Disunited Locked Down Porn Kings

In 1950, only 9% of American homes had a TV. By 1963, 93.1% did. Rigid, they stared.

In Vietnam, the percentage of houses with TV had to be much less. Born in November of 1963 in Saigon, my first memory of television dates to perhaps April of 1968. More audio than visual, it’s a strain of music to accompany scenes of exhumed corpses from the Tet Offensive. Communists had executed them in Hue, with many still alive when buried in shallow graves.

Until I left Vietnam in 1975, television wasn’t a big part of my life. There were only two stations in Saigon, a Vietnamese and an American one, with both broadcasting only parts of each day. All TV sets were black and white, and tiny. If there was, say, a soccer match on, a house with a TV might attract neighbors, standing outside to watch through a window. Most popular were the folk operas.

Not chained to a TV inside, I spent my time, when not in school, on sidewalks all over, and also at the zoo, since I could access it for free through a backdoor at my grandfather’s house. I fed sugarcane to elephants and waited for a python to devour a duck. With the historical museum inside this zoo, I got to look at +2,000-year-old bronze drums and stone statues from the vanquished Champas. I went to swimming pools and was enrolled in a judo class. Its most basic skill is how to fall, even violently, without hurting yourself. Brainwashed by Hollywood, some Americans may be surprised that Vietnamese also entertained themselves, like everybody else everywhere, by playing sports and going to movies, the beach or the stadium, etc.

Attending kick boxing matches with my father was particularly enjoyable. The Viet guys nearly always got their asses booted to hell by the damn Thais, but they were generally better than Laos. Nobody is equal at anything. Most boring were the English rules bouts inserted into the program. They were outright unnatural, an affront against God and man. Just kick that motherfucker! Knee his kidney! Life goes on even during a war, of course.

You wouldn’t know it from Apocalypse Now, though. Inspired by a 1899 novel about the Congo to depict South Vietnam in the 1960’s, its megalomaniac director declared, “My film is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam.” You might as well make a movie about Indiana based on a Mishima novel. In a review, I have pointed out how written Vietnamese, thus sign of civilization, only appeared for a few seconds in Coppola’s flick.

The Deer Hunter or Rambo is similarly bizarre to any Vietnamese, but hey, these movies have shaped not just the American worldview, but identity, so they will be defended by many Americans on artistic and psychological grounds. As allegories, they feel not just legitimate, but necessary to American mental health.

An American archetype, Rambo must break laws to inject justice into a rotten system, and like a superhero, he succeeds against all odds. Ultimately, though, Rambo reinforces the American culture of constant war. With just enough Rambo in them, millions of Americans have been inspired to kill and be killed in countries they couldn’t find on a map, though many just happened to be near Israel!

Though scrupulous writers exist to bring you closer to the truth, they’re increasingly unread. Visiting Vietnam in 1950, Norman Lewis reports, “In Indo-China the social life of a small town remained remarkably untroubled. The Chinese always ran a gambling saloon. It was quite normal for friends to finish a convivial evening in a fumerie where they might smoke two or three pipes of opium together. The town could well also possess a cinema—even a little theatre staging oriental ballets of great charm and interest.”

Even many who read anything do so most sloppily, with music and/or the TV in the background, while sitting on the toilet perhaps. Literacy has been wedded to shit, but it’s fine, for all knowledge has been uploaded onto YouTube. There, you can learn all about Rasputin, the Phoenicians or Tanzania, etc., in under five minutes. So passé, reading is for boring dead people.

Settled in Tacoma in July of 1975, television became decisive in Americanizing me. Through it, I became familiar, in mere months, with the NBA, NFL, MLB and professional wrestling. I also absorbed American psychology and mannerisms through Shirley Temple movies, Leave it to Beaver, the Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island and Happy Days, etc. The last was notable for having an Oriental, Arnold. A little later, a yellow couple appeared in a Calgon commercial, with its “ancient Chinese secret” for making laundry so white.

In Northern Virginia during 1979-1982, I watched Saturday Night Live and Second City Television, but by then, my TV exposure had become much less. With Washington nearby, I went to the National Gallery to look at VanGogh, Monet, Degas, Vermeer, Hopper, Goya and the lone DaVinci in North America, etc. It was my first exposure to great paintings. I probed Old Town Alexandria and Georgetown a bit. I was still too young to sit in a bar. With my first car, a used Mustang II, I drove to Baltimore to watch baseball at Memorial Stadium. Working at McDonald’s, I had some cash in my pocket. My world was opening up, then my car was stolen! This turned out to be a hidden blessing.

After Northern Virginia, I went to Philadelphia for college, but before we leave metropolitan DC, I want to mention Howard Stern, for he first gained national attention at WWDC in 1981. At my high school, kids started to talk about “Howard,” just as later, people would simply say “Rush.”

On 1/13/82, an airplane taking off from National Airport crashed onto the 14th Street Bridge, just two miles from the runway. Only four passengers and a flight attendant could be rescued from the icy Potomac, with much of this drama on live TV. Seventy-eight people died. The very next morning, Stern called Air Florida on air to ask about the price of a one-way ticket from National Airport to the 14th Street Bridge. Many kids at my school thought it was brilliant.

After moving to New York’s WNBC in 1982, Stern had a skit, “Virgin Mary Kong,” where she runs from potential rapists in a Jerusalem bar. In his #1 bestselling book, Private Parts, Stern remembers, “Again, it was God that got me in trouble […] At the end of the bit the Virgin Mother was impregnated by some dude who pushed her up against the wall of a singles bar. Anyway, I thought it was a great skit.”

With Stern, then Jerry Springer from 1991 on, American culture definitely shifted, so that abusive speech and people being publicly humiliated became normal. Before this, the goofy Gong Show was as rude as it got. By the 1990’s, Fear Factor had contestants eating 13 inches of horse rectum, drinking rat smoothies or be encased in a glass coffin filled with cow intestines. One filmed episode of people gulping donkey semen mixed with urine was not aired.

It’s no surprise, then, that after horrific images emerged of Iraqi men being sexually humiliated at Abu Ghraib, Rush Limbaugh could dismiss it as no worse than a college prank:

Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we’re going to ruin people’s lives over it and we’re going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I’m talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?

The only lives ruined, according to “Rush,” were those of the American torturers, and not their Iraqi victims. It didn’t matter what Iraqis, or the rest of the world, thought of all this, just as who gives a shit how Vietnamese feel about films that turn them into monsters, but who are the actual monsters? Who  allowed themselves to become this way?

As an adult, I spent 30 years in Philly, 4 ½ years in Europe, 5 years in Asia and, now, seven months in Africa and counting. Except for three months through all this time, I had no car, so had to walk or take public transportation, which means I had to measure each environment with my body, one stride at a time, or be with other bodies, to go anywhere. I have foregone the luxury of being encased by myself in a moving steel box.

I took trains and buses across the USA, so got to know, over and over again, how vast is the country. I slept on buses and at bus stations. I didn’t watch movies about places, I walked through them. In Boston, though, I met a young woman, Katie, who said she didn’t even want to go inside, ever. Much more hardcore than me, Katie refused to be mediated in any way, not even by a wall. To know you’re in Boston, you must be exposed at all time to Boston weather, birds, insects, noises, smells, pedestrians and vagrants.

Katie thought Thoreau was one giant pussy for tucking himself into a toasty cabin, complete with plush quilts and thrown pillows, probably, plus having his mommy cook and do the laundry for him. Why didn’t Henry check himself into the Four Seasons? A few years later, Katie did consent to have a roof over her head in New Mexico, to not freeze her ass off.

 

[Boston, 12/16/11]

Carless, I have also watched very little television as an adult. Even more crucially, I more or less stopped listening to recorded music when I was about 23. Music should be occasioned, and not habitual or compulsive, which doesn’t just make it banal, but disruptive to all other activities. A symphony used to be a tremendous event, heard perhaps once, to be remembered with the help of a score, at most. To hear any great singer once was a grand privilege, and that’s it, those few minutes. The voice’s gone.

So far, I’ve recounted my avoidance of television, the car and recorded music. All three are escapist tools that allow you to transcend bodily limitations. With TV and canned tunes, you’re instantly transported somewhere else, a magical operation. Nothing, though, beats the internet for removing you from the here and now. With it, you can be nearly everywhere in rapid succession, for as long as you want. For a small fee, you can indulge your visual lust endlessly.

Though you can’t touch or be touched by anything, you’re still experiencing one hell of a lot, so your life is richer than ever, sort of, with so much on your screen, as you touch yourself, while hardly knowing where you are. Though alienated from your own room, house, hometown, state and country, you’ve already visited so many other places, even the most obscure and inaccessible, so you know, for example, that there’s only one bar, Albatross, in Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, and its hours are from 11AM to 11PM, each day but Sunday.

More impressively, you’ve seen, so vividly, so many more pussies than Casanova, tens of thousands already, compared to his pitiful 132, though you’re not just an incel, but a bonafide virgin. Who’s richer?

From 9% of households with a TV in the wealthiest country in 1950, we now have 6.6 billion smart phones for 7.9 billion people on earth, a number that’s hard to believe. Nearly everyone, then, is walking around with a miraculous television, one that can transport them anywhere, at will. Not only that, they can use this device to broadcast themselves, so everyone has a public voice, sort of, if only to 100 followers on Twitter or FaceBook.

Commenting at political websites, people can also fancy themselves a difference maker or dissident. Some maintain blogs or publish articles, though usually with fewer readers than spectators at a high school basketball game. Here, I’m also describing myself. Canceled as an author, I’m writing for maybe 600 people, whom I deeply appreciate, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still a tiny coterie, akin to, say, The Badminton Association For Left Handed Albinos in Glasgow, Montana.

Just as the internet gives us virtual experiences, it also grants us an illusion of power, as compared to its real, brutal exercise. Online, our rulers also have a much greater voice, so their narratives always drown ours. That’s how the Covid scam was sustained for two years, against all logics.

Worse, the internet worked against us, by enabling our rulers to impose lockdowns in the first place, for they knew we could be pacified in solitary confinement, as long as we had plenty of their Satanic or vapid music, idiotic movies and virtual sex, with niches for all perversions. As for friends, we had long been conditioned to prefer clean, glancing companionship in pixels. Frustrated, we could go online to vent in echo chambers, with different political factions canceling each other out.

Robbed of normality, we had to resort to tiny screens even more, with hardly anyone protesting for nearly two years. Our rulers were also satisfied that only a few balked at being death jabbed, repeatedly, to exit this abuse.

Despite some glitches, their project went swimmingly well. Some lackeys will be dislodged from office, but there are many more duplicates. Untouched, the masterminds of this catastrophe have already planned our next nasty surprise.

 

[Cape Town, 10/12/21]

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