04/09/2005: "Helden (part two)"
The point I was trying to make in yesterday's Thoughtless (and yes, in
retrospect, I realize that I could've made my point in less than 2,100
words) was that in the presence of our heroes we tend to devolve into
tongue-tied social retards (of which the "'I hope I don't kill him' guy"
is the most extreme example). There is, quidem, a famous story, which I
just made up a minute or so ago, about Alan Greenspan's first encounter
with Ayn Rand. Greenspan, who had been a devotee of Rand's ever since
receiving a copy of the Atlas Shrugged Coloring Book at the tender
age of sixteen, spent nearly seven years rehearsing exactly what he
would say should he ever meet the Mother of Determinism: "My dear Miss
Rand, thank you for unfettering the chains that once bound a young man's
mind to an outdated philosophy." What he actually said upon meeting Rand
was quidem, "Oh dear God, I've shit myself." He said this because he had
indeed, most probably due to the excitement of finally coming face-to-face
with his idol, shit himself: thus earning the nickname "pudding pants".
Greenspan, for obvious reasons, despised being called "pudding pants", and
would often fly into a rage shouting, "That's right douchebag; just keep
calling me 'pudding pants'; because someday I'll be in charge of the
Federal Reserve and then I'm gonna fuck the US economy and your mother in
I'm Paul Harvey with the rest of the fuckin' story. Marv, git in here. My
colostomy bag is leaking again!
This is one of the many reasons that I'm glad the entire world sees me for
the total idiot that I am. I don't think I could live with myself if I knew
that people were, on a daily basis, rehearsing what they would say if they
ever met me. I honestly don't know how Scott Biao can stand it.
I found myself rehearsing, in my head, a little speech last Tuesday night
while I was standing in line waiting for Camille Paglia [Keep reading, damn
it! I know that some of you surf over to the Shoobey Taylor page whenever
I mention my fondness for (worship of) Dr. Paglia. Stick with this story; trust me]
to sign my copy of Sexual Personae. We'll get to what I was planning
to say shortly; here's how the meeting went down:
Rodney Anonymous: I just want to say that I loved every minute of your
lecture. [Everybody do the "Brown-nose"]
Camille Paglia: Oh, thank you. You're wonderful.
Rodney Anonymous: No, you're wonderful.
Gentle reader, you may now vomit. Hey. At least I didn't shit myself, or
turn to the person behind me and say, "I'm so excited. Gosh, I hope I don't
The truth is that I did love every minute of Dr. Paglia's lecture that
evening. I loved it so much that I'm going to recap some of the highlights,
along with my own thoughts, for you. As stated above, I'm well aware that
many of you are far from being fans of Paglia. Quidem, some of you seem to
harbor a dislike of her which borders on hostility. My goal, if not to
bring you "into the fold", is to, at least, make you understand my
fascination with this woman who, while not forming many of my ideas, has,
time-and-again, confirmed them.
Paglia says: "Forget Michael Jackson; it's the Humanities Department
of Harvard who should be charged with child abuse." Or, in other words,
people are spending their life's savings to send their offspring to
Graduate school only to have said progeny become discouraged by having
the writings of mediocre French deconstructionists such as Foucault, Lacan,
and Derrida forced upon them.
Look, there's nothing wrong with French culture, the study of which is,
in itself, a worthwhile pursuit. And French is such a rigidly structured
language (the French even have a Minister of Culture whose job includes
rooting out foreign influences) that it could benefit from a little
deconstruction (The next time that you rent a French film - I recommend
Brotherhood of the Wolf - listen to the incredible balance in the
phrasing. The problem is that Academics are pushing these pasty French
intellectuals to the detriment of centuries worth of brilliant English
writers. That's why we now have a generation of fifth-rate writers who
were weaned on tenth-rate translations.
Ah, English: that most beautiful and eclectic of languages which draws
from Norse, Latin, and Norman lingual commingling.
Anonymous says: Fuckin' A right! Is there anything sadder than
encountering an English Major (or a Theater major, for that matter) who
knows no Shakespeare (I mean anything other than someone who begins a
serious critique with "Fuckin' A right!")? I've met such people, and they
are not a pretty sight. They are the walking-wounded victims of the fallout
from the cultural Chernobyl that is a decades-long attempt to rid academia
of the influences of "Dead White Males."
Paglia says: "Poststructuralism and postmodernism are killing art
and literature and, therefore, must go" The poststructuralist practitioners
of the New Criticism had their heads planted firmly up their Francophile
asses. They denied the influence of nature and psychology and treated the
human body as a passive object that could only be acted upon.
Postmodernism's ironic, reserved sneering cool has made unbridled
Anonymous says: Agreed. Or, as Umberto Eco once said to A.S. Byatt,
"Thanks to postmodernism we can no longer say 'I love you, truly, madly,
deeply.' We must now say, 'As Barbara Courtland would say, "I love you,
truly, madly, deeply."'" Umberto, to the best of my knowledge, didn't say
anything about poststructuralism.
Paglia says: "It's impossible to find a good poem about an animal
or a sport." All of the recent poems written about animals are about
suffering animals. That is to say that the animal's suffering is
being used as a metaphor for the author's suffering. You're dying cat is
an analogy for your recent divorce. OK, we get it. Now take Mr. Whiskers
to a goddamn therapist and shut the fuck up.
And here's the depth to which poems about sports have sunken:
Oh, look at me
I'm watching baseball on TV
Hey, I'm just a regular dude
Like Byron, Keats, and Langston Hughes
Anonymous says: While I do mourn the present sorry state of animal
and sports poetry, I see these genres less as toxic wastelands more as
fertile pastures waiting for just the right strapping field hand to plow
them. And that young farmhand is none other that RATYHTL's own Poet
Lauriat, Brian Nirvana.
Brian, I know that this is a great deal of pressure to put you under, but,
seeing as April is National Poetry Month, would you be so kind as to favor
us with either a poem about an animal (and not, tempting as it may be, Rick
Santorum) or a sport? I wouldn't ask if I didn't think that you were up to
Paglia says: "The pro-sex wing of Feminism, with the invaluable
help of Madonna, won the war for the heart and head of the movement."
Andrea Dworkin and the rest of the anti-sex crowd have been relegated to
mere footnotes in the history of Feminism: crushed, as it were, beneath
the spiked heel of Suzie Bright's Saturday Night Sex boots.
Anonymous says: Here I must, respectfully, disagree. Camille, your
side has not won the war: only nearly every battle fought since 1987. As
much as I despise Dworkin and would love to see her audience dwindle to
the dust bunnies on her crotch, experience has taught me that anything
that ugly and hateful, like a boil on the ass, never permanently goes
away. Just when you think it's safe to go back into the bookstore, Dworkin,
whom I'm positive I once battled in game of Dungeons and Dragons back in
1981 when she went by the name "Shambling Mound, will be enjoying (if it
is, indeed, possible for that hambeast to enjoy anything) a resurgence in
popularity. Besides, can any movement that is buoyed by The Material Girl
stay afloat forever?
Paglia says: "It's time for writers and artists to stop portraying
religious people as ignorant hicks." There's a reason why, if you listen
to Right Wing radio, so much venom is being spewed towards Leftist writers
and artists: we asked for it. There's an entire country out there,
somewhere between New York City and LA, that believes in Jesus Christ and
we'd better get used to that idea because things aren't going to change
anytime in the foreseeable future.
When we started to mock these people as backward rubes, and when we began
pissing (literally) on the things they hold sacred, we began to seal our
own artistic doom. Why do you think that funding for the arts is being cut
from the budgets of school systems?
Further more, Artists and writers need to break from there little cliques
and from the myth of the Bohemian lifestyle, and make the effort to court
the acquaintance of people who hold different believes from themselves.
Anonymous says: Well, yes and no. Piss Christ was a cowardly
work designed to infuriate "lowbrow" middle-Americans. Is there anything
more annoying than an artist who creates a "shocking" piece and then cries
like little bitch when everyone is shocked? Had Piss Christ been
called Piss King and featured MLK suspended in urine, how many
people on the Left would've supported it?
And, as for little Boho cliques of artists needing to broaden their
horizons, a trip past any coffee shop makes this point self-evident.
"No one understands my poetry but you, Serge." "And no one understands my
art but you, Leon." Um, fellows, maybe, and this is Just a thought,
that's because you both suck.
This said, I still can't help but feel that I have a duty (some might say
a calling) to mock the religious. This might be due to the fact that they
make it so easy for me to do. Look, if you can upon a fifty-four-year-old
man who still believed in Santa Claus, would you mock him? Of course not,
you'd patiently explain to him why Santa isn't real. Now let's say that
fifty-four-year-old man is the President of the United States and he was
elected by a bunch of people who also believed in Santa Claus (call them
the residents of the Red Suit states) on a platform of denying rights to
people who don't believe in Santa Claus. You'd mock the living shit out of
him and his jolly little elf followers. Well that's just what I do.
Why is it that you never hear people on the Right saying "It's our constant
need to portray Leftists as traitors who are bereft of all morality that
causes them to see us as banjo-plucking street preachers. We should really
cool it." ?
And while were at it, where is the ire that non-fire and brimstone
Christians should have for the "God Hates Fags" branch of the Jesus
worshiping family? If you Peace and Love Christians would reign in your
outhouse dwelling, Bible thumping, Fag hating bretheren, I could go back
to writing about the Ancient World. 99.9999% of Muslims are not
terrorists. Do you know whom Muslims mainly have to blame for their image
as terrorists? Well, it's not Bill O'Reilly and it's not Pat Buchanan. It's
the 19 rim-lapping mule-fuckers who ran out of frequent flyer miles on
Remember, because this is the LAST TIME that I'm going to say this, when I
mock a Christian for putting hot sauce on his or her kid's tongue, I'm
not mocking all Christians: just a particular subset of Christianity
that happens to be comprised entirely of child-abusing dumbfucks.
Maybe I need to temper these pieces with the inclusion of lines such as
"You sick child-abusing dumbfuck. Can't you see that when you do stupid
shit like disciplining little Cody by making him chug-a-lug Tabasco you are
also, by means of guilt-by-association, tainting the image of decent
Christians everywhere whose only crime is to believe that an invisible
being controls all of the events in the Universe and has done so since the
beginning of time"?
Send me an article about a group of sick child-abusing dumbfuck Jews,
Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, or Atheists and I'll gleefully bust
their tiny balls too. Of course, neither Jews, Muslims, Buddhists,
Zoroastrians, nor Atheists have ever tried to place a large, granite
monument outside of a Federal courthouse in Alabama, so you may now be able
to understand why I've been so lax in getting around to them.
Paglia says: "Joni Mitchell's Woodstock is the greatest work of
poetry to be published since Sylvia Plath's Daddy."
Anonymous says: Joni Mitchell? You're shitting me, right, pudding
pants? Where's the hidden camera? Am I on Punk'd? Camille, if you
were looking for a female lyricist to lionize, why not go for someone,
like Patti Smith, who can actually write? Joni Mitchell's Woodstock
has all the artistic merit of the Jiffy Pop jingle.
Paglia says: "The best way to write about social injustice is from
the perspective of one of society's victims." Case-in-point, William
Blake's heartbreakingly brilliant The Chimney Sweeper .
William Blake wrote:
When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry 'Weep! weep! weep! weep!'
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.
There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved; so I said,
'Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.'
And so he was quiet, and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight! --
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.
And by came an angel, who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins, and set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.
Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind:
And the angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father, and never want joy.
And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark,
And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm:
So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.
Paglia says I'm wonderful.
Paglia also says: "Adrienne Rich's Diving into the Wreck
may well be the worst poem ever written."
quidem - in fact