Latest Entries »

So I know it’s unfair to declare Summer Vacation on a blog where I don’t post more frequently than once a month, but that’s sort of the point. It’s starting to be a big summer for me, and I’d rather come back with some stories to tell than try to juggle writing with everything else I’ve got going on for me this season. Just a brief recap of my life lately and a quick preview of why I’m so goddamn busy right now:

  • Publicity internship with Algonquin (which is still super peachy, I can’t wait to brag about some of the projects I’m working on)
  • Continuing part-time but in actuality full-time bakery job
  • More plotting for my short story collection (still trying to get that one to ignite, so if I get the time to write that’s my priority)
  • Battlestar Galactica. All four seasons.

And upcoming, I have:

  • A number of brewery tours, if the last few weeks have started a trend (maybe even with pictures, although I’ll have to consult a beer snob friend for any proper reviews)
  • A gym schedule that I’m actually devoted to (I have a deal with my partner that if I reach a certain designated body goal, I get a pair of shiny new combat boots)
  • A spot of reading, both professional and for my book club
  • A week at the beach with my in-laws that promises to be a nice, relaxing change of pace
  • Another piercing I may or may not be trying to smuggle somewhere on my face until it heals enough that I can take it out when I’m pretending to be respectable
  • Growing my hair out to a healthy length (for hair as luscious as mine, it takes time and love)
  • A World of Warcraft expansion. Joking, not joking.

So yeah, I’m declaring a short hiatus until I’ve gotten some of the more time-consuming goals either out of the way or habitual enough that I don’t have to think too hard about scheduling time around them. I’m most excited about sharing some of what I’ll be doing with Algonquin, but I want to have it close to done first.

Enjoy your summer, don’t get melanoma.

So for my first and likely only entry in May, I’m sharing the news that I’ve been accepted as a publicity intern with Algonquin Books! Some of you will know that this is the first big thing to happen for me on my road to becoming a world famous author/publisher/super-anti-hero since my trip abroad last summer, and you’re super stoked for me. The rest of you are just learning this, and you’re equally stoked now. I appreciate it.

I will say that so far at Algonquin, I’m hopelessly awestruck at how brilliant it is to kind of be sort of working in publishing except for the no money part, and that I can definitely see me going into this, barring the fall of publishing as we know it at the hands of Amazon and Apple (while I haven’t declared my loyalties in the publishing war, I do love the feel of a good paperback). It’s kind of nice to have some kind of work, even volunteer work, that lets me drag my big city publishing dreams out from the back of the closet and hang some lights on them. Sure, today I’m preparing press packs, but a year from now I could be viciously thrashing a barista in NYC (and I don’t even drink coffee).

In the meantime, I’m still working full-time in food service. As trite as it is, it’s been an eye-opening experience for me so far; food service is some of the most physically and mentally challenging work I’ve done in my life, and the people I work with are some of the best educated I’ve met, from the management to entry-level associates. It’s easy to get bitter about how well-qualified some of my coworkers are, knowing that they’re stymied in the service industry, even if only for the time being. At any rate, I have much more respect for sandwich slingers and brew-jockeys, and I heartily invite anyone who thinks that service workers at any level have settled or have no prospects to go fuck themselves.

Between my internship, working a full-time schedule and trying to get in a decent bit of cardio every day, I haven’t had the time I’d like to do much writing. Hell, I’ve barely kept up with my World of Warcraft (kidding not kidding). However, tonight I’ve opted to replace cardio with writing the introduction to my collection, to give me a better feel for the setting I’m creating. The stories I’m planning are all very focused on one particular setting, a fictional city on the east coast for which I’m writing a whole history from founding to fall. The introduction will focus on the founding, and given that I’m really invested in this as the heart of my collection, I hope it will build enough momentum that I can actually break into writing the stories I have mapped out.

Wish me luck, as I practice some advice from one of my favorite authors:

“Write drunk; edit sober.” – Ernest Hemingway

I mentioned last week that I was mapping out some stories for a collection I’m considering. Experienced amateur writers (somehow not an oxymoron) will recognize this as a classic stalling exercise. It looks just enough like writing that I can feel like I’m writing something without putting anything solid down.

While the jury’s out on whether or not I’m actually being productive with these stories, I’ve learned that it’s very hard to get any research done on most speculative fiction stories without looking like a bloodthirsty rape-murderist. I’ve actually seen very few traumatic accidents, and so I have to go out of my way to Google the particulars on something like, say, seared firemen struggling through their last breaths, or what happens to a person’s digestive system if they get tricked into drinking either finely ground or coarsely broken glass.

For the most part, the rest of my job is easy in that I can just make something up. For all the mythology-based material I’m using, I can do some light Wikipedia-trawling and use my creative license on anything I don’t know or disagree with. If Stephanie Meyer can make her vampires sparkle, then by god I can write up a Green Man out of rebar and concrete and make it believable.

For my more gruesome bits, however, I’m compelled to make them as uncomfortably real as possible. Call it a sense of honor. I don’t go in for the random gibbing or over-the-top gorespray you find in, say, later Saw movies or early first person shooters. I like my violence to teach you something about anatomy you wouldn’t have known before, because that sort of violence is a lot harder to get out of your head once it’s in there. That’s what horror is about: equal parts fear and disgust feeding off of each other.

To that end, Google Incognito is my friend. I suppose I may also find something in 4chan, but that’s kind of like casting your line out for river trout and dragging back an eel-infested bag of limbs (Are river eels a thing? Would they readily feed on and nest in a sack of ownerless arms and legs? You can see how this could be a lot of work).

Just to reassure everyone, I’m not writing a collection of purely horror stories. I have a really strong sense of morbidity, but even I’m susceptible to something a little more rainbows-and-wonder when the mood calls for it. I can easily think of three or four stories where I don’t have anyone dying yet. Virtually every story, however, does have heavy speculative fiction elements. I’m just hesitant enough to call any of it purely fantasy, purely sci-fi or purely horror because I do believe I’m largely writing outside of tropes and tradition, and I believe that’s what truly speculative fiction is about.

Phew. Exciting! By the end of the summer, I hope to have some raw drafts aged just long enough to start editing them. I’d love to have something ready that I can hit local fiction magazines with before leaves start dropping. Fingers crossed.

…and then don’t post on it for just over two months?

I promise, it’s not you, it’s me. Since January I’ve had… three jobs? And a volunteer position in a bookstore. And a role as a news writer on a cozy little gaming site (more on that in a bit). Now I’m comfortably settled in a bakery/cafe where they don’t let me wear piercings but they do let me rock a mohawk. Go figure.

Just a quick plug: Since February, I’ve been a news writer on this ambitious little gaming site that could called The Gamer Studio. It’s been on a brief hiatus since early March (a spring break, if you will), but it’s finally coming back up in about a week, so you can look forward to some of my frantic little articles every time a new game trailer gets leaked or a sequel is announced. It’s been a lot of fun so far, and as part of my plan to take over the goddamn world I may start doing features soon. It’d be a fun little way to add my voice to the gaming community. I’ll let you know if I do anything groundbreaking.

More exciting is the writing project I’ve been kind of somewhat working on. I don’t want to say too much and prove myself a liar, but I’ve finally found a concept that lets me exercise the best of my morbidity in a semi-marketable way. Keep your eyes peeled, because I may throw a preview of something up if any of the seeds I’m planting start throwing up shoots.

 

…still reading? Okay, the real reason I haven’t posted in two months is that I renewed my World of Warcraft subscription. Don’t tell anyone or I’ll start getting beat up in the locker room again (never you mind why I’m in there at all, you don’t judge where I spend my spare time and I won’t judge you).

2,000+ views in the first two weeks!

Holy shit, really? Granted, I did cheat by using Reddit; I’m pretty sure I could get at least a couple hundred curiosity hits if I tied a kitten to a ceiling fan and hit it with a stick. Still, no such thing as bad publicity and all that.

Anyhow, I’ve been really busy with a new job that I totally got and that totally has to pay me cash-money for work, so I’ve been lazy about actually writing stuff up. In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about my New Years’ resolutions, which all centered on being less fat and poor. Since I’m not doing anything about that, I’m cheering myself up with ten ways I’m exercising my willpower and making myself a better person:

  • Becoming just employed enough that I can complain about our economy and political system without anyone telling me to get a job
  • Eating less meat when I have to pay for it
  • Resisting the urge to have the kitchen at my new job grill two chicken paninis together with a slice of cheese in the middle to make a papanananini.
  • Stifling the urge to laugh in the Banana Republic guy’s face when he asks if I found everything I was looking for
  • Finally quitting The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim after playing through two full campaigns and exhausting every storyline
  • Avoiding picking up habits like drinking coffee and smoking just to feel like a legitimate writer
  • Washing my underwear more often than I wash my jeans
  • Holding off on my new septum piercing until Random House gets back to me about that just-in-case book jacket photo shoot I requested
  • Not overdrafting my account by four hundred dollars for a copper-finish Kitchenaid mixer, no matter how badly I need it
  • Actually meaning it when I say have a good day (to people I find attractive)

See, it’s basically like I’m pulling myself up by my boot straps, because when you literally do that, physics says you don’t go anywhere except on your ass.

 

 

 

Cooking is technically awful. It takes all your free time and money, and you have to do it several times virtually every day. If food weren’t awesome, cooking would be one of those laughable niche hobbies like wood carving  or blogging. Luckily, after a while you pick up on which corners to cut to make the process easier. Given a year or so, it can even be ‘fun’. To get some of my kitchen-disabled readers started, I’ve prepared a list of twelve cheats to make the fruits and vegetables of your labor more impressive and to cut down on the intimidation factor. I’ve also gone ahead and studded it with offensively bland public domain pics.

And since I heard it mentioned, no, none of these are sarcastic. I regularly do pretty much everything here. Right then:

 

1.  Throwing a little thyme in just about anything automatically makes you a chef

Let's get this stock photo train rolling!

This applies from Hamburger Helper to sauteed carrots. If you taste what you’re making and, I mean, it’s okay, I guess… then it might be time (ha!) to get crazy with some spices, and one of the safer but still effective spices you can try out is thyme. Throw a sprinkle in whatever mess you’ve got stewing on your stove, and see if it doesn’t taste a little more like food.

Now a lot of amateurs (I mean, more amateur than even you or me) will try this trick with oregano because it’s everywhere. That’s fucking stupid. Oregano is strong enough to hijack your whole dish, and the texture of those herb bits stand out a lot more. It’s great if you’re trying to build a flavor from the ground up, but not if you just want to enhance or influence what’s already there.

A word of warning: anyone that actually knows food will catch on to this quick. It’s like the Band of Horses of spices; it’s great to pull out on people not in the know, and even a lot of people familiar with it will appreciate what you’re doing, but eventually some spice-hipster (read: real cook) is going to come along and shit on it. So maybe don’t talk a big game about it.

 

2.  Always keep a shelf of canned or frozen veggies on hand to make your meals less sad

Yes, this is all technically fruit. You'd be surprised how hard it is to find stock pics of vegetables. There are some proud bastards out there clinging to the copyrights on their camera-phone pics of celery cross sections.

Which sounds worse, “I just had ten chicken strips for dinner”, or “I had ten chicken strips and a side of green beans”? The first one makes it sound like you spent the night in your kitchen crouched over a bag of frozen chicken nuggets, chasing shots of cheap vodka with cold, hard meat until you went numb. The second one? God damn, that’s a meal. You’ve got your servings meat and vegetables right off the bat, and the breading? That’s grains. Good on you.

Besides making you sound less depressing, a decent stock of veggies on hand ensures that you’ll have a side to go with any main course you might make, which stretches that course out more so you can be eating decent leftovers instead of scarfing down an hour of cooking in one sitting. Canned or frozen are better for people on a budget, because fresh veggies have a tendency to sit in the bottom of the refrigerator while you feel bad about all the fresh vegetables you have no intention of eating before they go bad.

 

3.  A pre-made pie crust filled with homemade filling is still technically a homemade pie

I want to put two of these together with a smaller pumpkin pie in the middle and eat it like a sandwich.

Let’s face it, as tasty as pie is, it’s also crazy hard to make with little talent or money. The crust alone takes a decent amount of counter space to process. You need a rolling pin, a decent mixer and special pans. A bad dough-to-pan transfer can rip your crust and force you to roll it out and start again.

Outside of holidays, I don’t need that kind of stress in my life, and neither do you. If you want to make a chicken pot pie in March, you should be able to do so without crying floury tears into your mixing bowl. All you really want out of pie is the filling anyway, and that’s the easy part; nine times out of ten it’s just throwing a bunch of stuff into a pan, cooking it down to a goo and pouring it into a shell.

Well I’m telling you that it’s okay to just buy the pie dough and fill it with whatever delicious you want. Most supermarkets sell the dough in pre-flattened rolls that you can just plop down on a dish and trim. If you’re feeling less honorable, you can go ahead and buy the pre-formed crusts, but I will judge you for it. And if it’s the holidays, go all the way and make the crust your damn self, too. Odds are you’re at home where you can use your parents’ equipment and materials, so fuck it, go nuts. It’s only once or twice a year.

 

4.  Shop for ingredients with crossover recipes in mind

I am bored to tears with searching for public domain food pics. Have some manatees.

Few things piss me off more than running out of taco meat when I still have chopped up lettuce and tomatoes to work through. Most of the time, I know that mess is going in the trash can a week from now when I’m sick of seeing it in the fridge. This doesn’t just apply to tacos, but any dish where I run out of one ingredient quickly and let others expire.

That’s why I started shopping for ingredients that can be used on similar dishes that same week or before they go bad. Tortillas are good for both tacos and chicken wraps, and so are tomatoes, lettuce and cheese. Chicken parmesan and spaghetti both start with tomato sauce and pasta. Fried noodles lets me put cheap ramen to use for a very high-yield dish, and I can save the flavor packets in case I need emergency chicken or beef stock and I’m not feeling picky.

If you’re buying in bulk to save money and trips to the store, just make sure that you’ve already planned how you can use that food beyond what you’re cooking tonight.

 

5.  Spices are like make-up; don’t go out looking like a whore

Verily, what a lively tune thou hast played! For thee, my lord, a handjob at three shillings only!

Until you actually know what you’re doing, there probably isn’t a reason to use more than two herbs or spices to flavor a dish. Beyond that, your flavors start to clash, and even if your seasonings are tolerable you’re covering up whatever natural beauty your dish has. Try to experiment in your free time, when nobody has to deal with it when you screw up.

Much like make-up can’t fix a jacked face, spices aren’t going to un-ruin a dish that you let go to shit. They’ll just make it clownish and sad. Don’t let your cooking come across like a thirteen year old girl’s first Facebook album. If you messed up, own it.

 

6.  Most instant meals are instantly improved by the addition of sliced fried hot dogs

It's not gay if they don't cross.

This could be a matter of my cheap taste, but most instant, box and can meals are better with some fried sliced hot dogs tossed in. For me, this specifically applies to Spaghetti-O’s and boxed macaroni and cheese, but I’ve found it also works in most instant rice dishes or pre-made pasta packets. The best part is, this actually works better with cheaper hot dogs, like pork, turkey or vegan instead of beef; they cut easier and add fewer calories than the bovine variety.

More broadly, this can apply to any protein you have on hand that isn’t paper-wrapped butcher shop quality meat. Try frying up some deli-cut turkey or roast beef and tossing it in your stir-fry. You can make a cheap and quick chicken parm sandwich with chicken patties. Spam is known for its versatility in Hawaii. You don’t have to always save the spotlight for expensive cuts of meat, get a little crazy and gross and see what becomes your guilty pleasure.

 

7.  Pizza toppings can go on any bread-like product

I've made better looking pizza on stale saltines.

Now technically, you already know this because Bagel Bites are a thing, but pizza toppings are great on pretty much any carby substance that isn’t cornbread (and maybe even then). You can slather some sauce, cheese and meat or veggies on french bread, bagels, large pretzels, even tortilla shells (pizzadilla!).

This is great because it’s easier to stock up some cheese, sauce and toppings that will keep and just make individual stuff than it is to keep a bunch of whole crusts in store. Also, if you’re anything like me, you will eat as much pizza or pizza product as there is, whether there’s a whole delivery pizza or a halved french loaf with some pretty toppings sitting in it, so this functions as portion control.

The one caveat to this amazing property is that you want the thinness of the toppings to be roughly proportional to the thinness of your ‘crust’. For something like bagels, you can afford to pile whole sausages and peppers on that mess, but for tortilla shells, anything beyond pepperoni and bacon makes it unwieldy.

 

8.  Snacking on carrots and celery lets you tell others you’re the kind of person who snacks on carrot sticks and celery

I can't express how much I hate this color scheme. Apparently all carrots ever bred were dyed in the '70s.

Snacks are an easy way to enhance however you spend your free time (for me, glued to my Xbox 360 until five in the morning). However, after the first few fists of chips you probably don’t even notice that you’re eating anymore until you scrape the bottom of the greasy bag.

So as long as you’re going to be tossing calories down your throat and not tasting them anyway, why not go for some cheap, healthy veggies? Whatever you miss in flavor for the first few bites, you can make up for by feeling self-righteous, and after that you won’t even notice all those vitamins. After a while, you even acquire a taste.

But most importantly, eating healthy food affords the opportunity to be seen eating healthy food, which makes people think you’re a better person. The first time one of your friends sees you with a bowl of baby carrots for your movie, they’re going to feel inferior with their popcorn. And when you make people who like you angry about how much better you are, you win at having friends.

 

9.  If you burn enough cheese on top of anything, everyone will love it

Look at that sexy bitch.

If there’s one meal of mine that I talk up, it’s my chicken parmesan. It’s a fairly standard, if delicious, dish. Breaded chicken with some herbs, a very garlicky tomato sauce, and fettuccine. What makes it special, though, is the love I put on top of it.

Love, and about an inch of broiled parmesan and mozzarella.

Quick, what’s the best part of lasagna? Burnt cheese on top. Pizza? Burnt cheese on top. Any macaroni and cheese that doesn’t come out of a box? Burnt cheese on top. Are you seeing a pattern here? Any dish that involves cheese can be made better by burning it. When Beyonce recorded “Love On Top”, it was about crispy mozzarella. Now don’t fry it to ash, just broil it enough that you get a decent brown crust that’s separated from the rest of the melty, gooey goodness. It’s also very hard to have too much cheese in a dish. Try it, I dare you. I’ll bet it just comes out more awesome.

 

10.  Pair your alcohol with your food to optimize your evening drunkenness

That's a cute shot glass. Do they make them for grown-ups?

DISCLAIMER: This whole section might be bullshit. I know because I wrote it. 

The only thing worse than getting too drunk on an empty stomach is not getting drunk enough on a full stomach. Invariably, after a huge meal, someone hands me a fluffy, gaseous light beer. What the hell am I supposed to do with that? It’s going to sit in my esophagus for two hours, right on top of four bowls of stew, and if I get light-headed at any point it’s just because there’s beer blocking my airways instead of being down in my stomach, getting me hammered.

Make sure you match your alcohol for the evening with the meal you intend to eat. This doesn’t just apply to poor people and those who can’t cook, but to fans of chardonnay, IPAs and backwoods distillery poison everywhere. If you’re dieting or eating light, go with something mild and slow, like light beer or watered-down supermarket wine. If you’ve filled yourself like a water balloon full chewed meat and potatoes, you’re going to need some hard liquor to function as a drilling platform to get down through that food and into your bloodstream. Medium meals call for medium booze, like any real wine or a nice heavy dark beer.

Just remember to take it easy; the more you’ve eaten, the more you have to throw up if you go too hard. Do you really want to see the haul of a Golden Corral trip spraying out your nose? Maybe from an outside perspective. So many dismembered gummy bear limbs.

 

11.  How you serve your food is at least as important as what you’re serving

So... fucking... BLAND...

Let’s face it, you’re not going to always bring your A-game to the kitchen. Or maybe you have somehow made something completely awesome, but you need to go farther with your food to impress somebody (potential employer, disappointed parent, visiting celebrity, decade-long secret pathological crush). How are you going to do that? You can’t just let your food speak for itself, because let’s face it, if your food could speak, it would have some serious speech impediments, and probably trouble with verb conjugation.

If you need to dress up your food, consider how you’re serving it. The dish you’re using sends a message. A parfait served in a wine glass says, “Even when I’m playing around with food, I can be confidently quirky and elegant.” Ice cream served in lidless Tupperware says, “I don’t care about your opinion enough to wash a dish. I don’t even care if those tomato stains leak out into your ice cream. I hate you.” A large plate with a small dessert can say that you want it to be on display; a large dessert on a smaller plate can make it look generous and plentiful.

Toss out your college dorm silverware with the colored plastic handles and put out something made of actual metal. Use matching plates. Don’t leave marks on anyone’s servings from where you dipped your fingers in to get a last taste. This starts out as common sense and evolves into its own language as you learn.

 

12.  Don’t try to start out as a master of the kitchen; instead, do two or three things really well

Being a real well-rounded cook takes years of commitment, passion, creativity and patience. Professional cooks can make a living with their talents, and practiced home chefs can command a great deal of respect. But why shouldn’t you have that kind of power, just because you only care about making food well enough not to die between fast food trips?

Why indeed. If you don’t have the time, energy or interest to learn how to really cook, then learn a couple of tricks to make it look like you really know what you’re doing. You can pull out a few earmarked recipes to impress people you don’t see too often, and they walk away thinking you’re the next Gordon Ramsay. If your friends catch on when you keep making the same things after a while, fuck them. They’re your friends and they’re obligated to either like it anyway or not give away your secret.

The best part is, one or two tricks easily become three or four, then five or six. Soon you’re actually learning how to cook, and you don’t even think of yourself as someone who knows their way around a kitchen. You’re essentially faking it until you make it without even trying.

AHHH he's so sassy!

If anyone disagrees with any of this mess, drop a comment down below and I’ll be happy to correct you in public.

 

 

 

I like to think of myself as a pretty practical person. I don’t really go in for heroes or Hollywood crushes (at least, not in the sweet platonic Tiger Beat way). That said, there is one group that fills me with envy every time they’re brought to my attention. One lifestyle. One profession.

Drag queens.

Panti!

From my extremely limited experience and exposure, I’ve learned that drag is one of those things that everyone can do and very few can do well. Like starting a personal blog. You’re not ready to slap on a pair of pumps and hit the stage just because you and your friend played dress-up with lipstick in your dorm once or twice. Real drag sovereignty takes the indomitable will of Tina Turner, the stylistic flair of Grace Jones (or, sigh… Lady fucking Gaga), and the sensitivity to anguish of Billie Holiday.

That, and you need to know that after your fourth drink, if a homophobic redneck runs at you between sets, you can take a motherfucker down using just one shoe, and if you break that heel you know it’s gonna cost to get a new one that holds up a two-hundred-pound man. So there’s some Bruce Lee in there (or, wait for it… TUCK Norris! Ah I kill me…)

Bear in mind as you read this, I am not at all qualified to talk about the world of drag. I’ve never really performed, I don’t have an inkling of the talent it requires, and I don’t personally know many professional performers. However, that isn’t going to stop me from gushing with my own perspective; feel free to correct me or add to what I’ve said in the comments.  Now then:

 

1.  Drag queens started Stonewall, along with other ‘undesirables’

Though it makes perfect sense given the historical context, a lot of people don’t realize the sort of crowd a gay bar would have attracted in 1960’s America, the kind of crowd that would have struck the first blows at the Stonewall Inn. For every fine, upstanding suit-and-tie homo, there were probably twenty hustlers, dressed-down cruisers, junkies, hippies, trans people, and especially drag queens.

Given that the police raids of the time were meant to demoralize and publicly shame patrons of gay bars, it would have taken incredible nerve and the right kind of crazy to fight back.  Lucky for us, drag queens were the heroes New York deserved. For several days, the patrons of Stonewall raised hell against the police, and with none of this honorable, peaceful sit-and-get-pepper-sprayed shit; we’re talking throwing rocks and screaming in the streets. And if you’ve ever been to a gay pride event and seen the hosting line-up, you know who started it and who intended to end it.

A drag queen with balls as big as the rocks she was throwing.

 

2.  Drag performance is an art form that we own

Unlike, say, paintings, musical theatre, regular theatre, television, choir (secular and religious), pop music, poetry, classic literature, modern fantasy lit, female acoustic guitarists, the fashion industry, rugby…

The point is, there’s no conjecture about where drag performance comes from. There’s no “I heard such-and-such fancies gentlemen, but I’m willing to overlook his proclivities in light of his art” or any of that hypocrisy. When you go to a drag show, you know you are getting a farm-fresh LGBT-grade quality performance. We can take a lot of pride in our drag, from the street-side cross-dressing to the highly academic performative exploration of professional fabulists. It’s the one field where spectators from outside the gay community have to concede that it’s worthwhile because it belongs to the gays, not in spite of it.

Not that you can’t say that about all the other media we command, but that battle’s yet to come.

 

3.  It’s not just for dudes anymore!

That’s right, you no longer need to have testicles to tape down to be a drag artist. In my recent travels I’ve found brilliant stirrings in the areas of drag kingship and faux queenery. Drag kings aren’t anything new to our culture, but until recently I haven’t seen them taken seriously as primary performance figures. Let me promise you, a biological female dressed as a non-biological male can own a stage just as well as a drag queen; there’s just as much make-up to master, as much swagger to learn, and as much sexual confusion and delight to sow in the crowd.

I’ll confess, I’m more interested faux queens right now. A faux queen is, in the words of one of my favorite Dublin performers, Bunny:  “a biological female dressed as a biological male dressed as a non-biological female.” At first I thought I was just drawn in by the novelty, but after seeing a few shows, I can promise you that it’s no easier to be a faux queen than a drag queen, even with the ‘natural’ curves to fill out whatever you’re wearing. It takes a special touch for a woman to pull of drag without looking like a cheap whore or, far worse, just a dolled-up woman on stage.

 

4.  They are guardians at the tomb of pop culture

After a certain age, you start to realize that when most people ask you what music you listen to, you have to filter out everything that came before a certain year. Nobody likes to come across as stuck in the past, and the easiest way to do that is admitting how much old-school Madonna you have on your Top 25 playlist.

Drag queens have always been there to tell us that it’s okay to treasure the oldies. Drag shows are notorious for set lists of the sappiest ballads and diva numbers from decades gone by. For every strut to “Born This Way”, you’re going to get two or three performances to the one-hit wonders of yesteryear like Vanessa Williams (yes you are, Vanessa, just stop it) or Alicia Bridges. Also, Whitney Houston. So much Whitney. All of it essential.

 

5.  Drag performance is not just one talent, it’s a series of difficult to master skills

Make-up artist. Designer. Seamstress. Dancer. Actor. Contortionist. Motivational speaker. Sex education expert. Community leader. Pop culture curator. Model. Bargain hunter. Comedian. Public relations. Plus you’ve got to hold your liquor.

Lip-syncing and dressing up is easily less than half of the work a real performing drag queen does. And if you think even that’s easy, see how well you can sing along to your favorite song on the radio. I guarantee at least one verse will trip you up. Now imagine doing that in front of a room of drunk, critical gays. In heels.

All told, being a drag queen is basically being a volunteer superstar. Even Britney lip-syncs at her shows.

 

6.  Drag transcends class

This is actually a really big one: it doesn’t matter where you come from, how educated you are or how much money you have, all it takes to succeed as a drag queen is the right attitude and talents you have to learn the hard way.

The documentary Paris Is Burning explains this better than I can. Queer youths from rough backgrounds in the mid-80s NYC found a home and an escape in the established drag ball circuit. This group essentially established voguing; through emulation of high fashion, in a way they created it. This despite the fact that many of these youths and even the older queens who established the arena grew up in the poorer parts of the city, likely didn’t have access to higher education and even more likely were put out of their homes for their queerness.

Even today, all the money and education in the world can’t help you succeed as a drag queen if you don’t have the knack for it. This distinguishes it from most other media forms, where more money means better production values or better marketing. In many ways, succeeding by your own means and creativity with limited materials is the proving ground for lasting talent. Drag succeeds by word of mouth, performers by their own merit.

 

7.  You are in drag right now

Business attire is professional drag. You are deliberately modifying your natural image (sweat pants and a stained t-shirt) to appear to your boss and co-workers as someone who is competent at what they do. You could edit spreadsheets buck-naked, but you’re putting on a constrictive dress-shirt, a tie that serves literally no purpose, a blazer that doesn’t even keep you warm like any real jacket, and some shiny uncomfortable shoes that will scuff clean through if you even look at them too hard. Why? Because professionalism is a performance that has nothing to do with your job, the same way that prom dresses and eyeliner aren’t attached to a particular sex or personality.

Dressing up to go out to bars is casual drag. If I catch you on a Sunday afternoon in front of the TV, you are not going to smell like jasmine blossoms, and the only make-up on your face will be whatever you were too lazy to wash off from last night. Every conversation point you raise at the club is a performance designed not to reveal just how obsessed you are to mozzarella sticks and True Blood.

Hell, even those sweatpants are drag. If it weren’t for your neighbors, you’d probably have your bare hairy ass right on the couch cushions.

The point is, your entire appearance is structured to project a personality you want others to believe about you. Just because your style genuinely reflects your personality doesn’t mean it isn’t contrived.  You don’t need to cross-dress to be in drag. Just check this clip from Paris Is Burning:

 

8.  Drag keeps the community from taking itself too seriously

In recent years (or maybe it just seems recent to me, being 23 and all), I’ve heard a great deal of noise about how drag perpetuates a number of stereotypes about both gay men and women that we’d all be better off forgetting for the sake of progress. In a post-Stonewall world, it seems that the ideal for gays is to quickly integrate into society at large, and stop all this nonsense about rouge and lip-syncing.  And isn’t it offensive to reduce womanhood to a series of mannerisms, tastes and styles?

As for the first point, that’s cowardly assimilationist bullshit, and I won’t have any of it on my doorstep. The second point deserves a closer look, though.  What, if anything, is being reduced or belittled by drag performance? Some dresses, make-up, general cattiness? These things aren’t women, and to ever have equated them with womanhood was what truly belittled the gender in the first place.  On one front, drag takes the styles of the last few decades, and demotes them (or promotes, depending on your view) to stage make-up.  Both women and men should see this as an opportunity for freedom.  If the styles and behaviors you’ve been bound to are suddenly transferable, even between genders, what ties do you really have to them? What new frontiers of self-expression are opened by realizing that your sex doesn’t restrict your presentation?

And if that weighs you down, a woman with a five o’clock shadow poking through her foundation is brilliant, too.

That is the crucial role that drag fulfills for the gay community: they are at once a realization of radical gender theory in a common space, ready to open minds, and they are a group of men in heels, poking fun at your dry values if you are too stuffily either invested in queer theory or heteronormativity. They are ridiculous and vital, and not to be underestimated.

 

9.  Drag queens are natural leaders

Being a drag queen is hard. The stresses of performance aren’t the only thing that can wear a girl down; most performers have to put up with ignorant straight douchebags at one point or another, whether it’s a mid-show heckler who came for the novelty or a basher waiting outside the clubs to follow someone home and ‘teach them a lesson’. Stress even comes from within the community, in the form of rival queens with a real grudge, an ungrateful or belligerent crowd, or the fear of being minimized when anyone finds out about your interest.  In short, surviving the drag scene takes real backbone.

So it’s no surprise that so many gay events are hosted and run by drag performers. In addition to providing great entertainment and brilliant emcee work, drag queens have earned the community’s respect and can deal with anyone who gives the event shit.  Any assimiliationists or homos trying to de-fem the community would do well to remember how much we owe drag performers, what they’ve been through and what they do for us.

 

10.  Tandi Iman Dupree’s Split

Skip to about 0:25 and look at that entrance. Bonnie Tyler couldn’t do that in her prime if you soaked her legs in WD-40 all day. And I don’t know how she doesn’t just explode blood over the stage when she hits the ground, but that’s the kind of tuck the bards should be singing about for centuries to come. Bitch has earned her own spot at the top of this list. If you think that’s a once-in-a-lifetime impressive feat, I promise you, it’s not. Go to any drag show worth the price of admission, and you’ll see that at least one of the queens has a trick up her sleeve to make sure you remember her name. The point is, this spot really goes to all the unsung feats in drag performance that never hit the light of day because of margin interest.

 

Wow, I went on and on. Again, feel free to throw in your own opinions in the comments and tell me how right I am. As always, I reserve the right to yell at you in caps if your opinion is bad.

 

 

 

I’ll admit it, I miss writing up blog posts. My world-roaming days of posting phone-pics of ice cream cones and feeling like a real writer had a certain naive charm. Then again, it’s never too late to reinvent the old you in a new way. I’m officially jumping back on the bandwagon to keep my typing fingers fresh while I languish in suitably bohemian unemployment.

We’re in rough times, friends, and I can understand why so many people believe the world could end in 2012. I’ve never been one to spoil a good melancholy stretch, and so to ring in the New Year (about two weeks late), I present my 12 Sad Truths in 2012. Read ’em and weep.

 

1.  The attractiveness of most men is inversely proportional to their height.

2.  The only thing that tastes like butter is butter.

3.  If you are in this blog’s target age group, you’ll probably never learn another instrument.

4.  Even if the world were ending on December 22, 2012, you couldn’t afford to drink before Christmas.

5.  You’ll never really get over the guilt of knowing just how much your chicken sandwich suffered in its short life.

6.  If you don’t eat meat, you know that nothing tastes as good as a chicken sandwich.

7.  The more acceptable it is for you to drink in a suit, the less acceptable it is to get properly, shamefully hammered.

8.  Diet and exercise is the only thing that works.

9.  There are no monsters.  Only bad people and scared animals.

10.  About ninety-nine percent of your cat or dog’s day is spent not being petted by you.  That’s a lot of time to kill staring at wallpaper and moths.

11.  The next step for computers is integration into the human body, and you know the first couple of generations of implants are going to look like shit compared to whatever comes out the next year.  Imagine Windows 3.0 for your corneas.

12.  Every day you hope to feel as good as you think you did when you were younger.