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Archives for July 2007

Regret and Neglect

“- Waste and horror – what I might have been and done that is lost, spent, gone, dissipated, unrecapturable. I could have acted thus, refrained from this, been bold where I was timid, cautious where I was rash.
I need not have hurt her like that.
Nor said this to him.
Nor broken myself trying to break what was unbreakable.
The horror has come now like a storm – what if this night prefigured the night after death – what if all thereafter was an eternal quivering on the edge of an abyss, with everything base and vicious in oneself urging one forward and the baseness and viciousness of the world just ahead. No choice, no road, no hope – only the endless repitition of the sordid and the semi-tragic. or to stand forever, perhaps, on the threshold of life unable to pass it and return to it. I am a ghost now as the clock strikes four.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Sleeping and Waking,” from The Crack-Up.

This passage has stayed with me, and of late, that list of “need nots” has come to include neglected things – unanswered letters, unread books, unimplemented plans. Places where something has been asked of me, however oddly or casually, and I have failed to respond because I am looking up my own ladder, fretting over my own requests. So there’s that.

Mudflap Girls

The Wine Drinker, The Final Chapter

Take That, Patrick Bateman

“Did you know that Whitney Houston’s debut LP, called simply Whitney Houston, had four number-one singles on it ?
Did you know that, Christie ? It’s hard to choose a favorite among so many great tracks, but ‘The Greatest Love of All’ is one of the best, most powerful songs ever written about self-preservation, dignity. Its universal message crosses all boundaries and instills one with the hope that it’s not too late to better ourselves. Since, Elizabeth, it’s impossible in this world we live in to empathize with others, we can always empathize with ourselves. It’s an important message, crucial really. And it’s beautifully stated on the album.”
– Patrick Bateman, “American Psycho,” the movie.

Of course, Bateman is a brutal, soulless, misogynistic murderer, so he might not be perfectly sincere in this sentiment. Then again, since it’s a song about “empathizing with ourselves,” and therefore amenable to the narcissist, maybe he is being sincere.

At any rate, Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” is not about loving yourself. It’s about wanting to find somebody else to love. And David Byrne covered it:

Where’s the Video Camera When I Need It?

First Daughter: “I’m so glad I’ll always have you and Mommy to help tell me what to do.”

Today in Porn, Pop Lyrics Nostalgia Edition

1986: I was 13. If memory serves, the big albums were Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet and The Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill. People generally liked one or the other. I fear that I bought the former, and later, traded an Eddie Murphy comedy tape for the latter. Which, famously, featured the following lyric on its first hit single, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)”:

Man living at home is such a drag
Now your mom threw away your best porno mag.

Ah, those sweet days of youth…

Today in Porn, Hit Parade Edition

The Manhattan Lawyer sends along this article, which includes perfect line after perfect line. It’s almost worth just copying the whole article. But here are just a few gems about Mr. Skin, a website whose “chief sexecutive officer” is “concerned about the nudity” in Hollywood movies: “who’s naked, and what they show.”

* “Mr. McBride, 44, a former futures trader, made nude-scene compilations on VHS tapes as a hobby before starting the site in 1999.” (Find what you love and do that!)

* “…the movie studios not only tolerate Mr. McBride but also court him by sending advance screeners of DVD releases. ‘The movie companies aren’t stupid,’ Mr. McBride said. ‘I’m a guest on radio shows at least 300 times a year as the expert on celebrity nudity in film. If I’m on the radio talking about a movie like “Ask the Dust,” and telling guys, “You’ve got to check it out: Salma Hayek has a full-frontal at the 33-minute mark,” it’s going to make guys want to rent or buy the movie.’” (300 times a on celebrity nudity in film! 300 times a year!)

* “’That’s why filmmakers and Hollywood put sex scenes in movies — because it sells,’ Mr. Sokel said…’This is normal; you’re not a freak for wanting to see a Hollywood star in a film be naked.’” (And there it is.)

* “The site’s membership is 98.4 percent men; members spend an average of 13 minutes at the site per visit.” (Say no more. Please, say no more.)

* “’But it is an R-rated site, not a porn site, so hopefully men aren’t too embarrassed to tell their wives.’” (The wise man distinguishes.)

Update to the previous post.

That whole “not arrested yet” thing? Never mind. This is what I get for dipping into celebrity journalism. I should just stick to Today in Porn.

Get It Back!

This may be the antidote. But it’s pretty disturbing, too. Sometimes the medicine is as bad as the illness.

Dept. of Shattering the Conventional Wisdom on Beggars and Choosers

The New Mexico Nurse turned up this awesome bit of social reporting in Newsweek: a story about niche dating websites that cater to people with various conditions/diseases, and who would rather not have to deal with the big reveal. It’s splendidly done all the way through, but the writer wisely saves the money quote for the end:

“Indeed, having a diagnosis doesn’t make people less romantic—or less choosy. William C. Rickard, a recovering alcoholic with bipolar disorder who is on six antidepressants and tranquilizers, says he prefers to date women who have red hair. ‘I’m very picky in spite of my disability,’ he says.”

What a catch! Ladies, fire up that Revlon Colorsilk!

(Note to the Godsbody legal department: inclusion of Lindsay Lohan image in a story about a recovering alcoholic with bipolar disorder who is on six antidepressants and tranquilizers is entirely coincidental – she was just the first pic that came up on a Google Image search for “redhead.” Also entirely coincidental: the fact that she has yet to be charged for her underage DUI-cocaine thingy back in May.)

Prepare to Lose Your Mind!

This is profoundly disturbing.

Harder to Believe than Not To.

Other people are commenting on this story about the loss of faith. I won’t try to add to their thoughts, only toss in this tidbit from Book Two:

I’ve long been a sucker for religious-minded pop (sometimes – okay, often – even when it’s anti-religious). Hence the fondness for singers like Bono and Sting. I have never been tempted, however, to base personal convictions on rock lyrics, even if they are the poetry of the age.. I remember all too well the “Personal Quotes” that accompanied the senior photos in my high school yearbook: “It’s better to burn out than to slowly fade away” popped up more than a few times. Thank you, Jim Morrison and The Doors. My own late-adolescent offering? Sweet of you to ask. “Reason is the highest order; emotions are the deepest reality.” It’s cringeworthy, I know, but my heart was in the right place. I wanted to get at the idea that while the mind discerns the good, it’s the heart that moves us. I remember this terrible and beautiful passage from Jeremiah: “I say to myself, ‘I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more.’ But then it becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in. I cannot endure it.” The fire is not in the brain – it’s in the heart, the bones. It’s love that manifests what’s really real to us.

Back to the music. The nearest I have come to taking a lyric seriously enough to ponder it was when I heard Christian rocker Steve Taylor’s “Harder To Believe Than Not To”:

They shiver with doubts
That were left unattended
Then they toss away the cloak
That they should have mended
Don’t you know by now why the chosen are few
It’s harder to believe than not to.

It was years before I found out that the title was taken from the (Catholic) writer Flannery O’Connor. Small world.

(And in a special, humiliating bonus: this video of the song in question. As you marvel at Taylor’s hair, recall that this was 1987 or so. I was 14. A difficult age.)

From the YouTube Movie Archives III: The Magdalene Sisters

Much, much better than I thought it would be, The Magdalene Sisters is a powerful story about four young women who have been carried off to Magdalene Asylums (called Magdalene Laundries in Ireland) after being scapegoated as “fallen women”. One girl, Rose (played by Dorothy Duffy) has been forced to give up her child for adoption and is then sent to the asylum. This is also the case for Harriet (Eileen Walsh), who is at least able to see her son from time when her sister brings him to a gate outside the yard where she hangs clothes. Later, she will try to hang herself. Almost incredibly, although it surely must have happened, Bernadette (Nora Jane Noone) is sent away to the asylum for merely responding to the flirtatious advances of boys outside the gate of the orphange where she lives. Even more incredibly, although it surely must have happened as well, Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff) is shipped off by her Da after being raped by a cousin at a wedding.

The movie begins as a character piece in the style of a documentary, and then turns into a kind of suspense thriller towards the end as the girls plot their escape. While I enjoyed the first part more, it’s also true that it could have been even more interesting if they had developed the personality of the Mother Superior, Sister Bridget (Geraldine McEwan); as it is, she comes off as little more than a cartoon villain. Of course, there often is a cartoonish aspect to real-life villains, so maybe that isn’t a fair criticism. As the movie shifted from character piece to social commentary to escape thriller, I found myself wishing the story would slow down, and despite the mixing of genres, something still seemed to be missing. At least for me. On the other hand, there’s simply no basis for the charge that the film is a kind of broadside against the Catholic Church, although many have probably been happy to see it that way. Revelations about the history of the Magdalene Asylums is so bleak and disturbing that these prisons really do warrant the torrent of recent denunciations from all quarters. You can read a short article about the launderies at the Wikipedia entry. Here also is a good article about problems in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Pot, meet Kettle.

The Wisconsin Poet was in fine form for my belated birthday present. All the subtlety of a charging rhino, that one.

Today in Porn, Pop Lyrics Edition

The Wife heard this one on the radio today…The song is “Her Eyes” by Pat Monahan; I think this is a picture of the dude. Points for rhyming “gets” and “Mets.”

She’s not afraid; she just likes to use her night light
When she gets paid, true religion gets it all
If they fit right.

She’s a little bit manic, completely organic
Doesn’t panic for the most part.

She’s old enough to know, and young enough not to say no
To any chance that she gets for home plate tickets to see the Mets.
Like everybody, she’s in over her head,
Dreads Feds, Grateful Dead, and doesn’t take meds.

She’s a Gemini Capricorn
Thinks all men are addicted to porn.
I don’t agree with her half the time,
But, damn I’m glad she’s mine.


The Best Thing We’ll Read Today

FOG Smokee sent in this perfect gem for the wannabe author:

David Lassman sent off to 18 publishers assorted chapters from Austen novels in which he changed just the titles and the names of the characters. He called himself Alison Laydee after Austen’s early pseudonym ‘A Lady.’ Seventeen publishers rejected or ignored his bid for literary glory. Only one spotted the ruse and told him not to mimic ‘Pride and Prejudice’ so closely. Lassman, who decided on the experiment when struggling to get his own novel published, told media: ‘Getting a novel accepted is very difficult today unless you have an agent first. But I had no idea of the scale of rejection poor old Jane suffered.'”

A Note on Book Two

A couple of readers* (hi, AC!) have suggested that I go ahead and sort of self-publish Book Two, and have even said they’d pay to read it, which is very kind and humbling and flattering and appreciated. In light of that, a touch of history: after Book Two was rejected from by its intended publisher, I shopped the thing all over God’s green earth. Eventually, I found a hardy soul who was willing to publish the thing. I had the contract in hand. Then I got a letter from a kind soul whom I had asked to read the book, and her comments convinced me that the craft and structure of the book were simply not enough to support its aims. I must have already known this to some extent, because as soon as I read it, I lost all heart for the project, and the project did require heart.

So I put the thing on a shelf, and have been carving off bits ever since – for the blog, for Dappled Things, for various other essays. Hopefully, more bits will surface in other arenas as time goes by. I’m pretty sure that’s the way it’s going to end up. But seriously, thanks awfully for the interest.

I had a title I liked, though: Fingers Crossed That There’s A Heaven: Further Confessions of a Young Catholic. It’s taken from an old Ian McCulloch song – he’s the frontman for Echo & The Bunnymen.

*That’s what, a quarter of my readership?