Friday, April 26, 2019

Primal Screamers


The Primal Scream was the perfect title for a mass market paperback. Arthur Janov had a built-in audience composed of anyone who had loved the Edvard Munch painting. It's an example of a timely book becoming an annuity. Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More has also sold quite a few copies, as has Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. That’s what happens when you turn a notion into a movement. Norman O. Brown’s Life Against Death was responsible for popularizing Freudian “polymorphous perversity," Even a pillar of the Frankfurt School, Herbert Marcuse had his day in court with “repressive desublimation,” an idea propounded in One-Dimensional Man. Not to leave out “the banality of evil,” the marquee concept framed by Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem. Ah for Psychobabblese and its sister tongue Esperanto. What tomes will soon top Amazon’s bestseller list? The Sex Myth currently in production will reassure millions of readers who feel left out. Good at Something affirms the talent for parallel parking possessed by those who aren’t good at anything else. Petra is a forthcoming novel based on the following million dollar premise. A couple, on a trip to Israel, seek outs a famous Jordanian marriage counselor. The Person With the Golden Toilet  deals with the psychic transformation that occurs when a reality TV contestant employs the receptacle created by Maurizio Cattelan. No Monopoly on Afflatus is likely to become the definitive handbook of hyperbolic speech.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Biden Time?


photo of Joe Biden by David Lienemann
When Bernie Sanders was running in 2016, there was the theory that he could never win. You might not like Hillary but you would vote for her since she was the candidate who would coalesce Democratic voters. Now the same argument is being made about Biden. You might like Beto or Buttigieg, but why not vote for Biden who for starters is definitely going to take Pennsylvania and will probably give Trump a run for the money in some other rust belt states too? Despite some recent #MeToo problems which Biden will probably be able to survive, the former vice president looks to be heading the pack. What could go wrong? His treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings? His abortion stance which includes his once voting to let states challenge Roe v. Wade? The delay in his actually announcing his candidacy? His age? The whole question of who to vote for is a little like the Bill of Rights which favors individual considerations over the will of the majority. What if you choose to vote for Kamala Harris or Hickenlooper because you like them? Must all voting be strategic? Is the point of the election, not belief, but simply unseating a particularly odious incumbent? Does the means, ie the repression of one’s political standards, justify the ends that would be electing the lesser of two evils? Ever hear of “creative destruction,” the principal advocated by the Austrian economist, Joseph Schumpeter? What if it’s anarchy and everyone votes for Democratic or progressive candidates who all take votes away from the front runner? What if Trump is reelected for four more years? Could it be possible that politically speaking the pain would edge the country forward to real change or is it best to vote for Biden and stop Trump in his tracks? Biden, biding or buying time?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Final Solution: A Chicken in Every Plot

Louis XIV and Moliere (Jean-Leon Gerome)
Moliere would have had a party with our current political climate. Right, left and center huge smoke stacks of afflatus bilge out on a 24-hour basis like the factories filled with child workers during the  the industrial revolution. Speaking of children, a child has been conscripted and lionized as an example of all that's good. Here is the speech of the 16 year old Greta Thunberg to the EU Parliament, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJAcuQEVxTY. Out of the mouths of babes. Trump makes you vomit, but then you have to endure the sideshow of liberal do-gooders, promising the world the world. Listen for instance to potential Democratic nominees at the recent CNN town hall. Elizabeth Warren is going to forgive student debt. Great idea, but what about the cost of single payer healthcare, would that to become part of the Democratic platform? When you roll out 16 year olds with pigtails evangellically intoning "if our house was falling apart," isn't anyone reminded of Nixon’s “Checkers Speech? First of all it's "if our house were." Secondly employing juggernauts of repetition is a form of noise pollution that will drive people who are sensitive to these kinds of linguistic abuses nuts. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned cynicism as a platform? Why can’t someone make a similar point to young Thunberg, by embracing greenhouse gases as the wave of the future. Remember Swift's A Modest Proposal? How refreshing to read a broadsheet about combatting famine by eating babies! Why isn’t there a candidate who will reply to questions about gun control by showing off his or her new bump stock? Human beings are imperfect. A humorist like Mark Twain reflected the values of an earlier age. The only hope seems to lie in the Ukraine, where a comedian named Volodymyr Zelensky, (whose only experience in politics is that he played the role of president on TV) overwhelmingly beat the incumbent president Petro Poronshenko.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Professor Oblivion


You naturally have your butcher, your baker, your candlestick maker, but certain professions become passé. Remember the old-fashioned knife sharpeners and the strange apparatuses they sometimes wheeled around on wooden carts. Then there’s the case of the critic, once a vibrant part of the intellectual life of the nation, but now relegated to a relatively minor position in the culture, primarily due to the death of newsprint. And what about those critics who have a second career as clowns—earning their pay by jumping up and down and bilging out tendentious nonsense rather than rendering judgments in a spirit of equanimity? Remember the humiliating fate of Professor Rath played by Emil Jannings in Von Sternberg’s Blue AngelThese are the creatures who have replaced the Edmund Wilsons, Mary McCarthys  and Elizabeth Hardwicks of another age. Sometimes its modernity that's responsible for the disappearance of certain vocations. For instance, self-service resulted in the disappearance of the elevator man who was a familiar figure in the metropolitan landscape from the 20’s right through the early 60’s. And what about blacksmiths? The need for horseshoes continues to dwindle now that horse drawn carriages are under attack--at least in New York. You can still get an operator if you are willing to wait, but now most phone companies depend on computer generated voices that in turn produce a simulated response. Similarly few receptionists are there to greet you anywhere and don’t expect to find information booths, another obsolete item. Just follow the prompts. In a few years Amazon will have finally killed off the last of the retail stores. Books, like home runs, are going going gone and that means there will be no need for printers, binders or paper for that matter. And then there’s Tom Lehrer’s "The Old Dope Peddler"who's still doing a thriving business in Fentanyl.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Lehman Trilogy




Stefano Massini’s The Lehman Trilogy,which just completed a run at Park Avenue Armory, is an elegant juxtaposition between the industrial revolution and theatrical innovation. As directed by Sam Mendes, it’s a family drama about the emblematic decline of capitalism (as manifested in the demise of famous financial dynasty) narrated in a glass box that redounds with everything from story theater style narration to epic visual spectacles like Robert Wilson's The Life and Times of Sigmund Freud and The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin. Both the economic and historical analysis and the theatricality are polished and neatly contained. It’s an old-fashioned piece bien fait, a well-made-play, in the form of a groundbreaking piece of theatrical art. These criticisms not withstanding the production creates many trenchant moments that remain with you—in particular the fact that the dramatic conclusion is never is far from the viewer’s consciousness, with the dissolution of the firm during the financial crisis of 2008 memorialized by the packing cartons which are on stage from beginning to end. There are three other historical crises which constitute important elements. An enormous fire destroying many plantations at or near Montgomery, Alabama where they had settled would facilitate, the Lehman Brothers terming themselves "middlemen" in the cotton industry. The Civil War and Black Thursday, 1929 complete the evolution to becoming that form of financial institution now known as an investment bank (at one point one of the brothers says “this is how our recipe works; the flour is money”).With several minor exceptions only three actors occupy the stage. Henry Lehman (Simon Russell Beale), Mayer Lehman (Adam Godley) and Emanuel (Ben Miles) play the original Jewish immigrants and their successors. Multiple role-playing of this kind is powerful and haunting but also leads to some degree of homogenization. And if there's a moral dimension to the drama (after all ambition and exploitation are subsidiary themes), it’s hard to really identify a sense of good or evil as it plays out in what's essentially a value-free scenario. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Miracle Worker

Moses famously parted the Red Sea and then there was the Burning Bush. His modern day counterpart might be someone embarking on the kind of "search" Walker Percy's Binx Bolling undertook in The Moviegoer. The first line of the book is the following quote from Kierkegaard, "the specific quality of despair is precisely this: it is unaware of being despair." Today Moses might be someone leading his people out of a state of spiritual malaise. If you’re talking about biblical narratives of course the creation of the world in six days is the most famous, but let’s not forget the ram appearing at the Binding of Isaac. For children these stories are very real; even adults who are believers tend to interpret them within the context of a certain level of verisimilitude. What's a day in prelapsarian time? But this brings up the question of miracles. People often wish for miracles to occur when they’re in tough situations. It’s called foxhole praying. However the bible is a retrospectroscope. Hindsight is 20/20 and the very point of all these stories is there's no quid pro quo. No appeal is being answered with a sign from God. Miracles may happen, but without the intervention of a celestial operator fielding emergency calls. In this regard, the modern skepticism about the miraculous may relate to the question of human agency. Scientism has produced what Max Weber termed as “disenchantment” with the metaphysical. If you take the notion that laws the three laws of thermodynamics, relativity and quantum mechanics explain the universe then there’s little room left for the imagination. However, perhaps it’s definitional. Does it make sense to say a miracle is a serendipitous happening defying reason of which humans are the beneficiaries but not the cause?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Old-fashioned Pleasures of Getting and Giving Good Phone


Bell System Telephone Switchboard (1943)
Giving good phone is an increasingly rarified ability in this age computer generated voices like Siri. It’s a little like cursive writing, another ability which has bitten the dust in a world where no one writes hand-written letters anymore. But as nice as simulated responses can be, there’s no replacing the real thing. Google Maps may be very gentle in saying “recalculating route,” instead of screaming “Herman, what are you doing?” when you’ve made a wrong turn. Yet try to imagine your iphone occupying the chair opposite you at Chez Moi #Aussi. It’s not that giving good phone doesn’t pose it’s own set of problems. For instance computer generated systems are programmed to be nice, but when a flesh and blood human being is particularly attractive and seductive over the phone you begin to wonder about the basis for their pleasant behavior. They barely know you yet you feel that they regard you as a potential lover and start to wonder if there’s any sense in entertaining fantasies of a life together. Are they talking sweetly to you because they like you? Even though they don't know you? Tantalizing experiences over the phone are a little like the buildup that accompanies some blind dates. You’ve heard all about this great guy who's rich, ripped and totally into affirmative consent and then you meet him. Similarly the voice on the other end can be like the Sirens that lured Odysseus to his death. Once you wake up from the trance you may come to your senses and start to question the nature of the personality behind the beguiling words.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Animal Farm


first edition of Animal Farm
People have all kinds of relationships with their pets that often are a mirror of the kinds of societies they inhabit. For instance benevolent despotism seems to be a common relationship between a dog and his master—and it’s reflective of the kind of governance in which relatively little faith is placed in the autonomy of the citizen. You’ve heard of the divine right of kings with its corollary assumption that the masses of subjects have little or no—divine rights that is. Frederick the Great was the epitome of the benevolent despot. In modern times you had Tito who kept Yugoslavia together. When he died, chaos reigned and there were wars in which centuries of historical baggage played out in bloody slaughters at Sarajevo and Srebrenica. Tito was the pater familias of a raucous and divisive family that would become murderously dysfunctional. In any case it turns out that Frederick was buried next his favorite greyhounds. Now in terms of democracy there are dog owners whose relationships reflect Jeffersonian ideals and cats whose litters are shrines to the Federalist papers. Athenian democracy is another form of government that's reflected in animal maintenance and care of a beneficent kind. And, of course, you can see isolationism in the concept of the goldfish bowl. Remember George Orwell’s Animal Farm? Everyone always thinks of it as a political allegory, but it’s also an excellent handbook for pet lovers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Neanderthals


Sufferers from Stockholm Syndrome might remark on a certain nostalgia for intolerance, a nostalgie de la boueor perverse from of Unheimlichkeit that derives from the discomfort with freedom. The initials for Stockholm Syndrome are S.S. There are, of course, prisoners who prefer their jail cells to the unknowns of survival in an uncirumscribed world. In the 70’s TV presented creations like Archie Bunker who were Neanderthals in human form. The cartoon character Fred Flintstone was a caveman. Now, in the current atmosphere of political correctness, with shock jocks running with their tails between their legs, such creations would have advertisers bolting. However miserable, one can love the past, not only because it's antique, but because it's a known commodity. The prospect of navigating new forms of human relations in which there are no signposts or previous mnemonic imprints, created by the increased neuroplasticity of the brain at a young age, is daunting. One might conjecture that a new way of life is better simply because it provides more possibilities for the next generation. Unacceptable things becoming acceptable is inversely proportionate to the fear of the unknown.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Christ Stopped at Eboli





Francesco Rosi's l979 adaptation of Carlo Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli, currently in revival at Film Forum, takes place during the fascist era. Levi was a painter and writer. Originally trained as a doctor, he was exiled to the harsh isolated Basilicata area (called Lucania in the Mussolini period), in what is known as the "instep" of the south, as a punishment for his political beliefs. The title can be confusing since it sounds like Christ made a stop at Eboli when actually the meaning is that the spirit of Christ stops at the Eboli train station where Levi (Gian Maria Volonte) ends the first leg of his journey. Matera famous for its caves is the county seat and it’s interesting since that’s precisely where Pasolini filmed The Gospel According to Matthew, in which Christ is depicted as a proto Communist. There are 10 other prisoners who are not allowed to speak to each other, a fascist mayor Don Luigi (Paolo Bonacelli) who exhibits a grudging respect for Levi’s intellect and an alcoholic priest who describes the people of the town as being even “worse than the land.” The village in which the movie takes place is literally carved into a rock. The movie partakes of what might be termed romantic naturalism. Levi was a proponent of peasant culture in which he immersed himself. When moved by conscience and necessity, he employed his medical training to help the suffering peasants.The movie is an extended argument about the tyranny of Italy’s petty bourgeoisie over peasants and factory workers—ending in a protracted and somewhat overblown Socratic dialogue on the subject after Levi is freed and returns to his upper middle class life in Turin. Christ Stopped at Eboli is also epic and bears some degree of comparison not in content but weight to the large scale overview of Italian society and history Visconti created in his masterpiece about the Risorgimento, The Leopard. It’s hefty, panoramic, multilayered and filled with emblematic moments including a call to arms masked as a Christmas benediction and a harshly lurid scene presided over by a pig castrator that’s a cinematic poem. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Progressive Party


If you’re old enough you’ll remember Ronald Reagan intoning “Progress is Our Most Important Product” when he hosted the GE Hour. Even though much of the world is sunk in poverty, the price of progress in the affluent societies is growing even greater. People now look like scuba divers when they head for bed in their CPAP devices. Yes it’s for sleep apnea, but there’s the subtext of preventing the snoring that can keep a spouse awake. God forbid! The demands for newer and better things, speedier internet, faster telecommunications are becoming more pressing. Cable, once a luxury is now a necessity. And who's going to buy a car that isn’t equipped with satellite radio? Imagine being caught without a broadcast frequency on an open stretch of highway. And of course there's the food. Prime beef is no longer enough for many diners. It has to be farm fed. Not to leave out sex, an increasingly litigious process that may no longer even be worth the trouble in the age of test tube babies and artificial insemination. However if you’re going to give it a try make sure you have an “affirmative consent” decree in hand. Forget the political connotations of the word, modern life is truly a progressive party in which people like the proverbial mouse on a treadmill, are using up enormous amounts of energy under the illusion that the effort is taking them somewhere.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Final Solution: The Goosing of America


Woman Goosing Husband Valentine's Day Card (Avanti Press/Amazon)
You tend to admire selfless people, particularly since if they're not involved with their own advancement, they certainly have time for you. However, do such creatures really exist? Literally any person who has a reputation gets it through the exercise of ego. Now one could say that the Buddha in being the embodiment of compassion, is an example of the energy of the self turned towards others. But what are the inner lives of “latter day” saints really like? Controversies surround figures who have devoted their lives to the betterment of mankind like Mother Theresa and Gandhi. Gandhi for instance tested the temptation of the flesh by sleeping next to young girls, but if he didn’t have desires there would have been no need to test them, would there? Finding what’s wrong with seemingly saintly individuals is an occupation in and of itself and part and parcel of a project whose ultimate end is the demonstration of the corruptibility of the human spirit. It’s surprising there hasn’t been a series of noir novels about defrocking priests. Could the Buddha, the embodiment of selfish compassion, have been a sexual predator? There are practical applications for this kind of cynicism in everyday life. The higher the ground on which an individual purports to walk, the longer the fall. Donald Trump’s famous remark about being able to "shoot somebody and not "lose voters” actually brought little in the way of pushback. Yet the accusation that Joe Biden was insensitive in his touching of women may end up derailing his campaign chances. Trump, in fact, is free to goose the whole nation since he doesn’t purport to do anything less."When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything, " he famously told Billy Bush on the Access Hollywood tape.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Pornosophy: Edging

Elizabethan Topiary at Levens Hall (1833)
Edging is what landscapers often do with lawns and flowerbeds, but it also refers to a technique by which one becomes sexually stimulated without having an orgasm. Why do that? One of the reasons is ostensibly to increase pleasure. To point out another form of sensusal satisfaction, think how good food tastes after you’ve had to starve yourself to clean out the colon in anticipation of a colonoscopy. When you finally have your orgasm after repeatedly coming close and then stopping before the show gets on the road, you’re most likely going to have a real bells and whistles experience. However this begs the question of sensation itself. Way back in the era before licensed promiscuity when sex was considered a biproduct of romance and no one had ever heard of hooking up, idealization may have supplanted the synechochic interest in body parts. Yes the Kama Sutra was written thousands of years ago in the pre-Christian era, but it’s influence may have been countermanded by the advent of notion of love. Denis de Rougement wrote a famous tome on this subject, Love in the Western World. Chivalry and honor were all by- products of a concept of behavior in which humans found value rather than sensual pleasure in each other or shall we say that the value imputed to an individual overrode their importance as a receiver of giver of sensual delight. Edging falls into the category of the discussion of vaginal or clitoral orgasms in women, where consummation becomes an increasingly materialized experience. Tristan or Isolde, Romeo or Juliet are too busy navigating the shoals of their respective liebestods to think about what's going on downtown—which may be one of the reasons theatergoers find these works uplifting, in a world where relationships are devoted to vibrators, anal plugs and getting off.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Dedicated Mourner


Is it possible that the people who show up for your funeral are just the ones who have nothing better to do, the assiduous ones who were always there, say like the useless quotes that you padded papers with in high school? The elusive and desirable types, made more desirable in your mind, by the low esteem in which they held you, will be no shows. Of course, there’s going to be one big difference, you won’t be there to care. You’ll never know even if all kinds of termites come out of the woodwork to sing your praises. Forbes famously publishes its 400 list and there's always the obit the matter of a Times obit, something bound to garner a multivalent reaction in just about anyone. Let’s say it turns out you’re a bigger wig than you thought and someone has taken note of your existence all these years, it’s really too bad you won’t be there to know. It’s at this point that elaborate hoaxes have to be dealt with. If parents can pay thousands, even millions to get their kids into elite colleges, why can’t you enlist the services of some PR company from the Dark Web who'll prematurely announce your demise. That way you can have your cake and eat it too. Wouldn’t it be fun to read your own obit. It’s like having a play opening on Broadway and reading the reviews that come out in the next morning's edition of the paper. Wouldn’t it be fun to be in the back of the chapel in which your eulogy is being given and in the end be there to greet everyone who has attended your wake? Remember Wally Shawn's The Designated Mourner? Why not be your own dedicated mourner?

































































































Monday, April 8, 2019

The Final Solution: Quantum Politics

Frederick Christ Trump 
If you’re one of those people who feels confined by the small turf of physical or psychic space you occupy, you might be chastened by the awareness that it’s not always going be there. “Fox and Friends” made a wonderful gaffe last week with their infamous graphic that stated, “Trump cuts aid to three Mexican countries.” But it only underscores how easily the rug can be pulled out from under you. Alt-right media outlets like Breitbart can be pretty influential and who knows what misstated piece of policy will become law. Trump also claimed last week that his father was born in Germany when the fact is that Fred Trump was born in the Bronx on October ll, 1905. In the current climate if something is mistakenly uttered in the wrong time and place, it can be a game changer. What Fox was trying to say of course was that Trump was advocating cutting aid to 3 Central American countries from which caravans were purportedly emanating. However why not an alternate universe where there were three Mexicos, no Europe, a Saudi Arabia renowned for its nude beaches, a North Vietnam famous for its Free Speech Movement (by the way imagine the half life of the North Vietnamese version of Lenny Bruce or George Carlin)? Three Mexican Countries is after all not so far flung. It wasn’t all that long ago that there were two Germanys and using the principles of quantum physics in which a particle can be in two places at the same time, why couldn’t Fred Trump have been born in Germany and the United States?

Friday, April 5, 2019

Brain Enema



In a recent Op Ed ("Longing for An Internet Cleanse,"NYT, 3/28/19), David Brooks quotes from the Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath thusly, “The seventh day is a palace in time which we build. It is made of soul, of joy and reticence. In its atmosphere, a discipline is a reminder of adjacency to eternity. Indeed the splendor of the day is expressed in terms of abstentions.” Brooks’ piece is a meditation on timeless things. He mentions the Greek concept of Kairos time “which is not quantitative like our normal conception of time but qualitative,” 300-400 year old Japanese Kintsugi bowls and the work of the abstract artist Makoto Fujimura. But of course Keats’ “Grecian Urn” would qualify. The opening line of the poem “Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness…” is a notion that's more likely to be memorized in this age of rapid fire texting and Tweets than totally understood. In order to handle datification and the juggernaut of information that attacks the senses from social media, the average person has depend on short hand that reduces objects to flash preconceptions which are quickly encapsulated and categorized. There's no time to stop as in the chemical bath of an old-fashioned darkroom where a photo slowly and magically develops. Polaroids gave way to digital. It’s like Moore’s law. Expeditiousness is a byproduct of progress and consciousness is like philanderer who enjoys a promiscuous relationship with the parade of U.S.D.A stamped premium information.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Pornosophy: Capitalism and Adultery


Is serial adultery simply a form of capitalism? Reification is the process by which objects are turned into things or commodities and who is to say that concepts like economy of scale and division of labor can’t be applied to the erotic life? Entrepreneurs choose their metier or calling because they don’t like being wage laborers. They may also like what they do, but they generally are in the business of accumulating wealth, with the lode of assets they earn from business creating a principal that itself spawns out a return through simple interest or investment. More is rarely if ever, enough. The serial adulterer similarly does not enjoy being in thrall to one person who doles out pleasure the way salaried employees earn their weekly check. He or she derives a feeling of power from the equivalent of a steadily increasing stream of income, which in sexual terms involves maintaining a stable of lovers. Cheating is a pregnant word in that it can refer to infidelity or stealing. Many of the high rollers have been caught up in recent #MeToo scandals are people who don’t play by the rules and while it’s unlikely there will be too many studies about the relationship between philandering and tax evasion, one wouldn’t be surprised to find that those who avoid the arm of the law in one area, would also push the envelope when it comes to connubial matters. Now there are people who simply have many affairs and others who have appetites that are so insatiable that they’re the equivalent of conglomerates. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Sympathy for the Devil or Patient?




Many Rolling Stones fans were shocked to find out Mick Jagger was canceling his current tour for medical reasons. Apparently Jagger has to have a heart valve replaced, but it was like John Donne's "For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee." The venerable icon of the 60’s Baby Boomer generation is a signpost and a litmus test and one wonders about the title of the song that will derive from the experience. “Pleased to meet you,” Jagger croons in “Sympathy for the Devil.” The new version might finish off the verse, “but what puzzles me is the nature of your diagnosis.” Jagger is now 75 and it’s the perfect chorus for a rocker his age. Here's sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll minus the sex and drugs. Instead of getting his “kicks on Route 66,” Mr. Jagger may well be singing the praises of his Medicare coverage, provided, of course, he has paid for Part B. And before that,  was it Oxford Freedom? The Rolling Stones have turned out to be the most durable rock band in history and who knows how much they gross from their perennially sold- out tours. But until someone finds the secret for eternal youth even guys like Jagger and Keith Richards are going to continue showing their age. Imagine Mick on stage in 15 years. By then he'll be employing a stylish walker as he navigates an assisted living concert where he's performing “Jumpin' Jack Flash.”

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Sperm Count: Shameful Delights




Shame is a much maligned feeling or emotion. There is too much mollycoddling about shame and too many helpful Cassandras who warn us about the danger of feeling ashamed of our bodies and our desires. The message, of course, is there’s nothing to be ashamed of, particularly if you have one proclivity or another. Well let’s start with nudity. Sure you can go to a beach where everyone is naked and you probably won’t experience an iota of shame, but if you go to an elegant Broadway opening totally in the nude, you’re likely to experience some shame and the desire to cover up your so-called private parts. If this weren’t the case then things like streaking and mooning would be no fun at all. Enlightenment rationality concerning bodily fluids and functions may have dealt the shame  an almost mortal wound, but shame is not totally dead. There are still things to be ashamed about which add a little sizzle to life. If everyone talked freely about their anxieties, inhibitions and problems, their shame might be eradicated say like Polio was with the advent of the Salk vaccine. However, luckily they don’t. In terms of paradigms you’re more likely to find yourself as the nude person at the Broadway opening with all camera lights flashing then as the sunbather on the nude beach. There's nothing worse than being male and expressing the fact that you’re the only one who isn’t getting it up. And what about farting? If there wasn’t shame, the word “strip” would become an anachronism. You blanch when someone tells you to “strip,” since the connotation wrongly or rightly is that you're being forced to undress in front of a stranger and show that stranger those hidden orifices with their surrounding follicles that they wouldn’t ordinarily have access to. Some people hate having to take their clothes off even for a doctor's exam, but sometimes a future stripper finds his or her calling during a casual examination in a proctologist orurologist's office.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Us


Dostoevsky wrote a novella about a doppelganger called The Double: A Petersberg Poem which inspired Jorge Luis Borges to write his own version, The Other. Us is a doppelganger fiesta, though the director Jordan Peele’s form of doppelganger has a homicidal edge. "Tethering" is term the film coins for what's going on, but the double the central character Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) meets in a "find yourself" fun house mirror lacks one important element. She lacks a soul and that constitutes the chrysalis of the horror. What's brilliant is the imagery. The movie takes place in l986 and a Michael Jackson Thriller tee-shirt is a treasured artifact of the years leading up to that era in this “thriller" (Jackson, of course, was not the love child he seemed to be). But an even more important piece of imagery is the graphic of the “Hands Across America” movement which took place in May of that year. The wonderful twist is, of course, that something high-minded becomes a cross between The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and The Night of the Living Dead (1968)Home Alone (1990) also is a garish cameo in Us. Gabe is the father of this particular domestic drama. The performance  by Nyong’o has received rave notices. Yet it's Winston Duke in his Howard University sweatshirt, playing the tell-it-like-it-is, social-rising plain dealer Dad who makes comments like “what is this some kind of fucked up performance art” on seeing the red suited ghouls forming a human chain, who continually steals the show. Gabe is also interesting precisely because he's a black man who has made it and the film is about a kind of revenge of the have-nots who haven't  been so lucky.The title of the film of course says it all. Who are they, but us? Forget Jeremiah ll:11 ("I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape") which appears throughout the film and bespeaks the obvious.  Remember the Mount Rushmore scene in North By Northwest? Us is a reminder in an era, where commerce and complexity, often don’t go hand in hand, that mass appeal art can produce unforgetable imagery that possesses real and lasting genius.