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Richard Metzger

Richard Metzger blogs at Dangerous Minds. Follow him on Twitter.

Growing Up Bowie: Mark Dery's "All The Young Dudes: Why Glam Rock Matters"

Mark Dery's new ebook, All The Young Dudes: Why Glam Matters (the debut publication from Boing Boing's digital imprint) is a delightfully Derynian cultural excavation of the deeper definition of masculinity in the 20th century and beyond. His extended essay on the post-meterosexual landscape takes as its point of departure the doomed-teen anthem penned by David Bowie and performed by Mott The Hoople:

And what, exactly, was a young dude? In the ’70s Southern California of my adolescence, “dude” was the universal form of address among teenaged males. A verbal virus spread by the surfer scene, “dude” was a jocular hi-sign, the verbal fist bump of male bonding. Variously inflected, it could also be a remonstration (dude!), a quizzical exclamation (dude?!), or a backslap of bong-loaded bonhomie (duuuuude, underscored with a Cheshire-cat grin). With the right verbal spin, the term could even signify Jeff Spicoli’s idea of satori, a kind of Tao of Whoahhh—the existential weightlessness common to surfers, stoners, and slackers, a state of mind incarnated by Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski. But whatever else it was, “dude” was an expression of Dude-ism—straight guy-ness, distilled down to its bro-mantic, brewski-chugging, perpetually adolescent essence.

It’s doubtful Bowie spoke fluent Dude, in 1972. More likely, he reached for the word because of its historical associations with dandies and other Dedicated Followers of Fashion—the sort of “handsome young man, curled, well-dressed, pomaded, painted and powdered” (Edmond de Goncourt, on one of Proust’s friends) whose flamboyance or excessive fastidiousness in dress struck a note of unmanly vanity, even effeminacy.

Dery describes Bowie as "a reverse-drag queen: a heteroflexible straight man playing an exquisitely androgynous gay."

My own career as a Bowie fanatic began around the same time as Mark's (I was an 8-year-old when I discovered "Space Oddity" on AM radio and bought the single in 1973) but at that age the whole gay thing would have been meaningless to me. I just knew that David Bowie was fucking cool--like the coolest most exciting person who had ever lived, like a real-life superhero of sorts and a living, breathing example to me as a kid growing up in Wheeling, WV that you could be whatever you wanted to be. Extreme Bowie fandom helped hip me to Andy Warhol, Williams Burroughs, Evelyn Waugh, The New York Dolls, too many things to name. I'm definitely someone who believes that I am who I am in large part due to David Bowie's existence as the defining cultural avatar of my childhood and how that profoundly influenced my own direction in life.

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Mind Blowing Movies: What's New Pussycat?, by Richard Metzger

Mm200Recently, Boing Boing presented a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. We are extending the series. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series. -- Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: What's New Pussycat?, by Richard Metzger

[Video Link] After reading over the other entries in Boing Boing's Mind Blowing Movies series, I couldn't help feeling a little embarrassed that I was unable to think of even a single film that I felt had truly blown my mind. Works of art, music, weird science, books of philosophy, sure, ideas have blown my mind, but when I try to mentally flip though the catalog of my favorite films, or ones that I quote from the most often, or what have you (Female Trouble, Valley of the Dolls, Putney Swope, Ken Russell's Isadora Duncan: Biggest Dancer in the World, Head, Richard Lester's criminally underrated Petulia) I still wouldn't file any of them as particularly "mind blowing," just as movies that I happen to really, really like.

When Mark sent out the invite to contribute, I confess that I immediately drew a cinematic blank, but there was one film that that didn't necessarily "blow my mind," per se, in the same way that the other participants here have expressed it in their posts, but it did fundamentally alter my mind, or at least it did something to immediately change my perception of the world around me, in the sense that there was a before & after aspect when I watched it. Accordingly my anecdote will be short and sweet.

When I was a 7-year-old kid in 1973, What's New Pussycat? the quintessential sexy 60s comedy "romp," aired on ABC's Movie of the Week and I watched it in the basement of my parent's house on a cheap black and white TV set with a rabbit-ears antenna with balls of tin foil crunched at the tip of each branch. The picture quality was comparable to a security camera. Why I was watching What's New Pussycat? sitting alone in a damp, crappy basement or even interested in this particular film in the first place at that age, I couldn't tell you, but I am guessing I wanted to watch it because I liked the theme song, sung by Tom Jones (I owned the 45rpm on Parrot Records) or else simply because Peter Sellers was in it.

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RAW Week: Wilson and I, by Richard Metzger

As "outsider" teenage readers of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's classic Illuminatus! Trilogy in the early 1980s, it seemed to some of my friends at the time (all big Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan and Philip K Dick fans, too) that the novel's authors were trying to communicate something "in code" to their readers, like it was a message about "the conspiracy" that was coming from an underground resistance group. I thought that was bunk and fanciful nonsense, but it goes to show how strong of an effect that book had on kids' imaginations back then.

Illuminatus! was a touchstone for freethinking weirdos of that era, one of the rare books that even attempted to make sense of being born into an ever increasingly surreal world still reeling from things like the JFK/MLK/RFK assassinations, Watergate and the Vietnam war and where Ronald Reagan, a bad actor who once worked with a chimpanzee, had just become President.

It was also an interesting experiment in mass occult initiation -- sold at shopping malls across America -- that satirically tore away the veils of the modern world and (actively, not passively) imprinted a skeptical worldview on the reader. Read those books from cover to cover and there was virtually not a chance in hell that you'd be a normal person ever again. The Illuminatus! trilogy really made quite an impression, let's just say.

Wilson's non-fiction work, Cosmic Trigger, was of even greater interest to me with its cheerful speculations on Timothy Leary's channeled communications from "holy guardian angels," psychedelic drugs and Aleister Crowley. The so-called "23 enigma," I was familiar with already because of The Third Mind by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, but it was explained in greater depth in Cosmic Trigger. It was the first place I'd read of Robert K. Temple's book The Sirius Mystery and it was also the first time I heard the name Terence McKenna. I can't tell you how many weird and wonderful things that book exposed me to.

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The Speaking Piano From Hell Link

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He’s Still the Great Gore Vidal, But Boy Is He Cranky Link

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Kembra Pfahler's Gossip Girl Micro-Cameo Link

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Blue Jeans: The Movie Link

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Radley Metzger’s Erotic Masterpiece: The Lickerish Quartet Link

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Dolphin Present During Human Birth Link

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Julian Barratt (Mighty Boosh) drinks dog milk in Bunny and The Bull clip Link

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Laramie Project adds Unrepentant Killer’s Words as Epilogue Link

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Roman Polanski: No Matter How You Slice It, He Raped a Child Link

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Hitler Learns About Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue Link

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GOP Healthcare Plan: Don’t Get Sick… And If You Do Get Sick, Die Quickly Link

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The Skoal Rebel returns (and tells all you motherfuckers you don't know shit) Link

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Vampire Lesbians of Hammer Link

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Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and John Lennon! The LS Bumble Bee video Link

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