I get visitors…

…for the strangest reasons.

Most of my visits coming from searches are due to the mummy. This pleases me. But the other searches bringing people here are…well…sometimes strange.

Many times people are looking to find pronunciation advice for German words. I’ve had at least a half dozen searches for people who want how to say “scheisse”.

Folks, it rhymes with “nicer”—when pronounced by someone from Rhode Island. (In other words, you don’t pronounce the “r”.)

Other times people must be frustrated–because they must be looking on page 472 of Google to be finding me. I seriously doubt, for example, that typing “Used banjos in California” is going to turn me up on page one.

“Sex slave contracts” continues to bring people by daily.

But my absolute favorites are the very specific searches that people use, like:

How to teach people how to speak a foreign language

Where to buy hand rolling tobacco in Hannover Germany

American History X why it sucks

Words used to console the bereaved

I guess yesterday’s post might start bringing people by when searching “Did Walker Percy like to watch women shaking their bootie in German while listening to the banjo”.

I love the internet. And while I’m simply too busy to blog as much as I had planned to do when I was unemployed three or four months out of the year, it is still great fun for many reasons—including getting a glimpse at what people are searching for on the internet.

jj

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Walker Percy, “presenting”, and teenage sex in America.

“Presenting” is a term I took from the novelist Walker Percy, one of my favorites and one of the most intelligent and perceptive authors of the 20th century.

You can read up on Percy elsewhere; for my purposes, I only need to give you my own, very brief interpretation of his work. Percy, as I see him, specifically wanted to distinguish between man as spiritually understood and man as scientifically understood. What the scientific community would see as “disease”, Percy sees as “malaise”. Put another way, we’re all fucked up, it’s true: but it’s not because we’re sick in a psychological sense; rather, we’re alienated by a modern culture which has lost all sense of the truly spiritual, and by language which fails to “signify”.

(And even more specifically, he is writing of a “South” which had lost its sense of self, and thus it’s soul. Whereas Faulkner presents a tragic, Gothic south, Percy presents a comic, from plantations to shopping malls south. But again, you can read more about Percy elsewhere.)

The term “presenting” comes from the novel, The Thanatos Syndrome. The main character, Dr. Tom More , returns from a period in jail (he was selling pill prescriptions to truck drivers) to find things at home are strangely different. His investigation reveals a scheme to improve human behavior by spiking the water supply.

Dr. More notices many things which leads him to investigate, but one of the first and more important is the change in women, specifically with regard to their sexuality. He notices this first with a patient named “Donna”:

I get up to get it to give it to her. Not hearing her chair scrape, I am startled when at the very moment I turn around, I run into her. She has come around my desk, barefoot and silent. She backs into me.

“Oh, sorry,” I say automatically, moving sideways to my chair, but she has already reached behind her, seized my hands, brought them around her clasped in hers and against her.

A few paragraphs later, Dr. More analyzes what happened:

To describe her backward embrace, I can only use the word primatologists use, presenting. She was presenting rearward.

Later, Dr. More finally gets the chance to make love with his wife for the first time since getting out of prison:

Ellen starts for the bed. I start for the wall switch and turn out the light and head back.

“Lights!” says Ellen.

Very well. By the time I’ve turned on the light and come back, Ellen is in bed but is, to my surprise, not lying on her side as she used to but is on all fours.

Very well, if that’s—

“Well, bucko?”

Bucko?

“Cover,” says Ellen.

“You mean—” I say, taking the sheet.

“No.”

“I understand,” I say, and cover.

“All right,” says Ellen.

Later, Dr. More, summarizing the case histories of his patient, says this about Donna:

Now she’s jolly, lithe, and forward, or rather backward, presenting rearward.

There’s more in the book than these examples, of course, but I’m not writing a master’s thesis here. Go read the book.

Within the context of the book, presenting rearward is a sign of the changes produced by the chemical additive in the water supply. I don’t think Percy is arguing against doggy style. The point here is specifically the “presenting”. Presenting rearward is, in the context of the novel, symptomatic of a chemically induced evolutionary return to a primate level of sexuality.

Got that?

Now look at this: Bootie. It is a video of a girl “presenting” rearward. To me. To you. To the whole goddamn world, in fact.

Note at the sidebar there are a few thousand videos of precisely the same thing: a style of dance in which young girls “present rearward”.

(I knew about this, of course. But I suppose I should say a word about how I came upon this video. I was watching the video of the UF tasing incident, and this appeared in my sidebar. Which means: it’s one thing to know of its existence; it is another thing entirely that it is so prevalent that one runs into it without seeking it. But that’s a subject for another post.)

Make no mistake: while I am only familiar with hip-hop culture in the vaguest way, I can say two things about it:

1. It is the primary dance/music culture of young people in the western world;

2. The predominant dance move of girls performing hip-hop is to present rearward.

This is very strange. I won’t get into how girls used to try to turn boys on when I was sixteen, but it wasn’t by shaking their behinds in our faces during dances. That this reduces eroticism to its most primitive, basic level I think is indisputable. (You don’t think so? Okay Mr. Philosopher, convince me of its sophistication in a comment.) That a primitive, basic level eroticism is a sign of a much deeper, spiritual malaise I will leave to Walker Percy.

For you, I will just ask: hooking up? Friendship with benefits? Presenting rearward? Do our children have the slightest chance at all of discovering the spiritual power of intimacy?

jj

Vacation in Hamburg…part 3

Actually, we had gone to the Reeperbahn a few days earlier to go to Hamburg’s wax museum, the Panoptikum.

It’s just a wax museum, of course, but we had a lot of fun. The first figure one sees when entering the museum, is…

…well, here’s a picture:

billypope.jpg

The wax figure is on the right. Actually, the figure was only three or four feet behind Billy: it looks farther away because the Pope is apparently a very small man—scarcely over five feet tall, I’d say. I wonder if that’s in Wikipedia?

A bit further in the same room were figures of the current German chancellor and her predecessor having a champagne. I joined them and Billy snapped my picture before the woman watching the place yelled at us.

billyangela.jpg

That’s what the woman did: yell at people. There were no other employees in the place. Just one woman who stood at the ticket booth and sold tickets and yelled at anyone getting too close to the figures. There were four floors in the building. The floors she could not see with her eyes had some kind of alarm system based on movement sensors or lasers or something.  When an alarm went off, she yelled through a microphone at everybody in the whole house.

I found this out when I decided to take a close-up picture of Joseph Goebbels. I reached forward to get my cell phone close to his face and an alarm went off. I looked around at the others with a “hey, who set off that alarm?” look on my face. But I did snap the photo.

waxgoebbels.jpg

Now, this figure is incredibly fascinating. Suitably creepy, don’t you think? But get this: the figure (as well as figures of Hitler and Göring) was made in the early forties. Which means, of course, that it was done with his full blessing. Creepy though it might be, had Goebbel’s found it unflattering he most certainly would have had the figure destroyed. So he must have liked it. What a creepy little man he must have been.

That’s all the pictures I have from the wax museum. I don’t have too much more to report about it, either, except for this: assuming they got all the proportions right for Marylin Monroe, she absolutely deserved her status as a sex symbol. Even in wax, she pushed all my right buttons.

jj

Vacation in Hamburg…part 2

For thematic reasons, I’m going to skip ahead to the latter part of the vacation.

It was time to make my second attempt to find the clubs where the Beatles played. During the first trip I got flustered by my walk through the Herbertstrasse and plum forgot all about the Beatles.

This time, my pilgrimage was not going to get sidetracked. After all, my wife and son were with me, so I wasn’t going to get to gawk at prostitutes.

So we went to the St. Pauli district and started walking down the Reeperbahn. Billy and I got hungry, so we grabbed a bite to eat from KFC. Somehow a KFC in the most famous red-light district in the world seemed very funny to me. But there was also a Burger King and McDonald’s. Fast food—America’s gift to the sex trade!

Susanne got hungry, too, and bought a falafel sandwich. She shared it with Billy. I thought it a good family moment in which to take a picture:

eroscenter.jpg

After they finished eating, we headed down to the street which I knew from memory was the street on which the clubs where the Beatles played were on: the Grosse Freiheit, meaning “Big Freedom”.

The problem was, we walked down the street and saw nothing but bars and strip clubs and sex clubs. No Beatles. I walked around nervous and flustered: I was near Mecca but couldn’t find anything. Finally, Billy called us over. He had walked up a short alley and seen a plaque.

Yes, a plaque. As in: there’s no club or bar there anymore. Just a plaque. So I took a picture with Billy standing in front of it:

billystarclub.jpg

Billy, realizing it was important to me without knowing why, asked for my cell phone and took a close-up picture of the portion of the plaque to which he had pointed:

beatlesplaque.jpg

A plaque is what is left of the famous Star Club. Wikipedia tells me that the Star Club—or at least the building it was in—burned down in 1987. Why wasn’t that on the nightly news?

So we moved on. We went back out to the main street, and this time Susanne found a very small plaque just across the street from where the alley came out. An investigation showed that this was the world famous Kaiserkeller where the Beatles cut their teeth as real professional musicians, playing several hours a night, seven days a week. So I ran across the street and had Billy take my picture.

jeffgrossefreheit36.jpg

This, as you can see, is the “Grosse Freiheit 36”. You can see the plaque in the background over to the right.

There is no Kaiserkeller anymore.

Okay, I wasn’t crushed. But if you go to Rome and find out that the Sistine Chapel has been occupied by a restaurant chain and renamed The Olive Garden, you might find yourself shaking your head.

So my pilgrimage to the Holy sights of Hamburg was only a semi-success. But I at least got to eat some fried chicken (which I only get to do about once a year, since there is no fried chicken in my home town).

And this is my first multiple-photo post. I hope that doesn’t mean this page takes 20 minutes to load. Let me know.

jj

Vacation in Hamburg…part 1

First up, my previous experience in Hamburg.

I had been to Hamburg before, but for only a few hours, which didn’t give me time to look around much. I had something I needed to do in person at the American Consulate, so I went there, did my business, looked around and went home.

Wait. I should, as an aside, tell what business I was on. Before I got married, I had to obtain a document which proved that I was single. Apparently other countries have this. It seems silly, since it is essentially proving a negative. No matter. The point is that no state in America—as far as I know—has such a document. So I had to go to the American Consulate. There I swore an oath that I was single and they gave me a piece of paper which said that I had sworn I was single. Why couldn’t I have made the same oath in German in front of a notary? Because it had to be a piece of paper from the American government. Right.

Anyway, on this first trip to Hamburg I didn’t do anything interesting. I went to the harbor, then looked around the famous Reeperbahn (where I didn’t see what the big deal was about: I went into a peep show where I got to look at a 50 year-old naked woman for about 60 seconds along with five other men while she begged us to pay her 20 DM for a “private show”; and I went into a sex shop which just looked like a sex shop but was the size of a small department store).

The most interesting thing I saw during this first trip was the less famous but still well known side street—Herbertstrasse— in the St. Pauli district through which only men are allowed to walk. There’s a gate on each end with a sign saying that children and women are not allowed. For me, this was like a written invitation: “Jeff, walk down this street!” Along the 70 or 80 yard long street there are maybe twenty houses—ten or so on each side—with large picture windows in which prostitutes sit wearing lingerie.

Two things impressed me to no end:

1. These women were beautiful. They had none of the junkie-skag-streetwalker look about them. Rather, they looked like Victoria’s Secret models. And since it was only 2PM, I was the only man on the street. The thought that I could simply pick out an attractive woman, pay her some money, have a bit of afternoon delight without the slightest chance of my girlfriend or parents or sisters or pastor or anyone else knowing about it…well…was a very strange feeling. I was struck by the utter ease and anonymity with which one can purchase flesh.

2. As I walked by each window, the woman would open it and invite me in. This, of course, shattered the illusion of “I’ll just walk by and do some window shopping and no one will notice.” The women noticed, and they wanted me. They really wanted me. They really wanted what was in my pants. In my back pocket. As I said, illusions were being shattered, and I shuffled rather quickly to the other end of the street, feeling red and embarrassed.

When I went through the gate at the other side, some late 50ish, conservatively dressed woman came up to me and said, “I’ll get you a woman for fifty marks.” I thanks-but-no-thanksed her and went on home to my girlfriend. But I have never ceased wondering, to this day: how much were the women in the windows? Stupid me for shuffling away quickly. I should have at least done my fantasy the favor of knowing a few more details.

jj

Henry Darger, the Writer

For three days I’ve done little else but read and think about Henry Darger.  I won’t go into biographical details, since they are readily available using Google.  I will, however, out of courtesy, give a link to a fellow WordPress blogger (who also gives plenty of links): Darger

Here’s the basic story:  in 1973, shortly before Henry Darger’s death, Darger’s landlord found 30,000 pages of single-spaced typing on legal-sized paper, along with hundreds of artworks meant—or so most accounts say—to illustrate the written work.  Darger was a recluse and a menial worker.  His world was going to work, going to mass, scavenging materials for his projects, and his art.  Again, you can read the basic details elsewhere.

I am utterly fascinated by this story for so many reasons it’s hard to know where to start.

One remarkable aspect of the story is the relative dearth of public information.  I spent several hours reading almost everything Google turned up, and most of it is simply repetitive.  Interestingly, much of it would seem to be wrong as well (though it is hard to be sure).  Most of it falls into a kind of urban legend category in which “facts” are repeated so often that most accept them as true.

In spite of this dearth of public information, there is at least one major 600+ page biography and a 2004 documentary on him.  Haven’t having read the book (as far as I can tell, one has to cough up a few hundred dollars to buy a used copy; otherwise it is unavailable), and having not seen the documentary (which is available—in case anyone wants to send me a gift), I would still have to assume that there is an enormous amount of speculation regarding the details of his life.

But this is neither mysterious nor surprising, though the word “mystery” is often used about the story.

What is unusual is that no one seems to have read his work except for a few.  The biographer claims to have “been on every page”, the documentary director made the attempt but gave up, and perhaps a few scholars we don’t know by name have spent countless hours perusing the work.  Otherwise, the work remains unread.

This, in spite of the repeated claims that Darger is chiefly known for his writing, and in spite of claims regarding the literary merit of his work.

Let me address the latter claims first.  The works consist of a 15,000+ page novel called The Story of the Vivian Girls (not the complete title); an 8,000+ page sequel called Further Adventures of the Vivian Girls in Chicago:  Crazy House  (of which I read in one single account—after many hours of reading—that the title is not his); a 5,000+ page autobiography (of which only the first few hundred are actually autobiographical); and the rest consisting of a journal of the daily weather.  Of other odds and ends just as letters and such, I have found no accounts—though he appeared to be the kind of recluse who would hardly write letters.

Yet none of this is published.

Yes, a few excerpts have been published.  A few excerpts from over 25,000 pages of literary fiction.

This means that the vast majority of commentary regarding the literary merits of his work is based on air—that and the comments of the few people who have seen the originals, but who have admitted not to have completely read the work.  Not to mention that neither the biographer (a scholar, it is true, but an art critic by training) nor the documentary director are trained in literary analysis.  Yes, I realize that one doesn’t have to have formal education in literary analysis to know if they are reading crap or not; yet a scholar in the field would at least give another kind of report to the world regarding what is actually contained in the manuscripts, rather than just using it to support a psychological analysis of it’s author.

Does the work show any kind of pre-meditated design, for example?  Are there chapters and chapter headings?  Did Darger construct an index?  What voice does he usually write in?  Does he use allusions? Metaphors? Is there any character development?  Does he demonstrate a distinct narrative style?  Does it remind one of a particular author which may or may not have influenced him?

And so on.  You get the idea.

Then there is the oft repeated—and most obviously false, given the above point—comment that Darger is “known” primarily for his writing, the Story of the Vivian Girls in particular.  This simply cannot be.  We only know the writing by reputation.   It hasn’t been published.  Of course, since it hasn’t been published, it is a rather silly point to say that he is known for the Story of the Vivian Girls and not for Crazy House.  An unpublished sequel is no less unpublished than an unpublished novel.

No, Henry Darger is known for his art.  This makes perfect sense, since the executors of his estate—in fact, the landlords who discovered his work—were in the art scene and knew what to do with the artwork.  They sold it.  For large sums of money.

And yet:  30,000 pages of writing go unpublished and unanalyzed by the public at large.

If I were to be cynical (and those of you who know me know that I am), I would say that there seems to be no way to profit from the writings.  The editing and reproduction of a work which—according to one source I read—amounts to a single novel five times longer than Proust’s, would seem to be a commercial non-starter.  The project would probably take at least ten years if worked on by a team.  And then it might bomb in the marketplace.  I wouldn’t take on the challenge, if making a profit were my goal.

So, in all likelihood, the only people who will ever read any significant portion of Darger’s work are those scholars who go to the museum where the books and microfilm are kept and read them there.

Now, I’m not against people making money.  A massive project to publish the work electronically and on the internet would probably be feasible, and would probably only increase the value of the art work.  Only then could we begin to evaluate the literary merit of his work.  And as long as people are going to go around celebrating the “artistry” of this man, I think such an evaluation is in order.

So, that’s one of the things I find fascinating about Henry Darger.  His written work is legendary.  But almost no one seems to have read it.

jj