So-called “Philosophy” (the loving of wisdom, literally translated) is more accurately described as “PHILOSOPHOSOPHY”… the love of, or reverence for, Philosophers. A patriarchal cult of personality in which the latest leading figures borrow authority by citing the leading figures preceding them. There’s not a (useful) notion, or suggested practise, in the entire canon that hasn’t already been come up with by reasonably-intelligent 50-year-olds with plenty of Life Experience. Where material in the canon diverges from that common sense standard, it is merely trivially arcane, absurd or terribly dangerous (cf Heidegger or Fukuyama).
Questing young men read volumes of Friedrich Nietzsche, or Slavoj Zizek, as though they will find within these books the actual answers to the fundamental questions of Life (rather than to be amused or inspired by novel histrionics). How likely is it that some biped with an anus and gout has a channel to The All and its appended operating manual?
“How you’re being blown doesn’t matter nearly as much as who’s blowing you.”
The World predates you by how many millions percent, of your life-span, to date? Are you as yet willing to concede that you may not be aware of all the tricks and stratagems? Are you perhaps not the best judge of what is plausible, or even possible, Horatio?
Can the Fancy-Explainers appointed by powerful institutions, of this mysterious world, be trusted to clue you in?
Why should they be?
Why shouldn’t they be self-serving and why shouldn’t powerful institutions (which predate your birth, sometimes, by centuries) be self-serving in their choices for the Fancy-Explainers chosen to shape your view of the World?
“You can’t climb a mountain in an earthquake. Tailor your goals to limits imposed by current conditions.”
–Lao Seuss, venerable sage
“In order to fix the truck, one must first get out of it.”
–Lao Seuss, venerable sage
We’re all intrinsically equal as Humans, aren’t we? We are. We’re all intrinsically equal as Humans, with wildly-varying abilities. The mistake we keep making (and this mistake invariably points, around a scary corner, toward the bottomless crater of the supreme category error that keeps wanting to impose itself in the biggest way) is to think that any Human’s intrinsic (vs circumstantial) value can or should or must be calculated.
Why? Pursuant to what?
Who presses for a Hierarchy who doesn’t believe they are the rightful top of it? What, beyond self-belief, confirms this belief? The ability to enforce it?
Is that our standard?
Your 20s are about perfecting the attempt to fashion a self from the unoriginal identities you project with the ideological badges you wear and affectations you rehearse. Your 30s are usually when there’s a rude awakening to the terrifying reality that life is a matter of competing in the savage struggle for limited (and vanishing) resources. Your forties (and after) tend to be about living with how well you responded to that rude awakening in your 30s.
Your 50s and beyond are the mildly feverish waking nightmare of realising how much of the world consists of people still legitimately (with a wholly reasonable alibi) stuck in those naive, and easy-to-manipulate-by-bad-actors, early phases. You cannot teach, dissuade, enlighten, hold a mirror to, people trapped in these early phases.
If you’ve even outgrown them yourself, that is.
Why are so many people still so unsophisticated in their consumption of Media’s poisoned apples, about which, surely, by now, one knows they are poisoned and unreal?
AN AMERICAN COMMENT IN A BI-LINGUAL THREAD BECOMES A POME CALLED
SIC (all original spellings preserved)
My advice, leave
it alone. It was just words. You are
what you are and so are they. Your
not changing and they aren’t either. My story, my german
wife was walking her dog alone and a man came
up and said your dog took a deuce now
pick it up. My said wife no they had
a dirty verbal exchange. She
gets slapped and the guy rides
away on a bike. She tracks him down gets
a picture of him at the bakery. She tales what happened I’m
furious and the American
comes out of me. Im going
to break this guy in half but
she tells me no. I’ve been married
for over 26 years and
never laid my hands on my wife.
Let me add we are both powerlifters
and I think she could hurt him herself but he fled
As a person gifted with nuanced stereoscopic vision, it is sometimes amusing, and often exasperating, watching Cyclopsean Mr. Magoos, either with only a strongly-distorted Left Eye in use, or a strongly-distorted Right Eye, bumping into things, blocking traffic and emitting self-righteous oaths with every self-caused catastrophe. I’d feel compassion for them if they’d been born that way but the damned fools did it to themselves, strapping on such stupid monocular headgear. Who told them strapping on this preposterous (and preposterously limiting) headgear would be a good look? Charming psychopaths with megaphones. Do people in this day and age really still trust charming psychopaths with megaphones? Apparently.
I just read five minutes worth of disingenuous nonsense from Cory Doctorow. Doctorow, pretending to champion libraries (libraries were my places of worship, as a kid, and I love them, or the book-y part that’s left of them, still), uses this pose to further flog the tiresome general argument that the so-called Left is 100% correct and decent and the so-called Right is 100% incorrect and immoral. People wearing the distorted-Right-eye headgear tend to press the case for the polar-opposite absurdity. How can either group, making either assertion, be taken seriously? They can’t unless you’re one of them. But is Cory Doctorow a Cyclopsean Mr. Magoo or is he a charming psychopath with a megaphone? Let’s investigate.
Oh, fuck it. Let’s not.
I’m fucking tired.
Okay, okay. Quickly, then. Doctorow writes:
They (editor’s note: “the Right”) hate libraries, sure, but not because of the books on their shelves. As Drabinski says, they want to exterminate the last American spaces where anyone can:
Get a covid vaccination
Use the internet
Use the bathroom
Sit down with a friend
Get a drink of water
See how the shameless propaganda-vector Cory Doctorow just sort of slips that in there? Thirty years ago, I suppose, the first item on the list would have been “Have a Coke” but the specific matter of our Dominant Market Masters, at any given cultural moment, is always in flux.
“In placing a premium on the Nice we have erected a wall around the True.”
There is a man who gets off on Zebra stripes. His apartment’s decor is based on Zebra stripes: his wall paper, his curtains, his carpeting and upholstery are Zebra-striped. His car is Zebra-striped. His underwear is Zebra-striped. He wants the world beyond his apartment and car to be Zebra-striped. He’d prefer Zebra-striped sidewalks and buildings and trucks. He dreams of Zebra-striped money. He wants to be addressed as Mr. Zebra. His needs and wants are something I will never have to worry about.
A) IMPORTANT NEW ACRONYMIC ADDITION TO OUR BRAVE NEW GLOSSARY:.
GPR = Glorified Pharmaceutical Representative = Doctor
B) Aha, nice! I found it: the Dumbest Pseudo-Scientific Article of the day! It’s not enough that evolutionary changes in viruses and insects are described as including INTENT, indicating INTELLIGENT CALCULATION (eg: “moths became the color of the leaves they prefer to rest on to HIDE”)… but THIS crypto-Medievalist article is now ascribing INTENT to fucking METALS! One shits you not!
“Copper is a metal used in many household materials such as pipes, home hardware and doorknobs. It’s most commonly found in pennies but is also used in jewelry, cookware and other products that people use every day. Copper is a beautiful burnished-gold color when it is clean and well maintained, but like all metals, copper can become discolored when exposed to air and water.
The process of the change in color of copper when it is exposed to air is called “oxidation.” Oxidation typically turns copper black, which is evidenced by dirty-looking pennies that have been passed around for a long time. When copper is exposed to water, it turns a bluish-green color, like the Statue of Liberty or the roofs on old mansard buildings.”
Despite the fact that it looks like something is wrong, the process of oxidation is a protective measure. The discoloration is actually a shell that forms over the copper’s surface in order to protect it from breaking down or being destroyed by the elements. While some people like the look of the bluish-green color that exposure to water brings, if you use copper in your home, you probably want to keep it clean.”
C) The Empire will occasionally accidentally give rise to a Kurt Vonnegut but sinister antibodies within the system then correct the flaw by, e.g., causing Vonnegut’s daughter, Edith, to marry a phony shitbag of hegemony like Geraldo Rivera. See how that works?
The System is tirelessly self-correcting as it works to kill you off.
A couple of weeks ago, in an email exchange with a friend, my friend dropped the name “Marcus Aurelius”. This amusing name-drop made me remember when everybody was reading and quoting Marcus Aurelius, one of those silly literary fads that had me rolling my eyes, several times a day, back when Marcus Aurelius was big. The book How to think like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius was published in April 2019 (the day after April Fool’s Day, wisely) but I’m pretty sure I recall the trend peaking before that. I’m pretty sure I recall people dropping Marcus Aurelius into the conversation years before 2019 and me responding with “What? The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius? You mean that guy?”
The thing about Marcus Aurelius’s philosophical pronouncements (diluted and distorted as they must be by time, distance and translation) is that they are inevitably going to be obvious when they aren’t merely head-scratching non sequiturs or laughably wrong (or “wrong”).
When will everyone develop the wisdom to understand that every reasonably-intelligent, well-travelled 50-year-old has made every “philosophical” discovery there is to make, whether or not they wrote the discovery down and whether or not they could apply these discoveries to the living of a good life?
My Uncle Walter, the college chess champ, called himself a Buddhist during the part of the 1970s that everyone was claiming that. The thing that was super-convenient for a Westerner calling her/his self a “Buddhist” was that you literally didn’t need to know a single thing about Buddhism in order to make that claim. It was the only religion and/or philosophical path that seemed to be Folk-defined (in the West) as a Vibe.
People on the long search for the Buddha figure, that jolly Fatalist with the “secret of Existence” waiting behind his enigmatically ironic smile… must realize that the great distance they travel, on this quest, is measured in years, not miles, and during the course of the long search they simply become Buddha. Buddha the jolly, unisex Fatalist with a cozy middle aged gut. Which explains Buddha’s gently self-mocking smile. The people searching the longest, hardest and most demonstratively, for “Enlightenment,” are often the ones who fail to notice the ironic personal transformation which Time, and The Quest, wreaks upon them. To finally become Buddha, in the search for Buddha, and not even notice: that Cosmic Joke is even funnier.
Buddha, Marcus Aurelius, Nietzsche, Zizek: read them (or their reported pronouncements) for the style, if the style pleases you, but you will not find “The Big Answer to the Big Question” in a book. You will find Wisdom in your Time-chewed Heart as it empathizes with the Time-chewed Hearts of others.
But that’s not the point of this sub-essay.
I was posting comments on Reddit a few days ago (mixing with avatars who are an average age of about 25) and I participated in a thread about DFW. I trotted out my theory of DFW’s assassination, as a literary talent, by his “closest friends,” and it suddenly hit me that Mary Karr’s bestseller “The Liars’ Club” (published way back in May of 1995) opens with a reference to Marcus Aurelius. I remembered this because I had come across this (irritating) reference while writing an essay about the DFW/ Mary Karr/ Jonathan Frantzen waltz a few years back. What a satisfying synchronicity that an “unrelated” topic led me to an answer to a question that had been niggling at me for weeks. Now I knew exactly what had kicked off the Marcus Aurelius fad. The guilty passage:
Not long before my mother died, the tile guy redoing her kitchen pried from the wall a tile with an unlikely round hole in it. He sat back on his knees and held the tile up so the sun through aged yellow curtains seemed to pierce the hole like a laser. He winked at my sister Lecia and me before turning to my gray-haired mother, now bent over her copy of Marcus Aurelius and a bowl of sinus-opening chili, and he quipped, “Now Miss Karr, this looks like a bullet hole.”
Lecia didn’t miss a beat, saying, “Mother, isn’t that where you shot at daddy?”
And Mother squinted up, slid her glasses down her patrician-looking nose and said, very blasé, “No that’s where I shot at Larry.” She wheeled to point at another wall, adding, “Over there’s where I shot at your daddy.”
Setting aside for a moment that this is the kind of writing that makes my pancreas ache, one can see that this mention of Marcus Aurelius, in one of the biggest-selling (in fact it kicked off the memoir craze) memoirs in American publishing, fomented a dire side-trend. This is why I remember hearing jarring references, to Marcus Aurelius, in ordinary conversations, long before 2019. As for the cited passage: it’s doubly disingenuous, isn’t it? It manages to be faux-populist and intellectually pretentious at the same time. It’s like The Beverly Hillbillies go to college and get MFAs: ain’t that cute, y’all?
Well, I was stranded in one of North America’s most toxic ghettos, as a kid, in the 1960s, but my grandmother used to tell me stories of Thor and Odin and Loki, et all, when I was a toddler. She did so often enough that I can still remember how let-down I felt to be told, eventually, the stories weren’t true. Do I get to write a bestselling memoir now? Is that picturesque enough? Actually, that question is more fraught than one might first assume. Redneck grannies reading Marcus Aurelius is a marketable hook, but a Black granny telling her Black grandkid stories about Thor and Odin? That’s just freakish. People wouldn’t know how to process it. It would not make them go “awww” and run out to buy copies of The Icelandic Eddas and name-drop Snorri Sturluson in email conversations.
To quote Marcus Aurelius (from Book Four):
“That inward mistress part of man if it be in its own true natural temper, is towards all worldly chances and events ever so disposed and affected, that it will easily turn and apply itself to that which may be, and is within its own power to compass, when that cannot be which at first it intended. For it never doth absolutely addict and apply itself to any one object, but whatsoever it is that it doth now intend and prosecute, it doth prosecute it with exception and reservation; so that whatsoever it is that falls out contrary to its first intentions, even that afterwards it makes its proper object.”
I like to think that this was the passage that Mary Karr’s redneck mother was reading when the tile-guy asked about that cute little bullet-hole.
But what does that passage mean?
In 30 years, everyone will be issued a HEART BUTTON. Every issued HEART BUTTON will correspond with an identical HEART BUTTON being kept at THE LOCAL AUTHORITY. Your HEART BUTTON will give you the power to terminate your existence whenever you see fit, no reason needed. And, obviously…
People will consider THE HEART BUTTON a major leap forward for Human Rights.
….and other self-servingly illogical fairytales the supposed rebels preeningly tell themselves. Just because you said the head-scratchy part out loud doesn’t mean you’ve managed to successfully reconcile the diametrically opposed components of your Schizoid self-description. A little like the Hippie I knew, back in the ’80s, who tended to give impromptu lectures about “impurities of the body” while also admitting to treating himself to a “piping hot filet o’fish sandwich” to “reward himself” at the end of a “tough week”. Fair enough, Fuzzy, dig what you dig, I ain’t your Mama but you AIN’T what you think you is and I see right through your hypocritical sheepskin vest.
“Academics are not disseminating Info and Wisdom, generally; they are a buffer and a baffle inserted between Duh Masses and Dangerous Clarity and also, again, between genuine Intellectuals and Da Massas: a sort of shock absorber protecting the structural integrity of Hegemony. Any plain-speaking Intellectual who knows the score is an Enemy of the State. Academics are The State’s well-trained lapdogs. That “PhD” (which is as easy to buy these days as an Indulgence, from the Catholic church, was in the 10th century) should be branded in scarlet on the lapdog’s forehead.”
The Microsoft model of “medicine”: endless updates. A little like Monsanto “terminator seeds” but for your Immune System. Win/win for the software/ gene therapy/ GMO licensers.
Weird how that all lines up, Fuzzy, isn’t it?
I’m sure it’s been noted, already, that the Family is our first visceral experience of Fascism. But has our nostalgia for this experience been adequately examined?
Fuzzy, listen: any World in which children can be exterminated in daycares, or their cradles, with the push of a button, from thousands of miles away, with no repercussions (but a paycheck) , for the executioners, is arguably an Evil World. Pretend you have no dogs in the fight and consider my equation objectively. Is the World, as I’ve described, in which such a thing can (and does) happen, not Evil? Of course it is.
And of course when you say “Thank you for your service” or “Support Our Troops” you’re being Evil (a little), too.
Is your Evil based on A) moral and logical Laziness B) Insanity C) Stupidity?
Obviously, if someone put a gun to your head, to make you say “Support Our Troops,” you’re not necessarily a (little bit) Evil for saying it.
But how often does that happen (outside of Alabama or any barracks anywhere in the world)? How many people can use the “gun to the head” alibi?
Is there another possible get-out clause? Another feasible alibi?
Like, if you said “Support Our (toddler-decapitating, virgin-raping, civilians-target-practising) Troops,” or submitted to a mysterious injection, from demonstrably corrupt pharmaceutical cartels, directed by The People in Power who have complained about “overpopulation,” every single day of the week for 50 years, and you did either (or both) without having a gun to your head… is there any other possible alibi for such nearly unbearably Stupid and Self-Destructively Trusting and/or (mildly) Evil lapses?
Well. Have you ever come across the word “Hypnosis”?
“That is, the less someone knows how to command, the more urgently does he desire someone who commands, who commands severely – a god, prince, the social order, doctor, father confessor, dogma, or party conscience. From this one might gather that both world religions, Buddhism and Christianity, may have owed their origin and especially their sudden spread to a tremendous sickening of the will. And that is actually what happened : both religions encountered a demand for a ‘Thou Shalt’ that, through a sickening of the will, had increased to an absurd level and bordered on desperation; both religions were teachers of fanaticism in times of a slackening of the will and thereby offered innumerable people support, a new possibility of willing, a delight in willing. For fanaticism is the only ‘strength of the will’ that even the weak and insecure can be brought to attain, as a type of hypnosis of the entire sensual-intellectual system to the benefit of the excessive nourishment (hypertrophy) of a single point of view and feeling which is now dominant – the Christian calls it his faith.”
––Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science
Well, not what exactly I wanted, here, but close enough, Fred. Close enough. You got some things right before they cancelled all your lucrative collaborations and institutionalized you.
“Fascism is not a spontaneous devolution of civilization. Fascism is a massive and laborious trick and the trick is predicated on the trickster’s ability to supply the orgiastic communal pleasures of the Herd Instinct unleashed… without calling attention to the process. And, similarly, to steer the enormous political energy of the orgiastic pleasures of the Herd Instinct unleashed without calling attention to the steering.”
But: steering towards what? Total Control and (thoughtfully-prolonged) Death.
If we don’t understand Power, we can’t understand the atrocities it attracts, promotes, sponsors, inspires or necessitates. And Power can’t exist without Control but neither can it exist if Control goes too far. The question follows: how does Power exert Control over hundreds of millions of interconnected Subjects, who are relatively well off, relatively educated, relatively self-directed (the key word here being “relatively”: today’s Serf is not the Serf of the 11th century)? How indeed? Religion has changed (in a “pluralistic society”) from being a Control Mechanism to a method of identification… Lethal Force (as detailed by Foucault in his eye-opening “Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison”) has gone from being the extreme demonstration of the State’s (evanescent) ownership of the body to a regularly-scheduled opening of a pressure valve (in which sub-citizens both domestic and foreign are sacrificed) for maintaining the balance between the two… ie, the Penal System no longer controls, it merely manages.
How does Power Control in such a way as to attract, promote, sponsor, inspire or necessitate the Atrocities that we face on a regular basis and do so in a sustainable way? Power Controls but it can’t always, or even too-often, use its vaunted monopoly on ultimate force: to kill the Subject is for the subject to escape. Power doesn’t want to obliterate your helplessness (unless you’re a targeted population, not just viewed with cold disinterest but visceral hatred), it wants to manage it.
In many ways a Serial Killer is a killer who keeps, compulsively, trying to get it right but fails, every time, when Total Control evaporates on his fingers at the inevitable escape of the moment of Death. The National or Global Serial Killer has populations to work with and can produce more finely-graded effects within more tightly-controlled conditions (facilities) and has also the immense advantage of working “in broad daylight,” as the saying goes, with populational support/ complicity, like, say, a Dr. Mengele or, on a vaster scale, a Dr. Fauci.
The scale of Institutional killing renders it a kind of craft, a work produced by a committee guiding an industrial process.
The individual serial killer can be seen in Artisanal terms but the both ends of the scale can be understood as being driven by the same (to us alien) motivations.
An article about the friendship between Joan Didion and Eve Babitz, in Vanity Fair, published August 15 of this year, features the following oddly lacunae-aerated paragraph:
“That amazing story about Tamar: Tamar Hodel, in her mid-20s, in despair over a failed love affair, decided to kill herself. She asked a 17-year-old Phillips to help. Phillips: “I begged Tamar for three days not to commit suicide. Finally I said, ‘If that’s what you really want to do, I’m not going to stand in your way.’ Tamar took 26 Seconal, then said, ‘I want to be dead, but I don’t want to look dead.’ She went to the bathroom and was putting makeup on. The Seconal hit her all at once, and she went down. I managed to rock her back and forth into the bed. I lay down next to her and went to sleep. The next thing I remember was John [Phillips, Michelle’s soon-to-be husband] tickling my feet.” An ambulance was summoned; and Hodel, fortunately, saved.”
What’s “amazing” about that story is how not-amazing it is, compared to the related story, or stories, which loom behind it.
Tamar Hodel was raped (more than once) by her father Dr. George Hodel when she was in her mid-teens and she gave birth to her father’s daughter as a result. The daughter, named Fawnia, was given up, in an unofficial adoption, to a Black family to be raised as their own. The adoptive family had been told that Fawnia was half Black (aka Black). Dr. George Hodel was a practitioner of the “Do What Thou Wilst is the Whole of the Law” ethos of many self-described Supermen. To prove how above mortal morality he was he once raped Tamar at a cocktail party in front of friends. Tamar went to the police to accuse her father of rape but she was accused of lying: her father was a doctor who had performed VD cures, and/or illegal abortions, for half the bigwigs at the LA PD. Guaranteed immunity from prosecution.
What’s even more “amazing” is that Dr. George Hodel was and is the prime suspect in the “unsolved” Black Dahlia murder case of 1947. The Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short, was found in the early hours, one awful day, in a little park, not far from Dr. George Hodel’s mansion. She was not just dead but naked, and she’d been cut in half… her upper torso separated from her trunk… in a surgically precise way that would have required, in fact, a surgeon to have done it. Her body had been drained of blood, a “smile” carved into her mouth and her arms positioned above her head in a deliberately unnatural pose that seemed to have been intended to send a message of some sort.
This weirdly patterned killing was not the first of its kind: another, in Chicago (while Dr. George Hodel was in the area) preceded it: the protype murder/dismemberment was of a little girl. Because Hodel was the primary suspect, the LA PD “wired” Hodel’s house. “And what if I did it?” Dr. Hodel was recorded as saying. “They don’t have a shred of proof!” Also recorded was a muffled scream from Dr. Hodel’s basement, one evening. Soon after that muffled scream (which the police decided not to act upon), Dr. Hodel’s secretary, with whom he had been having an affair, was found murdered.
Dr. Hodel was a wealthy and “respected” member of the Los Angeles’ “upper crust”. His wife’s ex-husband was film director John Huston. He moved in “smart” circles which included Many Ray and Marcel Duchamp, which makes it noteworthy that Elizabeth’s Short’s corpse was posed in a way strikingly similar to a famous photograph of Man Ray’s called “Minotaur” (1934).
Marcel Duchamp’s last “major work,” titled : Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau / 2° le gaz d’éclairage shows a naked body, in a field, which is also suggestive of police photographs of Short’s corpse.
“Étant donnés has baffled scholars since its discovery after the artist’s death in 1968, when following Duchamp’s instructions, it was reinstalled in the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Anne d’Harnoncourt and Paul Matisse in 1969. With the exception of a select group of individuals that included the artist’s wife Alexina Matisse and her son Paul, the work was created by Duchamp in secrecy in New York City, first in his studio at 210 West 14th Street and later moved to another small room on 80 East Eleventh Street around 1965.(14) The majority of scholarship that discusses the body in Étant donnés focuses on readings that emphasize violation, murder, rape, or other acts that associate criminal violence, eroticism, and the body.(15) It has been described as a “mutilated woman” and a “seemingly dead female body,” suggesting that some form of criminal activity either already transpired or is about to occur.(16) The erotic nature of these violent interpretations is based largely on the positioning of the body and Duchamp’s choice to explicitly display the female groin region, which is overtly shown to the viewer who peers through the small eyeholes in the door that houses the installation. The body, in its placement before us with legs spread apart, shocks the viewer because of what numerous scholars refer to as its “hypervisibility.”(17)
On the morning of January 15th, 1947, the mutilated body of Elizabeth Short, an aspiring starlet known as the “Black Dahlia” for her stunning beauty and jet black hair, was found purposefully placed on the edge of an open lot on Norton Avenue in Los Angeles, California (Fig. 11).(18) For the next few months at first, then years as the case went on, her name littered the headlines of West and East coast newspapers that described in detail both her flamboyant lifestyle and macabre death. To this day, the Black Dahlia murder case remains California’s most notorious unsolved crime. The following discussion suggests that the media presentation and crime photographs of the Black Dahlia murder, contemporaneous to Duchamp’s conception of Étant donnés, may have affected its design and progress.
The two most forceful formal similarities between the Black Dahlia and the body in Étant donnés are located in the groin region of each figure. First, both Elizabeth Short’s body and the body in Étant donnés have no pubic hair. The lack of hair in Étant donnés has been discussed in relation to Duchamp’s interest in gender indeterminacy, as well as a tale of the Baroness Else von Freytag-Loringhoven, who had her pubic area shaved by a barber in a film that both Duchamp and Man Ray collaborated on.(22) Furthermore, in the memoirs of Lydie Sarazin-Levassor, Duchamp’s wife for eight months in 1927-28, she claims that Duchamp requested she remove her body hair, owing to his “almost morbid horror of hair.”(23) In light of these past incidents, the absence of pubic hair from Short’s body, in itself, could have proved alluring to Duchamp.
But Short’s body also offers an explanation for the strange, incorrect anatomy that suggests a female vagina in Étant donnés. Amelia Jones has negated the conclusions of earlier scholars who discussed the genitalia of Duchamp’s figure in terms of the anatomy of the female sex, proving that there is in fact no labia majora or labia minora. What exists instead is what she calls an “aggressively visible and grotesque gash that goes nowhere.”(24) In the photograph of the Black Dahlia murder one can see a literal gash that was incised above the vagina into the lower abdomen of the body of Elizabeth Short (Fig. 14). It is now known through the disclosure of the autopsy reports that Elizabeth Short’s pubic area was underdeveloped. Detectives and crime experts suspect that the gash was a means for the sexually ravenous killer to insert himself into Short, whose genitals were underdeveloped and therefore unable to engage in vaginal intercourse.
On his way back from Paris in 1947, the year of the murder, Man Ray spent a week in New York City.(41) This could have served as an occasion for him to share this information with Duchamp, either simply for its grisly, surrealist nature or for its many similarities with his own and Duchamp’s beliefs and work. If this was not the case, Duchamp may have heard or seen something about the Black Dahlia during his visit to the Arensberg’s home in Los Angeles two years later in April 1949 after his participation in a Round Table discussion in San Francisco.(42) The Black Dahlia case was again making news with new suspects, and moreover Duchamp spent each afternoon secretly meeting with Man Ray by taking “afternoon walks.”(43) In this photograph (Fig. 21), the two artists, in a witty false “alibi,” sit on a stage set in Hollywood designed as a Parisian street corner. Why wouldn’t someone with a penchant for criminal tactics, who characterized his interest in eroticism as “Enormous. Visible or not underlying in every case…” be fascinated by this crime?(44) In an interview with Walter Hopps during his stay in Los Angeles, Duchamp declared he was going through his “sex maniac” phase, a phrase which coincidentally appeared in newspaper articles such as the first Los Angeles Times piece on the Dahlia Murder, which opened with the lines, “Butchered by a sex maniac…”(45) It is not surprising then, that upon his return to New York, Duchamp sent the clay model for the body in Étant donnés out for casting in plaster and, as Calvin Tomkins describes in his biography on Duchamp, “by summer he was working on it with great intensity―up to eight hours a day…”
Horrific, yes. Wrenchingly so. But it’s interesting to note that this linked-to article, about the visual connection between poor Elizabeth Short’s horrible death, and Marcel Duchamp’s “art” piece, never mentions the key fact that Dr. Hodel (the killer)… and Duchamp (the “art hero”) … and Man Ray (the “art hero”).. were all friends.
“As noted, among my parents’ closest friends during the war years and after were Man Ray and his wife, Juliet. Man Ray, born Emmanuel Radnitsky in Philadelphia in 1890, was one of the world’s leading surrealists. In his early twenties, influenced by the nineteenth-century avant-garde French poets Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud, he began drawing and painting. Also while still in his twenties, he became acquainted with the American poet William Carlos Williams, as well as artists Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia and the burgeoning New York Dada movement. He had a number of one-man shows in New York and became associated with American modernist painters.”
—Steven Hodel-Black Dahlia Avenger
What we see in their shared apparent definition of “Eros” is misogyny raised to a level I can’t, in good conscience, consider Human. Even if Elizabeth Short had never been murdered, these “artists” were monsters in a network of monsters, not merely protected but venerated by Monstrous Power.
They seem to have been communicating with one another, across the decades, through ritually misogynistic “art” and… the other thing. The next time you read a Twitter furore about some hapless athlete being accused of “abuse” because he patted some woman’s ass, remember that Marcel Duchamp is still, to this day, taught, with reverence, in Art School. It is decidedly not all on a continuum but, certainly, certain types would like you to think so.
The brightly-lit surface of the World, as we know it, friends, is full of Evil. This Evil is arrogant and gloating and barely bothers to hide itself. We look away and go about our business and now and then fall victim to it, individual sheep targeted by lab-coated crows to have their eyes pecked out.
The lab-coated crows are Evil, the field is Evil… perhaps some of the sheep are, too.
At the very least they are complicit.
Where are you in all this? What are your concerns?
Where is your attention being directed? Are you waiting, passively, for whatever it is they will decide to do with you?
Don’t you think they’ve already decided?
Don’t you think they’re already doing it?
FOUND POME (created from a EweToob comment)
SIC2 (all original spellings preserved)
When I was 10, they still had
freak shows at the fair. I bugged my parents to let me
see “Jo-Jo the Penguin boy”. They wouldn’t
let me. Later, we passed
by the back of the freak
show tent, and lo and behold was Jo-Jo
outside having a smoke with
his flipper hands and
bullshitting with a
couple of carnies. My mom
said he was probably a