Thursday, January 27, 2005

And We Shall Know Ye By Your Sluts

I receive actually very little spam, and most of what I do receive I'm able to filter-out. But there's this new (to me) genre I have been reading because I find it fascinating. It's the "slutty housewife" spam. Most of it is just "come over while my sack-of-shit husband is away," but this one really caught my attention ...

Janice ?

Your night has been confirmed with Janice.

Time: Evening
Location: Her Home within 1 mile of you
Attire: Dress casual, bring swimwear
Expectation(s): Pizza/movie, then the "real" fun...or whatever comes first.
Quote from Janice: "My husband is out of town for the whole week. If the first affair goes over well, let's just say it will be a wild week. Bring your trunks for the hot-tub too. I have all my lingerie ready for this. Can't wait to meet you."
I mean — ohmigod — are they paying Rick Moody to write this stuff? Because of course it will not be enough just to fuck Janice, I will need pizza first. And

I must be reminded not once but twice to "bring swimwear." Swim trunks, that is — no Speedos in Janice's neighborhood. (And, honey, the lingerie really isn't going to work in the hot tub, trust me.)

What kind of culture is it in which whores are so prudish? Janice, baby ... can I not be naked in your hot tub? Is that just too naughty? Or unyhygenic? Is that it? Are you concerned, as slatternly housewife hooker of the neighborhood, that I might by dint of our "wild week-long affair" defile the purity of your hot tub and give the kids crabs or scabies or something?

And "Janice"? What — Janice Brady? What the fuck?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Get Away From Me You Psycho

America, it's been over between us for a long time. I have been trying to maintain a friendship for the sake of the kids, but this is the last straw. I wanted them to know the good things about you, about how you used to be, about how you gave me so much.

But then you go and do something like THIS.

I have no choice but to place a restraining order on you, America. This means, America, that you can not come within 100 yards of me or my family, or you will be shoved into your great big prison-industrial complex. (Maybe that new faith-based prison in Florida!)

What did you have to go be like that for, huh?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Cozy Brown Snow of the East

There's not much prettier than new snowfall on New York. Just 24 hours later, however ...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

You Eat That?

I have little experience with actual America. Lillet knows better.

We were some five hours yet only 100 miles outside of Brooklyn, at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. I was surprised to see the rest stop as busy as Grand Central at rush hour. Well, okay, not that busy. But surprisingly busy. Why was everyone wearing sweats? There's still Roy Rogers? What the hell is Cinnabon? Or Freshëns? What the hell is Freshëns and why are they committing these orthographic crimes? Why are two Advil $4??

Such questions did I ponder as Lillet used the Ladies' room. I bought her the Post, the one with the photograph of Arafat's head Photoshopped onto a bowling pin. Her assumption was that I would want to grab some food to go and get back into the car, having already lost so much time to holiday traffic and bad weather. I am a guy. I can be impatient. But I would much rather make a 13 hour drive out of an 8 hour drive than not to sit and have a reasonble, calm meal. So I directed my unbelieving fiancée to Country Kitchen.

Or was it Kuntry Kitchen? I keep wanting to type that. I keep wondering whether I remembered correctly. So I Googled it and found that there is a Kuntry Kitchen and even a Kountry Kitchen but we ate at
Country Kitchen and it was at their website that I found this photograph.

One thing about this photograph is that somebody, presumably several people, finds this appetizing. Someone conceived of the idea, someone hired a photographer, someone prepared this food or else built some sort of model meant to resemble something suggesting food. At least a couple of people sorted through all the photographs and some decision-maker said, this, this one. This is the one that will make people go, Mmm-mmm! Remember that picture we saw on the Internet? Let's pull off here and eat at Country Kitchen!

The other thing about this photograph is that it is a fairly accurate representation of what the people at Country Kitchen will place in front of you and expect you to eat and pay for. I was not surprised by the menu. I knew that fried mozzarella sticks would lead-off the Appetizer section. But I was surprised by our server, a young man so fucking coked-up as to give Scarface himself pause. But wait, no. The way he was shaking, the sweat, the bloodshot eyes and -ewww - what the fuck is running out of his eyes? This guy was on crystal meth. Lovely. Wait a minute ... the entire fucking staff of this restaurant is cranked.

Whatever. We read the Post and pushed objects around on our plates.

I am not a snob about food and certainly not a gourmet. I just think that food ought to be made from relatively fresh ingredients, taste good, and be nutritious. Country Kitchen failed on all three of these very simple counts. And this is not even a fast-food restaurant.

One-third (one-third!) of this country is obese. Not overweight, not fat, but obese. I think that this is less about Americans being indulgent or lazy or stupid as it is about how completely void of nutritive value are most of our choices at places like Country Kitchen. You have to have several helpings of fried mozzarella sticks to get all the amino acids, vitamins, and minerals you need just to have the strength to operate the remote. And if you grow up eating food like this, if you grow up thinking that it is the norm to eat at Interstate rest-stops and to get your food from drive-up windows, then you could end up like the three women I once saw in a Denny's in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I watched the manager unbolt a table from the floor so that these three morbidly obsese women could sit in a booth. He did this so matter-of-factly that I took it to be something he did on a regular basis. Two of these women ordered nachos. One ordered an ice cream sundae.

I once spent a couple of weeks in Italy, eating nightly with Italians in local restaurants. It goes without saying that the food was spectacular. It was also reasonably priced. Never did I have a meal that lasted less than three hours. I believe that eating this way makes not only for a better life, but also for a longer one. And please give me one Euro for each of my dollars before you tell me about how Italians don't get anything else done.

Oh, and why is it that French women don't get fat? It's not because they're eating at Country Kitchen.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

On Se Ressemble Toi et Moi

Trey and I got the SAME SCORE! Obviously, our brains have the same operating system.

Eschat you not!

Don't you love it when someone writes the article that articulates everything you've been thinking about? Well, Walter Davis just did that for me in his excellent piece on the nature of Christian fundamentalism. Here's a sample:

It is hard to conceive the extent of the contempt for life that informs fundamentalism. As a final example, however, a testimonial to the environmental policies of the Bush Administration, consider the quaint piece of fundamentalist folklore known as "dominion theology." This tenet of the faith was openly professed by former Secretary of the Interior James Watt, the mentor of the current Secretary Gale Norton. Dominion theology holds that the Bible commands us to use up the earth's resources. We glut ourselves not just for capitalist greed but by biblical mandate. Indeed, as the end approaches it is our duty to do so globally since there's little time remaining to complete the job and thereby bring that final day ever closer. Besides, why bother preserving the planet. After the Second Coming none of it is going to matter.

Can you belive this "dominion theology" crap? I had no idea!!!

And how about this--

Fundamentalism fixates on sex not by accident or divine decree but by the exigencies of immediate experience. Eros is that force which binds us to life as that blessing which can be lived and loved as an end in itself. It is the spontaneity that weds the child to an innocent and unbridled curiosity; the vitality that resists any restraints imposed on the outpouring of an affective embrace of life in all its forms; the ability to experience the natural prior to and free of the ethical, as a matter of fascination and exploration. Eros is that in us which wants to incarnate itself fully, to expend oneself in investing all of one's energies into life. And when all of this becomes overtly sexual it discovers its innermost meaning: to open oneself to another and incarnate in the body the depth of feeling that two subjects can have toward each other. Sexual pleasure is the temple of a holiness that neither wants nor needs other worlds so completely has it found fulfillment in this one. Such an erotic valuation becomes in poets like Whitman and Blake the prime agent of all human perception; it is in Plato the source of noble laws and institutions; and in Freud it is that which pits itself against the forces of death.

His article limns the pathology behind all forms of religious fundamentalism. As I was reading it, I thought: Isn't it tragic that many evangelicals hate the complex, embodied world and themselves with such raw ferocity? Doesn't it say in John 3:16 that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son..."

It seems some are overlooking what to me are the key words "loved" and "begotten" (the second seeming a gloss of "embodied" to me. It's hard to be embodied, as Jesus would seem to be the first to admit to.

I will try to post a picture of our paperwhites.
They are so joyfully Eros all the way!

I wish all the people who believed in this Rapture codswollop would leave already. Think of all the free stuff that would be left to the reality-based community! We could turn all the Wal-Marts into capybara preserves!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Is That All There Is?

Two days before Trey's and my trip to America for the holidays, I planted the five paperwhite bulbs we had bought. I arranged them in a white casserole dish and surrounded them with some river rocks I got at the 99 cent store on Manhattan Avenue. I was careful not to over-water them, and we embarked on our trip.

When we came back, there were leaves shooting out from the bulbs, about two inches high. It was as primordially exciting as when you start lima beans in clear plastic cups and paper towels in school. Every day the leaves would shoot up higher – Barbie height, and then, surprisingly, beyond, and when our first paperwhite flower popped out we were dazzled. Now all the paperwhites are blooming,
they are two feet tall, splaying themselves on the counter like models nursing hangovers on the beaches of Ibiza. Their fragrance is so overwhelming that when I cook I find myself worried the flowers have fallen into the pasta. I have to keep turning their dish so they don't splay too far – they keep craning towards the bathroom's open door, towards the bright bulbs surrounding the vanity mirror.

What could be more beautiful and useless? I felt tears come, saying to Trey, "They have to be so beautiful in order to be alive." What could be more desperately pragmatic?

Some would argue that the paperwhite's beauty and efficiency and elegance is of such a high degree that it can only prove the existence of an Intelligent Designer. That, like Tom Ford, like Gepetto, like a clockmaker, God arranged and designed the nucleotide bases just so -- to create paperwhites, coelenterates and everything and everyone else. Kind of like "Old McDonald!" -- "here a geode there a ferret everywhereacapybarrraaaaaa…."

My problem with this "intelligent design" business is how deeply Newtonian it is. It assumes that because the world is "complicated" that God must be -- well -- THE most awesome diorama-creator of all times!

But the most beautiful and metaphysical developments in science are all about the quantum nature of the universe, of how everything is relative and works together. Instead of bowing down to "the Creator" (and why do proponents of "intelligent design" then assume that this means that it was the Christian God who was behind all this? I mean, according to a recent announcement from one of our pals at the Discovery Institute, Christians invented science! [That's probably why they torched the library at Alexandria? Since they INVENTED everything scientific they didn't need to keep any records? YEAH!]

Let's all, for a moment, entertain the idea not that "God" is the gold medal winner of "Extreme Diorama!" but that God, not "the Devil," is in the details, as Dylan Thomas suggests:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

Call me crazy, but isn't it so much more amazing to be in awe of "the force that through the green fuse drives the flower" than of Invisible Fucking Grandpa? Does this make me a miserable materialist? That the inexorable drive of the paperwhites to live and bloom makes me cry with happiness? The world AS IT IS is the most awe-insipring thing we have. Each of us is flesh, and each of us has a deeply particular mind and essence. Why isn't that spiritual enough? Why do we need this "Triune" (ewww!) nonsense to appreciate the incredible complexity of being embodied? READ about cognitive science! LOOK at a capybara sometime! Is that not occasion enough for joy?

Someone also paved Manhattan Avenue, someone figured out how to make ceramic casserole dishes oven-safe, someone designed a machine to create the faux-doric fluting along its moderately-priced sides. Someone sells plastic mesh bags of river rocks for the aquaria of the
99 cent store shoppers. Someone prints them with pastel images of waterfalls. And yes, Dear Reader, someone went to the 99 cent store in search of marbles and judged the rocks a suitable alternative as crèche material for five rough, modest bulbs to place on the kitchen counter out of love for her husband. Someone can create the conditions for the paperwhite to grow – someone can love the paperwhite – paint its picture, even -- but I would never presume I could make a paperwhite, and I don't presume that God made it instead.

The human race has some serious daddy issues. Everyone needs to start reading a LOT more Jung, and paying attention to how we can all get along. Maybe God has made us in his image, in a way we have yet to truly fathom. But when we unconsciously cast "God" in OUR image, we are making a terrible, narcissistic mistake.

Ah, Peggy Lee – how I love you. You and I know what the “designer
impostors" will never know -- All that there is is everything, and more.

"Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is..."

Don't you see? All that there is is enough.



Tuesday, January 04, 2005

It Won't Kill You

Lillet and I are back from a week-long trip to America, largely enjoyable apart from all the driving. (Well, and the food.)

Shortly before we left, a History Channel advertisement for a special on the French Revolution started appearing all over New York - on busses, telephone booths, in the subway. The ad featured a red-white-and-blue guillotine and in large print read, FOR TWO HOURS IT WON'T KILL YOU TO LOVE THE FRENCH.

I had meant to take and post a photograph of this ad. In the meantime, we look forward to the next History Channel special, JAZZ IN AMERICA: FOR TWO HOURS IT'S SAFE TO LET SOME BLACK PEOPLE INTO YOUR HOME.

And then, a Frenchman was prompted by the History Channel ad to consider American attitudes towards the French in a New York Times op-ed piece.

(There is also this companion piece, written by a co-author of "Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America's Disastrous Relationship with France."

Happy New Year to all.