Wednesday, May 4, 2016

McPlaymate of the Month

In a review of Nancy Bauer’s How to Do Things With Pornography ("Non-existent thrills,"TLS, 4/7/16), Kate Manne, says the following:One of Bauer’s main worries about pornography is that it instils false expectations in its consumers. She argues that the pornographic world is a distant sexual utopia – a 'pornutopia' – in which anyone is up for anything, and everyone’s desires are compatible with everybody else’s. The pornutopian world view therefore erases rape and incest. It provides a sexual miseducation.” Manne quotes Bauer to the effect that we don’t need a “a new politics of porn" so much as "a candid phenomenology of it," in order to understand its effect on us. When you were a kid your dentist probably showed you an animation about tooth decay which conceived of cavities in a medieval setting with the teeth as a fortress protected by white knights. If there are pornutopian experiences that are being had at the expense of women’s freedom and autonomy there’s a countervailing world of princesses in shining armor whose crusade can sometimes sound like an inquisition. One of these was the late Andrea Dworkin, a militant feminist who battled vociferously battled pornography. Only the other day a feminist spokesperson, with a lilting British accent, told NPR that women can do whatever they like with their bodies, but when naked pictures of women are appropriated to sell hamburgers, it’s exploitation. The problem with such forms of protest is that they can be contagious. You may never have heard of using nudity to sell hamburgers, but now that the idea has been inserted in your consciousness, you start to feel deprived when your Big Mac doesn’t include the image of a breast in its hefty architecture. McDonald’s throws everything but the kitchen sink into this now mythic confection. You’d think the least you could find when you opened up the bun was an old-fashioned nude centerfold (of the kind Playboy no longer features) with a fetching young Miss Mac of the Month.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Trump Re-ups Berlin Wall

The Great Wall of China in l907 (photo by Herbert Ponting)
President Trump announced that he has accepted a bid on a wall that would run along the Mexican border from the German company that built the Berlin Wall for the GDR back in l961. According to aides to President Trump, the Mexicans will still be fronting the money, but the president wanted to make sure that if he was going to get another country to pay that they would be getting the best bang for their buck. Much discussion has gone into the question of what such a wall would be called and after days of deliberation a bipartisan group of both Mexican and American legislators have decided to call it The Trump Wall. Travelers coming either from Mexico to the United States or traveling South from the United States to Mexico will be greeted with large neon signs visible from miles way with the familiar Trump logo, in place of the usual welcome to the United States or Mexico. When Chris Matthews of MSNBC asked President Trump whether choosing the builder of the Berlin Wall would excite comparisons to the Cold War, Mr. Trump reiterated an earlier controversial statement that women who have abortions should receive "some form of punishment." A White House spokesman commented, “All along people have told President Trump that this was impossible, this was not gong to happen, but now it’s going up right before our eyes and after the whole thing is finished we're planning on buying it back for the same 25 bucks that Peter Minuit paid the Indians for Manhattan. We'll turn the whole thing into a casino. The president is convinced that his wall will make the Great Wall of China look like chump change."

Monday, May 2, 2016

Oedipus in Malibu

What do Ada Ushpiz’s Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt  and Terence Malick’s Knight of Cups, have in common. It would seem nothing. The former is a documentary about one of the greatest and most controversial thinkers of the 20th Century and the latter is a fiction about an alienated Hollywood screenwriter, Rick, played by Christian Bale. First of all these two unlikely bed fellows both have trouble coming to a timely end and both deal with thinkers. The Ushpiz film, a tiresome attempt to unify a plethora of disjointed material around no theme in particular, repeats the leitmotif of Hannah Arendt thinking with a cigarette in her hand (Arendt was apparently a giant in smoking as well as philosophy, a fact that is also underscored in Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt in which Barbara Sukowa playing Arendt is constantly puffing away).  Rick, like Arendt, is frequently looking out meditatively during the Malick film, but the comparison ends there since what goes on in Rick's head, in contrast to Arendt's well thought out pronunciamentos, can only be called stinking thinking. Do all screen writers walk around Malibu engaging in interior monologues which can be neatly translated into voice overs? Are all seeking to be awakened from an existential sleep and do all of them intermittently find themselves waking up in the middle of conversations that sound like lousy adaptations of Oedipus, Cain and Abel and Macbeth?  Do they all look like they have seen Fellini’s  8 ½ and Stanley Kubrick’s Eye’s Wide Shut one too many times and do all their girl friends and especially the one played by Cate Blanchett (Nancy) also look out vacantly as Monica Vitti did in L’avventura after her friend disappeared? Do all Hollywood screenwriters  wander around the lots of film studios when they’re not attending fashion shoots populated by half naked models? Undoubtedly there are lots of people who have been adversely molded by the unreality of the film industry, but surely not even the most jaded script writer thinks thoughts like the ones that Malick puts into his main character’s head. "I dreamt that we were caught in a huge tall wave that engulfed the city," is an example.Yes it's understood that the movie is about a brooding filmic sensibility who, when he isn’t staring out at the sea, is wandering amongst rock formations in the desert and who on more than one occasion finds himself staring at a craggy road. But get out! Even by Hollywood standards, this is errant nonsense of the highest order.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sperm Count: Fertishistic Objectification

photo of jockstrap by Jacklee
Fetishistic objectification is a term used by some psychoanalysts to refer to receiving stimulation from a part of the anatomy or the lingerie that is used to cover it. So for instance when you talk about a man’s package or a woman’s rack you're indulging in a form of fetishistic objectification. It’s a little like an erotic form of synecdoche, the figure of speech which refers to taking the part for the whole. For instance, fifty head for cattle, the White House for the presidency, the law for the police are all examples of synecdoche. Synecdoche, New York was also the name of a Charlie Kaufman movie which starred the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and which employs another kind of fetishizing that occurs when you attempt to make art out of life or vice versa. But this erotic form of synecdoche also occurs in the sex act itself. We refer to getting laid rather than making love and then there are the varying kinds of foreplay, fellatio, cunnilingus, analingus which all seem to thingify sex. When you talk about getting or giving a blow job, about fucking or getting fucked you are attempting to create an illusion that sexuality is devoid of emotion. It’s just another act like say brushing one’s teeth or masticating a piece of meat. The fact is that butt fucking someone is an activity that is laden with emotion. Without the emotion, the act would be so denuded of significance as to be lacking in stimulation. The same is true about sucking a penis. It's a statement. It’s fun and exciting to suck or be sucked for that matter, but under normal circumstances most people don’t want a large object inserted into their mouths, unless that object has meaning for them.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Leaving Scarsdale

Some people may have Defoe like fantasies of being stranded on a desert island and igniting a hot affair with their Friday and others might dream of going to Bangkok or Vegas (a la Leaving Las Vegas) to live out their ultimate fantasy of dissipation. "Chacun a son gout" as the French say. Everyone has their little kink and with Passover for some Jewish guys and gals it relates to the fantasy of the unfettered enjoyment of matzo and butter. The movie might be called Leaving Scarsdale and it requires only a motel room and one of those large family packs of Streit's Matzo and a platoon sized supply of Breakstone’s. Remember the famous butter scene in Last Tango, well this one is a combination of the wonderful moment between Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider in the Bertolucci classic and l973 Philippe Noirot movie La Grand Bouffe in which a group of aristocrats take a vow of gluttony in which they will eat themselves to death. Imagine all that matzo slathered with butter with no stop signs in the form of family, friends or employers to report to. What a way to die surrounded by sheets of crispy unleavened bread bathed in the oily golden substance which lubricates our carbohydrate dreams. Fyvush Finkel could played the Nicholas Cage role, with matzoh substituted for alcohol as the addictive substance of choice.