Saturday, July 30, 2005

To Be A Man

After thirty-five years of blunders and errors I have finally come to understand what it truly means to be a man. I am not talking about merely being male. I am talking about that complex balance of testosterone, ego, intellect, competitiveness, love, lust and the paternal instinct in its ideal form.

When I was growing up being a MAN meant being the best at everything. The best athlete, the smartest, the toughest, the sexiest and most desirable, and the wealthiest. In one form another this ideal, born out of the machismo of the streets, has haunted me throughout my life. When I grew up Da Man was the guy who all the women wanted and all the men feared. I have been Da Man many times in my life. I have been a real man far less often. In my defense I had few examples to follow.

My father used women and could not hold a job. My mother left him the day I was born and never went back. I only met him once at a child support hearing when I was twelve. I declined to ever meet him again. I may not have had any positive male role models growing up but at least I did not have many negative ones. Unfortunately, three years after leaving my father my mother ran right into the arms of the man I called Dad for the first two years of my life that I can remember. His name was Greg and he was a Vietnam Vet, which in '73 meant he'd been killing people only months before my mother moved in with him. I remember sitting on my bed at night and screaming at the top of my lungs for him to stop hurting my Mommy. One day he tried to force poison down her throat and she packed up all of our things and moved us in with my Great Grandfather, William Boise James and his wife Ethel James. I was the first boy born to our family in fifteen years and so I was doted on by my great grandparents. A year after we moved in my great grandmother died. She was the sweetest woman I'd ever met and I didn't understand enough to cry. At the funeral I walked up to the casket and rubbed her forehead, then I kissed her on the nose just like I did when she was alive. I have kissed my loved ones on the nose ever since. My ex-wife thought I had a nose fetish.

My great grandfather and I became the closest friends. He would take me everywhere with him. We would travel all over the city to pool halls and liquor stores and little shops downtown. I now suspect that great granddad may have been a numbers runner. Our daily trips through the city always culminated with him and I sitting by the river eating filet of flounder sandwiches that were fried and batter dipped and covered in hot sauce and ketchup. My Poppop, as I called him, would marvel at how such a small boy could eat a whole sandwich by himself and drown an entire sixteen ounce soda. He taught me the value of a dollar by paying me fifty cents every Wednesday for taking out the trash and a quarter on Sundays for running to the store to buy the paper and two dollars for mowing the lawn. I would run around the corner and mow my grandmother's lawn for free and get her morning paper. Sometimes she would give me a quarter but sometimes she couldn't afford it. Sometimes she couldn't even afford to buy the Sunday paper and I would buy it for her with the money Poppop had given me. See, he taught me the value of a dollar but he also taught me the value of making your loved ones happy. My Great grandfather died in 1980, exactly five years after his wife passed away. I was ten years old. I am crying now as I remember finding his body curled up by the bed where he had fallen the night before from a stroke. The same thing that had killed my Nana five years before. That day I became the man of the house. I still had no idea what that meant.

I kept taking out the trash even though there was no one to pay me my fifty cents. I mowed our lawn and my grandmother's lawn and never asked for a dime. I ran to get the Sunday paper every morning for both of our homes. I unclogged the toilets at my house and my grandmother's house. I set traps for the sewer rats in the winter just like my Poppop had shown me how. Then one day my great grandfather's dog Prince ran away and I cried for two weeks straight. More than I had the day Poppop died. That was probably my first nervous breakdown. Long before people were aware that kids that young had them.

It wasn't long after that that I found the streets. I started hanging out with all the kids my age and getting into fights almost everyday. Don't get me wrong. I was fighting everyday before that but that was just at school. Around my way I was always the nicest kid. Now I was still nice but I fought all the time too because that's what I thought men were supposed to do. I was also always self-conscious about not knowing my father and not having any older brothers or anything and I always wanted to know if I was as tough as the kids who had men in their houses. So I kicked their asses to find out. Then between ages eleven and twelve, right after I hit puberty, I learned something else about being a man as defined by the streets. "Real" Men had lots of women. They were judged by the quality and quantity of their sexual conquests. The more women you had sex with the more of a man you were. Yet, according to the standard of beauty that existed in the 80's I was the definition of ugly. I was not light-skinned. I am dark as half-past midnight or a black scab, a black spook, a tar baby, a mud duck, and all the other names I was called. I didn't have curly hair or "good hair" as it was called then, meaning nearly Caucasian. I wasn't small and thin and androgynous like Prince or Michael Jackson or El Debarge or Ray Parker Jr. I was big and dark and manly. At age twelve I was already six foot two. I was also poor at a time when materialism was at its all-time high. I couldn't afford designer labels and I often wore the same thing more than once in the same week and kids noticed. I was called dirty, a welfare recipient, ghetto, a hood rat. Then, the summer of my thirteenth year, I hooked up with a family friend at the lake during a family reunion and got my first kiss. A week later she and I were supposed to go out on a date and she stood me up. I made up my mind right then that I would never be a nice guy again. I still remember what I vowed to myself. It went something like this: "I will say whatever I want to say whenever I want to say it. I will never think of myself as less than anyone ever again. If I can't be the same as them I will be greater than them and I will return every injustice against me tenfold." I had a flair for the dramatic even then. The result was that I entered the new school year at a new school and instantly became the single most popular kid at the school. I had women who loved me and I had guys who feared me.

One day at school a kid told me to shut up and I kicked him in his leg and broke it. Another time a kid told me to shut up and I hit him in the face with a very large Chemistry book. He told the principle on me so I kicked him in the head at lunch and knocked him unconscious. I was turning into the type of kid who had teased and bullied me when I was younger. With the girls it was worse. I got my first girlfriend at fourteen and broke up with her two weeks later because she wouldn't have sex with me. Then my next girlfriend and I got together and made love every second we were together until she dumped me two months into the relationship because she was Italian and I was Black and her parents were racists. We got back together and two years later I found out that she had slept with my bestfriend. I found out after she and I had broken up and I caught my new girlfriend with him. Nervous breakdown number two followed. I took six bottles of aspirin in a misguided attempt at suicide that almost destroyed my liver and kidneys and left me in the hospital for a week. That's about the time I stopped believing in God or anything else for that matter. I was sixteen when that happened. My sexual binges started soon after. I learned that sex was a good way to numb pain. It also made me feel like Superman.

The next eight years were a blur of sexual excess. I remember sitting in a clinic when I was twenty-two, taking an AIDS test and having the nurse ask me how many sexual partners I'd had that year and the number being close to thirty. A year after that a girl I was seeing asked me how many sexual partners I'd had and the number was in the triple digits. I knew I had a problem even then. I went to Sex Addicts Anonymous but the problem seemed too large to control so I gave up and just went with it. I started fighting competitively. I learned to love the roar of the crowd, the smell of blood and sweat and the look of fear in my opponent's eyes. I loved the joy of conquering other men and the fame, money, respect, and women that came along with it. I loved walking into a place and knowing that I could beat any man in the room. I felt like I was the man. More of a man then the men who weren't fighters and who couldn't walk into a strip club in Tokyo and leave with the best looking woman in the place without spending a dime. I loved the nice clothes, the nice cars, the travel, and the exotic women. I loved it all. None of it made me a man though. But it did make me feel like one then. I got married and had a son that same year. In ten years of marriage I slept with probably forty or fifty women before I finally got divorced. I was always a good father and an adoring husband. I worked hard everyday and cooked dinner every night and showered my wife with compliments, gifts, and affection. I thought that would excuse all my other indiscretions. I was still struggling with being a man.

It is now two years after the divorce. I have a new woman and a new baby and I am trying not to make the same old mistakes. I have failed at times. I have learned though. I have learned that all the macho bullshit I learned on the streets of Philadelphia is just that. Bullshit. Being a man is not about how much ass you kick or how much ass you can get. It is not about how much money you have or how nice a car you own or how many people chant your name when you enter an arena or ask for your autograph or want you to have their children. Being a man is about raising your children to be better than you were. Being a better father than your father was no matter how good or bad he was. It is about loving and trusting and being worthy of love and trust. It is about protecting your loved ones and sharing their joys and sorrows, applauding their accomplishments and accepting their flaws and failures. It is about being strong enough to pick them up when they fall and compassionate enough to help them learn from their mistakes without making them feel miserable because of them. I am not the ideal man yet. Sometimes I'm not even sure if I am a good man. But I am learning.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Ode to Womanhood

There is a billion dollar a year cosmetic industry designed to convince women that their natural beauty is flawed and inadequate. That they are unattractive without the addition of various cremes, lotions, blushes, and rouges. There is a multi-million dollar fashion industry that perpetuates the idea that women with curves are not as desirable as anemic fashion models with the bodies of adolescent boys and a multi million dollar weight loss industry that happily feeds on this myth leeching away women's self-esteem right along with their income. Now, the plastic surgeon has been added to this ego depreciating media madhouse. Shows like The Swan and Extreme Makeover have now made it a sin to grow older or gain weight or to not have D-cup breasts that don't sag or bounce or giggle or feel anything like breasts are supposed to feel. The changes your body undergoes during motherhood are now flaws to be corrected by the surgeon's knife as soon after leaving the delivery room as possible. Remember the good old days when breasts were made of mammary glands and fat cells and felt like heaven on earth? Now we are told that it is every man's goal to have a woman with breasts that feel like a man's shoulder. Yes, there are some that feel quite natural and yes, there are women who undergo surgery for perfectly legitimate reasons that have nothing to do with the ridiculous standards society has placed on them. But how many women like that do you honestly know?

Still, the most heinous of all are the men who agree with all of this nonsense. Worse are the ones who pressure the women they profess to love to succumb to these unnatural anti-womanhood standards. The ones pressuring their women to have implants because her breasts have sagged with age or because they are big and that's what large breasts do once you get out of highschool or just because he thinks they are too small. The ones badgering their woman to go on a diet (unless she is obese and it is a serious health issue) so that she will be a better trophy for him. The ones badgering their women to gain weight (unless she is too skinny and it is a serious health risk) because they want her ass bigger or her breasts fuller. The ones who won't be seen with their women without her hair perfectly styled and her make-up perfectly maintained at all times. The ones who subscribe to the warped standards of the fashion industry that believes that a woman with no hips, thighs no wider than her calves, an ass that melds into her back and doesn't even stick out as far as her coccyx bone, breasts that are no bigger than a b-cup unless they come from a plastic surgeon, the bones in her shoulders, chest, and ribs sticking out like she is less than a pound away from organ failure, that is six-feet tall and barely one hundred and twenty pounds, is the standard of beauty for all women. They all make me sick.

Did you know that between 21% and 31% body fat is normal for a healthy adult woman? That means that if you are 170lbs and 52lbs of your total body weight is fat as opposed to lean muscle, organs and bone, you would not be considered fat. Not by anyone accept the people trying to sell you plastic surgery or weight loss gimmicks or the man who secretly hates women and wants them all to look like young boys. Every time I hear a guy say he's looking for a "hard body" I think to my self that if I wanted to sleep with a hard body I'd be gay. Then I wonder if he is.

I have an acquaintance at the gym who was raving about his new girlfriend who looked like a model and was in fact starting a modeling career and how perfect her body was and so on and so on. When I finally met her she was as thin as a rail. Her body was stripped of everything that distinguishes a woman from a man without removing her clothing. No ass, no hips, no thighs, no breasts, no curves at all. I thought he had to be kidding. I'm not saying that I hate skinny women. If it's natural that's fine. I was pretty skinny myself when I was younger. If it is the result of starving yourself in order to comply with some anti-feminine standard of beauty than it's just sick and that's what this was. Just sick. Another friend of mine at the gym had a wife with the most voluptuous ass I'd seen in recent memory. I complimented him on his wife's ass everytime she walked into the gym. Perhaps that's why he encouraged her to excercise and diet the thing away. She is now so skinny that the bones in her face look like they are about to cut through her skin. That remarkable ass is just a fond memory. Her breasts are completely gone as well as her once sumptuous hips and thighs. She looks like if she fell down she'd break in two. Everyone at the gym is worried about her except her husband who likes her better this way. What the fuck is wrong with these guys? Why do women put up with this bullshit? Don't you know what a gift you are to men? Don't you know how empty our lives would be without you? Don't you know that you should be worshipped and adored? I don't fucking get it.

I once dated a woman who was clinically depressed because she didn't feel her breasts were big enough and because she had large thighs and a magnificently large ass. Trust me, I made her come to love and appreciate that remarkable ass, but she could never get over the breast thing. She wound up on anti-depressants because of it. Whenever I would point out how ridiculous it was that she was so obsessed with losing weight and the size of her breasts she would point out all the images that women are bombarded with day in and day out of women with twenty-four inch waists and double-D breasts. I would then point out that men are also bombarded with images of buff steroid freaks with six-pack abs and perfect hair in TV and print but most men feel like if they can still get women with a gut than they must look good enough already. This woman had never had a problem getting men so I couldn't understand what the hang up was about. I mean, I loved her and thought she was sexy and desirable and I ain't so bad looking. But I get it now. The media is a catty hyper-critical bitch with its sites on every woman in the free world and idiotic superficial men only make it worse.

Men don't have an entire health and beauty industry directed exclusively at them, designed to make them feel as if they are not pretty enough or sexy enough or youthful enough or skinny enough without the products they sell. And unfortuantely there are not enough supportive men around to counteract this message. But since I am one I will try to do the job for all of you myself. Now pay attention because I'm only going to say this once.

You are beautiful. Every one of you. You are sexy. You are sensuous. You are desirable. You are gorgeous. You are flawless. You are perfect just as you are. There is no more beautiful creature on earth than a woman. You are lovely in every shape, size, age and color in which you exist.

The older woman, seasoned and experienced. Your smile lines, the wrinkles at the corners of your eyes, accentuate the beauty of a long life and all the years and memories that have shaped you. Every wrinkle and ripple is a trophy of your many accomplishments. You are beautiful.

The full figured woman with all the gifts of womanhood in voluptuous abundance, pornographically exaggerated, the thickness of your hips and thighs, the ripeness of your breasts, the roundness of your ass are nature's icons of femininity. You are beautiful.

The slender woman of more subtle endowments, slight understated curves. You need no silicone to complete you. Nature has gifted you with a sleek and graceful form, delicate and lovely. You are beautiful.

You are the friends and partners who counsil and console us, who laugh and celebrate with us, who understand and commiserate and cry with us, who cry for us and fight for us, who support us and stand by us through adversity. You are the lovers who excite, tantilize, electrify, and obsess us, who occupy our every fantasy and fill our nights with passion. You are the wives and girlfriends who love us, and grow old with us, and accept us with all our flaws and imperfections. You are the mothers who give us sons and daughters and the mothers who bore us and raised us and made us into men. You are the grandmothers who spoiled us and who spoil our children. You are beautiful. Every one of you. In every shape, size, age and color in which you exist.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

"You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit,
not even in your dreams..."
-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, "On Children"
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"It is easier for a father to have children than for a child to have a real father." Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 16, 2005

To the Extreme

There was a time when every horror author was asked why they wrote about such violent, morbid, terrifying, depressing topics. Many of us are still badgered by friends and neighbors who don't understand why we can't write about puppies and kittens. That's why I'm always surprised when a horror author asks me why I write extreme horror as opposed to traditional or quiet horror. I write extreme horror for the same reason they write horror. Because that is what I love to write. It's what I love to read. It's what I love to see on screen. I don't write traditional horror for the same reason they don't write romance. Because I have no love of it. I personally feel cheated when an author shies away from describing some hideous or gruesome thing for fear of offending his audience just like most of us felt cheated when we went to see a horror movie in the seventies and the camera cut away just before the knife would penetrate or the monster would rip the victim's head off. Or when some gruesome horror movie would finally make it to network television with all the violence cut out, fading to commercial every time the monster closed in on his victim. So, now that I'm writing the stories myself I don't cut away to commercial. I show everything.

I don't leave anything to the reader's imagination because the whole reason they picked up my book in the first place is because they wanted to step inside my head. It seems like a cop out to me to tell the reader to use his own imagination. If I wanted to use my own imagination when I read a book I'd write the damned thing myself. I don't want to use my imagination I want to be taken inside the author's head, to see his or her unique perspective on the world. To see and feel through their descriptions things I have never experienced or could never imagine, at least not in the same way the author has. I give my readers that. I will give you more in my stories than you could ever possibly conceive of. I will give you my perspective, undiluted Wrath.

The other reason I write the way I do is because I truly think of myself as an artist, in Tolstoy's definition of the word. As one who is "impelled by an inner need to express his feelings", one who seeks to "...evoke in oneself a feeling one has experienced and having evoked it in oneself then by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others experience the same feeling..." In other words, when I write something that scares me, I want to make sure it scares the reader too. If I write something that embarrasses me I want my readers to blush upon reading it. If I write something that shocks or appalls me, then I want the reader to be shocked and appalled as well. If it makes me sad, I want to make sure my readers cry when they read it . If I jacked-off when I wrote it I don't want my readers to be able to read it with both hands. If it grossed me out, I want to make sure it grosses you out too. Whatever I was feeling when I wrote it I want my reader to experience as well. In my opinion the only true judge of art is the degree of the artist's success in transmitting his thoughts and emotions to his audience, in transmitting his unique "condition of soul". And no matter how finely crafted a work is, no matter how beautiful or entertaining it is, if it fails to clearly transmit the artist's unique perspective to the reader than it fails. If it was not created with the intention of transmitting the artist's thoughts and emotions but rather merely to amuse or beautify than it is not art and the creator, no matter how talented or skillful, is not an artist but a skilled craftsman. As Tolstoy said:

"... If a man without exercising effort and without altering his standpoint, on reading, hearing, or seeing another man's work experiences a mental condition which unites him with that man and with others who are also affected by that work, then the object evoking that condition is a work of art. And however poetic, realistic, striking, or interesting, a work may be, it is not a work of art if it does not evoke that feeling...A real work of art destroy in the consciousness of the recipient the separation between himself and the artist."

I use such powerful imagery because I want to guarantee that my point is understood. I use the most extreme and visceral analogies available to illustrate my ideas and opinions so that my audience is dragged screaming and kicking into my point of view. Most of the stories I write are born out of arguments. They are the hypothetical situations I use to illustrate my point. Propaganda of a sort. So I heap on the imagery in order to ensure that I elicit the desired emotional and/or intellectual response in my reader. Some may argue that it takes less talent to be heard with a scream then it does with a whisper. Coincidentally the same individuals who make that claim are the ones who find it impossible to write extreme horror well. But, more to the point, I believe that most of those who whisper are not heard. I find quiet horror so mind-numbingly boring that whatever point the author was trying to make and whatever emotion he was trying to evoke (unless that emotion was boredom) usually gets lost when I put the book down before finishing it or find myself daydreaming about something else while trying to read through it. Anything worth expressing is worth screaming.

Isn't it also a fact that horror that screams in the face of its reader turns as many or perhaps even more readers off than horror that whispers softly?

I don't agree. Like that tired cliche' about rubberneckers at the scene of an automobile accident, many more are drawn to these stories out of morbid curiosity than are ever pushed away. Sex and violence will always attract many more than it repels. There is a reason Mike Tyson is a cultural icon and pornography is a billion-dollar a year industry. This is the reason I first decided to use sex and violence to hammer home whatever point I am trying to illustrate, because it captures the reader's attention. Once they are captivated it is far easier to dump my social, political, or existential commentary on them without it appearing cold and dull.

True, there are many who find visceral tales unpalatable. Elizabeth Peake for instance makes it a point to bring up the fact that she couldn't make it through Poisoning Eros at any and every mention of extreme horror. It's almost become an obsession with her. We get it Liz. The extreme is not your cup of tea. For those who are not attracted to it there are plenty of other genres for them to enjoy. In Elizabeth's defense I have never heard her say such things should not be written. That's when I would get offended. If you're not into it then you are not into it. Live long and prosper. No skin off my nose. But when people drag out their big moral stick and start questioning, judging, and out and out attacking the moral character of the author because of what he or she has written, when they start calling for it to be banned, that's when I get pissed. I mean, Harry Potter? Come the fuck on! Doesn't anyone else think the Catholic church is more than a little ridiculous for how they have attacked this harmless little children's book? Or how about how the PMRC went after American Psycho in the late eighties? An extreme book to be sure but far from dangerous. I'd much rather my kid read Brett Easton Ellis than sit in front of the TV all day playing video games and watching cartoons. And most recently, right here in our own little horror community, the flack Shane Staley got on Shocklines when he published an excerpt of a story in which a retarded girl was raped. He was called sick, perverted, irresponsible, insensitive, someone even said they wanted to kick his ass. All over a piece of fiction. That type of idiocy is one of the reasons I write extreme horror in the first place. It's like when you were a kid and you identified the cry-baby in the group and began teasing his ass until he learned to toughen up. Well, that's what I'm doing, toughening up the cry-babies, trying to force them to loosen up their constricted rectums and get over themselves. The world is a less civilized place than most will admit. Most prefer to ignore the unpleasantries rather than face them, which only perpetuates it. They turn their backs on the horror because it is too terrifying for them to contemplate and therefore they turn their backs on the perpetrators as well as the victims. Think Rwanda.

In the end I write extreme horror because I am an extreme individual. I grew up on the crime infested streets of Philadelphia fighting almost everyday from age five to age fifteen. After that it slowed down to once a month. I was a bouncer for eight years in nightclubs all over the Bay Area and for a short time in Las Vegas where I witnessed and participated in more decadence, violence, and hedonism than most people ever even hear about. I am an admitted sex addict with a sexual past that would make most prostitutes blush. I am a fighter who has trained for more than a decade in the art of destroying other human beings and has exercised that talent in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans. My experiences have been extreme. My opinions are extreme. My tastes are extreme. My lifestyle is extreme. How could I possibly write anything else?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Philosophy in the Ghetto

There is a great disparity between the way many live their lives and their professed beliefs. It often appears as if a philosophy exists above and beyond the ideologies of man, authored by man's own inherent nature and environment transposed over all of our dogma. It is our true belief. Not the one we give lip service to but the one that truly governs how we behave toward one another in the real world. It has often been said that everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. Why is that? Because every organism is hard-wired with the instinct towards self-preservation. Only humans are capable of the type of self-delusion that would allow them to view willfully suffering discomfort, pain and death as virtuous and good. Every other creature battles with its last breath for every second of existence. Martyrdom is not a natural act it is a religious and political act. It is an intellectual and emotional act. This is why it is so rare. Most humans would break every commandment in the book to avoid pain and/or death. The ghettos of America, for instance, are full of people who believe in an afterlife of eternal reward or eternal punishment who still rape, rob, con, murder, batter, and assault, to achieve that paradise in the here and now and avoid the tedious, exhausting, and agonizing hell existence can become. All while still wearing tattoos of the Virgin Mary and the crucified Christ. Rap artists, actors, athletes, and rock stars ingest tremendous amounts of drugs and alcohol, have sex with endless processions of anonymous groupies, promote lifestyles of violence and excess and then praise God every time they get an award while wearing jewelry adorned with crucifixes. What gives here? I believe that this hypocrisy is inevitable. Man, like most creatures above the intellectual level of insects, are self-interested.

For all of our noble ideas of unity and brotherhood, when it comes down to survival we begin to segregate ourselves into little protective groups and, as the commodities of existence grow scarcer and competition increases, those groups get smaller and more specialized. We begin to weed people out of the circle of trust, first by geography, then by race, then by familial ties, and finally down to us and our children and eventually down to just ourselves. It is lifeboat ethics on a grand scale. For most it needn't even come down to survival to see the true philosophy of man emerge. The competition for mates brings it out. The competition for comfort and luxury brings it out. The simple fact that someone has more than what someone else has and feels they deserve brings it out. No matter how much we speak of rewards in the after-life most of us do not live as ascetic monks eschewing all sensual pleasure and material wealth for the promise of the afterlife. We want paradise now and this is natural.

As natural as sex is violence. Man is a violent creature. As much as we try to move away from the notion that might makes right our every action verifies this undeniable truth. There is no right which you now take for granted that would exist without the might of the local police force and armed forces to defend it. What does it mean for a man to say, "I have the right to walk through any neighborhood in America," when common sense tells us that a trip through certain neighborhoods would be a death sentence? That would be like saying, "I have the right to fly without mechanical assistance." This is a meaningless statement. Saying that you have rights which you are incapable of exercising is a useless statement. Saying, "I have the right to say anything I want to anyone without being attacked for it," is a useless statement because without a doubt saying certain things in certain company will lead to violent repercussions. There are more than a few things you could say to me that would lead to a severe ass-kicking unless you have the police behind you or enough concerned citizens to prevent me from damaging your dental work.

In our society wealth is often the might we speak of. The wealthier you are the more rights you are capable of exercising. I can say that I have the right to buy any car I want but in truth I have only the right to buy any car I can afford. I can say I have the right to buy any house I want but in truth I have only the right to buy any house I can afford. Bill Gates can buy any house or any car he wants. I cannot. Are our rights different? Yes, they are. Would we ever admit that? No, of course not. It goes against our professed political and social philosophy to admit that, but it exists none the less. Does the local gangsta or drug dealer have different rights in the ghetto than the average citizen? Yes, he does. His rights come from the gun on his hip, the soldiers that surround him, and their willingness to use violence to get what they want despite the possibility of jail time. This makes them more dangerous than the average citizen and so in the ghetto they are afforded more privileges. Might makes right is part of this underlying philosophy that man lives by but would never admit to.

Self-sacrifice is one of the most noble of human ideas. Almost every religion on earth promotes it as the highest virtue. It is a virtue that man achieves inconsistently at best because altruism is not natural. Moderation, abstinence, patience, are all virtues in most ideologies yet all go against man's basic instinct. The natural movement of any organism is from pain towards pleasure and then to greater and greater levels of pleasure. Look at any ghetto and you will see man's true nature at work. In a slum the variety of available pleasures are limited and as a result those few available pleasures are indulged to self-destructive extremes, lied and killed for. Buddha may call for moderation but mankind's natural instincts lean more toward excess and addiction. I call this philosophy Existential Egoistic Hedonism. Quite a mouthful isn't it?

It is existential in the fact that it is a direct reaction to the fact that I believe all men feel in their guts that this life is all there is and that is why most struggle so hard to suck as much out of it as possible. That is why we take every pain that life causes us as a major injustice because deep down we all know that if life is meaningless than the pain necessary to existence is an injustice. Life demands a toll. Existence demands a payment and that payment is the pain and effort it takes to maintain it. So we ask the value of that for which we struggle so hard and are left wanting. This leads us to our mad scramble to over-indulge all the pleasures of life before our existence ends in order to balance out the pain. In every ghetto there are examples.

I call this egoistic hedonism because man is at his core himself and only himself. We may endeavor to view ourselves as part of the larger structure of government or the eco-system, to view ourselves as part of the infinite rather than as individuals yet in truth we are finite beings. All we shall ever experience from birth until death is what our own bodies experience. We can empathize but we can never truly experience it and we can only empathize if we are aware of it. Millions of tragedies a second occur around the globe that we are blissfully unaware of. While 700 thousand die in Rwanda we find ourselves vexed not by those deaths which we do not see but by the guy who cut us off in traffic or the lover who failed to perform. 50 thousand species of plant and animal life go extinct every year yet we find it far more disturbing that our favorite TV show has gone off the air. All we know is our own experiences and so that will always be our primary concern. We are all egoists whether we admit it or not. We are designed by nature to be such.

And we are hedonists as well for all the reasons previously stated. Our ultimate goals will always be the survival and enjoyment of ourselves. This may often take the form of us helping others in order to feel better about ourselves or in order to create stronger communities so that there will be a healthy structure there to help us should we ever need it. As altruistic as these things may sound they are ultimately done to protect our own asses. This is of course a generalization because as I have said many times on this blog man's intellect makes him capable of a great many things including over-riding his nature. The question remains though, "Does this natural inherent philosophy exists?" Look at a young child before you teach it to empathize and see all the natural instincts of man at work. All it knows or cares about is what it wants, what it does not want, its own discomfort and its own pleasure. A more greedy, self-interested, hedonistic creature than a human child has never existed. Man may do an excellent job of convincing himself of other ideologies and a scant few may manage to follow antithetical moral and social codes than those hard-wired into our genes to the letter of the law, but for none shall it be easy. Every time you drive through the ghetto and see all that pain, and violence, and strife, know that you are looking at the same animal with the same instincts as yourself. When you mutter a silent prayer of, "There, but for the grace of God, go I..." Know that it is by grace of your belief in higher moral and social codes, and the privilege of your economic status which has allowed for no significant tests of these moral codes, that you are not selling crack and jacking cars. Those same instincts inherent in the gang-banger, spraying up the block with his Tech.9 to keep rival gang-bangers from dealing on his turf, lie within you.

By saying all of this am I suggesting that because man has such base tendencies than we should simply give in to them? Not in the least. I believe that the struggle to elevate ourselves above our instinctive drives is a noble one. There is much I abstain from and I take great pride in doing so. I have never done drugs. Never smoked a cigarette. I do not drink. And, despite growing up in a neighborhood infested with crime, I have never committed a felony. A misdemeanors or two yes, but no felonies. Man is more than the sum of his internal drives and instincts. The question is should we act as if these drives don't exist? Should we not take into account man's natural code of conduct when creating our own higher code? Too often we behave as if we were unaware that might is the sole source of our rights until we do pop off to the wrong person when there is no back-up around and get a foot in our asses. Too often I have watched women stagger home drunk from a nightclub walking down some dimly lit street and when you suggest that perhaps she should have security accompany her the response is always the same, "I have the right to go wherever I want!" or worse yet "I walk this way every night and nothing has ever happened to me before." As if there are people lying cut up by the side of the road thinking, "Damnit! This happens every time I walk home this way." It only needs to happen once...But I'm getting off the subject here. Too often we make shockingly dumb mistakes because we assume that every person shares our level of civilization. Because we forget that our civilized world is just a thin facade overlying the world of violence and hedonism at its core. We forget that our higher moral philosophies and ideologies are always in competition with nature. I have always found it amusing what people consider "unnatural acts". Look in nature at those animals whose behaviors are solely instinctual, programmed by nature to do only as nature intended, and you will see a surprising number of what man considers "unnatural acts". Patricide, matricide, infanticide, cannibalism, necrophilia, war, robbery, thievery, homosexuality, fetish, all with startling regularity. Too often we are shocked by the actions of others when they are doing nothing more than obeying their natural instincts. Too often we pass a ghetto and poke our noses in the air and act as if we could never behave as they do when in fact we all possess those same animalistic instincts. As in all things you must first seek to understand before you can overcome. I would suggest even that some of these inherent behavioral codes are not something we should resist but rather modify to our existing environment to make it more harmonious as we have done by transferring our own instinct to physically fight for what is ours to the government with its armies and police forces who defend our rights for us. I believe if we did this we would have less guilt in the world, less suicide, and less out and out rebellion from those who find it impossible to live by the high moral codes we have set for ourselves due to their inherent drives and desires and environments that promote adherence to our internal philosophy rather than denial of it. There is too wide of a gap between what those in poverty hold to be true and self-evident and the beliefs of those brought up in privilege. We make movies and sit-coms about it yet we have never made a serious effort to understand it. Until we do, unity will never be possible.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Joy of Sex

Why, oh why has something so beautiful and life affirming been so maligned in our culture? Politicians like Tipper Gore and the tedious PMRC want it banned from music. The Censors exist to keep it off of television and out of the movie theatres. Churches and in some states even the government try to limit the variety of sex to simple intercourse between members of the opposite sex for the purpose of procreation. Oral sex, anal sex, sex toys, etc. are all taboo. People over a certain age who were freaks their entire lives suddenly decide to adopt more puritanical attitudes towards sex because it's expected of them. "I can't dress that way, talk that way, act that way anymore, now that I'm a mother or father or grandmother or grandfather." Bullshit! Who the fuck says? "How would I look having sex in the backseat of a car at age forty?" Well, I'd imagine you'd look like someone who knows how to live. "What would the neighbors think?" Fuck them!

Me? I love sex. I love to talk about it. I love to watch it on TV, listen to it in songs, in jokes, perform the act in as many varied ways as possible, and I love to write about it. Okay, I admit it. I often masturbate while writing a sex scene. That's why you probably won't read a book written by me that doesn't contain a sex scene until I'm old and impotent. My fantasy life could fill an entire adult video store. I love sex. I can honestly say that I have never heard of any act performed by two consenting adults that was so perverse that I have not at one time imagined myself capable of it. I love to make love. I love to fuck. I love to cuddle and caress. I love to spank, bite, and paddle. Whether I'm a father or even when I become a grandfather I will never feel the need to curb my appetite. Even though I have now accepted that monogamy is possible for me if I want it bad enough, I don't feel that limiting myself to one woman necessarily means limiting myself to a life less passionate, less wild, or less adventurous. To me that would be no life at all.

Sex is the only only positive stimulus more powerful than pain. It can be argued that every other pleasurable sensation is merely the absence of pain. Sex does not fall into this category. You can have sex, enjoy sex, even while you are in pain. You are often totally oblivious to pain when you are sexually excited. Try holding a push-up position for twenty minutes when you are not having sex and you'll see what I mean. Try rubbing your knees or back across the carpet for an hour when you are not having sex. The sex drive is arguably the second most powerful instinct in animals, right after hunger, but before self-preservation. The Praying Mantis won't stop fucking even while his mate is cannibalizing his head. Hawks won't separate until after they have achieved orgasm even while hurtling towards earth a mile a minute. Animals fight, kill, and die for mates every spring. I have at times been addicted to the act. Many times in fact. I have stayed in relationships with women I truly detested because the sex was so good. I have ruined good relationships because the sex was better with someone else. I once left a hospital prior to surgery for a hernia, tied a belt around my waist to hold my intestines in place, and went to an ex-girlfriend's house for a night of vigorous sex (all while in excruciating pain) because I couldn't stand the idea of going a night without it. Okay, I had problems then, but I'm much better now.

So how could such a joyous act inspire such shame and ire in people. Why does our culture treat it as something dirty and unsavory? Fuck if I know. All I know is that I think those people are idiots. It's good to fuck.

Yeah, I understand that sex can be used as a means of power and control over people. I understand that it can be used to degrade and humiliate and inflict pain and if it's non-consensual it's wrong. Period. If it's consensual than no matter how twisted or perverse it may be it's all good in my book. I'll go one further. If you are having so much sex that it interferes in your ability to hold a job or live a normal productive life, than that's wrong too. All things in moderation? Hmmm? Maybe not. Define excess. But all things that won't leave you broke, ill, ostracized, imprisoned, or dead.

A life less passionate is a life less desirable. Someday I will marry again. Yeah, that's right. Me. The woman I will marry is one who has been with me through a lot of shit. She has stood by me through ups and downs in my writing career, my fighting career, my emotional life, has always understood and accepted me, and just as importantly she is more compatible with me sexually than any woman I have ever known or probably ever will. I will be completely unerringly monogamous to her. I will never put anyone else above or beside her ever again. And you will be able to light the heavens with our sexual energy and excitement. Sounds like a fantasy doesn't it? Well, it is. It is my fantasy so don't fuck with it. And it gets real dirty and sexy from here, lots of Astroglide, semen, saliva, leather, latex, and fur. So I guess I'd better stop before I offend the puritans. Just remember sex is good. Censorship bad. Try it. You'll like it.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Virtue of Selfishness

No, I'm not talking about that tedious book by Ayn Rand in which she states her premise and then denies the conclusions of those very same premises. I'm talking about the virtue of putting yourself before others in everyday life. How could this possibly be a virtuous act? Let's look at the undeniable fact that it is more difficult (at times impossible) to help others when you are in need of help yourself. You can't catch anyone when you are falling. There's a reason why flight attendants tell you that if there's a loss of cabin pressure on the airplane then you should secure your own oxygen mask before helping your children with theirs. Why? Because if you pass out and die before you can get theirs on then you're both fucked. Let me explain where I'm going with this:

As you know I've got a new baby. Her mother is recovering after a horrific cesarean where she lost a tremendous amount of blood. She lost so much blood that the doctor recommended a blood transfusion. Christie declined. Neither one of us is too trusting of the blood supply here in Sin City. So, the doctor informed her that she would be weak for a few weeks in addition to the fact that her incision needs time to heal. The doctor's prescription was to take it easy. No heavy lifting. No strenuous activity of any kind. But she wants to clean the house every day because she feels that if she doesn't than she's not being a good woman to me. She thinks that since I work and work and work to pay all the bills and support the family then she needs to work equally hard at home. I understand. It's her way of showing her appreciation. But if it leaves her exhausted and unhappy then it's counterproductive. If it prolongs her healing process it does none of us any good. The doctor has now specifically told her that vacuuming is too strenuous. Does this stop her from vacuuming? Of course not. Do I care if she doesn't vacuum or wash dishes or do laundry for a few weeks? Not at all. It is much more important to me that she get healthy so that she can take care of the baby. Well, she has not taken it easy and so it has taken her even longer to heal from her surgery. I told her that her priorities were backwards. It has to be you, and then our child, then me, and then the household chores. If she puts me or the baby or the chores first before her own health and happiness then the result is me coming home to a sore and frustrated woman every night. I'd much rather come home to a happy woman and a dirty house. As any man who has ever been married knows, if mamma ain't happy then nobody is happy. Sometimes putting others before yourself so that you don't feel guilty is being selfish and not in a good way. Okay, that's an easy example. Here's another:

I don't lend friends money. That's right. No, I'm not cheap. I'm quite generous in fact. But only when I can absolutely afford to be. I do this because of the inevitability of being taken advantage of (inadvertently or otherwise) by those friends and then losing them when I get pissed off and kick their asses. This may sound selfish, but it actually works out better for my friends. What I do instead is give them money with no strings attached if and when I can afford to do so. They have no obligation to pay me back and so there's no strain on the relationship and no one gets a size fifteen in their nether region. If I can't afford to give it to them then I don't lend it to them. If I need to have that money back in a week, a month, a year, or even ten years, I don't lend it to them no matter how hard up they might be for it. Why? Because I'd much rather have them mad at me for a day or two because I didn't come to their financial rescue than have the relationship come to an end entirely when they fail to pay me back. It makes my world easier that way. I also don't co-sign for friends. I don't recommend them for jobs with the company I work for in case they fuck up and it reflects on me. I don't let them crash at my place when they loose their apartments. I don't let them borrow my car. All of these things could lead to relationship ending catastrophes. So, I'm selfish. It's better for me that I have a friend then that they have a place to crash for a few weeks. How could any of this be virtuous? Because Though I don't lend money I give it freely and generously when I have it to give. If I lent someone money knowing that I'd be ass-out in a month when I needed that money back to pay bills with than I would be creating a financial hole for myself and therefore limiting my ability to help others in the future. I can't catch anyone if I'm falling myself. I won't lend you my car but I'll give you a ride. I won't let you crash at my place but I'll introduce you to one of my friends who needs a roommate. I won't get you a job at my company but I will get you in with one of the companies we do business with. I give until it hurts and no further. If it hurts me to give then I simply don't. This "me first" attitude assures that I am almost always in a position to help in some way. By assuring my own health and security first it makes me more capable of helping my friends than if I gave and gave until we were both broke. No MC Hammer or Mike Tyson-like tragedies are in my future. Nope. I'm a selfish bastard.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The nature of man

I am going to go out on a limb here and say the nature of man is not monogamous. In fact, recent genetic testing done on supposed monogamous animals have found that only one of the creatures that supposedly mate for life were truly monogamous, the rest were getting it on the side. Dolphins and killer whales? Adulterers every one of them. Hawks, eagles, parrotts, all creepin' on the down low. The only animal they could find that was truly monogamous? The round intestinal worm. What's my point here? Last night the wife of a friend came over the house. We know her husband quiet well, better than we know her in fact since he was our friend first and better than she apparently knows him too. We know in fact that he is cheating on her with another woman. He hasn't been too quiet about it actually. Knowing this made my girlfriend very uncomfortable around his wife since she felt as though she was doing something wrong by not telling the woman what her husband was up to. She was surprised that I was okay with it. Given my admitted history I was frankly surprised that she was surprised. I ain't no saint. And not to condone what's going on but adultery is far from uncommon.
Not rare enough to be considered shocking. It is more the norm than th exception in fact. The other thing that I found curious about the whole thing is that the woman in question is perhaps the most conniving, gold-digging, manipulative, conrolling woman on earth and everyone who knows this couple feels sorry for her husband and hopes that one day he'll wise up and leave her. She has all but ruined his life. Not to say I condone what he's doing but I understand and I'm surprised my girlfriend doesn't either. Her point though is that he should leave her not cheat on her and I understand that. I'm also sure that leaving her is just a matter of time.

So this got us to discussing the nature of man. Is man monogamous by nature? In my opinion, no. Adultery happens too often for it to be an aberration and as stated above, true monogamy is almost unheard of in nature. However, man is an intelligent creature capable of overcoming his nature. So even though man's nature is polyamorous I believe he can control these instincts given the proper incentive and personal commitment just as we control the instinct towards violence and larceny, both of which are also natural and instinctual. We are civilized beasts. We have been domesticated and are now capable of surpressing these base desires. In theory at least. It rarely works that way in practice. At heart, man is just another animal and when faced with extreme circumstances he will revert to his animal nature. A starving man will steal. An enraged or terrified man will kill. And a man with a raving bitch of a wife will cheat. I don't neccessarily condone it, but I understand. I understand what it is like to be in the unenviable position of being desperately in love with one woman while being hopelessly inextricably attached to another. What it is like to have to chose beween being the heartbreaker or the heartbroken. I have been there and I would not wish it on anyone. So, yes I sympathize with this seemingly unsympathetic scoundrel. I wish him good luck in finding an answer to his predicament, one that I was never quite able to come up with myself. You may throw your stones now.