Tall Fails

A little while ago I was at a diner party where people began swapping stories about their very first sexual thoughts.  As always it was kind of weird and fun to hear people think back to early (or mid or late)  middle school when they were definitely feeling some urges, but had no idea what was going on. I’ve had these sorts of conversations quite a lot because they are very closely tied in with “when you first knew you were gay” stories which comes up from time to time.

I have one friend at this party who claims that he knew he was gay from a very early age, somewhere around the age of 6. How could you ever know that you were gay from the age of 6? (At 6 you don’t even know what sex is, right?)  My experience was one with a series of odd infatuations which looking back can be viewed as the seeds of homosexuality.

I think my first objects of lust it was probably workout magazines in the checkout aisle .  I remember being at the grocery store with my aunt after she had picked me up from school and struggling to explaining that the guy on the cover of a workout magazine was really cool- I couldn’t place why, but I thought he was just great. Who knows what she thought was going on, but she told me that although it’s probably very nice to be that strong she wouldn’t want to give up the flexibility that you lost from being so bulky.  I think I agreed vocally, but internally had decided she was nuts. Mr. Muscle and Fitness was A-OK by me.

Far weirder than magazine covers was an obsession I developed in school. At some point in my early early adolescence I had a history class in which we studied tall tales.  I have always like tall tales.   I love story telling and I love oral traditions so I being in class hearing about Paul Bunyan or Pecos bill was a fun time.  But I was not prepared to get all hot and bothered by the stories about a particular tall tale: Mike Fink.

For those that do not know him: Mike Fink was a Keelboat man.  Way back when American wild was still being conquered keelboats become the chief vessels of commerce on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The men who worked the keelboats were stereotypically strong because they had to push the boats against the current.

Of all of the keelboat men, Mike Fink was supposedly the strongest, most masculine, most crazed SOB in the west. In one of his many literary appearances he announces: “I’m a he-bull and a he-rattlesnake and a he-alligator all in one! I’ve beat up so many flatboatmen and thrown them in the river I haven’t kept a count since the food, and I’m a lover of the women like you’ll never see again. I can outrun, outhop, outjump, throw down, drag out, and lick any man in the country!”

I remember sitting in class and hearing the teach read:

Mike’s weight was about one hundred and eighty pounds; height about five feet nine inches; pleasant features, brown skin, tanned by sun and rain; blue, but very expressive eyes; and square brawny form, well proportioned, and every muscle of the arms, thighs and legs, were fully developed, indicating the greatest strength and activity. When he doubled up his fists the muscles rippled up and down his arms as slow as molasses. His person, taken altogether, was a model for a Hercules.

Guh! What was happening inside my 12 year old self! Good grief. Here in class even! this was the best story time ever.

Then it only got worse.  Turns out Mike meets companions on his journeys: one named Carpenter and the other Talbot.  All three of them were keelboat men and met on the river competing to see who was the toughest and buffest.  So my teacher just continues reading about how after Mike met Carpenter and they were traveling Talbot  jumped down from a tree and flexed so that his “muscles bunched up like thunder clouds.”  My teacher keeps reading about how they wrestled on the river’s shore. My teach just keeps reading oblivious to the fact that I am experiencing a very un-formed gang-bang fantasy at the age of twelve.

I recently spent a long time shifting through Mike Fink articles and texts on trying to re-find some of the specific sections and quotes that I remember (in preparation for this post, of course.)  I’ve come across scattered descriptions that that a little sexual in nature.  I actually began reading one out loud to the boy one night until he interrupted me to ask if i was reading him erotica.

And to be honest it’s all very erotic.  He’s a masculine braggart in situations are unreal, larger than life and designed to entertain.  It’s just odd that with no social programming to be attracted to these stories I was, invariably, smitten with them. The older I’ve gotten I keep coming back to one truth: sometimes sex makes no sense at all.

But perhaps a better discovery than that is Mike Fink’s Myspace page.  He’s a single Gemini. Perhaps I have a chance.

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You’re in my Skin like a Rose Tattoo

Hey Everybody, Today I’m going to talk about an artist who I really like and ultimately ask a favor.

He’s one of those guitar artists with songs about wandering and living life and kind of letting what happens happen.  He obviously loves travel and experiencing different places because so much of his music is set in particular cities or places around the US.  That the last time I saw him in concert he actually arranged the song list as a road trip.     It was really cool to have the mid song banter drive you out of Oregon and up the pacific coast and into Alaska, or whatever.

Ellis Paul also had my favorite song of 2009.  He didn’t write it in 2009, but I discovered it in 2009.  The song is called Sweet Mistakes. First Verse and Chorus Below:

Pop the cork, grab a champagne glass,
Raise to the future, drink to the past,
Thank the Lord for the friends he cast
In the play he wrote for you.
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and Bless your sweet mistakes,
That crumble you down to your knees,
That brought you to this place,
That changed you by degrees,
When change was just what you needed.

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I love this song.  I’m such a sucker for anything with words like: Journey, Community, or Experience.  These are the things that always make me cry in movies. This song especially came in handy on my NY anniversary when I dove headlong into the what-have-I-done-I-moved-to-NY crisis.  I have yet to see these shirts for sale in Times Sq, however.

Recently,  Ellis Paul released a new album (The Day After Everything Changed) and as a kick-off he hosted this online music video contest for people who are fans of his work.  We were to take a song from the new album and film a music video for it.  I have done this. SO… the favor I’m going to ask is for you to watch my video! think of it as a journey.

I don’t think that “views” on youtube is the basis for winning, but it’s got to influence who he picks ultimately, AND there’s this other schmuck with 500  views when I only have 212 so it would be nice to get that number up.  The prize is tickets to the next show and some cash… so I’m invested.  thanks everyone. I won’t do this very often.

The song is called Rose Tattoo– and I’m pleased with how it turned out. The idea was that everyone has had that afternoon where you just wander around a bookstore for a few hours. Let me know what you think. 🙂

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NYC So Far: Xanadu-Moustache

New York City is so big and so anonymous that usually everything around me seems to feel a little timeless. It’s like everything you’re seeing and every practice was always here and is going to always be here. For these reason I really like when something comes along that gives New York City a timeline and actually offers me a chance to chart how long I’ve been here.

Sometimes you can do this with new buildings or billboards. Sometimes you can do this with neighborhood safety (in just two years in NYC I’ve watched Harlem be gentrified). One easy example of these things is theatre shows. It is always very satisfying to me as a discussion piece for how long you’ve lived in the city. I, for example, moved in the fall of 2008-  just in time for Title of Show (on Broadway) and Xanadu.

I also have been able to build a timeline of New York with public art installations.  These pieces come in for a few months, invade a section of the city, hopefully are appreciated, and hopefully are remembered. When I first moved here the big art project was the waterfalls that had been installed into the east river down around lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.  A recent project near my office placed Mannequinesque bronze statues on the rooftops of all the buildings facing Madison Sq. park.  Apparently the NYPD got repeated calls from people freaked out by “jumpers” on the skyscrappers. Showing here.

Sometimes the boy talks about the Central Park Gates.  I did not exist then.  it’s lost on  me.

All of these are very fancy very invited art pieces.  It’s also fun to watch the graffiti fads come and go. Currently, I love is the moustaches on the subway posters.

There are many of them. They are everywhere.

I think they are so funny.

And my personal favorite:

I think these are hysterical.  I always like anything with a bit of meta-humor (like Title of Show actually). And I feel like when this all dies out in a few months I’ll be able to tell people I was here during the “summer of  the Mystery Moustaches.”

Axis of Awesome

For my recent birthday a group of friends teamed up and bought me joy in a box, otherwise called a keyboard. I was ecstatic, but when I sat down to play, MAN was I rusty. I have gone too many years in college and New York City with my old keyboard resting at my parents house far far away. So I’ve been brushing up.

The new addition also means friend Robert and I have no excuse NOT to begin writing our musical.  However, until we all have the skills needed to really move forward with that we have entertained ourselves by playing a lot of Green Day and other bands that have simple, repeating chord progressions.

On that topic, I had a good laugh this week when my friend Syche of the Cameraphone Diaries sent this video my way. These guys are called the Axis of Awesome and they are a musical comedy trio out of  Australia.  In the video they play an oddly hysterical piece called “4 Chord Song”-  it’s GREAT. To pass on Syche’s viewing advice to me: “If you haven’t seen this before, watch it all the way through, it’s worth the 5 1/2 minutes of your life.”

Bad Movies With Hot People

One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen may be The Covenant.  I remember going to the movie theater (yeah, saw that one on the big scree) with my college roommate Jan to watch it. It is straight up ridiculous, BUT most people I know have seen it because the cast is so attractive. showing here:

The truth is even if it is a bad story with bad lines and really awkward acting I may actually pay to see it if the cast is super cute.  Coincidentally, the time I watched the Covenant with Jan I also paid to be the only two people in a movie theater (I was actually on the phone with another friend for part of it).

Flash forward to John Tucker Must Die.  This one I at least wised up and RENTED. I guess the allure of Jesse Metcalfe was too much to pass up. Here he is with a sassy cheerleader:

In the NYC Fringe show that I’m in there is a line about beauty fooling people. “we fall for it and die for it all the time.”  I Do Not want to be someone who gets duped by a pretty cast. This is the major reason why I have not yet watched the newest Twilight movie.  If I was to watch it I would only be seeing it because Taylor Lautner is actually pretty stacked and, damn it,  the boy is hot.  So I don’t see it.  I’ll try to watch things that I think are engaging and worthwhile and leave the drooling for the checkout magazine covers….. and this blog.

The Funniest People Then (1997) and Now

Yesterday I had my last Summer Friday of 2010, but I made the best of it.  I met up with good friends John and Robert in Queens to play the fastest growing lawn game in America: Mölkky.  Out of Finland, Mölkky is an extremely addictive hybrid of Darts, Bocci Ball and The Price is Right.  For a very creepy video of some gameplay click here, for actually information visit Mollkyusa.com.

On the way to the park John was explaining how last night he had watched a free dance concert at Lincoln Center and that the James Taylor Dance company was really great. Robert and I laughed, and Robert asked if he meant the Paul Taylor dance company.  John did mean Paul Taylor,  but I kept thinking about modern dance set to James Taylor music and was like: hell yeah.

I love slips like this. I think it’s so funny when people misremember, or replace a name with something more familiar to them.  And oddly, the first example of this from television that i could think of was Tim Allen in Home Improvement.  About once per episode he would have a conversation with Wilson over the Fence. Wilson would talk wisely about thespians and reincarnation.  Moments later Tim would come inside and in a very knowledgeable tone tell his wife about how he might be re-incinerated and come out a lesbian.  (I actually cracked myself up just typing that).

Now, all of this thinking about Tim Allen reminded me of a magazine article I read a long time ago in which they ranked the funniest people alive (or on earth, or something like that) and Tim Allen was #3. I also remembered that Jim Carey was #1, and the cast of friends collectively was #7.

I figured that this has to have been an entertainment weekly article, so I visited their main site and started flipping through there archives… what a trip that is! looking at the EW covers moving backwards. I passed cover stories on: Tom Welling, the first Harry Potter movie and the first Survivor, Twister, and Mark Wahlberg back when he was still Marky.

I never actually found THE article I remember, but I did find one from 1997 that still blew me away. In an article title The Funniest People Alive by Kristin Baldwin and David Browne lay out the following list:

1 ROBIN WILLIAMS – The #1 funniest person alive: A mad ad-libber for the sound-bite generation

2 JERRY SEINFELD – The titan of trivialities

3 ROSEANNE – Head of the crass

4 JIM CARREY  – Manic of a thousand faces

5 ALBERT BROOKS  – Neuroses by any other name…

6 EDDIE MURPHY  – The nutty transgressor

7 GARRY SHANDLING – Late-night parody animal

8 ROSIE O’DONNELL – The whirl next door

9 RICHARD PRYOR – Control and substance

10 HOMER SIMPSON – D’Ohs of reality

11 BOB NEWHART 12 MONTY PYTHON 13 GEORGE CARLIN 14 BILL COSBY
15 LEMMON & MATTHAU 16 CAROL BURNETT 17 WOODY ALLEN 18 DAVID LETTERMAN
19 ROWAN ATKINSON 20 MEL BROOKS 21 BILLY CRYSTAL 22 MARY TYLER MOORE
23 BILL MURRAY 24 SPINAL TAP 25 TRACEY ULLMAN 26 STEVE MARTIN
27 WHOOPI GOLDBERG 28 HOWARD STERN 29 ELLEN DEGENERES 30 TOM HANKS
31 BETTE MIDLER 32 DENNIS MILLER 33 BILL MAHER 34 KEVIN KLINE
35 LILY TOMLIN 36 RODNEY DANGERFIELD 37 GOLDIE HAWN 38 PENN & TELLER
39 JANEANE GAROFALO 40 STEVEN WRIGHT 41 ALAN KING 42 TIM ALLEN
43 JACKIE MASON 44 BEN STILLER 45 CONAN O’BRIEN 46 DANA CARVEY
47 PAUL REISER 48 NATHAN LANE 49 JOAN RIVERS 50 BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD

Poor Tim Allen doesn’t show up until the 40’s on this list. Then I found an EW list from 2009.  This list is the top 25 (counting down) funny people 12 years later- one decade if you round down. So check it out:

25 Will Ferrell 24 Catherine O’Hara 23 Sarah Silverman 22 Dave Chappelle
21 Demetri Martin 20 Diablo Cody 19 Craig Ferguson 18 Jack Black
17 David Letterman 16 Amy and Dave Sedaris 15 Sacha Baron Cohen 14 Ricky Gervais
13 Ellen Degeneres 12 David Cross 11 Conan O’Brien 10 Kristen Wig
9 Larry David 8 Amy Poehler and Will Arnet 7 Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park) 6 Chris Rock
5 Steve Carell 4 Jon Stewart and the Daily Show Team 3 Tina Fey 2 Stephen Colbert and the Colbert Report Team
1 The Judd Apatow Posse

Names in red appear on both lists. why such major turnover?  and what was the secret to Ellen, Dave and Conan’s staying power?

I suppose one big catch in this research is that we are trusting EW to tell us who is funny, and they can’t keep publishing the same list… that would be idiotic. But assuming they even somewhat represent the trends of the time – we are a finicky bunch.  Attractiveness clearly changes with age. I think it’s more understandable to say that someone used to be hot rather than they used to be funny.  Are our comedy taste so different now? Are we changing the definition or do funny people just lose it?

Kerry Ellis IS Wicked.

There is this woman.  Her name is Kerry. She sings the shit out of Defying Gravity.

Once upon a time my good friend Kaitlin and I spent about 7 minutes watching this video comparing every woman who has ever played Eponine in Le Mizerables. The entire video consisted of more than 20 different girls singing the climactic 10 words:” A world that’s full of happiness that  I have never known!”  Over and Over. and while it felt a little funny it was hard to take your eyes off of the subtitled names as the girls repeatedly belted away.

Recently I was able to relocate this video, which led me to look up other Broadway comparisons on youtube. Naturally, there are videos that do this for the show Wicked. And Naturally it’s the song Defying Gravity.  Now  I had heard Kerry Ellis sing this song before because friend Robert, of the Broadway Research League (here after referred to as BRL), had been intensely studying the song for the entire month of march 2010.  Thing is  that was a studio recording and with all of today’s tech stuff I can hardly tell if someone is AS increadible as the recording sounds.

So I’m watching this video comparing all of the different Elphabas when Kerry Ellis comes blaring through youtube. MAN. she sure is salty.

I am always entertained by how they each choose different places to riff and snarl.  It’s like any time anyone sings the song they have to mark it with their special sequence of added vocal gymnastics. It’s getting to the point where I can distinguish them immediately simply because one sings: ooo-oh ah oh OOOO vs. OOO ah  ah OOO  OOOO and so on.

Once I’ve established that Ms. Ellis is my favorite I do one quick search for her name and the song title and up comes this video.  She’s performing a version of the song from her album Wicked, In Rock live at the Royal Variety Performance 2008.  Even if Wicked is old news to those of you reading, I think this rock-concert version merits attention. If you are short on time… do yourself a favor… it gets ridiculous at 2:08. :0)