Men and ExCKommunication

LOUIS SCATTERED

This past weekend, Louis C.K. returned to his “home stage,” The Comedy Cellar. He’d taken a hiatus from performing since admitting to sexual abuse at the end of last year.

“I understand that some people will be upset with me,” said Noam Dworman, owner of the Comedy Cellar, who described Louis C.K.’s 15-minute standup set as “typical Louis C.K. stuff” including riffs on race and tipping at restaurants. But, he added, “there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong.”

His return has raised the undying question of whether famous sex criminals should be allowed a path to redemption. Was Louis apologetic enough? Should he be welcomed back sooner if he’d donated to RAINN? Would we be more willing to applaud his comedy if he attended sex therapy and spoke on what he’d learned? Is there salvation in him supporting the women he’s traumatized or raising up women he’s never met? These are all weighed and debated by women individually when it comes to forgiveness.

Women are doing their own thing. But men must come to a much simpler conclusion:

If a man is excommunicated, he’s not guaranteed a path back to the limelight. “But that’s not fair,” says Michael Ian Black in more words. I don’t mean to denigrate compassion, and he did seem to eventually get the picture, but he’s also correct: us men had the unfortunate chance to end up living during the first era of retribution exacted by victimized women. Yep, for you, and me, and any man who might have stumbled up our forefathers’ ladder in decades past, to be born now, no longer during a time when pretty much any misogynist aggression, from macro to micro, could be waved away with enough money or clout? Shit timing.

Because if we can admit that Priapus’s sun is setting after mere millennia, we can recognize who suffered for being born sometime during known human history. If it is difficult for men right now, it has been as difficult–at minimum–for billions of women. The majority of those women didn’t survive to see this day, all they knew was a crushing patriarchy. And men can relinquish that in many ways, but shutting up on topics like forgiveness is an easy one. The women of today deserve the choice to hold the reins and the bullhorn and the flaming whip, because, if we’re talking fairness, that’s a stab at it.

The banishments (banishments), permanent or not, are growing pains. There’ll be celeb “casualties” like Louis, those who are no longer given the chance to comfort us with their (still valuable) contributions to culture. There will be art lost, whether immediate (I Love You, Daddy) or potential (any future seasons of Louie). I’ve watched every stand-up special by Louis and marveled to witness a drop-in at Los Angeles’s Comedy Store. For my undergraduate thesis, I situated him in a long line of utopia-seeking comics, from Lenny Bruce to Richard Pryor to Bill Hicks to him, here and now, the promise of shifting the entire comedy paradigm progressively. And yet his loss, like that of Ansari and Hardwick and other cusp-of-comeback kids of this moment, is maybe necessary for an eventual equality, and that goal is worth all the earth-shaking boner jokes in Louis’s head.

So when Noam Dworman states “there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong,” I have to insist that actually there can, it can just happen, the third law of thermodynamics isn’t “the dickflasher must be given stagetime.” It’s “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” and buddy, we’ve still got a hefty dose of reaction before we’ve hit equal.

That said, I don’t figure that the women of today wish to go Amazonian on our asses. It’s not that I think of women as gentler or kinder (imagine if that’s the turn this essay took), but rather the effort required to yonically oppress for just as many years seems too much for any human. Men fell into it, right? Our monkey brains kept “might makes right” at the forefront and only recently have come to understand that there are other things that make right! Even as we reaped the rewards, most humans aren’t evil and so most men aren’t evil. Just bumbling and ignorant, and the tides may be turning on that front too. When it comes to the exiles and re-configuring our gender’s expectations, my mewling men, I’m guessing it’ll take three generations. That’s what I expect. Not for me to decide, but what I expect.

So just chill, my sweet dudes. Our input isn’t wanted or needed. Isn’t that freeing?

But if your pity still swells for Louis, shoving his victims from the frame; if you can’t grasp the damage wrought by asking “what about the men,” then consider perverts and misogynists who don’t possess the comedian’s clout or resources. Louis with his Comedy Cellar and adoring fans, Mario Batali and his restaurants peppered around the globe, Matt Lauer and the bulwarking upper echelon of Manhattan media. Their redemption comes far easier than that of a man from your high school who’s abused women (as we all have to varying degrees) and, upon reflection, dedicates himself to righting it. He can’t make the huge donations, he can’t afford the Beverly Hills therapist or the PR spin-master. Without access to a blacklist, his victims (and bless them for their vindictive power) may bring charges against him, and he may end up irreparably damaged, sexually or otherwise, by a stay in prison himself. To say nothing of the imprisoning outcome of the offender registry, restricting where he may work or live. Oh, and perhaps he’s not white as a bleached harp seal cub. That too.

This nobody-man still deserves his punishment however it unfolds, but if you’re dedicated to your psychopathy and seek for anyone to care about other than the women: why do you give a shit about Louis? He could leave the country today and live in comfort until death. He thinks nothing of you; there are millions of you. Even in your misogyny you can do better.

Perhaps it’d be more worth your time to care about the women.

 

 

Doja Cat, “Mooo!”

Is she rebranding herself? Is she Doja Cow now? She disavows cats in the chorus. She does not meow.

I love this so much because it’s so fully fleshed-out by one person in a bedroom. The question she asked herself is “if I was a cow, how would I own it?” “Time to re-purpose Luda and Kelis with a bovine twist.” From there, she said “I have a laptop and a green screen, how do I film the music video?” “Let me look in my closet for cow-like, farmer-ish outfits.” “Order a burger? Sure, I’m hungry!” And she floats through it all with her charisma and confidence. “Bitch, I’m a cow” never felt so powerful. Been lowing “mooo” all day in both positive and negative tones.

If you haven’t seen her leading single “Go To Town” yet, you might as well. Props for the Cyriak clip that crops up too.

“The Bad Glazier” by Charles Baudelaire

One morning I got up feeling sullen, sad, disconcerted, and fatigued by idleness, with what seemed to be a desire to do some grand and radiant deed! And then I opened my window, alas!

The first person I noticed on looking out my window was a glazier, a glass-seller, the sharp discordance of his cries drifting up to me through the stale and heavy Parisian smog. It’s not possible for me to say why I was filled with such a sudden and tyrannical hatred for this poor man.

“Hey, hey!” I cried, motioning for him to come up. Not without pleasure did I reflect that my room was on the sixth floor and that he would climb those flights with difficulty, lest his fragile goods be damaged.
At last he appeared. With great curiosity I examined all of his panes and finally said: “What? You have no colored glass? No pinks, no reds, no blues, no magical panes? No panes of the gods? Impudent creature! You sell your wares to the poor, and yet you have no panes that are able to make life beautiful!” And I abruptly pushed him, groaning and stumbling, out to the stairs.

I then went out on my balcony and grabbed a small flowerpot; when the man reappeared at the door I let my engine of war fall right on the back of his pack, the reverberations from the impact sending him reeling. Falling on his back he managed to break all of his poor, portable merchandise with a crash akin to lightning striking a crystal palace!

And intoxicated by madness I screamed furiously: “Make life beautiful! Make life beautiful!”

Though such capricious endeavors are not without peril, and one must often pay dearly for them, what does an eternity of damnation compare with an infinity of pleasure in a single second?

A friend sent me this one. I told her I identified with the last line, she told me it makes sense, as she had re-read it and felt Baudelaire was bipolar. And then I gave it a second pass and found myself laughing openly by the end. He wakes up bummed and is driven to wreck a rando’s shit, at which he’s tremendously successful and his conclusion is: yup, it ruled.

my friends: “brian if you’re feeling restless you should try podcasts, it’s like having funny coworkers”

me: *turns on 9/11 episode of Last Podcast On The Left, stares into middle distance for much of the workday, broken*

my friends: “brian are you familiar with white noise”


 

Two weeks from now, I’m visiting New York for the first time in five years. I intend to make a solo trip to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Is it perverse to admit that I’m motivated by experiencing whatever feelings well up while standing on the site of a historic, globally-recognized atrocity? Not sure I’ve done any sightseeing at one of those before. Tourrerism.

Sorry To Bother You

Sorry-to-Bother-You-poster

The movie strikes one of my favorite balances: it’s weird and stylish without being avant-garde or impenetrable. It’s obviously a movie telling a story, there’s no question of “wait, did that happen ,” or “did I misunderstand the purpose of that scene,” there are little splashes of excitement and whimsy that separate it from a movie made by anyone other than Boots Riley. Scott Pilgrim and Dazed and Confused fill that same role for me, and they’re some of my all-time faves. A movie can score so many extra points from me just for trying. It can be a “bad movie” and still wedge itself into my heart (I’m lookin’ at you, Smokin’ Aces).

It draws a lot from Idiocracy, which is a hard comparison to avoid given Terry Crews’s similarly small role in both and the popularity of self-abuse game shows (though the timbre of this flick’s 150-million-viewer strong I Got The Shit Kicked Out of Me is a measure darker). I felt StBY was less cynical, though. Even with the folks happy to be slaves under Silicon-Valley endgame company Worryfree, Idiocracy opens with humanity already totally done for. And I always appreciate cynicism in the service of utopia rather than a bitter stew.

The bloody head-wound worsening until his third act redemption was on-the-nose, but Lakeith’s stagger throughout made him look weighed down. The world is always crushing him. And now I’m embarrassed that I didn’t register whether or not it persisted after that same redemption moment.

Armie Hammer did a pitch-perfect sneering Winklevii, so it stands to reason that he’d be the best fit for the sort of dictator tech-bro we see ascending to power around us every day. He’s won me over, big time, and I love comparing his maxed-out persona here with the snuggly big-brother-lover he played in Call Me By Your Name.

So simple that maybe you missed it but the popular soft drink is named Soda Cola. Made better for not rubbing it in the audience’s face (though it certainly rubs Cassius’s face). And along those lines, I am so embarrassed that it took me until the actual last reading of his name that “Cassius Green” = “Cash Is Green,” but there’s no WAY anyone else missed that.

And there was even more! Loved the costuming; psychedelic suits, bold ties, one-of-a-kind earrings. Extra flair like Mr. ____’s eyepatch seems a little try-hard when you focus on it, but who gives a shit? David Cross and Patton Oswalt were truly the best selections for white voice; I’ll follow Lily James into the dark after Baby Driver. So cool to see fellow NYU-er and inspired comedienne Kate Berlant show up (… Though now that I think about it, she vanishes halfway through, hm), along with cameos by Bay Area comics Kamau W. Bell and Nato Green. The Coup and tUnE-yArDs synthesize their boisterous joy for a soundtrack that had me swaying and tapping my toes every time a beat dropped. I’m going to be listening to “Level It Up” and “Hey Saturday Night” for the rest of the month, guaranteed. And let’s not forget, Patton starred in The Coup’s video for “The Magic Clap” back in 2012, which was, of course, from an album titled Sorry To Bother You.

Finally: I’ve spent some time lingering in Layover, the Oakland bar hosting several scenes. Just need to cap this on my cool, y’know?

Sherman Alexie, “War Dances”

“Shit,” I said. “I have cancer.”

“Well,” my doctor said, “these kinds of tumors are usually noncancerous. And they grow very slowly, so in six months or so, we’ll do another MRI. Don’t worry. You’re going to be okay.”

“What about my hearing?” I asked.

“We don’t know what might be causing the hearing loss, but you should start a course of Prednisone, the steroid, just to go with the odds. Your deafness might lessen if left alone, but we’ve had success with the steroids in bringing back hearing. There are side effects, like insomnia, weight gain, night sweats, and depression.”

“Oh, boy,” I said. “Those side effects might make up most of my personality already. Will the ‘roids also make me quick to pass judgment? And I’ve always wish I had a dozen more skin tags and moles.”

The doctor chuckled. “You’re a funny man.”

I wanted to throw my phone into a wall but I said good-bye instead and glared at the tumorless people and their pretty tumorless heads.

I’d never read anything by Alexie until this essay and, I gotta say, I think I’d cope with a diagnosis somewhat similarly. Looking forward to learning how else we might align.