. . . Elusive Button

. . .

Marriage is like when you give a kid an extravagant present and all it wants to do is get inside the box.

. . .

The appeal of writing fiction over the usual biter bit is the fresh air: out of the echo lab. The external comes as a relief when it comes. Interest enriched by empathy. Could say similar things about sex: self-pleasure as a lens that focuses other-pleasure.

. . .

Everywhere I've browsed in the last week, I've seen links to a horrible misogynous disgusting pornographic poem.

Well, these are a few of my favorite things(1), and so I finally gave it a look. Oh man(2). What pretentious tripe(3).

Now back in my day(4), they knew horrible misogynous disgusting pornographic poetry. As witness this lyric by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, which I often recite on public occasions(5).

After reading that, a palate-cleanser is called for. Unfortunately, most of Wilmot's best poems are too long for me to transcribe(6). But here's something suited to my age and position.

  1. And apparently I'm not alone.
  2. Probably a safe assumption.
  3. Unpretentious tripe is properly referred to as "chitterlings."
  4. The Restoration.
  5. Which reminds me of the time I showed an S. Clay Wilson comic book to my younger prettier friend, Matt, and he told me in a hurt tone of voice, "But this isn't funny."
  6. Highly recommended are "A Letter from Artemiza in the Town to Chloe in the Country," "A Satire on Man," "The Disabled Debauchee," "A Ramble in St. James's Park," "Fair Cloris in a pigsty lay," "Tunbridge Wells," "Upon His Drinking Bowl," and the best treatment of premature ejaculation in the English language, "The Imperfect Enjoyment."

. . .

Twentieth Century Ooze: Like any smart science fiction writer, Bernard Wolfe, author of cult-novel Limbo ("I think it is a masterpiece" -- David Pringle, Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels), knew that he was describing the present, not the future: "I am writing... in the guise of 1990 because it would take decades for a year like 1950 to be milked of its implications." Mind-control was a global preoccupation in the novel's birthyear, and so Limbo plays as many variations on lobotomy as Philip K. Dick on hallucinogenic drugs or Rudy Rucker on fatuous preening.

Equally accurate but not quite so self-aware is Wolfe's depiction of sexual attitudes among the educated and heterosexual. In a central episode of the book, the hero undergoes the indignity of having a women straddle him ("only a frigid woman would have to make such an issue of the top billing.... the most difficult of positions, a man-deposing position which for most women would exclude the possibility of any real orgasm at all -- a full vaginal one, not a pale clitoridean substitute") followed by the further indignity of her autonomous movement ("he did not relish that part of him which could be aroused in this passive way.... beholden to no man for her triumph, involved with her partner only insofar as she had momentarily borrowed him as a necessary prop....") and, worst of all, mutual satisfaction ("The most frustrating and humiliating erotic moment of his life, he thought with a grimace.").

And what a waste of time! "You had a full experience, sure, but it took you a hell of a long time to arrive at it: well over thirty minutes, I'd say, whereas the average normal coitus lasts for only a few minutes. And like all women who achieve satisfaction only with great difficulty, and only under special aggressive circumstances and only after prolonged tension and anxiety, you were determined to be the pace-setter. That's quite characteristic of frigid women too -- the men's mechanism must be only a passive reflex of theirs. You'll find this hard to believe, but the normal state of affairs is quite the other way around.... With a kind of warm melting you don't know anything about."

To prove his point, he rapes her. In the proper missionary position.

But she even manages to screw that up! "It was not, although it had started out to be, the genuine full reaction of the wholly yielding, wholly warm woman -- she, or her ornery unconscious, had executed a diversion to defeat him at the last moment, at the price of her own full satisfaction."

If all of the women he meets are either openly frigid or covertly frigid, how can he talk so confidently about "normal" women? Ah, the age-old problem for male pontificators, solved in the age-old way with the invention of a fantasy: the perfectly yielding Gauguinesque island girl, Ooda. Good old puddin'-headed Ooda. Nothing like his first wife....

Much more straightforwardly instructive than work by such old prevaricators as Norman Mailer, Limbo is highly recommended to postfeminists, Lacanians, and the nostalgic.

And only a quarter-century after Limbo's publication, noted heterosexual intellectual male Woody Allen was ready to debunk the two orgasm theory, although, naturally, he had it mouthed by a silly-billy blonde bimbo rather than by a heterosexual intellectual male.

. . .

Things that scare me: During one of those "Who do you think is sexy?" discussions, an ex-lover of mine picked Tom Savini and Mister Rogers. I try to avoid those discussions now.

. . .

An army of lovers starts to enjoy being beaten: Extremities in the vice of libertines is no defense.

Although I guess it counts as a pretty good offense....

. . .

"Thus an agreement may require constant reassurance and work at maintaining relationships to prevent breakdown. This, however, depends on the imperfectness of the conflict resolution obtained. It requires characters not to be quite sure of the common, conflict-free model to which they've converged. If they were sure of it, and it exhibited complete resolution, they'd have no need to bother about each others' feelings." (via Alamut)
At the end of June, 1989, my lover of over eight years left me without warning and without explanation. She came home a little late and was gone two hours later. Two friends told me independently that they'd always secretly thought our relationship was too content to be healthy.

She married a lawyer from her office. I collapsed like a tower of pickup sticks.

And I wasn't the only thing to fall apart.

Who was that pre-Socratic who called the universal binding material "love," as opposed to "the weak attraction force" or "Elmer's"? That guy, yeah. Well, cold turkey withdrawal of the local binding material reduced everything to its constituent elements, and those aren't an appealing sight. Favorite books became ugly over-packed stacks of graphemes. Food was kuk. I couldn't crawl into a bottle 'cause the major constituent elements of even nice wine turns out to smell like poison. The idea that anyone would make noises on purpose seemed absurd. And I reverted to a pre-Griffith state as far as movies went: I could sometimes manage the illusion of movement, but connecting individual shots into a narrative was beyond me. I remember sitting through Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and having no idea why people around me were laughing. (Oddly, I still have that reaction to Seinfeld....) I was a bug pinned to a perfectly blank index card.

Like with other recurrent infections, the best way to get a pleasure back is to weaken your immune system with a new strain: Robert Musil's cold-blooded analyses of emotional extremities revived reading; I also encountered some Language Poetry for the first time and said, "Hey, this makes sense!" I was nursed, weaned, and set back to film school with a little pat on my fanny by repeated viewings of Cat People.

And so forth. Not so much getting over it as planting around it.

After a few years, even the nightmares dropped off. The last one I remember was from 1993 or so: I dreamt I got a phone call from my ex. She was crying, and I had to work to find out what she was trying to say. Finally she told me that she was really really sorry, but she had to sue me.

"Sue me?! What for?!"

"Somewhere between five and fifteen thousand dollars; it depends on your assets."

. . .

Valentine and Thomas: The lubricious is always ludicrous, and usually a little scary. Derangement is the idea.

The most erotic of all sights: that focused out-of-focus impersonal craving in the eyes of the desired: beyond hope of communication, if not necessarily of synchronization.

Inexpressibility is an embarrassing problem for art, whether it's the inexpressibility of extreme lust or of extreme fear. One of the formal factors pushing the genres of porn and horror together is the need to depict the inexpressible, a requirement inherited from the obsession of their common ancestor, the Gothic, with the sublime.

Their tendency to depict through close-ups could be said, in another way, to be inherited from another common ancestor: playing doctor....

Caravaggio's St. Thomas
"All Sublimity is founded
on Minute Discrimination"

- William Blake

. . .

The Bright Elusive Button Fly of Love

From PRODIGAL GENIUS: The Life of Nikola Tesla by John J. O'Neill:

"I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them, for years; thousands of them, for who can tell --

"But there was one pigeon, a beautiful bird, pure white with light gray tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I would know that pigeon anywhere.

"No matter where I was that pigeon would find me; when I wanted her I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. She understood me and I understood her.

"I loved that pigeon.

"Yes," he replied to an unasked question. "Yes, I loved that pigeon, I loved her as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. When she was ill I knew, and understood; she came to my room and I stayed beside her for days. I nursed her back to health. That pigeon was the joy of my life. If she needed me, nothing else mattered. As long as I had her, there was a purpose in my life.

"Then one night as I was lying in my bed in the dark, solving problems, as usual, she flew in through the open window and stood on my desk. I knew she wanted me; she wanted to tell me something important so I got up and went to her.

"As I looked at her I knew she wanted to tell me -- she was dying. And then, as I got her message, there came a light from her eyes -- powerful beams of light.

"Yes," he continued, again answering an unasked question, "it was a real light, a powerful, dazzling, blinding light, a light more intense than I had ever produced by the most powerful lamps in my laboratory.

"When that pigeon died, something went out of my life. Up to that time I knew with a certainty that I would complete my work, no matter how ambitious my program, but when that something went out of my life I knew my life's work was finished."

Juliet Clark: "Do you think Tesla knew how a man loves a woman?"
Cholly: "I sure as shit hope not."

. . .

Allegory of a soulmate

In the rain you go looking for a taxi. After maybe five or ten minutes you manage to flag one down. Getting in, you announce, "This is incredible -- I need a cab just now!"

Then you try to have it wait for you at each stop.

. . .

Congestive heart success

Sating the desire to have let all available space. A voluntary discomfort, like sitting in an odd position too long or lying underneath someone. It delimits, it's delovely. People have outlines; thus growing experiences (e.g., hernias) are painful.

I was dumped where once I filled. Roommatic fever: absence makes the heart grow enlarged.

Love in Disguise
Humus Where the Heart Is
(via Beth Rust)

. . .

Seeing eye to eye: tips for the new practitioner

  1. The limited compressibility of noses and foreheads makes it impossible to proceed either from the traditional "missionary" kissing position or from the "69" you might be inclined to try instead.
  2. Thus an "arm-wrestling" or "side-saddle" posture is required and only two of the total of four eyes can be paired at any one time: right to right or left to left. (Which, by the bye, is why the expression uses the singular.)
  3. The eye not participating can be either open or shut, but should avoid blinking since that might precipitate blinking in the active eye.
  4. Do not wear contact lenses or a condition like braces-lock may occur. Of course, if either partner is suffering from pink-eye or another communicable illness, spectacles should be donned; in many large urban areas they can be obtained without a prescription.
  5. When the lashes first touch, there will be a natural flinching or pulling back, and again at the moment of actual contact. Don't panic -- even the most confident of us often have to endure a couple of false starts! Retry calmly, breathing regularly, with hands on each other's shoulders to steady your movements.

. . .

Movie Comment: Something Wild, 1961, with Carroll Baker and Ralph Meeker

Mr. Maltin calls this film "bizarre," but that's just plain wrong. It's actually pretty fucking bizarre, starting like a film noir Ms. 45 ("She couldn't say 'NO' ... She couldn't say anything!" reads the tagline) and ending like a Roman Polanski Moonstruck.

The cast and the Sanitation-Department-less New York location shooting prepared me for a Kazan-Lumet snorefest. What I got instead was the sole American representative of Rossellini-and-early-Fellini-style Neorealism, complete with ritual degradation of the director's wife. Not that the direction's as good as Rossellini or Fellini; in fact, it's kind of rotten. But it's American! (You know it must be 'cause Aaron Copland did the score.) It's New York! It's Carroll Baker! Ralph Meeker (whose character must've picked up a copy of "How to Brainwash Girls" during his stint in Korea)! And Jean Stapleton! And that's gotta beat good direction.

Almost just as well, since "good direction" might have ruined the Euro-trashier delights of the movie. Like the Bergman-does-Tobacco-Road scene where Ralph Meeker crawls slowly moaning, more slug than dog, towards stock-still Carroll Baker, grabs her ankles, gets pushed away, does it again, gets pushed away, does it again, and gets kicked in the eye! Boy, then do we hear some moaning. Blood comes pouring out.... And the tiny horrible apartments and feverishly icky sadistic voyeurism put those Italian comparisons of mine into a sweatbox till they shrivel to more like Polanski. Which makes a feverish icky kind of sense, since the director is an Auschwitz survivor....

Plot: Take a downtrodden girl and just keep treading harder.

Moral: If you love something, lock it in a cage in the basement for six months and then let it go.

Cinematography: What C.H.U.D. should've looked like. (In that same year of 1961, the same cinematographer shot The Hustler. 1961, Eugen Schüfftan, grotesquely sharp black-and-white, and tortured neurotic ladies will forever slumber limbs-a-tangle in my mind.) (And two years earlier, as if stocking up against Ralph Meeker's later shortage, Schüfftan had shot Eyes Without a Face.) (And thirty-one years earlier, he'd shot People on Sunday, and here I boggle past speech.)

. . .

A Call to Arms

J: They offered me "a documentary about the Dogma movement in filmmaking," but I passed.

R: "The Dogma movement"... sheesh. It's amazing that trick still works: all you have to do is call yourself a movement, and boom!, free publicity forever.

J: Especially if all of your movies sexually degrade women.

R: Hey, that must be where the Weblogs are going wrong!

. . .

If I Can't Masturbate in Public, You Can Keep Your Revolution
(part of our Sexual Degradation Special)
I'm all for porn, but I have to admit that this art students dressing slutty stuff seems about as genuinely liberating a revolutionary act as the Andrews Sisters cover of "Rum and Coca-Cola (Working for the Yankee Dollar)."

Which is one of my favorite records.

Schmalhausen trouble
from Is Sex Necessary? by James Thurber and E. B. White

. . .

(Continuing with what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called "that gentle degradation requisite in order to produce the effect of a whole"....)

Legs The 100 Super Movies au maximum: The Married Woman

One of the nice things about works of art, and vacations and drugs, is that they give us delimited events to point to and say, "This -- this was the turning point. This was where my life changed," as opposed to the usual waking up to find yourself in a strange bedroom thousands of miles away with a resculpted nose and no left leg and the phone off the hook and the cops hammering on the door.

For example, I used to be pretty normal about movies. I liked them and so forth. I'd say things like "Wanna see a movie?" and then later on say things like "That was pretty good."

Then, twenty-three years ago, I went to the Temple University Cinematheque (which I guess is closed down now) and saw Jean-Luc Godard's movie from thirteen years earlier, The Married Woman. And by the time it was over, I had turned into me.

An essential aspect of turning into someone is that other people don't simultaneously turn into the same person. Even while I sat there head ringing and sparkle-eyed, comments like "Did you get that?" and "Weird!" began to worm their way through my protective daze. On my shamble out, I stopped to thank the wizened Anglophile who ran the place. "I hate Godard myself," he said, "but someone has to show him."

Yeah. Nowadays I'm just embarrassed when I see those 1960s Godard movies, but I wouldn't blame the old guy for that any more than I would blame my mom for how embarrassing it is to think about toilet training. The only one I enjoy all the way through is his comedy noir, Bande à part, which reminds me of the Coen Bros., who, like Godard, seem to have been raised in some sort of white plastic box from which they take random stabs at what real life might be like -- there's a very thin crust of experience sagging under the weight of all these violent gesticulations, a bouncing on the plywood mood that seems to work best with dimwit comedy. Of Godard's work from the 1970s, I like the TV interviews with "real people" where he sounds like Charles Kuralt from Mars; from the 1980s and 1990s, his crazy old coot self-typecasting in Prénom Carmen. The only serious Godard moments that still work are the ones where he finds himself back in that white plastic box trying to figure out why everyone looks at him funny: for example, staring into a coffee cup while taking a break from trying to show off those supposed Two or Three Things I Know About Her that, nowadays, it seems obvious to me that he never knew at all.

How to Strip Not that anyone called him on it. There's no safer way for an uncool nerd to show off than by bragging about his up close and personal knowledge of women (or, safer yet, "Woman"). All those nouvelle vague guys leaned on that tactic big time; Godard, being Godard, just did so most explicitly. (As French censors realized, the title's "The" is an important part of The Married Woman's ambition.)

And, to Godard's credit as a forever uncool nerd, he was the only one of the nouvelle vague guys to try to engage equally explicitly with feminism. Unfortunately, he's also forever unable to approach female characters without interposing the clearest (and most brain-dead) demonstration of "inside knowledge": nude photography.

At the time, of course, I was more than willing to fall for such demonstrations; as an eighteen-year-old sex-crazed uncool nerd, they seemed like a darn fine idea.

And at the time, all such considerations seemed completely unrelated to what was most important about the experience, which, the next day, I inadequately described as the realization that "movies can do anything."

At the present time, my inadequate description would be that "movies can combine the discursive and the narrative."

I don't feel as comfortable with either account as I feel with explaining why they differ: It's natural for the individual who's gone through an ecstatic revelation to assume that there must be some relevance to the individual's life.

What's changed in my life is what seems relevant.

Twenty-three years ago, I probably thought of myself as someone who "could do anything," so that's how I was predisposed to understand the experience. Right now, I think of myself as someone who has to drag the discursive into every experience, so I think that the movie just happened to strike a natural-born critic.

You see, even though I promised a couple paragraphs back that I wouldn't bring blame into it, I couldn't just leave the question alone; I felt like I had to try to figure out what happened. For us natural-born critics, it's not enough to say, "My taste changed," or "Can you believe we used to like that stuff?" When we like something, it's a public statement, like pledging our troth.

Not that marriages really do last till the death-do-us part. What marriage means is that, having made a public statement of allegiance, you have to make some correspondingly public statement of divorce.

And then you get to make jokes about your ex for the rest of your life.

. . .

(part of our Sexual Degradation Special)

Like many another author setting out on a masterpiece, John Collier must have begun His Monkey Wife with the worst of intentions: to plan a romance novel whose virtuous heroine is a chimpanzee betrays a less than honorable attitude toward romance novels and virtuous heroines. In Collier's typical folderols of feckless poets and rich bullies, the female human plays the luscious main dish or the Acme beartrap but never the protagonist. And his novel, like his short stories, foregrounds a comically exaggerated ideology of misogynous sexism and Anglophilic colonolialism.

But rather than a Triumph of Arch, it's Collier's only really moving work. One of the wonders of narrative is that a story, when well-written enough (and His Monkey Wife is very well written), can be so much wiser than the storyteller. Once immersed in the point of view of long-suffering Emily, we're unlikely to be able to hold her chimpdom clearly in sight except as the primal cause of her suffering.

What results is not so much a travesty of romance as one of its purest examples, complicated but essentially unbesmirched by the deadpan perversity of the humor. Our focus shifts between the extremes of expressed sincerity and implied sarcasm until the two views dissolve into a wavering, headache-inducing, but very impressive illusion of depth. By the time sex is dragged in by a prehensile foot, we are, like Mr. Fatigay, more than ready to succumb.

I think Emily Watson for the movie role, don't you?

Tarzan and his mate
Bestiality has never seemed particularly profound in Real Life, but, since Robert Musil's quiet Veronika was first tempted by her Saint Bernard, it's been a sure-fire booster of moral complexity in Fiction.

Sex can work heavy-duty alchemical action on even the shallowest of animal fables, as proved by the only good thing ever written by hack libertarian and Welsh-supremecist Dafydd ab Hugh, "The Coon Rolled Down and Ruptured His Larinks, A Squeezed Novel by Mr. Skunk."

Again we find the ambition-performance ratio unexpectedly reversed. In ab Hugh's story, zero-sum economics applies to intelligence: as one part of society gains IQ, another part accordingly dumbs down, which is why democracy can't work. If he'd illustrated his postulate with, say, American ethnic groups, he might have had some difficulty selling his story to a genre magazine. And so he uses the slightly less controversial hierarchy of species.

Which is how he ended up with something more sellable and richer and stranger than he could possibly have imagined. No matter how fleabit and fanatic, cute fuzzy hungry animals can't help but gain our sympathy; a taboo against "love in the streets" can't help but predispose us to cheer on an affaire de coeur between underboy and underdog, no matter how disgusting.

So, even though the story (mercifully) doesn't work as propaganda for ab Hugh's political position, his viciousness does manage to keep this Incredible Journey from falling into Disneyesque propaganda of another sort. Thus muddling doth make heroes of us all.

. . .

Trivia Corner: According to the OED, in 1782 "A priest could not be degraded but by eight bishops."

Man, that must've been something to see....

. . .

Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet is a charming zine in the proto-Web tradition, but I didn't expect to find the two best short stories I've read this year tucked up its slender cuff. What a "coup," as they say in the editor's native Scotland!

With frighteningly typical aplomb, Karen Joy Fowler's "Heartland" demonstrates the equation:

Tropical resorts Fantasy lands Ground meat

Club Med MGM McDonalds

Brightly colored plastic and happy little people, as maintained and portrayed by grim Oompa-Loompas -- pay no attention to the sentimentalizing whip-wielders behind the curtain.... Oh, it's barely possible that you or I might, given sufficient prompting, work out that premise, but neither of us would be able to incarnate it in so convincingly organic a form. This is politics drawn from life and returned to living flesh.

And Kelly Link's "The Glass Slipper" is the most interesting modern take I've seen on Cinderella. Of course I would be interested, being as it directs the spotlight off the girl and onto the Prince, whose motivations have always been rather shadowy. What would drive a nice guy (because, after all, we'd really prefer him to be nice) to go around fitting shoes? Is fitting shoes really a good way to meet Ms. Right? (I can't tell you myself, 'cause I got fired from my shoe store clerk job after just two weeks, thus condemning me to life in the software industry.) If it is, mightn't you meet Ms. Right through the process itself, even without an official win on the foot? I mean, you can probably get to know someone as well by fitting their shoes as by dancing with them, right? And so we find ourselves pratfalling over the tangled, by no means strictly causal, relations of fetish and love, attraction and consummation.... It's what fairy tales were made for: to warn us about real life.

Rosebud Wristlet
So the next time some deadbeat stoner asks you how come you don't subscribe to Conjunctions or the New Yorker, you look 'em right in their beady bloodshot eyes and say "Fuck you, buddy! I subscribe to Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet!"

. . .

About the Blues   A nightmare is a stupid wish your heart makes

Movie books ogle Jayne Mansfield's maternal qualifications, rock histories clip the spasms of Little Richard and perfectly cast Gene Vincent, but The Girl Can't Help It truly peaks with Julie London's rendition of "Cry Me a River," wherein our nasty little hero is whipped reeling from room to room by the sheer glamour of her apparition.

So now sit yourself down in front of a Cinemascope print, pour yourself a tumbler of gin, and do what comes natural: she cried a river over you.

(singalong link thanks to Dumbmonkey)


. . .

The 100 Super Movies au maximum: The Big Combo

Conte/Wallace We have lots of reasons to be grateful for low-budget specialist Joseph H. Lewis's work, but Peter Bogdonovich's book of interviews is what made me grateful for Joseph H. Lewis's existence. In a field full of insecure egotists, Lewis comes across as happy, gracious, and busting with healthy pride in everything he ever did (except for the Custer movie: "I became terribly confused because I found out what a horrible man Colonel Custer was. Jiminy Cricket!"). It's just nice to know that it's even possible to be someone like that, you know? 'Cause sometimes you look around, and.... Anyway, here's Lewis on The Big Combo:

You know, Cornel Wilde and Jean Wallace are married, and they're a charming couple. I asked Jean why her character -- a society girl looking like herself -- would throw herself at a character like Richard Conte's gangster, a known murderer. And she couldn't come up with an answer.... I said, "Jean, when this man takes you in his arms, he doesn't stop at kissing you on the lips, he doesn't stop at your earlobe, he doesn't stop at your neck, he doesn't stop at your tummy. He covers you all...."

I actually wanted to show -- again by impression only -- a man making love to a girl in this delightfully unique fashion that we have all dreamt about or experienced. Now, how do you show it on film? Well, I had an idea: as you saw the two of them, mixed with kissing her on the lips and then on the ear, the camera moved closer and closer and closer and, as you came into a huge close-up of Nick Conte and Jean Wallace, gradually Nick's head disappeared: first kissing her neck, then lower and lower and then, at the precise moment, Jean, who was icy -- I think she was afraid to betray herself for fear Cornel would raise hell with her -- but at that precise moment I envisioned, I went "uh-uh-uh" off-scene, and that was recorded.

Cornel never forgave me for it.

Which makes the scene sound like fun. It isn't. It begins with a nasty quarrel and ends with whispered dialogue:

"What do you want, Susan? Tell me. I'll give anything you want."


"Anything at all."

"Nothing, nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing...."

over an unflattering close-up of a woman's face struggling to become as inexpressive as possible, one tear-track drying. It's Ingmar Bergman sadism 11 years early. And if Bergman had been capable of integrating it with a fast-paced cop thriller, Bergman might've been as good as Joseph H. Lewis.
Conte/Wallace Conte/Wallace
Conte/Wallace Conte/Wallace
Conte/Wallace Conte/Wallace
Conte/Wallace Conte/Wallace
Combo of One

. . .

Movie Comment: The Green-Eyed One
The Feminine
I don't get jealousy.

While in non-monogamous sexual associations, I admit to a certain queasiness when faced with evidence of other male consorts, but this seems mere homophobic besmirchment by proxy, and easily overcome. Similarly, I'd prefer that everyone pay exclusive (although not in a critical way, please!) attention to me at parties, but that's simple egocentricity, familiar from year two of life onwards.

At any rate, it seems unrootoutably obvious to me that one either wants to be in a monogamous relationship or one doesn't, and that once one party decides not to be then the monogamous relationship is over: punkt!

This blind spot results, I suspect, from such character flaws as undue fatalism and overreliance on binary oppositions. And so it would logically follow that a jealous person should be more forgiving and more optimistic than myself, since they must assume some possibility that their monogamous relationship can coexist with nonmonogamous impulses in their partner.

Sheep Slaughter But this appears not to be the case.

It's all very puzzling.

And, although its topic is jealousy (far more centrally than, say, Bringing Up Baby's topic is dinosaurs), The Feminine Touch provides little insight.

Instead, as a post-1930s Hollywood comedy, it must devote all its ponderous energy to proving that every human being without exception exactly matches Hollywood stereotypes of behavior.

Like so: Fist-flailing jealousy is an infallible and essential sign of love, and its unnatural absence inevitably leads to rudeness and perversity.

The unfortunate lead gears in these creaking plot mechanics are given little room for play. Don Ameche is much more convincingly fatuous than convincingly brilliant or charming; Rosalind Russell, miscast as an uneducated nestbuilder, only comes alive when fending off unwanted advances.

But things pick up considerable when the movie shifts to Manhattan and the urbane secondary-but-more-interesting axis of the quadrangle (and then falls flat again and forever when it shifts to God's country where men are dopes and women are dopes). Goateed Van Heflin, playing an indolent insecurity-flaunting publisher, herein founds the Woody Allen School of Seduction with a welcome dollop of aplomb.

Kay Fwancis knows Kay Fwancis tells And, as the unrewarded sharpwit of his outfit, fixed highest in the movie's firmanent is Kay Francis in one of her last star parts. Clownishly clothed and drastically underlit, she bathes each dim scene in silvery melancholy, her "r"-less speech defect a persistent admission of the gulf between wisdom and power. Only set in such a labored farce could passivity seem so compelling....

You'd have to be crazy not to lunge at her -- to save her or save yourself, it's hard to tell the difference -- but in this sadly diminished version of the world, the only character who does is Rosalind Russell. And not for the sensible reason, either.

Recommendation: Show up late, leave early, and don't expect to be able to perform Othello any better afterwards.

. . .

If I knew how to send email to misterpants, I would certainly call the Purity Supreme supermarket chain to his attention. The Purity Supreme in Nashua, New Hampshire, used to have special "Singles Nights" where Nashuan bachelors were supposed to cruise the aisles with their sporty shopping carts. I wonder if they still do that.

. . .

Timing is everything except for what size is

My favorite single comment from the decades-long circumcision debate is the guy who said "But if I was any more sensitive, I'd faint!"

Following a mental track laid down by Spike, I'm moved to do my bit to draw attention to dutchbint's splendid practical joke:

"Here's how it works: when you hit a website, the referer field contains the URL to the site you came from. So if you arrived here by clicking a link on, your referer info will say But, suppose you've just searched Google for cuntbusters, and you've clicked the result for Then, your referer info will say The script checks to see if certain words (like fuck, cunt, ejaculation, orgasm, naked etc.) are present in the referer field. If it finds any of those words, it will redirect you to aforementioned Online Decency Compliance page."
A technique which, I think, would've spread like wildfire had it not been unveiled in early September 2001.

. . .

Cupid, draw back your bow

Personal ads, Village Voice, Feburary 13, 2002:

Palenstinian Female 27
shapely semite, 5'9", 140 lbs, dark
eyes. Looking for gorgeous Jewish
man who enjoys restaurants and
travel to Israel.
Semitic sweetheart seeks enlightened
Jewish man with whom to escape NY
winter & return to ancestral home for
warm Palestinian-Jewish Valentine's
Day in Galilee.
Exotic looks & curly hair. Seeks Jew-
ish lady (any race) 4 LTR in Israel. I
love history, Arabic cuisine & skinny
dipping in lake Tiberias.
YOU claimed our FELAFEL
olives, oranges, music, houses as
yours. ME: the REAL SEMITE fun,
sexy, Palestinian gal. I need you to
get me home. WANTED: loving Jew-
ish M.
Petite Palestinian Looking
for fellow Semite in order to return to
Israel & breed in the Holy Land. Must
be willing to learn Dabkel.

. . .

Weblogs and journalism (see also jill/txt)

At a friend's birthday party the other night, someone told me about an airplane flight where they didn't get any sleep because they sat next to a girl who was obsessing about a very difficult decision; see, she had this box of jewelry from Barney's (this one right here) that her boyfriend, the Wired editor, had given her, but he was originally from the Midwest and so he was undergoing psychotherapy now because of an adolescent trauma that he'd admitted to her, to wit having sex with chickens, and she just couldn't stop thinking about that, so she broke up with him, but she still didn't know whether that meant she had to take back Barney's jewelry.

. . .

The Bright Elusive Button Fly of Love

Two weeks after students return to campus. The Mexican restaurant nearest campus.

Girl and Boy sit at tiny table. Girl is blonde and thin. Boy is a high school football player gone to fraternity seed. They order.


The first course arrives.

BOY: The thing that's amazing about this place is look what you get for six dollars.


They eat. The second course arrives.

BOY: Brian is just not gonna believe it when he hears I actually went out with Cheryl!


They eat. The bill arrives.

GIRL: I can't eat another bite.

BOY: Me either.



. . .

The Secondary Source Review

Sexual Revolution in Early America by Richard Godbeer

Having dragged a mature-content filter through pre-1800 American source material, Godbeer sorts his catches by region and period, arranged quasi-dialectically; viz.:

"There hardly passes a court day but four or five are convened for fornication or adultery; and convictions in this nature are very frequent." - "Letter from New England," J. W., 1682, London

"It may be in this case as it is with waters when their streams are stopped or damned up. When they get passage they flow with more violence and make more noise and disturbance than when they are suffered to run quietly in their own channels." - William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647

The conclusion, should conclusions be desired, is that technical and prison terms vary more across time-and-place than sexual behaviors do. But the real point of a book like this is to read the cool bits aloud, and although Godbeer has collected eye-catching material on such topics as bundling, sodomitical pillars of the Puritan community, and Philadelphia prostitution, he seems compelled to interrupt every few lines of quote with a few words of paraphrase. (That awful interference, wrecking your orgasm on the Playboy Channel.) Juliet Clark, star editor, explains this as dissertation house style, but we non-academics would prefer a straightforward anthology: interpretation is rarely needed, and, William Bartram aside, this stuff is hard to find.

Not that Godbeer is a bad writer when there's a need to write. He provides a usefully concise summary of the Thomas Jefferson Situation, for example:

Jefferson's father-in-law, John Wayles, had a long-term relationship with his slave Elizabeth Hemings, who bore him six offspring. On Wayles's death, Hemings and her children came to live with the Jeffersons as favored house servants at Monticello. One of Elizabeth's daughters, Sally Hemings, became Jefferson's lover and gave him several children. None of their offspring remained in slavery as adults; significantly enough, the only slaves whom Jefferson freed were members of the Hemings family. Mary Hemings, another of Elizabeth's daughters, was leased to Thomas Bell in the 1780s, became his lover, and bore him two children. Jefferson later sold Mary and her offspring to Bell; that he did so at her request suggests a mutual affection between Bell and Hemings. They lived together as a couple for the remainder of Bell's life.

If that sounds slightly incestuous, how about this?

Byrd recounted in his commonplace book a story about a West Indies planter who "had an intrigue with an Ethiopian princess, by whom he had a daughter that was a mulatto." The planter sired another child with that daughter and then another with his granddaughter. That great-grand-daughter was "perfectly white and very honorably descended." The planter boasted that "he had washed the blackamoore white."

Ah, good old plantation miscegenation.... It ain't incest if it's livestock breeding; on the other hand, it ain't bestiality if it's human beings. And rather than being a financial burden, the rapist's child becomes money in the bank. Kinda makes a feller proud, don't it?

(As an upcoming review subject points out, this win-win situation was exploited in typically enthusiastic fashion. When they call the American South a "slave-based economy," they don't just mean that slaves did the work. Unlike the industrialists and bankers of the North, the Southern aristocracy derived their wealth from property, and by far their most valuable property was people. That's why our Federal government never had the option of ending slavery by financial compensation, as England did: there simply wasn't enough money. Something to remember the next time you encounter a nostalgic lament over drove-down old Dixie....)

. . .

Non serviam

Since Kraft-Ebbing first entered the adjectives "sadistic" and "masochistic" into play, the world has persistently confused the practices of S&M or B&D with the very convenient metaphors to be drawn from such practices. Whether arising through ignorance or willful laziness, this confusion results in bigotry, misdirection (e.g., "Hitler was evil because he was kinky"), and lots of really awful movies.

The happy ending of Samuel R. Delany's Hogg comes when the young protagonist untangles sexual degradation from its philosophical and political associations; if the ending doesn't seem all that happy, that says more about our narrative expectations than about the wisdom of his choice. But such untangling seems unlikely to spread: confusion is too useful for instigating self-righteousness on the one hand (upraised to strike) and self-promotion on the other hand (chained to the bed).

Those aggrandizing misconceptions have helped disseminate bondage gear through pop culture as an all-purpose marker for "perversion," and even for the sexual impulse itself. From my quiet cove here in the Vanilla Straits, they seem reminiscent of the monotheist publicity agents for Satan, a figure of no great appeal or import until he's positioned as the solitary alternative to an omniscient omnipotent God.

I suppose that's why they call it "demonizing."

. . .

Master narrative

Not that metaphor alone has heightened the profile of S&M&B&D. The magic of storytelling has been busy, too: most of the best pornographic fiction I've read was written by discipliners or disciplined, with the next largest category, far behind, probably being tales of seduction. This is a bit of a personal disappointment since I find neither suspense nor props at all erotic, but there's little to be done about it. Role-playing power games and seductions are both ways of sexualizing narrative itself, and so they'll naturally have a leg up when it comes to narration. O is nothing without her Story, and her Story, like all stories, is no story until strapped into a recognizable form.

Whereas even the best-crafted of vanilla filth is likely to break apart into clinical observations, or into nostalgically recollected vignettes, or to wake up and find itself in charge of a cellarfull of slaves. Those of us for whom sex is a welcome escape from narrative, a way to focus on the sensual rather than the thought and to meditate on the real rather than the anticipated, can hardly complain when narrative snubs us.

. . .


You can always tell a hetero white male by the inanity of our complaints. (But you can't tell us much! Ha!)

One of my fellows once vented that he felt insulted by the label "vanilla" and wished it could be replaced with something more appealing.

"But it's perfectly appropriate!" I vented back. "Vanilla isn't vanilla because it's bland; it just seems that way to people who don't like vanilla or who do like blandness. Vanilla is vanilla because it's the standard; it's what you expect to find. Just because vanilla is common doesn't keep vanilla from having a very distinctive flavor, and it doesn't keep aficionados from being passionate about their preferences -- for French vanilla, for example."

My vent was longer, so I won.

. . .

Notes & Queries


I ran into your name on the big Internet, and I thought: "Hey, I used to know a Ray Davis...I wonder if it's the same guy?"

If you are the same guy, prove it by answering *this* question:

In "Not Fade Away", Buddy Holly sings "my love is bigger than a Cadillac". Was he referring to the intensity of his emotion or the size of his equipment?

Doug Asherman
Oakland, CA

According to the late Mr. Holly's associate, Mr. Penniman, Mr. Holly meant by "my love's bigger than a Cadillac" that it comfortably seated six adults.

. . .

New Adventures in the Integral Calculus

I've read McLuhan & Fuller & Sontag & Barthes, Bataille & Blanchot, Derrida & Spivak. I've read Benjamin & Adorno & Bakhtin. I've read Cixous & Irigaray & Kristeva & Jardine. I've even tried reading Baudrillard & Althusser & Bloom & Paglia, the Four Assholes of the Apocalypse.

And the most important insight captured by twentieth century thinking still seems to me to be the following definition:

The word "love" is used loosely by writers, and they know it. Furthermore, the word "love" is accepted loosely by readers and they know it. There are many kinds of love, but for the purposes of this article I shall confine my discussion to the usual hazy interpretation: the strange bewilderment which overtakes one person on account of another person. Thus when I say love in this article, you will take it to mean the pleasant confusion which we know exists.
James Thurber & E. B. White, Is Sex Necessary

Optional exercise: From this premise, derive the world.

. . .

Ba-lue Mun-deii Ba-lues-Are

"So Round So Firm So Fully Packed" by Merle Travis, as performed by Johnny Bond & his Red River Valley Boys, 1947

So round, so firm, so fully packed
That's my gal
So complete from front to back
That's my gal
Toasted by the sun
And I'm a son of a gun
If she don't make my five-o'-clock shadow
Come around at one

You can bet your boots I'd walk a mile
Through the snow
Just to see that toothpaste smile
They mention on the radio
If you don't think she's a lot of fun
Just ask the man who owns one
So round, so firm, so fully packed
That's my gal

So round, so firm, so fully packed
She's for me
She's just like a money back
Like the barfly goes for drink
Like the bobbysocks go for Frank
And just like Jesse James would go
For money in the bank
Now she's so sweet and perfect-size
She's a whiz
But she wears a 45
(Gun, that is)
She's got the looks that's so impressing
She's got the pause that's so refreshing
So round, so firm, so fully packed
That's my gal

She always hits the spot
Like a twelve-ounce bottle of pop
And when she smiles I go so wild
I pert near blow my top
Now she's got lots of looks to spare
She's for me
And that certain ring she wears
Is a lifetime guarantee
She's done told me I'm top hand
Won't be long till she wears my brand
So round, so firm, so fully packed
That's my gal
Spanked with a foxtail brush
Corporation disciplines consumer with the foxtail brush of advertising

For a hundred years or so, Americans have explored the ambiguous frontiers of self-definition, forcing the world at gunpoint to join our exciting journey.

Of course I'm not talking about sea-froth like "gender play," or "virtual avatars," or "community." No, I mean the ambiguity so central they put it in the name: incorporation, the profit imperative made better-than-flesh and sent to earth to redeem humanity (value 5¢ ME CT VT MA NY). Which, with recent "trade" agreements, has become the global equivalent of the medieval European Church: a spiritual authority that trumps all local secular rule.

We simple consumers have come to terms with the inescapable as we always have, with our own small attempts at incorporation. We swear allegiance to our patron brands, pin their badges to our clothes, draw our commonplaces from their testaments, collect their relics, and blaspheme at leisure.

I witnessed one notch-click on the pendulum-blade of progress in the 1980s, when, after years of viewing paid celebrity endorsements, American youth volunteered life-service in the sandwich boards free of charge. (For some reason, blanketing the family Volvo NASCAR-style never took off the same way.) I'm a transitional type, myself: although I still unstitch the leatherette patches from Levis, I was perfectly willing to advertise nostalgically "aesthetic" corporate products.

A generation earlier, Merle Travis took the path of Solomon, Hafiz, Meera Bai, and Teresa of Avila, merging sexual desire and spiritual quest in the limited stability of lyric.

It's human nature to bolster one unattainable yearning with another, although that rarely resolves the confusion at their hearts. Here, the singer praises his darling using the sacred vocabulary of sales, which seems to imply that he's selling her. And yet he also insists on her as his exclusive property.

The collector who claims copyright: a Raymond Rohauer of love.

. . .

My Lagan Trophy

Her husband, however, was neither so old nor so ugly as the romance-loving Sabina had been pleased to imagine; nor was there any reason whatever to suppose that they might not be as fond a couple as had ever been joined together in wedlock, had it not been that the gentleman looked so exceedingly like a showman coming into company to exhibit a puppet or a dancing-dog, and the lady so nearly approaching in awkward but obedient manoeuvrings to the chief pet and treasure of such an exhibitor, as to suggest the idea that she was his property. Yet, after all, this furnished no good grounds for doubting their mutual affection: fondness shews itself in a variety of ways; and there is no substantial reason for denying that exhibiting, and being exhibited, may be among them.
- Hargrave by Fanny Trollope, 1843

. . .

With, Around, or Over?

Etymology all round humps fecundity and pleasure together with smacking, fidgeting, flicking, scratching, messing up, and sweeping across. Only Old English seems to have prioritized the homey fuckbuddy (which I admit warms me towards Tolkien), and only French the kiss.

Even a preposition isn't always enough to disambiguate. Is the fucking off we confess to the same fucking off we demand of others?

* * *

I see chess as an allegory for life. The point is it's a contest between two opponents.
- Weldon McDonald
Because problems are the poetry of chess. They demand from the composer the same virtues that characterize all worthwhile art: originality, invention, harmony, conciseness, complexity, and splendid insincerity.
- Vladimir Nabokov

Journalists call them both chess "masters". But as I remember Vladimir Nabokov considered himself more problemicist than competitor, whereas by all accounts Marcel Duchamp played a vicious semiprofessional game.

Could that be why chess supplanted Duchamp's artistic career but nourished Nabokov's?

* * *

There are at least two ways to get a game wrong:

  1. Refusal to stay within the bounds of the game.
  2. Inability to see outside the bounds of a game.

The second mistake is more dangerous, since it's more often made by winners, and their rewards usually come from outside the game's bounds and the players' expertise in a large nonrenewable fee after a boxing match, for example, or in journalistic attention after a bestselling novel, or in governmental control after an election.

* * *

Mixed emotions and two left feet. This is a peculiar dance, and like everyone else I step it peculiarly.

As spectator of aggression, I love the graceful conviction of martial arts films, but I can't fill the imaginative gaps left in superhero comics or pro wrestling.

As actor, "I like it but it don't like me." I get the kind of kick from public elocution that people other than Cole Porter get from cocaine, but the rebound's fierce. Between the crush of doubtful conscience, a low boredom threshhold, and a hair-trigger temper, I'm worthless or worse at anything but the smallest-scale cannon-fodder political actions. Similarly, despite my self-evident pleasure in pontification, I'm unable to teach when coercion or grading are involved.

In both cases, skills relevant to a game are more than offset by my distracting awareness of conditions outside the game proper.

Which makes me a very unprofessional player.

It doesn't make me a player hater, though. Our society depends on good politicians, good teachers, and good propagandists. What makes Tom Matrullo's shylockia ridiculous is his implication that political games are novel, rather than an inevitable aspect of representative republics.

What makes him outrageous is his acquiescence to game-for-game's-sake: the refusal to acknowledge that a game is more than a score and that a life is more than a game. Whether a reporter is "partisan" or not hardly matters when all the pages are sports pages, when a voter's job is not to save themselves but to pick the most attractive contestant, when a senator's job is not to avert a health care crisis but to beat Clinton. All three branches of federal government are now made up of high-fiving high-scorers. The destruction of my country simply doesn't register except as winnings.

I led such a quiet life. Then somehow I woke up and found myself married to Mike Tyson.


kari edwards draws an unpleasant connection between this unpleasant post and the unpleasant image on the title bar:

your gender graphic seems to be the same cheap "trans" gender joke that shows up in the mass media, such as sheik 2... this is a cheap joke as the expense of a population that is the target of hate crimes.

and if it is so so funny.. replace it with a person of color, or someone with a disability-.. and if not, why not? why is gender the joke? are you not just reenforcing gender stereo typing from a phallocentric gaze...? some on.. this is on the same level as george bush's ruse on gay marriage..

Another reader, another correction:

The destruction of the idea of your country. Right before Grandmasters comes Ghosts. Wasn't Parcheesi the one where you could let other kids play too?

Or, more cautiously still, the destruction of my idea of my country.

The destruction of our idea of our country. I need the reminder at times. Other times I need a minder. Matrullo is calling you "Ray" as familiar or opponent? I couldn't get that from either context. Things are heatin' up. Get that belt on.

I hardly ever wear a belt. But it's easy enough to give me one.

And here to do the job is another nightmare husband:

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the weight lifter and Hollywood actor turned California state governor, accused the state legislature of being "girly-men" and called on voters to "terminate" those that oppose his budget plans at the polls, California news media reported Sunday....

Key provisions of the Governor's budget proposal include school distribution of steroids and Viagra, new subsidies for L.A.'s plastic surgeons, and mandatory sexual harassment insurance.

A sheik joke for John le Bischop, finding his own corrupt flesh remembered long after its integrity got relinquished; who, filled with whatever that is, used his position to generate steam of a kind, the unnatural repression of natural inclinations, dubbed un- while he indulged them. Love the sinner hate the sin; love the baby, hate the act that brings it into being. Flicking is suggested for the mosquito, after smacking, as the smear so common among the thoughtless causes release of bodily fluids, hers, which can be pathogenic to the smearer, as the dermis is breached immediately prior, being the cause of the smacking itself. And remember, she's just trying to feed her kids.

Impressed by the cut of my gormlessness, Candida Cruikshanks offers me a chance at a capon gown.

As if I wasn't already having a bad hair day, another reader pours scorn upon my head:

Natterless bumpkins.

As we both know, we don't come here to watch me bemoan what we call "personal life." In default of anything better, here are a late addition to the Milly Bloom discussion and a warning to avoid installing Yahoo Messenger 6.

An anonymous grader at the School of Love gives me:

amores 3.7

No more summer sessions, hurrah!

Adam Kotsko approves.

. . .

A Valentine from Ghana

Should We Call it off? Lately things have not been the way they use to be between us. The spark in our lives is not there any more. So...
From the collection of Emily Wright


Domenic Salotti writes:
Personally, I sent my female friends the attached photo below for Valentines Day, along with the following words:

"For all you do.... keep us warm and safe."

It received a good response. Ladies love ironic feminist iconography.

(By the way, this photo is from the North Korean educational book about the great communist revolutionary, anti-Japanese patriot, and original riot grrrl, Comrade Kim Jeong-Sook. From: The Great Mother - Comrade Kim Jeong-Sook © Chosun Democratic Peoples Republic, Pyongyang, Chosun Publishing, 1982.)
Cookin' and Fightin'

Another reader challenges:

I don't get it. Where's the irony?

That's a puzzler, all right. It's not in the icon, and it's not in the feminism, and I certainly hope it's not in the love. In the personally, maybe?

Domenic himself responds, adding a riddle of his own:

Considering that this picture was published within a book meant to educate North Koreans about a historical and patriotic figure, while encouraging young women to be brave in defence of their country against foreigners (Kim Jeong-Sook would be shooting against Japanese imperialists in this photo), but was used (by me) as a Valentine's Day card, I'd say that there was an incongruity between the original intent of the picture and the result. Taken out of context, this photo is ironic. (How's that?)

However, afterward, I realised that I had also sent this picture to friends in Peru, where such propaganda isn't so unusual (see: Shining Path) and realised that they could have missed the irony and taken my intentions to be literal (i.e. I was encouraging them to be a militant Maoist). Would that be ironic too?

Another Cupid writes:

This is all synchrodipitous - I saw that salutation thing the other night, right before I checked in here and saw the hearth defenders, and then tonight, well... credit the muse.

I'd better get over my doldrums and post a new entry soon I don't know how much more romance I can take.

. . .

The Sacred and Profane Masochism Tango

What can you possibly do with more love? Smokey Robinson lost in ecstatic contemplation of his hundred lifetimes:

"Live it down.... Wear it down.... Tear it down...."

Elvis Presley's lascivious staccato:

"Punch it. Kick it. You can never win. You know you can't lick it."


From the great Elvis LP, "South of the Border".
Add another one - Bop It Extreme 2 - Bop it! Spin it! Twist it! Pull it!

. . .

Interviewer: I'm reminded of Casanova's famous expression that "the best moment of love is when one is climbing the stairs." One can hardly imagine a homosexual today making such a remark.

MF: Exactly. Rather, he would say something like, "the best moment of love is when the lover leaves in the taxi." [....] It is when the act is over and the boy is gone that one begins to dream about the warmth of his body, the quality of his smile, the tone of his voice. This is why the great homosexual writers of our culture (Cocteau, Genet, Burroughs) can write so elegantly about the sexual act itself, because the homosexual imagination is for the most part concerned with reminiscing about the act rather than anticipating it. And, as I said earlier, this is all due to very concrete and practical considerations and says nothing about the intrinsic nature of homosexuality.

- Michel Foucault, "Sexual Choice, Sexual Act."

Sex is a perfidious intellectual digression into physical reminiscences.

- Laura Riding, "The Damned Thing"

Plenty of homosexual men are goal-driven, and there's also the boy in the taxi to consider. And some women and heterosexual men are nostalgic sensualists; even so stereotypically straight a guy as Fellini detested Casanova.

Well, it's an interview; Foucault speaks loosely, drops a crumb from his pastry, it's easily brushed away, it's all due to very concrete and practical considerations. This is, in short, an uninteresting disagreement.

The main point, that some such contrast of sexual imagination can be found, I agree with. It's a thought I've often had, in words no more exact than Foucault's, thought and rethought till the shoddy material's gray and gummy with handling. Foucault gives no relief: his formulation lacks the secure snap that would let me stow the thought away and the crafted surface that would make it pleasant to take down again. Our mere coincidence of mind might be taken as reassuring, but really, even I'm not that emotionally needy.

Riding's formulation is nothing but snap. I can't say whether I agree or not acknowledgment seems the most liberty she'd permit but this I can predict: every time I morosely chew the reheated canned spinach of my and Foucault's thought, Riding's grain of grit will be there.


Josh Lukin:
Damn right Foucault speaks loosely, and it's disturbing how his highly experimental ideas and his most casual remarks have been solidified into dogmas.

Case in point: what the often-admirable Halperin and the pedagogically gifted Zizek have made of an offhand speculation or perhaps wisecrack of Foucault's on the subject of fisting. MF would offer some choice words on amateur philosophers.

Yeah for example, I'm pretty confident he could tear me a new one without much effort....

. . .

The Absent-Minded Bugger

For John Emerson

Since first entering the social world of meat, I've thought of male vanilla heterosexuality as a perversion. The least oppressed of perversions, certainly female vanilla heterosexuality carries dreadful consequences but in its insistent literal-mindedness still distinguishable from the vagaries of the straight world.

Not distinguishable by any particular externally verifiable action. Just, you know, special inside.

Legitimate researchers of sexual behavior rarely respect self-perception. But when has love banished the disreputable or delusional? And what else could one think when one's supposed peers fixed on ephemera like perfume and shaved armpits, and confused symbolic and functional anatomies in antiutilitarian anxiety over boob heft or dick length?

Later, I was struck (nothing else there really being near enough to strike) by the distance of most straight pornography, as if its writer'd been distracted by thoughts of the World Series, or something mean someone said to them once, or the harvest festival. In histories and literature, the distinction seemed confirmed by the cross-culturally mocked figure of a gynocentric fopling too heterosexual to be considered straight. Into my own lifetime, new confirmations dribbled: the chicks-with-dicks fad, the fellatio diet, the starved and sliced trophy waifs, Botox, ....

And then, as if seeking a definitive break from vanilla perversity, the straight imagination erected as its non plus ultra the dullest (sensationally speaking) of all possible heterosexual conjunctions: male-on-female sodomy. I don't know what those young guys think they're delving for. Women ain't got no prostate.


Looking through my correspondence just now reminds me that a while ago, before I started the weblog, I was invited to contribute to a project to Theorize Masculinity. So I thought, drank, talked, wrote notes, pared back, revised, trimmed more, and finally produced this paragraph:

Straight men are funny, but then they get boring.
"Straight men are funny, but then they get boring." -- You mean, "we"?

Sure, but that would sound less Theoretical.

. . .

What Else Frank Harris Did Not Say

As we shook hands, her eyes widened, her lips twitched, her skin flushed, her breath shortened, her pupils dilated, her palm moistened, her knee jerked, her hair curled, and a long flutter through her frame left her dangling like a desecrated flag. She was just my type.

* * *

I played her like a violin. I've never learned how to play the violin, and so it was all pretty embarrassing.

* * *

"Mr. Harris," she acclaimed, "you have quite spoiled me for other men."

"That would be the herpes," I assented.

. . .

Ba-lue Mun-deii Ba-lues-Are : A Hug and a Kiss

Popular music was invented to corrupt God-, Stalin-, or Mao-fearing youth, and its guileful victories were legion: "jazz" and "rock'n'roll" themselves; vipers and kicking the gong and "Tea for Two"; "Sixty Minute Man", "Back Door Man", and "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman"; "YMCA" and "In the Navy" and "Wreck of the Old 97".

Today we mourn its saddest defeat: "Poon-Tang!" by The Treniers.

. . .

Ba-lue OX Ba-lues-are : A Hug and a Kiss

Over decades sex dreams wore a groove. I meet a woman informally, we converse, we attract, we caress and so forth to some varying extent and without much distinguishing the older and newer senses of making love. There's no chase, no transgression; I remember no signature prop or ritual or type beyond the unproblematic binary. Only a pleasant confusion of look, touch, talk, pheromones, and specificities.

X-treme vanilla, a view of Insipidity Peak. But as obdurate as any other perversion, and maybe a bit crueler than some.


Amanda Hugandkiss!

. . .

You can't hurry love. Nor can you hurry a dead horse.

What is meant by 'the inspectors are of the right age'?in Tickets,Please

It is meant that "it would do." "For some reason." On "the most dangerous tram-service in England."

. . .

From an otherwise innocuous cog-lit volume's bullet-pointed list of

answers that have been given [to the question "What is literature for?"], starting with the negative or dismissive ones:
  • ...
  • It's a means of wish-fulfilment, fantasy, escapism ("cognitive pornography"), or at best a form of self-indulgence or entertainment (like eating chocolate, or having sex without procreative intent).
  • It has affinities with delusion...

Now, masturbation (solitary and unwitnessed, presumably) is a familiar exemplar of self-indulgence. But what's being contrasted to "sex without procreative intent"? Even in financial terms (our culture's current exemplar of properly motivated action), intentionally-procreative sex offers ambiguous awards unless you're a slave-owner supplementing your assets. Whereas I understand there's a fair amount of evidence that cooperative sexual acts have proven utility in strengthening social bonds, or, at minimum as a (sometimes brutal) rebuke to solipsism.

Are strengthened social bonds, then, "at best a form of entertainment"? If so, the book at least taught me something about entertainment.

. . .

"What can I do to help?"

"Surprise me."

"... I guess that's the problem."


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.