Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nyssa: A Dark Modern Fairy Tale

By James Curcio

"A modern dark fairytale." Or so I say... I realize it is considered in bad form to analyze your own work. In some ways we're furthest from it. But I'd like to make some crucial points about storytelling, especially within the framework of a modern fairytale. Why not a story I wrote?

Sea Fang by Stas Prohortsev
So, Nyssa: Love Notes To A Stranger.

What is this story really about? What is the nature of a fairytale but to use elements of the unreal to talk about dimensions of our psyche, or psychological experience that are quite real?

I wanted to create the first issue of a series told not by the protagonist but by someone else. And I wanted to make it an unreliable narrator, a narrator who gives us this protagonist almost like she is hidden in the shadow created by his projection. I spent about two months thinking about writing this seemingly simple short story, because this was a challenge.

Not that the initial semblance of who and what Nyssa was took very long to germinate. I got my initial concept in a few minutes, on a cold overcast morning sitting on the subway on my commute to work when I was working as a UI designer for TLA.

But I wanted to open up the opportunity for an ongoing series about a character, and I didn't want to introduce the character from the inside. So it took me a good two months of thinking to figure out the angle I wanted to take. We're talking about a 3000 fucking word story here. I almost never take so long on such a small amount of text.

As I said, we first meet Nyssa from a distorted perspective. The protagonist doesn't really know her, even though he is increasingly obsessed with her. In that same way you don't really know the barrista you have a crush on. They're like these far off symbols to us, that we dream of one day having a real relationship of some kind with. But generally, that never comes to be.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Batman: Masks of Shamanism


By Sascha Idakaar

The mask is an idea, a symbol, we could look at from a million angles. It is, even at first glance, our double, a close relative of the mirror -- but it is something other than the mirror. The mirror shows us our double. A mask creates a second double atop us. It transforms rather than reveals.

At the same time, a lot of psych pop lit has been written about Batman. But I'd like to use Batman as the pop culture model of the role of the mask. 

What is Batman, really? 

Is is a story about how an emotionally disturbed, very rich young adult deals with psychological trauma that he cannot let go of. Some ideas, some emotions, are things that we hold onto, and they are done with us the moment we are done with them. But others have us in their clutches, and they are only done with us when they are ready. This becomes a subject of subconscious, and the only way to deal with such things is to try to find a way to speak the language of the subconscious. Not just the subconscious, but our subconscious. Every single one has a different symbolic and emotional makeup. Any therapeutic system that misses this will basically be a crapshoot, whether that system lines up well with the stories that are embedded inside of you.

"It’s not a hobo beard. It’s a writer beard."

This was actually the typewriter of demon frog "fame."

(This is a rough draft that mashes up some of my contributions to The Nervous Breakdown and other thoughts into what I hope to be the only piece I ever write 'On Writing,' for the next issue of Scree Magazine.) 

By James Curcio


It’s not a hobo beard. It’s a writer beard.
Jamie Curcio

It's hard to remember when my addiction started. I remember hammering awkwardly on an old-style typewriter about a demonic underworld that existed in the basement of a house we lived in. We had to go down into the basement in the cold and the dark and shovel coal to keep the house warm, and the story had something to do with the frog demons that lived down there and the boy that had to brave them every night to keep his family warm. Really deep stuff, clearly. I actually don't know if that is relevant to anything, but you've got to admit it's kind of cool I remember a story I wrote when I was eight or so.

I think it was my first time, but I could be wrong. Freud call these "screen memories," which basically means they are picture-stories that we use as memories. They are like the seeds of the story that we construct about childhood, because, you see, memories are a form of story. Everything about us is based on stories.

Our sense of identity, all our beliefs even, are narratives, and this is why politics demands narratives that draw us in, whether they act on our intellect or our emotions. We think we can get some sort of real or fixed sense of the past. Of history. Of what really happened. But the fact is that all these narratives stand between us and that speck of dust that is some point in the past, long since vanished past the event horizon of clear recall. We conjure it back, perform some sort of neurological magic trick, and think we’ve painted something more real now that it’s been brought back to life.

I guess I’m saying we’re all story junkies. This is a confessional, but I’m certainly not alone in being unable to kick the habit. Don’t judge lest ye judge yourself.

Once I got past stories about frog demons, I started writing for a dual purpose. I wanted to gain a better sense of myself, and at the same time I wanted to communicate with others in a way that was deeper, than, well, the stuttery and awkward attempts at communication I try when speaking on the fly. In other words, there is an internal “me” that does not easily come out socially, in the moment. And I think that “me” has a lot more to say than the off-the-cuff, needs a tequila to be able to talk easily with a stranger... on a good day, "me." But maybe “he” doesn’t. Maybe he’s a psychopath. Guess you’ll have to read “his” stories.

My point is that my brain moves in twenty directions at once and it's almost impossible to cogently communicate with someone as clearly as I believe I can with text on a page. Yet after years of publishing books and blog posts, I've come to wonder if I have in the process proven myself to be the very source of the kind of alienation that set me on the path of writing in the first place. In other words, the better “he” gets at communicating, the worse stuttery-in-the-moment me gets. This is the literary equivalent of a K hole.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Redefining the Real






The Inner College

Redefining the Real: Metanarratives and collaborative fiction writing as a blueprint for social change.

By Dr.* Shackleford

 
(*this denotes honorary ordination and doctorate in metaphysics, College of Aetheric Sciences. The following is an excerpt from a lecture series from the curriculum of the College of Aetheric Sciences.)

 
Good morning, class. Today we're going to be exploring the boundaries of what is termed "consensual reality". The memetic structure in question, henceforth referred to throughout as "consensual reality", seems to be at a glance fairly self-explanatory. On the surface, anyway. If you look at the world around you carefully, it shouldn't be difficult to spot the mass hallucination sold to all of us as "real." Make no mistakes, this is by design. The people actively working to build your worldview for you are paid very well to do just that.
 
Millions of dollars are given to well paid and extremely intelligent social engineers every month, as they attempt to discover new methods in which to propagate and to reproduce certain cultural norms, lifestyle decisions, elements of pop culture, fashion trends and other subtle forms of manipulation. Perhaps one of the easiest ways in which to spot the crack at the seams of a mass manufactured take on reality is a well rounded study of American politics. On this level of sociological study, most humans with even half a brain left to make free and autonomous decisions for itself can readily spot the manipulation of language. American science fiction writer and Theological Prophet Philip K. Dick once said that "The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is language. Control the words, and you can control the people who use them." Do you believe that?
 
I here pause to pull up "America Eats Its Young" by Funkadelic on my playlist and spark a small pipe of hashish...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Distributed networks: Thoughts, one subway ride

By James Curcio


Thoughts, one subway ride. It is always concerning to me how much the El in Philly smells like an electrical fire. When you're in a metal box hurtling at 50mph, it seems to me that you don't want it to smell like an electrical fire. 

We are distributed networks within distributed networks within... Ad infinitum. The network runs across each scale as a slice but also between all scales. That's how it works. "Real" was an enlightenment era misnomer, which sought to stake out an unmoving point or common ground (axis mundi) within that everchanging mess, or even the hope of emergence.

Maybe real can mean many other things too, depending on the context. But the point at which real had any sense, any, er... real sense... died with the Enlightenment. (See also The Immanence of Myth if you care about this line of thought because I'm about to drop it.)

Why? Because, that's beside the point, I don't want to totally miss my train of thought -- or my stop -- but yet so is this. There was an asian girl sitting across from me that made my heart skip a beat, and the homeless man behind me smelled of mouldy old cheese. Talk about cognitive dissonance. I see so many beautiful people every day in this city, so beautiful that I just want to cry. And so many broken, twisted things that exist purely on pity or hate. It's all so confusing. And the electric system was messed up as usual so the stop announcements were all reversed. 15th street... 30th street... Was time going backwards? The signs not lining up with the actual stations was weird to me too, though no one else in the car seemed phased. It happens all the time. It shouldn't be weird. It just felt significant somehow but I pinched myself, no I mean I really did, and reminded myself that this was all a red herring. Don't lose the original thought.

Is the emergent consciousness (in the case of the distributed networks of our bodies, the "I") centralized, or is it an autonomous illusion required at a certain level of complexity to apply a will to that one network node?

Let's bring it back to ourselves again though. See...The hard part is, remember when that cell in your lip died? Me either. That's what we are, as a node in the distributed network within network within network.

The flip side is this. Any node can, theoretically, access from the others. As we evolve, if we evolve, we can call on the greater organism more, and more. That is the main optimism I hold for the future, though it feels to me that the challenges we face in the next century we just aren't prepared for.

Still, if humanity has a future, that is it: understanding the true power of distributed networks, and recognizing both our power and relative insignificance. And I won't even begin to conjecture what that would need, aside from the thought that the NWO myth of it occurring through fascism and control have already been proven false a million different ways. Look instead to ant colonies, and to bee hives.* When will humanity act, for the most part, toward the common good of the hive? If never, then it truly will be 404. File not found.

I reached my stop, and scattered out and about like all the other little ants, doing our important unimportant chores, having evolved to the point where we can see a top-down view if we see fit to do so. But then I  think about all the torture we inflict upon one another, sucking our planet dry so that we can kill one another -- and my mind goes blank. 

* This was also talked about at length in The Immanence of Myth


[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Writing For You



On a lark I thought some people might like it if I chose which of the Mythos ebooks to send them. So at some ungodly hour I posted on Facebook:
Alright, bitches. Look. Got like 8 counterculture books here that aren't going to read themselves. Think of them as quasi-informational drugs that they probably won't put you away for owning.

The deal: if you paypal me $2+ I will pick which book to send you.

jamescurcio at gmail is the account to paypal, and do alert me here or otherwherez cause paypal doesn't always actually email me.

I can promise with absolute assurance that it is better than a starbucks latte. Though obviously they have you more addicted.
To my surprise, it turns out that some people would rather I make the decision of which of our books to read. Weird. I guess more choices are not always better. So, instead of making it a one day offer as I previously planned, I will continue to do so until the end of the month.

Donate $2 or more (see above)

And get a book.

Please include your preferred format (PDF, mobi, epub), and either some of your favorite books, or something completely random and unrelated to books.


Look. I was a child once. People that were once children should be given money via Paypal.




Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Alchemy of the Word Part 3



Part 3: Loading Language
By Aubrey Zich

"He understood for the first time that the world is not dumb at all, but merely waiting for someone to speak to it in a language it understands. In the fairy's song the earth recognized the names by which it called itself."
— Susanna Clarke

As I've said previously, language is malleable.  It can be pounded, melted and smelted into shapes that have meaning  One does not need to go as far as to create a new word to control it.  Meaning can be assigned and changed if the will or desire is strong enough.  One point my mother tried to reinforce to me as a child was, "You cannot change the meaning of a word."  What she actually meant was, "You can, but you shouldn't."  Altering meaning changes intent, opens doors of  mixed blessings-- depending on one's ultimate goal.

If you've ever had an academic debate (or any serious sort of debate) with an English Major, at some point it will degenerate the literal meaning of one's word choices, their relative position in a sentence and their juxtaposition to other words one said or wrote previously.  At this point, you will both be required to pull out the agreed-upon standard for language, generally the Merriam-Webster English Dictionary, and start defining each word by what it actually means. 
 
It is important to understand the meaning of a word in its truest form.  It prevents it from being corrupted by emotion or influence.  When a group of people accept a definition it becomes common.  It also gives the word its power.  If one does not know the true essence of a word, it can be co-opted and corrupted.  
This is especially true for words based on intellectual or political concepts.  For example, the word "feminism", which Merriam-Webster defines under the first definition as "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes" has been associated with images of man-hating bra burners.  This association has altered the meaning of the words substantially from its true essence, one of acceptance, to one of conflict.  

Once I told a friend "You're wrong" and he pointed out there was nothing wrong with him.  However, there was something wrong with my contextual usage of the word "wrong" and it is always wrong to use "I think you're wrong" as an opening statement of a disquisition.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Alchemy of the Word Part 2


Part 2: Wordsmith

By Aubrey Zich


"I invented colors for the vowels! - A black, E white, I red, O blue, U green. - I made rules for the form and movement of every consonant, and I boasted of inventing, with rhythms from within me, a kind of poetry that all the senses, sooner or later, would recognize. And I alone would be its translator."
-Arthur Rimbaud ("Season in Hell" Delirium II: Alchemy of the Word)


In order to make the unknowable tangible, significance must be assigned. As Kant said, "Ding an sich"; thing-in-itself. We name what we do not know in order to master its properties. Since language is malleable, one can create new words to describe a technological shift and these words enter into our lexicon. One can see examples of this in verbs such as "tweeting" or "Xeroxing" and proper nouns that are actually brands like "Band-Aids" and "Kleenex." It is the hope of every marketing team that the trademark name of the product surpasses the definition ensuring its superiority about all others. "Scotch Tape" conjures a very specific image of type of tape, where the word "tape" itself can make one think of anything from cassette to adhesive. If one was to say, "I brought the tape," the listener must have a previous known context in order to understand which type of tape the speaker has with him or her.

But what if you can get to world to co-opt your own language? What influence would you have as the creator? The company Apple has essentially branded language in their own way with the popularization of the letter "i" before products such as the "iPod" or "iMac." Aurorally, it puts emphasis on the individual and the product. However, visually the product has more weight than the individual by capitol letter emphasis. As an alphabetic sigil, it serves to establish who is in control. There are very few people who have said the word "iPhone" and have not seen it written in Apple's shiny font face. This "i" trend has become so popular that other companies have been co-opting the "i" for their own products unrelated to Apple, ensuring Apple's linguistic endurance as well as the individual as a secondary consideration to the product.

It is also possible to re-invigorate old language and repurpose it. Snoop Dogg brought the use of izz-speak from the 1970s jive back into popular lexicon (coincidentally, few years after asking the question "What's my name?") and made it his own.

If you create a word, you control it. It is your word. You can alter and change the meaning as you see fit. You alone are the translator, dictating its pronunciation. You create the sigil the represents it. The intention behind the word is yours alone and therein lies your jurisdiction. The creation of words and "smithing" of language is a powerful tool and it's applications range from building community to outright mind control.

More of this in Part III: Loading Language

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Alchemy of The Word Part 1


Part 1: A Brief and Incomplete Mythology of Naming
By Aubrey Zich



"Naming is a difficult and time-consuming process; it concerns essences, and it means power." Jeanette Winterson (Oranges are not the Only Fruit)

There are many ways to tell this story, but this is variation I know best. In Israel, there was a temple gate guarded by barking dogs. These animals would sound at the passer-bys, jarring their thoughts and causing a temporary mind lapse. Anyone who knew the ineffable name of God would soon forget it as they passed. Jesus, who was not so much a prophet as a magician in this tale, performed miracles using the name of God. Knowing the perils of passing the temple, Jesus took the ineffable name placed in a note under the skin of his arm. (ie: a tattoo.) When Jesus passed the temple the barking startled him, as he knew it would, and forgot the ineffable name. However, since the name of God was tattooed on Jesus' arm, he was able to recall it and continue to perform miracles.

Qabalists claim ineffable name of has 72 parts and whomever can master the correct pronunciation can alter reality as he or she sees fit. However, mispronunciation can also cause instantaneous death. Words are the living, reality-altering magic. Each character is a sigil within itself containing its own meaning. When combined with other sigils, the characters creates two stories: the obvious path of language and the hidden path of pictographs.

The significance of knowing a true name crosses cultures: from the miller's daughter getting out of a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to the Youruba myth of Orunmila only being permitted to marry Oxum once he discovered Oxum's true name. Not only is the precedent set in our myths and fairytales, but also in popular literature and Tv programming. (For those interested, wikipedia has a list of a few examples.)

Modern music places great significance on not only knowing a name but on a magical "alter ego" name. Marshal Mathers performs under two monikers which represent his different manifestations: his light side, Eminem, and his id-driven primitive side, Slim Shady. Marshall Mathers is not the only one. In order to make a directional change, Beyonce Knowles developed her alter ego, Sasha Fierce. Later, Beyonce claimed to have "killed" Sasha Fierce, absorbing Sasha's powers for her own.

One of the most interesting examples of name alchemy is David Bowie. Over decades he has been able to keep current by changing his personae and naming its essence. After the album "Hunky Dory", David Bowie declared that his next release would be huge. He distilled the essence of a rockstar and magnified it to ridiculous proportions, almost beyond recognition. Then Bowie named his concoction "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars." As Bowie predicted, it was his break-out album. (Editor's note: There is an extensive exploration of this topic in The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized) and some follow-up consideration in a series of articles in Apocalyptic Imaginary (Mythos Media).)
Can one really control your environment and the things around you by the act of naming? Well, yes and no.  Let me put it to you this way: one may come to understand the true essence of a stray dog, even enough to give it a name.  One may even tame the dog enough to make it a pet.  But if one angers the dog, no matter what one calls it, the dog will still bite.  

More about this in Part II:  Wordsmith



[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Body Modification: Freak or Not Freak


Alright, there is far too much that could be said on this topic for one blog post. It would fill twenty books. So please don't mistake brevity for lack of consideration.

Geekology has presented us a great example to look not just at some of the newest trends in body modification today, but also to make a point about latent or mainstream standards of beauty, and the backlash it can cause.

I'd like to provide for you exhibit A, a Ukranian girl who has surgically modified herself to look like a barbie:

Note the tone of the post:
This is 21-going-on-6-year-old Valeria Lukyanova (links to her Ukranian Facebook-y thing with LITERALLY 10,000 more photos of Little Ms. Vain). Valeria always dreamed of being a real life Barbie doll. And now, after numerous surgeries, she's finally realized her dream AND CAN HOPEFULLY MOVE ON TO ACTUALLY DREAMING ABOUT SOMETHING WORTHWHILE. Wow, of all the dreams in the world to come true of course it's squandered on the girl who wants to look like Barbie and not everybody hoping for a cure for cancer. "That little bitch." *pointing* That girl said it, not me!
Can someone please point me to the place where this sort of body modification differs from cat man?

Or even our resident Satanic freakazioid, Rex Church.
(Tangent alert: I met him at Esozone, a sort of "alternate culture convention" where a lot of totally freakish knowledge was done dropped. I was on a panel with him about ritual magick and artistic creation or something and he leaned over and said "you smell nice." Ookay. So yeah, that's not relevant to this post but it's my one personal interaction with the guy. I really can't figure out if my smelling nice is a good or bad thing in this context.)

Look, don't get me wrong. I think Barbie girl is creepy too. And I'm not entirely sure it isn't a hoax and those are all actually photos of RealDolls. (Did you know they used to make Dark Elf RealDolls? I can't seem to find them on Google anymore so that must mean they don't anymore.)

But I think we need to be incredibly vigilant about our bias about these kind of judgements. All of these are cases of people modifying their physical body to in some way match some internal mental image. Whether you think you should physically appear as a dragon or a dark elf or a barbie doesn't matter, it's just that

Barbie is mainstream and has a lot of associated cultural baggage. Like the fact that part of Barbie's marketing programming has been about making little girls want to look like fucking Barbie. That is how a lot of marketing psychology works, because companies want to figure out how to sell and the best way to do that is to reverse engineer the psychology of your market. Surprise! Your little daughters brains are being scoped out by corporations as living breathing targets for their product development. That's just life in the world / society we live in.

We totally. TOTALLY support Obama's right to
turn himself into....whatever the fuck this is.
(Photo by Photoshopaganda.
USED WITH EXTREME PREDJUDICE.
I mean permission. Permission.)
So if we want to change that we can change what sort of messages we're broadcasting to our youth to you know, sell different products, because every little girl wants to be genetically modified to look like a robot with arms made out of carrots or something, right?, no actually most marketing is based on the biological predelection of humans living at a particular place and time, so there's actually a reason that Barbie looks like she did when marketing to the youth of 1960s America rather than a vampire squid with rotating tentacle biolumanescent arm attachments.  But that's subject for another article!

[As is any discussion of the fat / thin issue.]

So, point is, accept that your judgement of Barbie girl as freakish is the same as calling cat-man freakish, I mean, hey, it's OK to think they're freaks but at least own it across the board so you're not a damn hypocrite, right? Because there is something culturally abnormal about actually going through with it and doing something like this, or else everyone would be doing it and it wouldn't be abnormal anymore.


[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Show Must Go ON!


I know that if we were a site like others, we might spend today's posting on the mythic underpinnings of The Avengers, because is "hot shit" right now - or at least, that's what we've all been told to think is hot shit right now.

But I have this affliction. Maybe it is incurable. I can't seem to care about what I'm supposed to care about. I just care about whatever it is that has me by the - what do you call it? Balls? Nethers? It's what IT is, and until it has been worked out, the thing will keep me up nights and drive me totally mad. No matter what time of day or night it is, no matter what other tasks seem like they should be more pressing, some weird inner voice determines what the topic of the day must be, and that voice must be heeded or else everything else - and I do mean everything - be damned.

Sometimes, by some grand convergence, it so happens that the topic du jour is the same as what has me in such a way, and on those days, the traffic just rolls in. On those days, I can pretend I am some kind of SEO wizard. But the truth is that traffic is totally meaningless. None of those people stay, because none of them actually care about anything. They are, like so many people these days, just trend chasers. And they will keep trend chasing day after day, and unless if your life is spent defining and chasing trends yourself, you're nothing to them.

What has me today is actually just a continuation of the thread that has developed over the past month or so. If you recall, I mean if you are actually one of the regulars around here, you may have noticed that we first covered storytelling of the past, and why storytelling is so important. We also covered the possibilities afforded by new technologies for storytelling - and the links I'm sharing here are just a few of the many that the writers on this site let loose on those topics. We have covered how storytelling has changed over time, and how it hasn't, and this has even spread over to Odd Duck where I discuss the important topic of how storytelling is relevant to brands.

We have looked at some very painful and raw issues that arise around questions of identity, we scratched the surface of how comedy can be a vital tool in allowing us an access point to the unconscious of a culture, (as well as our own unconscious.) We have explored all these issues again in the form of a tongue-in-cheek Gonzomentary that some of us created, and we discussed many of these topics in a series of college classrooms, two of which are so far available in our podcast series.



Quite a virtual classroom to begin with, and we have only really begun! Yet at the same time, I reached a crisis point in my own life, which I have discussed only somewhat here, and I considered walking the plank and ending it all, but I came around the other side thinking that instead the answer was a re-appraisal of my identity. I thought that maybe the world would treat me differently, the way I wanted to be treated, if I came to it as someone different. (My issue has been and remains not myself but rather the world I live in.)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Early 2012, in retrospective: A personal apocalypse



*aherm*.


Given the entry immediately preceding mine, I'm not entirely quite sure how to help begin anew. Do we begin anew? Do we shift through the wreckage of our pasts, futilely scraping the pieces back together in order to reassemble the form we have voluntarily disintegrated or do we, as a good friend of mine once said, "turn a blind eye upon our past when we embrace the future?"

From my end, I find myself working through whatever channels I can to keep "us" afloat- not only due to my vested interest in preserving such clearly... professional journalistic endeavors of my own, but also out of love for the whole of the Work undergone at this point and to all of Modern Mythology's contributers. 

It is May 2012, the year of the personal apocalypse, and we may ask ourselves at this point: What have we collectively learned so far from where we have come?

From where did we start?

All Good Things...

It may have been the 120 oxycodone. It may have been being punched in the throat by a total stranger.It may have been the day I was raped by 10 15 year old boys that laughed when I shit blood. It may have been a thousand other things. But I died yesterday.

Rather... Who I was died. Go to http://www.partyattheworldend.com - go to http://www.joinmycult.org - go to http://www.citizen-y.com go to 404 Documents and start to put together the pieces before writing your own books, making your own movies, paintings -- or whatever it is that you are going to go on to do.

We kill ourselves every day and ask to be re-assembled in the pieces? Please let that life mean something ... but who i was today died today and like all deaths he is not ever coming back no matter how much you wish otherwise. there is nothing more to create here. all the pieces are for you to find in those places. and if you care you will find them there and become one of the children of the new aeon. but this, here, ends right now.

I don't know who comes next. And this flesh may be reborn in new forms. Life is amazing like that. But who I was is no more. So search for him in the pieces I've left for you.



Friday, May 04, 2012

But that's the joke!

I'd be remiss in not following up yesterdays post with a point.

muriel clayton
"But it just wasn't that funny." No?

Humor, for what it is worth, is almost impossible to fully explain (though the confusion of expectation seems a regular part of the humor - cognitive dissonance, in other words.) And so often it manages to strike a nerve. If the joke "works," it strikes the nerve and calls the object to mind without causing true offense, we may act offended for the sake of social pretense, but we aren't actually hurt.

But equally possible, it could hurt. It could bring to mind something, possibly something it didn't even aim at, and cause little more than trauma. The fact is, we don't fully know the contents, or more to the point, the history of most other people's minds, and it is almost inevitable that any joke that hits close to home will in fact not so much hit too close to home, as hit a bunker somewhere in the back, full of munitions.

There's nothing to be done, really, in such cases but state ones actual intent, and for the person to realize that you may have still paid an unintentional favor: pain, when it serves its evolutionary purpose, is there to alert us to a problem. It can say, "hey! Look, something else for you to work with your damn analyist on!"

But seriously folks, the point ultimately is not that we should stop joking. It is that we should have compassion for one another at the same time. When joking makes us lose our compassion, when it becomes a front for coldness and allows us to distance from others, then it really is just a prelude for rape, even if it is just rape of an emotional kind.

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Thing About Rape Jokes

In the past few weeks I have touched on the surface of what I consider to be some very serious issues: issues where the ideology of hate pushes people to treat others in inhuman ways. I've talked about bullying. I've talked about rape and the sexual assault and how gender policing is something that affects boys every bit as much as girls, if in a different way.

Before you continue on to what I have to say here, I very much suggest you check out the articles that I've linked here, because what I am about to say, if misinterpreted, is likely to get a lot of hate directed at me. Even if you do understand what I am saying, I think it is quite possible a lot of hate will be directed my way. But I think it is something that needs to be said.

In the discussion that I had with a classroom of students at SUNY Binghamton, we talked about a chapter in The Immanence of Myth that compared the abuses of Abu Ghraib with performance art, hazing, and the comedy or satire of absurdity.

To my surprise, there was very little reaction from the students. They got involved in the conversation, but none of them turned beet read or screamed at me. I was, quite frankly, rather surprised. Because not only did I support rape jokes in this specific context, but the underlying premise of the piece, if you understand what it is saying, is that for healing to occur, jokes about rape, jokes about genocide, jokes about racism, are quite often essential. They are a part of the cultural process of dealing with the horrific, in the same way that, like it or not, Hitler is now the butt of jokes more often than the source of horror. How do you think an Auschwitz survivor feels about the Hitler rap? but at the same time, this isn't to say that these things need to stop. Like I said, I think this is a bit like the scab on a wound. It's the same way that, personally, I need dark humor and satire to get over the bumps that would otherwise probably make me melt down right there in everyone's face.

To understand why this is the case, you need to understand both the function of the subconscious, at least in Freudian terms, and the function of jokes in the terms laid out by Allan Dundes. I discuss these elements at length in The Immanence of Myth, but all without coming out and saying what I am saying here, because I was quite frankly afraid of the backlash.

To be less acadamic about it, watch Doug Stanhope's routine, and consider how it differs from the hackery of Tosh, who made the initial "rape joke joke" that started the internet 'controversy' about the subject. (And which, for the record, was indeed not funny.)
Believe it or not, jokes about rape can be funny. (Yes, even feminists think so.) But Daniel Tosh’s hotly debated “joke” aimed at a female heckler was far from humorous—in fact, it was a perfect example of hownot to joke about rape. (The Nation, "Anatomy of a Successful Rape Joke.")
Doug also touches on taboo subjects, including rape, but he does it in a way that is meant to point out the horror and the absurd, the intention, much like chappelle's KKK black man sketch, (see below) is meant to point out the psychology of the perpetrators, not condone it, though it is true that quite possibly someone will misinterpret it and think that it is supporting rape and contributing to rape culture. That unfortunately can't be helped, because no matter what you're going to do, there's going to be... how can you say this PC? No, you can't. There's always going to be stupid, mean people.

Every group has their shadows, their hated groups and their taboos. When you take the sentiment analysis of Beacon and run it on feminist forums, the software lights up like a christmas tree with hate when the conversation turns to rape jokes. My point being that if you ignore whether you agree with an ideology or not, there are certain topics that will turn the members of that ideology toward hateful speech.

The reason I support rape jokes of a certain nature is the same reason that support black comedians like Chapelle making jokes like the nigger family, or the skit he does with the blind White Supremecist who is, in fact, a black man. (EDIT: Sorry guys. Comedy Central took it all down off of YouTube because that's a sensible web content strategy. You can probably find it on their site but I'm not going to grace them with the link, for being dicks.)


It is the same point I made in the classroom, which I recorded for your enjoyment, edification, or fury. Jokes are often the only way that we can bring awful things into our consciousness and approach them, it is the only way that we can get close enough with them to begin to deal with them. It is a way that we can discuss things in society that we would otherwise not discuss at all.

The solution to these social problems of hate is not, ever, to hide from them. Never. It is not to pretend they are isolated incidents. It is not to "don't ask, don't tell." No. No. No.

And please, as a final note before I open this up to having hate spewed in my general direction: there is a huge difference between jokes about the holocaust or jokes about rape, and jokes that make fun OF the victims of sexual assault or the holocaust. Anyone who makes fun of rape survivors, those that call them weak, or belittle them as whiners, deserves things that I don't have words for. That's not a joke, it's a just another form of bullying.

I am, myself, a survivor of sexual assualt and a great deal of bullying and physical abuse for being "different," as you know if you read the articles linked above. I know this does not give me some kind of carte blanche, but I do think that it gives me a little more of a sense of what can allow for healing for some of us than those who haven't experienced these things, but want to make assumptions about what is or isn't appropriate. You know what I say? Fuck appropriate.

For me, at least, talking about these things in public is a part of how I am able to heal. My writing on this site is a part of how I work toward healing. Being completely honest about my feelings is a part of how I heal. And sometimes making jokes about really "inappopriate" things is a part of it too. So, though it may not be how you heal - and in that case you certainly have the right to go somewhere else - but for me, I find it incredibly offensive to be told that jokes about sexual assault are offensive to survivors of sexual assault. I will make that decision for my self, thank you very much.


[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...