Archive for August, 2010

Flash Panic!

Posted in A Life in the Day, Cool places in New York, The EXPERIENCE! on 27/08/2010 by todcrouch

Flash in the Panic!  12 writers, one page each!

August 25th, Nowhere Bar 8 pm.

I was asked to read for Charlie Vasquez’s Panic Reading Series, which is always a fun experience.  The fun and challenging part of this particular event was using only one page and one side to tell a story.  I read from “The only life I ever intentionally ruined”, but the other pieces stood out far more.

Some of the highlights from this particular line-up gave the right amount of sizzle or hilarity.  Rachel Kramer Bussel, hostess of the In the Flesh Reading Series, read  about being inspired from a Brookyln bar called “Cokey’s” (Yes, that’s exactly what its name implies) by opening a cupcake shop that provided oral satisfaction to women, both above and below the belt.  The exceedingly handsome Tomas Rafael Montavalo curled the toes of many with his poem about taking it, twisting the plot with a strap-on.  Gabrielle Rivera blew my mind as she came late to the mike from the bathroom (her friend still waiting inside) and blasted us with a hilarious story called “Fingerbang”, recounting her first fingerfuck in a bowling alley.  Garrett Ford read a lovelorn scene from one of his previous plays and Charlie Vasquez read from his new book Contraband.  Matthew K. Johnson read a sexy little piece, with the help of some expanded margins, with his relatable brand of compelling sexual anxiety.  Newcomer to the mike was the Nowhere Bartender, Patrick Kelleher, who told of us of his first day on the job at East Village gay bar fixture Boiler Room in the 90s.  Bar Manager John Williams closed out the show by unfolding this endlessly enormous page, still sticking to the guidelines–he could have read for hours off of it, but surprised us with something short and sweet.

we ran smoothly.  Whereas Charlie usually introduces us with a brief bio, he asked us where we were from and the direction of our work.  I explained by background and how I was usually long-winded, then looked up to see Charlie completely disappear from my side.  The fast and loose outline we went in was a nice change of pace, in the building suspense of what and who we would experience next, ourselves included.  

I was under the impression that a page would last a minute, but among the writers we ran smoothly.  I know I’m leaving out some people–I have to get better at recording these events as I attend them.  At the reading,   Kierkergaard’s dog ate Shroedenger’s Cat.


Brion Gysin is Alive and Well and Living on the Bowery

Posted in A Life in the Day, Cool places in New York, Nerding Out, The EXPERIENCE! on 27/08/2010 by todcrouch

He is that he is, and is that he is he.

Brion Gysin: Dream Machine

New Museum 7/7/10–10/3/10

As one of the most intriguing contemporary artistic Shamen of the 20th century, who believes as Brian Eno does– that art serves a purpose we have not evolved into yet.  As a painter, a novelist, a magician, a subversive, inventor and a restaurateur, he never really achieved commercial success, and still chugged along as though life was just another short-term gig,  just passing through.

I was first exposed to Gysin through my love of Burroughs, where I read  Gysin’s “The Process”, which was a most uncomfortable book to read, only because it was the first novel that ever read ME.    There’s the old Nietzschen phrase of staring  into the void that stares back, but to capture this in book form is downright pornographic, or retro-voyeuristic–like watching yourself being watched like a cam2cam, but about fifty years before computers.

I wandered into the New Museum on the Bowery, nearly a contradiction of terms, to chat up the ticket taker and make my way to the second floor, where Brion’s work commands respect.  Split into several rooms on the second floor, one stands amid the encased and numerous notebooks while being assaulted by one room of his film, “Towers Open Fire!” while in another room, his public performance of his sound poetry plays to a slide show in a darkened room.  The guests seemed to have little in common, save for this obscure artist of word and image.

Gysin made a point in an interview conducted by Genesis P. Orridge-Breyer wayback when where he mentioned that his paintings were best viewed when stoned, since he was stoned himself while creating it.  Thereby the art, when viewed by the stoned, recreates the mind-senses of the artist in the viewer and acts as a clean telepathic link between time, space, and mind.  Of course it sounds like hippie talk until it happens to you.  Surrounded by the paintings and collages resemble floor plans, architectural layouts, Max Ernst-esque landscapes–mixing in with lines of Arabic, French, or English.  But I’d researched all this before and other people are better at hyping up art.  I was here for The Dream Machine.

Epileptics need not apply.

In a small black room in the middle, various throw pillows surrounded the cylindrical twirling object. An art school girl sat with headphones to my left, while an old New York hippie sat smiling opposite, also wearing headphones, as The Museum supplied music which enhanced the kaleidoscopic qualities of the vision-creating device.  Calligraphy lined the inner chamber.  I sat down before the legendary object and closed my eyes.  I was unusually self-conscious about partaking in this, the way some would submit themselves to an i-doser tune.  The flicker device allows the mind to enter a dreamlike state, giving the individual waking dreams.

Like this on an Imax in strobe effect.

It was almost a shame to end it.  For a few minutes after, I felt as though my eyes were still vibrating from the experience.  There’s a few sites online that claim to be digital Dream Machines, by turning flickering a white screen, but these often feel harsh as opposed to the smooth contours of the original.

I left, alone into the bright streets, but somehow feeling Gysin walking with me through New York, taking his favorite roads, mapped out by a painting.

Charles Ludlam Comes Out of the Closet!

Posted in Cool places in New York, Film/TV, Nerding Out, The EXPERIENCE! on 24/08/2010 by todcrouch

Charles Ludlam On Film Anthology Film Archives, August 19-22

On August 19 I went to The Anthology Film Archives (which houses such awesomeness as the original reels of Maya Deren, Harry Smith, and Stan Brakhage), where I watched two recently discovered films by Charles Ludlam.

No, they don't have Matt Damon in them.

What you should know about Charles Ludlam: He was a big deal in the New York theater scene in the 60s and 70s by founding the Theater of the Ridiculous.  His style of transcendental camp could be compared by a neophyte such as myself to Joe Orton with more cross-dressing.  He is not Robert Ludlum, author of such crap as the Bourne Identity.

Worst. Drag Queen. Ever.

Everett Quinton introduced these two rare films, who had two of Ludlam’s movies sitting in a closet for decades.  With the help of the MoMA, Filmmaker Ira Sachs and Butt Magazine’s Adam Baran,  these rare arty-facts were first shown at the ongoing IFC Queer/Art/Film Festival and this was a rare occurrence to view these reels without having to claw the eyes out out of every queen to get a ticket.

I generally hold a certain disdain for New York sentimentality which infects many old-schoolers, lamenting the days of cheap rent, brutal muggings, murderous junkies,  and war-zone street scenes (my disdain is most likely based in envy), but when Everett Quinton gave his introduction to these films, it took a different angle, as he told us the behind the scenes anecdotes of the films were were about to watch.  He explained how the eccentric woman who ran the Coney Island Wax Museum loved making a Sambuca with coffee, and when a scene called for a match being lit in the wax museum (obviously forbidden), Everett would ask the owner to fetch him a Sambuca with coffee, which she would happily leave the room for.  Roll film, strike the match, shoot the scene, extinguish.  Everett and Charles were just two gay kids with a camera, having fun and making art–the dream assholes like me come to the city for.  The halcyon glint in his eye didn’t need explaining.

Everett hesitantly explained that there were problems with the movies, as Ludlam took a Proustian route in his final days as AIDS chipped away at him; he edited himself to death.  Surely, as I watched them, my inner cinematographer came out, noting scenes lasting too long or which plot-point needed further clarification.  But shit like that didn’t ultimately matter.  A friend of mine took his mother to a gallery where she saw a Rothko and she said, “I could do that”.  My friend said to his mother, “Yeah.  But you didn’t.”  It was very much the same vibe.  The lights  dimmed and we were all in for something special, something excavated only for us.

Charles Ludlam doing his cover of the CCR song, "Lookin' out my back door".

The first of the two silent black-and-white film was Museum of Wax, starring Charles Ludlam as an ex-con who breaks out of jail to find his girl abused by a gap-toothed beast of a man.  The film was rescored by the same dude who did the original, Peter Golub, who provided a dark ambiance rather than overdoing the standard mickey-mousing of setting a note to each step, giving the movie the feeling of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari among cracked wax statues of babies and b0ld lighting with strong shadows.  Museum held true to its roots, where actors clutched chests in despair, wistfully looking into the upper left corner of the screen, hoping for mercy, wringing  worried hands, and spying menacingly through doorways at the lusty betrayals endured before meting out the harsh lighting of wrath.

The second film, The Sorrows Of Dolores, was a riff off The Perils of Pauline, but this time around Pauline was Everett Quinton in drag.  Expressive and versatile, Everett donned a curly, platinum blond wig and inhabits the role of damsel-in-distress.  Based off the serial format rather than any of that Syd Field crap, every five minutes Dolores encounters some new harrowing ordeal (which is about as New York as it gets), whether it be a Cinderella-esque upbringing, sold into the white slave trade, being pimped out by a matronly queen bee, hilariously courted by a giant gorilla, or the triumphant Christmas prodigal ‘son’ happy ending, The Sorrows of Dolores rings true to its predecessors, leaving us all fully aware of the resilience that can only be expressed with a man in a wig.

As I left, I scoped the crowd.  The men were all survivors of this bygone era.  A man sitting next to me could have been twice my age, and I thought, “Back in the old days, you’d have to watch porn in a Times Square theater with a lot of other guys, and these cats remember those days before VHS or the internet.  How sad men my ‘youngish’ age must look, so removed from such experiences.  If these men were in a theater together 30 years ago, there wouldn’t be a dry pair of denim shorts in the house.”  Moments such as this proves AIDS can’t kill history if, as victors, we  write the history of our victorious battles, just like Charles Ludlam.

Meet the Lady: A Tribute to Pearl Bailey

Posted in Nerding Out, The EXPERIENCE! on 21/08/2010 by todcrouch

On August 18th, I had the chance to understand what Meet The Lady was about.  I previously visited the website created by Tom Blunt to find a most curious mixture of women–fierce or fail be damned.  These women are not your typical collection of pin ups, but odd dreamers of their own innocent world.  So when I had the chance to clarify this obtuse feminine mystique, I couldn’t resist. The central lady of celebration was Pearl Bailey (and not Minnie Pearl, as I thought), a black performer who started in vaudeville and made her way as a solid supporting actress in such films as Carmen Jones, Porgy and Bess, St. Louis Blues (which also showcases the talents of Mahalia Jackson, Nat King Cole, and a very young Eartha Kitt) as well as the lead in the all-black performance of Hello Dolly.    Between clips, Mr. Blunt played the “straight” man to the boisterous comedienne Roslyn Hart, who plays in The Shells Show at Joe’s Pub as a stock analyst who decides to become a cabaret singer.

But why, of all people, celebrate Pearl Bailey?  A marginal actress with a long list of albums didn’t seem to justify a full evening honoring her until you scratch the surface of whatever you could glean from a wikipedia page.

She never played the Grand Ol' Opry.

Actress Cassandra Freeman read two excerpts from Bailey’s autobiography, “The Raw Pearl”, which provided memorable insights to Bailey’s daring character.  Colin Shepard also read a hilarious short piece about how Pearl Bailey smuggled Truman Capote out of LAX among her entourage.

What set this night apart from a sentimental “Remembering Pearl Bailey” showcase at the 92Y Tribeca Cultural Center was everything included in the $12 ticket:  Not only were there free cookies made from the Pearl Bailey Cookbook (which also served as a prize for guessing how many theater references were in her finale on The Muppet Show), but the hosts called their mothers on stage (which should be done more often) to ask if they remembered Pearl Bailey.  They even played a small humorous game show, showing various photos from the Meet The Lady website, where two contestants had to guess the back story for the women shown.

Edna St. Vincent Millay's not-as successful younger sister. She had some light verse published, but that's about it.

After cookies, clips, calls to moms, captioning, rewards, and readings, as my first Meet The Lady event, I have to say I left feeling full of experience.  It had an anything-can-happen vibe that one would expect from an Andy Kaufman set.  As the unscripted phone call to Ms. Hart’s mother carried the warning, “She’s had a stroke.  And she’s Southern.”  I silently cringed that this would be one of those disasters only live theater provides–but Mama Hart sang us a little song and we all gave her rousing applause.  You always feel good when someone puts poor old mom on speakerphone so she can hear a room full of people clapping for her.  It turns out Meeting the Lady is not as mysterious as originally believed.

Check out Meet the Lady at:

The Only Life I Ever Intentionally Ruined

Posted in Flash, shorts on 21/08/2010 by todcrouch

I grew up in a hard-hitting white-knuckle town, where the boy scouts burned crosses in people’s yards for impure blood and got badges for it.  My principle was the head of the KKK and they expelled the local faggot because when they’s throwin’ pennies at him, he was the reason for all that unruly behavior.  And we were some hard-hitting faggots who didn’t take no guff from nobody, penny-welts and all.  Nobody gives a shit out there, and can’t reach out far enough for a hand to tell us it’s all… going to be…okay…and that’s the daily American life for most of us, alone and on the defensive.  And then I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Some faggot-hating freshman leaned over on the school bus home on the wrong day at the wrong time, when I told him the truth.  Quarterback Jim was boning my good gay friend on the sidelines.  Gay Jason called Quarterback Jim from my house, and I listened in.  Wildfire took notes on how to spread more quickly from a maelstrom of teenage gossip.  By five o’clock, a posse arrived at my mother’s house, though I no longer lived there.  I very nearly skipped school the next day, but decided to get at it with all the chagrin of the doomed.

Thrown into High School Politics, I denied outing myself—for it would merely discredit me in the eyes of thine enemy. Teachers could barely maintain control during my classes as I fielded the PR catastrophe of outing Gay Jason, which was no secret to anyone—for he boned  every dude at that school, except for me of course.  As my credibility was attacked, my first failed love turned turned against me, telling everyone I wanted him to pee in my butt.  Since Internet porn had yet to prove this impossible, I sprung this physical impossibility on my health teacher.  “Coach, is it possible to pee in someone’s butt?”  Flustered, and knowing every detail about the current scandal said simply, “No.  That’s impossible.”  I thanked him in front of my detractors, proving my lover-turned-hater a complete idiot.

We ate silently while flecks of cooked carrots came our way until Quarterback Jim came at us in a fury of curses as his close friend, camping neighbor, and wrestling partner, Wrestler Armando pulled Quarterback Jim suspiciously away from us.  Wrestler Armando told the fallen star it just wasn’t worth it.  Wrestler Armando now fell into question aswell, sending everyone into a Lavender scare: suddenly everyone was gay. But yeah, Armando was totally tappin’ that, too.  We left the outed football player in tears and walked through the gymnasium and into the loudest hate rally ever: pennies chimed off the basketball court and deafened louder than any pep rally or homecoming game win.  At the other end of the hall, our stout Principal waited, arms crossed and scowling because of the mess we made, and forbade us from ever coming into the gymnasium again.

We had to run home that day, chased by a pitchfork-wielding mob.  Everyone has pitchforks in the Midwest.

Coach pulled the football team aside at practice and said, “Not anymore.  Kids die from stuff like this and what you are doing is very illegal.  If I hear so much of a word to those kids from you, you’re not only off the football team, but you’re expelled for the rest of the year.”  Looks like Coach wasn’t all bad.  He didn’t even bust us for having such a good time playing baseball after smoking weed in the parking lot.  We were enjoying sports, finally.

Well, Gay Jason ended up on the Ricki Lake Show.  Wrestler Armando got married, had two kids, works at a fitness center and goes camping with his buddies.  A lot.  Quarterback Jim was the most scorned man in high school, unable to get laid his senior year and throughout most of his college—too gay for the girls and too much of a hypocrite for the boys, what there were of us.  I sometimes feel bad about ruining his life, but it just goes to show Quentin Crisp was right:  Some roughs are really queer, and some queers are really rough.

Squeezing Bread From The Air

Posted in Uncategorized on 21/08/2010 by todcrouch

Can’t stand eating ramen Noodles anymore?  Here’s a few things to consider when downsizing the cupboards.

There are five factors to think about when buying food when you are poor

1) shelf life/expiration dates.

2) Price.

3) Economy (number of meals you can get out of it).

4) Nutrition.

5) Tolerance for eating the same thing day in and out.

First off, you are only going to drink water.  Consider milk or orange juice a luxury item.  Since you don’t know when the next time you’re going to get paid, you’re going to need to eat things without expiration dates, which usually involves massive amounts of sodium.  However, you can usually bypass the health concerns about heavily salted food by drinking gallons of water.  Since every meal and dollar counts, you have to abandon the philosophy of deserving to splurge.  It’s good to adopt a staple you can spice up and eat morning noon and night—something you can make a lot of once and microwave as needed. Pasta is a good idea, but find an alternative to pasta sauces, as they tend to run expensive and not last very long, as well as having a limited shelf life.  It’s also not a good time to start experimenting.  It’s also important to cover your nutritional bases: You don’t want scurvy.  Canned soups at first seem to be an easy solution, but alas, they are rather expensive and don’t have a high calorie count.  No milk, no eggs, and no fresh meat.  Canned tuna can come in handy, but most other canned fish is disgusting.  An old urban legend is to eat dog food, but these days it is actually more expensive than people food, and the salt content is not fit for human consumption.

Spices are essential to creating a decent understanding of how taste works.  Oregano, Basil, Garlic, Black Pepper, onion powder, and Sugar are always in my cupboard.  Hot-palette spices like red pepper or black pepper can give you the sensation of being full on very little, but might not be for everyone.  If you are only slightly hungry, down a shot of apple vinegar to curb hunger.  It’s surprisingly filling.

The right combination of spices can substitute for more expensive versions of your staple-of-choice.  Rather than get the rice in a box, you can create your own blend at half the price.  I knew a friend who lived off Old Bay seasoning and ramen for months and ditched the sodium bomb spice packet.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid spending more than $3 on any given item.  A well rounded pasta salad (cold or hot) can last for days and provide decent nutrition.  Deli sliced Ham sandwiches with sliced cheese on whole wheat bread will not last as long as you think, as eating a single sandwich three times a day will not sufficiently stave off hunger—easing you up to potentially more sandwiches per day.

Fat content is another angle.  If you have absolutely no fat in your diet for several days and your body begins to cannibalize your reserves.  You might think that’s great for bikini season—but when you have the heat turned off, you will get cold very quickly…and your body will send you signals that you are still starving which can lead to some very uncomfortable mental states.  Furthermore, your brain requires fat to think, which you will need to sufficiently find a clever way out of your destitution.

Fruits tend not to fill you up, go bad, run on the pricey side, and consumed quickly which makes them a poor choice for your current situation.  Vegetables, however, are usually cooked and diluted you’re your starch staple, making them last longer.  Edible density is another factor to consider:  a green pepper is mostly air and corn on the cob is mostly cob, whereas an onion or a potato is all vegetable (or legume for you assholes out there).  Lettuce has very little nutritional value, tends to spoil quickly, and go fast.

However, don’t force yourself to eat something you detest only because it’s cheap;  It will only make you lose your appetite and still be hungry, and when you are already in a state of anxiety, it will only make you more depressed.  Find a favorite starch and stick to it.  Rather than search the sauce isle, go to salad dressings.  They are significantly cheaper, more flexible, and have a decent shelf life.

The mental state required to squeeze bread from the air is one of self-control.  Only eat enough to not be hungry and distance yourself from ever feeling “full”.  There will be days when even walking through the frozen foods section will seem like the devil himself is tempting you, but those foods are for people who can pay their bills.

Eating out is a possibility if approached in similar fashions.  If you are on the move and your grumbling stomach is limiting your concentration, it might be wise to shave a buck out of the wallet.  In New York, there are many places where you can buy a slice of cheese pizza for a dollar, but don’t get the can of soda that’s a $1.25.  A plain hamburger from McDonalds is not filling, healthy, or even really edible, but it can be the difference between a nagging hunger and a clear head.

Chances are, when you actually get out of your slump, you’ll discover that your ability to scrape together a decent meal with real ingredients, you’ll seem like a master chef.  Bon Appétit!

Five 80s Film/TV Characters with Emotionally Scarring Nicknames: Sources and Outcomes.

Posted in Film/TV, Nerding Out on 21/08/2010 by todcrouch

The only traumatic nickname I recall is when my dad scared my aunt as a child and she ran off, smack dab into a clothesline pole and knocked her front tooth out.  To this day, as they are both retired, he still calls her “Boo”.  But growing up in front of the Television, there were very few reasons for the nicknames that people seemed to acquire in the TV and Movies, that left a permanent mark on the psyche of these people, as well as the people sitting at home watching the torture parade of their lives.

5)Boner (Family Ties)

It's sad to see a man go from boner to pussy.

Whatever happened to Mr. Stabone?  Did he have to leave town?  Was he the neighborhood charity case?  Whatever the situation, even as an eight year old, I knew that Boner had earned that name from something horrific, something never mentioned on the show about the REAL reason he received the nickname “Boner.”  Sure, it’s a nickname that you could easily work at a frathouse.  But I always had the idea from the Seavers that by calling him “Boner”,  they were reminding him of some that terrible night when his dad went crazy and stabbed his mom, and the Young Stabone called his priest to get help, but after the priest shot Daddy Stabone, the child was brutally molested in the garage—but the housekeeper opened the door and the whole neighborhood witnessed it and got quite a chuckle out of it.  Society has named him Boner, and Boner  accepted his pitiable destiny in some dystopian suburb out of a Shirley Jackson story.

It's a hard on life.

4) Duckie (Pretty in Pink)

just wait until you start dying on the INSIDE.

Duckie, life is going to be very hard for you.  Women like Molly Ringwald will keep you on a leash and your wacky free spirit and your wild attire and unusual ways will create many adversaries in the real world.  And though “Duckie” may infer that you are capable of dodging many things—pennies, slushies, rocks– being nimble and light on your light and puckish feet (as we can tell from your glaring attire) will get you through until you start packing on the depression pounds.  I’ve seen it ruin many a folk.   Sure, you got Christie Swanson, but shut down by Molly Ringwald, and that’s the worst thing that can happen to a guy for many, many reasons.  And for what?  Bein’ a nice guy.  Sorry Duckie, You’ll never get over her in your cubicle.  I’d suggest going gay, but in the 80s, you would probably die of AIDS.  You won’t be happy, but stick with Kristy Swanson.  If you can’t be gay, be a nerd, and what better way than to tap Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

I'll kill BOTH of our careers!

3) Lisa “Boof” Marconi (Teen Wolf)

At least they don't pick on you as much as that freakish girl with the religious mother.

The theory is that at some point, she had a bouffant and caught mad hell for it, much like I did with my he man Underoos in kindergarten, which in hindsight was probably sheer jealously.  But oh, if only every house had a girl next door, you would be surrounded by pussy, and the girl next door would no longer exist and penthouse forum would lose half it’s plots (or what there is of it).  How ever she got her name, seems to have a positive connotation to it.  Shunned as she may be at school and invisible to even the were-losers, she seems generally left alone in comparison to the social tortures of …

2) Booger (Revenge of the Nerds)

Can't you just wait to roll over every morning and see this?

In that strange genre of “attempt to get laid” movies, there is always a dude who embodies the juvenile humor of their target audience.  What simple elegance to be named after what he is apparently good at.  He practically renounces society in a mad genius kind of way and expects adversity at every step—and it’s turned him into a hard-hitting, high rolling mother fucker.  With such a moniker, his emotional scarring ends up manifesting by buying a few paltry stocks in this little company called International Business Machines.  After buying the Alpha Beta’s frat house and turn it into a highly lucrative sewage treatment center (which by a legal loophole, the Alpha Betas are still required to live in aforementioned sewage treatment center),  Booger gives some start up money to his friend Bill and becomes a primary stockholder.  Now he puts cigars on five digit courtesans and says, “Say my name, bitch!  Say my name!”  The cigars has given his weaselly voice a raspy, Jabba the Hutt baritone as he darts off for a weekend of making a new snuff film because it’s the only way he can get an erection.

Panty Raid!

1)Lawrence “Chunk” Cohen (the Goonies)

The truffle shuffle is now what they call getting defibrillated at age 12.  Knowing how cruel kids can be, he was not named because he battled with childhood obesity–it’s because he lost half a finger to diabetes, which to their young eyes looked like someone had taken a “chunk” out of his finger.  Of course he’s a little needy, even if his closest allies are torturing him with his quickly arriving death.  Unfortunately, Data’s attempts at making a dialysis machine failed miserably.