Hlavaty, 206 Valentine Street, Yonkers, NY 10704-1814. 914-965-4861.
firstname.lastname@example.org. The print
version is available for $1 ($2 outside the USA), arranged trade,
or letter of comment (e-mail counts). The e-mail version is available
on request. Copyright 2002 by Arthur D. Hlavaty. Staff: Bernadette
Bosky, Kevin J. Maroney, Peter Celeron, Courageous, and the Valentine's
Castle Rat Pack. Permission to reprint in any nonprofit publication
is hereby granted, on condition that I am credited and sent a copy.
This is a Church of the SuperGenius publication. In Wile E. we trust.
This is the 100th DR.
I'm tempted to make it the last. I learned from reading Alfred Bester
that I am a pi person: Part of my assignment this time around is to
make patterns, some but not all of which I am aware of. So when I
come to a nice round number I'm tempted to stop and begin something
new. What I'm not at all tempted to do is to stop publishing altogether.
I've also reached a number of other round numbers this year, including
25 years in fanzine fandom, 20 years living with Bernadette, 10 years
living with Kevin, 10 years off drugs, and for that matter 60 years
of being alive, and I intend to continue with all of those.
So I will do a next zine,
but I'm thinking of giving it initials other than DR, and making it
issue #1. One title that comes to mind is Equal-Opportunity Crone .
The titles for older males are too flattering-Old Wise Man, and even
Curmudgeon, are not things one wishes to call oneself. I'm over 60,
I'm getting crankier, I've reached the age where even the grown-up
oppressor music of my adolescence sounds better than the noise these
kids listen to, and I like to talk about the Good Old Days. Besides,
I'm in the post-fertile stage (though I accomplished that surgically
years ago). I want to be a crone, and only a sexist pig (or sow) would
deny that to me.
Opinions on the title question
A major function of the mass media is to deflect envy away
from those with power to those with ability. The way most people use
the word elitist shows how well it's working.
*Why the Music Died in 1968*
In mid-1968 it seemed that our entire culture was faced with the possibility
of a change that might mean either going mad or transcending to a
higher plane, and I felt that I was, too. The culture chickened out,
and so did I, leaving San Francisco and returning to New York, not
daring to face the challenge of the Chicago convention, taking a job
as a public school teacher. I believed that the culture was punished
by winding up with Richard Nixon, and I may have undergone a similar
The alternatives to Nixon
included two groups that I think of as the punks and the dreamers,
the heirs of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, respectively-and
each had its own music.
In the late 60s, the dreamers
briefly flourished in Haight-Ashbury, while the punks centered around
Andy Warhol in New York. Warhol represented scrap irony-the cheapest
kind of negativism. (Asked if he were going to write a reply to Edward
Gibbon's attacks on Christianity, a man of the cloth said, "I
do not know how to refute a sneer." That may be unfair to Gibbon,
but it's a good point in general.) I find the Warhol version so trashy
in its negativity that I would actually prefer to be life-affirming,
if that were the only alternative.
Musically, the punks were
represented by the Velvet Underground, with its heroin commercials.
Greil Marcus reminds us that San Francisco underground DJ Tom Donahue,
who usually presented the likes of Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead,
introduced the group to his audience by saying, "That was the
Velvet Underground. A very New York sound. Let's hope they stay there."
On the other hand, Paul Williams, in The Twentieth Century's Greatest
Hits , lists a Velvet Underground song, "Sister Ray," as
#2 in his Top 40 works of twentieth-century art. I imagine this is
something of a provocation. If I were doing a Top 40, I might well
do what I think he is doing and give the second spot to a song I genuinely
love, and yet one that I know would rouse protests, even loathing:
"MacArthur Park," as recorded by Waylon Jennings and the
Kimberleys. I am willing to stipulate that Williams is being no less
sincere than I would be, but I'm with Tom Donohue. Rather than listing
the Velvet Underground with stories by the likes of Sturgeon, Vonnegut,
and Borges, as Williams does, I would include it with paraquat, Kent
State, and Nixon: This is what happened to the Sixties.
It is generally known that
the group got its name from a book. I actually read The Velvet Underground
when it first appeared. It was the nearest thing to erotica that could
be openly published in 1964, which is to say it was a book of prurient
(morbid and shameful, according to the Supreme Court; literally, itching)
allegedly factual mention of sex with a heavy veneer of moral condemnation
under the general rubric of "Isn't it awful how they...."
It is the sort of work that nowadays is harder to sell unless one
is a Special Prosecutor, although the television show Temptation Island
has certain similarities.
The book was modeled after
Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis. It may be that Krafft-Ebing
never said in so many words, "This can lead to rape, murder,
even masturbation," but that was his approach to anything "deviant,"
and The Velvet Underground took the same tack. Homosexuality was,
to author "James Leigh," so nasty that mere fact could not
suffice to condemn it enough. So he imagined the "Society for
Transcendental Philovita," a Homintern plot to find a way to
reproduce without all that nasty heing-and-sheing so that they could
kill off all the hets. This was of course a fairly primitive form
of the blood libel, one that has since been refined to the idea that
all gays wish to make child snuff porn.
That is what I mean by scrap
irony: One could suggest a certain self-hatred in a sexually revolutionary
group picking this particular book for its name, but only at the risk
of being irrefutably sneered at as irony-deaf.
Jedediah Purdy hit the news
a few years ago with For Common Things, a book that was in
large measure an attack on irony. One is tempted to be ironic, perhaps
downright cynical, about him. His name is Jedediah Purdy. He has a
remarkably fresh-faced look, and when I heard him on the radio, I
was taken by the almost unbearable sincerity of his voice: If Jedediah
Purdy told me to go screw myself, I would feel quite confident that
he wanted me to do so. It is cheap and easy to suggest that the author
is playing the hand that was dealt him.
But he has some good ideas
on the subject, including one point that had been made earlier by
David Foster Wallace: Irony is a surprisingly cheap commodity, one
that can be added to commercial products with little expense or effort.
Irony, like torture, is a powerful instrument that can be successfully
operated with very little ability.
I sometimes speculate that
1968 was a branching point of alternate histories, and I picked the
boring one. In a book of photos of sf writers, the late Karl Edward
Wagner chose as the caption for his, "Shortly after 1970 our
world ended and with it any hope for intelligent life on Earth. Let
there always be some refuge from time where it is eternally the autumn
of the 1960s." (I hope he has found it.) Perhaps that is the
world I missed out on. That world would still have cheap sex and cheap
paperbacks, perhaps even evolving to that ultimate combination: 50s
music, 60s sexndope, 90s computers. I express this thought by saying
that I live in the fallen universe: the one where Janis Joplin, rather
than Lou Reed, OD'd.
Here's another take on the
question: In the mid-Sixties, rock & roll was loaded down with
political and artistic significance far beyond what it could take.
The artistic inputs may have taken hold more virulently, because the
music had insufficient natural resistance to such infections as perverse
modernism (the art that hates art: Warhol) and romantic self-glorification
(Jim Morrison, who managed to make whipping it out onstage boring).
Rock & roll attained critical mass in 1968, and it imploded; its
half-life was four years. Bits of it are of course still alive.
And another: Tim Leary was
right, at least about my tastes. The music I like is what I imprinted
on when the juices of adolescence started flowing, and anything that
doesn't sound like that is no good. Besides, in 1968 the Music area
of my inner storage was getting full, and I didn't want to expand
it or delete valuable content such as "Yip yip yip yip boom shananana"
and "Transfusion, transfusion. Nurse, pardon me for this crazy
intrusion. I'm never never never gonna speed again. Shoot the fluid
to me, Louie!"
Science works in its own terms. Social Text made a collective
fool of itself by trying to criticize science without dealing with
it in those terms. It's like a dog humping a person's leg: The dog
may be having sex, but the person isn't.
On the other hand, Congress's effort to determine the medical efficacy
of marijuana by legislation is an equal stupidity, plus the power
*Harry, You're a Beast*
I have always felt that "masculine" and "feminine"
are no better to describe types of behavior than "Caucasian"
or "Negroid." This runs counter to good old Evolutionary
Psychology: All other mammal species have fairly strong differences
between males and females, so why shouldn't humans?
It is certainly true that
human beings are animals, and as animals have the animal traits, including
sexual dimorphism: The bucks want to spread their seed as widely as
possible, while keeping other bucks out of their territory, and the
does want to have lots of cubs and find a big, strong buck to protect
them. But surely we have other characteristics, mental and social.
I suppose it isn't possible or desirable to completely transcend our
animal heritage, but I am in favor of making it less important.
If nothing else, it seems
counterproductive to go to heroic efforts to change a successful person
who has the "wrong" good qualities for his/her genitalia.
C.P. Snow, hardly a figure of progressive enlightenment, pointed out
half a century ago, "It is one of our follies that, whatever
we say, we don't in reality regard women as suitable for scientific
careers. We thus neatly divide our pool of potential talent by two."
Besides, there are other
consequences to the evolutionary approach. Eric S. Raymond, among
others, has mentioned that if the buck is going to spend a lot of
time out fighting other bucks, then the doe might wish to optimize
her reproductive strategy by second-sourcing the needed sperm, especially
if she can do so without the Alpha catching her. DNA evidence shows
that more of this than we might think goes on in other species.
Another note on reproduction
and evolutionary psychology: Martha Hrdy has written a book pointing
out that the animal model of mothering does not lead to desperate
efforts to preserve each and every offspring one has had or is about
to, a fact that should be obvious to anyone who has seen a mother
cat eating her imperfect kittens. In particular, this means that a
woman might have an abortion as part of a successful reproductive
strategy. (Ursula K. Le Guin has written a fascinating memoir of doing
One feature of cocaine (or perhaps it's a bug) is that it enables
the user to be drunker than drunk-that is, to keep sopping up the
booze longer without unconsciousness intervening. (I believe this
secret is known in the highest circles of government.) An analogous
function is performed by the luxury industry, so that an individual
who has already made enough money to satisfy ordinary avarice, gluttony,
and lust can turn further ill-gotten gains into expensive status symbols
such as $6000 shower curtains, thus becoming richer than rich.
I think this whole "Silence Is Consent" meme is a
bad one. There are times one is trapped in a situation where that
is true, but that's the pathological case. Silence Is Consent goes
with a lot of bad ideas, from blaming everyone in a country for the
evils that go on there to feeling obligated to tell strangers on the
street that they are too fat or don't really need their canes.
*Embrace the Power of Nor*
Clifford Geertz is a genius. He created thick description as a role
for anthropology where it's something other than a way of trying to
dress up like a Real Science, and that's only one of his contributions.
For instance, there's the essay "Common Sense as a Cultural System"
(the title itself offers information many people need), which discusses
the folly of trying to maintain sex as a fixed and absolute natural
distinction even though a small percentage of new babies are not obviously
one or the other.
His latest book, Available
Light (Princeton tpb), includes a marvelous essay about "Anti-Anti
Relativism," which he compares to anti-anti communism and anti-anti
abortion. Cultural relativism may lead us to refrain from criticizing
differently civilized tribes that mutilate little girls' genitals
to protect them from ever enjoying sex, but antirelativism tends to
sweep a lot of valuable information under the rug in the name of one's
own Big Story (sociobiology, Marxism, whatever).
This sort of plague-on-both-your-houses
approach has many uses. People are always trying to make us say Yes
or No or choose between two supposedly exclusive and exhaustive alternatives.
This has long been a specialty of Richard Viguerie's fund-raising
questionnaires, going back to "Do you want an increased defense
budget, or do you want the Russians to come over here and violate
our women and children?" Or there's Erich Fromm's division of
the world into biophiles, who love Life Itself, and necrophiles, who
wallow in blood, violence, and disease. I am neither, and I know people
who are both.
Some wish to tell us that
two-valuedness is logic. It isn't. Logic is a tool that does precisely
one thing: It guarantees that your conclusions are no worse than your
premises. If your premises do not divide the world properly, neither
will your conclusions; "Garbage In, Garbage Out" did not
begin with computers.
Jon Elster offers the useful
concept of External Negation. You can believe that something is false
(I believe not-X); that's internal negation. Or you can believe that
the question is ill formed, or that we don't know enough to believe
one way or the other. In that case you can say, "I don't believe
X." (Common speech is careless about this. Perhaps we should
distinguish between "I don't believe..." and "I disbelieve...")
I would suggest that we do more not-believing, in that sense.
We are all fallible, and
we keep getting more ignorant all the time (in the sense that the
sum of knowledge grows much faster than an individual's can), so it
behooves us to recognize that all our knowledge is provisional. Bernadette
tells me that's the main message of Seventeenth-Century Skepticism.
Time has not aged it, nor custom staled.
We're beginning to hear that low-fat is not as wonderful as
we were formerly told. I'm old enough to remember an earlier form
of nutritional correctness, a two-variable system in which meat was
benign and exciting, vegetables were benign and boring, sugar was
harmful and exciting, and starch was harmful and boring. Fat didn't
really count in this one.
When the new approach came
in, I figured it was another fashion (or shall we say, episteme),
rather than progress. I am not surprised by the new findings. I would
guess it will turn out that there are different nutritional profiles,
and people who eat in keeping with theirs remain healthy. Until we've
found those, nutrition will be like the study of blood before we learned
there were different types.
In 1966, I dreamed I had dropped acid (which I had not yet
done in waking reality). Someone said, "It will start working
NOW!" whereupon I awoke. I think I'm still on that one.
It's been said that a good slogan can stop thought for years,
and Gilbert Ryle may have done so for more than fifty of them with
"the ghost in the machine." Because it's hard to think in
more than three dimensions, that particular spook seems like the only
alternative to materialistic reductionism. If I hadn't studied complex
variables and multidimensional geometry, I might have thought that
1960 is not "historical" for me if that means "what
I learned as history." I was there! And you wouldn't believe
it! You couldn't use public water fountains if you were the wrong
color! You could go to jail for pictures of people with actual pubic
hair! And you'll never believe what they had the cops doing in men's
A newspaper report on a recent protest march included the supposedly
damning information that some female participants hadn't shaved their
legs. And we have learned that if you're in the FBI, you don't have
to listen to information you desperately need to know if it comes
from a woman outside the proper range of sexual desirability. If the
little blue guys from space really are watching us, it comes from
the same sort of unedifying interest that made eighteenth-century
madhouses into tourist attractions.
Some autoantonyms (words with two opposite meanings): "oversight,"
"discriminate," and "design," the last of these
meaning both "clear thinking made visible" (Edward Tufte)
and "prettiness with as little concession to the needs of users
as possible." Our household recently stayed in a Residence Inn
where the drawers and cabinets were cunningly designed to give no
clues to how one opened them.
I am not making this up: Harvard professor William Moulton
Marston invented the polygraph in 1916. Some years later he dreamed
up Wonder Woman comics. I am making this up: He rubbed his hands together
like Lex Luthor or Dr. Sivana and chortled, "If they believed
the lie-detecting machine, I should have no trouble selling them on
the bullet-catching bracelets."
Every year I watch the NFL Player Draft, which I find more
fun than many actual games. I love to watch the maneuvering, but it's
like the curse that comes with the Klopman Diamond: I also have to
watch-and listen to-Mel Kiper. Mel Kiper is Iron Geek Draft. He looks
like a rooster, complete with a rigid pompadour, held in place by
at least a full can of industrial-strength hair spray, and as one
nineteenth-century British intellectual said of another, "Would
that I could be so certain of anything as he is of everything."
I used to read him online, which spared me his voice, though the tone
came through. This year, however, he was an extra-cost special, so
I passed him up. If they ever start a Draftniks Anonymous, one of
the questions will be, "Did you ever pay to read Mel Kiper?"
There are a lot of people to whom the word marriage is a magic
thing, which is defiled if same-sex couples use it. I have heard
this sort of thing referred to as "associational thinking":
Connotations of words are everything; logical consequences are nothing.
The depressing thought is that each of the people who think this way
gets to vote as many times as you or I do. I suggest we let them have
their word, and set up some new concept under which "couples"
of nonstandard number and/or gender distribution can have precisely
the same rights as those who get to use the Holy Word for their unions.
I personally wouldn't mind if the alternative term were concubinage
or whoredom .
I've been writing parodies for over forty years now-mostly
songs, but an occasional prose effort. For instance, in the early
Sixties, when James Bond first became famous, my friends and I all
read the books, so I wrote a Bondlike parody, an obscene libel of
most of those who would be reading it, and gave it the sophomoric
title "Goldmember." </>I think I'll sue the movie
people and present as evidence word-processed files from 1963.<//>
That was all too typical. Most of my works took acceptable songs and
added smut. I never thought I'd go the other way, but I recently felt
inspired to rewrite the sewer-mouthed blues classic "Stavin'
Richard Cheney had what it took.
If he couldn't make a profit, he'd cook the books.
Cook the books, make 'em come out right,
Hire Arthur Andersen for oversight.
Nobody gonna do like Cheney do.
The recent wedding of
my niece, Alison Cimmet to David Hoffman. My sister,
Eve, married Joe Cimmet 33 years ago, and they have been living happily
ever after. They have three children: Brian, Stephanie, and Alison.
see them anywhere near as often as a socially unchallenged person
but the wedding was in New York, their whole family was there, our
family went, and we all enjoyed it.
The New York Times described
Lydia Davis as "a stand-up comedian who works
to an audience of philosophers." Naturally, I was interested. Almost No
Memory and Samuel Johnson Is Indignant (both Picador tpb) are made
stories and nonstory constructs, some of which work very well for
me, such as:
I am happy the leaves are growing large so quickly. Soon they will
neighbor and her screaming child.
Speaking of The New York
Times, they have one op-ed guy who always makes
sense: Paul Krugman. I would like to point out that he read Isaac
his formative years and said that he got into economics because it
closest thing to psychohistory.
offers online versions of the work of such excellent
ziners as Geri Sullivan, Ted White, and Earl Kemp. Bill Burns is doing
yeoman service in running this site. My previous issue appeared there,
I trust this one will too.
Nasty, Brutish, and Short
</>Attorneys at Law<//>
Ann Coulter, Slander
(Crown hc]: An exposé of how the [singular] media pursues
its radical leftist goals by accusing conservatives of being dumb
enough to say things like "Kill their leaders and convert them
A specter is haunting
Wall Street; it is the specter of honest accounting.
Michel Foucault wanted
to reduce all intellectual disputes to a battle over
power and domination. By a remarkable coincidence, that was also his
of a good time sexually.
Depending on the kindness
of strangers may not be as bad as depending on
the competence of strangers.
Pale Fire: nested
Maybe there's an atheist
Hell that's like the traditional one, only
nobody's in charge. It just happened.
The anti-downloading thing
reminds me of that good old sexual warning, "If
he gets free milk, he'll never buy the cow." Makes as much sense
Materialism is a good,
but by no means perfect, crap filter. In Mark
Twain's image, it keeps a cat from sitting on a lot of hot stoves
and a few
Did you hear about the
terrible fate of the homeopathist? He drank a glass
of distilled water and died of an overdose of everything.
All those people who said
dictionaries should report the way real people
use words instead of some elitist rules, Google is your dictionary.
me, your dicktionary.
Literary criticism: When
the only tool you have is character analysis,
everything looks like Jane Austen.
A civilized society would
have an obscene word for one who doesn't give
Curiosity killed Schrodinger's
cat, or not, as the case may be.
One function of crazy
people is raising the questions sane people don't
like and insisting on discussing them. Ayn Rand, for instance: Why
more admirable to love the undeserving?
I imagine there are people
who think Jurassic Park is real and the moon
landing was faked.
On the grave of a baby
beaten to death by its parents: I WAS A CHILD, NOT A
The whole point of society
is to be less unforgiving than nature.
I sometimes think Judge
Judy tried to make it as a dominatrix, but was too
A curse for someone you
REALLY don't like: May you have many learning
experiences and not learn from them.
--Arthur D. Hlavaty
of the SuperGenius In Wile E. We Trust e-zine available on request.