Thursday, June 28, 2018

On the Death of Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison Tribute
By Jordan Owen

Harlan Ellison passed away today.  As I sit to write, the words are still ringing silently across the barren planes of existence. The world is slightly quieter now, with colors more subdued and the screeching aggravations of the daily grind only a vague wail across the distant horizon. Still, one blast of white-hot consternation penetrates the membrane of my solitude:

I was thinking about him today.

I was driving to work on this, a dreary, rain soaked Thursday and the thought of what sort of tribute I’d offer Harlan when he died was very much on my mind. I don’t know why I was thinking about it except that all the greats are passing lately and of all the grand masters in all fields of endeavor, Harlan’s my main man. Not only do I aspire to write as well as Harlan Ellison writes, I aspire to play the guitar as well as Harlan Ellison writes.  Since age twelve I have taken comfort in the knowledge that an imagination such as Harlan’s existed- that no matter how towering the iron and concrete barriers that stared me down in every direction there was someone out there whose mind was boundless and free- effortlessly soaring through the outer reaches of the psyche.
I first discovered Harlan’s work reading an issue of Electronic Entertainment from the mid 90’s that was doing a pre-release first-look at the upcoming CD-ROM game adaptation of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.  By that point I was an avid reader forever lost to the realms of science fiction and fantasy and the escape they offered from the doldrums of reality. I was already enamoured with Brian Jacques, Douglas Adams, Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, and many others but in all cases there always seemed to be a threshold of imagination that none of them seemed willing to cross.  When I read that article about a game in which an insane, self-aware supercomputer tortures the five remaining survivors of nuclear war in a subterranean Hell of self-replicating machinery, I was instantly transfixed. Other writers teased at such a world- showed us quick, horrifying glimpses to fuel nightmares and morbid curiosity but Ellison crossed over completely- and seemed, like Virgil to Dante, comfortable strolling through that endless realm of madness and machinery.
I quickly got my hands on a copy of the I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream short story and was transported to that underground realm that was as fascinating as it was disturbing. And that word- disturbing- would come up time and again as I further explored those corridors of dreams that Ellison laid down in each of his short story collections, novels, screenplays, and essays. He put out stories like Frank Zappa put out music- at a decades long fever pitch that filled the mental inbox as quickly as it was voided but those prolific extremes seldom faltered in their quality- Ellison unleashed brilliance with a quick flick of the wrist, like a sleight-of-hand magician whose effortless form is just as fascinating as the trick itself.
From there I consumed the I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream computer game and it quickly became my favorite piece of interactive media, an honor it holds to this very day. At the time I was living in Oxford, Mississippi, which I hated, and my two great escapes were both in Memphis, TN: the Borders bookstore and the Egghead software boutique.  In both places there seemed to be a flourishing of creativity, as though the brilliance of Ellison were rubbing off onto the surrounding expanse, making artwork brighter, graphics sharper, music more melodic and words more meaningful. To this day I can still recall the smell of the coffee at Borders and the mouse pads at Egghead. In truth, I had found that greatest of connections, one just as rare and precious as true love itself: I had discovered my favorite writer.  My own mind was opened- new and vital potentials unlocked and the purpose of my existence now set on its ultimate course.
I followed Harlan through all of those dream corridors: the metaphor laden psychodrama of I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream, the dystopian futurism of “Repent Harlequin!” Said the Tick Tock Man, the childhood imprisonment of Jefty is Five, the savage passion play of A Boy and His Dog, the psychological cat-and-mouse of Mephisto in Onyx, the bittersweet absolution of Paladin of the Lost Hour, the piercing morality tale that was Shatterday, and so on- and on, and on, and on.
The first book of Harlan’s I read clear through was Deathbird Stories and each of those macabre tales shook me to my foundation- living in the tornado bait anus of the Bible Belt I was surrounded by people who made Heaven seem a lot worse than Hell and in that collection- and that book, which deconstructed the psychological underpinnings of religion, faith and mythology, was an affirmation that I was not alone in feeling like I was surrounded by insanity. The title story, the Deathbird, was a fantasy-science fiction epic that told of the last man in existence being summoned from cryogenic sleep by Dira, the serpent from the Garden of Eden, to go and administer a lethal injection to god.  That story, like so many of his, stayed in my thoughts and rewired my brain for years afterward.
I could go on and on analyzing and celebrating his stories- there are literally thousands- but it could never do justice to the writing itself. Go read it- you’ll come back and thank me.  All the science fiction you enjoy today stems from Harlan’s launching of the New Wave of science fiction- a movement spearheaded Dangerous Visions, the compilation of writers which Ellison brought together under one directive: write science fiction that crosses boundaries, goes where everyone else is scared to go, and moreover proves that Science Fiction is a serious literary medium.
Years after discovering Ellison I found myself hitting a wall with some of my own writing and I tried something I’d never done before: I looked him up in the phone book and gave him a call. I had no idea what to expect and remembered all too late that there’s a three hour time difference between Atlanta and Los Angeles. Needless to say, his wife Susan was less than thrilled to be hearing from me and her British accent perfectly articulated the lofty irritation in her voice. Then Ellison came on the line and said “yeah?” I stumbled through the blithering idiocy of the question I’d had in mind and he subjected me to several seconds of well deserved verbal abuse before hanging up on me.  By that time I was well aware of Harlan’s no-holds-barred approach to dealing with fans that crossed the line and despite being red-in-the-cheeks embarrassed I was more so elated to have been subjected to a moment of personalized Ellison invective.
I didn’t give up, however, and became a regular contributor to the forums on where Harlan, begrudgingly at first, did give me advice on my writing and eventually invited me out to his house- the Lost Aztec Temple on Mars as its called. I was never able to make that visit, unfortunately, and the one time since then that I was out in LA Harlan was unavailable but he and I did talk on the phone through the years and had some wonderful conversations.  He was not a metal fan but still impressed me with his connections- everyone from Gene Simmons to Otep were personal friends.
I did, however, achieve one of my life long goals before Ellison passed: we collaborated.  In 2012 I was stabbed in the back by someone I thought was a friend and I wrote a song about it called “Dead to Me,” which was performed and recorded by Leaving Babylon, my band at the time.  During the writing process a piece of Ellison’s writing lingered in my thoughts: it’s a short piece from Mind Fields, his collaboration with surrealist painter Jacek Yerka, called The Silence and goes as follows:
This is the cathedral in which your cowardice has been enshrined. The silence of the pulpit is the silence we heard when you did not answer cries for help.  In the eves of this holy place are the festooned remnants of the friends you did not come to assist. In the darkened rooms of rotting staircases are the tattered faces of lovers you betrayed- here your mother, there your father, both gone now and neither with any degree of calm or joy. Here is the sanctuary of your lost chances- there is no pastor, no choir, no stewards, and no supplicants. It is a congregation of one. You will worship here all the remaining days of your life and at night your spirit will kneel on broken glass in the pews.
In my mind, there can be no greater summation, no more brutally accurate articulation of the pain and anguish of betrayal, so I called Ellison and asked if I could read it as an intro to “Dead to Me.” I was floored when Harlan offered to perform the reading himself. A few days later I recorded him doing the reading over the phone and took it to Ledbelly Sound where we were recording the album. It fit perfectly and I achieved one of my lifelong goals: collaborating with Harlan Ellison.
When I left that band last year- with all the irritation and contempt with which one normally leaves a band- I was initially furious with myself for using my one shot with Harlan on a track for a band that didn’t work out. Now, in light of his passing, I’m glad I took the opportunity when I did.  No matter whose album it’s on, I will always take pleasure in knowing that I accomplished that and will forever be grateful to Harlan for the kind gesture. After the album came out I sent him a copy and he replied with a beautiful, typewriter crafted letter what I have framed in my office at home to this very day. It is, arguably, my prize possession.
In closing, I am reminded of Ellison’s short story collection “Angry Candy,” which dealt with death not in the melancholy but in the passionate- the kind of fury that drove Hawkeye Pierce to scream “don’t let the bastard win” as he fought to save a patient in the midst of meatball surgery.  That frustration- encapsulated perfectly in the title I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream captured our shared anguish with the nature of existence: that no matter the degree to which we achieve and thrive in this life we remain bound by the immobile constraints of its temporal existence. We all will die. But more penetrating is the truth that all our loved ones will die, both our personal connections and our great heroes all will pass. I was fortunate enough to count one of the former among the latter.
It seems like the greats are all dying off lately. As Maynard James Keenan put it in a recent Perfect Circle song, “Now Willy Wonka, Major Tom, Ali and Leia have moved on. Signal the final call in all its atomic pageantry.” It feels like that- it feels like it’s about time for humanity to go the way of the dinosaurs. It feels like the bloodthirsty stupidity of the world is finally collapsing in on itself and all of those symbols of the end of days- nuclear war, a giant meteor, or the robot uprising, should be close at hand. But in this darkest hour of humanity we, like the five damned souls trapped inside the Allied Mastercomputer in I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream have a choice: we can capitulate to that creeping sense of nothingness- like Artax sinking in the swamp in the Neverending Story- or we can die comforted in having lived up to the final lines of the I Have No Mouth game’s good ending, thinking “we were all heroes, in spite of ourselves.”
Dylan Thomas may have written an iconic poem that urged us to rage, rage against the dying of the light but Ellison wrote thousands of stories with that passionate undercurrent. So let us not fall into despair at the deaths of the greats and instead aspire in our own work and lives to become worthy of setting foot in their pantheon. Let us all be, as Harlan Ellison so perfectly described it, the Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of The World.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

3 Years of Butthurt: The CuckenJohnson/KingofPol/ExceptionalDetective drama
By Jordan Owen

In the three years since my ultimate falling out with my former business partner, I’ve been spending a lot of time on myself.  I’ve lost a ton of weight, started doing Crossfit, and done a tremendous amount of introspection, all with the goal of growing past the person I was and get back on a course in my life that I could be happy with.  An important part of that has been the decision to avoid any and all public discussion of the behind the scenes drama that had come to define my life throughout 2015.

One of the unfortunate side effects of this is that the “other side” of said drama has gotten to run hog wild proclaiming their version of events without any proper challenge.  While I do have a legally binding agreement with my former partner stating how we are supposed to conduct ourselves in the aftermath of the ending of our partnership, my former partner has, since the signing of the document, violated nearly all of the terms to such a degree that one would be hard pressed to consider what I’m about to discuss an act of bad faith on my part. Indeed, much of the confusion I am about to address comes as a result of misinformation spread by my former associate after the terms of the contract were agreed to.  I bring this up because 1. I cannot address this current matter without discussing, to some extent, the circumstances of the falling out with my former associate and 2. the actions of the person I am about to address in this blogpost were set in motion by bad faith actions taken by my former associate during contract negotiations and after its eventual signing.  Given the wide reaching and heinous nature of my former associate’s actions, I feel I am justified in discussing these matters openly.


Some Background

In the later months of 2015, the eventual end-result product of my attempt to make an anti-Sarkeesian documentary was published and made available on Vimeo for rent or purchase. In the days after its release, a podcaster called “CuckenJohnson” and “KingofPol” announced on Twitter that he would be live streaming the documentary for all to see. I informed him that I would take legal action against him if he did this. Amazingly, he remains butthurt about it to this day and regularly rails about it.  Most recently, he has re-emerged as “The Exceptional Detective” and put up a video containing incredibly slanderous statements about me and my work. I would like to address some of them here. Though I know this individual’s actual name, I will refer to him as “pol” (pronounced “paul” I think) since that is his most commonly referenced screen name.

After being threatened with legal action, “pol” hosted a podcast featuring my former associate in the making of the Sarkeesian Effect.  While the legally binding contract between my former associate and myself had not yet been signed at this point, said former associate had confirmed through his attorney that he had agreed to honor the non-disclosure agreement contained therein. When he appeared with “pol” on the “CuckenJohnson” podcast, he made numerous statements that were in violation of the terms of said agreement, actions which he would later and flagrantly repeat after its eventual signing.

The Video

The video in question can be seen on YouTube.  Here’s my responses to the claims made:

-First of all, your sources. Dude, did you really use Encyclopedia Dramatica as a citation source? I mean, part of me thinks sounds like you meant this whole thing as a joke but you seem fairly serious. Most of your sources are videos by HBomberGuy, an SJW shitheel that went out of his want to slander everyone involved in GamerGate in any public capacity.  You, who are apparently on my side as far as Sarkeesian & Co. are concerned, are going to cite H as one of your sources? Christ...

-I never said the words “I am a con man” in the context in which you are using it. You cut that out of a different context and you know it.

-I do not advocate for Men’s Right’s Activism, in fact I’ve been very critical of the movement at times in the past. Being “Anti-SJW” does not make you an MRA. This was a distinction that GamerGate- a movement which you were a part of- worked hard to impress upon the public at large. Now you are throwing that out the window when it suits you.

-You reiterate the claims of my former associate that he was being “legally harassed” by me. When I hired an attorney attempted to control his behavior he had already:

1. Told the public at large I was stealing money from the filming budget because I was planning to murder Roosh V.  This is not true- what I actually said was that women ought to carry handguns to protect themselves from scumbags like Roosh.  I also was not “stealing money,” I simply wanted to finish the project without him, which I did.

2. Told the public that I was a “sexual psychopath” that was imminently going to go on an Elliot Roger style killing spree. This despite the fact that only a few months prior I had helped the FBI track down and arrest a man who actually was planning such a killing spree.

3. Told the public that I was on board with a new fundraising venture he had launched despite my having no knowledge of it.

4. Told the public that I was contractually bound to go along with said fundraising venture when I was not.

5. Told the public that he would be ccompleting “the actual film” and that my work was not the actual product.

6. Told the public a wild fabrication about health issues I do not have.

7. Had threatened me directly with extortion. And disclosed that he had multiple bloggers set up to run a massive smear campaign on me if I did not go along with his wishes.

This was what I was dealing with and what prompted me to seek a legal remedy. It was not, as has been suggested, frivolous actions taken to pester a better man out of petty jealousy.

Moving on...

-You seem to think that Eros Empire was written to “dismantle” the porn industry... are you also of the belief that Abraham Lincoln shot John Wilkes Booth???

-Yes, I did some videos from my bathtub and yes, looking back, I am embarrassed by them. And I always will be. You got me. Enjoy it.  That said, I figure if the Amazing Atheist can get over that whole banana masturbation video I can be a good sport about being the “bathtub guy.”

-Not that it really matters, but I was watching La Blue Girl vol. 1. Your clip is from Volume 6.

-Yes, my former associate and I took steps to remove a great deal of the backstage drama from public record. Why are you, who are clearly on his side, trying to dredge this up now?

-You really need to rewatch Thunderf00t’s video. Sure, I got roasted, but he put the failure of the project on my former associates shoulders. That’s why my former associate is still at odds with him to this very day.

-That original pitch video was cringy AF. You are right about that.

-We did not get $15k a month on Patreon. That was our goal but at the highest we got a little over 9k.

-We did not go into production with a formal contract in place between us. Of all the “should haves” in regards to this debacle, this is right at the top, second only to “I should have never started a YouTube channel to begin with.”

-We were not accused by our backers of pocketing the money. That was only the naysayers as far as I know.

-I did not threaten any of the backers with legal action. And the clip you showed was of me discussing my botched plans to sue a journalist who had accused me of working a scam with my second film. This is not only dishonest but doesn't even fit the timeline correctly.

-Roosh was never a "top backer" or even a backer of the film at all. Our efforts were initially covered positively on his various websites but he never gave us any money.

-My contempt for Roosh came about because during the production cycle of the Sarkeesian Effect I was being considered as a possible writer for his then active video game website Reaxxion. Because this was an appealing possibility I did a great deal of reading up on Roosh to try and decide if he was someone I wanted to be associated with.  I read his book "Bang" as well as numerous articles and samples of his other books.  I found someone whose approach to women was blatantly and proudly predatory to a very revolting extreme. By the time he published his infamous article advocating for the legalization of rape, I was already aware of his earnest views that women should be made the legal property of men as well as his deeply disturbing approach to seduction and I decided I had had enough- not only would I not consider writing for him but I would not have him associated with the project even tangentially.

-Roosh and I have never spoken directly and he has never given me advice directly. Also I never threatened him with legal action nor do I have any reason to that I'm aware of.

-I did not breach any contract when I initially severed ties with my former associate because there wasn't one. Additionally, I ultimately finished the film within the time frame we had originally allotted ourselves.

-I did not erase any mention of my former associate from the credits of the film on Was clicking on “full cast and crew” just too difficult for you?

-You cut in a later video of my trying to raise money for my personal vlogging efforts that is actually from after the Sarkeesian Effect was finished. Again, you are dishonest. Not that you care.

-I did not reach out to the backers to, as you put it, raise additional funds despite already having the money to finish it.  That was what my former associate did and what prompted me to part ways a second time.

-The video response I did to Metokur was in response to his complaint that people were trying to profit off of GamerGate. My argument was that if we wanted to the movement to succeed we needed to show that we had market value as a demographic. This was ultimately what made the SJW attempt to colonize gaming a failure- they demonstrated that they had no ability to shift the market one way or the other.  GamerGate, on the other hand, had extraordinary market value as demonstrated by the dramatically increased sales of GamerGate approved products on Steam.  As someone who is proudly pro-capitalism, I believe that this is a crucial part of any major social shift.

-No person who contributed money to the project was charged to watch the film. Every backer of the film was made able to see it for free. It was only those persons who had not contributed to the crowdfunding campaign that were expected to pay to see it.

-Contrary to your claims, there was not widespread anger from the public at large at having to pay to see the finished product. Most people understand the very simple and basic concept of value-for-value exchange that fuels our modern first-world society.  It was only your buddy "KingofPol" who got butthurt at not being able to make it free to everyone.

-I never "made my money back" on the Sarkeesian Effect. Ultimately I saw ~$2,000 in return on a $54,000.

-I was not forced to make the film available for free as a response to negative backlash. I made it available for free because I had a 2 year subscription to Vimeo Pro, which was what allowed me to sell the movie, and by the end of two years I hadn't had any sales in months so I opted out of renewing the subscription and made it available for free. Again, you're manipulating the timeline.

-I did not "steal" my former associate's "rights to the film" and he was not being "held hostage by lawyers." And I only had one lawyer, not this vast legal team you imply. We were in legal negotiations to determine who, in absence of a preexisting contract, had the rights to what elements of the production materials and both of our attorney's requested- as a mutual show of good faith- that we not discuss these matters publicly.  This is fairly standard procedure in these matters. During this time my only public comment on the matter was one made with the approval of my attorney after my former associate had gone public with more wild claims, including those about my personal health, that he had already assured us he would not do during negotiations. I made no other public discussion of the matter during this time while my former associate lashed out publicly to such a degree that stiff penalties were imposed in our negotiated contract for further breaches.

-Wait... you think that I lied about my associate and I being partners again under a mediator? He lavished praise on our mediator throughout the whole process! Also... the legal negotiations didn't start until after we'd severed ties the second time. You know, if you're going to call yourself the "Exceptional Detective," you really need to be able to construct a working timeline.

-I did not claim all funding under my own banner.  My former associate launched a fundraising campaign without my consent that routed new funding directly into his own pocket.

-Okay... wow... more timeline failure.  Thunderf00t's video did not prompt me to quit vlogging. That decision came months later after it became clear my planned Sierra doc was kaput. Also, I did not reemerge "years later." The Sierra doc was announced two months after the Sarkeesian Effect came out.

-Corey Cole did not already know who I was when the Sierra doc was announced.  Also, you used "ironically" incorrectly.

-I did not threaten Corey Cole with legal action.  He and I corresponded privately and buried the hatchet quietly on polite terms.

So... that wraps up the claims in your video.  One lie after another.

On Encopresis

While this is not mentioned in this video, my former associate likes to claim that during a conversation that included himself and our mediator I admitted to having "encopresis," a condition which he claims results in a person loosing control of their bowels when having a panic attack.  Okay, three things:

1. I said no such thing. The word I used was "emetophobic," a reference to the fact that becoming sick at my stomach causes me anxiety where many people aren't phased by vomiting at all. Now, I know that timelines don't quite work for you, so let me simplify what I just said: feeling nauseous causes me anxiety. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. Put that on some flash cards for handy reference during your next batch of photoshoppings.

2. "Encopresis" does not describe the condition that he is referring to. Go look it up- it's a condition very young children get when they refuse to use the toilet and become so constipated that they eventually lose control of their bowels. Encopresis is virtually unheard of among adults because they're generally, you know, willing to use the toilet.

3. Do you really think I'm so stupid that I would admit something like that to the person who just a few weeks prior was telling people I was about to go on a killing spree????

In Conclusion

Look, I know all of this stems from my refusal to allow "pol" to stream the documentary and, tangentially, refusing to appear on his podcast. I understand being angry about that in the moment but my god man... it's been THREE YEARS and you're still going like this happened yesterday. I mean Jesus Louiseus... don't you have ANYTHING better to do?  Do you have any idea how much garbage I've had to let go of in the last three years???

Whatever... I have a headache.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

JO42 Reviews: Bruno Mars “24K Magic”
By Jordan Owen

I’m late to the party on Bruno Mars- for all the high praise he’s received throughout the modern music press I’ve really only ever heard his early hit “Grenade” and that’s about it.  So his stuff has always been on my “to-listen” list even though I’m largely disillusioned with much of what’s come out of the whole confluence of R&B/Hip-Hop/Funk/Soul for the last decade and a half.  Heck, I was in high school when Mariah Carey’s “Honey” was burning up the charts so I have heard that song about 5,000 times and to this day I cannot tell you what the hook is.  Most modern R&B singers like Mariah don’t sing- they do a kind of “ghetto yodeling” that really gives a new meaning to the term “scat singing.” It’s a toneless, autotuned wailing that does nothing to capture the soul for which the genre is named and known.  This kind of crass music industry cynicism, punctuated by the decades stale marketing gambit that is white record execs bestowing astronomical riches on poor blacks so that the public at large can watch in morbid fascination as they blow it all on obscene displays of material prosperity and gradually turn into professional buffoons with their chronic lack of self awareness keeping them from realizing that they’re being played up as modern day minstrel punchlines, has put a generation-long cap on R&B, keeping it from producing the kind of genre-defining iconoclasts like Prince, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson that made it such a warm and intoxicating realm to begin with.

Mercifully and with great pleasure, however, I can say that a true artist and the kind of talent that legends are made of has emerged in the form of Bruno Mars.  As I write this review I have just completed two full playthroughs of the new album, “24k Magic.” The first was while I browsed the shelves at Barnes & Noble, the second was while I drove through the neon sprawl of the greater Atlanta area and both times I was transported out of the current dead-end that is the contemporary music industry- where record companies are throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks while venues have taken over the time honored tradition of screwing the artist out of money- and blasted back to a time when gold records adorned the walls of towering skyscrapers and the music industry relied on the compositional prowess of actual songwriters and the performances of live musicians rather than the infantile attention whore drooling of internet assclowns set to the lifeless beat of a department store keyboard demo button.

When the opening title track of “24k Magic” hit my ears I was at first sure that all my bracing for disappointment was justified- the first thing you hear is a heavily processed vocoder voice and I was sure that I was in for another Kanye West infected tragedy.  But I quickly found that this was not the case. Bruno uses the effect to great effect, evoking a throwback to the glory days of Roger Troutman and Zapp in that glorious synth heavy period where R&B was first coming to explore the versatility of the digital world but before it could be bastardized to give talent to the talentless.

The first two tracks are a delicious blend of the call-and-response choruses of Michael Jackson and the open-ended house party jam feel that made Prince’s concert band such a crowd pleaser. Track three “Perm” brings out the horns heavy, uptempo boogie of Morris Day and the Time, evoking memories of Day’s signature side-to-side dance steps.  This retro feel- with frequent homages to the glory days of James Brown- continues on “That’s What I Like” though the latter track has a vocal delivery more reminiscent of Frankie Valli.  Just under halfway through the album and it’s already apparent that Bruno Mars is a learned virtuoso, able to cop the best traits of the masters and deliver them with effortless poise.

But Mars does something altogether more stunning with this new batch of soon-to-be classics: he looks at the wasteland of contemporary hip-hop pastiche and finds in it the beauty and majesty that has for so long eluded other pretenders to the throne.  Yes, this is an album rife with the kind of Krsytal-Maybach-diamonds-on-your-timepiece lavishly depraved opulence lamented by Lorde but now it’s infused with the kind of sincere musicality that makes it sound like the fantasy-made-reality triumph of genuine artistry. There’s a sense of dignity and class about the record that allows the listener to feel as though they’re attending an upscale, invitation-only orgy in the penthouse suite of a posh W hotel rather than a glorified backyard BBQ sex party by the pool of a gaudy mansion that’s one crummy sophomore LP away from being repossessed.  In other words, Bruno has taken that brash ghetto swag swagger that, admittedly, does offer a lurid appeal to even the stuffiest of white conservatives and elevated it to a new height- one that is replaces the crass with the exquisite and bravado with true boldness of character without abandoning the baseball cap and gold chains cool from whence it came.

“Versace On the Floor” is a perfect example of this opulent-excess-made-erudite-and-classy chic that Mars has innovated. This is power ballad that combines a sincerely sweet, sentimental Stevie Wonder-esque melody with only the most subtle dash of roguish cheekiness.  The next track, “Straight Up and Down” throws down the kind of AOR soul that put smooth jazz on the map in the 80’s and does it well.  “Calling All My Lovelies” has that synth-pop meets layered harmony vibe that the Manhattan Transfer explored on Mecca for Moderns and takes me back to that early-90’s era when Andy Sidaris was doing his best work.  The Transfer influence can be heard again on “Finesse” but it’s “Too Good to Say Goodbye” that closes out the set with the album’s definitive show stopper. Seal, The Temptations, Sly Stone, Prince and MJ are on full display in this power ballad that puts aside the cocky swagger and lays naked an impassioned plea for the return of a lost love that, somehow, is warm and uplifting enough to make existing couples say “that’s our song.” The melody is soaring and complemented by a chord progression that changes the world of our inner headspace from day to night, sunrise to sunset, all in the width of a cymbal crash.

I don’t normally like to do track-by-track reviews like this but “24k Magic” is an album that fires on all cylinders from start to finish with absolutely no weak spots to be found. If there is justice in the world and enough integrity left in popular culture to still embrace true greatness then it is time to welcome Bruno Mars to stand proud in the pantheon of all the aforementioned soul music gods.  Each of these songs could be- and deserves to be- a top 10 single.  “24k Magic” is an album to played and cherished for decades to come and a shimmering beacon on the horizon of the vast arid expanse that has been this century’s popular music.

Bruno Mars hasn’t just given us a stunning throwback to the pop sensibilities of yesteryear- he’s taken everything that made the classics great and used them to shine a beacon of hope onto the lackluster pop world of today, showing us the path to a new renaissance in urban cool. 24 karat golden magic? Absolutely positively goddamn right. Thumbs up.

Kind regards,

Ps- I just listened to “Honey” again- I still can’t figure out what the hook is in that song!

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Pepsi & Kendall Jenner: Truth to Power in Advertising

Pepsi & Kendall Jenner: Truth to Power in Advertising
By Jordan Owen

A couple of hours ago I was walking down the sidewalk on my way home from the Goodyear Tire place.  It was a warm spring day and the only thought on my carefree mind was how in the holy fuck I was going to come up with an extra $1500 to fix my transmission. Predictably, the calm state of zen that I’d found was interrupted once I got home and fired up the ol’ Bing News machine.  I had already spent the previous night adjusting to the knowledge that our country was now teetering precariously on the brink of Defcon 2 with only a Twitter crazed orange howler monkey to guide us onward. He’ll get that pee tape back even if it means our total nuclear annihilation.

Surely in the midst of all this widespread uncertainty the left could focus its attention on rallying the support of Trump’s newfound legion of defectors from the right rather than getting up in arms about some inane garbage, yes? Of course not- the latest outrage is over a culturally insensitive Pepsi commercial where Kendall Jennner, wooed by a grinning young hippie stud that for some unexplained reason brought a cello to a protest march, breaks free from her rigorous day job of holding still in expensive clothes and goes storming out into the crowd to join the protest where she single handedly mends ties between the police and the mob of protestors by offering one of the blue boys a Pepsi.

The commercial is vacuous and silly to be sure but the good folks over at Squatty Potty already put the good taste in advertising bar at an all time low with their commercial showing young children eating rainbow colored ice cream from a unicorn’s ass so it seems like This would be a fairly easy row to hoe.  Nevertheless, outrage has prevailed and I can’t say I don’t understand where much of it is coming from.  The disagreement is not the what but the why.
What we have to remember about advertising is that it is a medium specifically designed to cut to the core of a target demographic and hold up a magic mirror that shows the true face of the intended demographic augmented only by the presence of the product.  And sometimes that mirror image isn’t pretty.  So, to the younger generation that’s up in arms about this advertisement, stop and look at what it’s showing you and realize that you’re staring into a mirror.  We now live in an era where college activism is considered some kind of social rite of passage like going to the prom.  The capitalist machine you claim to be fighting against was more than happy to absorb and pander to your demographic and why wouldn’t it? You’re so completely wrapped up in your pampered push for the revolution that you think driving a Prius and reading blogosphere news outlets bankrolled on the same advertising dime that pays for those mainstream outlets your college professor slash beanie seamstress taught you not to trust is somehow rebellious.  Pepsi could not have been more accurate in their portrayal of the millennial protest generation: an affluent white bimbo tosses her wig to her black underling and goes prancing out into the streets to join a fellow mob of enraged millennials and stands up to the man by offering them a bottled and branded consumer product. That could not be a more accurate presentation of the gauged earring 500 gendered snowflake generation if it was wearing plaid.  Hell- watching the thing got that whole “this is my fight song take back the night song” thing stuck in my head and that wasn’t even the song they used in the commercial.

But the most accurate element of the commercial is its vagueness. This isn’t an angry protest mob that’s about anything. They’re just protesting. Period. No demands to be met, no issues on the table, they’re just protesting.  And when your demographic is so transparently obvious that it doesn’t even require a cause to be accurately portrayed, you know that it’s time to step up and own the fact that while this was a heinous caricature of public protest it was not the advertising department at Pepsi that made it that way.

If you don’t like what you see in that commercial stop and look at yourself and realize that you need to get a soul.  We all have advertisers trying to appeal to our demographic and maybe, just maybe, you need to go find a different demographic.  Otherwise, the truth hurts- buy a helmet.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Donald Trump is NOT Playing "Four Dimensional Chess"

Donald Trump is NOT Playing "Four Dimensional Chess"
By Jordan Owen
All Rights Reserved

By now the Trump administration has turned into a non-stop three ring circus of postmodern surrealism.  Where George W. Bush represented a resurgence of Bible thumping Reagan Republicans, this new administration (a term that is polite at best) caters exclusively to the most deranged and unsettling elements of the GOP.  But more than that, it caters to a very dark and very disturbing trend in human behavior.

There is a popular saying going around among Trump's most ardent defenders, trying to explain the Donald's bizarre, erratic behavior.  I've even heard it used by YouTubers that I'm otherwise a fan of, like the Rageaholic, and that phrase is "he's playing four dimensional chess."  This is meant to suggest that what we are perceiving as uncontrolled, eccentric, inexplicable actions are in fact the work of a mind so far ahead of our own that we can't begin to comprehend the brilliance of his vision.

No. That's not what Donald Trump is doing.  Just like its not what David Koresh, Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard and Charles Manson were doing.  What we are seeing is best summarized in a chilling quote from Mickey Rourke in the cult classic Rumble Fish:

"Even the most primitive society has an innate respect for the insane."

That is what we are seeing here as it has been all along.  Trump is a deranged lunatic as has always been known to the people closest to him.  Trump ghostwriter Tony Schwartz put it best: if he had it to do over, he would not have used the title "The Art of the Deal." Instead he would have called it "The Sociopath."  Trump is a strange creature- he is completely surface but we long for there to be a depth to him to such a degree that it becomes almost an act of faith.  As such its no surprise that so many like him channel that fascination into becoming religious leaders.  As Schwartz explained in his excellent interview with the New Yorker, there is no human depth to Donald Trump.  He is entirely surface.  He reads no books, has no higher intellectual pursuits, and can't sit still for very long.  He is short tempered and has little patience for dissent.  Yet through it all we long for there to be something there that justifies the attention and respect we give him.  It's for this reason that we, as a species, are tempted to say that someone like Trump is "playing four dimensional chess." We see the spastic rolling on the ground screaming gibberish and we decide they're in touch with the divine.  No, Donald Trump is not a brilliant navigator of media and politics when he randomly declares that his home was wire-tapped by the Obama administration.  He is not some Bobby-Fischer-meets-Machiavelli super genius.  He's a psyche dominated almost entirely by id and the sooner we see that the better.

So why are we so willing to go this route? Why is it so difficult to accept that we screwed up with letting this creep into our lives and need to move on? To understand the macro, let's consider the micro.  Donald Trump's relationship to his legion of supporters is comparable to the classic emotionally abusive boyfriend.  Yes, redpillers, I agree that women can be just as abusive.  But I want to stress a particular narrative of abuse that seems to be largely male to female in nature as it pertains, often, to successful women.

Nearly ten years ago I reconnected with a girl from my high school days that I was convinced was The One.  By every possible metric she and I should have been an ideal match.  She was bright, talented, successful, a fellow artist, and beautiful in a manner that called to mind the stunning, elegant women of the silent film era.  I knew that only the best type of man deserved to be with such a woman and aspired to be worthy of her affections.  She knew I liked her and reciprocated the interest.  There was a brief spark of involvement between us before she dropped me for another man.  At the time I was devastated and confused- I was 6'2'' and lifted weights.  This guy was a scrawny wastrel that would have made Jackie Earle Haley look like Jack Lalanne.  I brought her flowers to her performances. He couldn't be bothered to show up.  She was a show-stopping master of her craft. He was a scowling weasel that faded into the woodwork.  You get the idea- it was the classic nice-guys-finish-last narrative.  That bitter pill every man swallows when he learns that Prince Charming is about the last thing anybody wants or respects.  

In any case, I eventually rallied and went on to meet and date other women but I started hearing from mutual friends something that I had long suspected to be true- that he was abusing her and people were starting to worry about her.  After awhile I got romantically involved with someone that knew I still had residual feelings for this girl and wanted me to go confront her so we could move forward with our new relationship.  So I did- I went and sat down with her and told her everything- that I thought this guy was bad news and that I would have been a far better choice.  In light of the fact that I was doing this to get my feelings out and move on, she was patient, understanding, and thanked me for telling her how I felt.  Some months later I learned from a friend that after I talked to her she had gotten engaged to marry that creep and, shortly before the wedding, had gotten cold feet.  His response had been to throw her out of his house. And by that I mean physically shove her and her belongings out the front door of his house.

When I learned of that news I was saddened and felt genuinely sorry for her but I didn't reach out to her.  Friends wanted to know why I wasn't the gallant knight swooping in to catch her and save the day.  The simple answer was that as much as I had once cared for her I had come to understand that her decision to choose that scumbag over me was an insult and, if anything, she owed me an apology. No, I'm not going to be your Knight in Shining Armor when the chief of the Slappahoe tribe decides he's done with you- not if you already had the chance and made the worst possible choice.

What is it about these men that draws in women who are overwhelmingly successful, bright and talented?  Gender ideologues of different stripes might offer various socio-sexual explanations but I think it goes back to the same mentality that drives us to think that Donald Trump is functioning on some MENSA level strategy when really all he's doing is shot putting his bowel movements all over the monkey house that is Twitter.  We are taken in by a charismatic sociopath and, being non-sociopathic individuals assume that such charisma proceeds from confidence and, being non-sociopathic individuals- assume that such confidence proceeds from the achievement of values.  Non-sociopathic individuals have values and work to attain those values and earn respect through the development of our character.  As such we can't comprehend someone who considers charisma and confidence to be their default rather than something that is earned and cultivated over time.  Being unable to comprehend their wildly grandiose behavior we let our good intentions give them an odd sort of exhalation.  They know that they command our attention even though we don't know why- and that's why even the most primitive society has an innate respect for the insane.  Trump isn't brilliantly playing the media and politicians against one another- he's incurring random confusion and chaos with such sociopathic confidence that we convince ourselves it's some kind of heightened brilliance.

Even Dilbert creator Scott Adams, the first and most prophetic voice of a Trump victory emphasized the one and only skill that Donald Trump has ever exhibited: persuasion.  And it's the only skill you can rightly attribute to the list of all-hat-and-no-cattle cult leaders I mentioned earlier.  We didn't put a master business strategist in the White House. We let a Pick-Up Artist con his way into the country's bedroom and now we're sitting weeping in front of our friends- let's say their names are LaMexica and Canadaniqua- telling them that we brought it on ourselves and he really does care they just can't see it.  He's actually a great boyfriend- he's just playing four dimensional chess with our hearts.

The darkest and most foreboding aspect of this video is the possibility that the macro will match the micro in my warning as well.  Here I am telling you that this guy is bad news and you, the Trump supporter, want to believe that contrary to all the evidence he's operating on some higher level that you can't understand but sense is there and evidenced only to those who truly support him.  You don't want to admit that you done goofed on this one. You're willing to stomach the abuse and tell us you walked into a door when we ask about the bruises just so we don't realize what a dumb mistake you made and look down on you.  Well guess what- we already know what a dumb decision this was it already is lowering our opinion of you so what are you holding on to?  I wouldn't care if it was a one-to-one relationship.  That's your life to throw away and you have my permission to do it.  But this is bigger than that- you're dragging some 300,000,000 US citizens- to say nothing of the rest of the human race- down with you.  I'm sure he's a really great guy once you get to know him.

Kind regards,

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Leave Barron Trump Alone

By Jordan Owen

L-R: Barron, Donald and Melania Trump

Things are going to get ugly.  They need to get ugly.  Donald Trump is taking our country in an ugly direction and he needs to be called out every step of the way.  In the course of that calling out it is necessary, as it is with any politician, to use withering satire to point out when the emperor has no clothes and help ourselves cope with the wildly errant shift in public policy.  As such, there should be no avenue left unexplored in the ongoing push to harangue and criticize those who hold the levers of power.

Except one.

We must never allow the child age children of elected officials become targets of our ire and rebuke.  They are innocent and did not choose who their parents would be or the situation they would be born into.  Such a line, which should seem intuitively uncrossable, was trespassed in a most heinous and deplorable manner by Saturday Night Live writer Katie Rich who on election day attacked Donald Trump’s youngest son by tweeting “Barron will be our country’s first homeschool shooter.”  Already calls for Rich to be fired from Saturday Night Live have flooded social media.  I don’t know if I agree with that but I won’t be surprised if it’s ultimately what happens.

Child shooters are a dark and troubling crisis point in American culture.  They represent a malignant streak of violence that slices down the middle of such controversial and difficult issues as gun control, mental illness, and early adolescent development.  While the topic itself is, like all concepts, open to satire and comedy, the leveling of the accusation against an actual child for no other reason than petty vindictiveness represents a particularly heinous level of callous disregard.  It should never be leveled at any child unless they pose a legitimate threat and then the accusation should only be raised in the context of getting them help.

Don’t get me wrong- Ivanka, Donald Jr., and Eric are all fair game- they’re adults and they choose to make themselves a part of their father’s legacy.  They are as open to criticism as any of the new President’s other associates.  But to bring a totally innocent 10 year old child into the discussion with such a vile insult is not merely an act of punching down but a confession of darkness in one’s very soul.

Katie Rich is not alone in her invoking of Barron as a cypher for her hateful nature.  Los Angeles based cartoonist Brian McGovern has launched an ongoing series of one-panel comics called “Lil Barron” that attempt to mock Donald Trump by portraying Barron as the victim of abuse and neglect for comedic effect.  The header on the comic’s Tumblr page reads a fictional boy who lives a lonely life in the cold, loveless shadow of his evil billionaire father. ANY resemblance to Barron Trump, a real boy who lives a lonely life in the cold, loveless shadow of his evil billionaire father is purely coincidental.  One comic panel shows Barron at an empty table dinner table saying “when it’s the cook’s day off, I don’t eat.” Another panel finds him next to a computer flowchart where he laments that “‘failing pile of garbage’ used to be my special nickname.”  While there can be no doubt Barron’s relationship to his father is augmented wildly by his father’s public reputation and professional standing, it is important to remember that this is still Barron’s dad and the only one he gets.  I don’t like Donald Trump.  I don’t think he is a good person or a competent leader- but I have absolutely no reason to think that he abuses and mistreats his son simply because I don’t like him.

The relationship of parent to child is a unique one and even a cold, calculating bastard can be a loving and supportive parent.  So no, Mr. McGovern, you aren’t using Barron as a means to attack his father- you’re using Donald Trump as a justification to attack his son.  And that’s sick.

Since 2012 the left has been fighting against the omnipresent bogeyman that is “online harassment” and has rallied to the defense of fully grown adults who have made often lucrative livings portraying themselves as the victims of internet intimidation campaigns.  That the same leftist media that have, for so long, used accusations of bullying and harassment to silence those who criticize their sacred cows would now do an about face and level a vicious, seething, cackling, utterly gutless bitchfest of hateful, sneering meanness at, of all people, a ten year old child reveals the true hypocrisy of their claims to be fighting for a safe and friendly internet environment.  Katie Rich has disappeared from social media following the negative blowback she’s gotten and if she emerges from her current exile tearfully portraying herself as the victim of a cyber mob of internet harassment she should- in my rampaging opinion- lose US citizenship because at that point she’ll be the worst American citizen since Timothy McVeigh.

In the midst of an outpouring of hate mongering trash from a media landscape that wouldn’t know integrity if it bit them on the ass, it truly warmed my heart to see one news story on Barron that deserves to be applauded and commended: US Weekly showed a video of President Trump beginning his duties as President with his family surrounding him.  Barron is seen in the background playing peekaboo with Ivanka’s baby.  It is a pure, simple, and heartwarming moment- one that should give us pause but also hope.  If Barron were the tiny monster and budding sociopath he’s often portrayed as he wouldn’t have had such a moment of genuine, human connection with a baby.  Until I have reason to think otherwise, this is what I will think of when I think of Barron Trump and I think it is a moment and a person that we as Americans ought to cherish.  It shows, with elegance and unexpected candor, that there is at least one light of pure human decency and love in the Trump household, something that we who are deeply skeptical of Trump the elder patriarch should carry in our hearts as a beacon of hope going forward.

We are, all of us, stewards of Barron Trump.  Where his adult siblings enjoyed relatively private childhoods and only entered the public eye in earnest when they chose to do so, Barron has been thrust into a uniquely public role which few children- no matter how wealthy their parents- ever encounter.  When I watched the inauguration I found myself catching glances at Barron, near his father, looking down at the crowd of onlookers.  His facial expression was oddly and quietly detached, as though he sought in the multitudes an answer to a question still only formulating in his mind.  It has been suggested that he might be autistic- and even bringing this into the forum of public discussion is uncalled for- but whatever the case, he clearly had little interest in the proceedings at hand.  The world leaders and dignitaries assembled to watch his father’s inauguration were of little interest- what was of greater importance for him was all the vast crowds.  For one who has, no doubt, lived such a sheltered life it must be uniquely captivating to see masses of humanity stretched out to the horizon.

As much as we are watching him, he is also watching us.  Yes, he’s a real life Richie Rich and the luxuries of his life will be the envy of 99.9% of the human race but he is also en route to becoming a man- one that will most likely play a major role in business, politics and other world affairs.  When that day comes do you want him to be person who sees humanity as fundamentally kind and worthy of respect or do you want him to be a deeply aggrieved, vindictive thug with a chip on his shoulder and an axe to grind? The choice is largely ours and I hope we can choose well.

Kind Regards,

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Carrie Fisher: Beautiful Creature


2016 has been a year of tremendous loss.  David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, Greg Lake, Prince and a whole host of others have made for a tremendously morose and devastating trip around the sun but the last week of the year has been especially brutal, racking up George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, William Christopher and, most heartbreakingly of all, the newborn infant son of Breaking Benjamin guitarist Jasen Rauch.

There can be little doubt, however, that of all the most recent passings, Carrie Fisher’s marks the biggest shock to modern culture.  As Princess Leia she was one of the most important and beloved characters in the Star Wars universe and it was a role that made Fisher a household name as well as an enduring sex symbol.  While I hate to make my tribute to Carrie Fisher in the context of a rebuttal to some of the worst people on the planet, it remains necessary.  Given that Fisher was one of the most iconic sex symbols in all of science fiction, owing in part to her now iconic “slave Leia” bikini segment in Return of the Jedi, and as such a legion of fans have mourned the passing of a woman who embodied their most cherished sexual fantasies.  Predictably, the modern day hipster puritans on the left have emerged to chastise anyone and everyone who dares lament the death of someone they found sexually attractive.

One of the more notable voices to be silenced in a wave of protests (and they’re protests, not harassment, because the PC police say so) has been Steve Martin who removed a heartfelt tweet about Fisher’s passing which read:

"When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well.”

This provoked an outrage perhaps surpassed only by the riots that occurred at the first performance of the Rite of Spring with even New York Magazine stepping up to condemn the post in an article titled “Carrie Fisher Struggled Against Being a Nerd-Boy Sex Object Her Whole Life.” Steve Martin deleted the tweet and has not posted another. The New York Magazine article goes on to discuss how Carrie Fisher struggled with being thought of as sex symbol her entire life but I think the grave error here comes in not properly defining terms.  The political correctness police have long railed against the notion of women (but, of course, never men) being reduced to the status of sex objects, arguing that the status is degrading and dehumanizing.  But a sex symbol is another matter.

As I discussed in my 2012 novel Eros Empire, a symbol, by definition, is a concrete embodiment of abstract ideas and specific determinations of value.  The difference is crucial- an object is merely an identification of a material existence. It carries with it no value judgements and no inherent worth.  But a sex symbol is something else altogether.  That is a vessel into which we pour a great wealth of meaning and importance.  A sex symbol embodies the manner in which persons appreciate sexuality- the psychological meaning and deeper spiritual value that we ascribe to that most basic of acts. As we are a species whose values are predicated on a system of objective meritocracy it is only proper that we identify those individuals whose sexual expression best embodies those values.  The human appreciation of sexuality is, like all sensory indulgences, set apart from that of the animal world because of our capacity for volitional cognition.  We can take our base indulgences and ascribe higher meaning to them and it is in this manner which we progress as a people and live our fullest, happiest lives.

In pagan circles and indeed in archetypal psychology there is the archetype of the Maiden, Mother, Crone- the three stages of life that all women must pass through.  As maidens they are profoundly sexual beings whose first and foremost desire is sexual indulgence. It is by fulfilling this role that they pass into the next role which is mother- the balance point between the first and the last stage wherein they are chiefly concerned with creating, growing and sustaining new life.  The final stage is the crone, which is achieved when the mother has raised her offspring to adulthood and now, having fulfilled her parental purpose, can observe the new generation and provide elder wisdom.  This is a beautiful concept, one built around premises of love and personal evolution over time. The literalists on the politically correct left will no doubt presume that by even suggesting this idea I’m saying that women ought to stay home with their children or some other such nonsense.  No, that is not at all what I’m saying here at all- this is merely indicative of a symbolic journey through womanhood.  It is, conversely, also reflective of the journey taken by men as they learn to relate to women.

Steve Martin’s tweet is perfectly emblematic of the way men come to appreciate women and it echoes my own experience of Carrie Fisher.  I can remember going into the Oxford Bookstore in Atlanta shortly after new years when they were having a sale on expired calendars and my folks were perplexed (or perhaps secretly understanding) that the pre-teen me wanted an out of date Return of the Jedi calendar.  Well, really it was obvious- I wanted the shots of princess Leia in the slave bikini.  At the time it was one of my first forays into the understanding of women as being fundamentally important in some unique way. I didn’t know about sex and I only understood love as the virus that causes cooties but there was something about that image that was fundamentally perfect.  And as I grew my understanding of what I appreciated about that image grew as well.  It wasn’t just the exposed midriff, barely covered breasts and loincloth clad legs and buttocks.

Contrary to what Fisher herself said, beauty is a skill.  Having a beautiful face and body is not in itself what’s appealing- it’s the life in the person which animates those features that makes them shine.  Consider the lyrics to the song “One” from a Chorus Line: 

One singular sensation, every little step she takes
One thrilling combination, every move that she makes
One smile and suddenly nobody else will do
You know you'll never be lonely with you-know-who

One moment in her presence and you can forget the rest
For the girl is second best to none, son
Oooh! Sigh! Give her your attention
Do I really have to mention she's the one

She walks into a room and you know she's
uncommonly rare, very unique
peripatetic, poetic and chic
She walks into a room and you know from her
maddening poise, effortless whirl
She’s a special girl.
And THAT is the essence of beauty. Not just appealing features that suggest health and fertility but the spirit inside that gives them life. In that way it’s correct to say that true beauty comes from within.

Just as it is through sexual identity that the maiden begins her development into the larger stages of womanhood so it is through sexual attraction that the man begins to understand the larger appeal of a beautiful woman.  To deny men that right is to deny women the motivating force that allows them to reach those larger stages of development.  Is it any wonder that in our current politically correct landscape we have so many young women spouting spiteful, hateful nonsense in a vain attempt to bypass the maiden stage and convince the world (and themselves) that the crone stage exists automatically and exclusively as the sole acceptable state of womanhood while the other two are just embarrassing abstractions forced on women by a male dominated society?

After all, as Simone de Beauvoir pointed out, one is not born but rather becomes a woman. 

I feel compelled to stop and remind the reader, once again, that I’m only talking about these stages as symbolic of different points of personal development in one’s life and while there is a biological element to that I am only suggesting this as a metaphor, not to suggest that women are nothing more than sexy baby factories.

I bring all of this up because much of the controversy concocted by the perpetually aggrieved has stemmed from Carrie Fisher being immortalized as “slave Leia,” 

Slave Leia is, therefore, a crucial part of Leia’s development.  For the first two movies she is dressed in white- the pristine, virginal princess.  In Empire Strikes Back she’s seduced by the dashing rogue Han Solo but remains dressed in white throughout.  Then finally she goes to rescue Han in Return of the Jedi and we see her first in disguise as some grotesque mercenary creature as she descends into Jabba’s slave palace.  George Lucas is well known for applying Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth concept to Luke Skywalker’s character arc but he applies it beautifully to Leia as well.  As Leia descends into the underworld on her own Orpheus descent to rescue her love she is, symbolically, in the initial stages of discovering her sexuality.  The initial stages of physical sexual development- menses and the onset of puberty- are gross and uncomfortable and when Leia descends into Jabba’s palace she has entered a dark interior space that is ugly and smelly but from this will emerge something immensely appealing- the “slave Leia” segment wherein she is transformed into a beautiful being of pure sexual energy but she is constrained by Jabba- the ugly, grotesque creature that she first discovered when embarking on her journey towards sexual identity.  It is here that she is at a crossroads- she can capitulate to Jabba and in so doing accept her sexuality as disgusting a shameful or she can triumph over Jabba and move forward into a greater stage of womanhood.  It is here that we understand why Leia’s sexual personae has become so appealing- she kills Jabba and beams out at her male comrades with joy and accomplishment.  She has overcome the grotesque onset of sexual identity and learned to command it as something that makes her beautiful.  She has learned to bring her inner beauty in line with her exterior self and that higher self is what we have all loved and cherished for so long.  In the remainder of Return of the Jedi (except for a couple of scenes where it’s necessary to the plot) we see Leia on Endor in earth tones- the shades of green and brown that indicate fertility.  She is evolving from maiden to mother.  The actual mother stage isn’t seen but by the time we return to the Star Wars universe for the Force Awakens we find that Leia has emerged as General Organa and moved from mother to crone.

The PC police that impudently demand that we write off slave Leia as some unfortunate and embarrassing display of T’nA for its own sake forget that if Leia had never gone through all of that she would never have become General Organa.  If she had remained the pristine virginal princess and confined herself to royal duties she would have never joined the rebellion in the first place, given the Death Star plans to the R2 droid, and set in motion the events that would topple the Empire.  Never putting herself on the journey that would bring her to crossroads that was Slave Leia would have meant remaining a princess and likely married off to secure political alliances for the royal family.

So no, it’s not the slavery aspect that makes slave Leia so appealing.  It’s the freeing of her sexuality at that crucial point of crossroads.  If Star Wars had been a story where slave Leia decides that she likes being a slave and devotes herself to Jabbah which convinces Luke Skywalker and Han Solo that the only way to succeed with women is to become slave driving monsters themselves and they then embark on journeys of cruel, hateful debasement of women far and wide then the whole series would come to a dead halt and seem tedious, disappointing and depressing.

That is ultimately what happens to Tarl Cabot, the male lead in John Norman’s Gor novels.  As my regular listeners know, the world of Gor has been my go-to example of actual misogyny in action.  The story tells of a planet devoted to female servitude, where slave girls abound and Tarl Cabot finds fulfillment in being a monstrous bastard that rapes, beats, bullies, insults and intimidates women who become sexually aroused and submissive in his overwhelmingly masculine presence.  Supposedly all this is done in the interest of sexual arousal for the reader but the female characters in the books don’t seem to have the kind of triumphant personal evolution enjoyed by princess Leia.  Instead they are, by and large, empty, terrified husks of people who have had all the life and spark beaten out of them and replaced by a Stockholm Syndrome like desire to wait on men hand and foot and be at their beck and call.  The political correctness police look at Star Wars and see Gor and they could not be more wrong.

My thoughts- and those of Steve Martin- are wonderfully embodied in this heartfelt post by Kevin Smith:

The Princess stole my heart at age 7. Anybody who knows me knows #CarrieFisher was my first love. I thrilled to the adventures of #princessleia in the @starwars movies, but from '77 to '84, I was in love with Carrie Fisher herself. My bedroom was filled with Carrie Fisher pictures from any movie she was ever in (including Polaroids I took off the TV when #thebluesbrothers hit cable). I was jealous of Paul Simon when he was dating Carrie Fisher and wouldn't listen to his music until they split up. I paid to see Carrie Fisher and #chevychase in Under the Rainbow nine times when it was in theaters (mostly because Carrie Fisher was in underwear in one scene). In childhood, I committed myself to Carrie Fisher without ever meeting her the way novice Nuns commit themselves to Christ without meeting Him. Decades later, I got to tell her this when Carrie Fisher and @jaymewes were in a station wagon on the set of #jayandsilentbobstrikeback. She was gracious about hearing it for the zillionth time from the zillionth man or woman who grew up idolizing her, but wickedly added "I'm glad to know I helped you find your light saber." And with that, she stopped being Carrie Fisher to me and just became Carrie. That's the Carrie I'll always remember: the dutiful standard-bearer of childhood dreams with a the wicked sense of humor and a way with words. She didn't want to get paid for her role in @jayandsilentbob Strike Back; instead, she asked that we buy her these antique beaver chairs. Her reason: "Beaver seems an appropriate currency for this movie." When she was a guest on Season 1 of our @hulu show #Spoilers, Carrie curled up in the throne like she belonged there. And she did: after all, she was royalty. As a boy, I dreamed of marrying Carrie Fisher. As a young filmmaker, I dreamed of casting Carrie Fisher. As an adult, I dreamed of being as sharp-witted and prepossessed as Carrie Fisher. And now that Carrie Fisher is gone, I'll dream of my friend Carrie - whose entire magnificent career I was lucky enough to witness, whose honesty made me a better person, and whose spirit - like The Force - will be with us always. Goodnight, Sweet Princess…

Smith’s words are a beautiful elaboration of what was said by Steve Martin and show us the full depth of feeling that such an attraction represents.  These are not cold, unfeeling brutish men who are chuckling about the death of a scullery wench they enjoyed buggering here and there but to whom they are otherwise indifferent.  These are men who, like myself, discovered female beauty as the window into the human being underneath.  Whether the social justice puritan hipsters want to admit it or not, heterosexual men will always hold female beauty in high exaltation.  So go on, remember Carrie Fisher for everything she was- a beautiful, bright, passionate, intelligent, sexy, loving, compassionate, fascinating woman and to hell with anyone who would burden the pain of our grief with guilt ridden sermonizing.

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