June 2007 Archives

Faster Than the Eye Can See

I recently finished a wonderful novel by Judith Katz called The Escape Artist. I'd previously read and enjoyed Katz's first novel, Running Fiercely Toward a High Thin Sound, a contemporary coming of age story. The Escape Artist is a period piece that takes inspiration from the late nineteenth century migration of Jewish people from villages in Russia and Eastern Europe to Buenas Aires and the settlement known as "Palestine on the Pampas," or Moisesville.

If you are a fan of Sarah Waters's novels, you should definitely consider picking up The Escape Artist. Like Waters's Fingersmith and Affinity, The Escape Artist involves a lesbian affair with an intricate plotline set against a colorful background of petty criminality and vice. The elements of cross-dressing, betrayal, and attentiveness to period detail and atmosphere that make Waters's novels so delectable can all be found in Katz's book.

The novel explores the metaphor of "the escape artist"--the Houdini-like figure with a gift for moving magically in and out of tight spaces. Another book that deals with Jewish culture and diaspora, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, examined this metaphor in relation to comic book superheroes and the work of the artist. In the Escape Artist, the metaphor is extended to those who are flexible and dexterous regarding gender and sexuality.

If you decide to read Katz's marvelous book, you may want to bookmark a Yiddish-English Glossary, since the novel contains many Yiddish words and phrases. I tried asking the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend to translate for me, even though her Yiddish mostly consists of curses like, "Go shit in the ocean." She recognized some of the words, but the rest she looked up at the web resource mentioned above.

What Would Nixon Say?

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Cheney as the Phantom of the OperaI've been riveted by the four-part series on Dick Cheney that the Washington Post is running this week. Finally, someone seems to have shed some light into the dark recesses of the veep's operations.

The situation with Cheney--and with politics in the U.S. generally--is so grave that I have to distract myself with something amusing after thinking about it for any length of time. So I decided to look at my library of Richard M. Nixon books and see what our late President had to say about the current vice-president.

As it turns out, Monica Crowley recorded what Nixon had to say about Dick Cheney in her book, Nixon Off the Record. In the following conversation, Nixon is weighing the chances of various future GOP candidates. RN says:

Cheney is smart as a whip and would probably be a responsible and strong president, but I don't know if he is likable enough--you know, with the personality--to be elected. Besides, he's another one who skipped out on Vietnam.

That's so precious. You have to really be scraping the bottom personality-wise for Richard Nixon to be looking down on you in the likability department. But if you read the Washington Post articles, it looks as though the GOP found a way to get around Cheney's personality issue.

Although Nixon never offered his opinion on Paris Hilton, his words sprang to mind recently as I was considering her current prison plight. I went out with Joe and the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend a few weeks ago for Gay Pride to see some comedians and it seemed like every joke was at Paris's expense. It was such a dramatic turnaround from just two years ago, when I blogged about Paris serving as Grand Marshall for that year's Pride March. I don't know Paris personally, but if I did, I would share with her these words of wisdom from our 37th president: "Only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain."

Cat Toy

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Catwoman LEGO figureFollowing a tipoff from GayGamer, I sped over to the LEGO Batman website and downloaded a delicious Catwoman wallpaper for my desktop. There are many other wallpapers to choose from, all tie-ins to Batman LEGO products. I can't believe I didn't know there was a LEGO Arkham Asylum for sale. And look at that cool purple motorcycle Catwoman is riding in The Batman Dragster: Catwoman Pursuit!

Maybe if I pick up one of these toys it will help me feel better about not getting the Nigo-designed Batman hoodie, which at $439 appears out of my reach. There's also a LEGO Batman video game coming down the pike, but that's not coming out until next year.

H is for Horror

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The letter L illustrated by the divided lycnathope.Through a link on Neatorama, I found the Alphabet of Horror, a themed alphabet created by Jared von Hindman of headinjurytheater.com. I chose to show his image for the letter L here because I feel his visual interpretation of the word "lycanthropy" neatly captures the idea of the were-creature as a metaphor for the anguish of a divided self.

I like many of his other images, too. I mean, who doesn't love a good clown picture (the letter C)? His Pharaoh (the letter P) is very atmospheric, and I felt choosing "Trepanation" for the letter T was an original and unexpected choice. There's actually a ton of content on the site, although you have to dig around for it. There's single-panel and multi-panel comics, horror film and comic reviews, and more alphabets to look at.

From Pixels to Bricks and Tiles

Laying bricks in a mosaicJoystiq posted recently about a Dutch digital media artist, Arno Coenen, who has created several public mosaics based on video game art. Joystiq has up a gallery of images that includes an awesome mosaicwork of Lara Croft made from tiles, as well as a clever scene of Pac Man ghosts scurrying along the sides of a corridor.

Virtual Fairytale 2.0 is a large-scale mosaic created for the exterior of a school in Utrecht. The photo shown here is of a bricklayer following a color map for the mosaic during construction. Take a look at this series of photographs to see the scope of the project, including some great shots taken from above.

A Strange and Alien Encounter

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The hunky Neilalien posed for me.In case you were wondering if I did anything, anything at all, besides obsess over Lucy Lawless while I was in New York, the answer is: yes, I did. I went to see Ground Zero for the first time. (Probably the less said about that, the better.) And, I met with fellow blogger and insectoid man of mystery, Neilalien.

Neilalien was the first blogger who contacted me after I started In Sequence. He welcomed me as a fellow comics blogger at a time when the comics blogosphere did not exist yet; in fact, there were less than a handful of us. After so many years of maintaining a virtual friendship, it was so incredible to meet Neilalien in person to talk about blogging and comics and get in touch with what attracted me to the Internet in the first place.

It's wonderful when the promise of the Internet turns out to be as true as one hoped it would be.

I'm back now in Los Angeles after visiting New York to see Lucy Lawless perform at the Canal Room. I went Friday and Saturday night to Lucy's concerts, and I have some related impressions from Thursday night to give as well. My report is coming to you in the form of a three-day mashup, moving freely back and forth between dates, discussing what I thought was most notable in my experience each night.

The Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I arrived in New York on Thursday, a little too late in the evening to catch Lucy's first concert on May 31. After checking into our hotel, we went for a walk in Greenwich Village with the lights from the Empire State Building--lit up lavender for gay pride month--shining in the distance. We passed various gay and lesbian hot spots before, with echoes of sweet freedom whispering in our ears, we turned south to check out the scene outside the Canal Room.

Lucy sings kneeling before the audience

Approaching the corner club, we felt the pounding of music coming towards us from a distance. As the music became clearer, we could make out Lucy singing "Piece of My Heart." I rested my palms against the walls of the club and felt them pulsating with the music. I didn't know it at the time, but I was standing against the wall that stood directly behind the band.

The Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I were standing on the sidewalk checking out the club when a door swung open sharply and out walked a tall blonde in a silvery space-like suit followed by several body guards. It was Lucy. She did a quick U-turn, flung open the door next to the one she'd just walked out of, and disappeared inside. The Girlfriend and I turned to each other, eyes wide. The club was built so that Lucy had to exit the stage onto the street, then re-enter through another door to reach the "backstage" area.

After our unexpected sighting of Lucy, we went to chat with two of the Club's doormen. I wanted to know when fans had started lining up, so we could figure out the best time to get in line on Friday.

"They started showing up at 10:00," said one doorman.
"You are shittin' me," I shot back.
"We had to bring them water," the other doorman confirmed. "They got very hot."
"Better show up early tomorrow," the first doorman advised.

On Friday, we got in line outside the Canal Room at quarter past five. Looking at the people in front of me, I was taken aback by how many I recognized from L.A. events. The L.A. fan contingent that came to New York for the shows was much bigger than I expected. It made me feel so much more emotionally healthy to know that in terms of the extent of my obsession I was just one among many.

The Canal Room was comparable in size to the Roxy in Los Angeles, although the stage was significantly smaller. It looked like a tight squeeze for the band, and there was less room for Lucy and her backup singers to maneuver. Still, I thought it was a great choice for a venue: small enough to remain intimate, cool enough for rock and roll, nice enough to feel safe.

Tig Nataro on stage at the Canal RoomTig Nataro opened on Friday with a comedy routine liberally sprinkled with Xena fan references and Lucy anecdotes. The high degree of audience overlap among concerts made it challenging for the comic to keep her material fresh, a fact she demonstrated by leading the crowd in a hilarious group retelling of her "no moleste" joke.

Friday was probably a better showcase for Tig's standup, and a better introduction to her act for newcomers. However, having seen her act before, I really appreciated Tig's performance on Saturday, when she jettisoned her routine in favor of improvisation and riffed off the audience's responses. It takes a very agile, quick mind to do that--Ellen DeGeneres and Paula Poundstone are comics who excel at this kind of audience engagement--and I enjoyed seeing what Tig was capable of doing off the cuff.

Lucy in the sinuous catsuitLucy came out on Friday and Saturday nights singing "Feeling Good" wearing her new liquid metal catsuit and open-toed black heels. The stage lights played across the fabric of the catsuit as Lucy moved, glimmering back a warm red, hot fuchsia, and cool blue, purple, or lavender as the lights changed with the mood of the music. Lucy wore her hair down for the first part of the show, and her long blond locks appeared straightened. On Saturday, matching pinpoint highlights in her eyeshadow made her blue eyes stand out even more than usual.

At the New York concerts, Lucy did not chat with the audience with the frequency that she did at the Roxy, nor did she speak at length. In the first half of the show, one song segued quickly into the next. Dancing, vamping, and goofing with lead backup singer Sharlotte Gibson, Lucy performed several songs from her earlier shows, including "I'm the Only One," "Down On My Knees," "Maxine," "Total Control," "The Cowboy Song," "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About," and a new song for Lucy, "Shaky Ground."

For me, the performance highlight on Friday was Lucy's rendition of Sophie B. Hawkins's "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover." Lucy introduced it as a song about "lady love" and expressed the hope--sincere it seemed, though it's sometimes hard to tell with Lucy's sense of humor--that it wouldn't shock anyone. There was a certain breathlessness in the room during the song as the audience listened, spellbound. In the end, the crowd appeared to be profoundly unshocked, based on the noticeably lengthy applause the song received. In my opinion, Lucy's rendition was an improvement on the original, both more soulful and more urgent.

Lucy dedicated several songs to friends and family in the audience, including husband Rob (Friday's "You Take My Breath Away") and daughter Daisy (Saturday's "I'll Stand By You"), among others. The first part of the set came to a close with Lucy's romantic rendition of "Do You Wanna Dance?" followed by the showstopper "Piece of My Heart" with Sharlotte. Lucy's band, led by Michael Orland, ripped into "Piece of My Heart" Saturday night, just killing it! They looked like they enjoyed playing it as much as the audience enjoyed listening to them.

Sharlotte Gibson and another lovely backup singerSharlotte Gibson took over the stage while Lucy departed to change costume. Already, Sharlotte seems to have become a fan favorite. Outside the club before Saturday's show, there was a buzz of excitement when Sharlotte appeared and the fans call out to her when she's onstage with Lucy. Sharlotte seems to know what we like, too, based on the partial leather lace-up bustier she wore on Saturday.

Sharlotte performed her song "Billy Comes Home," making a special mention of the relationship between the song's theme (bringing home U.S. troops) and New York. As was the case at the Roxy, Billy was there onstage, only this time he danced for the women in the audience. Everyone hooted with pleasure at this turnabout, with several women coming forward to slip dollar bills in Billy's pockets while he tried out some dirty dance moves.

Lucy and Renee dancing togetherLucy returned from the break on Friday wearing a micro-length pink fringed dress festooned with transparent discs that flashed under the lights. Her hair was held back a by gem-studded clip that showed off her exceptionally cute and well-formed ears. On Saturday, however, she donned the chaps that the Xena convention audience overwhelmingly voted for earlier that day, paired with an electric blue bra and the mesh halter Lucy wore at the Dinah Shore Weekend performance.

A swinging version of "Tell Mama" was up first after the break, followed by "What I'd Say." This time round, fans knew to expect Renee O'Connor's appearance onstage as a go-go dancer during "What I'd Say." Confident and completely in control of the stage, Renee entered in a fire-engine red fringed go-go dress that showed off the milky whiteness of her skin and her tight musculature. Renee directly engaged with the audience, teasing and talking when the dancing was through. She brought a spirit of lightness and fun with every shimmying step. How to describe it? Seeing Renee fills me with that Younger than Springtime feeling.

Lucy rocks those chaps

In interviews, Lucy has often commented on how much she prefers comedy to drama. But as Xena fans know, no one expresses pain and anger quite like Lucy Lawless. Of course, with psychic pain being something of a specialite de la maison in the House of Lesbos, a significant portion of Lucy's fanbase wants to see that angst.

I can report to you that the power, the passion and the danger were especially evident on Saturday during the final songs of the evening, including "What's Up?" "True Colors," and the fan-requested Saturday-only song, "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Although my own taste in music runs more in the direction of punk (or in other words, the complete opposite direction of "Total Eclipse of the Heart,") I found Lucy's rendition of the song devastatingly raw. It was my favorite performance on Saturday.

For the finale, Lucy chose the 1973 hit, "Delta Dawn," a great match for Lucy's voice and dark sense of humor. Back in '73, Helen Reddy's version of "Delta Dawn" was one of those songs (along with hits by, god help me, Anne Murray and Karen Carpenter) where the rich quality of a low female voice spoke to my body in a way that presaged the sexual discoveries of my teenage years. In other words, "Delta Dawn" was a song that said to me, "Honey, you're a dyke." So it was great fun to hear the song again so many years later, this time in a more celebratory mode.

After the concert on Saturday, I lingered a bit inside the club before exiting onto the sidewalk, where about 50 women stood in ones and twos, smoking intensely. I felt like asking the crowd, "Was it good for you, too?" but instead sought out my elated companions and we walked off together into the night.

Need more, Xenites? Visit my archives or search this blog using the terms "Xena," "Lucy Lawless" or "Renee O'Connor."

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