Mark Allen's Top Ten for 2/24/03

Learning a chilling prologue concerning the matter of me confusing the names "Helen Keller" and "Lizzie Borden" in a factoid I told to about a million people - and pondering it's aftereffects
    Remember the weird combination of circumstantial and airheaded-ness, paint fume-fuled events that led me to go around town telling people about how Helen Keller had murdered her parents with an ax because of lack of privacy while she was growing up (see entry #1 in last week's 2/17/03 'Top Ten' - below)? Well... it's BACK! It's BIGGER!!! It's CHANGED FORM!!! IT'S A SHAPE SHIFTING RUMOR!!!
    It turns out that it might not have been Lizzie Borden who had a lack of privacy in her life at all! It may have been Elizabeth Montgmery playing the part of Lizzie Borden in a made for TV movie... or even Patty Duke playing the part of Helen Keller in a made for TV movie! Or Anne Bancroft who played in the TV movie with the same title that Patty Duke was in (but Anne didn't play Helen)! And, *I*M*P*O*R*T*A*N*T* - It could have been any of these actresses who actually might have mentioned something about their real lives in an interview somewhere that started the lines between perception and memory and language and reality and fantasy to get all messy.  See the potential for chaos? The potential for invisible man-made monsters that exist only in the minds of men (and women)? I mean... what's next? Michael Jackson having sex with under aged children? The possibilities make me shudder with fear... why just look at my friend's email... look how it affected him:
From: "XXXxxxx Xxx" XxXxxxx@xxx.xxxxxxx.xx
Date: Sat, 22 Feb 2003 10:29:49 -0500
To: "Mark Allen"
Subject: paranoia

Hi Mark,

An item on your Top Ten list got me thinking. It has actually kept me up for two days, peaking when I had became so self conscience and unsure of myself that I had to look through the peephole of my door just to guarantee no one would see me make my way to the garbage shoot and back.  All I know is, I never have been filled with so much self doubt.

I think I might have erred slightly on the Lizzie Borden story.  As I think back about the facts it may in fact have been actress Elizabeth Montgomery who portrayed Lizzie Borden in the made for TV move who actually grew up in a house without solid walls.  I think.  Or was it Patty Duke who portrayed Helen Keller in the Miracle worker who lived in a railroad apartment in Hell's Kitchen when she was just a struggling actress.  At this point feel free substitute any of those names while telling the story.  You might well Include Anne Bancroft as well.

 - XXXxxxx Xxx

        See the potential for chaos in the human condition? It's madness!!! I mean... what next? I'll keep you posted as to the monster-like growth of this rumor... and the completely innocent people it is using to feed upon. In the meantime...

2. I have made a little illustration to show the damage of such rumors...
    Actually I stole some of these graphics from a "The Thing" web site.
    I have created here a series of  visual aids, to demonstrate how mis-interpreted information, or jumbled information, can enter the brain (and eventually come out the mouth of) of an unsuspecting human host. This infected host then spreads this scrambled info to other hosts... (filtered through his or her own 'flaw factors' - i.e.; memory malfunction, word similarity mis-matching, brain cellular damage output bruising, or simply the need to exaggerate or embellish [or make things up] due to a feeling of inadequacy or need to be loved) - and the diseased information cycle continues. It all boils down to trust. Hosts not figuring out who they can "trust" - that is, lying or not lying (combined with each host's life expieriences and traumas - which can make them biased towards certain conclusions in the 'trust' judgement ratio scale).
    This is "trust" in the human condition that deals with information, which relies on the highly unstable conduit of language - one of the great "simple corrupters" or reality. Look... whether it's studying evolution, or watching the E! TV "Gossip Show"... you've gotta face one simple fact: it's all basically just chaos and goo. Frightening to consider, no?

3. Mmmmhmmmm... yep...
    I always like the William S. Burroughs quote: "Language is a virus from outer space."

4. "The Thing" (dir: John Carpenter, 1982) as an example of why I'm not crazy about computer-aided special effects in films
    Remember the 1982 movie "The Thing"? Remember Fangoria magazine?
    As you may now have figured out, Jim and I rented the DVD of John Carpenter's "The Thing" this week and it has been affecting everything I do - from doing my laundry, to sex (I'll let you figure that one out).
    What a creepy, freaked-out, tense film "The Thing" is! Carpenter's version is actually a movie version of John W. Campbell 1938 short story "Who Goes There?" (adapted first in B-movie form by Howard Hawks in his 1951 version; 'The Thing From Another World').
    Released in the Summer of 1982, right on the heels of the incredibly dull and vomit-inducing "E.T.", Carpenter's version of "The Thing" was dismissed or attacked by critics for being "boring", "depressing", "excessively gross" and "sexist" - and was mostly ignored by the general public. It is far from a "masterpiece" - as is the case with most great films. A lot of it seems like total junk ...and the story line has a lot of loopholes. But, most of the plot's unresolved issues and unanswered questions are what makes the film's premise so effective... and only add to the story's already effective paranoiac claustrophobia. Plus all said... the film is just really, really enjoyable to watch.
    It kind of got me thinking about a tired... way played out argument about film that's been endlessly flogged since the 1980's: the use of computer animation in films. I've never really liked it...
    What is it that turns the "wow" off in my brain whenever I see obvious computer animated special effects as compared to real built sets, costumes, editing, cinematography, make-up, rubber, tubes, elbow grease, pyrotechnics and lighting? Why? I don't know the reason for my preference... and I don't really care to be honest... it's a dead issue.
    But "The Thing" got me thinking about the old argument again. I think I figured out why: Let's call it "Imagined Tactility". When I see all the goo and rubber tubes and puppet parts being controlled by a crew of technicians to make up one of the "Thing" monsters and capture it on film... my willing suspension of disbelief is obviously working... I know it's fake. But what makes it so much more interesting when compared to a highly detailed, hollow computer animated piece - is that I am aware that it is an ACTUAL OBJECT IN SPACE. I picture John Carpenter and his crew standing there filming it... in the actual room... and I subconsciously fantasize about being in the room with the object with the giant fake prop - of course being able to obviously see that it is fake and a film set. It's like another, sub-level of "willing suspension of disbelief".
    With a computer animated effect - I picture people sitting in front of computer screens drawing on the lit screen with a light pencil and pushing buttons - maybe doing a cat-scan like photo session with an actor wearing a cat suit with white dots on it. That "sub-level" does not exist - and the experience is less rich. I have no desire to be in that room with those people in front of computer monitors.
   Fantasy has always been a part of a movie experience... but in the case of a western or historical piece or sci-fi or fantasy film, I think there exists a "being there while it was filmed" fantasy going on in people's minds, more or less. With a computer aided set or effect - that fantasy is immediately eradicated - and my enjoyment of the film is diminished. I mean, as a kid, one of the reason's I was so fascinated with movies like "The Wizard Of Oz" or "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" or "Logan's Run" or even "Star Wars" was that I knew... somewhere... at sometime... or maybe even still(!) there existed those fantastic sets and props that I could walk into or around... or wander into in an old, dusty, abandoned set stage in the Universal Studios lot. I knew there existed a moment in time... somewhere... where that fantastic space WAS real... for a moment.
    With a computer effect - it never existed at all, ever. It was just binary code - and that is depressing. Make sense?
    Check out the excellent and WAY thorough to learn WAY MORE than you could possibly ever want to know about this film... including obsessively proposed answers to many of the ???'s left by the plot's (un)intentional loose ends.

5. Cat Power's oddly and appropriately titled new CD "You Are Free" which is totally free itself in it's entirety, streaming out of your computer 24 hours a day - here
    Isn't the cover of this CD so inviting?
    Cat Power is actually solo artist Chan Marshall - who along with an acoustic guitar and nerdy, introverted voice... coos out non-fashion-un-model-wearing-glasses-and-a-burt-bunny-costume-head-walking-in-slow-motion-video-in-an-ironic-location-esque ballads.
    As she has grown as an artist - so has her sound. More instruments have been added (occasionally), and more participants. Her music is really neat but kind of sad sometimes like that whole Smiths thing.
    So anyway... according to someone I know who knows her, Chan is real art school nerdy in her sound and shy on stage but in person she's this totally zany, obnoxious broad all "Heeeeyyyy how's it goin' you goddamn fuckers!!! I'm on my FUCKING PERIOD assholes!!! Where's the goddamn BEER!!!". I like that. It's like she's fooling Bjork and Tori Amos fans. Personally I think it would be pretty easy to fool any fans of Bjork or Tori Amos.
    So anyway where was I? Oh yea... one time I was at this show at the Bowery Ballroom that was a benefit for all the illegal immigrant cooks and servers and busboys who died while working in the Windows On the World restaurant on the top of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th. You know a benefit for their families because they don't have a green card and everything and couldn't get any city help at the time or whatever. Anyways... Sonic Youth were playing and a bunch of heady poets and a free jazz sax skronk guys with a drummer and stuff like that were performing. I love that kind of stuff but the crowd it attracts can be kind of sad sometimes. So Chan Marshall was going on right before Sonic Youth so the swelling crowd was all in full throbbing blabbing networking loud mode all over the whole place while the acts were playing. And Chan comes out and just sits in a chair with a microphone... with her guitar... and proceeded to TOTALLY REARRANGE EVERYONE'S MAP in the place. She just sat there... with no spotlight on her at all... just like a dark stage... and her hair was totally in her face... she just started doing this bizarre stream of consciousness thing. Like whispering into the mic (behind her hair - she looked like Cousin It from The Addams Family) and maybe singing a little kind of sort of and strumming the guitar... kind of. She would maybe whisper one little five seconds of one song then do another part of another and then mess up and start over and mumble her grocery list to herself and then talk and then strum another one little part of another song. It was insane!!! She seemed insane!!! It was like she was totally stoned out of her mind in her room alone... just strumming out any idea that popped into her head... and it would've made sense if she WAS alone at home all stoned and "La-la-la-let's see... um..." but she was ON STAGE in front of hundreds of people!!! It was - truly - one of the most compelling singing performances I've ever seen. When you hear her on record it's all "I have a guitar la-la-la I'm Joni Mitchell kind of" but then on stage she's like this totally uncompromising lethally original performance art where you go home afterwards and have nightmares because it fucked with your head so much. There were no breaks in her entire set... just this constant stream of whatever. EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE PLACE STARED FORWARD AND DIDN'T SAY A WORD AND WATCHED HER IN TOTAL SHOCK AND AMAZEMENT THE ENTIRE PERFORMANCE. You could have heard a business card drop. She took a full house full of Scrooges and art creeps and terrorized the hell out of them! I'll never forget it!!! She was the terrorist's airplane and the people's rules of how things should be at a show were the WTC towers that night. Yes. Mmmmhmmm...
    So anyway... I had actually never had heard "Cat Power" before that... so after that show I totally respected her and when her new CD came out (above) I saw the cover and I thought it was brilliant and it looked almost like a thicket in Texas in the Spring and I thought that was great and I wanted to walk into the photograph and I also wanted to buy it but didn't, then later I wanted to see what reviews of it were saying about it online so I went online and I found...
    Why buy it? Why indeed. The Matador label is graciously (and rather cleverly, if you ask me) streaming the entire album, 24 hours a day, at this url (requires Quicktime). So listen to the whole thing... forever... or for a while at least... before you decide to pad the cash box of your local record shop. I've literally been streaming this thing non-stop on my computer for like four days. I'll eventually buy it. There's one up-beat, kind of song that sounds like what the Go-Go's would sound like if their heads were decapitated but kept alive in a mad scientist's lab all in tanks of water with tubes attached... all zombie-fied.

6. The "universal style" graphics on the United States Government's new web site about what steps it's citizen's should take in event of specific types of terrorist attacks
    These go along with the new instructions the U.S. government is giving it's citizens about what to do in any specific terror attack. They're real! The graphics are supposed to kinda sorta help those who maybe can't read, or are too lazy to read - like the way you see a line with a circle on top that is supposed to be a nude male human, and a line with a circle on top of it with a triangle is a nude human female (the signs for public bathrooms). Go to  to read (or not read) all about it (click on each category at the bottom; 'Biological Attack', 'Explosion', etc...).
    I love these graphics because they remind me so much of the Project Mayhem prank airline safety instructions from the film "Fight Club" - the ones the characters secretly placed in airline seats for unsuspecting passengers.
    It's usually not too long before the parody becomes the reality - I'm finding this out, the older I get. It's like the writers of Mad magazine are the modern-day Nostradamus or something.

7. Bryan's story about his long lost best friend Tracey
    My friend Bryan (over at has a chilling/fascinating story about an old friend of his that is now on trial for a grisly murder. He talks about his past suspicions of her... and his thoughts about other things she may have done, or have had the potential to do - yet still talks about her like an old friend. Very wild. Click here for the story.

proposed mathematical figure illustrating Jim's possible new look:

8. Super sexy photos of Jim over at
    Yowza! Okay I know I see him almost half of every week... but I love new pictures of Jim on the Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops website. I'm his biggest fan! I keep telling Jim he looks like Matthew McConaughey... which he does. Look at the new photos - doesn't he? I keep bugging Jim to make his own web site about himself only... you know, here is me... here are my paintings of a fat Richard Simmons... here are my cartoons... here is my Fagbash past... here are my erotic cakes... here is my bluegrass band. He says he wants to but it hasn't really gotten off the ground yet.
    Anyway I'm a little worried because he said he watched the movie "Ironweed" the other night and it inspired him to go to the local Salvation Army (the Catskills mountains Salvation Army - twice as brilliant and twice as terrifying!) and stock up on what was going to be his "new look". He says he's tired of his old look and, after seeing "Ironweed" he now has a new look - inspired from the film. What's that? Fingerless gloves and black-out teeth? I'll keep you posted when I see him. Oh... you can see the new photos on over here.

9. .ORG??? Not .com??? Wacky Packages gets a .ORG??? Whatever... Jim and I were in some local record joint and we saw this huge poster that had about a hundred Wacky Pack stickers on it. I stared at it and was like "Whoa..." I remember collecting these product-skewing stickers (with shards-of-glass flat sticks of pink gum!) from my local 7-11 very obsessively as a child. I'm sure I had almost every one of them. As I looked at the poster (and around I realized that I recognized every single one of them. I remember I used to stare at the illustration/painting style on them for hours. I remember whenever they wanted to show something that was "bad" - like rotten - they would show it with green worms coming out of it... even cigarettes. If you remember Wacky Packages you'll know what I'm talking about.
    TRUE STORY: When I was in the 1st grade, I sat next to this really strange kid in one of my classes. I remember he was always getting in trouble for stealing stuff. Anyway... one time he saw that I had a bunch of Wacky Packs and he was looking at them. He told me that he had some at home that he didn't want. Like ten of them. He told me that if I went and bought him one pack of "Lick-n-Stick" tattoos (another thing you could get at that time with those hard sheets of pink gum), and bring it to school for him to have... that he would let me have his Wacky Packs. I said "Okay".
    I then walked home in the serene, Plano, Texas dusk thinking about the kid and the potential for ten free new Wacky Packs for the price of one pack of "Lick-n-Stick" tattoos - which I could easily buy at 7-11. I knew... I just KNEW that he was bluffing. He seemed like the type. So instead of going to 7-11 and blowing what was probably 25 cents at the time... I did something that took ten times as long. I went up in my room and CAREFULLY drew (with colored felt tip marker) three little "tattoos" on three white little sheets of paper... small and square... I don't even remember what the designs were. I cut them perfectly so they would look like they came out of a factory. Then I drew a package for my fake "Lick-n-Stick" tattoos - like a folded-out wrapper that had the "Lick-n-Stick" logo and graphics - I even drew a fake upc bar code! I then carefully folded it all together (putting in two pink sticks of gum from a discarded Wacky Pack) and sealed it up and tried to make it look as professional as possible. I KNEW that if he "licked" and "stuck" my little fake felt marker drawn tattoos they WOULD stick to his skin - the ink from the markers - and kind of sort of look like REAL lick and stick tattoos... but it wouldn't take a genius to figure out they were fake. I WAS A FUCKING FIRST GRADER MAKING A COUNTERFEIT BAZOOKA GUM PRODUCT WITH NOTEBOOK PAPER, SCISSORS, GLUE AND FELT MARKERS FOR CHRISSAKES!!! Who WOULDN't be able to figure it out? Apparently I was counting on this kid who sat next to me not to. Kids think they can get away with anything.
    My motivation was that I didn't want to be duped by this kid who I thought was going to rip me off. I wasn't going to spend 25 cents from my hard earned allowance just for him to show up the next day WITHOUT my Wacky Packages as promised.
    So the next day came and... lo and behold... the kid showed up with not ten Wacky Packages... but a WHOLE STACK of them (sans wrappers and gum). There must have been thirty of them! They were in mint condition! He said his big brother gave them to him and he didn't want them but he DID want some "Lick-n-Stick" tattoos and by the way "...where are they Mark?"
    I gulped hard and pulled out my pathetic attempt to mimic a real "Lick-n-Stick" package. I shakily handed him the flimsy glued and felt-markered and taped package with the upc bar code where the black lines weren't exactly parallel and said "Here... here you go! Enjoy them dude!" He grabbed it and his face lit up and he dashed off to the boy's bathroom to use the sink to apply his new tattoos. I held the stack of awesome Wacky Packages in my hand and looked down at them and felt like dirt. What had I done? The kid came back from the bathroom with a bunch of pastel colored stains all over his arm and said "I think I did it wrong!" He seemed to think that he had used too much water. Huh? You mean he was ACTUALLY fooled by it? He thought they were real? I mean... I hoped that he would have... but I was surprised. He said he was going to wait until recess to try to apply another one. I told him they would work better if he actually licked them rather than running them under water... fighting back guilt.
    I later showed him how to lick and stick one of my fake tattoos... and it DID work pretty well. I was a good artist, even at a young age... and he seemed to like them. The package sat in his desk next to mine the whole year... and every time he opened his desk I saw it in there... threatening to drive me mad like the disembodied, pounding, victim's heart that the murderer placed under the floorboards in Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell Tale Heart".
    I never told him the truth.



Mark Allen's Top Ten for 2/17/03

1. Me confusing the names "Helen Keller" and "Lizzie Borden" in a factoid I told to about a million people
    Recently, I heard something very interesting from a friend of mine about Lizzie Borden and why she murdered her parents. Turns out the entire horrific double patricide might have been caused by bad Feng Shui! Yep. It seems that the living arrangements inside the Borden home were all about NO PRIVACY. There was one long room which made up the entire living area of the home. Lizzie's living area (bed, dresser, etc.) was way at one end, with her parent's at the other, and any other areas... like living room or kitchen or whatever... were in the center. With NO WALLS separating anything. Lizzie grew up her entire life like this... puberty, everything... in full view of her eventually-to-be-murdered-with-an-axe parents. She literally had no private space her entire life.
    I bet prison was like *H*E*A*V*E*N* for her. She was all in her cell, after killing her folks, all alone awaiting the gallows like "Aaaaahhhh... finally some privacy!"
    Now I couldn't exactly find any information about this on the web... but my friend is a producer at The History Channel... and he isn't the gossip-y type, so I think he probably knows what he's talking about.
    So anyway... that's kind of interesting isn't it? Makes you think about people needing their own private space and what lack of it might lead to extreme situations. I guess I've always been interested in spaces - like architecturally or whatever - and the way they can affect people's moods.
    Now... I found this little tidbit so interesting... that I started going all over town telling people about it. The only problem is, is that... my Kelly Bundy-ish brain SOMEHOW switched Lizzie Borden's name with HELEN KELLER's - in my head. And once the switch happened in my mind - it was final. I walked around THINKING of Lizzie Borden every time I SAID the words Helen Keller out loud. I guess it was those paint fumes... you know what they say about paint huffing and permanent brain damage.
    So anyway... I went around town blabbing about how there's a chance Lizzie Borden killed her parents with an axe because she had nowhere to masturbate. Except I said the words "Helen Keller" out loud even though in my head I was thinking of Lizzie Borden. I probably told a million people this. FINALLY... people started saying things like "I didn't know Helen Keller killed her parents!" and I would be all "Huh? Did I say Helen Keller? Oh... I did didn't I? Why did I do that? Weird... well, I mean Lizzie Borden, not Helen Keller... sorry... anyway..." It took about three people correcting me each time for it FINALLY to sink in. I mean... how many people did I go around talking about how Helen Keller killed her parents that believed me? Talk about disseminating misinformation.
    Didn't these people who took what I said at face value start to question what I said in their own heads? Did all kinds of weird scenarios about Helen Keller start to play out in their minds?
    I mean... why would someone who is blind AND deaf need privacy? How much more privacy could you possibly need in that state? The whole concept of Feng Shui must seem like even MORE bullshit to someone who is blind AND deaf. Some skinny Japanese woman who is a Feng Shui expert is standing in a blind and deaf person's apartment and is all " we must make the wood of the border-less north wall of your bedroom out of cherry wood so as not to emote the energy of the Dragon... this is very important for good sleep! $10,000 please!" and the blind, deaf person is all "Uuugrhhhtpffft!"
    Plus... how could a blind, deaf person kill their parents, one at a time, with an axe? I mean even if they were asleep... a blind, deaf person killing them in their bed at night and not missing about a million times would be like climbing Mount Everest for anyone else. It would take all night just to find where the bed was! And what if the parents were awake? Oh it would be so cruel. The parents could be all laughing and having tea and going about their day and laughing at the blind, deaf person... all "Oh look she's trying to chop us with an axe again! Hahahahaha!" while the blind, deaf person is on the other side of the room banging a chair with the wrong end of the axe going "Zed-du-du-dererrrte-uuprt!"
    It's like "40 whacks"? Yea... the first 39 missed.
    So if you live in the New York area and you hear anyone on the subway talking about how Helen Keller killed her parents with an axe because she had no walls on her bedroom... I started that rumor.

2. These three science news stories that spring hope eternal in the hearts and minds of humans globally (below)
    All published in England's The Independent, they all give hope to even the most downtrodden. I think an 80 year old wino dying in the gutter off Bowery street from liver rot, buried in snow and with no toes - could read these three stories and be like "Heeyyy, maybe I can make it after all" and then run into the middle of Times Square and throw his knit cap in the air like in the beginning of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show". I particularly like the wording of the third story's headline: "Supertasters live in a neon-lit world of food flavours"

Birds that sing complex songs give clue to origins of human syntax

By Steve Connor, Science Editor, in Denver
17 February 2003

Parrots, hummingbirds and songbirds ? which are able to learn complex, repetitive songs ? have provided scientists with a unique insight into the origins of syntax, the rules that govern human speech.

A team of researchers led by Erich Jarvis of Duke University in North Carolina has found the key regions of a bird's brain which enable it to construct and remember the complicated sequences of sounds which make up birdsong.

The learning of songs or calls in the animal kingdom is rare. Only three distantly related types of bird and three types of mammal ? humans, bats and cetaceans ?
are capable of vocal learning, which is regarded as the essential first step in the evolution of human language.

Dr Jarvis told the association's conference that his work on parrots, hummingbirds and songbirds had led to the identification of circuits in the brain's cerebrum
called glutamate receptors, which are involved in the transmission of nerve impulses as well as the growth of new nerve connections when the brain is learning a

Even though hummingbirds have some of the smallest brains of vertebrates, they are still capable of learning and remembering extraordinarily complex songs.

"The main thing they do with their vocal specialisations is to defend territories and attract mates and the more complex the syntax, the sexier the song," Dr Jarvis

"These little songbirds ? which are some of the smallest birds around ? can do more complex things with their vocalisations than say, a horse, which has a much
larger brain. So this tells us what really matters is the presence or absence of a circuit in the brain, regardless of the size of the animal," he said.

"Although it might seem far- fetched, I would not be surprised if these ancient receptors could some day help us to identify the entire system of brain regions for
vocal learning and language in humans in a way that hasn't been done before," Dr Jarvis said.

"If it is true that these receptors can be used to identify the human language areas it will help surgeons to localise these brain areas during surgery so that they can learn not to touch them."

 - Link to story

Mutation in creativity gene 'led to rise of Man'

By Steve Connor, Science Editor, in Denver
17 February 2003

A single mutation in a "creativity" gene less than 100,000 years ago led to the rapid development of art and culture and the ascent of Man, according to a
controversial view of our early evolutionary history.

The mutation in a gene called "foxp2" ? identified by British scientists in 2001 ? caused an explosion in the complexity of language which underpinned the social
and cultural revolution leading to the spread of Homo sapiens.

Richard Klein, professor of anthropological sciences at Stanford University in California, told the meeting that changes in the foxp2 gene ? which plays a prominent role in the brain for language development ? could explain the sudden change in human culture.

This became apparent about 50,000 years ago when early humans went from a stone-based culture to one that included finer tools and ornaments made from
ivory, bone and shell, which indicated the development of art and ritual.

"I think there was a biological change, a genetic mutation that promoted the fully modern ability to create and innovate,'' Professor Klein said. "Suddenly,
modern-looking people began to behave in a modern way, producing art and jewellery and doing a variety of other things they hadn't done before.''

The foxp2 gene was discovered by scientists at Oxford University and the Institute of Child Health in London.

 - Link to story

Supertasters live in a neon-lit world of food flavours

By Steve Connor, Science Editor, in Denver
17 February 2003

Some people are born with a better sense of taste than others, according to a study showing that "supertasters" have a biological gift enabling them to detect the most subtle nuances of food. It is believed to be a genetic trait that can determine what individuals eat and what illnesses they will develop.

Supertasters live in a "neon-lit" world of flavours which is roughly three times as intense as the "pastel world" of the less-sensitive "non-tasters" who have fewer taste buds on their tongues, said Linda Bartoshuk of Yale University.

Supertasters carry a double copy of a gene that makes them sensitive to the bitter taste. They tend to avoid sweet, high-fat foods but are also averse to vegetables which can taste unpleasantly bitter, Professor Bartoshuk told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver.

"Supertasters are picky eaters. They taste bitterness in food that other people don't notice. For some, the food world is just slashingly bright and they opt out from many food choices," Professor Bartoshuk told the meeting.

"It's related to gender because women are more likely to be supertasters than men. Bitter taste is related to hormones in humans. The degree of bitterness perceived varies with the menstrual cycle. It also goes to a peak in early pregnancy and falls off a cliff at menopause," she said.

Pregnant women can become highly sensitive to the bitter taste probably because it is a way of protecting their developing babies from the effects of food poisoning. Women also tend to be different to men in terms of their taste preferences.

"Female supertasters really don't like high fat so they eat less of it and their cardiovascular profiles are superior than non-tasting females. Many males show the
opposite pattern this means that many males who taste fat more intensely also like it more and so they gain weight," she said.

Scientists can determine whether someone is a supertaster by getting them to taste a chemical called prop. "It tastes incredibly bitter to supertasters, moderately bitter to medium tasters and basically tastes not at all to non-tasters," Professor Bartoshuk said.

About a quarter of the population are supertasters, another quarter are non-tasters and the rest are medium tasters. Scientists believe the ability to detect bitter tastes is designed to be a safety measure to avoid food that has gone off.

"The ability to taste bitter substances has always been associated with poison detection, but now we have found all these health associations," Professor Bartoshuk said. "We know that people's whole diets are different, based on their taste sensitivity.

"Supertasters perceive all tastes more intensely but the bitter effect is the largest. Supertasters also perceive oral burning and oral touching as more intense. Chefs are more likely to be supertasters.

"In older men, we found that the number of polyps in the colon was directly correlated with the bitter [they] perceived. In addition, the men with polyps ate fewer
vegetables and were heavier, both risks factors known to be associated with colon cancers," said Professor Bartoshuk.

"We want to see what things suppress bitter the best. We want people to eat these foods so we have to figure out ways of preparing them in a way that is tolerable, and inhibiting bitter is one of them."

Experiments show that being supersensitive to the taste of bitter is related to race ? white Caucasians for instance are less likely to be supertasters than Asians. Theability to taste bitterness is largely determined by a single gene which is located on human chromosome number five, Professor Bartoshuk said.

 - Link to story

3. The "turning up the house lights at bar closing time" sketch on Saturday Night Live - 2/15/03
    It starred Jimmy Fallon, Jennifer Garner (whom I was pretty impressed with as a comic actress during the episode) and one other male cast member that I couldn't figure out. It was an old gag, probably done a hundred times in movies and TV before... but I was laughing so hard I couldn't breath. The gag: Jimmy Fallon plays a typical guy in a bar, Jennifer Garner plays a very, very pretty girl in a bar. The two seem to have just met that night and, having spent the evening having drinks and talking... are deciding what to do next (go have breakfast?) now that the bar is about to CLOSE.
    The bartender yells "Last call everyone!" and Jimmy and Jennifer decide what to do - pancakes? Jimmy seems very happy that he is going home with such a knockout beauty (Jennifer - basically playing herself). Suddenly the bartender yells "Okay everyone... I'm gonna turn the house lights up!" (camera on him only) and he does. Jimmy then looks over at the newly lit up Jennifer, who has been quickly and seamlessly replaced (while the camera was off her) with a male cast member wearing the exact same outfit.
    Not to read: transsexual who you thought was a real girl, but to read: UGLY GIRL WHO YOU THOUGHT WAS GORGEOUS IN THE DIM LIGHT. The sketch went on and on (but not too long) in variations on the theme. The lights kept going on and off. The ugly version of Jennifer coo-ing and batting her eyelashes at a flustered Jimmy... all "Do you want to just get the good night kiss over with now so we can relax? Handsome?" ...acting twice as flirtatious in the light. Jimmy obviously preferring the dimly lit version of the girl.
    I thought it was hysterical. It was a great example of the television medium.... and what it can do. A simple idea... kept simple... using camera changing, and quick costume and cast switcheroo's, even live audience reactions - and no hamming-it-up by the cast. It was also great acting because you actually felt empathy for the ugly girl... who didn't seem disappointed at all with the lit-up Jimmy, and probably felt she was really lucky that night.
    You empathized with the monster. Kind of the way you felt about Frankenstein's monster in "Frankenstein, or Marlon Brando in the remake of  "The Island of Dr. Moreau".
    I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed.

4. The "Ellos Trajeron la Violencia" movie poster that a friend got me
    My friend Marc (thanks Marc!) recently got this movie poster for me. It's for a Mexican film called  "Ellos Trajeron la Violencia". I love this poster because it has everything exploitatively "bad" - all crammed into one image - an image which is a typical "montage" painting movie poster style. So since it's depicting things like rape and guts and ravaged nuns, it's a painting... and that makes it not as bad! Like at the end of "The Bad Seed" when the whole cast comes out in role-call fashion in front of the camera to remind you... it is just a MOVIE! Well, when I look at the images on this poster... before I crap my pants and pass out from sheer shock... I see the flimsy watercolor brushstrokes and am reminded... it's only a PAINTING!!! *whew*.
    Let's obsessively analyze this poster shall we? Going clockwise from the very top, we see:

1. A very under-age girl (in pigtails) suggestively unzipping the skirt of an already topless older female (who has a hand placed seductively on the child's right cheek - of her face).
2. Some crashing and exploding cars excitingly engulfed in roaring flames.
3. Figure #2 of the main central image - a man in a green striped shirt holding a switchblade at a nun(!) and wearing a look on his face that says "I will kill you nun"? Or is it saying "Help! I'm being attacked by a killer nun! I only have this knife to defend myself!" What is the look on his face? Rage? Panic? Resignation? Whatever it is... he doesn't look too sure of himself.
4. The artist's name: A. M. Kacho. Sounds like a sneeze. Interesting. What does it mean? Notice how his name is almost as large as the director of the film... which is in yellow letters at the bottom.
5. A group of people who seem banned together to try and overcome some sort of "disaster" - a typical film plot structure. The girl in the black dress seems to be the leader - she seems to be discussing plans for the group to follow - probably for escape. The two males in the back are carrying another male who's right leg is all bloody. Their style of dress says "We came here for a formal cocktail party - but instead met the most deadly, horribly exciting, run for our very lives ever imaginable in our worst nightmares!"
6. The arm, hand and switchblade of the man discussed in #3.
7. A man with unzipped pants, kind of menacingly standing over/sitting on a possibly unconscious or perhaps recently expired woman who has her shirt ripped open with her breasts exposed. Obviously about to violate her in a cruel and violent way.
8. Figure #1 of the main central image: the nun! Obviously the major player in the film... the hero who rises above everything and triumphs in the face of the abyss... of evil. Now she looks interesting because - she's a nun... but she's obviously wearing appearance enhancing cosmetics. I thought nuns couldn't do that. Is she a real nun? Is she in disguise? Whatever she is she sure looks haggardly heroic - and glamorous! She sure has that guy with the knife spooked. And she has a gun. A nun with a gun! A cliché - but a cliché that always works - no? I mean... is she a real nun that is standing up for good... like the mother superiors in "The Sound of Music"? Or is she a woman pretending to be a nun to stand up for good - like Whoopie Goldberg in "Sister Act"? Or she a real nun who has crossed over to the dark side like the killer in "Alice, Sweet Alice"? OR is she an evil person wearing a nun costume to do evil like the girl in "Ms. 45"? The possibilities are overwhelming! Now also notice her habit... it's ripped. AND she's bleeding. She's had a rough time, but she's standing strong. Plus her habit is ripped in a very alluring way. It appears that if were allowed to see even lower on her figure, we might see her right boob.
9. The whole thing, especially the bottom, is cast in something that looks like a swirling whirlpool of blue and violet. Violet - the color of violence and unrest (I just made that up because it sounds dramatic).
Is all this stuff in the film? I wanna see it. user comments (from a reviewer who lives in Mexico):
Summary: This movie is very interesting and has horrific scenes!!!!!

This movie is part of my Taboada collection and it has some terrific scenes, The main story goes like this: there's a group of violent teens that commit a murder and they run away from Mexico, on the road they arrive to a house who is inhabited by a nun and a young girl, it turns ugly and the rest is history. At some points it really drags and it becomes some sort of a "Last House on the left" kind of film, its well done and the special effects are crappy but its worth the watch... from the creator of "Hasta el viento tiene miedo" and "Veneno para las hadas".


5. Axe-grinding, rage-filled 1970 interview with John Lennon - right after the break up of The Beatles
    Leave it to the always special Kenny G. to uncover a very special 1970 interview with John Lennon on his always special WFMU radio show this week, Nothing Special. It's 20 minutes long, and was recorded right after The Beatles broke up. The peace-preaching John is so full of piss and vinegar and RAGE during this taped chat with some unknown interviewer that it is surreally mind boggling. He almost sums up an entire manifesto of why people that become world famous go bonkers. It's a hysterical listen that I highly recommend it. It's very visual... when he's yelling and cursing about wives of local mayors showing up at hotels where John and the rest of the band were sleeping and demanding that they wake up so she can "meet The Beatles" or she'll "go to the press" - I can picture the whole thing... and it sounds like a technicolor scene right out of "The Graduate" or "The Swimmer".  A real time capsule.
    All Kenny's shows are archived in the WFMU online audio archives. Unfortunately you'll need to load up the whole show (RealPlayer or MP3) to hear the Lennon rant. I will tell you that the interview starts right at the 1hr 58min mark (most RealPlayer players have an arrow you can move to the exact time you want on a clip).
   Here is the page that lists all Kenny's shows for 2003 (it's the 02/12/03 show).
   Here's the direct RealPlayer link to the show (fast forward it to 1:58).
    All you need is rage!

6. The lyrics to Sonic Youth's "The Ineffable Me"
    Words to live by. And perhaps in contrast to the entry above. Or be inspired by when you feel needlessly burdened by armchair critics and advice givers. Ever feel like that? I do. The lyrics are multi-layered in meaning (the album they come from is called 'A Thousand Leaves' - a reference to Gilles Deleuze's 'Mille Plateaux'). The words actually have lots of angles... I mean... who's paying attention to who here? Who's feeding of who? Who's the protagonist of the song?


can't catch me - I'm syntax free
I'm preconceived - preternaturally
I don't invest, in what is best
your "once and for all" - means shit to me

hey translator! hey translator! hey translator!
you can't catch me

don't mistake her
don't mishape her
don't mutate her
you can't get me

the radical beacon, the preverbal season
abstract poetics? immediate treason

do you remember reductionist lie?
fundamentalist alibi?

hate translator! hate translator! hate translator!
don't fuck with me

don't you break her
don't deflate her
don't outdate her
or you'll fuck with me

it's a cushy job
a pussy's job
a cum junkie's job
makes my dick throb

feel ineffable, feel ineffable

the job of my consciousness... of having lost the world.
I try to recover myself, but in this moment... I am lost
it's always blood... fear... politics... and money

I don't know how to stop vomiting since I've been working in all this!

can't catch me - I'm syntax free
I'm preconceived - prehistorically

don't be alarmed! don't be alarmed! don't be alarmed!
it's only me

come back in my arms
back into my arms
back to my arms
the ineffable me

hate castrater! hate castrater! hate castrater!
you can't catch me

don't deflate her
don't mistake her
don't outrank him
you can't get me

hey translator! hey translator! hey translator!
you won't get me

the ineffable me
the ineffable me
the ineffable me
can't catch me
can't catch me!
the ineffable me
you can't catch me

7. The new deli around the corner from me
    I will sum up the food selection in my neighborhood for the last seven years with one word: GOYA. A new deli has opened up, literally, around the corner from me. It caters to the white, trust-fund art snob market (a class level I have been trying to reach for decades now) - and I couldn't be in more of an ecstatic, heavenly trance every time I walk in there. It's like the answer to all my prayers. No more walking all the way up to Houston street every time I want a bag of those weird Japanese rice cracker pea things - un-unh! Not anymore! I can get blocks of tofu and fresh kale and sixteen kinds of weird cheese and bizarre coffee beans and every kind of weird Japanese paste ice cream imaginable and exotic fruit and baby spinach and eight different kinds of olive oil and a million kinds of soy milk and trendy tortilla chips. Literally downstairs from me! When I went to the counter to pay for the stuff and the guy told me they were open 24 hours I screamed and shit all over the floor.

8. Domenic and I watching people try to un-bury their cars in the massive snow drifts
    Rested, warm... in the safety of our cozy apartment. Five stories up... with a panoramic view of people who drive cars trying to shovel their vehicles out of ten-feet high snow drifts... shoveling the snow onto the cars next to them... with those owners them coming out and yelling and then trying to shovel that snow back onto the original offender's car... shovlers accidentally throwing face-full of snow on a passerby and having another fight break out.  It was non-stop hilarity.  All you needed out there was a high society cocktail party, a buffet table full of cream pies... and the Three Stooges as waiters - and it would have been even more perfect.
    It was like FOX's "Celebrity Boxing" with the fighters being Mother Nature and Mankind (an eternal struggle). And much like the Tonya Harding ( who, for example, will represent Mother Nature in this fight) vs. Paula Jones (representing Mankind here) fight... Paula Jones sulked and shrank and waned through the entire onslaught of Tonya's relentless poundings, and later said; "I thought it was going to be more celebrity and less boxing."
    How's that for a complicated analogy?

9. Almost choking to death on a white little plastic baby that was hidden inside a New Orleans Mardi Gras "King Cake" that a client gave me (thanks David!)
    He warned me that it would be in there. But it caught me off guard... and also almost entered my body like Raquel Welch and those other scientists in that little ship entered that guy's body in "Fantastic Voyage". Ouch. Apparently there is something about the plastic babies inside that has some kind of "good luck" charm if your piece contains the baby - and there is a whole history behind these cakes. They taste like Entenmann's coffee cake covered in colored, granulated sugar. We also found this little figure underneath the cake (above right)... it looks like a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan... doesn't it? And with the baby I almost died from choking on being so... white... Domenic and I started to kind of wonder about it. When is the last time you remember a cake having this much intrigue?

10. Jim

Mark Allen's Top Ten for 2/10/03:

1. Hello

2. Mayor Bloomberg finally passing a law to get rid of those apocolyptically enraging and way too long "Don't forget to fasten your seat belt New York! See ya on Broadway folks!" full volume recordings that play (by law) not play, SCREECH... out of the sound systems in taxis right as you are getting in and are trying to tell the driver where you wanna go
    Every once in a while when I would be out at a bar or having a conversation at a party or whatever... and the subject of these taxi seat belt recordings would come up... and I would hear someone say "You know... I LOVE those taxi recordings of Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Jackie Mason! I think they're fabulous!" their next words were usually ""Please kill me" spoken through bloody, smashed teeth - because after hearing them approve of those pre-recorded audio nightmares... I would drag them into the nearest bathroom, lock the door, and proceed to cruelly torture them for hours with a toilet brush. You know... to show them what I was feeling whenever I heard one of those electronic evolutionary mistakes that assaulted my soul every time I got into a cab.
    Apparently, a few years ago, some focus group somewhere decided that they REALLY needed to tell passengers in NYC taxis to fasten their seat belts - probably because the ridiculous lawsuits were piling up. I'm sure they racked their brains for quite a while until someone thought of a RECORDING that would automatically play out of interior speakers whenever the driver re-started the meter (meaning right when a new passenger got in). This was mistake #1. New York City is already filled with LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of VERY LOUD and ASSAULTIVE noise pollution to just make an executive decision to add another flute to the orchestra.
    It's like that really cruddy band you had in high school that only did Husker Du covers... and every one of your friends wanted to be in this Husker Du cover band - but they all only played guitar (crap-ily). So the band had like 8 guitarists at one point, one drummer, and one bassist (who was a girlfriend of one of the guys) - and they sounded awful. And your friend who's mom had just died a year ago asked if he can join the band and you didn't wanna say "no" because his mom died when he was only in the 10th grade and so you said to him "What instrument do you play?" and he said "Guitar!" all enthusiastically and you just kind of gulped really hard and looked down at the ground and put on a fake smile and say "Hop aboard!". Then when you played at the "Battle of the Bands" in the high school gym everyone threw sno cones. That's it in a nutshell. The band is the noise level in NYC, the guy who's mom died and enthusiastically wanted to join is the guy at the focus group meeting who wanted to add recordings of celebrities in taxis telling people to fasten their seat belts, you are the mayor or whoever who says "yes", and the fellow high school students who threw sno cones at you now even-worse Husker Du cover band are the citizens of New York City. All "Booooooooooooooooo!!!"
    Wait... where was I? Oh yea... now don't get me wrong... New Yorker's love their noise. It's just that all the deafening sound is in perfect harmony and balance... it's like noise feng shui. Adding something that doesn't fit into the puzzle is just going to throw that violent balance off and cause someone... somewhere to have "Back Seat Taxi RAGE!" I'm surprised it didn't happen more often.
    Now... OK the guys at the focus group decide to make the recordings happen when people get into cabs... then mistake #2 was coming up with the brilliant idea of having b-grade New York "celebrities" do the recordings... and include some of their "shtick" in the recording. You know when telephone answering machines first came out in the 80's ...and everyone was trying to out-do one another with clever and funny outgoing messages on their machines. Remember how funny some of those outgoing messages were the first time you heard them? Then you had to hear the same clever joke over and over and over every time you called and it was kind of annoying?
    Imagine these celebrity's agents pitching the idea to them; "You're gonna be heard in taxi's all over New York every day! It'll be great! Yea it will be the same recording over and over... but trust me, it'll be great! What's the sound system like in taxis? I don't know... I'm sure the speaker and volume controls are rock solid - like the sound system at Caroline's!" I would love to see a list of celebrities that were approached to do the recordings that said "No". That would be the list of celebrities that had brains.
    You know it really hurts your credibility as an entertainer when the sound of jackhammers and people getting stabbed and the sound of the World Trade Center twin towers falling sounds BETTER than your pre-recorded shtick coming out of scratchy, malfunctioning taxi speakers. When the recordings would finally end... the passengers would hear the sound of a million car alarms and fights breaking out and guns right outside the taxi and be all "Aaaaahhhhh! How peaceful!"
    So anyway... Mayor Bloomberg had a heavy-handed moment and decided to pass some law to wipe all those fucking recordings off the face of Manhattan and be banished to The Island of Unwanted Ideas. This is the first thing that I have ever really noticed Mayor Bloomberg doing. He's so QUIET compared to  Giuliani (who was always in the news making a loud big deal about something). Anyway... there you go. They're gone. The nightmare is over. Thanks Mayor Bloomberg.

(article below reprinted from the New York Daily News,
Originally published on February 8, 2003

*Mayor Bloomberg to Elmo: Get out!*

The ride is finally over for the furry red Muppet, the Rockettes and all those other grating voices that remind taxi passengers to buckle their seat belts.

Bloomberg said yesterday that he's booting the celebrity voices.

"We've been doing a study on people's like or dislike for the announcements in the back of taxicabs. We haven't found anybody that likes it. Everybody hates it," he said on his weekly radio show.

"They will be going away in the very near future."

According to a survey of roughly 4,000 cab passengers, 67% said the announcements urging riders to buckle up, take their belongings and get a receipt had no effect on their behavior. In fact, 12% said they were so irritated by the announcement that they purposely refused to use their seat belts.

The number of lost items in cabs hasn't changed since the program began in 1997.

Matthew Daus, who heads the Taxi and Limousine Commission, said the announcements could be out of all taxis by March or April, at the earliest.

He said the city will explore a number of ways to encourage taxi safety, including putting up more signs.

Over the years, riders have been captive to the voices of Jackie Mason, Dennis Franz, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Joe Torre, Judd Hirsch, Joan Rivers, Paul Sorvino, Isaac Hayes, Bernadette Peters, Chris Rock and Walt (Clyde) Frazier.

"It will be a piece of New York history," Daus said.

copywrite 2003, The New York Daily News


3. News of a new Madonna album
Due out in April... titled "American Life". This is exciting news to me. Go here for the Drudge-leaked, hype-y press release. Look at me!

4. Domenic moved back into my apartment
    Yep. Believe it or don't. It was done instantly - and on a whim (complete with a 'psychic' moment when we both called each other simultaneously to ask each other the same thing). Weird.  Although to be honest, I think Domenic had been dropping by occasionally to perhaps, subconsciously (even on his part) warm me up to the idea - perhaps sneaking knockout drops into my Diet Coke and then hypnotizing me in my sleep. He's brought all kinds of technological wonders with him... as well as power strips and extension cords and fancy soaps and body washes and his warped sense of humor well as friends who work at Starbucks' and supply us with free coffee beans (thanks Cauliflower!) So he's back... there you go. Destiny? Common sense? Insanity? A mix of all three... the weird Mark and Domenic sitcom continues (a hybrid of early 'Three's Company' and 'Small Wonder' and 'Sigmund and the Sea Monster'). We've already talked about doing another "The Jar" - but how can we top it?

5. Should Domenic and I get a pet chicken?
    In case I haven't mentioned it before, there is a LIVE chicken mart around the corner from me. Yes... you heard me right... they sell LIVE chickens... all kinds. You can either have them slay it for you there - or - take it home live and do it yourself! Sometimes I think my neighborhood is a third world country. Sometimes IT IS! I love telling clients "Okay when you pass the live chicken mart... make the next left!" It's a colorful (and very, very smelly) addition to an already colorful neighborhood, and it's been here forever. So zany. I call it "The Zoo".
    So anyway... Domenic loves chickens. He has a thing about them... and he has always said that he wants to get a chicken at this store and keep it as a pet. He has this ingenious idea of keeping it in a cage right on the fire escape that is right outside his window. You know... letting it into the apartment every once in a while to be all hilarious and entertain us. Except I think it might get chicken poop everywhere. Maybe we can make it wear diapers. Domenic says he will feed it a steady diet of wild bird seed, dried fruit, wheat grass, corn chips and bugs (he claims traditional chicken feed seed is not good to feed them).
    Apparently Domenic HAD two chickens once... in NYC... in the mid 90's... on a second floor fire escape on Essex street (right next to the new McDonalds), in a wooden cage constructed around the fire escape (they weren't actually locked in -  they were free to get off the fire escape at any time - and the cage was just like a little dog house they could get under - and they chose to stay), which was lined with growing sod grass (growing out of carpet swatches) and always had bird seed on it. When I asked him if they crowed loudly when the sun rose every morning he said "Oh they crowed all the time! They never shut up!" Okay. AND to make matters more interesting... one time one chicken LEFT THE FIRE ESCAPE and Domenic thought he had lost it forever, that is UNTIL  about a month later when his roommate at the time FOUND it walking down the street in the Lower East Side... apparently surviving all that time on whatever it could eat and, being bigger than all the pigeons, it wasn't harassed by them (Domenic says it was a female game hen - that sort of looks like a bigger, lighter pigeon anyway - so I guess it kind of blended in). Then back onto the fire escape home it went! When I also asked him what eventually happened to them... he said he had to give them away to a friend when he moved.
    So anyway... I was passing the live chicken mart this week and I noticed the sign in the steamy window (above) advertising Japanese Silkie chickens (spelled wrong) for $6.99! Buy three and get one FREE! ...AND you could also get a White Rooster - three for $10.00 or five for $14.99! Wow! Whatta bargain! Silkie chickens are quite nice. There was a great episode of "Strangers With Candy" where Jerri Blank had a Silkie chicken named Suki that would, quote; "Eat eggs out of anywhere I put them!". Eventually Jerri's Silkie chicken baked herself to save Jerri's life because Jerri was becoming anorexic in this episode. Aren't Japanese Silkie chicken's smart? I want that one! The Silkie one that bakes itself for you to save your life one!
    Actually... I'm sure having a chicken in the house could have it's advantages. I mean it IS a food source! several different ways. It lays eggs... and you can also eat it. I guess we could eat PART of it at a time and still keep it alive. Like eat only one thigh and give it little chicken crutches to walk around in it's chicken cage (or a little chicken wheelchair) while it re-grows another leg for us to eat. Actually chickens can't re-generate their own limbs (yet), although it seems that there is a legend claiming that Colonal Sanders had already figured out a way to do this before he died
    So maybe we should just keep it for "pet" reasons. Who could kill and eat a Silkie anyways? I mean... look at it!
    I think I could work a chicken into my massage somehow. I could advertise "Chicken Massage" and then have it walk all over the client's back while tossing miniature basket balls into miniature basketball hoops for corn chips. Or have a whole bunch of chicken's walk all over a client's back... Silkie ones! Oooohhh! That would feel good! Or how about a whole gaggle of baby Silkie chicks walking all over a client's back! Hey what a great idea*! I'm gonna clean up! I'm sure my clients won't mind the smell and other things that come with chickens one bit!
    So... we may get a pet chicken and we may not, but... as you can see as with the usual case in life... the possibilities are endless...

6. Domenic's photo of the old, abandoned Thunderbolt roller coaster at Coney Island - and his news to me that it was finally torn down in November of 2000 a week after he took this photo (and didn't even realize it until much later)
    I remember always seeing this abandoned roller coaster whenever I visited Coney Island ...about a half a mile from the rest of the hullabaloo of the amusement and beach area. A visit to Coney Island has always been more haunting that "fun" in my opinion. But this abandoned roller coaster always added a "Carnival of Souls"-ish vibe to a place that is already halfway there anyway.
    Built in 1926 and perhaps most famous from being featured in Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" (it was the roller coaster that Woody's character's childhood home was apparently built under)... the Thunderbolt ran and ran much like it's sister coaster, the Cyclone, up until 1983 when it closed (due to ongoing damage started by a bad fire way back in 1977). After that it sat there in this overgrown field... away from everything... slowly creaking and rusting in the beach wind. It was always kind of darkly warm and centering to be around it. You could walk right up to it and just... stare. I wish now I had had the guts to crawl through one of the many holes in the flimsy security fence surrounding it (a beckoning?) and explore it's insides.
    I was informed by Domenic that he was shocked to learn it was finally torn down on November 17th, 2000 (Domenic just happened to take this photo on November 7th of 2000).

7. Opening of the official Coyle & Sharpe web site (
    Starting around 1963, Jim Coyle and Mal Sharpe were the first artist to use 20th century entertainment technology (radio. TV, etc...) to play sinister-ly humorous PRANKS on unsuspecting people on the streets. They lived in San Francisco and on it's sunny, winding streets - they daily, dressed in conservative business suits and haircuts, and with a portable tape recorder and microphone, they pounded the pavement looking for unsuspecting victims to accost and and propose things like (posing as scientists): "Would you be willing to surgically graft chicken wings onto your head... for us... in the interest of aviation research... you will be paid!" or (posing as entrepreneurs) "Would you quit your job and join us in a recreation of Hell traveling show... you will be the main player in a pit that has poisonous snakes and fire and smoke... all quite possibly deadly... and mentally imbalance prisoners as extras who may harm you... and we can only pay you a few dollars a day... and we have no insurance..." (the person agreed! because they thought it would be good to 'try new things in life'!) or (posing as detectives) "Would you help us rob a bank... with guns... for real... but to help us research a case?" (the first few said no but one eventually said '...well, okay!')
    Recording hundreds of hours of on-the-street hi-jinks... Coyle and Sharpe were at one point doing three hours of material, five days a week for station KGO in SF. These two guys were so totally ahead of their time... that they even seemed to almost get it backwards by pushing the envelope much further than the people who copied them years later, like Candid Camera, The David Letterman Show, etc... Truth be told though, there was a mocking, sinister, high-concept philosophical edge to what Coyle and Sharpe did that Candid Camera and Letterman would never go near. In one hilarious, jaw-dropping bit, C&S convince a middle aged man to go with them to a phone booth and make a call for them - when the man begins making what is obviously a ransom note call, he begins to politely inquire exactly what he is calling about; "Now ...what ...what exactly kind of call is this? Okay... no okay I don't mean to be rude, I know I agreed to do it - I was just asking. Okay... do you want me to start from the beginning again? Okay... Mr. and Mrs. Johnson... we have your son... please deposit ten thousand dollars in unmarked bills at..."
    I may have the wording wrong on those quotes... I only remember hearing the bits played on a few years or so ago... where I first heard of them.
    It's fascinating to listen to the victims react to C&S's pranks... and to listen to how quick and clever C&S were in the midst of what were obviously mostly improvised bits. They were able to get away with what they did because of the climate of the time. There was no real alternative culture... and people on the street were accommodating to their conceptual assaults simply because there was nothing like it that had ever been around at that point for them to suspect it of being similar to. Coyle and Sharpe were true renegades - in the true Dada/Surrealist spirit.
    There is a slowly accumulating appreciation of Coyle and Sharpe that is constantly growing (their work has been available on CD for years) ...and this will be helped along by the opening of this web site (
    The site was built with sublime simplicity by Mal Sharpe's daughter Jennifer Sharpe, an artist in her own right... I have been a quietly obsessive fan of Jennifer's brilliantly unique and highly recognized web site, for years - and have been lucky enough to correspond with her via email a couple of times (bookmark her site - trust me, you'll be back)
    So go on over to, and listen to some MP3s, browse around and read some articles about them (for a great career overview, I highly recommend this one by Kenneth Goldsmith), look at the pics, maybe even order a CD!
    Check it out. Fill your life full of sunshine and intrigue!

8. Camille Paglia's (semi)-return to
    Interviewed by David Talbot about her opinions on the looming war with Iraq (and more)... reading it seemed like old times... like coming home to a raucous family. I remember when I used to feverishly check for Camille's bi-weekly column... and when Camille unceremoniously left some time in 1999 amidst Salon's growing financial troubles - I felt like I had lost a friend. I've seriously considered subscribing to Interview magazine (in which she has a monthly column) just to read a regular dose of her.
    The Salon interview is a great read.
    Click here for the interview link (you will be forced to watch a very brief flash ad to obtain a free one day pass to their pay site - a weird strategy to try and boost subscriptions to the ailing Salon).
    The entire article is also reprinted here (Thanks Bill W!)
    Or click here for the lively political discussion site - with reader's comments following the article.
    I know one of Camille's favorite films is Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" (a film she wrote a very talked-about book on) - so I Tipper Hedron-ed her face into the classic shot (above). Doesn't she look knowingly at peace amongst all the carefully orchestrated chaos?

9. My new essay: "I Suffered Stendhal Syndrome At Universal Studios Hollywood!"  - which will debut on NPR (very short version) and here on my web site (very long version) very soon...
    I think it rivals my "Cyber Crush/Crutch" article - and much like it, is BASED ON A TRUE STORY. Coming soon...

10. Nothing*
    *Just like the first seven minutes of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" - which is a blank screen with some classical music playing (to set mood)
...I am ending my "Top Ten" with "nothing" - for dramatic effect.

Mark Allen's Top Ten for 2/3/03:

1. The spooky state of Texas and the United States as it stands in February, 2003
    Hey look at this photo I found of a Laurie Anderson concert!! Oh wait no, it's just The President.
    I have been kind of bored-edly struck, in a zombie-like way, at the general ennui surrounding the recent Columbia space shuttle disaster and the death of it's crew. It's a true tragedy, but I just find it incredibly ... surreal... the whole energy surrounding the whole event. Did you feel like you were just going through the (e)motions while watching the non-stop news coverage of the crash on TV the morning of February 1st? Is it because of September 11th that all national tragedies post seem like re-hashed story lines?
    Is this something that happens with age? As you get older... big events like this have less and less impact on your psyche? Are American citizens that are really old... were they all shitting their pants after the Hindenburg disaster and talking about it for months afterwards all "...oh the humanity..." and all crying in their sleep at the state of America and shit.... then... over lots of time and life...  decades later, when they heard the news about JFK being assassinated - their first thought was something like "I wonder if Thousand Island dressing would be good on a hamburger?" and they have NO IDEA where they were the moment they heard the news. By the time Sept. 11th rolled around they were like "Can you wipe my bottom please?" Does this just happen naturally? Do you become MORE and MORE desensitized as time marches forward in your life span? OR - have the events of Sept. 11th set a trendy standard in national tragedies that are going to take something like The Rapture to beat? To wake people up?
    Isn't it weird how Osama Bin Laden haunted the space shuttle crash this week? How all the news channels kept reporting that there was no evidence of it being a terrorist attack before they even really told you what happened? And then how Osama Bin Laden issued that creepy statement about this being God's retribution against America? Like he KNOWS that he still haunts our subconscious (he's dead right)?
    So I guess I'm in love once again with the already Heaven-like state of Texas. I love the idea of all the locals combing the endless, sun-drenched fields looking for anything that resembles wreckage from outer space... kids finding charred bones of one of the Columbia crew (or thinking they have) and poking it with a stick and then going to school the next day and bragging to everyone that they "saw a dead body in the creek"... people walking around the local Target wearing pieces of wreckage around their neck with a piece of string as a memorial jewelry or something like that... only to freak out later in an emergency room when they find out the wreckage is toxic and then being relieved when they discover it was just a piece of an old car brake pad. People must have a whole new attitude about road kill they see on the side of the road right now... examining it in a peculiar way. The desire to be on the news will intertwine with TALL TALES into a really romantic, sunset and bar-b-que-drenched world of creepy make believe. Kind of like downtown Manhattan weeks after Sept. 11th. Texas is so romantic. I love creepy Texas.
    So my contribution to the whole thing is to make this weird little collage above from pictures I found on the internet (above). It's like I'm like that dorky art class nerd in high school who made a collage out of pictures of a classmate who comitted suicide - snapshots from parties and maybe from the yearbook -  with tin foil hearts and friendship bracelets attached to it with safety pins with beads on them. I put the whole thing on my locker and am all "I thought this would really bring everyone together y'all..." with this really forlorn look on my face. Here ya'fucking go.

2. This computer generated piece of art
        In contrast to the the weird downer discussed in entry #1, it is refreshing to live in a world that spontaneously generates images like the one pictured directly above. Did a human make this? I found it on with no name attached. Maybe a computer generated it of it's own will? You know I could see computers all over the world doing that on the day that they take over the human race... you know... putting lurid pictures on kid's computers and sending graphics like this one to church web sites.
    Isn't it sick and stupid? Why?
    Don't they look like Sims?
    I don't think a human made this... that super computer from "War Games" did.
    Is the fact that this randomly appeared on a website a sign of the coming overtaking by computers where they make humans their slaves?

3. Sharing my Dario Argento film collection with Jim
    Black gloved killers, serpentine plots, Dramamine camera movements, child-like(?) direction, dream logic, predators galore, local bums who know something that others don't - or witness something others might have liked to see, protagonists who end up being the sole witness of violent murders and become helplessly ensnared in a string of murders and the ongoing investigation, midgets, smashed teeth, shiny, big blades against red velvet, close-ups of throbbing brains, pulsating - relentlessly loud and howling soundtracks, childhood sing-song poems that play while people get decapitated with "noose-a-matics", people who saw something that "wasn't quite right" during a murder but can't remember "exactly" what (until the end!), murders that are always committed by "maniacs" or "madmen", parting red curtains, transsexual Italian actresses playing female parts with no fanfare, strange - disembodied dubbing, buildings with endless hidden layers and passageways, rain, lizards eating butterflies, cats being drowned in bags and then regenerating and taking revenge on the wrong character, machines that can take a photograph from the retina of a corpse that reveals the last thing the victim saw before being murdered, "luminous emptiness", weird rock music scores that seem inappropriate, guys that get shot in one eye and then try to still do whatever they are doing, sound-analysis machines that can't decode bird calls by birds with glass feathers, ballet academies that are actually witch covens that are actually modern and violent interpretations of Grimm's fairy tale logic (that was pretty violent in the first place), raging storms, uncertain allies, blind men attacked by their own seeing eye dogs in "Triumph of the Will"-esque town squares, psychodelic physical and mental breakdowns to beautiful art (which killers use to their advantage), boys raised as girls who grow up to be killers, lizards with pins in them, heads with maggots that scientifically reveal when the victim was killed, daughters of famous actors who have a psychic affinity with insects, ballet shoes for 50 marks, skipping Verdi records, elaborately lit elaborate set pieces that are in actuality elaborate skeleton structures for elaborately complex and intertwined story lines that are just elaborate excuses for elaborately stylish scenes that are filmed with a knock-out elaborate punch, ominous modern airports, jarring close-ups, cryptic legends written by mad architects about houses built for Three Mothers, killers who place rows of needles under people's eyelids to force them to keep their eyes open and watch them kill other people, fingers getting chopped off on moving trains, the embryonic beginning of Asia Argento's career, mis-interpreted children's poems that lead to killers killing people with musical instruments, toys that aren't really toys that are really dwarves that are really killers that are really animatronic dummies operated by tramps as decoys, perfect representations of "cosmic art", keys dropped in puddles of buildings that actually turn out to be vast underwater ballrooms, NYC Central Park vendors who run to save you when you are being eaten by rats in a pond - then suprisingly stab you to death, men trapped in lit entrances of art galleries like glass cages and watch helplessly as mentally imbalanced wives of gallery owners get stabbed (or do they?), dolls that can float, victims that write clues in steamy mirrors, gross plexiglass necklaces that have flies imbedded in them, guys who make weird paintings of murders and also eat cats, monkeys with switchblade knives (who use them), coffin trade shows, insomnia, killers' bullets that go right through peepholes - through heads - and explode telephones which were the other victims' sole means of escape, worship of opera, faulty memory, dogs chasing girls through lit parks and into killer's fantastic homes, plots set "a few years into the future", pervert line-ups that accidentally include transsexuals, Edward Hopper painting set pieces, animals, animals, animals, murder, murder, murder, screams, screams, screams and rain, rain, rain.
    It's enthusiastic to find someone who's actually slightly more than casually interested in Argento's films. Not that Jim has become a huge fan overnight... or even a casual fan. But he did ask to see two in a row in one night! Ahhhhhhh! We are running out of Argento films to watch and are starting to delve into other Italian horror and giallo territoty like Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Michele Soavi. But Argento's work is the d-r-e-a-m-i-e-s-t...

Want to help me convert all my Dario Argento VHS tapes to DVD? Cick here to find out how!

5. This email I got from Bryan
   Thanks for caring Bryan. Bryan of recently responded to last week's entry about me painting my apartment and calling my ex boyfriend (him) in the middle of the night while high as Hell on paint fumes:

From: Bryan Ockert <>
To: <>
Subject: Dear Ms. Hartman
Date: Sat, Jan 25, 2003, 10:31 AM

Dear Mary Hartman:

As an ex-boyfriend of yours, I feel that I can broach you on a delicate matter.

A group of us have got together, and decided that you might in fact have a problem. We would love to meet with you, via cam, for the very first Cyber Cam Intervention!

Perhaps Intervention is a strong word, but we want you to know that your friends are here for you, and that we support you in all things, regardless of how many times you blackout and wake-up in a pool of your own vomit and ping pong white paint.

We just know you can break this paint fume addiction with love, cyber hugs, and rainbow Unicorn stickers. (They're on the way!)

And if not, we will just Clonaid ya, and make a better one that is a less gassy. That jar of nail clippings will finally come in handy.

Please reconnect your camera at 8pm on Monday the 32nd for the Intervention.

We will all be there....waiting for you.


PS. You were high?!?! hahahahahahahahahahaha. The funniest didn't even notice! hahahahahahahahahahaz ~snifffffffffffffffff~

PS. Love you...ur the best.


4. This email I got from a guy named JimLA concerning last week's "Top Ten" entry regarding me painting my apartment and calling my ex boyfriend in the middle of the night while high as Hell on paint fumes:
    Concerning last week's "Top Ten" story about painting my apartment. I get a lot of emails... but this one just kind of hit me at the right time and struck me as profound at that particular moment.  It contains a brilliant story about Brigid Berlin (whom Jim and I are huge fans of) calling her parents as performance art. An interesting image to ponder:

From: Jim LA <> Add to Address Book
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 23:39:47 -0800
To: "Allen, Mark" <>
Subject: Pathologically grateful? What is that?

Remember Brigid Berlin? From the Andy Wharhol days? Chelsea Girls? She kinda worked in his studio answering phones and stuff. Stinking rich Connecticut WASP parents, her mother trashed he constantly, made her miserable ....blah blah.

Well, before anyone was calling it "performance art" she rents this theater, puts a love seat (she weighed like 450lbs) and a table with a phone on the stage. The phone is hooked into the house sound system so the audience can hear who's on the other end of the call. Brigid comes out, sits down and calls her mother (who has no idea anyone is listening) and her mother starts in on her. 75 people sat there, mouths agape listening to this horrible woman trash her own daughter's sense of self worth for like an hour and a half. People who were there called it brilliant.

Cause Art is about context.

There's this crazy 70 year old woman in my neighborhood who wears these awful paisley circa 1970's bell bottomed pants suits with platform shoes and a beehive hairdo. She painted her nothing special two bedroom Spanish stucco tract home entirely in black years ago. But, she's just crazy.

When you sit in your shiny white apartment and relate your humiliations to friends, its just your life. When you rent a hall and charge 40 bucks a head, its art.

If you could guarantee you could shit glitter on a canvas, maybe you could get 60 bucks a head.....

I expect two comp tickets.



9. Being interviewed this week by a full camera, light and sound crew on a crowded NYC subway car
   Have you ever farted on a crowded elevator car? You know that dynamic? The way people react to you? If you fart loudly in a crowded elevator... and it smells... there are two types of people that you will deal with: those who act as if nothing has happened - these are called givers, and those who openly react and react loudly... all "Eeewww!" - these people are called takers. And you at that moment that you farted in the elevator and caused this canon by which people's character could be so easily gagued are like... well, you're like God. A farting God. It's like a sociological experiment.
    This week I experienced a similar dynamic when I was being interviewed by the people at World of Wonder about "objectum sexuality" as exemplified by my cyber relationship with Bryan. No I DID NOT fart on the subway while they were interviewing me - that was an analogy.
    I thought they were going to interview me in my apartment surrounded by my technology, and so did they... until the last minute when they decided to start the day interviewing me in all these different locations in Manhattan and shooting B-role at every NYC landmark they could think of. I felt like Marlo Thomas at the beginning of "That Girl"! Pretty soon we ended up on the uptown 6 train... completely crowded with people starting to get off work.
    Now... you see a lot of things on NYC subways... but I must say I've never seen someone being interviewed with a full camera crew while the train rumbles and speeds along. It was a funny moment I will never forget... ever. Half the people (the givers) looked down at their books or whatever while it was happening like nothing out of the ordinary was going on - kind of like Woody Allen in that scene in "Bananas" when that old woman is getting robbed on the subway right next to him, and some of the people, even though they were looking at magazines - had really strained looks on their faces like Thelma Ritter in almost all of  "The Incident". The other half of the people (the takers) gawked and stared and listened to every word I (the farting God) said and wondered who I was like those people I mentioned before (that's the givers) secretly wanted to do.  The whole time I'm like "Oh blah...blah...blah what I have to say is so important... OBVIOUSLY." Lots of people... mostly Asian... ducked out of the camera's view for some reason, maybe they didn't have green cards - I don't know. I even ran into Domenic while the whole thing was happening!
    I snapped these two photos (above) while it was all happening... but they certainly don't capture the moment... as the people who had all gotten out of range of the camera suddenly ducked out of the range of my digital camera's flash.  Here - are - a - few  other pictures I took during the day, when I could breath.
    The crew and producer were all very cool and professional about the whole thing - like it was just a day's work, and the camera man told me later he tried to keep as many people off camera as possible because "people get weird about being filmed". It was quite a spectacle. I'll never forget the moment... you know in the movies when people die and they have that high-speed montage of all the memorable moments of the person's life flash before their eyes? This will be on my last-moments-before-death-list. Maybe I should spend some time figuring out why such an obviously shallow and ego-centric moment is a highlight... but what I might uncover sounds like it might be too frightful to water.
    Speaking of Domenic...

8. Domenic dropped by unexpectedly again
   Is Domenic dropping by occasionally and unexpectedly every six months or so because he is in cahoots with some local thieves and he is "casing" my apartment and habits? Am I too paranoid? Can you be too paranoid? Actually I wish Domenic would drop by MORE... like the upstairs neighbor on "The Bob Newhart Show".
    He also wanted to know what the hell was happening on the subway the other day.
    Well for all you Domenic fans... you will be thrilled to know that Domenic is on the way to becoming a teacher! Yep! A high school teacher! He's about to finish all the schooling and will move down south to become one.
    He's also going to go on a road trip soon with a friend - inspired by my recent jaunt around the entire USA (he's smart to take a friend - I did it alone).
    Domenic was full of wild stories... as he always is. I won't relay them here as I don't think they are the kind of thing he wants discussed... or discovered by the cops. Actually if I wrote about the night Domenic recently had here in Gotham... it would make a shocking-ly bananas story. But I'm nice. And I don't want Domenic arrested... again! It's hard to picture Domenic as a high school teacher. Really hard.
    So anyway I snapped these two pictures of him (above). Isn't he adorable?

6. Bill Murray
    I have this weird affinity for Bill Murray movies. Especially "Groundhog Day" and "What About Bob?" - these are two of my favorites. I find these two films to both be very underrated by Hollywood-haters. But mainly I think it's my weird sexual fixation with Bill Murray's comic characterizations that I think is to blame. God he's sexy. At least his characterizations are. Remember that father figure thing he did for the misfit kid in "Meatballs" (or was it 'Meatballs II'?). Oh baby... take me into your arms.
    I saw Bill Murray once in a dramatic role... I liked it... it wasn't bad at all, but I'll be honest and say it was something I tried to forget. Something wasn't right about it... like I was seeing some twisted warp in time in space from a "bad" alternate dimension. Like what if Vampira's role in "Plan 9 From Outer Space" had been played by oh... saaaaay... Grace Kelly.
    I mean... Bill's role in "Groundhog Day" was basically a dramatic role. There is just something about Bill Murray's personality in the characters he does when he is doing comedy that really turns me on... and all those early SNL clips are like seeing God to me. Can someone's personality... a fake personality... be a sexual turn on? And make a not-sexy actor have gobs of oozing sex appeal? I guess when Bill Murray acts all silly in front of the camera and does his thing, I get all "procreation-ally vibe-y" in the same way girls' nipples get hard and they wanna finger themselves when they see Brad Pitt's butt cleavage in "Fight Club" or guys pop a boner and wanna finger the girl next to them when they see Pamela Anderson gagging on Tommy Lee's giant cock in that stolen honeymoon bootleg videotape.

7. The latest issue of VICE magazine - the "Special" issue
    Vice magazine does it again. This issue... almost every section of it... is dedicated to or about or written by retarded people, people with CP, etc... even the fashion spread! Now when Vice magazine explores one of these subjects... they always just kind of brush the surface of it in the most obnoxiously honest way possible, and with a leave-you-speechless supreme indifference... with an occasional rare dip down into deep exploration. But 99% of it is all surface shock value. But just like nobody cares that Dario Argento's films are all "style over substance" because the style is so brilliant... nobody cares that the text inside Vice is basically just a bunch of random words because everything else they do has such apocalyptically testículos gigantes. If you don't live in a city where you can pick up this free uber-hip magazine... you can see all about it at

10. My recent Inspector Clouseau-like trip to The Wonder Bar where my glasses fogged up and I couldn't see a goddamn thing and started bumping into things and knocking over drinks and all the dancing gay kids laughed at me and called me an old man and all I wanted to do in the first place was to get in and out really fast and get copies of Next and HX magazine
    Okay this was really embarrassing. It's so embarrassing that I decided to draw a picture of it (above) instead of tell it... you know the way they make little kids who were molested draw pictures of how they feel in therapy?
    Okay. The other night... which happened to be a weekend night... I was riding my bike through the East Village, when suddenly I realized I needed copies of Next and HX magazine (those freebie gay rags they have in every city). As I was right at Avenue A and 6th street - I thought I would just lock my bike on the nearest parking sign post and walk into the fabulous Wonder Bar... where free copies of Next and HX would be awaiting my arrival in little racks a mere few yards from the front entrance. A piece of cake! In and out in 10 seconds flat! Right?
    Did I mention, by the way, that I hadn't bathed in like two days? And that it looked like I hadn't shaved in two WEEKS? And that I had on ripped-up sweat pants (navy blue) with even more ripped-up old sneakers on (gray - not the color, just filthy) that stank worse than my under arms? And I was wearing an old yellow T-shirt with an even older, thick denim shirt over that that smelled like paint thinner AND a cruddy, stretched-out gray turtleneck sweater that I found in my laundry room AND over that the most ugly black felt P-coat you could possibly imagine AND a disgusting knit hat with holes in it that had been soaking up two weeks worth of hair grease? AND on top of all that - I had on my GLASSES.
    Now... in case you don't know... I'm pretty blind without my glasses or contacts on. I mean REALLY blind. Now... did I also mention that it was VERY cold out that night... and windy. And that I had been riding my bike at high speeds all the way from midtown? With the f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g wind blowing against my thick glasses the whole way... chilling their plastic temperature down to ice cold? Do you know what this means is going to happen the second you walk into a crowded, sweaty, hot bar full of beautiful, primped and bathed young people who are all laughing and talking and dancing and smoking and drinking? That's right - your glasses will SERIOUSLY fog up and NO AMOUNT of wiping them off with your crusty, B.O.-ridden turtle neck sweater will make the fog go away. Did I mention how blind I am without my glasses on? I did? Okay.
    So I locked my bike up and whizzed past the cell-phone-talking throngs of beautiful people hanging out outside the entrance (there's no doorman - it's just a bar, but that should have been my first clue that the place was beyond mobbed). I noticed my reflection in the glass doors as I tried to swing one open... YEEAARRGGHH!!! Take a bath and shave and comb your hair why don't you Mark? You literally look like a homeless freak! Okay, okay... no biggie... I'll just slip in and out like a ninja and hope no one sees me.
    The second I walked in and the door shut behind me - FWOOOSH! - my glasses basically became like one of those frosted glass shower doors, and I realized that no amount of wiping them off would take care of the problem. I also realized that taking them off was NOT an option... as that meant I would just be twice as blind. I should have just turned around and walked out... but by the time I realized all this information I was already halfway in the place trying to dodge all the blurry shapes around me and fumbling my hands over people's breasts and into their drinks and stepping on people's feet as I fumbled for the free magazine rack - which was the whole reason I had entered this hip joint in the first place. Some people go out to cool places to see and be seen. I go to get free magazines. The music was REALLY loud... but not loud enough to drown out the occasional "Ow!" and "Jerk!" I heard as I knocked over yet another drink or grabbed someone's ass thinking it was a hand rail. I even heard the words "Homeless guy in here!" and "old man" that I THINK were being directed at me. I guess I did look pretty scruffy. And I stank. Popular gay bars in trendy neighborhoods on a weekend night are not meant for people in my state... especially people in my state who think they can slip in and out really fast but then, once entering, find themselves BLIND and bring as much attention to themselves as possible by pushing and bumping into every thing and everyone in the joint.
    I felt so old... and klutzy. People were all dancing to house music and looking like models and twirling around like they were in a Levi's TV ad and I'm all "I'm blind! Where's the free magazines! I smell!" God - I remember when I used to rule at places like that... actually at that particular place - since it's been there since the early 90's. I actually thought to myself at one point "I need to remember to buy prunes tomorrow."
    When I finally Hellen Keller-ed my way across the crowd and physically and aroma-ly offended about 60 people I FOUND the magazine rack. I reached for the mags... having to stoop down... and my smelly, hairy head landed right in the arm of some skinny fag who was dancing against the wall - knocking his drink a little (my glasses were still foggy). I could see from the flickering candle light that he wasn't very happy about it. Oops... I'd better get my blind ass outta here before I run into the DJ and cause the record to skip.
    It was about the time that I was lurching towards the exit in true Elephant Man style that I felt something wet against my coat... a drink had fallen against my back. A LOT of drink had fallen against my back. Whether I knocked it out of someone's hand and onto my coat... or whether it was thrown is unclear. I swear I heard someone's voice say "Jerk!" Maybe... maybe not. I don't know... I was in my own world. My own, blind, smelly, homeless freak world. They should make a game show out of that... walk into a crowded bar and retrieve something from the back of it... blindfolded... and dressed and smelling like someone who lives under a bridge. Trust me... it's hard! The prize could be dignity.
    When I got outside... finally... I unlocked my bike and also noticed that I could see again. The cold air had caused my glasses to un-fog up. I could see clearly now. I wonder what all those people in there thought of me? I took a deep breath... it was over. The whole thing had actually occurred in less than a minute. I had my magazines... I guess that was the point. Whew. As I climbed on my bike and started riding home... I noticed that there was more wet drink on the back of my coat than I had originally anticipated. I think it was a singapore sling. I don't even know what's in that drink... but it smells kind of nice. I picked up speed and rode home in the cold night air... the back wheel of my bike flinging the drops of singapore sling that were dripping down off of the back of my coat... flinging them high up and over my head and in front of me...  guiding me home like shooting stars...


go to past "Top Tens"

go to back to