A Fugue of Six Subtly-Interrelated Short Essays
JHVH or “Jehovah” was once a kind of J-word: “Religiously observant Jews and those who follow conservative Jewish traditions do not pronounce יהוה, nor do they read aloud transliterated forms such as Yahweh; instead the word is substituted with a different term, whether used to address or to refer to the God of Israel.” This aura of the forbidden, around the word, gave it a power it wouldn’t otherwise have as a mere sequence of sound waves or marks on papyrus or in clay. And so, too, with “nigger,” the N-word, the only word I can think of that is considered as taboo. The word “nigger” is now more powerful than it’s been in centuries. Is that what we want?
Or is that just the era we’re stuck in?
A while back, an interviewer at a Bookchat Festival in Australia got in trouble for uttering the word “nigger,” (twice! laugh) in quoting lines, from a book by the (shitty) writer Paul Beatty, while interviewing Beatty. Beatty wrote the word “nigger” in the book being cited, but the interviewer isn’t allowed to utter the word while citing the book.
We see in this the outlines of an emergent Religion, no? The magical thinking, the violent proscriptions, the self-advertizing piety of the proscriptions’ adherents: all there. A Religion for morons; some of the morons will be the real thing but quite a few (if not most) will feign the condition in order to fit in. To get ahead and avoid crucifixion.
They’ll need a symbol as design-perfect as the cross. Something ithyphallic…
Propaganda is a form of radiation and it acts on minds exposed to heavy doses of it, just as certain metals react to long exposure to x-rays. A mind exposed to heavy doses of propaganda, for years or even from its very beginning), becomes deformed to the extent that “normal” and “healthy” reactions to the world are subverted; the logic function is impaired, memory becomes faulty and the emotions are pushed in unnatural directions. A specific symptom of propaganda-radiation-poisoning is Miraculous Thinking. Minds with propaganda-radiation sickness see “miracles” everywhere. More importantly, these minds “see” or believe in the reality of the miracles that the creators of the propaganda want them to see.
Commercial propaganda induces the consumer into believing (eg) in the possibility of the miracle that eating a tasty product (that barely qualifies as food) will make the consumer thinner, beautiful, sexy, healthy and happy… instead of fat. Religious propaganda induces the believer into accepting, as a given, the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, bearded, anus-free, vaguely-Levantine sky giant who is passionately concerned with the minutiae of the believer’s life. And political propaganda induces (eg) Germans into believing that Germans (aka white Germans) rarely (if ever) rape other Germans.
Germans think of rape as a phenomenon tied to the arrival of “the refugees”. The German “news” bits I’ve skimmed, without making too close a study of it, seem to be reporting instances of “male refugee” vs “German girl” rape at a rate of one or two per month. In a country of 80 million people that has seen an influx of many hundreds of thousands of (or even a million) refugees, in recent years, this is a very low number.
The refugees must be a very well-behaved group, in general (the exceptions proving the rule) but the Germans themselves, who are rarely (if ever) reported as raping other Germans, must be miraculously good.
3PLAYBOY’S THUMBS, UP
Despite currently fashionably-agency-granting attitudes to Sex Work, I have to feel sorry for the vast majority of women/girls involved. If only I could be sure that a Porn actress weren’t also a victim of incest, or drug addiction, or coercion, not to mention the nasty dominant strain of Porn with its choking and punching and jackhammer anal: ach. I can’t watch this stuff.
I was fascinated as a kid, of course, sneaking a peek at my uncle’s under-the-bed stash of genteel Playboys was a highlight of every visit. To this day I have a tan-line fetish. I preferred the semi-naive, merely-sexist (but not gendercidal) Porn. Of course Playboy was/is sexist; of course Hugh Hefner objectified Women while commodifying the male reproductive urge: he presided over a weird combination of Disney/ POW camp/ Cattle Farm. Where else, but cattle farms, are mammals cultivated for their huge udders and docility? Where else do bunnies walk on two legs, and talk, but in Disney? And where else would the difference between those on top, and those on bottom, go deeper than class (to the level of race or, in this case, gender) and be signaled by a uniform? One wouldn’t compare it to a concentration camp, really, because Hefner’s inmates were too well-fed. “POW camp” is just about right. The Bunnies were held until they got outgrew the War by aging out of it.
So, there’s that, but also: how would an adolescent boy of the mid-20th century have fed the newly-raging little fire in his hairless scrotum without Playboy’s only-halfway-sleazy efforts? If only they’d had naked men in silly costumes (with antlers?), and lots more articles by Susan Sontag, Joan Didion and Simone de Beauvoir (only students of French, among you, will titter at Simone’s last name, here). Rather than not objectifying naked Women, Playboy could have, should have, equally-objectified naked men. I can imagine, at ten, paging right past airbrushed pictorials of hairy-chested men in skimpy, antlered costumes (among bales of hay, say) but learning, subliminally, that we are all Sex Objects at one time or another. If we’re lucky, I mean. Sex is not Sexist, it’s Sex. But it shouldn’t take up the whole day, or any human’s Life.
Or Arty Porn like Cafe Flesh or Catherine Breillat (or Russ Meyer) films. I remember renting Cafe Flesh from a “Video Store” in the ’80s. Post-9/11 Porn is too power-and-torture-centric (like Films in general). I dated a stripper, once, and also was in a brief-and-bizarre relationship with a Gothy Princess who eventually revealed that she’d been a prostitute, once, for not quite a year… both women had very serious “issues”, as it turned out. Weirdly, I always found High Fashion runway shows (esp. Alexander McQueen) more erotic than porn; certainly more attractive. I could never Onanize with porn in the room, though there were times (I saw a porn flick of a real couple, once, who were quite sweet to each other, which pulled me in and turned me on) that it hurried me toward intercourse.
A friend observed that “Fucking on camera is the same as eating on camera,”… except that we’re all quite used to seeing other people eat, at home or in public. Not many of us see other people fucking… it’s not just rare but treated as a concept that’s such an invasion of privacy that it’s on a par with shitting. So, not to compare sex with shitting, but watching a film of real fucking is lots more comparable to watching people shitting (into glass toilets) than eating, I think. For better or worse, there is a serious taboo at work, and this taboo will filter the people who work in the field, who will tend to belong to a crime-ridden demimonde in which women will often be victims of abuse the levels of which start where Harvey Weinstein left off.
But here’s where the Eating on Film= Fucking on Film is really interesting: in both cases, the essence of the recorded act is a sensual experience… taste/smell in one case, touch/smell in the other… that can’t translate to film. Very few people are content to watch more than ten minutes of people doing nothing but eating (accompanied by Italian techno)… why are so many willing to watch hours of footage of strangers fucking…
… unless it’s actually closer to watching a gladiatorial sport in which your favorite team “wins”, over and over again?
Whenever I get the chance to enjoy the luxury of extended debate with people intelligent enough to confront a “shocking” worldview without becoming angry (or ending in tears), there’s usually a point when I ask the question: “What do you know about the State that the State itself didn’t tell you? How many genuinely forbidden, contraband books have you read? How many intellectually radical pariahs and hermits have you been taught by?” The answers are ‘nothing’ and ‘none’. You have been taking The State’s word for it all of your life. Which is fine if The State is saintly in its kindness and god-like in its wisdom. Can it possibly be? And yet, does it not, The State, rather subtly imply that such description of The State are generally (give or take occasional and forgiveably human lapses, here and there) close to the mark?
I haven’t read forbidden books or studied under wild-haired radicals. But neither is necessary, because what The State works hardest to overwhelm are your Logic, your Critical Faculties; your faith in your own observations. Why are you taught to believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and Jesus, in the supposedly Enlightened West, if not for the purpose of softening your sense of Reality? If you can be taught to believe that an unwashed Bronze Age virgin worked miracles, rose from the dead and was the literal son of the Creator of the Universe… what can’t you be trained to believe? Religion is generally the child’s introduction to the Mystifications of The State.
Why are you taught that Politicians (usually the most venal, self-serving and ethically-challenged among us) Love People… love YOU?
5PASSEL OF POCKET TAKE-DOWNS (first the pop stars, then the politicians, you see)
If you’ve lived among Germans/Austrians as long as I have, you’ll interpret many of the passages in this film (“MEIN LIEBSTER FEIND”) rather differently than as intended. Herzog quite often employs the German version of the boyishly-enthusiastic-tall-tales voice (eg the early scene, with the Bourgeois German couple, in the house he’d lived in at the age of 13); and watch him shamelessly belittle and outdo Eva Mattes @48:00 (her eyes shoot daggers at 48:49). The film is fascinating but often wince-inducing. Herzog clearly relishes the luxury of being able to write the Kinski character without fear of reprisal. And now that Herzog earns so much money producing propaganda films, one must wonder if he waited for Kinski to die before embarking on the second act of his career with such gusto? But back to Kinski, who, as Jesus, in the opening scene, behaves quite recognizably in the “self-righteous German enraged by being corrected” mode… what made him an interesting actor sometimes dovetailed with the factors that made him almost pathologically insufferable, but fans too often admire the pathology and think it’s unique to Kinski and a symptom of genius. Far from it.
Interestingly enough, the world is already glutted with the worthless overproduction of books, music, movies, paintings and photographs, et al, from minimally-talented creators. Eno himself is a clever medium talent who was lucky enough to have come along when getting in drag and twiddling about non-musically on early synthesizers could get some attention. No Roxy Music, no Eno 1.0… and no Bowie, no Eno 2.0. The man owes everything to the 1970s. I remember reading of the time that one of Eno’s Zen inspirations as a cro-producer of one of Bowie’s albums involved forcing the musicians to paint the recording studio (or something similar): anyone who thinks that this in any way made the album better is as daft as Eno’s self-appointed name. Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno: the Madame Blavatsky of college radio station midnight music selections. If he were being honest, Eno’s advice to you would be something like: be born in the UK in the late 1940s and go to Art school in the 1960s and don’t let losing your hair in your 20s hold you back. To quote Eno’s famous “Oblique Strategies” deck of cards (to be consulted willy nilly when one finds oneself stalling in the recording studio): “Do nothing for as long as possible”… to which Eno should have added, to be fair: if you can get away with it.
Will is not, I think, a natural novelist. He’s an extremely intelligent crank with enough verbal facility to win 9 out of 10 arguments against the unprepared (and easily flummoxed), but I think he comes off badly against more polished, or astute, pros (he made Zizek look like the long-suffering voice of reason in their last big run-in, despite the fact that Will was, unfairly, the voice of reason in that exchange). It’s telling that bigfooted Will’s sesquipedalia is restricted to his novel-writing, largely; when he’s being a Pundit, he’s actually trying to be understood. I tossed his novel “The Butt” into the fish tank (or was it into the fireplace? Or out the rickshaw?) when I caught him describing dust as “ocherous”. Putting such a high price on a throwaway description of dust is the kind of thing he’ll wince over, one day, if he ever develops a technique finer than the brute force fracking of his Thesaurus. He could probably take (enabler) Martin Amis to court over that, but formerly-clever Amis has had so many problems of his own, since Bellow (his mojo) died, that it wouldn’t be worth it.
6THE YOUTUBE COMMENT THREAD AGITPROP GADFLY TROUBLEMAKER
@YouTube Commenter Siding With His/Her Corporate Overlords: I am definitely not pro-jet travel, also favor trains, also consider jet travel an ecological disaster and prefer to walk most everywhere I visit in my city. I crossed the Atlantic 13 times in the previous century (even flew First Class on one of those epics) but now I’m staying put in the country to which I have expatriated. I’d be willing to wager that my family’s carbon footprint is smaller than yours (living in the “Green” bit of Europe makes that somewhat easy).
I’m not arguing in favor of idiots who are late for check-in and have hissy fits (clearly not the case of the well-dressed older gentlemen with Wide Boy swagger to spare, in the clip), I’m pointing out the fact that a service provider that shows contempt for consumers of its low-price services should not be in business. Airlines used to (thirty or forty years ago) treat their customers like humans. The clip this thread is attached to shows conditions years ago and things are much, much worse now; the horror stories are many. I never experience this directly because I don’t feel compelled to risk my life, casually, while also being subjected to humiliating “security” rituals alongside the baseline air-travel experience of being treated like cattle.