Friday, April 24, 2015

Fuck Joy!

The concept of joy naturally has a positive connotation, but it’s really camouflages the need for escape and oblivion. Joy may be associated with so called Dionysiac type experiences in which wine and other substances produce the illusion of oneness with nature and others—an illusion that's quickly dispelled by the path of destruction generally left in the wake of such experiences. Jon Krakauer’s book about Missoula and the Grizzlies reviewed recently in the Times recounts the aftermath of several on campus Dionysiac experiences (“Jon Krakauer’s ‘Missoula” Looks at Date Rape in a College Town,” NYT, 4/19/15) Fuck joy! It’s just materialism in formal dress. The reason so many people are loathe to meditate is that it’s the opposite of a joyous experience and it’s certainly not something that can be attempted if you’re inebriated. Meditation puts you in touch with reality. In this sense it tends to be rather disappointing since it’s not the white light experience which most people anticipate. Rather meditation is a shedding of wishes and desires, culminating in a rather disconcerting and sometimes frightening nothingness which constitutes a form of human truth. Once a session is ended, the meditator returns to the comforting strife of his everyday existence, with its temptations, desires and hallelujahs. Joy is like a popper. It raises the bar too high. Yet get a rush then you crash. Momentary joy may be found in a steak or a great orgasm, but it passes with nothing left to fill the emptiness than the prospect of the next joyous event--or hit. Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (l968) tells the story of one such search for joy by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Survival of the Fittest?

Dwight Garner starts his Times review of the fourth volume Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle by citing Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49 (“Review: Karl Ove Knausgaard’s: ‘My Struggle: Book Four’”, NYT, 4/20/15). My Struggle or Min Kamp is naturally an intentional and provocative allusion to Hitler’s infamous ars poetica. Garner remarks “ There’s a special kind of despair, Thomas Pynchon observed…that can arrive ‘when nobody around has any sexual relevance to you.'” Garner discountenances the kind of despair Pynchon is talking about in the case of the “quasi-autobiographical”18 year old character depicted in the novel. However, that sounds precisely what he's suffering from to the extent that he's a virgin and gifted with a mind that easily makes fictions out of everyday reality. In our day and age when varying sexual styles--transgender, transvestite, homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, pre-op transexual--are openly flaunted and politicized, it’s hard to imagine one finding the equivalent for the thrilling shame of a secret and transgressive obsession. The Crying of Lot 49 was published in the sixties, which while the heart of the Woodstock era, was still the dark ages for things like SRS, sexual reassignment surgery and hormone therapy Now, even soldiers in army brigs have the right to it (“Military Approves Hormone Therapy for Chelsea Manning," USA Today, 2/13/15). Yes, the interior of the mind is a separate place that doesn’t always participate in the ideological advancements of an age, at least as far as sexuality is concerned. But still the wonderful secretive thoughts that Pynchon and Knausgaard both allude to has been almost violently transfigured by amongst other things midday talk shows, on which sexual chimaeras are now free to air their once dirty laundry. It’s all kind of sad, since shame aided and abetted by institutions like the Catholic church, can be such a delicious turn on. Now people do whatever they like and it’s sometimes hard to tell if anything, well nigh anything momentous, is happening at all. Even movies like Louis Malle's Murmur of the Heart, which deals with incest, fail to make filmgoers bat an eye.The butter scene from Last Tango in Paris is looked at as normative sex and the almost clinically displayed fellatio of Marco Bellochio’s Devil in the Flesh fails to have the shock it did when it was released in l986. Thank God for Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo, Or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) whose graphic depiction of coprophilia is still singular in its ability to elicit a gag reflex.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pornosophy: The Blue Angel Inspires a Class Action Suit

Are you over 50? No this is not an advertisement for auto insurance from the AARP or for Tadalafil, but it's a notice from the Law Firm of Andrews and McCaffrey that you may be able to collect a substantial reward for suffering incurred by younger men and women who give you the impression they're attracted to you. Let’s say that the young man or woman greeting you at the gym in the morning bats her eyelids and makes you feel that you're the one thing that has made it worthwhile to be sitting in front of the drafty door at 6 in the morning. He or she doesn’t know you from Adam. They aren’t aware of  the beautiful soul hidden within an aging body, but still you persist in the delusion that there's something, perhaps even an oedipal transference that's accounting for an otherwise unlikely attraction. Because you're a human being and fully licensed in self-deception, you have little understanding of the fact that this younger person totally understands the impact they're having on you and is employing it to increase the feeling of power they can have over another individual. What better way to weather the slights of the dog eat dog world of competition that most young people face? Weeks pass and even though you don’t know his or her name, you begin to imagine impassioned kisses. You begin to give serious consideration to giving up the husband or wife and the comfortable middlebrow life with all the conveniences (including short hops down to Boca on President’s Day weekend) it’s taken decades to create. You imagine a colorful bohemian existence replete with all the hot post-adolescent sexuality that’s been missing from your life as you move into your new lover's tiny studio apartment in one of the few remaining parts of the outer boroughs that has yet to become gentrified. If any of this rings a bell then call our toll-free number to find out if you're eligible to receive compensation from a major class action suit. Would you rather hold on to a hopeless wish or have some money in your pocket? Call Andrews and McCaffrey today and our friendly consultants will discuss your predicament with you at no charge. Don’t let a twenty something make themselves feel powerful at your expense.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Diasporic Dining XXXVIII: Hamlet in Chinatown

Know any Hamlet clones wandering around Chinatown (Feng Xiaogang’s The Legend of the Black Scorpion, originally released in China as The Banquet, finds its roots in the Shakespeare play)?  Wanton egg drop is the soup that's tailored made for them. The question remains is the fusion of two proud specimens of Chinese American cuisine beneficial to one’s health and well-being? Or is it a form of enabling? Will such institutionalized waffling become a metaphor for the dangers of equivocation and set the style not only for  culinary taste, but for life choices in general? Sure it’s easier not to make a choice. Let’s say I go to a diner and am tempted by the turkey meatloaf special but also have a hankering for the fried  chicken basket? Do I order the turkey meatloaf fried chicken basket? Do I go for matzo ball pea when I can’t choose between matzo ball and pea soup. On a macro scale you see this in the profusion of Chinese and Japanese restaurants whose so-called fusion cuisine is really an attempt to play both ends against the middle, resulting in a cuisine that is neither fish nor fowl. Fressers who grow up slurping mixed wanton egg drop and eating in Chinese Japanese restaurants are likely to turn into lawyer/ accountants, architect/ builders, editor/ writers or coach/athletes. While there are virtues to playing both sides of the fence in work as well as love (ie being AC/DC), the danger is always of a watering down the original intention. Whether it be in soup or lovemaking there’s a point where you don’t taste anything any more. In one sense mixed wanton egg drop is a product of our modern internet culture in which the amount of choices available through Google and other search engines makes it impossible to make decisions. But most everyone will agree, the last thing you want is Italian ISIS.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pornosophy: The Postmodern Playboy of the Western World

John Millington Synge
How does the post-modern playboy pass his day? Back in the 50’s Hugh Hefner introduced the Playboy life style which had something in common with Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Fearlessness and savoir faire were combined in a gently sadomasochistic form of hedonism. The hero of Fifty Shades of Grey is perhaps the grandson or great grandson or a close relative of Bond’s just as the literary heritage of Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus might be traced back to Hamlet. But surely today’s metrosexual is not mixing martinis in a silk bathrobe or looking for direction on sophistication from the Playboy advisor or anywhere else. For starters the postmodern playboy might literally be questioning whether he is in fact a boy. Perhaps he partakes of the sensibility of a woman who loves other woman or even of a woman who loves other men or simply a man who loves other men. But like a Connecticut Yankee, it would be fun to consider the possibility of  scenarios where our hero is sent back to the equivalent of King Arthur’s court. Give this creature a fast car, beautiful women and a cold war adversary and let’s see see what SSRI would enable him to weather the ensuing anxiety attack? Hugh Hefner is still living. Albert Broccoli who produced many James Bond films is dead. Perhaps our hero would be a sad boy with a book, a Hamlet  picking up his well-worn copy of Shakespeare’s play. J. M. Synge wrote The Playboy of the Western World. Someone should write The Postmodern Playboy of the Western World, perhaps modeled, not on spies like Wild Bill Donovan, but on the career of polymorphously perverse mega artists like Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Politics of Elder Sex

"American Gothic” by Grant Wood
Is it worth the risk of abuse that an elderly patient suffering from Alzheimer’s and/or dementia might derive pleasure from an intimate encounter with a loved one? A legal case in Iowa recently reported by the Times (“Sex, Dementia and a Husband on Trial at Age 78,” NYT, 4/13/15) seems to extend the principle of Affirmative Consent into the marital bed. As you may recall California recently passed an Affirmative Consent statute which essentially makes seduction illegal on college campuses. In an equivalent of a suspect being read his Miranda rights, a couple must stop even before they have gotten to the foreplay stage and establish whether each party is of sound enough mind to make a conscious decision. Volition would ostensibly be measured by an absence of ambivalence. The ability to make a decision would quickly relegate resistances to that dark closet of the unconscious where we pack away all our useless old toys. What a better way to throw cold water on sexuality than to deliver it from any relics of humanity or complex human emotion! In the current instance, the State of Iowa will weigh in on whether a husband may enjoy the comfort and pleasure of sexuality with his chronically ill wife, despite the fact that “experts,” according to the Times, agree that “physical intimacy can benefit dementia patients…calming agitation, easing loneliness and possibly aiding physical health.” What a charming way to usher in the last stages of life! Surely it will be the final nail in the coffin for those who fear that old age is nothing more then the famous description offered by Shakespeare’s Jaques in As You Like It,Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” The Times article begins by stating, “There is no question that Donna Lou Rayhons had severe Alzheimer’s…But another question has become the crux of an extraordinary criminal case unfolding this week in an Iowa courtroom. Was Mrs. Rayhons able to consent to sex with her husband?” The Times piece goes on to report that “Mr. Rayhons, a nine-term Republican state legislator, decided not to seek another terms after his arrest.” Daniel Reingold, chief executive of The Hebrew Home at Riverdale is quoted thusly, “Touch is one of the last pleasures we lose. So much of aging and so much of being in a long-term care facility is about loss, loss of independence, loss of friends, loss of ability to use your body. Why would we want to diminish that?” Mrs. Rayhons died in August, but from the Times quotes “a social worker at the center” as saying she “was always pleased to see Henry.” Let’s say she had lived, it’s unlikely she would have been called upon to testify. But would it have possibly helped her condition if an order of protection were issued or if, even worse, her husband were sentenced to prison and she wasn’t able to see him anymore? One wonders what Rand Paul’s opinion about this would be? Is sexuality amongst aging married couples one area where the libertarian approach of less government starts to make sense? Big Brother should not be watching the few lucky septuagenarians who have the wherewithal to get it on.