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Fiz 8.3.05 

My pal Craig | Batman, unlicensed

My pal Craig

"I honestly believe that I'm smarter than most of my friends, and am genuinely surprised when they know words outside of everyday vocabulary. I don't think I'm better than them, just smarter."

Ah, the furtive frolics of Internet bulletin boards and chat rooms. The illicit things we learn! They're the confessional booth, the pasted-up hate letter, the murky back barroom of our computer-driven age. Purge; but hide. Tell your secrets; preserve your secrets.

The phenomenon that is Craigslist ( has come to Rochester. The site is expanding like a mushroom. Print newspapers are having a hard time competing with it for classified ad sales and community listings. (Hence Seattle Stranger alt-weekly editor Dan Savage's T-shirt, pictured.) But the "rants and raves" are the most damn fun. It's open and anonymous, consensual and frisky.

There are the in-and-outs. People jump on to post their darkest secrets, like the one above. Just to say it out loud. Just for the sweet relief.

And then there are posters who want more than just a one-night stand. People who post often, and under tags like "Rochacha" or "Rottenchester." These, you get to know a little. Rottenchester is perhaps the most prolific and endearing poster on Craigslist. His notes include a detailed description of his failed attempt to trim his pubes with a pair of sewing scissors (Fiskars brand, in case you're wondering), an ode to summer mornings, a really analytical probe into Wegmans' egg farms, and --- the most charming --- a roundup address to various posters of the previous few weeks who were never answered. His writing reveals him to be well read, thoughtful, impetuous, angry, and with time to spare. Maybe you know him. Maybe I do.

And that's just it. For all the wondering about who these anonymous posters are, sometimes you peer down to the keyhole and find an eyeball staring right back at you.

Rochacha and Rottenchester got into it a couple of weeks ago over City Newspaper and the D&C's Insider. They spoke to us. They advised us. It was weird. Not as weird as it could have been, considering we are a newspaper and get anonymous comments all the time. But weird to just be surfing the whole wide anonymous Web and see a big old "HEY YOU" that's actually addressed to you. And it was just luck. These people have no reason to believe we'd actually be reading. They just wanted to say it out loud, I guess.

--- Erica Curtis

Batman, unlicensed

As an upholder of justice, Batman has always been a bit suspect. And since Frank Miller reinvented him in The Dark Knight Returns, he's been an out-and-out renegade. So it shouldn't have come as any surprise to find a cheap Chinese knock-off Batman action figure at the Public Market, among the almost ripe watermelons and cucumbers for pickling.

He's not exactly the anti-Batman, or the Caped Crusader from the Bizarro World. Still, there's something unnerving about this unlicensed toy. He's a shadow of a shadow, an illegal doppelganger manufactured in some Chinese trash factory.

The so-called Black Batman has prowled around the fringes of Asian junk culture for decades. The earliest version I know of is in a Japanese comic book (again, unlicensed) from 1961. But I'm sure he goes much farther back, probably predating the American superhero.

Is he a Taoist immortal updated with bulging chest and flex-o-matic arms? How long had he been lurking there at the Public Market, right down the line from the fried dough booth? What exactly makes him the "Desert Attack Batman?" Surely it's not just his Missle Flightpack and red plastic ray-gun. What desert? Who will he attack? What makes him any blacker than the American version? Is there some mysterious Asian racial reference I'm missing?

I wondered all these questions. I stood in the crowd listening to people haggle over peaches and string beans. Then I shelled out my three bucks and took him home to get ready for my own "New Batman Adventures."

Strangely, I've never opened him up and sent him on a mission of vengeance. But I can feel it: The time will surely come when he will be unleashed.

--- Th. Metzger

Speaking of Craigslist, Black Batman


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