Friday, July 30, 2021
Friday, July 23, 2021
|Artwork from the seminal underground publication International Times which used Theda Bara's bewitching gaze as it's icon.|
Happy Maybe Day Everyone! Make sure to check out all of the programming and work Bobby Campbell has put together this year!
Ishtar Rising Chapter Three: The Breast Repressed
I well remember the anxieties of being a preteen boy that we all experience; curiously conscious of the changes my body and those of my classmates were going through and anxiously wondering if finding Louise Brooks attractive made me gay.
Like any sweeping model for looking at the world/psychology/sexuality/culture, the matrist/patrist can be overreaching and based on cherry-picked ideas. For me, the 1920's were hardly a decade of sweeping, desexualized repression. Granted, all the ideas that Wilson brings up are true; the Republican administrations drove our country straight into the ground, it was the era of the United States' disastrous experiment with alcohol prohibition, and women's fashion, at least for those women who cared to be fashionable, trended towards a "boyish," androgynous elegance. Yet, let's consider our century-ago chronological counterpart from another perspective.
The Twenties were a time of sexual freedom for many women- as the gorgeous nude photos of Louise Brooks show, whether or not large breasts were as present on the silver screen, the female form was still very much appreciated. Brooks and Theda Bara brought an air of mystery and exoticism to the world with their beauty and acting skills. Brooks' dazzling array of emotions communicated without sound in silent film was enough to inspire Adolfo Bioy Casares' eerie masterpiece, The Invention of Morel. Theda Bara somehow transformed herself from an Ohio girl into the daughter of a French dancer and a Sheikh. Her costuming was so revealing that it was used as one of the reasons for the Hayes Code. Across the pond, despite being unable to perform in her racist homeland, Josephine Baker's "wild" dancing style brought her acclaim on the Continent as "the Black Venus." She would go on to be an instrumental part of the French Resistance and be a spiritual grandmother to the American Civil Rights Movement. (Coretta Scott King even offered Baker the metaphorical reigns of the movement after the assassination of MLK; Baker declined because of her age. She had fought the good fight for most of her life by then.) If these women are only appealing to repressed, plasticized homosexuals I guess you can consider me pegged.
In an interview from the late Seventies, Wilson recommends that then-younger readers seek out the fiction of Thorne Smith. Smith, a hard-drinking author whose fantastic romances are formulaic but incredibly affecting, published his best novels at the end of the Twenties. Indeed, the presence of Prohibition and the fact that Smith's characters loved the bottle as much as he did is responsible for most of the comedic set pieces in his work. These bits of cherry-picked fact don't take into account the "bright young things" of Britain chronicled by Evelyn Waugh in Vile Bodies, the artistic exuberance of Weimar Germany or the myriad of other works that chronicle the Roaring Twenties and its proto-counter culture. Nor does this take into account the lives and preferences of the folk who lived away from the big cities where fashion and trend are the rule of the day (if one can afford it): as someone who was reared in a rural area, I find it hard to believe that farmers were ever turning their noses up at plump women with big bosoms.
The 1920s were a time of shifting sexualities and shitty government, how the times do change.
I realize that these blog posts might seem to be quibbling or focused on what I don't agree with in Wilson's book. I guess I am trying to build a counter-narrative to Ishtar Rising, perhaps trying to build a counter-melody would be more accurate. There wouldn't be a whole lot of new information if I spent the posts repeating Wilson's points and saying "I agree with this." I agree or sympathize with the majority of Wilson's ideas, so assume the parts I don't pick at I more or less agree with. If that makes sense.
I figure no one needs me to explicitly point out the relevance to the anecdote about arguing with Nazis from Wilhelm Reich's Mass Psychology of Fascism.
I have no interest wading into the still-raging debate about breast feeding. While I somewhat understand Wilson's concerns about "the plastic nipple," the person I know best who wasn't breastfed is still one of the most oral personalities in my life.
It is interesting that Wilson never wrote much about male circumcision (he briefly mentions female circumcision in the chapter), which should properly be deemed male genital mutilation. I guess that Wilson was from an earlier generation than the ones that had their dicks slit as infants in masse. Talk about a traumatic experience that could possible warp someone's early psyche. I am still pretty annoyed I had a barbaric surgical procedure performed without my consent.
I always loved the detail about Cretan women. In Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neil's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Gloriana (the fictional counterpart to Queen Elizabeth I) is depicted as wearing clothes cut in the Cretan style. According to Moore, this is to symbolize the reign of Elizabeth as being another example of a female led society on an island. While Elizabethan society wasn't matriarchal by any meaning of the word, we can find evidence to fit the idea that it was a more oral time period in English history after the brutal, bloody reigns of the Plantagenets and Lancasters.
Friday, July 16, 2021
|Phryne before the Areopagus- Jean-Léon Gérôme (An obviously oralist artist- who is supposedly controversial until this day.)|
Ishtar Rising Chapter Two: Tales of the Vienna Woods
I don't know if it was a joke or not, but the footnote explaining what a joint was made me guffaw. Perhaps this is another sign of the book's original times.
Looking back at some of my email correspondences around the time I first read Ishtar Rising, I can see that I've always read this book as an indictment or diagnosis of my strong oral-personality. I feel very seen when I read Wilson talking about cathected personalities who dwell on resentment or even when Wilson, as an aside, mentions how he can't imagine men who don't perform orally being satisfying lovers. Given my diatribe earlier this week concerning the Abrahamic God on Tom's blog, that had to be at least the tenth one I've posted there, you can easily see my anger, befuddlement and resentment against the anal values in our society. (While I understand that the oral/anal personality model is simply a model that can't possibly be completely correct, I have found it an extremely useful dialectic. I will also admit that I enjoy the model because of the inherently insulting way of referring to personality types I loathe- no anal person ever enjoys being called that. Try it, it's great fun.)
I will say this about resentment: I do not believe that it is necessarily an irrational result of a stunted personality. It would be wonderful if I could tell my boss to "get the hell out of my way" when they enforce ridiculous rules or neglect their actual responsibilities. Regrettably, I'd be fucking myself out of my source of life-tickets and that just won't do, will it? I think for any rational or mildly intelligent person, resentment is a natural and sane response to the immense amount of bullshit being shoveled on top of us in this society. I certainly don't think positivity for the sake of positivity does much for a world that is so mired amongst withered societal structures and idiot legions. An amount of disgust is necessary to deal with the world in an honest manner. The game is rigged. Please consider any of our great authors and their attitude toward the world: Blake, Joyce and Dickens, all of whom are given credence in this chapter, had quite a bit of resentment towards this world between the angels and the apes. Perhaps becoming an artist or creator is the best course forward for a cathected oralist. Or drugs, those always help. (Let's go ahead and at least agree "resentment" can occasionally produce an unshakeable grim sense of humor that I adore.)
As an example of the oral vs. anal power imbalance, consider the profession of judges. Perhaps the Trump years did a decent job demonstrating to otherwise uninterested Americans how arbitrarily the appointment of these people who literally hold other people's lives and freedom in their hand really operates. The idea that we must speak respectfully to a judge, even if we are the midst of an asinine situation, is one of the most infuriating hypotheticals I have ever contemplated. Imagine being hauled into a courtroom such as the one belonging to the odious Julius Hoffman's and being expected to defer to an asshole like that. Imagine being drawn into a courtroom on a marijuana charge and having to say "yes sir/no sir" while being judged on a matter with which no other person should be concerned. I hate judges, and speaking from personal experience, most of them are pricks. (I have known a couple small-town magistrates who seemed to be truly decent people. At the same time, I had the DA turned Circuit Court Judge as my scout master who was a magnificent bastard. That said, I should have never been in Scouting to begin with.) So, if I am dragged into a courtroom, you best believe I'll most likely be the meekest, most apologetic eunuch this society ever produced- but you damn well better believe I'll be full of resentment against the whole rotten affair. My few visits to family court for divorce were some of the most existentially humiliating experiences I've had since childhood. If only I had a nice pair of tits like Phryne.
Even now, we watch the unbelievable arrogance of Justice Ginsburg replicate itself in that of Justice Breyer- who were/are supposed to be the intelligent part of the bench- refusing to step down at the risk of our democratic society out of a sense of personal pride. We should probably round up the lawyers, but the judges should be some of the very first against the wall.
While this post has transformed into an cathected oral personality defending the cathected oral personalities, I've been neglecting my job to talk about other parts of the chapter. Naturally, considering the title, this chapter deals quite a bit with Freudian theory. I like Freud and think that most of his ideas still hold some amount of metaphorical water. I also think that a big part of why Freud isn't taken seriously today is because the fevered academics and psychoanalysts that came after his life don't really deserve a whole lot of the benefit of the doubt. After reading the humorous/ridiculous theories of Edmund Bergler it was hard for me to sympathize with Wilson's sentiment that Bergler's reputation "is really a pity because some of his notions were probably at least partially true." Who cares? Stalin was right that Russia had problems; doesn't mean that we shouldn't disregard the man and his ideas entirely. The Freudians who pumped out Bergler's hysterically stupid ideas, or Lacan's academic sophistries, are to blame for the modern disregard for the Plumber of the Unconscious.
Wilson's own musings on oral sex throughout the chapter gives an interesting peek into the human psyche. I have experienced one girlfriend who confessed similar hang-ups to the one Freud discussed...she confessed that she found fellatio disgusting because the urethra was also used for the passage of urine. My confusion (in my adolescent mind it was a little late in the game for such a confession considering our previous experiences) soon turned into disgust and yes, resentment. This resentment grew as she began to regret our sexual relationship as being against God. We broke up shortly after she told me she had prayed for forgiveness for "sinning" with me. I was horrified. My subsequent girlfriend, who encouraged receiving oral sex, was terrified of orgasming. Perhaps she, like Wilson's other female subjects, was afraid I would begin ripping and biting as passion grew. (A bizarre idea and one I cannot understand. Although I should perhaps be more cautious, I have never had a fear that my penis would be snapped off. Maybe this is another indicator of the strange and unbalanced relationship between the sexes.) Like Freud, I am also bewildered when people find it disgusting that they have accidently used their partners toothbrush or vice versa. Considering where else your mouth has most likely strayed, that doesn't seem like a big deal. Anyways, finding someone who is actually sexually compatible is paramount and an idea that I am grateful the modern world seems to promulgate, alongside a cornucopia of ideas that are often baffling or insipid. All in all, Wilson is correct that sexual relationships improve with time, given that the relationship is healthy.
I disagree with Wilson that Dickens was probably unaware of the anal connotations of his Mr. Murdstone. As an author who is famous for characters with pun-filled names such as Mr. M'Choakumchild and Gradgrind, he wouldn't have been unware of the obvious French/"shit" allusion.
I didn't write much about Phryne because I don't have a lot to add. I'd like to note I have loved her story from the first time I read it here. The name "Phryne" was not her given name and translates as "toad." Her birthname was Mnesarete and she was given the name Phryne because of her "yellowish complexion." Curiously, "Phryne/toad" was evidently a common nickname for courtesans in Athens. There is a lovely piece of Batrachian erotica by Clark Ashton Smith in his faux-medieval French Averoigne cycle titled "Mother of Toads." Something about his pen writing about a "white and totally hairless body with curious roughness" really cranks the gears. Curiouser and curiouser, the French word for toad, "crapaud," seems to be a reverse of "Murdstone."
The grotesque sexuality in Smith's tale recalls Wilson's last ruminations on the potent nature of werewolves and vampires. I agree that there is a strong sexual edge in the Universal Horror pictures. James Whale's The Bride of Frankenstein might be one of the most stimulating, in many senses of the word, films I have ever viewed. Shelley's Frankenstein itself is alive with vibrant sexuality that tempts and repulses which the sequel really brings to the obvious periphery, if not the forefront of the picture. I was about to write more concerning Frankenstein, but that is a sure avenue to disappearing up my own ass for a long time. I love that book- it contains a good chunk of life itself in its three slim volumes. (And she was nineteen when she wrote it, goddamn/godbless here to eternity for that feat.) Here's Wilson talking about monsters in the aforementioned "Even a Man Who Is Pure Of Heart."
While I'd at least like to imagine I caught it before, I obviously didn't remember: the second chapter of The Illuminatus Trilogy, "Hopalong Horus Rides Again," must have come from Ira Wallach's Hopalong Freud Rides Again. (Right after writing that sentence I had the good sense to Google if "hopalong...rides again" was from somewhere else. Of course it is. I let my mistake stand for posterity.)
While this may be of no interest to anyone aside from Tom and Adie, it would seem Ada Palmer's Adolf Richter Brill must have been inspired by Abraham Brill, the psychoanalyst/translator mentioned in the chapter.
Considering I associate Dennis Hopper primarily with his Frank Booth role in Blue Velvet, it made me laugh when he was described as an actor who always played oral pushovers.
I'm not going to address Polanski or the slur. I have headaches enough.
I am conflicted; I feel as if my post has rambled on and that I haven't covered enough. I haven't even bothered to touch on Reich or Perls and the word "suck," of which I have much and more to say. Oh well, let it stand. As my blessed mother used to say when she'd serve some dinner: "hope it doesn't suck!"
Thursday, July 8, 2021
|I'm decently sure when you die, you're tricked back into incarnation with the promise of naked ladies.|
Ishtar Rising Chapter One: It Began With An Erection
Apologies all, traffic was crazy.
Reading this chapter, I can accede that it is dated, Wilson is talking in full early-Seventies patois and towards an extremely small demographic. Wilson, understandably, considering the publisher and original title, assumes that his audience is made of straight-white males. While I have no personal issue, or stake, in this game it was striking how the voice Wilson employs might alienate readers outside the target demographic. Considering the outpouring of knowledge, curiosity and humor that composes the main bulk of this work, that would be a great shame and hopefully more people were turned on by his scintillating prose than turned off by the mandates of society's circumstance.
Secondly, this chapter is dated insofar as it is an important piece of the foundation of Wilson's corpus. The beginning quote from Tim Wheeler shows Wilson's dedication and involvement with the Discordian religion. Past that we are treated to a long example of Wilson's biological reality checks that he utilizes gleefully and more succinctly in later publications. Decades later in 2021, when terms like "biological determinism" can lead to accusations of bigotry and the field has produced celebrities such as the rather odious Richard Dawkins, it is hard to imagine relying upon biological reality as heavily as Wilson does in the beginning of Ishtar Rising for fear of misinterpretation.
I admit, I have little patience for research in areas that I am not already familiar with and might not have done my homework when it comes to Desmond Morris and his work. However, it seems like there have been no "major" refutations or rejections from the scientific community and I have always found Morris' arguments in The Naked Ape common-sensical and valid. After all, Darwin was able to figure out natural selection from "mere" observation and Morris' observations seem to be just as valid as the shape of finches' beaks. I have very few certainties, but I have suspicions. I suspect that Morris, and Wilson's, suppositions are correct in some (perhaps large) part.
I will admit that I am enough of one of RAW's target audience that I have bristled in the past when I've heard of nefarious "breast fetishization" and argued using Morris' explanation that the breasts are a naturally erogenous zone and object for sexual fascination.
It is odd to read about Jayne Mansfield, knowing her tragic fate. Raised on Hollywood Babylon, it is extremely hard for me to disassociate Mansfield's beauty and sex-symbol-status from her tragic fate. Oh, and all the nonsense surrounding her association with Anton LeVay. Consequently, Mansfield may be one of the least sexy sex-symbols to me personally. It is also tragic, and hopefully something the Goddess will correct when she finishes ascending to the Earth, that our sex-symbols, that bring comfort and joy to so many, are too often raised like lotuses in the mud of exploitation and personal tragedy. Blow-job Ape brought all of us more joy than any other inventor in history, she should have a goddamn statue in every blissful bedroom. (Edit: It strikes me upon rereading this that it is ridiculous to assume whether Blow-job Ape was female or male; God bless 'em, either way,)
Linda Lovelace, a modern incarnation of Blow-job Ape, brought salaciousness mainstream and pure ecstasy to many a man and adolescent. To read about her frank sexuality, coupled with her eventual conversion to the Faith of Misery, well, it is tragic. Yet again, we are faced with flowers in the mud. No doubt Lovelace was exploited in the late-twentieth century culture of pornography (along with simply being born an attractive female) and yet I hope that one can still wish for a sexuality not based around sexual hegemonies, new or old. Wilson's book gives an excellent example of a possible balance; something in between leer and worship, crude jokes and sincere orisons.
Wilson wrote this tract during a time when sexuality seemed perhaps a little less complex but belied a rotten world. Now we constantly have to deal with the complexities, real and imagined, of sexuality and it all speaks to a rotten world; but now we have the honest shot at having love for our crooked neighbor with our crooked soul.
Sex and death are our two primary compulsions. Yet, in the myth of Inanna and the text of Ishtar Rising, we can locate a myth of Sex that overcomes Death, temporarily perhaps, but still. Tend your garden. The green force that flows through the flowers in her hair...
Sunday, July 4, 2021
Professor Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series should be required reading for anyone who shares Wilson's Utopian dreams; the tetralogy will be completed in October with the publication of Perhaps the Stars. Here is a link to tor.com and an excerpt of the first two chapters. I was shaking from tension by the end.
Like Palmer promised, the themes of distance and loneliness are already prominent in the beginning of the novel. (She noted that during the height of the Pandemic, those lucky bastards who were able to read the manuscript remarked upon how the book acutely reminded them of quarantine.)
Thursday, July 1, 2021
|The Abduction of Helen|
Wilson’s 1973 Introduction
Let us step back sixteen years from our last vantage point and meet the Bob Wilson who was “a product of his times” that we’ve been warned about.
Once we’ve done that, fast forward a few years short of a half-century and there’s this show called Euphoria based on an Israeli show that comes on after Curb Your Enthusiasm. I decide to watch the first episode and subsequently decide that the show is mostly misery-porn and isn’t my cup of tea. However, there is one illuminating scene from that first episode dealing with porn-porn that has stayed with me. A young couple are having theatrical and somewhat violent sex when Zendaya, playing the Little-Nell-gone-bad narrator of the show, asks if the viewers know why the couple are choosing to have performative and pleasureless sex before cutting to a barrage of pornography from across the Internet. The answer is simple- this is learned behavior.
Back to 1973- this snippet of the future occurred to me while I was reading Wilson rhapsodizing about how humans, particularly males, are struck passive, playful and gentle in the presence of breasts. In a healthy society, I would agree with Wilson’s statement, but I’m curious how he could make such a statement while sex has generally had a violent, sexist undercurrent in our decidedly unhealthy society. I hazard a guess that Wilson would have blamed those less-than-pleasant (perversions?) of sexuality on the oppressive, sex-negative society in which many humans (most?) find themselves living. Yet, I think anyone familiar with the sexual anarchism of the modern Internet, always just an incognito page away, would be able to understand that even without Christianity, we’ve managed to keep sex something shallow, exploitative and oftentimes grotesque. I’m not trying to come off as a descendant of Falwell or Dworkin, but I think it is fair to say that the sexuality exuded today is oftentimes deeply unsexy (a position I took while discussing Morrison’s Introduction.) To wit...
For the previously mentioned “Sex” chapter in Stranger Than We Can Imagine, John Higgs begins with the first stanza of Philip Larkin’s Annus Mirabilis:
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
Higgs uses the two cultural references in this excerpt to demonstrate the evolution of sexuality over the mid-twentieth century up until the early-twenty first. Firstly he discussed Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover which was famously blocked from publication, bowdlerized and the cause of multiple courtroom scenes. While Chatterley would be unimpressive to the modern reader, it became shorthand for racy or scandalously plain descriptions of sex and desire. Higgs’ further goes on to discuss how Chatterley was an example of smut-with-a-soul; Lawrence and his lovers sought a spiritual intimacy along with their physical coupling. The lovers sought communion.
Ten years before our starting point with Bob in 1973, a forty one year old Larkin pens Annus Mirabilis looking backwards towards the decades long battle to present an unexpurgated edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover and forward to the Time of Love, heralded by the hysteria-inducing moptops from Liverpool. Yet, for all the beauty and necessary freedom produced by the Sexual Revolution, Higgs notes that things were not all quite “peace and love,” as Ringo would say. Reading Melinda Gebbie’s Barbary Coasters gives a first hand glimpse of the abuse of the new age of sexual freedom where partners were often coerced into couplings and those who refused were treated as “squares” or repressed. Gebbie’s account is but one of many of the darker sides of the Summer(s) of Love. By 1973, it is odd that Wilson, who notes the sexism of Playboy Publications in other places, could feel quite so confident about the gentleness of humanity in the face of bare breasts.
When we look at how sexual over-exposure and frustration has helped revamp far-Right sentiments in young men in the United States and contributed to the exhausting discourse over what is and isn’t acceptable, it is easy to agree with Higgs that the Sexual Revolution missed Lawrence’s point about “sexual communion” and instead skated right past it into the territory of the id. Unlike Wilson, who seems to blame the structures that “guard” against the id, I would point out that the id is primarily selfish and unconcerned about consequences...two qualities that don’t belong in the bedroom. Should you feel prurient in admiring the illustrations in Ishtar Rising? Certainly not! Melida Gebbie lavishly illustrated her and Alan Moore’s nineteen-years-in-the making rauchfest based on children’s stories that celebrates pornography down the ages. Yet, when we exist in a world where I would bet good money you could easily locate a video of a woman being brutalized and being made to eat shit, it is good to be conscious of what you are consuming. De Sade works a lot better on the page. (Save for Pasolini’s astoundingly good Salo.)
Another bit that hasn’t aged as well in the forty three years since Wilson’s Introduction comes right before his statement that “[m]ost men...are on their best behavior when under the spell of that double catenary curve” whilst discussing Ezra Pound. What to do with the Propagandist of Pisa has been a discussion since the end of the second World War and while we can recognize the poetic greatness of The Cantos, I’m not sure Pound is the best example if you’re trying to convince the world it needs more poets than political-pundits. (Also, have you read other people’s poetry? There’s a reason most of mine gets trashed.) Undoubtedly, the world needs less political-pundits and more poetry, but I feel that this may be an example of how Wilson “missed the mark” in that moment. Pound was a genius who expressed contrition for the disgusting views he held, nevertheless I would say that his life still demonstrates how politics, hatred and fear can easily corrupt even the most competent artist.
As far as the rest of the Introduction goes, I agree with Wilson. The Greek epitaph he provides the reader has been echoing through my head since I read again last week and there is great comfort and wisdom to be found in the quotes that he provides throughout.
However, the most striking line of the introduction comes near the end while Wilson is discussing “the force,” sometimes dubbed wakan, elan, prana, qui, kundalini, tao etc. “It is the only rebuttal anywhere to the logic of despair.” Not to beat a dead horse, but Higgs also makes a similar argument that the best antidote to despair is access to what he deems the psychological “flow” state or Colin Wilson’s “peak experience” and which our Wilson presents under a multitude of names. I wish it for you, dear reader, and I hope you wish the experience repeated and perpetual for me as well. We live in an infinitely complex world made up of billions of tiny universes. Be gentle, careful and appreciative when another has been exposed to you. Whether it is the case for most of humanity, or not, you should be playful and grateful in the presence of breasts in life and as we pass through Ishtar Rising.
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
Up to then there'd only been
A sort of bargaining,
A wrangle for the ring,
A shame that started at sixteen
And spread to everything.
Then all at once the quarrel sank:
Everyone felt the same,
And every life became
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.
So life was never better than
In nineteen sixty-three
(Though just too late for me) -
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
If we are to end on a number, I would like this to be Ishtar Rising Week Eleven . Although, due to delays, this group has lasted longer tha...
Scan of an old Playboy paperback of Ishtar Rising, originally The Book of the Breast, provided by the magnificent Rasa and the illustrious ...
Inanna, Goddess of Heaven and Earth Who Descended Into Hell for God-Knows-What Reason Wilson’s Introduction to the 1989 Edition Dante based ...
I'm decently sure when you die, you're tricked back into incarnation with the promise of naked ladies. Ishtar Rising Chapter One: I...