A New Century

1996–2005: from Aids in Africa to 9-11, Clinton's blowjob to Cindy Sheehan

The Luminous Beam

by Vince Aletti

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  • May 26, 1998

    "State of emergency is where I want to be," Björk sang over and over in her encore at Hammerstein Ballroom last week, but that's just where she'd been for the previous hour and a half. Working her vocal range like a DJ scratching and fading vinyl, she never merely sang, she shaped noise. She shouted, she whispered, she crooned, she shredded lyrics and rewove them in midair. She moved beyond language, beyond words to create a buzzing, burbling, weirdly thrilling soundscape—a place you could lose yourself in for days. "I don't recognize myself," she sang, and we knew just what she meant. In a funny little white leather Jeremy Scott dress with pleated, bat-wing sleeves, she was Alice in Wonderland as Merlin the Magician, lost in spaces that only she could have imagined. Bj has always seemed to inhabit a world of her own, part twee fantasyland, part gnarly fun house.
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    The AIDS crisis is over–for me
    Why I think it's time for new attitudes about risk, charity, and letting go
    By Dan Savage

    February 25, 1997

    About five years ago, I had sex with this guy I met at a party. In the bathroom of his apartment, I noticed a dozen bottles of pills—all familiar AIDS meds. He lived alone. The fact that he had AIDS was not an issue, as we didn't do anything unsafe. The sex was fine, but the events before and after were weird. When we would find ourselves standing next to each other in a bar, we would pretend not to recognize each other. Very hostile vibes. At those times, I would comfort myself by thinking, "Well, he'll be dead soon." And when I did stop seeing him around, I assumed he'd died.

    Then two weeks ago, at four in the morning, in another time zone, I'm eating pancakes in an all-night restaurant with my friend Dave, when in walks the guy with the AIDS meds in his bathroom. We were the only other people in the restaurant. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and all I could think as we sat there eating was, ''Jesus Christ, why aren't you dead?'' I felt cheated. Of all the people who survived, why him? Now, he's probably going to live a long life, and the two of us could go on running into each other again and again for the next 30 years.

    Of course, I'm not so evil as to wish anyone dead for such a stupid, selfish reason as my dining comfort. I'm honestly glad this guy is not dead. Sort of. I only relate this story to illustrate a point: A lot of the things we took for granted during the AIDS crisis, such as the eventual deaths of people with AIDS, are going to have to be revised. Why?

    Well, in the last 12 months, everything about AIDS has changed. Because, as you've surely heard, the AIDS crisis is over.

    Thanks to new drugs, men and women near death just a few short months ago are running marathons, dumping boyfriends, being dumped by boyfriends who'd been quietly looking forward to being widows, and checking out of AIDS hospices. . . .

    Some people don't want you to know about this end-of-AIDS business. This kind of talk is premature, they insist, and dangerous . . .

    They're right to be afraid. ''The End of AIDS,'' real or imaginary, is going to ''impact behavior choices'' in bedrooms and legislatures, and affect people's decisions about volunteering time and donating money. They're right about something else too, something at once very important and utterly meaningless: AIDS ain't over. People are still getting infected, and the vast majority of people with AIDS are still going to die, drugs or no drugs.

    Free Villy
    James Ledbetter

    February 20, 1996

    What a perfectly postmodern conundrum: thousands, probably tens of thousands of people who know nothing about The Village Voice now know that it is going to be circulated for free. (On Monday, Rush Limbaugh used the development to proclaim victory over liberalism.) Last week, the few hundred people who know a lot about the Voice from the inside were not feeling much more enlightened. I won't speak for the business side, but my colleagues in editorial are confused, highly skeptical, and a little scared. Here's a distillation of reactions:

    It's going to hurt our bottom line, and therefore our journalism. People don't need to know a damn thing about publishing or business to know that it's rare for a successful, profitable paper to one day declare without warning: "You know that $3 million or so in cash generated by newsstand sales? Forget it. We don't need it." This makes people think the conversion is a desperate move or that, at best, the missing chunk of profit is going to be taken out of the staff. Why spend extra money to, say, cover the presidential primaries in 2000 if there are no extra readers to attract? Why pay writers and editors a decent salary when all you need to do is fill space? . . .

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