Friday, December 30, 2016

The Final Solution: A Measure of Success

Poster (Atelier Populaire)
There is a theory that children try to outdo their parents at their parents own game. For instance the daughter of the well-known liberal lawyer Leonard Boudin, Kathy Boudin, a member of the Weather Underground, spent 22 years in prison due to her   involvement in the Brink’s robbery. If you apply this same principle to the presidency, you might say that a liberal president will beget a more radical constituency with a more conservative leader giving way to a correspondingly moderate following. Of course, by the same logic, a right wing president might produce a generation of neo-fascist followers, which is what some fear in relation to the Alt-right and the Trump administration. But, in general, it's more that there's a political thermostat which shifts back and forth in increments from one direction to the other. "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," is the famous Dylan line. Radicals lower their sights when they hear Donald Trump make a statement like the one he made to MSNBC, “Let it be an arms race” and turn into mere liberals. Instead of trying to wrest control of industry from hedge managers, today’s protesting students may find themselves content to limit the production of nuclear warheads. In essence, a whole new generation of potential rabble rousers may find themselves on the defensive having to fight the battles of the 50’s (like doomsday and nuclear night) before even beginning to engage equally pressing issues like economic inequality, healthcare and free trade.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Final Solution: Towards a Value Free Politics

Even in the most altruistically oriented social organizations, a top dog generally emerges. Hive mind is a much talked about in terms of social media, but ultimately humans function more like predators with ideologies only furnishing the silver coating for Darwinian survival of the fittest. Herbert Spencer’s Social Darwinism is actually the most profound synthesis of the biological and social drives. What differentiates the ethos of the current incoming administration from say the Obama era, however, is what might be called “value free” politics. President elect Trump’s early pronunciamentos and behavior have the quality of the reality TV world which is the school of thinking, if there was one, in which his candidacy was melded. The Apprentice is the name of the Trump’s show but one of the most popular reality shows on TV is called Survivor. The way in which potential candidates for cabinet positions have appeared in front of the cameras in the lobby of Trump Tower is probably a microcosm of the way in which both domestic and foreign policy issues will be dealt with during the Trump administration. Al Gore made a cameo appearance on the part of the environment (with Ivanka), but Scott Pruitt was Trump's choice for the EPA. Mitt Romney, who would have been a concession of the kind that Obama made when he chose Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, was trumped by Rex Tillerson, a protégé of one of the greatest survivalists of all times, Vladimir Putin. The one missing ingredient is values. You might say that making “America great” is a value, but it’s a value that flies in the face of the constitution which is all about means rather than ends and producing greatness through an emphasis on the kind of  process that Trump is already eschewing.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


There is a scene in Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta (based on three short stories by Alice Munro) in which a towel is pulled off the head of the youthful version of the character (Adriana Ugarte) to reveal the mature self played by the actress Emma Suarez. What's so moving about the scene in question is that it epitomizes the theme of loss that pervades the action.  Julietta loses her youth, but she also loses her innocence more than once when a man she fobs off throws himself under a train, when she loses her husband Xoan (Daniel Grao) to an accident at sea, her daughter Antia (Patricia Delgado and Blanca Pares) to a cult and her mother, Sara (Susi Sanchez) to illness. Almodovar’s latest outing is in fact a fugue about loss. Julietta also loses her friend, the sculptress Ava (Inma Cuesta) to MS while her father loses Julietta when he runs off with his housekeeper. Julieta’s estranged daughter loses her 9 year old son, Xoan. Alice Munro is well known for her brilliant polyphonic narratives and narrative itself is the subject of the film whose humanity derives from the notion that everything that goes around comes around. Julieta is furnished in what might be called Spanish Modern. A Lucien Freud hangs on a wall, a book about the composer Ryuichi Sakamoto lies on a table while Julieta walks around in a robe printed in a Gustav Klimt pattern and at times the movie seems to succumb to the weight of all the narrative and symbolism it’s carrying. Esthetic posturing undermines profundity; the exuberant flourishes and grand brush strokes overwhelm substance.  It's cinematic over emotional reality. While you may admire the complexity, ambition and brilliance, it's unclear if the irresolution at the end is a reflection of human life or a surfeit of information that's hard to digest.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face (But Not After 35 Years)

“I’ve grown accustomed to her face,” go the famous lyrics from My Fair Lady, but not after 35 years. No matter what the quality of the relationship, most couples who have been married many years would have to admit that there are times when they have grown tired of his or her face, together with their little habits and expressions which seem to become more set in stone as time goes by. You may love someone, but be totally sick if them. You may feel you can’t do without them and the same time can’t tolerate the thought of having to listen to them making sure that there are lots of onions in their salad or burger or wherever else they’re used to onions going. The thought of them demanding that their hot and sour soup comes very hot, but going on to explain to the perplexed  Chinese waiter that hot means temperature and not extra spicy becomes unbearable with age. “Accustomed” in many long term relationships connotes little more than taken for granted. The song might well go “I’ve grown to take his or her face for granted,” since every time he or she walks into the house, their significant other is unlikely to turn away from the computer screen in front of which they're stuck to bother to look up and do anything, but utter, “How was your day?” in the bored matter-of-fact tone that begs no response. The recipient of such behavior is equally rendered speechless to the extent that they’re painfully aware that there's nothing that they can do or say that their wife, husband or lover hasn't heard before. Sometimes a question is existential. “Did the plumber come?” for which the answer is “yes,” “no” or perhaps “yes but he couldn’t fix the problem,” in which case a mini crisis ensures (especially if it concerns a clogged toilet). But even a situation like this contains no surprises. It’s a one act with performers playing familiar roles and nothing plot wise that's going to shake the boat. In the case of a toilet, the worst that happens is that someone is going to have to hold it.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Sperm Count: Was Blind Justice Multitasking?

When you're young you masturbate, but when you get on in years you masticate. You’ve seen old codgers chewing their cud.  A young man in the heart of his prime doesn’t think twice about carving up a piece of steak, but as you get older things that were taken for granted now become the mountain to climb, especially if you’ve got to work around implants or dentures. A young man can shake a leg literally, holding his penis in one hand while gnawing on a drumstick with the other and there are young women who eat their take out Chinese with a vibrator in one hand and chopsticks in the other. Multitasking is really for the young who don’t think twice about having sex while relieving themselves on the toilet. Remember plumpkin, the sexual act that occurs when a guy is being blown while taking a shit? It’s a pleasure of the young. Can you imagine aging Lothsarios having the aerobic wherewithal to indulge in such a pursuit? There are some people who think that the model for the Statue of Liberty was up to some kind of strange activity when she held the torch on high. Every one subscribes to the notion that she was embracing freedom, but there are those who think she was holding on to something else--only you have to be young to engage in activities like that. You even have to be young to pull the wool over people’s eyes and what about Justice with her scales and blindfold. What if Blind Justice were a fetishist? 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Beauty is Only Skin Deep

"The Birth of Venus" by Botticelli
"Beauty is only skin deep” goes the old expression which is also the title of a Temptations classic. But how to deal with the eternal allurement of the flesh and the way in which is gets confused with subcutaneous matters, especially with regard to the most elusive body part, the soul? Physical beauty can even be a troubling asset for those who possess it as they are prone to wonder, very much like people of great wealth, whether they are being loved because of something which is not an expression of their true inner being. What must be disconcerting to the person of either great physical beauty or wealth is the fact that once they lose either they will no longer be the cynosure they once were. And there are undoubtedly those who wished they had not been born with their endowments or possessed of good fortune, if their fate was ultimately to lose either or both. “Never to have lived is best,” is the famous quote from Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus, which underscores the notion that in the face of tragedy and loss life doesn’t see worth it. Why have life at your feet, if the carpet is eventually going to be pulled out from under you? And as for those who prospect for pleasure and beauty, what’s the point of possessing a beautiful flower at the height of its bloom, if it’s one day going to lose its pedals? You run after ephemera at your own peril. The only other thing is inhabit an alternate universe. If there can be secret markets in body parts, there is likely also a  shadow world in which subliminal elements like consciousness and the soul are the valued items.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Healing Your Inner Belly Button

Ombelico maschile (photo by Stefano Bolognini)
There are people with outers and those with inners. This is really directed to those who will experience spiritual growth through healing their inner belly buttons, though the lessons learned won’t be lost on those hanger outers who proudly sport their piercings. You all know the expression take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth. The same can be said for inner belly buttons which are almost always filled with lint. It doesn't matter how ripped your stomach muscles are, the first thing you need to do is to clean out those deep crevices which will let the core or hara, which is where your Ki energy rests, breathe fully. Once you have liberated your inner belly button you will probably release a sigh, a kind of spiritual fart as it were. You've heard this in the tub when you squeeze the little pond which has formed and which once connected the umbilical chord that gave you the oceanic connection and life line with mother. Those who hang out can experience a similar effect by simply cupping their hands in this crucial little area, letting the water rise and then igniting a squeegee effect by squeezing the protruding skin. Healing the inner belly button is the path to the godhead. Once you have opened the door you will experience the compassion of the Buddha. You will be filled with love and will be a recipient of the magnanimity of the universe!