What a goddamn movie. What a motherfuckin movie. What a great fucking movie. I could not love this movie more if I married it, impregnated it, and lived with it in a backwater trailer. One of the most painfully stupid things about TV critics, movie critics, and book critics these days is their stupid, insipid, lazy desire to/insistence upon fucking recounting the plot of said subject for you. Why the fuck would I want to know the plot if I hadn't seen/read the fucking product yet, you underpaid roadkill? Besides, what's plot anyway? A skeleton worth breaking. That's what plot is. "Under the Skin" has no plot. It has a woman who stalks and kills men the way men stalk and kill women. She is an alien; she is Scarlett Johansson. For those who care, she is naked several times, and she is so moody in the face, so pouty in the mouth, so dripping with weirdness that it will either turn you straight or gay, depending on your gender/sexual orientation. Or bi. What have you. The point is, I loved this movie. The director: Jonathan Glazer, who did "Sexy Beast," which is one of My All-Time Favorite Movies. (The second one, "Birth," was too disturbing for me, someone who likes to be/constantly is disturbed or in a state of disturbance or is attempting to disturb someone or something.) It's based on a book, like that matters. Also: erect penises sinking into black tar pits. Very odd. Very foreign. Very familiar. A man with a giant head. The only movie to accurately depict what it's like to be a woman. Thank you, Mr. Glazer.
Earlier this year, her brother by another mother and father died. You'd think, judging by this photo, she's sad about that. She isn't. She recognized that for what it was: the freeing up of more resources for her. Now, as the only dog, she gets all the cookies, all the dinners, all the cuddles. She doesn't even like to cuddle. She likes chasing balls on deserted train tracks, and drinking filthy rain water, and my husband. I figure I'm her next target. If she can get rid of me, she'll have him all to herself. And all the cookies she wants, to boot.
After I landed at LAX, I steered clear of the highways and drove through the city. I wanted to see what had changed. At the east end of Hollywood, I pulled over to the curb and tried to figure out where Le Sex Shoppe used to be. Once upon a time, it looked like this. Before that, Charles Bukowski was known to patronize it. Above, you'll find what's left. I mean, I think. I wasn't even sure, as I stood in the street, taking photos and trying to avoid getting hit, where it had been. I kept looking for a trace of it, but it had vanished, it seemed.
What's more interesting than the subdivisions of affordable suburban tract homes in Florida that went to apocalyptic hell in the wake of the Great Recession are the mega-mansions worth many millions that to this day sit in a state of lush green decay like concrete block Miss Havishams. Once upon a time, you can see by their Zestimates, they were worth $1M, $2M, $3M and more. In dated photos on listings that have long since expired, before banks came along and foreclosed on them, you can see them at their thousands of square feet glory: the many-tiered tray ceilings with custom lighting, the acres of travertine set on the diagonal, the luxury showers that accommodate three at a time. Today, they are worth half their previous values or less than that. Tucked between neighboring homeowners that wish they didn't exist, their filmy windows gaze blankly at those who bother to peek over their dilapidated gates. Inside, you wade through the flooded swamps that were their manicured lawns, peer inside at their ceilings falling from leaks that make puddles on their granite counter tops, gaze into the putrid vats that used to be their swimming pools with spas and wonder where, when, and how it all went so wrong. The families aren't totally gone: the aluminum baseball bat left on the greening lanai, the stuffed yellow duck forgotten in the dust, the box of letters filled with unpaid bills from banks looking to collect and Happy Father's Day cards addressed to a head of household who must have found, to his surprise, his American Dream had fell to rot, and who, not knowing what to do, simply left.
A few years ago, a library in Sandpoint, Idaho, got in trouble for posting a link to the site that hosted it.
"In response to feedback from concerned parents, the East Bonner County Library is moving a link to Artbomb from the teen section of the library to the adult section. The controversy resulted from one of Artbomb’s currently featured comics entitled 'My, My American Bukkake Too' by author Susannah Breslin.
The comic, which uses a high-contrast black and white art style to explore a story of personal loss with some strong sexual themes, begins with an advisory warning of adult material and is not linked to directly from the library website. However, some parents were upset that a website hosting adult comics was placed in the library’s teen section. Parents took to the Facebook group North Idaho Community Watch Network to discuss the matter. The comment thread generated 21 comments and has been seen 66 times.
'I clicked on the link that I was 18 and bam — (it was very) graphic,' April O’Connell posted in the the discussion. '(It’s) not something I would want my teen seeing.'"
The next thing I'm doing as part of the story I'm working on is going to Las Vegas. I like Vegas. A lot. I got married there, and for some reason I've been there three times in the not too distant past. I had fun doing this piece there. The gun show was awesome. Especially the shooting guns at the desert range part. The first morning I was there, I woke up early, because my head was in another time zone, and I pulled back the curtains, and I could see the giant fat golden orb of the sun getting ready to rise over the mountains. It lit up the front of a shiny casino nearby, and it was like you didn't know if the buildings had been made to match the sky or the sky had been made to match the buildings. Going back -- I'm looking forward to it. I want to see that sun again, and I want to talk to that cab driver who told me about that customer he had who wanted to be taken to a whorehouse where a girl or two would shit on him, and I want to slip twenties into the palms of guys I half know in front of casinos I like because it's what gets me something everyone else wants.
Several years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer, and everything seemed fine. I was early-stage, doctors offered solutions like butterscotch squares in candy dishes, and since I had just gotten married, anything unhappy was simply impossible. Eventually, a surgeon with a name that reflected her practice opened up my front in an operating theater, wiped the boundaries of my malignancy clean, and sent my excavated tissue off for further testing. Those tests, it turned out, indicated a slightly later stage, a weirdly aggressive type of cancer, and people in white coats knitted their brows while studying my data set. It was not the type of expression you wanted to see when confronted with what felt like a near-death experience. Everything will be fine became an afterthought, not a promise. Still, everyone plowed ahead -- the cheery dogs, the determined husband, the idiot patient -- and off we went through the field of the medical industrial complex. A head of hair was shed in cascades that clogged drains, a portacath was inserted into my chest, and over the course of a year I was radiated, chemotherapied, and targeted therapied. Nearly a year and a half after the whole thing started, I was finished. Left to my own devices, I was told to live my life. From the San Francisco fog that shrouded by cerebellum, I nodded grimly and waited for the next part of my life to begin. Eventually, of course, it did. My hair grew back, the black hole that had developed where the port once resided closed itself, and I told myself that things would get better. Time ticked across clock faces. One day, I got on a horse and galloped through a sandy arena to leap over a fence, which I had not done since I was younger. Still, something was gnawing, and in order to address those tiny teeth, I got on a plane and flew to Los Angeles last week. What are you doing here? my friends asked politely. I was working on a story, I told them. I was looking for something, I told myself. I explained to one friend that I was worried the cancer would return, the notion of which she laughed at hysterically. Now that I'm home, I'm prone to look back on what drove me to return to what I'd thought I'd done already. I think the answer is this: I wanted my balls back, or, failing that, I wanted to grow another pair.
Helen is the tousled hair star of "Wetlands." Her destiny: "So I turned myself into a living-hygiene-experiment!" Based on the book of the same name, the movie is a fanciful frolic through the body's holes and its many secretions, a journey through which Helen finds herself by way of an anal fissure. Think: "Trainspotting" with a vagina. She's not afraid to wipe her bare ass across a filthy toilet seat, take mobile phone pics of men's faces as she jerks them off, insert anything (vaginal fluids, male spunk, a carrot). In most movies, everything is withheld; here, everything is exposed and examined under a microscope. Helen offers herself up to us as a totemic feast to feed our carnal desires. As such, she is everything we are not: exposed, daring, unguarded. Her hobbies include "fucking" and growing avocados. "I just got nothing to hide," she explains. Of course, no normal family could produce a young woman so unabashed. Her brutal mother swaps boyfriends and religions, and her father can barely contain his raging libido; Helen is their collateral damage. After she cuts her ass shaving her butthole, she ends up on the hospital, where she develops a relationship with a male nurse, and we wait for Helen to poop ("The sooner you shit, the sooner you go," a female nurse scolds). Despite all the sex, holes, and issues, reproduction is verboten. Helen has sterilized herself, and pregnancy is equated with a turducken. What's best about "Wetlands" is that it offers a vision of the opposite of contemporary American feminism, the members of which spend all their time policing their bodies' boundaries and the behaviors of others. In Helen's postfeminist self-love orgy, politics are just, well, too boring and dry. The closest thing to a political act we get in this movie is when Helen trades used tampons with her best friend, noting, "It's my way of cutting into America's tampon industry profits." Bless her heart.
Being on a porn set is always a bit surreal. A table of sex toys. A wheel of sex acts. A guy whose job it is to wipe up the mess. The porn star who can't stop complaining. The woodsman whose tattoo reads: "It's not only who you are underneath. It's also what you do that defines you." The supermoon hanging over the sleeping Valley.
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde
Porn stars seem different these days. The girls have changed. Something about them is more ... self-contained. No longer meat puppets, they are machine operators. The piracy, the recession, the laws have trimmed the fat, made this industry's processes more lean, and these are the last porn stars standing.
Finding a home for a story on the adult movie industry -- that isn't one more shit listicle or waste of space exercise in parachute journalism -- isn't always easy. Editors don't quite get what it is you're doing. They try to plug it into their model -- "[I]s there a central character (or central group of characters) that go through a specific dramatic experience?" -- or cringe at the subject -- "It's just that we might not tend to feature really explicit scenes involving, say, robotic fuck machines." It may be that less traditional approaches require less traditional delivery systems.
Thirty-six hours in Los Angeles. Everything's the same. Everything's different. Gritty, if you skip the freeway and drive in through Culver City. Then cartooning, as you move east and climb north. The Mike Tyson statue waiting to throw a punch. The girls perched on corner benches with makeup on their faces that gives them pig snouts and surreal squints. Words carved into the sides of mountains and clouds that look like lines of coke enduring sunsets. On the other side of a mountain, I keep cutting back and forth along an artery of traffic, going somewhere.
"Today, films that promise spectacle, intensity, and, above all, whore-bashing are not the totality of the pornographic universe. But they are the primary thing that millions of heterosexual men flock to when they are alone at their computers (check out the popular titles at http://business.avn.com/charts/.) Author David Foster Wallace (2006) spent some time with Max Hardcore at the AVN Awards in 1998 and left convinced that the snuff film was the apotheosis of porn -- the 'horizon' towards which the industry was traveling (28). More recently, journalist Susannah Breslin (2009) left a movie set of director Jim Powers with a similar impression: 'The products that Jim produces are videotaped vivisections, studies in which homo sapiens lie upon the operating table, the director is the doctor, the camera is the scalpel, and the only question worth asking is, How far will we go if we are pushed to our limits?" Breslin suggests an answer in the ambiguous title of her essay: 'They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?'
There is good reason why critics entertain visions of lethal violence when they consider pornographers' commitment to the intense and extreme, to the hostile and aggressive. But there is less reason to believe we stand on the precipice of something else altogether new and more threatening than what came before. The apocalyptic visions of Breslin and Wallace are not unique in the twenty-first-century. For instance, pornography and pop culture in the 1980s left David Cronenberg with a vision as ominous as Breslin's and Wallace's: The sleazy pornographers of the fictional Videodrome (1983) promised to bring snuff to the hungry masses on their home televisions. And decades earlier -- well before the dawn of pornography's Golden Age -- George Bataille (1962) believed that murder was the essence and the end of pornography, that sex and death were ever fused in human minds and bodies. Bataille's work, like that of the Marquis de Sade before him, shows that sexual violence has long been a staple in the pornographic -- and the popular -- imaginary (Moore 1990).
What changes with time is the form our most violent desires take, how extensively they dominate our sexual imaginations, how we choose to express them, and, perhaps, how far we are willing to go in exploring and satisfying them. The power of violence to captivate a wide audience is far from new, but the warnings of pop culture's soothsayers should not go unheeded. We must consider what is born when we so readily fuse arousal with contempt, sex with fury." -- Violence and the Pornographic Imaginary: The Politics of Sex, Gender, and Aggression in Hardcore Pornography, Natalie Purcell
I'll be in Los Angeles next week working on a story about the adult movie industry. If you work in the business in any capacity or used to work in the business in any capacity, I'm interested in hearing from you. [EMAIL]