Revenge of the Curse of the Brides of the Son of Friday Fragments
Yes, I watched a lot of schlocky horror movies as a kid
[In Mexico City a decade ago. As sometimes happens, I felt almost as though this had to have been staged specifically for me in advance. I regret that I didn’t talk more with them beyond pleasantries and asking permission to take the photo.]
I saw in my newsfeed again the other day a story of the suicide of a young woman who made a living with her OnlyFans account.
I won’t link to it because all the stories, predictably given the culture of contemporary mass media, find it luridly necessary to include images of her mostly undressed, with all the visual evidence of her emotional suffering (tattooed from head to toe, evident extreme surgical interventions to approximate a comic book sexual aesthetic) prominently displayed, and that is a needless blackening of the memory of people who are not here any longer. I won’t participate in that wicked game.
My sense, admittedly subjective, is that I have seen a lot of these stories. Some social scientist should do a study to see what we know about how female participation in such distorted and self-debasing media affects mental health and suicide risk. Of course, that won’t be done because the ranks of professional academic social science are so loaded with the kinds of people who tend to believe the growth of this and other such sordid phenomena is positive evidence of the success of the feminist revolution’s liberation of women to live their lives on their own terms.
When “on their own terms” translates in a considerable number of cases into “earning money by prostituting themselves visually and getting sucked more or less inevitably down that dehumanizing tube into psychopathology and self-destruction,” you can count me out.
These young women don’t need that kind of “freedom.” They need people with firm and traditional principles to love and protect them sufficiently to prevent them from making such patently disastrous decisions.
Something else I just did on The Andy Griffith Show. If I were guaranteed that I had another century of life before me, I think I might just write a book about what it meant to me to have Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Fife and Aunt Bee and Opie and the rest of them in my life as a young’un.
YouTube directed me to this clip of Noam Chomsky talking about William F. Buckley just in the wake of the latter’s death in 2008.
This is not primarily a commentary on the political ideas of either Chomsky or Buckley, though I do think it relevant to point out just how wrongheaded some of the beliefs of the former, who is an exceedingly smart man, were, and I’ll do that below. But I do this mostly just as an observation of how easy it is to be really, really intelligent and to still fail utterly to achieve the basic human decency that many people with a fraction of Chomsky’s IQ accomplish seemingly effortlessly.
Note how purposefully snide, snarky, and petty he is: “My sole contact with him…was of no particular significance as far as I was concerned…He was pretty angry, he said he would invite me back [on Buckley’s program Firing Line] but of course I never heard from him again…He was the leading figure in the so-called conservative movement…He was considered, not by me, but he was considered to be witty, articulate, knowledgeable and so on, and much respected. Again, not by me.”
He is talking about a man with whom he clearly disagreed in political terms, a man who had just died.
This is a test, in my view, of what kind of person one is.
When someone you strongly disagree with dies, and you are asked to talk about him or her, what do you say? Do you talk like Chomsky talks here, making certain your listener understands your lack of respect for the deceased person? Or do you step away from that long enough to try to generate some human warmth for a brother or sister who is no longer here, and for those of us who are still here and who think fondly of that departed person? For that is what Buckley is to Chomsky, whether he likes or acknowledges it or not. They are brothers, and both are my brothers, as all three of us are your brothers. That’s how I see it.
My view is that we have obligations to those brothers and sisters that are far more important than scoring points on the dead or reminding everyone how poorly you thought of them as you stand in their absence.
I was speaking with a friend the other day about Cornel West, of whose writing I’ve read a fair bit over the years and whom I met once when he visited Bucknell a few years ago. I disagree with some of his ideas a great deal, vehemently, even, though we also share many intellectual interests. We would certainly be qualified as politically opposed in some of the same ways Chomsky and Buckley were politically opposed. (Note well: I am not attempting to cleverly stick myself into the elite class of public figure those other three are in by making this observation—the point I want to make is a quite different one).
The central fact that most impressed me during my meeting with Cornel was the authentic human warmth he shows everyone he meets. He addressed me as “my brother” from the moment he met me. I can hardly express how meaningful and valuable that was and is for me. It seems a small thing. It is not. I felt and feel tremendous closeness to him because of his demeanor. Let’s call it straightforwardly what it is: I loved Cornel from the moment I met him because of the love he so evidently radiated out toward everyone around him.
Here is the brief but heartfelt introduction I gave him at the event in which he appeared here (it starts about 4:15 in)—be sure not to miss the big hug he gave me when he and Robert George came on stage.
I disagree vehemently with Noam Chomsky on a broad range of matters, too. Still more vehemently, in fact, than I disagree with Cornel West, and at least in part because of the unguardedly disparaging way in which Chomsky sometimes talks about those with whom he disagrees.
But the test will be the same for me as it was and is for him. When he dies—he is nearly 30 years my senior, so the actuarial tables, though certainly offering no certainty about the matter, are much in favor of me being the last of the two of us to stand alive on Earth—how will I think and talk about him?
In fact, he is far from the hardest case for me. I admire him, despite our differences, as I admired Buckley, and despite ours. But I can easily imagine individual cases—often but not always people with whom I’ve had much more contact than Chomsky had with Buckley, and so people on whose shortcomings I could give a much more lengthy testimony—in which this would present itself as a Herculean task for me. I would like to do better on that test than he did on this one, and I do not meditate enough on what I must do to prepare myself for that possibility.
So perhaps stumbling on Chomsky’s failure in this regard should be understood by this fallen individual as a blessing, as it gives me a prompt to work harder.
Below is that appearance on Firing Line that Chomsky did during the war in Vietnam in early 1969. In it (and let me try to be meticulously fair in summarizing what he said, and you have the video against which to check my summary), he:
argues that Marshall Aid for Europe in the wake of the Second World War, which was intended to reduce the likelihood that economic deprivation in that shattered and crucially important region might lead them to adopt political systems modeled too closely on that of the totalitarian Soviet Union, was “arguable” and not at all evidently positive in its general effects;
calls the war in Vietnam an “obscenity, a depraved act” for which everyone in the United States bore moral guilt;
advocates for at least some varieties of violent opposition to the war in Vietnam (e.g., he sees “sabotage” as morally legitimate);
equates the US role in Vietnam with that of Nazi Germany during WWII; and
asserts the existence of a “great deal of democratization…liberation of energies and involvement…a great deal of spontaneous democratic structure…which doesn’t exist in our society” in totalitarian communist China and North Vietnam, with purported “village democracies” cropping up in those parts of the world and demonstrating the greater commitment to giving voice and aid to the disadvantaged to be found in totalitarian communist states than in the United State of America.
He could not talk about it here, since it hadn’t happened yet, but later on Chomsky would repeatedly assign responsibility for the genocidal Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, for the murder of millions of its own citizens, to the United States, and argue that the level of the repression and killing there was systematically and cynically distorted for political purposes by the American government and media (the figures he disputed on the death toll in Cambodia have long been accepted as accurate).
Being asked to speak on camera on the occasion of Buckley’s death was an opportunity for Chomsky to put some perspective on their debate—perhaps to disavow some of the demonstrably incorrect things he said about the nature and historical record of totalitarian communism and the role of the US in global politics during the Cold War, minimally to qualify some of that and to acknowledge that, though (of course) Buckley too made errors and mistaken statements, his opponent was “articulate” and “knowledgeable” even if Chomsky believed both at the time and in the later interview that he was broadly mistaken.
He might also have used it as a way to reflect, as I am trying to do here in my paltry little way, on the relative importance of such squabbles when compared to the matter of our moral and spiritual maturation and the mortal end toward which we are all too rapidly hurtling.
What a shame he missed that opportunity. I pray that he will have others before he too passes and that he will avail himself of them.
I don’t mean to be too disturbing here, especially to you readers still young enough to be able to convince yourself, as I did all the way up through my early 30s, that the aging thing will never happen to you, but weird things start proliferating on your body as you get old.
Bumps and oddly colored marks and assorted other lesions. They start popping up with a worrisome regularity. Some of these are easily defined and dispatched. Others, when you show them to the doctor, just produce a shrug and a “I dunno, let’s wait and see what it does,” which is not exactly the kind of statement about such a finding that I prefer hearing from my doctor. (“But doc, what if what it does is kill me? That would be bad, right?!”) Some go away on their own, others stick around, some leave for a while and then come back in other places.
I do more work than I likely should to research these various manifestations on my own. Even given my fairly healthy skepticism about information found online, I now and again find myself in the sort of rabbit hole that almost always finds bottom in mourning the loss of limbs that are still there or wondering if I’ve saved enough money for my children’s college fund given that I’m certainly only going to be here for another six months or so at most.
Some of this is just the predictably decreasing ability of the body to repair itself as the decades stack up, which is troubling enough. But some of it too is evidence of a fact that makes me uneasy not just about mortality but also about my very identity.
Your body, mine, everybody’s body, or some parts of them at least, are full of virions left over from earlier viral infections that were not fully eradicated by the immune system. Virions arguably cannot technically be killed because they are never alive. If they are not ejected from the body or consumed by the immune system and broken down, they can hide out in parts of the body not well patrolled by the immune system and stay there for as long as you’re alive. Sometimes they can mount a new attack on you and cause some of the various phenomena to which I just referred above. Shingles is a prime and frequent example.
The cells in your body that are you make up, according to the best if still imperfect current estimates we have, less than half the cells residing in “your” body at any given time. The rest are bacteria, archaea and fungi that are not you, doing the various things they do, some beneficial, some not so much.
That is to say, your body is mostly not you.
The body as at least half foreign entity, a permanent site of invasion and occupation.
More of Vincent Lloyd, who is fast becoming an ideal type of the totally out of touch with reality BLM activist for me. Here is saying if he is faced with the option of either imprisoning murderers or “reintegrating them into their communities” where they can be near those who “could transform their soul,” he chooses the latter.
He seems really sure about this. One wonders if he spoke much with the people in those communities about this option before deciding which one was obviously morally superior. He is after all a professor at an elite university, so he knows he would not be anywhere near the communities that would be receiving these perpetrators in dire need of soul transformation. What he is saying is that it is the good, innocent people in those poor communities who should bear the burden of having the murderers returned to their midst, these people who are so frequently the victims of their crimes, so they can find out how “transforming their souls” works out and potentially personally pay the cost for the failure of that transformation to take place.
While Dr. Lloyd sits out in the suburbs and writes another thoughtful and morally concerned essay about how terrible it is to “cage” people who routinely perform atrocities on other people near them.
In light of what I wrote above about Chomsky, I am just going to be silent now.
A few bits of music to take into the weekend:
Here’s the Chairman, with an understated but brilliantly emotive vocal.
Proof that the world is not fair, as if you needed more. Some people are beautiful, and some are talented, and some are neither, and the young Bonnie Raitt had a face like this and could sing like that all at once.
Here’s the whole studio concert from which that is taken, which showcases a bit of her substantial abilities on guitar as well.
The James Gang were from just up the road (ok, two hours going fast on the freeway) from where I grew up, and Joe Walsh was in that band, and there is nothing on this planet more rock n roll than the James Gang with Joe Walsh.
Here they are in Paris in 1971, not long at all before Joe left the band to do a solo stint and then join the Eagles. Just a day or two ago, a version of the footage that included interviews with the band (and also better sound quality) was pulled from YouTube. In one section of that discussion, the French interviewer asks them where “the truth” of American culture is, in New York or San Francisco? (Of course the French think those are the only options). Drummer Jim Foxx replies: “There’s a lot of space between New York and San Francisco…I think the true America is in between.” Walsh adds: “That’s really true. The major cities are not America at all. America is [Foxx suggests: “Kansas”]…yeah, Kansas, Ohio, West Virginia, places like that.” What’s not to love about this guy?
And then there’s this, one of the things I heard when I was young that most made me want to learn how to play guitar. That tone will fumigate your attic better than any chemicals. Joe was evidently there when God was handing out the best riffs and grabbed this one.
I get the SG out and play this whenever I start to feel old and broken down and it puts the twinkle right back in my eye and the attitude right back in my spirit.
And in another solar system, several parsecs from the one oriented around the blue giant star that is the James Gang: I’ve decided to do Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in something approaching the way the composer intended it to be experienced, or at least in a way closer to that than I’ve ever managed yet to this point.
Previously, I’ve never even gotten around to hearing the whole thing, and those pieces I have heard have not been ingested in any concentrated and systematic way. Alas, I can’t go to Bayreuth and do it in a long 3 day weekend, but will break it down into more or less hourly chunks and try to get through the whole 15 hour thing in a couple of weeks or so. I’m currently doing some reading up on Deryck Cooke’s analysis of leitmotifs in the work.
Here’s the appropriately intimidating theme that accompanies the arrival of the giants Fafner and Fasolt early on in the drama as a starter. If I’d known this in my early 20s, we would definitely have stolen and heavy metalized it.
And I would be remiss if I did not also say that it is absolutely apparent to me that the Bucknell faculty and administration as a whole paid very little or no attention to the advice West and George gave us as to how to build and maintain a properly liberal arts atmosphere here. The general trajectory on this campus since their visit has been jarringly discordant with the tenor of what they say here. It grieves me to say it, but it is the truth so far as I can see.