
skillfully applied makeup, and a fabulous apartment.
Directed by Jonathan Demme, 1993
This is not the definitive AIDS movie, nor do I think it’s trying to be,
despite the assumptions of its detractors. This strikes me as more of a
portrait of the way different people react to AIDS, whether they are understanding
and supportive of PWAs, terrified of the threat of the disease, or well-meaning
but thoroughly homophobic.
The cinematography in this one deserves a note, since it seems a little
affected and overdone at first, but eventually it drives the point home
with incredible impact. This is an actor’s movie all the way, relying on
clear, direct performances with more emotion and reaction captured by the
camera, rather than on witty or powerful dialogue. Two thumbs up for Tom
and Denzel, and almost all members of the stellar cast, except for David
Drake, who just couldn’t grasp the need to underplay his minor role for
maximum effect. He makes Doug Savant, the master of the sympathetic reaction
shot on Melrose Place, look like a stoneface.
This movie really shook me up, largely because it doesn’t provide pat plot
resolutions. Instead it forces the viewer to grapple with the issues it
leaves open. My initial reaction to the movie was to bawl my eyes out as
it reached its conclusion, but later, feeling a little clearer as my pal
Ed and I picked apart what the movie seemed to say, I was able to articulate
why it had affected me so much. Even though the battle lines and allegiances
are very clearly presented from the outset of the film, everyone in it makes
a case that someone could probably understand. As a workaholic gay man with
a straight HIV+ brother, I definitely was pissed off by the attitudes of
Jason Robards’ paranoid old-boys’ legal club, but I have to admit that they
might not have been truly guilty of the crime with which they are charged.
Denzel Washington’s unresolved homophobia seemed terribly small-minded,
but you can see where it makes sense in the context of the film. Ed’s politics
pretty much agreed with mine, though homophobic persecution and AIDS panic
don’t hit as close to home for him, and he also saw the ambiguity that ran
rampant through the film. This could play in Peoria and get reactions drastically
different from ours.
Any and all politics aside, this is a fine film, riveting and emotional
without being too manipulative.
Spencer the Gardener
At Club Lingerie
Spencer the Gardener is a band from Santa Barbara who do a nutty mix of
pop, country, and Latin music for the sake of fun, fun, fun. Every song
they performed was pretty jumpy and accessible, either lyrically or at least
musically, depending on whether it was an English funk/pop tune or a salsa
two-step. Ed claimed they were a lot like Chucklehead since they had a horn
section, but aside from their devotion to fun, Spencer’s sound is definitely
their own. My only criticism would be for Nate, their moody trumpet player:
get a little spunk, man!
Ben Is Dead
Summer 1993, "Modern Transmission & Sensory Overload."
Published and edited by Darby Romeo. Letters to: Ben Is Dead, P.O. Box 3166,
Hollywood, CA 90028.
I’ve been hearing a lot about Ben Is Dead as I’ve gotten deeper into
the zine world, but I’d never stopped to pick up a copy until I grabbed
this issue from a sleazy newsstand somewhere in L.A.
Unfortunately, the people behind BID are more famous for their I
Hate Brenda Newsletter. The tragedy of this is that BID is a
fantastic effort in its own right. The writing is both extremely intelligent
and laid-back witty. Darby and her assistant editors Kerin Morataya and
Michael Carr (aka Kitty Lu Kemia) have a lot of fierce attitude about what
they think and what they like, yet are still willing to explore and to flesh
out new ideas.
This particular issue features scientific explanations of the human senses,
a bawdy interview with Duran Duran, an exposé of The Jane Pratt Show,
a discussion of the limits of copyright law, and interviews with the publishers
of bOING!, bOING!, Future Sex, and Mondo 2000, among lots
of other goodies.
BID has a very slick four-color printed cover and decent web printing,
although the design and layout is a little Mac-happy. Luckily, they have
the budget for actual photographs and some neat computer graphics, so the
overall look is pretty good. Even if you’re a design snob like me, though,
you should get this publication. These people really kick some serious butt!
Vol. 2, No. 1, "Birthday/Holiday Issue."
Published and edited by NB. Letters to: TeenMom, 2211 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
#306, Los Angeles, CA 90068.
This is one nutty zine. Factsheet Five places TeenMom in its
queer section, but I don’t know if that’s really appropriate. Granted, the
editorial tone vacillates between gay camp and fun-loving feminist satire,
but even if it is a covert fag rag, it’s very limiting to look at this as
a queer zine.
TeenMom is a very wacky parody of teen heartthrob magazines, with
a lot of black humor, pop culture awareness, and photos of beefy guys. The
hook is that it’s supposedly written from the point of view of giddy adolescent
moms. This particular issue features tips on grooming your offspring for
teen stardom, choosing the genetically right TeenDad, a suspicious "interview"
with Juliette Lewis, and TeenMom’s Turkey Baster Award to Antonio Sabato,
Jr., for being the year’s biggest stud with the most promising sperm.
I am also quite fond of their clip/found art illustrations and their color
laser copy cover. It’s a low-budget job that uses the means at its disposal
Vol. 1, No. 1
Published and edited by Matt Patterson,
Ed Schmidt, and Joe Wagner. Letters
to: Ooze, 1553A Baxter St., Los Angeles, CA 90026.
Ooze is a smart, subversive humor mag put out by three lunatics I know in
L.A. This is an outgrowth of similar publications the guys made at Vassar,
and in high school before that. The jokes in Ooze are rife with pop culture
sensibility and a disdain for the editors’ mainstream suburban upbringing.
It’s a little bit April Fool’s Day and a little bit "Kids in the Hall."
It’s a little bit country, and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.
The first issue features a games page, suggestions for alternative prom
themes, medical advice for the lovelorn, and a treatise on the merits of
The design right now is fun, with lots of clip art and Photoshop experiments.
They also do an electronic version with sound available via Internet (at
email@example.com). These guys are
hoping their alma mater will give them a grant which will allow them to
do a slicker job with Ooze. But even without the extra dough, it’s
definitely worth a peek.
Published and edited by Geoff F.
Letters to: No Duh, P.O. Box 921, Allston, MA 02134
It figures that I would have to travel all the way to California to discover
this nifty little zine published right here in Boston, more specifically
in my old neighborhood, Allston — the B.U. student ghetto and the zip of
The editorial content of No Duh is fairly standard alterna-teen personal
experience and travelogue with articles about Providence, cheap beer, Seattle,
and historical zines. Don’t get me wrong — I really like the writing in this.
It’s pretty smart, very honest and anecdotal, and definitely entertaining.
The real kicker, though, is the look of No Duh. I bought it for its
packaging alone, a plain gray paper cover with a scooter illustration, all
sealed in a clear plastic bag with a tiny sticker describing the contents.
Very minimal and stylish. I was glad to see that the insides didn’t let
me down. Although the design isn’t really sophisticated, Geoff draws from
an apparently encyclopedic collection of mod-era advertising art, thirties
clip art, and old sundry ads and visuals for a really witty, fun-lovin’
package. Even handwritten pieces, of which I am usually very wary, are used
to good effect here. Kudos!
While tooling around, I also got lots of old records and whatnot, which
I’ll just list for the sake of brevity:
Brazilian Festival by Miguelito Valdes Banda da Lua Boys
Hawaii Calls: Greatest Hits by Webley Edwards with Al Kealoha
Hooked on Rock Classics by the London Symphony Orchestra with
the Royal Choral Society
Hooked on Swing by Larry Elgart and his Manhattan Swing Orchestra
Mecca for Moderns by the Manhattan Transfer
More Italian Favorites by Connie Francis
Pop Goes the Movies by Meco
Rei Momo by David Byrne
See the Money in My Smile by the Jack Rubies
Skatetown U.S.A. soundtrack
Bootlegs of the impossible-to-find soundtracks for Beyond the Valley
of the Dolls and Valley Girl (very fitting during the time of
the quake, eh?)
A Guinan/Whoopi Goldberg action figure
A transcript of the complete dialogue from Female Trouble
A promo t-shirt from 8 Seconds to Glory, the Luke Perry rodeo
Dr. Killemoff from the Toxic Crusaders series
An Entertainment Bonanza
I don’t know if it’s possible to really explain Marty and Elayne. At least, I don’t think anyone could express exactly what it’s like to see them, to hear them.
Marty and Elayne are a husband-and-wife lounge act who perform nightly at
a Los Angeles restaurant/lounge called the Dresden. This place is
the toniest. It’s all brown velour walls and furniture and gold light fixtures.
Circular booths and small tables surround a baby grand piano ringed with
a counter and chairs.
Elayne sits at the piano with a pile of sheet music and a couple of extra
Casiotone keyboards. Next to her is Marty and his stand-up bass, with a
drum kit on the side just in case. Marty is the stone-faced protector of
Elayne, the ethereal artist who lives through the music she plays. It sweeps
her away, and Marty makes sure everyone respects that. Together, as they’ve
done for the last twenty years, they wail out popular favorites and old
standards. They don’t just perform simple smarmy covers, though. Every song
is transformed into something unique, something unbelievable, something
bordering on the incomprehensible.
Without fail, they start every song in a simple way, with either Marty singing
in his pitch-for-pitch Sinatra voice, or Elayne in her own jazzy, high-frequency
way. After a verse and a chorus, though, the fun begins. Elayne scats. She
scats like a cat in heat. She scats in song and plays improvised, otherwordly
riffs on the piano. Marty keeps the beat and keeps it strong, plucking or
pounding away a steady rhythm that moves Elayne along like a runaway roller
coaster. The overall effect seems pretty cheesy, but there’s something about
it — something way beyond the humor and the impossible.
You see, these guys have passion for what they’re doing. They’re serious
and it shows. If they were just going along in a happy state of shtick,
I don’t think it would work. It would be too over the top. This is the real
thing, and it makes all the difference. Their enthusiasm is infectious.
Of course, I saw people in the room who were watching them with a superior,
Lettermanesque shit-eating grin, but most everyone, the people who looked
like they kept coming back, was having fun: they all really appreciated
Marty and Elayne in a goofy way. Dresden is by no means a cheap gin joint.
There’s no cover, but people wouldn’t pay those drink prices if the show
wasn’t worth it.
Marty and Elayne perform a huge selection of tunes, mostly on request, like
"Girl from Ipanema," "Staying Alive," "Fever,"
"Mack the Knife," "Muskrat Love" and other crowd-pleasers.
The most amazing number I heard of them all, by far, was "Light My
Fire." This transcended mere performance. I think it transcended mere
music. With Elayne taking the vocal reins and the keyboards, and Marty on
the drums, these two wailed away in a frenzy I couldn’t have ever expected.
I haven’t seen musicians swept away like that in a looooong time. All hail
Marty and Elayne, keeping the sanctity of the lounge alive!
Ooze bites the hand that feeds it! Ooze came one step closer to its formidable goal of total media domination this past fall when it was included in an exhibit called alt.youth.media at New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art. Could this really be a sign of recognition by the digerati and the art-world elite or just another hoodwink?
Trusty Mark Scarola and I were deputized as East Coast Correspondents and dispatched by Ooze International Headquarters to attend their prestigious art opening in New York’s infamous Soho. Getting our lazy asses there involved a flurry of e-mail and much FedExing of tickets, info, and promotional Ooze T-shirts (buy yours today, or suffer the humiliation of going without).
The entire block of Broadway in front of the museum (a misnomer at best: the space isn’t much bigger than the sweatshop loft Mark and I call home) was bustling with “alt.youths” as far as the eye could see. Yessirree bub, it looked like someone was lumping the malcontents at Ooze in with lots and lots of teenagers who took punk rock and hipster threads VERY seriously. It felt a lot like going to a high school art club meeting.
Feeling sufficiently smug, Mark and I donned our Ooze shirts, got the disposable camera ready, and elbowed through the pubescent crowd at the door. It took a little bit of doe-eyed doubletalk to get our friend, world-famous wine critic Tom Maresca, inside with us since the invite was not so much an announcement as much as a means of Gestapo-like crowd control. Eventually, we were allowed to enter, squeeze past the gift counter, and plunge into the midst of this hullabaloo of teen self-expression. (“I wasn’t expecting this to be such a scene!” said the ever succinct Simon Spelling, an editor of exhibit-sponsor Metrobeat.)
My first observation: damn loud and damn crowded. I tried to start slow, so I stopped to look at the blown-up photos of kids in their rooms and read the pithy, Wired-esque blurbs about the exhibit’s aim to showcase the work of a generation thoroughly schooled in media blah blah blah blah blah. I slapped some of my own stickers up over the tags and other stickers covering the whole wall and got on with it.
The inside of the exhibit was a lot like craft day show-and-tell at the average summer camp. Half the room was devoted to zines pinned up on the wall and strewn across a bunch of counters. A nicely equipped “Do It Yourself” area sat in another corner where they encouraged people to play with copiers, rubber stamps, markers, glue sticks, and old magazines and make their very own zines right there on the spot! You only needed to read through the stuff other people had done for about ten minutes to be reminded that some people don’t really lighten up until they grow up a little. I haven’t seen so much gratuitous, angst-ridden manifestos since . . . well . . . since I was about sixteen. Naturally, the gents and I felt compelled to dive into the fray and produce our own punky, subversive, politically-charged zine right their on the spot so we wouldn’t be denied our own shot at uninhibited self-expression! Let’s just say that the long-awaited third issue of Rumpus Room is a little skimpy, but it’s a blistering satire of other zines, and it’s now in the collection of a museum in a major East Coast city. Or at least in its prestigious dumpster.
I had to search pretty hard through the amateur video area and the music sampling studio before I finally found the terminals for the big multimedia section in the back. Well, the verdict was in: The Web may be Big Business in the press, but the alt.youth.artworld thought it only rated two tiny monitors in a far, shadowy corner. Each terminal “featured” about 20 websites, so I felt Ooze needed a break. We hoarded the computer from time to time and forced innocent strangers to watch Ooze on screen while Mark and I took pictures of each other as a cheap publicity stunt.
As soon as we finished the free fancy sodas (no wine at an art opening?!) and tired of hob-nobbing with the teen zine scenesters, we beat a hasty retreat. Those t-shirts definitely work, though: we got funny looks all night long from people who couldn’t quite decide if the baby with the fork in its head was valid self-expression of a just a joke in poor taste. Score one for our side.
[Originally published in September 1996 for Ooze.]