No Pride this year, 2020, 'cause, you know, pandemic. So, from just before the world took its nosedive, the lovely DYKES ON BIKES from Sidney, Australia. 'Cause everyone knows they on their vroom, vroom motorcycles are the best part of any parade. And I didn't forget you boys, a little eye candy for you below.
If you're a longtime fan or subscribe to the newsletter, you may know that Jody died on Christmas day. She'd been ill, but it was nonetheless unexpected and shocking. We spent a low-key Christmas eve, anticipating the unwrapping of gifts in the morning and the preparation of our annual Christmas feast. Jody adored Christmas. We cuddled on the couch watching It's A Wonderful Life and then went to bed early. The next morning, Christmas day, Jody was dead.
One year to the day before she passed, Jody wrote the following and I share it with you.
Sunny and cool. I took a walk with my dog. We walked around our big block of Supermarkets up at the corner of 185th and R.B. Road--it's weird to see those stores from the back because nobody ever goes there, I mean why the hell should they? They shouldn't. Except us (of course), and The Homeless Man.
The Homeless Man lives in the woods somewhere around here, I never found out exactly where--Mary & I took a pile of blankets to him the year when everything in the neighborhood froze solid but The Homeless Man was nowhere to be found, so we went back home where it was messy, piles of papers books and so on all over the place but at least warm and comfy
Anyway, I was telling you: today when I hiked around the alley side, guess who was there? The Homeless Man. We said hello and all that crap and then he threw back the lid of a dumpster that was standing behind QFC--you know how big a dumpster is, pretty goddam big--and he said,
Those were his exact words and I looked. The dumpster was jam-packed to the brim with last weeks' pork chops, lamb chops, steak, hamburger and every kind of pre-packed veggies, all laid out in those styrofoam thingies with the Glad Wrap or whatever it is, nicely sealed over them and everything looking almost fresh with the price stickers still on them. So anyway we chatted a while about how The Homeless Man could take some of the stuff home and cook up a nice stew for himself, except he had no place to cook anything and so forth and so on and then the dog and I walked on because we had to hurry up and do all the shit people have to do to stay alive in this culture and, well, I guess that's about it.
Except for one thing--couple of weeks ago an anthropologist from London phoned me; very nice fellow, lovely Brit accent, wanted to know about Henry Miller and George Leite--you remember George, I spoke of him in my last article. See, there was this piece called "The New Cult of Sex and Anarchy" in Harper's magazine a good while ago and this fellow wanted to know about it because he was writing a book. So I thought, "Well, you know: George's poem about The Mastodon, that poem kind of says it all." So here is that poem for your delectation, OK? To the tune of Tannenbaum:
O Mastodon, O Mastodon,
O broken glass
Comes from your ass.
O Mastodon, O Mastodon,
O broken glass comes from your ass.
O broken glass;
O broken glass
O Mastodon, O Mastodon,
O broken glass
Comes from your ass.
I hereby swear and affirm that these events are true. (Signed) Jody Scott 12/25/06 (rest in peace, dear buddy George). Daughter Lani died 2006, wife Nancy & son Daliel still thriving in California, bless ‘em.
While I take a little break, I invite you to enjoy Jody's summer-themed Incident at the Dog Park.
It is absolutely a work of fiction, and not at all a true story.
Steve began to remonstrate (that means like, protest a bit when you know you are in the right) and at the same time Reba, who always carries a baseball bat on her walks to send the tennis ball spinning a little farther and faster and also to protect against stalkers and suchlike-- Reba snuck up behind the cop.
Just as the cop was saying, "The law states that each of you are subject to a $120 fine or you can appear in court with or without a lawyer to present argument--"
That was the exact moment when Reba hauled off and whacked the officer in the head with her Louisville slugger.
When the bat connected with the cop's skull, the sound was like a watermelon being dropped ten stories down to a cement alley.
Reba wiped her bat with handfuls of grass.
"That's one dead-looking cop," she observed.
read the rest of Incident at the Dog Park
In 1977 when I marched in my first Gay Pride March (it hadn't yet morphed into a parade), I could not have imagined that in my lifetime there would be gay marriage. The prejudice was too deep, too institutionalized, too unquestioned.
For those same reasons I was doubtful America would elect a black president, but then we elected Barrack Obama.
Then in 2016 we elected Donald Trump, America's most constitutionally-ignorant, separation of powers-hating, science-denying, kleptocratic president. Or perhaps we did not elect him, the covert and overt rigging of elections has reached quite a pitch here, but either way, about 1/3 of the population is happy to have an authoritarian Daddy figure relieving them- and the rest of us- of the pesky necessity to think, to adapt, to grow, to grant the right of beingness to others.
These folks are with us always (to paraphrase Jesus), but to see this darkness so ascendant that the U.S. may be turning into a full-on authoritarian state is another thing I never imagined to see in my lifetime. (Apparently I suck at predicting what Americans will do.)
I hope I am wrong, but for many reasons - not just trump, who is as much symptom as cause - I fear rough times are ahead. And not just here in the States. Which makes pride particularly salient in 2019 and henceforth.
Ours has always been a movement that fought for and celebrated the right to live, to love, to fuck (or not, my celibate and asexual friends), to play, to pursue happiness... So remember our history, remember the queers at Stonewall who met riot police with high-kicking chorus lines, and let us never forget that joy is itself a revolutionary act.
As Jody Scott put it, "The best revenge is to flourish and prosper,"
Or, to quote Albert Camus, "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
[For an optimistic view on how this is all going to work out, I suggest Teri Kanefield (twitter.com/Teri_Kanefield, terikanefield-blog.com) and for a pessimistic view I recommend Sarah Kendzior (twitter.com/sarahkendzior, patreon.com/gaslit). I do believe Kendzior is clear-sighted about the present danger in a way most of us cannot confront, but that Kanefield will prove right in the end. I'm just not sure if that end is 5, 20 or 60 years away.]
Gee, looks like our Dear Leaders are at it again. Not content with a system rigged to take the money from your pocket and put it into theirs, they'd also like your children to serve as cannon fodder for a nicely profitable war enterprise. 'Cause nothing swells the coffers of American arms manufacturers like a patriotic war on the sovereignty of some third world nation we outgun a thousand to one.
Yes, you patriots you, Venezuela and Iran pose a terrible threat to your ability to swill beer and own the latest iPhone! So wave those flags high. But just think about this fact for a moment:
EVERY TIME we wage a war somewhere, a decade later there is a huge influx of immigrants from that place to here. So if you morons are so upset about brown people coming here, I suggest you suggest to your Dear Leader that he start a war with Sweden.
In an essay penned during the Bush presidency, Jody speaks truths still all-too-relevant today. Just change the name of the country and president and it could've been written yesterday, because when it comes manipulating YOU to go along with their schemes, everything old is new again.
It's the fight of the century ladies and gents!
In this corner at 440 pounds in brand new, designer satin red-white-and-blue trunks--AMERICA! And in that corner at 40 and one-eighth pounds, crummy, smelly, freezing to death with every rib sticking out, wearing a disgustingly dirty loincloth--AFGHANISTAN.
Oh boy, at last we're all happy. We love a good fight; a good fight proves how brave we are.
Without a good, exciting war our lives are suddenly seen to be empty, pointless, wearisome, unbearable and when you come right down to it--utterly meaningless, so thank God (or the tooth fairy) for this brave new war of ours.
We were all happy when our Leader announced "War is declared"--never mind that only Congress can declare war--never mind that The Enemy is not a nation but only a single, very rich hoodlum (a man we have yet to find).
And we were even happier in the act of dumping billions of dollars' worth of bombs (making munitions manufacturers even richer than they already were) on our enemy--
And never mind that after arming those people against the Russians a few years ago, instead of running out on them and ignoring them, we should have stuck around and begun the hottest red-hot advertising campaign in history, designed to sell them on how much better Our Way is, and with massive supplies and aid.
Aid that works--not dropping peanut butter on people who think peanut butter is either a toy, maybe it's paint? or maybe a scabies cure. They've never seen the stuff before. Their culture, surprise!, is totally different from ours.
In other words you can't just go in and use a people for YOUR purposes, then dump them cold and stupidly wonder "Goodness, why do they hate us? Golly, why do the crazies among these people want to hurt us?"--because that is just plain senseless.
Fed lie after lie, trivialized by constant advertising that adds fuel to the ever-expanding greed for material stuff, our people have become consumers and not much more.
At the top are the Bill Gateses and the computer-tenders and lawyers, the pols and the doctors (wildly highly paid and admired, these latter have killed more people than all wars and car accidents combined but are still worshipped by the peasantry).
I won't even mention the psychiatrists who, lacking a workable technology have hooked millions of children on "medical" drugs. (Note: medical drugs are the same as street drugs. Don't be fooled. A killer caste is a killer caste.)
Today, right now, thousands have been thrown in jail for the crime of being foreign. You think this won't come back like a boomerang and hit you in the teeth?
Our cowardly Puppetmasters LOVE to have a finger up your butt:
"It's war. Your rights are hereby suspended and we, the Government, can do anything we want to, to YOU, and make you eat it and then say how 'patriotic' you are being."
But you're not being patriotic, you are being irresponsible.
Governments do things to cause these wars so they can then strip all of us of our hard-won civil rights.
Don't fall for this oldest trick in the book. Stand up and demand that your leaders act in a sane manner (AND pronounce the word "nuclear" correctly).
I'm mistaken, you say? Read some history, read a book, do a little research, don't just swallow everything the Puppetmasters tell you.
Their first responsibility is to their own class, the people who got them elected, the 0.01% of the population that owns 99.99% of the world's wealth--think about this! What kind of compulsive maniac wants to get (and stay) rich by stripping bare his or her own society? These are not happy people.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all got together and waved our flags for something positive--something truly patriotic for a change; something (like word clearing for instance) that really promotes the common welfare?
The guy who keeps saying "We all must be happy to give up our rights for the duration"--this grim-faced, terribly serious and important fellow never gave up a "right" in his life. Servants, private jets, immunity from accusation no matter how justified, he doesn't have to wait in line with you! He is your Puppetmaster.
He needs that war to impress and oppress YOU, and to stay on top.
If you stop falling for all the codswallop they feed you, these damnfool wars of theirs would come to a flying whoa. The power is in your hands.
If there's a war it's because YOU want and will accept it.
War never does anything good. Not ever.
So get smart, people. Pull up your socks! You can turn this planet into a glass marble (look up "nuclear weapons" in your encyclopedia), or you can open your eyes before it's too late.
Or would you rather sit there eating french fries dipped in ketchup and calling ME a traitor for speaking the truth?
I'm no traitor; I'm the biggest, gutsiest Patriot you ever saw and I'm telling you that only YOU can stop these junior highschool boys (your estimable leaders) from escalating this scuffle into a full-scale war with nuclear weapons.
Every war could be stopped years before it happens--and not by searching YOUR luggage for godsake! That sort of nonsense could go on forever without making YOU one bit safer; why not opt for a solution that works?
Something is very wrong here. You may not know it (because you didn't see it and cannot feel it) but the U.S. has gone down into a steep decline in the past 60 years. You've probably not been aware of the ebbing intelligence of the American reader, but you've surely seen the dehumanizing commercial exploitation of everyone including yourself and your family.
So when Bush says: "You are either with US or with the terrorists" I object to the bullying implicit in this "speechwritery" slogan.
And despite all the expensive help he can rely on, our President still says NUCULAR. Do you think mispronouncing an important word like NUCLEAR is a small thing? A gaffe we can (and must) overlook because we are so "patriotic"?
Let me tell you something: if that's what you think you are an ignorant, bloodthirsty barbarian who can only wind up getting us (as a species) wiped out.
Let me tell you something else, Oogala Caveman: if you mispronounce a word it means you do not have a correct definition for that word. It means you do not know what you are saying.
It's dangerous not to understand the words you use, my friend.
If you don't understand a word it will make you physically sick. You'll get angry. You'll have strange, spinny feelings and won't grasp anything you read about that subject from that point on.
But now we have Pres. Bush, the Commander in Chief of the Army and the Navy AND Education, who doesn't understand the very word upon which the end of our world is about to depend.
My God, do you frantic flag-wavers know what you're doing?
Now listen and listen closely:
It is NOT a small thing to mispronounce a word like "nuclear." If you think it is, obviously you were trained to be a moron.
Also obviously, the Govt does not want you to grow up intelligent. If you were truly intelligent they couldn't get away with half the stuff they always get away with--such as allowing (or encouraging) wars to break out.
War is only a confession that YOU cannot communicate.
Communication is based on words.
If you don't understand (and understand thoroughly) the words you use, you won't be able to communicate and will sooner or later get into serious trouble.
If you happen to be President and cannot pronounce the word "nuclear"--then God help this suffering, soon-to-be-dead planet!
Our whole culture is designed to make you weak, frightened, easy to manipulate. In my book, there is no moral justification for bombing children. Yet you follow blindly and passively and call it patriotism.
If waving a flag gives you the illusion of security, go ahead and wave one--but YOUR responsibility goes far beyond that.
Which brings us back to subliteracy. This same Pres is in charge of creating a new "educational program" to be used by every child in this country. And he hasn't the slightest idea of how to do it or what it means--need I say more?
"Sleep tight, ya morons!" Remember Holden Caulfield? That's what Holden yelled out when he left his dorm for the wild streets of NY, disgusted with his prepschool and all the rich, smug, self-satisfied students in it.
So, ladies and gentlemen, put down your bombers and go get yourself word-cleared so you can find out what the hell is going on on this planet we share. Before doing so is beyond our grasp. Forever.
I know that "forever" is a big word but careless people who say NUCULAR are just the ones to finish us off as a species--kaput, extinct.
"We'll meet again, don't know where don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day" as they all sang in Dr. Strangelove before the whole thing blew up...remember?
Dropping bombs after YOU mess up isn't what I'd call a heartwarming act of courageous American heroism; it's more like (not too put too fine a point on it)...the mind-numbing stupidity of the quasi-sane.
You can stop any war years before it breaks out--but only if you're sane, and sanity begins with a true understanding of WORDS.
This is the most important lesson you'll ever learn.
read all Jody's essays
When I was growing up in California, going to Disneyland was a part of life. Every several years my mom, sister and I would pack up the station wagon, head south on the 101, then with high excitement, buy our coupon books at the gate. During one visit my mother and sister wanted to go to the Enchanted Tiki Room but I wanted to visit the Swiss Family Treehouse, so we split up. My attraction sucked. Mom and sis praised the Tiki Room highly and I wished I'd gone to it instead.
It was many years before I was at Disneyland again and finally got to go to the Tiki Room; I expected an animatronic paradise of lush jungle and exotic singing birds. Imagine my disappointment when instead it consisted of bleacher seats in the round and a pantomime of a corny nightclub act with birds.
Sometimes reading a book is like the Tiki Room. This month's Censorable Ideas is about 2 such novels,
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Riding the Centipede by John Claude Smith.
Orlando is a novel praised in breathless whispers as "groundbreaking," and it's true, the notion of fluid gender roles would've been something new and shocking for its day, and the fact that the protagonist changes sex in the novel might be taken as prima facie evidence of challenging social gender-role orthodoxy, but Orlando the titular character, as first a boy and then a man and then a woman, largely conforms to the social expectations of each of these identities, and so I think Orlando the novel gets more credit than it earns in this regard.
Maybe, like with the Tiki Room, I'd read so much praise of it before actually reading the novel, that it became more in my imagination than it could possibly be, and disappointment was inevitable, but my overarching impression was this is a novel that marries the worst instincts of chick-lit (albeit at a far superior level of writing) with the effetest of the effeteness of upper class idleness.
"Oh I'd love to be a writer!" Orlando cries for 400 freaking years, like a teenager writing in her diary, and, despite his/her four centuries of experiences, learns nothing, grows not a wit as a character, remains the same overly-sensitive, narcissistic juvenile throughout. Perhaps it was Woolf's intention to show that no amount of life experience can overcome the debilitating effects of too much wealth combined with too little purpose, though I doubt it, but that is certainly my take-away theme.
Now as a very long love letter to Vita Sackville-West, which Orlando is widely considered to be, it is astonishing; there is much humor to be enjoyed, and Woolf is undoubtedly a master of her craft- her prim, precious, introverted prose is perfectly matched to the subject matter, but I find the character of Orlando to be too useless a waste of space to be able to like the novel.
Riding the Centipede presents itself as transgressive fiction, "a genre of literature which focuses on characters who feel confined by the norms and expectations of society and who break free of those confines in unusual or illicit ways," but what it ultimately delivers is something quite different.
"Riding the Centipede," we are told by Marlon, longtime junkie and denizen of the underworld, is the ultimate drug-fueled experience. Created by a mythologized William S. Burroughs and offered just once a year exclusively to one recipient, Marlon has been chosen. Now all he has to do is survive. Centipede is the story of his journey, and his sister's parallel quest to find and rescue him, assisted by a world-weary P.I.
There is of course also an evil "Ubermensch" antagonist, and an assortment of unsavory characters whose debased wishes Marlon must fulfill in order to receive the drug to take him to the next level of his ride.
The thing about transgressive fiction that makes it interesting and valuable, is that, at its best, it leads us to other avenues of contemplating reality, to different ways of thinking or experiencing that transgress society's paradigm in order to gain a bigger, freer point of view.
Not so with Riding the Centipede. We get all the trappings of TF, but none of the payoff.
There is, ultimately, no ultimate experience; we never get to take that ride and the characters who seek it... well it ends badly for them. The characters for whom it does not end badly find happiness in a conventional life that conforms to society's expectations.
Smith has undoubted talent, but this novel reminds me of the pulp lesbian and gay fiction of the 1950's and 60's: it was OK for characters to indulge their "deviance" so long as by novel's end they converted, died or were punished. The characters in Centipede likewise indulge their deviance but in the end, convention's imperatives are upheld. I felt that in the back matter of this ebook, there could've appropriately been an animated GIF of Nancy Reagan holding a sign proclaiming, "Just Say No." Which is what I say about Riding the Centipede.
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