Monday, March 26, 2007

The Woman Behind "The First Man-Made Man"

For historians and those few already keeping track: This post is the first real-time post, the inaugural entry, on this blog visible to the public (the earlier ones were written before today’s unveiling). This is highly fitting, since I am about to head off to see a reading by a woman who was first famous for editing a ’zine — those printed predecessors of blogs, before everyone was online. I told her back in the 90s, when I was working for ABC News, that I somewhat envied the freedom and personal tone of ’zines but felt I’d already missed out on the movement’s heyday. To compensate, I have gotten in right at the start of this whole “blogging” phenomenon, by which I mean within the first decade. (I’ll start posting daily-or-so on April Fool’s Day, prior to which I promise I’ll be working to fix some typos and unfinished links you may have noticed.)

One of the features of this new site I still need to add is the Book Selection of the Month (I’ll review one thought-provoking book per month, tying it in to other works with which it resonates) — and I am pleased to announce that the selection for April will be…The First Man-Made Man by Pagan Kennedy, a fascinating look at the first woman to be transformed into a man by surgery — just one of countless ways technology disrupts tradition, a theme I hope to return to many times on this blog in the months ahead.

And the fascinating and prolific Pagan Kennedy — along with her friends Virginia Vitzthum (who was one of our debaters at Lolita Bar in January) and Lisa Dierbeck — will read tonight at 7pm at Mo Pitkin’s at 34 Ave. A.

(It’s the start of a momentous literary week here in Manhattan that will also see a paperback release party at Bowery Poetry Club at 6pm Thursday for Janice “Girlbomb” Erlbaum’s memoir of teenage homelessness and the release of the latest issue of Elizabeth Koch and Todd Zuniga’s literary journal Opium at 8pm on Saturday at Musical Box at 219 Ave. B.)

UPDATE 4/1/07: I don’t intend to turn this site into a Gawker wannabe thing, but I must say Janice “Girlbomb” Erlbaum turned out an impressive crowd with many familiar (creative) members, including, if you count her brief presence, Elizabeth Koch of Opium. Since it was partly a karaoke party, I dedicated my performance of Roxy Music’s “Virginia Plain” to Virginia Vitzthum, though as I left the stage, Chris Brodeur questioned my decision to do the somewhat obscure song in front of a non-British karaoke audience.

(Brodeur is possibly New York’s most eccentric Green Party activist, though he’s competing with Vox Pop cafe owner Sander Hicks. Brodeur wrote a flatteringly lengthy letter to me when I wrote for New York Press, challenging me to debate him anytime and calling me a “tomatohead,” though he appears to get along with his singer/comedian girlfriend, Jessica Delfino — who did an impressive “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” — just fine. He also got Virginia’s vote for mayor back when he ran for that office, so by the Virginia metric, Brodeur wins. I didn’t vote for him but was amused by his platform, which included such quirky, highly personal agenda items as putting up more clocks in public places because he doesn’t like to wear a watch [it makes his wrist sweat] and replacing mesh-sided trash cans with solid trash cans so that he would no longer have the problem of throwing garbage and accidentally having it go through the side of the can. For a while in the mid-90s, he seemed mainly to be obsessed with blaming then-mayor Giuliani for the NYPD’s failure to find Brodeur’s stolen bicycle. As my friend Scott Nybakken, who was also a New York Press writer back then, put it, Brodeur’s obsession was a bit like Pee-wee Herman’s quest for his lost bike in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. I think I recall voting for Giuliani and will probably end up voting for him for president next year. [I wonder if the people who are concerned about Giuliani's chances of getting support from religious conservatives know how often he was praised in the pages of New York Press by writer Alan Cabal, a Satanist -- but that is a topic for another time.])

Comedian Michele Carlo nicely offered to keep plugging the monthly Debates at Lolita Bar that I host on the site ToxicPop. Author and party-organizer Janice did a show-stopping “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” And perhaps best of all, “Rev.” Jen Miller agreed to be novelist Katherine Taylor’s opponent in a June 20 debate at Lolita on the question “Is It More Painful to Get Dumped or to Do the Dumping?” (More on that when the time comes.) Rev. Jen, alas, will be able to argue from recent experience for the position that it’s worse to get dumped — but the most recent fella probably wasn’t as much trouble as one of her other exes, video artist Nick Zedd, who I’m told once smashed a bottle over the aforementioned Brodeur’s head, which probably means Zedd didn’t vote for him, either.

My own behavior in bars is, of course, exemplary, though oddly enough I did find myself somewhat at odds with bar staff members two nights in a row in this ostensibly highbrow and literary week just ended, being aggressively hustled out of a booth at the Upper East Side bar Uptown by a belligerent, red-haired young man claiming to be the manager who insisted that a private party was occurring in that part of the bar and that I had no right to be there — and who immediately accused me of lying when I began calmly explaining that I’d been in the booth before the private party began forming in the area around it without any outward indication that it was a private party or that area was off-limits. He not only accused me of lying and claimed (erroneously) to have seen me arrive after the party began but then repeatedly insisted that I sounded “defensive” — which raises the interesting question of what tone one would ascribe to an innocent man who was explaining his innocence.

In any case: Uptown Bar: BOYCOTTED. And, reluctantly, I must also add: Musical Box: BOYCOTTED, much as I enjoyed the Opium gathering there, since the staffer complaining about me placing a wine glass on the pool table that was being used as a merchandise table angrily cut off my attempt at an apologetic explanation that I’d only put the glass down for a second in order to pay the waitress who brought it to me. Apparently, they teach staffers at some bars to be belligerent immediately if anyone tries to speak to them at all, even if the customer is trying to agree with them. Thank goodness for Lolita, not to mention the friendly bartenders at Vasmay a couple blocks north of it. As my friend Chuck Blake has observed, Manhattanites need bars because we have no living rooms (the alcohol is almost irrelevant), so it’s important that some of these places remain civil. (Some of us also need performance spaces and the like, of course.)

Oh, and while I’m at it: Merc Bar: BOYCOTTED. They had a problem years ago when I had a party there with waitresses aggressively and abruptly hustling customers out of tables and slapping down a “Reserved” sign, claiming the table had already been taken (no matter how long the customers already there had been seated), and though my wonderful, warm-hearted friend Reid Mihalko, a bartender there (and founder, oddly enough, of, makes the quieter nights there a joy, the ruthlessness of the waitresses, who seem to have returned to their “Reserved” ways on busier nights, means that quiet, contemplative men from rural New England like myself must seek calmer environs. Or a living room.

P.S. On a totally unrelated literary note, a friend of a friend is editing a book called The Complete Compendium of Imaginary Fights, featuring quasi-experts predicting the winners of fights such as “Large, Balding Woman vs. Small Man with Breasts” and “Metrosexual vs. Eunuch,” so if you are or know such a writer/pseudo-expert, consider contacting JacobKalish[at]

UPDATE 4/3/07: Pagan appears again, tonight (Tue. the 3rd) at KGB Bar, for all interested. (I can’t make it to this one but was honored to be the “slideshow” image-holder onstage at the Mo Pitkin’s reading, drafted at the last minute.)


Jacob T. Levy said...

Welcome to blogging, at long last.

Love the FAQ.

Joseph Brennan said...

So, no link to my blog, eh?

The tomne I would describe an innocent man explaining his innocence would have would be, “innocent.”

Congratulations on your bar boycotts.

Karol said...

Girlbomb is great! Chris Brodeur, um, less so.

Alyssa said...

I’ll still never forget the time that I was part of a trio of robotic yet suggestive back-up singers to your cover of “Addicted to Love;” but I guess this just makes me sound like I’m trying to claim a piece of your newfound blogging fame.

Todd Seavey said...

Alyssa, it is NEVER wrong to admit to being one of my robotic yet suggestive karaoke back-up singers.

Alan Cabal said...

I gave up my infatuation with Giuliani. The man is yet another in a long series of vicious Republiscum closet queens. He should be waterboarded until he tells us what he knows about 911.

Todd Seavey said...

Thank you for the clarification, Mr. Cabal. I am inclined to think that in any case McCain may have taken the lead in the “most Satanic” category for singing this week in what was intended to be a humorous fashion about bombing Iran. I’m not saying whether I like or dislike him — or Satan — but it is oddly “ghoulish.”

Todd Seavey said...

[...] Despite all the violence and trauma in Girlbomb though — and a few well-earned poignant moments like Janice’s brief glimpse of her vicious, seemingly inhuman, teen-girl attacker’s teddy bear — Janice turned out to be a swell human being as an adult and, as the book does not say but as I’ve seen with my own eyes, she has become a talented stand-up comedian in addition to being a successful writer and volunteering at a shelter for homeless teens. In fact, despite my recent anti-feminist blog entry, I liked Janice’s act the first time I saw it in part because it was overtly feminist, resulting in a couple memorable jokes such as (this may not be verbatim, and my text won’t hold a candle to her delivery): “It bothers me when people call lesbians man-haters — I mean, what do lesbians know about hating men?” and “My feminist demands aren’t that extreme; I just want the simple things — like to be able to eat a banana in public without feeling self-conscious.” [...]

Todd Seavey said...

[...] EPILOGUE: Today’s little exercise in dialectical synthesis comes on what happens to be the one-year anniversary of this blog’s first real-time post, though I posted some experimental pre-launch material before that March 26, 2007 entry and some retroactive archival material later, for anyone (besides me) trying to keep that straight.  Have we learned anything in this first year?  I suppose I’ve learned that after the “Month Without Buckley” I need to switch to doing short little entries — or rather, after my April Fool’s Day review of Daniel Radosh’s book Rapture Ready! — which you can ask him to sign after the debate he appears in one week from tonight at Lolita Bar (April 2, 8pm). [...]

Todd Seavey said...

[...] •Mid-March brought a junket to tour the Scottish nanotech industry, the end of March had seen the official start of regular blogging at, and April brought the aforementioned Koli meeting, quickly followed by our first real date, seeing musician Mike Kobrin — who had also been one of the other writers on that nanotech junket and who has just this month relocated to New Orleans, the perfect place for a trumpet player. One who combines a fascination with high tech and a love of traditional music is a cultural balancing act after my own heart, a natural for the Big Easy. [...]