Most Illinest B-Boys

3 Li'l BeastiesI’ve liked the Beastie
ever since “License to Ill,” and I’ve worshipped them since “Paul’s
Boutique,” their brilliant album that was an inexplicable commercial dud. They’re each in his own way chock full of all those qualities that always rate high — Ad Rock’s always been the cutie and has a totally goony, malleable face, Mike D is surprisingly articulate and level-headed, and MCA has become beautifully sincere and kind-hearted without losing his sense of humor — but I never thought of them as being that attractive until recently. I was watching “Beastie|ography” on MTV, watching them talk about their career, and I suddenly realized that as the B-Boys have gotten a little older they’ve all become total hotties in one way or another. It’s all there — the nebbishy hipness, the easygoing moves, the jokes, the creativity. Age has made Ad Rock’s goofing more charming, Mike D’s angular face more interesting, and MCA less doped-up looking. So now I have to worship them on one more level. Jeez, the responsibility! (And a special shout-out to cutie-pie Beastie keyboard player Money Mark, also.)

#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8

The Epiphany I Was Waiting to Have

My first reaction to the death of my older brother Bobby when I was thirteen was one of sheer confusion. I remember when I found my sister sitting and crying on the steps to our house, and when she explained that the police had found Bobby’s body in a patch of woods near our house, I just wondered how I was supposed to react. When I walked into the house, I encountered a room full of family members either weeping or comforting those who were. A lot of the details of the next few days are pretty fuzzy, but I still have a few impressions of how I dealt with the situation.

The confusion didn’t really go away. I know that on a gut level, I wasn’t that sad about what had happened. I wasn’t close with my brother — he scared and aggravated me more than anything else. He had a lot of problems, and even at the age I was then, I figured out that he couldn’t go on forever if he kept treating himself the way he did. I could tell, however, that I was expected to be upset, even though I was more numb than anything else.

I can recall from that same morning when we learned that Bobby had killed himself that my mother and my Aunt Lee followed me into my room to comfort me. I burst out into tears, but I’m was pretty sure that I was more upset about the people in the next room than about the less concrete idea that my brother was gone. The despair in the living room had hit me like a brick when I entered the house, and I guess I went to my room to try and hide from it. When Mom and Aunt Lee in effect forced me to acknowledge the situation, I cried because I was confused about how to react, and because everyone I looked to for support when I was sad was pretty sad themselves.

I remember feeling numb and awkward during the wakes and the funeral, too. I was bugged by all these people offering me sympathy when I didn’t really feel the need for it. I wonder now if I really faked mourning well, or if everyone was too distracted to notice that I wasn’t grieving like everyone else.

For a long time, the hardest part was always trying to explain the situation accurately. I wasn’t comfortable talking about my brother’s death, because people always reacted so strongly — moreso than I ever did. I wasn’t comfortable with the kind of empathic scrutiny that people try to offer the bereaved, because I didn’t want to be found out.

Now, it’s years later and I have a very different perspective on the situation. As I grew older, I discovered what a profound influence my brother Bobby had on me — he, with a little help from my other siblings, turned me into the goody-two-shoes I am today. I basically used him as a model of what not to do with my life — how not to treat my parents, the value of staying away from drugs and alcohol, the importance of hard work. Whenever I faced a tough peer pressure situation, I usually stuck to my guns, and freely offered the explanation that I’d already seen what a little bit of experimentation could lead to.

All that time, though, while I pondered the implications of my brother’s life, I still didn’t really feel the loss of his death. I could appreciate the tragedy from an objective sense, but it never had much of an effect. The closest I ever felt to grief for most of the last ten years has been during the times when I realized that I had taken on superficial qualities of my brother’s — such as a certain haircut or a piece of clothing like he used to wear — but I never felt grief so much as a vague but profound discomfort.

Last year, though, I felt my first real pang of grief and loss, the first real understanding of how awful it was that he was so upset with his life that he ran away from home and shot himself in the woods. By this point I had accepted the grim possibility that I might be prone to depression, and that depression may have played a big part in the outlook of my brother. I was at work one day, and it occurred to me that it was about the time of year when Bobby died. Then I realized that I was now the same age he was when he died. It dawned on me that I had gotten as far as he had, and I was okay, even if times were tough sometimes. I realized how awful it was that I was never going to know my brother as a person — we would never be peers. He had always been an almost mythical example of behavior to me, a bad role model. Now he wasn’t older and stupider and a memory; he was a young guy like me who couldn’t figure out his life and couldn’t see that he had a lot of people who would have been willing to help him do it, a guy who made some bad choices but usually tried to be a decent character, but wasn’t going to live to know that people appreciated it. Suddenly, I felt a huge loss, and the first real pangs of sorrow about what had happened years before. I knew what grief felt like for me, and it wasn’t the violent, demonstrative kind of wailing I’d seen for years in movies and TV, it just ached and felt empty.

Another Call to Arms, of a Sort

Subject: Neither Quark nor PageMaker is the answer
Date: Wed, 20 May 1998 23:39:42 -0400
From: Daniel Rhatigan <>
Newsgroups: alt.zines

Frequently, discussions in this group turn toward the practical discussions of zine-making: printing, computer programs, layout problems, etc. Everybody’s always got a lot of good ideas about how to fix technical problems, but how about some of the design problems that a lot of the questions bring up? Pagemaker or Quark won’t give you a good-looking zine, only good choices will. I’m still a fan of people doing it the old-school way with typewriters or even decent handwriting, but for everyone who’s moved onto writing and publishing in the digital
age along with me, let me rant a little of my design philosophy.

At work, in my zines, in everyday life, I’m always grappling with the relationship between typography and technology. As the fields grow more interrelated each day, each demands a greater understanding of its influence on the other, and those of us who dabble in one cannot help but learn more of both. Consideration of the two can allow us to profit from their relationship rather than be thwarted by it.

I have a true love and respect for type, and I know I’m a geek about it. I think the abstract beauty of a single letterform can be breathtaking on its own, but more importantly I think typography is our means of conveying language, integral to how we read and how we communicate. If typography suffers then communication suffers with it, robbed of its full potential. I value the role that typography plays in language, and I feel a responsibility to allow it to play its role as perfectly as possible. Type should help us understand words, and its complexity should never be underestimated.

Perhaps the easiest way to ignore the complexity of typography is to become distracted by the complexity of the technology we use to set type. Though we are now expected to develop expertise with computers, we are not freed from our responsibility to think critically about
typography. Computers are powerful tools that have offered us many new opportunities, but they do not offer us solutions to the problems of working with type.

It is easier now than ever before for anyone to put type on a page and have it look pretty clean, but it is also too easy for the finer elements of effective typography to be ignored. This can be the result of too little technical proficiency, too little visual sophistication, or even too little patience to make the adjustments needed to perfect computer-generated type. All designers now working as typesetters also have the responsibility to master the technology that creates their type. Just as we should not allow ourselves to forget the many responsibilities involved in designing with type, we should also not underestimate the complexity of our common tool ? the computer.

Computer operating systems and software packages are complex tools that allow us to achieve far more than we may have once thought possible. Conversely, their complexity may limit our abilities if we are not able to work within the parameters of their logic. As with any tool or any printing process, we must be sensitive to the way computers work so that we can make the greatest possible use of them. Once we understand the working of these systems, then we often find that we were limited not by the tool, but by our ability to use it.

My years in school and my subsequent years working for myself and for other people have taught me the importance of design and typography. I have come to believe that they present us not only with opportunities, but with problems that we must solve to aid communication and also to improve our visual culture. I say we should seek the best solutions to these problems, while trying to be clear, inventive, expressive, and efficient. This requires sensitivity to subject, concept, medium, and tool alike.

Don’t fall into the trap and just play dress-up with visual style. If you’re doing your zine out of love, show it all the love you can. Make it as effective and as right-on-the-money as possible. Don’t cheapen your writing or the writing of your contributors by making things look
“cool” with funky fonts and clip art that aren’t really supporting the writing or the tone of the zine. Don’t make it too busy just because you can. Don’t think that because your program will let you do something that means it’s a good thing to do. Make good choices, pay attention how
truly readable and how true to itself your zine is. I don’t even mean making your zine look slick — if your zine is raw, then use your tools to make it raw. If it’s thoughtful, use your tools to show that.

And keep on keeping on.

The Minefield of Aggressive Language (Part 3)

Subject: Re: What’s considered RACIST in the Zine World
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 16:21:09 -0400
From: Daniel Rhatigan <>
Newsgroups: alt.zines

D. Halligan wrote:

> one also needs to keep in mind that this is a newsgroup revolving around writing, self-publishing, and free speech. I think if it’s important to you to point out words and ideas that offend you, then by all means do. [snip] But realize the free speech that protects your right to voice your
opinion is the same free speech that allows someone to say something that
may be offensive to you.

Really beautifully stated. And probably a good concept for participants
in the newsgroup to keep in mind. I would even go so far as to say that
if we’re committed to being writers and self-publishers, it’s our responsibility
to exercise that free speech to its fullest — we’re less bound by the forces
that might keep it at bay. Sure, it would be fantastic if everyone in the
newsgroup ? and in the world at large — were considerate, rational, and
committed to an open dialogue of ideas. Truth is, that’s not necessarily
the case, and I’d rather argure someone down to the mat or make a personal
choice to ignore them rather than let their unpopular ideas fester behind
censorship until they explode without warning.

The Minefield of Aggressive Language (Part 2)

Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 15:35:00 -0400
From: Daniel Rhatigan <>
Newsgroups: alt.zines

Dolya wrote:

> How can you complain about someone using a word if you use that word yourself?

Easily. The complaint is about use of the use (or misuse) or words,
the intent of words, the implications of words. Personally, I don’t think
words themselves should be damned, but I can object to the ways they’re
wielded. Like I don’t object to baseball bats unless they’re being used
to smack someone in the head.

We’re zine publishers, right? Presumably that also means we’re writers
— words are our tools and part of the substance of our work. Even if my
subjective point of view — I don’t like feeling maligned by strangers — is irrelevant, my objective point of view is still valid. Words have meanings, often multiple meanings, and usually defined by the intent of the writer or speaker. If you are going to communicate with words, use them well.
Know what you are trying to say. If you don’t want to offend, see that
you don’t. If you want to offend? Whatever — go for the jugular, but know
that you are doing it. And be ready to take the inevitable criticism. that’s

The Minefield of Aggressive Language (Part 1)

Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 09:44:32 -0400
From: Daniel Rhatigan <>
Newsgroups: alt.zines

Shantia wrote:

> 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
gay characteristics.

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.”


Plan Nine from Chelsea

Gay Black

To the best of my knowledge,
this book was not really written by Ed Wood the filmmaker, nor is the gentleman
featured on the cover a gay black. My guess is that “Ed Wood” was chosen
at the time as a nom-de-plume by the author back in the days when
Ed Wood was still something of a cultural obscurity. But I could be wrong.
I do know for a fact, though, that the photograph on the cover is not supposed
to represent Charlene, the hero/heroine of the book who escapes a tortured
youth as a sharecropper to go an become a cross-dressing bitch for a series
of con men and thieves.

This little example of vintage “erotica” turned up in a yard sale in
Fort Greene, Brooklyn, one day. I really got a kick out of seeing how dirty
stories were written back in the good ol’ days of the year I was born.
I almost feel a pang of regret that contemporary smut has lost that sense
of the hero being really deviant and indiscrete: it seems a lot more thrilling
than than the explicit, happy rainbow crap that gets churned out these

Macho Men

We all remember the Village People and their unique portrayal of a number of standard sterotypes and fantasy characters from the swinging gay New York City of the 70’s. My question is: Why should we let them remain the end-all and be-all of kooky stock character types? Why, when there are so many other pigeonholes waiting to be filled and acknowledged!

Here is your chance to “show your Underalls” by identifying your six Personalized Village People for these swinging fin-de-siecle times. What sorts of guys do you usually go all ga-ga over? What does it take to tickle even the mildest and most innocuous fetish you have, or at the very least, what do seem to fall for over and over again, good judgement be damned?

For example, my Personal Village People would have to include:

  • The Architect: Always so fashionably but simply dressed, with a very precise haircut. A workaholic like me, and able to discuss design theory. Has great modernist furniture.
  • The Rudeboy: Such a fun-loving imp, channelling all that physical aggression into jumping around and skanking. Wears cheap suits, but knows how to work ’em with just the right hat and shoes. Appreciates bad band name puns.
  • The Funky Geek: Understands dorky computer junk, but more importantly wears cool glasses and knows where all the good local thrift stores are. Appreciates my finely-tuned pop culture sensibility and is insecure enough to really appreciate a good thing when he finds it.
  • The Hipster Leatherboy: Scruffy or skinhead, often with goatee. Thinks of himself as thoroughly modern and liberal, if not downright revolutionary. Has artistic ambitions, and oozes sexual potency. Could also be identified as the Gen-Y rebel. (Johnathon Schaech in “The Doom Generation” is a good example.)
  • The Inaccessible Foreigner: Smart, creative, and devilishly good-looking, with sharp verbal wit and a creative profession. Seems perfect except for those visa problems and steep airfares. Has accent that could charm a rabid doberman.
  • The Bike Messenger: Maybe he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but with those legs and that ass who cares? And funky tattoos. Stamina is also a plus, and he probably follows a lot of hip local bands and reads zines.

    Other classic archetypes that one might consider:

    The Randy Farmhand

    The Randy Farmhand

    The Mighty Gladiator

    The Mighty Gladiator

    The Old-Skool Leather Daddy

    The Old-Skool Leather Daddy

    The Curious Sailor

    The Curious Sailor

    The Skinny Hipster

    The Skinny Hipster

    The Deap-Sea Diver

    The Deap-Sea Diver

Every Life Should Have a Soundtrack

that’s the reason I can usually be found walking around with a Walkman on. I am so consumed by my love of music that I want it to surround me as often as possible. When I walk around, listening to music keeps my imagination engaged, and prevents me from becoming a walking vegetable as I commute.

I find it difficult to restrict my listening habits to just one or two genres. Every nuance of my moods can have a different sort of music that suits it best. If you just look at the list on the right, you’ll see that the evidence speaks for itself.

Unfortunately, as I’ve become an overworked old fart, my concert attendance has dropped off considerably. For one thing, I’ve lost my patience for seeing bands in any kind of stadium or other large venue. They lack any kind of intimacy that allows me to feel really involved in the show. At the same time, I have fallen into a vicious cycle where I stopped seeing shows as often because I wasn’t too thrilled with the indie music scene in Boston my last couple of years there, and now I’ve gotten so out of touch with local music both there and here in New York, that I never know what will be a good show to see, so I don’t go.

To top it off, New York seems to have an inexplicably crappy radio market, so I don’t hear much that way. Thes days I depend on recommendations from friends and what exposure I get through TV and my frequent forays to sample the listening booths at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square. (Sending me into Virgin is like waving an open bottle of gin in front of an alcoholic — so dangerous.)