pseudopodium
. . . Inflammable

. . .

Last night someone discovered that the BART bike lockers are inflammable.

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Inflammable: De grumpigus non est disputandum.

. . .

A Small Circle of Jerks

It's not always that critics are mean people. Sometimes we just tend to feel a little shy around what we love. Unfortunately that means we tend to be more expressive around what we have contempt for.

From schoolyard and classroom to bar and coffee-shop, American rhetoric is honed for debate and attack, for winning arguments and shooting off wisecracks. We don't receive the same level of training in the rhetoric of affection. And so even the most articulate of us can often only manage a fast embarrassed hug before dashing out the door. When what we should really be supplying is good solid Joy of Sex-type research....

. . .

The Neo-Reacto-Personism Amendments

  1. A good manifesto is like a good pratfall: no hospital; no parade; noise, just noise. (link via wood s lot)

  2. A manifesto, to be useful, must be unconvincing.

. . .

Ressentimental Journey

When the Happy Tutor and Turbulent Velvet and Jeff of Visible Darkness convene, we should choose our words (or rhetorical figures) carefully, if only because it suddenly sounds like we're living in an Alan Moore comic book, where words (and clichés) actually count for something. (The Happy Tutor's costume we know; TV I picture masked as V as in Vendetta; JoVD, a bit blurrier, as a John Constantine / Swamp Thing morph who blends the sartorial approaches of Chow Yun-Fat's two Jeffs. Actually, I guess that would just leave him looking like Alan Moore.)

There's an immediate appeal to the ethic that satire should only be directed upwards. The difficulty is in determining just what direction that might be. When Peter Parker or Clark Kent quip at the expense of villainy, is that bullying? Or does it only become so once they're suited up?

With increased power comes thinning skin. It takes less to insult a king than to insult a peasant; traditionally, a child or wife can infuriate a parent or husband simply by assuming equal status as a human being. Should I be noticed insulting the king, the proper king has me whipped or hung: I have wounded his sensibilities.

In the United States (every man a king), such injury usually releases itself in an aggrieved whine, the bully's whine: "I never get what I really want" (that is, everything).

When anyone (no matter how powerless) takes offense at some asshole's thoughtless words and actions, it gets called "fascism." When anyone (no matter how podunked) disagrees with someone who controls continent-spanning broadcasting, it gets called "censorship." When anyone (no matter how politely) fucks or worships in an unfamiliar fashion, it gets called an "attack." And so it shouldn't have so surprised me that the French have received the rhetoric historically due a war's aggressor merely for declining to join the war we initiated.

William Bennett cannot sleep easy so long as a single reader enjoys unprescribed work; Pat Robertson's soul will not be free until all on earth agree with him and have donated their savings accordingly; Wall Street Journal editorialists writhe under a tax yoke unjustly shifted from the shoulders of lucky duckies. Despite the protection of their god, their wealth, their state, and their family, they still feel victimized. And when they crush the peasant, the villain, the upstart, they do so in self-righteous self-defense.

The process is hardly confined to talk radio. Here in liberalville, few will admit to security or to influence, and fully-tenured mistresses of the postmodern are as scrambling and resentful as the merest billionaire.

So in this game of loser-takes-all, who wins the right to satirize? The last great period of Hollywood comedy taught us that cheats (Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy) and the crassest wealthy (Rodney Dangerfield) are lovably put-upon underdogs fighting against the repressive forces of hard-working sincerity (the EPA, snobs, and literati), and I know which camp I'm assigned to.

Rightly so. I, singularly, find myself with no kicks to make. American, white, male, hetero, clever: I know exactly what further privileges I've gained thanks to those enviable starting points, having counted them one by one as they released into my convulsive grasp, and I'm very pleased with each.

That being the case, who's left for me to mock? Snoop Dogg? Because otherwise, by their own sincere admission, everyone else is worse off than I am.

And so I try to mock only those who I can't imagine weeping over my attacks. Given my hot temper, sometimes I guess wrong, and then I'm very sorry. Or sometimes I attack myself, and (being a critic, and thus myopic and trembly) scatter my shot. Still, that's my rule of nose-thumbing: harmlessness.

This would make me an ineffectual satirist. But I'm no satirist. The blind gesturing obscenely at the blind, the deaf whispering insults behind a broad hand -- is that satire? Dixit insipiens, at most.

Why take the risk of mocking at all?

Well, see, me, I like being criticized. And although I don't like hurting people's feelings, I also don't want to be ignored. A tawdry impulse, but, like most tawdriness, heir to its own peculiar glamour. A dream drives me, as it drives so many, a dream best described by that no-hit-wonder of unpopular music, Professor Anonymous, in his big non-hit "Got To Let It Out":

So let me tell you that it feels great
To really believe that it is my fate
To make people happy just by being alive
To make people happy just by being alive

But people are hostile shit-throwing little monkeys, and if we want to make 'em happy, we must accept the consequences.

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Errata

The Happy Tutor had in fact already pegged me as no satirist, and my little essay would have benefited by careful study of this chart.

We regret any inconvenience.

. . .

Homage to Basil Bunting

WHY NICCOLÒ SERRISTORI DID NOT LOOK

(personally into rumors of a lawsuit being brought against Machiavelli but instead had other people look around) according to Serristori:

What I promised to tell you above is this fine business that you will hear:
I was planning to tell it to you more or less in brief,
but I have changed my mind and shall tell you the entire story,
in order that,
following my example,
you may better confirm how very foolish it is
        to deal with asinine men
        and to talk with them,
        because anyone who is asinine is,
        after all,
an ass in every way and turns everyone who stoops to look at him,
        much less anything else,
        into asses.

Around three months ago,
Piero del Bene and I were talking,
        seated on his bench,
        that is, outside,
        where people sit.
Antonio Segni came walking by there:
we invited him to sit down,
        I moved over,
        he accepted,
we put him in the middle.

So Piero del Bene takes out a coin struck by the new minters,
        for you must know that the Fuggers have the mint
        and no longer Antonio Segni,
and he praises it.

Then, after Antonio has talked to both of us
and we have asked him several things concerning the money profession,
he makes a digression,
        saying that the popes,
        because of either too much saintliness
        or greater concerns,
        do not think of the welfare
        or the hardship
        of the people.
And I said,
"Maybe they do not want to think about their welfare,
but they do think about the opposite,"

and he said that it was not the pope's doing,

and I spoke in the third person, saying,
        "Others
        are of the
        opposite opinion,"
so he incites me to listen to the reasons by which
I would see that such people were in error.

I answered that I would listen willingly.
He made his argument quite properly,
and I praised him
and gave him my reply.

He answered,
I again replied to his answer.

He re-answers, I reply again,
still speaking in the third person,
        that is,
"They say, &c."

Then he said, smiling,
"The fact is that,
if the reflection of most people is good,
those are not things for lawbooks and judgments."

I replied that lawbooks and judgments are a trade like the others,
and that I was not speaking according to them
but according to what I gathered from men
        who make a calling of such things
        and who know about them,
and that I also had spoken on my part,
and that I did not think that lawbooks took away men's brains.
I said these things, too, with a smile,

and he, also smiling, said,
"As for what I said about talking on my part,
        &c.,
the primary thing is whether you can get yourself to understand it."

On the subject of lawbooks and brains,
I said that I have known a dozen
        judges, lawyers, and attorneys
        who were fools.
I said that I did not think that they were all like that,
        because I had known just as many
        merchants who had become brokers
and yet that had not happened to all merchants.

Then he said,
        but softly,
        "So you see,
brokers know more than your kind do."

        I said,
        "Antonio,
let us not become enemies over this:
you know a lot about your trade,
        which you make your calling.
Whatever I know about mine
        or I feel I know about it
does not take away from you
        nor does it add.
It suffices
        that what I tell you
        I am not basing on my trade."
He answered me
that he knew more about his trade
        and mine
than I do.

To cut the discussion short and not to seem to be leaving in anger,
I said that I was speaking to him neither with his trade nor with mine
        but with my brains,
and that everyone considers he has brains to spare,
and that I felt that I had been born with as much of them as he had.
So I acted as if I was thinking about something else,
        although I remained seated next to him.

Staying that way for a while and looking toward the bridge,
so that my back was turned toward him,
I felt someone give me a punch in the cheek.
        I turned around,
        amazed,
and saw that it had been Antonio,
because he was still standing,
and he wanted to show me that at least,
since I had gotten together with an asinine man,
I should give his asinine words their due with a slap,
because he would have been satisfied and not want to consider:
        what will people say?
Whereupon I got off the wall to send him to Kingdom Come.

So I reached for a bread knife of mine,
        a fairly big one.
        Seeing that,
he ran into a shop next to Beni's,
        where a beltmaker works,
        and he picked up a marble
        pressing-block
to defend himself.

I knocked it out of his hand,
        and finally,
        after he had run around
        into a corner of the shop,
I took him by the chest to kill him,
and just as I unleashed the blow and the blade was already at his coat,
I was grabbed from behind on the arms by someone and pulled back,
and someone else grabbed my knife hand,
so that there was no way that I could make use of that.

        And so,
fearing that Antonio might reach for his weapons,
        which I felt that he had
(and at first he acted as if he wanted to draw it and could not
because of the speed and force I used),
or he might grab some other blade from the shop,
I pulled Antonio along by the chest,
        so that,
        hanging on to him,
        I pressed him against the wall,
and he flung his hands down on the knife out of fear,
and they say he cut himself a little
because the knife was not very sharp.

Then, after we had remained hanging on tight to each other for a while,
seeing that I was held too strongly by those two,
I decided to make an effort to get loose,
so that, between pushing and being pulled,
held so tightly a prisoner as I was,
I got out of the shop with my knife in my hand and he remained there.

And so, out of fear that the court may hold me to more than I would want,
I am not leaving sanctuary
        until certain little matters are cleared up
        and I get back to Florence,
        where I want to stay for a while;
if it were not for this business, I would have arrived two months ago.

I send my regards to you, to Messer Niccolò, to the prior,
        and to our cronies,
        although the term is faulty
because with men of honor words change their significance
or their manner of signifying.

 

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.