Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pornosophy: Sexcession

Secessionists movements are making headlines around the world (“Spain Dismisses Catalonia Government as Region Declares Independence,"NYT, 10/27/17). Citizenship is not enough for subcultures with languages and cultures that run the risk of being drowned within the larger and more impersonal nation states in which they're legislatively contained (with these themselves continually homogenized by the procrustean nature of technology and modernity). The Catalan legislature has voted for secession and the Kurds and the Scots are waiting in the eaves. Back in the 70’s French speaking Quebec separatists attempted to break away from Canada. The motto of the town of Key West also known as The Conch Republic is “we seceded where others failed.” The countervailing tendency of small states seeking to reconstitute themselves, or irredentism, is evidenced by the imperial aspirations of the Putin regime. Significantly developments in the socio-political sphere are mirrored on a psycho-social level in the politicization of sexuality. Children with precocious sexual ambivalences have found themselves having to make sometimes premature choices about their innate gender preference and if you experience sexual desire for someone of the same sex, you're encouraged to come out and become part of a culture that supports one lifestyle or another. The legacy of repressive societies is generally a wholesale push in an equal and opposite direction ("For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction," said Newton and Yeats famously wrote, "the centre cannot hold"). Just as some Catalans feel they can’t enjoy their ethnic identity while being Spaniards, some heterosexuals can’t tolerate the notion that they can love both those of the opposite and same sex. Bisexuality—being AC/DC— is being increasingly challenged in a climate where desire is looked at as a cause and those who may be wavering are pressured to choose one side or the other.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sperm Count: Is Squirting an Urban Myth?

screenshot from L'Arroseur arrose (Louis Lumiere)
Is squirting an urban myth or is it the country cousin of priapism? If you are a purveyor or pornography you know that squirting films are a genre until themselves. Some urologists and gynecologists  discountenance the notion of female ejaculation though  no one would doubt the prevalence of varying levels of lubricity in women corresponding to similar degrees of tumescence in men. From the point of view of cinema studies producing the illusion of ejaculation is a rather simple process that would require none of the advanced montage present in say the shower scene of Hitchcock’s Psycho (recently analyzed in the documentary 78/52). Remember Ray Ashley’s Little Fugitive (1953). It’s the gritty story of a young boy who runs away from home after he thinks he’s murdered his brother. The murder scene is brought about courtesy of a bottle of ketchup. All anyone desiring to make an X-rated film called The Trevi Fountain would have to do would be to artfully plant a squirt gun off-camera. L’Arroseur arrose (The Sprinkler Sprinkled, 1895) was an early silent film directed by Louis Lumiere which illustrates film’s capacity for such simple tricks--which fall slightly below the bar of illusion. It may have been the eponymous squirter film since it shows how any discharge of liquids can come right back in your face.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Is Consciousness Immortal?

Rene Descartes (after Frans Hals)
Can consciousness be immortal? Eventually the earth like the body will die and human beings will have a choice. They could create enormous modular biospheres, floating civilizations that will propel them into new galaxies which are hospitable to carbon-based life forms ("Two Promising Places to Live, 1200 Light-Years From Earth," NYT, 4/18/13). However,  it would take generations for mankind to travel to a new star around which it could orbit along with a number of like-minded other planets. But what if it turned out that consciousness could be separated from the body to which it had always been shackled and finally drowned, at death? What if in a version of secular dualism, that had nothing to do with the existence or non-existence of God, scientists found a way in which self-reflexive thought of the kind that humans employ could flourish in cyberspace?  What if there were a solipsistic ether and in the absence of corporeal existence mind would prevail over matter? It would be a world of illusion, though none of its inhabitants would be worse for the wear. You would still have your gourmet meals and vacations at all-inclusive resorts. There would still be all the aspirational elements, love, ambition, sex, even war—that characterized real life, only it would all exist as bytes in a high level A.I. program. Naturally there would be philosophical problems that had to be worked out. After all how would birth and death be represented in such a virtual reality? On the other hand the answer to these kinds of questions would not be totally off the grid since in any simulation, whether in a computer game or other faux universe, the stages of human life are generally central parts of the puzzle.

Thursday, October 26, 2017


"Landscape With the Fall of Icarus" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
YourGreatestFear sounds like atmosphere. Space capsules descend into the atmosphere where they require shields to protect them from the enormous heat that's produced. YourGreatestFear is a similarly dangerous zone that's entered when a host of contingencies all occur at the same time. YourGreatestFear.com could be the name of a site which delineates specific kinds of conditions, but everyone is familiar with common instances like freezing up in front of an audience, losing your job and coming home to find out that your significant other is leaving you, having it pour when it rains, and hoping you will hit a homer and have all your wishes fulfilled when you're on the verge of striking out and finding that literally nothing you have hoped for will come to pass. This is a situation which might be familiar to those who dabble in the Daedalus Icarus myth. Your grandiose or stratospheric wishes end up leading to  YourGreatestFear which is that you will be left high and dry. Like the atmosphere YourGreatestFear is a region where acceleration (of wishes) produces enormous resistance which can result in complete burn out. You approach YourGreatestFear with trepidation since you know it's something that's loaded with obstacles and which by its very nature is going to produce the exact reverse of everything you desire. If this weren’t the case then there would be nothing to be afraid of. But YourGreatestFear can also build inordinate strength since by having YourGreatestFear occur you bring about spiritual growth. As Nietzsche once said, “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Real Thing

What if there really is some alternate reality that's by definition not in the realm of perception. Freud’s unconscious, of course, is defined precisely by its inaccessibility and there’s something in the concept which suggests territorial integrity. A correlate in everyday existence would be a silent retreat, freed from the pressures of phones and internet, where artists and writers and those seeking a spiritual life would be able to work or meditate. Of course, the notion of a reality poised at the edge of perception goes back to Plato’s cave whose dwellers were only able to perceive the shadows of ideal forms. Kant prosecuted a similar notion later in the history of philosophy. His Ding  an sich, “thing in itself,” is defined by the fact that it eludes discovery. Even later Heidegger would talk about Dasein, or “being there,” another state which constituted a heightened state of awareness, it was virtually impossible to achieve or communicate. Jerzy Kosinski, appropriated Dasein in his novel of the same name which was eventually made into a movie starring Peter Sellers as the hapless yet imperturbable Chance, who became the subject of other people’s projections and desires. Tom Stoppard, a playwright who enjoys toying with philosophy, wrote a play called The Real Thing. The movie, The Matrix, plays on a similar idea by establishing an everyday world that’s really an illusion, underneath which lies a darker reality that runs by its own inscrutable and improbable laws and connections (that could be equated to the often oxymoronic primary process thinking usually associated with the Freudian unconscious). Parallel universes and string theory offer the possibility of regarding the world of visible reality as only part of a vast smorgasbord of experience that lies tantalizingly close yet impossibly far away from everyday happenstance. The question for those who subscribe to such theories is not whether these are right or wrong, but how to get there.