The Sex Persuaders (1966)

Russ Trainer (aka Robert Tralins)
Mercury 107

One of the oddest things about '60s smut is just how utterly conventional the "plots" turn out to be.  Despite promises on the cover that a book will interrogate a hidden world of licentious abandon beyond the normalizing structures of everyday society, such "transgressions" rarely translate into a similar disruption of genre or form.

Case in point: The Sex Persuaders.  Author Trainer frames this in the "subliminal seduction" panic still particularly active in the mid-1960s, the idea that unscrupulous individuals (most likely advertisers) might place "secret" messaging in commercials that force you to buy the product.

Protagonist "Trump Hadley" has access to just such a system, ESP-ER, a series of curious "doodles" that when superimposed onto a film image can drive any number of desired behaviors--including, obviously, instantly transforming the most guarded, prim, and virginal women into raging she-cats of desire.  As we open, he's pitching the system to an ad firm in the hopes of selling it for a Dr. Evilish $1,000,000.  But it needs to be tested in the field first, and so Hadley and the firm's beautiful young head of research, Lisa Manning, fly back to her small home town to conduct some "research."

Before they leave, however, Hadley tries the system out covertly on an attractive secretary he sees working in the office after hours.  It has the desired effect, and soon the two are on the floor in passionate embrace.  Afterwards, however, when the woman ceases to be under the influence of ESP-ER, she realizes she's just lost her virginity to a complete stranger and breaks down in tears.  I mention this little episode only because it seems such an oddly moralistic critique of the fantasy the book purports to offer: instantaneously manifested sexual opportunity free of any other "complications."

Once in Lisa's home town, the book slips into its smut + (blank) generic rendezvous; in this case, the small town cross-class melodrama typically associated with Peyton Place.  Lisa used to have a boyfriend named Wade who came from a rich family.  The parents forbid him to see her and made him marry a "frigid" aristocratic type instead.  Lisa has "revenge" sex with Wade at the lake, just like old times, so as to show him just what he missed by dumping her.  Trump, who by now seems to have feelings for Lisa, allows himself to be entrapped by Lisa's little sister, Bonnie, who wants to be taught the "ways of love" by a "real man" from the city.  He does it, but hates himself for it.  Later, to get sex revenge against Lisa (for hooking up with Wade), Trump decides to use the ESP-ER system on Wade's "frigid" wife.  It works, but not as Trump had hoped.  Driven mad with desire by the subliminal messaging, the so-called frigid wife instead seduces their French maid.  She's not frigid, she's a lesbian!

And see if you can follow this:  Lisa allows Trump to show her a film with ESP-ER as an excuse to seduce him, but when he's out of the room, she "erases" the ESP-ER but pretends it worked anyway.  Afterward, Trump feels so bad about using the technology on her that he decides to destroy its secret and leave town...but Lisa reveals that she erased the film before its "effects," thus demonstrating that she and Trump have a natural, non-subliminally-induced attraction for one another.  Marriage to follow. 

Tralins would later go on to write many sci-fi and occultish books under his own name.  In this early book, like so many other authors who started in the smut racket, you really feel for their dilemma--hoping to learn and/or improve in the basic craft of popular story craft, and yet having to stop every twenty pages or so to incorporate the requisite sex scene. 

Teen Beat Refuse 1979 (Part IV)









Eric Roberts mysteriously defaced by unhappy reader.



























In an odd and no doubt futile attempt to transform the pasty duo of "Steely Dan" into teen idols, here they are featured in a "spot the errors" contest.





Who is #1.  This reader cannot decide as Andy, Shaun, Leif, and John are all "so cute!"





Leif Garrent before photoshop, cut out with scissors and placed before a sickly spot-color field of orange.






















Adam Rich, star of Eight is Horrifying, experiences a seizure after making several hundred dollars at a car show. 





The Bay City Rollers forced to participate in "punning" promotional shot, one that cruelly mocks working-class sanitation workers by drawing unwelcome attention to the Rollers ability to make good money by singing "Bang Shang a Lang." 


Erick Erickson's Free-Market Fantasy Life

After the President's State of the Union address last night, CNN tossed to the Wolfman for the standard lightning-round of pundit reaction.  One of the issues the President had addressed was a need for the government to partner with private industry so as to invest in advanced research and refurbished infrastructure (and seriously, have you landed at an American airport recently?).  But Erick Erickson, mastermind over at Red State.com, was having none of it.  Calling the government's involvement in constructing the Interstate highway system at mid-century an "anomaly," Erickson argued that America's greatest inventors (Edison, Bell, etc) had been products of the private sector alone and didn't need or want the government getting in the way.

Sigh.

I know CNN wants to tap into some of that sweet Fox revenue stream, an empire based wholly on delusional readings of a world that--if it ever existed--certainly does not exist now.  But honestly, how low is the bar set now for finding a conservative pundit to bring the "fuck progress" perspective to every debate?  Consider the following facts, any of which Erickson (who makes a living in the telecommunications industry) could glean with just an hour or so of reading: 

*In the 1840s, Samuel Morse applied for Congressional funding to develop the telegraph.  Initially denying a grant (as no one could understand what the telegraph would actually do), the government later stepped in to help Morse construct the first working telegraph line between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, thus beginning the modern age of electronic telecommunications.

*Bell and Watson may have "invented" the principle of the telephone without government help, but the main reason nearly every U.S. citizen in the 20th century eventually had a phone in their own home was because the government negotiated protected monopoly status for AT&T.   While no one is necessarily nostalgic for the days of "Ma Bell" (which lost its monopoly hold beginning in the 1980s), the almost century of public/private utility status enjoyed by the company allowed AT&T (and yes, the government) to standardize and expand the nation's telecommunications infrastructure to all 50 states.  The "revolution" in the privatization of U.S. telecommunications would largely use that very same infrastructure.

*After the government returned control of radio (then called "wireless") to private industry following WWI (having taken over briefly for "security" purposes), the corporate interests involved in the fledgling industry practically begged the Federal government to intervene once again in order to set technical standards, adjudicate issues of signal coverage, and to mediate thorny disputes among the various patent holders (who all needed to cooperate in order for "radio broadcasting" to exist).  Thus did the government play a major role in establishing commercial broadcasting.  In fact, the Federal government was instrumental in creating RCA in 1919 and continued to stuff it with R&D money for much of the century.  RCA--NBC--television--hello? 

*In the earliest days of Cable TV (an industry that now pays at least a part of Erickson's salary), commercial broadcasting interests fought like hell to restrain the new cable concerns from distributing original content--channels like the eventual CNN (in the 1960s and 70s, "cable" was only allowed to bring existing broadcast stations to remote communities).  It took the courts to open up the cable market as we now know it through what came to be called "The HBO Decision."

*And I've heard a rumor that the Interwebs, the home of Erickson's other business concern at Red State, had something to do with the U.S. military--but surely I must be mistaken.  I'm sure the Internet was actually invented by a lone genius in Idaho flying a "Don't Tread On Me" flag over his cabin. 

*For good measure, let's also throw in the government's intense investments in "rural electrification" during the 1930s, without which the very "Red States" Erickson claims to speak for would still be using yodeling and smoke signals as their primary means of long-distance communications.

I expect the pundits on Fox to be gleefully ignorant and ill-informed, in fact they've made a rather hysterical art of it.  But come on CNN, surely you can find a right-leaning pundit more in touch with the reality-based community, one not so amateurish as to simply make up crap about entire areas of expertise that are obviously beyond his experience, knowledge, or even, sadly, his curiosity. 

Mooning the Lord


I found this postcard recently at a flea market (in the same stack that yielded "Hillbilly Shits in Phonebooth").  Disguised in the cutesy "out-of-the-mouth-of-babes" logic so often encountered in the greeting card sensibility is a shockingly candid image of religious rebellion.  After months and years of repeating the Lord's prayer by rote, Little Johnny has apparently finally figured out that this nightly ritual is less a chat with God than a monologue of self-disciplining fear ("if I should die before I wake/I pray the Lord my soul to take").  Moreover, reasons Johnny, if God is omniscient, He certainly doesn't need to hear a little boy reading the same lines over and over again every night.  "Ho-Hum--there it is Lord--read it."  Exposing his ass to God on high provides the humorously cutesy/blasphemous "kicker."

As it just so happens, through somewhat random chance, I was reading Wilhelm Reich's The Mass Psychology of Fascism only a few days after buying this postcard (for another project).  For those who might be interested in such things, the following excerpt from Reich provides an even more radical commentary on the scenario above.  Enjoy!  

THE ANCHORING OF RELIGION THROUGH SEXUAL ANXIETY
 From Wilhelm Reich's The Mass Psychology of Fascism, 1933

Antisexual religiosity is a product of patriarchal authoritarian society. The son-father relationship found in every patriarchal religion is no more than a socially determined content of the religious experience; the experience itself results from patriarchal sexual suppression. The function which religion gradually assumes, that of maintaining renunciation and submission to authority, is secondary. It can build on a solid basis: the structure of the patriarchal individual as it is molded by sexual suppression. The source of religiosity and the core of any religious dogma formation is the negation of sexual pleasure. This is particularly clearly expressed in Christianity and in Buddhism.

a. Anchoring of mysticism in childhood.

Dear God, I lay me down to sleep,
Send an angel watch to keep.
And, Father, let your loving eye
Look down upon me from the sky.
If wrong I've done within the day

Overlook it, God, I pray
Father, guide me patiently
And may my faults forgiven be.
And all persons great and small
Feel your protection overall.

This is one of the many typical prayers which children must recite before going to sleep. One is prone not to pay any attention to the content of such a prayer. Yet, it contains in concentrated form all that is the essence of mystical content and feeling: In the first couplet the petition for protection; in the second, a repetition of this petition, made directly to the "father"; in the third, the petition for forgiveness for a committed wrong: God should not look at it. What does this guilt feeling refer to? What is God petitioned "not to look at"? If one knows the world of the average child, the answer is not difficult: In the center of the forbidden things is the wrongdoing of playing with the genitals.

The prohibition of masturbation would remain ineffective were it not supported by the idea that God sees everything, that, consequently, one has to be "good" even when the parents are not around. If anyone should be inclined to brush this off as "phantasy," he may learn something from the following observation which clearly demonstrates the anchoring of the mystical idea of God by means of sexual anxiety.

A girl of about seven, having been brought up without religion, suddenly developed the compulsion to pray. It was a compulsion because she herself found it to be at variance with her knowledge and tried to resist it. The praying compulsion developed as follows: The child was accustomed to masturbate every night before going to sleep. One day, she suddenly was afraid to do so and therefore abstained from it. Instead, she developed the impulse to kneel down before her bed and to say a prayer somewhat like the one cited above. "When I pray," she explained later, "I am not afraid." The fear had appeared when, for the first time, she denied herself the pleasure of masturbation. Whence this self-denial? She told her father, in whom she had full confidence, that a few months earlier, during vacation, she had had an unpleasant experience. Like other children, she used to play with a little boy at having sexual intercourse ("playing house"); one day another boy came upon them and shouted Phew! at them. Although her parents had told her that there was nothing wrong in such playing, she became ashamed, gave it up and started, instead, to masturbate before going to sleep.

One night, shortly before the onset of the praying compulsion, she had the following experience: On the way home from a group evening, she and a few other children were singing revolutionary songs. They met an old woman whose looks reminded her of the witch in "Hänsel und Gretel" and who scolded them: "You Godless bunch, the Devil will get you yet!" When, later in the evening, she was about to masturbate again, she thought, for the first time, that maybe there was a God after all who would see and punish it. Unconsciously, she had associated the old woman's threat with the sexual experience with the little boy. Now she began to fight against masturbation, became anxious and, to ward off the anxiety, developed the praying compulsion. The praying, then, had taken the place of sexual gratification. Nevertheless, the anxiety did not disappear; the girl began to develop night terrors. Now she was afraid of a supernatural being which was going to punish her for her sexual sinning. She sought its protection in her fight against the temptation of masturbation.

It should not be thought that this process is an individual occurrence; rather, it typifies the process of anchoring the idea of God in the overwhelming majority of children in religious cultural circles. The same function is served by fairy tales of the "Hänsel und Gretel" variety in which children are threatened with punishment for masturbation in a disguised but, for the child's unconscious, unmistakable way. Every case treated by character-analysis shows that mystical feeling develops from a general guilt feeling which is centered in the guilt about masturbation. It is hard to see how psychoanalytic investigation could have hitherto overlooked this fact. That the idea of God represents the conscience, the internalized admonitions and threats from parents and educators, is a well-known fact. What is less well known is the fact that, from an energy point of view, the belief in and the fear of God are sexual excitations which have changed their content and goal. The religious feeling, then, is the same as sexual feeling, except that it is attached to mystical, psychic contents. This explains the return of the sexual element in so many ascetic experiences, such as the nun's delusion that she is the bride of Christ. Such experiences rarely reach the stage of genital consciousness and thus are apt to take place in other sexual channels, such as masochistic martyrdom.

"Tool Time" in Hollywood

 "Incivility in Hollywood is a threat to civility everywhere." 
Martin Luther King Jr., draft of a Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Thankfully, as the days pass--hour by hour, minute by minute--we are gradually healing from our most recent national trauma, a catastrophe that threatened once again to rip us apart as a people, pitting brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, cable network against cable network.  After some heated rhetoric back and forth as to who was to blame, as well as calls for a more civil form of public discourse, we are only now beginning to put this tragedy into proper perspective.  Regardless of how we feel about this debacle in the future, however, I don't think any of us will ever forget the day Ricky Gervais took to the stage to insult some of our most vulnerable celebrities.  

Only those who witnessed this bloodbath live on the air, as it happened, know the true extent of the horror Gervais' visited upon the Hollywood community.  It was clear almost immediately that the portly comedian planned to make good on his promise not to be invited back as host next year, hurling insult after insult at innocent millionaires who had come to the ceremony hoping for nothing more than a little praise, attention, and a gift bag filled with expensive chocolates and hair product that they might pass along to the pool boy.  As the cameras swept across the terrified crowd, each table of stars wondering who might be the next victim of Gervais' caustic abuse, Hollywood's bright and beautiful trembled like terrified children trapped on a bus with an insane driver, one who might at any moment turn around and tell a particularly sensitive child that his last diorama, the one depicting a couple of fugitives on the run in Italy, for example, was awful, simply awful. 

Early in the evening, Gervais made a "joke" intimating that John Travolta and Tom Cruise, both known for their extraordinary efforts in promoting a Ponzi self-help scheme based on galvanic skin meters, ersatz Freudian topographies, the terror of Xenu, and a love of sailing, might be "gay."  The audience was dumbstruck, as if someone had taken a snow shovel and slapped them across their collective face.  Travolta and/or Cruise gay?  Who could think of such a thing?  It was a complete non-sequitor, so beyond the pale of everyday celebrity discourse that it could only have come from a completely deranged, unhinged individual.  He just as well might have claimed Lady Gaga was actually Dude Gaga, or that Kirstie Alley enjoys an In and Out Burger from time to time.

Later, Gervais dared to make a joke at the expense of Robert Downey, Jr., pointing out that Downey was, for a time, a drug addict, and that his hijinx during that period were often hilarious.  And they were!  One time Downey was arrested for breaking into a neighbor's home and falling asleep in a bed. In another escapade, police arrested him for speeding down Sunset with cocaine, heroin, and a handgun in his car.  Still yet another time he was found wandering barefoot in Culver City.  Culver City!...the most hilariously unglamorous of L.A. neighborhoods.  I'm sure it was just too tempting for Gervais to remind us of these earlier shenanigans in that they were, as comedians say, "comic gold."  But what Gervais rudely refused to recognize is that Downey Jr. did his time for those drug-related transgressions, serving an entire year of a 3-year sentence at California's State Rehab Facility at Corcoran.  And even though he was mysteriously released early and went right back to a lucrative acting career, I'm sure even the un-famous, un-lawyered drug addicts from Compton and Watts-- residing in the regular non-rehab Corcoran Prison next door--were cheering him on as he left to return to fame and fortune in Hollywood.  One can almost see them staring through the bars of their cell windows, tears in their eyes.  "Make us laugh, Robbie, make us cry.  Do us proud. And don't let any snotty British comedians steal your joy!"

Later at the ceremony, Downey, Jr. fired back at Gervais, "Aside from the fact that it's been hugely mean-spirited with mildly sinister undertones, I'd say the vibe of the show has been pretty good so far, wouldn't you?" Everyone cheered, happy at the chance to reaffirm their selfless love for one another and their collective investment in maintaining a good "vibe" at all times.  I have to admit that a small tear came to my eye as well here, seeing a star who has maximized his second-chance at critical and commercial success taking the bull by the balls and not letting a minor joke at his expense go by without a proper response.  Lesser men would have ignored Gervais's jibe, or perhaps themselves made a self-deprecating joke about their chequered past.  But not Downey.  Iron Man indeed! 

But the biggest victim of the night proved to be Tim Allen, appearing alongside Tom Hanks as an award presenter.  Gervais' introduction went thusly:  "What can I say about our next two presenters?  The first is an actor, writer, producer, and director, whose movies have grossed over 3 and 1/2 billion dollars at the box office. He's won two Academy Awards and Three Golden Globes for his powerful and varied performances, starring in such films as Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Castaway, Apollo 13, and Saving Private Ryan.  The other...is Tim Allen." 

How dare anyone make a joke at Tim Allen's expense.  Allen's sitcom, Home Improvement, was one of the most popular shows of the 1990s, and while his movie career has been less than stellar since then, he has found a real niche providing his wholly unique and irreplacable vocal talents to inanimate objects in a series of successful Disney cartoons.  Some might say that a ten year run on a top-rated sitcom is more than most achieve in life, both in terms of fame and money, and that anyone so fortunate should remain eternally grateful even if he or she were to never work again in the entertainment industry.  But gone forever now are the harsh days of the studio system when bloodless financial managers decided, by means of box-office returns, whether or not an actor had any future left in the industry.  Hollywood is now a truly egalitarian fraternity.  Once brought within the gated community of fame, you will never be asked to leave, but will instead be afforded continuing respect and endless opportunities for additional projects in the future.  Tim Allen's resume may not be on a par with Tom Hanks' yet, Mr Gervais, but I'm sure given enough decades of opportunity and our continuing support, he will one day find another vehicle worthy of his talents.  I look forward to seeing him at award shows well into the distant future until senility either renders him oblivious to his surroundings or me oblivious to his identity. 

Like Downey, Hanks and Allen were not going to let Gervais ruin the evening's hard-fought vibe of self-congratulatory self-importance.  "We remember when Ricky Gervais was a slightly chubby but very kind comedian," said Hanks, setting up Allen for a completely unrehearsed ad lib, "Neither of which is he now."  Here, I think, Hanks and Allen stood on the side of the people, deflecting Gervais' classically structured, snooty, comedian's-comedian joke with a good old-fashioned schoolyard retort, "Ricky Gervais is mean and fat."  It was a devastating counter-attack, especially delivered in a room crammed to the rafters with so many beautiful, humble, selfless, and talented people, rather like throwing the kid with all the pimples and an asthma inhaler into the pool at a cheerleader's house party. 

The Golden Globes have already announced that Gervais will NEVER be back to emcee the affair (well, for now at least).  I think the overall problem here can be pinned on Gervais growing up in the extremely class-conscious environment of the U.K.  There, nothing is funnier than seeing a posh sloane, an Oxbridge grad, or even a royal exposed as a doddering dimwit who enjoys immense power and wealth for no other reason than a certain sperm swam faster to a certain egg.  In the U.S. mindset, however, and especially in its most arch Hollywood iterations, the delusional dream that one is always on the verge of fame and wealth means that your "betters" should be afforded a certain deference, awe, and respect.  Who knows, one day you yourself might be a mediocre stand-up comedian, ten years past your glory days on a commercially successful but critically ignored sitcom, and you'll want Tom Hanks to have your back too. 

The Throwbacks (1965)

Roger Sarac
Belmont Red Star

Billed as an encounter with beings displaced from time (they could be from man's distant past..or is it his future?), this is actually more a tale of being trapped in a cabin by marauding bigfoots.

Relative newlyweds clip some weird beast while driving through the mountains of northern California.  Test results from the fur and blood on the wiper come back as "humanoid" of unspecified origin.  The husband, who was writing a piece on the history of the Grizzly bear anyway, decides to take a team back to the area to investigate.  The wife comes along because, well, why wouldn't she? 

Some basic shoe work leads them to the Bradshaw brothers, two young men living alone in a well-appointed cabin in the middle of a nearly inaccessible valley.  While not thrilled to have visitors, they are nevertheless gracious hosts when the research team unexpectedly arrives on their doorstep.  One member of the team is wounded (as a beastie snuck up on him while he was changing a tire and pushed the car on top of him).  So that's a complication.

Things get a bit weird when, at night, the guests are told to stay locked in the cabin with all the shutters closed, and to not open a door or window under any circumstances.  The brothers, meanwhile, each take a loaded shotgun outside to stand guard--although they won't say why.  But even the most lunk-headed reader has to imagine it has something to do with the hairy big foot creature on the cover.

The next day, one of the brothers takes the leader of the research team across the lake to get help for the injured man.  When a storm begins to brew, the brother begins to panic and eventually cracks--revealing the enigma of why he and his brother live as hermits in the middle of nowhere.

But we don't get to learn that secret until later, because we quickly switch back to the cabin for some more "something is lurking outside" action with the other researchers.

So what's the deal with the ape-folk?  Are they from the past?  The future?  Neither, actually.  They are instead the horrible genetic mutant brother and sister of the two normal brothers.  With the death of their parents, the brothers pledged to protect their hairy siblings by remaining secluded with them in the woods.  But ever since Ape-brother was killed (by the Newlyweds' car earlier), Ape-sister has been out-of-control.  And frankly they're sick of it.  Ten years living alone in the woods is beginning to wear on both of them, so older brother makes the call that the time has come to put a bullet in Sasquatch sister and get the hell out of there.

Sis sinks her fangs into one brother's jugular before finally getting shot herself. Months later, in San Francisco, the surviving brother meets up with the team and some final plot points are ironed out.
In a final twist we discover the two "normal" brothers were actually adopted, thereby adding another layer of futility to their 10 years in the forest.  One genetic scientist still thinks there might be some additional mysteries to be answered...back out in the woods.  Me, I was happy to end things here.

Teen Beat Refuse 1979 (Kiss Edition)

Electrifying Kiss Jacket with fabric by DuPont










Gene Simmons with Adam Rich licking unknown child's head














Gene Simmons tricking Brooke Shields into mimicking his famous simulation of cunnilingus.
















Gene Simmons contemplates licking Adam Rich's head.

Mr. Tomorrow (1974)

Con Sellers
Papillion Books
Originally published as: F.S.C. The Story of a Probable American (1963)

Imagine for a moment, if you can, if you DARE, that Wilhelm Reich, halfway through writing The Mass Psychology of Fascism, decided to take a break and write a quick parody of Ayn Rand writing a sleazy pulp.  If you can keep those various variables and transmutations straight in your mind, then you might have a glimmering of the madness that is Mr. Tomorrow.  And if you ever read Mr. Tomorrow, you might further understand why all conservative men are so gay for Reagen.

Replace muscle-man on the cover here with Hitler and you would have a fairly workable cover for Reich's book as well--the dominating father of the "mother-land" standing in authoritarian dominance over a mass desperate for moral and political order.  Who is this giant of a man, this Mr. Tomorrow?  Well, that's our story.

Way back in 1936 (mark that date well), the great patriarch of the Adams clan decided that the government had become too oppressive and was taking away man's fundamental liberties.  His regressive fantasy solution is one near and dear to the Republican mindset even today--Adams moves his entire family into a well-appointed cave on a mesa somewhere in the American west, stocking it with provisions, "great books," and, of course, lots and lots and tons and tons and piles and piles of sweet, sweet guns.  As the novel opens, many years later, Adams' grandson Jon (the man-meat on the cover) is the last of the line, and he feels a certain stirring in his loins that tells him the time has come to emerge from his lair, go among the populace, and find a woman to quite literally drag back to his cave (a luxurious one, to be sure, but a cave nevertheless).  So off he goes, down into the city.

Meanwhile, we meet the man who will become Jon's mortal enemy:  Tor, a high-ranking "bureaucrat" near the top of the Department of Genetics.  Already a powerful man in the all-intrusive Federal government, Tor has ambitions to go even higher.  In the meantime, he amuses himself by strolling among the citizenry in search of women to rape.  But not just any woman will do.  Tor only wants to rape the daughters and wives of merchants who have refused to participate in the government's 51% ownership plan.  Raping these women not only makes a powerful political point about resisting the government, but Tor finds only these women have the fierce independence to fight back and make the experience satisfying.  And that's the crux of the book's politics.  The government, any government really, that would dare tax you in any way, shape, or form--that would do anything to intrude upon your right to sit on a pile of rifles in your cave--is literally akin to a rapist.

After the rape, by the way, daughter, wife, and father/husband are typically banished to the land of the "Inalis," a horrible realm of poverty and servitude.  "Inali," we later discover in true Star Trek "Yang vs. Komm" form, is short for the "Inalienables," as in those who demand their "inalienable rights." 

But luckily for the meatheaded reader of this crap, there is Jon the meaty man working overtime as a one-man resistance army.  Once in the city, his very presence creates such a crisis that he ends up killing 15 government men in one night with only a bow-and-arrow.  Thus begins a long chase and escape narrative between Jon, still shopping for women, and Tor, who realizes capturing the now notorious mountain man will give him tremendous political advantages in the upcoming elections.

Throughout the rather pedestrian man-on-the-run-from-the-oppressive-state story, author Sellers finds plenty of time for outright Randian/fascist crapola.  Here are a few choice nuggets:

"Some men don't want to be 'equal.' Some men don't want enforced serenity.  We want to work our own way, in our own time, for things we consider important--not because some bureaucrat tells us what to think is important...Any man who takes a share of what I alone have earned is a thief, and the 'laws' that protect him are made by even greater thieves."


"A real man wanted only to be left alone by all authority, to be neither taxed nor pampered.  The only government he should rightly desire is that which protects him, and all men, from force by another man or group of men that would stop him from living his own life."

And so on.

How, you might ask, would such a sensibility handle the requisite sex scenes in a sleaze pulp.  Not very well, it turns out.  In keeping with Reich's "invasion of compulsory sex morality," Jon Adams--though a 25-year-old virgin living alone in the mountains--will not deign to have sex with just any woman (unlike his rapey G-man adversary).  No, Jon is searching for the special "one" woman to be his life-mate.  This leads to rather hilarious episodes in which Jon, irresistible in his man-meatliness to the decadent women of the city, must go to superhuman lengths to resist the urge to copulate.  In one particularly amazing spectacle of sexual restraint, Jon is chained to a wall "King Kong" style, injected with a powerful aphrodisiac, and then veritably molested by two beautiful "pleasure girls."  But he will not yield, God bless him, and true to Kong rips his manacles from the wall and escapes before anything untoward happens!

If you enjoy searching for odd literature, Mr. Tomorrow is precisely the kind of novel you both hope and dread to find.  The hope resides in encountering aesthetics and sensibilities that are strange, incomprehensible, and perhaps even wondrous.  The "dread" is in realizing that the reactionary mind, forever seeing itself as cornered like a wounded wolverine, appears to be a vestigial part of our reptile wiring that we simply cannot shake as a species. 

Despite the suspicious name, "Con Sellers" was in fact a real person--and a real right-winger.  His papers are even available at the University of Southern Mississippi if you want to research his career (and someone should, if they have the stomach for it).  Sellers' career, starting after his stint in the Korean War, ranged from short stories in Men's magazines of the '50s, sleazy pulps of the '60s, and later more mainstream action-books in the '70s and '80s.  And Mr. Tomorrow, apparently,  is not the only book in Sellers' oeuvre that is so profoundly over the top in its naked politics.  Interested readers should check out this excellent account of another title, Red Rape, at Conelrad. 

Teen Beat Refuse 1979 (Part II)

Jimmy McNichol with Akai Cassette Deck and waterbed.  Note too the stylish cassette tape briefcase on top.  State-of-the-art teenage seduction fantasy for 1979.








Famous movie-dog Benji posed aside his stuffed doppelganger, structurally similar in many ways to the "shaggy" adolescent pop stars elsewhere in the magazine.






Grotesque photomontage in support of new Burt Reynolds publication.  Given that Reynolds had only a few years earlier posed nude in Playgirl, his appearance in a teen magazine is particularly odd, perhaps even alarming. 








Teen idol Shaun Cassidy in hypnotic dream state, transfixed by telepathic transmissions of adolescent love.   Is he thinking about "you?" 






Leif would like to "please you."  You love Leif enough to do the things you know will please him, and he loves you enough to want to please you!  Strikingly candid play on the line between "pleasing" and "pleasuring."




Off the Map

I apologize if anyone was offended by my previous post.  I should never have suggested that nutjob Jared Lee Loughner's paranoid ramblings about the Federal government, the Gold standard, secret messages in U.S. currency, or the precarious state of the Constitution had any influence whatsoever on current Republican propaganda techniques.  I'm sure the GOP thought of "Death Panels," "Birtherism," "the Obama bullet shortage," FEMA concentration camps, and other truly outstanding schizoid memes completely on their own with no help at all from non-professional paranoiacs.  In the newfound spirit of bogus unity that demands no one make the GOP feel bad for having cynically integrated weaponry and conspiracy theory into their recent political strategies, we'll move on here to what people have come to expect from this site; namely, the more oblique politics of popular crap.

So, there's a new sexy doctor show on ABC called Off the Map.  Haven't seen an episode yet, but I have been confronted at almost every bus stop by this contemplative young doctor staring at a waterfall (or more unnervingly, at us as we approach from behind). Here's what I do know about the premise: It's about a free clinic in a remote and impoverished South American village (although I understand the cast will later roam to other "off the map" locations, or at least "off the map" according to the entertainment industry).  In the first episode, a new group of volunteers arrives at camp and meets the clinic's director, described thusly in ABC ad copy.

They’re introduced to the legendary and enigmatic Ben Keeton, who was the youngest Chief of Surgery at UCLA but who walked away from it all to found the clinic.

Given this tidbit of narrative information and the generous photo clue of the brooding young man (who we must assume is the "legendary and enigmatic Ben Keeton"), let's play that always diverting pre-premiere game: "What's the backstory?"

Okay, let's start with "youngest Chief of Surgery at UCLA."  Young, obviously.  Driven.  Freakishly talented.   But something is missing.  I would think being Chief of Surgery at UCLA would be an extremely rewarding job regardless of your age. You're at the forefront of medicine in one of the most prestigious medical programs in the nation, working on techniques and technologies that will eventually save thousands of lives around the world--probably far more than you could by packing a duffel bag and wandering out into the jungle to "touch the natives."

So I'm imagining here we'll go for some kind of fake crisis around Hollywood privilege and superficiality--perhaps his disgust at doing yet another boob job on a Karadashian-like celebutard.  Or maybe something really over the top--a fight with the higher-ups over allowing cameras into surgery to document the frantic last-minute attempts to save mega pop-star "Micheal Waxson."  You're turning this hospital into a freakshow! he'll yell, just before ripping off his I.D. badge and storming out the door.  He gets into his Ferrari and drives straight to LAX, never looking back. 

Then again, maybe he's happy with his job and he's leaving town because of...a haunting failed relationship.  The woman who dumped him in Med School for a less accomplished doctor.  Or maybe his fiancee who died in a plane crash or insurgent firefight while doing volunteer medical work in the Middle East, thus inspiring the "youngest Chief of Surgery at UCLA" to continue in her footsteps, giving up his chance at an easy lifetime of A-list appendectomies so that he might "find himself" in helping those less fortunate.

The hair and beard are more difficult to read.  Is he an example of "authentic" un-self-conscious masculinity or is his scruffy face hair and coiffed-to-seem-slightly-tussled haircut a residual marker of L.A. douchebaggery? Or is it both, as in Hollywood's best guess as to what a young doctor "roughing it" beyond the salon might look like?   Something here says this character is originally from the East coast.  I'm thinking born in Maine, somewhere remote, and then on to Harvard Medical School. Top of his class. Etc.  Still has a bit of the winter mountain-man in him, even though he now circles the equator on his mission of mercy. 

He probably has some other baggage as well.  Maybe his father never lived to see his success, but died of a massive heart attack when Ben was still a troubled teenager, hauled into juvenile court once again for poaching local lobster traps.  Somehow Ben feels responsible, and dedicates his life to medicine...but nothing can erase the guilt.

The waterfall also demands our attention.  This suggests to me a certain "spiritual" vibe to the show.  In addition to helping the destitute, Ben and his staff will also gradually come to see the beauty of the world--even amidst spectacles of profound suffering.  Maybe Ben Keeton, the youngest Chief of Surgery at UCLA, begins as a hardened atheist with no-time for sentimental fairy tales, but in his mission to heal, arrives at a higher "Lost-like" truth.

Holding a stethoscope in one hand and what looks to be a distressed Urban Outfitters satchel-bag in the other is a wonderful emblem for the show, as if Ben Keeton has just made a difficult landing in a jungle clearing, but is now going forth with all he owns--a change of clothing and his trusty stethoscope--to seek out the sick and injured.

Finally, and most enigmatically, we have the sideways backwards glance.  Is he in the process of "turning his back" on his privileged past?  Are we assuming the subject-position of the one woman who has a chance to break through Ben's heavy emotional armor?  Is he challenging us to follow him, to join him in a mission of global humanitarianism?  Hard to say.


Yes, solving the mystery of Ben Keeton promises to be the heart and soul of Off the Map, and I, for one, can't wait to avoid his journey of professional, emotional, and spiritual discovery.   



The Sweet Spot

In the wake of the assassination attempt and shooting spree in Tucson on Saturday, many Republican lawmakers have been a bit nervous.  Are there Limbaugh posters on the shooter's walls at home?  An RNC card in his wallet?  Could he actually have believed our craven endorsement of the whole "taking back America through Second Amendment remedies from the Godless gay-lovin' liberals who are destroying this country by pretending to be all smart and shit" campaign that we ran last election cycle?

You have to feel for them at a certain level.  It must be difficult to acknowledge that one of your central political principles--an irrational fear and hatred of the Federal government--also happens to be one of the primary symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.  We're being told not to rush to judgment because accused shooter Jared Lee Loughner is "insane" and thus without any "politics," when of course the more disturbing possibility here (generally left unspoken) is that he came to embrace a political ideology that comes in various degrees of insanity.  Who's out to get me now?  Immigrants?  Gays?  Black people?  Liberals?  Humanists?  Elites?  Atheists?  True, the details of Loughner's beliefs make no coherent sense in terms of any given political ideology; instead, they simply mirror the general Birchian panic that everything is a threat, everything is slipping away, the Constitution is under relentless assault, personal liberty has never been in greater crisis. 

Loughner, because he is most likely insane, actually believes in his paranoid fantasies.  The following paranoid delusions, on the other hand, were proudly circulated by conservative pundits and politicians who knew full well they were peddling inflammatory horseshit to the ignorant and uninformed: 

Obama stole all the bullets.  Can't get no ammunition cuz 'Bama hates guns.

The FEMA trailer parks are actually concentration camps.

Obamacare contains "Death Panels" that will recommend mandatory euthanasia. 

Obama's trip to India cost 500 billion dollars a day and required 80% of the U.S. Navy to protect him.

The nation will collapse unless we return to the Gold Standard.

Last year, Georgia Republican State Representative Ed Seltzer argued he was simply being “proactive” in introducing a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to implant “microchips, sensors, transmitters or any other manner of tracking devices into individuals against their will.”  Virginia Republican State Rep. Mark L. Cole expressed similar sentiments when introducing his own "anti-brain chip" bill.   "I just think you should have the right to control your own body,” he told The Washington Post.  "My understanding — I'm not a theologian — but there's a prophecy in the Bible that says you'll have to receive a mark, or you can neither buy nor sell things in end times. Some people think these computer chips might be that mark."

Nope, no link whatsoever between Loughner's mindset and what Richard Hofstadter called "the paranoid style of American politics" way back in 1964.  

Here's one more for good measure:
Capgras Delusion:  Delusional disorder in which a paranoid psychotic comes to believe familiar people around him have been replaced by imposters. 

Birthers: Those on the right who believe the current President of the United States is illegitimate as he is a Constitutional imposter. 

Happily, the media are doing their part to absolve modern conservatism of any possible connection to Jared Lee Loughner's paranoid beliefs by emphasizing, once again, that what might seem at first to embody current right-wing paranoia could, in theory, come from any political perspective.  Thus the search by conservative pundits to find exact equivalencies between Loughner and examples of liberal "violence."  A guy threw a tomato at Sarah Palin, remember?  People said mean things about President Bush and suggested he might not be the brightest bulb in the box, remember?  Some EarthFirst nuts torched a Hummer, how about that?

All of these anemic examples are supposed to be equivalent to the most recent Republican candidate for the Vice Presidency placing sniper cross-hairs over vulnerable Democratic districts (including Gabrielle Giffords) and imploring her followers to "reload" rather than retreat.  And let's not forget, the right-wing fear-o-sphere spent most of last year defending the right of all Americans to carry guns anywhere at anytime-- bars, schools, churches, anger management seminars--but most especially appearances by the President of the United States (well, Obama that is...good thing no one tried that shit with Bush, cuz that would have called for a serious ass-wuppin'). 

Palin, of course, defends her penchant for "ballistic" imagery and rhetoric as a "joke" aimed at liberals to ridicule their general discomfort over people shooting things.  To put this in terms that a humorless, lily-livered liberal might better understand, Palin's Congressional sniper map is really no different than a group of snarky liberals marking vulnerable conservative districts with the icon of a shaky podium, thereby indulging the elitist fantasy of a common-sense American being embarrassed by his or her inability to articulately defend certain Republican policy positions in a debate. No difference at all.

Why the so-called "lamestream" liberal media devotes so much effort saving right-wingers from the consequences of their own bullshit is a true mystery.  It just goes to show that the mythos of "journalistic objectivity" is stronger than even the most heated political debates, so much so that both politicians and pundits have been quick to reaffirm the idea that crazy violence has no political footprint; or if it does, that examples of left and right craziness ultimately balance out in a type of mutual negation (just like a balanced editorial page!).  Yes, Loughner may seem to have taken all the anti-Fed rhetoric a little too seriously, and yes, Timothy McVeigh blew up a Federal office building, and sure, there was that survivalist who left a pipebomb at the Atlanta Olympics and also blew up some Planned Parenthood offices, and then there was that Glen Beck fan who wanted to "kill liberals" in San Francisco, not to mention the guy who murdered that doctor in Wichita for performing legal abortions, and even that crazy girl during the '08 campaign who carved a backwards "B" on her cheek and blamed it on militant black Obama supporters...but remember that guy who threw a tomato at Palin?

And thank God for the example of John Hinckley.  By taking a shot at Ronald Reagen, Hinckley has provided cover for all manner of right-wing nutballs for 30 years.  For those too young to remember the attempt on Reagen's life,  flaming-lefty Hinckley hoped to institute a new global order of communism, universal health-care, and free pot by getting into Jodie Foster's panties, a goal he thought might best be achieved by gaining her respect in the act of shooting Reagen. 

Perhaps the media punditry's oddest strategy of securing absolution through balanced negation is the pitting of Hitler against Marx. Worried that Loughner will be identified as a paranoid right-winger, several politicians have now attempted to inoculate themselves by pointing out that Loughner had read, not only Mein Kampf, but also The Communist Manifesto-- making his "ideological" pedigree perfectly balanced and thus meaningless. While it is refreshing to see the far right claim Hitler as one of their own, this little rhetorical stunt only demonstrates how dysfunctional contemporary media/political discourse has become (and by "dysfunctional" I do not mean "uncivil," I mean flat-out retarded).  Hitler and Marx now stand, in popular punditry at least, as the evil embodiments of the two extremes of the political spectrum, thoroughly equivalent ideologues that somehow balance one another as the worst excesses of left and right. 

Given the frequent invocation of this strategy (over the weekend and no doubt in the days ahead), perhaps it is time to review the profiles of these two men of absolute evil.




HITLER                                                                   


Fascist
 
Successful Dictator


Hero of right-wing imperialists, racists, eugenicists, and those generally craving "order"


Came to power by demonizing various "Others" said to be destroying nation's "way of life"


Invaded neighboring lands to exploit resources
and labor


Instituted program of forced labor and mass genocide



Hoped to institute the "Third Reich," an era of Aryan rule that would dominate the earth for 1000 years


Crucial example of power replicating itself


 MARX



Communist
 
Impoverished Philosopher


Hero of far-left socialists, tweedy professors, and Enlightenment intellectuals


Came to 'power' by contending with Hegel




Concerned with social mechanisms of economic exploitation


Brought attention to the plight of small children forced to work in mines and factories


Believed the world's resources might be shared in ways that would benefit all of humanity


 Crucial to theorizing how power replicates itself



So really, completely equivalent in their evil and worthy adversaries in pointing out the extremes of ideology on both the left and the right.

And remember, the "sweet spot" of current American politics now apparently resides at the exact middle-point between Hitler and Marx--that completely "neutral" oblivion where nothing is ever really "political," not even the systematic cultivation and cynical exploitation of the paranoid, stupid, and insane. 

Redburn: His First Voyage (1849)

Herman Melville
Harper and Brothers

Depressed young man makes a trial run at Moby Dick.  Discovers quickly that sailors are generally assholes and that life on the sea is harsh and disgusting.  Eventually makes it to Liverpool which is also found to be harsh and disgusting.  Wanders around for many pages in search of an England that matches his imagination of the place, but generally only encounters squalor and drunkenness.  Various scams run on sailors are outlined.  Extensive descriptions of antiquated food and drink (like "swipes," apparently the rinsing from inside a beer barrel).

Although often grim, there is also some great comic writing.  For those who think facetious snark is an invention of the 20th/21st centuries, observe Melville describing the fate of a young sailor, prematurely gray, who puts his faith in a couple bottles of patent medicine bought along the docks: 


I saw both bottles; and on one of them was an engraving, representing a
young man, presumed to be gray-headed, standing in his night-dress in
the middle of his chamber, and with closed eyes applying the Elixir to
his head, with both hands; while on the bed adjacent stood a large
bottle, conspicuously labeled, "Balm of Paradise." It seemed from the
text, that this gray-headed young man was so smitten with his hair-oil,
and was so thoroughly persuaded of its virtues, that he had got out of
bed, even in his sleep; groped into his closet, seized the precious
bottle, applied its contents, and then to bed again, getting up in the
morning without knowing any thing about it. Which, indeed, was a most
mysterious occurrence; and it was still more mysterious, how the
engraver came to know an event, of which the actor himself was ignorant,
and where there were no bystanders.


After six weeks in Liverpool, the crew turns around and goes home, this time with 500 or so Irish-folk who quickly get "the fever."  More appalling scenes of death and horror.  Back in New York, our hero gets screwed out of his wages.  Loses touch with his British pal after the trip back and later learns he was crushed to death by a whale.

All in all a good read, although thinking so makes you a schmuck in Melville's opinion.  He said of the book:

"I, the author, know [it] to be trash, & wrote it to buy some tobacco with"
_____________________________
Fun Fact: The Doubleday Anchor Edition from the '60s (above) features cover art by Edward Gorey. 

Teen Beat Refuse 1979

Musical Gator and Disco Frog T-shirt Advertisement







 Anson Williams posed with symmetrical hounds.  













Child star paid with ABC promotional items.













  Ricky Schroder beneath a canopy of rub-on transfer stars. 






 Lit Life