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Rhinestone Cowboys

While I was hosting houseguests, attending family events, working hard, mourning over tsunamis, and generally freaking out over the past week, a mighty philosophical question reverberated through my skull. It was a question for the ages, a question that had the power to shake the core of the universe as if the core of the universe were a paint can and the question were a paint-can shaker, you know, one of those machines that shakes the paint to mix in whatever hideous color you’ve chosen for the guest bathroom.

Is David Hasselhoff the new William Shatner?*

David Hasselhoff is one of those terrible performers that everyone feels sorry for. “He’s big in Germany,” people say when his name is mentioned, as if they need to defend his bewildering fame by placing it in an alien context. If ability is any measure, he is neither an actor nor a singer, but he is famous (in Germany, if nowhere else) for being both.

I actually think this is fabulous. Here is someone going through life, doing his own mediocre thing, being his own ordinary self, occasionally succumbing to the mystical lure of the recording studio . . . and he becomes world famous for it (in Germany, if nowhere else). His initial success most likely had to do with good looks and good luck than any vestige of talent, but he ran with it. Although he now looks like a piece of wax fruit, he is already entrenched in Western culture.

Sound familiar? This is the exact career trajectory of William Shatner, who transformed three years as the swashbuckling Captain Kirk into a multimedia empire of schlock.

David Hasselhoff is a better singer, though, if only because Shatner’s intoned extravaganzas do not quite qualify as music here on the planet Earth. David Hasselhoff’s three albums are a recording-studio’s futile exercise to disguise his smarmy, off-key singing behind layers of synthesized bubble-gum pop and vacuous “backup” vocals. His genius is in the song selection. You haven’t lived until you’ve basked in the warm sparkle of “David Hasselhoff Sings America,” released this past year (a year that will go down in history the worst to come down the pike in centuries for reasons largely unrelated David Hasselhoff’s release of two albums within twelve months).

“Sings America” is a tragic love letter that caterwauls from sea to shining sea and features such classics as “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “California Girls,” “California Dreaming” (that these last two were not presented as a medley is one of the greatest recording blunders in history), “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” “La Isla Bonita,” “Love Me Tender,” “New York, New York,” and “Amazing Grace.”

It is a masterpiece.

If you want to hear thirty-second chunks, click here:

Sings America

I believe you will need Apple’s iTunes software to listen. You can download it for free here.

Happy New Year, David Hasselhoff . . . wherever you are (my guess is Germany . . . you’re big there).

* Corollary: And if so, can the old William Shatner go away now, please?

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I Am Not One of Your Fans!

I personally think television is god’s gift to a police state, but this doesn’t stop me from obsessively watching it. I’m not strong enough to resist. Like heroin, it dulls the pain. Also like heroin, its effects can continue until long after usage. If you build up tolerance to watching television, there are any number of web sites where you can go to read about it. Rob is addicted to Television Without Pity, a site where smart people go to deconstruct stupid programs.
Hardcore TV junkies, those for whom escapism implies a more extended vacation from reality, may indulge in reading or writing television fan fiction. Just like it sounds, fan fiction means writing unauthorized-and usually amateurish-stories set in the “universe” of their favorite television show, movie, or book. I recently discovered a web site called FanFiction.Net, which collects thousands of such stories all in one convenient place.

Here, you will find one hundred ninety-nine stories about “Battlestar Galactica,” twenty-eight about “I Love Lucy,” eleven about “Growing Pains,” and a whopping one thousand fourteen about “The Scarecrow and Mrs. King.” “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” is the hands-down winner with twenty-five thousand five stories. Fans of “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” clearly have a lot of time on their hands.

Following are several excerpts, for your reading pleasure, posted here without permission and completely at random.

Laverne and Shirley. From “Cinderfella,” a story by Shotzette. A great number the stories in the “Laverne and Shirley” category are by Shotzette, and most of these seem to explore the idea of a relationship between Laverne and Lenny. (This site is not dedicated to slash fiction, but a large number of the stories do investigate romantic pairings.)

Lenny stood there, looking unexpectedly dapper in his white tie and tails, with a strangely shy smile on his face.
“Uh, Laverne,” he started with a nervous catch in his voice. “I know tonight ain’t exactly been a dream come true for you-”

She cut him off immediately. “Len, the stuff that went wrong tonight wasn’t your fault. I’m the one who tripped and sent myself head over tea kettle down the ramp. If anything, I should apologize to you for embarrassing you in front of the other royalty.”

He looked at her in disbelief. “I wasn’t embarrassed, Laverne! I was elbowing all of the other Counts and pointing out that my date was dancing with the Duke!” He looked away as if in thought for a moment. “I don’t think those guys spoke any English, cuz they didn’t say much. Except this one guy named Earl who told me to pipe down…”

“Len,” Laverne interrupted, “I’m glad you invited me tonight. Besides, if I wasn’t here, I’d be home watching “Sea Hunt” with Shirl.”

Shirley!

Laverne looked around the ornate room in search of her best friend.

“Lenny, where’d Shirley go?”

 

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. From “Trick or Treat or Both,” a story by RevSue.

“Mom, are you really going to the Masquerade Ball with CLAYMORE?” Candy sounded shocked.

“Well, he asked me, and I hated to refuse him.” Carolyn shrugged. “It might be fun.”

“With CLAYMORE?” now it was Jonathan’s turn to pipe up.

“Yes, with Claymore.” Carolyn tried to defend her actions. “He’s … he’s …”

“Claymore.” Candy said, flatly.

“Not at all like the Captain.” Jonathan added.

Carolyn said nothing. Her children had said it all.

“What’re you going to wear?” Candy asked after a moment.

“Grandma sent me a costume … she told me I couldn’t open it until Halloween. I don’t know what it is.”

“And you haven’t opened it yet? Mom, Halloween is only a couple of days away!!” Candy was astonished.

“Well, Grandma thought I would be attending the Ball with the Captain, of course. So I’m sure it’s something nice. Probably a pioneer costume, or court lady from the past, maybe a princess or an angel costume?”

Jonathan giggled. “The Captain would think it was funny to see you dressed like an angel!”

Carolyn laughed. “True. But Grandma doesn’t know about the real Captain.”

“Imagine thinking Claymore good enough to marry YOU!” Candy hugged her mother.

 

I Love Lucy. From “I Terminate Lucy,” a story by Luv2B. (Did I mention the crossovers?!?!?!)

“Now you listen here, Mister,” Lucy said wagging a finger, ” I’m not one of those show girls that you just boss around y’ know. If I go through all that trouble to get you these things, you can at least say thank you. I went all over town just to get them for you.”

He sat still for a moment, as if he was searching for the right words to say. “I’m sorry, Dear,” he stated finally, and opened the box to rummage through it.

“That’s alright, Honey,” Lucy said. She started to massage his shoulders, “I know you’ve been looking for that girl…

“Sarah Connor.”

“Yeah, but it beats me why she’d run out like that and miss out on a golden opportunity to be in your show,” Lucy said dreamily, “I know I’d do it in a second. Gee, you’re muscles are tight.” She kept massaging, putting a bit more into it. “Can I be in your show? I know I’d be good. I promise never to ask you again if you’ll only give me the chance.”

“Must find Sarah Connor.” He got up and walked toward the bedroom, taking the kit with him.
I need a glass of wine.


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XXIII

People always act sympathetic when they learn that my birthday is the day before Christmas, but the real horror (for one approaching his mid-twenties, as I am) is having a birthday near the New Year, both a birthday and January first being traditional times of contemplation and resolution. As you well know, contemplation and resolution are the cosmic mud puddles in which I spend most of my life mired-often with only my nostrils, hippolike, above the surface-so you might imagine that this is usually an especially irksome time of year.

Today, I have decided to break free from tradition and celebrate life, rather than merely think about it. For the next week, my posts will be quotes from and/or links to some of the fun and bizarre phenomena I’ve discovered on the Internet in two thousand four.

To kick off this feast week in my honor, we have Request, a short film by zefrank.

Jesus who, biyatch?

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5-7-5

Christmas sucks. Meanwhile,
Tomorrow is my birthday.
Twenty-three again!

Note: You may respond only in haiku.

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Vipers

Yesterday morning, I took the Acela Express to New York because I wanted to feel prosperous on the morning of closing on our new Manhattan pied-à-terre, a tiny co-op on the Upper East Side. Several minutes after pulling out of Baltimore, however, I came to a terrifying realization: every other person in my carriage exuded a green and crafty aura that evoked no one so much as vice president Dick Cheney. What is happening to America, that our success stories have become so soulless and reptilian?

The Acela was not the only pit of vipers into which I was to descend. Having already alienated my lawyer and my broker—New York shysters, both—I had low hopes for weathering the transfer proceedings with my sanity intact. It was Rob’s last day of professing at NYU but, thankfully, Faustus agreed to keep me company. While I signed checks and contracts, Faustus occupied a corner of the table with his knitting and cast malevolent glares over the rims of his eyeglasses at everyone present; occasionally, he leaned over to stage-whisper comments like, “Everyone here is loathsome . . . except you!” and, “I hope they all get swallowed into a gaping chasm of despair!”

Later, he demonstrated a karate stance in Burger King, and a woman at a nearby table nearly choked trying to keep her milkshake from spraying out her nose.

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Age and Beauty

Comeuppance was the name of the game at my surprise birthday party. First the world’s most valuable Bic pen was overnighted from Great Britain just for the occasion: revenge for my Montblanc demandingness. Then I opened a large bag full of delicious and extraordinarily fattening chocolate-chip cookies: revenge for my insistence that people bake chocolate-chip cookies to my exact specifications. Then I got a book that strongly implied that I am some sort of super villain: revenge for the fact that I am some sort of super villain.

And now you all have the nerve-the unmitigated gall-to challenge my very age!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Oh, this is too much. Too much.

Luckily, I am a saint among men and can overlook such a vile affront as if it never happened, as if it were a dust mote swirling in the air for all the difference it makes in the grand scheme of my life. La la la.

Luckily, too, Ricky Martin and I know where you all live and what cars you drive. And we are not amused.*

* Well, we’re sort of amused, but that’s just from a joke Matt Damon told as he passed by on his way from the sauna. Watch your backs, America’s Age Doubters!

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Seiges and Surprises and Sweet, Sweet Music

Christians are Under Siege in America! This according to the Christians who control every branch of the government and media* but can’t seem to get cashiers to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”** I had just gotten around to renaming Christmas “Retail Jesus Day,” but something happened to change my snarly mood. Yes, my little spinach leaves, on Thursday night, my withered, Grinch-like heart grew two sizes larger.

Thursday night was my husband’s debut in Carnegie Hall. A song he wrote and arranged was performed by the Gay Men’s Chorus of New York, two subsidiary choruses, a full orchestra, and a sign-language interpreter as the grand finale to their Twenty-Fifty Anniversary Christmas Concert. Rob and I clenched hands as they began, and I watched him throughout as he vibrated with excitement and pride.

The Gay Men’s Chorus features two hundred singers, and this concert featured soprano Deborah Voigt as a special vocalist. Ms. Voigt wore a stunning red-

STOP THE PRESSES!

It seems that having his work performed in one of the world’s premier artistic venues is not the only thing my husband has arranged lately. Yesterday, as I was typing this report, Faustus and E.S. showed up at my house for a scheduled visit from New York. They and Rob dragged me hither and yon across Baltimore, leaving Rob’s parents and sister (on the east coast for the concert) to get some work done at the house.

Little did I know.

A frantic phone call that the house alarm was acting up. Rindy just inside the door saying, “Thank god you’re here! Come and look at this!” Stumbling down into the living room to find a group of ne’er-do-wells standing there smirking at the bemused expression on my face. And then, the primal yell . . .

Surprise!

Oh, my little garlic cloves, it was a surprise. My twenty-third birthday is next week, a fact I had intended to flog into your brains with the ferocity of a televangelist. But you knew all along, didn’t you? And you came bearing food and gifts and birthday haiku.

I am truly, truly touched.

Now get out of my house before I call the cops.

* You will see more of this histrionic self-victimization the greater their power grows, mark my words. It’s how all fascists justify their atrocities.

** I have written on this topic before, but maroons such as Bill O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs make parody passé.

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More on Puerto Rico and Death

I’ve never been to Puerto Rico, but I was born on the same day as Ricky Martin. We are both Capricorns. We are both twenty-three years old.*

When I was a kid, they would sing a song in church called “Whatsoever You Do in the Name of My Father,” which is apparently a quote from Jesus, but I always heard “Puerto Rico is the Name of My Father.” I used to try to puzzle out how Jesus could be Hispanic and Jewish at the same time and kept coming up with Juan Epstein from TV’s “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

Tonight is Russell’s second memorial service, this one at the theater where he worked, and excerpts will be read from the play he was working on when he died.

I used to think that that my unfinished novel would quite literally keep me alive. Last year, while on a death-defying plane trip in Costa Rica, I knew (against all evidence to the contrary, such as, you know, the plane falling out of the sky) I would survive because I still had writing to do. Oddly, I still have the exact same amount of writing to do, all progress having halted since that fateful day. Perhaps an unfinished novel is as much a guarantor of immortality as my fabled portrait in the cupboard (it remains to be seen whether exfoliation has something to contribute, as well), but an unfinished play apparently isn’t worth a hill of beans when it comes to warding off death.

* Only nine shopping days until my and Ricky Martin’s birthday!

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This Is My Puerto Rico

Probably the worst thing about dying is losing control of your PR-and no, my little chocolate-glazed Krispy Kremes, that’s not Puerto Rico, that’s public relations. Saturday was Russell’s memorial service at the Quaker meetinghouse. In that tradition there’s no ritual; rather, people stand up and take turns sharing things about the life that has ended. Everyone who spoke (except, notably, his husband) seemed to feel as if Russell was perfect.

This was not surprising: I, as well, think he was perfect.

What truly struck me, probably for the first time, was how many Russells there are. There is the one who’s now gone, the original model, but there’s also one for each and every person in that crowded room, and those holographic Russells are very much living. When people say that the dead live on in our memories, this is what they mean, but it happens when we’re alive, too. There are a hundred Davids out there right now. You all have your own version. Even when I’m right there, you don’t interact with me but rather this hologram of who you think I am. The problem is, when I die, those holograms will undergo a transformation unlike any I can achieve on the physical plane. They’ll get smarter and kinder and better looking; the rough edges will be sanded away, and I will appear smoother and more glamorously lit.

The freshly dead are everyone’s best friend, but those polished icons eventually get put on a shelf somewhere, filed away in memories that are less frequently accessed.

I’m afraid of that, of being forgotten, but I’m more afraid of never being truly known in the first place.

This web log doesn’t address that. This is only public relations. When I’m gone, everything will be open to interpretation. I just hope the interpretations aren’t too generous. I’m doing the best I can do, but please don’t forget I’m only ((shudder)) human.

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A Question

What if I changed Goblin’s name to Hamster Cage McMurtry, Art Critic?

Update: What about Hamster Cage McMurtry, Notorious Art Critic?

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Anonymous Interlude

Earlier this week in his web log, Faustus revealed his newly discovered passion for guns (next up: broads and booze) using photographic evidence. A photo in addition to the one he posted, however, exists; he chose to run the close-up for the sake of his anonymity, a snub to my patented and much-beloved Anonymizer if ever one existed!
Ah, but I reveal here what others fear to show. Faustus calls my work “creepy,” but have you seen that furniture he’s standing in front of?

People who live in wicker houses should not shoot guns.

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Happy Horrordays! (Part 3)

Oh, my little bamboo shoots, where else can you get your holiday humbuggery and political satire all in one place? Where, I ask you. That’s why everyone’s favorite Upside-down Hippopotamus is the home of one-stop nastiness.

When I was in junior high school, I made a boy cry with a scathing rap song I wrote specifically to lampoon him. Oh, you gasp with horror, but he was a mean child who lived to torment those smaller and gayer than he. Words are weapons; they can stab stab stab like a stiletto. But who will weep over my new monstrous carol? Who will bleed? A few scattered herald angels? The baby Jesus? Crash, the zombiephobic birthday boy?

‘BRAINS!’ THE SCARY ZOMBIES SAY

“Brains!” the scary zombies say
“Gonna eat your brains today!”
From cemeteries they all lurch
Arms outstretched, they go to church
Listen to the preacher fume,
“Attack all sinners, bring their doom!”
“Right!” the scary zombies say
In SUVs, they drive away

Zombies stagger from “McLairs”
With decomposing face and hair
Attack weak people, grab the slow
To concentration camps they go
Herd the citizenry together
Brains for food and skin for leather
Render fat for gasoline
Feed the Republican machine

“War!” the scary zombies say
“Kill all terrorists and gays!”
Suppress dissent, destroy compassion
Liberalism’s out of fashion
Turn our beautiful free nation
Into one big corporation
Zombies worship God and guns
They need your brains, for they have none.

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Happy Horrordays! (Part 2)

There exists an overabundance of online quizzes that purport to expose hidden facets of your personality. I find them a waste of time because I’m already quite familiar with the quirks and limitations of my personality, but I take them anyway just to make sure.

Today, I took one that revealed that I am a holiday Grinch.

Imagine.

My series of monstrous carols continues:

HERE COMES DRACULA

Here comes Dracula, here comes Dracula
Right down Santa Claus Lane
First he killed Santa and all his reindeer
By opening their veins
Now he’s on a reign of terror
Creeping through the dark night
So hang your garlic and say your prayers
Cause Dracula comes tonight!

Here comes Dracula, here comes Dracula
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He’s got a cloak that flaps like bat wings
And fangs to bring you pain
There he is outside the window
Begging for an invite
So jump in bed and cover your head
Cause Dracula comes tonight!

Here comes Dracula, here comes Dracula
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor
He’ll kill you just the same
Dracula knows where the mistletoe is
And he’s waiting underneath
To give your neck his special kisses
Watch out, he uses his teeth!

There goes Dracula, there goes Dracula
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He’s going to sleep in his hidden coffin
Until it’s night again
Those left alive can celebrate Christmas
Enjoy it while the sun burns
But after dinner, sharpen your stakes
In case that vampire returns!

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Happy Horrordays! (Part 1)

Two years ago, on this very web log, I debuted a holiday masterpiece. Today, I am proud to repost that effort as I launch my new line of Christmas carols. My husband may be the lyrical genius in the family—his work may be the finale of the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus’s Christmas show in Carnegie Hall this month—but I am not without my own resources.

FRANKENSTEIN IS COMING TO TOWN
You’d better watch out
Get ready to cry
And scream, wail, and shout
I’m telling you why
Frankenstein is coming to town

He comes with a sneer
A menacing growl
He’ll fill you with fear
And disembowel
Frankenstein is coming to town

He’ll get you while you’re sleeping
You’ll awaken with a shake
To find that you are bleeding red
Run away for goodness sake

Oh! You’d better watch out
Get ready to cry
And scream, wail, and shout
I’m telling you why
Frankenstein is coming to town

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What Can I Do?

I think it’s past time for every reasonable person remaining in our expanding fascist regime to ask himself or herself, “What can I do?” Republicans* have complete control over the federal government and an increasing swath of the media. Now that they can pretend that their diabolical and hypocritical plans are backed by some sort of overwhelming popular mandate, we will see over the next four years their attempts to consolidate power for the next several generations, rather as the New Deal did for the Democrats in the middle of the last century.

In the past several months, I donated thousands of dollars to progressive causes, signed every Internet petition there was, read national and international news and political blogs religiously, and pretended I was doing everything I could to stem the tides of the fundamentalist nationalism that’s literally destroying our land. In actuality, I spent a maximum of five minutes per week actually doing something. Tragically, except for one heroic friend, I was the most politically active person I know.

In the nineteen twenties and thirties, those difficult years after World War One, reasonable citizens of Germany went to amazing lengths to convince themselves, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that Nazism and other right-wing ideologies were either not a problem or someone else’s problem. Any efforts to counter their ascendancy were obviously ineffective: the National Socialist Party made advances in every election until they were the clear majority, then suspended civil liberties and personal freedoms and began eradicating groups who questioned their policies.

Today, as we watch the Republicans follow the template perfected by Hitler-of mindless propaganda, of scapegoating, of exploiting the fears of ignorant people and manipulating the religious affiliations of the well-meaning, of rationalizing expanding and never-ending war, of putting the profits of corporations above the well-being of the masses-it’s tempting to succumb to what seems inevitable. “There’s nothing I can do,” we tell ourselves.

“Little old me? I’m swamped with work, and my kids are sick, and I’m too tired at the end of the day.”

Well, yes, of course you are. For forty years, Republicans have ensured that very result by supporting the rights of corporations to keep wages low and benefits and vacation time scarce. For all of the Republican harping about how all children need a mother and a father, they’re perfectly happy to have both parents working three jobs apiece just to make ends meet, and for all of their whining about Hollywood morals, the entertainment industry has become the right wing’s best friend by providing the mental anesthesia of prime-time programming to the overworked masses. Now that we’re all so overwhelmed with the pace of life their policies have created and distracted by who’s going to be the next American Idol, the Republicans in power are free to do whatever they want. As long as they can look sternly at the cameras and lie about the moral crusades they’re on, they’re home free.

You know all of this already. Of course you do. Anyone with half a brain can read a book about how Hitler came to power and see the eerie parallels with the Bush regime. It’s only the Fox News pundits and those in their hypnotic sway who pooh-pooh the very idea. So what can you do about it? What will you do about it? So are you ready to fight? To flee?**

I don’t have any answers, and neither do the current crop of Democrats, but things are bad, and they’re getting worse.

In the meantime, starting tomorrow, I’ll be discussing Frankenstein.

* It has come to the point that “reasonable person” and “Republican” are mutually exclusive terms. If you voted for a Republican since the year two thousand, especially if you did so last month, you are at the very least extraordinarily ignorant or extraordinarily suggestible-and it’s more likely you’re an obstinate fool, monumentally selfish, or Just Plain Evil.

** I have calculated a nearly seventy percent chance that I will have to save my own life by becoming a political refugee within the next twenty years if current trends continue to escalate.