Friday, August 21, 2009

My Dog is Better Than Your Dog: she’s got more clothes than Carey Bradshaw

By Tess Bonacci

The look for your four-legged fuck this summer is, “bold print and flowers in metallic, or pretty pastels and bling.” according to Urban Pup Designer Dog Fashions website. Urban Pup is one of hundreds of pet fashion retailers in the United States selling metallic raincoats, varsity sweaters, formal dresses and a variety of other unnecessary dog attire and accessories. I can’t exactly say when dog obsession reached its tipping point in the US as I was living in rural Northwestern Zambia for a couple of years and was only met with the phenomenon when I returned home. It certainly was a shock leaving that tiny region of the world where malnourished people rarely eat proteins, and dogs are loathed, feared even, because the nearest life saving post exposure rabies shot may be a 2 day bike ride away. It was bizarre, as if I’d clicked a remote control and switched planets; one with half naked kids running in fields and hanging from trees; and the other with clothed lap dogs eating organic snacks and hanging out in (gasp!) indoor dog parks.

I recently came across an article in the New York Times describing a new fad known as “doga.” The pun speaks for itself, and if you are imagining well nourished, Caucasian, females in overpriced, cotton-poly blend capri pants and matching tanks bending over and manually manipulating disinterested, inbred dogs, then you are right on track. Dog and master work together on the same mat. Master stretches dog, stares into dog’s eyes for mutual deep breathing, and from the pictures I’ve seen, occasionally uses dog’s head as a balancing block. Doga classes are popping up all over the country and the sessions I’ve found range between $12 and $20 for 45 minutes to an hour. There are also DVDs and books for more fiscally conservative owners and dogs with body image issues to practice at home (‘Princess Bella, don’t even think I’m gonna spend $20 on that doga class until your saddle clipped ass has shed a few pounds!’).

After discovering dog yoga and skimming through the summer clothing lines for America’s bitches and studs, I felt compelled to investigate further (I’ve always enjoyed feeling a little bit uneasy). For $87 to $185 a night you can put your canine up in Chateau Poochie in South FL. They offer individual rooms equipped with a flat screen television, web camera and classical music. The top rooms don a crystal chandelier and a $7,000 designer Toboggan bed that a Chateau Poochie janitor sleeps beside. You can get your dog’s fur highlighted or his back massaged. Some spas even offer warm wax treatments and “extreme makeovers,” both of which sound to me like red alerts for the SPCA. Perhaps most disquieting of all though, is the dog social networking site, The general profile for all the site’s canine members is a self-introduction and a short description of how the dog knows he is very spoiled and naughty, but that it’s okay because mommy loves him anyway. The inevitable bratty tones written in the voice of an 8 year old raise many questions; Who are the women writing these bios? Are they lonely? Childless? Perverse? Do their dog characters reflect their own hidden desires to speak and behave like pampered children? Or do the characters simply represent an unquenchable desire to feed a self-gratifying, consumerist system bent on humanizing canines while turning blind eyes on homo sapiens?

Most of us would happily agree that this all too American trend is a contemptible fading star, another soon-to-be hush hush and embarrassing fad of the past, like Freedom Fries and cheese-encased-with-meat hotdogs. In the meantime, couldn’t we just tack sin tax on these extravagancies as well as some other pet products and use the money for much needed social services? I pay a little extra for my night cap and Parliament lights, so let’s make Princess Bella paw over a few extra dollars for her doga lesson and Louis Vuitton dog bag.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Summer of 69ing

By David Cookson

On a recent trip to Ireland I realized something - they love Brian Adams there. I can’t figure out why, but they do. His songs, especially ‘Summer of 69,’ are played constantly up against classic, indy and even the pop-excessive euro pop that tends to dominate the airwaves.

There’s no accounting for taste, that’s for sure, and my musical taste is incredibly un-evolved when compared with many of my more purist or even fetishistic friends’. I can also relate to liking bad music. I have several favorites I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to divulge.

Still, I find this unabashed ‘Summer of 69’ thing extremely disturbing and here’s why: beyond the utterly mundane and pathetic nostalgia of the song, I was pretty sure Brian Adams couldn’t have been more than an adolescent in 1969. And I’d imagine, most who revel in it, revel in their own fading, time-bloated coolness in that year.

Now I know that a lot of songs are about something more fundamental and frequently not autobiographical, still this song seems incredibly disingenuous and pandering. After hearing it several times in a day on different stations while dodging oncoming cars on country roads in Connemara, Tess suggested the completely plausible explanation that it was probably written by someone else. Prince was her best guess. I liked that. I think it satisfied me until a rambling conversation with Pat on my return that started with T’ai Chi, ran headlong back into Brian Adams all over again.

This prompted us to do some investigating. First, Brian Adams was nine in the summer of 1969 and most certainly a sexual novice. The song was co-written with Jim Vallance in 1984 (he also wrote the Aerosmith hit ‘Ragdoll’). The co writers have a divergent opinion as to the lyrical meaning of the song. In a 2008 interview with, Adams said:

"I think 'Summer of '69' — I think it's timeless because it's about making love in the summertime. There is a slight misconception it's about a year, but it's not. '69' has nothing to do about a year, it has to do with a sexual position... At the end of the song the lyric says that it's me and my baby in a 69. You'd have to be pretty thick in the ears if you couldn't get that lyric".

If there was even an ounce of irony in this it wouldn’t have been enough to make me like the drively ditty or Adams, but it may have been enough to make me appreciate his flip or self-deprecating humor. No such luck.

Vallance, in a more conventional interpretation of the song, says the title is a reference to a formative year and that he remembers Adams relating to it that way too citing the film ‘Summer of ‘42’ as an example.

"I wish this little "controversy" would just go away. First of all, when Bryan and I were writing the song, it was originally called "Best Days Of My Life". The words "summer of '69" only appeared once, right after "played it 'til my fingers bled". That was it! The song really was about the summer of 1969! It took us a week or two to fine-tune the lyric. At some point we realized that "Summer Of '69" was a better title, so we literally "shoe-horned" that phrase into a few more places in the song. At no time do I recall discussing sexual innuendo with Bryan ' except for one little thing. When we recorded the demo in my basement, towards the end of the song Bryan sang a little naughty bit: "me and my baby in a '69". We had a laugh about it at the time, and Bryan decided to keep it when he did the final recording a month or two later. Nobody seemed to notice, and that was the end of it until a few years ago when Bryan started introducing the song in concert by saying, "This song has nothing to do with the year 1969". The audience reaction was predictable. Let me qualify this by saying I don't pretend to speak for Bryan. Two of us wrote the song. Maybe he was thinking about something completely different ... but I was thinking about that amazing summer when I turned 17. There were brand new vinyl albums released by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Kinks, Janis Joplin, The Band. It was awesome and I'll never forget it. Bryan Adams is a great writer, a great singer, and a great friend. He's entitled to his recollections as to what inspired the song "Summer Of '69". My recollections just happen to be different than his."

So it’s either a nostalgic, self-congratulatory song of coolness pandering to a scion of the Big Chill set, or it’s just a juvenile sex song about 69ing the summer away with a girlfriend in a year that doesn’t really matter. Neither is appealing.

It’s not difficult to figure out that Adams was probably trying to make a safe song/shit-hit a little more dangerous live and now either prefers to continue the charade or has just come to believe it’s really true.

It doesn’t matter which it is. It still sucks.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gene Slacks -hosting my garage sale

Gene Slacks the legendary garage sale comic will be hosting my garage sale this Saturday. I'm going to be selling a lot of stuff. I'll have books, records, kitchen gear, unknowns, furniture etc. There will be a lot of worthwhile objects. My address is 209 Hibiscus Ct. Orlando, FL 32801. Parking is scarce on my great little street. Also at noon clothing designer Kelledy Francis will be hosting a fashion show that will take a closer look the unsold clothing. I'll need some models. Anyone can model in my driveway. The sale will last from 8AM-2PM. My number is (407) 913-1426 if you get lost.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Cryling Light Review... kinda‏

This is an Antony and the Johnson's review by Bangkok transplant Andrew Jones.

Antony and the Johnson’s albums have swung all over the map. Their first foray came out on David Tibet’s Durttro label, a recording company that has been chronicling queer performers like KAOS’ digital Angel, Annie Bandez, and of course Baby Dee. Of all the performers though, Antony Hegarty’s stuff fits in the best with the glut of emo that has been a staple of indie-rock since the early nineties. His/her music makes depression sound harrowing, and the atmosphere manages to link post-hardcore maudlinness with the troubadours of folk. Its songs linked tranny circle ideas like sisters with the alienated landscapes of rock. The two, surprisingly, went together rather well. The Crying Light dispenses with rock for the simple joys of a piano. It is a simple album, that’s major emotional chord is just the despair in Antony’s voice. The major tragedy of Antony’s music is his own performance. He isn’t the woman he wants to be, but is becoming one. He is negotiating this self in a culture where transsexuals have been shot at school, thrown over bridges for their walk, and denied entry to Manhattan restaurants. The Crying Light doesn’t touch on such ideas directly; it is instead just a series of stories often marked by their own desire for annihilation. In one track he intones, “cut me intro quadrants, leave me in the corner,” in Another World he desires to escape culture. Like Robert Smith he is fond of lyrics filled with pity, asking for mercy and like Boy George he sings with genuine heart.

Antony’s use of his identity on stage resembles his idol Marc Almond. Both are queer performers, displaying that unique ability the subjugated have for developing alternative selves, work place identities, and gay selves that derive from base desires long covered over by fear or impracticality. In Marc Almond, queer is inimical to the familiarity of everyday hetero-selves. Gender and sexuality are constructions and transgression is an act of rebellion. But Hagerty is not a rebel; he makes trans-gender even homely. The mechanics of identity and sexuality construction become tools of realizing a normalized psychology, his stance doesn't differ much from the plain unassuming self-absorption of Yo La Tengo. In an era in which sincerity and simplicity are guiding values, Mr./Ms. Hegarty has shown the values of her identity as cordial to her peers. Such pronouncements stand at odds with other transsexuals like RuPaul, who promote a wild feminine approach in accord with gay liberation's attempts to form a homo-counterculture, but Ms. Hegarty's blending in is more in line with the reality of most of America’s trans-gender. The posters on Laura's playground for instance, a web board for America's transgendered, are more interested in acceptance and less in making radical statements out of their selves. When Antony sings, his conviction doesn't seem to be at odds with his audience; rather it's an appeal to their pathos.

Pathos is what has marked Antony’s career so far. His quivering voice has given simple little refrains a Tim Buckley like sense of the epic. His early worked focused on drag performance and S&M. Antony's history is rather telling. He arrived in New York just in time to watch the heydays of gay liberation wind down into the polo shirted gay couple and their simulacrum of hetero-family life. Drag with its associated glam was at most a footnote and post-stonewall Brooklyn was an exception in American culture with its acceptance of its trans-gendered residents. Gay has become essentialist in the popular imagination that it might be as constructed as heterosexuality, that it might have to do with who people prefer to be, has been lost in the noise of its mainstream acceptance. Simply put, so many of the identities people inhabit in our society are so easy to assume and maintain, that some people’s desire for a new self to get out of the psychological suburbia sincerity requires becomes unbelievable. Hagerty has made queer into sincerity. Her frankness in photographs reminds of Leigh Bowery’s performances, and her message, that I am constructing a self, that I am becoming who I want to be is lasting. It is a story of sexuality and self that is only a tragedy in America.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Passing Of The Florida Rail Pass

I had just finished reading the Donkey Show by Michael Patrick Welch. I think I was somewhere near Biloxi. The sun was rising. I could see water on both sides of the train. I don't know how long we were nearly inert, and I didn't care. The announcer said we should be moving soon, and we'll be in New Orleans shortly. Yes train travel can be slow. I'm not even sure why we weren't moving. I don't mind slow, most of the time. I'm a baseball fan too. My least favorite assessment of a film , is , it was slow.What does that mean? That phrase -it was slow- usually makes me curious, maybe there is actually a story. If you pay attention, more might be going on during those slow times than during a car chase or an explosion.

I was glad to have finished the Donkey Show. Michael is a friend of mine from New Orleans. I really love his novel about teaching creative writing in one of the worst high schools in New Orleans. It is also about falling in love, struggling to get by and mostly about living in New Orleans. It had been my favorite city in the United States. Henry Miller had noted it as a bright spot in this country in his book Air Conditioned Nightmare. It was a book that meant a lot to me years ago.

My trip was almost exactly a year before Katrina. I was evacuating Hurricane Frances, before I was even sure it was going to hit Orlando. I bought a one-way ticket to New Orleans. The cost of the ticket was thirty one dollars. I only paid for the journey outside of Florida. I had a Florida Rail Pass. It cost two hundred and forty nine bucks. It was good for a year. During that year I was free to ride anywhere in Florida. I took several trips to south Florida, and some short rides, like to Kissimmee (ten or so minute ride) for lunch.

I haven't been to New Orleans since that trip. I'm almost afraid to see it. Katrina, makes me sad in so many ways. When I got to New Orleans I wanted to stay. I always felt that way. I'm not sure if I would still feel that way. It seemed like another country to me, that was what Miller found appealing about it.

I had hotel reservations for the weekend that Katrina hit. I was going with several others to see the reclusive musician Jandek. The show was canceled, a minor subplot of the devastation.

Jonathan told me to meet him for a drink a little after five at a bar in the Marigny district. He was getting off work. He would take me over to his apartment after that. I could stay there for a few days, while he shacked up with his girlfriend. Jonathan performs with Michael in his band and in skits for reenactments of episodes of the Donkey Show.

Jonathan departed, and said something like I'll see you in a couple of days. I went to get a beer after he left. I ran into a few Orlando acquaintances at a pub on the edge of the Quarter. There was a crew of five of them. We drank a beer. I went to a payphone. It was a year before I bought my cellphone. Payphones were getting scarce, but there were some around then. I checked my messages from the payphone. I had several messages. One from Contos, Alex, Tess and Kay. They said they were headed for New Orleans.

A couple of nights later we were all together. Apparently they left the Hideaway in the middle of the night and drove towards New Orleans. Alex said that it was raining so hard until around Gainesville, and he doesn't remember seeing any other cars on that stretch.

I told them about the great artist warehouse that Michael took me to. Bands played all night. It was in a very rough area. The owner of the warehouse was a German artist in his sixties. He showed me bullet holes on the outside of the building.

We ran into Trish too. She was staying in some posh place in the Quarter. Alex, Trish and I walked out of a bar and the sun was up. It had been up for at least an hour or so. I had fallen into the New Orleans myth. I was drunk, and going to bed late morning. I would be ready for that night.

I was in New Orleans for about a week. I barely saw Jonathan. The trains were all canceled. Last minute plane flights were exorbitant. The Greyhound was also canceled.

We roamed the Quarter watching the spectacle of Southern Decadence weekend. It was a large gathering of the Bear's, not the animals, but the large hairy, gay subculture, huge hairy guys wearing thongs, John Deere hats, looking like they could hit a softball out of any park. Michael and his girlfriend Morgana gave us a tour. They said that the crew had toned it down a little, since the police cracked down on public indecency. Michael told me of seeing a bear sodomize a very willing bear in broad daylight, just off the main drag. I didn't see anything like that.

I finally reluctantly (because I love New Orleans) got a ride home with Trish. Alex and I rode with her. We were the last of our crew to leave town. I hadn't seen much of Contos. He was reuniting with some old cronies of his. He used to live in the city. Kay and Tess were hanging out together.

I didn't want to leave, but I had some things to tend to. The next year the train route from Jacksonville to New Orleans was discontinued. Katrina put an end to that. I don't know that it's coming back.

I just found out that the Florida Rail Pass no longer exists. I asked someone at Amtrak about it. They said it ended in September, and there are no plans of bringing it back. Alex and I bought our pass at the same time. We were both working out of our house, so we would just hop on the train when we had some free time. We had a lot of it then.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tampa's Taco Bus

Forest mentioned Tampa's El Taconazo,the Taco Bus in his post about the Airstream Ranch. He wasn't aware that I've been a longtime fan of this place. Just about every time I go to Tampa, I stop and eat there.

It seems that the El Taconaza has officially changed it's name to the Taco Bus. Just about everyone referred to it as the Taco Bus. Thanks Forest for the photo.

I don't know when I first heard of the Taco Bus, maybe 2004. Carrie Mackin told me about it. Carrie could easily have her own post and plenty more. She's living in New York now. She ran the late great Covivant gallery. I was in a show at the gallery. Carrie clued me into several great places in Tampa, especially in the Seminole Heights area, where the gallery was located and the home of the Taco Bus.

She also told me about Mauricio Faedo's Bakery on Florida Avenue. It's a twenty four hour Cuban bakery, near the gallery. I remember stopping by the bakery with her, stocking up on guava pastries following a night of drinking at the legendary Hub bar in downtown Orlando. My friend Alex and our friend Tampa Steve introduced me to that place awhile back. Cheap, plenty of character, looks a little like 40's LA.

Carrie told me that I can't leave Tampa without going to the bus. She was right. Now I hear about the place all the time, even though we are an hour and a half from it.

I have another foggy memory of going with Summer Redwine (that's her real name), Lisa Parani and John Contos. It seems like our dinner was around fifteen bucks, maybe twenty. Whatever it was, everyone was very satisfied with the food and the price.

The Taco Bus is an old school bus, that is painted colorfully and looks like it should be in Mexico, but I'm glad it isn't. The food is authentic. Now I'm remembering the two hour discussion I had with some friends regarding what authenticity really means, especially at this point. If there is anything authentic, this is it. The food is excellent.

The bus is located behind a small Mediterranean revival house on busy Hillsborough Blvd. near I-285, and not far from the USF(University of South Florida) campus. The bus is where the kitchen is located. The house is the restaurant, although we've always sat outside next to the bus on the picnic tables, with the thatched covering.

I remember setting up my installation at Covivant the night before the show in 2005. I was up most of the night. I slept on the couch in the gallery. I heard some pounding on the window. I saw Alex, we headed over to the bus, for my one of my favorite things, a Mexican breakfast. It brings me back to the scary bus ride through the Copper Canyon in Mexico. We stopped at the home of a very old but very alert woman. She made us homemade tortillas. I used her outhouse after the meal.

Sitting at the picnic tables, listening to ranchero music playing through the not so perfect sound system, while watching the women cook inside the bus, spicy aroma's surrounding us, is as close to leaving the country as I can get without hopping on a plane. Oh yeah, the Taco Bus has plumbing, and indoor bathrooms.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Book Review- Jonathan Lethem - You Don't Love Me Yet

This review of Lethem's not so recent book is by Bangkok freelance writer Andrew Jones, he's a former Orlando resident. It appeared recently in Associated Content.