The third annual SNICAD (Supra-National Insensitive Cultural Appropriation Day) went off with barely a glitch, yesterday, in an undisclosed location, with well over three dozen-ish anonymous participants indulging in hurtful fun. The secrecy is because of our fear of deadly (Twitter) reprisals. Which explains, as well, why I’ll have to use heavily filtered snapshots to illustrate the big event.

fig. 1

But it was grand. Everyone appeared to have an illicitly good time and the clean-up, in the wee hours (wrangling the odd sombrero or stray Afro wig,  from various corners of the sticky floor, in the dark,  with a broken litter stick, etc), was worth it.

SNICAD happens on a different day, in a different month, every year (again: security concerns). Like a traditional flash mob, the diverse participants, whose names are on an exclusive list in an encrypted thumb-drive, are given the address of the secret location and three hours notice to knock together a traditional costume they have zero ancestral connection to, and half-assedly learn an ethnic song, dance, poem or passage from a holy text that is just as offensively unrelated to their own heritage as it is in conflict with the “traditional” costume they’ve adopted and defiled.

As with Halloween,  one noticed evidence of more popular, and less popular, trends: there was an absolute preponderance of sombreros, Afro wigs, Dirndls and Saris. Several Native American headdresses (or acceptable approximations), two Squaw costumes and a surprising paucity of dreadlocks wigs (there were only two and each was on a Queer Peruvian doing bad karate moves with self-supplied sound effects). My personal favorite was the Vietnamese guy dressed like a Basque shepherd (however they dress) doing the Italian American Cis Male “are you talking to me?” monologue (from Taxi Driver) with a Hawking voice-box.

“Isolde” jubilates

We had a lady Nigerian in a Frenchman’s beret butchering Appalachian tunes on a jaw harp; we had a Swiss fellow in a bad Dashiki singing from “Fiddler on the Roof”;  we had black, white, yellow, brown, red and beige face. We snacked on a politically incorrect hodgepodge of ethnic dishes with willfully inappropriate cutlery and drank Saki incorrectly and sampled sacred Central American hallucinogenic plants without consulting a single fucking Shaman. White people talked Black, Black people spoke Latin, Asian people spoke Pig Latin, Hispanic people talked Cracker and everybody else used badly mangled Yiddish.  A Trans-curious Chinese person in a blatantly unnecessary orthopedic shoe sang “Sexual Healing” while faking sign language, causing a culturally insensitive orgy to break out.

brothas in whiteface


All in all, it was a good time, and we bonded in the racist obscenity of our abominable transgressions. Bonded, also, in the enormous relief we all felt when the crack of dawn crept upon us and we hadn’t been caught (nor even suspected). We quickly dressed in crazy permutations of each other’s meaningless (in the Greater Scheme of Things)  ethnic costumes, snickering and snorting, and we headed home, sneaking out the fire exit of the rented theater,  one at a time, as the sun rose, having gotten away with the unspeakable for another year.


    1. Osian, Dude, how can you “enjoy the idea” if you “can’t tell what [I’m] doing fully”? Now you’ve got me curious as to what idea you were actually enjoying… but I suspect that it might be an idea you brought with you to the reading… and that idea (your idea) only sort of vaguely lined up with some of what I wrote. One problem with contemporary discourse is that it has broken down into simplistic binaries (Mega Right vs Pseudo Left, mostly) and everyone thinks they know which “side” a person is on twenty seconds (or five sentences) after said person has opened his/her mouth or posted her/his comment. Some people (the more interesting ones, IMO) slip through these binary cracks. In which case, nuances kick in…

      Which is all my way of saying that I’d like to see more Queer Peruvians in Dreadlocks wigs. Lots more. Now.

      (makes vintage Black Power fist) Chelsea Clinton 2024!


      1. (The horrifically amusing bit: a “Chelsea Clinton/ Ivanka Trump” ticket would probably win by a landslide; which would mesh well with Scary Spice, for the Tories, in Downing Street)


    1. Jeff, I don’t know you well enough to tell if you know FD’s work well enough to tell if you’re insinuating that I’m a Christian, an Anarchist, a Libertarian, an Existentialist, a Randian, an anti-Randian or some form of proto-Trotskyite Nihilist Nomosexual… but what I am is a fan of early-middle, to middle-period, Dylan (stopping at ’76 and no sooner than ’65), and pre-sellout Psychedelic Furs, and Archie Shepp, and Harold Brodkey… and one of my many credos is…


      Direct hit?

      [From the Editor: what is going on with the rest of this comment thread is that Jeff Wheelwright has actually followed me to my Site, here, in order to ask me to remove a comment I made, at The American Scholar, ridiculing an article he posted there. Hope that clears things up…!]


  1. The anarchist FD, Steve. (I think you’re Steve.) Your credo fits you, and I endorse the front half. My credo is somewhat related: Dr. Johnson’s “No man but a blockhead ever wrote but for money.” You put words together well, but I sense that publishers don’t pay you for them, whereas they have paid for mine, albeit poorly. My profile as a writer is out there for all to see. You might be a 400-lb. guy typing on his bed. I shouldn’t have put my toe into the social media shark pit that’s appended to my essay. I’ve expunged my earlier comments there.


    1. Jeff!

      Oddity-Sammy was a blockhead and a rapacious Onaniste (Boswell tells us so; Sam’s discreet little Ms in his dirty journal, too). I prostitute/ debase/ dishonor another talent for good-ish money… the Writing I keep sweet and pure. No vulgarian thumb-impressions on my First Muse, Jeff: that’s the rule! No Normies “editing” me: ach! My first Wife wheedled me into interfacing with all that in ’95 and that dip in the brackish and the tepid was enough… so I got a better, younger, wheedle-free Wife! laugh. Things have been just peachy for eons.

      PS “My profile as a writer is out there for all to see. ”

      As is mine! Thousands of pages, lots of readers (well, not as compared to a Cat Blog); several (rather solid) novels online, 50+ stories, sundry essays and all without compromise or having to slurp arse! Bliss, Jeff. Bliss.


    2. ” I shouldn’t have put my toe into the social media shark pit that’s appended to my essay.”

      Oh, that sort of exercise is better than jogging through knee-deep water, Jeff. Keeps the chops sharp. Highly recommend it. Wards off rust, cobwebs and complacency. Keeps that chest hairy!


  2. I still don’t know you don’t weigh 400 lbs., Steve. Do me a favor and delete your comments to me on the essay. I have innocent children. Right now you’re replying to nothing anyway. Let Jason carry the water of the shark pit.


    1. Jeff, if you’re wondering about our future as a couple, I can assure you that I am not a 400-pounder and that I’m a handsome man with a semi-famously beautiful Wife.

      If you’re asking me to delete the comments with which I sort of trounced you (sorry: it’s that Paris Review thing, still under my craw-skin) I will do it for your kids! Give me ten minutes, chum…


  3. Now that IS funny, what you entered on The Scholar. I was pissed at “Jason,” so clearly was he out of bounds and full of himself, and I was suckered to respond. You came along and took his side. OK, so you are sort of an anarchist, and a contrarian, and a crank. The Internet is full of gadflies scoring cheap points. Dust off your best novel and put yourself out there in the real marketplace where failure hurts and success redeems. Over and out


    1. Jeffy, I’m disappointed in you. Trying to get in a damp squib or two on your way out the door?

      “Dust off your best novel and put yourself out there in the real marketplace where failure hurts and success redeems.”

      And arse-licking a dead relative pays in tiny increments…?


    1. Indeed, Jeffy. Bit sleazy of you, wasn’t it? Sorry the trouncing comment is right back in place… until you have it scraped. But I will always have a great little story out of this experience.


      1. STeve, your triumph is complete. Today I went back to The Scholar and entered a witty, snarky reply, while at the same time requesting a total Disqus scrape. All of us to be flushed, the good pulled down with the bad. The editors demurred–and banned me instead. God, I need to pop a lithium. I still suspect you of weighing 400 lbs. This has been educational! Whew!


        1. Jeff:

          I’m 6′ tall and big in the dick with a belly no bigger than yours (maybe you’re taller, but you look at least 15 years older than I do in your thumbnail, which is usually a forgiving format). I look ten years younger than my actual age (on a bad day; which almost kept me out of Sweden because the girl at the border-window wouldn’t accept my passport’s recorded birthday).

          It is a psychologically under-developed position to assume that anyone who disagrees with you, in a comment thread is, by default, by every metric, living a wretched or inferior existence. Surely you’re more sophisticated than that, Jeff! Or, let me rephrase that… (laugh)

          My Wife is a public figure (a classical musician with a fairly high profile); I post fairly (even severely) controversial material on my site (on which is also posted several novels I will place, smugly, beside any Fiction you might ever have cobbled together, lip-bitingly and with death-groans and a debilitating loss for words… when you aren’t busy with the unremarkable trudge of compiling research, for your WC-appropriate, glorified book reports, aimed at your middlebrow target audience of bored widows with two years of college). Wait.. where was I?

          Oh yeah: posting my actual picture would be a silly thing to do. Who cares what you think, Jeff? Having one joule of negative impact on my Wife’s professional life would be unforgivably, and boyishly, careless of me.

          Picture me however it might turn you on to do so.

          If we were in the same city (or on the same continent) I would challenge you to a good old arm-wrestle… and win without much effort.

          PS Never had a drink of anything alkie in my life; not a religious stricture, just preternaturally good common sense. Might have something to do with my astonishing vitality, Jeff. Think on it…




  4. Well, this has been entertaining, Steve. Putting aside my real work, I spent some time on your older blog sites. I guess I have to drop the 400-lb. thing. You’ve come into shadowy focus. Your literateness has been exercised in the unmonetized, logorrheic, and I think rather cowardly world of online debate. But yeah, I’m a WASP who has tried to make it as a writer the dying old-fashioned way. Fiction I can’t do, or not yet. Journalism doesn’t challenge me very much intellectually, but I do it well. I’m 71 and also am taken for a much younger man, because I’m fit. Look me up sometime and I’ll see if we should arm-wrestle.


    1. Jeff:

      “But yeah, I’m a WASP who has tried to make it as a writer the dying old-fashioned way. ”

      Translation: you are a blazingly average hack who benefited slightly from Cultural Nepotism but couldn’t make as much of that initial break as many other mediocrities could, luck playing such a pivotal role in the life of a mediocrity, Jeff! What you don’t get is the exquisite ongoing payoffs involved in making Art, payoffs you don’t have the equipment to process, in any case, being such a lumbering Plod, Jeff… such a thoroughly convincing specimen of all-American Boob.

      I’ve had so many talent-free, venal hacks like you, btw, quote that Sammy Johnson riff to me, over the years… let’s call it The Song of the Hack… and not a one of you was well-read enough to know of, or gracious enough to include, Boswell’s less-famous rejoinder with the (damp squib) dig.

      Jeff, I went to school with WASPs (a fading classification you cling to as though this were the end of the 19th century: I suggest you all marry into Jewish families as soon as possible, if they’ll have you, to regain a little of that shriveled clout, Jeff) like you… they were entitled shits, the WASPs I went to school with, and they juiced their way through class and cheated religiously at whatever games they participated in, from volleyball to Monopoly, Winning being Everything, to them, and cheating-to-win no shame, in their opinion, at all.

      Which brings me to my suspicions regarding the probability of a WASPy psychopath gene that expresses itself, sometimes, in subtle ways… like the little trick you tried to play on me over at The American Scholar: I can well imagine your short-lived, unethical, mildly psychopathic glee, Jeff! And the visual is hilarious.

      Remember the story that one of Peter’s exes tells, about the time he was cruising along, with that hatchet-faced glare of his and he swerved, for no good reason, to run over a beautiful old tortoise in the road? It’s like that.

      “Your literateness has been exercised in the unmonetized, logorrheic, and I think rather cowardly world of online debate.”

      Yeah… and the seven interrelated novels, Jeff. The 50+ stories. And the screenplay I sold an option on (for very good money, before Kirsch Media Gruppe went plotz), because I needed the money c. 2002. Let’s not forget the song I co-wrote that charted in a dozen countries, Jeff… and the song I co-wrote that became the theme for a soap, the song I co-wrote with Whitney Houston’s producer (Narada), and so forth, Jeff, you poor little amateur money-maker. Wow, Jeff: you got some books published! Impressed, Jeff. You and Malcolm Gladwell, Jeff. In the pantheon. Exemplary.

      Re: “cowardly world of online debate”: what you are manifestly far from swift enough to get, Jeffy, is that the words are all that count. They are either accurate/fair or not. If they fail, if they are weak, if they are false, you can’t be stung by them. Can you Grok that, Jeff? Remember: THE WORDS ARE ALL THAT COUNT. Funny that I need to inform you of this. Or not.

      “I’m 71 and also am taken for a much younger man, because I’m fit”

      I seriously took you for 75, with a bad dye job, but maybe the lighting was bad, Jeff.


      1. I’m getting to like you, Steve. You protest too much and the sputtering insults–well, bless me, I wasn’t brought up that way. I wish we could talk face to face. Email would be better, but even email, with no one looking over our shoulders, allows for plenty of posturing. This forum of course encourages all sorts of wild posturing.

        Obviously you have seen the video of James Baldwin debating William Buckley. That took great courage on Baldwin’s part–his face and his body and his brain were put on the line. You take my message. Everyone could see he didn’t weigh 400 lbs.

        Belittle my skills all you want. It took five tries, but I got a Guggenheim. Sneer away, but you take my message.


        1. Jeff:

          Not impressed that Cultural Nepotism interceded, intermittently, on your behalf… I thought I made that clear, Jeff? Laugh. One day I’ll tell you about the time I met Wally Shawn, who was here on his GF’s Gugg.

          Re: Baldwin vs Buckley: two era-appropriate clowns for the Televisual bread and circuses. Buckley scored a solid point against Baldwin’s bizarre accent, though. Chomsky vs Buckley rather better.


        2. “I’m getting to like you, Steve.”

          Nah. That just means you want to keep playing until you finally win a round, Jeff. I will indulge you to some extent but we’ll have to continue another day… meanwhile, load up on better ammo.


          1. Sleep well, Steve. I’ve lost all the rounds but not the match. I wish you well–peace! Yesterday I was thinking about the passage where Jesus rhetorically asks the worshiper who’s about to sacrifice in the temple if he has a dispute ongoing with his neighbor. He does? Jesus says, Go reconcile with your neighbor. Then come back to the temple.


    1. Jeff!

      Good: now that we’ve cleared our throats, let’s get to some substance. If we can keep this part of the correspondence tight, maybe I’ll repost this section as a standalone piece, for clarity and minus the vituperation (which I cranked up to match your early and obviously vituperative swipes at me). I have no interest in scoring points against you, personally, but I do see this as an opportunity to dismantle some of your conceptual privileges (what I see as a self-servingly Normative worldview) in a rant-free, chest-beating-free, discussion. [re: “You protest too much and the sputtering insults–well, bless me, I wasn’t brought up that way.” Jeff, check your assortment of insults, up-thread, and be objective about how much sputtering you’ve indulged in]

      Are you game?

      So. The text you link to, to rebut the “turtle story,” is one of Peter Matthiessen’s own fictions. It’s a short story. That doesn’t carry any more weight than the narrative I cite, which I source to Richard H. Cummings. Cummings, as I’m sure you know, was part of the circle including Plimpton and Matthiessen and Humes, and he refers to Patsy (Southgate, PM’s first wife, who dandled you on her knee, possibly) in a piece published in The Lobster; Lobster 50, I think:

      “Southgate, who disapproved of what Matthiessen was doing, gave him an ultimatum. She told him that he either left the Agency, or she would leave him. He didn’t, so she did. Matthiessen’s personal behavior didn’t endear him to her, either. She, as well as friends from Southgates’s and Matthiessen’s Paris days, took note of his dark side, and his occasional gratuitous acts of cruelty, that astonished them. Carol Southern, who was married to Terry Southern and knew
      Matthiesssen and Southgate in Paris, relates how Matthiessen made Southgate carry a case of wine up the stairs to their apartment while she was pregnant. On another occasion, while out driving, he deliberately drove over a turtle as it was trying to across the road. ”

      So, that’s Cummings relating face-to-face stories from PM’s first wife. But the text you link to, as exculpatory, contains this nice little gem of the psychopathy I mention up-thread:

      “I saw no contradiction in admiring birds and blazing away at them.”

      I don’t see how that’s any less damning than the contentious turtle story and it’s in PM’s own words. And it speaks, very evocatively, to a greater schism or “paradox” that does, I think, possibly, sum up PM specifically, and lots of Intelligence types in general and, yes, WASPs as a herd (I chuckle here but the original CIA was quite WASPy, no?)… a herd which, you might agree, was endogamic enough, for a good long time (before, say, the middle of the 20th century) to be sharing an interesting gene or two.


  5. Re: the Cummings essay. I read it some years ago. Scurrilous through and through. Cummings (not his birth name) was/is a somewhat younger wannabe writer and socialite on the east end of Long Island who befriended my uncle and some of my uncle’s friends–until they realized he was a snake. After my aunt died, he uncorked the nasty gossip he had been fermenting, and he spitefully spit it out in that essay. As I said, he’s a liar. (Shudder…WASPy shudder here.)

    The American tradition of loving birds and also shooting them for study and sport began with Audubon. It’s not that complicated. Peter gave up hunting at 33, and I shot ducks only when I was a teenager. In my 30s I hunted deer and ate ’em, while admiring their graceful movements in the woods. But that’s well behind me now too. I think we must come from different worlds. Mine has been privileged, for sure.


    1. Jeff!

      Well, let’s be frank: it’s your word against Cummings’, and you are going to be biased in defense of your family and of your class. Also, Cummings (the class interloper) could well have been privy to info you were being shielded from. I’m sure Cummings magnified this and elided that, as I’m sure you’ve done in your own reportage… as I’m sure we all do… but if there’s a nugget of Truth that he’s embellishing, that’s the nugget I’m interested in. From where I’m sitting the nugget says “Nothing is but what is not”. The CIA were/are the praetorian guard of the banking class and the Cold War saw them indulge in cultural manipulations the distortions from which we live with today. Cummings wasn’t the only one pointing the finger.

      The Nabokovs and the Amises are families who famously circled the wagons against formerly-close, suddenly anathematic, would-be biographers. Being in thrall to famous families, we, the readers, take their words for it regarding such naughty men. That doesn’t mean that either would-be biographer wasn’t, in fact, banished for digging up damning stuff.

      Again: it’s your word against Cummings’, and your POV is already supported in sickening abundance, Jeff, by our thoroughly Kool-Aided Kultur. The voice of the Outlier is of interest.

      “I think we must come from different worlds. Mine has been privileged, for sure.”

      That’s the problem with these “privilege” discussions: they ignore the fact that everyone is born with privileges and disadvantages. Lots of both turn out to be illusion. The devils are always in the details, along with the gods.


  6. All day I missed you, Steven. I told myself: No, don’t click, don’t click. You’re past that now. Let the poor guy be. I had some wine at dinner and succumbed (on the other thread). I know you read ’em even when you won’t post ’em. Thanks for making me laugh at my own stuff. I crack myself up, I do. Best==Jeffy

    [EDITOR’S NOTE: at this point, Jeff had started posting comments on another thread, HERE]


  7. [Editor’s Note: Jeff W. continued to send comments I stopped posting; I wrote, here: “Jeff! Jeffy! Let it go. I can’t devote any more of my day to these comment threads. The law of diminishing returns kicked in days ago. If you want to write a short article, or a piece of fiction, for the site, I would, of course, consider publishing it. But I can’t get locked in the endless back-and-forth of a flame war here. Unproductive. Uncreative. Too predictable. Enjoy your day! No hard feelings…. “S]

    #2[ADDENDUM: I wrote, later in the afternoon of August 14, in response to Jeff’s comment that he had a story for me, “JEFF! I don’t use Drop Box (iffy app with security issues): just write the story and send it in the comment form. I will publish it, without editing, if it’s really a bona fide short story and not a buckshot blast of moldering abuse… laugh… and I may or may not comment on it”.]

    #3[ADDENDUM to the ADDENDUM: (Jeff sent me the story to publish; it was, as I knew it would be, a clumsy attack on me in “fictional” form. It was very bad. I wrote, when he sent it: “Died laughing, Jeff. Died laughing. Wouldn’t your “point” have been better served if… oh, never mind!”] Very strangely, Jeff seemed, initially, quite proud of this story.

    #4 UPDATE as of 1am Wednesday morning, my time: Jeff has wisely asked that I remove the story he initially requested that I publish here.


  8. *********************************

    —MESSAGE FOR JW [for Everyone else: this will not make sense; I’m just trying to keep the meters of text to reasonable limit, down here]:

    Running from the bottom of your comment/question to the top:

    A) The post postmodernism I refer to is both slightly tongue-in-cheek and restricted to literature, Jeff. Various combinations of the words “modern” and “post” are scattered across such impressionistic, pseudo-scientific taxonomies, as applied to so many disciplines, that the labels can only embody more-or-less stable meanings when exchanged between people who know each other’s moods and meanings rather well. Otherwise, it’s all very fuzzy and usually an academic trick. Do you know Alan Sokal’s work regarding the demystification of (postmodern) Academic Posturing? In that (and possibly only in that) Sokal scores bullseyes.

    When I say “postmodern” I’m usually thinking of a kind of narrative practise that violates the middlebrow rule that the storyteller’s supposed responsibility is, above all, to convince the audience that the story being told is “Real” (ho hum). Postmodernists like to “break the fourth wall” because a narrative that self-consciously comments on the mechanism of narration can be more interesting than an emotionally-manipulative string of button-pushing clichés meant to “frighten,” “inspire,” “upset” or “depress” the reader/ victim. I think “postmodern” narratives, when done well, are more sophisticated texts… for more sophisticated readers. There are many, many levels of readerly skill (among the literate)… from impatient teen skimmers to languorous close-readers of great erudition… it would be absurd to think that one kind of book/story would be appropriate to them all. I just find Normie Lit simple and boring and rotten with cliché.

    On the other hand, after years of being a practitioner of the Fun Stuff, I’ve learned that “postmodernism” is a spice, not the main course. I like to tweak/ juice/ goose “normal”-seeming texts with a little pomo magic, which is why I say I’m “post postmodern”.

    B) Re: Catholicism: I’m afraid I consider all of it to be superstitious mumbo jumbo predicated on the existence of a Bearded, Vaguely-Levantine, Anus-Free Sky Giant. The illusion … regarding any venerable Belief System… is that the complicate nature of the riddles and paradoxes the Belief System has managed to riddle itself with, during the course of millennia, adds to the Belief’s weight. Thousands of years of conjecture are no more weighty than a day of it, however you dress up the act. Catholicism as a sincere pursuit of Truth is an obsolete horse-and-carrot-in-a-hamster-wheel-trick. Catholicism as mind-control is far more serious and pertinent a topic.

    Because, of course, under the facade of Cosmic Truth-Seeking (and/or fealty to the aforementioned Anus-Free Sky Giant), the Catholic Church is nothing more than an antiquated political pyramid of creaking, but global, strength. Somewhere between the people who introduced (aka financed) “Communism” as an act of War against the 19th century Russian Aristocracy… I suppose they must have been the emerging Industrialists/ Bankers… and The Pope… and several other entities of old vs emergent power, we get a sense of some of the forces behind the tumult of the first half of the 20th century. But the “religious” stuff is and was always just a cover for mass mind control. Well, you can’t shoot/ jail ALL Duh Masses but you can brainwash them. The modern development in brainwashing, of courses, was in adding lots of sugar and smiles to it (those amateurs Hitler and Stalin would have been AMAZED). What They achieve now with Social Media they once achieved (not nearly so well) with tales of the Virgin and Eternal Damnation and all of those creepy post-desert tropes.

    So, any Catholic “thinker” you care to mention, I’m afraid, who isn’t primarily a historian of socio-political power… has built his or her Alhambra on clouds. Catholicism is an Empire. Period.

    C) I was trained in the hard sciences. I was a prodigy, in fact. I could reverse-engineer E=MC2 to its two constituent formulae (one for potential, the other for kinetic, energy) when I was ten or eleven. “One Two Three Infinity” was my Bible. Then puberty hit and science began to bore me. I had a letter of recommendation from my physics prof, applying for a job in the radiology department of a major university hospital, when I was 16. Beat out (only just) by a college man. By 18 I was teaching myself the guitar. Much better! I had always assumed that what I loved about Science Fiction was the Science: no. it was the Unbridled Imagination. Which I later realized could be used (much more effectively) in narratives about Everyday Things.

    D) “science does not satisfy the needs of our heart and will”: this old lament is based on the bizarre and lasting misapprehension, Jeff, that the “mind” the “heart” and the “will” (and so on) are separate organs, or features with loci outside the brain, somehow, when they are all just vague or inflected terms for internal manifestations of Consciousness, or Intelligence, if you will… they all take place in the same “place”… the place being “you” as assembled by your Intelligence and its perceptions. What we call “Emotion” or “The Heart” is just involuntary Intelligence. You can pretend to subdivide your Intelligence three, twelve, one hundred and forty four, or a million ways. Makes no difference. You are allowing an old narrative to sell you a quaint notion that distorts your perceptions of your own thoughts: Anger/ Love/ Serenity (etc) are thoughts with concomitant physiological states; perhaps many of these thoughts are pre-verbal but they are THOUGHTS. There is no “heart” in your chest emanating Emotions. Any more than there are varying proportions of four humours to contend with. Didn’t those 10th century Arabic surgeons teach you guys anything? Laugh.

    What “satisfies” your need to “confirm” a preposterous metaphysical tale that promises you possible immortality? That’s right: it’s not Science, Jeff. But it’s also not valid. Fool yourself if you like to (and you will because you do) but don’t rely on papyrus diagrams of “heart” and “mind” to justify the delusion. Or, sure: do. Whatever?

    E) Which is not to say we don’t all reincarnate as pop songs, or planets, after we die. Who knows? Anyone who claims to KNOW is a liar. This has been true since the beginning. And THAT, my friend, is a bracingly irrefutable tool of Pure Logic (the primal axis for a very clean future taxonomy) that can work wonders if you’re honest enough to use it.

    So: there’s hope in that. Not in Riddle and Paradox… which are usually Error and Lie draped in costly, lying, pope-ish vestment.

    F) Offline I go now!


  9. P.S. you are right to fault popular images of the Deity for being anus-free. That’s getting at the heart of the religious enterprise. But in my research I found that the Fathers (or fathers) actually debated a similar question: Did Jesus defecate? Not a long or deep debate, mind you. The consensus was probably he didn’t.


  10. Part Two (or Three or Four?) of my Half of the Invisible Dialogues:

    “I have made a living writing about science–and its limits.”

    The “limits of science” are the limits on our cognitive abilities to use the method. There are no objective limits on the scientific method. The “limits” of Science, for Believers, are that Science is not telling them what they want to hear.

    I have utter sympathy for the Smart Guys of the Bronze Age: talking was almost everything. The tools did not yet exist. Philosophy was all they had and it kept veering off into fanciful (and self-serving) narratives. Somehow, through the sheer accumulation of years, philosophy sub-branched into a certain flavor of mysticism that sub-branched into alchemical research which generated the rudiments of the scientific method (to put it cartoonishly), which eventually gave us electricity et al. But Fanciful Narratives (for their wonderful ability to counteract the intransigence of the scientific method with the kind of Tales We Desperately Want to Hear… among which being We Are At The Center of Existence… and We Will Not Die) stay with us, to this day. The fears of Death/Insignificance are powerful and generate persuasive pseudo-knowledge. Mysticism is a huge industry which somehow co-exists, without apparent contradiction, with the fruits of the scientific method which actually work… but that’s because of our wonderful ability to hold mutually-exclusive tenets in our minds at once.

    Look at part-time Alchemist Isaac Newton. I always found one of his Laws peculiar: “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” Where is the empirical evidence, or the mathematical evidence, that an object in motion, unless otherwise acted upon by an unbalanced forced (sliding frictionlessly across some remote quadrant of the universe) will do so forever? That notion would seem to contradict Newton’s own formula for Work, which has no variable in it for eternity or infinity: W = F x D. Newton’s notion that that poor hypothetical object would remain in motion, for eternity, unless otherwise acted upon, derives from his unsupported belief in a beauty/symmetry-loving Deity. Or: why do “we” assume that the Universal Laws and Konstants are universal? Perhaps they’re local (which would explain a lot). We assume otherwise because we keep picturing this Bearded, Vaguely-Levantine, Anus-Free Sky Giant… and we think we know what He likes. (Re: whether or not He defecates: don’t forget about the Church Father debate regarding His navel).

    “You don’t have to be a believer to wonder what the church fathers (smart guys, nonpareil Christian philosophers) meant by deification.”

    I’d sooner wonder why the Knights move in their Ls. The ins and outs of Wholly Invented Games belong to the category of Trivia, my friend. “Smart Guys” can self-delude, or dissemble, better than most.

    Catholic/ Schmatholic: the same critiques apply to all of the Metaphysical Biggies. They are Self-Serving Narratives to comfort us in the cold hard intransigent light of Science’s actual Info. Duh Masses use it as a teddy bear; Duh Massas use it as a control method. The Secret at the heart (or pyramid top) of every Mystery Religion (redundant term)… from Zoroastrianism to Kabbalah to Scientology… the jewel that every Initiate studies to achieve… is that There Is No Secret. It is a time-consuming Time Killer… a distraction… a control method… which keeps our minds off the awful notion of The End of the World (aka Personal Extinction). Obviously, JW, as we each approach The End Game these matters become more urgent. But that doesn’t mean our thoughts become deeper/ more learned.

    You mention “the longing”… well, exactly. Resulting in fifteen trillion tons of Nonsensical Desiderata.

    PS “Metaphysics,” etymologically, is a literal-mindedly Aristotelian misnomer. “Protophysics” or “Paraphysics” or “Quasiphysics” would be better. Now dig into the etymology of “Religion”. Then the etymology of “Belief”. Trace the clues back to the scene of the crime…

    Addendum: not that I have Faith in “Science” as it’s practised. Eg: the idea thief, Darwin, spawned a very queer industry of science-y, logically inconsistent, narratives. Watch Richard Dawkins’ video “explaining” the evolution of the human eye and if you are Strictly Scientific, in disposition, it’s a knee-slapper. Some form of epigenetics is clearly at work. Anyone really back a Strict Darwinist up against the wall regarding “instinct”? Heresy.


  11. Very good, and you didn’t flay me. I assumed when I first came across you that with that moniker you must be religious. The Confessions is a pretty good book. You’d probably like the back half better, the purely speculative half. Augustine talks about vision and memory and cognition in almost scientific language. Agree that Darwinism has run amok. It gave us the literature of Malcolm Gladwell, whom you once linked to me.


    1. 1) No longer a need to flay you, Jeff; you have flayed yourself well enough (with my prompts). I think we’ve managed to cut your defensive pretensions down to a do-able size, yes? Laugh

      2) I have a four-part name and I use the middle two parts (like Anthony Burgess did) as a pen name. Half of my friends don’t even know that I write… and half aren’t aware I do music. I learned to compartmentalize after the many errors of thoughtless Youth.

      3) Hippo’s writings are not secret stuff, Jeff; no need to pope-icate; I am in possession of a volume or two. But I’m lots more interested, for example, in the Shakespeare/ Marlowe question, because its implications (and possible keys) interlock with our Lives as they are Lived in this Simulocracy.

      The other stuff is as pressing a concern, to me (as I said) as the teetering moth-eaten libraries dedicated to the ins and outs of Chess. Ie not very. I suspect, in fact, that lots and lots of intellectual energy has been deliberately misdirected that way, over the years. By the mercurial Frank Morgan himself…?


      1. Didn’t know Frank Morgan. In the same Simulocracy as Richard Cummings? You seem to feel you need to wear a lot of hats. Watch out for multiple-personality disorder. I wish I slept better. No one I know is up except you.



    Jeff just wrote:

    “So my little story, perfectly transparent, tickled you at first. A few hours later you had–mercurially– changed. Now I was Racist? That did bother me.”

    Jeff. I am, how they say, gobsmacked. Haven’t you picked up on it yet? I encouraged you to submit something, yes? Why? Because I assumed it would be either A) a clumsy direct attack on me (check) or B) a clumsy attempt to show off not-quite-there writing chops (check). When you acted according to plan and submitted the wretched thing, I was both shocked and delighted… it went beyond my wildest dreams in indicting your wobbly (or steadfastly limited) Literary Chops and it included the unexpected bonus of being blatantly racist. It worked too well to prove my points for me; surely you could tell (I assumed) that I was being ironic when I commented that you’d “outdone” (or undone) yourself? The thing was manifestly poorly-written and oozing with classist presumption and hilariously abusive toward the Senegalese and, erm “nappy hair”… I don’t suppose you could have known that I was a self-conscious kid, in grammar school, precisely because my hair isn’t “nappy”: gene-salad, Jeff: you should have attacked Mongrels! Not that I would have given a damn.

    I have no wish to hurt you but I DO think you need a bit more schooling; your WASPily Jeff-o-centric view of the Cosmos needs some emergency Copernican updating.

    Remember the turtle story? I initially introduced that wee riff because I knew you would jump on it… giving me an excuse to use the Cummings material (which I still consider valid) without having it get lost in a giant, premature data dump. You asked for it (after my prompt) and you got it.

    You’re either a futuristic Super Genius playing Candide/ Chauncey Gardner for laughs, or just genuinely naive and wonderfully average (or, no, to be fair: I’d give you an IQ of 108), godluvya. And I’m glad you can earn a living hawking glorified book reports to the middlebrow market. But… Jeff… please. Admit it (if only to yourself). I’ve been slapping you around for a week now (while doing ten other things), using only WORDS. Merely foul-mouthed abuse you could have shaken off and ignored. That’s not what happened here. I wrote you into a comically-textured narrative that is decidedly not to your advantage. My Actual Novels are Even Funnier. We are in different Weight Classes as Writers and Fiends, Jeff.

    Do you know the old “champion game to my patball” comparison…?


  13. AND NOW, THE END of this SAGA (one hopes)

    EMAIL FROM JEFF (with my comments interspersed):

    August 17 2018 at 1:35 PM


    You put me through the wash and rinse cycle not once but twice . I’m dictating this @ 4 AM and there will be some odd typographical stuff, no doubt . I wish I slept better .

    Yes I did learn a lesson– in my arrogance, which you have pointed out–but more important, I think , was my stubbornness in trying to touch your humanity . Which I failed to access .

    I think about that quest as of my being a kind Sherlock Holmes, and of your being a kind of Moriarty hiding in the upper rooms of your castle . At first the detective accesses the lower and more obvious rooms , while you are watching him ( me) through a closed circuit camera system , as he gropes closer . He doesn’t get there of course. When he gives up , battered , he understands how little he knew at the start . For example , your blackness and what it’s done .

    I still maintain that , while losing all the rounds , I didn’t lose the match . And that is because I won the rounds which you refused to publish . I scored hits indirectly, when you twisted my words out of context and published them. My most naïve assumption was that you would maintain a basic honesty of exchange , but I know now that post postmodernism laughs at that idea .

    I especially regret that you did not publish my quite deft line about you being the only one able to play the race card . If you had , you would have been compelled to comment , even if in a nasty way, and I would have learned more about you .

    [Augustine comments: Jeff, I published your words exactly as you sent them, as you know. I didn’t publish all of your comments because there were just too many of them, and many were just too long, and this blog isn’t about you, or your points of view. I published lots and lots of your words. Many of them were plain bizarre, Jeff. Especially this comment of yours, which I didn’t publish, but am happy to now:

    “So my little story, perfectly transparent, tickled you at first. A few hours later you had–mercurially– changed. Now I was Racist? That did bother me. It’s unfair that only you get to play the R card when the deck you put out is full of jokers.”

    As I’ve already commented, Jeff, I clearly never thought the story was any good; how nuts must you be to ever think I was “tickled” by a sophomorically racist attack on me? And what “race card” am I playing? You wrote a racist story, called Senegal; the winking tone and presumptions of the story were Racist and Classist; here are the overtly racist sentences:

    “For a while I didn’t pay attention to the Senegalese. I couldn’t have told one from the other. Don’t all Senegalese men look alike to you? (Laugh). I stepped around them, ignoring their light singsong pleas to have a look at their wares. Which were tawdry, I needn’t add.”


    “One day in the spring when I came out of the museum, I heard Roger shouting much louder than normally. He wasn’t making that inviting yip-yip sound. He was cursing, and at no one in particular. I went over to see what was wrong. The other people were steering clear. I noticed that his hair was nappy, his eyes bloodshot. He didn’t look great.” QED, Jeff. Racist, Jeff. No one is “playing the race card”… but you. ]

    You must be a deeply unhappy man . Probably you use words , your flood of pyrotechnics and words and learning , to stave off that deep unhappiness .

    [Again: Jeff: presuming, or suggesting to the audience, that anyone with whom you disagree, or who has whupped you in a flame war, is an unloved and penniless wretch keyboarding through tears in his mother’s basement, is… childish. I’m actually extremely happy and write about that, frequently, on this site. My second… and last… marriage is a miraculous gift. My Wife is a sweet-natured, well-read and musically talented woman who is a minor celebrity in the country in which we make our home, famous for her talent and beauty. I even get to compose for her, now and then. Our Daughter is a genius. My Wife and I make our own schedule, aren’t wealthy but very comfortable, with no bosses, little stress, a big garden, time enough to live and love. We make love often (without chemical help, of which I’m proud, being almost 20 years her senior)… probably my reward for having a decent sense of humor and not being a sexist pig. You can accuse me of being lots of things, Jeff, among which would certainly be “arsehole,” and “weirdo”… but you could never accuse me of being unhappy. Sorry!]

    As I once said , Steve, I wish you well . I salute you . You are the King of the Trolls.

    [Nah. I’m a skilled Writer and happy denizen of the Intellectual Underground.. and, believe me, I know the word “Intellectual” is a no-no in Murrkka. You, Jeff, are a mainstream hack who has benefited from a Cultural Nepotism that could never, despite the material and social advantages conferred, grant you Happiness or Talent. Not that you aren’t happy… but I wonder in what your happiness lies? You’ve lived off of the world’s oldest form of Affirmative Action your entire life. Shouldn’t that be enough?]



  14. [To You Know Who You Are, in response to an email: re: the Appiah essay: Race is a pseudo-scientific construct that is, in its intent and standard use, Racist Itself, since the categories are designed to maintain a hierarchy and “purify” an In-Group. Readers of this site will notice that I usually put the term “White” in scare-quotes. “White,” in America, in 1900, meant something very different than it did in 2000. So, any discussions about Race are complicated by the fact that the divisions/ descriptions are unstable, often ad hoc and largely Lookist. I always say that there are either thousands of races or none. My family has been wildly mixed, with varieties of African and varieties of European, for centuries. Race is about as “real” as Religion… you can dismiss it, logically, but you can’t pretend its grab bag of myths and superstitions aren’t shaping things. But I’m no Essentialist. Many American “Blacks” are acting out a tragic fetish-role imposed by nasty folk traditions of exclusion; lots of “Black Culture” is an invention of racist Media. The mere fact that being bookish/erudite is considered, by some, anathema to “authentic Black culture” …gives the antebellum game away. You seem to buy into those tropes, in fact: doesn’t your short story want to conflate my critique of your writerly toolkit with an alienated dismissal of The Western Canon? The Western Canon is part of my birthright, whatever I feel about specific entries, because I’m a native English speaker: my membership among its direct heirs is not yours to grant or problematize.

    But, going back to (often Liberal White) notions of “Black culture”: It’s only the Darwinian filter of vicious, mid-20th century segregation that guaranteed that Black Popular Music Forms produced vastly more vital and authoritative artifacts, because all one needed, in 1959, to be a starlet, was a pretty “white” face and half an ear (see: Annette Funicello/ Pat Boone); for a Black musician to breakthrough, he/she needed to be damn near a genius. Now that that barrier is largely down, you’ll notice that the skill-levels are leveling out between “the Races”: just as much worthless audio-cack out of Blacks. Superior Musical Abilities are not Intrinsic to certain races. Neither are high IQs. Phenotypes are one thing… the red hair of some in-groups, the blue eyes, the smaller dicks, the bigger dicks, the epicanthic folds, the bigger noses, the pug noses, the jet-black hair: these are phenotypical clichés with obvious basis in fact; but the differences are trivial, no? In any case, I see these Race matters from several POVs at once.]

    [I mean, ferchrissakes, Jeff: read the satire these threads are tacked on to: do I not mock the hokey, essentialist fragility of the race/culture “appropriate”? ]


    1. Yes, you do, Steven. I like your analysis. I could have written snatches of it myself–in fact I did, in my last book, which you may subtly be flattering here. Given your nuanced appreciation of race, that agreed-upon sorry thing, I would think you would eschew calling people Racists when you disagree with them. You’d feel the cognitive dissonance, I mean.

      It’s 4:30 a.m. Boo

      Pace MLK: it’s about content of character, not phenotypic traits. Nor cultural….

      BTW I have no problem defending my writerly toolkit. It’s as good as yours. You may be a little smarter with tools, though.


      1. A) Whoa, Jeff: do not attempt to commingle my post-Racialism analysis of Racialism with your out-of-it and bizarre apologia for your own racism. Race isn’t a scientific description but that doesn’t mean that people don’t discriminate against, or disparage, certain Phenotypes: the common word for that nasty behavior is “racism,” Jeffy. I do not invoke it, profligately, to nail every moment a “white” person criticizes a “black” person (and so forth), though racists love to think that that’s how it happens.

        White Privilege is certainly not what it used to be (it seems to follow the same plunging zigzags of the dollar on the graph: coincidence?) but being Clueless about Race, and one’s Racism, is one such privilege and it seems to be swelling, of late (to compensate for the shrinking of the other privileges?). Oh, and: contra too many BLMers: average “Black People” are just as racist as average “White People”.

        In your story, you disparage Roger’s “nappy hair” (as emblematic of Roger’s unsightly appearance); you dismiss, also, in this story of yours, as a category, the Senegalese. Have you read your own story, Jeff?

        “Pace MLK: it’s about content of character, not phenotypic traits. Nor cultural….”

        Har! Love how you slipped that ass-covering qualifier “cultural” in there. So in your color-blind cosmos, Jeff, mocking the Black-skinned Senegalese as being utterly worthy of condescending dismissal is… righteous! Beautiful. The “nappy” hair riff was just a coincidence. To recap: if you Deconstruct a seemingly Racist Outlook until its constituent parts would no longer appear to relate to one another… you just might get away with it in the court of Sophist Semantics! Good to know.

        B) “I could have written snatches of it myself–in fact I did, in my last book, which you may subtly be flattering here”

        — a jaw-droppingly Jeff-o-centric remark, Jeff! (golf clapping) But I assure you I have only, thus far, read one article of yours (the one I commented on at The American Scholar), your heap of comments here, and your story “Senegal”. Which is enough.

        I’ve been writing about Race this way for years (here’s a recent entry).

        Re: your writing (and this is no sly trap… unless you turn it into one by writing more crap): write your very best chunk of fiction, Jeff. Don’t cheapen it by lapsing into sleazy, score-settling mode. Write as hard and true and as well as you possibly can… make some beautiful FICTION… ie, put up or shut up… and let us see it. Otherwise you’re sounding to me like Don Knotts boasting about his ninja training.


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR [letters are vetted for cogency and style]

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s