“The fact that French toys literally prefigure the world of adult functions obviously cannot but prepare the child to accept them all, by constituting for him, even before he can think about it, the alibi of a Nature which has at all times created soldiers, postmen and Vespas. Toys here reveal the list of all the things the adult does not find unusual: war, bureaucracy, ugliness, Martians, etc. It is not so much, in fact, the imitation which is the sign of an abdication, as its literalness: French toys are like a Jivaro head, in which one recognizes, shrunken to the size of an apple, the wrinkles and hair of an adult. There exist, for instance, dolls which urinate; they have an oesophagus, one gives them a bottle, they wet their nappies; soon, no doubt, milk will turn to water in their stomachs. This is meant to prepare the little girl for the causality of house-keeping, to ‘condition’ her to her future role as mother. However, faced with this world of faithful and complicated objects, the child can only identify himself as owner, as user, never as creator; he does not invent the world, he uses it: there are, prepared for him, actions without adventure, without wonder, without joy. He is turned into a little stay-at-home householder who does not even have to invent the mainsprings of adult causality; they are supplied to him ready-made: he has only to help himself, he is never allowed to discover anything from start to finish. The merest set of blocks, provided it is not too refined, implies a very different learning of the world: then, the child does not in any way create meaningful objects, it matters little to him whether they have an adult name; the actions he performs are not those of a user but those of a demiurge. He creates forms which walk, which roll, he creates life, not property: objects now act by themselves, they are no longer an inert and complicated material in the palm of his hand. But such toys are rather rare: French toys are usually based on imitation, they are meant to produce children who are users, not creators.” – Roland Barthes
“The thing about Doctor Who is the constitution of the audience. It covers a huge age range, so you have to entertain little kids and you have to entertain hipsters and students, and middle-aged men who should know better. So sometimes there is a kind of metaphysical and intellectual aspect to it, which is more to the fore than other times. But generally we just blow up monsters. … There are some moments when you feel, that’s a little bit silly, or that’s a bit mawkish or whatever, but then you realise, that’s for children. You would be a fool not to play to them, because it’s their show.” – Peter Capaldi
“It may be doubted, whether the pleasure of seeing children ripening into strength be not overbalanced by the pain of seeing some fall in the blossom, and others blasted in their growth; some shaken down by storms, some tainted with cankers, and some shriveled in the shade; and whether he that extends his care beyond himself does not multiply his anxieties more than his pleasures, and weary himself to no purpose, by superintending what he cannot regulate.” – Dr. Johnson
“I like children. If they’re properly cooked.” ― W.C. Fields
Time for a little holiday desk cleaning.
Their father’s hell did slowly go by
The question, “How am I supposed to explain the election to my children?” has been shooting around for a few weeks, but no one seems to wonder what would happen if the children explained the election to you.
A couple of days after the election Alaska Wolf Joe phoned.
Alaska Wolf Joe: Tell me about your old girlfriend
Me: It’s not an extensive list, but you’ll have to be a little bit more specific.
AWJ: Debbie The Psychedelic Republican.
Me: She wasn’t my girlfriend, but the rest is accurate.
AWJ: Mom said she was your first girlfriend
Me: Mom exaggerates.
AWJ: Did Debbie do lots of LSD?
Me: Well .. that was the 70s and manufactured hallucinogens were on the wane and the Carlos Castaneda books got people moving towards those fruits-of-the-earth, peyote and magic mushrooms. She used to talk about peyote way in advance of doing any – kinda like how some one would talk about booking an expensive day spa appointment.
AWJ: Did she say anything about turning her back on society or discovering spirituality?
Me: Oh no, in fact she used to spend her summers going door to door for Republican candidates.
AWJ: I’m asking as it confirms my suspicions that old people like you could have done all those drugs and not had to deal with any cognitive dissonance after voting for Trump.
Me: How so?
AWJ: If you were just using drugs as an outlet and not a repudiation of society then Debbie could vote for Trump without having second thoughts. All the 60s did was open up a door to distribution and commodification of drugs with no attachment to any political viewpoint. Did she vote for Trump?
Me: Possibly, probably likely, but we’ll never know for sure. I haven’t seen her in years and years.
AWJ: What other drugs did she do?
Me: One time she crushed up a whole mess of Contac and tried to snort it.
AWJ: What’s Contac?
Me: Something your grandfather used to get full MSRP for during cold and flu season.
AWJ: And don’t send any more of my books, I’m going to take some time away from those and read trashy novels.
Me: Like Mickey Spillane?
Me: Another fast moving item in your grandfather’s inventory. Your grandmother threatened to blister my backside good if she caught me so much as looking at one of his books.
AWJ: Is he the boobs-in-the-moonlight guy?
Me: More or less.
Lately there’s been no end of talk about difficult Thanksgiving dinner conversations. If my mother were alive we would be wondering how we could have a conversation at the dinner table while she screamed like a jackknifed banshee. Even if we set aside the fact that we serve Thanksgiving dinner using her good china, which she believed should only be looked at and never used, there would still be AWJ talking about the Continental philosophers which would have brought our her distaste for all things French. Oh sure, they say they’re Catholics, but all that sinful rich food, the nonstop talk about wine, the chain smoking, and that postcard business…
The less said the better.
Speaking of family-
How is your wife? I have been extra good this year, so I have a long list of presents that I want.
On the day after Thanksgiving I type up my email to Santa. This year the only item I’m interested in is Michael Chabon’s new book. (BTW – Nice shirt, Mike.) The very idea of the book is endlessly fascinating as I know so very little of my own family’s history. My father’s side is an open book with only a few chapters as his father came to this country long after the major wave of 19th Century European immigrants had ceased. Needless to say, thanks to my father’s baby brother, Uncle Jussi, its a warts-and-all book. For those of you just tuning in – Uncle Yuse had a highly flexible set of moral standards. He treated things like the Ten Commandments like a rough outline of good behavior which is why during WW2 he was part of the liberation of Europe liberating anything that wasn’t nailed down or too heavy to carry.
My mother’s family is a book locked away in a trunk because they organized their life around their shame. I know bits and pieces of it, but never enough to anything together. When my grandfather died I was hoping some one should say something. In stead all I got was stern admonitions for being a “college boy with soft hands” who didn’t know anything about hard work.
OH – speaking of urban and rural gaps!
When you coming back to reality, Dad? “I don’t know when, but you know we’ll have a good time then!”
Mom ’n me are kinda hiding out from the Bookface. In fact we’ve checked ourselves into The Facebook User Protection Program after the election turned lots of people into relentlessly earnest banshees. If you don’t talk about the election they start screaming and what are we supposed to do? As Mom said – there’s nothing we can say that hasn’t been said somewhere else and what would be the point?
We could say, “DITTO!” but I think the Howard Stern guy owns the copyright.
The one small and only thing that I’ll talk about is the fake news as it presents a problem to all of us who have an arm’s length relationship with reality. Unlike Uncle Yuse who saw morality as a loose set of suggestions, some of us have thought from time to time that societal norms can be tinkered with for the sake of fun. While this might have bothered those who act as if society is a rock-solid thing that was built according to specs long ago put out to bid, the goofballery that transpired previously was largely harmless.
Case in point – I have long been a fan of the San Fran Cacophony Society who pulled this bus stunt over 20 years ago. You could say that such things might trace their way back to The Situationists, but that’s always tough. Sure, The Situationists pioneered monkey wrenching art and media, but getting little Billy of the Family Circus to shout obscenities is not necessarily societal liberation.
The larger point here is that people have putting bullshit in plain sight since the 1950s so why is everybody so upset now?
God knows The Situationists weren’t in it to make a buck and neither was a bus full of clowns. Sure, the Subgenius crowd had merch, but none of us believe it was sufficient to buy Strang and Nenslo a place in the Bahamas nor was that their intent. Nor were they ready to serve up their nonsense in COSTCO sized lots.
Where is this all going?
Like I’d know?
Let’s spilt the difference and summarize.
– Bullshit is harmless unless there’s money in it.
– My family history on my mother’s side is a mess that left me with little to work with. Therefore I have no choice but to make stuff up in order to approach and understand of Tolstoy’s old phrase, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
– Mom ’n me are fed up with the Bookface and we’re not coming back until everybody gets over themselves which is the same as saying we’ll never be back. OK- we’ll probably be back, but as Mom’s mother liked to say, “You’ve got Christmas and your birthday to think about. If you get everything you want all the time then there won’t be anything special to get when Christmas and your birthday come around.
– If AWJ writes the history of the US the hippies will be credited with commodifying and distributing illicit drugs in a manner similar to how Henry Ford put the automobile into wide spread use. In his history the titans of 20th Century industry will be Ford, General Sarnoff, and some dude name Moondog and his ol’ lady Fireweed.
Now go eat your leftovers.