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No axe-wielding serial killers having

No axe-wielding serial killers having yet dropped in to our cabin in the woods, we are still alive. We eat, we sleep, we read, we watch television. Yesterday was game day: Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, and Celebrity. Natural good manners and humility prevent me from mentioning who won two of the three. (In Trivial Pursuit, we were all so confounded by the “Sports” category that we eventually banished it.)

Last night, Faustus had the idea for us to sneak off and brave the snow and icy roads on a mad dash to the twenty-four hour grocery store for pancake mix. Would it not be lovely, he proposed, for us to cook breakfast for Rob and Rindy, who had done all of the cooking to date. No, I said, but it would be nice to fetch a nice pie, as we had run out the day before, and I was climbing the walls with craving. Honestly, there are things to risk one’s life for, but most of them are not breakfast foods. Cherry pie, on the other hand . . .

It is beautiful here, and the pace of life is more relaxing than New York. Sometimes it seems a shame to leave; I could live like a maharaja here on the same funds that keep me in my minuscule Manhattan walk-up. But there is something to be said for liveliness, creativity, fashion, and IQs over 50, none of which abound here in the Middle of Nowhere. Really, “Queer Eye” ought to make over the entire county. And until that far-off day, New York City is the place to be.

We leave tomorrow.

Oh, here’s the axe-wielding serial killer now. Hours behind schedule. Ta.

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On a clear night, one

On a clear night, one can see a surprising number of stars from Central Park, but that is nothing compared to the amount of the universe visible from the Middle of Nowhere. Since I was last here, my father bought a rather nice telescope, which I thought to put to good use last night. Unfortunately, although I eventually figured out what end to look in and what end to point at the sky, visibility eluded me. I phoned my father and asked him if he could tell me what I was doing wrong, but he could not.

Yes, this not particularly exciting, but I am surrounded this week by a distinct lack of exciting things about which to write. While everyone here is crazy, they have gone mad with rural predictability: there are no wandering lunatics doing fun things, like in New York. There are no squirrels for Goblin to chase, no nighttime squirrels to invite to tea, and no strange dogs at whom to lunge and bark.

The Internet is glacially slow.

I spend an inordinate amount of time sleeping.

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Well, we’re here. It was

Well, we’re here. It was a treacherous drive to Maryland on a dark and stormy night; following the Internet driving directions left us wondering for a while if MapQuest was secretly run by demons whose job was to lure unsuspecting travelers to their doom in a desolate and windy forest.

Some thoughts:

Western Maryland is an odd and occasionally uncomfortable locale for three wandering gay New Yorkers and their little dogs, too. There are no traffic lights and no traffic, either . . . more people live on my block in Manhattan than in all of Garrett County. And yet, there is a church every hundred feet, and not something relatively normal like Catholic or Episcopalian, but scary snake-handlers like Southern Baptist and Assembly of God. Roadside shops bear signs reading “Welcome Hunters,” and just about every male one encounters is wearing camouflage. (If people wore camouflage in New York, they would stick out like a sore thumb, largely because there is nothing green with which to blend in. To be remotely effective, it would have to be the color of soot-covered cement.) The only movie theater in town is playing only crappy films, but that’s actually fine, as they cost only $4.50 for the matinee. The real excitement is over at the Wal-Mart anyway. I understand that this is a new addition; before it was built, people around here didn’t know what to do with themselves. Hence, one supposes, the churches and the hunting, two of the most violent institutions going. Put a boxing ring over by the Women’s Underthings section and the snakes would get lonely and the deer would run wild in the streets.

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Today, Sunday, I hung out

Today, Sunday, I hung out with Crash and bought a new hat. He helped me pick it out. I would now feel very glamorous, except I’m going for that East-Village-hipster look.

Tomorrow, Monday, I am driving down to Western Maryland with Rob and Faustus. I do intend to keep up the web logging from there, so stay tuned!

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Ah, November. Could it have

Ah, November. Could it have been a lovelier day today? I spent it interviewing more candidates for the position of my assistant. I’d almost rather shoot myself in the head a la Bob Newhart in his very special “ER” “role of a lifetime” than choose between a few of these people, but I suppose that the tough decisions are why I get to be the boss.

Also, I am not going blind, as was Bob Newhart in his very special “ER” “role of a lifetime.”

Perhaps I should modify the beginning of this entry to read: “Ah, November sweeps.”

Last night, I took Rob to see Taboo on Broadway. This is a musical about the rise to fame of Boy George and the death from AIDS of his friend, fashion designer Leigh Bowery. As multiple critics have pointed out, the production is flawed (almost exclusively, in my opinion, because of its book, written by Charles Busch), but it is still the most fabulous thing ever. Of course, I am biased because I am a long-time fan of Boy George, who provided much comfort and inspiration to me during my awkward and sexually ambiguous teenaged years. He is an amazing performer, and this was the third time I was lucky enough to see him live (the first two being on the concert tour of his last solo album and with all of Culture Club on the Big Rewind Tour . . . funny that Culture Club was not mentioned by name at all in Taboo, and his romance with drummer Jon Moss was assigned to a composite character, who appropriately, though he sang well, was the most lifeless character in the show).

Another bit of excitement was that Rosie O’Donnell, who produced the play, was actually in the audience. Rob pointed her out before the show started, and after the intermission, the audience gave her a round of applause as she walked back to her seat. She took the opportunity to issue a challenge to any critics in the audience to meet her outside after the show and announced that every performance of Taboo had received a standing ovation. (To be impartial, this is not as telling as it might be. Farah Fawcett pointed out, after the implosion of the disastrous Bobbi Boland, that the audience on one of its last performances-the one I actually attended-had given her a standing ovation. But in the case of Taboo, I was happy to stand up and cheer my heart out for this amazing cast, as opposed to my mute and puzzled reaction to Bobbi B.)

Anyway, as you know, I normally do not gush about things, but I think anyone who has a chance should definitely see Taboo.

And speaking of gender-confused 1980s performers . . . not to be unkind, but my old friend Townes sent me an email last night with the subject line of “A fright.” He writes: “For whatever reason, I just looked at the Michael Jackson mugshoton The Smoking Gun and realized that the look he’s going for is Mommie Dearest, in the wire hanger scene. Seriously, it should be captioned, ‘When I told you to call me that, I wanted you to mean it.’”

As ever, Townes’s eye for Joan Crawford look-alike look-alikes is spot on. Check it out.

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So I started interviewing people

So I started interviewing people today. Three wonderful candidates so far, out of the eight that I culled the extraordinarily long list down to. I don’t know why I started this process, as it will probably be a greater torture to choose between them than it will be to actually get through the next couple of hectic months on my own (not to mention I have five other promising interviews tomorrow).

I just posted a quick entry on Faustus’s blog about what happened today, and if you read it, you will understand why I posted it there instead of here.

Suffice it to say that any enterprising applicants who have discovered that I keep a web log would do well to also figure out that this is it located here. My entries on The Search for Love in Manhattan were guest posts only. I was not the one who attended the orgies and starred in porno movies. Not that I mind discussing these things with my prospective employees, just that it would be a good idea for everyone to keep in mind that these would be hypothetical discussions only, as I have no direct experience in these areas.

Just saying.

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There’s something happening here. What

There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.

Okay, it’s clear enough: people are refusing to tell me what the upcoming topics in their web logs are. It seems that they have somehow gotten the idea that someone will scoop them. It is all very insulting. My phone calls and emails to fellow bloggers have gone unanswered, Instant Message windows hang empty and alone, and Goblin’s foray into Faustus’s wastebaskets has turned up several items best left unmentioned in civilized conversation but few clues as to writing intent. What’s an intrepid boy reporter to do?

I suppose I will have to resort to discussing my own life again. Luckily, something has actually happened, and it is marginally more exciting than the dead squirrel I saw in the park yesterday, which is what I was going to write about.

Yesterday evening, I placed an ad on Craig’s List for a professional and personal assistant. By the time I yanked it off at one-thirty this afternoon, two hundred desperate jobseekers had responded.

Really, the whole thing is quite depressing. The respondents have fallen into these categories:

1) People who appear to have more experience in my field than I do myself, who were most likely laid off from lucrative jobs thanks to the evil economic and corporate policies championed by the sanctimonious chimpanzee we call “President”;

2) People who are hideously overqualified in such ways as having advanced degrees from Harvard and Yale, or who already work in full-time jobs as architects or firemen;

3) People who are hideously underqualified, such as unemployed supermarket cashiers trying desperately to gain other sorts of experience (this seems to be the largest group);

4) People who live in other parts of the country trying desperately to land any sort of job so they can move to New York;

5) Actors, artists, musicians, and photographers who are trying desperately to supplement their meager incomes;

6) Desperate college students.

The unifying factors of ninety percent of these candidates are their inability to spell the simplest words and the bizarre and ingratiating tone of their cover letters. They give entirely too many details about the “colege” they attended and extol their boundless ambition and leadership skills as applied to such tasks as dropping off my laundry at the cleaners. (As for the latter, my friend Bryan suggested that perhaps they are anticipating the cleaners losing the laundry, in which case they would be ready to lead an ambitious investigative mission to find it again.)

Though I specified that the job was temporary only, for the months of December and January, a shocking number of applicants tried to redefine the terms to suit themselves better, citing weeks-long travel plans around the holidays. These were invariably the same people who tried to explain why the job was perfect for them, rather than why they were perfect for the job; a large number of these referred to attached resumes, which they were certain would sweep me off my feet . . . a distinct impossibility, as they had forgotten to attach them.

I suppose that at some point today, I will have to slog through this nonsense and sift out four or five candidates to interview in the next couple of days, but the whole prospect is so dreary that I just want to go back to bed.

I clearly need an assistant to help me find an assistant.

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This just in. Crash is

This just in.

Crash is concerned about people stealing pens from his desk at work and intends to report on this dastardly situation today in his blog. “They’re pens I $*#%@ paid for, not the cheap ass pens that they give out here in the office,” he complains.

He has also hinted that he might discuss why he has been feeling blue lately.

Remember, you read it here first.

More news as it happens.

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Editorial: Stealing is wrong, unless the goods are ideas for web log entries.

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I was having trouble deciding

I was having trouble deciding what to write about today until I got into an Instant Message conversation with MAK. When I asked him what he was going to write about, he said he would be discussing what he ate for dinner last night, as well as some television shows he was looking forward to seeing.

I thought that sounded like a pretty good idea, so I have wickedly stolen it. MAK had filet mignon with sautéed strawberries for dinner last night. In his own words, it “sounded odd at first, but it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever had.”

He was cagier about the anticipated television programming. Claiming “it’s not that exciting,” he eventually admitted that he was thinking of the forthcoming “Angels in America” and a Frank Rich article from yesterday’s New York Times.

Remember, you read it here first.

More news as it happens.

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I know some people do

I know some people do drugs to escape some of the harsher realities of life, but I never got into them beyond the occasional glass of red wine, which is really quite good for you. I manage the escape anyway, only tuning back in occasionally to see if a sanctimonious chimpanzee still has our nuclear launch codes.

He does? Oh dear.

I suppose the secret is that I get distracted easily. I probably watched too much television as a child, or did anyone see the “Judge Judy” this week where the musician guy was suing the student journalist for libel for writing that he used marijuana? Judge Judy sent him out to get a hair follicle test, and it was supposed to be continued the next day, but TiVo was too busy taping “Sex and the City” or something, so I totally missed the results.

Sanctimonious chimpanzee? Yes? Drat.

Anyway, the problem is that I sometimes tune out during the good stuff, too. Take Thursday night, for example. Please. Ha ha. No, seriously, Thursday night was lovely, my anniversary. Our anniversary, I should say. It takes two to make an anniversary. Except in that fabulous movie starring Bette Davis called “The Anniversary,” which is about the funniest thing going. I have a framed poster for that film on my living room wall, which my friend James gave me last year. I mean, he gave me the poster, not the living room wall. I already had a living room wall.

The chimp? Aw hell.

Okay, I think we were on Thursday. We went to see “Little Shop of Horrors” on Broadway again because our friend Jonathan, who is the understudy for the main character, Seymour, went on for the first time. He was really quite brilliant in the role, and we agreed that he was more enjoyable than Thurgood Marshall, or whatever his name is, the guy who plays it most of the time. The funny part was—and I think this may be my point, although I’m not entirely sure—I kept forgetting that was Jonathan up there, the star of the show. Every few minutes, it would occur to me, and I’d get a little shiver of pride. During the curtain call, he got a special standing ovation, and I started crying because I knew that, right at that moment, I was seeing a person’s dream come true, and that person is my friend.

Lovely.

After the show, Rob and I had a late anniversary dinner in the theater district. Before the meal came, Rob, who was facing out into the dining room, said something like, “Ann Coulter just came in.”

“She did not,” I said.

“It looks just like her,” he said.

“Does she have an Adam’s apple?” I said.

“I think so,” he said.

A-ha! Immediately, I started looking for something I could throw at her. Bread? Wine? Silverware? My shoe? Should I throw it from across the room, or should I approach her and pretend to be a fan until I could sock it to her?

Then I discovered it wasn’t Ann Coulter after all, but she did resemble her, that poor woman. I once worked with a woman who was the spitting image of Minnie Driver, who I think is lovely, but she hated the comparison. My coworker, that is, not Minnie Driver, who as far as I know was not consulted. She, my coworker, said, “My husband thinks Minnie Driver is ugly.” I, on the other hand, think Ann Coulter is ugly. Or, at least, her hateful soul would be. If she had one.

Chimpy? Oh for chrissakes, something really has to be done.

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Today is Rob’s and my

Today is Rob’s and my second anniversary. To be more specific, it is has been two years since we met for the first time. With gay couples, it is always difficult to pinpoint the specific occasion. Do they measure from the day they met? The day they slept together first? The day they decided that they were “dating”? For some of us, these are one in the same, but Rob and I took it slower, and the only day we can remember for sure is the day we met. (Even that is questionable . . . I used to think it was 14 November instead of the 13th, but I was overruled.)

So Happy Anniversary to us!

I checked the mailbox this morning, certain I would find a deluge of warm wishes but coming up instead with a lone envelope addressed to David and Goblin, a naked plea for help. Tireless saint that I am, I shall comply, especially as we seem to be on a relationship theme today, but really, next time, I am going to require that naked pleas for help be accompanied by naked photographs of the petitioner. Fair is fair.

David and Goblin:
I could think of no one more qualified to answer this question than you. So here goes…

I recently started hanging out with someone I graduated High School with. I never talked to this woman before a couple of months ago (nothing beyond salutations anyhow) and now I have fallen for her.

Now my question is this:

Should I ask her out (and if so how?) or should I just continue to be friends and not risk losing our friendship?

I really want to ask her out, but I don’t want to lose her friendship (which I fear I will if she says no).
What do I do David (and Goblin)? What do I do?

David responds:
I am not sure what qualifies me to answer a question of this sort, other than that I did indeed graduate from high school. That I have not seen anyone in my graduating class for fifteen years puts me one step ahead of you, I think, but is hardly equivalent to a Ph.D. in Matters of the Heart. But as I am nothing if not a cheerleader for young love, I shall plod on. Rah, rah.

The fact is, I do not know what you should do, but I do know why you should (or should not) do it. Pull up a chair, my little chickadee, and I will tell you the ways of the world.

I once read that human beings have only two main motivations for doing the things they do: love or fear. These are perhaps not literal descriptions of emotions but a way of characterizing the forces of “moving toward” something or “moving away from” something. Thus, all of the motivations in the “moving toward” category boil down to the “universal force” of love; all of the motivations in the “moving away from” category boil down to the “universal force” of fear. It is sort of a yin-and-yang situation, if you take my meaning.

The idea one should take from this is that as many of one’s motives as is possible should come from love rather than from fear. Again, this is not to say that “love” means actual love, so that you should always choose to fall in love (or stay in love) with someone . . . just that, when you make a decision to do something, for example, it should be because you want to do that thing rather than because you do not want to do the thing you perceive as its opposite.

I realize that this is as clear as mud, especially when the same decision may find its roots in two different motivations, but let us attempt to apply this philosophy to your situation.

Your primary desire is to date this woman. Your secondary desire, if for whatever reason the primary desire cannot be met, is to maintain the status quo of your current friendship. You are reluctant to move toward the first because you are afraid to lose the second. That is very clearly the force of fear at work.
You may argue that the fear is valid, that if you were to act from “love” and move toward your primary desire, you could well lose your chances at both primary and secondary happiness. But so what? Love is risk, and fear is, by definition, not risking. It is only by risking what we have that we can get what we desire. Love requires courage.

So my answer to your question is, whatever you decide, make sure it is because you are moving toward something (either a friendship or a deeper relationship, both of which are lovely), rather than moving away from something (rejection, being alone).

I would also like to reinforce, as a postscript, that choosing “love” does not always mean choosing the action that most looks like the emotion we label love. For instance, dropping everything and moving across the country to get into a relationship with someone you have just met may resemble love, and I am all for taking chances on love, believe me! (Rah, rah, sis boom bah!) But if the situation into which you are plunging headlong does not suit you at all, and you are making the choice largely because you feel your current situation is a disaster and you are tired of being alone, that smacks more of fear, and very little good ever came of that. Of course, hope could be restored if you were both true to yourselves and moved to Seattle like the gods intended.

Just saying.

Goblin responds:
Hello hello hello! Just ask her out already!

*snort*

I don’t know about all of that Seattle stuff but it’s probably not important. Happy Anniversary Daddy and Uncle Bobby!

*lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick*

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Today in Faustus’s web log,

Today in Faustus’s web log, he discusses a childhood birthday party he threw, at which only three people showed up.

This got me reminiscing.

My birthday is right before Christmas, so party attendance has always been catch as catch can anyway, but I remember one year when I was in elementary school that I decided to throw a surprise party for myself.

By this, I mean that I came up with the idea that I would invite some friends over but not tell anyone else they were coming. I know this is bizarre, but I had a fantasy that I can vividly remember to this day: my mother would be at the stove cooking and look up in shock when all of these kids started showing up with presents. My mother had a different hairstyle back then, and her stove was the color of avocados.

So I found some party invitations in a drawer and filled them out with details I invented on the spot. These details did not include the fact that there would not be a cake, or activities, or little goodie bags at the end because I didn’t think that far ahead. I think my plan began and ended with the number of presents I would receive and the idea that, after my friends dropped them off, I could send them home early.

Anyway, I was saved from utter humiliation and an even bigger psychotherapist bill than I already have when my mother found the stack of envelopes in my school bag and demanded to know what was going on. The gods only know what she thought when she found out, but she was cool about it. She modified the information somewhat, added an RSVP number, and marked the day on the calendar, and it turned into a regular birthday party after all.

Surprise!

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I have decided that I

I have decided that I need to add a position to the panel of experts I have working on improving my life. In addition to the doctor, acupuncturist, psychotherapist, sometime personal trainer, chiropractor, energy masseuse, kundalini yoga gurus, and little black-and-white dog, I need a personal assistant.

The personal assistant can help me with my work, run errands, and substitute for me at appointments with any other member of the Panel. “Go and tell Psychotherapist about the time I screamed at someone on the street,” I will command, and the personal assistant will do so. (He or she will then return and give me Psychotherapist’s verdict, usually “Yup, he’s crazy all right.”) Or I could say, “Go to the gym and do my routine with Personal Trainer,” and the personal assistant would have to do it.

You can see how the personal assistant would be the low man (or woman) on the totem pole. Every other Panelist exists to order me around, but the personal assistant would exist solely to be ordered by me.
I have a hard time delegating, so the personal assistant may actually have to be some sort of clone of myself. This would make it easier for me to get away with some shenanigans but things could get out of control rather quickly. I don’t suspect my cloned personal assistant would try to take over my life; just the opposite, I suspect that there would then be two lazy so-and-sos sitting around the apartment instead of one.

At least I now have enough furniture to accommodate this.

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My acupuncturist’s offices are in

My acupuncturist’s offices are in the Fashion District, so I’ve passed through that area a number of times, but my only experience with the actual fashions has been glancing in the ground-floor wholesalers’ windows at dresses that look like something Imelda Marcos would wear to the wedding of someone she doesn’t like.

Today, I joined my sister-in-law Lindsay at two higher-end fashion showrooms as she continued her buying trip to stock her new boutique, and the name on everyone’s lips was not Imelda but Sarah, as in Sarah Jessica Parker. Just the hint that SJP had worn something recently got Lindsay scrambling for the order forms, and I can’t say I blame her. Though she may look like a man in drag, Ms. Parker certainly can choose her drag well.

Apparently, the secret to fashion buying is to keep track of the “story.” I have been a professional writer for ten years, but I must admit that I have never heard such an enchanting use of the word. A story is a group of similarly themed outfits from the same designer, and I got the idea that the components of these may be interchangeable. Perhaps these clothes may go so far as to tell a story about the person wearing them. If that is true, the story many “fashion-forward” women will be telling this spring is: “I would look like a call girl were it not for the sea-foam green.”

In case anyone is wondering, the fashion story I told today was: “I look like I just rolled out of bed not because it is fashionable but because I did.”

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My parents came to visit

My parents came to visit me this weekend, and I spent hundreds of dollars and several weeks fixing up my apartment to impress them. They only spent about five minutes inside it (I think they didn’t even sit down), but at least I now have a nice apartment. They had never come to visit me before, so it was a special occasion.

As part of the special occasion, my father treated us all to dinner and a night at the theater. I had wanted to see to Wicked, but it was sold out, so we saw something called Bobbi Boland.

Bobbi Boland is a play starring Farrah Fawcett as a former Miss Florida who becomes (in her own mind, at least) a legendary figure in her small Panhandle town during the 1960s. She spends her days teaching charm and comportment to the local girls, and we are led to believe that everything is going fine until her husband’s boss shows up with his young trophy wife, a free-wheeling blonde who challenges Bobbi’s position and ideas.

The promotion for this play has been so pink and sparkly that one is led to believe it is a frothy comedy. It is not. It is sluggish, badly written drama; it featured a few lines that might have been more enjoyable if Ms. Fawcett had displayed more stage presence, but her performance was so oddly tentative that I could barely figure out what she was doing or saying. I think she realized that her Broadway vehicle was a sinking ship, because she looked so miserable during the curtain call that I wanted to cry for her.

I also felt bad for my father, who spent so much money on a show that was deeply flawed at best. I did not get much of a sense of how he felt about the evening. He was more direct this morning when he discovered that, in New York City, “brunch” does not mean “buffet bar,” as it does in suburban Maryland.

All in all, I think they had a good trip. This morning, we went on a carriage ride in Central Park, which I had never done before. When they left and I came home, I found out that a book that Rob and I ghostwrote for one of my clients has been accepted by a major publisher, so that was also heartening.

A good weekend.

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My younger brother Chris and

My younger brother Chris and his fiancé Lindsay are in town this week. With Chris’s help, Lindsay is realizing her long-time dream of opening her own fashion boutique in Georgetown, and they have come to New York on a buying trip.

Chris is a strapping country boy who once swore he would never set foot in a city. He owns rifles, hangs hunting trophies on his wall, and used to drive a pick-up truck painted in hues of desert camouflage.

I took great pleasure in highlighting this image of him when I pointed out he had made a trip to Manhattan to buy pretty dresses.

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In other news, it’s time to mention politics again here on your favorite Upside-down Hippopotamus and mine. Here is a very, very important way Americans can make a difference.

Few people know that the great electoral debacle in Florida 2000 was not so much about hanging chads as suspicious returns from new touch-screen voting machines largely manufactured by a company called Diebold. Diebold is run by a right-wing nut who has openly promised to deliver results for the Republican party, and in fact, Diebold machines have returned very suspicious victories for Republican candidates in several races since then. This sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it isn’t . . . this is a quick synopsis of many, many articles and discussions all over the web right now.

The problem is that the whole hanging-chad business has tipped popular opinion toward these electronic machines, and Diebold has a large number of contracts all over the country for the 2004 elections. For many reasons (highlighted in a study done at my alma mater, Johns Hopkins), Diebold’s machines are easy to tamper with, and the tampering is impossible to detect. It would not be an exaggeration to say that if these machines are largely adopted as-is, democracy as we knew it in America is over.

You can get a calm overview of this appalling situation here, and a rather alarmist (although I think it’s impossible to be too alarmist about this) overview here. The text of some leaked internal Diebold emails is here. These are three of many, many, many places to get information online.

When you are sufficiently terrified, click here to help sponsor a resolution making this dangerous form of voting more accurate and verifiable.

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I’m back. Thanks to Rob

I’m back. Thanks to Rob for taking care of things here while I was busy conquering, uh, I mean guest blogging at Faustus’s web log. And thanks to those of you from there who are now reading and linking to me here. (I will be returning the links today or tomorrow. If you have linked to me and haven’t let me know, please drop me a line.)

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

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I hate the phrase “Christmas in July,” and come to think of it, Christmas in December doesn’t do much for me, either. So you can imagine that celebrating Christmas would not be high on my list of things to do on November fourth. If nothing else, that would make it harder for me to pretend that all of the unreciprocated holiday gifts I receive are actually birthday presents, as my birthday is 24 December. (Just forty-eight more shopping days, by the way!)

Two nights ago, I received two free, front-row tickets for a preview of the Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular from my friend David. He is in the show as Mr. Spruce, Santa’s chief elf, who sports a towering red pompadour. Rob was busy, so I took my friend MAK.

To say I was not in the mood for such an event would be an understatement, but the show ended up winning me over. All of the male performers were cute, with the exception of Santa Claus, but his defects were to be expected. Further, they were all relentlessly cheerful, which was somewhat terrifying to witness from the front row, but I suppose that for a smile to “read” from the back of the theater, it has to look maniacal from a few feet away.

If I had one major criticism, it would be have fewer segments featuring the “World-Famous” Rockettes. As always, they were sort of impressive at first, when they showed up in some sort of green outfits, but as far as I’m concerned, a little of them goes a long way. Their subsequent reappearances as toy soldiers, rag dolls, reindeers, and some sort of snow creatures were grotesque overkill. Or perhaps I’m just prejudiced against such displays of regimentation, which always reminds me of Nazis and right-wing pundits.

If I had two major criticisms, it would be to get rid of the crap at the end about Jesus. Jesus was so clearly out of place in a Christmas Spectacular that they had to tack him on at the end, after the finale in Santa’s Workshop. It was absolutely schizophrenic: ninety minutes about commercialism and snow and candy and toys and glitter and dancing girls, followed by ten minutes of bible readings and bizarre interpretive dances by Mary and Joseph in the living nativity. I had just been wondering why they didn’t make it a more inclusive Holiday Spectacular, featuring the Rockettes as dancing dreidls, and then they go and pull this.

Oh well. At least I got to see a camel.

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One more time, Rob-the-Boyfriend (with

By Rob:

One more time, Rob-the-Boyfriend (with no sign-in name of his own) filling in for David, who has been filling in for Faustus. Faustus is back from London, with sordid tales that I’m sure he’ll share. For starters, as to my speculation at the beginning of yesterday’s entry, “blokes” should indeed be plural. But that’s for him to tell.

Let me tell you a little story about a place called Drip. I think David has referred to Drip many times in this blog – the funky-retro coffee house-slash-blind-date-o-rama, where he and I would spend many hours getting overly caffeinated and clacking away on our matching PowerBooks.

I have been going to Drip off and on since it opened (I believe) in the summer of 96, during the first year that I lived on the Upper West Side (having finally fled the Upper East Side via the Breakup Express.) It’s currently “closed for renovations.” The sort of renovations that last for months and don’t involve any actual, you know, renovating. It’s sad. But anyway…

I was in there one weekday afternoon, working on some encyclopedia articles that I was writing. (That always sounds so pretentious. I hahve written for an encyloPEEdia. Maybe I’m just sensitive about it since I was, sadly, one of those kids who actually lived up to the taunts and really DID read the encyclopedia for fun. But anyway…)

So I’m there, writing a 500 word biography of Lotte Lenya or someone, and I go up to order another coffee. The girl behind the counter was slightly Lisa Loeb-ish; nice, maybe a little fragile. She got my giant Fiestaware mug of coffee, looking like she was on the verge of giggling the whole time. She brings it back, and when I dug out my rumpled dollar bills to pay for it, she said, “Oh, Sundance winners don’t have to pay for coffee.”

Well, I’ve done a lot of things, but not being a filmmaker, I’ve never been to Sundance. So it follows that I’ve never won anything Sundance-related. So, simple case of mistaken identity. All I managed to say was, “Oh, no, really…” while pushing the bills at her. Meaning, of course, “Oh, no. Really, I’m not you think I am,” but coming across as “Oh, no, really, I insist that I pay, since I, a Sundance winner, will soon be making wheelbarrows full of money, with which I can buy all the coffee I desire.”

Oh, no, really.

So I went back to my laptop, where I was working on my Groundbreaking Screenplay (FADE IN… “Lotte Lenya was born in a suburb of Vienna in …”) Now I was really mystified. Who was she confusing me with? I mean, I had just gotten a snazzy new pair of downtown-ish looking sunglasses, but had they really transformed me into a double for … who? Who?

My looks have been compared to celebrities a few times over the years. Some were laughable attempts to flatter; some made me want to flatten the person making the comparison. But I do get many instances of people thinking they’ve met me before, or know me from somewhere. But this was a new one.

Obviously, she was into film. Obviously, she knew enough about Sundance to know who was winning what. So I had to have more than a passing resemblance to SOMEONE.

Who was it who was it who was it? It gnawed at me (and I gnawed at David, and not in a way that he enjoyed.) I never solved the mystery.

Luckily, I was spared having to live a real-life Three’s Company episode (pretending to be That Famous Sundance Winner every time I came into the Regal Beagle, er, Drip… or worse, being found out, and being known as That Guy Who Thought He Could Pass Himself Off as That Famous Sundance Winner Just To Get Free Coffee, Fucker) because … I never saw that girl working there again.

I wondered why she left (or was fired), given that she was getting the chance to meet celebrities – okay, fake ones, like me, but still. Maybe she thought everyonewas someone else. But some obscure person…

“Oh, the Duchess of Liechtenstein doesn’t have to pay for coffee.”

“Oh, the man who patented the Post-It doesn’t have to pay for coffee.”

“Oh, the original bass guitarist for the Go-Go’s doesn’t have to pay for coffee.”

Maybe it was this all-inclusive policy about Who Doesn’t Have to Pay for Coffee that led to Drip’s current shuttered state. Maybe I should make a documentary about it …

Oh, no. Really.

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Again, Rob-the-Boyfriend, subbing for David,

By Rob:

Again, Rob-the-Boyfriend, subbing for David, who is subbing for Faustus (who may be subbing for some British bloke[s] at this very moment, but I digress.)

Faustus is in London; I got an e-mail from him this morning about various things that might have to be taken care of if he were delayed by a baggage handlers’ strike. (Oh, that’s what the kids are calling it now.) He promised to call me when he was back “Stateside.”

I need to have more conversations in which words like “stateside” are used. This is why Faustus is handy to have around.

Anyway, onto my day.

After I finished at school, I decided to walk through the Village over to the 1 train, since it was a nice night out. As I passed through Astor Place, there was a guy I recognized. I thought, “Is that some actor I know? Somebody connected with school?” No, it was somebody connected with my main preoccupation: TiVo. It was Tom Kaden, one of the first guinea pigs on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Tom was the one whose girlfriend Lisa’s appearance prompted Carson to say, “There’s a hooker in Trenton who wants her boots back.”

Anyway, looks like he is still getting his hair styled, so the pixiedust hasn’t worn off. Yet.

When I got to the corner of Sixth Avenue and 8th Street, a girl bellowed “I’M A-GONNA DO A MAGIC TRICK!”

Immediately, we were all interested enough to shoot a sideways glance. Okay, the traffic light just turned red. You have two minutes. Go.

She looked like she wasn’t from New York – typically Middle American looking, nondescript, sturdy (okay, overweight), with a hoarse voice carrying a Tennessee twang. She held up three lengths of peppermint-stripe shoelaces, the kind WitchiePoo might use. But she wore boots. Never mind.

“These strings are three different kinds of people. This short string is a good person. If an old lady needs to cross the street, he’s a-gonna help her across. This middle string is a regular person. If she falls, then maybe he might help her up. But she can probly take care of her own self.”

We looked at each other. We’re all short string people, we thought to ourselves. Yes, indeed.

“Now this LOOOONG string, that’s a bad person. An old lady is crossing the street, he’s a-gonna RUN HER DOWN. And LAFF ABOUT IT!”

We laughed. We were an easy crowd. Still a “Don’t Walk” sign facing us.

“Now, I’m a-gonna tell you about someone who sees these people-strings ALL THE SAME!” We knew this part was coming, but hey, I wanted to see some magic.

As she stuffed the strings into her palm and shook them out again, now all transformed into the same length, she hit her main theme: “That person is JESUS CHRIST.”

Polite applause. Whoa, light is turning soon.

“Now, my friend here is gonna tell you some MORE about Him.” She motioned to her companion, a slightly gangly but pleasant and serious looking guy. They were both probably about 22 or 23. He had an easel set up, with a watercolor brush in hand. He began painting some shapes – outlines of squares, zigzaggy lines inside the squares – and explaining in a very, very quiet voice what he was doing.

“Loud!” his magician-for-the-Lord friend growled.

He tried to speak louder, but his voice still wasn’t up to the task of competing with Sixth Avenue traffic.
Oops. Light changed. Bye.

Wherever they had come from, they had certainly set a challenge for themselves. New Yorkers are a tough crowd, although they’ll usually stand around and gape for a few minutes at somebody who pipes up.

At least until the light changes, anyway.

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So, this is Rob, guest

By Rob:

So, this is Rob, guest blogging for David, who is guest blogging for Faustus. I used to have a sign-in name. but can’t seem to recover it. Ah well. I’ll try not to lose any of David’s hard-won audience. Here goes.

A further report on Halloween doings. We were invited by some adventurous friends to dress up in matching Krofft-esque glam witch costumes and hit the Village parade, but instead, we did our usual. And by “our usual”, I mean dressing the dog up, parading her around Central Park, and then watching movies with Faustus.

Yes, yes, it’s more excitement than any two people should be allowed to have.

Since Faustus was on his way to London on an 8:00 pm flight, we shifted the movie watching to the not-as-spooky hours of late afternoon. He was a teensy bit late (cough two hours cough) but really, it was wonderful that he made the time to come at all. God knows if I were packing for a London trip I wouldn’t be doing anything else that day.

Another friend of Faustus’ came along; I forget what clever code name Faustus has assigned him, so for the moment, he will be the Other Frisbee Guy.

I was in charge of the movie lineup; I had intended to get Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, which is a classic of 70s psychological horror, despite the cheesy title. A better title might be Let’s Push Jessica to the Edge of Sanity by Making Her Think Everyone’s a Vampire, but Hey, She Might Just Be Imagining It All and She’s Probably Crazy Anyway. My sister and I can still creep each other out by whispering “Jesssssica … Jessssssica” in imitation of the soundtrack.

I couldn’t find it for rent anywhere. My sister sent me a copy-of-a-bootleg copy a long time ago, but that was nowhere to be found.

My second choice was going to be Who Slew Auntie Roo?, a late-60’s-or-early-70s British film starring Shelley Winters, who had made her transition into horror films like Joan Crawford in Trog.

(Sorry I’m not linking all these to the Imdb – I can barely handle italics much less hyperlinks. Look them up yourself.)

I first saw this movie (which is an updated version of Hansel & Gretel, with Winters as a kindly woman who invites local orphans to a lovely Christmas party … and decides to keep a few …) on a road trip with my mother and brother and sister. I believe we were driving cross country from Arizona to Florida, to see my grandparents. We saw this movie late at night in a motel somewhere in Alabama (already creepy enough.) It tells you something about my family that this became one of our favorites.

I know it’s out on DVD now, but alas, not for rent anywhere.

So … instead I got The Sentinel, a film from the 70s “Catholic horror” genre, which I know is dear to Faustus’ heart (or whatever organ sits in that location.)

Basically, Cristina Raines (a beautiful non-actress who looks like a bit like Jennifer Love Hewitt and has the flat speaking voice of Shelley Hack) plays a model who has attempted suicide a few times, and moves from Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights. (Not that those two things are related.) She lands a huge apartment in an old brownstone building for $400. Yay! But she must endure the attentions of the other creepy tenants, including Burgess Meredith playing an old-queen-with-cat-and-canary, and Sylvia Miles and Beverly d’Angelo (in her first film) as lesbians who appear to have just left the circus. It turns out that the apartment house is the Gate to Hell, as described in Paradise Lost.

We all knew it had to be in Brooklyn.

I think I first saw this film at a drive-in with my grandmother; we used to slather ourselves with insect repellant, pop up a grocery bag’s worth of popcorn, and go see a triple feature of bad horror movies.

Yes, David, that does explain a lot.

I wonder, though, how she explained the following scene: Cristina Raines is having coffee with the Circus Lesbians, when Sylvia Miles excuses herself to take a phone call. Beverly d’Angelo, mute up to this point, begins Touching Herself In Her Swimsuit Area, much to Cristina Raines’ embarrassment. She brings herself to … uh, well … the conclusion, and then drops back onto the couch, sighing in relief.

(When asked “How can you tell when you’re in a bad movie?” Beverly d’Angelo replied “Apparently I can’t, since I’ve been in so many of them.”)

Seeing this scene again, I tried to imagine what my ten-year-old brain would have made of such a display, and how my grandmother would have explained it.

I think I thought that she was just itchy.