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    Continued from #25 above:



    You may remember seeing it in one or the other iteration. Or you may be seeing it for the first time now in both iterations. Either way, I apologize. All I can say by way of excuse is that verisimilitude is a stern mistress. Still, two or three comments are in order before going on. The background image is a detail from Massimo Della Stronzata’s infamous mural Aglio e Olio in the cloister of the Neapolitan Bagnarole Comunale, no doubt used without permission. The Rainbowspinners is—or is it are? The Rainbowspinners is or are an all-girls screech rock band out of Glenville, New York, whose frontman—or should I say frontwoman?—is the notorious performance artist and radical feminist Btzby. And last but not least the promise of “Free Dum”—well, I guess it’s fair to say that this item speaks for itself, yes? The handbill itself, needless to say, is a hook. This should ring a bell.



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    ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM
    a luv story



    First we need a hook.

    That’s the prevailing wisdom anyway.

    Awful conceit when you think about— fishing for readers. Used to be readers fished. Dropped in a line. Waited for a strike. Patience was required. Not anymore. Patience is no longer required. Patience is no longer a virtue.

    I think it comes from show business, the conceit. Certainly from the movie business. It’s cynical and manipulative and belongs to the movie business whether it originated there or not. What’s more, the movie business has steadily infected the reading and writing business. Writers write cinematically for readers who read cinematically. Nobody can even read Henry James anymore, let alone read him with understanding, with appreciation.

    Here a quick word on the “we” is in order, I think. That was not the Royal We, needless to say. I’m an American. Hell, we’re all American today, whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not. And it was not the Editorial We, either. I represent no viewpoint but my own and my aim from the outset is to get personal. No, by “we” I in fact meant “you”— and lest there be the slightest misunderstanding on this score let’s remove the scare quotes at once and state for the record that by “we” I meant you.

    You need a hook.

    That’s the first thing.

    The second thing— no! Without a hook, what is the good of going on with this enumeration? A clear conscience? What is that?

    A list of desiderata in this matter, were it drawn up on the authority of Aristotle himself, would be but a vanity, in the old sense, in the biblical sense of the word, unless it be read, unless it be readable. The first desideratum in writing is being read, and the first desideratum in reading— well, that’s been covered already. No need to rant on about this.

    And now it occurs to me that perhaps the use of the word desideratum here is ill-advised? And then there's the subjunctive mood of those verbs?

    I'm not sure.

    Anyway the point is clear enough, I think.

    It is no longer enough that boy meet girl. Boy and girl must “meet cute.”

    That’s entertainment! Am I right or am I right?

    But why must they meet at all? That’s what I’d like to know. And is that entertainment too? Or is that something else? Something more? Edification perhaps? There’s another suspect word. Or even something less? There’s always that possibility, I suppose.

    Or is there something less than which there is nothing? Something than which there is nothing less?

    What does that mean? No matter. We want a hook. That’s the point after all. That’s been the point all along. That’s the matter in a nutshell. The kernel. The seed. That sounds obscene. But let's not get carried away here.

    We want entertainment.

    There, I’ve said it. Let the cat out of the bag, as they say. Curious expression, that. Figurative, we read, of course, or rather, which is more likely, as a lexical entry, abbreviated, fig., were we to look it up, readers that we are. But then there’s this, to read, that is, were we to look it up: of obscure or unknown origin. Apocrypha follow. The cat-o’-nine-tails. The pig in a poke. Academic rubbish. Whereas any grounded, down-to-earth real person whether he reads or not knows that cats, especially in the form of kittens, were customarily stuffed into gunny sacks and tossed into creeks, to drown. The academic puts the cart before the horse, looks for the origin by way of current meaning, which as noted is figurative. That’s like looking for the origin of the expression to put the cart before the horse by way of its current figurative meaning rather than by way of its literal provenance. That is, looking for something out of order when something in order should be looked for.

    But what does all this have to do with reading and writing? Or with entertainment for that matter, which we seemed to connect with reading and writing obscenely? I mean, connect obscenely with reading and writing. Or have I, as feared, gotten carried away? The word apocrypha certainly suggests as much.

    Boy and girl must meet after all.

    But must they? I think I asked that question before, but I could be wrong. I might’ve thought of asking the question but then not have actually asked it. I do that sometimes. I think of saying something but don’t actually say it and later recall the thought of saying as the saying itself. Most of the time I can’t recall whether I said it or only thought of saying it. Then again sometimes I say something and later forget saying it or even thinking it. Thankfully, that’s rare. But why thankfully? What a queer thing to say. Thankfully. But then this is a queer sort of business, speech. And thought right behind it!

    There, I’ve made a pun. Good.

    Relieves the tension.

    Now, to get back to the boy and the girl and the necessity of their meeting at all, to say nothing of their “meeting cute” or the necessity thereof, the question, as I recall, whether expressed or not, reduced at once to the question, whether expressed or not, of whether there is or can be said to be something more than entertainment or something less than entertainment involved in the necessity (of their meeting at all, that is, rather than their “meeting cute”)— a reductive series of questions or thoughts or thoughts and questions culminating, if that’s the right word, in the call for, so to speak, something than which there is nothing less.

    Sounds a bit like Anselm to me. Are we in the way of an ontological proof perhaps?

    As we have nothing to speak of in mind, let x stand for it. The ellipses are heuristic to the proper reading of the proposition, readers that we are.

    X is that…than which…nothing is less.

    You know the rest.

    QED

    Do you feel the tension in your brow relaxing? Your blurred vision clearing up. Humor is a gift from the gods. Remember the laughter of Wotan et al. strutting across that rainbow bridge into Valhalla?

    Anyway.

    Think of glances. His turns slowly to the right; hers rises slowly up from under. His and her glances. They come in a wide variety of colors, a whole range of browns, blues, greens, grays and hazels, which may be mixed and matched to please the most jaded and cynical taste.

    Why slowly?

    Quickly then.

    As long as the eyes meet.

    There’s a whole chapter in Being and Nothingness on this. Were we looking for an answer to “meeting cute,” we need look no further. Nothing could be more apt. That is to say, more antithetical.

    But were we looking for an answer to “meeting cute”? I don’t remember.

    Let’s say glances then, and let the chips fall where they may. He looks around. She looks up. Wham!

    Something happens.

    Or rather, something else happens. Yes, their eyes meet. That happens, to be sure. That much is clear, readers that we are. But something else has happened as well, or else we have been very much mistaken in our assumptions throughout these prolegomenaries. Is that a word?

    It is now.

    Rimshot.

    Laughter.

    But seriously, folks...

    Adjectives have always done duty as nouns. The percussive sting was necessary as the audience appears to be asleep. The laughter was canned.

    Something else happens, you say. Why not something more. What are you afraid of?

    Here I suppose I should point out that by “you” I mean I. I mean me. I’m addressing myself. Not an uncommon practice, I am told. I tell myself.

    But of course there is more at stake here than meets the eye! Cue Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, better known outside of Germany and the 18th century as “Sleepers Awake!” We don’t need this one explained, do we, readers that we are! No rimshot. No canned laughter. Is this what they mean by “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response”? I doubt it.

    I do not say “something more” because saying “something more” would beg the question, and the current misunderstanding and misuse of that particular idiom troubles me. Of the idiom to beg the question, that is. Not that I am afraid to beg the question. I’d just prefer not to. Like Bartleby. Oh, that’s good! That's very good! Oh, the humanity!

    Now it’s time to reacquaint ourselves with the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. That’s our homework for the weekend.

    All the necessary and sufficient conditions have been met. He looks around. She looks up. Their eyes meet. If the breath of butterfly wings flapped in Asia can be said somehow to have propelled this event, so be it. But I’m not going to say it. That butterfly plays no part in our story. If its wings somehow brought about the physical meeting of our boy and our girl, it is of no interest whatsoever to us here. The world in which our boy and girl meet is not the world in which Asia or Asian butterflies exist. But we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. Suffice it to say that “meeting cute” is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of the event in a world in which Asia and Asian butterflies exist. But what about our world here? Does entertainment work like Asian butterfly wings here?

    Did we do our homework over the weekend? Yes, contempt is not the word! Indeed that might well do for a title if this foray is to have one, although I think Moravia and Godard beat us to it, although that was in French, which doesn’t count. Why? You may well ask why! I’ll tell you why. Because at the bottom of most of the grief in this old world of ours today stand the smart-asses who didn’t do their homework fifty years ago and who now have an opinion on everything. They are represented in our little monograph by the character Chopi, the pseudonymous manager of the trendy Club Duh Parrot Docks, a fan of Chopin apparently and the quintessential “asshole with power,” a type identified by the playwright Tom Topor in his renowned play and film adaptation of '79 and '87 respectively, a piece of inspired taxonomy more or less unrecognized today precisely and ironically because the taxon in question has over the course of the last three decades in point of fact been empowered on the grand scale. But enough of this exposition! We’ll get to Chopi and Club Duh Parrot Docks in due course. Boy and girl have just about met and we were about to acknowledge our need, along with food, shelter and clothing, our basic human need, that is to say, perhaps our defining need, for ENTERTAINMENT; we were about to do this when, readers that we are, we were once again distracted by banalities.

    We’ll get back to homework. And to Bach and Matthew. And to what for want of a better word I’ll just call my apophasis. We’ve asked the question about entertainment and there’s no taking it back. And there’s no going on. Not with that question hanging over our heads. Not in the shadow of that question. It’s like the shadow of the avenging angel passing over the mud-baked houses of— but there’s little point in drawing this out, in marshaling colorful images and classical allusions. No point really until the question is answered, or at least addressed. Until then, to resort to current parlance, the parroted parlance of those who didn’t do their homework in the past, but I’ll get back to that, as I said. Until then, until the question be addressed and possibly answered, at least to the satisfaction of the readers that we are, until then we have, as popular currency would have it, which is to say back by popular demand, and so ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and help us welcome to the stage, direct from the stupendous world-famous world tour, our very own, the elephant in the room— Entertainment.

    Click here to enlarge

    Etymologically, and right off I wish to apologize sincerely for the use of so strenuous a word, particularly in such a lighthearted essay, but its necessity will become evident momentarily, I dare say—etymologically, to entertain is to hold, to hold between, between whatever holds and whoever is held. The –ment part requires no analysis, it seems to me, and I am loath to provide one lest anyone’s intelligence be insulted, and quick apologies also for the perplexing subjunctive mood, needless to say; its necessity must be taken on faith, I’m afraid, as this is neither the time nor the place for a grammar lesson. A ticklish affair all in all, and well put behind us. But as we all know, as we all have learned from the late lamentable turn taken in world affairs—and by world in this case I mean of course and we are to understand the world in which Asia and Asian butterflies exist—if terms are not clearly defined, all manner of nonsense is likely to ensue.

    In other words all that we call art is at bottom merely a form of entertainment. This is the highway accident theory of art, and while it has, qua theory, failed in fact to catch on in learned circles, the sad truth is that learned circles aren’t what they used to be, although naturally we are not supposed to notice this. Many indeed are the sad truths we are not supposed to notice today. This, mutatis mutandis, may be taken as the theme of this little propaedeutic of ours. Ach! Watch it, Buster! You’re out of control! Just get to the point if there is one, and keep your sesquipedalia in your pants!

    The point? Ah, yes, the point.

    The point is first we need a hook. We might have picked up on this point, readers that we are, somewhere on the way, you'd think.




    §2

    Let’s start over.

    In April of that year the handbills suddenly popped up out of nowhere, posted on walls and poles and doors and windows throughout the community, on sidewalk sheds and construction barricades, in vestibules and hallways, generally speaking wherever a flat surface or vertical plane presented itself and of course wherever a sign said POST NO BILLS; though not really “out of nowhere” of course and no more "suddenly," phenomenologically speaking, than anything else that has occurred in the last 14 billion years, and to be absolutely accurate just the one handbill iterated a thousand times over, discovered rather than "popping up" at dawn on the first of the month, the result of a clandestine overnight effort. This handbill, presumably, brought the two of them together, and not the Nymphalidae.

    Or was it the other way around? Ha! There’s a notion for you! Was their meeting the point after all? Can we even wrap our minds around such an idea anymore? That the handbill brought about the meeting is simple and straightforward enough, an easy concept. The dullest child can grasp that! But that their meeting somehow brought about the handbill—now that’s deep! That’s what I call a deep thought. That’s metaphysics for God’s sake! No one today even knows what that word means! Was their meeting the cause of the handbill? The reason for the handbill? No, I’m afraid that kind of thinking went out of style with the mini skirt. It’s just no longer acceptable to think that way. It’s no longer respectable, certainly not in the learned circles aforementioned. This is the new millennium! That’s teleology, man! So there’s another big word for us to roll our eyes over. Go on! The world is on the skids. Keep rolling those eyes!

    Listen. Every fight for freedom in this dying world is teleological. Numskulls! You should have done your homework! But I digress…. Get it? That’s a joke. A bit of business. You know, like old Jack Benny’s “Well!” I felt we needed to dial back on the pique a tad. Yes? I mean, what difference does it make whether Old Mother Leary left a lantern in the shed or the cow kicked it over? What difference ultimately, I mean. Speaking of which, I don’t suppose it would do any harm to point out that my earlier talk of walls and poles and whatnot was merely a manner of speaking. That is, I should remind us, readers that we are, that the world in which our tale unfolds is not the world in which the Great Chicago Fire took place. We are heading for Club Duh Parrot Docks, in case you have forgotten.

    And in case you missed the acknowledgement, we are looking for entertainment there. This is the moral of our fabliau in point of fact. This is why boy meets girl in the first place, and Catherine O’Leary’s cow be damned for the scapegoat she was!

    Have I made another pun? Good.

    Now on to Club Duh Parrot Docks. But first someone needs to account for the name.

    According to one account the name reflects the club's location in a tropical port town on the edge of a psittacine forest. But this of course is poppycock. It’s like saying that the meaning of this sentence is located in the Brill Building in New York City in 1960. Another account makes it out to be a form of pidgin English riffing on a corrupted translation of the Maori chant Kei runga a Rangi Ko papa kei raro. But this remains unattested. Every account smacks of the worst kind of urban legend. Like there’s a good kind, right? Is it supposed to be hip? I think it is. Supposed to be hip, I mean. Is it hip? I think not. Fifty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong, right? The club boasts a membership of 1.5 million members. The nomenclature confers a bogus borrowed hipness on them all. But it just sounds like baby talk to me. To me it’s just mairzy doats and dozy doats. If you catch my drift. And even if you don't. Chopi is the club’s chief cook and bottle washer. That says it all, really. That explains everything. But more on that score later. It's too early in the day for ipecac.

    Beerbohm could tell us a thing or two about Chopi, I would imagine. Beerbohm was a member for a year. Like Queen For a Day. Anybody still alive remember that tear-jerker? But Beerbohm disappeared under mysterious circumstances after getting banned from the club by Chopi under mysterious circumstances. He was banned from the club after besting Chopi in an argument in front of Chopi's cronies. In the event Chopi lost his cool in public, made a public apology a week later, and not long after that Beerbohm was eighty-sixed for "breaking the rules." Beerbohm has since fallen off the face of the earth. But this is not about Beerbohm. This is not even about Chopi really, save insofar as he is representative of a strain, a millennial strain, and perhaps a perennial strain.

    Anyway, this is what the handbill looked like:

    Click here to enlarge

    The handbill also looked like this:

    Click here to enlarge

    You may remember seeing it in one or the other iteration. Or you may be seeing it for the first time now in both iterations. Either way, I apologize. All I can say by way of excuse is that verisimilitude is a stern mistress. Still, two or three comments are in order before going on. The background image is a detail from Massimo Della Stronzata’s infamous mural Aglio e Olio in the cloister of the Neapolitan Bagnarole Comunale, no doubt used without permission. The Rainbowspinners is—or is it are? The Rainbowspinners is or are an all-girls screech rock band out of Glenville, New York, whose frontman—or should I say frontwoman?—is the notorious performance artist and radical feminist Btzby. And last but not least the promise of “Free Dum”—well, I guess it’s fair to say that this item speaks for itself, yes? The handbill itself, needless to say, is a hook. This should ring a bell.




    To be continued below...


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  3. #28  
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    Continued from #27 above:



    And if you ask me, an alarm bell. At this point in time, most definitely an alarm bell. But as I said before, let’s not get carried away here in our little handbook. For the sake of argument then let’s make it a school bell. Yes, that’s it—a school bell. Calling us in. Recess is over. Fifty years of playtime is quite enough, I think, don’t you? Time to line up in an orderly fashion—two lines, girls in one, boys in the other. Time to return to class. Time to get back to our studies. What’s that? Didn’t do your homework? Well, just say the dog ate it! That always works. Anyway, the dunce cap has been banned from the classroom. And it’s never too late to learn. Never too early either. Time to get serious, boys and girls. I know, I know. Beerbohm was a serious man. Beerbohm did his homework. Look what happened to him! I know what you're thinking. But this is not about Beerbohm. This is about us. If Beerbohm died for our sins, then the redemption is ours.

    And speaking of boys and girls, when we last looked in on them our boy and our girl had fairly met, as I recall. Their eyes had met at all events.



    To be continued below...


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  4. #29  
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    Continued from #28 above:


    And speaking of boys and girls, when we last looked in on them our boy and our girl had fairly met, as I recall. Their eyes had met at all events. Windows on the soul. Right? Who said that? Emerson? Tsk. Look who I’m asking! Might as well ask the Great God Google! Right?

    Jibes aside, there’s the gravest of points to be taken here. Jibes aside—and you will please note that there has been no attempt on the author’s part to conceal the contemptus mundi of this jeremiad—jibes aside, the gravamen of the case against us, as it has been made out from the very beginning, mind you, rests with this matter of hooks. But don’t believe me. Go back and re-read the opening lines. We are indeed a hooked generation! But there’s an embedded pun here, and the truth of the indictment lies in the ambiguity. We are hooked on hooks.



    To be continued below...


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  5. #30  
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    Continued from #29 above:


    Which is hooky parlance for the mass cultural failure we are currently enjoying—and as always I choose my words carefully—a catchy way of saying we need catching. Well, we certainly want to be caught, and if we need to be as well, more’s the pity. We expect to be at any rate—caught, that is: hooked. But before another word, however carefully chosen, is spent in this direction, lest there be the slightest misunderstanding on this score, it may be advisable—indeed it may be necessary, readers that we are—to point out that we are not being critical of entertainment tout court or entertainment generally, but only of a certain trend in entertainment, although trend is not really the best choice of word in this regard—a certain turn in entertainment taken in the course of the last fifty years—that word cuts closer to the mark, I believe—not entertainment per se. Heaven knows it’s all entertainment—art, religion, science, sports, hobbies, etc. We argued this point early in the polemic. We shouldn’t require a rehearsal of that argument here, notwithstanding the sharp rise in spoon-feeding that has accompanied the rapid rise of digital media in our time.

    Must boy and girl “meet cute”? Or must boy meet girl in the first place? These are two different questions. We made that clear at the outset.



    To be continued below...


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  6. #31  
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    Continued from #30 above:


    Must boy and girl “meet cute”? Or must boy meet girl in the first place? These are two different questions. We made that clear at the outset. One question has been raised by a perplexed humanity, lovers and philosophers alike, from time immemorial, and goes to the very heart of the sweet mystery of life, and has no certain answer beyond the lyrical but fatalistic que sera sera. The other is a Hollywood movie mogul’s question with only one answer if you want a development deal green-lighted, as they say. What a sad and sorry-ass world it is indeed in which these distinctions are lost!

    But this grows wearisome. Might as well try to teach a cat to sit up and beg! Listen. We’re almost there. Do me one favor—no! Do yourself a favor. Before our limo pulls up in front of Club Duh Parrot Docks and we get swept up in all the glam and glitz of AI, as I call it, or Absolute Inanity, think about all the great literature of the past, the great books of the world, the canonical library going back three thousand years—but starting back some fifty years ago, before the gradual falling off became a drop—and see if you find, anywhere in that colossal compendium of beauty and truth, a boy and a girl meeting cute. See if you find, among all the great openings of all the great works of world literature, a hook. But if you don’t think the phrase “great literature of the past” picks out anything in the real world, if you don’t think the phrase means anything, refers to anything, if you don’t recognize the existence of the “great literature of the past”—then just sit back and enjoy the rest of the ride to the club. You have VIP entrée tonight.



    To be continued below...


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    Continued from #31 above:


    Outside in front of the club two giant searchlights cross beams in the night sky. Enthusiastic crowds are gathered in the forecourt, around the central sculpture fountain, in the hope of catching a glimpse of celebrity, and the usual queue for admission is already stretched along the two long lateral flower beds in both directions when our limo arrives. The flashbulbs of a score of paparazzi go off as you step out into view, and an audible murmur ripples through the crowd pressing forward with the force of collective velleities. The plashing of the great fountain provides a sibilant organ pedal to the squawking of the five house parrots sidling on their gilt perches and welcoming the patronage in five different languages: Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and Arabic. There is a sense of urgency in the air, as if something were about to happen, and a sense of exhilaration as well, as if everything were possible tonight and anything could happen.



    To be continued below...


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    Continued from #32 above:


    The flamboyant priapic postmodern fountain marks your passage in dyes of every color of the rainbow.

    Huānyíng...

    Ahlan wa sahlan...

    Willkommen...

    Skraa...

    Chinjing...

    As-salām 'alaykum...

    Bienvenido...

    Skraawk...

    Bienvenue...

    The gatekeeper, a notorious Aussie bully by the name of Grandoaf, flanked by two other burly tattooed bouncers and Chopi's pierced doorbitch Importunita, nods you and your party through the cathedral-like entrance. You’re in! The shouted vocal nastiness of Btzby echoes distantly up the inner passageway, the corridor you traverse, you and yours, in near darkness. Your loins tingle with decadent excitement. You're in!

    But of course you’re not in and nothing can happen here that does not reduce to two tiny increments of electricity, weak and weaker still, and yet you're willing to suspend your disbelief for the promise of blood and sex. There is nothing here but bad faith all around.





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    ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM
    a luv story



    First we need a hook.

    That’s the prevailing wisdom anyway.

    Awful conceit when you think about— fishing for readers. Used to be readers fished. Dropped in a line. Waited for a strike. Patience was required. Not anymore. Patience is no longer required. Patience is no longer a virtue.

    I think it comes from show business, the conceit. Certainly from the movie business. It’s cynical and manipulative and belongs to the movie business whether it originated there or not. What’s more, the movie business has steadily infected the reading and writing business. Writers write cinematically for readers who read cinematically. Nobody can even read Henry James anymore, let alone read him with understanding, with appreciation.

    Here a quick word on the “we” is in order, I think. That was not the Royal We, needless to say. I’m an American. Hell, we’re all American today, whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not. And it was not the Editorial We, either. I represent no viewpoint but my own and my aim from the outset is to get personal. No, by “we” I in fact meant “you”— and lest there be the slightest misunderstanding on this score let’s remove the scare quotes at once and state for the record that by “we” I meant you.

    You need a hook.

    That’s the first thing.

    The second thing— no! Without a hook, what is the good of going on with this enumeration? A clear conscience? What is that?

    A list of desiderata in this matter, were it drawn up on the authority of Aristotle himself, would be but a vanity, in the old sense, in the biblical sense of the word, unless it be read, unless it be readable. The first desideratum in writing is being read, and the first desideratum in reading— well, that’s been covered already. No need to rant on about this.

    And now it occurs to me that perhaps the use of the word desideratum here is ill-advised? And then there's the subjunctive mood of those verbs?

    I'm not sure.

    Anyway the point is clear enough, I think.

    It is no longer enough that boy meet girl. Boy and girl must “meet cute.”

    That’s entertainment! Am I right or am I right?

    But why must they meet at all? That’s what I’d like to know. And is that entertainment too? Or is that something else? Something more? Edification perhaps? There’s another suspect word. Or even something less? There’s always that possibility, I suppose.

    Or is there something less than which there is nothing? Something than which there is nothing less?

    What does that mean? No matter. We want a hook. That’s the point after all. That’s been the point all along. That’s the matter in a nutshell. The kernel. The seed. That sounds obscene. But let's not get carried away here.

    We want entertainment.

    There, I’ve said it. Let the cat out of the bag, as they say. Curious expression, that. Figurative, we read, of course, or rather, which is more likely, as a lexical entry, abbreviated, fig., were we to look it up, readers that we are. But then there’s this, to read, that is, were we to look it up: of obscure or unknown origin. Apocrypha follow. The cat-o’-nine-tails. The pig in a poke. Academic rubbish. Whereas any grounded, down-to-earth real person whether he reads or not knows that cats, especially in the form of kittens, were customarily stuffed into gunny sacks and tossed into creeks, to drown. The academic puts the cart before the horse, looks for the origin by way of current meaning, which as noted is figurative. That’s like looking for the origin of the expression to put the cart before the horse by way of its current figurative meaning rather than by way of its literal provenance. That is, looking for something out of order when something in order should be looked for.

    But what does all this have to do with reading and writing? Or with entertainment for that matter, which we seemed to connect with reading and writing obscenely? I mean, connect obscenely with reading and writing. Or have I, as feared, gotten carried away? The word apocrypha certainly suggests as much.

    Boy and girl must meet after all.

    But must they? I think I asked that question before, but I could be wrong. I might’ve thought of asking the question but then not have actually asked it. I do that sometimes. I think of saying something but don’t actually say it and later recall the thought of saying as the saying itself. Most of the time I can’t recall whether I said it or only thought of saying it. Then again sometimes I say something and later forget saying it or even thinking it. Thankfully, that’s rare. But why thankfully? What a queer thing to say. Thankfully. But then this is a queer sort of business, speech. And thought right behind it!

    There, I’ve made a pun. Good.

    Relieves the tension.

    Now, to get back to the boy and the girl and the necessity of their meeting at all, to say nothing of their “meeting cute” or the necessity thereof, the question, as I recall, whether expressed or not, reduced at once to the question, whether expressed or not, of whether there is or can be said to be something more than entertainment or something less than entertainment involved in the necessity (of their meeting at all, that is, rather than their “meeting cute”)— a reductive series of questions or thoughts or thoughts and questions culminating, if that’s the right word, in the call for, so to speak, something than which there is nothing less.

    Sounds a bit like Anselm to me. Are we in the way of an ontological proof perhaps?

    As we have nothing to speak of in mind, let x stand for it. The ellipses are heuristic to the proper reading of the proposition, readers that we are.

    X is that…than which…nothing is less.

    You know the rest.

    QED

    Do you feel the tension in your brow relaxing? Your blurred vision clearing up. Humor is a gift from the gods. Remember the laughter of Wotan et al. strutting across that rainbow bridge into Valhalla?

    Anyway.

    Think of glances. His turns slowly to the right; hers rises slowly up from under. His and her glances. They come in a wide variety of colors, a whole range of browns, blues, greens, grays and hazels, which may be mixed and matched to please the most jaded and cynical taste.

    Why slowly?

    Quickly then.

    As long as the eyes meet.

    There’s a whole chapter in Being and Nothingness on this. Were we looking for an answer to “meeting cute,” we need look no further. Nothing could be more apt. That is to say, more antithetical.

    But were we looking for an answer to “meeting cute”? I don’t remember.

    Let’s say glances then, and let the chips fall where they may. He looks around. She looks up. Wham!

    Something happens.

    Or rather, something else happens. Yes, their eyes meet. That happens, to be sure. That much is clear, readers that we are. But something else has happened as well, or else we have been very much mistaken in our assumptions throughout these prolegomenaries. Is that a word?

    It is now.

    Rimshot.

    Laughter.

    But seriously, folks...

    Adjectives have always done duty as nouns. The percussive sting was necessary as the audience appears to be asleep. The laughter was canned.

    Something else happens, you say. Why not something more. What are you afraid of?

    Here I suppose I should point out that by “you” I mean I. I mean me. I’m addressing myself. Not an uncommon practice, I am told. I tell myself.

    But of course there is more at stake here than meets the eye! Cue Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, better known outside of Germany and the 18th century as “Sleepers Awake!” We don’t need this one explained, do we, readers that we are! No rimshot. No canned laughter. Is this what they mean by “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response”? I doubt it.

    I do not say “something more” because saying “something more” would beg the question, and the current misunderstanding and misuse of that particular idiom troubles me. Of the idiom to beg the question, that is. Not that I am afraid to beg the question. I’d just prefer not to. Like Bartleby. Oh, that’s good! That's very good! Oh, the humanity!

    Now it’s time to reacquaint ourselves with the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. That’s our homework for the weekend.

    All the necessary and sufficient conditions have been met. He looks around. She looks up. Their eyes meet. If the breath of butterfly wings flapped in Asia can be said somehow to have propelled this event, so be it. But I’m not going to say it. That butterfly plays no part in our story. If its wings somehow brought about the physical meeting of our boy and our girl, it is of no interest whatsoever to us here. The world in which our boy and girl meet is not the world in which Asia or Asian butterflies exist. But we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. Suffice it to say that “meeting cute” is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of the event in a world in which Asia and Asian butterflies exist. But what about our world here? Does entertainment work like Asian butterfly wings here?

    Did we do our homework over the weekend? Yes, contempt is not the word! Indeed that might well do for a title if this foray is to have one, although I think Moravia and Godard beat us to it, although that was in French, which doesn’t count. Why? You may well ask why! I’ll tell you why. Because at the bottom of most of the grief in this old world of ours today stand the smart-asses who didn’t do their homework fifty years ago and who now have an opinion on everything. They are represented in our little monograph by the character Chopi, the pseudonymous manager of the trendy Club Duh Parrot Docks, a fan of Chopin apparently and the quintessential “asshole with power,” a type identified by the playwright Tom Topor in his renowned play and film adaptation of '79 and '87 respectively, a piece of inspired taxonomy more or less unrecognized today precisely and ironically because the taxon in question has over the course of the last three decades in point of fact been empowered on the grand scale. But enough of this exposition! We’ll get to Chopi and Club Duh Parrot Docks in due course. Boy and girl have just about met and we were about to acknowledge our need, along with food, shelter and clothing, our basic human need, that is to say, perhaps our defining need, for ENTERTAINMENT; we were about to do this when, readers that we are, we were once again distracted by banalities.

    We’ll get back to homework. And to Bach and Matthew. And to what for want of a better word I’ll just call my apophasis. We’ve asked the question about entertainment and there’s no taking it back. And there’s no going on. Not with that question hanging over our heads. Not in the shadow of that question. It’s like the shadow of the avenging angel passing over the mud-baked houses of— but there’s little point in drawing this out, in marshaling colorful images and classical allusions. No point really until the question is answered, or at least addressed. Until then, to resort to current parlance, the parroted parlance of those who didn’t do their homework in the past, but I’ll get back to that, as I said. Until then, until the question be addressed and possibly answered, at least to the satisfaction of the readers that we are, until then we have, as popular currency would have it, which is to say back by popular demand, and so ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and help us welcome to the stage, direct from the stupendous world-famous world tour, our very own, the elephant in the room— Entertainment.

    Click here to enlarge

    Etymologically, and right off I wish to apologize sincerely for the use of so strenuous a word, particularly in such a lighthearted essay, but its necessity will become evident momentarily, I dare say—etymologically, to entertain is to hold, to hold between, between whatever holds and whoever is held. The –ment part requires no analysis, it seems to me, and I am loath to provide one lest anyone’s intelligence be insulted, and quick apologies also for the perplexing subjunctive mood, needless to say; its necessity must be taken on faith, I’m afraid, as this is neither the time nor the place for a grammar lesson. A ticklish affair all in all, and well put behind us. But as we all know, as we all have learned from the late lamentable turn taken in world affairs—and by world in this case I mean of course and we are to understand the world in which Asia and Asian butterflies exist—if terms are not clearly defined, all manner of nonsense is likely to ensue.

    In other words all that we call art is at bottom merely a form of entertainment. This is the highway accident theory of art, and while it has, qua theory, failed in fact to catch on in learned circles, the sad truth is that learned circles aren’t what they used to be, although naturally we are not supposed to notice this. Many indeed are the sad truths we are not supposed to notice today. This, mutatis mutandis, may be taken as the theme of this little propaedeutic of ours. Ach! Watch it, Buster! You’re out of control! Just get to the point if there is one, and keep your sesquipedalia in your pants!

    The point? Ah, yes, the point.

    The point is first we need a hook. We might have picked up on this point, readers that we are, somewhere on the way, you'd think.




    §2

    Let’s start over.

    In April of that year the handbills suddenly popped up out of nowhere, posted on walls and poles and doors and windows throughout the community, on sidewalk sheds and construction barricades, in vestibules and hallways, generally speaking wherever a flat surface or vertical plane presented itself and of course wherever a sign said POST NO BILLS; though not really “out of nowhere” of course and no more "suddenly," phenomenologically speaking, than anything else that has occurred in the last 14 billion years, and to be absolutely accurate just the one handbill iterated a thousand times over, discovered rather than "popping up" at dawn on the first of the month, the result of a clandestine overnight effort. This handbill, presumably, brought the two of them together, and not the Nymphalidae.

    Or was it the other way around? Ha! There’s a notion for you! Was their meeting the point after all? Can we even wrap our minds around such an idea anymore? That the handbill brought about the meeting is simple and straightforward enough, an easy concept. The dullest child can grasp that! But that their meeting somehow brought about the handbill—now that’s deep! That’s what I call a deep thought. That’s metaphysics for God’s sake! No one today even knows what that word means! Was their meeting the cause of the handbill? The reason for the handbill? No, I’m afraid that kind of thinking went out of style with the mini skirt. It’s just no longer acceptable to think that way. It’s no longer respectable, certainly not in the learned circles aforementioned. This is the new millennium! That’s teleology, man! So there’s another big word for us to roll our eyes over. Go on! The world is on the skids. Keep rolling those eyes!

    Listen. Every fight for freedom in this dying world is teleological. Numskulls! You should have done your homework! But I digress…. Get it? That’s a joke. A bit of business. You know, like old Jack Benny’s “Well!” I felt we needed to dial back on the pique a tad. Yes? I mean, what difference does it make whether Old Mother Leary left a lantern in the shed or the cow kicked it over? What difference ultimately, I mean. Speaking of which, I don’t suppose it would do any harm to point out that my earlier talk of walls and poles and whatnot was merely a manner of speaking. That is, I should remind us, readers that we are, that the world in which our tale unfolds is not the world in which the Great Chicago Fire took place. We are heading for Club Duh Parrot Docks, in case you have forgotten.

    And in case you missed the acknowledgement, we are looking for entertainment there. This is the moral of our fabliau in point of fact. This is why boy meets girl in the first place, and Catherine O’Leary’s cow be damned for the scapegoat she was!

    Have I made another pun? Good.

    Now on to Club Duh Parrot Docks. But first someone needs to account for the name.

    According to one account the name reflects the club's location in a tropical port town on the edge of a psittacine forest. But this of course is poppycock. It’s like saying that the meaning of this sentence is located in the Brill Building in New York City in 1960. Another account makes it out to be a form of pidgin English riffing on a corrupted translation of the Maori chant Kei runga a Rangi Ko papa kei raro. But this remains unattested. Every account smacks of the worst kind of urban legend. Like there’s a good kind, right? Is it supposed to be hip? I think it is. Supposed to be hip, I mean. Is it hip? I think not. Fifty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong, right? The club boasts a membership of 1.5 million members. The nomenclature confers a bogus borrowed hipness on them all. But it just sounds like baby talk to me. To me it’s just mairzy doats and dozy doats. If you catch my drift. And even if you don't. Chopi is the club’s chief cook and bottle washer. That says it all, really. That explains everything. But more on that score later. It's too early in the day for ipecac.

    Beerbohm could tell us a thing or two about Chopi, I would imagine. Beerbohm was a member for a year. Like Queen For a Day. Anybody still alive remember that tear-jerker? But Beerbohm disappeared under mysterious circumstances after getting banned from the club by Chopi under mysterious circumstances. He was banned from the club after besting Chopi in an argument in front of Chopi's cronies. In the event Chopi lost his cool in public, made a public apology a week later, and not long after that Beerbohm was eighty-sixed for "breaking the rules." Beerbohm has since fallen off the face of the earth. But this is not about Beerbohm. This is not even about Chopi really, save insofar as he is representative of a strain, a millennial strain, and perhaps a perennial strain.

    Anyway, this is what the handbill looked like:

    Click here to enlarge

    The handbill also looked like this:

    Click here to enlarge

    You may remember seeing it in one or the other iteration. Or you may be seeing it for the first time now in both iterations. Either way, I apologize. All I can say by way of excuse is that verisimilitude is a stern mistress. Still, two or three comments are in order before going on. The background image is a detail from Massimo Della Stronzata’s infamous mural Aglio e Olio in the cloister of the Neapolitan Bagnarole Comunale, no doubt used without permission. The Rainbowspinners is—or is it are? The Rainbowspinners is or are an all-girls screech rock band out of Glenville, New York, whose frontman—or should I say frontwoman?—is the notorious performance artist and radical feminist Btzby. And last but not least the promise of “Free Dum”—well, I guess it’s fair to say that this item speaks for itself, yes? The handbill itself, needless to say, is a hook. This should ring a bell.

    And if you ask me, an alarm bell. At this point in time, most definitely an alarm bell. But as I said before, let’s not get carried away here in our little handbook. For the sake of argument then let’s make it a school bell. Yes, that’s it—a school bell. Calling us in. Recess is over. Fifty years of playtime is quite enough, I think, don’t you? Time to line up in an orderly fashion—two lines, girls in one, boys in the other. Time to return to class. Time to get back to our studies. What’s that? Didn’t do your homework? Well, just say the dog ate it! That always works. Anyway, the dunce cap has been banned from the classroom. And it’s never too late to learn. Never too early either. Time to get serious, boys and girls. I know, I know. Beerbohm was a serious man. Beerbohm did his homework. Look what happened to him! I know what you're thinking. But this is not about Beerbohm. This is about us. If Beerbohm died for our sins, then the redemption is ours.

    And speaking of boys and girls, when we last looked in on them our boy and our girl had fairly met, as I recall. Their eyes had met at all events. Windows on the soul. Right? Who said that? Emerson? Tsk. Look who I’m asking! Might as well ask the Great God Google! Right?

    Jibes aside, there’s the gravest of points to be taken here. Jibes aside—and you will please note that there has been no attempt on the author’s part to conceal the contemptus mundi of this jeremiad—jibes aside, the gravamen of the case against us, as it has been made out from the very beginning, mind you, rests with this matter of hooks. But don’t believe me. Go back and re-read the opening lines. We are indeed a hooked generation! But there’s an embedded pun here, and the truth of the indictment lies in the ambiguity. We are hooked on hooks.

    Which is hooky parlance for the mass cultural failure we are currently enjoying—and as always I choose my words carefully—a catchy way of saying we need catching. Well, we certainly want to be caught, and if we need to be as well, more’s the pity. We expect to be at any rate—caught, that is: hooked. But before another word, however carefully chosen, is spent in this direction, lest there be the slightest misunderstanding on this score, it may be advisable—indeed it may be necessary, readers that we are—to point out that we are not being critical of entertainment tout court or entertainment generally, but only of a certain trend in entertainment, although trend is not really the best choice of word in this regard—a certain turn in entertainment taken in the course of the last fifty years—that word cuts closer to the mark, I believe—not entertainment per se. Heaven knows it’s all entertainment—art, religion, science, sports, hobbies, etc. We argued this point early in the polemic. We shouldn’t require a rehearsal of that argument here, notwithstanding the sharp rise in spoon-feeding that has accompanied the rapid rise of digital media in our time.

    Must boy and girl “meet cute”? Or must boy meet girl in the first place? These are two different questions. We made that clear at the outset. One question has been raised by a perplexed humanity, lovers and philosophers alike, from time immemorial, and goes to the very heart of the sweet mystery of life, and has no certain answer beyond the lyrical but fatalistic que sera sera. The other is a Hollywood movie mogul’s question with only one answer if you want a development deal green-lighted, as they say. What a sad and sorry-ass world it is indeed in which these distinctions are lost!

    But this grows wearisome. Might as well try to teach a cat to sit up and beg! Listen. We’re almost there. Do me one favor—no! Do yourself a favor. Before our limo pulls up in front of Club Duh Parrot Docks and we get swept up in all the glam and glitz of AI, as I call it, or Absolute Inanity, think about all the great literature of the past, the great books of the world, the canonical library going back three thousand years—but starting back some fifty years ago, before the gradual falling off became a drop—and see if you find, anywhere in that colossal compendium of beauty and truth, a boy and a girl meeting cute. See if you find, among all the great openings of all the great works of world literature, a hook. But if you don’t think the phrase “great literature of the past” picks out anything in the real world, if you don’t think the phrase means anything, refers to anything, if you don’t recognize the existence of the “great literature of the past”—then just sit back and enjoy the rest of the ride to the club. You have VIP entrée tonight.

    Outside in front of the club two giant searchlights cross beams in the night sky. Enthusiastic crowds are gathered in the forecourt, around the central sculpture fountain, in the hope of catching a glimpse of celebrity, and the usual queue for admission is already stretched along the two long lateral flower beds in both directions when our limo arrives. The flashbulbs of a score of paparazzi go off as you step out into view, and an audible murmur ripples through the crowd pressing forward with the force of collective velleities. The plashing of the great fountain provides a sibilant organ pedal to the squawking of the five house parrots sidling on their gilt perches and welcoming the patronage in five different languages: Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and Arabic. There is a sense of urgency in the air, as if something were about to happen, and a sense of exhilaration as well, as if everything were possible tonight and anything could happen.

    The flamboyant priapic postmodern fountain marks your passage in dyes of every color of the rainbow.

    Huānyíng...

    Ahlan wa sahlan...

    Willkommen...

    Skraa...

    Chinjing...

    As-salām 'alaykum...

    Bienvenido...

    Skraawk...

    Bienvenue...

    The gatekeeper, a notorious Aussie bully by the name of Grandoaf, flanked by two other burly tattooed bouncers and Chopi's pierced doorbitch Importunita, nods you and your party through the cathedral-like entrance. You’re in! The shouted vocal nastiness of Btzby echoes distantly up the inner passageway, the corridor you traverse, you and yours, in near darkness. Your loins tingle with decadent excitement. You're in!

    But of course you’re not in and nothing can happen here that does not reduce to two tiny increments of electricity, weak and weaker still, and yet you're willing to suspend your disbelief for the promise of blood and sex. There is nothing here but bad faith all around.



    To be continued below...


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    Continued from #34 above:


    Patriarchic Pig!

    Patriarchic Pig!

    Patriarchic Pig!

    No parrot that. That was the refrain or from the refrain of The Rainbowspinners’ signature song, I want to say signature rant—their artistic anthem if you will, a vile rant of a chant compliments of the poisonous pen of their frontman or frontwoman Btzby entitled “Dick” and purportedly about her father, a Boston Brahmin by the name of Richard Something. The audience or spectators always joined in. A thunderous chant.

    Bad faith all around.

    Selfishness.

    Stupidity.

    Arrogance.

    And of course death.





    §3


    Third time’s the charm.

    What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this? you say.




    To be continued below...


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    Continued from #35 above:





    §3


    Third time’s the charm.

    What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this? you say.

    And she sips and smiles with her nose and says: Are you kidding?

    If you’ve never heard Paul Robeson sing Old Man River, you say, then you’ve never heard Old Man River!

    You’ve got to lean in and yell to be heard above the din. Chopi, the Man, is spinning some raucous shit tonight.

    Again, and probably not for the last time, readers that we are, we are reminded that all this saying and sipping and spinning and whatnot is all only in a manner of speaking. But there is nothing to fret in this fact. Let us add that at once, yes. Nothing to fret. Anna and Vronsky, Daisy and Gatsby, and all the rest, going all the way back to Eve and Adam, are all subject to the same fact.

    I’ve heard Sinatra sing it, she says. Great grandma was a bobbysoxer!

    Say, how old are you? he says.

    Do you really think time exists? she says.

    Well what’s this all about then, he says, gesturing around at pandemonium.

    Verfremdungseffekt, she says.

    Are you German? he says.

    What makes you say that? she says.



    To be continued below...


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    Continued from #36 above:


    An immense dungeon of “darkness visible,” to quote the Poet on the venue, aptly I dare say, the deafening rhythmic din of some incessant techno beat pouring forth from everywhere it seemed and all at once through some massive sound system, sight and sound displaying an objective correlative of madness itself, surrounded on two sides by video panels showing the dancing Ganesha, an ironic touch lost on everyone no doubt, while high overhead LED fixtures coruscate with lights of many colors of the visible spectrum and light beams and movers, hazers and lasers all make out a horde of wild strobed shadows, starting up like a battalion of bacchantes, arms raised, swaying to the beat, many sporting glowers, gloves, orbits, poi balls, some laser lashes, while holograms of cavorting maenads dance onstage, and at the center of this booming luciferous chaos, against a backdrop of projected images of simulated mitochondria at work, the high-priest, on a raised platform engulfed in smoke, leader of the cult, Deejay Chopi, ecstatic in a headset, capering about his console like a chimpanzee on crack cocaine.

    You sit on a glowing chair at a glowing bar table off a black light bar sipping a cool cold Dolina Hipótesis Nº 01 Lluvia Mortal, a fractal UV banner of a mandala floating nearby.

    She sits across from you..

    What Sign are you? she says.

    You show an amused smile, long practiced. Are you kidding? you say. I thought you said time is an illusion.

    It is, she says. This is about space—you know, alignments.

    You take a bemused beat. Have you ever heard Eddie Cantor sing “If You Knew Susie”? you say.

    Who’s Eddie Cantor? she says.

    Ask your great grandma, you say.

    Say, how old are you? she says, smiling, sipping something green through a cocktail straw.

    And gradually it dawns upon us, readers that we are, that these two are trying to “meet cute” in spite of all.



    To be continued below...


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    Continued from #37 above:


    To what end, some of us may be wondering? Shortly they would have to produce, by law, their papers—state IDs, health certificates, affidavits of intent, consent forms—for this is the world according to Btzby we are in now. The sign over the door reads “Abandon All Cheer, Ye Who Pass Through These Portals.” Posted, again by law, for a generation that would not recognize the allusion and did not know what the word Ye meant. This is the cheerless world of the Rainbowspinners we have entered. The Culture Wars ended long ago. The Climactic Battle For Meaning had been lost. But it had been won as well. Won by those who hadn’t done their homework. And this was Chopi’s world now. What point could there possibly be to “meeting cute”? Alas! We have seen too many vapid movies! But none of this fazes you in the least. You are 99 years old—99 years young, as your mother always says, God Bless Her. And while you look great for your age, and more importantly feel great, having avoided the consumption of dead animals for all of your adult life, you are not here to “hook up,” to use the idiot phrase. You are here on business. And that was the point.

    Been a member long? you say.

    About a year, she says.

    Did you know a member by the name of Beerbohm? you say.



    To be continued below...


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    Continued from #38 above:



    Been a member long? you say.

    About a year, she says.

    Did you know a member by the name of Beerbohm? you say.

    She knew the name only.

    He was before my time, she says.

    What had she heard about him?

    He was banned from the club, she says, wasn’t he? That’s what I heard anyway, that he was banned from the club.

    Did she know why he was banned?

    She sipped thinking, and swallowed.

    For breaking the rules, she says.

    Is that all? you say.

    Isn’t that enough? she says blinkingly.

    Rules are made to be broken, you say.

    She winces smilingly. What does that even mean?

    Do you know that clown up there? you ask, jutting your chin toward the stage.




    To be continued below...


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    Continued from #39 above:


    Who? You mean Deejay Chopi?

    Yes, you say. I mean Deejay Chopi. Do you know him?

    Sure, she says. Everybody knows Deejay Chopi.

    It was Deejay Chopi who banned Beerbohm, you tell her..

    Okay, she says slowly, puzzling, wrinkling her brow. Then closing those lips around that cocktail straw once more, she sucked at that green liquid in that stemmed glass and seemed to brood.

    All around you pandemonium rages, all at once ancient and futuristic. Your temples throb thunderingly. In the pulsating darkness, the cavernous darkness, sweeping beams of light, bands of light, machine smoke and haze and the animal heat of a silhouetted host rising like effluvia from a swamp, stifling, stultifying, the air reeks and resounds.

    Did you hear what I said? you say.

    Deejay Chopi banned Beerbohm, she says. Say, what are you, a cop?

    You give her another practiced look, like the look that actor gives the girl in that movie you like.

    Do I look like a cop? you say, smirking.



    To be continued below...


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    Continued from #40 above:


    Another false start? Let’s, shall we say, hope not. Third strike? That would do us for sure or I’m no fan of baseball. Another start like that and we are done for, empyrrhically speaking. Indeed, another false start and we are done, period. Might as well cut right to the climactic scene in Deejay Chopi’s art deco suite of apartments, located, for the sake of literary economy, directly above this cavernous nightclub, and imagined for us, readers that we are, on the large scale, making the big statement, like his avatar, Chopi’s, that is. Something right out of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Art Direction by Cedric Gibbons, in period B&W cinematography, by Sid Hickox, A.S.C. I should think, all silver, black, and chrome and crystal chandeliers, slip shade sconces, white glass, etched glass, mirrored pieces, large zebrawood furniture, and tiled floors overlaid with rugs in geometric patterns, stepped and sweeping forms, sunbursts and chevrons, trapezoids, zigzags, the spacious streamlined suite of rooms where lovers dance and villains are exposed in the final reel.

    You look like trouble, she says, again smiling with her nose in that way she had.

    What kind of trouble? you say.

    Is there more than one kind? she says.



    To be continued below...


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    Continued from #41 above:


    Do you see her? What is she wearing? A backless halter neck plunged mini dress? Metallic mini shorts and boob tube top? O Daughter of Eve! Proud Scion of the Enlightenment—deconstructed! Proud of her teeth, proud of her legs, proud of her glands. The pride of postmodernism! Her voice is in your ear like tinnitus. Looky here—she’s giving you the Big Eyes! Are they blue or are they brown? The Big Eyes, at the same time betty-booping the cocktail straw. Has she looked in a mirror or has she looked in a mirror? What is that green shit anyway? A grasshopper? The Eternal Feminine—revised, politicized, deodorized! And there are more rap rhymes where those came from, Jocko. Advocated. Emancipated. Updated. Stimulated. Lubricated. Depilated. Hyperventilated. (Overstated?) Radiating all “the charm of the inorganic,” to borrow Beckett’s phrase. All animal magnetism drained from her. Become anime. Bits of binary code. A fox? A hottie? Do you see her? Do you like what you see?

    I’m a shamus, you say, in the manner of Bogie in The Big Sleep.

    You mean like a priest? she giggles. A medicine man?

    That's a shaman, you say.

    Shaman—right, she says. So what’s a shamus?



    To be continued below...


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    Continued from #42 above:


    Is this a good time to note that what we are reading here, this little allegory of ours, is “inspired by true events”? Is that the wording? Or is it “real events” perhaps? Or “actual events”? I can’t seem to recall. I mean I don’t recall the precise wording as it has come down to us today. Used to be this note was much more direct and to the point: “This is a true story.” Then it became a bit more cautious: “The following is based on a true story”—and with that we were off to the races! I mean, to be sure, a story can be true, but can events be true? That is where we are today. That is the slipshod semantic space we occupy today. And that, mutatis mutandis, is how characters like that perennial asshole Chopi and that Überslut Btzby and, yes, even Little Miss Hottotrot sucking her crème de menthe through a cocktail straw tonight—how they come to believe, cue the musical sting, that they are real. I don’t suppose it matters very much. We get it. Readers that we are. But it comes down to us from cinema, doesn’t it? The convention, I mean. Against a black screen before the movie proper begins. Sometimes over the opening shot. Never later in the movie. Never late in the movie. Never at the end of a movie certainly. I mean, how would that read? The preceding was a true story? The preceding story was inspired by actual events? What would that add to the experience? A fillip?



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    ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM
    a luv story



    First we need a hook.

    That’s the prevailing wisdom anyway.

    Awful conceit when you think about— fishing for readers. Used to be readers fished. Dropped in a line. Waited for a strike. Patience was required. Not anymore. Patience is no longer required. Patience is no longer a virtue.

    I think it comes from show business, the conceit. Certainly from the movie business. It’s cynical and manipulative and belongs to the movie business whether it originated there or not. What’s more, the movie business has steadily infected the reading and writing business. Writers write cinematically for readers who read cinematically. Nobody can even read Henry James anymore, let alone read him with understanding, with appreciation.

    Here a quick word on the “we” is in order, I think. That was not the Royal We, needless to say. I’m an American. Hell, we’re all American today, whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not. And it was not the Editorial We, either. I represent no viewpoint but my own and my aim from the outset is to get personal. No, by “we” I in fact meant “you”— and lest there be the slightest misunderstanding on this score let’s remove the scare quotes at once and state for the record that by “we” I meant you.

    You need a hook.

    That’s the first thing.

    The second thing— no! Without a hook, what is the good of going on with this enumeration? A clear conscience? What is that?

    A list of desiderata in this matter, were it drawn up on the authority of Aristotle himself, would be but a vanity, in the old sense, in the biblical sense of the word, unless it be read, unless it be readable. The first desideratum in writing is being read, and the first desideratum in reading— well, that’s been covered already. No need to rant on about this.

    And now it occurs to me that perhaps the use of the word desideratum here is ill-advised? And then there's the subjunctive mood of those verbs?

    I'm not sure.

    Anyway the point is clear enough, I think.

    It is no longer enough that boy meet girl. Boy and girl must “meet cute.”

    That’s entertainment! Am I right or am I right?

    But why must they meet at all? That’s what I’d like to know. And is that entertainment too? Or is that something else? Something more? Edification perhaps? There’s another suspect word. Or even something less? There’s always that possibility, I suppose.

    Or is there something less than which there is nothing? Something than which there is nothing less?

    What does that mean? No matter. We want a hook. That’s the point after all. That’s been the point all along. That’s the matter in a nutshell. The kernel. The seed. That sounds obscene. But let's not get carried away here.

    We want entertainment.

    There, I’ve said it. Let the cat out of the bag, as they say. Curious expression, that. Figurative, we read, of course, or rather, which is more likely, as a lexical entry, abbreviated, fig., were we to look it up, readers that we are. But then there’s this, to read, that is, were we to look it up: of obscure or unknown origin. Apocrypha follow. The cat-o’-nine-tails. The pig in a poke. Academic rubbish. Whereas any grounded, down-to-earth real person whether he reads or not knows that cats, especially in the form of kittens, were customarily stuffed into gunny sacks and tossed into creeks, to drown. The academic puts the cart before the horse, looks for the origin by way of current meaning, which as noted is figurative. That’s like looking for the origin of the expression to put the cart before the horse by way of its current figurative meaning rather than by way of its literal provenance. That is, looking for something out of order when something in order should be looked for.

    But what does all this have to do with reading and writing? Or with entertainment for that matter, which we seemed to connect with reading and writing obscenely? I mean, connect obscenely with reading and writing. Or have I, as feared, gotten carried away? The word apocrypha certainly suggests as much.

    Boy and girl must meet after all.

    But must they? I think I asked that question before, but I could be wrong. I might’ve thought of asking the question but then not have actually asked it. I do that sometimes. I think of saying something but don’t actually say it and later recall the thought of saying as the saying itself. Most of the time I can’t recall whether I said it or only thought of saying it. Then again sometimes I say something and later forget saying it or even thinking it. Thankfully, that’s rare. But why thankfully? What a queer thing to say. Thankfully. But then this is a queer sort of business, speech. And thought right behind it!

    There, I’ve made a pun. Good.

    Relieves the tension.

    Now, to get back to the boy and the girl and the necessity of their meeting at all, to say nothing of their “meeting cute” or the necessity thereof, the question, as I recall, whether expressed or not, reduced at once to the question, whether expressed or not, of whether there is or can be said to be something more than entertainment or something less than entertainment involved in the necessity (of their meeting at all, that is, rather than their “meeting cute”)— a reductive series of questions or thoughts or thoughts and questions culminating, if that’s the right word, in the call for, so to speak, something than which there is nothing less.

    Sounds a bit like Anselm to me. Are we in the way of an ontological proof perhaps?

    As we have nothing to speak of in mind, let x stand for it. The ellipses are heuristic to the proper reading of the proposition, readers that we are.

    X is that…than which…nothing is less.

    You know the rest.

    QED

    Do you feel the tension in your brow relaxing? Your blurred vision clearing up. Humor is a gift from the gods. Remember the laughter of Wotan et al. strutting across that rainbow bridge into Valhalla?

    Anyway.

    Think of glances. His turns slowly to the right; hers rises slowly up from under. His and her glances. They come in a wide variety of colors, a whole range of browns, blues, greens, grays and hazels, which may be mixed and matched to please the most jaded and cynical taste.

    Why slowly?

    Quickly then.

    As long as the eyes meet.

    There’s a whole chapter in Being and Nothingness on this. Were we looking for an answer to “meeting cute,” we need look no further. Nothing could be more apt. That is to say, more antithetical.

    But were we looking for an answer to “meeting cute”? I don’t remember.

    Let’s say glances then, and let the chips fall where they may. He looks around. She looks up. Wham!

    Something happens.

    Or rather, something else happens. Yes, their eyes meet. That happens, to be sure. That much is clear, readers that we are. But something else has happened as well, or else we have been very much mistaken in our assumptions throughout these prolegomenaries. Is that a word?

    It is now.

    Rimshot.

    Laughter.

    But seriously, folks...

    Adjectives have always done duty as nouns. The percussive sting was necessary as the audience appears to be asleep. The laughter was canned.

    Something else happens, you say. Why not something more. What are you afraid of?

    Here I suppose I should point out that by “you” I mean I. I mean me. I’m addressing myself. Not an uncommon practice, I am told. I tell myself.

    But of course there is more at stake here than meets the eye! Cue Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, better known outside of Germany and the 18th century as “Sleepers Awake!” We don’t need this one explained, do we, readers that we are! No rimshot. No canned laughter. Is this what they mean by “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response”? I doubt it.

    I do not say “something more” because saying “something more” would beg the question, and the current misunderstanding and misuse of that particular idiom troubles me. Of the idiom to beg the question, that is. Not that I am afraid to beg the question. I’d just prefer not to. Like Bartleby. Oh, that’s good! That's very good! Oh, the humanity!

    Now it’s time to reacquaint ourselves with the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. That’s our homework for the weekend.

    All the necessary and sufficient conditions have been met. He looks around. She looks up. Their eyes meet. If the breath of butterfly wings flapped in Asia can be said somehow to have propelled this event, so be it. But I’m not going to say it. That butterfly plays no part in our story. If its wings somehow brought about the physical meeting of our boy and our girl, it is of no interest whatsoever to us here. The world in which our boy and girl meet is not the world in which Asia or Asian butterflies exist. But we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. Suffice it to say that “meeting cute” is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of the event in a world in which Asia and Asian butterflies exist. But what about our world here? Does entertainment work like Asian butterfly wings here?

    Did we do our homework over the weekend? Yes, contempt is not the word! Indeed that might well do for a title if this foray is to have one, although I think Moravia and Godard beat us to it, although that was in French, which doesn’t count. Why? You may well ask why! I’ll tell you why. Because at the bottom of most of the grief in this old world of ours today stand the smart-asses who didn’t do their homework fifty years ago and who now have an opinion on everything. They are represented in our little monograph by the character Chopi, the pseudonymous manager of the trendy Club Duh Parrot Docks, a fan of Chopin apparently and the quintessential “asshole with power,” a type identified by the playwright Tom Topor in his renowned play and film adaptation of '79 and '87 respectively, a piece of inspired taxonomy more or less unrecognized today precisely and ironically because the taxon in question has over the course of the last three decades in point of fact been empowered on the grand scale. But enough of this exposition! We’ll get to Chopi and Club Duh Parrot Docks in due course. Boy and girl have just about met and we were about to acknowledge our need, along with food, shelter and clothing, our basic human need, that is to say, perhaps our defining need, for ENTERTAINMENT; we were about to do this when, readers that we are, we were once again distracted by banalities.

    We’ll get back to homework. And to Bach and Matthew. And to what for want of a better word I’ll just call my apophasis. We’ve asked the question about entertainment and there’s no taking it back. And there’s no going on. Not with that question hanging over our heads. Not in the shadow of that question. It’s like the shadow of the avenging angel passing over the mud-baked houses of— but there’s little point in drawing this out, in marshaling colorful images and classical allusions. No point really until the question is answered, or at least addressed. Until then, to resort to current parlance, the parroted parlance of those who didn’t do their homework in the past, but I’ll get back to that, as I said. Until then, until the question be addressed and possibly answered, at least to the satisfaction of the readers that we are, until then we have, as popular currency would have it, which is to say back by popular demand, and so ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and help us welcome to the stage, direct from the stupendous world-famous world tour, our very own, the elephant in the room— Entertainment.

    Click here to enlarge

    Etymologically, and right off I wish to apologize sincerely for the use of so strenuous a word, particularly in such a lighthearted essay, but its necessity will become evident momentarily, I dare say—etymologically, to entertain is to hold, to hold between, between whatever holds and whoever is held. The –ment part requires no analysis, it seems to me, and I am loath to provide one lest anyone’s intelligence be insulted, and quick apologies also for the perplexing subjunctive mood, needless to say; its necessity must be taken on faith, I’m afraid, as this is neither the time nor the place for a grammar lesson. A ticklish affair all in all, and well put behind us. But as we all know, as we all have learned from the late lamentable turn taken in world affairs—and by world in this case I mean of course and we are to understand the world in which Asia and Asian butterflies exist—if terms are not clearly defined, all manner of nonsense is likely to ensue.

    In other words all that we call art is at bottom merely a form of entertainment. This is the highway accident theory of art, and while it has, qua theory, failed in fact to catch on in learned circles, the sad truth is that learned circles aren’t what they used to be, although naturally we are not supposed to notice this. Many indeed are the sad truths we are not supposed to notice today. This, mutatis mutandis, may be taken as the theme of this little propaedeutic of ours. Ach! Watch it, Buster! You’re out of control! Just get to the point if there is one, and keep your sesquipedalia in your pants!

    The point? Ah, yes, the point.

    The point is first we need a hook. We might have picked up on this point, readers that we are, somewhere on the way, you'd think.




    §2

    Let’s start over.

    In April of that year the handbills suddenly popped up out of nowhere, posted on walls and poles and doors and windows throughout the community, on sidewalk sheds and construction barricades, in vestibules and hallways, generally speaking wherever a flat surface or vertical plane presented itself and of course wherever a sign said POST NO BILLS; though not really “out of nowhere” of course and no more "suddenly," phenomenologically speaking, than anything else that has occurred in the last 14 billion years, and to be absolutely accurate just the one handbill iterated a thousand times over, discovered rather than "popping up" at dawn on the first of the month, the result of a clandestine overnight effort. This handbill, presumably, brought the two of them together, and not the Nymphalidae.

    Or was it the other way around? Ha! There’s a notion for you! Was their meeting the point after all? Can we even wrap our minds around such an idea anymore? That the handbill brought about the meeting is simple and straightforward enough, an easy concept. The dullest child can grasp that! But that their meeting somehow brought about the handbill—now that’s deep! That’s what I call a deep thought. That’s metaphysics for God’s sake! No one today even knows what that word means! Was their meeting the cause of the handbill? The reason for the handbill? No, I’m afraid that kind of thinking went out of style with the mini skirt. It’s just no longer acceptable to think that way. It’s no longer respectable, certainly not in the learned circles aforementioned. This is the new millennium! That’s teleology, man! So there’s another big word for us to roll our eyes over. Go on! The world is on the skids. Keep rolling those eyes!

    Listen. Every fight for freedom in this dying world is teleological. Numskulls! You should have done your homework! But I digress…. Get it? That’s a joke. A bit of business. You know, like old Jack Benny’s “Well!” I felt we needed to dial back on the pique a tad. Yes? I mean, what difference does it make whether Old Mother Leary left a lantern in the shed or the cow kicked it over? What difference ultimately, I mean. Speaking of which, I don’t suppose it would do any harm to point out that my earlier talk of walls and poles and whatnot was merely a manner of speaking. That is, I should remind us, readers that we are, that the world in which our tale unfolds is not the world in which the Great Chicago Fire took place. We are heading for Club Duh Parrot Docks, in case you have forgotten.

    And in case you missed the acknowledgement, we are looking for entertainment there. This is the moral of our fabliau in point of fact. This is why boy meets girl in the first place, and Catherine O’Leary’s cow be damned for the scapegoat she was!

    Have I made another pun? Good.

    Now on to Club Duh Parrot Docks. But first someone needs to account for the name.

    According to one account the name reflects the club's location in a tropical port town on the edge of a psittacine forest. But this of course is poppycock. It’s like saying that the meaning of this sentence is located in the Brill Building in New York City in 1960. Another account makes it out to be a form of pidgin English riffing on a corrupted translation of the Maori chant Kei runga a Rangi Ko papa kei raro. But this remains unattested. Every account smacks of the worst kind of urban legend. Like there’s a good kind, right? Is it supposed to be hip? I think it is. Supposed to be hip, I mean. Is it hip? I think not. Fifty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong, right? The club boasts a membership of 1.5 million members. The nomenclature confers a bogus borrowed hipness on them all. But it just sounds like baby talk to me. To me it’s just mairzy doats and dozy doats. If you catch my drift. And even if you don't. Chopi is the club’s chief cook and bottle washer. That says it all, really. That explains everything. But more on that score later. It's too early in the day for ipecac.

    Beerbohm could tell us a thing or two about Chopi, I would imagine. Beerbohm was a member for a year. Like Queen For a Day. Anybody still alive remember that tear-jerker? But Beerbohm disappeared under mysterious circumstances after getting banned from the club by Chopi under mysterious circumstances. He was banned from the club after besting Chopi in an argument in front of Chopi's cronies. In the event Chopi lost his cool in public, made a public apology a week later, and not long after that Beerbohm was eighty-sixed for "breaking the rules." Beerbohm has since fallen off the face of the earth. But this is not about Beerbohm. This is not even about Chopi really, save insofar as he is representative of a strain, a millennial strain, and perhaps a perennial strain.

    Anyway, this is what the handbill looked like:

    Click here to enlarge

    The handbill also looked like this:

    Click here to enlarge

    You may remember seeing it in one or the other iteration. Or you may be seeing it for the first time now in both iterations. Either way, I apologize. All I can say by way of excuse is that verisimilitude is a stern mistress. Still, two or three comments are in order before going on. The background image is a detail from Massimo Della Stronzata’s infamous mural Aglio e Olio in the cloister of the Neapolitan Bagnarole Comunale, no doubt used without permission. The Rainbowspinners is—or is it are? The Rainbowspinners is or are an all-girls screech rock band out of Glenville, New York, whose frontman—or should I say frontwoman?—is the notorious performance artist and radical feminist Btzby. And last but not least the promise of “Free Dum”—well, I guess it’s fair to say that this item speaks for itself, yes? The handbill itself, needless to say, is a hook. This should ring a bell.

    And if you ask me, an alarm bell. At this point in time, most definitely an alarm bell. But as I said before, let’s not get carried away here in our little handbook. For the sake of argument then let’s make it a school bell. Yes, that’s it—a school bell. Calling us in. Recess is over. Fifty years of playtime is quite enough, I think, don’t you? Time to line up in an orderly fashion—two lines, girls in one, boys in the other. Time to return to class. Time to get back to our studies. What’s that? Didn’t do your homework? Well, just say the dog ate it! That always works. Anyway, the dunce cap has been banned from the classroom. And it’s never too late to learn. Never too early either. Time to get serious, boys and girls. I know, I know. Beerbohm was a serious man. Beerbohm did his homework. Look what happened to him! I know what you're thinking. But this is not about Beerbohm. This is about us. If Beerbohm died for our sins, then the redemption is ours.

    And speaking of boys and girls, when we last looked in on them our boy and our girl had fairly met, as I recall. Their eyes had met at all events. Windows on the soul. Right? Who said that? Emerson? Tsk. Look who I’m asking! Might as well ask the Great God Google! Right?

    Jibes aside, there’s the gravest of points to be taken here. Jibes aside—and you will please note that there has been no attempt on the author’s part to conceal the contemptus mundi of this jeremiad—jibes aside, the gravamen of the case against us, as it has been made out from the very beginning, mind you, rests with this matter of hooks. But don’t believe me. Go back and re-read the opening lines. We are indeed a hooked generation! But there’s an embedded pun here, and the truth of the indictment lies in the ambiguity. We are hooked on hooks.

    Which is hooky parlance for the mass cultural failure we are currently enjoying—and as always I choose my words carefully—a catchy way of saying we need catching. Well, we certainly want to be caught, and if we need to be as well, more’s the pity. We expect to be at any rate—caught, that is: hooked. But before another word, however carefully chosen, is spent in this direction, lest there be the slightest misunderstanding on this score, it may be advisable—indeed it may be necessary, readers that we are—to point out that we are not being critical of entertainment tout court or entertainment generally, but only of a certain trend in entertainment, although trend is not really the best choice of word in this regard—a certain turn in entertainment taken in the course of the last fifty years—that word cuts closer to the mark, I believe—not entertainment per se. Heaven knows it’s all entertainment—art, religion, science, sports, hobbies, etc. We argued this point early in the polemic. We shouldn’t require a rehearsal of that argument here, notwithstanding the sharp rise in spoon-feeding that has accompanied the rapid rise of digital media in our time.

    Must boy and girl “meet cute”? Or must boy meet girl in the first place? These are two different questions. We made that clear at the outset. One question has been raised by a perplexed humanity, lovers and philosophers alike, from time immemorial, and goes to the very heart of the sweet mystery of life, and has no certain answer beyond the lyrical but fatalistic que sera sera. The other is a Hollywood movie mogul’s question with only one answer if you want a development deal green-lighted, as they say. What a sad and sorry-ass world it is indeed in which these distinctions are lost!

    But this grows wearisome. Might as well try to teach a cat to sit up and beg! Listen. We’re almost there. Do me one favor—no! Do yourself a favor. Before our limo pulls up in front of Club Duh Parrot Docks and we get swept up in all the glam and glitz of AI, as I call it, or Absolute Inanity, think about all the great literature of the past, the great books of the world, the canonical library going back three thousand years—but starting back some fifty years ago, before the gradual falling off became a drop—and see if you find, anywhere in that colossal compendium of beauty and truth, a boy and a girl meeting cute. See if you find, among all the great openings of all the great works of world literature, a hook. But if you don’t think the phrase “great literature of the past” picks out anything in the real world, if you don’t think the phrase means anything, refers to anything, if you don’t recognize the existence of the “great literature of the past”—then just sit back and enjoy the rest of the ride to the club. You have VIP entrée tonight.

    Outside in front of the club two giant searchlights cross beams in the night sky. Enthusiastic crowds are gathered in the forecourt, around the central sculpture fountain, in the hope of catching a glimpse of celebrity, and the usual queue for admission is already stretched along the two long lateral flower beds in both directions when our limo arrives. The flashbulbs of a score of paparazzi go off as you step out into view, and an audible murmur ripples through the crowd pressing forward with the force of collective velleities. The plashing of the great fountain provides a sibilant organ pedal to the squawking of the five house parrots sidling on their gilt perches and welcoming the patronage in five different languages: Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and Arabic. There is a sense of urgency in the air, as if something were about to happen, and a sense of exhilaration as well, as if everything were possible tonight and anything could happen.


    The flamboyant priapic postmodern fountain marks your passage in dyes of every color of the rainbow.

    Huānyíng...

    Ahlan wa sahlan...

    Willkommen...

    Skraa...

    Chinjing...

    As-salām 'alaykum...

    Bienvenido...

    Skraawk...

    Bienvenue...

    The gatekeeper, a notorious Aussie bully by the name of Grandoaf, flanked by two other burly tattooed bouncers and Chopi's pierced doorbitch Importunita, nods you and your party through the cathedral-like entrance. You’re in! The shouted vocal nastiness of Btzby echoes distantly up the inner passageway, the corridor you traverse, you and yours, in near darkness. Your loins tingle with decadent excitement. You're in!

    But of course you’re not in and nothing can happen here that does not reduce to two tiny increments of electricity, weak and weaker still, and yet you're willing to suspend your disbelief for the promise of blood and sex. There is nothing here but bad faith all around.

    Patriarchic Pig!

    Patriarchic Pig!

    Patriarchic Pig!

    No parrot that. That was the refrain or from the refrain of The Rainbowspinners’ signature song, I want to say signature rant—their artistic anthem if you will, a vile rant of a chant compliments of the poisonous pen of their frontman or frontwoman Btzby entitled “Dick” and purportedly about her father, a Boston Brahmin by the name of Richard Something. The audience or spectators always joined in. A thunderous chant.

    Bad faith all around.

    Selfishness.

    Stupidity.

    Arrogance.

    And of course death.




    Continued below...


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    §3


    Third time’s the charm.

    What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this? you say.

    And she sips and smiles with her nose and says: Are you kidding?

    If you’ve never heard Paul Robeson sing Old Man River, you say, then you’ve never heard Old Man River!

    You’ve got to lean in and yell to be heard above the din. Chopi, the Man, is spinning some raucous shit tonight.

    Again, and probably not for the last time, readers that we are, we are reminded that all this saying and sipping and spinning and whatnot is all only in a manner of speaking. But there is nothing to fret in this fact. Let us add that at once, yes. Nothing to fret. Anna and Vronsky, Daisy and Gatsby, and all the rest, going all the way back to Eve and Adam, are all subject to the same fact.

    I’ve heard Sinatra sing it, she says. Great grandma was a bobbysoxer!

    Say, how old are you? he says.

    Do you really think time exists? she says.

    Well what’s this all about then, he says, gesturing around at pandemonium.

    Verfremdungseffekt, she says.

    Are you German? he says.

    What makes you say that? she says.

    An immense dungeon of “darkness visible,” to quote the Poet on the venue, aptly I dare say, the deafening rhythmic din of some incessant techno beat pouring forth from everywhere it seemed and all at once through some massive sound system, sight and sound displaying an objective correlative of madness itself, surrounded on two sides by video panels showing the dancing Ganesha, an ironic touch lost on everyone no doubt, while high overhead LED fixtures coruscate with lights of many colors of the visible spectrum and light beams and movers, hazers and lasers all make out a horde of wild strobed shadows, starting up like a battalion of bacchantes, arms raised, swaying to the beat, many sporting glowers, gloves, orbits, poi balls, some laser lashes, while holograms of cavorting maenads dance onstage, and at the center of this booming luciferous chaos, against a backdrop of projected images of simulated mitochondria at work, the high-priest, on a raised platform engulfed in smoke, leader of the cult, Deejay Chopi, ecstatic in a headset, capering about his console like a chimpanzee on crack cocaine.

    You sit on a glowing chair at a glowing bar table off a black light bar sipping a cool cold Dolina Hipótesis Nº 01 Lluvia Mortal, a fractal UV banner of a mandala floating nearby.

    She sits across from you..

    What Sign are you? she says.

    You show an amused smile, long practiced. Are you kidding? you say. I thought you said time is an illusion.

    It is, she says. This is about space—you know, alignments.

    You take a bemused beat. Have you ever heard Eddie Cantor sing “If You Knew Susie”? you say.

    Who’s Eddie Cantor? she says.

    Ask your great grandma, you say.

    Say, how old are you? she says, smiling, sipping something green through a cocktail straw.

    And gradually it dawns upon us, readers that we are, that these two are trying to “meet cute” in spite of all.

    To what end, some of us may be wondering? Shortly they would have to produce, by law, their papers—state IDs, health certificates, affidavits of intent, consent forms—for this is the world according to Btzby we are in now. The sign over the door reads “Abandon All Cheer, Ye Who Pass Through These Portals.” Posted, again by law, for a generation that would not recognize the allusion and did not know what the word Ye meant. This is the cheerless world of the Rainbowspinners we have entered. The Culture Wars ended long ago. The Climactic Battle For Meaning had been lost. But it had been won as well. Won by those who hadn’t done their homework. And this was Chopi’s world now. What point could there possibly be to “meeting cute”? Alas! We have seen too many vapid movies! But none of this fazes you in the least. You are 99 years old—99 years young, as your mother always says, God Bless Her. And while you look great for your age, and more importantly feel great, having avoided the consumption of dead animals for all of your adult life, you are not here to “hook up,” to use the idiot phrase. You are here on business. And that was the point.

    Been a member long? you say.

    About a year, she says.

    Did you know a member by the name of Beerbohm? you say.

    Been a member long? you say.

    About a year, she says.

    Did you know a member by the name of Beerbohm? you say.

    She knew the name only.

    He was before my time, she says.

    What had she heard about him?

    He was banned from the club, she says, wasn’t he? That’s what I heard anyway, that he was banned from the club.

    Did she know why he was banned?

    She sipped thinking, and swallowed.

    For breaking the rules, she says.

    Is that all? you say.

    Isn’t that enough? she says blinkingly.

    Rules are made to be broken, you say.

    She winces smilingly. What does that even mean?

    Do you know that clown up there? you ask, jutting your chin toward the stage.

    Who? You mean Deejay Chopi?

    Yes, you say. I mean Deejay Chopi. Do you know him?

    Sure, she says. Everybody knows Deejay Chopi.

    It was Deejay Chopi who banned Beerbohm, you tell her..

    Okay, she says slowly, puzzling, wrinkling her brow. Then closing those lips around that cocktail straw once more, she sucked at that green liquid in that stemmed glass and seemed to brood.

    All around you pandemonium rages, all at once ancient and futuristic. Your temples throb thunderingly. In the pulsating darkness, the cavernous darkness, sweeping beams of light, bands of light, machine smoke and haze and the animal heat of a silhouetted host rising like effluvia from a swamp, stifling, stultifying, the air reeks and resounds.

    Did you hear what I said? you say.

    Deejay Chopi banned Beerbohm, she says. Say, what are you, a cop?

    You give her another practiced look, like the look that actor gives the girl in that movie you like.

    Do I look like a cop? you say, smirking.

    Another false start? Let’s, shall we say, hope not. Third strike? That would do us for sure or I’m no fan of baseball. Another start like that and we are done for, empyrrhically speaking. Indeed, another false start and we are done, period. Might as well cut right to the climactic scene in Deejay Chopi’s art deco suite of apartments, located, for the sake of literary economy, directly above this cavernous nightclub, and imagined for us, readers that we are, on the large scale, making the big statement, like his avatar, Chopi’s, that is. Something right out of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Art Direction by Cedric Gibbons, in period B&W cinematography, by Sid Hickox, A.S.C. I should think, all silver, black, and chrome and crystal chandeliers, slip shade sconces, white glass, etched glass, mirrored pieces, large zebrawood furniture, and tiled floors overlaid with rugs in geometric patterns, stepped and sweeping forms, sunbursts and chevrons, trapezoids, zigzags, the spacious streamlined suite of rooms where lovers dance and villains are exposed in the final reel.

    You look like trouble, she says, again smiling with her nose in that way she had.

    What kind of trouble? you say.

    Is there more than one kind? she says.

    Do you see her? What is she wearing? A backless halter neck plunged mini dress? Metallic mini shorts and boob tube top? O Daughter of Eve! Proud Scion of the Enlightenment—deconstructed! Proud of her teeth, proud of her legs, proud of her glands. The pride of postmodernism! Her voice is in your ear like tinnitus. Looky here—she’s giving you the Big Eyes! Are they blue or are they brown? The Big Eyes, at the same time betty-booping the cocktail straw. Has she looked in a mirror or has she looked in a mirror? What is that green shit anyway? A grasshopper? The Eternal Feminine—revised, politicized, deodorized! And there are more rap rhymes where those came from, Jocko. Advocated. Emancipated. Updated. Stimulated. Lubricated. Depilated. Hyperventilated. (Overstated?) Radiating all “the charm of the inorganic,” to borrow Beckett’s phrase. All animal magnetism drained from her. Become anime. Bits of binary code. A fox? A hottie? Do you see her? Do you like what you see?

    I’m a shamus, you say, in the manner of Bogie in The Big Sleep.

    You mean like a priest? she giggles. A medicine man?

    That's a shaman, you say.

    Shaman—right, she says. So what’s a shamus?

    Is this a good time to note that what we are reading here, this little allegory of ours, is “inspired by true events”? Is that the wording? Or is it “real events” perhaps? Or “actual events”? I can’t seem to recall. I mean I don’t recall the precise wording as it has come down to us today. Used to be this note was much more direct and to the point: “This is a true story.” Then it became a bit more cautious: “The following is based on a true story”—and with that we were off to the races! I mean, to be sure, a story can be true, but can events be true? That is where we are today. That is the slipshod semantic space we occupy today. And that, mutatis mutandis, is how characters like that perennial asshole Chopi and that Überslut Btzby and, yes, even Little Miss Hottotrot sucking her crème de menthe through a cocktail straw tonight—how they come to believe, cue the musical sting, that they are real. I don’t suppose it matters very much. We get it. Readers that we are. But it comes down to us from cinema, doesn’t it? The convention, I mean. Against a black screen before the movie proper begins. Sometimes over the opening shot. Never later in the movie. Never late in the movie. Never at the end of a movie certainly. I mean, how would that read? The preceding was a true story? The preceding story was inspired by actual events? What would that add to the experience? A fillip?



    To be continued below...


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