Archive for April, 2008

Listen to Death From Above

April 30, 2008

It’s not new, but this video refreshes me. CSS sings Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above.

Videos were the quintessential art-form of my youth, however it surprises me that they continue to be made. I can’t remember the last time I saw one on tee vee.


The Dreamwork

April 28, 2008

Movies I watched this weekend produced in me, last night, a near overdose in paranoid dreams.

Typically, I only dream of Sean Young. Ever since I broke up with Michael the Ex, Sean Young has been a recurring cast-member in my dreams. I could not fathom why for the longest time. She would simply appear and whisper-talk me into terrifying dream stunts. There was the time Sean Young explained that to overcome my fear of heights, I would need to climb down from the sky in a hot air, steampunk, balloon via a rope ladder. Eventually, I would see the VH1 True Hollywood story on Sean Young, where it was revealed to me that she attended the same arts high school, Interlochen School for the Arts, that the ex attended (as did Jewel and Meredith Baxter Birney). I suppose I should be grateful that my mind chooses Sean Young over a visit from Elayne Keaton or any of Jewel’s boobalicious pop-wisdom.

I had a NIGHTMARE last night that felt like it was an after-effect of M.S.G. poisoning, except I had eaten nothing with M.S.G.. I think it was a result of having seen Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror.

In the dream, I was working for a secret agency. We had a security alert. Someone was posting important secrets on the Internet. I *knew* this someone had to be my ex-roommate, Cameron. In real life, he was a 20 yr old, self-proclaimed punk, stoned out-seeming, video game player with a drinking problem when I lived with him. In my dream, he had also worked at the agency and had been fired. Now he was a bitter drunk, who, in his soused outrage, was risking his life to reveal these secrets. I wanted to warn him to knock it off, but knew our security people would track my emails to him and both of us would be executed. Before the execution, our balls would be cut off (I think my brain lifted this directly from Planet Terror). I tried contacting a mutual friend, then I woke up!

I woke up sweating with a swollen lip which I had stress-chewed into hamburger meat. It was midnight. I washed my face and then went to my computer where I saw some new emails. I also saw Dat online.

12:13 AM darknessatnoon: I just had a dream that scared me awake
Cameron was giving away national secrets on the internet
Dat: lol
darknessatnoon: I was working for a secret agency (he had been fired from)
12:14 AM and I couldn’t warn him to stop in his bitter drunkeness, because the agency would track my email to him and kill us both
I was trying to get Omar to meet me and save him.
Dat: what…like how to get to the secret potion in 3 moves on legend of zelda
i’m surprised this would scare you enough to wake up
darknessatnoon: It was intense. My lip is all swollen because I was stress chewing it in my dream
Dat: wow
12:15 AM me: I saw Planet Terror this weekend
I was afraid someone would chop our balls off and put them in a zip-lock baggie.

I think I was also experiencing some sort of contact high from having just watched Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. I’d seen most of this several years ago after the break-up/crack-up, when I was at my lowest point. This was a period when I was on multiple prescription meds, but no longer had health insurance, so had gone into withdrawal shock. A couple of times, I even resorted to using heroin to mitigate some of the more intense symptoms, which of course was not a sane decision since heroin withdrawal is worse than Aderral, Lexapro, Xanax withdrawal (though, actually, it’s not much worse than Xanax withdrawal). During this period of time, my IKEA bed-frame was broken from rough sex with a former model… he had been the bartender in those famous beer commercials from the nineties with some spotted dog… I can’t recall the name of the dog. The model had rape fantasies and kept shouting that “We’re not supposed to be doing this. We’re not supposed to be doing this, [darknessatnoon]!” I kept hissing at him to lower his voice since I was on the first floor and there were children playing right outside my window, who were probably trying to coax George into meowing at them over from the kitchen window. Because of this, I’d had to drag my mattress to the living room floor until I could repair the bed frame. Empty prescription bottles everywhere, a guy I knew had stopped by while I was in the middle of watching Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. I sucked down the bottle of wine he’d brought over as he alluded to my current state by saying, “your apartment looks like the apartment of people I know with drug problems.” I nodded sagely and drank more wine.

I suppose my mind may have been flashing back on this period as I finally watched the movie all the way through this weekend. My impression of it was that it was, much like Planet Terror, a sneak-attack on Caucasian Hollywood. In the case of Harold & Kumar, the underlying claim of it is that non-white people can be functional, stoner, fuck-ups too! We can make claims to comedic failure ourselves, and don’t necessarily have to be the bit-players in other people’s Romantic Comedic stories (as the opening scene teases that this is what the movie might be about; how a white yuppie gets over a break-up and learns how to talk to girls again).

I look forward to seeing the sequel this coming weekend, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, but in the meantime, I think I’ll calm my brain down with a romantic comedy such as My Best Friend’s Wedding. The only sub-text that movie sets off in my brain is that Julia Roberts consciously plays a transsexual in it. Then again, I always think she’s playing a tranny in every movie she stars in. Julia is path-breaking and fashion-forward. I would much rather be drinking martinis with her in my dreams than having Sean Young dare me to overcome my past with idiotic and extreme stunts.

A Double Wedding

April 25, 2008

Congratulations to Tucker Stone and Nina Miller!

I only know this pair from over the Internet. But they have completely won me over. They’re both staff-writers at the offices of The Factual Opinion. Tucker writes on a variety of cultural products, though he is best known for his column Comics of the Week (the really mean column), as well as This Ship Is Totally Sinking (the “industry” column) over at Comixology. He also conducts fascinating Stunt Casting interviews with non-comic book fans who are given a comic to read and then are questioned about their encounter with sub-cultural weirdness.

Nina is not-a-comic-book reader who writes The Virgin Read.* Every week, her editor assigns her new reading material for which she conducts a first time reader-analysis. Her struggle with the rules of superhero book and indie book styles is always cheerful and enchanting. I fear what might happen once she loses her virginity. Maybe she can whip up a Gary Coleman effect with some married virginity? Tucker’s columns are a lot more abrasive than Nina’s, but he’s a long-time comic book reader and with familiarity comes contempt. His contempt never fails to entertain. Sometimes he actually likes a comic or two, but that’s less entertaining for me. I eagerly await their return and look forward to a Special Issue Feature in which “Nina Goes to a Comic Convention.”

Apparently, in a massive coincidence, they are both getting married this Sunday. Who they are each marrying, I have no clue! How will they make it to each other’s wedding? Perhaps it’s a double-wedding?

In principle, I Am Against Marriage. Marriage should be outlawed for gays and straights, for only then — when nobody can do it — will it ever be truly sacred. Yet, I am willing to feel happiness for such talented writers and exceptions can be made in their cases.

*The label links need to be tweaked since only one of her columns appears to come up. But there are many great ones already posted.

Out of Treatment, Interlude (Routines)

April 25, 2008

If you follow the comments, then you know that a reader pointed me to Dead Ringers for a transferential scene par excellence. It shamed me as I don’t know Cronenberg’s work as well as I should. Finally, last weekend I got around to watching this. Of course, of course, of course, Jeremy Irons’s portrayal of twins was fantastic. That should go without saying. What needs to be said, though, is that Geneviève Bujold completely steals every scene she’s in from Irons.

I have been extremely promiscuous. I’ve never even used contraceptive devices. I’ve never even thought contraceptive thoughts.

Well, she’s obviously a genius. A Lena “Fucking” Olin caliber actress. I’m angry now. I could have watched this movie instead of wasting my time with countless episodes of Law & Order. I need to change my life.

Change yours first, though. Watch this clip for the scene with Bujold and Irons playing footsie on the couch.

For me it’s all about the récit, a term from French narratology. It could be translated as “a telling of events,” or “story,” but I think the best term for it is “routine.” In the only good essay he ever wrote, pussy-flasher, Jacques Derrida pointed out that the récit perfectly demonstrates the “Law of Genre.” A genre piece, such as a novel or a bit of theater, can never tell you what it is. It functions by telling you what it is not since every variation in a routine differs from previous ones. Variations mark their differences from previous occurrences (becoming re-occurrences. Of course, David Hume basically said this, but you’re supposed to quote Derrida). That is why Claire Niveau (Bujold) finds something “subtly schizophrenic” about the Mandel twins who are both fucking her while pretending to be the same guy (her gynecologist). To get it up with women, Bev needs to hear how his brother screwed her. Elliot also needs to hear how Bev did it, for “you [Bev] haven’t had an experience until you’ve told me about it first!”

The French word “genre” also refers to gender, so the interchange about Bev’s name is particularly delightful; “It’s not a woman’s name. It’s spelled differently.” At which she teases, “Does your brother have a woman’s name, too?” Of course he does, though he seems to prefer the more masculine-determinate Elliot to the gender-bender, “Lee.”

I consider transference a good outlet for frustration when routines go bad. Once a decent therapist starts to see the patterns of your routines and has the balls to call you to the carpet for them, it’s convenient to raise a big emotional fuss to distract everybody. ‘I’ve just pooped my emotions onto your carpet. Now you sympathetically pooped yours. We have to clean this mess up. There’s no time for you to touch my routines. Our emotions are stinking up the room! We’ll never get these stains out!’

Out of Treatment, the Relationship Episode*

April 22, 2008

darknessatnoon meets Michael the Boyfriend after a particularly traumatic incident. he has had to kick his bartender roommate, Becky, out of the apartment. she had been a good friend, but was out of work for seven months out of the past nine. during this time, her usual cynicism has transformed into a deeply bitter depression. she lays on the couch glaring at darknessatnoon as he types out conference papers, angry that he is hogging his computer. with nothing to do, she takes his cordless phone and sits on the porch, smoking, running up his phone bill to complain about darknessatnoon long-distance. when darknessatnoon finally forces her to leave, he discovers $500 in long-distance charges. $500 worth of complaints about him for which he will never be compensated, as well as nine months of rent he has had to cover for her. several of his friends are angry at him for no longer supporting Becky. now they have to support her. they refuse to speak to darknessatnoon for shedding himself of his burden because now they carry the burden.

then darknessatnoon meets Michael, and they become boyfriends. they have achieved happiness.

darknessatnoon is happy for the first time she has known him, according to his friend, L.,. according to his friend, C., he behaves like a born again christian. C. claims that a blank moon-face has replaced his personality. but darknessatnoon, the prescription drug addict, has to be happy! so he disregards the born-again comment.

Michael the Boyfriend finds expressions to communicate his loud feelings at world hunger, human rights violations and injustice. His MAC homepage is the guerilla news network. earlier, he had to give up his career as a cellist because he was poor. he did not finish college because the republican governor of Michigan ended his scholarship. darknessatnoon is impressed that his boyfriend survived victimhood at the hands of powerful and corrupt men. now, at a young age, his boyfriend is a successful IT director at an investment bank. he prefers to discuss poverty and injustice instead of internet technology because Michael feels no internal relationship to the internet, but feels kinship with the poor. Michael the Boyfriend, himself, is related to many poor people. internet technology is unsatisfactory to Michael who boasts that he would rather be humble and bag groceries than make several hundred thousand dollars a year from the investment bank’s dirty money. darknessatnoon is proud of Michael the Boyfriend, for Michael the Boyfriend has abased himself before technology and mastered it. the Boyfriend boasts a fluency with machines that darknessatnoon admires because it is a fluency he will never possess. darknessatnoon, nevertheless mocks his IT-guy soul patch, privately praying for Michael to shave it off.

when they are in london, darknessatnoon’s friend, C., a trust-funded WASP who has a research grant at a british library, mocks poor people over dinner. Michael the Boyfriend experiences a feeling of offense because of this and demands that darknessatnoon keep C. out of the apartment when they return to the states. Michael the Boyfriend feels that if he shows that darknessatnoon rejects his snobby, elitist, friend, it will show that darknessatnoon loves him. darknessatnoon feels no opinion either way about the poor, and, in fact, enjoys his friend’s frivolity as she sneers her contempt for them over expensive drinks, but agrees to humor his boyfriend’s wishes though he does not realize that by indulging these wishes, he validates the jealousy behind them.

after the first month, Michael the Boyfriend says he loves darknessatnoon. he had a dream that darknessatnoon fucked someone else, and he dreamed of killing the person darknessatnoon fucked. darknessatnoon does not say he loves you back. he will eventually say he loves you Michael the Boyfriend while he is ejaculating. Michael the Boyfriend’s spirits soar when darknessatnoon ejaculates with semen and I love you.

darknessatnoon tells his therapist that Michael the Boyfriend experienced a crisis of faith when his two sisters died one month apart from another from breast cancer. darknessatoon’s therapist is unmoved by this touching story and asks a pointed question: “so?” darknessatnoon tries not to laugh at his therapist’s hateful insensitivity since he feels that laughing at Michael the Boyfriend’s grief is taboo. he would prefer to remain an emotionally manipulated person than to break this taboo. Michael the Therapist warns darknessatnoon not to be absorbed by his lover’s story since he is not his boyfriend’s property, claiming that he knows darky well enough to know that he is only trying to convince himself that he is sincerely touched by the Boyfriend’s confessional, daytime television, patois. darknessatnoon, says Michael the Therapist, is not usually driven by taboo. darknessatnoon snaps shut his thoughts so that Michael the Therapist can no longer share his interior.

Michael the Boyfriend has his own therapist, named Julie or Janet or Jeana. repeatedly, darknessatnoon’s Boyfriend complains that his therapist is a straight woman who cannot understand him. when darknessatnoon’s boyfriend complains, darknessatnoon swings his hand behind Michael’s head, pretending to be a puppeteer yanking his boyfriend’s mouth open and shut. he mimics his boyfriend’s complaints with a shrill puppet voice. darknessatnoon briefly dated a puppeteer from whom he developed an admiration of the craft. darknessatnoon privately dreams of producing an interpretation of Jacques Lacan’s “Signification of the Phallus” essay using lesbian puppeteers. darknessatnoon calls Michael a “puppet head,” as a nick-name. Michael the Boyfriend fumes when his problems are belittled by darknessatnoon’s impromptu puppet shows.

Michael the Therapist despises Michael the Boyfriend. he prefers Boring Jim or Tom, the Nutcase with the Psychosomatic Multiple Sclerosis — former darknessatnoon boyfriends who were degreed professionals without a history of driving their old boyfriend’s crazy. darknessatnoon ignores his therapist, thinking of what nice intercourse he and his boyfriend just had, again! Michael the Therapist points out repeatedly darknessatnoon’s own words: his boyfriend’s three immediately prior ex-boyfriends have all gone crazy.

1) Punjab or Punit or something, is an actor whose headshots Michael the Boyfriend refuses to return because the Boyfriend does not want to deal with him. Punjab or Punit’s headshots sit in a manila envelope on top of the refrigerator. this Indian constantly tries to contact Michael the Boyfriend, to retrieve his head-shots. he cries out for them like a jackal. perhaps he wants more than the head-shots? perhaps he spent a lot of money on his head-shots and only wants them back? darknessatnoon wonders why the Indian hasn’t made more copies unless these are the negatives. he doesn’t feel like intruding into the manila envelope to investigate. darknessatnoon volunteers to hand over the head-shots himself because he feels for Punjab or Punit, but to no avail. having grown up in California, darknessatnoon understands how important it is to an actor to be able to think he is pursuing his vain ambitions by making several career oriented calls a day, and sending out head-shots to punctuate those calls. but his Boyfriend does not wish to discuss it and the head-shots remain on the refrigerator.

2) down the street lives another Michael, who is Michael the Boyfriend’s Ex-Boyfriend. Michael the Boyfriend’s Ex used to be an executive, who, after being dumped by Michael, went crazy and gave an ultimatum to his employers. ‘promote me by the end of the day or consider this my letter of resignation.’ his employers accepted the resignation. to make enough money to eat, he cleaned Michael’s house and cooked dinner for months. darknessatnoon laughs and says he will never cook Michael’s dinner like some servant. Michael the Boyfriend’s Ex sold Michael the Boyfriend his collection of Bette Midler VHS tapes. darknessatnoon says to give them back. when are you ever going to watch Bette Midler movies? Michael the Boyfriend shrugs. Michael the Boyfriend’s Ex, Michael, is incredibly rude to darknessatnoon whenever opportunity arises. darkness’s Boyfriend, Michael, claims to never notice this, but darkness can see that even though he has argued on behalf of the ex’s Bette Midler repossession that he and the ex would gleefully beat one another blue if the opportunity were to arise. darkness tells his therapist that he would like to smash Michael the Ex’s rude, fat, face into a wall. he discusses his glee with his therapist that the Ex-Boyfriend is health food freak who doesn’t eat enough iodine and has been growing a goiter. darknessatnon and Michael the Therapist spend several minutes discussing the fact that Cleopatra also had a goiter. darkness and Michael wonder how did Cleopatra blow Julius Caesar with a goiter in the way?

3) Michael the Boyfriend also dated David for 11 years, a local minister. after Michael dumped David in under-described circumstances, David moved to Michael the Boyfriend’s new apartment complex. more specifically, he moved into the apartment across from Michael and proceeded to ignore him, refusing Michael visitation rights to their shared cat.

Michael the Therapist finds all this suspicious. he sees trouble in the works for darknessatnoon. after he walks in on darknessatnoon in the waiting room, flirting with another patient who is just there to pick up drug samples, he asks darknessatnoon what darky thinks of the patient. he is nice, says darknessatnoon, he’s a flirt. he clearly wants to sleep with me. Michael the Therapist comments, I think you two would sleep together. darknessatnoon asks, really? Michael the Therapist says yes, he would definitely sleep with you and you probably would sleep with him. darknessatnoon angrily answers, you are being unprofessional. Michael the Therapist claims that darknessatnoon doesn’t allow anyone to be professional around him, but apologizes for the transgression. darknessatnoon elaborates that he doesn’t want professionalism per se, but would rather his therapist, whom he pays! not regress into a boob.

Michael the Boyfriend suffers migraines. he and his hippy doctor are opposed to medication, and the boyfriend constantly criticizes darknessatnoon’s prescriptions. Michael the Therapist asks if darknessatnoon considers this rational. darknessatnoon says that he is grateful for headaches since they give them the chance to take Tylenol. when Michael the Boyfriend falls sick, he takes the day off and mopes around the house. darknessatnoon offers him Nyquil but the boyfriend says no, he would rather ride it out. in the past two years, darknessatnoon has cracked a rib, dislocated a shoulder and sprained a wrist and an ankle, all while rowing. he visits his primary care physician regularly after graduating from physical therapy for his shoulder. his doctor asks if his boyfriend is physically abusing him. darknessatnoon laughs and says he is 6’6″ and his boyfriend is 5’9″. even if he wanted to physical abuse me, says darknessatnoon, it would be unlikely that he could. darknessatnoon tells his physician that if he were being sexually abused, he would enjoy it. his physician has a sluttish air about her. darknessatnoon suspects she is a nymphomaniac, so he is not surprised by her incessant abuse inquiries. he also knows his accidents of the previous two years make him a rather suspicious patient. he says he would like to get an HIV test to show Michael. the doctor tells him that syphilis is currently a BIG DEAL in the gay community and agrees to give darknessatnoon a blood test if he will take a syphilis inoculation and test. darknessatnoon says that if he had syphilis wouldn’t he be blind and mad by now, but agrees to take the inoculation which hurts like hell. the glutinous injections harden in his ass cheeks, and darknessatnoon bikes home in agony, cursing his bitch physician for not warning him of this. Michael, who won’t even take an aspirin, puts off his blood test for months, angering darknessatnoon. he explains to darknessatnoon that his father is a hypochondriac and that he has always been resistant to medication. your father probably isn’t going to give me a sexually transmitted disease. you, I don’t know so much about, says darknessatnoon. get tested! Michael the Therapist clucks in anger at this story. he whines that his namesake should get tested. darknessatnoon begins to enjoy feeding his therapist reasons to whine about his boyfriend.

Michael the Boyfriend forces darknessatnoon to sit through Chuck and Buck, a movie one of his professors recommended. darknessatnoon finds the movie hugely awkward and embarrassing. Michael the Boyfriend holds him down for fifteen minutes until darknessatnoon cannot take it anymore and screams that Michael is sexually abusing him.

in elevators with other people Michael the Boyfriend often says things to humiliate darknessatnoon, like if you ever hit me again, i am leaving you. darknessatnoon simmers helplessly when his boyfriend does this to him.

Michael the Boyfriend watches The Simpsons and Law & Order. darknessatnoon is bored by these shows, opting to go to the bedroom and read Anna Karenina, by Tolstoy, or The Mother by Gorky. he is having a russian phase which leads into a socialist realism phase. while the Law & Order cast struts its way through the credits, darknessatnoon wonders why socialist realist novels never include narration about work. with their dreamy soft-focus on factory life, “work” is never, ever, shown. everything but work appears, including political power plays, dramatic interpersonal encounters, the violence of the strike — fitting the revolutionary vanguard novel squarely into the traditional frame of bourgeois novelistic self-cultivation. darknessatnoon never gets around to writing about this. he is too happy to give a shit!

darknessatnoon gives up all the movies he used to watch because he is willing to compromise. in the past, he would go to art-house theaters. the Boyfriend has introduced him to DVDs and would prefer to watch Lord of the Rings. darknessatnoon fumes at Lord of the Rings. he is disgusted by this pompous, over-wrought, garbage. darknessatnoon goes a year without seeing his favorite film, The Last Seduction, because Michael the Boyfriend wouldn’t like it. Michael the Boyfriend is gay and spiritual, whereas darknessatnoon is gay and cynical. C., and Michael the Boyfriend reconcile because of their Lord of the Rings love, forcing darknessatnoon to go see The Two Towers. darknessatnoon makes loud, crude, jokes about 911 in the theater while waiting for the ‘film’ to start rolling. he begins to resent his Boyfriend.

Michael the Boyfriend lends darknessatnoon money for tuition since his loan hasn’t arrived. darknessatnoon pays his boyfriend back. Michael the Boyfriend immediately uses this money for taxes that he didn’t pay the year before and for the taxes of the current year. since he spent the money immediately, Michael forgets that darknessatnoon has repaid him. resentment stirs in Michael the Boyfriend.

darknessatnoon owes Michael the Therapist for two sessions. a strange man who calls himself Michael’s Bookkeeper leaves a message on darknessatnoon’s answering machine, reminding him of the payments. darkness hardly ever goes back to his apartment, so several days pass between the leaving of the message and the listening to it. darknessatnoon immediately sends off a check. he can sense the Bookkeeper is gay. he feels a twinge of jealousy. is this just a Bookkeeper or a Bookkeeper & Michael the Therapist’s Boyfriend at once? darknessatnoon considers asking his therapist if the Therapist is fucking around with the Bookkeeper, but he cannot bring himself to voice the question and thereby pump his therapist’s already bloated ego.

Michael the Boyfriend complains again about his own therapist, Julie, Jane or Jenna. because she is a woman she can’t understand him. darknessatnoon thinks to himself that he is grateful because he doesn’t need therapeutic understanding; only pills. darknessatnoon wonders what’s so ‘complex’ about Michael that his therapist can’t understand him. he laughs about this with his own therapist. Julie or Jean or Janet the Therapist tells Michael the Boyfriend that he and darknessatnoon are right for each other for all the wrong reasons, which gives the Boyfriend an anxiety attack. before doing damage control, darknessatnoon angrily asks puppet head what the hell that’s supposed to mean, but, as usual, eloquence fails puppet head who lays in bed, shaking from his bitch shrink’s disapproval. darknessatnoon states that the puppet cannot express what this means because the statement itself is meaningless mumbo jumbo.

Michael the Boyfriend does not know that darknessatnoon regularly goes to visit Michael the Therapist. darkness fears having to explain his therapist’s animosity towards Michael the Boyfriend. darknessatnoon asks Michael the Therapist what it means to say that Michael and I right for each other for all the wrong reasons? from this cliché ridden statement, can Michael the Therapist detect Julie the Therapist’s school of thought? Michael the Therapist wants to know why darknessatnoon wants to know her school of thought is. darknessatnoon explains that it will aid him in undermining Julie the Therapist if he can figure out her therapeutic technique. Michael the therapist refuses to aid darknessatnoon in understanding Julie, saying that it would be unethical to interfere in Michael the Boyfriend’s treatment. saying that he doesn’t have enough information to go on anyway. saying that he can understand why darknessatnoon is upset by this comment. why, asks darknessatnoon? because, darknessatnoon, one thing I know about you is that when you fall in love with other people, you only love all the wrong things about them. you always love only all the wrong things.

Michael the Boyfriend reads Fast Food Nation. because of this book that darknessatnoon has no time to read, he becomes a vegetarian. darknessatnoon is unsympathetic to this. their first serious fight takes place on a visit to michigan, to see Michael the Boyfriend’s family. The mother is a horrible cook. after a third visit, darknessatnoon can’t abide the prospect of eating her food one afternoon and asks that the puppet head briefly stop at Wendy’s. the puppet head rebels. Michael the Boyfriend refuses to support the fast food industry. they have a heated argument, during which darknessatnoon, who is starving, nearly leaves the car. but darknessatnoon doesn’t know how he’ll foot it to Wendy’s, and doesn’t want to figure out how to find a train back to chicago. he curses his own laziness and impracticality. after the break-up, the mother poisons herself with her own salmonella-filled cooking. darknessatnoon sends her flowers at the hospital. Michael the Ex-boyfriend thanks him and says the doctors claim she has a 50% chance of living five years. darknessatnoon says that means they have no idea what they are talking about. are they planning to flip a coin? he laughs. Michael the Ex-Boyfriend is upset by this statement. he gets off the phone abruptly.

Michael the Boyfriend hates darknessatnoon because he owes him his hard-earned money. darknessatnoon shames Michael the boyfriend by reminding him of the six thousand dollar check he gave the Boyfriend back in April. Michael says he forgot and apologizes, but angry words have already been spoken and he wishes darknessatnoon would make more money. Michael the Boyfriend is really angry because he wants to buy a house in the country near his aging mother and father, and the rest of his family. darknessatnoon is disgusted. he says that Michael treats his family like a cult. you don’t have to live on a compound with them. Michael the Boyfriend wants to give up his high-paying IT job and bag groceries, and wishes darknessatnoon were more interested in things like gardening and adoption. darknessatnoon giggles at the adoption suggestion and asks why darknessatnoon cannot just look in the phone book and call up a Mexican who can garden for them. darknessatnoon asks puppet head how he intends on taking care of his aging mother and father, who have no medical insurance, on the income of a grocery bagger. Michael the Boyfriend hates darknessatnoon because just when puppet head would like to discuss his emotional problems, which involve a house with a garden, — nearby a lake,– and child-care, darknessatnoon acts as if he doesn’t possess a heart, but only a brain. Michael the Boyfriend has even already referred to his stance against the war and his sympathy to poor people, and the bush administration’s indifference to the American infrastructure, to demonstrate that humans must help one another, and in turn, they collectively overcome crises. after Michael finishes spewing about poor people, darknessatnoon explains that he is not anti-war. that he is pro-war but is just rooting for the other side. his eyes show how, by god, he hates darknessatnoon’s politics, thinks Michael the Boyfriend.

Michael the Boyfriend buys them a house in Michigan and goes to fix it up. then he drives back on their anniversary to tell darknessatnoon that they will work it all out. as they go to bed, Michael the Boyfriend throws his arm across darknessatnoon. darknessatnoon lays still and cold, pretending he is unconscious of the gesture. he is thinking that he needs to write his dissertation and get out of this situation before he ends up bagging groceries with Michael. he thinks that he needs a refill of speed.

darknessatnoon falls asleep, and wakes up to find his Boyfriend gone. he goes into the other room to see the Boyfriend packing his shit up into the car. the car is parked in a tow-zone, and as they argue at 2AM, a tow-truck comes to take the car. Michael the Boyfriend — now Ex-Boyfriend — argues that darknessatnoon doesn’t make enough money. he wants to give up his job and bag groceries. as he is talking about bagging groceries, he is running outside to save his car from the tow-truck driver. after saving his car with a quick bribe, Michael the Ex-Boyfriend comes back and offers darknessatnoon his cats – cats he found as kittens when cleaning out his dead sister’s house. darknessatnoon says no thanks. Michael the Ex-Boyfriend asks darknessatnoon to pick up his dry-cleaning and drives off. darknessatnoon emails the news to Michael the Therapist and makes an appointment. he also asks the Therapist to send a refill for Adderall.

darknessatnoon then spends the next two years overreacting.

* Where we fast forward through ‘the relationship’ in a stylistic homage to Elfriede Jelinek’s Women as Lovers.

Coming Soon in Out of Treatment!

darknessatnoon attends the Conference on Depression and cracks a tooth!

Out of Treatment, a Psychoanalytic Interlude

April 15, 2008

In psychoanalytic terms, fantasies are some sort of frame or window. Variations within the structure of the frame are virtually infinite, but if you want to go through the frame and act out your fantasy, you die.

— credited to Sylvère Lotringer,
but probably written by Chris Kraus

I craved therapy because I wanted that experience of death where I could come to terms with my subjective alienation from Symbolic Discourse. I should have read more Lacan to realize that I’d never be willing to accept this alienation without experiencing psychosis or schizophrenia, or whichever serious mental illness he felt like assigning — during his weekend seminars — to reconciliation with the Big Other. I associated psychotherapy with a vain, but worthwhile, attempt to at least placate Angry Otherness.

Readers have privately written in to me, shocked that Michael the Therapist would oppose my seeing a Psychoanalyst while treating me pharmacologically. One called him “arrogant.” Perhaps that’s the case. He was pretty arrogant, though not as arrogant as I was. Obviously, his disciplinary prejudice against Psychoanalysis factored into his reluctance to refer me. Also, I think something else was at work. I believe he was opposed to sending me, in particular, to an analyst. I would often ask questions like, “if these medications are striking directly at the primary processes, what about the secondary, post-traumatic, structures? Aren’t those what I’d see an analyst about?” He strongly objected to my use of the lingo. He refused to answer direct questions, such as whether or not something like Wellbutrin was designed for “the primary processes.” Once he flat out said, “I think you know that you’re mocking Psychoanalysis by using that language.”

— I don’t mean to. Why do you think that?
— Your tone, and the fact that you seem to be more concerned that anti-depressants don’t impact sexual function than whether the biological brain is where the ‘primary processes’ take place.
— Well, ‘sexual function’ is a pretty primary process for me. Becky thinks that Wellbutrina would make a good drag name, though I personally am partial to Ms. Anthropy.
— That’s a good drag name, but would you please try to be serious?
— Sorry.

After a year of badgering, he eventually referred me to an analyst in my neighborhood, telling me that his practice specialized in academics. I came back into Michael’s office after two weeks, seriously displeased.

— How did you like therapy?
— My treatment is over.
— Are you cured?
— That’s not funny. You sabotaged my psychotherapy by recommending that guy.
— How did I do that? Tell me how it went.

The therapist worked out of a depressing building in my neighborhood. “It felt very ghetto,” I accused. “At least it’s in the same building as my bank so that I can have an excuse if someone I know sees me there. But you should have sent me downtown. I don’t want to see the usual people around me. And have you met him?” Michael had not. He had been given ‘a strong recommendation’ by colleagues. I described how the analyst looked like Chris Claremont. “He not only had the girth, but also the smug attitude I associate with ‘the Mighty Claremont.'” Michael commented (for the millionth time) that we needed to work on my hostility to overweight people, which was fair enough since, as a former fatso during my youth, my open hatred of fatness bordered on serious pathology. Fat is a Feminist Issue was not my playbook at the time. “The real problem is that he talked too much. He was very mouthy and discussed his personal history with me.” I told him the story.

When I entered the Psychoanalyst’s office, he introduced himself and asked me how I felt. I answered by saying that “I feel vague today.” He countered that he was “feeling great today.” I was tired and didn’t appreciate the forced jocularity. He then asked what I’d done that afternoon. I explained that I’d been at ’round-up,’ a lower level editorial meeting at the journal. “We have two round-ups per issue. For each one, we split the articles ahead of time, read through them and go line by line through our corrections out loud at the meeting to see if the others agree with us. It always leads to these huge wastes of time as the Manuscript Editor and his second-in-command rehash the same arguments about grammar that they’ve been having for years, and then they have the same show-downs over the manual of style. Does Socrates have an “s-apostrophe-s” when used as a possessive or is it just “s-apostrophe”? Which Greek philosophers get the “s-apostrophe” and which aren’t so important and therefore get the less prestigious “s-apostrophe-s”? It’s boring, and today I was chastised.” He said the whole process sounded ‘intriguing,’ not boring.

I told him that I’d like to discuss how I was chastised. He granted me permission to “go ahead.” I thanked him and showed that discipline had come in two ways; one very passive aggressive and one more overt. “At the start of the meeting, I mocked the use of the word “constellate.” Two of the articles I’d been assigned had people “constellating” concepts. I told the guys at the meeting that I thought people need to start using the word “edema” in theoretical articles. Julia Kristeva used it once, and I was very struck by the usage. But it never came into fashion.”

Michael interrupted.
— Edema?
— Yeah, it’s when an organ is swollen with excess liquid.
— I know what it is, but why would you want critics to start using the term?
— Why not? Why should critics be discussing astrology and constellations?
— What did [the analyst’s name] say?
— He said that my suggestion was ‘fascinating.’ Which is bullshit. It wasn’t fascinating. It was just a comment I made designed to elicit annoyance from the others at round-up.
— Of course.

“It goes without saying that the rest of the editorial staff did not find my comment fascinating. As usual, they just stared at me as if I hadn’t said anything of importance. They find me anything but fascinating. I’m sure I annoy the hell out of them. I’m getting really sick of those guys. They sit there and edit while listening to the Mekons — a band I hate. How can you concentrate on apostrophes while listening to the Mekons? And they have no respect for the classics, like Julia Kristeva, Lucien Goldmann, or Émile Benveniste. For such philistines, they’re awfully uppity.” The analyst asked what I meant by “uppity.”

— What did he think you meant?
— Honestly, I think he wondered if I was being racist.
— Because you said uppity.
— Yes. People in the neighborhood are like that. It’s ridiculous.
— Did you call him out on his assumption?

I elaborated, “for such nobodies, they sure attribute a lot of importance to their minor contribution is what I mean by uppity.” To make up for my near collision with racism, I added, “And they get defensive when I claim that post-colonial criticism has any value other than mental masturbation. I am not on the same page with them when it comes to 911.” The analyst asked what page I was on. “What goes around comes around is the page I am on.” I’m sure he was offended. It always offends people when I say that. He became still, and it was clear that he hadn’t been following my theory references anyway, so I turned to the second incident. “Basically, I was criticized for finding one of the articles stupid and illogical. When I pointed out a series of logical errors, the Manuscript Editor told me that the ‘real’ editors — who are all professors who do nothing! — are the ones who get to criticize the arguments. I’m supposed to pay more attention to grammar. As if a journal that publishes Jacques Derrida’s Alzheimer’s induced meditations about how he isn’t sure if his cat likes to watch him while he’s naked and brushing his teeth doesn’t have more pressing problems than grammar!”

I explained that I was really sick of the Manuscript Editor, who was my boss. “He’s a stoner who got a Ph.D. in English even though he hates to teach. Now he just edits, and in his spare time he writes essays about Jack London and goes to Jack London conferences and publishes in Jack London journals. The way he talks you’d think Call of the Wild is the greatest classic of all time.”

— This is when the Psychoanalyst made me angry.
— What did he do?

He told me that he loves Call of the Wild; that it was one of his favorite novels growing up.

— What the fuck? Jack London? Jack London! Has Jack London suddenly become a hot topic and I’m unaware of it? Is Jack London now stylish? Are people discussing Sea-Wolf and White Fang at cocktail parties? Is my boss undergoing treatment with my psychoanalyst, and are they discussing Jack London’s oeuvre together?

Then out of nowhere he said his father “would be appalled by the state of literary criticism today.” The state of literary criticism. He told me, “My father used to collect sixteenth and seventeenth century manuscripts,” and that the kind of criticism I was discussing was a disservice to the kind of collecting his father done. “A disservice.”

Michael laughed a little maniacally when I told him this.

— How did you react?
— I told him that I was very uncomfortable with his mention of his father. He asked me why, and I wasn’t sure what to say. Finally, I said, “Because

  1. I can’t stand people who collect manuscripts.
  2. A professor once became angry at my ‘pornographic’ interpretation of Milton’s Comus.
  3. I don’t find the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries very interesting, and have a whole stereotype in my head about people who admire the literature of that period.
  4. You just gave me personal information. That’ s ammunition I won’t be able to help using later on when I start to hate you during transference and counter-transference.”

— Also, I don’t really care about his opinions on literature or literary theory, but that would have been rude and confrontational to say. He told me that he considers therapy a ‘two-sided conversation’ and that I would have to learn to allow him to express himself. I don’t want a conversation, Michael! At least you rarely disclose anything personal about yourself, so that when I’m feeling aggressive towards you, I don’t have material at hand to attack you.
— Rarely? When have I ever told you anything personal about myself?
— You disclose sometimes. There was that time I told you about how I had crashed my bike in front of the ROTC Nazi on the crew team. You told me that once you had overturned your bike at gay pride when you rode the wrong way on a one-way street.
— I was empathizing with you when I told you that.
— I know, and I empathized back at you and hated all those Pride faggots for laughing at you. Then I felt homophobic and guilty for hating them, and then I began to resent you for telling me the story in the first place.
— Such complicated reactions. I apologize for burdening you with a homophobic reaction. Are you finished with the Psychotherapy?
— For now, I guess. It was too much of an effort. I don’t want to ‘converse’ with this guy. I was very drained after talking to him. Everything about him made me hostile, and I’d just be abusive to him if I went again.
— You place people in the position of having to manage you.
— That’s a really good, non-pharmaceutical, observation.
— Speaking of, do you need any refills?

Coming Soon in Out of Treatment!

The series is ending in just a few short episodes and the shit is going to hit the fan! Don’t miss the ‘serial killer incident.’ Michael the Therapist & darknessatnoon have a breakthrough! Michael the Therapist tries to pimp darknessatnoon out, and hates his boyfriend! Someone commits suicide! Be sure to catch the final episodes of this blog’s only personal entries!

Black Candles

April 14, 2008

A handsome, loyal, reader sent in the following question.

Dear darknessatnoon,

Yesterday my ex-bf sent me this [editor’s note: stop talking to your “authentic” Egyptian ex!]:

Is it from a progressive film, because the plaintive singer refers to the homosexuality of her silent companion, or has the gender of the pronouns has been mistranslated?

Either way, I find it a bit over the top.

A handsome, loyal, and honest Reader,
Signed J__

First let’s get something out of the way — there are no progressive Egyptian films. After watching the clip, it seems obvious that something homosexual is going on here, or that she’s possibly calling him a “bitch” because she caught him screwing the dog. Either way, it looks like she’s giving him a severe verbal castration.

In fact, after consulting my Near Native Informant in Lebanon [thanks DW] the clip is from a film called,

الشموع السوداء

El Shoumou el sawdaa, or Black Candles (1962). Abdelwahab was the composer of the music; Ashnawi wrote the poem. The song in question is sung by Najat al Saghira, and this is one of her most famous performances. Najat’s father was one of Um Kalthoum’s (the Madonna of the Arab world) violinists.

The basic plot of the movie is that Ahmed discovers that his wife is cheating, so he rides his horse in anger and falls off, losing his sight. ‘Mistrust, betrayal and murder follow.’ The song she’s singing is adapted by a poem entitled “Don’t Cry,”by Kamal Al- Shanawi, into the following lyrics:

اني رأيتكما معاودعي البكاء …..
فقد كرهت ألأدمعا
ما أهون الدمع الجسور اذا جرى …….
من عين كاذبة فأنكر وادعى
اني رأيتكما ……
أني سمعتكما
عيناك في عينيه …..
في شفتيه …..
في كفيه …في قدميه
ويداك ضارعتان ……..
ترتعشان من لهف عليه
تتحديان الشوق بالقبلات …..
تلذعني بسوط من لهيب
بالآهات ….
بالصمت الرهيب
ويشب في قلبي حريق ….
ويضيع من فدمي الطريق
وتطل من رأسي الظنون تلومني ……..
وتشد أذني …..
فلطالما باركت كذبك كله …..
ولعنت ظني …
ماذا أقول لأدمع سفحتها أشواقي اليك ؟؟؟؟؟
ماذا أقول لأضلع مزقتها خوفا عليك ؟؟؟؟؟؟
أأقول هانت ؟؟؟
أأقول خانت ؟؟؟؟
أأقولها ؟؟؟؟
لو قلتها أشفي غليلي …. ياويلتي ,
لا لن أقول أنا فقولي …..
لاتخجلي مني ,,,
فلست بثائر,,,,
أنقذتني … من زيف أحلامي وغدر مشاعري
فرأيت أنك كنت لي قيدا …
حرصت العمر ألا أكسره ……
ورأيت أنك كنت لي ذنبا
سألت الله ألا يغفره …. فغفرته
كوني كما تبغين …لكن لن تكوني …
فأنا صنعتك من هواي ومن جنوني ……..
ولقد برئت من الهوى ومن الجنون
Another translation of the poem would be “Don’t Lie to Yourself,” which could very well bolster a queer reading, especially since he uncomfortably sucks on a cigarette the whole time. However, since she’s singing a classical poem to him, it could mean by the logic of gender inversion that she has seen him with another woman. Given the surface plot of the movie — that she’s helping him cope with the rage of his wife’s infidelity — the song is more likely *his* point of view given voice by the feminine instrument. It’s unlikely we’d see such an obvious homosexual scene. He’s lost his sight, and therefore his power in the world. Clearly, Egyptian cinema didn’t hire proficient animal trainers, given that seeing-eye dog practically mauls his master during the scene. Since he is blind, Najat acts as Ahmed’s voice to help him compensate for the missing instrument his wife took away. What’s she’s doing is called ‘singing in the masculine,’ taking upon herself the voice of the poem. She’s singing to him in the imperative, as if he’s another woman, referring to the man his wife cheated with as “him,” lamenting seeing her lips touch “his lips.”

This kind of voicing leads to a lot of interpretive excesses of Arab literature. Which is not to say that there’s not a lot of overt bisexuality in Arab poetry, however, a blatantly gay moment like that would be more than a little shocking. Egyptian Cinema doesn’t handle homosexuality very deftly. I found 2006’s adaptation of The Yacoubian Building to be one of the more derogatory, stereotyped, melodramatic, depictions of homosexuality I’ve seen in the past decade. And that was hailed as “progressive.”

Which isn’t to say that it’s advisable to swing to an extreme of interpretative conservatism, which, unfortunately, I find is the case with Joseph Massad’s reactionary, Desiring Arabs. Massad wasn’t trained in the Humanities. He’s a Political Scientist, and all his readings suffer from the dogmatic, condemnatory, tone of his field. I can’t bring myself to read anything more than excerpts from the book, however, I know the argument from its earliest incarnation in articles and from a lecture at a conference called “Hatred of the Other” where, after Massad finished a demagogic lecture, I raised my hand to explain “Joseph, I hated your speech, and now I’m going to tell you why… .” We ended up in a shouting match over his basic thesis that a ‘Gay International’ has emerged which projects a Western Constructed gay identity upon subjects in the Arab World, and uses the language of Human Rights interventionism as an excuse to interfere in the local politics. This interference somehow produces a native gay identity (he refers to these people with the charged Anthropological pejorative of “Native Informants”), and, it follows, a heterosexual/religious backlash in Middle Eastern countries. Obviously, this is a crock of bull. Phenomenological encounters between East and West are always more complicated than that, but not according to Edward Said’s book Orientalism, from which Massad cribs his b.s. argument. Also, if there is a backlash against homosexuality in the Islamic Nations, the role in the U.S. arms build-up in Israel can’t be ignored, given that Israel itself is largely tolerant of a kind of Euro-Trash gay identity. John Scaglioti damns Massad’s argument over in a review at The Progressive:

In other words, sex was all cool and fluid in the ancient East, and guys used to be able to “penetrate” other guys and not have to worry about being called anything. Those were the good old days, when sex didn’t have to have horrible Western identities. Everyone was straight, so life was easy and gay. Then along came the “Gay International” and ruined it all, compelling poor straight people or bisexuals in those countries who are practicing their same-sex expressions into a gay (or straight) identity, and bringing out the worst in governments that previously paid no attention but now are forced to call in the hangman for the lovers who choose the wrong side. …

Of course, Massad says this all very academically, with tons of footnotes, so you automatically think he must know what he is talking about.

It’s true. Massad misses the Boy’s Club. I know guys like this. They have to screw a woman once a year so that they can maintain their membership in the Boy’s Club, though for the rest of the year they have no problem blowing frat boys in campus bathrooms. His argument is the worst kind of literalism. Are there greater or lesser degrees of Arabness? Is someone suddenly less of an Arab if she lives in Paris? Did Marjorie Satrapi’s narrator become less of an authentic Persian during the parts of Persepolis when she lived out of country? My anthropologist friends evince the worst of this trend. The same people who just a few years ago were railing against Area Studies now go around saying that one cannot understand Globalization without knowing what is happening on some random street corner in Mumbai, or wherever. Reading about religious fundamentalism has rubbed off onto these social scientists so that now they have become Geographic Fundamentalists. Scaglioti points out people in the Middle East may or may not start watching Ellen,

But gay liberation is no more intrinsically Western than black revolution is intrinsically Haitian. People have sex and fall in love; they’re different and they don’t want to lie and hide. Some do, but many more want to come out, and if that can happen, it will happen. And if a government is going to lash or torture or kill people who come out, gay people are going to fight for gay people. Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you don’t have some yelling rights.

This is a long way off from answering a reader question, however, I wrote all this to make clear that I am not squashing a gay reading for the sake of a Massadian kill-joy agenda and to rant about Joseph just a little. Even though I actually enjoyed the fact that the Zionist group Campus Watch persecuted him, I will refrain from discussing him as insultingly here as I do in casual conversation. In fact, I wish him all the luck in the world with his current ‘belly-dancing’ project. I’m sure it will rock the world of Political Science. Maybe he’ll be able defy common sense again to prove definitively that male belly-dancers are as straight as can be.

I leave my readers with a treat! Images from Youssef Nabil’s homo-erotic, hand-painted, photography. The images are from his Sleep in My Arms exhibit. DW especially loves the fetishism of the first image.

Rashid with a shisha in his mouth, Paris 2004

and, my personal favorite is the following:

Self-portrait with a broken doll, Athens 2000

I’d like to discuss Nabil at greater length in a later post. In the meantime, enjoy the images as well as the clip from Black Candles.

Works Referenced:

Menicucci, Garay. 1998. “Unlocking the Arab Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in Egyptian Film.” Middle East Report 206: 32–36.

Scagliotti, John. “The Myth of the Gay International.” The Progressive. March, 2008.

Research Intern/Native Informant:



April 11, 2008

I. We Disagree

At this blog, we agree with luches‘ conclusion that love = stalking. In fact, we have probably stated this first and then forgotten it, but we will give her credit anyway because if we did say something to this effect we were probably distraught, drunk and high when saying it. My brother contradicts this view. He asserts that love is possible without stalking. I did not understand what he meant until I realized he was discussing ‘American Love.’ It’s sort of like ‘American Cheese’ — a, fattening, watered down oily mess that shouldn’t exist in reality, yet is on sale everywhere.

My foundational opinions on stalking, however, were recently rocked. In The Player, by Michael Tolkin, I am discovering a novel about stalking that doesn’t include the ‘love’ factor. In Tolkin’s book, Hollywood producer Griffin Mill is hunted and harassed by a writer whom he has failed to call back with a deal. Mill’s response to this is obsessive. He attempts to communicate symbolically, through the ether, with his harasser, by looking through his appointment book and seeking out writers whom he has led on during pitch meetings with the implicit understanding that when he doesn’t call them back, nothing will come of the pitch. Mill strangles another writer to death, certain that reading about a dead writer’s body in the papers will intimidate the Writer who is sending him angry post-cards. Mill’s existence focalizes entirely on the Writer to the point where large parts of the narration consists of ‘thought-projections’ to his stalker.

In discussing this book with a colleague, a disagreement has arisen. Can there be a stalking novel without love? Would that make every detective novel, for example, a novel about stalking, thereby watering down the category? Or does the non-erotic yet obsessive quality of The Player put it in a class all its own?

II. We Agree

It’s always a miscalculation when people copy Dat to an email without blind-copying everyone else. Yesterday, someone sent out the usual ‘how friendly to gays are Obama and Clinton, really?’ question that is a common filler piece in gay media. Dat replied-to-all with the following:

AND READING ABOUT “GAYS!!!!” MAKE ME WANT TO VOTE REPUBLICAN….I would happily vote for any democrat for any other reason other then GAY RIGHTS.


This blog is in complete agreement with the opinions ranted above. If you disagree, you should probably go read some other blog.

III. We Agree

Karl Lagerfeld looks disgusting, however, we agree with absolutely everything he says in these interview excerpts. In particular, we are moved by the following statement:

Diane von Furstenberg told me she thinks you may not be the best designer aesthetically, but that you’re by far the smartest.
And look at her prints, hmm? Maybe I’ve known her for too many years. Maybe she’s right, I don’t know. If she were an expert, perhaps her designs may be more impressive…I’m not a frustrated writer or architect, I’m frustrated by nothing at all, and frustration is the mother of all crimes. Ambition? I have no ambition. I just want things in a certain way… I don’t want to be a teacher. I don’t want to inform others through myself. In that way, it’s all for myself. I’m the most selfish person in the world. Being selfish, I take care of others. My mother always used to say, “Don’t sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice too much there’s nothing else you can give and nobody will care for you.”

I also agree with him that ‘people who eat’ and ‘places with other people’ are démodé. More on my soulmate can be found here, as well (if you can stand to give The New Yorker increased site traffic).

Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody?

April 6, 2008

The following short film, directed by my true love, Miguel Arteta (Star Maps, please come to dvd), and written by the surprisingly non art-damaged Miranda July, asks a good question. Mike White also appears.

I prefer the third answer. Oh, Chuy!

This Isn’t Supposed to be Therapy

April 4, 2008

‘Sure, a doctor saves lives. But is he remembered?’

— Costumed panhandler outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theater

A reliable mathematical axiom: Like an English Professor, a performer’s sense of self-importance is always in inverse proportion to his or her actual social importance. In any major city you can always find performance art mixed in with street hustlers. Solemn as it comes, the famous Viennese Actionists referred to their transgression pieces as “action art.”

On some far-flung planet, known as Los Angeles, performance art mixes alongside tourist hustling side shows in a three-way with comic book fandom, producing a unique cultural edema. The after-birth of this moist conceptual mess consists of a costumed circus outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theater (which those in the know refer to as ‘The Chinese Man’s Theater!’). We shall call this new and challenging artistic form “panhandling.” Matthew Ogens’ documentary, Confessions of a Superhero, reveals a segment of the population that takes itself supremely seriously regardless of whether they choose to go to work every day dressed as Shrek, Wonder Woman, or Batman, all of whom believing they will soon “make it” in Hollywood.

Sincerity moves some people, yet it leaves me cold. Instead, I am always a sucker for unintentional irony. This movie was my dream. But it was almost too much! I felt great shame for these professional cosplayers (does the term cosworker now apply?). Watching this film felt like the very recent incident when I was washing my hands in the men’s restroom of my office building. The person in the stall had just “finished his business,” and was standing behind me, waiting patiently for the sink. My whole being filled with a fury at this social transgression. Why couldn’t he wait in the stall for me to leave before showing his face? He was more than an untouchable for publicly crapping — he had become an unseeable. I was socially ashamed of him. Imagine experiencing that feeling for close to two hours.

On the upside, this is one of the most beautifully shot documentaries I have ever seen. Ogens’ film-work loves the lingering steady-cam. Interviews and filmed scenes were intercut with photographs originally meant for promotional material, such as a couple of parking attendants staring at Wonder Woman’s butt, or, more simply, a guy in a full-body Hulk suit wandering around in the harsh daylight. I think I took 80 screencaps, but will only inflict a few on my readers.

Ogens and crew spent two years interviewing five main characters (though Spiderman was apparently scrapped because the crew couldn’t get sufficient “access” to him). Among them is Christopher Dennis, who plays ‘Christopher Reeves Superman’ and who is “on” all the time. Love/Admire/Iconize me! As You Did Christopher Reeves! his poses demand. I’ve seen clowns with more genuine gravitas than this guy. Though he does have a passing resemblance to Reeves, to me his physiognomy closer match to Don Knotts. During a filmed autograph signing, Margot Kidder makes a passing aside that “I think sometimes, some of the guys in the outfits should go to the gym. That’s my only comment.” Dennis cum Superman acts as the Boulevard’s costumed community hall-monitor, insisting that that a certain level of professionalism be maintained at all times. Speaking to a newcomer dressed as Ghost Rider, he explains,”Superheroes don’t smoke. It’s an image.” Dennis goes onto bicker with poor Ghost Rider for a while, demanding he stub out his cigarette since, “you’ll never see Ghost Rider smoking in the pages of a comic book.” Ghost Rider’s head is on fire in the comics. How the hell would you know whether or not he’s smoking? Super-egoic Dennis draws his professionalism and authority from lineage: he insists he’s the son of actress Sandi Dennis (of Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf fame), though her authentic family is interviewed and their doubts show through. “Why wouldn’t Sandi tell us if she had a son?”

“Chris is 1 in 10 Billion.”
‘Lois Lane’ disses partner as wack job!

Christopher’s goal is to become a respected Hollywood actor, but he has so utterly laminated Christopher Reeves’ version of Superman onto himself that he can barely bring himself to be on camera out of costume. His girlfriend (later wife) is a Ph.D. Candidate in Psychology who can’t fully put into words how nuts she thinks he is.

‘He is so strange. And there are sometimes when it’s like, God, this is a train-wreck. But you can’t look away.’
Wonder Woman also talks shit about Superman

Though the documentary does not openly comment on the mental state of these people, their continual assessment of one another’s Crazy-Levels is one of the more amusing aspects of the film. For example, Jennifer Gehrt, the boulevard’s Wonder Woman, thinks that Superman is the nuttiest of them all. She rolls her eyes at his utter immersion into the role, his thousands of dollars worth of Superman collectibles, and refusal to be a person outside of the costume. (Incidentally, she has zero problem going back to his place on a hot day, and showering with her clothes on in front of him as well as the camera — to full wet T-shirt effect — while his girlfriend sleeps in the next room.) We get to know Gehrt pretty personally, visit with her small-town family, and watch as her marriage crumbles. She’s fairly good at squeezing out a small but salty tear on-screen without become unattractively blubbery. Her world-view is rocked less by the dissolution of her marriage (she actually seems pretty stoked to move out), and moreso by a conversation with her agent (another woman) who comments on Gehrt’s big bosom:

Agent – That’s because you’re voluptuous … I see you that way.
Gehrt – I guess I have some childhood issues with that.
Agent – You should let that go. This isn’t supposed be therapy.

‘Sure, it’s the boulevard of broken dreams, but it’s also the boulevard of dreams-come-true.’

Christopher Dennis may have some star-identification issues, whereas Jeniffer Gehrt has her body-image concerns, yet George Clooney look-a-like, Maxwell Allen, is the resident rage-a-holic. In an interview elsewhere, Ogens discusses Allen’s anger management issues, including his run-ins with an another costumed Batman. Allen rants incessantly throughout the film about his guilt for time spent working with the mafia. His very supportive wife claims that we should believe “50%” of what he tells us, and repeatedly emphasizes what a “good provider” Maxwell is. Allan revels in showing his humiliatingly terrible martial arts non-skills to the camera, including wonderful scenes with his female sensei scolding him in the dojo or of him flipping around in a Batman shirt at home.

Batman flips-out; practices his round-house. Wifie looks on admiringly.

Allen is a man daily climbing the mountain of his own insanity. His firing range scenes (he sneers condescendingly at the clerk renting him the gun) are nothing compared to when he reaches his peak. This culmination takes place a scene wherein he confesses his guilt for murdering enemies of the mafia during his days in the protection racket to a stunned psychiatrist, as he sits there wringing his hands in full Batman garb.

In almost all of these cases, these panhandlers seem to find the appropriate character to match their neuroses. Who better to dress as than Wonder Woman if you want to confront your own big-bosomed self-consciousness? Want to be a moral snob? – Then dress as Superman. Feel like attacking random strangers? – Batman will do nicely.

Confessions of a Superhero is about the downwardly mobile aspirations of everyday Hollywood, and by association the comic book industry. Certain comics enjoy the fantasy of the imaginary corporate perks of Superhero life, yet the low sales and diminishing returns of these story-lines point to the grittier, tip-grubbing, reality of ‘hiding in the light‘ for an income. Sweet, bucktooth, actor — Joseph McQueen/The Hulk –, however, won my affections. He stood out as the only truly admirable among them. Or, rather, the only one not smothered by his neuroses. He did, however, suffocate and blackout in his Hulk suit on a particularly hot day. Formerly homeless, McQueen wrestles with his memory of the difficulty of making it to auditions while hiding his sleeping bag and possessions. Ok, so maybe sentimentality can get to me. McQueen is the only subject of the four shown to be moving towards a viable acting career (though, admittedly, in B-movie comedies). His great anxiety is in his teeth. “My biggest obstacle … you know, trying to make out here as being an actor, you know, my teeth, you know, you know.” He consoles himself by thinking out loud of Steve Buscemi’s teeth.

‘To me it’s a different way of panhandling, … I have to say … performing for money.’
Acting, not acting-out

Local businesses consider the costumed types to be nuisances. “The characters have their place.. as long as they don’t get too aggressive,” says a policeman. Luckily the police are around to “educate them that they are ambassadors of the community.”

‘I took at least 7 pictures with these Orientals.’

I think the film-makers enjoyed catching revealing moments of casual, nonchalant, racism, such as Marilyn Monroe bitching to Superman and Ghost Rider about low-tipping Japanese tourists. There was also a great interview in Metropolis, IL, where one local resident reveals his discontent with the changing demographic of small town life.

‘It’s a dangerous little town, really is. A lot of black peoples has moved in here. Used to be none, but a lot of black peoples moved in now.’
— The Local Talent.

I highly recommend this movie, if not for the gorgeous camera work then to see Christopher Dennis propose to his fiance with a Superman engagement ring. This is the kind of thing I admire in others — consistency.