Thursday, April 24, 2014

Autumn of the Shmoks

There are a lots of men and women who are offended by the words pussy or cunt and they don’t like snatch either. Prick and Dick don’t seem to be as bothersome to those who toil in the mines  of political incorrectitude. A schmuck is a jerk and the word derives from the Yiddish shmok, which mean penis, but calling someone a schmuck or shmok is not a reason to dial L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E 911. Is this sexism? Obviously there are those who feel that the use of the words “cunt” or “pussy” shape our attitudes towards females more than dick, prick or schmuck affect how we think of men. Maybe those fighting for cleaner and more upstanding uses of language need work harder to make urban slang for male bodily parts more grating on the ear. What is a bad word for a man who suffers from Peyronie’s Disease which is a curvature of the penis? What is nefarious word for a swordsman or someone who has a reputation for conquest? Transsexuals are called trannies, but no one seems to mind even if the word seems a bit dismissive sounding. If you are asking for anal sex, you want it Greek,  but even the Greeks don’t seem to mind. Cunnilingus is associated with downtown and no one in Soho or Tribecas seems to be offended while analingus is referred to harmlessly as rimming which sounds like a trimming, something which you just need a little of. However, back to body parts which seem to be the root of the problem. You’d think that an asshole would cause rage among the people who don’t like cunt or pussy. In certain circles there is nothing more demeaning than calling Alice a cunt, particularly if she is behaving like a pussy and thank God for Pussy Riot--which has done more to legitimize pussy than a thousand George Carlins.  But if you say Alice is behaving like an asshole, it doesn’t raise an eyebrow. It’s no worse than being stuck in traffic and joining in on the honking. Why then are cunt and pussy singled out for opprobrium when they are both bona fide words and not illegal neologisms that ought to be deported by the language police?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What is Goodness? Or a Gift of Charoset

What is goodness? It’s a question many moral philosophers have wrestled with. In one of his final works Justice for Hedgehogs, the late NYU professor of philosophy and law Ronald Dworkin, dealt with the question of the person who is so intent on self-sacrifice that his good intentions become self-destructive and hence no longer a form of good. In everyday life these matters come up all the time and homilies like “no good deed goes unpunished” are a response to these kinds of ethical conundrums. The Jewish holiday of Passover is a wonderful litmus test for such concerns since people are so intent on doing good deeds, one of which is contributing dishes to the Seders to which they have been invited. So let’s take the case of someone who brings charoset (the mixture of nuts and apples that is put on the matzah along with the bitter herbs to commemorate the mortar that the Jewish people used when they were slaves). Sometimes charoset is made with wine and let’s say the charoset is brought as a contribution to someone who is a recovering alcoholic. The person would like to show their gratitude for the contribution, but at the same time is reticent to put the charoset with the wine on the table—as it will result in a Megillah of explanations. Not wanting to break his or her anonymity the host might simply give the charoset back, pithily saying that they already had plenty. On the other hand, choroset can be an exhausting dish to make and if the host felt that rejection of the charoset contribution was going to cause unhappiness, he or she might do something (out of guilt) that could end up being a major discomfort to him or herself. One charoset is often indistinguishable from another and there is a definite risk of dipping a matzah into the wine infused charoset. Interestingly these kinds of eventualities are often the stuff of commentary by great Jewish thinkers like Nahmanides and Maimonides or, though it is unlikely that any of them ever actually addressed the issue at hand.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cunnilingua Yoga

Bhagavan Vishnu
You hear of hatha, vinyasa and Iyengar along with many other styles of yoga. Now there is a new addition to the varieties of yoga experience that is being offered. Cunnilingua yoga is becoming increasingly popular due to the unique positions and postures it employs. Cunnilingua yoga can be performed either by a man and a woman or by two women, but there must always at least be at least one female involved. Your typical cunnilingua yoga session begins with the worshipping of a god and a ritual bath. After the worshipping and purification are complete, the couple lie down on the mat. The woman will sprinkle special perfumes on her lower private part which represent creation and fecundity and the male will turn himself in a position where his head rests in front of the woman's lower extremity, with his lower extremity resting in front of the woman's head. This position which is found in the Kama Sutra and other sacred texts is known in the west as 69. Cunnilingua yoga requires a state of total relaxation of both the tongue (which will massage the woman’s lower extremity) and the mouth which the woman will use to suction or suckle the male member. Once the woman has found a member, her mouth will remain open in a gesture of acceptance. At this point the humming or omming will begin and both partners will begin to experience a state of oblivion in which a moment of ecstasis results in the final dissolution of feelings of separation between consciousnesses. Ecstasy leads to release of the burdens both male and female are carrying. After this both partners rinse their mouths with Scope and prepare for another session of cunnilingua yoga by saluting the sun and facing their anuses towards the sky.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Unmiraculous 34th Street

There are no miracles on 34th Street anymore. 34th Street is the paradigm of all that is wrong with an American street or a street anywhere for that matter. 34th Street in Manhattan lies in the shadow of the nearby Penn Station, which is virtually imploding, but that’s a case of urban blight that’s actually a sui generis expression of the failure of the human spirit. In terms of 34th Street Penn Station is important only since it has catalyzed 34th street’s fall into a place not only devoid of miracles but exemplary of urban despair. A mall is usually composed of chain stores and fast food outlets. 34th Street has all the characteristics of a run down mall without the relief of the kind of communal space you find say on the Deuce, which recently completed gender reassignment surgery and is now  a bona fide New Jersey mall. But 34th Street is not only made by the shops, its particular lack of character is also result of the kind of people who go there. No street attracts more wimps, penny-ante hustlers and bottom feeders than 34th.  The middle verging on lo-brow Macy’s may help in creating the unique feeling of hopelessness that characterizes the demographic. Capping the mood, is the presence of the DMV License X-Press office between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. Here women with averted  eyes and leering men wait for their numbers B112, B113, B114 so that they can get learners permits and license renewals. Moving to the East along 34th we have the grand old Empire State, which King Kong once hiked up with Fay Wray in hand and a disgruntled office worker recently went on a shooting rampage (“2 dead, 9 wounded in Empire State Building shootings, police say,” CNN, 8/25/12) The space occupied by the grand old Longchamps Showboat is now the Heartland Brewery, where other disgruntled office workers drown their sorrows and the once grand B. Altman, across the way, offers a ray of light, having been turned into a CUNY’s Graduate Center--though school is school.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Let My People Go

“Departure of the Israelites" by David Roberts (1829)
About half way through the Passover holiday you start thinking about bagels. You crave bagels because you can’t have them. It’s not the same as wanting a matzah on Chanukah. The craving is not so bad since you know you can have it. The matzah is supposed to remind one of the Exodus. But now you don’t feel free. When will your liberation from matzah come? There is a concoction called the matzah bagel, but that just doesn’t cut it. Living without bagels becomes like one of those indignities you suffer when you can’t do something for one reason or another. Your knee blows out and you have to forego the workout regimen. Your wireless internet connection is down. Your beloved corner coffee nook relocates five blocks away. You console yourself with the thought of loyally traipsing the extra distance in the rain, knowing full well that you’re going to have to find a new and nearer place to have those meaningful talks. You can’t sleep in Sunday morning because a water main has burst and they’re opening up the street. The neighborhood bowling alley where you  spent so many rainy and joyous Saturday afternoons with your kids finally closes for good. The local library where you read the paper is closing for renovations. After all these years freeloading you will actually have to  buy your Times. How can you survive without those things that are a source of comfort—like the bagel? Passover is a celebratory holiday, but the theme of sacrifice runs through the liturgy (and let us not forget that a Seder was probably Jesus’ Last Supper). Could it be that learning to live without a bagel is telling us something about what it means to be free?