Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Remembering the Epidemic: AIDS in the Village

This was a bit misleading. I came to this talk at the LGBT Center in Chelsea on Tuesday night with a wad of tissues in my pocket, totally expecting to bawl like a lost kitten over tales of death and loss in the early days of the AIDS epidemic in New York's gay community. Instead, three doctors--one of whom treated the very first AIDS sufferer in the city--gave a college-worthy talk on the various aspects of HIV epidemiology (hope I spelled that right). Demographics, statistics, public perception, even a progression of the medical community's understanding of the disease. Did you know, for instance, that HIV was initially called GRID (Gay Related Immuno-Deficiency)? Or that the research for cures and treatments was held up for months because of a bragging-rights struggle between the French and American doctors who each claimed to have discovered the virus?

Other factoids: the fastest-growing demographic for new HIV cases is under 25s and over 55s. Under 25s, not hard to figure out, they think they're young and invincible and perceive HIV not as a death sentence but a chronic, manageable condition. Over 55s, bit more of a head-scratcher, but the doctors think it has something to do with the availability of Viagra--that's not a joke, though it sounds like one--and possibly with the fact that many gay men want to have a little fun while they still look good and "can still get vertical," a quote that's a lot funnier than it should be, in my mind. But the really tragic bit about the over 55s is that a lot of those new cases are straight women. One doctor said that he took a survey among over 55s and found that while 30% of the men had been tested for HIV, none of the women had ever been tested. That statistic made me took a look around the room and realize that of the 40 people attending the talk, maybe 8 or 10 of us were female (and all of us were white). This highlighted--highlit?--for me ongoing issues about outreach and awareness.

Now seems the appropriate time to remind everyone to get tested regularly for HIV, always practice safe sex, and get lots of practice.

Since I'm not doing the Village Voice street teamstering anymore, my social life has shrunk considerably, but I like to think that I'm making up for that by going to events that actually interest me. The classic quality for quantity switch, if you will. This talk may not have been as exciting for my readers as the Electric Zoo fiasco, but I felt like a more well-rounded human being for having attended it. And really, isn't my smug sense of self-satisfaction what this is all about?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We're not paying for this!

I don't often write about work anymore, because I'm gainfully employed now and have to be careful about posting anything that might get me bundled into the back of a black van while I'm walking home from the bodega with my beer and ice cream, the camera frame lingering on the broken glass and melting ice cream in the gutter before the fade to black and the song "Last Dance for Mary Jane" plays over the credits.

But this is just silly and innocent enough to slip under the confidentiality radar. My department is moving to a new building on campus, so naturally we want everyone to know that we aren't going to be where we've been for the last 15 years. Tall Boss came up with the idea of having students make chalk drawings on the brick walkways around campus with big colorful arrows and footprints leading the way to our new digs--we are an art school, after all, so this would engage the students, and everyone pays attention to where they step--but that plan was too logical and the school wouldn't let us do it. Tall Boss then made a couple of funny signs, old trucks comically overloaded with households goods and the like, announcing the move. They were witty and informative, and while no one really reads the signs posted around campus, we can say that we tried.

Off the signs went for approval and printing, and here's where I stepped in. All of the Bosses are at a conference this week, so Tall Boss left me the task of making sure the posters were printed and put up around campus. Beginning at 9AM, I called the PR office every half hour to check on our order. Did they receive the signs? Did they have changes to make? Did they send me the changes for approval? No, don't send them to Tall Boss, he's at a conference, just send them to me. I have instructions to just approve whatever changes you've made, we need to get them up today before it starts to rain. Okay, I approved them--oh, you're at lunch, I'll call back. Did you receive my approval? Did you send them to the printer? Sorry to bother you, it's me again and the rain started, did you send them to the printer yet?

There's another person in my office who used to work for a newspaper, and this entire process delighted him to no end. "Once a journalist, always a journalist," he said. "Hound 'em 'til they answer."

The posters were finally ready at 4PM, so I went to pick them up. We'd ordered 50; they only gave us 25. Whatever, we needed to get them up so people know that we're moving. Wow, they changed our design. I mean they REALLY changed our design. The signs now reads, huge and highlighted in yellow"The office will be CLOSED," and then smaller "on December 3rd and 6th," and then underneath a campus map, in tiny 14-size font at the very bottom of the sign, "We're moving to a new location."

When I went to Student Activities office to get the posters stamped with the school seal, the student worker took one look at the sign and said in horror, "The office is CLOSING?!"

"Yes," I said. "Forever and ever. Budget cutbacks. Screw it, you're all on your own."

Back at the office, everyone agreed that the signs were absolute shite. They put the most important message at the bottom, in tiny letters, and put the least important information at the top and then highlighted it. Furthermore, since we're only going to be closed for two days, after those two days pass, no one will look at the signs anymore, thus further negating the true purpose of said signs, which is letting people know that we've moved.

Whatever. Tall Boss said to just approve them and get them up, so my coworker and I trooped off into the rain to put the posters up on every bulletin board on campus.

That was yesterday evening. Today, for those who don't know, is World AIDS Day, and guess how this school commemorates the occasion?

By putting black canvas over every bulletin board on campus.

To reiterate: we're not paying for those signs.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Edward Hopper exhibition at the Whitney

My work ID card gets me in free to some of the museums around town, so last Friday the BF and I went to the Whitney Museum to see their special Edward Hopper exhibit. Edward Hopper did a lot of his painting at the Whitney when it was an institute, before it was a proper museum, so they're well-suited to put on an extensive show. Conclusion: the Whitney is holding out on us.

The Whitney is not a very large museum. It's smaller than the Guggenheim, loads smaller than the Met, and could even be smaller than the Frick now that I think about it. That's actually why I like the Whitney. It's the perfect size for my chicken-like attention span. The Hopper exhibit was about six rooms large and by the time we reached the last room, I was all arted-up and ready to go brag to passerby about my sophistimicated sensibilities. But the BF observed that the Whitney only put out about an eighth of the Hopper paintings that they actually had in their collection. See? They're holding out on us, man! Somewhere in this city, art junkies are shaking and sweating for themes of sexual isolation and the alienating aspects of American life. Soon they'll be looting the postcard stands in Central Park for Charles Sheeler photographs and digitally retouched pictures of Times Square; the despair created by the juxtaposition between the two is almost as good as the pure Paris-era Hopper.

If you understood that, you are. Such. A. Nerd. Congratulations. Have a clown smoking a cigarette.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

No More Street Team?

There's a new post over on Big Island Rachel's Books. I review Monique Truong's "Bitter in the Mouth" and break down the meaning and correct usage of a plot twist.

I haven't been having as many adventures as I usually do these past couple of weeks. My October adventures really wiped me out, and since I started the new job, I haven't gotten any assignments from the Village Voice, which is how I usually go on adventures. I don't know if the Voice has fired me or if they just don't have the funds to send out the Street Team, but I haven't heard from them in over a month, and I'm strangely okay with that. I had a good time with the Voice the last two years and saw parts of the city I'd never think of going on my own. I got to see mermaids, jazz, skateboarders, crazy people, and that guy from Depeche Mode, and I got a lot of street cred by telling people that I worked for the Village Voice. But I won't miss schlepping those heavy bags of swag around Williamsburg in the middle of the night when it's 13 degrees out and sleeting, I can tell you that much.

So, not a lot of adventuring lately, just some quiet, quirky observations about being an employed and fully functioning member of society.

Huh. I got nothing. Go read my book review. I think books are the only interesting thing I'm going to be talking about for a while.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Over at Big Island Rachel's Books...

Did you know that Big Island Rachel does book reviews of whatever she feels like reviewing between being awesomely dorkish and dorkishly awesome? I prefer books written by women, followed by the subcategories of scifi, fantasy, and comic books. Check out the latest reviews of "The Lovely Bones" and "A Thousand Acres" at

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October Round-Up

It's been a hell of a month. I'm skipping Halloween to try and catch up on things like my reading and housekeeping--there are dust bunnies under my bed the size of my fist--so here's a quick rundown of what we've missed since Comic-Con.

The weekend after the Con I went to Dalohnega, Georgia. You will never be able to pronounce the name of that town after seeing it in print. I was doing fine until I saw the sign at the freeway exit, and immediately my mind became unable to process the world. Dah-LON-neh-gah. We had boiled p-nuts and saw dear old friends from back in the Ka'u days.

Then me mum stayed with me. She got me a piggy whisk and a big bowl, so now I can make pancakes, and also a frame for my Katie Cook Kitty-Batman drawing. On Sunday, we jlangjlanged through Central Park, watched a dude fly a kite, and discovered a Whispering Bench in the Shakespeare Garden.

If all of this sounds like elaborate French Resistance code from World War II--or Red Dawn--that's okay. The chair is against the wall.

Monday, October 11, 2010

New York Comic Con 2010, Day 3

I almost didn't go. I woke up with nasty aches in my shoulders and hips and the stench of unwashed bespandexed nerd still in my nostrils and almost said, "F**k it, I'm staying in and having an omelet."

But then I remembered: that's not how I roll. I'm Big Island Rachel. I went back to Comic Con.

And boy, was I glad I did. Since Sunday is family day, there were a lot of families with little kidlets dressed up in their superhero costumes. It brings me back to my small kid days when I would dress up as Catwoman and kick it in the woods with my Barbies. Good times.

Nostalgia aside, it's eminently more practical to hit the exhibition floor early on the last day of the con. It's relatively deserted! "Relatively" meaning we weren't crammed in there asses to armpits and I could actually walk around without feeling like I was caught in a zombie epidemic without my shotgun. There were still a lot of people, but it was manageable. And, since it was Sunday, all of the vendors were trying to get rid of their wares. Here's what I got, all of it free, which is my favorite price range.
Now, here is why I like DC better than Marvel. (I think I said in one of my earlier blog posts that I liked Marvel better, but that was only because I'd just finished re-watching "X-Men: Evolution." Now we all know where I really stand.) Of the 28 free comic books I got at the con yesterday, 3 were independent presses, 4 were Marvel, and a whopping 21 were DC. I also got a Black Lantern Ring, a Flash ring, a Flash button, a Wonder Woman button, a Wonder Woman poster, a Justice League Brightest Day poster, and a Batman button at the DC booth. Marvel had no such tokens at their booth, and one of their "comic books" turned out to be a preview catalog for their December titles. What the hell, Marvel? Is this how you pull in new readers? DC wooed me like a blue-footed boobie doing its mating dance on the shores of Pearl Atoll, giving me the first issues of several ongoing titles (or good starting-off points of long-running titles like Batman & Robin) for their Vertigo, DC, and Wildstorm imprints--and Wildstorm is shutting down at the end of the year! Talk about having faith in your product. I spend half of yesterday and most of today getting sucked into "Astro City," "Scalped," iZombie," "Justice League of America," "Batman & Robin," "American Vampire," and "Jack of Fables," among others. DC's marketing strategy worked; I'm totally going to build a nest for my blue-footed boobie eggs--I mean, start buying these titles in the store.

Sorry, Marvel. Your inferior swag lost you a customer. Release a one-shot where Dazzler challenges Godzilla to basketball and maybe we'll talk.

So that's it for New York Comic Con 2010! You can read about Day 1 here, Day 2 here, and view my photos of the event here. Now if you'll excuse me, that "Green Arrow" isn't going to read itself.

New York Comic Con 2010 Day 2

This is my third year living in New York and I still managed to ride the subway in the wrong direction for three stops before I noticed my mistake. Thank goodness for the unlimited ride Metro card.

But I righted myself and was outside Penn Station at 10am, just in time to meet Superdog. Superdog's human and I were both late to meet people outside the Javits Center and the crosstown bus was no where in sight. "You want to share a cab?" she asked me (the human, not the dog). I said, "You know, I've lived in New York for two years and I've never shared a cab before? Let's do it!" So I cabbed to Comic Con with Superdog.

Saturday is a terrible day to be at the con. There were 80,000 people attending and the exhibition floor was so crowded that I nearly panicked like on the day of the Mermaid Parade, except here there was no parade barrier I could jump to get out of the seething mob. I just had to keep my cool long enough to get back to Artists Alley, where I got a hand-drawn and signed Batman Kitty from indie comic artist Katie Cook. I popped into the MTV Geek panel long enough to see Stan Lee speak, cuz dude is ancient and each con could be his last. Then I saw some stand-up at the Geek Comedy Tour stage and got one of my Authority paperbacks signed by its writer, Andy Lanning while my friend Reg attended the Voiceover in Animation panel.
While waiting for the Vertigo panel to start, we got sucked into conversation with a cultural stereotype: fat pasty guy who wouldn't shut up about a comic book character he'd created. People like him drag the rest of us down.

And people like Catwoman here lift us up. I hung out with this woman the day that I was an extra on the set of "Bored to Death," and recognized her instantly because of the quality of her costume. She made it herself from the same material and design as Julie Newmar's Catwoman costume in the 1960s Batman show.

The Vertigo panel was kind of boring. Shame--that's the imprint I read most often. I've noticed that the panels with the longest lines aren't necessarily the most entertaining, especially if they're the big name companies putting all of their big-gun artists and writers on stage together. These people rarely see each other, so watching them is like being at a very awkward cocktail party.

No, for me, the best panels are the small niche ones, like Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? because the panelists all know each other and they aren't trying to sell you anything. The Comics Alliance panel was awesome, too, good rapport amongst the panelists, AND they gave out DC-themed Hostess snack cakes to audience members who asked questions. The Flash cakes were okay, basically just a cupcake with red icing, but the Green Lantern Glo-Balls were VILE. First of all, I don't want to eat Green Lantern's balls; and second, the layer of green coconut marshmallow icing smothering the whole thing tastes and feels like chewing on a condom.

I had two.

Spending all day at the con is exhausting. I wanted to leave after the Vertigo panel--Reg and I were both nodding off in our chairs--but there was a panel I desperately wanted to see at 8:30, so I just attended four panels back to back. At least then I could be sitting down. After Vertigo, Comics Alliance, the zombie panel, and the LGBT in Comics panel (which was a lot less interesting than it should have been), it was finally time for my most anticipated event of the day: ItsJustSomeRandomPanel with ItsJustSomeRandomGuy. IJSRG has a YouTube channel where he uses his superhero action figures and some Barbies to act out these Marvel/DC crossover stories he writes with his wife. They are flipping awesome. It was the second-longest line I stood in at the whole con, and it was totally worth it.

To summarize then: Superdog, enormous mob, Stan Lee, zombies, Glo-Balls, guy with dolls. Day 2 of NYCC. View all the photos on my Flickr stream.