Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dionysium tonight! Touchy subjects to be broached!

In the air-conditioned comfort of Muchmore’s Bar (2 Havemeyer St. near the Bedford Ave. L stop) tonight at 8pm, we’ll not only hear the music of Hannah Meyers and comedy of Daniel Somarriba but of course the observations of Dawn Eden on molestation, psychological trauma, and religion as (among other things) a coping mechanism, themes from her book with a fraught sentence as a title, My Peace I Give You

All are welcome, though it might be just as well that some of my fellow skeptics who showed up for our talk with libertarian Brian Doherty last month are off in New Hampshire this time, celebrating the “free state” and its bourgeoning anarcho-capitalist population at PorcFest. 

In any case, I hope the Dionysium will (always) be skeptical in the most productive sense, not just debunking things but sorting out what the best and most useful parts are of the myriad things examined – always striving, in Edmund Burke-like fashion, to avoid throwing out the baby with the bath water, even when there are deep underlying disagreements.  That, indeed, is why I will largely eschew the yes/no combat model we used at the old (unaffiliated) Debates at Lolita Bar I hosted. 

The Dionysium will be a crucible but may produce new hybrids and unexpected partnerships – not to mention a place where people are comfortable changing their minds or being unsure – not just an arena yielding an ostensible winner and a loser.

Similarly, I’ve tended to remain on friendly terms with exes – not only Dawn, with whom I have such a big disagreement on the God/atheism thing – but even, perhaps, the one I notoriously sparred with on C-SPAN2, Helen Rittelmeyer, with whom I’ve sorta buried the hatchet.  Can I presume to know for sure what psychological forces led her to some rather dark and pessimistic attitudes that clashed with my own? 

Y’know, maybe I should’ve taken her fondness for Dollhouse (the Joss Whedon series about reprogrammable psyches), Oldboy (the angst-ridden Asian incest crime drama), Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses (about lunatics who make art by chopping people up), and film noir as signs she was wrestling with some weird emotional currents I’ve been mercifully spared, not just different philosophical and aesthetic ones.  In any case, she’s still a tortured genius and all, and I suppose someone should probably hire her to write about it all (not to mention politics and history – and edit), since I don’t plan to write about such things.  (I’ll write about pretty much anything else you hire me to, though.)

But let’s get back to Dawn.

Dawn vs. Batman

I don’t know if we’ll have time to get into it tonight
– Dawn’s the real subject of the evening, not me – but it is interesting that I have a few exes all possessed of (A) mixed feelings about sex, (B) religious or mystical inclinations, and (C) a passion for music.  Might these all, as Dawn’s book more or less hints, be manifestations of identity issues springing from childhood and an attendant desire, later in life, to lose oneself in something large, passionate, and immersive? 

The 1995 movie Batman Forever may’ve blown, but it at least gave us the clever and plausible idea that Batman might be a relatively conventional case of a “split personality” induced by childhood trauma, namely the deaths of Bruce’s parents (the “split” terminology has pretty much fallen by the wayside since then, but the idea of people armoring themselves in a new, tougher personality to prevent future harm is still with us – it’s the basis of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, not to mention the likely basis for the psyches of a lot of tattooed girls in Williamsburg).

If the makers of Batman Forever really wanted to delve into psych, by the way, they might’ve added an OCD/self-hate explanation for the Riddler’s otherwise baffling compulsion to leave clues after his crimes.  Like a few of the Batman characters, the seemingly irrational Riddler makes more sense to me as an adult than he did when I was a well-adjusted child who found it hard to believe serious psychological problems existed in the real world.  Two-Face had no psych depth at all in that film, by the way – that would be left until Christopher Nolan’s vastly superior Dark Knight, which may be just as well.

Religion and psychology are so complex that it’s dangerous to reduce them to simple formulas, but it’s safe to say that people with superficially-similar philosophies – Dawn and Helen are both converts to Catholicism, for instance – can look to those philosophies for very different things.  Dawn wants peace, and Helen (since moved to Australia, by the way) always sought combative badassery.  Utilitarian and debate-host that I am, I would honestly like to find some way that everyone ends up happy and everyone gets along.  To see how I do, henceforth you’ll have to keep coming to the Dionysium (but, no, no more discussing my exes after today – unless that ABC News piece about odd breakups happens, of course). 

Tomorrow, though, a look at one undeniably badass and combative Christian moralist: Teddy Roosevelt.  Oh, and a historical figure known as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

(And courtesy of Gerard Perry, here is something traditionalistic and musical to keep you entertained until 8pm tonight: Cyril Tawney’s “Chicken on a Raft” – which is just a semi-ironic lament about an unbeloved sailor’s dish consisting of an egg fried into a piece of toast – but it still sounds kind of ridiculous.  He is not to be confused with Talky Tawny.  We’ll save Talky Tawny – and Spider-Man and some more Batman – for next month.)

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