ITEM #1-THE CARBONIST: A SHORT STORY
“There is an unfortunate and spreading subliminal misapprehension that the technical conformity, required in engineering a functional technology, is a parallel to, and justification of, conformity to the social theories advocated by the groups the technologies are owned by at a given moment. The inflexible objectivities of science and engineering cannot, should not, be a model for the organization of the subjectivities at the heart of social experience. Technocrats will always make this category error and must always, therefore, be balanced, in power, by Advocates of the exclusively Human. Technology must always be the tool and never the master.”
“Oy, the irony,” whispered Berger to Cabot, beside him.
“I heard that…” joked the robot on the podium, fifty meters from Cabot and Berger. One of the robot’s pretty green eyes swivelled to zoom in on Berger, “… Berger.” The robot wagged an almost-imperceptibly larger-than-scale finger. “Don’t be a Carbonist.”
After the speech the robot was scheduled to pull a train on a wrestling mat in the reception area for the first 50 attendees in line. Berger, along with everyone else, knew this was a cheap ploy to buy compliance but attending these functions was an academic’s only reliable method for getting fed well and laid. The food was often excellent and the entrées tasted pretty close to everyone’s fading memory of the historical flavor of animals typically eaten by primitive cultures that everyone absolutely agreed had done such a poor job of living.
ITEM #2-HH: A SHORT STORY
“In the old days, ” started Berger.
“The old days,” echoed Cabot, in sonic scare quotes so pronounced that his eye-roll was superfluous.
Berger was ten years older than Cabot and HH (hypothetically het) and the two were bunking with Christian and Riley until the spring rotation, when they’d be shifted to various other bunks on the campus and separated forever. The campus was so vast that its central dome had its own internal weather to control and its circumference encompassed all horizons. It was highly unlikely that you’d ever bump into a former bunkmate again. The difference between HH (hypothetically het) and FH (functionally homo) was parsed in palpable gradations of avidity of response. EH (enthusiastically homo) was the modern ideal though Cabot himself was FH. Still getting there.
Berger was a tenured academic. This meant the content he provided for internal use at the campus was considered to be of higher quality than FMC (fan-made content) but FMC, by under-20s, was still, by far, the most consumed and circulated. And the most likely to spread to other campuses. The only content of any kind known to have reached a global audience (15,000 campuses) in recent memory (ie, stretching back as far as maybe four quarters) had been made by an 11-year-old named Bastet Pho.
Bastet Pho had filmed and scoot-loaded a twenty-second clip of a fat old ham-pink man, shirtless in crotch-stained khakis, jiggly head and torso covered in sparse white hairs, attacking an industrial gardening robot with a rolled-up newspaper and being no-big-deal beheaded by the robot’s clipper-arm. The robot kept rather delicately cleaning the algae off the rim of the koi-pond, with its hose-arm, while catching and bagging the old man’s flying head, with its bagging arm, without missing a beat. 800, 000, 000 views. The public-domain music with which Bastet Pho had soundtracked his winning clip had a lot, no doubt, to do with the clip’s popularity. And this was what had filled Berger with rage and resentment at the time, for Berger had planned on using the very same music for a clip of his own; a beautiful clip. A far (far!) more suitable and educational clip but Berger, decades older than Bastet Pho, had been forced to soundtrack his Baby Elephants Walking, clip, with music not half as apropos.
“In the old days,” said Berger, but he forgot the rest and turned away.
ITEM #3-TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER
You are not allowed to say or write the words “fat” or “retarded” (among others) because you fear the response of Middleclass Liberal non-binary Vegan trust fund not-necessarily-able-ist sophomore Twitter followers of Lorde. Is that correct? Do I have that right?
May I speak with their representative?
ITEM #4-WELL-PLAYED, OVERLORDS!
Trump Hatred (similar to hating a pile of dogshit in somebody else’s back yard) is still driving the counterintuitive fad of college-educated Liberals embracing, as though it were from Heaven itself, a dodgy pharmaceutical product from dodgy pharmaceutical manufacturers, who have paid some of the largest criminal fines in corporate history, but requested (and got) immunity from injury claims for the dodgy pharmaceutical product they are working to mandate but can’t really (really) say why. Even the super-conservative OFFICIAL Injury Report system (VAERS) indicates tens of thousands have died by being ignorant consumers of this dodgy pharmaceutical product. The college-educated Liberals embracing the dodgy pharmaceutical product, just to send an “EFF U!” to (the ironically pro-jab) Trump, are the same type of people who will read the ingredients on a box of Kale Chips for fifteen minutes rather than risk tainting themselves with traces of Gluten. Hats off to the Behavioral Think Tank that came up with the master-stroke of pegging Liberal Pharmaceutical Compliance to all-consuming Trump Hatred. Well-played, Psychotic Overlords! Well-played.
And yet? And yet. I still can’t help feeling that I’m missing something…
ITEM #5-LETTER TO A FELLOW MUSICIAN WHO SENT ME A LINK TO AN OLD RAY CHARLES CLIP
“I know blues ain’t your cup of tea.”
I like the primal-sounding early recordings but the century of pentatonic jam-session noodling that ensued is unconscionable! laugh. Also, lots of the seminal blues acts were performing for fellow Blacks, so the theatrical touches there weren’t as… hmmmm…. phony? Which leads me to….
Re: Ray: I couldn’t stand that stuff when I was young because 75% of the act is geared toward confirming the dearest prejudices of its audience (that’s how you sell, in some markets); I can guarantee you that Ray’s stage-routine would have been very, very different if he’d only ever worried about performing for other Blacks/ minorities/ The Poor..
He’s putting on an act designed specifically to enchant Whites, who could only, in those days, be put at their ease in the presence of a well-built Black male if he was forced-grinning (like Satchmo) and acting “simple”. That’s the hideous truth. Nat Cole got half-way out of that trap, moderating his grin with lots more of the suave and very little shit-eating but Sam Cooke represented a dangerous quantum-leap, of the Black Male Performer, toward leading-man swagger and command. Maybe that’s why he got shot? Even some Blacks were probably threatened by Sam Cooke’s threat to the masculine hierarchy (subliminally encoded in every single “Evolution” graphic I’ve ever seen, which reads, from left to right: monkey-to-man, short-to-tall, dark to light)..
Sam and Jackie Wilson begot Otis Reading (such a man, physically, that he could be affable without forcing it; integrated female audiences openly screamed to fuck him). Sam and Jackie weren’t ingratiating grinners (and didn’t even present Ingratiating Defects, like, for example, Ray and Stevie’s blindness… (though, is Stevie really blind?) … Billie Stewart’s girth and Prince’s shortness) and, LO, Sly Stone bodied forth, another step in the evolution: sex-drenched, musical and openly arrogant, too!
Sly’s grin was nothing like the Ray/ Satchmo/ Bojangles shit-eating electric-chair rictus. Sly’s grin was the grin of the pop star who knew he was going to be fucking the best looking girl at the concert, whatever her color, and getting paid for it. Sadly, drugs put a stop to him soon after his peak. Like too many!
Compare Rudy Vallee’s affable, leading-man smile to Satchmo’s shit-eating, electric-chair grimace! laugh. The radical ’60s and ’70s killed the careers of a lot of those kinds of acts because “militant” Blacks knew exactly what those acts were about. Tap-dancing lost a lot of its popularity in the same era, for the same reason. Letting a congenitally-oppressed underclass act as your emotional prosthetic is decadent at best, if you catch my drift. Enjoying that music now involves scraping off the layers of the hokey, Stepin Fetchit put-ons that most Whites don’t get are wholly artificial and awfully antebellum and a blight on America’s pop history that you need special X-Ray glasses (no pun intended) to see.
ITEM #6-A MIRACLE I CAN USE
As I told my mother, once, shortly after I had become a man; as I told her, she who believed in Astrologers and Psychics and Gurus and Messages from the Spirit World and, as a result, got almost nothing that she had wanted out of Life, since her Cosmic Beliefs seduced her into a state of Mystical Inanition, hoping and looking for signs and portends when she should have been generating them herself: “I believe in the Mysticism of the chair I’m sitting on. Ultimately, I can’t explain the origins of the particles that became the atoms of this chair… that’s as profound a mystery as anything else in this universe. But I can sit on this chair; it’s useful to me. It’s a miracle I can use.”
Did you know…?
Logic is an objective standard for discourse. Without an Objective Standard, discourse on the level of anything other than small talk becomes impossible. Logic is the Objective Standard for supporting Truth. When Emotion trumps Logic in discourse, Truth is under mortal threat.
ITEM #7.5-LIBERALS, HOW?
How did this happen? How did they trick you into becoming unwitting pillars of The Fourth Reich?
What am I missing…?
ITEM #8-SHITTY WRITING HURTS ALL OF US BUT FEW OF US ACTUALLY EXPERIENCE THE PAIN
When the average writer (aka a bad writer) goes about the tedious business of aligning a barrage of clichés against acceptable targets, she or he or they will do so with a Rube Goldberg device of poor word choices and extraneous syllables. The reader turns the irregular crank on the galumphing device and it spits and flails. The spitting and flailing are meant to be an entertainment. In some cases they are also meant to be Art. The crank-turner operating the galumphing device against its pebble-dashed targets is the hub of a trio of elements meant to embody a thing called Lit. You know better and I know better but, between the two of us, I’m probably the one this convention genuinely pains. It’s a pain like having a tiny splinter in one’s ass, a tiny splinter working its way deeper into the cheek, for 20 years. It’s not the worst pain in the world; it’s quite bearable. Still: why is it there? Did things have to be this way?
That’s what I think of Percival Everett’s latest, universally-lauded, thing called The Trees. When a universally-lauded thing has been published in the Virtual Empire (the Virtual Empire we are being nudged inexorably into, in apparent contradiction of the fact that we are flesh and blood, and should be better acquainted, with the Real World, than to accept the switcheroo), you will notice, as in a scene from a Polanski thriller, as you scroll through pages and pages of Google hits, fear-emoting soundtrack pounding, that negative reviews of The Trees don’t appear to exist in the known universe. I noticed this about Paul Beatty’s profoundly shitty (and half-assed) The Sellout, too. It’s like the Fascists controlling us want to put on a Noble Face by bigging-up whatever shit by minorities, huh? I mean, Hitler can’t be back (pronounced like an Austrian Terminator) because if Hitler were back, wouldn’t there be at least some bluntly-deprecating reviews of Everett’s unremarkable effort?
I Googled the search terms “Percival Everett + The Trees+ not very good” and got page after page of laudatory reviews (remember when inverted brackets around a search-term meant something?), including bits like “a masterful allegory” and “a page turner” and an interview in which Everett gets to blast To Kill a Mockingbird as “poorly written”. if this is how Google distorts any possible result of a query in search of a bad book review of an anointed novel, btw, imagine what it does to your attempts to uncover contemporary instances of Deadly Pharmaceutical Malfeasance! Ha ha.
Incidentally, here are the opening four paragraphs from To Kill a Mockingbird:
“When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem’s fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury. His left arm was somewhat shorter than his right; when he stood or walked, the back of his hand was at right angles to his body, his thumb parallel to his thigh. He couldn’t have cared less, so long as he could pass and punt.
“When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewells started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before that. He said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out.
I said if he wanted to take a broad view of the thing, it really began with Andrew Jackson. If General Jackson hadn’t run the Creeks up the creek, Simon Finch would never have paddled up the Alabama, and where would we be if he hadn’t? We were far too old to settle an argument with a fist-fight, so we consulted Atticus. Our father said we were both right.
Being Southerners, it was a source of shame to some members of the family that we had no recorded ancestors on either side of the Battle of Hastings. All we had was Simon Finch, a fur-trapping apothecary from Cornwall whose piety was exceeded only by his stinginess. In England, Simon was irritated by the persecution of those who called themselves Methodists at the hands of their more liberal brethren, and as Simon called himself a Methodist, he worked his way across the Atlantic to Philadelphia, thence to Jamaica, thence to Mobile, and up the Saint Stephens. Mindful of John Wesley’s strictures on the use of many words in buying and selling, Simon made a pile practicing medicine, but in this pursuit he was unhappy lest he be tempted into doing what he knew was not for the glory of God, as the putting on of gold and costly apparel. So Simon, having forgotten his teacher’s dictum on the possession of human chattels, bought three slaves and with their aid established a homestead on the banks of the Alabama River some forty miles above Saint Stephens. He returned to Saint Stephens only once, to find a wife, and with her established a line that ran high to daughters. Simon lived to an impressive age and died rich.”
AND here are the opening four paragraphs from The Trees:
“Money, Mississippi, looks exactly like it sounds. Named in that persistent Southern tradition of irony and with the attendant tradition of nescience, the name becomes slightly sad, a marker of self-conscious ignorance that might as well be embraced because, let’s face it, it isn’t going away.
“Just outside Money, there was what might have loosely been considered a suburb, perhaps even called a neighborhood, a not-so-small collection of vinyl-sided, split-level ranch and shotgun houses called, unofficially, Small Change. In one of the dying grass backyards, around the fraying edges of an empty aboveground pool, one adorned with faded mermaids, a small family gathering was happening. The gathering was neither festive nor special, but usual.
“It was the home of Wheat Bryant and his wife, Charlene. Wheat was between jobs, was constantly, ever, always between jobs. Charlene was always quick to point out that the word between usually suggested something at either end, two somethings, or destinations, and that Wheat had held only one job in his whole life, so he wasn’t between anything. Charlene worked as a receptionist at the Money Tractor Exchange J. Edgar Price Proprietor (the official business name, no commas), for both sales and service, though the business had not exchanged many tractors of late, or even repaired many. Times were hard in and around the town of Money. Charlene always wore a yellow halter top the same color as her dyed and poofed hair, and she did this because it made Wheat angry. Wheat chaindrank cans of Falstaff beer and chain-smoked Virginia Slims cigarettes, claiming to be one of those feminists because he did, telling his children that the drinks were necessary to keep his big belly properly inflated, and the smokes were important to his bowel regularity.
When outside, Wheat’s mother—Granny Carolyn, or Granny C— wheeled herself around in one of those wide-tired electric buggies from Sam’s Club. It was not simply like the buggies from Sam’s Club; it was, in fact, permanently borrowed from the Sam’s Club down in Greenwood. It was red and had white letters that spelled am’s Clu. The hardworking electric motor emitted a constant, loud whir that made conversation with the old woman more than a bit of a challenge.”
I’d say that the first 4-paragraph excerpt (by Harper Lee) struck me as being subtle, effective, layered and curiosity-piquing in a middlebrow, solidly novelistic way and that the second 4-paragraph excerpt puts me in mind of the cheapo scene-setting introduction in the Treatment for a Pilot of a lowbrow sitcom called FUKKN CUZZINS ™. I’d say the first example showed remarkable grasp of the technique of compression (fitting quite a lot into a compact space) and the second example showed quite the opposite in a typically slipshod way.
How can the second set of four paragraphs pique the reader’s curiosity? We know this stuff already. It’s been done to death. I’m not likely to re-read (after that forced read in High School) Harper Lee’s book, but judging between Lee’s and Everett’s respective apparent abilities, does Everett really get the pass to dismiss To Kill a Mockingbird as “poorly written”?
Pot meet kettle, eh? (it’s okay, kids, I’m Black).
Does Everett not have an editor at his publishing house? Or (more horribly) were those introductory paragraphs, of his, as we read them, as far as a possible editor dared to go in an effort to make them work?
Let’s pretend to be Percival Everett’s editor and remind him that if his intent is to satirize a particular target, the results are funnier if the satirist, or the satirist’s narrator, can appear to sympathize with (even endorse) the foibles of the target. And isn’t the introductory bit of the book meant to be treated as extraordinarily valuable Real Estate, the kind of space a competent, professional writer wouldn’t waste on sophomoric score-settling and lily-gilding? The introductory bit of a novel should be used to smuggle useful info/ character traits/ hidden themes. Percival, you’ve used four paragraphs of this valuable Real Estate (almost 400 words) to tell us these characters are unappealingly poor and dumb. While telling us nothing else.
Worse than the inefficient use of that space is your underdeveloped (if I may be frank, Percival) ear for the music of sentences. Didn’t you read any of this material back to yourself, out loud, as you were writing it? For example: “… there was what might have loosely been considered a suburb, perhaps even called a neighborhood, a not-so-small collection of vinyl-sided, split-level ranch and shotgun houses called, unofficially, Small Change”. Ugh. Reading that sentence out loud is like having a mouthful of lint and BBs. Demosthenes would balk. Imagine having a mouthful of lint and BBs for a whole novel, though it’s not as rare a sensation as it should be. This is how most of us, who saw ourselves as writers, wrote in high school and college. Some of us improved.
Look closely at the first paragraph of The Trees: what does it tell you about its supposed subject (Money, Mississippi)? Nothing. It wastes the introductory moment mocking whoever it was in charge of naming the town. Is this particular target ever mentioned again in the book? Far be it from me to hold The Novel, any novel, to journalistic standards but Everett’s opening joke (for which he squandered the development of the valuable Real Estate of the introductory moment) is not even true. Money, Mississippi was not named in a withering spasm of redneck irony. “The community was named for Hernando Money, a United States Senator from Mississippi.” Hernando Money was a well-educated racist, lawyer, editor and member of the US Senate and this factoid reminds us that too many “weapons,” aimed at Racism, are popguns when they need to be can(n)ons. So much for “nescience”. Everett bungled an opportunity on that point alone.
Percy Everett has taken the bold and controversial step of populating The Trees with every stock redneck racist type, from our Collective Television Memory, in order to make the bold and controversial statement that racism and lynching are bad. Ha ha.
The Trees disingenuously posits a redneck topography of hapless and/or Evil White morons, counting on the Political Correctness that forbids anyone from noticing (out loud) the matching set of hapless and/or Evil Black morons, offstage, in the Real World, where racial fairytales don’t do Society many favors. Shooting fish in a barrel is bad form enough for any commentator but shooting fish of your own design in a barrel of your own design with a Society-approved gun proves what, of any value, about the fish or the barrel? Is that what Writers are supposed to do: confirm our laziest prejudices? Well, yes… when the “writer” is working, unwittingly, in the best interests of the people who’d prefer to keep us malleably dumb.
As I wrote, last year, to a Writer acquaintance, re: Percival Everett: this is the kind of thing that I don’t say too loudly, “in public,” but I just don’t consider Percival’s work compelling; Erasure (for me) is just a one-note joke that fulfills the barest obligation of fleshing out its picaresque premise. I think Everett suffers from the low-expectations (toward Blacks and Pretty Women) of the American Publishing Industry: any (complicit) Black writer who can write passably well is lauded as a “genius” on the sliding scale; if Percival had had to work harder to get noticed, I think his Art would have matured to the extent, at least, that he found a distinct voice. I don’t consider his material to be any better than Franzen’s workmanlike narrativizing: where are the great leaps of literary inspiration/ imagination? There is none of what Mailer calls “The Spooky Art” in so many of the approved (complicit) Identity Politics Writers. It’s just more Paper Television, for me. Erasure as a Black situation comedy written for PBS. Worse, Erasure makes me think of a “feminist” documentary “against” Porn… featuring Porn. If you catch my drift!
(Here I am writing this, in 2022, for readers in far flung bits of the planet, in the knowledge that my grandmother was writing, for city newspapers, on a much louder device, in 1929.)
(I have to remember to mark that centenary when it rolls around).
ITEM #9-SPONSORED PRODUCT
ITEM #10-THE COUP THAT RAN ON SNOBBERY
I had a Liberal Chum, who lives in the Upper Midwest, who was infected with the most obsessive Trump Hatred I have ever (I mean ever, no exceptions) experienced and this unemployed, possibly alcoholic (his girlfriend was definitely an alcoholic) friend dedicated all day of every day to circulating anti-Trump memes on his FACEBOOT. Watching this, for me, was probably similar to living at home as a teen and seeing a foley-cathetered grandmother go on and on at the dinner table about her absolute contempt for the “scoundrel” JR Ewing.
This Liberal Chum with whom I attended college and whom I once believed I kind of knew, and sort of understood, had morphed into a creature very strange to me. I mean, had Trump come along when this friend was younger, fitter, more confident, more worldly in his daily exposures and connections, I’m sure friend would have seen Der Bumble Trump in a sanely-proportioned way (as dogshit in somebody else’s back yard because, hold on there, is anybody actually trying to claim that American Racial Antagonisms were sort of “okay” before Trump got famous? Or that pussy-grabbing wasn’t a thing before Der Bumble Trump memed it? Like, as if Der Bumble Trump invented four decades and 50 trillion metric tons of rape-themed Murkkan torture-porn out there?)… like all the other utterly reprehensible figures on the Media Stage.
But the older, sicker, lonelier, more self-disgusted version of this friend latched on to the Trump Thing like it was a lifebuoy in a North-Atlantic squall. His hate-fuck lust for Trump became his Life’s focus and his reason and his guilty failure-misery’s absolution and Trump seemed to function similarly for many of the lost souls in this old friend’s FACEBOOT, people he lived near, people he sometimes saw in the back of the 10-cents store, looking for bargain-bargains. And that’s the really (really) weird thing because these people… honestly… you could trawl through their pitbull-loving, Hank Williams-loving, high-fructose-corn-syrup guzzling FACEBOOT accounts for an hour and swear you were in TRUMP TERRITORY.
This was as mysterious and intriguing to me as denizens of the checkout aisles of 1970s supermarkets found reading about The Devil’s Triangle in the National Enquirer. These people were fucking LIBERALS (I now call them purple-staters and maybe others use this terminology, too) and they hated Der Bumble Trump with a passion and yet they were virtually indistinguishable from Trump’s political base. And they sometimes referred to Trump’s political base as White Trash and this threw me, too, until I realized that this, perhaps, was the crux of it, somehow, because doesn’t “Liberal” come with a built-in calibration on the scale of Class? Doesn’t “Liberal” insinuate the middle-to-upper-middle-to-upper class? Isn’t it often used in sociopolitical conjunction with the self-serving, collective buzz-noun “The Elite”?
In other words. The economy (was deliberately) tanked and all these people, who saw themselves, when they were college Freshmen, in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s, growing up to be dashing, villa-owning doctors or lawyers, globetrotting journalists, famous writers and award-winning architects… found themselves saddled with Employment Agency jobs, cars they couldn’t afford and merciless student loan debt, for decades, in worsening apartments, and then temporary shit jobs in terrible neighborhoods, then no jobs and junk-cars. And when they woke up they were ground-level and eye-to-eye and belly-bumping close to the “White Trash” in the only places they all could afford to live and the Fallen Liberals absorbed the local culture while, at the same time, needing (more than ever) to feel superior to it.
How to distinguish themselves?
That’s what performative snobbery is for.
Performative Snobbery is buying (not just bottled water but) “Evian” versus “Diet Coke” in a crowded truck stop. I have known snobs at all socio-economic levels, including the Ghetto. I have known dirt-poor people who performed snobbery regarding discount shoes. Snobbery is the primal version of Virtue Signalling and Performative Snobbery is how you curate your images on Social Media. It is the psyche’s savage battle for even a millimeter of elevation, to achieve that barely-perceptible “high ground,” on the sinking terrain of depreciating Status.
Dirt-poor Liberals are desperate to distinguish themselves from “White Trash” and lower-middle-class Liberals are eager to perform Status more impeccably under the scrutiny of their near-inferiors (who would jump on any lapses; a lower-middle-class Liberal is not exactly super-secure, socially) and so on. What is a “Karen,” after all, but a (usually) White Woman attempting to (re-)assert territorial Status with an angry (neurotically explosive) sense that the attempt is not quite convincing? Certainly not as convincing as it would have been in the “Good Olde Days” before Whiteness-qua-Whiteness lost 75% of its (illusory) social value.
And this explains the wild-eyed Trump Hatred, no? Vociferous anti-Trumpists are asserting fading social status (and I believe that mechanism probably explains a certain percentage of the Vociferously Vegan, too).
Which, in turn, explains the jaw-dropping Liberal compliance with the Fascist Lunacies of 2020-2021-2022 (as described in Item # 4). Because “we” must never be mistaken for (the deplorable) and ignorant (Percival Everett would call them “nescient”) “them”. As though the injection comes with a degree in “The Science,” and a personal library of leather-bound volumes, too. It’s not merely coincidental that my old, sick, Trump-hating college chum became a wild-eyed FAUSTI (spelling deliberate) fan the instant the horrific little fucker (Fausti has been around much, much longer than many of you think, and makes Mengele look like a gifted amateur in comparison) popped up, on cue, in early 2020. Unthinking Plague Credulity/ Compliance and Vociferous Trump Hatred are the same condition from different angles.
The Fuckers in Charge, packaging the subliminal messaging of this coup, understood that mechanism all too well.
They certainly knew it years before I did.
Remember how “exclusive” and “must-have” the Joker-Poke was when it first shipped?
They knew and know that America is three hundred million rednecks who will do anything to avoid losing that last little twinkle of bling, real or imagined; that final wee glimmer of (the word makes me cringe) “Class”. Three hundred million rednecks, a bunch of rich psychopaths and…
… a few million reasonable people trapped in circumstances they are against, do not deserve and cannot control.
It’s for this latter minority (only a microtomed sliver of which will ever read me) I write.
CODA—TURDUCKENS ALL THE WAY DOWN—
I’m thinking about starting a series of essays called “Fucking Liberals” that would analyze the depth of the benevolent hypocrisy driving Liberal Self-Regard.
If I did so, I’d start with this, my “favorite” picture and the tortuous apologia that the Liberal System generated (even via Gay Black flagship New Yorker magazine token Hilton Als) to camouflage the racist chain of mental associations that put that couple where they were, doing whatever it is they were doing, and which inspired Gary Winogrand to snap the images and present them to a viewership that would inevitably make of these images precisely whatever they wanted to; after all, what’s the degree of difference between this and the sexual symbology driving every version of King Kong ever filmed… or the political unease driving Planet of the Apes? Writes one Liberal commentator, as late as 2014:
“[Winogrand’s] quick mind construed from their innocent adjacency a picture (or the projection of one) that could suggest the improbable price that the two races, black and white, might have to pay by mixing together. ”
What the fuck does THAT mean? And how is it in any way (if it can be established as coherent, and some meaning extracted from it) reassuring?
Writes an employee at the Liberal J. Paul Getty Museum:
“Garry Winogrand confronted tough issues like racism with a sense of humor, as he did here by photographing this black man and white woman holding apes. The chimpanzees are dressed like children and resemble the human child standing behind the couple. The photographer’s close vantage point, the crowd, the dramatic winter light-all add a sense of spectacle.”
Interesting way of “confronting” Racism. Interesting. Something like dressing a wound with a butcher knife, I imagine.
The first Liberal commentator I cited, above, also wrote, about the picture(s):
“As it turned out, Garry never reached a conclusion about whether or not he’d solved the problem, or question, that the picture we’re considering here had posed for him. Although it has become canonical, and is, perhaps, the single photograph now most associated with his body of work, the fact is that, in his judgment, it remained an aesthetic question mark until he died.”
Ah, an “aesthetic” question mark. I see. Gary Winogrand’s “canonical” picture which could easily have been staged by Strom Thurmond, DW Griffith or Joe Goebbels.
What I have yet to find is an interview, with either the man or the woman, in the photograph, explaining what they were doing, in the zoo, that day in 1967, looking like models hired to make a racist statement (liberal version: joke; conservative version: warning) about miscegenation, by carrying human-dressed monkeys around as though the monkeys were their offspring.
In an excerpt from Pierre Huyghe’s “Untitled (Human Mask),” which features, incidentally, the same Official Hilton Als alibi, for Winogrand’s photo, that I ran across, again and again, while Googling this photo, in search of an interview with either of the photo’s subjects, Huyghe writes, bizarrely, “I read an article recently that the Black man carrying the monkey and the white woman in the picture did not know each other; their union is simply the effect of photographic composition.”
Perhaps it’s the fault of an imprecision in the translation, but is Huyghe really suggesting the possibility that a White female model-type was carrying a human-dressed chimp around a zoo while, coincidentally, a Black male model-type was also carrying a human-dressed chimp of his own around the zoo… and that the moment of their accidental meeting was immortalized by an extremely “lucky” Gary Winogrand?
Possibly just as absurdly, another photo critic, on another page, writes:
“In using animals to comment on the human condition, Winogrand continued a long tradition, running from Aesop’s Fables to Walt Kelly’s Okefenokee Swamp. Winogrand’s work insists on the humanity of animals as well as the bestiality of humans. His photograph of an interracial couple, holding chimpanzees, has been attacked by leftist critic Victor Burgin as a racist joke, a photographic depiction of the white fantasy that the children of “miscengenation” (sic) would be monkeys. But the joke, of course, belongs to the couple: they, after all, have chosen to confront and parody racist antagonism toward their relationship by carrying their pet chimps around in public. Winogrand becomes an accomplice in their joke by including in the picture a small white boy whose anxiety contrasts with the contentedness of the simian “children”.”
I certainly “like” the idea of a young, well-dressed, fantastically handsome interracial New York couple who decide, just as America’s racial violence and paranoia were “peaking” (how simple times were then), that owning chimps (!) was not enough: they wanted to dress their chimps up as children in order to stroll around the zoo on a sunny afternoon! Unlikely? Extremely.
Here’s a contemporary picture of the nice Liberal guy who came up with that theory (he even looks like someone who wouldn’t have minded me fucking his hypothetical sister in the 1980s, when he wrote the paragraph I credit him with, especially if the race-crossing intercourse had served to freak out their hypothetical Conservative parents):
Has it occurred to anyone that Winogrand, c. 40 when the chimps-picture (his most famous picture) was snapped, and who included the picture in a book, published two years later, from material gathered at the same zoo, called ANIMALS… staged the fucking picture himself?
It’s still happening, in any case, whatever “it” really is. Consider the two pictures below, by Gian Butturini, arranged in a suggestive diptych, in a book of pictures published in the UK.
And here I’ll end my essay with the finale of a long, tortuous plasma of double-talking near-apologia written by a nice, progressive, Italian academic… about the awfully Hitlerian juxtaposition of the two photographs directly above… that not one human citizen, with a working brain, needs explained to them:
As the meaning of an image is not simple, it is not self-evident and it is never given all at once; it is rather an ongoing dialogue, without conclusion, in which everyone can take part, in which everyone can make their own contribution. It is not a rigid decoding based on a given code (which does not exist), nor is it the result of an algorithm, but it is an intersubjective movement of construction and negotiation. In short, reading an image is always a work in progress, a construction site, a collective enterprise that knows from the beginning that the building will remain unfinished and open to further contributions. Because of its open and intersubjective nature, culture is almost never a painless process, as it requires mediation. And by mediating – and also by conflicting – it generates and builds. But culture does not obliterate. Never.