Friday, December 26, 2008

My Top Ten Songs of 2008 (Note: No real relation to 2008)

I love year-end "Best Of" lists, but the music that's important to me in a given year is rarely from that year. I become really involved with a few songs per month, listening to them over and over again. My relationship with music I love hasn't changed fundamentally since I was 13 or so - I become immersed in things very quickly and want them around me always. These are the songs that have held special meaning for me this year. They're organized in a vaguely chronological, vaguely hierarchical fashion - which is to say, not really by any rhyme or reason.

10. Kate Bush - "Suspended in Gaffa"

My mother is an old-school Kate Bush fan. For the last few years she has been attempting to get me into Bush's oeuvre, but beyond a general admiration for its cover I was relatively nonplussed by The Kick Inside, Bush's first album. Until this past January, that is, when I acquired her entire discography after hearing the song "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" on the soundtrack of the middling James McAvoy vehicle Starter For One. I listened to the one-two punch of "Moving" and "The Saxophone Song" while trying to peck out stories in my study late at night; watched the bizarre video for "Wuthering Heights" and its weird YouTube responses; and fell asleep to the sexy three-song progression at the end of the album: "James and the Gold Gun," "Feel It," and "Oh To Be In Love." As my interest in Bush grew, so did my affection for her work, and I came to be as engaged by Hounds of Love, The Dreaming, and Bush's last album, Aerial. I listened to "Suspended in Gaffa" (from The Dreaming) more than any other song, captivated by its evocation of the line between ecstasy and depression.

9. Ladytron - "Ghosts"

I first heard Ladytron during my first year of college, in 2003, when a junior in high school sent me two mix CDs and a twenty-two page handwritten letter explaining the meaning of each song. "Seventeen" was one of the only songs I liked, and Ladytron became one of my favorite bands. On Halloween 2006 I saw them play at Webster Hall with CSS, a show so killer that I purchased tickets to a September 2007 McCarren Pool Chemical Brothers concert just because Ladytron was opening. Unfortunately, not even the arctic cool of this Scottish quintet could save the ultimate lameness of a Chemical Brothers concert. This song, on the other hand, captures what the band does best: glacial statements of emotional entanglement set against a killer beat.

8. CSS - "Believe Achieve"

I bought Cansei de Ser Sexy's 2006 debut after the aforementioned awesome Webster Hall concert. Like a lot of the things I venerate on this blog, CSS's sound has the appropriate quotient of grime to sex. I bought their sophomore effort, Donkey, in August and quickly singled this song out as my favorite. I burnt it onto a CD containing most of the tracks on this list and listened to it as I drove around my hometown, singing along.

7. Dawn Landes - "I'm In Love With The Night"

This beautiful song, for which I could find no corresponding YouTube, was introduced to me indrectly by Chris Onstad, author of Achewood, who linked Landes's song "Twilight" on his character Molly's blog. At the time I was living at a villa in Florence, where I would spend long afternoons writing on an old leather couch in the lobby. After I'd exhausted what the internet could offer me of Landes's songs, I broke down and bought her album Fireproof on iTunes. The entire thing is flawless. The ache in her voice sounds hopeful to me. Also awesome: her cover of Peter, Bjorn and John's "Young Folks":

6. Radiohead - "Lucky"

Although they're probably the most acclaimed band of my lifetime, it wasn't until this year that I "got into" Radiohead. My awakening took place during my time in Florence, when three friends and I went to Milan to see the band play a Roman amphitheater. Unsurprisingly, the band was killer live, especially their rendition of this song.

5. M83 - "Skin of the Night"

I bought M83's album Saturdays = Youth after the A.V. Club noted that "It's hard to imagine finding much to fault in an album that professes a serious devotion to the likes of the Thompson Twins and Kate Bush." Score! The album's spoken word interludes are sometimes embarrassing, but then again, the band is French. They probably think English sounds cool just the way we think French does. This endless unwinding song is as long as a prom night spent waiting for the sun to rise.

4. Cat Power - "Metal Heart"

Really any of the first three tracks on Cat Power's 2008 disc, Jukebox, could have made this list; "New York" and "Ramblin' (Woman)" are just as excellent as "Metal Heart." But the latter is a rerecorded song, originally a track from Moon Pix, so brilliantly reimagined that I didn't recognize it the first few times I heard it.

3. The B-52's - "Dancing Now"

I've always loved The B-52's, probably because I was six years old the summer that "Love Shack" came out. Their sound triggers a Pavlovian response in my brain forcing me to have a good time. I liked all of the songs on Funplex, but I listened to this one more than any other on that leather couch in Florence, dancing very subtly in my seat.

2. Crystal Castles - "Courtship Dating"

I feel like anything intelligent I try to write about Crystal Castles comes out kind of muted, so maybe I'll just be honest. I fucking love Crystal Castles. Their music is the only thing that makes me feel the way all music on Q101 did when I was 12 years old, like I'm riding on top of a train and the wind is in my face and anything is possible. I goddamn love this song. I can't explain how much I fucking love it. This band makes me want to punch somebody in the face and then make out with them.

1. The New Pornographers - "Centre for Holy Wars"

I am horrified that I can't find a YouTube link for this song. The best I can do is a kind of suspect link. It's a shame, because I've listened to this track (from Mass Romantic, the band's 2000 debut) more than any other song this year. I listen to it when I'm getting ready to go out, slipping across the wood floor of my apartment in my socks, and I listen to it when I'm hopping around in my sweats and glasses, hyping myself up to go running. I listen to it when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Maybe the New Pornographers are old news, but this year they - and especially this song - were big news to me. Something about this track has made me unflappably happy. Maybe it was the chorus, the soaring words "exactly where we are" - a sort of mantra about self-acceptance, if you will - that put "Centre for Holy Wars" at the top of my list.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Dreams are poems, not stories"

"In Dreams" from Blue Velvet

Anna Domino - "Land of My Dreams"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Masters, Legends

In the current Rolling Stone, there's an article (not online yet) about Orlando-based real life superhero Master Legend. ML is one of what the article calls "a growing network of similarly homespun caped crusaders emerg[ing] across the country," a tiny group of men and women who, taking inspiration from Golden- and Silver-Age comic books, dress up in bright colors to fight evildoers. I am not intimately familiar with this movement, despite being a devoted comics reader, but I feel that the article does these guys a disservice. Author Joshuah (nice spelling, bro) Bearman takes the easy way out, writing the profile in a tone that vacillates between mild derision and charmed amusement. According to Bearman, it's nice that these losers want to help people, but not terribly effective. Master Legend and both of his sidekicks - the Ace, and then his replacement Ace Gauge - are given the usual "fun weirdo" treatment. The article takes it as a given that their do-gooding is cute but ultimately useless, the machinations of men rendered impotent by poverty, abuse, and casual alcoholism.

I found the article's condescending tone tiresome, particularly the following passage:
Real Life Superheroes have a conflicted relationship with law enforcement. The hardcore types have a somewhat dated, Death Wish-era worldview, as if the cities are overrun by chain-saw-wielding clown gangs and the cops just can't control the streets anymore. The more civic-minded superheroes imagine themselves as informal police adjuncts, a secret society of costumed McGruffs. One of Master Legend's most prized possessions is a framed certificate of commendation from the Orange County Sheriff's Department, for the time he and the Disabler snapped into action after Hurricane Charley, helping to clear the roads and rescue people from the wreckage. "We were on the news and everything," Master Legend says. "The police recognized everything we did."

Since then, Master Legend claims that he has developed a police contact on the inside, his "very own Comissioner Gordon." To prove it, he gives me a phone number. I immediately call and leave a message; I've tried to confirm tales from other superheroes, only to discover that the police have never heard of them.

"I have friends in high places," Master Legend promises. "When they see the silver and black, they know who's coming."

As it turns out, Master Legend's police contact later gets in touch with Bearman and confirms that ML has been helpful to him. I just don't think ML, gentle and slightly deluded dork that he might be, deserves the condescension RS heaps on him. His tasks - protecting endangered gopher tortoises, handing out toiletries and clothing to the homeless during a staph infection epidemic, and the aforementioned hurricane relief work - are pretty fucking honorable. Bearman never gets over the hilarity of the fact that ML and his cohorts take their task so seriously. Little jabs sprinkled throughout the text ( "This whole movement is more than just fat guys in spandex," insists Superhero, himself a brawny guy in head-to-toe spandex, yuk yuk) function as winks to the reader: don't worry, we don't think this stuff is any more valid than you do.

But aside from the general DIY lameness of the Real Life Superhero endeavor, I'm not sure these people deserve our ire. Certainly Master Legend and his ilk are illustrative of how incredibly less cool comics are when brought to life - the whole thing is kind of like a community theatre production of Watchmen Live! - but isn't that kind of awesome, too?

I've often been told - mainly by my male friends - that I'm not a real comic book fan because my life as a comics reader began with a grab-bag of EC Comics, Archie comics, and the aforementioned influx of Slave Labor Graphics titles.

(Cut to 13-year-old me, in the SLG IRC chatroom, talking to Lenore author Roman Dirge: Hi! I found out about Lenore the way most people do...
Roman Dirge: Oh? How's that?
Me: From reading JTHM!!!
Roman Dirge: Great.)

And it's true, I didn't grow up obsessively following most of the standard superhero characters, although I did read long runs of Spiderman and Uncanny X-Men, and collected X-Men trading cards. But I loved and love comic books for their unlimited potential. For me, words and pictures aren't about the possibility of super powers, they're about possibility, period; about the potential for everything from familial reconciliation through literature to out-Lynching David Lynch.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reunited and it feels so good

What a sub sandwich eatin azz homo - m4m - 34- (I have to problems going to your job)

This is either an inside joke or the sole internet presence of a pod of Subway- and NSA-loving gay men. Either way, the words in the parentheses are my favorite thing ever.

:: Searching for his Little Gurl - m4t (Upper West Side)

I love the way this one is formatted like a job ad, complete with bullet points and summary-in-quotation-marks: "There is nothing more feminine then being Totally Dominated by a Tall Fat Master"
Edit: Oh god he added pictures.

Today's nominee for Terribly Uncasual Encounter is REAL LOYAL FRIENDS - w4w (TRISTATE)

i will like for you to be ride or die type of friend whos loyal and not pussy you have to be BETWEEN 18 - 30 you have to be GOING TO SCHOLL OR WORKING. U HAVE TO BE GETTIN MONEY. you CANT BE GRIMEY OR GREASY cause i have A THIRD NOSE FOR GREASY GIRLS THATS WHY I NEED NEW FRIENDS

Something tells me she typed this while yelling the same words at the rapidly retreating, sadly oily, soon-to-be-ex who never took notice of her "third nose."

farmboy in oregon for max and cindi - m4w - 52 (MIDTOWN)

The entire text of this ad is:

max and cindi i miss you both and please forgive me i was wrong scott

Reader, I hope your holiday is full of situations that require you to post mournfully specific apologies on Casual Encounters. God bless us everyone!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On my knees for Nny

In January 1998 I was in seventh grade. Shortly after winter break, I came down with a terrible cold, the type of mucousy weeks-long ordeal that everyone falls into time and again, but I took it very personally. The previous summer, I had begun keeping a journal. One of the first entries, on June 6, 1997, read: "I got my period. A week ago. Not that it matters, anyway." The following entry was on the same page:
I have a new motto. IF YOU DON'T LIKE ME, SCREW YOU. And you know what? It works pretty well!

Seventh grade was marginally better than sixth, the hands-down winner of Worst School Year Ever, mainly because the universe took pity on me and moved a new girl into my suburb. I spotted her on the first day of school and zeroed right in, transfixed by the possibility that I might be able to nab her before she figured out how lame I was. On the first day of school I had a newly dyed-red bob and a cool black sweater with rainbow stripes across the chest. Executing a version of the awesome "sexy walk" I'd been working on, I hobbled over to her desk. "Hi," I said. "Are you new?"

That dear sweet girl later said that she looked up to see me "half-limping, half-humping" my way down the aisle towards her. And she forgave me that, as well as an endless list of other ills: the way, in ninth grade, that I zipped hoodies up to just under my rack and actually pushed the sweatshirt back behind my boobs, my raver-baby-goth vinyl nightmare wardrobe from 1999-2001, a habit of casual lying so strong that I once told her my dog was purple and held to it as the (white) dog walked into the room.

One of the reasons my cold pissed me off so much was because it necessarily postponed my first sleepover with my new friend. The catarrh I'd contracted managed to destroy any positive element of January, the most miserable month of the year. I holed up in my room with my favorite comic books, Jhonen Vasquez's Johnny The Homicidal Maniac series, and their natural soundtrack, the first Garbage album.

My father had brought me a few issues of Johnny The Homicidal Maniac (hereafter JTHM) the previous fall. By the middle of the winter I was hooked, having read and reread them until the bindings were wobbly. I was missing a few of the seven issues - #4 and #6, I think - but the storyline was comprehensible without them. The main character, who abbreviates Johnny to "Nny," is a psychotic shut-in with awesome boots who murders people in creative ways to generate a continuous supply of blood with which to cover a wall. If the wall doesn't stay covered in blood, "things" begin to push through from the other side. Nny is surrounded by a menagerie of goths, unhappy children, and inanimate objects - dead rabbits, sinister doughboys - who embody different elements of his internal monologue.

JTHM is a major pop culture lodestar for millennial goths, but I didn't know that when I started reading it. It was just something my dad brought back from the comic book store, and it aligned nicely with my nihilistic thirteen-year-old worldview. What I liked about JTHM and Marilyn Manson then is the same thing I now like about Crystal Castles: extreme violence transcendent in its exaggeration. I've never lost my appetite for media willing to grab my face and force me into something, even while I've maintained a simpatico for gentler music, literature, and film (see Sufjan Stevens, the work of Marilynne Robinson, Benny and Joon).

So I holed up in my room with the comics and the album, playing the song "My Lover's Box," over and over again. I was confused by the way I felt for Nny: deep sympathy, almost pity, a desire to take care of him (relationship problems here I come!). I knew, of course, that he wasn't real. For my purposes, however, he was about as accessible as the boys I had given up having crushes on at school and the whiny lead singer of my favorite band.

I decided to start a new website to suss out my feelings. I had played webmistress once before, in the winter of sixth grade, with an Angelfire page called "Faeri's Place" that featured a pretty boilerplate poem about the effects of social ostracization (not good). This time I drafted up a website using Geocities called "My Own Personal Dungeon: A Tribute to Nny." This website still exists. Here's a sample:
My opening spiel: The first time I picked up a JTHM, I was 13, fed up with life and utterly convinced that I was not only alone in my opinions and views, but that I would always be. Once I read JTHM #1, my entire perspective changed. I suddenly loved everything that Nny said and stood for and meant(as sick as it was). I didn't really care about the fact that he had caverns below his home filled with corpses--he had the same type of pain I did, the kind I was convinced that no one else could have. Unfortuantely, I somehow misplaced my JTHM #3-6, so all I have now are #s 1,2, and 7( and couple of equally delightful Squees). I never even got a chance to read the ones I lost, so I'm looking forward to buying the Trade Paperback Which I now have.

One major thing that clouds my life is my hatred for my school and the brats who attend it. They can't see that my differences, my individuality, make me a more interesting person, not a worse one. When I am done with middle school, when I go to high school and am liberated because my friends and I will have a place and actually make sense, I will look back on this and smile. But for now I frown.

From a page called "Learn more about MEEEEE!!": My interests include art, sculpture, books, and making teachers cry. One thing I really love to do is wear little black dresses and capes to dances and baffle the little sunny girls in pink while I dance with all the hot boys. That's fun. But anyway, I like a lot of music...some of its good and some of tis bad.. Most notably, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Emma Townshend, Veruca Salt, NIN, Sneaker Pimps, Eve 6, Green Day, Beck, and Everclear. Scuba diving is fun and I love the British Vrigin Islands. I worship his holiness Jhonen Vasquez. No, really, I;'m a wiccan, but I don't want to explain that right now. Maybe I;ll do it later. Anyway, here is the maor proof that I am on the right side of the thin line between genius and insanity(but what is the right side?):

I have a crush on Nny.

Yes. Its true. I'm not one of those freaks who ends up on the Jerry Spring show who likes criminals. I would rather that Nny did not kill people. But that doesn'y cloud my liking of him. The things he says are wonderful and beautiful. He makes so much sense with his wisdom:

"How is it you're so beautiful and so fucking ugly on the inside?"

"It's like every time I leave my house I give up my right to being treated like a person."

Sigghhhhh. Welll, I know I'm scaring you. I'm scaring myself. I hope I'm scaring the Christian Fundimentalists. Peace and out. Look at the rest of the sight.

All [sic], obviously. I must really trust the internet to unearth and repost this material here. Of course lot of the above was made up; dreamed of it though I may have, I never wore capes to school dances, and I don't know how to scuba dive. Thankfully, I was one of the more internet-savvy kids at my school; if anyone with an uncharitable soul had found this website, seventh and eighth grade might have been serious competitors for sixth grade's Worst Ever crown.

I was a silly kid who wanted bigger and darker things in my wonderful sheltered life. I had a bottle of nail polish, black with sparkles in it, called "Out All Night."

"Oh yeah, that sounds just like you," my new best friend said when I brought it over to her house for our sleepover the next weekend.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

This blog is only about vampires and personal ads

Most vampire stories are love stories, and any good love story has an element of impossibility. Vampire love is either the most or the least impossible, depending on how you look at it. The solution to falling in love with a vamp seems obvious. Undead bites living, and the two are together forever. But it's never that easy.

One would think that vampires would avoid all the attendant trouble of falling for their food, and stick instead to their own kind, as they are often hissingly encouraged to do in by old flames. Yet nearly every story of bloodsucking passion includes the weak logic that vampires, left alone with each other for eternity, are largely sick of each other. The exception is the evil pod of vampires that stalks through every story with a sympathetic vamp - an odd number, maybe five or three, often featuring only one woman, with the dark implication of an even more perverse sexuality, as if part of the dark arts are endless "Heavy Duty dicks for One Lucky Chick".

One of the marks of a "good" vampire is inexorable attraction to - and fated love for - a specific human. Dracula had Mina, and now in the film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's incredibly successful Twilight series, Edward Cullen has Bella Swan. I've never read the Meyer books, but that's mostly because the first one was published long after my departure from the YA aisle at the bookstore. If I was eleven, I'd be all over this shit. The last few weeks have seen a hemorrhage of vampire media. I've seen both Twilight and Let The Right One In, a far superior Swedish film with a similar topic. I also finished the season of True Blood, a bit behind the rest of the American public.

In all of these stories, a vampire's mettle is tested by their desire for their human love, bloodlust and regular-lust conflated by proximity. True Blood's Bill Compton thinks he can control himself, and generally does, but neither Edward Cullen nor Eli, Let The Right One In's preteen vamp and the only girl of the trio, has such faith in the strength of their wills. Ultimately each of these narratives are about the concept of self-control, a neat trick especially for Twilight's convenient abstinence corollary. Of the three, Let The Right One In succeeds most fully, becoming the story of a friendship just a bit stranger than usual without resorting to the romance-novel histrionics of Twilight or self-satisfied TV tropes of True Blood.

What was the first vampire movie I ever saw? My father was a fan of Dark Shadows, so we followed the 1991 remake. I also have a hazy memory of a night spent watching one of the Christopher Lee Dracula films when I was around seven years old, sitting on my parents' bed with my mother asleep beside me. I fell into a weird combination of unwitting lucid dreaming and sleep paralysis, quaking for what seemed like hours under the belief that Lee was coming in the window.

My maternal grandmother died suddenly on Halloween, 1998. She lived alone in New York City, so my family did not receive this news until the following Monday. A week passed in which my parents disappeared to settle her affairs and returned as pale, drawn versions of themselves. The next weekend we held a memorial service for her in our local church. I was mourning my grandmother, but I was also bored with the endless arrangements, and I missed my mom. When, the day before the service, she suggested we go downtown together, I leapt at the chance. I was in eighth grade.

We ate lunch at Foodlife, a restaurant in the Water Tower Place mall with a concept that seemed new then - a series of different stations with little kitchens individually preparing cuisines from many lands. For the first time I had a dish that would become one of my favorites, cold thick white noodles smothered in sweet peanut sauce and topped with cucumbers and scallions. Afterwards, she asked if I'd like to see a movie. I did. We went upstairs to the movie theatre to find that the only thing showing was John Carpenter's Vampires. "Let's see it," my mom said, surprising me.

The movie was no masterpiece, but I loved it. At the time, I found Thomas Ian Griffith's Jan Valek terribly appealing, although his allure, just like that of Johnny Rzeznik, has decreased considerably since 1998. I kind of had a thing for James Woods, too, who with this film taught me the word "polesmoker." And there was something undeniably hot about Laura Palmer receiving cunnilingus-reminiscent vampire bites.

My mom had shown me another vampire movie a few years earlier, Tony Scott's The Hunger. As I've mentioned earlier in this space, my parents were never incredibly censorious about what I watched, a trait I have long appreciated.The Hunger was a little exotic for my ten-year-old blood, however. My mother dozed off as we watched, and then woke up to find me staring at the Catherine Deneuve-Susan Sarandon sex scene that made the movie famous. "Maybe this isn't a good idea," she said, switching it off.

Four years later she sat beside me in the darkened theatre, having put the great weight of her grief aside to take me out for a night on the town. On the screen in front of us, heads were torn from bodies and stakes driven into hearts. But the movie was still a vampire story, so it required a love story. At the end, as Daniel Baldwin leaned over and kissed the soon-to-be-vamp Sheryl Lee, my mom reached for my hand and squeezed it in the dark.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Things that are not graduate applications

The Britney Spears Rolling Stone cover. How sad is this? I don't know what smacks of more desperation: the magazine turning whatever residual Obama excitement that exists into an endorsement of the most manufactured comeback since Coke the first triumphed over Coke II, or the fact that nobody is even pretending any more that "Britney's back!" means anything other than "Britney's skinny again!" Even the way they rolled her shirt up looks so haphazard but direct, like a madam's hasty attempt to prove that a hooker still has it. In this Jezebel post, the author notes that she saw Spears on television for the first time when she was 16, that Britney replaced Shirley Manson as the arbiter of hot. I was fourteen when I saw a weird infomercial for the first Spears album, and although I was a Garbage fan in the late Nineties I can't remember a time when Shirley Manson - or anyone like her - was considered mainstream hot. The high-porn standard of beauty has been the norm for almost as long as I can remember, and for just as long almost everyone has been complaining about it. The revolt against the Britney idea of beauty and music is as old as unambiguous appreciation of these things. I guess I'm supposed to ironically appreciate a song like "Womanizer," but like this cover it just bores me.

Law and Order alternate universe approximations. Unfortunately I don't have screenshots for any of this, but I sure love the almost-real stuff L&O comes up with for their ripped-from-the-headlines stories. Especially "," a stand-in for both MySpace and Facebook that is somehow also a real website. Somehow every attempt they make at approximating an element of the real world comes off as both a parody and a clueless imitation. I especially like it when the detectives rough up the nerdy head of He's no Nate Silver, that's for sure.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

That Time I Felt This Thing

What was my first act of fandom? Anecdotal evidence says that it was singing along with Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" video, an act of which film footage exists. But I think I was simply imitating my parents' Madonna fandom, not making a statement about my own. I was four, after all, and I liked the way my parents smiled at my hesitant lip-syncing as much as I liked the song itself. "Papa Don't Preach" always seemed sad to me, anyway, especially the shot of Madonna cowering on her bed with her stuffed animals.

No, it's more likely that my first statement of pop culture adoration - my first step towards being the person who wrote in an early draft of a Statement of Purpose for Ph.D. applications that "I have a lifelong devotion to and preoccupation with pop culture icons," (a phrase that was excised after my father's incredulous once-over) - took place on the April 1996 day when I came home from seeing the remake of Flipper. I was eleven years old. I've never been much of a journaler, but that day I opened up a new blank book I'd received for Christmas and wrote on the first page: "I saw Flipper today. Now I have a crush on Elijah Wood."

My crush on Wood didn't last long - when I unearthed the diary a few years ago I was surprised to reread those words. It didn't have the legs of the more epic crushes that would come later, starting later that very year when I saw Brassed Off! on the smallest screen at our local movie theater and developed a prurient interest in Ewan McGregor. During that crush, I didn't have any set behaviors to follow. I printed out images of McGregor from the internet until my color cartridges ran dry and read up on his childhood in Crieff, Scotland. "It's a haggis and heather town," I told my mom, as if I knew what that meant.

It wasn't until my next big celebrity crush, the ur-text of my crushes, that I would establish a template of the half-embarrassed, half-enthusiastic maneuvers that I perform sheepishly to this day. In the meanwhile - sixth and seventh grades - I had crush after crush on boys my own age, classmates in school and in the afterschool Catholic classes I attended. I was the type of bookish girl who cements her unpopularity through brief, fierce interests in things like Wicca. I pined after these boys, dreamt of the day they would ask me to get a hot dog or go to the movies. Finally one did, and for a month I had a "boyfriend" with whom I would hold hands but not kiss, even when our friends locked us in the bathroom together for forty-five minutes. I wanted to kiss a boy, I wanted a boyfriend, but when it was all in front of me I couldn't move.

Then, during the summer before eighth grade, I heard the song "To Sheila" from the Smashing Pumpkins' 1998 album Adore, and fell down the rabbit's hole of emotional entanglement with people who could be at best icons and at worst unfulfilling addictions to me. I've never shaken the habit of falling strangely in love with celebrities. It's a big part of why I started this blog; because I stubbornly believe that there's something interesting about the fact that I, a generally educated and intelligent person, fall against my best wishes in a sort of hopeless lust with strangers.

If there's anyone out there, who did you have a crush on? And why do you think you did?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The End. The Beginning?

I went to see my old favorites The Smashing Pumpkins play at United Palace Theatre on Thursday night. I felt strangely apathetic in the days leading up to the show. I used to jittery and plan-obsessed for days before an SP show; it was a trial to focus on my real life. But mere hours before this show, I felt weirdly unexcited.

I generally try to get to a venue at the time listed on the ticket, even though it often leads to two hours of standing around in the dark, especially unpleasant now that I often go to concerts alone. But on Thursday I was enjoying a nice dinner with friends; I wanted to take my time. So we got to United Palace at 8:45, only to find out that the band had been playing since 8. I felt a little disappointed, but more guilty than anything else. Like I'd let down an old friend I hadn't seen in a long time.

The last time I saw the Smashing Pumpkins was at their supposed last concert on December 2, 2000, at the Metro. I was 16. I wore a white ballgown and a blonde wig - someone at one point claimed they had mistaken me for Courtney Love, which seems neither likely nor a compliment - and improbably tall shoes that cut off all circulation to my feet. At one point I asked a security guard to lift me out of the crowd because I thought I was going to faint; after I'd guzzled a few bottles of water, a kind cocktail waitress led me back to my space near the front of the small venue. Everyone hated me. Pumpkins fans, myself included, are a notoriously difficult bunch.

I wasn't expecting terribly much on Thursday night. I like the reformed SP album Zeitgeist okay. I've never developed a disdain for Billy Corgan's nasal snarl, even after years of listening to the music less and less. I still like the way he sounds. His voice was the least of my troubles on Thursday. I had missed most of the first half of the setlist, which was a shame, considering they played "Eye," my favorite weird SP b-side.

This Idolator post sums up what I did see pretty well:

Now, it’s bad enough to subject your audience to about 40 minutes of abrasive, deliberately off-putting music, but it’s even more uncool to come back for an encore that mocks them for not being 100% with you, and feeling disappointed for not hearing more of what they expected to hear from a show billed as a 20th anniversary concert. In conventional show biz logic, if you’re going to go that far, you should at least leave the audience with a crowd-pleaser. In Billy Corgan logic, you come out and perform one of the lesser songs from your best-selling album, and then finish off with a song that mixes disingenuous hippy-dippy “everyone is beautiful!” lyrics with improvised sarcastic rants that outright diss the city you’re playing in, mock the fans for paying to see your band, and tell your visibly disappointed audience that you’ll see them in hell. It was full-on douche-tastic passive-aggression.

(This is a quote from Matthew Perpetua's review.)

I just felt old. I don't mind, nor am I surprised, that Corgan is an ego-driven jerk. This is the man, after all, whose lamest noodlings I used to thrill to, whose music was the sole soundtrack to a different life I imagined for myself when I was twelve years old. Jesus, I still feel guilty for being late! Despite my determination to enjoy whatever the band trotted out, even one of the awful new songs ("G.L.O.W.", anyone?) I just found myself irritated by everything. Including Billy's outfit:

He spent most of the evening in a fringed skirt made out of what looked like white duct tape, white Nike dunks, and a white Zero shirt with some sort of Elizabethan collar. Forgive the terrible picture quality:

For the encore, he put on a different shirt:

Yeah, Billy, that was totally the item of clothing you needed to change.

I don't know. I guess this post doesn't include any big surprises. It's basically a poorly-written meditation on the reasons my friend Daniel doesn't read Postsecret anymore. I can't find the actual post he made on the subject, but his reasoning was something like "Well, when you can tell me a deep human truth that's not that life is hard and loss is sad, I'll be happy to read." You could probably say that about my blog tonight.

There's a silver lining, though. I came home and got all of my Pumpkins discography back on my computer. I had never uploaded most of it; I haven't listened to this music consistently for years. And it's wonderful. I'm especially enjoying Machina II, an album I never spent much time with when it came out in 2000. Listening to these songs again reminds me why I have loved this band so deeply.

Robert Lowell once wrote that the work of Sylvia Plath "makes one feel at first reading that almost all other poetry is about nothing," That's about how I feel about Billy Corgan's music. It's demanding, too emotional, yet it always makes me feel like I'm twelve again, lying on my bed and hearing the songs for the first time.

This was my favorite picture of Billy Corgan when I was thirteen years old. Note the birthmark on his left arm and hand.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A quickie

My favorite headlines today:

Is there a black slut who wants an Italian cock? Now? - m4w (Canarsie - Kings Highway)

Good news (African-American) ladies! He's "also into getting freaky" and "very open minded."

Think you can Give GREAT HEAD?? PROVE IT! - m4w - 23 (Union Square)

For truly it is a craft and also the most dangerous game.


Best typo ever or just a really straightforward fisting enthusiast? The ad doesn't clear anything up, either: there's all manner of allegorical references to "never getting to play in the snow" and strange measurements ("9 INCGES (CUT)").

the nomadic one eyed bandit - m4w - 26 (bronx/queens/manhattan)

When I googled the phrase "nomadic one eyed bandit," I got this article from the British newspaper The Independent:

Negociations were said to be underway yesterday to free at least some of the 31 European desert trekkers who have vanished in the Algerian Sahara over the past two months.

After weeks of false trails and reluctant co-operation by the Algerian authorities, it now appears certain that the tourists – 14 Germans, 10 Austrians, four Swiss, a Dutchman, a Swede and a Norwegian – have been taken captive by a bandit chieftain, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, part Robin Hood and part Islamist extremist.

Mr Belmokhtar – also known as Belaouer ("the one-eyed") – operates in a vast sweep of desert in south-east Algeria. Although an Islamist volunteer in Afghanistan in his teens, he was for many years regarded as a "romantic" outlaw who robbed but never killed his victims and sometimes helped the poor.

So what I'm saying, I guess, is EMAIL ME, Mokhtar. I'm waiting.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pursuing an MFA in Creepy Sex Allusions

GChat conversation, 11 AM:

william: how is school going?
me: pretty good
me: submitted for the first time last night
william: how was that?
me: stressful, critique is next week
me: i had to write a summary of my book for the first time
william: oh i thought you were talking about sexually and i was really surprised at how casual you were about bringing it up
william: i didn't really know how to respond
william: so i thought i would go with it

Friday, September 26, 2008


"Casual Encounters" is a pretty straightforward name for a website focused on NSA sex hookups. But sometimes people posting there don't seem to really grasp the nature of that term. How it means having no expectations of the person you fuck and no required commitment other than an agreement to bump uglies.

Even the title of this guy's ad is disturbingly uncasual: "I know my job and I own up to it".

[...] My job is to pay for dinner even if you say you want to pay half. My job is to be ambitious in my career and make enough money that if we live together and your career takes a turn for the worse - I would have the money to afford to keep you fed and healthy AND sexy (we will talk about you being sexy below). [...]

Oh boy.

[...] I recognize that obligation. I agree to it every day when I put my pants on, or when we take a photo and you have to lean into me (we know who is who). I don't lean into you. We don't have photos of me sitting in your lap. My job is to intuit, using my sexual psychic powers, when you need to be objectified and fucked like an animal (yet still ensuring your orgasm) or spanked or hair pulled, or more, and when you need gentle love like what you saw in that romantic movie you watched. I need to also magically know when you want it quick and urgent and when you want it to take all night. And when you scream the very painful words "fuck me harder," even whilst I am fucking as hard as I can and running out of breath, it is my job to find a way to do it harder. Yes, it is tough, but it is my job [...]

It is HIS JOB! But what is my job?

Now you: There are many jobs for you. Your first and last job are the same. The rest of the list is important too, but they don't work if you don’t do your first job first. Your first job is to be sexy in the way that you can be. It is your job to discover your own natural sexiness, manifest it, AND your job to figure out what I think is sexy. [...] I have heard girls get upset about this. They say, "it is not my job to be sexy all the time," or "It is not my job to meet your definitions of sexy." And I say, bullshit. Have you never stepped outside? Who raised you? It IS your job. It may not be your job to be sexy ALL the time, but you better believe it is your job to be sexy when you are around me, my friends, our friends, and the neighbors. I am not saying you have to dress up, I am only saying you need to figure out where/what and how to create your sexiness and make sure I agree with it. Sure you can have your off-days where you don't change your underwear until noon the following day, or you are bloated and gassy and you just can not be sexy. That’s ok - I like girls who are real - I will still love you. I know you fart and get acne in strange places sometimes and have all kinds of biological processes that are esoteric to me - those things don't turn me off either, afterall I like real girls. I just ask that you manage and control the things that are in your control. But don't let me catch you eating pork sticks everyday and then complain that your stomach hurts and you have the runs for weeks.

You be sexy. Eat right, wear sexy underwear (which I will gladly buy for you), comb your hair and as you dress in the morning DON’T ask yourself, "will this outfit make guys at the county fair want to jerk off on me? If yes, then change and stop wearing shirts with your name airbrushed on them. Ask something like, "Would this look turn my man off if I were giving him head and he were looking at me." or "would my man be proud to walk with me in this outfit?" This question will keep you from dressing like your grandmother, a nun and the lonely lady you work with that, when she shows up in the morning you look at her clothes or hair and murmur, "what is she thinking? And she wonders why no men are attracted to her?" Don't be that woman. You be sexy. Ask the right questions when dressing in the morning.

Okay, got it, fuck bunny, internalized. All the time, right?

And you need to be able to figure out when not to be sexy, like: when meeting my perverted father, when I am sick in a hospital bed, incapacitated and unable to move, but only able to see that some male interns and you are talking about my condition. At that moment you need to be clinical and NOT sexy; when you are at the dentists office and he is about to put you under (wear ugly stuff), when I am feeling down on life and we go to a party - don't be hot, you are only going to get me to sink lower. Just be nice looking or better yet, suggest that we cancel and have some "us" time.

Uh...all right...but wha -

I can not tell you how to locate your inner sexiness - but I can offer you some advice on how to avoid being unsexy.

Thank god.

Unsexy: photos of yourself cramming food in your mouth, or cookies or an alcoholic beverage. Or photos with your mouth gaping open as if you are wasted and screaming at a party. I am out here working out, staying in shape and taking care of myself - for what? For you to cram cookies and beer into your mouth, run around drunk with your jaw hanging open? and take photos? No. We will not date.
Unsexy: Your growing gut.

But what if I have, like, a little pooch, even though I do 1000 situps a day?

Pooch like Maya Rudolph - very hot. Gut like post high school ex-jock? It is diet time.
Unsexy: yellow underwear. You wear it, you sleep on the couch. I don't want to see it and I don't want it touching my laundry.
Unsexy: panties with little cutesy polka dots on them or any pattern that looks like something a 4 yr old girl would wear at her pajama party. Save those for when you feel puffy and bloated and want to snuggle with your stuffed animals and eat chocolate ice cream.

This is where he really started to lose me. I'm sorry what? You don't want me to wear cute underwear?

Don’t tell me that your ass is fat because that is your body type - and then shovel lasagna down your throat 3 days a week. We have a deal. I will do my part. You do yours. Stay thin - meaning if you are 130 pounds - you need to stay around 125 to 135. I like slender girls or muscular or thin or thinner than average. Slender does not equal thick. If you look like Minnie Driver or Kate Winslet - then your excess weight is hot and I love it.

It's his lucky day, because I am in fact (size 6) Kate Winslet. Sam Mendes says hi, future loverman!

Your job is to be in charge of our morality. If we are at a dinner party and I say something a little mean to someone and you notice it. It is your job to pull me aside and say, "that was wrong - you go and apologize because you hurt that persons feelings." I won't like it - but I will obey. You are doing your job and I respect it. I will somehow find a way to go apologize.

You are in charge of the our emotional health. Even if I say I am fine. When you notice that I have some unresolved issue that I need to work on, I have to listen and do whatever it takes - even if it means seeing a therapist or counseling or reading some stupid book. You are in charge and you must find a way to do this without ever being bossy or over-critical.

How do you do that? I don’t know. It's a tough job and only you can do it. My job is not easy either.


Way more potentially loveable, although just as problematic probably, is this guy, "Gaslight Fairytale - NY, 1896":

You're a female who has always daydreamed about
(1) being an inquisitive child, and
(2) having a dear older stepbrother, cousin.

In "real" life, we two are adults who share this
Edwardian / Victorian, Grimms' fairytale,
pseudo-Euro-art-film taboo vision.

Oh! Okay, okay, we're Goth, got it...

(Glasses, skinny, stringy hair, or geeky?
Not mandatory... but fine.)

Whatever your beliefs, you likely have odd tin-type, daguerreotype
memories of the past. A poetic pickpocket
or a scrappy street-urchin -- if only at your core.
Be intelligent, sometimes submissive but often
terribly sassy,
perhaps a collage of girly and tomboy spunk...
and possibly a wee dram secretive or
shy about your unusual nature
and thought processes.

(I love how it is spaced out like freshman Intro to Poetry homework)

This is not a mere kink:
We may share strong roleplay and
ageplay; but also much sibling
conversation -- it's quite natural for
you to believe this is real.
So by all means, have your own "normal"(?) relationship
in your other, grownup life. As I do. But you and I keep in
touch by e-mail, telegraph, lurking on a
When we can, we meet up and play, fight, romp
around, hold hands.
Let yourself go... and regress: I keep
a sharp eye out for swerving trucks and
frothing carriage-horses, and stare down
sneering villains (Your brother
is terribly brave).
I rescue you from all manner
of real and invented dangers,
as we escape from the (fictional?)
"scary man in the park."
We roam ancient churchyards, dank
alleyways; secretly mock passersby;
play at Alienist and amateur sleuth;
or just watch the
rain from a swell Deco diner booth.

Uh, this is Manhattan, right?

Tell me every daydream, desire, complaint, obsession,
bit of angst, woe and fantasy, light or dark:
I cannot be shocked by anything. I will mentor and
protect, scold and praise you, make you laugh when
you cry. I'll be glad to advise you (your brother is
very smart, you know), and pick your eager
inquisitive brain. I entertain you; brush your hair
while you tell me your dreams.
If outbursts are in your nature, I dodge your fury,
hold and tease you while you wriggle;
tickle and/or spank you should you require:
The extent, intensity and limits of our
relationship will go no further than what you
desire and are able to handle, dear Baby Sister.

I mean...he's not wrong in thinking this is an attractive scenario for a lady. I'm half tempted to email him. Unfortch, I know that as much as I hope my secret fantasy Edward Gorey big brother looks like the most recent incarnation of Mr. Tumnus, the truth is probably closer to this. Or maybe it's my friend Daniel. Hi, Daniel!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eavesdropping for fun and profit

Right before the band came on at the My Bloody Valentine show last night, after the second terrible opening I've seen the Lilys perform (saw them open for the Brian Jonestown Massacre in 2005 and it was just as terrible), this trio of people did that annoying thing where they push through the crowd pretending to look for someone and then it turns out they just wanted to be closer to the stage. They decided to plant themselves right next to me. In doing so they separated a woman with an amazing 80s goth haircut (sort of a monklike fringe, shaved in the back) and her man.

"Excuse me, I need to stand next to my wife," the man said with utmost restraint.
"OH WATCH OUT YOU'RE SEPARATIN' FAMILIES!" One of the trio chortled to another, moving closer to me. They were two women and a man, maybe in their mid-to-late-thirties. One of the women was either drunk or medicated, because she proceeded to speak loudly about things that most people, even me with my penchant for public uncomfortableness, do not.

It seemed that she and the guy were a couple who had dated in the past, but he had "cut her off" sometime in August, and she was pissed. At first I thought she was complaining about him cutting her off in her babbling conversation, but then it was clear she was demanding an explanation for his behavior in August. But our girl - who was, say, 5'2", with a perfect helmet-blowdried red bob (she probably brings in a picture of Louise Brooks) and dressed in that near-goth inexplicably slutty way lots of women her age do for concerts - was not the type to take a straight train of thought from A to B.

"Why did you cut me off in August?" She demanded of the guy (who I will note here was not the type of guy anybody should be hurting over; sorry, it's not okay to wear aviator sunglasses inside in a dark room even if you're a blazing hot British vampire, and this guy was more like a slightly-better-looking Kevin James, which oh god makes me WISH I had started Personal Ad Hell on this website before I found this amazing Casual Encounters ad where the guy said he looked like Kevin James). "I went three and half weeks without sex. I cut myself off. I cut MEN off."

"Three whole weeks, huh?" The guy said, mildly concerned.

"Yeah, and then when I was on the phone with that guy, I told him, I told him all kinds of fucked up shit. ALL KINDS."

"Like what?"

"I told him I got herpes from my lover who was bisexual, oh yeah..." The couple dissolved into giggles and then a prolonged openmouthed kiss. "Yeah, all sorts of fucked up shit. And you know what? You know what I am SORRY I don't have the big ass you want. I know you want a big fucking ass. I know you do. But I like being a waif. I like being a little girl. I can't put Botox in my ass to make it big so you can fuck it..." The guy grabbed her and made out with her again, presumably because he was crazy turned on, or maybe because he was slightly more conscious that they were sharing space with a couple thousand other people waiting to float away on a tide of shoegaze.

At this point I was kind of blushing for them, but not really because what they were saying was inappropriate, more because it was so inaccurate. Botox doesn't, uh, inflate anything; maybe she was thinking of lip fillers like Restalyne or collagen? But you couldn't put those in your glutes, either. There are implant procedures, but they're pretty costly and stupid. More bothersome was the fact that even this crazy drunk-or-just-loud lady was slipping back into this thing I watch women do all the time, which is tout their own thinness against the broad tide of society's demand that they bulk up. Cram it! No one is ever going to give you a hard time for being tiny!

At this point the third member of the trio, the other woman, who had not been a participant in this conversation, turned around and apologized to me. "They must be really annoying," she said. "So much drama."

"No, it's fine," I told her. "Kind of amusing." I immediately thought, ah ha, here is the much-abused nice friend. But all of my sympathy evaporated when the redhead detached herself from the guy who wanted to fuck a big ass and started kissing her friend. This is also behavior I abhor! Admittedly, it wasn't exactly Girls Gone Wild gonzo-style performalesbianism, but just all the weird homosocial cuddling that goes on in public. Once when I was home visiting some friends I hadn't seen in a while, I met one of their friends from the local college, and watched with a little bit of vomit in my mouth as she proceeded to interrupt conversation all night by making eye contact with one of them, saying "Kiss," and pecking them on the mouth.

Don't get me wrong - same sex affection is fine by me, in fact it's sexy by me. But this stuff just combines the queasiness of PDA with the pointlessness of weird showy public cuddling. Anyway, then there was some ass-stroking between the women (apparently they were free from the derriere neuroses that led to the redhead being cut off) and then the music started, and I figured the whole thing was over.

Until they started taking cutesy pictures of each other throughout the entire concert. Who knew that cell phone cameras have flashes now?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lettin' the ladies have it

One of my loyal readers (okay, my only loyal reader) pointed out that I never take apart the w4m section of CL's casual encounters. So I will try tonight. I suspect there's a lot of good reasons why I haven't ventured over here before. It's certainly not because, as a woman, I think that women are less capable or less likely of writing totally hilarious requests for NSA sex...'s just that a lot of what I've seen has been, uh, boring.

This lady, who is "looking for a man that can handle [her]", writes: My Friends describe me as delectably seductive. Really? Well, uh, that's a rousing endorsement, especially considering your friends must be an intolerable passel of aging Carrie Bradshaw wannabes.

"I'm new at this" tries to slip her baggage in between relatively pertinent facts: Jodie, curly black hair, kind of gray eyes, 147 lbs, 5'5, stuck in a loveless marriage, Weather woman, like to watch football. Whoa there, lady! Don't think you got your emotional neediness past me!

At first glance, the headline "I'm big and ugly but want to get laid today! - w4m - 33" seems refreshingly open, but then it gets weird: inside she says: Oh I have green eyes, auburn hair, 5'8, 36D boob size, 117 lbs. So are you playing some weird woman mindgame where you only want to have anonymous sex with a dude who wants to fuck an ugly chick? Is there even a school of thought where that works?

Easily half of the listings have been flagged for removal, most likely because they're advertisements from working girls, or actually contain links to adult friend finder-type websites.

This one (NSFW NSFW!!!) is interesting because it features pictures - and not just pictures, but pictures that show the girl's face. It must be my stupid societal conditioning but this ad makes me sad for some reason instead of giggly. Why are you putting your blowjob face on the internet, lady?

So this one seems, at least, semi-legit and original in terms of incest fantasies...until you look at this m4w ad, which is worded almost exactly the same way. What does this mean? Is a company posting these? Is it some sort of all-incest all the time escort service?

As usual, women provided me only with frustration and mystery, whereas men were imminently more understandable.


Would I have stalkerish tendencies if it weren't for the internet? Probably, but there's no chance they would be so well-honed. I really have to watch it. I buy something on CL and Google the seller and before you know it I know where they went to high school and meeting them in person to pick up the tickets is going to be a little awkward.

Come, strip and get us drinks. Get us snacks.

I was going to count the number of question marks in the title, but instead I'll just cut and paste it: football SLUT ?????????????

This is part of a trend I've noticed on CL. Men who claim to be amazingly handsome and rich who just want a "whore." But not, presumably, an actual working girl. Here's another:

I need a young bitch

"Female only," huh? I'll make sure that the puppy I bring is all lady.

Young Millionaires looking for attractive Female

I guess most guys who post on Casual Encounters get a lot of responses from gay men and pros. But even the guys like the one above seem to imply that they don't really want a pro; they want a sweet college student who wouldn't mind having sex for money.

Looking for a specific of Girl...

...A Working Girl.

Bear, Lehman, Merrill...Need a New Job?

Ooh, zeitgeisty!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Equivocating: "My Wife's Type of Men"

This guy knows his wife doesn't really want to have sex with another guy, so he gives a frustratingly specific description of the mystery man who will blow their sex life WIDE OPEN:

Her type of man is long haired, fit/athletic no big muscle and of course younger. A man like Bon Jovi type, into rock/heavy metal.An american indian will do tall with long hair. Age must be 40 years or younger. Other nationalities, Italian Greek, frensh, spanish, brazilia, portugese, American white Canadian, south African australian and argentinian Mixed black with light skin and dreadlocks No eastern europeans please.

I'm not sure what "American white Canadian" looks like. Personally, I hope they get a Frensh guy.
This morning on the train I was standing behind a fit Asian businessman. I couldn't see his face, but I could read what was playing on his iPod, which he held up to examine as he flipped through songs. He settled on Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People." Serendipitously, today Jezebel's Dodai covered Cintra Wilson's Times piece on the long life of Goth culture. All of this made me very happy.

I was never a proper goth, but I wanted to be. Starting in seventh grade I felt pangs of jealousy when I spotted one at the mall. Where did they get arm warmers and black lipstick? In eighth grade I started listening to Marilyn Manson (who I know is not the arbiter of goth, thanks) after seeing the video for "The Dope Show" on MuchMusic. My love of his music grew through lucky finds of Manson's earlier albums and EPs, and on April 20, 1999 my dad took my best friend and I to see Marilyn Manson at the Rosemont Horizon. He was supposed to be on tour with Hole, another favorite of mine, but Courtney Love had dropped off the tour and we saw Nashville Pussy instead, which was probably the only enjoyable part of the show for my father. When I got home, proudly clutching my brand-new size large shirt emblazoned with naked, sexless Manson, Columbine was all over the news.

After that I acquired a spiked leather color and a pair of close-fitting shiny black pants. They weren't vinyl, not yet; instead they were made of a sort of crunchy track-pant acrylic. The summer after that I discovered Poppy Z. Brite's Lost Souls, as detailed below, and learned about what would always be thrown in my face as "real Goth": the Cure, black lace, orange lipstick, relentless mopiness. At this time I also became deeply involved with Jhonen Vasquez's comic book Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and its fandom, but that's another blog post for another tie. Suffice it to say I found myself deeply sympathetic with variously "gothy" things, including a host of comic books, endless vampire erotica, and a strong desire to be more depressed than I in fact was.

Then, at the beginning of ninth grade, I discovered online shopping and Hot Topic. By mid-September I was outfitted in skintight black vinyl cigarette pants that laced up with a suede string; various "corsets" that zipped or lightly laced up, in red brocade and pink vinyl; shoes that even I couldn't pretend didn't look like part of a Sexy Pilgrim Halloween costume; a miniskirt airbrushed with the image of bats flying out of a belltower, and very dark unappealing lipstick. I bleached my hair, then I dyed the tips purple, then I dyed it bright red. I owned a black velvet minidress that came to about the middle of my thighs with purple inserts behind black netting and bell sleeves.

At certain times older and more experienced alienated teenagers would look at me and inform me that I wasn't really goth - I was a kindergoth, a kinderwhore, some strange amalgam of raver and bored-looking suburbanite. Thank god the term "emo" didn't exist yet. My parents didn't really care; my mom even had some fun with the whole thing, going to Express with me and helping me suss out the most-Goth items on display.

From sixth grade on I owned a Sony Discman that gave me an entirely other life, one in which I was the protagonist of an incredibly cool movie scored to my favorite music. No matter how pathetic my tentative stabs towards romance were, no matter how harshly I fought with my parents over my relationship with my new boyfriend, no matter how hard I struggled in Math class, I could always escape to a world where "Rock Is Dead" was playing. "Set the Ray to Jerry" was on next, and both songs were just for me.

Marilyn Manson is an easy target. Neither his music nor his posturing could ever be called terribly original, and his hopefully-fauxmance with Evan Rachel Wood doesn't endear him to me, either. But I miss the days when he was on MTV, when he was present enough to offend people. It's not that popular culture has hardened to shock tactics like the ones Manson used; instead, some marketing genius over at Disney realized that if you grab the kids younger, when they don't like to be scared, they'll have brand loyalty to whatever dreck you pump out for them for the rest of their lives. It's part of the death of the record industry, too, I understand; right now the only people who can be counted on to buy albums are under 21 years old.

But there was a time in my life when nothing was more satisfying than the easy-to-swallow transgression that Manson served up. Everything about it was palatable to me at age fourteen: the queasy depiction of his escape from South Florida presented in his autobiography, the constant crowd roar effect he used in his songs, and his look.

I don't really care for the aesthetic any more, but when I was a Manson fan the way he looked made me feel thrillingly free. He was and is often awfully, brutally ugly, but with such style that it seemed okay. I was surrounded with images of what beautiful teenage girls were supposed to look like, and all of them were a far cry from anything I could or would be:

It was nice to have permission to be a little ugly and weird.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This blog should be called Personal Ad Hell, I guess

Holla, eh? Okay, how about aaaah! Why are you topless in what appears to be a deli?

I missed True Blood this week

...but this guy is definitely looking for his "Vempire."

Edit: Since he has not one but two amazing posts, I don't feel bad at all about posting dude's picture:

Man, if I was a "Vempire" I wouldn't want to chew on that.


XOXO, indeed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ho ho ho!

This guy is an entire sociology course in five minutes. The title is "NOT a picture of my penis" but it is posted on the Casual Encounters section of Craigslist, where people can be forgiven for expecting and maybe even hoping for penis pictures.

Alan Moore reference, but probably relating to the movie? Check. Emo cutie t-shirt pose picture? Check. NJ Guido persona pose picture, complete with tribal band tattoo and spray tan? Check. It might be worth emailing him to find out just how bad his cultural schizophrenia is. One thing's for sure, though:
He was Edmond Dant├ęs... and he was my father. And my mother... my brother... my friend. He was you... and me. He was all of us.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

True love?

My friend Leon once told me that he'd figured out why women like vampires.
"Because of Vampire Weekend?" I asked.
"No," he said. "It's the ultimate inaccessible guy. He literally cannot commit to you. He's dead."

I don't know if this is the reason I like vampires, but I always have. Although as I child I was terrified of almost all mythic beasties (especially aliens), vampires always seemed more sexy than scary, even when I was too little to think something was sexy. Starting around 1998, when I was in eighth grade, my interest in the undead became a bit more prurient. In November of that year I saw John Carpenter's Vampires, a not-good movie I deeply loved and which gave me the gift of the word "polesmoker." On a vacation to England with my family I bought a copy of Poppy Z. Brite's Lost Souls, a book that forever married homoeroticism, New Orleans and vampirism for me (although I am the child of Anne Rice fans and met her at age ten wearing a cape and fangs, I have never really enjoyed her books). Lost Souls is also a pretty handy primer on high eighties goth. It became my gospel insofar as a book in which a fourteen-year-old vampire named Nothing waxes rhapsodic about blowing his dad can be the gospel of a suburban eighth grader. Which is to say, totally. I even underlined my favorite lines of Lost Souls in red lipstick, just as Nothing's doomed mother Jessy does in her copy of Dracula.

Although by this time - the middle of eighth grade - I had created two highly embarassing websites which will apparently stand in perpetuity on the internet, I was not familiar with fan fiction. Wait, actually I'm going to have to revise that, because I had been shown a good deal of tenacious, stomach-turning Hanson slash by a friend. In any case the internet had little to do with my first and last foray (thus far) into the world of serialized play-format fan fiction. The project was called My Life As A Vampire and comprised of escapist fantasies in which my friends and I became vampires endowed with the ability to fly. We started hanging out with other vampires: the members of the Smashing Pumpkins at first, and then basically every actor or musician I ever liked. Together we terrorized my school and enemies, mudered Cameron Diaz (of whom I harbored an intense dislike which has since cooled to disinterest), and flew around dreamily. It was overwritten, embarassingly self-indulgent, the blatant product of early teenage sexual frustration, and I decided to show it to everyone, sending weekly installments to ten or so lucky souls. Around the time I was sixteen I put together a bound edition of My Life As A Vampire that I am still quite proud of, surprisingly well-designed document of my dorkery that it is.

So I guess I came to HBO's True Blood tonight with more than a casual interest in and history with vampires. I haven't read the Charlaine Harris books the series is based on; I've actually never heard of them before now, which is surprising considering that for many years I read almost every piece of vampire lit I could get my hands on (notables include this one, this one, and hey! definitely this one). I think the first episode, "Strange Love," shows a great deal of promise. I presume Alan Ball knows what he's doing with the campier elements of the show, but some of them were unforgiveable, especially [SPOILER WARNING, I guess] that out-of-control vampire sex scene. The whole concept comes with so much great built-in eroticism - there was a good line in the episode about the uses of the artery in the crotch - that it's easy to overdo it. Did you know that vampires are sexy? That they have to lean in close to you and smell your blood and then bite your neck? Which is kind of a sexy place that people like to get bitten anyway? And that maybe the whole thing could be seen as a metaphor, for, I don't know, human sexuality and its implicit dangers and risks?

They've also got to style Anna Paquin a little bit less like Buffy:

And while I like the conceit that Sookie's telepathy is quieted by Bill's presence, they're going to have to give the two leads something to do with each other other than stare meaningfully, because we got a great dose of that in the first episode. The IMDB photoset has no fewer than nine stills posed exactly like this one:

"Should we move yet?"
"Naw, let's just keep arching our backs for a while."

I'll just put it out there that my sister maintained throughout the show that there's something weird going on with Paquin's boobs - they are remarkably high and small and close together. But I'll defer to the Paquin-boob experts on this one, whoever they may be.

What I most like about this show was its handling of its setting, the Louisiana town of Bon Temps. Lots of small details were nailed, especially the socioeconomics - many characters work two jobs and nobody seems to be going anywhere fast. I'll admit to enjoying the juxtaposition of revivalist healings and baptisms with vampire-y sex in the opening credits, although a small voice inside me is complaining loudly about the implicit equation of crazy poor southerners and their crazy religion with creatures who actually, uh, eat people.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Well, I mean, they have to pull out sometime, right? Otherwise everybody'd be all glued (gooed?) together like they were LARPing conjoined twins.

Personal Ad Hell

If you are overworked, stressed, disgusted, exhausted, fading into obscurity, or purple with pink polka dots, have no fear...all I ask is that you be smart and slender and send a recent picture.

This guy doesn't think he deserves much. Just a skinny lady. I mean, she can be totally wrecked, but as long as she's thin, they'll work it out.

Friday, August 8, 2008


A couple of months ago I had what I immediately termed a "middle-of-the-night Fiona Apple freakout." I'm not sure why I started thinking about her. A friend of mine had mentioned seeing her at a party. He wanted to hit on her, but I guess she was there with her boyfriend.

Anyway, it was around two in the morning. I had brought my laptop into my bedroom, something I generally try to avoid doing, and found myself rereading Chris Heath's hilariously overwritten 1998 Rolling Stone cover story on Apple, "The Caged Bird Sings."

Here's a choice quote:
But in the busy, greedy, impatient '90s, we become whatever may be written about us in one or two perky paragraphs, and hers might lead one to believe that Fiona Apple is either a precocious, calculating prodigy or an unbalanced, ungrateful freak. That is the great sucker punch of modern celebrity: It draws in the Fiona Apples of this world with that most wonderful of all promises -- to be understood -- and yet humans are still to invent a quicker, more-efficient method of being misunderstood by the greatest possible number of people than Becoming Famous in America. Fiona Apple has been discovering this for herself.

I first saw Fiona Apple on Saturday Night Live in late 1996. I used to glean a lot of important pop culture information from SNL; it was where I learned about another band I loved in middle school, Veruca Salt, and trying to follow the political jokes taught me as much about current affairs as, well, A Current Affair. Apple performed the song "Shadowboxer". I liked it so much that I asked for her album Tidal for my twelfth birthday a few days later.

In my memory that album will always be inextricably linked with a happy winter spent playing Mario 64, the only game I owned and part of my other birthday present, a Nintendo 64. For whatever reason the image of Mario diving into the aquatic worlds is especially linked to the opening song "Sleep to Dream." I listened to the album all the time, and I loved Fiona's controversial video, "Criminal."

It looks outdated now. Mark Romanek's slick surfaces and surveillance-camera feel are so common they're basically passe, and we're all familiar with Fiona's sad-hungry stare, the way her eyes sometimes turn red in the glare. But the whole thing transfixed me when I was twelve, even though I had to admit my mom had a point when she snorted derisively at the shot of Fiona squirting that, uh, dish soap out of the bottle at 4:03. Also, heroin chic (and maybe kiddie porn chic) aside, the video was and is sexy.

In 1996, the controversy over the video baffled me. Even though she was writhing on some faceless dude's knee, I reasoned, Fiona seemed to be in control of the situation; it's her song, after all, and the camera's on her. And while I don't really agree with my past reasoning now, I'm glad that I read the video that way. It didn't make me want to look tiny and sad in a closet. It was just a glimpse of a world that I could someday hope to enter and manipulate.

During my middle-of-the-night Fiona Apple freakout I relearned a few facts about her that I missed as a sixth grader. Most importantly, I discovered that Apple dated David Blaine. For a long time.

...And in fact, according to the RS article, Blaine and Apple have matching tattoos that say "kin." And! According to this David Blaine messageboard, Blaine is the faceless man Apple oozes all over in "Criminal," which successfully oblitherates any lingering feelings about the video being sexy I still harbored. Of course, the Heath article also mentions that Apple had been up all night "drinking Surfers on Acid (some malignant combination of Malibu, Jaegermeister and pineapple juice) with Boogie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson," so maybe there was already trouble in paradise in 1998.

I didn't think a lot about it at the time, but I was pretty lucky with the women who were famous when I was what they now call a "tween:" Madonna, Alanis Morrisette, Apple, even the Spice Girls were all better than the cocktail of titilation and stupidity now on offer to young girls. I went to Lilith Fair and saw Jewel and Sarah McLachlan.There were about eighteen months in the late nineties when the whole "women in rock" package got accidentally recycled into a celebration of real voices, and I was lucky to be twelve and thirteen years old.