by Dan Roentsch
Chapter Four of Ron Bass's To My Twenty-Fifth Century Biographers awaits below.
Anal sex and incest the topics that most attract my attention to this chapter are certain to arouse, unless the incest in question is imagined with any member of my family. None of the women in my family wears a babushka or mustache, but should they start tomorrow it might be Wednesday before I noticed the change.
Fortunately for me, the siblings depicted by Ron bear no resemblance to my own.
And the anal sex and incest in chapter four doesn't happen all at once and in one place. This is because Mr. Bass has provided a plot. You can skip down and read it now if you wish, but permit me one more point: The ending ... is suspenseful, and makes use of the character Heydrich Quisslinger, at least by name. If you would like to know more about Heydrich or most of the other characters mentioned, you might do well to look at the navigation bar at the right. Click on the link that reads, '25th Century Biographers.' There you can read all four extant chapters in order.
—DR, November 16, 2009
Copyright 2009 Dan Roentsch
Fiction by Ron Bass
Chapter 4: Anal at the BiennialLooking up from a vantage point flat on her back on the Great Lawn in Central Park into a fast changing cloudscape that had been relatively static for most of the morning, Patricia Wilkerson felt a parallel increase in the velocity of the thoughts floating through her mind. She had been lying there since shortly after finishing a 10K run in what felt like one of her best times ever. It was a little chilly but she felt the cold to be exhilarating in an overwhelmingly sexual way. Her nipples were rock hard and aching to be bitten hard. The mental effort required to keep her hands off of them was a constant challenge, but one she found herself rather enjoying, until she found her attention drifting off in another direction, one that it had only very recently begun exploring. Although startling at her very first encounter with it, Patricia rapidly adjusted to her strong desire to raise a child, more specifically to raise a daughter. This child would obviously not be her biological daughter, given that she'd had her tubes tied when she was twenty-three, and never to this day regretted it for a second. In her own body she early on recognized that pregnancy could only be something she would have regarded as an eminently preventable sexually transmitted disease, and she still felt that way. Thinking now about her twin brother, she grinned from ear to ear as she observed: 'Young Stanford doesn't know it yet, but he's going to be a Daddy. The process is going to get underway just as soon as I can locate and hire an appropriate surrogate. And this is not going to be a jerk-off-into-a-test-tube-and-baste-the-turkey pregnancy. There is going to be actual penetration, whether Stan likes it or not, and I'm going to watch it happen.' Rousing herself from her extended reverie, Patricia headed for her Corvette and the short drive to Wastrel Gallery on West 24th Street. Fifteen minutes later she noted that the Patron Saint of Parking Spaces on the dashboard had come through yet again with a spot right in front of the gallery. She would just have time enough to shower and change clothes before a one o'clock visit from Amy Lowick to work on catalog material for Amy's upcoming show. But first she would email Stan a copy of the story she finished writing late last night. She enjoyed thinking about the way his ears would turn beet red as soon as he realized she had described, from his point of view, how she had mercilessly topped him on that glorious spring day twenty-three years ago. Standing up in front of the wall-mounted monitor she read through the story once more before zinging it to Stan:
Les Enfants Terribles
Patricia, who was always the more adventurous twin, initiated me into outdoor sex when we were fifteen. Perhaps that's what comes from her being twenty minutes older than me. One very warm Saturday in early May she suggested we spend the afternoon walking around the West Village. We rode the 86th Street cross-town bus through Central Park over to Broadway and took the number one train to Sheridan Square. We immediately headed west on Christopher Street, Patricia walking purposefully and leading the way. When we reached Washington Street she laughed and said: 'I want to show you something.' We kept walking until we came to West Street. We waited for the light to change and then crossed over and walked out onto the pier. All along the perimeter of the pier, on the narrow part beyond the railing, there were gay men in shorts with no shirts on, mostly in pairs. When I looked closer I saw that some of them were completely naked. Patricia whispered in my ear: 'This is where the queer boys come to jerk each other off and get blown while they're working on their tans.' None of them seemed to notice our presence.
We found a spot near the far end of the pier on the south side where there was nobody nearby. I lit up a joint and we passed it back and forth until it was too small to hold onto without getting burnt. I threw the roach into the water. Neither of us said anything. Then Patricia reached over and started stroking my left inner forearm up towards the inside of the bend in the elbow. She has known since early childhood that stroking me in that spot turns me into jelly, and makes me willing to do whatever she wants. Over the years I've gotten into a lot of trouble this way. Patricia kept on stroking my forearm until I reached underneath her T-shirt with my right hand and began caressing her right nipple. After a couple of minutes she sighed several times, her whole body tensed up for about fifteen seconds and then she moved away. A minute later she moved back suddenly, and before I realized what she was intending to do, Patricia opened the button of my shorts, pulled the zipper down and stuck her hand inside. I wasn't wearing any underwear and my dick, which had been throbbing during the forearm massage and nipple caress, was now very, very hard, harder in fact then I could ever remember it having been before. I felt very close to spurting but I knew Patricia wasn't going to let that happen if she could prevent it. In situations like this in the past Patricia has told me over and over again something that goes like this: 'You can't come that way, at least not with me. Save that primitive sexuality for your little girlfriends. We're training you to become a great tantric master. Controlling ejaculation is the key to enlightenment. I know this feels agonizing at times but I'm doing it for your own good.' When I would say something about getting blue balls Patricia would respond:'Oh that's just an old wives tale. There is no such thing as blue balls.' But personal experience after some of our get-togethers makes me think otherwise.
We had never messed around outdoors before and as a result I felt more inflamed somehow. This time I was sure I was going to outsmart Patricia and spurt. But just as I thought it was imminent she took her hand out of my pants, pushed me down on my back and removed my shorts. With the wind blowing off the water it was a little chilly and I could feel goose bumps all over. I looked down and my dick had gotten soft again. While I was spacing out from the pot Patricia bent over me, pulled my shirt up to my neck and started licking my left nipple and gently pinching the right. Then she switched and licked my right nipple while pinching the left. I was hard again and the pulsations I was feeling in my dick were fainter and faster yet somehow more intensely pleasurable than before. But I didn't have time to fully concentrate on how good my dick felt because just then Patricia pulled off the bottom of her bathing suit and sat down on my face. Her cunt was sopping wet and pretty soon so was my face. She was calling out instructions to me and I was following them as best I could: 'Slowly, lick around the edges of my clit. . .now speed up a bit. . .more. . .now flick your tongue lengthwise across it. . .faster now. . .now suck on it. . .that's it. . .yeah. . .yeah. . .yeah.' This went on for quite a while with Patricia calling out instructions all the way. In the end she squirted so much I almost thought I was going to drown.
All the while my dick was still throbbing away, and while Patricia was coming I felt like I was too, except that the location of the most pleasurable sensations wasn't in my dick but somewhere around my solar plexus instead. My dick felt good too though not like I was going to ejaculate any time soon. But I couldn't quite concentrate on that sensation the way I wanted to because Patricia, who was now completely naked, was over me the other way and had my dick in her mouth. Her asshole was right near my face. She stopped sucking for a minute and said: 'Come on little brother, lick that hole.' As I started to jam my tongue into Patricia's asshole she stuck a finger up mine while she continued sucking on my dick. I felt myself coming again but this time the orgasm was in the center of my forehead. As this was happening I felt Patricia start shaking. She screamed and went into spasms that went on and on and on. I felt a warm current rising up my spine as the orgasm in my forehead started to get fainter and fainter and fainter. After a while we turned around and held each other. Then we started stroking each other's face. Once we had calmed down a bit Patricia asked: 'Hey, do you want to go to Café Reggio for some cappuccino and ice cream?' I said: 'But we are coming back here sometime, aren't we?' To this Patricia replied: 'What do you think, baby bro?' We smiled at each other, got dressed and walked back across West Street holding hands and rehearsing one of our favorite scenes from Les Enfants Terribles.
Patricia realized she only had half an hour until Amy Lowick arrived, and snapped back into work mode. The problem was how to combine material best suited for two shows into a single exhibition. Amy's 'Cedar Tavern'paintings were actually colonialist appropriations. In the upper left hand corner, taking the place of Queen Elizabeth II's face in late British Empire postage stamps, was a portrait of a dog heavily inflected with the style of George Stubbs or Edwin Landseer. The balance of each canvas consisted of a brushstroke by brushstroke re-creation of a work by a different Abstract Expressionist master.Ad Reinhardt with Corgi pre-sold for over $160,000 to a collector in Dubai. Barnett Newman with Russian Wolfhound was likely to be going to the Tate Modern for a slightly higher price. Mark Rothko with Dalmatian was the pick of the litter, and Patricia was initially hoping to sell it to either MOMA or the Whitney. But the latter institution was now out of the question given Emily's other paintings that would be on display, the erotically charged ones, foremost among which was Anal at the Biennial. Patricia opened a file containing text from Amy Lowick's journals from the 1970s. She briefly pondered the extent to which these prose excerpts, which as handwritten diary pages would be interspersed on the gallery walls among the paintings, influenced her own recent composition. But that was just a distraction. She had to prepare for the interview with Amy she was going to conduct once their customary catch up chitchat was out of the way. Now she read out loud from the first entry, written when Amy Lowick was eighteen:
May 12th, 1974
'Any dick is good dick. I know I've always said that. But it's not quite true. Let me rephrase. Any dick except Arthur's dick is good dick. I've craved dick as long as I can remember. I think about dick every second of every day unless something distracts me. Like painting or drawing. Nothing distracts me from thinking about dick like painting or drawing. Being around Arthur doesn't distract me from thinking about dick. But I never think about Arthur's dick when I'm around Arthur. All Arthur likes to do is watch me stuffing dicks into every hole in my body, the more dicks the better, the more often dicks are stuffed into every hole in my body the better. And Arthur always gets pissy when he watches other dicks stuffed into the holes in my body. I think Arthur wants those dicks stuffed into the holes in his body. But Arthur is scared to let that happen. So instead he just watches it happening to me. Arthur is one sick fuck. But you may have guessed that already. As for me, I'm about as well adjusted as your average nymphomaniac who also happens to be an incredibly talented visual artist.'
Amy has been nothing if not consistent throughout the course of her life, Patricia mused as she sat down in the Visiteur Lounge Chair pulled up close to an oak roll-top desk. She has always been well adjusted in her own totally over the top fashion, certainly to my knowledge, at least since that insane night several decades ago when we met for the first time at Downtown Beirut and partied until the next afternoon. (Sometimes I wish I wasn't blessed, or is it cursed, with seemingly total recall.) And since Amy started practicing Yogi Baksheesh's brand of yoga, regardless of what I think about him and his so-called 'Bhutanese Dick (and Clit) Reflexology', she has become, if anything, even more centered (within the eye of a hurricane, it almost goes without saying). Focus, Patricia, focus. There is no getting around it. The link between Eros and creativity has to be tackled head on in the interview. Amy's work is controversial not because of the content, or at least not primarily because of the content, but rather almost entirely because of her gender. If a man carried on the way Amy did and created the types of paintings she created it would hardly merit a murmur in the tabloid press. Amy is so seemingly notorious because she just takes whomever she wants as often as she wants much in the style of an eighteenth century London rake, which I think must be the century she crawled out of. It was a time when there were plenty of female rakes as well, virtually all of them from the upper classes. But I must be careful to ensure that our discussion of the content of her paintings and drawings does not distract us from the most remarkable aspect of her work. And that is her preternatural fluidity of line and shape, the end result of which is the uncanny and almost otherworldly sense of enhanced dimensionality that her pieces provoke in the viewer, as if one is looking at them from within the interpenetrating vantage points of a vortex of String Theory enabled sightlines. Worlds within worlds within worlds within worlds, amen –
Patricia, at that moment startled by the doorbell, nearly fell backwards off the chair, and in the instant before righting both the chair and herself was far more worried about the possibility of damage to her Jean Prouvé treasure than any possible injury to herself. Buzzing Amy in, Patricia took a couple of deep breaths. Amy Lowick was by no means an easy person to deal with unless of course you happened to be a hunky younger man who had a dick she wanted to get to know better. Oh, oh, Amy has had some work done, around the eyes and under the chin, nothing major and it was done well. I'll pretend I didn't notice; otherwise, Amy might start pouting and if that happens the interview won't go well. She's in her mid-fifties now and handsome rather than pretty, with long straight blond hair going gently gray, and a savage and undiminished attraction to the opposite sex, not that she hasn't munched a carpet or two in party situations or when there just weren't any men around. Patricia winced as Amy walked past and plopped herself down in the Prouvé chair. At the same time she realized a wince was likely the reaction Amy wanted to elicit.
'I'm sorry Patricia. I forgot how attached you are to that chair. It's the closest thing you have to a familiar, or is it a talisman?'
'It's just a chair, Amy. But one I happen to be very fond of. And I'm delighted that you're sitting in it.'
'But not for long. We're going to have to reschedule that interview for next week. Dominic is meeting me at Chelsea Market in twenty minutes.'
'Dominic Marinelli. He was head of security at the Whitney until he resigned last month. We met at the opening party for the 2006 Biennial.'
'Right. You had a painting in that show – Bertrand Russell by Oscar Kokoshka. You know, Amy, you could have had a wonderful career as a master forger.
'Dominic caught my eye from across the room. He was holding a cream puff up to his mouth and moving it back and forth very suggestively. Within five minutes we were in the stairwell fucking like wild dogs.'
'And you're still seeing him?'
'More than that. We're creative partners in an important add-on to the exhibition, a video that only your most exclusive customers can know about. It's the film version of Anal at the Biennial. I'll play it on this portable DVD player while we speak. We shot it after hours. The location is the Urs Fischer installation with the Kenneth Anger room clearly visible in the background through the hole cut out of the wall. You see here in the titles the film was directed and produced by Sonny Warhol, who is still trying to prove to the dead father who wanted nothing to do with him that he is the superior artist, and of course he is. I am curious about when, though most people would still go with if, the market value of Andy Warhol paintings is going to crash… Now we open up with Dominic setting up my easel and paints. He is such a gentleman... Now I enter from the left taking off my dress. Oh my no undergarments. And Dominic lets his trousers drop. Just look at that pork sword. And every inch of it is going up my hershey highway… Oh do me do me do me do me, Dominic… And now watch me start to paint just as I'm starting to come. I learned this from Dalí, who was my teacher when I was nineteen and he was in his early seventies. It was during the summer after my junior year at Bard College. But you knew that, I think… Now I've just executed the third of six Action Paintings that came, pardon the pun, out of this session…. Keep going Dominic. What a stallion he is… Okay there is painting number six ripped off the pad and thrown to the floor… And while Dominic and I are getting dressed we will have a closing benediction by Bronc White.'
Patricia realized too late that her jaw had dropped rather noticeably as she watched Bronc White, in formal wear and top hat, announce the title of his sonnet, As The Vessel Burns (which he claimed to have written for her), and begin to intone somberly:
Abhorrent love retains a festive air
in hindsight's shadowed glow. But once the glare
intrudes too far to ever be concealed,
a second skin of wisdom can get sealed
too tightly, unless penances are made.
In essence, memory becomes a trade-
off in this exchange of dreams: Cheating death,
while keeping their psyches crossed, their twinned breath
discharges fragrant spoor into the ground.
Rain whips the conjoined lovers; a hell hound
growls nearby. The music of the spheres turns
dissonant, as the vessel slowly burns:
Tracing this mystery back to its sources
requires tact, and a knowledge of corpses.
Bronc's sonnet was followed by a quick cut to black. Amy Lowick, who had already stowed away the portable DVD player, glanced over at Patricia and announced:
'I must be leaving now. I don't want to keep Dominic waiting. I'll come back on Tuesday afternoon to do the interview if that works for you. I think we should sell five copies of the DVD for two million apiece. We can talk about whom to approach on Tuesday.'
'I'll have at least two firm commitments by then, Amy. Have fun with Dominic!'
Patricia poured herself a small glass of Knob Creek bourbon and took a few sips while deciding whether her first call would be to Dr. Heydrich Quisslinger or to Darwin Greenfield. In the end she opted to flip a coin.
'Heidi, it's Patricia Wilkerson. I have something you absolutely must see at your earliest convenience .
Copyright 2009 Ron Bass
by Dan Roentsch
I give you Chapter Two of Ron Bass's To My Twenty-Fifth Century Biographers, wherein ... but no ... no characterizations this time, for now we are into the book ...
That was my resolution a moment ago, and I am able to keep it, except to note that in this chapter of Mr. Bass's opus we find that Bobbie Sue Nickerson's affairs are the perfect stepping-off point for a broad and merciless characterization of bourgeois Americana.
Years ago a London cab driver confronted Ray Davies, lead singer and songwriter for the Kinks (whose work is devoted extensively to the bashing of the British middle class), saying: "I like your songs, but why are you always trying to take the starch out of us?"
Were that same driver confronting Ron Bass, he might look into the rear-view, shake his head, and ask: "You can't even leave us Wally and Beaver?"
—DR, June 20, 2009
Copyright 2009 Dan Roentsch
Fiction by Ron Bass
Chapter 2: Form Follows the Funk
"There just has to be a better way to earn a hundred thousand dollars a year," Bobbi Sue Nickerson lamented to herself. She had just finished writing "The Sublime and the Abominable," a review of the composition Carly Parker, in which Trismegistus X processes and mixes together recordings by Carly Simon and Charlie Parker. Mindful that, even after listening to it, many of the readers of Settee would actually still be confused about which of the two artists was at the abominable end of the spectrum, Bobbi Sue crafted her review in such a way as to make the answer seem not at all obvious. Giving it a final once over, she continued addressing herself: "Is this an appropriate career path for one to follow after receiving a Ph.D. in English Literature from Duke? Is this why I spent two years of my life writing the dissertation Commotion and Locomotion in the Novels of Tobias Smollett? The answer is, alas, quite obvious. But yet. Here I am. At least until I sell a couple of screenplays." Tacking along with that thought, Bobbi Sue opened up a recent treatment, reciting it from memory, with the on-screen text as a prompt, which in this instance proved to be unnecessary:
On another hand,
On another hand,
On another hand
Perquisites of Divinity
American Culture on the Skids: Los Angeles, 1969
To make a short story shorter: 'We're about to shoot the "lost" final episode of Leave It To Beaver. Here are the highlights. Ward Cleaver's estranged half-brother Eldridge pokes his head inside the front door, calling out, "Oh, June, I'm home," doing an uncanny Ward imitation. June is shocked, to say the least, as she didn't know Ward had a dashiki-wearing spade for a half-brother. Eldridge's wife Kathleen stumbles in behind him under her twelve inch Afro, weighed down by their copious luggage. It appears as if it's going to be a long stay. Cut to Eddie Haskell telling the Beave that he can demonstrate the highest respect for the goals and aspirations of the Black Panther Party if he surprises Uncle Eldridge and Aunt Kathleen by dressing up in a bed sheet and pillow case, and parading before them carrying a rope knotted into a noose. Eddie explains to the Beave that the noose represents "the triumph of dialectical materialism over petit bourgeois complacency." Cut to Wally Cleaver burning Charlie Manson in a coke deal. Cut to Ward walking in on June chowing down on Eldridge. Cut to Kathleen, in her Mistress Nefertiti outfit, thrashing Ward with a cat o' nine tails. Cut to the Manson Family offing the extended Cleaver clan with meat cleavers.'
After closing the treatment, Bobbie Sue opened a file titled DYSTOPIA NOTES, and read through it quietly:
In a dsytopic near analogue of our universe, post-natal abortions up until the age of 18 are legalized under Kennedy-Steinem, a law co-sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Representative Gloria Steinem (D-NY). Subsequently, the Supreme Court, in decisions written by Chief Justice Robert Bork, upholds the legality of post-natal abortions but strikes down the legality of pre-natal abortions, and imposes a mandatory death penalty for both the doctor and the mother in cases of pre-natal abortion. In the wake of the first of these decisions many parents across the land begin screaming in anger at their kids some version of the following: "IF YOU DON'T CUT THAT CRAP OUT RIGHT NOW, YOU'RE GONNA GET BORKED!"
After pausing for a moment, Bobbi Sue added:
Which is exactly what happens on the afternoon that 14-year-old Dickie Hefner tells his mother Barbie that she doesn't have to drop him off at the Suk 'n Fuk at the Lacanian Hills Mall for the junior high after-school orgy because he has a study date with Emma Swift instead. Calming herself down, Barbie continues in an affectless monotone: "That's it. You're going to the Interfaith Re-Education Camp this summer." Dickie's head spins and he gets sick to his stomach as he thinks about the 18-hour a day program of self-criticism, denunciations, sloganeering and forced marches operated jointly by Colsonville's religious leaders -- the Reverend Billy Pat Slimemold of Christian Identity, Father Francis Xavier O'Slime of Opus Dei Catholicism, Rabbi Moishe Slimestein of Settler Movement Judaism, Imam Slimy Mohammed of Wahabi Islam and Da Doo Ron Ron (Doody) Humbert of the Church of Scientography. Doody, it was rumored around school, had on several occasions been observed nyuk-nyuking like Curly of The Three Stooges, whom he uncannily resembles, while giving one or another of his fellow clergymen a noogie, and chortling: "I may be a shithead, but at least I'm not slime." Now Barbie sarcastically continues: "And knowing how those men of god, especially O'Slime and Slimy, love to cornhole teenaged boys, you'd best be prepared to have that heterosexist bullshit attitude of yours reamed right out of you." "That's it. I'm out of here," Dickie vows to himself. "And Emma, who has been threatened with the Girls' Interfaith Re-Education Camp, will definitely want to come along."
After closing DYSTOPIA NOTES, Bobbie Sue opened the file she had been willing herself to stay away from all morning. This was something she found on Stan Wilkerson's laptop last night after he had fallen asleep, and she stayed up reading in the living room. The file consisted of fragments, ostensibly written or dictated or surreptitiously taped by his twin sister Patricia and his father, also named Stanford, and all of them were wildly pornographic. If Stan actually wrote these fragments it would be a clear sign that he was not entirely the levelheaded, well-adjusted corporate lawyer he appeared to be. But if he didn't write them, then who did? And why does Stan have them on his laptop? Upon reflection, Bobbi Sue suspected that Stan's sister might be the author. Patricia was definitely trouble, way out-of-control, and exceptionally strong-willed. And what exactly was the nature of Stan's current relationship with his twin? If Bobbi Sue was going to allow herself to get more deeply involved with Stan, it was crucial that she understand this relationship. Plunging into the text, she shuddered slightly as she read:
Prom night for the Brearley School Class of 1982. Tape recording Made by Patricia Wilkerson:
"After we close CB's Charlotte and I are going to take darling Bobby and Will to my father's corporate suite at the St. Regis. What our hot macho studs don't realize is that they are going to put on a little mutual cocksucking exhibition for us girls. That's what these handcuffs in my bag are for. And what Sweet Charlotte doesn't know is that the proceedings in their entirety, including the scrumptious Charlotte sandwich Bobby and Will are later going to devour, will be captured on film. Cinematography is courtesy of Rafael, daddy's chauffeur, who was reluctant at first. But eventually he decided it was not in his own best interests for daddy to learn that he has been getting sucked off at least once a week by his employer's innocent-looking daughter ever since the day she turned twelve. Rafaelito fell for my act: 'Oh daddy, he MADE me do it. I was so MORTIFIED and SCARED. Can't you teach him a lesson.'"
* * * *
Jackson Phipps, star litigator of the firm, speaking to Stanford Wilkerson, managing partner. Tape recording made in the office of Stanford Wilkerson:
"That fucking cunt daughter of yours is blackmailing me. Remember that "dizzy" spell at Thanksgiving dinner when she went upstairs to "lie down"? Well, she rifled my desk and stole my NAMBLA membership card and some photos of Edward. I just knew it was her. Last night she came back, unannounced, and started doing this inane little dance while displaying one of Edward's photos, and singing: "Alter boy/Oh my little alter boy/I'll be true to you." I was enraged. Edward's not a 12-year-old BOY. Edward's a 12-year-old MAN. I chased her around the living room, and while trying to grab the picture away from her I tripped. Then she pulled these handcuffs out of her pocket and slipped them on me, took this black, 12 inch THING out her bag, stripped, strapped it on and said, with an ultra-syrupy Southern accent: "Aunt Bea, this is Barney Fife. Aren't y'all going to invite Barney Fife to come in for a visit?"
* * * *Stanford Wilkerson's diary (30 Nov. 1982):
Aunt Fucking Bea? No fucking way!!! I'm beginning to more fully understand why darling Francesca refers to her better half as 'The Original Sixteen Second Man'. Must remember to call that pissant Ed Meese back tomorrow and tell him he can have Phippsy to head Anti-Trust. We lose a potential major league headache, at least for a couple of years, and I gain a chit with the ruling Neanderthals. There's a moral buried in here: If you want your son to learn all there is to know about rhetoric and buggery, then send him to Andover. Could anybody reading this guess that I attended Exeter? As for my little Patticakes, she wins again. This little escapade is all about my leaning on her to go to Yale. She's obviously not enjoying it, and this is her way of letting me know. So she's off to the Sorbonne next semester, with my blessings. Headline: U.S. DECLARES WAR ON FRANCE. Must finalize plans with Francesca for next weekend's trip to Zihuatenejo."
* * * *Letter sent on 23 December 1982 from Stanford Wilkerson to one of his golfing buddies who happens to be a new client of the law firm, and who in return for a hefty retainer gains privileges at the firm's corporate suite:
A set of keys will be delivered to you by Guillermina (nickname: Gidget), Rafael's 17-year-old sister, who is currently home for the Christmas holidays from her convent school, Our Lady of Perpetual Contrivances, where VERY STRICT DISCIPLINE is imposed. Gidget is listed in the personnel records of the Wilkerson Phipps Thatcher & McCloud law firm as a "Special Assistant for Client Relations." As a new client of the law firm, it is Gidget's job to cater to your every whim.
After closing this file, Bobbi Sue decided on a lunchtime walk to the Frick. She could indulge herself, as she was several days ahead of schedule on her pieces for the next issue of Settee. She felt desperately in need of a space in which to think clearly before meeting up with Stan at The Algonquin after work. Being alone with the Fragonards and Bouchers always seemed to calm her down. Perhaps a short visit with the three Vermeers on her way out would supply the light she would need to navigate through the remainder of this day. She would also have to finally return Jay Goldstein's call this afternoon. It couldn't be put off any longer if she hoped to get Jay to be her literary agent. But first she had to find a properly tactful way of disabusing him of the notion that he was ever going to get into her pants. It's not that Jay wasn't good looking and well dressed and hyper-intelligent, he was all of those things and more. Bobbi Sue had heard three testimonials, from women whose judgment about such things she trusted, praising Jay's endowment and his prowess in the boudoir. However, there was something about his mode of self-presentation that was downright weird. Within fifteen minutes of their first encounter, after a reading at KGB Bar, Bobbi Sue heard what sounded like a memorized sketch: "You know my first name really isn't Jay. I was given one of those unbelievably clownish first names. My parents named me Jewish, can you believe that? When I was knee-high to a cornflake I heard my mother telling people: 'If Mrs. Dior can name her son Christian, then Florrie Goldstein can name her son Jewish.' I can't possibly convey to you how much shit I took until I convinced my parents to let me use the name Jay instead. And to this day they're blackmailing me. As my mother told me: 'You can call yourself anything you like if it makes you feel better, but if you change your name legally, then I have no son.' After growing up in that household I've earned my inheritance, and I'm not going to walk away from it." Bobbi Sue recalled wondering whether she really wanted to hear any more of this right around the time Jay segued into talking about the fortune made by Florrie's father Morris in the girdle factory on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. But there was no doubt that he was an up-and-coming literary agent who negotiates well on behalf of his clients, so some allowances had to be made, as long as they stayed within reason.
Crossing 59th Street, Bobbi Sue's attention drifted from Jay Goldstein to Bronc White. She recalled in detail Jay's harangue about Bronc's fascistic tendencies during their last phone conversation. Bobbi Sue did not tell Jay about her brief affair with Bronc that took place during the fall semester of her senior year at Haverford College, where he was writer-in-residence. This was before Bronc became controversial, at least in the political sense. On a social level Bronc was controversial by nature. His flagrant and very public affair with a student less than half his age triggered his early departure from Haverford. Bobbi Sue still couldn't comprehend how the Bronc she knew and loved had come to write his later works. It's true that these poems are nowhere near to being the simplistic. right-wing agit-prop his detractors, such as Jay, make them out to be. But at they same time they don't seem to have been created by the same man who wrote the poem inspired by the Edna Millay sonnet that begins: "Oh think not I am faithful to a vow." Gazing off into Central Park, and noticing that there was nobody nearby, Bobbi Sue recited Bronc's sonnet The Line of Scrimmage:
Your season slipped acutely past my thrust;
Neither affixed a tremble to the strain.
We flexed our symbols, bartering no grain,
Saluting no commuters to our dust.
Whose eager halo, fleeing tabled gin
(Cathartic to a nation's furtive creep!),
Has slicked our ordered sense of troubled sleep
Upon which dormant skull, and ceased to spin?
Our line of scrimmage wanders everywhere,
While diplomats on wheels of jazz ascend
Past hothouse notions into Heaven's Bend,
Churning out blues riffs for a dancing bear:
"Kaleidoscopic runbacks," scream the masses.
"No more busted third downs, no picked off passes."
Bobbi Sue's mouth turned up in a mirthful smile as she silently opined: "No matter how good Jay Goldstein might possibly be in bed, there's no way he could even remotely be in the same league as Brockden White. And my darling Bronco is a great poet besides! But, at least in theory, lawyers make better husbands than poets or literary agents. Or visual artists, for that matter." Just then, feeling her knees get slightly weak, Bobbi Sue wished that she had remembered to grab a Luna Bar from her desk before leaving the office.
Forty-five minutes later the paintings comprising The Arts and Sciences and The Progress of Love had worked their customary magic, calming Bobbi Sue's overexcited psyche. As she had hoped the Frick was practically deserted at this hour, and soon she felt ready for the visceral bombardment she always experienced in the presence of the painter she regarded as the ultimate old master. She had been standing for about ten minutes in front of Mistress and Maid, which usually occupied less of her attention than the other Vermeers in the collection. Suddenly she felt a severely painful jolt between her legs, like what she always imagined a cattle prod would provoke, except that a fierce, high-pitched pleasurable pulsing cut in and out of the pain. Freezing in place for a moment, she heard an unmistakable Teutonic-accented voice say to her, "You really do so much resemble that young French actress who was befriended by the protagonist in the Metropolitan Museum in All the Vermeers in New York." Spinning around, Bobbi Sue found herself face to face with Dr. Heydrich Quisslinger, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor in the administration of President Richard Nuxon, professor emeritus of the Nelson Fitzgerald Kennefeller School of Government, and author of the notorious text Genocide as a Strategic Tool of Western Democracies. Without thinking, as she removed his hand from between her legs, Bobbi Sue slapped Dr. Quisslinger twice on each cheek. She then admonished him in a calm voice, "You, sir, are a cockroach of the vilest sort!" In parting, she smiled at him derisively, and walked slowly toward the exit of the museum.
Copyright 2009 Ron Bass
by Dan Roentsch
The icon "Simone," described in a Brief Note on Obsession, has, for me anyway, an ironic provenance. As a teenager I had considerable exposure to the works of CS Lewis, an inspiration to any believer — in Hell and Satan and rescue by a long-dead Nazarene peasant — who wishes also to consider himself an intellectual.
(I managed to avoid the talkin' lion books, however.)
One of Lewis's serial works is the so-called "space trilogy," a foray into science fiction in which the exemplar of human life (a philologist named Elwin Ransom), discovers that all the people in outer space believe in the Middle-Eastern grass-god Yahweh, and that many of them have read the earlier works of CS Lewis. The trilogy comprises the novels, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength.
In That Hideous Strength, about yet another ultimate confrontation between Satan and Jesus' troops on earth, Lewis concocts a moral definition of women. He tells us, in the person of some oracle or other, that there are two kinds of women, and that their job on planet earth is to affect men for good or for evil.
These two kinds of women are the "Celestial Venus" (good) and the "Infernal Venus" (the other good).
(These emblems of man's temptation and salvation make their way into other Lewis works, notably The Screwtape Letters.)
Of course, the purpose of the Infernal Venus as concocted by Lewis is to distract men from their heavenly duties by appealing to sensation. The Celestial Venus' job is to lure man to God, using the long, full hair and vaginal ignorance Lewis projected onto the Guinnevere-esque princesses peopling his own bowdlerized versions of Celtic idylls.
The Infernal Venus is the origin of the character of Simone. — Which became more elaborate after I concluded Clive Staples L was out of his mind, and began casting a jaundiced eye on the motivations of the Celestial Venus.
I'm convinced you can take the rest of the story from there, and, neglecting certain details, you will no doubt have the narrative.
(The use of Simone as a literary-philosophical device is inspired by Aristotle's use of the "great-souled man" in the Nicomachean Ethics.)
—DR, May 23, 2009
Copyright 2009 Dan Roentsch
by Dan Roentsch
I am a partisan of erotic obsession. Not in spite of its debilitating effects on mundane existence, but because of those effects, and because it is so rare a phenomenon, and so ignored as a value to be sought, that it may enter some lives only by way of French drama.
What I mean by "erotic obsession" is the surrender of oneself to ecstasy in another.
(I conceive ecstasy as a current, lifting the ecstatic out of herself, which is to say, outside of routine and the values she places on familiar objects and recurring events giving consciousness an easy continuity. She yields to this current when another makes its soul — its self — known by the pleasure the other brings to her senses.)
I am aware that obsession — even obsession as I have defined it above — is considered a sickness by the clinically-inclined, who fondle the notion that anything is a disorder that intrudes upon an otherwise-placid mind and cannot be dispelled with simple incantation. Obsession makes its subject less vulnerable to the anesthetic of routine. For this reason it must be eliminated.
Routine. The holy grail of the diagnostic manuals. Routine is the natural sedative of passion; the firearms-free enforcer of conformism. It is the received wisdom of cadres of therapists and their pharmacological abettors that any thought threatening to disturb routine and to awaken your raw brain should be treated apace with a pill, an intervention, a scolding, and the cold shoulders of the gang you "hang" with. Are you able to meet with your friends on Sunday afternoons to dilate upon your mass-produced lives? If you cannot bring yourself to sit on the stoop with a beer in your fist the way you could a week ago, you have come to the right place, for I have a prescription pad and an excellent sense of your place in the social totem.
Should you instead surrender control to ecstasy in another, your consciousness, awakened from habit, finds, in that to which it has surrendered, a new existence with unclassified sensation. The order of the ecstatic's former life turns to a skeleton. Friends condemn but their voices recede. His life is now risk wrapped in the psyche of the other.
To understand this obsession, one must first understand its proper object. Not anyone will do.
In order to help explain who will do and why, I have created Simone.
(Simone is an icon. She is not a person I have met. Her name is taken from the name of a café at the corner of St. Mark's Place and First Avenue in New York City.)
Nothing about her is accidental. You cannot see her clothes, collars, bracelets, rings, piercings, the streaks in her hair, the length of her heels, the curve of her buttocks, the arch of her back ... you cannot see these without seeing the mind that made them.
Even her casusal appearance is determined by what she has on hand, and she is particular about what she has on hand.
She feels no compulsion to procreate. She is not a slave of the race.
She is an outsider. She takes pleasure in certain others, but, like Aristotle's great-souled man, she prefers to be alone because she is her own best friend.
She keeps secrets about herself from everyone. There is a place in her soul that no one but she may go into.
She has a sense of humor about everything but what is in that place.
She owns and does not share.
She does not fear judgment.
The word "relationship" bores her.
The word "compatibility" makes her laugh.
She gives herself to erotic obsession, but continues always to judge the worthiness of her object.
She is not interested in discovering a connection deeper or more spiritual than erotic passion.
She makes her psyche known through the portal her lover's senses. Her smell, her taste, her touch ... the sight of her, the sound of her voice, the demands she makes, the pleasure she takes and gives are the vehicles of her soul to her lover's.
She makes her lover jealous of every person and every thing that takes her attention: jealous of the laces on her shoes for the time it takes her to tie them; of the wine that soaks her tongue and the stool that bears her weight.
She is revered for her carnal power. She is not an angel but a Fury. Not a Madonna but a god that eats blood.
She is inevitable.
There is an excellent chance you will assume this is a subjective taste; that there are persons of more civilized proclivity than I given to obsession with another who has repressed her sex and the demands of her soul in the name of kindness, modesty, charity, subservience, and a general desire to fit in, pitch in, help out.
If this is your opinion then you are in error. I will forgive your dissent on some of the details, but there are no biological humans, exempting clinical cases, who surrender themselves in ecstasy to the casserole-carrying church wife. It simply does not occur, her palpable charms notwithstanding. A soul disconnected from its own carnality is little better than a warm mannequin. And if her mind actively works against eros she is merely bait waiting for the cue to switch.
If a stranger to ecstasy feels his blood rise in the presence of the casserole-carrier, if she motivates him to shoehorn his lust into an acceptable form, satisfied on the sanctioned schedule and in the ritual yoke of his generation's collective superego, it is the undeveloped Simone lurking somewhere inside of her that does the motivating. And perhaps, by the time she has tracked down that carnal power inside herself and killed it with fear and platitudes, her lover will have found her charity, kindness, practicality, and wide hips perfect for the breeding and instruction of his squalling claims on immortality.
But he sits by the window while his sons puke and remembers the glimmer he once saw of Simone. He wonders where it went, and watches television, and speaks of necessary trade-offs.
He and the mother of his children may see themselves as the victims of some chemical plot. And to an extent they are right.
The chemistry of attraction begins with androgens, estrogens, and lust, builds to dopamine and obsession, and terminates at last with oxytocin, when the brain is finally assured that the object of its desire is his to keep, perhaps legally.
Note that the whole process begins with lust. And lust does not connect through a t-cell. What arouses us in lust, what arouses us in obsession, is Simone. What kills obsession is the casserole-carrier and the manly man, struggling for routine.
Although it is the received wisdom of the placid that lust turns to obsession and obsession terminates in the attachment of team players, these last two steps are not inevitable.
Certain of our fellow humans are incapable of obsession because they have no poetry in their souls, which is to say, no souls in their souls; Simone, for them, is an arched back with a nasty attitude. And they cannot replace her with an icon of repression. Ecstatic surrender to the Madonna exists only in the legends of the saints: in reality one can love without eros only by means of the tramp chastity so admired by St. Augustine and C.S. Lewis.
We receive the world through sensation, which is why pleasure is a celebration of life on earth. And when that pleasure is integrated through perception and knowledge into erotic passion, it is specifically a celebration of human life, the life of the self-aware.
Erotic obsession takes this a step farther by reminding us that life on earth can be ecstatic. Finding a proper object of obsession is so rare that the giving of oneself to it when the opportunity arises (if it ever does) takes on the color of a categorical imperative.
To those who deny the importance of ecstatic surrender I have no argument. That argument would be similar to an argument between a snowboarder and a comfort-seeking, human legume bolted into a recliner. These two kinds of person will get along until one day the comfort-seeker gets it into his head to write a peer reviewed article for a professional journal characterizing the risk-taker as a freak and a victim of disease since, were he not a freak or victim of disease, he would see the obvious benefit of spending every free moment with his brain locked into the so-called news, his last three meals still decorating his shirt.
But sustained obsession is not the result of a lazy mind yielding to easy temptation. The temptation of gravity — of inertia — is always greater than the temptation to passion and movement. The ecstatic must shut out the absorbed sensibilities of the comfort-seekers: authors, pundits, television writers, next-door neighbors, parents, and friends who enforce the ambient monotony of most lives. He must also be willing to deal with the exquisite pain attending ecstasy. I stated that Simone's lover is jealous of the attention she gives to everything that is not him. But the only way to end that unease, the only way to find the comfort that is the lemming holy grail, is to trivialize her attentions or to actually become the constant center of her life. Either way, she ceases to be Simone. The pain ends and so does the ecstasy.
To declare one's preference for passion is, I submit, a human triumph. To regard the pain that comes with it as something to be borne for obsession's sake is to mount the barricades and stay there when the bullets start to strike. It takes discipline to hold one's own when everyone else is running for cover, especially when those running fastest have rationalized their cowardice as a special variety of courage. "Grow up and run for cover," may be the epitaph future civilizations find on the tombstone of this one.
In case I appear to be gilding a prejudice, let me admit that erotic obsession carries with it not merely pain, but brutality. A part of this brutality is an abrupt abandonment of all other allegiances, regardless of tears. The monogomist will abandon his spouse, the polyamorist will deny himself to his partners. He may not be heard from again. Simone does not share.
And there is another brutality endemic to obsession. The brutality suffered by the object of obsession when it ceases to be one. The brutality of abandonment by the erstwhile adorer. In my description of Simone I said that she "gives herself to erotic obsession, but continues always to judge the worthiness of her object." There is no security in yesterday's judgment. The Christian warning to "judge not lest ye be judged" does not impress her, because she is not afraid to be judged.
So what is the final value of surrender to ecstasy in another? Is it good?
To answer that I must first ask, good for whom? For the ecstatic, the risk is that routine will be forever disrupted. For the adored, the risk is abandonment by the disappointed adorer. For the rest of the world, ecstasy means the unpredictability of the ecstatic, the loss of his productivity, kinship, and approbation; the insinuation that his life has no more in common with theirs than civilization has in common with a trailer park.
And I call that good.
by Dan Roentsch
A few weeks ago, the View From Outside published Ron Bass's Barack W. Bush, a story that stands on its own, but which is also Chapter Three of To My Twenty-Fifth Century Biographers, which we begin publishing serially today.
Ron uses the novel, draped about the character of poet Brockden "Bronc" White, to give us characters and situations both bizarre and real (a juxtaposition I will explain in just a moment). As I said of Ron's work when Barack W. Bush was published:
Ron's prose reminds me of the cinematography on the old Batman television series: rich colors set in high contrast, popping out of the screen like something psychedelic but marshalled to a purpose.
The world he creates in Biographers conjures in my mind the image of paths walked by Aristotle and the peripatetics through Athenian zoos; protected from but surrounded by loud, beautiful, disgusting, sexy, chattering, contented, discomfited, and, ultimately, dangerous animals. — Species jammed up against species in a landscape that is first jungle, then prairie, then desert, then jungle again.
It may seem from this description that the world of Biographers is that of an unrecognizable fantasy. However, as one who is very often in the Village, and almost always in Manhattan, I assure you that Ron's world, beginning with Eugene Greenfield's near collision with an SUV, vibrates the ambient skull-tone of that small section at the center of the universe.
Indeed — and if you are from some other locale you may simply have to take my word for it — it evokes in my mind a kind of resonance that is at once nostalgic and at the other relieved to see these events unfold at a safe distance, where I cannot be killed, maimed, cuckolded, or transferred from lover to bantering ex by Kundalini yoga instructor. All of them plausibilities in the real world where I live.
For example, you may find it remarkable that Eugene Greenfield is at once an intellectual, installation artist, filmmaker and member of the Scenepainters Union. I assure you there is nothing remarkable about it. It makes the character iconic of that region of the city, where every person is at the very least three people, not counting hobbies. Greenwich Village is to eclectic identities what Wall Street is to Long Island secretaries.
(I include of course myself in the "eclectic identity" category. Hence the familiarity to me of what must seem, to a large part of the world, like characters leading on their lives the way bigamists lead on their spouses.)
On the other hand, if you are a denizen of the Village (or even a frequent visitor), pay careful attention to the place where Eugene and the SUV nearly collide. At that very intersection on the western border of Alphabet City is Angelina Cafe. If you drop in on any given evening, you may catch the author having his dinner.
—DR, April 27, 2009
Copyright 2009 Dan Roentsch
Fiction by Ron Bass
Chapter 1: It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Your worldly-wise scribbler idylls, then slips away
To Post Futurist forms of a pleasure-lit day.
Brockden White, To My Twenty-Fifth Century Biographers
"Although walking along the edge of the abyss can become old very quickly, if you keep on the path long enough, which incidentally implies that you are lucky enough to keep from falling in, it eventually becomes a brand new experience all over again. Unless you happen to be a thrill-seeker, and I am definitely not one, what is most noteworthy is the return of a sense of unbounded terror that can manifest itself in the form of tremors, palpitations, nausea and sweating. Such is not-death," Eugene Greenfield observed to himself as he narrowly skateboarded past an oncoming SUV while crossing Avenue A at 3rd Street. On the far corner he looked up into the eyes of Katrina V., an aspiring neo-Weimar chanteuse he knew slightly from the Dolphin gym he would be boarding past in about ten seconds. Behind Katrina's eyes he could readily imagine the intimations of a distinctly different flavor of infinity. Blowing a kiss at Katrina and receiving a blown kiss in return, Eugene glided down the block to Step Mama, his mind suddenly fixated on a blackened catfish sandwich with jalapeño mayonnaise. Savoring the surprisingly balmy April weather, he skated idly down the block, planning out his afternoon.
Five minutes later he was sitting outside of Step Mama on a school exam chair, eating his sandwich and drinking a bottle of water, gazing abstractedly at the magnolia tree across the street in Miracle Garden. He was mentally replaying pieces of the telephone conversation he had with his father the previous evening. His father had told him that his actions were "tending toward the oracular." This was clearly, and without being stated as such, not even vaguely a positive development. White shoe law firm mergers and acquisitions partners never approved of tending toward the oracular. The case in point was Eugene's latest installation piece, It's Always a Service to Pleasure You. He had hacked into Citibank's ATM network, and substituted the words constituting the title of his piece for the more traditional "It's Always a Pleasure to Serve You." After a description of the piece appeared in a New York Times review of the Netty Netty Bang Bang group show at Psyclops Gallery on Rivington Street, he was initially threatened with legal action. But after a couple of conversations with one of Citicorp's lawyers he settled for a $50,000 consulting fee and a very modest retainer in exchange for demonstrating how he hacked the network. Eugene was somehow not at all surprised that his father, who was hardly an aficionado of installation art, had learned about this piece. Over the years Darwin Greenfield had worked on deals involving all of the major money center banks, and he knew virtually all of the players at the most senior level. Getting back on his board, Eugene speculated about how active his father had been in the outcome of his encounter with Citicorp, and reluctantly acknowledged to himself that the likely answer was "very active." Putting thoughts about his father out of his mind, he cruised down Avenue B, singing:
Chopping cabbage in the hot sunI Fought the Slaw was the theme song from Attack of the Killer Cole Slaw, a 1950s horror film diorama he was putting the finishing touches on. Now it was time to begin focusing on a very different type of horror film. Eugene was heading toward Lotus Club for a one o'clock coffee date with Evie Phillips, an old friend and former lover from undergrad days at Bennington. During the four months of their relationship, Evie, who was an adept, had taught him quite a lot about some of the more arcane aspects of kundalini yoga. After deciding upon her next student, Evie abruptly transitioned their love relationship into a warm and bantering friendship that, more than six years later, continued to grow in emotional and intellectual intensity. Even now, and especially during sexual interludes, Eugene often found himself visualizing Evie a short distance away, with beams of white, ruby red and lapis lazuli light flowing between their foreheads, throats and hearts. After Bennington Evie became an indie film director. She was currently putting together financing for Maoist Cannibals Ate My Homeland, a fiction film about the making of a documentary film depicting the Chinese Communists' ongoing genocidal activities in Tibet. In her phone message, Evie had indicated that she wanted to talk with Eugene about the film. As a member of the Scenepainters Union, he surmised that he was going to be hit with a request to work way below scale. He also knew there was no way in the world that he could possibly turn Evie down. "At least I might get to paint some tankas," he reflected, as he pushed open the front door of Lotus Club.
I fought the slaw and the slaw won
I fought the slaw and the slaw won. . .
Proceeding to the back of Lotus Club with his single shot of espresso, Eugene mentally donned his invisibility cloak as he strode past Alcibiades Jackson. During their last encounter, he was an involuntary listener to an extended portion of Al's new standup comedy routine, which was now out on DVD under the title Land of a Billion Dicks. Eugene thought the segment about Al's presumptive school days was somewhat funny. Still, he would have rather not been subjected to it at a time not of his own choosing, and to date he had never voluntarily chosen to sit through a standup comedy act. All he could remember now of Al's routine were the lines: "At Harvey Scotchandsoda High School they didn't have home room. You started the day in back room. Hey, I got an A in wood shop. I made a glory hole." Sitting at the corner table by the back door, Eugene looked at his watch and saw he was ten minutes early. Taking a small format paperback copy of Ada out of his back pocket, he read about the texture of time for exactly ten minutes, at which point his cell phone rang. It was Evie, saying she was stuck in a meeting in midtown that was running late, and asking if they could reschedule for tomorrow at the same time. Eugene agreed, said goodbye to Evie, finished the paragraph he was reading, downed the last of his espresso, and walked back out onto Clinton Street. His next destination was Bobbi Sue Nickerson's apartment on Norfolk Street, three stories above Lansky Lounge. Carrying his board, Eugene found himself smiling broadly as he sang:
There is a young beagleIsabel, although a lady in her own right, and definitely not a tramp, could nonetheless be regarded as the Igby of the canine world. Over the past two years she had literally been booted out of the obedience school equivalents of Exeter, Choate and those military academies advertised in the back of the Sunday Times magazine. But however incorrigible her behavior was, whenever Eugene used to spend the night at Bobbi Sue's, Isabel would always fall asleep resting her chin on one of his thighs. As a puppy she was unfailingly sweet-tempered, until the day she improbably climbed on top of a footstool, and from there, on top of a living room end table, where she chewed through a plastic bottle of Advil, and ate enough of the contents to come very close to dying. For over a week it was touch and go. Eugene and Bobbi Sue took turns feeding her tiny amounts of milk through an eyedropper. When she finally recovered, her tail, formerly ramrod straight, refused to stand up, and she became much louder, sounding almost like a coonhound at times. She was also now given to the furtive chewing of furniture. Isabel was clever enough to realize that Bobbi Sue's threats about the pound were empty bluff. Eugene figured that the drama Isabel created kept his relationship with Bobbi Sue going months longer than it otherwise would have. Even now he occasionally spent an evening in Bobbi Sue's bed, more to be close to Isabel than to Bobbi Sue, not that he wasn't still quite satisfied sexually when he left in the morning. He and Bobbi Sue had an arrangement that when he wasn't working on a film he would come over and walk Isabel during the day. This worked out well for both of them. Eugene got to spend a lot of time with Isabel, and Bobbi Sue, who worked on staff at a lifestyle magazine in midtown, had a dog-walker she trusted.
Isabel by name
She is a fearsome snuffler
Low cunning is her game
Isabel Arfer, low cunning is your game
Isabel Arfer, low cunning is your game. . .
Eugene never felt happier than when he was alone with Isabel out of doors. Despite a pronounced tendency to hyperactivity at other times, she was always a calm and insightful listener to his comments, stories and asides, often punctuating them with seemingly appropriate snorts, barks, whimpers and cries. On the way to the small dog run in Tompkins Square Park, Eugene outlined the idea for a screenplay that he hoped he could convince Bobbi Sue to collaborate on, since she was a writer and he wasn't: "So you see, Isabel, this is a cybernoir. Our protagonist is a relatively young criminal mastermind of the Internet variety. He runs brothelfinder.com, the by-invitation-only site through which high roller clients can book appointments with their favorite girls at all of the top houses in all of the major cities in the world. The business is headquartered in Nauru, hidden behind an impenetrable network of shell companies, and the computer operations are run out of Moldova. He's worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and he's on the run not only from the Feds and INTERPOL, but also from more than a dozen international criminal syndicates whose territory he's encroaching on. And why can't they locate him? His idiosyncratic sexual kink turns out to be his saving grace. You see, he can only get sexually turned on by pregnant women who have been abandoned by their men. Yes, that's right, Isabel, he's a serial romancer of knocked up ladies. He gets hotter and heavier with them as they get bigger and bigger, but as soon as they pop his erotic attraction to them disappears. But he stays friends with them after the baby is born. He provides for them and their children very generously, and he comes to visit at unpredictable intervals. What he's really doing is using their residences as safe houses, eluding his pursuers who have no clue at all about how to find him. But then one of his exes gloms on to his modus operandi and tries to blackmail him, and the fatal spiral is set in motion. What do you think, Izzy, will it sell?" Isabel wagged her tail with some enthusiasm, but Eugene was unable to determine whether it was for the story or for Zorro, a long-haired dachshund of her acquaintance whom she spied running to greet her from within the confines of the small dog run.
After proceeding into the small dog run and taking off Isabel's leash, Eugene looked up and saw Zorro's owner, Lisa Coverdale, waving to him. Lisa was about forty-five and strikingly beautiful, with a longish oval face, good cheekbones and straight black hair falling gracefully over her shoulders. Although she was nearly twenty years older than him, Eugene always got rock hard in Lisa's presence. Today she was wearing a lavender and white Pucci sundress from the early seventies with, he suspected, nothing on underneath. He couldn't help fantasizing about taking it off her. Not only was she beautiful, she was also incredibly brilliant, and this added exponentially to his excitement. After receiving a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard, she founded Pre-Hab, Inc., a company that operates a string of clinics providing pre-rehabilitation counseling to the children of Hollywood and rock stars, and other spoiled rich kids. The company's tagline cracked Eugene up when he first heard it: "Pre-Hab. So they won't fuck up the way you did." Lisa's book, Twelve Steps for Tots, was a bestseller and remains the seminal text in its field. And as a result of the company going public, her net worth was said to be well up into eight figures. Lisa had recently broken up her with longtime boyfriend, the controversial poet, Brockden White, who published under the name Bronc White. Formerly known as a metaphysical poet greatly influenced by Sufi mystics, Taoist sages and seventeenth century English poets such as George Herbert and John Donne, in recent years Bronc White had gotten himself embroiled in the culture wars. He had become a favorite target of the politically correct set, who liked to portray him as being as crazy and as bigoted as Ezra Pound. At a reading at Stanford, half the audience walked out after Bronc read a poem entitled "Queer is Quaint (And Gay is Passé)." Following this reading, over seven hundred prominent American writers signed a petition seeking to revoke the Pulitzer Prize he received the previous year. In the course of their developing friendship, Lisa had insisted to Eugene that Bronc really wasn't the ogre he was made out to be. She confided in him that she had ended their relationship after she found out about his affair with "the evil twin," her sister Laurel, who was actually two years younger than her. Eugene recalled that Laurel Coverdale, who lived somewhere in the Idaho panhandle, was Executive Director of the Columbine Foundation, whose mission statement was: "To put a handgun in the locker of every school kid in America." Now, as he came abreast of Lisa standing by the back fence of the small dog run, she surprised him with a kiss on the lips and a full frontal hug that surely left her in no doubt as to what was uppermost in his mind. Running the tip of her left forefinger across his right jaw, and down toward his chin, Lisa stepped back and said:
"When we left off last week we were talking about reincarnation."
"You were just about to start explaining what you meant by reverse reincarnation."
"Simply stated, reverse reincarnation entails dying in your next lifetime earlier in time than when you were born in this lifetime."
"Is that what you're doing in this lifetime? I didn't know that was possible."
"I'm not entirely sure that it is possible, and I really don't have any solid body of evidence to back up the contention that I am actually reverse reincarnating. Here's part of a song I wrote a couple of decades ago that was in the repertoire of The Astralettes:
Living on embassy rowBy the way, I think it's just as likely that you are doing so, but we don't really know, do we? Let's, for now, just consider it to be hypothetically possible. Now tell me, to whom might this technique appeal?"
Going with the flow of information
Living on embassy row
Just taking part in the latest penetrations
Living on embassy row
And when I die I'm going back home
To my study in the future
I'm going to write up the notes from this latest expedition
And then publish a couple of articles
In the learned journals of my chosen fields. . .
"Can we assume that, as in ordinary reincarnation, someone whose practice is very advanced can carry over sets of skills from one lifetime to the next?
"We can assume whatever we want to at this point."
"Academics doing research on one or another aspect of the past might be interested, particularly historians, anthropologists and natural scientists. But presumably only if they had a way to bring the findings they make back to their point of origin."
"How could you conceive of that working?"
"You have the time between lifetimes in which you ostensibly plan out your next incarnation. For an academic who is reverse reincarnating, this would be the time she spends back in her office at the university writing up the notes from her most recent lifetime as well as planning out her next one."
"That's a very creative solution, Eugene, and one that is at least hypothetically plausible. Academic research constitutes a positive use of reverse reincarnation. How about tourism? Do you think that spiritually advanced vacationers might be interested in reincarnating into the past? And would this be a positive thing?"
"I'm not so sure I'd put that on the positive side of the ledger, but it's not necessarily on the negative side either, is it?"
"Let's hold that thought. Next time we'll talk about some potential negative uses of reverse reincarnation. Right now I must take Zorro home. Although I would much, much rather stay here and continue our discussion, I have a conference call with some analysts to discuss the Pre-Hab quarterly numbers in just about twenty minutes."
Lisa and Eugene embraced gently, pressing their torsos lightly against each other and kissing softly three times in quick succession. Lisa retrieved Zorro and headed toward her apartment in the Christadora, a sturdy pre-war building on the east side of the park. Eugene sat on a bench and watched Isabel Arfer run around for about fifteen minutes. He tried not to pay attention to anything except Isabel in motion, but images of Lisa and Laurel on stage with the rest of The Astralettes kept flitting though his mind. There was Laurel, standing up there impassively, slapping away at her stand-up bass, and Lisa moving back and forth like a panther, switching between her mandolin, her twelve-string guitar and her ukulele. These were, admittedly, second-hand images, as the band had broken up before Eugene even entered kindergarten. Rousing himself from this internal footage, he whistled for Isabel, who came bounding over to him.
Mandalas on my pillowOn the walk back to Bobbi Sue's apartment Eugene found himself singing the chorus from the one fluke hit song recorded by The Astralettes. Lisa told him she heard it in a dream and wrote down the lyrics and the chord changes over her first cup of coffee the next morning. When he asked Lisa why The Astralettes broke up she told him it was because Laurel was insistent about including a blasphemous version of an old white gospel tune, Satan is Just All Right with Me, on their next album and she had just flat out refused. When he finished singing Eugene wanted to think about the possible misuses of reverse reincarnation but was unable to do so, as he found himself feeling somewhat groggy. All he could manage to focus on was the scent of Lisa's perfume, in which he thought he could parse out faint traces of jasmine, hemp and cloves. Whatever it contained it was wildly intoxicating! "Danger, danger, Will Robinson," Eugene said to Isabel Arfer as he unlocked the front door of Bobbi Sue's building. After kissing Isabel goodbye and reclaiming his skateboard, he decided that a run on the track in East River Park would feel good right about now. After that he would go to the studio and work on the logo for Queequegs, his next guerrilla installation project, which would involve documentation of a middle-of-the-night re-branding of the Starbucks on the corner of Second Avenue and Ninth Street.
Told a tale on me
Mandalas on my pillow
Nearly set me free
Copyright 2009 Ron Bass
by Dan Roentsch
There is a discussion group associated with this website, and several of the original members are writers of my acquaintance.
I know that others of you who have joined are not writers, so let me hurry to say that I do not infer you are a writer simply by your having the grace to join this group. And I offer that assurance almost as a form of congratulation. There are reasons for this.
The first is that writers inflict injury upon their friends — that is, writers who are any good at all inflict injury upon their friends. In the first place, they are forever wanting to know if you have read his or her latest, which will certainly answer your latest question and perhaps cure you of prejudice.
And, of course, because writers write, you, as their friend, sister, or lover sense their productivity as an obligation. Can you imagine undertaking the companionship of Mr. Stephen King? No? Have you read Cujo? Imagine reading one of his epics of the shroud at the rate he releases them, which surely cannot be much less often than once every few months. Imagine that, to escape the pressure, you go to a woman of cruel and primitive appetites who makes you feel as though you can almost live with the reading of the next magnum opus. And at the precise moment you are feeling it, imagine she tells you— with casual enthusiasm — that she has an erotic memoir due out in June and would love your opinion.
So if you are not a writer who has joined the View From Outside discussion group, you may read on without fear of defamation. Otherwise, you may read on.
(The following list is alphabetical, by last name.)
These are the writers who are at this moment members of this website's discussion forum. I hope I have not offended any of them too deeply. I am certain that I excluded projects or entire dimensionsof their public lives. I am certain to have mischaracterized something. If so, a discreet note sent to my public email address will be appreciated. Or, perhaps, you could simply post it in the group.
I learned of Mick's existence after he reviewed my blog, the LumpenBlog!, which was (and still is) a comic novel in blog form. (The LumpenBlog! follows the adventures of three persons: two men completely unaware of the female libido, and a woman who is the female libido seen from a Dutch angle.) He reviewed it with such skill, even where he found it wanting, that I made plans to read more of his work.— And there was plenty to read, as Mick was the contributor to or author of several blogs. Among them, LitBlogs, Majasblog, Omnium: The Early Warning Frog, and Dispatch from the Trenches. Later he began to produce his own serial mythologies, hosted as, Snake Tales, Aunt Harriet's Revenge, and Wilbur.
Perhaps my favorite of these fictive works was his first: Snake Tales,. In the excerpt below, Cat Blonde has purchased clothing she doesn't want Big Tony to see. To cover her tracks, she hides the clothes in a new, plastic garbage can.
"now she's got a problem, see, she's got to get the new laundry with the tags missing out of the trash can and into the house without big tony seeing her and there's no telling if big tony's going to pick that very moment to decide he doesn't want to sun himself any more and come back into the house where there's a layer of brick between him and it, so she just leaves it there. which is a good thing because big tony picks that minute to come in after all and he would have caught her with her arms all full of new laundry with the tags missing and they would have had words and cat-blonde doesn't like having words with big tony because he doesn't have any and it ain't a fair fight. so she leaves it there with the missing-tag new laundry in it and goes on into the house where she makes big tony his favorite meal — baked beans and franks with plenty of salted onionsâ€“and they watch tv and then after awhile, in the natural course of things, they go to bed and a little while later big tony is snoring like a moose and cat-blonde sneaks out of the house and downstairs to the kitchen and snaps on the outside light and goes to get her new laundry with the missing-because-she-threw-them-into-a-passing-egg-crate tags out of the trash can."Over time I became such a fan of Mick's that I invited him to write the forward to the print edition of the first LumpenBlog!-based print novel, Cruel Women, Stupid Men. (I give you my word, Mick, it really is coming out.)
Mick's current observations of politics and culture may be found at Mick Arran:Witness for the Prosecution.
Ron and I have been acquainted since the 1980's. This means he is one of the few people whose mind, like it or not, still holds the fading images of actors prosecuting plays written, produced, or directed by me Off and Off-Off Broadway.
His collection of short fiction and one-act plays, the Velveeta Underground, was published in 2006 by the Erotic Authors Association for its Signature Series. His other work includes To My Twenty-Fifth Century Biographers, which will be serialized on the View From Outside imminently. In fact, beginning in just a few days. Chapter three of that work has been on exhibit here already under the title, Barack W. Bush.
Ron also writes songs for his band, Jersey Petroleum. Among them: "Jesus Went Surfing," "Tell It to Oprah," and "Let's Eat Some Time, Baby."
You will find more of Ron's work on his blog, and more of my thoughts on his work in my prefatory note to Barack W. Bush.
Pete and his partner Elizabeth Foley are the duo who alone and with occasional staffing accessories constitute Elyria Pictures in New York City. Pete also teaches screenwriting at the New York Film Academy in Manhattan, where Liz chairs the Production Department.
The author of about twenty-five screenplays, Pete is also the creator of Mystifield, a television series now in development. (It has been my pleasure to read the first several scripts for this series, a non-moribund tale of teenage zombies.)
Elyria Pictures recently completed shooting Bridge of Names, a feature film about a young man named Steve who just wants to get to Granby. Along the way he meets girls, punks, a charismatic preacher, and a child sired by ... someone, and boasting the performances of Robert Postrozny, Rachel Zeiger-Haag, Court Dorsey, and Rip Torn. (I too appear in the film as an eccentric fellow with no driver's license and a wardrobe outfitted entirely by International Male.)
Hobbs and Foley are also the authors of the screenplay Funny Peculiar, which Rip Torn has described as "great American literature," and are about to launch a web television series entitled Rachel Bites. Pete has written perhaps a dozen scripts for the series, as well as a dozen more for the program's first spin-off, Avery Rules. You will find examples of Pete's writing by following the links at ElyriaPictures.com.
One of the first declarations made in my presence by Peter Hobbs was: "Movies are my life." I later learned he was not saying it to increase his share of favor among the independent-film groupies at large in Union Square. The characters Pete creates manifest his interest in the blunt, primitive, sometimes brutal elements of human motivation.— In the always-simple choices lying at the base of a character's motivation which, when inconsistent, can produce a dense tangle of rationalization, neurosis, and conformism, and which, when consonant with one another, can produce minds comparatively free of noise and ... simple.
(Pete and Liz have based two characters on me. In one of his scripts, Pete describes the character as looking "a little like Iggy Pop, if he was a hit man or an arms dealer." For those of you who have never met me, that is an accurate description.)
Marilyn Jaye Lewis
If you go to her website and click the "books" link, you will come to the conclusion that Marilyn is a prolific author. What you won't know from that simple exercise is that she is also the author of one of my favorite erotic novellas, Neptune & Surf, published in 1999 and selected by the Guardian (UK) as one of that summer's Top Ten reads. Her other works include Mammoth Book of Erotic Photography (editor), When Hearts Collide: An Erotic Romance , and Stirring Up A Storm:Tales of the Sensual, the Sexual, and the Erotic .
I originally met Marilyn via the machines that send out email. I met her briefly once, in the real world, when she was promoting Stirring Up A Storm , a book notable for, among other virtues, containing an erotic story by Joyce Carol Oates.
In addition to her literary endeavors (her latest is entitled Twilight of the Immortal ), she has been using the Internet longer than virtually anyone else who is not a full-time member of the geekoisie. In the past decade she has created six websites that I am aware of, including the home of the Erotic Authors Association, the first American organization to honor literary excellence in the erotic genre.
Imagine the nexus of Camille Paglia and Bikini Kill. (You may have to close your eyes.) If you can further imagine someone living near to or at that nexus, that person is Ivy, or so I submit. If you doubt, go to Erotic Bohemian , where she writes under the name "pagankinktress."
It has been the usual case for me, when reading writers after my initial acquaintance with their work, to ask: "But where is the edge? " In Ivy's case, the better question might be, "Where isn't the edge?" In a cyberverse packed dense with sophomoric naughty-bloggers struggling for style, Ivy gives us the self-aware reactions out of which real criticism arises. There is the vital meta- in her writing, as the phenomena under her consideration includes that of her writing about it, as if she were making tiny, precise cuts with a steel scalpel. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that she doesn't constrain herself to a single writer-identity ("I am a sex-blogger." "I am a political blogger."), so her mind wanders over an array of subjects, and tends to look for the ways in which these subjects integrate. The result is never dull.
Until very recently, the top entry at Erotic Bohemian was a retelling of the myth of Persephone. Years ago I staged, twice, a retelling by a different author of that same myth. And I liked that retelling. But after reading Ivy's version I look back on that script and ask, "But where's the edge? "
—DR, April 20, 2009
by Dan Roentsch
A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine with a religious proclivity and exhibiting some umbrage at my disregard for his hobby, asked me bluntly, in the middle of a restaurant somewhere in Chelsea (Manhattan, not Massachusetts) what my religion was.
I replied: "My girlfriend's vagina." My girlfriend at the time was present, and I believe her response was to stare at her food and chew.
Out of that incident, and certain roilings inside my brain, came a screenplay and later a short film (still in post) entitled Mrs. Benning's Vagina, in which the scene is replayed with greater drama and in which the character Mrs. Benning responds with greater wit than my erstwhile girlfriend who, I believe, is still somewhere chewing something.
A few days ago, I found myself engaged in a conversation with an intriguing woman who said without equivocation: "I absolutely reject anything that supports a separation of body/spirit/mind. These all blur beautifully, or should."
Indeed they should, but I believe no sentiment is more likely to arouse the villagers to torches and pitchforks than that one just expressed. Although on my mind for a time, the conversation seemed an excellent precipitent cause for A Brief Note on Eros.
—DR, April 5, 2009
Essay by Dan Roentsch
]]I often say, and in fact you may have heard me say, that erotic passion is perhaps the most profound spiritual connection available to human beings.
I choose my words with startling care. I sense that some who read the sentence above will feel a sense of loss, imagining that, if what I have said is true, then men and women are no more spiritual than animals.
It is true that the logical consequence of this consideration is that there is no firm line to be drawn between concrete lust and that ineffable something called love which, drained of eros, means something along the lines of "my old pal, Sue."
Indeed, there are entire tomes of everyday psychology aimed at giving this ineffable abstraction substance. What is love without eros? If we lived in the days when men and women dug potatoes in order to live, you can be sure that said tomes would comment that pure love, the best love, the ineffable sort of love dictated by the dead Plato and his living wards, is present when two "significant others" (what lovers call each other when they begin to lose significance) find themselves able to dig potatoes, one with the other, without a necessary word passing between them. Partners having the affection requisite to shed a tear, should the other stumble and fall that final fall, potato in hand.
In contradiction of this, I submit (again) that erotic passion, not collegial ease, is the proper substance of this spiritual connection. This substance is not to be sought elsewhere, especially not in the clouds or in asexual common interests such as the collection of porcelain figurines or the novel Franny and Zoey. If the woman whose vulva once branded you is now emotionally indistinguishable from your sister, you have not conquered or transcended anything. You have been defeated, castrated, and your tongue has been cut out.
In case it isn't obvious, embracing this notion of the unified mind and body (particularly to the extent where erotic passion is considered a spiritual characteristic and a high virtue) implies the rejection of most ethical and religious systems and the bourgeois values of every nation with the temerity to call itself "great."
Consider the puritans and hedonists, by most accounts even mightier rivals in the culture war than Democrats and Republicans.
No doubt you could get the puritans to embrace the idea that erotic passion is perhaps the most profound spiritual connection available to human beings if you made eros into something altruistic, a "free gift" you give your "partner."
(The thought makes me shudder, and raises in my mind the specter of a million men in short hair and pajamas washing out their mouths and gurgling, "I love my wife I love my wife I love —")
And no doubt you could get the hedonists to embrace it, if you were to remove the words "profound" and "spiritual" and replace them with the verbal equivalent of a smirk.
This is because the hedonists borrow whole from the puritans the premise that body and spirit are confined to separate cocoons each with their own separate fulfillment. The hedonists are simply comfortable with and forgiving of the body and its fun. But the hedonist's bodily-function sex, unable to penetrate the mind, restricted to anonymous, animal sensation, falls on a steep slope of diminishing returns. It may be reinforced by fantasy, but after awhile fantasy fails to satisfy. It becomes a distraction from the event at hand, rather than an enhancement.
Further, the hedonist, while practiced, is otherwise inexpert. Bodily functions, after all, do not require creativity, craft, and reflection.
And the final destination for the bodily-function hedonist is puritanism itself: out-and-out, reeking in its putrefaction. Why? Because one day she will want to reclaim her spirit, and having no theory of the spirit that admits of erotic passion, she will be thrust back upon the same theory of spirit by which all the other lemmings live.
Consider two literary examples. In the first, eros is the basis of an entire lifestyle, including its ethics, aesthetics, values ... its spirit. I am thinking of Pauline Reage's Story of O.
Forget the specific kinks of the characters in that story. Consider them, at least for the sake of this argument, a metaphor for any form of eros. The story is about a woman who is indoctrinated into a lifestyle and into a society of others that is entirely based upon the erotic. She does so at the behest of her lover, and his beckoning her to do so is itself erotic, as is her surrender. Every otherwise-mundane routine of their lives is now tinged with the central pleasure of their senses. More than tinged: knowledge of another mind, present and creating one's pleasure produces and magnifies that pleasure until it becomes to mere sex what crack is to mere cocaine. It cannot be escaped for even a moment, and when there is a sense that it may be eluded, the lovers introduce talismans to bring them back to the right place in their minds. Rings, collars, fragrances ... these have a neutral meaning to outsiders, but are charged for the lovers with the hardest connotations of longing and desire.
Now consider, in contrast, what I will call a typical story of "penthouse letter" hedonism. (This is not a story that appeared in that superb and glossy magazine — at least, it did not appear to my knowledge; I am simply paraphrasing innumerable stories of the same general contour that were the ambient literature of my college dormitory.)
Here is the general thrust. A regular American male arises on a Saturday. The ball game starts in two hours. With free time on his hands and a list of errands pinned to his refrigerator, he heads up to the laundromat. There he encounters a girl in cut off jeans sitting coyly on one of the dryers. Perhaps he has seen her before. He tries to complete the laundry errand as expeditiously as possible, but she is giving him looks of promise. A moment later, the prose becomes rhythmic.
Glad to get that out of his system, and wondering if they will ever meet again, he finishes folding and goes home to watch the ball game.
In the Story of O, eros permeates every aspect of day-to-day existence. In the puritanism-based hedonics of the "penthouse letter," however, it is carefully compartmentalized, exploding into the world for a moment then subsiding into the fixtures when the world of routine and sexless pseudo-joy will not be kept waiting any longer.
Thus, an ethics based on eros is not only practicable, it is highly desirable. Forget your upbringing and the gargoyles that came with it. The prayer to the labia majora — which is the locus of my most intense pleasure, the pleasure that tells me life on earth is good — is rational. The prayer to a peasant dead two-thousand years after impalement is bizarre and brutal, and the good of the self-sacrifice it demands cannot be demonstrated by anything concrete in the life of the devotee.
It has never been a characteristic of the romantic movement — in any of its incarnations — that it has an abundance of systematic thinkers who can put into words the logical reason for rebellion in the name of passion. The romantics have been able to attract a number of songwriters and playwrights, but not so many logicians.
It is not my intention to set forth in this essay a serious treatise of eros-based ethics, but consider the following as hints, or examples, or suggestions.
First, people raised in the Great Christian Faiths — or in any other of the Great Faiths describing the naked human as intrinsically embarrassing to his Maker — are too likely to regard themselves sinners, inevitable sinners, and give themselves a break for not being saints. That, as they like to say on the television programs, is a rookie mistake. An ethics is valid if the humans can effect it. Conversely, an ethics that can be practiced only by saints last seen in plaster renderings is an ethics for sheep who like to be shamed.
Second. There are a number of new ways of relating erotically open to men and women who shed the arbitrary constructs of monogamy. But consider also the number of famously dull sexual arrangements that have in fact an intrinsic erotism simply not observed by the majority of their practitioners.
For instance, I am content with the proposition that marriage is a gigantic, gray bore with no end in sight, but monogamous affairs based on eros are not. There is a definite "I-wanna-be-your-dog" erotism — a connoisseur's erotism, I submit — in denying yourself to others because you are another person's property. For polyamorists — who universally consider themselves too highly evolved for this taste — I recommend at least a try. In the erotic context, even my potato-diggers, whom I abused so badly in the earlier parable, will find something promising in the after-dig, and not a little to drool over in the digging itself, now an hours-long metaphor.
(Virtually every bourgeois value is, at bottom, a celebration of inertia, of surrender to gravity. How can we come to rest, close our eyes, and drift off secure in the knowledge that upon awakening our things will still be within reach? How can we find someone, lock them down, curl up, go to sleep, and be sure that when we awaken and want them again, they will still be there?)
And consider the sorts of values eros eliminates. I have already mentioned the positive value of raising a young boy to worship the vulva rather than the figure of a dead man on a stick. I have also already mentioned the advantage of eliminating the concept of "selfless sex." I beg your pardon. Ramming those two words up against one another is giving me nausea sweats. But I do it for you, as an act of ....
Eros is a god that kills repression. Where the repressors want to contain the sexual, eros seeks to expand it, to find the center of the world in every touch, in every smile, in every tremble.
And I will add this, too, that Eros is a god of light. The princes of darkness rule where fear replaces pleasure, no matter what else they may say about salvation and the paradise in the world after this.
by Dan Roentsch
After reading Ron Bass's Barack W. Bush, and perhaps my own Run With the Lemmings, you no doubt long for a preview of future revelations, titillations, and good times planned for the future at The View From Outside.
I cannot promise good times. I cannot even promise entertaining times. But see if this teases your curiosity:
- A brief discussion of how the proposition "God exists" is an oxymoron. (It is brief in my mind, at any rate. It may come out to several thousand words when I start translating it into human sounds.)
- A brief examination of the erotic as opposed to the merely sexual. The puritans of left and right have come to terms with sex, but eros still sends them screaming into the night, searching for a cop. -- A cop in shiny, black leggings.
- An examination of Simone de Beauvoir's salient point in The Second Sex; namely, that the root cause of woman's subordination to man throughout history has been her reproductive role and the various manifestations of "family values" that have bound her to it. Although I disagree with Beauvoir on many important points, I agree with this particular premise and her myriad observations in support of it. (Note that I do not promise this will be a brief examination. I suspect Simone deserves more time than God.)
- An examination of the institution of marriage, and not just marriage, but any affair that strives to outlive eros.
- And The View From Outside may well be serializing the rest of Ron's novel, To My Twenty-Fifth Century Biographers.
Of course, none of these masterpieces may ever develop beyond the "it's-all-locking-in-now!" phase. If they do not, please accept in advance my apology for your unfulfilled titillation. That is the way the muse works, and by "muse" I mean the little persons seated behind the keyboards. So when you come back to see what has been revealed in re: God, Simone, Eros, marriage, and Mr. Bass's unborn Boswells, you may instead see a screed against the fascists. They after all are always with us, and are always good for the easy screed.
—DR, March 31, 2009
Copyright 2009 Dan Roentsch
Fiction by Ron Bass
Chapter 3: The Prisoner Of Kennebunkport
I was introduced to T-Ice (and that was the only name by which I knew him at that time) by Bronc White during a long night at Puffy's Tavern sometime in the early June of 1999. When I arrived at Puffy's that evening, Bronc, Sonny Warhol and T-Ice were in the throes of celebrating what T-Ice described as "The Emancipation Proclamation," a speech in which he quoted Robert Beck ('How about it, an "Iceberg" with a warm heart?'), and paraphrased Douglas MacArthur ('Old pimps never die. They just change the games they play.') He had just given his stable of whores their freedom, peeling approximately five hundred thousand dollars off of what had to have been the biggest pimp roll in history in order to give each of them a start in their new lives. The next day T-Ice went to work as a commodities trader and more than tripled his previous income on his first day on the job. I never really knew much about T-Ice's family background. On one occasion Sonny told me that T-Ice's father was the descendent of Arab-African slave traders from Kenya and his mother was from a well-connected American family that boasted several prominent political figures. I often saw T-Ice over the next two years during the course of my semi-regular visits to Puffy's, but one evening it occurred to me that he was no longer to be found there. Bronc eventually told me that T-Ice mysteriously disappeared shortly after 9/11 and has not been heard from since. After drifting out of that orbit, I was shocked to read about the lurid and grisly murder of Bronc White in 2005. You may or may not recall that his corpse was discovered in a stall in the basement men's room of Bowery Poetry Club with a vintage ice-pick rammed into the back of his head and a sign around his neck that proclaimed: "Hotsky Totsky, No More Trotsky." And it was signed in Bronc's own blood: "The Lillian Hellman Brigades." I had totally lost touch with Sonny Warhol, who I seem to recall was a suspect in the Bronc White murder case, until I received the following email from him this afternoon. For what it's worth I'm passing it along ...
The file containing these diary entries was sent to me by the daughter of an ex-president who happens to be an old late-night partying buddy of both Barack W. Bush (who was known as T-Ice) and myself. His friends were distraught when T-Ice, which is short for Titanic Iceberg, disappeared. And we have become increasingly furious over time in the wake of the all-encompassing media blackout designed to turn him into a non-person. Given the penultimate entry in his diary, like T-Ice himself, I fear for the worst. Now I am making this file public in the hope that it will spark a sustained protest movement that will result in a full Congressional investigation into the disappearance of T-Ice. It is obviously too late to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, but we intend to blow the lid off the cover-up being perpetrated by that wanker who was elected president in November.
Note that I am not at all offended by T-Ice's reference to my father. Some of you will no doubt be familiar with my autobiographical song: "Daddy Was a Poofter, Mama Was a Stone Bull Dyke". Daddy wasn't much of a father and Mama wasn't much of a mother. T-Ice said the same things about his biological parents (although he was quite fond of his stepfather). Maybe that's why we bonded so strongly.
Solanas ("Sonny") Warhol
March 15, 2009
Selected Excerpts from the Diaries of Barack W. Bush
January 18, 2008
Cocaine is the drug of choice of bores of all ages. And that applies in spades (sorry Barry) to my two presidential half-sibs. Mama Babs was beside herself with anger when I screened footage of George W. and Barry engaging in a snortathon in the CEO box during a Texas Rangers game. It was real cinema verité, with shaky camera work and all, which was perhaps the result of all of the 'shrooms I had ingested before the game. And while we're on the topic of 'shrooms, I might add that 41's giggling fit while watching the snortathon footage gave me a pretty good idea of who raided my 'shroom stash last week.
February 3, 2008
You might be wondering just how I came to exist. The explanation may sound improbable, but it's really very simple and indisputably true. Mama Babs was totally blotto during her one-nighter with Barack Obama Senior, and so the fact that it actually happened had slipped her mind entirely. Consequently, when she found herself in the family way she naturally assumed it was the handiwork of the future 41, only to be disabused of this notion when a maternity ward nurse placed me in her arms. I am told the first words Mama Babs uttered in my presence were: "Oh, FUCK!"
February 12, 2008
It's soooo quiet in K-port during the winter. Most of the time it's just me and the Secret Service detail, so I have plenty of time to write songs, not that anyone else is likely to hear them anytime soon, least of all darling Condi. Appointing her as Secretary of State was my half-bro's one smart move as President. And don't you believe that Sweet Jesus demeanor of his. He's been pronging Condi all but senseless for years. Am I jealous? Does the Pope smoke dope? Not this one, he's an old style Teutonic Knight, but maybe the last one? Or perhaps, more likely, the one before the guy who died after a month, you know, the one who had a boyfriend in the Milan Opera? But I digress. As you can see, Condi has the last word in the song I wrote this morning while I was way under the influence of the favorite herb of one or another Pope:
Al Qaeda says
Al Qaeda says
Al Qaeda says
More hummus for Hamas
More hummus for Hamas
More hummus for Hamas
More hummus for Hamas
Israeli army says
Israeli army says
Israeli army says
No hummus for Hamas
No hummus for Hamas
No hummus for Hamas
No hummus for Hamas
Jimmy Carter says
Jimmy Carter says
Jimmy Carter says
More hummus for Hamas
More hummus for Hamas
More hummus for Hamas
More hummus for Hamas
Condi Rice says
Condi Rice says
Condi Rice says
No hummus for Hamas
No hummus for Hamas
No hummus for Hamas
No hummus for Hamas
I wonder what old Jiminy is going to do as an encore after his latest visit to the Middle East. Maybe he'll go to Iran and be personally kidnapped by President A-Man-in-Dinner-Jacket, who was, after all, one of the kidnappers at the American embassy during Jiminy's administration. Would George W. offer a ransom to get him back? If so, what would it consist of? A bag of peanuts?
March 17, 2008
Don't you wonder what kind of a world this is going to be to raise children in now if there is any truth in the rumor that Oprah Winfrey has bought the Church of Scientology and renamed it the Church of Oprahtology? And it's also rumored that she has even changed the name of the E-Meter to the O-Meter, which children will soon be forced to use once they enter second grade, according to new Department of Education regulations that are currently being drafted under the No Child Left Behind Act. Even more frightening, assuming 41's sources are accurate, is that Oprah has had herself artificially inseminated with L. Ron Hubbard's frozen sperm and is about to give birth to the Antichrist, which will go by the name of T. Cruise Winfrey.
April 8, 2008
This morning's mail brought a new batch of waq from Gatherer. Waq is an (as yet) entirely legal hallucinogen with a pronounced comedic edge. Gatherer is Gatherer S. Thompson, one of the most brilliant biochemists on the planet, and the twin sister of Hunter S. Thompson, one of my all-time favorite writers. Gatherer and I met during the period of time in which I was trading light sweet crude oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange and living in Battery Park City (from where I was kidnapped by Secret Service agents acting on orders from Dick Cheney, and brought back to Kennebunkport where I remain in comfortable yet irksome confinement).
July 4, 2008
Warholalia: A noun, defined as "speaking in trendy banalities."
What gave rise to the first usage of the word "warholalia" was reportedly, at least according to what were described to me as unpublished notes left by Walter Lippman, the content of conversations during state dinners in the White House during the era that some uninformed individuals still refer to as Camelot. Those in the know will swear on a stack of Bibles that the Hellmouth opened when Nazi Joe bought the presidency for his dimwitted and dissolute son Jack. If this is true, does that mean Lee Harvey Oswald was a pre-Buffy Slayer? Can "The Slayer" even be a male? And that usage of "warholalia" is surely an anachronism. The "speaking in trendy banalities" definition wouldn't have come into use until at least a decade later, during the heyday of Studio 54.
July 24, 2008
Given that the crook who owns the Ground Zero building site and the sleazeballs in the Port Authority and the government of the State of New York just aren't getting the job done, I feel obliged to present two alternative visions for the space that is now a gaping hole in the ground:
The World Trick Center
Taking a cue from how the descendants of the Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam have organized commerce in their capital city, the new towers will become the center of the sex trade in Manhattan. Historically, this is appropriate, given that in the 18th century the prostitution trade in the city was centered in a park known as "Holy Ground", which was several blocks north of the WTC site. The name "Holy Ground" is a satirical reference to the fact that the parkland was owned by the parish of St. Paul's Chapel. The centerpiece of The World Trick Center will be Spitzer Plaza, a site for alfresco orgies, presided over by a statue in the style of Augustus St. Gaudens, in which the ex-governor is presented with a leering sneer on his face, left arm upraised holding a subpoena, trousers dropped to his ankles, one knee length sock raised to its full length, the other sock drooping down just above the ankle, penis hard and straight at a perpendicular to his torso, and a discarded unopened condom on the ground at his feet. To promote safe sex, the discarded unopened condom will actually serve as a condom dispenser. ?
The World Trump Center
While it's true the buildings will be cheap, shoddy, glitzy, and as ugly as sin, at least they will be tall and they'll go up virtually overnight. Just don't walk anywhere near the cranes at the construction site...
July 26, 2008
I am the true literary heir of Ralph Ellison. If you can tell me the name of one person of color in these United States in the Year of Our Lord 2008 who is more invisible than I am, please do so. My ideas, which in all modesty I feel constrained to suggest are not unamusing, have not of late reached an audience much wider than Mama Babs, 41, and occasional dinner guests, many of whom are admittedly heavy hitters in their own right. I enjoy 42's visits the most. He always brings along an extra chippie for me, although on those rare occasions when Mama Babs is away I have to settle for 41's sloppy seconds. Happily, they are not all that sloppy.
September 12, 2008
Here is my entry for the "South Park Contest for Transgression of Political Correctness":
The time: 1955. The place: Cornhole, Georgia, a one hundred percent white rural hamlet inhabited by shotgun shack dwelling, inbred, feeble minded white trash of the hillbilly variety. The only public eatery in town is The Pig-Lick Restaurant, owned by one Lester Maddogs, future governor of the great state of Georgia. On a hot summer day, into town rides Rosa Perks, a Negro (and first cousin of Rosa Parks) — as she would have been referred to at the time by the polite elements of Cornhole society, had there been any such — and a transsexual, accompanied by her business manager, the Reverend Jackie Jefferson (who, coincidentally, happens to be a half-brother of George Jefferson). Capitalizing on the nascent Civil Rights Movement, in front of the former gas station that serves as the Cornhole, Georgia City Hall, Rosa Perks announces her plan to hold a Shit-In to integrate the white Ladies Room in The Pig-Lick Restaurant. (The Ladies Room for colored patrons is a ditch in the woods behind the restaurant.) The Reverend Jackie Jefferson approaches Mr. Maddogs, who at the time is pissing by the side of the road, and suggests that if he makes a generous contribution to P.U.L.L. (People United to Leverage Loot), Rosa Perks will consent to hold her Shit-In elsewhere...
October 23, 2008
During our brief conversation this afternoon, 41 looked stricken. He told me I'm going deep-sea fishing alone with Dick Cheney tomorrow morning. I fear the worst ...
October 24, 2008
When I say I think of my life as one of Y-1 variant traversals of N+/-X dimensional space, with differential probabilities for four values of Y, what exactly am I saying? That if this world doesn't exist, if we are all merely something approximating characters in the bad dream of a demiurge such as might be hypothesized by a second century Gnostic, then we set Y to equal one with a five percent probability. That if this world is an Existentialist wasteland in which the current life being lived is all that will ever exist, then we set Y to equal two with a ten percent probability. That if this world is part of a JudeoChristoIslamic universe consisting of this life followed by an afterlife spent in some kind of Heaven or Hell or Purgatory, then we set Y to equal three with a one-thousandth of one percent probability. And that if the current lifetime on this world is one of many lifetimes on many worlds that some version of the core "I" will experience over many millennia, then we set Y to equal an integer between 4 and Y-1 with an 84 and 999/1000th percent probability. The assigned probabilities are my best guesses. Yours no doubt would likely be at least somewhat different. For the moment we will ignore more complex solutions in which the value of Y is either less than one or fractional.
Copyright 2009 Ron Bass
Ron Bass's Barack W. Bush is certain to offend most those who expect to be offended least. It has thus has found its way to The View From Outside.Ron's prose reminds me of the cinematography on the old Batman television series: rich colors set in high contrast, popping out of the screen like something psychedelic but marshalled to a purpose. You'll see what I mean when you consider that Ron's protagonist is the scion of Barbara Bush and Barack Obama Senior, that the town of Cornhole, Georgia has a polite society, and that "appointing [Condi] as Secretary of State was my half-bro's one smart move as President. And don't you believe that Sweet Jesus demeanor of his. He's been pronging Condi all but senseless for years."
I have attended readings of Ron's work a number of times, at various locations all within the boundaries of New York City's Greenwich Village. The reception of Ron's sense of humor seems always to include laughter mingled with little gasps, as if dinner partners disagreed over whether to be amused or outraged -- or shocked that they may be in the process of discovering one of New York's best-kept literary secrets.Barack is an excerpt from Ron's novel, To My Twenty-Fifth Century Biographers.
—DR, March 20, 2009
Copyright 2009 Dan Roentsch
by Dan Roentsch
I know that your social consciousness is haunted by the question: "What's happening on the same-sex marriage front in North America?"
Perhaps you are gay and crave the benefits accruing to participants in Western Civilization's longest-lived feudal institution.
On the other hand, you may be preoccupied with this question because you would like to see the Constitution amended to ensure that the evildoers do not acquire the sanction of law for deploying their deviance at orifices made coital only by craft and the suspension of disbelief.
Perhaps your interest is piqued by the California Supreme Court's opinion that gay men and women have the right to acquire the special legal status of "married," by California's subsequent consideration of Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, or by your rumination upon such artifacts as the following:
"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."
That, in case you do not recognize it, is the statecraft of one Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado. It is the so-called "marriage amendment," notable in that it is not an amendment to reform, reinforce, or reinterpret the powers of the national government, nor to refine, reform, or reinterpret the rights of the citizens. Rather, it introduces into the federal Constitution, for the first time, the concept of "marriage," solely in order to state who is not permitted to participate in it.
Whom, you may ask, is the natural victim of same-sex marriage? You might even ask it with a smirk. But the Right has come prepared with the same victim with which the Left regularly shields itself; to wit, the national toddler collective.
This collective — like all collectives — has needs. The faith-based precincts have declared that children need rearing by mommies and daddies. Mommies must have been born possessing a vagina. Daddies must have been born possessing a penis.
And why does a child need heterosexual parents? As near as I can tell, the only reason it needs them is so that it may more easily fit in with the other children of heterosexual parents.
This argument, the argument from conformism, carries profound weight with the mossback demos, and this weight is not supported by its logic. In fact, it rarely takes the form of any kind of argument, logical or not. It is communicated generally by implication through the myriad "shoulds" appealling to the fear of the ideal citizen, ready to be lead, and whose cognitive life may be reduced to a series of calculations on how best to disappear into the background. To this end he tallies the advantages he has in flattering the prejudices of the demos: such advantages include where he was raised and schooled, who raised and schooled him, which friends he had, how well they dressed, how absent from his life was any dream of freedom that might have made them envy him, and his willingness to sacrifice said dream as soon as such envy could plausibly be anticipated. Similarly with any brains he may have evidenced.
It is this cipher's fear of isolation that accounts for the instant approbation he gives to any argument refereencing the welfare of the toddler collective. And when the subject is same-sex marriage, the toddler collective will be enlisted again as a moral human shield, this time to protect America from pronouncing as "mainstream" an incongruous pairing of genitals. The child of such a union — the issue of someone's womb and someone's loins — will be deprived the advantage of a family that would otherwise make him inconspicuous; that will not roil the pure waters of his little mind when he peers out at the age of four upon his playmates and observes that each is committed to the care of porcine mommies and swinish daddies.
And why stop at crying over children of homosexuals? What about the children of intelligent heterosexual parents? It is hard on a child when he discovers that his mother is the only woman on the block who does not keep a pack of cigarettes and a styrofoam spittoon at her bedside. Now add to that the trouble he will face when he repeats, in the kiddie quorum of daycare, his father's skeptical dilations on the Holy Trinity.
It is unlikely that churchgoers will have anytime soon an opportunity to present an amendment to the Constitution banning, for the sake of the children, the marriage of intelligent men and women. But they are resolved to draw a line in the sand before any more children are allowed to infer, from parental banter, that oral sex is the main event.
Is there any notion more cherished by the bourgeois of all parties than the notion that one has the right, if not to fit in, then at least to have a chance to fit in? The coloration may be different on the political left than on the right, but the yearning to swim in the mainstream is common to Republicans and Democrats, Fox and MSNBC, Oprah Winfrey and Laura Schlesinger, Crips and Bloods. — In short, what television and newspapers describe as "the entire political spectrum."
But the right wing of that "spectrum" wants its children and yours to have an equal right to file down their fangs — an equal right to hear the rules of a society grateful for its members' anonymity, learn those rules, and follow them; an equal chance to get his mortgage approved, get promoted, and, perhaps most important, an equal opportunity to demonstrate his fear of the strange and his contempt for outsiders.
The left wing of that spectrum wants the talented, intelligent, and skeptical — i.e., the damned — to live on the outside, so long as the outside is accorded the same approbation as the inside, and is accoutered with approximately the same comforts. This is the lemming left of the "rebel" artist who, unable to get a living from General Electric, concludes that the logical alternative is to get a living from the federal treasury. He has resigned himself to a soft-core version of Hell, the version that resembles a studio apartment near a college campus: a poseur's Hell in which the vast demotic mass still tolerates him, greets him with a kiss, and regards his damnation an alt salvation.
But at least he senses that brilliance, when it comes, comes from the outside, bursting in upon the middle, enlightening it, nudging it, disquieting it; it somes from the toilers at night, marching down Kerouac's side of the highway, looking at the stars while the mainstream stares at the pale blue oval over its dinner tray.
So urgent is the desire of said bourgeois middle to make sure future generations will feel comfortable walking in the same rhythm that it claims for children the right to "be conceived with a natural biological heritage," which includes "children's rights to be born from the union of one natural, unmodified ovum and one natural, unmodified sperm."
Imagine redressing that grievance. But before you do, remember that the right demanded above is not a right to have something or do something, but a right to be something one is not and cannot possibly become; a right to the removal of a constituent cause of one's existence. And what of the multitude of infertile heterosexuals that has availed itself of modified gametes to effect the creation of a human? But the advocates of this position have already considered this particular slippery slope. The same author who crafted the language above about a child's right to come into existence without laboratory aid, asserts courageously that her argument must only be enlisted in the cause of thwarting crafty lesbians.
Opposite-sex couples have used these technologies since their inception, but as an exceptional intervention to treat infertility, not as the norm. The focus that same-sex marriage has placed on these technologies has alerted us to previously unrecognized ethical issues — since same-sex couples can be expected to resort to them as a matter of course.
(Somerville, Margaret. "Gay Rights, Children's Rights." MarriageDebate at the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. 15 July 2005. 28 Feb. 2008. <http://www.marriagedebate.com/2005/07/gay-rights-childrens-rights-margaret.htm>)
(Imagine the indignant Q and A in that courtroom. Prosecutor: "I'm sure the jury would like to know whether or not you used this fertility technology as an exceptional intervention or as a matter of course. Well?" Sappho: "I ... I ..." Judge: "Answer the question, Ms. Prill." Sappho: "Mat - Matter of course." Judge: "Order! Order in the court!")
Unfortunately for those who subscribe to this distinction, it is one that can be used just as easily by same-sex couples to distinguish the righteousness of their claim compared to the pragmatism of the infertile. That is, we can just as easily observe that infertile women use reproductive technology "as a matter of course," and that fertile women can be expected to use these technologies "as an exceptional intervention to treat" an unfortunate aversion to penis.
I know that the true-believers will consider the foregoing a mere manipulation of words, semantics, trickery. I assure you it is no such thing. It is, rather, the comeuppance offered by a rational universe to minds that make drop-dead generalizations ("a child has the right to be born of unmodified sperm and ovum") from which they exempt themselves arbitrarily ("unless his parents are infertile heterosexuals"). Since selecting sexuality as the essential, distinguishing characteristic is completely arbitrary, it is no more valid than selecting comparative fertility as the essential, distinguishing characteristic. And, as demonstrated, once that is accomplished it is fertile women who use reproductive technology only in exceptional cases, and infertile women who use it as a "matter of course."
What is it that provokes men and women to formulate sophisms such as these, dress them in a verbal style suited for forensic geneticists, and cling to them like the Irish ghost in Danny Boy? The answer, I submit, is faith. Never mind faith in what. The Old Ways, God's ways, nature. It matters little, when you close your eyes and leap, whose hand you expect to land in.
Faith pits the cognitive method necessary for actually living your life against the cognition-killing non-method necessary for increasing the power of prophets and their cults.
And yet, I would ask you to sympathize with the person of faith. He mediates a conflict within himself. A conflict between his perception and his dogma. He is wary of every upcoming perception, as it may be the one that throws this conflict into all-out war. Since his dogma — being dogma — may not be revised, he must massage his perceptions. But this requires cognitive effort, and avoiding cognitive effort was the reason he became a person of faith to begin with.
He thus prefers the village and the province. There, odds are, he will not see images of a broader world and anything different today than he saw yesterday, and yesterday he had an explanation for the evidence of his senses and its seeming contradiction of his dogma.
But bring him images of a broader world and the story is different. In the world at large the most repugnant heretic may appear to live as effectively as he, if not more so. Sometimes he appears to live effectively not in spite of his blasphemy, but because of it. The adherent of faith must satisfy himself with excuses even he recognizes as last-resort, medieval comforts: for example, that the benighted who surround him are simply superior actors hiding the anguish that knows no name, or that the scars attending any real ambition are scars that could have been avoided by folding himself into the palm of the Lord, or that he is happy now but Hell awaits.
But even sophisticated rationalizations become difficult to manage as they accumulate in the adherent's consciousness. Juggling them becomes a tax on his overall capacity for rationalization. And as the time he must dedicate to rationalizing increases — time recalling the rationalizations he has learned from self-help authors, pastors, prayer-breakfast leaders, and mom — he finds himself with less time to think about his ambitions, the arts, eros, or anything else that might make his life a pleasure to live.
It is relief from cognitive overload that the individual of faith seeks in the hand-holding devotions of his fellows; a chance to perceive the external world without wrapping every other perception in a sheath of rationalization. And it is to relieve the burdens of rationalization that he seeks to ban legally the more blatant offenses to his faith.
The pronouncement that he is on a mission to save children from the strange and society from a bloodshot morning after is a swindle, and not less so because he himself is its first intended mark. If calamity could be relied upon consistently to attend the pursuit of pleasure by one's own lights, you wouldn't need to tell the children, just show them pictures of the disemboweled.
But if same-sex marriages appear to work, if they appear to bear auspicious fruit, then the person of faith must dedicate yet another fraction of his frontal lobe to reconciling that appearance with his dogma. If his children notice that these marriages appear to work, they might wonder what all the fuss is about. Worse, they might ask what all the fuss is about. Worse still, they might make the "are-you-nuts" face when they hear the answer you've been trying to convince yourself isn't stupid.
And if it appears to work, it might encourage others, unfaithful others, others who do not read the right books or atttend the right weekly meetings ... might encourage these others to attempt even more blasphemous arrangements, which might appear to work, requiring ...
This is enough to bruise the forehead of any adherent of faith, no matter how many times he has read Mere Christianity.
But I have said all of the foregoing as a preamble to this assertion: same-sex marriage is a bad idea.
It is a bad idea because marriage is a bad idea.
Saying that a man should have the freedom to marry other men is analogous to saying he should have the freedom to make himself the vassal of another man. Both institutions - marriage and vassalage - are feudal, and if getting an official, legal status of having sworn allegiance-unto-death to a quitrent-charging lord were a legal status "enjoyed" by consenting heterosexuals, then equal protection under the law would demand that homosexuals be permitted to enter into the same arrangement with one another, provided lord and vassal both consent.
But how absurd would that spectacle be? And how absurd is it to see intelligent men and women rushing to join in an archaic connubial arrangement simply because it is a status recognized by the government and respected by their parents?
Marriage as a legal institution is obsolete because it is a vestige of the society of status surviving in a society which, on its good days, remembers it is supposed to be a society of contract.
The major difference in these two types of society lies in their different manners of establishing legal obligation. In a society of status, legal obligations of one person to another are determined by who they are; in a society of contract, legal obligations are determied by what one agrees to.
Marriage is a weird hybrid of these institutions. It is entered into on terms of consent, like a contract, but its terms are largely decreed by statute and precedent. Prenuptial agreements represent an attempt to override status with contract, but these meet with varying levels of success, depending on the jurisdiction and the judge. Further, entering the institution of marriage forcibly alters the obligations of others (e.g., employers, insurers, fornicators/adulterers) to those enjoying (or penalized by) the "married" status.
In a society of contract, strictly speaking, the legal institution of marriage — and the special status of the married before the law — would be abolished. And marriage would be replaced by civil contracts.
Progress toward reclaiming a society of contract from the forces of status means civil contracts for heterosexuals, not marriage for homosexuals.
And these contracts would, as contracts are wont, differ not just from state to state, but from arrangement to arrangement, couple to couple, gang to gang. This is not to say that marriage could not occur, and marriage ceremonies may not be had. It is only to say that, once they have been had, the participants' legal status is not altered as a result. If the parties to the contract complain later, a judge will review contract and conduct and render a judgment, no differently than he would if he were considering the complaint of a general construction contractor on the conduct of his glazier.
Those who wish to dismiss this theory out-of-hand will no doubt make use of children to do so. But asking, "Who protects the children?" in this case is not frivolous. At least, it is not as frivolous as most grabs for power and public prudery made in their name.
In a society that is used to conventional marriages not only as a source of stability, but also of physical safety for children, it is reasonable to ask who safeguards these children if the legal status of "married" is abolished.
And the answer is, precisely the same people who are responsible for it now. - And who, to varying extents, succeed or fail. For you may be certain of one thing in the legal system of the United States, and that is that there is not one judge in any jurisdiction who, when asked to render a decision on the abuse or neglect of a child, first asks if his parents are legally married. If he did, if he lightened his judgemnt or cared less for a helples victim on the grounds that his parents had not entrapped each other with the legal conundrum that is marriage, he would be dispatched forthwith from the bench, perhaps racing ahead of a mob.
You may sense that I am missing the wider point of discrimination suffered by gay men and women at the hands of federal and state governments and large corporations. I assure you that I am not. I have fully considered the causes of this discrimination, and have discovered that they have nothing to do with sexual orientation except as a collateral consequence of discrimination against the single. Inheritance tax discrimination, discrimination against the unmarried partner in personal injury statutes (specifically the right to sue for loss of consortium), discriminations in probate law, workers' comp, testimony privilege, and so on, have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not one is gay, and everything to do with whether or not one is legally single and living with a partner with which one has an extra-legal arrangement — what the philosophically castrated like to term a "committed relationship."
If you believe that acquiring a marriage license is part of one's compulsory metriculation through adulthood — an unquestioned event occurring as inevitably as graduating from school, acquiring a job, breeding brats, fondling your boss's ego, paying off your mortgage, retiring, entering a nursing home, dying, meeting God, fondling God's ego — then I would ask you to step outside that particular box and think about marriage as if it were a phenomenon you had only heard of a day or so ago. I think that in this state of mind you might be prepared to see that there are a number of reasons for not being married, and that some of these reasons are quite sensible. Granting that there will always be people who wish to share, for the time being or for life, erotic passion and day-to-day responsibility with someone else, I submit that among this group will be that rational segment that resists the notion that these desires must naturally end in a feudal arrangement, defined, endorsed, and enforced by the state, often to the misery of those who wish to get out of it and the equal misery of many with no choice but to stay in.
Well, what will same-sex marriage advocates have to say to their single friends of such mind, gay and straight? Gay and straight, these enlightened, marriage-resisting partners will no doubt go to their married friends - gay and straight - to ask them to aid them in their fight against the discriminations listed above, discriminations favoring those who enter the feudal arrangement.
And how will same-sex marriage advocates rejoin? Doesn't the fact of their fighting to join the feudal mainstream suggest they will tell their single friends to suck it up? That if they don't like the feudal arrangement, they should maybe see about being more mainstream in their views? That they should stop whining and get married already?
Advocates of same-sex marriage aren't fighting for anybody's rights. They are speaking no truth to power, they are chanting ritual to join the country club, the club that keeps unmarried people out, the one that subjects and will continue to subject - with no protest from same-sex marriage advocates - single men and women to the same old injustice.
I have no doubt that gay marriage will be embraced by the mainstream eventually. Anyone struggling to run with the lemmings assures the rest of the herd that their mindless race for the cliff is enviable and exclusive.
Refusing to run with them may irritate them for the time being, but they have bigger problems up ahead.
Copyright 2009 Dan Roentsch
In Run with the Lemmings I make two arguments. The first is the argument against faith. The second is an argument against embracing bourgeois values in the name of romantic revolt.
This note considers the first argument, the argument against faith. The salient point is:
Faith pits the cognitive method necessary for actually living your life against the cognition-killing non-method necessary for increasing the power of prophets and their cults.Some time ago, in another essay, I wrote:
Protestants make the Holy Spirit — the silent partner in the Trinity — a more significant agent than do the Catholics, averring that He — or It — invades the prostrate personality, deprives it of whatever individuality, ego, and art it may once have possessed, and supplies it instead with conformity, humility, and stained glass. No mortal effort required or even appreciated. All the sinner has to do is suffocate his brain and ignore the screams.It is a distinction of those vivisecting the public psyche that they relate every movement of muscle to motivation en masse, rather than to the mechanisms of individual psychology that lead sheep to join their particular flocks.
Consider a common example given for the motivations of the Taliban in forcing illiberal values on its people, and attacking nations that did not do likewise. The motivation for such beliefs is usual traced to some brummagem hauteur in the way the nation or the culture "feels" after perceiving itself exploited.
But when a man on a horse chases down a fleeing woman because her head is uncovered, he is not a unit of East avenging itself on a carrier-unit of West. It is a man hating a woman for some slight he perceives her offering to him personally. What he tells Nat Geo afterwards is generally for the consumption of children and Hegelians.
With this in mind, I submit that the motivation to faith is not a cultural reaction against the complexities of scientific analysis or the mechanized world, but rather a desire to avoid using one's mind first-hand coupled with the desire to live an effective life nonetheless.
It is the cognitive dissonance resulting from the desire for a world that conforms to faith, and one's observation of a natural world that resists even the really popular wishes, that leads to the acts of stupidity and horror for which the race has become renowned. Party, religion ... these are all abstractions raised on that fundamental dissonance in the head of every person who hopes against his senses.
This is also why there can be no person of faith who also has integrity. If you attempt to live your life by reason you may not be successful, but you will never be confronted by reality with a demand to live your life by some other cognitive method.
Persons of faith, on the other hand, can only live by the principles non-rationality until they have to eat, blink, or stop at a red light.
—DR, March 20, 2009
Copyright 2009 Dan Roentsch
You know the name of the website now, and you have seen the little slogan. Why, you no doubt wonder, would anyone want to draw such a line in the sand. Me they can kill? You, they own? Why not, "Me they can put on probation. You they can pat on the back."
"Me they can kill .. you they own!" is quoted from the film Papillon. Papillon, a prisoner on Devil's Island, makes the observation to his toadying comrade Dega, whose attempts to be a model prisoner living by the rules and pleasing his masters make him ineffectual as a human.
I expect you will hear in this choice of words an unwillingness to equivocate, and that you will understand why I hear the squealing of beaten dogs in the garrulous, nine-to-five polemics of the fatally collegial.
In the same vein in a distinctly different venue, HL Mencken described the position on the American totem occupied by the farmer, and noted that to condemn the farmer was as fearful an enterprise as rebuking the Holy Spirit. Mencken then announced that he would undertake such condemnation on the grounds that he was already damned.
Those are the thoughts that motivate the work appearing on these pages. Work that says there is nothing worse than being owned and anyway we are all killed by something.
—DR, March 11, 2009
Copyright 2009 Dan Roentsch