Tuesday, April 14, 2009

romance novels and Vegas (Advice for the Miserable #6)


Not in the sense of abstention or asceticism. But in the clinical sense. The sense that has built a therapy industry trying to unravel, to deal with all the repression we have drowned in.

In America we have so many taboos.

It is not really romance novels themselves or even the enjoyment of romance novels that bothers me. Not really. When I get all elitist I will make wild and extravagant claims about art but that isn't the issue. My problem with romance novels is that they are primarily used as a socially acceptable alternative to erotica and/or the concept with the guilty pleasure in general. First, I don't think there should be the concept of the guilty pleasure. If you enjoy it, why should you not be able to be proud of that enjoyment? Why should you have to hide a desire, to deny it in public? Second, romance novels are not erotica. I can't answer for why everyone reads romance novels, but the accepted belief is that they do so to be titillated, perhaps even aroused. But if the desire is for arousal, erotica fills that role better. The concept that romance novels are a socially acceptable outlet for a socially unacceptable desire troubles me. Sex and its trappings should not be regarded as socially unacceptable. Clearly there are certain variations on the form that should never be given voice - child pornography, rape, incest, and such like. But the denial of natural urges seems self-defeating. I would be more willing to accept the practice of denial in the forms of conscious abstention. The understanding of the underlying desires and the willful denial to give them voice for various moral or religious beliefs. To an extent.

It's like your parents telling you not to swear. Swearing is inappropriate for polite conversation. So you say "crap" instead of "shit" or "darn" instead of "damn". And somehow that rectifies everything. But if you are thinking "shit" when you say "crap", if the emotion that gives voice to the word is the same then what is the difference? From a moral position it is the desire, the emotion, the internal state that is relevant not the exterior. So, morally, saying "crap" but thinking "shit" is the same as saying "shit". Either work to change the thoughts or stop worrying about words. Similarly, if you read romance novels but would rather be reading erotica or you read romance novels to fill a role that erotica would fill better, just read erotica already.

That brings me to Vegas. The tagline is "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas". Which, given the profusion of camera phones is hardly the case. But Las Vegas is still marketed and understood as a liminal space where the rules of conventional society are in flux. One can, it is thought, do in Vegas what one could not do without scorn and scrutiny at home. And what falls into the categories of acceptable behavior in Vegas that is too taboo to do at home: binge drinking, a bit more openness about sexuality, and gambling. That is about it. Fairly benign when you think about it in the context of human vice. And gambling is the only one that could not be reasonably acted upon anywhere else. Now I don't like Vegas for personal reasons. You try living there. But my main issue with Vegas is that sense of liberation. That one can do there what one cannot do elsewhere. Why can't one drink at home? Why is unsafe binge drinking acceptable anywhere? Why can't one be open about sexuality and sexual desire at home? Prostitution is still illegal in Vegas - you have to drive about 50 miles north before you hit any of those ranches.

I just don't understand the value in repressing desire of whatever kind. At least not from the point of view of the individual. For the clergy and government it can provide power and control but for individuals it just creates dysfunction.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Of agony,

Of agony,
................brokedown forcefulness with
......still waters
..............their nightmare ecstacy
........and longing
.....................is with a pain and weeping
true love depth
here absent but here true

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Countdown to 2012 (Advice to the Miserable #5)

The world is ending all over again ...

There are few, if any, things that will not, under study, lead to dismay, disappointment, depression, and often anger/seething impotent rage. From medicalization and trivialization birth to the commodification of death, the cheapness of life (especially that of forners) and everything in between we have gone and fucked ourselves good.

Look at food, shelter, clothing, and every basic human need and you find exploitation of labor, questionable practices to streamline processes and increase profits at the cost of the worker, the product, and the consumer too stupid or lazy to realize why everything is so damn cheap at the superstores. Our food is tainted and unhealthy, our goods are cheaply made at the expense of others far less fortunate.

The U.S. economy is in shambles, the world economy as much or more so. People die every day of preventable diseases, hunger, what have you. Frankly, I don't feel like enumerating all the problems of the world. It would take to long and ultimately the conclusion remains the same as these vague recriminations allude to: the world is fucked and it's our fault. Makes you wish there was a reset button.

My goal here wasn't to bring up all those problems and social ills that we are all aware of on some level to get you to feel bad for a few minutes, send money to some 800 number, feel good for a few minutes, and then forget all about it. I just don't see how it could ever be enough. You can't save everyone, you can't solve every problem. You could pick feeding the hungry and devote your whole life to that and make great strides but it would still do little for the environment, universal health care, the homeless, education, et al. You can never do enough.

Faced with that, what do you do? Say that you can't solve the whole problem and so retreat into yourself, get yours, and fuck the rest of the world for their faulty bootstraps? Do whatever small part you can and continually get beaten down by the pressing flood tide of bureaucracy, indifference, and outright opposition? How are either of those options sufficient?

It's times like these that I wish I was a Marxist or some other manner of true believer, that i had some cause that I knew would be the solution to all that ails us. Workers of the World Unite! You have absolutely everything to lose.

I'm an artist. I like to think that living deliberately & doing what you love is somehow the key. And then paying for it with other people's money or a job that isn't too soul crushing and hints at being part of your industry. But I have never taken much time trying to universalize my maxims. Might be a shortage of janitors. We would all probably be surprised at how few people chose to do nothing, though.

Otherwise I got nothing.

Good thing the world is going to end in three odd years. Maybe next time we won't fuck it so damn raw. Or maybe elk will be grazing on Wall Street in a couple decades.