Friday, September 5, 2014

’45 Notes on Nick Fury, Joan Rivers, Lauren Bacall, Fellini, and Other Tough Guys and Dames to Kill For

The past few weeks have been odd, rocky, sometimes sad ones for gender relations. Forty-five quick examples, including the fate of hero of ’45, Marvel’s Col. Nick Fury:

1. First of all, if you want to hear what the podcast team of Todd Seavey and Gerard Perry think about this or any other issues, you can ask us questions on anything just by commenting in this Facebook thread, and we’ll arbitrarily pick a few to answer.

2. Amanda Marcotte, the often-vexing leftist blogger/columnist who routinely makes arguments such as one suggesting that seasteading will lead to the raping of mail-order brides, has now argued that Nicki Minaj’s butt as displayed in her “Anaconda” video (which reaffirms her recurring message that if you want to touch her big butt, you’d better be a highly successful drug dealer) is good and empowering whereas Spider-Woman’s butt (as seen in one of the pictures nearby) is sexist and wrong -- though you can see Spider-Man’s own butt has gotten similarly fetishy treatment in the past, as is pretty normal in comics.

3. But then, as artist Milo Manara said in defense of his Spider-Woman cover, we shouldn’t take it for granted that appreciation equals oppression, no matter which gender is gawking at which. In comics, they’re all idealized cartoons of physical perfection. They’re here, they’re rears, get used to it.

Their creators’ punishment will come when they try to translate all of those outfits into working film costumes in the years ahead.

5. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway reacted similarly to the oddly-divergent feminist responses to racy performances by Sofia Vergara and Beyonce.

6. Well, I’m just glad big female asses are the new battleground in the culture wars, frankly. No complaints from me. Big n’ curvy beats living in a flat, 2D universe, though scientists claim we may.

7. Meanwhile, a real-life Batman ignores it all and rides his motorcycle in Japan, looking awesome.

8. If we got rid of feminism and thus had anything remotely resembling honest, sane conversations about sex in this culture, maybe we’d be able to talk about weird facts like female teachers who have sex with their teen students tending to be fairly hot (for teacher). I’m not the only one who’s noticed this, and it’s a bit counterintuitive, since you’d think they have other options.

9. Someone will probably call me misogynist somehow for that last observation, but that’s no longer any surprise. You can be called sexist for virtually anything these days, no matter how unrelated to sex, such as criticizing a revered figure like Progressive gangster-statist Hillary Clinton or a pseudo-scientific anti-GMO/anti-biotech activist like Vandana Shiva (h/t Dan Greenberg).

10. The media always treat any female-led fantasy story as if no women have ever appeared in literature or on film before -- and pat themselves on their liberal backs for the lie -- but in 1984, for example, my favorite comic book was a short-lived series called Thriller about a ghostly woman leading a superheroic team of early-twenty-first-century New Yorkers (including an Italian family nicknamed Salvo, like the pizza place in my neighborhood today), in a world dominated by computer networks, politicized cable news, Islamic terrorists who behead journalists, biotech, surveillance systems, and a black U.S. president.

11. Reality has to a large extent caught up with the (pre-Neuromancer!) cyberpunk of my youth, apparently, but I still find myself longing at times for stranger characters to populate the real world and make it as colorful as comics -- and that may explain how I end up at events like Jessica Delfino’s eccentrics-filled CD release party on the East River a couple months ago, which included performance art done beside and atop a piano apparently washed up out of the East River.

Her finale song “Hipster” was particularly amusing and apt, and you can hear it and other tracks here, which may inspire you to buy her CD and hear other numbers, like the one about her bicycle getting stuck in the middle of the highway.  

12. Alas, a gathering of artist hipsters like that one, much like a trip to Burning Man, invariably means you also run into characters like that nearly-naked bearded guy who rushes up and hugs people in Washington Square Park (the sort of thing that would probably get essay-length denunciations from some of the people noted earlier in this blog entry if a conservative ran around doing it).

Thanks to a friend’s Facebook post, I had noted the bearded guy’s existence with a shudder mere days before he was hugging several of us at the Delfino event. I had refrained from commenting on the Facebook post that the fellow looked deranged to me -- and, crucially, no freer than the rest of us in any sense that matters. Now I sort of wish I had said as much before encountering him, but I err on the side of tolerance.

13. If you look and act a bit like an animal, I suppose it’s like being an anarcho-primitivist -- that is, one of a subset of “green anarchists” who believe in living in a feral manner to undermine industrial civilization. I found myself chastised recently for not carefully distinguishing between anarcho-primitivists and other green anarchists when denouncing freegans on Facebook, which gives you some idea how hard it is for even a right-leaning guy to escape left-saturated culture online these days.

14. But I’m not anti-weirdo, and at Delfino’s aforementioned June 28 event, it was surprising how many of my favorite weirdoes showed up, even in a relatively small crowd, from libertarian Jim Melloan to Occupy-sympathizing Valerie Bronte. I didn’t even know some of these people knew each other, but put on odd makeup and beat a puppet in public or what have you, and you get some familiar suspects turning up in this oddly small town called New York.

15. Another gaggle of weirdoes I deal with, of course, is my fellow libertarians, and -- getting back to the gender topic -- I see Cathy Reisenwitz, the left-libertarian and feminist, now says she’s leaving the movement after a couple years of threatening to water it down or transform it into socialism or infuse it with guilt over non-egalitarian “privilege.”

16. In far manlier news, a comic book came out this week (Original Sin #8) in which an elderly Col. Nick Fury, all alone and without S.H.I.E.L.D. at his back, attempted to fend off an entire assembled army of Marvel superheroes and a few villains, who were all pissed because he seized the magical, all-seeing eyeballs of the dead Watcher who lived on the Moon, knowing one could thereby run defensive covert ops throughout space and time.

A grizzled man’s man like Fury doesn't just back down, and we should pause to salute him (after what may have been his final hour).

17. In other comics-related news, I say see Frank Miller’s hilariously hyper-noir and poetically violent Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, quickly before it vanishes from theatres, and try not to get confused if your memory of the first film is a bit fuzzy.

18. It’s not quite a “Wanted” poster, but you might also take note of this missing cat poster in my neighborhood -- perhaps even solve the mystery of his disappearance like an old-timey gumshoe if you’re feeling ambitious, pal. 

19. That prior thought is a reminder that despite my appreciation for the likes of macho Frank Miller, I know I am not so unlike a “crazy old cat lady” at heart. Nothing wrong with cats.

20. Nothing wrong with strong dames, either, and I think feminists these days have to go to great lengths to convince themselves men who object to feminism want women to be weak -- whereas the truth is more often that we oppose feminism because we want less whining. I always liked strong-seeming women like the late Lauren Bacall.

21. Most outspoken women, fortunately, are not like this feminist (h/t Jon Rowe) who ostensibly wants to reduce the male population by 90%. That hate springs from weakness and pettiness, not from strength.

Feminism, more so than almost any popular political
philosophy in the contemporary world, is blatant self-serving partisanship. It’s right there in the name, and don’t try to deny it. Why would that relentless partisanship not logically lead, in some cases, to the desire to eradicate the natural enemy?

22. It also leads to things like this piece listing the writer’s fifteen favorite songs about killing or hating men.

23. It’s not surprising there are bad men in the world, but it’s also hardly surprising these days that people suspect feminists like Anita Sarkeesian of faking death threats against herself to make her appear a more convincing feminist martyr.

Perhaps feminism should have been rejected out of hand when it first arose, except in so far as it attacked specific false claims pushed by other political factions (that women can’t do science or handle property or what have you).

But to the extent it instead asserted that women must be the equals of men in all things, or that any remaining discrepancies must redound to the benefit of women, or that the discrepancies must always be the result of an anti-female historical conspiracy -- whatever tactic they think will work best at a given moment -- it is a non-empirical, baseless assertion of claims that ought instead to be settled by dispassionate empirical analysis. It is faith.

We would not think highly of a movement called, say, Greenlandism that took it as central to the very meaning of justice that Greenlanders must be as intelligent, etc., as all other populations in the world or else be considered victims of a global conspiracy. We would immediately see this as absurd special pleading akin to white supremacism or any other, well, chauvinism. Discard feminism or stand revealed as a partisan intellectual fraud, says I.

And one must suspect that half of feminists’ rage comes from them knowing that despite all their haranguing on behalf of “sensitivity,” their own sisters are betraying them to chase stoic “real men” at every (increasingly rare) opportunity.

24. One of the glorious (and female) oddballs at that Delfino event was famed performance artist “Rev. Jen” Miller, who was nice enough to loan me her copy of I, Fellini -- the great director’s de facto autobiography as recounted to writer Charlotte Chandler. Rev. Jen didn’t merely describe it as her favorite book but as a summary of her own attitude toward art -- and it’s charming that in both her case and Fellini’s, art that is known for weirdness turns out to be a product not of high-faluting, alienating, abstract, avant-garde theory as one might expect but of quite old-fashioned nostalgia and sentimentality and playfulness and desire for community.

Rev. Jen is notoriously ringmaster-like, with her shows full of strange friends allowed to run amok in pretty much any vaguely artful fashion they choose -- and Fellini admits he was inspired throughout his life by the simple desire to run away with the circus (as he briefly did as a child) and to capture the sense of dreamlike wonder he experienced reading American comics like Popeye and Little Nemo. If Fellini puts a dwarf in a movie, despite what your film professor told you, it was probably because he once met a dwarf and really found him likable, not because he wanted to undermine narrative expectations by challenging bourgeois notions of spatial relations in the mise en scene blah blah blah.

25. So anyway, here’s hoping donors help rescue Rev. Jen’s “Troll Museum,” a.k.a. her apartment full of Troll dolls, or failing that give her some sweet new job or HQ from which to work slightly less shabby magic, now that we’re all getting old and in theory more responsible.

26. She has to keep doing art, though, since I’m supposed to play a werewolf victim in one of her upcoming low-budget films (sorry about the delay on that).

27. You may scoff, but Janeane Garofalo showed up at Rev. Jen’s Troll Museum “benefit” last month -- another reminder of the thin line between weirdo and establishment figure.

28. You will glimpse Garofalo once in a while if you move amongst Village/Lower East Side low-rent artist folk (or maybe had reason to be backstage at Politically Incorrect back in the day), but perhaps my most significant Garofalo-related experience was the time she didn’t show up at the taping of a rock video at a country-Western-themed bar in the Village, as it was rumored she would, leading to me trying to kill time by playing several songs by virtually the only singer I knew on the country-filled jukebox, k.d. lang (who I’d liked ever since seeing her spirited performance of “Jingle Bell Rock” on the surreal and oddly gay Pee-Wee Herman Christmas special back in 1988).

The Lou Albano-like bartender/owner actually came out from behind the bar and unplugged the jukebox, erasing all my (paid-for!) selections, and proclaimed with a boldness shocking in a Village business owner (and a Western-themed one, no less): “Somebody keep the dykes away from the jukebox!” I guess I got marginalized that day.

29. In other weird-artist-lady news, I see neo-Victorian cartoonist Dame Darcy refers to Lisa Carver’s new two-books-for-the-price-of-one deal as “two-book-ulosis.” That’s good pun.

30. Carver was one of the first prominent people I ever heard speak at a public event about having someone close to her grilled by the FBI over purported terror suspicions without her knowing why. It happens.

By contrast, I plan to hear a former CIA director, James Woolsey, face a mixed crowd of likely-supportive conservatives and likely-unsupportive libertarians on Tuesday the 9th, and it should be interesting what mix of questions this real-life Nick Fury, so to speak, faces. Half anti-ISIS, half anti-CIA? We shall see.

31. I am, as on so many topics, the model of reasoned balance when it comes to the question of nationalism. Love the U.S., by all means, but not in the way that moron senator Chuck Schumer of New York does: by trying to forbid companies like Burger King from moving to Canada to decrease their (massive and higher than globally normal) taxes.

If it’s a choice between American socialism and a burger-based monarchy, I will side with the latter. And I would hope any conservative who’s ever praised markets and any liberal who’s ever praised draft-dodgers would feel the same way. Don’t blame the victim here (and don’t be taken in by those heavily union-funded “spontaneous” fast food worker protests, either).

32. And here’s hoping voters opposed to police states -- yes, including people with vaginas and/or neoconservative impulses -- vote Rand Paul over Hillary Clinton if that’s the choice we face in the futuristic year 2016 A.D. Already the Democrats -- Democrats! -- are beginning to condemn his “isolationism,” which gives you some idea how willing they are to shift their positions around when they fear someone might be coming to shrink their precious big government in any way. Enough of this crap.

33. Justin Stoddard, by the way, notes the aforementioned Amanda Marcotte also wrote a whole piece calling libertarians insincere in their (longstanding) denunciation of police-state thuggery like that in Ferguson, yet herself has mentioned such problems in only one prior column, by his count, whereas she writes endlessly about the most trivial purported abuses of the patriarchy. Easy to look better than libertarians -- if you lie.

34. Interestingly, though some neocons think Rand Paul isn’t pro-Israel enough (or rather, just plain think he isn’t militaristic enough), Roger Waters thinks Paul is especially and excessively pro-Israel. You can’t please everyone, not even a guy who probably ought to be a little more cautious about flapping his gums on this issue after becoming famous for doing songs like these (not that they aren’t great).

35. Do hawks really prefer the idea of, say, WWIII with Russia to “isolation,” by the way? I’m not even sure how seriously to take people’s multi-layered posturing in this era of irony, bickering, and blaming, really.

36. It is sad that, as many have noticed, we have reached the point where speaking clearly and boldly is so rare that aged figures like the late Joan Rivers and the still-aging Don Rickles seem like models of un-p.c. heroism transported from a less-cowardly age.

37. In a great real-life reductio, one woman claims to have PTSD from an overly-emotional anti-harassment workshop, reports Katherine Timpf.

38. None of my worries about feminist faux-tolerance and liberal whining, of course, excuse people like that gay young man’s parents, footage of whom attacking him for being gay went viral -- and ultimately, the right to exit is the important thing in life, legally speaking. Once you’re out of the house, they can’t make you go to church. Remember that -- then focus on eliminating government, which does not let people exit so easily.

39. Half the world’s problems, including perhaps much of the panic over our purported “rape culture” lately -- which apparently wasn’t fixed by the campaign a couple decades ago to remind everyone no means no -- might well be alleviated if people honestly learned to say no, as Michael Malice reminds us.

40. Be tough when necessary, a bit like Debbie Harry, who I watched bite the tops off a bouquet of flowers thrown onstage at her first, unadvertised comeback performance with Blondie in 2000. And on Sept. 23, check out bandmate Chris Stein’s book of mostly-unseen photos of the band’s early days, Negative (h/t Marc Steiner).

41. Or at least be tough like Lego Iron Maiden (h/t Julia Perrotta).

42. You might also take a lesson from punk singer Tibbie X, though when I saw her perform with new band Gash the other night, she noted the audience was in her estimation “80% Satanists,” which I’m not necessarily endorsing (the Church of Satan is real, though mostly-joking).

43. And despite a guy I know from my earliest debate-hosting days who goes by the nickname Agent Bleach showing up at the performance, I’m pretty confident the guy near the front of the crowd wearing bondage gear wasn’t a mutual acquaintance of ours. The sight of him was unsettling, though, as you never know what punk Satanism might tempt quiet souls to do.

By contrast, I do endorse Tibbie’s performance of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” with a burlesque dancer leading her on a collar. Consistency is a hobgoblin of small minds or something.

44. The recurring rock show in question, Gotham Grindhouse (hosted by the lovely and generous “Comtessa MoriVond”) at Tammany Hall, was augmented, as is often the case among the hip, by wall projections showing trashy old film clips, and I must say it was one of the more impressive trash montages I have ever seen, with everything from Godzilla to the lurid trailer for Truck Stop Women.

Just as it was in NYC a century ago (the days of Progressives and flappers), there’s the wussy sort of liberalism that awaits government instructions, and there’s the kind that creates DIY decadence. The latter is salvageable.

45. But all the culture notes above will probably be looked back upon by historians as trivial next to the news that Julia Allison married herself at Burning Man. That’s one way to escape the often-painful gender wars in this crazy world. 

1 comment:

Shawn Levasseur said...

Ah yes, Thriller. I remember the promos :

"The lady's name is Angelique Thriller. And she has Seven Seconds with which to save the world"