Left: Jerry Springer The Opera; Right: WebCollage: Exterminate All Rational Thought.
1. WHY THE LONG FACE? Every actor whether he is, or aspires to be, openly gay should put Craig Chesters Why the Long Face?: The Adventures of a Truly Independent Actor (LA Weekly Books, 288 pp., $23.95) right next to his dog-eared copies of Constantine Stanislavski and Sanford Meisner. Chester, clearly one of the founding members of the gay and thespian alliance, describes in delirious detail his harrowing journey from growing up in a born-again Christian household to appearing in a Dallas production of AIDS: The Musical to starring in such early queer classics as Swoon, Frisk and I Shot Andy Warhol. The book, which plays like a updated, gay version of A Star Is Born, ultimately reminds us that real glamour resides in personal integrity, or so Chester would have us believe in his poignantly titled chapter "Youll Never Eat Ass in This Town Again."
2. COUDAL PARTNERS. This Chicago-based design firms Web site (http://coudal.com) showcases the agencys own talents and plays host to the work of others, including the L.A.based media collective Slowtrons innovative series of short films, and the Museum of Online Museums ever changing roster of links to online collections such as the Museum of Pantyhose Packaging, the International Gallery of Stewardess Uniforms and the Moist Towelette Online Museum.
3. WEBCOLLAGE. (www.jwz.org/webcollage) feeds random words into various search engines and grabs images from the pages returned to create unique collages that are updated every 60 seconds. The programs software is a modern version of the free-association parlor game petits papiers in which one person writes or draws on a sheet of paper, folds the paper to conceal part of it, and passes it on to the next player for that persons contribution popularized by the surrealists as the "Exquisite Corpse". (The resulting poetic fragments, the surrealists believed, reveal the collective unconscious resulting from what Max Ernst called "mental contagion" between the players.) WebCollage designer Jamie Zawinski may aspire in theory to "Exterminate All Rational Thought," but in practice there is also an insidious flip side to the software: WebCollage can also be used "to snoop images from traffic on your local subnet to create collages of the images your coworkers are looking at!"
4. JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA. High and low culture face off in their final death match in Jerry Springer The Opera, a theatrical performance with music by Richard Thomas at the National Theater in London. While the show vocalizes the same crimes and misdemeanors so often hauled on stage for the real show (crack whores, tap dancing KKK, and adult men who like to poop in their diapers), the opera strangely soars in the second half into a loose reinterpretation of Miltons Paradise Lost with Satan, Christ, and Adam and Eve sitting down to tell the studio audience what they feel about what happened. Springer who ironically was born in London caught the show in August at Edinburghs Fringe Festival, and, as far as the producers know, is not suing.
5. LONG DAYS JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. Watching the current Broadway revival, one realizes that all of our late 20th century dysfunctional families have their antecedent in playwright Eugene ONeills. In Long Days Journey into Night, ONeill mercilessly dissected the collision between American dreams and familial realities. See it now and watch Vanessa Redgrave nail the mother of all mother roles.
6. FACETS VIDEO CATALOG. Databases do not generally lend themselves to "accidentally on purpose": you find what youre looking for and miss out on serendipity and whim. For those who still savor the feel of paper on their palms, there are some thousand pages in Facets Complete Video Catalog No. 16 (www.facets.org). It serves as a sales tool for Facetss massive mail-order operation, but its mix of synopses and quotations from a wide range of critics also affords a tiptoe down the corridors of film history and, even better, a guidebook for making the most of your Netflix subscription.
7. THE BENT LENS. For anyone with an interest in the history of queer film, Lisa Daniel and Claire Jackson, director and president, respectively, of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, have edited a second edition of The Bent Lens: A World Guide to Gay and Lesbian Film (Alyson Publications, 576 pages, $22.95). Their terse blurbs from multiple sources are useful, yet their greatest accomplishment is to compile among their 2,500 entries an incredible number of documentaries and shorts along with the feature films. The book includes a 500-entry listing of film distributors and sales agents as well as a list of gay and lesbian film festivals worldwide.
8. THOMAS RUFF NUDES (Harry N. Abrams, $49.95) contains the German artists digitally smeared, retouched and obscured hardcore photographs. The concept recalls Richard Prince, and the execution, as Ruff admits, steals a page from Gerhard Richter. But the hybrids aesthetic appeal, one feels, owes as much to the original picture takers as it does to Ruffs manipulations. Composed, charged, provocative and yet uncredited, these images transcend the artists appropriations. So heres to the nameless photographers and models whose work has traveled through the Internet into the realm of high art.