Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Winter Break!

Kip and I will be in South Carolina and Tennessee for a week (to see the Nephews and such) and I'll be away from the blog. Please enjoy this new set of covers during the brief hiatus.

GO HERE for the file directory, and to download the tracks.

1 - Milkshake -- Kelis
2 - Miss Jackson -- The Vines
3 - Cupid -- Amy Winehouse
4 - All That She Wants -- The Kooks
5 - Crying -- k.d. Lang
6 - Venus as a Boy -- Mike Flowers Pops
7 - Love Song -- Tori Amos
8 - Believe -- Robbie Fulks
9 - Crazy in Love -- Snow Patrol
10 - Wonderwall -- Ryan Adams
11 - Joyful Girl -- Soulive
12 - With or Without You -- Scala Choir
13 - Irreplaceable -- Sugarland
14 - Johanna -- Megan Mullally

You can also download and print this nifty CD cover if you want.

See how good I am to you.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Paula Poundstone

Kip and I went to see Paula Poundstone play the Blender Theater on Saturday night, and she was funny and awkward and wonderful. Some of her material is old material--but that's okay, that's part of what we want from comedians, is to hear their most famous bits, even if we know the punchlines.

She is famous for her crowd work, all of which is improvisational. This is where she picks someone out of the crowd, talks to them about what they do for a living, or who they came with, and generally makes a hilarious mess of them. It seems random, but she picks the most interesting people. At our show, she picked on: 1) a publisher who's currently editing a porn star's autobiography and previously published "The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women," 2) a real estate appraiser who claimed to make "a lot of money" doing what she does, 3) a gay guy who helps people get out of debt, 4) a waitress who insulted Isaac Mizrahi's cabaret show which played the theater the previous night, and 5) a maple syrup seller. Ya. Me.

I knew she was going to pick on me. I could feel it as soon as we walked into the room. There was an empty seat beside me, we were in the third row, I was wearing a plaid shirt. These jokes write themselves, ladies and gentlemen. Paula wanted to know if there was any syrup rivalries at the Greenmarket, and indeed there are--I made it out to be an issue over plastic vs. glass bottles, which is the major issue in my opinion--and she rolled with that a few times. She even gave me a callback later in the evening, proclaiming that she'd tried a black market maple syrup ring herself, only in paper bags, and thus her business failure. It it surely one of the highlights of my show-going life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Banksy does New York (Sort Of.)

Mario was in town from Ithaca this week, so we galloped over to the Vanina Holasek Gallery to see the Banksy show, which is not authorized by the artist himself, but collaged together by the gallery. The works have been, according to the gallery's website, "privately sourced, over a period of time, especially for this show."

Clearly. The show is a mish-mash of prints and a few originals scattered throughout the gallery, which is a converted townhouse with staircases of Himalayan proportions. The work is hung upside down, crooked, sideways. The walls are spattered in something that I guess we're supposed to take for blood. The walls are scrawled with text which is, I guess, Banksy-esque. Some of the prints are still wrapped in bubble wrap, torn open to reveal the image.

But I think the problem lies in Banksy's work, not as much in the slapdash, money-grubbing way it's all been assembled. The price list is posted periodically, everything is in the five-figures, save for a few small things--tee-shirts, posters, postcards. The prices are also written in dark pencil, in quick, lazy handwriting, beside each piece. I guess that's something Banksy would do--post it all in a way that feels ridiculous and overdone--his interaction with the commerce-side of his artwork (read: art career) has been well publicized. (In February of this year, Banksy, after much of his work sold for over 350,000 pounds, put an picture on his website of people bidding on a picture which read, "I Can't Believe You Morons Actually Buy This Shit.")

Of course, with someone as hot as he is right now, the gallery was quite full. Probably 20 people total, which is 18 more than every other gallery we strolled into. I guess that counts for something. And there's always the argument that Banksy's laughing all the way to the bank. Who cares? A lot of people laugh all the way to the bank, but they do it selling stocks or they play the lottery, or they win American Idol. Why is "all the way to the bank" the response which suddenly validates something that sucks?

The actual graffiti pieces, in London primarily, have a much more interesting effect than the works on paper. And I completely appreciate the punkish, antihero attitude of the whole thing. The problem is that the work is soulless. I understand what he's doing--reframing. (The winner of a photo finish changes depending on where the photographer stands, right?) But none of it has any real love or passion or reference for anything. Sure, there are a few images of children which tug at the heartstrings, but none of it seems to go anywhere past the initial shock factor.

I can't figure out if the work is entirely motivated from outside sources--capitalism, war, police brutality; nothing introspective or emotional--and that's why it bores me, or if it's just built in a way that makes it seem brilliant. Or seem surprising. The gallery is installed in the same way--is this brilliant, or is this shit?

It's shit.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Kip and I hosted our annual tree-trimming party--in which guests arrive and are not expected to actually trim the tree, merely to eat and drink. This makes some of them relieved, and some of them disappointed. People said they had a lovely time, and I think they did. All I care about is whether the food was good, and it was.

I made: mozzarella marinated in creme fraiche, chili peppers and lemon; homemade pigs-n-blankets, and portobellos-in-blankets for the vegetarians; gougeres, espresso brownies from Kathrine Hepburn's recipe, hot cider, a red pepper and white bean dip, and we scattered around chocolate candies and such. Sarah made a delicious egg nog.

Of course, Kip made his incredible iced cookies, a small selection of which appears here:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

from An Evening with Quentin Crisp

In the late 1970s, Crisp began performing his one-man show in New York City, in which he would recount his personal autobiography in the first act, and in the second act, he would take questions from the audience. If you can catch this on VHS--it exists--or on CD, do. It's a delight. For example:

Q: What advice to you have for aspiring writers.

A: Never read. This is very important. if you read books in order to improve your writing style, you will find yourself trying to write literature, instead of saying what you really mean. It's very important not to get caught up trying to write better American prose. Don't do any such thing. Just try to think, Am I saying what I mean? Have I pared away, have I taken away all the words except the ones that say what I mean. And then your writing will be fine. You have the most wonderful writers in America, really great stylists, people like Damon Runyon, and there's no floweriness, no literary effect, in the work of Damon Runyon, he is as neat as he can possibly be. One of his stories begins 'Some parties who do not wish him well have put Maury in some quicklime.'

Monday, December 10, 2007

So Long, Syrup Van

On Friday morning, at about 7:35am, I was driving the big blue syrup van down 2nd Avenue, like I have every Friday morning at 7:35am for the past 18 months, when the engine died. I rolled one block to 23rd Street and tried, over and over, to start it again while the lights went through their usual, indifferent cycles, and the whole of New York began honking and waving and pointing at me with their middle fingers. Eventually, five minutes later, the van started and I was able to drive forward about ten feet before it died again, rolled another ten feet, and thus was stranded in the middle of the intersection of 2nd Avenue and 23rd Street.

It is important to note that when your car is broken down in the middle of the intersection in Manhattan, everyone simply drives around you. Police cars speed past and do not offer to help. No one gets our of their cars and offers to help me push--which is what I ended up doing, alone, until the van was securely double-parked on the left side of the street with the hazards on. It is also important to note that at this point--when the major tragedy has passed--EVERY policeman who drives past wants to stop and tell you that you are blocking traffic, that you can't park here, and that you are about to get a ticket. (And, I suppose, it is important to note that once I explained that the van wouldn't go--and trust me, it wouldn't go--they were all very nice and drove on without giving me a ticket.)

The tow truck came about 90 minutes later, we backed the dead thing into the east side of the Greenmarket, and I carted everything over to my usual Friday spot--the north end in front of the North Fork Bank--one hand truck load at a time, and was able to start selling syrup at about 11:15am.

At this point, I had had enough. This was the second break down, and even $1,000 worth of new parts and service didn't seem to do any good, as the second breakdown was the fault of the fuel pump, which wasn't serviced during the first time in sick bay, and so the third time--and there would be a third time, I was sure of it--it would be something else. A minor example of the various plagues with which the van was afflicted: hanging from the base of the steering column were lots of cut wires. Who knows where they belonged? Who knows what they were supposed to do?

So, with a heavy heart and a sober mind, we said Goodbye to the big blue syrup van. I waved as it was towed off to somewhere in Brooklyn, where it would be maybe tuned up, maybe torn apart, maybe left to rot in the pale sun which shines over the Gowanus.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

BGE 2008

My story, "Orange," is included in Best Gay Erotica 2008, which is finally out in stores this week.

"Step one: Pick a moment in your life. Press your finger down onto it, holding it like you would the first loop in a square knot. Step two: Find a moment that represents where you are now, something separate, current and different, and touch another finger to that, too. Step three: Measure the distance from one to the other—in lovers lost, furniture stolen from street corners, estimated electric bills paid, early morning phone solicitations, car accidents you witnessed. Band-Aids on fingers. Step four: Figure out how the hell you got here now from where you were then..."

Buy one for yourself! Buy one for your mom!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Clark Houck, Sr.

My grandfather, Clark Houck, Sr., passed away last night. Over the weekend he had fallen down, remained confused and generally addled, and once he was admitted to the ICU, became quite belligerent. His heart eventually gave up. My dad said they watched the monitors--he was up to 140 bpm at one point.

My brother and I spent many weekends at his house when we were children, giving my parents a night off, and giving the grandparents a chance to have a house full of kids again--something they loved. Many of my childhood memories take place in his office--the adding machine that spit out miles of white paper. I became obsessed with adding the digits 1 through 100, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4, on and on, over and over: 5,050. I am still that detailed, compulsive kid. And of course, his singular pride, probably 75 meticulously labeled photo albums, in chronological order, the entire record of the Houck Family as told in pictures, records, letters, birthday cards; anything flat would do. I think of those albums as a grand--if somewhat bulky--achievement.

My grandmother Ruth is the only grandparent I have left--other than Lola Buckingham, my surrogate grandparent who was my neighbor for fifteen years growing up in Chattanooga. I wonder about Ruth now, where she will go, what she will do with her days. She lives these days as if her ears are full of cotton. This is true both literally--she is, basically, deaf and you have to yell right at her if you want her to hear--and figuratively, having spent the last 20 years (some would say her entire life) building a kind of cottony space around her, deciding what is true and what isn't, regardless of the facts. I wonder if my perception is correct--if she feels insulated by her invented world, or if it is harsh and bright, like open nerves.

Clark had spent the last years lost, it seems, between this world and the world of his childhood, which he spoke of constantly, cherishingly, and happily. Conversation quickly turned to those stories whenever possible. If I had a wish for him, it would be that he finds himself again there, with muddy dogs galloping all around and sawdust in his eye. This may sound a bit painful--but I think it made him feel alive.

Update: The obituary can be found here.