2. Me and Jim's dramatic reading/playing of my The Nothing Nothing Nothing Cake as part of Peacock House's opening
Jim and I did a reading of my story "The Nothing Nothing Nothing Cake" (yes I finally finished it) as part of Peacock House's first opening weekend. Jim and I discussed it a lot... but in the end we just ended up winging it. We kind of thought that we might be performing it in front of a full house party... but it ended up being a large handful of artists and hanger-ons... which kind of worked out better... maybe? The crowd's reaction to Jim's claw hammer banjo accompaniment to my dramatic, shouting, cartoon-voices re-enactment of a consumerism/consumption/religion fractured fairy tale was mixed.
The crowd was a smart, friendly, "art" one - so the mood was one of ghost stories around the fire... and everyone had their own feelings about what we did. Reactions seemed to range from genuine excited-thrill-and-inspiration ('Wow!') to total boredom-scrunched confused-looks-on-faces ('huh...wha?') and everything in-between. Let me be more honest: It was a cozy performance of a cheek-y fairy tale, read with an irony-less, children's party clown-like enthusiasm by the guy who wrote it... set to earnest live banjo music played by his boyfriend, and the two guys had a blast doing it... that's what it was.
Jim and I practiced the routine on Rob and Jonathan's bedroom balcony out into the afternoon rain a few times during the day... and we decided to shorten it waaaay, waaaaay down from it's original length. This was a smart move - as by the end of the 40-odd minute reading, a few in the audience began to look like real skeletons covered in real cobwebs (that were sitting next to fake skeletons with fake cobwebs that had already been placed there by Rob and Jon). In the end there was riotous applause and cheering... but whether it was for the performance itself or the performance's end is unclear. *wink* Lots of people asked me about the story afterwards.
Jim and I talked about it later and we liked the fact that there was nothing at all "cool" about what we did as a performance. It was art that lacked any connection whatsoever to any realm of "in" or "not in" or "post" or trendiness or anything that world-weary posers like to love or mock or pretend to ignore. You couldn't even razz what we did because shallow souls would simply be like "...huh?".
It was really fun.
3. Jim Krewson's "What Are Ghosts?" learning tape and book
What are ghosts? Are ghosts real? Are ghosts dangerous? Feelings and Answers, Inc. have put together an educational 30 minute listening tape with follow-along guide book, which lets you experience first-hand interviews with six special people who have lived through ghostly experiences. Order yours today!
Okay where do I stop kidding and tell the truth... no don't laugh this is HARD! Where do I stop being ironic? Okay here goes: one of the commissioned art projects for Peacock House was Jim's "Are Ghosts Real?" book and tape. Done in the style of 1970's school library educational tapes ('After you hear the tone... turn the page please') with follow-along illustrated books - Jim created the book and tape entirely by himself. He spent days recording "interviews" with people who had ghost encounters. Actually, he recorded it all on a four track, with all character's voices by himself and all background ambient noises recorded from... somewhere. My favorite is the story by the retarded boy with the severe speech impediment who has a British interpreter and who were both interviewed in a loud Chinese restaurant about the boy's near-death experience with a ghost - which is what made him retarded (illustration above).
All weekend Jim was walking around the house asking people if they had "...learned about ghosts yet?" If they said "no" he asked them to visit the learning table. If they said "yes" then he asked "What did you learn?" By the end... we all had learned that ghosts are dangerous and can kill you... leading some to believe that Feelings and Answers, Inc.'s book was setting bad stereotypes about ghosts and was "spiritist". Would you like to learn more about ghosts? Do you want to stamp out "spiritism"? Is Jim for real? Email Jim and order your book and tape today.
It's a learning experience.
4. Jim and I got to spend the night in Marc (not me - a different Marc) and Laura's genuine 50's-style silver Airstream
Jim and I went from The Munsters to that episode of The Munsters where Grandpa Munster took the family on a camping trip when we found out that we would be spending the next night in a genuine 50's-style, silver Airstream RV. Wow! I have always wanted to sleep (or travel) in one of these things. The super-cool and very friendly Marc and Laura are friends of Jim's (he played at their wedding) and are Manhattanites with a Catskills getaway home. Their house is made up mostly of 50's style furniture and a 50's kitchen and loads of taxidermy and stuff... and is very, very cozy. They offered to let us sleep in the Airstream since Monster-ville was getting full - as was their guest room.
When Rob drove us there in the rain the night we stayed in it, after Marc and Laura were asleep... it was late, and wet - and it looked really gloomy but very reflective. It is parked right next to their house... and is equipped with a fridge, stove, sink, toilet, shower... but was unhooked for use (used only for travel - the two of them have taken it cross-country before). We slept in the rain (which made drumming patterns on the Airstream's many curved surfaces) and we were amazed how roomy and cozy it was. We had the whole RV to ourselves... it was very, very romantic. In the morning... Jim nudged me awake and said "Look Mark..." and looked with me out the window... it was the first sunny scene I had seen in a week... seen through blurry sleep eyes. And it was outside the curved window of a silver Airstream! Sunny scenes of greenery are so much sunnier and grennier when seen outside the window of a silver, "space-age" RV unit from a blissful, trouble-free era gone by... fuck, it brought Jim and I closer together!
After that we descended on Marc and Laura's house like Night of the Living Dead and they entertained us and made us waffles and bacon and coffee. It was bliss.
5. Marc and Laura's hilarious dog, Daisy who fetches and rips up plastic baby dolls and goes bananas if you speak to her through a cardboard tube
After breakfast, we hung out on their front porch (overlooking a vast mountainscape) and played weird 80's and punk records and talked and made Sea Monkeys and most of all played with their super-great dog! Our uber-hosts had this hysterical and great dog named Daisy that Jim and I played with a lot in their front yard. Daisy, when she isn't chasing cars or cows, she likes to fetch and devour a plastic baby doll. Sometimes she leaves it hanging... but she always comes to it's rescue with any parts it may be missing. Daisy loves her baby doll. Then Daisy likes to drink from Marc and Laura's amazing pond in their mind-blowing stage-set of a backyard. Marc and Laura sometimes call Daisy "Crazy".
But when Daisy really lights up is when you talk to her through a long cardboard tube. She freaks and jumps around and it's hilarious and fun. It's like she can't figure out where the sound is coming from and most of all why it's coming from where she can't figure out. She really goes cuckoo.
This is kind of how we would react if our parallel-universe-double started speaking to us through a portal from the fifth dimension... all "Hello? Hel-l-o-o-o-o-o? Oh yooooouuu hooooo?" - and we'd be all "Ahhhhh! Hahahahaha!!! Heee hooo Aggghhh! Call NASA! Call the F.B.I! Call the X-Files! I'm freaking!!! AAAAAAAHHHH! Wheeee! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!!! Hee ho ha!"
I love summertime.
6. Going to this weird-ass auction in the Catskills
What was almost more creepy that Peacock House was this insane-ly weird auction in Fleischmanns. All weekend... everyone kept saying "Have you gone down to the auction?" and "I saw a lawnmower I want" and "When is the auction?" and "Do they have guns" (they did - bb ones). Jim and I learned that the auction house was just down the road from Peacock House... so we decided to take a gander. We walked down to this very large building (before the auction) and walked inside and looked around. It looked like an endless attic full of junk with stickers all over everything. Plus the building itself looked like it had been added onto every decade since the 1920's. All slanty floors and mis-matched hallways and fluorescent lighting stuff. According to the locals, the place used to be the Fleischmann's Hotel... and since then has been converted into auction central. The inside has about a thousand rows of baseball caps sealed in plastic and pinned to the walls. There is so much dust on the plastic that you can't even see what the caps say.
Apparently trading junk... I mean, antiques... is quite a lifestyle in many communities in the Catskills. People come to the weekly auction in their town, bid on stuff... then sell it to each other via yard sales (which are plentiful) or antique stores. It's like the junky antiques are blood vessels and the roads of the mountains are the veins. How's that for a ham fisted analogy?
Speaking of ham, they had the junktiques piled everywhere... and there were rows and rows of metal fold-out chairs. Each chair had a name tag taped to the back of it... apparently it was the local's assigned seating (we later learned that this was just a formality - no one sits in their reserved seats... and the only time anyone uses the name tags is when maybe a long time local wants to throw their weight around by asking a newbie to 'get outta their seat').
The place has a real make-shift "refreshment center" in the back where you can by styrofoam plates of chips with orange cheese on them, hot dogs, chili burgers and paper cups with orange soda. Or cake. Some people just sat in their seat during the auction and read the paper and chatted and ate dinners they had brought from home... like it was their living room.
The auctioneer was a really character but was also a real hard-ass. He looked like he literally stepped out of the 1950's. Apparently local gossip revealed that he is the local auction king, and his telling people to "shut up" during the auction is causing quite a few ruffled feathers in town - which the auctioneer did quite often that night with cold aplomb. Did you ever see that movie Let's Scare Jessica To Death? ...well some of those weird townspeople that Jessica and her friends encountered in that weird vampire-y northeastern town were like some of the weird locals here. Then there was us... boy was it a trip.
Anyhoo... apparently they have this auction once a week (that's a lot of junk!) and it takes hours to get through it all. You go the day before and you eye everything, then you get a paddle the night of the auction and try to win the bid for a cardboard box full of old board games or a set of Japanese hari kari knives or whatever. Jim's way nice and sexy friend Amy, who gave us a ride into the Catskills, outbid everyone for this really great nut bowl (complete with nutcracker!) that was shaped like a nut. Jim got this weird table. Another friend bid out everyone for two weird orb lamps.
Whatever... the whole experience was really weird and I can't think of another thing to write about it except to say that I was wide-eyed and freaking out the whole time because I've never seen something so odd... and I'm from Texas.
Allen's Top Two Things
for May 19th, 2003
Copyright 2003 Mark Allen
NOTE: only two entries this week (I've got a lot of projects to work on) - but veins of gold are hidden within the links inside, all other 'Top Tens' are below:
1. "I Suffered Stendhal Syndrome at Universal Studios Hollywood!" (click here to read)
I'm sorry to inform all you completists out there... but there are only going to be two entries in this week's "Top Ten". And they are both going to be about me and things I've written.
However... don't murder your neighbors in a fit of bloody, lustful rage just yet. If reading what I type into my keyboard is what soothes your need to senselessly kill kill kill them all... then you are in luck. My first entry is a link to a new, loooooooong story I wrote about a year ago called "I Suffered Stendhal Syndrome at Universal Studios Hollywood!". I'm just putting it up now. A truncated, audio version of me reading this piece (complete with sound effects) will eventually air on NPR's "All Things Considered" ...but I'm really getting tired of them dragging their feet on playing it... so here is the long version. This piece is indeed based on something that really happened to me. I never really spoke to it about anyone... and the first time I even told anyone at all about it is when I sent it in to Camille Paglia way back when she used to have a column at Salon.com where you could send in letters and she would answer them (remember that?). Anyway... I sent her a short version of the story in a letter as something she may have wanted to comment on, thinking it would be right up her alley... but I guess she wasn't blown away by it because she never printed it. Or maybe I'm just way over her head. Or way over the head of the person that read letters for her.
Anyhoo... years later when NPR wanted to buy some of my pieces, I optioned this and they liked it and I wrote the long version and blah blah blah I already talked about that. So here is a truly terrifying tale of a truly true thing that happened to me at one of the truly great and under-recognized and in-danger-of-being-wiped-out to-make-room-for-roller-coasters American Cultural Institutions... and my subsequent reflection over a lifetime of repression, and recollection, then more reflection, then research, then sleepyness... and eventual realization that ...yes, I indeed Suffered Stendhal Syndrome at Universal Studios Hollywood.
2. Jim and I will be "performing" a reading of my story The Nothing Nothing Nothing Cake this weekend at a bizarre art opening
Jim and I are going to be doing a performance this weekend in front of a bunch of friendly art creeps and creepy art friends at a fun and bizarre, secret Catskill Mountain location in upstate New York as part of an even stranger, secret event that I don't even know how to describe. It's at an art "opening" that ... uh... um ...I will tell you that it involves Count Chocula-like homes, free botox injections (hey I should invite Gregory!), ghost stories relayed by retards and interpreted by men with English accents in loud Chinese restaurants, sleeping in silver air-inflated tents, Con-Ed ripping me off, borrowed bus tickets, being in the country, talking taxidermy animal videos that are supposed to represent "gay art" ...and supposedly an endless audio tape of Anne Heche reading her autobiography playing out back in the shed. *shudder*
This is all hearsay, based on information I have overheard Jim talking about on the phone to the event's organizer. The event is gonna be a pretentious, high-concept bonanza split ...complete with sprinkled nuts! To hell with our diets! I'm terrified! What Jim and I will be doing is: I will be doing a dramatic reading in the house on Saturday (complete with cartoon voices!) of a short version of my fatal fairy tale "The Nothing Nothing Nothing Cake" and Jim will be doing musical accompaniment on his claw hammer banjo. I'll be like Maya Angelou and he'll be like Ennio Morricone! We ran though it a few times and it sounds... kinda... interesting. I think our master plan is to just "wing" it the night of the event (much like Jim and I govern our very lives) - so if we ignore history's very pattern of laws and checks and balances... it's bound to be a stellar success! And yes, this means that I am actually going to finish the end of The Nothing Cake story (which I may post before I leave). So by this time next week the tale will have closure (and be slightly re-written).
In actuality what the event is, is the opening of Rob Pruitt and Jonathan Horowitz's "Black House Project" - a big old Victorian house in the Catskills, painted entirely black, worked on for a year to make it extravagantly spooky, and then exhibited as a big sculpture you can live in. Horowitz told the Village Voice that it's also about "decorating as a historically gay form of expression" and added they just might turn the gallery into a real estate office, offering it for rent as an art object. You can currently see a "satellite" exhibit in NYC at Gavin Brown's Enterprise gallery at 436 West 15th Street, which includes the talking taxidermy animal video play (with Jim doing one of the voices). Lots of artists have done installations in the house (including Jim's 'Feelings and Answers: What Are Ghosts'? homemade book and tape project), and lots of people will be performing over the weekend... so it should be a total blast.
I'll be upstate for a few days anyway, at the Black House Project, and at Jim's place in the Catskills after that. After I have experienced the whole thing... then I'll write about how it all went next week (complete with tons of stories and photos). Have a good week!
Allen's Top Ten Things
for May 12th, 2003
Copyright 2003 Mark Allen
2. I was disappointed
that I didn't get to go to Ellsworth Kelly's birthday party this week
I was invited by a friend to famed painter Ellsworth Kelly's birthday dinner party this last friday but had to cancel at the last minute because of a work screw-up. Oh well.
3. What am I doing? Where am I?
Click on the monkey's head above and take a listen. Can you tell me where I am? Was? Can you tell me what I'm doing? Was? Do you know what time it is? Was? Tell me and get it right and win nothing... but all responses will be posted here.
to my cell phone and VoiceMonkey.com
for their sevices)
1. Imagining myself being with them (in a three-way):Note: of all six scenarios... my sense of self-worth and excitement for the relationship was strongest is scenario #2, with #6 running a close second (both scenarios involve him being a straight male, whether I AM him or I am WITH him).
Feelings about self: embarrassed, awkward, icky, stupid, disproportionate feelings of attraction and wanting to run out of the room screaming
Feelings about him: attracted but distracted by her various odors
Feelings about her: any curiosity overwhelmed by feelings similar to that of watching a science film on female anatomy
Wishing: to get drunk to the point of unconsciousness
2. Imagining being him, with her in my arms (I have literally become him, his looks, his personality, his everything, she is in my arms and sees me as him):
Feelings about self: totally centered, inspired, fantastic, any reluctance to have sexual or romantic relations with a female (coming from my own experience with myself) are drastically overcome by the fact that I AM a heterosexual male, I feel totally at peace and on top of the world, "I'll have one Asian vagina to go please!"
Feelings about him (me): total nirvana, I am him - he is me, I feel like I like girls... but I don't care, I am him and it feels like I am GOD, total centered bliss
Feelings about her: again, any reluctance on my part to be with a female are overcome by the fact that I now AM a heterosexual male... what he wants (vagina) is what I now want, I feel like I have been transformed into the body and soul of the most unbelievable superhero I can imagine. Thinking of her? I'm thinking of him (me) who is thinking of her. Wow.
Wishing: for nothing
3. Imagining me replacing him, with her in my arms (I have simply replaced him, I am myself - in his place):
Feelings about self: shame, embarrassment that I will disappoint her and what she is expecting... the feeling I got when my mother scolded me for doing something bad at age five
Feelings about him: - doesn't apply here -
Feelings about her: zero physical attraction any way you slice it, it would be impossible for me to be in this situation (or would it?), regret because I know we can now never be true friends since an uneven romantic interest has been expressed from her to me
Wishing: to get out of the situation
4. Imagining me being her (I have literally become her, her sex, her looks, her personality, her everything, I am in his arms and he sees me as her):
Feelings about self: unsure, un-centered, attraction to him is overcome by my own self image feeling "off" in every way, unhappy in my own skin
Feelings about him: attracted, but attraction to him is overcome by my own self image feeling "off"
Feelings about her (me): unsure, unstable, unhappy with self
Wishing: for a penis (my own)
5. Imagining me replacing her, in his arms (I have simply replaced her, I am myself - in her place)*
*NOTE - THIS IS WITH HIM BEING A GAY MALE, WITH ME AS HIS GAY MALE BOYFRIEND:
Feelings about self: the same feeling I get with any of my boyfriends or male romantic interests or sex partners, comfortable, confident, centered, conservative
Feelings about him: stable, predictable attraction
Feelings about her: - doesn't apply here -
Wishing: for what I don't have... single, taken, single, taken, back and forth, round and round... ho hum... business as usual
6. Imagining me replacing her, in his arms (I have simply replaced her, I am myself - in her place)*
*NOTE - THIS IS WITH HIM BEING A STRAIGHT MALE, WITH HIS ATTRACTION TO ME (A GAY MALE) A FIRST TIME OR ONE TIME THING FOR HIM:
Feelings about self: fantastic amazement, utterly mind-blowing fascination with him and his attraction to me, feelings of safety and security, wild sex fantasies
Feelings about him: complete and father-like admiration, wide-eyed respect and willingness to "let go" a bit of my own self will and take his lead a bit, excitement for what the future holds, thrilled
Feelings about her: - doesn't apply here -
Wishing: for nothing
5. Neil Hamburger's first appearance on American national late-night television!
GASP! Professional comedian Neil Hamburger made his American television stand-up debut in front of a reacting, in-studio audience on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" show on Tuesday night May 6th. Hamburger's albums such as "America's Funnyman" and "Left For Dead In Malaysia" have kept audience in disbelief for years now... and this last Tuesday night was no different. "Stop Neil Hamburger! You're killing us!" they seemed to say - as the laughs and good times flowed like sweet molasses under the chilly gaze of The Hollywood Big Time!
Hamburger staved off his classic Nixon jokes, religious-based humor from his new Christian comedy album "Laugh Out Lord!" and the bring-the-house-down "Zipper Lips" routine - for some newer material involving a lot of phlegm in his throat, and more pleas to the audience about his ex-wife running off with that "dentist creep" (always a riot!). Hamburger's brilliant "That's my l-i-i-i-f-f-f-e-e-e..." line was thwarted by a dropped cocktail glass he was carrying under the arm he used to gesture wildly with (the network thankfully reported minimal scotch and broken glass fallout in the first few rows after the taping)... but this was made up with Neil snazzy tuxedo ensemble. Hey, when you dress in your Sunday best, it shows the audience that they are important to you - AN AUDIENCE IS IMPORTANT TO NEIL HAMBURGER THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
Neil also revealed to the audience that he is now suffering from cancer - which caused the laughs to quadruple... ol' sly Hamburger doesn't miss a trick! The audience was a tad insensitive when Neil revealed his condition... and their hearty guffaws during his heartfelt plea to discover what state his ex-wife was living in with "that dentist creep"... well that was just cruel. What do you expect from an audience that has been desensitized by years of "People's Court" and Goldie Hawn's jiggling brassiere? More pain for Neil? Well Neil always rises above even the most depressing situations to tell us his observations about it... and this time is no different! All snags aside, the audience and Neil did come together to laugh at soon-to-be-classic Hamburger zingers such as:
Q: "Why did Michael Jackson dangle his infant son over the edge of a hotel balcony railing?"HAW! HAW! Gasp! Other well-known classics such as Neil pushing his glasses back up onto his greasy nose with his index finger brought the house down and set the roof on fire! I would reveal other secrets to Hamburger's classic comedy routine... but why don't I just reveal the Colonel Sander's eleven secret herbs and spices while I'm at it?
A: "To punish him for not finishing his plate of sperm!"
6. Coitus Interruptus at Siesta House! (see #9 in last week's 'Top Ten' - below)
Continuing coverage of up-and-coming "swank" neighborhood Under The Williamsburg Bridge (watch out Greenwich Village! DUWBO?) reveals the star proprietor of Siesta House in a rather "cheeky" predicament! Last Saturday night I was jogging on my usual route and I gasped as I saw the main resident of building-to-watch Siesta House on his own concrete lawn humping the pavement! While I expect this kind of behavior from rock and rollers like David Lee Roth or Juice Newton outside The Plaza... I would never expect it from one of the trendy residents of Siesta House. "Carpe Diem" he seemed to be saying... as he made love to the concrete using a fresh river of his own urine (nature's lubricant!) to get things moving. After I returned from my jog I found the man still humping away, and grinning away like it was his last day on Earth! Talk about stamina! Would he hold out long enough for me to run back up to my apartment and get my camera and immortalize the moment? Yes.
7. John Cage's "Empty Words (part III)" live recording (double CD on Ampersand label - usual price: about $18)
Described by ForcedExposure.com as "...one of the great, if unnoticed, art riots of the last century" and indeed it may be true. Cage's live "free form" reading from Henry David Thoreau's Journal in front of an increasingly restless crowd of Italian students at Teatro Lirico in Milan, Italy in 1977 for nearly three hours is also one of the most warpedly unique and latently beautiful recordings I have ever heard - when you forget what you are listening to.
Apparently the story behind the recording is thus: Cage was booked to do a lecture in the immense concert hall and zillions of Italian students packed the house to witness the then-legendary conceptual artist do whatever he was going to do. And he did do something. Cage chose to read from Thoreau's Journal at an unbelievably slow... drawn out pace... so it sounded as if he might be a recording tape played too slow. He drew out each word and defied it's enunciation... sounding almost like a stroke victim. Or sometimes a retarded seal on quaaludes. In comparison he made Kim Gordon sound like Kelly Clarkson. He did this without flinching for three hours. Slowly... slowly reading each word, with long pauses in between each one. It has to be one of the most excruciatingly boring things ever done in front of a microphone. I guess, perhaps... Cage was challenging even the most strict and asinine Art Creep to sit still and treat what he was doing with any reverence whatsoever.
For about ten minutes... the massive crowd stayed silent and listened to what was the audio equivalent of warm, watered-down ketchup. But inevitably... the feisty Italians began to "boo" - then some "shhhh"-ed those that dare booed... then some booed more... then more shushed... booed... shushed... yelled... yelled back... some yelled obscenities... some yelled more... the hostility waxing and waning but growing nonetheless - threatening to big bang into a full-scale Who-concert-disaster-stampede but never quite exploding to that point. All while John Cage stood at his lit podium with his reading glasses on and read (without flinching) "...a-u-t-u-m-m-m-m... d-a-a-a-a-a-a-n-d-e-e-e-e-r... l-e-e-a-a-v-v-e-e-e-e-e-e-s-s-s-s... a-a-a-a-a-a-r-e... t-u-u-u-r-r-r-n-e-e-e-e-d..." All this goes on for three hours. Fractals of mini riots within mini-riots within each other go on and on and on and form audio patterns all over the hall and ghostly sounds of distant fist fights and arguments are heard... some close... some far away, constantly fluttering with varying waves and layers of intensity like fluttering pigeons or waves at the ocean or degrees of strength of rain on a tin roof. All the while Cage reads like a relentless broken tape recorder playing too slow over the hall's sound system - the centerpiece of the casual chaos... what he is actually reading becoming irrelevant and turning into hypnotic sound - only flinching once when a loud bang is heard in the back of the hall (a gun?) to which half the audience roars with approval ('kill him!') and the other half screams in mock dramatic fear. Again... for nearly three hours this goes on.
A friend of mine listened to this CD and fell asleep and said he had a "waking dream" with Cage as God standing in the middle of a dense rain forest... reading from the Bible as packs of different animals coo-ed and flew and swarmed around him... causing the usual sound patterns of nature in a forest in the daytime. Indeed... that is what this sounds like... and the "faraway" acoustics of the sounds recorded in a large echo-y hall add to this oddly soothing ambiance of fist fights and pretentious spoken word poetry. A masterpiece!
The always special Kenny G. (how many times am I gonna link one of his shows on my 'Top Ten'?) played a large portion of this CD on his 2/15/01 "Nothing Special" show on WFMU.org and invited listeners to call-in and "yell at John Cage" during the broadcast... which they did (with typically chaotic results). If you want to hear it (the only audio of this CD I know of on the web) click here and click on "listen to this show" ...it's the tenth thing played and is about one hour into the archived broadcast (called 'John Cage Abuse'). Most RealPlayer programs have an arrow you can move to fast forward through an audio broadcast.
8. Interesting graffiti by Swoon - Brooklyn, NYC
For the last few years I have noticed these interesting, weird takes on street graffiti art - or whatever you want to call it. They are these intricately cut patterns made out of thin paper that is then kind of sloppily wheat pasted (?) onto the wall. I'm not exactly sure what the exact process is to get them up. Whatever it is, the wheat paste doesn't stick all the way so they tend to bubble and peel after a while. They semiotics in your head get jumbled when you first see them because it seems like you should be looking at an old, withered wheat pasted poster that is peeling and ripped at the edges... then you realize it something new - and is the wrong shape.
I noticed more and more in Williamsburg and DUMBO... and then eventually saw one near my house in Manhattan. Sometimes they are very small, and sometimes they are huge - or whole ones are repeated all over a space to create a kind of weird mural. The same cut-outs are sometimes used in... but look different against different backgrounds. There is never any writing or any patterns of any sort on the paper, it is a completely minimal and simple process. The patterns themselves have all kinds of detailed things hidden within them. They look very interesting next to all the typical "marks" left by other street artists all over the buildings in NYC. After living in this city for over ten years, and loving street graffiti... this is the first that has caught my eye in a long, long time.
After I decided to write about them here... I learned the name behind the weird paper cut-outs (via an article in the Village Voice about a new breed of urban 'psychogeorgaphers' at the upcoming 'Psy-Geo-Conflux' in NYC). They are artists (or one?) who call themselves Swoon. You can see more of the works at their website, here.
I also snapped a picture of this paper cut out graffiti in Williamsburg (nice, huh?)... but I'm not sure if it's by Swoon or not.
9. The db-db website
This is a really fun website. It's from Japan. Check it out.
"How would y-o-o-o-u-u-u... k-n-o-o-o-o-w? How have y-o-o-o-u-u-u lived? How do you know what beauty is? How have y-o-o-o-u-u-u lived... to know... about what's beautiful and what isn't?"
Allen's Top Ten Things
for May 5th, 2003
Copyright 2003 Mark Allen
1. My ass
It's got round cheeks like fucking Leonardo daVinci paintings of angel cherubs... and a little tuft hair that I like to trim, not shave. The cheeks are so round because I jog regularly and do this reverse squatting thing at the gym. On the top where my cheeks meet my back are those two dimple things that look like marks left by an angel who grabbed it in Heaven right before I was sent down to Earth as a baby. Where the cheeks meet the top of my legs? It's a perfect curve with gorgeous smiling crease that is smiling because of what it is part of. If I lean on one leg while standing, the side of the cheek I'm leaning on dents in like a half of a luscious white tire. I have no tan lines. My hole is tight and pink and would look great in one of those close-up bright color photo porno box things. No... in a gold frame at The Metropolitan Museum of Art... no The Louvre! I have none of those Stalactite hemorrhoid things that skanky crystal addict hustlers have. My ass has so much proportional fortitude it would give Frank Lloyd Wright a fucking heart attack... in the grave! There is a 1,000 square kilometer Regal Zone around the vicinity of my ass at all times. Anything at all involving my ass requires lots of planning and showy traditional important stuff and people rehearsing and respect for importance and hushed sacred tones of speaking and things that are expensive and important and surrounded by a media circus and catering tents... like when the Queen gets married in England or a new President of the United States is sworn in.
When I take a shit out of my ass it looks like the birth of Jesus. And you know what? I keep my ass so clean it defies the very concept of nothingness. I clean it especially if I know I am going being in any kind of social situation... hell even if I'm just going to be alone with myself in a room! Why bother with anyone else? No one's as good as my ass. No one's good enough to share! NO ONE!!! And if you're one of the chosen few... be prepared to feel like you just took one hundred hits of crack while jumping into an active volcano - you'll have a HEART ATTACK! A HUNDRED HEART ATTACKS!!! You'll go insane from the experience and your children will be born dizzy and retarded!
It is so confident in it's fucking fine-ness, that even if my ass was a no-legged, leper paint huffer with scabies and AIDS and who ate raw miscarriages out of abortion clinic dumpsters you would still be all "...oh God that is so fucking beautiful! I'm gonna cry!"
If my ass had a look on it's face, it would be half-closed eyes and a kind of "...whatever" nonchalant glance because it knows how fine it looks and it can have anyone it wants at the party. Looking at my nude ass is like knowing the square root of a million squared times infinity. If I were alive in B.C. times Jesus would have dropped to his holy fucking knees and eaten my ass... so would Mother Mary and Joseph! it's that good. They even would have written about it in the Bible as a Holy event! My ass is sacred scripture... no... it's INEFFABLE!!! Why the whole B.C. to A.D. conversion is because of my ass! You know Eastern philosophy? All minimal and beautiful and tai chi and chai tea and empty space and meditation and "wing wong ching chong" eating one leaf with a prawn floating in water with chopsticks for dinner in the middle of a white rice paper room and stuff and infinite inner peace? That perfect culture is based on my ass. And both the modernism and post-modernism movements and every important cultural revolution before and after those too.
My ass is so fant-ASS-tic that did you know what words rhyme best with my ass? Class and sass! That's right! Uh-huh... see how I agree with myself? Know where I get that stellar confidence from? Having an ass this mind-blowingly amazing... that's fucking where. Are you good enough to even READ about my ass? I may burn your eyes out with a red hot poker the same way the ancient Egyptians did to slaves who painted hieroglyphics on the inside of royal tombs after they were done. Fuck, the pyramids were built for my ass and my ass alone a million years ago by the Egyptians who could see this far into the future and the birth of me and my ass! It's true! Do you know where U.F.O.'s come from? That's right! My ASS!!! God my ass is so great... and practical too!
My ass is observant and knows where everything is. You want to ask my ass for directions... ahhhh yes! Ask... but don't touch! When I heard about Mary Hart from Entertainment Tonight insuring her legs for one million dollars I laughed in the same way God laughs at an ant! Some wonder if God is shaped like a man or a woman... well God is shaped like neither... because he's shaped like MY ASS!!! If God was shaped... no WAS my ass... would that change anything? NO! So let's all celebrate! Hoo-ray! I'll make my ass in charge of organizing the party... because he's the best at making party! No... I said PARTY not POTTY you guttermind! Only a lowlife with a flat ass like yours could devise such a flat joke.
You know when you go to a class or family reunion or something where you wanna impress people you haven't seen for years? Well the next time I go to one of those I'm gonna wear ass-less pants and no underwear. I'm just gonna stroll around with a nonchalant, "...whatever." blank look on my face... my bare ass in everyone's face... forcing them to deal with the power and chaos that my ass imposes on their reality by merely existing. If there are any small kids there... well the sight of my ass will simply explode their bodies into an early puberty. Ever see a choir of boys singing in white robes with their mouths in that perfect "o" shape as they sound like angels? You know what that heavenly singing is about? My ass. Do you know why those young boy's mouths are in that shape? They are yearning to kiss my ass. God my ass is so fucking great. It should... no WILL be President... of the WORLD! THE UNIVERSE! In fact... it already is!!!
I get calls all the time from NASA because they are worried that if everyone in the entire world thinks of my ass at exactly the same time... then the universe will supernova... and trust me, this is prone to happening since so many people in the world are thinking about my amazingly unbelievable ass at all times. But I assure those terrified scientists that it will be okay... I tell them that even though every brain (animal and man) on Earth may be thinking of my ass at all times... there is one person who isn't, the one person who will prevent the massive six billion plus population from dissolving the universe itself into nothingness because of a massive mind meld as they all ponder the youthful curves of my amazing, amazing ass - that results in the End Of The Universe As We Know It. Who is that one person? That person is me. Yes... because I am so selfless to never think of my great, great ass and how unbelievably perfect it is... the scientists at NASA and the rest of the unaware of their impending doom planet population young and old... can rest assured. Thank God a selfless, selfless me never thinks of his own beyond perfect ass.
You're welcome universe.
3. I took a picture of this unbelievably stuffy neat freak hanging out on a bench at the South Street Seaport this week... fucking Jesus Christ what an uptight dweeb
Can you believe what fascists some people are about neatness and germs? Hey lady! Jeeze lighten up a bit on the neatness and germ obsession will ya? Fuckin'Christ what are you a royal butler in a brain surgery room? Yo tightwad it's okay to have a hair outta place now and then. Yikes! The stick up your ass must have a stick up it's ass! You make Martha Stewart look like some kinda slob! I bet your floors at home are cleaner than most people's dinner plates. Take a vacation... relax... loosen up... let go. You're making the rest of us look bad!
4. A squirrel waved at me this week so I took a picture of it
"Why hello cutie pie!" No man... you ain't "tripping", and don't rub your eyes and grab your "xxx"-marked flask outta your coat pocket and toss it over your shoulder just yet... 'cause this is a real photo I took in a park on Grand Street on Saturday and it really happened. Uh-huh. I'm so at one with nature that fucking squirrels are kissing my ass and being all "...we worship you... we worship you!" as I walk by. Yes I'm God. Would you like me to shit in a baggie and mail it to you? I can't... I'm too busy controlling the universe.
5. The utterly brilliant "True Porn Clerk Stories" journal (author: Ali Davis)
Hereis the link. One of the most compelling and amazing journals I have ever read in my life. I don't like to read things at length on the web... but this four page, very long journal had me glued to the screen for 2 hours as I poured over every superbly written detail until the end and then begged the heavens for more when it was over. Written by one Ali Davis of Chicago... who worked in a hipster video rental joint that obviously had an enormous porn selection in the basement... her explorations of her own feelings about porn and the people who rent porn is... WOW. She so perfectly captures my feelings about people who surround their lives with pornography... and then taught me about a billion other things. She's been on NPR because of this journal (just like me... that's because we're both so brilliant... I wonder what her ass looks like?) Go read it for yourself and prepare to be blown away.
6. Somebody puh-lease make a film out of Daniel Clowes' Chick tract comic book parody "Devil Doll" (like they did with his comic book story 'Ghost World')
I have been a fan of Daniel Clowes underground comic Eightball for probably a decade now.... ooggghhhhaaa that was almost painful to type. I'm old. The sometimes quarterly comic book was filled with all kinds of weirdly inventive, surreally ongoing stories like "A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron", "Lout Rampage!", "The Origin of Young Dan Pussey", "David Boring" and many others. Clowes pimply and hairy drawing style combined with his unique take on warped story lines... surprised by the occasional raw emotional punch - created a viscerally weird universe where even the most beautiful characters had pockmarks all over their faces and half-fish, half-potato humanoids worked as love-starved waitresses in the local coffee shop. His comic, during the late 1980's and 1990's, ran parallel to The Hernandez Brothers' Love and Rockets as one of the most successful and paid-attention-to underground comics of it's time (and refreshing proof of the non-corporate art form). Of course many people are now familiar with Clowes' work due to his Eightball story "Ghost World" (one of the most 'normal' stories he ever created) being turned into a very successful movie (the screenplay of which Clowes himself wrote, as well as co-directed with Terry Zwigoff). While I immensely enjoyed many parts of the film version of "Ghost World" (everything that occurred in Illeana Douglas' art class was ingeniously hysterical), being such a hardcore fan of his uncompromising comics for so long unfortunately tainted my view of whole sections of the film, which through my perspective seemed watered down for a more mainstream appeal.
One work by Clowes that I would love to see transferred to the screen would be his very small but totally brilliant "Devil Doll". A "parody" of Jack Chick's infamous Chick tracts (if you don't know what these weird little Christian crusader comics are... click here for the official Jack Chick site, or here for a very interesting recent story in the May 2003 issue of LA Magazine, about the elusive and controversial Jack Chick).
Clowes' "Devil Doll" was printed in Eightball #1 in 1989, and also reprinted in subsequent Clowes collections. It also made an appearance, appropriately, as a perfectly executed counterfeit of an official Chick tract (created in small form, black and white with the two color cover, and could probably fool someone who wasn't looking closely) distributed as an insert in Jello Biafra's spoken word CD "Beyond the Valley of the Gift Police." It was semi-anonymously credited to the initials "D.G.C."
Chick tracts in themselves are pretty outrageous and parody-proof to begin with, but Clowes' admiration for Chick's aesthetic is obvious in "Devil Doll". It tells the story of one misguided teenager named Pat... who goes the road of many a misguided youth who's identity crisis leads her down a shocking path of not-obeying-her-parents, Dungeons & Dragons games, tarot cards, Ouija boards, celebrations of the "autumnal equinox", cocaine and PCP, music by the satanic heavy metal group Vommitt, facial pentagram tattoos, bloodless sacrifices, calling Jesus a "loser" and perhaps eventual doom. Not until a fellow Christian witnesses to Pat (via a Chick tract) about how Satan is planning to take over the world... does Pat see the light. Her soul is saved, and with her new hair bangs combed carefully over her facial pentagram... she becomes a Christian youth counselor who lectures on the record and book-burning circuit. The Satanic lowlifes that tried to corrupt her over to Satan in the first place? Well if you're familiar at all with Chick's stories... you know how they end up. Haw! Haw! I have looked at this comic for years and it always strikes my as remarkable and significant... why exactly I don't know. It's just done so well. Maybe it's my own Southern Baptist Christian upbringing. Maybe it's because real Chick tracts are pretty frightening... but almost identical parodies of them are "safe". Maybe Clowes is a genius. This comic is just over 36 panels long but I love it to death.
Film adaptation anyone? The story could be easily stretched out and added to... and done in the right way could be apocalyptic and riotous. Thankfully... someone has scanned an uploaded Clowes' "Devil Doll" comic in it's entirety here.
7. Fucking BRILLIANT
8. TechTV and World of Wonder came over to get more footage of me for "Wired For Sex" and turned my bedroom into everything Lars von Trier's DOGMA manifesto doesn't stand for
The TechTV and World of Wonder people sent some pro camera crew over to my apartment Wednesday to get some more footage of me in my apartment playing around on my computer for the "Wired For Sex" program (see 4/28/03 'Top Ten' #2). The crew was basically the very cool Doug Meltzer and assistant... and the equipment they had was so pro it was like ...uh, is this my apartment? They set up a camera crane in my bedroom! A fucking crane! This camera then covered the close-up surface of my body as I sat still typing at my computer. You know that scene in the movie "Brazil" where the Katherine Helmond character goes to file that improper arrest form at The Ministry of Information... and there's that robot thing with the big camera eye that scans all over her as she tries to talk to the rude guy behind the desk? This was like that... except I had no desire to smack it at the end of the scene.
They did some really interesting camera stuff... and they had a billion cameras. With all their lighting and scrims and screens and gadgets... they basically violated every single rule in Lars von Trier's DOGMA manifesto ever, and turned what used to be my bedroom into what looked like MTV's "TRL". It so did not look like my apartment. I was all... "...uh... wow... you turned my bedroom into the missing dream sequence from Showgirls!" It actually did look like a dream sequence... but considering what the subject of the story is, I guess it's appropriate. People that know my gritty pad are gonna be all "Wow did they transport you computer and desk to the CNN studios?". It was amazing how professional they were and how fast they were at setting their stuff up and getting what they wanted. I was impressed.
What was also impressive how they politely diffused my attempts to direct. I'm so used to making creative decisions about stuff that when I was like "Oh you know what would be cool!" suddenly they would find some way of getting me to shut up... which isn't too easy if I'm in the right mood. They were experts at it.
As an added bonus... I had my cam on live during the afternoon (gasp!). I actually kind of had to have it running for the shoot. The super cool Joel from France has collected the day's worth of cam shots and put them together into a little 11 minute Quicktime movie. Here is the link to Joel's movie (be patient, it's a 7.3Mb file). Thanks Joel!
"Wired For Sex" airs Wednesday nights at 9pm Eastern on TechTV.
9. The swanky Mortville (see: John Waters' film 'Desperate Living') growing right outside door, under the Williamsburg Bridge - it's up and coming!
Remember I told you about the mysterious resilience of the homeless shack on stilts under the Williamsburg Bridge in my neighborhood? (see 12/16/02 'Top Ten' #3) Well I should tell you that since I wrote that... the "Siesta House" is still there and doing as fine as ever (I noticed the brand name on the RV unit... which is what it is... is 'Siesta' - with a little metal logo of a Mexican guy with a big cowboy hat over his head taking a nap against the letters - so I now call it 'Siesta House'). In fact... it's becoming quite the swanky building in it's own particular class level. There is a guy who is always hanging outside around the liquor store on the corner. He's pretty decrepit and is really on the low end of the homeless scale... he smells really, unspeakably rank (if you live in NYC you know what smell I'm talking about) and has stopped even caring if what he wears are actual clothes or not and has more living species on his skin than on the whole of the Galapagos Islands. It's all about scoring enough change to get a daily bottle of whatever for him. That's #1 priority for the day... basic teeth care is like #547. He's actually very friendly once he's had his "coffee" in the morning... even when he's not asking for change.
Anyway... he lives in Siesta House... in fact I think he's the host. Whenever I see another homeless person bang on the door to Siesta House... he is the one who always eventually answers. Well the other day, there is another guy who's friends with this guy... he was banging and I do mean banging loudly on the door to Siesta House. He was angry at homeless guy #1 for some reason. Lovers quarrel? Whatever it was... he was making a lot of commotion, all "Answer the door! I know you're in there you peezashite!" and at one point he picked up empty bottles and started throwing them at the door to Siesta House because the guy wouldn't answer. He even yelled "I'm gonna take your chair!" (his urine-soaked wheelchair always parked outside the door - the urine being the equivalent of a Kryptonite Manhattan bike lock - because no one dare touches it) and some passers by stopped and wondered what was going on.
Now... remember how I told you that Siesta House is right next to a police and fire station? I mean literally next to it? Well there were cops and firemen outside at the time... and what did they do about all this homeless person drama and escalating bad situation? Nothing. They just stood and watched. Some even chuckled. They were right not to do anything... the bottles the guy was throwing wouldn't break... and it really just looked like a scabies-infested lovers spat. Of course it's the kind of thing the " Giuliani Regime" wouldn't have tolerated and would have taken care of immediately (but only if the news cameras were around). So these guys are yelling and making a scene... the guy #1 eventually answered the door... all "You took me MONEY!!!" and the cops just watched for a while then went inside.
These homeless guys have hit the big time. Look, making a fucking scene inside your illegal squat RV unit on stilts that's parked right outside a police station, and then throwing a homeless temper tantrum - throwing bottles and stuff and screaming at the top of your lungs and having the cops look the other way all "La la la we don't see a problem here... doot dee da da..." - this is the equivalent of walking into Balthazar and having the hosts scramble to find you a table even if one isn't available maybe making Nicole Kidman and Adrien Brody move mid-meal, and then the chef making you whatever you want without you even having to look at a menu, and even if what you want isn't on the menu. Or maybe it's like walking up to a crowded door scene at Spa and having the guy part the crowd and escort you and your party in past all the scowling wannabes. That is power within your class level. These homeless, smelly, lice infested urine machines are like the fucking Anne Wintours of the Lower East Side homeless community under the Williamsburg Bridge.
OH AND ALSO: I walked by this *s*c*a*r*y* scene (photo above) the other night. I saw these two trash bags and thought "Wow it looks like there is a body in there!" So I took a picture thinking (hoping) it was oddly shaped trash. A day later I walked by and saw it was still there but had moved a bit. Oh it IS a body in there (see the jeans?) Heeeeyyy... is that the fascist neat freak from South Street Seaport? Anyhoo... another day I walked by and saw the bags tucked into a corner for later use... and then later that night they were being used again. At least I know the body is alive. This guy is a super minimalist about his dwelling. I bet he dreams of living in Siesta House (which is a block away). To him Siesta House is like The Plaza.
You know what sucks is when more and more people start paying attention to Siesta House and the Mortville under the Williamsburg Bridge... and trust me it's up-ad-coming - suddenly the property values are gonna skyrocket (a bottle of wine a night instead of a bottle of Night Train Express to stay the night in the RV, five hand jobs instead of one for the week) and all these trust fund kids are gonna move into all the plastic bags and RV units on stilts and drive out the locals. It's a shame.
I'll keep you posted on this up and coming NYC hot spot neighborhood.
"Of course you do know... you'll have to pay your rent ...every ...night..."
Copyright 2003 Mark Allen
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