Calling All Novelists with a Penchant for Describing Cracked Marble Slabs, Burning Secular Temples and Limping Towers of Power…
So Rep. John Conyers recently spent some quality time with Playboy whilst on an airplane. Reminds me of this bit from way back. Which, as it happens, I worked up into a proper Today in Porn segment for Book Two. What follows is a trifle icky, read at your own risk…
For a while there, comedian Tom Green made a career out of making people uncomfortable, doing with relish the sort of things that might cause reg’lar folks to blanch. So I’m sure he won’t mind if I enlist his imaginary help here.
Picture Green in a major airport – say, O’Hare in Chicago. It’s noon on Friday in July – lots of businessmen headed home, lots of families headed out on vacation. He stops into a Hudson News, wanders over to the magazines. For a while, he feigns interest in Harpers and The Atlantic. Then he reads the cartoons in The New Yorker, puts it back, and gets down to business. Slowly, methodically, he takes a copy of every porn mag on the rack: Playboy, Playboy Book of Lingerie, Penthouse, Hustler, Club, Gallery, Penthouse Letters – the whole shebang. Gets in line behind a mom and her two kids; smiles, says hello when she looks at him and his selections.
Next scene: on the plane. Green has a middle seat, between a youngish businessman and a woman in her fifties. Casually, he reaches into his bag, pulls out his magazines, and begins tearing off the plastic wrappers. The man and woman stare at him, goggle-eyed, but say nothing. Then he starts paging through, the magazine laid flat on his tray table. After a while, he starts making appreciative noises. “Mmm. Mmm-hm. Whoa. Whoof. Geez, will you look at that.” He turns to the businessman. “Will you look at that? That’s incredible. I mean, isn’t that incredible?” Businessman rolls eyes, looks away.
The fiftysomething woman is offended as hell, but can’t bring herself to say anything to Green. She’s too embarrassed to even speak to him. So she gets up, goes to the rear of the plane, and talks to the flight attendant. Flight attendant approaches Green.
“I’m sorry, sir, I’ll have to ask you to put those away. You’re making the other passengers uncomfortable.”
“’Making the other passengers uncomfortable?’ If I smelled bad, would you bring me deodorant and make me put it on?”
“Sir, you can’t read those here.”
“Who says I’m reading? Look, there’s nobody under 18 next to me. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to look.”
“Sir, it’s inappropriate material for…”
“If you’ve got a problem with porn-o-graph-ic the material, take it up with the people at Hudson News. This stuff is for sale in every airport in America, and you’re saying I can’t enjoy it on a plane? I’m not hurting anybody, and I’m not doing anything illegal. Leave me alone.”
“Sir, if you won’t cooperate…”
“Oh, now you’re threatening me? You’re thinking you’d maybe like to take this to court? No – never mind. Forget it. Fine. I’ll put it away. Bunch of fascists.” He closes the magazines, stuffs them into his bag, disgusted.
After a couple of minutes, he pulls out the Penthouse, gets up, and heads for the lavatory. He waits his turn, goes inside, and stays inside. After a while, he begins to moan softly. “Unnnnnnnnh. Ooooaaaaah. Mmmmmm.”
The passengers in the back row get agitated. They speak to the flight attendant. She knocks on the door. “Sir?”
“I’m not FINISHED in here!” snarls Green through the door.
She turns to the passengers, her face full of helpless misery, and shrugs. A couple of minutes and one or two loud cries later, Green emerges from the bathroom, relaxed and grinning. He wipes his hand on his shirt, lets out a contented sigh, returns to his seat, and falls asleep.
If you were a passenger on the plane, would Green’s actions have made you uncomfortable?
[Thanks to JOB for the Conyers tip.]
So, “a casting director has been fired from The Hobbit after placing ads in New Zealand newspapers specifically calling for actors with ‘light skin tones’ and dismissing another actor by telling her she was ‘too dark’ to appear in the film.” The AV Club, God bless ‘em, notes that “Peter Jackson’s production company released a statement clarifying that the casting director had acted totally alone, and that it had never made any explicit specifications that they should only be auditioning white people. All it ever did was make three Lord Of The Rings films without any black people.”
They should have listened. [Scroll down.]
“Lukas points out that one of the beauties of his Bally is that it is asymmetrical. Early pinball machines had symmetrical playfields – symmetrical thumper-bumpers – but in time they became free-form, such as this one, with its field laid out not just for structure but also for surprise. Lukas works in this room – stacks of manuscripts on shelves and tables. He has been working for many months on a book that will weigh five pounds. It will be called Nightmare: The Dark Side of the Nixon Years – a congenially chosen title, implying that there was a bright side. The pinball machine is Lukas’s collaborator. ‘When a paragraph just won’t go,’ he says, ‘and I begin to say to myself, “I can’t make this work,” I get up and play the machine. I score in the high range. Then I go back to the typewriter a new man. I have beat the machine. Therefore I can beat the paragraph.’ He once won a Pulitzer Prize.
“The steel ball rolls into the ‘death channel’ – Lukas’s term for a long alley down the left side – and drops out of side off the low end of the playfield, finished.
“‘I have thought of analogies between Watergate and pinball. Everything is connected. Bumpers. Rebounds. You light lights and score. Chuck Colson is involved in almost every aspect of the Watergate story: the dirty trucks, the coverup, the laundered money – all connected. How hard you hit off the thumper-bumper depends on how hard you hit off the slingshot depends on how well you work the corners. In a sense, pinball is a reflection of the complexity of the subject I am writing about. Bear in mind, I take this with considerable tongue-in-cheek.’
“With another ball, he ignites an aurora on the scoreboard. During the ball’s complex, prolonged descent, he continues to set forth the pinball philosophy. ‘More seriously, the game does give you a sense of controlling things in a way that in life you can’t do. And there is risk in it, too. The ball flies into the ellipse, into the playfield – full of opportunities. But there’s always the death channel – the run-out slot. there are rewards, prizes, coming off the thumper-bumper. The ball crazily bounces from danger to opportunity and back to danger. You need reassurance in life that in taking risks you will triumph, and pinball gives you that reaffirmation. Life is a risky game, but you can beat it.”
- from John McPhee’s 1975 Essay “The Pinball Philosopher,” collected in his book of essays Giving Good Weight. Lukas goes on to an illegal(!) best-of-five match against New York Times film critic Tom Buckley in the game room of a Times Square peepshow hall. It’s an epic contest, and a wonderful essay.
UPDATE: If you’re at all piqued by this rural Mona Lisa, you might like this.
For college graduates and others.
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.