Love and Sex

Famoustown

Famoustown

They would have never guessed that I was nothing like them, nothing at all, going not to my job but to my loft, about to sign a new lease on life.

The billboards began advertising the city long before I was even close to it. In fact, I’d barely left the Blandon City Limits when I saw the following question floating in my periphery: WHAT DOES FAMOUSTOWN MEAN TO YOU? Famoustown meant quite a lot to me, actually. Even though I’d never been there, it was a place I had been hearing about all my life. Big events were always taking place in Famoustown; it was a place that other places looked to for information on the current trends. It was also a place where famous people lived, and this had always given me pause. While I liked famous people just as much as the next person, I never wanted to be famous myself. After all, it didn’t take much to see what fame did to people, how it puffed up their pride, and let them speak every word with certainty; and how, over time, it seemed to make them resemble not the pleasant, ordinary people they surely were before fame found them, but rather mentally ill ghouls. And that wasn’t going to be my route, I knew.

A Thin Place

A Thin Place

Truth is you were ransacked and you will never cease to know that.

You drift gingerly out of the clinic. The air flaps and you quiver. You linger a minute at the squat wall between the carpark and the pavement—over there is the old St. Columba’s graveyard, where you always meant to go. This town was a “thin place” that pilgrims came to, in the belief that here the margin is finest between heaven and earth. You can’t fathom that. Heaven’s only a sweet con to mollify and defer you, an excuse for why some days here get so painful. No reason, no good reason. Would it be better or worse if you had reason to feel this joyless? Nothing matters and you’re meant to keep on going on.

Emptiness

Emptiness

Narcissists are imitators par excellence. And they do not copy the small, boring parts of selves.

The narcissist is, according to the internet, empty. Normal, healthy people are full of self, a kind of substance like a soul or personhood that, if you have it, emanates warmly from inside of you toward the outside of you. No one knows what it is, but everyone agrees that narcissists do not have it. Disturbingly, however, they are often better than anyone else at seeming to have it. Because what they have inside is empty space, they have had to make a study of the selves of others in order to invent something that looks and sounds like one. Narcissists are imitators par excellence. And they do not copy the small, boring parts of selves. They take what they think are the biggest, most impressive parts of other selves, and devise a hologram of self that seems superpowered.

Kiddie Porn

Kiddie Porn

In the sexual counterrevolution, Ginsberg was the antiporn Gettysburg — the battle that turned the tide.

Once in a while, my parents allow some critically authorized highbrow “erotic” periodical like Eros or Evergreen to breach our doorway. But they draw the line at Playboy, in spite of its long, left-leaning pieces by and about important men like Vladimir Nabokov and James Baldwin. Mom and Dad aren’t prudes, they’re snobs. They consider comics, Mad magazine—even mysteries—degraded forms of literature. What would they think of Man to Man? I don’t have to ask.

Straight to Hell

Straight to Hell

On Boyd McDonald

The zine had a recurring string of subtitles — including “The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts” and “The New York Review of Cocksucking” — and taglines like “The Paper That Made New York Famous” and “Always coarse, never common.” Each contributor letter had a tabloid-style headline: “10 Hawaiian Dongs Unload on Tourist,” “Adultery in the Men’s Room,” “Mechanic’s Asshole Is Clean; Has Fragrance of Gasoline.” Sardonic commentary on the straight world and straight press was scattered throughout; McDonald liked to run errors he found in the New York Times, which he considered his main competitor.

Cold Comfort

Cold Comfort

There have been surprisingly few recent English-language films about infidelity, at least once you exclude movies that treat the subject as little more than a secret for characters to hide and reveal, a temptation for them to resist, or a sin for which they’re obliged to atone. It’s striking to see two films that consider their characters’ romantic betrayals so quietly and reflectively, with so little moralizing. That they arrive at very different conclusions—about what it means to be unfaithful, about how much strain a relationship can take, and about the extent to which committed relationships between people are, in the end, possible—suggests how many dramatic possibilities infidelity can give a filmmaker when it’s treated with seriousness and care. It also suggests a good deal about Haigh and Kaufman’s relative degrees of comfort with the kinds of grown-up, advanced-age relationships they’ve chosen to depict.

It’s So Great Coming Home To Your Message

It’s So Great Coming Home To Your Message

On Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark.

Each email is timestamped, with Acker and Wark’s nerdy ‘90s email addresses repeated over and over again, page after page. They map the unwinding and rewinding and unwinding again of tension, attention, and affection, telling the story-about-nothing of the first truly great collection of electronic love letters.

Two Stories

Two Stories

This was definitely not what Ken wanted.

The palm reader, when she arrived, moved in a way that suggested she was not in too much of a hurry to arrive in the future. She was like some piece of human clutter purchased to give the room more character. Ceramic roses were clipped to her earlobes and beneath her black crocheted dress her breasts strained to get away from each other. On her left hand was a diamond the size of a Brussels sprout. She was between 40 and 65 years old. I was the guest of honor and I got to go first. She led me away from the drinks and the stereo and the cheese to the corner under the skylight, and sat me on an egg-shaped orange chair. The palm reader sat herself on a low wooden bench, a Shaker pew that had been bought at auction.

Calcium Commune

Calcium Commune

Harry the Tooth is a good five meters in front of the women. His heavy backpack drags his osteoporotic shoulders down almost to his knees. Big beads of sweat soak his worn cotton shirt, grinning out from which is the ecstatic face of long-dead pop monster Robbie Williams. “Prosciutto, Pomodoro Secchi, Ciabatta!” He groans at me, grinning and doing his name justice. At almost 81 years old Harry the Tooth still has a complete set of teeth, all his own, and as such is the sole resident of Calcium Commune, as we call the apartment the six of us share, who wasn’t named for a bodily flaw.

Plato's Media World

Plato's Media World

Book II, 396a – 374a (abridged).

As is normal, Socrates, some men in the media will be wretched if they can’t simply take what they want and prey on the women around them. For example, such men will touch women without asking and make unwanted, sexual remarks. A few, given the chance will even violently assault the women they wish to fuck.

The Ultimate Humiliation

The Ultimate Humiliation

Elliot Rodger, American Kid

On Facebook, he liked Starbucks, Armani, tourism, sunsets. He was obsessed with The Secret. Then the lottery. He thought a beautiful blond woman was the prize he deserved for being such a good boy—as if, at the county fair, he could shoot enough ducks to win a girlfriend. He was so committed to exceptionalism that he applied it all only to him. He once used the phrase “less white than me.” Less white. In fact, the more I read, the shakier all the causality felt and the more common, at core, his interpretation of “believing in himself” seemed, until I just couldn’t get over a line on the fifth page, age 5, when his family moved to Cali from England: “I now considered myself,” he writes, “an American kid.”

What Happened

What Happened

Do you want to be my girlfriend? We’d be good together. We’re both old and don’t fit in. And other funny things.

In the bed area there are macabre kitsch objects on the bookshelf and trunk, and B&W xeroxes, a crumpled napkin, and other ephemera pinned to the drywall. An ancient black cat with extrusions of clumped, discolored fur sleeps on the bed. Shadowy Stars of David are projected onto the walls from the wrought-iron grating outside. The studio space is trashed, wildly. Like a lazy wind blew trash over the rough bareness of the room.

Famoustown

Famoustown

They would have never guessed that I was nothing like them, nothing at all, going not to my job but to my loft, about to sign a new lease on life.

The billboards began advertising the city long before I was even close to it. In fact, I’d barely left the Blandon City Limits when I saw the following question floating in my periphery: WHAT DOES FAMOUSTOWN MEAN TO YOU? Famoustown meant quite a lot to me, actually. Even though I’d never been there, it was a place I had been hearing about all my life. Big events were always taking place in Famoustown; it was a place that other places looked to for information on the current trends. It was also a place where famous people lived, and this had always given me pause. While I liked famous people just as much as the next person, I never wanted to be famous myself. After all, it didn’t take much to see what fame did to people, how it puffed up their pride, and let them speak every word with certainty; and how, over time, it seemed to make them resemble not the pleasant, ordinary people they surely were before fame found them, but rather mentally ill ghouls. And that wasn’t going to be my route, I knew.

A Thin Place

A Thin Place

Truth is you were ransacked and you will never cease to know that.

You drift gingerly out of the clinic. The air flaps and you quiver. You linger a minute at the squat wall between the carpark and the pavement—over there is the old St. Columba’s graveyard, where you always meant to go. This town was a “thin place” that pilgrims came to, in the belief that here the margin is finest between heaven and earth. You can’t fathom that. Heaven’s only a sweet con to mollify and defer you, an excuse for why some days here get so painful. No reason, no good reason. Would it be better or worse if you had reason to feel this joyless? Nothing matters and you’re meant to keep on going on.

Emptiness

Emptiness

Narcissists are imitators par excellence. And they do not copy the small, boring parts of selves.

The narcissist is, according to the internet, empty. Normal, healthy people are full of self, a kind of substance like a soul or personhood that, if you have it, emanates warmly from inside of you toward the outside of you. No one knows what it is, but everyone agrees that narcissists do not have it. Disturbingly, however, they are often better than anyone else at seeming to have it. Because what they have inside is empty space, they have had to make a study of the selves of others in order to invent something that looks and sounds like one. Narcissists are imitators par excellence. And they do not copy the small, boring parts of selves. They take what they think are the biggest, most impressive parts of other selves, and devise a hologram of self that seems superpowered.

Kiddie Porn

Kiddie Porn

In the sexual counterrevolution, Ginsberg was the antiporn Gettysburg — the battle that turned the tide.

Once in a while, my parents allow some critically authorized highbrow “erotic” periodical like Eros or Evergreen to breach our doorway. But they draw the line at Playboy, in spite of its long, left-leaning pieces by and about important men like Vladimir Nabokov and James Baldwin. Mom and Dad aren’t prudes, they’re snobs. They consider comics, Mad magazine—even mysteries—degraded forms of literature. What would they think of Man to Man? I don’t have to ask.

Straight to Hell

Straight to Hell

On Boyd McDonald

The zine had a recurring string of subtitles — including “The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts” and “The New York Review of Cocksucking” — and taglines like “The Paper That Made New York Famous” and “Always coarse, never common.” Each contributor letter had a tabloid-style headline: “10 Hawaiian Dongs Unload on Tourist,” “Adultery in the Men’s Room,” “Mechanic’s Asshole Is Clean; Has Fragrance of Gasoline.” Sardonic commentary on the straight world and straight press was scattered throughout; McDonald liked to run errors he found in the New York Times, which he considered his main competitor.

Cold Comfort

Cold Comfort

There have been surprisingly few recent English-language films about infidelity, at least once you exclude movies that treat the subject as little more than a secret for characters to hide and reveal, a temptation for them to resist, or a sin for which they’re obliged to atone. It’s striking to see two films that consider their characters’ romantic betrayals so quietly and reflectively, with so little moralizing. That they arrive at very different conclusions—about what it means to be unfaithful, about how much strain a relationship can take, and about the extent to which committed relationships between people are, in the end, possible—suggests how many dramatic possibilities infidelity can give a filmmaker when it’s treated with seriousness and care. It also suggests a good deal about Haigh and Kaufman’s relative degrees of comfort with the kinds of grown-up, advanced-age relationships they’ve chosen to depict.