Saturday, December 25, 2004

Dan Avery: International Media Personality!

A few months ago, a photographer came into my Writing, Research and Reporting I class to take some pictures for a spread on American universities for a piece in Newsweek Japan. Well, the story came out, and I am officially "big in Japan!" Can you spot me?

PS: I have no idea what the story says -- for all I know, its an attack on stupid Americans and their third-rate education system.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Take Your Momma Out

As a enjoyable coda to a week of final exams, I went to the Scissor Sisters show at Hammerstein on Sunday, Dec. 19. I had actually bought the tickets month ago without having anyone in particular in mind to take. As it turned out, I went with my friend Danielle -- and what a smart move that was!

First off, what with stress, lack of sleep, and a number of intoxicants, I forgot the concert was on Sunday in the first place. (Hell, I forgot what day it was altogether!) Danielle called me Sunday afternoon to ask what time we should meet up. Now, I should preface this by saying Dani comes over to hang out all the time (god love her), so it was not usual for her to just call and ask what time she should come over. "I'm exhausted," I said. "I'm gonna take a nap but why don't come by around 8:30?. "Doesn't the concert start at 6:30?!" she replied. "Huh? what concert?" yadda yadda yadda... explanations...revelations...and I figured out what was going on.

Now, I had stayed up until 5am for the past two nights in a row, so I wasn't really up for a big concert, especially one where I'd feel obligated to be fagulous. Our friend Sam was supposed to be going, but his ticket fell through, so I thought about offering him my ticket instead. Dani and I went back and forth, each of us not sure if we should go, each telling the other they should "definitely go." Mustering up some resolve, we reaffirmed our decision to go to the Scissor Sisters show.

There was a whole drama with getting there which I won't bore you with, but we ended up getting into the Hammerstein Ballroom...sorry, the Manhattan 7:30pm. Ironically the opening band hadn't even gone on yet. There was time to get some drinks, hit the enoooooormously long coat check line and find Sam. Once DJ Sammy started spinning his magic music, the wait didnt seem to matter. In fact, I recall saying I'd pay $30 just to listen to this kind of music. Donna Summer, the Cure, Missy Elliot...Why is it so hard to find good dance music in NYC? Everyone always says that, so there must be an audience for it. I guess the kind of people who really put on good dance nights are all about being creative and not organized, so the nights soon fall about.

Anyway, I know there was a really long wait before the opening band, VHS or Beta, and between them and the Sisters, but it all slipped away like a wisp of smoke once the main event started. (Which is odd, because I usually hold onto resentments like U.S. savings bonds.) I'm actually not going to talk about the show, because I just want to enjoy the memory. Besides, Danielle does a much better job anyway. (She did, however, neglect to mention they did an awesome Kurt Weill-like rendition of Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out.")

I will say that the best part of the whole experience was being surrounded by friends, listening to awesome rock music and knowing every song. With recent political events, it's easy to forget your not a freak. The concert was just the reminder I needed. As Ana Matronic mentioned during one of her frequent asides. "You have at least one thing in common with everyone in this room."

Happy holidays, one and all.


Friday, December 17, 2004

The Shack...The Shack...The Shack is on Fire!

It's the end of innocence, folks.

The B-52s were a seminal band for me. While most of my high school friends were listening to Rush and Motley Crue (yes, Im a child of the 80s), I was oscillating wildly in my bedroom to the beats of "Rock Lobster," "Privat Idaho" and, yes, "Love Shack."

And now the Shack is gone...

The funky little lean-to that inspired Fred, Kate, Cindy and Keith's first top ten hit, "Love Shack," burned to the ground on Monday in a "suspicious" fire. The authorities suspect arson, as building materials being used to refurbish the shack have gone missing. We can take comfort in that fact that at least one part of the shack survived the blaze: the tin roof. Rusted!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Ain't Karma a Bitch

artist's rendering

Seems like there's more vehicular mahem to report:

According to the BBC News website, a man has been hit and killed by a double decker bus, moments after throwing a brick at its windscreen.

"It is thought John Rothwell, 40, of Broadway in Bredbury, Stockport, got off the bus in Heaton Chapel at about 1am on Tuesday.

Police said a brick from a nearby wall was thrown moments before the bus hit Mr Rothwell in Wellington Road North.

He suffered multiple injuries and died later at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport.

The 52-year-old bus driver, from Longsight, was treated for shock.

Wellington Road North was closed to traffic both ways while the collision was cleared.

Police say the driver and the bus passengers will be interviewed as part of a routine investigation.

Anyone who saw the incident is being asked to contact them."

Saturday, December 11, 2004

A Guide to Cat Emotions

Greetings from Baghdad

My oldest and bestest friend's roommate split for Iraq a few months ago. He's not a soldier or a journalist, mind you -- just a budding capitalist looking to get his mitts on some of that Haliburton booty. An avid gamer with a penchant for Syphon Filter 3 style shoot-em-ups, he's now facing the real thing as he tries to rebuild the country's infrastructure.
There is tons of chaos and bullshit, and loud noise, so I’m having fun, and pushing myself to the limit. Tomorrow they are going to turn Fallujah into a cement rubble meat grinder. Hold the mayo! Payback is a bitch.
Check out the postcard he sent at Too Sane.

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

This isn't the car

Some guy in Russia got pissed off at his neighbor's car alarm and dropped a sink out his window right onto the car.

The car owner is grieving, but his neighbors are happy to enjoy the silence.
God, I'm jealous. If only my plumbing would detach from the wall.

Friday, December 10, 2004

One Hot Fuss

Junk magazine has a great piece explaining the gay high school crush storyline weaving through The Killers' awesome debut, Hot Fuss.

The key to the puzzle, without a doubt, is “Andy, You’re a Star.” The most transparent of the songs on the album, our narrator pines for the seemingly untouchable (and attached) high school jock. On the field he’s incredible and he’s leaving his legacy on the school, but he’s also rolling around on the mats with the boys with more fervor than wrestling demands. The narrator says, explicitly, "In a car with a girl/promise me she’s not your world/'cause Andy, you’re a star." Sure, it could be a platonic envy or admiration of a smalltown boy with a too-big-for-his-britches star quality, but the town isn’t admiring him; they’re judging him -- and the verdict is in. We suspect Andy likes boys. And our narrator likes Andy.
Junk, by the by, is a great online zine from Brad Walsh and some of his Oberlin friends. It's a site for girls and boys who like boys (and open-minded boys who like girls), dedicated to stories "that make you laugh, make you think, and keep you interested." There are also lots of nice pictures of cute boys on it but, like the man once said, I read it for the articles.

close up

We Don't Need No Education

Not only is homophobia alive and well in our nation's classrooms, but it appears logic and basic freedom of speech are on their deathbed.

A second-grader in Louisiana was punished for saying the word word "gay" at school when another student asked why he had two mothers. Eight-year-old Marcus McLaurin explained it was because his mother was a gay. The other child asked what that meant and Marcus replied, "Gay is when a girl likes another girl." Overhearing the exchange, teacher Terry Bethea sent Marcus to the principal's office.

In a written "confession" that was put in his discipline file and sent home to his mother, McLaurin wrote, "I sed bad wurds lineing up fur riyces [recess]." When asked what he should have done, Marcus wryly wrote "Cep my mouf shut."

Perhaps Marcus' teacher should have been more concerned with his spelling and grammar than his conversation topics.

American Constitution Society for Law and Policy

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

From Flab to Fab

I just did an interview with Mario Lavandeira, a 26-year old writer/editor from Los Angeles who's going to be on VH1's "From Flab to Fab" on Monday, Dec. 13, at 11:30am. Due to size constraints, the interview had to be edited down for the magazine, but here is the uncut, unedited version:

Super Mario
Mario Lavandeira weighs in on "From Flab to Fab"

Mario Lavandeira knew he had to do something about his growing waistline. But instead of Atkins or lipo, the 206lb Los Angelino signed up to star in VH1's reality weight-loss show "From Flab to Fab." Mario and two other hefty homos followed a rigorous three-month exercise plan based on Madonna's fitness regimen (and you know Esther doesn't mess around). The workouts were arduous and the sacrifices were great, but Mario is thrilled with his new rockin' bod. (The $500 clothing allowance was pretty fierce, too.)

Dan Avery : What’s your background?

Mario Lavandeira: I’m the editor of Page Six Six, which I affectionately refer to as "all the news, gossip and satire that’s unfit to print (anywhere else)." I also whore myself out as a freelance writer for a bunch of publications, like HX (where I wrote a piece on electro pop goddess Miss Kittin a few months back) and Cybersocket (where I recently wrote an article about some of my favorite New Yorkers, including the Glamazons and the Dazzle Dancers).

Read the full interview here

Friday, December 03, 2004

Jason West: The Marrying Kind

Most politicians are experts at backpedaling and sidestepping, but New Paltz, NY mayor Jason West took a bold leap forward when he began performing same-sex marriage ceremonies in February 2004.

Only months after being sworn in as New York's first Green Party official, the 27-year old former housepainter started talking with local gays and lesbians who wanted to formalize their unions. West examined state law, which he said "defines marriage as a contract between two people, opposite-sex or otherwise," then joined more than twenty couples before being charged with 19 counts of "solemnizing unlicensed marriages." The charges were eventually dropped but a court order prevents him from performing any more same-sex ceremonies for the time being. Though he has many gay friends, West (who is straight) said his involvement in the marriage equality issue was "just a question of basic human decency."

The New Paltz case made national headlines and West has since become something of a pop culture conversation piece. He's appeared in Mad Magazine and a character based on him popped up in a recent episode of "Law and Order." "I find it kind of amusing," he said of his newfound "celebrity." "I got recognized in Manhattan for a few months after this whole thing blew up."

Gay rights activists have encouraged West to seek higher office, but for now he's focusing on helping his constituents. "I've got my hands full with environmental issues, affordable housing and local government reform," he said. As for whether performing gay marriages will ultimately help or hinder his chances for reelection, West replied "I don't know how it will all play out, but people [here] have been extremely supportive so far." Indeed, the e-mail he's received on the issue have been 10-1 in favor of his stance.

As the marriage equality question works its way through the court system, West's hands are tied, but he promised that as soon as same-sex couples can get a license – there are three or four cases pending – he'll start performing them again. "As far as I'm concerned, these marriages are legal and always have been."

Civil rights advocates of all orientations see West as something of a folk hero, but when it comes to men he admires, West cites Colonial patriot Thomas Paine and civil rights leader Malcolm X. "They never loss sight of their convictions," he said. "even to the point of risking their freedom and their lives."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Zagat: The Little Red Book from Hell

Sorry to go off on a rant, but I feel I must address an issue that has bubbling in my brain for far too long. I'm speaking, of course, about the apparent love affair New Yorkers have with the Zagat Restaurant Guide. The ubiquitous maroon book pokes out of faux Fendi bags, rests in the hands of nervous middle-aged couples on the downtown F train, is Xeroxed and taped to restaurant windows, and sits piled chest-high in Borders and Barnes & Nobles across the city. How many of us have gotten a Zagat guide as a birthday or Christmas present – or worse, a "Welcome to New York" gift?

Here me now: Zagat books are worthless. I would take Dr. Zizmor's culinary advice before consulting one of them. Hell, I'd sooner ask that homeless guy by my office who's always diving into the trashcan for an afternoon snack.

This is how it works. By definition, a Zagat book is not a professional guide. The "reviews" – and I use that term loosely – are not written by professional food critics; people who have studied cooking (and writing) for years, who go to hundreds of restaurants repeatedly and who make a point of thoroughly investigating the establishments they patronize. No, Zagat write-ups are complied from online postings made by members of the general public. Some biddy gives "Chez Martin" a bad review because she really wanted to go to Appleby's but it was closed for fumigation? Oh well. Some jerk complains about poor service because the waiter didn't step-and-fetch fast enough? Too bad, massuh sir.

Editors take these inane musings (one wonders how contributors can utilize the keyboard with their fat, greasy fingers) and try to sew together a cohesive opinion about a given eatery. The comments are all given equal weight, even though people tend only to fill them out when they are unhappy or drunk. The resulting write-ups are nothing more than ellipse-ridden strings of clichés and puns that give no specific notion of the establishment.

"This gem of a hash house…brings home the bacon…with a great menu…Try the margaritas!"

What are the specialties of the house? Where did the chef study? Would it be a good place for a wedding reception? "I dunno," would be the "author's" likely reply.

Categories like cleanliness, service and atmosphere are assigned numerical values based on a 30-point scale. Nothing says detail like a number grade, right?

The icing on the cake, as it were, is the company itself. Tim and Nina Zagat, who to my knowledge still oversee the firm, are Yale-educated lawyers (I get all my dining advice from litigators, don't you?) who started their namesake book series in 1979. From all accounts, they are total douches.

I have heard first-hand how management demeans and disrespects its editors, who are often forced to make up quotes and comments for places nobody ventures to. ("I ain't goin' to no French restaurant. Those peoples is un-American!") Staffers are overworked and underpaid and freelancers must fight tooth and nail to get their checks. Such is the cult of Zagat that there's a line of eager would-be replacements waiting to fill their positions.

There are so many good restaurant reviews out there. The New York Times, New York magazine, Time Out and other publications release annual dining guides. Their writers, who go to restaurants for a living, actually make an effort to seek out smaller, out-of-the-way places and aren't afraid to try new cuisines.

Let's say we stop the madness now and buy one of them for Christmas instead. Okay? Or better yet, get off your lazy ass and try cooking for a change. Your oven is good for more than just storing books and CDs.