15 Questions for Halcyon Styn

Publisher/designer/humorist John Halcyon Styn is making the web safe for his penis. Though he's dubbed his online alter ego cockybastard.com, we find he's a heckuva nice guy ...
Halcyon w/ Derek Powazek
Halcyon Styn, right, with Derek Powazek outside Web98, San Francisco. Photo: Drue Miller

1. Tell the folks about your work.
Prehensile.com and cockybastard.com are court-ordered outlets for my somewhat "different" creative energies.
          On prehensile.com, I put up a new humorous Tale every Monday. Tales are adult-oriented stories/gags/parodies/whatever that are short enough to read while your boss isn't looking and funny enough to make you piss your pants.
          Cockybastard is the sister site that provides a peek inside my mental panties. It is a digital halfway house for essays and pictures too raw or revealing for Prehensile Tales.
          Between the two, you'll get to know me all too well.

2. How did you get into this?
I published Prehensile Tales as a xeroxed, paper zine for several years. I mailed my phallic-centric comics and masterbatory rants to any crazed lunatic willing to send me some stamps. Prehensile went online almost two years ago and gave me the ear of the whole world. If there was only some way I could physically force them to listen.

3. Some sites have guestbooks, some have chat. You invite visitors to page you. Tell me how that works and what it's about.
A consultant at my work wrote a program to send me alphanumeric pages when our webserver went down. It took me all of a five minutes before I figured out how to turn it into a personal vibrator. Now I get almost as many pages as e-mail.
          I love it. People type in "You're a Dork" and 15 seconds later it's vibing on my hip. I like the immediacy of it. I also like how there is a physical aspect to it. Email is easily forgotton, but with the pager, its like a physical tap on the shoulder. Or sometimes its more like a hug. Occasionally its like a tongue in the ear.

4. How else do you interact with your audience?
I try to personally telephone everyone who visits prehensile.com. You, know, just kinda follow up. Make sure there wasn't any confusion. People sure are funny though when I call, "They pretend to act all scared – and say stuff like, "How did you get this number!!??" and "Who the hell is this!?"

5. A lot of your sensibility comes from the physical. You take nude photographs. You display your body at cockybastard.com. A lot of Prehensile is about your own sexual experience.
The human body and the sexual act are very natural, very beautiful things. (At least, from what I can remember about the sexual act – my act has been a soliloquy for all too long).
          A lot of what I write and joke about has to do with taking off protective layers. Whether its removing clothing, or removing a faŤade of confidence. When you strip it away, there is a strange mixture of vulnerability and empowerment.
          The byline of PT used to be "Mental Clarity through silly phallic rants" and that was only partly in jest.
          I am a physical being with natural urges and body processes. I'm not ashamed of that. And one of the ways I come to terms with embarrassing or unacceptable stuff, is by writing about it in a humorous way. Plus, I'm hoping someday to get a date out of all this·can you print that I'm single?

6. One of the things I love is that you apply your sense of humor to yourself as well as your content. There are so many SERIOUS web authors out there.
Being on the gameshow STUDS was a life changing experience. I was rejected by three LA Models on national television. That gave me a sense of humor about my own foibles real quick.

7. You were threatened with a lawsuit over your content, and you stood your ground. Fruit of The Loom's lawyers sent me a Cease and Desist over a parody called Meat of the Loom. I knew I was acting within my rights and decided to fight it. My Dad offered to act as my attorney. Some families go fishing, we had a father-son freedom of speech battle.
          Fruit of the Loom took a really offensive, "Do what we say 'cause you can't afford not to" stance. I started publishing all of my correspondence with their lawyers. The online community rallied, and in days, hundreds of sites put up banners saying, "Keep your Looms off my Loins" and "Freedom of Speech doesn't end at an elastic waistband."
          Two weeks later Fruit of the Loom sent a letter with a much friendlier tone. They said, essentially, "Hey pal, no harm-no foul – now can you get these lunatics to stop sending us hate mail?"
          It was awesome. Even though the law was on my side, they'd assumed I would back down because it would be too expensive to fight back. But the powerful voice of the Internet community gave me some chips to play with. I didn't have to fold a good hand just because the stakes were too high.

8. What are you afraid of? What, if anything, _could_ make you consider changing any of your content?
I generally don't care if my stuff offends people, but if someone accuses me of being sexist, racist or homophobic, I definitely give the content in question a double look.
          In a Tale about sex with dogs , I pointed out that dogs were clearly masculine and cats were obviously feminine. Then added that if I was going to have sex with an animal, it would definitely be a cat, "'cause I ain't no fag." A few people attacked me for being homophobic. I seriously considered removing the gag. But I think they're missing the point entirely. I'm teasing a mentality that fears being labeled a homosexual so much that bestiality isn't even an issue. Whatever. For the record, I've had sex with neither cat nor dog.

9. What's your philosophy when doing work for hire? How do you approach pure design projects for clients?
Unfortunately, the entire web audience isn't 17 year-old stoners. If it was, I could just make clients' sites just like Prehensile Tales. When I'm designing for other people, I let their content dictate the style. For example, a site I made for a furniture designer is much different from one I'm working on right now for a swimsuit model. Of course, if the web is all 17 year old stoners, they'll like the model's site, whatever the design.

10. Who are your humor heroes? How did you develop your comedy sense?
Well, my family is a bunch of funny fucks. The other day my brother picked up my copy of "Do What You Love and The Money Will Follow." He held it up and said, "Who's gonna pay me to masturbate?" And my Dad complained at the dinner table that he wouldn't have to skim the pool as often if our trees didn't jerk-off so much. National Lampoon and Woody Allen's "Side Effects" taught me the difference between spoken and written comedic timing.
          But my bible is the Simpsons. It's the only TV I watch. The writing blows me away. I have 9 videotapes filled with old episodes. Every time I turn on the TV, I can't help but think, "a Simpsons' re-run is better than this." Unless I'm watching porn. Nothing beats good porn.

11. What do you love or hate about the web?
I hate sites that keep pestering me to pay membership fees before I can see "HOT HARDCORE ACTION."

12. Okay, let's try that another way. Why do you love the web? How has it changed your life?
I think one of the strengths of the web is that you can blur the line between content and creator. When you read a story in paper or a magazine, it sometimes feels like a blurb of words produced by some news factory. You lose the connection with the author.
          In a web publishing situation, you get so much more of an opportunity to "know" the author. I love seeing a web author's picture. I love seeing a picture of their cat. I like that I can get a sense of the person telling me a story.
          It's like being introduced to someone, eating dinner at the table with them, and listening to them tell a story over dessert. It's much different than if someone just walked right up to you and started telling the same story.

13. What mark would you like to leave on the web?
I'd like to be known as the Christ of the web. I'd like "http://" to be replaced by "So Halcyon Says://" If that doesn't work out, I guess I'd just like to be known as a guy who took off his shirt all the time and talked about boners.

14. What do you do when you're not doing this? What would you do if you couldn't do this any more?
Oh, please don't take away my website! I'll be good! I don't know what I'd be doing. When I was introduced to the web, it was like Plato coming out of the cave. Don't make me go back in the cave! I'd be forced to walk door to door telling stories. And I doubt anyone wants to see my mug through their peephole.

15. Anything else on your mind today?
I've been thinking a lot about those inflatable sex dolls. Who invented those? I can just picture some guy emerging from his basement shop with a saggy configuration of garbage bags and duct tape. I picture him proudly displaying his work to his buddies,
          "Hey! Check her out! Give the girl a whirl! This is only the prototype, of course ... the final product will be much easier to clean."
          See?! This is why I do Prehensile Tales...if I don't purge these thoughts online, they pop up in everyday conversations and get me in trouble. You'd be amazed how quickly a family gathering gets awkward when you mention "plastic fuck dolls."



Halcyon's URLS:
         prehensile.com
         cockybastard.com
         www.basilegallery.com



© 1995 — 2001 Jeffrey Zeldman Presents        Credits