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Saturday, July 21, 2018

We’re at DEFCON: Stand-Up

I watch the news. My wife watches the news. Then we watch some great new stand-up performances on Netflix. (Joan Rivers doesn’t hold up over the years. We’ve progressed since the Catskills circuit.) The overt reason for watching stand-up comedians is because there are times when the world seems out of control. There needs to be an antidote for the toxic influx of news on a regular basis. The death throes of the old guard are very violent, and they are trying to shake the foundation so the building collapses on those trying to flee the building.

I Hate Stand-Up


I could make this a screed about Bill Cosby because I lament holding him up as a paragon of comedy when I was younger. This is something deeper. I remember the tail end of the Reagan years. I remember watching my local PBS station late on Saturday to see stand-up routines from Richard Belzer (before he was a TV cop), Bobcat Goldthwait (before he was a comedy movie cop and a pyromaniac), Louie Anderson (before he… actually, I’m not sure what happened to him other than having a severely depressing cartoon series and hosting Family Feud), and Jackie Mason (after he was allowed back on television, but before he had a short-lived sitcom with Lynn Redgrave. Oh, I guess I should add Richard Lewis into the mix, but I mostly watched Anything but Love to understand why he was buttoning his shirts up to the top button without a tie (think of it as a fancy bolo, for those who live in Texas), to see Jamie Lee Curtis act, and to understand Ann Magnuson, and how she crossed over from music to television. It was a very strange time. Stand-up comedy was the light side of the times in the same way that Appetite for Destruction laid out the underbelly of the less-than-super-rich of the 80s. Regardless of which side I preferred, the backdrop was the same – America was headed to a very dark place to pay for the excesses of the decade at hand, for years to come.

Once the 90s hit, I all but forgot about stand-up. Somewhere in a box, I still have a VHS tape that I copied from my best friend in high school of Billy Connolly’s routine, before he became a teacher for exceptional students at Monroe High, and before he was the most dangerous killer on the silver screen. Hell, even during the W Presidency, I didn’t pay attention to stand-up, because the comedians couldn’t keep pace with the news, and because comedians were still falling back to well-worn chestnuts in a society that was experiencing progression-pains.

There Are No Conservative Comedians


There aren’t. You’d think there would be, especially in this day and age. All they would have to do is read the headlines from The Hill and wait for laughter. The post-Nixon GOP has always written the best material. Maybe they offer humorous equanimity because the faults are “on both sides.”

I Hate Stand-Up for What it Means to Me


Stand-up comedy can be very funny. It can be. It can be insightful and offer self-reflection. It can be downright liberating! These are positive qualities that I will always encourage in comedy routines. Poking holes of light in the ominous, looming shadow helps us release steam through laughter when the alternative is much more unbearable and all too real. The rise in popularity of stand-up comedy is good, in a sense. It gives performers a platform. It provides much-needed levity. For me, it means that there is a need for levity. The backdrop to the stage isn’t Nero fiddling while Rome burns, but rather Nero actively setting fires so he can play his fiddle.

Comedy is a Necessity



I used to be a comedy writer (I still am, but that is debatable). I love comedy. Comedy is therapeutic. Don’t ever feel that you cannot laugh. Comedy is self-selecting. People will laugh to release tension. Others will laugh maliciously – not at the pain everyone is feeling, but because it punches down instead of lifting us up or bringing us to a more even playing field. (And in that respect, maybe there are conservative comedians, and I’d love to watch that pogrom program.) Comedy is necessary for so many reasons, I just dislike why it has become necessary again, this time. 

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Nidaba and the Patriarchy

A few years ago, I decided to go down the rabbit hole to figure out when society looked to male figures for guidance and rule.

It was obvious by virtue of Ma'at, that the patriarchy could not have existed prior to Egypt. However, I'm no historian, and certainly not qualified to do anything but research subjects now that we live in an age where the greatest amount of disinformation is available.

Who was the first matriarchal goddess?

Ma'at?
Nidaba?
Mary?
Ostara?

Before I inundate you with pedantry, I urge you all to read Barbara Walker's:
 

and



Read books by Judith Tarr

What I discovered on my own only served to assuage my insomnia, while also enlightening me to a very weird societal cycle.

Many ancient societies started out with Nature, which was represented by a goddess. As certain cultures settled and transitioned from nomadic life to an agrarian society, the Goddess became more provincial. the Mother became the entity that allowed for a great inundation or a generous crop yield. As societies advanced, the Goddess transformed. Agriculture yields crops, which allows commerce, and suddenly, we needed a deity who could count. No one wanted to invent "zero" (least of all, the merchants). From commerce, we went to the rudimentary forms of banking, which is every society's gateway to war, especially when regions and neighboring countries had stuff that they didn't. Why have "some" when you can have "all?"

And who better to carry this out than overly-aggressive people who needed to justify their flappy appendages beyond insemination?

We see previously revered goddesses take on a male form, or have their regency supplanted entirely in a given mythos, because WAR is how we should decide things! Men may not be creative, historically, unless we look at how they implement torture, misery, and rules of law to ensure their reign. Kind of like how my cat swipes at me to ensure she gets treats and ALL the attention. In a sense, this "grand change" can be equated with animals who have brains the size of walnuts. Pretty cool, except a cat can at least emulate affection - something bellicose propaganda cannot do.

So the question remains - what would a woman do?

Probably handle things more diplomatically. War is the last resort. War depletes both the population and resources. Ideals are kind of stupid to begin with, but they can be incorporated between cultures to give a greater understanding of the world (which is really what every thinking individual ultimately wants). Was cave art made by women? Most likely. Women knew how to trade and document, while men were off being aggressive or fulfilling their roles as hunters. Women were raising children and keeping clans together.

So thousands of years pass and we have today's society.

I could end it there, but there's no sense in today's society. Women are oppressed, and there are a number of circles which say this is a good thing. But then we look at the problems of today. Do we accept them? Do we question why they exist? Do we research how they came about?

Nah. Men buy guns and send unsolicited dick pics. Could we possibly ask for a more perfect world?

Maybe we all need to do a little reading.

I recently picked up books by Gerda Lerner, and I suggest you all do the same. I've not finished them. Hell, my work schedule has barely allowed me to start them. However, I think we all have a lot to learn if we are going to make this society a better place for everyone. I like the matriarchal structure of the Massai, personally.

I'm not saying we have to go back to the old ways. I AM saying we have to recognize where we took a wrong turn, and maybe go back to that fork in the road, and build something better, with more equanimity.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Lovecraft, Cosby, Polanski, and Weinstein: Where Do We Go Now?

 I’m an idiot. My parents hated Roman Polanski, and they told me why. They hated Jack Nicholson just as much for being a silent participant in Polanski’s actions. They also hated The Beatles (I’ve heard they’ve done some popular things) because Paul and John were rolling people in back alleys to get money when the band was struggling. They also liked (and continue to like) Rush Limbaugh and absolve him of anything he’s done.

We’re just getting started, so buckle up and read on, or bow out, get high, have a drink (or five) and consider it the lesser of two evils – the greater of which is writing this damned post.

I secretly loved Bill Cosby. From Bill Cosby, Himself to Fat Albert, to The Cosby Show, and even Uptown Saturday Night, I admired his work and his humor. Now that we have the 80s, 90s, and even the early 2000s behind us, I’m trying to disentangle the person from the art. I’m not the only one, but I know very few people, so I’ll keep this to just me. His life is no longer a cornerstone, and while I may have appreciated his performances, I can take those positive things I got out of them and move onto other, and better – not just performance-wise, but better in the human sense- people who know better and whose actions outshine their facades.

I used to read Lovecraft. There is no doubt that Lovecraft influenced a large part of a horror and comedy genres. He made an impact on everything from literature to heavy metal. Many an insomnia-fueled night was aided by Lovecraft. At the very least, it was a diversion to my more existential (or as existential as an adolescent can get) anxieties, and at most, I wanted to surrender to his mythos and find the source material (only to find out later that it only resided in his Anglophile cranium).

Lovecraft was a racist.

There’s no nice way to break it to anyone. In his stories, even contextually, the language serves no purpose. It’s not like reading Mark Twain, where people were treated with (contextual) dignity and respect. Lovecraft was just a flat-out racist and xenophobe. An Ouroboros of his own fears. The man taught me how to use tortuous mechanics when writing, and expanded my vocabulary, but he was an outright racist and misogynist, and I can find better authors (whose last names aren’t Ellison).

I liked Rosemary’s Baby. Everything from the writing to the acting to the soundtrack, I loved it. I liked The Ninth Gate (up to the ending scene, which kind of ruined the story for me). Polanski was an outcast. Despite years of denial, I now agree that he’s rightfully attained his position. He deserves to be shunned. I’m going to Godwin this post really early and say that just because Hitler was a vegetarian and liked dogs does not excuse his greater actions. Similarly, just because a person can create great works, it doesn’t excuse that person from being a piece of shit to individuals and society as a whole. And Polanski, like Cosby, Lovecraft, and Weinstein (a person I’ve yet to write about) are all pieces of shit.

So let’s cut right to Harvey. A man who produced quite a few films I’ve enjoyed over the years, such as The Gangs of New York, Shakespeare in Love, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Beautiful Girls (which honestly, just gives me the creeps these days), and many more. At what cost? Helping to cultivate the “boys club” of Hollywood and reinforcing the upholstery of the casting couch? Terrorizing people who didn’t think they had a voice until now, decades later? “He seduced them.” No. As a wise person I once knew put it, seduction is a two-way street. There’s the seducer, and the other party has to desire seduction. If at least one party is unwilling to be complicit, it’s no longer seduction, but rather harassment, terrorizing, or worse (legally speaking). What’s worse is going down the line from producer to director, and wondering how many stood by while Weinstein traded on terrorizing people with forced sex in exchange for roles which allowed them to pay their bills or start their careers.

I caught the tail-end of giants who influenced generations with their insidious behavior. Hell, I was influenced by them and probably bought into it. I know I did. That’s why the knee-jerk reaction is “Well look at the great things they did!”

That doesn’t cut it. That’s not how we progress. As an aside, it’s funny how we never hear these stories about women in positions of power. Maybe we can learn something about not predicating our lives on our basest urges or need to abuse the power given or earned.

On the plus side, there’s now a LOT of room in my life for more and better art.

I don’t have anything profound for you to read (I never do, to be honest). We have more information available to us with each passing day. Scientists of yesteryear laughed at the notion that rocks could fall from the sky. Scientists of the 20th Century realized that the Earth collided with meteors. Should you read Shakespeare? Absolutely! You should even read Lovecraft, listen to Bill Cosby’s stand-up routine (but avoid Leonard, Part Six), and watch the movies produced by Weinstein. If anything, to realize as a removed bystander, how the greater population can be fooled by people while a great deal of damage is done behind the scenes. And it’s not just these luminaries of literature and modern entertainment – it’s music, professors, employers, coworkers, cohabitants, and others.


That’s not to promote anxiety or paranoia, it’s to say that we need to apply everyday situational awareness to society as a whole, to keep these incidents from repeating.

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