Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Progress in the Arts

From Geekzine:

One of the first pornographic images I ever saw was a spread of Dorothy getting gang-banged by the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow. It was crude smut, nothing more than titillation created for its shock value. And when my mother discovered it hidden under my bed, it was deposited in the trash. It wasn't a new idea. The Tijuana Bibles of the '30s and '40s were full of similar images: Betty Boop giving head; Lil' Abner sporting a healthy hard-on; Popeye impaling Olive Oyl on his spinach-strengthened member. In one of my favorites Donald Duck buggers Mickey as the Disney mouse squeals, "Tee-hee, Donald, that tickles so good." These eight-pagers were the lowest form of comics, anonymously created and distributed. The sub-genre continues to this day. Do an image search of Marge Simpson for examples. It's pornography at its most common: unoriginal and mindless.

The writer's Lost Girls (which will be published tomorrow) is a beautifully perverse graphic novel that elevates the pornographic tale; it is a bold, and rare, story of uninhibited sexual fantasy that succeeds at titillating as well as enlightening. It is sensually drawn by Melinda Gebbie, Moore’s wife.

As in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore combines characters of the late 19th century and early 20th century for an epic adventure, except this time the adventures are sexual. The heroines from The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan meet as adults in an Austrian hotel in 1913, shortly before World War I. Dorothy, fresh off her Kansas farm, is a nympho in silver shoes; Alice is a world-weary lesbian; Wendy is a housewife trapped in a boring marriage. They romp with one another and tell their tales, sexually charged versions of the stories we associate with each character. In Wendy's case, Peter Pan is a male prostitute who seduces her and her brothers. Alice submits herself to the sexual dominance of the "Red Queen." Dorothy’s sexual awakening begins when she masturbates while caught up in a twister.

Moore explores a wide range of sexual fantasies. There are tales of pedophilia, bestiality, incest, rape, homosexuality, orgies, sadomasochism. In one of the many stories within the story, a Victorian family shares more than tea and crumpets, and the man of the house punishes his wife and two children by administering a rousing dose of anal sex. In defense of his lurid tale about the family (and of Lost Girls itself, one imagines), the hotel manager, declares, "They are fictions. They are uncontaminated by effect and consequence." It's a dirty book, no doubt; yet it still manages to paint an enchanting, fascinating world where the mind is free to roam.

The hotel manager later declares, "Pornographies are the enchanted parklands where the most secret and vulnerable of all our many selves can safely play." It’s a fitting description for Lost Girls, and only someone of Alan Moore's wild genius can pull it off. He wonderfully balances both ends of the smut/erotica spectrum, at times tipping toward the merely titillating, and then leaning toward that delightful world of exploration and discovery. Lost Girls is one of the most important works of pornography of our time and another example of the graphic novel as a powerful literary medium.

Here's what this lovely couple looks like.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Post-Bushist foreign policy

Anatol Lieven, in the latest issue of Prospect:

If therefore both party establishments are wedded to the basic lines of the present US course, what are the chances of successful domestic revolt against this course? Since the present line is adhered to be the bipartisan establishment, it follows that any revolt against it would have to enjoy massive support from ordinary Americans, and in particular from the most important political constituency and political bellwether, the white middle classes of the "heartland." It would therefore have to appeal to the core traditions of this constituency. In this context, that means a mixture of intense nationalism with deep distrust of foreign entanglements – a mixture dubbed "isolationism" by the imperial elites, though by no means fairly.

The Left faces immense obstacles in appealing to the heartland. Its cosmopolitan traditions and above all its hostility to religion make it culturally very alien to the world of the suburbs and small towns of middle America. It is also wedded to its own version of liberal interventionism. If I have to listen to another American anti-Bush liberal damn the war in Iraq and then advocate US military intervention in Darfur I may eat my beard. This is both intellectual and electoral folly: intellectual, because there are no rational grounds for believing that a US military which has failed so badly in policing one bitterly-divided Muslim society would play a successful role in another. Electoral, because you cannot successfully appeal to ordinary Americans to reject a war for which at least some justification could be manufactured in terms of defending America, and then ask them to support another war for which there is no argument from national interest at all.

A much more hopeful prospect in the long run lies in a combination between the moderate realists and a populist revolt in the heartland against the costs of empire. Indeed, this would seem to me virtually inevitable sooner or later. As soon as it becomes clearly apparent to the White middle classes that a continuation of present levels of military spending and foreign policy activism requires the abolition of key middle class entitlements – social security, Medicare, mortgage relief and so on – mass pressure for a withdrawal from present levels of engagement will become overwhelming. This will happen all the sooner in the context of an economic recession, or if another war makes the reintroduction of conscription a real possibility.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Neocons then and now

I am just finishing up Westad's magisterial The Global Cold War. Here is his summary account of the results of Reagan's neocon-inspired interventions in Central America:
The effects of the Central American war for the region were dreadful. In Nicaragua it left 30,000 dead (as historian William LeoGrande points out, relative to the population this was more than the United States lost in the Civil War, the two world wars, and the Korea and Vietnam wars combined). The country had over 100,000 refugees and an economy with inflation out of control and massive unemployment. In tiny El Salvador the effects were even worse; 70,000 dead, death squads roaming the countryside, villages destroyed, lives shattered. While the brutality of the El Salvadoran civil war surpassed anything seen in the recent history of Latin America, US efforts at imposing change -- with assistance costing around 1 billion dollars in military aifd and three times as much in economic aid -- had little effect: in 1990 more than 90 percent of El Salvadorans still lived in poverty.
Funny how the neocons seem to get the same results wherever their policies get imposed. What's that old saw about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Westad continues with how this all went down at home:
Within the United States the wars also had serious effects, although not in terms of human lives. The Reagan administration's attempts at defying Congress in supplying funding to the Contras led to the Iran-Contra Affair, which hurt the neoconservative agenda with the public and inside the White House. The fact that Reagan's people had sold weapons to the Iranian Islamist regime and used the proceeds of that transaction to fund the counterrevolutionary forces in Nicaragua was a bit too much even for Reagan's supporters to swallow. Together with the antiwar movement and Congressional resistance against the war, the Iran-Contra Affair contributed to a distinct reduction in the administration's appetite for foreign internvetions toward the end of its final term in office. Its worldview, though, stayed intact: the Cold War was a conflict between good and evil, in which the United States was on the side of the angels.
Pulverizing the countries they believe their are liberating, contempt for Congress and other quaint domestic political niceties, an unshakable faith in their own moral righteousness... eerie, isn't it?

Monday, August 21, 2006

"With Friends Like These" Dept.

Joe Scarborough, Fox News broadcaster and former GOP Congressmen, noting that the preppies are headed for the exits:
These days, the mere opening of Mr. Bush's mouth makes many GOP loyalists shake in their tasseled loafers.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Though I might encode the "empowered self-photographing naked woman" ideology into my images, other people might not decode it as such....

Michael O'Leary on current British airport security

Michael O'Leary, CEO of Europe's biggest budget airline, Ryanair:

If we're under attack from bottles of water and luggage and ladies cosmetics, why are you allowing them down the [London] Underground. Why are you allowing them on Eurotunnel?

We are not in danger of dying at the hands of toiletries... these measures are giving the terrorists and extremists an unbelievable public relations success [by imposing such massive disruption to UK air travel]. They must be rolling around the caves of Pakistan laughing.

A new phase for Small Precautions

Small Precautions is getting a renewed lease, but this time under different management terms. Instead of disquisitions on topics of the day, I'm going to limit myself to simply quoting, with no comment, interesting quotes from my readings -- and usually not on the Web.