Thanksgiving Memory

November 22, 2011

(First published in “Seven Days.”  We were  asked to write about a Thanksgiving dish.)

They asked me to write about the pumpkin pie and I said I would because I know all about pumpkins.  Pumpkins and I go way back.  You can’t trust them.

When I was nine years old, I won first prize at the Champlain Valley Fair for a pumpkin I grew in my back yard.  It was very beautiful, round and perfect.  Everybody said I had a green thumb.  But nobody told me about crop rotation, so when I tried it again the next year I got only a pathetic stunted thing that looked more like a gourd with warts.  I felt betrayed, yes, violated.  I turned my back on pumpkins for many years.

Then one day when I was getting a divorce — this was some time ago — I was depressed and decided I’d make a pumpkin pie from scratch.  God knows what I was thinking.  I really needed some TLC.  What I hadn’t counted on was the heartlessness of the pumpkin.  Pumpkins are very selfish fruits — they don’t forget.  It took me six hours to steam it, peel it, mash it and so forth, and by the time I was done I had drunk three bottles of wine and couldn’t taste the pie at all.  I called the woman I was still married to and yelled at her over the phone.  She said I was a jerk and hung up.

The moral of this story:  It’s just as good out of a can.  Pumpkins will let you down.


Try a Little Tenderness

November 17, 2011

Whoops! Wrong channel.

I’m wondering if anyone else is sick of the sex on television.

I speak from an aesthetic rather than a moral perspective. All that panting, pounding and chewing, all that “tongue action” – when did TV producers decide that kissing involved the wholesale digestion of the human face? What sex is so urgent that it can only take place on the kitchen counter or the floor? I thought women liked a little tenderness. What about foreplay? And why is the woman always on top, shot from behind, bouncing up and down as if to say, “Look! We’re really doing it!” Because they aren’t, you know.

You know that, don’t you? That it’s simulated sex? Do you really need to see it to follow the plot? I say if you want pornography, watch pornography. Leave it to the professionals. It’s more honest and they do it better.

This whole bodily-function thing — it unnerves me. Hollywood doesn’t yet have trained vomiters or urinaters, but since both of these skills are now also routinely depicted in prime time, there ought to be a school for it.

Last week I tuned in to “The Slap,”an Australian miniseries currently wowing the critics, which depicts a group of ordinary Aussies in extremis, as it were. In the first ten minutes of Episode 2, four were devoted to fake fucking, with its attendant slurps, smacks, thrusts and convulsions.

This was followed by a bathroom scene, where the just-fucked heroine, suspecting she is pregnant, vomits for a while. She then goes to visit her mother, a cancer patient, who promptly wets the floor. That requires a return to the bathroom for a little thigh- and bottom-wiping, whereupon we finally discover that our heroine is unhappy in her job.

Who knew? It was almost as exciting as seeing Paz de la Huerta‘s water break on Episode 7 of “Boardwalk Empire.” Very dramatic — a veritable flood of amniotic fluid pouring on the floor.

Am I wrong, or aren’t there other stage devices to indicate that a woman is about to give birth? A contraction, say, followed by a sharp intake of breath, a call for the doctor and a slow sinking onto the fainting couch.

Cut to morning: The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the cry of a newborn is heard through the half-opened door of Mama’s boudoir. I’m certain this used to be enough to move the story along.

About women: Television is an equal-opportunity degrader, but it likes nothing so much as carving up dames. No man would want to see himself depicted invariably as either a fuckbucket or a mutilated corpse. He wouldn’t stand for it, any more than he can stand to see himself fully naked on the screen, as women routinely are, shaking his ass and pleasuring himself, with his Johnson flying in the wind.

This is why the women are always on top – a man’s privates must be covered. There’s the matter of “size,” about which all men are paranoid. Then there’s “performance”– can he really get it up? Finally, a man can’t risk the dim arousal that might ensue should he look at another male as a sex object. Not so dim, either, in many cases. Not dim at all.

That’s as political as I’m going to get at the moment. They’re busting heads on Wall Street.


J. Bryan Lowder, “Porn That Women Like,” in “Slate”, November 17 2011: The straight male performer must be attractive enough to serve as a prop, but not so attractive that he becomes the object of desire. Men need to see a penis in straight porn (presumably to stand in for their own), but not one that is attached to a guy who might be threateningly attractive, not to mention plausibly appealing to the woman involved. Maybe this insistence on a male blank slate (a kind of reverse objectification, when you think about it) makes it easier to project oneself onto the disembodied penis, but it also protects men from the potentially scary experience of being turned on by both partners of a heterosexual encounter. It allows them to avoid confronting the terrifying specter of homosexuality.”


Clock This

November 9, 2011

It’s been nearly a week and I’m still not used to the time change. I wish they’d leave the clocks alone, but I said the same thing about the moon-landing in 1969 – no one listened. What was that all about, anyway? Do people now live on the moon? Can you grow things on the moon? Extract anything or sell anything? Do YOU want to go to the moon?

I find science incredibly irritating, at least that part of it that values any old thing just to prove it can be done. Daylight savings isn’t scientific, though it took me many years to realize that. I was 35 before I understood that we didn’t change the clocks because the time had changed; rather, we change the time by changing the clocks. Simple, right? But I thought something real was going on, something to do with Nature or the cosmos. I was really pissed off when I discovered the whole thing was man-made and that daylight savings time was invented just to torture little boys by making them play baseball till 9 p.m. You can forget about the farmers and children walking to school in the dark. The true purpose of daylight savings is to make men out of slackers.

Now I wish they’d just stop it. Spring or fall, I don’t care – just pick a time and stay with it. My friend Andy says this will never happen because it doesn’t give people enough to do. He thinks we should set the time ahead or back by a HALF hour now and then. It’s fair to both sides, and it could be useful if you’re running late. Likewise if you want to fire someone for tardiness.

“Like” this column if you favor “Andy’s Law.” And note how cleverly I’ve linked it to BIBLE TIME, an old column I did on (roughly) the same subject. A good citizen recycles. ‘Nuff said.

#Occupy Yule

November 9, 2011


I waited till Halloween was over before starting this blog because I hate Halloween and I don’t want to make enemies right out of the gate. I preferred it when Halloween was just a holiday, not a months-long marketing season, crushing heads from July to October and punishing resisters with appeals to “the children.” Clamor is the new normal – endless repetition, overkill, excess. And Halloween indulges the current necrophiliac fad. In my own golden youth, we weren’t all practicing to be vampires and slaughtering our enemies on PS3s. We never saw blood and gore on television. It was considered dinky to wear a Halloween costume after the fifth grade. For merchants, Halloween is now the most lucrative American holiday after Christmas, outstripping even Valentine’s Day in sheer volume of peddled junk. That alone removes it from whatever meaningful – dare I say hallowed? – place it used to occupy on the calendar. I’m all for showing the kids a good time, but please! Carve a pumpkin, cut some holes in a sheet and send them out into the dark. It might develop their imaginations.

You don’t want to know what I think about Christmas. Words don’t capture the unremitting awfulness of Christmas commerce, a problem so well understood that people rail against it year after year while murdering their rivals for discounted iPods. On the flip side are those sappy reminders about “the true meaning of Christmas,” which we wouldn’t need if we actually listened to ourselves and obeyed our better natures. The anti-“War on Christmas” people should take aim at dollar signs, not atheists. Until you and I – now? this year? — drop out of the Christmas orgy and demand something more than platitudes about “Peace,” it will go on being the nightmare we could have avoided, but didn’t.

#Occupy Yuletide, that’s what I say. Pitch your tent at the food shelf.

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